asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will reconsider the case of the farmer living in South Worcestershire whose application for a grant under the Farm Improvement Scheme has been rejected because he applied for a grant in respect of a building only to be erected on existing foundations instead of a grant for both erection of the building and construction of the foundations.
I cannot agree that this application was rejected for the reason suggested in the Question. My right hon. Friend explained the reason fully in a letter which he sent to my hon. Friend on 20th November last, to which I regret I have nothing to add.
Have we not now arrived at the position where this farmer, if he chooses to submit an application for a grant to cover the cost of new foundations and of the new building to go upon them, will succeed in drawing a larger amount of public money than if the Ministry were to give him permission to erect the building on the existing foundations? Does not this point to the need for a more rational administration of this basically excellent farm improvement scheme?
There are two points here. The first is that my noble Friend made it abundantly clear on 30th January last that any work started would not qualify for grant, and that would rule out a case such as this. The other point is that any proposal under the Farm Improvement Scheme has first to be agreed with our technical officers who have to approve it as a correct development. They could not very well do so if the project had been started to such an extent as this one before an application was made.
Is my hon. Friend aware that the farmer is prepared to submit an application to cover only the cost of a new building on the foundations which he already has?
I am aware of the facts of the case. I regret that we are unable to help. We must have very clear-cut rules at the outset of an important scheme of this nature. I am very sorry, but I am afraid that the case falls outside the scheme.