HC Deb 31 March 1958 vol 585 cc828-9
14. Mr. Willey

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether figures of the spendable income of farmers are agreed for the purposes of the Annual Price Review negotiations; and if he will publish these figures.

Mr. Godber

I would refer the hon. Member to the reply given to my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, South (Mr. J. E. B. Hill) on 21st March, 1958, in which the figures of spendable income from 1947–48 onwards were given. The Farmers' Unions have not challenged the data on which these figures are based or the calculations involved, but there is not agreement on the inferences to be drawn from them.

Mr. Willey

Is the Parliamentary Secretary aware that he said these figures were agreed when we had the debate on the Agriculture Bill but that now the National Farmers' Union has denied that they were agreed, maintaining that real farming income is 8 per cent. lower in 1957 than it was in 1948, despite a rise in output of some 22 per cent.?

Mr. Godber

I have seen the announcement that was put out by the National Farmers' Union. I certainly had no intention of misleading the House. I understood that these figures were agreed, but we can all draw such inferences as we choose from any such figures. I am aware of the suggestion of the N.F.U. that farmers' income is down by that amount, but this depends entirely on the way in which one interprets the figures, and the interpretation which I have given is, I believe, the right one.

Mr. T. Williams

Instead of creating doubt and anxiety about the accuracy or what-not of the figures which the hon. Gentleman has given, would he not agree that confusion is bound to arise when he is giving a figure and drawing conclusions which are not agreed conclusions, and will he endeavour to supplement the reply he gave on 21st March in order to clarify the whole position on value, as well as on £ notes?

Mr. Godber

These figures were based on value, not on £ notes. They were real figures in the sense that they relate to 1948 terms. We tried to make it clear as far as possible that they were real figures, and I assure the right hon. Gentleman on that. If he would care to check, I think he will see that that is so.

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