Letter from the Office of Lord Whitty,
Minister for Food, Farming and Sustainable Energy to the Chairman
The above Explanatory Memorandum was submitted
to the Parliamentary Scrutiny Committees on 11 March 1998. The
substance of this proposal was to amend Regulation (EEC) No. 823/87
to allow Member States to make bottling in the specified region
of production compulsory for certain quality wines produced in
specified regions (psr).
Your Committee first considered the EM on 16
March 1998. They referred it to Sub-Committee B for further considerationwhere
a judgement has been delayed pending the results of a case at
the European Court of Justice.
During the first half of 1999 there were two
relevant developments. The first, referred to the then Minister
of State's (Joyce Quin) letter of 24 July 2000 and the then Minister
for Farming and the Food Industry (Lord Donoughue) letter of 6
May 1999, reported on the findings of the Advocate General in
the European Court of Justice (ECJ) case C-388/95. The Advocate
General concluded in support of Spain (and by extension the Commission,
who favoured Spain) and was of the view that bottling at source
of Rioja was not inconsistent with the provisions of the Treaty.
The second development was the agreement of
Council to a revised wine regime which was published on 17 May
1999 as Council Regulation 1493/99.
In light of these two developments the Commission
decided not to pursue the need for draft instrument number 6356/98
of 25 February 1998 concerning a proposal for a Council Regulation
(EC) amending Regulation (EEC) No. 823/87 laying down special
provisions relating to quality wines produced in specified regions,
and effectively withdrew this proposal.
The Committee may be interested to learn that
as a consequence, the prevalence of the practice of bottling quality
wines at the source of production is now well established.
10 February 2003
Letter from the Chairman to the Lord Whitty
Thank you for your letter dated 10 February
2003 which Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 17 February.
We note that the proposal was withdrawn in 1999.
The Scrutiny reserve is, therefore, deemed to have fallen away.
You suggest that the proposal was withdrawn
as a result of both the European Court of Justice Cases, which
concluded in May 1999, and the establishment of a revised wine
regime at the same time. We would, therefore, be interested to
know why you are writing to us now. We should have been informed
when the proposal was withdrawn.
When the proposal was originally put forward,
the UK food and drink industry was seriously concerned about its
implications. The aims of the proposal have in effect come to
pass. The Court has come down on the side of Spain (and the Commission)
on the question of bottling quality wines in the region in which
they are produced, and a revised wine regime has since been introduced
throughout the Community. What effect has this had on the UK food
and drink industry?
20 February 2003
Letter from the Office of Lord Whitty
to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter dated 20 February
in which you sought clarification in respect of Parliamentary
scrutiny for the above proposal. You may find it helpful to have
Explanatory Memorandum 6356/98 was considered,
alongside two letters from Lord Donoughue, the then Minister for
Farming and the Food Industry by Sub-Committee B at its meeting
on 23 July 1998. In response, Lord Tordoff wrote to Lord Donoughue
asking that the Committee be kept informed of further developments
and that in the meantime the scrutiny reserve would be maintained.
In December Lord Donoughue wrote again to Lord
Tordoff to inform the Committee about the European Court of Justice
proceedings and that a Reasoned Opinion was not expected until
sometime during the first six months of 1999.
It was not until 24 July 2000 that Joyce Quin
wrote to Lord Tordoff about the long awaited ECJ Judgment and
to await revived discussions on the proposal from the Commission.
Subsequent reports from Sub-Committee B continued
to list this proposal as awaiting the outcome of correspondence
with Ministers or held under scrutiny, until your Committee's
report of 24 February when the proposal cleared scrutiny. My officials
considered the scrutiny reserve remained in force. It was for
this reason I wrote to you to complete Parliamentary scrutiny.
Indeed the House of Commons scrutiny Committee
adopted the same line and only cleared this proposal from scrutiny
on 12 February on the basis of my previous letter dated 10 February.
Turning to your specific question on the effects
of the Judgment on the UK, it is not possible to provide a detailed
and quantifiable assessment following the increased prevalence
of compulsory bottling at source for wines with a Community geographical
indication. Any obligation to bottle at source agreed by the wine
producers does not require Community legislation, so its precise
prevalence is not readily known. However we are aware that besides
Rioja, compulsory bottling is now required for Port, Madeira,
some Italian and some Austrian wines.
Since the Judgment, UK consumption of wine,
almost all of which is imported, has continued to increase with
a noticeable demand for non-Community wines. This has led to the
maintenance of bulk imports, with third countries such as South
Africa, Australia and the USA filling the decline from more traditional
Community sources. Any initial pessimism on the possible effects
of this Judgment has therefore not generally materialised, though
the reasons for this are somewhat different from those we anticipated
at the time.
12 March 2003
Letter from the Chairman to the Lord Whitty
Thank you for your letter dated 12 March which
Sub-Committee B considered at its meeting on 24 March. We note
why the matter remained unresolved for so long.
We are delighted to learn that the UK bottling
industry has survived the consequences of the court case by turning
to bulk imports from third countries such as South Africa, Australia
and the USA.
26 March 2003