If my right hon. Friend will insist on interrupting and then making a speech himself he cannot expect me to answer him at length. If I were to do so I should be told to sit down; and I should certainly be very unpopular with other of my hon. Friends who wish to speak.
The profits were £120 million more than the total wages paid to 640,000 full-time agricultural workers working a 47-hour week. Is my right hon. Friend suggesting that there is a good deal more labour in this industry other than the 640,000? The farmer is in precisely the same position as I am on the question of profits. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Oh, yes. Friends of the agricultural industry should not be in such a hurry to silence an opposition point of view. The industry has enough friends in the House to stand one or two hon. Members having a different point of view.
The bovine complacency of the dinner-jacket farmers of 45, Bedford Square is such that I am terrified. I therefore hope that my hon. Friends will not mind my putting a different point of view. The farmer is in the same position as the proprietor of a one-man business, someone running a factory, a grocer's shop or a wholesale business. He has not made it a limited liability company.
Now I want to give further evidence to substantiate my contention that the farmers do not need this assistance, and that it will, in fact, do them no good. My right hon. Friend the former Minister of Agriculture, speaking on 20th May, 1950, as reported in the "Manchester Guardian" said:
Farming capital before the war was £350 million. Today, it is nearly £1,000 million. Out of their much-criticised net profits the farmers have put back £650 million into the industry.
I am not complaining about that, but do say that there must be a lot of fat/upon which they could survive, for a time at any rate, while we get through the very serious financial crisis with which the nation is faced.
They are to be given another £10 million for fertilisers. Well, if anybody wants the real truth about the financial health, or lack of it, of the agricultural industry at the moment he need only look at the scramble for land which is taking place. There has never been such a scramble. Heavyweight boxers, international footballers, radio commentators and television stars are all taking up farms. Indeed, before long there will only be Muffin and myself out in the cold.