Select Committee on Agriculture Minutes of Evidence


Examination of witnesses (Questions 340-359)

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2001

RT HON NICHOLAS BROWN AND MR JIM SCUDAMORE

Mr Todd

  340. What is the current backlog on the welfare scheme?
  (Mr Brown) It is very hard to say because when people get acceptances for their animals the numbers they put in tend to be smaller, and overall that is by a factor of about 20 per cent. So some of the bids are in the nature of an enquiry and some of them are clearly speculative.

  341. There is obviously also an overlap with other schemes, so it is allowing the animals to get—
  (Mr Brown) And the situation will change as of today because, of course, there is now movement facilitated where there was not before. So within the infected areas—

  342. So you do not have an up-to-date figure?
  (Mr Brown) The numbers are diminishing rapidly. I think something like 230,000 animals were cleared through the scheme last week, something of that order.

  343. I can see this being problematic. There were comments earlier about the precise valuations in the welfare scheme, have you any plans to review those at all?
  (Mr Brown) It is fair comment but it is also market sensitive. I did say I was going to discuss this with the Dutch Minister tomorrow because he is planning a similar scheme, and we will have the only two schemes of such a nature in the European Union, and clearly we want to co-ordinate what we are doing. I think it is also fair to call the Committee's attention to the European Court of Auditors' Report which suggested that schemes of this nature should not be state aids or funded by the European Union but should in fact be funded on either levy basis or an insurance basis, at least in part if not fully, and this I think is the future.

  344. But you are committed to the rates you have announced for the period that the scheme was set for?
  (Mr Brown) I am certainly committed to the scheme but clearly one has to make a judgment about the details of it.

  Mr Todd: It is difficult to explain to someone why animals going into the welfare scheme should not be available for human consumptions when animals moving from currently infected areas under the slaughter scheme, duly controlled movements, are.

Chairman

  345. Or contiguous cull animals.
  (Mr Brown) All of that is true. I know of no human health advice which compromises them but it is the need to control diseases in animals, which is at least in part a factor here. It would be perfectly reasonable, given the fact we do not allow mammalian feed at all, to argue as you are arguing.

Mr Todd

  346. It would be possible to argue, certainly if the European Union chose to look further at this, that one appeared to be a market support mechanism as a way of removing meat from the market place to support prices.
  (Mr Brown) That is why it is devised as an animal welfare scheme and not state intervention to support the market, although these are difficult times and one wants to do all one can.

  347. And definitions to stay?
  (Mr Brown) What is the over-30 month scheme? Is that a public health measure or is it a market support measure? It functions in practical terms as both but the purpose of it is to protect the consumer, just as the purpose of the welfare scheme is to intervene where because of the movement restrictions the welfare of the animal is compromised. If it cannot be managed where it is, the only other possible thing to do is a mercy killing.

Chairman

  348. The over-30 month scheme now of course would not function at all because it has been subsumed into the welfare scheme, but we will talk about that on the side.
  (Mr Brown) I see what you mean.

Mr Öpik

  349. We have seen in certain areas that the great friction over the disposal of healthy animals could have been avoided by a vet consultation. I just request that you have a conversation with the Welsh Office minister, or opposite number, about the need for consultation in those circumstances.
  (Mr Brown) I am not familiar with the specifics and nor am I the minister directly responsible, but let me tell you these things, from my own experience, are very difficult. There is no disposal route which does not have some argument which cannot be made against it, whether proportionately or not is a matter for the individual case.

Mr Jack

  350. I am sceptical about the welfare scheme. My constituent, Lynn Horricks, has sent me a letter and I just pick a sentence out. She says, "How we are being forced to look after our stock is criminal. A welfare issue was recognised by a veterinary surgeon almost three weeks ago and yet we are still awaiting information as to when the stock will be slaughtered." She sent me a list of all the efforts she has made, she has followed every procedure, register, et cetera, and finally she tells me, "On 18th April after first getting involved with the Intervention Board scheme on 27th March, she goes to speak to someone called Gary at MAFF at Carlisle who says that no licence can be issued and he was not in a position to advise her as to what to do." How does somebody like that, who has already spent something like £80,000 on feeding these animals, resolve their difficulty?
  (Mr Brown) Without knowing what sort of animals they are and what their circumstances are—

  351. Pigs.
  (Mr Brown) Why can they not move in the market place?

  352. I am putting to you, Minister—
  (Mr Brown) But why cannot they move in the market place?

  353. If you would be kind enough to look into this case, because she obviously feels—and the circumstances are detailed in the information presented to me—they should go into the welfare scheme otherwise she would not have gone through all this rigmarole if they could have gone to market.
  (Mr Brown) I do not understand it either but I suspect I have only heard part of it.

  354. I would be very happy to furnish you with the papers if you will give me the assurance it will be looked at.
  (Mr Brown) You can give me individual casework but there is a lot of it.

  355. What do you mean "there is a lot of it"? Paperwork or people sitting waiting to get into the scheme?
  (Mr Brown) A lot of people saying, "Can I be the first in the queue. This is what I want to happen in my particular circumstances. Can you get it done for me now."

  356. The picture I am getting from this example is somebody has gone through all the proper procedures, has the right reasons and veterinary advice, and three weeks later she writes a letter like that in desperation.
  (Mr Brown) If it is a welfare scheme case, the first question you have to answer is, why cannot the animals be moved, and the second question you have to answer is, why cannot they be managed where they are? If you can give me quickly the answer to those two points, you clearly then have a welfare concern. What is the answer to the first point? Why can they not be moved?

  357. The question I am asking now is, how do I get into the queue to get this constituent's case answered, if it is all too difficult for you?
  (Mr Brown) It is not all too difficult for me. The first question you have to answer is, why can they not be moved?

  358. Are you willing to look at this particular case?
  (Mr Brown) Why can they not be moved, Michael?

  359. I would rather you looked at the individual—
  (Mr Brown) It may well be that your case falls at the first hurdle but even if it does not fall at the first hurdle, the second one is, why can they not be kept where they are?

  Mr Jack: They cannot. To save the Committee's time, I am trying not to go through every piece of information.

  Chairman: Let's move on.

  Mr Drew: A score draw there, I think.


 
previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 11 May 2001