Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that as long as he delays introducing measures and incentives to expand home production he is stifling one of the industries which can contribute most to this country's economic recovery?
I am not attempting to stifle the industry. I have already made a public pronouncement about the effects of devaluation and I have paid tribute to the agriculture industry. In addition, I have always defended the selective expansion programme and the rôle which home agriculture can play. In view of devaluation, I am looking at this matter carefully and having it re-examined.
When my right hon. Friend has completed his re-examination, will he either bring the Price Review forward or make an announcement so that farmers may alter their plans for the coming year to fulfil what the Chancellor of the Exchequer requires in the way of expansion?
As my hon. Friend knows, I am examining this matter, and if I have to make an announcement I will do so. I recognise that there are certain commodities which need to be considered. There is no attempt at delay.
We are all glad that the Minister is reviewing the matter, but would he agree that there is urgency about it because farmers' costs have increased and every hon. Member wants to see a real expansion in production and to give all the assistance we can to achieve it? Would the right hon. Gentleman make a statement as soon as possible?
Surely there is a special procedure laid down for occasions such as this—a special agricultural Price Review? Will not the Minister invoke this procedure instead of waiting for March when, by dillying and dallying, he will have lost a great opportunity for agriculture?
The right hon. Gentleman knows full well that there are certain things which I can do, but I want to look at this matter carefully. There is no reason why we should panic. Immediately devaluation was announced, I set in motion a careful examination which my officials are now carrying out. As soon as I decide the priorities, I will inform the House.
Does the right hon. Gentleman recollect that, as far back as the much vaunted National Plan, the proposal was that agricultural production should increase substantially? This has not happened. Will he now accept that very urgent measures are necessary in the light of the present situation and see that this does happen?
It is unfair of the hon. Member to say that. I have had discussions and am in close touch with the National Farmers' Union, which represents the industry. We work well together. I know the Union's views and I always take note of what its members say in relation to the expansion programme. Although we did not lay down specific commodity targets, the broad policy was accepted by the industry.