HC Deb 23 October 2003 vol 411 cc773-4
3. Mr A.J. Beith (Berwick-upon-Tweed)

What steps she is taking to remove barriers to beef exports to EU countries. [133783]

The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Margaret Beckett)

I most recently discussed beef exports with Commissioner Byrne in Italy last month. The European Food Safety Authority is considering the UK case for relaxing rules on UK exports.

Mr. Beith

Does the Secretary of State recognise how crucial it is to beef farmers in Northumberland that we get support at the highest political levels to overcome obstacles that may owe more to protectionism than to science? In particular, does she realise how important it is to secure the smooth dismantling of the data-based export scheme and the over-30 month scheme, and to achieve a target of getting bone-in beef exported by next autumn?

Margaret Beckett

We fully understand the concern of beef farmers, whether in Northumbria or elsewhere. The Government's clear aim is to be able to trade on the same basis as other member states. That is what we are pursuing, but the right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that we must make sure that the right safeguards are in place and that we are giving the right reassurance. We are doing everything we can. I reassure him that at the highest possible level we have all the support that we could want, but we have to carry others with us.

Mr. Douglas Hogg (Sleaford and North Hykeham)

Would the right hon. Lady tell the House how much beef has been exported to France over the past 12 months, and, if the quantities are very small, what steps she is taking to ensure that they improve?

Margaret Beckett

I am afraid that I do not have that information with me, but I shall certainly write to the right hon. and learned Gentleman. As I said to the right hon. Member for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mr. Beith), the Government are doing everything we can to ensure that it is recognised and acknowledged that Britain has overcome many of the difficulties that were experienced in the past. We have A strong case for saying that we are no higher risk than any other EU country. We should be able to trade on that basis, and that is what we are pursuing.

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