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Volume 958: debated on Wednesday 15 November 1978

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will give details of lime sales in Scotland for the two years prior to the abolition of the lime subsidy, and in each subsequent year.

Seven hundred and twenty-eight thousand tonnes of subsidised lime were used between October 1974 and September 1975 and 1,098,000 tonnes the following year. A sample field inquiry shows an uptake of about 708,000 tonnes in 1977.

Is the Minister aware that the downturn in sales is taking place in areas that can least afford it, namely areas with high rainfall and marginal land? Is he further aware of the tremendous job loss that has occurred in the lime quarries of Scotland since the subsidy was removed?

The hon. Gentleman should not exaggerate the position. I do not think there has been a tremendous loss of jobs, bearing in mind that the decline in lime use is so limited. How-ever, if the hon. Gentleman has any evidence to show that advice or encouragement will lead to an intelligent use of lime, even if it is not subsidised, I shall be glad to listen to his representations.

How does the refusal to reintroduce the lime subsidy square with the Government's promise to increase home food production, arid does the Minister not accept that a relatively tiny amount of lime subsidy can reap great rewards in increased efficiency and food production in Scotland?

This is what happens when one has too many agricultural experts in one party. I must tell the hon. Gentleman that production is increasing and that there is no evidence of any serious decline in the use of lime. It is well understood by most intelligent farmers that lime is beneficial to their land.