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Lord Donoughue: The rules and procedures governing Crown Servants (including staff of the Pesticides Safety Directorate), who wish to take up business appointments after leaving the service, are set out in Chapter 4.3 of the Civil Service Management Code. A copy of the code is available in the Library of the House.
Lord Donoughue: I am pleased to announce that the 1997-98 Annual Report and Accounts for the Pesticides Safety Directorate were laid before Parliament on 28 July. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Lord Donoughue: I am pleased to announce that the 1997-98 Annual Report and Accounts for the Meat Hygiene Service were laid before Parliament on 28 July. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Lord Donoughue: I am pleased to announce that the 1997-98 Annual Report and Accounts for the Veterinary Medicines Directorate were laid before Parliament on 28 July. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Lord Donoughue: I am pleased to announce that the 1997-98 Annual Report and Accounts for the Central Science Laboratory were laid before Parliament on 28 July. Copies are available in the Library of the House.
Lord Donoughue: 1.2 million calves have been processed under the scheme since April 1996. The UK has thus made the most significant contribution to reducing beef output in Europe. The obligation to operate this scheme or the Early Marketing Scheme for Veal Calves expires on 30 November 1998 and it seems unlikely that many member states will opt to slaughter young calves, that scheme alone being available thereafter on a voluntary basis.
Throughout its life in the UK, the Calf Processing Aid Scheme has been criticised from a number of quarters. It has also inflated the cost of calves for beef production to the detriment of beef finishers.
After widespread consultation with industry interests, my colleagues and I have decided that it would be inappropriate to maintain this scheme in the UK. Its continuation would distort calf prices in the short term and artificially constrain the production of home-reared beef in the medium term. It must be borne in mind that we will continue to make a very significant contribution to balancing the European Beef market by operating the Over Thirty Months Scheme for cattle, at very considerable expense to the UK Exchequer.
One element of the Commission's proposal is that before beef exports resume a cull of offspring of BSE cases should have been completed. The Government are anxious that this should not delay the renewal of exports. To this end, we announced on 29 July that from early August the culling of all offspring born on or after 1 August 1996 to BSE cases will begin on a voluntary basis. Details of how the voluntary cull will operate have been placed in the Library of the House.
Farmers will receive the market value for their animals, in some cases taken from a scale rather than individual valuations. These offspring will be slaughtered at the Government's expense. We believe that, with the active support of the NFU and other farming bodies, rapid progress can be made in tackling the cull.
Payments for offspring surrendered on a voluntary basis will rest on the sole authority of the Estimates and the confirming Appropriation Act. The voluntary cull will be superseded by a compulsory offspring cull as soon as agreement is reached in Brussels on the Date Based Export Scheme (DBES) and powers exist to make UK regulations. Farmers will be compensated for the market value of their animals under the compulsory cull on the same basis as the voluntary cull, ensuring equal treatment for owners of BSE cases' offspring whether slaughtered under the voluntary or compulsory phases of the cull.
SEAC's advice is that the UK's existing controls to protect the consumer are sufficient. Nonetheless, the Government believe that the prompt start of the offspring cull will minimise the time between agreement being reached on the DBES and exports resuming.
Lord Donoughue: The Government are pleased to announce that following on from the Prime Minister's exchange of letters with the President of the European Commission in June 1997, the Commission has now confirmed that our proposals for ensuring an economic link between UK flagged vessels and populations dependent on fisheries and related industries are compatible with Community Law.
(b) employing a crew of whom at least 50 per cent. are normally resident in a UK coastal area,
(c) incurring a given level of operating expenditure in the UK for goods and services provided in UK coastal areas,
(d) demonstrating an economic link by other means (including combinations of the above) providing sufficient benefit to populations dependent on fisheries and related industries.
Lord Donoughue: Since the Government came to office, we have been determined to encourage more farmers to convert to organic production. We have made more resources available for advice to help them and I am pleased to say that many more are realising the opportunities that organic farming can offer and are seeking to convert. However, conversion has costs and the additional returns cannot be realised immediately.
More support is justified for farmers during the conversion period. Subject to the agreement of the European Commission, it is the Government's intention to increase payment rates under the English scheme to those recommended in the review which we commissioned last year.
If organic farming is to become a mainstream option, it is important to encourage larger farms to convert. For this reason, we intend to go beyond the recommendations of that review and lift the 300 hectare limit on the area which can qualify for aid. We will also be going beyond the recommendations of the review by making the annual payment at the end of the first quarter, thus helping farmers' cash flow at a difficult time.
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