asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what representations he has made to the Commission of the European Communities since 1 January concerning the state of hill sheep farming in England and Wales; and if he will make a statement.
The sheep sector generally is prospering under the regime we negotiated in 1980. Production has expanded: market prices are rising seasonally and producers are receiving the benefit of the variable premium. Sheep producers in the hills have benefited in recent months from the HLCA payments and from the special 75 per cent. advance payments of sheep annual premium. The European Commission has proposed that the annul premium should be limited to the first 1,000 sheep in any flock in the less-favoured areas, a proposal which we resisted successfully last year and which we have continued to resist this year.