HC Deb 08 December 1960 vol 631 cc1430-2
53. Sir J. Barlow

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has now decided to allow the importation of Charollais bulls into this country.

54. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now state what action he proposes to take on the Terrington Report.

60. Mr. Bossom

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he can now make a statement regarding the importation into the United Kingdom of Charollais bulls, in the light of the serious outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Christopher Soames)

The Secretary of State for Scotland and I have carefully considered the Committee's Report and have taken into account the views of all the organisations concerned. We agree with the Committee that there is a good case for a trial of some Charollais bulls imported under the strictest veterinary control.

The Secretary of State and I are satisfied from the expert advice available to us that with the extremely strict precautions which would be taken there could be no risk of introducing disease into this country. We have had, however, to take into account the possible effect upon the international livestock trade if the proposed importation of Charollais from France were proceeded with at this juncture.

While, therefore, we accept in principle the desirability of trying the Charollais experiment at a convenient opportunity, we are not proposing to proceed with the importation for the time being. In the meantime, we shall do all we can to demonstrate that no risk is involved in our experiment to justify any restrictions on our exports.

We are very much indebted to Lord Terrington and his Committee for the careful thought which they gave to this subject and for their very helpful Report.

Sir J. Barlow

Is my right hon. Friend aware that that Answer will be received with great appreciation by progressive cattle breeders in this country? Knowing the care which my right hon. Friend's Ministry takes to prevent the importation of disease, may I ask whether he can indicate when he hopes to be able to implement his decision?

Mr. Soames

It involves consultation with other countries and I should not like to say at the moment.

Mr. Bullard

Does my right hon. Friend realise that his determination not to turn down this project will be received with great relief by commercial beef producers? Is he aware that there will be ready acceptance of the fact that to introduce cattle into the country at the present time, with foot-and-mouth disease as it is, would be a grave risk? Will my right hon. Friend, however, do something about this matter at the earliest possible opportunity consistent with removing the disease risk?

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. I am anxious to get on with this experiment as soon as we can overcome the difficulties which I have mentioned.

Mr. Bossom

To ensure better Government control, can my right hon. Friend say that when the Charollais bulls come over, the trials will be carried out at Government experimental farms?

Mr. Soames

We have a long way to go in the experimentation in progeny trials with beef animals and I am anxious that more should be done. If breed societies or others have any proposals, I will gladly look at them to see in what way we can assist. The facilities available to my Department in this respect are, however, strictly limited.

Mr. Mackie

Is the Minister aware that this decision will give great satisfaction to progressive farmers, particularly dairy farmers, but that there will be disappointment at the delay and that I hope he will ensure that it is as short as possible? How does the Minister propose to choose the bulls? I hope he knows that the British Charollais Bulls Committee, of which the hon. Member for Enfield, East happens to be chairman, is at his service.

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. If we can reach the decision that we can go forward with this importation, we would choose them from the spring calvings.