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Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2000/2001

Date: 15 June 2001

Venue: Room 135

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.02am.

1. General Committee Business.

1.1 Chairperson's Statement. The Chairperson, having consulted the Speaker, clarified for members his position and powers as Chairperson of the Committee, and the need for the rules and conduct of Committee business to remain matters that are not for outside discussion. He also referred to sanctions available to him in relation to any member who persists in making the chairmanship the subject of outside debate.

1.2 Declaration of Interest. The Chairperson asked members to declare, in accordance with paragraph 48 of the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, any new interests they may have, following on from the results of the Westminster and local government elections. There were no declarations.

Mr Paisley Jnr attended the meeting at 10.04am. Mr Bradley attended the meeting at 10.05am.

2. Foot and Mouth Disease Update.

2.1 The Chairperson welcomed the Minister and DARD officials Dr Bob McCracken (Chief Veterinary Officer) and Mr Pat Toal (Deputy Secretary) to the meeting at 10.06am.

Mr Armstrong attended the meeting at 10.08am.

2.2 The Minister made an opening statement that included reference to the improving position; no further outbreaks; serology testing progress; regionalisation; relaxation of restrictions; maintenance of controls at ports; resumption of TB and brucellosis testing; closure of dedicated helpline; and the issue of further guidelines.

2.3 Following her statement, the Minister and her officials answered questions from members on a number of issues including the movement of horses; re-opening of marts; the tagging of sheep; extensification and compensation payments; live sheep exports; flock testing progress; video marts; future updates; TB testing; and consequential loss. Members paid tribute to the work of the Minister and her staff and to the co-operation of the farming community.

Mr Paisley Jnr left the meeting at 10.34am.

2.4 The Chairperson thanked the Minister and the DARD officials, and they left the meeting at 10.45am. The Chairperson adjourned the meeting at that point.

The meeting resumed at 10.55am. The Chairperson and Messrs Ford, Kane, McHugh and Paisley Jnr were present.

3. Minutes of Proceedings on 25 May 2001.

3.1 Resolved: that the draft Minutes of Proceedings for 25 May 2001 were approved.

Mr Douglas returned to the meeting at 11.00am.

4. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings on 25 May 2001.

4.1 Correspondence. Members noted a number of items of correspondence arising from the meeting. These related to the Common Fisheries Policy review Green Paper; the Rural Development Programme Inquiry; seed potatoes fees regulations; and the potato sector policy review.

4.2 Rural Development Council Community Makeup. Members noted a response from the Council setting out this information.

4.3 Fisheries Decommissioning Scheme. Members considered the Minister's response in relation to sharing the legal advice on the retention of 'track record', and the fishermen's organisations' reaction to that response.

Mr Savage attended the meeting at 11.26am.

Resolved: that the Chairperson would write to the Minister on the Committee's behalf seeking:

  • sight of papers recording DARD's legal advice and those on which the Minister decided on the 'track record' issue;
  • information on any debate among the UK Fisheries Departments about options for dealing with 'track record';
  • an update on the latest discussions in London;
  • details of any attempt by DARD to put the case for objective justification of a difference in treatment for Northern Ireland fishermen; and
  • clarification of concerns that MAFF have supplied DARD with incorrect information about the assumptions aimed at separating the whitefish fleet from the prawn fleet, and DARD actions to address this.

4.4 Committee Meetings. Members considered options for meeting on days other than a Friday and days when the Assembly is in plenary session, taking into consideration some members' commitments as members of other committees. There were no suitable opportunities or venues, other than on Fridays, which would enable all members to attend. However, Thursday afternoon in room 135 would suit all but one member. Members agreed that Friday meetings seemed to have been satisfactory so far in getting the Committee business done.

4.5 Resolved: that meetings for the remainder of the current session would continue to be held on Fridays.

4.6 Resolved: that the Clerks would investigate whether any other Committee was seeking to change their meeting arrangements and whether other Committees had experienced problems in obtaining a quorum on specific days. Further options might then be explored for the new session (2001/2002).

5. Statutory Rules.

5.1 Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - SR 2001 No.228. Members considered this Rule. Question put and agreed:

"The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development has considered the Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 and recommends that it be annulled by the Assembly."

Resolved: that the Chairman tables the following motion in the Business Office - "That the Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 (2001 No.228) be annulled".

Mr Armstrong returned to the meeting at 11.45am.

5.2 Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) (Revocation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - SR 2001 No.239. The Committee considered the Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) (Revocation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

Resolved: that the Committee has no objections to the Rule.

5.3 Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001- SR 2001 No.204. The Committee considered the Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001. The Committee also considered a written apology by a DARD official in relation to failure to bring this Rule before the Committee earlier, and also explaining the need for this Rule at the time.

Resolved: that the Committee noted that SR 2001 No.239 has revoked this rule.

Resolved: that the apology be accepted and that the Clerk would write to the official to that effect, asking him to ensure that the situation would not recur.

5.4 Bovines and Bovine Products (Trade) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001- SR 2001 No.210. The Committee considered the Bovines and Bovine Products (Trade) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

Resolved: that the Committee has no objections to the Rule.

5.5 Rural Development Programme - proposal for a statutory rule. Members considered a letter from the Minister advising that the Department proposes to make a statutory rule to provide the legislative base for the next Rural Development Programme.

Resolved: that DARD would be asked to provide a copy of the proposed statutory rule and officials to meet the Committee on 22 June 2001 to discuss it.

Mr Paisley Jnr left the meeting at 12.02pm.

5.6 BSE Monitoring Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - proposal. Members considered this DARD proposed statutory rule to extend testing for BSE to fallen animals over 30 months old.

Resolved: that officials would be asked to meet the Committee on 22 June 2001 to discuss this rule.

5.7 Report of the Examiner of Statutory Rules. Members noted the comments in a report from the Examiner of Statutory Rules on Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001; the Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001; the Seed Potatoes Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001; the Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001; the Bovines and Bovine Products (Trade) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001; the Specified Risk Material (Amendment) (No.2) Regulations (Northern Ireland); and the Slaughter Premium Regulations (Northern Ireland)2001.

6. Report on the Product Liability (Amendment) Bill.

6.1 Members considered the report on the Bill by the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee and noted that their views on the need for full information, advice, and advice on insurance to be provided to farmers and others affected had been taken on board. Members considered and approved a draft speaking note for the Chairperson's use in the Assembly Consideration Stage debate on 18 June 2001. Members also agreed that the Chairperson may meet with the Minister in charge of the Bill.

7. Game Preservation (Amendment) Bill.

7.1 Members noted the contents of the bill, including clause 2 referring to authorised shooting of rabbits on agricultural land.

8. Northern Ireland Main Estimates 2001-2002.

8.1 At the Chairperson's request the Clerk briefed the Committee, referring to the Assembly Researcher's paper comparing DARD public expenditure plans tabled in the Programme for Government with the Estimates, and explanations from DARD. Members noted a discrepancy in relation to the amount quoted as being allocated to organic farming, including explanation by DARD and reference to two DARD press releases on the subject. The Committee considered a draft speaking note for the Chairperson's use in the Assembly debate on the Supply Resolution for the 2001-2002 Main Estimates on 18 June 2001. Members deliberated.

Mr Paisley Jnr returned to the meeting at 12.28pm.

Resolved: that the draft speaking note for the Chairperson was approved.

Resolved: that DARD would be asked to produce a copy of the press release to which they referred, that replaced Press Release 155/01, and corrected the amount allocated to organic farming, and that DARD would be asked to update their Internet website accordingly.

9. 2002-2003 Financial Year: Departmental Bids.

9.1 Members considered correspondence from the Finance and Personnel Committee and from the Chairperson of the Chairpersons' Liaison Group in relation to timing of consideration of Departments' spending plans; the availability of position reports; and other related matters.

9.2 Resolved: that the Committee will arrange to discuss DARD's 2002-2003 budget proposals with the Minister on 29 June 2001.

The Chairperson declared the meeting closed to the public at 12.37pm.

10. Committee Inquiry into Certain Aspects of the Livestock and Meat Commission.

10.1 Members deliberated on draft findings and recommendations drawn up by the Clerk, based on the evidence submitted to, and heard by, the Committee, and agreed amendment and direction on a number of points.

10.2 Resolved: that the Clerk was instructed to proceed with drafting in accordance with the Committee directions.

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 1.01pm and Mr Savage and Mr Armstrong left the meeting at that point.

11. Any Other Business.

11.1 Payment of Irish Lights Dues. Members considered comments from the Northern Ireland Fish Producers' Organisation Limited on the Prime Minister's reply of 28 April 2001 to the Chairperson about payment of Irish Lights Dues.

Resolved: that in view of the apparent incorrect information contained in the Prime Minister's response, the Chairperson would write again to the Prime Minister, clarifying the situation in relation to the use of these navigation aids, and seeking removal of the requirement for Northern Ireland fishermen to pay lights dues.

11.2 Proposal for a Bill to Ban Fur Farming. Members noted the low level of response to DARD consultation on this proposal; that there were no dissenting views; and that the Bill is expected to be considered in the next Assembly session.

11.3 DFP Memorandum on 4th Report from PAC Session 2000/2001. Members noted this memorandum setting out PAC conclusions and DARD responses in relation to grants paid to the Irish Sport Horse Genetic Testing Unit Ltd., and National Agricultural Support: Fraud. Members noted in particular the proposals for animal database extension and enhancement of investigation and enforcement.

11.4 Food Standards Agency Information. Members noted further information on the discovery of spinal cord material in imported beef and the composition of the Northern Ireland Advisory Committee of the FSA, received from the FSA in response to a Committee request at the meeting with FSA representatives on 18 May 2001.

11.5 Finance Training for Assembly Members and Staff. Members noted that this training would be available on 6th and 12th September 2001, and agreed to advise their proposed attendance and preferred date, at the meeting on 22 June 2001.

11.6 Volunteer Development Agency. Members noted an invitation from the Volunteer Development Agency to a launch of research findings on 26 June 2001 in Belfast.

11.7 Animal Welfare Federation. The Federation wrote to the Committee to advise of their existence and constituent voluntary sector organisation membership and to offer themselves as consultees in relation to future animal welfare legislation matters. Members noted the Federation's letter.

Resolved: that the Clerks will acknowledge the letter and advise the Federation that their organisation will be borne in mind for future consultation as appropriate.

11.8 DARD Vision Group. Members noted a DARD announcement of the resumption of the Vision Group work, with a view to reporting to the Minister in the autumn.

11.9 NIAPA. Members noted the Minister's response in relation to Departmental board appointments. They also noted a number of NIAPA press releases.

11.10 South Armagh Sheep Cull. A report on an investigation into fraud in relation to the South Armagh sheep cull was circulated to, and noted by, members.

12. Date of Next Meeting.

12.1 Resolved: that the next meeting will take place on Friday 22 June 2001 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 10.00am.

The Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 1.14pm.

George Savage
Deputy Chairperson

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