§ Mr. Harry Greenway
To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what progress has been made in implementing the challenge for agriculture programme in English objective 5b areas. 
§ Mr. Douglas Hogg
Six areas in England are designated for support under objective 5b of the EC structural funds. They areThe South West—Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and parts of Devon and Somerset;The Marches—most of Shropshire and parts of Hereford and Worcester;The Northern uplands—parts of Lancashire, parts of north and east Yorkshire, Durham, Cumbria and Northumberland;Lincolnshire—Most of northern and eastern Lincolnshire, excluding the city of Lincoln and other mainly urban areas;661WEast Anglia—the Fens, rural Norfolk, Lowestoft and rural east Suffolk; andMidland uplands—Peak district of Staffordshire and Derbyshire.
The challenge for agriculture programme is formed of those elements of the objective 5b programmes which are part-financed by the guidance section of the European agriculture guidance and guarantee fund—EAGGF. The programme also attracts national public funding, mainly from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and levers in substantial amounts of private sector funding to support the investments that it encourages.
Assistance is available for a wide range of farm-related activities that will promote economic development in the objective 5b areas, in particular, farm tourism, agricultural and horticultural development and diversification, protection and enhancement of the environment, generation of energy from alternative sources by the agricultural industry and the promotion and marketing of local and regional products.
The first EAGGF projects under the challenge for agriculture programme in England were approved in March 1995. In the two years since then, a total of 144 projects have already been approved across the six designated areas with EAGGF grant of £13 million and MAFF grant of £10 million committed to them. As these projects are implemented, they will lead to the eventual total investment of almost £50 million in the objective 5b areas concerned. Projects supported to date vary from small schemes to develop and promote local meat production to multi-million pound projects promoting farm tourism, offering business support to farmers and protecting the environment.
I am particularly pleased with the interest shown to date in the challenge for agriculture programme across the agricultural sector and expect that many more worthwhile projects will come forward for funding before the end of this programme in 1999. It demonstrates MAFF's commitment to the rural economy, with sound and sustainable economic benefit in the objective 5b areas concerned.
My ministerial colleagues and I maintain a close interest in the development of objective 5b and the challenge for agriculture programme and have previously visited a number of projects which have been approved and are in receipt of funding. Further such visits are planned for 21 February to projects in the northern uplands, the south-west, the Marches and Lincolnshire objective 5b areas.
A list of the challenge for agriculture projects approved to date in each of the six English objective 5b areas has been placed in the Library of the House.