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14 Jun 1996 : Column WA185

Written Answers

Friday, 14th June 1996.

Beef Export Ban: EU Procedures

Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty's Government:

    By what process, under which clauses of the Treaty of Rome, in which committees or councils of the European Community, were the bans on British beef products imposed, and by what similar process may they be lifted.

Lord Lucas: The prohibition on exporting from the United Kingdom cattle, bovine semen and embryos, meat from cattle slaughtered in the United Kingdom, certain other products of such cattle and mammalian meat and bone meal was created by Commission Decision 96/239/EC on emergency measures to protect against bovine spongiform encephalopathy. Decision 96/239/EC was made in purported exercise of powers contained in Article 10(4) of Council Directive 90/425/EEC (concerning veterinary and zootechnical checks applicable in intra-Community trade in certain live animals and products with a view to the completion of the internal market) and Article 9 of Council Directive 89/662/EEC (concerning veterinary checks in intra-Community trade with a view to the completion of the internal market). Those directives were themselves made under Article 43 of the EC Treaty.

In accordance with the procedure laid down for decisions taken under those powers the Commission took the opinion of the European Community's Standing Veterinary Committee. The Scientific Veterinary Committee was also consulted.

Decision 96/239/EC has been amended by a further Commission decision, which removed semen from the prohibition, permitted the export of gelatine and tallow subject to conditions of production, labelling and supervision and established controls for manufactured products made from imported raw materials. That decision was taken in purported exercise of the same

14 Jun 1996 : Column WA186

powers as the earlier decision. As the Standing Veterinary Committee gave no opinion in favour of the Commission's draft, the Commission had to submit a proposal for legislation to the Council of Ministers. Although a majority of member states supported the proposal, the votes in favour did not constitute a qualified majority. Under the procedure laid down in the directives, the Commission adopted the amending decision after the expiry of a period of 15 days from the date of referral to the Council.

On the amending Decision, the Scientific Veterinary Committee was again consulted, and the Scientific Committee on Cosmetology, the Scientific Committee for Food and the Committee for Proprietary Medicinal Products were also consulted.

The same legislative procedures could be used to amend Decision 96/239/EC further or to repeal it.

Wild Bird Cover Set-Aside Option

Earl Peel asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the benefits of the wild bird cover option within the flexible set-aside scheme have been sufficient to ensure the continuation of the option despite any general reduction in set-aside.

Lord Lucas: It is anticipated that the wild bird cover set-aside option will remain available to farmers in 1997 in the event of a further reduction in the obligatory rate of set-aside. While uptake so far has been good, it will be for farmers to decide whether to continue to use the option.

Liberian Civil War and Flag of Convenience Vessels

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the civil war in Liberia has any effect on UK-owned vessels and British seamen sailing under the Liberian flag.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Viscount Goschen): No specific effects have been reported to my department.

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