27 October 1999
France offers new report to back ban

THERE are fears France could stymie any EU attempts to force it to lift its ban on British beef by producing a mysterious new paper containing new arguments.

Experts are concerned this report — of which no details are known — would be used by the French government to buy time in the dispute.

Colin Maclean, former MLC director general, gave this warning as the EU scientific committee prepare to meet to consider existing evidence from France.

It has defied EU law in refusing to lift the ban on British beef on the recommendation of its food agency.

Speaking to Radio 4s Farming Today Mr Maclean said: “I understand the French are saying they will be publishing a new paper at some stage in the near future, and nobody yet knows what that paper is about.

“I can only hope it isnt, what I call, people buying time.”

This uncertainty aside, Mr Maclean, who has seen the French food agency report at the centre of this weeks events, is confident scientists will reject its findings.

Mr Maclean says it calls for more testing of animals and tissue, questions the number of BSE cases in Britain and asks when the disease will be eradicated.

The steering group is due to make a decision tomorrow.