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Minutes of Proceedings

Session: 2000/2001

Date: 29 June 2001

Venue: Room 135

The Chairperson declared the meeting open to the public at 10.06am.

1. General Committee Business.

1.1. At the request of the Chairperson, the Clerk briefed the Committee on the issues to be discussed with the Minister.

1.2. The Chairperson distributed copies of a letter he had received from the Minister immediately prior to the commencement of the meeting, in which the Minister replied to the Committee's request for certain papers.

1.3. Members discussed the letter in the light of legal advice on the Committee's powers to require the production of documents.

Resolved: that the Clerk was instructed to seek further legal advice from the Assembly solicitors, and that the Committee should take up the Minister's offer to produce policy papers.

2. Foot and Mouth Disease Update.

2.1. The Chairperson welcomed the Minister and DARD official Mr Gerry Lavery (Director of Finance) to the meeting at 10.16am and asked the Minister if she wished to make a statement.

2.2. The Minister declined to make any statement in addition to that made to the Assembly three days previously.

Mr McHugh attended the meeting at 10.21am.

2.3. The Minister then answered members' questions on a number of items including the report compiled by Mr Small on allegations of fraud being deliberately overlooked by the Department, the prospects for the re-opening of Marts for sheep sales, consequential compensation, the keeping open of small abattoirs, the delay in the publication of the Vision Group report and the position on brucellosis and tuberculosis testing.

3. DARD Programme for Government and Financial Year Bids 2002/2003.

3.1. The Chairperson asked the Minister if she wished to make a statement.

3.2. The Minister made a detailed statement to the Committee on a number of items including a budget of £201.6 million for the Department for the year 2002/2003, the need to regenerate the rural economy and promote tourism, the initial bid of £10 million to help recover and restructure the farming industry due to the foot and mouth disease crisis, the BSE testing of 50,000 cattle and the possibility of contracting out the BSE testing of some of the cattle.

3.3. The Minister and Mr Lavery then answered questions from members on items including the amounts bid for BSE testing and the capital renewal of the Department's fixed assets, infrastructure, a tagging scheme for sheep in Northern Ireland, the possibility of introducing an early retirement and new entrant scheme, rural tourism, rural proofing, funding for the red meat strategy, the refurbishment of the Department's pathogen laboratories and the possibility of contracting some of the Department's business to the private sector.

3.4. The Chairperson thanked Mr Lavery, who left the meeting at 11.18am.

4. Fisheries Issues.

4.1. The Minister was joined at the table by DARD officials Ms Evelyn Cummins and Mr Jim Prentice at 11.19am.

4.2. The Chairperson referred to the Minister's letter and the Committee's agreement to take up her offer to provide papers on policy considerations in relation to the disposal of 'track records'. The Minister agreed to provide those papers.

4.3. The Minister then made a statement referring to her attendance at the Fisheries Council meeting in Luxembourg on 18 June 2001, the items on the agenda at that meeting, the dependence that Kilkeel, Portavogie and Ardglass have on the fishing industry, the continuing problems faced by the fishing industry, the Hague preference mechanism, the need to involve the industry in decision making, biodiversity and the fact that no further European money will be made available until 2006.

4.4. The Minister, Ms Cummins and Mr Prentice then answered questions from members on items including lifting bags, the position of DARD in relation to the review of the Common Fisheries Policy, the possibility of the 10% cut in nephrops being reversed, the response from the industry in relation to the Green Paper and the impression the Department is making in Europe during discussions.

4.5. The Chairperson thanked the Minister and her officials and they left the meeting at 11.47am.

Resolved: that the Committee will write to the Department with further questions on the Budget 2002/2003, with a view to consideration of a draft Committee response at the meeting of 6 July 2001.

Resolved: that a written update from DARD on the foot and mouth disease situation would suffice for the meeting of 6 July 2001.

5. Minutes of Proceedings on 22 June 2001.

5.1. Members discussed the Minutes of Proceedings for 22 June 2001 and resolved to return to the Minutes later in the meeting.

Mr Dallat left the meeting at 12.00pm.

6. Environmentally Sensitive Areas (ESA) Designation Order (Northern Ireland) 2001 and Environmentally Sensitive Areas (Enforcement) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - draft Rules.

6.1. The Chairperson welcomed DARD officials Mr Ian McKee, Mr Joe Cassells and Dr Carol Milsopp to the meeting at 12.02pm.

6.2. The Chairperson invited members who might have an interest in the subject matter of this agenda item to declare an interest. Mr Bradley and Mr McHugh declared an interest.

6.3. Mr McKee explained the purpose of both proposed Rules and then Mr McKee, Mr Cassells and Dr Milsopp answered questions from the members.

6.4. Members deliberated.

6.5. Resolved: that the Committee was content for DARD to proceed to make the ESA Designation Order (Northern Ireland) 2001 and the ESA (Enforcement) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

6.6. The Chairperson thanked the DARD officials and they left the meeting at 12.30pm.

7. Minutes of Proceedings on 22 June 2001 - continued.

7.1. Members further deliberated on the draft minutes of Proceeding on 22 June 2001.

Resolved: that the draft Minutes of Proceedings for 22 June 2001 were agreed without amendment.

8. Statutory Rules.

8.1. Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - SR No.242. The Committee considered the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001.

Question put and agreed:

That the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has considered the Products of Animal Origin (Import and Export) (Amendment) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 and has no objection to the Rule.

8.2. The Beef Labelling (Enforcement) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 - draft Regulation.Members noted a letter from the Department informing them that they propose to make the above Rule.

Mr Ford attended the meeting at 12.36pm.

Resolved: that DARD officials would be asked to meet with the Committee on 6 July 2001 to discuss the proposed Rule.

8.3. Report of the Examiner of Statutory Rules.Members noted the report from the Examiner of Statutory Rules on the Import and Export Restrictions (Foot-and-Mouth Disease) (No.2) (Revocation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2001 SR.No.239. The Examiner had no comments to make.

9. Matters Arising from the Minutes of Proceedings on 22 June 2001.

9.1. Draft Reply on Research, Development and Innovation Strategy (RDI) for Northern Ireland. Members considered a draft reply to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment (ETI) on the RDI Strategy.

Resolved: that the Committee response be issued to the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.

9.2. Committee Press Release on Social Security Benefits for Farmers.Members noted the Committee press release issued on 22 June 2001, alerting farmers to the benefits available and calling on them to contact their local Social Security Office and establish if they are eligible for benefits.

9.4. Committee Press Release on Annulment of Crop Fees Regulations. Members noted the Committee press release, agreed with the Chairperson and issued on 26 June 2001, following the Assembly debate on the motion to annul the Seed Potatoes (Crop Fees) Regulations 2001.

9.5. Budget Document 2002/2003. Members noted correspondence from the Minister of Finance and Personnel and the Committee for Finance and Personnel requesting comments on possible changes to the layout and presentation of the Budget document.

Resolved: that the Committee had no comments to make.

10. DARD Key Challenges 2000/2001.

10.1. Members noted a progress report from DARD for the financial year 2000/2001 in respect of each of the Key Challenges published in the June 2000 DARD Business Strategy.

Resolved: that the Committee would write to DARD and ask them for a further update on challenges that have not yet been met.

11. Any Other Business.

11.1.Letter from Chairperson of the Vision Group and Press Release from DARD.Members noted a letter from the DARD Permanent Secretary, and a related press release, advising that due to the foot and mouth disease crisis, the revised Vision Group report will be presented to the Committee during the second half of September 2001.

11.2.Game Preservation (Amendment) Bill.Members noted a brief from the Countryside Alliance in Northern Ireland on the Game Preservation (Amendment) Bill.

11.3. Lantra National Training Organisation. Members noted information provided by the Lantra National Training Organisation and were informed that if they wished to view the three publications received in the Committee office, the Clerk will arrange this.

11.IACS Appeals Mechanism.Members noted a summary of the results of the consultation on the IACS Appeals Mechanism, the Minister's response to the Committee's views and a press release from DARD announcing the introduction of the appeals mechanism. Members were also informed that the full text of the consultation responses is available from the Committee office.

11.5.Committee for Culture, Arts and Leisure Report into Inland Fisheries in Northern Ireland. Members noted the list of recommendations taken from the report that fall under the remit of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and also the Minister's response to these recommendations.

11.6. Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations: Uncultivated and Semi-Natural Grassland.Members noted a proposal from DARD to implement an EIA Directive by 31 December 2001.

Resolved: that the Committee would seek the assistance of the Assembly Research Department on these regulations and also discuss these regulations with officials from DARD during the next session.

Resolved: that any information received relating to these regulations will be issued to members during the summer recess.

11.7Consultation Paper on the Allocation of Beef National Envelope (BNE) Funds in Northern Ireland for 2002. Members noted a letter from DARD setting out the background to the Agenda 2000 BNE and also a consultation document on how the £7.8 million BNE funds should be spent in Northern Ireland in 2002.

Resolved: that the Committee would write to DARD and ask for the results of the consultation in the autumn.

Resolved: that the Committee should, through the Assembly Research Services, establish the actions taken by the other three UK regions and the Republic of Ireland with regard to BNE Funds and also seek a meeting with the Ulster Farmers' Union to hear their views on this matter.

11.8. Committee Meeting Arrangements.Members discussed the few options available to them in relation to changing the time and day that committee meetings could be held.

Resolved: that the Committee will continue to meet on Friday mornings.

11.9. Invitations to Conferences/Workshops.Members discussed the invitations to conferences or workshops that they receive, or that are received in the Committee office, and the attendance of members as representatives of the Committee. The Clerk confirmed that all invitations received in the Committee office are brought before the Committee.

Resolved: that the Committee would appoint a representative or representatives to attend such conferences or workshops, as invitations occur, if they consider it would be of benefit to the work of the Committee.

11.10. Visit to Hillsborough Institute. A member inquired if the Committee still intended to visit the Agricultural Research Institute in Hillsborough. The Clerk confirmed that the Committee had considered a visit, but that it had been postponed due to the foot and mouth disease situation. Members agreed that a visit could be rescheduled for the next session.

11.11. LMC Inquiry Report. Members discussed the production of the first draft report into Certain Aspects of the LMC.

Resolved: that a first draft report would be distributed to the Committee at their meeting on 6 July 2001, for members' consideration during the summer recess.

12. Date of Next Meeting.

12.1. Resolved: that the next meeting will take place on Friday 6 July in Room 135, Parliament Buildings, at 10.00am.

The Chairperson brought the meeting to a close at 1.02pm.

Ian R K Paisley

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