HC Deb 29 July 1946 vol 426 cc519-21
68. Mr. Hurd

asked the Minister of Agriculture what proportion of the extra sum which farmers are now paying in wages is met by the increase in farm produce prices which he has announced.

Mr. Collick

The aggregate increase in farmers' returns for the United Kingdom as a whole resulting in a full year from the price increases on products covered by the price review procedure represents 93 per cent. of the aggregate cost to farmers of the extra wage payments, making no allowance for possible economies in labour. No account has been taken in this calculation of the proposed additional payments to producers of milk, pigs and eggs in respect of loss of feeding-stuffs.

Mr. Hurd

How does the Minister reconcile the reply that 93 per cent. of the cost of the better wages is being met by the new prices with the statement being made by responsible farmers, both small and large, that in their own cases only 14s. out of every £ extra paid in wages is met by the new prices? Will the Minister have a look at the figures again?

Mr. Collick

I am not unfamiliar with the point which the hon. Gentleman has made, but I do not think the figure I have given will be disputed—that it is 93 per cent. of the actual costs which the industry has to pay for hired wage labour that we are recouping by additional prices.

Mr. M. Philips Price

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that in those figures no allowance is made for the labour of the working family of the farmers?

Mr. Collick

I was answering the Question about the proportion of the extra sum which farmers are now paying in wages, and the point the hon. Gentleman has raised is rather different.

Mr. York

How much of the 93 per cent. which the hon. Gentleman has just mentioned is being paid to farmers who do not employ any labour at all?

Mr. Collick

That is a rather different point. I have given the precise information for the overall position. If the hon. Gentleman wants that subdivided in some particular way, I think he should give me exact notice of that, so that one can be absolutely precise in the reply one makes on what is a tremendously important matter.

Mr. Turton

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the percentage varies very much in different parts of the country? In the North of England it is far less than 90 per cent.—somewhere in the region of 50 per cent. or 60 per cent.

Mr. Collick

It is just because I was so aware that I was unwilling to be committed by the question raised.

Mr. Nicholson

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that a farmer's working costs per ton have increased very much this season? Is he also aware that the vast majority of the farming community view the sort of statement just made as more or less nonsense?

Mr. Vane

On the question of subdivision, can the Parliamentary Secretary say whether the whole of this cost is being borne by subsidy, or in part being borne by the consumer?

Mr. Collick

I think the hon. Gentleman will perhaps do better by giving notice of that exact question.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Would the hon. Gentleman say, since these are United Kingdom figures, and in view of the fact that Scotland has been given different treatment from England, whether he still agrees that it is the same all over, namely, 93 per cent.?

Mr. Collick

The figure of 93 per cent. is the average covering Scotland and ourselves. I am aware that there may be something in the point which the hon. and gallant Gentleman has mentioned about the peculiarities of Scotland.

Mr. Baldwin

May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether cutting out all trimmings, the real answer is that out of £25 million, which the industry is charged with in respect of extra wages, it is only being allowed £17 million back in increased prices?

Mr. Collick

No, Sir, I could not agree to that at all. The position has been fairly stated in my original answer, namely, 93 per cent. of the cost to which the industry is put in the actual payment of wage-labour which is hired by farmers.

Mr. Dc la Bère

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is thoroughly unsatisfactory?