HC Deb 08 February 1972 vol 830 cc1125-6
18. Mr. Charles Morrison

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make arrangements for a second interim barley deficiency payment.

Mr. Anthony Stodart

It is too soon to decide whether a second advance deficiency payment for barley is justified, but my right hon. Friend is watching the position carefully and will bear this suggestion in mind.

Mr. Morrison

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that reply. Does he agree that many farmers were disappointed by the small amount of the first interim deficiency payment? What would be the latest time at which a second interim payment would be made if it were decided that it was possible to make one?

Mr. Stodart

I should not like to tie down my right hon. Friend on this matter, but I suspect that a decision will be made within the next few weeks.

Mr. Mackie

Would it not be better if the Minister explained to farmers how the calculation was made, as he knows that they are dissatisfied and do not understand it?

Mr. Stodart

It would be difficult to do that at Question Time. I can quickly give the hon. Gentleman two reasons: the wheat guarantee is nearly £4 a ton higher than the barley guarantee and barley is making fully as much, if not more than, wheat in the market.

Sir D. Renton

Is my hon. Friend aware that unless a second deficiency payment is made for barley, many farmers will not obtain the guaranteed price?

Mr. Stodart

The position about the guaranteed price is precisely the same as in previous years; that is, the guarantee less the average market price. That is how it will be calculated this year, as always.

Mr. Strang

Is the hon. Gentleman aware that the complacent and lethargic attitude which his Ministry is showing towards the state of the market for cereals is not good enough? It is not good enough to say that he is waiting for the producers to come forward with an initiative. The Government, too, have some responsibility in this sphere.

Mr. Stodart

The hon. Gentleman might care to recall that two years ago, after a big harvest and with no minimum import prices, prices were very much lower than they are today.