Agriculture

Oral Answers to Questions — Scotland – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 21st December 1966.

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Photo of Mr Ian MacArthur Mr Ian MacArthur , Perth and East Perthshire 12:00 am, 21st December 1966

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he will now take to encourage the expansion of agricultural production.

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

This question will be fully considered at the forthcoming Annual Review in the light of all the relevant factors, including the requirements of the selective expansion programme.

Photo of Mr Ian MacArthur Mr Ian MacArthur , Perth and East Perthshire

That is not a very encouraging Answer. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that oats, potatoes, swedes, turnips, dairy cows, pigs, poultry and sugar beet are all substantially down this year and that income from livestock has fallen disastrously? Will he take urgent steps to restore the confidence of the farmers?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

We have already taken steps in respect of those sections of the industry which have been hardest hit by recent events and conditions, in particular by giving the advance payment of 15s. per ewe to hill sheep farmers and by stating, in advance of the Annual Review, our intention to raise the middle band for pigs by 400,000. The hon. Gentleman may consider this to be a not particularly encouraging Answer, but it shows that the Government are anxious to tackle this problem, remembering that this is the time when all these products should be fully taken into account by the Government and the industry.

Photo of Mr Emrys Hughes Mr Emrys Hughes , South Ayrshire

Is my right hon. Friend aware of the concern that is felt, especially in Ayrshire, about milk production, and will he give an indication of the position?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

The position regarding milk production is that there has been a decline in the number of herds. However, the size of individual herds is increasing, and that has shown a further tendency towards concentration in dairy production.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that the figures which my hon. Friend the Member for Perth and East Perthshire (Mr. MacArthur) gave—of eight commodities being down; and only two commodities are up—shows that the June census return is a contradiction unparalleled in the post-war years and shows the lack of confidence among the agricultural community in the present Administration?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

That is quite wrong. I remember the hon. Gentleman's maiden speech in which he told us that he nearly joined a farmers' hunger march because of the activities of his hon. and right hon. Friends.

Photo of Mr David Steel Mr David Steel , Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire and Peeblesshire

Will the right hon. Gentleman pay particular attention to the crisis of confidence in the hill and marginal section of farming, not only at the time of the next Review but immediately, so that something may be done to restore confidence, particularly if we are to enter the E.E.C.?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Not on this Question.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Will the right hon. Gentleman accept that my maiden speech was not made on the subject of agriculture?

Photo of Mr William Ross Mr William Ross , Kilmarnock

Perhaps I should say that the remarks I attributed to the hon. Gentleman were made by him in one of the many important speeches which he has made.