HC Deb 20 December 1988 vol 144 cc225-6W
Mrs. Gillian Shephard

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council in Brussels on 19 and 20 December 1988; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

With my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary, I attended the meeting held on 19 and 20 December of the Council of Agricultural Ministers of the European Community, which was a continuation of the one held last week.

The Council continued to discuss a package of proposed measures dealing with the reform of the beef support arrangements; changes in green rates in the beef sector; a scheme of direct income aids to farmers; aid for small cereals producers; improvement of production and marketing of nuts; and the question of allocating milk quotas to farmers who had gone out of production under the Community's non-marketing of milk schemes at the time quotas were introduced, following a recent European Court decision. Arrangements for the continued support of New Zealand butter over the next four years and proposed amendments to the agreements governing New Zealand's exports of sheepmeat to the Community has also been part of the package.

Despite lengthy discussion, no agreement could be reached on any items in the package. The Council therefore, rolled forward until 5 March all those aspects of the beef arrangements which were due to end on 31 December, including the variable premium.

The Council also rolled forward for three months the import arrangements for New Zealand butter, which would otherwise have expired on 31 December, the permitted quantity for this period being one quarter of the quantity for 1988. It is clear that this and all the other items under consideration at the Council will have to be taken up again in the new year.

Forward to