HC Deb 22 May 1975 vol 892 cc1590-1
1. Mr. MacGregor

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a statement on his estimate of the combined effects of the imposition of the capital transfer tax, the Community Land Bill, and the proposals for wealth tax and re-rating agricultural land on agricultural production in the United Kingdom.

The Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Mr. Fred Peart)

The Government announced in the White Paper "Food from our own Resources" (Cmnd 6020) that they were setting up a review of the effect of capital taxation on agricultural production. This interdepartmental study and the work of the Select Committee on Wealth Tax and of the Layfield Committee on local government finance are now in progress. It is not possible, therefore, to give a worthwhile estimate at this stage.

Mr. MacGregor

Does the Minister not agree that if he is to achieve his home production of food targets, as set out in the White Paper, it is essential that more and not less capital is invested in agriculture? Does he not accept that the measures either already passed in this House or threatened are very likely drastically to reduce the capital invested in agriculture? Will he, therefore, make much stronger representations—the matter cannot wait for the review on the measures which are either going through this House or threatened—than he did in the case of capital transfer tax?

Mr. Peart

I am aware that there is concern about this and its effect on investment in the industry. As I have said, there will be an examination of this and as soon as that is complete I may be able to make a further statement.

Mr. David James

In addition to all these potential burdens, will the Minister tell us how he thinks farmers could deal with vastly increased herds of stock if people like herdsmen and shepherds cannot live in close proximity to the animals they look after?

Mr. Peart

That is another question.

Mr. Hicks

The House is entitled to know how the Minister reconciles the aims of his Ministry, which were published in the White Paper, to establish a virile, indigenous domestic agricultural industry, with the proposals of other Government Departments in relation to capital transfer tax, wealth tax, the public acquisition of land and the abolition of tied cottages, and so on, which are all intent on destroying the establishment pattern and structure of British agriculture.

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that. That is a complete exaggeration, and the hon. Gentleman knows it. As long as I am Minister of Agriculture I shall make certain that nothing like that ever happens.