Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report

WINES (6356/98)

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 consideration—where 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  We note that the proposal was withdrawn in 1999.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  You suggest that the proposal was withdrawn as a result of both the European Court of Justice Cases, which concluded in May 1999, and the establishment of a revised wine regime at the same time.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 background.

  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

previous page contents next page

House of Lords home page Parliament home page House of Commons home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2003