§ 2.43 p.m.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will undertake to review Government financial assistance to farmers in respect of buildings used for silage, owing to the need not only to give further encouragement to the conservation of fodder to replace imported feeding-stuffs, but also to recognise the existing anomaly that buildings for silage, unlike other farm buildings, do not qualify for assistance under the Farm Improvement Scheme, except in certain very limited specified circumstances.]
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (LORD CHAMPION)
My Lords, financial assistance to farmers to encourage the making of silage is obtainable under the Silo Subsidies Scheme which is due to finish at the end of July this year. As this subsidy is included within the Annual Review which the Government are now conducting with the Farmers' Unions, I am sure the noble Lord will understand that it would 818 be inappropriate for me to say more at this moment about its future.
I agree about the importance of this method of fodder conservation and it is for this reason that a separate scheme is in operation, and it may be helpful if I explain the relation between this scheme and the Farm Improvement Scheme. The Silo Subsidies Scheme provides assistance towards the cost of erecting a silo, and if the silo is to be covered by its own roof it provides assistance towards the cost of that as well. The Farm Improvement Scheme, on the other hand, seeks to assist long-term improvements of many kinds for the benefit of agricultural land. If a composite building is to be erected and the proposal can be fully justified in relation to the general needs of the holding, then farm improvement grant may be paid on the whole building even if a part of it covers an unroofed silo. We do not pay farm improvement grant on the silo works themselves because, as the noble Lord will appreciate, it is important from the point of view of public accounting to avoid the possibility of paying grant on the same item twice from two separate sources.
§ LORD FORBES
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his very comprehensive reply. May I ask him whether he really appreciates that farmers and the agricultural industry in general are very concerned over this anomaly?
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes, my Lords, the Government are seized of this, and I rather think this will be one of the considerations which will be borne in mind during the negotiations which are now going on in the Annual Review.
§ LORD BALERNO
My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord whether he is aware that the construction of silos for silage is of a more sophisticated nature than it used to be in the days when they were merely pits dug out by pick and shovel, and that the modern type silo construction may well be considered as a long-term improvement of the farm?
§ LORD CHAMPION
Yes, my Lords, I am sure my right honourable friend will bear this in mind, and I am sure the noble Lord's question comes at an appropriate time.