10 May 1996

Tories to launch full scale attack on ban

By Tony McDougal

LEADING backbench Tory MPs are set to turn Wednesdays annual spring farm debate on the CAP into a full-scale attack on Europes ban on British beef.

MPs are becoming increasingly infuriated by the lack of scientific justification for the ban, and are threatening to force retaliatory action on European imports.

Leading Euro-sceptic William Cash (Con, Stafford) said there were legal remedies open to the cabinet, such as suspending European payments.

Paul Marland, chairman of the Conservative agriculture committee (West Glos), said there was growing anxiety among MPs with rural constituencies about how long the ban will last.

Mr Marland was concerned that the Irish have said the ban could still be in place by the autumn, and that other EU nations had not removed specified offals from meat in slaughterhouses in Ireland, Germany, Spain or Holland.

"We have never had so many MPs attending our meetings over the past month, and I am sure the debate will be dominated by the BSE issue."

David Nicholson (Con, Taunton) voiced the opinion of many rural MPs when he said the government should not extend its selective slaughter scheme any further than was absolutely necessary.

The concern that other EU nations are profiteering from the UKs BSE saga has been repeatedly raised by Nicholas Winterton (Con, Macclesfield), who said the EU was out to destroy the UK beef industry.

Former junior farm minister, Sir Donald Thompson (Con, Calder Valley), attacked the EUs veterinary committee for not backing the UK.

Labour meanwhile is likely to raise on-going government cuts in scientific research and development in agriculture. &#42