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Illegally Imported Meat

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs if she will make a statement on the number of seizures of illegally imported meat and meat products during the past 12 months; and if she will list the points of entry at which the seizures were made. [25189]

Mr. Morley: I refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Stroud (Mr. Drew) on 4 December 2001, Official Report, column 267W.

British Beef Exports

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on what date she expects the resumption of exports of British beef to France following the European Court of Justice ruling; what recent discussions she has had with her French counterpart about the arrangements for the lifting of the French ban on British beef; and what steps she is taking to claim compensation on behalf of British beef producers for the loss of export income during the period of the ban. [25192]

Mr. Morley: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State expects the Commission to take further action against the French Government if they do not lift their ban within a reasonable timescale. My right hon. Friend made it clear at the Agriculture Council on 19 December 2001 that she expected the ban to be lifted as soon as possible.

The UK Government cannot claim compensation as they have no direct commercial interest. However, we will give exporters seeking compensation full support, practical assistance and advice, although as a matter of policy the Government will not fund their costs nor provide detailed legal advice.

Fishing Fleet

Mrs. Ann Winterton: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (1) if she will make a statement on what basis kilowatt days will be established for individual fishing vessels, pursuant to the European Commission's proposal for a Council regulation establishing measures for the recovery of cod and hake stocks; and if (a) the declared engine power according to the Fishing Vessel Register and (b) the actual engine power will be used; [25190]

Mr. Morley: This will depend on the form in which EU legislation for recovery of cod and hake stocks is adopted. The Council has not yet begun to consider the recently published Commission proposals for limiting fishing effort.

8 Jan 2002 : Column: 773W

Agriculture Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 19 and 20 December; what the Government's position was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [25104]

Margaret Beckett: I represented the United Kingdom at the meeting of the Agriculture Council in Brussels on 19 December 2001. Agriculture Ministers of the devolved Administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland were also present.

The Council reached agreement on reform of the sheepmeat regime, including a number of measures for which the United Kingdom had pressed strongly. The changes will make substantial savings in the budget for the EU's current financial year. The main ones will fix permanent rates of premium and create national envelopes which can be directed towards national or regional priorities. Different approaches will be permitted in England and the devolved Administrations. I am delighted with this outcome which will give us some valuable flexibility in the operation of this importance regime.

The Council also agreed to introduce a stabiliser which will cap spending in the seeds sector. The new arrangements fully safeguard UK interests. A further amendment of the banana regime was also agreed, bringing to a close a long running dispute with certain of the EU's trading partners.

The presidency reported the successful outcome of the international conference on foot and mouth disease at which the United Kingdom had taken a prominent part.

The Council discussed a memorandum from certain member states on the oilseeds market. I endorsed the Commission's response, arguing that further encouragement of oilseed production in the EU would be costly, unnecessary and likely to produce tension with our trading partners.

The Council took note of progress on several dossiers under the Belgian presidency and exchanged views on a useful memorandum from the German Government on organic farming.

Fisheries Council

Mr. Hood: To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what the outcome was of the Fisheries Council held in Brussels on 17 and 18 December; what the Government's position was on each issue discussed, including its voting record; and if she will make a statement. [25103]

Mr. Morley: I represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the EU Council of Fisheries Ministers in Brussels on 17–18 December, together with Ross Finnie, Minister for Environment and Rural Development in the Scottish Executive and Mrs. Brid Rodgers, the Northern Ireland Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development.

The Council agreed by qualified majority, with France voting against, on Total Allowable Catches (TACs) and quotas to apply in 2002 in EU waters and for EU vessels fishing in waters where catch limitations apply, together with a six-month extension of the controls on fleet capacity and grants. Details of the agreed UK quotas are provided in the table.

8 Jan 2002 : Column: 774W

Following on from the advice of fisheries scientists at the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) highlighting the poor state of a number of fish stocks, the Commission proposed large cuts in a wide range of TACs. I fully supported the need for large cuts where the science justified this, but argued in parallel to this that in many respects the Commission's proposals went further than science would justify.

Scientific assessment underpinned our whole approach towards stocks. We were careful both to respect scientific advice and have a sound scientific case where we disagreed with some of the Commissions's proposals.

The Commission was in particular too quick to propose large automatic cuts in relation to stocks associated and caught with depleted stocks and to cut TACs for some stocks because they appear to have been under-utilised by fishermen up to now. The former approach had led the Commission to propose, for example, further large cuts in the nephrops fisheries west of Scotland and in the Irish sea and North sea on the presumption that this would relieve pressure on depleted cod stocks: expert analysis that we have carried out on this proposition because of the importance of the nephrops fishery to UK fishermen showed conclusively that, to the contrary, the Commission's proposed cuts would have seriously penalised nephrops fishermen in order to bring benefits to cod stocks which would be minimal at best.

More generally, if implemented the proposals would have denied fishermen such benefits as the scientific advice showed could now be derived as a result of conservation measures already taken, and would have curtailed a wide range of fishing activity much more severely than could be rationally justified.

I am pleased to say that, after lengthy negotiations, we achieved an outcome which closely follows the scientific advice. This does not shirk severe measures where these are justified, but it does meet my criticisms of what the Commission proposed. Improvements of particular interest to UK fishermen include the abandonment of the unjustified further cuts proposed in the nephrops TACs, a 48 per cent. increase in the TAC for cod in the Irish sea (made possible by conservation measures previously taken there), and a valuable mitigation of the punitive cuts proposed by the commission in the TACs for monkfish.

The Council agreed a short, six-month, extension of the controls on fleet capacity and grants, raising the capacity penalty applied when vessel construction and modernisation grants are paid on vessels in fleet segments exceeding their Community limits. The Council and the Commission undertook to aim, in the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy, at an active fleet policy to achieve better balance between fishing effort and fisheries resources.

The Council briefly noted, but did not discuss in any details, two areas of work that will command a lot of its attention in 2002—the review of the Common Fisheries Policy and the long-term plans to be put in place for the recovery of depleted stocks. Clearly the second of these

8 Jan 2002 : Column: 775W

items will be of particular importance in the context of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the fisheries concerned and of the industries that pursue them.

Comparative table of UK quota for 2001 and 2002

UK quota
Sandeel IIa North Sea20,00017,794
Herring I, II16,46016,460
Herring IVa, b40,57038,169
Herring IVc, VIId1,6934,094
Herring Vb, VIaN, VIb21,57021,571
Herring VIa (Clyde)1,0001,000
Herring VIIa5,1003,550
Herring VIIe, f500500
Herring VIIg-k3010
Herring IIa North Sea Industrial by-catch660660
Cod IIa, IV18,93019,397
Cod Vb, VI, XII, XIV2,2222,960
Cod VIIa8951,378
Cod VIIb-k, VIII, IX, X870712
Megrim IIA North Sea2,6002,599
Megrim Vb, VI, XII, XIV1,3701,367
Megrim VII2,1501,874
Dab and Flounder IIa North Sea2,3302,331
Anglers IIa North Sea11,4958,545
Anglers Vb, VI, XII, XIV1,9751,513
Anglers VII3,8703,295
Haddock IIa, IV41,78059,805
Haddock Vb, VI, XII, XIV10,82010,992
Haddock VII, VIII, IX, X1,200830
Haddock VIIa (additional to haddock VII)1,293622
Whiting IIa, IV13,33518,853
Whiting Vb, VI, XII, XIV2,5802,157
Whiting VIIa685443
Whiting VIIb-k2,2503,402
Hake IIa, IV160170
Hake Vb, VI, VII, XII, XIV2,5002,662
Blue whiting IIa, IV1,070592
Blue whiting Vb, VI, VII, XII, XIV45,35025,032
Blue whiting VIII abde7,2413,555
Lemon sole IIa North sea6,5805,937
Nephrops IIa, IV13,38014,368
Nephrops Vb, VI11,07011,072
Nephrops VII6,2005,856
Northern prawn IIa, IV1,7781,074
Plaice IIa, IV21,78020,748
Plaice Vb, VI, XII, XIV1,1701,050
Plaice VIIa8351,223
Plaice VIId, e1,7501,946
Plaice VIIf, g 180119
Plaice VIIh, j, k150146
Pollack Vb, VI, XII, XIV400403
Pollack VII2,9602,964
Saithe IIa, III, IV6,98010,838
Saithe Vb, VI, XII, XIV3,2553,211
Saithe VII, VIII, IX, X8051,340
Turbot and brill IIa North Sea1,110973
Skates and rays IIa North Sea3,1282,509
Mackerel IIa(EC), III, IV1,5801,611
Mackerel IIa(non-EC), Vb, VI, VII, VIIIabde, XII, XIV197,069201,647
Sole II, IV815686
Sole Vb, VI, XII, XIV3025
Sole VIIa240244
Sole VIId8851,000
Sole VIIe355309
Sole VIIf, g285301
Sole VIIh, j, k 110138
Sprat II, IV8,3508,348
Sprat VIId, e6,3006,300
Spurdog IIa, IV7,1775,745
Horse mackerel IIa North Sea4,9604,960
Horse mackerel Vb, VI, VII, VIIIabde, XII, XIV22,85014,026

8 Jan 2002 : Column: 776W

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