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Environmental Stewardship Scheme

Volume 458: debated on Monday 12 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how much funding he has made available to Natural England for the creation of (a) entry level and (b) higher level environmental stewardship schemes during the contingency period before the new rural development programme for England is approved by the European Commission. (125035)

As the Secretary of State made clear in his announcement on 12 December 2006, Official Report, column 77WS, we have kept the Environmental Stewardship Scheme open to new applications in advance of formal approval of the Rural Development Programme for England.

Agreements entered into since 1 January are provisional and are being funded from existing indicative budgets agreed when the scheme was launched. No specific, separate budget has been made available for the period prior to programme approval.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many agreements on the creation of (a) entry level and (b) higher level environmental stewardship schemes he expects Natural England to offer before the new England rural development programme commences; and what he expects the financial value of these agreements to be. (125036)

The final, total number of new agreements entered into on a contingency basis since 1 January will depend on the date the new Rural Development Programme for England is approved. During this period, Natural England is continuing to work towards existing targets. That is, by the end of 2007, some 60 per cent. of the agricultural area in England will be managed under an Entry Level Scheme agreement. We are also working towards a target of having some 525,000 hectares of land under a combination of either Higher Level Stewardship or the previously operated Countryside Stewardship Scheme.