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AGRICULTURE, FISHERIES AND FOOD

Agriculture Council

Mr. Dobbin: To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what the outcome was of the Agriculture Council held in Luxembourg on 23 and 24 October; and if he will make a statement. [135652]

Ms Quin: I attended the Agriculture Council meeting in Luxembourg on 23 October.

The Council warmly welcomed a commitment from Commissioner Fischler to table proposals simplifying the administration of the CAP. This followed a UK/French initiative responding to concerns by farmers about unnecessarily bureaucratic regulation and recommendations by the Red Tape Review team looking at implementation of IACS. The Commission also stated that it recognised the importance of traditional landscape features, such as hedges, in implementing schemes.

The Council held first discussions on proposals to reform the fruit and vegetables, rice and sugar regimes. On fruit and vegetables I welcomed the proposed simplification of the regime, particularly in relation to the funding of producer organisations. On rice, I stressed the importance of securing an outcome that safeguarded the interests of UK consumers, avoided problems in the WTO and for third country suppliers, and took account of the environmental aspects of rice growing in certain EU regions. I expressed disappointment that the Commission proposal for reform of the sugar regime was not more radical, particularly in view of the pressures from enlargement and from WTO developments. I nevertheless welcomed the proposed extension of sugar quotas for only two years to enable studies to be undertaken to inform a full review in 2002.

The Council will consider these proposals further at future meetings.

The Council also heard a report from Commissioner Fischler on developments in the WTO agriculture negotiations and a call from the Danish Minister to develop initiatives on organic agriculture, which was widely supported.

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FOREIGN AND COMMONWEALTH AFFAIRS

Pleospora Papaveravea

Mr. Flynn: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what conditions will be imposed on use of the results produced by the United Nations Drugs Control Programme research into Pleospora Papaveravea; and if he will make a statement. [135150]

Mr. Battle: If the results of the United Nations Drug Control Programme's (UNDCP) research proves that Pleospora Papaveracea can be used for the eradication of illicit opium poppy cultivation without damage to human health or the environment, UNDCP would decide on sharing these results with its member countries. The decision on whether or not to use Pleospora Papaveracea for eradication would be for the governments of the countries where there is such illicit cultivation.

Cuba

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when representations were first made to the Cuban authorities about access to the arrested United Kingdom citizens in Cuba. [135657]

Mr. Hain: Our Embassy in Havana made representations to the Cuban authorities about access as soon as they were informed of the arrest on 9 October and continue to do so subsequently.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs when the travel advice for Cuba was last amended; and what plans he has to amend it following the arrest of United Kingdom citizens in Cuba. [135658]

Mr. Hain: FCO travel advice for Cuba was updated on 4 October 2000. It is kept under constant review. We are not planning to revise it in light of the recent arrests. British nationals travelling to Cuba who comply with the local law and are holding the correct documentation should have no cause for concern.

Mrs. Gillan: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date, at what time and by whom Ministers in his Department were first informed of the arrest of United Kingdom citizens in Cuba; and which Minister in his Department was first informed. [135656]

Mr. Hain: Ministers were aware of the arrest of the British nationals on 24 October from media reporting. It is not normal practice for FCO officials to inform Ministers whenever a British national is arrested overseas.

Qualified Majority Voting

Mr. Redwood: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (1) if he will make a statement on his policy to be adopted at Nice in relation to the proposed change from unanimity to qualified majority voting in relation to EU participation in WTO proceedings; [135280]

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Mr. Vaz: We have set out our overall policy to the IGC negotiations which will be concluded at Nice in a White Paper published in February this year. We have made it clear that where the extension of qualified majority voting is in the United Kingdom's national interest, we will support it strongly; and that where it is not we will oppose it firmly.


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