HC Deb 30 April 1986 vol 96 cc928-30
11. Mr. Kirkwood

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has any plans to provide further financial relief for the livestock sector of the agriculture industry in Scotland.

Mr. MacKay

In the six months to the end of April, Scotland's 20,000 beef and sheep producers have received direct Government support in adverse weather aid and headage and variable premiums of over £95 million, compared to £72 million in the equivalent six months of 1984–85. A further £10 million in hill subsidies will be paid out by the end of June.

Mr. Kirkwood

Is the Minister aware that from the Scottish borders, and indeed from the whole of the south of Scotland, reports are coming through that this year's lambings are substantially down on previous years because of the mortality rate of the lambs? Is he aware of that taking place in other parts of the country? Will he take steps to see that the people who are suffering these losses receive more support, bearing in mind the difficulties that they experienced last summer and the bad lambing conditions this year?

Mr. MacKay

The lambings this spring will be one of the factors taken into account in the autumn in the annual review of farming in relation to HLCAs and the like. As the hon. Gentleman knows, this year HLCAs were increased by 14 per cent. on average and by no less than 22 per cent. on hill cows. The right time to review the livestock position for the year is at the annual review in the autumn.

Mr. Pollock

Can my hon. Friend confirm that, as a result of the welcome news of the extension of the Highland and Islands Development Board boundaries into the Forres and Tomintoul areas of my constituency, livestock there will qualify for enhanced rates of payment of HLCAs? That will represent significant support for those hard-pressed sectors.

Mr. MacKay

I can confirm to my hon. Friend that the extension of the boundary of the Highland and Islands Development Board's area into parts of his constituency will mean that the people there, whether they are farmers or small business men, will have available to them the same payments as are available in the rest of the board's area.

Mr. Wallace

Will the Minister confirm that the Government's contribution to the European development programme proposed for the islands of Scotland—which has a certain potential to help the livestock industry in the islands—will be new money?

Mr. MacKay

If my memory serves me right, on all these proposals, the current one for the Western Isles and the one proposed for other islands, 60 per cent. of the input comes from the Government and 40 per cent. from the European Community.

Mr. Holt

While my hon. Friend is looking at the possibility of extra money for Scotland, will he tell his right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture where Cleveland is, so that it can have some money?

Mr. MacKay

I shall draw to the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what my hon. Friend has said.

Mr. Home Robertson

Will the Minister accept that it would be intolerable if the Government were to use the House of Lords to introduce an amendment into the Agriculture Bill that would penalise Scottish tenant dairy farmers, on the same basis as has been done in England and Wales over milk quotas? Will he give an undertaking that any decision on that matter that affects livestock farmers in Scotland will be taken in this elected House of Commons?

Mr. MacKay

Although the hon. Gentleman is a farmer, I am not sure whether he understands the livestock and milk sector of the industry. If the Government do not take action on this front, tenants will remain in the position that they are at the moment, which is that they have no right to any money or compensation.

Mr. McQuarrie

Will my hon. Friend take account of the problems arising in the rural areas about the less-favoured area designation? In a considerable number of cases one farmer is designated as being in a less-favoured area for livestock while the next farmer is not. That causes considerable anxiety as well as problems for the farmer who does not happen to be in the less-favoured rural area.

Mr. MacKay

I fully appreciate my hon. Friend's point. There is a well-rehearsed procedure for reviewing the position of a farm where the farmer feels he ought to be in the less-favoured area and is not. If any of my hon. Friend's constituents feel so aggrieved, they should make the necessary application for a review.

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