HL Deb 27 July 1998 vol 592 cc158-9WA
Lord Monkswell

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 20 July. [HL3007]

Lord Donoughue

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the European Union Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels on 20 July.

The Austrian Presidency introduced its programme of work for the Council, the centrepieces of which are Agenda 2000, including wine reform, reform of the agrimonetary regime and animal welfare legislation.

In a debate on the Presidency's detailed plans for Agenda 2000, we welcomed its intention to press ahead with the negotiations in accordance with the timetable laid down by the Cardiff European Council, urging it to include detailed discussions on member states' ideas on the future of dairy quotas and compensatory aids and the application of subsidiarity to the proposed ceiling on direct payments to farmers.

During a brief discussion of the proposed reform of the agrimonetary regime, we stressed the need for equitable treatment between those countries entering the single currency next year and those not doing so, and for an early decision which would allow our farmers and traders ample time to prepare for introduction of the new regime on 1 January 1999.

In a debate on a possible EU trade agreement with the Mercusor countries and Chile, on which a Commission proposal is expected shortly, we noted the economic advantages which such an agreement could open up, while drawing attention to the need to avoid complications in relation to the negotatiations on Agenda 2000, the forthcoming WTO Round and EU enlargement. The Commission's proposal should be judged on its merits against this background.