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Mr. Freeman [holding answer 19 January 1990] : It is for district health authorities to draw up their own budgets in the light of the resource allocations they receive from the regional health authority.
The setting of budgets is part of the planning cycle. Regional health authorities submit annually to the NHS management executive their programmes for the next financial year. These programmes provide the basis from which budgets are drawn up. The management executive issues guidance on what programmes should cover including quantified information on planned levels of activity, finance and manpower.
Health authorities' cost improvement programmes deliver a fundamental and continuing challenge to their cost base. Health authorities decide the level of cost improvements they can achieve. The management executive, where necessary, challenges the adequacy of the level proposed and monitors its delivery, as it does other key aspects of programmes.
Column 234currently considering the possibility of such a merger. However, merger proposals will be considered only where there is a compelling case for change. Before any case for a merger could be accepted it would need to be considered by the regional health authority and then submitted to my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State for final decision. The case would be subject to full public consultation and the Secretary of State would need to be sure of its merits before approving it. The Health Service reforms are not about widescale restructuring but are designed to concentrate management on improving health care for patients.
Mr. Maclean : The Government are actively promoting both the woodland grant scheme and the farm woodland scheme, and 37 applications have been submitted under these schemes in Nottinghamshire, covering an area of over 100 hectares of new planting. The Forestry Commission is currently developing proposals with British Coal for further tree planting on colliery spoil tips. I have also seen a copy of the Countryside Commission's consultation document on its proposal to create a new forest in the English midlands, in which Sherwood forest in Nottinghamshire is identified as one of the possible sites.
Mr. Redmond : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list by location where creche facilities are provided for working mothers employed in his Department ; and if they have to make any payment for this service.
Mr. Curry : All office managers have been encouraged to consider carefully the provision of nursery facilities. A feasibility study is currently being undertaken on the setting up of a day nursery at Guildford where there is already a successful holiday play scheme. The study will include all aspects of the matter, including costs to parents. The possibility of providing nursery facilities is also being investigated by regional management at Cambridge who are taking the lead for all Departments in the town. Similar investigations are being carried out in the Tolworth-Chessington area. The Department is also participating in the project to determine the feasibility of providing child care facilities in and around London for the employees of all Departments.
Mr. Austin Mitchell : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a further statement on whether bovine spongiform encephalopathy can be communicated to humans in the light of the comments of the Government's Chief Veterinary Officer.
Column 235and that the Southwood working party regarded such a risk as remote. None the less, precautionary measures, including the slaughter and destruction of affected cattle and the banning of certain offals for human consumption from all others, has been taken to counter even that remote and theoretical risk.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected cattle have so far been destroyed with farmers receiving Ministry compensation ; and how much this compensation has cost so far.
Mr. Maclean : From 8 August 1988, when the compulsory slaughter policy was introduced, to 31 December 1989, a total of 9,884 suspected BSE cases were slaughtered in Great Britain and £3,353,928 paid in compensation.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much it would cost to pay (a) 100 per cent. for cattle affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy and (b) for the slaughter of female offspring from cows affected by bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Mr. Maclean : It is not possible to estimate such costs in the future, as these would depend on the number of animals slaughtered, and the market price of cattle on which the maximum level of compensation payable depends. But if compensation for all the infected animals compulsorily slaughtered up to the end of 1989 had been at 100 per cent. of their value, subject to existing ceiling arrangements, the cost would have exceeded £6 million.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the possibility of the passing of the infective agent associated with bovine spongiform encephalopathy from one generation of cattle to the next.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the number of bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected cattle reaching market and being sold for human consumption.
Mr. Maclean : Since BSE became a notifiable disease on 21 June 1988, up to 30 September 1989, the end of the last quarter for which figures are currently available, 81 suspected cases of BSE were identified at markets. Of these, 56 were subsequently confirmed as having BSE. All animals concerned were slaughtered and their carcases destroyed. Of course the removal of specified offals from all cattle more than six months old ensures that there is no risk to human health.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from the National Farmers Union in respect of (a) the ban on the sale of bovine offal for human consumption, (b) the exclusion to the above ban granted to calves under six months, (c) the compensation levels set for bovine spongiform encephalopathy-infected cattle, (d) the level of research into the causes of bovine spongiform encephalopathy and (e) the ban on imports by West German Government.
Mr. Maclean : I have received representations from the National Farmers Union expressing support for the ban on the use of certain bovine offal for human consumption and for the research being conducted into BSE ; expressing concern at the West German restrictions on beef imported from Britain, and disagreeing with the level of compensation payable for cattle infected with BSE.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to prevent the sale of bovine spongiform encephalopathy-affected cattle through non-European countries' slaughterhouses.
Mr. Maclean : All cattle suspected of being infected with BSE are compulsorily slaughtered and their carcases burned or buried. In addition to checks carried out by environmental health officers, cattle at non-EC approved slaughterhouses are subject to random ante-mortem inspections by veterinary inspectors.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has made an assessment of the implications (a) for the spread of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, (b) for the farming community and (c) for the level of exports of British beef, of his policy not to compensate farmers in full for cattle infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Mr. Maclean : I do not believe that existing levels of compensation have any effect on the spread of BSE or on British beef exports. Compensation is intended to provide farmers with a fair recompense for cattle slaughtered as BSE suspects at the Ministry's behest.
Mr. Ron Davies : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will implement the recommendations of the Tyrell committee that random sampling of the brains of cattle routinely sent for slaughter should be carried out to test for the presence of subclinical bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he has received any representations from Proten in connection with its product Papain ; and if he will make a statement ;
(2) when he last met representatives from Proten ; and what matters were discussed.
Mr. Maclean : The company that owns the patent rights to Proten has expressed disappointment with our decision not to seek provision for the continued use of this pre-slaughter treatment under the rules which are to be adopted for the single market. My right hon. Friend the Minister last met representatives of the organisation concerned on 22 November 1989 to discuss a range of issues relating to their slaughter interests.
I have nothing to add to the full statement I made on this matter during the Adjournment debate on 7 November 1989.
Column 237Mr. Maclean : In 1989 the following visits were made by officers of the state veterinary service to red meat slaughterhouses and licensed poultry premises in East Sussex to advise on standards :
|Dates ---------------------------------------------------------------- Tottingworth Farms Ltd. Little Tottingworth Farm Broad Oak, Heathfield |22 February 1989 T. Borthwick & Sons (UK) Ltd. The Abattoir Norlington Lane, Ringmer |23 June 1989 Mr. M. Vine Slaughterhouse Garfield Lane, Hailsham |20 June 1989 Mayhew's Chicken plc Five Ash Down, Uckfield |25 January 1989 |25 April 1989 |19 July 1989 |21 November 1989 Sovereign Chicken plc Burwash Common, Etchingham |21 February 1989 |31 October 1989 Bridge Poultry Supplies Ltd. Horam, Heathfield |10 February 1989
In addition, some 30 visits were made by state veterinary service officers to undertake ante-mortem inspections and to carry out duties associated with the collection of samples for testing for the presence of drug residues.
Mr. Matthew Taylor : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the European Community draft regulation relating to organic standards in respect of the length of the proposed conversion period from conventional to organic production.
Mr. Curry : The European Community proposals on organic foodstuffs, as currently drafted, provide for a conversion period of at least one calendar year. In line with the standards set by the United Kingdom register of organic food standards, the United Kingdom and a number of other member states have suggested that conversion should be for a minimum of two years.
Mr. Curry : Voluntary national standards for the production and processing of organic foods, including livestock standards, were launched by the United Kingdom register of organic food standards in May last year. A copy was placed at that time in the Library of the House. In addition, the EC Commission issued proposals for a regulation on organic foodstuffs covering crops and products of plant origin in December. It has indicated that if the regulation is adopted it will submit parallel proposals for statutory organic livestock standards in due course.
Mr. Maclean : There is no scientific justification for the West German restrictions on imports of beef from this country. This view was endorsed at the meeting of Agriculture Ministers which my right hon. Friend the Minister attended last week where the Commissioner confirmed that expert scientific advice was that British beef did not pose a risk to human health and that any interference with trade would be contrary to Community law. The German authorities will be reflecting on this and I hope they will soon remove their restrictions.
Mr. Hume : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement regarding the hill livestock compensatory allowance for the coming year, indicating whether there is to be any increase in the allowance.
Mr. Speller : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what help he proposes to give to those in horticulture and agriculture who have sustained heavy losses through the recent severe storms.
Mr. Curry : I have the greatest sympathy for farmers and growers who have been badly affected by the recent severe weather. My officials will operate the farm capital grant schemes as flexibly as possible within the rules of those schemes in order to take account of the effects of the storm. But it has been the longstanding policy of successive Governments not to pay compensation to farmers for the effects of severe weather, particularly where risks are insurable.
Mr. Onslow : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what estimate his Department has formed of the value of the catch of salmon from the north-east drift net fishery in the last year for which figures are available and in the corresponding period 10, 20 and 30 years ago ;
(2) what estimate his Department has made of the number of (a) full-time and (b) part-time jobs created by the north-east drift net fishery salmon catch in the latest year for which figures are available and in the corresponding period 10, 20 and 30 years ago ; (3) what socio-economic studies his Department has undertaken in anticipation of the publication of the report of the inquiry into the north-east drift net fishery to establish the likely impact of phasing out this fishery.
Column 239We do not have data on the values of catches of salmon taken by drift nets in the north-east England fishery--nor information on the jobs dependent upon salmon drift net fishing--for the years in question. We have no plans to mount a socio-economic study in anticipation of the report to Parliament on the north-east coast salmon net fishery. Section 39 of the Salmon Act 1986 requires Ministers to
"prepare a report which, in the context of the need to ensure (a) that sufficient salmon return to spawn in the rivers wholly or partly situated in the areas and districts specified in subsection (3) below ; and
(b) that fishing for salmon by means of nets is properly managed in those areas and districts,
reviews the nature and extent of all such fishing in those areas and districts."
Dr. David Clark : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will outline the procedures undertaken for (a) a partial review and (b) a full review of pesticide active ingredients ; and if he will make a statement.
Mr. Gummer [holding answer 29 January 1990] : A full review covers all aspects of consumer, operator, and environmental safety. A partial review addresses only those aspects that may suggest a cause for concern. In both cases experimental data will be requested and evaluated and a recommendation made to Ministers by the Advisory Committee on Pesticides.
Mr. Gummer [holding answer 29 January 1990] : The available information relates to the calendar month of November 1989 and shows that the United Kingdom exported edible offal of bovine animals to the following countries :
United States of America
Information for later months is not yet available.
Mr. Gummer [pursuant to the reply, 22 January 1990,c. 572] : I would like to thank Dr. Ewan Page, vice- chancellor of Reading University and his committee for their careful and thorough examination of the issues put to them and for producing well-argued recommendations.
Column 240Dr. Ewan Page and his committee were asked by the Government to chair a committee to assess the need for veterinary manpower and demand for veterinary education and in the light of this to make recommendations on how increased manpower requirements might be met having regard to funding constraints. The committee was also asked to consider future arrangements for assessing the demand for veterinary manpower and determining the number of student places. Dr. Page's report has been published and copies are being placed in the Library of the House. The report concludes that there is likely to be a significant shortfall over the next decade and makes a number of recommendations directed at the Government, the Universities Funding Council, veterinary schools and the veterinary profession to rectify this situation.
The Government have considered the report carefully. They have decided to lift the restrictions on the freedom of veterinary schools to increase student intake in response to demand from the market by removing the ceiling on intakes to veterinary schools. The Government also accept the recommendation that they discontinue five-yearly manpower reviews and let student demand have a greater role in determining the intake of veterinary schools. However, as it is important to maintain a core of veterinarians trained to help ensure that animal health and public health requirements are met, the Government will review the position if it appears that these needs are in jeopardy.
The Government recognise that any expansion of veterinary schools will not have an immediate effect on supply of veterinarians. They therefore accept the Page committee's recommendation that in the short term increasing immigration of foreign veterinarians could be an important means of meeting any shortfall. The Government are currently considering a number of measures that would reduce the burden on employers making work permit applications and enable veterinarians' applications to be processed more quickly, as suggested by the Page committee.
I am asking the veterinary profession to consider carefully those recommendations that the Page committee asked it to examine. These include the question of immigration of foreign veterinarians, exploring effective ways of encouraging part-time working and later retirement and monitoring of manpower supply and demand data. My Department will also be consulting interested organisations about the Page committee's proposals to review the role of veterinary nurses and make greater use of lay persons.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science is asking the Universities Funding Council and veterinary schools to consider carefully those recommendations in the Page report that relate to the funding and teaching of an increased student intake at veterinary schools.
The Universities Funding Council postponed consideration of the Riley report, which recommended reducing the number of veterinary schools, pending the results of the Page review. These
recommendations will now need to be reassessed and the UFC has been asked to resolve this matter as soon as possible.