All EU member states have promised that they would be compliant with the ban on conventional cages for laying hens by the end of this year.

At a meeting of the European parliament’s agriculture committee, EU health commissioner John Dalli revealed that 10 out of the 27 member states were still non-compliant.

That means that some 45m hens are still being housed in conventional cages, equivalent to 14% of the total EU laying flock.

It is understood that, since the start of the year, Romania, Latvia and Hungary have removed the last of their conventional cages.

Commenting on the news from Brussels, Liberal Democrat MEP George Lyon said: “While I welcome the promise made to the commissioner by member states that they would be fully compliant with the battery cage ban by the end of the year, it is still an outrage that many countries have waited to the last moment to get their act together.

“That is another year that UK egg producers have had to compete with one hand tied behind their back.

“That is why we need to redouble our efforts to force the pace with countries that are dragging their feet on complying with the ban on sow stalls, and avoid this mess happening again.”

NFU chief poultry adviser Kelly Watson said it was “unacceptable” that there appeared to be some slippage in the timetable for getting full compliance in Europe.

The commission had originally indicated that all member states would have to be compliant by the end of July.

It was also uncertain what level of fines they might face for failing to meet the initial 1 January 2012 deadline for implementing the cage ban, as this would take into account the steps being taken to reach compliance, as well as the member state’s ability to pay.

A commission spokesman said that those member states that are still non-compliant will be sent a “reasoned opinion” before the summer, setting out the reasons why the commission believes they are breaking the law and giving them two months to respond. This is the second stage of infringement proceedings against them.