9 July 1999

FUWstill calls for end to ban

THE Farmers Union of Wales has clashed with the NFU and Country Landowners Association over the beef-on-the-bone ban.

Giving evidence to the Welsh National Assemblys agriculture committee, FUW president Bob Parry urged members to use secondary legislation to lift restrictions immediately in Wales.

He claimed there was no irrefutable scientific evidence to justify the original imposition of the ban, or to continue it.

But the NFU Cymru-Wales insisted that unilateral ending of controls in Wales would send the wrong signal to customers, and to the rest of Europe. Malcolm Thomas, the NFUs Wales director, admitted that the early lifting of the ban would provide an important psychological boost to the Welsh beef industry. But he warned that the customer was crucial and he urged the committee to wait for scientific guidance.

"You cannot afford to take a decision only to find the highest level of scientific evidence turning against you the following morning," said Mr Thomas.

In its evidence the CLA insisted that the ban should be lifted only in accordance with medical opinion, and after consultation with authorities in the rest of the UK.

After the hearing Bob Parry conceded that the mixed message from the industry probably meant that hopes of ending the restriction first in Wales were probably "dead in the water". He admitted he was surprised by the attitudes of the NFU and CLA, and suggested that so too would be many of their members.

"Ours was the authentic voice of Welsh farming and not one expressing views dictated by powerful English interests. If these organisations were truly representing their members in Wales they would have joined us in calling on the Assembly to use its powers to get this ridiculous ban lifted."