HC Deb 24 July 1973 vol 860 cc388-9W
Mr. Wall

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on the suspension of grants from the Horticultural Improvement Scheme after 6th July.

Mr. Godber

Most Government assistance to horticulture is provided under the Horticulture Act 1960 and the Agriculture and Horticulture Act 1964, as amended by the Agriculture Act 1970, and is subject to an overall limit of £47 million. The Horticulture Improvement Scheme is the main scheme covered by this legislation.

Until recently the rate at which applications for grants under the scheme were being received suggested that, although the funds available might not meet all demands on them until 14th April 1974, after which date applications may not be entertained, they would enable approval to be given to eligible applications until the introduction of new schemes on 1st January 1974 in accordance with the EEC Directive 72/159 on the modernisation of farms. However, the number of applications has increased sharply in the last few months, the increases being particularly marked in June and in the first week of July. The estimated grant commitment on 6th July was such that there can be no assurance that funds will be available to met applications received after that date. An announcement to this effect was made on 13th July.

A close watch had been kept on the rate of financial commitment and the announcement was made as soon as practicable after an assessment had been made of the latest possible date for which approval of eligible applications could be guaranteed. Any advance notice would have been self-defeating in encouraging contingent applications.

Grants remain available for cooperatives and small horticultural businesses. Assistance is also available to other horticulturists in respect of certain non-specialised items covered by the Farm Capital Grant Scheme and by agricultural investment grants.

An announcement will be made very shortly describing the proposals which the Government are putting to the EEC Commission about the way in which British horticultural producers can be helped by the FEOGA-assisted Farm Development Scheme to be introduced on 1st January 1974 under Directive 72/159, and for a new nationally-financed Horticultural Assistance Scheme to provide grants for growers not eligible for the FEOGA scheme.