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European Food Agency

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the proposals put forward by the European Commission for a European Food Agency; what consultations have been held with Her Majesty's Government on the proposal; what overlap is likely with the work and responsibilities of the UK's Food Standards Agency; what Her Majesty's Government's response to the proposal has been; and when he expects proposals for legislation to be presented to the Council of Ministers. [105487]

Ms Quin [holding answer 18 January 2000]: The Commission's White Paper on food safety published on 12 January sets out detailed proposals aimed at restoring public confidence on food safety and includes proposals for setting up an independent European Food Authority by 2002. The Commission proposes that the role of the Authority be restricted to information gathering, risk assessment and analysis, provision of scientific advice and monitoring, but with no responsibility for proposing legislation. The Commission are inviting comments on these proposals by the end of April.

The Government welcome the proposal to set up a European Food Authority which they see as an opportunity to improve the EU food safety regime. The Government will give careful consideration to the proposals before submitting their formal and detailed response.

During development of the proposal officials have provided the Commission with advice based on our experience in setting up the Food Standards Agency.

The current proposals do not involve any Treaty change or significant alteration in the balance of EU and national responsibilities. We will be pressing for an EU Authority which complements the UK's Food Standards Agency.

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Calf Exports

Mr. Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on calf exports from the UK to other EU countries. [102216]

Ms Quin [holding answer 13 December 1999]: Exports of all live bovine animals from the UK remain prohibited under EU law.

Further relaxation of the ban to permit the export of live bovines is foreseen in the Florence agreement. However negotiations relating to the lifting of the ban in respect of boneless beef have been by no means easy. The Government will need to consider carefully when the time is right to seek to open negotiations on the next stages of the Florence agreement.


Mr. Breed: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when the ban on spraying sulphuric acid on crops was removed in the UK. [103393]

Ms Quin: Sulphuric acid has been used as a pesticide, principally as a desiccant for potato crops, for over 50 years. The current pesticide approval for sulphuric acid was issued in November 1995.

As part of its programme of work the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) reviewed the use of sulphuric acid as an agricultural desiccant in October 1997. The ACP recommended that approval could continue subject to further investigation into the potential risks to bystanders and the aquatic environment being produced.

The Health and Safety Executive is addressing the issues associated with bystander exposure and will report its findings to the ACP. A research project, managed by the Scottish Agricultural College, is presently under way to study the effects of sulphuric acid on the buffering capacity of natural waters in isolated systems. This addresses changes in acidity in water courses adjacent to crops treated with sulphuric acid. The results are expected later this year and will also be referred to the ACP.

Farming Industry

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the effect on the farming industry of the strength of the pound. [105027]

Ms Quin: The present depressed state of farm incomes results from various factors, including the strength of sterling, the collapse of world prices and the loss of some

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key export markets. It is difficult to single out one factor in isolation and assess its impact when the factors are to an extent interlinked.

From 1997 to 1999, approximately £227 million was paid in agrimonetary compensation to livestock producers. A further £170 million will be paid to arable farmers in 2000, and beef, sheep and arable farmers can expect agrimonetary compensation amounting to up to £88 million during 2000.

Family Businesses

Mr. Steen: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent steps he has taken to support family businesses in (a) rural areas and (b) national parks. [106056]

Ms Quin: The £1.6 billion support for Rural Development, which my right hon. Friend the Minister announced on 7 December, represents a radical redirection of support for agriculture and a significant increase in expenditure on rural development measures. The shift of emphasis away from production subsidies and the decision to modulate CAP subsidy payments mean that the rural development measures will be of benefit to family businesses in both rural areas and national parks.

Agricultural Research

Joan Ruddock: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outturn figure for Government spending on research and development relating to (a) organic farming, (b) agricultural genetic engineering and (c) agricultural biotechnology, at 1999 prices, in 1998-99. [107265]

Ms Quin [holding answer 27 January 2000]: I refer my hon. Friend to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for South Swindon (Ms Drown) on 13 May 1999, Official Report, column 211W, which provides the information in respect of 1998-99 R&D spend for each area, and for a number of preceding years.


Mr. Andrew George: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has received in relation to the use of chlormequat on fruit trees. [103295]

Ms Quin: My Department has received a number of representations, particularly in relation to the use of chlormequat on pears. These have come from Members of the House, the public, growers and the food and agrochemical industries.

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