HC Deb 28 June 1962 vol 661 cc1495-514

10.22 p.m.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

I beg to move,

That the Silo Subsidies (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme 1962, a draft of which was laid before this House on 31st May, be approved. I suggest that it might be for the general convenience if we also took the Scottish Order which is similar terms.

Mr. Speaker

Certainly, if the House so pleases.

Mr. Vane

I am sure that the House will welcome this affirmative Resolution, enabling us to continue these subsidies after the end of next month. The Silo Subsidies (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme, 1962, which has been laid before the House in draft, proposes to extend for a further three years the power to pay subsidies on the construction of silos, under the authority of the Agriculture (Silo Subsidies) Act 1956. The Scheme now proposed differs very little from the 1959 Scheme which expires at the end of next month.

Under the Silo Subsidies Schemes, subsidies are paid towards the operations involved in constructing or improving a silo. The operations which are eligible are set out in the first Schedule and cover all the works necessary for the construction of a silo, together with the rate of subsidy payable on each. A standard rate of subsidy is set out for each of the items in the Schedule, under which a grant is payable in accordance either with the amount of work done under any one heading or with the size of the silo, as the case may be. This Scheme has always been weighted in favour of the smaller man. It provides a maximum sum of £250 for all works on silos on one farm. There are separate maxima within this total of £125, respectively, for work connected with the construction or improvement of silos, excluding the roof, and a similar sum for the roof.

The reason for prescribing these maxima is that the silo subsidies are designed not as straight subsidies on the construction of silos as such, but to give farmers a financial help towards finding out more about silage making, which we hope will play a helpful part in the management of their farms and of their grassland. The main purpose, therefore, is encouragement, and particularly encouragement to small farmers. When in doubt, we hope that farmers will continue to consult our advisory service, and, as a result of such advice, many efficient schemes have been developed. We are not proposing now to increase the maxima, but the aim is to cover about half the cost of an ordinary installation. We are proposing to raise the subsidy rates for certain of the items of work, especially where this can be justified having regard to changes in the cost of labour and materials.

There is an additional Schedule in this new Scheme, compared with the last, but this second Schedule does not greatly change the principle of the Scheme. The details of the constructional work were previously dealt with administratively, and now, to make it clearer to all concerned, we have put them in the Scheme. I realise that this seems a formidable list of requirements, but it is better that all should know what it involves and that we should aim for high standards. It just spells out the constructional standards which are already being applied administratively. We hope that the Schedule will be helpful to farmers in making their plans.

Finally, I want to say a word about the response to the Schemes. They got away very well after its introduction in 1957, when there were 13,400 approvals in the United Kingdom. Needless to say, that rate has not been maintained. None the less there are about 5,000 applications annually, which represent an outlay in subsidy of about £750,000 per annum, which is included in the Price Review calculations. Since the beginning of the Schemes over £5 million has been paid in grants, and over 40,000 applications have been approved for the United Kingdom.

That is a formidable figure, and I am sure that hon. Members will agree that the Schemes have proved themselves in the light of experience. It shows, too, that there is a need—

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

What is the figure for Scotland?

Mr. Vane

I believe that the figure for Scotland is about 6,000. If I am wrong, my hon. Friend will give the right figure. My hon. Friend tells me that the figure is 6,700. I think, therefore, that the Scheme has justified itself in Scotland—where conditions are different from those in England—as well as in England and Wales. Accordingly I ask the House to approve these Schemes, which I hope will continue in the future to do the same good work as they have done in the past.

10.27 p.m.

Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)

The Parliamentary Secretary has presented Schemes which hon. Members on this side of the House do not oppose. We accept the need for the subsidy and have always supported it. At the same time, we have sought to probe the matter in order to see how the Schemes work. That is the attitude that should be adopted by all hon. Members on both sides of the House. These subsidies, which are considered during the Price Review, are shown in Appendix 5 of the White Paper. In 1959–60 the figure was £1.4 million, and it is estimated that this year it will be £0.9 million.

It is right that the House should carefully scrutinise the subsidies, which are an important part of our farm support policy, and which are under review not only in the House but also at Brussels in connection with the Common Market. I agree with the subsidy and I support it, and my hon. Friend on previous occasions has not opposed it. We have merely sought from the Minister details of its administration.

The Minister has told us that there are 5,000 applications annually and that the estimated cost is about £750,000 annually. These applications are taken into account in the annual Price Review calculations. The Minister also told us that since the introduction of the Schemes approximately £5 million has been spent. I assume that this was in respect of the 40,000 schemes which have been approved. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) asked for the Scottish figure, which I understand is 6,700.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gilmour Leburn)

I am afraid that I misled my hon. Friend on that point. It would be easier if I gave the exact figures now. The total number for England and Wales is 33,782. For Northern Ireland it is 6,771, and for Scotland 3,209.

Mr. Willis

That is worse still.

Mr. Peart

I will leave my hon. Friends with Scottish constituencies to make their comments on that. I was trying to find out how the Scheme was progressing for Wales. When we debated this subsidy on 29th January, 1958, my hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Watkins) asked the Minister to break down the figures for the different countries. I understand from information which I have that the scheme did not go well in Wales. It would be very wrong to neglect the Principality. Wales is an important part of our agricultural community, and we ought to know the relevant figures. My hon. Friend the Member for Brecon and Radnor is not here tonight, but my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris), who has an interest in agriculture, would like to press this matter. We want separate figures for Wales showing how many schemes have been approved.

I could easily argue about details, but I do not want to get too involved. There is one major point which was raised when we debated these subsidies on 2nd July, 1959, by my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland, North (Mr. Willey), who then led for the Opposition. He asked how far these subsidies were related to the Farm Improvement Scheme, and whether this was to be regarded purely as a separate Scheme, running parallel. The Parliamentary Secretary gave a promise to consider the matter and keep it under review. Perhaps at a later stage the Government would make an announcement.

Is it the intention of the Government to absorb this Scheme into the Farm Improvement Scheme? As hon. Members know, this was suggested by the Caine Committee on Grassland Utilisation, which was set up by the Ministry. Is it the Government's intention to review the position and to alter it? Will the subsidy continue, or will there be a change in administration? I do not think that the incidence of subsidy is affected. This is more a matter of broad policy and administration.

We on this side support the subsidy. I believe in anything which helps the small farmer in particular. I recognise that the large farmer who wants a big installation is not covered. We support the Scheme, furthermore, as a means of developing our own feedingstuffs. We are anxious that the Scheme should be administered well. That is why I want to know whether it will continue parallel with the Farm Improvement Scheme or will be absorbed.

10.33 p.m.

Mr. John Mackie (Enfield, East)

I should like to say a word or two on the subject of the silo subsidy. I do not think that we can complain about the figure of 3,200 approvals of schemes for Scotland as against 33,700 for England and Wales. That represents just about the proportion of land. The Irish figure is extraordinarily high at 6,700, because the Irish get their subsidy for silos and have to build a silo before they get a subsidy for it. Naturally, this results in a lot more silos in Ireland.

I wish, however, to emphasise the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) about incorporating the scheme in the Farm Improvement Scheme. To have it as a separate scheme for the erection of silos by medium or large-scale farmers will work against their having a flexible set of buildings. This is an important point and I should like the Joint Parliamentary Secretary to consider it carefully. To satisfy the Ministry's requirements, certain things have to be done which make the silo a rigid fixture, which means that the buildings cannot be altered for any other purpose.

Mr. Vane indicated dissent.

Mr. Mackie

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary does not agree. The hon. Gentleman can consult the file at the Ministry where he will see evidence of the battle that I had. I contacted his hon. Friend in another place about the matter. As my hon. Friend has said, we were told that the Minister would look at the matter, but we have been given no information.

I am aware of the argument that this is loaded in favour of the small farmer, but now that we have the Scheme for small farmers I think that this could be incorporated in that Scheme and I make an appeal for that to be done. We are always looking for ways to save money, and I am sure that the present procedure must cost a lot of money. I do not know what my own case must have cost in letters and phone calls before I got the matter settled. I ask the Minister to consider whether this could not be incorporated also in the Farm Improvement Scheme.

10.36 p.m.

Mr. John Morris (Aberavon)

I welcome this scheme as I welcome anything which is in favour of the small producer. After the recent debate in the Welsh Grand Committee the Parliamentary Secretary will know of my anxiety to have a breakdown of statistics relating to Wales. There is a digest of Welsh statistic up to 1960. The total number of schemes for Wales is 4,686, involving a sum of £637,000. I should like to hear the up-to-date figures. If figures for past years are available they too, should be available.

Even more important than the actual figures is whether the hon. Gentleman can tell us what is the attitude of the National Agricultural Advisory Service. Is it satisfied with the response from Wales compared with the rest of the country, having regard to the limited resources in Wales? My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) referred to the fact that in Ireland there is a special grant for silage. I should be out of order were I to pursue that matter, but obviously that is a tremendous advantage for Ireland.

In the past there have been complaints, in respect of this and other schemes, about the hardship resulting to farmers because of the large number of forms which have to be filled up and the long time that farmers have to wait before receiving the final payment from the Ministry, even When the forms have been completed. Perhaps the Minister could give some indication of the average length of time between the completion of the final form and the payment.

10.40 p.m.

Mr. George Lawson (Motherwell)

My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) said that the Scottish farmer appeared to be getting as much as he ought to get on a pro rata basis.

Mr. Mackie

Not as much as he ought to get.

Mr. Lawson

I gathered that he thought that the figure was about right when compared with the English figure. It is not often that I find myself saying a word for the Scottish farmer, but perhaps I may do so now.

Scotland has about one-tenth of the population of Great Britain but much more than one-tenth of the land surface. Much of the land surface of Scotland is not much good for farming, but much is and I am sure that that which is is more than one-tenth of the good English and Welsh land. As the amounts are proportionately so different, is it that the Scottish Office does not look after the interests of the Scottish farmer as well as the Ministry of Agriculture looks after the interests of the English and Welsh farmer? Wales is substantially smaller than Scotland, but even the old and out-of-date figure quoted by my hon. Friend the Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris) showed 4,000 schemes for Wales. What is the position in Scotland and what is happening to hon. Members opposite, who are so ready to defend the interests of the Scottish farmer, that they should allow this to happen?

However, my primary purpose in rising was to ask for an explanation. We have heard much about the independence of the farmer and we have appreciated his sturdy character. We know what the Welfare State is supposed to have done to ordinary workers in industrial areas. Surely it is not the intention of hon. Members opposite to undermine the sturdy character of the farmer and make him one of those persons who are always holding out their hands for all the public assistance they can get. Why, therefore, should there be this assistance for farmers?

We have heard about the small farmer. My hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East is not a small farmer. I understand that he is a very big farmer indeed, not only in England, but in Scotland and elsewhere. Yet he appears to have been benefiting from this subsidy. There is nothing personal about this, of course, but is my hon. Friend to tell me that he could not have built these silos without the subsidy? Is he to tell me that, although this provision was so beneficial to our agriculture and food supply, he and others like him would not have built silos without the subsidy?

Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)

The hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) first argues that Scottish farmers are not getting enough and then that they are getting too much. Which way is he to have it?

Mr. Lawson

If assistance is to be given and is so necessary for the well-being of farmers, then the Scottish farmers have as much right to it as the English and Welsh farmers. I am not denying them the assistance, if it is necessary. If hon. Members opposite tell me that the sturdy farmer, who has stood on his own two legs for so many generations, the bulldog breed prepared to take on all comers, now needs assistance, let him have it, and give the Scottish farmer as much assistance as the English and Welsh farmer. But I am also questioning the need for the assistance.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

Would not my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) also agree that the more subsidy paid to the large English farmer the less there is available for the small Scottish farmer?

Mr. Lawson

That may or may not be. I am not sure about this. That is why I want an explanation, first of whether the subsidy is necessary and, if it is necessary for farmers south of the Border, why not as much is being done for farmers north of the Border.

Despite some of my hon. Friends, I am not satisfied that we are doing the best for the farmer. I am concerned about the farmer and I want him to preserve that sturdy independent spirit about which we have heard so much. I would not like it to be undermined.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

Would not the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) agree that on the whole the Scottish farmer draws marginal agricultural production grants and that one of the snags about silage is that the farmer does not draw M.A.P. for silage and the tendency therefore is to grow something for which a M.A.P. grant is paid rather than mowing a field for silage for which there is no M.A.P. grant?

Mr. Lawson

Perhaps this will emerge when we hear what the Minister has to say. I am merely asking questions. I do not represent farmers. I represent steelworkers. They are not subsidised. I merely want to be assured that the interests which are supposed to be served are served. I have a doubt. I do not want to see our country lose the characters I admire and of which we are all proud. Did I hear the Parliamentary Secretary say that these subsidies would amount to roughly half the cost of building?

Mr. Vane indicated assent.

Mr. Lawson

Under the Housing (Scotland) Bill a £12 subsidy will be paid to a large number of local authorities in respect of houses which will cost about £150 annually for sixty years. A subsidy of £12 per annum on £150 is 8 per cent. If subsidies are to be paid, the value to society should be taken into account. A house in which human beings will live should be subsidised to the extent of more than 8 per cent., measured against a silo which will merely house grain. It is a measure of value. A subsidy of 50 per cent. for a silo makes a startling comparison with a subsidy of 8 per cent. for a house. I understand that a subsidy of up to one-third is payable if a pigsty is built.

Have we got our values right? Is it right that the State, the public purse, should pay as much as 50 per cent. of the cost of building a silo whereas it pays only 8 per cent. of the cost of building a house? Is the Minister satisfied that this is right? I hope that he will allay at least some of my doubts and enable me not to press the Division that I might otherwise feel inclined to press.

10.48 p.m.

Mr. Percy Browne (Torrington)

I sympathise with the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) having to listen to that woolly-minded speech by the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). Heaven help the farmers if the Socialists ever have to minister to their needs. One of the objects of this subsidy to producers, which is what it is, is to preserve home grown foods so that we shall not have to import, paying dollars for them, more foodstuffs from overseas. Every farmer, irrespective of whether he be a Welshman, a Devonian, or a Scotsman has an equal right to apply for the subsidy. It is entirely up to him whether he does or not. It is no good the hon. Member for Motherwell belly-aching about the farmers in Scotland not having a fair crack of the whip. They have an equal right with every other farmer to apply for the subsidy if they wish.

Is my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary satisfied that his local officers are using the same criteria all the time country by country and area by area? Are they not changing them fairly frequently from place to place, making it extremely difficult for some local builders to comply with the regulations, resulting in many cases in a stereotyped building which is produced in mass by the large builder? If we are to preserve the countryside generally, it is important that the small builder should have the opportunity of putting up silos with barns over them. Can we take it that now that we have a schedule in the Scheme, that schedule will be adhered to all the time?

10.51 p.m.

Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)

The criticisms by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) of my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) were not very well founded. [Laughter.] I will wait while the hon. Member finishes his mirthful demonstration. My hon. Friend was doing what is our job to do, asking why we were paying money to people who could afford to do without it.

Hon. Members

What about the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie)?

Mr. Willis

We have demonstrations from hon. Members opposite about the great volume of Government expenditure. One of its biggest items is agricultural subsidies. But rarely do those hon. Members question this item. The questioning of agricultural subsidies comes mainly from the Opposition.

Mr. P. Browne

Did not the hon. Gentleman hear my hon. Friend say, rightly, that owing to the limited amount that could go for these subsidies, they were not likely to benefit the large farmers generally because they usually put up larger units? I should have thought that would have appealed to the hon. Gentleman as a result of the argument he and I had over the fertiliser subsidy some months ago.

Mr. Willis

I was coming to the fertiliser subsidy—

Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)

I think we had better not come to the fertiliser subsidy.

Mr. Willis

That was a passing reference, Mr. Deputy-Speaker. The hon. Member knows that the questioning comes in the main from the Opposition. We spent about three months in the Scottish Grand Committee this year discussing whether we should have differential rates because subsidies should not be paid to people who can afford to do without them. But hon. Members opposite do not argue in that manner when we deal with the farming community. Obviously, my hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) gets a subsidy for his silos. I see him nodding in agreement. So he has caused the Government to spend money in dealing with his claim. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell was simply asking whether we ought to continue to pay subsidies to people who can afford to do without them. Hon. Members opposite do not like to be reminded that hundreds of people are in receipt of agricultural subsidies of one form or another who do not need them.

Mr. Kimball

On a point of order. I cannot accept that one of my most distinguished constituents, the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie), is in receipt of subsidies which he does not need.

Mr. Deputy-Speaker

That is not a point of order.

Mr. Willis

He knows that it is true. We have opposed the ploughing grants for many years because we question whether the money is well spent, and we asked whether the fertiliser grant went only to those who needed it. My hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell is asking a simple question which ought to be asked—are these subsidies going only to those who need them? It is the duty of hon. Members to ask such questions. This does not mean that we are opposed to support for agriculture or do not recognise the importance of silos and silage and the necessity to try to reduce the imports of winter feed. We all subscribe to those purposes, and my hon. Friend the Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) said that we supported these subsidies precisely because we recognise them. All that my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell is asking is whether this is the best way of paying them. Are we ensuring that those people who need the subsidy, get it, and that those who do not need it, do not get it?

Mr. P. Browne

When we were discussing another Order I asked the hon. Member what alternative he suggested, and he replied that that was not his job. What alternative does he suggest in this case?

Mr. Willis

I am not the Government. We are asked to pass a Scheme which will give subsidies for the erection of silos. We are entitled to tell the Government that we think that certain people ought not to have them.

Mr. Jeremy Thorpe (Devon, North)

I take it that the hon. Member is advocating a means test.

Mr. Willis

I am not advocating anything. I am acting as a critic. But if a means test is in order for municipal tenants, I do not see why it is not in order for farmers. No doubt if the hon. Member wants certain grants he will find that he is subjected to a means test. Much rubbish is talked about this.

We say that a great deal of money is given to people who do not need it. Is it the purpose of the House to do that? I suggest, as we suggested on the ploughing grants many years ago, that the Government ought to be examining this to see whether the Scheme is the best which could be operated. Can we have a better Scheme? Can we save money in some directions on this Scheme? That is a simple question which we are entitled to ask.

I am puzzled by the Scottish figure of approvals. There may be a good explanation for it, but I should have thought that it was just as important to try to encourage the use of silage in Scotland as it was anywhere else. It is probably more important because the climatic conditions are such that that kind of feed is needed for longer periods than in England. I accept the explanation of the larger figure for Northern Ireland, though that is a smaller country than Scotland, but the difference between the figure for Scotland and that for England and Wales seems rather large. I should think that, in reply to the debate, we should have some explanation why this is so. Is the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland satisfied with this figure? If he is not, what steps is he taking to increase it? I do not say this because I think that we in Scotland should have a greater share of the money, but because I think that silage is more important in Scotland than elsewhere.

11.2 p.m.

Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

All I want to do is to reassure the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson), who for the first time since I have been a Member of the House has been so kind as to express anxiety about the welfare of myself and my colleagues who are on the land in Scotland. I assure the hon. Member that, although the figures of approvals appear at first sight to show a discrepancy, Scotland is doing all right out of this Scheme.

I am not as certain about the extent of the acquaintance of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) with silage. I think it probable that living, as he does, in that plush Great King Street, with more lawyers to the acre than anywhere else, he does not either see or smell silage very often. I am sure that both hon. Members would agree with me that Scotland produces better beef than any other part of the United Kingdom, and—although I admit that this is open to dispute—better mutton as well.

I would say that nine out of ten of the great beef breeders do it in Scotland by not feeding silage at all. They do it by feeding turnips. They are a conservative lot in Scotland, but it pays off. Hon. Members opposite will discover that root crop for feeding stock occupies a far larger place in the total cropping in Scotland than in England and Wales. This is largely for the climatic reasons which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East mentioned, though he got them completely wrong. The turnip does not grow Well in England, where it is drier, and therefore English farmers have been forced back on silage. I think this is a point worth making for the general education of hon. Members opposite who, I am very glad to see are taking so lively and sympathetic an interest. If we have won the sympathy of the hon. Member for Motherwell, that is the greatest achievement that the agricultural industry has accomplished in the last few years.

11.5 p.m.

Mr. Charles Loughlin (Gloucestershire, West)

I do not want to spend a long time on this Scheme, because I think the next Statutory Instrument that we are to debate is more important from my point of view at least.

I wish to deal with one specific point. I do not understand the sensitivity of hon. Members opposite. When my hon. Friends talk about subsidies hon. Members opposite resent the suggestion on this side of the House that it might be necessary to say to a farmer, "Can we be satisfied that this subsidy is absolutely necessary in the economic sense?" Hon. Members opposite seem to think that it is all right to pay out to the farming community whatever sums they deem to be necessary, irrespective of whether there is any need. But if there is the slightest suggestion that the agricultural worker, who may be living in a municipal house, should receive subsidies hon. Members opposite are bitterly resentful.

Mr. P. Browne


Mr. Loughlin

I was a member of the Standing Committee dealing with the Housing Bill a short time ago, and there are present on the benches opposite some hon. Members who also served on that Standing Committee, and they constantly argued that there should be a determination of need before public moneys were expended. Hon. Members are fully prepared to pump public money into any industry which likes to come with its begging bowl, but when the workers in the industry are involved it is a different story.

Mr. Browne rose

Mr. Loughlin

No, I shall not give way. I would not mind giving way, but my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) had to give way constantly when he was speaking. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) spoke for about three minutes and then resumed his seat. If he cannot make his speech in his own way without wanting to intervene afterwards in other speeches, he cannot expect me to be generous towards him.

I want to deal with a matter connected with Schedule 2 of the Scheme. This Schedule is a specification of work, and it appears to me to be too rigid and restrictive. I think that it was the hon. Member for Torrington who raised the question of the type of building that we were getting on the farms. I wonder whether this specification restricts, if not prohibits, the construction of what I like to term unconventional silos. I have a vague idea that I had considerable correspondence with the Minister's Department on this very issue a couple of years ago.

If it said that these are the specifications which must be complied with to qualify for a grant, the fact that all the specifications are so clearly laid down—not in the content of cement or mortar or location, but in the content of lengths and heights—ought to be further considered. I wonder whether there is not too great a degree of restriction in this Scheme. I hope that the Minister will consider the possibility of exercising his powers under other paragraphs of the Scheme, under which he is able to give approval for buildings which may be serving the purpose, without necessarily coming within the specifications laid down here.

11.11 p.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Gilmour Leburn)

I do not know how my hon. Friends react to the speeches of the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West (Mr. Loughlin) and the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis), but I assure them that I do not in any way resent their contributions this evening, or at any other time, because on many of these occasions they give us a fair number of good quotes which are worthy of use on future occasions. At the same time, I appreciate that it is the responsibility of the Opposition to go into these questions, to probe matters, and to ask questions, and I shall do my best to try to answer some of the questions which have been asked tonight.

I do not think that it would do us very much good to start a long debate on the national issues of whether each of the four countries is getting a fair crack of the whip, but, in answer particularly to the hon. Member for Aberavon (Mr. Morris)—and this may be a great surprise to some of the Scottish Members—of the figure of 33,782 which I gave for England and Wales, no less than 7,000 apply to Wales, amounting to a total of £1.3 million, which is even higher than the number for Northern Ireland, and certainly much higher than the number for Scotland.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) to some extent put his finger on the reason for that, but there are other reasons. The hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) gave a valid reason for the comparatively large number applying to Northern Ireland, but at the same time another factor to be taken into account is that in Scotland, as opposed to many parts of the Principality and many parts of England, farms are somewhat bigger, and this Scheme is specifically designed to help the small farmer.

Mr. Willis

I am sorry to interrupt, but am I to understand that farms in Scotland are larger than those in England?

Mr. Leburn

Certainly. There is a higher proportion of small farms in England and Wales than in Scotland. If I may give one figure which I think is interesting, since 1956, before the first Silo Subsidy Scheme was introduced, the total tonnage of silage produced in Scotland was 368,000. By 1961 production was 961,000 tons, an increase of 160 per cent. The corresponding figures for England and Wales were 2,752,000 tons in 1956 up to 3,749,000 tons in 1961, an increase of only 40 per cent. This shows that we have been taking full advantage of this in that the increase in silage production since 1956 in Scotland has gone up by 160 per cent. whereas it has gone up by only 40 per cent. in England and Wales. It also shows that Scottish farmers are responding to this useful scheme and are taking advantage of it.

Regarding the Schedule, the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West and my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. P. Browne) raised two points. While I agree that the second Schedule looks a rather formidable document, I went into it carefully and came to the conclusion that it did no more than lay down what might be described as good building practices and I can assure my hon. Friend that the Schedule will be adhered to.

In this connection, regarding the point made by the hon. Member for Gloucestershire, West, I think it lays down good building practices and still leaves plenty of discretion to the individual farmer to construct his silo in the way he thinks best. If I thought that that was not so I would be pleased to look into the point the hon. Member made. I think it gives a wide discretion as to the materials to be used. At the same time, we want to ensure that farmers construct these silos in a proper way, from proper materials so that they will stand up to the strain imposed on them.

Mr. Loughlin

I would make it perfectly clear that I, too, want to see good building practices. I was more concerned with the question of whether the specifications restrict the type of buildings that may be constructed.

Mr. Leburn

I do not think that they do, but I will be glad to look into that. In any case, the Ministers have discretion in the matter and all that is covered is the widest range of materials. Using that range, the individual farmer can construct his silo in the way he thinks fit.

The hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Peart) and other hon. Members raised the question of the possible amalgamation of the Silo Subsidy Schemes and the Farm Improvement Scheme. I repeat what my hon. Friend said when introducing the Regulations; I ask the House to appreciate that the purpose of the subsidy is to foster the improvement of grassland and the better use of grass by encouraging the farmer, particularly the small farmer—and I cannot emphasise this too much—to start making grass silage. In this connection I would draw attention to what was said by the then Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture in the debate in 1959. He said: … it was never the intention of the Silo Subsidies Scheme to provide grants for the larger fanner to build large and expensive silos. The scheme was deliberately weighted in favour of the smaller farmer, both by providing a relatively high rate of subsidy on individual items in the Schedule and by limiting the total amount of subsidy payable on any one agricultural unit."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd July, 1959; Vol. 608, c. 740.]

Mr. Peart

I accept that. I copied out that quotation, although I did not specifically refer to it. But the Parliamentary Secretary said that the Government were keeping this matter under review. That is a long time ago. What has happened since? Will there be any change?

Mr. Leburn

I was going on to say, if the hon. Member had not interrupted me that, as my hon. Friend said at that time, we were making a review of the relationship between the Silo Subsidies Scheme and the Farm Improvement Scheme. This has been done. For the following reasons we think that it is best not to integrate the Silo Subsidies Scheme into the Farm Improvement Scheme: first, because silo payments are essentially production grants offered as an inducement to occupiers of agricultural land to start making silage. They rank as production grants for the purpose of Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1957. On the other hand, payments made under the Farm Improvement Scheme are capital grants towards the provision of long-term improvements in the fixed equipment of a farm—improvements which a landlord may make himself or be prepared to take over from a tenant.

Secondly, applications under the Farm Improvement Scheme must pass a certain test. The land must be occupied, together with the buildings, and be capable of yielding a sufficient livelihood for the occupier. If the Silo Subsidies Scheme were to be integrated with the Farm Improvement Scheme some small farmers might not in future be able to receive the grant.

Thirdly, at present the applicant receives £250 of silo subsidy for the construction of a silo costing an estimated £500, and the silo subsidy rates are approximately 50 per cent. of the cost. Under the Farm Improvement Scheme the rate of grant is only one-third. Therefore, while the larger farmers might benefit we feel that in the best interests of the smaller farmers the two Schemes ought not to be integrated.

Mr. Peart

I am grateful for that answer. Hon. Members on this side of the House certainly approve the Scheme, despite the criticisms that have been made. I approve it and my party approves it. We believe that it will help the small farmer. I understand the reason why it has not been integrated into the Small Farmers Scheme.

Mr. Mackie

The hon. Member did not get my point. Since the Scheme came into force, generally speaking a new silo is a self-feeding silo, or incorporates modern methods. Under this Scheme, unless the farmer has a rigid silo, with cement sides and bottom, called a permanent silo, the grant under the Farm Improvement Scheme may be withheld. It should not make any difference if a man incorporates a new silo. I do not understand the hon. Member's point about the small farmer. Where does one differentiate, with farms going from 20 acres to 2,000 acres? It would be simple if the Scheme were integrated.

Mr. Speaker

Order. I do not know whether the hon. Member is making a second speech without the leave of the House or is abusing the courtesy of being allowed to make an intervention.

Mr. Leburn

The hon. Member probably imagined that he was having difficulty in getting me to understand the point, but it is clear to me. It is not a point which had escaped us. When a farmer puts up a comprehensive scheme under the Farm Improvement Scheme, we cannot allow him carte blanche to put up any kind of silo or as large a silo as he wants and obtain grant for it under the Farm Improvement Scheme, otherwise we would be differentiating in favour of such a farmer. No farmer can get more than £250 for his silo, whereas by building a large one inside a comprehensive building costing, say, £5,000, under the Farm Improvement Scheme a farmer would get one-third of that figure.

At the same time, the hon. Member knows perfectly well that when a silo is integrated within a comprehensive building, the walls and the roof are probably allowed under the Farm Improvement Scheme and it is only things which are specifically applicable to the silo, such as the walls and the floor, to which the Silo Subsidy Scheme specifically applies. This is right and proper.

I hope that with these explanations the House will feel inclined to approve the two schemes.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Silo Subsidies (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme, 1962, a draft of which was laid before this House on 31st May, be approved. Silo Subsidies (Scotland) Scheme, 1962 [draft laid before the House, on 31st May], approved.—[Mr. Leburn.]