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Dec 1 2004

 

Conservative Party

Press Release

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CONSERVATIVE

 

Date:1 December 2004

Ref:2172/04

 

Labour news management comes before assisting farmers

 

Commenting on the Government's decision to move towards lifting the Over Thirty Months Rule, Shadow Secretary of State for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Jim Paice said:

‘We welcome this very long overdue announcement. It is obviously in the interests of British farmers and consumers that this high quality beef comes back on the market.

‘Given that the Government have sat on this crucial issue for so many months, and are making this announcement the day before the Smithfield Show, this is further evidence that under Labour news management comes before assisting farmers. The reality is the Over Thirty Months Rule should have been lifted long before now.’

 

Editorial notes:

 

 

·          In a Written Ministerial Statement today, Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, announced "the start of a managed transition towards the lifting of the OTM rule" owing to the much reduced risk from BSE.

 

·          In July 2003 the FSA recommended that, subject to satisfactory testing procedures being in place, the OTM rule for animals born after 1 August 1996 could be replaced with the BSE testing regime that applies in all other EU member states.

 

·         This was followed up by a similarly positive opinion from the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) in April 2004. 

·         In April this year the EFSA gave an opinion, which said that, the UK had met the criteria for medium risk status for BSE under the OIE guidelines. Medium risk status would put the UK in the same category as most other EU member states and would result in changes to the restrictive conditions on UK beef exports.

·         Government delay in ending the OTM rule has prompted a warning from the European Commission that the UK could end up in the European Court for breaking Single Market rules.

·         The OTM rule costs the taxpayer £360 million a year to avoid the theoretical chance of one death every 120 years from eating OTM beef, and costs the cattle industry £100 million a year (National Beef Association), which is seriously damaging its prospects for long term recovery 

 

·          The NFU has welcomed the Government's decision to accept the Food Standards Agency's recommendations to relax the Over Thirty Month rule is a positive move for the UK beef industry. NFU President Tim Bennett said: "I am delighted that at last we have a positive decision on the FSA recommendation. The Government has recognised the progress that has been made in eradicating BSE in British cattle and we must now progress as quickly as possible with the evaluation of the testing procedures and implementation of the necessary legislation."  

 

·          Mr Bennett added: " I am sure that the industry will fully cooperate with the expert group that will review the BSE testing procedures in the UK. Indeed, the industry has already been carrying out informal testing of the protocols to ensure that as much practical knowledge of the process is gained as quickly as possible. This is very positive news for the beef industry and we are confident that there is a market place for this product and that it should generate a realistic price for producers. It is also welcome recognition of the hard work and investment of British livestock farmers." 

 

·          The NFU also believes that this announcement will kick start further progress in Europe on securing changes to other BSE related regulations in the UK. Mr Bennett said: " Confirmation of medium risk status would be a real breakthrough for the UK beef industry. It should enable us to export beef to other EU member states under exactly the same conditions that they use. This decision starts the process of placing UK beef producers under the same market conditions as other EU member states, something that we have not experienced since 1996."

 

ENDS

For further information, please contact Tara Hamilton-Miller on 0207 984 8092 or 07931 571 769