HC Deb 02 March 1971 vol 812 cc1372-4
6. Mr. Peter Mills

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food by what means Her Majesty's Government will finance their policy of expanding agricultural production in view of the Government's policy of giving more freedom to the agricultural industry and enabling farmers to obtain their return from the end product; and if he will allow the industry to have more freedom in marketing these products.

Mr. Prior

When a comprehensive levy system is introduced, it is the intention to set minimum import prices which should enable efficient farmers to secure better returns from the market and so to finance increased production. The system should also allow the industry greater freedom in marketing.

Mr. Mills

Would my right hon. Friend agree that, because of the previous Administration, British agriculture is not in a position at present to finance this forward movement of production which we all want? Although he rightly asks agriculture to stand on its own feet, would he not also agree that if it is to do so it must be given freedom to market its own products?

Mr. Prior

The first part of my hon. Friend's supplementary question relates really as much as anything to the problem of inflation, and that is a problem from which the whole country is suffering and which we must get on top of as soon as possible. I have an open mind on the subject of marketing and I am willing to have discussions with the N.F.U. as soon as the Price Review is over.

Mr. William Hamilton

Does not the policy of the Government mean increased prices for the housewife, and, if so, by how much?

Mr. Prior

That is a completely different question. There are Questions on the Order Paper dealing with that matter later.

Mr. Cledwyn Hughes

Does not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the freedom which farmers enjoyed before the last war damaged the agricultural industry almost beyond repair and that the 1947 Act brought security and efficiency to the industry? Will he give an assurance that marketing boards, including the Milk Marketing Board, will not be abolished?

Mr. Prior

As far as I am concerned, I am ready to give the assurance the right hon. Gentleman asks for in respect of the existing boards for milk, potatoes and hops. As I have already said, I am prepared to consider any views put to me by the N.F.U. or others.

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