HC Deb 27 March 1969 vol 780 cc1777-8
17. Mr. Buchanan-Smith

asked the Secretary of State for Economic Affairs in his assessment of the supply of labour in chapter 7 of "The Task Ahead" what estimate he has made of the ability of agriculture to continue the release of workers at the present rate.

Mr. Alan Williams

It is considered that manpower in the industry will continue to fall and output per head continue to rise at much the same rate as in recent years. This is consistent with the growth in output implied in the statement made by my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on 12th November, 1968.

Mr. Buchanan-Smith

Does the hon. Gentleman recall that the Report of the "Little Neddy" on agriculture said that the rate of outflow of workers from agriculture ought to be halved if the agricultural expansion programme were to be realised? Does he accept that, or has he abandoned the expansion programme for agriculture, as the latest Price Review seems to indicate?

Mr. Williams

As the hon. Gentleman knows, those assumptions about manpower were based on an import-saving increase of £220 million, whereas our programme is based on an import saving, over the period to 1972, of £160 million. Therefore, our manpower assumptions are consistent with our output assumptions. I might add that the Price Review is an extremely generous one. As my right hon. Friend pointed out, it is better than 12 out of the 13 produced by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite, and their 13th was before a General Election.

Mr. Speaker

Order. Questions and Answers are getting too long.