Previous Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page

Lord Hylton: My Lords, will the Minister do her best to ensure that there is an end to stop and go in the assistance given to farmers who convert to organic methods? Will the noble Baroness bear in mind that more than half the organic food consumed in this country is imported and that conversion normally means a reduction in total production?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we have put a considerable sum of money into support for organic farming in recognition of its environmental benefits to the country. That sector has expanded. For example, in 1996-97 support for organic farming amounted to about 374,000 a year. This year we plan to spend 18 million on organic farming, which is 50 times as much as before. That steady expansion will continue under the ERDP.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, can my noble friend say more about the Government's rural development programme and the likely future financial benefits which will flow to farmers?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, we put great emphasis on the rural development programme. We have an ambitious programme that involves

30 Jan 2001 : Column 557

expenditure of 1.6 billion over the next seven years. That allows us significantly to expand existing schemes and introduce new measures to aid rural enterprise, vocational training, processing and marketing, and energy crops. All of that allows the industry to be sustainably redirected in future. One of the sadnesses is that the historic underspend on agri-environmental and rural development measures is responsible for the very low allocation of EU funds to this particular budget.

Baroness Byford: My Lords, does the Minister acknowledge that pig farmers are likely to lose 26 million unless it is claimed under the outgoers and ongoers scheme by the end of March? Further, will the Government ensure that the necessary legislation is passed in time to claim that sum and that it is used in advance of the pig levy scheme to compensate pig farmers whose livelihoods have been affected by swine fever or related restrictions?

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, two different issues have to be separated. One is the implementation of the levy that will add 25 per cent, 25 pence in every pound--the industry levy--for those who are affected by swine fever. The MLC has finished its consultation. We have every intention of taking that matter forward quickly. The other is the pig industry restructuring scheme, announced in the action plans for farming. It has taken much longer than we wanted to get EU approval. However, the outgoers element was open for applications on 4th December last year and the ongoers element was opened on 22nd January 2001. We have 40 million available for the scheme in the next two financial years. We are determined to ensure that the scheme achieves its objective.

Lord Mackie of Benshie: My Lords, are the Government considering a pension scheme for the many small farmers who will go out of business? I have in mind a bond scheme--a bond issued for a certain number of years which can be cashed by the farmer. And what are the Government prepared to do to help the marketing organisations improve their position against the buying power of the supermarkets and others? It is important that the marketing position is improved to the level of, say, that in Denmark.

Baroness Hayman: My Lords, there is a difference between bond schemes for people who are going out of an industry and pension schemes per se and, indeed, the outgoers scheme in the pig industry restructuring scheme where, obviously, the financial consequences have to be considered. As to marketing, one of the main thrusts of policy with Nick Brown as Minister of Agriculture has been to try to join up the food chain in particular sectors and to recognise the impact on producers right through the chain to retailers. As the noble Lord will be well aware, because I know of the close interest he takes in milk-related issues, we have set up the Milk Task Force as part of the

30 Jan 2001 : Column 558

Government's action plan, which includes representatives of producers, purchasers, processors and retailers. That will report at the end of March.

Commonwealth Scholarship Commission

2.53 p.m.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth asked Her Majesty's Government:

What discussions they are having with the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in the United Kingdom about planning future developments of the scheme.

Baroness Amos: My Lords, the commission has now submitted to the Secretary of State for International Development its report which she requested, which is a review of the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan and its contribution to international development. This makes a number of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the CSFP and enhancing its contribution to development. The Secretary of State will be meeting shortly with the chairman of the CSC to discuss these findings and their implementation.

Lord Thomson of Monifieth: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the recent report of the United Kingdom Scholarship Commission, which was submitted to the Commonwealth Education Ministers in Canada, provides dramatic factual evidence of how many of those who received United Kingdom Commonwealth scholarships have gone on to take up leading positions in their own countries? To use the department's phrase, "Many of them have become trainers of trainers in their own country". Will the Government therefore explore positively how we can build on this British success story and adapt the scholarship scheme to meet the needs of the modern Commonwealth?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, a report on the CSFP was discussed by Commonwealth Education Ministers at their triennial conference in Halifax. They made a number of proposals to change the administration of the scheme which were designed, for example, to raise the profile of the plan to increase the number of participating countries; to expand its flexibility; to improve communication and overall co-ordination; and, in particular, to strengthen partnerships in the nomination and selection of candidates. The DfID's review of the scheme has come up with a number of recommendations which dovetail with that. We shall be looking at those recommendations. Obviously the Secretary of State's meeting with the chairman of CSC will be important in that respect. We will then come forward with recommendations as to how we can ensure that the scheme dovetails with our development objective.

30 Jan 2001 : Column 559

I agree with the noble Lord as regards the substantial impact that the scholarships have had. It is pleasing to know that 95 per cent of participants from developing countries continue to work in those countries after the scholarship has been completed.

Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe: My Lords, will the Minister join me in welcoming the steps taken by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission in recent years to promote genuinely shared provision between UK universities and those from developing countries. Does she agree that measures such as split-site qualifications have immense potential to raise long-term capacity in recipient countries as well as benefiting the individual scholars?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, we agree that some of the developments--for example, split-site qualifications--have been very successful. Some of the review's recommendations will go further down that road. We are looking to develop the long-term capacity and skills of students from developing countries so that they can make a contribution to the development of their own countries, either when they return to those countries or through the process of split-site education.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, can the Minister think of any way of assisting potential scholars in countries where there is no freedom of expression, bearing in mind that in the past the CSFP was based on the principle that nominations come only from governments? Will the Government consider the possibility that nominations could be made by qualified NGOs of suitable recipients in countries such as Zimbabwe where there is a lack of freedom of expression?

Baroness Amos: My Lords, that is a matter which the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised with me in November last year. It is true that at present national agencies in each Commonwealth country are responsible for submitting nominations. So candidates who are, for example, persona non grata in their own country are unlikely to be nominated. In the review of the scheme we are considering, in consultation with the Hugh Pilkington Charitable Trust, whether changes should be made to address that problem.

The noble Lord talked in particular about NGOs. A limited number of applications from DfID local offices, local NGOs and agencies working with groups such as refugees could possibly be submitted directly to the CSC in London. We are currently looking at that possibility.

Lord Howell of Guildford: My Lords, does the Minister agree that education and learning are the hoops which bind our commonwealth together and give it more power and influence in the global context? Does she recall that when her government came to office one of the big upgrades in the Foreign and Commonwealth Mission Statement was that the

30 Jan 2001 : Column 560

Commonwealth would have much more prominence? Yet it seems that the numbers in the Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships Plan are shrinking. Can she tell us when, in line with government rhetoric and declarations, that will be reversed and we shall see more people involved under the scheme?

Next Section Back to Table of Contents Lords Hansard Home Page