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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

It is not rubbish, it is true.

The third charge against the Opposition is by far the most serious. I do not see the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms Harman) in her place tonight. After the measured statement by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health, the hon. Lady, in a hysterical and shrill response, said: Does the Secretary of State acknowledge that public confidence on this issue is hanging by a thread?"—[Official Report, 20 March 1996; Vol. 274, c. 376.] She helped to snap it. I invite the House to read her response.

The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Sheerman) spoke a few moments ago and suggested that if there had been an offer of co-operation from the Government, the opposition from the Labour party since March last year would have been more muted. The response of the hon. Member for Peckham was immediate and wrong and she must bear a heavy responsibility for having precipitated the crisis.

The Labour party must also accept responsibility. The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee recommended on 20 March 1996 that meat from cattle over the age of 30 months should be deboned. Within eight days, we had moved, because of the hysterical reaction of the media and the irresponsible statements of some politicians, to implement the most expensive scheme for culling cattle over the age of 30 months. That is what cost £3.3 billion.

My hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. Nicholson) was right when he singled out the Daily Mirror for criticism. On 20 March, it reported: We've already eaten 1,000,000 mad cows". It said that the Government were going to admit that eating mad cows could kill. That is sheer irresponsibility from that Labour newspaper. This is the first debate on BSE when the NFU has not been here to lobby the Government. The Labour party has lost the argument and has taken narrow political advantage of the crisis. It should be ashamed of itself.