Lamb (Radiation)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 10th July 1986.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden 12:00 am, 10th July 1986

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what checks his Department is currently undertaking into radiation levels in lambmeat; and if he will make a statement.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave earlier to the hon. Members for Ross, Cromarty and Skye (Mr. Kennedy) and for Ogmore (Mr. Powell). I intend to reduce further the size of the designated area in Cumbria as soon as additional sampling results confirm the continued fall in radiocaesium levels.

Photo of Mr Michael Hirst Mr Michael Hirst , Strathkelvin and Bearsden

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the radiation testing and the open approach of his Department are most welcome? Does he regard it as unfortunate that certain sections of the media have indulged in unnecessary scaremongering about lambmeat, to the detriment of farmers and butchers? Is it not true that I received a larger dose of radiation when I had an X-ray on a tooth recently than I would have received if I had eaten lambmeat for each and every meal—at breakfast, lunch and dinner—for a month?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

My hon. Friend has done us all a service in pointing out just how prudent are the safety levels to which we have been working. His conclusions are fully borne out by the fact that this year the price of lamb on the market is higher than in the corresponding week last year. That shows that the housewife also has confidence in the prudent safety levels that the Government have adopted.

Photo of Mr Thomas Torney Mr Thomas Torney , Bradford South

Will the Minister instruct Ministry scientists to research into whether the future offspring of lambs born during the Chernobyl disaster could be infected with caesium? The House should remember that caesium has a 14 year half-life.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

Scientists in my Department are already carrying out extremely extensive testing, and they will certainly consider that point.

Photo of Mr Bill Walker Mr Bill Walker , North Tayside

Does my right hon. Friend agree that an essential factor in obtaining a reasonable price for one's products is confidence? When confidence has been shattered as a result of radiation checks, farmers are concerned that sheep, and sheepmeat from allegedly nuclear-free zones, could affect other areas that are not nuclear-free, where the price of sheepmeat has already been adversely affected.

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

The nonsense surrounding nuclear-free zones has nothing to do with the fact that the British housewife fully understands that sheepmeat is safe to eat, and is very good value.

Photo of Mr Dale Campbell-Savours Mr Dale Campbell-Savours , Workington

Is the Minister aware of the interesting work done by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology? It is now preparing a national survey of all vegetation and grassland in order to establish radiation levels, with particular reference to Cumbria and the Lake District, which have lately been the subject of some fairly vigorous criticism, which has in turn damaged the tourist trade and the farming industry. Without pre-empting the institute's findings, does the Minister agree that they will probably help to secure a better image for the county?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I join the hon. Gentleman in paying tribute to the fine work done by the Institute of Terrestrial Ecology at Grange, in my constituency. It has been very helpful to us in the past few weeks in allowing us to isolate the areas where restrictions should apply. It has a very important future workload, and I hope that the results of those tests will help us, and will facilitate dealing with some of the rather silly criticisms about the safety of the Cumbria area.

Photo of Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas Mr Dafydd Elis Thomas , Meirionnydd Nant Conwy

Even if the Minister was misquoted in the press on the issue of compensation for sheepmeat producers, he could not have been misquoted yesterday morning on Radio Wales, because I heard him myself. Will he now state clearly the Government's policy on compensation? Will he also state clearly that, whatever the detail, the Government intend to pay the costs sustained by sheep producers in my constituency and others as a result of radiation levels?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I do not know whether the hon. Gentleman was in the Chamber earlier—

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

Earlier, I said that the leaders of the NFU recognised that until more data are available it is impossible to look at the question of compensation in detail. But I am glad to repeat what I said on 20 June, as it still stands. We are prepared to discuss cases of compensation for severe loss in particular circumstances to specific farmers." — [Official Report, 20 June 1986; Vol. 99. c. 1321.]

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian

Will the Minister think again about his refusal to review the contingency plans for radiation emergencies in the light of the Chernobyl disaster? Does he not accept that there is evidence that the Ministry was caught napping during the first week in May, and that there were serious shortcomings in the advice made available to both producers and consumers?

Photo of Mr Michael Jopling Mr Michael Jopling , Westmorland and Lonsdale

I strongly resist the suggestion that my Department was caught napping. Nothing of the sort occurred. The monitoring being carried out by my Department has been unsurpassed by any comparable department in the European Community.