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Beef Imports

Mr. Walter: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what guidance has been given to those authorities responsible for border inspection posts to inspect consignments of beef imported from outside the European Union for specified risk materials. [27002]

Mr. Rooker: An instruction, in the form of an Animal Health Circular, was issued to Official Veterinary Surgeons and Divisional Veterinary Managers responsible for Border Inspection Posts on 23 December. The Circular, numbered AHC97/231, has been deposited in the Ministry's Whitehall Place library and is available to the public on demand.

Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowance

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has received approval from the EU Commission for his HLCA package announced on 22 December; and if he will make a statement. [25674]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 28 January 1998]: Consultation with the Commission is still in progress. I hope to be able to make a statement very soon.

Farmers (Early Retirement)

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to introduce an early retirement scheme for farmers. [25671]

Mr. Kirkwood: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to introduce an EU early retirement scheme for the UK agriculture industry; what level of resources is estimated to be available; and how soon the scheme will become available. [25240]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 28 January 1998]: Options for a possible early retirement scheme for the livestock sector are under consideration. Any scheme will have to accord with the relevant EC Regulation No. 2079/92. We will consult the industry on this initiative as soon as possible.

Imported Meat

Mr. Dawson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he has taken to ensure that no imported meat is from animals fed on animal by-products. [25613]

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will take steps to prohibit the import of pigmeat from animals fed meat and bonemeal; and if he will make a statement. [26396]

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Mr. Rooker [holding answer 28 January 1998]: Conditions on Intra-Community trade in meat, and third country imports, are subject to Community rules. These do not include requirements relating to the feed of the animals from which the meat was obtained. Commission Decision 94/381/EC prohibits the feeding of mammalian protein, with certain exceptions, to ruminants. In addition, Switzerland has equivalent provisions in its national legislation. Thus, all countries which have reported cases of BSE in home-bred animals have restrictions on the feeding of mammalian protein to ruminants.

Within the UK, to prevent the risk of cross examination between different types of feed, there is also a ban on feeding mammalian meat and bone meal to all farmed livestock. The UK has had far more cases of BSE than anyone else and that is why our measures go considerably further than those taken elsewhere.

Beef Labelling

Mr. Plaskitt: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the regulations regarding the labelling of beef in supermarkets. [25801]

Mr. Rooker: I have no plans to review arrangements for the labelling of beef in supermarkets. The Government have recently launched the beef labelling scheme, which takes full effect from 31 March 1998. From that date all retail outlets, including supermarkets, will be required to seek prior approval from a competent authority for use of any detailed information, such as geographic origin, which cannot easily be verified at the point of sale. While the Scheme will be voluntary in the first instance I expect the majority of beef sold retail will be covered.

Spongiform Encephalopathy (Cats and Dogs)

Mr. Blizzard: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what research his Department has (a) carried out and (b) evaluated on spongiform encephalopathy in (i) cats and (ii) dogs. [25919]

Mr. Rooker: Apart from their inclusion in studies of the PrP gene sequences of species that are apparently resistant to BSE, MAFF has no specific programme of research on spongiform encephalopathies in canines. A survey carried out in 1990/91 on the brains of hounds culled for a variety of reasons from packs in all parts of Britain found no conclusive evidence of spongiform change. The outcome was, however, hampered by the fact that the majority of the 444 brains examined did not come from animals that were suffering from neurological disease.

With respect to cats, MAFF receives notifications of diagnoses of spongiform encephalopathy in domestic and exotic felidae. In collaboration with colleagues in universities and other institutes, MAFF scientists have

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defined lesion profiles and methodology for confirmation of diagnosis. Epidemiological analyses are also in progress.

Farming (Financial Support)

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what estimate he has made of the cost to an average family of the financial support paid to the farming industry in each of the last five years. [26471]

Mr. Rooker: During the most recent five years for which data are available, the cost of the Common Agricultural Policy in the UK is estimated to have been between £12 and £15 per week for a typical family of four. This consists of costs to consumers due to higher prices for food and expenditure by taxpayers. In addition, UK taxpayer expenditure on national agricultural policies was typically of the order of £1 per week for a family of four, although it was closer to £2 per week in 1996.

These estimates are based on calculations by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development of total transfers resulting from agricultural policies in the European Union, with adjustments in respect of the abatement to the United Kingdom's contribution to the European budget.

The estimates are likely to overstate the savings which could be made by UK consumers and taxpayers if the CAP were removed; in the absence of support, world prices would be higher than at present.

Unpasteurised Milk

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in which EU member states the sale of unpasteurised milk (a) has been banned at any time since 1968 and (b) is currently banned, with the dates concerned in each case. [27049]

Mr. Rooker: In addition to the ban in Scotland since 1983, retail sales of unpasteurised cows' drinking milk have been banned in the Republic of Ireland since July 1996. On 1 January 1998 Germany banned the serving of unpasteurised milk in catering in all regions. Other member states permit the sale of such milk under restrictions of varying types.


Mr. Maclean: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the Minister of State will reply to the letter of 5 December from the right hon. Member for Penrith and the Border on a constituency matter. [27048]

Mr. Rooker: I replied to the letter of 5 December 1997, from the right hon. Member, enclosing correspondence from Mr. R. Carruthers of Low Moat Fishing on 29 January 1998.

Vitamin Supplements

Mr. Luff: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 27 January 1998, Official Report, column 209, for what reasons he has not made an assessment of the professional status or

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qualifications of those who have written to him about the proposed controls on food supplements containing vitamin B6; and if he will make a statement. [26790]

Mr. Rooker: We have received a large number of unsolicited representations on the subject of the Government's proposed controls on vitamin B6 in dietary supplements, many in the form of standard letters. It is our policy to reply to all representations received, regardless of the status of the correspondent. We see no reason to either record or assess the qualifications of those making representations.

The regulations required to implement the proposed controls on dietary supplements will be the subject of a formal consultation exercise and, subject to the views of respondents, the responses received will be made publicly available.

Mr. Tyler: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what criteria he uses to assess the relative merits of the advice from (a) the Committee on Toxicity and (b) other independent scientists who have made representations to the Ministry on the safety of vitamin B6; and if he will make a statement. [26397]

Mr. Rooker: The role of the Committee on Toxicity of Chemicals in Food, Consumer Products and the Environment (COT) is to provide independent advice on matters within its remit. Its members are recognised nationally and internationally as experts in their disciplines which include the interface between toxicology and nutrition. Representations from scientists criticising the COT's advice on the safety of vitamin B6 have been copied to the COT secretariat and, where appropriate, to the Chairman of the COT for comment.

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