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Animal Breeding Research Organisation

Volume 19: debated on Sunday 4 April 1982

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to his reply to the hon. Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. McQuarrie) Official Report, 22 January, c. 193, if he will undertake to consult all interested farming bodies on the provision of research on animal breeding if the Agricultural Research Council decides to close any part of the Animal Breeding Research Organisation.

Machinery already exists for a continuing consultation of farming interests on the provision of all agricultural research programmes.

Is the Minister aware that the Animal Breeding Research Organisation, which has a world-wide reputation, is the only source of scientific thought on animal breeding in the United Kingdom? May we have an assurance that the Agricultural Research Council will continue a full programme of research into genetic breeding in cattle within the ABRO?

I assure the right hon. Gentleman that the various research projects commissioned by the Ministry with the ARC and undertaken at the ABRO are to continue, mainly at the ABRO. Discussions on details are continuing between the Agricultural Departments and the Council.

Does my hon. Friend accept that the Scottish National Farmers Union has bitterly criticised the threatened closure of the ABRO in Scotland. The right hon. Member for Western Isles (Mr. Stewart) has said that it is one of the finest research organisations in the world. Does my hon. Friend agree that it is essential that animal research is retained in Scotland, since Scotland is so dependent on agriculture for its livelihood?

I note what my hon. Friend says. I can assure him that the ARC has not made a final decision. A final decision is expected at its meeting on 23 March.

When the Minister has talks about animal breeding will she talk to Mr. Bernard Matthews, the millionaire turkey breeder from Norfolk, who has been paying his workers £72 a week for working in dirty, bloodstained conditions cutting the throats of turkeys, and allowing them three minutes to use the lavatory or fining them 15 minutes' pay if they take longer? How much subsidy does he get?

That question is not even loosely connected with the Agricultural Research Council.

Will my hon. Friend bear in mind representations that I have made to her and my right hon. Friend the Minister on behalf of Shrophire farmers, who believe that to close the Animal Breeding Research Organisation would be a great mistake, because of its invaluable contribution to agriculture?

My hon. Friend will have observed that the ARC recently made it clear in its press notice of 19 February that it appreciates the continuing need for scientific support for the livestock breeding industry.

Is the Minister aware that, contrary to press reports, the revised ARC proposal would mean that the expenditure and staff at the ABRO would be cut by more than 50 per cent? We welcome the Ministry of Agriculture's decision to continue commissioning its work, but may I ask the Minister to tell the ARC that it must desist from sabotaging this internationally famous research station and provide the necessary money to support fundamental research?

The hon. Gentleman will know that the ARC comes within the aegis of the Department of Education and Science. The question of redundancies and management is for the ARC.