MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
FRIDAY 5 JULY 2002
HELD IN ROOM 135 PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Dr IRK Paisley MP MEP (Chairman)
Mr G Savage (Deputy Chairman)
Mr B Armstrong
Mr P J Bradley
Mr J Dallat
Mr B Douglas
Mr D Ford
Mr G Kane
Mr G McHugh
Mr P Doherty
Mr I Paisley Jnr
Mr P Moore
Miss J Adair
Mr S McCann
Mr J McCourt
The Deputy Chairman declared the meeting open in public session at 9.38 a.m. He advised the Committee that Mr Pat Doherty had replaced Mr Mick Murphy with effect from 1 July 2002.
1. Minutes of Proceedings on Friday 28 June 2002
1.1. Resolved: That the draft Minutes of Proceedings for 28 June were approved.
2. Matters Arising from the Meeting on 28 June 2002
2.1. Correspondence: Members noted receipt of correspondence by e-mail from the meeting on 28 June 2002.
2.2. DARD Business Strategy, SDAs & PSAs: Members noted correspondence from DARD regarding their Business Strategy, Service Delivery Agreement and Public Service Agreement.
2.3. Farm Subsidies - Draft Code of Practice: Members considered a draft Press Release endorsing the idea of a Code of Practice but highlighting the Committee's concerns on the implementation of DARD policy.
Resolved: That the Press Release be issued on publication, by DARD, of the Code of Practice.
Mr Dallat attended the meeting at 9.41 a.m. Mr Armstrong attended the meeting at 9.44 a.m.
2.4. Rural Stakeholders Forum: Members noted a Press Release from DARD regarding the first meeting of the Rural Stakeholders Forum.
Resolved: That a letter be sent to DARD seeking the names of the members of the Forum.
2.5. Review of Education and R&D in Agriculture: Members noted a letter from the Education and Learning Committee regarding their response to the above review. Members also noted a submission from Mr Jimmy Young providing comments on the report, a copy of the report's economic appraisal and a letter from the Minister regarding the Committee's decision to defer its response to the consultation exercise.
2.6. Rural Rate Relief Scheme: Members were advised that the Department of Finance and Personnel had not yet put forward a replacement scheme.
3. Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill: Draft Report
3.1. The draft report into the Fur Farming (Prohibition) Bill was brought up and read paragraph by paragraph.
Title page was read and agreed.
Committee remit and table of contents pages were read and agreed.
Paragraphs 1.1 - 1.7 were read and agreed.
Committee Consideration of Bill
Paragraphs 2.1 - 2.2 were read and agreed.
Consideration of the Policy & Principles of the Bill
Paragraphs 2.3 - 2.4 were read and agreed.
Consultation with the Public
Paragraphs 2.5 - 2.7 were read and agreed.
Consideration of the Detail of the Bill
Paragraphs 2.8 - 2.13 were read and agreed.
Final Consideration of the Bill
Paragraphs 2.14 - 2.17 were read and agreed.
Paragraph 2.18 was read, amended and agreed. The paragraph now reads:
The Committee considered the significant resource and legal implications against the possible effects of a forfeiture order relating to animals and equipment and, given the reported absence of fur farming in Northern Ireland, members agreed that they were content not to proceed with an amendment.
Paragraphs 2.19 - 2.21 were read and agreed.
Clause by Clause Deliberation
Paragraphs 3.1 - 3.2 were read and agreed.
Paragraph 4.1 was read and agreed.
Resolved: That the Report be the Report of the Committee and that the Committee orders it to be printed.
Resolved: That the minutes of evidence of meetings on 24 May 2002, 7 June 2002, 21 June 2002 and 28 June 2002 should be printed with the report.
Resolved: That lists of published and unpublished memoranda are approved and memoranda are to be included in the report according to these lists.
Resolved: That extracts from the Committee's Minutes of Proceedings relating to the report should be reported.
Mr Douglas attended the meeting at 9.54 a.m.
4. Statutory Rules
4.1. SR 225/2002 - Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Regulations (NI) 2002. The Committee, having discussed proposals for these regulations on 26 April 2002, formally considered this Rule.
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy Regulations (NI) 2002 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules' Report, has no objection to the Rule.
4.2. SR 210/2002 - Animal By-Products (Revocation) Regulations (NI) 2002. The Committee, having discussed proposals for these regulations on 17 November 2000, formally considered this Rule.
Question put and agreed:
That the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Animal By-Products (Revocation) Regulations (NI) 2002 and, subject to the Examiner of Statutory Rules' Report, has no objection to the Rule.
5. Meeting with the Minister
5.1. The Minister and officials attended the meeting at 10.02 a.m. to discuss Farm Subsidies, CAP Reform, Beef Carcase Dressing Specification and Executive Underspend. During discussions on the first three topics, declarations of interest were made by Messrs Armstrong, Bradley, Douglas, Kane, McHugh and Savage.
5.2. Farm Subsidies: The Minister was joined by Mr Michael Thompson. The Minister made an opening statement explaining the purpose of the Farm Subsidies Code of Practice and answered a variety of members' questions including the backlog in payments, the benefits of the bovine tracking system, the appeals process, suckler cow premiums and the possibility of written confirmation of payments made and payments outstanding.
The Chairman attended the meeting at 10.19 a.m.
5.3. Cap Reform: The Minister was joined by Mr Stanley McBurney. The Minister made an opening statement and answered a variety of members' questions including the July Agriculture Council, the decoupling of livestock payments, degressivity, modulation, compensation for cereal growers, protection for small farmers, co-operation with ministers in England, Scotland and Wales, the Vision Report, the advantages of a Northern Ireland executive office in Brussels and milk quotas.
Mr Ford left the meeting at 11.00 a.m.
5.4. Beef Carcase Dressing Specification: The Minister was joined by Mr William Campton in answering a variety of members' questions including the possibility of the specification becoming mandatory, reductions in payments to the farmers and market demand.
5.5. Executive Underspend: The Minister was joined by Mr Gerry Lavery. The Minister made an opening statement saying that there had been a lot of misunderstanding on this issue and that DARD had to err on the side of caution. Members then asked a variety of questions including the amount of resources set aside for a possible crisis such as Foot and Mouth, bad weather payments and benchmarking.
The Chairman thanked the Minister and officials and they left the meeting at 11.30 a.m. Mr Ford returned to the meeting at 11.31 a.m. at which time the Chairman adjourned the meeting. The meeting resumed at 11.45 a.m. The Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Messrs Armstrong, Bradley, Douglas, Ford and Kane were all present.
6. Closure of Youngs Bluecrest Processing Plant
6.1. A delegation from Newry and Mourne District Council and the Amalgamated Transport and General Workers Union attended the meeting at 11.46 a.m. to discuss the recent closure of the Youngs Bluecrest Processing Plant in Kilkeel. The delegation was joined at the table by Alan McCulla of Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation, representing the local catching sector. Councillor William Burns made an opening statement saying that the proposed withdrawal of Youngs had been a major blow to the area and would result in the loss of 143 jobs.
Mr Dallat returned to the meeting at 11.50 a.m. Mr McHugh returned to the meeting at 11.54 a.m.
6.2. The delegation answered members' questions on relocation, grant aid, monopolies legislation, the response from Youngs to local pressure, the importation of raw material, value for money appraisals, the leaseholds of the closed factories and the possibility of another company buying the factories from Youngs.
Resolved: That a letter be sent to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, through the ETI Committee, informing them of the initiation of a task force consisting of members of the Agriculture Committee and members of Newry and Mourne District Council, the trade union and fishermen's representatives. The letter would also outline the Committee's 3 main concerns: the effects on the catching sector, the possibility of public money displacing local jobs and the retention of processing and the skilled workforce in Kilkeel.
Resolved: That a letter also be sent to Brid Rodgers asking her to work closely with the ETI Minister, and others, to protect the workforce at Kilkeel.
Mr Armstrong returned to the meeting at 12.33 p.m. The Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 12.35 p.m. Mr Douglas left the meeting at 12.36 p.m.
7. Fisheries Grant Schemes
7.1. DARD officials Mr Noel Cornick and Mr Peter Toner attended the meeting at 12.37 p.m. to discuss the Department's proposals to launch a further four schemes under the Fisheries Sub Programme of the Northern Ireland Building Sustainable Prosperity Programme. Mr Cornick made an opening statement and officials answered a variety of members' questions including the retention of documentary evidence, improvements to ports, economic appraisals, the appeals process and process and marketing grants. Officials undertook to make changes to the scheme's guidance notes regarding economic appraisal, appeals and document retention. They also agreed to consider additional points to be forwarded by the Committee, and to provide the Committee with copies of the amended guidance notes.
Mr Kane left the meeting at 12.55 p.m. Mr Bradley left the meeting at 12.58 p.m.
Resolved: That the Committee is content for DARD to proceed with the proposals subject to the agreed undertakings.
8. Committee Consideration of Fisheries Issues
8.1. Officials remained at the meeting to assist the Committee in their consideration of papers on the Review of the EC Common Fisheries Policy and papers on the Review of the Fishing Industry in Northern Ireland.
Resolved: That the Committee request a summary of responses to the consultation papers prior to any further meeting with officials on these subjects.
The Chairman thanked the officials and they left the meeting at 1.08 p.m. Mr Bradley returned to the meeting at 1.09 p.m.
9. Prevention of Pollution of Water, Air and Soil
9.1. Members noted two draft Codes of Good Agricultural Practice.
Resolved: That the Committee seek a summary of responses to consultation before returning to this issue after the summer recess.
10. Early Retirement Scheme for Farmers
10.1. Members noted a near-final draft of the paper by Kevin Pelan, Assembly Researcher, on the measures taken by EU states into approaches to dealing with early retirement. Staff were instructed to issue any Department papers, received during recess, to members with a view to discussions early in the next session.
Mr Ford left the meeting at 1.15 p.m.
11. Any Other Business
11.1. Notification of Annual Maintenance by Rivers Agency: Members noted a letter from the Ulster Angling Federation regarding concerns about the Rivers Agency's apparent failure to notify fisheries owners regarding proposed drainage works.
Resolved: That the letter be forwarded to DARD for comment.
11.2. Recommendations of the Inquiry into the Approach of the NI Assembly & the Devolved Government on EU Issues: Members noted information from the Committee of the Centre on the recommendations arising from its recent inquiry.
Resolved: That Committee staff contact DARD to carry forward the three recommendations.
11.3. 'Achieving the Vision': Members noted a request for a meeting from the RSPB to discuss the issues arising from its new Report on Sustainable Agriculture in Northern Ireland.
Resolved: That a meeting be arranged for the next session in September.
11.4. Consultation on the Review of Forestry in Northern Ireland: Members noted a letter from DARD seeking the Committee's comments on the proposed review.
Resolved: That the Committee seek a summary of responses to the consultation.
11.5. 'Profit from the Best Skill on Earth' Consultation: Members noted a letter seeking responses to the LANTRA Business Plan.
Resolved: That a letter be sent to LANTRA advising them the Committee had noted their consultation paper.
11.6. Northern Ireland Rural Development Plan: Members noted a letter from DARD enclosing a copy of the 2001 Annual Report of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Plan.
11.7. Licensing, Notification & Restrictions on Movement: Members noted a letter from DARD regarding its intention to issue a letter providing full details of the legal requirements necessary for compliance with EC Directive 1999/74/EC.
11.8. Appointment to the Livestock & Meat Commission: Members noted a letter from DARD regarding proposals for the procedure to fill the post of Chairman of the Livestock & Meat Commission.
11.9. Case Funding Centre: Members noted a response from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding concerns raised by the Case Funding Centre about the impact of delays at Land Registry on debt repayment in the agriculture industry.
Resolved: That a copy of the response be forwarded to the Case Funding Centre.
11.10. Appointment of New Chief Scientific Officer: Members noted a letter from DARD announcing the appointment of Dr George McIlroy as the new Chief Scientific Officer.
11.11. A Picture of Rural Change: Members noted copies of a Report by the Rural Development Council.
11.12. Rising Crime in Rural Areas: Members noted a final response from the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding the actions being taken or proposed to address the problem of rural crime. Members agreed that they may wish to return to this issue in the next session.
11.13. Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease: Members noted a submission from Newry and Mourne District Council.
11.14. A member raised the issue of Lakeland Dairies and asked if a reply had been received to the Committee's letter regarding the difference in prices between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Resolved: That Committee staff contact Lakeland Dairies regarding their response.
11.15. A member raised concerns about the delay in implementation of the Northern Ireland Scrapie Plan and the difficulties regarding importation of scrapie-resistant animals from Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.
Resolved: That a letter be sent to DARD highlighting Committee concerns on these issues.
11.16. Members deliberated on their representation on the task force that was agreed to be formed after discussions with the Newry and Mourne District Council delegation.
Resolved: That the Chairman, Deputy Chairman, Mr Armstrong and Mr Bradley would participate in the task force.
12. Date of Next Meeting
12.1. Resolved: That the next meeting will take place on Friday 6 September 2002 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 10.00 a.m.
The Chairman brought the meeting to a close at 1.33 p.m.
Dr IRK Paisley