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Agriculture Council, 18Th-19Th March

Volume 570: debated on Thursday 21 March 1996

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asked Her Majesty's Government:What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18th and 19th March.

My honourable friend the Minister of State represented the United Kingdom at the Agriculture Council meeting in Brussels on 18th-19th March 1996.The Council had before it three proposals relating to beef hormones, which together re-enacted the ban on growth promoting hormones and the import of meat treated with such hormones; introduced rules on the use of so-called beta-agonists; and strengthened controls on the illegal use of these substances. On behalf of the UK, my honourable friend the Minister of State argued against enacting these proposals in view of the imminent negotiations in the World Trade Organisation framework between the European Union on the one hand, and the United States and other complainants on the other. However all other member states were able to agree. He indicated our intention to vote against the measures when formally adopted for the reasons which he had stated in the Council.The Agriculture Commissioner introduced a proposal to amend the Council regulation on the common organisation of the market in bananas, principally to increase the tariff quota to provide for the market requirements of the new member states of the EU, but also to introduce other changes. My honourable friend the Minister of State made clear the UK's willingness to remedy operational deficiencies in the present banana regime, but not to accept fundamental changes to the regime to the detriment of ACP banana producers. Work will now begin on this proposal at technical level.The Presidency and Commission conducted bilateral meetings with member states on the proposals for reform of the common organisation of the market in fruit and vegetables and in products processed from fruit and vegetables. My honourable friend the Minister of State made clear the importance which the UK attaches to reform of these regimes. He stressed the need for measures to reduce dependence on intervention, to allow specialist producer groups to flourish. and to prevent market arrangements of an anti-competitive nature. The Presidency indicated that these proposals would be discussed further at the Council in April in the light of conclusions drawn from bilateral contacts.Finally the Commissioner indicated, in response to UK questioning, that work was underway at technical level on the proposal to improve the welfare of calves used for veal production, and expressed the Commission's hope that this would proceed as quickly as possible.