HL Deb 25 March 1965 vol 264 cc726-7

3.12 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that the Market Development Scheme (Extension of Period) Order, 1965, be approved. The Market Development Scheme was introduced after the 1962 Annual Review and provides for grants for the promotion of efficient marketing of agricultural and horticultural produce. The arrangement then made was that the grants would, in the first place, be made for an experimental period of three years up to a total of £1½ million. This three-year period expires at the end of this month, and the grants so far approved total less than £700,000. One hundred and sixty projects have been approved covering a fairly wide field of activities, including market research, the promotion of grading, improvement of quality, and the development of efficient marketing, particularly by co-operatives and farmers' groups.

It was agreed with the National Farmers' Unions during the recent Review that, subject to Parliamentary approval, the Scheme should be extended with a view to making use of that part of the £1½ million which has so far not been allocated. The Agriculture (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act, 1963, which provides the power to extend the operation of the Scheme, stipulates that such extensions may not exceed three years at a time. The Order which I am asking your Lordships to approve provides for an extension of the Scheme for a further three years.

Grants under the Scheme vary, at present, from 25 per cent. to 75 per cent. of the cost, depending on the individual circumstances of the projects. The kind of projects put forward inevitably depend on the applicant seeing some potential benefit to himself. It may well be, therefore, that some desirable developments may lack the stimulus provided by the Scheme. It was consequently agreed with the Farmers' Unions that it would be desirable to provide for a higher rate of grant, which will be 90 per cent., towards the cost of research initiated by the Agricultural Market Development Executive Committee, which supervise the operation of the Scheme, under the chairmanship of Sir Richard Nugent. An Order, subject to Negative Resolution, will be laid before the House soon for this purpose. Such grants would enable desirable research to be undertaken in fields which would otherwise be neglected and for which there would be little if any pecuniary benefit to the applicant for grant. However, for the moment, I am asking your Lordships to agree to and approve the extension of the Scheme itself for a further three years.

Moved, That the Market Development Scheme (Extension of Period) Order 1965 be approved.—(Lord Champion.)


My Lords, I am always, individually, happier congratulating the noble Lord than criticising him. It is not his fault that the opportunity for the latter occurs more frequently. I would only point out—I hope that this will not be held to be particularly carping—that the present Government are fond of suggesting that the recent Government were oblivious of the needs of marketing. In fact, the Order which the noble Lord has been putting forward to-day is the result of an idea mooted by my right honourable friend, the then Minister of Agriculture, four years ago, and the scheme was in fact introduced three years ago. My honourable friend Sir Richard Nugent, whom the noble Lord very kindly mentioned, has called it a priming exercise. I think that that is a good description. I am pleased to hear that the Government intend to continue this priming exercise. I am sure that the farmers will be ready to take advantage of it. I only hope that it means that the Government are not intending to stop up the pipe-line itself leading to the marketing system.


My Lords, I think that I can give that assurance. I am very grateful to the noble Lord for what he said. I am as pleased, too, as he is, to be able to pay occasionally a compliment to the last Government for some little thing which they did, and certainly in this regard I am happy to return the compliment.

On Question, Motion agreed to.