HC Deb 22 February 1968 vol 759 cc642-4
Q3. Mr. Chichester-Clark

asked the Prime Minister what proposals he has to co-ordinate the work of the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with regard to imports of meat from South America.

The Prime Minister

The Departments concerned already work closely together and no new measures of co-ordination are needed.

Mr. Chichester-Clark

Who is being difficult? If there was a prima facie case for the ban in the first place, what possible justification can there be for removing it before the committee of inquiry has even started its work?

The Prime Minister

The hon. Gentleman will have seen the statement of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I do not think that it is right for me to add to it until the final statement is made which my right hon. Friend said would be before 4th March. He gave the reasons in his statement why more time was needed to complete his inquiries.

Mr. Thorpe

Since the Government have rightly set up a high-powered committee to look into the whole question of foot-and-mouth disease, would not it be right, in the interests of both the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture, that they should ask for and wait upon an interim report on meat imports from the Argentine and other countries where foot-and-mouth is endemic before the Minister comes to a final view?

The Prime Minister

I am well aware of the feelings on both sides of the House, particularly those of hon. Members representing agricultural areas, that the ban should continue for a very much longer time. There is also the view expressed by other hon. Members about the very serious effect indeed on our export trade to Latin America. Therefore, the matter must be judged on the basis put forward by my right hon. Friend last week.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Will the Prime Minister take into account that three farms in the North-West are suffering a foot-and-mouth epidemic for the second time in a few months? Will he pay the same regard to the export problem, which we all appreciate, as he has done to South Africa?

The Prime Minister

My right hon. Friend made clear what the position was last week. I do not think that I can add to what he said. It is certainly true, as the hon. Gentleman said, that even where slaughter followed the discovery of foot-and-mouth some months ago certain farms have again been hit by foot-and-mouth now that the farmers have thought that they were clear and started to restock. This has been extremely tragic for the farmers concerned. It is a very serious matter for them, and is naturally one of the things that my right hon. Friends must take into consideration.