HC Deb 12 May 1969 vol 783 cc1163-78

12.57 a.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)

I beg to move, That the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th April, be approved.

Mr. Speaker

I suggest that it would be convenient for the House to discuss with this Motion the following one: That the Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th April, be approved.

Mr. Mackie

That is convenient, Mr. Speaker, since the second proposal is the corresponding Scottish Scheme.

I imagine that hon. Members are by now familiar with the main features of these Schemes, which provide grant for ploughing grassland 12 years old or more and where the cost of operations is substantially greater than normal.

The purpose of the Scheme is to help farmers to bring into cultivation land which might otherwise remain unproductive. Hon. Members will agree that this grant provides worth-while encouragement to the effective use of agricultural resources at a time when we are seeking to improve productivity, besides helping to counterbalance the acreage lost yearly to non-agricultural development.

The provisions of the Scheme are, in the main, as for previous years. There is only one change to which I need draw the attention of the House, and this follows the Transfer of Functions (Wales) Order, 1969, which included the Agriculture (Ploughing Grants) Act, 1952, among those Acts whose administration the Secretary of State would in future share with the Minister. Thus, in the 1969 Order—but not, of course, in the Scottish Scheme—the administration of the Scheme is in the hands of "the appropriate Minister" who, in paragraph (2), is defined as … the Minister in relation to land in England or Northern Ireland and the Minister and the Secretary of State acting jointly in relation to land in Wales. The two Schemes which we are discussing will cover about 45,000 acres which are expected to be ploughed during the 1969–70 financial year, giving rise to expenditure estimated at £542,000, of which £450,000 is for England and Wales, £20,000 for Northern Ireland and £72,000 for Scotland.

12.59 a.m.

Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)

When moving the approval of a similar Instrument about two years ago the hon. Gentleman said that some 600,000 acres had been grant-aided since 1952, of which about 108,000 had been in Scotland, or about 18 per cent. of the total, giving an average of about 40,000 acres a year.

It seems extraordinary that, whereas Scotland got 23 per cent. of what used to be called the Part I ploughing subsidy, it now receives only 18 per cent., despite the difficult nature of the contour of the ground up there which merits this grant. It seems anomalous that this grant should apparently be of smaller benefit in that area than was the previous one.

There seems to be considerable fluctuation each year in the acreage ploughed under the Scheme. For instance, in 1959–60 the figure was 72,000 acres; in 1963–64 it dropped to 42,000 acres; in 1965–66 it rose to 54,000 acres; and we are told that this year it is back to 45,000 acres.

The Under-Secretary, who I presume is to reply, last year said that he thought that fluctuation was inevitable. I wonder whether he is right in saying that. With 50,000 acres in the United Kingdom going out of cultivation and production each year for urban development, I should think that it is desirable that reclamation or the ploughing of difficult land and bringing it into cultivation ought to rise with reasonable consistency, if possible. I do not suggest on the level of the extravagant claims that might be made for bringing land into production in Scotland by, let us say, the Scottish Nationalist Party; but I feel that we should be getting a reasonably consistent rise all the time, provided the Scheme is known well enough to the farming community. Of this I am by no means convinced. I believe that a lot of farmers are under the impression that there is no ploughing grant available at all.

If the Scheme is well known, I find it a little puzzling that more advantage is not taken of it. I have my suspicions why advantage is not being taken of it. Last year the Minister said that he had found that in 1968 the cost to a farmer, after offsetting the grant, was £8 an acre. This must mean that he makes the total cost of ploughing to be £20 an acre, because the subsidy is £12. The Minister made it clear that he was using an average figure, but I am not sure that an average figure is meaningful in any degree when we are dealing with such an enormous variety of circumstances.

The Minister gave us an interesting breakdown. He said that 32 per cent. of the grant was used on hill land, 8 per cent. on what he described as land bordering the hill, and 60 per cent. on other land. I found that an extremely interesting breakdown, but obviously the 60 per cent. on other land dominates the average figure of £20 an acre. It must be very much higher in the hills and the uplands, because of higher transport costs in getting the tackle to and from such areas and because of the steepness of the ground. I still doubt whether £12 an acre is an adequate grant for breaking this ground if the Government are anxious to have it broken up and reclaimed.

I do not want to go over it again, but we discussed whether, if £10 was necessary in 1952, £12 was adequate today, and it was at that point that the hon. Gentleman tried to convince us that costs had risen by only 20 per cent. in the last 17 years. I think that in fact the hon. Gentleman used the figure of 24 per cent. last year. I cannot believe that if £12 was considered the right figure 17 years ago £12 is anything like adequate today. If the Government's policy generally is as good as right hon. Gentlemen opposite have been making out, why is it that farmers are not taking advantage of this inducement which, according to the hon. Gentleman's calculation, is equivalent to 60 per cent. of the total cost of the operation? I do not believe that the hon. Gentleman's figure is correct.

Having said that, perhaps I might ask the hon. Gentleman to answer two questions which were not answered in the last two debates. The point made two years ago by my hon. Friend the Member for Dumfries (Mr. Monro) is still valid. Can one get a ploughing grant of £12 an acre after getting a grant for clearing scrub off the ground? I have noted paragraphs 10 and 11 of the Scheme, but neither of those seems to apply to this matter, and I shall be interested to hear the Minister's reply.

The other question was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) in a debate which the Joint Parliamentary Secretary answered in 1966. It takes a long time to get replies to questions. The hon. Gentleman's comment then rather puzzled me, because he said: I know that the whole question of chemical treatment of grassland for reseeding—or, for that matter, cropping—is now on the cards. We have not included it yet, but, naturally, we are looking into every method of reseeding. If we feel that it is necessary … it might come under the grant in due course."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd May, 1966; Vol. 729, c. 176.] I cannot for the life of me see how a grant of reseeding could come under this Scheme if it is merely being done by chemical treatment of grassland. If this is the sort of thing that is possible, then I return to the point that farmers are entirely ignorant of the possibilities here, and I urge the Government to make this grant and subsidy very much better known than they are.

1.9 a.m.

Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)

I feel that this subsidy is encouraging something which, certainly in my district, should be discouraged. We have had a great deal too much ploughing. I am not dealing particularly with what the Minister referred to as land which would be otherwise unproductive. There may be a case for contributing to the cost of bringing scrubland into production.

I am somewhat doubtful about this, because I feel that if we get the price right and use the support by applying it to the price instead of to the process we shall get the right economic result. It is not always good sense to use capital to bring scrubland into production instead of using it to get better production out of the rest of one's land. But so far as this is an encouragement to destroy the old pastures instead of using them properly, I can only say that I think it is complete madness These old pastures which have established themselves, have provided a balanced sward and which, if properly looked after, must be the foundation of our beef herd, have been destroyed to an extraordinary degree. It will be 12 years before we get the kind of pasture which can support the weight of the breeding cattle. At present we are reducing our dairy herd and not only are we reducing the milk, but, by increasing the quality of the herd, we are reducing its numbers and its calves.

Therefore, the beef policy, which it is the Government's intention to encourage, must depend upon a considerable number of cows which are kept to produce calves rather than to produce milk. They must be pastured in considerable measure. If they are pastured on these new leys they will simply destroy them and turn them to muck. At this point we are encouraging the destruction of the old pastures on which we ought to be putting those cattle.

Again we are encouraging a process, which is certainly happening in my district, of buying land at extravagant prices in order to destroy it. It is bought to plough and plough and plough, and to have great doses of artificial manure applied, without looking after the water, the hedges and the drainage. After about seven years that land is destroyed and then it is passed on to somebody else. This is the process to which the Ministry should apply its mind, to see how it can be stopped, instead of providing a subsidy to encourage it.

The time has come to think again about these ploughing subsidies, and put them into reverse. Let the Ministry do something for the old pasture and encourage people to produce the old pasture instead of paying them to destroy it.

1.13 a.m.

Mr. Marcus Kimball (Gainsborough)

When the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) was talking about the old pastures in his part of the world, I hoped that he would go on to say something of the value of many of the weeds in those old pastures. We still do not know what minerals they bring up from the bottom. Nothing is more pathetic than to see a herd of cattle eating the hedges and the roadside verges in order to draw nourishment which is brought up by the weeds in the old pastures and of which they are deprived on many of the new lands.

This practice is utilised now only to the tune of about £500,000 a year. The reason that it is not used more frequently is not that people do not know about it. But it is uneconomic as a whole to plough up many of these areas which the Government are encouraging people to plough up. I should like to know from the Under-Secretary whether he has cleared up the question of the giving of a grant by one Government Department to destroy what another Government Department wants to maintain. Have we settled the question of ploughing up a site of special scientific interest? The Joint Parliamentary Secretary will recall that we had a case near one of his farms in my constituency, where everyone agreed that a particular piece of land should not be ploughed up. It was valuable to the local naturalists, yet the Ministry had no power to refuse to give the grant of £12 an acre to break up what everyone else wanted to keep.

We are very fortunate to have my right hon. Friend the Member for Taunton (Mr. du Cann) with us. I am one of those who are very sorry to see the £12 an acre grant being used to destroy large areas of Exmoor. Ninety-nine per cent. of the people who go there do not want to see enthusiastic but not very good marginal farming. They do not want to see the Lorna Doone country all ploughed up and fenced in with wire fences. They want to see the normal, rounded, heathery skylines of Exmoor. Yet tonight we are voting £12 an acre to farmers to destroy and change the character of land where everyone else wants to go to enjoy the existing amenities.

What is so depressing about the subsidy is that if we accept that it is necessary to have the £12 an acre because it is not really economic to plough the land in the first place, because it is unfertile, bad land, the Scheme is not a comprehensive one. In my hon. Friend's constituency we see that many areas that have been ploughed up, the farmers having drawn £12 an acre from the Government, now grow the best crop of rushes to be found anyhere in the West Country. Nobody has yet thought out the proper way of maintaining areas once they have been brought back into cultivation. The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland is the owner of some of the most fertile looking patches of rushes I have seen anywhere in the United Kingdom. This entirely arises from his Department's rushing in, using the grant and not thinking out how it will maintain the pastures, or even whether it is economic to maintain them once the first flush of the receipt of £12 an acre has gone.

Therefore, I am very reluctant to see us continue with the Scheme. If we are to do so, it should be properly thought out, working over a period of years. The £12 an acre to bust up the land should be linked with a series of subsidies to maintain the land in fertility. It is undesirable that we should destroy land that should be used mainly for amenity and that is uneconomic for farming, and I hope that we shall gradually see the grant phased out.

1.18 a.m.

Mr. Paul Hawkins (Norfolk, South-West)

I join the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) in wondering whether a ploughing up grant of this nature is doing more harm than good. I am convinced from watching cattle feeding that they hang on to many of the older pastures rather than some of the new ones. There is something we do not know about in some of the older pastures.

I am really worried when I drive through the Midlands, through land which used to be the most wonderful fattening pastures, and which I knew well. We used to have many cattle in the eastern area to finish off. Much of that land is now ploughed up to put in inferior crops of potatoes and corn, and I believe that it is not producing the same amount of food as under the old pastures. Some of this strongish land in the Midlands is not properly drained and finished off, and it is growing inferior crops, particularly this year.

When one goes through there one has the horrifying sight of many acres of potatoes left in the ground because land unsuitable for the production of arable crops was ploughed up, probably using the subsidy in many cases. Very old grasslands were ploughed up, and they are growing crops that are not so much use as producing good fat cattle off the old pastures.

1.20 a.m.

Mr. Peter Mills (Torrington)

I disagree with a lot of what has been said tonight. I welcome this Scheme, and I believe the time will come when we need to plough every single acre of our land to help feed our nation and to carry out the import substitution programme which we hope will be under way.

I welcome the Scheme, and I can state from practical experience that a lot of what has been said by some of my hon. Friends, and by the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), is simply not true. On my own farm I brought into cultivation with the help of this grant—and I could not have done it otherwise—land which had been unsuitable and very difficult to work. It is now fully restored and is producing a large amount of milk. Certainly if one is a good farmer there is no question of the land going back once, with the help of this grant, one has ploughed up the ground, sowing grass seed, and has maintained it as one should do.

I was always taught that if one put one's penny into the chocolate machine one got one's chocolate out, and only if one continues to put a penny in will one get results. If some of my hon. Friends get the grant and do not continue the good work, they only get what they deserve. I think this is a wrong attitude. The time will come when every acre will need to be ploughed for the greater production required. Waste ground, old orchards and old fields—all these can be ploughed up with this grant and, sown with a grass crop, can produce the acres of grazing we need. When the hon and learned Member for Northampton talks of old pastures only producing milk, that is just not true. This is true with fattening cattle as well.

Mr. Paget

I did not say one did not produce milk. What I said was that when one is producing beef cattle one has to have them out more, and unless one has a solid sward, which takes a considerable number of years, they will destroy them.

Mr. Mills

This may be true of certain fields, but generally speaking one can produce leys to fatten cattle just as well as it can be done with permanent pasture.

The expenditure required to do the job is ever-increasing these days, with the high cost of tractors and so on, and the £12 an acre does not go very far to bring this land into production. I am very glad that this Scheme once again says that For the purpose of this scheme grass shall be regarded as a crop. It is only as we start to plough back, sow the proper seed and treat grass as a real crop, that we shall get the production which the country needs.

I trust that rotavating will continue to be covered by the subsidy. As the costs of ploughing and working down rise, with rotavating one can do this a little more cheaply and quickly and produce just as good a job.

Lastly, I notice that before one can get this £12 an acre subsidy the land ploughed up must be not less than one acre. Could the Minister tell me whether a multiple of lots of small patches can make up the full acre which then qualifies for grant? This is important, because on a farm there may be perhaps four quarter acres of small rough patches which need to be brought into cultivation to make the field complete and to do away with weeds or anything not in keeping with the rest of the field. Can they be added up so that one may get the full grant for a complete acre? Since we are pressing for every acre to be fully used, this may be of help.

I welcome the Scheme. What some of my hon. Friends have said is wrong when we consider what we are trying to do, namely, to produce more food.

1.25 a.m.

Mr. Michael Jopling (Westmorland)

I am delighted to support what my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) has said. With his immense experience of agriculture, he has very effectively put to flight the extraordinary arguments advanced by certain hon. Members—some, I regret to say, on this side of the House. The hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) spoke of the advantages of old pastures and his desire to perpetuate fox-holing tussock pastures. He would not have passed an examination in grassland management at any reputable institute of agricultural education if he had tried to give to his examiners the sort of stuff which he gave just now. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) said much the same thing. I can only repeat what my hon. Friend the Member for Torrington said, that the overwhelming evidence of agricultural research shows that, in the main, a well seeded new pasture, a new ley, is superior in production than most of the old pastures. I hope that the Minister will underline what I have said. I am sure that this is the advice he is given by his advisory officers. No doubt the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie), who has immense experience in agriculture, will agree.

Last year, the Under-Secretary of State said that the estimates for 1968–69 for this subsidy were £696,000. In this year's White Paper, the estimate for last year's expenditure is £1.2 million. This is a discrepancy of over £500,000—about 40 per cent. The hon. Gentleman's estimates are nearly as far out of true as the Chancellor of the Exechequer's. I hope that we shall be given the reason for such a wide discrepancy. The White Paper says, and we have been told tonight, that the ploughing grant will cost about £500,000. Why has there been such a drop? It may be partly due to the £150,000 estimated for use as added incentives for the foot-and-mouth outbreak.

I repeat what has been said about areas of less than one acre. The M6 is being constructed from the north to the south of Westmorland. Many fields will be cut in half by the motorway. Small patches will be left, many of which will have been badly poached and cut up. They will be less than one acre. In many instances, large stones will have spilled over from the motorway. I should have thought that farmers so affected would qualify for the grant. It would be a pity if they could not get it because there was less than an acre of a field left after the motorway had gone through.

My hon. Friend mentioned rotavators. There is a new technique for grassland reseeding which involves spraying with chemicals which kill off all the herbage—I shall not advertise it by mentioning it—to reseed the sward by rotavating which gives a fine tilth in rows and drops the grass seed in. I have myself successfully used this technique and it would be helpful if it could be assisted by the subsidy.

I have asked a number of questions which I believe to be important and I hope that the Under-Secretary will attempt to answer them.

1.30 a.m.

Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie (Ross and Cromarty)

This is a grant which has enormously increased production in many parts of the country. There is no longer such a large amount of land to be reclaimed and, happily, there has not been the same demand for the grant over the past few years. I agree with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) that if £10 were sufficient for the grant in 1952, £12 in 1969 must be very inadequate and there is a strong case for increasing it.

However, I also agree with what the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) and the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said about the lack of proper husbandry after land has been ploughed. Such a lack gives a bad impression to the man who motors through the country and sees fields full of rushes. There should be some way of dealing with those who are negligent and who do not farm their land properly after it has been reclaimed. The land should be treated from year to year and slag is particularly useful to establish grass.

Dropping the grant entirely would be a big mistake and I hope that the Ministry will consider increasing the amount per acre, because there is still land to be reclaimed.

It is important to have some old grass for stock. When stock is put on to new grass, after a few days it will be found to be pushing through wire fences to get at older grass. But if the land is ploughed and farmed properly, within a few years good older grass will be available for the stock.

I support these proposals and I hope that the Minister will seriously consider increasing the amount per acre.

1.39 a.m.

Mr. Edward du Cann (Taunton)

As my hon. Friends who are now pulling my leg well know, I had not intended to intervene in this debate. I was waiting for something else, one might almost say 'Waiting for Godot". I hope that "Godot" may shortly arrive.

I was provoked into speaking by the splendid contribution of my hon. Friend and contemporary the Member for Gainsborough (Mr. Kimball) who was good enough to refer to my constituency and particularly to Exmoor. Furthermore, it bitterly distresses me to find my hon. Friend from the West Country, the Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills), and my hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) apparently on one side of the fence and my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough and my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk South-West (Mr. Hawkins) apparently on the other side, the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) somewhere in the middle and the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget), as usual, taking a clear, interesting and distinctive line of his own. That should be resolved.

To go back to what my hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough said about Exmoor, he was, in his way, absolutely right. I hope he will do me the automatic courtesy of conceding that I, too, know that part of the world, for three-quarters of Exmoor is in my constituency. I have watched the ploughing up of parts of Exmoor over the years and I know the controversy which now surrounds the potential ploughing up of other parts of Exmoor.

There can be no question but that the system of ploughing grants has immensely benefited many conscientious farmers. They have brought land into cultivation which has meant much to them individually. It was the only way they knew to expand. They brought benefits to themselves, to their neighbourhood, and not least to the whole national economy, by accepting these grants and bringing additional land into cultivation. One only has to visit the Ministry's own experimental farm at Tarr Steps to see what is possible, what has been done, and well done. Whether one is talking of places further west, or in the north, or in parts of Norfolk or Scotland, or any other part of the country, there is no doubt that these grants have been useful and beneficial, individually and collectively.

So far, so good. What about the future? We have heard during this debate that only a small amount of money is expected to be used for these grants in future and I suppose they will eventually go altogether. Is that right? As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh West (Mr. Stodart) pointed out, one wonders whether sufficient farmers know their rights. We have also heard that it is possible to contemplate bringing very small amounts of land into cultivation.

The truth lies half way between the two extreme views put to the House. These grants have in the past been beneficial and good, but there must be a question mark about them in the future. The Ministry, instead of granting them as of right on demand, should in future be more selective. My hon. Friend the Member for Gainsborough has whispered to me and would agree at once if I said we do not want to plough up Dunkery Beacon in future. Such a system would be absurd. The point is not automatically to continue this system next year, nor automatically to bring it to a stop, but rather that there should be more selection. Let it be hoped, as the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty suggested, that there is no real division about this. The whole method of grant should be reviewed, and I hope that with that the Under-Secretary will agree.

1.39 a.m.

The Under-Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. Norman Buchan)

One usually points out in winding up debates such as this that one is happy that all hon. Members agree. I was not even applauded for my brevity in my previous speech and there has been a good deal of challenge on this one. I am surprised at some of the points raised. One argument was simply a request for good husbandry, that one should not have bad husbandry and should not plough where one should not plough. I would agree with that.

I was rather surprised when some hon. Members said that we should be more selective in applying grants when other hon. Members have said that we should not be as selective. The arguments do not "gel". There are certain situations when it would be wrong to use the grants, such as ploughing up of pasture, and they are not given then.

I was accused of being a landlord and of allowing rushes to develop, and the hon. Member for Ross and Cromarty (Mr. Alasdair Mackenzie) asked me to what extent land which had received grants subsequently deteriorated. There has been very little of this. Most of the land which has received the grant is now in good health. There were some historic reasons for the rush-covered areas in the Highlands and elsewhere in Scotland.

I can confirm that the cost of rotavating will be allowed. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) asked whether a number of small pieces of land, such as areas split by road development, could be added together to produce an eligible acreage. The answer is that this can be done. It is not necessarily clear from the Scheme, but my advice is that it can be done, and there is good reason why it should be allowed. I was glad to hear the question of amenity raised. With a grant such as this, I do not think that we are envisaging tractors racing at top speed around potential beauty spots in Lorna Doone country or anywhere else. We have means of dealing with this under the Countryside Act. The purpose of the Scheme is to improve the productivity of the land, and the amenity considerations are covered by specialist legislation within the Countryside Act, particularly the protection of areas of special scenic and scientific interest.

I was also asked about the difference between the £1.2 million and £600,000. The inclusion of £650,000 for the £10 emergency payment scheme for England and Wales is within the figure of £1.2 million. The grant under this Scheme was not a relevant grant for Annual Review purposes and strictly speaking should have appeared as a separate entry.

Some hon. Members asked whether a farmer could get the grant after scrub clearance. As long as the cost of operations after that process remains high enough to qualify, it will be eligible for the grant. I am not sure whether we have reached the real reasons for the variation in acreage from year to year. There are several reasons. There has been a proposal, not serious I think, by another political party, to bring millions of acres of bogland into increased cultivation at no increased cost. Quite apart from that, there has obviously been a decreasing amount of potentially arable land all the time. The pressures, therefore, work both ways. Development pressures in an area can create fluctuations because of this.

A second factor, quite simply, is the weather. A person who desires to take time off to do this kind of fresh work because of a hold-up on other work may not get round to doing it because of the weather. This may not be seen in obvious ways, but it can happen that from year to year there is a greater expectation and application and it may continue to the following year because weather has prevented the work being carried out in the first year—in other words, people doing their basic job instead of future development.

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) asked why Scotland was receiving less proportionately of the grant. There is probably no one simple answer, but one answer would, presumably, be the Hill Land Improvement Scheme, which could be more attractive to a number of farmers in the more difficult areas in Scotland.

A general point was raised about the rate of grant and whether, after the passage of time, £12 is sufficient. There have been a lot of improvements in efficiency and in cost, and costs are based on contractors' charges. Although in recent years the cost has, perhaps, risen more than one might have hoped, because of increased efficiency the cost has not risen as much as one might have expected.

More important is that during the 1967 Scheme, the latest for which I have full figures, 76 per cent. of the approved acreage in the United Kingdom attracted grant in excess of half of the cost. In other words, three-quarters received half or more of the cost of operation. This is well above the rate for most other agricultural improvement schemes. Therefore, it works both ways. If three-quarters received over half, the costs cannot have risen so abnormally as to make the £12 grant a disincentive in that way.

It also raises another problem. If one were to take account of the increased costs and raise the £12 to meet them, one would find that the lower level were being excluded. A necessary corollary would be the raising of the level of expenditure which would be necessary to qualify for the abnormal expenditure aspect, and I do not think we would want to encourage this.

I have covered most of the specific points. Despite the theoretical arguments against the Scheme—I do not say that in pejorative terms, because one thing which has pleased me in both debates is that theoretical propositions have been raised—it is performing a very useful function both in Scotland and indeed in the United Kingdom as a whole, and I think that most hon. Members would like to see the grants continued again this year.

Question put and agreed to.

Resolved, That the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1969, a draft of which was laid before this House on 29th April, be approved.

Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme, 1969 [draft laid before the House 29th April), approved.—[Mr. Buchan.]