HC Deb 01 November 1979 vol 972 cc1440-2
21. Mr. John Mackay

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the levels of hill livestock compensatory allowance for payment on 1 January 1980.

Mr. Peter Walker

The review of hill livestock compensatory allowances is in progress and I intend to announce the Government's decision before the end of November.

Mr. Mackay

Does my right hon. Friend realise that, if we do not substantially increase the level of hill livestock compensatory allowances, there is a grave danger that sheep and cattle will be removed from our hills and that the long-term consequences to the British housewife will be scarce and expensive meat?

Mr. Walker

My hon. Friend will know that the previous Government decided, in view of the exceptional weather last winter, that they would pay and additional 50p. We have done that as well. We also said that, because of the uncertainty in the market in the autumn, we would wait until that time to make a judgment. Most hill farmers are pleased that the Government made that decision. Obviously we will now examine the facts on their merits and make an announcement in November.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Can the Minister give an assurance to the House, and to the hill farmers of this country, that the maximum allowances will be paid to hill farmers?

Mr. Walker

I am sure the hon. Gentleman understands that I first of all need to discuss this matter with the National Farmers' Union, which I will do this afternoon. We are examining the facts of the increase in costs and the decrease in price, and I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we will base our decision on the facts.

Mr. Maclennan

Does the Minister recognise that, since the previous Government made their decision on the additional 50p, the situation has deteriorated rapidly in the hills, where appalling climatic conditions were experienced during the summer, particularly in the North of Scotland? Does he realise that the markets have been badly disrupted by the French decision? The Minister's concern for the future, in relation to the French, must be matched by a concern for the damage already done. What steps will he take to ensure that our farmers are properly compensated for that damage?

Mr. Walker

I hope that the hon. Gentleman will explain to his constituents exactly why 37 of his hon. Friends have supported the French at the expense of the farmers in his constituency.

Mr. Wm. Ross

Can the Minister tell us what is the estimated profit for suckling calves this year, and how does it compare with two years ago?

Mr. Walker

I will discuss this in detail with the farmers' representatives this afternoon.