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Mr. Tony Banks : I appreciate that the Secretary of State is a voracious carnivore and likely to eat anything with legs other than a table, but is he aware that, despite his assurances to the House, a great deal of suffering is still
Column 480caused to animals moved out of Britain for slaughter? Would not it be better, and meet the demands of the great majority of people in Britain, if no live animals were allowed to leave our shores for slaughter on the continent?
Mr. Gummer : The fact is that that would be illegal, and this country stands by the law. Under European Community regulations, there has to be the movement of live animals. My job is to improve those regulations. The hon. Gentleman blames the European Community, but at least in the European Community we have a chance to raise standards for all animals in Europe, or perhaps the hon. Gentleman takes such an insular view that he cares only about British animals.
Sir Richard Body : Does my right hon. Friend agree that since, on grounds of animal welfare, we ended the system of rearing calves in veal crates, there has been a massive increase in the number of calves exported to France, Belgium and the Netherlands? About 1,000 calves per day are now exported to those countries. What proportion of those calves does my right hon. Friend believe are being reared in the very crates that we sought to abolish in Britain?
Mr. Gummer : My hon. Friend puts his finger exactly on the point. If we do not raise standards throughout Europe, we shall make changes at home, for estimable reasons, only to find that the situation is worse in the rest of the continent. For that reason, three days ago I took the lead in the European Community Council to press for higher standards which would eliminate the very practices to which my hon. Friend refers. We now have a new programme which will make major changes in the rearing of calves and also the way in which pigs are cared for. I hope that that will be a further earnest of our determination to improve animal welfare throughout the Community.
10. Mr. Morgan : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his Department has carried out research into links between the recent toxic algae outbreak on the east coast and pollution.
Mr. Morgan : I accept the Minister's answer, but does he agree that the emergence of a 300-mile toxic algal scum slick shows that using the North sea as an international flush lavatory is not doing the quality of the water any good? Does he further agree that we need an international agreement to stop these long sea outfalls? In the light of the comments made yesterday by the Minister of Sport about the effluent tendency, does he agree that the main body of people in this country with a tendency towards effluent are Ministers?
Mr. Curry : The hon. Gentleman is getting his science mixed up. There is no link between the production of these blooms and pollution. They were first noticed in 1814, which was mainly a pre-industrial society. The most recent manifestation was on the west coast of Scotland. It is difficult to get further than that from population centres or intensive agriculture. That supports the evidence that it is
Column 481naturally occurring. In only five years since 1968 has some warning not had to be posted, so the relationship between that phenomenon and what the hon. Gentleman is suggesting is impossible to prove.
Sir Hugh Rossi : Does my hon. Friend agree that the Ministry must accept that there is a nexus between nutrients and growth? Does he agree that nitrates and phosphates are fed on greedily by algae? Although they must have benign warm conditions in which to flourish, if their source of food were reduced or cut off they would not grow to the extent that they are growing at present.
Mr. Curry : My hon. Friend is perfectly correct, but nitrates and phosphates occur naturally in the water, as they did at the beginning of the 19th century when the phenomenon was first noticed. There is no link between the discharge of sewage into the North sea, which we have undertaken to stop, and these blooms.
Mr. Morley : The House cannot accept that at all. We know very well that phosphates increase algal bloom. I urge the Minister to listen carefully to the comments of the Chairman of the Select Committee on the Environment. Will he confirm that the Ministry's scientists have said that one of the reasons why the outbreak was so long and intense was that there was a constant source of nutrients in the sea off the east coast, the main source of which is raw sewage dumping and raw sewage outfalls?
Mr. Curry : That is simply not the case. The blooms appeared because currents brought the seeds to the surface, where they were in warm water and sunlight. That has occurred around Britain's coast, most recently in the west of Scotland, where there are no population centres or major intensive farming which would supplement the water with nutrients, so the link simply has not been established.
Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : Does my hon. Friend agree that, as currently drafted, the EC proposals endanger the future of the British sausage after 1990? Does he agree that it is a safe, succulent, satisfying snack and with mash it is almost superlative? The British public enjoy £500 million worth of sausages each year. The proposals will do nothing to improve food hygiene and are likely to increase the cost of this most estimable product to the British consumer. If we have no objection to other countries' salami and bratwurst, why can they not leave our toad in the hole alone?
Mr. Maclean : My hon. Friend has made a number of valid points. Many of us in the House have moved straight from the baby's bottle to the British banger. The proposed draft directives will have no effect on hygiene requirements for the existing British sausage. People in the House and outside who want to eat raw minced beef or steak tartare
Column 482can choose to do so, but the millions of people in Britain who want to eat cooked British sausages do not need unnecessary EC rules.
Mr. Wigley : Does the Minister accept that the logic of the rules may not be to improve hygiene, but to achieve unfair competition and commercial advantage at the expense of manufacturers in this country, which could lead to the loss of valuable jobs in many areas, including my constituency? Will the Minister ensure that he stands up and fights for the future of those jobs?
Mr. Maclean : I will certainly do that. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will take to task the Opposition agriculture spokesman who said that he would refuse to eat British beef sausages, when there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. We all understand the necessity for tougher rules on minced beef which might be eaten raw, but there is no need for the rules about cooked sausages.
The Prime Minister (Mrs. Margaret Thatcher) : This morning I presided at a meeting of the Cabinet and had meetings with ministerial colleagues and others. In addition to my duties in the House, I shall be having further meetings later today, including one with the Governor of Hong Kong.
Mr. Couchman : Does my right hon. Friend agree that properly enforced tough controls on dangerous dogs and their owners offer far greater security and reassurance to the public, and particularly to children, than a bureaucratic dog registration scheme of the kind currently obsessing the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the upshot of which would be that responsible owners would register and irresponsible owners would not?
The Prime Minister : Yes, I agree with my hon. Friend. It is not the identification of the owner which has been the problem, but to make certain that owners control their dogs properly. Yesterday further significant proposals were announced to toughen the law. Our proposals will strengthen the powers for dangerous dogs to be seized and, if necessary, destroyed. They will create new powers to allow courts to have dogs muzzled. We are also looking at the possibility of banning certain dog breeds all together.
"aware of the terms and conditions of the arrangements reached with British Aerospace"
in relation to the sale of Rover, will she confirm that her knowledge of those arrangements included details of the £44 million sweeteners of which Parliament was never to be told?
The Prime Minister : As I indicated on 14 December 1989 "I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations with British Aerospace and of the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached".--[ Official Report, 14 December 1989 ; Vol. 163, c. 770. ]
Column 483Our priority at the time was to safeguard the interests of the company, the employees and the taxpayer. That objective was secured and billions of pounds of future state aids and taxpayers' money was thus saved.
Mr. Kinnock : On 30 November last year I asked the Prime Minister twice if she knew of all the arrangements about the sweeteners. She dodged the question then, and she is trying to dodge it now. Will she give a straight answer to a straight question? When she says that she knew of the arrangements, did her knowledge include, or did it not include, knowledge of the sweeteners of which this Parliament, the European Community and the British people were never to be told? The Prime Minister rose --
The Prime Minister : I answered the question on 14 December 1989. I was kept aware throughout of the progress of the negotiations at British Aerospace under the basic terms and conditions of the agreements reached. [ Hon. Members :-- "Yes or no?"] Our main objective was to secure the privatisation of this company which was utterly bankrupt and broke and on which the taxpayers--[ Hon. Members :-- "Yes or no?"]--had already spent £3.5 billion in aids and a further £1.6 billion in contingent liabilities. We successfully privatised the company and it is profitable, but that means nothing to the right hon. Gentleman. [ Hon. Members :-- "Yes or no?"] The right hon. Gentleman would probably have preferred to have the company nationalised so that taxpayers could continue to be fleeced.
Mr. Kinnock : What does mean something to me, and should mean something to the Prime Minister, is the integrity of the right hon. Lady herself. Did she know, or did she not know, that £44 million of illegal sweeteners was part of the deal?
Mr. Speaker : Order. It is intolerable that when the Prime Minister has been asked a qustion she is not given an opportunity to reply. [Hon. Members :-- "She will not answer."] Order. I call the Prime Minister.
The Prime Minister : On 14 July 1988 my right hon. and learned Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, as he then was, informed the House of the results of the negotiations and what had taken place. The hon. Member for Dagenham (Mr. Gould), replying to my right hon. and learned Friend
The Prime Minister : The hon. Member for Dagenham, replying to my right hon. and learned Friend and referring to my right hon. and learned Friend's latest visit to the Commission as going cap in hand to Brussels to beg for concessions said, if the House is quiet enough or interested enough to hear--
Mr. Allen rose --
"How is it that an unelected official can tell the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry that his terms are non-negotiable?"--[ Official Report, 14 July 1988 ; Vol. 137, c. 613.]
That is what the hon. Gentleman said, but the Opposition have changed their tune.
Mr. Jessel : On the occasion of the most welcome visit of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association delegates from India, led by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, will my right hon. Friend confirm the Government's policy as being to continue to uphold Britain's excellent relations with India?
The Prime Minister : Yes. I was not aware of that visit, but we have excellent relations with India. We give it priority with our aid, and have recently agreed to help it each year to enable it to keep its rain forests.
Mr. Ashdown : Now that we know that nuclear power is twice as expensive for the consumer as any other form of power, and that it is less cost effective than energy conservation in protecting the environment, why does the Prime Minister insist that every electricity consumer should pay a special nuclear tax amounting to £25 on the average electricity bill to meet the cost of her obsession and her Government's bungling over nuclear power? Have not Sizewell B and the right hon. Member for Hertsmere (Mr. Parkinson) already cost the nation too much, and should not the right hon. Lady pull the plug on both of them?
The Prime Minister : I will take the question on Sizewell B first. Sizewell B will cost more than originally expected because the original order was for four nuclear power stations of a particular design. However, now that only one is definitely to be built--Sizewell B--all the original design and development costs will have to be added to the cost of that one station, instead of being spread over four. It is not unusual for the costs to increase. If we had four nuclear power stations, the cost of Sizewell B would not be great. In the right hon. Gentleman's second question, he said that nuclear power cost more. We know the costs for the disposal of the fission products of nuclear power. When
Column 485that is compared with the cost of obtaining electricity from coal or oil, the problem is that we do not know the costs of dumping carbon dioxide in outer space, which could be much worse in the long run than those of nuclear power. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that France has a good record on reducing carbon dioxide emissions because the majority of her electricity is generated from nuclear power.
Q2. Mr. Latham : To ask the Prime Minister whether she will make a statement on diplomatic contacts designed to achieve the release of British citizens held captive by Iranian-backed terrorist groups in Lebanon.
The Prime Minister : The plight of the British citizens held hostage is constantly in the minds of all of us. We have raised the matter with a wide range of Governments and organisations which might have influence on the hostage holders. We shall continue to use every contact and follow up every lead that we believe might bring results.
Mr. Latham : Will my right hon. Friend press the Iranian Government to abide by normal decent standards of international behaviour and bring about the release of those entirely innocent people in Lebanon forthwith? Will she also press that Government to do something about the absolutely abominable human rights situation in Iran?
The Prime Minister : Our position on hostages is well known. We take precisely the view that my hon. Friend has just expressed. Any nation that has any information, or any influence on those who are holding hostages, should do all in its power to secure their release, as that is the only norm of civilised behaviour. We ask Iran to do that as well. My hon. Friend knows that our ambassador in Lebanon is actively following up every lead.
With regard to human rights in Iran, we welcome the decision by the Iranian Government to invite the United Nations special representative on human rights to pay a second visit to Iran. We hope that he will be given full facilities to investigate thoroughly all aspects of human rights there, and any breaches of those rights by the Iranian Government.
Mr. Brazier rose--[Interruption.]
Mr. Brazier : Does my right hon. Friend agree that, while we must have the greatest sympathy for the hostages and their families, we must never do anything to undermine her strong stand against international terrorism? We must remember at all times that these groups are backed on the one hand by Iranians who have condemned a British citizen to death and on the other by the Syrians who continue to shelter the principal suspects of the Lockerbie bombing.
The Prime Minister : I am grateful to my hon. Friend. As he knows, we broke off diplomatic relations with Syria because of its part in helping to place the bomb on the El Al aircraft. Diplomatic relations could not possibly continue in those circumstances. We do not think it right to restore those diplomatic relations yet, but we plead with Iran and Syria to do all in their power in the modern world
Column 486to secure the release of hostages. That is the only way for civilised nations, which expect to be welcomed into diplomatic international circles, to behave.
Mr. Marland : As my right hon. Friend knows, Gloucestershire county council is run by the soggy hand of the Liberal Alliance and has spent millions of pounds over an already excessive budget, which is causing great anxiety to many of my constituents. In her review of the working of the community charge, will my right hon. Friend seek to ensure that some mechanism is introduced to curb such profligacy?
The Prime Minister : My hon. Friend is quite right about Gloucestershire. This year it has increased its expenditure by twice the rate of inflation. In our review of the community charge we are certainly bearing in mind that chargepayers want to be protected against the excessive spending of such councils. We shall bring forward proposals before the House rises.
Mr. Haynes rose --
Mr. Haynes rose -- [Interruption.]
Mr. Haynes : Mr. Speaker, Sir. [Hon. Members :-- "Hear, hear"] Is the Prime Minister aware that the crime figures presented today are appalling? Is she also aware that the morale of the police force in the various constabularies across the country is at its lowest ebb? Is she also aware of the fiddle that has been going on about Aerospace? How does she expect British citizens to behave themselves when the Government go on like that? Is she aware that the Government sanction--
The Prime Minister : In so far as I was able to hear the hon. Gentleman, yes, the crime figures out today are extremely disappointing, although we must remember that violent crime in this country occurs on a very much lesser scale than in some other countries. The overall figures show that 25 per cent. of all crime is car related, and my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary intends to have talks with car producers to see if we can reduce that figure.
I do not accept that the morale of the police is low. They have had a very good deal on pay--so good that everyone else wants to emulate them--and they have had full support from the Government in their most important work.
Column 487With regard to British Aerospace as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry explained in his statement on 30 November 1989, the relative items of which the hon. Gentleman was speaking were included
"in the estimates and reports to Parliament. Full details were made available to the Comptroller and Auditor General"--[ Official Report, 30 November 1989 ; Vol. 162, c. 859.]
Finally may I point out what the Commission says in its report--
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