HL Deb 22 July 1991 vol 531 cc631-2

1.25 a.m.

The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 8th July be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Earl said: My Lords, last month I sought your Lordships' approval for two emergency orders to ban fishing for bivalve molluscs in areas off the north-east coast of England and the west coast of Scotland. This was due to a build up of the naturally occurring toxin of paralytic shellfish poison, or PSP for short. These two orders, Nos. 4 and 5, before the House today are similar. They ban fishing for bivalve molluscs, which includes mussels, cockles, scallops, queens, razor shells and oysters in defined areas off the west coast of Scotland. The decisions to make these orders were based on test results from our PSP monitoring regime, which were over the 400 unit limit, the internationally agreed action level. Our aim in making the ban is to ensure effective protection for the public from PSP toxin with the minimum disruption of the shellfish market.

I should like to assure your Lordships that the orders will remain in force only for as long as it is necessary and no longer. They will be revoked as soon as the results of continued sampling indicate that the toxin has subsided to a safe level.

Order No. 4 extends the closure in the area of water known as the Inner Sound, near Skye. The lower half of this area has been closed for fishing for bivalves since 29th May. That ban was introduced by the No. 2 order which received approval last month. Test results of mussel samples from Loch Torridon in the north part of the Inner Sound were 2,140 units on 4th July compared with 825 units the previous week. In such situations levels of toxin can continue to rise very swiftly and so Order No. 4 was made on 5th July which banned fishing for bivalve molluscs in the top part of the Inner Sound.

The following week, levels of PSP toxin of 3,066 units were found in samples of queen scallops taken from Loch Eishort on the south of Skye. Order No. 5 was therefore made on 12th July which prevents fishing for bivalve molluscs in Loch Eishort, neighbouring Loch Slapin and the entrances to both lochs. All these order will be revoked when we are satisfied on scientific and medical advice that it is safe to do so. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 8th July be approved [25th Report from the Joint Committee].—(The Earl of Strathmore and Kinghorne.)

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I thank the Minister again for explaining these orders. Since we followed very closely the earlier orders, I have no hesitation in approving them.

I am grateful to the Minister for having provided on this occasion maps of the area affected as well as a description. Although the description is perhaps more important, to many people who are not too familiar with the area the maps are a great help in showing exactly the total area involved. I thank the Minister for that.

Like him, we would like the orders rescinded as soon as possible but we agree that that cannot be done until there is complete confidence, following advice from medical and other sources, that there is no danger at all to the public.

The way in which the department has gone about putting the orders through and the careful monitoring it has been carrying out shows that we can all have confidence that it will not hasten to rescind the orders until there is complete confidence that there is no danger to the public. I am grateful to the Minister for his explanation and for the fact that the shellfish and the area concerned have been so clearly defined that the public will be in no danger until the area is clear. We shall give any help we can to implementing the orders.

On Question, Motion agreed to.