PARLIAMENTARY DEBATES

HOUSE OF COMMONS

OFFICIAL REPORT

Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c.

FARM AND CONSERVATION GRANT (VARIATION) SCHEME 1995

Wednesday 3 May 1995

LONDON: HMSO

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1

The Committee consisted of the following Members:

Chairman: MR. JOHN MAXTON

Ainger, Mr. Nick (Pembroke)

Bates, Mr. Michael (Langbaurgh)

Campbell, Mr. Ronnie (Blyth Valley)

Eagle, Ms Angela (Wallasey)

Gill, Mr. Christopher (Ludlow)

McFall, Mr. John (Dumbarton)

Monro, Sir Hector (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland)

Morgan, Mr. Rhodri (Cardiff, West)

Nicholson, Mr. David (Taunton)

Pickthall, Mr. Colin (Lancashire, West)

Porter, Mr. David (Waveney)

Spring, Mr. Richard (Bury St Edmunds)

Stanley, Sir John (Tonbridge and Malling)

Steen, Mr. Anthony (South Hams)

Sykes, Mr. John (Scarborough)

Tyler, Mr. Paul (North Cornwall)

Walden, Mr. George (Buckingham)

Williams, Mr. Alan (Swansea, West)

Mr. P. A. Evans, Committee Clerk

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3 Fifth Standing Committee on Statutory Instruments, &c. Wednesday 3 May 1995

[MR. JOHN MAXTON in the Chair]

Farm and Conservation Grant (Variation) Scheme 1995

4.30 pm

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Sir Hector Monro): I beg to move, That the Committee has considered the Farm and Conservation Grant (Variation) Scheme 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 890). A number of valuable environmental grants are available in Scotland and Wales—and, of course, in England, in respect of which the corresponding statutory instrument has already been passed. The grants are made on an area basis, at so much a hectare—but certain small areas such as those to which the waterside habitat scheme in Scotland and the species rich grassland and water fringe schemes in Wales relate, require fencing that cannot be provided on an area payment basis. The statutory instrument approves the use of the farm and conservation grant scheme for those three schemes, so that they can have a 40 per cent. grant for fencing. I shall gladly provide details on the working of the scheme for any hon. Member who wants them, but all that the statutory instrument does is to provide the 40 per cent. grant.

4.31 pm

Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton): As you know, Mr. Maxton, the statutory instrument is an affirmative one. Labour did not call for a debate on the issue. We welcome the Government's proposal. Our spokesperson in the House of Lords, my noble Friend Lord Carter, in a speech whose shortness I hope to emulate, welcomed the 4 measure. Lord Mackie of Benshie also welcomed it, but said that he would prefer the restoration of payments to hill farmers that the Government cut some time ago. I echo those sentiments. One wonders if the Government have faced all their responsibilities for the environment, having axed the grants that were given to help farmers restore and improve waste handling facilities as well as making £12 million cuts last year in the farm and conservation grant scheme. The issue affecting hill farmers is an urgent one, about which the Opposition have pressed the Government for the past few years. For the past two years, the Government have cut the hill livestock compensatory allowance, which compensates farmers for their permanent hardship. The continued deterioration of the HLCA threatens the longterm future of hill farming, the fragile environment of hills and, as the Minister has mentioned with regard to Scotland, the tourist industry that is a feature of it. Nevertheless, we welcome the 40 per cent. grant measure that the Government have proposed.

4.33 pm

Sir Hector Monro: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his welcome of the measure. He is a little naughty in his remarks about hill farming. We did not cut the HLCA this year, and more money is going into the suckler cow and beef special premiums than ever before—which is all to hill farmers' advantage. I hope that their income will increase this year.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Committee has considered the Farm and Conservation Grant (Variation) Scheme 1995 (S.I. 1995, No. 890).

Committee rose at twenty-seven minutes to Five o' clock.

THE FOLLOWING MEMBERS ATTENDED THE COMMITTEE:

Maxton, Mr. John (Chairman)

Bates, Mr.

Gill, Mr.

McFall, Mr.

Monro, Sir Hector

Nicholson, Mr. David

Spring, Mr. Richard

Stanley, Sir John

Walden, Mr.