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1996 - Mr Major’s Doorstep Interview

Below is the text of Mr Major’s doorstep interview held on Friday 20th September 1996.


QUESTION:

What is your response to Fischler this morning?

PRIME MINISTER:

We are operating within the Florence Agreement. It was perfectly clear within the Florence Agreement that if new evidence arose we had to consider that new evidence, and Mr Fischler isn't saying we shouldn't. I am sure he is not saying that. We clearly have to look at the new evidence on maternal transmission - the possibility of it being genetic, which in effect means the calf would only catch it if it eats infected food. There is no infected food now. That is a new matter that has to be considered. Then there is the evidence from the Anderson Report, which I am sure people will wish to examine very carefully. I don't think anybody wishes to see a cull take place which is unnecessary and economically wasteful. I hope we can discuss these matters rationally with the EU and reach a rational, proper decision. And that is what we are seeking to do. And then when we have reached that decision and we take the action that is necessary, I hope it is equally clear that the ban will be lifted, and that it won't be a matter of considering whether. I hope it will be clear it will be lifted."

QUESTION:

How do we restore confidence in British beef?

PRIME MINISTER:

That is a very good question. We have always said that beef is safe. There is, even now, no proven link between BSE and the concerns about CJD. That has always been the position. We have to continue to say that so the confidence restores in the market. In this country confidence has been restored a good deal more than in many other countries in Europe. I hope people can push aside some of the hysteria they have heard. It is not all that long ago that we had people claiming to the authorities saying there was going to be the most huge epidemic. They were saying so here - you could see them on TV in Germany and France saying the same sort of thing, creating great difficulties for the export of British beef. I hope that now the immediate flurry has settled down, people can look rationally at the science, forget about artificial squabbles, artificial difficulties, look rationally at the science of the matter and decide to make proper decisions. Of course we have to look carefully first and foremost at public health. We do, and we have. But what we have seen from the Anderson Report recently is that the action the Government took in 1988 is eliminating BSE more rapidly than we thought. So I would ask for a rational debate, rational consideration, no more hysterical over-reaction, so that gradually we can restore the confidence I believe should never have been lost in British beef.