To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to agree to a meeting to discuss the case of Mr. Johnston, a constituent of the hon. Member for Banff and Buchan, and the slaughter of his duck flock under Ministry regulations.
I have explained the Ministry's position to the hon. Member in two detailed letters and there would be nothing that I could add at a meeting.
The Minister knows the background to this case. My constituent, Mr. Johnston, lost everything due to a salmonella outbreak on his duck farm. There are legitimate questions that he wishes to pursue about whether the Ministry's policies have been consistent in respect of, first, the Grampian outbreak and, secondly, the outbreak of salmonella at the Kent supplier to the Grampian duck farm. Why has it taken the Ministry seven weeks to reply to my letter asking for a meeting, merely to say no? Is the Minister aware that the replies so far do not satisfy the legitimate questions asked by myself, by my constituent and by the medical officers in Grampian region? Does he acknowledge the right of hon. Members to seek meetings to defend the interests of their constituents? If not, why not?
I often meet hon. Members where there are appropriate issues to discuss. As has already been explained to the hon. Gentleman, the policy has been applied evenly and consistently in this case and his constituent has now gone to arbitration. However, in view of the hon. Gentleman's outrageous comments on the radio this week, I shall be delighted to give a full public account of our policy and the conditions on Sharnidubs farm and I shall put them on the record in the House if the hon. Gentleman applies for a debate.
As I had already called the hon. Member for Tayside, North (Mr. Walker), he had better ask his supplementary question. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] I had already called him and he had started his supplementary.
The hon. Member for Banff and Buchan (Mr. Salmond) seems to be implying that there is an English duck conspiracy against Scottish ducks. The state veterinary service operates over the whole country and applies even and consistent standards. Many of the excellent Scottish food producers whom I meet are proud that in the United Kingdom standards are among the finest in Europe and they want to keep them that way.