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Northern Ireland (Agriculture)

Volume 934: debated on Thursday 30 June 1977

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11.57 p.m.

:I beg to move,

That the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th June, be approved.
This order seeks to amend and extend several items of legislation with which the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland is concerned. It also provides for adaptation of certain enactments to metric units. The draft order has been circulated to those bodies in Northern Ireland whose interests are or may be affected by it. Representations were made to the Department about a number of the provisions. I shall deal with the various points as they come up.

Most of the amendments contained in the order are of a relatively minor nature, concerned mainly with correcting deficiencies in some enactments and clarifying ambiguities in interpretation which have become apparent as a result of the Department's experience in the administration of the Acts concerned. The changes proposed are nevertheless extremely important and I trust that the House will show indulgence if I give some detailed explanations of the purposes of each article.

Article 3 amends the Livestock Breeding Act (Northern Ireland) 1922 to give the Department of Agriculture greater flexibility of control over the kind and standard of sires which may be kept for livestock production in Northern Ireland. The existing legislation prohibits the keeping of any bull over a prescribed age without a breeding licence or a permit for fattening. That proposed amendment will allow the Department to determine by regulation when to impose controls and the extent and nature of control required at any particular time.

Article 4 contains two simple amendments to the Agricultural Returns Act (Northern Ireland) 1939.

The purpose of Article 5 is to amend Section 9 of the Agriculture Act (Northern Ireland) 1949 to make clear that the Department of Agriculture may charge for applications made and services pro- vided in connection with schemes for aiding, improving and developing the breeding of livestock. It has been accepted practice for the Department to make such charges in relevant schemes since 1949, but recently legal advisers raised a query about the legal basis for them. The amendment proposed in section 9 of the Act will remove any doubts about this matter.

Article 6 amends the Marketing of Poultry Act (Northern Ireland) 1949 by removing the requirement on poultry processors in Northern Ireland to pay fees for licences and permits required by that Act.

The amendments contained in Article 7 extend the scope of the Forestry Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 to include forest recreation areas and areas and provide authority for the Department of Agriculture to charge for admission to forest parks and forest recreation areas. The Act at present applies only to land owned by the Department and allows the Department to designate areas as forest parks only and to make byelaws in respect of such areas only. The proposed amendments will empower the Department to develop recreational facilities on land which is held on lease, to designate areas as forest recreation areas in circumstances where the scale of facilities will be much smaller than in a forest park, and to make byelaws for such areas.

The amendments contained in Article 8 affect the Slaughterhouses Act (Northern Ireland) 1953 in two respects: first, to bring the existing terminology in the slaughterhouse legislation into line with that required as a consequence of the reorganisation of local government in Northern Ireland in 1972 and 1973—for example, "local authority" became "district council "; secondly, to enable statistical information returned by individual slaughterhouses to the Department of Agriculture to be disclosed to other Government Departments for general statistical use. At present, this information may be disclosed only for the purposes of a prosecution under the Act.

The primary purpose of Article 9 is to extend to slaughterhouses operated by district councils the obligation already applying to commercial slaughterhouses to slaughter animals at the request of local butchers and to make refusal to meet this obligation an offence. At present a district council may refuse slaughtering facilities or restrict services to particular retailers or wholesalers. Home consumption of meat in Northern Ireland has increased and this means increasing demands by butchers for slaughter facilities. It would be wrong to expect commercial slaughterhouses to cater for all the increased demand. Article 9 also repeals the Slaughterhouse Act (Northern Ireland) 1965. The first two sections of that Act are amended in this Order and incorporated into the Slaughterhouses Act (Northern Ireland) 1953. The remaining provisions are now obsolete in that they deal with grants for slaughterhouses operated by district councils which were terminated on 1st April 1975.

Representations were made to the Department by the Association of District Councils in Northern Ireland, by certain district councils which operate slaughterhouses and by the North of Ireland Wholesale and Export Meat Association which represents wholesale butchers and small meat-exporting firms operating from municipal slaughterhouses. They are not opposed to the proposed obligation to slaughter for retailers in principle, but they were concerned that in practice it could create problems for the management of the slaughterhouses. They felt that the provision, if enacted, would lead to an upsurge of prospective customers from outside the area normally served by each municipal slaughterhouse, and since it would be illegal to refuse such business the management would have to reduce the service given to local retailers and other established customers.

The Department takes the view, and I support it, that the situation envisaged by the councils and the meat traders will not arise to any serious extent and that retail butchers requiring slaughtering facilities will continue to approach their nearest slaughter centre. The fact that the overall slaughtering capacity in Northern Ireland is more than adequate for existing or projected throughput would tend to suport this view. Nevertheless, I have tried to go some way towards removing the fears expressed by providing in the new Section 5A(2) under Article 9 that any retailer exercising his right under the Article must abide by the byelaws applying to the slaughter- house involved. This puts beyond doubt the authority of management in any municiple slaughterhouse to require users of the slaughterhouse to give adequate notice and follow other approved procedures.

Articles 10, 11, 12 and 13 amend the Diseases of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1958. Article 10 provides for the destruction of wildlife in order to prevent the spread of certain diseases to farm animals. It also provides powers of entry for authorised officers on to land where disease in wildlife is suspected or in respect of which an order made under this article has been applied. These powers have already been given to the agriculture Departments in Great Britain.

The provisions apply to diseases for which powers of control exist in the Diseases of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1958 because of their economic or public health importance. The wildlife to which they apply are all wild members of any species of bird or mammal.

This article raises the rather sensitive subject of powers of entry by Government officials into private property. I wish to assure hon. Members that the powers proposed represent the minimum necessary to ensure that any threat to farm livestock—and sometimes indirectly to humans—for example, TB and brucellosis—through diseases in wildlife can be investigated and eliminated. The persons who will normally act as authorised officers will be staff of the Department of Agriculture who are employed on veterinary duties. They will be under the supervision of senior officers who are well qualified to deal with the problems arising from disease in wildlife. Whenever possible at least 24 hours' notice of intended entry will be given to occupiers of land, but there may be occasions when this is not practicable, for example, because the disease problem is extremely serious and requires immediate investigation, or because it is found necessary to enter land which is contiguous to land already under investigation.

Article 11 extends the powers of inspectors under the Diseases of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1958 by empowering them to enter any property where there are reasonable grounds for supposing that there is anything which might transmit or assist in transmitting disease to farm animals.

These powers, which apply already in Great Britain, are required to complement existing controls over the importation, use and movement of dangerous animal pathogens. The existing controls were introduced as part of a programme of precautionary measures adopted following the escape of smallpox virus from a laboratory in spring 1973 which resulted in three deaths.

The Dangerous Pathogens Advisory Group was established afterwards to help implement a voluntary system of control over animal pathogens dangerous to humans. This was followed by statutory controls. The agriculture Departments in the United Kingdom considered that this system might not provide sufficient protection against the risk of infection in animals since many organisms which are dangerous to animals cannot be regarded as a serious hazard to humans.

Controls cannot be fully effective unless the Department of Agriculture has the right to carry out routine inspections of premises such as laboratories where operations involve the use of pathogens which are hazardous primarily to animals.

The purpose of Article 12, which amends the Diseases of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1953, is to allow the Department of Agriculture to charge fees, by order, for any services provided by the Department to importers or exporters of animals in connection with the granting of certificates, licences and the like required by the Act.

The existing provision allows the Department to charge fees in connection with the quarantine of animals, poultry and eggs only. It is intended to impose certain charges on exporters of livestock for field testing, including the taking of samples, laboratory testing, and final clinical examinations.

Article 13 extends the Diseases of Animals Act (Northern Ireland) 1958 to make clear that the Department of Agriculture may, by the issue of licences, impose prohibitions or restrictions on the importation of animals, carcases, fodder, and so on, in order to prevent the introduction of disease into Northern Ireland.

Article 14 is to extend the period for instituting legal proceedings for an offence under the Agriculture (Health, Safety and Welfare Provisions) Act (Northern Ireland) 1959. The Act at present does not prescribe a time limit and proceedings must therefore be instituted in accordance with Section 34 of the Magistrates' Court Act (Northern Ireland) 1964, that is, within six months of the date on which the offence was committed.

The proposed amendment provides for the institution of legal proceedings within three months of the date on which evidence sufficient to justify a prosecution becomes known to the Department of Agriculture or within 12 months of the date of the offence, whichever is the longer period.

There are three reasons for the proposed amendments in Article 15 to the Agricultural Product (Meat Regulations and Pig Industry) Act (Northern Ireland) 1962: first, to give legislative backing to the EEC directives on health problems affecting trade in meat within the Community; secondly, to enable statistical information returned by meat shippers to the Department of Agriculture to be made available to other Government Departments; and thirdly, to include "bacon" in the definition of "meat" so that it will come within the existing controls on standards of production required for neat for export from Northern Ireland.

The purpose of Article 16, which amends the Marketing of Potatoes Act (Northern Ireland) 1964. is to increase the deterrents against illegal exports of potatoes from Northern Ireland.

Control by the Department of Agriculture over the standards of quality, grading and packing of potatoes sent out of Northern Ireland are essential for the well-being of the ware potato industry. At present, the Department may seize potatoes on suspicion of their being sent out of Northern Ireland illegally but may detain them only while the suspected offence is being investigated.

The proposed amendment would enable the Department to sell such potatoes and to confiscate them or the proceeds of sale where the party involved is subsequently convicted of an offence under the Act or associated Regulations.

Where that person is not so convicted, the Department will be required to release the potatoes or, if it has sold the potatoes, to pay the proceeds of the sale to that person. In addition, the maximum fine for a first offence in connection with the export of potatoes is to be raised from £50 to £250 and for a second or subsequent offence from £100 to £500. This is covered by Article 21 which deals with the proposed increases in fines in the various enactments.

The Ulster Farmers' Union expressed concern about the provision in paragraph (2), which would exempt the Department from liability for costs incurred—by reason of the detention or sale of potatoes —by a person who was subsequently acquitted of any contravention or breach. Their concern was that if potatoes were seized and sold on a falling market the owner, if acquitted, could suffer financially because the realised value of the potatoes would probably be less than their potential value at the time of seizure. This could happen on occasions but the opposite would be the case if the market were rising.

There is no simple or practical way in which the Department could attempt to balance possible gains and losses. I am satisfied that if the circumstances envisaged by the union should arise, the swings and roundabouts factor will iron out any anomalies.

I can assure hon. Members that this kind of provision is in no way novel. The Department has, under the Imported Livestock Order 1958, the power to impound and dispose of livestock suspected of being imported illegally into Northern Ireland, and, of course, forefeiture of illegally imported goods is one of the main deterrents in the Customs and Excise Act 1952.

The primary purpose of the amendment to Article 17 which amends the Pig Production Development Act (Northern Ireland) 1964, is to alter the basis of contributions by pig producers in Northern Ireland to the Pig Production Development Fund, which provides the finance for services and facilities employed to promote pig improvement. At present, pig producers pay a fixed levy on each pig sold to the Pigs Marketing Board. It is proposed to replace this by a fixed percentage of each producer's return from pigs sold to the Board. It is not intended that this change should result in higher overall payments by producers to the Pig Production Development Fund. The change is intended to reduce the fluctuations in the revenue of the fund, which now occur when marketings of pigs fall substantially, by linking the contribution to producer returns, since these will normally be maintained by higher prices when pigs are scarce.

Article 18 provides for amendments to the Livestock Marketing Commission Act (Northern Ireland) 1967. The first amendment enables the Livestock Marketing Commission to determine the amount of contribution which it wishes to make to the Agricultural Research Council for scientific research and extends to the Commission the specific function of encouraging scientific research, At present the Commission may provide funds for scientific research only if it is required by order by the Department of Agriculture to do so. As stated in the Whits Paper "Framework for Government research and development" of July 1972, the Government wish to extend the customer-contractor approach to all applied research and development. The use of statutory powers to extract like contributions from the Meat and Livestock Commission for Great Britain has been discontinued already. This amendment will do likewise for Northern Ireland.

The second amendment under this article removes pigs from the terms of reference of the Livestock Marketing Commission. The Commission is at present empowered to examine and recommend improvements in the marketing of livestock and livestock products. The definition of "livestock" includes pigs, and a levy is collected on certain types of pig slaughtered in Northern Ireland. Most promotional work for pigs is, however, undertaken by the Pigs Marketing Board, and there is considerable resistance in the pig industry to the payment of the Commission levy. This amendment will remove any responsibility for the marketing of pigs or pig products from the Commission.

Article 19 amends the Water Act (Northern Ireland) 1972 by removing the obligation on the Department of Agriculture to obtain the approval of the Department of Finance before carrying out minor water recreational schemes, such as the provision of riverside walks, jetties, slipways, picnic sites, canoe steps, navigation markers and the like.

The purpose of Article 20 is to enable the Department of Agriculture to make regulations substituting metric for non-metric units and expressions which occur in the nine enactments specified in Schedule 1 and in any enactment the subject matter of which is akin to that of any of the provisions so specified. Authority for amendment of imperial references in agricultural legislation in Great Britain is contained in the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976.

The purpose of Article 21 is to authorise increases in fines which may be imposed under the enactments listed in Schedule 2. The increases reflect the fall in the deterrent value of the original fines due to inflation in recent years.

Article 22 contains provisions relating to the repeal of enactments specified in Schedule 3. These repeals are consequential to earlier provisions of this order.

I know that I could have attempted to put the order before the House without sufficient explanation, but I am sure that that would have been unacceptable. I commend the order to the House.

12.18 a.m.

I thank the Under-Secretary of State for his extensive and detailed explanation of the order. The hon. Gentleman has not disappointed us in any way by what he has said about the necessary revisions that should be made in respect of the Department of Agriculture. As I am sure that hon. Members from Northern Ireland will wish to raise various matters, I shall be brief.

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will agree—the matter was raised when we were talking about Northern Ireland legislation earlier—that this sort of measure should either be a Bill or should be considered by the Select Committee on Northern Ireland legislation. I should like to go into that with the Secretary of State. The provisions are extremely miscellaneous, as the hon. Gentleman will agree. They range from the breeding of livestock to slaughterhouses, the destruction of infected wild life, fees and other payments charged by Government agencies, and other important agricultural matters.

We believe that the Department of Agriculture needs these powers to regulate the standard and condition of livestock in the Province, and for the other reasons that have been described, including the provisions relating to slaughterhouses. We think that the order and the circumstances under which it is presented, which we do not criticise in themselves, point to the need to consider the methods by which we consider Northern Ireland legislation in the House.

12.20 a.m.

This order, like all miscellaneous provisions orders, contains a large conglomeration of bits and pieces. I should like to ask the Minister a few questions about some of them.

First, will he expand on what he said about sires for various classes of livestock in Article 3? What kind of inspection will be carried out? What standards will be laid down? From whom will advice be taken on standards? Why is it thought necessary for standards to be applied only from time to time when in the past, in the case of cattle, they have been applied continually and with great success, leading to the discouragement of scrub bulls and the production of greatly improved quality of livestock? Will the inspectorate that has been dealing with these matters in the past be maintained to carry out the necessary inspections when the need arises?

I welcome the requirement in Article 9 that all slaughterhouses must slaughter cattle and livestock for local butchers. Will the Minister assure those local butchers that the fees charged for slaughter will be reasonable? This is a matter that troubles small butchers in various parts of Northern Ireland.

A further matter that arises here concerns the ritual slaughter of cattle that are to be exported. Will the Minister give a categorical assurance that no cruelty will take place when such slaughter is being practised? I feel keenly about this matter. As a farmer, I am fond of animals. It is unfortunate, but necessary, that animals have to be killed before we can eat them. However, I think that they should be killed as humanely and swiftly as posssible.

I agree with and share the concern of the National Farmers' Union about the open ended nature of Article 14. It means that an action can be brought against a farmer possibly six or seven years after an offence has been committed. There is something odd about the drafting. It provides that
"within the period of three months from the date on which evidence, sufficient … to justify a prosecution … comes to its knowledge, or within 12 months from the commission of the offence".
The first part is totally open ended and the second part in some way seems to close it off. Why not have one criterion or the other so that people know precisely where they stand on the matter? This point has troubled a number of people. Why has it been left so open ended?

Regarding Article 16 and the seizure of potatoes, the Minister seemed to be referring only to ware potatoes. I believe that the article covers not only ware potatoes but seed potatoes. I should like clarification on that point. The hon. Gentleman sought to justify the article on the ground of smuggled livestock. The difficulty is that potatoes can be more easily damaged than a bullock. Indeed, they tend to change their value more quickly—usually downwards rather than upwards. The analogy about what was lost on the roundabout being gained on the swings may be true over time, but the difficulty is that there are different people on the roundabout from those on the swings. I cannot see any justification for this matter. Someone who has a crop of seed potatoes, which have a high value, could find himself being chased by the Seed Potato Marketing Board because of a penalty clause.

The chance of a mistake being made is very tiny but if the Department has made a mistake I do not think it should get off the hook. It is because I believe that the chance of a mistake being made is very small that I feel that the Department should assume liability. The cost over the years would be very small and the same person would be on the swings and roundabout all the time.

Concerning Article 17, will the Minister tell us why he looks upon the Pig Production Development Committee as more fully representing the interests of producers than, for instance, the Ulster Farmers' Union? If this committee is taken to represent the interests of the producers in this respect, why are the views and the attitudes of the Cattle Breeders' Association in Northern Ireland not taken into account in regard to the licensing of sires of cattle?

I hope that, even at this later hour, the Minister will try to put us a little more into the picture on these matters.

12.27 a.m.

Before the Under-Secretary of State replies to the points made by my hon. Friend the Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross), I should like to comment on the remarks of the hon. Member for Abing-don (Mr. Neave) concerning the propriety or otherwise of this order being taken on the Floor of the House at this time of night.

I say straight away that I concur entirely in the remarks made a little earlier by the right hon. Member for Belfast, East (Mr. Craig) about the in-dispensability of procedure by Bill, but that is not the narrower point of criticism which was raised by the hon. Member for Abingdon, who suggested that this order would be more appropriately dealt with by the Northern Ireland Statutory Instruments Committee. That is, I believe, a Select Committee.

I would dissent from that suggestion in the case of an order such as this, where the number of points which require to be made appear, after careful previous examination of the order, to be few. Obviously, the reasons for the order being made must be put upon the record, as the Under-Secretary did tonight. Similarly, there must be an opportunity to query points and to have the answers on the record. But if that is done, it is only a matter of convenience whether it is done on the record of the House, which on the whole is preferable, or on the record of a Select Committee, which is much more difficult to come by in a handy form for later reference.

Where proceedings on an order of this sort are likely to be brief, it involves less use of ministerial and other time for an order to be dealt with, as this and the following order are being dealt with, after a major sitting upon Northern Ireland business, than for the Select Committee to be summoned specially to deal with matters which are likely to be disposed of in half an hour or so.

I should like to say that it was by no means thoughtlessly that these orders were put down to be taken on the Floor of the House and that, paradoxically, there is often as good a case for taking an order which will be dealt with briefly on the Floor of the House as there is a case for taking on the Floor of the House an order which is important in itself and will absorb a great deal of debating time. I hope, therefore, that the hon. Member for Abingdon will not take it amiss if on that matter of procedure I dissent from what he said.

Will the right hon. Gentleman not agree that there is a case for more detailed scrutiny of some of these orders, which could be done by a Select Committee, with witnesses, for example, from the National Farmers' Union?

If the hon. Gentleman were suggesting an entirely different sort of committee, a committee which we do not have at all at the moment, that is indeed a major proposal. But I think that it would be unwise to embark upon that unless we were seeing it in the context of a proposal for Select Committee handling of legislation on a much wider scale.

There is, of course, a Select Committee of the House sitting upon the general procedure in matters of legislation. I happen to be a member of that Committee, and it is perfectly possible that it would give some consideration to the question of Select Committee procedure as applied to the processes of legislation. If that were to happen, I am sure that the hon. Member for Abingdon would agree that there is nothing particularly special about Northern Ireland legislation which would justify us in taking it, so to speak, out of turn if there were to be such an improvement to our procedure.

In my speech on the first two orders I put it to the Secretary of State that we might consider a Select Committee on Northern Ireland legislation as a matter of procedure in this House. The right hon. Gentleman might remember that I made that point during my earlier speech.

12.32 a.m.

I do not think that I can make any further useful contribution to the exchange between the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell) and the hon. Member for Abingdon (Mr. Neave) other than to say that I am aware of the suggestion that has been made by the hon. Member for Abingdon. I am also aware of the other suggestions that have been made by hon. Members from Northern Ireland on improvements to the procedure which would be a greater range of opportunity for full discussion on a number of issues that come before the House.

I thought that it would have been un-forgiveable of me, when introducing this order, which covered such a wide range, to curtail my remarks even at this late hour. I realised that that would have been unacceptable to the House. I was aware of the suggestions and the discussions that ensued with regard to the earlier orders.

It is my own view that it might be of great benefit if these matters were discussed through the usual channels. Perhaps improvements can then be sought. But to set up new Select Committees— that is, other than those which already exist—may cause major difficulties and delay. That would serve no useful purpose. I leave my remarks there.

There are several points that have been put to me by the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross). He seemed to indicate that I was trying to influence the House by suggesting that only ware potatoes were of concern to the Department. If I gave that impression, I apologise. The order covers all potatoes, including seed potatoes. But, from experience, it appears that the major concern and problem is with the illegal export of ware potatoes However, we have taken on board what the hon. Gentleman said.

The hon. Gentleman asked what sort of inspection would be carried out to determine quality of sires once the bull licence is removed. If the licences were removed there would be no inspection at all. At the moment Article 3 is an enabling measure only, and talks on the future of sire licensing have been going on in Northern Ireland for some time. All boar licensing was abolished in January of this year and there has never been licensing of rams. None is envisaged in the foreseeable future.

It is recognised that a revision of bull licensing is necessary. This system has been in existence for over half a century. But it would be hard to convince me that a statutory licence scheme is practicable or worthwhile in present livestock breeding. Statutory bull licensing in Great Britain was suspended in October 1976, and in my opinion Northern Ireland should follow suit. However, my Department is having further talks with the various fanning interests shortly, and a definite line will probably be decided then, though I repeat that it will be very hard to convince me that we should depart from the recommendations in Article 3.

The hon. Gentleman also asked about Article 9 and what terms would be reasonable for slaughtering cattle by local butchers and how these would be determined. The range of facilities provided by local authority slaughter houses varies from those catering purely for the Northern Ireland market to those providing EEC and international standards. For my part, I believe that in the case of local authority abattoirs, the Department, although not determining charges, confirms the byelaws made by a local authority. I think that that is sufficient protection for all concerned.

A great deal of emotion has been engendered about ritual slaughtering. The Slaughter of Animals (Northern Ireland) Act 1932 makes an exception for the stunning of animals in cases which are now recognised as religious requirements for the food of Jews and Mohammedans. Whatever the method of slaughter— religious or otherwise—the House can be assured that it must by law be carried out without inflicting unnecessary suffering. It is under the direct supervision of the Department's veterinary staff, who report to me that they are satisfied with the methods used.

Another point related to the agricultural safety, health and welfare provisions in respect of tractors. I was asked whether the three months and the 12 months were open ended. We are trying to remove danger and hazard, especially to children, on farms. I am sure that all right hon. and hon. Members wish to do that. We are saying that, within three months of being notified of an offence or within 12 months of an offence being committed, action will be taken. It is true that the three months could become operative in certain circumstances. But my advisory staff would most often wish to deal with this matter on a local basis, probably by a warning. However, if a warning were disregarded, action would need to be taken.

As for the confiscation of potatoes, the measures are designed to protect the long-term interests of Northern Ireland farmers. I assure the House that my Department would not take action lightly. But, by the very nature of the trade, the Potato Marketing Board in Northern Ireland normally represents and sells on behalf of farmers direct to the shippers. The major offences are committed not by the farmers but in most cases by the shippers. It is rare for farmers to be involved. But, again, there is a sensitive balance here. I believe that it should be in favour of protecting the industry, and not paying too much regard to the shippers.

I have no sympathy with the person who commits a crime. I recall the case of a neighbour of mine who shipped uncertified potatoes, and the offence was not discovered until they were on a ship bound for Cyprus. They were brought back to him, by which time they were not worth very much, and no one in the area had any sympathy for him. But I am concerned about the occasional innocent person who gets caught up in this matter.

If an offence is committed, the person is not innocent. We would take action only against a person who had committed an offence. In the main these offences are committed by shippers, not farmers. It is not unusual for the goods to be taken under the Customs and Excise Acts. These features are part of normal practice and penalty.

I was questioned about the Pig Production Development Committee. This is a statutory body which has a responsibility for advising the Department on the amount of the levy which finances the various services and facilities employed for pig improvement work and the way in which it should be used. The committee gives advice as it represents the widest variety of interests in the pig industry.

Of the eight members on the committee, two are nominated by the Ulstet Fanners' Union, two by the Pig Marketing Board, one by the National Pig Breeders Association, and one by the Northern Ireland Landcare Pig Breeders Association, and two are appointed by the Department of Agriculture. The interests are spread very wide and the members are representative.

I hope that the House will approve the order.

Question put and agreed to.


That the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1977, a draft of which was laid before this House on 14th June, be approved.