§ 1. Mr. Tredinnick
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he is taking to learn about the view of organisations with rural interests as part of the rural White Paper exercise.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. William Waldegrave)
My Department and that of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Environment wrote to a wide range of organisations in November inviting them to submit their views. Officials are also conducting meetings with a wide range of organisations, which will include a series of regional seminars involving Ministers from both Departments. The first of these will take place next month.
§ Mr. Tredinnick
Has my right hon. Friend heard views expressed similar to those expressed to me by farmers in my constituency, to the effect that they are very much against the veal crate system but feel that the blame lies fairly and squarely with nations on the continent? What has he done to persuade those nations to abolish the veal crate system, which is damaging the image of British farmers?
§ Mr. Waldegrave
I attended the Agriculture Council meeting on Monday, where I put on the agenda the proposal that the review of the veal crate system—proposed for review in 1997—should be brought forward immediately. I am happy to say that I had widespread support for that in the Council, and the Commission will now bring forward the review.
If there had been a vote there and then in the Council, I believe that the veal crate system would have been abolished on the spot—not a single Council member spoke up for it. I am not so naive as to think that there will not now be a rearguard action from those who use the system, but we have started well. We must maintain the momentum to achieve this prize—the real prize of banning a practice that is unacceptable to farmers here and in many other parts of the European Union. It must be banned right across Europe.