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Mr. Curry : The Agriculture Council on 11-12 December, as part of the follow-up to the reform of the sheepmeat regime, agreed a definition of a heavy lamb carcase for the purpose of determinin the level of ewe premium payments to be paid to sheep milk producers. That will not affect the payments under the 1990 scheme to sheep milk producers in this country. The special arrangements governing payments to sheeps' milk
Column 738producers, which were agreed by the September Council, will come into effect in the United Kingdom from the beginning of 1991. The Council also agreed revised terms of access for Argentinian and Australian sheepmeat exports to the EC.
Mr. Gummer : Food and Farming Year was organised by the industry to increase public awareness of farming and food production as an industry and as a way of life. The high interest shown at food and farming events throughout the country, and particularly at the major exhibitions at Hyde park and Gateshead, is a clear indication of the year's success.
25. Mr. Ian Bruce : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what support his Department has given to scheme quality certification for British eggs and for the exclusion of imported eggs that do not meet the United Kingdom's anti-salmonella measures.
Mr. Curry : This certification scheme is an initiative by Food from Britain, which we welcome. We are also encouraging egg packers and retailers to market "British eggs" positively so that consumers are able to identify, and select, such eggs. As for the banning of imported eggs, we have no evidence that would justify such action at present.
Mr Maclean : Control of salmonella in food is a complex problem. The Government have taken action in areas of particular concern, especially through the adoption of a comprehensive package of measures in relation to salmonella in eggs. The Government have also issued important advice to consumers on the hygienic handling and preparation of food in the home.
64. Mr. Ashton : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many chickens have been officially slaughtered in the current year because his inspectors have found salmonella infection in their eggs.
Mr. Maclean : The compulsory slaughter arrangements are based on the testing of birds rather than eggs. Up to 22 December 1989 1,024, 149 birds have been slaughtered compulsorily because of the presence of salmonella enteritidis or S. Typhimurium in the flock.
Column 739Mr. Maclean : I have received representations from a wide range of interests, including those of consumers, enforcement bodies and the food industry. The Bill has received a broad welcome from all sides.
Mr. Curry : Comprehensive economic information on full-time horticultural businesses, including data on input costs, is collected in the farm business survey. The latest published information is in the 1989 edition of "Farm Incomes in the United Kingdom", a copy of which is available in the Library of the House.
Mr. Maclean : My right hon. Friend the Minister published the report on the study commissioned by the Ministry on the uniformity and reproducibility of reheating in domestic microwave ovens on 4 December 1989, the day on which he received it. He was immediately in touch with the oven manufacturers' representatives. As a result, as the Minister informed the House in response to a private notice question from the hon. Member for South Shields (Dr. Clark) on 6 December at columms 323-27, the manufacturers issued updated and improved instructions on that day in relation to the models for which that was appropriate. The manufacturers were also able to make fuller information available through retail outlets and, as the Minister indicated in his reply to the hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Davies) on 18 December at column 30, we have encouraged retailers to stock this information.
Mr. Gummer : Estimates of farm incomes for 1989 will be published in "Agriculture in the United Kingdom 1989" within the next few weeks. Incomes for future years will be influenced by many factors and it is not possible to give reliable estimates at this stage.
33. Mr. Latham : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on the findings of his departmental veterinary service into the deaths of animals connected with Rutland Water in the weeks up to 8 September.
Mr. Maclean : Ten dead lambs and two dogs were examined by Ministry veterinary investigation centres in the period from 21 August to 7 September. Tissue samples were also examined at the university of Dundee. There is evidence that some of the sheep were suffering from relatively common diseases, such as pulpy kidney and pasteurella. However, results show that some of the sheep deaths and that of both dogs may be linked to the ingestion of blue green algal toxins.
Mr. Curry : The value of landings increased by 44 per cent. between 1983 and 1988 against a generally stable volume of catches, but opportunities in 1990 will be less. However, while in the interests of conservation 20 quotas are lower than in 1989, including substantial cuts for North sea cod and haddock, 17 others remain stable and 12 quotas have increased.
Where quotas have been reduced, that has been in order to conserve stocks and safeguard the long-term future of the fishing industry. The extent to which earnings are affected will depend upon the market response to the lower landings.
Mr. Colvin : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will take steps to devolve central control of the inshore fishing industry of England and Wales to a regional fisheries management organisation which would co-ordinate the work of his Ministry's fisheries inspectorate and provide the contract and administrative body for the sea fisheries committee ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 741the concern of others. Any arrangement made to implement the provision for a 12-mile territorial sea for the Isle of Man would clearly, in relation to fisheries, have to safeguard the interests of all our fishermen and our Community obligations. I refer the hon. Member to the Adjournment debate on 13 December, Official Report, columns 1142-48.
Mr. Curry : I meet the Agriculture Commissioner regularly. I shall discuss green currencies with him in the context of the cap price fixing, on which the Agriculture Council may have a preliminary discussion at its meeting on 22-23 January.
41. Mr. Strang : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he last met representatives from the Health and Safety Executive's agriculture inspectorate ; and what subjects were discussed.
42. Mr. Simon Coombs : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on progress in establishing a common European standard for the labelling of fats and other nutritional contents of food offered for sale.
Mr. Maclean : A European Community "Common Position" was reached on the Draft Nutrition Labelling (Rules) Directive, which includes provision for the labelling of fats, at the Internal Market Council on 21 December last. The proposals will now go to the Euopean Parliament for its second opinion before returning to Council for final adoption. The Council agreed a two-stage approach similar to the Ministry's nutrition labelling guidelines, consisting of a minimum declaration of the "Big 4" nutrients (energy, protein carbohydrate and fat) plus any other nutrient for which a claim is made. A second group of nutrients (sugars, saturates, fibre and sodium) will be added to the "Big 4" six years after notification of the directive, with the declaration of the "Big 4" only continuing to be an option. The giving of nutrition information will be voluntary except when a nutrient claim is made.
The United Kingdom would have preferred to introduce the second group of nutrients immediately but had to accept the phasing-in arrangements in order to obtain agreement on the total package which, on our initiative, includes provision to review the directive, in the light of experience, eight years after notification. A number of the directive's detailed provisions remain to be agreed at Community level but it is intended that those outstanding matters will be resolved within the time allowed for implementation, which is three years after the directive was adopted. Some changes to United Kingdom regulations will be needed, but there is no reason why manufacturers and retailers cannot adopt the main provisions of the directive as soon as it is finalised and I shall be urging them to give as much nutrition information as possible within the format laid down in the directive. In particular, I believe that a full nutrition declaration should be given whenever a nutrition claim is made, to ensure that consumers are not misled by selective claims.
No progress has been made on the directive to enable the introduction of the compulsory labelling of certain nutrients and that remains on the table for further discussion.
43. Mr. Amos : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to ensure that Britain retains the use of hill livestock compensatory allowances to assist farmers in the less favoured areas.
Mr. Curry : In the negotiations last year on the reforms of the EC structural funds, my right hon. Friend argued vigorously in support of the United Kingdom arrangements for paying hill livestock compensatory allowances. The Government remain fully committed to continuing to provide appropriate support to farmers in the less favoured areas of the United Kingdom including support through the HLCA scheme.
1989 |Thousand eggs ------------------------------------------ September |58,044 October |38,285 November |74,354
Mr. Maclean : The European Commission officials are working on a draft measure for the production of all poultry meat in the single market but have not yet made a formal proposal to the Council. The industry and other interests concerned are being kept fully informed of developments and I shall take account of their views in future negotiations.
Mr. Curry : We have recently consulted the industry on proposed changes to the licensing system, which would permit the aggregation of vessel capacity. We are still awaiting some industry views but hope to be able to make an arrangement shortly.
We are likely to have to make some changes to licensing conditions once the Divisional Court has considered the recent judgment of the European Court of Justice in cases 3/87 Agegate and 216/87 Jaderow.
57. Mr. Teddy Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for what reasons the Agriculture Council determined to disregard the automatic stabiliser for cereal production in December.
65. Mr. Hind : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what policies are being developed to ensure that the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service is becoming more commercial in its operations.
Column 745expected to do so again in the current financial year. Steps have also been taken to improve efficiency and reduce costs. The performance of ADAS is kept under review and in the medium term it has been set a target of recovering 50 per cent. of the full economic cost of providing commercial advisory services by 1993-94.
Mr. Curry : Interest in the grants available under the farm and conservation grant scheme for pollution control projects has been high. To date nearly 3,000 farmers in England have notified us of their intention to carry out this type of work. Grant paid on work already carried out under the scheme as a whole, which also includes other conservation items, so far amounts to about £1.5 million.
Mr. Curry : Egg supplies are still somewhat lower than in November 1988 and consumption is also down, but packer to producer prices are very firm and are currently at their highest levels for over five years.
I am encouraging our egg packers and retailers to market British eggs, which are now produced to the highest standards, in a way that will enable consumers to identify and select them.
69. Mr. Archer : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the effect upon retail prices of meat if European Economic Community directive 64/433 is implemented.
Mr. Curry : EC directive 64/433 is already in force and sets down hygiene, inspection and structural requirements for meat plants exporting to other EC member states. Draft proposals currently under discussion would extend
Column 746similar requirements to all meat plants. Any impact on retail prices of meat would depend on the individual decisions of meat plant operators in the light of the competitive market situation that they faced.
Mr. Gummer : The farm woodland scheme came into operation on 1 October 1988. By the end of November 1989 applications had been received to plant 8,938 hectares, 75 per cent. with broadleaved trees. The scheme is clearly successful in encouraging farmers to plant woodlands on land that would otherwise contribute to production of surplus food. It also holds out the prospect of environmental and landscape improvements in the longer term.
Mr. Gummer : In the first 14 months of the farm woodland scheme 1, 323 farmers applied to plant a total of 8,938 hectares of trees throughout the United Kingdom. The trees will be planted in small areas, which average around 6 hectares per farm and 75 per cent. will be broadleaved species.
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food pursuant to his answer to the hon. Member for South Shields, 14 December, Official Report, column 800, if he will place in the Library the comments of (a) Sweden, (b) Denmark, (c) the Netherlands, (d) Germany and (e) Norway to his proposals to permit licences for the dumping of the relevant wastes.
Mr. Gummer : I have arranged for the material requested to be placed in the Library, together with the documents to which the comments relate and my Department's replies to these comments. The departmental papers show that the wastes concerned will not harm the marine environment and that at present there exists no alternative means of disposal for them on land which would be environmentally acceptable.