HC Deb 18 February 1970 vol 796 cc400-1
18. Mr. David Steel

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what has been the increase in sheep prices obtained by the farmer in Scotland over the past 10 years.

Mr. Buchan

The guaranteed price for fat sheep is now 11 per cent. higher than 10 years ago. Market prices for store sheep vary according to breed and class of stock. Average prices of hill lambs at the autumn sales in Scotland have risen by about 18 per cent. and of draft hill ewes by about 20 per cent.

Mr. Steel

Has the Joint Under-Secretary seen the figures that I have sent him from the Border auction marts? Will he accept that over the whole farming industry it is the sheep farmers who have fallen behind most in their income levels over the years?

Mr. Buchan

I have always recognised the problems within the Scottish agricultural complex. It is for this reason that over the last three years we have increased the end price by 5¾d. to try to compensate for the effect of the drop of 1.d per lb. which hon. Gentlemen opposite introduced.

Mr. Stodart

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that lamb prices before and after Christmas were lower than they were 10 years ago? Will he take steps to try to stop the rise in imports of this commodity, which were higher last year than the year before?

Mr. Buchan

I cannot discuss the entire agricultural policies of the party opposite and my own just now. The party opposite had the Answer to their policy from the farmers of South Ayrshire. We are paying attention to all aspects of the problem and have given a good deal of assistance over the last few years, including support for the upland areas.

Mr. Grimond

As the Minister recognises that the industry has failed to keep up with the rising prices, does he also appreciate that in my constituency lamb prices are now less than they were 10 years ago, while every other price has risen? Will he ensure that the income of crofters, which greatly depends upon this, is increased?

Mr. Buchan

I have given an assurance that we attach a great deal of importance to this, and I think that we should leave it at that.