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Volume 886: debated on Thursday 20 February 1975

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asked the Minister of Agriculture. Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the present regulations relating to the prevention of the spread of rabies.

Yes, Sir. The two new orders that came into force on 5th February 1975 provide a sound basis for preventing the entry or spread of rabies in Great Britain.

I thank the Minister for that reply. Rabies is spreading across the Continent to the Channel ports at a speed of about 50 miles a year. Will he consider tightening up the regulations and inspection at the Channel ports and, in particular, will he satisfy himself that the regulations at the many private and military airfields regarding the illegal importation of animals are adequate?

I agree absolutely that this is an important and serious matter. I shall take on board the hon. Gentleman's suggestion regarding private airfields. I am sure that he will acknowledge that the two orders which came forward earlier this month represent a substantial advance. We shall shortly be mounting a publicity campaign at the ports.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is not so much the regulations as their enforcement which is vital?

I agree with the hon. Lady. That is why I said that we shall be conducting a publicity campaign at the ports and will be talking to the people responsible for implementing the regulations.

Will my hon. Friend confirm that, whilst it is important that there should be adequate public information, one of the major needs is for magistrates and those responsible in the courts to take a sufficiently stern view of what could be a very serious problem?

I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. As he knows, we have raised the maximum penalty to one year's imprisonment, an unlimited fine, or both. I certainly hope that magistrates recognise how serious and vital this matter is to this country.