COMMITTEE FOR AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
END OF SESSION REPORT 2010-2011
Remit and Powers
The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development is a Statutory Departmental Committee established in accordance with paragraphs 8 and 9 of Strand One of the Belfast Agreement, under Strand 29 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and under Assembly Standing Order 46. The Committee has a scrutiny, policy development and consultation role in respect of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and has a role in the initiation of legislation.
The Committee has power:
- to consider and advise on Departmental budgets and annual plans in the context of the overall budget allocation;
- to approve relevant secondary legislation and take the Committee Stage of relevant primary legislation;
- to call for persons and papers;
- to initiate enquiries and make reports; and
- to consider and advise on matters brought to the Committee by the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Committee has 11 members, including a Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson, and a quorum of five members. The membership of the Committee is as follows:
Mr Stephen Moutray (Chairperson) 4,9
Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson) 12,13
Mr PJ Bradley 3,7
Mr William Irwin
Mr Trevor Clarke 5,11
Mr Kieran McCarthy 8
Mr Willie Clarke
Mr Francie Molloy
Mr Pat Doherty 1
Mr George Savage
Mr Simpson Gibson 2,6,10
1 Mr Pat Doherty replaced Mr Gerry McHugh with effect from 21st of January 2008.
2 with effect from 15 September 2008 Mr Edwin Poots replaced Mr Allan Bresland.
3 with effect from 29 June 2009 Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr PJ Bradley
4 with effect from 4 July 2009 Mr Ian Paisley Jr replaced Dr William McCrea
5 with effect from 14 September 2009 Dr William McCrea replaced Mr Trevor Clarke
6 with effect from 14 September 2009 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr Edwin Poots
7 with effect from 8 March 2010 Mr PJ Bradley replaced Mr Patsy McGlone
8 On 13th April 2010 Mr Kieran McCarthy was appointed as a Member of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.
8 On 13th April 2010 Mr Thomas Burns ceased to be a Member of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development.
9 Mr Stephen Moutray replaced Mr Ian Paisley Jr as Chair of the Committee on the 23rd of June 2010, after Mr Paisley resigned from the Assembly on the 21st June 2010.
with effect from 1st July 2010 Dr William McCrea resigned as a member
with effect from 1st August 2010 Mr Jim Shannon has resigned from the Committee for Agriculture.
10 with effect from 13th September 2010 Mr Simpson Gibson was appointed as a member of the Committee
11 with effect from 13th September 2010 Mr Trevor Clarke was appointed as a member of the Committee
12 with effect from 4th October 2010 Mr Tom Elliott resigned as Deputy Chairperson of the Committee
13 with effect from 5th October 2010 Mr Roy Beggs was appointed as Deputy Chairperson of the Committee
Key Activities, Outputs and Achievements
This report covers the work of the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development during the 2010-11 parliamentary session from 1 September 2010 to 25 March 2011.
Dogs (Amendment) Bill
The Dogs (Amendment) Bill was introduced to the Assembly on the 24 May 2010 and passed to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on the 8 June 2010. The Committee published a public notice calling for evidence on the specific provisions of the Bill and from the responses received, and responses to the Department’s own consultation, selected representatives from six organisations to provide oral evidence to the Committee. The Committee took the views of the consultees and had several meetings with departmental officials which led the Committee and the Department agreeing a number of amendments including license fees, control conditions on licenses and fixed penalty amounts. The Committee ordered its report into the Bill to be printed on 23 November 2010. Amendments to the Bill were debated at Consideration Stage and Further Consideration Stage on the 18 and 31 January 2011 respectively, with the final stage taking place on 8 February 2011.
Welfare of Animals Bill
The Welfare of Animals Bill was introduced to the Assembly on the 21 June 2010 and passed to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development on the 29 June 2010. published a public notice calling for submissions on the specific provisions of the Bill and from the responses received, and responses to the Departments own consultation, selected representatives from nine organisations to provide oral evidence to the Committee. The Committee received evidence from consultees and had several meetings with departmental officials, leading to the Committee and the Department agreeing a number of amendments including aligning of welfare rights for non-farmed animals with those of farmed animals, stricter controls to prevent the practice of animal fighting and providing the basis for greater regulation of breeding establishments . The Committee also brought its own amendment that banned the docking of dogs tails, with the exception of specified working dog breeds, and the showing of dogs whose tails have been docked after the Bill takes effect. The Minister also agreed to the Committee recommendation that clauses relating to the enforcement of the legislation be deferred for a period of 12 months after Royal Assent to allow for further consultation with local government elected representative. The Committee ordered its report into the Bill to be printed on 13 December 2010. Further debate on amendments occurred during the Consideration and Further Consideration stage, on the 1 and 14 February 2011 respectively with the Final Stage taking place on 22 February 2011.
The Committee considers a large amount of subordinate legislation at an early stage and this forms a substantial part of the Committee workload. The Committee has approved 25 pieces of secondary legislation including legislation on animal and plant health, organic farming, fishing and policies for payment of European funding schemes.
One-off Evidence Sessions
During the year, the committee held a number of one-off evidence sessions. These included sessions with representatives from the Young Farmers Clubs of Ulster on the funding they receive from the Department, the Northern Ireland Horse Board and the Equine Council of Northern Ireland on the future of the equine industry in Northern Ireland. The Committee also met with the Forum of Renewable Energy Development Northern Ireland to discuss the current situation with renewable energy and where its future lies. The Committee received representations from local cockle fishermen in relation to cockle fishing in Belfast Lough. Members also held a number of sessions where they hosted visiting delegations to discuss the local industry and the role of the Committee in scrutinising the Department. These included a group of Kyrgyzstan government officials including their Minister for Agriculture. The Committee also hosted a meeting with Mr Gwilym Jones, a senior official from the Cabinet of the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development to discuss the future of the local industry with respect to EU policies and funding.
The Committee examined departmental budgets on 9 occasions during the parliamentary session. Sessions were held to consider departmental returns for quarterly monitoring rounds during the session. The Committee also discussed the strategic budgeting issues leading up to the drafting of the Departmental budget proposals for the new mandate, received a presentation on the initial draft of the proposals before they were released for consultation and a detailed presentation before the consultation period ended. This detailed examination of budgets has contributed to ensuring that departmental financial targets have been met.
The Committee held 16 meetings to examine the policy relating to the Dogs (Amendment) Bill and Welfare of Animals Bill. In addition, the Committee scrutinised policy in respect of 43 pieces of secondary legislation.
The Committee also received 37 presentations on policy issues from DARD and other industry stakeholders during the parliamentary session, ensuring that the needs of the agricultural industry and rural communities are given priority in the development and implementation of policies.
The Committee held 36 meetings throughout 2010-11 and received evidence from 187 witnesses. The vast majority of these meetings (88.2%) remained in open session for the entirety of the meeting.
The Committee carried out 4 visits throughout the year, 3 of which were in Northern Ireland and 1 visit to Europe.
September 2010: CAFRE, Greenmount Campus
The Committee visited CAFRE College to speak to the Minister and her officials about the issues and priorities that face the Department in the upcoming session. The Minister also attended the Committee on one occasion, during the clause by clause scrutiny of the Welfare of Animals Bill, and attended a meeting hosted by the Committee with local government elected representatives.
October 2010: Foyle Meats, Londonderry
The Committee visited Foyle Meats in order to view at first hand Video Imaging Analysis technology that electronically grades beef carcasses. The Committee also received a tour of the facilities and held a discussion with the CEO in respect to the factory and issues facing the industry.
February 2011: A5 Dual Carriageway, Tyrone
Members went to meet representatives and farmers along the route of the proposed A5 road. The Committee drove the distance of the proposed road stopping at certain points to get a first hand view of how farm businesses would be negatively impacted by having the proposed route divide their land and how this would make their businesses unviable.
February 2011: European Parliament, Brussels
The Committee visited Brussels for meetings with Ms. Maria Damanaki, Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries to discuss the position of local stocks, particularly prawns in the Irish Sea. They took forward the views and concerns of fishermen from the local industry and underlined the Committee’s opposition to any further cuts in the December Fisheries Council meeting on quotas.
The Committee put forward 1 motion during this session of the Assembly. The motion was put forward on the 20 September 2010 to extend the Committee stage of the Welfare of Animals Bill.
Details of Committee expenditure for the session are contained at Appendix A.
Anyone wishing to contact the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development should do so at the following addresses:
The Clerk to the Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development