HC Deb 20 June 1988 vol 135 cc419-20W
Mr. McLoughlin

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting on 13 to 15 June in Luxembourg; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. MacGregor

The Minister for State and I attended this Council of Agricultural Ministers of the European Community, which began on Monday afternoon, 13 June, and finished last Friday morning.

The Council agreed to two directives harmonising charges for meat inspection and bringing the standards for export-approved and non-export slaughterhouses closer into line. Other member states were strongly opposed, partly on the ground that it would have been administratively cumbersome, to our preference that the harmonised inspection charges should be based on the principle that the charges should equal the actual costs of inspection in all cases. We did however in the end secure agreement to an increase from 50 to 55 per cent. in the reduction which is permitted from the standard charges where the actual costs of inspection are low. The result of this is to minimise the effect of the new arrangements on United Kingdom slaughterhouses. The arrangements will come into effect on 1 January 1991. The harmonised charges and the 55 per cent. reduction factor will be reviewed by the Council in 1992. The Council also agreed a directive laying down animal health requirements for trade in cattle semen, and a directive dealing with safeguards against the spread of enzootic bovine leucosis.

There was also a short introductory discussion on the Commission's revised proposals for income aids.

The major part of the Council was taken up with further negotiations on prices and other support arrangemens for agricultural commodities for 1988–89. I very much regret that, just as it seemed that agreement was in reach after prolonged and difficult discussions the negotiations broke down when the Greek Minister invoked the Luxembourg compromise, signalling that the matter was so important for him that he wished discussion to continue until there could be unanimous agreement. The 11 other member states including ourselves were prepared to accept the compromise package proposed by the presidency and Commission at that stage. Negotiations will have to be concluded at a date still to be determined.

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