§ 41. Mr. Willey
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what stocks of frozen egg his Department still holds; how long such stocks have been held by his Department; how far they have been tested for salmonella infection; and with what results.
My Department still holds about 260 tons of frozen whole egg, nearly all of which is of Commonwealth origin and arrived in this country at the end of 1955 and the beginning of 1956. All the consignments concerned were 859 sampled by the appropriate health authorities and this balance still on hand represents residual stocks, in samples of which some small degree of salmonella infection has been found.
§ Mr. Willey
In view of the fact that previous outbreaks of food poisoning have been traced to frozen eggs, can the right hon. Gentleman assure the House that every precaution will be taken before these stocks are released?
I can give that assurance. These stocks will be disposed of under suitable safeguards to public health and in close consultation with my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health.
§ Mr. Hastings
How long can salmonella infection remain active in eggs and be capable of producing disease in human beings when the eggs are eaten?
I am afraid that I have not that information, but it is relevant and I will write and give it as well as I can to the hon. Gentleman.
§ 44. Mr. Nabarro
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take in view of the size of the subsidy arising from the guarantee for eggs.
The guaranteed price for hen eggs was reduced after the last Annual Review by l¾d. per dozen. I cannot, of course, anticipate decisions which must be taken after the next Annual Review when all appropriate factors will be taken into consideration, including the long-term assurances to the industry. I think, however, that it would be right to warn producers now that, unless there is some major change in circumstances between now and next February, a further reduction in the level of the guarantee, within the long-term assurances, must be expected. Clearly, in present circumstances, when we are self-supporting in eggs, the Government cannot encourage any further expansion of production—indeed, some reduction from the quantities in prospect is desirable.
§ Mr. Nabarro
Could my right hon. Friend confirm that during the last few months when there has been this prodigious output from the hens of this country the Treasury has actually been subsidising egg production to the tune of 860 more than £1 million a week? Can he say what rearrangements are to be made in the future to enable British producers to export their subsidised eggs to Western Europe, which seems to be a profitable outlet?
The figure that my hon. Friend has mentioned was certainly the figure at which the subsidy was running during the peak of the flush, but the peak has passed now and the present figure is very much lower than that. The real explanation is that the British hen. like hon. Members in this House, has recently been performing prodigies of productivity.
§ Mr. Lipton
Will the right hon. Gentleman tell us who are egg producers to what extent he wants poultry keepers like me to cut down production? It is no good saying "cut down"; to what extent does he want us to cut down?
I am anxious that poultry keepers should produce as economically as they possibly can and that they should cull their flocks with that object in mind. As regards the export of eggs, that matter is being discussed at present with the representatives of the Danish authorities who are either here or are coming tomorrow.
§ Mr. Willey
What was the consumption of eggs over the last financial year compared with the previous financial year? Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the loss has largely occurred through the right hon. Gentleman's failure to even out the production of eggs?
§ Hon. Members: No.
No, I would not agree with what the hon. Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey) has said. I agree that there is considerable scope for increased consumption of eggs in this country. In America, consumption of eggs per head is about 50 per cent. higher than in this country. So we have scope. At present prices, eggs are very good value.