HC Deb 14 June 1979 vol 968 cc602-3
8. Mr. Knox

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has any plans to expand food production from marginal land.

Mr. Wiggin

My right hon. Friend is studying the cost and feasibility of further help for the marginal land farmer.

Mr. Knox

Is my hon. Friend aware that there are no specific aids for the 1½ million acres of marginal land in England and Wales? Does he think that the European less-favoured areas directive should apply to that land?

Mr. Wiggin

That is what the question is all about. My predecessor started a study within the Department to see whether it would be possible to give assistance, either under the directive or in any other way. That is progressing and will continue and I hope to have the result of it shortly.

Mr. Geraint Howells

Does the Minister agree that we could increase production from Britain's marginal land by 100 per cent. over the next few years if we provided the right incentives? Does he also agree that it would be in the nation's interests for the Government to invest more capital in those areas instead of wasting it on the intervention system operating in Europe?

Mr. Wiggin

I must repeat that that is what the study is about. I understand the hon. Gentleman's point, but one can extend the aids further and further from the hills where the majority of the money is spent—and we have no intention of altering that.