§ Baroness Young of Old Scone
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 31 March. [HL1355]
§ The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue)
My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chaired the fourth meeting under the United Kingdom Presidency of the European Union Council of Agriculture Ministers on 31 March in Brussels. I represented the United Kingdom. My honourable friend Win Griffiths (Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Welsh Office) was also present.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food convened the Council expressly to consider the Commission's proposals, published on 18 March, for changes to the EU Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the framework of Agenda 2000. The Council debate on this vital issue was held in open session, and was thus available in full to the media and to other interested parties. There was also an important political dimension to the debate: reforming the CAP in tandem with changes to the EU's future financing provisions and to its regional and structural policies are essential steps to prepare for further enlargement of the European Union. It is significant that the formal opening of the enlargement negotiations with six applicant countries took place in Brussels on the same day.
A wide range of views on the Commission's CAP reform proposals was expressed in the Council. No Minister denied that there was a need for reform to take place, nor that the process should begin forthwith. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was able to conclude that the UK Presidency would now begin an intensive programme of technical examination of the Commission's proposals, leading to a further discussion in the Agriculture Council in late May.169WA
My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food was also able to establish, as President of the Council, that there was unanimous agreement amongst member states to defer until 1 January 1999 implementation of last July's Commission Decision on Specified Risk Materials. During this period, measures taken by member states on a national basis to protect the health of their populations will be maintained.