§ Lord Brougham and Vaux
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 18 and 19 December.
My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at this meeting of the Council together with his noble friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Scottish Office.
The Council unanimously agreed a reformed EC rice regime broadly modelled on the cereals regime following the reform of 1992. The reformed rice regime includes a significant reduction in intervention prices, accompanied by compensation payments limited to national base areas with stiff penalties if these areas are exceeded. The agreement also provides for phased improvements in quality standards to ensure that EC rice production is more competitive in the face of the more open trading conditions flowing from the GATT agreement.31WA
The Commissioner introduced a communication on the welfare of calves including in particular their rearing systems. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food urged that he should bring forward without delay specific proposals for the improvement of EC rules in this area.
The Council seemed sympathetic to a demand from the Irish Minister that Irish sheepmeat producers should 32WA receive some special aid reflecting the adverse trading conditions they experienced in the middle of 1995. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food expressed doubts about the justification for any such proposal but insisted that, if one were produced, Northern Irish producers, whose situation was very similar to those in the South, should also benefit.