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Mr. Heath: The hon. Gentleman is right. He knows and I know that a crisis taskforce was set up. It goes away and ponders, and that is all it does. The Minister for the Environment who chairs the taskforce gave a preliminary report, which was the last that the House heard about what it intended to do to deal with the crisis. We have a so-called Rural Affairs Cabinet Committee. What has it done during the crisis? Nothing, as far as anyone can see.

I exclude from these strictures the Minister of Agriculture, who has reported frequently to the House about what he has been doing, but of course his purview is limited to the agricultural aspects. One of the problems to which we have repeatedly drawn attention is the fact that we do not have a Department of Rural Affairs, which might have taken a wider view and recognised the fact that there is a crisis for the rural economy, not simply for the agricultural industry.

We are failing in our duty because the Government have not allowed the House the opportunity to give proper scrutiny to measures that could have been introduced over

9 May 2001 : Column 201

the past few weeks. Now we face the extraordinary prospect that the House will dissolve at the beginning of next week without our having the opportunity properly to discuss in Government time the proposals that they might have introduced to deal with the crisis.

Miss Melanie Johnson: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that so far 7,000 businesses have been helped, and £40 million worth in tax has been deferred by Customs and Exercise and the Inland Revenue to help businesses affected by foot and mouth?

Mr. Heath: Does the hon. Lady not understand that that is a drop in the ocean compared with magnitude of the crisis in our rural areas? Deferment of tax simply puts off the evil day when the bailiffs come in. That is the problem that the Government do not seem to understand.

The measures proposed in the new clauses are not the only steps that the Government should take, but they are at least an attempt to deal with issues such as restoring cash flow to many small businesses in rural areas and elsewhere, and giving them an immediate benefit through the tax system. The carry-back of trading losses and excess interest costs could be made against previous years' accounts, which would provide immediate benefit and help them get through the present crisis, rather than offering help at some indeterminate stage in the future.

Miss Johnson rose--

Mr. Heath: The hon. Lady wants to intervene, but she knows that we have limited time for the debate.

Miss Johnson: I am anxious that the hon. Gentleman will not allow me any time at all to respond to the debate. In four minutes the time will be up. Is he aware of the non-tax measures that have been taken, which will assist all the businesses affected by foot and mouth? Those measures include providing temporary relief for business rates, whereby authorities can offer hardship relief to small businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less, in the knowledge that central Government will reimburse 95 per cent. of the cost. There is an extension of the small loans guarantee. There is a Phoenix fund aimed at helping small business in the most distressed communities. There are regional venture capital funds as well. A further £18 million is being made available to help promote Britain as a tourist destination. Additional measures include a £15 million package--

Mr. Deputy Speaker: Order. The hon. Lady cannot reply to the debate in an intervention.

Mr. Heath: I hope that the hon. Lady is not castigating me for what her business managers consider to be the appropriate time for debating this important matter, for which not one minute of Government time has been given. It is an outrage that we are being told that we must hurry our comments on this crucial problem facing the country, especially rural areas, prior to the coming general election. We are told that there is not time to discuss it. That tells us all we need to know about the Government's attitude to rural areas.

I will place a bet with the hon. Lady that more businesses will go out of business in rural areas over the next few months. She clearly considers her measures to

9 May 2001 : Column 202

be magnanimous, generous and adequate. People in rural areas do not think so. The people who came to lobby the House from Powys in mid-Wales and from Cumbria were desperately seeking something from the Government and the House to keep their businesses going over this summer. The proposals in the new clause would be a start, and would certainly be more adequate than anything that the Government have come up with so far. If the Government cannot accept it, they must answer to the people in rural areas who will lose their businesses in the next few weeks. They must tell those people why they sat by and did nothing while a disaster for the rural economy unfolded.

Mr. Letwin: I do not want to detain the House for long. We thoroughly agree with the hon. Member for Somerton and Frome (Mr. Heath), and we would have liked other measures to have been introduced. We have been arguing for months for measures such as the £500 million interest-free loan scheme. The proposals in these new clauses would be beneficial.

By her tone of voice, the Economic Secretary showed the Government's neglect and misunderstanding of rural areas. Contrary to the tone in which some of the rational debates of the past three hours have been conducted, the tone in which the Economic Secretary replied to the hon. Gentleman was demonstrative of a total lack of understanding of the scale of the disaster that is and will be faced by rural business in the tourism-related sector as we approach the summer months. What has already--

It being three hours after the commencement of proceedings on the Programme motion, Mr. Deputy Speaker put forthwith the Question already proposed from the Chair.

Question put, That the clause be read a Second time:--

The House divided: Ayes 129, Noes 259.

Division No. 206
[9.8 pm


Arbuthnot, Rt Hon James
Atkinson, Peter (Hexham)
Baldry, Tony
Beith, Rt Hon A J
Bell, Martin (Tatton)
Bercow, John
Blunt, Crispin
Boswell, Tim
Bottomley, Peter (Worthing W)
Bottomley, Rt Hon Mrs Virginia
Brady, Graham
Brazier, Julian
Brooke, Rt Hon Peter
Browning, Mrs Angela
Bruce, Ian (S Dorset)
Burns, Simon
Butterfill, John
Cash, William
Chapman, Sir Sydney
(Chipping Barnet)
Chope, Christopher
Clifton-Brown, Geoffrey
Collins, Tim
Cormack, Sir Patrick
Cotter, Brian
Cran, James
Davies, Quentin (Grantham)
Day, Stephen
Dorrell, Rt Hon Stephen
Emery, Rt Hon Sir Peter
Ewing, Mrs Margaret
Fabricant, Michael
Fearn, Ronnie
Flight, Howard
Fowler, Rt Hon Sir Norman
Fox, Dr Liam
Fraser, Christopher
Gale, Roger
Garnier, Edward
Gill, Christopher
Gillan, Mrs Cheryl
Gorman, Mrs Teresa
Gorrie, Donald
Gray, James
Green, Damian
Greenway, John
Hamilton, Rt Hon Sir Archie
Hammond, Philip
Harvey, Nick
Hayes, John
Heald, Oliver
Heath, David (Somerton & Frome)
Horam, John
Jack, Rt Hon Michael
Jackson, Robert (Wantage)
Jenkin, Bernard
Key, Robert
King, Rt Hon Tom (Bridgwater)
Laing, Mrs Eleanor
Lait, Mrs Jacqui
Leigh, Edward
Letwin, Oliver
Lewis, Dr Julian (New Forest E)
Lidington, David
Livsey, Richard
Lloyd, Rt Hon Sir Peter (Fareham)
Llwyd, Elfyn
Loughton, Tim
Luff, Peter
Lyell, Rt Hon Sir Nicholas
McCrea, Dr William
McIntosh, Miss Anne
Maclean, Rt Hon David
McLoughlin, Patrick
Madel, Sir David
Malins, Humfrey
Maples, John
Mates, Michael
Maude, Rt Hon Francis
Mawhinney, Rt Hon Sir Brian
May, Mrs Theresa
Michie, Mrs Ray (Argyll & Bute)
Morgan, Alasdair (Galloway)
Moss, Malcolm
O'Brien, Stephen (Eddisbury)
Öpik, Lembit
Ottaway, Richard
Paice, James
Paterson, Owen
Randall, John
Redwood, Rt Hon John
Rendel, David
Robathan, Andrew
Robertson, Laurence (Tewk'b'ry)
Roe, Mrs Marion (Broxbourne)
Rowe, Andrew (Faversham)
Russell, Bob (Colchester)
St Aubyn, Nick
Sayeed, Jonathan
Shephard, Rt Hon Mrs Gillian
Simpson, Keith (Mid-Norfolk)
Smyth, Rev Martin (Belfast S)
Spicer, Sir Michael
Streeter, Gary
Swayne, Desmond
Syms, Robert
Tapsell, Sir Peter
Taylor, Ian (Esher & Walton)
Taylor, John M (Solihull)
Taylor, Matthew (Truro)
Thomas, Simon (Ceredigion)
Thompson, William
Tredinnick, David
Trend, Michael
Tyrie, Andrew
Viggers, Peter
Wallace, Rt Hon James
Walter, Robert
Waterson, Nigel
Wells, Bowen
Welsh, Andrew
Whitney, Sir Raymond
Whittingdale, John
Wigley, Rt Hon Dafydd
Willetts, David
Wilshire, David
Winterton, Mrs Ann (Congleton)
Winterton, Nicholas (Macclesfield)
Yeo, Tim
Young, Rt Hon Sir George

Tellers for the Ayes:

Mr. Paul Tyler and
Mr. Edward Davey.


Abbott, Ms Diane
Ainger, Nick
Ainsworth, Robert (Cov'try NE)
Allen, Graham
Anderson, Rt Hon Donald
(Swansea E)
Ashton, Joe
Atkins, Charlotte
Austin, John
Bailey, Adrian
Banks, Tony
Barnes, Harry
Barron, Kevin
Battle, John
Bayley, Hugh
Beckett, Rt Hon Mrs Margaret
Benn, Hilary (Leeds C)
Bennett, Andrew F
Benton, Joe
Bermingham, Gerald
Berry, Roger
Betts, Clive
Blizzard, Bob
Boateng, Rt Hon Paul
Bradley, Rt Hon Keith (Withington)
Browne, Desmond
Buck, Ms Karen
Burden, Richard
Caborn, Rt Hon Richard
Campbell, Mrs Anne (C'bridge)
Campbell, Ronnie (Blyth V)
Campbell-Savours, Dale
Cann, Jamie
Caplin, Ivor
Caton, Martin
Chapman, Ben (Wirral S)
Chaytor, David
Chisholm, Malcolm
Clapham, Michael
Clark, Rt Hon Dr David (S Shields)
Clark, Paul (Gillingham)
Clarke, Charles (Norwich S)
Clarke, Eric (Midlothian)
Clarke, Rt Hon Tom (Coatbridge)
Clelland, David
Clwyd, Ann
Coaker, Vernon
Coffey, Ms Ann
Cohen, Harry
Connarty, Michael
Cooper, Yvette
Corbett, Robin
Corbyn, Jeremy
Cousins, Jim
Cox, Tom
Cranston, Ross
Crausby, David
Cryer, Mrs Ann (Keighley)
Cummings, John
Cunningham, Jim (Cov'try S)
Davidson, Ian
Davies, Rt Hon Denzil (Llanelli)
Davis, Rt Hon Terry
(B'ham Hodge H)
Denham, Rt Hon John
Dobbin, Jim
Dobson, Rt Hon Frank
Donohoe, Brian H
Doran, Frank
Eagle, Angela (Wallasey)
Eagle, Maria (L'pool Garston)
Efford, Clive
Ellman, Mrs Louise
Ennis, Jeff
Etherington, Bill
Field, Rt Hon Frank
Fisher, Mark
Fitzpatrick, Jim
Flint, Caroline
Flynn, Paul
Follett, Barbara
Fyfe, Maria
Galbraith, Sam
Gapes, Mike
Gardiner, Barry
George, Rt Hon Bruce (Walsall S)
Gerrard, Neil
Gibson, Dr Ian
Godman, Dr Norman A
Godsiff, Roger
Goggins, Paul
Golding, Mrs Llin
Griffiths, Nigel (Edinburgh S)
Griffiths, Win (Bridgend)
Gunnell, John
Hain, Peter
Hall, Mike (Weaver Vale)
Hall, Patrick (Bedford)
Hanson, David
Harman, Rt Hon Ms Harriet
Healey, John
Henderson, Doug (Newcastle N)
Hendrick, Mark
Hepburn, Stephen
Heppell, John
Hewitt, Ms Patricia
Hill, Keith
Hinchliffe, David
Hoey, Kate
Hope, Phil
Hopkins, Kelvin
Howarth, Rt Hon Alan (Newport E)
Howarth, George (Knowsley N)
Howells, Dr Kim
Hughes, Ms Beverley (Stretford)
Hughes, Kevin (Doncaster N)
Humble, Mrs Joan
Hutton, John
Iddon, Dr Brian
Illsley, Eric
Ingram, Rt Hon Adam
Jackson, Helen (Hillsborough)
Jamieson, David
Jenkins, Brian
Johnson, Alan (Hull W & Hessle)
Johnson, Miss Melanie
(Welwyn Hatfield)
Jones, Rt Hon Barry (Alyn)
Jones, Helen (Warrington N)
Jones, Ms Jenny
(Wolverh'ton SW)
Jones, Dr Lynne (Selly Oak)
Jones, Martyn (Clwyd S)
Jowell, Rt Hon Ms Tessa
Joyce, Eric
Kaufman, Rt Hon Gerald
Keeble, Ms Sally
Keen, Alan (Feltham & Heston)
Keen, Ann (Brentford & Isleworth)
Khabra, Piara S
King, Ms Oona (Bethnal Green)
Lammy, David
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Ivan (Bury S)
Lewis, Terry (Worsley)
Lloyd, Tony (Manchester C)
Lock, David
McAllion, John
McAvoy, Thomas
McCabe, Steve
Macdonald, Calum
McFall, John
McIsaac, Shona
McKenna, Mrs Rosemary
Mackinlay, Andrew
McNamara, Kevin
McNulty, Tony
Mactaggart, Fiona
McWalter, Tony
McWilliam, John
Mahon, Mrs Alice
Mallaber, Judy
Mandelson, Rt Hon Peter
Marsden, Gordon (Blackpool S)
Marshall, David (Shettleston)
Marshall, Jim (Leicester S)
Martlew, Eric
Maxton, John
Meacher, Rt Hon Michael
Merron, Gillian
Michael, Rt Hon Alun
Michie, Bill (Shef'ld Heeley)
Miller, Andrew
Mitchell, Austin
Moffatt, Laura
Moonie, Dr Lewis
Moran, Ms Margaret
Mudie, George
Mullin, Chris
Murphy, Denis (Wansbeck)
Naysmith, Dr Doug
O'Brien, Bill (Normanton)
Olner, Bill
O'Neill, Martin
Pearson, Ian
Pendry, Rt Hon Tom
Pickthall, Colin
Pike, Peter L
Pond, Chris
Pope, Greg
Pound, Stephen
Powell, Sir Raymond
Prentice, Ms Bridget (Lewisham E)
Prentice, Gordon (Pendle)
Primarolo, Dawn
Prosser, Gwyn
Quin, Rt Hon Ms Joyce
Quinn, Lawrie
Rammell, Bill
Raynsford, Rt Hon Nick
Reed, Andrew (Loughborough)
Robertson, John
(Glasgow Anniesland)
Roche, Mrs Barbara
Rogers, Allan
Rooker, Rt Hon Jeff
Rooney, Terry
Ross, Ernie (Dundee W)
Rowlands, Ted
Roy, Frank
Ruddock, Joan
Sarwar, Mohammad
Savidge, Malcolm
Shaw, Jonathan
Sheerman, Barry
Sheldon, Rt Hon Robert
Simpson, Alan (Nottingham S)
Skinner, Dennis
Smith, Rt Hon Andrew (Oxford E)
Smith, Angela (Basildon)
Smith, Jacqui (Redditch)
Smith, John (Glamorgan)
Smith, Llew (Blaenau Gwent)
Soley, Clive
Southworth, Ms Helen
Spellar, John
Squire, Ms Rachel
Starkey, Dr Phyllis
Steinberg, Gerry
Stevenson, George
Stewart, Ian (Eccles)
Strang, Rt Hon Dr Gavin
Stringer, Graham
Sutcliffe, Gerry
Taylor, Rt Hon Mrs Ann
Taylor, David (NW Leics)
Temple-Morris, Peter
Timms, Stephen
Tipping, Paddy
Todd, Mark
Touhig, Don
Trickett, Jon
Turner, Dennis (Wolverh'ton SE)
Turner, Neil (Wigan)
Twigg, Derek (Halton)
Tynan, Bill
Vis, Dr Rudi
Walley, Ms Joan
Ward, Ms Claire
Wareing, Robert N
Watts, David
Whitehead, Dr Alan
Wicks, Malcolm
Williams, Rt Hon Alan
(Swansea W)
Williams, Mrs Betty (Conwy)
Wills, Michael
Winnick, David
Winterton, Ms Rosie (Doncaster C)
Wood, Mike
Worthington, Tony
Wright, Anthony D (Gt Yarmouth)
Wright, Tony (Cannock)
Wyatt, Derek

Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. Jim Dowd and
Mrs. Anne McGuire.

Question accordingly negatived.

9 May 2001 : Column 205

Mr. Deputy Speaker then proceeded to put forthwith the Question necessary for the disposal of the business to be concluded at that hour.

Question put, That the Bill be now read the Third time:--

The House divided: Ayes 264, Noes 121.

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