HC Deb 14 April 1976 vol 909 cc1364-5
12. Mr. Russell Johnston

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he will implement the provision of the EEC Directive on Mountain and Hill Farming, which allows for investment grants for non-agricultural activities such as tourism and craft industries in hill areas.

Mr. Hugh D. Brown

I have no immediate plans to implement Article 10.2 of the Less Favoured Areas Directive, but the possibility is being kept under review.

Mr. Johnston

That was a very unsatisfactory answer. Is not the reason why the hon. Gentleman is not implementing the article basically bureaucratic, because it is felt that the Department of Agriculture should administer it and it has not the officials to deal with the tourist and craft industries? Is it not foolish to turn down the possibility of financial help when the financial reins on the Highlands and Islands Development Board and the Scottish Tourist Board inevitably will be tightened?

Mr. Brown

In view of the crucial state of the Government, and of my crucial state, it is not encouraging to hear hon. Members say that a reply is unsatisfactory. The hon. Gentleman is most unfair; it is not like him.

A study has been commissioned by the Scottish Tourist Board and the HIDB through Edinburgh University, and the Department is associated with it. We think that perhaps the best way of proceeding is through these organisations, but if there is any need to make changes we shall view them sympathetically.

Mr. MacCormick

Is the Minister aware of the widespread dismay in the Highlands on the part of hill farmers about the delays in the payment of the present allowances which should be available?

Mr. Brown

I think that, as usual, the hon. Member is confused. I am not sure to which allowances he is referring, but, if he is talking about the payments which are due, a reply was given to his hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Watt) on that point. We are certainly speeding up the payments now due to the hill farmers.