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Ministerial Communications (French Agriculture Minister)

Mr. Paterson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on how many occasions he has (a) met the French Agriculture Minister and (b) spoken to him by telephone since 8 November. [102791]

Mr. Nick Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to the hon. Member for South Suffolk (Mr. Yeo) on 16 December 1999, Official Report, column 285W.


Mr. Keetch: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how the money promised by the Government in 1998 in order to tackle varroa disease and to educate beekeepers to become more self-reliant was spent; and if he will make a statement. [102454]

Ms Quin [holding answer 13 December 1999]: The Government fund a range of measures in England through their bee health programme, which is delivered by the

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Central Science Laboratory's National Bee Unit. In 1998-99 the programme cost £1.3 million. The measures included a free diagnostic service for varroa, American Foul Brood and European Foul Brood as well as providing training and guidance on how to improve bee husbandry to help control bee diseases. Under the latter we issued a new leaflet on varroa monitoring to help beekeepers time treatments. This was accompanied by a varroa mite calculator.

In addition in 1998-99 we spent around £248,000 on research and development (mainly on varroa), including a new five-year project on the biological control of varroa.

Arrangements for bee health matters in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are the responsibility of the Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly respectively.

Over-30-month Scheme

Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will publish the names and addresses of the slaughterhouses awarded slaughter contracts under the over-30-month scheme by the Intervention Board. [102919]

Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 16 December 1999]: The names and addresses of abattoirs to whom OTMS slaughtering contracts were offered and accepted are as follows.

20 Dec 1999 : Column: 445W

    J. A. Jewitt

    Low House



    Co. Durham

    Alec Jarrett

    High Street

    Oldham Common


    BS15 6TN

    Madron Meat

    The Abattoir



    TR20 8SF

    Anglo Dutch

    The Abattoir



    TN27 0JL

    North West Meats

    The Abattoir

    Dunkerley Street


    O12 7SX

    Beesons (Bradeley Meats Ltd.)

    Bradeley Hall Road


    Crewe, Cheshire

    CW1 5QN

    R. B. Elliott & Son

    Stud Farm



    S44 5UN

    Bridgwater Beef

    Comeytrowe Lane



    TA2 6EA

    Southern Counties Fresh Food Ltd.

    Munchelney Road

    Huish Episcopi



    TA10 9HG

    E. J. Duerden

    Lindal Moor Abattoir




    LA12 0LT

    Wholesale Meat Supply

    Wood Street

    Great Harwood



    BB6 7UA

    F. Redfern

    Haslin Abattoir


    SK17 9HT

    Woolley Brothers

    Rother Valley Way



    S20 5RW

20 Dec 1999 : Column: 446W


    Oriel Jones

    Oriel Jones & Son Ltd.

    Teify Park Abattoir



    SA40 9QE


    Glanlliedi Butchers

    Unit 1



    SA14 8PD


    Holbeck Holdings Ltd.

    Kilmarnock Abattoir

    Dundonald Road



    Matheson Jess

    The Abattoir

    Montrose Road



    DD9 7PL

    Northern Ireland

    Calf Marketing Services

    73 Largy Road


    Co. Antrim

    BT29 4RS

    Dungannon Meats

    Woodside Industrial Estate

    Woodside Road


    Co. Antrim.

Subsequently the abattoir at Llanybydder withdrew its tender, and the Intervention Board is in discussions with a potential alternative. The award of any further contract will be announced by Press Notice.


Dr. Gibson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to assess the Committee on Toxicity report on organophosphates. [103250]

Ms Quin: We are today publishing the advice Ministers have received from the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC), the Advisory Committee on Pesticides (ACP) and the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM) on the regulatory implications of the report on organophosphates (OPs) by the Committee on Toxicity (COT). Copies of this advice have been placed in the Libraries of both Houses.

This Government have ensured that OPs have been subject to a more rigorous and transparent scrutiny than ever before. Publication of this advice, and our conclusions on it, marks the end of a key stage in that process.

The regulatory committees all take note from the COT report that any ill-health effects from prolonged low-level exposure to OPs remain unproven, although there remains a question over whether there may be a small group of

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individuals particularly susceptible to OPs. They endorse the need for further research to address this and the other areas of uncertainty identified by COT.

On the basis of current scientific knowledge, the regulatory committees advise against any general withdrawal of OPs from the market. However, in the light of the research by the Institute of Occupational Medicine, which identified the main risk of exposure to OP sheep dips as coming from the concentrate, the VPC has advised that all OP sheep dips should be withdrawn from the market pending the introduction of new containers which would minimise operator exposure.

The Government accept this advice. We shall be implementing the committees' advice and carrying forward work on OPs through a four point plan.

Firstly, we are taking immediate action on OP sheep dip concentrate containers. The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has today written to all holders of marketing authorisations for OP sheep dips requiring the withdrawal of these products from the market until containers are introduced which will minimise operator exposure to OP concentrate. Product recall from distributors and farms will also be implemented. The issues surrounding packaging of OP pesticides are rather different. However, in line with the ACP advice, the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) is taking urgent action to confirm that all containers of OP pesticides concentrates comply with modern standards; and PSD will take regulatory action if they do not.

Secondly, we are ensuring that data packages for OP compounds enable full evaluations in line with modern safety standards through the continuing reviews of OP veterinary medicines other than sheep dips (by the VPC) and of anticholinesterase pesticides (by the ACP). The ACP has recommended that regulatory action should be taken against approvals for products containing three OP

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compounds for which supporting data have not been submitted under the anticholinesterase review. Revocations of the approvals are being sent immediately to approval holders. This means that in all 14 OP compounds (more than half the OP compounds formerly approved) have now been revoked as a result of this major review.

Thirdly, we shall be implementing measures aimed at continuing to promote best practice. For sheep dip, we accept the advice from the Health and Safety Commission that extension of mandatory certification would not be appropriate. Best practice will be promoted through a range of measures including further improvements to labelling to highlight necessary precautions in the light of the IOM report; a continuing programme of targeted inspections by HSE inspectors to reinforce messages on risk control and training and competence for sheep dippers; and supply of protective gloves with sheep dip. We have also decided not to further extend mandatory certification for pesticides uses in the light of the advice we have received and comments on the consultation we conducted earlier this year. We shall, however, be improving the guidance and the syllabus for the certificate of competence in this area.

Fourthly, MAFF, acting jointly with the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Department of Health, intend to develop a targeted research programme to take forward the research recommendations from COT and the regulatory committees. We want to involve expertise from the wider scientific community in this process. We therefore plan to hold a broadly based seminar in the new year to determine the scientific input and approaches required to meet these defined research needs. In addition, we are currently discussing a proposal to investigate databases of people who believe they are suffering from the effects of OPs. We hope to conclude contractual negotiations with a view to the project starting as early as possible in the new year.