HC Deb 05 April 1967 vol 744 cc221-2
17. Mr. Baker

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland how much of the Price Review award he estimates will be received by farmers in Scotland, generally, and what proportion will go to hill farmers in particular.

Mr. Ross

The answer to the first part is about one-eighth. The answer to the second part is more than £1 million from production grants, and a considerable benefit, which cannot be precisely assessed, from the increased price guarantees and from the introduction of an option under the winter keep scheme.

Mr. Baker

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his optimistic feelings are not shared by many of the hill farmers in Scotland, particularly in view of the extremely bad season last autumn? Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that these points will be followed up in the future so that hill farmers can get back on to their feet?

Mr. Ross

I assure the hon. Gentleman that I discussed this very fully with the farmers at Dunblane last week. I hope that I was able to persuade them that the extra 2s. per ewe on the hill sheep subsidy, the winter keep option which would mean an additional 1s. 6d. if they were to opt for it, and the decision to change over to giving information about what would be available for next year gives a fair indication that we are going as far as possible, not to meet their troubles with compensation payments, but with an overall plan in respect of the development of hill sheep farming.

Mr. James Davidson

With reference to hill farmers, can the right hon. Gentleman say what steps he is taking to see that a comprehensive land use survey of upland areas is being carried out, with particular regard to the present use in many cases of stock-bearing land for forestry, when there are thousands of acres of land unused for forestry but eminently suitable for it?

Mr. Ross

That is an entirely different question, but I can tell the hon. Gentleman that such surveys are being carried out in particular areas.

Mr. Noble

Will the right hon. Gentleman bear in mind that though, as he says, the extra awards in the Price Review for the hill farming section are certainly welcome, the proof of the pudding will be when the markets start next autumn? Will he keep rather closely in touch with his colleagues to see that in this period, which is apt to be a glut period, extra meat is not imported and so depress prices, as happened last autumn?

Mr. Ross

The right hon. Gentleman will appreciate that in the autumn of last year there was a concatenation of circumstances which we certainly do not think will be repeated this year. But we will certainly watch events.