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The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): The animal health and welfare strategy, published last June, sets out the broad strategy for preventing and controlling livestock and poultry diseases in the UK, and it is supported by disease-specific strategies, a surveillance strategy and contingency plans for tackling outbreaks of exotic diseasescopies of all of which may be found in the Library.
Mr. Jack: Notwithstanding the Minister's answer, is he aware of the critical nature of a report recently published by the European Union that comments adversely on the way in which abattoirs, farms and other premises are surveyed to deal with the control of disease? If that report's findings are correct, what is the Department doing about it? Secondly, what role does the Minister see for the national animal disease information system in giving us proper and adequate controls over the spread of diseases such as foot and mouth and avian influenza, which, if outbreaks occurred again in the UK, could cost us billions of pounds?
To be fair, I must point out that both the EU and the National Audit Office, which also recently published a report, have recognised the progress that has been made since the foot and mouth outbreak, but the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely right: there is still a great deal more to do before we can be satisfied that we have the level of biosecurity in abattoirs and elsewhere that we would like, not least given the recent events to which my right hon. Friend the Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality referred in answer to an earlier question. There
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is a lot more to doalthough we have made progressbut I can give an assurance that the Government take such responsibilities extremely seriously.
Andrew George (St. Ives) (LD): Dr. Iain Anderson's report on the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak made no reference to the Jim Dring report, nor to the Northumberland video. In a letter to me dated 12 February, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said:
Does the Minister not agree that if we are to learn lessons from the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak, we need to understand whether a professional, resource or regulatory failure caused the type of circumstances that were discovered on Burnside farm?
Mr. Bradshaw: No. The hon. Gentleman's question is based on a false premise. Professor Anderson has made it clear that the details of both Jim Dring's inspections and the other inspections undertaken on Burnside farm were made available to him. He has since read the very personalised report that Jim Dring wrote at the time and has made it clear that its contents would have made no difference to his conclusions. The video was published at the time. It was shown on television. Hon. Members saw it. There has been no cover-up of that video. It contains no new information, and Professor Anderson has said that seeing the video and its contents would have made no difference to the in-depth and painstaking work that he did in publishing one of two independent reports on foot and mouth.
The Minister for Rural Affairs and Local Environmental Quality (Alun Michael): My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has successfully negotiated far-reaching reforms, which will reduce the most damaging effects of the common agricultural policy on developing countries, as well as delivering a number of other benefits. We continue to be at the forefront of those who argue for further reform, not least of the sugar regime. We are also pressing for a truly ambitious and balanced outcome to the Doha development agenda, which tackles those elements of the CAP that most damage the poorest countries in particular.
Mr. Sarwar: In thanking the Minister for that reply, I must congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on her success in securing the reform of the CAP in recent years. Can the Minister assure me that the commitment to deliver fair and free trade for farmers in developing countries will remain a core priority for a Labour Government over the next five years?
Yes, I certainly can. The 200304 CAP reforms will also lead to reductions in the subsidised surpluses that the EU has dumped on the world market over the years, which have undermined farmers in
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developing countries. When fully implemented in total, the CAP reforms will contribute to a reduction in export subsidises of about 70 per cent. compared with 1992, and to a reduction in trade-distorting domestic subsidy, as defined by the World Trade Organisation, of about 70 per cent. In the ongoing negotiations to liberalise world trade, we are pressing for an agreement on agriculture that is genuinely liberalising in its effects, securing freer and fairer trading systems for all and taking particular account of the needs of developing countries. I can give my hon. Friend the assurance that he requests.
Mr. David Heathcoat-Amory (Wells) (Con): Does the Minister agree that we could abolish the tariffs on food from tropical regions and the developing world that we cannot grow here if we had more control over our farming and trade policy? That would not disadvantage our producers but it would help consumers, through lower prices, and do much to help the developing world. If he agrees to that simple proposition, will the right hon. Gentleman say why the Government have signed up to the European constitution, which centralises and entrenches control of the CAP and trade policy, and reduces the influence of member states and their ability to help the developing world?
Alun Michael: The right hon. Gentleman seems to want to adopt a sort of isolationism that does not recognise the international nature of the food business. The problems with the EU's structure must be seen in the context of the world trade round. Both must be improved if the needs of developing countries are to be met. It is worth noting that every dollar of aid given to developing countries through sugar preferences costs the EU and US economies about $5, and imposes nearly $3 of economic damage on non-preferential suppliers. That is the sort of problem that we need to tackle to achieve more sustainable international trade. We cannot do that by putting our heads in the sand and becoming isolationist.
Mr. Peter Pike (Burnley) (Lab): In the week that we have been discussing the report from the Commission for Africa, my right hon. Friend will recognise the importance of agriculture to Africa's employment levels and economy. Does he think that we will be able to deliver CAP reforms that will give Africa and its agriculture a fair crack of the whip?
Alun Michael: Our aim is to pursue those objectives in our discussions in Europe and in the world trade round. The fit between decisions taken in those discussions will allow us to achieve the objectives to which my hon. Friend refers.
Mr. James Gray (North Wiltshire)
(Con): The Secretary of State has announced, without notice or consultation, that from next Monday every farmer in this country, regardless of size, must publish the precise amount of payments received annually under the CAP. How will the CAP reforms needed to help farmers in poor countries be helped by that in any way? I might accept that there is some national interest in knowing how much the larger farmers receive, but why must every smallholder or farmer with just 25 acres reveal
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information that surely should be private? Businesses do not have to publish the amounts that they receive in EU grants, so why should smallholders have to reveal their precise payments?
Alun Michael: I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on his ingenuity in working that matter into the exchanges on Question 7entirely within order, I am sure. We are talking about how public money is spent and where it goes, in a culture in which freedom of information legislation means that information is available to the public. However, the hon. Gentleman does not seem interested in either of those things.
Jane Griffiths (Reading, East) (Lab): Further reforms of the CAP are essential, but when the Minister discusses them with his colleagues will he bear in mind the position of Mozambique? That country could provide all the sugar that Africa needs, but at present is unable to do so, with the result that its people remain impoverished.
Alun Michael: My hon. Friend is right to point to the distorting effect of current arrangements. In the transition to new systems, it is important that the impact on countries such as Mozambique is recognised. We discussed this matter recently in the European Scrutiny Committee, but it is clear that we need to see the European Commission's proposals before we can address these issues. My hon. Friend offers a timely reminder of a matter that we must bear in mind.
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