HL Deb 12 July 1990 vol 521 cc543-4WA
The Earl of Swinton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they have reached a decision on the future of the Sheep Variable Premium Scheme, including definitive information on the seasonal scale of prices.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

The reformed EC sheepmeat regime agreed last year by EC Agriculture Ministers makes provision for the phasing-out of the Sheep Variable Premium Scheme by the end of the 1992 marketing year at the latest. In the negotiations we secured the right to end the scheme before that date, or accelerate the rate of phasing-out if we wished.

My right honourable friends and I have now reviewed the timetable for phasing out the variable premium, taking account of the views of interested parties. We have concluded that the Sheep Variable Premium Scheme should continue to operate during the 1991 Marketing Year, with payments made at 55 per cent. of the full rate. We shall review the arrangements to apply for the 1992 marketing year early in 1991.

We are also pleased to announce that, following the commitment we obtained in the price fixing this year, EC Agriculture Ministers have recently agreed the seasonal scale of prices for the variable premium scheme. The scale will retain the same form in 1991 as in previous years. It was one of our outstanding objectives from this year's price-fixing package to reach an agreement on the scale on satisfactory terms and sufficiently early to enable producers to work towards a smooth phase-out of the Sheep Variable Premium Scheme. We have achieved that objective. This, together with the decision on the variable premium arrangements for 1991, will enable producers to plan ahead for the coming marketing year.