HC Deb 15 November 1965 vol 720 cc671-3
31. Mr. van Stranbenzee

asked the Minister of Health whether, in response to representations from the National Grocers' Federation and others, he will now order the small stocks of suspect corned beef remaining in private hands to be destroyed.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Kenneth Robinson)

This would not be justified on health grounds since the stocks could be rendered safe for human consumption.

Mr. van Straubenzee

Will the right hon. Gentleman realise that this question refers back to an answer by the Parliamentary Secretary on 1st November, which appeared to indicate that there were stocks in private hands in respect of which he had not received assurances that they would not be released to the market?

Mr. Robinson

I know that there is public concern about this matter but I am advised that, provided it is reprocessed by an approved method, this meat would be safe for human consumption. The representations of the hon. Gentleman's Question were made to my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture and any Question about withholding of these stocks on commercial grounds should be addressed to him.

Mr. Lipton

As the Government have taken care to ensure that by far the greater part of this consignment shall not come on to the market, why are they so reluctant to take drastic action in the case of this small section which is in private hands?

Mr. Robinson

I can give my hon. Friend an assurance that no relevant cans from the canning establishment associated by the Committee of Inquiry with the Aberdeen typhoid outbreak will be disposed of in this country for any purpose.

Lady Tweedsmuir

In view of the Parliamentary Secretary's statement the other day that there could be no guarantee that these stocks would not be released for human consumption, does the Minister's statement today mean that he can guarantee that none of this particular corned beef will be released for human consumption, whether processed or not, in this country and whether reexported or reimported?

Mr. Robinson

It depends what the noble Lady means by "this particular corned beef". The reply I gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Brixton (Mr. Lipton) related to the relevant cans from the establishment associated by the Committee of Inquiry with the Aberdeen outbreak. The noble Lady will be aware that many more cans were voluntarily withheld from sale pending that inquiry.

Mr. Hector Hughes

Is the Minister not aware that recent outbreaks of peculiar and unexpected diseases in various parts of Britain make this matter of great national concern? Will he take powers to see that such suspected beef or imported food is destroyed?

Mr. Robinson

I am not sure to what peculiar diseases my hon. and learned Friend is referring, but I know that there has been no suggestion that any of the recent outbreaks of any disease have been associated with corned beef or typhoid.

Mr. Wood

What consultations are going on between the Minister of Health and the Secretary of State for Scotland? Is this not the kind of decision which ought to be taken by the Government as a whole?

Mr. Robinson

The decisions which I have announced are those of the Government as a whole. I am concerned only with the health aspects of this and, on health grounds, I am satisfied—as my original Answer made clear—that the stocks can be rendered quite fit for human consumption. But withholding on commercial grounds is a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, with whom I have been in constant touch throughout this matter.