HC Deb 15 July 1997 vol 298 c186
7. Mr. David Stewart

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what plans he has to review his Department's policy on environmentally sensitive areas. [6696]

Mr. Chisholm

Policy reviews for the Breadalbane and Loch Lomond environmentally sensitive areas are due to be undertaken later this year. Reviews of the remaining eight areas are scheduled for 1998.

Mr. Stewart

I thank the Minister for his reply. As he must be aware, environmentally sensitive areas are designed to help farmers and crofters adopt more environmentally friendly farming practices. In his review, will the Minister examine the ceilings for payments, which do not exist in England, with a view to increasing uptake of the scheme and ensuring that farmers and crofters are much more involved in ESAs?

Mr. Chisholm

The ceilings exist to prevent a disproportionate share of resources being swallowed up by a few very large farms or estates. My hon. Friend refers to England, where there is a different farm structure, without the large hill farms that we have in Scotland. The principle of ceilings is supported by the Scottish Crofters Union and was endorsed by the Scottish Affairs Committee in a recent report.