HC Deb 25 November 1964 vol 702 cc1249-50
3. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether it is still the policy of Her Majesty's Government to look into the problem of farmers who have now become ineligible to receive the hill cow subsidy through the recent review; and if he will make a statement.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)

I have made inquiries into the conduct of the hill cow land review and I am satisfied that existing legislation required the exclusion of those farmers whose land did not comply with the statutory definition. As I have already announced, it is my intention to lock at the present pattern of subsidies to hill farmers to see whether they need to be changed in any way in order to help this section of the agricultural industry.

Mr. Mills

Will the hon. Gentleman accept a deputation composed of Members from the South-West concerned with this problem and N.F.U. leaders? Will he also bear in mind that many of these small farms cannot turn to anything else except the rearing of beef? Surely this is very important in view of the shortage at the present time?

Mr. Hoy

I appreciate the difficulties of the small farmers. That is why I made the announcement that I did some days ago, but I shall always be very glad to meet any delegation which would like to come to see me.

Mr. Scott-Hopkins

Does this mean that the hon. Gentleman is not considering changing the existing definition of hill land?

Mr. Hoy

It means what I said before, that we shall be looking into the whole question. That is what I said when I made my reply last week.

Sir H. Studholme

Would the hon. Gentleman consider allowing those farmers who have been disqualified from the hill cow subsidy to qualify under the winter keep scheme?

Mr. Hoy

That is a different point. All these farmers whose farms were inspected had the right of appeal to the agricultural executive committees. This was made clear to them, and I am not prepared to go any further today. I think that we have acted rather quickly and we are going into the whole question.