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Mr. Gardiner: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of recent reports that sesame seed and oil in foods intended for young children can produce serious anaphylactic attacks; and what discussions his Department has had with Nestle on the matter. [103363]

Ms Quin: It has been known for some time that sesame seeds can produce potentially severe reactions in individuals who have a pre-existing sesame allergy. Sesame oil could in theory also produce reactions depending on how much of the allergenic sesame protein is present.

It would seem sensible to advise that certain infants should avoid sesame seeds and food containing sesame, in case the consumption of sesame increases the risk of the infant developing sesame allergy. This advice is by analogy with the Committee on Toxicity's (COT) advice on peanuts. In its report on Peanut Allergy, the COT advised that during weaning, and until at least three years of age, the diets of infants with a parent or sibling with atopic disease (i.e. liable to develop allergic conditions) should not include peanuts and foods containing peanuts. This is because these foods may increase the risk of sensitisation and should be avoided. Further expert advice is being sought on this and the situation will be kept under review in the light of developing knowledge.

There have been no discussions with Nestle on this specific issue.

Meat Hygiene Service

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will review the level of charges for Meat Hygiene Service veterinary surgeons in independent abattoirs. [105472]

Ms Quin: On 1 December the Government announced that Meat Hygiene Service (MHS) hygiene inspection charges for this financial year (1999-2000) would be frozen at the levels set for 1998-99. This will result in a saving to the meat industry of some £7 million in charges in 1999-2000.

The Government have also given a commitment that the rates of MHS hygiene inspection charges in 2000-01 should not rise by more than the level of inflation above the levels charged in 1999-2000.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in the review of the operations of the Meat Hygiene Service. [103351]

Ms Quin: The results of the efficiency review of the Meat Hygiene Service have been published as an annex to the report of the regulatory review of the meat industry,

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the "Meat Industry Red Tape Working Group", which was issued on 13 December 1999, Official Report, column 89W. Copies of the report have been placed in the Library of the House.

The results of the efficiency review will be considered in the context of the recommendations made by the Red Tape Working Group. The Government expects to respond shortly.

Abattoirs and Meat Processing Plants

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many abattoirs and meat processing plants have failed to pay inspection charges for completed inspections in the last year. [103352]

Ms Quin: A total of 89 licensed slaughterhouses have failed to pay meat inspection charges in the last year for completed inspections. Meat processing plants are not subject to inspection charges.

Failure to pay has been defined as a slaughterhouse with an outstanding invoice dated October 1999 or earlier.

All 89 are subject to full debt recovery procedures within the terms of the new Civil Procedure Rules that came into force as of April 1999. At present these debts are regarded as civil cases and, where necessary, recovery will be pursued through the courts.

To address the problem of unpaid meat inspection charges, the Government has formally consulted on a proposal to amend the Meat (Hygiene and Inspection) (Charges) Regulations 1998. The proposed amendment would provide powers for the withdrawal by the Meat Hygiene Service of inspection services from individual licensed meat premises as a matter of last resort and in clearly defined circumstances.

Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has made to the European Commission concerning the levels of veterinary supervision in abattoirs and meat processing plants; and what response he has received. [103354]

Ms Quin: In 1997 the European Commission initiated legal proceedings against the United Kingdom for the under-implementation of the veterinary supervision requirements of EU meat hygiene legislation. Since then the Government have made a number of representations to the Commission about the level of veterinary supervision in licensed premises (abattoirs, cutting plants and cold stores) in Great Britain producing or handling fresh (red) meat. The Government have accepted the need to bring the UK's veterinary supervision levels into line with the EU requirements in as short a time as possible, but pointed to the shortage of veterinarians willing to undertake meat hygiene work in the UK as a key obstacle to immediate compliance. The Government therefore set out a plan for achieving full and complete compliance by stages, over a number of years, as additional veterinary resource became available to the Meat Hygiene Service.

The Commission has noted the UK's programme and has made clear that it expects all the relevant controls and supervisory measures to be in place in the UK, in accordance with EU legislation, by the middle of 2001.

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Separately, the Government also sought the European Commission's views earlier this year on the level and frequency of veterinary supervision required by the Fresh Meat Directive (64/433/EEC, as amended) for those low throughput (permanently derogated) slaughterhouses and cutting plants approved under Article 4 of the Directive. In summary, the Commission's advice was that the official veterinarian must carry out ante mortem inspections in red meat slaughterhouses, although post mortem inspections may be performed by either the official veterinarian or by an auxiliary. In addition, the hygiene rules must be monitored in all low throughput premises by either an official veterinarian or an auxiliary acting under his/her responsibility. Copies of the Commission's advice were placed in the Library of the House on 13 October 1999.

The Government are actively considering the veterinary supervision requirements for low throughput abattoirs and cutting plants in the light of the Commission's advice and will make an announcement on this in due course.

River Medway

Mr. Wyatt: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if his Department controls the rights to (a) fishing and (b) fishing sea bass from Garrison Point to Allington Locks on the River Medway; [105900]

Mr. Morley [holding answer 20 January 2000]: The English common law recognises a public right of fishing in territorial tidal waters. However, that common law right can have been abrogated or limited (including in relation to the methods by which it may be exercised) in a number of ways in the past, including by domestic or European legislation, by private Act of Parliament, by Charter or by ancient usage.

As far as is known, there is no exhaustive list of instances where the common law right has been abrogated or limited in the ways described. Therefore, only the courts are in a position to be able to rule on whether the fishery referred to by my hon. Friend between Garrison Point and Allington Lock is a public fishery or a private fishery owned by or granted to the Rochester Oyster and Floating Fishery and, if the latter, the extent of that private fishery.

However, the private rights, if any, in this fishery have been limited by various elements of EC legislation, including restrictions on minimum landing size and mesh size as well as by the establishment of the bass nursery area at the Isle of Grain Power Station Outfall.

Common Agricultural Policy Payments


Mr. Michael J. Foster: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answer of 10 January 2000, Official Report, column 99W, if he will list by value the CAP payments including agri-environment schemes, broken down by individual category which were paid to farmers in Worcestershire in the calendar year 1998. [105589]

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Ms Quin: Provisional figures for CAP payments made to farmers in Hereford and Worcester in 1998 were as follows.


Arable area payments25,553,526
Environmentally sensitive area(12)29,839
Sheep annual premium8,288,360
Suckler cow premium6,452,000
Farm woodland premium(12)216,811
Farm woodland(12)250,990
Organic aid(12)34,559
Nitrate sensitive area(12)31,657
Countryside stewardship(12)497,908
Beef special premium6,757,687

(12) These amounts include national as well as EU funding


Data is not available separately for Worcester because our administration operates on the combined county of Hereford and Worcester. We estimate that Worcester totals are broadly 40 per cent. of the combined total.

Mr. Michael J. Foster: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the total value was of CAP payments made to Worcestershire farmers in the calendar years 1990 to 1997. [105497]

Ms Quin: The total value of CAP payments to farmers in Hereford and Worcester for the years 1994-97 were as follows:


Finalised data are not available separately for Worcestershire because our administration operates on the combined county of Hereford and Worcester.

These totals include national as well as EU funding.

Data for 1990-93 are unavailable as computer systems were not in place at that time.

Mr. Michael J. Foster: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, pursuant to his answers of 10 January 2000, Official Report, column 99W, if he will list the 10 largest recipients of CAP payments made to farms in Worcestershire in the calendar year 1998. [105512]

Ms Quin: Such a list is commercially sensitive, and as such the rules of confidentiality preclude disclosure and publication.

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