Select Committee on European Communities Seventeenth Report


17.  PROPOSAL FOR A COUNCIL REGULATION AMENDING AND CORRECTING REGULATION (EC) NO. 2200/96 ON THE COMMON ORGANISATION OF THE MARKET IN FRUIT AND VEGETABLES (12981/98)

Letter from Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food

  At its meeting on 27 January Sub-Committee D considered your explanatory memorandum on the proposal for reform of the fruit and vegetables regime and lifted the scrutiny reserve.

  The Sub-Committee has, however, asked me to write to express its dismay at the continuation of the withdrawal system, which this proposal does nothing to address. The Committee examined the fruit and vegetables regime in its 1st Report of Session 1995-96[5], and concluded that "the only satisfactory solution is a clear signal from the Commission that, over a defined period, the withdrawal system will end" (page 14). If the Commission has not yet made such an indication, when might it do so? The Committee was concerned about the continuing scope for fraud, noting that it had "no confidence that any fruit and vegetable regime of the nature proposed can be monitored effectively" (page 15). The Committee would therefore be interested to discover what measures have been taken since their Report was published to combat fraud in the sector.

2 February 1999

Letter from Lord Donoughue, Minister for Farming and the Food Industry, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, to Lord Tordoff, Chairman of the Committee

  Thank you for your letter of 2 February advising that Sub-Committee D had lifted the scrutiny reserve on the above proposal.

  I note the Committee's view about the continuation of the withdrawal system. However, the current exercise was intended to be a very limited one. Given the opportunity, all Member States have their own axes to grind and the Presidency made it clear that this was not seen as the right time to do that.

  Council Regulation 2200/96 requires the Commission to review the operation of the Regulation and report to the Council by 31 December. This will provide another opportunity for the UK to express its opposition to the system of withdrawals and seek further reductions in compensation and the amounts which may be withdrawn. In the meantime the considerable step that has already been taken in reducing the levels of compensation and imposing ceilings on volumes withdrawn should not be underestimated.

  The Committee was also concerned about the continuing scope for fraud. The Commission have established a special Corps of Inspectors to ensure uniform application of the regime. During 1998, the Inspectors visited all Member States except Luxembourg, in a fact finding capacity, to consider the arrangements for recognition of Producer Organisations and approval and verification of operational programmes. We understand that they plan further more focused visits in 1999.

12 February 1999


5   HL Paper 18. Back


 
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