Forecasts are not available for the 1984–85 marketing year. Self-sufficiency for the 1984 calendar year is now estimated at 77 per cent. for the United Kingdom and 75 per cent. for the European Community.
Does my hon. Friend agree that the profound changes now taking place in agriculture mean that sheepmeat production will assume ever-increasing importance in British agriculture? Is he aware that his commitment to resist strongly any change in the variable premium schemes will be well received? Will he especially resist the Community proposal whereby any loss of return from the operation of the limited gap in the variable premium is not compensated by an increase in the ewe premium?
The Commission has proposed this year to put a ceiling on the variable premium. As this would help our exporters and could save money, we shall need to examine it carefully. We shall not, however, accept any mechanism of the kind to which my hon. Friend has referred, which is known as a recovery bar and discriminates particularly against British interests.