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Council Of Ministers (Meeting)

Volume 941: debated on Wednesday 14 December 1977

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the meetings of the Council of Ministers (Agriculture) in Brussels on 12th and 13th December.

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary and I represented the United Kingdom at this meeting.There was a first discussion of the Commission proposals for farm prices for 1978–79. I made it clear to the Council that it was essential to exercise the maximum restraint on agricultural prices in the interest of consumers and in view of the serious surpluses in some sectors. The proposals will be considered in more detail by the Council in the New Year.On the proposals for phasing out MCAs over a seven-year period and the Commission report on the use of the European unit of account in agriculture, I reminded the Council of the problems which would arise for the United Kingdom and others over any automatic mechanism for changing green currency rates. I drew attention to the excessive level of common prices resulting from the use of the present unit of account and clearly demonstrated in the Commission Report. The proposals remain on the table and may be discussed further during the price negotiations.I again pressed for a change in the method of calculating monetary compensatory amounts on pigment, and the Commission undertook to submit its report on distortions caused by the monetary arrangements in January.It was agreed to continue at present levels the GATT quota for levy-free imports of frozen beef for a further year, and to increase by 10,000 tonnes the amount of frozen beef to be imported at reduced levy for manufacture under the balance-sheet arrangements.The Council agreed on arrangements to cover the sale of agricultural products on the so-called "butterships".Agreement was also reached on EEC assistance towards speeding up national schemes for eradicating brucellosis, tuberculosis and leukosis in cattle; the extension of the derogation covering United Kingdom methods of brucellosis and tuberculosis eradication; and the removal of the ban on chilling poultry meat by immersion in water.