HC Deb 26 July 1978 vol 954 cc756-7W
Mr. Roderick

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Ministers (Agriculture) meeting in Brussels this week.

Mr. John Silkin

I represented the United Kingdom at this meeting together with my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary.

The Council considered Commission proposals for subsidised sales of butter from intervention stocks. Because of the special circumstances of the United Kingdom market, these proposals would have created difficulties here and the benefit to consumers would have been comparatively small. The Council accordingly expressed the view that the United Kingdom's share of the total of 50 million units of account allocated for these schemes should instead be added to the special United Kingdom butter subsidy. The details will be subject to further discussion and it may be some time yet before the scheme can be implemented. It would be our intention that the payments should apply to all butter sold on the United Kingdom market the amount likely to be available would be equivalent to, say, about 3p per lb over a period of three months.

The Council considered the question of resuming imports of beef from Botswana, which have been suspended for several months because of an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in the north of that country. It was decided that, in view of the improved animal health position, imports of beef from the southern region of Botswana could safely be resumed into Britain and that urgent consideration will be given in early September to allowing imports from other disease-free areas.

I drew the attention of the Council to the fact that the French Government had closed their market to imports of British sheepmeat for an unspecified period. I pointed out that this will increase the discrimination against our exports to France. The Commission undertook to consider the position.