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Class Sizes

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what was the average class size of schools in Cumbria on 30 April in (a) 1997 and (b) 1998. [44898]

Mr. Byers: The information in the form requested is not available centrally.

School Classes (Age Mix)

Mr. Willetts: To ask the Secretary of State for Education and Employment what estimate he has made of the number of five, six and seven-year-old school children currently being educated in classes containing a mixture of pupils from more than one age group. [44305]

Mr. Byers [holding answer 15 June 1998]: Provisional figures for numbers of children in key stage one classes taught by one teacher in maintained primary schools in England in January 1998 show that 345,000 or 21 per cent. of these children were in mixed age classes.

AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Cull Ewes

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for what reasons the cull ewe trade with France is not able to use the abattoirs (a) MUS in Douai, (b) CVD in Rungis, (c) Ovimpex in Rungis, (d) SNVC in Cedex, (e) Macquet in Fruges and (f) Moreville in Fruges. [47270]

Dr. John Cunningham: It is the responsibility of the French authorities to designate the premises in France which can handle ewe carcases.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the earliest date the cull ewe trade can recommence. [47268]

Dr. John Cunningham: Under the Specified Risk Material Regulations 1997, the spinal cord of older sheep must be removed in authorised abattoirs or cutting plants. This requires the carcase to be split. Exports of carcases of cull ewes can take place once all such materials (and other specified risk material) has been removed.

We have recently issued proposals for statutory consultation to amend the Regulations to allow export of ewe carcases with spinal cord intact to premises designated by the French authorities to remove the spinal cord under French domestic controls on specified risk materials. The earliest date when exports of carcases with spinal cord intact can commence is dependent on the laying before Parliament of the amending Regulations following completion of the statutory consultation period. We would expect this to be during July, subject to the consultations being concluded without issues being raised which would require further work and to Parliamentary approval.

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the meetings, together with the dates and the subjects discussed, which were held with the French Government to discuss the cull ewe trade in the context of the SRM ban. [47269]

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 104

Dr. John Cunningham: This has largely been pursued through correspondence, although the Agricultural Attache at the British Embassy, Paris, and the Chief Veterinary Officer have been in contact with French veterinary authorities to pursue this point.

Policy Reviews

Mr. Jack: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list the policy reviews his Ministry is currently carrying out; and when he expects the results of each will be made public. [47264]

Dr. John Cunningham: The information requested is as follows:

ReviewResults to be made public
Review of food from Britainsummer 1998
Review of the UK legislation on the disposal of animal wastesummer 1998
Review of the current rules on quarantine of imported pet animalssummer or early autumn 1998
Review of the hill livestock compensatory allowance schemeautumn 1998
Review of fishing vessel licensingDecember 1998
Review of the future funding of regulatory arrangements for pesticidesDecember 1998
Review of the public analyst arrangements in England and Walesby end of 1998
Review of the nitrate sensitive area schemesby 1 April 1999
Review of environmentally sensitive areas, stage IV schemesJune 1999
Review of access provisions of agri-environment schemesduring 1999
Review of the meat and livestock commission1999
Review of salmon and freshwater fisheriesby end of 1999
Review of tuberculosis in cattle and badgers(36)--
Review of raw cows' drinking milk policy(37)--

(36) Krebs Committee reported December 1997; decision on action to be taken will follow

(37) Consultation announced November 1997; Ministerial announcement in due course

In addition, operational matters are regularly reviewed and there is a rolling programme of policy evaluations.


Quarantine

Mr. Key: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when public consultation on the proposals of the Advisory Committee on Quarantine will (a) begin and (b) end. [47866]

Mr. Rooker: The public consultation will commence after the report of the Advisory Group on Quarantine has been published in the summer or early autumn, and is expected to last for two or three months.

Pig Farming

Mr. Cran: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many pig farmers he has met in the last four months to discuss the present state of the sector and its future prospects. [42999]

Dr. John Cunningham [holding answer 21 May 1998]: My colleagues and I have met several pig farmers and their representatives in the last four months.

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 105

Growth Promoters

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is the increase in body weight over any given period of time of (a) pigs and (b) poultry fed a diet which includes antibiotics as growth promoters when compared with the same types of animals fed a diet which excludes such growth promoters. [46981]

Mr. Rooker: The Department does not hold this information. Figures from the National Office of Animal Health Ltd. which represents manufacturers of feed additives authorised as growth promoters indicate that dietary enhancers improve feed conversion efficiency of farm livestock by between 3 and 6 per cent. and increase daily liveweight gains by 5 per cent. to 8 per cent., according to species.

Cheese

Sir Alastair Goodlad: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has made to the Department of Health about the use by his officials of powers granted under the Food Safety Act 1990 to ban the sale of cheese without court proceedings; and if he will make a statement. [47069]

Mr. Rooker: I fully support the recent exercise of powers under s.13 of the Food Safety Act by the Minister for Public Health in respect of cheese from a Somerset producer, for the reasons set out by her in the recent Adjournment Debate on 17 June 1998, Official Report, columns 342-46. It was for this reason that I attended the debate.

BSE

Mr. Maclean: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the (a) number, (b) grades, (c) original department and (d) current roles of all civil servants assisting the BSE inquiry. [47230]

Mr. Rooker: Total staff at the Inquiry is currently 83. This includes a number of casual staff engaged on specific short term tasks.

Ten civil servants have been seconded to assist with the BSE Inquiry.

GradeDepartment
G5Treasury Solicitor's DepartmentSolicitor to the Inquiry
G5D.E.T.RSecretary to the Inquiry
G6D.T.IHead of Analysis Branch
G7D.E.T.RDeputy to the Secretary
SEOD.E.T.RHead of a Witness Team
SEOD.E.T.ROffice Services Manager
SEOCabinet OfficeWebsite and IT Manager
SIOCabinet OfficePress Officer
HEO(D)Cabinet OfficeAnalysis branch member
EOCabinet OfficeDeputy Office Manager

Food Standards Agency

Mr. Corbett: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will estimate the likely savings to his Department arising from the transfer of current responsibilities for food safety to the proposed Food Standards Agency. [47591]

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 106

Mr. Rooker: Resources currently devoted to food safety and standards work will be transferred to the Food Standards Agency when it is established. There will therefore be no savings to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

Poultry

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the advantages and disadvantages of permitting the use of vaccines for poultry which are permitted for use in other EU member states. [47446]

Mr. Rooker: Vaccines for poultry which are licensed in another member state may be the subject of applications for marketing authorisations in the United Kingdom. In cases where vaccines have already been authorised in accordance with Directive 81/851/EEC in another member state, marketing authorisations may be granted in the United Kingdom by a process of mutual recognition.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will require imported turkey meat to be labelled with details of (a) vaccines which have been administered to such poultry and (b) vaccines which have been administered which are not approved for use in the United Kingdom. [47447]

Mr. Rooker: I have no powers to do so. The vaccines in question will have been authorised in the member state in which they were administered.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will require imported poultry meat to be labelled with information about whether the meat has been subject to residue testing. [47451]

Mr. Rooker: No. Residue testing is a legal requirement for all EU member states and for third countries wishing to export here.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will require imported poultry meat to be clearly labelled to show if (a) meat and bone meal and (b) animal proteins have been used in the feeding of such poultry. [47445]

Mr. Rooker: I have no such intention. However, when appropriate, UK producers and retailers are free to provide additional indications voluntarily on domestic production where they consider this will improve marketability of their products.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will require imported poultry meat which is packed or processed in the United Kingdom to carry on-pack information about (a) its source and (b) its compliance or otherwise with United Kingdom health and welfare standards. [47443]

Mr. Rooker: Food labelling regulations require an indication of the place of origin of a food if failure to give such particulars might mislead a purchaser to a material degree about its true origin or provenance. In the case of processed foods, the place of origin is generally taken as the place it last underwent a substantial change.

There are no proposals to extend labelling requirements to cover compliance with national animal health and welfare standards.

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 107

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will require imported poultry meat to be labelled with its country of origin. [47442]

Mr. Rooker: The labels on pre-packaged poultrymeat must give an indication of its country of origin when imported from outside the Community. The UK is in the process of taking steps to require this information to appear on labels, tickets or notices near where unpackaged poultry is offered for sale.

There are no plans to require poultrymeat of Community origin to indicate its country of origin on labelling, although all poultrymeat produced in the Community must include the registered number of the slaughterhouse or cutting plant which supplied the product (except where cutting and boning is carried out at the place of sale). These registered numbers are pre-fixed with the initials of the member state concerned.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that the charge for residue testing under European Union Directive 96/43/EC does not exceed the costs of testing. [47452]

Mr. Rooker: I refer my hon. Friend to my answer to the hon. Member for South-East Cambridgeshire (Mr. Paice) on 24 February 1998, Official Report, column 186, for background to this issue. He will wish to note, however, that the charge per tonne of poultrymeat is incorrectly stated as £1,0461; it should have read £1.0461.

The non-implementation of the requirement of Council Directive 96/43/EC to impose the minimum charge on the poultry industry is not an option. We have assured the industry that we will seek to re-negotiate this charge should the opportunity arise.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ban the import into the United Kingdom of meat from poultry which has been fed on meat and bone meal. [47444]

Mr. Rooker: No. The ban on meat and bone meal in poultry rations in the United Kingdom is to prevent cross contamination of ruminant feed with meat and bone meal incorporated into feed for other farm animals. It does not have any bearing on the poultry meat itself and there is therefore no basis on which it would be reasonable to extend these controls to imports.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will restrict the import of poultry meat which has been subject to antibiotic growth enhancers. [47449]

Mr. Rooker: Additives, including antibiotic growth promoters, incorporated in animal feedingstuffs are controlled throughout the European Union under Council Directive 70/524/EEC. This provides that no additive may be used in animal feed unless it meets a requirement that, at the level permitted in feedingstuffs, it does not adversely affect human or animal health or the environment. Approved additives may be freely marketed in the European Union and there would be no justification for restricting the import of poultrymeat which had been subject to approved antibiotic growth promoters.

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has to restrict antibiotic growth enhancers in poultry production. [47448]

29 Jun 1998 : Column: 108

Mr. Rooker: The Government are giving careful consideration to recommendations made by the Agriculture Committee and the House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology which concern the use of antibiotic growth promoters. Neither Committee made a specific recommendation relating to the use of antibiotic growth promoters by the poultry industry. The Government are advised on this issue by the independent scientific Veterinary Products Committee (VPC). In addition, the Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food is reviewing the food safety implications of antimicrobial resistance.


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