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Volume 130: debated on Thursday 31 March 1988

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any proposals to hive off the responsibilities of his Department's bee officers; and if he will make a statement.

No, Sir. From the next bee season we shall be concentrating our inspection for foulbrood on colonies where the disease is suspected or which have a recent history of the disease, but these inspections will continue to be carried out by the Ministry's bees officers.

Earlier this week I put on the Order Paper a request for morning sittings. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and the usual channels for responding so quickly.

Has the Minister received representations from the Nottinghamshire Beekeepers' Association? Is he aware that, by reducing the number of random checks of bee officers from his Ministry on the hives of this country he will encourage the spread of American foulbrood, European foulbrood and, indeed, the bee equivalent of myxomatosis, varroasis? Will the Minister now restore any of the cuts in bee inspections and stand up for the health of the British bee?

Random sampling over the past 10 years of almost every hive has found disease in less than 1 per cent. of the flock, so the present level of inspection cannot be justified. Nevertheless, we shall inspect those premises that have foulbrood.

The inspections have prevented a further spread of the disease, and we now have a very healthy flock [Interruption.] We shall therefore inspect only premises where we suspect that the disease is present, or whose beekeeper asks us to inspect them.