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Horses: Artificial Insemination

Lord Morris of Manchester asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: We agree with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons that artificial insemination of horses may be undertaken by trained and competent lay persons. This will require an exemption order under the Veterinary Surgeons Act and separate legislation under the Animal Health and Welfare Act 1984 laying down welfare and disease control measures. This matter is still under discussion with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons.

Bone-in Beef

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Donoughue: The Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee (SEAC) reviewed its assessment of the risk of BSE infectivity in the dorsal root ganglia and bone marrow of cattle when it met on 9 November. My right honourable friend the Minister has now received the Committee's scientific report, which was published on 30 November 1998.

The report is now being considered within government and in particular by the Chief Medical Officer, who will advise Ministers shortly. In addition, we need to take account of the potential effects of the EU Commission's recent proposal for Community-wide controls on Specified Risk Materials. Once this process of consideration is complete, there will be a further announcement about UK controls on bone-in beef.

Copies of SEAC's scientific assessment were placed in the Libraries of the House and are being made widely available, including on the Ministry's Internet website, with the purpose of informing debate.

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Intervention Board Executive Agency: Annual Report

Lord Peston asked Her Majesty's Government:

    When they expect to publish the Annual Report and Accounts 1996-97 for the Intervention Board Executive Agency.[HL123]

Lord Donoughue: My right honourable friend the Minister was pleased to advise that the Annual Report and Accounts 1996-97 have been published and copies have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

Agriculture: Support Package

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What percentage of the recent rescue package for agriculture announced by Lord Donoughue on 16 November comes from the European Union and how much comes from the United Kingdom's Government.[HL44]

Lord Donoughue: Of the components of the aid package, about 21 per cent. of the increase payable through Hill Livestock Compensatory Allowances will be EU-funded. The agrimoney compensation and the amounts paid under the Calf Processing Aid Scheme are fully EU-funded. However, the operation of the UK's Fontainebleau abatement means that the UK exchequer effectively contributes about 71 per cent. of the cost of EU payments.

Bio-Invasion: Preventive Measures

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the World Trade Organisation forbids states from taking pre-emptive measures to prevent bio-invasions, whether animal or vegetable.[HL11]

Lord Donoughue: The World Trade Organisation Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures gives WTO members the right to take measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health provided that these are based on scientific principles and are not maintained without sufficient scientific evidence. In cases where relevant scientific information is insufficient, members may provisionally adopt measures on the basis of available pertinent information, but must seek to obtain the additional information necessary for a more objective assessment of risk and review the measure accordingly within a reasonable period of time.

Sheepmeat Surplus

Lord Vinson asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether, in order to bring supply and demand into balance, they will seek to amend European Community provisions to allow sheep meat to be taken into intervention as is done with beef.[HL185]

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Lord Donoughue: No. Intervention is costly and wasteful. The UK Government have supported the use of private aided storage to remove sheepmeat which is surplus to requirements from the market.

Pelagic Freezer Trawling

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What changes they propose to make in the arrangements for the licensing of pelagic freezer trawlers and pair trawling.[HL140]

Lord Donoughue: In July 1998 Fisheries Departments issued a consultation document seeking comments on proposals to assist pelagic freezer trawling including the aggregation of whitefish with pelagic licences and pair trawling with vessels from other member states. The proposals attracted wide ranging comments from the fishing industry.

After careful consideration it has been decided to introduce a time limited scheme for the introduction or replacement of pelagic freezer trawlers. Any person may introduce a pelagic freezer trawler into the UK fleet by aggregating Category A whitefish licences and/or category A pelagic trawler licences with existing Category A pelagic freezer trawler or purse seine licences or licence entitlements, provided:

    (i) proposals to introduce or replace a pelagic freezer trawler are notified in writing to Fisheries Departments by 28 February 1999;

    (ii) at least 40 per cent. of the vessel capacity units (VCUs) of the incoming vessel are covered by licences or licence entitlements from pelagic freezer trawlers or purse seiners;

    (iii) the tonnage and engine power of any incoming vessel must be no greater than the total tonnage and the total engine power of the vessels from which its licence entitlements derive;

    (iv) the incoming vessel is registered by the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen and licensed by one of the Fisheries Departments by 30 June 2001.

A capacity penalty will only be payable on that part of the capacity of the incoming vessel which is not covered by Category A pelagic freezer or purse seine licences; that penalty will be 20 per cent.

In submitting proposals to introduce or replace a pelagic freezer trawler, the prospective owner will have to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of Fisheries Departments, a genuine intention to pursue pelagic freezer trawling and access to sufficient fishing opportunities to support the operation of the incoming vessel. Any effort expended by the new vessel would count towards existing effort targets. Consequently any pelagic effort allocated to producer organisations or other groups to cover an incoming vessel's activities could only amount to the allocation for the existing freezer vessel it replaced and/or the fishing opportunities linked to any other pelagic licences used in the licence transaction. No additional effort would be available as a result of the aggregation of whitefish licences.

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For the time being the prohibition on pair trawling with vessels from other member states will remain in place. The prohibition will, however, be reviewed in the light of the new rules to regulate transshipment and joint fishing operations which the Commission is expected to draw up following changes in the EU's control regulation for fisheries.

These arrangements, which take effect immediately, are being notified to all holders of pelagic freezer trawler and purse seine licences.

Fishing Vessel Engine Power

Lord Williams of Elvel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are being made for registration and licensing of the maximum continuous engine power of fishing vessels.[HL141]

Lord Donoughue: On 17 December last year my honourable friend the Parliamentary Secretary announced that Fisheries Departments planned to introduce from 1 Janaury 1999 phased arrangements for recording maximum continuous engine power on fishing vessel licences.

Following that announcement, the arrangements for the recording of maximum continuous engine power have been the subject of detailed consideration by Fisheries Departments, the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions, and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA). Since the fishing vessel licensing regime operated by Fisheries Departments is dependent on vessel characteristics as registered by the Registrar of Shipping and Seamen, part of MCA, parallel changes will be introduced in the arrangements for registering fishing vessel engine power. These changes have also been discussed with representatives of the National Federation of Fishermen's Organisations, the Northern Ireland Fishermen's Federation and the Scottish Fishermen's Federation as part of a wider review of UK fishing vessel licensing.

We are now writing to advise all fishing vessel owners and licence holders of the new arrangements.

From 1 July 1999 new registrations, re-registrations, and changes in existing registrations affecting ownership or vessel characteristics (engine power, length or breadth), and the licensing of such vessels, are to be based on the declaration and recording of maximum continuous engine power. The permanent derating of engines will be permitted but vessel owners will have to provide a signed statement or certificate from the engine manufacturer or a suitably qualified marine engineer setting out the steps that have been taken to achieve such a modification. De-rated engine power will only be registered and licensed where the MCA and Fisheries Departments are satisfied that the modifications are permanent.

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The Merchant Shipping (Registration of Ships) Regulations 1993 will be amended to provide specifically for the registration of maximum continuous or permanently modified engine power.

From 1 January 2000 the maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power of vessels registered before 1 July 1999 will be taken to be that declared on the Certificate of Registry and shown on the fishing vessel licence. When vessels are registered between 1 January and 30 June 1999, owners will wish to take appropriate action to ensure that they declare the full power of their vessels (maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power) because this is the basis on which subsequent enforcement will take place.

Checks will be undertaken from 1 Janaury 2000 to ensure that the apparent installed engine power of fishing vessels is consistent with the registered and licensed engine power. Where the apparent installed power is greater than the registered and licensed power, a fishing vessel's licence will become invalid and a new licence will not be issued until the owner acquires additional vessel capacity units (VCUs) to cover the deficit in engine power or undertakes permanent de-rating of the vessel's engine. However the owners of vessels registered before 1 Janaury 1999 will have until 31 December 2004 to rectify any anomalies in their registered engine power if they provide a written undertaking specifying the steps they are taking.

To assist the implementation of the new arrangements, a capacity penalty will only be payable on the additional VCUs needed to cover the discrepancy between apparent installed and registered engine power, provided no other changes are made to the characteristics of the vessel. A 20 per cent. capacity penalty will operate unless the adjustment to engine power is made before 31 December 2001, in which circumstances the penalty will be 10 per cent. For this purpose it will be permissible for vessel owners to split VCUs and licenses between two or more vessels.

The arrangements set out above will apply to the licensing of fishing vessels wherever they operate. However, from 1 January 1999 vessels applying for licences for the first time in respect of fishing opportunities in external and other waters will be expected to satisfy Fisheries Departments that the maximum continuous or permanently derated engine power has been declared and appropriately licensed.

Finally, as announced last December, the current licensing arrangements for fishing vessels are being reviewed jointly by Fisheries Departments and representatives of the fishing industry. This announcement is, therefore, without prejudice to any further changes that are recommended in licensing, including capacity penalties for licence transfers and aggregations.

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