MEPs walk out over Beckett remarks

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The Independent Online

Addressing the European Parliament's agriculture committee at the start of Britain's six-month EU presidency, Ms Beckett was repeatedly challenged over the UK's calls for a thorough reform of agriculture spending up to 2013.

But after a series of replies deemed insubstantial or misleading, at least five MEPs left, prompting an apology from Ms Beckett.

During the course of yesterday's hearing Ms Beckett attacked the Common Agricultural Policy but appeared not to acknowledge a series of recent reforms.

Mairead McGuinness, a Fine Gael MEP from Ireland, said: "Margaret Beckett spoke of the need for clarity and yet, when she came to the agriculture committee, she caused confusion rather than clarity."

Ms Beckett angered some MEPs by rejecting the idea of a ceiling on the payments to individual European farmers.