Select Committee on European Communities Eleventh Report


A. GENERAL POLICY QUESTIONS

4. MAXIMUM LEVELS FOR PESTICIDE RESIDUES

Letter from Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  I am writing to keep you up to date with progress on this proposal.

  You may recall that I wrote to you in May to provide a Supplementary Explanatory Memorandum (SEM) on a Dutch Presidency compromise text. This SEM is now under consideration by Sub-Committee D. I explained that discussions in Council would be aimed at securing a package which would bring significant benefits to both consumers and the farming industry.

  The proposal was discussed at the Agriculture Council on 20 May, but referred back to COREPER as Ministers could not agree on a formula for dealing with the babyfoods provisions.

  A revised babyfoods proposal has now been produced. Whilst it is not ideal, it meets my key objective that Member States should not be able to use national measures, taken in the name of protecting babies and infants, unjustifiably to disrupt intra-community trade. I have, therefore, added my support for the proposal to that of other Member States with the exception of Germany, and perhaps Austria and Sweden who are still uncertain.

  The full package of measures will be returned to the Agriculture Council next week for further consideration and possible adoption. I will write to you again once I know the outcome.

18 June 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letter of 18 June on the above proposal. Unfortunately the letter arrived after Sub-Committee D had met yesterday morning.

  The Sub-Committee did however consider the proposal, and expressed some concern at the intention to transfer decision-making on MRLs from the Council to the Commission, as set out in paragraphs 11 and 12 of your supplementary explanatory memorandum. You may be aware that this is an issue which has exercised the Committee in other policy areas also.

  The Committee would be grateful for additional information on the following points:

  (a)  is the Government satisfied with the proposed arrangements?

  (b)  is there always a United Kingdom representative on the Committee to which these decisions would in future be entrusted?

  (c)  is there provision for the matter to revert to the Council where a proposed change to MRLs gives rise to concern among consumers or industry in an individual Member State?

  In the meantime the Committee maintains the scrutiny reserve on this document. While I understand that, for the reasons set out in your letter, it is possible that the document will be adopted at the Agriculture Council next week, I naturally regret that Parliamentary Scrutiny is being by-passed once again.

19 June 1997

Letter from Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 19 June on the above proposal. I am sorry that mine did not arrive in time for your Committee meeting.

  I am writing to let you know that the proposal was adopted by the Agriculture Council on 24 June with Germany the only dissenting Member State; also to reply to the questions which you raise in your letter.

  The Government is satisfied that the proposed arrangements will, on balance, bring significant benefits to both consumers and the farming industry. For consumers, the new Directive establishes a more comprehensive regime for monitoring and reporting on the levels of pesticide residues in food across the Community. It also provides transitional measures which will enable Member States to retain national Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) for baby and infant foods until Community limits are established. For industry, the system for establishing and adjusting MRLs will be speeded up, which should facilitate the operation of the Community programme for the review of older pesticides, and enable faster entry to markets of new, more environmentally acceptable, replacements for them.

  Turning to your remaining questions, there will always be a UK representative on the two Standing Committees which will be involved with establishing pesticides MRLs. Standing Committee business will be done on the basis of the Commission seeking a qualified majority vote of support for any proposal (a favourable opinion"), without which it is obliged to represent the proposal to Council. It will not, therefore, be possible for the UK alone to insist that an issue be referred to the Council. However, if a proposed change to an MRL gives concern to the Government for reasons of consumer safety we will be able, as now, to invoke the safety clause which already exists in the MRLs Directives. This enables us to decide not to implement the proposed MRLs, but instead to establish a lower national limit.

1 July 1997

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Jeff Rooker MP, Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  Thank you for your letter of 1 July which was considered by Sub-Committee D at their meeting this morning.

  The Sub-Committee asked me to write and thank you for your prompt and full reply to the questions they raised. The Sub-Committee noted that the proposal has now been adopted by the Agriculture Council and this letter formally lifts our scrutiny reserve.

9 July 1997




 
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