HC Deb 07 April 1960 vol 621 cc533-4
1. Mr. Langford-Holt

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by how much in the coming year he expects the agricultural industry will gain by increased efficiency; by how much this will be reduced by reduction of guarantees and increased cost; and what will be the reduced net income to the industry as a result of the 1960 Price Review.

The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. J. B. Godber)

Only a broad estimate can be made of the annual gain in efficiency, taking one year with another. In the Government's view, as stated in the recent Annual Review White Paper, the industry's efficiency continues to increase by at least £25 million a year for Review commodities. At the 1960 Review the net reduction in the guarantees, together with the increased costs, totalled about £22 million, leaving the industry with some £3 million of the estimated gain from increasing efficiency. The calculations cannot be exact, but the Annual Review determinations should enable the industry at least to maintain the present level of net income.

Mr. Langford-Holt

Is my hon. Friend aware that it is the view of the National Farmers' Union that over the last five years the incomes of the agricultural industry, as opposed to other incomes, have decreased, and would he not agree that it is the responsibility of the House and his job to see that that does not arise?

Mr. Godber

I know the claims made by the National Farmers' Union in regard to this point. It all depends, of course, upon the date from which one takes one's comparisons. I would not say that over the last five years incomes have, in fact, decreased. Over the last three years they have been maintained on a fairly high level on the adjusted to normal weather conditions. They are certainly higher than in the two previous years. I realise the views expressed by the farmers, but I think that the determinations which we made were fair and just.

Mr. Willey

Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that he gave me figures the other day which showed that the incomes had dropped 10 per cent. under the present Government, whichever figures we take?

Mr. Godber

The figures to which the hon. Gentleman is referring are those adjusted to real terms, but in order to get the true picture of the incomes which farmers have at their disposal it must be remembered that a certain proportion of this is money used for capital investment, and in recent years the Government have been providing very considerable assistance outside the Price Review towards capital expenditure.