HC Deb 21 June 1948 vol 452 cc946-8
56. Mr. Vane

asked the Minister of Agriculture for what reasons he will not publish the farm accounts of each C.A.E.C. separately.

Mr. T. Williams

It would be invidious and misleading to publish farm accounts of C.A.E.C.'s separately without detailed statements of local conditions and circumstances, which vary widely as between county and county. The expenditure of time and manpower on the compilation and publication of 61 such statements would not in my view be justified. As I have already announced, however, it has been decided to publish, on a departmental basis for all committees, trading accounts for the current and succeeding financial years.

Mr. Vane

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that his reply is most unconvincing and can he explain how he will produce a bulk account if he has not, first, put the 61 separate accounts together? How does he expect us to understand that less time and manpower will be entailed in producing a bulk account than in producing the 61 accounts separately?

Mr. Williams

As the hon. Member has been informed, the differences between county and county are so abnormal that obnoxious comparisons would be made between one county and another. The hon. Member must be aware that land taken over by various county agricultural committees from common lands, land set apart for building and all the uneconomic pieces of land that were taken over, would be subject to treatment if accounts were provided county by county.

Mr. Dye

May I address this point to my right hon. Friend? Bearing in mind that most members of the executive committees are now nominated by their respective organisations, how can these organisations judge the respective merits of their nominees if they have no report of the work that they do when they are on the executive committees?

Viscount Hinchingbrooke

Why it is worse to publish the accounts of independent agricultural executive committees than to publish the accounts of independent commercial businesses, some of whom may be doing well and others badly?

Mr. Williams

By the same rule, as the noble Lord is aware, the Coal Board will not publish accounts for every colliery or, indeed, for every company because, as hon. Members may or may not be aware, collieries vary. Counties vary and parishes vary—[An HON. MEMBER: "Ministers vary."] Because of those facts I am not prepared to publish the accounts county by county.

Captain Crookshank

How is it that the accounts of 61 counties would be misleading whereas aggregate accounts of the whole lot would not be misleading?

Mr. Williams

I think the right hon. and gallant Gentleman can answer the question himself as easily as I can answer it. He must know that county by county there are very wide variations, but so long as the House of Commons and the nation know the full content of farming operations by county agricultural executive committees, I think that is all they are entitled to know.

Mr. De la Bère

Tell us the awful truth.

Mr. Skeffington-Lodge

Would it not be an excellent thing to encourage healthy rivalry between the counties and is not this Government there to do that sort of thing?

Sir Stanley Reed

Will the right hon. Gentleman recognise that the absence of the accounts leads to fantastic estimates as to the expenditure incurred and reacts on the authority and prestige of county agricultural executive committees?

Mr. Williams

I do not think so.

Mr. Godfrey Nicholson

Does the right hon. Gentleman think that all agricultural knowledge is concentrated within the four walls of his Ministry? Is he not aware that those in agriculture know the difference between counties and can make the necessary allowances?

Mr. Vane

In view of the most timid and completely unsatisfactory answer of the right hon. Gentleman, I beg to give notice that I will raise the matter again at the earliest opportunity.

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