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Lord Donoughue: My Lords, we are acutely aware of the serious difficulties facing all areas of the agricultural industry. We are not so aware of all the good work done by previous administrations. I assume that the noble Lord has in mind issues such as BSE and the beef ban. The situation is serious and we are looking at it most urgently. We are investigating what actions can be taken to mitigate it. Of course, that is not wholly for MAFF, which does not have funds to assist the sector further than the large amounts it already gives. Other departments are involved and it is a matter for the Government to decide on their priorities.
Lord Palmer: My Lords, will the Minister confirm that his colleagues in the Scottish Office are having similar talks with the National Farmers Union of Scotland where the situation is every bit as dire? Many farmers in Scotland have not yet finished their wheat harvest and we are, after all, at the end of October.
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, severe difficulties face all the nations of the United Kingdom. They are slightly worse in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales than in England. I believe that Ministers in the Scottish Office, which is well represented in this House, are currently holding talks to discuss the situation.
Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos: My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the Welsh farmers are going through a particularly difficult time? Is his department meeting the Welsh farmers' union? What action is being taken by the Welsh Office to help the Welsh farmers?
Lord Hooson: My Lords, the Minister described the Government as considering the matter urgently. They have been considering it urgently for more than four months. Are they aware of the desperate situation in certain of the hill areas, including those in Wales, while they give no promise of real action? One thing they could do immediately would be to increase the headage in relation to sheep because many farmers cannot afford to send their sheep to market. They could also remove the necessary burden on abattoirs for killing sheep, which adds £8 to the cost of every lamb killed in this country. What do the Government intend to do in this urgent situation?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, the Government have properly been considering the situation seriously. Many departments are involved, including the Treasury. Some of the possible actions which would help farming will involve the co-operation--indeed, the approval--of the European Commission. It is not a case of providing one-off, quick help; we must view the whole situation to ascertain what strategy would be best for farming.
Lord Davis of Coity: My Lords, I appreciate the difficulties facing the British agricultural industry, but is it not the case that agriculture already receives more taxpayers' money than any other sector of the economy?
Lord Donoughue: My Lords, it is certainly the case that agriculture, although one of the smallest sectors, amounting to 1.1 per cent. of the economy, receives by far the greatest help; greater than any other sector of the economy. It receives two and a half times more than the next sector and nearly four times more than the whole of manufacturing. However, our view is that the importance of agriculture and the seriousness of the problems justify major aid. We believe in the long-term welfare of British agriculture.
Lord Boardman: My Lords, in the opinion of the Government, is the deplorable state of agriculture at the present time primarily the fault of interest rates and the Bank of England, or the CAP, or the undoubted efficiency of the British farmer?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, we expect the National Lottery to raise £10.6 billion for good causes during the current licence period, which is £600 million above previous forecasts. The arts, sport, heritage and charities will each receive an additional £50 million and are each guaranteed 16 2/3 per cent. of National Lottery revenues beyond 2001. The other £400 million will go to initiatives on health, education and the environment. We will publish a consultation document outlining our proposals next month. The New Opportunities Fund will inherit the millennium stream of funding after 2001
Baroness Sharples: My Lords, I thank the Minister for that Answer. Does he agree with the headline in the Guardian of 7th October, "Government raids lottery funds"? Does he further accept that many charities are expressing considerable concern about their future because of the Government's raid on the lottery funds?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, no, I do not agree with the headline in the Guardian. The Government are not raiding any lottery funds; lottery funds are going to a wide range of good causes, including the arts, heritage, sport and charities, health, education and the environment. The National Lottery's Charities Board has a particular role above and beyond its monetary allocation in that we have charged it with bringing together volunteers and opportunities for volunteering throughout the range of lottery funding. It is already consulting on a strategic plan for that purpose.
Lord Rowallan: My Lords, does the Minister accept that there is £3.62 billion still in the distribution fund which has not been distributed? I know that the Minister will say that that has been put to some use but, of that, nearly £1.54 billion has not been committed to any project at all. The fund is increasing by nearly £33.5 million per month which is hardly a satisfactory situation.
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, I do not agree. The fact is that £4.8 billion has already been committed and only £1.5 billion remains to be committed. That is exactly what one would expect bearing in mind that there is still money to come in. Money is not drawn down before it is needed. It goes
Lord Shore of Stepney: My Lords, given that the surplus on that fund is not immediately required and in view of the long list of beneficiaries which my noble friend announced, will he kindly consider whether agriculture might be added to that long list?
The Earl of Onslow: My Lords, are not health, education and the environment the responsibility of the Government? Was not the National Lottery set up to give money to matters which are not the responsibility of the Government?
Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, is the noble Earl arguing that health, education and the environment are solely the responsibility of the Government and that arts, sport, culture and heritage are not at all the responsibility of the Government? I challenge both views. The definition of "additionality", which is what the noble Earl is talking about, has not changed since before the election. Indeed, the last Prime Minister, Mr. Major, said after the election that he was considering whether lottery funds should be used to put sports teachers back into schools. That money is still additional to core government expenditure, as it always was.
Lord Dean of Beswick: My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is some criticism because some of the people on the board distributing lottery money are members of bodies in the field of the arts and so on which are receiving the money? Is it not the case too that there is some legitimate criticism that some of the more affluent areas of the United Kingdom are receiving very large sums of money from that fund whereas some of the poorest areas are being almost ignored?
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