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Marginal Land (Financial Assistance)

Volume 656: debated on Wednesday 28 March 1962

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he has completed his discussion with Scottish farmers about the continuation of financial assistance for marginal land; and whether he will make a statement about the future of marginal agricultural production.

As stated in the recent White Paper on the Annual Review, 1962, there will be further discussions with the farmers' unions on the proposals for the winter keep scheme. The marginal agricultural production scheme, as already announced, will terminate with the 1962 cropping season.

Will my right hon. Friend bear in mind the importance of bringing these discussions to a conclusion before the marginal agricultural production scheme ends so that the new schemes can follow on in the immediate cropping season? Will he also bear in mind that it is very important that these schemes should replace completely and adequately the good work done under the marginal agricultural production scheme in the Highlands over the last ten or more years?

I am well aware of both points which my hon. Friend has raised. I think that these new proposals, together with the existing production grants, will provide a system of grants very well suited to our marginal areas.

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that there is very strong criticism of the mean and niggardly action of the Government concerning aid in respect of marginal land? Does he realise that most farming people in Scotland believe that this was a very good way to develop the land of Scotland? He has done a gross disservice to Scotland by the attitude which he has adopted.

Will my right hon. Friend give an assurance that the proposed legislation will be introduced in the present Session so that there will be no gap between the ending of the marginal agricultural production scheme and the introduction of the new schemes?

I am afraid that I cannot give any positive assurances about the dates of legislation, but I am well aware of the need to ensure that there is no gap.