HL Deb 09 July 1968 vol 294 cc791-2

2.41 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government—

  1. 1. Whether it is possible to improve the method by which the second payment under the 1967–68 Fatstock Guarantee Scheme is made;
  2. 2. What is the cost of sending out the numerous small cheques which are sent out under present arrangements.]


My Lords, we have carefully considered the possibility of improving the method of second payments which may become due to presenters of cattle or sheep under the Fatstock Guarantee Scheme. Unfortunately the cost of linking the individual transactions throughout the year, so as to make it possible to pay by a single cheque to each presenter, would be nearly double that under the present arrangements, which amounts to some £64,000.


My Lords, in thanking the noble Lord for that reply, may I ask him whether he would not agree that there must be something wrong with a system under which eight cheques, varying in amount from 8s. 7d. to £1 7s. 9d., are sent to pay a total sum of £7 5s. 5d.? This has been my own experience, and I understand that it is not at all unusual.


My Lords, I agree that there is something wrong with the present system, but there would be even more difficulties, and they would be costly difficulties, under any conceivable alternative. This year payment was a particular nuisance because the total sum for presenters for second payment was small. But I am given to understand that the National Farmers' Union have looked into this and are satisfied that the present arrangements are the most economic that can be devised.


My Lords, while thanking the noble Lord, Lord Beswick, for his second answer, may I ask him whether he is aware that, while I warmly support the idea of payment on account, when the system becomes so tenuous that eight payments have to be made, it really makes it look ridiculous. It is hard to believe that the system could not be improved. Would he not agree that further thought should be given to this matter?


My Lords, the difficulty here, I understand, is that of registration of what I have called the presenters. The trouble is that at least a quarter of them are middlemen and wholesalers, and it is not easy to maintain throughout the year the type of register that would be necessary. But if the noble Lord has any bright ideas, I can assure him that we should welcome them.