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The NFU makes it clear that the critical issue is the series of political and bureaucratic hurdles over which each stage of the relaxation of the export ban will have to pass. That is the point that the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-West (Mr. Budgen) made in his article. The problem was simply brushed aside by the Prime Minister yesterday in responding to Conservative Members and to my right hon. Friend the Member for Yeovil (Mr. Ashdown), but it is critical.
We must distinguish between the European Union's Scientific Veterinary Committee and the Standing Veterinary Committee. They are different animals. The former is a group of professional experts appointed to give strictly scientific veterinary advice to the Commission, while the latter is a group of national Government representatives, which operates on the agenda of their Ministers.
In our meeting with Commissioner Fischler last Wednesday, just after he had presented his position paper to the European Parliament in Strasbourg, he confirmed that the Standing Veterinary Committee would play a key role in every stage of the process. In short, every step of the post-Florence process will still be subject to the political pressures that the Prime Minister identified in his statement to the House on 21 May as the reasons for his declaration of war. Nothing that he said yesterday can remove the fact that our beef exports are still at the mercy of what he described as
a wilful disregard of Britain's interests, and, in some cases, a breach of faith … for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with the science involved."—[Official Report, 21 May 1996; Vol. 278, c. 99.]
That remains the position.