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Egg Production

Volume 124: debated on Tuesday 8 December 1987

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) what is his estimate of and basis of calculation for the cost to the Scottish egg industry of adapting to EEC battery cage legislation in Scotland;(2) what is his Department's estimate of and basis of calculation for the costs of compliance with the additional requirements for three, two and one birds under the Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987 for egg producers in Scotland.

EC directive 86/113 places inescapable obligations on all member states. The cost of compliance will vary from producer to producer according to the type of cage in use, its age, and how the space allowance and other requirements contained in the directive are to be met. No estimate of the aggregate cost to Scottish producers is available.The same consideration will largely apply in the context of the allowances for three, two and one birds specified in the Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what is his estimate of the number of Scottish egg producers who will cease egg production because they are unable to comply with the additional requirements for three, two and one birds contained within the Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987; and what representations he has received on this matter.

Representations on the regulations have been made by a number of hon. Members and by the president of the National Farmers Union of Scotland. The views expressed have in some cases been critical of the additional space requirement for less than four birds and in others have condemned the retention of the cage system and complained that the space allowance is too low. No information is available on the number of egg producers who may cease production, if any.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to ensure that Scottish egg farmers are not put at a competitive disadvantage with their European counterparts in the implementation of the provisions of EEC directive 86/133/EEC, as implemented by the Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987.

EC directive 86/113 lays down minimum standards. Other than in situations where less than four birds are housed in a cage these minimum standards will apply in the United Kingdom. In the majority of cases therefore Scottish farmers will be in an identical situation to most of their European counterparts though it is worth pointing out that in Denmark and in West Germany the minimum space allowance for four birds and more will be higher than in the United Kingdom. We shall be keeping the matter under review.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what advice he proposes to give egg producers in Scotland as to the time at which they should comply with the provisions of the Welfare of Battery Hens Regulations 1987, implementing EEC directive 86/113/EEC, in the light of the further scientific review to be undertaken in 1993 and of the assurances given by the Government that consequential problems will be kept under continual review.

The regulations come into force on 1 January 1988. As from that date all new cages must conform: for existing cages the space allowance must be achieved by 1 January 1995. Within the seven-year lead-in period for existing cages, the timing of any change will largely be a matter for the individual producer. The Government will maintain close links with the industry on both its ongoing review and the scientific report due from the Commission by 1 January 1993.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he proposes to take to monitor compliance within Europe of the provisions of the European directive 86/113/EEC, on the welfare of battery hens.

Compliance with EEC directives is a matter for individual member states and for the European Commission. In this instance article 7 requires the Commission to undertake inspection programmes within member states to ensure that the directive is complied with and uniform standards applied. The Commission is also required to produce reports on these inspections.