HC Deb 10 June 1993 vol 226 cc424-6
7. Mr. Sykes

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress her Department is making in relation to deregulation.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

My predecessor invited comments on a list of Ministry regulations in the early part of last year. We are reviewing every one of the regulations for which we are responsible.

Mr. Sykes

I join my colleagues in welcoming my right hon. Friend to her important position. Despite the disgraceful and callous comments made yesterday by the right hon. and learned Member for Monklands, East (Mr. Smith), I am sure that my right hon. Friend and, indeed, the whole House will want to express support for the owners of and workers in the hotel that collapsed, whose livelihoods have been put in jeopardy. Will she ensure that red tape does not get in the way of any help that she might give to soften the blow of that catastrophe?

Mrs. Shephard

I can certainly give my hon. Friend that assurance, in so far as that very tragic matter falls within the purview of my Ministry. I do not think that anyone would want to heap any more difficulty on what is already a tragic situation.

Mr. Cryer

Is not it true that the Government, who claim to want to deregulate and to take the burden of regulations off people's backs, are actually producing more regulations than ever in the history of Parliament, in the form of statutory instruments? That was certainly true for 1992, and in the current year statutory instruments are being processed through the legislative sausage machine at an even greater rate. When will the right hon. Lady reduce the output of statutory instruments and, in so doing, cease to bypass Parliament? Her Department and others are using delegated powers to bypass this place.

Mrs. Shephard

Coming from a member of a party that has wedded itself to placing burdens on business, the hon. Gentleman's comments are fairly rich. However, I wish to reassure him. I can confirm that the deregulation plans prepared by my Ministry for food law, pesticides, veterinary medicines, animal health and welfare, horticul-ture and plant protection, fisheries and the common agricultural policy, among other matters, are being placed in the Library as they are prepared. The hon. Gentleman may care to inform himself therefrom.

Mr. Peter Atkinson

I welcome my right hon. Friend's early commitment to deregulation. However, will she turn her attention to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate and its rules and regulations covering the licensing of new and existing products? They are now so complex that each product costs about £100,000 to license, which has resulted in some well-regarded products disappearing from the market.

Mrs. Shephard

I can reassure my hon. Friend on that point. As I said to the hon. Member for Bradford, South (Mr. Cryer), the deregulation plan for veterinary medicines is being prepared and will be placed in the Library. I place the highest importance on that work in the Ministry.

Dr. Strang

I congratulate the right hon. Lady on her appointment. I know that she has a long-standing and genuine interest in agriculture. I hope that she will find her period of office both worth while and enjoyable—after yesterday's events, the period may be shorter than she expected.

Is the right hon. Lady aware that fishing is the most regulated industry and that the purpose of the regulations is the conservation of stocks—an objective which the Opposition support? However, does she understand that fish conservation measures work only with the cooperation of fishermen? Will she abandon the compulsory tie-up regulations, which do not apply to foreign vessels in British waters, will put many British fishermen into bankruptcy and will threaten lives because of the pressure on fishermen to remain at sea in dangerous weather? Will she bring a fresh mind to that problem and review the whole of the current policy?

Mrs. Shephard

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind welcome, which was, perhaps, a little spoilt towards the end. I remind him that, as I said in answer to a previous question, we all agree that there is a fundamental need to rebuild fish stocks, to which the hon. Gentleman committed himself. He must understand that there are parameters within which we have to work. However, I repeat that I have taken an early opportunity to meet the fishermen to hear their practical concerns. As the parameters are so important, I am not sure how far we can move, but the hon. Gentleman can be certain that I shall listen to the fishermen and, as far as possible, work with them.

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