asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what arrangements are contemplated for the distribution of milk in marginal and upland rural areas where the only distributors at present are producer-retailers who will be ineligible for assistance under the Winter Keep Scheme.
My Department is at present examining the general question of rural milk distribution, including the position of producer-retailers, in consultation with the milk trade. As regards the Winter Keep Scheme, I would remind my hon. Friend that disqualification of upland farms only arises where the sale of milk constitutes the main enterprise.
May I ask my right hon. Friend whether it is really wise, by excluding dairy farmers and milk producers from the Winter Keep Scheme, to risk disrupting normal supplies from areas which at short notice are liable to be cut off from the rest of the country because of blizzards?
That point was brought to my notice by a delegation from the Scottish N.F.U., and we are considering it. I think that, in general, the possible ineligibility under the Winter Keep Scheme of some of these dairy farmers is not in itself a decisive factor.
May I ask the Minister whether he can give an explanation of the actual reasons why upland dairy farms are being cut out of the Winter Keep Scheme when previously, under the M.A.P. Scheme, they received a grant? This is inexplicable and is causing great resentment in every constituency which has upland farms.
I know that there is a lot of feeling about this, but in the days of the M.A.P. grant there was also a good deal of feeling because in some areas these grants were given to dairy farmers and in others they were not. It is always difficult to take anything away from somebody who has had it, but I think that it is of advantage that these schemes should be universal in their application and should be seen to be fair.
Does this apply to places like the Slamannan area where the ground is not suitable for cultivation, and where it may not be possible to maintain farms at all unless they are allowed the grant in addition to supplying milk?
I cannot speak about individual farms in any given area. I know a number of farmers who have failed. This applies only to those farms on which more than 40 per cent. to 50 per cent. of the output is milk.
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware of the widespread concern felt by experts at the future of Scottish milk supplies; and if he will reconsider the exclusion from benefit under the Winter Keep Scheme of all those who derive more than 40 per cent. of their farm income from milk products.
With the number of dairy cattle in Scotland down by 24,000 in the past year, would it not be prudent of my right hon. Friend to encourage rather than discourage milk production from the upland areas?
Will the right hon. Gentleman look into this shortage, since some factories in Dumries-shire are idle because there are no milk supplies, at a time when we are importing tremendous quantities of dairy products?