HC Deb 11 March 1957 vol 566 cc787-8
30. Mr. Hamilton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what steps he intends to take to ensure that farming subsidies shall be paid only to those who need them.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Derick Heathcoat Amory)

I have no intention of introducing into the present arrangements under the Agriculture Act, 1947. a means test which would do nothing to promote economic production and better farming. The present arrangements are properly regarded as an alternative to tariffs which do not discriminate according to the financial position of those who benefit from them. The best way of helping the less successful farmers is to stimulate and assist the improvement of their management and husbandry, and this is one of the objects of the free advisory services provided by the Government, of production grants and the new Farm Improvement Scheme.

Mr. Hamilton

While I would not quarrel with the principles underlying that reply, is it not Government policy, particularly in housing subsidies, that subsidies should be given only to people who need them? If that is the principle enunciated by the Government, surely it should be applied all round. Is the explanation the fact that there are more farmers sitting on the benches opposite than there are council house tenants?

Mr. Amory

No. If the hon. Member thinks out the comparison he has made I think he will find that it is not appropriate in this case. As I have to see that the nation receives the maximum benefit from agricultural support, I could not justify a system which did not encourage the most progressive and efficient farmers as well as the less successful.

48. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make arrangements for the avoidance of subsidy payments on agricultural produce which is exported.

Mr. Amory

No, Sir. I do not consider such an arrangement to be required, even if it were practicable.

Mr. Willey

Will the right hon. Gentleman look at this again, because, surely, in future we might be in difficulties when we might want to make representations about dumping, and we should be very prejudiced if we continued this practice, in spite of the protests which have been made to us by some continental countries?

Mr. Amory

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that the agricultural subsidies are paid on all production, whether it is for domestic consumption or for export.

Mr. Willey

Surely the right hon. Gentleman concedes that these are consumer subsidies? Is it not a fantastic position when we are subsidising the foreign consumer but not the domestic housewife?

Mr. Amory

No, I would not agree with the hon. Gentleman. These are producer subsidies.

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