HC Deb 29 June 1989 vol 155 c1102
13. Mr. Pike

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will include a statement on the current incidence of bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Mr. MacGregor

On average, about 150 suspect cases of BSE are being reported each week.

Mr. Pike

Will the Minister confirm that cases of BSE have been reported in every county in England and Wales? Would it not be sensible, therefore, to introduce compulsory inspection by vets at slaughterhouses now rather than wait to be compelled to do so by the EEC in 1991?

Mr. MacGregor

The actions that we have properly taken—first, from the moment when we knew and could diagnose what the disease was, secondly from the moment when we thought that we knew with a fair degree of certainty what the source was, and finally from the report of the Southwood committee—are designed fully to deal with this problem and to protect the consumer. The Southwood report said that the risk to human health was extremely remote, but to be absolutely sure we have taken steps, including the one that I recently announced, to make sure that infected material does not enter the food chain. I think that that is the right way to tackle the matter.

Dr. David Clark

The Minister has acknowledged that the Southwood report admits the possibility, albeit remote, that this terrible disease could be transmitted to humans. To ensure that there is no temptation for farmers to send dubious animals to market, will the Government stop shilly-shallying and offer farmers 100 per cent. compensation for BSE-infected animals sent to slaughter?

Mr. MacGregor

It appears that there is still a great deal of misunderstanding about the compensation that we are offering. Such animals are not worth very much in the market, but the compensation is 50 per cent. of the original market value, which is well above what they would now be worth. The other important point is that the action that I have recently announced—to deal with susceptible offals and ensure that they do not enter the food chain—deals with this problem.

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