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Mr. MacGregor : The Government expect to spend £186 million on research and development in agriculture alone in this financial year. This amply demonstrates our strong commitment to the technological underpinning of the farming industry and to public good research in this area. This does not include the additional research and development on food, fisheries and related activities.
Mr. Ryder : I met the chairman of the Countryside Commission on 7 November, when we discussed many issues relating to the countryside. I am always ready to discuss matters of mutual concern with the Countryside Commission.
15. Mr. Martyn Jones : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his policy on the disposal of unwanted pesticides, veterinary products and associated containers.
Mr. Ryder : The policy of this Ministry is to make positive efforts to encourage compliance with the legal requirement, which is that all hazardous waste substances from agriculture including pesticides, veterinary products and their containers, should be disposed of safely and without harm to the environment.
Mr. Ryder : The independent advisory committee on pesticides is undertaking a programme of routine reviews of all pesticides, including those used on fruit, starting with those active ingredients which have been approved the longest and are most widely used. In addition emergency reviews will be carried out when particular concerns have been raised.
Mr. Ryder : As I have explained to the hon. Gentleman before, we acknowledge the value of hedges as wildlife habitats and landscape features, as well as their value for agricultural purposes. My Department is always ready to provide advice to farmers on hedgerow management, and grants are available for hedgerow planting and laying.
Mr. MacGregor : As my hon. Friend said in a reply to the then hon. Member for Glasgow, Central (Mr. McTaggart) on 16 March, at column 345, I consider it of great importance that this country should have a veterinary service dedicated to the maintenance of our high health status. I will ensure that this factor is taken into acount in the review of veterinary manpower which I announced on 11 April, at column 441.
Column 667approved the Community's approach on agriculture for the GATT negotiations held in Geneva earlier this month. A successful agreement was reached there on a framework for negotiation on further agricultural reform. In Community discussions we are now encouraging the Commission to develop constructive proposals on how this is to be achieved.
26. Sir Hal Miller : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Geneva talks on the agricultural aspects of the general agreement on tariffs and trade.
Mr. MacGregor : My right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster made a statement to the House on 10 April, at columns 396-97, about the outcome of the recent GATT meeting. The agreement reached there on agriculture provides a firm basis for work to be carried forward on the ways and means of securing long-term policy reform. For the short term, it confirms that present levels of support and protection are not to be increased. We shall be urging the Community to press ahead with detailed work to build on and continue the process of agricultural reform that is already under way.
51. Mr. Knapman : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the United States Agriculture Minister, Mr. Yeutter, on recent general agreement on tariffs and trade developments on agriculture.
Mr. MacGregor : I met Secretary Yeutter in Washington on 24 April. We had extensive discussions, concentrating in particular on the current GATT round. We both welcomed the agreement that had been reached in the GATT trade negotiations committee on 8 April and their firm basis that it now provides for negotiations on long-term reform of agricultural policies worldwide. We also agreed that the commitment not to increase support and protection beyond current levels will be an important contribution to this process.
67. Mr. Allen McKay : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment has been made of the pollution of watercourses by the agricultural industry ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Ryder : The total number of reported farm pollution incidents increased by 6 per cent. in 1988, although there was a 5 per cent. reduction in those classified serious. The Government are taking a number of steps to tackle this problem, incuding free general advice to farmers on pollution avoidance and the most generous grant-aid in the EEC. But Government action alone cannot solve it. It is the duty of every farmer to comply with the law, of the water authorities--soon the National Rivers Authority--to enforce it, and of the courts to set appropriate penalties.
Column 668United Kingdom, from the latest available figures, the equivalent current cost of farm support systems to the average family in (i) the United States of America (ii) Japan, (iii) Canada, (iv) Austria, (v) Sweden and (vi) Norway.
Mr. MacGregor : I regret that information in the form requested is not available. However, published OECD studies provide some indications of the relative costs of agricultural support that prevailed on average in 1984-1986. The calculations take account of consumer transfers through higher food prices as well as direct budgetary expenditures. These studies include the European Community of 10 members as a whole, but not the United Kingdom separately. Figures have not yet been published for Sweden and Norway. If these OECD estimates are adjusted to per head of population, and the Community set at 100, they imply the following index numbers for that period : United States, 113 ; Japan, 142 ; Canada, 92 ; Austria, 86. Such comparisons should be treated with caution : they are sensitive to changes in exchange rates and other factors. Estimates for more recent years, when available, could well show different relationships, in particular for the United States whose currency has fallen substantially against the ECU and where spending on agricultural policies has been falling.
Mr. MacGregor : We have recently received a number of representations from sugar beet growers and from the National Farmers Union on their behalf concerning the EC Commission's price proposals for sugar. This was prior to the settlement at the Agriculture Council last week.
Column 669Intervention stocks of most major commodities have reduced significantly. Stocks of butter are down by 94 per cent. since 1986. Cereals stocks are down about 60 per cent. since 1985. Skimmed milk powder stocks, which were over 1 million tonnes in 1986, are now virtually non-existent. Beef stocks are down about a half since 1985.
Mr. Ryder : My right hon. Friend the Minister and I met the president of the RSPB council on 17 November, when we discussed the RSPB's consultation paper on the reform of the common agricultural policy.
I had a separate meeting with the chairman on 3 November, at which we discussed a wide range of issues. Both these meetings were helpful and constructive.
Mr. MacGregor : I hope to be able to announce the details of this review shortly, but am not yet in a position to say when it will reach conclusions. However, I am glad to note that the Universities Funding Council has put off consideration of the Riley report until the review is completed.
31. Mr. Pike : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will extend the scheme of payments to encourage less intensive farming in environmentally sensitive areas to cover national parks.
Column 670designed to spread the annual quota availability as evenly as possible over the year, and to avoid, as possible, a repetition of last year's uninterrupted closure of six months. I have accordingly closed the fishery twice this year for time-limited periods, currently until 1 July. Latest estimates indicate that we took about half of our annual quota by Easter. I am fully aware of the difficulties facing cod fishermen, and I am pursing all possible means of adjusting the level of the quota.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Following agreement at the Council of Fisheries Ministers on 9-11 December 1989, quotas for the United Kingdom's cod fisheries were announced to the industry on 13 December 1988.
As regards the North sea and west of Scotland fisheries, the allocation of United Kingdom quotas among the various groups in the fisheries has this year given rise to new and important issues which have needed further consideration within Fisheries Departments. We are looking to conclude discussions as a matter of urgency and will be contacting the industry as soon as possible thereafter.
36. Dr. Moonie : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the results of action being taken by his Department to assist and encourage the eradication of salmonella from poultry flocks.
Mr. MacGregor : The Government have adopted a comprehensive range of measures to tackle the problem of salmonella in eggs and poultry. Codes of practice have been introduced on the control of salmonella in laying flocks, breeding flocks, hatcheries, broilers and turkeys and guidelines issued on the control of salmonella in feedingstuffs. Laying flocks and processed animal protein produced for use as feedingstuffs are statutorily subject to
Column 671compulsory bacteriological monitoring for the presence of salmonella. All identifications of the organism must be reported to my Department.
Notices have been served prohibiting the sale of eggs from flocks found to be contaminated with invasive salmonellas, such contaminated flocks have been compulsorily slaughtered, and compulsory cleansing of contaminated laying houses required.
Statutory powers have been exercised to prevent the movement of contaminated material from animal protein processing plants. The laying controls on imported animal protein have been strengthened.
It is still too early to assess the results of these measures. Salmonella organisms are too pervasive for eradication to be possible but I am confident that the action which we are taking will have a significant effect in reducing the problem.
38. Mr. Hardy : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what proportion the size of the national dairy herd has declined in the last five years ; and if the decline in each of the other member states of the European Community is greater or less than that in the United Kingdom.
|c|Percentage decline in dairy cow numbers in member states of the|c| |c|European community<1>|c| |c|December 1983 to December 1988|c| |Per cent. ----------------------------------- Denmark |22.7 France |22.6 Netherlands |20.6 Luxembourg |15.1 United Kingdom |13.2 Germany |12.2 Belgium |10.1 Ireland |9.7 Italy |7.0 Greece |1.9 Source: Eurostat. <1> Figures for Spain and Portugal are not available.
40. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the National Farmers Union, the Country Landowners Association and other organisations regarding the closure of Liscombe Hill experimental farm and Roswarne experimental station ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 672parties in 1988 concerning our future research and development programme. The facilities required to undertake our R and D programme will form part of further consultations with industry organisations at official level with my noble Friend in May. In addition, my officials are pursuing with local interests those specific proposals that have been made for future funding of work at Liscombe and Rosewarne, bearing in mind the need to meet the full costs of the work retained.
41. Mrs. Gillian Shephard : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on reactions to his announcement of the farm and conservation grants scheme and the degree of interest being shown by farmers wanting to pursue it.
Interest so far shown by farmers is high. In England 449 formal notifications have been received from farmers intending to begin pollution control work and 83 for the repair of traditional farm buildings. Fifty-six applications for farm improvement plans have also been received. In addition, divisional offices have dealt with a substantial number of inquiries about the scheme leading to a widescale distribution of the advisory literature.
This is a very encouraging response in the opening weeks of the new scheme. I am particularly pleased by the high level of interest in grants for waste disposal given the pressing need to reduce the incidence of farm pollution.
45. Mr. Ron Brown : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received recent representations from the National Farmers Union about tied cottages ; and if he will make a statement.
53. Mr. Steen : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what statistical evidence his Ministry currently has to show whether unpasteurised milk produced hygienically is damaging to human health.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The evidence is not so much statistical as scientific. Unpasteurised milk poses a threat to human health mainly because pathogens may be carried by an apparently healthy cow and passed on in its milk. The risk of such transmission is not significantly affected by production conditions.
Mr. Ryder : The Government attach the highest priority to ensuring food safety. Our policy has been and will remain to take such steps--in the form of prompt action coupled with advice to consumers--as are shown to be necessary. Recent examples of this include : a wide ranging set of measures dealing with salmonella in eggs and poultry and covering all stages of the food chain ; guidance to the public on salmonella in eggs and on listeria ; and the setting up of an independent expert committee to make recommendations on the microbiological safety of food. We shall shortly be launching an education campaign of food hygiene in the home.
We shall continue to act promptly on the findings of our extensive system of food surveillance and any other matters that come to light through scientific research and assessment.
President-in-Office, European Community Council of Fisheries Ministers ; and what subjects were discussed.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food meets Senor Romero frequently in his capacity as President of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. I last met Senor Romero in La Toja, Spain on 10-11 April at an informal meeting of the EC Fisheries Ministers, where discussion ranged over a number of aspects of the common fisheries policy.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I met representatives of the Farm Animal Welfare Council on 13 April and talked to them about space allowances for battery hens, the council's remit, and implementation of the FAWC reports on redmeat and religious slaughter.
Mr. MacGregor : I last met the president of the Country Landowners Association on 15 February, when we discussed various matters relating to the tenanted sector. My noble friend has since met him on 17 April, when a wide range of agricultural issues were discussed.