Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies

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Mr. David Heath: The Minister is surely not suggesting that feeding fishmeal to mammals is a danger. The problem is cross-contamination. Whether or not the practice was common is irrelevant. The sole consideration is whether cross-contamination likely to occur.

Ms Quin: I accept the point about cross-contamination, but given that the practices that have existed, cross-contamination was more likely to occur. So the two are related. I feel strongly that we must re-evaluate our controls in the light of events—and of scientific findings. That sometimes means that traditional practices must be reconsidered or even banned.

Sir Robert Smith: There is no scientific evidence to suggest that we should ban fishmeal.

Ms Quin: I accept that, but we could once have made a strong defence of animal feed including mammalian meat and bone meal, because no problems had yet been experienced.

The hon. Member for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine also talked about markets collapsing in other counties. It is true that the wider market has collapsed in Germany. As I said earlier, a great deal will depend on how effective the controls are in re-establishing consumer confidence. As well as discussing the matter with the European Council, we are engaged in bilateral discussions with our European partners, and sharing information about our controls. My right hon. Friend the Agriculture Minister has spoken to his German counterpart and I visited Germany three weeks ago, when those issues were very much to the fore. It is important, in trying to avert unjustified market collapses in Europe, that we engaged in bilateral collaboration as well as working through the European Commission and the European Council. I assure the Committee that we attach considerable importance to that.

I have deal with most of the points that have been raised. I shall check the record to see whether I need to respond in writing to other matters raised by members of the Committee. As the Committee is likely to be examining further aspects of this matter, I shall endeavour to ensure that I and the Ministry do whatever is needed to answer the Committee's many questions.

Question put and agreed to.


    That the Committee takes note of European Union Document No. 5196/99, a draft regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council laying down the rules for the prevention and control of certain transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, and a draft directive of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Council Directive 91/68/EEC; and supports the Government's objective of achieving Community-wide measures against transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, especially in the light of recent findings that BSE is more widespread in Europe than had previously been acknowledged.

Committee rose at twenty-five minutes to One o'clock.

The following Members attended the Committee:
Cummings, Mr. John (Chairman)
Dean, Mrs.
Dobbin, Mr.
Foster, Mr. Michael Jabez
Gibson, Dr.
Quinn, Mr.
Smith, Sir Robert
Thompson, Mr.
Vis, Dr.

The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
Drew, Mr. David (Stroud)
Heath, Mr. David (Somerton and Frome)
Jenkins, Mr. Brian (Tamworth)
McNulty, Mr. Tony (Harrow, East)
Moss, Mr. Malcolm (North-East Cambridgshire)
Pope, Mr. Greg (Hyndburn)
Quin, Ms Joyce (Minister of State, Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

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Prepared 14 February 2001