HC Deb 11 February 1987 vol 110 cc306-7
9. Mr. Fairbairn

asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to sustain the rural economy in the light of policies aimed at reducing agricultural production.

Mr. Rifkind

The Government are committed to maintaining a healthy rural economy in Scotland and my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food announced a number of measures to the House on Monday 9 February.

Mr. Fairbairn

Will my right hon. and learned Friend, in acknowledging the welcome given by the Scottish National Farmers Union to the proposals announced this week, also take time to read my article in the Glasgow Herald, if he can find it in the Library, from which place somebody seems to have nicked it? That article proposes that we should be given special grants in Scotland to save the steadlings and farm buildings and set up a rural population to sustain a rural economy.

Mr. Rifkind

My hon. and learned Friend is a source of many new ideas that could be of value in dealing with the problem. We are prepared to consider constructively any proposals for the diversification of the rural economy in order to ensure that the income base for the farming community and for the rural community is as broad as possible.

Mr. Maclennan

Is it not the case that in Scotland, as in England, no additional expenditure is to be incurred on these rural initiatives?

Mr. Rifkind

As the hon. Gentleman is well aware, one of the Government's objectives is to reduce the structural surpluses in the European Community. That itself would lead to savings on current expenditure. The proposal announced by my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture would indeed involve substantial expenditure of a kind that he himself described to the House.