HC Deb 19 July 1926 vol 198 cc879-81

asked the Minister of Agriculture whether he is aware that the steamer "Cambrian Countess" has just delivered 250 head of cattle from the Argentine at Zeebrugge, and that a British veterinary surgeon, appointed by the Ministry of Agriculture, has subjected these animals to examination and has certified them to be free from disease; that the animals have been slaughtered and sent to the London market, via. Harwich, as fresh meat at considerably less than home-produced meat; and. having regard to the need of reducing the cost of living, whether he will permit similar regular shipments subject to the same veterinary inspection?


The vessel in question had sailed from Argentina before the date on which the Importation of Carcases (Prohibition) Order came into force. In view of the special circumstances of the case, careases from this cargo were allowed to enter the country subject to a special veterinary examination of the animals both before and after slaughter. I regret that cannot see my way to accede to the suggestion contained in the last part. The importation of live animals from South America is prohibited by Order on account of the prevalence of foot-and-mouth disease in some parts of that Continent and the establishment of a slaughter house at Zeebrugge for the purpose of this trade is an evasion of the Ministry's Order. There is also the additional risk that infection might be brought from Belgium where foot-and-mouth disease is particularly rife at the present time.


Does the right hon. Gentleman think that the steps he took in this case were safe, and if they were safe in this case why should they not be safe in similar cases?


It is very usual when an Order is suddenly imposed to give a period of grace, and the fact that I made that concession is no reason for withdrawing the whole of the Order, the necessity of which has been shown.


Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the most scrupulous care was taken in the inspection of these animals? Is he not aware that a competent veterinary inspector went to Zeebrugge and examined these animals as they were slaughtered, and that as they were slaughtered they were put into trucks—North Eastern Railway trucks—and sent to Harwich and the London market? Every one of these animals had been passed by the inspector—[HON. MEMBERS: "Speech!"] Will he tell the House why he will not allow similar shipments under similar inspection?


I think notice ought to be given of that question.