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The first point that it is important to make is that the scheme for the 1989 cohort year is voluntary. Farmers may voluntarily offer their records and their cattle under the accelerated slaughter scheme. The incentive for them to do so, as my right hon. and learned Friend and I made clear to the House last week, is that the rates of compensation under the accelerated selective cull will be significantly higher than under the over-30-month scheme. Cattle in the 1989–90 cohort will now be quite old, and so likely to come under that scheme.
We know which holdings had cases of BSE in 1991, 1992 and 1993—they are recorded on computer. As soon as we have authority from the House to start the scheme, veterinary officers will be able to visit all those holdings to check their records on the calving cohort of cattle with BSE. We shall then, as speedily as possible, contact the farmers who now have those cattle, if they are still alive, in order that they may be dealt with.
Much disservice has been done by the way in which the Opposition and some of the media have sought to bandy figures on the selective cull, many of which have been speculative and many of which have been mischief-making. In my discussions with the NFU and the CLA this week, they recognised with regret that some in Europe are determined to see Britain do more to "eradicate" BSE, and that that is an essential prerequisite of raising the export ban. They are determined to work constructively with the Government—as we are determined to work constructively with the farming community—to ensure that the selective cull is a success, and that the least possible disruption is caused to farmers.