§ Mr. Jim Marshall
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 22 and 23 February; and if he will make a statement. 
§ Mr. Nick Brown
I represented the United Kingdom, accompanied by my noble Friends the Parliamentary Under-Secretaries for Scotland and for Northern Ireland and my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Wales, at a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council in Brussels beginning on 22 February.
The Council embarked upon negotiations on the Commission's proposals for reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. These comprise proposals for reform of the arable crops, beef, milk and wine regimes, proposals on rural development and on common measures affecting direct payments to farmers, and a proposals concerning the financing of the CAP. My objective in the negotiations was to secure ambitious and worthwhile reforms in all sectors and to ensure that, by 2006, CAP spending is stabilised in real terms at its current level.
By the early hours of Friday morning, after several days of intensive negotiation, the conditions were not yet ripe for an overall agreement to be reached. The Council will accordingly meet again on Thursday 4 March to continue the negotiations.