HC Deb 21 January 1999 vol 323 c576W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18 to 19 January; and if he will make a statement. [67011]

Mr. Nick Brown

I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council in Brussels on 18 and 19 January 1999.

The German Presidency informed the Agriculture Council of the work programme for the coming six months, of which the principal focus would be completion of the negotiation for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in the framework of Agenda 2000. In addition, the Presidency made it clear that the Council would discuss proposals on the annual CAP price fixing, animal welfare, consumer protection and organic livestock standards.

The Council resumed its discussions of the Agenda 2000 CAP reform proposals by conducting an in-depth debate on reform of the beef and milk sectors. On behalf of the UK, I supported the Commission's proposal to reduce prices and abolish intervention buying in the beef sector, though with appropriate arrangements to safeguard the systems of extensively-reared beef production which is characteristic of the UK. On reform of the milk sector, I pressed the case for a more thorough-going reform than that proposed by the Commission, referring specifically to the proposal made by the United Kingdom, Denmark, Italy and Sweden for reform in this sector which would lead to the eventual abolition of milk quotas.

The German Presidency outlined a programme of work on the CAP aspects of Agenda 2000, leading up to the meeting of the Agriculture Council beginning on 22 February. They indicated their intention to try to draw the negotiation to a conclusion at that Council in view of the timetable laid down by Heads of Government in Cardiff and in Vienna for completion of the whole package of measures by the end of March 1999. I welcomed their commitment to reaching early agreement on these proposals.