HC Deb 31 October 1957 vol 575 cc378-9
12. Mr. Peart

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the restriction of milk production in Cumberland and the possible effects of radio-activity on animal husbandry.

19. Sir I. Fraser

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement as to the short-term or long-term effect upon animals of grazing upon pastures subject to the Windscale fall-out; and what markets are still affected.

Mr. Amory

Following the mishap at Windscale, milk produced in an area of Cumberland and Lancashire covering about 200 square miles was found to contain the radio-isotope iodine 131 in amounts which it was thought might involve some risk to young children living wholly on milk. About 1,000 farms were affected. Distribution of the milk was stopped as soon as this was discovered and steps were taken for its safe disposal. Fresh supplies from outside the area were brought in by the Milk Marketing Board.

Radio-activity in the eastern part of the area has now declined to very low levels, and I am advised by the Medical Research Council that the milk is safe. From today, therefore, I have authorised the Milk Marketing Board to resume distribution from nearly half the farms originally affected. The remainder will be freed as soon as the Medical Research Council can assure me that there is no danger. I am advised by the Agricultural Research Council that the health of farm animals grazing in the area should not be affected now or in the future. No restrictions have, therefore, been imposed on the movement of stock. Those purchasing cows in milk from the area have been advised that the milk will be safe for all purposes within twenty-four hours of their being moved on to fresh pasture.

Mr. Peart

is the Minister satisfied that the compensation agreed upon between the Milk Marketing Board and his Department is adequate, and will compensation be prompt? In view of the fact that the Agricultural Research Council has been brought into the survey of the effect on animal health, will that be a matter which will be reported to the House by the Minister later?

Mr. Amory

The Milk Marketing Board has paid for milk which has had to be poured away in exactly the same way as if the milk had been used for distribution; that is to say, payment in full has been made. As to the second part of the hon. Member's supplementary question, the Agricultural Research Council will keep this matter under continuous attention. It will I hope, be giving me advice whenever it thinks it necessary, or whenever I think it necessary to make inquiries of it, and, of course, I should be very glad to keep the House fully in touch with the advice I receive.

Sir I. Fraser

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that buying and selling in Ulverston and other markets in Lonsdale can now proceed normally?

Mr. Amory

Yes, Sir. I can assure my hon. Friend that the advice I have is that no risk has been involved to any livestock in this matter. The limited risk has been to milk and in that case really to milk consumed by babies, because babies consume practically no other food except milk.