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Committee Mandates

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Advisory Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [61703]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to my reply of 22 May 2002, Official Report, column 323W.

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Joint Meetings of Management and/or Regulatory Committees dealing with trade mechanisms is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the UK representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [55662]

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Mr. Morley: The mandate of the Management Committee on Horizontal Question Concerning Trade in Agricultural Products (usually know as the "Trade Mechanisms Group") is to oversee a number of CAP market support and control measures. The Committee's main role is in connection with the regulations pertaining to the import and export of agricultural products.

The Committee meets monthly, with the exception of August.

The UK's usual representation consists of two officials from the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). However, officials from other Departments such as HM Customs also attend occasionally, depending on the agenda for the meeting in question.

Travel expenses of approximately £11,000 for two delegates were reimbursed by the Commission. Other costs, consisting of subsistence allowances and travel expenses for additional officials, are met by the parent agency or Department of those in attendance and amounted to approximately £6,300 over the last 12 months.

Issues presently under consideration include a number of amendments and clarifications to the main external trade regulations in response to, for example, reports issued by the Court of Auditors.

Arrangements are in place to report on the Committee's activities through DEFRA, RPA's parent Department. RPA has a range of measures to communicate changes to the regulatory regime to its customers and other interested parties. The activities of RPA generally are subject to scrutiny by various audit bodies, including the National Audit Office.

The Committee may be regarded as a comitology committee. Consequently, the following points are relevant in regard to increasing its accountability and transparency:


Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the Standing Committee for Foodstuffs is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; what the United Kingdom representation on it is; what the annual cost of its work is to public funds; if she will list the items currently under its consideration; if she will take steps to increase its accountability and transparency to Parliament; and if she will make a statement. [57490]

Ms Blears: I have been asked to reply.

The Standing Committee for Foodstuffs was replaced by the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health from 21 February 2002. This was in

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accordance with EC Regulation 178/2002. In total, these committees have met eight times in the year ending 31 May 2002.

The Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (sub-section food and toxicological safety) is a regulatory committee composed of representatives of the member states and chaired by a representative of the Commission. The UK is normally represented by officials of the Food Standards Agency. The annual cost of its work to public funds could be calculated only at disproportionate cost, although travel and subsistence costs totalled approximately £5,000, part of which was reimbursed by the Commission. The committee is currently considering a number of issues including food labelling, the authorisation of food additives, and contaminants in the food chain. Minutes and current agendas of the committee's meetings can be found on the European Commission's website.

Together with member states, the Commission is currently conducting a review to bring legislation on the conduct of comitology committees into line with Council Decision 1999/468/EC, to


As an obligation to this Decision, the Commission undertook to publish an annual report on the working of committees. The first report was deposited in the Libraries of both Houses on 26 February 2002 (Cm (2001) 783 Final).

As part of the review process, the UK Government have encouraged the Commission to produce and maintain an electronic database of every comitology committee, its agendas and recent actions, to be accessible through its website.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the mandate of the EU Committee for the adaptation to scientific and technical progress of the directive on the quality of fresh water is; how many times it has met over the last 12 months; when it is next due to meet; what the United Kingdom representation on it is; whether experts nominated by the Scottish Executive (a) have been and (b) are members of it; and if she will make a statement. [62918]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the answer given to the hon. Member for Buckingham (Mr. Bercow) on 22 May 2002, Official Report, column 323W.

At present there are no plans for the Committee to meet. UK representation varies according to the agenda for each meeting and may include members of the Scottish Executive and other devolved Administrations where there are items of sufficient interest.

Foot and Mouth

Mr. Breed: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment has been made of the risk to public health from the long-term storage of meat and bonemeal. [58054]

Mr. Morley: In June 1996 the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) issued guidance on the handling, transportation and eventual disposal of waste material from cattle. This covered meat and bonemeal (MBM) and concluded that there was no

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epidemiological evidence to suggest that this material presented a risk to any of the trades exposed to it, subject to them taking similar precautions to the handling of any dusty material. No risk to public health was identified.

All MBM generated from cattle slaughtered under the over-30-month slaughter scheme (OTMS) is stored in waste management licensed sites. OTMS MBM is currently being incinerated (with energy recovery) at plants approved by the Environment Agency and it is anticipated that stocks will be significantly reduced within the next two years.

Mr. Lidington: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement about her Department's handling of claims for compensation, other than compensation for loss of livestock, arising out of foot and mouth disease. [61496]

Mr. Morley: The Department established a unit in May 2001 to handle all miscellaneous claims against the Department arising from the outbreaks of foot and mouth disease (FMD). Over 2,000 claims requiring investigation have been referred to the unit which has so far responded with a decision in over 1,800 cases.

Most of the claims have come from farmers and businesses that were affected in some way by the outbreaks. Their grounds for making a claim against the Department varied considerably. They have included issues raised by farmers who were directly affected by the disease and whose livestock were compulsorily slaughtered, to issues raised by farmers, businesses and other members of the public who said they had been affected by, for example, nuisance caused by carcase disposal operations, loss of business/income as a result of movement restrictions and other losses they attributed to the measures taken to control and eradicate the disease.

Statutory compensation is paid only in respect of animals which have been slaughtered as a result of the disease; and property, which has been seized or destroyed in order to prevent the spread of the disease. There is no statutory provision for payment of compensation for other losses caused by the outbreaks, and there are no plans to introduce such payments. No Government could commit themselves to insure farmers and businesses against the cost of all the losses resulting, directly or indirectly, from the outbreaks of the disease or the action taken to deal with them.

We respond to every claim on the facts but are clear that Government cannot be the insurer of last resort nor pay for all losses consequent of FMD.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from how many farms culled during 2001's foot and mouth epidemic samples were taken and tested in a laboratory. [62257]

Mr. Morley: Of 10,509 affected premises, 2,370 had samples taken for testing in a laboratory.

Mr. Luff: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs from how many of the farms culled as contiguous culls during 2001's foot and mouth epidemic samples were taken and tested in the laboratory. [62258]

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Mr. Morley: Of the 3,364 contiguous premises and 206 infected premises which previously had a status of contiguous premises, 215 and 167 respectively had samples taken for testing in a laboratory.


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