HC Deb 03 June 1954 vol 528 cc1450-1
44 and 48. Mr. Watkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture (1) to which newspapers he sent a letter criticising the evidence of an officer of the Breconshire County Council given at a recent inquiry by the Ministry of Health into the incidence of tuberculosis at Talgarth, Breconshire; and to what Ministries and authorities he sent the same letter;

(2) to publish in HANSARD the contents of a letter he has issued to the Press criticising the evidence given by an officer of the Breconshire County Council at a recent inquiry by the Ministry of Health into the incidence of tuberculosis in Talgarth, Breconshire; and to make a statement giving his reasons why the letter was sent.

Sir T. Dugdale

I will, with permission, circulate in the OFFICIAL REPORT a copy of the letter sent by my Press Officer and also a list of the papers to which it was sent. The Welsh Board of Health, which was responsible for the inquiry, was consulted before the issue of the letter. The Brecon County Council was also informed in advance.

The letter explains the circumstances in which it was sent. Wide currency was given to reports that my Department's laboratory had embarrassed the Council by refusing facilities for testing milk. The object was to explain that the laboratory concerned could not have carried out the type of tests required to detect tuberculosis because it has not the necessary facilities.

Mr. Watkins

Does not the Minister agree that it is very unusual for a Government Department to send a letter to the Press when the findings are sub judice? Should not an explanation, or at least an apology, be given to the people who were at that inquiry, in view of the fact that such an act is not warranted?

Sir T. Dugdale

This is a very difficult case. I have looked into it very carefully. The trouble arises from the fact that there are two types of test applied to milk. The inquiry dealt with the presence of dangerous germs, such as those of tuberculosis, and the only tests we could deal with at this laboratory were those in connection with the keeping quality of milk. Talk was going about that we refused to help in the testing of milk for germs, and it was necessary to make it perfectly clear that we have no facilities to carry out such tests.

Following is the letter: