asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many late claims from farmers for deficiency payments were received during the last financial year; what was the amount of money involved; how many of these claims were met; and how much was paid in respect of them.
I assume the hon. Member is referring to deficiency payments on home-grown cereals. My Department received 350 late claims on barley and oats of the 1963 harvest. 146 were accepted and the estimated value of these was £36,000. No records were kept of the amount of money involved in the rejected claims nor of the number of late claims on wheat and rye.
Is the Minister aware that some of these late claims were from small farmers in my constituency in Norfolk, who protest that they did not receive the original claim forms when they were sent out? In view of this, will he ask his right hon. Friend whether sympathetic reconsideration can be given to such cases, because they mean great hardship to small farmers?
These rejected claims are not confined to small farmers but go right across the board. One must have a date of closure. Every rejected claim has been very fully considered. We are more than willing to look into any case of lateness and into the reasons for it, and we make exceptions where hardship or illness—particularly illness—has occurred and is the reason for these late claims.
It is quite impossible. This is the point of having a closing date. One simply must have a closing date in order to calculate what the actual payment to farmers is to be.