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I am trying to share out the answers to questions because there are a considerable number to answer.
The hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) asked why the heifer subsidy is lower than that for steers. He partly answered his question when he spoke of different weights. The aim of the subsidy is to encourage the retention of steers and heifers for beef production, but at the same time to distort as little as possible the way in which the market, through the setting of prices, discriminates between the different types of stock. Heifers normally fetch a lower price per head than steers. Therefore, a subsidy which gave both the same headage rate would favour heifers unduly. Nevertheless, the differential should not be too wide, particularly if we wish to encourage the retention for beef of dairy heifers which are not going to be used for milk production. We consider that the current differential is about right.
I was asked, why cannot Stage B be extended to include animals certified at liveweight centres for fatstock guarantee. Arrangements for claiming calf subsidy on the hook were to enable heifers of dairy breed to qualify for subsidy if they were used for beef production. These animals are excluded from subsidy at Stage A because of the need to ensure against payment of subsidy on heifers which are not slaughtered for beef but are used for dairying. The same problem arises at whatever stage in the animal's development it may be certified. We have considered many suggestions from representatives of the livestock auctioneers and others, but no practicable way has been found of ensuring against the risk of this happening except by requiring heifers of the dairy breeds to have been slaughtered before they can get the subsidy payment. It is realised that the same problem does not exist in the case of steers, but steers of any breed are eligible for subsidy as calves at Stage A and we would expect that the majority of farmers would continue to present their steers for certification at that stage. We have no evidence that restriction to deadweight causes producers any real difficulty, or has caused any distortion of marketing patterns between liveweight and deadweight.
I have made the case for the Order and I hope that it has the approval of the House.