39 Mr. Robertson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland, (1) whether he is satisfied that the hill sheep industry is receiving fair prices for its wool and mutton compulsorily sold to the Government; and whether the prices are the subject of negotiation with the industry or are they arbitrarily fixed by the Government;
- (2)the average results of his inspection of current trading and profit and loss accounts and balance sheets of typical hill farms in the various districts, after allowing the working farmer the wage of the lowest-paid agricultural labourer;
- (3) whether he is aware that, as a result of the severe winter and spring, mortality among ewes and lambs was high; and what steps he is taking to meet the situation, which will become worse within the next few weeks, when many hill farmers will be compelled to sell breeding stock to meet current expenditure?
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. T. Johnston)
Wool prices have already been increased by 15 per cent. over last year's figures, and it is hoped that a statement will be made shortly on mutton prices. While the latest available hill farmers' accounts show an improvement for the 1940 season as against the previous season, I am aware that additional difficulties and financial hardships have resulted from the prolonged winter of 1940–41 and the resulting loss of lambs. The Government are fully alive to the position and have already given an undertaking to provide, if necessary, special assistance.
Is it not quite wrong that this great industry should be singled out in this way? Is it not a fact that the figures for the two years of Government purchase show a net loss on all the farms taken out by the Department of Agriculture for Scotland?
§ Mr. Johnston
As the hon. Member knows, it is exceedingly difficult to discuss 1248 this complicated matter by way of question and answer. There will be an opportunity on the Scottish Estimates at the next Sitting, when I hope to make a fuller statement.