Agriculture (Selective Expansion Programme)

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Fisheries and Food – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 29th November 1967.

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Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking 12:00 am, 29th November 1967

asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will make a progress report on the selective expansion programme for agriculture.

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

We do of course look at progress under the selective expansion programme at the Annual Review; but we are now looking at the programme in the light of devaluation to see what agriculture might contribute.

Photo of Sir George Sinclair Sir George Sinclair , Dorking

But does not the Minister realise that Britain's most efficient industry, the farming industry, is straining at the leash to expand? What is his pro- gramme for implementing the promise of the Prime Minister of a programme of expansion?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I can assure the hon. Gentleman that we are not stopping the industry from expanding. In fact I believe that the industry is a very dynamic industry. We have given it tremendous support. I said, and I repeat, that we are looking precisely at the effects of devaluation, and when I am in a position to make a statement I will do so. But there is no attempt to restrict the industry.

Photo of Mr John Mackintosh Mr John Mackintosh , Berwickshire and East Lothian

Would not my right hon. Friend agree that the farming industry appreciates the great opportunity it now has, and that there is no desperate need for an immediate announcement, but that mid-January would be the last date that an announcement should be made, and would my right hon. Friend accept that and say that it will come before then?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I hope the hon. Member will not tie me to a date—[HON. MEMBERS "Oh."]—for making an announcement. It could come sooner. I will decide and nobody else.

Hon. Members:

Oh.

Photo of Mr James Stodart Mr James Stodart , Edinburgh West

Can the right hon. Gentleman explain why it is that since he launched his selective expansion programme the production index of the agricultural industry has fallen steadily by one point each year?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

No. I cannot accept that. In view of the reactions of hon. and right hon. Members opposite I would ask, surely it is right that the Minister should make the decision when to make the announcement?

Photo of Sir Gerald Nabarro Sir Gerald Nabarro , Worcestershire South

May I speak—[HON. MEMBERS: "No. Withdraw."]—for the Worcestershire farmers? Is not the right hon. Gentleman aware that the reputation he is rapidly earning in Worcestershire is that of a person guilty of endless, windy, pious platitudes and no effective action to help our local farmers?

Photo of Mr Thomas Peart Mr Thomas Peart , Workington

I believe that that statement by the hon. Member represents his view, and his standing with the farming community is very slight.