|Previous Section||Home Page|
Mr. Maclean : The Government received advice from the independent Advisory Committee on Irradiated and Novel Foods (ACINF) in its report entitled "Safety and Wholesomeness of Irradiated Foods" published in 1986. Annexed to this report were reports on specific aspects of food irradiation from the National Radiological Protection Board, the standing panel on hazards from microbial contamination of food, the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment, the panel on novel foods and the Food Advisory Committee.
The Government received a second report from the ACINF in 1987 in which the committee assessed scientific comment received on matters raised in its first report.
I am also aware of a number of reports from national and international scientific bodies, among which I would particularly mention : the 1977 and 1980 reports of the joint expert committee of food irradiation, convened by the World Health Organisation and the other international bodies ; the 1982 report of the board of the International Committee of Food Microbiology and Hygiene of the International Union of Microbiological Societies ; the 1986 report of the European Community scientific committee for food ; and a number of reports from the United States Food and Drug Administration published in the Federal Register.
Mr. Gummer : I visited Berlin from 25 to 27 January. In the course of my visit I had meetings with the Ministers of Agriculture for the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic. Among other matters I discussed developments in eastern Europe and, with the West German Minister, German restrictions on imports of British beef imposed in connection with bovine spongiform encephalopathy.
Column 733Mr. Gummer : The current level of the real monetary gaps, which represent the difference between green and market exchange rates of the pound, range from 9.566 for pigmeat to 17.990 for sheepmeat.
32. Sir Anthony Meyer : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether in the light of the changing situation in eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, he will review the food export policies of the common agricultural policy.
Mr. Gummer : Part of the EC's response to the remarkable changes in eastern Europe has been to agree, with commendable speed and generosity, to a very considerable package of food aid and other measures. There are at present no plans to alter in addition the existing export policies of the common agricultural policy. The best way to assist countries in eastern Europe is, of course, to encourage the development in those countries of their own economics, and in particular their own agricultural sectors. We would certainly want to avoid any action which hindered this process. The Community, together with other major exporters, will continue to monitor the situation as the consequences of the recent changes unfold.
Mr. Gummer : It is for those who produce, process or market organic produce to respond to the growing demand for organic foods and to lessen our dependence on imported supplies. However, my Department has already taken a number of steps to encourage this process while additional proposals are currently under consideration.
Of particular significance has been the setting up of the United Kingdom Register of Organic Food Standards (UKROFS) which in May 1989 launched production and processing standards for organic produce and an independent certification and inspection system. We understand that the UKROFS board has now reached an advanced stage in its discussions on registration with the organic sector bodies through which it is expected the large majority of registrations will be effected. Once the board has satisfied itself on the inspection and certification arrangements to be operated by these bodies consumers will be able with confidence to purchase British organic produce backed by the UKROFS standards and monitoring provisions.
Column 734Other steps being taken, or under consideration, by the Government include the funding of a comprehensive economic survey of organic farming ; the provision of R and D and of specialised ADAS advice ; the help for conversion available through the fallow option of the set-aside scheme ; and the benefits available through the farm and conservation grant scheme and from assistance towards establishing co-operatives. In addition, we are proposing shortly to issue a consultation document on an organic conversion option under the EC extensification scheme.
36. Mr. Harry Greenway : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with his EEC counterparts about the retention of minimum values on the export of horses and ponies after 1992 ; and if he will make a statement.
Column 735Mr. Gummer : I have received representations from a wide range of interests as a result of our national and local consultations on the nitrate scheme. In general, our proposals have been welcomed.
44. Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about the level of hill sheep farmers' income in (a) the last five years and (b) the next five years.
Mr. Gummer : As with all types of farm, the incomes of sheep farmers in the hill areas are influenced by a wide range of factors, including the weather, market conditions, size of enterprise and the skills of individual farmers. As a result, there have been fluctuations in income levels over the last five years, and there will no doubt be further fluctuations over the next five years. However, the outcome of the reform of the sheepmeat regime was highly satisfactory in providing increased opportunities for our sheep industry as a whole, including producers in hill areas. Producers in the high hills will also benefit from the proposed increase in the rate of hill livestock compensatory allowance for hardy breed ewes, which I announced in my statement to the House on 30 January.
45. Mr. Hardy : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many prosecutions were brought during the last four years and how many are pending in regard to fraudulent or other criminal practice on the management or storage of surplus food ; and in how many cases conviction was secured.
Mr. Curry : I take it that the hon. Member is referring to the storage and management of intervention stocks. In this area one prosecution was brought during the last four years, and this resulted in a conviction. One further case is under investigation.
Column 736level working party on improving conservation measures. The Commission is to submit appropriate proposals by 31 July 1990 which the Council will then need to discuss. In the meantime the prudent total allowable catches agreed in December in the interests of the conservation of fish stocks and existing technical conservation measures will be in full operation.
Mr. Gummer : There are 19 environmentally sensitive areas designated in the United Kingdom covering almost 800,000 hectares of agricultural land. The concept has been widely welcomed by farmers and conservation interests and the number of management agreements is well up to expectations. Comprehensive monitoring and assessment of the schemes is in hand and will guide my decisions on future arrangements when I review the policy next year.
Mr. Maclean : Following a reorganisation of the Ministry headquarters, resources have been transferred to strengthen the newly created food safety directorate. Details of the Ministry's expenditure plans for 1990-91, including those for food safety, are covered in chapter 3 (Cm. 1003) of the 1990 public expenditure White Paper which was published on 30 January. A more detailed analysis of the Ministry's expenditure plans for 1990-91 will be published in March in class III of the 1990-91 supply estimates.
Mr. Maclean : Several publications are available, free of charge, in our "Food Sense" series including booklets on food additives, pesticides and food and food surveillance. The latter also lists the 26 individual food surveillance papers available from HMSO. A 27th entitled "Lead in Food : Progress Report" was published recently. Various reports from the Food Advisory Committee, the Veterinary Products Committee and the Advisory Committee on Pesticides are also available from HMSO.
Mr. Maclean : The food safety directorate brings together the divisions in the Department with the main responsibility for matters relating to the safe production and handling of foodstuffs and other consumer protection matters concerned with food. The directorate will report to me as Minister of food.
Column 737Mr. Maclean : The major initiatives on food safety during the last three months have been the introduction of the Food Safety Bill and the establishment of a food safety directorate within my Department. In addition, work has continued on a large number of initiatives aimed at effective and comprehensive food safety controls.
81. Mr. Hayward : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the European Community has awarded any contracts to the Institute of Food Research for work in the field of food safety and quality.
Mr. Gummer : The European Commission has selected the six shared- cost projects listed in the table, involving the Institute of Food Research for contract negotiation in the field of food safety and quality :
1. Application of oxidoreductases for food preservation. 2. New technologies and raw materials for nutritious and attractive cereal products.
3. Investigation of the minimum level of sulphur dioxide required for optimum red wine quality.
4. Mechanisms of food intolerance : relationship between gut mucosal integrity, allergy and adverse reactions.
5. Development of computer-aided process design procedures to improve quality and safety of products with a limited shelf life. 6. Study of production and utilisation of fibres with functional qualities and beneficial nutritional properties.
51. Mr. Knapman : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what benefits will accrue to the cereals sector from the current year's grants from the European Community for the improvement of marketing and processing facilities.
Mr. Maclean : Awards made by the Commission under EC regulation 355/77 to projects aimed at improving the marketing and processing of agricultural products are announced in June and December each year. The first awards for 1990 will be announced in June. For 1989, the Commission announced awards totalling £1,714,160 to seven projects in the cereals sector in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Curry : During the past six months the Minister has met many leading representatives from the food industry under a variety of circumstances, both formal and informal, when discussions have covered a wide range of topics of mutual concern.
56. Mr. Dunnachie : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many live cattle and sheep were exported from Britain for slaughter elsewhere in the European Community in the most recent year for which figures are available.
Mr. Gummer : Such a trade is acceptable provided exporters and hauliers comply with proper welfare standards. We will be pressing for the best possible welfare controls in negotiations on the Commission proposals for measures on protection of animals in transit.
62. Mr. Brazier : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the benefits which will accrue to the horticultural sector from the current year's grants from the European Community for the improvement of marketing and processing facilities for agricultural commodities.
Mr. Maclean : Awards made by the Commission under EC regulation 355/77 to projects aimed at improving the marketing and processing of agricultural products are announced in June and December each year. The first awards for 1990 will be announced in June. For 1989 the Commission announced awards totaling £2,625,897 to 15 projects in the horticulture sector in the United Kingdom.
Mr. Gummer : I am in regular contact with beef and livestock farmers' representatives. Issues that they have recently raised include BSE, lead contamination of animal feedingstuffs, support of livestock in the less-favoured areas and the Commission's proposals for the CAP price fixing.
64. Mr. Pike : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he has had any discussions with other European Community member-states about the export of meat and bone meal from the United Kingdom.
69. Mr. Mans : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what benefits he assesses will accrue to the fishing industry from the current year's grant from the European Community for the improvement of marketing and processing facilities.
Mr. Maclean : Awards made by the Commission under EC regulation 355/77 to projects aimed at improving the marketing and processing of agricultural and fisheries products are announced in June and December each year. The first awards for 1990 will be announced in June. For
Column 7391989, the Commission announced awards totalling £2,538,668 to 22 projects in the fisheries sector in the United Kingdom.
71. Mrs. Margaret Ewing : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received from, and what discussions he has had with, fishing industry representatives regarding prospects for the industry in 1990 ; and if he will make a statement on the outcome of these meetings.
76. Mr. Michael Brown : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what grants are to be made in the current year to the poultry industry from the EC for the improvement of marketing and processing facilities.
Mr. Maclean : Awards made by the Commission under EC regulation 355/77 to projects aimed at improving the marketing and processing of agricultural products are announced in June and December each year. The first awards for 1990 will be announced in June. For 1989, the Commission announced awards totalling £1,911,009 to six projects in the eggs and poultry sector in the United Kingdom.
77. Mr. Atkinson : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much Government grant has been allocated to Bournemouth borough council for coastal protection and beach replenishment work since 1979.
78. Mr. Wallace : To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what discussions he has had with fishing industry representatives regarding his commitment to reduce fishing effort for haddock by 30 per cent.
Mr. Curry : We issued a consultation document on 23 January and it was discussed at a meeting with industry representatives in Edinburgh on 29 January. We are considering the industry's reactions to our proposals and I hope to be able to make an announcement shortly.
Mr. Maclean : The safety and quality of pet food are protected by the detailed provisions of the Agriculture Act 1970 and the Feedingstuffs Regulations 1988. Manufacturers' performance in meeting these provisions is closely monitored by local trading standards officers.
Mr. Curry : While my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment has primary responsibility for the preservation and mangement of wildlife habitats, the environmentally sensitive areas, farm woodlands and farm and conservation grant schemes also contribute to improvements in their quality.
Mr. Gummer : The effect on Third world countries is one of the factors I take into account in assessment of all relevant United Kingdom agricultural and food policies. Developing countries benefit from a range of concessions on their agricultural and food exports to the United Kingdom, such as the generalised scheme of preferences and measures under the Lome convention. I have adopted the Oxfam request that all relevant submissions to Ministers should specifically consider the effect on developing countries of the proposals being made.
Mr. Curry : The Government support Food from Britain whose promotional activities include quality assurance schemes for a range of quality British products. Under these schemes, which are monitored by FFB's quality council, companies which meet the standards set may display an appropriate symbol. The latest of the quality council schemes to be launched concerns British extra fresh eggs. I am pleased to see that as a result of this and other Food from Britain initiatives there is a move by producers and retailers alike to make clear their British origin so that consumers can make an informed choice.