Hill Farming

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington 12:00 am, 13th July 1964

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on future policy for hill farming.

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

The Government's policy for the hills has been and is to encourage the use of these areas for the purpose for which they are most suited, the breeding and rearing of cattle and sheep. To this end we have just renewed for four years the schemes under which subsidies are paid on hardy hill sheep and on regular breeding herds of cattle maintained on land in hill farming areas which is inherently unsuitable for the more intensive forms of production. Moreover, we have recently introduced new grants to assist the production of winter keep in these areas.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is great uncertainty in many hill areas? He must have had representations from them, especially Devon and the South-West—and I myself have forwarded Cumberland representations to him. Is he really satisfied that his review of the eligible land to be covered by the hill cow subsidy is the right and proper course to take? Further, he has on a previous occasion given the impression that he intends to have a comprehensive survey of our hill lands with the possibility of a future long-term plan. Is this to take place?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

In answer to the first part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary question, I am satisfied that this course was right and necessary and, indeed, that I owed it to Parliament to take it. As for the long-term future of hill farmers, I would remind the hon. Gentleman that it was only in November 1963 that we introduced the hill sheep and hill cow subsidies for a further 4 years, which is a long-term review of the position; and also that when we add together the improvement schemes under the Livestock Rearing Act, 1951, and the amount of money paid out in hill cow and hill sheep subsidy we come already to a figure of £45 million paid into hill farming, and this is not taking into consideration money still to be paid out for improvement schemes under the Livestock Rearing Act.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

Is the Minister aware that even following that legislation he gave the impression that he was having a special survey made? Has that been done? That is all I asked.

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

The survey to which the hon. Gentleman refers was a survey to bring up to date the eligibility—

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

—of hill lands throughout the country.