§ Mr. Gregory
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting on 7 and 8 March in Brussels; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. MacGregor
The Council of Agriculture Ministers met in Brussels on 7–9 March 1988. I and my right hon. Friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom.
The Council discussed legal texts to give effect to the agreement of the European Council on stabilisers and set-aside; and reached agreement on the terms of regulations for all commodities concerned, with the exception of wine. Discussion on wine is to be concluded at the Council's next meeting later this month. I made it absolutely clear that our agreement to this package as a whole is conditional on that being achieved, and that we would not sign up until a satisfactory wine regulation had been agreed. This was accepted by the German presidency.
We had to press hard on a number of issues to secure arrangements satisfactory for the United Kingdom. To secure a proper transitional period for sheep producers the stabiliser arrangement for sheep and any impact on the variable premium price scale will take effect on Monday 23 May. We secured agreement that, under the new arrangements, coresponsibility levy for cereals will not be charged on certified seed. This will avoid an undesirable distortion, and an adverse effect on seed quality. In response to a United Kingdom initiative, the introduction of the extensification scheme for beef will be postponed until 1 January 1989.
I also urged that the arrangements for grazed fallow in the set-aside scheme will include specific limits on stocking density and that the use of land will be restricted to grazing only. This is important for existing livestock producers, especially in the less favoured areas. It is agreed that the scheme will be optional.
I urged the Council to take advantage of the recent European Court judgement overturning the ban on the use of hormone growth promoters in cattle, and not to introduce a new directive in the same terms as before. I emphasised the importance of taking into account the latest scientific evidence, of addressing the problem of a black market in hormones, and the adverse effects on trade in particular with the United States.
I regret that the Council proceeded to re-adopt the directive. But the Council did agree an explicit declaration proposed by the United Kingdom on the problems caused for relations with third countries and called on the Commission to examine possible solutions with urgency.325W
We called the Council's attention to the need for a more strategic approach to the completion of the internal market in the context of animal health. We emphasised the importance of concentrating effort on the eradication from the Community of major diseases such as swine fever and foot-and-mouth disease; and of not making changes to frontier controls in the meantime that would increase the risk of infection in areas at present free from those diseases. The Council supported our suggestion that the Commission should produce a report on the basis of which the Council could develop this strategy.