Select Committee on Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 114 - 119)




  114. Gentlemen, we apologise for keeping you waiting but, as you will appreciate, foot and mouth disease a) is a difficult issue and b) you would not be here if we had not had it. So in a sense you have sprung fully armed from it.

  (Sir Don Curry) I may want to challenge that, Chairman.

  115. You have been given the job to decide between now and Christmas what the future of farming is, which demonstrates that either it must be dead easy or that you are not going to do it in any case, so there is either no rocket science involved or the rocket science is beyond anybody. Would you like to give us a progress report of how you are getting on with this little task of yours?
  (Sir Don Curry) Thank you, Chairman, ladies and gentlemen. Incidentally, I think this study would have taken place with or without foot and mouth disease because the future of food and farming is an issue which is of great concern to the industry at the present time and to the Government, and it was in the Party Manifesto before the Election. I think we are making very good progress. We are right in the heart of our consultation programme, deep in consultation. We have just concluded the written consultation process. The closing date was last Friday but submissions are still appearing and we have had over 1,000 responses to that written consultation process. We are visiting the six regions of England. We have completed two of these visits to the North East and the North West, and there is a visit to the South East on Friday, and the other regions next week and the week after. They have so far proved very helpful indeed and given regional representatives an opportunity to express their views and for us to understand the specific character of each region and the concerns that exist there. We are meeting a whole range of specific stakeholder groups in London and we are part way through that process too. So we are gathering a great deal of information and views and we have commissioned a considerable amount of work using other bodies who have been very willing to help to add to our knowledge, so we have a very good understanding of the issues and can begin to put a report together, hopefully within the timescale.

  Chairman: Are your members sturdy, independent-minded people looking at the interests from above with total neutrality, or are they people representing a particular lobby within industry arguing for their lobby? There are an awful lot of the usual suspects on it, if I may say so.

Mr Todd

  116. Including yourself!
  (Sir Don Curry) Indeed. The membership was predetermined. I am sure you will be aware of that.


  117. What are you saying; you did not choose it?
  (Sir Don Curry) Absolutely. I did not select the members, but I have to say had I had an opportunity to select I could not have done a better job because we have a group of independent, Commission members who were not appointed to represent particular sectors, but who were appointed for their individual qualities, knowledge and experience, and the interaction, the collective approach to this is working very well indeed. So I can say nothing other than the team is working well.

Mr Todd

  118. Will the submissions that have been sent to you be published?
  (Sir Don Curry) We are publishing a list of all the main submissions on our web site and we want to have as open a process as possible. We have a web site and everything will be as transparent as possible. We will list on the web site all the submissions we have received and anyone who wishes to have the full submission from anyone will have that submission available to them. However, the task of downloading over 1,000 submissions onto the web site is a huge one and we believe that it is going to be too time consuming within the time.

  119. Your regional meetings; how do you select who goes to those? How are they promoted?
  (Sir Don Curry) We are using government regional offices and they are planning the process of our regional visits. They are then approaching organisations within each region to ask whether they would like to send a representative to our meetings. The meetings are made known publicly. Knowledge of those meetings taking place is available on our web site and is being made available via each region, and any individual can approach the region and ask if they could attend that meeting. We are not excluding anyone from attending those meetings and we are encouraging organisations, whether they be trade associations or the supportive organisations for our industry, if they wish to attend. They are certainly very welcome and we would encourage them to attend.

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