HC Deb 26 March 1979 vol 965 cc6-7
5. Mr. Gwynfor Evans

asked the Secretary of State for Wales if he will give his assessment of the acreage of marginal land in Wales.

Mr. Alec Jones

It is not possible at present to make a meaningful assessment of the area of marginal land in Wales. With this in mind my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary of State and his agriculture colleagues have agreed to carry out the survey announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 14 March.

Mr. Evans

Is the Minister aware that for years the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been making promises about marginal land in Wales? Does he agree that it is a deflating anticlimax to find that the Government have not taken the preliminary step of surveying the land involved—land which would produce much for a small investment of Government money?

Mr. Alec Jones

In discussions that I had with farmers' organisations in Wales I found that they did not feel that our steps were an anti-climax. There is at present no firm acceptable definition of marginal land.

Mr. Nicholas Edwards

Is the Minister aware that the farmers' unions have expressed disappointment at the Government's latest announcement? Why on earth was the inquiry not launched earlier?

Mr. Alec Jones

The hon. Member's information is not in accordance with the advice that I have been given. The farmers' unions would have liked an immediate cash payment, but before contemplating that one must have some idea of the extent of the marginal land and the exact problems faced by the farmers.