HC Deb 21 July 1970 vol 804 cc228-9
28. Mr. Brewis

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proposals he has for improving the profitability of hill farming.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

We are making an urgent study of the position of the livestock industry generally, including livestock rearing, as part of our assessment of agricultural policies.

Mr. Brewis

Will my hon. Friend assure us that the present Government regard the hill-farming industry as an important part of British agriculture and will keep its importance in mind during both the Price Review and the Common Market negotiations?

Mr. Stodart

Yes, Sir. As regards the Common Market negotiations, this is one of the matters which has been mentioned by my right hon. Friend as being of fundamental importance. I accept what my hon. Friend said. Farming in the hills and uplands is closely and essentially linked with that of the low ground from which prosperity must come.

Mr. David Clark

Would not the hon. Gentleman agree that hill farming is often unprofitable and that in many cases afforestation would not only be more profitable, but would bring more employment to rural areas?

Mr. Stodart

I would not in the least dispute that the policies of the previous Government have affected the hill areas even more gravely than those on the low ground.

Mr. Mackie

Does the Minister expect, in the Government's new policy, to get the bulk of the hill-land income from the results of a levy or from direct grants as at present?

Mr. Stodart

We have made it absolutely clear throughout that there will be no alteration generally in production grants.