§ Mrs. Lait
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what assessment she has made of whether all farmers will be able to obtain, complete and return the forms for sheep quota by 7 January following advice to do so by Reading regional service centre on 11 December; and what contingency plans she has to relax the deadline;
(2) why Reading regional service centre of her Department changed its advice to sheep farmers and stopped sending application forms for sheep quota automatically.
§ Mr. Jack
It is essential that producers applying to the reserve receive their payments under the sheep annual premium scheme as quickly as possible. For this reason, we decided that applications should be invited first from producers eligible to apply to categories 1 and 2 of the 1993 sheep reserve. For the same reason, and to keep the burden of paper to the minimum, the application form was not sent out automatically to all sheep producers. Not all producers were eligible to apply to these categories. All sheep producers received a letter explaining the situation clearly, and in detail. The deadline of 7 January was also set so that payments could commence quickly. It allowed adequate time for the completion of the application form which was kept as simple as possible. The reserve categories have been the subject of widespread consultation and discussion, so that most producers will have given detailed consideration to their eligibility well in advance of receiving the application form.