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Volume 124: debated on Thursday 17 December 1987

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To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will detail measures taken by Her Majesty's Government to assist the beef sector since 1984; and if he will make a statement.

At successive price fixings, in the face of almost unanimous opposition from the member states and the European Commission, we have successfully defended the beef variable premium scheme, which is currently worth £120 million per year to United Kingdom producers. At the December 1986 Council we secured the premium for a further two years, as well as taking steps to restrict intervention. Successive devaluations of the green pound have increased the value of the maximum rate of variable premium from 8·74p per live kg in December 1984 to 10·04p per live kg now and thus improved producers' returns.The specialist beef sector has been further helped by increases in the suckler cow premium. This was doubled in 1984 from £12·37 to £24·74 a head, and was increased by a further 35 per cent. to £33·40 earlier this year, the maximum permitted under Community rules for the current year. It is now worth £37 million per year.The annual value of hill livestock compensatory allowances paid to beef producers in the United Kingdom's less favoured areas increased from £38·9 million in 1984 to some £50 million this year. Beef enterprises also benefited by about £11 million from the special aid paid out in 1985 to help those livestock producers most seriously affected by the exceptionally bad weather.