§ 2.54 p.m.
§ LORD CHAMPION
My Lords, I beg to move that the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1965, a draft of which was laid before this House on April 8. be approved. I trust that it will be convenient if, at the same time, we take the Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme, 1965. May I say at the outset that these Schemes are basically similar to those which were approved last year. The Part I, or £5 per acre, grant is in fact unchanged in any way—except, of course, that the qualifying date has been advanced by one year. Noble Lords may recall that the procedures for this grant were streamlined last year to cut down the paper work. I am glad to say that these procedures have operated very smoothly and, indeed, have reduced substantially the number of pieces of paper which the farmers have had to complete.
The minor changes which we are making this year affect the Part II, or £12 per acre, grant. Noble Lords will remember that this grant is intended to assist towards the cost of ploughing old grassland where the expenses are significantly greater than in normal ploughing. We propose that the qualifying age for this higher rate of grant, which has fluctuated in the past, should remain constant at twelve years. We also propose that land which has already bene- 368 fited from this grant should not be eligible for a further assistance under Part II of the Scheme, although it will, of course, be eligible for the normal £5 per acre grant under the normal conditions. We are introducing this restriction this year because it is twelve years since this grant was introduced and as the qualifying age of grassland is also twelve years it is just possible that land which was ploughed up with the aid of the grant in 1953 and immediately resown to grass could, if it had been sufficiently neglected, qualify again for this assistance. I am sure, however, that noble Lords will agree that we do not want to subsidise neglect of this sort.
My Lords, I think it is generally agreed that these grants have for many years fulfilled a useful purpose in encouraging farmers to maintain the quality of their grassland, and that we should continue to offer this encouragement. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That the Draft Ploughing Grants Scheme 1965, laid before the House on 8th April, be approved.—(Lord Champion.)
My Lords, I am sure that your Lordships will be very grateful for the clear way in which the noble Lord, Lord Champion, has explained these Orders. As he rightly said, these are annual Orders, which come up for approval each year, and we on this side welcome them. The noble Lord referred to the tidying-up brought about by the Ploughing Grants Order last year, and, of course, quite an amount of tidying-up of paper work was incorporated in those Orders. I am glad that at least that legacy which the noble Lord's Government found on attaining office met with their approval, and that they have continued it. These grants have clearly helped enormously in assisting agriculture to keep modern, in helping it to keep a system of ley farming, and in keeping the fertility of the land up. In that respect, they have been extremely helpful to the agricultural community, and we welcome them.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to.