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Agriculture: BSE

Volume 702: debated on Monday 23 June 2008

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Summary: Intervention and Options document of the impact assessment of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 11 December 2007, whether it is intended that the third proposal on page 8 will be set up in such a manner that the charges cannot be passed backwards to the farmers. [HL4251]

It is for abattoirs to determine how best to recoup any increases in any of their costs, including those that might arise from charging for some of the costs incurred by MHS in enforcing controls on cattle aged over 30 months. Abattoirs could pass costs to their customers, absorb them themselves, pass them back to farmers or share them among all three parties. The way in which costs are handled will depend on trading conditions and the nature of the product. In order to gain an indication of the potential impact on producers and abattoirs of the responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, we assumed that farmers would bear two-thirds and abattoirs would bear one-third of the costs of the three proposals affecting abattoirs (see impact assessment, section 2.1.1). Producers could expect to bear less than this when abattoirs were actively seeking supplies of cattle aged over 30 months.

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Further to the Summary: Intervention and Options document of the impact assessment of transmissible spongiform encephalopathy responsibility and cost-sharing proposals, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 11 December 2007, when the proportion of United Kingdom cattle subject to testing for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) will be reduced, and more of the cost borne by those whose animals are found to have the disease. [HL4252]

The European Commission has proposed a reduced BSE testing programme for member states which meet strict criteria. In February 2008, member states agreed a proposal establishing the criteria. This is currently subject to European Parliament and Council scrutiny. Meanwhile, the European Food Safety Authority is assessing the risk of a range of options for increasing the age limits for testing, which will inform the Commission's decision on the structure of the reduced programme.

We do not expect to implement a reduced testing programme in the UK before January 2009 at the earliest. This is subject to advice from the Spongiform Encephalopathy Advisory Committee and agreement from Rural Affairs and Health Ministers, the Food Standards Agency and the EU.

We expect to detect fewer than 40 cases of BSE in Great Britain in 2008 from suspected cases based on clinical signs and the testing programme which costs about £60 million per annum. The testing programme benefits the industry as a whole and there are no plans to pass more of the cost specifically to those whose cattle are found to have the disease.