§ 10.8 p.m.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Scott-Hopkins)
I beg to move,That the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 15th May, be approved.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker (Sir Robert Grimston)
I suggest that it might be for the convenience of the House to discuss with this Scheme the following five Schemes, that is to say, the Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme, 1963, die Grassland Renovation (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme, 1963, the Grassland Renovation (Scotland) Scheme, 1963, the Winter Keep (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme, 1963, and the Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme, 1963, if that is agreeable to the House.
§ Mr. Frederick Peart (Workington)
We shall not object, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, but we shall be rather critical of this procedure because we have had a long day on agriculture, and, although I know that these things are done by mutual arrangement, to discuss now so many Schemes affecting not only England and Wales but Scotland is not really satisfactory. I know that some of my hon. Friends from Scotland would have preferred these matters to be discussed at another time. In the last Division there were nearly 40 Government abstentions. [Laughter] The Patronage Secretary knows that that is true there were 40 abstentions on a main agriculture debate.
§ Mr. Deputy-Speaker
Order. I merely inquired whether it was agreeable to the House to take the six Schemes together. If it is not, we shall take them separately.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
It would seem to me that the Scheme which is separate from the others is that 566 dealing with fertilisers. Could that be kept separate?
§ Mr. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I assume that if we take all these Schemes together, we shall have a Scottish Minister to reply to the points which will be raised on Scotland. because Scottish Members have been the main participants in this debate in past years?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Hon. Members will appreciate that the three Schemes—the Ploughing Grants Scheme, the Grassland Renovation Scheme and the Winter Keep Scheme for England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the other three for Scotland are interwoven among each other and, therefore, it is convenient to discuss them together. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will be replying to any points which Scottish Members may wish to raise in the debate.
With permission, I will touch only on the few significant differences in the Scottish arrangements, leaving my hon. Friend to deal with any Scottish points which are raised. I do not feel justified in detaining the House with a lengthy exposition of each of the Schemes, because for many years ploughing grants have provided us with familiar and sometimes controversial debates. But in grassland renovation and winter keep we are breaking new ground with two new grants. However, they are reasonably fresh in the minds of many hon. Members because we had very extensive discussions about them in Committee upstairs. Hon. Members who were not there will, I am sure, have had the opportunity to read the debates and to find out all the information that they wish to have on this subject. I hope that I shall have the approval of hon. Members if I confine myself to a fairly brief outline of the Schemes and take a little more time to develop the relationship between the three Schemes, and then take a look at this wider approach to grassland and tillage in general.
The Ploughing Grants Scheme is on lines which hon. Members are well accustomed to discussing. There are two significant changes this year. For the Part I grant, payable on land which has been under grass for at least three years, we 567 are reducing the rate from £7 to £5 an acre as was foreshadowed in the Annual Review by my right hon. Friend. For the Part II grant, which the hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) has fairly described as a kind of reclamation grant, we are advancing the age at which grassland can come into the Scheme. For some years past the qualifying date has been 1st June, 1946, but we shall now be admitting land which has been continuously under grass since 1st June, 1951. The rate for Part II grants remains at £12 an acre and is payable on land which calls for a considerable outlay if it is to be brought into a reasonable state of cultivation.
It has been the practice, I understand, in the past to give the House some details of the payments which have been made on the acreages and the amount which has been ploughed up during the preceding year. For this purpose, I shall take the financial year 1962–63, since it is the latest year for which I have figures. During that year in the United Kingdom as a whole, £11.3 million was paid to 180,350 applicants who ploughed up a total of 1.6 million acres. The bulk of that expenditure was on the £7 grant. There were only 7,250 applications for the £12 grant, covering 52,000 acres at a cost of approximately £630,000.
Taking the scheme as a whole and breaking it down into the constituent parts of the United Kingdom, 68 per cent., or £7.7 million, went to England and Wales, 10 per cent., or £1.2 million, to Northern Ireland and 22 per cent., or £2.4 million, to Scotland. All these figures are virtually unchanged compared with those of the previous financial year.
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
For Wales it was 10 per cent. and for England 58 per cent.
During the debates over the years, there has been sustained but by no means unanimous criticism concerning the general principle of the ploughing grant. The burden of the argument has been that we were paying the farmer for what he should do in any event. 568 Some hon. Members have questioned whether the grants have real value to the small farmer or to the dairy farmer. I do not go all the way with those criticisms, certainly not with the suggestion that there is no place on the small farm for the plough. It is not true. It is particularly significant that of the £7 million paid out for England and Wales for field husbandry grants under the Small Farmers Scheme, over £5 million was paid for ploughing operations on small farms specifically. Those who have urged us to drop the ploughing grant would do well to remember that when last they were discontinued, between 1949 and 1951, the United Kingdom tillage area declined by about 1 million acres.
A further point on which there has been wide agreement in the House and in agricultural circles is that the Government would not be justified in tampering with the ploughing grants, much less in doing away with them, without putting forward an alternative in their place.
That brings me to the first of the new Schemes, which is the Grassland Renovation Scheme, and later I will be touching on the Winter Keep Scheme. Under the former, we are offering grants of £4 per acre for renovating permanent grassland which is at least seven years old and is both suitable and adequately prepared for this technique of improvement. By adequately prepared "I mean particularly any essential preliminary drainage work, which we spoke about in Standing Committee, and which could be eligible for the payment of drainage grant under the appropriate Act. This point was raised in Standing Committee both by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton (Mr. Turton) and by my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard).
The full scope of renovating operations under the Scheme is contained in the Schedule. To qualify, a programme must consist of a combination of these operations costing at least £6 per acre net—that is, excluding anything such as fertilisers, which are already subsidised. On the other hand, the cost of spreading these fertilisers would be included in the £6 as this is an operation which is not subsidised, as lime-spreading operations are.
569 In estimating the cost, we shall adopt a general rate which takes account of farmers' labour costs, overheads, machinery depreciation and the like, and will allow tolerances for local or special conditions. In other words, flexibility is one of the keynotes of the scheme. It has been drawn up in such a way that the farmer can—and should and must—get together with the advisory officer, or with his equivalent in Scotland, and settle upon a series of operations which are best suited for the type and condition of the sward and the renovation which the farmer desires to undertake bearing in mind any earlier treatment that the sward may have received. The grant will be paid on satisfactory completion of these operations.
There is one point of detail which I should mention. We do not propose to pay this new grant on top of the field husbandry grant for renovation which is already available under the Small Farmer Scheme. The Field Husbandry grant was purposely fixed relatively high at £9 per acre because no renovation grant was generally available at the time.
I turn to the Winter Keep Scheme which all along has been designed specifically for the livestock rearer in the hill areas. We want to encourage him towards greater self-sufficiency in his winter feeding arrangements and we are offering £2 an acre for approved crops grown for that purpose. In Scotland there are three rates at 30s., 50s., and 80s. which differentiate in favour of poorer land of the higher type and which are expected to result in payments averaging out overall at about £2 an acre. In Committee on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill there were differing views about who should get these grants; and my right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Malton moved to recommit the Bill and the matter was then brought before the House.
I do not propose to re-enter these arguments for and against the inclusion of the upland dairy farmers in particular or the marginal producers generally. The Scheme inevitably follows the Act in restricting payments to those engaged in predominantly livestock rearing enterprises on predominantly livestock rearing land. Tile list of eligible crops is contained in the Schedule to the Order and has been deliberately drawn in wide terms 570 so as to cover the different systems and practices in the hill areas of the four parts of the United Kingdom. Oats, for instance, have been included because of their traditional importance as winter feed, especially in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but all other price-guaranteed crops are excluded.
There are two matters of detail which I may usefully bring to the notice of the House in this connection. First is the eligibility point. This is expressed not in terms of fields or tracts of land but of agricultural units, which may sometimes be two or more farms, and provided they are genuinely worked together —indeed, it may be three or four—as a single livestock rearing unit or single livestock rearing enterprise they would qualify. There may be instances where winter keep for hill animals is grown on kinder lower lying land in the bottom of a valley, perhaps, and even some distance away. I think we should accept these arrangements provided we are satisfied that the combined unit is a single livestock rearing enterprise.
The second point is that the grant should be restricted to the acreage needed to provide winter keep for livestock expected to be wintered on the unit. We are not hoping to help the small minority of hill farmers who may be in a position to grow surpluses for sale, nor will the grant be paid on crops grown for summer grazing.
§ Mr. Harold Davies (Leek)
When the hon. Gentleman says single livestock rearing unit in the upland or marginal areas, does he imply that livestock must be the main occupation?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Yes, indeed. The main purpose of this is that it should be mainly for livestock rearing units—that is, for units with at least 60 per cent. of that type of land and with that type of return. I think this was mentioned recently at Question Time.
I turn to the differences between the Schemes and their relationship, and this will show the point of taking the three Schemes together. I have given no more than a bare outline. I think I can conveniently show first the relationship between the ploughing grant and the renovation grant.
I am sure it is generally accepted that the £12 grant in Part II has made a 571 steady and useful contribution towards reclaiming the very oldest forms of permanent grassland. At the other extreme, the £7 grants, which are now becoming £5, have given a real stimulus to ley farming. Between the two extremes lies the older permanent grassland for which ploughing is neither the only nor necessarily the best approach to improvement for one's own farm purposes.
Hitherto ploughing grant has been the only possible form of assistance which has been available to a farmer with this type of land, and a recent enquiry in England and Wales showed that nearly half of the £7 grants were being paid for ploughing grassland that was at least seven years old.
Here is the "gap" which the Grassland Renovation Scheme, with its emphasis on the techniques of surface treatment, will fill adequately. Given proper renovation, we believe that suitable permanent grassland will endure for some time after these operations have been carried out, and we do not propose to entertain applications for a further renovation grant for seven years after the initial one. Renovated grassland will also be disqualified from ploughing grant during that period because we do not want to encourage the farmer to undo the good work that he has done by renovation.
Next I come to the inter-relationship between the Ploughing Grants and the Winter Keep Schemes. In the same way that we want to offer an alternative to the ploughing grant as an instrument for improving grassland, similarly, as far as winter keep is concerned we want to help livestock rearers whose enterprise does not necessarily attract benefit from the price support, does not revolve around a monthly milk cheque, and does not necessarily fit in with the traditional pattern of taking the plough round the farm. One of their main problems in present day conditions is to overwinter their stock in sufficient numbers to bring in a fair return without undue reliance on having to buy a lot of feed. As we know, this acreage is an expensive item.
We want to encourage them to get the maximum they can out of their limited acreage. The ploughing grant, with its emphasis on ley farming and rotational cropping, does not necessarily operate in 572 that direction, and it is against this background that we are offering farmers the winter keep grant as an alternative to the ploughing grant. They will be able to make their choice field by field.
If they choose ploughing grant, the crop which they sow, and the three succeeding crops, will not be eligible for winter keep grant. The effect is to disqualify the land from earning winter keep until much the same time as it could earn a further ploughing grant if it had been immediately reseeded to grass after the initial ploughing.
For convenience I shall illustrate the position in terms of the flat rate of £2 per acre which we are proposing to bring into operation in England and Wales. In Scotland much will depend upon the grading of the land, and for all practical purposes this option between winter keep and ploughing grant will only bite on the land for which the rate of 30s. per acre is proposed.
The first point is that not all hill farmers will need to make the choice between ploughing grant and winter keep grant. For example, those who from time to time can take a crop of hay from their permanent grass will not be thinking of ploughing it, and for them the winter keep grant will simply be a new and additional benefit of £2 per acre. Similarly, those who can take four winter keep crops in successive years will stand to gain by claiming £8—£2 per year for four years—in winter keep grants instead of an immediate payment of £5 for the ploughing grant. By the same token the ploughing grant will be the natural choice for the man who is mainly growing cash crops and only fits an occasional winter keep crop into his rotation.
The kind of farmer who will need to take a careful look at this option and weigh up what it is worth his while to do is the man who in the space of four years plans to take three winter keep crops and one cash crop. He will need to decide whether it is better to take the outright £5 ploughing grant on the initial ploughing operation, or to receive £6 in winter keep grant over the next four years. The pattern in Scotland will differ from this, because the rates of winter keep grant will vary; they will 573 go from 30s. up the scale for the three different types of land.
We are concerned that there should be no confusion in farmers' minds about the effect of the option, and if the Schemes are approved—and I hope that they will be—we shall spell it all out in detail in a leaflet which will be sent out so that farmers can decide what to do with their fields and will know what rate of grant they will be able to get.
Turning quickly to the grassland renovation and the winter keep grants, there is no question of an option between them, nor of an automatic disqualification on winter keep grant from grass crops taken from a renovated sward. On the other hand, we do not want to see renovated grassland mowed prematurely simply to earn winter keep. Depending on the grassland itself, and the renovation programme which is adopted, there may be fields from which the proper follow-up treatment for, say, the first year would be to graze the sward rather than to cut it. This explains the provision to pay winter keep grant when—but not until—it would be sound farming practice to take a crop. This is a matter on which we should naturally look for technical opinion from the N.A.A.S. officers who will help to shape the renovation programmes.
Finally, and this will illustrate to hon. Members how closely these Schemes are inter-related, there is a technical problem which touches upon all three of them. In my analysis of the methods of improving older permanent grassland, I pointed to renovation as an alternative to ploughing and direct reseeding. We are anxious that the choice between these methods should be based on technical considerations and should not be influenced by questions of eligibility for winter keep. That is why grassland which is at least seven years old and which is ploughed up and directly reseeded to grass will not be disqualified from winter keep for the normal period but will be treated in exactly the same way as renovated sward. It will earn the winter keep grant as soon as it would be sound farming practice to mow the new grass rather than to graze it.
It may be of convenience to the House if I give a quick break-down of the cost of the Scheme. I emphasise that this 574 is only an estimate because one does not know what farmers will opt for, but the rough figures for these two grants in England and Scotland are as follows. For winter keep in England and Wales, £1,100,000, approximately, Scotland, £1,300,000. Ploughing-up grant, England and Wales, £5,200,000, Scotland, £1,200,000. Grass renovation, England and Wales approximately £1 million, Scotland about £60,000. I emphasise that these are only estimates for the first full year because it is very difficult to know exactly how farmers will react to these schemes and how they will opt for each particular one as the choice is so wide.
To sum up on the six Schemes before the House, we believe that ploughing grants have played and can continue to play a useful part in improving our grassland and in maintaining its balance with tillage, but there is room for encouraging intensive surface treatment of older permanent grassland and for giving upland livestock rearers a special incentive to produce all possible grass and arable crops needed to overwinter their stock.
Our answer to the first problem is the Grassland Renovation Scheme, and in a full year we hope that at least a quarter of a million acres in the United Kingdom will benefit from this treatment and qualify for upwards of £1 million in grants. Our answer to the second is the Winter Keep Scheme, and to the extent that hill farmers prefer it to the ploughing grant we foresee payments in a full year of over £2½. million in the United Kingdom.
We expect the additional Exchequer payments under the new Schemes will be broadly offset by the reduction in the take up and the rate for Part 1 ploughing grants. I am glad to say that both new schemes have the full backing of the industry and the N.F.U. In this survey I have sought to pick out all the salient points in each of the schemes and to explain how they are interlocked with each other. I hope, therefore, that these six Schemes—the three for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the three along similar lines for Scotland—will find the approval of hon. Members because, as I have said, they will be of considerable benefit to the farming community.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
Do the estimated costs which the right hon. Gentleman gave include administrative expenses and, if so, what proportion of the total will go on administration?
§ Mr. Scott-Hopkins
Administrative costs are included in the figures I gave, but I am afraid that I do not have a breakdown of them.
§ 10.36 p.m.
§ Mr. Cyril Bence (Dunbartonshire, East)
The estimated figure of £60,000 for grassland renovation in Scotland seems an extremely small sum for a vast area like Scotland. With our mountainous regions and peak lands, and considering the amount of soil reclamation needing to be done, £60,000 is an extraordinarily small amount. It does not seem worth bothering about.
Breaking the sward, the removal of matted grass and all the other things described by my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon) earlier in the day represents a lot of hard work. I regret that my hon. Friend is not here. but earlier he read some extracts from the written advice being issued by the advisory officers of the Ministry of Agriculture. He told us about the advice on the latest methods for breaking down and smashing the sward. He described how a lot of this hard work is no longer necessary. Despite all this, we are now proposing to give grants to farmers who carry out a process which, according to my hon. Friend, the latest advice says is not necessary.
My hon. Friend the Member for Charley told us about the way he used to break up the land years ago. He spoke at some length about the process of harrowing. Incidentally, it is a harrowing business to bring Schemes of this sort before hon. Members at this late hour. Why should a farmer have to carry out processes to attract this grant when the advisory officers are saying that such processes are no longer necessary? It is nonsense for one Government Department to offer a grant to a farmer to do something which another Department says is unnecessary for the improvement of his grass. I strongly object to the Government using the taxpayers' money to carry out some process which the experts say is unnecessary.
576 We are then told about how a farmer must spend not less than £6 per acre on cultivating, harrowing, breaking the sward and so on. I wish my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley were here. He would soon put us right on this matter. He showed us how all these processes were out of date. He explained that one merely had to lime the soil, fertilise it and put something else on, although I cannot remember what it was.
Mr. Denys Bollard (King's Lynn)
I, too, heard the speech of the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), and I can assure the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) that he is not doing justice to his hon. Friend's remarks. His hon. Friend said that whereas previously the advisory service of the Ministry had been advocating ploughing grassland, it now advised cultivation other than ploughing, with fertiliser and liming treatment—which, as far as I understand, is provided for in the Scheme.
§ Mr. Bence
That is quite right, I am not complaining about the application of lime, farmyard manure or other fertilisers, because that is the advice given, but, as my hon. Friend mentioned, the other processes are not necessary. I shall read in HANSARD tomorrow morning what was said. I thought the contributions made by my hon. Friends the Members for Chorley and Enfield, East (Mr. Mackie) were about the best in the earlier debate. I always listen to these agricultural debates, because so much of the taxpayers' money is involved. We laymen have, in the past, left too many decisions on spending money to the farming lobby in the House. It is time those of us who know nothing about farming elicited some information.
What my hon. Friend the Member for Chorley has told us has been very illuminating—
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh. West)
I, too, heard the hon. Member for Chorley (Mr. Kenyon), but would not the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) agree that there is a vast difference between a plough and a pitchpole?
§ Mr. Bence
Well, I cannot contradict the hon. Gentleman, because I do not know what a pitchpole is.
I hope we shall get more information on winter keep and why the system of grants should he different in Scotland from that in England and Wales. In England and Wales, the farmers get £2 an acre, but in Scotland there are three classes; Class A attracts a grant of 30s. an acre, Class B, £2 10s., and Class C £4—
§ Mr. Bence
There are no such classes in England—the grant is a uniform £2 an acre. I assume that even the best land gers that amount, whereas in Scotland the man with the best land gets only 30s. Why is there this discrimination? A man in England may have 500 acres of very good land. but he gets his £2 an acre, but a similar man in Scotland gets only 30s., but in Scotland, as the winner is longer, the cattle must be kept longer. It is quite unreasonable.
If a farmer has good land in Surrey, Devon or Dorset, he gets a grant of £2 an acre, but the man in Scotland gets only 30s.—
§ Mr. Bence
Then let us take Devonshire. Will that county qualify? There are uplands in Devonshire. I do not know whether the North Downs or the South Downs count as uplands, but I should have thought so. The grant would surely be applicable to Devonshire and Cornwall.
These farmers, therefore, will have £2 an acre whereas farmers with the same sort of land in Scotland will have only 30s. This is discrimination against a Scottish farmer. We have this discrimination against anything Scottish all along the line, and that is why it is un- 578 reasonable that these Scottish Schemes should have to be debated in parallel with the English. We should have a half-day set aside for these matters which are so important to Scottish farmers. I hope that a Scottish Minister will give us a full explanation of the reasons for this discrimination.
§ 10.45 p.m.
§ Sir Harry Legge-Bourke (Isle of Ely)
I do not suppose my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary will be imagining that I am about to sound the Jubilate over these Schemes. [An HON. MEMBER: Out of order."] I strongly expressed my views on 10th May, 1961, when we were debating the Ploughing Grants Scheme, and last year I would have intervened had it not been that I was obeying the convention of the House in that having been in the Chair earlier in the day on another matter it would not have been proper for me to have intervened in the debate.
We had the assurance of the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland, as reported in column 1087 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for 14th May, 1962, when he indicated that the Government would be introducing schemes, now embodied in these Schemes, which would bring in the whole question of winter keep and renovation of permanent grassland. To that extent I welcome the trend which is emerging. In 1961 I did my best to indicate that I thought that this ley farming was scientifically unsound and was producing a type of food for cattle which was altering the whole physical structure of the animal and possibly having deleterious effects on the health of the nation.
I have no doubt that if we eliminate all deep tap-rooted weeds out of the grass we deny the animal certain essential constituents in the grass which would ensure an adequate and scientifically sound diet for the human consumer. I have little doubt that we are still only tinkering with this whole subject and that we may find as the years go by that some of the most dread diseases are being partly encouraged by the type of farming in which we have been indulging, and not least cancer.
I am certain that as we go on we shall find these dread human diseases are often attributable to defects which are the result of faulty diet, and no diet is 579 more likely to be involved than meat which has been wrongly fed. If we have been denying animals which have been feeding on grass the right chemical diet we can be sure that this will have a damaging effect on the human system, not least the liver, which is very often the source of major ills in the human being. There has been no direct grant to agriculture which has been more outrageously abused than the ploughing grant. That was one of the principal reasons why I tried to raise some objections to this type of grant in 1961. I said that if we proceeded on those lines I would be prepared to vote against the Order.
I was thankful that we got the indication we did last year, that we would be getting Schemes dealing with permanent grass in order to try to improve our permanent grassland, rather than adopting the three-year ley system of rye grasses and so forth, based on the assumption that if they were kept in the ground for more than three years they would go steadily back and that, therefore, they should be ploughed up and kept in the tillage rotation. Such a system might have done us some good in wartime, and in fact I believe it did, when we were denied grains, but it is an inexcusable policy in peacetime.
For that reason, I welcome the trend to pay more attention to our permanent grassland. Over the years, while the ploughing grants have been in operation and while we have been encouraging the sowing of leys which have been ploughed up every three years or so, we have destroyed a lot of our permanent grass which can never be restored. If one studies the life cycle of grass—and I have done so along the lines of the famous Frenchman, M. Voisin, who has written some interesting books on the subject—one can see how the lean years follow if the leys are left in the ground for too long. If we continue to plant and drill the type of leys that we have, we shall have to plough them up in order to get the land in good heart.
The sooner we can encourage farmers to plant permanent leys again and look after the permanent pasture, the better. That is one thing which is absent from these Orders which we are considering. We are looking after what permanent 580 pasture remains. We are encouraging winter keep, but we are still carrying an at £5 instead of £7 an acre with this three-year ley idea. I regret this. I want to see it taken right out of British agriculture altogether. It is unsound scientifically; it is open to the most monstrous abuse.
Farmers, some having just bought their farms, mine the land for wheat, after which they put it down to ley farming on a three-year basis and take the three-year grant then they mine it again, and then down it goes to grass again, and again the ploughing grant is claimed. This is an outrageous misuse of public money, and it should be stopped. I want to see good farmers withdraw from this sort of practice.
I support the encouragement of good farming of our permanent pastures, and I congratulate the Government on having introduced this Scheme dealing with permanent pasture; but the Government must realise that if they make the ploughing grant for three year leys greater than that which they are giving for the encouragement of proper farming of permanent pasture, they are running the risk of discouraging the man who ought to be encouraged. If we are going to have a £5 grant for the short-term ley to be ploughed up after three years, and only £4 for the permanent pasture, that is the wrong way round. It should be the other way round.
As I say, I hope to see the encouragement of the short-term ley abolished. I have had some little experience of this sort of thing—I admit not in this country but in Southern Ireland—and I have seen what has happened when good permanent pasture has been ploughed up as a result of Government action during wartime. I have seen how the animals would always go, when possible, to the older pastures where there were deep tap-rooted weeds, bringing up trace elements from the subsoil, and how they would avoid these new leys if they had the opportunity. That is a lesson which the Government should bear in mind more than they have done in past years. The time will come when we shall look back on this period when we have encouraged the growing of short-term rye grasses as one of the most deplorable in the history of British agriculture.
§ 10.55 p.m.
§ Mir. E. G. Willis (Edinburgh, East)
I agree with a great deal of what the hon. Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has said. I think that it was the year before last when the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland promised that the Part I ploughing grant, at least, would be looked at again. For the past few years, there has been general criticism of the Part I ploughing grant. and the criticism has not been confined to this side of the House. It has come from all parts. The Part I ploughing grant would be looked at, we were told, in connection with the abolition of the marginal agricultural production grants. The two were linked together. We were told that both would he examined and something would be put in their place.
Now we have the substitute for them, and my first criticism is that the Part I ploughing grant is still to be £5, which is only £2 less than it was previously. As well as I can calculate it quickly, there will still be a considerable amount of ploughing grant as a result of this Scheme. I think that we expect to pay out a sum of about £1.2 million in Scotland instead of £2.4 million. Is that right?
What is the position as regards the Part 11 ploughing grant? It has always appealed to me as being something in the nature of a reclamation grant. I do not know to what extent it is covered by other grants. Is the amount of land ploughed up in Scotland and qualifying for the Part II grant declining or remaining fairly static? If it is not declining and there is still a fair amount more to be done in Scotland, it is beneficial to have the grant at the level it was before.
Turning to the Grassland Renovation Scheme and the Winter Keep Scheme, to what extent will the administration of these grants be likely to affect the people who are losing money by the stopping of the marginal agricultural production grants? The three Schemes are linked together, because, obviously, farmers will have to make a choice as to what they intend to do and what grants they wish to qualify for. Does that permit of sufficient flexibility to cover a number of people who will probably suffer hardship when the marginal agricultural production grants come to an end?
At this hour of the night I am not accustomed to making long speeches, but 582 there is one other matter to which I would draw attention. In the Estimates for this year there is £2,500,000 for ploughing up and £740,000 for marginal production assistance grants—a total of about £3,250,000. I notice that the total under these three Schemes is expected to be £1.3 millions for winter keep in Scotland, £1.2 million for ploughing up, and £60,000 for grassland renovation. If my calculations are correct, that makes a total of just over £2,500,000, so that some £750,000 less is to come in as a result of these Schemes.
We have argued in the past that we were not in favour of the Part 1 ploughing grant because we believed that a great deal of it was wasted and because we thought there would be considerable abuse and because much ploughing up was done simply for the sake of getting the grant. We have said that the money could he spent in better ways in Scotland. We have said that there would probably be bad consequences from giving the grant in some cases, but although we have criticised it in that way we have also said that the money could be used to better advantage. We have pointed out that there were large areas capable of reclamation and that there could be an extension of valuable areas.
Therefore, the argument in the past has been that we would be better off in spending the money in some other way. It does not seem to me that what we are doing is the best thing. By these three Schemes the Government are saving £750,000, which is a 25 to 30 per cent. cut. Therefore, I am not quite certain that what the Government are doing is entirely beneficial. Personally, I would rather have seen something more positive which would have provided inducements to enable essential work to be done. I would rather have seen that than this cut. I am glad, however, that the Government have looked at the Part 1 grants, although I hope it is realised that this money could have been put to better use than it will be under these Part I ploughing up grants.
§ 11.4 p.m.
§ Mr. Patrick Wolrige-Gordon (Aberdeenshire, East)
I have always understood that these Schemes were to help those people who have been helped up to now by the marginal grants, and when 583 I recall the excitement of a year or two ago when it was suggested that the M.A.P. grants should be abolished, I am reminded that it demonstrates to a certain extent the comparative welcome afforded by the industry to these Schemes.
At this hour, I want to make only one or two brief observations. I am glad of the distinction made in the Winter Keep Scheme between Scotland and England. It makes at least some provision for the difficulties experienced by the farmers in Scotland, although I should stress that the Scottish N.F.U. feels strongly that the average rate of grant in Scotland under the Scheme should be at least £3 an acre and that barley should be included in the Scheme.
Obviously, the administration of the Scheme in Scotland will to a considerable extent affect the fortunes of the individual farmers who benefit by it. I hope that the administration will be reasonably flexible, bearing in mind that anything that encourages the raising of livestock must be of value in the context of our agricultural policy. Indeed, one of the recent crises in the industry has been the unusual scarcity of calves coming forward.
I should like to ask two questions. First, will a farmer get an acreage payment for the same field two years running if, for example, he sows it for hay in the first year and takes a cut of silage in the second year? Secondly, will there be any alternative to the Winter Keep Scheme? Will the farmer have any choice of registering under another scheme as well as under this one?
I welcome the Schemes and am sure that they will contribute much to the solution of the difficult farming problems in the uplands.
§ 11.7 p.m.
§ Mr. J. Grimond (Orkney and Shetland)
I wish to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland three questions. First, I am sure that all farmers who are concerned about the withdrawal of the Marginal Agricultural Production Scheme will be grateful to him if he can indicate how far it is likely that the same farmers will benefit under these Schemes and the extent to which they are likely to benefit. It would be helpful if the hon. Gentleman could assure them 584 that in its administration the Scheme is likely to cover the same sort of land as is suffering, or is likely to suffer, from the withdrawal of M.A.P. grants.
Secondly, as the Under-Secretary is, no doubt, aware, it is not always easy to discover whether a holding is a croft. It has not been made easier in all cases by the recent Acts. It would be an advantage to farmers, who do not have a great deal of time to read all Acts and Orders, to have it said simply under which scheme they are to apply. Many farmers in my constituency. in Orkney in particular, are owners but for certain purposes they are nevertheless deemed to be crofters. I understand that if they or crofters properly so-called are already entitled to grants under other Schemes, they will not be entitled to apply under this one. I will be grateful if the hon. Gentleman will clarify the position of owner-occupiers in the crofting counties who may be in doubt which scheme applies to them.
Thirdly, what exactly is the meaning of paragraph 7 of the Grassland Renovation (Scotland) Scheme, 1963? It states:A grant under this scheme shall not be paid where, within the immediately preceding period commencing with 1st September, 1963, any previous such grant has been made in respect of the same land.I take it that "land" is construed literally and that it does not mean in respect of the same holding: that is to say, a man may conceivably have a grant for one part of land which he holds and he may still be entitled to apply for grant for the next period for another parcel of land which he occupies.Preceding period commencing with 1st September, 1963,presumably means an annual period; that is to say, if a man has received a grant for the period 1963–64, he will not be entitled to a grant for 1964–65. But he may be entitled to apply for a grant for a succeeding period after 1964–65.
I should be grateful if the hon. Member would clarify those points.
§ 11.10 p.m.
§ Mr. J. A. Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
I have three brief comments to make on the Schemes. On the occasions on which I have taken part in the debates on the ploughing grants, I have always maintained that it was not certain that the 585 subsidy should be payable for grass ploughed up after three years. This is too short a time. I wish that the £7 an acre had not been cut but that instead the period had been lengthened from three years to six or seven years. That would automatically have channelled the ploughing grants into the upland arras, because in the lowlands they would not have kept their grass down for that length of time.
I welcome the Grassland Renovation Scheme, which is tackling a worth-while project. It reminded me of a comment made a year or two ago by the chairman of the Scottish Agricultural Industries at what is probably one of the best-farmed grass holdings in Scotland —at Leaths near Castle Douglas, owned by Imperial Chemical Industries. The chairman then commented that farmers who manage their grass well can make twice the money of those who do not. He bore that out, for within three years on that farm the costs fell by £800 and the income rose by £3,500, entirely due to a shake-up in grassland management.
The Winter Keep Scheme has caused farmers in Scotland a good deal of interest. May I ask one or two questions about it? Referring to paragraph 2 (2) on page 2, will my hon. Friend fulfil the undertaking which was given to interpret the words "predominantly" and "to any material extent" in as flexible a way as he can? I believe—and I am supported in this belief by the National Farmers' Union of Scotland—that the grading principle for this land is a good principle because it moves towards paying the higher grant on the land which is most difficult and least productive. How is the process of grading getting on and when will farmers who will be affected know what their grade is?
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) raised a point which interested me in his calculation of present subsidies and the new subsidies. We do not know how much of the new ploughing grant will go to the lowlands and how much into the marginal areas. Has my hon. Friend any figures which he can give us about that?
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige-Gordon) mentioned the question of barley. There is a case on strictly good husbandry grounds for including barley. I know 586 that oats is the traditional crop and that oats straw has played a wonderful part in cattle production. But we all know what is being done with beef with the the barley crop, added to which there is no doubt that on the high ground, in particular in the late spring, one can sow barley much later than oats and can get a much better crop. On that ground, I think that a good case could be made for including barley in the Scheme.
In Committee I raised a point about a procedure whereby a farmer should be able to appeal to some body about the grading or about whether he was included in or excluded from the scheme. My hon. Friend said then that he would undertake to consider this matter. Can he say whether he has come to any conclusion? Has he considered, if he has come to any conclusion, having some sort of centralised body dealing uniformly with the whole of the Scottish winter keep grant or is he thinking of having rather more local bodies on which there would be members who would probably be thoroughly acquainted with the land under winter keep?
§ 11.16 p.m.
§ Mr. Timothy Kitson (Richmond, Yorks)
I want to ask one question. I welcome the Grassland Renovation Scheme, but what worries me is the cost of administering the Scheme if it is to be administered properly. I wonder if my hon. Friend, when he replies, could give us some idea of the anticipated cost of administration in proportion to the full cost of this Scheme, because I think that it is going to be terribly difficult for the Ministry really to discover exactly what operations have been carried out. I think it is very necessary to be certain that the grant is being paid after the work has been done. As I say. I wonder if my hon. Friend could give us that figure when he replies.
§ 11.17 p.m.
§ Mr. William Ross (Kilmarnock)
A quarter past eleven! Such is always the fate of Scotland and, indeed, of agriculture. I wonder, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, where are the people who were complaining earlier today that we had not sufficient opportunities to discuss agriculture. I remember that one hon. Gentleman opposite below the Gangway got rather heated about this. Of course, the debate which we had earlier was held because 587 the Opposition had decided to discuss the subject, but what we are dealing with at the moment are six Schemes which the Government are under obligation to bring before the House. They cannot avoid it. They have to do it.
To my mind, these six Schemes, three for England and Wales and three for Scotland, are important subjects to which those interested in these individual problems should have been able in reasonable time, when their heads were clear, to apply themselves. This is really not a laughing matter, as it appears to be to some hon. Members opposite. It is a very serious matter indeed that we should be discussing these Schemes so late with all the usual pressures, the Scots, as usual, getting the blame for keeping the House up.
The Government have a certain responsibility for the way they treat agriculture. The complexity of the matter, I think, was amply demonstrated by the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary dealt with it. I do not know of anyone who managed to get all the figures which he used. I am sorry to say that I did not. I think it is essential that we should have the figures and be able to assess them in relation to other Schemes on which the farmer, certainly the farmer in certain areas in Scotland, places a great deal of importance and who is very concerned about losing what was the marginal agricultural production grant.
Quite frankly, with all the interlocking intricacies in relation to this matter, I think that it will be some time before any farmer will be able to find out what he can do and when he can do it, and how long it will be before he is qualified for another grant, if any. To take the odd man out, the hardy annual, the ploughing grant, many of us have expressed a certain measure of dismay that we are faced with relatively the same standby, because, if we take the cost of the others, which may well be construed as relatively much more important, we are left with the same old formula in relation to the ploughing grant.
There is no doubt that any good farmer would do the ploughing anyway and leave his fields alone for the requisite time to enable them to recover. I do not think that there is any justification for spending the amount of money that we are plan- 588 ning to spend. The money could be put to far more beneficial uses. I suppose, though. that it depends on what one means by beneficial.
One question which has not been asked is how do we reconcile what we are doing naw and the encouragement that we are giving to certain farmers who, by the nature of what they are doing are marginally relatively uneconomic, with what we were told in the major debate earlier today? There was a question mark against the Government's aims in relation to the expansion of production, yet what we are doing here is to encourage relatively uneconomic expansion.
In what we are doing today we are harking back to what was promised in the Price Review of 1962, when the Government's policy was slightly different from what it is now. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for Scotland is not present. He talked about the quinquennial courtship of the electorate. I never have any difficulty with the farmers in my constituency. When I think of what the right hon. Gentleman said today in relation to Commonwealth producers, and when I remember what has gone on during the past 18 months in connection with this problem of land reclamation and the renovation of grassland, and why we should do this and how we should do it, I begin to wonder.…;no large scale schemes to rejuvenate hill land over a big area have been attempted…;If we are to reverse our policy two basic decisions must now be taken (1) To encourage the production of more home-killed mutton and lamb at a price which is economic to the farmer. Then either New Zealand must be encouraged to sell more of her meat elsewhere and rather less here, or the Government must help with a publicity campaign to sell British lamb in Europe. (2) To discourage excessive milk production"—this should be of interest in relation to the flexibility which we do not have in one of the Schemes before us-and use the grazing saved for the fattening of the extra sheep from the hill country.Unless a major Government decision of this sort is taken and the industry is given a green light for a period of not less than 15 years, it is hard to believe that farmers will be willing or able to find the large amount of finance necessary.That appeared in an article headed "The Regeneration of Scottish Hill Land". 589 by Michael Noble, M.P. Ploughing grants are a mistake, and I think that this all stems from the Government being caught on the wrong foot.
Then we come to the Winter Keep and Grassland Renovation Schemes. I was surprised that my hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) failed to notice the poetry of these Schemes. We read about the application of the Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme, 1963:Where it is tied to land situated in an area consisting predominantly of mountains, hills or heath.I expected to see the Secretary of State in his kilt bringing this Scheme in with the bagpipes playing in the distance while he told us all about it and explained how he could not meet the wishes of the N.F.U. in Scotland in relation to what they thought would be an adequate spread of grant.
We have an effort made here which certainly is not made in the English Scheme, which provides a flat £2 per acre. Here we have 30s. which can go up to 80s. People concerned with this land say that it could have started below 30s.—it could have started at 20s. —but it should have gone beyond 80s. to take in categories of land which should be considered in this respect. I ask the Under-Secretary to tell us why the Government decided to categorise land in this particular way and why they did not go very much further in reference to different types of land.
Not all upland land is deserving of this grant, whereas from the point of view of economics and good husbandry 80s. is not enough for other land. An attempt is being made to replace a grant which people respected and in which discrimination was already present. This is one of the things which commended M.A.P. to the Scots. The amount spent on that, according to the latest available figures, was about £i million. I do not believe the figures are complete, but I understand that for 1962 the amount was somewhere about £743,000 and it has been much the same in the last cropping year.
An answer must be given to the question asked by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) about whether those embraced by these Schemes will "lose out" altogether. In 590 his definition of "predominantly" the Under-Secretary should tell us whether farmers will be included who, because it suits the nature of their farms in those areas, go in for dairy farming to a certain extent. It is unfair to cut them out unless it is again the buyers. Judging from what has been said today, before long the buyers will be against beef, depending on how we interpret "standard quantities" and how they are to be related geographically. It may be that implicit in the article by the Secretary of State to which I have referred is the suggestion that the buyers want to get rid of excessive milk production and that this is implicit also in this Scheme.
We have been told that the administrative costs of grassland renovation will be pretty high. I think that the figure of £300,000, or 10 per cent., was mentioned in Committee. I suppose that this expenditure in inevitable. This being so, why is the grant to be £4 per acre in relation to the minimum cost of £6 per acre? Considering the difference in areas, the average cost will be much higher. I should like to know what the average cost will be; although I appreciate that it will depend on what is done.
An interesting article appeared in one of the farming journals this week on the reviving of dead land and, as far as I can see, £6 per acre would not cover the cost of the seed. I urge the right hon. Gentleman to consider the comments made in the last couple of years by the experts in Scotland about the reclamation of marginal and sub-marginal land. J. D. Nutt, Advisory Economist at the Edinburgh School of Agriculture, has produced figures based on a survey that was carried out at Newton Stewart and other units. Referring to net costs, he wrote:It has, however, been possible in a number of cases to arrive at a reasonable measure of the costs involved in the actual operations associated with reclamation after allowing for grants under ploughing, M.A.P. or the Livestock Rearing Acts. The available information on net costs can be summarised by saying that the average net cost for 22 cases worked out at £18 3s. 6d. per acre.For this type of upland farm this work involves a considerable expenditure—and the words I have just quoted appeared in the same booklet in which the article written by the Secretary of State, from which I quoted, appeared.
We gather from the right hon. Gentleman's speech that the sum of £7 per acre 591 was wasted because of what was done on a certain type of land. Thus there was no renovation and we did not get the production we should have got. It could have been £12 per acre—and remember that we are talking about the possibility of 17 million acres of rough grazing. Perhaps 46 per cent. of it could be covered. I do not know. If the right hon. Gentleman says that this can be done for £12 per acre, he must realise that it has not been done before and that the great bulk of the ploughing up grant option was based on the sum of £7 per acre. There is an obvious lesson to be drawn from this.
Considering the type of work that had to be done, even £12 per acre was probably not enough. If so, the £4 per acre in relation to the minimum of £6 is totally inadequate. It may be that, once again, we will not be able to revive and regenerate the soil and the sward of these upland farms.
Despite what I have said, I suppose that we will let these Schemes pass tonight. We never have the same Government spokesman speaking twice from the Scottish Office. I do not doubt at all that if we had another debate on the subject next week, we would have the noble Lady the Member for Aberdeen, South (Lady Tweedsmuir) taking her turn at it. Last year, we had to listen to the hon. Member for Rutherglen (Mr. Brooman-White) on education—now we are to hear him on agriculture. I do not see the other Under-Secretary who then gave us the pledge that that would very likely be the last time.
I hope that this will be the last time we will get this sort of patchwork, interrelated, interlocked, which does not add up to an effective policy to deal with the needs of our uplands farmers. And even with the ploughing grant there will be a considerable waste and unnecessary expenditure of money which could well have been devoted to more discriminating purposes elsewhere. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us the answer to the pleas of the N.F.U., not only about the limitation of the spread from 30s. to 80s. but about the exclusion of barley from the list of crops for winter keep.
If we debate the two subjects together, nobody should be satisfied that the two 592 things we have been talking about and deciding make a coherent policy. They do not. I should like to know what the Government's long-term policy is for Scotland's smaller farms, the upland farms. I read an interesting article called "The Family Farm." That is what we are talking about tonight—not so much the business farm. How long will those farms last? There is a very considerable question mark, and I do not think that the answer has been given very fully by what we have heard tonight.
§ 11.37 p.m.
§ The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. R. Brooman-White)
I am glad that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) appreciates the versatility of Scottish Under-Secretaries—as, indeed. we appreciate his versatility in dealing with so many subjects. Last year, when I was speaking on educational subjects, I was very conscious of facing an ex-schoolmaster, but now I think we are more nearly running level—
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I have done some very small-scale farming, so I have that to my credit. I am glad, too, that the hon. Gentleman did not this evening find a misprint—that is always a relief to me.
The hon. Gentleman opened his remarks with a very pertinent comment on the importance of the farmers being able to appreciate, in this complex of schemes, precisely where the balance of their advantage lay in selecting their operations and planning ahead. In that, I hope that they will have received some guidance from the very carefully considered remarks of my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture.
I will try, in a rather patchwork speech, to answer a number of questions raised, rather than try to review the whole subject again, but the main answers will, of course, come in the explanatory leaflets which we hope to issue before the Schemes come into operation, which will enable the agricultural community fully to appreciate the implications of the Schemes and their inter-relationship, and 593 make their decisions on that basis. We hope, too, that these farmers will turn to the advisory services for further background and support if they have any doubts about which course would be more advantageous to them.
The subject of administrative costs was referred to by the hon. Gentleman, and by other hon. Members, too. For the grassland renovation, to which the hon. Gentleman directed a lot of his remarks, the average administrative costs will be about 10 per cent., and the average expenditure by the farmer would probably be in the bracket of £8 or £9. Ten per cent. is a high administrative cost, but this is a Scheme which will involve prior inspection and obviously will mean travelling and work on the spot. Administrative costs will fall somewhat in line with those incurred in other schemes of the same kind which are subject to prior inspection.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
The hon. Member mentioned the figure of £6, but we think that on average it will work out in the £8 to £9 bracket overall on grassland renovation which, unlike the Winter Keep Scheme, is not limited to livestock rearing areas. This is one of the answers to the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, East (Mr. Bence) who was worried that Scotland was proportionately not making as much use of this Scheme as was England. We expect substantially more use to be made of the Winter Keep Scheme in Scotland than in England.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
I take £8 for the limited degree of seeding which will be incurred under the renovation scheme rather than complete sowing out of new land. My hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) raised some points about the health aspects of grass husbandry. As a Scottish Under-Secretary I wear a statutory minimum of two hats, one of which is from the Department of Health and I can assure my hon. Friend that there is no evidence at present of any ill effects 594 from our current methods of grassland husbandry.
My hon. Friend and others have expressed some dislike of the ploughing grant arrangements. The general feeling in the debate has been that a reduction of the ploughing grant to £5 was a good thing. Certain hon. Members have gone further and wondered whether we would not have been wiser to discontinue the grant. Previous experience when that grant was discontinued showed a substantial going-out of cultivation. At one stage about 1 million acres had fallen away. Technical advice and experience indicate that a measure of ploughing grant is advantageous. Under these new Schemes it will be related to alternative forms of assistance and it is the considered view that the ploughing grant at the present level is still justified.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis) and the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond) were concerned with the relationship between these new schemes and M.A.P. There will be, of course, a variation. Certain farms under these new arrangements will be better off than they were under the M.A.P. arrangements. Some will not be so favourably placed. I do not want to give the impression in anything we say about the inter-relationship between the grants that one will break even. It is a changed situation which we think overall will be beneficial, and the money going into the hill areas will be slightly more than it was before. These assumptions are hound to be somewhat tentative at this stage.
Here I pick up a point raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) who asked about the total sums involved, as did the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East. We think on present estimates that the livestock rearing farms get just over £500,000 from the ploughing grant and about £700,000 from M.A.P. Under the new Schemes they will get the major share of £1–3 million for winter keep and a big share of £60,000 for renovation. By and large, the effect will be that the hill areas will get, in total, slightly more money under these Schemes than they did under previous ones, and we think—and the N.F.U. agrees—that the distribution of the money under these Schemes will he more beneficial to agriculture in general.
§ Mr. Willis
I understand that the drop of something like 50 per cent. in the amount of the ploughing grants is likely to take place in the more prosperous lowland areas?
§ Mr. Brooman-White
Not necessarily. I think that the balance of advantage will be in the upland areas, particularly those in Scotland, which would qualify for the highest rates of the winter keep scheme. The balance of choice will more clearly lie in the direction of taking up the winter keep grants.
My hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, East (Mr. Wolrige Gordon) asked about payments over a period of two successive years in respect of hay or silage. I think that is clear in the Scheme. It will certainly be made clear in the explanatory leaflets that one can qualify in successive years in respect of any of the eligible crops laid down in the schedule.
§ Mr. Willis
I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Gentleman, but I am very interested in this redistribution of money. As I understand the matter, in the light of what the hon. Gentleman has just said, his argument appears to indicate that the drop from £7 to £5 in respect of Part I ploughing grants will discourage prosperous farmers in the lowland areas, such as the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), from ploughing up in order to claim the grant.
§ Mr. Brooman-White
What I said—I will put it the other way round, without wishing to argue the toss with the hon. Gentleman—is that in the more difficult farms of the hill areas, the balance of advantage will almost certainly lie in taking the winter keep grant.
I should like to reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West and the hon. Member for Kilmarnock, who asked me about the word predominantly". This also reflects on the point of who will or will not be eligible for these grants and the relationship with M.A.P. This was dealt with on the Report stage of the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture. My right hon. Friend the Member for Thirsk and Mahon (Mr. Turton), who 596 was a member of the Standing Committee, was concerned about this point and wanted us to look into the question of having a different definition of "eligible land". I think the House as a whole accepted that the description by my right hon. Friend of the general methods to be used in the administration of the Scheme was satisfactory and that it would not exclude people who sold a few churns of milk.
To quote my right hon. Friend:Normally, we should approve any case in which the return from milk, fat stock and crops was not more than, say, 40 per cent. of the total. In certain circumstances, we might find that, on a particular farm, an even higher proportion was justified, but it must be principally a hill farm within the context we all know"—[OFFICIAL REPORT. 19th February, 1963 Vol. 671, c. 271–2.]I think the House accepted that reassurance, and I am glad to be able to repeat it this evening.
Another important question was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West with regard to eligibility and the relationship between the various levels of grant to be available in Scotland. He asked previously whether there would be some form of appeal or arrangements to assist in sorting out disputes, and we said that we should consider that. It is of particular interest in Scotland, of course, because of our division into three categories. Since our debates on the Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, we have discussed the matter with the chairmen of the agricultural executive committees, with the National Farmers' Union and with the Scottish Landowners' Federation.
We have decided to set up a national body drawn, in the main, from the membership of the A.E.C.s, probably with three members from each area. They will he appointed by the Secretary of State. This body will be given full information on the definitions and the criteria to be used by the Department in classifying farms, and it will be able to advise on general issues and individual cases. Where necessary, it will be able to help by forming inspecting panels from its membership to visit farms. We envisage such panels having, say, three members, one a local expert and the other two from different areas. 597 We hope thereby to meet the two necessary considerations which my hon. Friend mentioned in Committee, that these panels should both help to impose a general standard and also, through the local expert, advise on the particular circumstances of individual farms.
The role will be advisory. The final responsibility will rest with my right hon. Friend. It is hoped to appoint this body and make a fuller announcement in the near future. We believe that it will make a substantial contribution in dealing with questions of doubt in establishing these different categories of farms.
As my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture said in opening the debate, these Schemes have met with the general approval of the farming community and the Farmers' Union. I hope that they will be accepted by the House.
§ Question put and agreed to,
That the Ploughing Grants Scheme 1963, a draft of which was laid before this House on 15th May, be approved.
§ Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Brooman-White.]
§ Grassland Renovation (England and Wales and Northern Ireland Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]
§ Grassland Renovation (Scotland) Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Brooman-White
§ Winter Keep (England and Wales and Northern Ireland) Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]
§ Winter Keep (Scotland) Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Brooman-White.]
§ Fertilisers (United Kingdom) Scheme 1963 [draft laid before the House 15th May], approved.—[Mr. Scott-Hopkins.]