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Agriculture And Fisheries Council

Volume 404: debated on Tuesday 15 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 8 April; what the Government's stance was on the issues discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [109079]

My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Commons) and I represented the UK at the Agriculture and Fisheries Council on 8 April. The Ministers with agriculture and fisheries responsibilities in the Scottish Executive and Welsh Assembly Government were also present.The Council held an in-depth debate on the Commission's proposals for decoupling farm aids, cross-compliance, transferring funding from direct subsidies into rural development spending and other cross-cutting measures which form the centrepiece of its proposals for reform of the CAP. I expressed the United Kingdom's broad support for the proposals while calling for greater simplification, reduction of bureaucracy and fairer mechanisms for allocating reductions in direct aids and increases in rural development funding. The Council will return to this dossier at its next meeting with a view to reaching a conclusion in June if possible.The Council held a brief debate on the WTO agriculture agreement negotiations in Geneva and endorsed Commissioner Fischler's intention to continue working to secure a balanced package that could enable agreement to be reached at the WTO Ministerial in Mexico in September.The Council received progress reports on a Commission proposal to improve hygiene controls on products of animal origin and its proposed new directive on the control of foot and mouth disease. It approved an Italian state aid to assist members of agricultural cooperatives that had become insolvent.On fisheries, the Council agreed a Commission proposal to amend the cod recovery measures agreed last December to clarify and correct various points and to make the measures slightly more flexible. The Commissioner also presented a communication aimed at improving the scientific advice available to fisheries managers. Under other business it was announced that, because of the poor state of the cod stock, the Commission would be using emergency powers to close the Baltic cod fishery with effect from 15 April.Under other business the Council heard reports on the avian influenza outbreak in the Netherlands, the Commission's plans for carrying forward the French initiative on trade measures to assist sub-Saharan Africa and negotiate on wine agreements with the United States and Canada