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AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Ministerial Meetings

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food which organisations, companies, individuals, European or overseas ministers and representative bodies he has agreed to meet during the remainder of 1997-98; and when those meetings are scheduled to take place. [16349]

Dr. John Cunningham: My diary for the remainder of 1997-98 is, of necessity, incomplete and provisional. It would serve no purpose to provide details of meetings which might or might not take place.

Mr. Gill: To ask the Ministers of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many meetings with farmers' organisations that Ministers had agreed to address they have subsequently declined to attend since 1 May. [22665]

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Dr. John Cunningham: It has been necessary for me and my Ministerial team to cancel 10 meetings with farmers' organisations since 1 May.

Council of Ministers

Mr. Denzil Davies: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many meetings of the Council of Agriculture Ministers of the European Union he has attended [23605]

Dr. John Cunningham: I have attended nine meetings of the Council of Agriculture Ministers of the European Union.

Ministerial Travel (Trains)

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what date he last used a train in the course of his official duties. [22928]

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Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer on 15 January 1998]: I last used a train in the course of my official duties on 13 January.

Beef Imports

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what resources he plans to make available to inspect imported off the bone beef to ensure it meets the same standards as domestically produced meat; and how many people will be employed in this work; [23271]

Mr. Rooker [holding answer 15 January 1998]: All fresh meat produced in the UK, and imported into the UK from other EU Member States, must be produced in accordance with harmonised Community rules laid down in Council Directive 64/433/EEC. Fresh meat imported from third countries must come only from approved establishments in countries which are authorised by the European Commission to export to the Community. These controls are designed to ensure that the meat satisfies production requirements equivalent to those applying within the Community.

The Government's new unilateral controls to ensure that certain food and feed products do not contain and were not derived from specified risk material (SRM) require products to be certified as such in their country of origin by national veterinary services. Products produced before 1 January and products derived from animals born, reared and slaughtered in Australia or New Zealand, provided they are certified as such, are not subject to the SRM-freedom requirements. All consignments imported into the UK from third countries are checked at designated Border Inspection Posts. EU Single Market rules permit only random spot-checks at destination for imports from member states. Consistent with those rules, a daily sample of randomly selected consignments from EU member states is checked for conformity with the new unilateral controls.

Other checks carried out at places of destination are made by authorised officers from a number of different bodies, including local authorities. It is not, therefore, possible to state precisely how many people are involved in this work at any one time, except at disproportionate cost.

Ministerial Visits

Mr. Wilshire: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list those visits made within the United Kingdom since 1 May on which (a) he and (b) other Ministers within his Department have been accompanied under Rule 83 of the Ministerial Code indicating (i) those persons accompanying and (ii) the cost to public funds. [23745]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 19 January 1998]: I can confirm that, under Rule 83 of the Ministerial Code, Mrs. Cunningham has not accompanied me on any official visit within the United Kingdom. Of the Ministers

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within my Department, only my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary has been accompanied under Rule 83 of the Ministerial Code: Mrs. Morley attended the opening of the Sheepgate Equestrian Centre on Saturday 27 September 1997. Her attendance did not involve any additional public expenditure.

Beef (Northern Ireland)

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if beef on the bone supplied from certified herds in Northern Ireland will be permitted to be sold throughout Europe following the removal of European Union prohibitions on the export of beef in respect of those herds. [23846]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 19 January 1998]: The proposal for an Export Certified Herds Scheme in Northern Ireland currently under consideration by the Standing Veterinary Committee permits only the export of de-boned beef from Northern Ireland.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Cox: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the measures taken by the European Union in respect of animal welfare in each of the last three years. [24525]

Mr. Morley: The measures adopted by the European Union in respect of animal welfare over the three years 1995-1997 in my Department's area of responsibility have been:


Meat Export Licences

Miss Kirkbride: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the average time currently taken to process red and white meat export licences by regional centre. [24489]

Mr. Rooker: The State Veterinary Service's Service Standard for processing routine export health certification is five working days from date of receipt of a fully completed application. The Ministry's records show that,

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in December, the average time from receipt of an application to dispatch of certificates to Local Veterinary Inspectors for red meat and poultry meat certificates was as follows:

Veterinary Field Service regionAverage time for processing of red meat certificates (Calendar days)Average time for processing of red meat certificates (calendar days
East0.960.71
West0.601.47
North1.302.47
Scotland0.022.03
Wales0.42(33)0
HQ0.162.18

Note:

(33) 0 means all certificates dispatched on day of receipt.

All of the above figures are provisional and subject to amendment.


Vitamin Supplements

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the name and professional qualifications of those nutritionists who have written to him to support his proposed new restrictions on the retail sale of vitamin B6 supplements. [24819]

Mr. Rooker: No assessment has been made of the professional status or qualifications of those who have written to the Government about the proposed controls on food supplements containing vitamin B6.

Agrimonetary Regime

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement describing the workings of the agrimonetary regime for EU member states who do not join its single currency in the first wave. [25246]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 26 January 1998]: The European Commission will need to make proposals to the Agriculture Council this year for agrimonetary arrangements to apply after the start of the Single Currency. They have indicated their intention to make proposals in May or June. We intend to discuss the options with all interested organisations. A key aim for the UK in the negotiations will be ensuring equitable treatment of the different groups of Member States involved.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the cost to public funds of each package of agrimonetary compensations claimed by other member states of the EU under the terms of the current agrimonetary regime. [25248]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 26 January 1998]: Other EU Member States have paid around 650 MECU in agrimonetary compensation so far, of which 460 MECU has been reimbursed from the CAP budget. The UK's net contribution to this spending, as to all new EU spending in other Member State, will be around 5 per cent.

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