§ Mr. Speaker
I have selected the Amendment which stands in the name of the Prime Minister and the names of his right hon. Friends. Every farming constituency Member wishes to speak in this agricultural debate and I shall be able to call a good selection only if speeches are reasonably brief.
§ 3.48 p.m.
§ Mr. Joseph Godber (Grantham)
I beg to move,That this House, recalling that on 12th November, 1968, the Minister of Agriculture promised to provide adequate resources to match the requirements of an expansion planned for British agriculture with the object of securing a net import saving of £160 million per annum by 1972–73, deplores the complete failure of Her Majesty's Government to live up to these promises in this year's Price Review.This is a debate about the agricultural expansion programme that never was. The charge in our Motion is clear and specific. The Minister made a statement on 12th November and at the time claimed that it represented something new. The farmers believed him. Evidence of this is in what the President of the N.F.U. said that day:The announcement sets the stage for Britain's farmers and growers to make a major contribution, through further massive import saving, to the nation's struggle to achieve a favourable balance of payments.That was the view of the N.F.U. at the time of that statement.
The week before last, the Minister announced the outcome of this year's Price Review. Again, leaders of the N.F.U. gave their view in a resolution which included a paragraph which I want to quote directly in contrast to the quotation I have just given. This is an extract from the resolution that they passed on the day on which the announcement was made:The N.F.U. rejects the 1969 Annual Review results because they provide neither the resources nor the necessary assurances on import regulation to enable the industry confidently to maintain production at its present level let alone to finance further expansion.41 The last sentence of the resolution said:Since the industry's legitimate expectations from this Review have not been been fulfilled, the result is bound to undermine any remaining confidence farmers had in the reality and sincerity of the Government's agricultural policy.Those are harsh words. I call attention specifically to the word "legitimate" in the last sentence, because it is quite clear that it was a direct reference to the statement the Minister made on 12th November.
No doubt the Minister himself will mention the N.F.U. view about Conservative policy. That may be a fair debating point in this Chamber, but the right hon. Gentleman must realise that he is the Minister responsible for the present welfare of the farming industry. It is his and his Government's present actions which require justification here at the present time. It is also his personal position that requires a full explanation from him.
In his statement on 12th November the Minister referred specifically to a saving on imports at the end of four years of about £160 million a year. Later, he said:The development of the programme, its cost, the resources required and the market situation will clearly have to be examined by the industry at each Annual Review."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 213.]That was fair enough, but he went even further at his Press conference on that same day. He then said, according to the Farmers Weekly:… the industry could be assured that 'the resources will be allocated'. … We have got to try to match the price reviews over these next four years to the objectives of the expansion plan.Nothing could be much more specific than that.
Therefore, our charge against the Minister is that he personally is responsible for grossly misleading our farmers. It is no good hon. and right hon. Members on the Treasury Bench laughing at that statement: it is fact, as I will bring home to them a little later. The Minister had no right to talk so glibly about expansion if he did not have the assurance of his colleagues that they would provide the necessary financial resources. If they did give him those assurances and then let him down, why did he not resign? If they did not give him those 42 assurances, why did he mislead our farmers by pretending last November that his colleagues had done so? Those are the two questions he must come clean about with the House. He must tell us precisely, because in statements made since the announcement of the price review the Minister has pretended that he is living up to all his promises of last November. That is palpably absurd.
I have already quoted the reaction of the N.F.U. The farming Press has also been very specific. Just one sentence from the editorial of each of the two main farming journals is sufficient. The Farmers Weekly said:.. the industry has not only been denied the resources—it has seen the most cynical and casual rejection of a declared policy since the years of the agricultural depression.The Farmer and Stockbreeder said:There is one fact beyond argument. Never again should agriculture accept, or believe, or act upon any promise or declaration or statement of this present Government, after the greatest let-down since 1920.That puts the position fairly clearly. The farming Press refers also to the Minister's expansion plan as being the sickest joke of all, and that is how the farmers regard it at present.
The Minister showed indignation in November when we on this side questioned the validity of his expansion programme, but who has the right to show indignation now? I submit that every one of our farmers has that right. The Minister, and no one else, has misled Britain's farmers.
What is the Minister's defence? It is not that he has been over-ruled by his colleagues. He has made the claim that he has not misled anyone, and he says that this Review honours his pledges. That is what I understand him to say, but if he intends to say anything different I shall be very interested. In passing, one should say that one admires here his loyalty to his colleagues, because it is a loyalty which is conspicuously absent among other Ministers on other subjects at the present time.
But if he is making that claim, absurd though it is, we ought to look at the hard facts of the situation as they really exist. The facts, quite simply are these. Last year we had the report of the N.E.D.C. for agriculture, which expressed the view that it was possible to secure 43 expansion amounting to £345 million worth of extra production in five years. It said that this would lead to a direct import saving of £220 million a year at the end of that period. N.E.D.C. believed that to be possible.
The Minister himself thought that some of that view was a little ambitious. He gave his figure as £160 million, but he was talking of four years as opposed to the N.E.D.C. five, so he was not scaling down the amount very much. He did not tell us what, in his view, it would mean in actual increased production—he talked only of import saving—but on the basis of his £160 million one assumes that he must have been thinking of about £250 million to £300 million of actual increased production if he wants to reach his target.
If that is so, it is fairly simple to calculate what this would mean in terms of an annual percentage increase in production. I estimate that increase as being 4 per cent. a year for each of those four years. That is a fair estimate on an interpretation of what the Minister was then proposing. If that is what is to be achieved, we should look at how production has been going over the last few years: Only then can we see what is the increased task which is to be placed before the industry.
If one looks at the statistics for this year's Annual Price Review, we find in page 29 of the White Paper that since the present Government have been responsible for our agriculture, production has gone up, not by the 4 per cent. a year I was talking about as a target, and not by 3 per cent. a year. It has gone up by 3 per cent. in total over 4 years—an increase of less than 1 per cent. per year. That is the record.
I know that bad weather depressed production last year, and one should certainly make allowances for that. At the same time, bad weather must not be blamed for all the set-back last year, because although we had bad weather conditions in the South and East, Scotland and the North of England had excellent conditions, and even the Minister cannot deny that Welsh farmers in general had fairly good conditions last year. One should not therefore say that the total set-back last year was wholly due to the weather.
44 But even if one ignores last year, in order to be quite fair to the Minister, and takes the results of the previous three years, they alone show a rise of barely 2 per cent. a year on average. This means that putting the most favourable interpretation on the Minister's own position, he would have to achieve a rise of at least double the trend of recent years in order to reach his own target figure for import saving. That is why when he gave that figure of £160 million last November, and when he said that the resources would be made available, our farmers looked for a really big boost at this Price Review. That is why they feel betrayed today.
As to the farmers' net income, at £477 million it is £39 million down this year, and back almost to the level of four years ago. But if it is back to the same figure as that of four years ago, it means a big fall in purchasing power because of the inflation which the Government have stimulated. Incomes have, in fact, now fallen back from the high point of 1964 to something below the level of 10 years ago.
In a document from the National Farmers Union, which I imagine most hon. Members will have seen this morning, there is an interesting graph. It shows that farm income in terms of purchasing power is now below the level of 100 which is taken for the average of 1954–55 and 1956–57. For the first time since 1959 the income has dropped below that average. The Parliamentary Secretary confirmed that in a Written Answer which appeared in HANSARD on Friday at c. 387. He gave figures estimated by the Department which showed, taking 1954–55 as the basis, that the income is down below the 100 this year for the first time for 10 years. That shows the extent to which farmers are suffering at present. It is against that that this Price Review has to be judged and against that that talk of expansion has to be judged.
The Minister has been justifying himself by saying that, with two exceptions, this Review is the best for 20 years. If so, by heavens it had to be, in view of the circumstances which I have stated, but even that is disputed by the farmers' leaders. In the document we received from them this morning there is a paragraph to which the Minister must address 45 himself. I ask him specifically to do so. It says, on page 2:It is absurd for the Minister of Agriculture to claim … that apart from the 1964 and 1967 Reviews 'this is the best Review for 20 years'.It goes on:Since 1949, there have been five Reviews in which the determinations, in relation to cost changes, were better than in 1969.It spells that out for the years 1952, 1955, 1961, 1964 and 1967, and it goes on:But this kind of arithmetical juggling is completely irrelevant when judged against farmers' legitimate expectation of a real attempt by Government on this occasion to deal with the long-run deterioration in the industry's real income position.Again observe the word "legitimate". That word is there solely because the Minister raised their hopes last November. It is that specific charge to which he has to reply when he speaks today.
The Minister also told us that this was the biggest ever increase for beef and for cereals. What about the cost increases over the last two years? It is no good talking about increases in the degree of price if the costs have also gone up. The House may be interested when I quote from a letter I have received from a constituent who is a genuine farmer, certainly not one who takes an interest in party politics. He sent me his views on this Review and said:As an arable farmer and a beef producer I presume that I had got nearly everything (except lamb) that the Review has to offer. A few calculations on my last three years' production average show that of the increase two-thirds will be swallowed up by increased labour costs, leaving only one-third for all other expenditure. This simple arithmetic will show a minus figure. It is certainly a standstill Review and I cannot see anyone striving for increased production. If we are not careful we shall get back to the agricultural economics of the early thirties. 'The less you spend, the less you lose'.That was from a practical farmer whose main interest is in beef and his second interest is in barley. That is a charge which the Minister has to face if he is trying to tell the people that he has honoured his pledge even in relation to beef and cereals. That is what he tried to justify and this is the condemnation by a working farmer.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
Is the right hon. Gentleman 46 seriously suggesting that as the leading spokesman on agriculture for the Opposition Front Bench he should put before the House the private opinion of one agricultural constituent of his—[HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]—as the sole evidence on the question of costs? [HON. MEMBERS: "He was not doing so."]
§ Mr. Godber
If the hon. Member thinks that that is the sole evidence he cannot have been listening to my argument. This farmer is probably one of the most respected in Lincolnshire. He was President of the Fatstock Show last year.
§ Mr. Godber
That was a fact by a practising farmer; that is what matters. The Minister told us that this was the biggest ever increase, and that is the answer given by a practical farmer.
When we are thinking of expansion we have to think how difficult it is for farmers to borrow money today. With Bank Rate at 8 per cent. he would be a lucky farmer who could borrow at 9½ per cent. Why should he take the risk when his income is slipping back and he sees the Minister flouting his promises in the way that this Minister has done? This is the seriousness of the situation. The Minister has to justify it, I shall be very interested to hear the grounds on which he proposes to justify it.
Her Majesty's Government have put down an Amendment to our Motion. The first part of the Amendmentcongratulates Her Majesty's Government on their decisions on the Annual Farm Price Review which place the right emphasis on those commodities where expansion is wanted in the interests of the agricultural industry and of the economy".That part is an insult to farmers throughout the country. In particular it is an insult to the leaders of the N.F.U. after what they have said. Do hon. Members opposite who represent farming constituencies, including the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), actually congratulate Her Majesty's Government on this Review? [HON. MEMBERS:"Yes."] Do they indeed? I shall be interested to see whether they support the Government in the Lobby tonight. If they do, it will 47 be for one reason only, the reason which the Prime Minister spelled out somewhat unkindly once before—because the time for renewing the "dog licence" is getting very near.
As for the rest of the Amendment, it is hypocrisy—pretty nauseating hypocrisy. Every signatory of this Amendment voted on 10th May, 1967, for entry to the Common Market, which would put up food prices far more than would our policy. Every signatory of that Amendment supported devaluation of the £—every one. It is true that only one went so far as to say, "The £ in your pocket or your purse has not been devalued". The others must have known what the effect of devaluation would be.
In the event, since devaluation the price of food has risen by at least at much as it would rise in three years as a result of our policy. It has risen by 6.7 per cent. and the cost of living as a whole has risen by over 7 per cent. We have estimated that our policy would increase food costs by about 6 per cent. spread over three years. The Minister more or less endorsed that when he said in a recent Answer that his view was that it would be between 4 per cent. and 7 per cent. We would be in a position to give some compensating benefit to those who have to bear the increases, but there are no compensating benefits to housewives from devaluation. If hon. Members do not believe that they should ask the Postmaster-General.
The most bogus part of the Amendment is the last part, the implication of which is that the Government are really taking action to protect the housewife. How much did last year's Budget help the housewife, adding £923 million in taxation? What about the extra £250 million in November? And what about the next one? How much is the Transport Act adding to the cost of living? How much is 8 per cent. Bank Rate adding to the cost of living? What about S.E.T., which hits the distributive trade so hard? There are plenty more, as every occupant of the Treasury Bench knows so well.
These are not the men to be talking about protecting the housewife, because whenever they are in power it is the housewife above all who suffers. Let us 48 look at what happened before. When we took over in 1951, the cost of living was rising at 6½ per cent. a year. Within a year or two we had slowed it to 4½ per cent. In the last six years of our term of office it was 2½ per cent. a year. Those are the facts.
Those figures are striking in themselves. But while we were reducing the rise in the cost of living we were also dismantling the old consumer food subsidies, which hon. Members opposite may have forgotten about. They may have forgotten them, but those subsidies amounted to far more than the figure we are talking about now; they amounted to over £500 million. We dismantled those and sharply reduced the rise in the cost of living at the same time. What we have done before we can, and will, do again. So I reject the Amendment before it is moved. I reject it with the contempt that it deserves.
I have refuted the arguments on our policy given in the Amendment as they relate to the consumer. I note that the Government have not included in the Amendment anything about the attitude of farmers to our policy. I think that the Government were wise, for whatever was said at the N.F.U. annual meeting in January about our policy, I think that a great many farmers will be having second thoughts after the way that this unhappy Minister has let them down.
However, I would like to say just one word or two about that policy, just to remind the House of the safeguards which we propose in relation to it. No change will be made in the deficiency payment system until discussions with the N.F.U. and with supplying countries have taken place. The transition period will last around three years during which the full guarantees will remain. The Annual Price Review will continue thereafter; and if any individual commodity requires it we will continue the guarantees for that commodity after three years for as long as we feel necessary. We are ready to institute support buying if necessary. A Conservative Government will pay part of the cost of support buying, which this Government are not willing to do in relation to eggs where they are dismantling the guarantees completely. Those are the facts which every farmer needs to consider.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
I am interested to learn about the spread-over period, but I find it difficult to square this with the claim by the Leader of the Opposition, when challenged about reducing taxation, that one way of reducing taxation would be to change the system of agricultural support. Does this mean that these wonderful tax reductions that the Opposition are promising will not come until three or four years after they have been returned to office?
§ Mr. Godber
No. The effect will be immediate, but the effect will not be complete until three years are up. They will start to take effect immediately. This will give an immediate opportunity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the day to take action.
No. I have given way twice. I must continue at this point, because there are many people wishing to speak.
The other factor in our policy which no one can deny is that once applied it will deal effectively and permanently with dumping. Dumping would be impossible against a variable levy system. Let the Minister take note of that, because his record on dumping is pretty miserable so far. There are four cases which one can go through.
There is, first, the bacon market sharing agreement. That was brought about in the first place by Christopher Soames when he was Minister. In the latest announcement the Minister made he claimed that it gives greater opportunity. In fact this year it is pretty evident that British farmers will have no larger share than they did last year. Anything more that they get must be dependent on the encouragement that he gives them.
It is a pretty miserable story as well in relation to cheese. The Minister has been playing about with this subject for many months.
§ Mr. Godber
Then the Minister announced the other day that a voluntary agreement had been reached with Australia. New Zealand and the Irish 50 Republic. That is fine as far as it goes, but what about the others? What about the Netherlands, which in 1964 sent us 11,100 tons and which last year sent us 19,400 tons? What about Denmark, which in 1964 sent us 9,100 tons and which last year sent us 10,700 tons? What about France, which in 1964 sent us 1,900 tons and which last year sent us more than four times as much, namely, 9,400 tons? If those countries have not taken any part in this agreement so far, it leaves a yawning gap in any arrangement which the Minister is making about the dumping of cheese. It is time, and more than time, that the Minister took some effective action there.
No doubt he will tell us about his butter quotas. These were a Conservative initiative. What the Minister has done at the moment has cut back the quotas on butter for certain countries. He has cut some back substantially. If this is to provide a guarantee for the home producer to produce another 14,000 tons of butter, which is what the Milk Marketing Board interprets it as, another 14,000 tons of butter must be produced at 15d. a gallon, because that is the economic price. Unless the Minister does something to push up the pool price, it will depress the price to the dairy farmer even more. The combination of this and other factors which have operated this year on the dairy farmer will be a severe blow, as the Minister must know.
What about cereals? This is the most extraordinary story of all. Again, the Minister made use of the provisions which the Conservative Minister had instituted, and he then made some minor changes last year on account of devaluation. He did not bring back the degree of security to the same extent as existed before. It is however the way in which the Minister has been operating those levies that is most extraordinary, because on 11th March of this year he introduced a levy which was not to apply for a fortnight after he introduced it. The Press announcement read:Applications to register contracts for such barley entered into prior to March 11th, 1969 will be accepted if received on or before March 25th, 1969; these contracts will be registrable at 'Nil' prospective rate".What does that mean? It means that after a fortnight's notice they will go and register contracts way up into June and 51 July. It must have given a significant boost to people to make those forward contracts before we have been sure that we have disposed of our home crop. This is a direct incentive. If the Minister says to me that it is only to register contracts that have been entered into, what proof has he that they have been entered into before that date? Is not this an incentive and an enticement to people to back-date their invoices and so defeat the whole purpose? That is an extraordinary way to operate a system which the Minister has inherited.
At whatever commodity one cares to look, on dumping the Minister has a very unfortunate record and he will have to do much better than that if he is to convince our home producers that they will have the first opportunity in their own market. The extraordinary thing is that this is the Minister who in a speech at Bangor a little while ago, criticising our policy, said this:It is vital that we should not allow the expansion of our British agriculture and the investment plans of British farmers to be put at risk".That is what the Minister said about our policy on 31st January. I suggest that he re-reads the parable of the mote and the beam in this context before he starts criticising us.
Since his Price Review the Minister has made one speech, anyway, to farmers. He went to Kettering, a town which has certain connotations in agricultural affairs. The handout of the speech he made on this occasion says that the Ministerreferred to the widespread interest this year's Annual Review has aroused".He could say that again. The Daily Mail, in reporting the speeches made at that meeting, quotes one farmers' union chairman as telling the Minister:I have never heard a speech so full of double-talk, piffle and rubbish in my life.That is not my view, it is the view of a farmer who heard the right hon. Gentleman's speech. We see the response that the farmers give to his policies. This is indeed a sorry story unfolding today. Here we have one more Minister who has discredited himself. What is worse is that the farmers' confidence is now totally undermined, as every hon. Member knows. The opportunity to get expansion 52 going has been thrown aside. That is the real tragedy.
The moral is clear enough We will not get agricultural expansion to match the demands, either of the "Little Neddy," or of the Select Committee on Agriculture, unless and until someone has the courage to change the present system. This is just one more task which, apparently, will be left for us to carry out. I am not asking today for the resignation of the Minister alone—that would settle nothing. What is needed is for this whole discredited Government to go.
§ 4.20 p.m.
§ The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes)
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:'congratulates Her Majesty's Government on their decisions on the Annual Farm Price Review which place the right emphasis on those commodities where expansion is wanted in the interests of the agricultural industry and of the economy; notes that the agricultural policy of Her Majesty's Opposition would raise the price of food in the shops; and congratulates Her Majesty's Government on their policy of selective agricultural expansion without damaging increases in the cost of food to the housewife'.I am glad that the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has initiated this debate. It is right that when we have completed the Annual Review and made decisions on it the House should consider and debate them. The right hon. Gentleman has generated a great deal of heat, but not a great deal of sense or constructive argument.
There can hardly have been a period in the history of British agriculture when it has been subjected to more scrutiny than last year. This is to be welcomed, but it has led to some misunderstanding, particularly among hon. Gentlemen opposite. Last summer the Economic Development Committee for Agriculture produced its valuable report on the import saving rôle of the industry. Simultaneously my Department had in train studies of its own. These came together to provide us with material on which we could base our decisions on rolling forward the selective expansion programme.
We took those decisions and set out for the industry and the country the 53 guide lines of our agricultural production policy, which we intend to pursue consistently, regardless of the destructive criticism of the party opposite and the gloom which they seem determined to spread in the industry. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to refute me when I say that the industry and the country ought to know what the Government policy is over a longer period than one year. He will not accept the challenge, of course. He accepts the importance of the E.D.C.'s forward look. He and his colleagues in their Motion implicitly recognise the value of planned expansion. I am very glad to see this change of heart.
It is good Tory pragmatism, I suppose—they know a good thing when they see it, and when it happens to be convenient then they make it their own. Let me remind them of this. The right hon. Gentleman is an expansionist today. This was the tenor of his speech. This is what he has been saying for a few months. What was his philosophy when he had some responsibility for agriculture? Could it have been the Minister of his day who, as part of the international agreements he made, put standard quantities on wheat and barley and effectively put a limit on the home producers' share of the bacon market?
He may think that all his grand talk of expansion will make the farmers forget the action that he and his right hon. Friends took when they were in office. It is very easy to be bold in opposition. Did the right hon. Gentleman set objectives to enable the industry to plan ahead? I cannot find them. I have been looking over the Price Reviews from 1951 to 1964. I have been reading the speeches in HANSARD of successive Ministers of Agriculture and Parliamentary Secretaries from the party opposite, but I just cannot find them. What I do find is plenty of chopping and changing from year to year between 1951 and 1964.
I say that their policy was completely wasteful of resources and that the industry can rightly expect a government to give broad indications of their priorities for some years ahead. This is what I did when I set out on 12th November the Government's views on agricultural objectives to 1972–73. The right hon. Gentleman has conveniently forgotten what I made perfectly clear at the time. 54 The Government's objective was a programme of selective expansion. The right hon. Gentleman seems to be better at selective quotation. I surveyed the conclusions of the "Little Neddy" on each of the priority commodities and concluded:We believe that it is within the capacity of the British industry to achieve the objectives of selective expansion which I have outlined.Later I made it abundantly clear that:The development of the programme, its cost, the resources required and the market situation will clearly have to be examined with the industry at each Annual Review."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th Nov., 1968; Vol. 773, c. 213.]In a speech I made to the Farmers' Club on the following day I set out in greater detail the basis of the Government's thinking. I thought that I had stressed to a marked degree on both days, in both statements, the purpose of giving the broad objectives and the thinking behind our programme of selective expansion.
§ Mr. Godber
The Minister has challenged my quotations. Is he denying that he gave the figure of £160 million to which I addressed my argument? Is he denying that this means a massive expansion? Will he deal with that specific point?
§ Mr. Hughes
I shall be dealing with it. I do not deny the figure of £160 million import saving by 1972–73. What I am saying is that the right hon. Gentleman selected passages from my speech and quoted them for his own purposes, taking them completely out of context.
A selective expansion programme implies that resources must be placed on those commodities where they are needed and when they are needed, to ensure that progress keeps on course. This is what I meant then and that is what I have done in this Annual Price Review.
The Motion says that I:… promised to provide adequate resources to match the requirements …of our programme. It says that I have failed to live up to this. This was the right hon. Gentleman's central charge to which I will return. I want now to ask the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends two questions. First, do they accept the programme I announced? If not, will they say what their programme 55 would be—in some more positive terms than a mere expression of good intention which is what we have had from the right hon. Gentleman? Secondly, will they tell me what resources they would have put in this year? What would they have done? Many of us would like to know how much, under their policy, this would mean in terms of higher prices to consumers. They are very skilful at concealing these things from the farmers and from the country.
Let me turn to the commodities. This is the first of the four Reviews within the programme to 1972–73. It is, therefore, important that the money should be directed in the right way and on to the right commodities, as the first stage in the programme. As the House knows, the three priority commodities which were dealt with in the "Little Neddy" Report on agriculture and which I dealt with in my statement on 12th November are beef, pigs and cereals. We have discussed this matter at length with the farmers' leaders and I have spoken to the farmers. I enjoyed my meeting at Kettering very much indeed. I met over 400 farmers and went to, I thought, a representative area of the country where I could meet farmers of different types.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. This is a hard hitting debate. Both sides of the House should listen to the hard hitters equally courteously.
§ Mr. R. T. Paget (Northampton)
I met quite a lot of those Kettering farmers over the weekend. They all told me that they like the Minister very much.
§ Mr. Hughes
I am much obliged to my hon. and learned Friend. That confirms me in my determination to go to Devon.
No one that I know or have spoken to quarrels with the intention to seek expansion in these three commodities, which are crucial to import saving. They also provide the key to an integrated and balanced programme to be developed over the next few years. There are plenty of farmers who have been concerned that past policies have not encouraged balanced farming. We must compare our forward-looking policies with the policies 56 of the past. Who created the imbalance of the past? It was not Ministers of Agriculture of the present Government.
I have been looking at the price reviews of right hon. and hon. Members opposite when they were in office. They squeezed and squeezed until they created a situation in which the imbalance between crops and stock was becoming dangerous. We are taking action on the major commodities. Having determined and decided the priorities, we are putting resources behind them.
I wish to say precisely what the resources are and the direction in which we propose to go. Beef is a keystone of our policy. World demand continues to rise and will do so strongly as living standards improve. We want more beef. That is why we have made the largest increase in the guaranteed price since the 1940s—15s. per cwt. on the end price. This will work its way back through the industry. I believe that it was right to make this very large increase at this point. This, with the 11s. increase last year, makes a rise of 14 per cent. in two years. In addition, we have directed money specifically on beef through the increase of £1 in the hill cow subsidy and of £1 in the beef cow subsidy. These again come on top of the large increases last year. There is absolutely no doubt whatever that these decisions give to the beef farmer a substantial stimulus and added resources for capital investment. In this review, the beef complex receives an addition to the guarantees of over £20 million. The hon. Gentlemen opposite never gave so large an increase. We are increasing the stocking ratios, which is another important factor.
The second commodity in which we expect expansion of home production is pigmeat. The right hon. Member for Grantham had some savage things to say about our policy in this regard. Either he is making a purely partisan point or he just has not understood the policy. I will explain it to him. It is essential to look not only at the return to the producer but also at the bacon curer and our international agreements. In all these respects, our record is good. Hon. Members opposite, even through the rosy-tinted spectacles of hindsight, can hardly claim that they had anything resembling a comprehensive policy for the pigmeat industry. I do not wish to hark back 57 to the past all the time, but I was reading the Report of the Worth Committee the other day which pointed out that in 1955, the year after decontrol, 54 per cent. of our bacon and ham was imported. By 1960, five years later, under the Conservative Party, the share of imports had risen to almost 70 per cent. So much for agriculture's import-saving rôle.
The comprehensive arrangements which the Government have promoted are these. First, we have renegotiated the Bacon Market Sharing Understanding, about which the right hon. Member for Grantham was so sarcastic, and removed the percentage share of the market for the British bacon producer. In future we shall determine our expected production for each year and the balance of the total market requirement will be shared between our overseas suppliers.
Secondly, we have continued the arrangements—the stabiliser—under which at present the Government are putting money into the bacon curing industry. Hon. Members will know that we have recently announced that the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation is looking at the structure and organisation of bacon curing in this country. Thirdly, we have put a substantial award on pigs at this Annual Review. We have added 6d. a score to the end price and changed the middle band arrangements so that there can be a steady expansion to 14.3 million pigs without reduction of the unit return under the flexible guarantee. This adds about £5 million to the guarantees for pig producers. I am quite confident that this is sufficient.
The right hon. Gentleman quoted one letter which he had received. I can quote a number from farmers, including pig producers, who say that this is the best policy that they have ever enjoyed.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
The right hon. Gentleman has quoted the Worth Report with approval. Would he say why it took him 15 months to come to a conclusion about it and why he then had to set up another inquiry to do exactly the same job under the Industrial Reorganisation Corporation?
§ Mr. Hughes
The Worth Report needed very careful study and the action we are taking is in pursuance of one of 58 its recommendations. But the pig industry at present is supported by three policies which will ensure that it is maintained and grows over the next few years and that the target for 1972–73 will be achieved.
When we examined the assessment which the "Little Neddy" Report made for cereals, as the right hon. Member for Grantham acknowledged, I was a little cautious. It was for that reason that I drew attention in November to some of the problems of husbandry and disease. Cereals growers will gain substantially from our decisions at this Review. We have raised the guaranteed price of wheat by 1s. 7d. to 29s. per cwt., the highest for well over 10 years. Barley goes up to 26s. to the level of the mid-1960s. I attach great importance to the abolition of the standard quantity on barley which we announced this year. I am sure that the cereal growers share my view. We abolished the standard quantity for wheat last year.
It is these standard quantities which have acted as a brake on expansion in certain years and they were a symbol of the unsatisfactory policies of the Conservative Party which we inherited and have discarded. The farming community is delighted we have done so.
In sum, taking the three commodities together, we have added about £37½ million to the value of the guarantees on these priority commodities of beef, pigs, wheat and barley.
I should like to say a few words about the commodities which we did not single out for expansion last November. I wish to say something about milk in particular. I appreciate and understand the disappointment of some dairy farmers that we have not made an addition greater than 0.4d. to the guaranteed price for milk. But it would have been imprudent to have made a different determination on this occasion. The dairy herd is increasing. The milk sector of the agricultural industry is an efficient and buoyant sector. There is little doubt that we shall have a sizeable increase in milk production next year. The investment has been made and increased production is certain.
I believe—I say this deliberately—that it is essential in the national interest and the interest of milk producers that we 59 should keep a measure of control over the increase in milk production. I believe this to be right in the interests of the dairy farmer. I think that milk producers recognise the threat to the pool price from too rapid an increase in production. They recognise also that the manufacturing price depends on the level of imports of milk products. Again, the right hon. Gentleman was extremely critical of our negotiations on cheese and what we have done on butter.
We have reached agreement with our three major suppliers of cheese. This covers, with home production, 90 per cent. of all our supplies. This should be borne in mind. The figures quoted by the right hon. Gentleman were about 10 per cent. of our total supplies. Clearly, it was necessary to secure the agreement of our major suppliers to a voluntary restraint in the first place. Now that this has been done, we are proceeding to complete the arrangement with the minor suppliers, and we shall do this in the near future.
We must recognise also in relation to the dairy farmer that beef expansion from the dairy herd must give rise to some increase in milk production. Here we have the dilution assurance, which this year accounts for part of the increase in the guaranteed price. It continues as a safeguard and I am sure that the industry will recognise the value of the extension, which we have made this year, of the period of the assurance.
Nevertheless, the dairy farmer will benefit to a considerable degree from the increased return on the sales of his calves. If the price of a calf sold for beef goes up by £1, it will represent a rise of about ¼d. a gallon on all the milk in the lactation. Although we have put the money on beef basically through the end price, in doing this we recognise that it will be helpful to dairy farmers who contribute to our beef supplies by producing suitable calves for beef. This could lead to an increase of £2½ million for calf production. [Laughter.] I do not know why the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) laughs, but that is the case and I am quite prepared to provide him with the figures if he wants them.
Over recent months, I have thought it necessary to emphasise that we continue 60 to attach great importance to the part which sheep can play in a balanced farming economy. They are an excellent break on the lowlands and provide a substantial part of the income of many upland and hill farmers. The increase in the guaranteed price recognises this position and should reinforce last year's large award, which aimed at maintaining production.
I have deliberately concentrated what I have had to say on the commodity determinations because I think that this is right. We have a selective expansion programme. This means selecting the more important commodities. This we have done, and we have put resources in to get movement towards 1972–73. This is the argument that the Opposition do not wish to accept or recognise. I think that this is the right way to approach the Review and I believe that farmers themselves examine carefully their own production plans in the light of the decisions we take from Review to Review.
Equally, however, we have used the Annual Review to look at the condition of the industry as a whole. We must look at the development of agriculture over the years and we must assess the underlying trend. The basic trend of output, income and efficiency is upward. If we have normal weather this season, output and income should recover. I do not believe that farmers will be deterred by those who cry "Woe" with Joe. [Laughter.] I believe that they will be encouraged by the Review.
Of course, in order to put £41½ million on to the commodities and £37½ million on to the priority commodities, there has been a reduction in the fertiliser subsidy. From the synthetic indignation which we have heard from one or two hon. Members, one would think that the reduction in the total cost of the fertiliser subsidy was a new departure. Successive Governments have sought to keep expenditure on fertilisers under reasonable control. I have been looking at the past and I observe that in 1961 the rate was cut in order to reduce the total subsidy by £2½ million, and in the following year a similar cut was made.
I have spoken so far about prices and resources. But I would draw the attention of the House to some other ideas which are set out in the White Paper which are worthy of note. In particular, 61 we have been looking to see whether our system of support can be simplified and improved, particularly to encourage efficiency and productivity. I attach special value to changes which would encourage the growth of productivity and cut down on paperwork on farms as well as in our offices. We are also looking actively at means of ensuring that economic and technical information is made available to the farmer as quickly and as effectively as possible.
All these various developments—changes in guaranteed prices, renegotiated international agreements, the removal of standard quantities, the new measure of stability on the cheese market, the streamlining and rationalising of the grant system—have a direct bearing on the welfare and development of the industry, in which all of us are interested. We have brought these strands together in the Annual Review.
Let me emphasise one more point. Although the determinations add a very substantial sum to the value of the guarantees, they have little or no effect on consumer prices. Let not the right hon. Gentleman overlook this. I know that his party, with one voice, declare that the cost of living must be kept down. That is a point which they make time and time again. But, with their other voice, they declare that they will put up food prices. I do not suggest that a body with two voices must be two-faced, but at least it is an anatomical absurdity. It is like the Delphic oracle, so ambiguous that no one can understand what it really means until after the worst has happened. That is the likely consequence of the policy of the party opposite.
I have set out the strategy which we propose to follow over the period to 1972–73 and the way in which the determinations match this strategy. I fully accept that farmers had hoped for a larger total injection of capital this year. I remain convinced that we are on the right course and that the industry will come to accept this. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have been trying to convince the farmers that there is value in their policy of abolishing the guaranteed prices and instituting a system of target prices supported by levies. The right hon. Gentleman said that he thought—or he hoped, at least—that the Review would draw the farming community over to his side. He 62 will have to wait a very long time, because the policies of his party would mean very great uncertainty for the farming community and for the consumer, and they know it well.
If a levy is successful in shutting out imports to the extent necessary to raise internal market prices to the target price, the situation could be reasonable. Suppose, however, that it does not. It is important that we should not put the future of an industry at risk if the system did not in practice work as perfectly as in theory.
In addition, I have already pointed out that, in my view the programme of the Opposition would raise food costs by a good deal more than the figure 5 or 6 per cent. which they have been talking about.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
Would not the Minister agree that he has taken away all support from the egg industry? It is nonsense for him to talk in the way he is talking.
§ Mr. Hughes
The hon. Member is obsessed with eggs. He must be dreaming about them. He knows that the Government's policy emerged from the Report of the Rowland Wright Commission and that even his own Front Bench had no criticism of it.
I was talking about food costs. The programme of the party opposite would raise them by a good deal more than the 5 to 6 per cent. which is suggested by them. It would have an effect on the industry if it changed the pattern of demand. The effect on the housewife is obvious.
What surprises me most of all about the policy of the party opposite is the apparent ease with which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite think they are going to renegotiate international agreements. This is implicit in their policy. These, as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite know perfectly well, are most sensitive and difficult questions which call for a very delicate balance of judgment on the advantages. It is not practicable to expect that there can be wholesale changes in the structure of international trading arrangements in a short period.
I speak with some feeling of the operation of the original Bacon Market Sharing Understanding, and the bilateral cereals 63 agreements entered into by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. It is for these reasons that I think it right to keep an open mind on the suggested change across the board to a system of market management.
Many people have consistently underestimated what has already been done under our present system to give stability to our market for the different agricultural products. A great deal has been done to secure orderly marketing through m.i.p.s and in other ways suited to the trade in each commodity.
I have great confidence—and I declare it in the House this afternoon—in the present system of support and in the annual reviews—although not, perhaps, such great confidence in the way hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite used the system when they were in office.
The right hon. Gentleman criticised me a great deal and he must not mind if I refer to some of his activities in the past I refer him particularly to the White Paper of 1959 when he was a Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture. Paragraph 16 of that White Paper says:There is still a tendency for over-production of some commodities.Paragraph 17 says:Although farmers expect to bear the risks of the weather, the Government think it right on this occasion to take account of the fact that during the last five years adverse weather conditions have substantially outweighed favourable conditions.Paragraph 18 says:On a balance of these considerations"—said the then Minister and the then Parliamentary Secretary in those days—the Government have concluded that there should this year be a small net increase in the total value of the guarantees.They then went on to increase them by £3 million. This is the record of the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. Hughes
I know how the right hon Gentleman feels. He has been savage in his criticism of me. He must forgive me if I recall to the House his own record, which was most lamentable.
§ Mr. Godber
I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. He challenges me 64 specifically on this, but if he will study his own White Paper this time he will see that in the years he was talking about we were having a massive increase in production which amounted to one-third in those last ten years we were in office, and the answer to him is that it was well worth while. There was that increase of production under our administration. It is going down now.
§ Mr. Hughes
The right hon. Gentleman's record, on the facts, was a lamentable one. If the right hon. Gentleman wants to contrast what we have done I am quite prepared to do so. We have put £41½ million on commodities, of which £37½ million goes to the priority commodities. We have made a net determination of £34 million which is about 80 per cent. of costs if one takes Bank Rate into account. The decision in this determination is one which I can defend with confidence both in relation to past Reviews and the record of the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends, and on its own merits. Over the last five years we have increased the value of the guarantees—I must ask the House to bear these figures in mind—after allowing for costs and efficiency by £105 million. In the preceding five years hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite increased them by £62 million. In other words, under the five years of Labour administration the agricultural industry retained over 70 per cent. of its estimated gain through increased proficiency. In the five years of Conservative administration it retained only 50 per cent., and of course in those five years one has to bear in mind the pre-election Review of 1964, which was really something unique in the history of agricultural policy.
Facts of this kind expose the hollowness of the indignation of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends. The noise they make among themselves is their own affair. It is what the Bible calls the crackle of twigs under an empty pot. But they do no service to the agricultural industry by trying to talk the industry down into a state of gloom. This is a manoeuvre they would never attempt in the case of an exporting industry. It shows what their priorities are. Do they really think that it is in the national interest to try to knock an import saving industry by trying to play the rôle of Jeremiah? This is what they have done. 65 They are playing deliberate party politics with a great industry. I think it is a deplorable thing to do, and I ask the House to reject the Motion.
§ 4.56 p.m.
§ Sir David Renton (Huntingdonshire)
Instead of seeking to justify his own policy and to defend it, the right hon. Gentleman has made a savage attack upon the policies of the Conservative Party when in power, but his attack does not bear examination. If he will look at his own White Paper—page 29—he will see that during the last ten years of the Conservative Government production rose by 30 per cent. compared with a rise of only 3 per cent. during these four years of Labour Government.
He challenged us by asking us to reply at once to two questions, and, being somewhat bold, I propose to reply here and now. The first of the two questions is "Do we accept his programme or not?" The clear answer to that is, "No, Not enough". The next question is, "What would we have done?" I can speak only for myself, but I am sure that many of my hon. and right hon. Friends will agree with me when I say that in present circumstances we should have given full recoupment because we cannot have expansion without full recoupment. In addition to that, I personally feel that it was nonsensical, after such a bad season as last season, to insist upon a reduction of £30 million for the efficiency factors and outside the Price Review I should have tried to stop dumping and to reduce interest rates.
§ Sir D. Renton
No, because many hon. Members want to speak and I have promised to speak for not more than ten minutes.
The Minister said that farmers will not be "crying woe with Joe". That may or may not be so, but I am quite sure they will be "crying sin against Cledwyn".
The Minister claims that, by providing incentives for beef, pigs, wheat and barley, he will ensure that farmers will achieve enough expansion of those products, but not with regard to milk products, to honour his pledge of 12th 66 November in regard to a net saving on imports of £160 million a year by 1972–73. But as my right hon. Friend pointed out, we have to consider the Price Review as a whole, and we see a simple under-recoupment of £6 million a year as well as a drop of £39 million in current net incomes. In view of bad weather and foot-and-mouth disease, it is unfair and ridiculous to insist upon £30 million reduction for the efficiency factor.
At a time when only British agriculture—and I hope that I am not stating it too high—can save the economy, it is being deprived of the opportunity of doing so. I say that deliberately because, for the past five years, total imports have been too high in relation to exports, re-exports and visibles, all of which have done as well as can be expected under a Labour Government.
The Government have tried to reduce imports, using almost every means that is known, including devaluation, to do so, but they have failed, and that is why we have this constant strain on the economy. Indeed, instead of getting reduced food imports, we merely get continued dumping. The Government have not yet tried seriously—I do not regard this Price Review as a serious attempt—to replace imports of food by agricultural expansion.
To achieve this means making immediate improvements in farming, and those immediate improvements cannot be made on falling farm incomes but only by further investment—which will, by the way, take a year or two to show results, and so the sooner we start the better. Most of the extra capital that is required has to come from ploughing back from farmers net incomes. It cannot be obtained from outside because interest rates at 9 per cent. or more are too high. A farmer cannot hope to make a good enough profit to plough back for investment for improvement if he is paying on outside borrowing as high an interest rate as that. That is why I say that under-recoupment and expansion are incompatible.
In East Anglia, we have had a most disastrous season. Losses of grown crops amounting to many millions of pounds occurred, and it is hopeless to expect farmers, if under-recouped, to find money now for those improvements on which 67 expansion must depend. The result, inevitably, is that agriculture is being prevented by Government policy from making the contribution towards solving our economic troubles of which it is capable. This is frustrating both for the farmers and for their workers. The workers know perfectly well that they cannot improve their position and status as skilled workers unless the farmers can make a reasonable income, make profits and plough enough back to improve production.
In recent years, however bad or indifferent the Price Reviews under a Labour Government, that has not been the end of the matter because the farmers have then had to contend with most punishing Budgetary provisions—and we shall not know the full story until after the forthcoming Budget. Let us hope that the present Chancellor of the Exchequer will remember how much farmers have had to bear in the past and will not impose a swingeing Budget on top of an unsatisfactory Price Review. It is a fact that Labour Chancellors of the Exchequer have not so far been the friends of the farmers, and I venture to say that, in my opinion, they have not been friends of Labour Ministers of Agriculture either.
So much for the deplorable general position, which I must say makes me wince. I want to say a special word about sugar beet. In paragraph 62 on page 16 of the White Paper, we read:… the Government intend to maintain the present sugar beet acreage.We must, of course, honour the Commonwealth Sugar Agreement but I do not see why we should be importing, plus or minus, 50,000 tons of sugar from the world market, and not always cheaply. This is a crop which we can grow economically. An interesting survey has recently been done which shows that our sugar producers compare very favourably with the producers of cane sugar.
I therefore find it surprising that, in East Anglia—and it is all the more surprising when one reads paragraph 62—the British Sugar Corporation has already reduced next season's sugar beet acreage. This is a serious matter, especially for the Fen farmers, who have become accustomed to growing sugar beet as part of a four-course rotation, and it is 68 a very good constant standby crop when, often, other crops do not do so well.
I hope that we shall get an undertaking from the Government that no further reduction in the sugar beet crop in East Anglia will take place in respect of the season after next. It is simply not good enough for the Government to hide behind the skirt of the British Sugar Corporation in this matter, which is what very often happens when one tries to get down to the details.
We are now importing nearly 40 per cent. of the food for our 55 million people. By the end of the century, we shall have to feed at least 70 million and do so on two million acres less farm land—an area of the size of Devonshire—which will have been taken for development. We may not find other countries so willing as they are now to sell us food with their own populations increasing even faster than ours.
If we go on failing significantly to increase our food production but maintain the increase only at the rate of the last four years, our grandchildren will be starving at the end of the century. We are increasing our population very past by natural processes and immigration and increasing food production by less than 1 per cent. a year, while it is going to be more difficult to import more food. This is a process we cannot afford for the sake of future generations.
Therefore, the Labour Government have already, in the last four years, made more difficult, and unnecessarily difficult, the problems of meeting food supplies in the more distant future. They must set their minds to getting agriculture fully playing its part, not only for reasons of saving the national economy now but in order that we may be sure of feeding a much larger population in the years to come. Foresight was never the mark of pathetic Labour Government. They have time to mend their ways, but I hope not too much time because I hope that a better Government, who will get agricultural expansion, will soon take their place.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. David Ensor (Bury and Radcliffe)
Before I come to one or two general observations, I must declare an interest, because, from time to time, I advise the Federation of British Poultry Industries.
69 However, what we have been hearing today from the Opposition is something, of course, which has been heard in this House and throughout the country for many years. It is the right and duty of an Opposition to oppose. It is the duty and right of farmers to try to get a bit more. I remember that, when I was farming in 1956, we were angry with the then Government because we did not think we were getting enough. This has been going on for years. But I hope that the House will keep a sense of balance and a sense of proportion in its criticisms of my right hon. Friend's Review. We must not be misled into thinking that it is a bad Review.
The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) referred to a document issued by the National Farmers' Union which I am sure most hon. Members received this morning. That says:Since 1949, there have been five Reviews in which the determinations, in relation to cost changes, were better than in 1969 (1952, 1955, 1961, 1964 and 1967). But this kind of arithmetical juggling is completely irrelevant when judged against farmers' legitimate expectation of a real attempt by Government … to deal with the long-run deterioration in the industry's real income position.
§ Mr. Ensor
The exception was 1964, perhaps not surprisingly as it was just before a General Election. That was a very good Review. The other one was in 1967 when the present Leader of the House made an award of £10 million over cost recoupment. The 12 awards of the party opposite from 1952 to 1963 were all worse than this year's, with the exception of 1964, which was for reasons which are probably obvious to most people.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
Would not this be a better Review still if the Government had decided to juggle about with the efficiency factor and call it £40 million instead of £30 million—instead of the £25 million in each of the Reviews that the hon. Member has been quoting?
§ Mr. Ensor
I hope to deal with that point in the course of the next few minutes.
With regard to the Review generally, it is true that this was a bad year for agriculture. We all know that the western part of the country had a reasonably good year but that in the eastern part the weather was shocking. I believe that the total loss resulting from the bad weather was about £39 million. However, no industry, whether it be agriculture or any other, can possibly expect the Government to eliminate all the risks resulting from weather conditions.
In my view, it is a mistake to lump together every factor in this Review. If one examines it product by product it will be seen to be sensible and consistent. One must not forget that my right hon. Friend is also the Minister responsible for food and, in that connection, this Review is good for the housewife. Conservative policy has always been to transfer the whole cost of support on to the cost of food in the shops. We have completed a Review which, I am confident, will encourage expansion and import saving.
Those are some general observations on the Review, and I now want to draw attention to the position on eggs. I have been consistent for many years in my opposition to the British Egg Marketing Board. I was opposed to it in its original conception. I do not believe that any marketing board can succeed unless it has 100 per cent. of the throughput. That is why the Milk Marketing Board has been so successful. Every gallon of milk produced has to go through the Board. The Egg Board did not have 100 per cent. throughout and, although the figures vary between myself, the Board and the Government, I believe that there were times when only about 48 or 49 per cent. of the total egg production was going through the Board. That being so, the Board was ultimately doomed to failure.
It is important to see the Government's decision on eggs in this Review as part of 71 a longer-term policy. I welcome the policy, which is based to a very great degree on the independent report of the Reorganisation Commission under the Chairmanship of Mr. Rowland Wright. I am sure that it will be to the long-term benefit of the egg industry and the consumer generally. I hope that my right hon. Friend will see that this ineffective Egg Marketing Board is abolished and that the new commission takes over completely at the earliest possible moment.
I welcome particularly my right hon. Friend's decision to negotiate minimum import prices on eggs and egg products. It will be a mistake to look at the decision on the guaranteed price for eggs this year without taking this development into account. In changing our system of support for eggs, it is important that we should continue to have the confidence of all producers. The minimum import price proposals which the Government will negotiate ensures that this confidence can be sustained.
In my view, the House has to decide between two different approaches to agricultural control. Either we continue the broad policies followed by the present Government and by previous Labour Administrations, which were started by that great Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Tom Williams, or we adopt the uncertainties of the policies of the right hon. Member for Grantham, who wishes to scrap the interests of British agriculture and the consumer. I was glad to see that the National Farmers' Union decided to reject that policy at its last annual general meeting.
I am sure that the House will agree that this is a good Review and that my right hon. Friend is to be congratulated upon it.
§ 5.18 p.m.
§ Lieutenant-Commander S. L. C. Maydon (Wells)
If this Price Review proves anything, it is that the present system of ensuring a fair living for those who work on the land has ceased to be equitable. For quite a long time, our farmers have recognised that the support price deficiency payment system is creaking on its hinges. It was designed for quite different conditions of post-war shortages and uncertainties. It worked very well for a decade. It is now quite 72 unrelated to conditions existing in the country and in the world outside.
If one examines the basic arithmetic of the system, it is immediately apparent that there is a fallacy. How can a system be fair or logical when, year after year and irrespective of weather and disasters such as the last foot-and-mouth epidemic, an arbitrary notional figure is taken for the annual gain in productivity? Furthermore, can it be sensible that such an arbitrary figure plays such a predominant part in calculating the net award to farmers?
Even if we could concede that this notional figure were anywhere near accurate, or even if it averaged out over the years to somewhere near what farmers in total gained in productivity, it would be absurd to assume, as our system does, that year after year the productivity gain is the same for the dairy farmer as for the arable farmer.
My criticism of this method of arriving at the annual award is far more fundamental than that. Whatever the estimate of productivity increase, and by whatever means it is calculated, surely it is erroneous to bring this factor into the computing of the needed addition to farmers' incomes because our national prices structure will not allow them a fair return for their labours.
Increases in efficiency, when they occur—and I am certain that they do not occur so regularly or annually as the Price Review determination leads us to believe—should reduce farmers' expenditure so that they can afford to invest more money and further expand their productivity.
The National Economic Development Council's Report on Agriculture gave a possible saving of £220 million per annum on our balance of payments by increased agricultural production displacing imports. The Government announced last November that a saving of £160 million was to be achieved in four years by the Review year 1972–73. The Minister subsequently told a Press conference that he intended to match the Price Reviews over the next few years to the objectives of the expansion plan. Is this a start of matching Price Reviews to expansion?
The net output has fallen 3 per cent. in the current year, down from an Index of 143 in 1967–68 to 138 in the current 73 year. The Government have given the whole of the added award to meat and to cereals, and I think that they can possibly expect some modest results from those commodities. Whether what they have done is enough is arguable. I suspect that 15s. per live cwt. on fat cattle is about half what was needed.
For milk, the addition of 0.4d. per gallon on a standard quantity reduced from last year's figure by 34.8 million gallons has led the Milk Marketing Board to predict that the average pool price will be down by 1d. a gallon at a time when dairy farmers are facing their first full year on the higher wage rates, wage increases which most of them welcomed as fair provided they were enabled to earn the income to pay them.
The small dairy farmer—and there are many in the South-West—will, on top of the severe unrecouped damage to pasture by flooding last year, find it increasingly difficult to make ends meet. Farmhouse cheese making, which was once a valuable adjunct to his business, has had the bottom knocked right out of it by the Government's long delay in getting to grips with excessive imports at subsidised prices. At long last the Minister has announced an understanding with some of the main sources of imports of cheese. This has been too late and insufficient. As usual, the mechanism of the anti-dumping legislation is far too ponderous and there is great reluctance in the Board of Trade to operate it as efficiently as its defects permit it to be operated.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
The hon. Gentleman is making a very thoughtful speech to which I am listening with great interest and care. However, he is unfair to the Board of Trade when he says that it is slow and ponderous. It came to a prima facie conclusion on the antidumping application in a matter of six weeks, which was very good indeed.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Maydon
But the delay was long enough for the farmers engaged in the industry to suffer dire consequences. It may be that the delay was not entirely due to reluctance on the part of the Board of Trade, but the Minister knew precisely what the position was. He should have taken some steps to remedy this unfair excess of imports.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
The hon. Gentelman is charging me with being unfair and this causes me deep concern. During the period to which he refers he will bear in mind that the stocks of cheese held in this country were reducing quite substantially, so it is unfair of him to make that statement.
§ Lieutenant-Commander Maydon
The stocks of cheese were reducing because the Minister, through the Milk Marketing Board, had ordered a standfast on the production of cheese by the farmhouse cheese makers. The Minister knows that this is correct.
The trouble is that the Government are wedded to a cheap food at any cost policy and they have not the courage to take an easy step to cut our food imports by the £220 million a year which has been suggested by N.E.D.C. They have failed agriculture as they have failed the rest of the economy. They should resign and leave government to others more competent.
§ 5.27 p.m.
§ Mr. Robert Maclennan (Caithness and Sutherland)
There is one sense in which I regard this debate as too late. The nature of the debates on agriculture is every year becoming more ex post facto and less and less relevant to determining the direction in which the agricultural sector of the economy should move.
At this time each year we are presented with an agreement or a determination, the individual components of which are not subject to challenge or alteration by this House. I believe that it is not merely a matter of Parliamentary democracy which is at issue here, but also that it is in the best interests of the agricultural industry that Parliament should be engaged, prior to the final determinations, in considering how the long-term targets set by the Minister should be met.
The consequence of the format of the debate is that we hear the good knockabout stuff to which we have already listened from the Front Benches on both sides. We have had the numbers game played, we have had comparisons of years past with the present year, and the bases for these various assertions put before the House. It is becoming increasingly unacceptable that we should conduct our reviews of agricultural policy in this partisan way.
75 Turning to the charge of the Opposition today, the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) made two principal points in his speech. First, quoting from the N.F.U. statement the right hon. Gentleman said that the legitimate expectations of the agricultural community had not been met. It is interesting to question what the right hon. Gentleman and the N.F.U. mean by "legitimate", because what was clearly not meant was that this was a disagreed Review. The Price Review is frequently not agreed by the N.F.U., as is well known. Indeed, in the seven years leading up to the election of 1964 Conservative Governments were able to get agreement to only three of their Price Reviews. The issue, therefore, is clearly something else. It is the statement by the Minister of Agriculture on 12th November which has led to the accusation that the Government are not meeting the legitimate expectations of the farmers.
But before dealing with that, I should like to refer to what was left out of the right hon. Gentleman's speech, namely, what was the Opposition's own view about the expansion of agriculture. It is not sufficient to describe their view in the vague generalised terms to which the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have given voice. Indeed, if one reads the small print of the right hon. Gentleman's speeches it becomes clear that the Opposition are not wedded to a policy of expansion without qualification. I refer hon. Gentlemen who doubt that to what the right hon. Gentleman said on 12th November, when he was careful to qualify his acceptance of an expansion of agriculture with the words:… I would welcome any … agricultural expansion which is based on sound economic grounds."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 213.]What does that mean? Does it mean that the Opposition accept the limitations imposed by our international agreements? Does it mean that they accept the difficulties of renegotiating them? Does it mean that the support of agriculture must be justified by a proper use of resources? Does it mean that considerations of Exchequer costs must be borne in mind? When spelt out precisely what it means in terms of those three factors, the Opposition's commitment to the expansion of agriculture is meaningless.
§ Mr. Jopling
Perhaps I might refer the hon. Gentleman to the Report of the Select Committee on Agriculture which referred to a much greater expansion than that to which the Government are committed. Is the hon. Gentleman suggesting that that is not based on sound economic grounds?
§ Mr. Maclennan
I shall come to the Select Committee's Report. I am surprised, and indeed delighted, to hear that it is the view of the hon. Gentleman that that is the Opposition's policy, because nothing that has been said by spokesmen for the Conservative Party suggests that they accept that policy.
Instead of coming to grips with these central economic questions the right hon. Member for Grantham served us up what he called the "simple arithmetic" of his constituent about costs and returns and threw in our faces the N.F.U.'s charge that my right hon. Friend's figures were mere "arithmetical juggling". The right hon. Gentleman is entitled to do that, but I cannot believe that the case has been made out that the Opposition are wedded to a policy of agricultural expansion. On one question at least we might have had a rather more detailed exposition from the right hon. Gentleman, namely, the support buying on which a Conservative Government would embark and what would be the measure of the cost of that to the Exchequer.
The right hon. Gentleman made one strong point which requires to be considered and answered, namely, the growing agricultural output, as they claim, in ten years of Conservative Government. But what they overlook is that when the present Government took office in 1964 the underlying trend was strongly downwards, and hon. Gentlemen opposite know that that is what we have been faced with in trying to put agriculture on its feet. That is what we have had to contend with in trying not merely to get agricultural expansion but to restore the industry to a position of strength from which we could move forward.
§ Sir D. Renton
I think that the hon. Gentleman would like to be correct on this. If he looks at page 29 of the White Paper he will see that for the three years up to 1964–65 there was a rise in each year. There was a big rise in 1964–65, 77 which was based on the 1964 Price Review, the last Conservative Price Review.
§ Mr. Maclennan
The right hon. and learned Gentleman's reference to the 1964–65 figures is outside what I am discussing. Those figures were the result of the pre-election Price Review. I am talking about the pre-Election period.
§ Mr. Maclennan
I shall not give way. I have given way twice already, and many hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to take part in the debate. If I have left some factors out of account perhaps the hon. Gentleman will have an opportunity to put them before the House. If he does he will do considerably more than his right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham did. The right hon. Gentleman based his speech on a series of bald assertions.
§ Mr. Maclennan
As my right hon. Friend said, this debate takes place in a year in which a profound and important debate has been carried on in more detail than in any previous year about the future shape of agriculture. The framework for this has been provided by the Report of the "Little Neddy" and by the Report of the Select Committee. It is right in this debate to draw attention to what those two Reports did, and did not, say because I believe that the Opposition have attempted to confuse the issues.
The "Little Neddy" was asked to produce a survey of the technical feasibility of expanding import substitution and this it did within certain defined limits. It did not state how the industry should be supported. It did not enter into a comparative study of how resources were to be used. It did not deal with the problem of our international obligations. In fact, it specifically left those out of account. It did not attempt to measure the cost of support. It did not attempt to assess the effect of the technically feasible expansion of our agricultural production upon our balance of payments. It left these very important factors out of account quite deliberately.
The position is the same in respect of the Select Committee. That Committee 78 was more modest in its claims than was the right hon. Gentleman about the evidence of the effect of the expansion of our agricultural industry on our balance of payments. There seems to be a very simple error in much that has been said in criticism of this Price Review. The retiring President of the Scottish National Farmers' Union, Mr. Jack Blackley, made a statement—I believe in Turnberry—that until the Government accepted that £1 million saved was as valuable to the economy as £1 million earned in exports the farming industry could never play its full part in the national economy, and that that was a tragedy of this Review.
Unfortunately, the economics of this situation are not as simple as he suggested, and those hon. Members who signed their names to the Report of the Select Committee must accept that. Neither the Treasury nor the Department of Economic Affairs was able to show any precise correlation between import savings and export earning in terms of the effect on the balance of payments. The Select Committee rightly drew attention to the need for research into this factor.
This debate has been rendered less effective because we do not know the answer to these facts, and it is because we need them that we should have the debate prior to the formal determinations. What we do know is the Board of Trade's attitude to this question. That is what the Select Committee has usefully demonstrated. That is why I believe that it is not my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture who should be in the hot seat but the President of the Board of Trade.
In paragraph 918 of the Select Committee's Report the spokesman for the Board of Trade said:… on the whole … the balance, if one has to make a preference, would be for encouraging exports rather than saving imports.That is a very important admission, which should be thoroughly scrutinised by the House. It should not be accepted without question. We can see the effects of that preference upon the agricultural industry. We can see how arguments of this kind have had their effect upon our policy with regard to imports of Argentine beef. We can see their effect on 79 mutton supplies, and the imports of 60 per cent. of our domestic requirements from New Zealand. These are questions with which we should be concerned, because they make up the framework of the Review.
We have heard nothing from the Opposition about any evaluation of the resources which have been ploughed into the support of agriculture. We have not heard whether the Opposition regard them as a proper share of the total gross domestic product. We have not been given any comparative study on the question whether it is right that the Exchequer costs should be what they are. We have been told broadly that the methods of support are wrong, but we have not been told how much the Exchequer support would be if the Conservative Party policy were adopted.
As always, the Opposition make great play—quite rightly, in my view—of the importance of the confidence factor in determining the level of investment in the agricultural industry and, ultimately, the prospects of expansion. But it is clear to me, as it is to many farmers in my constituency, that the agricultural policy of the Opposition is in itself a most seriously damaging factor affecting confidence in the future of the industry.
It was rather disingenuous of the right hon. Member for Grantham to dismiss with a flourish the view of the National Farmers' Union and to say that perhaps it will come to think better of Conservative policy in the future. The Union's present view is abundantly clear from the evidence given to the Select Committee. Mr. Williams, the President of the Union, said:Our view is that it would be well-nigh a tragedy for this country if this system were put on one side and another system that we see operating in Europe in isolation were taken on board again in isolation. Frankly I take the view that it is right that the farmers of this country should have a base of reasonable levels of guaranteed prices.Let the Opposition answer that one. Theirs is a major contribution to undermining confidence. A most damaging policy is being adumbrated by the Opposition, and not for economic reasons. It is being adumbrated for political reasons, because the Opposition believe that it is more important, for the sake of our 80 manufacturing industry, that we should espouse the policy of the Common Market at this stage, even when there is no prospect of meaningful negotiations taking place.
What are some of the facts that the House should be considering? We have heard accusations made about the failure of the Government to give industry the opportunity to expand as it should. I have some reservations about the Government's policy on agriculture. I do not think that it goes nearly far enough. The question is: are the emphases right? Is help being given in the right sectors? Can any hon. Member opposite challenge the view that it is correct to place the emphasis on beef and cereals?
I turn to Scotland's contribution.
§ Mr. Maclennan
No—I will not give way. I have already talked for too long. In Scotland, at least, output is up. Gross output this year is expected to reach nearly £220 million. Last year—and this is important in estimating what will be the future level of investment—farm incomes rose by over one-third. In the livestock sector output rose from £152.8 million in 1966–67 to £161 million in 1967–68, and it is estimated that it will rise to £168.5 million in the current year. These facts indicate expansion, and show that although the rate of expansion may not be fast enough at least we are moving in the right direction.
My right hon. Friend referred to another vital factor in determining whether agriculture will be able to make its proper contribution to maintaining market stability. He rightly mentioned what the Government have done with the bacon sharing agreement and the control of cheese imports. But what measures are the Government taking to promote market stability for livestock? How are we to be protected from imports of Irish cattle which had such a damaging effect in the past? What discussions are the Government having about this? Also, what steps are they taking about New Zealand mutton and lamb?
There is no question but that this Price Review has given substantial help to the livestock sector in Scotland. As this is the most vital sector, I am sure that, 81 on reflection, it will be welcomed. This is only part of the continuing process of assistance given by this Government to that sector. I need not go into an account of all that has been done, but putting on one side the sweeping political allegations of the Conservative Party and considering the facts, within the limits set by factors not controlled solely by agricultural consideration but by the use of our national resources and the limitations imposed at this time by our international commitments, we can see that the Government have given substantial assistance which will be widely welcomed.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. J. M. L. Prior (Lowestoft)
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) has regaled us with an economic dissertation, but, like some other economists, when he came to quoting figures, the only figure that he quoted—about agricultural expansion over the last few years—was wrong.
He and the Minister—others will no doubt do the same—mentioned the Conservative agricultural policy. Many of us, particularly on this side of the House, have sat through many farming debates in the last few years after Price Reviews and it was largely because we felt that the Price Review system was not satisfactory for British agriculture that the Conservative Party has changed its agriculture policy. When the hon. Gentleman said that, "within the limits" of what could be done, this was a good Review, he was making exactly that point. It is within the limits of the present system that the industry's problems rest. Until we change the system, we shall not give agriculture the chance that it should have.
I disagree with something that one of my hon. Friends said—that the Labour Party are wedded to a cheap food policy. That is not true. Prices of Food have risen under the present Administration far faster than they did under ours. What they do is try to disguise the increases in the price of food and say that the international agreements on bacon, butter and cheese, and minimum import prices all put up prices without at the same time benefiting the farmer.
§ Mr. W. Baxter
Would the hon. Gentleman devote some of his speech to the Conservative agricultural policy?
§ Mr. Prior
If the hon. Gentleman will give me a chance, I certainly will.
The present policy is not a cheap food policy but a very dear policy when it comes to importing food. We are encouraging our suppliers of food from overseas to send in food at a higher price than that at which it could otherwise be obtained. Over the last few years, butter, for example, has cost us £20 million a year more than it need have done. We are paying more for cereals than we need to pay, and the same will apply to cheese.
I think that that policy is wrong. With a levy policy, one buys in the cheapest markets and reserves the levies to one's own economy. That is the difference between our policy and the present Government's policy.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
But is not the hon. Gentleman describing the direct results of the minimum import price policy of his party? When, in 1963, I suggested a gradual move to the levy system, he was the very hon. Member who attacked it because it would raise prices.
§ Mr. Prior
That is not true, because I voted in Committee against this policy when it was being introduced. We have changed that policy and moved away from import prices. It is not much good the Minister criticising us on the standard quantity concept, because he himself attacked it when he came into office, so there is no need for me to apologise.
We have heard much from the Government about expansion, and all their policies since 1965 have been designed to lead to expansion of agriculture. But what has happened? In the last three or four years, there has been an average increase in expansion of about 1 per cent. If, as the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland says, Scotland has done very well, then all I can say is that England and Wales must have done even worse than I thought they had. Under our policy, regardless of the prices given at Price Reviews, at least expansion went on at an average of about 4 per cent. What we want from the Government is a little less talk about expansion and a little more action.
Much comment has been made about recoupment and about the sum of £30 million. I have never understood how 83 the National Farmers' Union ever agreed to that figure. I remember, as will many of my hon. Friends, that, for years before they agreed to £30 million, they were badgering us at every Price Review to get the £25 million figure reduced. How it ever got up to £30 million is beyond my understanding. The three Price Reviews of 1966, 1967 and 1968, show that there was an under-recoupment of £15 million.
The net farm income for the years affected shows that the suggested figure was up by £35 million in the space of those three years. If the efficiency factor has been worth £90 million, the net farm income should have been up not by £35 million but by about £75 million. This means that there is no longer in the industry the power to regenerate capital and growth. It may have been there in the 1950s and early 1960s—I doubt whether it was in the latter, but it was certainly there in the 1950s, when the industry was full of growth and productivity—but it has not been there since, as anyone who farms will be able to say. The £30 million a year is just not there any longer.
The industry is now faced with ever-rising costs. Whereas in the four years 1960 to 1964 costs increased by £88 million, in the four years 1965 to 1969 they increased by £185 million. Costs of this magnitude are a factor in efficiency in that a large percentage of them occur during the year and must be met out of the industry and before being recouped at the Price Review. This militates against the industry absorbing its increased costs and expanding its production. There are inherent difficulties in the present system and these will continue unless the system is altered.
There has been much criticism from what I believe to be ill-informed sections of the farming industry, about Conservative policy. These critics have tried, wilfully helped by the Minister—[HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."]—to misinterpret what my hon. Friends are trying to do. Conservative policy would enable the industry to expand. We have made it clear that we accept the target figures of the "Little Neddy" and that we appreciate the need for increased production to save imports.
84 An examination of the import figures over the last 12 years shows that we were importing less right up to 1967–68. Now, in terms of both quantity and cash—the latter because of devaluation—we are beginning to import more. This is a serious situation and something must be done about it. Whereas in 1957–58, 65 per cent. of our total supplies of wheat and flour were imported and whereas by 1967–68 the figure had gone down to 51 per cent., it is forecast to be 55.2 per cent. for 1968–69. This percentage should not be allowed to increase at a time when the balance-of-payments situation is worse than ever.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
While I do not dispute those figures, is it not wrong to assume a trend from a single figure? Has the hon. Gentleman forgotten that last year was disastrous in terms of harvest and yield per acre and that that was bound to have an effect on imports?
§ Mr. Prior
The same serious trend can be seen for beef, veal, mutton and lamb. The figures make nonsense of much of what the Minister has been saying.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have always preached expansion and import saving but, when in power, they have done nothing about them. They are restrictive in their attitude and confined by the present system. We cannot get expansion under this system because as soon as things begin to improve, we find that each unit is costing an additional subsidy, with the result that the subsidy bill goes up, something which no Government can allow to continue.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite have made a number of accusations about the cost of food under the proposed Conservative policy. We accept that some increase in food prices would result from our policy, but we should be getting levies and these would go in social payments to those who needed help. It is often forgotten that whereas ten years ago the expenditure by a family on food as a percentage of total outgoings was 27, it has been reduced to 21. Thus, as we become more prosperous—as we hope we shall again when the Conservatives are returned to power—the percentage of family incomes spent on food will fall. This means that the cost of food will become relatively 85 less important to the vast majority of people. Everything points to a switch in policy, away from the present restrictive system to a policy which allows for true expansion without the Treasury and the Board of Trade always putting on the squeeze.
If British agriculture is to expand and if we are to get away from these annual Price Review wrangles, we must change the system and allow our farmers an opportunity to expand. They are capable of doing it and they can serve the nation well by doing it.
§ 6.6 p.m.
§ Mr. Alfred Morris (Manchester, Wythenshawe)
Although I have had very close personal relationship with the Ministry in recent years, this is the first occasion on which I have spoken on an agriculture debate. This is, therefore, a maiden speech in that respect, and I hope to be reasonably uncontroversial.
Some bitter attacks have been made on my right hon. Friend, but this is not unexpected. Indeed, it would perhaps be remarkable if any Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food of my party were not exposed to attack from hon. Gentlemen opposite. In a way this debate is quite like old times. I recall the 1965 Price Review when my right hon. Friend the then Minister of Agriculture was exposed not only to verbal attack but almost even to physical attack as a result of the determinations which he then made.
Yet what happened subsequently? The then shadow Minister of Agriculture lost his seat at the following election and has now taken alternative employment. The then Minister, however, is still with us and is honoured by the agricultural industry for the excellence of his leadership. He won the respect of the industry to an extent that very few other Ministers have done.
Thus, the present Minister of Agriculture need not be dismayed if attacked, even bitterly, by hon. Gentlemen opposite, particularly since hon. Members who understand the industry will give him credit for his courage. Hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies——
§ Mr. Morris
I am speaking in a bipartisan way. After all, I said I would try to be uncontroversial.
I believe hon. Members who understand the real problems of the industry will agree with me that the present Minister will be vindicated as the full effects of this Review work themselves out. All Members can take immense pride in the achievements of the British farming industry. Our farmers have a great reputation and they deserve well of all political parties. For this reason, I regret the rather exaggerated language that has been used in this debate by some hon. Gentlemen opposite. For the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) to use words such as "contempt" is to degrade what should be a very serious and important debate about the most basic of our industries.
But I think I understand the reasons for the very strong language used by hon. Members opposite. They regard themselves as having a prescriptive right to rule British agriculture. Far too many of them think it an impertinence for members of my party to exercise authority over the agricultural industry——
§ Mr. Morris
All I can say is that narrow party points are out of place in a discussion of something that is extremely important for the whole of our economy. The right hon. Gentleman gave us a good insight into the policies he would pursue if he were to become Minister of Agriculture. And, of course, there is nothing more unlovely than the sight of former Ministers advocating policies they had every opportunity to carry through when they were in office.
In a recent article, Mr. George Houston, a very shrewd and informed observed of the agriculture scene, pointed out that:After all, it was Labour and not the Conservatives who switched the emphasis towards expansion while in office.He emphasised the words "while in office". He also stated that:… the nature of the final award of £34 million has probably left fewer dissatisfied farmers than many previous reviews.Mr. Houston is not the kind of controversialist who fails to document his arguments, and I am sure that both sides of 87 the House have respect for his judgment on agricultural questions.
Allowing for increased costs and efficiency, the determination for the period 1965–69 inclusive are very much better than where those for the previous five years. This is the best comparison we can make——
§ Mr. James Scott-Hopkins (Derbyshire, West)
The hon. Gentleman should be accurate. He says that the Review is the best for five years: it is not.
§ Mr. Morris
The hon. Gentleman must have misheard me. I said that allowing for increased costs and efficiency the determinations made for the period 1965–69 inclusive have been very much more favourable to farmers than were the Reviews for the previous five years. As I said earlier, I am trying to speak as objectively as possible, to give the facts as I know them and to place this Review in its real context. It is the fact, not an opinion, to say that the Reviews from 1965 to 1969 inclusive are, taken together, very much better than those for the years between 1960 and 1964.
Mr. Houston also said:The explicit move away from the traditional global appraisal of agriculture towards a commodity approach in determining incentives is one of the most significant aspects of this Review.The Review is selective, and rightly so. It is not inconsistent with our objectives for agriculture which were announced in November last.
Those objectives were of selective expansion. We were looking for expansion in the interests of import saving on wheat and barley, beef and pigs. In this Review, the Government had added £37½, million to the value of the guarantees on these products. This increases their profitability, and so provides money for investment in their expansion.
The award on beef is the highest for over 20 years. We expect the demand for beef, in particular, and for other meat, to rise with living standards both here and in the world generally. There is plenty of room for more of the roast beef of old England. It is good sense to concentrate on products for which there will be a rise in demand over the years, and to encourage demand by the reasonable prices 88 ensured by the deficiency payments system.
One must acknowledge many other favourable points about the present Price Review. First, it is very good for the housewife. Last week at Walthamstow, East the Conservative candidate was saying that one of the main issues in contemporarry politics is the rising cost of living. What he did not say was that the Conservative Party is actively planning to increase the cost of living to a very considerable extent.
I am glad that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham has returned to his place because I want to quote from the Dairy Mirror, which interviewed the right hon. Gentleman for its current issue. It was a very interesting piece of literature. I respect the right hon. Gentleman's long association with the agriculture industry, but he will recall that in this interview he argued for an increase of between 5 and 6 per cent. in food prices. He argued for levies on food imports which would, for some of our poorer people, drastically increase the cost of living.
Advancing one of his propositions, he said:Moreover if we adapted the levy system it might well be possible to help the housewife by reducing the purchase tax on other goodsPurchase Tax is not, of course, levied on food, fuels and other necessities, which means that the right hon. Gentleman wants to increase the price of food and, by reducing Purchase Tax on other commodities, to make it extremely difficult for those who spend all, or almost all, of their income on food and other necessities.
The House knows that I am not at all keen on imposing levies on imports of food. I am against taxing food. I believe that any Government informed by compassion for those who are in special need will place the emphasis in taxation on means and not on needs. The interview given to the Dairy Mirror and many of the speeches by the right hon. Gentleman in recent weeks and months show that the party opposite intends gratuitously to increase the cost of living and to do so in such a way as would harm the very poorest people in the country.
§ Mr. Godber
Will the hon. Member explain for the benefit of the House if he is opposed in this way—and I understand and respect his concern—whether he was opposed to the devaluation of the £, which put up the cost of living more than our proposals would?
§ Mr. Morris
I appreciate that the right hon. Gentleman still wants to make party points. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] He has been using exaggerated language. Although Mr. Speaker would not thank me if I turned this into a debate about general economic policy, many of my hon. Friends were indeed extremely concerned that devaluation, if not matched by other measures, could have a harmful effect on some of the poorer people in our community.
In the interview the right hon. Gentleman also said:The real point, however, is that the imposition of levies would stop the dumping of milk products into this country. It is this grossly unfair contribution that provides the main threat to our industry today.In his speech today the right hon. Gentleman referred particularly to France and the Netherlands. But how much protection would there be for our dairy industry if the right hon. Gentleman, as one of the keenest advocates of British membership of the European Economic Community, had his way? I understand that the right hon. Gentleman is totally committed to the idea of accepting the common agricultural policy of the E.E.C. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the Minister?"] My right hon. Friend can speak for himself.
§ Mr. Morris
I am trying to be as brief as I can. What possible logic, or consistency, or sense, is there in talking about the dumping of dairy products on the British market if at the same time the right hon. Gentleman is in favour of subscribing completely to the common agricultural policy of the Common Market, which would give even easier access to our market?
§ Mr. Morris
I have given way, indeed I even invited one intervention, but now I must get on. The N.F.U.s have made 90 quite clear that they do not accept the right hon. Gentleman's policy on levies. Moreover, I have the impression that responsible and sensible opinion in the National Farmers' Unions infinitely prefer this Review to some important aspects of the policy of the party opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense."]
I am completely satisfied that my right hon. Friend has done a good job for the industry. The right hon. Member for Grantham smiles, but I remember the 1965 Price Review. I suppose that it is natural for a Minister's first Review to be extremely difficult, but I admire the way in which my right hon. Friend tackled the problems that faced him. Comparing his recent speeches with what he has done in this Review, he has been far more consistent than has the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
May I make just two more brief points? The Leader of the Opposition made a very valid suggestion last week when he said that we ought to be bringing up-to-date the calculations that were made in 1967 about the costs of British entry to the Common Market. That was a very constructive suggestion coming from the Leader of the Opposition. It may be that we shall have to look again at the calculations that were made in the White Paper on Agriculture issued by the then Minister in May, 1967. I hope that we shall look at the facts of the situation as they are now and do so with much greater consistency than some hon. Members have done in their speeches today.
Finally, the specialist Select Committee on Agriculture has reached some very important conclusions. Both parties in the months immediately ahead will, I hope, give very careful consideration to those conclusions and especially to the recommendation on manpower.
§ 6.25 p.m.
§ Sir John Gilmour (Fife, East)
The hon. Member for Manchester, Wythenshawe (Mr. Alfred Morris) started by saying that the Conservative Party thought that it had a prescriptive right to govern agriculture. I thought it an unfortunate remark for him to make when I glanced at the empty benches on either side of him to see how many hon. Members opposite are interested in this debate.
The hon. Member went on to say how much this Review does for wheat, beef 91 and barley. While it is possible to read that into the figures, I think the Minister would find it difficult—knowing the amount of wheat sown at this time—to say that there will be no extra call on the Exchequer this year. We are hoping to get an increased wheat acreage not this year but in the following year, which will have to be paid for in about two years' time. As to beef, the time lag for breeding is considerable and the determination will not be putting extra money into the farmers' pockets at this time.
The hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan) spoke about the need to query the rôle of import saving. I am certain this is right. We have to realise, as was brought out by my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), that with a rising population, irrespective of what we do about import saving, we shall have to pay a great deal more in foreign exchange for the sort of food which we cannot grow. Therefore the import bill for foods we cannot grow will rise considerably.
We cannot look at our agricultural policy in isolation. It is a great pity that the Select Committee on Agriculture has been discontinued, because there seems so much work still to be done. I draw the attention of the House to a report which came out last November from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It shows the massive food surpluses in 21 E.E.C. countries, plus Australia and New Zealand, which when we are framing our agricultural policy we must take into account. With any Price Review which looks at organising in isolation we are bound to miss the bus.
The report shows that at present in those countries the surplus of wheat is 24 million tons. By 1975 it will be up to 47 million tons and by 1985 up to 58 million tons. Although coarse grains in this area have been in short supply, by 1975 there will be a surplus of 41 million tons and by 1985 a surplus of 62 million tons. Supplies of beef and veal are already short in those areas and will get shorter. There will be a deficit of nearly 2 million tons.
I cannot see how we can continue with these growing surpluses, particularly 92 those in the Common Market countries, and go on thinking that we can protect our farming population under the present system. We have an open-door policy for imports and the only way to protect our farmers is by guaranteed prices. I do not believe any Government will be able to face this in future.
That is why it is essential for us to turn over to the import levy system, because against these growing surpluses we shall not be able to support British farmers. I hope that the National Farmers' Union and the Government will take a much more long-term look at this, because the one-year Price Review always lands us in trouble because it does not look far enough ahead. If my advice is followed we will be able to make clear to those with whom we have international agreements that we must renegotiate these agreements and reduce the amount we buy from certain countries. If we give adequate warning, this can be done.
Lastly, there is the point raised by the hon. Member for Wythenshawe about the question of entering the Common Market. In view of the growing surpluses in Common Market countries, there is grave danger of our being asked to join the Common Market so that those countries can get rid of their goods on to us. That is why I hope that the Tory Party and the Government will examine this matter closely, because previously we were talking about the levels of production in force about six years ago. The O.E.C.D. Report shows that the surpluses of butter, cheese, milk products and grains will get greater and greater over the next 15–20 years. It is essential that we change our system so that we can face up to protecting British farmers. Unless we change our system, we shall fail the farming community.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Tony Gardner (Rushcliffe)
So far I have heard only one statement from the benches opposite with which I totally agree. That was the castigation by the hon. Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) of minimum import prices. The few complaints that I have against the Government and their agricultural policy 93 are in those instances where they have followed the lead of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. My complaint is that in this connection we have followed that lead with disastrous effects for the British consumer.
Once again we are on the annual exercise. Each year we get together to review what my right hon. Friend has done for the farming community and the consumer. Each year we have a dogfight. The one difference this year is that the speech made by the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) was deplorable. Fie often found it necessary to move right away from agricultural policy and to make a broad sweeping review of the Government's economic policy generally. I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman found it necessary to do this, except that he was rather short on other arguments. Apart from the gentleman whose letter the right hon. Gentleman quoted, farmers in the East Midlands, the part of the country which the right hon. Gentleman and I represent, will find in my right hon. Friend's determinations some useful opportunities for expansion. Perhaps the right hon. Gentleman had to make a lot of noise today to cover up for the deficiencies in his argument.
As a member of the former Select Committee on Agriculture I wholly endorse the Report we produced. I greatly regret that my right hon. Friend has not been able to squeeze more out of the Treasury for agricultural expansion. The Select Committee meant what it said. It believed that British agriculture and horticulture can and should meet more of our food needs. Hon. Members who quoted this general advocacy by the Select Committee should have gone on to quote Conclusion IV:While we accept the advantages of further investment in agriculture, the extent of this investment, should depend on the relative benefit in import saving of the employment of further resources in agriculture as opposed to increased investment in other industries. Calculations have been made for agriculture, but similar information is not available for industry.Whilst the Opposition are engaged in the exercise of quotation and advocacy, the Government, irrespective of whether the information is available, still have to make some calculations. I believe that my right hon. Friend should have 94 got more from the Treasury, but within the amount which he has been able to obtain for agricultural expansion I believe that he has chosen the right priorities—in cereals, in pigmeat, in beef, and in fat sheep in particular. Naturally the farming community will complain that there is not something more for milk. Anyone with any connection with the countryside realises how much the farmer depends on the milk cheque. The question my right hon. Friend had to decide was: within the limited resources available for expansion, which of these areas was likely to contribute most to import saving? It is in cereals and meat production particularly that we are likely to get the greatest gains from investment in agriculture.
If the Opposition's attitude is deplorable, almost equally deplorable is the Luddite approach of the National Farmers' Union. The Press statement which we received from the N.F.U. on the day on which my right hon. Friend made his announcement and published his White Paper treated us to an exercise in gloom; it was almost a complete advocacy, not of expansion, but of a reduction in agricultural activity. If a trade union had made such a statement in relation to industry generally—in engineering, say, or in motor manufacturing—every newspaper, especially those which support right hon. and hon. Members opposite, would have been down on its neck. Such a trade union would have been guilty of sabotage, in the eyes of the Press.
Of course there has been a relative decline in farm incomes. This is a world problem. In almost every other major country which relies to a considerable extent on manufacturing industry relative farm incomes have been declining. The question we must face is whether a switch to another system would help. British agriculture, for all the complaints and for all the terrible setbacks of last year, is none the less prosperous. In view of the record of the 22 years during which this present policy has applied, I am not so sure that we should change it. The memories of right hon. and hon. Members opposite are short. Over the last 22 years there has been a rapid growth in the prosperity of the British countryside. We should be very careful about undoing it. 95 One result of this policy has been a continuing increase in the proportion of foodstuffs produced at home.
Farmers argue that we are pursuing a policy of food subsidies. This is nonsense, because if the world price of beef is at a certain level and we pay farmers sums of money which enable them to get a higher price than the world price, this is a subsidy to farmers. I am not complaining about this. Other forms of agricultural support have the same intention. The effect is the same, whether there is a system of support prices or whether there is a quota and levy system. The two advantages of our system are, first, that it has enabled Britain to have much lower food prices and, secondly, that it has led to a great deal of stability which has enabled British agriculture to expand. So why change it?
Is there any evidence both in terms of the very high prices paid by the consumer in France and Germany, or in terms of the general unhappiness of the farming community of Europe, that the policy of the E.E.C. has led to confidence in agriculture?
Let us consider the policy advocated by the right hon. Member for Grantham. It has been said many times that the farmers are not happy with the levy and quota system. I should have thought that that would give hon. Members opposite cause for concern. But I. too, am very concerned about the effect on prices. It is not enough to talk about the average family. I am sick and tired of hearing even my right hon. and hon. Friends talking about average industrial earnings. I am more concerned with the millions of people who still get less than the average level of industrial earnings and the effect of the right hon. Gentleman's policy on them.
The food intake of these people consists of the basic foodstuffs. Of course, prices have risen as a result of devaluation, but we should examine where they have risen. We should examine the vast amount of luxury foods which we are consuming as a result of general prosperity. This is fine. This is the result of a rising standard of living. But such foods are not being consumed by poor people like pensioners and those with large families who continue to rely heavily on the standard food commodities.
96 If we could transfer the money which the Exchequer pays to the farming community in price support to pensions or family allowances, I am prepared to consider the policy of the right hon. Member for Grantham. But, as I suggested when I intervened in the right hon. Gentleman's speech, that is not the view of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition, when challenged to say where he would save money on the tax bill, said that it would be saved on agricultural support. It is clear that the Opposition's policy is to transfer money from the consumer to the taxpayer. This would not only have a disastrous effect on agriculture, it would be a regressive measure of redistribution of the national income from the poor to the wealthy.
I am also concerned with what the right hon. Gentleman says about taxation. He talked a lot about the effect of other Government policies on food prices. He neglected to mention that another plank of the Opposition's policy is a tax on value added. If, unfortunately, the Conservative Party returns to power, the British consumer, faced with a tax on value added and with the effects of a quota levy system, will hardly know what hit her.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite constantly talk about the difficulties of farm workers. I recognise as well as anyone that farm workers' wages depend on the general prosperity of agriculture. But I can remember a little further back than perhaps my imagined tender years would lead one to believe and before we had the sort of policy which my party adopted in 1947, my father working ten hours a day in a sweaty tomato house for 34s. a week. There was no great show of generosity by the farming community towards people like my father then. I am therefore very doubtful when I hear what is advocated by right hon. and hon. Members opposite now.
What disturbs me most is that we should have this debate at all each year. Once a year my right hon. Friend the Minister goes into purdah. Once a year he, the National Farmers' Unions and the Treasury engage in an undignified form of haggling which is more appropriate to a Middle Eastern bazaar. This is not the way to determine the policy of a major British industry. I suggest to my 97 right hon. Friend that we should have permanent committees covering broad areas of industry which can consider the effects of Government policy on them. I do not suggest that a Select Committee on agriculture should help to determine the Price Review. However, a committee in permanent session could consider the general problems of agriculture in relation to the economy in the light of the way in which my right hon. Friend's policy should work.
That would be a much better way of dealing with this matter. It seems to me and to a good many other right hon. and hon. Members that it would be far better to have a continuous review of agricultural policy, as is done in respect of some other industries, than the annual slanging match on which we are engaged today.
§ 6.46 p.m.
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris (Nantwich)
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) dealt with the Review from the national angle. I should like to deal with it more particularly from the point of the view of the milk producer in Cheshire. Before I do so, I wish to say a few words about the Minister's statement on 12th November last.
We on this side of the House could hardly be said to have given the Minister's statement a very warm reception. My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham clashed sharply with the Minister about its contents. The right hon. Gentleman could not help but read it badly because it was badly put together. It was probably deliberately badly written to mask the fact that there was not very much in it. However, it opened rather well. It began by referring to the Government's agricultural review generally. It states:This review has amply vindicated the industry as one which has made efficient use of the resources devoted to it. Productivity has continued to rise. Output has increased. There has been a valuable saving in imports. All this has been achieved without a significant increase in support costs and consistently with our international obligations. The industry has given good value for money to the British people, both as consumers and as taxpayers."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 210.]The farmers of Britain placed their hopes and aspirations upon that. They believed the Minister when he said that he wanted and intended to see an expansion of 98 British agriculture. But if one looks at the statement very closely one sees very little in it to help farmers in Cheshire. The word "milk" hardly appears in it. Nevertheless, all branches of agriculture thought that the Minister meant that they would be asked to expand and to produce more and that farming would be a good thing. The disillusionment brought about by the Price Review is why we are here today. It is the main reason why we are in complete disagreement with the Minister and why those in the industry think that he has deceived them.
The Minister said—and I was amazed to hear it—that farmers will not take the view that the Opposition take but that they will think that the Review is good and is what they could have expected. If the right hon. Gentleman comes to Cheshire in the next few weeks—and I know that I speak for practically every other county, too—he will not get that impression. He will find that farmers are indignant with him and look upon him as someone who has sold them down the river.
I am a simple chap. I do not go in for a lot of figures and statistics. It is probably because I am a simple chap that I represent people who do not like complications. They like things to be plain and straightforward. The Cheshire farmer sees in this Review for the first time in history the standard quantity of milk reduced. That is a bad thing. He sees an addition in the price of milk to eradicate the financial effect of that upon him. Nevertheless it is terrible to think that, having achieved such high figures of milk production, the Government are adopting a policy of getting by on 38.4 million gallons a year, with farmers being given something back for being out of pocket. What a ridiculous way to run an industry.
Farmers are seeing their costs rising in every respect. They are having to pay more for fertiliser, machinery, equipment and labour. They do not mind the latter too much because they recognise that it is a good thing to pay their labour well. However, all this extra money must be found, and what upsets them more than anything is that the Government are not allowing them money to plough back so that they can achieve the production which the Minister is exhorting them to achieve.
99 To discover the facts the Minister should visit farmers throughout the country and witness the bad feeling they have for the Government. Many of them feel that they should get out of the industry. They are saying, "What is the good carrying on and trying to achieve increased production when we are treated in this way?" Who can blame them for adopting that point of view? If the Minister had a son, would he want him to go into the farming industry when it is treated in this way by the Government?
We are often told that Ministers of Agriculture have their hearts in the right place even if their actions are wrong. I am sure that the present Minister, like his predecessor, would like to aid the industry, but the Government's general determination in this matter is preventing him from doing that.
Farmers are sending in resolutions from all parts demanding the right hon. Gentleman's resignation. They might as well call for the moon. Farmers do not understand the principles of resignation in the Labour Party. They think that they are the same as those applicable to the Conservative Party. [Laughter.] Hon. Gentlemen opposite may laugh, but they are not likely to find a Tom Dugdale in their midst. Although the present Minister should resign, I am sure that he will not.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
I recognise that the hon. Gentleman is making a speech for a purpose. He will appreciate that beef and pigs are important to Cheshire, a county which I know well and have visited on many occasions. Does he agree that the Government's determinations on beef and pigs are important to his county? Concerning milk, which is also important to Cheshire, would he indicate how much he would put on milk?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
Naturally the determinations on beef and pigs are important to Cheshire, but it is equally important for the Government to arrange their policy so that it pays to milk cows. They are not arranging it in that way.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
Since the hon. Gentleman attacked me, it is only fair that I should ask him to answer a reasonable question. Against the background of what I said in my opening remarks, how much would he put on milk?
§ Mr. Grant-Ferris
This cannot be decided simply by saying how much one would put on milk. [HON. MEMBERS: "Answer."] One must also control imports. The question which the right hon. Gentleman has asked me is similar to the famous one, "Have you left off beating your wife?" I have for too long been an hon. Member to be trapped into answering a question like that. It is the whole system that is at fault. The dairy farmer in particular feels that he is being victimised by what is happening.
I said at the outset that I would be brief. In Cheshire one cannot find a farmer who has any confidence in either the Minister or the party opposite. All the farmers there feel that they will get justice and things put right only when the Conservatives are back in power.
§ 6.55 p.m.
§ Mr. William Baxter (West Stirlingshire)
The hon. Member for Nantwich (Mr. Grant-Ferris) made an entertaining speech, although no real facts emerged from it.
As I participated in a debate rather like this one about nine years ago, I apologise in advance if I repeat what I said on that occasion. I confess at the outset to having an interest in this matter in that I am a somewhat small farmer.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on presenting a Price Review which, taken in the context of the economic well-being of the country and judged by previous Price Reviews, is good, not only for the farming community but for the nation as a whole. It is true that certain aspects of it are open to criticism, but that is to be expected. In the nature of Price Reviews, one is bound to take exception to parts of them. I can think of no Price Review in the years during which I have been in the House when one has not been able to take exception to them. Broadly speaking, however, this is a good Price Review and if hon. Gentlemen opposite wish to be fair and reasonable, they will agree with me. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."]
I am not the sort of hon. Member who says, "You did that and we did this." I prefer to focus attention on the present and the future. However, bearing in mind the claim of the N.F.U. that the costs of its members have gone 101 up by £40 million—a round figure to which exception has never been taken and which, for the sake of argument, I will accept as being correct—so that the shortfall is, according to what the Minister said earlier, £6 million, what are the effects on an industry of this magnitude? This shortfall on a £2,000 million turnover is equal to ⅔d. in the £. If this will be the ruination of the agriculture industry, I cannot believe that farming is as profitable as it is.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on what he has managed to achieve in this Review. I shall, however, be critical—[HON. MEMBERS: "Ah."]—and I am adopting the old medical concept of sweetening the pill first by congratulating him. The N.F.U. has estimated that there has been a £4 million increase in costs since the last Review. Bearing that in mind, let us consider what Scottish farmers are getting back in this Review. They are getting, in my estimation—and I think that it is a reasonable one—£5,526,000. They are getting over £1½ million more than their increase in costs. I would have thought that that was not a bad review for Scotland. I wish that in my other business interests my costs were reimbursed to the same extent.
There was an interjection by an hon. Member opposite in an offhanded sort of way when my right hon. Friend was speaking about the effect of the Review on the cost of calves. He questioned whether it would bring anything to the farmer who breeds calves. I had occasion last week to go and buy a new calf for one of my cows—its calf had died—and I found that the price of calves had gone up since the Price Review. I can assure the hon. Member, therefore, that, in practice, those who have calves and want to sell them are, by virtue of the Price Review, getting an increased price.
§ Mr. Peter Mills
The Minister actually said "bobby calves". If the hon. Member thinks that bobby calves can be reared for beef, he is quite wrong. That is where he makes the mistake.
§ Mr. Baxter
I listened with as much attention as did the hon. Member to my right hon. Friend's speech and I did not hear him make the remark that the hon. Member suggests. I merely pass on that experience of mine.
102 It has been said by many hon. Members that the Minister should have done more for the milk industry. That would not have been correct in the nature of Price Reviews at the present time. I do not think that Price Reviews should remain as they are. That apart, the Minister has to work within the context of the present system of Price Reviews
It would have been a mistake to increase the supply of milk. In fact, as my right hon. Friend rightly said, the flow of milk will be increased. Even in the milk industry, fairly substantial profits can be made. Anyone who likes to look at any sale of good milk beasts will find that the prices are extremely high. I am not in the milk industry, but I was looking at the paper only the other day and I found that £130 was paid for a milk cow That is good money, and it is good business for those who have milk cows to sell. The Minister has rightly looked at this sector of agriculture properly and correctly.
I have a little bone of contention about the potato industry, not that I grow potatoes, but I find that the curtailment of the potato acreage by the Potato Marketing Board—in consultation, I have no doubt, with my right hon. Friends—has reduced the acreage by 15 per cent. This means that the acreage to be set for potatoes is roughly 580,000 acres.
I wonder whether my right hon. Friends have had regard to the curtailment of the importation of potatoes in the same relationship as the curtailment of production in our country. This is extremely important, not only for the potato grower, but especially for the seed potato grower. My hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes) represents a constituency where people produce new potatoes and, like those in other areas of Scotland which produce seed potatoes, they are greatly concerned about the position.
§ Mr. Emrys Hughes (South Ayrshire)
The grievance of the new potato growers is that quantities come in from Cyprus and elsewhere just when the Ayrshire potatoes come on to the market.
§ Mr. Baxter
I appreciate that. In the context of what I would like to suggest should be the policy of the Government, I will try to deal with that aspect. I have said sufficient, however, at least to 103 bring to the notice of my right hon. Friend the problem which can be brought about by the curtailment of the potato crop in Britain.
It has been said that the increase in the price of wheat and barley will, to some extent, increase production in our wheat and barley areas. I doubt this very much and I question whether the increase in subsidy was warranted. This is a matter which should be looked at with greater care.
The other question which troubles me greatly is the curtailment of the fertiliser subsidy. This surely goes to the very roots of producing the commodities which are so much desired. If we forget the roots, how will we reap the reward of the seed? The fertiliser subsidy is not one which should have been reduced, because it has been too much reduced in the past. I would have thought it wise for my right hon. Friends to consider this with greater care for the future products of the farming community.
I listened to the speech of the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), who tried to destroy the policy pursued by succeeding Governments since 1947 and tried to prove that the whole system was wrong. I do not disagree entirely with what the right hon. Gentleman said. He came to a point in his speech, however, when he said that he would give us the Conservative Party's policy. He took roughly three seconds to give it. One of my hon. Friends interrupted, as I did myself, to get elaboration of the Conservative policy for agriculture. I hope that the winding-up speech from the Opposition Front Bench will take a little time, not to look back to the mistakes made by the party opposite or by the present Government, but to give us an indication of Conservative projections for the future of agriculture.
It is not right that in a debate like this we should think only of destructive criticism and neglect our duty of giving sensible, constructive points of view. I suggest that certain considerations should be borne in mind, not only by my right hon. Friends on this side, but by right hon. and hon. Members on the Front Bench, and even on the back benches, opposite.
I suggest, as I suggested in 1960, that an impartial commission should be set 104 up, from both sides of the House of Commons, like the Select Committee on Agriculture, to look into the whole question of subsidy and to review the system if need be. I am certain that there is much sensibility among hon. Members on both sides to produce a good, concerted policy that would stop what one of my hon. Friends described as the unseemly haggle which takes place year in and year out and does no good to this great industry—in fact, the greatest industry in the land.
If I may remind my hon. Friends and hon. Members opposite, this industry is larger than the shipbuilding industry and the motor car industry put together.
§ Mr. Baxter
It comprises many small men but they make up a large unit. We should not disregard this industry. I therefore suggest that we should have a committee of inquiry into ways and means of reviewing and altering the existing system of subsidy.
The second thing we should do is to devise better methods for more assured markets in this land, and not only for one part of our products but for all. The Government should encourage more co-operation in the industry to promote a greater degree of the utilisation of surpluses which are required not only for our own people but for the people of the world. The pig subsidy which my right hon. Friend has added is indeed a very considerable step in trying to establish this, but I had hoped he would have gone further. I have said before, we should eat what we can, and can what we can't. Pig meat is a good example of an export industry in a product John Chinaman is actually begging for because he cannot supply the millions of Chinamen with this basic food, pork. We should have got factory farming on a humane sort of way, which would have been a great boost to our export trade. The next thing I should like to see is investigation into the possibility of manufacturing of dried potatoes—a certain amount of work has been done on that—and of dried eggs, and a certain amount of work has been done on that, too.
The Conservative Party has gone a little way on this question of setting up 105 of an import board, but I want something different from an import board. I would like an export-import board, with full powers, to purchase in world markets at world market prices any surpluses available, and then resell them, if need be, for feedingstuffs, etc. The profits could well be channelled into a viable, expanding agricultural industry, I think that this has great possibilities.
I would like to see a national scheme, financed by the Government, for land reclamation. We shall never be able to increase production from our land unless we have a proper reclamation scheme throughout the length and breadth of our country. It should work for all the land whether I own it or anybody else owns it; all the land should be brought into cultivation by Government action and by Government schemes. Land conservation is of paramount importance. I have said before and I say it again, it is a crime against posterity that the land of our fathers is used in such a haphazard manner as it is at the present time. We can reclaim disused industrial land, and remove bings and pit refuse, to provide sites for factories. Why should we not take the right to reclaim land for agriculture? It is a crime that we do not use God's gift of agricultural land for the production of the things by which we live and survive, and worse still that we should utilise it for anything not absolutely imperative and necessary. I therefore say that land reclamation is of paramount importance, and conservation of the land is of immediate importance, and that if we do not do these things we shall live to regret it.
I do not want to take up more of the time of the House but I have here a paper containing suggestions I put to the House nine years ago, in May, 1960, and I have put them again today. There has been a movement of opinion along these lines, and unless we realise the rightness of these proposals we shall never get the production which we so much desire from our land.
§ 7.14 p.m.
§ Mr. Emlyn Hooson (Montgomery)
I entirely agreed with the hon. Gentleman the Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) when he said we needed reclamation, particularly of the land of our fathers, in Wales.
106 The Minister said that he welcomed the debate after the Price Review. I venture to think it would have been much more valuable for the agricultural industry if it had taken place before the Price Review. Hon. Members are excluded from taking part in the deliberations which lead to a Price Review, and whatever advantages a Price Review may have—and it has many—one of its great disadvantages is that it lends itself to the kind of political knockabout we have been having this afternoon, because this is no more than a post mortem on a review which has already taken place. Probably hon. Members in all parts of the House who represent agricultural communities will agree that the real debate should be taking place on the rôle of agriculture in the British economy; on what part it should play; it should be a dialogue between hon. Members representing agricultural constituencies and hon. Members representing industrial constituencies and consumer interests. The latter hon. Members represent them, probably, to a larger degree than do hon. Members from agricultural areas. Often the true debate is more acute within parties than it is in a debate of this kind here.
It is necessary to get this Review in its true perspective. There have been better Reviews than this; there have been worse Reviews than this. The real criticism of this Review is that it is not a Review to give the farmers full confidence in an all-out expansion programme. Whether he likes it or not, the Minister cannot be surprised that the Review has dashed the hopes of the agricultural industry after he raised them by his statement of 12th November, 1968. That is really why there has been such an outcry about this Review.
There is, of course, within the Review scope for expansion in selected branches of the industry, such as beef, but this is not a Review which really caters for the important import saving possibilities of agriculture in the period to 1972–73. One very important figure which was missing from the Minister's statement initially and his speech today is that of his estimate of the actual import saving expected from this Review. That is really the vital question. It is not like an ordinary Review, but an instalment of a review to encourage expansion in the industry within four years, to achieve an import saving 107 of £160 million. The right hon. Gentleman has not presented us with this estimate of what this particular Review will achieve.
There is always an element of hypocrisy, I always think, about these post Review debates. Since I have been a Member of the House I have known only two Reviews which have gained an accolade of acclaim. These debates are usually synthetic debates. I am sure hon. Members in all parts of the House, whatever partisan feelings they express, feel that the agricultural industry is rather fed up with being a political football to be dribbled about and kicked around every year as a result of a Review.
The Conservative Opposition may have had a change of heart, but I cannot help remembering that when I was previously the agricultural spokesman for my party in 1963 I actually suggested we should go over gradually to a levy system for some products, if we were to go into the Common Market, and should have a managed market but I was against standard quantities, the then Secretary of State for Scotland, the right hon. Member for Argyll (Mr. Noble), said that Idid not like standard quantities but believed that we should increase output by 4 per cent. every year. This would be extremely difficult because, in some commodities—with liquid milk, pork, barley and eggs among them—we are already producing the maximum and we cannot guarantee that demand for them will increase every year by 4 per cent."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th December, 1963; Vol. 686, c. 6911.]There was no suggestion there of any import saving rôle for agriculture. I do not want to make any party point out of this, but I merely want to point out that views expressed differ when one is on the Government Front Bench from when one is on the Opposition Front Bench.
This is a pity for the agricultural industry as a whole. What is lacking in this country is a thorough debate and discussion on the rôle of agriculture in our economic life. We need a major policy decision not only by the Government but by all three parties to encourage a tremendous drive for agricultural production to save imports. I agree with the views of the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire, who expressed them eloquently in a Select Committee. The 108 Select Committee on Agriculture did most valuable work. One matter which has perhaps escaped attention is that members of all three parties on that Committee were able to agree on a report.
§ Mr. Hooson
I shall come back to that. This report reflects the contribution which could be made to our economic life by an increase in agricultural production so that we could save imports.
We are in a situation where, despite the advice of our leading economists in other sectors of the nations life, we are not balancing our payments. We are still living beyond our means. But we have here in agriculture the prime industry not only of our country but of mankind. We import £1,000 million worth of temperate foods every year yet we know that we can grow much of it ourselves. This is not mere theorising. We know that it can be done. We do not have to debate it.
I was brought up on a small Welsh farm in the 1920s and 1930s, and we had a very rough time. We must remember that the farming community is terrified by the thought of going back to the conditions of the 1920s and 1930s. That is why there has been such a deep feeling of disquiet about this Review. The farmers felt and thought that they were on the verge of an agricultural expansion programme. The Minister raised their hopes and has done nothing to satisfy them.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman was brought up on a farm in Denbighshire. Perhaps he will have noted that last week Denbighshire farmers gave a warm welcome to a good part of this Price Review. Thus, the farmers of the community from which he sprang appreciate that there are aspects of the Price Review which are very important to them.
§ Mr. Hooson
No one but the most extreme partisan could doubt that there are good parts of the Review. But I come back to my initial criticism—that the right hon. Gentleman raised hopes and has dashed them generally.
109 Do we really spend money wisely on agriculture? Are we getting value for money all round? I do not like the global figures in which we deal with agriculture. The incomes of the agricultural community vary enormously, from farmer to farmer. A figure published recently showed that the administrative costs of agriculture run to £800 for each agricultural holding. That is higher than the net income of many farmers in my constituency and in the right hon. Gentleman's. People are asking whether we are getting value for money. Is it impossible to achieve our present agricultural production and expand it without having an administrative over-burden of £800 per agricultural holding?
I feel that too much money is spent on the superstructure of agriculture. We are going in for too many nominated boards and commissions. I am all for certain marketing boards, but if we are to have boards let them be elected and not consist of nominated members. We have seen Parkinson's Law work apace in agriculture. I have an agricultural interest and have often benefited from the advice of officials and advisers but I often think that we need a complete review of the way the agricultural superstructure has been built up. Far too high a proportion of the money we spend on agriculture goes still into the wrong hands.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. John Mackie)
We would like the hon. and learned Gentleman to tie up this figure of £800 that he has quoted. What does it cover? Does it include the advisory services? These are hardly administrative.
§ Mr. Hooson
The figure was in a reply given by the Minister himself, and it is very high. I think that too high a proportion of the money we spend on agriculture still goes into the wrong pockets.
In any review of agriculture from the point of view of the interests of the country, we have to pay more regard to those products which are overproduced in the world and those which are in short supply, and the right hon. Gentleman is surely right to select beef as one of the products for expansion. There is a world shortage of beef and that shortage is increasing. On the other hand, there has been forecast a consider- 110 able world surplus of grain. By the 1970s, there will be over 40 million tons surplus grain in production in the O.E.C.D. countries alone.
What I am afraid of, both with this Review and with others, is that, even in areas such as mine—even within my family—which is an area very suitable for livestock production, farmers argue that it pays them better to grow grain, and therefore they grow it. I do not think that in the annual Price Review expansion must necessarily take place in all parts of agriculture. The right hon. Gentleman is right in a policy of selectivity but is it not possible to take it a step further? Should we not have some form of regional selectivity?
When there is an across the board policy, what is the right policy for East Anglia may result in encouraging farmers in Merionethshire, for example, to grow grain when they would do better for the country to concentrate on livestock and buy their grain elsewhere. This is a very difficult problem and one which needs to be tackled in a rather detached way—and certainly away from the kind of debate we are having today.
I want to mention the problems of the milk farmers, about which I am particularly concerned because so many small farmers in the West are dependent on milk. Let us consider the case of a small farm which has 40 cows in milk. It has been estimated that the farmer's income in milk profits will go down £250 per annum as a result of the Price Review. It may be suggested that he can sell steer calves to better advantage and perhaps he may have 20 of these. If he gets £5 more for each of them, that restores £100 of his income. He is still £150 down.
Anyone with an interest in agriculture knows about the importation of dried powdered milk, much used by catering establishments in preference to fresh milk. If one puts up the price of fresh milk, one knows that one will be encouraging greater production and that, in the long run, this is against the interests of the farmers themselves. The problem which arises has not been tackled in the Price Review in any way.
I think that a great deal of trouble here stems from lack of control of imports, and something needs to be done 111 immediately about that. If we are to encourage production of beef from these herds, there needs to be a greater encouragement than 15s. per cwt. at the end of it. For a small farmer dependent on the better profit margin which he gets and will still get in milk, it is difficult to see a future for himself by switching to beef. This is a great problem which the Minister is bound to be concerned with because of his own constituents. A greater assurance ought to have been given to the milk industry. It is a difficult problem, but I am sure that it is tied up with the question of much more rigorous import controls.
Reference has been made to the sinister influence of the Board of Trade and the Treasury on the agricultural industry, and those hon. Members who served on the Select Committee appreciated this. However, all hon. Members who have the interests of agriculture at heart know that the industry can make a tremendous contribution to import saving, and that we should try to persuade consumers and other industrial interests that their interests also lie in the encouragement of agriculture.
I conclude as I began by saying that there have been worse Reviews, but there have been many better ones. The Minister has failed to satisfy the agricultural community that it can really "roll on" towards import saving. I think that he referred to rolling forward towards a tremendous increase in productivity. If agriculture is to "roll forward", the Minister must provide the industry with better rollers than this Review does.
§ 7.32 p.m.
§ Mr. Bert Hazell (Norfolk, North)
When the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) opened for the Opposition, in view of his feigned fury, I thought that we were in for a rather ragged debate. However, those hon. Members who have sat through it so far will agree with me when I say that it has been an interesting and useful debate, and I am sure that my right hon. Friend will have taken note of many points before it concludes.
I congratulate my right hon. Friend on this Review not because it is what the industry would have wished for but because I know that, in the discussions 112 which he has had with his colleagues, in view of the general state of our economy, it will not have been easy to achieve the figures which the Review reveals.
I know, as do other colleagues of mine who served on the Select Committee, the difficulties experienced when we were interviewing Board of Trade and Treasury officials. We know, too, that in trying to obtain a bigger slice of the cake for British agriculture, my right hon. Friend will have come face to face with the sort of difficulties that we met from the civil servants representing those two Departments.
Although agriculture is still the largest industry in this country, only about 3 or 4 per cent. of the community are engaged in it. The vast majority of the remainder are engaged in manufacturing and in other occupations, and they do not care two hoots about the prosperity of British agriculture. They are concerned with cheap food, and this has been so for many years. Thus, to advance the claims of a healthy and prosperous agriculture is to argue against a closed door. The phrase used many years ago about feather-bedded farmers still sticks and, in spite of the tremendous achievements of agriculture, the public generally has not lost sight of it.
There is no single industry in this country with a better record of achievement than British agriculture, whether one looks at it on an acreage basis or in terms of manpower. Mechanisation within the industry is probably of a higher standard than almost anywhere else in the world. Yet, in spite of these achievements, there is a great deal of opposition to the views of the industry when it seeks further major improvements.
Recognising that, I consider that the Review was fair, but I would not put it higher than that. The industry hoped for rather more advantageous support than it has been possible to concede on this occasion. That is due largely to the tremendous amount of Press, radio and television publicity which has been accorded to British agriculture in recent months. It started with the publication of the "Little Neddy" Report, setting out the possible achievements in the industry. That Report led those in the industry to feel that further expansion and achievement was possible.
113 It was followed, again with a great deal of publicity in the Press and on the air, by the Select Committee's Report. In farming circles, it may be that that stimulated the desire for something more substantial than has proved possible. Most farmers to whom I have spoken have told me that in normal circumstances they would have regarded this as a very fair Review. It was because of the special opportunities which seemed to be unfolding themselves that they were disappointed. If one could probe my right hon. Friend's mind, I think that he, too, would have been only too willing to have given further inducements towards expansion in agriculture had the means been available to him.
If farmers are dissatisfied with the Price Review—and it is understandable in the circumstances—I remind the House that the other section of the industry is equally dissatisfied. The farm workers asked for a minimum wage of £16 for a 40-hour week. They did not get it. They got £12 8s. for a 44-hour week, which is the longest working week in British industry today. If one side of the industry has been disappointed, I can assure the House that the other side is equally disappointed. The situation will have to be faced sooner or later. The industry may find itself short of capital investment, but a greater disservice will be done to it if it finds itself starved of the necessary manpower to keep the wheels moving.
Representing the workers, naturally I have some sympathy with the employers' point of view. However, I am in some difficulty, as I have been each year, when I come to review the assessed costs of labour in the industry. These are taken as part of the total costs on which the Price Review is based. Yet they never come anywhere near the actual costs of labour.
Without wishing to weary the House too much, I should like to give one or two examples. For the year 1965–66 it was estimated that the increased costs for labour would be £20 million. That was taken as part of the total costs on which the Price Review was adjudged. When the figures became known, labour costs that year rose by only £5 million.
For the year 1966–67, the Review stated that the estimated increased costs for labour would be £19.5 million. That 114 year labour costs actually fell by £7½ million compared with the previous year.
The 1968 Review for 1968–69 allowed £21 million increased labour costs. I notice that the forecast reveals that the actual costs for labour will be £1 million.
Looking at the current Price Review, I notice that about £18 million is allowed as additional extra labour costs. By the end of the new financial year for agriculture, I doubt whether the actual labour costs will be 25 per cent. of that which is provided for in the estimates. The reason is obvious. Year after year we lose thousands of farm workers. Labour costs are assessed on the manpower available at the time of the Review and no allowance is made for the rundown which goes on year after year. Thus, there is generous provision made for labour costs which we know will never be reached in the current year because there is no immediate help to stop the drift of workers from the land with a minimum wage of £12 8s.
§ Mr. Jopling
Did the hon. Gentleman notice the reply last Thursday by the Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Economic Affairs in which he said:It is considered that manpower in the industry will continue o fall and output per head continue to rise at much the same rate as in recent years."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th March. 1969; Vol. 780, c. 1777.]Was the hon. Gentleman not as sad at that announcement as the rest of us in view of the Report of the Select Committee that the flood of workers from the land must be halted?
§ Mr. Hazell
I have already made reference to that point. Of course, I accept the view submitted by the hon. Gentleman. The figures, looking back over the past few years, confirm what the hon. Gentleman said. It is sad that we are continuing to lose our manpower at such a very high rate. I wonder when we shall reach the point at which we shall be unable to attract even sufficient labour to carry on the bare essential needs.
I recognise that others wish to take part in the debate, but there is one other point to which I must make a brief reference. The right hon. Member for Grantham put forward the Conservative Party's policy—and rightly so—should they ever be returned to office. But I am 115 certain that he knows that the policy which he has advocated on the Floor of the House today and throughout the country in recent weeks is not the panacea for all the ills and problems of British agriculture. There is a good deal of suspicion and doubt about how British agriculture will fare should that policy ever become Government policy. We must bear in mind its impact on the cost of food. Those whose incomes are lowest spend the greatest proportion of their incomes on food. Thus, substantial rises in the cost of food will inevitably hurt those with the least means of being able to combat such hurtfulness.
I should equally draw to the attention of the House that some small farmers who rely on pigs and a bit of fattening of stock will be seriously affected by substantially rising feedstuff bills as a consequence of Tory policy enunciated by the right hon. Gentleman. The cost of feedingstuffs imported will inevitably rise substantially, and that will hit small farmers very hard indeed.
We in the industry would have hoped for a bit more than has been possible, but we have a job to do—not a job of convincing my right hon. Friend—that is not necessary—but a job of convincing British industry and the general public that in agriculture they have an industry of which they can be proud and that they must not take it too hard if the industry in future is given more generous treatment to allow it to expand, because in the end it will be for the good of Britain.
§ 7.47 p.m.
§ Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine (Rye)
It is not the first time that I have had the pleasure of following the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazen). On this occasion, however, I have also had the privilege of serving with him on the Select Committee. As a result his remarks about the difficulties which arise when a Price Review comes along from the Board of Trade and other Departments have my immediate support. I will return to that topic in a few moments.
The hon. Gentleman went on to say that one of the difficulties was that the farmers felt that opportunities were unfolding for them. I should have liked the chance of telling the Minister that that was precisely the real difficulty concerning the Review.
116 We have had reference to what happened on 12th November. But I should like to remind the Minister of what he said on 11th July, as soon as the "Little Neddy" Report had been published. Among other things, he said that he was confident that the Government were then on the right lines.
On the day after he made his speech on 12th November, the right hon. Gentleman went to the Farmers' Club and made some further remarks which would encourage the farmers to think that something was going to happen, because he said:What I have now done in my statement in the House of Commons is to set the framework for the industry to 1972–73.On the day before, my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), as soon as the Minister had made his statement, immediately put his finger on the real difficulty which was quite clear to anybody who thought about the matter. He immediately asked how this expansion was to be financed. Some of us put our names to a Motion which stated that we were "utterly amazed at the completely inadequate statement" and we referred to the "pious hopes" which had been expressed by the Minister of Agriculture. A lot of us got into difficulties with our farmer constituents as a result. The situation can best be summed up by quoting the statement of the President of the N.F.U. on 7th December, when he said:Across the board this is one of the most forthright statements we have had for 15 to 20 years. For goodness sake do not let us be too cynical.I hope that the Minister saw what the N.F.U. said on 19th March, because it was considerably different from that. I do not have to quote letters from my farmers although I have some of them. I can refer the right hon. Gentleman to a resolution passed by the East Sussex Branch of the N.F.U.:That this County Branch rejects the determinations of the 1969 Price Review, since they fail to impart confidence to the Industry or to give it the necessary resources to maintain production or finance expansion. This County Branch further deprecates the fact that Her Majesty's Government, despite clear and public indications of its immediate future policy for agriculture in the national interest, has completely broken faith with producers leaving them with no alternative but to examine and reassess the value of their expansion plans. 117 It is a matter of national concern that Her Majesty's Government has exhibited their inability to honour pledges given or to realise the long-term value of the import saving contribution of which agriculture is capable and for which industrial export encouragement is no substitute.That was the considered view of the East Sussex county branch, and it went to the expense of sending a telegram to the Minister telling him very firmly what it thought would be the right course for him to take. We have been told by one of my hon. Friends that it is not likely that the Minister will resign, so perhaps I need not refer in any detail to the telegram.
I should like to add a word or two from a letter sent by the county secretary at that time in which he said:He"—that is the Minister—had, however, for some time made major policy statements and speeches which left no doubt whatever that the Government would be acting in accordance with the Little Neddy Report and the Report of the Select Committee. The Industry was entitled to expect the implementation of this at the Review. If the Minister repudiates the statements and is of the opinion that, despite all that he has publicly said, he is determined equitably, then my committee sees in this, justification for his resignation. If, on the other hand, the failure of the Review arises from the inability of the Minister to obtain the support of the Cabinet, and perhaps especially the Treasury Ministers, then it is a matter of honour that he should resign.That puts the matter quite clearly, and that is not the view of one farmer, but the collective view of farmers in East Sussex.
Some hon. Members have suggested that farmers do not think very much of the Conservative agricultural policy. In the Press report of the meeting on 19th March there appeared the following sentence:Other members said they regretted their action last year, of rejecting out of hand the proposals for farmers put forward by the Conservative OppositionWhatever may have been the view at some other time, that is the view today.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
Does the hon. Gentleman claim that that has any general application? Surely that would be far from the truth. Quoting, as the hon. Gentleman has done, the reaction of some farmers in his constituency can 118 hardly lead to a general conclusion of the view of farmers about Conservative policy.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I assume that the hon. Gentleman is unaware of the way in which the N.F.U. is organised. This is a county branch which meets once a month, and to it are sent delegates from each local branch in the county. I have quoted a representative view. If the hon. Gentleman is in any doubt, perhaps I might tell him that I have made a number of speeches in different parts of the country on the subject of Conservative agricultural policy and that I have had nothing but support, perhaps from unexpected quarters.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
The question I now pose is, why should this change have taken place? In December the President of the N.F.U. said:For goodness' sake do not let us be too cynical.Now we find that the farmers are taking a different view. Farmers in my constituency feel that even under the old 1947 Act they are not getting what was offered to them. They do not feel that they are producing the amount of food which should be produced in the national interest. They do not feel that they are getting a fair return on capital management and labour. I have with me a number of reasons why they take that view, but I know that many of my hon. Friends wish to take part in this debate, so perhaps I can leave it at that.
The second reason why I think farmers have changed their minds is that they know that the money they require to finance this expansion scheme is not available. That was put very definitely at the annual dinner of the Rye branch of the N.F.U. by Mr. Clearly, who is the agricultural liaison officer of the National Westminster Bank. He estimated that if the "Little Neddy" target was to be achieved £230 million of capital would be required, and that in order to service that capital over 15 years the farmers would need an additional £15 million each year. In addition, he estimated that the farmers would need £110 million a year of working capital. He worked that out over five years at a total service charge of £27 million a year, so that if the target is to 119 be achieved and the capital is available there would be a total of £15 million plus £27 million simply to service the additional working capital. That is what is so lacking in the Price Review. The farmers cannot see any prospect of obtaining the required capital.
In the late 'fifties 12½ per cent. of the total lending by the banks went to farmers. This has dropped to 9 per cent., for reasons which this debate makes clear. It is because farmers are unwilling to trust the Government. In addition, there are the instructions sent out by the Bank of England, under Treasury guidance, about the amount which can be loaned to farmers. This is the second reason why they feel that money is not available for them to achieve the expansion programme.
The third reason and this may surprise the Minister, and I quote a letter from one of my farmers, is the fact that the Select Committee on Agriculture has been allowed to die. This is what he said:Strangely enough I think that the breaking up of the Select Committee on Agriculture has done more to convince people that the Government and faceless civil servants are not at all interested in the truth … I have heard this opinion expressed in many different places over the past week.If I might quote my county branch again, a resolution was passed which said:That this East Sussex County Branch views with great concern the disbanding of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Agriculture and recommends very strongly that this Committee be encouraged to continue their work in any way possible.I am happy to see the former Chairman of the Select Committee present to hear that tribute paid to his work.
Those are some of the reasons why I think there has been this change of view about the Minister. There are others, but I shall not bring them before the House in view of the pressure of time.
My final point is that this Review surely must make it quite clear to the agricultural industry that there is an urgent need for a change in the system. The Select Committee Report says on Page viii:The total cost of support declined from the 1961–62 peak of £343.2 million or 9.32 per cent. of total Civil Expenditure in that 120 year to £229.1 million or 3.82 per cent. of total Civil Expenditure in 1966–67. In terms of both real cost to the taxpayer and as a proportion of public spending the cost of agricultural support thus fell substantially from the level of the early 1960s.Even under the system which some hon. Members opposite are trying to defend the level of support has gradually declined.
A second reason why the present system will have to be changed is that it is based on inadequate information. If the Minister will study the Report of the Select Committee he will see that one of the things revealed by our investigations was that there were many ways in which the Minister had to make up his mind on entirely inadequate information. If there is any doubt about the Select Committees being objective in respect of the information, the Head of the Agricultural Adjustment Unit of the University of Newcastle is reported to have said, on page 67 of the Westminster Bank Quarterly Review of February last, thatthe knowledge to make any accurate assessment is simply not available.
§ Mr. John Mackie
I am interested in this point about the lack of adequate information. The hon. Member said that this was a reason why the method should be changed. Will he tell us in what way his party's support system will provide more adequate information?
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
I am not saying that any other system would give more information; I am saying that the present system does not give enough on which to come to a sensible conclusion.
§ Mr. Godman Irvine
My last point is that under the present system the Minister must run into conflict with other Government Departments
One point that emerged from the Report of the Select Committee is that although we tried very hard to discover where the real decision was made on what would be the total amount of the Review we were unsuccessful. But those who read the recent article by David Wood in The Times of 17th March will have seen the information set out there. I have no doubt that information which 121 appears in The Times is completely accurate. My point is that the Select Committee could not discover exactly what happened. Nobody seemed to want to tell us.
The evidence given by the Board of Trade makes us think that the Minister of Agriculture is not really in charge of his Department. Two references have been to the Board of Trade in this respect. I was going to refer to some others, but I shall rest my case on those which have already been given to show that the Board of Trade is clearly interested in encouraging exports and not in saving imports. Some of us feel that that is one reason why the Minister has run into difficulty.
The Treasury evidence gave a similar impression. Finally, there was the evidence from the Department of Economic Affairs, most of which was directed to the total cost of the support, and again and again came back to the anxiety of the Department to keep that cost down to the lowest figure. That is a third reason why we feel that the Minister must try to break out of the control exercised over him by various Government Departments.
There is no doubt that as a result of this Price Review the farmers have come to the conclusion that they should look at other possibilities. That one reason is why the Minister finds himself in such difficulty today.
§ 8.5 p.m.
§ Mr. Michael English (Nottingham, West)
I was very interested in the speech made by the hon. Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine). I can well understand his endeavour to defend the interests of his constituents—which he did very ably. I shall try to defend the interests of my constituents. There is not one farmer in my constituency. That is a quite legitimate point of difference between the hon. Member and myself.
The first person I want to defend, however, is my right hon. Friend the Minister. He has been unjustly attacked and accused. I agree that the Opposition Front Bench is not directly responsible. The House recognises things which people outside do not recognise. We hear rumours of Ministers of Agriculture being censured and of members of the N.F.U. saying that the Minister of Agriculture is 122 responsible for this, that and the other, but in a responsible House such as this the Opposition eventually puts down a Motion censuring Her Majesty's Government rather than an individual Minister. That is right, because it represents the truth.
As far as we know—I wish we knew more; I do not believe in the overwhelming secrecy with which both parties endeavour to protect themselves when in power—the Minister of Agriculture was the advocate of the agricultural interests against other bodies, such as the Treasury, who were saying that they wanted less money to be spent. We have read rumours in the newspapers that the right hon. Gentleman was originally offered £8 million but eventually managed to obtain £34 million. If those rumours are true, I should have thought that the average trade union negotiator would think that he had done an extremely good job to achieve that result.
Having defended the Minister of Agriculture, on the ground that he has not been adverse to agricultural interests, I want to defend him on a much more substantial ground. He has produced a Price Review which has added nothing substantial to the prices which the consumers have to pay. That is what I am interested in. That is what I believe the overwhelming majority of our people are interested in.
I am not a feather-bed Evans. I believe in supporting the United Kingdom farmer against dumping from overseas. But I am equally determined to keep down prices paid by United Kingdom consumers.
§ Mr. Hooson
The hon. Member has defended the Minister very well, but is it not the basic point that the Minister, in his statement on 12th November last, said that he was speaking for the Government and that they had decided to expand growth so as to achieve import saving of £160 million at the end of four years? He said that he was speaking for the Government.
§ Mr. English
The hon. Member is a representative of farming interests. I am not. I say once again that I am no feather-bed Evans. I agree that farmers should be subsidised and helped in respect of dumping from overseas. However, I 123 have no intention of allowing consumer prices to be raised.
I am not solely defending Her Majesty's Government. I said that there are two things upon which I offer my congratulations. First, I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Minister on what I believe to be his personal defence of agricultural interests within the Government and, secondly, I congratulate Her Majesty's Government on producing a Price Review which has not increased prices to the consumer. Those are the two things that I was saying, and I was not dealing with the point on which the hon. Member intervened.
The hon. Member for Rye made an extremely able speech and gave half-a-dozen quotations from various sources. But I am not interested in that, although he had obviously done his homework. I am interested in current matters of fact, not in what an hon. Member opposite, or, indeed, my own right hon. Friend, said a few years or a few months or weeks ago. I am interested in the fact that this Price Review has not increased the prices to consumers by any substantial amount. I am also worried about something in it, but I will come to that in a moment.
What I object to, if anything, is the posibility that we may have what the Opposition Front Bench advocates—a variable import levy system. One possibility is if the Opposition Front Bench became the Government and introduced that system——
§ Mr. English
But not on this policy. If this were the only policy that they were putting to the country, I should be only too pleased to defend the situation. However much it may apeal to their rural constituents, it is not a policy to win an election for the Opposition. A policy of rising prices? I am glad to see the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) here——
§ Mr. English
For the simple reason that I do not like to refer to an hon. Member when he is not here. If it sounded otherwise, I apologise to the hon. 124 Gentleman. I meant my remark kindly. He mentioned eggs—the humble, harmless egg, a simple thing. We are to phase out the egg subsidy over five years from January, 1969. The hon. Gentleman intervened in the Minister's speech to say, "What about eggs?"——
§ Mr. Peter Mills
To correct the hon. Gentleman, he is talking about consumer subsidies and all I said about eggs was that the present Government are starting to carry out a policy which many of us would probably like, because agriculture has to stand on its own feet.
§ Mr. English
I accept that that is what the hon. Gentleman meant, but when he said, in his intervention, "What about eggs?", the impression was that he meant, "What about egg producers?". If that is what he meant, I entirely agree with him. A whole paragraph in the White Paper begins simply:The United Kingdom is virtually self-sufficient in eggs.Is this not the whole reason for a subsidy system and is it not quite sufficient?
We are told, for example, that everybody would be happy—this is not quite true of the agricultural community: let us say that most would be happy—if there were greater subsidies for milk. Are we supposed to put 1d. a pint on milk? I hope no one will say 2d. a gallon, because the ½d. is to disappear very shortly; it would be 1d. a pint. Is this to come from the Exchequer? That would cost about £10 million. Or are we to put it on to the price to the consumer—a 9 per cent. increase? I know that many hon. Members opposite do not believe in the Prices and Incomes policy. Indeed, some hon. Members on this side believe only in a voluntary and not a compulsory policy. But does anyone believe that a Government, by an act of policy, would increase the price of a commodity as basic as milk by 9 per cent.? This does not conform to the other aspects of the general economic policy of this Government or, were it in power in the same economic situation, any other Government.
We are told that it is preferable to have a variable levy system. I do not understand this, because, in part, it is simply what one might call an escape route of Treasury accountants. Of course it is easier to say that the taxpayer should 125 not pay and the consumer should. We know that there is a perfectly understandable feeling by many people that they do not like being taxed to keep down the cost of food and do not mind paying in prices. The same is true of other commodities. But what worries me is that people actually want to bury the subsidy to agriculture, if there is one.
I want to know why there is not a certain, simple table among the numerous and detailed appendices to the White Paper. There is an extremely long and detailed one headed, "Estimated Cost of Exchequer Support to Agriculture". This is no good for the United Kingdom as a whole. What we want is a Table A in Appendix V which gives, "Estimated Cost of Support to Agriculture". This is partly the reason why many people outside the House say, "A plague on both your houses. We do not like the Government's policy or the Opposition's. You are all politicians and all talking about one thing. The Labour Party says that it does not like import levies, when it has some already; the Conservative Party says that it does like import levies when it is not prepared to calculate the cost of subsidies to the United Kingdom economy".
Table A would be more honest in future if it gave this simple information, sub-divided, if that is preferred, between Exchequer and other support. It is surely only fair to the economy to give the total cost to the people of the United Kingdom, whether consumers or taxpayers, or agriculture. This is a vital question for us all.
When hon. Members opposite say that they want a variable import levy system for the bulk of commodities, they are saying in effect that the price that we were supposed to pay for entering the Common Market we should pay without going in, that we should raise the price of food to the consumer and hide away the agricultural subsidies. To ask the same question of the Opposition spokesman that I have asked the Parliamentary Secretary, would the Opposition also be prepared to publish the cost of their subsidies, even if they were arrived at by a means such as an import levy? I hope that they will give an honest answer, and, preferably, say, "Yes".
126 It is no good saying that the simple reason why the figures are not given is that it makes for easier accounting. I appreciate that the Treasury may take this view. If we are to have a different system, or if we are merely to talk about one, we must have the relative figures and they should be published. The only argument I have heard against this is that it is difficult to do, but it need not be beyond the wit of man to produce figures, to estimate them, if we need them. No hon. Member here believes that all the figures given in the White Paper are the gospel truth. When the accounts are scrutinised in a few years' time we shall find discrepancies.
The irrelevance of the Opposition proposal for a scheme of import levies can be appreciated when one realises that, if implemented, it would change the whole balance of trade, not merely for this country but for many others. At present about 40 per cent. of Britain's food is imported. A system of variable import levies which would make us, if it were successful, entirely self-sufficient in food imports—as the Common Market intends to do—would be bound to change the balance of trade. Is this the time to do that? What would be the effects on world trade in agricultural commodities? Its effects on the balance of payments problems of the world would be more considerable than anybody has suggested so far in this debate. I have no doubt that this aspect has not been mentioned because nobody actually expects such a policy to be implemented or this sort of result to follow.
I am extremely pleased with the White Paper in that it does virtually nothing to increase prices for the consumer. However, I am displeased with paragraph 13, which gives the impression that the Government are to consider the possibility of adopting some of the methods being advocated by the Opposition. I am pleased to support the Government in their present policy and I hope that they will not adopt what I believe would be a disastrous policy for this community, the overwhelming majority of whom are consumers and not producers.
§ 8.23 p.m.
§ Mr. David Gibson-Watt (Hereford)
The hon. Member for Nottingham, West 127 (Mr. English) made an interesting speech but omitted to mention what the debate has been all about—namely, the expansion programme. Certainly the Government have not talked about it. Indeed, they have been at pains to forget it. I, on the other hand, will be at pains to remind them of the expansion programme.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) made a restrained speech. [Laughter.] I do not know what hon. Gentlemen opposite find funny in that, particularly when one thinks of the sort of speech which could be made on an occasion such as this. My right hon. Friend's remarks were comprehensive in attacking the Government and he gave a sensible explanation of what the Conservative agriculture policy means. This was important because a number of hon. Gentlemen opposite have been describing our policy in a totally incorrect way. I hope that hon. Gentlemen opposite who represent agricultural constituencies, particularly in the Principality of Wales, will read the OFFICIAL REPORT of my right hon. Friend's speech.
The Minister utterly failed to answer the charges which my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham made, just as the Government have utterly failed to fulfil the expectations which they aroused in the farming community. There are three reasons for these expectations. The first is the statement made by the Minister on 12th November. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) pointed out, it is hardly surprising that we were dubious about that statement. The right hon. Gentleman said on that occasion that it remained important for farmers to make significantly better use of grass land. In the Price Review, however, he has cut the fertiliser grant by £3 million, which is bound to harm the grassland programme.
Secondly, we received an excellent report from the Select Committee on Agriculture. They have been sacked. I am a constituent of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Tudor Watkins), whom I am glad to see in his place. Would he say what will be the result of the Government's action in getting 128 rid of that Select Committee? That was an abominable act, for it was one of our most important Select Committees. It was composed of hon. Members with great knowledge of agriculture. But the Government kicked that Select Committee out, simply because it was awkward for them to be presented with the sort of Reports which the Committee regularly produced.
§ Mr. English
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that I have never heard the shadow Leader of the House say that he would have kept any Select Committees?
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
I am not sure that we have a shadow Leader of the House. Perhaps the Labour Party can run to that sort of expenditure when in opposition. We cannot afford such luxuries.
The first action was the Minister's statement of 12th November, the second was the disbandment of the Select Committee on Agriculture, and the third was the "Little Neddy," which in fact came out first. These led farmers and their organisations to believe that they would receive a Price Review which would not merely make up for their added costs but would give them some capital recoupment for what was to be a great expansion programme.
Not only did the Minister of Agriculture make encouraging noises about this programme, but the Prime Minister said a number of encouraging things. For example, when speaking at Newtown in 1965 he said:I agree with what the posters outside have said.They said:Why import it? We can grow it".The right hon. Gentleman continued:We shall not solve our economic problems and balance of payments problems without a vigorous import substitution policy through agricultural expansion.That was taken seriously by the farmers, and particularly by the farmers of Wales. In 1966, when addressing the T.U.C. conference, the Prime Minister said:We are stepping up food production to save imports.In 1967, in his now infamous post-devaluation television broadcast, he said:Food production will be stimulated and we will be able to do more to replace food imports from abroad.129 I suppose that we cannot expect very much from the right hon. Gentleman, but it is a pity that so many of his Ministers should follow in his wake. The expectations of the farmers have been very greatly excited, and they now feel themselves to be very badly let down.
I am surprised, incidentally, that we have not got on the Treasury Bench the Secretary of State for Wales who, I understood, was now dealing with agriculture in Wales—
§ Mr. Gibson-Watt
It may be that he takes over tomorrow, but can the Minister say whether his right hon. Friend had some part to play in the Review? I can only say that the first Review in which the Secretary of State for Wales has taken any part is a very bad augury for Welsh farmers. I do not believe that the Government really believe in import saving. Their Ministers talk a lot about it, but they are not prepared to take the necessary steps.
The home-grown timber industry, an industry allied to farming, comes within the purview of the Minister of Agriculture and also of the Secretary of State for Wales. I immediately confess an interest. Sixty miles of fencing along the M.4 has been given, after tender, to two firms which are subsidiaries of Montague-Meyer, the timber importers. We are told that this length and further lengths of the M.5 are to be fenced with imported timber. I hope that the Minister will be able to tell me that I am wrong, but my information is good. If I am right, such an action cuts right across all the assurances which the present Government and previous Governments have given to the homegrown timber industry, for which the Minister is also responsible, and shows their disregard for import saving.
I want to make one short administrative and, I hope, positive suggestion. Is the right hon. Gentleman happy about the way in which the hill sheep subsidy is being paid? With respect, I believe that although the present situation is better than it was a few years ago, it could be improved. I refer to the method of pay-payment on ewes. One knows from one's own experience that one gets paid on every ewe that is kept in the flock. That 130 encourages some farmers to keep all their ewes throughout the winter. The hon. Member for Merioneth (Mr. William Edwards) shakes his head, but after this debate I will inform him a little on this topic and tell him what happens in his own constituency.
As I was saying, many farmers are tempted to keep old ewes throughout the winter in the hope that they will produce lambs in the spring. Many of the old ewes, broken-toothed, die in the snow and the cold in the hills. On humanitarian grounds, and because a production grant should be on production, the right hon. Gentleman and his Ministry might well seek a different way of paying the subsidy. I fully admit that if the subsidy is paid on the actual ratio of lambs it does not operate fairly to those in the highest and most exposed areas, but the Ministry could see a better method.
Our Motion reflects the disappointment which the farming community feels about the Price Review. That disappointment is equally reflected in a resolution, which I received today, adopted by the executive committee of the Herefordshire county branch of the N.F.U. It reads:That this Branch expresses its utter disgust at the present Government's determinations as they will do absolutely nothing to further the Government's expressed intention to expand agricultural production for the benefit of the country.In the view of this Branch the farming industry has been completely misled by the pronouncements of the Prime Minister and Minister of Agriculture as to the part which agriculture should be expected to contribute towards import saving. This Price Review by withholding necessary capital to finance increased production imposes economic pressures which can only stimulate factory and prairie farming which will permanently damage the countryside.I will not comment on that. This is a big county which has a variety of products, not only livestock from the hills and the lower ground but in crops such as hops, top fruit, corn and black currants. These farmers, like others throughout the country, feel that they have been let down. They also feel that there has never been a time when the Treasury has breathed more heavily down the neck of the Minister. For the first time, when the Minister made his Price Review statement the Chancellor of the Exchequer was sitting beside him like a 131 gaoler, in case he said something which he regretted. This was the give away; it is the only thing which lets the right hon. Gentleman out. I blame the Government as a whole, the Prime Minister and the whole Cabinet. I believe that the right hon. Gentleman was a victim of the Treasury.
It is fair to say that before this farmers had hopes and confidence in the right hon. Gentleman. After what has happened in this Price Review, I do not think he has any right to continue to hope for the same kind of confidence as that which he had before.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies (Conway)
The hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt) expressed the view that we misunderstand Conservative policy on agriculture. If so, so does the President of the National Farmers' Union. He stated clearly at the annual general meeting of the National Farmers' Union that if they were to gain support the Conservatives would have to change their agriculture policy. If any persuasion is to be done perhaps it should be done in that direction.
The hon. Member mentioned the absence of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales. I do not know whether the hon. Member was speaking in his capacity as Opposition shadow spokesman for Wales. If so I was somewhat mystified by many of the remarks he made. I am prepared quite openly to be somewhat partisan and parochial today because many other interests which are parochial have been given ample expression in this debate.
We in Wales are principally interested in seeing the industry preserved as a managed industry rather than as a market industry. I am delighted that the Minister has this day committed himself firmly in rejecting the proposals of the Committee which advocated for South Eastern milk producers regional variations in milk prices. That would have been to give way to marketing pressures. Had my right 132 hon. Friend been willing to take account of different regional transportation costs, the geographically remote Welsh milk producers would have been about a 1d. a gallon worse off than they are at present. I remind the House that Welsh milk producers, in saving that 1d. a gallon, are getting exactly the same benefit as they would have had there been as much as a £10 million increase in the allocation to milk producers.
In the Review two-thirds of the total net award is given to livestock enterprises. These are of particular importance to us in Wales. The increase of 15s. per live cwt. in the guaranteed price for fat cattle almost doubles the increase we had in the last two years. Last year there was a very substantial increase in Welsh farm incomes, particularly in farms concentrating on livestock. We cannot—and I do not want to—give credit for this entirely to the Government. There were a number of other factors. 1966–67 was a very bad climatic year. The following year was very good. Last year was climatically very good for Wales, although other areas had a bad year. Just as we do not claim Government credit for years that have gone well, we should not blame the Government for years that have gone badly and hold the Government directly responsible for making amends. Further, livestock prices were high in the expectation, which was justified in the event, of increases in beef guarantees in the Review.
There is among some hon. Members opposite an assumption that the whole price review structure should be geared to the economy of the East of England. I challenge this concept. The increase in the rate of hill cow subsidy from £21 5s. to £22 5s. a head and in the beef cow subsidy from £9 to £10, together with the relaxation in the stocking ratios from both these subsidies, will greatly encourage Welsh farmers to increase their beef herds. The further 1½d. on top of last year's fat sheep guaranteed price will perform the necessary function of maintaining outlets for store stock from the hills and will encourage hill farmers to fatten at home more of the store lambs they produce.
This is the fourth Price Review in succession to place an emphasis on the livestock sector. Welsh farmers obtain, directly or indirectly, about four-fifths of their farm receipts from livestock and 133 livestock products. In present economic circumstances we in Wales believe that we have had a very satisfactory Price Review, and we congratulate the Minister on not having given way to pressure to gear the whole Review solely to the interests of the East of England, areas which are lucrative compared with areas in which we are interested. I am grateful to my right hon. Friend for having resisted this pressure.
We have no complaints about the Review. References have been made today to rumours—they can be no more than rumours—of the fight which my right hon. Friend has put up within the Government on this Review. To the extent that these rumours are true—many of us believe that they are—we congratulate my right hon. Friend personally on being such an advocate of the interests of the farming community in the considerable battle which I have no doubt took place in the preparatory stages of this Review.
§ 8.43 p.m.
§ Mr. R. J. Maxwell-Hyslop (Tiverton)
I shall refer to some aspects which have not yet been mentioned. Attention has been drawn to the absurd nature of this Review in the context of what the Government would wish us to believe is their policy of agricultural expansion. What needs to be said also is that this would have been a thoroughly bad Review even without that policy of expansion.
I have not heard any reference today to the increase in agricultural costs last year of no less than £52.89 million. The figure which has been bandied about of £40 million as being the increase in costs is only that section of agricultural output relating to Price Review commodities.
The total extra burden on the industry last year was £52.89 million. That figure has to be considered in the context of the decreased net income of the industry. The whole of that net income, which comes from the entire spectrum of output, is down by nearly £39 million. The increase in costs on price review commodities as a whole is £40 million. Let us run through the arithmetic of what has happened in this Price Review. There has been an increase of costs on Price Review commodities of £40 million. The Minister has produced a Review which he claims is plus-£34 million.
134 This is an entirely bogus claim. That £34 million assumes that, as a general statement, market prices before the Review were no higher than guarantee figure. Unless that were the case the whole of the benefit of the increased guarantees is not realised. Market prices for beef were already well above existing guarantee figures. It is entirely dishonest to claim that the farming community's income will go up by the amount of the guarantee, because it will not. The Minister must know how far, on average, these prices have been above the old guarantee figure. He must know also that mutton prices are well above the guarantee figure.
We must extrapolate that and subtract it from his own computation to get the real benefit to the agricultural community from this Review. The increase in the middle band, the standard quantity, of pigs, by 400,000, is most welcome, but no one should imagine that we will get any benefit out of that, except for the last few weeks of the agricultural year. The Minister's sums are bogus. He needs to reduce that £34 million by about £12 million to reach the figure by which the gross farming income is likely to rise as a result of the Review. That pulls it down to £24 million.
There is an increase in the costs of Price Review commodities of £40 million, an increase on the new Price Review guarantees, probably, of £24 million. That leaves minus-£16 million to start with. There is the under-recoupment of £16 million. Take the 6 per cent. depreciation in the value of money under this Government last year, and that is nearly £30 million, which about exactly offsets the Minister's hypothetical figure for increase in efficiency. This is supposing that the £30 million ever manifests itself. It does not come out of the sky like rain.
This efficiency figure is the direct result of applying new capital to the industry. It is not spent on replacing worn-out machinery with identical machinery, but on improving equipment. When income is reduced and costs are increased, and banking credit, if one can get it, is at 9½ per cent. then things are very difficult. Most farmers cannot get bank credit. It is not available, not because they have no security, but because the banks have been told by the Minister's colleagues to reduce their lending. Where is the money 135 coming from to pay for the new equipment on which this hypothetical £30 million increase in efficiency largely depends? That is another bogus figure.
There is thus in the Review a figure of minus £16 million on commodities, and another minus £30 million in respect of the debasement of the value of the currency in the last year. That gives a minus figure of £46 million. But the position is worse than that. As Appendix III of the Review shows, almost £13 million is needed to get to the figure of £52.89 million right across the board. Where does that leave us? Increased costs of almost £53 million and debasement of the currency to the extent of £30 million means that £83 million has gone up the spout. Against that, the Minister offers an honest probability of plus £24 million.
The Minister has the effrontery to talk of this as being one of the best reviews. It is offered to the House of Commons as a basis for an expansion programme to save £160 million worth of imports a year. I have never heard such—I cannot remember the Parliamentary word. Perhaps the Minister will be able to help us.
§ Mr. Cledwyn Hughes
Apart from the fact that the hon. Gentleman is talking complete drivel, this Review was negotiated on precisely the same arithmetical basis as the 13 Reviews of the Conservative Party.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
If what I am saying is absolute drivel, the Minister is responsible for it, because my figures have been taken from his own Price Review.
§ Mr. Maxwell-Hyslop
The right hon. Gentleman is responsible for laying the Review on the Table.
Last year the House was offered, not just as the Minister's own policy but as the Government's policy, a £160 million expansion programme which is less than was recommended by the Select Committee in a unanimous report. The right hon. Gentleman now presents to us a document agreed by his Department involving increased costs of £53 million, £30 million having been knocked off the 136 purchasing power of incomes. If £53 million and £30 million do not amount to £83 million, it is the Minister who is talking drivel.
I give the figures for the third time because obviously they have not sunk in to the Minister. Against that minus figure of £83 million, he offers £24 million. From where is the capital coming to produce the needed expansion? If the right hon. Gentleman has changed his mind and does not think that expansion is needed, from where is the salvation of our balance of payments coming? Can his colleagues at the Board of Trade or the Treasury, or the Prime Minister, pull anything out of the bag which offers any hope of achieving a balance of payments in the lifetime of this Government? Of course not.
Time and again the Government have presented new policies to the House only for them to be left a smoking ruin about six months later. Time and again they have subjected the country to the heaviest peacetime, and incidentally wartime, increases in taxation it has ever known. Their policies lie in ruins. The only hope offered in balancing our current account, as the Minister well knows, is a massive import substitution programme. The right hon. Gentleman has torpedoed his own Government's policy by this totally disreputable Review, and this is why he should resign.
§ 8.54 p.m.
§ Mr. Donald Anderson (Monmouth)
I detect a certain note of glee among some Opposition spokesmen that the sharp reaction against the Review in certain farming circles has temporarily diverted attention from the unpopularity of their own proposed system of agricultural support. It was claimed that we had misunderstood that policy. Perhaps we have tried to understand it, but we have so far failed. If we have failed to understand it, however, this misunderstanding is shared by the great mass of farmers and certainly by the President of the National Farmers' Union, as my hon. Friend the Member for Conway (Mr. Ednyfed Hudson Davies) has mentioned.
I should like to take up, first, one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt), who was, presumably, speaking as the shadow spokesman for Welsh affairs. 137 The hon. Member made an attack on my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Wales on the ground that he should have been present on the Front Bench during this debate. He has not, of course, assumed responsibility for agriculture within Wales. If one were to follow to its logical conclusion the argument that any Minister who has a hand, directly or indirectly, in the Price Review must sit on the Front Bench, there would hardly be room even for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.
The far more damaging point made by the hon. Member for Hereford, however, speaking as shadow spokesman for Welsh affairs, was his attack on the form of the hill sheep subsidy, the subsidy which, perhaps, brings the biggest income to our hills in Wales. This needs a great deal of explanation within the Principality.
We have heard vague support from the Opposition Front Bench for the "Neddy" Report. I wonder whether, in their winding-up speech, the Opposition will indicate the extent to which they accept the £220 million target in that "Neddy" Report, as this was surely no more than a feasibility survey, "Neddy" itself claimed that it had not taken into account the international agreements to which we are a party and that there were a whole series of other factors and uncertainties concerning manpower availability and grassland exploitation. It would be helpful to know whether the Opposition accept the figure of £220 million. If they do not, what figure do they accept?
Opposition spokesmen have a habit of being great expansionists when in opposition, as if to say, "Judge me not by my actions when I was in government, but judge me, please, as this makes a much better case, by my words." They are full of promise now to the farmers.
§ Mr. Anderson
As the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) knows, that was a Daily Express dishonest remark. It has been repudiated fully and has absolutely nothing to do with the subject we are discussing. Opposition spokesmen are full of promise in their speeches to the farmers but they are very coy about the effect on consumers of the policies which they advocate.
As my hon. Friend the Member for Conway pointed out, our farmers in 138 Wales have done fairly well out of the Price Review, not only in the extra amount on beef and sheep, but particularly in the increases in the hill sheep and hill cow subsidy. The biggest gift of all, however, which my right hon. Friend has given to farmers in the Principality has been his answer today to the Padfield Report recommendation. By this one stroke, he has removed a cloud of uncertainty which has been over our milk producers in Wales for a good many months.
Had that Report been implemented, it could have been the thin end of the wedge in forcing out of milk production many of our more marginal farmers in the more remote parts of Wales. Indeed, had it been adopted, it would have run quite counter to the regional development policies which are being pursued so successfully by the Government.
I am indeed glad that my right hon. Friend, in saying quite firmly that it would not be in the public interest to implement the Committee's recommendations, is acting very much in conformity with the regional development policies pursued by the Government, and the milk producers in Wales, particularly those who are far from the major conurbations and major markets, will be very thankful indeed that this major uncertainty has been removed by my right hon. Friend by his announcement today of his rejection of the Padfield Committee's recommendations.
The milk sector of the agricultural industry has had considerable investment over the years and also increases in the guaranteed price. As the hon. Member for Torrington, I am sure, will readily acknowledge, there were not great expectations in the milk sector, and there could not have been, from the Review. The question which must inevitably face the Government is the speed at which milk production increases and the effect of the increase in the prices paid to the producers and by the consumers. Some means of restraint are necessary particularly in the interests of the milk producer himself.
Even hon. Gentlemen opposite must recognise that milk production is a fundamental problem in agricultural policy in very many countries of the developed world and that it is essential to have a responsible policy for it. Negotiations 139 with our three principal suppliers of Cheddar-type cheese have been announced and should help to keep prices at reasonable levels in this sector for our own producers. We see also that there will be about £20 million less butter imports next year.
The voice of the consumer which is often not heard in our agricultural debates must also be heard. It would be the negation of agricultural policy to ignore the legitimate claims of our housewives, and this is a particularly important consideration with the price of liquid milk, in which we are self-sufficient.
For all these reasons I think that my hon. Friend has kept a good balance this year, and that we shall get increased production, and that demand—a very important factor—will not be discouraged.
§ 9.3 p.m.
§ Mr. Anthony Stodart (Edinburgh, West)
Despite all that has been said this afternoon nothing has convinced me, nor, I would think, my hon. and right hon. Friends, that the Review which we are debating is an expansionist one and that it matches the statement made and the hopes which were raised in November. That, of course, is what the Motion is about.
Moreover, the claims which have been made for it are false. I was surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman a moment ago claim that the same arithmetic had been used in connection with it as with the previous thirteen Reviews. This Review occupies as high a place as the right hon. Gentleman has claimed for it only if we juggle about with the efficiency factor. It was a point on which the hon. Member for Bury and Radcliffe (Mr. Ensor) promised he would comment—but, no doubt, forgot—when I intervened in his speech. We could make this Review, or the next one, the sensation of them all if we raised the efficiency factor to £35 million and merely added that on to the amount of the award.
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Harry Gourlay)
Order. It would be better if both hon. and right hon. Members 140 would use the traditional form of addressing the Chair.
§ Mr. Stodart
I beg your pardon, Mr. Deputy Speaker.
Frankly, I wonder very much whether, in these debates, we do not view things from rather too far away. I know that one is often advised not to get too close or one cannot see the wood for the trees. But I think that, in our debates about farming—and here I clearly disagree with the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan), who poured scorn on my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) for giving an individual example of the effects of the Review—we dwell so much on the millions of £s which the Treasury either does or does hot furnish, on assessing the virtues or shortcomings of a Review by the costs, on the award itself, on the output, all in their scores of millions of £s, that we look right over the top of the effects which the award is having on the men doing the work on the ground.
The Minister was very enthusiastic about the comparisons of costs, of values and awards, of net outputs between the post-and the pre-1964 Reviews. But certainly all that matters if we are having an expansionist Review is that the net income of the industry, which results from the Review, has risen by only £5 million as a result of the post-1964 Reviews, all of them put together, compared with £80 million for the equivalent number up to 1964.
Having said that, I want to conclude the argument from these benches by moving away from what I think is the rather cloistered atmosphere in which we use an agricultural jargon involving global income, efficiency factors, gross and net incomes, and try to assess how all this is affecting the farmer on the ground. Because this is the very point made by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter), I am delighted that he has returned to the Chamber at this moment.
I believe that the farming community are frustrated. They are bewildered and jaundiced. They are jaundiced because the farmers expected, and I think that they were entitled to expect, more in this Review than they have got in the light of the right hon. Gentleman's November 141 statement—and I appreciate that, to justify this, I must try to convince the House that the right hon. Gentleman's announcement last Wednesday did not provide the means for the expansion to which he gave his support four months ago.
I believe that the farming community is frustrated and bewildered by the claims made by the right hon. Gentleman that this is a good Review, that the industry will do well out of it and that expansion will come about. Why, farmers say, if that is so, are our overdrafts getting bigger every year? Why are we making no ground at all in gathering some cash together for ploughing back into the farms? What is stopping us from showing a decent enough profit to put wages up, not by 17s. a week but by £s a week, so that the gap between the industrial wage earner and the skilled farm worker ceases to be the yawning one that it is?
The Secretary of State for Scotland made what has been described as an extremely skilful speech to the Annual General Meeting of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland—a body which probably gathers under one roof far more of the interests of the whole spectrum of agriculture than one could ever get from a single branch in England or in any other part of the country.
According to the Scottish Farmer, this was the description which was given to the right hon. Gentleman's speech:Here was the dominie taking hold of a class smouldering with rebellion and resentment and on which he had to impose his conception of the rightness and justice of the Review. In typical fashion there was the forceful argument backed with suitable facts and figures, the gentle pat on the head for the restive, the waggle of an admonitory finger, the rap on the knuckles when the occasion arose. … On one particular point, try as he might, he failed. That was to persuade his listeners that the results of the Review honoured the Autumn statement of the Minister of Agriculture.It is often said by people outside this House that we do not know how the ordinary folk live. I am bound to say that my heart bled for my many friends who attended that annual general meeting on getting a taste of the thoroughly disagreeable medicine which we here have had to take for many years. But, having read it carefully, I think that it was essentially a debating speech. It was designed to segregate the beef, the sheep and the cereal men in one corner 142 and to leave the milk interests in the other. It showed no understanding of the difficulties which were put to him; indeed, on at least one occasion he disputed their validity.
The right hon. Gentleman gave figures to the annual general meeting of the increased net incomes, which were extremely impressive at first sight. He said that the net income from hill sheep went up 53 per cent. in two years, for some reason or other omitting to remind his audience that their net income had dropped 40 per cent. in the single year before those two. I thought that it was a neat piece of selectivity.
According to the volume of Scottish Agricultural Economics, 1968, the fall in incomes in 1966–67 was not due to bad weather. If it were, I would not criticise it, because bad weather is one of the hazards which farmers have to accept as part of the job. According to that volume, it was due to rotten livestock prices stemming back to our old friend the Irish Trade Agreement.
I noticed that the hon. Member for Caithness and Sutherland quoted the same figures. However, percentages can be very misleading, because they depend on the base line that one chooses. In this case, it is the net income figures for the year 1966–67.
In a supplementary Question which I put to the right hon. Gentleman last Wednesday, I referred him to a statement which had been made in the Glasgow Herald, and the right hon. Gentleman said that he had not read it. I think that he ought to start reading the Glasgow Herald, because its readership is extremely select. I am not sure whether he has heard the story—and, if not, let me tell him it now—of the minister in the Church of Scotland who always wanted to be topical in opening his prayers each Sabbath. On this occasion, he began: "Lord, as Thou wilt have observed from Thy perusal of the columns of the Glasgow Herald …", and then went on to ask for what he wanted. In view of that, I think that the company which reads it is of the very highest.
The statement which I quoted was made in the course of an article written by Mr. Michael Joughin, one of the most distinguished former Presidents of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, 143 the chairman of one of the agriculture "Little Neddy" committees which the right hon. Gentleman praised today, and now chairman of the governors of the North of Scotland Agricultural College.
For the sake of the record, I say again that the 1966–67 income figures show that 40 per cent. of all farmers costing with the North of Scotland Agricultural College failed to achieve a farm worker's wage and got no return on their capital. That is the base line from which the right hon. Gentleman is starting. I should add that the economics department at this college is probably the best in the United Kingdom. I think that it is a devastating revelation, and I understand that none of several agitated calls from the Department of Agriculture for Scotland has been able to unearth any mitigating factors about that 40 per cent.
It cannot be said that these are all small farmers or that they are all bad and unprogressive farmers. The college covers a huge area from Kincardine to the Orkneys, which is probably equivalent in size to the West of England south of Birmingham and west of Bournemouth, with every kind of farming involved. Broadly speaking, it is not the unprogressive stick-in-the-muds who go to the college for advice or for the purpose of having their accounts costed.
I noticed, that the Secretary of State expressed, at the very least, incredulity, if not downright disagreement when I quoted that. I thought that was either because he did not want to face the facts or because the article, which had been examining the policies of both the political parties on agriculure, was headed,Basic Tory outlook right for farmers in the 1970s.But the Secretary of State has boasted about a 53 per cent. increased in incomes of less than £10 17s. 6d. a week, with no allowance made for interest on capital. If that is one of the things that the Government feel like bringing out of their cupboard, dusting and displaying and making speeches about, the shop window is even barer than I imagined.
The Minister of Agriculture must remember very distinctly the reactions to the statements which he made in November. We had considerable reservations 144 about them, but, without any question, considerable satisfaction was expressed outside. The farmers of the country thought that they were being led by the right hon. Gentleman in the guise of Moses. They had travelled long distances in search of expansion and they had no doubt, from what he then said, that they were gazing into the promised land. But, unlike the promised land of old, this one is not flowing with milk and honey—although it is true that honey does not feature in the Review.
If the right hon. Gentleman felt that undue optimism were being placed on his words then, why did he not say so? He said:This means that for these important commodities, beef and milk, we are aiming for increased output …"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 212.]To say that and to mean something entirely different makes me think rather wistfully of the celebrated statement by the right hon. Gentleman the present Leader of the House on a matter of agricultural policy that he made in the Committee on the Agriculture Bill on 21st December 1965. In one paragraph there are to be found these words:One must be cautious.On the other hand, one must be adventurous …. We must not be fuddy-duddies …. If we remain put, we shall be left behind."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee B, 21st December. 1965; c. 161.]At least the right hon. Gentleman did not have the least idea apparently what he meant, but the Minister of Agriculture clearly did in November, and if his words were being greeted with too much optimism he should have quelled it there and then.
If the Government believe in expansion, even selective expansion, they are showing the most deplorable psychology in going about it. First, there was the reference to the Prices and Incomes Board of the rise of 17s. a week to men whose minimum rate is £11 11s. 6d., men who offer to work overtime, even insist on working overtime during the harvest, although they may be discouraged from doing so. One can compare them with certain strikers the other day who get a bonus if they do not strike. I do not think that it was brilliant psychology, either, with the bacon sharing agreement, if we are trying to convince people in this country that there is to be a bigger 145 share of the home market, to let a new member into the "club" with a 1,000-ton allowance.
The Government call for more production—and this was the point made by the hon. Member for West Stirlingshire and my hon. Friend the Member for Hereford (Mr. Gibson-Watt)—and then they increase the price of the ingredient which is most necessary to achieve that. Grass needs more fertiliser not less. The use of lime on the hills is dropping, and this is serious. If the policy is to produce beef rather than milk, husbandry has to be very intensive indeed. Fertilisers have to be used ungrudgingly as those comparatively few people who have made as good a return from beef as from milk know only too well.
I want in the short time left to me to examine one or two examples of what I think this Review will mean on individual farms and to individual commodities, even though—and I should not dispute this from the global figures—this appears to be a good Review for Scotland. Take the hill sheep man at Turnberry. At the Annual General Meeting it was pointed out to the Secretary of State that a 25 lb. lamb off the hills got an extra 1½d. Three shillings a lamb gives £15 or £16 more if one has 100 ewes with 100 per cent. lambing. It means £90 to £100 more on a 30-score hirsel. The shepherd's wage is going up by £45 a year within the next three weeks.
Let us consider pigs. The Secretary of State said that the Government want to see a steady rate of expansion in pig meat production. Pigs are up 6d. a score. On a 7½-score animal this means 3s. 9d. That is 3s. 9d. up, and yet because of what is happening in relation to rating, the owner of a piggery in Scotland is having to pay an extra 7s. per baconer on a first-class run herd, 10s. where the management is not so good, so there is a deficit right away.
Dairying is catastrophic. Both the National Plan and the "Neddy" Report have been discarded. There has been an extraordinary change of heart on the part of the right hon. Gentleman and the Government about something which could be a substantial import saver. I understand that costs will be ¾d. a gallon up and returns 1d. a gallon down.
146 I thought that I should probably do fairly well out of this Review because although I do not have beef; my main lines are wheat, barley and sheep. My 100 acres of wheat and 100 acres of barley will bring me in about £400 more. Provided the extra price on fat lamb comes back to the breeder, I shall get 5s. on each of 800 lambs, which gives me a total increased income of £600. The cost of wages will rise by £200, and feeding and fertilisers by about £70 between them. So far, running expenses of the farm in the first three months of this calendar year are up by £30 a month on a similar period last year. Therefore, if these figures are projected into a period of 12 months I shall be out of pocket in spite of this award.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rye (Mr. Bryant Godman Irvine) and one or two other hon. Members raised the question of capital. It is inevitable that more capital will be needed to finance the livestock and grain expansion. Today, if I wanted to buy ten in-calf heifers I should probably have to pay £1,100. A new combine costs over £3,000, whereas five years ago it would not have been much over £2,000. Where is the capital to come from? The Scottish banks are now lending £70 million to farmers and are over the ceiling imposed by the Treasury.
I was astonished to read a report of a speech made by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary at Newcastle on Thursday. Apparently, in answer to a question, he said:Instructions are being sent to branch managers of banks that the Government is giving the highest priority to finding finance for agriculture.Over four months ago the Chancellor of the Exchequer assured me that agriculture would have the highest priority in terms of financing by the banks. If the banks have not been informed of that statement made four months ago it is disgraceful. I can imagine no bigger waste of the hon. Member's time and that of his audience than for him to go all the way to Newcastle merely to say that.
§ The Joint Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. James Hoy)
Perhaps I had better put this right. I was asked what priority agriculture had and I replied that it had the same as the export industries. 147 One member of the audience asked whether I could say that it would percolate down to certain managers and I said that if it were necessary, I would see that it was done.
§ Mr. Stodart
According to the newspapers the hon. Gentleman said:That is precisely what we are engaged in at the present time.He gave the impression that this was a Government operation.
Our view is that expansion is absolutely essential if the battle of the balance of trade is to be won. Exports, vital as they are, cannot do it on their own. Imports must be saved. But the present support system is no good for increased home production, as my hon. Friend the Member for Lowestoft (Mr. Prior) clearly showed. Hon. Member after hon. Member has qualified the congratulations offered to the right hon. Gentleman on a good Review by adding "within the limiting economic circumstances". Hon. Members on both sides thus feel that there is difficulty in expanding under the present support system.
The right hon. Gentleman asked two questions. He asked what our plans were for expansion. We accept the Neddy target in principle. We think that, on sheep, it is pessimistic and we could do better, and that, on cereals, it is slightly optimistic. But if those two are allowed to balance themselves out, we accept the target in principle. His other question about the extra prices of food has been dealt with many times by my right hon. Friend. The Minister himself, in an Answer, gave the cost of swinging from one system to the other as between 4 and 7 per cent., and we have said between 5 and 6 per cent., so that we cannot be far from the answer.
Let us be entirely clear on one point. The right hon. Gentleman has not honoured the undertaking which he gave in November and which must have been given with Cabinet authority. We have no doubt that he wanted to honour it but that the strong-arm characters in the Cabinet overbore him. It is on them, with their confidence trick, that the main burden of the charge lies. The Secretary of State for Scotland made what was described as a "hectoring" speech to the Scottish Labour Party conference at 148 the weekend, in which he demanded what apeared to be their extremely unwilling confidence in himself. No doubt he will hector us tonight, because he always does, but of one thing I warn him: he will not win our confidence either in him or in the Government.
§ 9.32 p.m.
§ The Secretary of State for Scotland (Mr. William Ross)
I am delighted that the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) paid so much attention to the speeches that I make, whether at Turn-berry or Aberdeen. It would be far better if he came along some time, when he would not interpret—[Interruption.] I was invited by the National Farmers Union of Scotland to go there, and I am invited every year. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will be the last time."] Far from it being the last time, I gained the impression that they hoped that I would be there on many occasions.
I can assure the hon. Gentleman that if he reads the Press selectively for his quotations he will always find one that suits his own propaganda needs. Why did he not read the report in the Glasgow Herald on "Ross at Turnberry"? That gave a different impression of how I was received and of the result of my efforts there. That may have been a little more truthful. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that I enjoyed myself immensely.
I joined the Scottish farmers at Turn-berry in their "poverty and misery", as painted by the hon. Gentleman. I can assure him that I have been saving up for years to be able to afford a meal in that hotel. On the day that the Scottish old age pensioners hold their annual meeting in Turnberry Hotel we will have less to worry about—[Interruption.]
§ Mr. Ross
If the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West wants to make that sort of speech, I am entitled to reply to it.
It is interesting to note what the hon. Gentleman said on the day the Price Review was announced. I happen to have a copy of his remarks with me. According to the Chairman of the North of Scotland Agricultural College, the hon. Gentleman gave the result of 40 per cent. of all farm accounts costed—many 149 of these farms must be in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Mr. Maclennan)—last year. From the phrase "last year" anybody listening to the hon. Gentleman would have thought, since this is 1969, that he meant 1968.
However, he should have known perhaps better than anybody else that the farm accounts to which he was referring could not possibly have been for the last year. Indeed, the figures on which he based his assessments and on which he lectured my right hon. Friend related to 1966. [HON. MEMBERS: "Shame."] That is why I took up this point at Turn-berry. I was entitled to start from there to put the hon. Gentleman right. He knew quite well what had happened in some areas during 1966 as a result of the devastating previous winter and the collapse of the livestock market. [Interruption.] These are the facts.
As a result of the changes which we made in the 1967 Price Review, hill sheep farmers increased their income by 33 per cent. The forecast for last year—I am talking of the genuine "last year"—is 20 per cent. on top of that. In upland rearing one probably finds the lowest net income per farm. That increased by 68 per cent. in 1967–68, and last year it increased by 40 per cent. on top of that.
These figures give an entirely different picture of the position. This picture is revealed as a result of the action of the Labour Administration.
§ Mr. Ross
No. I will not give way. If I am to lose time because hon. Gentlemen opposite make a noise, I cannot give way and reply to the points made in the debate.
Let us consider the respective treatment of these areas by hon. Gentlemen opposite and the Government. Between 150 1960 and 1964 the price of fat sheep went down by 1½d. From 1965 to 1969 the price went up by 5 ¾d. The price of fat cattle went up between 1960 and 1964, under the guarantees of hon. Gentlemen opposite, by 13s. In the last four years, under Labour rule, it has gone up by 45s. These are the reasons why hon. Gentlemen opposite have today contented themselves with denunciation and why they have not dealt with commodities. The same story is true of cereals. Between 1960 and 1964 the price of wheat went down by 1s. 1d. per cwt. In our four years it has gone up by 2s. 6d. per cwt. Under Conservative rule between 1960 and 1964 the price of barley went down by 2s. 4d. and under Labour rule it has gone down by only 8d.
§ Mr. Ross
During the five years 1960–64 inclusive costs under right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite increased by £88 million and recoupment was minus £63 million. During our terms, costs have increased by £185 million and recoupment has been minus £39½ million. In other words, during those years under the Tory Government farmers were left with 50 per cent. from their efficiency and under us 73 per cent.
§ Mr. Stodart
Will the Secretary of State now give us the figures—he is bound to have them there—of net income, which is all that matters?
§ Mr. Ross
I have plenty of figures on income, and I have figures for net output as well. The hon. Gentleman talked about playing about with figures and, if he likes, I can do that as well as anyone else.
151 The right hon. Gentleman made a speech that was just deplorable in denunciation, and implied that if only we accepted Tory policy—whatever that might be—everything would be quite all right. He will remember there used to be talk of a shift of support for agriculture to the consumer, and then it was to be only a shift of deficiency payments and we would retain the system of production grants. He now discovers, rather belatedly, that before one does any of this changing one must have considerable international discussion, and that will take years and years, so, he says, in that meanwhile, we will carry on with Annual Price Reviews. Could any industry in those conditions have any confidence in what would happen from year to year, far less four or five years in advance? He knows quite well that that is one of the reasons why the industry has rejected Tory policies.
Time and again today I have heard hon. Gentleman opposite utter slipshod slogans about getting away from the horse trading of the Price Review, from the annual haggle. Is that the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman? Does he want to get away from the annual haggle? If he does, I can tell him that the farmers do not. The farmers value the discussions and negotiations, and the agreement on basic finance.
The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West asked how the £30 million deficiency factor had come to be changed. He should have asked his hon. Friends. It used to be £20 million, and it went up to £25 million in 1954. This was first applied in 1955, and I can tell the hon. Gentleman that the agricultural industry has tended to be proud of the fact that it can claim to have improved its efficiency by as much as £30 million a year——
§ Mr. Ross
My hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) drew attention to the fact that in the Price Review last year the allowance for increased labour costs was £23 million, but the actual increased bill for labour costs was £1 million. Anyone who looks at the figures given in the White Paper will see that over the last 10 years the number of people employed in agriculture has fallen 152 by 192,000, yet output has risen. There is the proof of the value of what we put into agriculture. This is the justification for this annual consideration of an efficiency factor.
It is wrong at this stage for hon. and right hon. Members opposite who year after year insisted with the farmers that this was the factor to be taken into account and year after year refused to give them their full efficiency—the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton) said that we could not get expansion without full recoupment of costs. Does he know how many times the Government of which he was a member gave full recoupment? I will tell him—once.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The right hon. and learned Gentleman cannot interrupt if the Secretary of State does not give way. [Interruption.] Order. Mr. Ross.
§ Sir D. Renton
The right hon. Gentleman asked me a question. The relevant answer is that during the last 10 years of Conservative administration production rose by between 25 per cent. and 30 per cent. and in the last four years under the Labour Government it has risen by only 3 per cent.
§ Mr. Ross
The right hon. and learned Gentleman has tempted me so I can give him one or two figures. If we take it year after year there are ups and downs. Between 1953–54 and 1958–59 there was no increase in output. If we look at one year's figures against the final year one finds ups and downs. One can juggle with those figures, and that is what hon. Members opposite have done.
I will deal now with the question of milk. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The House must be fair. We have listened to one side and we must listen to the other. Mr. Ross.
§ Mr. Ross
I would have been happy to have seen many more hon. Members 153 opposite present during the debate. The figures in relation to net income, despite the setback in the current year, show that the underlying trend is upward. The annual net income increased in 1966–67 and 1967–68 and dropped last year. The drop was entirely due to weather and the foot-and-mouth epidemic. [HON. MEMBERS: "Nonsense"] This is true and we must remember that the inbuilt improvements which came with the last Review remain and are added to by the improvements in this Review. Given reasonable conditions there will be a considerable increase in farm incomes this year.
§ Mr. Speaker
Order. The hon. and learned Member for Antrim, South, must moderate his enthusiasm. Mr. Ross.
§ Mr. Ross
My hon. Friends the Members for Caithness and Sutherland and West Stirlingshire (Mr. W. Baxter) spoke about the question of stability and imports. We fully recognise the importance to producers of market stability, but we must appreciate that our market is not as exposed to disruptive imports as many people seem to think. For cereal and cereal products we have a minimum price system, backed where necessary by levies. We have also recently renegotiated the Bacon Market Sharing Understanding. There are quota arrangements for imports of butter, apples and pears. Main crop potatoes can be imported only in years where home production is short.
The question of new potatoes was raised, a subject of special interest to my hon. Friend the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Emrys Hughes). I am glad to say that we have a voluntary arrangement in relation to imports from Cyprus which will considerably help. We have announced our intention to have discussions with overseas suppliers about the introduction of an m.i.p. scheme for eggs and egg products. We have also made it clear that we shall continue to keep a close watch on the market for 154 other commodities. In particular, we are currently considering the wider implications of possible methods of providing greater market stability for fat cattle. We have been discussing this with the Farmers Unions. These discussions will continue.
My right hon. Friend paid full attention to the question of cheese earlier and added the important point that we continue with discussions with certain of our smaller suppliers.
My hon. Friend the Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) spoke about choosing the right priorities. This is the whole point about a selective expansion scheme. We choose the priorities. No one has challenged that we have chosen correctly. The farmers accepted that it was right that it should be beef, pigs, cereals. Anyone who has given the impression to farmers that we can expand at the same time all along the line is deceiving himself about the state of world agriculture. We cannot consider agriculture in isolation and ignore every other trading factor and the effect it has on Britain. It is rather like jumping from one theatre to another in the House. In an agricultural debate in come the farmers. In a trading debate in come the industrialists. The whole thing is a jigsaw in which one piece is related to several others. Action cannot be taken on imports from New Zealand and Australia without that affecting our trade with those countries. The very people who call for unlimited food production in Britain at the same time call for more trade with the Commonwealth, especially with New Zealand and Australia. People should face the facts.
There has been some selective reading about what my right hon. Friend said in November last. No one has stopped to reflect whether there was any question of resources or of the cost of selective expansion, yet in his short statement my right hon. Friend mentioned this no fewer than four times. I want to read the part which I think is very relevant in relation to milk:We should also like to see any increase in the dairy herd for beef production related to cheaper milk production.Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have not been asking about cheaper milk, but about dearer milk. They have asked for an increase in the price of milk, 155 knowing quite well the difficulties that might arise for milk producers if overproduction leads to a fall in the pool price. The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) said that it was the first time that standard quantities have been reduced. He is wrong. On this occasion, this is true in England and Wales because the relationship is to liquid consumption, and liquid consumption fell there, but we have been cut in Scotland before. I am glad to say that on this occasion our liquid consumption had kept up with the result that we are not so badly affected.
Here is what the Minister said and if the House wishes to consider the problems of agriculture realistically it should pay attention. He said:We believe that it is within the capacity of the British industry to achieve the objectives of selective expansion which I have outlined. It must depend, however, on the ability of the industry to go on improving its technological standards; and on the extent to which its rise in productivity can help to hold down support costs,…"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 12th November, 1968; Vol. 773, c. 212–3.]All that we have had today have been requests to increase support costs, not to hold them down. Consider what we have done about beef—15s. per cwt. Is anyone ready to say that this will have no effect? The beef producers to whom I have
§ spoken in Turnberry were very happy about the increase. The people from the hills and uplands were delighted about the increase, which does not quite, but very nearly, meet their increased costs. Bearing in mind that they get additional help for the hill and beef cow subsidy, it is a considerable improvement in their position.
§ I am sure that the increase of 6d. a score together with the changes in the middle band has been a considerable increase for pig farmers. The same is true of cereals. Once we look at the commodities concerned with the selective expansion, we realise that the improvement is there. I spoke to the Scottish farmers in Turnberry and answered questions for an hour and a half. I can assure hon. Gentlemen that I was able to satisfy them on the realities of this expansion.
§ The choice is between the reality of selective expansion and complete chaos—not knowing what will happen each year, under the vague policies of hon. Gentlemen opposite. I ask the House with confidence to support our Amendment.
§ Question put, That the Amendment be made:—
§ The House divided: Ayes, 293, Noes 236.159
|Division No. 138.]||AYES||[10.0 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Buchan, Norman||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dickens, James|
|Alldritt, Walter||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Dobson, Ray|
|Anderson, Donald||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Doig, Peter|
|Archer, Peter||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Driberg, Tom|
|Ashley, Jack||Cant, R. B.||Dunn, James A.|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Carmichael, Neil||Dunnett, Jack|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Carter-Jones, Lewis||Eadie, Alex|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Edelman, Maurice|
|Barnes Michael||Chapman, Donald||Edwards, Robert (Bilston)|
|Barnet, Joel||Coe, Denis||Edwards, William (Merioneth)|
|Baxter, William||Coleman, Donald||Ellis, John|
|Beaney, Alan||Concannon, J. D.||English, Michael|
|Bence, Cyril||Conlan, Bernard||Ennals, David|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ensor, David|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Crawshaw, Richard||Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Cronin, John||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)|
|Bishop, E. S.||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Faulds, Andrew|
|Blackburn, F.||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Fernyhough, E.|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Finch, Harold|
|Booth, Albert||Dalyell, Tam||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)|
|Boston, Terence||Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)|
|Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)|
|Boyden, James||Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)|
|Bradley, Tom||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Brooks, Edwin||Davies, Harold (Leek)||Ford, Ben|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Forrester, John|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Fowler, Gerry|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Delargy, Hugh||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Dell, Edmund||Freeson, Reginald|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dempscy, James||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Gardner, Tony||Luard, Evan||Probert, Arthur|
|Garrett, W. E.||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Rankin, John|
|Ginsburg, David||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Rees, Merlyn|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McCann, John||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacColl, James||Richard, Ivor|
|Gregory, Arnold||MacDermot, Niall||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Macdonald, A. H.||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Robertson, John (Palsley)|
|Griffiths, Rt. Hn. James (Llanelly)||Mackie, John||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Maclennan, Robert||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Hamling, William||McNamara, J. Kevin||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Hannan, William||MacPherson, Malcolm||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Harper, Joseph||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Rowlands, E.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Ryan, John|
|Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Sheldon, Robert|
|Hattersley, Roy||Manuel, Archie||Shinwell, Rt. Hn. E.|
|Hazell, Bert||Mapp, Charles||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Heffer, Eric S.||Marks, Kenneth||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Hilton, W. S.||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Hobden, Dennis||Maxwell, Robert||Silverman, Julius|
|Hooley, Frank||Mayhew, Christopher||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Small, William|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Mendelson, J. J.||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Howie, W.||Millan, Bruce||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Hoy, James||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Hughes, Emrys (Ayrshire, S.)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Taverne, Dick|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Molloy, William||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hunter, Adam||Moonman, Eric||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Hynd, John||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Thornton, Ernest|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Tinn, James|
|Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Tomney, Frank|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Moyle, Roland||Urwin, T. W.|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Murray, Albert||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Neal, Harold||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Newens, Stan||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Oakes, Gordon||Wallace, George|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Ogden, Eric||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||O'Malley, Brian||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Oram, Albert E.||Weitzman, David|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Orme, Stanley||Wellbeloved, James|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Oswald, Thomas||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Judd, Frank||Owen, Will (Morpeth)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Kelley, Richard||Padley, Walter||Whitlock, William|
|Kenyon, Clifford||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Paget, R. T.||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Park, Trevor||Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)|
|Lawson, George||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Pavitt, Laurence||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred||Winnick, David|
|Lestor, Miss Joan||Pentland, Norman||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)||Woof, Robert|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Mr. Ioan L. Evans and|
|Loughlin, Charles||Price, William (Rugby)||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Biggs-Davison, John||Buck, Antony (Colchester)|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Bullus, Sir Eric|
|Astor, John||Black, Sir Cyril||Burden, F. A.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Blaker, Peter||Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Carlisle, Mark|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Body, Richard||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert|
|Balniel, Lord||Bossom, Sir Clive||Chichester-Clark, R.|
|Batsford, Brian||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Clark, Henry|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Brewis, John||Clegg, Walter|
|Belt, Ronald||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Cooke, Robert|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Cordle, John|
|Biffen, John||Bryan, Paul||Corfield, F. V.|
|Costain, A. P.||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pounder, Rafton|
|Crouch, David||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Powell, Rt. Hn, J. Enoch|
|Crowder, F. P.||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Jopling, Michael||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Pym, Francis|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Dance, James||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Kimball, Marcus||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Dean, Paul||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Kirk, Peter||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Kitson, Timothy||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Doughty, Charles||Lambton, Viscount||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Lane, David||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Eden, Sir John||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Royle, Anthony|
|Emery, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirrral)||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Eyre, Reginald||Longden, Gilbert||Scott, Nicholas|
|Farr, John||Lubbock, Eric||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Fisher, Nigel||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Sharples, Richard|
|Fletchcr-Cooke, Charles||MacArthur, Ian||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Silvester, Frederick|
|Foster, Sir John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||McMaster, Stanley||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Gibson-Watt, David||McNair-Wilson, Patrick||Speed, Keith|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maddan, Martin||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maginnis, John E.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Marten, Neil||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maude, Angus||Tapsell, Peter|
|Goodhart, Philip||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Goodrrew, Victor||Mawby, Ray||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Gower, Raymond||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Grant, Anthony||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. c.||Temple, John M.|
|Grant-Ferris, R.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Miscampbell, Norman||Tilney, John|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Gurden, Harold||Monro, Hector||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Montgomery, Fergua||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Morgan-Giles, Rear Adm.||Waddington, David|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wall, Patrick|
|Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Walters, Dennis|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Murton, Oscar||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Hawkins, Paul||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Wells, John (Maidstone)|
|Hay, John||Neave, Airey||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Heseltine, Michael||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Nott, John||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Hiley, Joseph||Onslow, Cranley||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Holland, Philip||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Hooson, Emlyn||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Worsley, Marcus|
|Hordern, Peter||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Wright, Esmond|
|Hornby, Richard||Pardoe, John||Wylie, N. R.|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Younger, Hn. George|
|Hunt, John||Peel, John|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Percival, Ian||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Peyton, John||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Mr. Jasper More.|
§ Main Question, as amended, put:—160
§ The House divided: Ayes 290, Noes 238.165
|Division No. 139.]||AYES||[10.14 p.m.|
|Albu, Austen||Barnes, Michael||Blackburn, F.|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Barnett, Joel||Boardman, H. (Leigh)|
|Alldritt, Walter||Baxter, William||Booth, Albert|
|Anderson, Donald||Beaney, Alan||Boston, Terence|
|Archer, Peter||Bence, Cyril||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur|
|Ashley, Jack||Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Boyden, James|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Bradley, Tom|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Bid well, Sydney||Bray, Dr. Jeremy|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Bishop, E. S.||Brooks, Edwin|
|Broughton, Dr. A. D. D.||Hart, Rt. Hn. Judith||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Haseldine, Norman||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Hattersley, Roy||Morris, John (Aberavon)|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Hazell, Bert||Moyle, Roland|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Heffer, Eric S.||Murray, Albert|
|Buchan, Norman||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Neal, Harold|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Hilton, W. S.||Newens, Stan|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Hobden, Dennis||Oakes, Gordon|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Hooley, Frank||Ogden, Eric|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||O'Malley, Brian|
|Cant, R. B.||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Oram, Albert E.|
|Carmichael, Neil||Howie, W.||Orme, Stanley|
|Carter-Jones, Lewis||Hoy, James||Oswald, Thomas|
|Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)|
|Chapman, Donald||Hughes, Emrys (Ayshire, S.)||Owen, Will (Morpeth)|
|Coe, Denis||Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Padley, Walter|
|Coleman, Donald||Hunter, Adam||Page, Derek (King's Lynn)|
|Concannon, J. D.||Hynd, John||Paget, R. T.|
|Conlan, Bernard||Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles|
|Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Jackson, Colin (B'h'se & Spenb'gh)||Park, Trevor|
|Crawshaw, Richard||Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Parker, John (Dagonham)|
|Cronin, John||Janner, Sir Barnett||Parkin, Ben (Paddington, N.)|
|Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Jeger, Mrs. Lena (H'b'n & St. P'cras, S.)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Cullen, Mrs. Alice||Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Dalyell, Tam||Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Pentland, Norman|
|Darling, Rt. Hn. George||Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Perry, Ernest G. (Battersea, S.)|
|Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Johnson, James (K'ston-on-Hull, W.)||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)|
|Davies, Ednyfed Hudson (Conway)|
|Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Jones, Dan (Burnley)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. R. E.|
|Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Davies, Harold (Leek)||Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Davies, S. O. (Merthyr)||Judd, Frank||Probert, Arthur|
|Delargy, Hugh||Kelley, Richard||Rankin, John|
|Dell, Edmund||Kenyon, Clifford||Rees, Merlyn|
|Dempsey, James||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Reynolds, Rt. Hn. G. W.|
|Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Rhodes, Geoffrey|
|Dickens, James||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Richard, Ivor|
|Dobson, Ray||Lawson, George||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Doig, Peter||Leadbitter, Ted||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Driberg, Tom||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)|
|Dunn, James A.||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Dunnett, Jack||Lee, John (Reading)||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)|
|Eadie, Alex||Lestor, Miss Joan||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Edelman, Mauri[...]e||Lever, L. M. (Ardwick)||Roebuck, Roy|
|Edwards, Robert (Bilston)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Ellis, John||Lipton, Marcus||Rowlands, E.|
|English, Michael||Lomas, Kenneth||Ryan, John|
|Ennals, David||Loughlin, Charles||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Ensor, David||Luard, Evan||Sheldon, Robert|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S. W.)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Faulds, Andrew||Mabon, Dr. J. Dickson||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Fernyhough, E.||McCann, John||Silkin, Hn. S. C. (Dulwich)|
|Finch, Harold||MacColl, James||Silverman, Julius|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||MacDermot, Niall||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Macdonald, A. H.||Small, William|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Mackenzie, Gregor (Ruthergen)||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Foot, Rt. Hn. Sir Dingle (Ipswich)||Mackie, John||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||Maclennan, Robert||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Ford, Ben||McMillanan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Taverne, Dick|
|Forrester, John||McNarama, J. Kevin||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fowler, Gerry||MacPherson, Malcolm||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Thorton, Ernest|
|Freeson, Reginald||Mahon, Simon (Bootle)||Tinn, James|
|Calpern, Sir Myer||Mallalieu, E. L. (Brigg)||Tomney, Frank|
|Gardner, Tony||Mallalieu, J. P. W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Tuck, Raphael|
|Garrett, W. E.||Manuel, Archie||Urwin, T. W.|
|Ginsburg, David||Mapp, Charles||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||Marks, Kenneth||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Wallace, George|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mayhew, Christopher||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Griffiths, David (Rother Valley)||Mendelson, J. J.||Weitzman, David|
|Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)||Millan, Bruce||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Miller, Dr. M. S.||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Whitaker, Ben|
|Hamling, William||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hannan, William||Molloy, William||Whitlock, William|
|Harper, Joseph||Moonman, Eric||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Morgan, Elystan, (Cardiganshire)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Williams, Alan Lee (Hornchurch)||Winnick, David||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.||Mr. Ioan L. Evans and|
|Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)||Woof, Robert||Mr. Neil McBride.|
|Willis, Rt. Hn. George||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Gower, Raymond||Montgomery, Fergus|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Grant, Anthony||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)|
|Astor, John||Grant-Ferris, R.||Morgan-Giles, Rear Adm.|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Gresham Cooke, R.||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)|
|Awdry, Daniel||Griffiths, Eldon (Bury St. Edmunds)||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh|
|Balniel, Lord||Gurden, Harold||Murton, Oscar|
|Batsford, Brian||Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nabarro, Sir Gerald|
|Beamish, Col. Sir Tufton||Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Neave, Airey|
|Bell, Ronald||Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Nicholls, Sir Harmar|
|Bennett, Sir Frederic (Torquay)||Harris, Reader (Heston)||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Nott, John|
|Biffen, John||Harrison, Col. Sir Harwood (Eye)||Onslow, Cranley|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Hastings, Stephen||Osborne, Sir Cyril (Louth)|
|Black, Sir Clive||Hawkins, Paul||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Blaker, Peter||Hay, John||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Boardman, Tom (Leicester, S. W.)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Pardoe, John|
|Body, Richard||Heseltine, Michael||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Higgins, Terence L.||Peel, John|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Hiley, Joseph||Percival, Ian|
|Brewis, John||Hill, J. E. B.||Peyton, John|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Holland, Philip||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Hooson, Emlyn||Pink, B. Bonner|
|Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Hordern, Peter||Pounder, Rafton|
|Bryan, Paul||Hornby, Richard||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Howell, David (Guildford)||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Hunt, John||Prior, J. M. L.|
|Burden, F. A.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Pym, Francis|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Iremonger, T. L.||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Carlisle, Mark||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ramsden, Rt. Hn. James|
|Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Clark, Henry||Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Clegg, Walter||Jones, Arthur (Northants, S.)||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Cooke, Robert||Jopling, Michael||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cordle, John||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Corfield, F. V.||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Robson Brown, Sir William|
|Costain, A. P.||Kimball, Marcus||Rodgers, Sir John (Sevenoaks)|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||King, Evelyn (Dorset, S.)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Crouch, David||Kirk, Peter||Royle, Anthony|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kitson, Timothy||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Knight, Mrs. Jill||St. John-Stevas, Norman|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Lambton, Viscount||Sandys, Rt. Hn. D.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Scott, Nicholas|
|Dance, James||Lane, David||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Sharples, Richard|
|Dean, Paul||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Digby, Simon Wingfield||Lloyd, Ian (P'tsm'th, Langstone)||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Donelly, Desmond||Lloyd, Rt. Hn. Selwyn (Wirral)||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Doughty, Charles||Longden, Gilbert||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Drayson, G. B.||Lubbock, Eric||Speed, Keith|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||McAdden, Sir Stephen||Steel, David (Roxburgh)|
|Eden, Sir John||McArthur, Ian||Stodart, Anthony|
|Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Emery, Peter||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Evans, Gwynfor (C'marthen)||McMaster, Stanley||Tapsell, Peter|
|Ewing, Mrs. Winifred||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Eyre, Reginald||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Fair, John||Maddan, Martin||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Fisher, Nigel||Maginnis, John E.||Temple, John M.|
|Fletcher-Cooke, Charles||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Fortescue, Tim||Marten, Neil||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Foster, Sir John||Maude, Angus||Tilney, John|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Turton, Rt. Hn. R. H.|
|Gibson-Watt, David||Mawby, Ray||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Gilmour, Ian (Norfolk, C.)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Cilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Maydon, Lt.-Cmdr. S. L. C.||Vickers, Dame Joan|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Waddington, David|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Miscampbell, Norman||Wall, Patrick|
|Goodhart, Philip||Mitchell, David (Basingstoke)||Walters, Dennis|
|Goodhew, Victor||Monro, Hector||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Wells, John (Maidstone)||Wolrige-Gordon, Patrick||Wylie, N. R.|
|Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard||Younger, Hn. George|
|Williams, Donald (Dudley)||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)||Worsley, Marcus||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Winstanley, Dr. M. P.||Wright, Esmond||Mr. R W. Elliott and|
|Mr. Jasper More.|
That this House congratulates Her Majesty's Government on their decisions on the Annual Farm Price Review which place the right emphasis on those commodities where expansion is wanted in the interests of the agricultural
industry and of the economy; notes that the agricultural policy of Her Majesty's Opposition would raise the price of food in the shops; and congratulates Her Majesty's Government on their policy of selective agricultural expansion without damaging increases in the cost of food to the housewife.