HC Deb 27 June 1996 vol 280 cc258-60W
Mr. Brazier

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 24 to 26 June; and if he will make a statement. [35202]

Mr. Douglas Hogg

I represented the United Kingdom at this Council, accompanied by my noble Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland. Following the decision by Heads of Government in Florence to increase the amount of financial aid for EU beef farmers affected by the current crisis, the Council unanimously allocated 850 mecu among member states for urgent income support measures. Of this, I secured some £112 million for UK fanners, which, at about 15.5 per cent. of the total sum, compares favourably with our 13.8 per cent. share of the EU beef cattle herd.

The Council discussed in detail the Commission's proposals to set CAP prices for 1996–97 and to reform the EU fruit and vegetable regimes. It reached no conclusion on these dossiers and will resume discussion on them at its July meeting. However, in order to avoid a legal hiatus, the Council unanimously adopted five regulations setting prices at the same level as currently apply, in sectors where regulations are due to expire on 30 June.

At my request, the Agriculture Commissioner undertook an urgent review of the arrangements applying to malt export refunds and agreed to make appropriate proposals in time for the 1996–97 export season to ensure stability and confidence in this important sector, taking account of the need for market balance and the EU's international commitments.

I pressed the Commission and incoming presidency for early progress on the proposals to improve the welfare of veal calves. I also supported a German request for urgent steps to be taken on the welfare of hens in battery cages.

The Council adopted by qualified majority (Germany and Sweden voting against) a proposal concerning the financing of veterinary inspections. It adopted by qualified majority, with Germany and Greece opposing, a proposal to reduce the entry price relating to imports of sour cherries. The Council also appointed Dr. Bart Kiewiet as President of the Community Plant Variety Office.