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Friday, 1 March, 2002, 12:11 GMT
Euro leek directive causes stink
Glenys Kinnock MEP
Glenys Kinnock MEP said the criticism was unjustified
New European regulations designed to cut Wales's national emblem down to size have yielded an angry political response.

The European Union is bringing in regulations to standardise leeks across the continent - just as people around the country celebrate St David's Day.

Commissioners have split them in two classifications, stipulating the first group's diameter can be no more than 8mm and laying down stringent rules on their colour.

Tough guidelines indicate when a leek is not a leek
The move provoked angry reaction from Conservative Welsh affairs spokesman Nigel Evans in the House of Commons on Thursday.

He branded the stipulation, implemented by the European Commission, "an insult" to Wales.

"Size is determined by their diameter measured at right angles to the longitudinal axis above the swelling of the neck," he told MPs, reading from the ruling.

"I always thought that the growing of leeks was God's work, but thankfully now the EU has come to its aid with some useful advice on the growing and selling of leeks."

Mr Evans' parents own a shop in Swansea and, he said, has seen "many a leek" be sold more conventionally.

'Insult' rejected

But the European Commission said it was not a new ruling, just a re-versioning of older guidelines designed to boost quality.

They read: "The white-to-greenish-white part of the leeks must represent at least one third of the total length or half of the sheathed part.

The largest leek in the same bundle must not be more than twice the diameter of the smallest

Euro leek directive
"However, in early leeks, the white-to-greenish-white part must represent at least one quarter of the total length or one third of the sheathed part.

"For class one, the diameter of the largest leek in the same bundle or package must not be more than twice the diameter of the smallest leek."

And Labour's Vale of Clwyd MP Chris Ruane told Mr Evans the rules were not the product of eurocratic indulgence.

"They were requested by the industry and the retailers," he said in parliament.

"These rules are in place to ensure that consumers, especially those in Wales on St David's Day, can be assured of the quality of the leeks they're buying."

The rules also banish soil in the leaves and demand they are dry and free of pests.

Kinnock defence

Glenys Kinnock, one of Wales's MEPs, defended the continent-wide implementation, however, and said it could not be attributed to negative "euromyths."

"It's not actually the European Union meddling and Brussels telling everyone what to do.

"Everybody wants good quality food and, for that, you have to have rules.

Romano Prodi
European Commission President Romano Prodi, accused of insulting Wales
"In the case of leeks, it is UN standards being adhered to; it's being agreed by the United Kingdom government and it's about making sure they are clean and fresh."

She attributed Mr Evans' scepticism to what has become known as the "euro myth."

"There is no regulation on straight bananas, shandy, mushy peas or Bombay duck.

"All they do is comply with what the supermarkets demand."

According to historical documents, Romans introduced leeks to the British Isles.

Legend has it 6th century Welsh soldiers wore the vegetable in their hats to identify each other in battle.

After a victory in battle, they became a national emblem, alongside daffodils.

Cardiff shoppers
"I'm fed up with all these regulations"
Nigel Evans, Conservative
"The white part must be a third the length"
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