HC Deb 22 November 1956 vol 560 cc1919-20
26. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his veterinary officers stationed in the Argentine take to reduce to a minimum the risks of carcase meat infected with the virus of foot-and-mouth disease being sent to this country.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Heathcoat Amory)

My two veterinary officers at Buenos Aires maintain close contact with the veterinary authorities in South America and regularly visit slaughterhouses, processing plants, cold stores and other premises used in connection with the export of meat to this country. They supervise the inspection of as many of the carcases as possible for any evidence of foot-and-mouth disease virus. In addition, the live animals are inspected at the unloading points at the railheads. No part of a carcase is shipped from South America to this country if any evidence of disease is found in any part of it, nor are any animals from an infected consignment slaughtered for export to Great Britain.

Mr. Hurd

Will my right hon. Friend keep the closest watch to make sure that the inspection is more effective, as most of the initial outbreaks we have suffered in this country during the past few months have been traced by his Department to infection through imported meat?

Mr. Amory

Yes, I am aware that the infection has been traced to imported meat. I can assure my hon. Friend that if I could see any step which I could usefully take to strengthen and make still more effective my present inspection arrangements in South America, I should not hesitate to take it.

Mr. T. Williams

May I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether we are still sending vaccine to South America?

Mr. Amory

Without notice, I could not say as regards South America; but we export vaccine quite widely.

Mr. E. L. Mallalieu

Can the Minister say whether there is any reason why meat should not be imported from France on the same terms as from Argentina, as regards foot-and-mouth disease?

Mr. Amory

Our animal health regulations are the only prohibition on the import of meat from there; we have to take each country on its merits and on its record. I hope that the hon. and learned Member for Brigg (Mr. E. L. Mallalieu) will agree with me that we are right to adopt a very strict standard in this very important matter.