HC Deb 30 June 1980 vol 987 cc1064-5
4. Mr. Geraint Howells

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he has any further plans to increase the guaranteed price for lamb in the current year; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

The fat sheep guarantee scheme will be replaced in the United Kingdom by the support arrangements to be provided under the recently negotiated Community regime. The arrangements for implementation are currently under discussion.

Mr. Howells

Can the Secretary of State tell the House whether the new scheme will come into operation in July, or whether our sheep producers will have to wait until August, September or October—that is, until the scheme is finalised?

Mr. Edwards

We should like the scheme to start in July, which was the date indicated during negotiations. However, it is a complicated scheme and has to be introduced throughout the whole of the EEC, and it is therefore in the hands of the Commission. It is important that the scheme should be introduced before the major autumn sales, as it will have important consequences for the market.

Mr. Best

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the strength of feeling among those engaged in sheep rearing in my constituency about the need for early implementation of the scheme? Is he aware also that many of those farmers are receiving a smaller financial return from their sheep this year than they did last year? Will he consider the matter urgently?

Mr. Edwards

Yes, but the new scheme will help firm up the market and give it a strong future. I am sure that my hon. Friend will draw that to the attention of his farmers. I hope that he will also warn them of the dangers of delaying marketing their fat sheep, which could become overfat and either not qualify for the United Kingdom fat sheep guarantee or the EEC variable premium. There is a risk that some farmers will delay because of the new scheme, and thereby lose altogether.