Foot-and-Mouth Disease (Meat Imports)

Orders of the Day — Supply – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th March 1968.

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4.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I beg to move, That this House, having regard to the disastrous effect of the recent foot-and-mouth disease epidemic on large sectors of our rural economy, deplores Her Majesty's Government's decision to lift the ban on imports of beef from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic before the Northumberland Committee of Inquiry has reported; and calls on Her Majesty's Government to request that Committee to produce an urgent interim Report on the degree of risk attaching to imported meat in the light of the experiences of recent months.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

I wish to announce that I have selected the Amendment standing in the name of the Prime Minister and his right hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

When the Minister of Agriculture made his statement in the House on Monday of last week he invited us, before we commented loudly, carefully to read the report which he had submitted in the form of a White Paper. We did that. It is as a result of reading it that we have tabled the Motion, because we cannot feel that the report justifies the Minister in the announcement he made to the House last week, and I shall seek to show why. Paragraph 18 of the White Paper, which applies most particularly to the Motion, states: 'The only type of virus isolated in this epidemic was O1 It is known that this type of virus is present in South America, but it has not been possible to ascertain the situation regarding foot-and-mouth disease in sheep and the prevalent types of virus in the area which supplies Establishment 1408. It is known from returns made by the Argentine authorities that foot-and-mouth disease occurs in the exporting area concerned but the returns do not distinguish between cattle and sheep. That was the really effective paragraph of the document, before the Chief Veterinary Officer went in to give his conclusion about the recent epidemic. It is quite clear from this that, from the area concerned, there are both cattle and sheep, and it is equally clear that there is foot-and-mouth in relation to both.

In his statement to the House the Minister said that he would send his report to the Northumberland Committee for its consideration. He then indicated that the ban on mutton and lamb would be continued but that it had been decided that imports other than mutton and lamb could be resumed from 15th April; and it is for that that we are censuring him and the Government, for we believe that there is no way in which the Government could clearly distinguish between the degree of risk coming from one and the other.

It is abundantly clear that the Minister has departed from what he has alleged to be his policy throughout this epidemic; namely, that he was following the advice of his vets. He cannot say, in the light of the report from his Chief Veterinary Officer, that the decision to continue the ban on mutton and lamb, and not on beef, was directly the result of the advice of his vets.

It is not sufficient merely to say that in this particular case the primary cause appeared to come from mutton because it is clear that the disease is endemic in both cattle and sheep. This is the point which we must clearly establish in this debate and to which the Minister has a duty to respond if we are to understand in any degree the Government's purpose in making the distinction which they have made. It would seem, from Press reports at the weekend, that the right hon. Gentleman's own veterinary staff was actively opposed to the policy which the right hon. Gentleman announced in the House last week.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

He shows surprise. In that case, I draw to his attention a report quoted in Monday's Financial Times, and given in much greater detail in the Sunday Telegraph, and I hope that he will comment expressly on that because Mr. William McCall, General Secretary of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants, has, we are told, written to the right hon. Gentleman. This Institution contains among its members many of the Department's veterinary staff. Apparently they stated in this letter that they viewed with dismay and concern the right hon. Gentleman's proposal to lift the ban and that the chance of another epidemic of similar proportions was causing the Institution's members very grave concern. I emphasise that among the members of the Institution are members of the right hon. Gentleman's veterinary staff. The Minister should, therefore, tell us clearly whether the advice given to him by his veterinary staff was that there was a grave risk of disease if he lifted the ban in the way that he proposes to do. This is the first issue on which I ask the Minister to make a clear statement.

The Government have made this completely arbitrary decision—to continue the ban on mutton and lamb—when the import of mutton and lamb represents only a relatively small proportion of the total amount of South American meat coming to this country. I will give some figures, in round thousands of tons, to prove the point. In 1967, 18,000 tons of mutton and lamb came to Britain from South America, while 101,000 tons of South American beef came in, more than five times as much beef as mutton and lamb. This is proved by the Government's figures of imports during 1967. If more than five times as much beef as mutton and lamb came in, would the Minister deny that this must have meant that there was at least five times the risk of infection from beef as there was from mutton and lamb?

After announcing the ban on 4th December, the Minister said in this House: These arrangements are temporary. They will last until the present emergency has been brought under control and will, in any event, be reviewed in three months' time, if still in operation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 999.] He reminded us later that it was intended as a temporary ban and he appeared to think that some of us were unreasonable in calling on him to maintain the ban in being. This was the first time in this problem of foot-and-mouth-disease, which has occurred in greater or lesser degree for some years, when we have had a ban put on beef and mutton coming from South America.

In putting on the ban the Minister was in effect saying to the House and the country three distinct things. Firstly, he was saying that at the moment when he put the ban on the country was faced with a unique situation with the appalling epidemic, which at that time was still spreading rapidly and causing him, the House and the country, grave concern. Secondly, he was reminding us that there was a likelihood that imported meat was the source of that epidemic. If he did not mean that, there was no point in putting on the ban. Thirdly, he was saying that he had assessed the effect of such a ban on meat supplies and felt that a ban of that character was tolerable in relation to the housewife and consumers generally.

Those three things he must have established in his mind before he decided to institute the ban. I wish to make clear that neither I nor any of my colleagues had at any stage before 4th December pressed the Minister to institute a ban. He referred to this the other day in the House. We had not done that because neither my colleagues nor I could be in possession of the facts which enabled the Minister to make the decision he made. I thought it would be irresponsible to call for a ban at that time without having the knowledge and the facts in front of us. But, once the right hon. Gentleman had taken the decision, an entirely new situation was created, particularly in so far as the second of these three matters was concerned. That was that imported meat was the source of this outbreak, and he also believed that meat supplies would continue to be at least reasonably adequate.

He had taken the decision and it created an entirely new situation. I think his assessment in regard to supplies of meat was a fair one and the price of meat, which had risen sharply during the early weeks of the epidemic, levelled off. The putting on of the ban did not materially increase the price of meat to the consumer. Figures I have looked up show that in the period from the beginning of the outbreak to 4th December, the price rose by 35 per cent. and thereafter by a further 9 per cent. After that it dropped in some degree. The rise was most pronounced for beef, but for some other meats it dropped considerably in succeeding weeks. There were adequate supplies of meat of one kind or another available. This continued to be the case. Therefore the Minister cannot say that the need was desperate to reintroduce the importation of meat for the figures do not bear that out in any degree.

As to the second of the reasons, it is quite clear from the White Paper that imported meat appears to have been the source of the epidemic. But the main reason for taking the decision must have been the first one I gave, the terrifying speed with which the disease had spread at that time. This was the issue which was causing everyone in the industry the gravest concern at the beginning of December. Fortunately, the position has now very much improved, I understand that by today we should be clear of foot-and-mouth disease throughout the country. This is something we can all be very pleased about.

All these reasons are as valid today as they were at the time when the ban was put on. They are as valid because they are in no way vitiated by the Minister's Chief Veterinary Officer's report and they cannot be vitiated until the Northumberland Committee has examined the issues and been able to report to the Minister. Only then could the Minister take the sort of decision he purported to take last week that it was possible to differentiate between one source of infection and another.

Because we feel that the Government have failed in this regard we put forward this Motion. We of course wish the Northumberland Committee well in its endeavours. My regret is that the Minister did not establish it earlier. In the debate on 4th December he told us that he would establish it. At that time we could well understand that under the pressures to which he was subject he could not set up the Committee then, but from early January onward we were repeatedly asking why some such Committee was not set up. He has lost very valuable time in this way. Had he set up the Committee in January he could have been in a position to receive an interim report before 15th April, which he has stated as the date on which he will admit imports again. The Minister's dilatoriness in this regard has caused the difficulty in regard to a report from the Committee.

We of the Conservative Party urged him in a statement on 23rd January, not to lift the ban until such time as he had a report from the Committee which he was to set up. We said at that time, let the Government at once set up the independent Committee which they have promised to look into every aspect both of the epidemic and slaughter policy and possible alternatives. Let them not relax their present restrictions on imports until that Committee has reported. That was the line we took and we still believe it was right. We were supported in that view by almost all the organisations connected with agriculture, the N.F.U., the C.L.A. and the vets themselves, who took the view very strongly, as also did many people connected with the countryside. Many of my hon. Friends will have received letters, as I have, from such organisations as Women's Institutes who feel very strongly about the needs of the countryside. My county council has written to me urging this line.

Coming nearer home, I wonder if the right hon. Gentleman would like to confirm that the Agriculture Group of his own back-benchers have urged him to follow this course and are also opposed to lifting the ban on the importation of beef. It would interest us very much if he would tell us the attitude of his own back-benchers. I shall gladly give way to him if he will do so.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I can tell the right hon. Member straight away that there is a body of back-benchers on the Government side of the House, of whom I am one, who want the ban to be lifted.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I fully expected that that was the view of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) because he has expressed it before, but it was not the hon. Member whom I had particularly in mind. If some of his hon. Friends are able to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, they may enlighten us on their view, if the Minister does not want to do so.

Why did this universal demand come from the whole countryside? It was the sheer size of the epidemic which brought the slaughter policy almost to the brink of collapse. I do not think that I use too strong wards when I say that at the end of November, when there were as many as 81 separate outbreaks in a day, the policy must have been very near collapse. It was fortunate that after that we saw a gradual diminution. Against that background, the Minister took the decision to impose the ban.

It was because of this that people have seen the really shocking effects in the countryside in the areas affected. The Minister will at least agree that there have been very serious losses far outside the scale of the compensation he has been able to give. The question of consequential losses is one of the questions which I imagine that the Northumberland Committee will study. The latest figure which we have been given of the Government's expense under compensation is about £36 million. Estimates have appeared from various different sources to the effect that the total loss to the countryside has been certainly double that figure and could well be over £100 million. There is no compensation of any kind for all these additional consequential losses.

Therefore, if the Government take a risk in allowing in additional supplies, they are not merely putting a risk on the Exchequer in the shape of liability for additional compensation. They are also putting a risk on people who are in no position themselves to determine the extent of the risk or to do anything about it but who, under the existing system, will yet have to bear the loss themselves.

This is an aspect which I do not believe has been sufficiently weighed in the Government's minds. If there is not to be full compensation covering all the consequential losses, and if there are to be epidemics of this degree of magnitude, the Government are seeking to impose on people in the countryside something which will create the very greatest difficulties. If it is not recognised that the present policy is fair and realistic, there will not be full suport for it. This is one of the things which the Northumberland Committee must examine and report on before this renewed degree of risk is imposed upon the countryside.

The real, basic question is: was this recent epidemic a single freak occasion when various factors combined to bring about such an exposive spread of the disease, or is it not more likely that this is an indication that this particular strain of the virus has developed a degree of resistance to control which has made our defence measures all out of date? This is the issue to which the Minister must direct himself and which the Northumberland Committee must consider as a matter of urgency.

Until the answer to this question is known, it is the height of folly deliberately to expose our livestock to infection again. Those of us—and there are many in the House—who throughout our lives have been dealing, on our own farms and elsewhere, with combating pests and disease can all recall the way in which a known and trusted measure of control can become ineffective because the organism concerned develops a degree of immunity to the control measures adopted against it. This has happened again and again. It will be recognised as something which happens, both in regard to insect pests and in regard to viruses and to bacteriological infection as well.

We are entitled to ask: has this happened now with this O1 strain of foot-and mouth disease, which in the past has not shown itself as one which spreads with particular rapidity? Here I call in aid a quotation from a most interesting document which the Farmers Weekly produced last week called "The Reckoning" and reprinted from the Farmers Weekly of 1st March. I quote from the document an interview which the periodical presumably had with Dr. Brooksby, the Director of the Minister's own Animal Virus Research Institute at Pirbright.

Mr. Godlier:

I am sorry. It used to be under the Ministry, even if it is not now. At any rate, it is the Government's Institute. I am sure that the Minister will accept that Dr. Brooksby is one of the greatest experts in the world on this subject. The report says: Though he would not commit himself, Dr. Brooksby suggested that this special strain of the O1 virus might have developed as a direct result of the vaccination policy of many countries. If this is so, it is quite possible that we will get another dose of it. And if it really has this high spreading power, we might not spot it until it has spread in a similar fashion to the 1967 outbreak. That is what Dr. Brooksby believes is a possibility. He is quoted as saying this: This is the absolute crux of the decision on future policy. We will have to decide whether to legislate for this happening again or not. The report continues: That is the situation. It looks as if we may be dealing with a new strain of the virus capable of infecting large numbers of animals before being observed. Dr. Brooksby is not alone in suggesting this. At least one other eminent virologist also believes it to be true. And it fits all the facts of the 1967 outbreak.If they are right, we may be forced into a policy of compulsory vaccination despite any argument raised against it. This is surely the strongest indictment of the announcement the Minister made that could possibly appear. It has the authority of Dr. Brooksby behind it and, given the circumstances of this particular epidemic, it would appear to the ordinary man in the street that this could clearly be the reason. Until the Northumberland Committee has been able to see all the evidence, the Minister has no right to take a decision in regard to it. This is where he has failed, and failed so miserably, in his decision.

Until this aspect is satisfactorily answered, I do not believe that we can afford any risk of renewed infection. It must be recognised that much has been done in South American countries in recent years in regard to vaccination policy. Probably there is still much scope for increased vaccination, but there was a time when there was not much going on. However, to the extent that vaccination has increased, it may have increased the degree of temporary immunity in relation to an outbreak. This could eventually result in what the Report of the Gowers Committee described as "masked" infection. Masked infection is probably the most dangerous spread of all, because it is not observed until it has become well established. It is that, allied with what Dr. Brooksby has said, which shows how dangerous is the policy which the Minister has now adopted.

The Minister's decision is that we cannot afford this continued risk from mutton and lamb but that we can afford it from beef. If that is not complete nonsense, I do not know what is. How can the degree of infection as between the two classes of meat be distinguished? Here I want to ask the Minister a specific question which I would be grateful if he would answer later, because much depends on this point. Before the outbreak which spread so rapidly, there was an outbreak in the Stratford-on-Avon area, an outbreak which led later to a prosecution. The Minister will be well aware of this one. It occurred only about a month or so before the major outbreak.

My question is: is it true that the Minister's own vets not only confirmed that outbreak as being O1—in other words, he same strain—but also confirmed that it came from the South American beef? Can the Minister confirm that that was so? If indeed that outbreak: came from South American beef, the Minister has not been telling the House the whole facts in regard to the matter. He has told us that he believes the source of the later outbreak to have been mutton and lamb; but, if a month previously there was an outbreak which was traced back to South American beef, is it not the Minister's duty to tell the House about it? He should tell us precisely what was his vets' report in regard to the Stratford-on-Avon outbreak. I must ask him to do that when he speaks.

I have already pointed out that five times more beef is coming in than mutton and lamb. Therefore, there is five times the degree of risk because of that. Yet the Amendment refers to the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to improve the safeguards". We shall want to know how the Minister proposes to improve the safeguards if he is letting in by far the bulkiest source of infection. He must show that there is not the degree of infection in regard to beef.

Is the Minister saying that, because in this one instance it happened to be lamb—or appeared to be lamb, because it is obviously circumstantial—beef imports are safe? We want an emphatic answer from him. Does he deny that the Gowers Report drew no distinction between the two? We shall not know what the Northumberland Committee's view is for some time yet.

On 8th December, in a Written Answer—it is c. 421 of HANSARD—the Minister gave the sources of infection in respect of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease since 1954. He set them out in a table, from which it appears that contact with imported meat and bones accounted for 30 per cent. of the initial outbreaks, and swill, probably from the same source, for another 20 per cent. Thus, at least 50 per cent. of all the primary outbreaks were traced back to what must have been imported meat or bones in one form or another.

Moreover, a considerable proportion of the other outbreaks were not traced back at all. Therefore, if at least 50 per cent. were traced to imported meat or swill, it means that a very large proportion must have originated from that source. If they did originate from meat, does the Minister say that they originated only from mutton and lamb? He cannot say that, and he knows it.

Since we say that it is absurd to distinguish between beef and mutton, it is fair to face the other question: how was it that, when we were in office, we distinguished between beef and mutton, on the one hand, and pork, on the other? Mr. Christopher Soames, when he was Minister, banned pig meat. I accept that. If I had to substantiate my case, I have to establish that there is a distinction between pork, on the one hand, and beef and mutton, on the other. I do so by reference to the Ministry's own Press hand-out at the time when Mr. Soames made his announcement on 15th November, 1960, It said: At recognised frigorificos there are facilities for post and antemortem inspection. This system of control has proved effective with cattle and sheep, but not for pigs". I emphasise those words. They are at the centre of the argument. The movement of pigs is much less easy to control than the movement of cattle and sheep, because pigs are raised in smaller numbers by more scattered producers. That was the reason why pig meat was distinguished in that way at that time.

Further, there was a Report produced by the European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, which sent out a special mission to South America from June to August 1958. I shall quote a short passage from the Report. Incidentally, the mission was led by Mr. J. N. Ritchie, who at that time was Chief Veterinary Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, a very well known and respected veterinary officer. The Report said: There is little doubt that pigs may constitute a problem in the epidemiology of the disease which is not fully appreciated by the authorities. In the course of visits to a large market in Buenos Aires there was evidence of past infection in pigs which were now showing long standing separation of the horn of the hooves. In other words, they had had the disease and could well be said still to be carrying it.

That is what that independent Commission said. Thus, not only did the Ministry's own Press hand-out at that time clearly distinguish between the risk from pigs, on the one hand, and from beef and mutton on the other, but the independent Report of the European Commission made the same point.

Incidentally, there is another sentence in the Report which may interest the Minister: There would seem to be less risk of the sheep creating a problem, since very boadly they are maintained on separate ranges from cattle and many are in Patagonia where there is apparently no disease". That is what is said about sheep, yet it is against sheep that the Minister distinguishes and he proposes to allow beef in. That comment about sheep appears in the course of a long passage dealing with the risk in relation to cattle, and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman will not wish to refute the Report in any way.

Therefore, one can establish that it was right and proper at the time to distinguish pork but that one cannot distinguish between the two types of ruminant animals. Pigs are normally kept housed, while cattle and sheep are on free range. This is the point. It is absurd to distinguish between the two. It is impossible to say that there is a serious risk from mutton and lamb but that there is none from beef. Such a position is untenable.

Now, a word about the problem of our trade with South America and with the Argentine in particular. All of us in the House wish to see that trade continue, and we certainly do not want it to be harmed by what happens in relation to foot-and-mouth disease. But we are entitled to say to our friends in South America that there are degrees of risk which they ought not to expect us to tolerate in relation to these imports. It is really for them to ensure that the meat which comes here is in such a condition that it cannot create a risk. While we want to see this trade carry on, and while we have always, up to now, had an open-door policy, our friends in the United States have for many years strictly controlled the import of South American meat, allowing in only cooked meat. Yet their trade with South America continues unabated, and we hope that it will continue to do so.

There is no reason why we alone should accept risks which will mean a heavy burden to the taxpayer and to our farming community. Here, I call in aid what was said by one of the most distinguished farming Members of the House a few years ago, the late Lord Hurd, who spent a lot of time studying this problem and who paid a number of visits to the Argentine. In an Adjournment debate which he initiated on 5th March, 1958, at the end of his speech, in which he urged that more should be done in the Argentine to prevent spread of the disease, he said: It comes to this. We cannot afford any longer to be complacent about the foot-and-mouth disease infection which we get from South America or the continent of Europe. It is a curse to our livestock industry and a heavy burden on our taxpayers. I believe that we should take Argentina firmly by the arm and say, It is in your interest, as well as in ours, that you should tackle foot-and-mouth disease more effectively. We realise that it is a very big problem for you, and we will help you all we can with technical advice. But we must expect you, if we are to continue to be a good customer of yours, to do more to gain a clean bill of health in the next five years than you have done in the last 30 years since the Bledisloe Agreement was signed.' "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th March, 1958; Vol. 583, c. 1302.] I thought that very fair comment. On the other hand, it is fair to say that the Argentine authorities have tried since then to improve the situation by more vaccination. But they still have a long way to go. It is for this reason that we must consider the needs of our own people, and we must ask for adequate safeguards, particularly if a new type of virus has emerged which is more infective than before. This is the real seriousness of our charge against the Government for the decision they have taken.

I do not believe that any hon. Member on either side would wish to have a ban imposed or retained for reasons which are specious on health grounds or designed merely to cloak a protectionist objective. But there are many on the benches opposite as well as on this side who think that the Government are taking what The Times described in a leading article the other day as an "unjustified risk". It is still not too late for them to have second thoughts. The ban is not due to come off before 15th April. Let them extend it till the Northumberland Committee has produced an interim report, and let the matter be considered again in the light of such a report.

Our charge today is not so much against the Minister himself as against the Government as a whole. Left to himself, I believe, the right hon. Gentleman would have retained the ban; but, as on other issues, he has been overborne by his colleagues. The charge against him is merely the charge of weakness. The charge against the Government as a whole is of taking a completely unjustified risk with the future of Britain's agriculture. For that reason, we shall condemn them in the Lobby tonight.

4.50 p.m.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I beg to move, to leave out from 'House' to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof: 'taking note of the Report on the origin of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic of 1967–68. approves the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to improve the safeguards against the introduction of foot-and-mouth disease into this country'. In deploying his case the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has put questions to me which I shall deal with as I proceed. I have carefully noted some of the points he raised.

Hon. Members opposite have chosen to devote their Supply Day to our decision on meat imports. I am not complaining about this, even though there was a difficulty earlier about what we should debate today. But this choice, in a week following the Annual Farm Price Review, clearly implies that they can find little to oppose in the Review award. I appreciate this compliment from the Opposition. [Interruption.] I shall certainly defend the Review down in the South-West, or in any part of the country.

I consider this a still greater compliment when I recall that in an article in the Daily Telegraph last Wednesday the right hon. Gentleman wrote that: For farmers, this afternoon's statement by the Minister of Agriculture about the Annual Price Review is the most important announcement of the year. He wrote that after I had already made my statement about meat imports. I shall be interested to know why there has been a change, why the Opposition have taken a whole day of Supply on this subject, and not concentrated on the Review. I challenge hon. Members opposite to debate the Price Review. I believe that today was picked specifically for that, but that they knew in the end that the Review could not be criticised in the circumstances.

I fully understand the concern expressed in the countryside and elsewhere about the decision to revert on 15th April to our normal import policy for beef. As Minister of Agriculture and of Food, I could not be isolated from the expressions of opinion which have been forcibly put forward on the subject. The right hon. Gentleman was quite right to point out today the anxiety in the countryside. I also know full well the shock which the epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease has caused in the countryside and the fortitude of the farming community and others in opposing it. I have already paid a tribute to the effort made to master the epidemic and to the co-operation of many people, including those who came from abroad to help us. The right hon. Gentleman was right to stress this and also to stress the concern about the decision I have taken in view of the scale of the epidemic. I understand this, and accept it.

I should like now, however, to explain the background and to emphasise the value of the measures we have taken to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the disease. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted from what I said on 4th December, when I announced the temporary ban on meat imports from certain countries. I then made quite clear the reasoning behind that emergency action. The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) nods his head, I think with approval. Whether or not hon. Members agree with me, I think that I then explained clearly the reasoning. I said: Hon. Members know that our veterinary resources are now fully stretched in fighting the present epidemic. For this reason, a new primary outbreak elsewhere could be very dangerous.The Government are, therefore, making temporary changes forthwith in the arrangements for importing meat into Great Britain in order to reduce, as far as possible,"— I stress that— the risk of any new primary outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease while the present emergency is being brought under control."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 998.] Already the recollection of the severe strain on our veterinary service at that time may be fading. But, for me, it was a vital question at that time of emergency. [HON. MEMBERS: "It still is."] Hon. Members must listen. This was a period of great emergency, when all our veterinary resources were stretched to the limit in fighting the heavy concentration of outbreaks in the West Midlands. The hon. Gentleman said that it still is an emergency, but the situation is quite different now from what it was then. Of course, we do not want it to happen again. I am merely stating the fact that our veterinary service was then stretched and for that reason I took the view that a new primary outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease elsewhere—for example, in Scotland or the dense livestock areas of the South-West—would have been disastrous.

I had made arrangements for the use of vaccine, if required. Hon. Members will remember the demands at that time in the Press, and from certain other quarters, that we should introduce a vaccination policy and not continue with the slaughter policy which we were following. In the end we received widespread support for continuing with our policy to eradicate the disease by slaughter. I had the support of many hon. Members on both sides of the House and I pay tribute to that.

The temporary ban on meat imports was a supporting measure in our effort to maintain the slaughter policy and to bring the major epidemic under control. I was not pressed by the right hon. Member for Grantham to make the changes in our meat import arrangements which I made in December. In no way did he ask me to do it. I can only assume that, if he had had responsibility, he would not have introduced that measure. [Interruption.] He never advocated that or even praised me for the decision. On 30th January, when speaking of the ban, he said: I did not press the Minister to put it on in the first place …".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th January, 1968; Vol. 757, c. 1175.]

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

The right hon. Gentleman does not seem to have listened very much to what I said today. I dealt with that point very specifically. He will be able to see in HANSARD that I said that without the knowledge that only the Minister could have it would have been irresponsible for me to press for such a ban. It is unjust of him to say that because I did not press for it had I been in his position, with the knowledge he had, I should not have imposed the ban.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I believe that the right hon. Gentleman is now rationalising a remark he made at that time. He said this. He is now trying to put another gloss on it, trying to suggest that he would have said something different if he had had the information. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] I cannot and will not withdraw. I shall certainly read very carefully what the right hon. Gentleman said.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

It is no good the right hon. Gentleman shouting, "Disgraceful". That is not an answer to argument or logic. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman made this statement. It is on the record, and he cannot deny it. Indeed, it would be quite consistent with the policy right hon. Members opposite followed when in office. I remind the House that the changes in our import arrangements for meat were designed to reduce as far as possible the risk of a new primary outbreak of the disease while the emergency was being brought under control. Hon. Members should not be surprised, therefore, that the Government have decided not to continue the ban on all forms of meat, since the emergency is now under control.

I have been asked what the new factors are. The report of my Chief Veterinary Officer has been mentioned. What are the new circumstances which led us to take the action on 4th March and which we ask the House to approve today? We received the report from the Chief Veterinary Officer on the origin of the tragic epidemic, and I have made it available to the House. I am sure that those who have studied it will agree that there was a new factor which the Government were bound to consider when they came to review meat import arrangements.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

The hon. Gentleman will not put an argument by making remarks from a seated position. I repeat that no doubt those who have read the report carefully will agree that there was a new factor. In order to deal with this situation, one must carefully examine the implications of that report. As I have explained to the House, the report contains circumstantial evidence pointing to a consignment of South American lamb as being the probable cause of the first outbreak of the disease at Oswestry last October.

In these circumstances, the Government thought it right to impose a continuing ban on mutton and lamb, including their offals, from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic, the ban to continue until the Northumberland Committee has reported. We took action as a result of the new facts before us. I told the House that action would be taken and that we would have to bear in mind the report.

In the circumstances, we believed it right to continue the ban on mutton and lamb, and that continuation has received more publicity than the other measures we took. But it represents only one-third of the action plan. I have been chided about the lamb. The right hon. Gentleman said that it is virtually unimportant and he gave figures. I am advised that recognition of the disease in sheep is generally much more difficult than in cattle. There is, therefore, more risk that a case in sheep might go undetected and consequently that meat containing the virus might pass into the trade.

It is misleading to talk about tonnages of meat. The ban on mutton and lamb from countries where the disease is endemic has made a very large reduction in the number of susceptible animals in our meat supplies from those countries. The right hon. Gentleman asked me about this aspect. In 1966, for example, we imported the product of about one million sheep—20,000 tons of meat at 50 lambs to a ton—and the product of just over 500,000 cattle—125,000 tons of meat at four cattle to a ton—from these countries. We did have about 1½ million potential purveyors of the virus going to the slaughterhouse. We shall now have only about 500,000. It is wrong to say that lamb can be dismissed and I am surprised that this has been suggested.

As I have said, the continuing ban represents only one-third of the action plan. The second part of our action concerns the veterinary safeguards. I would have thought that I would carry the whole House with me in this. Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman quoted the letter of Lord Hurd, whom I knew well. I do not disagree with what Lord Hurd said when he made those remarks a considerable time ago. Indeed, now it is important that we should have the proper veterinary safeguards.

I wish there had been some mention by the right hon. Gentleman of our sending of the veterinary mission. Beef was not called into question by the Report of the C.V.O. and we did not believe that there was any new ground for changing our existing import policy on this product. But the scale and cost of the epidemic have been very great. We are taking measures, therefore, to improve the safeguards against any risk of importing the virus and we shall be holding veterinary discussions with our supplying countries. We considered it sensible, in view of the invitation from the Argentine Republic, that these discussions should be carried out by a technical mission. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie) is not here because he is in South America preparing the way for the discussions. I hope that every right hon. and hon. Member will wish him well and his mission success.

We have agreed with the Argentine Government that the task of the technical mission will be to carry out a review, jointly with Argentine officials, of the existing arrangements covering the export of meat to the United Kingdom. The object will be to revise the arrangements agreed in 1928, in the light of technical developments which have taken place since then, and to incorporate any possible improvement in the present safeguards. This is the right way to go about it.

Indeed, the right hon. Gentleman stressed the importance of trade between our two countries and of our trade with South America. He said, quite fairly, that we wish to continue this trade. On the other hand, he stressed the importance of safeguards in this country in relation to meat establishments, etc., and other aspects of the meat industry, and how important it is that we should ourselves have high standards. I entirely agree. This is the first major attempt set in train since the 1920s by any Government.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

We appreciate the importance of the steps the right hon. Gentleman is talking about, but does not he realise that if beef is to come into this country in the middle of April it will have been loaded in ships within the next week or ten days, so that nothing of what he is saying will have any effect on these consignments?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I hope the right hon. Gentleman appreciates that we have veterinary officers out there already and that we are in discussion. In the circumstances, we have acted very quickly. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too quickly."] I am waiting for the right hon. Member for Grantham to say that I have been dilatory. I do not see how I have acted too quickly in relation to the mission. I announced it the other day and I thought I had the approval of all right hon. and hon. Members. I thought that my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East had the good wishes of everyone on both sides of the House in his mission. I hope that he will succeed and that his visit will enable us to get ahead with the main technical discussions, not only between ourselves and the Argentine Republic but also with Uruguay, Brazil and other supplying countries in South America.

The Argentine Government have suggested that it would be helpful if Argentine experts came here for discussions about our methods of investigating the origins of outbreaks in this country and we are very willing to receive them. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East has reported to me from Buenos Aires that there is agreement on these matters. I am glad that this is so, and I look forward to useful co-operation. I am anxious that the technical mission should do a thorough job in assessing what improvements are possible, but I am also anxious that any improvement should come into effect quickly. I am asking it to report to me as soon as it can.

Let me turn now to the Northumberland Committee.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Is it to do with the technical mission?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I had better continue [Interruption.] I am always courteous in giving way, but I hope that hon. Members will allow me to proceed. I want to answer a point raised by the right hon. Gentleman, who talked about the delay in setting up the Northumberland Committee. I would remind him that the Gowers Committee was appointed ten months after the epidemic. The epidemic started on 14th November, 1951, and the Committee was appointed on 11th September, 1952. The Northumberland Committee which I have set up was appointed four months after the beginning of the present outbreak, 25th October, 1967.

I resent this charge of delay and dilatoriness. We have acted quickly and the right hon. Gentleman knows it. When he was a member of the Conservative Administration, and his Government set up the Committee of Inquiry, it was considerably longer—months and months—before they did so. I immediately set up the Northumberland Committee, and I believe that the choice of its members has been widely accepted.

I turn now to the third part of our action. This is necessarily in the longer term. The Committee will have to consider such questions as the strains of virus; whether the present policy is out of date; whether we should have a vaccination policy; and whether it is impossible to operate a slaughter policy in view of new strains. These are not matters for hon. Members on both sides of the House to be dogmatic about now. The right hon. Gentleman has quoted a very eminent scientist, Dr. Brooksby, one of our leading experts. There are many opinions about these questions in the veterinary and scientific world. I beg hon. Members not to be too dogmatic. This is something which has to be carefully examined by a body such as the Northumberland Committee, which may come to certain conclusions.

I have appointed this Committee to look at the whole policy and arrangements for dealing with foot-and-mouth disease. The task is considerable. The hon. Member for City of Chester has indicated that he will be making many submissions, and no doubt many hon. Members will have points of view about the control of the epidemic. The Committee will have to consider submissions from individuals as well as organisations. Its report will certainly enable us to look again at the position in the light of its considered views.

It is a small Committee, and I know that it realises the urgency of the matter. Clearly it will want to produce a thorough report and the House will realise that it is difficult to fix a target date before it holds its first meeting tomorrow. Hon. Members and others have referred to the possibility of an interim report. I was asked about this by the Leader of the Opposition when I made my statement. I know that some hon. Members will press me on this. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) and others feel that they ought to do so. The Committee is free to make such a report. I have always stressed that it must be independent of Government. It must be free to do what it wishes, to make its choice and to come to certain conclusions. There must be no pressure from the Executive. The Committee is free to make such a report.

It must have time to study the whole problem and decide how to approach its job. May I say to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am being frank here, that the Committee may find it difficult to isolate its assessment of the animal risk from meat imports from its findings on the best policy for controlling foot-and-mouth disease in Great Britain. For these reasons I do not think it right to press the Committee on this point. I know that some hon. Members will say that I should, but this is an independent Committee. No doubt it will bear in mind the views of hon. Members and their speeches in this House. It will be for it to decide whether to publish an early, interim report. It would be wrong for me to pressurise it on this. I have no doubt that it will take account of the feelings of hon. Members. This is the right and sensible approach.

As I have said, at the invitation of the Argentine Government a veterinary mission is going to Buenos Aires for technical discussions about the improvement of safeguards. We expect it to visit Uruguay and Brazil. The implementation of its conclusions need not await the Committee's Report. I will now give way to the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber).

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I am grateful to the Minister. The point I sought to make dealt not with the technical mission, but with a point mentioned before that. The Minister dealt with beef but he did not really spend any time on this. and I asked him one very specific question with regard to the Stratford outbreak. I wanted to make sure that we had a clear answer on this.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I am coming to the whole question of our general attitude and why beef has not been included, and to the outbreak at Stratford. Hon. Members opposite can claim credit for the report of the Gowers Committee. I hardly need to remind the House that the meat import arrangements which this Government took over from the previous administration were operated by hon. Members opposite after they had had responsibility for considering action on the Gowers Report.

I hope that hon. Members who are critical of the present Government and of my attitude on this will read the Gowers Report carefully. Gowers pointed out the risks, talked of imports from South America, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite did not act in any way. I would like to know why. They must have considered the Gowers Report. It was a major Committee report. Gowers came to certain conclusions, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite did absolutely nothing about them. The summary is there on page 79. There is a section dealing with imported meat and animals. Hon. Members who are critical of me ought to read this carefully, because Gowers is important. It was the major report on foot-and-mouth.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

At the beginning of this epidemic, many people tried to get copies of the Gowers Report, but it was quite impossible to do so. The right hon. Gentleman taunts us for not having read it, but for a long time it was impossible to obtain the Report.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

It has been in the Library for years. The Report came out in July, 1964, issued by a Conservative Administration. I was not aware that the hon. Gentleman had had any difficulty. It has been made available to Members of Parliament and the general public. If the hon. Gentleman had had difficulties, I would gladly have got him a copy from my own library in the Ministry. I assure him that he could have had this, and I am rather surprised that he has not had a copy.

It is true that in 1961 the then Government decided, when pigmeat had been indicated as a source of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, to ban imports of pigmeat alone from countries where the disease was endemic. We have now taken similar action on mutton and lamb.

I have a whole list of outbreaks since the Gowers Report, since the finger was pointed to beef and to certain countries. Yet since Gowers we have had primary outbreaks year after year. In 1955, we had seven primary outbreaks. In 1956, there were 162 outbreaks and 32 primary outbreaks. In 1957, there were 184 outbreaks and 43 primary outbreaks. In 1958, there were 116 outbreaks and 29 primary outbreaks. I could go on. Not once did the right hon. Member for Grantham and his colleagues suggest, when they had responsibility, that anything should be done about the control of imports. It was not until 1961 that they acted on one commodity, and one commodity alone.

Surely all right hon. and hon. Members opposite read the Gowers Report. Surely they debated it. The right hon. Member for Grantham chided me about my position in the Government. I should like to know what his position was when he was a member of the Conservative Government. What was the position of the then Minister of Agriculture and all the friends of the industry who speak so eloquently now but who were in previous years afraid to do anything and in fact did absolutely nothing?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I have been asked about outbreaks. I have checked on many of these outbreaks. There is difficulty in identifying the origins. The Reid Report can only be circumstantial. That epidemic started at Oswestry. The Warwick outbreak was the result of swill. I shall have this checked in detail. I am sure that circumstantial evidence can be produced concerning the outbreaks which I have mentioned which occurred while the Conservative Party was in power. I should like to know why no action was taken. I said that I would take action after a major inquiry had been held. I have taken action. Of course, it has been pooh-poohed. I have been attacked outside for doing this and I have been attacked for political reasons inside. I must accept this.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

Would the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

On 4th March and again today the right hon. Member for Grantham referred to paragraph 18 of the Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer. It states that the disease returns do not distinguish between cattle and sheep". I have mentioned why sheep are a difficult problem, but it is not relevant to the action which we have taken. We have taken direct action on mutton and lamb because it has been called in question as a probable source of the epidemic.

How does this differ in principle from the action on pig meat which hon. Members opposite took in 1961? The principle is the same, despite the protestations of the right hon. Member for Grantham. In the same Press statement, the right hon. Member for Grantham accused us of lack of logic in banning one form of meat and not the other". But that is just what he and his colleagues did in 1961.

I do not propose to deal specifically with a very important aspect, namely, human health. My colleague will deal with it if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker. However, it is right that I should say something about it. There has been much discussion recently not only of the question of animal health but also of the assumed risk to human health from imports of meat. This may arise in any country from the way in which the meat is slaughtered or handled, whether or not there is any epidemic or disease in that country. I should emphasise that we already have in existence a mechanism for continual watch on any possible hazards to human health. In particular, meat plants in supplying countries are inspected by officers of my Ministry and we do not import from any plant which is not satisfactory. This is a continuing process.

I cannot accept therefore that the Government's decision on meat imports, following our review and study of the Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer, should be linked with public health considerations. If we become aware of any real risk to public health, we take action immediately.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Is it not very significant that in one slaughterhouse, 1408, some lamb was found with salmonella and the foot-and-mouth virus and that both beef and lamb are slaughtered in that slaughterhouse?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Salmonella is a quite different matter from the foot-and-mouth virus. They are two quite different things and may be introduced into meat for different reasons. I am informed that when we heard that there was the possibility of salmonella infection we acted straight away. Some meat and offal was destroyed at the port. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman has taken a specific interest in this matter. Some of the points which affect Wrexham, although it is not in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency, will be dealt with by my hon. Friend.

I have been speaking so far about the veterinary problem and the animal health risks. But there are also other important considerations. For many years we have been substantial importers of meat. About 30 per cent. of our requirements are still met from imported supplies. It would be an important matter for the housewife if we were to cut off part of this supply without replacement from some other source. As Minister of Food, I am deeply concerned about the price of food. I must be. Every hon. Member must be. The pattern of supply for meat over recent years hay been built up in response to demand. The housewife, the farmer at home, the meat trader and the shipper dealing with imports all have an interest in it. It would be quite unrealistic to suppose that a decision could reasonably be taken on one consideration alone. We were bound to weigh all these factors.

In addition, it would be wrong to disregard the very important question of our traditional and potential trade with countries which have supplied us with meat for many years. I am glad that the right hon. Member for Grantham stressed that. We do not treat lightly these commercial relations. No Government would. I am sure that that was in the mind of the Conservative Administration when they did not implement the Gowers Report. We have acted much more quickly and have proposed sending a mission to South America to improve veterinary safeguards. We attach the greatest importance to the expansion of our exports to these countries and we are aiming for a substantial increase. Some hon. Members may well have had representations, as I have had, from some of those concerned with British exports to South America. I refer to British industrial interests.

Hon. Members opposite talk about representations and views in the Parliamentary Labour Party. There are differing views on both sides of the House. I know that many colleagues of the right hon. Member for Grantham, although they are not all present for this debate, would take a contrary line to that of the right hon. Gentleman. There are many factors to be weighed in the balance. Many people quite sincerely hold different points of view. I do not deny that different views are held in my party, as must be so in any great party. I have been chided about the views of my colleagues. Many of them have their own individual views. It is right that this should be so in a democratic party.

For all the reasons which I have outlined, I invite all hon. Members to support the Amendment in the name of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister. We have taken an important decision on imports of mutton and lamb, despite what the right hon. Member for Grantham has said. We have initiated important veterinary discussions on the improvement of animal health safeguards. No right hon. or hon. Member opposite has criticised this decision. We have set in train the long-term consideration by the Northumberland Committee, and no one yet has said that this is a wrong policy. All we have had are snide remarks, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that they are nonsense. I believe that our actions will markedly reduce the risk of the importation of foot-and-mouth disease. Hon. Members, particularly hon. Members opposite, whose policy we have now modified, would do well not to underrate the value of this action which we have taken.

5.31 p.m.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

I shall not in the early part of my remarks follow the right hon. Gentleman, although I shall come later in some detail to what he said, and I shall even have something to say about what he did not say, too. First of all I want to speak about my constituency and to give the reasons why we feel as we do in Cheshire about the right hon. Gentleman and about the policy of the Government.

I have what is really the unhappy distinction of representing the constituency at the very heart of the whole epidemic, a constituency which now has had an enormous number of cases. When we had our last debate here, on 4th December, I was not then in the forefront. It was my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) who then led the field in these unenviable stakes, but since then, in the Nantwich constituency, I have had confirmed that there have been more than 700 cases, that more than 700 herds actually took the disease, and we do not know for certain how many others have had to be slaughtered because they were contacts. But it is no exaggeration to say that in my constituency upwards of 800 herds have had to be slaughtered.

That is disaster of a magnitude which perhaps only those in the district can fully understand. It is something which the country, sympathetic as I know it has been, really cannot possibly comprehend; it cannot comprehend what it means to those of us who have had to live right at the heart of all this misery. One-third of the entire slaughterings in the whole country have been in my constituency, and it is not inappropriate that I should say a few words about the feelings of the people there, from the be- ginning of the period of terrible travail through which they have lived.

It was obvious, I think, to all of us in the early days, the late days of October, that we were going to have an epidemic of colossal proportions, and so my farmers decided that they must go straightway into full siege conditions. It is no exaggeration to say that they literally barricaded themselves into their farms. They and their families and their farm workers stayed put, literally—except on those few occasions when a housewife or the farmer himself would have to go out on very urgent business; and when they put their foot outside their premises and went along those beautiful Cheshire lanes, wherever they went there they saw the heaps of slaughtered cattle.

The stench of burning cattle will be in our nostrils in Cheshire for years and years. I know the House will agree with me that I do not exaggerate when I say that. And it was quite a usual thing when a farmer and his wife came back from their business to find that they themselves had now become already victims of the disease, until, in quite the early days, there were huge tracts of Cheshire which were quite devoid of cattle altogether, and one might go and stand on the Peckforton Hills at night and count 30 or 40 fires burning.

I hope hon. Members can see what it means. We are not dealing with a factory on fire, and for which one can get insurance money. We are dealing with something about which the owners have a particular feeling—the dairy cow. I emphasised this, I know, in my speech on 4th December, but it cannot be too strongly emphasised that the dairy cow is regarded quite differently from all other farm animals, and the grief and the anguish which this widespread scale of loss has caused are beyond belief.

Moreover, those people were quite unable to keep the normal contacts with their friends and neighbours to help them to endure their grief. After all, when one suffers a great deal one of the best things is to be able to talk with one's friends and to have their comfort. This was not possible. There was the telephone, of course, but I am afraid the wretched telephone service we have did not stand up to the trial very well and, anyway, naturally everybody wanted to keep off the telephone as much as possible to leave it free for those who had to report cases to the veterinary surgeons. This period of four months we have been through will remain absolutely indelibly imprinted upon the mind of Cheshire—and, my goodness, they do not ever want to have it again.

There is another side to this, too. There is the side of those who lost their businesses and suffered consequentially. The streets of our town of Nantwich are usually thriving and busy, but through this period they were very depressed indeed. The shops were empty. Shopkeepers complained, and do complain to me now, about the loss which they sustained, a loss of thousands of pounds in turnover, and this will never be compensated. I speak of Cheshire, but I do not exclude my hon. Friend's county, Shropshire or any of the other counties, but the loss which we have suffered in Nantwich is part of the loss for the whole country, and is really beyond computation. It is not to be wondered at that they feel that the sacrifices which they have made ought to be seen to have been made and that steps should be taken to make sure that they do not have to go through a similar ordeal again.

When the right hon. Gentleman went to Cheshire, he saw the work that his veterinary officers and administrative advisers were doing there, and it would do no harm to repeat the oft-said words of congratulation to them all for the work which they did. I have seen them literally falling asleep dead-beat in their offices while trying to cope with the work during the rush periods. No one can deny that the greatest possible credit is due to them.

When he was there, I do not suppose that the right hon. Gentleman had the chance to see many farmers because, at that time, they were behind their barricades. If he had, he would have received the traditional welcome which we all receive whenever we visit Cheshire farms. It is something which makes me have to pay more attention to my figure than I would wish, so well do they look after one. However, if the right hon. Gentleman went today, he would find a very different atmosphere. The farming community is sullen and really furious with him. I do not exaggerate when I say that. I know the right hon. Gentleman's responsibilities. He is here in Whitehall, and he has to talk to his Cabinet colleagues. On the other hand, Cheshire farmers know what they have been through, and they do not want to have it again at any price.

The right hon. Gentleman has told us to read his Chief Veterinary Officer's Report. He said that he expected that Report to be quoted again and again today. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) quoted it, and he was right to do so. However, to my mind, it is not so much what is in the Report as what is not in it which is so very important.

The salient sentence says: It is known from returns made by the Argentine authorities that foot and mouth disease occurs in the exporting areas concerned, but the returns do not distinguish between cattle and sheep. The right hon. Gentleman's Chief Veterinary Officer wrote that, and it is true as far as it goes, but the inference to be drawn from it is surely that we should not take any risks by importing the beef at all at the present stage.

Following the right hon. Gentleman's statement a few days ago, he reminded me of a Question that I had asked him the week before about the importation of mutton, offal and decapitated carcases. I had asked him that, if he intended to import, would he be sure at least that carcases were decapitated. I did that because I was terrified that he would remove the ban completely, and I wanted to save something from the wreck. That was what prompted me to ask the Question, not in any sense that I would be satisfied with it—far from it—and I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman realised that when I said that I was advised by veterinary men who had been helping me in these matters.

In the last few days, I have been in touch with a veterinary surgeon in my constituency who has recently returned to private practice. I will not mention his name, because that would not be proper for reasons of etiquette, but I am prepared to tell the right hon. Gentleman who he is afterwards if he wishes to know. The gentleman concerned was seconded to one of the veterinary centres in my constituency in the early days of the epidemic, and he worked in a responsible position there for three and a half months. He has given it as his absolute opinion that it is quite wrong to pursue the policy which the Government have now adopted. He has also given me his solemn assurance that that is the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman's divisional veterinary officers, whom I would not presume to approach directly myself in view of their position. I have been told that, and I believe it to be true.

To use a colloquial expression, what has got their goat is this. The whole profession is very angry about the policy of the Government and this compromise decision. It is the considered opinion of those in the profession that, despite extensive vaccination of cattle which has largely eliminated active clinically-detectable disease, it has not eliminated possible sources of infection through sub-clinical cases or carriers whose bones, offals, tonsils, lymph nodes or even flesh may contain the virus. In addition, they know what the right hon. Gentleman has told the House, that 54 per cent. of the cases of foot-and-mouth disease which have occurred since 1952 have been due to the importation of Argentine meat.

In the light of all these feelings and views which are held by the right hon. Gentleman's adviser's, what will he do?

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

Suppress them, I should think.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

Let me put this to him. Is he prepared to get up and say that his own Chief Veterinary Officer supports wholeheartedly the policy which he is now adopting? If he is prepared to say that, I will gladly give way to him.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

The hon. Gentleman ought to know better.

Photo of Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris Wing Commander Sir Robert Grant-Ferris , Nantwich

The right hon. Gentleman obviously is not prepared to do that. The inference is clear for all to see. The Government have taken a political decision, and not one which the common grounds of proper health dictate.

I want to say a word now about exports and imports. We have heard much about our valuable trade with South American countries. Why does not the President of the Board of Trade come to the House and tell us exactly what is the situation? All that we know are figures, which I have never seen contradicted, showing that we buy approximately £71 million worth of meat from them and that they buy £20 million of goods from us. I have seen advertisements by interested parties which talk about £200 million worth of exports. I have seen reports that we lost a valuable machinery contract worth £30 million to a Western German supplier. We did not hear about the possibility of that order until we were told that it had been lost.

Why cannot we have some real honest to goodness details about these things, not airy-fairy statements about the importance of our export market. We all know that. However, it would help a great deal if we knew what it was that we were losing. We are not told. I can only imagine that we are not told because the pressures are so great from other directions upon the Government. Let the right hon. Gentleman remember that it is not sufficiently good for people to come along and say, "Poor old Fred, he is doing his best". It may be that he is doing his best, but he is the only one we can get at. He represents Her Majesty's Government, and, therefore, we hold him responsible. He will have to bear a very heavy responsibility all his life if he puts a foot wrong now and there should be another outbreak of the disease. Only he will be responsible. He has had the biggest lesson of all. I know that Tory Ministers in the past and others ought to have seen the light—I do not disagree with that—but the right hon. Gentleman has had the brightest light of all to show the way and he refuses to take it.

5.51 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

There can be no doubt that there are hon. Members on both sides of the House and people outside who have misgivings about the lifting of the ban on Argentine beef. This is natural in view of the recent foot-and-mouth epidemic which swept over large areas of England and Wales, creating problems for farmers and involving the nation in heavy financial loss. Stocks have had to be destroyed, and money cannot buy stock. Stock have to be raised, and this takes time.

In view of the experience of the last six months of epidemic, one can understand the reluctance of many to agree to the lifting of this ban on Argentine beef as from 15th April next. While it is known that the epidemic is caused by a virus, it is not easy to decide the precise manner in which the infection is carried. For this reason, perhaps I may be permitted to refer to our recent experience at Wrexham to see whether something can be learned.

The country has undergone one of the worst foot-and-mouth epidemics in its history. Mr. John Reid, the Chief Veterinary Officer, conducted an inquiry and the report has been published. It is not a long report, but it is very interesting and informative. However, Mr. Reid was not able to arrive at a firm conclusion regarding the origin of this widespread epidemic. His conclusion is circumstantial, but: circumstantial evidence is not conclusive proof.

Paragraph 12 of the Report reads: It was not possible to establish conclusively that imported frozen lamb carried foot-and-mouth disease virus to the farm, but as all other generally recognised sources of infection had been eliminated, it remained the most probable vector. There are other possible sources of infection: movements of animals and persons, mechanical carriage by birds and wind, and materials used on the farm. But in this instance all these were eliminated as possible sources of infection. However, one remained, and this, for a variety of reasons, could not be eliminated Because it could not be eliminated, it has been circumstantially accepted as the probable source.

What was this uneliminated source? A farmer, who is named and whose farm is identified, received lamb bones for his dogs. We are told that those dogs could have carried the bones into the farmyard and the neighbouring fields. There is no actual evidence that they did carry the bones to the neighbouring fields. Bones were found in the farmyard, but none were found in the fields. We are not told whether those bones were examined and, if so, what the results were.

On account of this Wrexham has become the victim of national news of a damaging nature, involving the Wrexham Health Authority, the Wrexham abattoir and the Wrexham Fatstock Marketing Corporation. The Reid Report gives a circumstantial conclusion, but that is not the case with some of the national Press. The Sunday Express, of 10th March, reads: We know now the foot-and-mouth epidemic, which cost us £100 million or more, began at Wrexham. Its cause was a batch of contaminated Argentine lambs. It further states quite categorically that the meat … arrived at London and was found to have a food poisoning virus. It should have been burnt. Instead it was sent to Wrexham. Again, the Sunday Express said: The Wrexham Health Inspector wished to test it. Indeed, he was told by the Ministry of Health to release it for sale, and so the outbreak began. The Reid Report is circumstantial; the Sunday Express is final and conclusive. "So", according to the Sunday Express, "the outbreak began." Why was the Sunday Express so certain of these conclusions? Here I must refer to the action taken by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) who, once again, encroached upon matters concerning another Member's constituency.

Hon. Members:

Shocking. Not for the first time.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

I would like to know where he got his information from.

Hon. Members:

Give way.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

Did he receive it from any member of the Wrexham Health Committee?

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

If the hon. Gentleman's suggestion is that this is not a matter of national concern but merely of constituency concern, I can tell him that I had information, because I inquired, about Wrexham, Oswestry, my own constituency, Manchester and London.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

I will proceed with my argument in my own way. If by some process the hon. and learned Gentleman obtained information involving my division, why in the first instance, as other hon. Members would have done, did he not consult me about it?

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

The hon. Gentleman must make his own inquiries.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

The hon. and learned Gentleman may argue, as he has done, that this is a national and not a constituency matter. That is exactly the argument he used regarding the Aberavon Steelworks on 19th December, 1963.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

And Brecon and Radnor, and the argument he used when he interfered with the Pentre Maelor Estate in my constituency a few years ago.

It was only last Monday that the hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Lubbock) intervened at Question Time and said: Would not the Parliamentary Secretary confirm that it is contrary to the practice and custom of the House for hon. Members to put down Questions relating to their colleagues' constituencies? "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 11th March, 1968; Vol. 760, c. 975.] I suggest to the hon. Member for Orpington, who I understand is the Liberal Party Whip, that he should call his hon. and learned Friend to order on this practice. The obvious reason for his action, and the one which most people accept, is that he was exploiting the situation for political ends. He has received his publicity, and in so doing has succeeded in making Wrexham, in the public eye, the scapegoat for a national disaster. He has tarnished in the public's view, the established reputation of the Wrexham abattoir. Had the person who gave the information to the hon. and learned Gentleman given it to me, I would have handled it in a different way, and with much better results, even if it meant sacrificing my own publicity. I do not know whether I should go further into this question.

It appears that a cargo of Argentine lambs was delivered at the Port of London on 23rd August, and a part of that consignment was sent to Wrexham, where it arrived on 25th August. But another cargo had arrived a month earlier. This was suspected of being infected with salmonella typhimurium, a food-poison bacteria unconnected with foot-and-mouth. This cargo was examined and destroyed.

The report was issued two days after the arrival of the second cargo at Wrexham. The Manchester public health inspector, no doubt confusing the two cargoes, telephoned the Wrexham public health inspector and informed him that the meat was suspect. The Wrexham officer rightly impounded as much as he could of the original consignment of lambs, and arranged for them to be examined at Chester. The test did not take place, because the Ministry of Health informed the Wrexham officer that the meat was not infected, and could be distributed as fit for human consumption. But let us be clear about this. The test was not for foot-and-mouth infection. The suspicion which had been confirmed in the case of the previous cargo was in respect of salmonella, which is a food poison bacteria, and has no connection with foot-and-mouth. Events have proved that the Ministry of Health was correct when it declared that the meat which was delivered at Wrexham was not infected with salmonella, because there has not been a trace of human illness resulting from eating this meat.

By some coincidence, the Chairman of the Wrexham Borough Health Committee, who I understand is a personal friend of the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery, gave a Press interview on the Wednesday evening, the day when the hon. and learned Gentleman was piling up his Questions. It certainly was a striking coincidence. As far as I know, the members of the health committee did not know of this report, nor had an emergency meeting been called to discuss it.

At his Press interview, the Chairman said that if the local health authority at Wrexham had been able to confirm that the meat was infected by testing the carcases, the consignment might well have been destroyed, but then he admitted, We would not have been able to detect foot-and-mouth, but the consignment now being blamed would have been destroyed and the outbreak prevented. According to his argument, if that ship had been sunk in mid-ocean, the outbreak would have been prevented. That would be true provided one makes two assumptions. First, that this lamb was responsible for the foot-and-mouth epidemic, and there is no conclusive proof of that. Secondly, that salmonella bacteria would have been found in the carcases before they were destroyed, but the evidence is that there was no such bacteria in them, otherwise human beings who ate the meat would have become ill.

Photo of Mr James Jones Mr James Jones , Wrexham

I never eat meat. I am a vegetarian.

I have gone into this case in some detail, not only because I am anxious to restore the reputation of the borough authority of Wrexham which has been tarnished by this unfortunate publicity, but because our experience can suggest what might be done to mitigate the misgivings of those who are hesitant about lifting the ban on Argentine beef.

To my mind the case for lifting the ban has been made, but the question of restoring public confidence is another matter, and I wonder whether my right hon. Friend can reorganise the examination system by putting fully qualified veterinary surgeons in key positions so that meat can be thoroughly and scientifically tested at key centres before it is distributed to the different areas. If this were done, and known to the public to be done, I believe that public confidence could be restored, and this is very important at this time.

6.7 p.m.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Save that it was mitigated by his confession of being a vegetarian, I think that the speech of the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) was the most pathetic example of parish pump politics that I have heard for a long time.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that there was some kind of slight on Wrexham, as though Wrexham injected foot-and-mouth virus into these carcases, instead of it being purely fortuitous that these cargoes of lamb which were suspect went to Wrexham, and from there were distributed over a wide area, to Oswestry, to my constituency, and to the constituencies of many hon. Members on both sides of the House. If the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that there should be some kind of inhibition on inquiries which hon. Members can make when a national disaster of this kind occurs, that they must be confined in their inquiries by the geographical limits of their constituencies, I must say that I absolutely reject that contention.

I made inquiries, not only in Wrexham, but in my constituency, in Oswestry, and in Manchester, where the report came from, and also in London. Not one hon. Member objected, nor would I have objected if the hon. Gentleman had made inquiries in my constituency. To suggest that this kind of thing can be contained, and to argue that this is a constituency matter, is rubbish, and everyone knows it.

Photo of Mr Donald Coleman Mr Donald Coleman , Neath

Would not the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that it is common courtesy in this House to consult other hon. Members?

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Many inquiries were going on, and it was open to the hon. Member for Wrexham, just as it was to me, to make inquiries. It was open to him to put down Questions, just as it was to me, but he failed to do so. The heart of his complaint is that this matter was taken up by somebody other than himself.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that this interesting conversation about Wrexham is an ingenious device which hon. Gentlemen opposite have whipped up to take the heat and pressure of the argument off the Minister'?

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

I think that I have pursued that red herring as far as I need, and red herring is what the complaint from the hon. Member for Wrexham is.

I made it clear in the House some time ago how completely opposed I was to the lifting of this ban on beef. There is a basic difficulty here. We follow a slaughter policy with regard to foot-and-mouth disease, yet we import from countries where it is endemic. Because of this complete difference of system between the Argentine and other countries and ourselves, we are always at risk. The more that other countries use vaccination and the more resistant the virus becomes—in particular, the O1, virus which was recently isolated—the more difficult it is to tackle it here.

Therefore, because of our slaughter policy, we face ever-increasing bills. Having had an epidemic which has cost this country at least £100 million, we cannot afford to run the risk of another such outbreak without at least being assured that the Argentinians and others are making efforts comparable to our own. Is it not right that we should ask the Argentine Government and other such Governments at least to spend something substantial on improvements, to show some signs of appreciating the tremendous cost of this epidemic to this country?

I do not resile from what I have said before, that the Minister tackled the outbreak very well, but he was extremely unconvincing today, because he was arguing a case against his own convictions. This is occasionally the lot of Ministers, but his arguments certainly did not bear the signs of conviction. In the Reid Report, by excluding other factors and by what he called circumstantial evidence, the Chief Veterinary Officer concluded that the epidemic had, in all probability, been caused by the 770 Iamb carcases distributed from Wrexham abattoir. I have always understood that circumstantial evidence is as good as any other, but of a different kind. It is almost impossible to get exact scientific evidence here. One can only trace the source by an exclusion of factors and this is what has been done in this case.

One thing which troubles me, on reading the report, in respect of beef is whether there has been any inquiry into whether the butcher at Oswestry had imported frozen beef from the Argentine. I ask this because I have made inquiries from butchers and find that they rarely bone lamb. They might cut off the end knuckles on chops and so on, but they do not normally bone lamb, although it is normal to bone beef. As they were supplying bones for a firm, it is highly unlikely that lamb bones were supplied. It is much more likely that these bones were beef. This matter needs inquiry.

From my inquiries, I find that only one firm in the country goes in extensively for boning lamb and that is a Birmingham firm which supplies canteens with what are called "tasty cuts". I do not know what they do with their bones, but perhaps we may discover later, with some of the distributions in the Midlands of this meat from Establishment 1408, what happened about the disposal of those bones.

There is a mystery about the 770 lamb carcases and their movement, and there is still a suspicion about their condition. Everyone knows that salmonella is a different kind of infection from foot-and-mouth, but that is not the relevance of this matter. We are concerned with the dangers of importing meat without adequate safeguards and it is vitally important for the meat-eating public as well as the farming community to acknowledge that not one virus but two are traceable to Establishment 1408 in the Argentine. There was the salmonella virus and, by a process of elimination, the foot-and-mouth virus. Both were traceable to this slaughterhouse.

What impresses one is that, at slaughterhouse 1408—I should be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would interrupt if I am not correct, because I am 99·9 per cent. certain—beef as well as lamb is slaughtered. This slaughterhouse is on the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where foot-and-mouth is endemic in cattle as well as lambs.

The Minister knows that I have queried him about inspections of Establishment 1408. Am I not right in thinking that in about April last year, there was an adverse report on this very slaughterhouse—that is, in an inspection earlier than those about which he has answered? Am I not also right in thinking that this strain of salmonella, which was entirely new to this country, and the foot-and-mouth virus O1, which was also new, can both be carried by beef as well as by lamb? This is, therefore, a serious matter for the whole country.

Now we enter what appears to be a No man's land, where one is puzzled about where the responsibility of the Minister of Agriculture ends and that of the Minister of Health begins in regard to the importation of lamb and beef. Is it not correct that no carcases are normally inspected by a veterinary officer from the moment they leave the slaughterhouse in whatever the exporting country is until they are delivered to the housewife in this country? Am I not also right in thinking that very few samples are taken from the carcases for testing?

There is still a great deal of mystery about the history of this consignment of lamb on which the blame for the outbreak is put. The story really begins on Tuesday, 29th August, when the Chief Public Health Inspector of Manchester—not Wrexham—received a report from the Port of London Health Authority about lamb carcases bearing the number 1408, the slaughterhouse number, and the code letters PTARHT. He was told that these carcases were either infected with salmonella or suspected of being infected.

It is important to note the date—29th August. This is four days after, according to the Minister's reply to me, there had been an inspection and an isolation of this virus in lamb offal by the Port of London Health Authority. This information was passed to Wrexham by the Manchester authorities, since this consignment was originally destined for a wholesaler in Manchester but had been diverted to Wrexham. When Wrexham checked up in their slaughterhouse, they found lambs with these identical numbers and code letters. This was the identical consignment referred to and this is how the investigation to which the hon. Member for Wrexham has referred was set in train.

Then, I have asked the Minister for details of the arrival of these lambs in this country, and I am still not satisfied. From my inquiries, it seems that they must have arrived on one of two ships, the "Brazil Star" or the "Paraguay Star". The "Brazil Star" docked on 16th July and unloading had been completed by 21st July. The unloading had been completed by that date, yet the Minister told me in an Answer that the test which revealed salmonella was made on 25th August. Why was no test done until 25th August on carcases from this earlier cargo?

The "Paraguay Star" arrived on 23rd August, commenced unloading on the 24th, and that was completed on the 31st. The Minister said in his Answer to me that the lambs which went to Wrexham were unloaded on the 23rd. This cannot be right because, according to the Port of London authorities, that ship did not arrive until the 23rd and unloading did not begin until the 24th. Thus, the right hon. Gentleman cannot be correct if the information given to me by the Port of London authorities is right.

The mystery deepens because the fact that these lamb carcases arrived in Wrexham on the evening of the 24th suggests that they might have come from the earlier importation. I mention this because there appear to be signs of a great administrative muddle having occurred between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. No doubt inadvertently, the Minister appears to have given me wrong information. [Interruption.] I have checked it as best I can, and that appears to be the case. I would be grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would inquire into this, with the Port of London authorities and the other responsible bodies, to find out the true position.

How did it come about that on 29th August, four days after the test, the reference numbers and letters which had been given to the public health inspector at Manchester were found on the Wrexham lambs, yet they were released the very same day? Why was the Chester Laboratory told on 30th August that there was no need to continue with the testing of lambs because the tests would be continued in London? These matters must be inquired into more thoroughly.

All this goes to show the inadequacy of our system of inspection and recording at the ports and the unfortunate overlap that exists between the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture. The fact that no veterinary surgeon ever examines these carcases—and this system may have persisted for years—is all the more reason why a thorough investigation should be conducted into this whole matter. I hope that the Minister will assure us that the investigating committee which was recently set up under the Duke of Northumberland will have power to make recommendations about this and about the regulations covering the importation of food.

Am I right in thinking that the recent investigations have shown that there are three grades of lamb imported from the Argentine, the top grade being blue, the second red and the third black? Have not the investigations also shown that a preponderance of black lamb is imported into this country, lamb of a quality which would not normally be imported?

It is impossible to take this and other matters further at this stage. Many more inquiries must be made, and the persisting doubts prove the importance of continuing the ban on beef as well as on lamb. This should be done until this whole mystery has been cleared up.

It should be remembered that not only the farming community but the entire meat-eating public is greatly affected. With the possible exception of the hon. Member for Wrexham, the public must be concerned about the importation of meat from a country in which the standards of hygiene seem not to be anything like those obtaining here.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

Would the hon. and learned Gentleman care to say whether, before or after the meat was sold, there was the slightest proof of the presence of salmonella in the meat? Is there the slightest known connection between salmonella and foot-and-mouth disease?

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Had the hon. Gentleman been listening, he would have heard me say at the beginning of my speech that there is no known connection between salmonella as such and foot-and-mouth disease. The relevance of the matter is that both of these consignments, accepting that there were different consignments, came from the same slaughterhouse. The public, in addition to the farming community, have a great interest in ensuring that proper standards of hygiene are maintained and that adequate standards exist covering the importation of meat.

6.26 p.m.

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

It might be convenient if I intervene briefly at this stage to comment on some of the matters which the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) regards as a mystery.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked about the relative responsibilities of my right hon. Friend and myself in respect of imported meat. My right hon. Friend is responsible for imported meat up to the point of importation, including being responsible for the certification procedure and the inspection of premises overseas, although one of my medical officers joins in some of the inspections overseas. Although we are both legally jointly responsible for hygiene and meat inspection in home slaughterhouses, my right hon. Friend has the primary responsibility. I am responsible, through the local autho- rities, including the port health authorities, for the inspection of meat after importation and for the enforcement of the hygiene regulations. That is a fairly clear division of responsibilitiy between us.

The hon. and learned Gentleman asked a lot of questions, some of them duplicating Questions he has on the Order Paper, the Answers to which he may find waiting for him on the board outside the Chamber. The shipment in question in Wrexham was part of the later consignment—I think from the "Paraguay Star"—and he will find that I have given him the dates between which it was unloaded.

I stated in Answers to the hon. and learned Gentleman on Monday that, knowing now all the circumstances, I do not believe that any further specific measures taken at the time on the public health side would have benefited the public health further. This is not to say, however, that the machinery functioned without fault last August. For example, it appears that the health authorities in Wrexham were informed by the Port of London Health Authority that this consignment of meat was part of a cargo from a suspect source, some of which had been sampled although the results were not yet known. Later they were told, incorrectly, that samples had been taken and that a proportion had proved to be contaminated with salmonella. Because it was believed that the London laboratory had already tested this cargo, the local laboratory did not duplicate the test.

The public health laboratories aim to meet all reasonable requirements made on them, but they are very hard pressed and they endeavour to see as far as possible, and rightly so, that they do not unnecessarily duplicate the testing of samples. Moreover, this bacteriological sampling of carcase meat is essentially a research study and not part of the routine control. No sampling would have revealed foot-and-mouth disease virus if it was present. The main check on the fitness of imported meat is routine inspection during production, and this system is in turn checked by the periodic inspection of producing centres and by naked eye inspection of a sample of carcases on arrival.

The misunderstandings at that time have been resolved and should not recur. However, let us suppose that the laboratory tests had been carried out for the Wrexham authorities, as they had wished. There is no reason to suppose that this would have shown any different result from the tests which were later carried out on the same cargo in London, none of which was found to contain food poisoning organisms. The House will remember that there have been no reports of disease in humans from this meat. On clearance, the carcases would have been released for sale, and if they did lead to the terrible foot-and-mouth epidemic, presumably they would still have done so, but at a slightly later date.

Photo of Mr Emlyn Hooson Mr Emlyn Hooson , Montgomeryshire

Will the right hon. Gentleman deal with the point about the message sent by the Port of London Authority to Manchester giving the precise code numbering of the lambs? Am I not right in thinking that there was a very small outbreak of salmonella in Manchester and that although its source was not traced, it was an exactly identical type of salmonella said to have been found in these lambs?

Photo of Mr Kenneth Robinson Mr Kenneth Robinson , St Pancras North

I can only repeat that no case of salmonella was traced to this consignment. I understand that they got the code number wrong as certain letters were omitted, and this led to the confusion.

6.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

It will be in your recollection, Mr. Speaker, that I endeavoured to move the Adjournment of the House immediately when the Minister announced his decision that beef shipments were to be resumed from the middle of April. I am very glad that we are having this debate now. I am a little disappointed that we did not have an emergency debate then, because if we had had that emergency debate, it would have stopped any meat being laden on to vessels, whereas probably there is some now in transit to this country.

My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) dealt very effectively with the emotional strain put on the farming community. I shall base my remarks on other factors. I hope to make a cool, calculated and devastating case which will destroy the Minister's very feeble arguments in justification of what he has done in the last few days. It was very significant that during the battle when this epidemic was at its height, every time the Minister came to the Dispatch Box he said clearly that he was resting his decisions entirely on the advice of his Chief Veterinary Officer. How different it was on 4th March. Then we did not hear anything about the advice of the Chief Veterinary Officer.

The Secretary of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants let the cat out of the bag when he said that he was dismayed at the decision. Of course, the Institution of Professional Civil Servants speaks for all those in authority in the Civil Service who had to bear the heat, the brunt and the burden of the day in fighting the epidemic. They do not want to have this battle all over again and they know very well they might have to fight the battle all over again if this meat comes into our country. I am afraid that the experts know the answer and in this instance the Minister has not listened to his experts on the health of our livestock.

We are still in a comparatively dangerous phase. I am glad that officially—I emphasise officially—the epidemic appeared to be over at 5 o'clock this afternoon, but my constituency is still in an "infected area" in the County of Chester. There is still a large infected area and I have been told by the Minister's officers that restocking is a dangerous phase. About 2 per cent. of farms which have restocked have had another outbreak. One could assume that say 1 per cent. might get a second outbreak, and in that case we could be facing another 30 outbreaks. I hope that that will not happen, but I do not think anyone can claim that the epidemic is yet at an end.

The National Farmers Union is united against the Minister. The Union never likes to take an extreme view, but in this case it is quite clear in its condemnation of what the Minister is doing. His decision shows a cynical disregard for the animal health of the country. Also it may well be a great handicap to the Northumberland Committee because the worst thing that could happen during its investigations would be for another outbreak to take place and thus further confuse the evidence, which is already extraordinarily confusing.

I have said that I shall not base my case on emotion. I shall rest it on absolutely practical facts facing the farming community and which will face the Committee of Inquiry. First, there are the mysteries in the worst epidemic this country has faced. This is where the Minister has failed to appreciate the situation. He has drawn attention to what previous Administrations have done when there have been very small outbreaks, but this was the worst epidemic in the whole of our island's history. In conclusion I will draw attention to the weaknesses of existing precautions, economic considerations and the unjustified strain on the farming community.

As to the mysteries of this epidemic, I do not think the Minister would deny that the authorities were caught entirely flat-footed. The veterinary profession was working within an out-of-dated code of rules. The procedures which they were trying to operate were not effective in face of an epidemic of this size. Regulations were made and they were reversed and ignored—quite rightly because we were facing an unprecedented situation. I do not criticise the Ministry officials for that. Movement control was an amazing mix-up and there was a sort of dichotomy of control betwen the police and the Ministry. In face of an epidemic on this scale and of this size, this was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs. This is a very real reason why we should wait for the report of the Northumberland Committee. The administrative framework suitable for dealing with a very small epidemic is quite unsuitable for dealing with an emergency such as we have just seen. I look forward very much to the Committee's Report on the administrative side.

There are many mysteries. I shall highlight one mystery that of the virus itself. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), in a most penetrating and splendid speech, drew attention to some of the mysteries regarding the virus. I pay tribute to two men who have produced the excellent report put out by Farmers Weekly entitled "The Reckoning". Those men, Mike Leyburn and Mike Williams, have travelled all over the country and over the Continent getting an enormous amount of very valuable information.

I shall not quote what my right hon. Friend quoted, regarding what Dr. Brooksby said, as it was quite correct. The important thing is that Dr. Brooksby was induced to break his silence. This is one of the incredible things. The mysteries have been quite unnecessary. Surely the farming community was entitled to know a great deal more of what was going on. Why was Dr. Brooksby so timorous, and why did he almost have to excuse himself for breaking his silence and telling us what the greatest expert in the world knew about the virus? The virus has been unique in this instance. Just in parenthesis may I say that I am interested in the Chief Veterinary Officer's Report, but I did not find it wholly convincing.

One of the reasons why the epidemic has spread is that the virus was unique in that it had one disturbing property. That was the very variable incubation period, which was sometimes a month and sometimes a matter of days. I have reason to suppose that the incubation period has been altered significantly by the vaccination procedures in the Argentine.

The Minister was very specific in saying that the Research Department at Pirbright did not come under him. There has been a lamentable lack of liaison between the experts at Pirbright and the field staff who have been operating. The decision to remove the import ban in face of these well-defined facts is a disaster.

I turn to the weaknesses in precautions. There is still no manual of advice available either for farmers or for the collaborating authorities. Only the other day I was speaking to a river board official who had been responsible for disposal, cleaning up and so on at three of the Ministry's centres in the middle of Cheshire. I asked him if he obtained his information from a manual of instructions and he replied that no manual of instructions was ever issued to him. That was confirmed by another official. During the heat of the outbreak I pleaded for a manual of instructions to be issued to farmers so that they should know how to take precautions, but none was issued, except the original introductory leaflet. For these kinds of reasons, we should have the Committee's report before we take these risks again.

I should like to know whose advice is the best. Is it grandpa's? In my area we remember what happened in 1924, when there was a similar epidemic hi Cheshire and people hung up onions. Is that any good? Are we to look to the homeopaths for advice or to the Ministry? Nobody has said whether the Ministry's advice is any better than grandpa's or the homeopaths', but I am inclined to think that grandpa's is some of the best advice I have heard on how to ward off the disease, such is the lamentable extent of the advice on precautions from the Ministry.

I turn to a more serious matter, the question of disinfectants, which I have very carefully documented. Without doubt, throughout the whole outbreak there has been amazing confusion in the Ministry's advice about disinfectants. I asked a few Parliamentary Questions and have had a fairly voluminous correspondence with the Ministry on disinfectants, but at the height of the outbreak I ceased writing about the subject as I thought that would be helpful, knowing that the Ministry was extra busy. But I returned to the disinfectant attack with a Question on 7th February. The Minister's reply was: … the approved list of disinfectants is being re-examined.… It had been examined before, and by 7th February it was being re-examined.

I am told that the experts at Pirbright had forecast that we should have an epidemic last autumn. This ties up with other evidence I sent the Minister from another source, from which I also had information that the Ministry's veterinary service had been advised that an epidemic was expected in the autumn. I was told that that was not accurate, but I have recently heard that the greatest experts at Pirbright forecast that there would be an epidemic in this country because of their study of their graphs of the movement of the disease. It had moved from Russia into Western Europe, and the next stop was expected to be in this country. That information came to me secondhand, but it was given by the deputy director at Pirbright, Dr. Sellars.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

If the hon. Gentleman accepts that information, which presumably he does, why does he suggest that my right hon. Friend should maintain the ban on South American meat?

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

I am drawing attention to the unknown factors and mysteries. This is a debate on the ban to be considered by the Northumberland Committee. The evidence of the Minister's Chief Veterinary Officer points to lamb, and therefore lamb is the probable cause. But I am drawing attention to the lack of liaison between Pirbright and the field staff.

I shall continue quoting from the Answers concerning disinfectants, because this is one of the most important passages in my speech. The Minister said: Disinfection at the gate of the infected premises of men and vehicles that have to enter and leave is also essential.… An approved disinfectant is used and the purpose of this is is to kill the virus,…". Earlier in that Answer he said: …my officers use a 4 per cent. solution of washing soda for areas they consider to be contaminated, including buildings. He added that all his approved disinfectants are effective in time, though some take longer than others."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th February, 1968; Vol. 758, c. 155.] That is the under-statement of the century. There is no doubt that the Minister's officers were using washing soda, which is not an approved disinfectant, although the Minister expected all other people in agriculture to use an "approved disinfectant". I now know from Pirbright the time-scale of the effectiveness of the average approved disinfectant. It takes 2½ hours to give a 98 per cent. kill. In other words, one would have to stand on a pad for 2½ hours to obtain 98 per cent. security against taking the virus on to a farm.

About mid-November last year Pirbright was asked to carry out experiments on "Idophor" disinfectants. Based on detergents mixed with acids and iodine, this is a well-known type of disinfectant. By 10th January, the deputy director of the Animal Virus Research Institute reported that this disinfectant, which was not an "approved disinfectant", would give 99·9 per cent. kill in 15 seconds. That meant that a disinfectant which was not approved by the Ministry worked 800 times faster and was 100 times more effective than the approved disinfectant, and it was also cheaper. This is a most disgraceful state of affairs.

I should like to quote from a letter from the Animal Health Division of the Ministry to a Mr. Evans, of Vanodine Ltd., of Manchester. It said: …the approval of such disinfectants would require a change of policy on our part. So the Ministry admits that it has to change its policy, yet it has lifted the ban in the face of that admission. The letter continued: I am afraid, however, that all this must of necessity take some time. I should also like to quote from a letter written on behalf of the Minister to Mr. Evans on 4th March. It is about the same matter that I have to quote. It says: This policy has been under discussion before the present epidemic of foot-and-mouth disease arose. It seems to us quite obvious now that we must approve disinfectants for specific purposes. This cannot be done at the drop of a hat. Well, well, well! Is it not amazing to think that with an epidemic of this nature, and the possibility of a recurrence, the Ministry cannot immediately institute a method to deal with the disinfectant situation?

I was rather amazed by all this information. It does not give one very much confidence in the Ministry's speed of operation. The Ministry are hidebound by legislation last revised in 1936. Yet, without having put a revision of that legislation in hand, it is prepared to lift the ban and subject our animals to the dangers resulting from the possibility of another outbreak. I am afraid that at present the farming community is almost unarmed against a future epidemic.

There is a sequel to this story. The Minister, always claims that he is particularly interested in exports. Many countries are very interested in our disinfectants, and the first thing they want to know is whether they are "approved". The Russians are very interested in the disinfectant I have described, but its export chances are not enhanced by the fact that the Ministry has not approved it. The Ministry says that it is 800 times faster and 100 times more effective than its approved disinfectant, and a foreign Government is mystified as to why it is not an approved disinfectant under the Ministry's regulations.

I leave those questions about precautions and turn now to economic considerations. Here there is a devastating case for retaining the ban until such time as the Northumberland Committee has had an opportunity to advise the country on the economic advantages or disadvantages of importing meat from countries where foot and mouth disease is endemic. The first fact which will strike the Northumberland Committee is that this outbreak has cost about £100 million. There is little dispute about that. There is then the question of the rise in the price of food. I recognise that it is necessary to tackle this question, and I shall do so logically.

The wholesale price of meat just before devaluation, on 19th November, was running at about 146s. a cwt., only a little over the figure in the previous year. By the time the import ban went on, it had risen to 181s. a cwt. Thus, the major rise took place long before the import ban was put on. It was due largely to devaluation and, to an extent, to dislocation.

If the ban were retained, it would not be all loss to the Treasury. The figures are significant. The Joint Parliamentary Secretary was kind enough to give me a long and detailed table showing the way guarantee payments had moved. During July and right through to October last year, the Ministry had been paying out guarantee payments varying between £1 million and £1½ million a week. Immediately on devaluation, there was a rise in prices and, very significantly, in the week before the ban was put on, there was practically no deficiency payment—only £8,000. What is that compared with £1 million or £1½ million? Therefore, those who say that the ban on imported meat was responsible for the rise in prices have not looked carefully into the facts.

Now, the question of our trading position in relation to Argentina. Unfortunately—I think it most unfortunate—we have been running an adverse balance of trade of between £44 million and £50 million in every year from 1964 to 1967. It is estimated that in 1967 we imported £72 million worth of goods from Argentina and exported £25 million worth of goods. I do not regard those terms of trade between ourselves and Argentina as satisfactory. Moreover, they occurred at a time when we were importing meat from Argentina and when one would have expected much more reciprocal trade. It is significant that the United States, which has for many years had a ban on carcase meat imported from South America, has very favourable terms of trade with Argentina. In 1966, the latest year for which I have been able to obtain figures, the United States of America, while maintaining a ban such as I would recommend, had a favourable balance of trade with Argentina of about £40 million. I submit, therefore, that the Northumberland Committee will have to look carefully at these economic factors. It will not find that the balance of advantage is entirely one way.

I am very conscious of the immense strain on the farming community. My hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) portrayed the situation in Cheshire. It was tragic. But, if the Minister persists in what he is doing, every dog running about with a bone and every fox taking a bone across the countryside will be suspected of bringing foot-and-mouth disease on to one's farm. The situation will be as simple as that, and I do not want that state of affairs ever to exist again in our county.

The business of farming is not what I would call a normal business. If one has a fire in a normal business, one collects the insurance and one rebuilds very quickly. If one has a conflagration on a farm and one's animals are all cremated, one cannot bring those animals back to life, and neither can one bring the farm back to life for quite a long time. I believe that the health not only of animals but of many human beings has been undermined by the strain which has been put on them during the outbreak. It has been a great tragedy.

There is an overwhelming case in terms of pure logic, leaving emotion entirely aside, for retention of the ban until the Northumberland Committee has reported. I hope that, even at this late stage, the Government will have second thoughts. We all know that they are quite capable of second thoughts nowadays. l hope that this will be one of their good second thoughts. They must think again and change their decision to lift the ban on Argentine beef.

Several Hon. Members:


Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. I remind the House that I can hope to call all hon. Members who are eagerly waiting to be called only if speeches are reasonably brief.

6.55 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I hope that the House will forgive me if I do not follow the hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) in his wanderings through the world of disinfectants and their application to farming. I thought it particularly opportune that my right hon. Friend the Minister of Health took part in the debate immediately after the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) and completely demolished the scurrilous red herring which the hon. and learned Gentleman had brought in. I hope that, when the debate is reported, full prominence will be given to the words of the Minister of Health in order that this scurrilous attack which has been made upon Argentine meat exporters and British meat importers will be refuted, with equal publicity.

I listened with interest to the hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris)—I am sorry that he has had to leave—when he described the anguish which this outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has caused to farmers. There is no hon. or right hon. Member who would disagree. Of course there is anguish. There is anguish in the hearts of farm workers, too, who are confined to their homes during an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and who have the distress of seeing animals destroyed, animals which they probably know a lot more intimately than the owners themselves do. We all recognise the terrible situation facing farmers.

I understood that the purpose of the debate was to discuss the ban on imported meat and my right hon. Friend's action in partially raising it. In my judgment, our discussion should have been based upon the Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer, but we have heard little about that, except from my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones), who put a very well thought out case from the point of view of his own interests and those of his area.

The Chief Veterinary Officer's Report is most interesting. I would not call the evidence circumstantial. I would call it inconclusive. There is not a positive fact in the Report which would justify a blanket ban on all imported meat. Paragraph 9 tells us that, It has not been possible to establish whether these supplies"— that is, supplies of lamb to the Bryn Farm— were of New Zealand or of Argentine origin". Paragraph 12 tells us, again, that it was not possible to establish conclusively that imported lamb carried the disease to the farm. It just appears, other sources having been eliminated, that lamb must have been, or could have been, "the most probable vector". There is nothing conclusive in it at all. Paragraph 14 tells us of samples of Argentine and other meat which were tested, all with negative results. There is no positive proof whatever that this outbreak was the result of imported meat.

There is no indication of the results of tests which, I have no doubt, were done on the carcases from Establishment 1408 which were tracked down. The Report does not comment on that. I should like the Minister to tell us whether tests were taken on those other carcases which were tracked down and what the results were. It would be interesting to know whether it could be proved that the virus was present in any carcase which was actually tracked down. I very much doubt it.

Perhaps my right hon. Friend would also tell us a little more about the inquiries which I assume that our veterinary officers in the Argentine made as soon as the outbreak was notified and suspicions were aroused as to its source. Did they visit the establishments? What information have we?

It is wrong, on the basis of the Chief Veterinary Officer's Report, to condemn all imported meat. It is right that my right hon. Friend should have taken into protective custody carcases where there is some suspicion, though I claim that the suspicion is so inconclusive that even that may not be absolutely just to the Argentine. However, there is a case for saying that, because there appears to be some evidence, those carcases should be taken into protective custody.

The Opposition want to convict and hang the whole of our imported meat trade on quite unsubstantial, inconclusive evidence.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I will not give way to the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop). I will give way, however, to the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling).

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland

That was a most extraordinary statement. I do not think that anybody has expressed the desire to ban the import of meat from all sources. If the hon. Gentleman had been paying attention to what we have all been saying, he would have known that we are trying only to protect British consumers from meat coming from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

Hon. Members opposite are trying to perpetuate a ban on imported meat—agreed, from the countries he described—without any conclusive evidence that those countries are responsible for the recent outbreak. This is scandalous, especially as hon. Members opposite so often claim to be the protectors of individual human rights. Their claim is shown to be nonsense, since in this case they are prepared to convict, condemn and hang people with out any proper investigation. If the Committee of Inquiry comes up with conclusive evidence, it will be right for the House to look at the matter again. Then there may well be a case. At the moment there is no case.

The right hon Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) referred to the details given in the Gowers Report and in a Written Answer given on 8th December indicating the sources from which foot-and-mouth outbreaks have occurred in the past. It is interesting to recall the facts to the House. Birds, in the period 195466, were responsible for conveying 25 per cent. of the total outbreaks in Britain. No one would be so stupid as to suggest that we try to destroy the whole bird population that flies over Britain. That would be impossible.

Another interesting point is that swill has been tracked down as being responsible for 20 per cent. of the total outbreaks in recent years. Outbreaks of unknown origin amounted to 17 per cent. The figure for imported meat and bones is 30 per cent. Thus, 70 per cent. of the total number of cases arose from sources other than imported meat and bones.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

Will the hon. Gentleman reflect upon the distinct possibility of many cases attributed to swill being in fact attributable to imported meat?

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The hon. Gentleman has jumped the gun, because I was about to turn to the position of swill. Paragraph 31 of the Gowers Report clearly says that the boiling of waste food and swill is a complete safeguard against the conveyance of foot-and-mouth virus. Paragraph 11 of the Report of the Chief Veterinary Officer indicates that the owner of the farm in question had boiled some bones but that it could not be claimed that he had always done so effectively.

If it can be said that swill is a source of foot-and-mouth, farmers have it within their own hands, by operating the Regulations requiring waste food to be boiled before being fed to animals, to contain a substantial part of the known sources of foot-and-mouth. If accusations are to be made about the Argentine or other sources, farmers should be clearly told that they, by exercising care and attention in the husbandry of their livestock—by ensuring that the food and swill they serve to their animals is properly boiled and in conformity with the Regulations—could reduce the known outbreaks by at least 20 per cent. Let the message go out that the farmers, too, have a responsibility.

I want to say a few words about the position in the Argentine. The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery asked about Establishment 1408. He made what I though: was an outrageous attack on the Argentine slaughtering and exporting concerns. I have made some inquiries—not in the hon. and learned Gentleman's constituency, but in those quarters which have information about Establishment 1408. I am given to understand that this is a modern and up-to-date establishment. It is no older than 15 to 20 years. It is a modern, post-war establishment. Only 12 months ago a new section was built on to the establishment entirely designed for the modern, hygienic slaughtering of lambs. The establishment handles 7,000 lambs and about 100 head of beef per day. Slurs upon the Argentine and Argentinians responsible for exporting the meat are quite unjustified.

The right hon. Member for Grantham and the hon. Member for the City of Chester referred to our trade position with the Argentine. The figures given about an unfavourable balance were correct. Our trade has been falling, quite apart from the balance worsening. The figure was £50 million in 1961 as against only £25 million in 1967. However, trade is now on the rebound with Latin American countries. Potential orders are now being considered worth over £140 million for aircraft, missiles, naval craft and telecommunications equipment. I am certain that the A.E.I./G.E.C. complex in my constituency will be delighted to know that there is a possibility of selling telecommunications equipment to the Argentine and other Latin American countries. Orders for earth-moving and road-making equipment are being considered. Negotiations are currently in progress for a £40 million contract for a steel plant and for a hydro-electric generating plant.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester expressed some doubts about the authenticity of this information. I can only refer him to the last paragraph of a letter sent by the British National Export Council for Latin America to Members of the House: It is for this reason that the B.N.E.C. Latin American Committee feel it is essential that some modus vivendi is worked out which will enable British exporters to take advantage of the much improved Argentine economic situation … The Committee is most anxious that some way is found of dealing with the possible source of infection other than by imposing a blanket ban on the whole of Argentine meat.

It is grossly unfair that the whole emphasis in the debate should have been concentrated on meat imported from one country, because other countries where the disease is endemic are equally involved in the supply of meat. Brazil, Denmark, Sweden, Rumania, Poland, Holland and South Africa have endemic foot-and-mouth. They all supply meat to us. They were all suffering from the blanket ban. I assume that they will now be free and that it is only Latin American countries which will continue to be subject to the ban.

It is wrong that we should be inflicting great damage to the prestige of these great countries which contribute a tremendous amount of meat to the world market for human consumption, and it is wrong that we should be damaging their trade without any positive evidence. Those hon. Members who spread scurrilous stories without any evidence should be ashamed of the damage they are inflicting upon friendly countries.

I want to say something about the effect of the ban on beef, if it were not lifted, on our own meat supplies. It has been estimated by a reliable source that there would be a drop of 14 per cent. in the total supply of meat in 1968 if the ban were not lifted. This shortage would mean that the price would go up substantially for the housewife. There would be a lack of choice for her between one type of meat and another—and surely hon. Members opposite want consumer choice. It would mean that, because we did not have imported meat, it would not be possible for the normal market supply of cheaper imported meat to have the effect of keeping down the price of home-killed meat.

If I got the right hon. Gentleman correctly, he said that he wanted to illustrate some meat prices by quoting the effect of the drop in price from about 4th December.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

This is interesting, because I have a complete breakdown of the wholesale prices of meat from the middle of November until the middle of February, and there is some significance in the fact that the right hon. Gentleman should have quoted that week because it is true that in the week following 4th December prices did go down. I am sure that he was not intending to mislead the House, but if he had gone on to the week after the week beginning 16th December, he would have seen that there was a rise. That rise has accelerated week after week until the current figures for the middle of February. There was only the one week—by coincidence, the week after the one he mentioned—that prices went down.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

It is important to get the facts right. I am not clear whether the hon. Gentleman is referring to beef or to all meat.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I am referring to Scottish sides, Irish sides and English sides, and lamb of all grades.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

I referred to beef, mutton and pork as well, so there could be clear variations. My figures were taken from the Ministry itself. I showed the amount of deficiency payment each week. These figures showed clear drops. For pork, there was a substantial fall between early December and the beginning of February. The same sort of thing can be said in relation to sheep and lambs, although they have varied more than the others. It is true that the prices have been higher but I was giving a general overall picture and I quoted a general 9 per cent. increase.

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. Interventions ought to be brief.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I would not dispute the right hon. Gentleman's figures for pork. But the position on beef is clear. The price has gone up substantially—in wholesale prices, from 4d. to 8d. a lb.—as compared with the same period of 1967. This is a substantial increase for the general public. The retail traders have carried out a survey and have indicated that prices in the shops over this period since the ban have gone up by 20 to 40 per cent.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

The best thing I can do to avoid cross-currents of that kind is perhaps to duplicate the information I have on the prices of meat. I received it from reliable sources and I am prepared to hand it to the hon. Gentleman so that he can assess whether the rise is the result of the ban or of devaluation. It is the result of the lack of imported cheap meat on the market. This has had the effect of keeping prices rising. Perhaps British producers want the ban on imported meat to stay so that their prices can rise.

Do the Opposition really understand that, if the ban continued, the price of beef in the shops would go on increasing in the absence of the depressing effect on wholesale prices? The House should understand that every 1d. increase per lb. weight would mean an increase in the annual bill to the housewife of £10 million. If we had this situation permanently—fortunately it is temporary because of the courageous action by my right hon. Friend in lifting the ban from 15th April—and if the increase of 8d. in the average price of beef were to continue over the whole year, it would mean that the housewives would have to pay about £80 million extra on their weekly meat purchases.

Is that what the Opposition want? I am sure that it is not. Hon. Members opposite really cannot understand the position, or they would not make this claim. We must regain our cheap imported meat—the imported meat which millions of families have enjoyed and which has been coming here for nearly 80 years.

I want to say this to my right hon. Friend. A great many people in this country are delighted to have him not only as Minister of Agriculture but as Minister of Food, and recognise the courage and integrity he has shown in standing up to the hysterical outcry for a blanket ban. From the conversations I have had in recent weeks with members of the butchery trade and of the meat importing trade, and with various foreign exporters to this country, I know that they hold him in the highest esteem and have great respect for him. I hope that he will stick to his guns and that the ban on imported beef will be permanently lifted as from 15th April.

7.17 p.m.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

It was good of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) in his peroration to tell us that he had been talking to meat importers in the last few weeks, because otherwise he might have fooled us. The debate opened with both the Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture in attendance, which was more than symbolic, because this country has a very distinguished and treasured tradition on standards of health as they affect our agriculture —not merely in respect of animal health but of human health which flows from these high standards.

This, in turn, has thrown certain responsibilities and burdens on the agricultural industry which it is right to expect it to shoulder. But, by the same token, it is legitimate for agriculturists and all those concerned in the rural economy to expect broadly similar standards to be observed by those with whom they have to compete. This, in a sense, is what the debate is about.

Whenever there have been outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease, the finger of suspicion has almost inevitably pointed to Latin America. This is not because of any deep-seated antagonism on the part of commercially inspired lobbies, as perhaps the hon. Gentleman suggested. It is because there is a whole body of evidence which points in that direction.

Because of the nature of the disease, of course, one cannot conduct an inquiry and come up with a good simple Sherlock Holmes solution which, at the end of the day, can demonstrate as though in a court of law that there is incontrovertibly a certain source of infection which can be established beyond all reasonable doubt. Trying to trace this disease, partly because of its fantastic rate of infectivity, places immense burdens on the veterinary service. It was not surprising therefore that when the outbreak started in Oswestry there was some concern that this should come from Latin America. This is all the more so, as there was no record of disease then existing in Continental Europe which, after all, was the added factor existing in the early 'fifties, leading to the setting up of the Gowers Committee.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

If the hon. Gentleman reads the report he will see that in paragraph 4 it states that there were 3,000 cases of foot-and-mouth disease in Western Germany in 1967.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

Paragraph 4 also states: … but I consider the distance is too great for the disease to have been brought from Germany to Shropshire by birds, or by the wind. Paragraph 25 of the Gowers Report said of outside sources of infection that they were normally to be considered coming from Latin America. It went on: referring to frozen meat imported from the Argentine, Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile to say: This is thought by the Ministry of Agriculture to be responsible for more primary outbreaks in England than any other single cause. It was not then surprising that the Ministry "vets" should have conducted a great deal of their investigations on the sound fear that the area which had been the source of so many infections in the past might yet again, circumstantially, be supposed to be the source of this infection. The conclusion of the report in paragraph 19(i): I have been unable to discover any possible source of the infection except Argentine lamb. It is true that the evidence is circumstantial. I think that I would probably carry the hon. Member for Falmouth and Camborne (Dr. John Dunwoody), who has had a great deal more practical experience in the difficulties of establishing the source of infection than perhaps many other hon. Members beside him, when I say that I do not feel that the case is substantially undermined by the fact that the evidence is circumstantial.

If the objection of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford is to do with the circumstantial nature of the evidence, I am surprised that he accepts that his right hon. Friend should—and I quote his words—"take into protective custody lamb imports until such times as the Northumberland Committee has reported." The burden of the case moved by my right hon. Friend was that it was so artificial to distinguish between lamb imports and beef imports that they should both be taken into protective custody. I quote: … deplores Her Majesty's Government's decision to lift the ban on imports of beef from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic before the Northumberland Committee of Inquiry has reported;… The talk about some form of capital sentence being exacted as opposed to protective custody, which is the language used by the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford, is a complete and savage distortion of the Motion.

My central observation on this particularly unhappy epidemic is that our policy has always been one of a gamble. We have always allowed imports from countries where the disease is endemic, believing on the pattern of experience available to us, that the disadvantages created for us when these outbreaks took place were more than offset by the access of this country to those markets.

I do not think that anyone looking at our experience over the years would say that in the calculation of the balance of advantage we have been wrong. The Minister of Agriculture gave some figures about the number of outbreaks, but I noticed that he was selective about the point at which he stopped. I certainly remember that there was a period shortly after I first came to the House when we had the very happy situation of no outbreaks at all. One can argue that. Quite recently, although the agricultural community suffered from time to time—and it certainly suffered in my constituency—it seems that the policy of imports from Latin America had certain advantages, and these I am prepared to say had to be fully weighed against the disadvantages of the occasional outbreak.

We are, however, in an immensely changing situation. The point on which the House has to reflect is whether the epidemic that we have seen sweep through Shropshire, Cheshire, parts of Wales and into Staffordshire and Worcestershire, far from being an isolated and unhappy experience, is some indicator of what may be the future pattern of foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks. My right hon. Friend has already quoted evidence to suggest that the particular type of virus involved in this epidemic may well have increased its rate of infectivity and virulence on account of its reaction to the policy of vaccination in Latin America.

These are essentially veterinary matters and assessments, and I do not pretend for one moment to comment on them. It is this kind of factor which must weigh with everyone who desperately hones that this is an isolated incident but fears that it points to future patterns. There are two other considerations which I ask the House to bear in mind. One is the changing pattern of farming, which means that once there is an outbreak it will spread with far more disastrous consequences than it has been prone to do in the past.

For example, there are the higher stock densities, the increasing use of antibiotics, which may well have consequences upon the ability of stock to resist disease. There is a great deal of change in the techniques of farming. May I demonstrate this and show to what extent, alas, Gowers is no longer the standard reference it once was by quoting from paragraph 170 of Gowers, where it says: We recommend that in Infected Areas milk lorries should be prohibited from entering farms and that all farmers should put their churns on loading platforms on the roads. That now reads like a piece of the most mediaeval, archaic literature, certainly in terms of current farming conditions in Shropshire and the Cheshire Plain. Increasingly all the farms have bulk tanks and the milk lorries have to go on to the farms. This is the situation which makes any primary infection of much more serious consequence than it has been in the past. This has not happened suddenly, but I ask hon. Members, including the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford, to consider this seriously. The alteration of the whole pattern of dairy farming, particularly as it concerns this one special and highly important point of collection of milk and therefore the risk of mechanical transfer of infection, has been substantially changed, even within the last five or six years. It is as recent as that.

Photo of Mr James Wellbeloved Mr James Wellbeloved , Erith and Crayford

I accept that, but I would also like to ask the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind that exactly the same developments have taken place in the Latin American countries. Their methods of protection against foot- and-mouth disease are moving rapidly and are very advanced.

Photo of Mr John Biffen Mr John Biffen , Oswestry

We travel hopefully, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman's comments are right. Everyone would be delighted if they could be assured, and it could be demonstrated to them, that foot-and-mouth is no longer endemic in Latin America. This lies at the heart of the problem.

I come to my second point. Not only the altered pattern of farming is spreading the risk of a high rate of infection, however virulent the virus; there is also the altered pattern of public recreation. The Gowers Report was written in 1952–54, when the number of motor cars in this country was vastly smaller than it is today. Every weekend now people travel through what become infected areas. The risk of mechanical transfer of infection is immensely increased. I do not wish to make any emotional comment, but one of the most saddening features of this outbreak was the weekend trippers who came from large cities to the constituencies which had practically become charnel houses, as though they were some object of weekend entertainment for the children. No hon. Member has the slightest sympathy with that macabre interest in the epidemic.

But this situation contains very serious consequences for the control of this epidemic. The philosophy of fighting foot-and-mouth is control of movement—animal movement and human movement, not only of the farming population, but of the non-farming population. It is immensely more difficult to apply traditional controls. When we know that there is a hazard of primary infection, as we know on the Ministry's own reckoning and reasoning and from its veterinary officer's report, surely the consequences which flow from it should place a heavy element of caution on our reactions.

I come now to the point on which I quarrel considerably with the Minister. Unless it can be demonstrated that the O1 virus, which is circumstantially presumed to be associated with the lamb imports from Establishment 1408, is unique to lamb imports and could not be found in beef which came from that slaughterhouse or the areas which have been supplying that slaughterhouse, it is very difficult to see on what logical basis the ban has been placed. The farming community feel particularly outraged because they have gone through a great deal of suffering, although it has been financially rewarded—I am not making a partisan plea for the agricultural community—but all the time they have been prepared to accept restriction and dislocation of their working life, as was poignantly and accurately pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris), on veterinary advice and considerations. When the judgment came to be made by the Minister, they wanted it to be based on veterinary advice and considerations and not on political considerations.

It is very difficult to resist the conclusion that a compromise was made in the Cabinet, namely, that the ban would apply to mutton but not to beef. I find it extraordinarily difficult to believe that it was other than a political compromise. If the Minister were to say at the conclusion of the debate, "It was on veterinary advice that we selectively lifted the ban on beef and kept it on lamb", the case which we have deployed would, to put it mildly, be substantially undermined. But I fear that we shall have no such answer, because this has been a political deal. The Minister, who I believe has done great work in trying to help in the containment of this epidemic, deserved a better fate than to be made party to a distasteful Cabinet manoeuvre.

7.35 p.m.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

This is the second debate on foot-and-mouth disease which we have had within three and a half months. I am sure that everyone who appreciates the magnitude of the peril caused by this scourge both to the rural economy and to the general economy does not begrudge that. It is, however, the firm conviction of all hon. Members on this side of the House that the Opposition would probably rather have discussed the Price Review if it had been less generous. I can well imagine hon. and right hon. Members opposite coming to the House in a hot froth of self-righteous fury to denounce the Government for their failures in connection with the review—

Photo of Dr Horace King Dr Horace King , Southampton, Itchen

Order. This exordium is entirely out of order.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

This point has been referred to before, Mr. Speaker. However, I will not dwell on it.

I accept that raising or maintaining the ban on beef from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic is a matter of the utmost importance. It is inevitable that we should all look at this situation in the context of the present outbreak, but we should be utterly failing in our duty were we not to conceive of a policy for the future against the background of the outbreaks which have occurred in Britain in the last 130 years.

On perusing the Chief Veterinary Officer's Report, it is difficult not to accept the conclusion arrived at therein that the outbreak of October, 1967, was almost certainly due to the importation of Argen- tine frozen lamb. Objection has been raised by a number of hon. Members on both sides of the House concerning circumstantial evidence. Nevertheless, we read in the Report that the first outbreak, at Bryn Farm, Nantmawr, near Oswestry, and six other primary outbreaks, which were removed from the infected areas by distances varying from seven to 80 miles, all had some connection with frozen lamb imported from Establishment 1408 at Buenos Aires, in the Argentine. Although such evidence may be circumstantial, it is very powerful evidence indeed in support of such a contention.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

There were not six primary outbreaks mentioned in the Appendix, but one, at Carnforth, in Lancashire. That was the only one regarded as primary. In that case, Argentine lamb probably from that Establishment was received and the only things which were disposed of were the cartons.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

I use the word "primary" to describe an outbreak which, in the opinion of the Chief Veterinary Officer, could not normally be associated with an area which was already infected. In each of these six cases, there was a distance ranging from seven to 80 miles. In such circumstances, I do not think the word "primary" is a misnomer.

In considering the danger from foot-and-mouth disease which confronts the agricultural community in Britain, the best guide that we can have is the pattern of the past. There have been outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease in Britain every year since 1938. I believe I am correct in saying that the total number of primary outbreaks since that date is over 1,000. Some of them cannot be attributed to any specific cause, but such as have been traced in probability to one source or another have been attributed to a variety of origins—the possibility of carriage by birds or by human agency, by wind from the continent, by the importation of hay and straw. In something like 50 per cent. of those cases there is some connection with the importation of meat from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic.

I quote from the Gowers Report, page 14, paragraph 25, which speaks of chilled and frozen meat that we import from Argentina (and to a much lesser extent from Brazil, Uruguay and Chile) where the disease is endemic. This is thought by the Ministry of Agriculture to be responsible for more primary outbreaks in England than any other single cause. In the Gowers Report no distinction appears to be drawn between the capacity of beef or mutton or lamb to carry this deadly virus to other countries, and I believe that I am correct in saying that since the publication of the Gowers Report in 1954 no research has shown that there is any less tendency on the part of beef than mutton and lamb to be responsible for such a danger. On the contrary, scientists say that the longest living foot-and-mouth virus to be discovered—living some 76 days after the slaughter of the animal—was found in the bone marrow of a frozen bovine carcase which had come from South America.

The Minister has relied upon the circumstantial evidence which is adduced in the Chief Veterinary Officer's Report for testimony against mutton and lamb. If that is a fair method of reasoning, and I am certain that it is, then certainly it is right that we should look at the circumstantial evidence which is directed against beef in this connection. The attitude that I have taken from the very start in this connection is that we should not allow imports of beef into the United Kingdom from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic unless some totally revolutionary discovery by our scientists in the near future shows that the blame attributed to beef in this connection over the decades was wrongly attributed or unless we devise some preventive methods which the experts who advise the Ministry regard as being effective in this situation.

The attitude which has been taken by the Minister is, indeed, a very different one. He has already quoted from his remarks in the House on 4th December, and I should like to mention this again. He said: Hon. Members know that our veterinary resources are now fully stretched in fighting the present epidemic. For this reason, a new primary outbreak elsewhere could be very dangerous. The Government are, therefore, making temporary changes forthwith in the arrangements for importing meat into Great Britain in order to reduce, as far as possible, the risk of any new primary outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 998.] It is obvious that the Minister was thinking not so much of the long-term protection which should be given to British farmers but to the short-term problems of combating the disease which was at its very height at that moment. The rationale of his argument, therefore, was that if there were fresh outbreaks the veterinary resources, which were strained to their very limits at that time, would be completely swamped. This is a fundamental hypothesis to which, I believe, the House should pay the greatest attention in this connection.

Indeed, prior to October last year it seemed that, provided there were not a large number of primary outbreaks happening in rapid succession, there was no great cause for concern. In the autumn of 1966 the outbreak in Northumberland, involving some 32 farms, was speedily and efficiently dealt with. In January, 1967, an outbreak in Hampshire, involving 25 farms, was confined to that area, and in December the outbreak in Warwickshire, involving four farms, was fairly easily contained.

It is the irony of the latest outbreak that, despite the most advanced techniques of animal health, improved veterinary services, and far more intensive research than ever before, Britain suffered the most disastrous foot-and-mouth outbreak in its history.

It may be that the O virus that we hear so much about is far more virulent than any strain that has been experienced before. The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has already quoted Dr. Brooksby, the Director of the Pirbright Virus Research Institute. I should like to offer another quotation from the same publication, the Farmers Weekly, of 1st March: Spread in the past has usually been due to accident rather than to special properties of the virus. This time there is a much clearer case for the properties of the virus being, important than on any previous occasion. It may be—and we must face this—that if a fresh outbreak occurs in the United Kingdom it will be a strain of virus much more virulent than seen before, and that we shall, indeed, have to think in terms not of successive primary outbreaks but of one primary outbreak which will be sufficient to bring about a situation of complete devastation. The point will have been reached where the resources to combat this deadly disease will have been completely swamped, the point where there will be no alternative to vaccination.

I should like to add my congratulations to the Minister on the courage and wisdom which he has shown in refusing to consider this matter. He has shown statesmanship. I well appreciate the dilemma in which he finds himself. He is both Minister of Agriculture and Minister of Food. This is not a competition between agricultural interests and political interests. People have spoken of a political decision, as if that were the alternative. It is a consideration, perhaps, between general urban interests, which are dominant for the majority of the people of Britain, and the interests of agriculture, which are represented by only some 3½ per cent. of the people in the whole of the United Kingdom. I well appreciate the position in which the Minister finds himself, and I consider that the question of an increase in the price of meat is an important one.

I come from a constituency where some 40 per cent. of the insured population earn less than £12 a week. An increase of a few shillings in the price of an essential commodity is bound to bear very heavily on the economy of such families. On the other hand, this is primarily a question involving agriculture, and, although there may be temptations to listen to the case which was put so forcefully and clearly by my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved), in the end this is a case which involves the welfare not only of the farmers but of housewives as well. There could well be another outbreak that would be disastrous for the interests of both.

I believe that it would be most ironic, having set up the Northumberland Committee, if my right hon. Friend were not to request the Committee to make an interim report on what is the most important aspect of its researches. It is not enough to leave it to the good grace of the Committee to decide whether or not to submit an interim report. There is ample precedent for asking such a committee to make a speedy report. Of course, it must take time, it must reflect, and it must conduct inquiries in depth. But, in view of the situation, it is proper to expect that an interim report should be delivered within a matter of months rather than perhaps a period of two years, which it might take for the Committee to report in full.

If such a request is made and if such a report is tendered, would it not be ironic if we had a sequence of events where in mid-April of this year the ban was removed, perhaps in October we had another outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, and perhaps in November we had the interim report of the Northumberland Committee urging the Government to reimpose a ban on meat from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic?

I have every sympathy with my right hon. Friend, and I appreciate that this may be a Cabinet rather than a departmental decision. But, in the end, if there is another outbreak, the odium and the anger of farmers and of millions of other people will be upon his head and his Department rather than upon any other body at large.

The Opposition have pontificated with an air of self-righteousness about the continuation of the ban on beef. Despite anything that the right hon. Member for Grantham says, the Gowers Report of 1954 made it perfectly clear that the main peril lay in this direction. It said in paragraph 29: So long as we have to import meat from South America, and so long as foot-and-mouth disease is endemic on the Continent, there must always be a risk that meat coming from there may occasionally be contaminated. There is no distinction drawn in the Gowers Report between pigmeat, on the one hand, and mutton, lamb and beef on the other.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I know that the hon. Gentleman listened to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). The distinction there was made on the direct result of the then Chief Veterinary Officer's advice. It has not been so done today.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

It does not lie in the mouths of the Opposition to regard the Gowers Report as Holy Writ when it suits them and dismiss it entirely when it is contrary to their interests. The Gowers Report made it clear that animal health in Britain was being seriously imperilled by the importation of meat from countries where foot-and-mouth was endemic, and the Conservative Government of that time did nothing about it. I submit that it is not proper for them now to dress themselves in a white sheet of purity and condemn the Government when the present Administration have gone further than they had the courage to go.

I should like in conclusion to refer to the Wrexham issue, as one who has lived and practised there for some eleven years. I join with my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) in expressing the view that this is another instance of the ruthless exploitation of a tragic situation for purely personal and political ends. I only wish that the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) were present, because I do not think that it is coincidental that the chairman of the public health committee referred to should be the leader of the Liberal group on the Wrexham Council or that it is the habit of the hon. and learned Gentleman to interfere time and time again in the affairs of other hon. Members in their constituencies.

Photo of Dr Michael Winstanley Dr Michael Winstanley , Cheadle

Would the hon. Gentleman have preferred this matter to have been left unnoticed and unexposed? Is it not right that a matter of this seriousness should have been ventilated fully by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson)?

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman has put that question to me. As an hon. Member of this House, and disregarding any question of political sides, I should have preferred the ordinary courtesies of the House to be observed. Notice of the hon. and learned Gentleman's intention to raise the matter should have been given to my hon. Friend the Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones). In addition, I should have preferred it if the chairman of the public health committee had seen fit to consult his committee and called it together in the first instance.

It would have been better if the facts of the case had been put accurately and in such a way as to guide a public which is not sophisticated in these matters into what is relevant. The argument of the chairman of the public health committee seems to be that if salmonella tiphimurium was present in the consignment of meat—and no one has any certainty—one inspection having been made, if there had been another inspection and it had been present, the meat would have been destroyed, and, the meat having been destroyed, it could not have been the origin of the outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease at Oswestry. All that he is saying is that if an accident had occurred to break the chain of causation in the transmission of that meat from South America to Oswestry, the outbreak would not have occurred; if the ship had sunk or if the depot in which the meat was stored had caught fire, the outbreak could not have occurred. We have seen the vicious and ruthless exploitation of a situation for mean short-term party ends.

I much regret that I cannot support the Government on this issue. To do so would be to say that there is no material danger in the importation of beef from countries where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic. To do so would be to pretend that there is fresh evidence which draws a distinction between the agency of beef to carry the virus and the agency of mutton and lamb, and no shred of evidence to that effect has been tendered to the House. To do so would be to make a mockery of the setting up of the Northumberland Committee. We have set up a court, but we are arriving at a verdict before the court has had a chance to consider the matter.

On the other hand, I cannot support the Opposition's Amendment. I believe that they, too, are being opportunist and exploiting the situation. In that event, I see no honourable alternative but to abstain.

8.0 p.m.

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk

I am glad to have this opportunity to speak on this matter. I have been closely connected with the butchery and livestock auctioneering and marketing business all my life. I have had experience of other outbreaks, but, thank goodness, my part of the world did not suffer on this occasion.

I should like to refer briefly to the speech of the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan). The main meat of his speech and his conclusions were absolutely right. However, the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved)—and I wish that he were present—made several misjudgments of the report of the Ministry's Chief Veterinary Officer on the outbreak. He mentioned that the outbreak could have been caused by either New Zealand or Argentine lamb, but he did not point out that the report said there was no foot-and-mouth disease endemic in New Zealand. He mentioned that he had heard that the plant in the Argentine was modern and up to date. Surely it would be much better to have awaited the report from the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie) who is out there at the present time. He also mentioned the consumers. I realise quite well how this outbreak and devaluation have put up the price of beef, but he can obtain very cheap mutton, cheap pork, and, for that matter, a very large choice of poultry. The consumer has a choice of many kinds of meat at the present time.

The increase in the price of beef is of no benefit to the farmer. At present he is receiving considerably less—I would say about 30s. a cwt. less—for his beef than the farmer in the Common Market countries. The increased price of beef at home in the market saves the Exchequer a large sum of money in subsidy payments, but it is not putting much more money into the pockets of the farmers.

I feel that the speech of the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford—I cannot understand for what purpose it was made—was not justified. We are not asking for a total ban for ever on imports from the Argentine; we are not asking for a ban on imports from countries which have no foot-and-mouth disease. We are asking for a ban to be kept on until the Northumberland Committee can report whether we should retain a ban on imports from certain countries.

It seems to me that the Motion is an absolutely correct one at the present time. This is the biggest outbreak which has ever been known. It has cost about £35 million. Figures between £100 million and £150 million have been mentioned as the total cost to the community. Nobody knows where the cost ends.

This disaster has been tackled well and energetically by the farmers, the farm workers, the vets and, indeed, by the Government. The Government, within the limits set by the Treasury, have dealt with compensation sympathetically. Yet all this work may be wiped out and another outbreak made likely by the incomprehensible announcement that the Minister will lift the ban on South American beef on 15th April. In my opinion, a more appropriate date would have been 1st April.

We should remind ourselves of what happened in the countryside. I wish that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford and others who represent town constituencies could go to an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease and see the absolute disaster that is caused to the countryside. I have visited farm after farm. I have valued animals about to be slaughtered; I have seen them slaughtered and buried. Hon. Members who do not come from farming constituencies and who are not brought up with livestock do not realise how closely people become connected with herds of stock. The stockman considers them his own. Apart from the farmer, a true stockman always refers to "my cattle, my horses, my sheep". The loss and distress to the farmer and the farm worker cannot be believed until one has seen it. The loss to livestock hauliers, markets, feedstuff merchants and consumers of the meat and milk through an outbreak like this just cannot be calculated.

Small shopkeepers and others have been mentioned. The cost to the taxpayer is far more than the cost of doing away with the Territorial Army and Civil Defence. All this is being risked again by the action of the Government. I stress "the Government", because I believe that the Minister, left to himself, would gladly have kept this ban on Argentine beef.

We must remember that all the preliminary evidence points to meat from South America, where the disease is rife, being responsible for the outbreak. Circumstantial evidence has hanged people. We are not asking for anybody to be hanged or even to be put in prison. We are asking that the meat from those countries should be kept out of this country, so that we do not risk another outbreak of these immense proportions, until we can be satisfied that proper steps have been taken in those countries and in this country.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I think that the hon. Gentleman said that circumstantial evidence in this case points to beef. I hope he meant meat. My Chief Veterinary Officer's Report stated that the circumstantial evidence pointed to mutton alone.

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk

I am sorry. I meant meat. The circumstantial evidence pointed to mutton.

What would have happened if it had been a consignment of beef? Would the Minister have kept the ban on beef? We must remember that beef imports from those countries are five times greater than imports of mutton. If we go on importing this meat from these countries, we are asking our farming community to run far greater risks than should be asked of it.

We have read that the Minister's own veterinary surgeons have asked him to keep the ban on. Whether this is correct or not only the Minister can tell us. Why on earth is another disaster being risked? We are told of sudden marvellous export orders, of which we never heard until this outbreak occurred, which we shall lose and which, strangely enough, we do not seem to hear of again.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

We shall not hear about them again either.

Photo of Mr Paul Hawkins Mr Paul Hawkins , South West Norfolk

I entirely agree. Yet trading with the Argentine has shown an average adverse balance of £48½ million for the past 10 years.

The meat importers are very concerned. The Meat Traders' Federation has written to me. I understand its concern and I fully appreciate the losses which its members are suffering. But I am convinced that their interests and the interests of the consumer can best be served by continuing this ban until we can investigate the whole outbreak. The only thorough investigation to be carried out is to be done by the Northumberland Committee which the Minister has appointed. It seems a little strange that he should appoint a high-powered expert committee like this and suddenly cut the ground from beneath its feet by taking a decision before it has started to act.

The consumer organisations have adopted a reasonable attitude. I have not heard of any consumer organisation putting forward a strong case about the lifting of the ban. Women's Institutes in my part of the world have written to me asking for the ban to be kept on. One knows that Women's Institutes operate in the countryside, rather than in the towns, but they understand the housewives' point of view as well as that of the farmer.

The Opposition are not asking for a total ban for ever. In the Motion we condemn the Government's decision to lift the ban before the committee has reported. The Government have appointed this committee, and it seems strange that we should devalue it in this way and not allow it to report before taking a decision. Every argument seems to be on the side of retaining the ban at least until the committee has reported.

Why is the ban being lifted? In a brilliant speech, my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) pinpointed the reason. I am convinced that the Minister sincerely wanted to do his best by the farming community, but I think that he was overruled in the Cabinet. He can deny that if he likes. I hazard a guess that there is a strong probability that the Minister has been overruled. The right hon. Gentleman likes to be, and is, very nice to everybody, but on this occasion he should have taken a stronger line. I am convinced that if he had threatened to resign, which was the strongest weapon in his armoury, we should probably have retained this ban on beef as well as on mutton.

I think that the real reason for the decision is that the Government have not been able to adopt a firm attitude, but have given way to the pressures which must have been put upon them by the exporting organisations, and by the meat importing organisations. It is a great pity that this country, having been through this terrible experience which has caused such heavy losses of livestock and of money, and has caused such distress throughout the countryside, should be put in jeopardy again by this extraordinary decision to keep the ban on one type of meat alone, and not on all the meat, which could cause this disease to break out again.

8.13 p.m.

Photo of Mr Bertie Hazell Mr Bertie Hazell , North Norfolk

I shall not detain the House for long, because I know that many other hon. Members wish to take part in the debate. As has already been said, there have been six or seven debates on this issue. This illustrates the tremendous concern felt by the House about a disease which reached dimensions which none of us thought possible at the time of the original outbreak.

I appreciate, and I am sure the agriculture industry does, too, that when the Minister announced his decision about a temporary ban on imports of meat from South American countries, this was done, first, to relieve pressure on the services which were brought into being to cope with the disease, and, secondly, to allay a certain amount of public fear about the origin of the disease.

I must make it clear, as my right hon. Friend did, that when he announced his decision to impose a ban on meat from South American countries, it was a temporary ban. There was no illusion about this. He made the point, and it has been emphasised time and again, both in reply to Questions, and during debates which have taken place since, that this was a temporary measure. We should therefore not regard this debate as the end of something in the nature of a permanent ban, because it was made clear that this was a temporary measure.

As the disease progressed, it became obvious that concern would be expressed about future policy, and when my right hon. Friend announced the setting-up of his committee of inquiry under the chairmanship of the Duke of Northumberland, hon. Members on both sides who are interested in the industry were delighted. It was felt that here was an opportunity to go into the causes of the disease, and we still hope that the Committee will produce a report which will stand the test of time. This is why some of us are concerned about the decision to lift the ban on beef.

The hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) referred movingly to conditions in the County of Cheshire at the height of this epidemic. Speaking as a representative of the workers in the agriculture industry in the area, I can confirm the tragic losses which both sides of the industry experienced during the epidemic, and are still experiencing. Many of my workers have lost their jobs. They have obtained other work, probably at much better rates of pay, and for shorter hours of work, and I think it highly unlikely that some of those who have left the industry will ever return to it as stockmen in Cheshire and other affected areas. Many others who are still in the industry have lost substantial earnings, and it is not therefore unnatural that they should view with a certain amount of apprehension any move which might—I go no further than that—have the effect of creating a fresh outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

One has to pass through an experience of this kind to recognise the full depth of a catastrophe like this on British farms. When my national committee considered the matter recently, it came to the opinion that until the inquiry's report was at hand the Minister ought to refrain from lifting the ban. We are grateful that he has decided to continue the ban on mutton and lamb—and, in view of the conclusions of his Chief Veterinary Officer, he could do no other—but we cannot altogether dissociate meat of all types which comes from South American countries. It was in recognition of this that my union's national executive committee came to the opinion that as the ban was to be continued on mutton and lamb, it ought to be continued on beef at least until the Committee's report was received.

When my right hon. Friend announced his decision to maintain the ban on mutton and lamb, but to lift it on beef as from 15th April, I said that I hoped that if his committee of inquiry was able to produce an interim report before that date he would accept its findings. It has been suggested in this debate that an interim report is unlikely, at least for some time. This is unfortunate, because there will be an atmosphere of uncertainty until something comes from the Committee. Some will claim ardently, perhaps with justification, that all our troubles emanate from South America, while others will not agree and will point to the cost to the consumer if the ban continues. But the cost of this tragedy to the countryside has been colossal and a repetition of any magnitude could have disastrous effects on our economy, not only because of compensation or losses but because of the loss of breeding stock, and since stock breeding is a long-term programme, the effect would be felt for a long time to come.

It is true that the agricultural group of our party considered that it would be desirable to maintain the ban, but, in fairness, I must say that that decision was taken before the Reid Report was available, and some members of the group might now have different views.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his initiative in sending a veterinary mission to South America to consider the export of meat from there to this country. I hope that, through agreement, we may no longer receive meat affected by foot-and-mouth disease and that arrangements will be made for a closer check to remove this source of infection. But this will take time. I am glad to hear that all is going well for this investigation, and I am sure that both sides will wish the Parliamentary Secretary and the veterinary committee every success.

It has been known for many years that meat from South America was suspect, yet the party opposite did virtually nothing when they were in power. But for this tragedy which has swept the mid-West, nothing would have been done even now. It takes a disaster to awaken the public conscience. However, now that steps have been taken, I hope that the result will benefit both South American countries, with whom we wish to continue to trade, and our own agriculture. But it is not unnatural that those affected should be gravely concerned by my right hon. Friend's proposals. On 14th February, I met a deputation from Cheshire which came to see the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to discuss their problems and to get some encouragement about the future. I gather that they were reasonably satisfied with what my hon. Friend said, but, had they been aware then of the Minister's decision to lift the ban on beef before the Committee had reported, they might have felt differently.

I cannot support the Opposition Motion, but, with a heavy heart, I must abstain in the vote on the Amendment of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister because of the serious consequences, through loss of earnings and jobs, of this tragedy and the fear that a renewal of importation until the situation has been cleared by the Committee would be wrong. I recognise my right hon. Friend's heavy responsibility in having made this decision. He is taking a calculated risk. No one can deny this, considering the matter soberly, because, if something happened between now and the Committee's report which could be attributable to meat from South America, he would have to carry the can. Although such assumptions may be unjustified, the responsibility will be his.

I recognise that he has not made his decision lightly and I would like to have supported him, but, because of what has happened to those whom I represent, I could not, in honesty, do so until we have received the Committee's report.

8.30 p.m.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

The Minister has taken the wrong decision on the wrong grounds, probably because he was out-voted in the Cabinet. He has acted throughout on political rather than veterinary or even properly thought out economic considerations.

He postponed his announcement of his decision on whether or not to extend the ban until 4th March. The significance of this is that considerable sections of the N.F.U. were pressing the negotiating team to break off the Price Review negotiations with the Government if the Minister lifted the ban on imported meat from areas in which foot-and-mouth disease is endemic. By postponing his announcement until 4th March, when the negotiations with the Price Review team were over, the Minister, by a political manoeuvre, removed from the members of the N.F.U. team that means of expressing their disgust at this action.

When the Minister announced his disastrous and despicable decision in the House on 4th March he tried to parry all questions by inviting us to read the White Paper, which was then not available. Had he wished us to read that document and have his statement subject to cross-examination, he could have made the White Paper available beforehand, but this he carefully did not do, and, as we pressed him on the matter, he merely referred us to the White Paper which he knew we had not read and which would not substantiate his case.

The only possible justification for the Minister's continually referring to the White Paper would have been if the report from his Chief Veterinary Officer justified lifting the ban on the ground that a risk of reintroducing foot-and-mouth disease did not exist. But the report said no such thing, although the Minister, by implication, dragged the support of his Chief Veterinary Officer into his shoddy proposition to lift the ban on beef but retain it on mutton, although the conclusion of his veterinary staff was that the most probable cause of the outbreak was imported mutton, which spread the disease to beef. The right hon. Gentleman's action was lamentable, to say the least.

There are those—I notice that they have not bothered to stay for the whole debate—who put forward the view of the meat trade. They do this with able repetitive ability but with little understanding. I wish that the hon. Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) had taken sufficient interest in the debate to stay to listen to it. If he studies what has happened to imported meat prices over the years he will see that they are extremely elastic. When, for some reason, there is a meat shortage in this country, it is not long before the price of imported meat goes rocketing upwards. Does anyone really think that if we had another disastrous outbreak the price of imported meat—from Argentine or anywhere else—would not go rocketing up? It always has in the past and there is no reason to suppose that it would not do so again.

To let in the only probable source of infection once more is to take a severe risk with meat prices again. Various utterly unconvincing attempts have been made to show that this outbreak was perhaps not due to imported meat. I asked the Minister at Question Time if he believes that it is a coincidence that for so many years the Republic of Southern Ireland has forbidden meat imports from areas where foot-and-mouth is endemic and has been utterly free of the disease. I have still not received an adequate answer to that Question. Although Southern Ireland is overrun with tourists from all over the world, and although the same birds that fly to England can be expected to fly there[Interruption.]—some of its birds fly here, too—what principally distinguishes its regulations from ours? What is the only feature distinguishing that country from our own which can account for its freedom from this dreadful scourge? It is surely the maintaining of a total ban on meat imports emanating from areas where foot-and-mouth disease is endemic.

Photo of Mr Anthony Gardner Mr Anthony Gardner , Rushcliffe

Perhaps the hon. Member realises that the Republic of Ireland is a net exporter and not an importer of foodstuffs.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

It is a question not of whether a country is a net exporter or importer of foodstuffs but of whether it brings in a single carcase. That is what matters, and that is why Southern Ireland has a ban.

The Minister has now had the effrontery to suggest that it is in some way improper of the Opposition to use their Supply day to debate this question. This is an immensely important question. He asked why we did not debate the Price Review instead. He knows perfectly well that there is nothing that this House can do now to alter the Price Review. That is why he would much rather that we should debate it. Yet it is not too late for him to undo the folly he is doing. It is interesting to note that some of his hon. Friends have already expressed their determination not to vote with him.

Having parried the Questions on 4th March by referring to the White Paper which was not then available, the Minister has endeavoured to parry our questions today on the basis of what we did eight, 10 or heaven knows how many years ago, not on the basis of what should be done now. The question of what we should be doing now is the justification for this debate and for the passing of the Motion tabled by the Opposition. The Minister knows that this is right, but he is too weak to carry the Cabinet with him and lacks the courage to do the alternative—resign.

8.37 p.m.

Photo of Mr William Edwards Mr William Edwards , Merionethshire

I wish to contribute to this debate, although most of my speech has been taken and excellently delivered by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan). I agree with everything that he said. He represents the attitude of nearly all hon. Members from Wales who represent farming constituencies. I also concur to a very large extent with the excellent speech made by the hon. Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen). It was an excellent speech and I think the conduct of the hon. Member, who could have derived most political capital out of this situation, has been exemplary during this very unfortunate and tragic time.

I look at the situation like a lawyer. I do not think that any lawyer who looks at the evidence in relation to the foot-and-mouth outbreak could deny that there is a risk related to the importation of meat from countries where foot-and-mouth is endemic. That is the conclusion of the Chief Veterinary Officer. In the report he gave he has made a basic assumption. One thing which has been clear in all the discussions about footand-mouth—I have refrained from speaking before in these debates because of this—is that very few of us really understand what we are talking about. Very few even in the veterinary profession really understand all the implications and dangers of foot-and-mouth. It is caused by various kinds of virus and we do not have the knowledge from scientific research in medicine and pure sciences. It is obvious that all we can do is to relate the existence of this disease to certain countries. It is clear that the Chief Veterinary Officer makes the basis assumption that the importation of meat from countries where foot-and-mouth is endemic constitutes a risk.

I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes), who is also a lawyer, and who will probably put the case for the consumer in support of my right hon. Friend's decision, will not try to deny that the circumstantial evidence which has been put forward by the Chief Veterinary Officer is conclusive evidence. My hon. Friend and other lawyers in the House know full well that men have been hanged on less conclusive evidence than that which the Chief Veterinary Officer puts forward in his Report.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

I am ashamed to admit that they have.

Photo of Mr William Edwards Mr William Edwards , Merionethshire

With evidence such as this, it is not a great deal to ask my to hang a few carcases of mutton for a few months longer.

I want to refer to the possible pressures on my right hon. Friend when he reached this decision in the Cabinet. If a free vote were to be taken in the House, and if all hon. Members were to relate their constituency interests to the consumer interests and to agricultural interests, the overwhelming majority of hon. Members would have to consider the consumer interests. I am sure that the Cabinet, in reaching this decision, had to take many interests into account.

There is the interest of trade. It is obvious that the Northumberland Committee will make an interim report. I remind the House, in case it is hoped that we shall get a short-term advantage in terms of trade with the Argentine, that the Argentinians are not fools. They know that there is a real danger of the Northumberland Committee's recommending that the importation of beef from the Argentine should be stopped and that the ban on the importation of mutton should continue. If the Argentinians have any sense—it seems from their history of trading with us that they have far more sense than our representatives at the Board of Trade—it is clear that they will not reach any conclusive, enforceable agreement with regard to large contracts until the Northumberland Committee has reported and there is some certainty of the continuation of trade between the Argentine and ourselves.

The Foreign Office interests have been mentioned. The only interests in which the Foreign Office would be involved in relation to the Argentine are the Falkland Islands.

Photo of Mr Donald Coleman Mr Donald Coleman , Neath

On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Is it not disgraceful, this being a Motion of censure on the Government, that the Opposition, who have tabled the Motion, have present only the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who moved the Motion, their Whip, and three other Members?

Photo of Mr Sydney Irving Mr Sydney Irving , Dartford

That is not a matter for the Chair.

Photo of Mr William Edwards Mr William Edwards , Merionethshire

As I was saying before that point of order, which you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, ruled was not a point of order—incidentally, I have not yet heard a genuine point of order since I have been a Member—the only possible point at which we are at variance with the Argentine in relation to Foreign Office interests is in regard to the Falkland Islands. If we are concerned about our balance of trade, the annexation of the Falkland Islands as a result of some offence which we may cause to the Argentine would certainly not be a loss to us.

My right hon. Friend the Minister has been in a very difficult position. I am sure that he tried in the Cabinet to secure that a greater proportion of the country's revenue went to the farming community in the Price Review. He had considerable success in that. I am sure that he balanced all the interests of the farming community when he accepted the cabinet's decision. I realise that he could not afford to take a purist view. On the other hand, I am a back-bench Member and I represent in this House only the interests of my constituency of Merioneth. If an epidemic of this kind were to break out again in or around the area where it broke out before, and were it to spread into my constituency, with the kind of farming which we have in my area, hill sheep being the dominant factor in our economy, it would be ruinous.

Therefore, while I sit on this side of the House, and while I should like to support this Government and sustain them in the many policies which they are carrying out, to the advantage of my constituency, I cannot support them tonight. This is the first occasion since I have been in the House when a decision by the Government has not coincided with the interests of my constituency, and for that reason I cannot support them in the Lobby.

8.45 p.m.

Photo of Mr Peter Mills Mr Peter Mills , Torrington

I am one of those fortunate dairy farmers whose farms were not hit by the disease. For this I, and many other dairy farmers in the South-West, must be thankful. I believe that this last outbreak, which was so widespread, gave agriculture, probably, the biggest fright it has ever had. No doubt, it gave the Minister and his staff the biggest fright they have ever had, too, for it was a most serious outbreak. No wonder farmers are fearful. No won- der they look for protection in the future.

The Government will have to give the most careful thought to every aspect of the outbreak. It was an entirely new type of outbreak, as my hon. Friend the Member for Oswestry (Mr. Biffen) said. Various new factors and techniques all went to make it unique.

My main objection to the Minister's decision is that it is illogical. It is just not consistent. In my opinion, it is ridiculous to ban South American meat for a time and then lift the ban after a few months. If it was right then, it is right now. In a sense, the Government's decision is unfair to the South American producers themselves. Either their meat is a danger to this country or it is not, and to say that lamb, but not beef, is the villain neither helps them nor protects this country one bit. The danger is still there. As I say, it it was right to impose the ban a few months ago because of the danger, it is right to continue it now.

If the Minister thinks that he is protecting our trade with South America by his decision to lift the ban on beef but not on lamb—I think that he has done it sincerely—he is misguided because the damage has already been done to our trade. If it was right to put the ban on, he should at least keep it on until the Northumberland Committee has reported. We have a right to try to influence the Committee to produce an interim report as soon as possible so that the question can be decided one way or the other and a firm and logical course be taken.

If this illogical decision is, in a sense, unfair to the South American producers, it is much more unfair to the British farmers and consumers. The danger to the consumer is as great as that to the farmer. If the danger was there in October, how much more is it here now. The Minister stands condemned by the South Americans. They are most unhappy about the decision because it does not clear them. He is also condemned by the British farmer and the consumer. He will be in the most dreadful position if we have another outbreak of foot-and-mouth. Everything will descend on his head. It is a risk which I should not like to have taken.

A further serious outbreak would cause even more suffering. The consumer would suffer the most in the long run, because the cost of living would increase again. There would be disruption of trade and the free movement of lorries and other vehicles, and disruption of sport and other activities, besides a disastrous effect on British agriculture and the loss of valuable herds. That is the cost; that is what is at risk. The Minister is taking that risk, and he cannot wriggle out of that. Despite what has been said, it is his decision. I think that if he had put the case a little more firmly to the Cabinet he could have won the day if he had desired to do so.

One or two more hon. Members wish to speak, so I shall cut my speech very considerably. I believe that there has been some confusion tonight, and there is confusion in the country on this problem. There are two issues. The first is whether we should stop South American beef and mutton imports on health grounds, and the second is whether we should stop them on economic grounds. Those issues are entirely different and do not overlap. If it is necessary to do something about stopping imports of meat from South American producers on economic grounds, we must do it by the proper methods of import control and levies. But that is not the problem we face tonight. The problem is based purely on health grounds. That is why it is so important to urge the Northumberland Committee to give an interim report, so that the matter can be decided quickly one way or the other.

I put the consumer first because of the effect on him in the long run, and I believe that the Minister is putting the consumer at grave risk. I also believe that he has brought a very grave risk back to British agriculture. I am sorry that he cannot see this point. Obviously, he will not change his mind. I wish that he would. I hope—and for his sake I pray—that we do not have another outbreak in the near future.

8.53 p.m.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

I am very grateful to the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) for cutting short his speech, for he, like many of us, has been present in the debate almost all the day.

I want to defend what my right hon. Friend has done. He has been criticised for keening his word. On 4th December he told the House that he was imposing a temporary voluntary ban. It was voluntary because it was temporary. The trade and the other countries concerned would not have agreed had it not been a temporary ban. He told the House that in three months he would review the ban, and in three months' time he did so. When he reviewed it, he had in his possession the Report from the Chief Veterinary Officer.

The hon. Member for Torrington referred to the consumers' interests. I have very few farms but very many housewives in my constituency. Whatever the wholesale price of meat may have been, the price of meat rose very rapidly in butchers' shops throughout the length and breadth of the country at the end of last year. It continued at an unnaturally high price and still remains at a high price. That is very largely because there were no imports of cheaper beef coming in from Argentina. It is not so much that people could not buy that beef, but with the absence of such beef from Argentina the sky was the limit for beef prices. I do not blame the farmers. They were not getting a profit. The farmers suffered terrible losses, but the housewives had to bear the brunt of that particular ban in the price they paid for meat.

Remarks have been made to my right hon. Friend—I do not know whether they were intended kindly; I do not suppose that they took them kindly—to the effect that this was not really his decision, but that he was subjected to Cabinet pressure. My right hon. Friend has a lot of pressures within his own Ministry. He is Minister of Agriculture and, therefore, everyone in the farming constituency is interested in what he does, and may criticise him. He is Minister of Fisheries, and often gets into trouble on fishery questions. But he is Minister of Food and, as such, he owes a responsibility to all 50-odd million people in this country. He has exercised his functions in lifting this ban, bearing well in mind his duty to the consumer as the Minister of Food.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) dealt with the various aspects of this Report, which he pointed out, did not seem to him to be sufficient evidence to ban even lamb. I agree. The Report of the Veterinary Officer, which seems terribly slanted against South American countries, refers to the fact that a bone was found at Bryn Farm, in the Oswestry constituency. No one knows whether that bone was from a New Zealand lamb, an Argentine lamb or a British lamb.

Was the bone analysed? Were tests carried out on it to find out whether it had any connection with foot-and-mouth disease? We do not know. The farmers say that he boiled the bones on his farm. The Report says that he did not claim that this was always done effectively. Was he asked whether it was done effectively?

It has been said that people are hanged on circumstantial evidence. What we are trying to do in this report is hang the South American meat producing industry. The Argentinians are rightly aggrieved by this report, because, if nothing else, they look to Britain as the country where justice had its origins. They have a great friendship with us, and believe in our sense of fair play and justice. The report says nothing conclusive—this is admitted on all sides of the House—that this originally came from South America. I would say that the circumstantial evidence in the report is extremely suspect.

Six cases were referred to by my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan). He referred to the six cases in the Appendix, and described them as primary outbreaks. They were nothing of the kind. Some of them occurred at the end of December and some in January. These were six cases out of 2,000 throughout the country. They were the only cases attributed by the Chief Veterinary Officer to South American meat. The report said that one of them was Argentine lamb: … probably from Establishment 1408 …". It is not even known whether that lamb was Argentine and whether it came from that Establishment. As to the disposal of the meat and bones, they do not know about that. All they know is that cartons were disposed of at the local refuse tip.

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

I have agreed to sit down at Nine o'clock. I am very sorry, but I cannot give way.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) promised the House that his speech would be devastating. It was devastating, but only to the argument put forward by his own Front Bench, that the cause of the outbreak was South American meat and that the ban ought to continue. He said that reports that he had received showed that there might be an epidemic in this country in 1967, because the wave of epidemic seemed to come from Russia, across Europe to this country and we were due for one. In Germany in 1967, there were 3,000 cases. Is it not possible that, in these days of air transport, this could be a source of infection? It would be extremely circumstantial evidence so to suggest, but it would be as good as the circumstantial evidence put forward in the report against South American meat.

I have doubts whether the outbreak in Oswestry in October was the first. There was one in Warwickshire on 29th September, three weeks before. Was the Oswestry outbreak the first? We do not know for certain. It has been stated that the virus can stay alive for 72 days, and the Warwickshire outbreak was less than 30 days before the Oswestry outbreak. Of course, there is no direct evidence to connect the two, but it is as circumstantial as the other evidence produced in the debate and in the report about South American meat.

Photo of Mr Henry Brewis Mr Henry Brewis , Galloway

Would it make the smallest difference to the hon. Gentleman's argument if it were proved that the disease came from South America?

Photo of Mr Gordon Oakes Mr Gordon Oakes , Bolton West

Indeed, it would. If it were proved conclusively that the meat in question came from South America, my right hon. Friend would be entitled to say, "We will not have your meat". My argument is that this report does not prove it conclusively. It is not proved circumstantially, and consequently the Argentine traders are entitled to say, "You have done us an injustice. That report does not lay at our feet responsibility for this terrible infection, yet we have had the blame for it."

My right hon. Friend equally is getting the blame for not having done something he never said that he would do. He never said that he would continue this ban until the Northumberland Committee reported, or that he would continue it permanently. I ask my hon. Friends to consider very carefully this report from the C.V.O. If they have done so, they will conclude that my right hon. Friend has done the honourable thing in allowing beef to come in again—beef which has not been criticised in the report. I urge them to vote for the Government because the report fully justifies his action.

9.3 p.m.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

We have had a very interesting debate about a difficult and often controversial subject. I want to pick up the points made by the hon. Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes). I do not think that the points he made will have any effect on those of his hon. Friends who have thought deeply about this and know a lot about it, because I do not think he is very well informed. If he is trying to argue that an outbreak which took place a number of weeks be ore the outbreak in Oswestry was connected, he should have found out what virus was responsible for each outbreak. If he had, he would have found there was no connection between them.

I take issue with the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) who complained about pontificating. The most important point in the speech of my eight hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) was that this is the first time in this country that we have seen fit—whichever side was in Government—to impose a ban on all meat from the Argentine. The reason for this was perhaps twofold. I do not think that the Minister would deny that this outbreak has been totally different in character and in scale from anything else which has happened this century. This is a point to which many hon. Members opposite have entirely failed to give attention. I do not think that any hon. Member pretends to be an expert in the particularly complicated virology of foot-and-mouth disease, but it is significant that Dr. Brooksby, probably the best virologist we have in this country, and head of the Government Research Station at Pirbright, took a number of weeks before he said anything about the outbreak. It is perfectly clear why he took that form of action—because there were certain things in the outbreak which were particularly alarming for the future of agriculture and in relation to the whole problem of foot-and-mouth disease.

In those circumstances, it would not have been wise for anybody to make wild and irresponsible statements which might have caused a great deal more alarm and despondency than was justified. However, there is absolutely no doubt that this outbreak of virus O1 presented the whole veterinary service with a problem on a scale with which it had never before had to deal, and its effects on the country were on a scale which it had never seen before.

Therefore, these were two very significant new factors. I do not think that there was anybody in the House, except the Minister, with the information available to him but not to any of us, who could have come to the House and said, "In these circumstances, I think that a ban on all meat from the Argentine is justified". Therefore, the Minister was a little less than fair when he seemed to imply that my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham should have suggested this earlier. As my right hon. Friend explained, he could not conceivably have done so because he did not have the necessary information to take that very serious step.

But this by itself would not have been enough perhaps to justify the Minister in making a decision of that sort. As my right hon. Friend made clear, there was also at that time a very high degree of likelihood that the cause of this outbreak was, again, meat from the Argentine. This fact, combined with the particular type of virus—which apparently hides its visible symptoms for much longer than others and, therefore, can cause a much wider spread of the disease before it is recognised—was of vital importance to the whole agricultural community.

Anyone who knows and studies the problems of the Minister of Agriculture realises that he has to wear two hats at the same time. He is the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Food. Inevitably these two duties can, and occasionally do, compete for his attention. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman had to consider a third point: if he totally banned supplies of meat from the Argentine, would there still be enough meat available in this country for the consumer and to keep the price down to a reasonable level?

All these things were done, and could only have been done, by the Minister of Agriculture because he was the only person who had the necessary information. I do not believe there is a Member in the House who criticises the action which the Minister took on 4th December now that the information is available to the House which he then had. But the point which my right hon. Friend made, and which has not been refuted to any extent at all, either in the Minister's speech or in anything that has been said on either side of the House, is that our criticism of the Minister tonight is that he has now stopped taking the advice of his own veterinary staff. This is something which only the Minister can confirm or deny. He has been asked to do so, and he said or indicated—perhaps quite properly—that he was not prepared to do it. He is obviously a good deal more careful in this respect than many of his colleagues, who seem quite openly to criticise their top civil servants in public even if the Press are there. But whether this is so or not, the information which my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) gave to the House, and very properly said that he would not in the debate name the person but that if the Minister wanted full information and the name of the person he would give it to him—

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Will the right hon. Gentleman give way?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I have always taken the view that it would be most improper if I commented upon my civil servants in public. I have always taken this view, and even when they have been attacked by some hon. Members I have always defended them. I think it wrong to put civil servants in that invidious position. I hope that I shall always take this attitude as long as I am a Minister.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I gave the right hon. Gentleman credit for that, though I could not give it to some of his colleagues in the same way. But that is neither here nor there. [Interruption.] If one looks at the Foreign Office it is a very long list. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] But the point is this. The point which I make is that this is a highly difficult and technical decision to take. The Minister has continuously said to the House that he is making decisions on the advice of his technical advisers, and the House does not mind when he says that, because it is, perhaps, that he is sheltering to some extent behind the technical advice of his advisers.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Oh, no. Will the right hon. Gentleman give way please?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I have given way already.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I just want to settle this. Obviously, the Minister receives technical advice, but in the end the decision is the Minister's decision. If hon. Members want to criticise, let them criticise me. I make the decision. It is very wrong to criticise the men who give advice to the Minister honourably. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not press this.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

That is exactly my point. If the Minister says to the House, "I have taken this decision on the advice of my Chief Medical Officer", or "my Chief Veterinary Officer", or "my Chief Food Inspector" it is perfectly all right, but if he does receive advice and then says nothing to the House, and hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the House ask what advice has been given to him, and when the Minister has over and over again in these debates quoted advice he has been given, we are entitled to assume—I make no more of it than that—we are entitled to assume on this occasion that the advice was contrary.

The next point is this. I know that the Minister is as unhappy about this as those of us who live and work in the farming communities and the farming areas. The Minister has taken a decision which is totally opposed by the National Farmers Union, by the Association of British Veterinary Surgeons, by the Scottish N.F.U.—who, by the grace of God, were not affected by this particular epidemic, but who have, perhaps, a deeper feeling of involvement in all livestock matters even than the English, because we in Scotland rely more on livestock—which is opposed, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) said, by the executive of the Agricultural Workers' Union, which is opposed, as he also said—though he qualified it, very fairly—by the agricultural group of the Labour Party's side of the House, and which is opposed totally on this side.

The Minister of Agriculture has had to take a decision which he knows has no support from any agricultural, veterinary or kindred society. One realises that it is an important and difficult decision for him to take, but it is his decision, as he has acknowledged.

My right hon. Friend asked if the outbreak at Stratford was due to beef or mutton. The right hon. Gentleman replied that it was due to swill. However, that is not an answer, and I hope that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will tell us whether the swill was from beef bones, mutton or from what. The right hon. Gentleman's answer slid away from the main point.

Up until recent weeks, by the consensus of opinion in the House, the right hon. Gentleman has carried out his extremely difficult functions as Minister of Agriculture well. There has been no criticism in the House of the actions that he has taken from time to time to deal with what has been by far the worst epidemic of foot-and-mouth that the country has experienced. He said today that he had taken certain steps to reduce the risk of a recurrence of the disease, and, therefore, we were all interested to hear what steps he had taken.

In the first place, they amounted to a ban on South American lamb. Speeches on both sides of the House have shown clearly how totally illogical that is. It may be right to say that circumstantial evidence points clearly to lamb, but all the other evidence available for the last twenty or thirty years which is known to everyone closely associated with the subject is that it is meat in one form or another that is generally responsible and not lamb.

If it was a matter of putting a given lamb in prison, it might be right to say, "This lamb has been convicted on circumstantial evidence and it will go to prison or to a cold store for ten years". But, as the Minister knows, it is nonsense so say that because lamb was responsible for this outbreak of O1 virus, therefore lamb will be the most likely cause of the next outbreak of foot-and-mouth.

The Minister tried to slide out of it by saying that on a certain occasion we banned pigmeat and not beef or lamb, but he knows that that was rubbish, too, and my right hon. Friend dealt with it completely in his opening speech, to which I suspect the right hon. Gentleman did not even listen—

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

He did not listen to many points that were made. He will have to read HANSARD tomorrow.

He then said that he had appointed the Northumberland Committee, which the whole House welcomed. But, as I pointed out to him in an interruption, the Northumberland Committee is having its first meeting tomorrow, whereas he has taken a decision whereby it is likely that meat from the Argentine is being loaded into ships this week, and it will be landed here. I pray God that it will not spread O1 virus again.

In what way can the Minister claim that this is a step to cut down the chances of a recurrence of the disease, when meat which may bring the disease again is being loaded into ships within a week of the setting up of the Northumberland Committee? This is tragic nonsense. We realise that the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is doing a useful and important job in going round the Argentine visiting the frigorificos and checking up on loopholes which may exist in the inspection of meat. This may well be useful, but it will not stop the recurrence of the disease if the meat is being loaded in the next two or three months. If the Minister studies his own veterinary information, as my hon. Friend the Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant Ferris) made clear, it is not just animals which are visibly infected with foot-and-mouth that bring the disease into the country.

The Minister has been only too willing to quote the Gower Report. He will see from that Report that the real threat often is the masked incidence of this disease—animals which are not visibly infected but have already been incubating the virus—and this becomes much more serious with virus O1. These animals may be being killed when there is nothing visible on them, and there is no method in the factories of discovering whether they have the disease, and they are being shipped to this country. Nothing the Joint Parliamentary Secretary can do—and we wish him the best of luck—will have any serious effect on this problem.

I do not want to interfere in the controversy that went on between the hon. Member for Wrexham (Mr. J. Idwal Jones) and the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) about who should or should not make investigations into each other's constituency. I merely remind hon. Members on both sides of the House who were here at the time that I never found any reticence in Scotland about hon. Members from other constituencies coming into the debate on typhoid in Aberdeen. But that is neither here nor there. However, the point was made that Establishment 1408 in the Argentine is shipping mutton, lamb and beef to this country. I am not interested whether salmonella was present or not. A few years ago, if it had been Aberdeen, I would have been, but in this debate I am not. If the Minister feels that this particular modern frigorifico, close to Buenos Aires, is shipping these commodities and that the lamb is infected, for goodness sake let him make it clear to the House that no beef will be imported from that frigorifico either. This is not the right solution, but at least it would be a step in the right direction.

When we got to the Minister's own statement, I could only wonder for a while at the ponderous ineptitude he showed in trying to trail red herrings across the path of the debate. He said, for instance, that the Opposition did nothing about Gower. But he did not—

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

It is true, and I accept it. But he did not explain that in the four years he quoted the total number of outbreaks of foot-and-mouth was 469 and the total number of stock slaughtered was under 25,000, whereas in this outbreak 422,000 animals were slaughtered. This is an outbreak on a totally different scale. The Minister did not want to bring out the key point that it is a new type of infection, as far as one can tell, and a new scale of outbreak needing new types of action.

He asked why the Opposition had chosen this subject for debate. Can the House seriously believe that there is any more appropriate subject for debate at a time when the meat is again being loaded into the ships in the Argentine and coming over here? Is there any more important subject for those who are responsible for livestock and so on? The Price Review can be debated at any time. It is not urgent. Cattle and beef being loaded from the Argentine could present a desperate situation for the country, and, indeed, for the Minister's reputation.

Various other points have been made, but I have not much more time in which to speak. I was interested to hear what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) about disinfectants. These are things which the Northumberland Committee will no doubt consider and advise about.

I was interested in the valid point made by the hon. and learned Member for Montgomery about the danger of boned meat when it comes from cattle as against boned meat when it comes from sheep, because this does not often occur. The House knows that foot-and-mouth disease arrives in this country in two main ways. One is by the migration of birds from the Continent and the other by the importation of meat, and in most instances the infected meat has come from South America, particularly the Argentine.

In December the Minister decided to impose a ban, and, as I have said, the whole House approved of it. Today he said that he was removing the ban. In what way has the situation changed? We have had three clear weeks, and for this we are all profoundly grateful, but the only effect that this has had has been to give, I hope, three weeks' rest and holiday to the thousands of people who have been working day and night trying to combat this terrible disease.

The Duke of Northumberland's Committee has not reported, and cannot do so for many months, and so the situation there has not changed. The system of veterinary inspection of meat in the Argentine has not changed, and, I strongly suspect, cannot change for many months. The veterinary reports have said that it is almost impossible, if not totally so, to find a way of checking animals which have been slaughtered while they are incubating the disease.

Has the Ministry any evidence that the new strain O1 is not likely to strike again? Has it any evidence that it comes only from lamb and not from beef? We have had no such evidence, and, therefore, there has been no change there either. Is there any fresh evidence that uncooked meat or offal, which has been responsible in the past for more than 50 per cent of the known cases of foot-and-mouth disease, will not provide a cause again? If there is any such evidence, the House has not been given it.

The position today is very similar in some ways to the position in which I found myself a year or two ago when I was involved in the disastrous outbreak of typhoid in Scotland. Throughout the country there was deep concern and apprehension. Luckily, there was no loss of human life due directly to that outbreak. The cause of the trouble was meat from the Argentine, processed meat, probably corned beef. I must remind the House, as I did many times during the course of the statements that I had to make, that in spite of all the health checks which were made, in spite of all the work which the Ministry of Health veterinary officers in the Argentine carried out, in almost every case there were grave faults and errors.

In the recent outbreak more than 400,000 animals have perished, with all the misery and loss of money to over 4,000 farmers and their farm workers which this has involved. We do not know the exact figures, although the cost may have been over £100 million. But many farmers and farm workers would, if they could, pay all this money back to have their stock alive again. This is a much more serious problem than just 400,000 dead animals, as anyone who lives in the farming community knows. The Government are today taking an enormous gamble, a risk which, on the evidence presented to the House, is entirely unacceptable. The risk cannot be assessed. The meat will be leaving the Argentine in the next few weeks, and nothing different is being done than was done with the meat which started the epidemic. The Government are taking this calculated gamble with the livelihood of thousands of farmers and the lives of hundreds of thousands of farm animals.

I believe that the Minister is taking this risk—it rests on his shoulders, and I have great sympathy for him—contrary to the advice of every veterinary officer we know. In these circumstances, I believe that his burden is too great, he should have refused to accept it and should have resigned. If he had, he would have had the support of all in the country districts who know the risks involved for our livestock and our farms over the next months.

9.32 p.m.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

I will do my best to answer the many questions asked; I have heard almost every word of the debate.

The right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble) said that my right hon. Friend had to make an extremely difficult decision on an extremely controversial subject. I remember when he was in a fairly similar position, which he recalled, although we never debated the question of the corned beef which was then held responsible for the typhoid outbreak in Aberdeen. On that occasion, in June 1964, he said: It was only last year that we could, with any certainty, impute typhoid to corned beef at all. There is no certainty yet that corned beef is involved in this epidemic, although the inquiry will be looking into this. The withdrawing of vast quantities of food, on what could be the scantiest of evidence did not seem wsie at the time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th June, 1964; Vol. 696, c. 49.] This is what the right hon. Gentleman said, and I did not dispute it at the time because we knew the position which he faced. It was obvious that above all, we did not want to alarm the people more than they had already been alarmed. When the Report was presented, some not altogether pleasant things were said about those who handled that epidemic. I merely remind the right hon. Gentleman of what he said then.

He said tonight that my right hon. Friend had ignored advice, but my right hon. Friend did nothing of the kind. He published the advice of the C.V.O. for all to read. Clearly, the decision is the Minister's. Just as on that previous occasion and despite the outcry the right hon. Member for Argyll accepted the responsibility for that decision, so my right hon. Friend does not wriggle from this one—

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

It is always easy to say things in retrospect, but I would certainly not have acted as I did unless all my technical advice had been in that direction.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

The right hon. Gentleman may say that now. I merely reported what he had said at the time. I did not do him an injustice because I used the words he had used.

My hon. Friend the Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. Elystan Morgan) pointed out that the Minister was in a difficult position and had a difficult decision to take. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) agreed with that. I assure the House that my right hon. Friend did not and does not seek to wriggle out of that position. He made his decision and accepts the responsibility for it, as we in public life must do. One can only hope—indeed, I hope and believe that he was correct—that my right hon. Friend has taken the right decision. As my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Oakes) reminded the House—that was at about 9 p.m.; I regret that very few hon. Members were in their places at the time—the Minister also has a responsibility to Britain's housewives. That is another of his jobs. In addition to looking after the farmers and those connected with the trade, he has a direct responsibility to the public.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

I have many questions to answer and I will not give way, particularly since the hon. Gentleman has not been here all day.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester (Mr. Temple) criticised Dr. Brooksby, saying that he had been too reticent and timorous in coming forward with his information. That was not the line taken by the right hon. Member for Argyll, who said that Dr. Brooksby had acted in a most responsible way and had treated the matter with all the caution it deserved before giving his opinion. Hon. Gentlemen opposite cannot have it both ways. I thought it a little unfair of the hon. Member for the City of Chester to make those remarks about Dr. Brooksby, but I will return to this matter later.

The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) spoke of certain letters that had been sent to my right hon. Friend by the I.P.C.S. I confirm that my right hon. Friend received two letters from the Institution. The I.P.C.S. has a legitimate interest in foot-and-mouth disease epidemics because they impose a heavy burden on the professional members of the Ministry's staff, whom the Institution represents. However, I feel that the I.P.C.S. went too far in commenting on an important Government decision of public policy which extended considerably beyond the interests of its members. In my view—and I hope I have the support of the Front Bench opposite on this—it was less than courteous of the Institution to publish its letters without even giving my right hon. Friend prior notice.

Apart from domestic agricultural considerations, there are considerations of food supply and delicate matters of international policy to be considered. Civil servants have a responsibility to the Government, just as my right hon. Friend pointed out earlier that Ministers have a responsibility to defend their civil servants when they are attacked. I trust that right hon. Gentlemen opposite support this view.

I understand that when I was out of the Chamber there was a dispute between the right hon. Member for Grantham and my hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford (Mr. Wellbeloved) about meat prices. Auction and wholesale prices rose during November and December, but that happened for a variety of reasons, some seasonal and some due to the dislocation of the market. As for South American imports, tonnages had fallen away before 4th December for commercial reasons which will be easily understood.

What matter, however, are not the factors that affected prices then, but what prices might be in future according to whether or not there is normal access to our markets for beef. This at best can be an estimate, but in the medium term the continuation of temporary suspension would probably have raised wholesale beef prices by about 10 per cent. and meat prices as a whole by about 5 per cent. above what they would otherwise have been. That is the best estimate we can make, but when dealing with prices of that kind which in the ultimate have to be paid by the housewife, attention has to be paid to that.

Photo of Mr Joseph Godber Mr Joseph Godber , Grantham

The hon. Gentleman says that prices have risen by 10 per cent. or 5 per cent. more than they otherwise would have been. Is he saying above existing levels or the levels existing then with some other variations?

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

No, I am speaking of estimated levels. That is the advice I have received from experts and the right hon. Gentleman says that I must accept their advice. That is the best advice I have had so far.

The hon. and learned Member for Montgomery (Mr. Hooson) told me that he would have to leave the Chamber before I made my speech. I want to pick up a point he made as to whether lamb is boned or not. The same point was picked up by the right hon. Gentleman. I put them together because both are wrong. In that part of the country lamb is generally boned. It is common practice there, so it was as likely to come from there as from anywhere.

The hon. Member for the City of Chester said "Mr. Speaker, I propose to deliver a devastating speech." Anyone who describes his speech in that way will expect to have a reply. He spoke of the very poor liaison between Pirbright and the field services. The hon. Member completely misunderstands the position. There is a very full and close liaison between the Ministry's Chief Veterinary Officer and Pirbright. The Chief Veterinary Officer passes information gained from Pirbright to our field services. This obviously is a very clear and effective channel of communication, which is continually open. Co-operation between the Ministry and Pirbright is very full indeed. Our Chief Veterinary Officer and Dr. Brooksby of the Animal Virus Research Institute keep in constant contact. The Chief Veterinary Officer invited Dr. Brooksby to send a small team of experts to the area to make epidemiological studies. This work still goes on and the results, no doubt, will be available to the Northumberland Committee, so I hope the hon. Member will not repeat his statement.

There was no lack of instruction at all. A veterinary officer was in charge of each centre and gave full instructions to his team. The manual of instructions, for which the hon. Member asked, is regarded as a very large tome. Anyone who has been at the Ministry or at the Scottish Office will know what it looks like. There are about 400 available, but in a tremendous epidemic of this kind obviously we had not manuals to hand to everyone. On one occasion the hon. Member gave us some thanks for the excerpts taken from the manual which farmers required, on the way in which we distributed them widely and, I hope, smartly. I hope that the hon. Member will not forget that we supplemented all this information with television broadcasts, to which he paid tribute. All that having been done, it was a little unfair of him to say that there was lack of instruction. The hon. Gentleman said that there was a lack of liaison with the river hoards. This just is not true. The river boards were in no doubt about the instructions to be followed. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman mentioned a representative of a river hoard who apparently did not quite understand what it was all about.

Photo of Mr John Temple Mr John Temple , City of Chester

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary has said a great deal about what I said. I said that a chief consulting engineer—in fact, to the Mersey and Weaver River Authority—who was responsible for a great deal of this work, never had a manual given to him. He was a very responsible and high-up man.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

I am sure that such a man would accept his responsibility and would not just be waiting for a manual. I should have thought that he would be able, being in such a position, to do the job, All the river boards played a very valuable part in co-operating in the burial of the animals, and we are extremely grateful to them.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say something about disinfectants, as did the right hon. Member for Argyll. Our veterinary officers use washing soda and, where appropriate, a 5 per cent. solution of formalin. It is a solution that they use on all infected premises. These substances are specific in their effect on foot-and-mouth disease virus. It is true that other disinfectants, active because of their alkaline or acid properties, have been put forward, but they must be tested for other properties—properties such as stability and safety—before we can add them to our list. We have already arranged for this to be done.

We have never heard of one quite so violent in its effect as the one which the hon. Gentleman said worked 800 times faster than that which we used. When I heard the hon. Gentleman say that, I had visions of the animal disappearing along with the virus.

The hon. Gentleman went on to say that the farmer had to stand on a pad for two and half hours to get proper disinfection. I have known the hon. Gentleman for a long time and have a great respect for him, but I advise him that when he speaks in that way he speaks nonsense and does not do his case any good. Disinfectant would be retained on the surface of the material. If we were to accept the hon. Gentleman's theory, a farmer would have to keep his hands in a bucket of washing soda, which is a disinfectant, for 15 minutes. This just is not true. Therefore, I agree with the hon. Gentleman that his was a devastating speech, but not in the way that he meant.

My hon. Friend the Member for Erith and Crayford asked me some questions about conclusive evidence and guides. In this matter is is very difficult indeed to get conclusive evidence about the disease, the way it is carried, or about the people concerned. Like the Tory Government, we have taken certain action. Some hon. Members have called in evidence not only the question of animal health but also the assumed risk to human health from imports of meat. This may arise in any country from the way in which the meat is slaughtered or handled, whether or not there is any epidemic or disease in that country.

I emphasise that, as my right hon. Friend said, we already have in existence a mechanism for a continual watch on any possible hazards to human health. In particular, meat plants in supplying countries are inspected by officers of my Ministry, and we do not import from any plant which is not satisfactory. This process is a continuing one. In view of the publicity which has been given to salmonella in meat originating from Establishment 1408 in the Argentine Republic, following sampling of mutton from this establishment by the Port of London Health Authority on 31st May our Veterinary Attaché in Buenos Aires was asked to reinspect the plant. After inspection, he proposed that certain action should be taken within 20 days. On 24th July, he recommended that it should be cleared. The Veterinary Attaché visited this plant again on 31st August. I mention these facts to show the great care which is taken—I do not claim credit for this Government alone; all Governments have done it—to protect public health in this country from any dangers from imported meat.

I cannot, therefore, accept that the Government's decision on meat imports following our review and study of the report of the Chief Veterinary Officer should be linked with public health considerations. The two matters are separate. If we become aware of any real risk to public health, we take action immediately.

I am told that, while I was out of the Chamber, the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) suggested that the Minister had deliberately postponed his announcement on the meat import ban till 4th March. The farmers, he said, were threatening to break off the Annual Review discussions at that time if the Minister decided to lift the ban. All I can say is that there is absolutely no truth in what the hon. Gentleman said. [HON. MEMBERS: "Withdraw."] If he had taken the trouble to consult the N.F.U., the hon. Gentleman would have found out that what he intended to say in the House tonight was quite untrue.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

The hon. Gentleman has been interjecting all afternoon. Let him wait for a moment. His suggestion was absolutely scurrilous. If he has the decency to wish to withdraw, I am prepared to give way to him now.

Photo of Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop Mr Robin Maxwell-Hyslop , Tiverton

The facts stated by me were absolutely true. The Devon County branch sent a resolution to the national headquarters calling on the union to break off its negotiations if the Minister readmitted the meat.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

I can only repeat what I said. The hon. Gentleman said that it was the N.F.U., and now he says that it was a resolution sent in by the Devon branch. In decency, he ought to have withdrawn.

I was asked about the number of attachés we have. Our attachés' interests cover both animal health and public health matters, and they are in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Establishment 1408 is in Argentina, and is only one among some 30 establishments in the four countries on the approved list for exports of various types to Great Britain.

Hon. Members have tried to show that our action in resuming normal trading arrangements for beef imports was premature. That is what the Motion is about. My right hon. Friend explained the important steps which we have taken, some immediate and some for the longer term, to improve our safeguards against the importation of foot-and-mouth disease. We ask hon. Members to approve the action which we have taken. I am confident that it represents a fair and balanced judgment of many agricultural, commercial and international interests. We are very much aware of the scale and the cost of the epidemic, which has caused grievous loss and shock to the agricultural community. It was for this reason that my right hon. Friend announced on 4th March new measures to guard against a repetition.

The risk of introducing foot-and-mouth disease into this country in meat and other animal products has long been recognised. It is not something which occurred in the last two or three years. Following the visit of the mission headed by Lord Bledisloe in 1928, South American countries introduced regulations designed to reduce the risk of importing the virus from South America into this country. [An HON. MEMBER: "That was a long time ago."] Yes, but I am getting more modern as I go along. These regulations covered inspection at the estancias intended to ensure that animals for export did not come from places where there had been an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease.

From that stage we have gone on improving all the time. Veterinary officers of the Ministry are stationed in South America, and we are now taking steps to look again at these arrangements in co-operation with South American countries. That is what the technical dis- cussions will be about. We are setting this in train at once, and this indicates the importance we attach to it.

We shall be receiving a report from the Northumberland Committee on the seriousness of the recent epidemic which has shown that a new and thorough look at our whole policy on the control of foot-and-mouth disease in this country is needed.

In short, we have done three things. First, we have decided not to allow the import of mutton and lamb from countries where the disease is endemic until we have considered the conclusions of the Northumberland Committee. Second, we are taking a searching look at the safeguards on meat imports. Third, we have commissioned a full and considered study of the animal health problem. These things have all been done in the past few weeks, and my right hon. Friend is to be commended for the speed with which he acted. [Interruption.] Yes, indeed, many hon. Members are to be commended. I do not seek to deny some credit to the hon. Member for the City of Chester who was most helpful while the epidemic was on. We had many meetings at our office, and I am certain that he found them just as helpful as we did.

Photo of Mr James Hoy Mr James Hoy , Edinburgh Leith

That was the spirit in which we worked both at the Ministry and with those outside. It would not be amiss, now that the matter is being debated, if I once more expressed our thanks to the veterinary surgeons who lent assistance, not only our own, but veterinary surgeons from all over the world. I also pay tribute to the women's voluntary services, who gave assistance, and to the Forces. I thank all who have assisted. [Interruption.] Surely it does not come amiss to say "Thank you" to people who have helped?

Hon. Members opposite have tried to tell us that our judgment of the balance of interests has been wrong. I have listened to the whole debate, and they have failed to show this. When they were in office they did not take the view that we have taken. Despite all the outbreaks in this country they never once took the trouble to ban the meat. We did it, and as a result we have this debate. If my right hon. Friend had done nothing about it, the debate would never have been held.

We consider that we have exercised our responsibility to the consumer, the farmer, the trader and the butcher in a fair and reasonable way. We have not been shaken by anything said in the debate and I confidently ask all my hon.

Friends—and perhaps even the Conservative hon. Member for a Glasgow constituency who called for the action we have taken—to join us in the Lobby and show our contempt for the Motion.

Question put, That the Amendment be made:—

The House divided: Ayes 300, Noes 237.

Division No. 89.]AYES[10.0 p.m.
Abse, LeoDobson, RayHughes, Roy (Newport)
Albu, AustenDoig, PeterHunter, Adam
Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)Dunn, James A.Hynd, John
Alldritt, WalterDunnett, JackIrvine, Sir Arthur
Allen, ScholefieldDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth, (Exeter)Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)
Archer, PeterDunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Armstrong, ErnestEadie, AlexJeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Edelman, MauriceJenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S)
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceEdwards, Robert (Bilston)Jones, Dan (Burnley)
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Ellis, JohnJones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)
Barnes, MichaelEnglish, MichaelJones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)
Barnett, JoelEnnals, DavidJones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)
Beaney, AlanEnsor, DavidJudd, Frank
Bellenger, Rt. Hn. F. J.Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Kelley, Richard
Bence, CyrilEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Kerr, Russell (Feltham)
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodFaulds, AndrewLawson, George
Bidwell, SydneyFernyhough, E.Leadbitter, Ted
Binns, JohnFinch, HaroldLedger, Ron
Bishop, E. S.Fitch, Alan (Wigan)Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)
Blackburn, F.Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)Lee, John (Reading)
Blenkinsop, ArthurFletcher, Ted (Darlington)Lestor, Miss Joan
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Foley, MauriceLever, Harold (Cheetham)
Booth, AlbertFoot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)
Boston, TerenceFord, BenLewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurForrester, JohnLewis, Ron (Carlisle)
Boyden, JamesFraser, John (Norwood)Lipton, Marcus
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Freeson, ReginaldLomas, Kenneth
Bradley, TomGalpern, Sir MyerLoughlin, Charles
Bray, Dr. JeremyGardner, TonyLuard, Evan
Brooks, EdwinGarrett, W. E.Lyon, Alexander W. (York)
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Ginsburg, DavidMcBride, Neil
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.MacColl, James
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)Gourlay, HarryMacDermot, Niall
Buchan, NormanGray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)Macdonald, A. H.
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Gregory, ArnoldMcCuire, Michael
Butter, Herbert (Hackney, C.)Grey, Charles (Durham)McKay, Mrs. Margaret
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesGriffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)Mackintosh, John P.
Cant, R. B.Griffiths, Will (Exchange)Maclennan, Robert
Carmichael, NeilGunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, c.)
Carter-Jones, LewisHamilton, James (Bothwell)McNamara, J. Kevin
Castle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraHamilton, William (Fife, W.)MacPherson, Malcolm
Chapman, DonaldHamling, WilliamMahon, Peter (Preston, S.)
Coe, DenisHannan, WilliamMahon, Simon (Bootle)
Coleman, DonaldHarper, JosephMallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)
Concannon, J. D.Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)
Conlan, BernardHart, Rt. Hn. JudithManuel, Archie
Corbet, Mrs. FredaHaseldine, NormanMarks, Kenneth
Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Hattersley, RoyMarsh, Rt. Hn. Richard
Crawshaw, RichardHealey, Rt. Hn. DenisMason, Rt. Hn. Roy
Cronin, JohnHeffer, Eric S.Maxwell, Robert
Crossman, Rt. Hn. RichardHenig, StanleyMayhew, Christopher
Cullen, Mrs. AliceHerbison, Rt. Hn. MargaretMellish, Rt. Hn. Robert
Dalyell, TamHilton, W. S.Mendelson, J. J.
Darling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeHobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)Millan, Bruce
Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)Hooley, FrankMiller, Dr. M. S.
Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Houghton, Rt. Hn. DouglasMilne, Edward (Blyth)
Davies, Harold (Leek)Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)
Davies, Ifor (Gower)Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Molloy, William
Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Moonman, Eric
de Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyHowie, W.Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)
Delargy, HughHoy, JamesMorris, Charles R. (Openshaw)
Dell, EdmundHuckfield, LeslieMorris, John (Aberavon)
Dempsey, JamesHughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Moyle, Roland
Diamond, Rt. Hn. JohnHughes, Emrye (Ayrshire, S.)Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Dickens, JamesHughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Murray, Albert
Neal, HaroldReynolds, G. W.Thomson, Rt. Hn. George
Newens, StanRhodes, GeoffreyThornton, Ernest
Norwood, ChristopherRoberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)Tinn, James
Oakes, GordonRoberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)Tomney, Frank
Ogden, EricRobertson, John (Paisley)Urwin, T. W.
O'Malley, BrianRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P 'c' as)Varley, Eric G.
Oram, Albert E.Robinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Orbach, MauriceRodgers, William (Stockton)Wallace, George
Orme, StanleyRoebuck, RoyWatkins, David (Consett)
Oswald, ThomasRogers, George (Kensington, N.)Weitzman, David
Owen, Will (Morpeth)Ross, Rt. Hn. WilliamWellbeloved, James
Padley, WalterRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Ryan, JohnWhitaker, Ben
Paget, R. T.Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)White, Mrs. Eirene
Palmer, ArthurSheldon, RobertWhitlock, William
Pannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesShinwell, Rt. Hn. E.Wilkins, W. A.
Park, TrevorShore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
Parker, John (Dagenham)Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
Parkyn, Bran (Bedford)Short, Mrs. Renée (W'hampton, N. E.)Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
Pavitt, LaurenceSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)Silverman, Julius (Aston)Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
Peart, Rt. Hn. FredSkeffington, ArthurWilliams, W. T. (Warrington)
Pentland, NormanSlater, JosephWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Small, WilliamWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Snow, JulianWinnick, David
Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Spriggs, LeslieWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)Woof, Robert
Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)Stewart, Rt. Hn. MichaelWyatt, woodrow
Price, William (Rugby)Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.Yates, Victor
Probert, ArthurSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Pursey, Cmdr. HarrySwain, ThomasTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Randall, HarrySwingler, StephenMr. Harold Walker and
Rankin, JohnTaverne, DickMr. John McCann.
Rees, MerlynThomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Cunningham, Sir KnoxHastings, Stephen
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Currie, G. B. H.Hawkins, Paul
Astor, JohnDalkeith, Earl ofHay, John
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Dance, JamesHeald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel
Awdry, DanielDavidsodn, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward
Baker, W. H. K.Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)Heseltine, Michael
Balniel, LordDigby, Simon WingfieldHiggins, Terence L.
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyDodds-Parker, DouglasHiley, Joseph
Batsford, BrianDoughty, CharlesHill, J. E. B.
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir AlecHirst, Geoffrey
Bell, RonaldDrayson, G. B.Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)du Cann, Rt. Hn. EdwardHolland, Philip
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Eden, Sir JohnHordern, Peter
Berry, Hn. AnthonyElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)Hornby, Richard
Bessell, PeterEmery, PeterHowell, David (Guildford)
Biffen, JohnErrington, Sir EricHunt, John
Biggs-Davison, JohnEvans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)Hutchison, Michael Clark
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelEwing, Mrs. WinifredIremonger, T. L.
Black, Sir CyrilEyre, ReginaldIrvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)
Blaker, PeterFarr, JohnJohnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)
Boardman, TomFisher, NigelJones, Arthur (Northants, S.)
Body, RichardFletcher-Cooke, CharlesJopling, Michael
Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnFoster, Sir JohnJoseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith
Braine, BernardFraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Kaberry, Sir Donald
Brewis, JohnGalbraith, Hon. T. G.Kerby, Capt. Henry
Brinton, Sir TattonGiles, Rear-Adm. MorganKershaw, Anthony
Bromley-Davenport, Lt.- Col. Sir WalterGilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Kimball, Marcus
Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Glyn, Sir RichardKing, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)
Bryan, PaulGodber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Kirk, Peter
Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Goodhart, PhilipKitson, Timothy
Buck, Antony (Colchester)Knight, Mrs. Jill
Bullus, Sir EricGoodhew, VictorLambton, Viscount
Burden, F. A.Gower, RaymondLancaster, Col. C. G.
Campbell, GordonGrant, AnthonyLane, David
Carlisle, MarkGrant-Ferris, R.Langford-Holt, Sir John
Cary, Sir RobertGresham Cooke, R.Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry
Channon, H. P. G.Grieve, PercyLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)
Chichester-Clark, R.Gurden, HaroldLloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)
Clark, HenryHall, John (Wycombe)Longden, Gilbert
Cooke, RobertHall-Davis, A. G. F.Loveys, W. H.
Cooper-Key, Sir NeillHamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)Lubbock, Eric
Cordle, JohnHamilton, Michael (Salisbury)McAdden, Sir Stephen
Costain. A. P.Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)MacArthur, Ian
Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)Harrison, Brian (Maldon)Mackenzie, Alasdair(RossSCrom'ty)
Crosthwaite-Eyre, Sir OliverHarrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Maclean, Sir Fitzroy
Crouch, DavidHarvey, Sir Arthur VereMacleod, Rt. Hn. Iain
Crowder, F. P.Harvie Anderson, MissMcMaster, Stanley
Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Maddan, MartinPeel, JohnTapsell, Peter
Maginnis, John E.Percival, IanTaylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestPeyton, JohnTaylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Marten, NeilPike, Miss MervynTeeling, Sir William
Maude, AngusPink, R. BonnerTemple, John M.
Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldPounder, RationThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Mawby, RayPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Price, David (Eastleigh)Tilney, John
Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Prior, J. M. L.van Straubenzee, W. R.
Mills, peter (Torrington)Pym, FrancisVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Quennell, Miss J. M.Vickers, Dame Joan
Miscampbell, NormanRamsden, Rt. Hn. JamesWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir PeterWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Monro, HectorRenton, Rt. Hn. Sir DavidWall, Patrick
Montgomery, FergusRidley, Hn. NicholasWard, Dame Irene
Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Ridsdale, JulianWeatherill, Bernard
Morrison, Charles (Devizes)Rippon, Rt. Hn. GeoffreyWebster, David
Mott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesRobson Brown, Sir WilliamWells, John (Maidstone)
Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Murton, OscarRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)Wills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Nabarro, Sir GeraldRoyle, AnthonyWilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Neave, AireyRussell, Sir RonaldWinstanley, Dr. M. P.
Nicholls, Sir HarmarSt, John-Stevas, NormanWolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Noble, Rt. Hn. MichaelSandys, Rt. Hn. D.Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Nott, JohnScott, NicholasWoodnutt, Mark
Onslow, CranleyScott-Hopkins, JamesWorsley, Marcus
Orr, Capt. L. P. S.Sharples, RichardWright, Esmond
Orr-Ewing, Sir IanShaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)Wylie, N. R.
Osborn, John (Hallam)Sinclair, Sir GeorgeYounger, Hn. George
Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Stainton, Keith
Page, Graham (Crosby)Steel, David (Roxburgh)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Page, John (Harrow, W.)Stodart, AnthonyMr. R. W. Elliott and
Mr. Jasper More.

Main Question, as amended, put:—

The House divided: Ayes 298, Noes 236.

Division No. 90.]AYES[10.12 p.m.
Abse, LeoCastle, Rt. Hn. BarbaraFernyhough, E.
Albu, AustenChapman, DonaldFinch, Harold
Allaun, Frank (Salford, P.)Coe, DenisFitch, Alan (Wigan)
Alldritt, WalterColeman, DonaldFletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)
Allen, ScholefieldConcannon, J. D.Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)
Archer, PeterConlan, BernardFoley, Maurice
Armstrong, ErnestCorbet, Mrs. FredaFoot, Sir Dingle (Ipswich)
Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)Craddock, George (Bradford, S.)Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)
Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)Crawshaw, RichardFord, Ben
Bacon, Rt. Hn. AliceCronin, JohnForrester, John
Bagier, Gordon A. T.Grossman, Rt. Hn. RichardFraser, John (Norwood)
Barnes, MichaelCullen, Mrs. AliceFreeson, Reginald
Barnett, JoelDalyell, TamGalpern, Sir Myer
Beaney, AlanDarling, Rt. Hn. GeorgeGardner, Tony
Bence, CyrilDavidson, Arthur (Accrington)Garrett, W. E.
Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony WedgwoodDavies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)Ginsburg, David
Bidwell, SydneyDavies, Harold (Leek)Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.
Binns, JohnDavies, Ifor (Gower)Gourlay, Harry
Bishop, E. S.Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)
Blackburn, Freitas, Rt. Hn. Sir GeoffreyGregory, Arnold
Blenkinsop, ArthurDelargy, HughGrey, Charles (Durham)
Boardman, H. (Leigh)Dell, EdmundGriffiths, David (Rother Valley)
Booth, AlbertDempsey, JamesGriffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)
Boston, TerenceDiamond, Rt. Hn. JohnGriffiths, Will (Exchange)
Bottomley, Rt. Hn. ArthurDickens, JamesGunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.
Boyden, JamesDobson, RayHamilton, James (Bothwell)
Braddock, Mrs. E. M.Doig, PeterHamilton, William (Fife, W.)
Bradley, TomDunn, James A.Hamling, William
Bray, Dr. JeremyDunnett, JackHannan, William
Brooks, EdwinDunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth, (Exeter)Harper, Joseph
Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)
Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)Eadie, AlexHart, Rt. Hn. Judith
Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)Edelman, MauriceHaseldine, Norman
Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)Edwards, Rt. Hn. Ness (Caerphilly)Hattersley, Roy
Buchan, NormanEdwards, Robert (Bilston)Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis
Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)Ellis, JohnHeffer, Eric S.
Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)English, MichaelHenig, Stanley
Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)Ennals, DavidHerbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret
Callaghan, Rt. Hn. JamesEnsor, DavidHilton, W. S.
Cant, R, B.Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)Hobden, Dennis (Brighton, K'town)
Carmichael, NeilEvans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)Hooley, Frank
Carter-Jones, LewisFaulds, AndrewHoughton, Rt. Hn. Douglas
Howarth, Harry (Wellingborough)Marsh, Rt. Hn. RichardRodgers, William (Stockton)
Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)Mason, Rt. Hn. RoyRoebuck, Roy
Howell, Denis (Small Heath)Maxwell, RobertRogers, George (Kensington, N.)
Howie, W.Mayhew, ChristopherRoss, Rt. Hn. William
Hoy, JamesMellish, Rt. Hn. RobertRowlands, E. (Cardiff, N.)
Huckfield, LeslieMendelson, J. J.Ryan, John
Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)Millan, BruceShaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)
Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)Miller, Dr. M. S.Sheldon, Robert
Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)Milne, Edward (Blyth)Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)
Hughes, Roy (Newport)Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)
Hunter, AdamMolloy, WilliamSilkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)
Hynd, JohnMoonman, EricSilkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)
Irvine, Sir ArthurMorris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)Silverman, Julius (Aston)
Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)Skeffington, Arthur
Jay, Rt. Hn. DouglasMorris, John (Aberavon)Slater, Joseph
Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)Moyle, RolandSmall, William
Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)Mulley, Rt. Hn. FrederickSnow, Julian
Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)Murray, AlbertSpriggs, Leslie
Jones, Dan (Burnley)Neal, HaroldStewart, Rt. Hn. Michael
Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)Newens, StanStrauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.
Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)Norwood, ChristopherSummerskill, Hn. Dr. Shirley
Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)Oakes, GordonSwain, Thomas
Judd, FrankOgden, EricSwingler, Stephen
Kelley, RichardO'Malley, BrianTaverne, Dick
Kenyon, CliffordOram, Albert E.Thomas, George (Cardiff, W.)
Kerr, Russell (Feltham)Orbach, MauriceThomson, Rt. Hn. George
Lawson, GeorgeOrme, StanleyThornton, Ernest
Leadbitter, TedOswald, ThomasTurn, James
Ledger, RonOwen, Will (Morpeth)Tomney, Frank
Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)Padley, WalterUrwin, T. W.
Lee, John (Reading)Page, Derek (King's Lynn)Varley, Eric G.
Lestor, Miss JoanPaget, R. T.Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)
Lever, Harold (Cheetham)Palmer, ArthurWallace, George
Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)Pannell, Rt. Hn. CharlesWatkins, David (Consett)
Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)Park, TrevorWeitzman, David
Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)Parker, John (Dagenham)Wellbeloved, James
Lipton, MarcusParkyn, Brian (Bedford)Wells, William (Walsall, N.)
Lomas, KennethPavitt, LaurenceWhitaker, Ben
Loughlin, CharlesPearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)White, Mrs. Eirene
Luard, EvanPeart, Rt. Hn. FredWhitlock, William
Lyon, Alexander W. (York)Pentland, NormanWilkins, W. A.
Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick
McBride, NeilPerry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)
MacColl, JamesPrentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)
MacDermot, NiallPrice, Christopher (Perry Barr)Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)
Macdonald, A. H.Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)
McGuire, MichaelPrice, William (Rugby)Williams, W. T. (Warrington)
Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)Probert, ArthurWillis, Rt. Hn. George
Mackintosh, John P.Pursey, Cmdr. HarryWilson, William (Coventry, S.)
Maclennan, RobertRandall, HarryWinnick, David
McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, c.)Rankin, JohnWoodburn, Rt. Hn. A.
McNamara, J. KevinRees, MerlynWoof, Robert
MacPherson, MalcolmReynolds, G. W.Wyatt, Woodrow
Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)Rhodes, GeoffreyYates, Victor
Mahon, Simon (Bootle)Roberts, Goronwy (Caernarvon)
Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)TELLERS FOR THE AYES:
Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)Robertson, John (Paisley)Mr. Harold Walker and
Manuel, ArchieRobinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P 'c' as)Mr. John McCann.
Marks, KennethRobinson, W. O. J. (Walth'stow, E.)
Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. JohnCraddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)
Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)Braine, BernardCrosthwaite-Eyre, Sir Oliver
Astor, JohnBrewis, JohnCrouch, David
Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)Brinton, Sir TattonCrowder, F. P.
Awdry, DanielBromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir WalterCunningham, Sir Knox
Baker, W. H. K.Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)Currie, G. B. H.
Balniel, LordBryan, PaulDalkeith, Earl of
Barber, Rt. Hn. AnthonyBuchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)Dance, James
Batsford, BrianBuck, Antony (Colchester)Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)
Beamish, Col. Sir TuftonBullus, Sir EricDigby, Simon Wingfield
Bell, RonaldBurden, F. A.Dodds-Parker, Douglas
Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)Campbell, GordonDoughty, Charles
Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)Carlisle, MarkDouglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec
Berry, Hn. AnthonyCary, Sir RobertDrayson, G. B.
Bessell, PeterChannon, H. P. G.du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward
Biffen, JohnChichester-Clark, R.Eden, Sir John
Biggs-Davison, JohnClark, HenryElliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)
Birch, Rt. Hn. NigelCooke, RobertEmery, Peter
Black, Sir CyrilCooper-Key, Sir NeillErrington, Sir Eric
Blaker, PeterCordle, JohnEvans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)
Boardman, TomCorfield, F. V.Ewing, Mrs. Winifred
Body, RichardCostain, A. P.Eyre, Reginald
Farr, JohnKnight, Mrs. JillPrice, David (Eastleigh)
Fisher, NigelLambton, ViscountPrior, J. M. L.
Fletcher-Cooke, CharlesLancaster, Col. C. G.Pym, Francis
Foster, Sir JohnLane, DavidQuennell, Miss J. M.
Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)Langford-Holt, Sir JohnRamsden, Rt. Hn. James
Galbraith, Hon. T. G.Legge-Bourke, Sir HarryRawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter
Giles, Rear-Adm. MorganLewis, Kenneth (Rutland)Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David
Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)Ridley, Hn. Nicholas
Glyn, Sir RichardLongden, GilbertRippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey
Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.Loveys, W. H.Robson Brown, Sir William
Goodhart, PhilipLubbock, EricRodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)
Goodhew, VictorMcAdden, Sir StephenRossi, Hugh (Hornsey)
Gower, RaymondMacArthur, IanRoyle, Anthony
Grant, AnthonyMackenzie, Alasdair (Ross & Crom'ty)Russell, Sir Ronald
Grant-Ferris, R.Maclean, Sir FitzroySt. John-Stevas, Norman
Gresham Cooke, R.Macleod, Rt. Hn. IainSandys, Rt. Hn. D.
Grieve, PercyMcMaster, StanleyScott, Nicholas
Gurden, HaroldMacmillan, Maurice (Farnham)Scott-Hopkins, James
Hall, John (Wycombe)Maddan, MartinSharples, Richard
Hall-Davis, A. G. F.Maginnis, John E.Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)
Marples, Rt. Hn. ErnestSinclair, Sir George
Hamilton, James (Bothwell)Marten, NeilSmith, John
Hamilton, Lord (Fermanagh)Maude, AngusStainton, Keith
Harris, Frederic (Croydon, N.W.)Maudling, Rt. Hn. ReginaldSteel, David (Roxburgh)
Harrison, Brian (Maldon)Mawby, RayStodart, Anthony
Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M. (Ripon)
Harvey, Sir Arthur VereMaydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.Tapsell, Peter
Harvie Anderson, MissMills, Peter (Torrington)Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)
Hastings, StephenMills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)
Hawkins, PaulMiscampbell, NormanTeeling, Sir William
Hay, JohnMitchell, David (Basingstoke)Temple, John M.
Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir LionelMonro, HectorThatcher, Mrs. Margaret
Heath, Rt. Hn. EdwardMontgomery, FergusThorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy
Heseltine, MichaelMorgan, Geraint (Denbigh)Tilney, John
Higgins, Terence L.Morrison, Charles (Devizes)van Straubenzee, W. R.
Hiley, JosephMott-Radclyffe, Sir CharlesVaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John
Hill, J. E. B.Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir HughVickers, Dame Joan
Hirst, GeoffreyMurton, OscarWalker, Peter (Worcester)
Hogg, Rt. Hn. QuintinNabarro, Sir GeraldWalker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek
Holland, PhilipNeave, AireyWall, Patrick
Hordern, peterNicholls, Sir HarmarWard, Dame Irene
Hornby, RichardNoble, Rt. Hn. MichaelWeatherill, Bernard
Howell, David (Guildford)Nott, JohnWebster, David
Hunt, JohnOnslow, CranleyWells, John (Maidstone)
Hutchison, Michael ClarkOrr, Capt. L. P. S.Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William
Iremonger, T. L.Orr-Ewing, Sir IanWills, Sir Gerald (Bridgwater)
Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)Osborn, John (Hallam)Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)
Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)Winstanley, Dr. M. P.
Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)Page, Graham (Crosby)Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick
Jopling, MichaelPage, John (Harrow, W.)Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard
Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir KeithPearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)Woodnutt, Mark
Kaberry, Sir DonaldPeel, JohnWorsley, Marcus
Kerby, Capt. HenryPercival, IanWright, Esmond
Kershaw, AnthonyPeyton, JohnWylie, N. R.
Kimball, MarcusPike, Miss MervynYounger, Hn. George
King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)Pink, R. Bonner
Kirk, PeterPounder, RaftonTELLERS FOR THE NOES:
Kitson, TimothyPowell, Rt. Hn. J. EnochMr. R. Elliott and Mr. Jasper More.

Resolved,That this House taking note of the Report on the origin of the foot-and-mouth disease epidemic of 1967–68, approves the action taken by Her Majesty's Government to improve the safeguards against the introduction of foot-and-mouth disease into this country.