HC Deb 06 May 1982 vol 23 cc273-4
10. Mr. Greenway

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in which European Economic Community countries the horse is classified as an agricultural animal.

Mrs. Fenner

We have no such information.

Mr. Greenway

I thank my hon. Friend for that reply. I am surprised that the Government are having difficulty in obtaining the information. Is my hon. Friend aware that the present situation is illogical, sad and damaging to man's oldest friend, the horse, on whose back our country's history was substantially built? Is she further aware that the situation in other European countries, where the horse is rightly classified as an agricultural animal, means that our horse breeders are facing unfair competition and finding it increasingly difficult to keep going and maintain exports? Does my hon. Friend know that the British Equestrian Federation, the British Horse Society, the National Farmers Union, and anyone connected with horses in any knowledgable way, want the horse to be reclassified as an agricultural animal?

Mrs. Fenner

My hon. Friend refers to classification in other countries, but it is necessary to establish what each country understands by the term "agricultural animal". Although I agree that the horse has had a historical role, only an insignificant number are used in agriculture in this country. Hence, there is no justification for a change. The number of horses used wholly or mainly for agricultural work is insignificant.

Sir Timothy Kitson

Is my hon. Friend aware that because of the French and Irish classification of their horses they have a tremendous tax advantage that we do not have here? At least those countries have worked out something that is satisfactory, even if we do not know what they are doing.

Mrs. Fenner

I can only reiterate to my hon. Friend that those countries may have more horses genuinely used for agricultural purposes—but we do not.

Mr. Skinner

Is the Minister aware that some of us are fed up to the back teeth with these imported Common Market phrases, such as "sheepmeat regimes" and "beef meat regimes", and that this idiotic idea stems from all those who believe that the Common Market is great and beautiful, like the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Hillhead (Mr. Jenkins) behind me? It is a load of nonsense. It is time that we stopped this business. What will the people think who are checking the card at Chester today when they read about "agricultural animals"?