HC Deb 24 January 1995 vol 253 cc188-9W
Mr. John Greenway

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome: of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 23 January.

Mr. Waldegrave

As I had signalled beforehand, I took the opportunity of this Council to explain the public concern about the transport of farm animals and the conditions in which calves are reared for veal in some member states. I stressed my determination to see that the law requiring freedom of trade is upheld. But I also emphasised the urgent need for the Community as a whole to recognise these concerns, which are being expressed widely, not just in the United Kingdom, and to take effective measures as soon as possible to improve the standards for the welfare of farm animals.

I am glad to say that a considerable number of Council members agreed with British concerns. Five Ministers pointed out that, like the UK, they had already banned the use of veal crates. There was wide support for, and no dissent from, my proposal that the review of the directive, planned for 1997, that allows the use of this method should be brought forward, the Agriculture Commissioner, Mr. Fischler, undertook to produce a report as soon as possible. All also agreed to make a determined effort to adopt rules on transport: this will be on the Council's agenda at its next meeting.

The only other substantive debate was on the Commission's proposals for adjusting the support system for sugar. I regretted that the Commission had not seized the opportunity to propose more radical changes. I urged that, in so far as sugar quotas might have to be cut to keep within the general agreement on tariffs and trade limits on subsidised exports, these cuts should be targeted on the surplus-producing member states. I also underlined the need to guarantee adequate supplies of raw sugar for the refining industry. The Council will return to these proposals at its next meeting.

I welcomed the appearance of the Commission's proposal creating a link between set-aside and arable land taken out of production for environmental and forestry purposes, and urged its speedy adoption.

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