HC Deb 19 January 1978 vol 942 cc639-41
2. Mr. Corbett

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he has made on the review of the export trade in live food animals; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Strang

As I told my hon. Friend the Member for Ormskirk (Mr. Kilroy-Silk) yesterday, good progress is being made with the examination of this trade. The results should be available to Ministers shortly. When they have been studied, my right hon. Friend the Minister intends to make a statement to the House on the conclusions reached and the reasons for them.

Mr. Corbett

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, but will he accept that there is sustained and growing public concern about the export of live food animals on both welfare and economic grounds? Will he, as part of the review, pay special attention to the reported comments of the super-sleuths, the hon Members for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) and Devon, West (Mr. Mills), who, despite taking at precautions to see that their trip was well publicised, including the presence of a television crew, were able to come back from a trip to see an exported consign ment of calves and to confess that there were loopholes about the eventual destination of the calves? This substantiates a lot of the evidence put to my hon. Friend and his right hon. Friend by the RSPCA and other welfare bodies.

Mr. Strang

I agree with my hon. Friend that there is great concern in the country on this issue. It is precisely for that reason that my right hon. Friend announced this important inquiry.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will the Minister bear in mind that there is a very real difference between the export of live animals for immediate slaughter and their export for rearing and breeding purposes? Will he also look carefully at the export of live sheep for immediate slaughter? My hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Hicks) and I have come back only this morning from a trip to see what happens. It is totally unnecessary. Will the Minister also bear in mind that those of us who are concerned about welfare take trouble to ask permission to do the job properly do not act as spies and are informed of the full facts? We should not he able to do this if we went incognito.

Mr. Strang

Yes, we are looking at all these matters.

Mr. Litterick

Has the Ministry made an estimate of the effect on the revenues of the British industry that would follow cessation of the trade in live animals and substitution of the export of carcases?

Mr. Strang

This is important, and we are giving consideration to it. It is not simply a welfare matter. Employment and economic aspects are involved too.

Mr. Burden

The Minister undertook to report on this situation early in the new year. It is perfectly clear that he now has a considerable amount of evidence. Will he give some indication to the House about when the report is likely to be presented?

Mr. Strang

The hon. Member is right. We have received an enormous volume of evidence from a large number of organisations. This is not just a domestic exercise. We have to look closely at the position in the main countries to which we are exporting these live food animals. I assure the hon. Gentleman that we are pressing ahead as quickly as we can, but I think he would prefer a thorough investigation rather than a short, inadequate job.

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