HC Deb 23 March 1971 vol 814 c225
2. Mr. David James

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will give additional financial encouragement to those farmers who conform to agreed standards of nature conservation and preservation of the countryside.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Prior)

This is a matter which I believe must be left to the good sense of landowners and farmers because of the obvious practical difficulty of defining any basis upon which such encouragement might be given.

Mr. James

Does my right hon. Friend recognise that the conservationist lobby, in the broadest sense of the term, is breathing ever more heavily down farmers' necks, for good reason, though farmers feel that they should not be left to bear the entire cost of preserving the countryside for the nation? Will he consider approaching the Chancellor of the Exchequer to see whether, for example, farmers could be given a tax incentive from earned income to enable them to co-operate in nature conservation?

Mr. Prior

I recognise the point of my hon. Friend's suggestion, but it would be very hard indeed to put it into practice. Farmers are being asked nowadays to undertake, on behalf of the community, a large conservation job, but it is a task which I think they prefer to work out in their own way.

Mr. Mackie

As the right hon. Gentleman must appreciate that a definite cost is involved, does he agree that the agricultural community should not be expected to meet all these costs, some of which are becoming extremely heavy?

Mr. Prior

This is a factor which I believe should be taken into account each year in assessing farmers' prices because this is something which the farming community as a whole has to bear on behalf of the nation.