HC Deb 05 November 1992 vol 213 cc399-400
4. Mr. Patrick Thompson

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the future of knackers yards.

Mr. Soames

The Government have made clear the importance that they attach to the role of the knacker industry, and in forthcoming discussions with the Community we shall be negotiating with vigour to secure its longer-term future.

Mr. Thompson

Does my hon. Friend accept that well-operated knackers yards prevent serious pollution and health problems? Does he share my concern that crippling charges likely to be imposed under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 could seriously endanger the operation of knackers yards? Will he support the knacker men?

Mr. Soames

The Government stand foursquare behind the knacker men—particularly in the light of the events of the past few days. My hon. Friend has drawn the attention of the House to an important matter which is essential to the proper and orderly running of the countryside. It is true that the knacker men are very worried about the level of fees that they will have to pay for air pollution controls under the Environmental Protection Act 1990. Officials in my Department are closely liaising with those in the Department of the Environment, whose legislation it is. I assure my hon. Friend that we shall do everything that we can to minimise the possible burden of these regulations on the knacker industry.

Mr. Skinner

Last night the Government Whips were dragging Tory Members to the knackers yard and some of them have been squealing ever since. Instead of dragging those Tory Members out of one Lobby and into the other, should not the occupants of the whole Government Front Bench be sent to the knackers yard?

Mr. Soames

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman heard what I said earlier: provided these animals are fit to travel, there is no reason why they should not do so.

Mr. Wiggin

On a different aspect of the matter, in preparing his answer my hon. Friend may have studied the Select Committee report on the disposal of fallen stock and may be aware that not only is the present environmental attack on knackers yards causing that industry great difficulty, but the charges that knackers find it necessary to impose on customers have seriously damaged the industry. Will my hon. Friend look again at the Committee's recommendation that some support for the end product—perhaps paid for by the Department of the Environment—would recognise the important contribution that knackers yards make to the disposal of this disgusting material?

Mr. Soames

I am grateful to my hon. Friend. Naturally we studied the report of his Committee with great care. The knacker industry is not about to disappear and we aim to ensure that it will continue to play a key role in animal waste disposal. Hunt kennels, incinerators and burial are also currently used to dispose of carcases. As I have said, we are aware of the great importance of the knacker industry to the countryside. Although there is no question of our subsidising the industry, I assure my hon. Friend that we shall do all that we can to remove its burdens.

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