HL Deb 17 December 1998 vol 595 cc175-6WA
Baroness Pitkeathley

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 14 and 15 December. [HL354]

Lord Carter

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Brussels on 14 and 15 December.

The Council agreed by qualified majority (Belgium, Spain and Portugal abstaining) a Commission proposal to ban the use of four antibiotics in animal feed as from 30 June 1999. My right honourable friend welcomed the proposal as an appropriate response to advice, including from our own specialist scientific committees, that the use of antimicrobial growth promoters which may impair the efficacy of antibiotics used in human medicines should be phased out. He also welcomed the Council's statement stressing the need for an overall science-based approach to the issue of antibiotic resistance and calling for the Commission to submit a further report on the question of third country compliance with equivalent rules.

The Council also agreed by qualified majority (Italy and the Netherlands opposing, Portugal abstaining) two regulations establishing new agrimonetary arrangements to apply following introduction of the Single Currency on 1 January 1999. My right honourable friend supported these measures which will greatly simplify the agrimonetary system while reducing its costs and making it easier to operate. He was particularly pleased to secure provision that the impact of the ending of the freeze on green rates on 1 January, which benefited our farmers more than any other member state's, will be subject to a gradual transition over three years.

The Council reached unanimous political agreement on a proposal to send food aid to Russia, targeted towards regions most in need. My right honourable friend particularly welcomed this important gesture of EU solidarity with the Russian people.

A discussion of the Commission's proposal for reform of the wine regime concluded with agreement that final decisions should be taken in the context of the Agenda 2000 CAP reforms in the early part of next year. The Commission debated a proposal to establish EU-wide rules governing organic livestock standards, agreeing guidelines for further negotiations.

A package of proposals concerning the marketing of seeds was adopted by qualified majority (Denmark voting against). Council resolution on an EU forestry strategy was agreed unanimously, as was a decision approving a national aid to certain Greek co-operatives. The Commission also adopted unanimously a further postponement of the implementation of the 1997 Decision on Specified Risk Materials and a short deferral of implementation of new intra-Community health rules on trade in cattle and pigs.

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