HC Deb 25 July 1979 vol 971 cc299-300W
Mr. Goodlad

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels on 23–24 July.

Mr. Peter Walker

I attended a meeting of the Council of Agriculture Mini sters in Brussels yesterday, together with my hon. Friend the Minister of State.

The main subject for discussion was sheepmeat. I insisted that Community measures must provide satisfactorily for the interests of British producers and consumers and of New Zealand, and I pointed to the danger of Community measures likely to add to the agricultural budget. I made it clear that the situation which would follow from a European Court judgment against French import controls called at most for limited measures; any aids to producers should be confined to France and Ireland and should be for a limited period only, and the cost should be met by the Governments concerned. I was prepared to agree to the negotiation of voluntary under standings with third countries, including New Zealand, providing any agreement had the full support of New Zealand about the level of its exports to the Community. I was not prepared to agree to the deconsolidation of the GATT-bound tariff on imports of frozen sheepmeat.

The Council decided, largely as a result of United Kingdom opposition, not to adopt a compromise proposal for an aid towards the cost of compulsory distillation of the by-products of wine making, which could have cost some 24 million euas—£16 million.

Some delegations attempted to reopen the recent decision on the reduction in the New Zealand butter levy by an amount equivalent to the special United Kingdom consumer subsidy. We defended the reduction and pointed out that the levy operated at the beginning of the year resulted in a fall in the sales of New Zealand butter. The Commission, in our view correctly, defended the latest reduction in the levy.

The French delegation proposed changes in the school milk subsidy which would have given additional aid to skimmed milk at the expense of whole milk. We opposed this proposal on the grounds that it would add to the butter surplus and not be in the interests of the children. The French proposal was not accepted.

There were also inconclusive discussions on citrus, wine structures and manioc.