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Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2000/2001

Date: 18 May 2001

Venue: Room 135

The Deputy Chairperson called the meeting to order in public session at 10.31am.

1. General Committee Business.

1.1 Messrs Bradley and Dallat wished to place on record the fact that, contrary to media reports, they had not led a 'walk-out' at the Committee meeting on 4 May 2001 but that, due to prior Committee and constituency commitments, they were unable to be present for all the agenda items at that meeting.

2. Minutes of Proceedings on 11 May 2001.

2.1 Resolved: that the draft Minutes of Proceedings for 11 May 2001 were approved.

3. Foot and Mouth Disease Update.

3.1 Members noted a written update provided by the Minister, advising that there had been no more outbreaks; that there were no worrying suspect cases; and no material at Pirbright for testing. The letter also informed members that serology testing continues; that the Minister would raise the matter of regionalisation in Brussels week commencing 21 May 2001; that further relaxation in movement controls would apply from Wednesday 23 May 2001; that the Executive would look at a financial aid package (likely to include some limited aid for marts); that £2.3m has been paid in compensation so far, with claims worth another £3m in the pipeline; that the Executive would decide next week on the resumption of horse racing; and emphasised that there must be continuing vigilance at the farm gate.

Mr Armstrong and Mr Douglas attended the meeting at 10.40am.

3.2 Members were concerned that written updates did not allow members to ask questions, and that the full range of financial help for farmers and their families was unclear.

Resolved: that the Committee would write to DARD seeking update meetings with officials when the Minister was not scheduled to attend.

Resolved: that the Committee would ask for a briefing from the Department of Social Development on the range of benefits available to farmers and others whose incomes are affected by the Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak restrictions.

4. Pig Industry Restructuring Scheme.

4.1 Members noted a letter from the Minister giving details of the Northern Ireland results in the 'Outgoers Mark 2' Scheme. Members welcomed the high success rate of the Northern Ireland applicants and noted the Minister's intention to issue a press release later that day.

5. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings on 11 May 2001.

5.1 Correspondence: Members noted letters to DARD, ANIFPO, NIFPO, the Committee on Procedures, the National Beef Association, the National Sheep Association, the Minister and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers' Association.

5.2 Proposed Transfer of Functions to the OFMDFM: at the Deputy Chairperson's request, the Clerk explained the follow-up action taken after discussion of this item by the Committee on 11 May 2001, resulting in the Chairperson authorising the Clerk's reply to the Committee of the Centre on the Committee's behalf.

Resolved: that the Committee had no objections to the response authorised by the Chairperson.

5.3 Consumer Protection (Northern Ireland) Order 1987 (Product Liability) (Modification) Bill: Members heard that their concerns about cost implications; successful claims against farmers; publicity for the Bill's provisions; and time for the Committee to respond had been followed up and a response agreed by the Chairperson in time for inclusion in the ETI Committee's consideration of the Bill.

Resolved: that the Committee had no objections to the response authorised by the Chairperson and issued by the Clerk on its behalf.

Mr Molloy attended the meeting at 10.59am.

6. Presentation by the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

6.1 The Deputy Chairperson welcomed Mr Morris McAllister (Director) and Mr Tom Robinson (Head of Administration) of the FSA at 11.00am.

6.2 Mr McAllister, referring to copies of slides provided to members, covered the role and functions of the FSA, including background, structure and relationships with Departments and other organisations, and Mr Robinson covered the administrative arrangements.

Mr Ford attended the meeting at 11.40am. Mr Armstrong and Mr Douglas left the meeting at 11.43am.

6.3 Mr McAllister and Mr Robinson then answered members' questions and agreed to provide further information on a number of points.

Mr Douglas returned to the meeting at 11.53am.

6.4 The Deputy Chairperson thanked the FSA officials for their presentation and they left the meeting at 11.55am.

Mr Armstrong returned to the meeting at 11.55am.

7. Consultation Paper on an IACS Appeals Mechanism for Farmers in Northern Ireland.

7.1 The Deputy Chairperson welcomed DARD officials Mr Ronnie Jordan (Grade 5) and Mr David Setterfield (Staff Officer) to the meeting at 11.56am.

7.2 Mr Jordan referred to the consultation document provided to members; explained the proposed appeals arrangements; and answered questions from members.

Mr Molloy left the meeting at 12.21pm.

7.3 The Deputy Chairperson thanked the DARD officials and they left the meeting at 12.32pm.

7.4 Members deliberated and agreed responses to the DARD consultation questionnaire.

7.5 Resolved: that the Clerk will respond to DARD, on the Committee's behalf, along the lines agreed by the Committee.

8. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings on 11 May 2001 - continued.

8.1 Budgets and Estimates: Members considered correspondence regarding the 2001/02 main estimates proof copies and a request from the Finance and Personnel Committee seeking comments on proposed changes to format and presentation in relation to the financial procedures for the 2002/03 financial year contained in a letter from the Minister for Finance and Personnel. Members deliberated.

Resolved: that in view of the Committee's powers in relation to budgets, it would be more interested in DARD-specific budgets, bids and allocations, rather than the overall format and presentation of Estimates and general financial procedures.

Resolved: that the Committee had no comment to make on the main estimates proof copies, proposals for Executive Programme funds or in-year monitoring.

Resolved: that the Clerk is instructed to write to the Committee for Finance and Personnel to advise that the 'position report', referred to in Mr Durkan's letter of 14 May 2001, would be required by mid-June 2001 to allow time for the members to consider it and reach a Committee view.

8.2 Committee Inquiry into the Rural Development Programme - Submission by the Rural Community Network (RCN): Members considered the RCN submission and a related paper prepared by the Assembly researchers.

8.3 Resolved: that the Clerks will write to the RCN on the Committee's behalf to seek further information in line with the research paper.

8.4 DARD leaflet on the Certification and Classification of Seed Potatoes. Members noted this leaflet issued by DARD, which shows that the new fees are being applied before the consultation period has elapsed and before the authorising Rule is made and laid.

8.5 Resolved: that members could take the matter up with the Minister at the meeting on 25 May 2001.

8.6 Seed Potatoes Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001: Members received and noted final printed copies of this Rule, which they had considered in 'proof' form on 11 May 2001.

8.7 Inquiry into certain aspects of the Livestock and Meat Commission - submission: Members noted details of the individual who had submitted views that were considered on 11 May 2001.

Resolved: that the individual would not be called to give oral evidence.

8.8 Inquiry into certain aspects of the Livestock and Meat Commission - transcript of evidence on 11 May 2001: Members noted that the transcript of evidence taken from the National Sheep Association included, at the end, matters related to welfare concerns about sheep shearing, as a consequence of the current Foot and Mouth Disease restrictions on animal movements.

Resolved: that those matters were not related to the Inquiry and consequently that part of the transcript would not be published in the Committee's Report.

9. Legislation.

9.1 Slaughter Premium Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001: The Committee considered the Slaughter Premium Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

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

9.2 Specified Risk Material (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001: The Committee considered the Specified Risk Material (Amendment) (No 2) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

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

9.3 Import and Export Restrictions (Foot and Mouth Disease) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001: Members noted this Rule that had been made on 27 April 2001 and laid on 16 May 2001 without prior reference to the Committee.

Resolved: that DARD officials will be asked to meet with the Committee on 25 May 2001 when the Committee considers the Rule.

10. Any Other Business.

10.1 DARD policy review of the Northern Ireland Potato Sector: Members considered a DARD paper and invitation to comment. Members felt that it would be important to take the views of the industry.

Resolved: that members would consider, at the meeting on 25 May 2001 what representatives of the industry it might be appropriate to consult.

10.2 Regional Development Strategy: Members noted a copy of a letter from the DRD Minister to the DRD Committee giving an assurance of a positive response, where possible, to points raised by Committees.

10.3 Promoting Social Inclusion: Members considered this OFMDFM consultation on future priorities and an invitation to comment.

Resolved: that the Committee would maintain its monitoring of DARD's new TSN Action Plan, and would make no comment on this consultation.

10.4 Invitation to 'Green Living' Fair. Members noted the general invitation to this event at on 2nd and 3rd June 2001 at Castle Espie.

10.5 Consultation on Scallop Technical Conservation Measure: Members noted this DARD consultation document.

10.6 Resolved: that the Committee will write to DARD asking to be informed of the results of the consultation in due course.

10.7 Letter from ANIFPO on Sea Fisheries Matters: Members noted a letter from the Anglo-North Irish Fish Producers Organisation Ltd. about the financial and and scientific effects of Recovery Plan closures.

Resolved: that members could raise this with the Minister at the meeting on 25 May 2001.

10.8 Satellite Monitoring: Members noted this consultation paper, which refers to possible amendments to UK wide legislation in relation to satellite monitoring of fishing vessel movements.

11. Date of Next Meeting.

11.1 Resolved: that the next meeting will take place on Friday 25 May 2001 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 9.45am.

The Deputy Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 1.28pm.

Ian R K Paisley

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