HC Deb 16 March 1978 vol 946 cc627-9
15. Mr. Costain

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to receive a report on the examination of developments in the livestock export trade since it was resumed in 1975, and if he will make a statement.

17. Mr. Brotherton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has yet received the results of the review of the export of live animals for slaughter.

Mr. Strang

As my right hon. Friend the Minister told the hon. Member for Leeds, North-West (Sir D. Kaberry) on 14th March, the report of the official working group has now been submitted and will be published in full.

Mr. Costain

Does the Minister appreciate the great public interest in this subject? What is in this report that he is ashamed to publish so that the public and farmers can read it? Can we not make a decision even to publish something for a change?

Mr. Strang

The hon. Member may not have heard me. I said that the Government are publishing the report in full. We are doing our best to have it printed before the Easter Recess.

Mr. Brotherton

Will the Minister bear in mind that any ban for humanitarian purposes on the export of live animals would result in a ban on imports? Then where would we be?

Mr. Strang

I am not sure that I follow the logic of that question. I assure the hon. Member that all these aspects are considered in the report. There will be time for consideration of it, and the Government will then make a decision.

Mr. Ovenden

Will my hon. Friend resist those who try to persuade him that this matter can be controlled by regulations? Does he agree that once consignments of animals have left this country we can never effectively enforce regulations? Does he accept that the only solution is to reintroduce the ban?

Mr. Strang

I am sure that my hon. Friend speaks for many. At the same time, he will appreciate that the Government wish to consider all views on the report before reaching a decision.

Mr. Charles Morrison

Will the Government announce the decision about the export trade at the same time as publishing the report? Alternatively, will they allow public discussion after publication of the report?

Mr. Strang

I am glad to confirm that we shall allow a short period after publication so that hon. Members and other interested parties can comment on it before the Government reach a decision.

Mr. John Ellis

Does my hon. Friend realise that those who have followed this matter and who listened to the advice of the Opposition Front Bench that we should achieve humanitarian measures by legislation have since realised that we were wrong? Does he appreciate that we feel deeply about this matter? Does he agree that it is time that the ban was reintroduced, because it is not possible to enforce regulations once the animals have left our shores?

Mr. Strang

My hon. Friend has taken an interest in the issue for a long time. I can assure him that his views, and those of others, will be taken into account.

Mr. Burden

Will the Minister do his utmost to ensure that the report is debated in the House? In the meantime, will he give an assurance that animals are not sent to those countries in which humane slaughter is not practised?

Mr. Strang

I appreciate the hon. Member's concern. He will recognise that the question when we have a debate is a matter for the Leader of the House.

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