Arts and Entertainment Playing it by ear: Dan Skinner, Matt Berry, Bob Mortimer and Vic Reeves in 'House of Fools'

Vic and Bob are back in BBC2's House of Fools. The duo explain why writing a sitcom was their biggest test yet

Letter: Is our beef safe?

Sir: In 1981 the ministry of agriculture (MAFF) removed, in the name of deregulation, the tough guidelines which had for many decades protected our cattle from catching scrapie from the sheep carcasses which went into their feed.

No sign of entente cordiale as the two generals in a beef war come face to face

HE DISMISSED the Third Way and refused to lift the beef ban. But "sorry" was not in the vocabulary when the French general in the beef war finally came face- to-face with his British foe. Lionel Jospin, the French Prime Minister, gave no ground when he held his much-billed encounter with Tony Blair in the neutral territory of the Finnish capital.

Defiant French refuse to lift ban on British beef imports

FRANCE ISSUED a stunning rebuff to the Labour Government and the European Union last night by refusing to lift its illegal embargo on imports of British beef.

Germany `ready to lift ban on British beef'

HOPES THAT Germany will soon lift its ban on British beef were raised last night when Brussels said it had been given a "positive" response to its demand that Berlin removes the embargo on UK produce.

BSE AFTERMATH: As Mr Baker the butcher explained, his best cut is `no longer forbidden fruit'

NOT EVERYONE was cheering the end of the ban on beef on the bone yesterday. Frank Baker, a butcher who had never removed beef from his shop window despite the ban, was scornful of the Government and supermarkets. "I'm a bit disappointed really, now that they've lifted the ban. It'll be the same old story, it's not the forbidden fruit any more is it?" said Mr Baker, a butcher for 43 years, at his north London shop.

Leading Article: A bone to pick

IF YOU see three men strolling around casting nervous glances at the sky, walking in wary circles around trees and peering nervously up and down roads, you have probably seen the chief medical officers of England, Wales and Scotland out for a ramble. How can we explain their bizarre approach to risk, except by thinking that they see danger in the quietest backwater of daily life?

British beef still banned from schools

THOUSANDS OF schools in England and Wales still refuse to serve beef to pupils and staff, despite government assurances that it is safe. Ministers are now writing to local authorities, urging them to end the ban in school dinner-halls and put beef back on the menu.

Letter: Doubts on UK beef

Sir: The British media have referred to two matters which delay agreement on beef imports to France. It is implied that these concern mere technicalities, and that the French are making a fuss about nothing. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Brussels clears way for end to beef war

BRUSSELS PAVED the way for the expected Anglo-French agreement on beef by making clear yesterday that British beef could be labelled with its country of origin.

End to beef war is just `a hair's breadth' away, says Brussels

A DEAL to end the beef crisis is a "hair's breadth" away, the European Commission said last night. The commission launched the first stage of a court action against France and stepped up pressure on Germany, the only other EU country still maintaining an embargo. But the commission made clear that although the legal deadline had passed, a settlement of the Anglo-French crisis is finally taking shape.

Leading article: Praise patience and Europe for saving our beef industry

LET US now praise patient men. You need turn back only a few days, to last week's hysterical attacks by Opposition politicians and other excitable commentators, to recall how ministers were being excoriated for even talking to the French about their concerns over reintroducing British beef to their food markets. With the formal lawsuit against France, launched yesterday by the European Commission, and a statement by the French farm minister Jean Glavany to the national assembly that he would be putting details of a revised programme to his country's food safety agency, the Agriculture Minister Nick Brown's softly, softly approach would seem to have delivered.

Letter: Beef and science

Sir: The French Minister of Agriculture is able to refer to the weight of scientific evidence emanating from the newly formed French food safety agency, which, on 1 October, presented its unfavourable report on British beef.

Letter: Tracing beef

Sir: You report (11 November) that the French demand that shipments of British beef be traceable to the farm of origin poses immense practical difficulties in England and Wales. Why?

South Africa may lift ban on British beef talks

BRITISH BEEF may soon return to South Africa, where there is currently a ban, after a "positive" discussion between President Thabo Mbeki and Tony Blair, who was at the retreat weekend of the Commonwealth Heads of Govern- ment Meeting in Durban.

Beef talks to go on even if Brussels prosecutes French

THE EUROPEAN Commission has cleared the way for Anglo-French talks on beef to continue even if legal action against France starts next week.
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