Previous SectionIndexHome Page

21 Nov 2002 : Column 781—continued

Egg Industry

13. Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield): What steps she has taken to ensure the future viability of the UK egg-laying industry. [81217]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): DEFRA is committed to promoting sustainable, diverse, modern and adaptable farming. The egg-laying industry is an important part of that objective.

Sir Nicholas Winterton : While I am grateful to the Minister for that apparently helpful reply, does he recognise that a prohibition on enriched cages in England after 2012 would result in egg imports from other parts of the United Kingdom and other European countries where the use of such cages has already been authorised? If the cages are prohibited after 2012, it will do absolutely nothing for animal welfare. Will he give the industry an assurance that enriched cages will be authorised?

Mr. Morley: The Government have held a full and detailed consultation, as the hon. Gentleman knows, about whether it would be appropriate to permit enriched cages post-2012. We have implemented the directive in full and in an unchanged form, but it is discretionary whether member states allow the cages to

21 Nov 2002 : Column 782

be used after that date. I believe that it is important that we consider the issue as early as possible to allow the industry time to consider its future investment options.

I understand the hon. Gentleman's point about the potential for competition from other countries that are not applying such systems. Some European countries have already said that they intend to prohibit such systems. However, we take the point seriously, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State was successful in obtaining a statement at Doha that world trade would take account of non-trade matters, precisely because of issues such as those that affect the egg industry. I shall not ignore the hon. Gentleman's point because we must take it into account.

Electronic Equipment

14. Dr. Alan Whitehead (Southampton, Test): For what elements of the implementation of the waste electrical and electronic equipment directive the Department is responsible. [81218]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): The Department of Trade and Industry is leading on negotiations of the WEEE directive, which is due to be approved by the Environment Council in December. Both the DTI and DEFRA are holding several focus group meetings with stakeholders on WEEE implementation. DEFRA takes the lead in implementing article 6 on permitting treatment facilities.

Dr. Whitehead : I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. Will he ensure that the front-end responsibilities of producers of electrical and electronic goods are properly related to those of waste disposal authorities when the directive is implemented in the United Kingdom?

Mr. Meacher: Certainly. DEFRA remains in correspondence with the DTI about which Department should take the lead in the WEEE directive's implementation. We shall consider the strategy unit report when it is published shortly. It is important to ensure co-operation between both Departments because DEFRA leads on local authorities and dismantlers when implementing article 6, and the DTI plays a lead role in respect of retailers and manufacturers. Both should have clear responsibilities with regard to waste disposal authorities.

Bovine TB

15. Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth): If she will make a statement on levels of cases of bovine TB. [81220]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Elliot Morley): The number of new TB herd incidents recorded for Great Britain between 1 January and 30 September 2002 stands at just under 2,300, of which 417 are in Wales. That includes confirmed, unconfirmed and unclassified incidents.

21 Nov 2002 : Column 783

Mr. Edwards : In Monmouthshire, there have been 90 suspected cases, of which a third have already been confirmed. That causes considerable frustration to livestock farmers, who are affected by the increased costs of movement restrictions. Will my hon. Friend assure us that every effort is being made to resolve the crisis? When will the Krebs trials be completed and a vaccine developed?

Mr. Morley: I understand my hon. Friend's anxiety about bovine TB; we take it seriously. He knows that we recently allocated an additional #3 million to catch up with the backlog of testing that resulted from the foot-and-mouth outbreak. Testing was, of course, impossible then. The work has distorted the outbreak figures because we are testing in the most high risk areas first, and the figures that we get will not be representative of the spread and increase in bovine TB. Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency.

My hon. Friend knows that I recently announced a package of measures about changes in movement control. They are designed to help farmers who are under restriction because of TB.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim): Is there any correlation between the increase in bovine TB and that in human TB?

There is a perception that badgers contribute to the spread of bovine TB. What analysis has been undertaken to determine whether badgers play a part in spreading the terrible disease?

Mr. Morley: The hon. Gentleman is right about the latter point. There has been a long-running debate about the link between badgers and bovine TB. It has gone on for approximately 20 years. The Krebs experiment is a five-year programme designed to consider the link and ascertain its importance once and for all. It is an important experiment that we must see through to completion.

21 Nov 2002 : Column 784

There are two strains of TB—bovine and human. Human TB is therefore a different strain. The increase in it is due to the fact that people travel more widely. It is caused by global travel, not an increase in the cattle herd.

Non-food Crops

16. Alistair Burt (North-East Bedfordshire): What proposals she intends to bring forward to support the promotion of non-food crops in the UK. [81221]

The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Michael Meacher): DEFRA and the Department of Trade and Industry are consulting stakeholders on establishing a new centre to bring together industry, academia and the research community to drive forward the commercial development of non-food uses of crops. DEFRA and the DTI are also considering a joint initiative to provide grant support to promote technology transfer through demonstration projects. The Government have allocated #70 million to develop markets for biomass in heat, combined heat and power, and power generation.

Alistair Burt : Is the Minister aware of the excellent campaign being run by Farmers Weekly to draw attention to the non-food use of crops? Does he not feel some sympathy for its sense of a lack of urgency on the part of the Government? With such terrible prices being paid in the arable sector, the non-food use of crops—which has been on the cards for some time—could have been given rather more attention by the Government than it has been up to now.

Mr. Meacher: I am very keen to make progress on this, as I said in answer to an earlier question. This is an important area for agricultural diversification. We set up the forum on the non-food use of crops in March last year to give us strategic advice, and it has now done so. We intend to respond to the forum's recommendations in early 2003. The centre of excellence that we propose to set up, which brings together the existing facilities in one central core, is a very good way forward. I am very keen that we should make real progress in this area.

21 Nov 2002 : Column 785

Business of the House

12.31 pm

Mr. Eric Forth (Bromley and Chislehurst): May I please ask the Leader of the House to give us the business for next week?

The Leader of the House of Commons (Mr. Robin Cook): The business for next week is as follows:

Monday 25 November—There will be a debate on the UN Security Council Resolution 1441.

Tuesday 26 November—Second Reading of the Regional Assemblies (Preparations) Bill.

Wednesday 27 November—Second Reading of the Health (Wales) Bill.

Thursday 28 November—Second Reading of the Community Care (Delayed Discharges etc.) Bill.

Friday 29 November—The House will not be sitting.

The House will also wish to be reminded that my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer will deliver his pre-Budget report on Wednesday 27 November.

The provisional business for the following week will be:

Monday 2 December—Until 7 o'clock there will be an Opposition half day. There will be a debate in the name of the Democratic Unionist Party on a subject to be announced. [Hon. Members: XGuess!"] I would not dream of taking up such an invitation.

That will be followed by a debate on the convention on the future of Europe.

Tuesday 3 December—Second Reading of the Communications Bill.

Wednesday 4 December—Second Reading of the Criminal Justice Bill.

Thursday 5 December—Estimates [1st allotted Day].

There will be a debate on the Government's drugs policy. Details will be given in the Official Report.

At 7 pm the House will be asked to agree all outstanding estimates.

Friday 6 December—The House will not be sitting.

I should also like to inform the House that the business in Westminster Hall for Thursday 5 December will be a debate on the report from the International Development Committee on global climate change and sustainable development.

Next Section

IndexHome Page