HL Deb 21 October 1991 vol 531 cc1396-7

8.34 p.m.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Scottish Office (Lord Strathclyde) rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 13th September be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Lord said: My Lords, the No. 12 order before the House today bans fishing for velvet and green crabs in areas of water around the Orkney Islands. The decision to make this order was based on test results from our PSP monitoring regime which were over the 400 unit, internationally agreed, action level. Our aim in making the ban is to ensure effective protection of the public from PSP toxin with the minimum disruption of the shellfish market. I should like to assure your Lordships that the order will remain in force only for as long as is necessary and no longer. As with previous orders, it will be revoked as soon as the results of continued sampling indicate that the toxin has subsided to a safe level. I beg to move.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 13th September be approved [28th Report from the Joint Committee] —(Lord Strathclyde.)

Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for his remarks and for his explanatory notes on the order. This is the third order that has been made recently on the subject and I shall refer to what I said in earlier discussions. I wish to make two points. The first relates to the commercial gathering of the shellfish. One assumes that commercial traders will be aware of the borders and will be conscious of the fact that they must not damage their businesses by stupidly trying to gather the shellfish under such conditions. However, I am more anxious about causal visitors who may pick up such shellfish. I should like to be reassured that notices and posters will be displayed widely in the area. Perhaps it may be possible to display maps in, say, local post offices. The casual visitors to the Orkneys who go down to the shore and see the wonderful expanse of water will think that because it is so clean it is bound to be all right. They do not know the meaning of latitude 59 degrees 25 minutes north and longitude 3 degrees 33 minutes west. Therefore, it will be helpful if a rough map can be displayed in addition to signposting.

I was pleased to hear the Minister say that there will be no delay in revoking the order when the area is declared to be clear after suitable tests and sampling. Is the situation helped by the onset of winter. It may appear to a layman that the problem is more likely to arise during the summer. Can the Minister say whether it is unusual to see such prevalent diseases during the winter? If he cannot answer today I shall be grateful if he will write to me.

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Carmichael of Kelvingrove, raised a number of important points. Perhaps I may deal first with commercial fishermen. When an order is made they are told immediately by the fishery protection officers and advisers from my department, the Department of Fisheries in Scotland. Maps are issued with the original order showing a brief outline of the area. In order to stop the casual beach walker who might be interested in eating a velvet crab or bivalve mollusc, warning posts are displayed on the beaches ensuring that such people understand the risks involved. In addition, warnings are broadcast on local radio stations and appear in local newspapers and the national press. The noble Lord will be pleased to hear that we have no indication of trouble being caused to the casual eater of an infected bivalve mollusc or crab.

The noble Lord also asked about the seasonal aspect of the problem. We understand that the toxin begins to grow in the spring when it goes through the bivalve molluscs. It goes down to the velvet and green crabs towards the end of the year. As we are nearing the end of October we believe that the problem will cease to exist during the coming weeks.

Lord Williams of Elvel

My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, perhaps I may ask him this question. Does the notice specifically refer to the bivalve crab?

Lord Strathclyde

My Lords, the notice specifically refers to the creature which it affects. If it is bivalve molluscs, those are laid out in terms of mussels, cockles, scallops, queens and so on. If it is just crabs, then just crabs are mentioned.

On Question, Motion agreed to.

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