HC Deb 06 November 1961 vol 648 cc592-3
8. Mr. Bullard

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has yet estimated whether the cost to the Exchequer of the price guarantees under the Agriculture Acts in the current year to date is running at a higher or lower figure than in 1960; what is the amount of the difference; and which commodities mainly contribute to it.

Mr. Soames

As at 30th September payments under the price arrangements for all commodities in the current financial year were £40 million higher than in the corresponding six months of 1960–61. The commodities mainly contributing to this increase are fat cattle, sheep, cereals and potatoes.

Mr. Bullard

While recognising the need to keep this figure as low as possible, will my right hon. Friend bear in mind that the figure has not risen very much of recent years and that even in a complete year it may not turn out to be all that much bigger than in the previous year? In the talks in which my right hon. Friend is about to be engaged, will he be slow to abandon a system which has served many interests, not merely farmers and farm workers, but consumers and traders, lest he is absolutely compelled to adopt some other alternative?

Mr. Soames

As to the outcome for the whole year, I cannot forecast, as my hon. Friend appreciates, but I think my hon. Friend will agree that the figure for the first six months is considerably increased on the previous year. As to the second part of his question, I yield to none in my belief in the benefits that have flowed to the country as a whole from the use of our system of agricultural support.