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Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2000/2001

Date: 22 June 2001

Venue: Room 135

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.07am.

1. Foot and Mouth Disease Update.

1.1 The Chairperson welcomed DARD officials Dr Bob McCracken (Chief Veterinary Officer) and Mr Stewart Johnston (Grade 5) to the meeting at 10.07am.

Mr Bradley and Mr Paisley Jnr attended the meeting at 10.10am.

1.2 Dr McCracken made an opening statement which included reference to no further outbreaks or suspect cases, the serology testing of over 300,000 sheep, the review of all activities disrupted due to the foot and mouth disease outbreaks, the potential for the re-opening of the Livestock Marts by early August, the need to keep the restrictions in place at the ports, the continuing outbreaks in GB and the necessity for farmers to continue with fortress farming.

Mr Ford left the meeting at 10.19am.

1.3 Following the statement, Dr McCracken and Mr Johnston answered questions from members on the review on the foot and mouth disease crisis being held by a sub-group of the Vision Group, the input DARD will have into the review to be held in GB, the import of horses from GB, the re-opening of the Livestock Marts in early August, the staging of the Ulster Grand Prix in mid-August, the relaxation of guidelines to allow angling and walking in the countryside and the possibility of the introduction of a tagging scheme for sheep and pigs.

Mr Dallat attended the meeting at 10.34am.

1.4 The Chairperson thanked Dr McCracken and Mr Johnston and they left the meeting at 10.36am.

2. BSE Monitoring Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

2.1 The Chairperson welcomed DARD officials Mr Wesley Shannon (Grade 7) and Mrs Sandra Dunbar (Senior Veterinary Officer) to the meeting at 10.37am.

2.2 Mr Shannon explained the purpose of the proposed regulations and then Mr Shannon and Mrs Dunbar answered questions from the members.

2.3 In response to members' questions, Mr Shannon undertook to supply the Committee with a summary of comments received as part of the consultation, the compensation arrangements for farmers in respect of positive and negative cases and seized animals, and comparative BSE statistics relating to Northern Ireland and other EU countries.

2.4 Mr Shannon also explained that due to new European Union regulations, the age of animals affected by this regulation would be lowered from animals over thirty months of age to animals over twenty-four months of age.

2.5 Members deliberated.

2.6 Resolved: that the Committee was content for DARD to proceed to make this Rule subject to receipt of the information outlined above.

2.7 The Chairperson thanked the DARD officials and they left the meeting at 11.14am.

3. Rural Development (Financial Assistance) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

3.1 The Chairperson welcomed DARD officials Mr Alan Morton (Grade 7) and Mr Michael McCann (Deputy Principal) to the meeting at 11.15am.

3.2 Mr Morton explained the purpose of the proposed regulations and Mr Morton and Mr McCann answered questions from the members.

Mr Ford returned to the meeting at 11.23am. Mr Bradley left the meeting at 11.26am.

3.3 In response to a member's question, Mr Morton undertook to review the need for DARD's proposed three-tier appeals scheme to be more clearly outlined in the statutory rule, against DARD's intention to include it in the administrative arrangements of the various rural development schemes.

3.4 Members deliberated.

3.5 Resolved: that the Committee would inform DARD of its decision in relation to the proposed Rule, pending the Department's further advice on the appeals issue.

3.6 The Chairperson thanked the DARD officials and they left the meeting at 11.33am

4. Briefing with Officials from the Department for Social Development.

4.1 The Chairperson welcomed DSD officials Mr Barney McGahan (SSA Director of Operations) and Mr Mickey Kelly (Grade 7) to the meeting at 11.34am and explained why the Committee had sought the meeting.

4.2 Mr McGahan made a statement which included the benefits available to those affected financially by the foot and mouth crisis, their work with the Ulster Farmers' Union and the Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers' Association, the leaflet they issued to both farming organisations on the benefits available and the suspension of the requirement for those who live on farms to attend Social Security Offices.

Mr Bradley returned to the meeting at 11.51am.

4.3 Following the statement, Mr McGahan and Mr Kelly answered questions from members on a range of items including the total number of people who had applied for Jobseekers' Allowance due to the foot and mouth crisis, the availability of that benefit even in certain circumstances where farmers need to look after stock on welfare grounds, the measures in place to help those who apply for benefits to complete their forms, the guidelines which allow anyone to apply for benefits, their work with the UFU and NIAPA to alert farmers to the benefits available and the availability of a Farm Liaison Officer (FLO) in all Social Security Offices. Copies of leaflets and details of FLO contacts were issued to members.

Mr Ford left the meeting at 12.00pm. The Chairperson left the meeting at 12.01pm and the Deputy Chairperson assumed the chair. Mr Ford returned to the meeting at 12.08pm.

4.4 The Deputy Chairperson thanked the DSD officials for their briefing and they left the meeting at 12.18pm.

4.5 Resolved: that the Committee would issue a press release alerting farmers to the benefits available and call on them to contact their local Social Security Office and establish if they are eligible for such benefits.

Mr McHugh left the meeting at 12.20pm.

5. Minutes of Proceedings on 15 June 2001.

5.1 The Clerk advised that the Chairperson had asked that reference to his statement, made at the start of the meeting on 15 June 2001, be included in the Minutes of Proceedings.

5.2 Resolved: that the agreed reference be included in the Minutes of Proceedings.

5.3 Resolved: that the amended draft Minutes of Proceedings for 15 June 2001 were approved.

5.4 Mr Dallat, on having it confirmed that the presence of members during each Committee meeting is recorded for the Minutes of Proceedings, asked for it to be recorded that he was not happy with others using these details on the floor of the Assembly as other members also leave and return to the room during each meeting.

6. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings on 15 June 2001.

6.1 Correspondence. Members noted a letter from the Minister acknowledging the Committee's response on the Green Paper on the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and a DARD press release.

6.2 Budget Estimates 2002/2003. The Committee noted Department of Finance and Personnel and Committee for Finance and Personnel correspondence in relation to Budget Estimates 2002/2003 and a letter to DARD from the Committee on bids for financial year 2002/2003.

Resolved: that the Clerk would provide briefing on relevant Committee budget deliberations and the Minister's response for the meeting of 29 June 2001.

6.3 Motion to annul Statutory Rule 2001 No.228 Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001. Members considered and debated the draft speaking notes for use by the Chairperson in moving the motion of annulment.

Resolved: that with amendments made to two paragraphs, the Committee approved the speaking notes for the Chairperson.

Mr McHugh returned to the meeting at 12.37pm.

6.4 Fishing Vessel Decommissioning Scheme. Members noted a letter from the Chairperson to the Minister seeking more information on the Fishing Vessel Decommissioning Scheme and other related issues. Members also noted a letter from the Minister seeking the Committee's comments on the Scheme.

6.5 Payment of Irish Light Dues. Members considered a draft letter from the Committee Chairperson to the Prime Minister in relation to the payment of Irish Light Dues.

Resolved: that the Committee approved the letter for issue to the Prime Minister.

Resolved: that the letter to the Prime Minister on Irish Light Dues should be copied to the two fishing organisations along with the Committee response to the Minister on the Green Paper on the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and the Committee's letter on decommissioning referred to above.

7. Single Equality Bill Consultation.

7.1 Members noted a letter from the Committee of the Centre seeking their comments on the Single Equality Bill Consultation.

7.2 Resolved: that the Committee had no comments to make, and that the Clerk would notify the Committee of the Centre accordingly.

8. Any Other Business.

8.1 Research, Development and Innovation (RDI) Strategy for Northern Ireland. Members noted a letter from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment seeking the comments of the Committee on the RDI Strategy, correspondence from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Investment to that Committee and a letter from the Minister giving advance notice to the Committee that their views would be asked for.

Resolved: that the Clerk would draft a response on the RDI for the approval of the Committee at meeting of 29 June 2001.

8.2 Letter from Biopsytec. Members noted a letter from Biopsytec, introducing the company and giving information on a proposed system for animal identification, registration and tracing through DNA profiling.

Resolved: that the Committee should acknowledge the letter and also forward a copy to the Department asking them for their comments on the proposed system.

8.3 Launch of Rural Support Website. Members noted a letter from the Armagh and Dungannon Health Action Zone inviting Committee members to the launch of their website. Members who had not already informed Committee staff of their intention to attend the launch, were asked to do so.

8.4 IACS Appeal Mechanism. Members noted further information supplied by DARD following discussions on the IACS Appeal Mechanism at the meeting of 18 May 2001.

8.5 Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Designation Order and ESA Enforcement Regulations proposals. Members noted a letter from DARD informing the Committee of their intention to make two Statutory Rules.

Resolved: that the Department should provide draft copies of each Rule and officials be invited to the meeting of 29 June 2001 to discuss the proposed Rules.

8.6 Consultation Exercise on the Reform of Sheepmeat Regime. Members noted a letter from the Department advising them of the Department's intention to consult the industry on EU proposals for the reform of the sheepmeat regime together with the Commission proposal document.

Resolved: that the Committee will write to the Minister asking for the results of the consultation along with DARD's proposed position in consultation with the other three Agriculture Departments.

8.7 Meeting with Carwyn Jones, Minister of Rural Affairs in the Welsh Assembly. Members were notified that Mr Jones wishes to meet with the Committee on Tuesday 26 June 2001.

Resolved: that the Committee Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson would meet with Mr Jones on Tuesday 26 June 2001.

8.8 DARD Press Release of 2 April 2001. Members noted an amended press release from the Department that relates to the amount of money assigned to organic farming from Executive Programme Funds.

9. Date of Next Meeting.

9.1 Resolved: that the next meeting will take place on Friday 29 June 2001 in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 10.00am.

The Deputy Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 1.06pm.

Ian R K Paisley
Chairperson

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