§ 11. Mr. John Hall
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to prevent the abuse of the cattle subsidy system arising out of traffic in cattle between Eire and Northern Ireland.
There appears to be some misunderstanding about this matter. Hundreds of thousands of cattle annually are imported from the Irish Republic to the United Kingdom and they play an important part in the economies of both countries. After a minimum fattening period of three months in the United Kingdom, these imported cattle, if otherwise eligible, qualify for the United Kingdom cattle subsidy less 3s. 6d. per cwt. Exports of cattle from the United Kingdom, including re-exports from Northern Ireland to the Irish Republic, are not restricted—except by regulations under Diseases of Animals legislation.
There is some illegal movement from the Irish Republic to Ulster, but special vigilance is maintained both on the 378 border and in the markets and cattle which are found to be imported contrary to regulations are seized.
§ Mr. Hall
Is not it a fact that there is quite a considerable movement of cattle from Eire into Northern Ireland, that these cattle attract subsidy and are taken back again across the border and exported to the Continent? Does not that mean that there has been an abuse of the present subsidy system at the expense of the British taxpayer?
That can only take place legally if the cattle remain in Northern Ireland for three months or more between importation from the South and re-export.