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It depends on the extent to which we carry out our obligations. I am confident that MAFF and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster will carry out those obligations within the timetable that they have in mind.
The NFU letter continued:
We also welcome his assurance that the European Commission—
this is the key point—
has the power to override the Standing Veterinary Committee if that body appears to be taking factors other than purely scientific or technical ones into account. Should such a position arise the NFU considers that the Government should immediately halt the selective cull scheme. The whole beef crisis has been far too bedeviled with politics rather than based on good scientific advice and cool rational judgment.
Those are not my words, but those of the NFU.
The letter continues:
The NFU pledges to do all it can to cooperate with the relevant authorities to ensure that the export ban is lifted on the timetable referred to by the Prime Minister, if not earlier. It is essential that for their part the authorities 'pull out all the stops' so that this can be achieved.
I believe that they will do that.
I had hoped to have time to remind the House that the Agriculture Select Committee produced three reports— agreed by all Committee members—on BSE, on the disposal of livestock, and on the identification and registration of livestock. With the wisdom of hindsight, I must record my disappointment that we perhaps did not receive a greater response from the Government.
I hope that, when the Select Committee reports in future, the Government will cast their mind back and consider that perhaps we had it partly right, especially in respect of identification and registration. In defence of the Government, we reported that, because the number of BSE cases was declining, we did not think that it would be worth the cost of introducing a programme. Perhaps my hon. Friend the Minister was a member of the Committee at that time.