AGRICULTURE SELECT COMMITTEE: IMPLEMENTATION
OF THE COMMITTEE'S RECOMMENDATIONS
The Bern Convention
Recommendation yy: ... We find it astonishing
that MAFF placed their Ministers in such an embarrassing position
... we await with interest the outcome of the Government's defence
of its policy.
56. In December 1999 Bern Contracting Parties agreed
that the badger culling trial did not contravene the Convention.
The Government submitted an annual report on its TB strategy to
the Bern Convention in September 2000 and its Secretariat made
it available to contracting parties. Delegates to the annual meeting
of the Convention, held from 27 November to 1 December 2000, noted
the paper without discussion. Copies have been placed in the Library
of the House.
Recommendation zz: The withdrawal of its leaflet
on farm husbandry practices in connection with badgers and bovine
TB demonstrates MAFF's awareness of its shortcomings, but to do
nothing to determine what better advice should be offered to farmers
57. In considering the report from the Independent
Husbandry Panel, the MAFF TB in Cattle and Farm Bio-security guidance
issued in July 1999 will be reviewed. This is expected to identify
where further guidance material covering different husbandry practices
may be useful.
Recommendation aaa: ... we are not convinced that
the industry as a whole has done enough in the past to address
the multifactoral nature of the bovine TB problem and the possible
role played by husbandry practices in finding a solution.
58. The TB Forum which includes representatives from
farming, veterinary, welfare and conservation organisations is
helping find new ways to tackle the TB in cattle problem. The
Forum has considered a number of proposals for changes to present
TB in cattle controls, including:-
- restrictions on cattle movements between the
two stages of the tuberculin test,
- imposition of movement restrictions if herds
are not tested by the due date,
- a requirement to report the isolation of the
M. bovis organism in any mammalian tissue (other than human),
- provision of better information for cattle purchasers
about the TB status of cattle.
59. Sub-groups of the forum are looking at
the recommendations in the Husbandry Panel report and the use
of the gamma-interferon blood test to assist in the detection
of TB in cattle in Great Britain. A feasibility study on the use
of gamma-interferon as an adjunct to the tuberculin test was announced
by MAFF on 18 October 2000.
Recommendation bbb: We recommend that,
in consultation with the farming industry, MAFF and the Bourne
Group simplify TB99. The new questionnaire should then be subject
to a rigorous pilot exercise on farms and assessed for ease of
administrative handling before approval is given to a final version.
60. An amended TB99 has been drafted to take into
account comments received from SVS staff who administer the questionnaire
and those at the VLA who manage the database. The revised form
will gather a similar range of information; but the order of questions
has been changed to make it easier to manage at the successive
visits and some questions have been adapted to make them clearer.
The ISG is considering the proposed revision along with comments
from TB Forum members and other interested parties. The new version
should be ready for use in 2001.
Recommendation fff: We recognise that
within current spending limits set for the Ministry in the Comprehensive
Spending Review, national levels of compensation cannot be raised
to reflect consequential loss. However, we also note that the
Minister left open the possibility that the situation may be reconsidered.
62. Under the 2000 Spending Review, no extra money
was allocated to extend compensation to cover the consequential
losses arising from a TB herd incident. The TB Forum has received
a report seeking to quantify the losses experienced by farmers
subject to movement restrictions as a result of TB in the herd.
The Forum is also considering ways in which the impact of the
imposition of movement restrictions may be mitigated without increasing
the risk of increased TB spread and incidence (for example by
being more flexible in allowing movement of cattle into herds
under movement restrictions). In the context of the recent Classical
Swine Fever outbreak, a Government-Industry working party has
been established to review ways in which the farming industry
can take steps to insure itself against the commercial losses
which arise from action taken to eliminate exotic animal diseases.
Although the terms of reference for this review do not cover bovine
TB, its conclusions may have wider relevance for commercial risks
faced by the farming industry.
Short term action by Government
Recommendation ggg: We recommend that, at present,
no additional action should be taken outside the trial area ...
We ... urge the Government to give serious consideration to the
NFU's case, with a view to introducing a policy for the control
of localised bovine tuberculosis outbreaks in areas outside the
trial within the next twelve months.
63. A sub-group of the TB Forum, which included representatives
of farming and veterinary organisations, prepared a preliminary
discussion paper on a possible alternative strategy for the control
of bovine TB in cattle in areas away from the badger culling trials.
This paper included a suggestion for localised badger culling
under strictly defined circumstances. The paper did not represent
the official position of any of the organisations represented
on the TB Forum. The paper was discussed at a meeting of the full
TB Forum on 13 July 2000, and was strongly opposed by conservation
and animal welfare organisations. After an initial discussion
of the paper, Forum members were invited to submit written comments
on the paper ahead of the next Forum meeting on 19 October 2000.
At this time no decision has been taken to introduce badger culling
outside of trial areas. The Government is committed to seeing
through the badger culling trial in order to assess the impact
of culling on the incidence of TB in cattle.
Recommendation hhh: We recommend that the Minister
reconsiders his decision on including the date of the last TB
test in cattle passports.
64. As explained in the Government's progress report
of February 2000 the TB Forum did not support the suggestion of
showing TB status on the cattle passport. Putting the information
on cattle passports would provide no guarantee to a buyer that
the animal was free from TB at the time of purchase. At best it
would show when the animal was last tested. It could also lead
to delays in moving cattle as passports would need to be passed
to BCMS to have the data entered. It would require passports to
be redesigned and re-issued to allow the new data to be included.
The Government is implementing procedures to provide cattle purchasers
with better information on the TB status of cattle. The procedure
takes the form of a voluntary system where copies of the last
TB test results are passed to buyers on request.
Future policy options
Recommendation iii: We recommend that the Government
specify the criteria on which its sustainable policy on the control
of bovine TB will be judged and publish detailed objectives for
the policy in the short and the long-term. We also recommend that
MAFF undertake a statistical risk assessment of the possible policy
procedures, in conjunction with the Bourne Group and representatives
of all interested parties.
65. The Government is making progress on all elements
of its strategy to tackle TB in cattle. The main focus remains
on the regular testing of cattle herds and the associated controls,
which together with compensation payments will account for about
£26 million of the £45 million budget this year. In
addition, there is a comprehensive research programme, overseen
by the Independent Scientific Group, which includes work on vaccines,
on epidemiology, on disease transmission, on cattle husbandry,
and on other wildlife species, as well as the badger culling trial.
The Government is determined to find the scientific basis on which
to build a lasting policy to control TB in cattle. As stated in
the progress report issued in February 2000, policies will be
judged according to the impact on public health, on animal health
and welfare, on the environment and on the economy, in particular
the farming industry and public expenditure.
The Government has nothing to add to its response
in respect of the following:
Recommendations a, f, g, i, j, l, s, v, bb, pp, rr,
Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(1998-1999 Session): Sea Fishing
1. The Committee's Report on Sea Fishing was issued
on 27 July 1999 and the Government response published by the Committee
on 26 October 1999. Subsequently, there was a debate on the Government's
response on 2 December 1999. In March this year MAFF sent the
Committee a first update of progress made against the Report's
2. Progress has been possible in a number of areas
of interest to the Committee. The principal issues are as follows.
3. Discussions have begun with UK fishing organisations
to establish a strategy for the UK sea fish industry and have
received considerable support. A draft strategy is to be produced
by Fish Industry Forum and the Sea Fish Industry Authority by
early 2001 (recommendations 1 and 2).
4. An EU-wide framework for the collection of data
on the economics of the sea fish industry has been agreed, laying
down requirements for the periodic production of estimates of
the costs and earnings of the fishing fleet and processing industry
5. The timing of the TAC recommendations has been
discussed with ICES and agreement has been reached to advance
the publication of the ACFM advice by at least two weeks in 2001
6. Consultation with the industry has started on
a new programme of training courses on vessel safety. It is proposed
to make these courses free to fishermen through the allocation
of grant aid under the structural fund (recommendation 18).
7. The sandeel closure agreed in December 1999 has
been extended to 2001 and 2002. Details for the Irish Sea cod
recovery programme were agreed in early 2000 and additional technical
conservation measures have been developed to apply from January
2001 (recommendation 25).
8. Specific action has been taken to provide for
a fast-track procedure for the transfer of licence entitlements
between fishermen (recommendations 32-35).
9. The following paragraphs comment briefly on recent
action and other developments relating to the Report's 58 specific
Recommendation 1: Our own conclusions based on
this inquiry suggest five essential objectives of any fisheries
management system. It should:
- promote sustainability of resources to safeguard
the long term success of both the stocks and the industry:
- ensure that the stocks are exploited in the most
efficient way, so that fishermen are not drawn into a race for
- encourage the profitability and competitiveness
of the fishing industry from vessel to retailer;
- minimise both the cost to the public purse and
the level of Government intervention; and
- minimise the complexity of regulation while maximising
the responsibility for that process given to the industry consistent
with securing compliance.
In some of these respects we are not our own masters,
being dependent, particularly for the second, on European decisions
under the Common Fisheries Policy. Yet there are other important
criteria which the Government should consider, such as rationalising
the fleet, securing a way of life for the more vulnerable fishing
communities where there are few alternative sources of employment,
and maintaining fishing centres with the necessary concentration
of services and facilities. These depend upon the Government first
deciding on the type of industry it wishes to see and the level
of intervention it wishes to retain. We support the concept of
regulation by the industry itself as far as is consistent with
the acknowledgement that there is a common interest in protecting
the sea and its resources. However our overriding concern is that
the Government establish a settled, transparent long-term strategy
for management of fisheries which takes into account the competitive
position compared to other EU countries and within which the industry
can plan, confident that any necessary changes will apply equally
and be introduced fairly, with proper consultation and with regard
to clear and agreed objectives. There is a very bright future
for the UK sea fishing industry and the Government has to play
its part in helping to bring this about (paragraph 3).
Recommendation 2: We recommend that the Government
establish for the first time a clear, agreed and coherent strategy
for the management and development of the UK fishing industry
which will unite all concerned in working towards greater efficiency
and competitiveness (paragraph 193).
10. The Government has begun discussions with fishing
organisations to establish a strategy for the UK sea fish industry,
a proposal that has received considerable support from the industry.
MAFF has invited the Fish Industry Forum, with the support of
the Sea Fish Industry Authority (SFIA) to take the lead in producing
a draft of a strategy by early 2001. This will provide the basis
for consultation with the sea fish industry. A strategy for the
Scottish sea fish industry has been drafted by the Scottish Executive
in consultation with the Scottish industry.
Recommendation 3: We recommend that the Government
commission regular research into the profitability of the sea
fishing industry for use in determining management policy (paragraph
11. An EU-wide framework for the collection of data
on the economics of the sea fish industry was agreed by the Council
in June 2000. This lays down requirements for the periodic production
of estimates of the costs and earnings both of the fishing fleet
and of the processing industry. The SFIA has hitherto undertaken
economic surveys of the fleet and it currently undertaking a survey
of the processing industry. The Government will discuss with SFIA
the scope for building on their existing work to meet the provisions
of the EU regulation and thus to strengthen the statistical base
for determining management policy.
Recommendation 4: We recommend that the Government
encourage ICES to present its advice on TACs in a more generally
comprehensible form and to improve its efforts to communicate
the advice to the fishing industry (paragraph 19).
12. As outlined in the update provided in March 2000,
we have drawn this and other related recommendations to the attention
of ICES. They were discussed at a meeting between ICES scientists
and fisheries managers in London in February 2000. The ICES annual
conference in September discussed the report of the meeting. ICES
agreed to reconsider its draft Strategic Plan so as to give more
prominence to the importance of its work on fish stock assessments
and to the need for improved dialogue with the industry. Fishing
representatives were invited to the annual meeting and contributed
to the Open Forum on the Strategic Plan and elsewhere. ICES is
also recruiting an information officer.
Recommendation 5: We recommend the formal inclusion
of economic analysis of the implications of TACs and national
quota allocations at an earlier stage in the annual cycle. However,
we caution strongly against the temptation to use economic and
social criteria to "invent fish" in the interests of
the political convenience either of Ministers or the industry
13. We have drawn this to the Commission's attention.
Recommendation 6: We recommend that the Government
support the European Commission's proposals for earlier notification
of the recommendations for TACs so that the fishing industry has
more time to prepare for changes in quota. In the longer term,
we recommend that TACs be set on a multi-annual basis where stocks
are not threatened (paragraph 21).
14. The timing of the TAC recommendations was discussed
with ICES in February 2000. For 2001, agreement has been reached
between ICES and the EU Commission to advance the date of the
ACFM recommendations by at least two weeks. The possibility of
multi-annual TACs is being actively discussed under the French
Presidency and we are exploring with CEFAS the options for further
long-term management strategies. At their 1999 annual consultations,
EC and Norway agreed further multi-annual management strategies
for jointly managed stocks. These have been agreed for North Sea
herring, cod, haddock, saithe and plaice and work is to continue
on North Sea whiting. Multi-annual management strategies have
also been agreed by EC/Norway/Faroe Islands for the mackerel stock
and by EC/Iceland/Norway/Russia/Faroe Islands for Atlanto-Scandian
Recommendation 7: Whilst we endorse the precautionary
approach to fisheries management, we believe that much more planning,
consultation and forethought should have been put into its implementation
by the ACFM. As it is, we deplore the damage done to the relationship
between scientists and fishermen by the abrupt introduction of
this method and we recommend that the Government ensure that any
future changes in the approach, as are inevitable as the system
beds down, be made only once they have been fully explained to
the industry and its views taken into consideration (paragraph
15. See comments on recommendation 4.
Recommendation 8: We believe that with devolution
altering the management of some of the programmes it would be
wise to review arrangements for co-ordination of fisheries research
in the UK to make sure duplication does not occur. We recommend
that this be done (paragraph 28).
16. This was discussed at the Fisheries Science Customer
Group in February 2000 and the Customer Group will retain its
key role in co-ordinating UK fisheries research.
Recommendation 9: We were reassured by the evidence
of international collaboration between scientists. Given the international
concern for the sustainability of stocks and the recognition that
the principles of fisheries management extend beyond domestic
boundaries, it is vital that scientists work together to improve
their knowledge of the sea and to develop the least environmentally
damaging methods of catching fish. We are pleased that the UK
is playing such a strong role in collaborative research (paragraph
17. As noted in the recommendation, collaborative
effort is already being undertaken.
Recommendation 10: We recommend that MAFF guarantee
funding for research into fish stocks of at least current levels
for the remainder of this Comprehensive Spending Review period
and that it give an undertaking that funding for such research
will remain a priority thereafter (paragraph 35).
18. There is no new action required.
Recommendation 11: We recommend that multi-species
research be applied more thoroughly in waters around the United
Kingdom other than the North Sea (paragraph 38).
19. As outlined in the update provided in March,
we will take action to address this recommendation subject to
resources being available.
Recommendation 12: We believe that it should be
part of the role of CEFAS and FRS to assist in the development
of new fishing grounds through proper stock assessments. We also
believe that as part of that research the scientists should ensure
that the environmental impact of fishing for new species or in
new grounds should be taken fully into account (paragraph 39).
20. Our position remains that we will consult industry
on opportunities for the development of new fisheries, with advice
Recommendation 13: We recommend that MAFF commission
a study of the research needed to fulfil the UK's obligations
on stock assessments over the next ten years, taking into account
developing fisheries, the existing number of precautionary TACs
and new, more accurate methods of conducting such research. We
further recommend that this study include comparisons with the
funding and scope of CEFAS's counterparts in the other EU and
ICES member states and that it highlight areas where further collaboration
might be encouraged (paragraph 41).
21. There is no new action required.
Recommendation 14: We recommend that MAFF consult
with the scientific community and the fishing industry on the
best way to establish a permanent formal procedure for collaboration
and consultation on fisheries research. We further recommend that
MAFF encourage its counterparts in Scotland, Northern Ireland
and Wales to participate in developing such procedures (paragraph
22. A major presentation of its research effort was
given by CEFAS to the industry on 21 June 2001. The industry has
been invited to suggest how it wishes to develop this and other
fora for keeping in touch with scientific developments.
Recommendation 15: We conclude that, although
in the present circumstances it would not be appropriate to charge
the industry for research, fishermen's organisations should be
encouraged to invest in their own scientific projects and be assisted
in applications for European funding for this purpose (paragraph
23. As outlined in the update provided in March 2000,
we have drawn this recommendation to the attention of the NFFO.
Recommendation 16: We recommend that the Government
fully support any proposals for stronger sanctions on Member States
to ensure compliance with MAGP targets and for greater transparency
as to the cost of restructuring measures to public funds in the
different Member States (paragraph 57).
24. We took action to make this the basis of MAGP
policy and the structures regulation adopted in November 1999.
The Government will apply this approach in the forthcoming review
of the MAGP.
Recommendation 17: We conclude that the linkage
between an ageing fleet and an unsafe fleet is unproven but we
recommend that further research be conducted in this area and
the results published and distributed to the fishing industry.
Safety at sea is vitally important. The existing data do not sustain
a case for the industry to be given public money for building
new vessels on safety grounds alone (paragraph 63).
25. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency and the Marine
Accident Investigation Branch will ensure that there is continuing
analysis of data on the causes of accidents to fishing vessels,
and that the results are regularly discussed with industry representatives
in the Fishing Industry Safety Group.
Recommendation 18: We recommend that the vessel
safety equipment grant scheme be reinstated (paragraph 71).
26. The Government believes that the scheme which
was closed in 1999, providing grant aid for safety equipment which
was already mandatory, was not effective in reducing the number
of accidents. The Government is encouraging the industry to develop
a stronger safety culture and has begun to consult the industry
on a new programme of training courses. Fisheries Departments
propose to make these courses free to fishermen through the allocation
of grant aid under the fisheries structural fund for the period
2001-2002 and 2003-2004. Fisheries Ministers are also considering
with the industry a grant scheme to support trials of innovative
equipment which will bring safety benefits.
Recommendation 19: We have sympathy with the complaints
of the industry about the money received by their counterparts
in other EU states for building new vessels. We support the Government
in its attempts to tighten up the rules for such assistance. Nevertheless,
we do not recommend that the Government adopt an industry-wide
scheme to aid the construction of new fishing vessels, whether
or not under a scrap and build approach (paragraph 75).