Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.

Donate to our crowdfunder

Orders of the Day — BSE Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 17th February 1997.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gavin Strang Gavin Strang , Edinburgh East 3:31 pm, 17th February 1997

Yes, indeed. I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for that intervention, because he made an important point that I did not make. The strength of the Northern Ireland case lies not only in the fact that the beef industry is so important there; the strongest argument is that the traceability scheme is in place, with all the information on computer, so all the cattle can be identified.

I went to Northern Ireland many months ago and met the farmers there; I did not realise until I went that all their animals are flagged, so they know exactly where they stand. I do not want to make a meal of this, but in 1990 the Labour party, the official Opposition, urged the Government to implement just such a scheme throughout the United Kingdom. It is all there on the record in Hansard. How much stronger our position would have been had we had that computerised system up and running today.

Only last month, the Minister did another U-turn. After years of insisting that the present arrangements with regard to food safety were adequate and should not be changed, he announced the appointment of a full-time independent food safety adviser and the setting up of a part-time food council, if the Conservatives were to win the general election. He stressed then that the consumer no longer trusted Ministers when they said that our food was safe.

The Minister has lost the confidence of the beef industry. By compounding the crisis, he has caused thousands of additional jobs to be lost. He has lost the confidence of the farmers, and that is why they passed a vote of no confidence in him. He has lost the confidence of our consumers, as he has freely admitted. His beef fiasco is costing the country more than £3.3 billion: more than £130 for every taxpayer. Surely he has lost the confidence of the House. I urge hon. Members to vote for our motion.