Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 6th March 1997.

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Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford 12:00 am, 6th March 1997

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the trend of reported BSE cases in the last three years.[17558]

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The number of suspects being reported reached a peak of more than 1,000 cases a week in 1993, fell to about 800 in 1994 and is now about 120 a week and still falling.

Photo of Mr Colin Shepherd Mr Colin Shepherd , Hereford

I thank my hon. Friend for that very encouraging report to the House. Is it not precisely because of the robust and tough action taken by the Government that outbreaks of BSE in this country, measured in terms of the number of reported cases, are decreasing—not increasing, as they are in the remainder of the European Union? While my hon. Friend is considering that, will she reflect on the fact that throughout the entire BSE crisis the Labour party has not made a single constructive proposal?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. It is clear from the way in which the figures are coming down—a 40 per cent. reduction year on year—that the Government's policy of dealing with contaminated feed and dealing with this disease has been absolutely right. Of course there is more to be done, but there are encouraging signs that the disease is now on the wane.

Photo of Mr David Jamieson Mr David Jamieson , Plymouth, Devonport

Can the Minister explain to the House why the Secretary of State for Defence stated in a written answer to me recently that Her Majesty's armed forces eat mainly foreign beef and not British beef?

Photo of Angela Browning Angela Browning Parliamentary Secretary (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

The armed forces do eat a good proportion of British beef. However, my hon. Friend the Minister of State for the Armed Forces has given me a great deal of information to enable me to take out to the British suppliers the figures on which the armed forces buy their beef to discover whether those figures can be matched competitively, and I regret to say that they cannot. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman says, "Ah!" so presumably competitive tendering is not part of the Labour party's policy any more: old Labour, new Labour—they still believe in centralisation.