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BSE

Part of Opposition Day – in the House of Commons at 5:29 pm on 25th June 1996.

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Photo of Tony Baldry Tony Baldry Minister of State (Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food) 5:29 pm, 25th June 1996

We must consider that issue. If we had a retrospective scheme, could we fairly apply it because of the difficulties of proof of sale? I certainly want to help clean beef producers, who have clearly suffered losses. Those producers who have sold since 20 March have tended to sell because they were compelled to do so— either for lack of grass or lack of cash.

The principal market support mechanism in the beef sector is intervention—the only mechanism that we have to support the market in beef from animals under 30 months of age. We have worked hard to make intervention more accessible to and more effective for UK operators. We have persuaded the Commission to widen the coverage for steers from two carcase classes to six and, for the first time, young bulls have been included. As a result, current UK intervention coverage, expressed as a percentage of total annual saleable production, has increased to about 47 per cent. As a consequence of these changes, since the end of March bids for some 17,829 tonnes of UK beef have been accepted. In the most recent tenders, quantities bid for by operators in other member states have been significantly cut by the Commission and the beef management committee but UK bids have been allowed to stand, in recognition of the fact that UK market prices are the lowest in the EU.