HC Deb 10 April 1951 vol 486 cc802-4
14. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how far the proposed increases in transport costs were taken into account in the recent review of agricultural prices; and whether he will discuss with the Minister of Food the possibility of bearing the freight charges from the outer islands of Orkney and Shetland to Kirkwall and Lerwick.

Mr. McNeil

The proposed increases were not taken into account at the recent price review because a review cannot deal with cost increases which are both prospective and unascertained. The question of freight charges from the outer islands of Orkney and Shetland to Kirkwall and Lerwick could not be dealt with by itself. As the hon. Member is aware, the whole question of transport and freight charges in the Highlands and Islands is one which is constantly under examination, but it is not one, I fear, that lends itself to easy solution.

Mr. Grimond

While this matter is constantly under examination, will the Secretary of State bear in mind that these additional charges will bear heavily and unequally on farmers? Can he see whether he cannot get some help given to farmers in remote areas who will be seriously affected by these charges?

Mr. Hector Hughes

Has my right hon. Friend considered the representations which were made by the Aberdeen Chamber of Commerce as to the prejudicial effect which the increase in freight charges will have on industry generally, and will he consult with the Minister of Transport on this matter?

Mr. McNeil

I have, and I will.

Lord Malcolm Douglas-Hamilton

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the case in the Highlands and Islands was for a reduction in freight charges before the rise last year? Is the recommendation of the Cameron Committee to be taken into consideration in the near future, and must any revision always be upwards?

Mr. McNeil

As my right hon. Friend indicated yesterday, the submission of the Cameron Committee is one of the primary submissions of which account must be taken.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

When the Secretary of State says that freight charges are constantly under review, does he mean that the grant towards the subsidy for freight charges for the Highlands and Islands is liable to be changed at anytime?

Mr. McNeil

No, I meant no more than I said, which was exclusively that this question of freight charges in relation to the Highlands and Islands constantly concerned us and was constantly examined.

Mr. Nicholson

Does that mean anything?