The Rt. Hon. Sir John Major KG CH

Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland 1990-1997

1996Prime Minister (1990-1997)

Mr Major’s Comments on the British Beef Ban (II) – 19 June 1996

Below are extracts of Mr Major’s comments on the British beef ban, made during an interview in London held on Wednesday 19th June 1996.


[Mr Major was asked when Britain would end its obstruction policy].


We will end when I said we would end it at the commencement of this affair. When I initially made the statement in the House of Commons, I did so out of frustration – frustration because the European Union were not cooperating properly with seeking a solution to this problem, and frustration with some member states because despite the fact that the Commission had proposed the lifting of the ban on beef derivatives, despite the fact that the scientists recommended it, some nation states voted against it. So it was frustrating that caused me to put it in place. I said at that stage I would lift it when two things had happened: first, when the ban on beef derivatives had been lifted – that has now happened; and second, when we had agreed a framework that would enable us to see how the rest of the ban could be lifted.

I emphasise a framework enabling it to be lifted, not the completion of all the matters in the framework. I set that out as the goal at the outset of this affair, I hope that we will soon reach that position.


[Mr Major was asked if he was holding a gun to the heads of other member states for what was a British problem].


It is quite wrong, and I will explain to you why it is quite wrong. When the BSE crisis broke, firstly we began to take very dramatic action. I doubt many of your viewers, watching this programme, realise that we will slaughter one million cows this year. I doubt they understand that. I doubt also they understand the safety measures that we have in place that exist nowhere else in Europe. But it is not as you describe it.

We put this policy into operation because Europe were not cooperating with us. Despite the science, despite the recommendation of the Commission, Europe voted against lifting the ban on the beef derivatives. Now on the back of that, I wonder what you government would have done, or any other government, if they had the scientists on their side, the European Commission on their side, the World Health Organisation on their side, British scientists on their side, and for reasons unconnected with science, and unconnected with health, some member states voted to retain that ban. I think they would have responded too.