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Agricultural Research (Aberystwyth)

Volume 407: debated on Thursday 19 June 2003

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2.

What plans she has to visit Aberystwyth to discuss agricultural research projects being undertaken there. [120185]

Sadly, I have no plans at present to visit Aberystwyth.

Shock, horror! I understand that my hon. Friend's Department finances quite a lot of research at Aberystwyth. In particular, will the Department consider—I hope that it will—putting even more money into research on grass for use in arid areas, as that is of particular relevance to many parts of the developing world?

I certainly agree that a great deal of important work has been done at the Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research at Aberystwyth, which is recognised by the Department for Environment. Food and Rural Affairs. My hon. Friend might be interested to know that over the last three years we have funded research at Aberystwyth to the tune of around £6 million for each of those three years. I recognise that it is doing important work on grassland types, which will have a great deal of helpful applications, particularly in arid areas.

First, I congratulate the Minister on his promotion and on having had the burden of fishing lifted from his shoulders. He will understand that Aberystwyth's research work is much bolstered by the scientific output of Horticulture Research International. To that end, is his Department yet able to decide its future grant funding arrangements for HRI and the application from East Malling for support, both of which are central to the future of HRI and its marriage with Warwick university?

The right hon. Gentleman, who knows the history of HRI and who knows about the existing complications, is absolutely right about HRI's important role. All I can say at the moment is that we are trying to find a way forward on its funding problems, and we recognise the important role that it plays in horticulture and the value in which it is held.