HC Deb 11 May 1964 vol 695 cc14-6
16. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will now make a statement on the welfare of livestock exported for slaughter.

Mr. Soames

Yes, Sir. Undoubtedly the best way, from all points of view, of exporting meat is in carcase form; and the trend from live exports towards this is what the Government hope to see develop as far as possible and as soon as possible.

In 1957, the Government, in order to safeguard the welfare of cattle then being exported to the Continent, negotiated with France, Western Germany, Belgium and Holland the so-called "Balfour Assurances". Since then, trade in pigs and sheep has also developed. My right hon. Friends and I have decided to seek similar arrangements for their welfare. The interested countries have already been approached.

Exports of cattle for slaughter to the Continent are already subject to licence. As from 8th June, all exports of cattle, sheep and pigs for slaughter will be subject to licence. Licences will be granted only to those countries able to give assurances on the lines negotiated for cattle in 1957.

Mr. Bullard

Will my right hon. Friend accept my grateful thanks for this great move forward to ensure the welfare of livestock destined for slaughter? Will he also make it quite clear that this procedure will absolutely prevent any further export of sheep that might eventually find their way to Algeria for ritual slaughter, which was the original cause of the outcry over the whole of this business?

In addition, will my right hon. Friend try to negotiate with other countries some change in their regulations by which they are willing to take meat for fresh consumption providing it arrives on the hoof whereas they insist on it being manufactured if it arrives dead? This is a very great obstacle in the way of transferring export from live to carcase, and will my right hon. Friend take steps to negotiate an improvement in the arrangements?

Mr. Soames

As to the assurances which we are seeking, they are, firstly, that the animals will be slaughtered within 100 kilometres from the point of landing; secondly, that they must not be re-exported; thirdly, that they will be suitably penned, fed and watered while awaiting slaughter; and fourthly, that they will be slaughtered by electric stunning or by captive bolt pistol. We shall be prepared to allow the export of animals to any country that will give us these assurances.

Mr. Delargy

Will the right hon. Gentleman discourage the export of beef from this country, in view of the fact that supplies here are scarce and expensive and also that farmers are being paid a subsidy for beef by the taxpayer?

Mr. Soames

Our arrangements are that we have a free market for foodstuffs, and meat in particular, which, by and large, has enormous advantages for this country, and we would not lightly tamper with the existence of that free market which involves a good deal of importation and some exportation.

Mr. Delargy

What about the subsidies?

Mr. Kitson

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that, while this arrangement may be greatly welcomed by English pigs and sheep, it will not be much comfort to pigs and sheep coming from Southern Ireland? Will my right hon. Friend see that this matter is raised in the Council of Europe so that we can get some standardisation?

Mr. Soames

We are at the moment proceeding in the Council of Europe to try to get internationally-agreed arrangements.

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