HL Deb 31 January 1996 vol 568 cc1452-4

3.12 p.m.

Lord Palmer asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they intend to revoke the Welfare of Animals during Transport Order 1994 (S.I. 1994 No. 3249) in respect of shellfish.

Lord Lucas

No, my Lords. We plan in the course of 1996 to remake the Welfare of Animals during Transport Order 1994. We expect that the new order will continue the present requirements that shellfish should be transported appropriately and with basic documentation.

Lord Palmer

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that Answer. Could he perhaps confirm whether, unlike other animals, shellfish do not have to travel with a passport?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, the noble Lord is perfectly correct.

Lord Campbell of Croy

My Lords, as it is advisable that most shellfish be alive at the point of retail sale, as Molly Malone clearly knew with her cockles and mussels, does my noble friend agree that it is in the interests of fishermen and fish merchants to handle and treat shellfish with care but that those who initiated this interpretation would have difficulty in making a commercial business of running a store for selling whelks?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, on my noble friend's first question, the answer is indeed yes. That is why we have experienced no trouble at all with these regulations since they were first brought in, in 1977. I think in this case, as in many others, the aspersions which my noble friend casts upon the European Union and the Commission are entirely inappropriate. This is a sensible regulation sensibly interpreted.

Lord Carter

My Lords, while it is extremely reassuring that the Government intend that oysters, mussels and other molluscs can travel around the European Union in the style to which they are accustomed, will the Minister assure the House that the Government will use their best endeavours to ensure that this order is interpreted with the maximum of common sense, and that each species, be it large or small, is treated in a way which is appropriate to that species? Although my next question is a little wide of the Question on the Order Paper, will the Minister comment on the problems affecting the transport of day-old chicks, for example?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, as regards the first part of the noble Lord's question, I entirely agree that that is exactly what the directive says. But the connection between oysters and day-old chicks escapes me!

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that the British oyster—our oysters—have been considered the best since the time of the Romans? Is he further aware that during the past century they were plentiful and reasonably priced, unlike now, although in France they are still plentiful and much more reasonably priced than ours, and many millions are eaten every year and they are available in every brasserie? What, therefore, are the Government doing to encourage our own oyster industry to expand to what it was 100 years ago?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I think this is entirely a matter for commercial oyster growers. As the noble Lord says, British oysters have an excellent reputation and they are well appreciated on the Continent and in this country. We in this country eat many fewer oysters than we used to. That may be a matter of national taste; I do not believe it is the fault of the fishermen or the Government.

Lord Walpole

My Lords, is the Minister also aware that under the same order a goat is a sheep—a concept that I feel the right reverend Prelate may have a problem in accepting?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, I suppose the question also arises under the order of whether shellfish have souls? The right reverend Prelate may have views on that, too.

The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford

My Lords, does the Minister accept that as far as the Church is concerned, sheep are sheep and goats are goats, and that any regulations for the transportation of shellfish will have no effect whatsoever upon the teaching of the eternal verities?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, it is a long time since we heard the Church of England in such firm voice.

The Countess of Mar

My Lords, is the noble Lord aware that this new order is an improvement in that just after the war goats were classified as poultry?

Lord Lucas

My Lords, the noble Countess always knows more than I do.