HL Deb 14 April 1983 vol 441 cc303-4
Baroness Lane-Fox

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government how many schemes have been organised under the Village Ventures Competition.

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, I understand that more than 1,500 schemes were submitted for this competition which was organised by Rural Voice at the invitation of my right honourable friend the former Secretary of State for the Environment.

Baroness Lane-Fox

My Lords, in thanking my noble friend for that Answer, may I ask whether this partnership between Government and rural areas appears to be promoting the stimulation of the self-help and initiative that is always present but sometimes latent in village areas? Can he also describe some of the actual projects that have been included in the scheme?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, yes. That was certainly the rationale behind the decision of my right honourable friend to part finance this scheme. The object was to take an existing project a stage further. Since 1975, 12 counties have participated by running their own competitions to encourage self-help projects in villages in order to enhance the quality of life and to improve the viability of rural communities. These projects have been very wide-ranging; for example, a volunteer-run community shop and the rebuilding of a village hall in Gloucestershire, a television relay station for an isolated community in Cumbria, a social club in North Yorkshire and a community swimming pool in Dorset.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, will the noble Lord not agree that the funds made available for prize money could possibly be better used if allocated as a system of grants since this would encourage a wider range of self-help activities in rural areas? Is he also aware that this approach has the support of Rural Voice which, as I am sure he knows, is an alliance of nine national organisations representing rural communities and interests right across the field?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, the noble Baroness has correctly identified Rural Voice which, when preparing for this Question, I found difficult to do. The substantive part of her supplementary question was to ask whether the prizes would not have been better in the form of grants. At the instigation, I understand, of Rural Voice, this was a wide competition with many prizes, none of them greater than £150. I do not therefore think that grants would have been appropriate in this case.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, are the Government linking this type of activity with the work of the Development Commission? I understand that the Development Commission can offer 35 per cent. grants for the conversion of redundant farm buildings and can offer 50 per cent. towards the cost of local authority small workshops. Do we not need to link the economic revival of the countryside with the beautification of villages?

Lord Skelmersdale

My Lords, yes. The noble Lord is correct. Although the present scheme has come to an end, I understand that Rural Voice hopes to continue it and the Development Commission has agreed to provide further financial assistance in the same way that my department did; that is to say, on a pound for pound basis.

Back to