28 May 1999

Bone ban end shelved

THE possibility of a quick end to the beef-on-the-bone ban in Wales has receded with the decision to refer the issue to the Welsh Assemblys Agricultural Committee.

An all-Party motion calling for a study of the facts before a vote on lifting the ban, proposed by Ieuan Wyn Jones (Plaid Cymru) the chairman of the committee, was given unanimous support.

Farm minister Christine Gwyther welcomed farmers watching the plenary session and said that every assembly member wanted to see the ban lifted as soon as possible. It would be a psychological boost to an industry that was beginning to recover.

But she warned that if it happened in advance of a UK decision it could send the wrong message to the rest of the world about the state of British farming.

Former Welsh Secretary Ron Davies (Labour) urged members not to use the assemblys powers "as a battering ram against policies decided at the UK level".

But Kirsty Williams, (Lib Dem), who failed to get an early vote on lifting the ban, warned that referring the matter to the committee must not be a bid to kick the issue into the long grass.

Bob Parry, FUW president, who watched the proceedings, agreed and suggested the inquiry should be speedy. However, he welcomed what he described as the first positive steps to scrap the ban and hoped that the process would be completed as soon as secondary legislation powers were devolved to Cardiff in July.

Meanwhile, in the Edinburgh, George Lyon, the former president of the Scottish NFU and now a Lib-Dem member of the Scottish Parliament, has refused to back calls for an immediate end to the beef-on-the-bone ban.

Reacting to a motion from the Scottish National Party, which would lift the ban, Mr Lyon said he believed efforts to export Scottish beef could be set back if the ban was lifted before official medical advice said it was acceptable to do so.

Instead, the Lib-Dems plan to table a motion calling on the Chief Medical Officer in Scotland to give evidence before the parliament.