Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 120 - 123)



  120. You referred to the rule change, the European rules introduced in 1990, and then of course in 1998 there was a big Dutch outbreak, and you said yourself we had not had a serious outbreak for a very long time indeed. Did any alarm bells ring with the Dutch outbreak? Did you do any sort of war games? Did you say, "This is getting a bit close. We have these new rules, we have this much bigger outdoor pig sector than the Continent, would this be the time to sit down and do some planning as to what we might put in place if the worst came to the worst?" Did that process take place?
  (Ms Quin) As far as I know, and I have to stress I was not in the Department at that time and it is also not my specific area of responsibility, the situation was monitored obviously in the Netherlands and there were discussions within the Department about it. I think it is perhaps an area where, if I can get some supplementary information, I should send that direct to the Committee because I am conscious I do not personally have the background knowledge.

  121. We would much rather have someone who said they do not know than blather for five minutes and we draw the conclusion ourselves that they do not know.
  (Ms Quin) The trouble is, you cannot say, "I do not know" to every question!

  122. Literally in one minute, you are faced with a new outbreak and you have drawn the conclusions from this one, just telegraphically, as the Italians would say, what do you think you might do the same and what do you think you might try and do differently?
  (Ms Quin) I think getting an immediate system of communication up and running is tremendously important, and ensuring that is also up-dated as expeditiously as possible, and having consultations with the industry right away. We did have consultations with them early on but certainly the importance of dialogue with the industry cannot be over-estimated.

Mr Drew

  123. We have obviously this scheme in place, we have got compensation for BSE, we have bovine TB, is there not a case for having some consistency in the way in which we react if you have an outbreak of animal disease—I am not talking about the human side of BSE but purely the animal disease? So you have a scheme which you can almost lift off the shelf, where there is some consistency and ease of operation, rather than every time to ratchet in a new form of compensation, with arguments as to where it is going to be set and who is going to get it.
  (Ms Quin) I think there is a lot of merit in that and that is basically the process we have begun domestically in our discussions with the farming industry generally on insurance issues. However, you are right to flag up the European dimension because of being part of the Single Market and the CAP, and I think it would make sense, provided we get some interesting conclusions from the work we are doing, to share that with our European partners and to look at these issues. There is no doubt that in a very piecemeal system you can get discrepancies, you can get distortions of competition, you can get allegations of unfairnesses and we want to eliminate those as much as we possibly can.


  124. Minister, thank you very much indeed. We are going to see you again quite shortly, I imagine, on other issues. Thank you very much for this. You have a date in advance, at some stage, when you have finished your review. Thank you for coming.
  (Ms Quin) Thank you.

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