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1996 - Mr Major’s Comments on British Beef

Below is the text of Mr Major’s comments on British beef, made in Turin on Friday 29th March 1996.


QUESTION:

[Mr Major was asked if he was pleased with how the European leaders were dealing with the beef problem].

PRIME MINISTER:

I think it has been a very good meeting today. Several points I think are especially relevant. Firstly they have recognised that this is a European problem, it is not just a British problem, it is a problem that affects the British beef industry and increasingly is affecting the beef industry right across Europe. My colleagues in Europe have recognised that. Secondly, they have recognised that it is appropriate for Europe to make a financial contribution to restoring confidence in the beef industry, and that really is what needs to be done - restore confidence. The beef is safe but we have to restore the confidence of the consumer so that they believe again that it is safe.


QUESTION:


[Mr Major was asked if and when he wanted the beef ban lifted].


PRIME MINISTER:


We certainly need that. That is one of the things we are discussing with the Commission. We are discussing the plans we have for resurrecting confidence with the Commission. I hope when we have reached a conclusion on that we can put it perhaps, perhaps, to an Agricultural Committee meeting on Monday. And I hope at that stage we can begin to consider lifting the ban. That will be a decision by the Standing Veterinary Committee but I hope that they can look at that matter speedily and I hope they will reach a positive decision. If they don’t of course, the problem is not just for Britain but for the rest of Europe as well and I think that point needs to be understood everywhere.


QUESTION:


[Mr Major was asked if there was trading in other areas to get concessions on the beef ban].


PRIME MINISTER:


No, there was no trading, no trading at all. These are two quite discrete and separate items. The first - confidence in the beef industry in the United Kingdom and across Europe; and secondly the development of the agenda of the intergovernmental conference. And Britain’s position on the intergovernmental conference is a position of principle, it is not open to negotiation, it is not open to be chipped away by deals over the beef crisis. Cynics may think so but I assure you that is not going to happen. And perhaps as an illustration of the fact that that is the case, at precisely the same meeting we had been discussing beef, I had been making it clear to our European partners that I believe the health and safety article had been misused and that we will add that to the number of things that will need to be changed in the intergovernmental conference.