HC Deb 20 April 1978 vol 948 cc654-5
7. Mr. Ron Thomas

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the report of the official working group on the export of live animals for food.

13. Mr. Ronald Atkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the report of the official working group on the export of live food animals.

Mr. Strang

My right hon. Friend the Minister expects to make a statement in the House in due course, when all those with an interest in this subject have had the opportunity to study the report and to form their views.

Mr. Thomas

Is my hon. Friend aware that this report clearly puts far too much emphasis on the profitability of the trade and not enough on the welfare of animals? Does he agree that the major conclusion—that the majority of animals are not subject to stress or left for long periods without food and water—shows an indefensible level of complacency?

Mr. Strang

My hon. Friend has made some points which we shall have to take into account. But I think that he will recognise that the Government are considering this report and will not reach any conclusions until they have had the views of interested parties, including hon. Members.

Mr. Atkins

Does my hon. Friend agree that if a tiny fraction of the compassion shown by all EEC Governments to farmers were to be given to farm animals being exported in this cruel way this trade would not exist? Does he also agree that more and more people in this country are demanding the ending of this trade, including workers who will lose jobs in abattoirs and in food processing, which is work which should be in this country, not abroad?

Mr. Strang

I have to acknowledge that some progress has been made in the Community generally on animal welfare. But I accept that, as my hon. Friend said, there is great concern in this country on this question. That is why my right hon. Friend called for this review and why we are giving careful consideration to all the points made, including those made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Burden

Am I right in saying that the members who comprise this committe are all employed in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food? Would it not have given much greater confidence to the vast number of people outside and across the Floor of the House who consider this a very grave matter if some outside people had been included? Will the Minister give an undertaking that this matter will be debated in the near future and that he will be prepared to tell the House about the proposals for the transport of animals in Europe after August?

Mr. Strang

I cannot accept the hon. Gentleman's observations. It was not so long since we had the O'Brien Committee, which was an outside committee along the lines indicated by the hon. Gentleman. This was a review carried out by Ministry civil servants who took into account all the evidence which was submitted to them. That report has now been published. I think that hon. Members will welcome that as a good example of open government. Ministers are not committed to the conclusions in that report, but they will reach their decisions as a result of the report and the comments which they receive on it.