A scheme booklet will be available shortly and will be distributed to beef and dairy farmers, setting out the arrangements for the selective cull throughout Great Britain.
It seems probable that farmers in the north-west will have to import cattle to replace those taken out by the selective cull. Bearing in mind the fact that bovine spongiform encephalopathy exists in other countries, can my hon. Friend assure the House about the health status of any cattle that may be imported?
It is likely that a large proportion of the replacement animals will be bred in the United Kingdom. There is already evidence of farmers rearing more animals to replace culled stock. Trade in live animals between member states and the importation of live animals from third countries are subject to detailed animal health rules, most of which are harmonised within the European Community. The rules lay down precise conditions for trade, including a requirement that consignments are accompanied by health certification, signed by an official veterinarian in the exporting country.
I think that the hon. Gentleman is confusing two schemes. The selective, accelerated cull has only just started—the tracing has just begun. As soon as the animals are taken, they will be slaughtered and incinerated. The hon. Gentleman is confusing that with the over-30-months scheme, under which, to get rid of the backlog of 1.3 million cattle, it was necessary to store some carcases to maximise rendering capacity.
May I support the gist of the question of my hon. Friend the Member for Morecambe and Lunesdale (Sir M. Lennox-Boyd)? There have been problems with the veterinary inspection and certification of imported cattle. As we shall have to import more cattle, there are serious concerns to be addressed about the standards of veterinary inspection and certification in some European member states, although everyone in the House will have full confidence in the veterinary profession in this country.
The veterinary rules are harmonised throughout the Community. If we come across any examples of other member states not being up to standard, it is important that we deal with them. The House recognises that we have to get on with the selective cull to fulfil the Florence agreement. That means that farmers must have replacement animals. I hope that the majority can come from the United Kingdom herd.