HC Deb 09 March 1961 vol 636 cc676-8
36. Sir Richard Glyn

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, whether, in view of the serious incidence of foot-and-mouth disease, he will take steps to ensure that all meat from the Argentine landed in this country is processed or canned.

38. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he is satisfied that the ban on imports of pig meat from Argentina is wide enough to prevent the bringing in of foot-and-mouth disease to this country; and whether, in view of the recent serious recurrence of the disease, he will consider extending the ban at least temporarily to other sorts of meat.

Mr. Soames

The purpose of the prohibition on imports of pork from South America, together with the strict precautions under which other South American meat is exported to this country, is to reduce to a minimum the risk of introducing foot-and-mouth disease but these measures cannot entirely eliminate the risk. But I am hopeful that the Argentine Government's vigorous campaign against the disease will greatly reduce its incidence there, and I do not think that such drastic steps as those envisaged by my hon. Friends would be justified.

Sir R. Glyn

Will my right hon. Friend say how soon the measures that he has in mind can become effective? Will he agree that, in the cases where the source of infection can be traced, a great deal of it comes from Argentine imports, and is he satisfied that the Argentine Government are fully carrying out their obligations under the Bledisloe Agreement designed to prevent the import of foot-and-mouth disease to this country and subject to which they are allowed to send here unprocessed meat?

Mr. Soames

The Argentine Government have instituted very considerable and important measures. They will take some time to have effect. We have already 7eceived some reports on how they are working out, but it will be quite a while before we are able to assess them. I have no doubt—and I have had a talk with representatives of the Argentine Government on this—that the measures that are now in operation will be of considerable help in dealing with this problem.

Mr. Bullard

Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that he is being tough enough with the Argentine Government over this matter? Has he any evidence that primary outbreaks which are attributable to swill containing meat imported from South America arise from pork remains rather than beef remains? If there is not that distinction, is it not rather inconsistent to impose a ban upon pork and not upon beef? Will he tell the Argentine Government that we would rather do without their beef for a while than have our beef and livestock herds decimated by this terrible foot-and-mouth disease?

Mr. Soames

There is circumstantial evidence that from time to time out- breaks of foot-and-mouth disease originate from swill including meat from the Argentine. It is very hard to say what was the pork content and beef content in the swill which had not been properly processed. The reason why we are differentiating between pork and beef is that the measures that can be taken for beef in the Argentine could not be extended to pork. As to the ban which my hon. Friend mentioned, Argentine imports constitute some 17 per cent. of our beef consumption in this country at the present time. It is high quality chilled meat which would not be easily obtained elsewhere and we could not consider banning its importation.

Mr. de Freitas

If the Government are to continue the slaughter policy and not go in for an inoculation policy, is it not their duty to plug up every source of imported infection and to do this to the Argentine until we are satisfied that they are tackling this problem seriously?

Mr. Soames

The Argentine Government are as aware of this as we are, and it is with this in view that they have instituted these measures.