§ 77. Mr. Tudor Watkins
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (1) what action he is taking to ensure that, whatever hill sheep subsidy payment is made in 1964, those hill farmers who sustained serious losses during the early part of 1963 are not denied full benefit because their flock numbers as at 4th December, 1963, were depleted;
(2) in view of the severity of losses on some hill farms last winter, whether he will consider making provision for the payment of hill sheep subsidy in 1964 to be based on either the December, 1962, flock numbers or the December, 1963, numbers, at the owner's discretion.
§ Mr. Soames
Divisional offices of this Ministry have already made allowance for ewe losses since December, 1962, when paying the 1963 subsidy and any further, financial loses due to a reduction in lamb crop, wool clip and total income are being taken into account in the discussions now taking place between officials and the National Farmers' Union on the scale of the hill sheep subsidy for 1964. But it is a principle, from which I would not be justified in departing in this instance, that the Government does not guarantee farmers against the hazards of severe weather.
The only occasion on which we have departed from that principle was following the disastrous winter of 1947, when legislation was introduced to waive the provisions of the Hill Farming Act, 1946, that subsidy payments in any year must be based on the number of ewes in the flock in the immediately preceding December. While there were pockets of heavy ewe losses in some places and lambing figures were much reduced, the overall losses have been only slightly higher than normal. Much as I sympathise with the individual farmers whose flocks suffered badly in 1963, the effects of the winter were not so disastrous or widespread that I would feel justified in recommending similar action to the House today.