HC Deb 20 October 1994 vol 248 cc410-1
3. Mr. Morgan

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidelines he has for strengthening the control over BSE.

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

All our controls on BSE are based on independent scientific advice, which is on-going.

Mr. Morgan

May I first congratulate the hon. Lady on her promotion? As the Government have been wrong on so many things about BSE—wrong on the numbers forecast, wrong on the time profile forecast, wrong on transmission between generations and wrong on transmission between species—is not it now time for them to close the remaining loophole by which BSE-infected products can get into the food chain, namely spinal cord and brain products from calves less than six months old?

Mrs. Browning

The hon. Gentleman is making allegations that are not supported either in this country or in Europe by any of the scientists who have investigated the matter. I suggest that if he has scientific evidence, on which our decision making is based, he puts it forward. Certainly the time scale in which the number of registered cases has fallen has been longer than originally anticipated. However, I hope that the hon. Gentleman will join me in welcoming the fact that in the past year, we have seen a significant drop in reported cases—namely, 43 per cent.

Mr. Gale

In welcoming my hon. Friend to the Dispatch Box, may I say how very much we appreciate the candour and openness with which her Department has faced the highly emotive problem of BSE? She will be aware of the very real concern that has been expressed by the British Veterinary Association, by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and by others about the potential for the importation of hitherto eradicated animal diseases from eastern Europe through the European Union. Can she reassure the House and those bodies that her Department will take every possible measure to ensure that those diseases are not reintroduced from eastern Europe through the Union by the back door?

Mrs. Browning

I thank my hon. Friend for his kind remarks and I can reassure him. He will be aware of the decision and announcement by my right hon. Friend the former Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, who announced earlier this year that there would be a reinstatement of 100 per cent. inspection at all ports of entry.

Ms Eagle

Would the Minister care to comment on some of the theories now coming forward to the effect that the BSE problem may actually be caused by the use of pesticides and other chemicals in agriculture rather than by some of the factors that have been identified to date?

Mrs. Browning

I can certainly comment. All such allegations have been inspected by independent scientific advisers to the Department and none of them stands up to scientific investigation.