[Lords] ( By Order ) Order for consideration, as amended, read.
To be considered on Thursday, 30 March.
By Order ) Order for Second Reading read.
To be read a Second time on Thursday, 30 March.
1. Mr. Canavan: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many representations he has received over the past 12 months about the export of live animals; and if he will make a statement. 
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mrs. Angela Browning): Over the past 12 months we have received approximately 90,000 items of correspondence on the transport of live animals.
Mr. Canavan: Is the Minister aware of reports that English farmers have been using the Scottish port of Cairnryan as a back door for the export of veal calves to the continent via the Irish Republic? The animals are apparently transported by road from the south of England to Cairnryan, shipped over to Northern Ireland, smuggled across the border into the Irish Republic, then shipped to the continent so that, by the time they reach their eventual destination, some of them have travelled more than 2,500 miles. Will the Minister consult the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Northern Ireland and the Irish Minister for Agriculture to try to put a stop to that barbaric practice?
Sir Roger Moate: Is my hon. Friend aware that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) voted in 1975, when the last Labour Government reintroduced the export of live animals? Is it not important to understand that we are discussing not exports as such,
Column 468but the importance, pursued by the Government, of ensuring the maximum welfare of animals in all forms of transit?
Mrs. Browning: Indeed, my hon. Friend is right. The welfare of animals is our prime concern, which is why we take seriously claims that the rules are being violated. However, my hon. Friend is right: it is a legal trade and, under good welfare conditions, we believe that it should continue. That is why we are working actively to ensure that not only do we have good standards but that standards in the rest of Europe are improved to our level.
Mr. Morley: The Minister will be aware that one of the problems of the live animal trade is the definition of animals in the treaty of Rome as "agricultural products". At the forthcoming intergovernmental conference in 1996, will she argue for redefining animals as "sentient beings" as a matter of principle at this stage?
Mrs. Browning: At this stage, we are prepared to look at reasoned arguments about the definition of live animals, but I am not in a position to give the hon. Gentleman a categorical assurance on that today.
Mr. John Greenway: Does my hon. Friend agree that, while the welfare of animals is important, the livelihoods of farmers should come first? Would not it be a good thing if the House showed the same concern for farmers and farm workers, many of whom in my constituency are now losing their jobs as a result of demonstrations, as was shown recently in the case of fishermen?
Mrs. Browning: I hope that the House and my hon. Friend agree that the majority of farmers are the very people who care about animal welfare. They not only look after them well on farms but they, too, are concerned when welfare standards are violated in transporting animals. I agree with my hon. Friend that we all deplore violence and I hope that those who wish to make their views known--I know that some of them hold them passionately- -will do so in a law-abiding and peaceful way.
Mr. Beggs: Does the Minister agree that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan) and others should not make allegations in the House which they cannot substantiate? Will she take it from me that the Scottish Office Agriculture and Fisheries Department faxes to me the records of live cattle that move from Scotland to my constituency and the port of Larne? This is the first time that I have ever heard of the falsehood which I nail in the House today.
Mrs. Browning: The hon. Gentleman is right to identify the need for proof, which is why I invited the hon. Member for Falkirk, West (Mr. Canavan), who mentioned the matter this afternoon, to supply me with evidence. We take very seriously falsification of documentation or other matters that are not legal in connection with animal transport. However, I hope that the hon. Member for Falkirk, West can substantiate what he has said today, because my officials are kept very busy with that matter, and I do not want their time to be wasted on a wild goose chase.
9. Mr. Whittingdale: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the proportion of expenditure under the common agricultural policy in Europe which is lost in fraud. 
The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. William Waldegrave): The Government are vigorously pressing for action to combat fraud. There is no very reliable estimate of what is lost in fraud, for obvious reasons, but action to counter it is becoming much more effective.
Mrs. Gillan: Does my right hon. Friend agree that satellite technology is vital in combatting fraud, as has been evidenced recently by the use of imagery to detect potential overpayments on durum wheat to Italy? Is he aware that the national remote sensing centre this morning met representatives of the Department of Trade and the British national space centre to consider the further potential of using satellites for detecting fraud and in agricultural management? Will he undertake to meet representatives of the DTI and to study the NRSC report so that we can continue to exploit this potential, which is valuable British expertise?
Mr. Waldegrave: My hon. Friend is right, and gives an example of a real case--the attempted durum wheat fraud in Italy. The interesting thing is that the satellite information was able to prevent the fraud, which is better than pursuing it afterwards. All the member states, apart from Luxembourg, which perhaps is small enough not to need satellites to look at its territory, were either using remote sensing as a control tool by 1994 or, as in the United Kingdom, doing trials on it. My officials and the officials of the intervention board are indeed in close touch with the British national space centre, so progress is being made on the matter; it is a very good technique.
Mr. Whittingdale: Will my right hon. Friend make every effort to ensure that other member states in the European Community attach the same importance as we do to tackling fraud in the CAP? Will he further ensure that, when large-scale fraud is uncovered, member states are subjected to heavy fines, and that they are made to pay those fines in full?
Mr. Waldegrave: My hon. Friend is right. In the most recent year for which the accounts are completely closed, there was £1.2 billion of disallowance against member states, which is a large sum of money. I am proud to say that only £2 million of that related to the United Kingdom. There are beginning to be serious penalties and we welcome that, but there is more to do.
Mr. Tyler: May I put a little more pressure on the Minister regarding milk quota in other member states? He will have noticed, in the debate on Tuesday, that Members on both sides of the House expressed anxiety about both fraud and inadequate control mechanisms, especially in relation to milk quota. I know that that may involve long discussions, but I hope that he will be able to give us a
Column 470progress report and also say what initiatives he intends to take here to deal with the current milk quota crisis that is affecting us so badly.
Mr. Waldegrave: Several different issues are involved in what the hon. Gentleman says. First, there is the issue of the proper enforcement of milk quotas in other countries. Very large disallowances against Greece, Spain and Italy have been enforced, and the Commissioner has to report to the Council of Ministers by 31 March on the position in those countries before we approve any payments to them for the future.
In this country, we would like quotas to be tradeable across boundaries, which would help us. I am arguing for that in the Community.
Dr. Strang: Does the Minister agree with the chief agricultural official at the European Court of Auditors who said that fraud was inherent in the CAP? Is it not clear that, as long as we are taking surplus farm production into state intervention, and as long as the movement of agricultural commodities across the European frontier can attract large export rebate subsidies, we shall always have a major fraud problem?
Is fraud not another reason why we should end state intervention buying and export subsidies, and replace those arrangements with other means for supporting our agricultural industry?
Mr. Waldegrave: I agree with the hon. Gentleman that many of the range of quantitative controls introduced after MacSharry are vulnerable to fraud. That is one reason among many for getting back to a much freer market. We had fraud in the old days under the deficiency payment system. Whenever one is involved in the business of paying people to produce goods, one is vulnerable to fraud, which is why it is ultimately better to leave the business to the market.
The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Michael Jack): Outstanding interest has been shown in the new scheme since its launch last October, and waiting times for grant applications have been halved.
Mrs. Lait: Is my hon. Friend aware that the fruit industry is important in Hastings and Rye? Is he further aware that, however much we have helped that sector with the new grants, it is still being undercut by imports from abroad? What action is my hon. Friend taking to ensure that there is a fair market? What further steps is he taking to provide variety in the agri-food industry?
Mr. Jack: Ten of the projects that made successful applications were from the fruit and vegetable sector. The thrust of the processing and marketing grant scheme is to try to improve the efficiency of the fruit and vegetable industry. The scheme provides an opportunity to provide the primary producer with great rewards and to improve
Column 471the marketing and competitiveness of British -produced fruit and vegetables, thus achieving the effect that my hon. Friend seeks.
Mr. Simpson: What success has the Minister had in encouraging United Kingdom meat processing to replace the export of livestock? How would he set about offsetting the UK's poor performance in promoting its own produce in comparison with New Zealand and Denmark?
Mr. Jack: The hon. Gentleman asks an interesting question. So far, out of the 22 projects that have qualified for £4.7 million under the scheme, seven are from the meat processing industry. The improved meat quality, improved hygiene and improved butchery standards are some of the criteria that have enabled those seven projects to gain that form of help. That backs up some of the excellent work that my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary is currently doing to encourage the marketing of home-produced veal.
4. Mr. Jenkin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress he is making in the EC to allow land set aside under farm woodland and agri-environmental schemes to be counted against farmers' set-aside obligations. 
Mr. Waldegrave: Following the United Kingdom's campaign, the Commission has produced proposals to allow that. They are under discussion at a technical level and we are pressing for their early adoption.
Mr. Jenkin: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the woodland planted under the farm woodland premium scheme so far has been disappointing? Would it not be more justifiable if farmers could use set- aside money for schemes that benefit the environment and the countryside?
Mr. Waldegrave: My hon. Friend has put his finger on the purpose of the change for which we have been arguing--that is true of both legs of his argument. We believe that many farmers have not come forward for the woodland scheme because they do not want to undertake that as well as the set-aside scheme. If joining the woodland scheme counted as set-aside, that would boost the woodland scheme. We do not like set-aside and would much rather not have it, but that move would give us the opportunity to do something useful with set-aside, and improve the environment.
Mr. Luff: Does my right hon. Friend agree that the step that he has just announced is important and would no doubt assist the uptake of forestry and other agri-environmental schemes? Can he reassure me that the administration of the farm woodland premium scheme
Column 472will continue to be as efficient as possible, bearing in mind the problems of two of my constituents to which I recently drew the Ministry's attention?
Mr. Waldegrave: I have seen one of the schemes involving Mr. Day and I shall look at the other. We make every effort to be as efficient as possible. I endorse the first part of my hon. Friend's contribution.
Mr. Tipping: While the movement within the European Union is extremely helpful and will help community forests such as the Greenwood in Nottinghamshire, will the Minister take another look at the grant available to land owners because that lack of financial incentive is holding up community forests?
Mr. Waldegrave: That matter was reviewed relatively recently. We believe that the grants are adequate, but we shall keep them under review. The scheme to which the hon. Gentleman referred is interesting and imaginative.
Mr. Alan W. Williams: On the question of the agricultural environment, the Minister keeps saying that support for agriculture needs to move away from production to environmental and rural considerations. Why is his Department's budget for the
agri-environment just £21 million this financial year, when support for the common agricultural policy is £2,800 million? Less than 1 per cent. of the Department's budget is allocated to the environment. Is that not a rather feeble commitment to the environment?
Mr. Waldegrave: The hon. Gentleman should recall that we are also financing schemes within the European Community part of our budget which go to the environment. I am sure that the House is well aware of our dilemma. As net contributors, it is very difficult for us to argue for a domestic increase in a budget when we are spending so much through the CAP as well. There must be some constraints on spending. If we were able to reduce our contribution to the European Community--which I think we will achieve over time--there would be more room for funding localised schemes.
Mr. Bill Walker: Does my right hon. Friend realise that the people of Scotland are astonished that land has been set aside when it should be used to grow desperately needed malt and barley for the whisky industry? It is difficult to explain that to people, but it would be easier to explain if we were able to grow woodland on that land.
Mr. Waldegrave: If the land is suitable and is eligible for the farm woodland grant scheme I hope that they will be able to do exactly that. I remind my hon. Friend--I am sure that the House is aware of it--that set- aside is not compulsory. Farmers in different parts of the country have chosen not to fill in their integrated administration and control systems forms, take the subsidy or set aside. One obviously must have good land if one is to do that. Set-aside land is an exchange for the subsidies that are offered.
Mr. Jack: The state of the fish stocks around the United Kingdom is monitored continually by fisheries scientists, whose advice underpins the annual European Union decision on what can be safely fished. The state of many stocks continues to give cause for concern.
Mr. Sheerman: Is the Minister aware that the common fisheries policy is universally loathed in the industry? Is it not about time that the Government stood up for a change in that policy which would allow all member states to control unilaterally a rigorous conservation policy? Should he not do something about that in Brussels before there are no fish and no industry left?
Mr. Jack: The hon. Gentleman should look to his own Front Bench who, as far as I am aware, are still on side as far as the common fisheries policy is concerned. At least on this side of the House we have had the courage to face the issues. At my right hon. Friend's insistence, a small group has been formed of experts from the industry who will examine ways of reforming the common fisheries policy and addressing some of the issues that the hon. Gentleman has raised. In advocating a world without the common fisheries policy, perhaps the hon. Gentleman dreams of returning to the halcyon days of the three-mile limit when fishermen could do whatever they wanted and there was no defence for our fishermen.
Mr. Harris: Does my hon. Friend appreciate the anger of fishermen-- particularly following the unfortunate incident in Plymouth on Saturday when I think that he behaved very well indeed? What will Her Majesty's Government do to ensure that the Spanish begin at least to try to abide by the laws which are designed to protect fish stocks, because at the moment they are flouting them completely?
Mr. Jack: I thank my hon. Friend for his kind words of sympathy. I am still dusting the flour off my shoulders after last week. Following my first encounter with certain fishermen in Plymouth, I had a very sensible and constructive meeting with representatives from the west country industry--some of whom came from my hon. Friend's part of the world. We discussed the central issue of enforcement.
I have made it absolutely clear to the new Fisheries Commissioner, Mrs. Bonino, that if we do not have proper enforcement and policing measures within the common fisheries policy I will understand why our fishermen have no confidence in it. In the context of the disagreements between Canada and Spain, I have taken the opportunity to reiterate at the highest level in the Commission the need for proper attention to be paid to that matter.
Mr. Robert Hughes: Given that fish stocks are under pressure and that there are likely to be fewer employment opportunities in the industry, will the Minister give his full support to the early retirement scheme for fishermen at the Fisheries Council meeting on 5 April? Does he agree that, if the scheme is to work properly, it must be mandatory throughout the European Union, it must be applied uniformly and more cash must be put on the table? It is a worthwhile start. Will the Minister come off the fence and give the scheme his absolute support now?
Mr. Jack: We shall have to wait and see the proposals when they are tabled at the Fisheries Council. We have, however, increased our resources to the fishing industry to enable it to restructure by having a budget of some
Column 474£53 million for the decommissioning scheme. As for other matters, we are presently advancing the PESCA scheme which aids those parts of the fishing community affected by the decline of work at sea. We are spending additional sums of money on enforcement and research and development. There are, ultimately, limits on what we can spend on an industry that is valued at £500 million.
6. Mr. Lester: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what opportunities the new FP IV European research programme for the agriculture, fisheries and food sectors will provide for United Kingdom researchers. 
Mr. Waldegrave: The new agriculture and fisheries programme, part of the fourth framework programme is well directed to United Kingdom priorities, including animal health and welfare, non-food agriculture, fish stock management and aquaculture and food technology and nutrition. Some 660 million ecu, or just over £500 million are available for the programme. There are wide opportunities for United Kingdom researchers to participate.
Mr. Lester: Does my right hon. Friend agree that research and development is vital to the future of British agriculture? Is not it a good thing that, despite contributing 15 per cent. to the European programme, we won back 18 per cent. from the last programme?
Mr. Waldegrave: I entirely agree with my hon. Friend. In last year's expenditure round, I protected the domestic research and development budget of my Department for that reason. My hon. Friend is entirely right about the European Community's research and development programme. Various things have to be done on European scale if we are to compete with the Americans and the far east. It is encouraging that British scientists are the preferred partners of those in France and Germany, which is why we get back more than we put in.
Mr. Peter Atkinson: Can my right hon. Friend advise me if a research grant would be available to Northern Foods, which today announced substantial staff reductions, not only in its milk sector, but in its meat and groceries division?
Mr. Waldegrave: I have no doubt that the company might be able to form a joint venture and make an application for research funds. I very much hope that that would enable it to confirm that a large part of the redundancies it has sadly had to announce have nothing whatsoever to do with its milk business.
Column 475puddings? What is he doing to promote the gooseberry, particularly the giant gooseberry and the desert gooseberry?
Mr. Jack: My hon. Friend's giant question deserves a giant answer. He may be interested to know that at one time the big gooseberry season was put to the time of year that Members of Parliament thought was a dull time for journalists. On a serious note, I can tell him that with help from the Ministry, the East Malling research station has developed a new large red desert gooseberry which my hon. Friend will find to his taste with when it comes on to the market later this year.
Mr. Jack: There is a growing demand-- [Interruption.] I was almost tempted to say that perhaps that question came from a gooseberry fool, but I shall return to the thrust of my argument. The supermarkets have shown great interest in having more supplies of gooseberries. Once that is achieved, all will benefit from it.
Mr. Griffiths: Can the Minister tell us, then, why we continue to have a huge trade deficit in food and why in France 90 per cent. of desert apples are home grown, while in Britain the figure is only 25 per cent? Should we blame our consumers or our farmers, or is it down to lack of support from the Government?
Mr. Waldegrave: The obvious reason why we have a large deficit is that we can grow only temporary foodstuffs. Even in the hon. Gentleman's constituency, banana production would not do very well. However, many imports could and should be produced here. My Department, through Food From Britain, a range of marketing grants and, above all, the huge support structure for British agriculture, is doing a great deal to grow more in Britain. In the past few years, the history of apple production--the efforts of my hon. Friend the Minister of State have led in this--has been encouraging.
Mr. Lord: Is my right hon. Friend aware that pig farmers in Suffolk are extremely afraid of unfair competition from Europe as they phase out their sow stalls and tethers while others may not? It would be quite a contribution to the trade balance if more of our own pigmeat could be consumed in Britain. Supermarkets are showing increasing interest in our home grown, extensively produced pigmeat and I urge my right hon. Friend to do all that he possibly can to encourage that trend.
Mr. Waldegrave: I certainly can and will; the Meat and Livestock Commission is doing that. Both sides of the House will want to join my hon. Friend in saying that it would be perfectly legitimate to have a campaign for high welfare pigmeat. British pigmeat is reared in humane conditions, which is not necessarily true of imported pig products.
Column 476Dr. Strang: Is not it clear that in the dairy sector Government deregulation has forced up prices for consumers and destroyed jobs? Does the Minister agree with the management of Northern Foods plc that deregulation is one of the reasons for the devastating job losses that have been announced today? Will the Minister admit that as long as we have EU milk quotas we cannot have a proper free market in the milk sector and that deregulation gives us the worst of all worlds, as the Labour party and others warned at the time?
Mr. Waldegrave: I have very great sympathy with those people in Northern Foods who have lost their jobs. I have rather limited sympathy for the management, because I happen to know, as many farmers will confirm, that Northern Foods was going round the farms up and down the country saying that whatever anybody else would pay for milk it would pay 1 p more. If that was not bidding up the market, I do not know what was. If Northern Foods then found that, having bought the market share, it could not afford it, that is bad management. The overall situation in that market has been one historically where we have imported high value added products and exported low value added products. That is crazy. It is now changing, but in the long term we will have a much stronger and more secure market.
12. Mr. Skinner: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent tests have been taken in the Bolsover area regarding levels of dioxins in milk; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Skinner: Will the new team of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food take a fresh look at the matter? In the past several years, high levels of dioxins have occurred not only in milk but in the River Doe Lea--about 1,000 times above the safety level--and in the atmosphere, and we now have the alarming news that dioxin has been found in the blood of some workers at Coalite. In view of those facts, will the Ministry now hold the public inquiry that was refused years ago? I am sure that if such conditions applied anywhere near Buckingham palace there would have been a public inquiry years ago.
Mrs. Browning: The hon. Gentleman has rightly brought the matter to the attention of the House on many occasions. I cannot this afternoon give him an assurance of a public inquiry. The health of the workers at Coalite is subject to an independent Government committee on toxicity and its findings will be passed to the Health and Safety Executive, which will then consider whether further action is needed. I am keen to hear the hon. Gentleman's further views on the matter and, if he would find it helpful, I would be pleased to see him at the Ministry to discuss it in more detail.
Mr. Jack: I last encountered representatives of the fishing industry on 17 March in Plymouth, principally to discuss the implementation of the future arrangements to apply in western waters from 1 January, but also to boost the sales of British flour.
Mr. McAvoy: I am sure that the Minister enjoyed his encounter at Plymouth, but I assure him that if he ever meets fishermen from Scotland and Northern Ireland it will be an even more robust encounter. Did fishermen in Plymouth take the opportunity to tell the Minister that they just do not believe that he and his Government fully represent their interests in the European Union? In that context, will the Minister consider contacting the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans to borrow some backbone?
Mr. Jack: I had a useful discussion with members of the industry. Although we may not have agreed on everything, it is fair to say, as some of the comments of the industry's representatives on the treatment that I received at Plymouth showed, that they understood that they had been listened to and that their views would be represented fully in Brussels.
The Canadian Prime Minister said in Parliament in Ottawa yesterday that he hoped that the discussions would be helpful. I assure the hon. Gentleman that, behind the scenes, we have been doing a great deal of work with the help of Sir Leon Brittan and Sir John Kerr to ensure that the negotiations are kept on track. Ultimately, they will come to a successful conclusion.
Mr. David Porter: When my hon. Friend meets representatives of the fishing industry, he surely cannot find many who are any longer in favour of our membership of the common fisheries policy. Does he accept that it is the policy itself that is destroying fish stocks, and that instead of tinkering with it he should agree to come out of it and start afresh?
Mr. Jack: My hon. Friend knows that I shall soon have meetings with representatives of the industry in Lowestoft, and I shall certainly listen carefully to their comments on the common fisheries policy. To say simply that all problems will be solved by coming out is to offer too simplistic a solution. Without a common policy, we would have to invent some system of common management for fish stocks to the benefit of all fishermen concerned. I would certainly welcome constructive comment from my hon. Friend on the way forward in reforming the common policy.
Mr. Austin Mitchell: Why does the Minister not accept that he cannot have it both ways? He cannot spend his time in this country defending a common fisheries policy that the industry wants to get rid of, and his time in Europe failing to get the British industry a better deal under that common fisheries policy. He has to do one thing or the other--either pull us out or get a better deal for the nation, which contributes 75 per cent. of the fish.
Mr. Jack: The hon. Gentleman does not speak for the entire United Kingdom fishing industry. The National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations has taken a view on Britain's fish, but he will know that its view is not supported by fishermen in Northern Ireland or in Scotland.
Column 478The hon. Gentleman asks for a better deal. Under their terms of accession to the Community, Spain and Portugal could have expected a free-for-all in western waters, but we kept them out of the Irish sea and out of the Bristol channel. Instead of having 220 Spanish fishing boats in the remainder of the Irish box, we restricted the number to 40. That is not a bad deal by any standards.