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Miss Geraldine Smith (Morecambe and Lunesdale): I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for giving way. It is essential to stop the spread of this awful disease. In my constituency there are a number of caravan parks surrounding farms. I am very concerned that this weekend the caravan parks will be open to tourists, many of whom will come from east Lancashire and the Chorley area and could carry the disease. What measures can local authorities take to stop these people coming to caravan parks? What can they do to ensure that at least the lanes are properly disinfected with straw put across them? They say that they have no powers to put straw and disinfectant across the lanes.

Ms Quin: The local authority can contact its local animal health office and work in conjunction with MAFF, and it should do so if it is concerned, because there are powers that can be taken. I am familiar with the site that my hon. Friend mentions--in fact, I once visited it. The Caravan Club has issued recommendations to all its members not to travel at this time of year and to respect a number of restrictions, as well as fully respecting the measures that the Government have put in place.

There are now at least 26 confirmed cases as well as a number of cases under investigation. That figure includes what appears to be the first case in Northern Ireland, in sheep which were sourced from Carlisle market. There is very little consolation, if any, in this situation, but it is worth saying that so far there seems to have been no significant lateral wind-borne spread of disease. As my right hon. Friend said earlier, it has been possible to make

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the link between the Devon case, which, in turn, links back to Northumberland, or between Northumberland and the Cheale abattoir. That has been the pattern so far.

As right hon. and hon. Members on both sides of the House have pointed out, there is no doubt that the considerable movement of animals throughout the country means that the situation is very serious. The number of right hon. and hon. Members from virtually all regions of the country who have spoken about their experience of the plight of their farming constituents as a result of the outbreak has borne dramatic testimony to that.

I think that all areas were mentioned. The south-west is a very important agricultural area. It was pointed out that East Anglia has already had tremendous difficulties, particularly with the recent outbreak of classical swine fever. Wales was mentioned, as was the north-east where, like the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Atkinson) and my hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle upon Tyne, North (Mr. Henderson) I, too, saw the gruesome and distressing sight last weekend of animals piled up near the main road, very visible to everyone passing. I was talking to farmers in that area when the case in Devon was confirmed. People in Northumberland told me of the links between the markets in Northumberland and the particular farm, or farms, in Devon which were then affected.

I very much welcome the warm tribute paid by the hon. Member for South-East Cornwall (Mr. Breed) to the chief vet, Jim Scudamore, and his excellent staff. The hon. Gentleman's comments were echoed by a large number of Members, but he chose especially apt words to describe the work of the chief vet and his staff. I also welcome the comments made by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hoyle) and others about the helpfulness of Ministry staff, not only at head office but throughout the regions. Indeed, one Northumberland NFU member asked me to mention how sensitively the Ministry staff at Carlisle dealt with the distress and concern that was obviously experienced by so many farmers in that region.

I strongly welcome the support expressed on both sides of the House for the measures taken by the Government. We welcome the terms of the Opposition motion. That is an unusual experience, as the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire pointed out. I cannot remember a similar occurrence, but we are dealing with exceptional and unprecedented circumstances--a point that was strongly made.

Although obviously we look back to the 1967 outbreak, which many hon. Members recalled when they spoke, we should not make false comparisons. There are many

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differences, especially in relation to the difficulties--indeed the crisis--that the agriculture sector has undergone. For that reason, we are being extremely sensitive not only in ensuring that the measures that we have already taken to help farmers are effective, but in considering what else we can do.

Mr. Ainger: Will my right hon. Friend give way?

Ms Quin: If my hon. Friend will forgive me, I shall not give way. I have only three minutes for the rest of my remarks. He expressed concern about the irresponsible movement of stock by farmers--although most farmers have been entirely responsible, as hon. Members have pointed out. However, we are certainly prepared to take up with the Home Office and the police any failure to implement the rules that have been clearly put in place. I hope that reassures my hon. Friend.

There was much mention of consequential losses and so on. Those are difficult matters. We are open to consideration of ways in which we can help, although I appreciate the point made by hon. Members on both sides of the House that the implications could be extremely far reaching; they could even stretch to the tourist industry, which was mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew). The issue is not easy, but we shall definitely look into it.

The debate has been impressive, with Members showing a powerful empathy with the plight of farming constituents, their families and communities. We shall keep the House fully informed about the cases and outbreaks of foot and mouth disease, the measures for tackling it and the ways in which we can help the agriculture and food industries to recover. However, as everyone has agreed, combating and eradicating the disease has to be and will remain our foremost aim and priority.

Question put and agreed to.


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Motion made, and Question proposed,

9.59 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): This is an important motion, covering extremely important material. It refers at some length and in some detail, and with an element of retrospection, to the detailed salary provisions for the Electoral Commission. Those salaries are very substantial indeed and the commission's work is very important, so the matter will require lengthy and detailed consideration by the House, especially as it has a bearing on political parties, election matters and, of course, referendums. So we should start by considering the motion in considerable detail--

It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

Debate to be resumed tomorrow.


Motion made,

Line 31, at end add--
'( ) The committee shall have power to appoint a sub-committee, which shall have power to send for persons, papers and records, to sit notwithstanding any adjournment of the House, and to report to the committee from time to time.
( ) The committee shall have power to report from time to time the minutes of evidence taken before the sub-committee.
( ) The quorum of the sub-committee shall be three.'.-- [Mr. Betts.]

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [31 January],

Hon. Members: Object.


Order read for resuming adjourned debate on Question [23 January],

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