Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 15th May 2003.

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Photo of Alun Michael Alun Michael Minister of State (Rural Affairs), Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs 11:30 am, 15th May 2003

My hon. Friend makes a good point about the need to ensure the availability of abattoir capacity in order to help local and regional products, and we are doing so in conjunction with the Government offices and the regional development agencies. However, one has to remember that we are talking about commercial activities, and the Meat and Livestock Commission has estimated that in 1999, comparing peak-week activity with average activity, the overcapacity amounted to 49 per cent. for cattle, 55 per cent. for sheep and 27 per cent. for pigs. I came across problems in the abattoir industry when I was first elected to a local authority in 1973, so many of these issues are not new. We should bear in mind, in trying to assist local and regional provision of facilities, that these are commercial activities and that there is still an element of over-provision.