HC Deb 04 December 1958 vol 596 cc1334-5
2. Mr. J. E. B. Hill

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what were his reasons for not approving Norfolk reed thatch as a suitable roof covering eligible for grant aid in farm improvement schemes; and whether he will reconsider his decision.

Mr. Godber

The high cost of this and other forms of thatching compared with alternative roofing materials in common use has not seemed to my right hon. Friend to justify its acceptance for grant under the terms of section 12 (3) of the Agriculture Act, 1957, except in areas where its use is required on amenity grounds by a local authority or a national park authority.

Mr. Hill

While I do not necessarily accept my hon. Friend's estimate that the costs are unreasonably high, will he nevertheless allow a grant based on the cost of covering with a less expensive material or based on the standard unit cost as laid down by his Department?

Mr. Godber

I have a good deal of sympathy in this matter, but I am advised that it would be ultra vires in relation to the section which I have mentioned if we sought to do it on a hypothetical basis. If my hon. Friend can give me information which would lead me to believe that the costs were not so much higher, we would naturally wish to look at the matter again.

12. Mr. Dye

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many applications under the Farm Improvement Scheme have been received which involved the use of reed for thatched roofs; how many have been approved for grant; and how many have been rejected.

Mr. Godber

The statistics do not give this information, but so far as I can ascertain there have been three applications, of which two have been rejected and one withdrawn.

Mr. Dye

Does not the hon. Gentleman realise that if most of these farm improvement schemes mean using asbestos roofing and reed thatching is rejected, we shall lose one of those amenities of the countryside which we are trying to preserve?

Mr. Godber

I sympathise with that, but as I indicated earlier in reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill), where there are special amenity considerations there is power to make a grant.

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