HC Deb 13 March 1980 vol 980 cc709-10W
Mr. Barry Jones

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he intends to eliminate the beef or sheep guarantees of the fatstock guarantee scheme; what representations he has had from farmers' organisations; what consultations he has had with the EEC Commission; how much money is involved; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

The beef premium scheme is operated under EEC legislation which is normally renewed from year to year. This year, in presenting its proposals for farm prices the Commission, instead of proposing the continuation of the beef premium has proposed a suckler cow scheme aimed at supporting specialist beef production. The farmers' organisations have welcomed the proposal to aid specialist beef production but also want to retain the beef premium scheme. We could not agree to the ending of the beef premium scheme unless the proposed suckler cow scheme and the other support arrangements provide a satisfactory alternative.

The suckler cow scheme would be fully financed by the Community and the Commission estimate our receipts would be about £26 million. The cost of the beef premium scheme varies according to market circumstances: only 25 per cent. of the cost is paid by the Community. In the past three years expenditure on premium payments has been as follows:

1977–78 £19.1 million
1978–79 £1.3 million
1979–80 £2.0 million (to end February)

The fat sheep guarantee is operated under United Kingdom legislation. My right hon. Friend has made it clear to the farmers' union that, in the absence of a Common Market regime for sheepmeat, it will continue. Guarantee payments—wholly financed by the United Kingdom Exchequer—during the last three years have been as follows:

1977–78 £0.4 million
1978–79 £0.1 million
1979–80 £11.0 million (to end February)

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