Previous Section Home Page

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Agriculture Council

Mr. Steen : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Brussels Agriculture Council held on 22 and 23 January.

Mr. Gummer : I represented the United Kingdom at this meeting together with my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), Parliamentary Secretary in this Department.

The Council had a first exchange of views on the Commission's proposals for 1990 farm prices. I emphasised the need for a settlement to redress the unfair burden which the green pound gap lays on the British farmer and to complete the dismantling by 1992 at the latest ; to continue and consolidate the process of CAP


Column 766

reform and to take full account of the stabilisers fixed for certain products ; to respect budgetary guidelines ; to be consistent with the Community's GATT commitments ; and urged that greater scope for market forces should be introduced into the CAP, including providing for a reduction in the degree of external protection. Like several other Ministers, I questioned the need for the new non-price support measures proposed by the Commission. The Council will next consider the proposals in more detail at its meeting in February. On bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the Council considered a Commission proposal, which would have the effect of banning most United Kingdom exports of live cattle over six months old to other member states. I opposed on the ground that the scientific evidence showed clearly that such restrictions were unnecessary. No decision was reached, but the rules allow the Commission to adopt the proposal as it stands, which it is now expected to do with effect from 1 March. Of some 266,000 live cattle exported from the United Kingdom in 1988, 249,000 (94 per cent.) would still have been able to be exported had the present proposal then been in force. The most important effect of such a ban is likely to be on exports of breeding animals. However, the Commissioner confirmed that authoritative veterinary advice made it clear that there were no grounds for suspecting that beef produced in the United Kingdom posed any risk to public health. He stated that all member states should now act in accordance with this fact and that any measures interfering with trade in beef would be contrary to Community law. The German authorities will now be reflecting on this statement and I hope that they will soon remove their unjustified measures, which are hampering trade.

I urged the Commissioner to bring forward proposals for Community measures to deal with salmonella infection in poultry, so that all eggs produced in the Community can reach the same high health status as those produced in the United Kingdom. He stated that he would produce wide-ranging proposals as soon as possible.

The Council agreed a tranche of emergency food aid for Romania and agreed in principle that further tranches both to Romania and to Poland should be made when the necessary legal formalities have been completed.

Agricultural Products (Trade)

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish details of the occasions in each of the last five years when article 36 of the European Communities treaty has been used to ban the trade in agricultural products between member states, indicating in each case the product, the stated reason for the ban and the countries involved.

Mr. Curry : The information requested by the hon. Member is not available. Article 36 of the treaty of Rome provides an exception (applicable in specified circumstances) to the provisions of articles 30-34 of the treaty. It is not in the nature of a statutory power. Consequently, a member state would not expressly cite article 36 in a legislative or administrative measure regulating trade with other member states, even if it considered that the measure was justified under the exception provided by that article.


Column 767

Dumping Licences

Mr. Morley : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many licences for the dumping of materials at sea were issued by his Department in (a) 1988


Column 768

and (b) 1989 ; what materials they were issued for ; what quantities were involved ; what areas of sea were used ; and what organisations or companies received them.

Mr. Curry : Licences are issued in respect of England and Wales. Figures for 1989 are provisional. The information is as follows :


Column 767


                         1988                  1989                            

                        |Licences  |Licensed  |Licences  |Licensed             

                        |Issued    |Tonnage   |Issued    |Tonnage              

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

Dredged Spoil           |133       |61,644,923|141       |66,663,150           

                                                                               

Liquid Industrial Waste |19        |311,411   |16        |292,968              

                                                                               

Solid Industrial Waste  |10        |5,856,200 |10        |5,928,917            

                                                                               

Sewage Sludge           |16        |7,503,580 |15        |8,321,305            

Disposal sites are approved by the Ministry for each licence. Licensees are normally harbour and port authorities, dredging operators, operators of sewage treatment works and industrial companies producing waste or their agents.

Details of each licence are available on a public register held by the Ministry.

Animal Feed (Contamination)

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list for each county in England and Wales the number of farms (a) currently under restrictions and (b) from which restrictions have been lifted following the recent contamination of animal feed.

Mr. Curry : A total of 1668 farms in England and Wales are currently under restriction. To date, 536 farms have been released from all restrictions. The breakdown by county is as follows :


11. Exports of cattle products                                                                                                           

                                                1988                                1989 (January-July)                                  

                                               |Quantity (Tonnes)|Value (000 ECU)  |Quantity (Tonnes)|Value (000 ECU)                    

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

To EC                                                                                                                                    

Fresh, chilled, beef and veal                  |74,801           |248,892          |47,953           |173,463                            

Frozen beef and veal                           |15,168           |56,528           |11,535           |42,347                             

Fresh chilled and frozen edible offal          |5,744            |11,889           |4,408            |10,423                             

Meat of bovine animals salted, in brine, dried                                                                                           

   or smoked                                   |3                |29               |2                |23                                 

Prepared or preserved meat, offal or blood of                                                                                            

   bovine animals                              |2,616            |7,130            |1,412            |4,242                              

Fats of bovine animals<1>                      |8,127            |2,867            |6,577            |2,279                              

                                                                                                                                         

To Third Countries                                                                                                                       

Fresh, chilled, beef and veal                  |1,263            |3,313            |552              |1,622                              

Frozen beef and veal                           |26,212           |60,574           |14,585           |36,388                             

Fresh chilled and frozen edible offal          |632              |1,387            |341              |1,202                              

Meat of bovine animals salted, in brine, dried                                                                                           

    or smoked                                  |-                |-                |1                |6                                  

Prepared or preserved meat, offal or blood of                                                                                            

    bovine animals                             |538              |1,424            |324              |909                                

Fats of bovine animals<1>                      |57               |43               |936              |369                                

<1> Also includes fats from sheep and goats.                                                                                             

Source: Eurostat.                                                                                                                        

In addition, all dairy farms were released from milk restrictions by 13 December last year and approximately 117,000 individual animals have so far been released under livestock clearance arrangements.

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his estimate of the total loss of


Column 768

milk production to date, by volume and value, arising from restrictions placed on producers following the recent contamination of animal feed.

Mr. Curry : I am not aware of any loss of production, as all the milk from farms under restriction was collected by the Milk Marketing Board. It will not be possible for the board to assess the extent of any loss in sales income until the milk powder and butter have been sold.

Cattle and Cattle Products (Export)

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list by value and volume the exports of (a) live cattle and (b) cattle products to each importing country during (a) 1988 and (b) 1989.

Mr. Curry : The information requested is as follows :


i. Exports of live cattle                                                      

                            |Quantity        |Value                            

                            |(tonnes)        |(000 ecu)                        

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

1988                                                                           

France                      |7,025           |27,913                           

Belgium-Luxembourg          |70              |178                              

Netherlands                 |5,451           |18,169                           

Federal Republic of Germany |859             |2,453                            

Italy                       |353             |1,316                            

Ireland                     |6,863           |12,847                           

Denmark                     |76              |374                              

Greece                      |13              |62                               

Sweden                      |22              |119                              

Finland                     |25              |274                              

Austria                     |2               |11                               

Portugal                    |624             |1,393                            

Spain                       |133             |370                              

Soviet Union                |61              |482                              

Morocco                     |58              |107                              

Nigeria                     |3               |18                               

Uganda                      |54              |121                              

Zimbabwe                    |17              |56                               

South Africa                |41              |336                              

United States of America    |8               |104                              

Canada                      |5               |24                               

St. Lucia                   |4               |14                               

Lebanon                     |1               |3                                

Japan                       |10              |72                               

Australia                   |5               |68                               

                                                                               

1989 (January to July)                                                         

France                      |3,618           |15,749                           

Belgium-Luxembourg          |29              |59                               

Netherlands                 |1,520           |6,393                            

Federal Republic of Germany |378             |1,405                            

Italy                       |84              |201                              

Ireland                     |2,912           |6,507                            

Denmark                     |36              |130                              

Austria                     |14              |38                               

Portugal                    |312             |890                              

Spain                       |147             |469                              

Soviet Union                |8               |53                               

Uganda                      |27              |55                               

United States of America    |4               |37                               

Canada                      |5               |79                               

St. Lucia                   |24              |61                               

Peru                        |10              |67                               

Uruguay                     |2               |23                               

                                                                               


Column 769


i. Exports of live cattle                                                      

                            |Quantity        |Value                            

                            |(tonnes)        |(000 ecu)                        

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

1988                                                                           

France                      |7,025           |27,913                           

Belgium-Luxembourg          |70              |178                              

Netherlands                 |5,451           |18,169                           

Federal Republic of Germany |859             |2,453                            

Italy                       |353             |1,316                            

Ireland                     |6,863           |12,847                           

Denmark                     |76              |374                              

Greece                      |13              |62                               

Sweden                      |22              |119                              

Finland                     |25              |274                              

Austria                     |2               |11                               

Portugal                    |624             |1,393                            

Spain                       |133             |370                              

Soviet Union                |61              |482                              

Morocco                     |58              |107                              

Nigeria                     |3               |18                               

Uganda                      |54              |121                              

Zimbabwe                    |17              |56                               

South Africa                |41              |336                              

United States of America    |8               |104                              

Canada                      |5               |24                               

St. Lucia                   |4               |14                               

Lebanon                     |1               |3                                

Japan                       |10              |72                               

Australia                   |5               |68                               

                                                                               

1989 (January to July)                                                         

France                      |3,618           |15,749                           

Belgium-Luxembourg          |29              |59                               

Netherlands                 |1,520           |6,393                            

Federal Republic of Germany |378             |1,405                            

Italy                       |84              |201                              

Ireland                     |2,912           |6,507                            

Denmark                     |36              |130                              

Austria                     |14              |38                               

Portugal                    |312             |890                              

Spain                       |147             |469                              

Soviet Union                |8               |53                               

Uganda                      |27              |55                               

United States of America    |4               |37                               

Canada                      |5               |79                               

St. Lucia                   |24              |61                               

Peru                        |10              |67                               

Uruguay                     |2               |23                               

                                                                               

Detailed raw information, which may include later information for 1989, is contained in "Overseas Trade Statistics of the United Kingdom", a copy of which is held in the Library of the House.

Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance

Dr. Thomas : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the value of hill livestock compensatory allowance expressed at 1986 prices.

Mr. Curry : The values of the rates of hill livestock compensatory allowance are as follows :


                             Rate per head                                     

                                                                               

                            |1989            |Equivalent                       

                            |(£)value at 1986                                  

                                             |prices (£)                       

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

Severely Disadvantaged Area                                                    

Cows                        |54.50           |46.33                            

Hardy breed ewes            |6.75            |5.74                             

Other ewes                  |4.50            |3.83                             

                                                                               

Disadvantaged Area                                                             

Cows                        |27.25           |23.16                            

Ewes                        |2.25            |1.91                             

Algae Poisoning

Mr. Latham : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his Department's veterinary service has in its departmental library a copy of the article on algae poisoning contained in the 1976 edition of "Black's Veterinary Dictionary" ; and whether the veterinary service is familiar with its scientific findings.

Mr. Maclean : My Department's veterinary service has in its library a copy of the article on algae poisoning


Column 770

contained in the 1976 edition of "Black's Veterinary Dictionary." It is familiar with its scientific findings and also has knowledge of more recent articles on the subject.

Whitefish Fishery

Mr. Morley : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether his Department has given any north-east English fishing ports directions as to the number of days that boats engaged in the whitefish fishery should be laid up to ensure distribution of quotas.

Mr. Curry : We are consulting the industry about how to meet our commitment, agreed at the December 1989 Fisheries Council, to reduce United Kingdom fishing for North sea haddock in 1990 by 30 per cent. Our proposals include a number of ideas, among which is the possibility of reducing days at sea. We shall decide what measures to introduce in the light of the industry's views.

Lead Contamination

Mr. Steen : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to lift the lead contamination restrictions from the Sherrell herd of pedigree-accredited British Friesians at Great Prideaux, Membland, Newton Ferrers, Plymouth, Devon.

Mr. Curry : The Ministry has a scientific programme in hand to assess the rate of decay of lead in the tissues of cattle which received contaminated feed. In the light of this and continuing study of the impact of the contaminated feed, we are looking at all possible ways of easing the restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so without risk to public health or consumer confidence in meat.


Column 771

Common Fisheries Policy

Mr. Morley : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) how much cod from the United Kingdom cod quota was conceded to Denmark in the negotiations for allocation under the common fisheries policy ;

(2) how much cod was traded off to Denmark in order to obtain agreement on United Kingdom cod and haddock quotas within the common fisheries policy.

Mr. Curry : As part of the final overall settlement which enabled the December Council of Fisheries Ministers to reach agreement, the United Kingdom, Germany and France transferred respectively 500 tonnes, 260 tonnes and 240 tonnes of their 1990 North sea cod quotas to Denmark. The outcome of the Council was very satisfactory to the United Kingdom and we secured all our major objectives, including increasing the Commission's proposed TACs for North sea cod and haddock, maintaining relative stability in the allocation of quotas at Greenland, securing recognition of our Hague Preference in relation to North sea haddock and flexibility to fish part of our western mackerel quota in the North sea, as well as the deletion of fishery management proposals that wedid not like, maintenance of the minimum mesh size of100 mm in the cod box in the German Bight, and the introduction of a seasonal control on the take of western horse mackerel.

Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has formally responded to the report of the Tyrrell committee on research into bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

Mr. Curry : My right hon. Friend's response to the report of the Tyrrell committee on research into BSE comprised his written answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Chelmsford (Mr. Burns) on 9 January ( Official Report, column 572 ).

Equines (Slaughter)

Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many equines, in weight tonnage, were slaughtered for meat in each of the past three years ; how much of this total was accounted for by Southall horse market ; how many animals are estimated to have been involved ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Curry : Records of the number of horses slaughtered for meat or sold for slaughter for meat are not available.

Single Market

Mr. Ralph Howell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether all green currency systems and MCAs will be abolished before the single market is enacted on 1 January 1993.

Mr. Curry : The Council of Ministers and the Commission are agreed that monetary gaps, and therefore MCAs, should be removed by the end of 1992.


Column 772

Food (Sell-by dates)

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will introduce legislation prohibiting the sale of food products which have passed their use-by dates.

Mr. Maclean : I am presently considering this very matter.

Poultry

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received concerning the sale of thawed, previously frozen poultry, advertised as fresh ; and whether he will introduce legislation to prohibit the practice.

Mr. Maclean : I have received no representations on this matter. The Food Labelling Regulations 1984 already require the name used for poultry meat which has been previously frozen and thawed to include or be accompanied by the words, "previously frozen--do not refreeze". It it also an offence under the Food Act 1984 to apply a false or misleading description to food.

Eggs

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has raised at the Council of Ministers the issue of a common health standard for egg production ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Maclean : My right hon. Friend the Minister raised this issue at the meeting of the Agriculture Council on 22-23 January and pressed for Community measures to control salmonella in poultry flocks to be introduced as quickly as possible.

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he proposes to take to prevent the sale of imported eggs in cartons labelled "British Packed".

Mr. Curry : It is a requirement of the EC egg marketing standards regulations that producers and packers who put terms of origin on their egg packs should keep special records. These records have to be made available to the egg marketing inspectorate for any necessary checking and reconciliation.

Aflatoxins

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what system of regular testing for aflatoxins is undertaken on imported foodstuffs ; and if he will make a statement on the findings of such tests during 1989.

Mr. Maclean : Port health authorities, which are responsible for controls on imported food under the Imported Food Regulations 1984 are fully aware of the possibilities of aflatoxin contamination and carry out such testing as they consider appropriate to ensure that food is fit to eat. Details are not held centrally. However, in the case of fig consignments, problems in 1988 led my Department to introduce special testing arrangements. Of the 99 containers of figs tested in 1989, seven of fig paste and three of whole dried figs were refused entry because samples contained more than the action level of 10 micrograms of aflatoxins per kilogram of figs.


Column 773

Hill Farm Support

Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to be able to announce the levels of hill farm support for the current year.

Mr. Curry : I refer the hon. Member to the reply that I gave to the hon. Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy (Dr. Thomas) on 23 January 1990 ( Official Report, column 641 ).

Fish Stocks

Mr. Nicholas Bennett : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimates he has as to what the decline in fish stocks would have been if the recent quota reductions had not been introduced.

Mr. Curry [holding answer 19 January 1990] : The estimates available to Fisheries Ministers, principally from the Advisory Committee on Fisheries Management of the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, on the impact of various possible catch levels on the status of stocks show that, for example, had fishing continued at the 1989 level for North sea cod and haddock, there would have been serious and further depletion of the spawning stock biomasses by nearly 40 per cent. for haddock and 15 per cent. for cod. Such serious further depletion of the stocks would have been very damaging to future prospects for fishing. The quotas agreed represented the highest level recommended by ACFM for haddock and a slightly more cautious approach for cod.

Sulphadimidine

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give the results for the tests he has carried out on the presence of sulphadimidine in different types of livestock carcases for 1989 ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : The Department has an action level based on advice from the Veterinary Products Committee and endorsed by the Department of Health's Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products


Column 774

and the Environment. This level incorporates a very significant safety margin. Its purpose is to ensure that if monitored residue levels rise above it, we can take appropriate action even though there may well be no danger to human health. My Department carries out a regular residue sampling programme and in 1989 tests were carried out on 1,142 pig carcases in Great Britain. A total of 94 per cent. of these were below the action level and in the 6 per cent. which were not we carried out follow-up visits to all the farmers concerned to ensure that corrective measures were taken.

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what analysis he carried out on livestock carcases for the presence of sulphadimidine ; where the samples are taken ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : Kidneys are taken from pigs at randomly selected slaughterhouses and tested for sulphadimidine as part of the residue sampling programme under EC directive 86/469. A thin layer chromatographic procedure is used to screen the samples at the central veterinary laboratory, Weybridge and the level of residues present is determined by high-performance liquid chromatography.

Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what safe level for the presence of sulphadimidine in tissues of meat products is prescribed by his Department ; whether the level was recommended by an advisory committee ; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Gummer : Our approach is not to rely simply on a "safe level". Instead, we set a maximum residue level, which is very much more stringent. Exceeding this level would not normally represent any danger to human health, but it provides an immediate trigger for follow-up official action. The action level for sulphadimidine is 0.1mg/kg. This level was originally set by the Veterinary Products Committee and has twice been endorsed by the Department of Health's Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT). COT advised that this level offered a considerable safety margin for consumers of products from treated animals.


 

  Home Page