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The Minister of State, Department of Trade and Industry (Lord Simon of Highbury): Any power station proposal which requires consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 is considered on its merits against the background of concern to address local environmental issues and to ensure consistency with the objective of secure, diverse and sustainable supplies of energy at competitive prices and the meeting of environmental targets. Any operators proposing to change a fuel at a power station must satisfy the requirements of Integrated Pollution Control as operated by the Environment Agency. The first trial burn of petroleum coke at Drax is still under way and we do not know yet what its outcome will be.
The Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Lord Donoughue): My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food represented the United Kingdom at a meeting of the European Union Agriculture Council on 17 and 18 November.
The principal task of the Council was to reach conclusions on the proposals to reform the Common Agricultural Policy in the context of the Commission's Agenda 2000 initiative. Discussions on these proposals have gone on in the Council since September. After long negotiations, it was possible to reach agreement on conclusions that met the key requirements which my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had identified for the UK. These are, first, that there should be a rapid start to negotiating the necessary legislative changes to agricultural market regimes in order to give effect to CAP reform; second, that there should be recognition of the need for EU agriculture to be sustainable and competitive on domestic and international markets; third, that CAP reform should facilitate EU enlargement and allow the EU to take a positive negotiating stance in the next WTO round; and fourth, that there should be confirmation that the agricultural guideline imposes an absolute ceiling on spending in this sector. The Council confirmed the approach to reform along the lines he had advocated: namely, reduced price-support, compensated through direct aid and complemented by reinforced agri-environmental and rural development measures.
The conclusions finally adopted fully achieved these objectives. They were endorsed by 14 of the 15 member states, Spain being unable to associate itself with the language reconfirming the unchanged nature of the agricultural guideline. The Council's conclusions will be passed to the General Affairs Council and ultimately to Heads of Government for consideration at their meeting in Luxembourg in December.
This Council marked an important step in the process of reforming the Common Agricultural Policy, which is a key government objective in the EU. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food looked forward to beginning the process of detailed negotiation as soon as the Commission's formal proposals are available.
Aside from Agenda 2000, the Council had a detailed report from the Agriculture Commissioner on BSE, in the light of the European Parliament's recent report; and on the need to amend the July decision on specified risk materials in order to provide derogations for the imports of necessary pharmaceutical products. A proposal to this effect is to be made very shortly. My right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food joined his Dutch and German colleagues in putting pressure on the Commission to bring forward proposals as rapidly as possible on battery cages for laying hens.
Lord Donoughue: The following table shows the number of cases of BSE confirmed in Great Britain during each of the first 46 weeks of this year, together with the moving annual total of cases reported.
|Week Number||Number confirmed each week||52-week total reported|
Week 1 is the week ending on the first Friday of the year.