HC Deb 30 March 1994 vol 240 cc771-2W
Mr. Willetts

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 28 and 29 March; and if she will make a statement.

Mrs. Gillian Shephard

This meeting of the Council, at which I represented the United Kingdom, held a further lengthy discussion of the Commission's proposals for farm prices and related measures, including milk quotas, for 1994–95. The attitude that I took on these issues was the one that I explained to the House in the recent debate.

The Council reached no conclusions and will return to the subject at its next meeting. Because prices were not fixed, it was necessary formally to extend the 1993–94 marketing years for beef and milk: the Council so decided by unanimity.

I took the opportunity to refer to recent scare stories in the German press alleging a link between bovine spongiform encephalopathy and human health. I stressed that there was no scientific foundation for this claim, that the measures that had long been in place in the United Kingdom and in the Community were more than adequate protection, and that unilateral action to restrict trade in British beef and cattle would be illegal. I received strong support from the Commission and a number of other member states for my point of view.

The Council adopted several relatively minor measures, namely: a regulation permitting member states to buy up milk quota for redistribution, using funds previously set aside to compensate producers for reductions in quotas; a regulation concerning the use of sums previously agreed for assisting farmers in Portugal affected by drought; a regulation strengthening the controls on subsidised exports of certain processed products; a regulation providing for the levy-free import of certain quantities of wheat, beef, poultrymeat, pork and milling residues, previously agreed as part of the settlement of an earlier dispute with third countries concerning oilseeds; and a regulation providing for the import of a supplementary quantity of high quality beef in 1994. Belgium and Ireland voted against the last two measures and Italy against the one on export controls. The others were adopted unanimously.

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