HL Deb 10 October 1990 vol 522 cc271-2

Lord Campbell of Croy asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they are considering the prohibition of imports of turtles and terrapins carrying salmonella of the kinds which can be transmitted to human beings.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has no immediate plans to extend existing conservation controls on the import of turtles and terrapins.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for her reply. Is she aware of recent cases in the United States where salmonella poisoning has been traced to that source? Since salmonella has been a growing problem in Britain, are the Government ready to restrict or stop the traffic in these creatures if cases of salmonella poisoning occur in this country?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, the Government are certainly aware that there is considerable speculation about the incidence of salmonella coming from terrapins and turtles. I understand the difficulties but it is hard to be certain about the evidence in this country. There are no reliable data available for us to assess the degree of the problem. The Department of Health is issuing public information leaflets on the welfare of animals and how to care for them which cover in particular the transmission of diseases from animals. I can assure my noble friend that we are already considering tightening European regulations as regards the trading of terrapins and turtles.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, can the Minister say whether the situation is made any more difficult by the fact that turtles are now becoming popular fiction for young people, which may increase the demand for such creatures?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my education was completed this morning. I understand that Splinter, Leonardo, Raphael, Michael Angelo and Donatello, who are the Teenage Mutant Heroes of the day, have indeed given rise to a great deal of trading in terrapins and turtles. That raises more serious difficulties. One is the transmission of disease. That is why we ought to increase our efforts to tighten our controls on the import of these creatures and increase the information on looking after animals that we make available. I also understand the problem that people do not quite know what to do with these creatures when they grow too large to keep as pets.

Lord Parry

My Lords, in view of the fact that the House rather expected the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, to answer the Question, can her noble friend assure us that there is no truth in the rumour that the noble Baroness, Lady Trumpington, is in Aberystwyth learning how to pronounce the names of Welsh towns?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am entirely at a loss as to how to answer that question.

Lord Nugent of Guildford

My Lords, considering the drastic measures which the Government took against the poultry industry in order to control salmonella, does my noble friend think that she should take a little more action to control the danger of the incidence of salmonella from terrapins? Secondly, does she have some anxiety about the neglect suffered by many of these attractive creatures when the person who has bought one or the child who owns it becomes bored and neglects to care for it?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my noble friend raises a very important question which applies not just to terrapins but to the ownership of all animals as pets. Certainly the Government take the problem seriously. The Department of Health has taken very seriously the question of advice to people about the care of pets and the transmission of disease from pets to humans. As I said in answer to my noble friend Lord Campbell of Croy, regulations exist which cover the importation of animals and trading in them. At present we are engaged in trying to tighten and extend those regulations to cover the importation of terrapins and turtles and trading in them.

Lord O'Brien of Lothbury

My Lords, is the Minister aware that next month the Lord Mayor of London will be holding his traditional inaugural banquet in the Guildhall, to which many senior Ministers of the Crown and other dignitaries are invited, and that traditionally at that banquet turtle soup is served? Are those people in great danger?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I simply say that if they follow the advice in the information leaflet from the Department of Health they are in no danger at all.

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