HL Deb 06 August 1980 vol 412 cc1511-74

4.9 p.m.

The MINISTER of STATE, SCOTTISH OFFICE (The Earl of Mansfield) rose to move, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th July be approved.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, a great many of your Lordships will have perceived that until very recently these motions were in the name of my noble friend Lord Ferrers. I hope that the House will forgive me for going outside the terms of the motion, but I am sure that I speak for all parts of the House when I say that we are indeed extremely distressed at the most unfortunate and unhappy predicament which he and Lady Ferrers find themselves in. We hope that their daughter will soon, indeed speedily, be restored to health.


My Lords, I should like to intervene briefly on this. I associate the Opposition with the remarks made by the noble Earl. We all know how much the noble Earl, Lord Ferrers, enjoys agricultural debates concerning his Ministry, and we are sad that he has had this difficulty but I hope that everything will be all right soon.


My Lords, I am obliged to the noble Lord. In fact, it is not totally inappropriate that should be moving these Motions today because part of my ministerial responsibility is agriculture in Scotland and indeed these statutory instruments are signed by the Secretary of State for Scotland. So it is quite appropriate for me to take off my kilt, to put on my pants—and trousers —and pontificate in this way. I say this for a purpose, my Lords, because these orders will apply in Scotland in the same way as they do in the rest of the United Kingdom. Although our procedures may be different—and I am looking at the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie—and our language is certainly very different from that employed in England, the principles are the same.

It might be for the convenience of your Lordships' House if at the same time as we deal with the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations 1980 we deal with the Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Scheme 1980 which also was laid on 28th July, and the Farm Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980 and the Horticulture Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980, which were laid before the House on 8th July. I say that because all the issues are closely related. All these statutory instruments require Affirmative Resolution, and what I shall say also relates to the Farm and Horticulture Development (Amendment) (No. 3) Regulations 1980, which were laid on 8th July, and against which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has tabled a Prayer.

These schemes are the second and final stage of implementing the study carried out under the auspices of Sir Derek Rayner into the administration of the capital grants scheme. The first stage which amended the grant rates payable was approved by this House on 28th February last. The purpose of this study was to simplify the schemes to the benefit of both departments and applicants. We are grateful for the work carried out by Sir Derek and his team which has enabled us to bring these schemes before your Lordships today.

As your Lordships will know, we set out to achieve simplification by combining the three existing capital grant schemes into one, in the Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Regulations 1980, which were laid before the House on 2nd July. The Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments had doubts about the use of the 1972 European Communities Act, which is required for the European Community grant arrangements, as the authority for paying national rates of grant. In view of these doubts we withdrew those regulations and replaced them with the two main instruments before the House today which deal separately with national and European Community grant arrangements. But I do want to emphasise that there are only minor differences between the two new instruments and the ones they have replaced. Nevertheless, I must apologise to the House for the fact that this action was necessary and which has resulted in your Lordships having less notice of our proposals than we would have wished. We are, however, anxious to bring the simplified arrangements into operation as soon as possible, both to derive the benefits from them and to remove any uncertainty about our intentions. It is for this reason that we felt impelled to ask the House to consider them before rising for the Summer Recess. I trust, therefore, that the House will accept that we did not take this decision lightly and did so knowing that it would cause some difficulties.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations 1980 provide for assistance in terms of the European Community directives; the national arrangements are provided for in the Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Scheme 1980. Before bringing our proposals before the House we had wide-ranging discussions with the various interested bodies following the issue of consultation documents in the spring. We have carefully considered the views expressed to us and, in the light of this consultation, we have made some changes in the original thinking. For some reason this has brought criticism. I see no reason to apologise for the changes because they show in fact that our consultations were genuine. Nevertheless, I appreciate that we cannot satisfy everyone. This is not altogether surprising since the comments varied very widely. What we are proposing however will simplify the whole process, by cutting out bureaucracy and hassle for the farmer and saving time and money. I assure your Lordships that this will not in any way interrupt the harmonious relationship which exists between farmers and our local staffs, who will continue to be as helpful as in the past to grant claimants.

Turning now to the schemes themselves we have clarified the coverage of improvements qualifying for grant; for example, investments in such things as general purpose buildings and water supplies on deer farms will qualify for grant. The rates of grant are unchanged compared with those applying at present, other than standard rates for arterial drainage work in Scotland which has increased from 37½ per cent. to 50 per cent. to restore a balance with the position in England arid Wales which was removed in the scheme we introduced earlier this year. Otherwise I do not think I need say more about these aspects at this stage.

The two main statutory instruments essentially consolidate the present statutory provisions with a few drafting changes. But to understand the new arrangements one has to go beyond the statutory instruments, which are merely the legal skeleton on which we have put the flesh of the procedures. However, one statutory change compared with the present provisions concerns the eligibility arrangements for qualifying for national rates of grant. The existing schemes have what is known as the "sufficient livelihood test". This requires the agricultural or horticultural business to be capable of providing a sufficient livelihood for a reasonably skilled occupier. It was put to us that variations in farm income, depending on how well or badly a particular sector was doing, made the test uncertain and unfair. So we have replaced it in the Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Scheme with what, in the jargon, is already called the "sufficient employment test", which must be satisfied to qualify for grant on buildings. This test requires the agricultural or horticultural business to be capable of providing the greater part of the employment of at least one person reasonably skilled in agriculture or horticulture. The applicant will be able to test his own eligibility by means of a simple test set out in the claim form.

As at present land improvements will be exempt from this test. Further, we propose that in order to qualify for grant it will no longer be necessary for the land of a farm business to have basic buildings, nor that a horticultural business must have been in operation for the 24 months prior to application on not less than 1.6 hectares of land. It is, however, in the field of administering the statutory schemes that the main changes will be made. At the present time, other than for expenditure on plant, machinery and livestock it is necessary for applicants to have their proposals, including competitive tenders, submitted and approved before work begins. This is the arrangement known as prior approval. We are proposing to discontinue this apart from arterial drainage work in Scotland which will still then be broadly in line with the different arrangements applying in England and Wales.

In future farmers and growers will take their own investment decision without the reference of prior approval. They will not even have to give us advance notice of their intentions. When the work is complete they will submit their claims for grant. While the dropping of prior approval has been welcomed in some quarters, I quite admit that it has raised anxieties in others.

First, there are the farmers who fear that they will lose the assurance of grant. I should like to assure the House that a farmer need have no worry about this: if he acts reasonably he will be all right. We would not expect him to do more than one would expect any prudent person safeguarding his own interests. Even then we will not be deserting him. The explanatory leaflet on the schemes will give detailed guidance; if a farmer is still in doubt he will be able—as he is now—to seek information from the local office of the departments. If I might, therefore, sum up this aspect, provided work is carried out to the standards we have ben adopting there should be no risk to grant. Consequently, I feel that these worries are over-stated.

Secondly, there are those who are concerned about the conservation considerations. This includes both the farming industry and the conservation bodies. The industry, I believe, in general is extremely conservation-minded, and whatever happened in the past I do not believe that nowadays farmers deliberately set out to destroy any part of our natural environment. Their concerns are—the conservationist concerns, so to speak—that they might do this unintentionally and thus put grant at risk; and further that, as we propose, in consulting the conservation bodies concerned before starting work they, the farmers, feel they may be frustrated in their intentions.

I must emphasise that under the prior approval arrangement operating at present the obligation is on the farmer to consult conservation bodies before starting work. We are not asking him to do more in future. At present in cases of difficulty it is up to the farmer in the first instance to try to resolve any problems with the conservation body concerned. If this cannot be done, the departments come in to see whether any modified arrangement suitable to both parties can be achieved. There are few cases where the farmers' investment intentions are completely frustrated.

In terms of the Countryside Acts, Ministers must have regard to the desirability of conserving the countryside, including the fauna and flora, in administering the capital grant schemes. Under the new arrangements we are not setting these obligations aside. We will observe them as before. In fact, I might for a moment refer specifically to staff savings which will arise for ADAS from the administrative charges in the grants schemes. These savings we have allowed for include additional input on conservation work which the service provides in the course of its normal advisory role. Thus the staff savings from the grant charges are offset by this and are not being realised in full. That is a point I should like to underline, because it is an extremely important one. In our explanatory leaflet we will make it clear to farmers that if they wish to claim grant they must have regard to conservation aspects, and if they have any doubts they should seek advice from our local offices before doing any work.

In national parks and sites of special scientific interest, which give rise to particularly sensitive conservation considerations, farmers who wish to claim grant will have to consult the appropriate statutory authority about their proposals before starting work. If the authority has no objection, or if agreement is reached on modifications, the work could then go ahead. If there is disagreement which cannot be resolved the agricultural departments will be brought in. Grant would be payable on condition that the farmers had done so. The departments' staff will offer advice, as they do now, to try to help farmers with any problems and to try to achieve compromises acceptable to both parties. If agreement was not possible Ministers would have to decide in principle whether, if the work were done and grant claimed, they would have to reject the claim. I wish to emphasise this. The farmer would be told of this decision. If he decided to proceed without waiting for it he would be told that grant would be at risk, and that Ministers would base their decision on the situation applying before the commencement of the work. In claiming grant applicants will have to sign a declaration that they have considered conservation aspects and consulted the appropriate authority where necessary. Applicants who cannot make the declaration or who make a false one would have grant withheld or indeed recovered.

In our consideration of the representations made to us we have reviewed how best to assist the authorities, which would be notified under this procedure, to assess the environmental implications of proposals sent to them. In England and Wales we have decided to make available to them a suitably qualified and experienced ADAS officer on a regular weekly basis. He will help the authority to decide whether any proposal is likely to give rise to difficulties on conservation grounds and will be ready to visit the fanner concerned to give him advice on how to overcome them. Arrangements will be made in Scotland for similar contacts.

I really cannot see that these proposals should give cause for concern to anyone. The procedure is essentially what is, or should be, done now by farmers, although the prior approval arrangements have meant that informally on receiving an application for prior approval for work affecting a conservation area we have made contact with the body concerned as a check. But there is no reason why this informal check should be necessary.

Summing up, therefore, about these anxieties, I can assure your Lordships that the agriculture departments' intentions are to co-operate both with applicants and conservation bodies. There will be those who maintain that even this is not enough, but I believe that given the existing arrangements and the co-operation which exists now there is no reason why these arrangements I have outlined should not work in the future. It is certainly our intention to see that they do work.

It has been claimed that the new arrangements represent a withdrawal by my right honourable friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food from his acceptance of the main recommendation in the report of the Advisory Council on Agriculture and Horticulture in their report—widely known as the Strutt Report —Agriculture and the Countryside. This is not true. His commitment to the extension of the role of ADAS in countryside matters remains. ADAS can develop its work on conservation matters in England and Wales to the extent that resources can be made available. As I said earlier, one beneficial effect of the new grant arrangements will be to reduce the administration burdens on advisory staff. Some of the savings which result are being "ploughed back" to increase the capacity of ADAS for giving advice and assistance on both agriculture and conservation matters.

One criticism of the Farm and Horticulture Development Scheme concerned tile amount of time it took to get development plans and subsequent variations approved. We are proposing to simplify the administrative procedures relating to development plans under the new arrangements. Farmers will he free to start work, if they so wish, as soon as they have established their eligibility; they will not have to wait until their development plan has been approved. But grant cannot be paid until then. In addition, they will be free to propose variations at any time and to start work on variations, but they will be considered and the plan varied, if necessary, only once a year.

Subject to approval of these orders we propose to bring the new administrative arrangements into operation on 1st October. Thereafter the existing schemes will be closed to applications. I should, however, explain to the House the arrangements which we propose to adopt in this transitional period. There are legal constraints on how far the requirements of the present schemes can be set aside, but we will not insist that in this transitional period applicants must observe all the requirements of the existing schemes.

Farmers and growers who have applied under present Farm and Horticulture Capital Grant Schemes will be able, if they wish, to go ahead without prior approval and claim grant under the new scheme.

If, however, they still want prior approval they will have to tell us and we will deal with their application accordingly. Applicants who have not so far applied under these schemes but want to undertake work with prior approval must submit an application before 1st October and advise us that they want prior approval. Applicants under the present Farm and Horticulture Development Scheme must have their development plans approved before they claim grant. However, after the plan has been submitted they may go ahead without prior approval if they wish. Where applicants decided to go ahead without prior approval under existing schemes they will be required to follow the procedure for clearing their proposals in environmentally sensitive areas.

As I have said earlier, I realise that the new arrangements will not command universal approval with all the bodies that we consulted. That, I fear, is unavoidable. But I believe that what we are proposing represents a great step forward for both farmers and departments. It is the result of careful study and deliberation, long experience, lengthy consultation and a willingness to take account of the points which were put to us. It is part of this Government's policy to reduce bureaucracy and to let people take decisions about running their own businesses without official interference. After all, the farmer in most cases is putting up the greater part of the investment himself. That is what our proposals are about, by giving more freedom to farmers who are themselves best able to decide their investment intentions. We think that these proposals achieve that. My Lords, I commend the orders to the House.

Moved, That the draft regulations laid before the House on 28th July be approved.—(The Earl of Mansfield.)

4.33 p.m.


My Lords, as I understand it, the noble Earl has suggested that we should debate the first four orders and my Prayer against one order—which otherwise would not have been subject to debate, because it was subject only to a Negative Resolution procedure—in one block, which I am sure will be for the convenience of the House. I hope, therefore, that I shall be able to speak not only to the order which the noble Earl has moved, hut, as he did, to the entire package, including the order against which I have a Prayer on the Order Paper.

I speak, as I am sure will most noble Lords who will take part in the debate, as someone who is a farmer and who is also involved in a number of nature conservation organisations. It seems to me that the almost unique—although, thankfully, not unique—achievement of the Government in producing this scheme has been to unite parties, which are on many occasions not united, in their opposition to the Government's proposals.

I should like to begin by suggesting to the noble Earl that, from a farmers' point of view, things will certainly not be as simple and as straightforward and easy as he tended to suggest in the remarks that he made when introducing the order. It seems to me that all of this hinges on the precise contents of the explanatory leaflet. Until your Lordships have a chance to see that, it is really quite impossible to make any judgment about whether what the Government are saying is right.

In any event it must be the case that either the explanatory leaflet is so detailed and precise that the idea, as the noble Earl suggested, that farmers would have greater freedom in their investment decisions is simply a charade, because the leaflet takes them in very precise detail through every step; or, if the leaflet is not that precise in that detail, then farmers will be left with some areas of uncertainty, areas where they are not quite clear whether they will get a grant, how much discretion they have about, for example, the materials to be used in the building and so on. So it does not seem to me, despite the fact that we have not seen this leaflet, that the Government can have it both ways. They must be losing and wrong on one count or the other.

It seems to me, for example, that a working farmer who is making an investment, a major investment which involves, for example, the erection of a building, would go to a specialist, to an agent to a building firm and ask them to prepare the plans. As would be the case now generally, that agent or building firm would arrange with the appropriate authorities to ensure that prior approval was available.

Presumably in the future the working farmer will simply go to the same people and ask them to ensure that the explanatory leaflet is complied with. He will then have the building or whatever erected and pay a large sum of money, only to be told by ADAS: "Oh! well, the building firm missed one paragraph at the bottom of the explanatory leaflet, which we admit, as it was written by officials, is not unambiguously worded", and the farmer will be the loser. How the Government can guarantee that that will not happen on numerous occasions is simply beyond me.

A case of which I have had experience recently concerns farmers in many areas of the country who wish to put up buildings which will blend with the surroundings or the traditional buildings on their farms. Those are difficult cases under the existing procedure. It is necessary to get prior approval, but also to get some exceptional approvals if, for example, the farmer wishes to use slates on a roof rather than asbestos sheeting. That is but one example of the many areas where farmers would wish to have some variation from the standard building, the standard scheme, the standard investment or whatever it is.

It seems to me quite impossible, unless this explanatory leaflet and booklet is to be several thousand pages long and extraordinarily detailed, for all those types of exceptional, personal decisions by farmers to be covered. In all those exceptional personal cases the farmer will have absolutely no certainty at all that he will get a grant.

Finally, it seems extraordinary for the noble Earl to say that farmers are actually being given more freedom. As noble Lords involved in farming will know—for a farmer to make a major investment with a large amount of capital tends, at the best of times, to be a tricky business and the returns, compared to the money invested, to be relatively low. That is particularly the case at the moment with high interest rates. In future farmers will not only have to make these decisions bearing in mind the risks that the new operation, whatever it will be, involves them in the dangers of world markets changing, and prices collapsing or whatever; but also in some cases, it seems to me, the substantial risk that grant aid will not be actually payable once the investment is completed and the whole of the economic calculations on which the investments were based will become absolutely null and void. What the noble Earl expects a farmer to do when a new fattening unit simply gets pulled down again because grant was not payable and so on, I do not know. It seems to me that it is not giving farmers any freedom, except the freedom to take an enormous risk, and a risk at the hands of an explanatory leaflet, or the interpretation of an explanatory leaflet, which noble Lords have not yet seen.

The noble Earl said that the Government had had extensive consultations and that they had not been able to satisfy everyone. I should like to suggest to him that in fact the Government have not been able to satisfy anyone. There has been unanimous opposition to the Government's proposals. As I have said, the Government have succeeded in uniting farming, environmental and conservation interests against these particular proposals. The NFU has said that farmers will be investing large sums in farm improvements arid running much higher risks than at present of not receiving grants". Many smaller farmers, who rely very heavily on grant aid to finance their essential farm improvements, could be deterred from undertaking such improvements at all, surely to the detriment not only of those individual farmers but of the farming industry and the interests of this country as a whole.

The Council for the Preservation of Rural England—not very often quoted as being in complete accord with the NFU—has said that the scheme will create clashes of interest between farmers and conservationists and will have a damaging effect on landscape conservation. The Exmoor Society, which has a particular interest in the Exmoor National Park—as regards which the noble Earl has said particular arrangements will be made, and one might therefore expect it to be slightly less opposed to the proposals than some other amenity and conservation bodies—has said that the special arrangements for national parks are, in its view, inadequate and will leave both farmers and conservationists in the dark; whereas what is needed is a measure of certainty, something which I am sure will be echoed by farmers in that area as well as by conservationists. The society points out that: the Ministry's proposals would involve the National Park Authority in having to approve many minor farm capital projects, which, far from being a saving in manpower, would be: …a waste of time, energy and manpower". The Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation—the body which represents all the county naturalist trusts in this country—is strongly opposed to these proposals and points out that this has united farming and conservation organisations, and says that: …the proposals should be withdrawn and substantially modified along the lines which the National Farmers' Union has proposed. So not only is the opposition to these proposals unanimous, but the suggested alternative from both farmers and conservationists is agreed.

In addition, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds have said that: …the proposals will in no way assist the conservation of Sites of Special Scientific Interest and that they will have a significantly harmful effect in the wider countryside". Turning to the statutory bodies, the Countryside Commission has said that: The proposed arrangements would…lead to a reversal of the progress made in improving the design and siting of buildings in the countryside—something I am sure that all noble Lords welcome—and that it would also lead to a reversal in securing concern for wildlife and improving the conservation of the landscape.

As noble Lords will have seen, some Questions for Written Answer were put down by the noble Lord, Lord Chelwood, about various aspects of these orders, including one which asked about the views of the Nature Conservancy Council. The noble Lord, Lord Sandys—whom I am glad to see is present—provided an answer, which I must say was, frankly, not the whole story, to put it mildly. The Written Answer said that the Nature Conservancy Council: …have endorsed the arrangements agreed at official level on safeguards for Sites of Special Scientific Interest". As I say, I do not find that the whole story because, in fact, the Nature Conservancy Council has said that these proposals: …will lead to the accelerated destruction of wildlife habitats throughout the country". It points out, as has been pointed out by many other people, that there is nothing to be gained from a nature conservation point of view in withholding grant after the nature conservation interest has been destroyed.

I hope that noble Lords will forgive me for listing in such detail the views of a number of outside organisations, but it seems to me to be important to stress that these proposals have been very carefully considered in a great deal of detail by a number of organisations from different camps, and the unanimous view is that your Lordships' House should reject the orders and ensure that the existing grant schemes remain in being until the Government can rethink their proposals.

I think that it is just worth spending a few moments looking at why there is such unanimity among so many diverse organisations. It is no secret that there are many different points of view on the desirability of there being greater or less control over agriculture and agricultural developments in this country. As I say, opinions on that matter differ widely, and quite strongly on occasions. But what is I think agreed by everyone—by farmers, conservationists, environmentalists and so on—is that there are many farming operations where the only people who are likely to influence the farmer are those who are in regular contact, those who are accepted and trusted by the farming community; and those people undoubtedly must be ADAS officers. As the noble Earl mentioned, this was the point of view put forward in the Strutt Report.

It seems to me that the Strutt Report cannot be implemented—and it has been accepted by this Government in principle, as it was by the last—without ADAS playing a major role in giving advice to farmers on both farming and conservation matters. It is true that should these orders go through and should the Strutt Report be implemented, ADAS would be able to continue to give advice on such matters as when dykes should be cleared, minor farming matters, questions of rotation, spraying and so on, and would be able to take conservation interests into account in giving such advice.

However, it seems to me to be a complete negation of all that the Strutt Report was about and all that the consensus which has gathered round the Strutt Report's proposals was about to suggest that that is sufficient. If ADAS is not able to play a role in looking at major developments—ents which inevitably have a major impact upon the countryside: major drainage developments, major buildings, and so on—and if ADAS is not present before those schemes are carried out and able to give advice, the whole of the Strutt Report might as well be chucked into the wastepaper basket. That is what I would suggest to your Lordships would be the effect of agreeing to these orders today.

It also seems to me that it is not the case that the Government would be able to take full account of Section 11 of the Countryside Act if they implement these proposals, because they will have to say that they are implementing Section 11 simply by not giving grant once something that was scientifically important or important for some other reason has already been destroyed. That is what agreeing with Section 11 and following it amounts to. It seems to me a strange interpretation of Parliament's decision when it passed Section 11 that the Government should preside over the destruction of things which Section 11 lays a duty on them to preserve, and should say that they are following Section 11 in the legal spirit of it simply by not giving a grant once that destruction has taken place.

I think that I should say a few words about the fact that I have put down a Prayer against an order, which is not a usual procedure in your Lordships' House, although it is not an unheard of procedure, and explain why, although it has not been done very often, I suggest that your Lordships' House should divide against the order which the Prayer affects and, indeed, against the other orders which are part of this package.

Two points need to be made. First, it is the normal practice—and this has been my understanding for many years, certainly long before I was a Member of this House—that controversial orders are normally taken in this House after they have been considered by another place. I know that various matters—which, no doubt, were not entirely foreseen by the Government—have led to this House considering these orders before they are considered in another place. Nevertheless, that seems to me to lift any obligation which your Lordships might feel to follow the decision of another place, which is the usual practice when orders are debated and divided against here, because we simply do not know what the decision of the other place might be when they come to consider the orders.

There have, of course, previously been Divisions on Prayers against an order subject to a Negative Resolution. Certainly since I have been in your Lordships' House there has been one moved by the father of the noble Earl, Lord Cranbrook. It was not entirely a good precedent from my point of view because it was not successfully moved; the Division was lost. Nevertheless, it was significant that that particular Prayer was opposed from all sides of the House, and it is my belief that this particular Prayer and the opposition to these orders, in fact, have support from all sides of the House.

I should like to conclude by looking, briefly, at the sort of argument which the Government are deploying in suggesting to your Lordships that this order should be approved and that the other orders should be approved. As the noble Earl has made clear, this is about saving jobs. That is the basis of the operation. It was not an investigation undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, but by Sir Derek Rayner. The object is to reduce the number of public servants—not a policy, as will be no surprise, with which those of us on this side of the House, agree. Nevertheless, it is the Government's policy, and it would be fair to your Lordships to take that on its merits even if one does not agree with it.

As I understand it, it is not possible to suggest to the Government that they should save money in some other way rather than by reducing the role that ADAS plays. They could quite easily make savings in the payment of capital grants and the level of grants; a very small adjustment would be needed to save the amount of money that would be saved as a result of these orders going through, But that is of no interest to the Government; it must be a certain number of jobs or nothing. Perhaps we could look at that argument.

It seems to me that what is being asked of your Lordships' House is an equivalent of this. The Government come along and say that in a particular area of the country they wish to close some motorways—100 miles of motorway—that has to be lost. There is no question of looking for savings elsewhere in transport or of increasing any charges for transport; that does not interest them. They have a policy to close 100 miles of motorway in an area of the country, and in the areas supervised by MAFF they want their pound of flesh. One then suggests to the Government that maybe it would be important to look outside this particular area, because obviously the motorway network covers the whole country. One cannot simply close a motorway in one area without it having some implications elsewhere. In this case these orders have very considerable implications for many other bodies, including the Nature Conservancy Council and the voluntary organisations, all of whom are desperately pushed for staff, time and people. But the Government say, "No, we have no interest. If we are giving extra work to other people, whether public servants or volunteers, that does not bother us. We must have 100 miles of motorway closed here". That seems to me to be unfair to the other organisations concerned.

One then says to the Government, "This may well cause chaos. If you simply look for the closure of 100 miles of motorway without taking anything else into consideration, you are going to cause great confusion and chaos. People are not going to understand your new administrative booklet, farmers are not going to know what is going to happen to them. A whole host of other ill effects will happen, including the difficulty that farmers will face in contacting nature conservation organisations to get the prior approval which they still have to get when nature conservation organisations cannot at the moment do the work that is placed upon them.

But the Government say, "That is no interest to us. As long as we close 100 miles of motorway in this area, that is all we are concerned with," It seems to me that it is slightly irresponsible of Government Ministers responsible for the Ministry of Agriculture not to have taken rather more consideration of the implications of these proposals for others in the local authority sector, the voluntary sector and other statutory organisations.

Finally, one might say to the Government, "Simply closing 100 miles of motorway without affecting the flow of traffic will not actually achieve any saving in manpower at all" This is certainly the criticism made of these proposals by the National Farmers' Union, who suggest that the changes that the Government are proposing will not effect the savings that the Government have claimed for them. The NFU have a greater expertise in this field than I, but it seems to me that that is a consideration to which the Government have not paid nearly enough attention.

I suppose the Government might say in response to this analogy, if they accepted it at all, "We are not simply closing 100 miles of motorway. That would be foolish. All we are doing is closing the slow lane of the motorway in this area. We are speeding the procedures up, we are allowing it to be simplified, and everyone will go a bit faster". And that was much as the noble Earl suggested to your Lordships. But that is simply not true, because a number of farmers will still be stuck in the slow lane—those affected by sites of special scientific interest, national parks, and so on. Indeed, their lane will get a good deal slower if those whom they have to consult and get approval for simply do not have the staff to respond.

One of the major objections from the farming community is that the Government are making two classes of farmer, some having a totally different and more onerous burden placed upon them than others. It seems to me that what the Government are doing is closing the hard shoulder. They are closing something which is extremely important in the event of accidents. If it is not there when something goes slightly wrong, if somebody misreads the instructions and goes slightly too fast or a bit more slowly than he is meant to, if the hard shoulder is not there to bail them out a very serious accident results.

It seems to me, furthermore, that the Government have actually accepted this, because they have said—and I quote from a Written Answer given in another place by the Minister, Mr. Wiggin—that, in considering claims for grant, they will have regard to conservation and, reserve the right to reject a claim relating to an investment which has seriously damaged the countryside including its flora and fauna". Two immediate objections come to mind as a farmer and conservationist. First of all as a conservationist, if the flora and fauna have already been destroyed it is not very much use to anybody the Government turning round and saying, "You have done this terrible thing. We are not going to give you any grant" But as a farmer having done this would undoubtedly, as the noble Earl said, in the great majority, if not all, cases have done so by accident and not intentionally —because I certainly agree with him as a farmer that farmers do not go around destroying the countryside at will—it is going to seem extremely unfair, not to say criminal, that he is then left with a major investment upon which no grant aid is paid.

That point seems to me to sum up beautifully the reason for the overwhelming opposition to these orders by both farmers and conservation interests. It seems to me that if your Lordships' House wants to prevent very serious accidents occuring both to the farming interests and to the nature conservationist interests in this country, it will vote against these orders and ensure that the existing grant aid scheme, which has worked well for both the farming and the conservation community, will remain in place until the Government have had another think about these proposals.

4.55 p.m.


My Lords, before discussing the order I should like to associate myself and these Benches with the good wishes to be sent to Lord Ferrers for a speedy resolution to his troubles. When I came to look at this order first of all I said, "Well, it is all right. It is the Government trying to save money." It appealed to my Scottish heart. I said, "Of course people will beef a bit, but why should not farmers take the responsibility? They can read as well as other people, and if they make a mistake they will lose the money".

Then, the conservationists: "Well, we all know what they are" I said to myself. "The order will be all right. It will go through, and I will agree with it." But I must say that when I started to look at the order, I came to a different conclusion. It is extraordinary, as the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said, the unanimity of opposition all over the place to this order. Even in the Liberal Party, who are not normally as united as some monolithic bodies, we are at one in our attitude, although I may say that it is for quite different reasons.

Taking the straightforward farming case, I think that in these times any change like this is probably a bad one. This is a conservative sort of thing to say, but we are in very bad times indeed in the farming industry on the livestock side. The people who really require to become more efficient, to get a larger income to carry more stock, and so on, are the livestock people in the hills and on the plains.

I think they will look very carefully at spending their money, because it is mostly their money they are spending. I would think that confidence plays a big part in all investment, and if there is the slightest doubt whether they will get a grant then it is more than likely that this investment will not be made.

The other thing which I have noticed myself on many occasions is that I have thought of applying for a grant, and when I have started to discuss it I have found that so little do the regulations agree with my frugal soul in not allowing me to use secondhand material that I think perfectly reasonable, that I have frequently gone ahead with improvement without applying for a grant because I consider I can build as good a shed, or whatever it might be, without complying with the number of regulations laid down. If a farmer, as a practical farmer, is doing an improvement, he may well think it perfectly reasonable to use first class secondhand material which may be prohibited. People do not read the same small print as much as they are supposed to, and I think that, taken on the whole, it will be a had thing for most farmers if the pre-recognition, pre-approval, is dropped. I am pretty sure of that.

I am not sure whether the department is going to save a lot of money. After all, most of the applications will be under the Farming and Horticultural Scheme—at least I think most of them will; I hope the Minister will tell us—and under this scheme you have to have the scheme approved before you start. If the scheme is approved I cannot believe that it will be a lot of extra work to approve the individual schemes as they come forward. Furthermore, it is true that if the department inspectors are going to look at the projects after they are finished, they will have to take a very much harder look at them after they are finished if they have not had the approval starting when half the work at least will have been done. I really cannot see that it will save a lot. I know that there has been a departmental investigation. It may transfer a lot of the work onto the shoulders of farmers and other bodies, but apart from that I cannot see it really saving a tremendous amount of work, taken on the whole.

From the purely farming point of view I think that the dropping of the approval, the pre-approval, is a bad move. I think that the party opposite, the Government, should be conservative on this and leave it as it is, because the farming industry is in no case to take experiment. That is the main point which people are against.

When we come to conservation and the countryside, I say at once as a farmer that I am all for conservation; I like to live in a nice countryside and I am as capable of appreciating beauty as the chap out for a run in his motor car from the great city on a Sunday afternoon. While many conservationists are extremely sensible people, there are a large number of nuts among the conservation groups, and to allow them into direct contact with farmers is asking for trouble. I can imagine some of my neighbours and friends when faced with a demand from some group that because the lesser crested brown tit was known to nest in an area in 1872 and again in 1923, the farmer should not plough up that area and make it carry another 50 head of cattle. That sort of thing is not apt to endear conservationists to the farming population. One could multiply the sort of irritations that may arise—they could of course arise on both sides; farmers could irritate the societies perhaps even more than the societies could irritate the farmers—and I am sure that if we had such societies in, for example, Holland when they were erecting the windmills which were such a great feature of the countryside there, there would have been an outcry against spoiling the line of the horizon by erecting what would have been described as dreadful windmills which made an awful noise as they ground round and round.

There is a strong case for not interfering too much with the practical aspects of farming, and if there is to be—and I agree there must be—some interference, it should be done by skilled people. There is no doubt that the farmer will listen to practical reasons put forward by a member of ADAS without any trouble because after all he will give them some money. But if the farmer comes into direct negotiation with a conservation group then, in the words of Mr. Enoch Powell, rivers of blood may flow throughout the countryside. On the two main issues the Government should leave well alone, otherwise this is a recipe for anarchy. I hope the Prayer will succeed.

5.3 p.m.


My Lords, I speak for CoEnCo, whose members on its council and committees represent virtually all the non-government conservation organisations in this country. We have all been very worried about these regulations, and the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, quoted the comments of some of my members. So worried were we that I went with Lord Melchett, who is the chairman of CoEnCo's wildlife committee, to see the Parliamentary Secretary. It was a most unsatisfactory meeting and we came away even more worried than we were when we went in.

These regulations have, in my view, been most ineptly handled from the beginning. The Ministry must have been in no doubt about the universal worries and fears caused by them since March, when we were able to read the consultation document issued in February. Since then there has been more pressure than I can remember in any similar case. As the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, said, it takes a real crisis for the conservation bodies and farmers to act together in harmony. As a result of all this costly and time-consuming pressure, I learn that the grant proceedings have been modified, but, from what I understood of my noble friend's remarks, that has not met any of our objections. Furthermore, so far as I am aware there have been none of the discussions between, and advance information to, the bodies concerned that are normal in matters of this kind. We got the message for the first time today, and we take it or leave it.

I still believe that the effect of the regulations will be to limit the obligations under Section 11 of the Countryside Act to geographical locations. In 80 per cent. of the countryside, areas of irreplaceable value to the nation will be lost forever. The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, gave an example, and I take this from the National Farmers' Union: unless the farmer seeks the Ministry's advice before asking, work will be done which cannot be undone, grant or no grant. The only excuse, or reason, we shall be able to give to posterity will be that it saved 400 civil servants.

The Government have embarked on a financial course with which I agree. I do not support special pleading, even in this case. When we saw the Parliamentary Secretary we were told that, if we did not agree with this, something worse would befall; but we were not told what it was. I wish I could believe that MAAF had tried their very hardest in find another way out of this problem and had failed. The dilemma is that we just cannot, without a struggle, lose or risk the loss of irreplaceable and precious bits of Britain, and these also exist outside the so-called sensitive areas; so what are we to do about it?

There is a solution to this difficulty, and I state now a personal view. We do not have any problem in protecting buildings of special architectural or historic interest; under Part IV of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 we list them and it is then an offence to work on them without consent. Should we not follow the pattern and precedent of that Act and, with due regard to doing only what is practicable and sensible—and not against the spirit and best interests of the farming community—take powers to list a spot that must survive and put a site preservation order on it?

We may soon have the opportunity to do just that and to enact such powers by amendment of the Wildlife and Country-side Bill. We have not yet seen the Bill, but about its provisions the Department of the Environment have had meaningful and constructive negotiations, which have been so absent in the case of these regulations. If, when we see the Bill, an amendment such as I envisage is in order —and if your Lordships support me—the regulations we are now discussing, and which we so dislike, may have forced the nation to take the step of listing in the way I have described. That step, when taken, would clear up once and for all this dangerous and unsatisfactory part of our rural scene, because, before adding the losses in sites of special scientific interest and so on that these regulations will cause, we are now losing every year to damage or disturbance some 4 per cent. of the 3,860 sites of special scientific interest, which is all that we have left.

5.9 p.m.


My Lords, I have listened as best one can in this rather difficult Chamber to my noble friends Lord Mansfield and Lord Melchett, to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, and my noble friend and ex-colleague Lord Craigton. I am bound to admit that I find it a little difficult to understand most of the arguments that have been put forward. May I start in reverse order, as it were, and refer to my noble friend Lord Craigton? He and I were in the Scottish Office together, and while he was mainly concerned with the town administration, I was more directly concerned with the land. That was perhaps quite proper, because for my sins, or for whatever reason, for the last 50 years I have had the pleasure, the difficulty, the frustration and the excitement of trying to develop a type of land very different from that owned by the noble Lord, Lord Melchett.

However be that as it may, my noble friend Lord Craigton seemed to me to be talking without any kind of relation to what has actually been happening over the last years, and indeed up to the last few months, because there has been no system by which anyone could prevent a farmer doing with his land more or less whatever he wished, other than the knowledge that, if it were not approved, he would not receive the grant. That is the point that the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, brought to your Lordships' attention. He said that very often he did exactly that because it was a bore conforming with all the rules and regulations apt to be issued from Government departments.

If in the past farmers have been able to put the plough into unsuitable places, and do things which, from a strict conservationist point of view, they should not do, then I quite see that there is some reason to look at the whole problem, if your Lordships so wish. But to say that this particular order alters in a dangerous way what has happened in the past, is in my view dangerous nonsense; it does not.

I turn to the second point. My noble friend Lord Craigton said that work will be done that cannot be undone. Well, of course it may; it always has been the case, and is likely always to be so, whatever rules and regulations exist. What we must do is try to educate our farming community, and indeed our countryside community, including foresters and others —we are not all farmers—to the fact that they must pay more attention to conservationists when they are talking sense; not to all conservationists at all times. That we must do. I tried to listen carefully to what my noble friend Lord Mansfield told us at the beginning of the debate, and that is exactly what is to happen. Farmers will have to sign a declaration stating that they have consulted the proper authorities for conservancy problems. This has never happened in the past. It is new and, as I see it, will be a very real benefit to the conservationist theory.

No, my Lords: in at least my part of Scotland—and of course I cannot speak for everywhere else—an enormous amount of time and effort is wasted. We do not have ADAS. We have what is perhaps a better system; I do not know whether it is better, but it is a different system. An enormous amount of time is wasted in people travelling often hundreds of miles in order to look at something and approve it. I have seen this happen very regularly over certainly the last 40 years. Quite often an unfortunate officer arrives and asks "Where are all these fences?"

since most of us in the hills are engaged in draining, fencing and reseeding. The officer says, "I have to be back in Oban in an hour and a half". Well, Oban is two hours' drive away from me, in the summer, if one does not hurry. I say, "Well you have 17 miles of fences to go round and look at". "Oh, Lord!" he says, "I had better do it on the map". Now, what a waste of time, money, effort and scarce petrol!

If what we have been told is true—and I have no reason to doubt it—to the effect that ADAS in England and the agricultural colleges in Scotland are as much available as they always have been in order for one to go to them if in any doubt as to whether one's scheme is sensible, and so obtain approval and advice, and if the people who work in ADAS and in the agricultural colleges have taken away from their ordinary everyday existence as it is at present a great many hours of purely bureaucratic and, I believe, wasted effort, then these orders—and what I have described is all that they are doing —are to be most thoroughly commended.

5.15 p.m.


My Lords, before I say a few words may I declare my interest in that I am a member of the NFU and an ex-chairman and president of the CLA for the county from which I come. I should like to put forward what I regard as a somewhat important view of this matter from my part of the world, Devon. We take great exception to having to consult the appropriate body before starting work. In the county of Devon—and I say this with apologies to my old friend Lord Foot; and I see that there are other Members of your Lordships' House who realise the point here—we have in the past been somewhat afflicted by what are known as the conservation or preservation lobbies, of which some of your Lordships are aware.

The only defence that we have had against these extremist bodies has been provided by the agricultural organisations that we have had in the past, and I am concerned if such organisations are to be abolished and we are to be put in the hands of these extremist people who oppose, for example, the planting of a tree on what my old map refers to as a forest.

This will make life very difficult for the farmer, and, like the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, I happen to be a farmer.

If anyone seeking a grant in an area of outstanding natural beauty or at a site of special scientific interest must first consult these bodies, rather than a recognised agricultural organisation, it will be more than difficult for a farmer to carry on his job. No one—least of all the farmers of this country—is against conservation as such. I shall not bore your Lordships by mentioning the number of things that I have done in that line; I am sure that every farmer and landowner in your Lordships' House has done such things over the years. If there is to be a requirement that the appropriate conservation body must be consulted before work is started, then agricultural development will he put back a century.

I believe that we ought to retain the organisation in which there was someone who could hold the balance between the conservation bodies (as they are referred to) and the agricultural bodies; otherwise farming development will be stultified, and no one will bother to put in for a grant if he is to encounter these extremists holding things up. I have the support of the NFU in my county and of the CLA in saying that we object to this proposal in particular. We are all for saving money and for that sort of thing, but we are concerned about the question of having to preconsult the bodies which for years, especially in our part of the world, have definitely been anti-agriculture.

5.19 p.m.


My Lords, I rise because of my interest in the Strutt Report, and of course I want to support the Prayer moved by my noble friend Lord Melchett. Some of your Lordships will remember that on 21st March last year I introduced a debate on the Strutt Report. A large number of Members of your Lordships' House spoke in that debate and, with only minor exceptions, the proposals made by the Strutt Committee were widely accepted and indeed welcomed. I can only say in opening that I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Melchett when he says that the proposals which are now being put to us by the Government drive a coach and horses through pretty well every recommendation made by the Strutt Committee. Indeed, we could well think that we wasted many months of time, and that when the report was completed and printed we might just as well have thrown it on the fire.

I shall confine myself, as I think one should this evening, to just one or two aspects of the proposals before us, and its consequences. The whole tenor of the Strutt Report, and indeed our whole objective throughout the time we were working on it, was to produce machinery to bring town and country together. I have never believed that there has been a great battle going on between town and country. I was an agricultural worker, and I am now a townsman. I understand the country and I understand townspeople. But what we sought to do was to provide machinery whereby bridges could be built where there were misunderstandings between the agricultural interests, on the one hand, and the conservation and amenity interests, on the other.

We thought that much more needed to be done by the Ministry itself to help enhance that procedure. We have already been told, as indeed we all know, that the Ministry of Agriculture and other agricultural departments have a duty under the Countryside Act 1968: …to have regard to the desirability of conserving natural beauty and the amenity of the countryside". As things are now, the system of prior approval (where the agreement of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is required before a scheme is implemented) for capital grant-aided works allows practical conservation advice to be incorporated in any scheme. The present Government's proposals, announced in the press release of 2nd July, suggests replacing the prior approval procedure by retrospective payment, and a considerably reduced role for the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service. It is on that point that I feel so very sore, because I believe that the officers of ADAS have a great part to play in bringing about understanding between town and country by giving farmers adequate and appropriate advice, both on their technical problems and on their conservation and amenity problems.

Perhaps your Lordships will permit me to quote a paragraph or two from the Strutt Report. They say: It is plain to us"— that is, to the Strutt Committee— that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must in future take a wider view of countryside affairs, extending well beyond the obligation 'to have regard to' natural beauty and amenity. The Ministry should take on a more active and positive role, and openly assume a greater responsibility for landscape and wildlife conservation". I am sure we would all agree with that. They go on to say, in the next paragraph: Greater provision of more expert advice is perhaps the most important single need. ADAS is uniquely fitted to undertake this in that it has close contact with the industry and has the confidence of farmers. In our view, and in that of many who gave evidence, it is the organisation best capable of expeditiously promoting conservation across a wide spectrum of farmers and landowners. At farm level, with these new responsibilities, ADAS would be able to integrate its conservation advice with that on technical and economic matters". Then we went on to make specific recommendations to the Minister. One was that the Ministry should …take on wider responsibility for promoting wildlife and landscape conservation in the countryside, this to be reflected in its advisory, promotional, statutory and regulatory work". Another was that the advisory and promotional role of ADAS be extended to include landscape and nature conservation, and provision made for the training of existing staff and, if necessary, the recruitment of specialist staff". Then, that landscape and wildlife conservation criteria be built into the relevant Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food grant-aided schemes, where approriate, as conditions of eligibility and provision be sought for paying grants to farmers and landowners for certain conservation works". Then, finally, that the ADAS man should use his good offices to encourage many more farmers and landowners to enter into landscape and wildlife conservation agreements, with rates of compensation which realistically reflect any related disability or disbenefit to the farmer.

Personally, having spent so many years studying the problem, I cannot emphasise too strongly the admiration and respect for ADAS officers which farmers and countrypeople as a whole have. They see them, not only as expert technical advisers but as true friends; and they would clearly be the best people to advise farmers on matters concerning conservation and amenity. Quite apart from all that, it is saddening to know that their role is to be reduced.

Because people knew I was a member of the Strutt Committee, I have been sent a number of letters by the amenity and conservation interests. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has been mentioned already, and they, like me, are emphatic in their belief that the new procedure will accelerate the erosion of the wildlife fabric of the countryside; that it does not satisfy the agriculture departments' obligations under the Countryside Act; and that it will needlessly sharpen the conflict between the farming community and the public at large. The public at large do not wish to see a countryside devoid of scenic or natural history interest.

I accept, and the society accepts, that it is only right that the role of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the other agriculture departments, should be carefully assessed and wise economies made, but we are not convinced that the new scheme is the best use of the resources available. The Royal Society has consulted closely with the National Farmers' Union on these matters, and the National Farmers' Union, too, do not like many of the proposals that are being made. They do not wish to have this division of farmers' obligations to consult or to go ahead without prior consultation. They would rather have the scheme as it now exists, whereby consultation, and prior consultation, has to take place. The Strutt Committee recommended that a call-back to the Minister should be made even more strict. We suggested that the 10-acre requirement should be reduced to five. Again, what these proposals are recommending is completely contrary to that idea.

Among the people I have heard from are some very small societies, not only the large ones. For example, I had a letter from the Green Belt Council for Greater London, who are equally concerned on exactly the same points; and, coming right down to my own locality, I have had a letter from the Nazeing Conservation Society. My noble friend Lord Melchett was absolutely right when he told the House that there is a clear consensus of opinion about these proposals. They are disliked; they are going to be detrimental to what I believe to be the best interests of farming and the interests of the community as a whole. We want people brought together and a facility made for them to be so, and we believe that ADAS are the best people to do that job.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, it is not my debate so noble Lords can follow me. May I say that I am pleased that we have debated this and I should like to congratulate my noble friend Lord Melchett for raising the question. It is an important matter and, as I thought there would be, there were varying views from all parts of the House. I agree with what my noble friend Lord Collison has said. He was a distinguished member of the Strutt Committee and, not only that, was a big farmworkers' leader. He comes forward today defending what is in reality a document basically produced (which people forget) by the National Farmers' Union which is anxious that we should reject these orders. There is no question about where the National Farmers' Union and the farmers stand. May I say to the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, whom I respect, that when he talks about Devon and about extremist bodies, I would not call the Council for the Protection of Rural England, for example, an extremist body. There are some good conservation bodies—and some wild ones, as we know—but the farming community has always respected the bodies which are positive and helpful.

May I say on conservation, in company with other official agencies—and this is in a document of the NFU—that the Minister of Agriculture has a duty under Section 11 of the Countryside Act to have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and the amenity of the countryside. In the past, the farming community has been criticised for not doing enough to integrate conservation of objectives with the development of modern agriculture. In recent years it has been the conscious policy of the NFU to draw the attention of its members to the importance of taking proper account of conservation considerations in running their businesses wherever they farm. This policy has included the production of practical guidance on conservation matters for farmers and support for projects and research in this field. The document goes on to say: Relations between agricultural and conservation interests have probably never been better". I can only say that when I was an Agriculture Minister (as were many noble Lords here) with others of the Scottish Office, we always took care about the preservation of the countryside. Most farmers like the countryside as much as the visitors like it. The noble Lord, Lord Mackie, was right. In my old constituency of Workington I had one of the larger parts of the Lake District. I know that the farming community in that part of Cumberland were always careful about farming and how not to affect the landscape. It is not true to say that the argument about conservation is on one side only.

I take the view that we must reject these orders. We reject the order in question because it fails to give a proper appreciation of the situation. The National Farmers' Union certainly have come out against the Government on this. All that I would say—and I do not want to make a long speech—is that I agree very much with what my noble friend Lord Collison said; I cannot accept what the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, said; and I must say to the noble Lord, Lord Glenkinglas, that he can go on arguing with his colleagues and with the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, who I think made an excellent contribution. I am sorry to say that he was rather critical of the negotiations at the Ministry. I am rather surprised at that. However, he has put that on the record. MAFF, I believe, to do their best; and what is more important, the main people affected by this are ADAS and the advisory service.

I am suspicious of a Conservative Administration when they are in power. I do not think it happened at the time of the noble Lord, Lord Soames, but at a later period there was an attack on the advisory service. It had disastrous results. I believe that ADAS is an important body and I am sure that we have confidence in it, but, despite that, I believe that we shall be right to carry this Prayer and to divide against the order.

I shall always remember that it was an Agriculture Minister who destroyed the rural development board which affected a major policy decision in the North of England. I set up that rural development board under legislation. At a later period a Conservative Minister of Agriculture came back in office and at a stroke destroyed something which was very positive for the farming community in the North of England. All that I am saying today is that I believe we should reject this order and that the Government should think again. This is not a party matter. I believe that noble Lords who are interested in conservation and in other matters, too, should reject this order and say to the Government: "Let MAFF look at this again and have another go".

5.36 p.m.


My Lords, with great respect to the noble Lord the Leader of the Opposition, I do not believe that the Government should look again. I will explain why not. It has not been said yet, and it ought to be said, that the Minister of Agriculture should be given more credit than noble Lords seem to be willing to give him; that, at a time when the nation is in a tight corner economically, he is able to achieve for farmers the kind of level for grant aid for capital improvements which are proposed by these orders —even though the rates are lower than those which the agricultural industry have received in the past. According to the last figures that I have seen, the amount to be received by farmers for capital projects this year is no less than £170 million. I do not suppose that in money terms the amount for 1980–81 will be very much less.

I am always very conscious as a farmer when I am at the receiving end of a grant for some kind of capital improvement that it is coming out of some other taxpayer's pocket. This applies to the whole of the money paid out under the farm capital grants scheme, and to a very large proportion of the money paid out under the FHDS scheme, although some of the latter comes from the European fund. But even that 25 per cent. has a large British contribution in it in view of the amount that we pay to the EEC budget. This capital injection into our agricultural industry whose capacity for capital formation has always been acknowledged (and rightly so) by Government to be limited, is of immense value to our food producers. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Peart, will agree with me on this. We should never forget that. My own view is that, in the light of the need to cut public expenditure and in order to save staff, we should accept that prior approval on capital improvement should no longer be a condition of grant aid being payable. What has worried me during the consultation period has been the Government proposal for procedure in the so-called environmentally sensitive areas.

Unlike the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, I have no objection whatsoever to the requirement that the appropriate authority, be it the National Parks Planning Department or the Nature Conservancy Council, must be consulted by a farmer when he wishes to carry out a scheme that will qualify for aid. What seemed to me to be quite wrong was that the Ministry's advisory officers were going to be called in only after a conflict had arisen between the agricultural and the conservation interests. Such a conflict is precisely what we all wish to avoid. We also wish to avoid a reluctance on the part of farmers to apply for grant aid if they think the procedure is too cumbersome; and if they think, as with justification they might well think, that it would pay them better to go ahead right away with an improvement scheme dispensing with grant aid rather than have the scheme held up by lengthy procedure resulting in the end in the work being more expensive to carry out. It would then be more difficult to ensure that a scheme was an acceptable one environmentally or in the conservation sense.

I know that Agriculture Ministers have been aware of these worries, and having now heard today the more detailed proposals for regulating procedure in the sensitive areas, my own view is these are certainly an improvement on those envisaged in the earlier consultation paper. I am now happy about the proposed involvement of the ADAS officers in the sensitive areas that can take place. So delays, misunderstandings and possible conflicts can be avoided. I find, from what I have heard, this procedure to be satisfactory.

Subject to certain assurances, I believe that the Government are right. The assurances that I would ask from my noble friend are these. First, the noble Earl referred to the role of the ADAS officer in national parks and SSSIs. Can he confirm that there is nothing whatever to stop a farmer in a sensitive area from consulting the ADAS officer for advice on a farm improvement scheme at any stage? It would seem very desirable that advice he sought not only on technical matters but on the conservation aspect right at the beginning. I am not referring to prior approval; I mean advice, which is what the advisory officers are there to give.

Secondly, the noble Earl told us that staff savings can be used to allow ADAS to give more conservation advice. Can he assure us that, notwithstanding the staff reductions that are proposed, there will be sufficient ADAS officers and staff in the sensitive areas to ease the consultation process? Thirdly, will he give me some assurance that he will bring to his right honourable friend's attention the fact that due to the lack of consultation and notification in the past by the Nature Conservancy Council, many farmers are still unaware that their land, or part of it, is designated as a site of scientific interest? Unless one knows that one has land in that category, one is unlikely to adopt the right procedure in future in respect of capital grant applications. I wonder whether my noble friend will reply to those points now?


My Lords, I cannot intervene in the middle of the debate. I have carefully taken down what my noble friend has said. I will answer his points in due course, if I may.


My Lords, with the leave of the House, I understand. I am sure that those assurances will be forthcoming. When they are I will not oppose these orders and I recommend noble Lords who have the interests of our farming industry at heart to vote with me for the Government.

5.44 p.m.


My Lords, this is not the first time that I have addressed your Lordships on agricultural matters. I have never before claimed to speak on behalf of or even with the agreement of the majority of farmers in this country; but I believe that today I can do so.

Not so very long ago, as some noble Lords who have spoken have already pointed out, there was a very strong antagonism between farmers and the conservationists. We were the people who got on and did the job and produced food as cheaply and as efficiently as we could. They were the people who got in our way and did not want us to take down the hedges; they did not want us to put up efficient buildings, and matters of that sort.

I am glad to say—and, again, other noble Lords have borne this out—that that attitude has almost entirely disappeared and today it is realised both by the farming community and conservationists that there is a very great harmony of interests between us; that we as farmers want to do all that we can to preserve and enhance the countryside, wildlife and the environmental aspect as a whole, and the conservationists and environmentalists want to do all that they can to help us as farmers to produce efficiently.

Why is that happening, my Lords? I believe that a very large part of the credit for it must go to the officials of ADAS who have taken on in the past few years the role not only of advising farmers how to farm, but also of explaining to them the importance of conservation and the environment and helping them to work out schemes where the two can be married safely together. That is an enormous advantage to all of us, whether as food producers or as those who enjoy the countryside.

These orders put that in jeopardy. No longer will there be ADAS officers specifically charged with the job of bringing together the production and conservation aspects of rural life. No longer will farmers be encouraged—and more than encouraged—to seek the advice of such people. They will be left in the interests of saving a few hundred officials and a very small amount of cash, to drift apart once more. I believe that the damage to the countryside over the decades to come will he immeasurable.

For those of your Lordships—and there are very few indeed, if any, in this House—who are avowedly philistines, all right, we are saving money; that is what we must do and to hell with the consequences. If there are a few more ugly buildings, if a few more nature reserves are destroyed, what does that matter?— we are efficient. For those of us—and I believe it is all of us here—who are concerned with the enhancement as well as the preservation of the beauty of our countryside, for the marriage between food production and environmental protection, these orders cannot be acceptable, and the Prayer of my noble friend Lord Melchett must be supported.

5.48 p.m.


My Lords, in my opinion the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has overstated his case, and he has weakened his case by so doing. I have farmed all of my life in Scotland and England. In my opinion, these orders are going to help farmers. The view in the House regarding prior approval appears to be that, if it is done away with, the farmers will not be able to seek the advice of the ADAS officials if they want to attempt a grant-aided scheme. That is complete nonsense. Any farmer who wishes to go in for a grant-aided scheme can telephone and ask an ADAS official to come and see him and give him advice.

I have had quite a lot of experience of trying to get around civil servants. I must say that when one needed prior approval it was often a very great delaying tactic. I think that abolishing prior approval will speed matters up considerably. I understand that the ADAS officials will now be relieved of a lot of office work such as form filling, and they will therefore have far more time to give advice.

Regarding conservation, I am a conservationist, but I agree with one or two noble Lords who have said that among conservationists there are a few cranks, and I have also suffered from them. I have had quite a few instances of this and I would give one example where some planting which I was going to do was held up for a very long time. There were some small plants in a piece of boggy ground in this area. It was not all that rare but my planting was held up for this reason by the conservationists.

The latest example I have had is that I am starting a salmon farm on my estate in Scotland, and the amount of bodies and boards I have had coming to inspect it is absolutely fantastic. The only person who has never been asked for advice is myself—and I am paying the rates and taxes. For instance, we had the Clyde Purification Board. They drove up from Glasgow in a chauffeur-driven car; they came and saw the site for four or five minutes; they drove 100 miles; they came over on a boat; they drove another 16 miles and saw the site for, as I have said, four or five minutes. Then they went off to the most expensive hotel and had an enormous lunch, and drove back to Glasgow. How much did that cost the ratepayer?

However, I digress, my Lords. I did not agree with my noble friend Lord Clifford of Chudleigh when he said, with regard to areas of scientific interest, and national parks, that the farmer should not have to ask for prior approval before embarking on a scheme. Of course he must. Many farmers, of course, are not scientists, and indeed they cannot have all the knowledge that is needed concerning the countryside. They may be very good farmers, but there are other aspects of the countryside apart from farming. So I think the Government are quite right here in suggesting that, before a farmer embarks on a scheme in a conservation area or in an area such as a national park, he must seek advice and he must not embark on the scheme if the appropriate body objects.

I should like to say that I support the Government on this with regard to public money. I think it is going to save probably £2 million by 1982–84. That, of course, is not a very big sum, but there is a saying which goes something like, "Many a mickle makes a muckle"—I cannot quite remember the saying. But certainly with £2 million here, £3 million there, £10 million here and so on, it all adds up and in the interests of saving public money, I heartily support the Government in saving public money.

Before ending, I should just like to say, with regard to public money, that about 25 years ago I applied, under the hill farming scheme, to build a bridge across a river. I was told that it would cost £8,000 to carry a car, a Land Rover or tractor, but I do not like wasting public money or my money, since under the scheme the landowner had to pay half the cost. So I did not apply and I built that bridge for £500, and it is still standing today. Having said that, I should like to repeat again that I fully support the Government.

5.54 p.m.


My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, for a new governmental definition: that "a consultation" is one where the parties have agreed and "a genuine consultation" is one where the interested parties have disagreed. I congratulate the noble Earl on his frankness in admitting that his consultations have been "genuine". That, I think, is the answer to the noble Viscount, Lord Massereene and Ferrard, and to the noble Lord, Lord Middleton, that in fact nearly every interested party affected by these proposed orders has disagreed with them, sometimes very strongly and even almost violently.

I do not think that we should pass these orders with the knowledge that those interests are very much opposed to them. I speak as one who once upon a time erected a barn which was shorter by one bay than I had specified when making the application for a grant. When in the end I applied for the grant, I was told: "This is not up to the specification and we will not pay you any grant, even though it be a smaller grant than the one you would have had". So I am once-bitten-and-twice-shy regarding these new proposals and I am apprehensive about whether the Government proposals, however reasonable they look on the surface, could work in practice. There is no way in which I, as a farmer, would be satisfied by the noble Earl's explanation without the explanatory leaflet which, of course, has not been forthcoming. The reservation of the NFU that there should be a residual option for a farmer to receive prior approval is a very reasonable one but, even if we all agreed with that, we could not amend this order. For that reason alone, I would oppose one of these orders.

I want to take the opportunity just for a moment to say something about grants in general, because I think the whole matter of agricultural grants has got rather out of hand. In this country they became consolidated as part of the farming scene with the 1947 Act, and they have continued ever since without, I believe, enough thought being given as to how much good they were actually doing. Now that so much emanates from Brussels things have got worse in this respect. Our Sub-Committee "D" paid a visit to the Berlaymont a couple of years ago where we were faced with a charming Irishman—I may say that the Irish are very clever in getting themselves in positions of this kind—who presented us with a mass of statistics and charts regarding agricultural grants which, on the face of it, could be obtained by a farmer for going into anything or coming out of it again, or for the purchase and sometimes the disposal of live or dead stock—grants for any and every activity in the farming sector. He obviously thought he was doing a good job, giving a comprehensive service no doubt; but what was missing from his presentation was any evaluation of any kind of the money and effort he was spending, and their cost effectiveness.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, did not try to make an economic justification of farms grants schemes—I do not think he was expecting that he should; but if grants are, let us say, to aid production, who wants more production? The only justification I can see for building grants is that perhaps the buildings we have had erected in the countryside may be of a better quality than they otherwise would have been; but that would need proof.

I think the Government should concentrate their responsibility for farming in making it a reasonably economic activity, and they should encourage farmers with indeed the invaluable and neutral help and advice from ADAS remaining available to set about producing what is wanted by the consumer in the best way possible. The only exception I would make is that grants would need to be made in national parks, where, let us say, materials of certain kinds more expensive than usual have to be specified for the roofs of farm buildings, and in hill areas, where obviously there are special considerations.

The only part of these orders I would welcome would be the simplified criteria and the relaxation of the minimum income stipulations. But while the new criteria are not only very complicated, it seems to me they mean that Ministry officials will be making some tricky value judgments, which will inevitably be challenged. In a sense, these criteria of eligibility make my case for me. I do not see that the Minister should be making value judgments, say, as to the worth of an agricultural business or as to the proportion which the business might contribute towards somebody's income or towards making employment. We ought not to discourage part-time farming—we ought to encourage it—and we should not generate a frame of mind in which some sorts of part-time farming are officially okay and some are not.

I end by saying that surely it is all right for farmers to engage in business other than farming without looking over their shoulders in fear of losing some grant or other. In my view it is better that no grants should be made available at all than that the Ministry or the EEC should make an attempt at classifications of the kinds which appear in these orders; and although perhaps they might be considered to be a worthy effort at achieving an unsatisfactory objective, I think that these orders demonstrate how impossibly invidious will be the effects of the working of both schemes, and I oppose them.

6.2 p.m.


My Lords, I hesitate to speak to your Lordships at this rather late hour. This matter has been very considerably drawn out. But, like so many of your Lordships, I have an impeccable agricultural background—I sustain myself as a farmer—and I also think I have a comparatively impeccable conservationist background in so far as I am a member of a large number of conservationist organisations. These organisations, agricultural and conservationist, have lobbied me as intensively as they have lobbied many of your Lordships. I should like to say, particularly to those of your Lordships who pay great weight to the conservationist issues, that I think the problem has been blown up. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, would agree in his heart that he has expanded to a very great degree the problems that conservationists face.

The noble Earl, Lord Mansfield, in introducing this debate this afternoon, brought together all these orders. I feel that it might possibly have been in his interest to unscramble them, because, unless I am mistaken, there are fairly considerable differences between the order that relates to the FHDS and the order that relates to the capital grants scheme. As the noble Earl has explained to us in introducing these orders, there is yet to come an explanatory memorandum. The noble Lord, Lord Middleton, has asked for several points of clarification to be made to us this afternoon. We hope these can also be incorporated in that memorandum, which will be greatly to the relief of those of us who are concerned both with agriculture and with conservation.

I ask for further points of clarification because, on my reading of these draft documents, the first, that is to say, that concerned with the European Communities—the FHDS scheme—has as a requirement for grant that the farm development under paragraph 7(c), is included in and appears to the Minister to be necessary or appropriate for the purposes of an approved development plan. Nowadays a majority of farm grants are under the FHDS scheme because there is, as all of us who are farmers know, a margin of financial advantage in being under the FHDS rather than under the ordinary capital grants scheme. The order appears to me—and perhaps this could be clarified in the explanatory memorandum—to imply that grant will be given only to a development which has already been approved, at least in the broad, overall aspects.

I believe that conservationists would be perfectly satisfied to know that farm developments had received prior approval in principle and that conservationists do not require the present—I know this as a farmer—sometimes excessive bureaucratic exercise involved in getting detailed approval, involving, as the noble Lord, Lord Raglan has said, maybe the number of bays in the barn or the materials of the barn, or, as the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie, has said, the actual materials with which the barn has been constructed. These points are not of interest to conservationists. If I am right—maybe at this very minute the noble Earl would care to clarify whether I am right; maybe he would not—there is already required under the FHDS scheme some form of prior approval. The problems that both farmers and conservationists are concerned with are only those developments which are under the ordinary capital grants scheme, and this therefore excludes the large number of developments that we as farmers all undertake, using our own labour and using our own materials because it is cheaper and more convenient.

As a comparative novice in your Lordships' House, I should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, for recognising that he is following my late father in his procedural applications. But if we separate out these orders, and if I am right in my interpretation, I feel that the first satisfactorily meets all objections that anyone might have raised this afternoon, because it concerns the FHDS. The second concerns the capital grants scheme. There are a number of points of clarification which the Minister has been asked to make, and perhaps it could be emphasised that the farmer, in taking advantage of the ordinary capital grants scheme, is going to be required in the documents, in an initial stage, to have taken account of advice. We hope that that advice can be co-ordinated through ADAS, because, as the noble Lord, Lord Clifford, has pointed out, there can be unfortunate and deeply regrettable animosity between conservationist organisations and agricultural bodies. None the less, there is overriding interest in ADAS providing an umbrella whereby there can be cross-consultation on all conservation matters as well as other matters. I hope that the noble Earl will be able to satisfy both agricultural and conservationist issues with regard to the second order on the paper.

Now we come to the third, which is the one against which the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, has prayed, if I understand the situation correctly. If noble Lords follow the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, and consent to his Prayer, I understand this will throw an awkward spanner in the works, but perhaps would not be totally disruptive. The noble Lord, Lord Raglan, has drawn our attention to the involvement of the EEC in agriculture; as we are members of the Community, this is inevitable. Sub-Committee "G", of which I am at present chairman, is looking at a draft directive concerned with environmental impact. The United Kingdom representatives have participated very fully in the preparatory work for this directive. The text was produced last month, and it contains two points which I think are important. First, it contains a general requirement to ensure that advance evaluation will take place of the environmental consequences of any development likely to have a significant impact on the environment. It also contains a general requirement, in suitable cases, to consult the appropriate environmental bodies, to consult other member states if trans-frontier problems are involved, and to inform the public of these issues. This draft directive has yet to progress through the machinery of the Communities, and maybe it will be further modified.

At the minute, agriculture, which is to a large degree outside the United Kingdom development system, as the noble Lord, Lord Craigton, emphasised, is covered by the draft, although probably it will be covered largely on a voluntary basis. I am perfectly aware that the Government, largely through the Department of the Environment, have taken an active and a positive part in discussions which preceded the formulation of this draft directive. As I wish to emphasise, this draft directive is concerned in a very central manner with the necessity for advance consultation. We have been told that in the explanatory document which is to accompany the orders that we are discussing this afternoon, the farmers are to have their conservation obligations drawn to their attention. We have been told that at present the ADAS involvement is largely notional, but none the less I consider that it provides a useful system for cross-referencing.

The Minister at one stage in his opening speech said that he was not asking farmers to do more in future than at present. But I hope, in fact, that when we receive the explanatory document which accompanies his papers we will see that he will ask farmers to do more than at present. I think he would agree on reflection that if he is able to answer satisfactorily some of the questions that have been posed to him this afternoon, farmers will be asked to do a little more in the interests of conservation. This will not be to their detriment, and I think it will be very much in keeping with the widespread public concern that exists about the perpetuation of good relations between those who are actually in control of the land and those who otherwise enjoy it as members of the public at large.

6.11 p.m.


My Lords, I do not wish to say much about conservation, because I have not had sufficient experience of it. All I would say now is that the problem seems to be rather like the little cloud on the horizon which is the size of a man's hand. It will grow if only because there seems to be no limit to the number of conservation societies which can claim to be consulted about the agricultural industry and therefore cause delays.

I wish to say two or three words about the prior approval because I have personal experience of that, if only because for the last 30 years I have actually processed grant applications for ourselves and our tenants with my own hand. That leads me to think that the National Farmers' Union in their brief are right in saying that they are opposed to the complete abolition of prior approval. My own experience has been that nine out of 10, or maybe 19 out of 20, applications go through on the dot. The 10th or the 20th does not, and in those cases it would be highly imprudent for any farmer to go ahead with the improvement without making certain that the grant is going to be paid. In fact, I can hardly see how he can go with a straight face to his bank manager unless he knows, nor can I see how a landlord would be wise in giving landlord's approval for the work to go on unless he too knows that the grant will come through.

We have made a practice on our bit of land of giving landlord's approval to any scheme which we know is going to get the grant and therefore is approved by the Ministry as suitable to that farm. So, although I certainly do not feel strongly enough about this to follow the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, into any Lobby, I think that the matter is not satisfactory as it is now.

What therefore can be done by the Ministry to leave the opportunity of consulting in certain cases to the farmers and in giving them a right to consult? There would seem to me to be three possibilities of avoiding action. Conceivably, it might be possible to insure against the risk of losing the grant. I do not think that would be very satisfactory. Conceivably it might be possible for the Ministry to accept a certificate by a professional person such as a member of the Institution of Chartered Surveyors that the work fulfils the conditions and therefore can go ahead with no risk that the grant would not be paid.

The third possibility, which I mention as a strong supporter of saving public expense, is that there would be power for the Ministry to make a charge for the cost of advising the farmer or landowner whether or not the application is eligible for grant. I would always be ready to pay such a fee if it was asked and it would be worth every penny. But, as I say, I feel that there must be some right for the member of the farming community to get an opinion from the Ministry before he commits himself to the time and the money and before he goes to see his bank manager.

6.15 p.m.


My Lords, I will be brief. Many of the points have already been mentioned, but I must start by saying that the way the Government have handled the presentation of these orders has been appalling, crude, thoughtless and clumsy. The proof of the clumsiness, as has already been pointed out in the House, is that it is the first time I can remember that every kind of conservationist has been driven into the agricultural lobby. However, as a farmer in North Wales, where there are over 200,000 acres of national park or sites of special scientific interest, I want to emphasise just one point which I think was mentioned by my noble friend Lord Middleton. Under the new arrangements the farmer wishing to apply for a grant in those sensitive areas will have to clear his application with the national park authority, nature conservancy or, indeed, local authority. Due to a very recent, and very welcome, change, the Government have agreed that once a week ADAS will call in and inspect these applications with his opposite number in the national park or nature conservancy and they between them will decide which of the schemes might have a conservation problem.

The trouble is that, welcome though this change is, it is not quite right for the following reasons. First, your Lordships are probably aware that the relationship between the farmer—it may be me—and the national park authority or nature conservancy is not always the best. It is, in fact, inclined to be armed neutrality. Making the farmer go on his bended knees to ask permission to be allowed to improve his farming is no way to run the countryside and the best way, if I can use a modern expression, to cause "aggro" at the start.

Secondly, many farmers have no idea where these national park offices are. The farmer may not even realise, as has been mentioned by other noble Lords, that he is in an SSSI, for, as opposed to your Lordships, lots of farmers, including myself, find other things to do than read. However, I know of no farmer who does not know where his local Ministry of Agriculture office is, and, much more important I know of no farmer who does not respect and value the advice given by his local ADAS man.

Thirdly, these national park authority officers and nature conservancy officers have very little, if any, experience of detailed agricultural problems and of farm finance. If it is to be they who go through the application form first, I can see the exact opposite of the Government's intention to cut down on bureaucracy. There will be endless delays and the unfortunate national park officer will, because of his position, be inclined to place 90 per cent. of the application forms in the "Don't know" or pending tray, partly because of lack of experience, which will further delay matters and add to expense.

On all these counts, it would be very much better if the farmer's first approach could be made to the Ministry of Agriculture rather than to the national park officer or Nature Conservancy Council. But perhaps of greater importance is that, through my suggestion of approaching the Ministry of Agriculture first, a large number of doubtful schemes in the conservation context would never even appear at the local ADAS office because the local ADAS officer, who, I emphasise, is a friend of the farmer, will have talked him out of it, maybe when visiting his farm on another matter. That is a very much better place and time to discuss matters than in a dusty office, certainly so far as persuading the farmer is concerned. Finally and most important, it will cost less, in my opinion, for the Government in time for the reasons I have given.

I cannot agree with my noble friend Lord Craigton that we should have listed land areas as with listed buildings. My knowledge of listed buildings in my area is that they are mainly falling down, and I do not want that to happen. To finish, I am not entirely happy with the scheme even if the Government concede this very vital point of approaching the Ministry of Agriculture before the national park officer or the Nature Conservancy Council. But then someone once told me that farmers are never satisfied. Perhaps that is why we are rather better, I hope, than many other parts of the community. However, I realise only too well the difficulties of trying to run a business profitably, and I sympathise very much with the Government's dilemma. It is a pity that Governments, of either party, are unable to admit that occasionally they have made a mistake, and they have made a mistake in the handling of this order. But we all make mistakes, and I am always appalled by the number of mistakes which I make and usually get away with.

So, despite my criticisms, and subject to some help from my noble friend Lord Mansfield on the point that I have raised, if I am asked by your Lordships to go through a Lobby today I shall go through the Government Lobby. I should perhaps finish by saying—and I know that I am saying this advisedly—that, whatever your Lordships decide today, the National Farmers' Union will make every effort, and more than every effort, to see that whatever scheme comes out is made to work.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, I rise, first, to express my wholehearted support for the intention of the Minister, my right honourable friend Mr. Peter Walker, in his quest for a simplified and streamlined form of administration for the farm capital grants, and I do not disagree for a moment with his choice of the abolition of prior approval as the main way of doing it. But the significant political issue is not in the terms of the grant orders. Our debate so far has shown very clearly that the significant political issue is the way in which these grants are administered within the framework of a conservation policy, where that is important.

Fortunately, this whole consultation procedure, and this debate today, goes on at a time when, as several noble Lords have said, the relationship between farmers and conservationists has hardly ever been better. The mistake has been in thinking, in some circles, that this issue is one on which farmers and the conservation lobby are polarised and in opposing camps. That is not the case. We have the report of the Strutt Committee, which the noble Lord, Lord Collison, rightly mentioned, to, as it were, set the seal on this happy state of the relationship between farmers and conservationists. This is what makes it all the sadder that a gremlin has got into the works—and it certainly has-—in the whole consultation procedure.

We have had three papers setting out the policy for the administration of farm grants in relation to conservation. Mark I was the one issued on, I think, 20th February, and it was this that set the cat among the pigeons, or produced the instantaneous reaction of all concerned to what the Government were trying to do. The consultation of this was intended to last until 31st March, but one of the effects of the gremlin was that two sets of people, who were supposed to take part in the consultation—namely, the national park authorities and the district councils, in respect of the areas of outstanding natural beauty—did not receive their papers until the middle of March.

The consultation procedure was very properly extended to something like the end of June. Then, as a result of that, policy Mark 2 was issued and that, too, produced an almost united reaction against the proposals, because there had not actually been very much movement during the first consultation phase. I am glad to say that, in the light of that second lot of reactions, Mark 2 was withdrawn; and I think that sonic of the remarks in this debate, particularly from the Benches opposite, have been, as it were, addressed to Mark 2 which are not the proposals that are before us.

Fresh supplementary arrangements were worked out and agreed by Ministers from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of the Environment on 22nd July, which I have heard being explained, and the orders which had been withdrawn, based upon Mark 2, were relaid on 28th July and those are the ones against which policy Mark 3 has been designed.

Difficulty arises because it is not until this afternoon that the House as a whole has heard, formally and officially, of these changed arrangements—that is, what I describe as Mark 3—and we still have not seen them in black and white. I have seen them, and no doubt many noble Lords have seen them, in the versions which were sent by the Ministry of Agriculture to the various interests concerned. For instance, I have seen the correspondence with the Countryside Commission.

I submit to the House that what we have heard this afternoon is a very considerable improvement, and I was glad to hear my noble friend expound it clearly and emphatically, as he did. It seems to me that the improvements add up to three items. There is a clear restatement of the Minister's recognition of the fact that he has, and farmers have, an inescapable duty to meet their obligations under Section 11 of the Countryside Act, in respect of each and every farm grant that is made throughout the whole countryside. If that had been stated clearly and emphatically right at the beginning, we should have got through with much less trouble. I am glad that it has been stated now. Coupled with that, there is the countrywide option on farmers to consult ADAS about conservation, if they are in any doubt, and certifying that they have done so when they have. That is a considerable improvement.

Then there is the second innovation since Mark 2, which is what has come to be described already as the ADAS weekly tea party, when an ADAS officer goes to sift through the proposals which have been submitted by farmers to the national park authority, the Nature Conservancy Council or whoever it may be. I am rather inclined to agree with my noble friend Lord Stanley, that it would not make much difference if the ADAS officer took the applications to the tea party, instead of finding them there when he arrived in the hands of the planning officer. But that is a matter for my noble friend to consider. The removal of the areas of outstanding natural beauty, in the change from Mark 2 to Mark 3, is, in view of the first assurance that I have just mentioned, not a matter of great concern, but it is something on which there has not been very long for many people in the planning world to consider.

The other factor, which I have heard for the first time this afternoon and which I am very glad to hear, is that the Minister proposes to use the savings made by the abolition of prior approval to shift ADAS resources from filling up forms to giving conservation advice, and is not using all of that change to effect economies. To the extent that that is the case, it is very welcome news indeed. So the upshot is that Mark 3 is an acceptable package of proposals. It is unfortunate that we have not heard about it sooner than we have. It may be that it has not taken the form of a document in black and white because further consultation, on the way in which this scheme is to be administered, is still going on and will continue in the light of experience.

If that is so, I welcome it, but I think the House will be glad to hear from my noble friend what is the intention of the Government. There is room for further improvement still. If it is going on, let us hear about it and that will encourage us still further. The second assurance which I should like from my noble friend is that this whole new system of administering farm capital grants will be got right and settled firmly, before Parliament is asked to embark on any consideration of a Countryside Bill, which I believe may well be before us in the next Session.

6.30 p.m.


My Lords, before my noble friend Lord Mansfield rises to answer the many points that have been made in the debate, I feel that as Leader of the House I should put one fact before your Lordships. This is an item of subordinate legislation. It was decided that, unlike primary legislation, subordinate legislation should not be affected by the Parliament Act. I am told that ever since the Parliament Act there has been an unwritten convention that subordinate legislation, since it is not subject to the Parliament Act, should not be rejected by this House. I am told that in recent years there has been only one instance where this has happened. It happened over a matter which affected what was then Southern Rhodesia. That is the one and only case that I have been able to find out about since the passing of the Act.

It would not be right for me personally, as Leader of the House, to enter into the merits or demerits of the argument, albeit, like the noble Lord, Lord Peart, having been Minister of Agriculture, I should dearly like to do so. However, I refrain from so doing. May I suggest that noble Lords should ask themselves whether these proposals—which, as we have heard, have been amended after consultation, although I understand from certain noble Lords who have spoken in the debate that the consultation was not all that they would have liked it to be—are such, in the opinion of your Lordships, to warrant, although one precedent has been created, the creation of another precedent which could affect future Governments of either party. I feel that it is right to put this point to your Lordships.


My Lords, before the noble Lord sits down, I am not sure that he was able to be present in the Chamber when I was speaking. Obviously what he has said affects in particular the Prayer that I have put down on the Order Paper. I wonder whether he can confirm that these orders, as I have suggested, amount to another precedent; that your Lordships' House does not normally consider controversial subordinate legislation in advance of another place. That is a practice which is unlike the rather novel practice which the noble Lord the Leader has put forward, that the House does not divide against orders—which in my brief experience it frequently has. But the regular practice is that we do not consider controversial orders before another place, and these orders break that precedent.


My Lords, whether orders of this character prove to be controversial or, in the end, non-controversial, certainly it is far better that they should be considered first in another place before coming to your Lordships' House. It just so happens that owing to a concatenation of circumstances in this particular instance, with many of which your Lordships will be well acquainted, it was thought right to deal with the matter in this way on this particular occasion. It was not possible for us to take the business which we were going to discuss today. I agree with the noble Lord, but I answer him by saying that if these orders were to be rejected it would have the effect of their not being discussed. There would be no point in the orders being discussed. Because they would have been rejected by Parliament, they would not be discussed in the other place. I do not think that this in any way necessarily diminishes—perhaps rather the contrary—the points which I thought it right to put to your Lordships.


My Lords, may I put to the noble Lord one other point which disturbs me? I speak at the moment as President of the Council for the Protection of Rural Wales. I know that my members there would have wished me to vote against the order and to support the Prayer of my noble friend. However, a new matter has been introduced. I should have thought that possibly it would have been appropriate for the Leader of the House to express some regret to those of us who have been placed in this position. We are being asked, on constitutional grounds, not to vote against something which has caused very great concern to both the conservation and the farming interests in this country, both of which have been opposed to these orders. Now, at the last moment, as the noble Lord, Lord Sandford, has explained, a fresh matter has been introduced, so I understand, which was not available to any of us. We could have no previous consultation on what is now called Mark 3, and Mark 3 is, I hope, a good deal better than Mark 2. But we are entitled to some further explanation and perhaps to some degree of apology.


My Lords, the noble Baroness feels herself to be, as it were, split over this issue and does not know which way to turn or to go. She is asked on the one hand to vote against it, while I, on the other, put to her the constitutional argument which might lead her not to vote against it. But that reason would not have made it right for me not to put my observations before the noble Baroness. All I can or should say as Leader—I am not entering into the argument—is that I felt that it was necessary to put the point so that it could be weighed with other points which might be in the mind of the noble Baroness and of other Members of your Lordships' House before the Division. I still feel that it was right so to do. If this makes it harder for the noble Baroness, I regret that it makes it so, but I still think that I was right to put the point to her.


My Lords, some of us are in a difficulty. This is a last minute intervention by the noble Lord. I am not criticising him. He has chosen his moment. But I should have thought we could have had more advance warning of a matter of this kind.


My Lords, the noble Lord has himself been Leader of the House. I inquired about the matter because I thought it right to do so and to inform the House about it. If the noble Lord feels that I should have done so sooner, then I am sorry that I did not. But I certainly felt it right so to do.


My Lords, I understand that if it is negatived it then falls in the other House, but I see no reason why we should not have a Division.

Several noble Lords

Hear, hear!

6.40 p.m.


My Lords, there are a couple of points that, very briefly, I should like to mention. I would ask my noble friend the Minister to take on board the point raised by my noble friends Lord Stanley of Alderley and Lord Sandford; namely, that we should allow the prior approval of SSSIs and national parks to go to ADAS first. This would save a lot of worries so far as the farmers are concerned and would create the extra confidence which is being undermined at the moment. It would also improve a slightly invidious position so far as ADAS is concerned.

We have been told that any farmer can go to ADAS to seek informal advice. He does this, he puts his prior approval in front of the NCC or the national park authority. They have a disagreement and then ADAS is brought back in as an arbitrator. I can see here that there could well be a clash of interest and the ADAS man would be reluctant, on an issue on which perhaps he is not quite sure, to give the free advice that he would normally give to a farmer. I hope the Minister will be able to take this on board and perhaps make a change, even at this late stage, to make Mark 3 a little better.


My Lords, I should like quickly to support the plea made by the noble Lord, Lord Stanley of Alderley and the noble Earl, Lord Caithness, that, if possible, in sensitive areas the applications should go to the ADAS officer first. I believe that would be vital and valuable, if it could be achieved; and, if so, it is quite likely that the farming community would be very much happier about this matter.

6.42 p.m.


My Lords, I come back to the merits of the matter. My noble friend the Leader of the House has given his opinion to your Lordships so far as the constitutional questions are concerned, but in the space of not too long a time I hope to persuade a goodly number of your Lordships, including the noble Baroness, Lady White, that a lot of the fears which have been very properly and naturally and genuinely expressed, particularly by a number of the bodies who are interested in conservation, as this long matter has been unfolded have become, I would not say groundless but perhaps of slightly less importance than they were before.

I think it is necessary in the context of our debates to have regard for what the Government are trying to do and how this particular scheme has come about. The Government are committed to a number of things: partly the saving of money, partly the abolition of waste, but even more a dedication to trying to ensure that the processes of government in this country and the administration are carried on in a more efficient and cost-saving way than they have been in the past. I do not suppose that any of these ambitions would strike your Lordships as being other than entirely laudable; and if the idea of the noble Lord, Lord Melchett, is that this has been merely a cost-saving exercise which was designed to save a certain sum of money—and he produced an example which I am afraid I did not think was entirely appropriate; that is to say, the shutting off of a section of motorway—that is very wide of what we have been trying to achieve, and indeed what we are achieving with these various exercises which have been undertaken by Sir Derek Rayner.

The fact of the matter is that some of these procedures—which, as I shall tell your Lordships, are very old, have been with us for many years and come from a time when the farming community at least was in a much different position—are really out of date and outmoded, and by the establishment of really quite sensible measures considerable savings can be made.

Over this matter of farm capital grants, in the Ministry of Agriculture—and I am not talking about my own department for the moment—it has been estimated that no fewer than 400 posts could be saved; that is to say, 250 office staff and 150 ADAS. Far more ADAS could be saved, but only that number in fact will be saved because of considerations to which I shall return. As noble Lords have already hinted, the idea is to improve the service which ADAS gives to farmers and also, contrary to what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said, to improve the liaison as between the farmer and the conservation interests when such liaison should come about. I cannot stress too much that this is not some mean, cost-cutting exercise which is purely, in a Scrooge-like manner, designed to save money.

The next point I want to make is this: I think anybody who listened to this debate from on high (hopefully a rather safer roof than in our Chamber) would have to conclude that this House is a very conservative one—and I say "conservative" with a small "c". In all parts of the House we are violently resistant to change. This emerges from the farmers, who quite naturally are suspicious when their procedures are changed, and it certainly has emerged from some of my noble friends and some noble Lords opposite who have been highly critical of the way in which these changes have been brought about and about the consultation procedures.

In any difficult operation such as this the difficulty of meaningful consultations is exemplified by, for instance, the noble Lord, Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, and his attitude to those who really might not want him to do anything on his farm without obtaining permission, and my noble friend Lord Craigton, who certainly would not want him to do anything on his farm without permission. If we take these two extreme views—I do not say that in any offensive manner—we can see all too clearly the difficulties we meet when trying to make a new scheme like this.

A number of criticisms have been made by some of my noble friends and noble Lords of the way in which these consultations have taken place. Almost every conceivable body was consulted. Certainly all statutory bodies were actually consulted; every other body interested in conservation and that kind of thing was invited to state its position. Whatever opposition there may have been at the beginning—and I appreciate that there was a lot—as the months have worn on and various changes have been made, I think it is fair to say that gradually the conservation bodies, and indeed, the. National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association and others who are interested, came very much nearer to what, gratefully, may I call the very balanced view of my noble friend Lord Sandford. Having taken into account all the things we are proposing, they came to the conclusion: "All right, change there is going to be, but it is perhaps not quite so frightening, and certainly not so appalling in its possible effects, as we thought at first blush". So I want to quell any notion that there may be among your Lordships that the Government have blundered ahead in an arrogant and domineering, indeed almost a dictatorial way, failing to consult and, above all, failing to change course, changing their scheme as a result of representations which may have been put to them.

I do not want to take up too much of your Lordships' time on this but it seems to me that the criticisms which have been voiced this afternoon really fall into two categories. In the first instance there is the issue of prior approval; that is to say, whether a farmer who expects to obtain a grant in respect of an investment he is going to make should obtain prior approval. Prior approval was introduced many years ago when the advisory services were new and there was a need to ensure that farmers used them.

Over the years farmers have learned the value and have become economically in a position where they could take advantage of the value not only of the departments but of professional advisers, and they really no longer need to be forced to seek the opinion of the department before they spend their own money. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, mentioned—pretty hesitantly, because, if I may say so, he cut the ground of his argument under his own feet and quickly stopped—there are, and have been for years, criticisms that the system was slow, that it was bureaucratic, and that it interfered with the farmer's right to make his own investment decisions. As the noble Lord, Lord Mackie, said, sometimes it got the better of him and he made his own investment decision without waiting for the council or whatever to say yea or nay. That is something that has happened. It has led to breaches and it has led to disputes, and on occasions these have led to loss of grant. These new arrangements will sweep away all these disadvantages, and I do not believe we should, as it were, throw them out of the window.

The noble Lord, Lord Melchett, produced the argument that the poor farmer —I say poor, not financially, because according to Lord Melchett he was going to undertake heavy capital expenditure—would not know whether he would at the end of the day qualify for grant and he might be left grantless and having to pull the whole thing down again. I know the noble Lord comes from a part of the farming world which is I think of even better quality than Lord Mackie's farm. In my experience, at any rate, farmers simply do not behave like that. If they are going in for any sort of capital expenditure, other than the minimum, they are the first to rush and obtain advice. That is what they will be expected to do and what we shall encourage them to do, and what one hopes they will not be slow to do. They can, as it were, obtain the same crutch, if I may so use the word, the same support as they presently use; only at the end of their consultations they will not need prior approval before they continue.


My Lords, the noble Earl has made a very interesting point. If farmers are in fact able, having got advice from ADAS, to have some guarantee, which is what the noble Earl seems to be saying, that they would at the end of the day get the grant, what on earth difference does introducing these orders make? If the noble Earl is saying that farmers will be able to get prior approval, and no staff savings would result from these orders, the Government had better drop them.


My Lords, the noble Lord must not put words into my mouth. I never said anything about getting a guarantee. I said that farmers will be encouraged to do what they have always done—get advice. That, I suggest, will provide the support they need when they are making their investment decisions. It is not a question of a bureaucratic guarantee, a signing on the dotted line.

The next point the noble Lord brought up was the matter of the document. Of course, the explanatory leaflet has to steer a middle course; it has to strike a balance between being comprehensive, on the one hand (and possibly incomprehensible as a result), and then it has to be simple, it has to be brief, it must not leave too many questions unanswered, and above all it must not leave important matters unexplained. We shall concentrate on getting the leaflet into the position where the essential points are put across; that is to say, basic eligibility, the sort of standards which will qualify for grant, and what the farmer's obligations are. But the leaflet—and I want to stress this—will stress that if farmers are in any doubt they should seek help and advice from the departments. They do so already. If the farmers read the leaflet and follow the advice in the leaflet they will get the support and help they need. Over this question of prior approval I do not think I can take the matter very much further. I have tried to point out that the farmer will obtain everything that he needs in this modern world to help him to make his own decision.

I do want now to turn to the conservation argument. It would be wrong to try to draft on to a capital grant scheme some sort of planning approval applicable to the countryside. That has never been a feature of our capital grants legislation. I suggest it would be totally wrong to view it now in that light. That does not mean to say that those who, very properly and understandably, are concerned with conservation matters need worry that vast tracks of our beautiful and unspoilt countryside will be ruined because no apparatus exists to keep them unspoilt. The farmer—I must make this point absolutely clear—is going to be under the same duty as he is now, no more and no less. He is going to be under an obligation, if he is in, for instance, an SSSI, to consult the NCC, and he is going to be under that duty to consult before he goes any further—that is, if he expects grant.

Call I add just this. There is at the moment no power in this country to stop any farmer from doing anything he wants to do with his farm, always provided that he does not expect to do it on public money. That is a fairly stark statement, but that is the fact of the matter. I hope the provisions I have related this afternoon will show, first, that there must be this prior consultation; secondly—this is a terribly important point from what the noble Lord, Lord Walston, said—that the farmer will he encouraged and indeed expected to avail himself of the services of ADAS. Because the officers of ADAS will not have to go in for what, if I was not a Minister, I would call so much bumph-pushing; they will have more time and there will be more of them to help farmers over this difficult area. So that, I hope, disposes of part of that argument.

We have also been told by noble Lords, notably my noble friend Lord Stanley, that in fact there will be regular liaison between the conservation bodies, such as the NCC, and ADAS, so that they will have an early warning system which will give them an opportunity to consider matters, and, far more importantly, it will allow the opportunity for the usual cooperation and compromise which goes on at the moment.

I was asked if it could not in some way come about that the farmer should, as it were, put his application or notice into ADAS, or possibly the department, rather than the NCC. If we did that we would then in fact be resurrecting a great deal of the bureaucratic machinery which we are trying to take away. The expense and the amount of work which would be caused, I am informed, would be considerable. I believe that the method we have chosen in this respect is the best that can be designed. The farmer will have the protection that he wants in the sense that he will have the ADAS officer available to talk to and to use as a confidant, if you like, when hopefully coming to some sort of arrangement with the NCC or whatever body it is.

My noble friend Lord Middleton asked me to give three assurances and those I cheerfully give. His first point concerned the role of ADAS. He asked me to confirm that there was nothing to stop the farmer, in sensitive areas, consulting ADAS. That is absolutely the case. Indeed, we shall encourage by leaflet, and other means, farmers in such areas to do just that. His second point was that, as a result of this saving, he hoped that I could give the assurance that, in fact, there will be enough officers to carry out this task. What I have tried to say to your Lordships this afternoon is that as a result of this exercise there will be more and better advice than there has been previously.

Thirdly, my noble friend asked whether there could be—I think he really meant this —a tightening of procedures if farmers in an SSSI area, for instance, were unaware that it had been designated. That is a very interesting and important point. I am delighted to give him the assurance that we shall continue to take stock of the situation and, if we can devise a method of tightening this up so that the farmer knows where he is, we shall certainly do so in the weeks ahead.

I think that my noble friend Lord Sandford asked more or less the same questions, but I wish to assure him that we are, and shall be, having further thoughts in the next few weeks. Certainly I would hope that long before any Countryside Bill reaches either House of Parliament, all these procedures will have been got right in the sense that they will be comprehensive and understandable to everybody and, one hopes, will be working smoothly.

I leave your Lordships with the following point so far as conservation is concerned. The obligation on the farmer will be exactly the same as it has been previously. Before he makes his application for grant, he will have to certify that he has informed and consulted the appropriate body. If he does not, he will not get his money. I have compressed my remarks into "shortish" compass, probably too long for some and hopefully too short for a few, but in the circumstances I ask your Lordships to hold to the view that the Government have considered the whole of this matter with great earnestness and with a desire to produce a plan which is fair, logical and above all in the interests of the farmer and the countryside he inhabits.

The Duke of ATHOLL

My Lords, before my noble friend sits down, will he confirm that the Government consulted the equivalent Scottish bodies to those which they consulted in England?


My Lords, yes, roughly the equivalent bodies.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Lord Greenwood of Rossendale)

My Lords, the Question is that this Motion be agreed to? As many as are of that opinion will say, "Content"; the contrary, "Not-content"? I think that the "Contents" have it.


My Lords, which Motion are we being invited to agree?


My Lords, only one Motion has been moved so far and that is the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations 1980.


My Lords, since then a Prayer has been moved.

7.3 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said Motion shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 109; Not-Contents, 70.

Ailesbury, M. Fortescue, E. Netherthorpe, L.
Airey of Abingdon, B. Gainford, L. Norfolk, D.
Alexander of Tunis, E. Gibson-Watt, L. Northchurch, B.
Atholl, D. Glenkinglas, L. Nugent of Guildford, L.
Auckland, L. Gowrie, E. Orkney, E.
Avon, E. Hacking, L. Orr-Ewing, L.
Bathurst, E. Haig, E. Pender, L.
Bellwin, L. Hailsham of Saint Marylebone, L. (L. Chancellor.) Penrhyn, L.
Belstead, L. Rankeillour, L.
Blake, L. Hatherton, L. Rawlinson of Ewell, L.
Boardman, L. Hawke, L. Redesdale, L.
Boyd-Carpenter, L. Henley, L. Redmayne, L.
Bradford, E. Hives, L. Renton, L.
Bridgeman, V. Hornsby-Smith, B. Rochdale, V.
Buxton of Alsa, L. Hylton-Foster, B. Rugby, L.
Caccia, L. Kemsley, V. Sandford, L.
Caithness, E. Killearn, L. Sandys, L. [Teller.]
Cockfield, L. Kimberley, E. Sharples, B.
Colwyn, L. Lindsey and Abingdon, E. Soames, L. (L. President.)
Craigavon. V. Long, V. Spens, L.
Craigmyle, L. Lyell, L. Stanley of Alderley, L.
Cranbrook, E. McAlpine of Moffat, L. Strathcarron, L.
Croft, L. McFadzean, L. Strathclyde, L.
Cullen of Ashbourne, L. Mackay of Clashfern, L. Strathcona and Mount Royal, L.
Daventry, V. Mancroft, L. Sudeley, L.
de Clifford, L. Mansfield, E. Thorneycroft, L.
De La Warr, E. Marley, L. Trefgarne, L.
Denham, L. [Teller.] Marshall of Leeds, L. Trenchard, V.
Digby, L. Massereene and Ferrard, V. Trumpington, B.
Drumalbyn, L. Middleton, L. Tweedsmuir, L.
Dundee, E. Mills, V. Vaux of Harrowden, L.
Eccles, V. Monk Bretton, L. Vickers, B.
Ellenborough, L. Morris, L. Vivian, L.
Elles, B. Mottistone, L. Westbury, L.
Enniskillen, E. Mowbray and Stourton, L. Windlesham, L.
Faithfull, B. Moyne, L. Young, B.
Ferrier, L. Murton of Lindisfarne, L.
Bacon, B. Hampton, L. Ritchie-Calder, L.
Balogh, L. Hatch of Lusby, L. Rochester, L.
Banks, L. Houghton of Sowerby, L. Ross of Marnock, L.
Barrington, V. Hughes, L. Seear, B.
Beaumont of Whitley, L. Irving of Dartford, L. Sefton of Garston, L.
Birk,B. Jacques, L. Segal, L.
Blease, L. Janner, L. Simon, V.
Blyton, L. Jeger, B. Stewart of Alvechurch, B.
Boston of Faversham, L. Leatherland, L. Stewart of Fulham, L.
Broadbridge, L. Lee of Newton, L. Stone, L.
Brooks of Tremorfa, L. Llewelyn-Davies of Hastoe, B. [Teller.] Strabolgi, L.
Bruce of Donington, L. Taylor of Blackburn, L.
Burton of Coventry, B. Lloyd of Kilgerran, L. Taylor of Gryfe, L.
Clifford of Chudleigh, L. McCarthy, L. Taylor of Mansfield, L.
Collison, L. McCluskey, L. Underhill, L.
Cooper of Stockton Heath, L. Mackie of Benshie, L. Wallace of Coslany, L.
Davies of Leek, L. McNair, L. Walston, L.
Davies of Penrhys, L. Melchett, L. Wells-Pestell, L.
Dunleath, L. Northfield, L. Whaddon, L.
Elwyn-Jones, L. Oram, L. Wigoder, L.
Foot, L. Peart, L. Winterbottom, L.
Galpern, L. Phillips, B. Wynne-Jones, L.
George-Brown, L. Ponsonby of Shulbrede, L. [Teller.]
Gladwyn, L.
Hale, L. Raglan, L.

Resolved in the affirmative, and Motion agreed to accordingly.