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23 Nov 1999 : Column WA7

Written Answers

Tuesday, 23rd November 1999.

Seals: Conservation

Baroness Gould of Potternewton asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they will provide continuing protection for seals under the Conservation of Seals Act 1970, following the expiry of the order laid under Section 3(1) in 1996.[HL67]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Bassam of Brighton): My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Mr O'Brien), has now laid before Parliament the Conservation of Seals (England) Order 1999, which provides permanent close season protection for common seals and grey seals in an area stretching along the North Sea coast from the border between England and Scotland to Newhaven on the south coast. The order will come into force on 19 December to coincide with the expiry of the order laid in 1996.

Agriculture Council, 15-16 November

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What was the outcome of the Agriculture Council held in Brussels on 15 and 16 November.[HL32]

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Hayman): The Council unanimously adopted a strategy on environmental integration and sustainable development in the Common Agricultural Policy, in response to an initiative begun in the United Kingdom Presidency in 1998. It also unanimously adopted (Germany abstaining) measures to promote and provide information on Community agricultural products in third countries.

The Council heard Commissioner Fischler introduce proposed regulations covering a Community compulsory beef labelling regime, reform of the flax and hemp regime and revisions to the

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bananas regime to bring it into line with WTO rules. Commissioner Byrne updated the Council on progress on dealing with the recent dioxin crisis, including his plans to improve the controls of feed.

Under other business, my right honourable friend the Minister outlined the United Kingdom's strategy for dealing with tuberculosis in cattle and urged other member states to support the United Kingdom's position when this is discussed within the Bern Convention Standing Committee later this month.

Food Chain Group

Lord Evans of Parkside asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What advice they have received from the Food Chain Group.(HL33)

Baroness Hayman: The Food Chain Group comprised senior figures from the National Farmers Union, Food and Drink Federation, British Retail Consortium, IGD (formerly the Institute of Grocery Distribution) and MAFF, under the chairmanship of a senior MAFF official. The group was invited to review the opportunities for working together and increasing understanding amongst the players in the food chain, and between the industry and consumers.

The group has reported to me on the challenges and opportunities facing the food chain. The report stresses the vital importance of a viable and competitive food chain and identifies the need for action by industry and government to underpin consumer confidence in the quality and value of our food. The key messages include calls to: enhance the dialogue between partners in the food chain; improve communications with consumers; strengthen consumer confidence; and understand and act upon consumer concerns. The need for joined-up help from the Government to improve the industry's competitiveness is also identified.

My right honourable friend the Minister has asked the Policy Issues Council of IGD, which has senior representation across the supply chain, to consider how industry could best take the issues forward. We intend to review progress next summer.

The report is being sent to a wide range of agri-food organisations and interests, and further copies are available from my department. Copies have also been placed in the Library of the House.

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