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Allister replies to Rooker's comments

13 January 2006


DUP MEP Jim Allister has issued the following comment on a statement from Lord Rooker dealing with his criticisms of how the Farm Nutrient Management Scheme negotiations have been handled:


"I'm glad to see that my criticisms have at least stung the Minister into re-action and caused him to engage on this issue.


The fundamental criticism remains: the industry and those to be most affected by what is negotiated have not been consulted as they ought.  I find no answer in the Minister's response as to why the Stakeholder Group has not met since November 2004.  The much relied upon conference in March 2005, which I attended, did not reveal any significant detail but dealt mostly in generalities, whereas, step-by-step consultation with the stakeholders is what is required.


The denial that members of the Stakeholders Group have been refused copies of the current draft Action Programme does not tally with complaints made on this very point to my office.  Even I as a public representative had trouble overcoming resistance within DARD to supplying me with a copy.  So, I do not accept that the Government has involved interested groups as they should.


However, the real test will be how the package negotiated fits Northern Ireland's needs. Though the Minister says the package is shaped by the applicable science, a key component within it, namely no spreading on 20% slopes, arises from concerns elsewhere in Europe about erosion, which is not an issue here.  So why is such a crippling restriction being foisted upon us?


Thus, while I welcome the debate with the Minister he has said nothing to diminish my concerns and criticism.  I trust the net result will, though, be a more focussed and determined effort to deliver what is best for Northern Ireland and its key agricultural industry."


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Agriculture and Environment