Ms Quin: I understand that SEAC already publishes its proceedings and much of the information that it receives. Obviously, we take a sympathetic approach to increasing access to information and SEAC has tried to make its background information available during the past two years.
The hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire understandably referred to swill feeding. Current information indicates that if we implement our standards they will be acceptable. The foot and mouth disease outbreak is a concern, so we must examine the evidence gathered by our investigators. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said that we must review the use of swill to examine the lessons we can learn. An investigation is under way because we do not know the reason for the outbreak. The hon. Gentleman rightly said that he did not want to prejudge the investigation and I also believe that that would be unwise.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight mentioned abattoir provision and his point was well made. However, he raised the issue in light of the foot and mouth disease outbreak. Current evidence suggests that although we may deprecate the number of small abattoirs that have closed over the yearsthe hon. Gentleman gave an example covering 15 yearsthe risk of spreading foot and mouth disease has been exacerbated not by abattoirs, but by livestock markets and collection points where animals have mixed before being transported. It would be sensible not only to consider the provision of abattoirs, but to examine the livestock market system and the collection of animals before they are moved over long distances.
Dr. Brand: That does not match current experience. A choice between two abattoirs that are 50 or 100 miles away makes it impossible to maintain local markets, but local abattoirs allow the retention of local markets. Marketing arrangements are currently set up to suit abattoirs and supermarkets. I should like to return to local consumption of locally produced food.
Ms Quin: I understand that we should consider linkages between issues. However, some peopleI am not including the hon. Gentleman in thishave said that the foot and mouth disease outbreak is linked to the closure of abattoirs, but current evidence suggests that that is not the case.
When I discussed the issue informally with the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire, we agreed that because of the specialised nature of some abattoirs long-distance travel arrangements have existed for many yearsin some cases more than 30 yearsto move pigs and especially sows. We must consider all aspects of the situation to learn lessons and to consider the best way forward.
The hon. Member for Isle of Wight referred to the important role of grazing in the countryside, and some of the benefits of our forms of agriculture. I agree with the general points that he made so strongly. I also agree with the point made by the hon. Member for Ludlow. We must look at the matter coolly, on the basis of the best available information. The issues can attract an emotional response. There can even be what is called a yuk factor, with people saying, ``Oh, that doesn't sound very nice.'' However, one has to look at the reality in deciding whether a practice is acceptable, especially on health and safety grounds. I assure the Committee that that will motivate the Government's approach to the issue.
Question put and agreed to.
Roe, Mrs. Marion (Chairman)
Foster, Mr. Michael Jabez
Smith, Sir Robert
The following also attended, pursuant to Standing Order No. 119(5):
Brand, Dr. Peter (Isle of Wight)
Jenkins, Mr. Brian (Tamworth)
McNulty, Mr. Tony (Harrow, East)
Paice, Mr. James (South-East Cambridgeshire)
Quin, Ms Joyce (Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)
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