HC Deb 28 March 1996 vol 274 cc1154-5
5. Sir Michael Neubert

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement about developments in his negotiations with his European counterparts about the welfare of animals. [21606]

Mr. Douglas Hogg

Discussion of the Commission proposals for amending the European Union directive on the welfare of calves has now commenced. I have made it clear to my colleagues that the United Kingdom will continue to press for the early introduction of adequate space and dietary requirements. In addition, the Government will press at the intergovernmental conference for a protocol to be added to the treaty of Rome to place an obligation on a Council of Ministers to give full regard to considerations of animal welfare in the exercise of its powers on agriculture, transport, research and the single market.

Sir Michael Neubert

Will my right hon. and learned Friend accept credit for the success of the Government's efforts to persuade other countries in the EU to consider high standards of animal welfare, in line with our own? Will he continue his efforts to press for an early end to the veal crate and its associated restrictions on space and diet? Will he seek an amendment to the treaty that would give the welfare of animals the importance that it has in this country? Presumably that would not include the unjustified slaughter of masses of cattle.

Mr. Hogg

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his support. Veal calf crates are an important subject, and I am glad to say that proposals are now being made by the Commission. At the moment, the time contemplated for the implementation of the new regime-12 years—is in our view far too long. We shall press for a shorter time.

Dr. Strang

Will the Minister acknowledge that BSE is a terrible and invariably fatal disease in cattle and that, since last week, there has been concern about a link with human beings? Has he seen the letter that I sent him yesterday, setting out Labour's proposals to restore confidence in British beef, keep the BSE agent out of our food, improve the epidemiology of the disease, increase consumer awareness and make Government action more effective? Will he adopt a constructive approach to those proposed measures?

Mr. Hogg

Of course BSE is a terrible disease; CJD is an even more terrible disease. Yes, I have seen the letter from the hon. Gentleman; he will bear in mind the fact that we are to have a debate. He asked whether I was adopting a constructive approach to the problems. The answer is yes, I am, and I shall set out my thoughts more fully in this evening's debate.