HC Deb 08 July 1970 vol 803 cc643-4
6. Mr. W. Baxter

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what representations he has received from Scottish farmers about the changes proposed by Her Majesty's Government in the present system of financial support to the industry.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

None, Sir.

Mr. Baxter

Again before proceeding to my supplementary question, may I congratulate the hon. Gentleman on being promoted? I hope that he will look after the interests of the farming community during his term.

This is a very important question. Will the hon. Gentleman give some consideration to the great consequences of a change from the present support system to the levy system proposed by the Tory Party during the election? This could well mean the ruination of probably 50 per cent. of Scottish farmers. Will not he seriously consider this question before a policy such as the Government annunciated at the election is put into operation?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his kind remarks. I know that in looking after agriculture I shall also be looking after the hon. Gentleman's interests.

I cannot in any way accept the latter part of the supplementary question. The proposals put forward by the Conservative Party in its manifesto for the financial support of agriculture were worked out in consultation with the industry's leaders, and they command a wide degree of respect throughout the industry.

Earl of Dalkeith

If it is not too early, will my hon. Friend say whether there are any prospects of being able to ease the squeeze on credit facilities for farmers?

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

My noble Friend will have heard the statement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday when he said that the current guidance from the Treasury was to continue the existing priority categories. We intend to stick to that.

Mr. Buchan

The hon. Gentleman referred to consultations. Is he not aware that the meat traders have already said this week that the Government's proposals would make a mockery of all their election pledges? He spoke of not having received representations from the farmers, but it is my memory that at Cumnock a piper was introduced to play a lament because of the election of the Tory Party and the effect which that would have on Scottish agriculture.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they will be playing not laments but reels now that the Labour Party is no longer responsible for agriculture. I assure him that over the next few weeks and months we shall have full consultations with all sections of agriculture, including the farmers.