HC Deb 09 December 1964 vol 703 cc1542-4
27. Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for extending the Small Farmers (Scotland) Scheme.

43. Mr. Emrys Hughes

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has for improving the Small Farmers (Scotland) Scheme.

Mr. Willis

The question of how best to assist small farmers is one of the matters which my right hon. Friend will be considering in consultation with the agricultural industry in the coming months. I cannot anticipate the result of these discussions.

Mr. Bruce-Gardyne

When the Secretary of State reviews the Scheme, will he bear in mind that there are a number of small holdings which were set up by the Department after the First World War and that the present distinction between farms of 22 acres and farms of 18 acres which the occupant is farming whole-time is somewhat illogical? Would the Government seriously consider whether the time has not come to eliminate the minimal level for the application of the Small Farmers Scheme and make it purely dependent on the number of days worked by the applicant on a holding?

Mr. Willis

A large number of factors have to be considered. Clearly this is one of them.

Mr. Emrys Hughes

Is my hon. Friend aware that one of the best ways to help small farmers in Scotland is to do something to reduce their rents? Is he aware that the disquiet of small farmers about their rents was recently expressed in a very interesting article in the Scottish Farmer? Some rents have doubled or trebled. That means as much as 2d. a gallon on milk. When the Government are revising their proposals for dealing with small farmers, will they keep in mind the absolute necessity for reducing their rents?

Mr. Willis

My attention was drawn to that article.

Mr. Baker

When considering help for the small farmers, will the hon. Gentleman bear in mind that some small farmers go in for potato growing, and so have more than the 500 man-days laid down in the Scheme? Will he consider that fact very carefully, and not too rigidly regard 500 man-days as the line of demarcation for future help?

Mr. Willis

These matters are familiar to the farming interests, and to the organisations representative of farmers. As I said before, these questions are to be considered.