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63. Sir Hal Miller : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he has taken to ensure that consumer interests are considered and protected in any decision on food irradiation.
Mr. MacGregor : There is always full consultation with consumer organisations over food safety policies. Both Ministers and officials have been involved in recent discussions with organisations over food irradiation, and there will be plenty of opportunity for further consultations given that both the primary legislation and the legislation thereafter will have to be discussed and approved by Parliament.
58. Mr. Conway : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the proposals of the working group established to devise a control framework for food irradiation in the United Kingdom.
Mr. MacGregor : I refer my hon. Friend to the statement I made in the debate on food safety, research and health on 21 June 1989 at columns 347-59. A copy of the report of the working group of officials is in the Library of the House.
Mr. MacGregor : Officials in my Department have undertaken extensive consultations with interested consumer, enforcement and trade organisations on possible changes to our food legislation. We shall introduce new legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.
Mr. MacGregor : Work on the detailed preparation of new food legislation, which we announced in October 1987, is well advanced. The Government will introduce proposals for new legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.
Mr. MacGregor : Officials of my Department and that of my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for Health, have undertaken consultations with a very large number of interested consumer, enforcement and trade organisations. Work on the preparation of new
Column 550primary food legislation is well advanced and we shall introduce new legislation as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits.
Mr. MacGregor : The Government are encouraging in various ways the development of organic farming in response to consumer demand, for example through its strong support for the United Kingdom register of organic food standards.
24. Mr. Tony Banks : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is in a position to outline his Ministry's reaction to the recommendations made at the 41st annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The major decisions of the International Whaling Commission concerned the adoption of resolutions co-sponsored by the United Kingdom calling upon Japan, Iceland and Norway to reconsider their plans to take whales for scientific reseach purposes,
Column 551and rejection of Japan's request for a catch quota of 320 minke whales for its small coastal whaling boats. I strongly welcome these decisions as upholding the spirit of the present moratorium on commercial whaling. These and the preparatory work for the comprehensive assessment needed for the review of the moratorium next year are essential to protect and enhance the status of the world's depleted whale stocks.
25. Mr. Alexander : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will endeavour to ensure that the European Economic Community gives Aujesky's disease category 1 protection in order to protect the British pig industry against future outbreaks of the disease.
|Total area of ESA (Ha) --------------------------------------------------------------------- Broads |29,870 Pennine Dales |15,960 Somerset Levels |26,970 South Downs |53,340 West Penwith |7,210 Breckland |94,030 North Peak |50,250 Shropshire Borders |21,000 Suffolk River Valleys |32,150 Test Valley |2,690
28. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with the European Community Commission over the proposals for harmonised animal health rules in respect of both intra-Community trade and imports from third countries.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I met Commissioner MacSharry on 20 June. I said that, in the context of the single market, the Government supported the Commission's objective of achieving a uniformly high animal health status throughout the Community and that we also agreed on the need for common high standards for imports from third countries. I said that our view
Column 552remained that until serious diseases such as foot and mouth disease were eradicated, effective controls on movements of animals and animal products from affected parts of the Community to parts which are free would be required to prevent disease spread, including an appropriate level of checking by member states of destination and quarantine where necessary.
Mr. MacGregor : Agricultural research is commissioned within my Department at 11 experimental husbandry farms, eight experimental horticultural stations, the farm building development centre, the field drainage experimental unit and the feed evaluation unit plus the ADAS central science laboratories and the central veterinary laboratories. My Department also commissions agricultural research externally with the eight institutes of the Agricultural and Food Research Council plus short-term contracts with a large number of universities, colleages, polytechnics and other establishments.
33. Mr. Robert Hicks : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to improve the fishing opportunities currently available to south-west England fishermen ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Donald Thompson : I am very much aware of the difficulties faced by fishermen in the south-west of England. At the Fisheries Council on 21 June we secured an important amendment to restrictions on beam length that will greatly assist our inshore beam fleet, and we secured a commitment from the Commission to review urgently the 1989 total allowable catch for Channel cod and other precautionary TACs. I have already taken steps to deal with the problem of quota hopping.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My Department's policy is to reduce the level of straw and stubble burned in the field by encouraging farmers to adopt alternative disposal methods where practicable, while at the same time reminding those farmers who continue to employ burning to observe the NFU code and local byelaws. Our annual straw survey indicates that, between 1983 and 1988, the proportion of straw disposed of by burning fell from 37.7 per cent. to 23.8 per cent., and there has also been a substantial reduction in complaints and prosecutions.
Mr. Donald Thompson : Between June 1978 and June 1988 the number of all those engaged in agriculture on a regular full-time basis in the United Kingdom declined by just under 21 per cent. or nearly 85,000. Within this total the number of full-time workers declined by nearly 31 per cent. (almost 61,000) of whom about 53,300 were hired workers and 7,400 family workers, while the number of full-time farmers, partners and directors fell by some 24,000 or just over 11 per cent.
41. Mrs. Ray Michie : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information he has about discussions on the European Economic Community's sheep regime ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. MacGregor : At the Agriculture Council on 19 and 20 June, discussions on the reform of the sheepmeat regime revealed that major differences of view continue to persist among member states. The Council will return to this subject at a subsequent meeting.
Mr. MacGregor : Discussions on this subject at the last Agriculture Council revealed that major differences of views continue to persist among member states. Negotiations may, therefore, be protracted.
44. Mr. Michael : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make it his policy to increase the resources devoted by his Department to scientific research into those aspects of (a) environmental concerns and (b) food production which come within the scope of his Department's responsibilities.
Mr. MacGregor : My Department has been increasing the resources devoted to environmental and food safety research, based on a number of considerations including the advice of the priorities board for research and development in agriculture and food.
45. Mr. Dykes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that the Reading, Berkshire Intervention Board for Agricultural Produce cold storage audited figures are properly audited by independent accounting officers.
Mr. MacGregor : My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I had a meeting with the chairman and other representatives of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on 17 November last year. We discussed several topics of mutual interest.
55. Mr. Cousins : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to ensure that voluntary premature retirement schemes are offered to staff at the National Institute for Agricultural Botany.
Mr. Donald Thompson : My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary met representatives, including the chairman, of the Council for the Protection of Rural England on 22 March, when they discussed a number of issues of mutual concern.
Mr. Donald Thompson : The market for poultry meat weakened in the early part of this year, but chick placings for table poultry have fallen in recent months ; and due to this and to other factors, the market has now firmed again, with wholesale prices now at or above the levels of a year ago.
66. Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his Department's view of the increasing use of staging posts to enable livestocks to be transported long distances prior to slaughter.
Mr. Donald Thompson : EC legislation requires that animals in international transport should be offered food and water at suitable intervals and should not be left for more than 24 hours without being fed and watered.
Under our legislation exporters are required to provide details of arrangements made for feeding and watering animals on long international journeys. The staging points used for this purpose are authorised by the United Kingdom and the country in question.
Mr. Donald Thompson : In the first year of the scheme, about 800 hectares of land have been set aside to woodland, either directly or through the farm woodland scheme. I recently invited applications for the second year of set-aside, and since farmers have now had more time to plan for tree planting, I expect enhanced interest in this option. I welcome increased planting of trees on arable land as a contribution to the reduction of surpluses, to the enhancement of the landscape and to helping to meet our timber requirements in the longer term.