HL Deb 10 June 1998 vol 590 cc92-3WA
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 25 to 26 May. [HL2058]

The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue)

My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food chaired a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Brussels on 25 and 26 May. I represented the United Kingdom, and my noble friend Lord Sewel, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office, was also present.

The principal business of the Council was to take stock of progress in negotiations on the Commission's proposals for CAP reform made in the framework of Agenda 2000. Those negotiations were launched at a special meeting of the Council which my right honourable friend the Minister chaired on 31 March 1998, and have continued at an intensive pace at expert level since then. In the Council, EU Ministers recognised the excellent start which had been made to this work, and discussed draft conclusions which he circulated as Presidency summarising the work to date, identifying the principal issues central to the ongoing negotiation, and committing the Council to continuing its intensive work on the Agenda 2000 proposals from now on.

We are pleased to say that the Council was able to give unanimous approval to those conclusions, which will now be submitted to Foreign Ministers for inclusion in the report to the Heads of Government meeting in Cardiff on 15–16 June. The Agriculture Council will then continue its discussions of Agenda 2000 at its July meeting.

The Council also debated the Commission's proposal on reform of the EU olive oil regime, and noted the principal questions remaining to be resolved on that proposal. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food undertook to continue work on the proposal in the hope of finding a basis of agreement at the Council in June.

The Council had a presentation from the Commission of its proposals for a decision on an EU/Canada veterinary agreement. The Council also reached agreement by qualified majority on a regulation setting out detailed rules for genetically modified soya and maize intended for sale to the final consumer; Italy, Sweden and Denmark voted against.