HC Deb 10 December 1981 vol 14 cc976-7
9. Mr. Hal Miller

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he proposes to take in the light of the replies he has received to his Department's recent request for comments on ideas for amending the law relating to unfit meat for human consumption, referred to in the answer by the Member for Rochester and Chatham (Mrs. Fenner) on 12 November 1981,Official Report, c. 181.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Peggy Fenner)

As indicated in the reply referred to by my hon. Friend, the Government see some scope for strengthening the present legislation, to complement strict application of the law by local authorities. The form that amendments to the legislation may take is being considered in the light of the replies so far received from the organisations concerned.

Mr. Miller

Does my hon. Friend understand the widespread concern, in the light of recent cases in Swansea, London and my constituency, that the fines that were imposed were derisory in view of the profit derived from trading in unfit meat? Is she aware that there is a need to take preventive measures by reintroducing staining? Will she therefore consider supporting the Private Member's Bill covering those points, or does she have other proposals that will produce similar results?

Mrs. Fenner

Among the ideas and proposals that were put forward for a wide range of consultation was to stain meat in certain circumstances. I assure my hon. Friend and the House that the Government are very anxious to ensure that the use of unfit meat in food products for human consumption is prevented, and we are giving the matter high priority.

Mr. Mark Hughes

May I assure the hon. Lady that she will have the full support of the whole House in eradicating this wholly unacceptable practice? Whether by staining or other means, I hope that it will be done as expeditiously as possible.

Mrs. Fenner

I am delighted that we shall have the support of the whole House and, again, I assure hon. Members that we view the matter most seriously and are giving it the highest priority. The hon. Gentleman will know that in the Criminal Justice Bill, which will be before the House this Session, the maximum penalty will be raised under the Food and Drugs Acts from £100 to £1,000.

Mr. Peter Mills

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind that it is not only unfit meat about which the public are concerned? They are also concerned about kangaroo meat coming into this country and being made into hamburgers and mincemeat. Will she assure the House that those imports and that practice will be stopped?

Mrs. Fenner

Wide consultation with the various authorities took place during the summer, and the proposals put forward will, I trust, cover all the areas about which hon. Members have shown concern.

Mr. Norman Atkinson

Does the Minister understand that she will get the support of the whole House only if she and her Ministry are prepared to allow local authorities to take cases of that sort away from magistrates' courts and, on indictment, into higher courts?

Mrs. Fenner

As I believe the hon. Gentleman knows, our proposals concern secondary legislation, which we trust will be very effective in supporting the enforcing authorities in carrying out their work.