MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS OF THE COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
FRIDAY 20 SEPTEMBER 2002
HELD IN ROOM 135 PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Dr IRK Paisley MP MEP (Chairman)
Mr G Savage (Deputy Chairman)
Mr B Armstrong
Mr PJ Bradley
Mr B Douglas
Mr D Ford
Mr G Kane
Mr G McHugh
Mr I Paisley, Jnr
Mr J Dallat
Mr P Doherty
Mrs C White (Committee Clerk)
Miss J Adair (Assistant Committee Clerk)
Mrs J Hamilton (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr G Donnelly (Clerical Officer)
Mr J Mc Court (Clerical Officer)
In attendance for meeting with Minister at 10.09 a.m.: Mr Liam McKibbin, Mr Tom Stainer, Dr Bernie Stuart.
In attendance for oral evidence session with Rural Development Council at 11.57 a.m.: Mr Nigel Flynn, Mr Martin McDonald.
In attendance for evidence session with Livestock Meat Commission at 12.37p.m. Mr David Rutledge, Mr David Ritchie.
The Chairman declared the meeting open in public session at 10.03 a.m.
1. Matters Arising
Mr Bradley attended the meeting at 10.05 a.m.
1.1 Committee Visit to Brussels: Members considered possible dates for a visit to the European Commission in Brussels.
Resolved: That arrangements should be made for the Committee to visit Brussels on 23 - 24 January 2003. Members also agreed to consider the possibility of holding their weekly Committee meeting in Brussels on that date.
2.1 The Minister made an opening statement on the Vision Action Plan and the Food Body Working Group, stating that the Vision Group is an integral part of the Modernisation Programme. The Minister advised that she plans to announce the results of the Vision Report Consultation exercise in November and that the Vision Action Plan would help the Agri-Food Industry to meet current and future challenges. The Minister answered Members' questions on the New Entrants and Early Retirement Scheme, measures to simplify grant application procedures for farmers and the need for the immediate introduction of short term measures to assist the industry, timescales for implementation of the Vision Action Plan, the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme, the selection process for the representatives within the Food Body working group, the need for farmers to be properly represented, traceability systems and rural proofing.
Mr Ford left the meeting at 11.04 a.m. Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.14 a.m.
2.2 The Minister advised Members that research commissioned by the Department on the Early Retirement/New Entrant Scheme and the Minister's comments on the research would be sent to the Committee within 2 weeks. The Minister also agreed that departmental officials would provide written advice on tagging and the exportation of animals to the Republic of Ireland.
The Chairman thanked the Minister and her officials and they left the meeting at 11.30 a.m.
The Meeting was adjourned until 11.47a.m. at which time the Chairman, Deputy Chairman and Messrs Armstrong, Douglas and Kane were present.
3. Matters Arising (continued)
3.1 Review of Education and R&D in Agriculture and Food Science: Consideration of Draft Committee response. Members considered a draft Committee response to the Review report.
Resolved: That the draft Committee response was agreed unamended.
3.2 Housing Bill Committee Stage: Consideration of draft Committee response.
Members considered a draft Committee response to the Housing Bill.
Resolved: That the draft Committee response to the Housing Bill was agreed unamended.
3.3 Inquiry into Foot and Mouth Disease: Consideration of additional witnesses for general evidence sessions. Members considered if there were any additional witnesses from whom they wish to hear oral evidence.
Resolved: That no further witnesses be called.
3.4 Consideration of possible witnesses for Agri-Business evidence sessions: Members considered a list of potential witnesses from the Agri-Business sector for oral evidence sessions.
Resolved: That the list of witnesses was agreed. Members also agreed that the Bed & Breakfast Association and Livestock Auctioneers' Association would be called as additional witnesses.
4. Statutory Rules
4.1 Proposal - Harbour Works (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002: Members noted that the Department for Regional Development, in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, are consulting on proposals to implement an EC Directive in relation to harbour works in Northern Ireland. Members noted that the Committee Office has requested a summary of the responses received by the Departments.
Mr Armstrong and Mr Paisley Jnr returned to the meeting at 11.51 a.m.
5. Minutes of Proceedings on Friday 13 September 2002
Resolved: That the draft Minutes of Proceedings for 13 September 2002 were approved with one minor amendment.
6. Any Other Business
6.1 Quinquennial Review of the Northern Ireland Water Council: Members considered a letter from the Committee for Regional Development seeking comments on the above Review.
Resolved: To refer this matter to Assembly Research and Library Services for advice and to consider a draft Committee response at next weeks meeting.
6.2 Scottish Parliament Committee Visit: Members considered an invitation from the Rural Development Committee to visit the Scottish Parliament.
Resolved: That the Committee would defer a decision until it's meeting on 27 September 2002.
Mr McHugh returned to the meeting at 11.55 a.m.
7. Foot and Mouth Disease
7.1 Oral Evidence Session with Rural Development Council: Representatives from the Rural Development Council briefly outlined their role within the rural community and their role in dealing with the Foot and Mouth outbreak in 2001.
7.2 The delegation then answered members' questions on the need for financial flexibility within the Rural Development Programme to deal with any future crisis, the need to be consulted on the Department's contingency plans and preventative schemes and the impact of Foot and Mouth Disease on the implementation of the Rural Development Programme and allocation of funding.
Mr Paisley Jnr left the meeting at 12.20 p.m.
7.3 The Rural Development Council agreed to provide the Committee with written information on the applications received and approved under the Rural Development Programme.
The Chairman thanked the delegation and they left the meeting at 12.35 p.m.
7.4 Oral Evidence Session with the Livestock and Meat Commission: Representatives from the Livestock and Meat Commission made an opening statement regarding the impact of the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak on the beef and sheep meat markets. They stated that farmers, auctioneers and cattle marts were affected and had not received compensation. The Livestock Meat Commission believed that most livestock farmers had been particularly badly affected by the outbreak and that the effects of Foot and Mouth were still being felt in 2002.
7.5 The delegation then answered members' questions on various issues including the need to be consulted on the Department's contingency plans and schemes, the need to balance strict preventative measures, import controls with a free market, a high profile promotion campaign to restore confidence in beef, individual traceability of sheep and the Farm Quality Assurance Scheme.
7.6 The Livestock Meat Commission representatives agreed to provide written information on the percentage of animals slaughtered that met with Farm Quality Assurance standards.
The Chairman thanked the Livestock Meat Commission delegation and they left the meeting at 1.30 p.m.
8. Date of Next Meeting
8.1 Resolved: That the next meeting will take place on Friday 27 September 2002 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 9.30 a.m.
Resolved: That Mr Bradley will take the Chair if the Chairman and Deputy Chairman are unable to attend the meeting on 27 September.
The Chairman brought the meeting to a close at 1.32 p.m.
Dr IRK Paisley