HC Deb 02 December 1982 vol 33 cc384-5
8. Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what further representations he has had about the importation of Dutch chrysanthemums infected with chrysanthemum white rust fungus; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Peter Walker

I have received representations from the National Farmers Union and individual growers. As I have previously made clear, I have decided to allow the new Dutch control measures an opportunity to prove themselves, but if they are not effective I shall impose a ban immediately.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith

I am delighted to hear what my right hon. Friend has said. Is he aware that eradication is a tenable policy only if all loopholes are closed, and that the Dutch plant growers have a disastrous track record?

Mr. Walker

I am aware that the only way to eradicate the disease is to prevent any imports which cause its spread. The Dutch Government are fully aware of this. I have informed them in writing that if there are any further examples of white rust being imported from Holland, an immediate ban will take place.

Mr. Newens

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware of the danger of the spread of this disease to our own plants by lorries that have carried infected blooms subsequently visiting nurseries owned by our growers? In those circumstances, why is he taking a risk by allowing imports to continue? We know that under the present system blooms infected with white rust are able to enter this country.

Mr. Walker

I agree with the hon. Gentleman that such imports must be prevented and stopped. However, the Dutch Government have put in a new system of surveillance which they claim will prevent any further exports to this country containing white rust. If that claim proves to be false and there is another import of white rust, I shall put an immediate ban on all imports.

Mr. John Wells

The House welcomes my right hon. Friend's use of the word "immediate", but there is immediate and immediate. How quickly from the import of dirty material is "immediate"?

Mr. Walker


Mr. Mark Hughes

Has the Minister received evidence that on 3 November a consignment was imported from Holland to Covent Garden, some of which was sent to Hampshire and then to Gateshead, and that on 9 November 120 badly infected boxes were intercepted? How immediate is that immediacy?

Mr. Walker

The hon. Gentleman should be clear that the system agreed by the Dutch has only recently been introduced. The consignment that he mentions, which was known to me, was not subject to the new system of inspection. The Dutch Government have been informed that their new system will be tested and that, if there are any examples of white rust, there will be an immediate ban.

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