HC Deb 22 March 1955 vol 538 cc1860-1
39. Mr. Grimond

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland to make a further statement in regard to the special payment for hill sheep; and to state whether the Government intend to give immediate assistance over the provision of fodder to hill farmers whose flocks have been gravely weakened by bad weather.

Mr. Henderson Stewart

Arrangements to make the special payment of 5s. per ewe on hill flocks, on the same lines as hill sheep subsidy, are being treated as a matter of urgency. A scheme under the Hill Farming Act, 1946, has to be prepared and appropriate application forms will be distributed to all those who at present appear to be eligible as soon as these have been printed.

Details of the arrangements will be published as soon as possible. I can assure the hon. Member that there will be no avoidable delay in making these payments. With regard to the latter part of his Question, my right hon. Friend regrets that this is not a matter in which he can offer specific assistance of the kind suggested.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Minister aware that there has already been too much delay? I am informed that the application forms have not yet been printed. In the meantime, there is urgent need in the Highlands, especially in view of the recent snowstorms, for assistance in providing fodder for sheep. Will he try to bring in some scheme now to help the crofters concerned?

Mr. Stewart

The forms have been sent to the printer and should be out before the end of next month. As soon as they are returned, subject to checking, payments will be made. As to the provision of fodder, the hon. Member knows that there is already a scheme for advancing credit on low terms to farmers and it is available for this purpose.

Mr. Woodburn

If it is to take to the end of next month to get the forms out, would it not be wise to invite the co-operation of the Press—have the forms printed in the Press—and get them dealt with forthwith?

Mr. Stewart

As the right hon. Gentleman very well knows, we have to be careful about that sort of thing. We must have the forms filled in and the figures checked, otherwise things could happen which would not be proper.

Captain Duncan

Are the figures for the sheep on which subsidy is paid those of 4th December last, which are already in the hands of the Department? Further, are the sheep to be in age groups, as they used to be under the old hill sheep scheme?

Mr. Stewart

I do not know about the age groups, but my hon. and gallant Friend is quite right about 4th December.