Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.


Thursday 30 April 1987



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The Committee consisted of the following Members:


Farr, Sir John (Harborough)

Home Robertson, Mr. John (East Lothian)

Maclennan, Mr. Robert (Caithness and Sutherland)

Nicholls, Mr. Patrick (Teignbridge)

Normanton, Mr. Tom (Cheadle)

Randall, Mr. Stuart (Kingston upon Hull, West)

Redmond, Mr. Martin (Don Valley)

Rhodes James, Mr. Robert (Cambridge)

Roberts, Mr. Ernie (Hackney, North and Stoke Newington)

Ryder, Mr. Richard (Mid-Norfolk)

Speed, Mr. Keith (Ashford)

Speller, Mr. Tony (Devon, North)

Stevens, Mr. Lewis (Nuneaton)

Strang, Mr. Gavin (Edinburgh, East)

Thompson, Mr. Donald (Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food)

Torney, Mr. Thomas (Bradford, South)

Wolfson, Mr. Mark (Sevenoaks)

Yeo, Mr. Tim (Suffolk, South)

Mr. D. R. Lloyd, Committee Clerk.

3 Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Thursday 30 April 1987

[SIR ANTHONY MEYER in the Chair]


10.30 am

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Donald Thompson): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Draft Sheep and Goats (Removal to Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1987. The regulations would amend the existing Sheep and Goats (Removal to Northern Ireland) Regulations 1983. They involve some changes to the controls which, under the terms of the European Communities sheepmeat régime, we must apply when sheep and goats, or their meat, are moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland. In particular, the focus of the changes concerns the clawback charge. That recovers the variable slaughter premium which is paid in Great Britain. Those arrangements have never yet had to be applied because there has been no such trade. There are two main reasons for amending the 1983 regulations. First, to comply with the new Community obligations the regulations need to be extended to include uncooked lamb products, which are now subject to clawback. Secondly, there is a need to extend the powers of the officers who enforce the regulations in Northern Ireland. Throughout our consideration of the amendments, we have borne in mind the need to impose on traders only the amount of control necessary to ensure that Community requirements are properly observed. I invite the Committee to consider the draft regulations.

10.31 am

Mr. Stuart Randall (Kingston upon Hull, West): When there is trade between Community countries, it is important to ensure that it is conducted in a way that does not lend itself to abuse. The Parliamentary Secretary did not go into the details of that abuse, but there has been fiddling through people calling certain sheep and goat products "processed", when all they do is get out a pepper pot and shake the pepper over the meat. That activity was absurd and resulted in the clawback not being organised in the proper way. Presumably, the clawback is the difference between the market price and the support or guide price; it is the variable premium with which we are concerned. I should like to put a few questions to the Minister. To what extent has there been abuse of the existing regulations? What were the peak tonnages of goat and sheep products? I understand that, at one time, it reached as high as 10,000 tonnes. What does that mean in terms of money—who is the winner, and who is the loser? Will Her Majesty's Government receive any compensation from the EEC? 4 The Minister pointed out that there are new Community obligations, and said that the regulations now embrace uncooked products. To what extent will the existing order lend itself to further abuse? I am not sure what the regulations rule about that matter. We have had the salt and pepper abuse, so why not a bit of air provence or other sorts of processing? We are not sure about the extent to which such abuse could still take place. What measures have been included to prevent abuse of that sort? Also, why has the measure taken so long. I appreciate that there is a need to harmonise, but it has been considered for a long time. Why so long, and why introduce the measure now, bearing in mind the changes in the pattern of trade, with very little trade taking place between these countries? I know that the Minister has great expertise in these matters and that he is a butcher. I am within order here because we are talking about health aspects. I wonder whether the Minister has been on the machine along the Corridor—I have and my reading was only 5.25, so the scope for me to eat more lamb, which is quite a fatty meat, is considerable. I eat goats only when I visit Arabia. I welcome the Minister's initiative in strengthening the officers' powers to ensure that this anomaly is dealt with adequately and expeditiously.

10.36 am

Mr. Donald Thompson: The hon. Member for Kingston upon Hull, West (Mr. Randall) asked his usual serious questions. I am delighted to tell him that in practice the clawback arrangements between Britain and Northern Ireland have never been applied; there has been no trade in sheep or sheep meats that was subject to clawback arrangements. At the outset in 1982, this was because Northern Ireland's animal health requirements effectively prevented trade taking place, save for the export of pure-bred breeding animals which do not fall within clawback arrangements. But from September 1985 certain health requirements were relaxed in Northern Ireland so the trade in categories subject to clawback has now become at least a possibility. The anomaly that the hon. Gentleman ended with, which was a long way from the abuse he began with, has been closed by the EEC because the Community realised that uncooked lamb and such products, lightly seasoned, were creeping, or could have crept, under or over the wire.

Mr. Randall: When one can see that a person is obviously fiddling by adding salt and pepper, cannot one think of that as abuse rather than merely an anomaly?

Mr. Thompson: This morning I shall accept whatever the hon. Gentleman says. It is either an abuse of an anomaly or an anomaly of an abuse. The gap has now been closed—it goes wider in other products not now being discussed, especially beef. I welcome the hon. Gentleman's welcome for our measure. It is the first possible time that we could introduce it and we have done so with speed. The seriousness with which my colleagues and I view these matters is obvious from the fact that we are present in force this morning. Once again we can be non- 5 controversial and deplore the absence of the Liberals who take only public views on this matter and never bother to debate the nitty-gritty of it.

Question put and agreed to.


Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Draft Sheep and Goats (Removal to Northern Ireland) (Amendment) Regulations 1987.

Committee rose at twenty-two minutes to Eleven o'clock.


Meyer, Sir Anthony (Chairman)

Farr, Sir John

Nicholls, Mr.

Randall, Mr.

Rhodes James, Mr.

Ryder, Mr.

Speed, Mr.

Speller, Mr.

Stevens, Mr. Lewis

Thompson, Mr. Donald

Wolfson, Mr.

Yeo, Mr.