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34. Mr. Gill : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the livestock industry following the announcement of revised support arrangements for beef.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My right hon. Friend and I have had representations from various sectors of the industry. These have been concerned in particular with the rate of suckler cow premium and the method of operation of the new special premium for beef and we are currently considering these issues.
Mr. Ryder : I last met the president of the Country Landowners Association on 6 December 1988 when we discussed environmentally sensitive areas and national parks. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food also met the president yesterday to discuss landlord- tenant matters.
(a) Rate of increase Rate of increase in in food prices in the food prices in the 1980s 1970s Year |per cent.per annum|Year |per cent.per annum ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1970 |7.0 |1980 |12.1 1971 |11.1 |1981 |8.4 1972 |8.8 |1982 |7.9 1973 |15.0 |1983 |3.2 1974 |18.0 |1984 |5.6 1975 |25.6 |1985 |3.1 1976 |20.0 |1986 |3.3 1977 |19.0 |1987 |3.1 1978 |7.1 |1988 |3.5 1979 |12.0 |- |- Source: Retail Price Index
Between May 1979 and December 1988, the average annual rate of increase in food prices was 5.6 per cent. These figures reflect the success of the Government's food policies and can be compared with the rate of increase in food prices of 16.7 per cent. per annum between October 1974 and May 1979, the period in office of the last Labour Administration.
Mr. MacGregor : I will next meet my counterparts in the European Community at the Agriculture Council scheduled for 6 and 7 March when I expect the main agenda item to involve continued discussions on the Commission's price proposals for 1989-90 and related issues.
40. Mr. Shersby : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking in accordance with the provisions of section 4(2) of the Food Act 1984 to restrict, as far as practical, the use of substances of no nutritional value in foods.
Mr. Ryder : Before making regulations on the composition of food under the Food Act 1984 Ministers seek the advice of independent expert advisory committees including where appropriate advice on need and safety. In making their recommendations the committees are required by Ministers to take account of section 4(2) of the Act.
Column 359Agendas of the committee's meetings are publicly available.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My Department undertakes and commissions a great deal of research into food safety, including animal diseases transmissible to man through the food chain. Research into animal diseases takes full account of animal husbandry methods. In addition the steering group on food surveillance ensures that the safety of food supplies are effectively monitored.
Mr. Ryder : Since salmonella enteritidis does not cause overt clinical disease in adult poultry it is not possible to give precise figures of the extent of the infection without extensive testing, which in the absence of a simple, rapid and sensitive test for salmonella enteritidis, is not possible. However, the Zoonoses Order 1975 requires isolations of salmonella to be reported. As indicated by my hon. Friend the Member for Calder Valley (Mr. Thompson) in a written reply yesterday, provisional figures indicate that 370 isolations of salmonella enteritidis in 1988 were reported.
Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what date he received the information on eggborne salmonellosis, contained in the joint report of the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Department of Health and BEIC working group ; and if he will list the actions he has taken since then to advise the public about any risks and to promote the reduction of salmonella contamination in laying flocks.
Mr. MacGregor [holding answer 14 February 1989] : I received the report of the MAFF, DoH and BEIC working group on salmonella and eggs on 10 January this year. As I informed my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) on 6 February Official Report columns 570-72 I have placed a copy of that report in the Library of the House and I am distributing copies to members of the public who request it.
On 18 January I set out, in my reply to a question from the hon. Member for Suffolk, Central (Mr. Lord) Official Report columns 214-15 , the range of measures we had already been taking and were proposing to take to tackle the salmonella problem at each point along the chain from poultry feedingstuffs, through the breeding flocks and hatcheries to the commercial egg producers.
I subsequently announced on 10 February, in a written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Shepherd) Official Report column 831 that we should shortly be taking powers to provide where necessary for the compulsory slaughter of laying flocks in which salmonella has been confirmed. This announcement was a logical follow-up to the one made by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 27 January, in a written answer to a question from my hon. Friend the hon.
Column 360Member for Daventry Official Report columm 806 that notices are being issued under the Zoonoses Order 1975 to egg producers with flocks known to be or suspected of being infected with salmonella enteritidis or other similar types of salmonella, to prevent the producers concerned from selling eggs in a raw state for direct human consumption.
Other announcements were made by the Government before 10 January and further ones will be made as appropriate.
49. Mr. Tredinnick : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his Department have taken to investigate the use of nitrates in intensive farming ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. MacGregor : My Department supports a wide range of research into the efficient use of both organic and inorganic fertiliser, and ways of reducing nitrate leaching. This indicates that the process of nitrate leaching is complex and that the use of nitrogen fertilisers is one of a number of factors affecting it.
64. Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the Government's response to the recent European community directive on agriculture practices and nitrates in water.
Mr. Ryder : The European Community directive referred to is only a proposal at this stage and the Government are still examining it. Our general view on how the nitrate problem should be tackled was, however, explained in my right hon. Friend's written reply of 24 November.
I shall remain ready to take action wherever the results of our surveillance work show this to be necessary.
52. Mr. John Greenway : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the future of the farming industry, in the light of "Agriculture in the United Kingdom 1988", and if he will make a statement.
Column 361orientation will cause difficult problems of adjustment for many farmers. However, without reforms the CAP risked collapsing under its own weight and this would not be in the interests of the industry. Public expenditure for agriculture remains high and indeed over the period from 1979 to 1988-89 there was an increase of 7 per cent. in real terms. The Government introduced a range of policies aimed at helping farmers through this period of adjustment.
Mr. Donald Thompson : On 26 January when we discussed the Sea Fish Industry Authority's request for an increase in levy. The possibility of industry funding for research and development work undertaken by Torry research station on behalf of the industry was also discussed.
25. Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has any plans to meet representatives of those working for the Agriculture and Food Research Council to discuss the future of research and development.
Mr. Ryder : My Department has received a number of letters about the closure of particular facilities which have been drawn to the attention of the Secretary of State for Education and Science. On 9 February my noble Friend the Baroness Trumpington attended the annual delegate conference of the Agriculture and Food Research Council branch of the Institution of Professional Civil Servants where similar concerns were expressed to her.
60. Mr. Nicholas Baker : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking to deal with the outbreak of European foul brood disease amongst the bee population of Great Britain.
Mr. Donald Thompson : In connection with the upsurge of European foul brood in Dorset I am taking the action authorised by the Bee Diseases Control Order 1982. This makes European foul brood a notifiable disease and empowers me to have affected colonies destroyed or treated, depending on the extent of infection, and to impose standstill notices on diseased colonies and on neighbouring colonies where this is considered necessary.
62. Sir David Price : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to prevent the spread of colletotrichum and Acutatum commonly known as black spot in strawberry plants in the United Kingdom ; and what discussions he has had with his European colleagues to prevent the further importation of the disease from the mainland of Europe.
Mr. Ryder : We have taken a number of measures, in consultation with the National Farmers Union and representatives of the strawberry nuclear stock growers, to prevent strawberry black spot spreading in the United Kingdom. Where outbreaks occur, these measures require the control of movement of plants, compulsory spraying regimes and destruction of infected plants at the end of the cropping programme, followed by various hygiene measures. In addition, samples of all known imports of strawberry plants will be subject to inspection and where necessary laboratory tests to establish freedom from infection.
Detailed discussions have taken place between my officials and the Netherlands plant protection authorities about preventing infected plants from the Netherlands being exported to the United Kingdom. The Netherlands authorities have undertaken to consider further action, and we are in close touch with them.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The market for poultry meat is less buoyant than it was throughout 1988 although wholesale prices remain relatively stable. Egg sales still appear to be significantly below normal levels, but packer to producer prices have shown improvement after falling sharply in December last year.
67. Miss Lestor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will name those brands of baby milk on which he has information that they contain high levels of aluminium ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : The Department of Health's independent expert medical and scientific advisory committee on toxicity of chemicals in food, consumer products and the environment recently considered the results of analyses by my Department of the aluminium content of infant formulae. The committee advised that in the light of these results there was no need for action to reduce the aluminium intakes from these products.
It is not my practice to disclose information on the brands of goods monitored as part of food surveillance.
Mr. John Evans : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidelines have been issued by his Department on the safety of baby milk ; and if his Department has any plans to instruct manufacturers of certain brands to withdraw them from sale.
I refer the hon. Member to my reply to the right hon. Member for Stoke on Trent, South (Mr. Ashley) on 6 February at column 491.
Mr. Donald Thompson : It is difficult to establish a precise figure, but in the light of information published by the Federation of United Kingdom Milk Marketing boards in the 1988 edition of "Dairy Facts and Figures" I estimate that 2 to 3 per cent. of milk sold for liquid consumption in England and Wales in 1987-88 was not heat treated.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list (a) the number of milk bottling plants which currently produce green top milk, (b) what proportion of milk production this represents, and (c) what proportion of unpasteurised milk it represents.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he will give the total level of milk production in 1988 ; and if he will give proportions accounted for by (a) green top bottled milk, (b) other bottled milk, (c) pasteurised milk for other than liquid consumption, and (d) unpasteurised milk for other than liquid consumption ;
(2) if he will estimate the level of United Kingdom consumption of unpasteurised milk.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I refer the hon. Member to the reply I have given today to the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew). Further information is set out in the 1988 edition of "United Kingdom Dairy Facts and Figures". There is a copy in the Library of the House.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how many inspections have been held of on-farm dairies producing for direct sale green top milk which have revealed listeria contamination during each of the last three years ;
(2) what steps he has taken during the last two years to improve the hygiene of on-farm dairies ;
(3) what steps he has taken during the last two years to improve the quality of unpasteurised milk sold direct to the public.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The production and processing of all milk is subject to strict controls under the Milk and Dairies Regulations. Producers who hold a licence to sell unpasteurised milk for liquid consumption under the special designation "untreated" are visited regularly by dairy husbandry advisers who check that the physical condition of the premises and the methods of production are in compliance with the regulations. In addition, samples of milk are taken for testing, but the milk is not tested for specific pathogens.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consultations he proposes to hold with consumer organisations before banning the sale of unpasteurised milk ; and what representations he has received from them asking for such a ban.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The consultation exercise that my right hon. Friend announced on 3 February will range widely and will include consumer organisations. I have already received various representations arguing that a ban would be in the best interests of consumers.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will publish the scientific and medical advice on the basis on which he proposes to ban the sale of unpasteurised milk.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I have been mainly influenced by information on outbreaks of food poisoning associated with consumption of untreated milk. Figures for the years 1982-88 were provided by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Health in response to a question from the hon. Member for Carlisle (Mr. Martlew).
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research his Department is funding concerning the toxicity of pesticides approved for slug control on (a) hedgehogs and other wild mammals, (b) birds and (c) amphibians.
Mr. MacGregor : Before pesticides are approved their effects must be researched by manufacturing companies and data submitted in support of the application. These are evaluated by independent experts before any approvals for use are granted by Ministers. Research conducted by my own Department at Boxworth is aimed at comparing the relative effects on wildlife of broadcasting and of drilling slug pellets. My Department also operates a scheme for investigating suspected wildlife poisonings and slug control products are occasionally implicated in these.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list those pesticides approved for use by his Department for slug control known to be toxic to (a) hedgehogs and other wild mammals, (b) birds and (c) amphibians.
Mr. MacGregor : All slug control pesticides have been assessed for environmental and wildlife hazards and the labels of approved products carry the relevant precautions to avoid harmful effects to birds and animals.