6.12.96Maddened French deputies in BSE row6.7.96Majors: UK vague on dropping of the beef ban
6.12.96EU Commission believes beef crisis solvable6.6.96German visitors to sister city give offense
6.12.96Cattle Cull Update6.6.96European resistance grows
6.11.96Germans ready to prolong ban6.6.96Farmers risk fines over suspect feed
6.10.96Clash with EU escalates6.6.96Partial Lifting of ban seen coming
6.10.96EU turning hostile6.8.96Eurocrat criticizes British intransigence
6.27.96 Deja vu all over again 6.25.96 Hogg called 'Clapped-out old milker' in Parliament
6.30.96 Irish PM rules out changes in beef rules 6.25.96 Fresh fears on mad cow disease
6.27.96 Chirac: more BSE research needed 6.25.96 French farmers firebomb British meat lorries
6.28.96 Hogg: a job well done? 6.24.96 Ceasefire in beef war leaves EU's battle lines unchanged
6.28.96 French tighten ban 6.24.96 Ag Minister Hogg to be sacked
6.23.96 Mad cow inquiry opens 6.25.96 Major resists call to sacrifice Hogg over beef crisis

June 1996 ... Mad Cow ... News Archives


Germans lay low after beef gaffe

BY ROBIN YOUNG 6.6.96 London Times

THE golden rule when dealing with Germans was not to mention the war. This week in Wellington, Somerset, it is British beef that is taboo. The party of Germans visiting Wellington from its twin town of Immenstadt in Bavaria won international notoriety with their request that their hosts should not serve any beef during their stay.

The "No beef, please, we are Germans" request was made by Hans Stumpf, the Immenstadt party leader, who said: "Our people were concerned, and begged me to ask their English hosts not to serve beef."

Now the German group are equally concerned about the furore their request has aroused. The issue has been debated in the House of Commons, and in Wellington itself there is no shortage of people flying the flag for Britain. The request infuriated many local people in Wellington, but the visit is going ahead under a veil of secrecy.

A member of the Wellington Twinning Association said yesterday: "The whole visit is being kept low key because of the publicity. Our guests are having a good time but beef seems to be a taboo subject."

The low profile for the Germans' week-long visit was established as soon as they arrived. Instead of the usual welcome in the town centre their coach was met at a nearby motorway service station and the Germans were then ferried to their hosts' homes by car. Details of the visit were not released in advance to avoid any embarrassing incidents.

Yesterday the German party of 19 adults and 12 children were kept well out of the way, being dispatched on a day trip to Land's End. A German television crew scouring Wellington for German visitors' reactions to life in BSE-stricken Britain drew a blank.

The town's Blue Mantle Hotel has been garlanded with pro-British beef slogans and red white and blue bunting by the publicans, Peter and Murium Green.

A battered Union Jack, proudly carried by Mrs Green's late father through the Second World War in North Africa and European campaigns, flutters outside. Mrs Green said yesterday: "We want to make a statement in support of British farmers while the Germans are in town. It is appalling that Wellington has had to adopt undercover tactics to get the German guests into town. After all we are civilised and are making them welcome. There has been no goosestepping or Sieg Heil salutes."

Cattle Cull Update

London Times 12 June 96

Nearly 16,000 cattle aged over 30 months were slaughtered at a cost of 1.4 million in the first phase of the scheme aimed at eradicating mad cow disease, Tony Baldry, the deputy Agriculture Minister, disclosed in a Commons written reply. Douglas Hogg, the minister, announced an extra 4 million for research into BSE this year. This will come on top of the additional 1 million already allocated and will mean up to 10.4 million will be made available by the ministry.


Maddened French deputies in BSE row

FROM BEN MACINTYRE IN PARIS
London Times 12 June 96

POLITICIANS exchanged insults in the French parliament yesterday as Left and Right accused each other of exposing people to "mad cow" disease.

Hitherto, anger in the National Assembly over the beef crisis has been directed largely at the British Government, but yesterday deputies turned on each other. Goaded by Opposition taunts, Philippe Vasseur, the Agriculture Minister, accused the Socialists of allowing BSE-tainted beef to be sold in France when they were in government before 1993.

"You put meat from those herds on the market, so shut up," the normally pacific M Vasseur bellowed. He followed with an earthy saying from his region in the north of France: "If you climb up a tree you should make sure your underwear is clean." That was a red rag to a bull for the Opposition, which has accused the Gov ernment of endangering the health of consumers by supporting a gradual easing of the European ban on British beef exports. Philippe Séguin, the somewhat bovine Speaker, called repeatedly for order, but was almost drowned out in a stampede of angry deputies.

M Vasseur insisted angrily that the Government had always made public health a priority, adding that in the next few days it would "offer a Bill on the safety and hygiene of food products".

Consumer groups have strongly criticised the Government of President Chirac for its conciliatory line on the beef ban, particularly after a French scientific report last week emphasised the health dangers of BSE-infected beef and sparked new public anxiety.


A French consumer association yesterday called for a boycott of British foods containing beef tallow or gelatine, after the lifting of the embargo on beef by-products from Britain. The boycott would affect mainly biscuits, sweets and cakes, the association said. London Times 7 June 96

Commission believes agreement on beef crisis can be reached quickly

FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS
London Times ... 12 June 96

THE European Commission believes that it can wrap up an agreement within days that will defuse the beef crisis and allow Britain to drop its campaign of obstruction, Jacques Santer, the Commission's President, said yesterday.

A hectic bout of Euro-diplomacy and meetings between British and Commission officials should clear the way to an accord at a foreign ministers' meeting in Rome on Monday, Mr Santer said. However, the Commission said it needed more proposals from London to complete the package ahead of the EU summit in Florence next week. Senior British officials said John Major would insist on a concrete plan as the price of calling off Britain's blocking tactics.

Britain yesterday applied its veto to four proposed EU measures, all relating to culture, bringing the number of initiatives blocked in the beef war to 78. On its side, the Commission formally ordered the lifting of the ban on the export of the by-products gelatine, tallow and bull semen. Only the semen is back on the world market because stringent controls must be applied in Britain before gelatine and tallow will be certified for export.

The Italian Government, which hosts the EU summit on June 21-22, is working with the Irish, who take on the EU presidency next month, to save the Florence gathering from being taken hostage by Britain's beef demands. John Bruton, the Irish Prime Minister, who met Mr Santer yesterday, was more cautious. "I consider that the objective can be achieved if there is goodwill on all sides," he said.

"John Major is going to be handed a ladder which he can climb down," a French official said. "He should be grateful for that, but it will still be a very long haul." Mr Bruton said the EU could give its blessing to a "scaffolding" but "filling in the gaps" would come after Florence.

Britain's senior veterinary official voiced doubts on likely progress in Brussels. Keith Meldrum, the Chief Veterinary Officer, said the Standing Veterinary Committee, the body which must approve all steps in the beef affair, would vote on Friday on whether Britain's programme of eradication was acceptable as a starting point for easing the ban. "Whether the British plan will get support is a moot point," he said.

The veterinary committee, representing member states, has been regarded by Britain as the villain in the beef affair since it rejected the original proposal to lift the ban.

Supermarket Policies put cull in doubt

BY MICHAEL HORNSBY, AGRICULTURE CORRESPONDENT
May 16 1996

British beef exports worth nearly £600 million have been blocked since March 27 when the European Union imposed a global ban after fresh scientific evidence linked "mad cow" disease to a similar fatal brain condition in humans, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.

Four leading supermarket chains were accused by farmers and the Government of sabotaging the culling of cattle over 30 months old, regarded as more likely to have BSE. The four chains said they would not accept beef from abattoirs that took part in the cull.

Tony Baldry, the junior Agriculture Minister in charge of the cull, said: "This could mean that some of the biggest and most efficient abattoirs will go bust because they will not be viable unless they can slaughter older animals and those intended for the food chain."

The move by the supermarkets was initiated by David Simons, chief executive of the Somerfield chain, who issued a statement on Tuesday saying it was "naive" to believe that meat from older cattle could be kept out of the food chain without total separation of the killing processes.

Speaking at a rally of more than 300 farmers in Westminster Cathedral Hall in central London, Sir David Naish, the president of the National Farmers' Union, said he was "furious" with the statement by Mr Simons. He added: "It is very irresponsible and could cast doubt on the whole scheme in the eyes of consumers."

The Ministry of Agriculture says abattoirs can slaughter both older and younger cattle provided they do not do so on the same day and wash down the plant between operations.

THE Asda supermarket chain last night announced that it was banning all foreign beef from its shelves. Archie Norman, the company's chief executive, said: "British beef is the best and safest in the world and our shoppers want to buy it."

Germans ready to prolong beef ban

FROM ROGER BOYES IN BONN ... 11 June 96

GERMAN politicians signalled yesterday that they were ready to defy the European Commission and uphold a unilateral ban on British beef throughout the summer and beyond.

The threat came at a highly charged meeting in Berlin between ministers from Germany's 16 provincial states and Horst Seehofer, the federal Health Minister. Germany is justifying its current ban on British beef and its derivatives on the basis of a six-month emergency decree allowing it to override European free-trade legislation. But it cannot be extended beyond September.

Baerbel Hohn, Agricultural Minister of North Rhine Westphalia, said: "We must keep this ban in place, even beyond September, unless there is a convincing case presented that British beef products are safe. At the moment this seems unlikely." Herr Seehofer is strictly against any relaxation. According to a leaked report by a German member of the inspection team in Britain, British selection procedures were sloppy. "There is no proper separation of animals. That puts the whole system in question."

The German Government is demanding that the Commission set up an expert committee of scientists, vets and doctors in an attempt to reach a definitive and objective assessment of the potential health risks of BSE.


Britain may be frozen out by hostile EU

BY CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS AND JILL SHERMAN ... The Times: Britain: 10 June 96

AN EMOTIONAL attack on London by Jacques Santer, President of the European Commission, raised the pressure in the beef war yesterday. It was clear that John Major's obstruction campaign over beef is fuelling continental ideas for sidelining Britain in a new-look European Union.

Mr Santer's blast, in which he spoke of an approaching "moment of truth" if Britain contined to sabotage EU business, testified to the extreme exasperation which the Government's beef tactics are generating in all 14 other member states and the Commission. "We are going as far as the limit of our possible tolerance and all the members' tolerance," the normally emollient Mr Santer said in an interview in The Observer. People were now asking, he said, whether "Europe would be better off without Britain".

Jean-Luc Dehaene, Prime Minister of Belgium, said over the weekend that Europe would never yield to "British blackmail". The word "blackmail" is also being wielded by officials from Nordic states.

A senior British diplomat in Brussels said that Britain's desire was a rapid return to business as usual. "This policy is intended to be a lever, not a bludgeon," he said. The best outcome would be a decision by EU leaders at the Florence summit on a framework for winding down the ban, which would then be administered by the Brussels Commission. However, resistance is so stiff from Germany and its allies that all the signs are pointing to a Florence debacle.

Portugal, an old ally, has joined Germany in the hardline camp over beef. President Chirac, who sided with Mr Major in the drive to lift the beef by-products ban, has shifted back towards Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, after sounding off to visitors on what he saw as the folly of Mr Major's campaign.

Poll: More want to leave Europe The public's growing antipathy towards Europe is highlighted in a Gallup poll in The Daily Telegraph today which shows that 43 per cent would vote to pull out of the European Union. A year ago a similar poll found that only 37 per cent wanted to pull out.


Britain again clashes with EU on beef ban

LUXEMBOURG -- Britain went head-to-head Monday with its increasingly angry European Union partners over the ban on British beef, but it eased off slightly from blocking all EU measures.

Britain has vowed to obstruct each EU measure requiring unanimity until the EU announces when it will lift the beef ban, instituted March 27 because of fears over mad-cow disease in Britain that scientists say may cause a fatal brain ailment in humans.

Britain's 14 EU partners are increasingly annoyed with the obstructionist tactics: ''The time has come for the British to become level-headed'' before it further harms its interests, Danish Foreign Minister Niels Helveg Petersen said Monday as EU ministers met.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hans van Mierlo was even angrier: Britain has a ''shortsighted view of the problem . . . (It) seems to think it is the only one being damaged by the export ban. The truth is we all do.''

British Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind did signal a partial easing of policy Monday. The foreign ministers faced 20 measures requiring unanimous approval. Rifkind said he would veto all but three: an association accord with Slovenia, the granting of $3.6 million for elections in Bosnia and a draft EU-Algeria trade pact.

Britain, which already has slaughtered 160,000 cattle in the mad-cow scare and said a total of 1 million would be destroyed, treats the beef ban as a trade dispute, one that lacks scientific basis and has unfairly brought to a halt an annual beef trade worth $855 million. 10 June 96, © 1996 Deseret News Publishing Co.



Eurocrat accuses Britain over beef

FROM CHARLES BREMNEr IN BRUSSELS 8 June 96 London Times

BRITAIN'S top civil servant at the European Commission took the highly unusual step of going public last night with a blunt defence of Britain's place in Europe and implictly blaming the Government for the BSE crisis.

David Williamson, who as secretary-general of the Commission is head of all its staff, said that he wanted to correct the picture because of the "current European witch-hunt". He extolled the benefits that he said Britain gained from its membership of the European Union.

In a speech due to be delivered to a solicitors' conference in York last night, he summed up the EU as "370 million friends and the largest market in the world, for 2p a week." That was the net price paid per head in Britain for all the benefits that accrued from the single market, an entity which he defined as "Britain's greatest achievement in the Community".

Mr Williamson, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, said "the best cure for Euro-scepticaemia is a dose of common sense". His speech amounted to a cri de coeur from a man who rarely expresses a view in public. It reflected the indignation widespread among British EU staff over the Government's handling of the BSE affair.

The crisis, Mr Williamson said, was "a British problem". He hoped that the disease could be eradicated quickly and noted that the EU would spend more than £1 billion this year "as a direct consequence of the British authorities' announcement on BSE".

Ministers played down expectations of reaching agreement over the beef crisis before or at the Florence summit on June 21. Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, returned from a tour of six European capitals and indicated that there was only a slim chance of the EU agreeing to a framework for a phased lifting of the beef ban within the next two weeks.



Ministers ease demands to speed deal on beef

BY PHILIP WEBSTER ... London Times 7 ... June 96

JOHN MAJOR said yesterday that the Government was not seeking a date for the dropping of the beef ban, as ministers raised hopes of a speedy settlement. The Prime Minister told Tony Blair in the Commons: "As far as the negotiations on timescale are concerned, what we are seeking is not an arbitrary calendar date but the steps that need to be taken ... to enable us to remove the ban."

Amid increasing signs that the Government is looking for an early end to the dispute with the European Union, Malcolm Rifkind today underlines an apparent readiness to compromise as ministers seek a "framework" deal for the lifting of the export embargo.

The Foreign Secretary, writing in The Times, suggests that lifting each part of the ban could be linked to the effectiveness of the measures that the Government has introduced and their certification by the European Commission: "We are not asking other European countries automatically to accept what we say."

In spite of pessimism in Brussels and elsewhere about the prospects of an agreement, ministers appeared determined to "talk up" the chances of an end to the beef conflict within ten days. The moves strengthened the feeling at Westminster that the Government is anxious to seize as early as possible a deal that it can sell to its backbenchers.

The feeling was reinforced last night by a new poll showing Conservative fortunes again on the decline, with voters disapproving of EU disruption tactics. The Gallup poll for The Daily Telegraph today shows the Tories on 22.5 per cent ­ down two points on last month. Labour's support rose to 57 per cent, with the Liberal Demo crats trailing on 16 per cent. Asked for their views on the campaign of non-cooperation, two out of three voters said it would fail. Only 23 per cent of Tory voters backed the campaign, with 55 per cent against.

Mr Rifkind emerged from a meeting yesterday with President Chirac of France saying he hoped a solution could be found "within a matter of weeks". French officials, however, quoted M Chirac as saying that a plan to ease the embargo must follow an agreement by both the European Commission and the European Council on a culling programme for British herds.

Mr Major will face criticism from Euro-sceptics if he abandons the policy without what they consider to be a satisfactorily firm deal. Norman Lamont, the former Chancellor, urged him to ignore defeatist comments by the Confederation of British Industry, "who want to throw in the towel and seem so indifferent to the plight of small businesses and farmers".



Brussels keeps up pressure over British beef crisis

FROM CHARLES BREMNER IN BRUSSELS London Times 6.6.96

THE European Commission welcomed yesterday Britain's framework plan for phasing out the European Union beef ban, but insisted that for the scheme to pass the Government must produce convincing new proposals on eradicating "mad cow" disease and restoring public confidence.

Jacques Santer, the Commission President, gave its response to Malcolm Rifkind as the Foreign Secretary embarked on a tour of EU capitals to try to convince Britain's partners of the merits of its case. The Commission, which last week criticised Britain's blocking drive, said the framework plan "amounted to an opportunity to move along the path long advocated by the Commission".

Mr Rifkind and the Commission made clear, however, that, given the mechanics of EU decision-making, the beef crisis would continue for weeks, if not months, and at least up to the Florence EU summit on June 21.

The Commission sounded a note of caution and puzzled British officials by insisting after Mr Rifkind's departure that Britain must still back its latest plan with more stringent measures to eradicate BSE and restore confidence. "The ball is with the British," Mr Santer's spokesman said. Only an hour before, Mr Rifkind and Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, had argued before the European media that Britain had done everything within reason to achieve both goals.

After Monday's failure of EU ministers to endorse the move by the required majority, the Commission is due today to order the easing of the ban on gelatin, tallow and bull semen, with stringent conditions that will require compliance to be monitored. Spain's unexpected decision to vote in favour of lifting the embargo on British bovine by-products may have been taken in the hope of a future quid pro quo with Britain on fishing rights.

Germany, however, which remains fiercely opposed to lifting any part of the ban, said yesterday that some of its constituent states were likely to disobey the Commission's order to lift the by-products ban. As ministers in London welcomed the imminent raising of the embargo on beef by-products, John Major called for an early start to the gradual lifting of the export ban on British beef.

A big hurdle is the necessity of putting all proposals to lift every separate aspect of the ban before the standing committee of national veterinary experts, which caused Britain so much trouble by resisting the relaxation on by-products.

Under EU rules, a qualified-majority vote must come from the veterinary experts before the 14 other governments can move to a political decision on the scheme. With continental governments insisting on the primacy of the scientific experts, there is a big risk that the British plan could be bogged down in the veterinary committee.

Mr Hogg said Britain wanted governments to agree to give the Commission power to confirm whether conditions were satisfied for each phase of Britain's plan. The first step is to end the ban on exports to non-EU countries. Then follows the exemption of grass-fed cattle from herds certified free of BSE.

After that, Britain wants agreement to the export of calves born after July 1, the date from which the strictest controls against the animal-based feed will be enforced.


Farmers risk fines over suspect feed

BY PHILIP WEBSTER ... London Times 6 June 96

FARMERS and suppliers will face fines of up to £5,000 if they keep beyond the end of next month suspect animal feed that could spread BSE. The decision to criminalise the possession of livestock feed containing animal remains was Mr Hogg's latest effort to convince the rest of Europe of the effectiveness of Britain's anti-BSE measures. Farmers and suppliers would be prosecuted under the 1981 Animal Health Act, which provides for fines of up to £5,000 and a month's imprisonment for repeat offences.

Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, announced the move yesterday as he sought the lifting of the EU ban on the export of the beef by-products tallow, gelatine and semen. Mr Hogg presented a 120-page dossier to EU farm ministers in Luxembourg set ting out Britain's plans to eradicate BSE. In the document, Mr Hogg also proposes a "selective" cull of about 80,000 cattle, mainly from dairy herds, which are considered to be at particular risk of BSE. This would be in addition to the ongoing slaughter of all cattle over 30 months old.

Feed suppliers said they would face a loss of about £1.5 million, representing the value of unsold stocks of banned feedstuff. Farmers and feed manufacturers have until the end of next month to dispose of their remaining supplies. The use of ruminant animal protein in cattle feed was banned as long ago as July 1988, but about 27,000 of the 162,000 cattle that have caught BSE since 1986 were born after that date. It is presumed that they must have been exposed to infected feed.

Sir David Naish, president of the National Farmers' Union, said: "I see nothing in this latest proposal to persuade me that it will substantialy reduce the incidence of BSE, and certainly not enough to justify the decimation of many dairy herds."


European ministers' vote will ease ban on British beef

BY CHARLES BREMNER AND PHILIP WEBSTER ... London Times 6 JUNE 96

EUROPEAN opinion on the beef crisis shifted in Britain's favour last night as farm ministers from nine of the 15 states lined up in support of the proposal to ease the EU ban on beef byproducts. It was not enough to win the immediate lifting of the ban on gelatine, tallow and bull semen, but the Commission will now have to enforce the measure by itself, against the wishes of Germany and five of its allies. This could happen within days. Spain was the only country to shift sides from the last vote, last month. But it was not enough to overcome opposition from Germany, Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Portugal.

The negative political fallout for Britain, however, promises to be intense. Public opinion in Germany and even France, which supported Britain, remains fiercely opposed to easing any aspects of the ban.

Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, fought hard to convince doubting states of the merits of Britain's case yesterday, as Kenneth Clarke, the Chancellor, and Eric Forth, the Employment Minister, continued the campaign of obstructing EU business. As Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, arrives in Brussels today on the first stage of his "charm offensive" to explain Britain's case, it was clear that the obstruction campaign was making Britain no friends on the Continent.

Ministers and officials from other EU states were universally critical in their condemnation of Britain's conduct. Ivan Yates, the Irish Farm Minister, said: "The countermeasures have been totally counterproductive." He deplored the "atmosphere of retaliation and bad blood" created by John Major at a time that the Commission and other ministers were trying to broker a compromise.

Attention will now swiftly switch to Britain's efforts to get the wider embargo removed. It emerged yesterday that a lifting of the ban on beef from specialist herds and that on sale to countries outside the EU is the price Britain is asking for calling off its campaign of obstruction. The view in London is that once the ban is partially lifted ­ particularly in relation to specialist beef ­ the rest of it could go over a period of months.

Last night's decision in Luxumbourg was expected and ministers will come under pressure not to give way until a clear timescale has been set for the removal of the world wide prohibition on the export of British beef.


Mad cows may have met their Waterloo

THE TIMES: FOREIGN NEWS ... June 27 1996
FROM BEN MACINTYRE

IN A bizarre link between the Battle of Waterloo and the beef war, the French press has uncovered a report by Victor Hugo describing how Britain used human and animal remains from Napoleonic battlefields to nourish its cattle.

In his work Things Observed 1847-1848, Hugo recorded that British farmers were grinding up bones left behind from the carnage at Leipzig (1813) and Waterloo (1815) to fertilise the fields of Yorkshire. "Thus the last residue of Napoleon's victories are being used to fatten up English cows," Hugo said.

"At last the true origin of BSE has been revealed," the satirical French weekly Le Canard Enchaîné said yesterday. "If English cattle have turned mad, the cause is historical ... the cows across the Channel were nourished on flour made from old soldiers and war horses."

About 32,000 Frenchmen died at Waterloo, with 15,000 English and 7,000 Prussian troops. Citing British newspapers, Hugo wrote: "Several million bushels of human bones arrived at Hull from the Continent."

He added: "These bones, mixed with the bones of horses, have been collected from the battlefields of Austerlitz, Leipzig ... and Waterloo.

"They were transported to Yorkshire where they were ground into powder and then sent to Doncaster where they are being used as fertiliser."


Irish PM rules out changes over beef

BY AUDREY MAGEE ...IRELAND CORRESPONDENT
The Times: Britain: July 1 1996

THE Irish Government has ruled out any renegotiation of the package of measures to end the European Union's ban on British beef exports, during its EU presidency. Dick Spring, the Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, said the five-stage plan to lift the ban on British beef, imposed after fears over the possible risk to humans from BSE, would remain, regardless of pressures on the British Government from Euro-sceptics or farmers.

Mr Spring said: "If people try to unravel that package ­ given the hostility in Europe and the difficulties there were putting this package together ­ you would open the crisis again." There were dangers in implementing the BSE eradication measures, as the programme included a larger cull of cattle than Britain had envisaged. The Irish presidency intends keeping the plan on course so that the ban is gradually lifted.

Mr Spring said he was relieved that the BSE crisis had been resolved. It has cleared the way for Ireland to preside over some of the most difficult decisions the EU has to take as it prepares for further integration and to admit new member states.

But Mr Spring remains concerned at the possible impact of the Tory Euro-sceptics on British policy. "There is a nagging doubt in the back of our minds about the attitude of the British Government to Europe. My personal view is that John Major is pro-Europe and would want to have a strong Britain in Europe. But there is division in the Conservative Party and that is a matter for the British Government. I hope that division will not make things more difficult."

* A counselling service is to be set up to help farmers to cope with their worries over the impact on their livelihood of the crisis over BSE, it was announced yesterday, on the eve of the four-day Royal Show, the annual showcase for British agriculture. The service will be based at the National Agricultural Centre, at Stoneleigh in Warwickshire, where the show is held.

The threat to the industry has cast a shadow over this year's event, to be opened today by Franz Fischler, the European Agriculture Commissioner, whom many farmers blame for their troubles. He will share the rostrum with Douglas Hogg, the embattled Agriculture Minister.

Beef farmers have suffered badly from falling cattle prices. Dairy farmers are deeply anxious about the cull due to start in the autumn.

Charles Runge, chief executive of the Royal Agricultural Society of England, said there had been a marked increase in calls for help from farmers since the Government disclosed a possible link between BSE-infected beef and CJD, which affects humans. It is intended to build up a database of counsellors to whom farmers could be referred in their area.


Chirac to push for more BSE research

The Times: World News:June 27 1996
BY BEN MACINTYRE

PRESIDENT CHIRAC announced yesterday he would press fellow world leaders to increase funding for medical research into epidemics such as "mad cow" disease, Aids and Ebola virus at the Lyons summit of the Group of Seven leading industrialised nations.

In an interview published yesterday, the French President said that battling such epidemics should be made a priority, and gave a warning that "other diseases may be waiting in the shadows". He also singled out hepatitis C as a crucial area of medical research. "It is urgent that the major powers are aware of this problem at the highest political levels. The G7 summit gives us an opportunity," M Chirac said, adding that research into epidemic viruses and bacteria had been neglected in recent years.

The crisis over "mad cow" disease (BSE) has proved particularly devastating for farm ers in France, where beef sales have dropped by up to 40 per cent, according to latest figures. France's largest farm union yesterday condemned the European Union aid plan for beef producers as unsatisfactory and said that extra compensation was needed.

M Chirac also criticised America yesterday for failing to give sufficient help to developing countries and confirmed that he would make aid for the Third World a central issue at the summit. "The current trend is for major nations, particularly the US, to pull out. This is unacceptable," M Chirac said.

His Foreign Minister, Hervé de Charette, said "the growth of selfishness of rich countries is becoming unbearable". He noted that while France and Japan give the largest amounts in development aid, the proportion of gross domestic product that America donates is dwindling.


French tighten ban

BY Ben Macintyre
The Times: Britain: June 28 1996

The French Government announced a ban yesterday on all British animal feed containing animal parts in the latest move to stamp out "mad cow" disease. France prohibited the use of animal feed containing bonemeal for ruminants in 1989, a year after Britain, but it is still permitted for pigs, chickens and fish.

A scientific committee led by Dominique Dormont, a brain-disease specialist, presented the Government with a report saying that animal feed containing the remains of British cows infected with BSE was the principal potential source of "mad cow" disease.

British farmers are to get an additional £112 million in aid to cope with the beef crisis under a deal agreed by European Union agriculture ministers in Luxembourg. The aid, part of a £705 million package granted to all EU farmers, is intended to compensate beef producers for low prices caused by consumer fears of "mad cow" disease. Most of the money will be used to increase existing EU subsidies for beef cattle, but the Government has the discretion to distribute £28 million to the worst-affected producers and to add a matching amount from national funds.


Major tells Hogg: well done and your job is secure

BY ARTHUR LEATHLEY, POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
The Times: Britain: June 28 1996

JOHN MAJOR told Douglas Hogg last night that he would keep his job as Agriculture Minister despite calls from senior colleagues for him to be sacked. Mr Hogg, who has faced intense criticism from senior colleagues for his handling of the beef crisis, has also received a letter from the Prime Minister praising his work in recent months.

Mr Major is said to be annoyed that the continuing speculation surrounding Mr Hogg is raising widespread uncertainty about a Cabinet reshuffle. He has told colleagues that a reshuffle is his responsibility and he is not going to be "bounced" into making changes.

A reshuffle of non-Cabinet ministers remains inevitable since the announcement by the ministers Steven Norris and Tim Eggar that they are standing down as MPs at the general election. The reassurances offered to Mr Hogg make any Cabinet changes much less likely, as senior ministers had suggested that he was the most obvious trigger for a reshuffle.

During a 30-minute meeting with Alastair Goodlad, the Government Chief Whip, Mr Hogg was told that he had the full confidence of the Prime Minister and that he could expect to retain his current post through to the election. In a personal letter to Mr Hogg, Mr Major wrote: "The last three months of the crisis over beef have not been easy for many of us, but I am conscious that they have been most difficult for you and your department, faced with the multiple challenges of an issue with huge agricultural, trade and politicial ramifications."

Mr Hogg's meeting came as Labour increased the pressure for his dismissal. Brian Wilson, a leading member of Labour's campaign team, said: "Mr Hogg has had it ­ and all the Tories can think about is getting the chance to add the post of Cabinet minister to their CVs before the Government goes the way of a clapped-out old milker."

Mr Hogg is reported to have been frustrated that last week's agreement of EU leaders on a framework for lifting the beef ban did not put an end to speculation about his future. One friend said: "He is pretty robust, but he is fed up that there has been no let-up and it is affecting the morale of his department."


MAD COW INQUIRY OPENS

World experts on mad cow disease are to gather in Brussels this week for a two-day hearing before a joint session of the EP committees on public health and agriculture.

The high-level public hearing -- the first of its kind ever held -- will be co-chaired by senior Socialist Euro MPs -- public health committee chairman Ken Collins of Scotland and deputy chairman of the farm committee Jose Happart of Belgium.

Themes include the epidemiology of the disease, its transmissibility to humans, the efficiency of safety measures taken against the spread of the disease and consumer advice.

Experts to give evidence include Oxford University zoology professor Roy Anderson, Dr Robert Will of the CJD surveillance unit at Edinburgh's Western General Hospital and Dr David Heymann of the World Health Organisation in Geneva.

The two-day hearing from 15h00 on 24 June in Leopold 3 will be opened by Mr Collins who has led European concern about mad cow disease since the 1980s. Said Mr Collins: 'The handling of BSE has been a catalogue of bungling and incompetence for a number of years in which the interests of the consumer have been side-lined.

'Secrecy has surrounded the whole issue, too. This hearing will address the worries that many people still have about the disease -- and it will do so in public.'

Subjects and speakers at the hearing are as follows:

Latest scientific data: Dr Jean Blancou, general director of the International Office of Epizoonoses, Paris. Origins and causes of BSE: Dr Martin Groushup, Federal Research Centre on viral diseases in animals, Tubingen; David McDowell, President of the European Association of Renderers. Development of diagnostic tests on live animals: Prof Marc Savey of the National Centre for Veterinary and Feed Studies. Transmissibility from cows to calves and other animals: Prof Roy Anderson, zoology department, Oxford University. Spread from animals to humans: Dr Robert Will, Edinburgh; Dr David Heymann, WHO. Application of safety measures: Carlo Berlingieri of the Commission's inspectorate; Jose Augusto Cardoso de Resende of the Portuguese Veterinary Association; Ben Gill of the UK's National Farmers' Union. Safety of food and pharmaceutical products: Derrick Kilsby of the EU food industry association; Brian Ager of the EU Pharmaceutical Industry Federation; Michael Joffe of the European Alliance for public health. Restoring consumer confidence: Jim Murray of BEUC.


Fresh fears on mad cow disease

Recommended reading: Brian J. Ford's book (Oxford Biology Chair) "BSE The Facts"

Socialist Spokesman, European Parliament
25 June 1996

A major new inquiry today raised fresh concerns about the risks to human health from mad cow disease. The risks include contamination of drinking water from the corpses of buried cattle and risks for the use of certain pharmaceuticals.

The inquiry before a joint session of the European Parliament's committees on public health and agriculture took evidence over two days from world experts.

Inquiry chairman Ken Collins, who heads the EP's all-party public health committee, set out an EU action plan including the creation of an independent EU food agency, a cattle registration system -- linked to a culling programme -- and research on human health questions such as Alzheimer's Disease and CJD.

He said: 'Everyone agrees that there is an urgent need for greater information and that the information has to be brought into the public domain.

'The most crucial information we need to know centres around three questions. First, how soon can a tried and tested live test be developed? Next, how long can the agent of the disease exist for independently and could it contaminate groundwater? And are by-products such as animal cells safe to use or not?'

EU research funds would have to be increased to answer questions such as whether or not the disease can ever be eradicated.

Mr Collins (Lab., Strathclyde East) highlighted the decline in consumer confidence in food. 'There has been a long-term decline in confidence in foodstuffs as successive food scares have dented consumer trust. From growth-promoting hormones in meat to salmonella in eggs and poultry and high levels of residual pesticide in fruit and vegetables, it is not surprising that consumer confidence in food production is declining.'

Oxford University Professor of Zoology Roy Anderson told the hearing of three possible causes of new cases of mad cow disease since the British Government introduced a ban on contaminated animal feed.

These were that the ban was ineffective, that the disease was passed on from cow to calf or that pastures were contaminated. Said Mr Collins: 'On the basis of the evidence we have heard, the second and third possibilities are unlikely.'

Criticising delays in resolving the mad cow question, Mr Collins said: 'Public health protection and consumer protection are not political problems to b e resolved with a slogan and a photocall.' He added: 'We should devise a food production scheme that will result in wholesome food, healthy animals and production methods that do not turn our stomachs.'


News flash:

French farmers protesting against the effects of BSE on the meat industry yesterday intercepted a British lorry containing frozen sheep carcasses and opened its doors, rendering the meat unsaleable. The lorry, one of dozens stopped by about 60 farmers near Bressuire, Poitou, was en route from Wales. [Other news reports spoke of firebombing.]


Ag Minister to be Sacked

BY PHILIP WEBSTER AND ANDREW PIERCE
The Times: Britain:June 24 1996

JOHN MAJOR will tell MPs today that the European Union ban on British beef exports across the world should be lifted completely "within months". He will also say that separate parts of the embargo, including that on prime beef from grass-fed herds with no history of BSE and young calves, should be raised as early as the autumn. He will say that he wants the ban to countries outside the EU, including South Africa, to be lifted sooner.

The Prime Minister's high- risk decision to put estimates for the first time on the removal of the ban, comes despite the absence of a timescale in the peace deal that ended the beef war at the Florence summit. The move comes as Cabinet ministers are increasing the pressure on John Major to sack or move Douglas Hogg from his post of Agriculture Minister. At least five ministers, including Michael Heseltine, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Forsyth, the Scottish Secretary, Dr Brian Mawhinney, the party chairman, and Roger Freeman, Public Service Minister, are leading the opposition to Mr Hogg.

They have expressed their views to Alastair Goodlad, the Chief Whip, and the Prime Minister is aware of the disquiet. A reshuffle of middle-ranking ministers will be held next month. Mr Major has made clear he has no intention of changing his Cabinet.

His Commons statement will be welcomed by Conservative MPs who have been under pressure from farmers to give them hope of an early lifting of the ban. It is also designed to counter Labour claims that the embargo will still be in force at the time of the election.

The Prime Minister is also preparing for another con frontation with Europe by opposing any further moves towards integration. He has decided to use the EU's decision to hold two summits rather than one during the Irish presidency, which begins next month, to set out a sceptical platform highlighting the differences with Labour.

Mr Major is expected to say that he will not allow progress in the inter-governmental conference (IGC) unless it shows it is prepared to take action to prevent the use of health and safety rules to impose the social chapter on Britain by the back door. He claims that the directive imposing a 48-hour week on Britain, on which the European Court is shortly to rule, is being foisted on this country through improper use of the rules. The Prime Minister's advisers have welcomed Dublin's desire to stage a special summit to give impetus to the IGC in the middle of October after the Tory conference. Mr Major is pushing for a draft IGC treaty to be available at the second Dublin summit in December.

Mr Major intends to maintain and perhaps harden the tough line he has already taken in the White Paper preparing for the IGC. He will refuse to accept any prospect of extending the use of the veto or the powers of the European Parliament. He is to press for the principle of subsidiarity, taking decisions at the lowest possible level into the EU treaties, and he wants to reform the common fisheries policy. He will also block any plans to integrate European, foreign and home affairs policies.

Speculation over the future of Mr Hogg was fuelled yesterday by his withdrawal, at one hour's notice, from an interview on the BBC World at One. A BBC radio car arrived at the minister's London home to take him to the studio at midday, but it was turned away by his wife, Baroness Hogg, the former head of the Downing Street policy unit. According to BBC sources, Lady Hogg explained that Downing Street had intervened and asked Mr Hogg not to go ahead with the interview.

Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, was giving a live interview on BBC1 television about the end of the beef war 30 minutes earlier. He was asked twice on the programme, On the Record, whether he had full confidence in Mr Hogg, but declined to answer.

A spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture said: "Mr Hogg withdrew because Malcolm Rifkind went to the summit and is regarded as the spokesman on the issue." But it was David Davis, the Foreign Office Minister whose reported threat to resign from the Government was linked to the performance of Douglas Hogg, who had been scheduled to take part in the radio programme. He dropped out only when Mr Hogg agreed to take part on Saturday night.

Ceasefire in beef war leaves EU's battle lines unchanged

THE TIMES: FOREIGN NEWS ... June 24 1996 ... GEORGE BROCK

AS THE smoke drifted from the last battlefield of the brief beef war, I remembered Winston Churchill's description of watching Ireland's endless conflict emerge from the cataclysm of a world war which had destroyed the rest of the Continent's way of life.

"The dreary steeples of Fermanagh and Tyrone" appeared again, Churchill said, and the integrity of their quarrel was quite unaltered. And so with the nations of the European Union: the integrity of their struggle about the distribution of power between the states and Brussels is unscathed. John Major may not have won much; but in the rest of Europe he has not lost all that much either. The battle lines over "Maastricht II" and the single currency are drawn just where they were. No continental politician could credibly claim that the British work-to-rule in Brussels revealed to them for the first time that Mr Major can be difficult. Ah, say the savants, but there has been a "hardening" of the mood against Britain. In my experience of a dozen EU summits, no journalist ever had difficulty finding an under-employed prime minister to claim that Britain is going to pay a terrible price down the road for its outrageous obduracy.

"Things like this will be remembered," hissed Goran Persson, the Swedish Prime Minister. Don't forget that since the Swedes are suspected of being infected by British doubts, Mr Persson has to work extra hard to disown Mr Major. We need to find a way of decommissioning the odious national veto, said Jean-Luc Dehaene of Belgium. Mr Dehaene, let us not forget, was the loser two years ago when Mr Major blocked his nomination to succeed Jacques Delors at the head of the European Commission. Mr Dehaene uttered the same, vague "never again" threats then.

There is no doubt that both Mr Major and Britain have lost sympathy ­ and thus the benefit of the doubt in a tight corner ­ over the past six years. But that is the result of three underlying causes. Mr Major's party is split on the single currency, his ministers made plain that they hoped another country would sabotage the Maastricht treaty because they did not want to be caught doing so and because Britain will not start bargaining over amending the Maastricht treaty.

Mr Major's European partners think that his "serial vetoes" are merely a symptom of these structural weaknesses. They live in hope that Tony Blair will not suffer from the same defects. Moans about unilateral British obstruction over beef will fade because the moaners have no practical solution. If majority voting is extended to new fields next year, it is clear that most existing national vetoes will stay.

Even the EU, which has staged a fair number of ludicrous pantomimes in its time, would blench at the idea of turning some future summit into a kangaroo court to put a national government on trial for deviant behaviour.

Attempts to audit the profit and loss to British interests and influence in the beef war quickly vanish into arcane speculations. Wandering into the Piazza della Signoria in Florence at the weekend I came upon a sight which you do not see in Britain: a procession in favour of a federal Europe.

Policemen from Palermo and postmen from Pistoia marched to the amplified sound of Beethoven. One sign-writer had made a brave attempt to link federalism and everyday worries: "Division=unemployment" said his placard.

Only a few hours before Helmut Kohl, the German Chancellor, had been saying the opposite. Herr Kohl had been slapping down ideas that governments should dip into their pockets for European Commission job creation schemes and insisting that public spending was the business of national governments.

"Serial vetoes" are less of a problem than the embarrassingly evident fact that the EU keeps holding serial summits which promise to do something about unemployment but fail to deliver any jobs.


'Clapped-out old milker' finds few friends in his hour of need

The Times: Britain:June 25 1996

For an appalling moment in the Commons yesterday, as Michael Jopling questioned the Prime Minister on the beef agreement at Florence, the nightmare seemed to be spinning out of control. Mr Jopling, a former Conservative Agriculture Minister, asked about "the ultimate solution" for the British herd. Happily, we had mistaken his meaning.

The fate of poor Douglas Hogg, the Minister of Agriculture, seemed even more uncertain. We say "poor" advisedly, for this is the word politicians use of other politicians whose life-support machines they have decided to cut off. The affection the word might imply if you or I used it is absent. To say "poor Mr Hogg" at Westminster is the equivalent of staring at your shoes and emitting a low whistle at the sound of the name.

Question 1 to the Deputy Prime Minister brought Labour's Don Foster to his feet within minutes of kick-off. Foster dared Mr Heseltine to express confidence in Hogg, whom he called a "clapped-out old milker". Heseltine rode less than magnificently to his chum's defence, simply insisting, in tones of mild reproach, that everyone in the Cabinet was friends.

Minutes later, Simon Hughes (Lib Dem, Southwark & Bermondsey) told MPs that Mr Hogg was "in a huge hole". Tony Blair rose to allege that ministers were "hanging the poor Agriculture Minister out to dry, to get him to resign".

"Where is he? Where is he?" Labour backbenchers shouted. In fact, Mr Hogg was said to be in Luxembourg, at a meeting. The clapped-out old milker, hung out to dry, in a huge hole, in the Grand Duchy, must present quite a spectacle to the normally sedate Luxembourgeois. If people carry on demanding the Agriculture Minister's dis missal like this for much longer, poor Mr Hogg may survive, for John Major is one of those boys who won't be told.

There being little of note going on, Monday was a day for violent language, extravagant metaphor and personal remarks. Labour's Win Griffiths (Bridgend) accused Michael Heseltine of having once "baled out of the Army to fight a by-election". Nobody raised an eyebrow. Politics must be different in Wales, whose MPs seem to resort to impugning each other's honour almost before breakfast and the instant Prayers are over.

Sir Wyn Roberts (C, Conwy) accused Labour of shaping up to become "dictators at home and appeasers abroad". Peter Pike (Lab, Burnley) prophesied "the slaughter of the Agriculture Minister". David Howell (C, Guildford) declared he detected "the whiff of sour grapes" among Labour. The Liberal Democrat leader compared John Major to Chamberlain, then accused him of "a puerile policy of posturing."

Paddy Ashdown has learnt about alliteration. On Thursday it will be all the Qs and Major will stand accused of joining a querulous quartet of Quislings. Mr Major, who is more prosaic, said Ashdown knew all about posturing. He told Tony Blair that when in London he didn't have the guts to oppose Tory tactics, and when in Bonn he didn't have the guts to support them. Sir Teddy Taylor (C, Southend E) called Blair Herr Kohl's lackey.

Blair told Major he was ("I may say") "utterly incompetent". "I may say" is Mr Blair's new buzz-phrase. Douglas Hurd called Mr Blair a confused mischief-maker. It was, in short, another Monday. Nobody was hurt. Nothing happened. Nothing was said.


Major resists call to sacrifice Hogg over beef crisis

The Times: Britain:June 25 1996 ...PHILIP WEBSTER

JOHN MAJOR said yesterday that Britain would have fulfilled the European Union's conditions for lifting most of the beef ban by November, as he resisted mounting Cabinet pressure for the sacking of Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister.

The Prime Minister won backing from Conservative MPs for the peace deal secured at Florence after telling them that the bans on meat from certified herds and young calves could be lifted as early as October and that on all animals aged under 30 months by the following month, opening the way for the resumption of exports worth £530 million a year.

The only remaining prohibition would be on the export of meat from cattle older than 30 months, the sale of which is also banned in Britain. Mr Major put the cost of the crisis over the next three years at £2 billion. The figure is understood to include all compensa-tion and eradication measures.

His estimates of the time it would take Britain to fulfil the conditions required by Brussels to lift parts of the ban were met with scepticism by Labour. Conservative MPs, who also cast doubts upon whether Europe would act as swiftly as Mr Major hoped, were nevertheless pleased that they had been given a broad timescale to sell to their farmers and constituents. Mr Major defended the Government's non-cooperation policy, which ended at the Florence summit on Friday, as a "decisive factor" in the deal.

But with the future of Mr Hogg again under question after the disclosure that several Cabinet ministers were urging his dismissal, Mr Major let it be known that he was in no hurry to give in to calls for his head. Even so, ministers including Brian Mawhinney, the party chairman, are strongly in favour of Mr Hogg being moved from his job.

Mr Major is also said by colleagues to be irritated at attempts by some ministers to undermine the position of Gillian Shephard, the Education and Employment Secretary, by suggesting that she is at odds with the Prime Minister. Sources close to both Mrs Shephard and Mr Major denied yesterday that there had been a rift over the plans for expanding the number of grammar schools, to be unveiled today.

Roger Freeman, the Public Service Minister, said Mr Hogg had been doing a magnificent job defending the interests of Britain's beef farmers and would continue to go on doing so. MPs will focus on Mr Hogg in a Commons debate today when the Liberal Democrats argue a motion calling for a cut in the minister's salary.

Yesterday in the Commons Tony Blair said the Government had failed to intervene properly when the crisis flared, failed to compensate and inform farmers, failed to announce the link with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease with any proper consultation, and failed to get the ban lifted. "And the truth is whatever fig-leaf you have today, the damage will be with this country for many years to come."

Mr Major admitted that the targets he had set were ambitious, "but it is now up to us and the farming and ancillary industries to ensure we meet them". Tory Euro-sceptics gave Mr Major broad support. The strongest attack came from George Walden, the former minister, who declared: "We have lost prestige, we have lost money and we have lost umpteen thousand more cows. If we feel big after that, we must have been feeling rather small before."

But John Townend, MP for Bridlington, and chairman of the right-wing 92 Group of Tory MPs, urged Mr Major to use the non-cooperation tactics again if British interests were at risk.