To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if Her Majesty's Government have completed their review of the economic conditions in the hill and upland areas; and if he will make a statement on the rates of hill livestock compensatory allowances and associated scheme conditions for 1988.
My right hon. Friends and I have now completed the annual review of economic conditions in the hills and uplands.Even allowing for recent bad weather, the economic prospects for farmers in the less-favoured areas are currently looking significantly better than at this time last year. Most LFA livestock producers have benefited from a 35 per cent. rise in suckler cow premium and the green pound devaluations, which have provided increased support through the sheep annual premium and beef variable premium. The Government have decided that the rates of hill livestock compensatory allowances should be maintained at their present levels for 1988. The associated conditions will also remain unchanged, apart from some minor amendments to the scheme rules. We shall be laying a statutory instrument shortly to give effect to these changes, which will he explained to claimants when the application forms are dispatched.The Government continue to recognise the importance of the hill and upland areas in the United Kingdom and their reliance on the compensatory allowances for the economic well-being of livestock production. A healthy livestock sector in the hills and uplands makes a major contribution to agriculture, the rural economy and the environment. The Government are committed to providing appropriate support to meet the special needs of livestock producers in those areas. This commitment is demonstrated by the fact that total HLCA payments next year are expected to be over £110 million, virtually double the 1979 levels.