HC Deb 04 June 1998 vol 313 cc497-8
12. Mr. Ian Stewart (Eccles)

What steps he has taken to inform other EU Agriculture Ministers of progress on British cattle tracing systems. [42733]

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Dr. John Cunningham)

I demonstrated the cattle tracing system to other EU Agriculture Ministers during the informal Agriculture Council in Newcastle upon Tyne on 11 May. I am glad to report to the House that they were impressed.

Mr. Stewart

I note that the informal Council of Agriculture Ministers took place in Newcastle upon Tyne and believe that it has been reported as being highly successful. My right hon. Friend has to be congratulated on that. I am also aware that he dedicated a large part of that event to demonstrating the traceability of British cattle from birth to supermarket shelf. Does he agree that that shows that British beef is safe to export anywhere in the world?

Dr. Cunningham

Yes, it does. My hon. Friend is right to emphasise that, as I did again yesterday when addressing the Agriculture Committee of the European Parliament.

Mr. Ian Bruce (South Dorset)

The right hon. Gentleman and his predecessors have told EU Agriculture Ministers in the past what we were doing to eradicate BSE. Did he get assurances from his European Union colleagues that once the traceability system and the other measures that have been taken are working, they will immediately allow us to export British beef?

Dr. Cunningham

I understand the hon. Gentleman's wish to be constructive, but the answer is no, because having the Workington centre operational is not a condition for lifting the ban. We expect a proposal from the Commission before the operational date of 28 September.

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