HC Deb 25 November 1964 vol 702 cc1259-60
17. Mr. Mitchell

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will publish the report of the technical committee which is inquiring into conditions in intensive systems of livestock husbandry.

20. Sir Richard Glyn

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will publish the report of the committee, set up before the Election, to study the problems involved in factory farming; how soon he expects this report to be available; and whether he will make a statement.

36. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress is being made by the committee investigating intensive systems of animal husbandry; and when its report will be published.

Mr. Peart

The committee is at present considering written and oral evidence. It is pressing on urgently with its task and, as stated in reply to the hon. Member for Hertfordshire, South-West (Mr. Longden) on 19th November, I am hopeful that the report will be completed by next summer. Once the report is available I will publish it and decide what action to take.

Mr. Mitchell

Is the Minister aware of the widespread interest in this matter and of the uneasiness among producers at present?

Mr. Peart

I am aware of that. That is why my predecessor decided to set up this committee.

Mrs. Butler

Is not there some danger that the committee's terms of reference will confine it to making recommendations for the better management of a bad system? Since it is a long time before the committee reports, will he make it clear to the committee that we should welcome its comments on the intensive husbandry system itself, and its effect on human nutrition, bearing particularly in mind the use of antibiotics and dangerous additives in this system?

Mr. Peart

As my hon. Friend knows, the terms of reference of the committee were decided and the committee's composition was announced. The committee is now doing its job and we must await its findings.

Sir Richard Glyn

Will the Minister bear in mind the fact that there is considerable anxiety about this matter, not least among the farmers of this country, who have a fine reputation for considerate and skilful handling of livestock? Many of them are concerned about newspaper reports of some of the latest intensive methods. In the circumstances, does not the Minister think that June is a very long time ahead, and will he therefore press the committee for an interim report? If he cannot, will he say that he is absolutely satisfied that there is no cause for Government action sooner?

Mr. Peart

We are all aware that this problem affects not only the farming community but the general public. But the committee is now going ahead with its work and I think that it is only right and proper that it should do its work efficiently and quickly. As soon as the report is finished I will look at it and shall then decide what action to take. I can do no more.