asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will state the number and amount of agricultural grants and deficiency payments refused to Scottish farmers in respect of season 1963 on account of alleged irregularity or lateness in giving notice or making application to his department.
I thank my right hon. Friend for the trouble that he has taken in this matter, but is it not a fact that the figures will show a very harsh and oppressive attitude on the part of his Department, involving, in some instances, penalties of several hundred pounds for what, after all, are technical breaches of the regulations? Will he consider laying regulations before the House with a view to imposing modest penalties in such cases, in order to make the punishment fit the crime?
I do not want to anticipate what the picture will show, but I have seen a little of it in the past. The number of farmers who are late now represent only a tiny percentage. We are operating a scheme under which people are expected to forward their applications by a certain date, and the scheme will immediately run into chaos if we forget that fact altogether.
But does not my right hon. Friend agree that a loss of £850, which was inflicted upon a constituent of mine—my right hon. Friend has details of the case—is quite harsh and unconscionable in the circumstances? Will not he give the matter further consideration?
I will certainly look at the matter, but if that amount of money is at stake it is all the greater reason why my hon. Friend's friend should have taken the trouble to put in his claim in time.
On a point of order. In view of the quite unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise this matter at the earliest opportunity on the Adjournment.