HC Deb 17 April 1975 vol 890 cc654-5
15. Miss Fookes

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give the figures to the latest convenient date for the export of live sheep and cattle for slaughter from the lifting of the ban on 16th January 1975.

Mr. Bishop

Up to 5th April, 23,216 sheep and 2,916 cattle for slaughter were examined before shipment, all to EEC countries.

Miss Fookes

Do not the figures, particularly for cattle, make utter nonsense of the allegations made in the House about the need to provide a lifeline for farmers? In the light of the new evidence of suffering, will the Minister now reimpose the ban on the export of these creatures?

Mr. Bishop

We must keep this matter in perspective. We recognise the concern of the hon. Lady and her hon. Friends. Following the report of the "Midweek" revelations, my right hon. Friend took action and made a statement to the House last Friday, 11th April. We know that the French are taking action. We see no reason, with only one instance, to reimpose the ban generally.

Mr. Corbett

Does my hon. Friend accept that, in the light of the statement made in the debate on the removal of the ban on the export of live animals for slaughter, requests were made to him to suspend exports to countries where there was prima facie evidence that animals were suffering as in the recent incident in France? Will he now urge his right hon. Friend to suspend trade with those countries until they can demonstrate that the existing regulations are being enforced?

Mr. Bishop

I take note of what my hon. Friend has said. The fact is that the statement made by my right hon. Friend last Friday should give the House the assurance that it needs. We have the fullest assurance of the French and other EEC Governments that they are carrying out the wishes of this Government and Parliament as expressed in the debate on the O'Brien Report. We are keeping the matter under review.

Regarding the "Midweek" programme, I can state that each consignment has been inspected by our veterinary officers. Before the television programme, 271 animals were rejected as unfit for export. Since the television programme and up to last Friday, only six animals were rejected out of two consignments. We have the fullest co-operation with our EEC partners regarding the safeguards that we want to impose.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Does the Minister agree that, if the law was broken in any way, it was the duty of the representatives of the RSPCA who travelled with the livestock right across France to report to the police or the authorities concerned?

Mr. Bishop

I am sure that the RSPCA and other welfare bodies should do and are doing their jobs well. There is great co-operation between them and the Government.