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Mr. Speaker : Order. If the Minister will not give way, the hon. Member for Lancaster (Dame E. Kellett-Bowman) and other hon. Members must not persist.

Mr. MacGregor : I have some serious points to respond to about research and development. I hope that, despite the hubbub, I have made clear the position on cheese from unpasteurised milk. We do not propose a general ban, as will be clear from the consultation document.

I have defended the position relating to near market research and development many times in the House. But it is not the case that the industry funding of near market research and development applies to issues of public good and food safety. We shall still be spending more than £200 million a year on research and development. With regard to salmonella, I am currently considering the recommendations of the working party's report and we have increased the amount of research into BST in the past year.

The Leader of the Opposition charged us with the task of anticipating, planning and providing for change. One of the big challenges these days in relation to food safety is the fast-changing food technology, food processing and food innovation. We have been doing that regularly by bringing forward necessary regulations based on scientific advice such as the food hygiene regulations to which my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State referred. Mr. Campbell-Savours rose

Dr. Reid rose

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Mr. MacGregor : Since October 1987 there has been a review of food legislation and when parliamentary time permits we propose to introduce a new Food Bill.

We announced last year that we accepted the expert advice that under prescribed conditions irradiated food is safe and wholesome, but we also stated that we wanted to make sure that we had proper advice on the scope and format of regulatory controls before doing so. We expect a report from officials on that point.

Because of the lack of time I have not been able to cover many issues that have been raised, but I have demonstrated that there has been no cover-up, no conspiracy with the industry and certainly no complacency, but regular and prompt action based on a wide range of scientific advice.

The criticisms levelled against the Government and the British food industry today have been misleading and alarmist. They are also out of date and inaccurate. Labour's feeble claim that the British food industry is no more than a capitalist conspiracy against consumers is even dottier than suggesting that the Leader of the Opposition uses words as sparingly as Clement Attlee. If the Labour party is so concerned about food safety, why did it not initiate a single Opposition day debate on the subject between 1979 and 1989? Was it because Labour Members were satisfied with and supported our policies or was it because they lacked interest in and knowledge of the subject? The answer is yes to both questions. Now, suddenly they try to belittle our policies, which some of them have supported for the past 10 years and others have ignored.

I refer to the exchanges in the House on 5 December 1988 when my right hon. Friend reported on salmonella in eggs and the hon. Member for Livingston (Mr. Cook) responded-- [Interruption.]

Mr. Campbell-Savours : On a point of order, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker : I doubt whether it is a point of order, but I shall hear it.

Mr. Campbell-Savours : At 4.50 pm the Secretary of State gave me a promise that I would receive an assurance from the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food that all protein feedstuff supplies from the producer were free from salmonella. I still have not received such an assurance. What am I to do?

Mr. Speaker : Order. That is patently not a point of order from me. It is a point of argument with the Minister.

Mr. MacGregor : The hon. Gentleman raised that point of order for the simple reason that he is afraid of what I am about to say. In his reply on 5 December, the hon. Member for Livingston did not refer to the food safety aspects of salmonella ; he simply called for the resignation of my hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, South (Mrs. Currie).

The Labour party lacks credibility on food issues and the performance of Labour Members today has shown us why. Their grasp of the subject has been scanty and their knowledge even scantier and that was reflected in the speech by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. By contrast, we have increased the number of food scientists and surveillance of the food chain. We have

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increased expenditure on food safety and we have taken promptly all the necessary action based on the scientific advice.

Another point of interest to the consumer is food prices. I noted that the Labour party is now suggesting a new food agency. I shall talk about that on another occasion. However, when the Labour Government had a Department of Prices and Consumer Protection, there was a massive increase in food prices much larger than has ever occurred under this Government. That is why we say that we are proud of our record. We are proud of the scientists, doctors and veterinary surgeons who monitor the changes with skill and probity. Today was expected to be the Leader of the Opposition's big day. He failed to make his case. I rest mine on our record.

Mr. Derek Foster (Bishop Auckland) rose in his place and claimed to move, That the Question be now put.

Question, That the Question be now put, put and agreed to. Question put accordingly, That the original words stand part of the Question :--

The House divided : Ayes 199, Noes 289.

Division No. 107] [10.00 pm


Abbott, Ms Diane

Adams, Allen (Paisley N)

Alton, David

Anderson, Donald

Armstrong, Hilary

Ashley, Rt Hon Jack

Ashton, Joe

Barnes, Harry (Derbyshire NE)

Barnes, Mrs Rosie (Greenwich)

Barron, Kevin

Battle, John

Beckett, Margaret

Beith, A. J.

Bell, Stuart

Benn, Rt Hon Tony

Bennett, A. F. (D'nt'n & R'dish)

Bermingham, Gerald

Bidwell, Sydney

Blair, Tony

Blunkett, David

Boateng, Paul

Boyes, Roland

Bradley, Keith

Bray, Dr Jeremy

Brown, Gordon (D'mline E)

Brown, Nicholas (Newcastle E)

Brown, Ron (Edinburgh Leith)

Buchan, Norman

Buckley, George J.

Caborn, Richard

Campbell, Menzies (Fife NE)

Campbell, Ron (Blyth Valley)

Campbell-Savours, D. N.

Cartwright, John

Clark, Dr David (S Shields)

Clarke, Tom (Monklands W)

Clay, Bob

Clelland, David

Cohen, Harry

Cook, Frank (Stockton N)

Cook, Robin (Livingston)

Corbett, Robin

Corbyn, Jeremy

Cryer, Bob

Cummings, John

Cunliffe, Lawrence

Cunningham, Dr John

Darling, Alistair

Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)

Davies, Ron (Caerphilly)

Davis, Terry (B'ham Hodge H'l)

Dewar, Donald

Dixon, Don

Dobson, Frank

Doran, Frank

Douglas, Dick

Dunnachie, Jimmy

Dunwoody, Hon Mrs Gwyneth

Eadie, Alexander

Eastham, Ken

Evans, John (St Helens N)

Ewing, Harry (Falkirk E)

Ewing, Mrs Margaret (Moray)

Fatchett, Derek

Fearn, Ronald

Field, Frank (Birkenhead)

Fields, Terry (L'pool B G'n)

Fisher, Mark

Flannery, Martin

Flynn, Paul

Foot, Rt Hon Michael

Foster, Derek

Foulkes, George

Fraser, John

Fyfe, Maria

Galbraith, Sam

Garrett, John (Norwich South)

Godman, Dr Norman A.

Gordon, Mildred

Gould, Bryan

Graham, Thomas

Grant, Bernie (Tottenham)

Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)

Grocott, Bruce

Hardy, Peter

Harman, Ms Harriet

Hattersley, Rt Hon Roy

Haynes, Frank

Heffer, Eric S.

Henderson, Doug

Hinchliffe, David

Hogg, N. (C'nauld & Kilsyth)

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