§ Ann Clwyd
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what plans he has to commission an independent survey into the incidence of lameness in the United Kingdom broiler chicken flock; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) what steps he is planning to take to persuade the European Commission to propose a directive to address the health and welfare issues raised by the recent report of the Commission's Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare on the Welfare of Chickens Kept for Meat Production (Broilers); and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Morley
The Government have made clear their wish to improve standards of broiler welfare.
The report from the Scientific Committee on Animal Health and Animal Welfare (SCAHAW) on broiler chicken production usefully identifies and assesses the issues. It should enable the Commission now to bring forward proposals for EU standards, an approach which we much prefer to acting unilaterally: it should bring real welfare improvements without putting British producers at a competitive disadvantage in relation to their continental counterparts. We look forward to seeing proposals from the Commission in the light of the report. In preparation for this we shall carefully study the content of the report and the papers to which it refers.
The report recognises, as do the Government, that leg disorders can be a major cause of poor welfare in broilers. A five-year industry survey in this country on broiler leg health should be nearing completion. The Farm Animal Welfare Council to whom the industry is reporting will carefully consider the survey, together with an independent evaluation of the results. I have written to both FAWC and the industry to make clear my concern that this exercise should be swiftly concluded so that we can determine what should be our next steps on leg health and what provisions we should be looking to secure in the EU negotiation. It is essential that we have FAWC's views before we consult on and determine these matters.
The SCAHAW report also makes clear that the subjective nature of the widely used gait scoring system leads to difficulties in making direct comparisons between different studies employing this technique. As a result, the report suggests the need to develop objective 35W measurement systems and to carry out systematic epidemiological studies. In this context, the Government already have in train a number of research projects on broiler leg health, including the development of other quantitative methods of assessing the extent of lameness in broilers.
Meanwhile, the State Veterinary Service continues to carry out random visits to broiler units to assess all aspects of welfare including lameness, litter quality, and ventilation. We are also in the process of drawing up a new Broiler Welfare Code, which takes on board a number of the recommendations contained in FAWC s 1992 report. This is not a substitute for necessary EU action, but represents an important step we can take nationally in the meantime.