28 May 2003

S2M-61 Subordinate Legislation - Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) (West Coast) (No 2) (Scotland) Order 2003 (SSI 2003/245)

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-61, in the name of Malcolm Chisholm, on the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) (West Coast) (Scotland) Order 2003 (SSI 2003/244) and the Food Protection (Emergency Prohibitions) (Amnesic Shellfish Poisoning) (West Coast) (No 2) (Scotland) Order 2003 (SSI 2003/245). As there have been requests from Opposition parties for the minister to take interventions to clarify points of detail, I intend to compensate him fully for such interventions in his allocation of time.
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Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I regret that it was not Jamie McGrigor who was entertaining us from the Tory side of the chamber. I hope that that does not indicate—given that the issue relates partly to the gonads of scallops—a permanent emasculation of the former Tory fisheries spokesman. However, I congratulate Ted Brocklebank on his maiden speech. I look forward to many a happy joust with him on the subject of fishing over the next four years, or however long he may last.
In the opinion of the Scottish ministers, the circumstance that gives rise to the orders is that scallops in the designated area may be affected by the toxin that causes shellfish poisoning in human beings and so may create a hazard to human health if they are consumed. That goes straight to the nub of the issue. Indeed, there is considerable ambiguity in the European regulations. The original directive—91/492/EEC—was, interestingly, based on an official's visit to Japan, where he saw a different kind of scallop being used and prepared in an entirely different way.
The later directive—97/79/EC—under which the order is being made, does not seem to require the kind of testing that we are considering for shucked scallops, for example. The directive has, of course, enabled the introduction of a new regime with tiered testing. However, as the then Deputy Minister for Health and Community Care, Mrs Mary Mulligan, told the Rural Development Committee in a letter of 23 December 2002, that regime is not mandatory. I hope, indeed, that it will not be mandatory and that it will simply not be introduced.
There has been no incidence of any kind of illness from scallops in Scotland. Two illnesses can arise from the consumption of scallops that are contaminated by domoic acid: gastrointestinal difficulties and loss of memory. I think that the latter happens occasionally in the chamber, so perhaps there is a real problem after all—perhaps the minister can tell us whether he eats scallops and from where he got them.
I regret that the minister did not take as many interventions during his opening remarks as might have enabled the large number of outstanding questions to be responded to. I hope that he will view his future contributions in a different light. I will just suggest to him a few of the questions that he might address in his closing remarks.
What timetable is there for research into scallop portions? Reference was made to correspondence between the FSA and various European institutions, but have the European institutions made any substantive response following the meeting of the Rural Development Committee on 19 November 2002, which was some six months ago? It is important that we significantly influence the European approach to the whole issue, which is not so much about health as about the problems created for the industry by an over-rigid, over-regimented approach to risks to human health.
The Deputy Presiding Officer: Mr Stevenson, my apologies to you for not giving you notice that you were in your final minute, but you are now over time.
Stewart Stevenson: I am obliged. I know that you are always very tolerant towards my contributions, Presiding Officer.
I have one final question that I would like the minister to address. Exactly what research has been going on since the Rural Development Committee's various meetings on the subject last year? How much of the research is being funded by the financial instrument for fisheries guidance? I ask that because I believe that the Europeans, who are inflicting the directive on us, should bear some of the financial burden of the research that we have to undertake.

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