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Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I am grateful for the Minister's reply. However, in view of the fact that there is to be a free vote, will she assure us that the Government will not use the Parliament Act in relation to this measure?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, what we ought to do is see how we proceed through both Houses and see whether we can reach a resolution without recourse to the Parliament Act. It would be foolish to pre-judge how the debate will take itself forward.
Lord Pilkington of Oxenford: My Lords, I am sorry to press the Minister and I shall stop shortly, but that is an ambivalent reply. Is she saying that the Parliament Act might be used or that it might not? May I have a specific answer?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am afraid that the noble Lord cannot have a specific answer to a hypothetical question. I have attempted to set out as clearly as possible the way in which the Government are approaching the issue. I am sure that in the debates dealing with home affairs and on the Bill itself these issues will be dealt with at great length.
As a Minister in the Ministry of Agriculture, I understand the issues in relation to fallen stock mentioned by the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, as regards the potential effects of a potential ban on hunting. There are other matters, as the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, will know, particularly in relation to waste directives, that impinge equally on that important issue. The Government will have to recognise those effects and look forward. Indeed, we have had discussions with some of the industry bodies about the disposal of fallen stock.
There was criticism that we did not specifically include the subject of agriculture in the Queen's Speech. A great deal has been done on agriculture over and above legislation. As I have said, legislation is not the be all and end all. I remind noble Lords that since May 1997 we have introduced, in addition to the £3 billion CAP payments that are made annually, a range of policy measures that have injected £670 million into the industry and that between 1997 and 2001 the Government will have paid £630 million in agri-monetary compensation.
As was made clear by my noble friend in her introduction to today's debate, we believe that we must have for the industry a long term vision that is not based simply on the status quo. Enormous changes are taking place world-wide. Those changes impose great pressures on agriculture and on other sections of industry. That is part of the reason why we believe that the rural development programme--£1.6 billion over the next seven years--is enormously important in some of the re-direction of expenditure and the re-framing of agriculture, bringing it nearer to its market, dealing with issues in potential new areas. The issue of biofuels, which could be very important for the future, was referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Palmer.
The point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Miller of Chilthorne Domer, is correct. The base line from which we work for the allocation of European Commission rural development funds for the United Kingdom is 3.5 per cent. That reflects a previous lack of uptake of rural development programmes, which is the reason for the low base from which we started.
Many noble Lords have stressed the terrible difficulties, of which I am aware, experienced by many sections of agriculture in this country. The resources that have been provided, the work that has been done on the rural development plan and the work that has been done to support organic conversion recognise the need to try to help people in the agricultural industry. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Hereford, as always, spoke movingly about the stress in rural communities and the need to support them, to recognise the value that we all gain from a farmed landscape and to ensure that the financial support for it delivers the goods that society wishes to purchase, rather than simply providing market support for crops.
Baroness Byford: My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness can help us. This afternoon we heard the Statement repeated by the Leader of the House. In the interests of the farmers, I should be grateful if she could tell us whether there exists any direction as to when we can start the negotiations.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I was trying to reach that point when I was talking about mid-term reviews and the fact that overall CAP reform in 2003, following the 2002 programme policy reviews, is looking like a real possibility. It is difficult to deliver on this kind of reform; indeed, I believe that the previous government were probably quite aware of the difficulties involved in CAP reform. It is something that we believe we achieve more effectively as effective partners, by obtaining strategic alliances with, for example, the agriculture Ministers of Sweden, Denmark, Italy and the Netherlands, whom my right honourable friend met recently in Capri. As I say, it is a difficult matter, but that does not mean that there are no issues upon which we can work effectively together, such as reform of the sugar regime. This is tremendously controversial and difficult but it cannot be put aside for ever. We need to tackle it in a way that recognises the difficulties of transition.
Several noble Lords recognised the additional help that we have offered through the £8.7 million recently announced to implement the recommendations of the Maclean report on charging for rural abattoirs. The issue of pithing is an enormously difficult one. I am grateful that the right reverend Prelate gave us a technical description of the process, which saved me from having to do so. I understand that the Food Standards Agency has recently completed an extensive consultation and will shortly be submitting its proposals to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health. We shall have to consider those proposals most carefully, while recognising the potential difficulties for a very important sector of the abattoir area--
The Lord Bishop of Hereford: My Lords, perhaps I may interrupt the Minister for a moment. Can the noble Baroness tell me whether this ban will be implemented from 1st January or whether there is some hope of postponement? This is a most urgent matter and one of great concern to many people.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I understand that. The consultation document was proposed on the basis of our fulfilling our obligation--an obligation throughout the EU--to implement on 1st January. We shall consider most carefully the representations that have been made on that proposal. The FSA will, through the Department of Health, be referring to the results of that consultation.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, reminded us that we should not neglect fisheries. She asked specifically about the report of the independent salmon and fresh water fisheries review group. I can tell the noble Baroness that we intend to respond to that shortly; indeed, I hope before Christmas. We welcome this wide-ranging and extensive report, which, as she pointed out, contains many important recommendations for the future conservation and well-being of salmon and fresh water fisheries.
During discussions regarding the crisis in farm incomes and the need for investment in countryside stewardship, I heard the plea for early retirement schemes. In the consultation on the rural development plan, I have to say that it was difficult to find proposals that were specifically acceptable on early retirement. We have had to make choices about areas of priority, some of which have led to disappointment in other areas. We have to return to the initial low allocation of funds from the EU. But, equally, we are looking at ways of providing a future for farmers that will not only allow them to compete in world markets but will also enable them to get nearer to their market in this country.
I should point out to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, the work that MAFF is carrying out in sponsoring the whole food chain. Indeed, milk is a particular area of interest to the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. The different parts of the food chain--the retailers, the wholesalers and the manufacturers, as well as the primary producers--understand the pressures on each other. In the long term, that is to the benefit of primary producers, the farmers, and will help to encourage a recognition of the need for a home-based, stable supply. In the rural development plan, we are helping farmers through training or marketing grants to get into some of those markets, with high quality food well recognised in its sourcing, for which there are real markets in the future.
Perhaps I may say to the noble Baroness, Lady O'Cathain, and the noble Lord, Lord Plumb, that we recognise the additional burdens that the recent disastrous weather has placed on farmers. We have announced that we shall do everything we can to ensure that farmers who have lost crops through flooding will not lose out on their subsidies. That includes the possibility of setting aside all eligible land and relaxing the requirements for green cover on that land. If the wet weather continues into the spring, we shall, if necessary, seek an extension of the sowing deadline. All those issues are being addressed.
The noble Baroness, Lady Miller, asked about the Better Regulation Taskforce and a rural ombudsman. A similar suggestion was made by the Better Regulation Taskforce in its report of 15th November. We are considering carefully that and other recommendations. We shall respond formally early in the new year.
The noble Lord, Lord Palmer, was eloquent, as ever, in his support for liquid biofuels. That need was recognised in the Chancellor's announcement of the green fuels challenge. Under that initiative industry
Many noble Lords recognise that the issues which affect those who live in the country and traditionally work in agriculture go beyond simple support measures for agriculture. The noble Lord, Lord Plumb, referred to crime in rural areas. I hope that he will have welcomed the initiatives outlined in the rural White Paper and the £0.5 million support which the Government have made available through the rural stress action plan.
The issue of affordable housing was raised in relation to the rural economy and the encouragement of young people in rural areas to stay in their home areas. There is a great deal of support in the rural White Paper for affordable housing for those in rural areas and for increasing the amount of money available to the Housing Corporation, recognising the need to ensure that that housing stock remains available for local people who need it. That issue was raised by the noble Lord, Lord Mackie of Benshie. Between 2000 and 2003, we are almost doubling the funding for the Housing Corporation to fund affordable homes through housing associations. The starter homes initiatives will also be available for rural areas with high demand. We recognise the need. We are putting in place the resources and necessary administrative and legislative basis. The ability to charge 100 per cent rating on second properties, recycling that money into affordable housing, is an important weapon.
Reference was also made to climate change. The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Oxford raised those issues, which are much in debate following the climate change discussions in The Hague. Many European countries agreed on the package of proposals negotiated at The Hague. As the right reverend Prelate and other noble Lords know, we are keen to move forward in this area, where we have made much progress.In the end, however, we could not reach agreement because not all the EU countries agreed about the detail of the proposals. They were concerned that too many concessions had been made to the United States. However, we shall return to the negotiations early next year. We are hopeful of making progress.
The right reverend Prelate asked about carbon sinks. They were part of the Kyoto agreement. I believe that we should not try to reopen that deal. However, we recognise the concern about sinks. That is why our programme focuses on reversing the growth of manmade emissions of greenhouse gases. The Government lead the world in this area, as I think the noble Lord, Lord Ezra, highlighted in his speech. We shall have reduced our emissions to 23 per cent below the 1990 level by 2010.
However, exclusion from education goes far beyond simply straightforward segregation into special schools. The noble Baroness, Lady Sharp, pointed out that the lack of adult basic skills can exclude people from the jobs market. The noble Baroness, Lady Andrews, spoke of the exclusion of disadvantaged children who are not included in the ability to learn within the family and of the need for support for them.
My noble friend Lady Howells talked of the exclusion of black boys from mainstream education and the consequences that that can have for the future. We have put in place measures to address all of those issues and measures to deal with the need for a greater emphasis to be placed on vocational education through vocational A-levels, vocational GCSEs and foundation degrees to encourage wider participation by attracting many people who do not currently enter higher education.
The noble Baroness, Lady Walmsley, pointed out in her comments on nursery education that early education and childcare are vitally important. The Government agree with that and that is why among many early years initiatives we have introduced foundation stage and early learning goals. For the first time this critical period of children's development has been recognised with its own distinct identity and language.
The need to reduce bureaucracy in schools was raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Sharp. We want to cut out unnecessary paperwork. We are taking action to do that by rationalising the collection of data from schools and by issuing in January 2001 a code of practice which will specifically prohibit education authorities from duplicating communications and information demands.
However, we have to recognise that, in order to measure the progress of our young people throughout their school lives, we need an underlying structure to collect the relevant data. As ever in regulations, the issue is what is appropriate. The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, said that parents wanted schools free from bureaucratic controls. As a parent of one child who is still in state education, I am not sure that that is my top priority; it is to put right the many long years of under-investment by the previous administration, which the noble Baroness pinpointed. We have done exactly that. Under the 2000 Comprehensive Spending Review, UK education spending is planned to increase
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