asked the Secretary of State for Scotland (1) how many farms in Scotland were inspected under notices similar to those issued by Roxburgh subcommittee of the Border Agricultural Executive Committee which were found to be illegal; and
(2) if the 21 farmers in the Roxburgh area of the Border Agricultural Executive Committee, whose farms were inspected under notices which on investigation were found to be illegal, have now received apologies from him and what action he has taken to prevent a repetition of such action, and to safeguard the rights of all farmers in future.
The notices referred to were, as I have already admitted, incorrect in form, but no illegality was involved in their issue. To obtain the information requested regarding the whole of Scotland would require a disproportionate expenditure of time and labour. I have taken steps to eliminate the procedural fault in the future and have given an apology in the one case where complaint was subsequently made.
I can hardly accept from the right hon. Gentleman that it would be difficult to find this information, because the agricultural executive committees are bound to have these returns. In connection with the particular case in which the Scottish Office admits guilt, why did it take so long for the Secretary of State to do so? Why was it necessary for a long correspondence to ensue, not only with the farmer concerned, but between myself and the Scottish Office? Why did we have to have an article in the Farming News, written by a lawyer, before the Secretary of State admitted the guilt of the Scottish Office? Will he take good care in future to see that when farms have to be inspected he at least sends farmers to do that and not officials from the office who have no knowledge of farming?
As the hon. Member knows, I have taken a great deal of personal trouble and had many contacts with him over this very difficult matter. In finding how many wrong notices have been served all over Scotland. I should have to go back to 1948 when the original instruction was drafted. The first of the 21 inappropriate notices to which the hon. Member has referred was issued in June, 1951. This has taken a great deal of research. I can assure the hon. Member that I have taken steps to eliminate the procedural fault, and I hope there will not be similar difficulty again.
Does not the right hon. Gentleman think it rather peculiar that 20 of these notices should have been issued as late as November, 1955? In view of the fact that he has now admitted that all the notices were incorrect, is it not right that he should apologise to all the farmers concerned?