Agricultural Subsidies

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th July 1964.

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Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North 12:00 am, 13th July 1964

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he is satisfied that agricultural subsidies are paid to farmers most in need of them; and what steps he proposes to take to ensure that this is done.

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

The purpose of our agricultural support system is to ensure that farmers get a fair and reasonable return for their product, and the guaranteed prices are settled at the Annual Review for the industry as a whole.

Photo of Mr William Whitlock Mr William Whitlock , Nottingham North

Is it not a fact that the bulk of Exchequer support goes to the larger farmer who may not need it—to such well-known farmers as the Prime Minister? Is there not a case for a differential subsidy to help the small man?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

A number of innovations have been made by this Government specifically aimed at assisting the small farmer. What seems to underly the supplementary question is that the more efficient farmers are the less they should be paid for their product. Nothing would seem more likely to militate against the growing efficiency of British farmers.

Photo of Hon. Nicholas Ridley Hon. Nicholas Ridley , Cirencester and Tewkesbury

Does my right hon. Friend think that the execution of this proposal would involve a sort of means test as to who is the most efficient?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

As the question is framed, it seems that farmers should be paid according to their needs, which seems more akin to Public Assistance than to the 1947 Act.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

The right hon. Gentleman has implied that larger farmers are more efficient than small farmers. Will he withdraw that accusation?

Photo of Mr Christopher Soames Mr Christopher Soames , Bedford

No, Sir, the Question is not phrased in terms of large or small farmers. The Question asks about farmers who need the subsidy and farmers who do not. If it were worked out on that basis, and if that is what the hon. Member would like to see done in agriculture, perhaps he would say so.