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Mr. Curry : We will continue to consult the industry on the implementation of the revised sheepmeat regime.

Chemical Fertilisers

18. Sir Michael McNair-Wilson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what advice his Ministry is offering to farmers about reducing the quantity of chemical fertilisers they are using to prevent high nitrate build-ups in the soil.

Mr. Maclean : ADAS advises farmers on the avoidance of excessive or untimely fertiliser usage, particularly autumn nitrogen applications. We are also introducing a pilot scheme to limit nitrate leaching in sensitive areas.

Countryside

19. Mr. Knapman : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what policies his Department will be developing to help maintain the present character of Britain's countryside.

53. Dr. Kim Howells : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his Ministry's plans to further conservation of the countryside.

Mr. Gummer : A number of important measures have been introduced by my Department in the last few years aimed at maintaining and improving the character of our countryside. The effectiveness of these measures is being monitored and the assessments will help in the determination of future policies having the same objectives.

Salmonella

20. Mr. Summerson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action his Department has taken in the last three months further to safeguard egg supplies from the effects of salmonella.

Mr. Maclean : I have introduced two amending orders on the testing of poultry laying and breeding flocks and hatcheries, and five codes of practice on the control of salmonella in protein and feedingstuffs.

Pesticides

21. Mr. Patrick Thompson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to improve the effectiveness of his Department's policies on minimising the harmful effects of pesticide spray drift.

Mr. Gummer : Users of pesticides must avoid the harmful effects of spray drifts, and we have published a draft code of practice to help farmers and growers comply with their legal obligations.

66. Mr. Alan W. Williams : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the operation of the advisory committee on pesticides.


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Mr. Maclean : Yes.

69. Mr. Boswell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what publications his Department has recently produced on pesticides.

Mr. Maclean : During 1989 my Department has produced, or collaborated in the production of :

"The Pesticide Register" a monthly list of new approvals ; "Pesticides 1989" an annual list of approved products ; "Pesticides and Food : A Balanced View" a free booklet which answers the questions most often asked by consumers ;

"Report of the Working Party on Pesticides Residues 1985-1988" ; "Wildlife Poisoning Incidents Report 1987" ;

plus evaluations by the advisory committee on pesticides of five new active ingredients and various ad hoc surveys.

Untreated Milk

22. Mr. Martlew : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will be introducing regulations to control the sale of untreated milk in England and Wales.

Mr. Curry : The sale of untreated milk is already controlled under the Milk (Special Designation) Regulations 1988. I expect to lay new regulations before the House shortly, which will require untreated milk to be labelled more fully and to be subject to more sophisticated testing.

Horticultural Research

24. Mr. Hind : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his planned reforms for the organisation of horticultural research will take effect.

Mr. Gummer : The aim is for the new organisation to be in place by 1 April 1990.

ading Fishing Industry 25. Mr. Kirkwood : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from organisations representing the fishing boat building industry regarding the state of the industry ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : I have received one representation from the fishing boat building industry.

47. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he is making towards publishing proposals which will reduce capacity of the fishing fleet in line with the target set under the multiannual guidance programme.

Mr. Curry : Fisheries Ministers hope to be able to announce before the end of the year what additional measures, if any, are considered necessary to achieve the target reductions.

Milk Products (Labelling)

26. Mr. Bright : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will reconsider introducing a scheme to label milk products when hormone treatment has been used on the cattle.


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Mr. Curry : I have no plans at present to introduce a mandatory requirement to this effect, but it is open to the industry to introduce voluntary arrangements if they wish.

Council of Agriculture Ministers

27. Mr. David Nicholson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what matters were discussed at the last meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Mr. Gummer : I refer my hon. Friend to the reply I gave on 25 October to my hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Boswell) at column 507.

Pigmeat

28. Mr. Gill : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to oppose European Council proposals to change the formula used to calculate pigmeat sluicegate prices and import levies.

Mr. Curry : At the Agriculture Council on 23 and 24 October, I argued that the pig industry needed a chance to recover their 1988 losses and now was not the time to be reducing levies in the way the Commission had proposed.

Hormone Growth Promoters

29. Mr. George Howarth : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will re-examine the law relating to the prosecution of farmers who implant hormone growth promoters in cattle.

Mr. Gummer : The Animals and Fresh Meat (Hormonal Substances) Regulations 1988 already provide for substantial penalties for farmers convicted of using hormone implants in their animals. Additional controls will be the subject of an announcement shortly.

Microwave Ovens

30. Mrs. Peacock : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with the makers of microwave ovens on the subject of improved user instructions.

Mr. Maclean : My officials regularly meet relevant organisations, including representatives of the oven manufacturers, to discuss all matters relevant to the safe use of microwave ovens. I attended one such meeting in July at which I stressed the importance the Government attach to this issue.

Butter

31. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the total amount of butter exported by the European Economic Community over the past 12 months ; and what was the range of prices at which it was disposed of.

Mr. Curry : The most recent 12-month period for which final figures are available is from July 1988 to June 1989 inclusive. Some 483,000 tonnes of butter were exported by the European Community, at prices ranging from about £150 per tonne for old intervention stock sold to the USSR, to around £1,100 per tonne for fresh product exported on to the world market.


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Food From Britain

32. Dr. Twinn : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what overseas trade fairs Food From Britain has participated in during the last six months.

Mr. Curry : Food From Britain has participated in the following nine overseas events since 1 April 1989 ;


Date                 |Event               |Place                                    

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

12 to 13 April       |Foodex '89          |Dublin                                   

7 to 10 May          |FMI                 |Chicago                                  

6 to 10 May          |MIAD                |Milan                                    

23 to 24 May         |PLMA                |Brussels                                 

28 to 30 May         |Fine Food Show      |Toronto                                  

25 to 28 June        |Fancy Food Show     |Atlanta                                  

3 to 6 September     |Fine Food Show      |Sydney                                   

14 to 19 October     |ANUGA               |Cologne                                  

20 to 24 October     |Expo CT             |Milan                                    

5 to 8 November      |Gulf Food Exhibition|Dubai                                    

Fisheries Policy

33. Mr. Sillars : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss fisheries policy.

38. Mr. Andrew Welsh : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss fisheries policy.

58. Mr. Salmond : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to attend a meeting of the Council of Ministers to discuss fisheries policy.

Mr. Curry : I refer the hon. Members to the reply I gave to the hon. Member for Moray (Mrs. Ewing) on 9 November 1989.

Pigs

34. Mr. Colin Shepherd : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will next meet the president of the National Farmers Union to discuss the pig sector of the agricultural industry.

Mr. Curry : We remain in close touch with the representatives of the pig industry and trade about matters of concern to them.

Food White Paper

35. Mr. Robert G. Hughes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many representations he has received from the food industry since his White Paper was published.

Mr. Maclean : Since publication of the White Paper "Food Safety-- Protecting the Consumer" in July this year I have received numerous comments from a wide range of food industry interests, including those of food manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

Eggs

36. Mr. Home Robertson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on health standards of imports of eggs into the United Kingdom.


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Mr. Gummer : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to him on 1 November at column 210.

65. Mr. Alexander : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will institute a review of the overall effectiveness of recent legislation affecting the egg producing industry.

Mr. Gummer : We are continuing to monitor the effects of the measures introduced to tackle the problem of salmonella in eggs.

Horticulture (Gas Prices)

37. Mr. Paice : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the effect on horticultural gas prices of the response by British Gas to the seven-point plan put forward by Ofgas.

Mr. Curry : I have received no representations specifically on the seven-point plan. I am, however, keeping in touch with the horticultural industry on the question of gas supplies in general and know that producers are currently evaluating the proposals. This subject was discussed at a recent meeting between Baroness Trumpington and NFU representatives.

National Fruit Collection

39. Mr. Gale : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what are his current plans for the maintenance and development of the national fruit collection ; where he intends that it should, in the future, be located ; who he intends to manage it ; how it will be funded ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : The Government have made clear their intention to continue to fund the national fruit collection. My Department is in active discussion with three organisations interested in taking over responsibility for the management of the national fruit collection in the event of the closure of Brogdale as a Ministry experimental horticultural station. The East Malling Trust and Wye college would transfer it to their sites whilst Swale borough council is co-ordinating local initiatives to retain it under the direction of a trust at Brogdale. Whichever option may be taken up, the collection will be maintained to a high standard as a living, growing collection.

Hormone Implants

40. Mr. Sean Hughes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what information he has on stockpiles of hormone implants held within the European Community.

Mr. Curry : I refer the hon. Member to the reply given on 31 October 1989 to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) at column 212.

Agricultural and Food Research Council

41. Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received about the agricultural and food research council ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : I have received a number of letters about the council's plans for restructuring its research institutes,


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particularly in relation to the Langford laboratory of the Institute of Food Research. These are matters for the council itself and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science.

Organic Agriculture and Horticulture

42. Mr. Malins : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps his Department is taking to encourage the development in the United Kingdom of organic agriculture and horticulture.

Mr. Curry : A major step taken by my Department was to initiate the setting up by Food From Britain of the United Kingdom register of organic food standards (UKROFS) which on 2 May launched production and processing standards for organic produce and an independent certification and inspection system.

But the development of organic agriculture and horiculture is being helped in a number of other ways. I recently announced that we are introducing a comprehensive economic survey of organic farming, the results of which should provide organic farmers and growers with a better understanding of the economics of production. The fallow option of the set-aside scheme enables farmers wishing to switch to organic farming to prepare their land without forgoing income entirely. We are considering an organic option under the forthcoming extensification scheme. Organic farmers are able to benefit from the farm and conservation grant scheme and from assistance towards the establishment of co-operatives. A sizeable part of our R and D programme is of interest to the organic sector and we are receiving advice from the organic sector, co-ordinated by UKROFS, or specific R and D requirements. Finally ADAS is offering a specialised countrywide service to organic farmers and growers.

Council of Fisheries Ministers

43. Mr. Robert Hughes : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he next expects to attend a meeting of the European Community Council of Fisheries Ministers ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : On 27 November. The draft agenda is not yet available but I will seek to ensure that the United Kingdom's concerns are properly met.

Fishing Ports

44. Mr. Wilson : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to visit fishing ports before the next meeting of the European Community's Council of Fisheries Ministers.

Mr. Curry : I have already visited Fleetwood, Grimsby and Lowestoft and will be going to Hull, Brixham and Newlyn before the next Fisheries Council.

Overseas Food Fairs

45. Mr. Hayward : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which overseas food fairs his Department has visited in the last three months.

Mr. Curry : Together with two of my officials I attended the ANUGA food fair in Cologne on 16 October, when I visited a number of stands in the British pavilion. I must


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congratulate the British companies exhibiting there for their marketing effort which I felt compared favourably with that of other countries.

Poultry (Testing)

46. Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to announce amendments to the Testing of Poultry Flocks Order to assist small egg producers.

Mr. Gummer : I refer the hon. Member to the written reply given to him by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary on 3 November 1989 at column 397.

National Consumer Council

48. Mr. Win Griffiths : To ask the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met representatives of the National Consumer Council ; and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Maclean : I last met representatives of the National Consumer Council on 14 August when we had a broad discussion on various food law and food safety issues.

Egg Imports

49. Mr. John P. Smith : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the levels of imports of foreign eggs.

Mr. Curry : Confirmed data are only available to the end of September.

In the first nine months of this year imports of eggs were about 30 per cent. up on those in the comparable months of 1988. But, as imports from such a small proportion of total United Kingdom supply, it is likely that these will represent no more than around 3 per cent. of United Kingdom output in 1989. Over the same nine-month period exports in 1989 increased by about 100 per cent. over 1988 levels and, to the end of September, exports exceeded imports by over 200,000 cases (each of 360 eggs).

Research and Seed Certification

50. Mr. Cousins : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what support is given by the food and agricultural industries to agricultural research and seed certification.

Mr. Gummer : Our best estimates are that the private sector spends around £320 million on research and development on agriculture and food. No direct support is given by the agriculture and food industries to seed certification. The costs incurred by the Agriculture Departments in connections with statutory certification schemes are recovered in full from the seed industry through fees currently prescribed in the Seeds Fees (Amendment) Regulations 1987.

Food Safety

51. Dr. Marek : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his priorities for food safety.

Mr. Maclean : The Government's priorities for food safety were set out in the recent White Paper "Food Safety


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--Protecting The Consumer" (CM. 732). The Bill to be introduced as soon as the parliamentary timetable permits is a major priority.

52. Mrs. Clwyd : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about his role in protecting food from contamination by radioactivity.

Mr. Maclean : My Department plays a key role and takes whatever means are necessary to protect food from contamination by radioactivity.

Food Advisory Committee

54. Mr. Pike : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when his food advisory committee last met ; and what matters were discussed.

Mr. Maclean : The agendas of food advisory committee meetings are published in advance. The committee last met on 19 October 1989 and I have sent the hon. Member the press release of 28 September 1989 which listed the main agenda items.

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, further to his answer to the hon. Member for South Shields of 2 November, Official Report, column 317, if he will list the organisations to which he writes prior to a food advisory committee meeting requesting comments on agenda items ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : As I indicated in my earlier reply, the agendas are published in a press notice so that it is open to any organisation or individual to comment to the secretary of the food advisory committee on matters currently before the committee. Approximately 900 persons or organisations are also sent copies of food press notices. I will write in due course to the hon. Member giving the list of names.

Battery Fowls

55. Mr. Blunkett : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what percentage of battery fowls suffer broken limbs on the way to slaughter.

Mr. Maclean : Recent MAFF-funded research has indicated that about 30 per cent. of end of lay hens from battery units suffer from broken bones. Most of these are thought to occur when the birds are removed from the cages. The problem is not confined to battery units as further research indicates that birds from other systems--percheries and free range--have more old breaks than birds kept in cages. Both MAFF and the industry are funding more research into the problem. The Government are supporting action by the industry to reduce the incidence of broken bones and plans to introduce legislation designed to improve cage design in order to minimise injury when the birds are removed.

Dairy Sector

56. Mr. Kirkhope : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessments his Department has recently undertaken on the present profitability of the dairy sector.


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Mr. Curry : My Department carries out annual assessments of profitability in the dairy and other farming sectors, the results of which are published in February each year in reports entitled "Agriculture in the United Kingdom". The most recent report, a copy of which is in the Library of the House, shows the net income from dairy farming in 1988-89 rose in real terms to its highest level since 1982-83.

Scottish Fishermen's Federation

57. Mr. Foulkes : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation ; and what subjects were discussed.

63. Mr. Graham : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met representatives of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation ; and what subjects were discussed.

Mr. Gummer : Since taking up my post in July, I have not yet met the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, but I know my Scottish colleagues, with whom I am in close touch, are in frequent contact.


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