Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Notes prepared by Andrew Leeder on behalf of NPA, in response to the evidence supplied by RT Hon Joyce Quin MP to The Agriculture Committee on 11 December 2000

COMMENTS ON QUESTIONS TO AND RESPONSES FROM THE MINISTER:

Q.73-74

  NPA welcomes the Minister's confirmation that the Government aims to ensure that the UK response to European rules is broadly of the same magnitude and level as that of other EC governments.

Q.75

  Many of the instances the Minister apparently refers to, are ones where a Member State Scheme, although legal, fails to comply with the criteria for EC co-funding. Such situations have no direct effect on the farmer since all that happens is that their government recovers a smaller proportion of what it paid farmers from the EC than it anticipated.

Q.79

  The Minister is correct in saying that in farming there are disease risks of animals and plants. She is probably also aware that a common precaution is to vaccinate the animals or spray the crops. However, she seems to have overlooked the fact that in the case of Swine Fever that action would be illegal as a result of the ban on vaccination in the UK and other countries where the authorities have declared swine fever to be non-existent.

  It is rather misleading to say that the original Scheme had industry agreement since the industry was still seeking full compensation.

Q.80

  Although reported as "a new scheme" in an animal health context the "Pig Welfare Disposal Scheme" was actually rather similar to the "Pig Welfare Compensation Scheme" relating to the Ballymoney abattoir disaster in Northern Ireland.

Q.81

  We cannot find details of instances where the Commission has prevented the Netherlands from paying compensation, nor can we find the details of the "different Community rules" which the Minister states come into effect depending upon the size of the outbreak. Perhaps the Minister would share this information with the Committee and the NPA?

  We can however find several instances where, not only has approval been granted for smaller national market support schemes for pigs, but also a contribution has been made from EC funds towards the cost of them.

  About 191,000 pigs were submitted onto the UK scheme in 2000. Belgium, which has a similar pig population, took only 35,126 pigs on their scheme for zone locked pigs in 1997, even though the EC agreed to co-fund a somewhat greater number if necessary. The agreement for this Belgium scheme was given prior to the confirmation of any clinical CSF in the country, and reflects the assumption that a major outbreak could occur. Similar measures were available in Germany in 1997 and re-opened in 1998 when swine fever reappeared. Even combining the numbers from both instances gives a total of only 172,493, which is smaller than in the UK, despite their pig population being more than three times the size of ours. EC Regulations have also been passed in earlier outbreaks relating to smaller numbers of pigs.

  Such measures were introduced at a time when only a relatively small number of pigs was anticipated—for example the German scheme was re-opened at a time when it was anticipated that only 15,000 piglets would need to go onto it. The larger Dutch and Spanish schemes were the result of amending the original regulations 15 and 18 times respectively.

  Germany regularly has uncompensated isolated outbreaks in areas where CSF is endemic in wild boar populations but these are generally only short in duration and arguably this is a risk which could have been foreseen and commercial insurance is available for protection.

  The Minister's use of current market price to assess the impact of pigs under restriction and unable to enter the market, is an inappropriate measure of the need for Exceptional Market Support when it is proposed as a result of measures which threaten serious future disturbance of the market upon the release of a backlog of pigs onto the market. The UK market for heavy pigs is small and fragile at best. If the pigs had been retained on farm (in the absence of the Welfare of Livestock Regulations 1994) their release upon de-restriction would have seriously overloaded it.

Q.110

  In response to the Minister's rebuttal here, the East Anglian Pig Advisers Association have sent us details of the Pigmeat Management Committee meetings during 1998 (see Annex A). We cannot fault their analysis and there seems to be no doubt that in 1997 and 1998 this Government's representatives did vote in favour of schemes providing full market value compensation for the disposal of pigs locked in surveillance and protection zones. As far as UK outbreaks are concerned, Government policy did not have to previously handle the issue of pigmeat from herds under restriction in surveillance areas being banned from the food chain, except where heat treatment took place.

  We are interested to note the Minister's observation that as this is an Animal Health matter, which she will not be fully informed on. The fundamental principle of the Animal Health Act is that the Minister pays full compensation for any healthy thing seized, caused to be slaughtered, or ordered to be destroyed, buried or disposed of, which in our view includes Disposal Scheme pigs.

  In the light of the confirmation by MAFF in their Memorandum M14 that the Disposal Scheme, although conceived originally purely as a welfare management measure, was subsequently redesigned into one for reducing the risk of spread of disease as the outbreak developed, we invite the Minister to comment.

  In the light of the discovery of:

    (i)  the existence of schemes, both smaller and larger than the UK one, offering full value compensation for healthy pigs locked in surveillance and protection zones on the continent;

    (ii)  this Government's apparent support for them at the time; and

    (iii)  the Minister's commitment to ensure treatment of equal magnitude and level for UK pig farmers.

  We invite the Committee to consider whether it is appropriate for them to recommend to the Minister that the Pig Welfare Disposal Scheme be amended to provide retrospective compensation at full market value at Government's expense.

SOME ISSUES OF POLICY ARE REGARDED AS FUNDAMENTAL TO THE CSF DISCUSSION:

  1.  Further commitment at Q.73/74, not only to ensure the application of European rules in other Member States but also where the rules permit a response of varying degree to ensure that the UK response is broadly of the same magnitude and level as that of other Member States. Unless corrected by the Minister this general statement may be useful for the future and confirms that what Nick Brown said regarding equal treatment for Swine Fever at the start of the outbreak is still in effect.

  2.  Contrary to previous assertions that Animal Health Act compensation was not designed for dealing with the removal of pigs locked in zones, confirmation at Q.110 and M14-21 that removal of such pigs is an animal health measure (and therefore ought properly to be dealt with under the Animal Health Act).

  3.  Rebuttal is required that the Government's use of market price is not an appropriate measure of the need for Exceptional Market Support when it is proposed as a result of measures which threaten serious future disturbance of the market. Also remember that the heavy pig market, which is the main one being protected, is smaller in the UK in relation to our pig population than it is on the continent.

  4.  Rebuttal is required of the Government's argument that "different Community rules" apply to small and large outbreaks (unless they can prove references to the relevant EC documents) and a statement that this outbreak was somewhat larger than measures which have been supported elsewhere.

  5.  Rebuttal is required of the Ministers suggestion that UK was not in favour of market-value compensation for zone-locked pigs in 199-98. Clearly at least in the case of continental farmers it was. Observation that the principle of UK law was that any healthy thing seized, destroyed or ordered/caused to be so to prevent the spread of disease is compensated in full would also reinforce Point 1.

OTHER ISSUES OF IMPLEMENTATION MAY BE LEFT TO THE REVIEW MAFF AND INDUSTRY WILL UNDERTAKE, SUCH AS:

    1.  Lack of adequate instruction of staff.

    2.  Inadequate records of pig keepers.

    3.  Outdated documentation.

    4.  Inadequate systems for communication both internally and externally.

    5.  Imposing restrictions which went beyond legal requirements without giving any justification for doing so (other than in some cases blaming them on non-existent requirements of regulations), thereby causing mistrust.

    6.  Muddled procedures particularly re Forms A and B.

January 2001


 
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