HC Deb 03 July 1986 vol 100 cc613-4W
Mr. John

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information he has as to the likely longterm effects upon ewes in north Wales and Cumbria of exposure to radiation, and in particular how long such ewes are likely to give contaminated milk; whether movement to uncontaminated pasture would have a beneficial effect; and whether there is any risk of genetic mutations in sheep.

Mr. Jopling

[pursuant to his reply, 2 July 1986]: Results of monitoring data up to Wednesday 2 July show an encouraging reduction in radiocaesium levels in lamb in certain parts of the designated areas of south-west Cumbria which have been intensively sampled. The latest batch of results is being published today. On the basis of these results my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales and I will today be making a new order to come into effect at midnight under the Food and Environment Protection Act 1985 to release certain areas from restriction while retaining restrictions on the remainder for a further three weeks.

A map showing the areas to be released has been placed in the Library of the House. It will free over 1,200 holdings, 549 with sheep, in Cumbria from restriction.

We hope to reduce further the size of the designated area in Cumbria as soon as additional sampling results confirm the expected fall in radiocaesium levels in the area still subject to restriction. The latest monitoring results are also being placed in the Library of the House.

In my statement on 20 June I said that, if it should prove to be necessary, the Government would be prepared to discuss cases of compensation for severe loss in particular circumstances to specific farmers. We have already had discussions with representatives of the farmer's unions on compensation and these will continue with a view to making a further statement as soon as we are in a position to do so.

Mr. Home Robertson

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the actions taken in response to the risk of radioactive contamination of food during May and June by his Department and by his counterparts in France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Poland and Czechoslovakia; and what arrangements were made for international coordination of precautions during the Chernobyl emergency.

Mrs. Fenner

[pursuant to her reply, 26 June 1986, c. 307 ]: As soon as news of the Chernobyl accident was reported my Department undertook monitoring which was intensified on and after 2 May when the cloud carrying radioactive material reached the United Kingdom. Other European countries also undertook monitoring. The extent of radioactive deposition varied depending on the length of time the cloud was overhead and rainfall during that time. Although the levels of radioactivity in foodstuffs in the United Kingdom have generally been well below the level at which action would need to be considered, levels of radiocaesium in young unfinished lambs, not yet ready for market, in certain areas of Cumbria and north Wales were sufficient to warrant the introduction of controls on movement and slaughter of sheep in these areas. I understand that a number of other European countries have had to institute similar controls on a range of their foodstuffs.

On 1 May the Department of Health and Social Security asked port health authorities to hold imports of certain foods from Poland and Russia for testing and extended this advice on 10 May to cover the range of foodstuffs from eastern bloc countries likely to be subject to a Community ban. The European Community reached agreement on 12 May on the imposition of a ban from 13 to 31 May on certain food imports, including fresh milk and milk products, and fresh fruit and vegetables from Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Rumania, Czechoslovakia, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia.

On 31 May, the ban was replaced by a Community regulation specifying maximum levels of caesium 134 and 137 in certain foods imported into the Community from third countries. The regulation expires on 30 September 1986. Procedures under the regulation allow for the issue in countries of origin, as part of the monitoring arrangements, of certificates to accompany consignments of foodstuffs confirming that the health standards required by the regulation are met. Discussions were held on 22–23 May by a group of Community scientists under article 31 of the Euratom treaty to discuss the trigger level for contamination of Community control measures.

Dr. David Clark

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will place in the Library the results of radioactivity monitoring of sheep milk for 1 to 14 May for Cleveland, Cumbria, Durham and Northumberland;

(2) why no figures have been issued on the results of the monitoring of radioactivity in sheep milk in Cumbria between 3 and 14 May.

Mr. Jopling

[pursuant to his reply, 2 July 1986]: Immediately following the accident at Chernobyl the Ministry's monitoring programme concentrated upon cows' milk to ensure that there was no danger to human health from its consumption, particularly by infants. When we were satisfied that there was no hazard to health from cows' milk, my Department extended its monitoring to sheeps' and goats' milk to ensure that these, too, were safe for consumption.

The first results of monitoring of sheeps' milk in Durham and Cumria and Northumberland relate to samples taken on 12 and 14 May, respectively. These results were published in the data issued by my Department on 30 May and included in the compendium of data provided on 20 June which is in the House of Commons Library.

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