HL Deb 27 April 1961 vol 230 cc965-6

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the second Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will state what sum has so far been used of the £100 million grant set aside under the Farm Improvement Scheme; and whether they will also forecast how long this grant will be available and whether they will be renewing it when it is exhausted.]


My Lords, Part II of the Agriculture Act, 1957, makes provision for £50 million—not £100 million—to be paid in grants under the Farm Improvement Scheme. The Act also provides for a further £5 million to be made available by Order. Since September, 1957, approval has been given to proposals covering improve- ments estimated to cost in total some £90 million, representing £30 million in terms of grant. Down to March 31, 1961, about £18 million had actually been paid out. These are all United Kingdom figures. At the Second Reading of the Act in another place, my noble friend Lord Amory (as he is now) said that if expenditure seemed likely to exceed the figures which had been written into the Act, Her Majesty's Government would have to look at the question afresh when the time came. If applications continue to be approved at the same rate as hitherto, this situation will arise before the end of the ten years to which the Act relates. Her Majesty's Government have this matter well in mind and will make an announcement about their further intentions rather nearer the time.


My Lords, if the present trend of forcing down prices of arable products—agricultural grain and the like—goes on, and the smaller farmer engaged in arable agriculture cannot continue to live on it, as happens very often in Essex and Norfolk, will they have a chance of getting farm improvement grants to go into the milk industry, to try to offset the losses being pressed upon them through lower prices for grain and, at the same time, gradually increased costs to them, year by year?


My Lords, perhaps that point arises more out of the first Question which my noble friend asked: The present Question asked what has been paid out under the scheme. But to answer the noble Viscount's question, proposals will continue to come forward and be judged on their merits, as I said previously.