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Agriculture Council

Volume 175: debated on Wednesday 27 June 1990

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 25 and 26 June.

I represented the United Kingdom at this meeting together with my hon. Friend the Member for Skipton and Ripon (Mr. Curry), Parliamentary Secretary in my Department.The most important decision taken was that vaccination against foot and mouth disease, currently practised in eight member states, should be discontinued throughout the Community on 1 January 1992. The main protection against the disease will thereafter be provided by the slaughter of animals from infected herds as has been the case in the United Kingdom for many years. It is a major British achievement to secure Community acceptance of our policy in this area and the decision is a big step towards establishing the single market. The possibility that the health of animals in the United Kingdom could be put at risk from contact with animals vaccinated against foot and mouth disease and imported from other member states was previously one of the main obstacles to establishing the free movement of animals throughout the Community.Agreement was reached in principle on a regulation defining the conditions which must be met by products marketed in the Community as "organic". This will protect and reassure consumers and help to ensure equal conditions of competition in this growing sector of the market. The United Kingdom has led the way in organic food production and much of the work concerning these methods of agriculture has been pioneered in this country. The setting up of the United Kingdom register of organic food standards has now borne fruit at a Community-wide level.Other agreements reached included one to encourage the non-food uses of agricultural products linked to an extension of farmland to be set aside, and one on a revised regime for dried grapes, which will for the first time impose an absolute limit on expenditure in this sector.In a discussion on animal welfare I stressed that the Council must move ahead rapidly to establish better Community rules.Among other significant decisions on veterinary matters was one to establish procedures so that in future a greater proportion of expenditure undertaken to curb outbreaks of animal diseases, notably foot and mouth disease, will be met from Community funds. Another decision establishes the rules concerning veterinary checks on intra-Community trade in live animals.