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Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer: My Lords, we on these Benches welcome these regulations in that they will give an added impetus to cleaning up our environment and to the new technology as an investment in that operation. We also welcome the inclusion of energy efficiency.
I read the regulations in conjunction with the new consultation draft document from the Environmental Agency, Creating an Environmental Vision, which I found to be extremely interesting. It helped to give one a feel as to how the agency may carry out its duties with regard to these regulations.
I shall not take up the time of the House repeating the questions raised by the noble Lord, Lord Dixon-Smith, in relation to the agricultural industry. But I should like to ask one specific question about the difference between new or substantially changed units in that regard. The regulations appear to refer simply to "new" units. What will happen to a producer who adds on some additional houses--for instance, for extra egg-laying hens? At what point will the regulations kick in? At what stage will it be considered that he has substantially changed his facility? I should welcome clarification on that point.
Another area on which I should like clarification is in relation to what is meant by the change in permits covered in Part II, paragraph 5, on planning. The link between planning, development control and the implementation of the regulations appears to be much closer. It is already difficult for councillors to balance the need for sites for producers and industry, which will be covered by the regulations, and the volume of local objections that arise from such applications. If there is to be a closer link and more applications have to go through the development control process--a perfectly worthwhile process when we are trying to clean up the environment--guidance for councillors would be extremely useful. I should be most grateful if the Minister could cover that point in his response. In conclusion, I believe these to be useful regulations and, subject to my questions being covered satisfactorily, I give them a wholehearted welcome.
The Earl of Longford: My Lords, may I ask whoever is in charge of the business of the House whether there is any hope of the debate on the disabled being dealt with shortly? We were told that it would start between
Baroness Byford: My Lords, like my noble friend, I am quite concerned as regards the implications of the regulations and their effect on the farming fraternity. Therefore, my remarks will focus on that particular sector. We welcome the implementation delay date and thank the noble Lord for it. As he well remembers, I tabled several Questions as to why the regulations were being introduced early. When part of his reply referred to the "convenience of regulators", I nearly hit the roof. So I am truly grateful that the Minister has decided to put off the implementation until the year 2007.
However, I believe I am right in saying that the regulations obviously apply "straightaway" to any installations established since October 1999, so those concerned will have to pay for this now. Moreover, I understand that birdcage sizes will have to be altered before 2007. But if, as a result, substantial changes need to be made to that farming practice, will those concerned fall into the category of having to pay the IPPC charges at that stage, or will they be allowed to wait until 2007? I should be grateful to receive an answer on that point and I hope that the Minister understands my logic.
Although we are anxious to see pollution and its prevention controlled, as clearly explained by my noble friend, there are immense pressures on the farming industry at present. Indeed, of all sectors, probably the pigs and poultry sectors are the ones facing enormous problems. According to the NFU, the Government promised earlier this year at the farming summit to avoid gold plating the legislation, its implementation and enforcement and to regulate in the least bureaucratic and burdensome way. But here we have extra burdens, extra costs and extra regulation. It is most unfortunate.
I also understand that a pledge was given at the farming summit to reduce permit charges by 50 per cent when general binding rules are in place. However, the NFU has expressed to me its concern that the charges are excessive and higher than any others imposed on agriculture for environmental purposes. Perhaps the Minister can also comment on that issue. Moreover, any changes that add to farming costs, such as this permit, will obviously not be recoverable through the market-place and are therefore a straight tax on those producers of pigs and poultry. Here, again--and for the second time today--I should declare an interest. We have a family farm on which we produce pigs. However, we are not big enough to fall into this catchment.
As my noble friend said, we already know that the full cost recovery of the implementation for Denmark is only £1,000--there is no charge in Holland--whereas ours, as the Minister knows, is much higher. I should be grateful to hear the Minister's comment. Perhaps he can also tell us whether any other countries are taking a similar view. For example, do we know what the situation is in other member state countries? Are there any interim charges in place?
My noble friend made another extremely important point with regard to the free availability of information on addresses and the possible availability of national grid references. This year there has been increasing pressure from pressure groups--I may not have expressed that well, but I think that noble Lords know what I mean!--on mink producers. Recent GM trials have been trashed. There are problems with the ongoing badger trials. Recently I had great difficulty finding a perfectly kept and well organised poultry establishment. The owners of such establishments sensibly try to make it difficult for people to discover where they are situated.
As regards poultry, a 40,000 bird layer unit typically produces some 12.2 million eggs a year. Average costs of production per dozen are 45p and the average returns per dozen (on the wholesale market) are approximately 54p. Even to reduce the charges of the permit and subsistence by half (to £6,000 and £2,768 respectively) would increase the costs per dozen by 0.86p and reduce profits made by 9.6 per cent. This is at a time when, as I say, the industry is in immense difficulty. Returns for producers supplying eggs under contract for a packer are negative, so losses would, of course, be increased.
My noble friend said earlier that we tend to have bigger pig units here than on the Continent. An 800 breeder/finisher could expect to produce 16,420 pigs per annum. Therefore an additional charge of £8,768 would increase costs by 53p per pig. For a 2,500 finishing place unit finishing 8,000 pigs, those charges would increase the cost by £1.10 per pig. In the current crisis in the industry this would add considerably to the losses those businesses are already suffering. The noble Baroness, Lady Hayman, who is the Minister responsible for agriculture, is present. I say to her that I am aware that prices in the pig industry have recovered a little but there is still a long way to go, as I am sure she accepts.
I have read the debate of the Standing Committee that took place in the other place. I have already mentioned the position of Danish and Dutch producers. When asked about other regulations, the Minister in the other place was not exactly direct in his reply. He referred to the regime in Ireland. When my honourable friend Owen Paterson pressed him further, he said that he would write to him and to other Members of the committee on the arrangements in Holland. I understand that no such letter has yet been received. I hope that the Minister will comment further on that.
In this country we have the highest welfare standards. British farmers are proud to set such standards. However, if those high standards, and the extra burdens and costs that they incur, drive farmers out of business, we are not handling the regulations in the way that I am sure all noble Lords would wish. Our welfare regime has standards far above those of most of our neighbouring countries. A report in the Farmers Guardian last year showed that 80 per cent of Dutch pig farmers did not respect the welfare regime in Holland.
I reiterate what my noble friend Lord Dixon-Smith said earlier. It is such a shame that the Pollution Prevention and Control Act 1999 conferred huge Henry VIII powers. Normally regulations comprise a document of one or two pages. However, the regulations we are discussing comprise a book of some 83 pages. As my noble friend said, we cannot alter what is happening. We can only raise our concerns with the Minister. We can only approve or disapprove. I have expressed my particular concern for the pig and poultry sectors. I appreciate the desire for a cleaner environment, but if that pushes our producers out of business when those in other countries do not have to bear these burdens, we are going about it the wrong way.
I have spoken at this stage only about the EU regulations; obviously we operate in a global market. I look forward to the Minister's response.
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