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Mr. Gill: Before my right hon. Friend moves off the point, I wonder why he thinks that the consequential losses only of farmers should be covered. Why would he

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not include hauliers and other people downstream from the farming industry, who have undoubtedly been seriously affected?

Mr. MacGregor: I have not done so because I have not been able to assess the position of those industries. I am aware of the position of many farmers and of the pig industry. I am not sufficiently familiar with the highly specialised road haulage industry, but there are other sources of income for road hauliers. I wish to confine myself simply to that sector. If the Minister succeeds, if it is necessary, in getting further schemes from the Treasury, it will be important that the case is well argued and well confined, so that it does not create other precedents. I realise that such a scheme would be considered by the European Commission as a state aid. However, I should have thought--the Minister seemed to imply it in describing the reaction that he received on Monday--that, given that it is vital to contain the problem Europe-wide, he would swiftly be given approval for a compensation scheme.

At Prime Minister's questions today, the Prime Minister described the farming industry--as so many of us have done over the years--as the custodians of the countryside. That role is another very important element in the issue. We have to ensure that the industry has the resources that it needs to come out of this crisis so that it can fulfil that function.

The other issue that I wanted to raise is that of imports. I have just been reading a book on globalisation, the foreword to which is entitled "The World Began Ten Years Ago". More than 10 years ago, as Agriculture Minister and as Secretary of State for Education, I was making speeches about the speed of technical change around the world, globalisation and heaven knows what else. It is therefore interesting that one of the leading commentators on globalisation should be saying that the world began 10 years ago. Nevertheless, his comments on so many of the industries on which he focuses--such as the financial sector, but also the agriculture industry--reinforce the Minister's brief comments on world trade and technical change, and illustrate the fact that we are now operating in a hugely different world from that in which so many of our original schemes were created.

Not the least of those changes has been the way in which supermarkets operate in formulating new trade relationships. It has to be said, however, that the main beneficiary of that process has been not industry, but consumers. As we are learning now, there may well be a price to pay for that.

The point that I want to stress to the Minister--I am sure from his comments that he is already very well apprised of it--is that both the outbreak of classical swine fever, which could have been started by a ham sandwich imported from goodness knows where, and the current outbreak facing us, which, as he rightly said, must have come from overseas as we have been free of it for so long, demonstrate how, unless worldwide controls are formulated to regulate the current world situation, those controls can pose enormous damage to our own industry.

I therefore fully support the Minister in his view--I understand that Sir John Krebs would take precisely the same view--that we have to double our confidence in international and Government controls; re-examine our systems, and the controls and the resources that we have

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to apply them; and examine the origins of products and the controls that apply in third countries. As the current outbreak demonstrates, even one tiny lapse can cause a very serious crisis.

Although we still do not know the source of the disease, I presume that it originated from something brought in from overseas. I therefore believe that that re-examination should apply to controls not only in the food chain itself, but at ports and airports. It is right to re-examine those controls in order to discover the lessons to be learned.

Ever since the outbreak of classical swine fever, I have been reflecting on concerns about the new arrangements that we have made for the right to roam. Various controls are being implemented now to deal with the current crisis, but no controls were in place when someone perhaps threw a sandwich over a fence and the classical swine fever outbreak began. There are big issues to be addressed, but I know that, once the Minister has dealt with the immediate crisis, he will address them. He has our full support in every measure that he is taking now.

6.4 pm

Mr. Nick Ainger (West Carmarthen and South Pembrokeshire): I represent a farming constituency that is well known not only for its dairy and new potatoes but for its beef and sheep, and my constituents are extremely concerned about last week's announcements. However, from my discussions with local farming unions, I know that they fully support all the action that my right hon. Friend has taken so far. The priority for my constituents and the farming unions is that the disease is contained and eradicated. I should like to focus on those two issues.

Some right hon. and hon. Members have mentioned the availability of disinfectant. It seems clear from responses earlier today that the problem with disinfectant is not production, but distribution. I hope that, within the next few days, arrangements will be made so that the more peripheral parts of the United Kingdom--particularly Wales, and especially west Wales, so that I can give a good message to my farmers and industry--have access to that vital product. We need it to take the action necessary to ensure containment.

I am very grateful that the National Assembly for Wales has reacted so quickly to the order on footpaths. Orders have been passed in Wales to ensure that countryside access is limited.

The day before my right hon. Friend implemented the restriction of movement order, I attended the launch of a Greenways scheme, which is a way of encouraging tourists to visit the coastal and rural parts of my constituency by linking footpaths with local railway stations. We took a walk from the local railway station to a local carpark, where we opened a footpath for wheelchair users. It is ironic that, the following day, I issued a press release urging my right hon. Friend and everyone else who uses the countryside not to come to the countryside for fear of spreading foot and mouth.

As my right hon. Friend said, it is essential that anyone who breaches the orders is prosecuted. As we know, the problem is that the disease is so easily spread. Irresponsible people who wander with their dogs or family through the countryside really are acting most irresponsibly.

Yesterday, I had a conversation with one of my farmers, who said that, unfortunately, sometimes not only the public but farmers act irresponsibly. Straying stock is

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a real issue. Having checked with my local county council, which is enforcing the movement restriction order, I understand that under article 35 of the order farmers who fail to contain their stock can be prosecuted. We have to get that message out very clearly. I was also told yesterday that a neighbouring farmer had collected 50 sheep that had strayed from another farm. That may seem unbelievable, but it is true. We have to repeat the message to farmers that they have clear responsibilities to contain their stock.

The great problem is that the outbreak has occurred when the industry is already having an awful time because of the collapse in farm prices and farm incomes. Therefore, like the farming unions in Wales, I hope that by Friday my right hon. Friend will be able to announce a licensed slaughter scheme, which would at least allow an income stream for farmers and related industries such as the haulage trade. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the absolute priority must be finding ways of ensuring that the disease does not spread. I think that farmers would understand it if a little more time were taken and a belt-and-braces scheme were developed to ensure that a licensed slaughter scheme allowed no chance whatsoever of the disease spreading.

When the scheme starts to operate, it might confirm what some of us already believe. For whatever reason--perhaps simply because the market sometimes operates peculiarly--abattoirs, certainly in Wales, tend to be located far from the main sources of production. Maps showing how stock has travelled between Northumberland, Essex and Devon appear to suggest that the market has not got right the location of abattoirs around the UK. Perhaps we should be more prescriptive in encouraging abattoirs to be set up closer to areas of production.

The benefits are obvious--jobs would be brought to areas where they are much needed, and the number of animals being transported around the UK would be radically reduced. The risk of disease travelling large distances would also be reduced.

I learned today that supermarkets are clamouring for the establishment of a licensed slaughtering scheme because their customers are demanding British product. That is good news, as it appears that people have not lost confidence in the British product, as many farmers had feared. Customers are asking supermarkets when British product that has run out will reappear on the shelves. It looks likely that we can restore sales of British meat in supermarkets in the future. We must maintain that confidence, however: losing it, as happened after the BSE outbreak, would cause the industry to be plunged into yet another crisis.

I spoke to Malcolm Thomas, the director of NFU Cymru, before the debate, and he asked that a specific issue be dealt with. My right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and other hon. Members have touched on the matter, which has to do with the flexibility of animal movements, especially between holdings.

In my constituency, the Castlemartin range is a large tank range, where thousands of head of sheep off the Preseli hills overwinter. The dozen different owners of those sheep are desperate to move them back to the hills, and the matter is clearly a major animal welfare issue. Farmers want to know whether a common-sense

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arrangement could be made to tackle problems such as that, while at the same time ensuring that the disease does not travel.

Another matter raised by Malcolm Thomas had to do with a farmer to the north of my constituency who has 800 store lambs in a large field that is virtually bare. The farmer has four fields full of grass less than a mile away, but he cannot move the 800 store lambs at the moment. I am sure that a sensible, common-sense arrangement can be devised to deal with such problems.

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