HL Deb 18 January 1995 vol 560 cc643-4

2.49 p.m.

The Countess of Marasked Her Majesty's Government:

Why they will not publish in full the final report entitled CVLS 50/93 DIAZINON: Post Dipping Exposure in Humans.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe)

My Lords, the report referred to by the noble Countess was commissioned from the ministry's Central Veterinary Laboratory by the National Office of Animal Health as part of a commercial contract. The report is therefore its property and it is for the National Office of Animal Health to decide on publication and not the Government. I understand that copies are available from it on request and I have asked for one to be sent to the noble Countess.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, I thank the noble Earl for that reply. But does he recall that on 26th May 1994, in a Written Answer to my Question asking for the definition of a freshly dipped sheep, he said that: A sheep is regarded as being freshly dipped for the short period which follows immediately after dipping, when the sheep is still wet from the dip bath"?—[Official Report, 26/5/94; col. WA 57.] The paper to which I refer states that diazinon is still present in the sheep's fleece after 10 weeks. One of the problems we have had is in ascertaining for how long protective clothing should be worn when handling sheep. Should not this information have been put in the public domain in November 1993 when the report was formulated?

Earl Howe

My Lords, a preliminary paper was presented to the Veterinary Products Committee as part its review in October 1993. The final version of the report is currently being considered by the committee along with other papers on the subject. The Government are awaiting its expert advice.

The leaflet issued to sheep farmers last year by the Health and Safety Executive and Veterinary Medicine Directorate called Sheep Dipping contains clear advice on post dipping procedures.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the House and the agriculture industry generally should be grateful to the noble Countess for pursuing this important matter in the way she has done. Can the noble Earl give an assurance that the report now under consideration will be published?

Earl Howe

My Lords, publication is a matter for the National Office of Animal Health as it is the office's property, as I explained. However, we understand that copies are available from it on request and in essence the report is already in the public domain.

Lord Carter

My Lords, can the Minister tell the House whether advice was sought from the Chief Medical Officer of Health before deciding whether there was a public interest element that required full publication of the report?

Earl Howe

My Lords, we have not yet reached that stage. Until Ministers receive a report from the Veterinary Products Committee, which they expect to do in the not too distant future, it is impossible to take a view of that kind. We shall certainly bear the noble Lord's suggestion in mind.

Lord Soulsby of Swaffham Prior

My Lords, in view of the range of medicaments which are now available for the treatment of sheep scab and which are much safer for humans than the organophosphorous compounds, will my noble friend the Minister consider the provision of an information document on alternative medicaments that can be used by owners of sheep when dipping them?

Earl Howe

My Lords, my noble friend raises a very important point. Advice is published by the Health and Safety Executive which draws attention to the products that are available apart from organophosphorous products. OP dips are, however, the only type of dip which in a single application can treat sheep scab and blow fly at the same time.