HC Deb 03 April 1968 vol 762 cc341-4
5. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what forecast he has made of the increase in net farming income adjusted to normal weather conditions for 1968–69.

Mr. John Mackie

The forecast of net farming income for 1968–69 adjusted to normal weather conditions will not be available until next year.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Does not the Minister realise that the £40 million award in the 1967 Price Review has ended up with an increase in farmers' incomes, adjusted for weather, of only £13½ million? Does he expect farmers to absorb £16 million of costs under the present Review and at the same time to increase their income?

Mr. Mackie

I do not see what that has to do with the Question. The farm income year starts on 1st June and does not finish until the end of the following May. We must look at prices, markets, weather and everything else before we can make that forecast.

10. Mr. Hawkins

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food when he expects to publish the revised series raised sample forecast for aggregate farming net income for 1967–68.

Mr. John Mackie

The data for such an estimate is collected during the summer and my right hon. Friend will publish the result following the 1969 Annual Review.

Mr. Hawkins

Does the Minister agree that this series, which is based on actual results, is nearer the truth than the Departmental estimate, and will he investigate why there is now a 25 per cent. difference between the two estimates?

Mr. Mackie

The estimate about which the hon. Gentleman is speaking, the one done on the basis of data supplied by the universities, is based on a sample of 3,600 farms. The hon. Gentleman may not know that it does not include a great many horticultural and intensive pig and poultry units. It is a different figure, but the trend in this series is roughly the same, except in the past two years. The average end point of these results is in February and the other results are, as I explained to the hon. Member for North Angus and Mearns (Mr. Buchanan-Smith), for the year ending 31st May. That explains the recent difference in trend, because last year there was a very good spring. Less feedingstuff was used and more milk was produced, and that made the big difference about which the hon. Gentleman is worried.

Mr. Brewis

Does the Minister agree that farm income is not rising at the expected rate, and is tending to fall?

Mr. Mackie

If the hon. Gentleman looks at the figures he will see that it is rising fairly evenly all along. If he projected the three-year average he would see that there is a fairly straight run of a rise in incomes in agriculture.

Mr. Godber

On that last answer, presumably the Joint Parliamentary Secretary rests his case on the so-called actual figure and not the raised sample, which is what the Question was on. If he takes the three-year sample on that, it is going downhill rapidly.

Mr. Mackie

As I explained, the £410 million to £400 million of the revised series—[Interruption.]—I was coming to the £371 million. I explained this previously. The right hon. Gentleman did not listen, or did not want to listen to my Answer, because there are none so deaf as those who will not hear. The difference in trend was because of the high figure in the spring last year of milk returns and the low amount of feedingstuffs used. If the hon. Gentleman cares, I shall give him the actual figures and calculations and I think that he will find that I am right.

12. Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what has been the real increase in farmers' net income since March, 1965, after allowing for personal taxation and changes in the index of retail prices.

Mr. John Mackie

It is not possible to estimate the change in farmers' net income after tax since March, 1965, because details of the tax position of individual farmers are not available.

Mr. Irvine

Is it not possible to give an indication of the income position? Surely the figures are fully available? The Government are always saying that increases in income should be the reward of corresponding increases in productivity. Since farming is a leader in increased productivity, should farmers not be leaders in getting increased incomes?

Mr. Mackie

I do not see what that issue has to do with the Question on the Order Paper. The hon. Gentleman knows that individual Income Tax returns are private and that we do not have access to them.

Sir A. V. Harvey

Have the Government taken into account the high rates of interest paid by farmers on money they borrow—the highest on record? What is he going to do about it if he wants to expand agricultural policy?

Mr. Mackie

Interest rates are taken into account in the Annual Price Review, as the hon. Gentleman knows.