HC Deb 19 November 1959 vol 613 cc1327-8
26. Mr. P. Browne

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what consideration he has given to lowering the acreage limit under the Small Farmer Scheme; and if he will make a statement.

32. Mr. Thorpe

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has for changing the basis of qualification for assistance under the Small Farmer Scheme in order to achieve a more equitable test.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Hare)

I have already undertaken to review the present limits of eligibility for the Small Farmer Scheme in the light of the first year or two of operation. I intend to do this but we must gain more experience of the Scheme, which began only at the end of March.

Mr. Browne

I thank my right hon. Friend for that reply. May I ask him to say a word of praise for the N.A.A.S., which has done so much to implement this Scheme? When he is considering the Scheme will he bear in mind that it is a scheme for small farmers and as such it would be better to bring down the lower acreage limit and the man-day limit as a start?

Mr. Hare

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his generous tribute to my advisory staff. I think that hon. Members on both sides of the House would agree that they have done a good job with this rather complicated Scheme. I do not intend to be drawn on the second part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question, because these are things about which I wish to learn from experience rather than to have any preconceived idea.

Mr. Thorpe

May I associate myself with the words of the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) in praise of the Advisory Service? I hope that will not embarrass hon. Members opposite. I acknowledge the help that this Scheme has been for the small farmer. May I ask that, when he is making this revaluation, the right hon. Gentleman will consider the number of small farmers whose hard work is excluded from the operation of this Scheme, and also the possibility of substituting the true rental value of the farm as being a more equitable basis of calculation for assistance under the Scheme?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Gentleman was not a member of the House when we discussed in great detail various methods and techniques which were put forward by hon. Members from both sides. I came to the conclusion that we had got the right answer. I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's suggestion would have much advantage over the present system and I am certain that there would be more complications regarding the administration of the Scheme.