HC Deb 29 January 1976 vol 904 cc652-4
6. Mr. Boscawen

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what was the level of agricultural incomes in 1975 compared with 1974.

Mr. Peart

Information on United Kingdom farming net income in 1973–74 and 1974–75 is given in the 1975 Annual Review White Paper (Cmnd. 5977). A revised figure for 1974–75 and a forecast for 1975–76 will be published in the 1976 Annual Review White Paper.

Mr. Boseawen

It is very convenient for the Minister to be able to answer the Question in that way, but would he not agree that last year was the worst in living memory for a very large number of farmers? Does he realise that if he is prepared to admit that and the fact that much of it was due to Government mismanagement and doing too little too late, he would give us confidence that he has learned from his past mistakes?

Mr. Peart

I cannot accept that. It is a convenient way to reply because it is accurate. If the hon. Member reads the White Paper, he will appreciate some of our difficulties. I do not accept his conclusion. Confidence has been restored in many parts of the industry.

Mr. Corbett

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there has been a dramatic and welcome improvement in the income of dairy farmers in the last few months, particularly with the price increases and the remarkable level of production that has been achieved? However, does he realise that if we are to reach the guidelines laid down in the White Paper, dairy farmers will need a further incentive, although we must remember that there is a limit to the extent to which consumers can fund this expansion?

Mr. Pearl

In any price-fixing decision—and the review is still going on here and in Europe—we shall take note of producers' returns. They must have adequate returns, but we must also have regard to the consumers' interests. We need to strike a reasonable balance.

Mr. Pym

As this question is central to the review, can the right hon. Gentleman give us an assurance that, as a result of the review, he will be able to bring long-term confidence to the industry and give life to the White Paper he published in April which was, in a sense, a non-event? Can he also assure us that in going for the beef premium scheme, in which we support him, he will not bargain away the competitive advantages of British producers?

Mr. Pearl

The right hon. Gentleman's party ended the guarantee scheme when it entered Europe without any safeguards.

Mr. Jopling


Mr. Peart

The hon. Member has been demoted. He should shut up. He is being too offensive. If he wants to ask me a question, I will give way. You are an absolute humbug yourself.

Mr. Speaker

There are a great many "you's" going about. Even right hon. Gentlemen are addressing the Chair.

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