asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the outcome of the Council of Agriculture Ministers' meeting held in Brussels on 30–31 March; and if he will make a statement.
I represented the United Kingdom at this meeting, together with my right hon. Friend, the Minister of State.The Council had a first discussion of the Commission's proposals for agricultural support prices and arrangements for 1987–88. No decisions were reached on these proposals, and the Council will take them up again at its next meeting on 27 April. The marketing years for beef and dairy products, which otherwise would have expired, were therefore extended until 31 May. The Council also decided to continue for a similar period the suspension of part of the French and United Kingdom monetary compensatory amounts on eggs and poultrymeat, thus maintaining the benefit of these arrangements to our producers.Against a background of the very high cost of the common agricultural policy, which is threatening to exceed budgetary ceilings, I supported the main elements of the proposals, namely a tough policy on the prices themselves, the strengthening and extension of guarantee threshold mechanisms, and a weakening of the support provided through intervention buying. In several areas I felt the proposals did not go far enough in these directions.I made clear my opposition to certain parts of the proposals: first and foremost to the tax on vegetable and marine oils and flats, which would place a burden on consumers, besides risking a major dispute with overseas suppliers; and also to the proposals to limit the payment of the ewe premium to a given number of ewes per farm, and to end intervention for salted butter.