Orders of the Day — Crime and Punishment (Scotland) Bill
Mr Edward Garnier (Harborough)
The hon. Gentleman displays yet again, and unfailingly, the Labour party's attitude towards any form of positive improvement of the countryside. I wish that the public would realise precisely what they are in for if they sleep-walk into a Labour Government.
I reiterate the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Sir K. Carlisle), whose departure from the House is much to be regretted, on the benefits of the countryside stewardship scheme, which has allowed an increasing number of hedges to be planted and to be maintained in the past few years. The countryside is not to be viewed as something in aspic, destined always to remain the same.
To take another example from East Anglia, in south-west Norfolk, quite near Thetford, the part that I come from, there used not to be a hedge between our house and Ely cathedral 250 years ago. That position has completely changed as a result of farmers' need and desire to plant hedges, so the myth and the lies put about by the Labour party are much to be regretted, and will, I hope, be dealt with roundly.
I praise the co-operation of the Government with those interested in the countryside environment. It is a pity that the hon. Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Ms Ruddock) was unable to understand the need for central and local government to work with parish councils and with the farming community. That is the best way in which to achieve the best results.
May I ask my hon. Friend the Minister whether farmers will be required to pay a fee to accompany their applications, if they should make one? If so, what is the likely level of those fees?
That is all I wish to say. I thank my hon. Friend the Minister for bringing forward this measure for discussion and I trust that, before 1 June, when it comes into effect, proper and adequate consultations will be held with all interested parties.