§ 13. Mr. de Freitas
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he received the copy, sent to him by the 10 hon. Member for Lincoln, of a telegram from the chairman of the Lincolnshire Farmers' Union concerning the recent official statement by Her Majesty's Government that the efficiency of the agricultural industry continues to increase at a rate of £25 million per annum; if he will consider publishing the evidence on which this estimate is based; and if he will make a statement.
§ Mr. Godber
My right hon. Friend received a copy of the telegram from the hon. Member on 16th March. In addition, I received a copy direct on 11th March.
As stated in the recent Annual Review White Paper, only a broad estimate can be made of the gain in efficiency, taking one year with another. The estimate of £25 million which has been used for a number of years is equivalent to about 2 per cent. of the annual value of gross output. Confirmation of this estimate is provided by the level of normal net income which, notwithstanding cost increases and changes in the guaranteed prices, has been maintained at a high level.
§ Mr. de Freitas
Is the Joint Parliamentary Secretary aware that the agricultural community in Lincolnshire, both farmers and farm workers, have become more and more resentful of the fact that this figure is used as a basis for an attack on their standard of living without any evidence being provided that it has any basis in fact?
§ Mr. Godber
I am aware of the feelings expressed by some producers in Lincolnshire—I have contacts there, as has the hon. Member—but I would not accept that this figure is used as the basis of an attack on their standard of living. If the hon. Member looks at the figures over the years, he will see that the net incomes on a normal basis have been maintained at a relatively high level over the last few years.
§ Mr. Peart
The Question concerned Lincolnshire. Have the views of the National Farmers' Union been conveyed to the Minister on this broad issue, or has there been agreement?
§ Mr. Godber
I take it that I am asked whether we have received the views of the National Farmers' Union in relation to the figure of £25 million. The N.F.U. 11 has always raised this point at Price Review discussions, but it has not in general seen fit to challenge the fact that there should be a figure for efficiency of about the figure which we have stipulated.