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Column 8447 April: Industry Council
--Industry and competition--an oral presentation by the Commission on its interim report on competition policy in 1994
--Industry and research--a joint presentation by Commissioners Bangemann and Cresson
--Industrial co-operation with central and eastern Europe discussion on Commission communication and adoption of Council conclusions
--Industrial competitiveness--adoption of Council conclusions on Commission communication on follow-up to previous Council conclusions on competitiveness
--High technology industries--adoption of Council conclusions --Information society--Commission report on G7 conference and follow-up to Bangemann report
--Steel--report on monitoring of state aid
--Possible presentation of modification to aid code
10 11 April: Foreign Affairs Council
--Adoption of the agenda
--Approval of the list of "A" items
--Resolutions adopted by the European Parliament at its part-sessions (Brussels, 28 February to 2 March, and Strasbourg, 13 to 17 March 1995)
--Preparation for the joint meeting with the associated CEEs -- Determination of the common position to be adopted for the first meeting of the Association Council with the Czech Republic --Determination of the common position to be adopted for the first meeting of the Association Council with Romania
--(possible) Negotiating directives for the adaptation of the Europe agreements and free trade agreements with the Baltic countries, further to enlargement
--Relations with Russia
--Relations with Croatia
--(possible) Stability pact: Follow-up to the concluding conference
--Nuclear non-proliferation: Preparation for the conference on the NPT
--(possible) EU supervision of elections in the Palestinian territories
--(possible) Union action concerning anti-personnel mines --Mediterranean policy
a) Bilateral negotiations with Israel, Morocco and Tunisia b) Preparation for the Euro-Mediterranean conference: Adoption of the summary report
--Relations with Malta
a) Action to be taken on the Commission report b) Decision on signing the fourth financial protocol.
--Relations with Cyprus
--decision on signing the fourth financial protocol
--Relations with Latin America
a) (possible) Chile: Presentation by the Commission of its assessment report
b) Mexico: Strengthening of relations between the European Union and Mexico
--establishment of the WTO and multilateral trade negotiations --Mid-term review of the Fourth ACP-EC convention
--(possible) South Africa
--Council report on the functioning of the treaty on European Union
--Transparency of Council proceedings
Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will publish the text of his letter to the hon. Member for Congleton of 13 March in connection with the agreement for the suppression of the circulation of obscene publications; 
(2) pursuant to his letter to the hon. Member for Congleton of 28 February, what inquiries have now been made of the United Nations by his Department in connection with the status and operative provisions of the agreement for the suppression of the circulation of obscene publications; what proposals there are to comply with those provisions of the agreement which require the five-yearly consideration of the desirability of calling a conference on the matters covered by the agreement; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Douglas Hogg [holding answer 27 March 1995]: The United Nations treaty department has confirmed that an agreement for the suppression of the circulation of obscene publications was signed in 1910 and amended by a protocol in 1949, and a convention for the suppression of the circulation and traffic in obscene publications was concluded in 1923 and amended by a protocol in 1947. Article 16 of the 1923 convention, not the 1910 agreement, contains the provision for calling a conference at the end of each period of five years. As amended in 1947 it states:
"Upon a request for a revision of the present Convention by five of the signatory or acceding Parties to the Convention, the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations shall call a conference for that purpose. In any event, the Council will consider the desirability of calling a conference at the end of each period of five years".
There is no record of five members asking for a conference. The secretariat of ECOSOC has confirmed to us that it has come under no pressure from signatories to review the 1923 convention, nor has it opted to call a conference as provided for under article 16. The convention is still active: the Czech and Slovak Republics succeeded to it--independently--on 28 August 1993. If there were a proposal by five member states signatory to the convention, the Economic and Social Council would call a conference. We are not aware of any current proposals to do so.
Copies of the texts of the 1910 agreement and the 1923 convention will be lodged in the Library of the House in due course.
Mr. Ainger: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the prosecutions pursued by his Department against fishermen for breaching non-sector quotas and what fines or other penalties were imposed in each successful case in each year since 1988 in England and Wales. 
Mr. Jack [holding answer 23 March 1995]: The number of prosecution cases involving breaches of non-sector quota limits is summarised in the table. Some of the vessels prosecuted may have belonged to producer
Column 846organisations but fished against non-sector quota limits for certain stocks.
|Number of |successful |prosecution |Total fines Year of offence |cases |incurred |£ ---------------------------------------------------------------- 1988 |1 |10,000 1989 |3 |35,095 1990 |7 |10,050 1991 |14 |75,803 1992 |25 |140,237 1993 |13 |97,086 1994 |3 |310,000
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidelines his Department has issued to its agencies and other public bodies under its authority in respect of the employment of public relations companies and the procedures to be adopted in relation to requesting tenders for public relations companies. 
Mr. Waldegrave: The circumstances in which a commercial public relations company may be employed by Government Departments are strictly limited. They are set out in central guidance, as are the procedures to be followed in respect of contract tendering. Agency framework documents explicitly reiterate the need to observe central Government requirements in purchasing of any external services.
Mr. Donohoe: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how much his Department spent on public relations during the financial year 1993 94; how much contracts with the private sector cost; and if he will list the activities covered by these contracts. 
Mr. Waldegrave: In the financial year 1993 94, my Department, excluding agencies, spent £4.3 million publicity, publications and pamphlets. Central rules specifically preclude the engagement of commercial consultants for direct representational tasks and none was so employed.
Mr. Jack: The only readily available estimates of the total transfers to agriculture from consumers and taxpayers in the European Community are those based on analysis by the Organisation for Economic Co- operation and Development. The information, which is available only on an annual basis from 1986 and as a three-year average back to 1979, is given in the table:
Year |Total transfers |billion ECUs ------------------------------------------------ 1979-81 |57 1983-85 |58 1986 |105 1987 |104 1988 |102 1989 |92 1990 |104 1991 |116 1992 |111 1993 |116 Notes: The estimates relate to the EC Twelve except for the period 1979-85 when they relate to the EC10. The ex-GDR is included from 1990. Source: OECD, Agricultural Policies and Trade, annual.
It should be noted that these estimates are likely to overstate the true cost of the CAP because the consumer cost element is based on the difference between EC producer prices and world prices. In the absence of support, world prices would almost certainly be higher. Estimates of population are given in the EUROSTAT's "Basic Statistics of the Community", copies of which are in the Library of the House.
Mr. Marlow: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a comparison between the documents required in support of the integrated administration and control system in each member country; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jack [holding answer 24 March 1995]: Documentation relating to IACS produced by other member states is reviewed periodically. During our last review, we found that the explanatory literature produced in some other member states is short. But this is achieved in a number of ways. In some countries the booklet contains only general material, while instructions on completing the forms appear in separate leaflets. Some simply use much smaller print. Others give only basic information and instruct farmers to consult their local offices if they need more or refer back to EC or national rules. Others may rely on producer groups to help farmers with their applications, on the basis of software provided by the Government. We have preferred a comprehensive approach which takes the applicant step by step through the forms. This approach is also generally favoured by the industry whose views we sought this year and who have preferred not to change a format which is now familiar to farmers. The EC rules on IACS recognise that there will be differences of approach between member states because of different administrative structures. Thus, the Commission's role in ensuring uniform adherence to the rules is a vital one.
Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans his Ministry has to review the allocation and method of allocation of milk quotas (a) in the United Kingdom and (b) between EU countries. 
Mr. Jack: Milk quotas have been allocated to producers in the United Kingdom in accordance with current EC legislation. That legislation will be reviewed before 31 March 2000 when it is due to expire. In the meantime the Government are pressing, so far without success, for a change in the rules to permit the leasing of milk quotas across member state frontiers.
Mr. Jack: Conditions in much of the United Kingdom are ideal for producing milk. But we are prevented from making the most of our natural advantages by the EC milk quota system. The UK's total milk quota is currently 14,590,047 tonnes.
Mr. Nicholas Brown: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what statutory references to hon. Members have been made in legislation introduced by his Department, or its predecessors, since 1965. 
Mr. Jack: An analysis of all legislation introduced by this Department since 1965 for any reference of the type requested could be provided only at disproportionate cost. It would be extremely unlikely for reference to be made specifically to an individual hon. Member, although frequent references are made to officers of state.
Mr. Martyn Jones: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the total number of birds slaughtered under programme code PP2:02; and what was the cost of compensation for these birds. 
Mrs. Browning: The total number of poultry birds compulsorily slaughtered in Great Britain because of salmonella infection and the compensation paid for these birds since the introduction of the policy in March 1989 are set out in the following table.
H |Compensation Type of bird |Total slaughtered|paid slaughtered |£ ------------------------------------------------------------------------ Layer |2,340,254 |3,717,952 Layer breeder |106,121 |903,805 Broiler breeder |1,131,178 |3,258,998 Total |3,577,553 |7,880,755
Mrs. Browning: There are no formal programmes to reduce the occurrence of salmonella in sheep which remains relatively low. However, all isolations have to be reported to a veterinary officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food who, on the basis of the
Column 849information received, will decide the need for further action or advice.
Dr. Strang: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what evaluation he has made of the findings of the Consumers Association in respect of traces of EU banned hormones in United Kingdom meat samples; and if he will reconsider current monitoring standards in the light of the European test findings on hormones in meat. 
Mr. Waldegrave: The concentrations of banned hormones found in the United Kingdom meat samples taken by the Consumers Association are unlikely to pose a threat to human health. Nevertheless, the findings are a cause for concern. Officials at the veterinary medicines directorate have been in contact with the Consumers Association which has provided some additional information on the samples, but, in view of the time that has elapsed since they were purchased and the results published, coupled with the absence of any packaging material, it is proving very difficult to establish the source.
Surveillance for banned hormones is carried out in the UK under the national surveillance scheme for residues in meat, which implements directive 86/469/EEC. The number of samples taken each year is based on a statistical analysis of the numbers of animals slaughtered in the previous year, so that within prescribed confidence limits, we can be satisfied that the results obtained are truly representative. The number of samples can be increased in the light of developments, but, although the position is being kept under review, we have no plans at this stage to change the level of monitoring as a result of these findings.
Mr. Waldegrave: Samples of bile, urine, serum and thyroid which have been collected from cattle, pigs and sheep at slaughterhouses and on-farm under the statutory national surveillance scheme for residues in meat are analysed for the presence of banned substances in accordance with the provisions of Commission decision 92/256/EEC. This lays down the methods to be used for detecting residues of banned substances having a hormonal or thyrostatic action. Samples of meat and meat products purchased from retail outlets under the separate non-statutory surveillance programme, and covering both home-produced and imported meat and meat products, are also tested for the presence of banned hormonal and thyrostatic substances using similar procedures.
The results of both the statutory and non-statutory surveillance programmes are published annually in the veterinary medicines directorate's annual report and accounts and updated quarterly in its MAVIS newsletter.
Mr. Jack: I have no such plans. Pig producers have been given an eight-year adequate transitional period to introduce the new arrangements and have a unique opportunity to supply British consumers with pork and bacon produced to a high welfare standard. A grant aid scheme would not be fair to those producers who have already made the change.
Mr. Marlow: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the extent to which Spanish fishermen have been catching undersized fish, illegal fish, using undersize nets and or using illegal holds while fishing off Canada; and if he will make a statement. 
Mr. Jack: Enforcement in the international waters off Canada regulated by the North-west Atlantic Fisheries Organisation is the responsibility of NAFO members fishing there. The United Kingdom has no fishing vessels or national inspectors operating in these fisheries and therefore has no first-hand experience of fishing practices and enforcement there.
Mr. Waldegrave: The Meat Hygiene Service will be launched on 1 April as an executive agency of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. I am arranging for copies of its framework document to be placed in the Library of the House.
My right hon. Friends the Secretaries of State for Scotland and for Wales and I have set the following targets for the Meat Hygiene Service in 1995 96.
To recover from plant operators the full economic costs of providing the statutory health inspection and controls at fresh meat premises, taking account of any transitional financial arrangements which Ministers may agree.
To recover from Government Departments and agencies the full economic costs of providing agreed services or other work undertaken on their behalf.
To comply with budgetary controls resulting from PES and the Supply Estimates.
To work from the outset for gains in efficiency inter alia by: (a) minimising the total number of hours and the associated costs of meat inspector and OVS time required to operate the service to the standards laid down and taking steps to adjust staffing levels wherever possible following the completion by end October 1995 of the audit of standards and staffing levels in all full throughout plants;
(b) holding overhead costs in 1995 96 within a limit of £8.115 million (before deduction of income from services provided to central Government).
Note: On this basis the MHS will deliver in 1995 96 an efficiency gain of approximately 10 per cent. in relation to the estimated total costs in 1994 95, and will establish a firm base for further gains in efficiency in future years.
Quality and Delivery of Service
To apply hygiene requirements in such a way as to raise levels of compliance by slaughterhouses and cutting premises progressively by:
Column 851(a) establishing a baseline in terms of HAS score where this has not already been done;
(b) in red meat slaughterhouses fully approved on 30 September 1995 which had a score of less than 65 at the last inspection by the state veterinary service in 1994 95, working with plant management to raise HAS scores by at least an average of 10 points by the end of 1995 96.
To complete a welfare audit by the plant OVS of all licensed slaughterhouses, and agree with plant management a timetable for any necessary corrective action, by the end of November 1995. To meet the standards laid down in the MHS customer service statement.