HC Deb 16 July 1964 vol 698 cc1421-3
Q7. Mr. K. Robinson

asked the Prime Minister if he will introduce arrangements to co-ordinate the responsibilities of the Minister of Health, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Secretary of State for Scotland for the protection of the public health against the risks associated with imported canned meat.

The Prime Minister

No, Sir. Such arrangements already exist and are periodically reviewed.

Mr. Robinson

Does the Prime Minister know the unhappy story of the consignment of contaminated corned beef which caused food poisoning in Edinburgh? Is he aware that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was unable to prevent the import of corned beef from an establishment which used unchlorinated water, was uninspected and unlicensed, and that the Minister of Health, although he tried to withdraw the corned beef from circulation, did not know how much had been distributed, where it had gone, nor that there were three brands and not one brand involved in the consignment? Does he not think that this suggests that at least some co-ordination is needed?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friends are reviewing the situation to see if there can be any improvement of their joint action at present. If the hon. Member has a suggestion to make, I shall be only too glad to have it, for we want to make our co-ordinating machinery as efficient as possible.

Mr. Kershaw

Is my right hon. Friend aware that it was the responsibility of the Minister of Health which caused the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition to resign from his Government back in the Socialist days?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Does the Prime Minister not realise the confusion which for years has existed in the various Ministries mentioned in the Question? Does he not realise that this confusion has been a grave danger to the nation from the time of the poison epidemic? Will he give serious consideration to the co-ordination asked for in the Question?

The Prime Minister

I have said so, but I do not think that there are any essential flaws in the present arrangements. If we can improve on them, of course we will.

Sir Richard Glyn

Is my right hon. Friend aware that statistics for corned beef over the last five years show that nearly 100 million tins have been imported, of which the numbers suspected of having been infected with typhoid are three tins?

Mr. Woodburn

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that meat which is refused in one port can be brought in through another port and accepted there? Is he aware that there is no co-ordination among the different medical officers of health as to the terms on which meat can be rejected? If meat is found unsuitable in one port, will he take steps to see that there are communications with other ports in order that that meat should not be accepted?

The Prime Minister

I will bring this point to the attention of my right hon. Friend.