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Scrapie

Mr. Baker: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what scientific evidence underlay his Department's policy of forbidding the burial by farmers of sheep which died of scrapie. [104]

Mr. Rooker: This Department has not introduced a policy of forbidding farmers from burying the carcases of sheep which die from scrapie except in the case of heads which are sent to Veterinary Investigation Centres for diagnostic purposes. These carcases must be disposed of in accordance with the Animal By-Products Order 1992 (as amended) and, where on-farm burial takes place, guidance is provided to farmers in the Code of Good Agricultural Practice for the Protection of Water.

Set-aside Land

Mr. Gordon Prentice: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what area of agricultural

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land in (a) Lancashire and (b) North Yorkshire is currently subject to set aside under the common agricultural policy. [706]

Mr. Rooker: The information requested is not available at present. Most farmers have only recently submitted their 1997 IACS applications which detail the areas they have set aside. Once the applications have been processed I will write to my hon. Friend with the information requested.

Rendering Industry Support

Mrs. Helen Jackson: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list for each rendering firm, the amounts due to them under the rendering industry support scheme for each year in the period 1995 to 2000. [614]

Mr. Rooker: Rendering industry support schemes have been introduced for 1996-97 and 1997-98. Total expenditure for 1996-97 is estimated at about £100 million, with a provision of up to £59 million for 1997-98. As at 21 May about £90 million had been paid to renderers for 1996-97. No money had yet been paid in respect of 1997-98.

Individual companies' entitlements to support for the whole of 1996-97 have yet to be finally determined. Under the 1997-98 scheme, support payments depend on eligible renderers' production profile during the year. Entitlements for the year as a whole will therefore not be known until after the scheme ends.

I am unable to disclose information about the support which has to date been paid to individual renderers for reasons of their commercial confidentiality (exemption 13 in the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information).

Food Safety

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will list each occasion on which issues relating to the safety of food have been referred to Ministers in the last five years. [39]

Mr. Rooker: Issues relating to the safety of food are a significant part of the work of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and Ministers are consulted regularly on these matters. My hon. Friend's question is so wide-ranging that a detailed reply could only be given at disproportionate cost.

I can inform my hon. Friend that food safety issues have been considered by Ministers each day since the Government took office.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the current manpower resources available to ensure that food hygiene standards are adequately maintained. [41]

Mr. Rooker: This is one of the areas we shall be considering as we take forward the proposals to establish a Food Standards Agency.

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Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many veterinarians have been dismissed for failure to ensure compliance with health inspection regulations over the last 36 months. [13]

Mr. Rooker: The Meat Hygiene Service was established as an Executive Agency of MAFF on 1 April 1995 and took over responsibility from local authorities for meat hygiene and inspection in licensed fresh meat premises.

Operational and staffing matters are the responsibility of the Meat Hygiene Service and I have asked the Chief executive to reply to my hon. Friend.

Letter from Johnston McNeill to Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours, dated 21 May 1997:


Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the food safety regulations; and to what extent they are currently being applied. [42]

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Mr. Rooker: This is one of the areas we shall be considering as we take forward the proposals to establish a Food Standards Agency. In his report, Professor Philip James states that the Food Safety Act 1990, which provides the framework for food legislation, is generally acknowledged to be a good tool for ensuring food safety.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the budget allocated for food safety in his Department relative to the responsibilities and liabilities placed on his Department arising from (a) BSE and (b) other food safety issues; and if he will make a statement. [45]

Mr. Rooker: The Ministry's spending priorities and the budgets allocated to them are about to undergo a thorough examination in the context of the Government's Comprehensive Spending Review.

Animal Identification

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in the development of a computerised animal identification system. [14]

Mr. Rooker: Cattle born from 1 July 1996 are already registered on the Agriculture Departments' computer databases.

I am considering responses to proposals for a computerised database of cattle movements. I intend to take forward rapidly the creation of this database, so that it can be brought into effect in Great Britain well ahead of the Community's deadline.

Mr. Campbell-Savours: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what assessment he has made of the extent to which the current proposals for the identification of cattle meet European requirements for the lifting of the beef ban in the Florence agreement. [15]

Mr. Rooker: The existing GB cattle passport system, implemented in July 1996, fulfils the Florence pre-condition for an affective animal identification movement recording system with official registration. A cattle database already existed in Northern Ireland.

In addition, there are proposals for the introduction of a fully computerised cattle traceability system in Great Britain to record details of cattle movements centrally. These were sent to interested parties in December 1996. I am currently considering the responses to the proposals for a cattle traceability system which I hope to introduce at an early date.


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