HC Deb 03 April 1968 vol 762 cc359-61
33. Mr. Hooson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that carcases of beef, imported from the Argentine and other countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic and which might contain salmonella typhimurium, should be inspected by qualified veterinary officers in this country before they are distributed.

Mr. Peart

The port health authorities already have power to examine and test imported meat for conditions that may be injurious to public health, such as salmonella, but a veterinary inspection of carcases could not be relied upon to detect foot-and-mouth disease virus. I do not think, therefore, that the hon. Member's suggestion would improve our safeguards.

Mr. Hooson

Is the Minister aware that there is great concern about the adequacy of inspection of imported meat? In view of the Answer given to the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro), does he not think, as this is the only country which does not have inspection by veterinary surgeons, that we ought, as a matter of urgency, to introduce such a system?

Mr. Peart

The hon. and learned Member has, in some strange way, confused the incidence of foot-and-mouth disease with salmonella. They are quite different. The arrangements that we have are, in the circumstances, sensible.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he has misjudged the whole situation and, having alienated the wishes of the farming community, he will not get the meat from Argentina anyhow? Where has this got him?

Mr. Peart

I have carried on a system about which over many years my predecessor did nothing. I am now examining this carefully, and have already set up the Northumberland Committee on foot-and-mouth disease. On other matters affecting salmonella, this is a matter for the Ministry of Health. As far as I am concerned, if we can improve the system in existence we shall do it.

Mr. Godber

The Minister keeps repeating that he is doing something, but the whole situation has been changed by this latest epidemic and it was incumbent upon him to do this. Is he aware that he must safeguard supplies coming in now as much as he safeguarded those already in?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that the situation has changed. If hon. Members were really sincere in their desire to improve health arrangements in the general sense why, in all the years that they had, did they do absolutely nothing?

Sir Harmar Nicholls

On a point of order. Although it is not my Question, in view of the unsatisfactory Answer, I beg to give notice that I shall try to raise this important matter, before 15th April, on the Adjournment.

Mr. Speaker

Order. The hon. Member must give notice in the conventional way.