HL Deb 17 February 1993 vol 542 cc71-2WA
Lord Gainford

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held on 9th and 10th February.

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Earl Howe)

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council which started on 9th February and, after a suspension, finished in the early hours of Saturday 13th February.

The most difficult item was concerned with bananas, where the Council had before it a text which put into legal form the political agreement on a Community regime agreed at the December Council. That agreement fully protected UK interests and our traditional suppliers in the Caribbean and was therefore highly satisfactory for Her Majesty's Government.

Unfortunately two delegations refused to confirm their earlier positive votes and opposed the adoption of the legal text. They sustained this position through many difficult hours of negotiation. Eventually, matters were resolved and the text adopted, because two other delegations which had previously opposed the agreement, including the Danish delegation now in the chair, voted in favour so that the necessary qualified majority could be found. By this means the Danish Presidency in particular ensured the maintenance of that integrity of Council decisions without which the Community could not function effectively. It is most unfortunate that two delegations changed their votes in this way. Such an attitude can only make future negotiations in the Council more difficult. However, on the substance, as indicated above, the regulation is a very satisfactory one for the United Kingdom.

The Council also had a first discussion of the 1993 farm price proposals. These do not include reforms of those sectors such as sugar, wine, olive oil and fruit and vegetables where this is still outstanding.

In consultation with the Commission in the margins of the Council, my right honourable friend the Minister was able to confirm that the supplementary ewe premium for flocks in our Less Favoured Areas should be paid at the green rate applicable on 3rd January. This means that this year UK producers will receive some £10.4 million more than previously expected.

This was not an easy Council but the outcome was a good one for the United Kingdom.