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Hogg in bid to get beef ban lifted

Douglas Hogg, the Agriculture Minister, is expected to seek cabinet approval tomorrow for a bid to lift the European ban on British beef exports a move which could help to prop up the Government until a May election.

The first step in lifting the ban was taken yesterday by Mr Hogg with the announcement of a massive computerised tracing system for 12 million cattle in England, Wales and Scotland - a key requirement of Franz Fischler, the European agriculture commissioner, for agreeing to a partial cull of selected British herds.

Mr Hogg is hoping to go to the next meeting of European agriculture ministers on Monday to appeal for the selective cull to be approved. That could hold out the prospect of lifting the export ban on beef early in the new year for cattle from Northern Ireland, where a traceability scheme is already in operation.The Government has argued against the additional cull, but it is now poised to come full-circle and go ahead with the plan, leading to the slaughter of an extra 100,000 cattle. Colin Brown