HC Deb 20 December 1989 vol 164 cc345-6
5. Sir Hector Monro

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland when he last discussed hill farming with the National Farmers Union of Scotland; and if he will make a statement.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

My noble Friend the Minister of State and I met the National Farmers Union of Scotland on 25 October to discuss hill farming.

Sir Hector Monro

I welcome the increase in suckler cow subsidy, but is my hon. Friend aware that the true hill farm depends on the amount of hill livestock compensatory allowances? Will he do everything possible to ensure that payments in 1990 and 1991 will be every bit as high as in 1989, in order to help that particular sector of the rural economy?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I recognise the importance of the hill farming sector in Scotland. Hill livestock compensatory allowances totalling almost £45 million have been paid annually. We shall make a statement concerning 1990 shortly. As to 1992, we voted against the proposals made in Brussels, and eventually had them moderated—but they were eventually adopted by a qualified majority. We shall bear in mind the points that my hon. Friend made, as we are aware of the importance of the allowance to conservation, the environment, jobs and the sturdy way of life in which hill farmers are involved.

Mr. Hood

There are many hill farmers in my constituency, which has a large farming community. Is the Minister aware of the great alarm felt among the farming community at the lack of availability of anthrax vaccine? Many farmers who are crying out for vaccine for their herds are discovering that it cannot be obtained. Will the Minister say what advice I can give the farmer who visited me recently, Mr. William King of Hawksland farm in Lesmahagow, who lost a herd in the 1970s through anthrax and who is now concerned that, because of the lack of the vaccine, he may lose more of his stock?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

I shall follow up the hon. Gentleman's inquiry and will write to him as soon as possible.

Mr. Wallace

If there is to be a headage limit on HLCA payments, that will represent a limit on the European Community contribution, as I am sure the Minister will agree. As HLCAs were devised by the United Kingdom Government and are widely recognised as a most useful form of support for the hill farming industry, will the Government undertake to meet any shortfall from the European Community?

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton

That proposal will come into operation in 1991, and it would be premature to make a statement about rates now. We secured agreement to have the headage limits reduction set at £2.5 million instead of 4.8 million ecu. As I mentioned earlier, we voted against the Agriculture Council as we thought that the headage limit proposals discriminated against hill farmers such as those to be found in the hon. Gentleman's constituency. We made a firm stand.

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