Agriculture: Eggs

House of Lords written question – answered at on 5 March 2012.

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Photo of Lord Laird Lord Laird UUP

To ask Her Majesty's Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Taylor of Holbeach on 16 January (WA 112), when the European Union Commission ruled out the option of an intra-Community trade ban on eggs produced outwith the European Union welfare of laying hens directive; what is the text of the strong warnings given to member states seeking to introduce a unilateral ban; what infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom would consist of if unilateral action was taken; and how soon they might commence.

Photo of Lord Taylor of Holbeach Lord Taylor of Holbeach The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Throughout the latter part of 2011, the Commission repeatedly stated at meetings held in Brussels that an intra-community trade ban was not legally possible. This was raised by the Commission at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in October and subsequent meetings of the Minister's Sherpa held with Defra officials. Commissioner Dalli also wrote to my right honourable friend the Minister of State on 10 January 2012 and confirmed once again that unilateral measures adopted by member states at borders would not be tolerated.

The UK Government's policy is to comply with the law and we have explained that we agree with the Commission's view that a unilateral ban would be unlawful.

Under Article 258 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, if the Commission considers that a member state has failed to fulfil an obligation under the treaties, it shall deliver a reasoned opinion on the matter after giving the state concerned the opportunity to submit its observations. If the state concerned does not comply with the opinion within the period laid down by the Commission (usually two months), the latter may bring the matter before the Court of Justice of the European Union. The timing for a matter to be brought before the Court will depend on many factors, including the seriousness of the breach and the complexity of the case.

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