HC Deb 21 April 1983 vol 41 cc408-9
14. Mr. Knox

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food for how many weeks in the current year the maximum premium has been paid on fat cattle.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The maximum rate of beef variable premium is estimated to have been payable in 14 weeks so far this year.

Mr. Knox

Does my right hon. Friend agree that that figure shows the absolute necessity of having the beef premium scheme if we are to have a healthy and strong livestock industry in Britain? Will he confirm the Government's total commitment to its continuation?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Yes, Sir. Last year we obtained almost a 50 per cent. increase in the maximum that we could apply under this scheme. It is of immense benefit to the industry and we shall continue to stand by it.

Mr. Hicks

In view of the concern that has been expressed by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and even by my right hon. Friend himself this afternoon, does he agree that it is essential that our livestock producers are assured that the scheme will continue, so as to prevent a greater imbalance developing between the livestock and cereal sectors?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The scheme must continue, because it is of immense benefit to the industry. Although I am anxious about the numbers in our specialist breeding herd, it is significant that there has been an increase in availability from the dairy herd, which provides about two thirds of our beef supplies.

Mr. Deakins

As we all agree that the scheme is of great benefit to the livestock industry, why cannot a similar scheme be introduced for pig producers?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

As the hon. Gentleman will know from his experience of agriculture, the speed with which numbers can increase in the pig industry and its cyclical nature are such that a similar scheme is not appropriate.

Mr. Latham

Does my right hon. Friend recall the correspondence that he had with me and others about the difficulty of getting clean cattle, especially black and white cattle, certified under this scheme? As he said that he would meet the National Farmers Union to consider the matter, will he inform the House of the latest state of play?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Anxiety about this matter has been expressed by farmers in many parts of the country. If there are complaints, I should be happy to investigate them. We monitor the way in which the grading classification is carried out, and I wish it to be done without unfairness.

Forward to