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Swill Feeders

11. Mr. Boris Johnson (Henley) (Con): If she will compensate previously licensed swill feeders. [152874]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): No.

Mr. Johnson : Given that feeding scraps to pigs is perfectly safe, environmentally friendly and has been

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going on ever since man domesticated animals; given that the 62 licensed swill feeders were encouraged by DEFRA to invest thousands of pounds in new equipment before the ban; and given that since the ban an extra 1.7 million tonnes of biodegradable stuff is being sent to landfill or washed down the sewers, is it not the Minister's duty, in all logic, to compensate those 62 licensed swill feeders or to lift that ridiculous and hysterical ban?

Mr. Bradshaw: No. Such an act would be grossly irresponsible, as the cause of the 8 billion foot and mouth epidemic in this country related to exactly the practice that the hon. Gentleman is so keen to support.

Mr. George Howarth (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab): I thank my hon. Friend for that answer, but is he aware that the problem was caused by one pig farmer, not all of them? As the hon. Member for Henley (Mr. Johnson) rightly said, the vast majority of those farmers were operating on the advice of the Department and in a fit and proper manner, have never had any compensation and are being unfairly treated, compared to others. If the current investigation by the ombudsman finds that they have been unfairly treated, will he consider compensating them?

Mr. Bradshaw: I do not intend to pre-empt what the parliamentary ombudsman may or may not say in response to my hon. Friend's doughty campaign on behalf the pig-swillers in his constituency, but it is not right to say that they have been treated unfairly. There is an enormous risk involved in the practice, which is why it has been banned not just in this country but across the whole of the European Union. It may have been the fault of only one irresponsible owner, but our strong scientific advice is that there is no need for the practice, and that the risk that we would be incurring by continuing with it, given the devastation caused by the foot and mouth outbreak, does not warrant a continuation of the practice.

Sir Peter Tapsell (Louth and Horncastle) (Con): How does the Minister account for the fact that the plethora of new food regulations is outpaced only by the number of popular foods that we are almost weekly told it is unsafe for us to eat? Has thought been given to the possibility that the dangers of food poisoning, which are undoubtedly real, derive less from the farm-level producers, such as licensed swill dealers, than from the activities of international big business, such as the great pharmaceutical companies and, to take a recent example, the development of mass production of farmed salmon?

Mr. Bradshaw: No.