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Orders Of The Day

Volume 990: debated on Thursday 7 August 1980

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Tenants' Rights, Etc (Scotland) Bill

Lords amendments considered.

4.55 pm

On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It might be for the convenience of the House if, before we start discussion of the detailed amendments, the Minister could give us some exact indication of what the Government intend to do to ensure that there is a provision in the Bill similar to that in the Housing Bill discussed yesterday. We have had a speech about it, but discussion of this matter is not announced for the week that we cone back from the Summer Recess. There will be difficulty unless the Government can give an assurance in the interim period that amending legislation will come forward. I think that it would be sensible if the Bill were not implemented until the amending legislation is enacted.

I ask for three assurances: first that the amending legislation will come forward in the overspill period; secondly, that there will be no interregnum so that the amending legislation will be applied right from the start of the implementation of the Bill; thirdly, that we shall be consulted about the exact wording before the Bill is published. If that can be done, I am sure that the Bill can proceed with extreme rapidity through this House and another place since all are agreed that it should be so.

Order. Yesterday I allowed something that was not within order and I shall allow the same today because I believe it is in the interests of the House. However, this kind of question should normally come at a different stage in our proceedings.

Perhaps I could reply to the right hon. Member for Glasgow, Craigton (Mr. Millan) after I have formerly moved the amendments, if that is acceptable.

Clause 1

Secure Tenant's Right To Purchase

Lords Amendment No. 1, in page 4, line 10, at end insert "or any statutory predecessor"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this we may take Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 9.

I am grateful to the right hon. Gentleman. I am sure that the House would like to have an assurance, and I am glad to give him the assurances that he has sought. First, it is the Government's intention to produce the necessary Bill in the overspill period to give similar effect to the arrangements made yesterday in the English Housing Bill. Secondly, in the Bill we shall wish to provide that there is no possibility of an interregnum during which an old person's house might be inadvertently sold. That would be covered by the amendment. I am glad to assure the right hon. Gentleman that I shall ensure that the provisions are acceptable to him.

Will my right hon. Friend consult his hon. Friends on the wording?

I shall ensure that my hon. Friend is informed about the wording before it is published.

The amendments that we are discussing are purely drafting in their nature. I hope that the House will agree to accept them.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 2 to 9 agreed to.

Lords amendment: No. 10, in page 5, line 23, at end insert "and"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

These are drafting amendments. They are designed to ensure that the wording of the clause coincides with that which the Committee and the House clearly intended.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 11 and 12 agreed to.

Clause 2


Lords amendment: No. 13, in page 6, line 15, leave out from "months" to "after" in line 17 and insert—

",where the application is made during the first year after the commencement of this section, or, in any other case, within 2 months"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 23.

Amendments Nos. 13 to 19 are drafting amendments to various stages in the process dealt with in the clause. Amendments Nos. 20 and 21 are purely drafting amendments to correct the grammar of clause 2(9) consequent upon the insertion of a new subsection. Amendments Nos. 22 and 23 correct a printing error in the wording of a Government amendment that appeared on Report.

The Bill as drafted without the amendments illustrates the extremely complex procedure for which provision is made. In the Government's enthusiasm to take care of every possible circumstance and to ensure that no local authority shall ever have any flexibility, we now have an extremely rigid and complicated procedure. I do not say that I hope that it will work. I hope that it does not work.

It was considerations similar to those that the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that led the Government to believe that the present wording was necessary.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 14 to 23 agreed to.

Clause 4

Conditions Of Sale

Lords amendment: No. 24, in page 9, line 32, after "generality", insert "common".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 26.

These are technical amendments that correctly phrase the clause in the manner that was originally intended. They have no policy implications.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 25 and 26 agreed to.

Clause 5


Lords amendment: No. 27, in page 12, line 31, leave out "subsections (3) and (6) "and insert" subsection (3)".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a drafting amendment that clarifies the status of a declarator for a loan granted by a sheriff to an applicant under clause 5.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 28 to 30 agreed to.

Clause 13

Succession To Secure Tenancy

Lords amendment: No. 31, in page 19, line 25, leave out

"created on the death of a tenant"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a drafting amendment without any policy implications which I trust the House will accept.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 17

Variation Of Terms Of Secure Tenancies

Lords amendment: No. 32, in page 23, line 39, after "of" insert "section 10 of"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is a drafting amendment which clarifies the cross reference to the Bill to be included in the Housing (Scotland)

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 19


Lords amendment: No. 33, in page 24, line 21, leave out "the date" and insert Act 1969 by making it more specific. "service"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 34 and 35.

These are technical drafting amendments to change the terminology of the clause to attract the general provisions governing the service of notices that is contained in clause 80.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 34 and 35 agreed to.

Clause 23

Landlord's Consent To Work

Lords Amendment: No. 36, in page 27, line 16, leave out

"(including wireless or television aerials)"

I beg to move, That this House doth agreed with the Lords in the said amendment.

The amendment removes the specific reference to the obligation of a tenant to obtain the landlord's consent to make the addition to his house of a television or wireless aerial. It is accepted that these aerials come within the general definition of fixtures and fittings.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords Amendments Nos. 37 and 38 agreed to.

Clause 27

Publication Of Rules

Lords Amendment: No. 39, in page 29, line 23, after "published" insert "by a body"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

This is purely a technical drafting amendment that has no policy implications.

Question put and agreed to.

Clause 30

Local Authority Home Loan Interest Rates

Lords Amendment: No. 40, in page 32, line 11, leave out from "Notwithstanding" to "the" and insert

"anything contained in subsections (1) to (8) above, but subject to subsections (11) and (12) below,"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Amendment No. 40 provides for the Secretary of State to allow local authorities to charge low interest or waive interest for up to five years when they are granting a mortgage for the purchase of a house that is in need of repairs and improvements. The provision is aimed at encouraging what is known as homesteading. I understand that that concept was supported by the Opposition in another place when the issue was considered there. I think that the House will accept that it is highly desirable, especially in inner urban areas, that homesteading arrangements, which are often popular especially among young couples, should be encouraged. The amendment will achieve that purpose.

Amendment No. 41 enables the Secretary of State to approve individual schemes submitted by local authorities. If it appears appropriate, the Secretary of State may issue an order with the consent of the Treasury on the basis of which local authorities could proceed without the need for individual approval.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 41 agreed to.

Clause 31

Local Authority Indemnities For Bulding Societies Etc

Lords amendment: No. 42, in page 33, line 20, leave out "14"and insert "15".

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Amendment No. 43 is a technical amendment that is necessary to allow building societies registered in Northern Ireland but operating in Scotland to accept indemnities under clause 31 from Scottish local authorities. Amendment No. 42 is a drafting amendment.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendment No. 43 agreed to.

Clause 34

Short Tenancies

Lords amendment: No. 44, in page 34, line 39, after "and" insert:

", notwithstanding the provisions of section 44(1) and (4) of the 1971 Act.".

I beg to move, That this House cloth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

With this it will be convenient to take Lords amendments Nos. 45 to 48.

Amendment No. 44 is a technical amendment that is designed to ensure that, although the effective date of a fair rent determination will in future be either the date of registration or the date fixed by a rent officer, the effective date of a short tenancy shall be the date of the commencement of the short tenancy, which I know is agreeable to the Opposition.

Amendment No. 45 fulfils a Government undertaking given in Committee to scrutinise the clause and eliminate any scope for evasion. It ensures that the right of possession conferred upon landlords of short tenancies shall take into account the particular circumstances of either a statutory successor or a lawful sub-tenant and either will be able to remain in possession until the end of the contractual letting even though the head short tenancy is terminated before that date. Lords amendments Nos. 46, 47 and 48 remove certain ambiguities in the clauses as drafted. I commend them to the House.

I am not clear about Lords amendment No. 44. The Minister may care to remind the House why the rent in the case of a short tenancy takes effect from the commencement of the tenancy compared with the normal situation when it takes effect, particularly if there is some objection, from the date that the rent assessment committee makes its decision. I should like to know the implications from the point of view of the commencement date of the short tenancy. Short tenancies, by definition, will not last long. It can make a substantial difference to the date from which the tenancy operates. Is the date from which the rent is registered and operative of some significance or effect in terms of determining the date from which the tenancy itself starts and, therefore, the date on which the tenancy will eventually terminate?

I am happy to clarify the point. The right hon. Gentleman will recollect that in the terms of the Bill a short tenancy is one that must have a fair rent registered. There is no option for an agreement between the parties. Concern was expressed in earlier stages that in the interim period between a short tenancy beginning and a fair rent being determined the tenant might be charged an excessive rent. Although the matter would ultimately be resolved, he would be paying during that period more rent than he ought to have been paying. The amendment was brought forward to meet that point.

The Minister's explanation has brought back to my memory that this was the reason that the Opposition put forward this provision. I am therefore, content.

Question put and agreed to.

Lords amendments Nos. 45 to 48 agreed to.

Clause 37

Limits On Rent Increases

Lords amendment: No. 49, in page 37, line 26, leave out from "of" to "not" in line 27 and insert "subsection (2) above "rent" and "rental income" do"

I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

Both amendments are minor technical amendments with no policy implications.

Question put and agreed to.

New Clause A

Amendment Of Reserve And Auxiliary Forces (Protection Of Civil Interests) Act 1951

Lords amendment: No. 50, after clause 38, in page 38, line 8, at end insert—

"A.—(1) The Reserve and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951 shall be amended in accordance with this section.
(2)In section 15 (protection of tenure of certain premises), after subsection (1) insert the following subsection—
"(1A) This section does not apply in relation to any tenancy entered into after the commencement of section 53 of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980".
(3)In section 16 (protection of tenure of premises not falling under section 15)—
  • (i)in subsection (2Xc) the words from "and" to the end are repealed;
  • (ii)for subsections (3) to (8) substitute the following subsections—
  • "(3) The rent for any rental period (that is to say, a period in respect of which an instalment of rent falls to be paid) shall be the amount payable for the last rental period before thend of the tenancy, but subject to adjustment from time to time in accordance with section 22 or 23 of the Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 (adjustment, with respect to rates, services and furniture, of recoverable rent for statutory periods before registration).
    (4) Subsection (3) above has effect subject to any agreement between the parties for the payment of a lower rent; and where a lower rent is agreed it shall not be increased in accordance with the said section 22 or 23 but may, notwithstanding anything in any other enactment, be increased by agreement in writing between the parties up to an amount not exceeding the amount of rent provided for in subsection (3) above.".
    (4)In section 17(2)(b) (provisions supplementary to section 16 where the accommodation is shared other than with the landlord) for "(5) to (8)" substitute "(3) and (4)".
    (5)In section 18(2) (protection of tenure in connection with employment, under a licence or a rent-free letting) for "(5) to (8)" substitute "(3) and (4)".
    (6)Section 19(5) (limitation on application of Rent Acts—heritable securities) is repealed."

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    Lords amendment No. 50 amends the Reserves and Auxiliary Forces (Protection of Civil Interests) Act 1951 to take account of changes to the Rent Acts in the current Bill. That Act was concerned with the protection, in a variety of ways, of people called up in an emergency who might not have an opportunity to get their legal affairs in order before such call-up. It is right that the changes in the Rent Acts extending protection should also apply to such persons. These amendments cover the matter.

    Question put and agreed to.

    New Clause B

    Extension Of Rent (Scotland) Act 1971 To Crown Tenants Of Crown Estate Commissioners Etc

    Lords amendment: No. 51, in page 38, line 8, after the words last inserted, insert

    "B.—(1) Section 4 of the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—
    (a) in subsection (1)—
  • (i)before "a tenancy" insert "Subject to subsection (3) below"; and
  • (ii)the words "or of the Duchy of Lancaster; or to the Duchy of Cornwall" are repealed.
  • (b) after subsection (2) add a new sub-section—
    "(3) An interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown shall not prevent a tenancy from being a protected tenancy or a person from being a statutory tenant if the interest is under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners."
    (2) Section 6(3) of the 1971 Act shall be amended by inserting after paragraph (a) a new paragraph—
    "(aa) in relation to any dwelling-house of which a tenancy granted before the commencement of section B of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980 becomes, or would but for its low rent become, a protected tenancy by virtue of that section, means the date of commencement of that section.".
    (3) Section 85 of the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—
    (a) in subsection (3)—
  • (i) before "This Part" insert "Subject to subsection (3A) below";
  • (ii)in paragraph (a) the words "or of the Duchy of Lancaster or to the Duchy of Cornwall" are repealed;
  • (b) after subsection (3) insert a new sub-section—
    "(3A) An interest belonging to Her Majesty in right of the Crown shall not prevent this Part of this Act from applying to a contract if the interest is under the management of the Crown Estate Commissioners.".
    (4) Schedule 3 to the 1971 Act shall be amended as follows—
    (a) in Case 5 after "1965" insert "or, in the case of a tenancy which became a regulated tenancy by virtue of section B of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, after the commencement of that section"; and
    (b) in Part III, in paragraph 2 at the end add a new paragraph—
    "(aaa) in the case of a tenancy which becomes a regulated tenancy by virtue of section B of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Act 1980, the relevant date means the date falling six months after the passing of that Act; and".
    (5) Section 134 of the 1971 Act shall be amended by adding the following new sub-sections—
    "(3) Where an interest belongs to Her Majesty in right of the Duchy of Lancaster, for the purposes of this Act the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster shall be deemed to be the owner of the interest.
    (4) Where an interest belongs to the Duchy of Cornwall, for the purposes of this Act the Secretary of the Duchy of Cornwall shall be deemed to be the owner of the interest."."

    This amendment requires the Queen's consent and the Prince of Wales's consent.

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    5.15 pm

    The new clause has the effect of bringing within the Rent Act protection tenants of the Crown Estate Commissioners, the Duchy of Cornwall and the Duchy of Lancaster. Tenants who are brought within the Rent Acts by the clause will have full security of tenure and will be subject to the fair rents system. It has been the practice in the past to apply the Rent Acts administratively to such tenants. After this new clause is passed, the tenants will have for the first time statutory entitlement to this protection.

    Question put and agreed to.—[Queen's consent on behalf of the Crown, and Prince of Wales's consent on behalf of the Duchy of Cornwall, signified.]

    Clause 41

    Amendment Of Sections I And 86 Of The Rent (Scotland) Act 1971

    Lords amendment: No. 52, in page 39, line 9, after "roll" insert "on or".

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This amendment is of a minor and technical nature.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause 45

    Determination Of Fair Rent

    Lords amendment: No. 53, in page 40, line 33, leave out from "section to first"to" in line 35.

    I beg to move, That this House dot hagree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    These amendments are concerned with the effects of the problem that arose in determining a fair rent. Instead of the words

    "knowledge and experience of current rents … in the area"
    being used, it is felt more appropriate that the word "circumstances" should be used in order to avoid any suggestion that the primary emphasis is to be given to this knowledge and experience to the possible exclusion of other methods of assessment.

    This is matter on which I made a short speech on Report when the Government wished to make a certain change in the Bill that I thought, in one respect, was slightly mistaken, although I approved the general intention of the Government provisions. I am glad to say that the other place accepted my point. I have already acknowledged this fact to the Minister in a letter. I am glad to know that the Government have acknowledged the point. I am grateful.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendments Nos. 54 and 55 agreed to.

    Clause 48

    Cancellation Of Registration

    Lords amendment: No. 56, in page 42, line 28, at end insert:

    "(2) to (4), (7) and (8)".

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This is a minor and technical amendment.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Clause 51

    Furnished Lettings By Certain Bodies Not To Be Part Vii Contracts

    Lords amendment: No. 57, in page 43, line 36, at end insert:

    "(2) Section 16(3) of the 1972 Act shall be amended by adding, after "85(3)", "(aa)

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    These are technical or drafting amendments. Lords amendment No. 60 corrects a typographical error.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendments Nos. 58 to 60 agreed to.

    Clause 61

    Recovery Of Possession Of Dwelling-House Subject To Regulated Tenancy

    Lords amendment: No. 61, in page 46, line 39, at end insert:

    "(iA) the owner-occupier has died, and the dwelling-house is required as a residence for a member of his family who are residing with him at the time of his death; or".

    This appears to be a printing error. My reference indicates that it should be "who was residing". I hope that it is possible to incorporate and consider it as a printing error.

    If I can be of any assistance, I am advised that it was sent from their Lordships' House correctly with the word "was". It is a printing error.

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    Lords amendment No. 61 is one of the circumstances already included in case 11A which enables the owner of a retirement home to recover possession. It is appropriate to extend this case in this way. The amendment will cover the situation where the owner-occupier who was single at the time of letting subsequently marries and dies. The new ground would enable a member of his family to recover possession.

    Amendments Nos. 62 and 63 make an important addition to part IV of the Bill and allow Service men to buy houses and let them meantime subject to the same rights of recovery as a temporarily absent owner-occupier.

    I do not disagree with the amendments I am not sure that the way in which amendment No. 61 is printed is correct. It does not read correctly. I do not know what can be done about that. It refers to

    "a member of his family who are residing with him."
    I think that it should read
    "who was residing with him."
    I am not clear how we can ensure that the Bill is correctly worded. No doubt, Mr. Deputy Speaker, you will guide hon. Members. It seems another major error in this chaotic week for the Government; they cannot get the wording right.

    Lords amendments Nos. 62 and 63 are difficult to follow as are all these matters in relation to the question of the recovery of the occupation of houses. It is right to make this provision for Service men. I welcome the amendments.

    This appears to be a printing error. My reference indicates that it should be "who was residing". I hope that it is possible to incorporate and consider it as a printing error.

    If I can be of any assistance, I am advised that it was sent from their Lordships' House correctly with the word "was". It is a printing error.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendments Nos. 62 and 63 agreed to.

    Clause 63

    Increases In Penalties For Offences Relating To Houses In Multiple Occupation

    Lords amendment: No. 64, in page 49, line 15, leave out paragraph (g) and insert

    "(g) in section 185(2) after "offence", insert "and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding £200"."

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This amendment corrects an error that inadvertently occurred in relation to the revision of the fines for which section 185(2) of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1966 provides. The amendment is brought forward on that basis and I commend it to the House.

    Question put and agreed to.

    New Clause C

    Discretion Of Court In Cases Relating To Instalment Purchase Agreements

    Lords amendment: No. 65, after clause 71, in page 53, line 10, at end insert—

    "C.—(1) Where, under the terms of an instalment purchase agreement, a person has been let into possession of a dwelling-house and, on the termination of the agreement or of his right to possession under it, proceedings are brought for possession of the dwelling-house, the court may—
  • (a) adjourn the proceedings; or
  • (b) on making an order for possession of the dwelling-house, supersede extract or postpone the date of possession;
  • for such period or periods as the court thinks fit.
    (2) On any such adjournment, superseding of extract, or postponement the court may impose such conditions with regard to the payment by the person in possession of the spect of his continued occupation of the dwelling-house and such other conditions as the court thinks fit.
    (3)The court may revoke or from time to time vary any condition imposed by virtue of this section.
    (4)In this section "instalment purchase agreement" means an agreement for the purchase of a dwelling-house under which the whole or part of the purchase price is to be paid in 3 or more instalments and the completion of the purchase is deferred until the whole or a specified part of the purchase price his been paid."

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    This is an important new clause, which gives people buying their homes by instalment purchase protection comparable with that available to people buying their homes with the aid of a morgage where default in making payments leads to possession proceedings. It gives the courts discretion to allow the purchaser time to remedy the financial situation. The law at present gives the courts discretion to allow mortgage defaulters time to remedy such a problem but it does not give them similar powers where an instalment purchaser defaults. This is clearly undesirable. For example, it might mean that an instalment purchaser who had paid most of the instalments towards the ownership of a house and defaulted at a late stage would find that he had virtually no rights left in the property in consequence of that one default. Therefore, it is thought appropriate that he should be put in the same position as a mortgage defaulter. The problem has not arisen often, but it seems reasonable that such a change should be made. I am sure that it will commend itself to the House.

    I welcome the new clause. I should like to get rid of instalment purchase agreements altogether. This is a difficult area, but I hope that, having made this useful provision, the Government will consider whether we need in- stalment purchase agreements at all. Basically, they are extremely undesirable. It would be useful it we could find a way of making it impossible for a landlord to persuade—sometimes even to coerce—a tenant to enter into an instalment purchase agreement in circumstances where most of the cards are in the hands of the landlord, the seller, and very few are in the hands of the buyer. The new clause provides some protection.

    The Minister said that there were not many of these cases. Where difficulties arise the landlord—it is a landlord-tenant relationship basically—is usually able to get his way without going to court or going through any legal proceedings, because the weight not only of the law but of the relationship is on his side.

    I am not criticising the Government. They have introduced an improvement, which I welcome. It is a criticism of successive Governments that we have not tackled this problem in a wider way. There is much abuse in this area. It has been prevalent at times in certain parts of Glasgow, for example, but it applies elsewhere. I hope that in the continuing examination of the law on these matters the Government will keep this matter under review and will introduce even more radical proposals at an appropriate opportunity. However, that in no way detracts from my thanks to the Government for introducing this provision.

    The Government certainly share the right hon. Gentleman's distinct lack of enthusiasm for this form of property purchase. We are not certain that it would be appropriate to make it illegal, but it is appropriate that people purchasing properties in this way should have the same protection as mortgage holders. I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman felt able to welcome this provision. We shall certainly bear his comments in mind in considering whether further changes would be appropriate.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Schedule 2

    Grounds For Recovery Of Possession Of Dwelling-Houses Let Under Secure Tenancies

    Lords amendment: No. 66, in page 59, line 14, after "in" insert "or in"

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendments Nos. 67 and 68 agreed to.

    Schedule 5


    Lords amendment: No. 69, in page 63, line 17, column 3, at end insert—

    'In section 17(3) the words", or fail to make such regulations under the said subsection (2)(b) as the Secretary of State approves,".'

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    With this we may take Lords amendments Nos. 70, 71, 73 to 75 and 77 to 88.

    These amendments are consequential repeals. They have no policy implications. I am sure that they will be as uncontroversial as the other provisions of the Tenants' Rights, Etc. (Scotland) Bill.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Lords amendments Nos. 70 to 88 agreed to.

    Health Services Bill

    Lords amendments considered.

    New Clause A

    Services Provided By Relatives Of Doctors Providing General Medical Services

    Lords amendment: No. 1, after clause 6, in page 18, line 3, at end insert—

    'The following subsection shall be added at the end of section 29 of the Act of 1977 (arrangements and regulations for general medical services) as subsection (5) of that section and at the end of section 19 of the Scottish Act of 1978 (which makes corresponding provision for Scotland) as subsection (4) of that section:—
    "( ) Regulations shall—
  • (a)include provision for the making to a medical practitioner providing general medical services of payments in respect of qualifying services provided by a spouse or other relative of his; and
  • (b)provide that the rates and conditions of payment and the qualifying services in respect of which the payments may be made shall be such as may be determined by the Secretary of State after consultation with such bodies as he may recognise as representing such medical practitioners.".'
  • Motion made, and Question proposed. That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.—[ Dr. Vaughan.]

    I inform the House that the amendment involves privilege.

    5.27 pm

    I was half expecting the Minister for Health to advise general practitioners, if they find their wives uneconomic, to consider sub-contracting out their services to private contract, in the nature of recent circulars in the Health Service.

    This amendment was forced on the Government in another place. It pays lip service to the principle that was forced on them in another place, but it is effectively emasculated by postponing the payments to a time of the Secretary of State's choosing, which I suspect will be in the nature of the Greek calends.

    The problem is that general practitioners are entitled to claim 70 per cent. of the salaries of assistants as practice expenses. They are not entitled to do that at present if the helper is, in common parlance, a member of the family. A wife often gives great assistance to her general practitioner husband in carrying out his practice, particularly where the practice is single-handed and is conducted in a rural area.

    Hon. Members will be aware of the problems that can arise when professional life involves family members. For example, a secretary employed by a general practitioner would be entitled to have 70 per cent. of her salary paid out of the practice expenses, so long as she remained unmarried to the general practitioner who employed her. But if the general practitioner succumbed to her charms and married her the employment could continue but the 70 per cent. reimbursement would cease.

    When I was a Minister I initiated an experiment to reimburse wives in single-handed rural practices. How has that experiment turned out? I understand that it has gone on, is regarded as going well and has been extended for another two years. If it is going well, why extend it? Why not take action on it? The great obstacle to a solution of this problem is the possibility of abuse.

    We do not accept the spirit of this amendment, first, because it seeks to arrange salaries by law, which is an undesirable principle. These matters are best left to collective bargaining. Secondly, industrial relations do not only concern justice; they concern tact and timing. In a year when doctors have been awarded a 31 per cent. pay increase, it would be inadvisable if some of their members received substantial increased sums of money, particularly when the Government, despite my best endeavours, have persuaded Members of Parliament to set an example to the country by restricting their salary increase to 9.6 per cent. However, the Government amendment emasculates the principle of the original amendment, and we shall not oppose it.

    I know of the great interest that the right hon. Member for Lewisham East (Mr. Moyle) has taken in this subject, and he rightly reminded us that he was instrumental in introducing the provision for single-handed GPs in rural areas.

    The introduction of this provision has been a success. About 190 GPs have taken advantage of it, and because of its initial success we thought it right to ex- it for at least another two years. I should be glad to give the right hon. Gentleman extra information if it would be of interest to him.

    It was partly because of the success of the provision and following discussions with the profession that we thought it right to widen the provision a little further. So, from I October we propose that it should be extended to wives of GPs who have professional training—in other words, wives who are nurses. We were concerned about the cost implications, and we felt that it was only right to move in a gentle way and to find out how much money was involved. We accepted the principle behind the amendment and we welcomed it. It was widely welcomed in another place, and I hope that it will also be welcomed in this House. We should like to wait a little while before introducing the provision because we have a financial responsibility, but with that one proviso we welcome the principle, and I commend the amendment to the House.

    Question put and agreed to. [Special entry.]

    Schedule 1

    Amendments Consequential On Changes In The Local Administration Of The Health Service

    Lords amendment: No. 2, in page 41, line 5, after 'paragraph 5,' insert

    'in sub-paragraph (1)(a) after the words "metropolitan district" there shall be inserted the words "a non-metropolitan district," '

    I beg to move, That this House doth agree with the Lords in the said amendment.

    The purpose of the amendment to schedule 5 to the National Health Service Act is to include non-metropolitan district councils among the specified local authorities that may appoint several of the members of health authorities.

    I agree with the purpose of the amendment. It was moved by the Labour Party in another place, with Conservative Back-Bench support. At present, there are administrative methods of including non-metropolitan district representatives on district health authorities, although they were omitted from the provisions of the 1977 Act.

    "Patients First" suggested the reduction of local authority representation on district health authorities, with which we disagreed, and it implied that district council representatives could be included only if county councils cut back. In those circumstances non-metropolitan districts, because they were not specifically mentioned in schedule 5 to the 1977 Act, wanted specified legal guarantees. That is why this amendment was put forward. It gives them a bare minimum of representation. We accept that it is a minor improvement to the Bill. It is remarkable that the Government are so sensitive after causing such a massacre of local authority representatives on local health authorities. It reminds me of a famous French executioner who used to make sure that his victim's head was carefully and comfortably placed in the guillotine before bringing down the chopper. Nevertheless, we shall not oppose the amendment.

    Question put and agreed to.

    Agriculture And Horticulture

    5.35 pm

    The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
    (Mr. Jerry Wiggin)

    I beg to move,

    That the draft Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations 1980, which were laid before this House on 28 July, be approved.

    With this it may be convenient to discuss the orders relating to:

    The Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Scheme 1980.
    The Horticulture Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980.
    The Farm Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980.

    After carefully considering a memorandum by the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments, we felt obliged to replace one of the statutory instruments laid on 2 July with two of the statutory instruments that we are considering today—the agriculture and horticulture development regulations and the agriculture and horticulture grant scheme. We are grateful to the Joint Committee for its advice, to which we reacted promptly, but in doing so we unavoidably laid the replacement instruments rather late. I apologise to the House for any inconvenience that that may have caused. I wish to emphasise, however, that in all important respects the two new statutory instruments will have the same effect as the one that we withdrew.

    Hon. Members will recall that on 31 January this year my right hon. Friend laid statutory instruments before the House changing the rates of grant payable under the three current capital grant schemes. He explained that he was making those changes as a first step towards the introduction of new, simplified capital grant arrangements, replacing the existing ones. He promised to present the necessary legislation to Parliament before the Summer Recess. The agriculture and horticulture development regulations and the agriculture and horticulture grant scheme now before the House meet that promise.

    The new arrangements are based on recommendations resulting from a study of the administration of the current schemes made in consultation with Sir Derek Rayner. They are designed to reduce bureaucracy, cut the number of forms that farmers have to fill up, generally speed up the whole process and leave farmers with more responsibility for their own investment decisions.

    The keynote of the new arrangements is: "Treat the farmer as a responsible person." He usually finds most of the money, so we want to leave him as free as possible to get on with the job. To help him we intend to have as simple an application form as we can devise, and we are trying to produce an explanatory leaflet which is readable, helpful and, above all, comprehensible.

    The changes that we are making will save about 400 posts in my Ministry alone. Of those, 250 will be administration jobs and 150 ADAS posts. The savings will come mainly from cutting out prior approval and by considering claims for grant after the work has been done. That is what happens with regional development grants.

    Following last January's announcement, we consulted a large number of organisations and individuals about our proposals for a new scheme. As one would expect, reactions differed widely. Everyone wanted some changes, but the changes spanned a very wide spectrum. We have tried to meet as many as possible of those interests while still meeting our objectives. We have been flexible in our approach; otherwise, there would have been no point in consulting. But we have always had in mind our main objective of simplification.

    The Minister said that he had consulted widely and that people had different views about the proposals. Can he say whether any organisation approves of the proposals?

    Yes, my Department. We are surrounded by many differing views, with which I shall deal during the course of my speech, justifying, I hope the action that the Government propose to take.

    The statutory backing for the proposals is included in the orders with which we are dealing today. The agriculture and horticulture development regulations and the agriculture and horticulture grant scheme, in effect, consolidate the farm capital grant scheme, the horticulture capital grant scheme and the farm and horticulture development regulations, on which the existing capital grant schemes are based. If the House approves these statutory instruments, the new arrangements will come into operation on 1 October next. From that date the existing provisions will no longer be needed, so they will be ended by the other statutory instruments which are before the House.

    Two of those statutory instruments also clarify the provision, introduced in February, which limits to 160,000 ECU—about £100,000—the amount of investment on which grant will be paid. The Joint Committee expressed doubt about the wording of the provision when the original statutory instrument was laid in January, so we have taken this opportunity to clarify it.

    The biggest departure from present practice will be the dropping of prior approval. I think that most hon. Members will be familiar with that procedure. The rule was introduced many years ago and has been retained mainly to ensure that farmers got proper advice about their investment proposals. I think that it has been very valuable, but it has also been very expensive on manpower. It has produced its own problems, giving rise to complaints from farmers on a number of occasions. It delays them when they want to get on. It subjects all their investment decisions to "the Man from the Ministry, who knows best." It leads to arguments over whether it has been breached. After all, a fairly minor or technical infringement of the rule resulted in a farmer losing grant. So, although the scheme had many defenders, it also had many critics.

    But farming has now grown up. Farmers and growers long ago learnt the value of seeking professional advice from Departments. They are quite capable of making their own investment decisions. With few exceptions, they are finding much the greater part of the costs, so surely it is right that they should be trusted. Dropping prior approval will give them the freedom to make their decisions and to decide for themselves how and when they wish to invest.

    This will not impede the continuation of the close and fruitful collaboration between farmers and advisers. This is good for the farmer and good for the nation, and we are anxious for it to continue. But it is time for farmers to take on their responsibilities in full, backed, as in the past, by the solid assistance that our ADAS provides.

    Our decision to drop prior approval and not to require any form of advance notice has been criticised. It has been said that farmers will be less certain of their grant than at present and that we are disregarding our responsibilities for the countryside and wildlife.

    The whole point of the new arrangements is to make them as simple and as automatic as possible. We do not intend to be pernickety. We shall be mainly concerned to ensure that the investment is of a capital nature, because this is a prime requirement of the legislation. The explanatory leaflet will give guidance on the specifications or British standards that will be acceptable. If farmers want to be sure that work will qualify for grant, all they have to do is to meet these standards. Where there is no appropriate standard we shall be looking for a good, sound job.

    Although the risk of a farmer losing grant is negligible, I recognise the anxiety that exists. We shall be doing everything we can to set farmers' minds at rest. For example, we shall include in the claim form a check list to remind farmers of the most important conditions that they have to observe. I shall be looking for other ways to allay any fears on that account.

    Will there be an opportunity for the farmer who will not, for one reason or another, get the full grant, to appeal against the Ministry's decision?

    As I understand the situation, the administration of these grants is absolutely at the Ministry's discretion. Of course, as the hon. Gentleman will well know, there is always, if not through internal channels, through Members of Parliament, an appeal to the Minister. In this respect I do not think that we shall seek to administer this scheme any differently from the administration of the former scheme. I hope that there will not be too many cases for appeal, but of course, we shall look favourably where there are borderlines. However, I see there being fewer opportunities for borderlines under this scheme than there were under the previous scheme.

    The assertion that we shall be disregarding our obligations in terms of conservation and the countryside is quite unfounded. We acknowledge that our obligation under the Countryside Acts will be exactly the same in the future as it has been in the past. Indeed, we have had extensive consultations with the interested bodies to work out a satisfactory approach.

    In the leaflet about the new grant arrangements we shall make it clear that, in accordance with the requirements of section 11 of the Countryside Act 1968, the Minister, when considering claims for grant, will continue, as in the past, to have regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside, including its wildlife. If farmers wish to avoid putting their grant at risk for this reason, it is important that they should consider whether the work they have in mind would be likely to create problems in relation to conservation and, if they are in any doubt, to seek advice from ADAS, which is in touch with the responsible authorities in the course of its work. In national parks and sites of special scientific interest special considerations apply, and if a farmer wishes to claim grant he will have to consult the national park authority or the Nature Conservancy Council, as appropriate, before starting work.

    If the authority had no objection or if agreement was reached on modifications the work could go ahead. If there is disagreement that cannot be resolved ADAS must be brought in. Grant would be payable on condition that it had. Here, too, ADAS would, as now, offer advice and try to achieve a mutually acceptable compromise. If agreement was not possible, the Minister would have to reach a decision in principle on whether, if the work were done and grant was claimed, he would have to reject the claim. The farmer would be advised of this decision. If he decided to go ahead without waiting for the Minister's decision, he would be told that grant would be at risk and the Minister's decision would be based on the situation prior to work commencing.

    In this context, it must be remembered that the only sanction that my Department has in this matter is whether to pay grant. What the farmer does without grant on his own land is a quite separate matter over which I have no control.

    We have considered how we could best assist the authorities which would be notified under this procedure to assess the environmental implications of proposals put to them. For England and Wales we have decided to make available to them on a regular weekly basis suitably qualified and experienced ADAS officers. They will help an authority to decide whether any proposal is likely to give rise to difficulties on conservation grounds and, if neccessary, will be ready to visit the farmer concerned to give him guidance on how to overcome them. Arrangements will be made in Scotland for similar contacts to be made.

    These procedures have been worked out in co-operation with the bodies concerned. I should like to record my appreciation of their co-operation and the help they have given us and, I hope will give us in the future.

    We originally proposed to apply the special procedures to areas of outstanding natural beauty as well as to sites of special scientific interest and to national parks, but the idea ran into difficulties. The Association of Disctrict Councils was worried about the extra work that might fall on its members, and some organisations representing farmers and growers were concerned about the problems it would create. On further consideration with my right hon. Friend the Minister of State, Department of the Environment, we concluded that it would not be necessary to impose these very rigorous requirements in areas of outstanding natural beauty.

    It has been suggested that these proposals represent a change in our attitude to the Strutt report. This is not true. Our commitment to it is the same as before. As we—and our predecessors—have always made clear, ADAS can develop its work on conservation matters only to the extent that resources can be made available. But one beneficial effect of the new arrangements in England and Wales is that by reducing the administrative burden on advisory staff and not taking the savings in full, we are deliberately increasing the capacity of ADAS to give advice and assistance, on both argicultural and conservation aspects.

    With one exception, the rates of grant introduced on I February remain unchanged. The exception is the standard rate of grant for improvements to banks and channels of watercourses in Scotland. The rate was reduced from 50 per cent. to 37½, per cent. in February; but, in order to provide assistance in line with that available for similar work to drainage authorities in England and Wales, a standard grant rate of 50 per cent. for this item is proposed. Because of its special nature, prior approval is being retained for this item, and this item alone.

    The coverage of the new scheme is essentially the same as for the existing ones. But we have made some small changes. We are including hedge layering and classifying peas for vining as a horticultural crop. We have also made it clear that deer and goat farming are eligible.

    I do not think that it would be sensible to persist to the last with all the requirements of the present schemes, though there are legal constraints on the extent to which they can be waived. Consequently, if the House approves the new provisions, we propose to make transitional arrangements which will give farmers certain options during the period between the date of approval and I October. I shall not detain the House by explaining them in full. We shall be publishing them shortly.

    In presenting these new arrangements to the House, I firmly believe that we are heralding an era no less important and significant than the one which began in 1957 with the farm improvement Scheme. That was designed to bring the industry and the Ministry, particularly its advisers, closer together in working out the best way to develop a farm business. This one continues to give farmers and growers financial help with their capital investments but leaves them with greater freedom to decide their own destinies, secure in the knowledge that ADAS is there to help them.

    I commend these statutory instruments to the House.

    5.50 pm

    The Parliamentary Secretary has sought to justify and explain these proposals, but he has done so inadequately. The origin of the proposals is the Rayner project. I have no objection in principle if the Government wish to bring in someone such as Sir Derek Rayner to look at the efficiency of the Civil Service, but when Sir Derek Rayner comes up with cuts which—when subjected to scrutiny—are found to be unjustifiable, Ministers should have the courage and responsibility to reject them.

    The proposal put forward by Sir Derek Rayner is impracticable. It is damaging to the agriculture industry and to conservation interests. The advice given and representations made to the Government demonstrate that. Nevertheless, Ministers have sought to ram measures such as these through the Houses of Parliament. When the Department of Health and Social Security proposed to abolish a pensioner's entitlement to draw his pension weekly, there was opposition to the proposal and it was withdrawn. The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is not prepared to listen to reasoned advice. The best illustration of that occurred when my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) asked the Parliamentary Secretary to name one organisation—among the many consulted—that had supported the proposals. The hon. Gentleman replied that the Ministry supported them.

    We oppose the new regulations because there is a lack of public accountability. It is all very well for the Parliamentary Secretary to say that on the whole farmers' money is being spent. It usually is. Some rates of grant, particularly in the less favoured areas, are very high. Indeed, half the money comes from the State. Millions of pounds of public money is spent annually, and we are entitled to seek an assurance that there will be genuine public accountability. I do not single out farmers as being more likely to abuse the procedures, but they are human like the rest of us. If, in a few years' time, it is proved that abuses have taken place, and if grants are claimed that are wholly unjustified, I hope that civil servants will not be dragged before the Public Accounts Committee to justify them. I am convinced that this is a political decision. Ministers have insisted on pressing ahead with arbitrary cuts.

    The agricultural interest can best be summed up by quoting from the National Farmers Union. The article is dated 1 August, and it was therefore made after all the consultations, representations and changes had been made. The article said that
    "the NFU considers that the arrangements currently proposed for administering the new scheme will result in unnecessary difficulties for farmers and growers; are unlikely, in overall public expenditure terms, to lead to the level of saving claimed; and will act as a deterrent to a continuation of the positive maintenance and enhancement of the countryside."
    The position of the agricultural interest is clear and unequivocal: it is opposed to the proposals.

    I understand why ordinary farmers are unhappy about the situation. A farmer has no guarantee that he will get a grant for his proposed investment. It is in the industry's interest that an investment proposal should be given consideration and approval by the Ministry. I am all for cutting red tape. There might be scope for simplifying such procedures, particularly at the stage of prior approval, but the Government have removed the principle of prior approval. That is against the interests of farmers, who are the recipients of such grants.

    The criticism made by conservation interests is more crucial. There has been widespread criticism from all the organisations and from the responsible people who are concerned about preserving and protecting our countryside for the benefit of this and future generations.

    I should like to give another quotation, which is representative of the attitude of all the conservation organisations. I quote from what was said by the Society for the Promotion of Nature Conservation. The document, which was issued to Members of Parliament, is dated 29 July. I note that one of the organisation's patrons is His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. It said:
    "Farming and conservation organisations are united in their belief that the proposals should be withdrawn and substantially modified to ensure that the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is aware of all proposals for capital works which conflict with conservation and is therefore able to undertake the necessary consultations and offer appropriate advice to farmers throughout the countryside, not just in designated areas. Meantime, the Orders terminating the present arrangements should be negatived."
    That is the position of the conservation interests. Their case was acknowledged in the Parliamentary Secretary's statement. The hon. Gentleman has told us that special arrangements will apply to sites of special scientific interest and to national parks. I do not have time to go into this issue in depth. I am not happy even with the proposals for the designated areas. The central thrust of any criticism on the ground of conservation is that the conservation interest is not confined solely to those areas. We are concerned about conservation throughout the countryside. We are not concerned only about areas of outstanding natural beauty, which the Government have dropped from special consideration.

    Farmers do not always have the same view about conservation as do conservationists or the general public. We need some protection. There is a growing desire to enjoy the countryside. We have a responsibility to future generations. That responsibility is being discarded.

    Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that farmers are so irresponsible that they do not pay attention to conservation requirements?

    I am suggesting nothing of the kind. I recognise that there is often a genuine conflict. A hard-pressed farmer may be anxious to maximise his productivity and increase his output. Understandably, he would like to plough up an old meadow, but perhaps it has a hedge that is of great benefit to the countryside. It is not that farmers are not concerned about conservation. Usually, they are. Their leaders are certainly concerned about it.

    It is a fact of life that a conflict exists, and we are entitled to do something about that at the decision-making level. The system has worked well. The advice of the Strutt committee and of everyone else was that ADAS should be encouraged to increase its responsibility for conservation. I support that approach. I am in favour of using the Agricultural Development and Advisory Service in that area, and not officials in local councils or the national parks.

    No, I shall not give way. I have done so once already. This is an important debate and the sad thing is that we have only one and a half hours in which to discuss these matters. There is great resentment about the regulations.

    I conclude with a question about conservation. What is the position on designated areas in Scotland? The designated areas in England and Wales are inadequate. Indeed, we do not want designated areas; we want application right across the board. Will the Minister tell us what areas of Scotland will be subject to this special procedure, and will he confirm that the provisions for the undertaking that a farmer must sign a statement saying that he has consulted conservation interests, and for the arrangement that if agreement is not reached a grant will be refused if ADAS is not brought in, will apply only to the restricted areas? Will he also confirm that there will be no requirement on the farmer to consult conservation interests or to seek a solution to this problem outside these areas? If the farmer goes ahead and does damage, even in the selected areas, and there is an objection or complaint from the conservation interests, will the Minister automatically deny that farmer the capital grant?

    In the long term, the outcome of these changes will be damaging for the agriculture industry. If my fears and those of the conservation organisations are justified, and if instances of significant damage result from investments made by obtaining these grants without proper prior approval and consideration of the conservation issue, the clamour to subject agriculture to the normal planning procedures will grow. At present, farmers can erect buildings without making planning applications to the local planning authority. The failure of these regulations—and I regret to say that as proposed they are destined to fail—will lead to a growing resentment. It will be unfortunate if farmers are subjected to the whole bureaucracy of the local government planning system when they seek to erect relatively minor buildings.

    I believe that this is an example of the immense damage that Ministers are doing to one of the strengths of this country—that is, the research capability in agriculture, the advice capability and the whole administrative structure of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. We have seen arbitrary cuts. We have seen offices throughout the land closed and changes made in the structure of the Ministry. We have seen cuts in ADAS. The Minister made it clear that at least 150 advisory jobs will go as part of this ill-thought-out measure.

    It is regrettable that Ministers have not yet learnt from the mistakes of the present Secretary of State for Employment in a previous incarnation. He will be remembered for the damage that he did to what was then called the NAS. Although our Minister of Agriculture is allegedly one of the leading "wets", I am afraid that he is not getting away with the modest cuts in his Department. On the contrary, it almost seems as if the fact that he is a moderate means that he must be more arbitrary and swingeing and more insensitive to the agriculture industry and conservation interests.

    Because of our resentment of the Govment's whole approach to this great national asset, because we believe that these instruments are a mistake and that Ministers should have rejected the advice that they received from Sir Derek Rayner and because the proposals are opposed throughout the country, we on these Benches will vote against this measure tonight.

    6.5 pm

    I am grateful for the chance to speak in this important debate. I wish to concentrate on the conservation aspects of the proposal. We must be in no doubt at all that there can be few more important subjects than the maintenance of the richness and diversity of the wildlife in our countryside, not only for our own enjoyment but for the benefit of future generations. Because the fabric of conservation is so delicate in Britain, any Government have a particular responsibility to examine with the utmost care any proposal which might adversly affect that fabric.

    I accept the proposals for designated areas—the national parks and the sites of special scientific interest. Here the arrangements are satisfactory. I welcome the Minister's aim to save on administrative costs. We all recognise that this Government must scrutinise every aspect of expenditure I also welcome the move to make the farmer accept a greater responsibility for conservation on his own farm. Self-reliance is a goal that we must welcome. Clearly, these are all steps in the right direction. Nevertheless, the proposals as they stand will, without doubt, have a bad effect on conservation. All groups which are responsible for conservation appear to agree on this. If the Government genuinely take seriously their responsibilities for conservation, they must take more account of those views, especially as I believe that it is possible to satisfy the legitimate worries that exist and to meet the twin goals of saving costs and making the farmer more responsible.

    Let me say first why the proposals are not satisfactory for conservation purposes in non-designated areas. There are two main reasons for this. First, we must recognise—I speak as a working farmer—that most damage is done by farmers out of ignorance. Certainly, damage is not done as a result of a wilful disregard for nature.

    Moreover, we all recognise that the economic pressures on farmers make it more likely than ever that they will clear away a bit of old scrub or plough up an old pasture without being fully aware of what they are doing. Certainly, they can consult the Ministry beforehand, and some will do so, as is their right. However, the majority will not. Farmers are independent, and they live in remote areas, far from the rest of the population. I can say confidently that they will want to get on with the job. Therefore, irretrievable damage will be done through ignorance, and it is not good enough to pretend that this will not happen. We must also recognise that it is not just the SSSIs that are important—they cover about 4 per cent. of the country; it is the fabric of woodland, hedgerow and pasture throughout the rest of the country, which knit together these valuable sites.

    This brings me to my second objection. In theory, the Minister will be able to refuse grants to the farmer if damage to wildlife is serious, but I do not believe that that will work effectively in reality. For example, if a wood has been scrubbed out a water maedow drained or an ancient pasture reseeded, how can anyone judge the damage that has been done? There is no record of the richness of that site or any way of ascertaining what wildlife existed there before the wood was cleared or the work was done. Although the threat of refusal of grant in some cases be invoked, it is not sufficient protection in the majority of cases.

    If we recognise that the proposals are not satisfactory for non-designated areas, we must ask what can be done. The most practical solution would make use of the prior notification, which was suggested for audit purposes in the consultation document, one month before starting work on field drainage, land clearance and grassland regeneration, especially as action in those three areas has the major effect on wildlife. I propose that ADAS should sift through the prior notifications and pull out those that could have an important impact for wildlife. On the weekly visit to the Nature Conservancy Council, those cases could be discussed and action taken on the significant ones. I suggest that the number of investigations would be a small proportion of the total number of notifications, yet they could have an influence on conservation out of all proportion to their number.

    I believe that such a scheme could involve the employment of only an extra 25 people. Even if a few more were needed, the number would not be excessive in view of the impact on preserving the fragile fabric of the countryside for the benefit of future generations. Once a habitat is destroyed, it can never be replaced. The best habitats take decades, and often hundreds of years, to evolve. I recognise that the extra 25 places will have to come from elsewhere. However, as a farmer, I recognise the ability of ADAS. I have been pleased to make use of its advisory facilities. However, in fulfilling his responsibilities the Minister must have regard to the proper development of the countryside. We should get the balance right and devote a little more effort to conservation. I should be happy to receive a little less advice if we could achieve a better balance, which would be for the long-term benefit of the countryside and the country.

    I hope that my right hon. Friend the Minister can indicate that he can move towards what I am suggesting or bring forward other ideas at least to hold the situation while we see how his major proposals—which I an not criticising—work out. I regard conservation of the countryside as so important that, unless he puts forward more satisfactory suggestions, regretfully I shall not be able to support him in the Lobby tonight.

    6.12 pm

    I recently had occasion to look at the number of people employed in agriculture in Northern Ireland. In 1940 the number was 157,000. In 1950 it had risen to 161,500. Today it is only 60,500. Hon. Members may wonder what that has to do with the orders before us. A statistical survey of Northern Ireland agriculture published recently shows that 1979 was a had year for agriculture. It shows a 53 per cent. decline in the net income of farmers, calculated in current money terms, which is equivalent to a fall in real terms of about 60 per cent. We should consider the schemes against that background. If workers in any other industry experienced a fall in real income of 60 per cent., they would almost be tearing down this building in protest.

    We must view with grave concern changes in capital grants that place an extra burden on our food producers and question closely what the Minister has said, in a press notice on 2 July, the hon. Gentleman indicated that the Ministry had consulted a wide range of interested parties. I may have missed all of what he said today. Perhaps he could list who those people were and what they said. If I understand him correctly, none of them agreed with the Ministry. Whenever a regiment of soldiers marches down the street and only wee Johnny is in step, his mother alone is proud of him. The Minister has put himself in the position of Johnny's mother.

    As the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) said, there is inherent disagreement on such matters. Those in favour of conservation see all agricultural development as against their interests. Those involved in agriculture see the interests of conservation as inhibiting their industry. There was a broad spectrum of disagreement either side of the issue, and I believe that I can reasonably say that we have it just about right.

    The hon. Gentleman is still out of step as far as I and other hon. Members on the Opposition Benches are concerned.

    As a practical farmer, I am most concerned about the removal of the requirement to get prior approval from the Ministry. Previously the farmer sought approval against known standards, and he was on safe ground. It is all very well for the Minister to say that farming has grown up. Many small farmers do not have the expertise or financial resources to seek the advice that they may need before embarking on what would for them be a major scheme. In the past, that information was available to large and small farmers. It will now be denied them. Being able to go along and ask for such information is not the same. The change is a big step in the wrong direction. To avoid quarrels and fights, we should retain the procedure.

    To illustrate the problems that will arise, I draw the Minister's attention to the arguments over BSI standard 5502 and its application to buildings such as round-roofed Dutch barns. From 1 January 1980, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in Northern Ireland will not accept such a building over 30ft. or 35ft. wide. The previous limit was 45ft. No qualified engineer in the Department is prepared to say that a 45ft. building is absolutely safe. It is said that it does not meet engineers' structural requirements.

    What will happen if a farmer in Northern Ireland—I am pleased to see that the Minister responsible for agriculture in Northern Ireland is in the Chamber—builds a 45ft. wide building of a type that already exists down the road? Such buildings have not read the engineers' reports. They stand up against all the weather. None has yet fallen down or been blown away. What will happen if a farmer erects a building in the belief that he has met the criteria and the engineers decide that it is not up to standard? Will he lose the grant? That is the tip of a large iceberg, and I fear that such problems will multiply in Northern Ireland and Great Britain.

    There will be confusion, because the EEC rates still need prior approval in the form of a development plan. We shall have like structures not being treated in a like manner. That cannot be good for farming or any other industry.

    A number of serious and interesting problems arise from regulation 3 of the agriculture and horticulture development regulations. I cannot wholly understand the regulation, but I suspect that it means things that will not be welcome to many landowners. Regulation 3(1)(a) provides that
    "an individual carrying on an eligible agricultural business if the appropriate Minister is satisfied that that individual or, as the case may be, the farm manager or other person through whom the business is being carried on—
    (i) practises farming as his main occupation
    will qualify for a grant. Does that mean that in future the landowner—and this has much wider application in Great Britain than in Northern Ireland—cannot personally apply for a grant and that only the tenant may do so? May we have the exact position spelt out?

    The regulation also includes a requirement that the applicant must earn not less than half of his annual income from farming. Does that shut out those who were formally encompassed within the grant regulations? Am I correct in believing that it is a change for the worse?

    The regulation also sets out other necessary qualifications:
    "sufficient agricultural skill and competence, in that he holds an appropriate certificate issued by a teaching establishment recognised for this purpose by that Minister or has been engaged in agricultural activities for not less than five years".
    Let us consider the case of a youth leaving school at 18 and coming home to farm, without having the necessary certificate. If his father dies suddenly, will that young man be outside the qualifications, or will there be some way in which proper sympathy can be shown to him? The provision could have serious consequences for young people starting out in farming. The Minister knows the sort of problem that I have in mind.

    We have a peculiar problem in Northern Ireland because of our conacre scheme. Children are often young when their father dies and the farm is "let for a long time on the annual conacre scheme. What will be the position of a family in those circumstances? Could it get a grant, or will it be outside the scheme because it is not carrying on farming as a business but is merely preserving the lands in question until the children have grown old enough to take over the running of the farm? Will the children be caught by the five-year requirement when they are grown up? There could be serious effects for a number of family farms in Northern Ireland, and I should like to be told exactly how such individuals will be affected.

    Farmers generally trust the Department and accept what its officials tell them. I am concerned about the involvement of conservation bodies. I believe that they will be a source of great friction, because the instruments appear to be giving power into the hands of persons who will have no financial liabilities as a result of their decisions and no responsibility for their actions but who will be able to put pressure on the farming community. I believe that we should stick to the present system. It has been well tried and has been proved to work. We should not lightly cast it aside.

    6.26 pm

    As a practising, practical, less-favoured tenant farmer, who has availed himself of grants on numerous occasions, I heartily welcome the Government's move. The simplication is something that we farmers who use the schemes will greatly welcome, because the less bureaucracy that we have to go through, the better.

    We have considerable experience of applying for grants and we have a good relationship, in Scotland at least, with the Ministry in Scotland—with the help of the colleges—and I see no reason why that good relationship should be spoilt. In fact, I am sure that the proposals will enhance it.

    A number of erroneous comments have been made about the simplification of prior approval. It is prior approval—not approval—that is being clone away with. There will still have to be final approval before grants are paid.

    In those circumstances, any sensible farmer—and most of us are quite sensible—will get in touch with the Ministry official, whom he will know well, and tell him what alterations or developments are proposed. They will have a chat about it and the official will give his advice. That is how the system works, and it works well.

    I once had a great friend in Northern Ireland who held a high position in the NFU. He was on such good terms with officials in Northern Ireland—I admit that the Irish are slightly different—that he always got grants without going through the prior approval system. I always envied him.

    The hon. Gentleman said that in future he would intend to have informal discussions with an official of the Ministry in Scotland in order to check whether proposed work would be eligible for grant. Does he not realise that the whole idea is to ensure that the officials will no longer be available? The Government are seeking to sack them.

    Not all the Ministry officials will be sacked. It will be only those who have to traipse all over the countryside checking on developments being carried out by commonsense farmers. Department officials know the people on the end of the telephone. Instead of running around the countryside they will chat with people they know. This can work well, and I welcome it.

    The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) mentioned the National Farmers Union press release and selected his little bit from it. I shall select mine. The release states:
    "As indicated in an earlier brief the NFU welcomes the proposed replacement of the present minimum income test of elegibility for national grants by a test ban on 'sufficient employment', and the extension of grant aid to cover hedge-laying and general purpose building for fish-farms (though the growing numbers of fish farmers consider that this latter should be extended to equipment and specialist buildings). We also welcome the proposed simplifications of the standards of construction and materials which will give farmers more freedom in making investment decisions."
    Unless the whole of the NFU's submission is quoted, it should not be quoted.

    I turn to the use of standard costs to carry out a development. Standard costs are the most efficient and valuable way of operating for farmers. However, inflation causes a problem. Inflation has been running at a tremendously high rate and standard costs are always out of date before they are updated. I am confident that the Government will bring inflation under control and that the problem will not exist. However, while the problem is there I urge that standard costs be put on an index-linked basis so that that simpler procedure can be used to a greater extent.

    The rule is that half a farmer's income must come from agriculture for him to benefit. The income of some farmers from farming is negligible, especially in hill areas. Instead of half the income being the test, it should be half the turnover. That would be more acceptable to the small operators in the countryside.

    Capital grants are the best way to aid agriculture. They are better than low-interest loans and other schemes used on the Continent. Capital grants are a sensible and more efficient way of encouraging agriculture. Moreover, they are more selective and can be used to encourage the branches of agriculture that should be encouraged.

    I welcome the fact that areas of outstanding natural beauty have been removed from the schemes. I live in such an area, and there are conflicts. Where there are conflicts there must be sensible arbitrations and ideas. If only one of the conflicting parties decides, a sensible judgment will not result, especially if that side does not have a financial interest. The side with the financial interest—the agriculture side—should be given priority. I welcome my hon. Friend's remarks.

    6.35 pm

    I shall try to be brief, but we are discussing a serious matter and I have much that I should like to say. I have never heard a more outrageously selective comment than that made by the hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) when he read from the National Farmers Union brief. That brief concludes by suggesting that the House should throw out the schemes if the Minister is not prepared to change them. The NFU, most wise farmers and all conservation organisations are united not merely in opposing but in critically and angrily condemning the proposals. The Government have placed themselves in a ridiculous position.

    Under section 11 of the Countryside Act, which has been endorsed by the Conservative Party, the Government are required to have regard for conservation. The regulations fundamentally change that position. They threaten, by their lack of regard, the maintenance of conservation patterns and practices in Britain. They pass responsibility away from the Government on to the shoulders of the farmers. That is dangerous and could be extremely divisive.

    Conservationists are not opposed to the farmer. One of the problems about the regulations is that division and conflict will develop. In the last few years a remarkable advance has been made in securing harmony between conservationists and agriculturists. The conflict will develop as a result of the proposals. That is perhaps one of the most dangerous aspects.

    The role of the Agriculture Development and Advisory Service is to be imperilled or withdrawn. Whatever the Minister says, the result will be that each chancer in agriculture will seize the new opportunity. The chancer will try to take advantage of the new opportunity. If he gets away with it, the responsible farmer next door might feel required to go along the same road because of competitive pressure. As the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) said, that is one reason why Government Members should be worried about the future of the countryside. They should ensure that the Minister provides sensible schemes instead.

    I am in regular contact with the conservation organisations. They are all extremely angry and concerned. It was all very well for the Minister to say that the Department backs the proposals, but that was a frivolous response. I am speaking of responsible organisations, not the eccentric "nut cases", of which there are a few in this area. I am speaking of responsible people, who care about the country. They have been treated with contempt. The Government appear to be contemptuous in their response to the Strutt report. The Conservative Party endorsed and commended the Strutt recommendations. One of the report's principal recommendations was that ADAS should have an enhanced role. Now, it is seriously imperilled.

    The Minister might say that irresponsible action will not qualify for grant but the damage will be done before the farmer is disappointed. In the short space of time available, I cannot say much more except that this—

    I understand that we have more time. I shall cease to rush at the rate that I was progressing. I do not intend being brief now. I was becoming rather tense, but there was much that I wished to say—

    Order. The hon. Gentleman is right to say that there is time, but I hope that he will not be over-tempted. There is a great deal of business before us.

    I accept that, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it would be regrettable if we were to complete the debate in 20 minutes when the future of our countryside and our national heritage was at stake.

    On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. How long is the debate timed to last?

    I promise that I shall have sat down by 11.30 pm—perhaps even a little earlier. Indeed, I hope to be sitting down in Yorkshire by 11.30 pm. I do not propose making my remarks at great length.

    The Minister must remember that the Conservative Party previously accepted, endorsed and applauded the Strutt recommendations, which foresaw an enhanced role for the advisory service. This measure is a remarkable retreat from that endorsement and one which has not been properly explained. There have been inadequate explanations. There seems to have been an element of slickness in the Government's approach. When their Lordships were considering this matter in another place, they were pursuaded to allow the regulations to go through on the ground that it would be wrong to throw them out before they had been considered here. The Minister knew that there were more independent people in another place, who might have been tempted to throw out the regulations, than there would be on the Government Back Benches today. I hope that Conservative Members will be concerned about the future shape and character of our countryside and will express resentment of the measure by their actions this evening.

    The Minister believes that he has made a concession about part of our countryside, namely, the SSSIs and the national parks, but there is no concession for 80 per cent. of the British countryside. There are hon. Members in the Chamber whose constituencies have little of their surfaces devoted to SSSIs and which may be some way from a national park. But in those constituencies, as in mine, there are areas of considerable attraction that should be protected. Many Conservative Members may think that my constituency is industrial. It is an important steel and coal area, but it is also a county constituency, with 256 farms.

    An important part of the agricultural area of Rother valley was created in the great agricultural reforms of the eighteenth century, when there was a longer and wiser view than that exhibited by the Government Front Bench today. The area around Roche Abbey was designed by Capability Brown. He was instructed to apply the eye of an artist and the heart of a poet. It took a long time to create, and it has been treasured and esteemed for centuries. It has given enormous pleasure to my constiuents, their grandparents and their grandparents before them. We want our grandchildren and their grandchildren to have the opportunity of solace and refreshment provided by the British countryside.

    In order to fly the flag of St. Michael rather than St. George—that is a reasonable metaphor, given the influence of Sir Derek Rayner on these proceedings—the Minister is prepared to put an enormous risk upon the rural heritage of Britain. It is not simply a question of protecting the SSSIs, the national parks or the areas of outstanding natural beauty. We must remember that one of our great legacies—something that we must pass on to those who follow us—is the diversity and abundance of British wildlife, the treasure that lies within our habitats in our rural areas. That legacy can be found in the vast majority of the constituencies represented in the House. It is wrong and regrettable and will be described in future as criminal for the Government to pursue the course that they are presently pursuing.

    Strong words were said in another place. There may be few strong words said in the debate tonight, but the Minister knows full well that there is already great anger in the conservation organisations. There will be even more irritation as conflict and division emerge. Considerable disturbance, dissatisfaction and regret will be felt in the rural areas of Britain. The Minister may not wish me to make the point—but I shall do so—that the Conservative Party has, over the years, claimed to be the natural representative of the rural areas. In the past 12 months the rural areas have suffered more disadvantages from this Government than they have suffered in the previous century. Public transport has been removed, uncertainties and anxieties have developed, and those areas now see a real threat to the natural treasury which makes life worth living in their localities. I do not think that the rural areas of Britain will readily forgive Conservative Members if they lightly allow the measure to pass today.

    I am glad to see the Under-Secretary of State for the Environment on the Government Front Bench. He is well aware that last year the Conservative Administration promised Britain and the world legislation to preserve wildlife in our natural habitats. We were disappointed. We are to have that legislation next year. We were promised it last year, we may get it next year, but what is happening this year is most contradictory and anomalous in relation to the Government's international commitments.

    If the Minister listened to what is said in the country and paid regard to the countryside, he would not press the regulations. He would do what every conservation organisation in Britain has demanded and what the National Farmers Union has requested, and withdraw the proposals and consider them again.

    6.47 pm

    At the conclusion of a long parliamentary Session I propose to curry your favour, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by being excessively brief and not reiterating many of the points that have been made. To put my remarks in context, I wish to say how much I welcome a great deal of what is contained in these instruments.

    I turn to the area where I have some reservations, and which was touched upon in a thoughtful and knowledgeable speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle). My concern relates to the restriction in the role of prior approval and the reduction in the role of ADAS. I take the point and the necessity for staff savings, but there is a broader implication that we must consider. It seems at least arguable that the reduced role of ADAS will be compensated for largely at the expense of shifting that burden on to other agencies, local authorities and other organisations. I agree that the manpower saving will be welcome, but I question whether the other agencies will have quite the same competence to deal with this important and delicate matter in the fashion in which ADAS has dealt with it over recent years.

    I appreciate and welcome the fact that where advice is sought it will still be available from ADAS. I seek my hon. Friend's assurance that he is satisfied that the rump of ADAS that will remain will be sufficient to discharge his obligations under the Countryside Act 1968. The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy) began to touch upon that matter. I do not think that he specifically quoted section 11 of the Act, which calls upon the Ministry to have
    "regard to the desirability of conserving the natural beauty and amenity of the countryside."
    My point is simple and straightforward. There will be a welcome for and agreement throughout the House on the proposal to seek to preserve and maintain the countryside that remains. Is my hon. Friend satisfied that the reduced role of ADAS will leave sufficient capacity to ensure that the Ministry can discharge its obligations under section 11 of the Act? If he is so satisfied, will he comment on the apparent danger that a farmer who has not studied the available advice may, with the best will in the world, start a development which, in retrospect, can be seen to have damaged irreplaceable countryside? I hope that he can assure me that the Ministry has studied this matter carefully.

    6.50 pm

    I declare an interest as a hill farmer who has taken full advantage of all the grants and has received great co-operation from officials and others in Wales.

    We are discussing the future of the most efficient industry in Britain. I wonder how many people know that we spend less on research for this industry than for any other in Britain. I have read what was said in the other place yesterday—that about 400 people will be made redundant for a saving of about £2 million a year. If that money were to be spent on research I should support these statutory instruments, but that is not to be.

    To take advantage of any grant scheme, the farmer has to be able to match it pound for pound, and in the current state of agriculture fewer farmers can do so. We were told last week that the industry's income this year will be lower again—by about 15 per cent. This happens year after year. I am afraid that fewer farmers will take advantage of the capital grants scheme.

    Like other small business men, many farmers have to bear the brunt of high interest rates. Until the MLR is lowered by at least 2 or 3 per cent., there is little chance that that financial outlook will improve. That is yet another reason for setting up a land bank from which farmers can borrow at advantageous rates to keep their heads above water.

    Another difficulty for those who will apply for the grants is that the farmer always has to find ready money to pay the contractor before the grant is forthcoming. That applies even under the current system.

    When the contractor has completed his job, he rightly expects his money. Many of us, when we started on our own, could not take full advantage of the scheme because we did not have the capital to pay the full amount. I hope that the Minister will look at this matter and that in years to come a percentage of the grant can be paid to farmers when the contractors are working on the land.

    There are good arguments for and against getting prior provision for grant-aided schemes, but the new proposals could be fraught with danger. There is also great danger in the arrangements for farmers in the national parks, which include a large percentage of the agricultural area of Wales. I am afraid that there will be two groups of farmers. Those outside the national parks will be able to carry on with their schemes, but the others will have to get the blessing of the park authority and other organisations before carrying out a scheme. That is unfair.

    I am one of those who believe that we should conserve the best parts of the country. There are beautiful areas in Scotland, England, Ireland and Wales. I have always believed, as, I hope, have most hon. Members, whatever our other views, that, whatever schemes are de- vised, farmers must remain the guardians of the countryside. They will do the job much better than any other organisation.

    For the sake of producers and consumers, I urge the Minister to persuade his colleagues to look again at the present proposals. They are not acceptable to the majority of hon. Members on both sides, if we are honest, or to the National Farmers Union, the Farmers Union of Wales or any other organisation.

    Like many other hon. Members, I have received many letters on this subject. It is a shame that we should force through legislation against the will of farmers and every relevant organisation, all of which have come out against these proposals. Therefore, I shall have to vote against the instruments. I hope that the Ministry will bring forward other proposals in the next Session.

    6.56 pm

    I greatly welcomed the practical, down-to-earth speech of my hon. Friend the Minister. I would compare it with that of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), which, as usual, was full of bitterness. He said that the Government had harmed argriculture, yet as a Minister he did more harm to British agriculture than any other man, with the introduction of succession into farming. That has put farmer and farm landowner against each other. The hon. Member knows that it was introduced in the face of hitter opposition from many of his right hon. and hon. Friends, including the previous Minister of Agriculture.

    As a land agent who has sat at meetings between landowner and tenant, I know that the prior approval system was an absolute curse. The time that it took meant that plans became out of date and that contractors who had given an estimate would not stand by it. One had to get another estimate. Then the cost rose and many farmers and landowners said "We shall have a much simpler scheme, although probably not as good. We shall do without the grant and get on with it rather than wait for approval." I can assure my hon. Friend the Minister that many practical farmers will welcome the ending of prior approval as a sensible step.

    I am sorry that the hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) is no longer present. Small farmers in my district are highly intelligent and can cope with this sort of legislation. They probably know quite as well as the large farmer, the advisers of the NFU and the secretaries who have a great deal of information. With prior approval so many forms had to be filled in that one needed a secretary, but I believe that simplification will do a great deal of good. I do not believe that these farmers will be unable to cope with that.

    I was glad to hear the Minister's assurances about conservation and the countryside. I accept them. I think that the hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy)—I call him my friend because we serve on a committee together in the Council of Europe—will admit that, though I am not so outspoken as he, I try to do my best to preserve the countryside. I am extremely keen on that. I believe that a protest lobby has been worked up without the conservation societies really knowing what they are doing.

    I am a member of the Norfolk Naturalist Trust and of the Wildlife Trust, which has a wonderful preserve in my constituency, and I find that their members, who are in close contact with the farming, landowning and tenant community, have far more influence than officials from outside. My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle) made a good speech, but I disagree with him.

    We must realise that the only matter with which the Minister can deal is the grant. Everybody else has spoken about ploughing up old pastures. One does not need to ask for grant in order to cut down a hedgerow, but I fear that far too many hedgerows are cut down. However, that has nothing to do with the regulations.

    Therefore, I welcome these instruments. I believe that they will speed matters up and help farmers large and small. I hope that we pass them without delay.

    7.1 pm

    I declare an interest at the outset, since I have been known to claim these grants. The regulations before us have been dressed up as a rationalisation scheme, but if they are the result of rationalisation carried out by Sir Derek Rayner, and if that gentleman is to undertake a rationalisation exercise in other Government Departments, I despair because of the red tape and confusion that will be created throughout the Civil Service.

    This is a phenomenally complicated set of regulations. The Minister said that he intended to produce a straightforward explanatory leaflet, and I shall be fascinated to see how he manages to do that. There are one or two unforgettable passages in the regulations. I shall quote item 8(1), on page 7.
    "Subject to the provisions of this regulation and regulations 12 and 14 the amount of any grant payable under regulation 7(1) towards expenditure in respect of any work, facility or transaction of a kind specified in any of paragraphs 1 to 20 and 22, in column 1 of the Schedule shall be the percentage of that expenditure specified in relation to that work, facility or transaction, in column 2 of the Schedule, except that in the case of any work, facility or transaction which, in the opinion of the appropriate Minister …"
    It goes on in that way. There are three lots—

    Does the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) know the difference between the passage that he has quoted and the one contained in the original regulation that was in force under the Labour Government?

    The hon. Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) has anticipated what I intended to say. I was about to criticise the farm and horticultural development scheme on which the regulation is based. That is a complicated scheme. If I cast my mind back to the beginning of my farming career 10 years ago, I remember that if I wanted to carry out work on the farm I did it under the old farm improvement scheme. Under that scheme, I simply had to look at a schedule of eligible works to see whether what I wanted to do was eligible, fill in a simple one-sided form and send it to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for Scotland.

    Someone would come along from the Department, have a look at what I proposed to do to ascertain whether the work was necessary or desirable, and give me written approval to get on with the job. In due course the job would be done and the grant would be paid. There was no problem. Since then, this typical European-inspired monstrosity, the agriculture and horticulture development scheme, has emerged. Its complications lead to considerable difficulties for farmers most of whom are unable to prepare their own schemes. They must find a specialist consultant, a member of the college advisory service or ADAS to draft their schemes for submission. It is then decided whether the schemes are eligible under the regulations.

    All that must be done so that capital grant may be paid out. I do not believe that this is a clever way of conducting our affairs. Is that what the Government want? Do they want such a proliferation of non-productive, pseudo-administrators on the back of what should be a productive and efficient agriculture?

    It is fair to say, in this instance, that Sir Derek Rayner is chasing his own tail, because these psuedo-administrators are in many instances employed by the Government. They are employed either by the Scottish agricultural colleges or by ADAS. To what end are they engaged on all this paperwork?

    Our advisers, whether in the Scottish or the English services, should be put to much more useful work in helping the industry to become more efficient by giving constructive advice to producers and growers rather than by preparing all this bumf. The Government should put before the House a much simpler scheme, based on the farm capital grant scheme, with prior approval, as happened in the past. It is about time that we tore up this scheme. I recognise that it was set up in order to tap European funds, but surely there must be better ways of tapping such funds.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang), who spoke of the need to maintain prior consent. I also agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), who spoke of the need to give proper weight to conservation interests throughout our rural areas. I am delighted that on this happy occasion I agree not only with my hon. Friends but with both my trade unions, namely, the National Farmers Union and the National Union of Agricultural Workers, in opposing these regulations.

    7.8 pm

    I am glad that on this occasion we are, for once, debating these impor-thank my hon. Friend the Minister for having met many of the objections that were raised against the February proposals. There are many aspects of these regulations which I welcome.

    I was interested to hear the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) say that we must keep our hedges and that the old proposals had worked out well. If his idea of things working out well is that people should be paid for grubbing up hedges, I have to say that it is not mine.

    In the part of the country which I have the honour to represent, there are some superb examples of hedge-laying. Competitions are held and great pride is taken in the craft. It is extremely good for conservation, and it is an excellent way of keeping in one's stock. It is a first-class job. However, it is quite hideously expensive. In the past, though not the immediate past, not only were farmers not encouraged to lay hedges: they were actually paid to grub them up or, as my late husband used to say, to cut them off at the knees. That was equally hideous.

    In the area in which I farmed for many years—I must declare an interest as a farmer—almost all the hedges were grubbed up. We continued to lay our hedges, and there was a half-page article in the local paper when we laid a roadside one last year, because the practice was so unusual. It had not been seen in the district for many years. I am glad that the interpretation of the regulations is being widened so that hedge-laying is included. There is no finer form of conservation than the hedgerow. It is good stock protection and a wonderful protection for wildlife.

    I am glad about the simplification of the standard of construction. My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins) is right. Many farmers despaired at the complications and the escalation in price that ensued in the delays involved in getting prior approval. In despair they probably built, as I did myself, a simpler form of construction and forwent the grant.

    I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) when he says that the standard should be half the turnover and not half the income. In many country areas, especially the fells in Lancashire and Cumbria, it will be essential in years to come for farmers to have ancillary forms of income such as tourism, which is rapidly increasing in those areas, and part-time work in forestry. It would be much better if the criterion was half the turnover of a farm instead of half the income.

    I do not like the uncertainty that the draft regulations will involve for a farmer who can just about find the money to do the job if he receives a grant but who will not be able to do so if he does not receive it. If the farmer is not certain that he can get a grant, it would be helpful if a residual capacity to apply for a grant were to remain—a residual option so that if a farmer is in doubt he can obtain prior approval. That will apply probably to only one application in 10. If that is so, it will not cost very much and it will be a valuable addition. I know that my hon. Friend cannot change a draft statutory instument, but he can possibly delay this one.

    In general, I welcome the much greater flexibility that has been introduced and the considerable thought that has been paid to the objections that were made to the original proposals.

    7.13 pm

    The last way to commend the draft regulations to me is to say that they have been introduced at the behest of Sir Derek Rayner and that they will result in a reduction in agriculture costs. If my memory serves me right, it was Marks and Spencer that in March of this year first started selling the individually priced potato. That does not commend its cost-saving abilities very much.

    I make no apology for contributing to the debate when my constituency is Holborn and St. Pancras, South. My constituents and others who live in urban areas have as great an interest in the future of the countryside as anyone else. That is partly because it produces food for them and partly because it represents a form of recreation and relaxation, in the same way as the cities provide recreation and relaxation for those who live in country areas.

    Probably Exmoor best epitomises the conflict within the national parks between the interests of farmers and those of visitors and conservationists. The Government and previous Governments have not resolved the conflict. That is partly because it is a conflict between the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and the Department of the Environment, which have different objectives.

    As I understand it, the requirement for prior approval for the reclamation of moorland in the national parks will stilt be required. I also understand that a thorough consultation procedure will be required. That is not going far enough. The procedure is not as conservation-oriented as it should be. Secondly, the present method stimulates bureacracy.

    In the national parks, and on Exmoor especially, there should be a presumption against the further reclamation of moorland for farming purposes. At present there is no presumption towards either allowing the ploughing of moorland or the retention of moorland. That unclear area of discretion is an area in which bureaucracy flourishes.

    Many people will be consulting many others—this will apply to official bodies, unofficial bodies, voluntary bodies, conservation bodies and agriculture bodies—and at the end of the day there must be an individual decision on each issue, based on its merits and without a presumption one way or the other. That must be calculated to be the most fertile breeding ground for bureaucracy, which loves consulting itself and others on matters where it has a discretion and where there are no clear and binding rules.

    It would be better for Exmoor—better from the point of view of conserving it, better from the point of view of farmers who would not need to make applications that would not succeed, and better from the point of view of reducing bureaucracy—if the Government set out and maintained a clear presumption in favour of retaining moorland when dealing with its reclamation in national parks.

    7.18 pm

    About three-quarters of my constituency is in the Peak District national park.

    When I first read the Government's proposals I had grave reservations. I welcome the changes that the Government have made. I welcome the proposal that an ADAS representative should hold a weekly surgery and should appear once a week at the offices of the national park. That goes a long way towards allaying my anxieties.

    There is a rumour in my constituency —I shall be grateful if my hon. Friend dispels it when he replies—that in the national park area the effect of these measures will be to oblige farmers to consult conservation interests when previously they were not obliged to do so. In fact, conservation interests have always had to be consulted. The ADAS representatives used to talk direct to the national parks and there was not so much interface between farmers and those responsible for the parks. I understand that the result of these measures will be to make a direct interface between national parks and farmers.

    Relations between the farming community and the national parks used to be rather had. I have the impression that those relations have been improving slightly, in no small, part due to the intense efforts that have been made by the national parks to improve their public image. Those efforts have begun to pay off and relations have been getting better.

    The new interface between farmers and the national parks may make it more difficult for the parks to improve their relationship with the farming community. Decisions that might have seemed acceptable if they had come from the ADAS representatives may seem less acceptable to farmers when they come from the national parks. Farmers may be more inclined to challenge decisions from the national parks than from ADAS representatives. That is a problem, but it should not prove to be insurmountable. To what extent is the effect of the regulations in the national parks simply to transfer manpower requirements from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to the national parks bureaucracy? Can my hon. Friend give the House an assurance that there will be no requirement to increase manpower in the Peak District national park as a result of the new obligations that the regulations place upon the national parks?

    7.20 pm

    By leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I should like to seek to deal with some of the points raised during the debate.

    The speech of the hon. Member for Holborn and St. Pancras, South (Mr. Dobson) epitomises the difficulty for my Department and the equivalents in Scotland and Northern Ireland in seeking to marry the conflict between the wish of his constituents to use the countryside as an area of recreation with the fact that those who earn their living from farming have to do so in the same countryside. The question of moorland conservation is not relevant to the debate but will be relevant to the countryside legislation that I believe my right hon. Friend may be seeking to bring forward.

    The hon. Gentleman reminds me that under the voluntary arrangements that have been in existence not a square inch of Exmoor has been ploughed up except by agreement with the national park authorities. My hon. Friend the Member for Derbyshire, West (Mr. Parris) dealt with the question of the national parks. I understand the substantial feeling that exists in that part of the world about such matters. My hon. Friend used the word "oblige" in the context of the necessity of the farmer having to consult. That is right. This is a change from what, in effect, was a voluntary arrangement to one that requires him to consult in the interests of the countryside before proceeding. I remind my hon. Friend that we do not look upon this development as necessarily leading to a vast bureaucratic load.

    Each week the ADAS officer will visit the office of the national park, go through the applications, remove, I believe, the vast percentage that will not be of a sensitive nature and proceed to deal with the handful that remain by visiting the farmers and talking to them about the issues, proceeding in the same way as in the past by consultation, persuasion and, if necessary, management agreements and such procedures.

    Does the Minister agree that previously it was a voluntary action for the farmer to approach the officials of the national park? Now it is compulsory.

    I agree. That is what is happening. The point is whether this will be a disadvantage.

    I suspect that Opposition Members consider that national park authorities will not be sufficiently consulted even now. I believe that I can allay the farmers' fears. I understand their fears that unknowledgeable members of national parks' committees will start dictating, without the intervention of ADAS, what should or should not go on. This will not be a question of holding matters up for months. Each week, under our administrative arrangements, there will be a visit, which I believe will deal with the problem.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) gave a welcome to the scheme for which I am grateful. He asked about the review of standard costs. They are reviewed annually—a major exercise. We should like to do so more often at a period of high inflation. We shall look at my hon. Friend's suggestion, but I cannot make any promises.

    My hon. Friend and also my hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster (Mrs. Kellett-Bowman) and others raised the matter of eligibility. Eligibility for the scheme is the same as before. Eligibility is laid down by the Community so that these schemes should qualify for Community contribution. There is nothing that I can do about the matter at this stage.

    The hon. Member for Rother Valley (Mr. Hardy), in a passionate speech, claimed, like many of his fellows, to speak on behalf of a wide range of conservation societies. The hon. Gentleman confirms my conclusion, which I have mentioned previously, that in such matters these societies are opposed to capital grants.

    They are indeed. They are saying, in effect, that development in the countryside is harmful to conservation. We have to ensure that farmers are able to continue to develop their businesses. We must produce food. At the same time, we do our best to ensure that our duties under the Countryside Act are kept.

    The Minister does many people in the conservation movement a great disservice. There has been a great deal of effort to try to ensure that conservationists and agriculturists work together. A great deal of progress has been achieved. The Minister may care to clarify the position, because the conservationists agree with the view of the Nature Conservancy that the Ministry's proposal will lead to a marked and accelerated decline in wildlife habitat. That point concerns conservationists and also a great many farmers.

    I do not accept that argument. The history of the previous arrangements, with the prior approval scheme, has not been very successful in the context of what the hon. Gentleman suggests. We shall require the farmer—not the ADAS man who gave the prior approval—to say that he has considered these aspects.

    I do not accept the criticism that we have not considered the conservation aspect. I believe that, at the end of the day, there will be the opportunity for a greater relationship between the conservation interests and the farmer. If that is not the case, there are farmers—signs exist that some are starting to do so—who will say that they are not prepared to have this argument, not prepared to delay their investment, and who will forgo the grant and get on with doing what they want to do despite the interests of conservation or the countryside. I am against that approach. It would be a great pity if that stage was reached.

    The hon. Gentleman knows the industry pretty well. How many farmers can afford not to take advantage of the type of grants about which we are talking?

    By the very fact that they have not applied for a grant, I do not know how many, but two substantial cases were drawn to my attention last week. I have sought information on this point.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Mr. Major) raised the question of shifting responsibility. I do not think that this is the case. ADAS will still be available to give advice. To suggest that we are making some dramatic reductions in the total numbers of ADAS and that ADAS involvement will be less is contrary to the facts of the situation. We are cutting down on ADAS administration. ADAS is currently over 5,000 strong, 3,000 of whom are advisers. The cut in ADAS, which is 150 man-years, will come from less administration. We hope not only to maintain our level of advice but to improve it. I gain the impression that this will be the wish of almost every hon. Member who has spoken.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Mr. Carlisle), who has spoken to me on the matter in recent days, has referred to the pressures on the farmer. The pressures on the farmer by the conservation interests are such that there is a detectable and regrettable antipathy. Ministers on occasions have to seek to resolve these difficulties. We are adopting a procedure whereby advice content in these disputes will be as high as or higher than in the past.

    The hon. Member for Londonderry (Mr. Ross) raised a number of detailed questions about eligibility in Northern Ireland. I hope that my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who was listening to his speech, will write to him and deal with what are Northern Ireland points. Among other matters raised by the hon. Gentleman was the question of building standards. British Standard 5502 is a highly complex document, but all professional firms, and presumably contractors, will understand its implications. There will be no worry about buildings built to that standard. We are not saying that because a building is not up to standard we shall reject the grant. We shall give advice and suggest how the standard might be maintained. We shall use good, common sense. I hope that there will be no difficulty there.

    The hon. Gentleman suggested that there was a change in the operation of the FHDS. The change is not that the plan will not need prior approval, because it will. The farm plan will get approval as in the past, but the buildings and capital investment which are part of the plan will not require prior approval.

    The hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Howells) mentioned research. I hope that he will look at this separate subject and recognise that, where it is possible to make savings in one part of a Department, there is a balancing element. We have made some cuts in research, but I believe them to have been as modest as possible. I suggest that the hon. Gentleman's criticisms of the amount of agricultural research which is going on are not well founded.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South-West (Mr. Hawkins), with his customary deep knowledge of the countryside, has welcomed the practicalities of the scheme.

    The hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Home Robertson) referred to Sir Derek Rayner chasing his tail and then argued extensively that the Government should seek to reduce bureaucracy and to increase advice. That is precisely what we are doing. If anyone is chasing his tail, I suggest that it is the hon. Gentleman.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Lancaster shares my enjoyment of a well cut and layered hedge. Making the layering of hedges available for grant is a step forward.

    My hon. Friend referred to contingency approval. I understand her concern about this matter. Where there is doubt, the farmer concerned will be well advised to seek guidance from ADAS. Provided that advice is complied with, I cannot see that the other hand of the Department is likely to turn down the resulting application. I suggest that in practice that point has been met. We do not foresee the turning down of too many grants for the reasons put forward by my hon. Friend.

    The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) raised the important matter of public accountability. It has exercised my mind considerably. However, he will know from his previous experience that we must satisfy the Treasury, and it is in agreement with the scheme as it has been announced. We shall certainly watch this matter with our customary audit procedures. There will be sampling, inspections and checks in the normal way. The Public Accounts Committee will breathe heavily on us in the ordinary way. However, I believe that we have taken all possible precautions in the same way as they were taken before.

    The hon. Gentleman asked specifically about Scotland. The prior notification procedures will apply in SSSIs and, when they come into being, national scenic areas. In general, the same procedures and thoughts will be applied to the scheme in Scotland as apply here, bearing in mind that there are some differences in the advisory services there. My noble friend the Minister of State will be altering the scheme largely to deal with those slight differences.

    The hon. Gentleman talked about the necessity for conservation. I hope that I have dealt with that aspect sufficiently both in my opening remarks and in replying to the debate. In view of the conflicting interests, we have emphasised the need for and provided the manpower to give advice. I do not think that every ADAS officer has a magical ability to deal with all conservation problems, but he has the trust of the farmer and to a large extent of the conservation bodies, though I suspect that that trust has been elevated substantially during the debate.

    Finally, the hon. Gentleman referred to the cuts. My Department can, will and intends to bear its share of the full economies which must take place across Whitehall. In making these cuts, we have sought to impinge upon the farming community as little as possible. This is a fundamental change in bureaucracy, organisation and form-filling. We believe that the farming community can and should be trusted to make its own decisions.

    Division No. 469]


    [7.35 pm

    Benyon, Thomas (Abingdon)Fenner, Mrs PeggyNeale, Gerrard
    Berry, Hon AnthonyGoodhew, VictorNeubert, Michael
    Biggs-Davison, JohnGow, IanNewton, Tony
    Blackburn, JohnGriffiths, Peter (Portsmouth N)Normanton, Tom
    Boscawen, Hon RobertHawkins, PaulOnslow, Cranley
    Bright, GrahamHawksley, WarrenPage, Rt Hon Sir Graham (Crosby)
    Brinton, TimHenderson, BarryPage, Richard (SW Hertfordshire)
    Brocklebank-Fowler, ChristopherHogg, Hon Douglas (Grantham)Parris, Matthew
    Brooke, Hon PeterHurd, Hon DouglasPatten, Christopher (Bath)
    Brotherton, MichaelJopling, Rt Hon MichaelPatten, John (Oxford)
    Brown, Michael (Brigg & Sc'thorpe)Kellett-Bowman, Mrs ElainePrentice, Rt Hon Reg
    Bruce-Gardyne, JohnKershaw, AnthonyPrice, David (Eastleigh)
    Buchanan-Smith, Hon AlickLawrence, IvanProctor, K. Harvey
    Buck, AntonyLe Marchant, Spencer
    Cadbury, JocelynLennox-Boyd, Hon MarkRhodes James, Robert
    Carlisle, John (Luton West)Lester, Jim (Beeston)Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon
    Chapman, SydneyLloyd, Peter (Fareham)Ridley, Hon Nicholas
    Clegg, Sir WalterMacGregor, JohnRossi, Hugh
    Colvin, MichaelMcNair-Wilson, Michael (Newbury)Sainsbury, Hon Timothy
    Cope, JohnMajor, JohnSt. John-Stevas, Rt Hon Norman
    Costain, Sir AlbertMellor, DavidShaw, Giles (Pudsey)
    Cranborne, ViscountMeyer, Sir AnthonySilvester, Fred
    Dorroll, StephenMiller, Hal (Bromsgrove & Redditch)Speed, Keith
    Dover, DenshoreMoate, RogerSpeller, Tony
    Dunn, Robert (Dartford)Monro, HectorSpicer, Jim (West Dorset)
    Elliott, Sir WilliamMorrison, Hon Peter (City of Chester)Spicer, Michael (S Worcesetershir)
    Eyre, ReginaldMurphy, ChristopherSproat, Iain
    Faith, Mrs ShellaMyles, DavidSquire, Robin

    I remind the House that the only sanction that we have is whether we pay the grant. Some will choose to ignore that sanction and go the other way. However, this is a good scheme. It is an improvement on the old one.

    My hon. Friend said that one sanction was to refuse to pay the grant. Will he elaborate on that point? I do not see how it will work. What criteria will be applied? For example, a woodland or small copse may have been destroyed and there may be no evidence of what existed before. How can one say what damage there has been when, so to speak, the horse has bolted?

    My hon. Friend knows that if a wood is an SSSI and has been allocated as such, prior notification will be involved. As I have said, the applicant will have to say that he sought to consider countryside effects. If, as a result of his doubts, he has not sought the advice of ADAS and has deliberately flouted common sense, we shall reserve the right to withhold the grant. That is made clear in the explanatory leaflet, and it will be carried out.

    I emphasise again that the purpose of the scheme is advice, not bureaucracy. I commend it to the House.

    Question put:

    The House divided: Ayes 96, Noes 45.

    Stanbrook, IvorWaddington, DavidWinterton, Nicholas
    Stevens, MartinWaller, GaryWolfson, Mark
    Strading Thomas J.Ward, JohnTELLERS FOR THE AYES:
    Thatcher, Rt Hon Mrs MargaretWickenden, KeithLord James Douglas-Hamilton and
    Thorne, Neil (Ilford South)Wiggin, JerryJohn Wakeham.


    Atkinson, Norman (H'gey, Tott'ham)Hughes, Robert (Aberdeen North)Ross, Stephen (Isle of Wight)
    Bidwell, SydneyJohnson, James (Hull West)Ross, Wm. (Londonderry)
    Cocks, Rt Hon Michael (Bristol S)Kilfedder, James A.Snape, Peter
    Cunliffe, LawrenceLyons, Edward (Bradford west)Soley, Clive
    Dean, Joseph (Leeds West)McDonald, Dr OonaghSpearing, Nigel
    Dobson, FrankMcKay, Allen (Penlstone)Spriggs, Leslie
    Dormand, JackMcNamara, KevinStrang, Gavin
    Dubs, AlfredMcQuade, JohnTinn, James
    Dunwoody, Mrs. GwynethMillan, Rt Hon BruceUrwin, Rt Hon Tom
    Foot, Rt Hon MichaelMolyneaux, JamesWinnick, David
    Grimond, Rt Hon J.Paisley, Rev IanWrigglesworth, Ian
    Hamilton. W. W. (Central Fife)Palmer, Arthur
    Hardy, PeterParker, John
    Harrison, Rt Hon WalterPenhaligon, David
    Holland, Stuart (L'beth, Vauxhall)Powell, Rt Hon J. Enoch (S Down)TELLERS FOR THE NOES:
    Home Robertson, JohnPowell, Raymond (Ogmore)Mr. George Morton and
    Howells, GeraintRoberts, Ernest (Hackney North)Mr. Terry Davis.

    Question accordingly agreed to.


    That the draft Agriculture and Horticulture Development Regulations 1980, which were laid before this House on 28 July, be approved.


    That the Agriculture and Horticulture Grant Scheme 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 1072), a copy of which was laid before this House on 28 July, be approved.
    That the Horticulture Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 929), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8 July, be approved.
    That the Farm Capital Grant (Variation) (No. 2) Scheme 1980 (S.I., 1980, No. 930), a copy of which was laid before this House on 8 July, be approved.—[Mr. Wiggin.]

    Common Fisheries Policy

    7.47 pm

    The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food,
    (Mr. Alick Buchanan-Smith)

    I beg to move.

    That this House takes note of European Community Documents Nos. R/2988/75, R/2519/77, R/2520/77, R/1514/78 and 8959/80 on structural policy, No. 8583/80 on catch reporting, No. 8957/80 on conservation, No. 8958/80 on 1980 quota allocations, No. 9047/80 on quota allocation criteria and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's unnumbered memorandum of 21 July 1980 on access: and supports the Government's objective of a satisfactory overall settlement of the revised Common Fisheries Policy in its own right at the earliest possible opportunity which takes adequate account of the need to conserve and safeguard fish stocks and of the overall requirements of the United Kingdom fishing industry.

    I have to inform the House that Mr. Speaker has selected the amendment in the name of the Leader of the Opposition.

    I should like to draw the attention of the House to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food's unnumbered explanatory memorandum of 22 July 1980 and corrigendum of 1 August 1980, which relate to document No. 9047/80 and which are also relevant.

    The official text of document No. 9129/80 on access has now been received, and it was made available in the Vote Office on Wednesday. In essence, it is identical to the unnumbered illustrative text that was originally supplied in relation to the unnumbered explanatory memorandum on access that is referred to in the motion.

    I welcome the opportunity for this debate because it comes at an important time. In the autumn there will be a series of important meetings of Fisheries Councils in Europe, when decisions may be taken. I very much welcome this opportunity for the House to express its views on these vital negotiations.

    The Government's objectives in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy remain as we have stated them on many previous occasions, from this Box and elsewhere. I should like to summarise the four essential principles as I see them. First, we believe that we must have an adequate exclusive zone. Secondly, we must have further preferential access beyond that exclusive zone. Thirdly, we must have a proper control system. Fourthly, we must have a substantial share of the total allowable catch which takes account of the fact that we are contributing most of the water and most of the fish to the total waters of the EEC.

    Through recent Councils, particularly through bilateral contacts which my right hon. Friend the Minister and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland have had, I believe that at present, and certainly compared with the position 15 months ago, there is a very much better understanding in Europe of the United Kingdom's position and of its aspirations in relation to the renegotiation of the CFP. Indeed, on many areas —this was particularly apparent at the last Fisheries Council in July—there is an identity of interest between some of our objectives and those of other countries. They have similar interests to our own. I believe that on that basis we have an opportunity for progress which has not been there previously.

    I should also like to refer to the Foreign Affairs Council on 30 May, when an agreed text on fisheries was issued following that meeting. I draw the attention of the House to three aspects of it. First, that agreement urged a settlement of the CFP by the end of this year. This is something that we support, because in a period of uncertainty it is very difficult for any industry to continue on the present basis. Provided that we get a satisfactory settlement—I emphasised that in what I said earlier—it is right that we should try to seek a settlement by the end of this year.

    Secondly, the document contains a number of criteria that are to be used in the negotiations towards that settlement. All those criteria are acceptable in relation to our objectives in the renegotiations.

    Thirdly, that agreement from the Foreign Affairs Council makes it clear that there is no linkage with the budget and that the fisheries policy has to be settled on its merits.

    We now have new proposals from the Commission on quotas, on conservation and on structures. We also have a paper —I make that distinction on purpose—on access.

    Looking ahead to the future meetings of Fisheries Councils, to which I referred a few moments ago, there is a Fisheries Council at the end of September. We would hope at that Council to see conservation measures discussed and to see some progress made on that matter then. There is likely to be a further Fisheries Council in October. At that Council we would expect to see more substantive discussions, and we would hope to see progress on the crucial matters of quotas and access.

    It is for that reason that I particularly welcome the opportunity for this debate this evening, because these Councils are to take place during September and October.

    I agree with the Minister that it is necessary to get an agreement on the CFP. If a policy were to be agreed in October or November, when does the Minister think that it would come into force concerning quotas and conservation?

    That would depend upon a number of factors. For example, if the right hon. Gentleman looks at the document on conservation he will see that different items of conservation come into force on different dates. Therefore, there would be different dates for different parts of the agreement. What I should like to make clear—this is probably the point that underlies what the right hon. Gentleman is saying—is that we shall not agree to individual items. We want to see a package as a whole that is acceptable. We may make progress on individual items of the package, but we want to be able to reserve our judgment on the package as a whole.

    I wonder whether the Minister would answer the counterpart to the question put by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). What will happen if a CFP is not agreed this year?

    The purpose is to try to negotiate a satisfactory CFP. In the event of not getting a satisfactory CFP, we shall be in a different situation. The United Kingdom will then have to reassess the situation, but at present we are in the process of negotiating a CFP. I believe that that is what we should have our attention on now.

    I do not wish to anticipate the Minister's argument, but is it not a fact that if we do not get a genuine settlement, with the Nine signing together, by old year's night of this year and we come to new year's morning, we shall have to take what is there? Is that not so?

    That is not true. The document to which I referred earlier refers to the date by which it is hoped that the new policy can be negotiated.

    There will be opportunity later for speeches. I have very helpfully given way for three interventions. I would rather get on. We have time for the debate. I shall be very happy to deal with any detailed points at the end of the debate, with the permission of the House.

    I have mentioned the new proposals before us, and I should like now to deal with them. In some respects these proposals are an improvement on what has been on offer previously. There are some aspects—I shall develop this as I go along—on which we have considerable reservations. I should like, therefore, to deal fairly quickly with the different proposals before us—with the proviso that I hope to be able to speak again at the end of the debate.

    First, I should like to deal with the document on conservation—No. 8957/80. I deal with it first because that is the document on which we expect substantive discussion in the Fisheries Council in September. This document is an improvement on what has been available up to now. This is particularly important in relation to white fish mesh sizes, which is an important aspect of our fisheries. What I find most encouraging of all about this document is that we have in it a recommendation on conservation that is much more firmly based on scientific advice than previous proposals have been. This has always been one of the firm bases on which successive Governments have argued the case for a CFP. In this respect, this document is an improvement

    We believe that progress is possible on this matter. This answers the point made by the right hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Grimond). This is the one indication that, as long as the broad objective is achieved of increasing particular mesh sizes for more effective conservation, there might be some room for movement on the phasing in of different mesh sizes, perhaps even variations for different areas, to take account of current practice.

    A particularly unsatisfactory aspect concerns the important pout box in the North Sea. Evidence over the years shows that it is an important conservation measure. However, we have recently received a court decision which does not help the United Kingdom. We are considering that decision and how to negotiate on it.

    Secondly, I should like to deal with catch reporting, which is referred to in document No. 8583/80. A considerable amount of detailed work remains to be done. It is a crucial aspect of the common fisheries policy. As I am sure the House will agree, and as anyone who knows about fishing will agree, if a common fisheries policy is to be effective there must be common standards. Those standards must be properly applied by all countries, Governments and industries within the EEC. Our objective in relation to catch reporting is to obtain an effective system. If a system is not effective, it is not worth anything. Negotiations are taking place because we want a system that does not add any unnecessary administration and bureaucracy. In addition, the effectiveness of the system must not be sacrificed.

    Thirdly, quotas are a crucial and "crunch" area in the renegotiation of the common fisheries policy. Documents Nos. 9047/80 and 8958/80 are involved. I shall deal first with document No. 9047/80, which deals with the principles that should be used when calculating quota allocations. Most of the criteria laid down in the document are sensible, and we agree with them. However, we are concerned about some of them and about the way in which they might be applied. I shall mention only four of those criteria.

    First, we do not believe that sufficient allowance has been made for losses sustained in third country waters. The United Kingdom is in a different position, in terms of magnitude, from any other European nation. The German fishing industry is the nearest in size to ours, and it is far behind us. We are worried that sufficient weight will not be given to that factor.

    Secondly, there must be more emphasis on the discounting of industrial catches, particularly excessive by-catches of edible species in industrial fishing. Over the past year I have discovered that European industries with a greater tradition of industrial fishing than Britain are becoming more aware that the emphasis should be placed on catching for edible purposes. We are dealing with a scarce resource. We must husband it and look after it properly. Although that is mentioned in the document, insufficient weight has been given to it.

    Thirdly, we are concerned about the preferences applied to the Hague areas. Those areas resulted from an agreement in 1976, and they involve the waters around Northern Ireland and the North Coast of Britain and as far down the North-East coast as Bridlington. Reference is made to Hague preferences in the calculation of quotas. We are concerned about the way in which the Hague preferences are applied, particularly when two countries with such preferences lie opposite each other, such as Britain and the Irish Republic. We are not happy about the way in which the preferences are applied, and we have reservations about them.

    Fourthly, as the common fisheries policy has not been negotiated, the fishing industry is suffering from uncertainty. If an agreement on quotas is to be reached, we must ensure that the quotas have a certain degree of staying power and are not agreed for just one year. In that way our industry and the industries of other countries will have some certainty about future opportunities. Sufficient emphasis has not been given to that in the Commission's criteria.

    The second document on quotas, about which there has been much comment in the fishing press and elsewhere, is No. 8958/80. It puts forward figures and percentages for the possible quota allocations to the different countries within the Community. When my right hon. Friend made a statement after the last Fisheries Council meeting, he stressed that the figures were merely illustrative of the criteria. They are not formal proposals from the Commission. [Interruption.] Opposition Members may laugh, but that is precisely what was said in the Council, and outside it, in July. The position is clear and the figures can be negotiated.

    After four or five years of negotiations under successive Governments on the so-called renegotiation of the common fishery policy, why are we still dealing only with illustrative proposals?

    The Labour Government made it impossible for renegotiation to take place. The fault lies with the Opposition. At least we have proposals which illustrate how the calculations will work. Now, and in the autumn, we shall seek more definite quota proposals. The figures are useful. In some areas there has been an improvement in the allocation of some important stocks, such as mackerel, haddock and whiting, but we have considerable reservations about the proposals. Indeed, we have some simple arithmetical reservations. We have made strong representations to the Commission. In addition, we have made plain to the Council and to the Commission that more discussion is required before further progress can be made.

    I should like to turn to structures and to document No. 8959/80, which replaces all the other documents listed under the "structures" heading. The proposals are interesting. They allow financial contributions for the restructuring of the fishing industries of member countries. I shall not pass any comment on the proposals at this stage. We shall judge them by their suitability for the United Kingdom industry. Whether they are suitable for our industry will depend on the outcome of other aspects of the negotiations, such as those on access and quotas. Until we know the position, it will be difficult to judge how effective and useful the proposals are.

    While we welcome the commitment of Community funds, we must ensure that those funds are used in the most effective way.

    Did the conversations about access include the Soviet Union's access to the mackerel fishery off Cornwall? Have the Government made up their minds about whether the Russians will be allowed in this year?

    Neither the Soviet Union nor any other Eastern European country fishes within the 12-mile limit off the South-West coast. Nor do they fish in the remainder of the limits. That is worth putting on record, because if one listened to hon. Members one would think that the Russians were fishing for mackerel in that area. I know that there is concern. Considerable efforts have been made, both locally and by the Government, to do something about the way in which those activities are conducted. However, if we did not have markets for the products of that fishery it would have a considerable effect on the constituents of the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) and on other areas. The hon. Gentleman should reflect on that.

    I have spoken on the issues covered by the documents before us tonight. These issues are crucial to negotiations on the common fisheries policy. While these negotiations are continuing, there is great uncertainty in our fishing industry. In these circumstances, the industry cannot plan for the future and there is an obligation on the Government to help it through this period of renegotiation. Government aid to the fishing industry in the current year amounts to £23½ million. Because of the uncertainty during the period of negotiation on the CFP, we now propose further aid of just over £14 million up to the end of the financial year. This brings to over £37 million the total assistance that the Government are making available to the fishing industry. We believe that it is imperative that the United Kingdom fishing industry is kept viable, in order to meet the opportunities that will be open to it when the negotiations on the CFP are completed. To fail in this would undermine what we have been working for in the Community. This new aid will sustain the industry during the period of the negotiations.

    The aid will take the form of payments to vessel owners. We have responded swiftly to the industry's case—it is less than one month since we received its final figures. We shall now move equally quickly to complete our consideration of the details of the new scheme. Our officials will meet representatives of the industry very shortly to outline the proposed scheme. My right hon. Friend has discussed the urgent need for this measure with the European Commission and will notify it formally of the details, which will be worked out in consultation with the industry.

    We also propose to make a further £900,000 available this year for replacement fishery protection vessels. This will enable contracts to be placed for the two vessels currently being built by Hall Russell of Aberdeen. I know that that news will be welcome in Aberdeen. I already hear approving noises from my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who is sitting behind me.

    Parliamentary approval for the new scheme and for the consequential increase of £15 million in cash limits to cover both the aid and the additional fishery protection costs will be sought in Supplementary Estimates. Pending that approval, the new expenditure on fisheries aid will be met by repayable advances from the Contingencies Fund.

    The Minister of State has given a precise figure of just over £14 million. He must have some idea of the form that that aid will take. He must be able to give some more information. May we have some idea of the broad lines of the scheme of assistance, even though the details have yet to be worked out?

    I am happy to respond to that request. Our purpose is to use the money by paying it in aid to vessel owners on the basis of individual vessels. We believe that that takes account of the varying types of vessel in the fishing industry and the different costs that are involved in different sections of the industry. There are a number of different ways in which this can be applied, and it is thought that the ways that will be used will no the all that different from those used in the past. For example, aid could be paid in relation to the size of the vessel and its type of operation. We envisage the type of scheme of which we already have experience in this country.

    The right hon. Gentleman must understand that I do not wish to go into more details of the scheme tonight. The needs of different sections of the industry vary, and we want to consult the industry about the best way that the aid can be applied most effectively to sustain the fishing industry during the course of the renegotiations on the CFP.

    I shall give way to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes).

    Does that mean that the aid that the Minister has just announced will be expended in a different way from the £2 million that was given a few months ago?

    The money that was given a few months ago was in two forms: first, £1 million for exploratory voyages; and, secondly, £2 million which was applied through fish producer organisations. We intend to apply this money differently.

    Will the Minister of State give a broad indication of the division of this money between the different fleets? For example, how will it be divided between the deep water, middle water and inshore fleets? In that way, we could get some indication of what was intended for our own areas.

    I am afraid that I cannot do that. That is precisely the area in which we must consult the industry. One thing that has marked the fishing industry under successive Governments has been the high degree of consultation between the Government and the industry. That is particularly important where there is such great variety within the industry, not only in the kind of fishing but in the areas in which it operates. I am not trying to hide anything from the House, but we believe that the details of the scheme are best worked out in consultation with the industry, as has happened in the past on the question of aid.

    In conclusion, I believe in what I have said, particularly for the longer term. We have before us crucial negotiations in which we hope to achieve a satisfactory settlement of the common fisheries policy. While the aid question is important, I hope that both the House and the industry will not lose sight of the important long-term objectives which last not just for the next six or nine months but long into the future and which are crucial to the success and well-being of the industry.

    In the shorter term, both in relation to what the Government did in response to the industry in April this year and by a real response again in terms of hard cash to meet the needs of the industry in the renegotiation period, we have shown not only to the House but to the fishing industry and to the country that the Government are fully committed to the support of the United Kingdom fishing industry.

    8.17 pm

    I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add,

    and in particular, maintains the need to secure exclusive access within 12 miles, preferential access within 12 to 50 miles, and an overall share of fish for United Kingdom fishermen which reflects United Kingdom losses incurred in third country waters and the contribution made by United Kingdom waters to total European Community fish resources.'.
    The Minister of State referred to the importance of this debate. We would all agree that ideally we would have liked a statement on the aid package followed by a full day's debate on these very important documents. I make no complaint about the arrangements, however, because we realise that near the end of the Session it is necessary to encapsulate the debate in this way. We are discussing issues of immense importance to the fishing industry. In fact, we are talking about its very survival, in both the short and the long term.

    The Minister of State announced that the Government intend to give £14 million of aid to the industry. I address my remarks to that matter. The fishing industry is in a desperate state. There is no doubt that it is on the verge of collapse and there is no doubt that our fishermen would not take action unless the position was serious. They are not militant by nature, but what they have done shows their fears about their livelihoods being in jeopardy.

    The Government's announcement must be judged against the state of crisis in the industry. It must also be judged against the demands of the industry. I think that the request for £35 million of aid to sustain the industry to the end of the year was probably a reasonable and objective assessment of the industry's needs.

    The industry was anxious to outline realistically the financial basis that it needs purely to survive. I am glad to see that the Minister is nodding assent. We have to compare the aid offered with the industry's £35 million estimate and the extent of the crisis.

    The £14 million should be accepted by the industry. The Government are acting in good faith. I hope that when the fishermen's organisations meet tomorrow and on Saturday they will accept the £14 million and continue fishing. However, that sum should not be the end of the story this year. It should be viewed as an urgent and necessary lifeline to sustain the industry until Parliament resumes at the end of October. A great deal can happen in that short time. The Government's response is a fair one, and I hope that the fishermen will not institute unofficial action similar to that last month.

    We must also consider the very cheap imports that are doing immense damage to the market. I hope that the Government have not decided against temporary action. We accept that there cannot be a ban on fish imports. Many sections of the industry are dependent on imports for processing. However, fish is coming to this country from inside and outside the Community at unrealistic prices, which is enormously damaging to our industry. The action within the Community to increase protection was inadequate. I hope that the Government will not accept the increase in the reference prices as adequate for the future.

    The documents are immensely important to the industry. First, let us consider the proposals on the allocation of fish to member States. We should be under no illusion that the bargain that may be struck over quotas is vital to the future of the United Kingdom fishing industry. Although the quotas relate only to 1980, they will form the basis for quotas in subsequent years. It is crucial to get them right and to ensure that we get a fair share of the fish. As they stand, the proposals are wholly inadequate. Over 60 per cent. of the Community catch is in British waters. Our fishing industry is asking for approximately 45 per cent. That is a realistic demand, which takes account of the pressures on Britain within the Community. Our industry wants a resolution of the matter. With such a large proportion of the fish in British waters, 45 per cent. is reasonable. It is argued that the Community proposals amount to about 30 per cent. I shall not go into details. What counts are the allocations for the species. I use overall figures only to indicate how far short of our needs the proposal falls. The quotas for many species must be improved.

    There is need for exclusive access in the 12 miles adjacent to our coast. That is vital—and we mean exclusive. Although sections of the industry argue for exclusive access for 50 miles or more, we consider that 12 miles is realistic. We must phase out historic rights within that limit. That will not be achieved overnight. However, we must limit those rights, so that that 12 miles becomes genuinely exclusive to British fishermen.

    Equally important is our stance over the 12-to-50 miles argument. The previous Government argued for a dominant preference for British fishermen in the 12-to-50 mile limit. We stand by that. It is vital to have that dominant preference. Our position is on record. We want to secure a disproportionate share of the benefit of conservation measures in that limit. In addition, if we are successful, as we believe we shall be, in conserving the fish within the 50-mile limit, in future quotas we want to ensure that our industry gets the lion's share of the benefit.

    We all accept what the Minister said about the importance of conservation. The hon. Gentleman referred to recent court decisions. I hope that there is no question of the conservation measures being lifted. The whole House regards them as justified on scientific grounds and in the interest of preserving stocks.

    There is no doubt that the stand that we took on the Norway pout box has already helped stocks. The proposal in that area is still inadequate, and I hope that the Government will insist on the right of member States to introduce nondiscriminatory conservation measures in advance of Community decisions. It is important that we should hold on to our right to introduce such conservation measures in British waters.

    Of course, it is a question not only of conservation measures but of enforcement. The previous Labour Government were as responsible as are the present Government, but I worry whether we have the capability to enforce the sort of conservation measures that will be needed.

    The bulk of the waters involved are British waters, and whatever conservation measures are agreed, whether they are British initiatives or Commission initiatives, Britain will be responsible for enforcing them. It has been suggested that there will be a committee of nationals from the member States to supervise the monitoring and implementation of conservation measures. I hope that the Minister of State will give us an indication of the Government's attitude to that suggestion. He will accept that there is no substitute for our having the capability to implement such measures in our waters.

    Does the hon. Gentleman think that Britain has achieved such conservation in the past? Many of those involved in mackerel fishing in the West Country believe that last year's regulations and catch limits were an abject and miserable farce. Over-catching totalled at least 50 per cent. Will the hon. Gentleman comment on that?

    We have to accept that the measures were not successful in some areas, though that is not true of herring fishing. The industry, to its credit, accepted a ban and, while there may be a little restlessness, the overall judgment is that we must sustain the measures in order to allow stocks to increase. I accept that the application and enforcement of some of the measures relating to mackerel were not stringent. Part of the reason was the reaction to what had happened elsewhere. We know that measures are not being enforced by other member States in the way that we enforce them. An easier attitude was taken towards mackerel.

    If we are to have effective conservation measures, enforced throughout the waters of the EEC, they must be operated fairly. Many sections of our industry have no respect for the way in which the measures are enforced by other Governments. The "World in Action" film demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that there was a substantial flouting of the conservation measures and that officials who might have been able to contain it were turning a blind eye.

    If we do not achieve acceptability of the way in which conservation measures are being enforced throughout the Community, the whole idea of a common fisheries policy will be doomed to failure.

    The other area in which there are many important proposals concerns the plan for structural measures. The Minister of State was reluctant to say much about those measures, but I believe that we can obtain a substantial amount of new money for our industry through the application of some of those proposals, albeit after modification. By "new money" I do not mean that people should be paid to get out of the industry. I do not mean that money should be paid for laying up vessels. By "new money" I mean money to modernise and replace old vessels, so that they are more fitted to our modern industry.

    The £14 million for temporary aid is simply to sustain the current catching capacity. None of that money should be paid to vessel owners who do not intend to put their vessels to sea. That money is a temporary package to sustain our present catching capacity, so that we have an industry to take advantage of what we hope will be a satisfactory settlement.

    The money to be used for negative purposes or for helping people out of the industry is important. It is important in relation to Denmark and industrial fishing. Some parts of the industry are dependent upon that type of fishing, and there is a case for Community money being used to help it through the transitional period. If we are to succeed in the negotiations, the structural money must be used in Britain to modernise our fleet and to give us the capacity to catch fish efficiently in the future.

    Important discussions are to take place in September and probably in October. They are vital to our industry. The £14 million is a demonstration of good faith by the Government. However, there is a long, hard way to go yet. The industry wants a settlement, because the future is so uncertain. It must not be a sell-out: it is too vital for that.

    Of course, the budget issue is important. The Prime Minister, who was present for part of the debate, is right to attach the highest priority to the budget, but let us not forget that the fishing industry will be with us long after the budget issue has been forgotten. The fishing industry will be contributing to our national well-being long after the oil has run dry.

    Potentially, fishing is a growth industry. It could make a great contribution to our economy. A satisfactory common fisheries policy is in its interests because much of the fish that we catch is outside British waters at some stage. If we can achieve effective conservation and management of the stocks in the North Sea and a fair deal for ourselves, we shall secure something which is worth while for the country. It will not be easy, but the Government will have the united support of the House of Commons if they insist on securing the type of deal that we have described many times in the House.

    8.38 pm

    I congratulate my hon. Friend the Minister on his announcement. The £14 million aid is to go to the most important part of the industry—the catch—because that is where the help is needed. I hope from what he has said, although he cannot give much detail, that it will be more effective aid than the last £3 million. Most of the aid must be directed to that part of the industry.

    The Minister of State and my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food must have had a hell of a fight with the Treasury to achieve the £14 million in the present circumstances. I thank the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) for being fair and saying that the Government's offer of £14 million is a fair response to the request from the industry.

    The Minister knows well the position in Fleetwood, where all our middle-water vessels are tied up. I hope that this aid will enable them to put back to sea and to make the port viable again. We cannot judge that until we see how the allocation will be made. We shall then be able better to judge the matter.

    I also thank my hon. Friend for steering us through this glutinous mass of EEC matter. It was a terrible prospect to collect it from the Vote Office. We were weighed down carrying it away. It made equally heavy reading. At times it was like reading "Hamlet" without the Prince of Denmark because the common fisheries policy was not there. All the structural parts of the documents are based on the fact that there is a common fisheries policy—but there is not. Structuring will play a part, and I hope that the restructuring will preserve the industry and not simply come in the form of payments to the industry to lay up vessels.

    The one factor that I do not see mentioned in the documents is compensation for fishermen made redundant through no fault of their own. No matter what we say, some will be made redundant because of the loss of fishing opportunities and catch potential in Third world waters. In other industries such as steel and coal there have been considerable redundancy payments. Because of the way that British fishermen are paid, it appears that no provision will be made for them either by the Government or by the EEC. I hope that my hon. Friend, when he negotiates the structure, will bear that point in mind to ascertain whether anything can be done to help them. It is exceedingly difficult for those men to apply skills learnt at sea to jobs ashore.

    I turn to the other factor raised by the Minister, namely, his intention to negotiate the common fisheries policy on the basis of the agreement reached between the House and the industry. We thank him for his assurance. I am sure that he will do his best to stick to that agreement in the negotiations. When he comes to deal with the question of a fair distribution of catches, I hope that he will place great emphasis on the loss of catch potential in Third world waters which has hit our fishing industry. We suffer from an inability to catch the right fish at the right time and at the right price. I am glad to see that that point is covered in the documents. I hope that my hon. Friend will bear it well in the forefront of his mind during the negotiations.

    Everybody in the House connected with the fishing industry is concerned about conservation and quotas. We are of one mind that policing must be effective. We saw many examples on the Granada programme of the way in which quotas can be broken down. We are right to press the Minister—as we and the Labour Party have done—to ensure that any schemes for quotas and conservation are policed. That will be the key to the effectiveness of the common fisheries policy once it is settled.

    Many hon. Members wish to speak. I conclude by thanking my hon. Friend once again for what he has said today. I hope that it means that Fleetwood will now receive some substantial help by which it can survive and grow again.

    8.44 pm

    I do not intend to delay the House, so perhaps I may behave like a grasshopper, jumping from point to point, rather than spend 20 minutes agreeing with my hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) or picking holes sin the Minister's speech.

    I welcome the decision to give money to the fishing industry. Although I should have liked more to be given, I thought that the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) underplayed the point when he stressed the amount of money that had been obtained from the Treasury. I agree, and I congratulate the Minister on getting so much money for the industry. However, it would have been better to have more detail for our constituencies about the distribution of the money to the different sections of the fleet. I understand that the Ministry wants to discuss general matters with the industry, but giving details of percentages and of differences between England and Scotland—

    Indeed—and Northern Ireland, while its fleet is still there. Then we might have had some idea of what would happen in our areas.

    Any schemes will emerge in August, September and October, when the House is in recess, and there will be no opportunity to bring parliamentary pressure to bear to have matters examined more fully. I therefore regret that we are having this debate on the penultimate day before the recess, but even having it yesterday or the day before would not have allowed us much time.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East was right to sound a note of caution about taking a truly drastic attitude towards the problems presented by imports. I understand that there are difficulties, but cheap imports are important for the consumer and as a source of employment for those working in processing in the factories. We must try to strike a balance between the two. We should not rush into an absolute ban but should be selective among countries, prices and species of fish. That would be better than blanket proposals in some areas.

    Such places as Humberside and Fleetwood, which depended a great deal on third country fishing areas, will need considerably more compensation from any common fisheries policy than is being given to the inshore and middle water fleets. That compensation should take the form not only of restructuring and providing immediate employment for fishermen but of a more direct and positive regional policy, encouraging industries and giving benefits and inducements to industry to refurbish and invest in those areas.

    In towns such as Hull there have been enormous cuts in the fishing fleets and job opportunities have been slashed, not only on vessels but in shipbuilding and processing, because of a lack of opportunities in third country waters. Such areas need not only restructuring of the fleet but a great injection of captal to rebuild the basis of their economy.

    Whenever one asks representatives of the owners what they are doing, they say "We do not know. Until we see the shape of the policy and know what is happening, we cannot make investment or restructuring decisions." That is what makes a coherent package and a coherent plan of urgent importance.

    Here I differ with the Minister. I do not share his joyful anticipation that at the end of the year, or early next year, we shall have a common policy. I do not think that we shall be able to agree with the French, who will be engaged in presidential elections, with the Germans, during their elections, or with the Irish, during their possible elections. I do not believe that we shall achieve a coherent policy on our share and on the attitude and reaction of the countries involved. In those circumstances, every country will be fighting for its own corner.

    What happens at the end of the year if we do not reach agreement? If we do not have a package, are we prepared, as I believe we should be, to take strong and positive unilateral action to achieve the objectives which are contained in the Opposition amendment?

    I congratulate the Government—though I appear to be constantly carping—and thank them and Lord Bellwin for the encouragement they gave to the initiative of the trawler owners, the TGWU and the fish merchants of Hull in the establishment of a fish landing company in Hull. Hull city council was the catalyst in the efforts to establish and to maintain a viable fish landing facility there. It would be churlish of me not to have recognised Lord Bellwin's work. We would have liked far more. We would have liked a proper policy. But at least we have maintained that facility. We hope for the establishment of proper dock charges so that we may maintain them not only until the end of the year but into the foreseeable future.

    However, I do not believe that the Government will succeed in obtaining a common fisheries policy. I do not believe that our colleaguese—if that is what they are—in the Community will allow us to achieve what we believe we are entitled to. For the important crumb of comfort that we have received fom the Government, however, I express my satisfaction.

    8.52 pm

    I wish to add my warmest congratulations to the Government on bringing forward this much-needed package of aid for the industry. As was pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), we are all too keenly aware how difficult it is to extract cash from the Treasury just now. It is a signal triumph for my hon. Friend the Minister and his colleagues and, I am sure he would agree, for the Secretary of State for Scotland. It is, perhaps, in no small measure due to the continuing personal interest of the Prime Minister. It was a pleasure to see her present at the opening of this debate. Her attendance was in total contrast to the complete absence of the self-styled defenders of the Scottish fishing industry, the Scottish National Party. I trust that their absence has not gone unnoticed in Scotland.

    I also emphasise the background of consultation preceding the Government's decision. It is vitally important that the industry should realise the great need at all times for an open-door policy between the leaders of the industry and the Government. At this critical time Europe would like nothing better than to see a divide between the Government and the industry. I am pleased at the way in which the Government have consistently taken the leaders of the industry with them in discussion and negotiation. I trust that they will long continue to do so.

    The longer-term goals are more important. However, I do not intend to discuss the documents in any detail. I merely wish to highlight the three key objectives. The first is a realistic total allowable catch. The second is restricted access to United Kingdom waters. The third is a fair and just quota share for United Kingdom boats. Those, coupled with enforcement, must remain the key objectives for a successful policy.

    The Government must show their good faith with their assistance to the industry on the terms requested earlier this year. They are continuing to show their determination to maintain a viable industry with tonight's announcement. With that record of good faith behind them since taking office, it behoves us all to wish the Government well in their future endeavours.

    8.55 pm

    A strange spirit of brevity has descended upon the House—not, in the context of this subject, to be confused with levity.

    Why is it that our trawlers and our fishing fleets are being tied up and are rotting and rusting at the quayside when that is not happening to the trawlers and the fishing fleets of the other member States of the European Community, or of Iceland or Norway? Every hon. Member, whether present in the Chamber for this debate or not, knows perfectly well what the reason is. It is that our membership of the European Economic Community has cost us the control of our own sovereign waters.

    It is for that reason that we need compensation, as the hon. Member who represents the Fleetwood fishermen, the hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg), was saying, for the third country waters in which we can no longer fish. We do not possess a bargaining counter. We have no power to make an understanding with third countries, as have those who are not shackled as we are.

    Within the European Community we have no bargaining capacity. Under the Treaty by which we joined, the other countries could fish up to our beaches by waiting until 1982. But now they no longer have to wait until 1982; the crucial date is now the end of this year.

    The hon. Gentleman denies that. I understand that the Government—no doubt in good faith—say that the date of the end of December is not linked with the other matters, that there is no package linking that date with the budget agreement of the spring. The question is not what we think. It is not whether we think that there is a package. The question is whether the other countries think that there is a package. They openly refer to one. The French do. All the reports that come from Brussels talk about a budget package, of which the fishery understanding about 31 December 1980 was a part.

    If one is to sell a house, it is not specially advantageous to be told that it has to be sold by 31 December. That is not conducive to getting the terms that one wants. We shall be placed in the position of being told, if we fail to comply by the end of the year, that we are defaulting upon the spirit of the agreement of which this issue forms a part.

    It is little wonder that our fishing industry is under pressure inside the Community. We have handed away our entire position. We have handed away the control of our waters. On top of that, we have imposed upon ourselves undertakings that place the bargaining power in the hands of others. Those others have been referred to as our colleagues or partners. But they are not in this instance our colleagues or partners; they are our enemies. It is their intention to strip the United Kingdom. That is what it is all about, and that is what people should understand. That is why the terms were made for us when we joined the Community. That is why those terms were re-enforced in the context of the budget agreement. The object of the other countries is to put Britain out of fishing altogether, to take our place, to use our waters and our fisheries and to have our fleets off the seas. That is their object, and there is no point in being mealy-mouthed about it.

    The Minister talked about the preparation of our fleets and our fishermen for new opportunities as a result of a common fisheries policy that is to be negotiated. If we have not those opportunities now, at whose expense are we going to gain them? Who is benefiting at the moment from our restrictions? Who is gaining by our losses? Does the Minister imagine that those advantages, enjoyed by the other countries today, will be given up in order to arrive at a common fisheries policy? It is the most absurd innocence.

    It is all very well for the Government to put down a motion of platitudinous aspirations. The word "aspiration" was used by the Minister in his speech. It is all very well for the Opposition to spell out more precisely the conditions that they would like to see. Both Front Benches and both sides in the argument know perfectly well that we have no power to obtain these conditions. We are at the receiving end. We have taken down our trousers and given the rod to others.

    How did we come to be where we are? How did we come to wreck our own fishing industry? How did we come to betray our own national interests? It was part of a larger betrayal. It was part of the supreme betrayal of handing away this country's sovereignty and the sovereignty of this House to an external body. If that is not betrayal, there is no meaning to the word "betrayal".

    On both sides of the House, those whose names are attached to the motion and to the amendment have put party before country. The Conservative Party put party before country in the 1970 Parliament. The Labour Party, by its pretence that this could be an open question, put party before country in the 1974 Parliament. Party before country has resulted in the betrayal of Britain. The fishermen of Britain are among the first, but they will not be among the last, to feel the consequences of having surrendered our own independence and our right to control that which is ours.

    This is the biggest of all questions. It is not a question of 12 to 50 miles of preferential access, or whether it is to be 35 per cent. or 45 per cent. The rest of the nations of the Common Market care nothing for these things. Whatever agreements they enter into, they have no need, no necessity and no requirement to keep them. We can hear them saying that they do not intend to keep them. Have we not yet learnt, from our experiences in other fields, what reliance is to be placed upon arrangements and agreements made with the Common Market? We have no opportunity to protest or to get our own back, for we have surrendered the power to do so.

    We are beginning to taste on the seas, the very home of Britain, the bitter fruit of subordination, the bitter fruit of the betrayal of which both parties in the House have been guilty. The fishermen and those who will suffer, their families, and the fishing ports and fishing areas should understand the cause. It is not the fault of any external authority. It is not the difficulty of arriving at a common fisheries policy. It is the fact that the fishermen have been betrayed, and are now contemplating the consequences. That is what this debate is about.

    9.4 pm

    I hope to continue the practice of brevity that has been adopted so far in the debate.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn (Mr. Pollock) began by saying how glad hon. Members were to see the Prime Minister on the Front Bench at the beginning of the debate. My hon. Friend is right in saying that the success of my hon. Friend the Minister of State and his right hon. Friends in securing aid for the industry owes much to the knowledge of the industry that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister learnt in the North-East of Scotland shortly before the last general election.

    My hon. Friend the Member for Moray and Nairn, with characteristic courtesy, played down the other side of the coin, which, contrary to the presence of my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, was the absence of the Scottish National Party. This may seem a small matter and perhaps hardly worthy of notice, but on the Benches beside me are hon. Members who defeated members of the Scottish National Party at the general election—members who had previously based almost their entire campaign in Scotland on the vicissitudes of the fishing industry. Yet, when the subject comes to be debated in the House of Commons where something really has been done, thanks to my hon. Friend, where are they? The} are not here. I hope that the voters in Moray and Nairn, Banff and Fife, East will notice the SNP's absence and draw the correct conclusions from it.

    I said that I wanted to follow the practice of brevity, so I shall. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister of State for two announcements which will bring great pleasure to Aberdeen. The first, to which I shall return, was the announcement of £14 million of aid. The other issue, which perhaps will not have been so widely noticed in the House, was what he said about the Hall Russell shipyard and the confirmation of the order for two off shore patrol vessels worth £13 million. I congratulate him on managing to get that order confirmed.

    If I enter a note of criticism, it is not criticism of my hon. Friend. But there is a note of criticism that it has taken so many weeks after an order was promised to Hall Russell to get it confirmed. During these past many weeks, there has been deep concern in Aberdeen that, the building of the vessels having been begun, they would not be paid for. Hall Russell has been losing £15,000 a week in interest, because somewhere within the mechanics of Whitehall confirmation of the order could not come through. I know that my hon. Friend was foremost in getting the order through. He was one of the heroes of the piece. But I hope that he will look at the machinery which could have allowed this matter to go on for so long and ensure that such a delay with substantial financial consequences does not happen again.

    The second matter for which I give my hon. Friend thanks and congratulations is the £14 million aid. I am glad that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) welcomed it in such a generous manner. I thought that was exactly the note that he should have struck. It demonstrates how in this House, perhaps somewhat precariously and contrary to the speech by the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), we still manage to keep substantial areas of agreement on the fishing industry.

    The right hon. Gentleman says "That is the trouble." How wrong he is. If we are to succeed in these renegotiations, it will be precisely because we have the support of a 90 per cent. united House of Commons.

    I congratulate my right hon. and hon. Friends on easing the Common Market down the road of realism. We have not got there yet, as we have seen from the documents before us, but they have certainly gone much further down the road towards realism and justice than they have been before. For that, we should pay some tribute to the negotiating skills of my right hon. and hon. Friends.

    Recently there have been reports in the press that the Government were not properly in touch with the fishing industry. My hon. Friend the Member for Banff (Mr. Myles) wrote a splendid letter to The Scotsman pointing out what rubbish that was. He said it then. Now he has the proof. The fishing industry may want more. It wanted £35 million and it got almost £15 million. None the less, whatever else can be said, it cannot be said that the Government were not in close touch with all sections of the fishing industry. I can think of many other industries which would be grateful for half the contact with Ministers which the fishing industry enjoys.

    I suspect that the hon. Member for Aberdeen, North (Mr. Hughes) will ask why the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South welcomes this aid when he does not believe in giving aid to industries that are down on their luck. Perhaps I can pre-empt that by saying that a substantial difference must be drawn between industries which have problems of their own making, such as British Leyland, and those which have problems that are not of their own making, such as the fishing industry. We have already heard that the problems of the fishing industry arose because of the loss of the Icelandic fishing grounds and because of the complexities of the common fisheries policy. Those problems are not the fault of the industry. They were created by Governments, and rightly, it behoves Governments to try to solve them. That is why I pressed for aid for the industry and why I welcome, without restraint, the aid that is to be given.

    However, this aid is only a stopgap measure to keep the industry ticking over until the common fisheries policy can be renegotiated. Most hon. Members who are present have made many speeches in the House during the last year on the subject. There is no point in going over all the old ground again—the need for access, the need for proper quotas, the fact that 65 per cent. of the fish in the collective waters of the EEC is caught in British waters and the fact that we shall not be content with 25 per cent. of the catch.

    My hon. Friend the Minister of State rightly said that the quota suggestions from our Common Market partners were illustrative. Indeed they were. But I hope that they were not illustrative of the genuine thinking of our partners. I hope that they will be under no illusion after this debate or after meetings with my hon. Friend. There is no way that the British fishing industry could accept the pathetic quotas, whether in global or species terms, that it has so far been offered. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, East was right in saying that 45 per cent. was a realistic but rather low estimate by the fishing industry and a generous negotiating percentage.

    I am grateful, as the industry will be, for what my hon. Friend has announced today, but the fishing industry does not want to live on subsidies. It wants my right hon. and hon. Friends to renegotiate a common fisheries policy with a framework within which the industry can thrive and prosper without subsidies.

    9.13 pm

    Perhaps I might intervene in this Aberdeen imbroglio and say that I found the Minister of State as courteous as ever and that he gave us an informative, comprehensive survey, but what did he actually say? He told us that the Government were giving the industry a cash boost of £14 million to £15 million. I must not be churlish, because this is the second injection to the industry this year. The Minister emphasised that and added that another £23 million had been injected into other sections of the industry. Some people think that that aid is miraculous, but I do not.

    In a way, this money is a boost in a rapidly deteriorating situation. It is a stopgap measure that will give hope—I hope, more than faint hope—to many thousands of fishermen. How the moneys are shared out between vessel owners is a technical point about which, no doubt, we shall hear later. I do not know what the fishing leaders will say. For months we have had a pilgrimage on their part to Westminster Hall. They have not come to a Klondike. More often than not, it has been a pilgrimage to Canossa for some of them. It was shocking for people such as myself and many of my colleagues to see really hard men who had fought in the war and gone to sea against Hitler and others becoming so demoralised by their situation, financial and otherwise. I am glad that these men have got something that they deserve. They deserved a jolly sight better than what they were getting previously— £2 million here and £1 million there.

    The hon. Member for North Fylde (Sir W. Clegg) has left the Chamber. Let us look at what he called this glutinous mass of documents. I have studied them carefully. I am antagonised by the verbal humbug. They are full of wonderful intentions and aspirations. Let us look at article 2, on page 13, of document 8958/80, which has been mentioned by the Minister, which talks about joint ventures between firms or people in these sister States.

    I listened carefully to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). I shall not go as far as he went, but I ask, as he does: where is the political will to have these joint ventures and to have what he might term a share-out and a fair deal? What do these pious phrases and saccharine sentences mean for a place such as Hull?

    I saw the film on BBC television which was mentioned by the hon. Member for North Fylde. One of our best Hull skippers went over to Boulogne. It was quite scandalous. He asked questions such as "Where was this herring caught?" and "How much is being unloaded?"—or loaded, as the case may be. He questioned what we would term a local harbour commissioner, and he got nothing whatever out of him. The people there smiled or nodded. This sort of behaviour almost makes me think that detente, just as between the East and the West blocs, is almost impossible inside the Council of Ministers. The malaise is exemplified by articles in Fishing News about this.

    However, I come back to the draft legislation—document No. 8958/80. In his explanatory memorandum, the Minister says "No account is taken" and so forth.

    When no account is taken of these conditions in doing business with third nations, of course this is vital to Hull. We have lost all our distant fishing banks—Iceland, Norway, the White Sea, the Barents Sea, Greenland, Labrador and God knows where else. We want what the paper says—a fair distribution of catches. We want attention paid—again, as the paper says in these saccharine sentences—to the special needs of local populations, particularly those
    "dependent upon fishing and allied occupations."
    I come to the matter of the loss of catch potential in third country waters. The Minister used the most illuminating phrase when he said that these were "illustrative figures". Dear me! It goes down to 42,000 tonnes and 105 points of a ton. How on eath these tables are supposed to illustrate the case, I do not know. I would much sooner go on to a percentage of quotas.

    There were leaks during the talks in June. When we returned to this Chamber there was talk of 31 or 32 per cent. of pelagic catches coming to us and about 38 per cent. of demersal fish—vital to Hull—cod, haddock, hake, halibut and so on. Later estimates put our share at 40 or 45 per cent. I do not understand that. All hon. Members know that, according to our scientific experts, 65 per cent. of the stocks are in what most of us would accept to be our territorial waters.

    The philosophy of sharing out the stocks is not in the minds of our Gallic cousins. They have a wonderful word, communautaire. A classic example can be vouched for by Hull skippers fishing in Arctic waters. The French have never fished north of 62 degrees latitude. If discussions take place in Luxembourg, Strasbourg or Brussels, the French say that they want a share of the catch of demersal fish. Those fish are caught in the Arctic, well north of 62 degrees latitude.

    The table on the size of deep-water fleets is fascinating. I am amazed that the United Kingdom is still listed on paper as having the largest deep-water fleet. The statistics seem to be a bit behind the times. The position is fast changing. With national subsidies, the Cuxhaven fleet is making additions to its deep-water distant fleet. So are the Danes and the Dutch. Where are we making such additions?

    I understand that £14 million or £15 million of aid is involved. It is better late than never. Is it too late? Austen Laing is the most informed fishing diplomat in Western Europe. He advises the British Fishing Federation. He wonders whether the policy is too late. The Minister listens to such men, and so do I.

    I wonder whether Mr. Laing's remarks to the Committee in the other place hold water with the Minister and his advisers. He said that the major ports—I should include Fleetwood as well as Hull—could go out of business if things continued as they were. He pointed out that if he had said that 10 years ago in the bar of the Star and Garter pub in Hessle Road, Hull he would have been looked upon by skippers as a madman,

    In less than a decade, we have gone from the bad position of 137 vessels down to our present position of 28. Most of them are rusting in the docks of Hull. Our partners are building fleets in anticipation of the 1980s, but our fleets are withering away. Why does the Minister, who is courteous and who has the interests of the industry at heart, tolerate that? Why does the Cabinet committee, or the sub-committee, allow that to continue? With the exception of constituencies in the Hull area, and perhaps one in Aberdeen, all the fishing constituencies elect Conservative Members. The Government should do more. I do not understand why they have continued to allow such fantastically low import prices on fish from third countries.

    The result of those imports is that although vessels go to sea, they lose money. They are not inefficient, but the fish that they catch earns a low price in the home harbour. I listen—as I hope we all do—to experienced political observers in this House, on television, in the unions and in newspapers. They go to Brussels with the Minister and his team. I am told by these men that the chances of agreement in the CFP negotiations depend basically on the accord between two nations—ourselves and the French. I am told that when our Minister is negotiating there he talks about "all my farmers". Let us fervently hope that in the future—and not before long—he will talk about "all my fishermen".

    The Prime Minister deserves a compliment for coming to the Chamber and listening to the debate. I hope that what she hears will have some effect on the way in which she influences her Ministers. I think that it does. The Minister of State knows, and the industry knows, that the Government have the complete and unfaltering support of all sections of the House. It is up to them to bring home the bacon for our fishermen in October.

    9.26 pm

    I very much welcome the chance to speak in this debate and I shall attempt to be brief, although there are a few points that I wish to make.

    I welcome the bipartisan approach that the Labour Party has made to this issue. I wonder whether there is a tripartisan or quintupartisan approach as well. There is certainly not a quintupartisan approach. As my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) said, the Scottish National Party is not represented in the debate tonight. That shocks me, because in the North-East of Scotland the SNP claims to speak for the fishing industry. In the Banff-Buchan district council the SNP representatives have demanded that they should take over from the Grampian regional council fisheries committee, which consists of people such as Gilbert Buchan and Willy Hay. The five SNP councillors on the Banff-Buchan district council say that they know far more about the fishing industry than the real leaders of that industry. Therefore, I am rather sad that there are no SNP Members present in the House tonight.

    Is it not true that the Scottish nationalists have been users and abusers of the industry rather than spokesman for it?

    My hon. Friend has said it. I need do no more than agree with him.

    I wish to repeat something that I have said before in the House, and I make no apology for doing so. What our fishermen need are the "seven Cs". I may change some of those Cs slightly in view of the Minister's statement tonight, but I still think that we in the industry need those seven Cs. I use the word "we" advisedly, because I feel that I am part of the fishing industry, representing Banff as I do.

    First, we need cash. We had a demonstration from the Government tonight that cash was forthcoming and I welcome that generous gesture. I also pay tribute to the Labour Opposition for being so generous in their welcome of that cash injection.

    However, the aid must be used wisely. Here I slightly disagree with my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat), who said that the fishing industry was not responsible for the position in which it finds itself. I am not sycophantic to the fishing industry all the time. When my hon. Friend the Minister allocates the cash, I urge him not to spread it around or give it to the industry to use as it considers fit. No one is perfect all the time.

    The fishermen in Buckie and the surrounding area are independent men. They are desperately trying to set up a new PO to organise themselves. Will the Government recognise urgently that that is a useful addition to fishing representation? It would greatly help in the distribution and use of the cash.

    The second "C" is catch. My hon. Friend explained the Community's suggestions on quotas. I do not disagree with the Opposition amendment. However, I have done a lot of horse trading. The party that jumps in with figures too soon nearly always loses the argument. It would be a slight mistake to be as specific as the Opposition suggest.

    The third "C" is conservation. Draft instrument R/8957/80 states that the modified proposals are an improvement on previous drafts, but problems still exist as far as the pout box is concerned. The fishermen to whom I have talked are concerned that the pout box will have to be cut because of a European Court decision. I urge my hon. Friend to consider the intricacies of the law to see how it can be bent in our favour on this occasion.

    A further point on conservation concerns by-catches. By allowing them we are opening the door to abuse. Great care should be taken in allowing by-catches.

    Was that not revealed in the staggering film by Granada, which has been taken to Brussels to try to convince the Commission what is happening?

    My hon. Friend is right.

    I come now to the catchers of nephrops, or prawns. That section needs to be considered. I am grateful to my noble Friend, who was wise enough to interpret the rules to allow prawn catchers to use a lifter, a chafer or a topside chafer. I appreciate that many hon. Members will not know what I am talking about, but I hope that fishermen do.

    The fourth "C" is co-operation. Fish do not see the meridian line or a 12, 50 or 200-mile limit. They swim across it and are liable to be caught by whoever is on the other side. We need co-operation from our EEC partners. I say "partners" advisedly. We cannot wish them away. If they are our enemies, we should try to persuade them to be our friends. It would be a lot easier for us to live with them as friends than to brand them as enemies and keep them at arm's length.

    We must also consider co-operation with third countries. The strength of the EEC in that regard is to be commended. We were able to get the Iron Curtain catching power out of the North Sea because of the strength of the EEC. I welcome that.

    We also need to co-operate with ourselves. There is here a slight suspicion of criticism of the fishing industry. It must stick together and must not divide and allow itself to be conquered. That could be another "C".

    The next "C" is control. I welcome the agreement on catch reporting. As the World in Action "film pointed out, it is important to have a proper catch reporting system. The only way to control fishing its by coastal State control of the waters. That can and ought to be done. I do not believe that control by committee is much good.

    Another "C" is construction, or what is often called restructuring. We must continue to try to restructure and to use agreements within the EEC to get sensible restructuring and we must also keep our boatyards constructing—building fishing boats, whether by scrap and build or otherwise. We must keep our fleet modernised.

    We welcome the FEOGA grants. I make a plea for the simplification of the grants and for their allocation in a way that can be seen to be fair, instead of the dog-in-the-manger way in which they appear to be allocated, when no one quite understands how the grants are allocated.

    The final "C" is the most important. The debate has done some good in terms of confidence. We shall not have a fishing industry unless we have confidence. I hope that the industry will realise that there are vicious forces somewhere—I do not know who pulls the strings—trying to split the industry and to destroy it from within.

    The erroneous statements that have appeared in The Scotsman in the last couple of weeks have done nothing to help the fishing industry. I am all for freedom of the press, but I ask that the freedom be exercised responsibly. Let the press realise what it is doing in its short-term sensationalism. I plead with the press to be responsible and to understand that all Governments will support the fishing industry. The industry will not be sold down the river.

    9.41 pm

    I have learnt two things in the debate: first, that the Government have found a useful sum for the fishing industry for which there seems to be a general welcome—I concur with that general welcome—and, secondly, that it is clear that the Scottish National Party is far from dead. There is a possibility that I shall have some Celtic friends on this side of the House before long.

    The Minister will not be desperately surprised to hear my views.

    I am sorry to learn that the Liberal Party is on such cordial terms with members of the Scottish National Party. Will the hon. Gentleman say more about that?

    The one thing to be said for the SNP is that its members have the good sense to sit on this side of the House. The hon. Members who replace them do not, and we might have been marginally better off if they did.

    We must recognise the real progress that has been made in the negotiations. At long last, a system has been started in Europe under which catches are reported and monitored. I am not desperately enthusiastic about how far that system has gone. The relevant document is full of what should be done, but it is weak on how the system will be enforced. I am cynical because of what has happened in my part of the country in relation to catch reports in the last four or five years.

    The simplest form of fishing to report must be the transhipment of fish from a large number of trawlers to a small number of klondikers or factory ships. However, we cannot succeed even in monitoring that accurately. There could be nothing simpler. The transhipment happens in one harbour. If one goes to Falmouth or Flushing in the autumn, or later at Christmas, one can see 25 or 30 large factory boats from many countries anchored there. They take supplies from British fishing fleets. Our record of monitoring that process is appalling, if the reports that I hear are accurate.

    The White Fish Authority's last report indicated that Britain succeeded in ex- porting twice as much mackerel as it caught. That is a productivity record held by few industries. That document is six months old, but I have yet to see a detailed explanation of an honest mistake which would contradict that ludicrous situation. Enforcing any agreement will be an enormous problem, since it cannot be managed even in Falmouth harbour.

    Why has the Minister rejected the idea of a single boat to which all the trawlers have to report before they are allowed to tranship their fish to the klondikers? That is the easiest way to monitor the position. Fish cannot be transhipped to the klondikers—the factory boats—until skilled people with an eye for estimating the weight of the fish—it is all done by estimation—can apply that skill and produce a genuine and reasoned estimate. That is the minimum that is required to ensure satisfactory monitoring in that single, isolated harbour. I do not know how the Minister hopes to monitor the position throughout Europe. I am pleased that he has that job rather than I.

    I am against the whole transhipment business. Britain's fishing industry is in trouble because of overfishing by super sophisticated boats for many years. It is a ludicrous farce that the one fish that breeds in large quantities in our waters is being sold to boats from the Soviet Union and East Germany. It is especially ludicrous in the light of the present political position. We are selling the fish for 4p a pound. That is the going price for what we, in my area, call Cornish mackerel but which, for the benefit of the House. I shall call British mackerel. The Government allow the Soviet bloc invasion—indeed, they encourage it—each year in our territorial waters. I see no logic in that, even in normal circumstances.

    The Government begged athletes who had spent a lifetime training for the Olympics not to fulfil that brief climax of their careers, yet that self-same Government allow the invasion of our terriorial waters by enormous Soviet factory boats which have to be beholden to be believed. Looking out from Falmouth or Flushing, one sees an endless array of boats from one harbour to the other. I do not understand it, because it is not logical.

    The Government should face the reality of what they are doing and run tremendous campaigns to make mackerel more popular. It is a standard Cornish joke that the English will not eat mackerel, and it is true. Other than the smoking industry which has been developed in Scotland, the consumption of mackerel in Britain compares not one iota with the total amount caught.

    I repeat my protest once again. I cannot understand why the Government are allowing the one industry that we have to be stripped by the Soviet invasion that will take place again this year. The going price is only 4p a pound. Many people in my area will see the £14 million that the Government are providing as a subsidy to British trawlers to catch mackerel to give to the Russians at 4p a pound. That is an incredible position. I hope that the Government realise their folly before it is too late and we are left without any mackerel.

    9.48 pm

    I shall be brief. If the hon. Member for Truro (Mr. Penhaligon) will forgive me, in the interests of maintaining the maximum possible degree of agreement within the House I shall refrain from following precisely his remarks.

    It is fair to say that a broad measure of agreement has been reached in the House, with the exception of one right honourable fly in the ointment. I refer to the right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell). While I fully acknowledge his far greater eloquence and learning, I prefer to take the sensible and practical advice of the fishermen in my constituency to that which he gave the House this evening.

    They are not, I am happy to assure the right hon. Gentleman. Some are, but it is a free country.

    I welcome the Minister's brief reaffirmation of the Government's policy objectives for fishing. He has amply demonstrated his understanding of the facts of life in fishing and the Government's commitment, supported this afternoon by my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister, to get a settlement acceptable to the industry as a whole.

    I was encouraged by the Government's intention, which my hon. Friend the Minister reaffirmed, to maintain the closest relations with the leaders of the industry. I have in mind the Scottish Fishermen's Federation and comparable organisations south of the border.

    The Government should retain that close contact. The leaders of those organisations have shown themselves responsible, well informed and, not least important, closely in contact with those they represent, so that when they come to an understanding with the Government they can deliver. It is of cardinal importance that the industry's leaders have the respect of the Government, since they are seen truly to represent the industry.

    Can the Minister give a little more information about the additional sums that he is making available? I believe that there will be a 60 per cent. increase in the amount available during this fiscal year. How much of that will be on his own Ministry's budget and how much on the budget of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Scotland, for example?

    I appreciate that the Minister is now discussing with the industry the way in which that aid will be used, although it is seen principally as help for the owners of vessels. Does he have in mind the further use of the producers' organisations in assisting in the use of the resources to the greatest possible benefit? Does he see those organisations having a continuing function in the support and management of the market place itself?

    I know that there have been some difficulties in the way in which the producers' organisations have used the money provided by the Government, but in my area the system with the limited amount of money which the Government had made available through the producers' organisations had a worthwhile effect in the local market place.

    Talking of the market place, I was a little disturbed when an hon. Member said something like "It will keep us ticking over until we get the CFP."

    My hon. Friend is quite right: it is not good enough, partly because I want the industry to do better than tick over and partly because I do not believe that the CFP will be the answer to all our problems. We shall have problems to solve for fishing in this country itself, quite apart from the CFP.

    In the long term, the most serious development for the fishing industry in the last decade or so has been the fact that we eat less fish. That is to the disadvantage of the people, but we do eat less and as long as we do there will be a problem for the industry.

    Marketing and persuading people of the benefits of fish in their diet, both as a delicacy and for their health, are very important. I hope that my hon. Friend the Minister will do what he can to encourage the industry to have greater regard to the importance of marketing

    9.55 pm

    I had not intended to refer to the longstanding disagreement between the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South (Mr. Sproat) and myself on the principle of State industry. Though he has temporarily left the Chamber, it is necessary—since he trailed his coat, as he put it—to make one or two remarks on the subject.

    I understand that constituency circumstances alter cases and that the general principle of being opposed to State aid is very much watered down in relation to one's own constituency. That is certainly true of Conservative Members. They have made much play this evening of the Prime Minister's interest in and presence at this debate. That may be because, three days before the last election, six Conservative candidates sent a panic telegram because they thought that they were about to lose their seats. The telegram called for the Conservative Party to propose a proper fisheries policy.

    I do not object to the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South trimming his coat—I see that he has now returned to the Chamber—to suit the circumstances. However, I object to the fact that, when we are speaking of aid to other industries, the industries seeking State aid are referred to in a grossly offensive manner. The hon. Member for Aberdeen, South did not use this particular phrase, but yesterday a Conservative Member at Question Time referred to people rattling begging bowls in front of the Government.

    If we wish to be consistent, we must recognise that the fishing industry could be said to be rattling a begging bowl in front of the Government. But the industry that rattles its begging bowl most often, and with the greatest success, is the agriculture industry.

    In that context, I now turn to the matter of aid to the fishing industry. That aid must be judged not just on its own terms but in terms of what the Government do for other industries. It must be judged particularly in relation to agriculture, where £15 million would be regarded as a small sum indeed.

    Conservative Members have been almost overcome by euphoria at the granting of £15 million to the fishing industry. I do not blame them, given the record of their Government in cutting public expenditure. They are grateful to be able to go back to their constituencies this weekend and speak of £15 million in aid.

    I say that £15 million is inadequate. It is inadequate in relation to what the industry sought. My hon. Friend the Member for Edinburgh, East (Mr. Strang) spoke of the £15 million in relation to the £35 million asked for by the industry. He and I, perhaps, have slightly misinterpreted what the industry asked for. We should make it clear that—as I understand the position from papers I have received from the industry—the industry was asking for £35 million for Scotland over the year. The industry was saying that the shortfall—what the industry needed in terms of costs and interest—was £70 million. Therefore, we are talking about £15 million as part of a total of £70 million, not as part of a total of £35 million.

    The announcement of £15 million worth of aid is not news. The aid was widely forecast in the press. In The Press and Journal yesterday some of the fishermen's leaders commented on the sum of £15 million.

    It is no use the hon. Member for Fife, East (Mr. Henderson) shaking his head.

    I must correct the hon. Gentleman. I was somewhat disturbed that he had spent a fair amount of time casting aspersions at some of my right hon. and hon. Friends. I was hoping that, with his knowledge of the industry, he would address himself to the documents that we are discussing.

    That is more than the hon. Gentleman did when he spoke, but I shall come to the documents in due time. Mr. Roddy McColl, assistant secretary of the Scottish Fishermen's Federation, said yesterday that the sum of £15 million was significant. I accept that. He said that it was significant if it was meant as a help until the year's end. Mr. Ian McSween, deputy chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen's Organisation, said that the cash infusion would be the minimum needed to see the industry through to about the end of the year. I give this quotation:

    "Chairman of the Aberdeen Fishing Vessel Owners' Association, Mr. David Craig, said: 'We do welcome financial assistance. Whether it is sufficient to keep the fleet going until the end of the year I am not sure. It is a question of how it is going to be allocated'."
    It can be fairly said that that is a muted response from the fishing industry.

    We are entitled to ask the Government how long the money is intended to last. As I understand it, the Minister said that the money is to last until the end of the financial year. Whose financial year is the hon. Gentleman—

    It being Ten o'clock, the debate stood adjourned.

    Business Of The House


    That, at this day's sitting, the Motion relating to Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties may be proceeded with, though opposed, until half-past Eleven o'clock or for one and a half hours after it has been entered upon, whichever is the later.—[Mr. Boscawen.]

    Common Fisheries Policy

    Question again proposed, That the amendment be made.

    Is it to be the industry's financial year? It is plain from all the documents that the industry is referring to the end of the calendar year. All the assessments of vessel figures are based on the calendar year. Is it the industry's financial year or is it the Government's financial year? There is a difference of almost three months. That is significant in terms of what the industry has to face in future. I hope that that issue will be resolved.

    There has been some concern about the way in which the previous few million pounds of aid was distributed. I know that the Minister has said that he is changing the allocation scheme. I hope that he will do something to ensure that the aid that goes into the industry is reflected in prices in the shops. The hon. Member for Fife, East says that the consumption of fish is decreasing. That is hardly surprising when we consider how the price of fish on the fishmonger's slab is increasing.

    In our fishing debates, we often concentrate on the industry and leave out of the equation the most important factor, namely, the consumer. If the consumer's rating is £15 million, £18 million, £30 million or whatever figure the Government claim and the price of fish is increasing in the shops, the public are bound to ask why.

    Those who are acquainted with the industry know that market prices have to be considered carefully. However, the public read in the press of boxes of haddock being sold at £2 a box in the fish market. That has been the catalyst for a great furore in the fishing ports. At the same time, the price of haddock at the fishmonger's is over £1 a pound and cod is £1·75 a pound. The public are bound to ask "What is happening?" I hope that the Government will do something to ensure that the money that they put into the industry is used in part to keep prices down.

    Am I right in thinking that the hon. Gentleman is suggesting that the money that goes into the industry should go to the housewife and not to the industry?

    Not in whole. I am suggesting that the money that is going into the industry should be reflected in keeping prices down in the shops, if not reducing them. I am not suggesting that all the money should be used for that purpose. Unless we increase the consumption of fish, there is no point in keeping the industry alive.

    I welcome the Minister's confirmation of the order to Hall Russell and Co. for two offshore patrol vessels. It is not a new order. It is not an order for two additional vessels. These are the vessels for which the Ministry of Defence issued a letter of intent to Hall Russell and Co. in February. As I understand it, the order is now signed, sealed and delivered. It has been signed on the dotted line. The Minister will know, because I have been telephoning his office almost every day since the beginning of July, that there has been unhappiness about the delay in confirming the order.

    I was alarmed to hear the hon. Member for Aberdeen, South refer to the Minister as the hero of the hour who had battled to get that order. I had always understood, throughout the last four or five weeks, that there was no doubt about the order being placed and that the issue was one of accounting difficulty among the four Departments about who would pay for the two vessels. I hope that the hon. Gentleman was slightly overdrawing events and was not suggesting that the signing of the order was in doubt. If there were doubt, the situation would be much more serious.

    The placing of the order, while important for Hall Russell and for our fisheries protection fleet, is not enough to ensure a proper fishery protection fleet for conservation, protection and the policing of quotas. I hope that the Minister will give an assurance that the Government are considering placing further orders. I make the constituency point that I should like such orders to go to Hall Russell. Wherever they are placed, in the interests of our fishing industry we should have a much bigger fishery protection fleet.

    It is not simply yards such as Hall Russell that depend on the fishing industry. Hon. Members from fishing ports around Scotland and England will know that many small boat builders face serious trouble. Some face redundancies and there is fear that a number may have to close because orders have all but dried up. This has happened, I understand, to the extent that £2 million of White Fish Authority money will not be spent this year. I hope that such rumours are untrue.

    I hope that the extent to which boat builders depend on the confidence of those who go to sea is recognised. If reconstruction funds are channelled into boat building from the EEC or elsewhere, I hope that owners, who have been arguing, rightly, that there should be import controls against cheap fish, will take the point that when they receive British aid to build vessels they should not simply duck across the Channel and elsewhere to place orders in foreign yards. This has happened far too much. I hope that owners will realise their responsibility to the boat-building industry in this country.

    The aid given to owners by Continental Governments to purchase vessels is conditional on those orders being placed in domestic yards. We have always had the answer that we are bound by the Treaty of Rome and previously by EFTA rules that free competition had to arise and that people should be allowed to place orders anywhere. It happens nowhere else except in this country that people are allowed to take Government money and spend it outside the country. Apart from any action the Government take, the fishing industry should feel a sense of responsibility.

    I wish to refer to the EEC generally. I disagree with the Minister, who gave a fairly rosy picture of how matters had developed since he became Minister. The hon. Gentleman suggested that in the period in which the Government had been taking part in negotiations there had been significant moves towards the British point of view. That idea is entirely misplaced. It seems that the Government have learnt nothing since the days when they were first elected—the heady days of optimism when they started negotiations. At that time, their message was that it would be "full speed ahead" towards agreement on a common fisheries policy. Apparently, the days of obstruction by my right hon. Friend the Member for Deptford (Mr. Silkin), the days of disagreement in the Community because some Labour Members were antagonistic to the EEC and had no enthusiasm for it, had passed. The reason, we were told, why there had not been progress towards a new common fisheries policy was the lack of flexibility and the intransigence of those carrying out the negotiations.

    We have had 15 or 16 months of the new flexible approach of the commitment to the European Community. That was supposed to remove the difficulties in our way. The reality is very different from what we were promised. It is also different from what the Minister said tonight. Far from its being full speed ahead towards a fisheries agreement, the anchors are still firmly embedded in the sea bed. We have made no progress at all.

    Whether the Government like it or not, they are boxed in in their negotiations. The negotiations are linked with the budget issue, which they claim to have settled. The right hon. Member for Down, South (Mr. Powell), in a rare moment when we happened to agree, was right when he said that it is not so much what is said in the House at the Dispatch Box that counts as what is said by and emanates from other EEC Governments. They have made it clear that if we do not reach a fisheries agreement satisfactory to their fishermen—not to our fishermen—we shall not get the budget rebate which we are due to get on 1 January next year. We are hemmed in. I do not know why the Government allowed themselves to be conned into the 1 January 1981 date.

    The indicative or illustrative quotas, or whatever is the current euphemism to be applied to them, are an insult to this country. As I interjected earlier, we have for four to five years been trying to negotiate a new common fisheries policy. Yet the result of the great progress that we have made is indicative or illustrative quotas. It is a sad position in which to find ourselves.

    I hope that the Government will stand firm in their resolve. I doubt whether they will be able to do so. The issue has gone so far and they have got so boxed in that they will not be able to reach an agreement. I hope that they will, but I doubt it. As an earnest of the Government's intention to reach an agreement, I hope that the Minister will announce that he accepts our amendment. Some hon. Members think that the amendment is inadequate. Nevertheless, it encapsulates our negotiating position. Failure to accept our amendment will mean that the divide in the so-called bipartisan policy is widening.

    When we have asked the Government to stand firm, they have said that they will stand firm. When we have asked them to say what will happen if we drift on as we have done—on the question of negotiations, one could almost open Hansard at 13 April, col. so and so, repeat it and sit down, because we have been over it so many times—we have been told that we must wait and see when that happens because we cannot declare our negotiating hand. That excuse is wearing thin, because the issue facing the fishing industry is very serious.

    The Government must now say that if there is no agreement in October satisfactory to our fishing industry it will be a question not of discussing the rebate, which we might or might not get in January, but of saying that we shall not pay one penny of our money into EEC funds until we get an agreement satisfactory to our fishing industry.

    10.14 pm

    Mr. John Home Robertson
    (Berwick and East Lothian)