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Volume 164: debated on Thursday 11 January 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in which areas of the United Kingdom levels of radioactivity are such as to prevent or restrict local agricultural production from being used in human consumption.

We continue to operate controls over the movement and slaughter of sheep from certain upland areas of Cumbria, Scotland, north Wales and Northern Ireland that were affected by radioactive deposition following the accident in the Soviet Union in 1986.

Would it not be fair to describe the Government's record of response to the problem as almost furtive negligence? In the nearly four years since that accident, can the Minister honestly say that his Department and the British public have been adequately informed? Did not the Swedes carry out an aerial survey within six weeks of the disaster? When will we in Britain emulate our neighbours?

I had always regarded the hon. Gentleman as fair until now. I do not recognise the description that he has given. No other country in the world acted as promptly or as comprehensively as the United Kingdom in taking action to protect all our food supplies. I invite the hon. Gentleman to go to the Library of the House of Commons, where the shelves are groaning under the weight of information that we have made available to the public and to the House about how we have protected the food supply. We have carried out an aerial survey and it has not given us any more safety information than the men on the ground looking at the soil.

Does my hon. Friend agree that the fact that Chernobyl was a ghastly accident for the Soviet Union does not mean that our power stations are in the same category? Concordski fell out of the sky, but Concorde is still flying. We have the necessary means to monitor and to protect our people from accidents that will not occur in our power stations.

My hon. Friend is right to draw attention to the technological failures of Socialism, just as in recent months we have seen its political failures. Shortly, we shall see its political failures in this country as well.

To be fair to the British farming industry for once, and that includes myself, does the Minister agree that British farmers are producing healthier food in the 1990s than they ever have in this century?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman's statement. Characteristically, he is fair and accurate, and I am delighted to agree with him.