Upland Farmers

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th January 1964.

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Photo of Mr David Robertson Mr David Robertson , Caithness and Sutherland 12:00 am, 29th January 1964

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he is aware that a mass meeting of upland farmers from Orkney, Caithness, Sutherland. Ross-shire, Inverness-shire, Argyllshire, Banffshire and Aberdeenshire took place at Inverness on 11th January; and, in view of the difficulties facing upland farmers in the north of Scotland as a result of rail closures, withdrawal of grants, unrestricted duty-free imports of mutton and lamb, and almost duty-free imports of beef totalling about 14 million hundredweights per annum, and the annual price review giving lower prices at a time of rising costs, if he will take action to correct a situation which will impoverish the farmers, create unemployment and depopulation, and allow land to go to waste.

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I have seen reports of the meeting referred to by the hon. Member, but I cannot accept the picture he presents of the position or prospects of upland farmers in the north of Scotland. The state of hill and upland farming, in common with that of other sections of the industry, will be considered at the Annual Review next month, and I cannot anticipate the results of this comprehensive examination of the farming situation.

Photo of Mr David Robertson Mr David Robertson , Caithness and Sutherland

May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is implying that between 200 and 300 farmers who were present at the meeting in Inverness were lying to three of his colleagues who were present at the meeting? May I ask my right hon. Friend whether he is aware that a week or two ago a hill farmer in my constituency sold his land for £85,000? The stock was valued at £55,000, making an investment of £140,000, which is yielding an income of £270 per annum without a wage or contribution to the farmer and his son? Is not my right hon. Friend completely misinformed? If he doubts what the farmers said, why does not he call for an immediate inquiry? Balance sheets can be procured. Any accountant can be asked to produce balance sheets if the farmers are willing to have that done, as I am sure they would be only too glad to do. Why should the Government always take it out of the farmer and the crofter to maintain a cheap food policy?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I have access to a great many economic reports that are produced by colleges and other people who study these things. Having been in farming circles myself. I am also not unaware of the fact that, when a case is put forward, one generally puts forward the best case that one can in the hope of getting the most that one can. That is natural and is accepted.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Has the Minister read the full report of this meeting at Inverness? The terms of the resolution of censure passed on the Government were so extreme that I was appalled. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has become a Minister, is he so completely out of touch with farming opinion that he does not know that all over Scotland farmers are concerned about milk and about winter keep, and want to know when the Government are going to introduce this large-scale programme for the revival of agriculture in Scotland which has been urged on us almost daily by the Scottish N.F.U.?

Photo of Mr Michael Noble Mr Michael Noble , Argyll

I am delighted to have the hon. Gentleman's sympathy. Most of my friends in the farming community know that the prospects for next year come out in the February Price Review and are awaiting them.