HC Deb 30 May 1960 vol 624 cc975-7
12. Mr. Lipton

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he proposes to begin his discussions with the National Farmers' Union regarding the future of British agriculture.

13. Mr. Jeger

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food whether he will make a statement on his recent talks with the President of the National Farmers' Union; and what arrangements have been made for further discussions on matters arising out of the last Price Review, in view of the dissatisfaction existing amongst farmers.

Mr. John Hare

I am meeting the president of the National Farmers' Union this week to discuss with him the topics which might usefully be brought into these discussions.

Mr. Lipton

Having been kicked into these further negotiations by the Prime Minister, will the right hon. Gentleman now admit that the widespread dissatisfaction of the farming community with the Price Review is abundantly justified? Will he say exactly which points he proposes to discuss with the representatives of the farmers in the forthcoming negotiations?

Mr. Hare

I do not know what happens in the ranks of the Labour Party, but in my party we are not kicked about. When I meet the president of the National Farmers' Union we shall decide which subjects are to be discussed, but I hope that the hon. Member is under no misconception; these are not negotiations but discussions of some problems which confront the industry. I hope that these discussions will get rid of some of the very definite misunderstandings which have arisen, probably as a result of some of the Questions put down by the hon. Member.

Mr. Jeger

Is the right hon. Gentleman not aware that there is considerable anxiety on all sides of the agricultural industry on two subjects—first, on the future of the home industry, and, secondly, on the future of the Minister? Are both those items on the agenda for the discussions?

Mr. Hare

The hon. Member is too kind for words. He is most solicitous about my future. As for the general discussions, we shall be deciding what should form our agenda when I have talks with the president of the National Farmers' Union this week.

Mr. Hilton

If the Minister is to have consultations about the future of British agriculture, will he also bring into those consultations the leaders of the farm workers—the National Union of Agricultural Workers—which I believe he will agree may have a very valuable contribution to make to such discussions?

Mr. Hare

As the hon. Gentleman knows, I am only too willing to meet representatives of the National Union of Agricultural Workers and other bodies, such as the Central Landowners Association, at any time, but these discussions are between the National Farmers' Union and the Government, and the idea of the discussions is that they should take place outside the pressure of the Annual Review. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that, if he or any of his friends wish to come to see me, I shall be only too pleased to meet them.

Mr. Turton

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the whole of the industry welcomes the approach he is making to the National Farmers' Union and looks forward to a reappraisal?

Mr. Hare

I thank my right hon. Friend very much.

Mr. Willey

Whilst appreciating that the right hon. Gentleman is not being kicked, may I ask him if he realises that we are delighted to know that he has moved from the complacency he showed during the debate on the Price Review? Can we be assured that the Prime Minister himself will report to the House on the new Tory policy on agriculture?

Mr. Hare

I do not know anything about a new Tory policy on agriculture. What we are doing is to discuss certain of the problems confronting the industry and to remove some of the misunderstandings. There are four questions down on the Order Paper tomorrow to my right hon. Friend and Prime Minister. Therefore, I cannot anticipate his replies. As for complacency, the hon. Gentleman believes in repetition, but repetition does not necessarily make things true.