HC Deb 23 January 1958 vol 580 cc1230-2
9. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food how many grants have been approved in respect of improvements under the Agriculture Act, 1957, and at what estimated cost; and how many applications have been received.

12. Mr. Donnelly

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the number of applications he has received for improvement grants under the Agriculture Act, 1957; the number his Department has inspected; and the number he has approved.

13. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will state the number and value of the applications received and approved for farm improvement grants.

16. Sir A. V. Harvey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what total sum has been approved in the form of capital grants to farmers at the latest convenient date.

20. Mr. de Freitas

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what proportion of the applications for agricultural improvement grants has been approved.

Mr. John Hare

Up to the end of December, 19,302 applications had been received in England and Wales in respect of improvements estimated to cost about £12½ million. Formal approval had been given to 3,841 applications, about 20 per cent. of the total, at an estimated cost of about £2,900,000 attracting grants of nearly £1 million. In addition, 4,069 applications, or 21 per cent., were ready for approval, subject to the applicants providing satisfactory plans, specifications or tenders or signing formal documents, and a further 2,957, or 15 per cent., had been inspected, 2,811 had been rejected or withdrawn.

Mr. Willey

The House is very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for the information he has given us. Could he indicate what the effect of the Government's credit policy has been upon these applications? Can he say whether the pattern of applications has been affected and whether any particular category of farmer has been prejudiced?

Mr. Hare

I should like to look at that. As far as I can say, giving a spot answer, there has been no effect on the lines which the hon. Member may have in mind.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Can my right hon. Friend say how much he expects his Department to spend in this direction in the first 12 months? Will he make known to the House at some time, if not today, to what extent the small farmers are participating in the grants?

Mr. Hare

I will certainly bear in mind what my hon. Friend has said. If he cares to put down a Question on the subject, I shall be glad to give him an answer.

Mr. T. Williams

Can the Minister give any idea how many of these schemes have actually been started?

Mr. Hare

I cannot give the right hon. Gentleman an answer to that, but I will find out and let him know all I can.

Mr. Lipton

Is it not a fact that the percentage of rejections is disturbingly high, and will he say whether or not these rejections are, to a disproportionate extent, being made to apply to the small farmer; and will he give an assurance that the scheme is not being used to put the small farmer out of business altogether?

Mr. Hare

I think it is almost ridiculous to ask me to reply to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's supplementary, but, in fairness to him, I think that when he reads my reply he will see that amongst the rejections are a number of people who have withdrawn their applications, and I would like him, if he would, just to digest my reply.

Mr. de Freitas

Does not the general administration of the scheme discriminate, in fact, against the small farmer and result in the larger farmer, who often does not really need them, getting these grants?

Mr. Hare

No, I do not think that it does. I know that the House will agree that this is public money that we are spending, and that we have to act as a prudent landlord in these matters.