Orders of the Day — BSE Crisis

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:36 pm on 17th February 1997.

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Photo of Mr Roger Freeman Mr Roger Freeman , Kettering 9:36 pm, 17th February 1997

I confirm to the hon. Lady and to the House that, for the over-30-months scheme, there will be no landfill of carcases or rendered material. All material is to be rendered and incinerated. If the hon. Lady has any evidence, I should be delighted to receive it. I have stated the Government's policy clearly.

The hon. Member for North Cornwall (Mr. Tyler) sought to exaggerate greatly the impact of the selective cull on the dairy herd. He said that he expected between a third and a half of the dairy herd to be affected by the selective cull. That is a gross exaggeration that he has repeated on a number of occasions. I am pleased to confirm to the House that what he has said is not the case. The total number of animals to be culled under the scheme will be, at most, 128,000. We expect the figure to be much lower. The total number of animals in the UK dairy herd is about 2.5 million, so the proportion to be culled is, at most, 5 per cent. I agree with hon. Members on both sides of the House who said that they expect the selective cull to be handled in a sympathetic, sensitive fashion. Indeed it will. It will take up to six months to slaughter all the additional cattle involved.

My right hon. Friends the Members for Witney and for Wells (Mr. Heathcoat-Amory) accurately summed up the purpose of the debate. They both said that the Labour party was turning an agricultural crisis into narrow party advantage. On 26 May 1996, the News of the World said—[Interruption.] I would be grateful if the Labour Front Bench team would listen. The paper said: Whatever criticisms we have of the Government's performance so far, this is now a national crisis and Labour's response will be governed by the need to promote the national interest. Labour Members have deserted the national interest in their behaviour—not only tonight, but consistently.

I lay three specific charges against the Labour party concerning what has been said during the past few months, and repeated again tonight. The first charge, repeated by the hon. Members for Edinburgh, East and for Glanford and Scunthorpe (Mr. Morley), is that the regulations that the Labour party would have laid in the late 1970s—and if they had become effective—would have stopped BSE. That is the argument and it is wholly without foundation.