Hill Farming

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th February 1972.

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Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Acton 12:00 am, 29th February 1972

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he intends to take to implement the Government's declaration on hill farming on page 127 of Command Paper No. 4862–1.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

We are already providing special help to hill farmers to maintain reasonable incomes through the hill livestock subsidies and the capital grants, and as my right hon. Friend announced last October we shall be seeking parliamentary approval to the new livestock subsidies in due course. The Community recognise the need for measures to preserve reasonable incomes in hill areas.

Photo of Mr Nigel Spearing Mr Nigel Spearing , Acton

Will the hon. Gentleman confirm that it is the Government's intention to maintain reasonable prices to farmers in hill areas? Are they confident that this can be done within the terms of the Treaty and the common agricultural policy?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Yes, Sir. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman will have seen the very optimistic remarks of Dr. Mansholt three weeks ago.

Photo of Mr Robin Turton Mr Robin Turton , Thirsk and Malton

Is my hon. Friend aware that the higher rate of capital grant for hill farmers appears to end on 18th March? Will he bear in mind that unless we can have an early announcement of an extension of the time for the higher rate a great deal of the improvement in hill farms will not come about this season?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Yes, Sir. The continuation was for a strict period of two years, but consideration of its continuation is going on.

Photo of Mr Robert Maclennan Mr Robert Maclennan Shadow Spokesperson (Scotland)

Will the hon. Gentleman say what consideration the Government are giving to more specific proposals to assist the general objective of maintaining the incomes of hill farmers, perhaps in line with the French Government's proposals put forward in legislation last month to define certain regions as being areas where special aid can be given? Will the hon. Gentleman also say what discussions Her Majesty's Government have had with Dr. Mansholt about the modification of the common agricultural policy, especially about his recent proposals as they affect hills and uplands?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

If the hon. Gentleman cares to put down a Question on that last point, I shall answer it. As for the hon. Gentleman's point about concentrating on the regions, it is very difficult to differentiate between, say, Caithness and Sunderland and Argyllshire. But it is a matter that we have had under consideration.

Photo of Mrs Elaine Kellett Mrs Elaine Kellett , Lancaster

Does my hon. Friend agree that the useful package of measures brought in by the German Government and the French Government to help their hill farmers, including, in the latter case, £15 per head per hill cow and a headage payment for sheep, will greatly assist him in giving the fair deal to our own hill farmers that he has promised?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

The headage payments for our hill cows are not insubstantial. They play a valuable part in keeping up incomes and production.

Photo of Mr Elystan Morgan Mr Elystan Morgan , Cardiganshire

How is it that a small country like the Republic of Ireland has been able to safeguard her vital agricultural interests by way of a protocol when a country of our power has been unable to do so? Will the hon. Gentleman negotiate for specific guarantees for our hill farmers, and for those and other matters to be included in a protocol?

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

We have no intention of creating any rigid structure for hill farms. Conditions are changing all the time. It does not necessarily follow that our present methods of support will continue for ever. We have assurances which the farming community regards as thoroughly adequate.