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Column 75invoked last year. Target price has been reduced by 1 per cent. The co-responsibility levy has remained the same and the monthly increases have been reduced by 25 per cent.
These facts show that, without any doubt, pressure on farm incomes will continue and we are facing a serious problem. The full seriousness of the situation will reach different sectors at different times. For many farmers, alarmingly, the writing is on the wall. We urge them to become rural entrepreneurs, and circumstances force them to do so. We also expect them to be the custodians of the environment. Increasingly, we also expect them to contribute to the financing of research. The farmer has an excellent record as a custodian of the environment and has often responded to the needs of research. The worry is that, unless the increasing pressure on farming incomes is put into reverse, the farmer will be unable to perform the tasks that the Government expect of him.
Mr. D. N. Campbell-Savours (Workington) : I wish to support what the hon. Member for Basingstoke (Mr. Hunter) said, particularly about the role of the farmer as custodian of the environment. Certainly, in the Lake District, which forms a great part of my constituency, the hill farmer plays a very important part in that task.
I join the hon. Member for Tiverton (Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop) in his condemnation of Ministers' failure to make a statement on bovine spongiform encephalopathy, a point mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark). Many hon. Members would have liked to question the Minister on whatever proposals he might have, if only because they are under pressure from their own constituents. The county of Cumbria has experienced severe difficulties in the disposal of carcasses and confusion has been sown in the minds of councillors which, I understand, is entirely due to the conflicting information given by departmental officials. Councillors pressed me on such matters and hoped that, at some stage, Ministers would make a statement--not merely give a written answer--to Parliament, which would give us the opportunity to debate these matters at greater length. I wish to refer more specifically to hill farm incomes and the problems of hill farmers in various parts of the country, particularly in the Lake District.
Since my earliest years, I have been a passionate supporter of the European Community ; I campaigned for entry to it as a teenager, and in the 1970s when it was an important political issue. I believed then that, although my party suggested that the EC might hold back the social reforms that Labour advocated in the 1970s, the EC would inevitably lead the way with such reforms. The Labour party is now relatively pro-European, and that derives from the fact that the Community is at the forefront of social change. The Government, by contrast, take a reactionary position on these matters, as is evident from their attitude to farming.
A proposal was put to the Council of Ministers on direct support for hill farmers. It would have changed the incomes of hill farmers in my constituency, and I cannot understand why the Government rejected it. The EC is taking the initiative in these matters, and I hope the
Column 76Minister will tell us why the Government rejected this positive initiative, which would have helped many people in Wales, Scotland, Yorkshire and the south-west.
Fraud has already been mentioned. I intervened during the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields when he was discussing an article that he had found in the French newspaper Libe ration which dealt specifically with remarks made by the Prime Minister at a summit, when she estimated fraud in the Community at 63 billion francs, which is 20 per cent. of the budget of the European Community. She referred to 93 cases of fraud in the United Kingdom in 1987, a figure somewhat at variance, by extrapolation, with information given to members of the Public Accounts Committee for its 30th report of the Session 1987-88 on external trade measures for agricultural products. At that time, we were provided with details of the outcome of action taken by the Department
"on the 130 irregularities reported by the United Kingdom in the period 1980 to 85".
That was an average of about 26 cases a year, which does not seem to square with the Prime Minister's figures for 1987.
During my earlier intervention, I commented on the incidence of prosecutions. According to our report,
"Fifteen cases resulted in prosecutions with fines totalling £161, 120 being imposed in 14 cases and one resulting in a 3 year prison sentence. 20 other cases were settled by compounding".
Compounding is an interesting term, which means no more than doing a deal with the Revenue. It means that a person commits fraud and, in general, if the fraud does not exceed £70,000, he does a deal with the authorities, who let him off with a slapped wrist, telling him not to do it again. The person also pays back the money. That is not the sort of approach that will help to solve the problem. Compounding is not the answer to fraud--prosecution is. In the cases I have referred to, compounding drew only £85,155 from the people who were responsible.
"Goods were seized in 13 cases and restored on payment of an appropriate sum. Full recovery was obtained in 33 of the remaining 73 cases and is being pursued or has been partially successful in another 33 cases. In seven cases proceedings had been discontinued." Paragraph 30 of the report continues :
"Looking at the extent of the improper use of EC funds, we found it impossible to believe that the figures of irregularities reported by member states to the Commission should be regarded as realistic. We consider that either the basis of reporting is incorrect or there is under-reporting ; in any event, there is clearly no common system of reporting."
The Committee went on to recommend that MAFF press
"vigorously for the introduction of a reliable and uniform basis for reporting CAP irregularities so that member states can assess the extent that CAP funds are misused."
We continued :
"We agree with the C & A G's conclusion that, despite promptings from the EC-appointed Cheysson Committee, and the various reports of the ECA and the European Parliament, only very limited reforms to reduce the complexity of the CAP have taken place. We are disturbed to find that so few changes to improve and simplify regluations and reduce irregularity have occurred since the Committee examined CAP frauds, irregularities and exploitation in
Column 77Session 1977-88. We are particularly concerned that the United Kingdom as a net contributor to the EC is meeting the cost of error and fraud in other member states."
A couple of years after I was elected to the House, my hon. Friend the Member for Blackburn (Mr. Straw) made a speech from the Dispatch Box late one night in a debate on fraud in the EC based on the report of the European Court of Auditors. This must have been in about 1981. I remember that what was said then was little different from the problems that have been identified today--one wonders what has happened in the past eight years. Have the Government turned a blind eye?
As the Prime Minister increasingly recognises that she cannot extract from her European partners the money that is necessary to fund the reductions that she wants in our contribution, has she instead turned to hyping up fraud by exaggerating and drawing the Community's attention to it? Action, not shouting, is needed. What action is being taken? If the Italians, the French, the Brits and the Belgians are breaching the rules, what is being done to stop them? Is a framework powerful enough to bring fraud rapidly to an end being put in place? It seems to me that little apart from shouting has happened in the past few years.
I want to draw to the attention of the House the problems of security of tenure that face hill farmers in various parts of the United Kingdom, with particular reference to sheep farmers. I had hoped that the European Community would have introduced a directive to give them greater protection in areas in which domestic legislation has failed. Certainly, every effort should be made to implement the directive on direct payments to hill farmers that I have already mentioned. A particular farm in my constituency sets a precedent and should be the subject of discussion in the Community. It may be only a small farm, but in many ways it shows how we are slipping back towards feudal values.
Mr. J. A. Gaskell, a farmer in my constituency, is famous in the north for what has happened to him in the past few weeks. He lives and works in Thirlspot farm in Thirlmere near Keswick in the heart of my constituency. This gentleman has a farm with outbuildings. Next door is the King's Head hotel. My constituent, Mr. Gaskell, is a tenant of the water authority. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey) may have heard of this case. The owners of the hotel are Mr. Eugene Morgan and Mr. E. W. Hayles, one of Dobson road, Bolton, Lancashire, and the other of 142 Hulme Hall road, Cheadle Hulme, Cheshire. They have taken it upon themselves to make a planning application, not for property or premises that they own on the King's Head site, but for Mr. Gaskell's farm buildings which have been rented from the water board for the past 40 years. His father was the first tenant, and his son will be the tenant in the future--or would have been were it not for this appalling affair. At the end of the day, we do not know what will happen.
As the law stands, the owners of the hotel are entitled to make that planning application and in the event that they secure planning permission from the Lake District planning board and the appropriate district authorities, the water authority will be required under section 31 of the Agriculture Act 1948, as modified by the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986, to serve a notice to quit on my constituent, taking away his buildings and causing him to lose his livelihood. Those farm buildings are vital to the
Column 78development of his business. If the planning permission is successful, that man will be put out of business by the callous actions of the two hotel owners. That is appalling.
It may be of interest to the House to hear what is happening in that case. I would expect matters to be very different should the EC take initiatives in this area. The farm buildings which are the subject of the planning application are essential to the viability of the farm. They are used for the storage of winter fodder, for livestock, the housing of cows, the fattening of wedder lambs and the storage of machinery and implements. Mr. Gaskell's sheep-selecting and dipping pens are situated on Thirlspot farm. The farm includes 100 acres of inside land, of which 59 acres are rough grazing, and the fell sheep run on the land up to Helvellyn. My constituent's father first became a tenant of the North West water authority in March 1949. The farm comprises 600 ewes and shearling ewes, and 170 ewe hogs, including 140 of The landlord's--the water
authority's--stock. More than half the flock are pure herdwicks and the rest are herdwicks cross Swaledales. Of the 350 lambs born each year, the gimmer lambs are all kept to replace the draught ewes and about 170 wedder lambs are kept and fattened in one of the farm buildings.
Mr. Gaskell also keeps 20 suckler cows, and their calves are sold as stores at approximately 12 to 18 months of age. Over the years, Mr. Gaskell had followed Government and European guidelines and diversified with his caravan, camp site and farmhouse
bed-and-breakfast enterprises, which supplement his income from the farm. He has to do that while the Government persist in blocking in the Community direct support initiatives for hill farmers. One of the buildings has been converted to a toilet and shower block for the camping and caravan business. Mr. Gaskell has established use rights for six permanent static caravans, limited camping places and three caravans for 28 days annually. If the proposed scheme were to proceed, it would not only remove the farm buildings and toilet block, but would deny Mr. Gaskell access through the farmyard to his caravans and camp site.
This is a very important matter. We have law on the statute book which enables a large enterprise, in the form of a hotelier, who has nothing to do with the Lake District and who lives in Bolton, but who happens to have bought a hotel in the Lake District, to come in and close down a farmer who has been in operation for the past 40 years. In effect, it would wipe him out.
Had it not been for the fact that two or three weeks ago I attended one of my bi-annual meetings with the NFU in my constituency, no one would have known of this case. The matter came up during discussion of the European initiatives and the package that the Government have recently announced to the House. The person to whom I was talking became quite agitated and told me the story. A feudal system operates in Cumbria and throughout the United Kingdom which can allow an enterprise to wipe out the income of a farmer who makes a contribution not only in working the land but in the maintenance and upkeep of environmentally important areas. Thirlmere is one of the most beautiful parts of western Europe.
Dr. David Clark : I am shocked by what my hon. Friend has said. Hon. Members on both sides of the House must be concerned that those two people, who have no ownership rights, can force that farmer out of business. Does my hon. Friend know whether the Government approve of that project under the alternative land use in
Column 79rural areas package that was announced about 18 months ago? It would seem to fit with the Conservative philosophy that the free market should determine what use is made of agricultural land.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I remember when that statement was made in the House. Unfortunately, I was unable to catch Mr. Speaker's eye on that occasion--although I have been fortunate many other times, so I do not complain. When that announcement was made, there were many worried people, not only in the national park where I live and part of which I represent, but in every national park in the United Kingdom. Farmers were most concerned that they might be manipulated by outside interests. Every initiative taken by the Government in this area during the past few years only serves to confirm their intention as set out by my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields. I never interfere in planning matters. In the eight years that I have been Member of Parliament for Workington, when approached about planning permission and planning applications I have always refused to interfere, on the basis that they are matters for local authorities to determine. Parliament has clearly laid down for local authorities a responsibility that Members of Parliament should not usurp.
I intend to break with tradition tonight. I appeal to every authority in the county of Cumbria that is involved in this affair to stop what is happening, not for planning reasons but for moral reasons. If we cannot get an initiative from the Government, and if the European Community is unable to draw up a directive or rules to resolve such difficulties, it is left to people like me to appeal to the authorities concerned to make sure that such applications are rejected because they are not in the public interest. We certainly have not met the objectives set by the Labour party for the protection of the countryside and national parks. If I am to believe the rhetoric of the Government, and certainly the rhetoric of the Prime Minister in her most recent "Green Goddess" position, she should be on our side.
I await the formal response of Ministers to my statement tonight. The Minister might like to write to me on this matter, and he might also like to make representations to the water authority about it not exercising the right that it has under the Agricultural Holdings Act 1986.
Mr. Ryder : I should very much like to take the hon. Gentleman up on his offer. I shall certainly look into the case that he has outlined in considerable detail. Any further information that he could provide would be greatly welcomed. Of course, I shall write to him as soon as possible and, if need be, we could set up a meeting between ourselves.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : I appreciate the Minister's positive response. I can assure him that tomorrow the media in the north of England will give extensive coverage to what he has said in so far as this matter has become a cause celebre in the border area of the United Kingdom.
I want now to move on to another area of concern to me--the whole question of the linkage between food production and food preparation, which must, to some extent, affect the judgments and views of hon. Members
Column 80and, certainly, of the general public. The crisis is not only in food production. The hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor referred repeatedly to the crisis in food production and the problems of hill farmers. There is a major problem developing for the whole of agriculture public relations in this country. It derives from the recent adverse publicity in the area of food preparation. Unless rapid action is taken, this country could witness the total collapse of confidence in agriculture and in food production, with its consequences for farmers.
That is why it was so important for the Minister to make a statement today on BSE. The accusation that my hon. Friend the Member for South Shields has made repeatedly at the Dispatch Box is that the Government could have made a much clearer statement last July about salmonella. If they had been far more forthcoming in June or July, and if there had been full parliamentary accountability in debate, action then could have avoided much of the public reaction that has taken place over the last few months. But the Government failed to be open and to allow questioning in Parliament. We see that again today.
The hon. Member for Tiverton expressed concern about the fact that we are not allowed to ask questions in Parliament on these matters and to get full responses here. Questions are limited when we have to submit them in written form to the Table Office. Questions on the Floor of the House are not limited in that sense. We needed those replies, if only to avoid the same kind of agricultural scandal--if I may use that term--later this year, when perhaps more information on BSE may surface.
The other day a very important report was produced by the boroughs of Hillingdon, Hounslow and Spelthorne. For some reason that I do not understand, it managed to attract the attention only of a journalist on The Guardian, who managed to write a few column inches on it. Yet the findings in that report were of major national consequence and should have been across the front page of every newspaper in Britain. I want to draw attention to that report because it shows how, if things are hidden under the carpet, and if suddenly, an allegation comes out at some stage in the future, public hysteria can be whipped up, whereas if debate had taken place in Parliament, this might well have been avoided.
The Hillingdon, Hounslow and the Spelthorne borough councils surveyed the microbiological quality of airline meals. When someone flies British Airways, wherever in the world he may be, he presumes--at least, I presume that he presumes--that the food comes from Britain. If he were to see this report he would find some very frightening information. It says :
"The tightening-up of the standards for producing pre-cooked, chilled airline meals is recommended in a report issued by the three environmental health authorities covering Heathrow airport. Environmental health officers say that in future airline caterers, enforcing authorities and other organisations directly associated with the aviation catering industry should adopt a common standard for producing such meals--the guidelines on pre-cooked chilled food laid down by the Department of Health in 1980. The Institution of Environmental Health Officers supports the argument for legislation to achieve this."
I ask hon. Members to follow very closely what I am saying ; they may well have listened to the media, but they should hear it in Parliament.
Column 81"The move comes after the results of a two- year survey by the councils and the public health laboratory service into the microbiological quality of airline meals produced by 10 catering companies serving London Heathrow."
The names of those 10 companies are not revealed.
"Of 1,013 samples examined, 24 per cent. contained levels of bacteria considered excessive for this type of catering, while salmonella was found in 0.4 per cent. of the samples. The samples ranged from 349 starter dishes, such as canapes and prawn cocktails, which are served without reheating, 375 main courses, mainly served hot, 235 cold desserts, 53 snack dishes, and two sauces. Those most frequently containing high levels of bacteria were starters, containing 38 per cent., salami 40 per cent., poultry 30 per cent., and additional snacks 44 per cent.
One in 240 starter and main course meals contains salmonella contamination. If that is extrapolated to 55 million meals produced by the 2,200 catering workers in that area, the 55 million meals identified in this report, it means--and I checked the figures today with the borough of Hillingdon--that as many as 110,000 airline meals may have been contaminated by salmonella enteritides.
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. What the hon. Gentleman is saying is very interesting indeed, but I think that it is more appropriate to the debate we had last week. Perhaps I could refer him to the scope of this debate and to the documents that are relevant to it.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : As you know, Madam Deputy Speaker, in these matters I always defer to the Chair. However, I should like to point out how what I am saying is in order. We are debating extensification of agriculture. Extensification is the reverse of intensification. It moves us away from the food manufacturing process, which is very much at the heart of, and indeed is responsible for, the development of these diseases and conditions in animal carcases.
"proposed revised voluntary restraint agreement with New Zealand and the implications for other such exporters of the future Community trading in agricultural products with third countries."
It relates also to the documents that are listed in the Order Paper. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will now refer to those.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : You helped me, Madam Deputy Speaker, when you referred to trade with third countries. As you will know, we supply to other countries the food that is manufactured by the 2,200 people who work for those 11 catering companies at Hounslow.
Madam Deputy Speaker : Order. I have no intention of getting into a debate with an hon. Gentleman. His argument is very convoluted, and I insist that he now refer to the documents. There are other hon. Ladies and Gentleman who wish to speak in the debate.
Mr. Campbell-Savours : In the light of your intervention, Madame Deputy Speaker, perhaps I can curtail my remarks. The figures produced by those boroughs are frightening and Parliament should note them. If the other two strains of salmonella are added to the 110,000 cases of salmonella enteritidis extrapolated from those figures, the total comes to nearly 200,000 salmonella cases.
Hon. Members may wish to speak, and I intend to conclude. Never before have I managed to catch your eye, Madame Deputy Speaker, or that of any occupant of the Chair during an agriculture debate while I have been in Parliament. I hope that in future I will be called, although on this occasion I veered slightly out of order.
Mr. Robert Boscawen (Somerton and Frome) : Our primary producers have come to expect little real joy from the annual negotiation quadrille in Brussels in recent years. This year they are worried that their position could worsen. The uncertainty surrounding the short and medium-term future of our producers is haunting them. Their stalwart and phlegmatic character is being tested to the full by the uncertainties in which they find themselves. Their achievements have been tremendous and they have helped British consumers and our exports considerably. My right hon. Friend the Minister has spelt out that there can be no turning back towards the Community's proposals and we fully understand that. I welcome a few of the proposals--sadly, not many, but I will begin by welcoming the few.
I am pleased by the move to end the green pound differential and the fact that it is to be phased out over the next two years--and the sooner the better. Our farmers must be able to compete on equal terms with other competitors. I am pleased that my right hon. Friend is making a great attempt to end the fraud in certain parts of the Community. What worries our producers more than fraud is that some of our Community partners connive to ensure that Community regulations are ignored in a way that is to their advantage and seldom to ours. Perhaps our Ministers should look carefully at last year's example concerning the Dutch Government and our pig producers in case it occurs again.
I am worried, as are many hon. Members, about drastic changes in the variable sheep regime. I urge my right hon. Friend to move slowly and cautiously with any changes that it is intended to bring about. The sheep regime is becoming increasingly expensive and more of our producers-- perhaps too many--are going into sheep farming in areas which have not had sheep before. That affects an important part of our countryside and, at least in the short term, there must not be drastic changes in the regime.
Our farmers have genuine problems with their income and they realise that European Community support will not bring a great improvement--certainly not if it is support for an increase in surplus production which is ultimately paid for by our taxpayers and consumers. That message has come strongly from our Front Bench today and strongly from the Commission in the past year or so.
Our producers cannot increase their income by cutting their costs still further or by increasing their production. They will not get other than short-term bonuses from such artificial measures as selling dairy quotas or taking advantage of planning consent and the housing boom in
Column 83the countryside. They will not get a great deal of change from their non-farming sources of income. Some have had to have other sources of income for many years, particularly west country small farmers, but that does not necessarily increase the prosperity of the countryside, although it may help prosperity in other areas. Although extensification and diversification have their part to play in improving the prosperity of the countryside, as my right hon. Friend the Minister said, they have only a part to play. The set-aside scheme, environmentally sensitive areas, woodland grants, and so on, all help to some extent, but they will not reverse the position overnight. Above all, the primary producer wants to stick to his last--his basic business is food production and it is from that that the prosperity of the countryside for years to come must derive.
As my right hon. Friend the Minister said at the Oxford conference, the best rewards and the premium prices will go to those who look to their markets and tailor their production accordingly. That is true for some of the industry. It must watch the markets and go for good prices for high quality, specialised goods. But the whole industry must turn its attention much more to how it can maximise the return from the market. I welcome the new thinking, for example of the Milk Marketing Board, in terms of whether higher prices can be attained for produce without necessarily increasing the price to the housewife. The producer's share of the return in the complete food chain could and should be improved. It is far too low a proportion at present. Consumers, too, do not want to see a green, neglected, impoverished countryside. If they squeeze producers too hard by always demanding cheaper cuts and bottom quality food, they will get an impoverished countryside.
The EEC price proposals point the way in which the industry is going. It is a landmark and a warning. Over the years, farmers have shown themselves to be adaptable. Many of the younger farmers, who are now investing in new developments and producing new, high-quality produce, are showing the way. Many more farmers must do the same if they are to survive.
My right hon. Friend's Ministry has, of course, a most important part to play. First, as we fully understand, the quality of food and food hygiene are of the utmost importance to the future of our primary producers. Ministers are giving this matter the maximum prominence, and no doubt will continue to do so.
Secondly, there is the question of the near-market research changes. I ask my right hon. Friend the Minister to ensure that he does not push too far too fast along that road. The Minister should not drop out of the picture until he is sure that the industry and the marketing side are prepared to pick up the ball and run with it. I am concerned to see that it is proposed --not by my right hon. Friend's Department, because the responsibility does not lie there--to close two of our veterinary colleges. I hope that my right hon. Friend will use as much influence as he can to save those two colleges. We need as many veterinary surgeons as we can train. We are only too well aware of that in the present difficult situation in food hygiene.
This is a difficult time for the primary producers whom I represent. They look to us in this House to do what we
Column 84can to ensure that we retain a prosperous countryside. We must do that, and I know that my right hon. Friend the Minister, too, will do all that he can to ensure that it is done.
Mrs. Ann Clwyd (Cynon Valley) : This is an interesting debate. It is the second occasion that I have participated in an agricultural debate in this Parliament. I was previously a member of the European Parliament for quite a large farming constituency, but I am sorry to say that I have only one farm in my constituency at present. I would like to refer to EEC document 8502/88 on the management and control of public storage of agricultural products. This is an important document to consider, especially in view of the many comments made by hon. Members on both sides of the House about the importance of food hygiene and storage. I am reminded that the World Health Organisation said recently that the primary means of transmission of food poisoning to humans is through foodstuffs contaminated during storage, production and processing. Therefore, the management and control of public storage of agricultural products is pertinent in that respect.
My hon. Friend for Workington (Mr. Campbell-Savours) referred to an interesting report that was highlighted in The Guardian at the weekend. It appears to have had very little coverage in the national press, but it is especially important to the safety of hundreds of thousands of airline passengers each year. I am especially concerned about the Minister, who must make frequent overseas visits to various Community countries and hon. Members on both sides of the House--and Members of the European Parliament- -who, again, must make frequent visits and use air transport for that purpose.
Mrs. Clwyd : Indeed, not only external flights: they must make internal flights within the United Kingdom. Of course, we must not forget the civil servants who also make frequent visits to the Council of Ministers, to the European Commission and to the Parliament. Their health is just as important as that of Ministers or hon. Members.
Excessive levels of potentially dangerous bacteria have been found in nearly a quarter of all airline meals tested at Heathrow airport. More than 1,000 separate foods were sampled by environmental health officers, who found some of the worst contamination in pate appetisers, main courses of beef, and rice pudding. One wonders whether the quality control of stocks of some of these products, which may have been in intervention stores, is adequately supervised.
The tests were conducted on freshly made meals which had not even left the ground. Therefore, they had not been contaminated while they were in flight and, by the time the meals reached the passengers, bacteria levels would often have been higher because of poor temperature control.
I am concerned about the health of Ministers who no doubt must eat frequently on these flights when they attend meetings in the European Community which are often called at short notice. Ministers are often kept up all night in the Council of Ministers arguing their cases and are forced to partake of airline meals because they have
Column 85not had time during their busy meetings to eat the no doubt sumptuous meals that could be put before them in the Council of Ministers.
A particular concern is whether the public storage of some of the products in in-flight meals is adequately supervised. It is important that the best possible food is used for in-flight catering, because it is a vast and highly specialised growth area. Outbreaks of foodborne infections-- involving a wide range of organisms, including salmonella--have been reported in association with in-flight meals. When those surveys were made by Hillingdon borough council and the other councils concerned, they were not looking for listeria poisoning, because at that time listeria was not an in word. No doubt, if they had examined some of that food for listeria poisoning, high quantities of contamination would have been found.
The survey was an interesting and comprehensive one of the microbiology and hygiene of food products in airline catering and it involved 10 in-flight caterers serving London Heathrow Airport. It took representative samples of all types of food produced. It analysed the results to identify shortfalls in the system. It has now made constructive recommendations to improve the microbiological quality of airline meals. I would be interested to know what action the Minister proposes to ensure that those recommendations are effected.
Because of the kinds of food that are contained in intervention stores, perhaps it would be useful if I mentioned some of the outbreaks of foodborne infections associated with airline meals. I know that the Minister does not travel from London to Sydney via Bahrain, but had he done so he might have been one of the 47 people affected when they ate the hors d'oeuvres on that flight. Of course we all know that an hors d'oeuvre contains eggs.
If the Minister had gone on another London to Sydney flight via Bahrain he may have been one of the 64 people infected after eating chopped egg garnish. If he had gone on the Tokyo to Paris flight via Anchorage and Copenhagen he might have been one of the 197 people infected after eating the ham in omelette. If the Minister had gone on the charter flight to Las Palmas he might have been one of the 550 infected after they had eaten egg salad. As a result of several flights to Paris, 290 people were infected after they had eaten a variety of cold dishes. In 1984, after several flights from London, 766 people were infected after eating something covered in aspic glaze. If the Minister had been travelling on the Faro to Gatwick flight, he might have been one of the 30 people infected after they had eaten mousse with cream.
It is quite possible that some of the stocks held in intervention stores were responsible for some of those outbreaks of food poisoning. Unfortunately, I was not present for the debate on 21 February because I was consolidating our wonderful victory at Pontypridd, but I am conscious that the Minister said :
"Let me start by stressing that we see it as our responsibility, first to ensure the safety of all food supplies, regardless of their source"--
it is quite possible that some of those food supplies come from intervention stores--
"secondly, to ensure that the interests of consumers and of the industry are taken fully into account ; and thirdly, to ensure that, throughout the food chain"--
this is particularly pertinent when we are talking about proper storage in intervention stores, as mentioned in EEC document 8502/88--
Column 86"there is effective monitoring and a framework of fully adequate regulations and the right framework to enforce them."--[ Official Report, 21 February 1989 ; Vol.147, c. 931.]
Those are particularly significant words in the context of this debate.
Sir Nicholas Bonsor : After the hon. Lady's fascinating description of the problems of airline flight meals, I wonder whether she could tell us which of the foodstuffs that she has mentioned as contaminated might have come from intervention stores, because I can see no relevance in what she has said to our debate?