HC Deb 26 November 1959 vol 614 cc532-6
4. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food the date when it ceased to be necessary under his Regulations for all unfit meat from slaughterhouses and all meat from knackers' yards to be stained before leaving the premises, in an effort to ensure that it did not find its way for human consumption.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

2nd July, 1954.

Mr. Dodds

Does the hon. Gentleman not think it scandalous that under the old Ministry of Food the public were protected by the sterilisation and colouring of meat, that under the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, the appropriate Ministers were given power to introduce regulations and that in 1956 the Ministry undertook to introduce them as a matter of great urgency and importance, but that nothing has been done? Which vested interests are preventing the Ministry from giving the public the protection which it deserves?

Mr. Godber

That goes a little beyond the Question. I remind the hon. Member that it was much easier to control these matters when we had very small supplies of meat than now, when there is plenty for everyone. The hon. Member must also not forget that the Food and Drugs Act, 1955, provided heavy penalties for people who purveyed infected meat for human consumption.

Mr. Willey

Will the Joint Parliamentary Secretary face the difficulties and stop being flippant about this? There is a good deal of public concern about this matter. An undertaking was given that an order would be made. We realise that there were difficulties—they were discussed in the House—but, surely, it is time we were told that the Government were in a position to lay another Order.

Mr. Godber

I reject at once any charge of flippancy, which is wholly unfounded. There are other Questions on the Order Paper relating to this matter; I ask the hon. Member to await them.

5. Mr. Rankin

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has for introducing regulations to govern the sale of condemned meat.

6. Mr. Darling

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he intends to carry out the undertaking, given on his behalf in this House on 26th February last, to introduce regulations for the disposal of unfit meat from slaughterhouses and knackers' yards.

9. Mr. Stonehouse

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the present arrangements for the disposal of meat which is unfit for human consumption; and what steps he is taking to improve the position.

13. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when regulations are to be introduced to protect the public in respect to the disposal of meat condemned at slaughterhouses and knackers' yards.

14. Mr. Owen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he proposes to introduce legislation to control the sale of condemned meat.

15. Mrs. Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he proposes to take to protect the public in regard to sales of meat unfit for human consumption.

Mr. John Hare

This is a matter on which there is a considerable variation of opinion in the House. My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister of Health and I are examining the numerous representations we have had on this subject.

Mr. Rankin

Why does the right hon. Gentleman continue to be so evasive on this issue? He has been examining the prospect of regulations for nearly nine months. Will he tell us in clear, unadulterated language the nature of the representations which have been made to him which prevent him from tabling regulations to govern the sale of unfit food?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Member could not have been present in the House when there was considerable discussion of this matter and many points were put forward, some suggesting that the regulations should be tighter and some suggesting that they should be altered. Those are all worthy of detailed consideration, which is what I am giving to the matter.

Mr. Darling

Although it is correct, as the Minister says, that there was a conflict of opinion on 26th February when this matter was discussed, was it not a fact that there was great pressure from this side of the House to introduce stringent regulations and that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary gave a promise that regulations would be introduced? Why has that promise not been carried out?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Member is not completely accurate. What my hon. Friend said was that more time was required to enable the regulations to be put in a form such as will cause the least possible hardship to those concerned."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th February, 1959; Vol. 600, c. 1448.] That is a quotation from my hon. Friend's speech.

Mr. Darling

I have the copy of HANSARD with me, too.

Mr. Stonehouse

Is the Minister aware that a great many reputable traders in the meat trade are concerned that high standards will be maintained and that these traders include particularly the co-operative societies? In his examination of the problem, will the Minister keep in touch with them?

Mr. Hare

Naturally, I am considering the whole problem.

Mrs. Butler

While I appreciate the difficulties, is it not a fact that until new regulations are introduced there is a danger of diseased meat infecting animals and of the infection being passed on to human beings? Is not the public safety and protection of paramount importance in all this?

Mr. Hare

Yes. There is, however, some exaggeration. For instance, it was thought that anthrax would be dealt with under the proposed regulations. I am told, however, that ordinary sterilisation would not cause immunity from anthrax being passed on by sterilised meat.


Mr. Dodds

I was expecting my hon. Friend the Member for Morpeth (Mr. Owen) to ask a supplementary question concerning unfit meat. Since he has not been called, I give notice that, owing to the unsatisfactory answers, I propose to raise the matter on the Adjournment as soon as possible.

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