Oral Answers to Questions — Prime Minister – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 9th February 1989.
This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today.
Has my right hon. Friend seen the report published yesterday by the Select Committee on Welsh Affairs on inward investment which shows that Wales, with 5 per cent. of the population, attracted nearly 20 per cent. of all inward foreign investment to the United Kingdom in 1987? Does she think that Wales would have succeeded in attracting such investment had power been devolved to two or three regional assemblies, as suggested in the latest U-turn by the Leader of the Opposition?
The direct and immediate answer to my hon. Friend's question must be no. I agree that Wales has a remarkable record in attracting inward investment, which has been very good for Wales and for jobs. It shows that people have confidence in this Government when they invest in the United Kingdom. That confidence comes from the Government's policy.
When will the Prime Minister clear up the salmonella shambles in her Government?
My right hon. Friends seek the advice of their professional advisers on the facts on research. When they receive advice, it is given out freely. As the right hon. Gentleman knows, further advice was given out last week on other matters such as unpasteurised milk. There will also be further advice later today on mineral hydrocarbons. When we get advice from the Food Advisory Committee on the recommendations for research, we take it. That is the right way to proceed.
On advice, does the Prime Minister recall that hack in 1980 her Government rejected the proposals of the Labour Government that licences should be limited only to those processing plants that had the means of killing salmonella? That was nine years ago when salmonella poisoning was one seventh of what it is now. When will the Prime Minister do her duty by the consumer?
The salmonella enteritidis is a new strain, as I believe the right hon. Gentleman knows. We are trying to find out all the latest facts. During the past 10 years there have been enormous changes in food technology. All these, plus the habits and customs of people and the way they cook, must be taken into account. We shall shortly be issuing a leaflet based on the best advice that we can gather about food hygiene from professional advisers. We shall make it available to housewives, schools, and shops and offices generally.
Does the Prime Minister think that the defeat of the new strain is helped or hindered by closing the
only research facility into it? Does she recall that when the proposals were rejected at the beginning of the decade it was because, as the Government said:
In the present economic climate the industry should itself determine how best to produce"?
Nine years have elapsed. Salmonella is officially described as an epidemic. We are told that the economy is transformed. When will the Government do their duty by the consumer?
The more questions that the right hon. Gentleman asks, the more I am convinced that he knows less and less about the matter. That research establishment had completed its particular line of research. He knows full well that when we are dealing with these problems, the best course of action is to seek professional advice on further research. As he is well aware, the code of practice announced by the Ministry of Agriculture has been in preparation since last August, which is why the Ministry was absolutely ready to announce it following the Chief Medical Officer's advice on salmonella.
Is my right hon. Friend aware of the importance of national reconciliation through a pre-independence constitutional conference in Namibia, if civil war and genocide are not to follow elections in that country? Will my right hon. Friend actively pursue this possibility during her forthcoming visit to Africa?
I know that my hon. Friend feels strongly about this and believes there should be a sort of national constitutional convention before elections. As she is aware, Security Council resolution 435 has been agreed by everyone and is now being implemented. The elections would include elections to such a convention, to decide the future constitution and government of Namibia. There is not much chance of changing that proposal now.
Will the Prime Minister tell us whether the Government raised with the Government of the Irish Republic yesterday the case of Father Ryan? Did they discuss whether he would be tried under the extraterritorial legislation? Were they assured that Father Ryan was still within the jurisdiction of the Irish Republic?
The hon. Gentleman must pursue those matters with my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General, who is the proper person to answer such questions.
I refer my hon. Friend to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that bacteria have always been present in food and that proper cooking, storing, chilling and preservation of food are therefore essential? Is it not true that, while the public are aware of the present epidemic of food-related illnesses, the media have been hyping it up far too much?
Of course, bacteria and other organisms have always been present in food. There is a problem now with a number of bacteria, and many new factors are coming to the fore with the introduction of new materials, processes, habits, customs and technology. We have completed the first phase of recommendations on the food hygiene programme, upon which, as I said earlier, we are taking advice. We shall make that advice available to the public at large as soon as we can. We must obtain professional advice and the facts in order to do so.
I refer the hon. Gentleman to the reply that I gave some moments ago.
Does the Prime Minister agree with her right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who has apparently told the Scottish media that he is in favour of retaining the vet school in Glasgow? Will she also tell the House whether she agrees with retaining the vet school in Cambridge?
As the hon. Gentleman is aware, a committee of the University Grants Committee under, I believe Sir Ralph Riley, made the proposal. It is considering provision for veterinary education throughout the United Kingdom. There will be a period of consultation and, at the end of that time, the Universities Funding Council will make its decision. I fully agree with my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland, who is deeply concerned because that school carries out a great deal of valuable research that applies to both animals and human beings and a good deal of which is privately funded. We believe that that should be taken into account in the consultation and the decision.
Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Opposition and the sillier sections of the press are getting the salmonella problem completely out of perspective, while the Government are entirely right—[Interruption.]
Order. The hon. Gentleman has as much right to be heard as every other hon. Member.
The Government are entirely right to treat the problem seriously, because, if the silly campaign about salmonella continues we shall be importing far more foreign foods, over which we have far less control than we have over home-produced foods.
As my hon. Friend is aware, the Chief Medical Officer has given advice which has been widely publicised and should be followed. My hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture has produced codes of conduct, and has taken steps to see that eggs do not get to the market from farms that we know are infected, until they are fully and properly cleared. I believe that although there is a problem, solving it depends on the good common sense of the public, as well as very close monitoring of the flocks of this country.