Examination of witnesses (Questions 360-380)|
MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001
360. In your usual courteous way
(Mr Brown) In my usual courteous way of course I will
look at your individual constituent's case, starting with, why
they cannot be moved!
361. For the sake of my constituent, Mr Parkinson,
who will now have been watching these proceedings for the last
hour and 58 minutes, seeing if his case will be raised
(Mr Brown) Do any other members of the Committee have
362. I think that is an indication of the problem,
Minister. This is a question to Mr Scudamore. You dealt earlier
with the reviews of the infected areas. We have had one kill-out
due to a dangerous contact which subsequently analysis has shown
did not have foot and mouth. When will that area and the restrictions
which come with that kill-out be reviewed? We have had it now
for about ten days since the first identification problem.
(Mr Scudamore) I need to know where the case is and
what the situation was. If the dangerous contact was not confirmed,
it would not have initiated a restriction order.
363. The cattle were slaughtered as a precautionary
measure but I understand that subsequently analysis showed that
the animals did not have foot and mouth.
(Mr Scudamore) Again one would need to look at the
analysis because if the analysis showed they did not have foot
and mouth does not mean to say they were not incubating foot and
mouth. The problem we have when we talk about dangerous contact,
it means there is a link between that farm and an infected farm,
so the virus could have been moved from the infected farm to the
dangerous contact. Those animals could have been incubating the
disease. The reason we kill the dangerous contacts is to remove
any potential incubating animals as quickly as possible. The fact
that any testing was negative does not mean they were not incubating
the disease. Secondly, we do not put an infected area on or around
a dangerous contact, the infected areas go on around the infected
premises. So I am not quite sure what restrictions would be on.
Perhaps I can get the information from you.
364. You certainly can. Minister, a lot of people
have been very concerned about imports or meat products into this
country and a number of stories like contaminated dried Chinese
meat circulated, to the detriment of Chinese restaurateurs, you
yourself when you gave evidence earlier indicated that contaminated
meat might well be the source of this foot and mouth outbreak.
Can you just give us a quick summary of the types of proposal
you are currently considering to try and tighten up on these risk
factors in the future?
(Mr Brown) Work is going on across Government now.
In fact there is a paper waiting for me to read on my way out
to Luxembourg specifically about the personal imports and, separately,
commercial imports from outside the European Union. I am going
to consider the views of the different departments which are involved
in this. As you know, Customs and Excise have the policing function
at the point of entry. When I have something more considered to
say then of course I will be ready to discuss it, but I am not
in a position to take this forward at the moment, but am close
365. You are not able to enunciate the list
of possible areas where there may be changes, have any short-term
changes been made to inspection procedures in the light of this
(Mr Brown) The procedures themselves have been tightened
up and there is some investigative work going on in areas which
are deemed to be priority areas, but I do not want to say any
more than that.
366. Can I assume from that that Customs and
Excise have also reviewed their procedures, and one might expect
a reasonable man to think things have been tightened up?
(Mr Brown) There is a discussion between my department,
Customs and Excise and other agencies about all this, and when
I have something important to say in public, I will.
367. Can you give us any indication, both in
the area of my first question and your last comment, as to when
you might be able to say something more in public about that?
(Mr Brown) Relatively soon. I give the Committee this
commitment: I am looking to make a statement on Thursday and if
I can say something more in that statement on Thursday I will
do so. If I cannot, I will do it in my next statement.
368. Finally, you mentioned earlier this afternoon
briefly the question of pigswill and the consultation you are
having on that. Can you give us any indication as to when this
ban will come in?
(Mr Brown) I have not decided on the outcome of the
consultation yet, so I am not in a position to definitively announce
a ban, but again when the Government has formed a view, informed
by consultation, I will go to the House.
369. In that context, are there any other waste
products currently being fed to animals which you are looking
at as potential sources of risk?
(Mr Brown) Not that I am aware of but if there is
something you would like to put to me in that context, please
feel free to do so. I will include it in the consultation process
and have it examined. Our current framework is pretty tight now.
With the 1999 changes made on mammalian feed it is difficult to
see what in terms of the law can be fed to animals what more one
can do but I am always open to points others wish to make.
Chairman: Minister, with the agreement of your
private secretary, we are going to take one rapid further question.
370. Going back to the theme of the future,
clearly there will need to be a recovery plan for the livestock
(Mr Brown) Yes.
371. How far advanced are you in that?
(Mr Brown) I have outlined the proposals which I want
to put into the public domain in the next few days. There are
some specific issues I will need to consult the industry on but
I think the largest question, as we have discussed before, is
what is the future shape of the British sheep industry going to
be after this. That leads on to a debate about issues which the
Committee will be familiar with, our proposals for gene-typing
the national flock, having TSE resistance, the European Commission
proposals to review sheep premia, our own plans for the future
of the less favoured area regime and the successor regimes for
the hillfarm and livestock allowances. I do not think anyone at
the moment would be arguing we should be doing it on a headage
basis but the better thought, and perhaps the more radical one,
is that we should look at what more use we can make of the second
pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy under which the hill
livestock regime now falls to have a system which is more supportive
of farmers' income and less based on the total number of sheep.
372. On that theme, early retirement, which
is something I have raised beforenot for me personally
but for farmers
(Mr Brown) As you know, if I could have made an early
retirement regime work, then I was very attracted by the idea,
but the deadweight costs were huge when we last looked at it,
which was admittedly in a more neutral context.
373. Sadly, there has been a lot of deadweight
removed between then and now.
(Mr Brown) I take your point. I am looking at a recovery
plan which at least does not exclude consideration of that. But
let me make it absolutely clear to the Committee, I know there
is a lot of support for the idea in the House for perfectly good
and decent reasons, it is fiendishly difficult to make it work.
In particular where tenant farmers have lost their livestock and
might have the most pressing claim, I am told it is not possible
because of the law to distinguish between tenants and those who
own their farm premises.
374. Lastly, repeating a question I asked last
time about restocking guidance, I think at that time there was
a statement saying we were putting something together and we would
have it available reasonably soon. Has it surfaced yet?
(Mr Brown) Do you mean restocking after?
(Mr Brown) No is the answer to that.
376. Where are we on that?
(Mr Brown) It is a bit early to sum up.
377. Another constituency caseMrs Archer
at Marston on Dove- and I am sure there are lots of others.
(Mr Brown) This is the other way round. I think it
would be better to give some clear signals as to what the support
regime would be over time and then talk about the restocking protocols.
Frankly, if one moved to a system of much more targeted payments
directly to the business for a whole series of socially desirable
objectives, one would set maximum levels of stock on holding and
ensure there were viable business minimum levels as well, but
they might be less than what a farmer would expect if their first
intention was to farm the livestock rather than take part in a
more managed countryside scheme. These are big questions for the
378. In my case, my people are keen to farm
livestock and would like to know when they can start purchasing
again and start restocking their farms once more. It is becoming
more acute to give that sort of information to those who had infection
some time ago.
(Mr Scudamore) We have internal restocking guidance
but I do not think we have published it and that is something
we need to do. It does involve cleaning and disinfection of the
farm, certification cleaning and disinfection has been done, they
can then restock with a proportion of the animals which have to
be held for 30 days
379. We ran through this last time and it needs
to be nailed a little harder than that, so people can have some
confidence and can plan ahead.
(Mr Brown) There are difficult questions though about
the shape of the regime, including some quite hard ones, which
I think it would be quite wrong to
380. Which would influence whether people wanted
(Mr Brown) Exactly. They are holding, some of them,
quite large sums of money and wondering whether to reinvest in
Chairman: To which we may wish to return. Minister,
thank you very much indeed. We have Professor King on Wednesday,
so any questions you would like us to put to him, if you would
let us know between now and then! Meanwhile thank you very much
indeed and we wish you well in Luxembourg. See you on Thursday.