HC Deb 29 February 2000 vol 345 cc244-5W
Mr. Hood

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 24 to 25 January; and if he will make a statement. [107151]

Mr. Nick Brown

I represented the UK at the Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels on 24 January, accompanied by the Minister of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Gateshead, East and Washington, West (Ms Quin) and by Mrs. Brid Rodgers, MLA, Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development in the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Council held an in-depth debate on the Commission's proposal for compulsory labelling of beef, notably on the indications which are necessary to guarantee traceability and on how to define the origin of beef. I welcomed the aims of the proposal and stressed my desire that British beef, a premium quality product, be marketed around the world as such. I supported including essential traceability information on the label, while stressing the need for some simplification of the Commission's approach. The proposal will return to the Council for decisions in the coming months.

Commissioner Byrne introduced the Commission's White Paper on Food Safety, which outlines plans for a European Food Authority and sets out an action plan for a comprehensive legislative framework intended to guarantee the highest level of consumer protection. Along with all other Council members, I welcomed the White Paper and the Commission's commitment to a new integrated approach to EU food law with food safety at its heart. The White Paper will now be considered intensively within the Council framework to prepare a report for the Feira European Council in June.

The Council agreed by qualified majority (Germany, Austria and Netherlands opposing) a common position deferring the deadline for introducing compulsory pig databases.

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