HC Deb 01 March 1984 vol 55 cc385-6
19. Mr. Maclennan

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied with the current draft of the proposed new European Economic Community regulation on agricultual structures; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Jopling

I am concerned about the high cost of the proposals and one of my objectives in the current negotiations is to reduce it.

Mr. Maclennan

Is the Minister aware that that reply will be most disappointing to the agriculture industry and to those concerned about the future of the rural environment? Does he accept that out of the present £4 billion total community funding for agriculture it would be reasonable to make some resources available under the directive to improve and preserve the countryside and thus provide work for local people, who are not the best employed in increasing surpluses?

Mr. Jopling

I wish that the hon. Gentleman would give a little more attention and credit to the changes in capital grant structure that we announced last year, whereby we stopped grants for the grubbing-up of hedges in lowland areas, introduced new grants for hedge and wall construction in upland areas and stopped grants for the improvement of grassland in lowland areas. That is a major step forward and has rightly been welcomed by environmentalists.