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Forestry Commission

Mr. Edwards: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the Government's policy on the sale of Forestry Commission forest land. [101370]

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Mr. Morley: We have stopped large scale sales of forest land by the Forestry Commission. Our policy is that the Commission may only sell agricultural land, land associated with houses and other buildings, unplantable land and relatively small and isolated blocks of forest land which do not make a significant contribution to its objectives and which are surplus to its requirements. The Commission may also sell areas for development where this is in the public interest. Areas of forest land which are important for public access will not be sold unless an access agreement is in place.

French Turkeys

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what checks are made on the ingredients in the feed given to turkeys in the principal French production units supplying the British market. [101076]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 2 December 1999]: Checks on feed ingredients to ensure compliance with extensive EC controls are a matter for the French authorities.


Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what action he is taking to ensure the combating of woody nightshade in areas susceptible to brown rot of potatoes where the watercourses are within internal drainage board areas. [101294]

Ms Quin [holding answer 6 December 1999]: An exercise is under way to eradicate the bacterium which causes potato brown rot (Ralstonia solanacearum) from watercourses in East Anglia where it is known to occur, by eliminating woody nightshade plants which act as a host for the bacterium. This work is being carried out in conjunction with the Environment Agency, the British Potato Council and, in the Middle Level drainage area, the Middle Level Commissioners. Information on the project has been sent to all growers with water abstraction licences in the areas concerned.

Animal Welfare

Mr. Mitchell: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will ensure that all imported bacon is labelled so as to indicate if it was raised in accord with UK levels of animal welfare. [100101]

Ms Quin [holding answer 29 November 1999]: We are consulting all interested parties on guidance aimed at ensuring that country of origin markings on food labels including those on bacon, do not mislead consumers about the true origin of the ingredients used. We also intend to promote changes to European and international labelling rules and advice to ensure that consumers are given accurate information about the true origin of the foods they are buying. In the meantime, we will continue to encourage retailers, caterers and public procurement authorities to source their supplies of pork and pork products to British standards.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will strengthen the prohibition on the routine tail-docking of piglets in the proposed new Regulations on the Welfare of Farmed Animals to ensure that tail-docking is carried out only after consideration of

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other methods which might prevent tail-biting, and only on the advice of a veterinary surgeon; and if he will make a statement. [101635]

Mr. Morley: This is one suggestion that has been made in response to the consultation on the new Welfare of Farmed Animals Regulations. It is under consideration along with the many other comments received.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he plans to take to press the European Commission to submit to the Council the report and proposals on intensive pig farming required by Article 6 of Council Directive 91/630; and if he will make a statement. [101636]

Mr. Morley: We lose no opportunity to remind the Commission of their obligation to bring forward various overdue proposals on animal welfare, including that required by Article 6 of Council Directive 91/630.

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) if he has asked the Farm Animal Welfare Council to review the question of leg problems in broilers; and if he will make a statement; [101632]

Mr. Morley: The Farm Animal Welfare Council continues to monitor leg health in broiler chickens and is evaluating data on leg health provided by the industry. We shall consider the position when further advice from FAWC is received.

Agenda 2000

Mr. Ben Chapman: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the implementation of "Agenda 2000: A New Direction for Agriculture". [102025]

Mr. Nick Brown: I announced today a package of measures which will radically redirect support for agriculture in fulfilment of pledges made in our manifesto and subsequently. My announcement focused on one particular aspect--the Rural Development Regulation.

Our decision in implementing options under all of the sectors of the Agenda 2000 reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy will have an important impact upon the future direction of the agricultural industry.

Beef Regime

Under the beef regime, we have decided to use the National Envelope to top up payments to suckler cow producers in the year 2000; the position for future years will be reviewed, in particular to consider the possibility of introducing area-based payments on permanent pasture used for low-density beef production in England.

We will retain the 90-head limit on beef special premium claims and introduce a UK-wide national ceiling against which the need for scale-back will be assessed; both these decisions will be reviewed in the course of the year 2000.

We have also decided to implement the cut in Suckler Cow Premium quota by reducing producers' holdings of quota on a flat-rate basis (probably at around 4 per cent.); producers who have reduced production below their

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quota level as a result of participation in an EU-funded extensification scheme or who can show that the imposition of the cut would materially jeopardise the success of a development plan in progress on 1 January 2000 may apply for exemption from this quote-cut.

We will increase from the year 2000 onwards the milk quota limit for dairy producers claiming Suckler Cow Premium, from 120,000 kilograms to 180,000 kilograms.

We will apply a less restrictive two-tier model for extensification payments additional to payments under the Beef Special Premium and Suckler Cow Premium Schemes; and assess eligibility for extensification payments on cattle numbers on producers' holdings on six dates each year, notified to producers retrospectively; this method of assessment will be reviewed as and when our cattle database becomes fully operational, when it includes movement details for older animals.

Dairy regime

In relation to the dairy regime, we will be extending the quota leasing deadline from 31 December to 31 March with effect from the next quota year. At the same time, the deadline for processing permanent transfers of quota via a lease of land--though not for other transfers--is

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being advanced to 1 March in order to ensure that the Intervention Board meets its deadline on the levy calculation. There was no widespread support for the other discretionary provisions set out in the consultation papers and these changes will not be implemented.


CAP reforms agreed in Berlin also gave powers for member states to attach specific environmental conditions to agricultural support payments, if they consider this to be appropriate. Our consultation exercise sought views on whether to introduce such conditions. Some relevant considerations in deciding whether to do so are: comprehensibility to farmers; ease of enforcement; environmental benefit; and extent of additional costs or regulatory burden for the generality of farmers.

We are still considering the responses to the England consultation on this issue. However, if following this consideration we identified possible cross-compliance measures, we would hold a further consultation exercise on any specific proposals before introducing them. Meanwhile, we will be retaining our existing cross- compliance measures which the UK has applied for some years, namely the current overgrazing condition in our livestock subsidy regimes and the management conditions for set-aside land.