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Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Defence what tonnage of beef from South Africa was purchased in (a) 1998-99 and (b) 1999-2000 for consumption by the armed forces; at which ports and airports it was landed; at which bases the beef was consumed; and how the swill was disposed of, and at which locations. 
Dr. Moonie: No beef was purchased by "3663", the Ministry of Defence food supply contractor, from South Africa during 1998-99, or 1999-2000. There is a remote
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possibility that a Royal Navy/Royal Fleet Auxiliary Ship may have purchased a small amount of beef while visiting a South African port. However, in the unlikely event that any such beef remained, it would be disposed of in accordance with the directives of the relevant Local Authority Environmental Health Officer on return to a UK port.
Mr. Tyrie: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if the special advisers working for him will relinquish their posts when the next general election is called. 
Mr. Nick Brown: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given by my right hon. Friend the Minister for the Cabinet Office on 13 February 2001, Official Report, column 130W.
Mr. Yeo: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the European Court of Justice ruling on the requirement of public morality in each member state as it applies to fur farming. 
Mr. Nick Brown [holding answer 14 February 2001]: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given on 22 June 2000, Official Report, columns 300-01W.
Mr. Paice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of the cost of the dispersal of (a) cattle from the over-30-months scheme and (b) the rendered material is recovered from the EU; and at what stage of the dispersal process the Government are entitled to the money. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The EU regulation governing the OTMS provides for compensation to be paid to producers on the basis of the weight of their cattle and for the UK to be reimbursed on the basis of a flat rate per head of cattle purchased and subsequently destroyed.
No contribution is made towards the subsequent disposal costs.
Animals which are consigned directly to incineration after purchase attract the full 100 per cent. of the amount claimable, currently 291 euros for cows and 328 euros for other cattle. The Government are entitled to claim reimbursement from the EU in respect of the payment made to the producer for the animal when the carcase has been incinerated.
Animals which are consigned to rendering after purchase initially attract an 80 per cent. advance of the full amount claimable. The Government are entitled to claim reimbursement from the EU in respect of the payment made to the producer for the animal when its carcase has been rendered. The balance of 20 per cent. is
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claimable by the Government once the meat and bonemeal and tallow produced from the rendering process has been incinerated.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he will provide financial assistance to small abattoirs; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: As announced in the Rural White Paper published on 28 November 2000, Agriculture Departments in England, Scotland and Wales have agreed to transfer £8.7 million to the Food Standards Agency for the three financial years 2001-02 to 2003-04; this will enable the Food Standards Agency to implement the principal recommendation of the Task Force chaired by Colin Maclean, to revise the method of charging for Meat Hygiene Service inspections in abattoirs and cutting plants. The Food Standards Agency has consulted the industry on its proposals. Implementation of the Maclean recommendation will significantly reduce inspection charges levied on many small and medium-sized meat plants and thus be of considerable benefit to the rural economy.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he plans to introduce a code of practice for retailers of farm produce; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The Ministry has no plans to introduce a code of practice for retailers of farm produce. However, last October my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry asked the Director General of Fair Trading to seek the agreement of the major supermarkets to a binding Code of Practice that addressed the specific concerns identified by the Competition Commission in their report on the supply of groceries from multiple stores. These concerns dealt with the relationship between the supermarkets and their suppliers, including farmers. The Office of Fair Trading is taking this forward and has recently sent a draft Code to representatives of suppliers for comment.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what recent discussions he has had with EU ministers about preventing the export of meat from other EU countries with recorded BSE; and if he will make a statement. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The Agriculture Council takes advice on BSE from the Scientific Steering Committee (SSC). On 29 November 2000 the SSC published its opinion on the scientific basis for import bans proposed by three member states with regard to BSE risks in France and the Republic of Ireland. The SSC advised that BSE incidence figures, at that time, did not require modification of the BSE risk of France and Ireland. However the SSC is reviewing this position regularly in the light of BSE surveillance results.
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Mr. Harvey: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the potential impact on human health of burning in the open air the carcases of animals carrying BSE in response to the outbreak of foot and mouth disease. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 1 March 2001]: The key arrangements for dealing with BSE and scrapie suspects have not changed as a consequence of the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease. Carcases of animals slaughtered because of suspicion of BSE or scrapie will continue to be destroyed at incinerators. The movement of such carcases for disposal is exempt from the movement restrictions we have introduced in the response to the foot and mouth disease outbreak.
For non-BSE or scrapie suspects, pyres are being designed in a way to maximise good combustion, which will help to minimise air emissions and minimise incomplete burn-out and therefore potentially contaminated residues.
We are currently assessing the implications of the possibility that small numbers of cattle affected by the FMD outbreak may be in the pre-clinical stage of BSE and may harbour some of the BSE agent. A previous independent risk assessment undertaken for the Environment Agency in 1997 indicated that any such risk was very low and the incidence of BSE is now considerably lower than in 1997. Nevertheless, we are revisiting these conclusions in the light of the current circumstances, and hope to receive a preliminary independent assessment shortly.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the level of investment on farms in the last four years. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: Statistics on the level of farm investment for the period 1995 to 1998 are presented in the table. Figures for 1999 and any revisions of previous years' figures will be published on 15 March 2001. Figures for 2000 will not be available until next year.
Agriculture in the United Kingdom 1999
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what payments from public funds are currently being made to farmers with suckler cows; and if he will make a statement. 
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Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The payments directed specifically at farmers with suckler cows are suckler cow premiums and related agrimonetary compensation payments. Farmers who keep suckler cows in the less-favoured areas are also eligible for Hill Farm Allowances. We are currently paying advance payments of premium to farmers whose claims are submitted toward the end of the 2000 application period. We intend to pay Hill Farm Allowances later this month and suckler cow premium balance payments early next month.
Mr. Laurence Robertson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many suckler cows there are in (a) the UK and (b) Gloucestershire. 
Ms Quin [holding answer 5 March 2001]: The information is as follows:
1. Gloucestershire excludes South Gloucestershire Unitary Authority (formerly part of Avon)
2. Suckler cows are all cows and heifers in the beef herd that have calved
June agricultural and horticultural censes
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