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European Community (Agriculture Ministers' Meeting)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 25th February 1981.

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Photo of Mr Peter Walker Mr Peter Walker , Worcester 3:32 pm, 25th February 1981

With permission, Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement about the Council of Agriculture Ministers in Brussels on 23 and 24 February, which I attended, accompanied by my hon. Friend the Minister of State in my Department. With the exception of the Italian Minister, who will report the position of his Government by 10 March, the Council agreed to a package consisting of arrangements for New Zealand butter and for imports of beef from third countries, a new sugar regime, and a major development of structural policy.

I am pleased to say that we obtained a three-year agreement for New Zealand butter which will allow imports of 94,000 tonnes in 1981 and 92,000 tonnes for 1982. The Council will decide the amount for 1983 before 1 October 1982. I consulted the New Zealand Government, who approved of the agreement and have expressed their appreciation of our successful endeavours on their behalf.

The arrangements for the import of beef were agreed in accordance with the Commission's proposal, including the figure of 60,000 tonnes for manufacturing beef, which is the figure sought by Australia.

The sugar regime, which is subject to the views of the European Parliament, will include a total A and B quota for the United Kingdom of just under 1·15 million tonnes—a reduction of 182,000 tonnes. The cost of the regime, apart from the costs arising from the import of ACP sugar, will be financed by levies on sugar production.

The structure package as finally agreed is generally satisfactory and includes an agricultural development programme for Northern Ireland enjoying a contribution of 40 per cent. from Community funds, a scheme for marketing and processing of animal feed in Northern Ireland, 50 per cent. and an integrated development programme for the Western Isles of Scotland, to which Community funds will contribute 40 per cent. of the cost. The scheme for Northern Ireland will amount to £40 million and for the Western Isles £20 million.

The Council agreed, after pressure from the United Kingdom, to increase the sluice-gate prices for certain types of poultry, which will be a particular help in the United Kingdom turkey sector.

The Commissioner announced that France had formally notified a package of State aids to the Commission on 14 February. The Commission had opened proceedings against France under the relevant article of the Treaty of Rome. The Commissioner also announced that proposals for a directive to remove the distortions of competition caused by different poultrymeat hygiene inspection practices would be ready in the near future.

The Commission presented its price proposals and they were commented on briefly by Ministers. A more detailed discussion will held on 16 March.