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Mr. Garnier: Did I hear the hon. Gentleman correctly? Did he say 1,200 to 1,500 tonnes to Britain or did he mean 12,000 to 15,000 tonnes?

Mr. Foulkes: No. I am glad that the hon. and learned Gentleman has said that because, when I met a delegation of farmers, they said that the figure was 1,200 to 1,500. I said, "Surely you mean 12,000 to 15,000" and they said no. That was astonishing. That was a helpful intervention. The hon. Gentleman usually is most helpful.

Mr. Garnier: Yes, I am. Is it not the case that 1,500 tonnes were taken in the last bidding round?

Mr. Foulkes: No. I ask my hon. Friends perhaps to confirm that, but that is certainly my understanding of the position.

I do not want to go on too long. I have already made the case on behalf of my constituents, who are suffering. Now is the time for swift action to deal with the crisis, which demands not the Government's sluggardly attitude, but the most positive action. Today, the delegation from the National Farmers Union for Scotland said that the Prime Minister must take action. I hope that, when he talks to President Chirac today, he will, on every occasion, try to persuade and to use arguments to achieve some movement on the ban.

Although short-term measures are important--and I have been arguing for immediate measures--we need a long-term strategy. While we are dealing with this crisis, we must not forget that strategy. It is about time, to use one of the Minister of Agriculture's phrases earlier, that Ministers started to work with the grain. The prickly, tetchy approach that the Minister takes from time to time does not give confidence. It is only if we have that confidence and if there is confidence in the Minister that the industry will recover. To be honest, that confidence will come first only with a change of Minister, but finally only with a change of Government.

6.25 pm

Rev. Ian Paisley (North Antrim): We are discussing a matter that is of grave concern to the farming community throughout this United Kingdom, but it is of greater concern to the parts of the United Kingdom that depend on agriculture and on the employment that flows from agriculture. The Northern Ireland economy is agriculturally based. Agriculture is the largest employer. Agriculture-fed ancillary industries are by far the largest industries in Northern Ireland. Therefore, if our agriculture economy is flawed, fractured and broken, Northern Ireland's whole economy will break down completely.

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It is amazing that parts of this United Kingdom are a step ahead of all Europe in relation to preventing bovine spongiform encephalopathy and its spread. I met the European Union Agriculture Commissioner with two colleagues from Northern Ireland and with farming industry representatives. We asked him: "What would Northern Ireland have to do to come up to the standard prevalent throughout the rest of the European Union?" His answer was interesting. He said, "You have nothing to do because parts of Europe are not as far forward as Northern Ireland or parts of Scotland." The European Union Agriculture Commissioner was admitting that parts of the United Kingdom are further ahead in taking good and effective steps against BSE.

What do we do to get the ban lifted? I agree with the intervention by the hon. Member for Angus, East (Mr. Welsh), who said that we must breach the ban in some way. This is the way in which we can breach it. We are not going to achieve a wholesale lifting of the ban.

In regard to the rendering of certain products, today, the European Union has not lifted the ban and it is going back for more information tomorrow. So we should work on those parts of our country that have a good reputation and are further ahead than even parts of the European Union.

Groups from Europe came to look at parts of the United Kingdom. When they returned, they reported that there was no doubt that Northern Ireland, parts of Scotland and parts of England were well ahead in the matter. Why cannot we start with those parts? Why cannot the Government say that we should lift the ban in such parts? That is what happened with swine fever in Germany.

There is a European law about such action, which we put before the Commissioner. One of their own laws states that a line can be drawn around any area of any country where there is animal disease. If that were done, areas where the disease is not prevalent could proceed. Why cannot that be done now in the United Kingdom? That is where the pressure must be exerted. It is blatantly unfair that parts of the United Kingdom, which, as I have said, even the Commissioner admits are ahead of parts of Europe, should be held to ransom until it is possible to lift the entire ban. The House and the Government should be concentrating on that.

We in Northern Ireland are very disappointed that we do not even have the help of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. He makes pleasing speeches and tells the farmers how good they are, but when it comes to something practical to save our economy, he says that it cannot be done and that we must all hang together. I do not want to be anti-English, for I am not anti-English, but I must say that if the whole of England had an advantage over Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, all the Englishmen would be on their feet asking to be allowed to use it, and more power to them. When I was elected to the House 26 years ago, I was told, "You know, Ian, this is an English House of Commons." I have learned that through the years.

There is a way in which to get rid of the ban. As the hon. Member for Angus, East said, we should breach the ban. We would then be able to progress bit by bit. Even if we got back to where we were before, we would have to make up a lot of leeway. If the ban were lifted today, it would not mean that our agriculture would be back on the road, that all the people who have become unemployed would be re-employed or that all the people

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who have gone out of business would have some chance again. Our agriculture enterprises are in a sorry and sad state today.

I was not satisfied with the Minister's reply to my point that Northern Ireland had cold storage available. It could be opened tomorrow. Why cannot we therefore go ahead, slaughter the beasts and put them into cold storage immediately? Why must we wait for six weeks until all the United Kingdom can take part in the scheme? Every place in the United Kingdom that has cold storage should make it available now. Will the Minister assure me that when I go back to Northern Ireland I will be able to say that the scheme can go ahead?

What about the beasts being fattened on farms? Farmers know that the beasts are worth nothing to them, yet they have to feed and take care of them. The farmers in my constituency have rung an emergency line, but they have been told that their beasts cannot possibly be killed and that it is not known when they can be killed. There will be 40,000 cattle slaughtered in Northern Ireland under the scheme, but that number cannot be handled. Certainly, the renderers in Northern Ireland cannot handle that number because we are short of such facilities. What do we do?

I understand that the Northern Ireland Office has tried to find out whether the beasts could be rendered in some part of Europe. They were to be sent to Denmark for rendering, but that was not possible. We are in an impossible situation. The only way that I can see out of it is to slaughter the beasts, put the carcases into cold storage and deal with them when the renderers are available. Farmers who have lobbied the House today and farmers from other parts of the United Kingdom to whom I have talked say the same: "Open the cold storage and slaughter the beasts."

I want to make a plea about intervention, which has already been raised. Why cannot we have a larger intervention scheme? Why cannot the young bulls that are not allowed to be included in intervention be dealt with? The farmers are asking for all that. With all due respect to my former colleague in the European Parliament, the hon. Member for West Dorset (Sir J. Spicer), farmers do not want to receive a personal letter. They do not want any communication but that which says, "Bring your beast. It will be slaughtered. You will get your payment for it." They do not want any red tape; they want action. They are not asking for what cannot be done. Such action could be taken.

The Minister must get a move on. The crisis did not happen yesterday. It is going on and on and we should ask ourselves how much headway we have made. We have made certain headway, which is welcome. We welcome everything that has helped the farmers, but we have reached a logjam, and in some way it must be broken.

Mr. Cash: Would the hon. Gentleman like to know that it has just been announced that the veterinary standing committee has turned us down? Does he agree that the logjam to which he has just referred is absolutely outrageous and that the Government must take sufficient action, including the suspension of payments? [Interruption.] It is all very well for Opposition Members to chunter on, but they are doing absolutely nothing to improve the position.

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Rev. Ian Paisley: We have already heard that and I have already commented on it. I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman was not present when I did so.

The parts of the United Kingdom that the commissioner admits are ahead of the rest of the European Union must breach the ban. We will not lift a blanket ban. Anybody who thinks that some day we will wake up and the entire ban will be lifted is wrong. It will not happen that way. We should use what brain power God has given us to try to achieve a breach.

I attended a meeting over which Lord Plumb, a colleague of the hon. Member for West Dorset, presided. It was an anti-Scottish, anti-Welsh and anti-Northern Ireland meeting. It was to tell Europe that we are all standing together. Some of my friends from other countries in Europe said that if Lord Plumb carried on like that the ban would never be lifted. But if we identified parts of the United Kingdom that have done everything that they have been asked to do and are even ahead of parts of Europe, and we argued that under the European law we are entitled to breach the ban, we would go forward.

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