HC Deb 06 July 1995 vol 263 cc500-1
2. Mr. Riddick

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the cost of beef special premium in the last year for which figures are available in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) the European Union as a whole; and if he will make a statement. [31161]

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Tim Boswell)

United Kingdom farmers were paid some £120 million, and European Union farmers as a whole some £500 million, during the year ended October 1994.

Mr. Riddick

First, I warmly congratulate my hon. Friend on his appointment to the Ministry; he knows rather a lot about agriculture. Is he aware that a farmer of my acquaintance recently lost the premium on two of his steers because he misread one number on each tag, in one case mistaking an eight for a three? I was there at the time of the inspection and the inspector was very particular. This is an EU-wide scheme. Can we be sure that the scheme is policed as rigorously on the continent as it is in this country?

Mr. Boswell

First, I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his kind remarks. We want equality of treatment between ourselves and our counterparts in the EU, and we shall press the Commission to ensure that there is an equal level of enforcement in all member states. I am aware of my hon. Friend's concern about the specific case to which he referred, but perhaps it would be better not to rehearse that case in the House this afternoon. As a general principle, while we will be firm in the pursuit of fraud, we wish to be as flexible and farmer-friendly as possible in the interpretation of the rules and any minor errors that occur.

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