30 October 1998

Brown promises to reveal industry aid package plan soon

By Jonathan Riley

FARM minister Nick Brown will announce his industry aid package and his decision on whether or not to extend the calf processing scheme by the end of November.

He made the promise on Tuesday while giving evidence to the House of Commons agriculture select committee as part of its investigation into the impact on MAFF of the comprehensive spending review.

Mr Brown denied suggestions that MAFF had been a "big loser" among government departments.

Increased spending?

And, although the ministrys budget is to be cut by £180m over the next three years, Mr Brown said that, because of decreased spending on BSE, MAFFs spending power would actually increase by 1% year-on-year.

The committee focused on the UK industrys competitiveness and chairman Peter Luff, Conservative MP for mid Worcs, quizzed Mr Brown on the transfer of cattle passport charges to producers, proposed under the comprehensive spending review.

Mr Luff reported that, in the course of collating information, the committee had been alarmed to learn that MAFF had no idea of traceability costs imposed on other member states.

He made a plea to Mr Brown not to impose further costs which would harm the competitiveness of the industry

Plans review

Accepting the industrys difficulties, Mr Brown said he would review the plans to make producers fund the British Cattle Movement Service after its first year of operation.

But he ruled out any new form of support for the pig industry, saying that government intervention in free markets was against the aims of the EUs reform of the CAP.

And on organic farming, Mr Brown said there was no scope within MAFFs budget to match maintenance payments received by organic farmers in other member states.