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43. Mr. McLoughlin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he expects to be made in the general agreement on tariffs and trade discussions on agricultural trade over the next few months following the mid-term review in Montreal.
Mr. MacGregor : It was agreed in Montreal that a further meeting of senior trade policy officials should take place in Geneva in April to resolve the outstanding issues and bring the mid-term review of the GATT negotiations to a positive conclusion. Meanwhile, the director general of the GATT will be holding bilateral consultations with the major participants in the negotiation and agriculture will be one of his main concerns.
The Government will be working with our partners in the Community to resolve the differences of view, notably with the United States, over how to carry forward reform of agricultural trade policies so that the April meeting can agree a clear and detailed framework for the subsequent conduct of the negotiation. All parties to the negotiation will need to take a flexible and constructive approach for progress in this direction to be achieved.
Mr. MacGregor : I met the chairman of the Women's Farming Union on 23 November 1988 when I addressed the union's annual general meeting on various subjects, including the opportunities and challenges facing the marketing boards.
Mr. Ryder : I met the chairman of the Countryside Commission on 7 November, when we had a very useful discussion on a wide variety of issues. I expect to have similar meetings in future whenever we have matters of mutual concern to tackle.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I have no plans to do so. The Diseases of Animals (Protein Processing) Order 1981 requires all protein material for animal feeding stuffs to be manufactured free from salmonella. My officials routinely inspect all premises producing such protein to ensure that this requirement is met.
Column 315In addition, discussions are under way between my officials and representatives of the animal feedingstuffs industry to consider the application of the present controls and any further measures which may be needed to reduce salmonella contamination in feeding stuffs.
Mr. Richard Ryder : Set-aside is operating effectively in the United Kingdom and I understand that the majority of member states have now introduced schemes. I welcome the European Commission's declared intention to open infraction proceedings under the treaty against member states which had not, by the end of 1988, met their obligations to apply set-aside schemes.
52. Mr. Riddick : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action his Department proposes to take to help farmers understand the impact of their attempts to diversify their business.
Mr. Ryder : On 9 January we launched "Planning Permission and the Farmer", which has been prepared jointly by MAFF, DOE and the Welsh Office and can be obtained through HMSO bookshops. This guide explains how the planning system works ; describes some of the relevant provisions of planning legislation, and how to find out whether or not a project is likely to need planning permission ; and suggests what can be done before, during and making a planning application to present a convincing case. Copies of a free leaflet will be sent with the February edition of the ADAS divisional bulletins. Any farmer in England and Wales who does not receive an ADAS bulletin and wishes to obtain a copy of the leaflet should contact their local divisional office. The leaflet will contain a brief description of the guide and also explain how to obtain a copy. Copies of the guide and the leaflet will be placed in the Vote Office.
57. Mr. Charles Wardle : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will indicate what the initial reaction of farmers has been to the farm woodland scheme ; and whether he expects his Department's uptake targets to be met.
Mr. Ryder : There has been a good level of interest shown by farmers in the farm woodland scheme. However, the scheme only opened on 1 October 1988 and it is too early to say whether the maximum total areas for planting over the three-year experimental period will be reached. My right hon. Friend will be issuing more details on the pattern of uptake later this month.
Mr. Ryder : Farmers participating in ESAs agree to use farming practices which conserve the environmental features of the area. It is too early to make a full assessment of the effects of the scheme but I expect to publish a report shortly which will explain how the scheme is intended to affect farming practices in each area and indicate progress made so far.
Column 317my agreement to the total allowable catch (TAC) for cod in 1989 at the December Fisheries Council. I made quite clear that this agreement was subject to the TAC being reviewed if the biological assessment of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management in May 1989 indicates that this might be appropriate.
Mr. Ryder : Although I have not yet met the chairman of the Tenant Farmers Association, I am glad to say that I shall be addressing the association's annual conference in February. In the meantime, the Department is in regular touch with the association on a wide range of issues.
Mr. MacGregor : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mrs. Shephard) on Tuesday 20 December 1988 about Agriculture Council discussions on a number of Commission proposals including the reform of the beef and sheepmeat regimes. These discussions continue.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evidence he has as to disparity in practice in implementing the EEC farm animal convention in member states of the Community.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the European convention on the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, elaborated in the Council of Europe rather than the European Community. It contains very general provisions, which contracting parties are free to implement in their own way, and I have no information about disparities in the steps they have taken.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what representations he has received concerning the proposed designation of farm animals as sentient under the treaty of Rome ; (2) what plans he has to propose to the Council of Ministers that the treaty of Rome be amended in order to designate farm animals as sentient creatures ;
(3) what plans he has to press for a reappraisal of the status of farm animals within the EEC in the context of a single European market in 1992.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I am aware of suggestions that farm animals should be given a new status under the treaty, but have received no representations about this. It is clear, however, that the treaty already provides power to adopt farm animal welfare measures, and the European Commission is working on a number of new regulations
Column 318within the context of the single European market. I therefore see no need to press for a change in the status of farm animals.
Sir Richard Body : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of slaughterhouses in the United Kingdom conform to EEC standards for meat export ; what proportion conform to United States Department of Agriculture standards for meat export ; and what steps are being taken to raise United Kingdom slaughterhouse standards to the appropriate levels.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Approximately 10 per cent. of red meat slaughterhouses are currently approved for export to other EC member states. At present, these account for nearly 40 per cent. of the national throughput. All licensed poultry slaughterhouses have to comply with the relevant EC directive.
As yet, no red meat slaughterhouses have formally applied for USDA approval although a number of companies have expressed an interest. One poultrymeat establishment has applied for, and been granted, approval to export to US.
Officials of my Department are ready to advise all slaughterers on the conditions necessary for intra-Community trade or for export to the USA or any other country.
The data currently available indicate that the levels of dioxins in feed are extremely small and do not pose a hazard to health. However, as I indicated in an earlier answer to the hon. Member, my Department is presently carrying out a thorough investigation into this issue, including a programme of laboratory analysis. When the reports referred to are completed, we shall decide what further action is necessary.
Mr. Ryder : This information is not yet available, but will be contained within the 1988 report on water pollution from farm waste being compiled jointly by my Department and the Water Authorities Association. I will write to the hon. Member at the time of publication.
Mr. Boswell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what current restrictions there are on tank-mixes of agrochemicals which farmers may apply to their crops ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : Ministers responsible for the control of pesticides have recently agreed that certain tank-mixes of pesticides should be prohibited. I refer my hon. Friend to the revised consent on use of pesticides which will be published in the London Gazette tomorrow.
Mr. MacGregor : In October 1987 my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary announced, on behalf of our colleagues in the Department of Agriculture for Scotland, DHSS and DHSS (Northern Ireland) our intention to update and streamline food legislation. Since then officials have been holding consultations with a wide variety of interested organisations to consider revisions to existing legislation. Consultations are now at an advanced stage and officials will shortly be reporting back to Ministers. Of course, the timing for the introduction of any new legislation must be subject to the other pressures on the parliamentary timetable.
Mr. Ryder : Advice on rat control in farm buildings is provided by the Ministry's Agricultural Development and Advisory Service. Rat control is needed in order to prevent dangerous structural damage to electrical cables and buildings, to prevent damage to or contamination of stored foodstuffs and, particularly, to reduce risks of diseases being spread to people and livestock.
Farmers should be aiming to remove any existing rats and to reduce the likelihood of further infestations. ADAS can provide advice on effective rat control practices including the appropriate choice of anti-coagulant pesticides, proper surveying of infestations, correct baiting procedures and measures for protecting non-target species. Additionally, farmers are advised on suitable preventative action including proofing of buildings and removal of harbourages. Ministry advisory publications on the subject are : "Keeping rats and mice out of farm buildings" (leaflet 627) "Control of rats on farms" (leaflet 608).
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the research projects he is funding into listeria monocytogenes and the research establishments where these projects are undertaken ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will be in a position to report on the results of his Department's studies into the temperature sensitivity of listeria monocytogenes.
Mr. Hinchliffe : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will provide details of the studies commissioned by his Department into the temperature sensitivity of listeria monocytogenes.
Mr. Ryder : We have a substantial research project in hand on the heat treatment required to kill listeria monocytogenes in a variety of foods, in particular white poultry meat, red meat and carrots. Results of this work will enable us to ensure that the cooking conditions used in the manufacture of these foods are appropriate and allow adequate safety margins to be maintained.
Mr. Beith : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the implication for sheep farming in (a) Northumberland and (b) similar areas of current proposals for the European Economic Community sheepmeat re gime.
Mrs. Ann Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list his statutory duties with regard to the provision of advice and information to owners and occupiers of sites of special scientific interest.
Mr. Ryder : Under section 33 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, I am required to prepare, jointly with other Ministers, a code of guidance on sites of special scientific interest for the benefit of the relevant authorities and for persons affected, that is, owners and occupiers of land in SSSIs.
I have many other powers and duties to advise and inform owners and/or occupiers of agricultural land, which will include those that occupy land in SSSIs.
Mr. MacGregor : I have met Mr. Yeutter, the Agriculture Secretary- designate, on a number of occasions in his capacity as United States trade representative, most recently at the mid-term meeting of the GATT round negotiations in Montreal in December. I look forward to meeting him in new capacity at an early date.
Mr. John Marshall : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans his Department has to take part in the Hyde Park festival of food and farming, to celebrate Food and Farming Year.
Mr. MacGregor : We are preparing a major exhibition for this festival, with the title "Our Land, Our Food". It will include the Ministry's own centenary exhibition, with the emphasis on quality and safety, and will demonstrate the inextricable links between the agriculture and fishing industries and food consumers.
Mr. Wray : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list each one of the plants processing and producing feeding stuffs for chickens which has been the subject of inspection by health officials, and indicate where such inspections took place, for each year since 1980.
Mr. Donald Thompson [holding answer 17 January 1989] : My officials routinely visit and inspect plants producing animal protein for incorporation into animal feedingstuffs including feedingstuffs for chickens, and take samples of their products for laboratory testing. Information on the identity of plants is held by my Department in order to carry out these operations as provided for by statute. It would be wrong to disclose such data for purposes other than those for which it was collected.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the total amount of (a) butter, and (b) beef allocated to each region of England under the European Community free food scheme for 1988- 89, the total amount distributed to date and the total amount still undistributed.
Mr. Ryder : The allocation of produce in England for 1988, which was made to designated organisations rather than on a regional basis was 1,677 tonnes of butter and 570 tonnes of beef, all of which has been withdrawn from intervention store for distribution. The arrangements for local distribution is a matter for the organisations. For 1989, the Commission has recently notified member states of their allocations. In the United Kingdom up to 4,075 tonnes of butter and 2,975 tonnes of beef is available within a financial allocation of about £14.5 million. We expect to be consulting designated organisations soon.
Dr. Thomas : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list (a) the total number of applications and (b) the local authorities which made applications to distribute beef and butter under the European Community free food scheme for 1988-89 in each region of England.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether there is a minimum acceptable percentage of salmonella contamination in poultry carcasses ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Donald Thompson : It is desirable that any bacterial contamination should be kept to a minimum, although salmonella is destroyed if poultry is cooked properly. Two codes of practice have been introduced for poultry breeders and hatcheries to minimise the risk of transmission of salmonella. In my reply to my right hon. Friend the Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) on 18 January I set out the further measures I am proposing to reduce the risk of transmission through breeding stock. Statutory hygiene controls are designed to avoid contamination during processing.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many investigations of salmonella species in poultry flock have been carried out in each of the last five years ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr Donald Thompson : The Zoonoses Order 1975 requires that all isolations of salmonella from food poisoning animals are reported. Since April 1988, in response to the emerging human health problem associated with salmonella enteritidis, all reports of this salmonella have been investigated. The number of investigations carried out in flocks of fowls in each of the last five years is as follows :
|Number --------------------- 1984 |3 1985 |3 1986 |4 1987 |5 1988 |<1>182 <1>. provisional
Salmonella typhimurium var Copenhagen
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of vaccinating poultry against salmonella species ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Donald Thompson : A vaccine can only be effective against an individual species of salmonella, of which there are many hundreds. Vaccines are available against salmonella pullorum and salmonella gallinarum ; both have been virtually eradicated from this country but the vaccines are used in other countries with some degree of success. Vaccines are not available for the control of other species of salmonella.