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Volume 454: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) how many of the inspectors employed by his Department on animal welfare and animal aspects of cross-compliance are (a) qualified and (b) not qualified as veterinary surgeons; (106180)

(2) how many inspectors are (a) engaged and (b) employed by his Department to carry out cross-compliance inspections.

Responsibility for cross-compliance inspections is divided between the Rural Payments Agency (RPA), the state veterinary service (SVS) and the Environment Agency (EA).

The RPA employs over 260 multi-skilled farm inspectors who carry out livestock identification checks which involve physical ear-tag reading in the presence of the livestock handler. Veterinary training is not required. However, all RPA inspectors have had training and experience in working safely with livestock, and animal welfare issues form part of their training.

The SVS has over 200 qualified veterinary surgeons and a similar number of technical staff. Technical staff carry out cross-compliance inspections regarding restrictions on the use of substances that have a hormonal or thyrostatic action and beta-agonists on farm animals. Responsibility for cross-compliance inspections on the control of animal diseases lies mainly with veterinary staff, although they are assisted by technical staff. Inspections for animal welfare requirements, which come into force in 2007, will be carried out by veterinary staff.

The Environment Agency is responsible for carrying out inspections in relation to groundwater, sewage sludge and nitrate vulnerable zones. Approximately 170 appropriately trained inspectors have undertaken work on cross-compliance as part of their duties.