HC Deb 19 March 1970 vol 798 cc606-7
Q3. Mr. Ridley

asked the Prime Minister if he will undertake an official tour of farms in the West of England.

The Prime Minister

I have no plans to do so, Sir.

Mr. Ridley

Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that while farm productivity has gone up by 6 per cent. to 7 per cent. a year over the whole period of his office, net farm income in real terms is lower than it was in 1964? Is he aware that if he were to undertake such a tour he would find plenty of nice cheap farms available for his impending retirement?

The Prime Minister

I do not think that the hon. Gentleman can forecast the price, or anything else, of these farms at the time he has in mind, which is very many years ahead.

On the broader supplementary question, I have nothing to add to what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food said yesterday. It was a very fair Price Review which he announced yesterday, though I note that, typically, almost every day—certainly every week and sometimes more than twice a week—the Tories are adding shadow-expenditure commitments which make a lot of nonsense of their so-called pledges on taxation.

Mr. Maclennan

Is my right hon. Friend aware that if he made a tour of Scottish farms he would find almost unanimous condemnation of Conservative agricultural policies?

The Prime Minister

Yes, Sir. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have talked about what my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food had to face in Exeter, which is certainly in the West Country, not long ago. In answer to my hon. Friend, I was interested to read Press reports of the reception of the Opposition spokesman on agriculture in Scotland, who was greeted with a piper's lament.

Mr. Stodart

In view of the unanimous hostility of the farmers to yesterday's Price Review—[HON. MEMBERS: "No."]—would it come as a surprise to the Prime Minister to know that although I was called many rude things at that Ayrshire by-election, what he and his Ministers were called I would not wish to repeat for fear of bringing a blush to his cheek?

The Prime Minister

I am glad that the hon. Gentleman is so keen to stay in order. To answer the earlier part of his supplementary question, one would naturally expect the farmers to want more. Of course they would. However, it is the duty of hon. Members who are concerned with expenditure to have some regard also to the total expenditure commitments of the Government and to protect the housewife against the excessive price increases which would have been involved if we had met the farmers' full claims.

Since the hon. Gentleman referred to his recent experience, I might mention that I saw a report stating that the Kilmarnock contingent brought a piper who, in driving snow, played a lament outside the hall as young farmers chanted, "He is playing our tune".