NINTH SPECIAL REPORT
The Agriculture Committee has agreed to the following
The Committee has received the following memorandum
from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, constituting
the Government's Reply to the Sixth Report from the Committee
of the 2000-01 Session, The UK Pig Industry, made to the
House on 27 February 2001.
* * * * *
The Government welcomes this report and the Committee's
work in examining what has been a hardpressed sector of
British agriculture. The Committee's report highlights the need
for close cooperation with the European Commission; this
sits well with the Government's determination to play a central
role in Europe.
The Government understands why the Committee thought
it necessary to comment on the time it has taken to introduce
the restructuring scheme. To some extent, the Government shares
the Committee's frustration. The scheme's design took account
of earlier schemes that had received clearance and included elements
to which the Commission were believed to be favourably disposed.
On the basis of this, it was hoped that clearance would be forthcoming
relatively quickly. As it turned out, clearance of the Pig Industry
Restructuring Scheme was still achieved in 9 months; considerably
less than the average time of 18 months that it takes the Commission
to clear restructuring schemes.
The Government's response to the specific recommendations
made in the report is set out below.
The Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme
We recommend that the Treasury and MAFF reach
a decision in principle that the £26 million allocated for
this year may be spent in 200102 if necessary and that the
Minister make an early official statement to this effect, to end
the speculation in the pig industry and ensure that producers
are able to plan on the availability of money which they have
been promised (paragraph 5).
Due to difficulties in gaining State Aid approval
for the scheme, the £26m secured for the year 200001
will not be used on PIRS. In fact, most of it was spent on dealing
with the classical swine fever outbreak in East Anglia. However,
an agreement on end-year flexibility has allowed the remaining
£3.9m to be carried forward to 200102. This, together
with the £20 million that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries
and Food agreed to bring forward from the 2002/03 financial year,
will mean that almost £44 million is available to the scheme
(including Outgoers 2) in the next financial year. The Government
is determined to ensure that the scheme achieves its objectives.
We welcome the Government's positive response
to the Better Regulation Task Force report and recommend that
MAFF put in place mechanisms to ensure that it explores every
opportunity for reducing the time span between announcements and
EU approval of schemes (paragraph 6).
The Government continues work to implement the recommendations
of the Better Regulation Task Force in all aspects of public service.
MAFF will continue to explore ways to work more effectively with
Commission officials in Brussels and with colleagues in other
We recommend that all announcements of new schemes
or funding packages for the agriculture industry should include
details of the decisionmaking mechanisms through which the
proposal must pass before it can be realised, together with a
realistic timetable for the completion of the process (paragraph
The procedures that have to be followed in order
to deliver the result are invariably made known by the Government
at the time of any announcement. However, in some instances, it
can be more difficult to prepare a realistic timetable as this
could depend on a number of unquantifiable factors.
The classical swine fever outbreak
We believe that specific 'wargames' aimed at controlling
classical swine fever should have been carried out following the
Dutch outbreak. The absence of such contingency planning shows
a failure to learn from experience in other Member States and
to apply those lessons for the benefit of our own industry and
consumers (paragraph 8).
As was made clear to the Committee in MAFF's supplementary
memorandum, the principles of animal disease control are similar
whether it is foot and mouth disease, swine fever or other exotic
disease for which the Government has a slaughter and compensation
policy. As part of the process of training its staff and in order
to inform the emergency planning process, the SVS carries out
animal disease simulation exercises on a regular basis. From 1994
to 1999 it carried out 84 simulation exercises. In addition, MAFF
headquarters has a nominated emergency team which carries out
regular exercises on HQ procedures including the designation and
drawing up of infected areas.
The State Veterinary Service has also published a
set of instructions, which their staff follow in the event of
outbreaks. These instructions cover all aspects of swine fever
from reporting cases, right through to lifting restrictions on
a premises that has been compulsorily slaughtered out. The SVS
also has emergency plans for such an outbreak and these detail
the procedures to be followed at the national centre, the local
centre and the local Animal Health Office.
The efficacy of these instructions is shown by the
success in limiting the outbreak of this highly contagious disease
in one of the most highly populated pig production areas in the
UK to 16 incidents.
Since the Committee's report was received we have
of course been faced with an unprecedentedly severe outbreak of
foot and mouth disease, affecting cattle and sheep as well as
pigs. Ministers have made clear that there will be further lessons
to be learned from both this outbreak as well as the earlier CSF
outbreak, but it is too early to say how this will affect MAFF's
contingency planning for exotic animal disease outbreaks in the
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food