HC Deb 28 October 1987 vol 121 cc403-25 10.28 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson)

I beg to move, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 7183/87 on maximum permitted radioactivity levels for foodstuffs, feedingstuffs and drinking water in the case of abnormal levels of radioactivity or of a nuclear accident; and urges the European Community to assure a common standard of health protection by adopting a rational set of scientifically based Intervention Levels for foodstuffs. I should like to make it clear at the outset that this debate is not about the details of the precise levels of radioactivity that may be permitted in food to be put on the Community market following any future nuclear emergency. Those precise details are still being discussed in Brussels and Strasbourg.

This debate is about the principles to which the Government attach importance—that the agreed levels should be related to scientific advice, particularly when it is provided by the Community's experts. I am glad to say that a number of the Commission's proposals have already taken into account the United Kingdom's views on a number of important aspects, but as negotiations are still in progress it would be inappropriate for me to be more specific at this stage, apart from saying that we believe that we have reached agreement on precisely what should be the mechanism for triggering future action, and how it should be applied to areas such as foodstuffs and tap water.

However, there is a considerable difference of opinion on one issue. That has arisen because the Commission, although it accepts the advice of its experts under article 31 of the Euratom treaty on all other radio nuclides, has divided the figure for radio caesium by four. The rationality of this action is in dispute.

The Ministry's explanatory memorandum sets out the background to the Commission's proposal. The draft regulation aims at establishing Community-wide levels that would be applied as soon as a nuclear emergency was identified. However, it may be helpful if I explain in more detail just what the Commission is proposing, and why.

The accident at Chernobyl in the USSR on 26 April 1986 threw up a plume of radioactive material, which was then carried to various parts of Europe. All EEC countries, except Portugal and most of Spain, suffered contamination of varying degrees.

At Community level, the most apparent threat was from the possible import into the EEC of heavily contaminated food from the Eastern bloc. Therefore, on 12 May the EEC banned all imports of fresh food and livestock from within a 1,000 km radius of Chernobyl. On 30 May this ban was replaced by a Council regulation that specified maximum permitted radioactive levels for all third-country foodstuffs. That regulation has been extended twice, and is currently due to expire at the end of this month. The regulation was not based on scientific advice but sought to reconcile the actions taken unilaterally by certain member states—often for presentational as much as for scientific reasons.

Throughout 1986 and the early part of this year the European Commission came under increasing pressure to put forward a draft regulation on a more scientific basis that would automatically implement pre-agreed threshold levels for the radioactive contamination of food in the event of a future nuclear accident, whenever that may take place. By this means it was hoped to avoid a repeat of the confusion and indecision at Community level that arose immediately after Chernobyl. Consequently, after first seeking advice from a group of experts set up under article 31 of the Euratom treaty—commonly known as the article 31 group, or the group of experts—and convening an international scientific seminar at Luxembourg in April 1987, the Commission submitted a proposal for a Council regulation on 16 June 1987. That proposal has led to this debate.

As I said earlier, the proposed regulation lays down maximum permitted radioactivity levels in foodstuffs. If agreed, these levels would, in the event of a future nuclear emergency, be automatically applied right across the Community. Unlike the post-Chernobyl controls on third-country imports, they would apply to all foodstuffs marketed within the Community, whatever their origin, and would mean that any foodstuffs above the level set could not be marketed. In many cases such foodstuffs would have to be destroyed.

It is therefore important that the levels applied should be the right ones, and based on the best scientific advice available to the Community. We welcome the proposal to establish Community-wide criteria to be applied to foodstuffs in the event of another major nuclear emergency. However, we have been deeply disappointed to find that, in drawing up its proposals, the Commission has arbitrarily lowered—in fact divided by four—the two figures recommended by the article 31 group—its own group of experts—for caesium 134 and caesium 137. Its reasons for doing so are unclear.

As some hon. Members will be aware, the nuclides were the main source of contamination following Chernobyl. However, it does not automatically follow that they will be our main worry following any future accident. The result of the Commission's actions means that the regulations as drafted propose maximum permitted levels of caesium 134 and 137 that are entirely different from those proposed for the isotope strontium 90.

Inevitably perhaps there are a number of more detailed points that are currently under discussion in Brussels. However, the main focus of our concern has been, and remains, the level that will be applied under the proposed regulations.

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

Does the Minister agree that the basic reason why the May 1986 proposals were so ineffective was that there was a specific decision to exclude East Germany, although parts of it fell within 1,000 kilometres of Chernobyl? As the new regulation deals with imports from third countries, can the Minister tell us whether, once again, it has been decided to treat East Germany as part of the European Community? Does he agree that if the Community does so, it makes the regulation nonsense, because food will simply pour in from other parts of east Europe through East Germany?

Mr. Thompson

I shall deal with the first part of my hon. Friend's question. There was a great deal of confusion after the Chernobyl accident and therefore some countries made unilateral decisions. For that reason, we had to have a Community-wide agreement, and that is why we are discussing that agreement tonight.

On the detailed point about East Germany, I do not think that such specific questions have yet been resolved in the Community and the Council. There are many detailed points currently under discussion in Brussels. The main focus of our concern remains the levels that will be applied under the proposed new regulations. We attach importance to the adoption of the article 31 group's figures in their entirety.

Mr. Taylor

Does the Minister agree that if East Germany were to be excluded, that would be in breach of the inner German trade agreement, which has the same status as the Treaty of Rome? Will the Minister endeavour to find out the answer before the end of the debate? It would be nonsense for us to vote for or against a principle of a regulation unless we knew whether the inner German trade agreement was discussed.

Mr. Thompson

My hon. Friend is always helpful with his detailed and important questions—[Interruption.] I am trying to help my hon. Friend. I am sure that his question has been heard and I am sure that my hon. Friend the Minister of State, Welsh Office, will, if possible, give him an answer at the end of the debate.

The Commission's modified figure currently proposed are higher than the post-Chernobyl levels for caesium 134 and 137 applied in the United Kingdom and higher than those applied to third-country imports under the current EC regulation. Because the interim figure of 1,000 bq/kg recommended immediately after the Chernobyl accident was set up very strictly at that time, it was not certain whether other radionuclides might have contaminated produce. A very wide margin was therefore adopted on the understanding that the article 31 group would look at the overall picture and make appropriate adjustments. That it has now done, and it has set out a table covering all radionuclides, and not just iodine and caesium, which were the two that most affected the United Kingdom in the aftermath of Chernobyl.

As the House knows, we adopted an equally cautious approach when we set our national controls on sheep from the heavily affected areas in the United Kingdom following Chernobyl. However, the proposed new regulations for use in any future emergency lay down specific figures for the whole range of radionuclides and benefits from the results of detailed scientific work.

Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington)

I come from a nuclear constituency where, over decades, we have noted that scientist after scientist has come forward demanding that the levels be reduced. Indeed, the International Commission for Radiological Control has itself reduced levels. Is it not possible that those eminent scientists might make a mistake? Perhaps in 20 or 30 years, decisions taken now to release all the lamb that currently cannot go on to the market may turn out to be wrong. Does not the Minister understand that millions of people in this country actually believe that that may happen because they have witnessed scientists changing their position? Could that not happen again?

Mr. Thompson

The debate tonight deals with a future accident, not the lamb that may be released now. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has read the European document and noted that from page 31 onwards the group of scientists has given detailed explanations of how it proceeded and why it reached its conclusions. It may be that the hon. Gentleman simply does not trust scientists——

Mr. Campbell-Savours

The Minister quotes the scientists, but that is exactly what happened in the late 1950s and the 1960s when Ministers came to the Dispatch Box and justified the work of scientists which, today, is regarded as useless. It is no longer relevant. The discharges from British Nuclear Fuels plc into the Irish sea were for years regarded as acceptable. It was from further work by scientists that we recognised that mistakes had been made. That is why BNFL is now spending £400 million on reducing discharges into the sea. Does the Minister now endorse the possibility that another error may well be made because scientists have, for whatever reason, decided that they can set new levels?

Mr. Thompson

I am not saying that another error cannot be made. We can all list scientific errors that have had tragic consequences. However, those errors have eventually been put right—not by politicians, but by scientists who stand on the shoulders of their former colleagues. The scientists will be the first to spot those errors, not the hon. Gentleman.

Mr. Frank Cook (Stockton, North)

Bearing in mind, word for word, exactly what the Minister has graciously said, will he explain why there is so much haste when he must know that the International Commission for Radiological Protection is, right now, reviewing the whole basis on which international recommended standards were first set? As a result of the work of Professor Ted Radford, it is generally thought that the Commission is likely to review those standards to make them at least two, possibly five times and, some claim, even 15 times safer. Therefore, how on earth can we think of relaxing standards now?

Mr. Thompson

There is haste because of the growing pressure to sort out this business in the Community. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman has not missed the provision in the document for exactly the contingencies that he mentioned. The article 31 group of experts is committed to reviewing its advice as new advice comes forward. To do otherwise would be to ossify and make nonsense of all the regulations. They must be reviewed.

We are not, of course, saying—

Mr. Cook

Answer the question.

Mr. Thompson

I am coming to it now.

We are not, of course, saying that the latest article 31 figures are the last word on the subject. The proposed new regulation itself makes it clear that the levels to be applied immediately following an accident would subsequently be reviewed in the light of the particular circumstances surrounding the accident and new knowledge available. It also provides for the levels in the parent regulation to be reviewed in the light of latest scientific data. However, the article 31 group recommendations represent the best scientific advice currently available and should therefore form the basis of the proposed Council regulation.

To sum up, we support the principle behind the EC proposal to establish maximum permitted radioactivity levels for foodstuffs that would automatically be applied on a Community-wide basis in the event of a future nuclear emergency.

Mr. Churchill (Davyhulme)

Are the proposed EC levels stricter or more liberal than what has applied hitherto in the United Kingdom, and stricter or more liberal than what the United Kingdom Government proposed to the European Commission?

Mr. Thompson

The present proposed regulations are more liberal than those that we have applied, and the concluding regulations have not yet been agreed. However, we believe that such levels must stem from a sound and consistent scientific base.

10.47 pm
Dr. David Clark (South Shields)

I hate to take issue with the Minister right from the start, but he was slightly disingenuous in trying to confine the debate to the narrow principle of how the levels of radioactivity in foodstuffs in the Community should be reached. As I understand it, we are taking note of the European Community document No. 7183/87, which is wide and far-reaching.

I disagree with the Minister when he says that we are talking only about future accidents. In a sense, we are not. If agreed, the regulation will come into force from next Monday. It means that sheep and other foodstuffs caught up in the Chernobyl accident will be covered by the document. Indeed, at a stroke the Minister will get out of his difficulty, because all the sheep currently covered by the present restrictions will be set free.

In essence, this important debate is about raising the safety levels of the radioactivity permitted in foodstuffs in Britain from 1,000 bq/kg to 5,000 bq/kg.

Mr. Patrick McLoughlin (Derbyshire, West)

In view of the cautious levels adopted by the Government after the Chernobyl accident, which was not their fault or responsibility, is the hon. Gentleman now trying to say that somehow we want to ignore all that and literally open up the markets? If he is, it is obvious that that is exactly what we have not done since the Chernobyl accident.

Dr. Clark

I am afraid that the hon. Gentleman does not understand the document that we are debating. I am arguing exactly the contrary. It is his Government who intend to open up the market. We are arguing that the present level and the present restrictions should be maintained. If the regulation is approved, the becquerel readings will be increased to 5,000 kg. Therefore, sheep in Cumbria, north Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland will be deristricted.

We know that the matter was discussed at the European Foreign Ministers' meeting on 19 and 20 October and that they found it impossible to reach a decision. We know that Britain, with France and Spain, went for a higher level than the Commission was recommending, and that the Germans and the Danes disagreed. We hope that there will be an emergency meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Community tomorrow night and that the views of the House will be reflected at that meeting.

As the Minister explained, the kernel of the Government's case is that the new limit is safe because, so the Minister argued, it is recommended by scientists. That this Government of all Governments should call scientists in their aid is somewhat ironic, because this Government are the most anti-science of any Government that we have had since the war. We have already seen the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food decimate the Soil Survey and create hundreds of redundancies in the Natural Environment Research Council and the Freshwater Biological Association. Only last week they were reported as contemplating slashing the Ministry of Agriculture research and development budget from £112 million to £52 million, throwing 3,000 scientists out of work. My hon. Friends and I could therefore be excused for being a bit sceptical about the Government praying in aid scientists. We would treat that with the same suspicion as one would treat a vegetarian who recommended lamb cutlets.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Should the hon. Gentleman ever be in the position of my hon. Friend the Minister, in such a situation whose advice would he take, his own or that of the expert scientists?

Dr. Clark

The hon. Gentleman has posed a serious question and I assure him that I shall answer it, because it would be irresponsible of me not to do so.

To understand the significance of the proposals before us this evening we must examine the position in which the Government find themselves. The situation is not as the Minister explained. If the regulation comes into force it will affect all foodstuffs in the Community. We have seen the post-Chernobyl situation. I accept that that was not in any way the responsibility of this Government or of any other Government in the Western world. However, the Government were caught flat-footed and they dillied and dallied. Indeed, although the Minister said that it was not true, it was six weeks from the first monitoring and the first telexes arriving on the Minister's desk before any action was taken.

Mr. Donald Thompson

indicated dissent.

Dr. Clark

The Minister shakes his head. It is recorded that the monitoring began to take place on 4 and 5 May 1986, but it was 20 June 1986 before any restrictions were announced by our Government. The Government were right to take that action, but they should have taken it earlier. They put restrictions on the movement of sheep in Cumbria, north Wales and Scotland. They chose the critical level of radioactivity for caesium 137 of 1,000 bq/kg. That was a higher level than that set by most other European countries. The Swedes took a level of 300 and the Germans 600. Therefore, ours was not a restricted level in any way. However, I shall not disagree too much with that.

We believe that when introducing those measures the Government considered that they would last for only a short time. Indeed, Ministers led everyone to believe that. However, 18 months later, we have restrictions not only in the original areas, but 39 farms in Scotland are now included, and 100 farms in Northern Ireland are covered for the first time.

The truth is that the problem has not gone away, and will not go away, because the half life of caesium 137 is 30 years. I understand that the biological half life is less than that, but this problem will lead to restrictions in many areas for several years to come unless the Government manage to raise the level for restrictions.

The Minister may say that the Government will not count the present restricted sheep within the catchment area. How, then, will they explain to their farming friends in Cumbria, north Wales and Scotland that the safe level for future accidents is 5,000 but for past accidents it was 1,000? There is no logic in that. It means that the sacrifice, anxiety and hard work of the farmers in upland hill areas has been in vain. We need an answer to that.

The Minister made great play of the fact that the limit of 5,000 bq/kg was recommended by the article 31 group of scientists, but he did not tell us that a larger meeting of scientists held under the auspices of the European Commission in April 1987 could not agree on the new recommended level. The Minister assures us that the levels are safe, but any radiation dose to man causes some increase in the risk of long-term consequences. The consumption of food contaminated at any level implies some risk. As the House knows, the only absolutely safe level is zero.

'The level of safety is a subjective judgment. Obviously, the higher the level, the greater the risk. The decision must he based on a balance between the magnitude of these risks and the costs in money resources and social disruption of any protective action. Those are not my words, but the words of the article 31 group, and that is the key issue.

When we deal with these issues, Ministers frequently remind us that there is natural radiation and, of course, they are correct. Surely, then, we should compare natural radiation with radiation in an emergency. Might it not be wise, for example, to examine the natural level of radiation in sheep? Perhaps we could take a pre-Chernobyl example of the radiation of sheep in an area near Sellafield, close to the area which my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) represents. It is not usually accepted as exactly nuclear free.

In a letter of 24 October 1986, British Nuclear Fuels plc confirmed that research on sheep grazing on salt marsh pasture in the Ravenglass area, which is close to Sellafield, had shown those animals to have less than 100 bq/kg before Chernobyl. While acknowledging that little attention was paid to sampling meat from fell sheep, BNFL undertook some analysis pre-Chernobyl from sheep in Eskdale and found a level of only about 4 bq/kg of caesium 137. Therefore, those levels of 100 bq/kg and 4 bq/kg might be a starting point for a measure of natural radiation, although they were in the immediate vicinity of a nuclear establishment. I remind the House that the Government are advocating a level of safety no less than 1,250 times that found in the Eskdale sheep.

Scientists are deeply divided on the matter, and in this sphere of knowledge there is a rapidly changing situation. Everyone acknowleges that. The recent studies from Nagasaki and Hiroshima suggest that for the past 40 years we have been underestimating the danger levels, and scientists throughout the world are now recommending a complete rethink.

Current risk estimates used by the EEC are those produced by the International Commission for Radiological Protection. That same body now admits that new data from Japan support a twofold increase in the safety limits. Other scientists, such as Professor Edward Radford, the former chairman of the United States BEIR III, argue for an eight to tenfold increase. Of course, the higher the safety limits, the higher the bq/kg readings.

It comes down to a matter of judgment. My hon. Friend the Member for Workington has already described how, in the past, politicians of all parties have accepted advice given by scientists with the best will in the world, but, in a matter such as this, one must always err on the side of safety—and ten times on the side of safety. Ultimately, the key issues are public health and the retention of public confidence. By lowering safety standards, as the Government are suggesting, they are risking losing public confidence.

I said that I did not disagree with the Government's decision to lay down a level of 1,000 bq/kg. That level has retained the confidence of the general public, as is exemplified by their continuing to buy lamb. If the levels of permitted radioactivity are raised, as the Government wish, there will be a public reaction that might mean that lamb will be boycotted and sheep farmers badly hurt.

We maintain that the Government made a complete hash of the handling of the Chernobyl disaster and that is why they fear a public inquiry into the matter. The Government have compounded their incompetence by secrecy and cover-up. The public are beginning to realise that, and the Government see the lowering of safety levels as their only way out of the problem with farmers. The Government are wrong to lower the safety standards. Public health and safety are of paramount concern. That is the issue that we shall be trying to impress on the Government in the course of the debate.

11.3 pm

Mr. Teddy Taylor (Southend, East)

I want to ask the Minister a few questions, to which I hope he will be able to respond. I hope that he will agree that it is unusual and unsatisfactory to ask the House to approve a procedure for imposing levels of radioactivity when there has been no agreement—it seems unlikely that there will be one for some time to come—on what the levels are.

Knowing that my hon. Friend has an open and flexible mind, I ask him how he would have felt if, as a Back Bencher, he had heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that he wanted the final, formal approval of the House for his Budget, even though it would be some time before he decided what rates of tax were to be fixed. That is the position in which we find ourselves tonight. The Minister is asking for our approval for an arrangement, the basis for which we do not yet know.

The Minister should also bear in mind the feeling of an injustice having been committed that there will be among those who have been complaining about what they regard as the unduly strict levels after Chernobyl if a higher level is now fixed. The basic question is that of what the status of the EEC is to be in the regulations. The Minister will recall that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs came to the House on 8 May 1986 and said that he was going to announce a package of proposals to deal with the emergency. He said that all foodstuffs would be restricted from coming into the EEC if they came from within a radius of 1,000 km of Chernobyl.

However, on reading the details, we found that this was not the case. Large parts of Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia, which were more than 1,000 km away, were included in the ban, but the whole of East Germany was excluded. The Minister must know that that drove a coach and horses through the restrictions. It is well known that vast quantities of materials poured into the EEC through West Germany straight from East Germany, and the only people who control what comes from East Germany are the East German authorities. That is one of the reasons why we have such difficulties trading with German). The inner German trade agreement provides a vehicle whereby virtually all the products of the Eastern bloc come into East Germany and straight into the EEC. That is not a silly little arrangement that we can change by regulations here. The inner German trade agreement has the same status as the treaty of Rome. That is why, when they imposed the Chernobyl restrictions, the Government said that it had been done by excluding East Germany.

The Minister has a great knowledge of agriculture. Could he tell me how it is possible to isolate and identify a Polish pig from a Czechoslovak pig or an East German pig? How is it possible to tell whether skimmed milk comes from East Germany, Czechoslovakia or Rumania? It cannot be done, and we rely entirely on the West German authorities to impose these restrictions. The Department of Trade and Industry is well aware from the multitude of evidence that has been sent to it that there is not the slightest indication that the West German Government try to ensure that goods coming in are only from East Germany and that those going out have the necessary provisions put on them.

On 8 May 1986 the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs said: that the West German authorities are well aware of that alleged loophole, and I am sure that they will take the necessary precautions."—[Official Report, 8 May 1986; Vol. 97, c. 256.] What is proposed here is rather different. A permanent arrangement is proposed whereby labels will be fixed on goods that are placed on the market. First, can the Minister tell us precisely what is meant by "placed on the market"? Does that mean simply offered for sale, does it mean traded across Community frontiers or does it mean traded generally? It is very important that we should know straight away whether with these new regulations the same absurd loophole will exist as existed in the original regulations of 8 May 1986. If it does, we are wasting our time.

The second question that we are entitled to ask the Minister is why this is being done as an EEC arrangement. Would it not be infinitely better to pursue this through the international authorities and the World Health Organisation—if there is a real need?

The third question is the one that worries me most. Can the Minister tell us precisely how he intends to protect the Third world against the export of these radioactive materials, bearing in mind the evidence that the European Community's alleged humanitarian food aid programme has been used as vehicle for the export of radioactive materials?

The Minister may say, "Where is the evidence?" I draw his attention to the formal complaint made the other day to the EEC by the Government of Ghana in which they complain bitterly that radioactive skimmed milk powder had been sent to Ghana by the EEC and, according to their estimates, it was highly radioactive. This, of course, was taken up by the Commission, which said that according to the information from the German Government it was not quite as radioactive as the Ghanaian authorities said.

The point I want to make is that there were two sources of skimmed milk powder—one consignment of which went from the Federal Republic of Germany. We understand that this came from eastern Europe. The second source was Czechoslovakia. Under the existing regulations, both should have been stopped, unless in the case of the Czechoslovak milk powder some way was found of getting it to Ghana without crossing the frontiers of the EEC. Can the Minister say exactly how it was possible under the existing regulations for this radioactive skimmed milk powder supplied under the so-called food aid programme to go to Ghana?

I think that the Minister is well aware from the recent report of the Court of Auditors that the food aid programme has many shameful aspects. Materials in a totally inedible state are supplied to starving countries. A great deal of money is involved and when we have this specific case of the formal complaint from the Government of Ghana, we need to interpret it.

Fourthly and finally, if we bring in these regulations and if bringing to market simply means selling goods within EEC countries, how is it possible, or would it be possible to stop the export of radioactive materials from eastern Europe through East Germany to West Germany under the inner German trade agreement—bearing in mind that the country of export would not be West Germany but that West Germany was simply providing a vehicle? The Minister may think that this is nit picking but it is not nit picking when we have one specific formal complaint from the Government of Ghana and a number of other alleged instances of radioactive foodstuffs which apparently could not be sold in western Europe but which were being put through the food aid programme of the EC.

If these new regulations existed and if the levels were agreed, would the Minister regard the export of food from eastern Europe through West Germany as an export of West Germany or of eastern Europe? They are serious matters and we are entitled to some answers. If the Minister has any doubts, I ask him to look at the report into food aid to the Third world. I believe that all hon. Members should read that report because I believe that they would agree that it is shameful that public money is being wasted, not to provide relief to those Third world countries, but to dump substantial substandard goods, in this case alleged radioactive goods, or goods that do not even arrive. It is a shameful business and I suggest to the Government that, instead of bringing forward a resolution tonight that does not consider the question of radioactive levels, they should hold talks in Brussels to try to get some answers so that they can put a real proposition before the House and not an instrument that does not even contain proper figures.

11.10 pm
Mr. Richard Livsey (Brecon and Radnor)

The subject that we are debating tonight—the maximum permitted levels of radioactivity in food and water—has a certain amount of urgency as a result of Chernobyl. There is too much haste when certain decisions are being taken at a European level and when it would be wiser to look more acutely at what is going on. The haste is a reaction to the amount of radioactivity that came from Chernobyl, the effects of which have been different in different countries.

If one looks at the ways that the fallout affected countries such as Germany, Spain—hardly at all—and Wales, one sees that there is a great variation. It is quite noticeable that Germany, being one of the worst affected countries, had one of the best safety levels. That is quite significant. The biggest criticism of the proposals is that they are a compromise and that there is no scientific basis for them. A worrying feature is that, in respect of caesium 134 and 137 levels in milk products and other farming products, there is no logical basis for the Commission's conclusions.

We must surely be concerned that there will be a relaxation from 600 bq/kg to 5,000 bq/kg for other major foodstuffs at a European level. This reinforces the evidence that it was a wise decision in the United Kingdom to impose a level of 1,000 bq/kg. Many hon. Members attacked the Government at that time for introducing a limit of 1,000 bq/kg because in Holland and Germany, in particular, the levels set were much lower. There seem to be good reasons for that. The effect of this level has been that farmers in North Wales, Cumbria and south-west Scotland have had to struggle very hard throughout the last 18 months on a 1,000 bq/kg limit for lamb. This has resulted in real hardship. Are farmers now going to give up that struggle for a massive relaxation of those restrictions because, as we have heard, they are still under restriction. It will be an unsatisfactory state of affairs if those proposals are relaxed. Compensation has been paid out to those farmers in the order of £4.5 million. There are still about 50 cases under review in north Wales. I thank the Secretary of State for Wales for taking those cases under review. However, there are other farmers in north Wales still in need of further compensation. There must be a wide-ranging review of the current situation. Indeed, one must ask why it is that in Trawsfynydd a farmer and his wife were examined in hospital and registered levels of contamination of 4,500 bq/kg. That is a serious matter that must he considered, bearing in mind that the general imposition was a limit of 1,000 bq/kg.

The efforts of our hill farmers must not appear to be in vain. The current limit errs on the side of safety and I ask the Minister to ensure that all farmers are properly compensated for the contamination that is still present in the hills, especially as there is no guarantee that next year there will not he similar levels of contamination. I hope that that will not be the position, but if it is I ask for an assurance that there will be further compensation. The proposals before us suggest that the Government will cop out of their responsibilities.

Mr. John Home Robertson (East Lothian)

The hon. Gentleman is drawing attention to the way in which the regulations bear on the farming community of certain areas. Will he confirm that no representations have been made by the farming unions of Scotland, England or Wales that the limits should be increased in the way suggested? Instead, they are calling for adequate compensation. Our proceedings this evening must raise speculation whether the alterations are proposed for the purpose of saving money.

Mr. Livsey

I agree with the hon. Gentleman. Farmers have borne the imposition of realistic standards with fortitude and have won the admiration of most of the population in accepting levels that have been regarded as reasonable. In so doing, they have given the population the confidence to buy lamb.

We should not play with human health. The current limit of 1,000 bq/kg is one that can lead to a low level of human cancer, and we must not ignore the fact that there will be a few such cases in certain areas. According to risk estimates of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, a level of 5,000 bq/kg could result in anything up to 29,000 cases of cancer throughout the European Community. That is a factor of which we should take note.

Why are these proposals before us when current United Kingdom standards are at an adequate level? Why is there to be a relaxation? Following the Chernobyl incident, there were high dosages of radioactivity in Germany. Secondly, France is dependent upon nuclear power for its energy. Thirdly, the British Government are placing more dependence on nuclear power in the form of pressurised water reactors. This means that there is a greater likelihood in future of nuclear accidents somewhere in Europe. There is a large stake in nuclear power and the EEC, in relaxing standards, is responding to that. My colleagues and I believe that it should not tamper with standards. The levels set by the British Government are adequate and the public have confidence in them.

Common sense should prevail this evening. The Liberal party frequently supports European legislation, but it seems that we are being asked this evening to put human health on the line and to place people's livelihoods at risk For these reasons we do not believe that these proposals should be supported.

11.19 pm
Mr. Peter Thurnham (Bolton, North-East)

I am disappointed that we are debating these issues tonight in the knowledge that we shall be negotiating next week in Europe. Surely it would be more sensible to wait until we. have completed the negotiations to our satisfaction before reporting to the House. Instead, we are being asked to debate the issues and reveal our position this evening.

Mr. Hugh Dykes (Harrow, East)

Surely that would negate the whole process of scrutiny in this House whereby an EEC instrument is debated thoroughly to guide and help the Government to reach a decision whenever a Select Committee makes that recommendation.

Mr. Thurnham

We still do not know what' we are scrutinising. Therefore, I believe that it would be better to go to next week's negotiations before we debate the matter here.

Although I was very pleased to hear the robust attitude taken by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (M r. Taylor), I was very disappointed by the Opposition's attitude. There has been some scaremongering, and questionable figures have been put forward. The limits produced by the Euratom experts are safe. The Opposition's figures assume that people will eat nothing but contaminated food. I was very sorry to hear the figure of 29,000 deaths referred to by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey). That figure will cause great alarm if people believe that so many deaths might occur. That figure assumes that people would continually eat nothing but highly contaminated food. However, we know that fortunately only a small amount of food has been contaminated.

I live in Cumbria, and to a small extent I am engaged in rearing sheep. Fortunately, I was not affected, but I know that great concern was expressed by people living nearby when they realised just how much some farmers were being affected.

Mr. Kenneth Hind (Lancashire, West)

Does my hon. Friend agree that the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark), the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman, did not answer the question that I put to him about whose advice he would take? Perhaps the Opposition spokesman will bear in mind the old legal adage that a lawyer who advises himself has a fool for a client. Does my hon. Friend agree that the people to take advice from are the experts, that they have made very clear what is happening and that the Government have taken their advice? Does my hon. Friend agree that that is the sensible course of action?

Mr. Thurnham

Indeed. I was concerned that we did not receive an answer from the Opposition Front-Bench spokesman to that very good question. The hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) could not answer it. He made out that the Conservative party was not a scientific party. What qualifications does the hon. Member for South Shields think that his right hon. Friend the Member for Islwyn (Mr. Kinnock) has in this matter? I do not think that the right hon. Member has any qualifications in science, whereas the Conservative party has chosen a leader who has an honours degree in a science subject. How can the hon. Member for South Shields possibly accuse the Conservative party of not being scientific when the Leader of the Opposition has no qualifications in science? If the hon. Member for South Shields were responsible, whose advice would he take?

A balance must be struck in this subject. We must consider the right level. If the experts advise a level of 5,000bq/kg, it is arrogant of Opposition Members, and especially of the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours), to be disparaging about the way in which the figures are decided. We must consider how the scientists have arrived at the figures and decide whether they have taken sufficient account of the available evidence. If they have taken sufficient account of that evidence, we should accept their findings and not double guess them and claim that we are cleverer than the people who have examined all the evidence.

I was very disappointed at the attitude expressed by Opposition Members that we should not accept the evidence of the experts who have been asked to report on this matter. Scientists are the only people who can carry out measurements in this area and work out the results. It is therefore absurd that we should suddenly divide the experts' figures by four.

In the negotiations next week, I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will continue to take the robust attitude that he has taken in other negotiations with our European friends. I do not accept that we should be railroaded into accepting a lower figure.

Does the variation from the experts' recommendation affect Britain more than any other EEC member? If so, should we not fight our corner and stick out for the level that we believe to be safe and which has been recommended by the experts, rather than give in to any scaremongering or machinations which have come up with a lower figure? Therefore, I hope that my hon. Friend will be robust and pay no attention to the points made by the Opposition.

11.25 pm
Mr. Eddie McGrady (South Down)

Thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for giving me the opportunity this evening to speak for Northern Ireland. I say that in the confidence that my colleagues, of whatever party, would support my grave concern on this issue.

I am particularly concerned that the Minister did not seem to specifically declare his intentions about the negotiations that he proposes to carry on next week or the week after in Europe.

The kernel of the issue is whether the British people can have confidence in the safeguards initiated by the Government and legislated for.

I sincerely hope that the precedent set by BNFL in its famous principle "as low as reasonably achievable"—ALARA—given the economic and social factors, will not be applied in the post-Chernobyl era of nuclear pollution. Country by country, economics are dictating the level of radiation that is said to be acceptable to us.

Each country seems to be capable of producing a scientist to back up its argument. If the Government are to base their legislation on scientists, to what group of scientists shall we listen? Will it be to scientists on this side of the Atlantic ocean or to those of the United States, who, I am reliably informed, state categorically that the levels of safety in the United Kingdom and Europe are 10 to 20 times poorer than those in the United States? There we have at least two different comments on what is safe and what is not.

Surely, if scientists set a level, the public should demand a safety net below that and we should introduce regulations to provide that added safety margin. Therefore, it was with grave concern that I thought I heard the Minister say that he would try to negotiate a lower safety factor than that in the table in annex I. I am not clear what the intentions of those negotiations are to be.

In the post-Chernobyl era it is significant that the report of the EEC's economic and social committee shows that the Government were one of the least concerned in Europe about the implementation of the various safeguards and restrictions. Of the five or six different activities carried on by many European Governments, the British Government only initiated a hotline. One wonders whether that was a radioactive hot line or simply a hot air hot line.

The confidence of the public in Britain and Northern Ireland has been eroded and undermined. It needs a reassurance that the legislation will protect them and their families in the future.

The farming community in Northern Ireland has only recently discovered that 100 farms have been affected, although we were told after Chernobyl that there was nothing to worry about. Yet a year later restrictions have been applied to 100 farms.

The Minister seems to find it difficult to understand why the proposal in annex 1 gives a fourfold increase in the safety factor.

It seems strange to me, although there may be reasons for it, that we insist and have always insisted that the way to handle land contamination is to keep the herds on contaminated land. Is it not more appropriate, subject to proper economic recompense for the farmer, to move the stock from the land on which they are continually ingesting radioactive material through the food chain, to clean areas, and thereby run the radioactive material out of the system? Surely that is a more scientific way of approaching the problem, although proper and adequate compensation must always be provided.

I am not enamoured of scientists. I come from South Down, which has suffered over the years from scientific platitudes about Sellafield and its discharge into the Irish sea. Year after year, the safety level has become lower and lower. The least that the Government can do is to ensure that the consensus under annex No. 1 of the report is a starting point. In no circumstances should they try to negotiate a less safe safety factor for the people of this country.

We appear to be talking only in the context of a Chernobyl-type disaster, but many disasters are happening every day. At Sellafield alone, we have a continuous 40-year leak into the Irish sea.

When the new levels are reached, who will monitor them? The Government's record on monitoring is very poor. Lancaster county council was able to assess the Chernobyl disaster some time before the Government. The lack of confidence in the Government's monitoring system is borne out by the plethora of local authorities now installing their own radionuclide detection systems. That lack of confidence is due to the duplicity of the Government, and the lack of concern and of proper statements coming from them.

It must always be remembered that we are talking about human life, into future generations. Such matters should not be measured solely by the economics of today.

11.32 pm
Mr. Tim Boswell (Daventry)

Tonight's debate is one of the consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, which was unprecedented and which gave rise to many lessons. At that time, l had the opportunity of serving as special adviser in the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I shall not speak about that experience tonight, except to say that we and Europe had much to learn, and that we are still learning.

I felt that the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) was less than generous in his comments about the Government's action following Chernobyl—not only the finding of the problem and the taking of action to control it, but the money that was spent. After all, £4.5 million is a substantial sum; it is also £4.5 million more than the originators of the accident produced.

I welcome the proposal for a common regulation, first, because it would impose a common regime of control throughout the member states of the European Community. It would also impose restrictions and controls equally on imports and on domestically produced food. I hope that that will answer the point put by my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor).

I feel that it is important for us to maintain and sustain, and encourage the Government to sustain, the principle of being driven by the scientists. We have heard nothing from the Opposition to explain why their wisdom is greater than that of the experts.

There has been some recourse to the argument that some experts might think differently or that they are divided, but when calling on expert advice I have always followed the basic rule offered by the country, saying, "There is no point in hiring a dog and barking yourself." The move, for purely political reasons, from a purely scientific appraisal, is part and parcel of a rather disturbing tendency in Europe. We saw it in regard to Professor Lamming's expert group on beef hormones. It happened to suit a number of member states to fry their political fish and disregard the scientific evidence. If we continue to do that, there is little chance of our curtailing the damage.

I am extremely suspicious of the way in which Opposition Members have put their case. There has been some scientist shopping and much of what I call a safety arms race. Many figures have been given. We were given some terrifying figures by the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), which assume, I think, constant consumption of all foodstuffs, regardless of origin, at a level of at least 5,000 bq/kg, which is not realistic. The hon. Member for South Shields spoke of sheep being found with 100 bq/kg before Chernobyl. When people suggest that zero bequerels is a desirable level, we must consider, as they have not, whether we can achieve it.

Ms. Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent, North)

The Government have alleged that we are scaremongering, not relying on scientific advice and not acting in the interests of public health. We believe that there is no level below which radiation is harmless. When talking about safety levels, we are talking about a level above which something represents an unacceptable risk to the public. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that there is now evidence from scientists who have had a chance to study reliable data on the effects of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki which suggests that our present levels—

Madam Deputy Speaker (Miss Betty Boothroyd)

Order. An intervention has to be a direct question or very pertinent. Will the hon. Lady, who is making a speech rather than an intervention, bring her remarks to a close?

Ms. Walley

The point is that we believe that our data are valid and that there is new scientific evidence that suggests that the hon. Gentleman's data are not.

Mr. Boswell

I think that we are scientist shopping again. I believe that the European expert group are the right people to decide. The levels that we are discussing are not on the borderline. They already contain a built-in assurance of safety so that a commodity is as safe as can reasonably be expected.

We have difficulty with measuring miniscule levels and enforcing such safety levels in member states. We also have a problem associated with sheep that have been reared on mountain pastures where the rock is high in natural radioactivity. I do not believe that we get a level of zero there. There is a danger, a friction and a myth involved in demanding assurances of absolute safety. Such can never be possible with food safety.

Mr. Dykes

Does my hon. Friend agree that there is much more in the document than figures to be decided in the negotiations? The procedures and safety requirements are even more important, and it would be wrong for the House to bind the Government to a figure that would be misleading in the negotiations.

Mr. Boswell

I am much obliged to my hon. Friend.

If a choice has to be made between the fiction of an absolute assurance of absolute safety and proposals that are based on the work of an expert committee that has established a certain scientific basis for certain set levels, I know which of those seems to be most plausible to me and, I hope, to the rest of the House.

11.39 pm
Mr. Ieuan Wyn Jones (Ynys Môn)

I thank you, Madam Deputy Speaker, for allowing me to make a contribution to this debate. I promise to be as brief as I possibly can.

We welcome the moves towards harmonisation of regulations that set out the levels of radiation in food and water. In the aftermath of the Chernobyl incident, we in Wales saw the problems that were caused by the different levels that were adopted in the EEC states, particularly over the export of Welsh lamb to France. The French are prepared to use many tactics to prevent the import of Welsh lamb, and the lack of a cohesive Community approach was a gift to them.

We are surprised to find that we are debating this matter at a time when the Community has failed to adopt a common approach to the problem. Public confidence was maintained when the Government set the level at 1,000 becquerels. Therefore, many Opposition Members are asking the Government why they are attempting to shake public confidence by trying to raise that level to 5,000 becquerels.

I understand that the European Commission is suggesting a caesium limit of 1,250 bq kg, whereas the United Kingdom, France and Spain are pushing for a higher level—5,000 bq kg—at a time when agreement has not been reached in the Council of Ministers. Denmark, West Germany and the Netherlands, however, are asking for a considerably lower level.

The Government seem to be preparing the way to go it alone, if the EEC does not agree to a formula. That would be a grave mistake. By pushing for a higher level, the Government may make EEC agreement impossible. What is the scientific evidence—I stress scientific evidence as distinct from scientific judgment—upon which the Government are relying to support that higher level?

In putting forward its proposals, the European Commission says: Scientific views on this subject are by no means unanimous and are still in a state of rapid development. Conservative Members referred to scientific judgment. I remind them of the fact that scientists from both the National Radiological Protection Board and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that the caesium contamination from Chernobyl would take about 60 days to clear. The fact is that 540 days have now gone by since the Chernobyl disaster, and no scientist can say when the problem in north Wales, Cumbria and Scotland will be cleared up.

I ask the Minister, when he replies to the debate, to deal with compensation for farmers in those parts of the United Kingdom that are still designated as restricted areas. My hon. Friends the Members for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Mr. Thomas) and for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) have sheep farmers in their constituencies. I ask the Minister to give a categorical assurance that if the Government intend to raise the level there will be no cuts in the compensation that is paid to farmers and to say that they are totally committed to paying compensation at the level that has already been agreed.

11.44 pm
Mr. Ron Davies (Caerphilly)

This has been an important and interesting debate. The attendance in the Chamber throughout the debate reflects the Opposition's concern and the concern and uncertainty that is felt on the Government Benches.

I should like to thank the hon. Members for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) and for Ynys Môn (Mr. Jones), both of whom have spoken in support of the case outlined by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). I am tempted to say that their presence this evening has given something of a Celtic flavour to the debate. I hope that we can say that the same is true of Welsh lamb after the current round of negotiations. I fear that we shall lose that flavour if the Government have their way in the negotiations in Europe.

Mr. D. E. Thomas (Meirionnydd Nant Conwy)

No chance.

Mr. Davies

I appreciate that the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy feels strongly about this matter.

The key issue that we are debating is the Government's contention that scientific opinion clearly states that the level of 5,000 bq is an acceptable level. The Government further state that that level should be accepted as the norm and that opinion is united in support of that. However, I believe that the Minister is aware that scientific opinion both here and in Europe is deeply divided about this matter.

The European Commission is recommending a 75 per cent. reduction in the level recommended by its scientific advisers, but political opinion is also deeply divided. Germany, Denmark and Italy have adopted a view that is different from the view advocated by Britain and France.

The hon. Members for Bolton, North-East (Mr. Thurnham) and for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) queried the basis upon which the Opposition approached this debate. They asked whose scientific advice should be accepted. However, the issue that we are resolving this evening is not a scientific issue, but political. Governments are elected and, in a democracy, Governments are responsible for their actions. Those Governments must receive and consider scientific advice but, at the end of the day, the judgments are political. The issue is not whether we accept the view of scientist A or B, but the impact of the scientific recommendations on the health, welfare and economic well-being of our communities. That is the political judgment that must be made.

The article 31 group, which is at the heart of the debate, is clear about the role that it has been asked to perform. The scientists admit that they are laying down carefully considered guide levels for measurable radioactivity, but above those levels politicians must decide to take action based on the consultative and regulatory functions that are laid down in the draft legislation. In their report the scientists say that, in the final analysis, practical application of the advice they give will not be made solely on consideration of the risks to health. They appreciate that there are broader considerations.

However, the Minister made it clear that the Government are prepared to ignore the warnings and that they see no reason why the scientists' recommendations should not be implemented in their entirety. Even the Commission in the explanatory memorandum that is before us states: scientific views on this subject are by no means unanimous". If scientific opinion is not unanimous, whose opinion would the hon. Members for Bolton, North-East and for Daventry receive, given that they refuse to believe that the judgments are political? This is at the heart of the matter.

The Government are prepared slavishly to accept scientific evidence and opinion when there are good grounds for doubting the validity of that evidence. It is something of a novelty for this Government to accept scientific evidence as though it were cast in stone. They usually regard facts as, at best, irrelevant and, at worst, a hindrance to the pursuit of their policies.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mrs. Lynda Chalker)


Mr. Davies

The Minister is a member of the Foreign Office team. The Foreign Secretary is probably the individual most suited to address his mind to the quality of mutton and dead sheep.

Let us consider the issue of nitrate pollution. In 1985, when addressing the quality of water supplies, the Government gave the assurance through their spokesman in another place that quality standards would not be set on the basis of existing levels, but must follow from a scientific determination of levels needed to protect the environment. The Government claimed that they would accept advice on the scientific levels and implement them. It would have cost them £200 million to accept that advice and, needless to say, they chose not to do so and are now being taken to court by the European Community. Therefore, it is difficult for us to accept that the Government slavishly follow scientific advice at all times.

The Government are refusing to see through research at Liverpool university, which is being funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, on the effects of radiation and the consequences of Chernobyl. They will not wait for the results of that research. They have a record of accepting the shoddy way out. Whenever they have been called upon to make a judgment, whether on acid rain, environmental pollution, water quality, the quality of our bathing beaches or the quality of our air, they have taken the shoddy option. They are now showing, yet again, that to that litany they are prepared to add the pollution of our food supplies.

The Government are asking for the support of the House. I do not think that they have proved their case, and hope that hon. Members will vote against them.

11.52 pm
The Minister of State, Welsh Office (Mr. Wyn Roberts)

I have only a short time in which to answer the points that have been raised, which we certainly appreciate, on this important issue. The proposed levels are still being discussed by the Council of Ministers, and if agreement is not reached the Council still has the option to extend regulation 1707 for a stated period while it reaches agreement on arrangements for future emergencies.

I cannot overstress two points. First, we are discussing standards to be applied in an emergency, and they are not the same as routine, long-term standards. Secondly, it is important that a first response to an emergency should be sufficient, but not over-reactive, and therefore we wish to apply the best current scientific thinking to setting practical emergency standards.

There has been a curious attack—an anti-scientific mood—in some of the Opposition speeches, including that of the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). I draw his attention to the words in the proposal: The Commission is satisfied that as far as the principal object of this Regulation—the protection of public health—is concerned the scientific advice offered to it is probably the most thorough available anywhere in the world. Of course, the point is accepted that scientific knowledge is still in a state of rapid development.

The scientific judgments are based on unanimous and consistent recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The World Health Organisation is looking into the matter, as are the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations scientific committee on the effects of atomic radiation.

Several hon. Members have referred to the discrepancy between national standards established after Chernobyl and still in operation and the standards the Government are seeking to establish in the new regulation. That discrepancy arises only in relation to caesium isotopes. As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said, the EC post-Chernobyl standards for caesium isotopes were set with deliberate caution because uncertainty about the presence of other, more dangerous, nuclides. Although the Community standards established at that point in EC regulation 1707/86 applied only to imports from outside the Community, many countries applied national standards based upon them because we had to protect not only our own consumers but our valuable export trade in lamb and sheepmeat. It was therefore necessary for United Kingdom standards to reflect the international position.

One tends to forget that about 22 per cent. of our lamb and sheepmeat goes into exports 21 per cent.of it to the EC. One hesitates to think what might have happened had we not taken the action that we did, which was announced by the then Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, my right hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale (Mr. Jopling), on 20 June last year, when he referred specifically to the need for reference to international standards.

That very point underlines the importance of establishing sound scientifically justifiable standards in case of any future emergency. The standards for the caesium isotopes proposed by the Euratom article 31 group reflect the latest scientific opinion, informed by the experience gained after Chernobyl. Of course, they still have to be accepted.

My hon. Friend the Member for Southend, East (Mr. Taylor) raised several points. I shall try to answer one or two of them. The regulation will affect all trade in food marketed in the European Community. There are no exemptions for East Germany, the Eastern bloc or any other country, as my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) said.

The East Germans could not afford to trade in any meat or other foodstuffs that did not comply with agreed EC levels—

It being one and a half hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Motion, MADAM DEPUTY SPEAKER put the Question, pursuant to Standing Order No. 14 (Exempted Business).

The House divided: Ayes 187, Noes 127.

Division No. 37] [12 midnight
Alexander, Richard Baldry, Tony
Alison, Rt Hon Michael Batiste, Spencer
Allason, Rupert Bellingham, Henry
Amess, David Bennett, Nicholas (Pembroke)
Amos, Alan Bevan, David Gilroy
Arbuthnot, James Boswell, Tim
Arnold, Jacques (Gravesham) Bowden, A (Brighton K'pto'n)
Arnold, Tom (Hazel Grove) Bowis, John
Ashby, David Brazier, Julian
Aspinwall, Jack Bright, Graham
Atkinson, David Brown, Michael (Brigg & Cl't's)
Baker, Nicholas (Dorset N) Browne, John (Winchester)
Bruce, Ian (Dorset South) Jones, Robert B (Herts W)
Buck, Sir Antony Lester, Jim (Broxtowe)
Burns, Simon Lightbown, David
Burt, Alistair Lloyd, Peter (Fareham)
Butcher, John Lord, Michael
Butler, Chris MacGregor, John
Butterfill, John Maclean, David
Carlisle, John, (Luton N) McLoughlin, Patrick
Carrington, Matthew Marshall, John (Hendon S)
Cash, William Mawhinney, Dr Brian
Chalker, Rt Hon Mrs Lynda Miller, Hal
Channon, Rt Hon Paul Mitchell, David (Hants NW)
Chapman, Sydney Monro, Sir Hector
Chope, Christopher Neale, Gerrard
Clarke, Rt Hon K. (Rushcliffe) Nelson, Anthony
Conway, Derek Neubert, Michael
Coombs, Anthony (Wyre F'rest) Nicholls, Patrick
Cope, John Nicholson, David (Taunton)
Cran, James Nicholson, Miss E. (Devon W)
Currie, Mrs Edwina Paice, James
Curry, David Patnick, Irvine
Davies, Q. (Stamf'd & Spald'g) Peacock, Mrs Elizabeth
Davis, David (Boothferry) Porter, David (Waveney)
Day, Stephen Portillo, Michael
Devlin, Tim Powell, William (Corby)
Dickens, Geoffrey Price, Sir David
Douglas-Hamilton, Lord James Raffan, Keith
Dover, Den Raison, Rt Hon Timothy
Dunn, Bob Renton, Tim
Durant, Tony Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
Dykes, Hugh Riddick, Graham
Eggar, Tim Roberts, Wyn (Conwy)
Evans, David (Welwyn Hatf'd) Roe, Mrs Marion
Evennett, David Rowe, Andrew
Fairbairn, Nicholas Ryder, Richard
Fallon, Michael Sackville, Hon Tom
Farr, Sir John Shaw, David (Dover)
Favell, Tony Shaw, Sir Giles (Pudsey)
Fenner, Dame Peggy Shaw, Sir Michael (Scarb')
Field, Barry (Isle of Wight) Shelton, William (Streatham)
Finsberg, Sir Geoffrey Shephard, Mrs G. (Norfolk SW)
Forsyth, Michael (Stirling) Shepherd, Richard (Aldridge)
Forth, Eric Smith, Tim (Beaconsfield)
Fox, Sir Marcus Speed, Keith
French, Douglas Squire, Robin
Gale, Roger Stanbrook, Ivor
Garel-Jones, Tristan Stanley, Rt Hon John
Gill, Christopher Stern, Michael
Goodlad, Alastair Stevens, Lewis
Goodson-Wickes, Dr Charles Stewart, Andrew (Sherwood)
Gorman, Mrs Teresa Stradling Thomas, Sir John
Gow, Ian Summerson, Hugo
Greenway, John (Rydale) Taylor, Ian (Esher)
Gregory, Conal Temple-Morris, Peter
Griffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N) Thompson, D. (Calder Valley)
Grist, Ian Thompson, Patrick (Norwich N)
Hamilton, Hon A. (Epsom) Thorne, Neil
Hamilton, Neil (Tatton) Thornton, Malcolm
Hanley, Jeremy Thurnham, Peter
Hargreaves, A. (B'ham H'll Gr') Townend, John (Bridlington)
Hargreaves, Ken (Hyndburn) Tracey, Richard
Harris, David Tredinnick, David
Haselhurst, Alan Trippier, David
Hayhoe, Rt Hon Sir Barney Twinn, Dr Ian
Hayward, Robert Waddington, Rt Hon David
Heathcoat-Amory, David Walden, George
Hicks, Mrs Maureen (Wolv' NE) Wardle, C. (Bexhill)
Hind, Kenneth Warren, Kenneth
Hogg, Hon Douglas (Gr'th'm) Watts, John
Howard, Michael Wells, Bowen
Howarth, Alan (Strat'd-on-A) Wheeler, John
Howarth, G. (Cannock & B'wd) Whitney, Ray
Howell, Ralph (North Norfolk) Widdecombe, Miss Ann
Hunt, David (Wirral W) Wiggin, Jerry
Hunt, John (Ravensbourne) Wilkinson, John
Irvine, Michael Wilshire, David
Jack, Michael Winterton, Mrs Ann
Jackson, Robert Winterton, Nicholas
Janman, Timothy Wood, Timothy
Jones, Gwilym (Cardiff N) Woodcock, Mike
Yeo, Tim Tellers for the Ayes:
Young, Sir George (Acton) Mr Stephen Dorrell and
Younger, Rt Hon George Mr. Kenneth Carlisle.
Adams, Allen (Paisley N) Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S W)
Archer, Rt Hon Peter Leadbitter, Ted
Armstrong, Ms Hilary Lewis, Terry
Banks, Tony (Newham NW) Livsey, Richard
Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE) Lloyd, Tony (Stretford)
Battle, John Lofthouse, Geoffrey
Beckett, Margaret Loyden, Eddie
Beith, A. J. McAllion, John
Bermingham, Gerald Macdonald, Calum
Blair, Tony McFall, John
Boyes, Roland McGrady, E. K.
Brown, Gordon (D'mline E) McKelvey, William
Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E) McLeish, Henry
Buckley, George Mahon, Mrs Alice
Callaghan, Jim Marek, Dr John
Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE) Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley) Martin, Michael (Springburn)
Campbell-Savours, D. N. Martlew, Eric
Carlile, Alex (Mont'g) Maxton, John
Clark, Dr David (S Shields) Michael, Alun
Clarke, Tom (Monklands W) Michie, Bill (Sheffield Heeley)
Clay, Bob Michie, Mrs Ray (Arg'l & Bute)
Clelland, David Moonie, Dr Lewis
Clwyd, Mrs Ann Morgan, Rhodri
Cohen, Harry Morley, Elliott
Cook, Frank (Stockton N) Mowlam, Mrs Marjorie
Cook, Robin (Livingston) Murphy, Paul
Cousins, Jim Nellist, Dave
Cryer, Bob O'Brien, William
Cummings, J. Patchett, Terry
Cunliffe, Lawrence Pendry, Tom
Dalyell, Tam Pike, Peter
Darling, Alastair Powell, Ray (Ogmore)
Davies, Ron (Caerphilly) Primarolo, Ms Dawn
Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'I) Quin, Ms Joyce
Dewar, Donald Redmond, Martin
Dixon, Don Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Dobson, Frank Rowlands, Ted
Doran, Frank Ruddock, Ms Joan
Dunnachie, James Salmond, Alex
Eastham, Ken Short, Clare
Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray) Skinner, Dennis
Fatchett, Derek Smith, Andrew (Oxford E)
Fearn, Ronald Smith, C. (Isl'ton & F'bury)
Field, Frank (Birkenhead) Smith, Rt Hon J. (Monk'ds E)
Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n) Spearing, Nigel
Foster, Derek Strang, Gavin
Foulkes, George Thomas, Dafydd Elis
Fyfe, Mrs Maria Vaz, Keith
Galbraith, Samuel Wall, Pat
Godman, Dr Norman A. Walley, Ms Joan
Golding, Mrs Llin Warden, Gareth (Gower)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend) Wareing, Robert N.
Grocott, Bruce Welsh, Andrew (Angus E)
Hardy, Peter Welsh, Michael (Doncaster N)
Henderson, Douglas Wigley, Dafydd
Hinchliffe, David Williams, Alan W. (Carm'then)
Home Robertson, John Wilson, Brian
Howarth, George (Knowsley N) Winnick, David
Howells, Geraint Wise, Mrs Audrey
Hoyle, Doug Young, David (Bolton SE)
Hughes, Sean (Knowsley S)
Illsley, Eric Tellers for the Noes:
Ingram, Adam Mr. Frank Haynes and
Jones, Barry (Alyn & Deeside) Mr. Allen McKay.
Jones, Ieuan (Ynys Môn)

Question accordingly agreed to.

Resolved, That this House takes note of European Community Document No. 7183/87 on maximum permitted radioactivity levels for foodstuffs, feedingstuffs and drinking water in the case of abnormal levels of radioactivity or of a nuclear accident; and urges the European Community to assure a common standard of health protection by adopting a rational set of scientifically based Intervention Levels for foodstuffs.