HC Deb 15 May 1968 vol 764 cc1213-4
27. Dr. David Kerr

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to receive the report of the committee set up to advise on the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry.

28. Mrs. Joyce Butler

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in the appointment of a body to consider the evidence about the use of antibiotics in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine and its implications in the field of human health.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

I hope to announce the membership of this committee very shortly. Its terms of reference will be: To obtain information about the present and prospective uses of antibiotics in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine, with particular reference to the phenomenon of infective drug resistance, to consider the implications for animal husbandry and also for human and animal health, and to make recommendations. I am glad to say that Professor M. M. Swann, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh, has agreed to be the Chairman.

In these circumstances it is not possible to say when the Committee will report.

Dr. Kerr

Would my right hon. Friend not agree that in view of the fact that his predecessor announced the formation of this Committee as long ago as last September, this is a regrettably unsatisfactory record? While allowing for the pressures on his Department occasioned by the foot-and-mouth outbreak, will he recognise that we will forgive him only if he can give an unqualified promise to the House that the Committee will be encouraged to report quickly and that he will take action on its report immediately?

Mr. Hughes

I am sorry that it has not been possible to set up the Committee earlier, for the reasons which my hon. Friend has given. Nor is it possible to say when a report of an independent committee of this kind will be made. I am sure that the Committee will report as quickly as it can. The important thing is that it should do its job properly.

Mrs. Butler

Can my right hon. Friend confirm that, since the slap-happy use of antibiotics in agriculture appears to be self-defeating, in rendering some animals and possibly human beings, through food, unable to resist infection, the terms of reference will be wide enough to enable the Committee to recommend a ban on certain antibiotics used in agriculture, as well as just making general control recommendations?

Mr. Hughes

I cannot accept the charge levelled in the first part of my hon. Friend's question. If she will read the terms of reference—which I have read out to the House—in HANSARD tomorrow, she will see that they are sufficiently wide to enable this work to be done admirably.

Mr. Stodart

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that he could not have gone to a better country or a better city to get the Chairman of this Committee?

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