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Agriculture Ministers (Meeting)

Volume 15: debated on Wednesday 16 December 1981

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asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers meeting in Brussels on 15 December; and if he will make a statement.

I represented the United Kingdom at this Council under the chairmanship of my right hon. Friend.

The Council considered the Community's 1982 import quotas for frozen beef, calves for fattening, and manufacturing beef. France and Ireland refused to agree to the proposed arrangements which all other countries were prepared to accept.

On ACP sugar, I made it clear that we would only agree to any alteration in the 7½ per cent. price increase for raw sugar from ACP countries decided at the last price-fixing provided our refiners were properly compensated for the reduction in their margin which this would produce. The Commission proposed to do so by abolishing the storage refund and levy scheme for ACP sugar but other member States insisted on no more than a limited adjustment for the current year only. This matter was not resolved.

The United Kingdom and Germany raised the question of the substantial new package of national aids for her agriculture industry which France had recently announced. With strong support from other countries, I underlined the potential distortion of competition and the encouragement to surplus production which these represented, and I urged the Commission to investigate promptly and to take swift and effective action against any illegal aids. It was essential to avoid the delay which had rendered ineffective the Commission's decision against a similar package last year. This would be a test case of its willingness to act quickly. The French said that their proposals were still under discussion and no final decisions had yet been taken. The Commissoner reported that the aids had not been notified to him and that he had asked France for details of the package by 21 December.