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Pig Sector

Mr. Cawsey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the estimated cost to the pig sector is of the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee's requirement to remove and dispose of offal. [105138]

Ms Quin: [holding answer 17 January 2000]: The Sponigform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) has no such requirement for the pig sector. The

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cost to the pig sector of the legal ban on using mammalian meat and bone meat in farm animal feed has been estimated by the Meat and Livestock Commission as £5.26 per pig.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what grants and other assistance his Department (a) gives and (b) plans to give to pig farmers outside assisted areas. [105109]

Ms Quin [holding answer 17 January 2000]: Formal and informal pig farming co-operatives were eligible to apply for a marketing grant under the Agriculture Development Scheme 1999. The scheme closed for applications on 30 November 1999 and successful applications will be announced in a few weeks. My right hon. Friend the Minister has also announced his intention that pig producers will benefit significantly from an extra £5 million earmarked to help farmers improve their marketing, collaboration and competitiveness. Discussions with the industry are presently taking place on ways of making best use of the money. In addition, pig producers may be eligible for grants under the Business Link and Small Business Schemes administered by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Mr. Cawsey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of his initiative to increase the level of procurement of pork and pigmeat products by Government Departments and public authorities. [105140]

Ms Quin [holding answer 17 January 2000]: Following my right hon. Friend the Minister's letter to public authorities in October 1999, a number of the authorities have expressed an interest in developing a sourcing specification which would result in the purchase of product which conforms to British standards. This is being followed up by the Meat and Livestock Commission and the Minister's Meat Trade Adviser. The industry and some hon. Members, including my hon. Friend, have also become involved with the initiative.

Beef Exports

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what support is provided by his Department for the export of bull semen. [105031]

Ms Quin [holding answer 17 January 2000]: The Department does not provide direct financial support to farmers wishing to export cattle semen. We do, however, work closely with other interested organisations, including the Meat and Livestock Commission, to try and open up new markets for United Kingdom cattle semen and to promote exports via trade fairs and other events both here and abroad.

Live Animal Exports

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many live sheep were exported from the United Kingdom in 1999 for (a) slaughter and (b) further fattening. [105208]

Ms Quin: The provisional number of live sheep exported from the UK to other member states in 1999 for slaughter was 9,033 and 1,125,460 for further fattening.

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EU Surplus Food Scheme

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the total available sum available under the EU surplus food scheme; what was his Department's budget in advertising the scheme; and how much grant was finally used. [105661]

Ms Quin: The last year that the UK participated in the EU surplus food scheme was 1998 when the sum made available to the UK for the distribution of surplus beef was £20.3 million. No separate Departmental budget allocation was made for advertising the scheme; expenditure for advertising the scheme was made available from overall Intervention Board funds. The funds allocated to the UK by the EU for the surplus food scheme were fully utilised.

Sugar

Mr. Hunter: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what is his policy in respect of ensuring that changes in the Sugar Protocol and Lome Convention do not create further competitive advantages for beet at the expense of cane. [105492]

Ms Quin: EU/ACP trade talks are due to conclude next month. They are expected to roll forward the Sugar Protocol for a further eight years, and to provide for its review by 2008. In any review a major UK policy consideration will be the need for an equitable outcome for the cane refining sector to maintain its competitive position relative to the beet sugar sector.

Common Agricultural Policy Payments

(South-West)

Mr. Chope: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will estimate the total value to farmers in Dorset of CAP payments for (a) the 1998 calendar year and (b) the 1998-99 financial year. [105260]

Ms Quin: The information requested is not yet available. Figures for the calendar year 1998 are expected to become available in the near future.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many farms in (a) Cornwall, (b) Devon, (c) Somerset and (d) Dorset received CAP payments in 1998. [105259]

Ms Quin: CAP payments in 1998 were paid to the following number of farms:

Number of farms
Cornwall(13)3,796
Devon6,807
Somerset3,524
Dorset1,648

(13) Includes holdings on the Isles of Scilly.


These figures may exclude some farms which made small claims under agri-environment schemes. Precise figures on those farms could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

EU Flax Regime

Sir Peter Emery: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to ensure

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that the implementation of reform proposals of the EU flax regime will not take effect until after the 2000 harvest. [105609]

Ms Quin: The proposed implementation in 2000 of the reform depends on political agreement being reached by the Council of Ministers. Negotiations are underway at official level where the UK has already made clear the difficulties for industry and for enforcement authorities that early implementation would cause.

Food Labelling

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the labelling of British meat products. [105110]

Ms Quin [holding answer 17 January 2000]: Rules on labelling of food products are harmonised at EU level. These are implemented in the UK by the Food Labelling Regulations 1996 (as amended) and the Food Safety Act 1990. There are additional national rules in the Meat Products and Spreadable Fish Products Regulation 1984. All British meat products must comply with the rules laid down in both these sets of Regulations. Enforcement of these rules is carried out by local authorities through their trading standards or environmental health departments.

Mr. Cawsey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the progress of a new labelling regime for food products. [105134]

Ms Quin [holding answer 17 January 2000]: The Government are committed to giving consumers clear, easily understood information so they can make informed choices about the food they buy. We have already taken a number of steps for labelling ingredients derived from genetically modified crops and for labelling the quantities of key ingredients. We are encouraging the development of voluntary industry guidelines aimed at providing better, more consistent information to those consumers with specific allergies and will continue to press for appropriate changes to European and international rules.

We are also launching a new initiative to stimulate public debate on food labelling and find out what information ordinary consumers want to be given about the food they buy. We will also be considering different ways of making information available, including the use of modern technology, and whether new approaches are called for to deal with internet shopping. We are funding consumer research into these questions. We shall be holding open meetings and inviting consumers to write or e-mail us with their views.

The results of this exercise will feed into the work of the Food Standards Agency to whom the Government have given responsibility for developing food labelling policy. The aim is to improve the clarity of information for consumers, and help establish appropriate labelling regimes at national and international level.

Rats

Ms Walley: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the findings were of the 1996 English House Condition Survey on the relationship between rat infestations in and around dwellings and (a) unfitness and (b) poor living conditions. [105483]

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Mr. Morley: The results of the 1996 survey were published in the recent MAFF report "Rodent infestations in domestic properties in England". Figure 3.2 in the report relating to the fitness of dwellings shows that 1.3 per cent. of satisfactory and acceptable dwellings have rats outside, compared to around 3 per cent. of defective and unfit dwellings. Less than 1 per cent. of fit and unfit dwellings have rats inside the dwelling. Figure 3.4 relating to problems in the area shows that rat infestations were higher in areas with the most problems.

A copy of the report is in the Library of the House.


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