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Agricultural Capital Grant Schemes

Volume 86: debated on Wednesday 13 November 1985

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asked the Secretary of State for Scotland whether he intends to revise the Agriculture Capital Grant Schemes Regulations in the light of the damage to the industry occasioned by the poor summer conditions.

As I have already indicated, the Government are currently considering how we can best aid those farmers most seriously affected by the bad weather. A number of options are being explored, and it would not be appropriate for me to anticipate the outcome.

Is the Minister aware that due to the bad weather in the summer a number of drainage schemes undertaken under the former capital grants scheme might overrun the cut-off date of 31 December? Furthermore, a number of farmers will next year have to undertake reseeding as a result of the bad weather, even though they had not planned to do so, and that will limit their opportunities for future investment under the new capital grants schemes. In those circumstances, will the Minister accept that not to make any appropriate relaxation of the regulations to meet the problems would be unduly niggardly?

I accept that this year there may have been some grant-aided activities that have proved to be less than satisfactory or, indeed, a total loss. If a farmer decides that he wishes to start afresh next year, our Department will be prepared to look sympathetically at such a proposal within the context of the new grants schemes.

Although we thought that most of these farms had satisfactory drainage and liming and would not require major capital grants schemes, is my hon. Friend aware that that is no longer the case because of the severe climatic conditions in the summer? Will he therefore consider the inclusion of full money for liming and drainage grants in any future capital grants allocation?

The new capital grants schemes that came into operation on 1 October were devised following extensive consultation, and they are designed to reflect the priorities in European Community regulation 797/85. Notwithstanding that, I am satisfied that these grants constitute a worthwhile package of assistance.