Skip to main content

Ploughing Grants Schemes

Volume 640: debated on Wednesday 10 May 1961

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

9.55 p.m.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
(Mr. W. M. F. Vane)

I beg to move,

That the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1961, a draft of which was laid before this House on 19th April, be approved.
I wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether, following the practice of previous years, it would be for the convenience of the House if we had a single discussion on the two Ploughing Grants Schemes, which cover virtualy the same ground.

There is no objection on the part of the Chair if that is the general wish of the House. The Questions must be put separately.

It is proposed to make the Ploughing Grants Schemes, 1961, in the same terms as the 1960 Scheme, subject to the necessary advancement of dates. In fact, this is the eleventh Scheme made under the 1952 Act.

The House would no doubt wish me to follow the practice of previous years and give a summary outcome for the past year. Expenditure during the financial year ended 31st March was £10·9 million compared with £9·4 million the previous year.

Would the hon. Gentleman give us, if possible, the Scottish figures as well as the English figures.

I am afraid that I have not got them in parallel, but I may be able to get them for the hon. Member.

The area of land ploughed recovered in a remarkable fashion after the prolonged drought of 1959 and has been much less affected than was at one time feared by the equally prolonged wet conditions that have been with us now for the best part of a year. During 1960–61, ploughings carried out on some 180,000 farms reached the record figure of 1½ million acres. This is higher than at any time since the present series of schemes was introduced in 1952.

The hon. Gentleman suggested that we should consider both Schemes together. Will he make clear whether the figures he quotes relate to England, Scotland or the United Kingdom?

I do not want to be discourteous. The figures I have given were the United Kingdom figures. Because the Schemes are generally comparable over the whole area, I thought it would be simpler if I gave the general picture with one set of figures covering the United Kingdom. If the hon. Member would prefer it, I shall try to break down some of the figures as I go along.

For the financial year 1960–61 the outturn expenditure was: England £6·2 million; Wales £1·1 million; Scotland £2·5 million; and the North of Ireland, £1·1 million. The acreages were: England, 858,000; Wales, 151,000; Scotland, 357,000; and the North of Ireland, 161,000. The number of applications were: England, 95,000; Wales, 28,000; Scotland, 26,000; and North of Ireland, 31,000. The total of those ploughings reached the record figure of 1½ million acres, which is higher than at any time since the present series of Schemes was introduced in 1952. The figures which I have given are first for the United Kingdom as a whole and then are broken down.

It will be evident from what I have said that this is still a very effective scheme, which is widely used throughout the country. During the last debate on the subject in this House my right hon. Friend's predecessor promised that a review of these grants would be undertaken. It is not yet possible, however, to be sure of the outcome, since further discussions between the agricultural Departments, and the industry, and a good deal of work on administrative arrangements, will have to be carried out before proposals can be put before the House. We have also overhauled the machinery of control and administration.

Meanwhile, I would say that I firmly believe that many of the criticisms of these grants in their existing form are misplaced. They have been modified from time to time to serve grassland as well as tillage policy, and their main effect has undoubtedly been in stabilising the arable area. It must not be forgotten that they have helped to expand the area of temporary grass by 1 million acres since 1952.

It may be of interest to say that we have found that under the 1959–60 Scheme—these are United Kingdom figures, I do not think the hon. Gentleman would want them otherwise——

Before the hon. Gentleman leaves the figures, can he tell us how much of this acreage is on the basis of the £12 per acre and how many of the acres are on the £7 grant, because that will have a bearing on our attitude towards the grants?

I promise that I can get the figures for the hon. Gentleman, but I have not them before me at the moment. I can tell him that about 40 per cent. of the grant aided ploughing was of grassland between the ages of five to nine years and about 30 per cent. is old ley or grassland of twelve years or more. These figures were in line with those mentioned on the occasion when the present Scheme was introduced into this House last year, and without any doubt the age of the grassland ploughed up each year under the Scheme is well distributed above three years, which, of course, was the principal object.

Ploughing grants are part of the assistance given by the Government to the agriculture industry as a whole and are one of the production grants relevant to the Price Review. They continue to enjoy strong support from our technical advisers and also of the county agricultural committees in England and Wales. These committees have advised that without the grants there would be a general falling back in standards of farming, and a reduction in the amount of old grassland ploughed up. There would also be a risk of decline in the quality of both temporary and permanent pasture. In short, the committee think that the ploughing grants result in a material increase in the acreage ploughed and provide a real encouragement to good husbandry.

10.4 p.m.

My hon. Friend and, I think, hon. Members on the back benches know that for a number of years I have been against the continuation of production grants. I still believe that the average farmer is more concerned with the end price of his product than with having artificial stimulation of production, either by way of ploughing grants or anything else. This year there is a very small variation in what we are proposing to spend under the Price Review compared with last year.

I do not intend to vote against this Scheme, but I wish to announce that I want to "fire a 16-inch shell" right across the bows of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by telling him that this is the last time I shall allow a Scheme of this kind to go through without voting against it. I can assure my right hon. Friend that the shell is not made of Polish eggs. I feel that these ploughing-up grants have been voted by Parliament year by year on the assumption that we shall get better value from the land to which they have been applied.

I have had some experience of grazing cattle at various times. I have come very emphatically to the conclusion by studying this problem over the years that cattle do not like the new leys which farmers are putting in. If we look at a herd of cattle on a field which has been laid down to new grass leys, we find that nearly always they go to the headland round the field and eat the old grass. The reason they do that is that in the old grass they find the deep-rooted weeds which are bringing out from the subsoil the vital elements which provide more palatable feedingstuff for the cattle.

These ploughing-up grants are supposed to be payable for cropping, but what we are not told is the nature of the crop. Some of this ploughland will eventually be seeded down to grass. If I felt that as a result of these grants we would get a better quality of herbiage—when I say a better quality of herbiage I mean one which provides all the necessary things and not one which gives certain types of grass thought by scientists to be good quality—I should have a very different view. My belief is that we are not only doing untold damage, which very few people have fully fathomed, to animal food and the herbiage ploughed up, but also untold damage, about which far too little is known, to the human diet.

I believe the ancients were not so very far wrong when they used to refer to the human liver as the porta malorum, the gate of all ills. The amount of damage done to the human liver through being fed on food which has been made into the present form very largely by scientists causes a great many of the worst types of disease in human beings today. We are playing with very dangerous things. We are defying nature.

Not nearly enough study is given to the types of weed which are essential not only to animal diet but also—when converted—essential to human diet. If we look up the definition of weeds which presumably these ploughing grants are designed to remove from grass, we find that no one has yet decided which are good weeds and which are bad weeds. Even if we look at such a reputable work as the "Encyclopædia Britannica," we find:
"Weeds have been defined as plants whose virtues have not yet been discovered."
That is precisely my complaint. I think a great many weeds have many virtues which have not yet been discovered. If we eliminate them we shall be doing untold damage to the nutrition of the country.

For that reason, whatever my views about production grants—and I think my hon. Friend knows them by now—I say that this particular type of production grant is becoming less and less excusable. For that reason, I give clear warning to the Government that this is the last year that I shall allow a scheme of this kind to go through without voting against it. Only because the increase is so very small I shall not vote against it tonight. We must make up our minds once and for all about the future of British agriculture and decide whether or not we want to give the farmer a decent end price for his products or artificially to simulate his production without regard to what happens as a result.

That is my major objection to production grants in principle, but there are far more detailed matters about this Scheme upon which I have only touched tonight. I do not wish to delay the House unduly by going into the more scientific arguments which could be used. I believe that we are in great danger of being dictated to by scientists who have not yet fully worked out what are the consequences upon the human frame of what they have done to agriculture. I therefore hope that my right hon. Friend will be a little careful in future years.

10.11 p.m.

Hon. Members on this side of the House listened with interest to the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). The shot and shell which has come from below the Gangway is very welcome to hon. Members on this side of the House. The interesting feature of his speech was that it was an attack on the very basis on which these grants are given. It was not an attack on the financial aid to the farmer, but it was an attack arguing that it was not a good thing that farmers should be encouraged to do this in this way. He has called for more scientific investigation into all these matters and, frankly, I am with him on that point.

The House is being asked to approve the expenditure of about £10 million. Hon. Members opposite who represent agricultural interests are divided among themselves about whether this expenditure is reasonable and, as a lay Member, I think that the Government should give us a better explanation than we have had so far. I confess that the speech made by the Minister introducing this Scheme did not convince me that it was the right thing to do. He said that the Scheme was effective and that if it were not aplied there would be a decline in the quality of the arable land.

But why is the Scheme necessary? If all those dire results were to come about as a result of the Scheme not being approved, his speech would be a condemnation of our farmers, because it would mean that unless they had this £10 million from the House they would not be prepared to carry out good husbandry. If they will not carry out good husbandry without this money, surely they are not the good business men we expect them to be. The Scheme apparently is to encourage them to adopt good husbandry. The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely dissociates himself from that argument. If the Minister is right, he is asking the House to bribe the farmers by giving them £10 million to do what they ought to do.

I think that the word "bribe" is rather misplaced. We have an agricultural support system which has two main sides—support to the end price and production grants. We must look at the picture as a whole. I hope that the hon. Member will not press that word, which I do not think is applicable. These grants are part of the support given to agriculture in order to ensure a fair economic state of the industry. I also promised that I would try to give figures——

While it is all part of the one Scheme, the criticism made by the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely is valid. He disapproves of this kind of Scheme for this purpose. His point is that the farmer should get a reasonable price for his end product. He should apply his skills to secure good husbandry to achieve that objective.

By this grant—this is why I think it is a bribe; this is where the Joint Parliamentary Secretary condemned the farmer by the words he used tonight—the Government are saying that unless farmers have this kind of Scheme they will not do what they want them to do. In other words, unless this £10 million is provided in this way farmers will not be good businessmen and will not apply the farming methods which ought to be applied if they are to get the best from their farms. That is why I think it is a bribe. Joint Parliamentary Secretary's speech was a condemnation of farmers. This is my view. This is why we should have a further explanation, because the explanation given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary does not satisfy me.

10.17 p.m.

Although I have criticisms of the ploughing grants, I must say at the outset that they are founded on very different grounds from that mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke). If what he says is correct, the methods used in the country from which I and many hon. Gentlement now present come, which many of us believe produces better cattle than any other country in the world, must for generations have been very misguided. In its methods of livestock husbandry Scotland has been the home of the short-term loan, and the system has proved very successful.

Despite what my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary said tonight, I am still inclined to ask what the fundamental purpose behind the ploughing grants is in 1961. The figures he gave amount to £11 million for the United Kingdom as a whole. That is an increase of £1½ million on the previous year. The ploughing grants now form the third largest of the grants in their section, being exceeded by only the fertiliser and calf subsidies.

My recollection is that when the ploughing grant was first introduced many years ago, at, I think, £2 an acre, it was designed to reintroduce farmers to the advantages of taking the plough round their farms after a period in which the country had been lying to a great extent under grass. This aspect of the problem no longer exists.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary said that committees all over the country fear that if the grants were removed, reduced or reallocated in some way, the acreage under the plough would decrease substantially. To keep the plough going is one of the essential and fundamental rules of good husbandry, and if farmers have not learned after twenty years the advantages of taking the plough round the farm it is high time that the lesson sank in.

I would most certainly qualify that by saying that there is still room for encouragement where it is really needed. I would continue to pay the grant, even on an increased scale, in cases where, let us say, land was being reclaimed and put into cultivation. There are many acres in Scotland that could benefit from reclamation. There is a case, too, for paying these ploughing grants in cases of particular difficulty and expense in regard to the actual technical work, but it is nonsense that a big flat field of 30 or 40 acres in——

In the Lothians, or in my hon. Friend's constituency or in Suffolk—should if it has been sown out under grass as recently as the spring of 1958, receive a grant of £7 an acre if ploughed up in the autumn of this year.

Is it merely the intention that the ploughing grant shall act as an injector of £11 million into the price support system? If it is, I should vary much prefer that £11 million to be applied where it is really needed, and not distributed in what I think is a considerably haphazard method.

I was glad to hear my hon. Friend say that the matter is being looked at. I hope that it is really being scrutinised with a view to making changes, because there are departments of the farming industry that need assistance concentrated on them, particularly livestock husbandry in the less-easy farming districts. Lastly, is it essential for the distribution of the ploughing grants in Scotland necessarily to follow slavishly on the lines of the distribution south of the Border?

10.23 p.m.

For once, I find myself very much in agreement with the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stoddart). I am quite sure that he will offer thanks to those members of the Opposition who last night fought to enable him to make his speech at a reasonable hour. This debate shows how wise we were to fight that battle last night, as it is obvious that quite a number of hon. Members wish to speak.

I was amazed at the way in which the Parliamentary Secretary just talked about this Scheme and put it across as though it were something easily acceptable. Of course, if the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has studied the debates that have taken place on these Ploughing Grants Schemes over the years he will realise that there has been a growing opposition in the House to this form of subsidy, and, in particular, to the Part I ploughing grant.

Even hon. Gentlemen on the Government side have spoken against the Part I ploughing grant in past years along with my hon. Friends. In this connection, I thank the hon. Member for Newbury (Sir A. Hurd) for his very informative speech in which he questioned the wisdom of these grants and pointed out that any farmer worth his salt was prepared to go about his work with or without them. In other words, every farmer worth his salt should have learned the wisdom of taking the plough around his farm. My hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) has said that over and over again, year after year. But, in spite of this growing opposition to these grants, we still have no indication that the Government have even considered the matter.

I find it difficult to follow the figures given in the Annual Report of the Scottish Department of Agriculture. I also find it difficult to reconcile them with the figures given by the hon. Gentleman who opened this debate. According to the Annual Report, at 31st December, 1960, 774 notifications of the ploughing of 9,324 acres had been received under Part I and 537 proposals involving 5,920 acres had been approved under Part II.

I agree, but a lot of this was ploughed up before 31st December, 1960. I agree that these will be increased, but they do not approach the figures that have been given to hon. Members. I am not necessarily questioning them. I am merely pointing out how difficult it is to try to follow them.

I suggest to the Government that in future years the Department of Agriculture should give its figures in a manner that is understandable, because we cannot understand them in the way they are presented now.

According to that same Department's Report, we are told that the Schemes have as their object the maintenance of the area of land under cultivation—but that area has been falling in Scotland and it is only this year that it has shown an increase. In spite of the payments of these grants, in the last ten years the tillage acreage has fallen, until this year, when there has been an increase of 2,000 acres.

The acreage of rotation and firmament grass has also been falling, and so I am led to wonder just what is achieved by these grants. I hope that when the Joint Under-Secretary replies he will inform hon. Members how the Government estimate the benefits resulting from the grants. This is a very expensive form of subsidy, and I should like to know how the good that is done by these grants is estimated, because in previous years I have heard my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton pointing to the figures in the same way as I have pointed to them. Therefore, what additional benefits we get from that I do not know.

I repeat to the Joint Under-Secretary what the hon. Member for Edinburgh West has suggested, that it is time we considered the matter on a different footing at least for Scotland. There is no reason why we should slavishly follow England in this matter. It may be true that much more education needs to be carried out in England among farmers about the benefits to be achieved by ploughing-up—I have heard that suggestion in previous debates, and having some knowledge of conditions in Norfolk and Suffolk, I think there is some truth in it—but there is certainly no point in it for Scotland. If the hon. Gentleman had really wanted to do Scottish agriculture a good turn, he would have kept the marginal agricultural production grant rather than this one. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West knows that practically every farmer in Scotland would agree with that. I have addressed some of the Scottish farmers, and they have told that that they would far sooner have the marginal production grant maintained than this one

I want also to follow the hon. Gentleman's suggestion about reclamation. I have asked questions about this and spoken about it on occasions. It seems to me that if we have £2 million a year to spend, there are much better ways of spending it than in the form of ploughing grants. It might be given as assistance by way of marginal production grants or as grants for reclamation. On the Bill which is at present before the Scottish Grand Committee we have been discussing the necessity for reclamation in order to enlarge crofts and to bring under cultivation areas in the north of Scotland which are at present completely neglected but were formerly cultivated and provided a livelihood for people. Surely it would be in the interests of this nation if we spent our money in such directions rather than continued at least the Part I ploughing grant.

There is a much greater justification for the Part II ploughing grant, and I have no objection to that continuing, but I suggest that in Scotland—never mind England!—the money given by way of the Part I grants should be distributed in some other form. If it is a method of assisting the agricultural industry, let us have it in a form which is likely to do more good.

We cannot oppose the Motion, but we ought to have a specific assurance that the Government will examine the matter. There is a demand for an examination from all sides of the House. This is not a party matter. I am not arguing on the basis on which we sometimes hear subsidies discussed. It has been argued from both sides of the House, purely from the point of view of benefiting agriculture, that there should be a proper examination of these grants, that the time has arrived when the Part I ploughing grant ought to be seriously reconsidered by the Government and that if the finance is necessary to support the industry, it should be given in a different manner.

10.34 p.m.

These are perhaps among the more questionable of the production grants. Nevertheless, I would support my hon. Friend in continuing them for a further period. At the same time, it is very desirable that we should examine their true effects and their long-term effects upon agriculture.

I cannot agree with my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) in his strictures upon temporary grass. At all events, I cannot subscribe to his testimonial to weeds, which seemed to be a feature of what he was saying. I grant that if one turns cattle on to a new pasture they will graze round the edges in order to obtain the natural grasses which grow there, but they do not get much of a bellyfull in the process. In the long run, they have to fill their insides with what grows in the main part of the field. It is up to our research workers to find out why grasses are deficient in some elements as undoubtedly they are. I have no doubt that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary is stimulating work in that direction by his research departments.

I look at the matter from this point of view. I have in mind the rather poorer land of the Midlands and elsewhere, the clay lands in particular, where there is a tendency to go in for either pure corn growing or for pure ranch stock farming unless there is some kind of stimulus to the maintenance of our traditional method of husbandry, and it is that which these particular grants can provide. I have vivid memories of some of the Midland counties as they were just before the war, where a great deal of the arable land had decayed down to grass, where drainage had deteriorated and, above all, where the arts of arable husbandry had decayed completely. I am very anxious that that system should not return.

I believe that these Schemes which give a stimulus to mixed husbandry and to the maintenance of the traditional arts of husbandry are good and desirable. It is true that farmers would probably rather have the money on the end products. They can see it there. They see it reflected when they send their products to market, and there is everything to be said for putting the emphasis there wherever possible. At the same time, I think that at any rate a part of the assistance given by the Government is properly given in the form of production grants, and I support my hon. Friend in continuing these grants for a further period.

10.38 p.m.

I do not imagine that the Minister feels too happy about the reception he has received tonight. He will recall that more or less the same thing happened last year. I have a strong recollection that we were promised that the matter would be looked into again and second thoughts would emerge about the advisability of continuing this system. I do not know about the English grants; I assume that they are the same. In the Explanatory Note, we are told

"Except for the advancing by one year of all qualifying dates, other than the date (1st June, 1946) since when land must have been down to grass in order to attract the higher rate of grant, the terms of the Scheme are in all respects identical with the corresponding Scheme made last year."
If it was questionable last year, why were there no changes? At any rate, if there were to be no changes, at least the Minister should have explained why the Government had come to the conclusion that they should produce an identical Scheme. But we have had nothing of the kind. The hon. Gentleman has warbled sweet words about it being an effective Scheme without giving any evidence to show that it is effective. I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State will prove that it is an effective Scheme. We are told in the Report of the Department of Agriculture for 1960 that
"The schemes have had for their object the maintenance of the area of land under cultivation …"
Have they? Over the years they have not, though the position is a little better in some respects. But the matter does not end there. The area under cultivation does not prove the effectiveness of the Scheme. The Report goes on:
"… primarily as a source of home-produced feeding stuffs for the production of livestock and livestock products."
Well, have they?

It does not matter where it is. This is the purpose for which we are spending £10·9 million—nearly £11 million—and as one hon. Member said, quite rightly, this is one of the biggest of these grants. As a matter of fact, considering the importance of the grant in relation to some of the other more specialised, more discriminating grants, on which I would certainly place greater emphasis for doing the kind of job that has to be done in particular cases, it is only reasonable that we should understand the matter, especially when we consider what is spent on small farmer's schemes and then look at this amount of nearly £11 million.

Is this the best way of spending the money? We are given absolutely no information as to how much is related to Part I and how much to Part II. The Minister should not take the House for granted. When the Minister asks that for the convenience of the House we should take the two Schemes together, we know that he means for the convenience of the Minister. The Minister should have come prepared with the figures so that we could have been put in the picture. Also, he should have dealt with these Schemes in relation to Part I and Part II and given us the effective figures at the start of the debate so that we could have had some indication as to which of these two parts was playing the most effective rôle.

This is terribly important for Scotland. I am surprised that none of the English, Welsh or Northern Ireland Members seemed to appreciate the fact that of this £10·9 million, 25 per cent. is going to Scotland.

I know that we have a large acreage. We have a large agricultural industry—the most important industry in Scotland—and part of it is in my constituency.

Is this really the best way in which to spend £2½million in Scotland? Quite honestly, I have not been convinced that it is.

There is another point that I wish to raise. When we were on this same subject last year I drew attention to the fact that the Comptroller and Auditor General had something to say about the administration of the grants. He showed that there had been considerable slackness in relation to supervision and administration not only in England and Wales—although I am not so concerned about that as I am about the proper use of funds specified and supposedly for beneficial purposes in Scotland—and he discovered that certain people in Scotland had been getting grants to which they were not entitled, that they had been getting grants in respect of land that did not qualify for grants.

When the Comptroller and Auditor General eventually got round to the proper supervision, he discovered some troubles within the actual Ministry itself. I believe that one civil servant had to be dismissed and prosecuted. I have not yet found out what happened to the farmers concerned. We were told at that time that the job of supervision and the review of the whole of these approved applications had not been completed.

I should like to know what the experience in the past year has been in relation to the question of supervision and the question of over-payment or wrong payment. I am not going to make up my mind just now whether or not we should divide the House on this Order. I cannot entirely agree with the hon. Gentleman. The point he raised relates not so much to the actual ploughing up grant as to grassland altogether. This is one point on which I share the doubts expressed by the hon. Gentleman, but I do not think that it relates to this Scheme. Nevertheless, I congratulate him on being able to mount his attack on this point.

I might be more satisfied if there were a proper division between Part I and Part II and if I were given some reassuring figures in relation to the purpose of this Scheme. What effect will it have, not only on cultivation, but on the production of home-produced feeding stuffs, livestock and livestock products? In Scotland the last year the amount of livestock and livestock products fell.

No, not as a whole. The same is true of livestock products.

This expenditure of £2½ million does not seem to be effective, but I am prepared to be convinced, and I hope that the hon. Gentleman will give us a better picture and one more related to the Scheme and its purpose than we had at the start of the debate.

10.46 p.m.

I agree with the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) when he says that other grants are more valuable than this production grant. My experience of Scotland is limited, but the grant which would be most valuable to Scotland is a drainage grant. Proper drainage is the foundation of any type of farming.

Last year we spent £2·8 million on drainage. If one says that it costs £15 to drain an acre of land, which is what it does, and one doubles it for the 50 per cent. grant, it means that we drained about 100,000 acres of land. That is nothing like enough when one sees the amount of land which is suffering from a lack of drainage. A lot of land is ploughed up to obtain a grant of £7 an acre, but land should be ploughed until it had been drained. It is literally throwing away Government money to plough up land without draining it.

It is wrong that we should give a grant of about 350 per cent. for the privilege of ploughing up an acre of grass. It costs about £2 to plough an acre. We give a grant of £7 yet we omit the fundamental task of farming, which is to get the drainage right. If there is one way in which we can spend this money better, it is to increase the drainage grant and cut down the ploughing up grant accordingly.

I do not agree with my hon. Friend the Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard) that the right place to put this money is on to the end product. I think that if we do that we will experience again what has happened since the Price Review when 10s. a hundredweight was put on beef. The reason I was not here at the beginning of the debate was that I received a telephone call from a constituent of mine who said that since that was put on beef had fallen by £1. I am therefore not in agreement with my hon. Friend when he says that it should go on the end product.

A large number of progressive farmers are giving up growing four-year leys. They are going in for one-year or two-year leys using either hybrid grass or S.22 strain rye grass which gives greater production in one year or two years than can be obtained over the four years of the ordinary four-year ley.

The ploughing-up grant is becoming a direct disincentive to good farming. I doubt whether the technical advisers to the Ministry are as up to date in this case as they ought to be, because in my part of the country we are giving up four-year leys and going over to the shorter-term ley. Therefore, I would take up very strongly with my hon. Friend the question whether his technical advice on this matter is as good as it should be. I think he will find that there is much to be said for a change in that direction.

Another way in which we could help more than with a ploughing grant is undoubtedly by improving water supplies. If we are to have our grasslands properly managed we must get water to them. In many cases that is not being done, and the result is merely wasteful farming. Surely the purpose of these production grants is to make farming more efficient. Yet each year we are spending more money on ploughing up land than on drainage and farm improvements together. That cannot make sense if we are to face the future in agriculture with any confidence.

I sincerely hope that my hon. Friend will look at this matter again. I have read the short debate that took place last year, and we do not seem to have made any more progress in this matter. I realise the difficulty that the money is part of the determination of the Price Review, and that if it is not used for this purpose it has to be put somewhere else, but there are so many other places where it would do far more good. I speak with a good deal of feeling on this matter. The farming industry as a whole considers this to be the least worthwhile grant it has, and feels strongly that it is time the money was used with far greater effect than it is at the moment. I hope that the Minister will consider this again, and make this the last year in which this will be done, so that the money can be used where we know it can do most good.

10.51 p.m.

I subscribe to most of what has been said by hon. Members on both sides of the House, and agree that the £7-an-acre ploughing grant should be reconsidered. We have all come to the conclusion that that money could be better utilised. I am of the opinion that it could be utilised in connection with the very bad acreage which requires reclaiming, especially in Scotland. Although we make a grant of £12 an acre for that purpose it is my contention that that is not sufficient for the type of land which is now necessary to reclaim in Scotland. The easier type of reclamation has more or less been completed, and we have now reached the stage when it is necessary to reclaim land of a more difficult type. It is obvious to everyone that this is due to the great encroachment upon the best agricultural land that has taken place through the housing schemes which has been developed throughout our towns and villages. It is therefore necessary to do our utmost to reclaim the marginal land, which is so prevalent throughout Scotland.

I do not want to repeat the argument adduced this evening to try to persuade Ministers of the Crown to use a little imagination and to devise some more sensible schemes, after the long time that has passed since the Labour Government introduced the 1947 Act, but what amazes me is the complete inability of the members of Her Majesty's Government to appreciate that it is necessary to devise new methods and new schemes to bring agriculture into its proper place.

It is no use even adding this grant on to the end-product. In the last agriculture debate I showed conclusively that when farmers take their beasts to market to sell and the subsidy has been increased the price they receive is much lower. I sold nine beasts last Wednesday, and a few the week before that, and the experience described by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) was also my experience.

Although the Government have increased the subsidy for fat cattle, I never received the subsidy. The person who bought the beast for resale in the butcher's shop received it.

It seems to be outwith the wit of the Government to devise a scheme of marketing so that the producer would get payment for his efforts. The consumer gets no benefit from the reduced price that the producer receives. How long must we wait for the Government to devise a scheme to give a benefit not only to the producer but to the consumer as well? A more boneless set of individuals I never saw. One of the great calamities of this Parliament is the inability of the Government to devise a means of getting over the difficulties with which we are faced from time to time.

Here is a simple thing. Surely it is not beyond the wit of the Ministers to devise a scheme whereby this money—£2½ million in Scotland and approximately £11 million for England, Scotland and Wales—should be spent for the benefit of the agricultural industry and the community as a whole. Year in and year out Ministers come to the Dispatch Box but give us no plan or indication of where they are trying to take us. We have heard the Prime Minister laugh away questions of great national and international importance, and that seems to be a disease which has afflicted other members of the Government. We are allowing the agricultural industry to sink into a mess by the false utilisation of this money. It is a waste of time to debate the same old subjects year after year and to receive the same old answers. If the party opposite cannot do any better than this, it is time they made way for someone who can.

10.59 p.m.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) has disclosed his inefficiency by his method of selling his cattle. Later on I will explain privately to him how to get a better price for his cattle.

I believe that there are methods, but they are not the methods of true business people who want to be honest and fair. One can get people to bid for cattle by a swindle——

We cannot continue that topic now.

The hon. Member for West Stirlingshire was trying to make the point that this is a waste of money. He did not think that the grants should continue year after year, and I agree with that view. But we should have to discuss very carefully which end product should continue, arable or livestock. That would be difficult to decide. I have criticised these grants before. Let us get clear what they are. There is a £7 an acre grant for arable land which has been under grass for three or four years. I always say three years, but they include the year when the grass was sown. The second is £12 an acre under the new scheme for grass that has been down since 1946. So far as I can make out, there is unanimous agreement that the £12 subsidy should be continued for that sort of land which is going back under grass, it may be for too long, or land which is to be reclaimed.

Let us not argue about that any more; that is agreed on both sides. Now we are left with the remainder of the land which is under the £7 an acre grant. I am already on record as saying that we might use that money better. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) that one of the conditions for this to go on should be that the land should be inspected and drained. It is certainly a waste of money to plough land and then to let it go back. It should be drained before a grant is given. For that purpose it would be better to inspect it before rather than after ploughing.

That is all by the way. The point is whether this Scheme should go on for another year. I think that, on balance, to give the Government time to consider things fairly, I should not threaten the Government, as my hon. Friend the Member for Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) has done, to vote against the proposal next year if the Government have not concluded negotiations. I think there is something to be said for the arable farmer. This is the only production grant he gets. The hill farmer gets hill cattle subsidy, hill feed subsidy and calf subsidy if he is rearing calves, but this is the only production grant that the arable farmer on low ground gets. It is a question of balance whether to continue that or to give it to the arable farmer in another form.

It is all in the Price Review. It is part of the Price Review, £11 million out of £280 million, a fairly small part of the total.

I think my hon. Friend is a little inaccurate when he says that this is the only subsidy the arable farmer gets. He gets considerable value from the fertiliser subsidy of £32·2 million and lime subsidy of £9 million a year.

That comes under the heading of subsidy. I am trying to distinguish between subsidy and production grant.

Would the hon. Member ask the Scottish Agricultural Department to change the whole routine of the Report where it lists this under subsidies?

I leave that to the hon. Member for when we debate the Report.

If we are to abolish this Scheme in future, in the interests of the low ground farmer we should organise it in such a way that the equivalent benefits of the Price Review will be reflected in the price he receives. The marginal agricultural land farmer qualifies in addition to the M.A.P. grant he may be getting. The point is that if the system is to be changed—I understand from the Joint Parliamentary Secretary that the Government are considering what changes to make—the changes should be in favour of the low ground farmer who would lose the ploughing grant.

For those reasons, I support the Scheme this time, but I hope that by next year changes will have been made in the direction which I indicated. It seems to me, as I have said in previous debates on this subject, that many farmers—I am one of them, and perhaps I should have said so earlier—are getting £7 an acre for doing what we should do in any case, whether we received the grant or not. It seems to me that this is an easy grant to obtain. One needs to do nothing special to obtain it, because one would do this in any case. If there is to be any variation, it seems to me that the ways which I have indicated are the ways in which the variation should be made.

11.07 p.m.

I ought to take a good deal of comfort from tonight's discussion. It is the longest debate on these Schemes which we have had for many years. I have been the most persistent participant in these discussions. I opposed the Bill in 1952, and I have spoken every year since then in opposing these Schemes.

I had the honour to play some part in prevailing on Sir Thomas Dugdale, as he was then, to put a provision into the Bill to give the opportunity to have this debate annually. Tonight's discussion, following that of last year and the year before, shows the advantage of having a debate on a subsidy of this kind each year. I should like to think that after this debate it will never be necessary to have another debate on this subject, for I hope that the Joint Under-Secretary of State for Scotland will give us an assurance that it is the Government's intention to complete their discussions with the interests concerned so that we do not have the folly of yet another year of these Schemes.

I have listened to a long succession of Joint Under-Secretaries of State and Parliamentary Secretaries commending these Schemes, changing their case over the years, a little every year. The case has not improved over the years; it seems to have got worse and worse. I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary. There is no case to be made for these Schemes. Such case as has been made from the Despatch Box has got worse and worse over the years. Having listened to the Parliamentary Secretary tonight, it is difficult to believe that we shall have yet another Scheme in a year's time, commended by a speech even less convincing than his.

The only hon. Member who has spoken in the debate who has given any support, albeit somewhat qualified, to these Schemes was the hon. Member for King's Lynn (Mr. Bullard), who said that the farmers would probably rather have the money on the end price. If the farmers are convinced that it would be better on the end price, all they have to do to make this the last Scheme is to convince the National Farmers' Union between now and the next Price Review in February, 1962. If they do that, it will bring these Schemes to an end. We only have these Schemes because the N.F.Us. have year by year asked for such a subsidy as this.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that these Schemes are widely used throughout the country. What on earth does that mean? I will tell him—although he knows. It means that farmers everywhere on ploughing up their grassland, fill in an application form for the subsidy. It means no more than that. The hon. Gentleman also told us about the acreage over five years old that was ploughed up, as though that were a commendation of the Scheme, but the whole point of the Act in the first place, and of the making of the Schemes year after year was that they induced the farmer to go in for short leys and to plough up his land when it had been under grass only three or four years. But in commending the Scheme tonight, the hon. Gentleman has told us of the acreage that had been under grass for between five and nine years and which, when ploughed up, qualified for the subsidy. That is no case for such a subsidy as this.

The Parliamentary Secretary said—and here I think I am quoting him: "The committees think that the grants produce a material increase in the acreage ploughed up." When did the committees last think that? The hon. Gentleman must know perfectly well that when the Act was introduced in 1952 there was an immediate increase in the tillage acreage. The assurance was then given that it was very desirable so that we might have more home-grown coarse grains for livestock feed.

Some of us who were opposed to the Scheme in the first place said that after a couple of years of increase we would find the tillage going down, whether or not these grants remained in operation. We were right, of course, but it was not very clever of us—we had been through it all before under the ploughing grants introduced in 1947. We had seen the acreage going up—and then coming down again. We prophesied that we would have a repetition of that under the 1952 Act. We had. So, for a great many years the acreage ploughed showed a decrease.

I do not know what happened in England last year, or in England and Wales, or in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but in Scotland we had a slight increase——

Yes, we had 2,000 acres more tillage last year than the year before, but that was the first year for many in which there had been an increase. There had been a very considerable run-down—and when it was a drop it was not a drop of 2,000 acres; we were getting falls of 24,000 acres. Now we have come up a couple of thousand acres and the Parliamentary Secretary says: "The committees think that the grants produce a material increase in the acreage ploughed up." It would seem that for many years the increase must have been a substantial decrease. That is the kind of justification one is given for the continuation of these ploughing grants; all hon. Members must recognise that it is no justification at all.

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke) said that these schemes were definitely harmful to agricultural and, indeed, to animals and to all of us at the end of the day. I do not necessarily agree with what the hon. Member said, but I recognise that it is a point of view that can be held and expressed, and, perhaps, held by people who are better equipped to advise on these matters than am I.

My hon. Friend the Member for Dunbartonshire, West (Mr. Steele) described the grants as a bribe because they encouraged farmers to do something they would not otherwise do. Other hon. Members said that farmers were now sensible enough to plough up their land when they knew that good farming practice required them to do so. However, when the hon. Member for Dunbartonshire, West described the grants as a bribe, the Parliamentary Secretary was at the Box in an instant and said that my hon. Friend should not have used language like that and asked my hon. Friend to withdraw the word "bribe."

The hon. Member for the Isle of Ely did not describe it as a bribe. He merely said that the payment of the taxpayers' money under these Schemes was inducing farmers to plough up grassland, thus disturbing and rooting up what he described as perennial weeds. What the hon. Member for the Isle of Ely was really saying was that the farmers were being given money to do something that was wrong—something that was harmful to agriculture and bad for the nation.

If that is not a bribe, what is it? If the word "bribe" is not a fitting one for grants of that kind, what is? I have often described that sort of thing as a bribe, and that is what it is.

I should like to make it clear that I cannot support the view of the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser), when he says that this is a bribe. I have always understood a bribe to mean something done for a base motive. I am not suggesting that the motive is base but merely unwise.

The hon. Member can have it his own way, but I know that he agrees with me that the money is being wrongly applied.

Much of this money is being wasted—an amount of £10·9 million, or just a little less, because I have every year supported the continuation of the Part II grants, which are to some extent grants paid to what I have always regarded as reclamation work. Thus, from that figure of £10·9 million, hon. Members can deduct the small amount that goes towards the work of reclamation. But the remainder is money that need not be spent or need not be given to the farmers at all. It is money taken unnecessarily out of the pockets of the taxpayers. It is money that should not be used to influence the farmers indiscriminately to plough in their grassland.

I am not technically equipped to say exactly when grassland should be ploughed in, but I have been long enough concerned with agriculture, and I have talked to some of the best farmers in the country, to know that what is right for Norfolk is not necessarily right for the Lothians, and certainly what is right in Ross-shire has no application to Caithness and Sutherland.

The subject of the length of ley has been dealt with by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior), and I am certain that what he described is excellent for the part of the country he knows—but I am sure it would be hopelessly impracticable in many parts of the north of Scotland. Why should the Government have the responsibility of laying down a period of years after which, if the land has been in grass, there will be a subsidy for the ploughing up of that land? Why should the Government regard all the land in the United Kingdom as being exactly similar? Have they so little faith in the husbandry of the farmers that they cannot leave them to decide when the land should be ploughed up? If they have no confidence that the farmers would know when to plough up their land, could they not make use of their advisory services to give the necessary advice to the farmers rather than use the taxpayers' money in such liberal amounts to seek to convince the farmers that it is better to plough up their land when it has been down to grass for three years?

The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West, supported by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis)—Edinburgh was speaking with one voice tonight—asked the Joint Under-Secretary why Scotland should always follows so slavishly what the foolish English do——

My hon. Friend asked why the Scottish Ministers should always follow what the English Ministers do, but he also said in his speech that what the English Ministers were doing was foolish. I wanted to shorten my speech a little and thought I could do so by expressing myself in that way. In any case, the point is that last year the Secretary of State for Scotland got £2½ million which he chose to spend on ploughing grants under a scheme identical to this one because the English Ministers had spent about £8 million in this way. That is the only reason.

We believe that the £2·5 million could be spent much better in Scotland—and much better spent in agriculture. I am not asking that it should be taken out of agriculture. It could be far better spent in other schemes and developments in agriculture. As my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East said, it is such a little while since the Secretary of State stole £500,000 from the farmers on marginal lands, and the £800,000 or so that they are getting at the present time under marginal agricultural production grants is threatened. This is surely the land the cultivation of which we want to assist, because if we do not, it will not be cultivated. The low-ground land described by the hon. Member for South Angus (Sir J. Duncan) will be cultivated in any case. At any rate, I hope that the hon. Gentleman does not think that the withdrawal of these grants will lead to a further fall in cultivations on the low land. I thought he was arguing for the withdrawal of Part I grants on the assumption that we should get our cultivations on the low land anyway.

It is a pity that we have to listen year after year to hon. Members, even hon. Members opposite, showing that these grants are increasingly a disincentive to good farming. Those words were used by the hon. Member for Lowestoft. I have always believed that they were a disincentive to good farming and that the money was needlessly given in respect of this work in any case.

The hon. Member for South Angus said that if the subsidy were withdrawn he would want some other subsidy used to restore to the low ground farmers that which would be taken from them. He almost had us weeping for these low-ground farmers who receive no other production grants, as he called them, apart from this. He could have made his position clearer if he had put alongside those apparently generous grants to the hill farmers and the livestock rearing farmers the subsidies which are enjoyed by the low-ground farmers. He made a fine distinction between the production grants and the subsidies, but the so-called production grants which are given to the upland farmers are given to them because they do not have the commodities the end prices of which are subsidised. The hon. Gentleman knows that very well.

The whole justification for the special means of assistance given to the upland farmers is that they breed hill sheep and hill cattle but they do not fatten them. By and large, the fattening is done by the low-ground people. The upland farmers do not have the benefit of the market, nor do they have the benefit of the support prices when the livestock eventually go to market. The only way to give them their share of the money which we take from the taxpayer and give to agriculture is to give it somewhere along the production line. By and large, it is the low-ground farmers who get the subsidies payable at the end of the line. They are the ones who produce our pigs, bacon, poultry, eggs and milk. They are the ones who produce our grain produce and so on. They produce a wide range of commodities which attract the benefit of our price support system.

I do not think we should be justified in shedding too many tears for the poor low-ground farmers if the House of Commons were to decide not to approve these Schemes for another year. I must make it clear, however, that I am not asking that the global sum to be paid to agriculture as a result of the Price Review should be reduced. Because I am not asking for that, and because we are in this position, we are unable to vote against the two Schemes before us. We have, however, suffered from this disability for eight or nine years now. We have pleaded with the hon. Gentleman and with his predecessors. We have pleaded with the Ministers who never trouble to come down to the House to discuss the expenditure of a mere £10 million. I hope that he and his colleagues in the Government will realise that if they do not produce some evidence of their having made a serious effort to reach agreement with the industry so that the money might be spent in another way and these foolish subsidies might be withdrawn, we shall have no choice one of these days but to vote against Schemes such as these.

I hope that it will not be necessary to do so. We shall not vote against these Schemes tonight, but I hope that it will not be necessary to consider doing so in future because there will be no such Schemes next year. The Joint Under-Secretary should assure us tonight that Ministers recognise that these Schemes are unpopular in the House of Commons, that they are now unpopular with the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, and that they are, I should have thought, not all that popular with the National Farmers' Union of England and Wales. I do not know where the N.F.U. stands in the matter, but I do know that the National Farmers' Union of Scotland has uttered some strong criticism of the Part I grants in particular.

I hope that we can be given an assurance that both Ministers are appreciative of the reluctance with which the House approves these Schemes every year and that they will do their utmost to secure that we shall not be put in this difficulty ever again.

11.30 p.m.

I hope that the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. T. Fraser) will bear with me once again while I try to reply to this debate. I know that he has had to listen to Agricultural Ministers on this matter on very many occasions. Therefore, as I say, I hope that he will bear with me once again.

The hon. Member for Hamilton said that these Schemes are unpopular in the House. That has become fairly evident once again tonight, but I just want to make the point that I, too, have knocked about the country and met farmers and representatives of the industry during the last year. I meet a large number of people who still hold the view—I am not saying that it is a justifiable view—that these are very useful Schemes. I know, for example, that my hon. Friend the Joint Parliamentary Secretary has consulted the county agricultural executive committees and N.A.A.S. and that there is a remarkable concensus of opinion that these Schemes are still useful.

However, the debate tonight has again show that the Ploughing Grants Schemes have many critics in the House. But another equally noteworthy feature of the debate has been that while many speakers have suggested, or at least implied, that the grant has outlived its usefulness and should be withdrawn, no speaker has said that this should be done without putting something in its place.

If this is a fair reflection of the feeling of the House, then it would seem that the question at issue is whether we can find a more effective alternative to the ploughing grant. Clearly, before the Government submit proposals for dismantling or changing the ploughing grant, they must be sure that they have found a more effective measure to put in its place. This is the purpose of the review which the Government are now making of this grant and to which my hon. Friend made reference at the start of the debate.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) asked me—and I think that the hon. Member for Hamilton followed him in this—whether I would slavishly follow England. I should like to think that in some matters England follows Scotland. However, I understand the point in this matter, and I wish to say that I should certainly not dismiss the idea that there might be some different or some separate scheme for Scotland.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. Ross) criticised the Government for taking a long time over this review. I agree that last year I mentioned it, but there is no ready-made or obvious successor to the ploughing grant. It is true that since it was reintroduced in 1952 there have been changes in conditions. More particularly, there have been increasing interest and important developments in grassland improvement techniques—the treatment of grass as a crop, its management and utilisation.

There is one school of thought which says that the ploughing grant should be reshaped to give a more direct encouragement to grassland improvement. This is one of a number of points at which we are looking at the moment. But the present Scheme, by encouraging good rotational practice, is, in the Government's view, playing a useful part.

Criticism of the present Scheme, particularly as it operates under Scottish conditions, has tended to centre on the point that the £7 per acre grant is unjustified because the grass leys would be ploughed up at three or four years anyway in the interests of good husbandry. It is true that, particularly in the North-East of Scotland, the farming system is in many cases based on a six or seven-year rotation with three or four years of temporary lew, and that the grass would tend to deteriorate if left down for a longer period.

It would take a bold man, however, to say that were the ploughing grant withdrawn there would not be a tendency—I go no further than that—for farmers, even in the north-east of Scotland where the farmer has a reputation for knowing his business, to leave the leys down longer to a point where they are past their prime. I am not saying that all farmers would yield to this temptation, but after all the establishment of a good ley is not done either easily or cheaply, and the ploughing grant is a great help in financing good field husbandry.

Another criticism is that by making the basis of eligibility land which has been under grass for a minimum period of three years the Scheme encourages an undesirable rigidity in ley farming practice. My hon. Friend gave figures earlier in the debate in respect of England and Wales showing that the age of grassland ploughed up each year under the Scheme is well distributed over three years. The idea tends to be accepted that the position is different in Scotland and that there leys are almost invariably ploughed up at three to four years.

The evidence does not wholly support this supposition. The June 1960 return showed that approximately one-third of the total of the Scottish temporary grass area of about 1,850,000 acres comprised in fact the longer leys of five, six and seven years, about half was three to four year grass, and that the rest was young grass.

These figures may be of some interest to the House. They show that the Scottish ley farming system is not by any means rigidly based on the three or four year ley, and that in areas such as the South-West where the grass can profitably be left down for longer periods consistent with good husbandry, this is done. There is nothing in these figures to suggest that farmers are ploughing up too much—ploughing up as it were simply to get the grant.

The temptation is, if anything, in the other direction, namely, to plough up too little—to leave the grass down for that extra year or two beyond its most productive stage. It is in this connection that the ploughing grant is still serving a useful purpose in enabling farmers to get the correct balance within their arable area between tillage crops and grass. In a country mainly concerned with livestock production, good management of the arable area is, I am sure the House will agree, of prime importance. I will try to answer some of the specific points raised in the debate. I do not think that I need—nor would he expect me to—say a great deal to my hon. Friend the Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke), but I was extremely interested, as I am sure were all hon. Members, in his dissertation on weeds and his suggestion that we are trying to defy nature.

I have already answered specific questions asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West. I was delighted to hear the contribution made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Willis). After his comments last evening I spent a very uneasy night, but I can assure him that his speech was not nearly so much of a nightmare as I had expected it to be. I will see if anything can be done to improve the presentation of the figures in the Scottish Annual Report.

I want to make one specific point in relation to the net increase in arable since 1952. It is true that the tillage acreage has fallen by 200,000 acres, but at the same time the temporary grass area has increased by 400,000 acres, and that is a very significant increase.

Will the Minister give the total figures since 1952—the change in the tillage acreage and the change in the temporary grass for the whole of that period?

I cannot give them year by year, but since 1952, despite a fall in the tillage area of 200,000 acres, there has been an increase of 400,000 acres in temporary grass.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked me for one or two figures. He asked, first, for the relative figures in relation to Part I and Part II. The acreage in respect of Part I—the £7-an-acre grant—in England and Wales is 950,000, at a poundage of £6,650,000; in Scotland the figures are 322,000 at a cost of £2,254,000, and in Northern Ireland, 163,000 acres——

The Minister has now given us what I presume to be the Part I figures. He will be glad to know that his figure in respect of Part I for England is higher than the figure for Part I and Part II as given by the Minister, and the same is true of the figure for Northern Ireland.

Perhaps the hon. Member will continue to use the figures I am giving him at the moment. It may be that the difference between us arises because I am giving the estimated figures for the coming year. Perhaps the hon. Member wanted the ones for last year. That may be the difference between the £9 million for this year and the estimated £10 million for next year. I think I am right about that.

The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the estimates for this year were £10·9 million, consisting of £6·2 million in respect of 858,000 acres for England, £1·1 million in respect of 151,000 acres for Wales; £2·5 million in respect of 357,000 acres for Scotland, and £1·1 million in respect of 161,000 acres for Northern Ireland. Those figures were given by the Minister in introducing this discussion. Now the Joint Under-Secretary has given us a figure for the Part I Scheme in England which is bigger than that which the Parliamentary Secretary gave us for the Part I and Part III Schemes together for England, and has done exactly the same thing in the case of Northern Ireland.

I have both sets of figures here, and I am fairly certain of my figures. I am talking of the year 1959–60.

I am giving the break-up. I think it still comes out if hon. Members will check it. The figures are: England and Wales, acres, 950,000; cost, £6,650,000. Scotland, acres, 322,000; cost £2,254,000. Northern Ireland, acres, 163,000; cost £1,141,000. That gives a total acreage of 1,435,000 and a total cost of £10,045,000. To that must be added the £12 Scheme for which the figures are: England and Wales, acres, 60,000, cost £720,000; Scotland, acres, 9,700, cost £116,400; Northern Ireland, acres 1,800, cost £21,600, giving a total acreage of 71,500 and a total cost of £858,000. If we have not got this exactly right, I shall be happy to write to the hon. Member for Kilmarnock and make any corrections which are necessary.

May I suggest that the hon. Gentleman tells us definitely which year the Minister was talking about and which year he is talking about? The point is that when we asked the Minister to break up the figures he had already given us he gave us entirely different figures.

I understand the difference is that the figures I am giving are for 1959–60, whereas my hon. Friend gave figures for 1960–61. I apologise for that difference.

The hon. Member for Kilmarnock asked about checks which have been made as a result of the unfortunate incidents of last year. I can assure him that we have been extremely careful to check and double check and so far as is reasonably possible we have now got the Schemes watertight. We have checked not only the ploughing grants but we have cross-checked with the cereal deficiency payment returns.

My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, West asked what was the purpose of the Scheme in 1961. I believe that it is to maintain fully the arable area and within that area to encourage the farmer to strike the right balance between tillage crops and grass so as to achieve the highest possible efficiency in livestock production, that is in feeding for livestock production, which includes the need to encourage a greater reliance on home produced feedingstuffs. I believe that these ploughing grant Schemes have achieved that. As I have already said, my hon. Friend and myself, and our right hon. Friends have given an undertaking that we will review this seriously, and I hope that with that assurance we may accept the Schemes

Question put and agreed to.


That the Ploughing Grants Scheme, 1961, a draft of which was laid before this House on 19th April, be approved.

Ploughing Grants (Scotland) Scheme, 1961, [draft laid before the House, 19th April], approved.—[ Mr. Leburn.]