asked the Minister for Agriculture and Food whether he has completed proposals for a new approach to the management of the bovine TB eradication programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Bovine TB Eradication Programme.
I am reviewing the current arrangements for the management of the bovine TB scheme. As I have already informed the House, my approach to changes will be influenced by the need to demonstrate clearly that any new arrangements will be more effective in eradicating TB, will safeguard our substantial export interests and will be cost effective. The support of the farming community and the co-operation of those currently engaged on the schemes are important factors also. I am examining recent proposals from the farming organisations for changes in the organisational and operational aspects of the schemes. I shall not be in a position to adopt a final position until consultations have taken place with the principal parties concerned and a comprehensive evaluation of all the issues involved has been made.
Will the Minister accept as a matter of fundamental principle that farmers who are now paying two-thirds of the cost of this scheme should have a say in the management of the scheme?
As I have already said, discussions are taking place with the farming organisations. The whole thrust of those discussions is to ensure we will have a more efficient and a more cost effective scheme. But because of the complexity of the scheme and the time already spent trying to eradicate this disease, we want to get the formula right on this occasion. As we have had only a relatively short time for discussions, we are not yet in a position to say what the final form will be.
While I accept that the Minister might need a little time to consider various proposals and the reports — I made a proposal during the levies debate on 7 April — that is not the question I put to him. I want to know whether this Government will accept as a basic principle the right of the farmers to have a say in the management of the scheme. The detail as to how that will be worked out could be a matter which would involve discussion——
We have already had that question.
Will the Minister accept as a basic principle that the farmers should have a say in the management of this scheme?
I cannot pre-empt the outcome of the discussions which are taking place. I must add that these discussions are very constructive. The farmers are the people directly involved and have most to lose in relation to this scheme. The discussions hopefully will be concluded in the next few weeks when I expect to be able to inform the Deputy and the House the form the new proposals will take.