HC Deb 14 December 1995 vol 268 cc1091-2
9. Mr. Wareing

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met representatives of the dairy industry to discuss problems facing the industry. [4136]

Mr. Baldry

My right hon. and learned Friend the Minister and his ministerial colleagues regularly meet representatives of the dairy industry to discuss issues of importance to them.

Mr. Wareing

When the Minister next meets representatives of the dairy industry, will he bring to their notice the scandal highlighted in The Observer involving at least two farms that recycle milk which is past its sell-by date, mix it with fresh milk and sell it through supermarkets to the general public? Furthermore, will he carry out a thoroughgoing investigation to ensure that there are not other examples in other parts of the country, and enforce the dairy hygiene regulations that were brought into law this year?

Mr. Baldry

If there are any breaches of the regulations, and the breaches are known about, prosecutions follow. It is as straightforward as that.

Mr. John Greenway

During his discussions with dairy farmers, has my hon. Friend received any representations about the effect of bovine spongiform encephalopathy on dairy farm incomes? Does he agree that it is a touch inconsistent for the Labour party to complain that our schoolchildren are not being given enough milk to drink, when it considers it to be perfectly okay to ban beef in school canteens? Is it not about time that hon. Members on both sides of the House recognised that both the milk and the beef produced by farmers in this country are of very wholesome quality—the finest of any country in the European Union? The milk is safe to drink and the beef is safe to eat, and both should be available in all schools.

Mr. Baldry

I just think that every local authority should calmly and quietly consider the chief medical officer's advice on the subject.

Mr. Tyler

In view of those comments, will the Minister give us an assurance that the statement by the Parliamentary Secretary, the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mrs. Browning), to me in the debate in July—

We have never ruled out categorically either vertical or horizontal transmission"—[Official Report, 13 July 1995; Vol. 263, c. 1186.]— still represents the Government's position? What steps will he now take to reassure not only consumers but the many people in the livestock industry who are genuinely confused by the Government's advice, so that we can have some credible advice and guidance?

Mr. Baldry

I do not think that there is any confusion whatever in Government advice. Any livestock farmer simply has to read the advice of the chief medical officer or the chief veterinary officer to see that there is no confusion. Any confusion simply comes from some sections of the media, and others who have a vested interest in causing confusion in that area. There is no confusion and no doubt; the message is clear from the best scientific reports by both the chief medical officer and the chief veterinary officer, and if people calmly and quietly read those, a sense of proportion will be brought back into the debate rather more speedily.