Select Committee on Agriculture Second Special Report

APPENDIX (continued)


The Bern Convention

Recommendation yy: ... We find it astonishing that MAFF placed their Ministers in such an embarrassing position ... we await with interest the outcome of the Government's defence of its policy.

56. In December 1999 Bern Contracting Parties agreed that the badger culling trial did not contravene the Convention. The Government submitted an annual report on its TB strategy to the Bern Convention in September 2000 and its Secretariat made it available to contracting parties. Delegates to the annual meeting of the Convention, held from 27 November to 1 December 2000, noted the paper without discussion. Copies have been placed in the Library of the House.

Farm husbandry

Recommendation zz: The withdrawal of its leaflet on farm husbandry practices in connection with badgers and bovine TB demonstrates MAFF's awareness of its shortcomings, but to do nothing to determine what better advice should be offered to farmers is unacceptable.

57. In considering the report from the Independent Husbandry Panel, the MAFF TB in Cattle and Farm Bio-security guidance issued in July 1999 will be reviewed. This is expected to identify where further guidance material covering different husbandry practices may be useful.

Recommendation aaa: ... we are not convinced that the industry as a whole has done enough in the past to address the multifactoral nature of the bovine TB problem and the possible role played by husbandry practices in finding a solution.

58. The TB Forum which includes representatives from farming, veterinary, welfare and conservation organisations is helping find new ways to tackle the TB in cattle problem. The Forum has considered a number of proposals for changes to present TB in cattle controls, including:-

  • restrictions on cattle movements between the two stages of the tuberculin test,
  • imposition of movement restrictions if herds are not tested by the due date,
  • a requirement to report the isolation of the M. bovis organism in any mammalian tissue (other than human),
  • provision of better information for cattle purchasers about the TB status of cattle.

 59. Sub-groups of the forum are looking at the recommendations in the Husbandry Panel report and the use of the gamma-interferon blood test to assist in the detection of TB in cattle in Great Britain. A feasibility study on the use of gamma-interferon as an adjunct to the tuberculin test was announced by MAFF on 18 October 2000.

Recommendation bbb: We recommend that, in consultation with the farming industry, MAFF and the Bourne Group simplify TB99. The new questionnaire should then be subject to a rigorous pilot exercise on farms and assessed for ease of administrative handling before approval is given to a final version.

60. An amended TB99 has been drafted to take into account comments received from SVS staff who administer the questionnaire and those at the VLA who manage the database. The revised form will gather a similar range of information; but the order of questions has been changed to make it easier to manage at the successive visits and some questions have been adapted to make them clearer. The ISG is considering the proposed revision along with comments from TB Forum members and other interested parties. The new version should be ready for use in 2001.


Recommendation fff: We recognise that within current spending limits set for the Ministry in the Comprehensive Spending Review, national levels of compensation cannot be raised to reflect consequential loss. However, we also note that the Minister left open the possibility that the situation may be reconsidered.

62. Under the 2000 Spending Review, no extra money was allocated to extend compensation to cover the consequential losses arising from a TB herd incident. The TB Forum has received a report seeking to quantify the losses experienced by farmers subject to movement restrictions as a result of TB in the herd. The Forum is also considering ways in which the impact of the imposition of movement restrictions may be mitigated without increasing the risk of increased TB spread and incidence (for example by being more flexible in allowing movement of cattle into herds under movement restrictions). In the context of the recent Classical Swine Fever outbreak, a Government-Industry working party has been established to review ways in which the farming industry can take steps to insure itself against the commercial losses which arise from action taken to eliminate exotic animal diseases. Although the terms of reference for this review do not cover bovine TB, its conclusions may have wider relevance for commercial risks faced by the farming industry.

Short term action by Government

Recommendation ggg: We recommend that, at present, no additional action should be taken outside the trial area ... We ... urge the Government to give serious consideration to the NFU's case, with a view to introducing a policy for the control of localised bovine tuberculosis outbreaks in areas outside the trial within the next twelve months.

63. A sub-group of the TB Forum, which included representatives of farming and veterinary organisations, prepared a preliminary discussion paper on a possible alternative strategy for the control of bovine TB in cattle in areas away from the badger culling trials. This paper included a suggestion for localised badger culling under strictly defined circumstances. The paper did not represent the official position of any of the organisations represented on the TB Forum. The paper was discussed at a meeting of the full TB Forum on 13 July 2000, and was strongly opposed by conservation and animal welfare organisations. After an initial discussion of the paper, Forum members were invited to submit written comments on the paper ahead of the next Forum meeting on 19 October 2000. At this time no decision has been taken to introduce badger culling outside of trial areas. The Government is committed to seeing through the badger culling trial in order to assess the impact of culling on the incidence of TB in cattle.

Cattle passports

Recommendation hhh: We recommend that the Minister reconsiders his decision on including the date of the last TB test in cattle passports.

64. As explained in the Government's progress report of February 2000 the TB Forum did not support the suggestion of showing TB status on the cattle passport. Putting the information on cattle passports would provide no guarantee to a buyer that the animal was free from TB at the time of purchase. At best it would show when the animal was last tested. It could also lead to delays in moving cattle as passports would need to be passed to BCMS to have the data entered. It would require passports to be redesigned and re-issued to allow the new data to be included. The Government is implementing procedures to provide cattle purchasers with better information on the TB status of cattle. The procedure takes the form of a voluntary system where copies of the last TB test results are passed to buyers on request.

Future policy options

Recommendation iii: We recommend that the Government specify the criteria on which its sustainable policy on the control of bovine TB will be judged and publish detailed objectives for the policy in the short and the long-term. We also recommend that MAFF undertake a statistical risk assessment of the possible policy procedures, in conjunction with the Bourne Group and representatives of all interested parties.

65. The Government is making progress on all elements of its strategy to tackle TB in cattle. The main focus remains on the regular testing of cattle herds and the associated controls, which together with compensation payments will account for about £26 million of the £45 million budget this year. In addition, there is a comprehensive research programme, overseen by the Independent Scientific Group, which includes work on vaccines, on epidemiology, on disease transmission, on cattle husbandry, and on other wildlife species, as well as the badger culling trial. The Government is determined to find the scientific basis on which to build a lasting policy to control TB in cattle. As stated in the progress report issued in February 2000, policies will be judged according to the impact on public health, on animal health and welfare, on the environment and on the economy, in particular the farming industry and public expenditure.

The Government has nothing to add to its response in respect of the following:

Recommendations a, f, g, i, j, l, s, v, bb, pp, rr, and vv.

Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

November 2000

Eighth Report

(1998-1999 Session): Sea Fishing

    General Update

    1. The Committee's Report on Sea Fishing was issued on 27 July 1999 and the Government response published by the Committee on 26 October 1999. Subsequently, there was a debate on the Government's response on 2 December 1999. In March this year MAFF sent the Committee a first update of progress made against the Report's recommendations.

    2. Progress has been possible in a number of areas of interest to the Committee. The principal issues are as follows.

    3. Discussions have begun with UK fishing organisations to establish a strategy for the UK sea fish industry and have received considerable support. A draft strategy is to be produced by Fish Industry Forum and the Sea Fish Industry Authority by early 2001 (recommendations 1 and 2).

    4. An EU-wide framework for the collection of data on the economics of the sea fish industry has been agreed, laying down requirements for the periodic production of estimates of the costs and earnings of the fishing fleet and processing industry (recommendation 3).

    5. The timing of the TAC recommendations has been discussed with ICES and agreement has been reached to advance the publication of the ACFM advice by at least two weeks in 2001 (recommendation 6).

    6. Consultation with the industry has started on a new programme of training courses on vessel safety. It is proposed to make these courses free to fishermen through the allocation of grant aid under the structural fund (recommendation 18).

    7. The sandeel closure agreed in December 1999 has been extended to 2001 and 2002. Details for the Irish Sea cod recovery programme were agreed in early 2000 and additional technical conservation measures have been developed to apply from January 2001 (recommendation 25).

    8. Specific action has been taken to provide for a fast-track procedure for the transfer of licence entitlements between fishermen (recommendations 32-35).

    Specific Action

    9. The following paragraphs comment briefly on recent action and other developments relating to the Report's 58 specific recommendations.

    Recommendation 1: Our own conclusions based on this inquiry suggest five essential objectives of any fisheries management system. It should:

  • promote sustainability of resources to safeguard the long term success of both the stocks and the industry:

  • ensure that the stocks are exploited in the most efficient way, so that fishermen are not drawn into a race for fish;

  • encourage the profitability and competitiveness of the fishing industry from vessel to retailer;

  • minimise both the cost to the public purse and the level of Government intervention; and

  • minimise the complexity of regulation while maximising the responsibility for that process given to the industry consistent with securing compliance.

In some of these respects we are not our own masters, being dependent, particularly for the second, on European decisions under the Common Fisheries Policy. Yet there are other important criteria which the Government should consider, such as rationalising the fleet, securing a way of life for the more vulnerable fishing communities where there are few alternative sources of employment, and maintaining fishing centres with the necessary concentration of services and facilities. These depend upon the Government first deciding on the type of industry it wishes to see and the level of intervention it wishes to retain. We support the concept of regulation by the industry itself as far as is consistent with the acknowledgement that there is a common interest in protecting the sea and its resources. However our overriding concern is that the Government establish a settled, transparent long-term strategy for management of fisheries which takes into account the competitive position compared to other EU countries and within which the industry can plan, confident that any necessary changes will apply equally and be introduced fairly, with proper consultation and with regard to clear and agreed objectives. There is a very bright future for the UK sea fishing industry and the Government has to play its part in helping to bring this about (paragraph 3).

Recommendation 2: We recommend that the Government establish for the first time a clear, agreed and coherent strategy for the management and development of the UK fishing industry which will unite all concerned in working towards greater efficiency and competitiveness (paragraph 193).

10. The Government has begun discussions with fishing organisations to establish a strategy for the UK sea fish industry, a proposal that has received considerable support from the industry. MAFF has invited the Fish Industry Forum, with the support of the Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA) to take the lead in producing a draft of a strategy by early 2001. This will provide the basis for consultation with the sea fish industry. A strategy for the Scottish sea fish industry has been drafted by the Scottish Executive in consultation with the Scottish industry.

Recommendation 3: We recommend that the Government commission regular research into the profitability of the sea fishing industry for use in determining management policy (paragraph 13).

11. An EU-wide framework for the collection of data on the economics of the sea fish industry was agreed by the Council in June 2000. This lays down requirements for the periodic production of estimates of the costs and earnings both of the fishing fleet and of the processing industry. The SFIA has hitherto undertaken economic surveys of the fleet and it currently undertaking a survey of the processing industry. The Government will discuss with SFIA the scope for building on their existing work to meet the provisions of the EU regulation and thus to strengthen the statistical base for determining management policy.

Recommendation 4: We recommend that the Government encourage ICES to present its advice on TACs in a more generally comprehensible form and to improve its efforts to communicate the advice to the fishing industry (paragraph 19).

12. As outlined in the update provided in March 2000, we have drawn this and other related recommendations to the attention of ICES. They were discussed at a meeting between ICES scientists and fisheries managers in London in February 2000. The ICES annual conference in September discussed the report of the meeting. ICES agreed to reconsider its draft Strategic Plan so as to give more prominence to the importance of its work on fish stock assessments and to the need for improved dialogue with the industry. Fishing representatives were invited to the annual meeting and contributed to the Open Forum on the Strategic Plan and elsewhere. ICES is also recruiting an information officer.

Recommendation 5: We recommend the formal inclusion of economic analysis of the implications of TACs and national quota allocations at an earlier stage in the annual cycle. However, we caution strongly against the temptation to use economic and social criteria to "invent fish" in the interests of the political convenience either of Ministers or the industry (paragraph 20).

13. We have drawn this to the Commission's attention.

Recommendation 6: We recommend that the Government support the European Commission's proposals for earlier notification of the recommendations for TACs so that the fishing industry has more time to prepare for changes in quota. In the longer term, we recommend that TACs be set on a multi-annual basis where stocks are not threatened (paragraph 21).

14. The timing of the TAC recommendations was discussed with ICES in February 2000. For 2001, agreement has been reached between ICES and the EU Commission to advance the date of the ACFM recommendations by at least two weeks. The possibility of multi-annual TACs is being actively discussed under the French Presidency and we are exploring with CEFAS the options for further long-term management strategies. At their 1999 annual consultations, EC and Norway agreed further multi-annual management strategies for jointly managed stocks. These have been agreed for North Sea herring, cod, haddock, saithe and plaice and work is to continue on North Sea whiting. Multi-annual management strategies have also been agreed by EC/Norway/Faroe Islands for the mackerel stock and by EC/Iceland/Norway/Russia/Faroe Islands for Atlanto-Scandian herring.

Recommendation 7: Whilst we endorse the precautionary approach to fisheries management, we believe that much more planning, consultation and forethought should have been put into its implementation by the ACFM. As it is, we deplore the damage done to the relationship between scientists and fishermen by the abrupt introduction of this method and we recommend that the Government ensure that any future changes in the approach, as are inevitable as the system beds down, be made only once they have been fully explained to the industry and its views taken into consideration (paragraph 26)

15. See comments on recommendation 4.

Recommendation 8: We believe that with devolution altering the management of some of the programmes it would be wise to review arrangements for co-ordination of fisheries research in the UK to make sure duplication does not occur. We recommend that this be done (paragraph 28).

16. This was discussed at the Fisheries Science Customer Group in February 2000 and the Customer Group will retain its key role in co-ordinating UK fisheries research.

Recommendation 9: We were reassured by the evidence of international collaboration between scientists. Given the international concern for the sustainability of stocks and the recognition that the principles of fisheries management extend beyond domestic boundaries, it is vital that scientists work together to improve their knowledge of the sea and to develop the least environmentally damaging methods of catching fish. We are pleased that the UK is playing such a strong role in collaborative research (paragraph 29).

17. As noted in the recommendation, collaborative effort is already being undertaken.

Recommendation 10: We recommend that MAFF guarantee funding for research into fish stocks of at least current levels for the remainder of this Comprehensive Spending Review period and that it give an undertaking that funding for such research will remain a priority thereafter (paragraph 35).

18. There is no new action required.

Recommendation 11: We recommend that multi-species research be applied more thoroughly in waters around the United Kingdom other than the North Sea (paragraph 38).

19. As outlined in the update provided in March, we will take action to address this recommendation subject to resources being available.

Recommendation 12: We believe that it should be part of the role of CEFAS and FRS to assist in the development of new fishing grounds through proper stock assessments. We also believe that as part of that research the scientists should ensure that the environmental impact of fishing for new species or in new grounds should be taken fully into account (paragraph 39).

20. Our position remains that we will consult industry on opportunities for the development of new fisheries, with advice from CEFAS.

Recommendation 13: We recommend that MAFF commission a study of the research needed to fulfil the UK's obligations on stock assessments over the next ten years, taking into account developing fisheries, the existing number of precautionary TACs and new, more accurate methods of conducting such research. We further recommend that this study include comparisons with the funding and scope of CEFAS's counterparts in the other EU and ICES member states and that it highlight areas where further collaboration might be encouraged (paragraph 41).

21. There is no new action required.

Recommendation 14: We recommend that MAFF consult with the scientific community and the fishing industry on the best way to establish a permanent formal procedure for collaboration and consultation on fisheries research. We further recommend that MAFF encourage its counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to participate in developing such procedures (paragraph 49).

22. A major presentation of its research effort was given by CEFAS to the industry on 21 June 2001. The industry has been invited to suggest how it wishes to develop this and other fora for keeping in touch with scientific developments.

Recommendation 15: We conclude that, although in the present circumstances it would not be appropriate to charge the industry for research, fishermen's organisations should be encouraged to invest in their own scientific projects and be assisted in applications for European funding for this purpose (paragraph 50).

23. As outlined in the update provided in March 2000, we have drawn this recommendation to the attention of the NFFO.

Recommendation 16: We recommend that the Government fully support any proposals for stronger sanctions on Member States to ensure compliance with MAGP targets and for greater transparency as to the cost of restructuring measures to public funds in the different Member States (paragraph 57).

24. We took action to make this the basis of MAGP policy and the structures regulation adopted in November 1999. The Government will apply this approach in the forthcoming review of the MAGP.

Recommendation 17: We conclude that the linkage between an ageing fleet and an unsafe fleet is unproven but we recommend that further research be conducted in this area and the results published and distributed to the fishing industry. Safety at sea is vitally important. The existing data do not sustain a case for the industry to be given public money for building new vessels on safety grounds alone (paragraph 63).

25. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine Accident Investigation Branch will ensure that there is continuing analysis of data on the causes of accidents to fishing vessels, and that the results are regularly discussed with industry representatives in the Fishing Industry Safety Group.

Recommendation 18: We recommend that the vessel safety equipment grant scheme be reinstated (paragraph 71).

26. The Government believes that the scheme which was closed in 1999, providing grant aid for safety equipment which was already mandatory, was not effective in reducing the number of accidents. The Government is encouraging the industry to develop a stronger safety culture and has begun to consult the industry on a new programme of training courses. Fisheries Departments propose to make these courses free to fishermen through the allocation of grant aid under the fisheries structural fund for the period 2001-2002 and 2003-2004. Fisheries Ministers are also considering with the industry a grant scheme to support trials of innovative equipment which will bring safety benefits.

Recommendation 19: We have sympathy with the complaints of the industry about the money received by their counterparts in other EU states for building new vessels. We support the Government in its attempts to tighten up the rules for such assistance. Nevertheless, we do not recommend that the Government adopt an industry-wide scheme to aid the construction of new fishing vessels, whether or not under a scrap and build approach (paragraph 75).

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