April 19 - 25 ~ Hansard for April 22
The Minister for the Environment (Mr. Elliot Morley): The Government are accepting the advice that there are no reasons not to support the application by Syngenta for approval under the European novel foods regulations for sweetcorn from genetically modified maize line Bt11.http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/cm040422/debtext/40422-04.htm
Joan Ruddock : Is my hon. Friend aware that the Belgian Government, the French Government and the Austrian Government have all raised serious concerns about the scientific testing of this sweetcorn, which is designed for human consumption, and its safety? As that is the case, how can he support the marketing of this product when it has been tested under outdated and inadequate novel foods regulation, given that a much more rigorous testing regime has just become law in the EU? .....
Mr Morley :....We have made it clear that we will consult stakeholders on options for providing compensation for any economic losses suffered by non-GM farmers through no fault of their own. We are also considering the issue of liability for environmental damage.
Mr. Luff : I am grateful for that helpful response from the Minister. However, why did the Government engage in a shallow procedural trick to stop the vote on the Bill introduced by my hon. Friend the Member for Bexhill and Battle (Gregory Barker)? I accept that the Government wanted to oppose it, but surely a debate would have been helpful. I understand that there is a prospect in the near future of a debate in Government time on GM crops. If such a debate takes place, will the Minister address the issues at much greater length than he can during a parliamentary question and answer?
Mr. Morley: I can certainly confirm that a commitment was given that there would be an opportunity for a debate on GM crops in Government time, and that commitment is being honoured. I look forward to that debate, which will give all Members an opportunity to raise whatever aspect of the issue they choose.
boundaries for the single farm payment
Ben Bradshaw: "... she made a written statement to the House this morning. It changes the boundaries for the single farm payment from two regions—severely disadvantaged areas and non-SDA—to moorland within SDAs, the rest of SDAs, and non-SDA. That change has the support of all the main interested organisations, including the NFU, the Country Land and Business Association, the National Beef Association, the National Sheep Association, the Tenant Farmers Association, the dairy producers, and organisations such as the National Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and the Association of National Park Authorities.
Matthew Green (Ludlow) (LD): : For once, I want to congratulate the Government on listening to farming organisations. I am grateful that they have taken a rational and sensible decision in this matter. I also congratulate the farming organisations that have managed to get together to speak with one voice for the industry. In particular, the NFU in my area did a wonderful job in keeping SDA farmers closely informed and aware of developments. ...
...Mr. Bradshaw: As I said in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Sherwood (Paddy Tipping), we are confident that the payments will be made in time. Over the next two weeks, the Government will write to every farmer and farming business in the country to explain how we have decided to implement CAP reform. The payments will be made, starting next year, as the Government proposed. ."
Mr Michael Jack (Fylde) (Con): "...What do the Government intend to do to get a UK oil seed rape-based biodiesel industry off the ground?"
Mr. Morley: The right hon. Gentleman knows that, apart from the 20p per litre subsidy on biofuels, there is a range of other subsidies, such as that for growing biofuels on set-aside land under the common agricultural policy regime. I agree that there is a role for biofuels, both bioethanol and biodiesel. We are reviewing the effects that the measures have had. They have certainly had a great effect on the reuse of vegetable oils and their conversion into biodiesel. That is helpful, and I should like to see it developed further. We shall keep the matter under review."
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Mr. Ben Bradshaw): Ministers regularly meet farmers and their representatives and bovine TB often features in those discussions. I recently received a delegation of Gloucestershire farmers, as well as visiting a farm affected by TB in my home county, Devon. Farmers have also been represented at each of the regional TB strategy workshops, which we are holding as part of the consultation on the review of the TB strategy.
Mr. Osborne : If the Minister came to Cheshire, he would know that dairy farmers there want the Government to stop dragging their feet and get a grip on the bovine TB problem. Can he predict when a policy will be implemented and whether it will take Professor Godfray's findings into account?
Mr. Bradshaw: The policy is being reviewed and we will take those findings into account. We are listening, not least to a delegation from Cheshire that advocated a number of extra measures, such as pre-movement and post-movement testing, to prevent the spread of TB to areas that currently have a relatively low level of infection, such as Cheshire. We are consulting on those measures and my officials would be pleased to receive ideas or representations from either the hon. Gentleman or representatives of the farming industry in his constituency.
Mr. James Plaskitt (Warwick and Leamington) (Lab): Last week, I discussed that exact problem with Warwickshire farmers, who are concerned about the risks and the slow progress towards a solution. Is the Minister confident that adequate veterinary resources are in place to deliver pre-movement testing in a timely and cost-effective way?
Sir Nicholas Winterton (Macclesfield) (Con): Bovine TB is extremely serious—it is taken very seriously in dairy areas of the United Kingdom—and I fully support the views expressed by my hon. Friend the Member for Tatton (Mr. Osborne). A number of farmers in my constituency are becoming increasingly concerned about when the Government review will be concluded and when the Government will make recommendations for action. Will the Minister state the cost of bovine TB?
Mr. Bradshaw: In the past year, bovine TB cost the taxpayer £74 million. The cost includes not only compensation, which is about half that figure, but the substantial sums of money that the Government commit to research into vaccines and to the badger culling trials. We recognise that the problem is incredibly serious for the farming industry—the difficulty is that there are no magic wand solutions, as some in this House and the media seem to think.
Mr. Owen Paterson (North Shropshire) (Con): I think that the farmer who the Minister mentioned is Mr. Tony Yewdall from Devon, who is in despair today as he awaits the results of Monday's tuberculin test. He has lost 48 of his pedigree Guernsey cattle. He effectively runs a closed herd, and has brought in only three animals in the past year. He has experienced a very large increase in his badger population and wrote to the Minister asking for a licence to remove or have badgers removed under section 10(2)(a) of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, which was passed by the last Conservative Government to stop the disgusting practice of badger baiting. The Minister kindly replied to him, saying that he would not issue licences
"except in truly exceptional circumstances"—Mr. Speaker: Order. I will not allow such a long supplementary. It is unfair to the House—there are other Members. Let the Minister try to answer.
Mr. Bradshaw: I did indeed spend about half a day with Mr. Yewdall and his family and we examined every possible way of avoiding the necessity of culling his cattle before they calved. I recognised that it was a very distressing experience for him. I have to say, however, that the very strong, unanimous veterinary advice that I received said that it would set a dangerous precedent to make an exception in this case and that it would make further infection on his farm and on neighbouring farms worse.
If the hon. Gentleman has changed Conservative party policy, as he has been quoted in some of the media as having done, so that the Conservative party would now license individual farmers to cull badgers, he should come clean and say so.