§ The Minister of Agriculture (Mr. R. S. Hudson)
The Government have reviewed the whole situation in regard to agricultural prices in the light of the undertakings given and all available information on the economic condition of the industry. When prices were last reviewed in February, 1942, to take account of the increase in the agricultural minimum wage to 60s. per week, Ministers told the leaders of National Farmers' Unions that it was the Government's view that on the occasion of each general review of prices it was permissible to consider the whole course of farmers' costs and receipts from 1940, when the system of fixed prices was first introduced, up to the time of the review. As I informed the House on 8th July, in reply to a Question by my hon. Friend the Member for Stone (Sir J. Lamb), the Agricultural Wages Board, which includes representatives of both the farmers' and workers' unions, was informed in November, 1942, that the Government would not contemplate 387 an automatic general increase in prices to cover the cost of any increase in the national minimum wage.
The Government recognise, however, that with changing conditions certain disparities have developed between the returns received by different classes of producers and from different branches of production. The Government have always made it clear that they reserved the right to adjust the prices of particular commodities, up or down, according to the requirements of food production policy. The Government consider that the time has now come for a review to see whether some moderate change of emphasis is desirable and possible. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and I accordingly propose to discuss this question forthwith with the industry.
In addition, I am also able to announce that the War Cabinet have authorised my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland and myself to start discussions with representatives of the agricultural industry as to agricultural policy, both in the transitional period immediately after the end of hostilities and in the post-war period. These discussions will be of an exploratory character and confidential; and reports will be made from time to time to the War Cabinet on their progress.
§ Sir Joseph Lamb
May I express my appreciation and the appreciation of the industry for the announcement which the Minister of Agriculture has just made with regard to the question of consultation on future policy; and may I ask whether it is not a fact fiat that was really the request that was made by official agriculture and not one for a present announcement of policy at the moment?