I beg to move,
That this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government's agricultural policy.
I suppose that the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food will be here in a moment.
We have chosen to move this Motion, couched in the briefest possible terms, because we think that the position is abundantly clear and that the Government are condemned, both inside and outside the House, in relation to their agricultural policy. We condemn, in particular, the complete failure of the Government to live up to their promises to agriculture. One could give plenty of quotations. The Prime Minister has on various occasions referred to the importance of agriculture. On one occasion he said:
We shall not solve our economic problems without a vigorous import substitution policy through agricultural expansion.
We are glad to have the Minister with us now. I am sure that he has good reason for being late. So far, I have referred only to the Prime Minister.
The right hon. Gentleman's predecessor, now Leader of the House, made various promises. One of the most forthright was this:
The main objective of Labour's new agriculture and food policy will be to maintain a prosperous industry and to ensure that the incomes of farmers and farm workers move rapidly towards their industrial equivalents".
That sounds a bit bitter in the mouths of most farmers today when one looks at the record.
The present Minister has talked on many occasions of selective expansion for agriculture. We have had during his period of office his acceptance in broad principle of the "little Neddy" proposals for the expansion of agriculture. It is true that he did not go to the full extent of the "little Neddy", which talked of £220 million saving on the balance of payments in the first initial period, but he did fix £160 million, which was a very big figure, and he said that the resources would be found. The farmers have had promises all along from the Government but very little achievement. What is the record?
During the last 10 years for which the Conservatives were responsible, output rose by one-third, an average of 3½ per cent. a year. In the last four years up to the last Price Review—we have not had the figures for since then—there was a rise of 3 per cent., a lower rise in the whole four years than the average for each year in the 10 years before. It is a rise of an average of less than 1 per cent. per year. So much for the Prime Minister's talk of import substitution with expanded production; so much for the National Plan proposals; so much for the Minister's selective expansion.
That was the record up to last March. In the same period the net income—this was the first four years of the present Government—has risen by only £4½ million, from £472½ million to £477 million, according to the Minister's own White Paper. In the previous four years, under the Conservatives, it rose not by £4½ million but by £79 million. There is the comparison.
Meanwhile, the rate of rise in the cost of living has nearly doubled under the present Government. The cost of living rose by 20 per cent., while farm incomes rose by 1 per cent. That is the truth of it. Up to the latest available date, the cost of living has risen by over 24 per cent. Of course, we do not know what the official figure of farm incomes has been for this year. All we have now is the evidence of the farmers' own feelings, and they are fairly strong, as the right hon. Gentleman will agree. But to restore the purchasing power of the farmers to what it was before we left office, a further massive rise during the year 1964–65 would have been required amounting to a rise of over £110 million in net income during this last year. There is not the slightest evidence that this has taken place. If the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that this has happened, we shall be very interested, but we shall want a little proof.
That is the situation as it has deteriorated over the last four years. That is not all. A further £110 million would have been added on the basis of output as it was when we left it in 1964–65. But if production had gone on rising as it did in the last 10 years of our office, there would have been an expansion of produce ion of 18 per cent. up to now instead of 3 per cent. under the present Government. If that had happened, such an increase would have been entitled to be reflected in profits and net income, and, based on the same level of unit return, this would have meant another £60 million or £70 million in farmers' taxation, a total of £170 million to £180 million. That is the measure of what the farmers have been cheated out of in the five years of Socialist government.
Apparently the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) finds it funny. I hope that he will say so to the N.F.U. meeting in London this week. This is only the history up to the outcome of the last price review. In recent months there has been an explosion of farmers' anger. Although we have to wait for the White Paper in order to get the official figures, we know that there is ample evidence that last year has shown a continued and in some cases heavy deterioration. In some areas the harvest was good and some cereal farmers perhaps did better than in the previous year. But that is not the position over the country as a whole. Cereal farmers in many counties had a very difficult time.
But what about the sheep producers, the beef producers and the milk farmers, particularly the milk farmers in the West Country? The Minister was told something about this, I understand, in Exeter a short time ago and perhaps he will tell us about that meeting when he replies.
Then, of course, the Prime Minister was told something when he went to Monk's. Wood and was engaged by local farmers in a little discussion. I never understood why he went to Monk's Wood in January. It is a charming place in summer. I believe that there are rare butterflies to be found there. But in January solitude is the only thing. I think that the Prime Minister would have wanted that but I do not think that he got much of it there. But it gave the farmers an opportunity to express their views to the Prime Minister, and I am glad they did so.
Farmers are showing their anger and frustration everywhere, and they are right to do so when, by so doing, they can bring home to Ministers the serious nature of their difficulties. It is in the argument and presentation of their case that, in my view, they will best further their case, and for this purpose we have chosen to initiate this debate. It is not usual for us to debate the subject just before the Price Review. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] Perhaps the Minister is anxious not to debate the subject before the Price Review, but it is because the farmers are so anxious that he should know their views that we have chosen to do so today. If he says that we should not debate it now, he should tell us why when he comes to reply. This is surely the right place for the farmers' concern to be put forward, and that is why we do it.
Certain other clear elements have emerged which have to be put to the Government. I will tabulate these elements of what have emerged since the last Price Review. The first is that the determinations of that review have done little to alleviate an already difficult position. On that point, the right hon. Gentleman, when he went to Kettering last summer, invited farmers to come back and tell him if they were not satisfied. I believe that they have done so. What have they said? Perhaps he will tell us that.
Secondly, there has been a savage increase in farm costs. Why? It is due in part to increased taxation. The selective employment tax increases farmers' costs a lot indirectly, and it went up again during the past year. Thirdly, an overdraft ceiling has been insisted upon by the Government, and, with the erosion of the value of money, the retention of that ceiling has meant a real cut in the borrowing power of farmers. Fourthly, interest rates remain at very high levels, and, with the present very high overdrafts, the cost of credit is for many farmers becoming unmanageable.
Fifthly, it is not only a case of bank credit. The merchants, who have been traditional suppliers of credit, are forced by their own borrowing limits to demand payment in two months or less, thus restricting farmers' credit even more. Thus, farmers are being relentlessly squeezed, and bankruptcies are becoming increasingly evident. Compare this with Ministers' promises, and one understands why the farmers are angry.
For the latest evidence we have not the official figures, but we have the indications I have referred to. There was an interesting article in The Times on 19th January by its agricultural correspondent, who wrote about conditions in the South-West. These are typical of small dairy farmers. They refer to the figures produced by Exeter University for 1968–69. The article says:
The new figures … come from a period which was supposed officially to be one of selective expansion, and one in which it was recognised that to get more cattle for beef some latitude would have to be given to milk producers. Net incomes generally show a substantial fall.
For the whole sample of 207 farms in Cornwall, Devon and Dorset, average net income fell by 7·5 per cent. a farm, compared with the previous year. The income to the area was down by rather more, 8·5 per cent., but this was offset by a rise in average farm size which has been going on for some years now.
The income fall was due to a bigger rise in costs than receipts; costs were up by 8 per cent. and gross receipts by 4·1 per cent.".
That is typical of the situation which has made the farmers so worried and indignant. Therefore, the present position of many farmers is that costs have got out of hand while receipts have remained, at best, static.
Why has all this happened? The Government say that the present system of farm support is right. If they are to justify that, they must open the purse strings of the Treasury much wider than they have done. The cost of the deficiency payments since they have been in power has not increased but has fallen. The White Paper on last year's Price Review showed that in the last year for which we were responsible the cost of deficiency payments was £146·1 million, and in the last available year £137 million, with an estimate for the present year of £143·1 million.
The right hon. Gentleman can perhaps confirm—but we all know already—that the outturn for the current year is going to be much less than £143 million because the market prices of some commodities have risen. There is the item of £24 million allowed for pigs which will not be reached. There will be substantial saving on this figure. The Gov- ernment cannot claim to have spent more money to support the farmers. They have spent less. If they believe in the present policy and system, they must be in a position to find the cash to do it. If the system is right, it can only be the measures of the Government which are preventing farmers from getting a fair return. We have long said that we intend to change the system so that the cost will fall on the consumer rather than the taxpayer. We will ensure a fair return to get expansion going.
But if the Government adhere to their present system, it is for them to find money of the order that I mentioned earlier if farmers are to get a fair return and expansion is to get going rather than just be discussed, as has been the case so far. It is time that the Government came clean with the farmers and either admitted that agriculture was expendable, as their policies would seem to suggest, or honoured their promises so often made but so often broken.
So much for the record and so much for the Motion. I am speaking as briefly as I can because we have a truncated debate and I want to give as many hon. Members as possible an opportunity to take part.
I come now to the Amendment. It says that the House
'fully supports the agricultural policy of Her Majesty's Government in the interests of producers and consumers alike, both of whose interests would be prejudiced by the policy advocated by the Opposition'.
There are not many hon. Members opposite who represent rural constituencies, but I ask those who do whether they agree with the Amendment and whether they will take any pleasure in voting for it tonight. If they do, I hope that they will justify to their farming constituents why they voted for it. The record for producers is plain enough and I do not propose to comment on it further. However, I am interested in what the Amendment has to say about consumers.
Bluntly, I regard it as an impertinence for this Government to talk of consumers as though they had ever helped consumers. The Minister has suggested at times that the cost of Conservative policies would be very high, and the Prime Minister has spoken of a prodigious rise in food prices. The present Minister of Agriculture said that he had never accepted our figures and then later realised that he had accepted them. When we last discussed this subject, I reminded him of what was said in a Written Answer of 26th June, 1968. There is no necessity for me to repeat that. He has accepted our figures and there is no wriggling out of that.
If the Minister wishes to challenge that contention, perhaps he will do so now during my speech when it will be easier for me to deal with the challenge. If he would like me to do so, I will give way now. As he has not risen, I gather that he does not accept my invitation and we can therefore take it that he accepts his own words of Wednesday, 26th June, 1968.
As we have stated in our pamphlet which is out today, our policy would increase the cost of food by 5 or 6 per cent. over a period of at least three years, and the total cost would be £330 million. Why should the Government cavil at this? What is their record? It is clear enough. In 1969 food prices rose by 6·4 per cent.—that was in one year, not three—which represents £357 million in one year as against our figure of £330 million three years. Since right hon. Gentlemen opposite have had the honour of being Her Majesty's Government, £1,300 million has been added to the cost of food—[Laughter.]—and no amount of laughing will carry that away; let them ask any housewife what the effect has been.
The cost of our policy would be to add 1¼ to 1¾ per cent. to the all-items index over three years, which is just over ½ per cent. a year. Last year the all-items index rose by 4·7 per cent., which meant that. £1,441 million was added to the cost of housekeeping in one year alone. Since October, 1964, the increase in the cost of living has cost the consumer £6,500 million extra. It is figures of this sort which should be bandied about when the Prime Minister talks of a prodigious increase resulting from our policies.
We are being honest with the consumers and with the public about our policies. It is a pity that hon. Members opposite have not been honest.
Before the right hon. Gentleman leaves the Conservative pamphlet which came out today, may I ask him whether I am right in assuming from Press reports that it will cost £50 million extra over the coming year for incentives to be allocated over a period to increase production? Would this meet the farmers' case?
The hon. Gentleman is not right. I hope that he will pay the 3s. and buy the document.
We postulated our argument on the assumption that the Government would honour their undertakings and give the farmers a fair return. If the hon. Gentleman is arguing that there is no hope of the farmers getting a fair return from his party, his argument may be relevant. I am saying what we will do when we are responsible, and that will be after the coming Price Review. If the Government make good the farmers' return, an extra £50 million on top of that would mean something significant.
What I am saying is that we have to consider the position when we come to office. We assume that the Government will honour their pledges; if the hon. Gentleman is saying that they will not, we shall have to change the figures.
There is no justification for dealing with it in any other way. Our figure is the additional figure over what the Government give. If Ministers are saying that that is not enough, they are admitting that they will not give enough. If that situation emerges, we will deal with it when we come to office at a Price Review, which is the proper way in which these things are handled, and the farmers' leaders know it perfectly well.
It is for the Government to justify what they are doing for both producers and consumers. We are ready and anxious to have the opportunity to put our policy into effect, when we will honour our pledges, in contrast with what is now happening. Producer and consumer alike have suffered enough at the hands of the Government. Both are now longing to get rid of every Minister from the Prime Minister down. If hon. Members opposite challenge that, let them take the challenge to the country. We are ready for the verdict of the electors, and we await their call to give both farmers and housewives a fair deal.
I beg to move, to leave out from "House" to the end of the Question and to add instead thereof:
'fully supports the agricultural policy of Her Majesty's Government in the interests of producers and consumers alike, both of whose interests would be prejudiced by the policy advocated by the Opposition'.
I listened with great care to the speech of the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). While listening to him it occurred to me that he seemed to have forgotten much of what he said and did when he had some responsibility for agriculture. I am surprised that he should have forgotten that at this time of year we are about to enter with the farmers' representatives into the Annual Review. If he believes at all in proper consultation between the Government and the industry, he must know that the Government cannot say now what will result from that Review. Why, then, this debate? That is a question which the right hon. Gentleman asked me to answer and I will do so immediately—it is be-
cause the Opposition see political advantage in appearing as champions of the militant farmers. They do not confine their war games to east of Suez!
So the timing of the debate is suspect. The right hon. Gentleman has lectured us. That, too, is suspect. As we know, he has today published his glossy pamphlet called "The Farming Future". To make his own policy appear a spurious white, he has this evening to paint the blackest picture. I hope that in the course of the debate we shall have a more balanced picture of agriculture. It is true that the financial pressures, particularly the cost of credit, have been heavy on the industry recently. The right hon. Gentleman referred to my visit to Exeter. I must say that I enjoyed my visit.
The sheep are more at home with the hon. Gentleman than with me. [HON. MEMBERS: "Try the front door next time."] Hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that when the last Minister of Agriculture in the Conservative Government, Mr. Soames, visited the South-West he received a very hostile reception. I think that it was at Wells. The Parliamentary Secretary, Lord Waldegrave, received a very hostile reception in Exeter. Many hon. Members from Devon and Somerset will readily confirm that farmers in the South-West are distinctly more impartial than the right hon. Gentleman.
I want to take up one or two points on which the Opposition challenged us. In their important Motion they seek to condemn not one measure or another but the whole policy of the Government.
I am glad to understand that they appreciate this. It is therefore fair to set before the House the main features of that policy which they totally reject. First, we have guaranteed prices for most major commodities. I challenge the Opposition to say that farmers do not recognise and value the importance of a guarantee. It is on the foundation of these guarantees that the expansion of our agriculture over the last 20 years has been built.
There is all the difference in the world between a guarantee and a target. Hon.
Members who know about agriculture—and there are many in the House—will appreciate this immediately. The right hon. Member for Grantham knows this, as his own rejection of guaranteed prices did not wash with the industry. In his latest policy—and he has switched his policies frequently—he has therefore had to reintroduce them, not at the sort of levels which in his own view would provide a reasonable return to farmers but at a somewhat lower level.
During the last five years, we have raised the value of the guarantees, after allowing for costs and efficiency, by £105 million. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not enough."] Hon. Members opposite say that it is not enough, but in the preceding five years the Conservative Government raised the value of the guarantees by only £62 million.
I briefly take the commodities one by one. Over the last five years we have increased the value of the guarantee for beef by 45s. per live cwt.; over the preceding five years it was increased by 13s. per live cwt. We have increased the guaranteed price for sheep by 5¾d. per lb.; they decreased it by 1½d. per lb.
Consider other commodities; for example pigs, where we have increased the guaranteed price by 2s. 4d. per score, while hon. Gentlemen opposite decreased it by 8d. This is, perhaps, an unfair comparison, because we have done so much more. We have raised the top of the middle band—where the flexible guarantee bites—by more than 2½ million pigs. We have introduced, and within t he last month improved, a scheme of bacon stabilisation payments to the bacon curers which is widely recognised as a valuable addition to our commodity arrangements.
We have increased the guaranteed price of milk by 4·41d. per gallon while hon. Gentlemen opposite increased it by 3·15d. per gallon. We have increased the guaranteed price for wheat by 2s. 6d. per cwt. while they decreased it by 1s. 1d. per cwt. We have decreased the price of barley by 8d. per cwt. while they decreased it by 2s. 4d.
I have given these figures because the right hon. Member for Grantham quoted statistics. I am not saying that this is the whole story. However, it is a cata- logue which exposes the protestations of the Opposition for the hollow sham which they are.
The second basic feature of our policy which the Motion condemns, is the improvement of the stability of markets. We proclaimed this in our first Annual Review White Paper, in 1965. We stated clearly:
… the Government consider that a primary objective of future agricultural policy must be to encourage this growth in productivity through the maintenance of stability in the industry".
To do this, we first had to unravel some of the arrangements which we inherited from the Tories. The House may recall that in 1961–62 there was a collapse of the meat market and that the Minister of that time had to come to the House for an enormous Supplementary Estimate. This event came as a rude shock to the Government of the day. As a result they did give some attention to stability on the markets and took some action. But let us look at the position then and the position now because that is the only way to make a fair comparison.
For wheat and barley they introduced completely new measures into the system. They put standard quantities on production. This device had the effect of cutting the effective guarantee to the farmer as production expanded. It was a brake—a brake on support from the Exchequer and on the money which the farmer received. This was at a period when there was already a hard squeeze on the guaranteed price.
At the same time that they took this action against the home producer, they entered into new agreements with our principal suppliers of cereals. I want to examine this matter carefully. These agreements were set out in the exchange of letters which was published as Cmnd. 2339 of April 1964. By these agreements they introduced minimum import prices. I do not complain about that. It was an advance. But at the same time they decided to give undertakings to our overseas suppliers, and that White Paper said:
The Government of the United Kingdom have decided that any necessary restraint of financial assistance should be applied through the effective reduction of guaranteed prices by means of the price mechanism described in the United Kingdom White Paper on the Annual Review for 1964–65".
A little later in this exchange of letters we find this undertaking:
If it is found that the total imports of cereals have shown or threaten to show an appreciable decline below the average volume of such imports during the three years preceding 1st July, 1964, and that this decline has taken place or threatens to take place because the changes outlined in paragraph 5 have failed to be effective for the purpose of maintaining that volume of imports, the Government of the United Kingdom shall take effective corrective action at the earliest practicable time to remedy the situation".
In short, that is an undertaking to take effective corrective action in certain circumstances to maintain the volume of imports. If the right hon. Member for Grantham is an expansionist now, he was on a slimming diet then.
But what have we done for the cereals market and the British producer? First, we have abolished the standard quantities. Secondly, we have retained and strengthened the minimum import price and levy arrangements. Thirdly, we have terminated the agreements set out in the exchange of letters which I have quoted, and those burdensome undertakings which hon. Gentlemen opposite entered into no longer exist. Fourthly, we have set up the Home Grown Cereals Authority, which is doing a very good job indeed.
The right hon. Gentleman has given an interesting historical record of what happened in 1963–64. In the light of his argument that we were restrictionist then, would he explain why farm production expanded so rapidly then, yet has not done so under Labour?
—and he knows it perfectly well. I will deal with the whole question of expansion if the right hon. Gentleman will contain his impatience.
I said that the Home Grown Cereals Authority was doing a very good job indeed. With the cereals contracts scheme it has brought about an improvement in the interests of the producer and the trade generally. I am sorry that it upsets the right hon. Gentleman to have the facts of life brought home to him.
Again, I point to the contrast. On their side, a brake on farmers' returns and undertakings to our overseas suppliers. On our side, higher guaranteed prices for wheat, abolition of standard quantities, improvement of the minimum import price arrangements, the ending of these undertakings to overseas suppliers and improvements in home marketing. There is the balance sheet for all to see.
It is not only on cereals that we have made marked progress in seeking greater stability in the market. For pigs, a product which for many years has been famous for the swings in production and price, we have created—I can claim this without being unreasonable—in recent years an entirely new policy. Instead of acting only on the guaranteed price, we have brought in the bacon market stabilisation arrangements under which substantial help has been given to the industry. Without this help, the bacon industry would have been in very great trouble by now.
We have also renegotiated the Bacon Market Sharing Understanding and removed important obstacles to the expansion of home production, which hon. Gentlemen opposite had incorporated in the Understanding they negotiated. In recent weeks I have made two other announcements of importance to the bacon industry and the pig producer, including the improvements in the stabilisation arrangements.
The pattern on pigs is, therefore, like that on cereals. We inherited a bad policy of inaction and restriction. We have given incentives to pig production and new hope to the bacon curing industry.
Cereals and pigmeat are two of the priority commodities for expansion in our programme. The other is beef. The House will, in fairness, agree that we have given greatly increased incentives for production. The beef market is firm and the prospect is good for the beef producer. None the less, we have drawn up a scheme designed to stabilise the beef market at times of temporary surplus. This scheme has not been drawn up to deal with a problem which is already upon us but in anticipation of possible difficulties. We have thought it right to open discussions with our overseas suppliers while the market is stable. We want the means to maintain this stability in the future.
This therefore is what we have done, or have in prospect, to improve the stability of the markets for these important products; cereals, beef and pigs. We have also taken action on other products.
Now that we have made these improvements in policy, I readily agree that it would be foolish, imprudent and wrong—certainly for me as Minister of Agriculture—to be satisfied with output or income in the industry. These are most important issues for the Annual Review. It would be equally wrong to lose all sense of proportion, however, and to condemn the Government's policy that I have outlined, as hon. Gentlemen opposite have done in their ridiculous Motion.
The index of agricultural net output which was 100 for the average of the years 1964–67 rose to 106 for 1967–68. It then took a fall, for reasons which we know, in 1968–69. I hope and expect that in 1969–70 the index will have recovered.
For cereals we aim for the maximum expansion which is technically possible. Last year was somewhat better than we had the right to hope for in the spring, because of the good summer. But it was still disappointing. But the December census returns just published, which hon. Members will have seen, show that the winter wheat acreage is substantially up on last year. [Interruption.] The hon. Gentleman must listen to the facts.
For beef we are on course to achieve the objectives which I have outlined and the upward movement in the beef herd continues strongly, as the figures in the December census show. We have done well with pigs in recent years but, again, I agree that we have lost a little momentum. On a sober assessment I have no reason to doubt our long-term objectives.
On farmers' incomes—[HON. MEMBERS: "What about sheep?"] We have discussed sheep at some length and we have had a good run on sheep in successive Question Times.
If the hon. Gentleman asks me a question about sheep I shall answer it. My point is that I have been dealing with the three expansion commodities of cereals, beef and pigs. If the hon. Gentleman asks me about sheep I agree that there has been a decline in the national sheep flock and this will be carefully considered in the Review. All I can say is that for the last five years of Conservative government 1½d. per lb. was taken off sheep. I should have thought that it is that policy which is working through the industry at the moment.
Would not the right hon. Gentleman agree that the fact that he has given this massive 5¾d. to sheep and that the flock has dropped by 4 per cent. every year means that the policy is not working properly?
I would not propose to try to give any authoritative reason why the flock has fallen. What I would say is that 5¾d. a lb. over the last five years is considerably better than 1½d. a lb. down in the Opposition's last five years I agree entirely that the question of sheep must be looked at carefully and the Review is the right place to look at it.
I must apologise to the House for my inability to give the figures at the present time—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."]—but it is the convention that these figures are given in the Review.
I return to the question of farmers' incomes, with which I was dealing when the hon. Gentleman the Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart) intervened. I say at once that it is an issue that I do not want to avoid. There was a decline in actual income in 1968–69. My colleagues and I are very deeply conscious of it, and a charge that I am in any way complacent about it would be totally false. I am deeply concerned about it and to make an analysis of it. The pressures on the industry have been brought home to me not only in the meetings like the one at Exeter but in quieter, perhaps more contemplative, meetings with farmers elsewhere, especially in Wales. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Welsh audiences are invariably courteous. We need a full consideration of this problem in the Annual Review, when we shall look with care at the forecast net income of the industry for 1969–70.
I turn now to the policy document of the party opposite, the booklet by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham. I praise the right hon. Gentleman for his honesty. He said that what he has written is "not a blueprint". He is right about that. I should not like to see an administrative machine built on that design. I also praise him for his caution. He says:
Should we then discover that the problems posed by any particular commodity are not soluble at that time through a levy system, then we shall maintain the deficiency payments in their present form for that commodity for as long as they may be required".
What he means is that if, on second thoughts, he finds his policy not working then he will not persist with it. That means that the other 26 pages of his document are wasted paper.
Let us very briefly examine the substance of the booklet. The right hon. Gentleman accepts and says on page 13 that a system of target prices buttressed by levies
will not give the same degree of certainty
as guaranteed prices. The logic is impeccable. If you do not achieve the target prices, the producer suffers. So what does the right hon. Gentleman do? To compensate for the added risk he will give the farmers even higher target prices. In other words, to compensate for failure to get lower target prices he is going to set even higher ones, which by definition will be even more difficult to get. This is the policy and the logic of the deranged.
It reminds me of the story of the man who tried to sell a phoney gold brick. "How", said the would-be purchaser, "can I be sure it is not a dud brick?" "Well, you can never be sure, but to cover the risk I will throw in another one", was the answer.
This is what the right hon. Gentleman says. It is his
intention that levies should achieve the intended level of target prices".
The House will note the skilful way in which in a single sentence he phrases his intention to achieve his intention. There is decisive action! But target prices not achieved are not much good for anyone, least of all the farmers. That is why the Opposition have repented and conceded that they must keep guaranteed prices as a fallback, as a net.
My hon. Friend asks how high. I want to look at the implications of this and will do so in relation to beef. This is a commodity which both sides of the House accept as a clear priority for expansion.
I am much obliged to my hon. Friend. I am about to deal with this point, taking beef as an illustration.
The situation is that under the Opposition's proposals, as I understand them, we start with the present guaranteed price. We then raise it a little to compensate for the loss of the guarantee at this level. We raise it again to give further stimulus for expansion. We add something more to compensate for higher feed costs resulting from higher cereal prices brought about by the new system. So the target price ends up considerably higher than the comparable guaranteed price. If production costs rise, it will have to go higher still to retain the same value.
The key question seems to me, having looked at the document—and I have not yet had time to ponder over it and delve into it in depth—is whether this can be achieved. I would say to the House and the right hon. Gentleman and the Opposition that beef producers are not being offered anything which they do not have now, except greater uncertainty and risk. This is the weakness of the policy. The real trouble is that the Opposition are trying to have a Common Market-type policy for agriculture outside the Common Market. But a support system has to be devised to meet clearly seen objectives in a particular situation.
A levy on imports can be of no real significance as a means of securing the price level of a commodity in which we are largely self-sufficient. We all know that. The right hon. Gentleman appreciates that. It is home production which is then the dominating influence on the market. That is the position we already have in respect of such commodities as poultry, eggs, liquid milk, pork and main crop potatoes. The Opposition do not seem to have in mind a levy system for these commodities, or for horticulture or sugar, for which we have the equivalent of a levy system. But all those commodities taken together amount to two-thirds of the total farm output. The Opposition's radical new policy will apply to only about one-third of the total output.
In the interests of the House, it is fair to look at what the other commodities are. The remaining commodities are cereals, beef, mutton and lamb, bacon, and butter, cheese and the milk products. These are the commodities for which the Opposition want change. Beef is the commodity for which we have the highest rate of self-sufficiency. I have already said that I do not believe that their proposals will work for beef. That leaves only one-fifth of the output. Next, lamb. We import more lamb than we produce, so theoretically a levy would work. But there is only one significant overseas supplier of lamb, New Zealand.
The Opposition say that they will protect the "legitimate interests" of New Zealand. If that can be construed as meaning that they will leave New Zealand with the same opportunities on our markets as now, a levy system would serve no purpose. If they mean that they will deliberately and unilaterally limit these opportunities, let them say so. If they do not say so, their policy does not mean anything.
I address these remarks not only to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Grantham but to his right hon. Friend the Member for Kinross and West Perthshire (Sir Alec Douglas-Home), who speaks on foreign affairs for the Opposition. I address them to him with a purpose, because his party claims—I ask him to note this carefully—
We see no reason why Commonwealth readiness to accept these limitations should not be extended to other agricultural commodities".
The limitations referred to are those for butter and cheese and under the international grains agreement. The impression which that is clearly intended to leave is that the renegotiation of international agreements, necessary before a levy system can be introduced, can be taken as a foregone conclusion. I invite the right hon. Gentleman and his hon. Friends not to deceive themselves. With their long experience of government, they must know better than that.
I challenge the Opposition to say whether, if they cannot negotiate the levies—this is a vital question in relation to their policy—they will then impose the levies on those countries with which we have agreements?
The right hon. Gentleman puts a serious question to me, but, as he knows very well, it is entirely hypothetical. It would be ridiculous to give an answer to a question posed in that way. We are confident that it will be possible to renegotiate them, and we shall have been returned with a mandate to do so.
While I am on my feet, may I put a question to the Minister in my turn? He has tried hard to ridicule our policy—he wants to get away from the facts of the present situation, so I do not blame him—on the basis that it will not work. Will he then explain why he and his colleagues are anxious and ready to go into the Common Market, which has a similar sort of policy at a much greater level of cost?
The House knows very well that negotiation in relation to entry into the Common Market is a quite different state of affairs from adopting managed market policies outside the Common Market. If the right hon. Gentleman says that my question to him about levies is hypothetical, I can only say that he has forgotten everything he learned as a Minister. His answer to my question was totally unsatisfactory. It will be read carefully by the farming community. I am not ridiculing his policy. I am merely analysing it carefully and fairly. Both sides of the House will be deeply disappointed by the right hon. Gentleman's response to my question.
The aim of the Government is quite different. We aim to achieve market stability, for this is a desirable end in itself. It benefits the producer and the consumer. It limits excessive fluctuations in Exchequer costs. Our range of sensible market regulation, together with the well tried combination of guaranteed prices and production grants, provides a better basis for the continued advance of our agriculture than anything offered in the Opposition's policy document.
I repeat that the Annual Review is the accepted forum for discussion at this time. It may well be that the machinery of the Review itself needs to be rethought and improved. But for the immediate future we propose to examine the position of the industry with the farmers' leaders. In the light of this timing, I can only describe the Opposition's Motion as opportunitist and cynical, and I appeal to the House to throw it out.
I welcome this censure debate on agriculture, though I am far from certain whether it has been initiated by the right people at the right time. It is true that the Opposition have been converted to the levy system, and to that extent their policy would enable the farming community to gain a higher return from the market than from subsidies. But, in so far as the Government are continuing a system under which farmers are at the annual mercy of a parsimonious Treasury which has time and again produced the result of massive under-recoupment of costs, the Government are merely perpetuating the bad habits practised by Conservative Governments.
Under-recoupment under the present Government has been severe. It reached £81 million in 1965, £16 million in 1968 and £6 million in 1969. But, taking the 12 Price Reviews under the Conservative Government, there was underrecoupment on every single occasion, and sometimes it was actually in excess of £20 million. There was under- recoupment in different years of £22 million, £23½ million, £26½ million, £30 million and £30½ million. Therefore, what we are suffering from is not merely a few bad Price Reviews under this Government. The farming community is suffering from the cumulative effect of bad Price Reviews and under-recoupment over the past 20 years.
By implication, w e are asked the censure the Minister of Agriculture. When I heard his attack on the levy system, I felt that I had at last found someone on the Government Front Bench who would be as unhappy as the Leader of the House to join the Common Market. But, having seen the Opposition Front Bench converted to the levy system, I look forward to seeing the Government Front Bench converted, too.
I take the right hon. Gentleman's point. He does not basically like the levy system, but it is a price which he is prepared to pay if we can get into Europe. This is how one tries to have one's cake and eat it, too. But the right hon. Gentleman will not have a levy system at any cost unless he can get the corresponding industrial advantages of being in Europe.
That may be the Minister's position, but the position of the Prime Minister on countless occasions has been to attack the levy system per se root and branch; so it may be that there is more enthusiasm for this on the part of the right hon. Gentleman than there is on the part of the Prime Minister.
I wonder whether, tactically, the Minister should be singled out for censure. I think there is some evidence that at least last year he tried to put up a fight with the Treasury and the rest of the Cabinet. The battle will be with the Treasury far more than with any other Ministry. I therefore regard this debate as a shot across the bows of the whole Government, warning them of the strength of feeling in the country, and hoping that we may strengthen the right hon. Gentleman's resolve when he goes in to do battle during the negotiations.
In what I hope will be a brief intervention I want to put to the House one or two things on my shopping list which I hope, the right hon. Gentleman will bear in mind during the Price Review negotiations. I accept that the right hon. Gentleman, or whoever replies, cannot say that this or that can be done, because obviously we are in a pre-Budget situation.
The whole House is agreed about the importance of the industry. We are also all agreed about the economic climate in which it is operating. I think it is also agreed that the industry saves £300 million a year annually on our foreign exchange, and that with adequate credit facilities it could save an additional £100 million to £150 million without much difficulty.
With regard to the economic difficulties, I make no excuse for repeating the figures which have been bandied about, and which are the nub of the whole position of agriculture today. In 1968 farm prices were up 6 per cent. on the mid-'fifties. Prices of manufactured products were up 30 per cent. on the mid-'fifties, while retail prices were up 45 per cent. on that time. With productivity going up by 7 per cent. annually, which is twice the capability of the manufacturing section of this country, agricultural incomes in real terms are about 2 per cent. below what they were in the 'fifties.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to the report of the University of Exeter, so I shall not repeat it, but this again is a devastating indication of the position of farming. In fact, the farming community is being hit in four different ways. First, their incomes have lagged behind those of others. Of that there is no possible doubt. Second, they have from that position had to absorb increased costs passed on from other industries. Third, inflation has reduced their purchasing power. Fourth, that has led to an increased need for credit which is both scarce and expensive. The farming community has been hit on four counts, and there are three vital needs for the industry: first, credit for investment; second, the need for expansion; third, an examination of the existing machinery.
I want to deal briefly with those three things, and I deal first with credit. The farming community would prefer to invest from profit, rather than from borrowing. It would far rather be able to have that as the source for stocking and improvements than have to rely upon credit. In 1968 bank credit as a proportion of net output was as high as 45 per cent., compared with 20 per cent. in manufacturing industry. If the present trend continues, it will be well over 50 per cent. within the next three or four years.
The position was put by one rural bank manager, who I think is typical, who said that almost all his customers used to be well below their ceiling. The usual practice was for almost all of his customers to be below their ceiling except at the worst periods of the year. But the position now was that most farmers were above that ceiling for practically the whole of the year. The farming community cannot turn to the money market, first, because its units, individually, are far too small, and second, because the return is extremely unattractive to the investor. I wonder, therefore, whether there is any truth, or any prospect of hope, in the article in the Sunday Telegraph last week which said that there might be special credit and lower interest rates introduced during this Price Review.
The matter of credit was raised by the hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) on 23rd July, 1969, when the Minister of State replied, and reference was made to the special export and shipbuilding finance and the waiving of the ceiling in regard to those two operations. My party would like to see a Land Bank which, initially, could deal with modernising and improvement, and which could make loans at low rates of interest repayable over a long period of years. We should look at the experience of other countries to get inspiration from them. There is an urgent necessity to enable farmers to get credit. When they have to pay 9½ per cent. to 10½ per cent. and more, on the assumption that they can get credit, this places a very heavy burden on the industry.
With regard to expansion, do the Government still stand behind their selective expansion programme?
Are we going to see an increased output in the year 1972–73 of £345 million over 1967–68? If the answer is "Yes", my advice is that they had better start quickly. Anyone studying the interesting figures given by the Joint Parliamentary Secretary in a Written Answer on 18th December last to my hon. Friend the Member for Aberdeenshire, West (Mr. James Davidson) will see that we have a very long way to go to reach those targets. But if that is so, I think that there is a case for assistance for wheat, for beef, for cereals, and for sheep in this coming Price Review.
What do the Government feel is the import saving potential of the industry in the next few years? Is it £100 million, or is it £160 million, over the existing £300 million which it already saves in foreign exchange? I put this as the second reason for wanting expansion. If the first reason is that the Government are committed to their policy of selective expansion, that is enough. But a second reason is that if we go into the Common Market the levy will be very high. It will certainly be at the lowest £200 million, but it may be as high as £800 million. I accept that this will depend on the outcome of the agriculture discussions. I accept that Mr. Pisani has said that there must be renegotiation of Britain's position, but the higher our home production and the larger the share of the £950 million worth of present food imports, the smaller the contribution which this country would have to pay to the levy. So there is the second reason for wanting expansion.
The third reason is that the Government are under a statutory obligation to give a fair return and an adequate remuneration under Section 1, Part I, of the 1947 Act, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows, that is a matter which may be before the courts.
I hope that we shall see something really helpful in regard to lamb, beef, and cereals. If I may be allowed to digress for a moment, I hope that the Government, will do something about brucellosis which will be one of the great threats to agriculture, and will not say that we shall have a regional policy of slaughter starting in 1971. The damage will have been done by then. Finally, I hope that we can look at the present machinery, and the right hon. Gentleman alluded to this in his speech.
I am not certain which proposals the hon. Gentleman has in mind. If he has in mind 6d. a lb. on lamb, which will be a 15 per cent. increase and 30s. per cwt. on beef, which will also be a 15 per cent. increase, and other figures, the answer is that I have. If he is asking what we would save on the levy by increasing production, the answer, again, is that I have. If there are any particular figures which the hon. Gentleman has in mind, I shall be delighted to try to give them to the House. I do not want to go into too great detail, but I assure the hon. Gentleman that I have costed them. As regards agriculture and the Common Market, some of us have been rather longer studying it, and came to a more enthusiastic view than some.
Next, the machinery. Psychologically, the trouble with the Price Review is that to the urban community it looks like a sort of annual hand-out to the industry. What it is is a system whereby the income of one industry is artificially depressed far more than that of any other industry. Therefore, this debate is of value if we can show to the urban community why a healthy agriculture is needed as much in their interests as that of the farmers. I would like farmers to retain a far greater percentage of their assessed efficiency in each Price Review. This would be a stimulus. If we have productivity agreements in industry, why cannot we have efficiency agreements in agriculture?
I would also like to see long-term guarantees so that people can plan their beef herds in regard to policies on the hill and upland areas. I remember, in my area of Blackmoor Gate, when there was a sudden cut-back of the hill-cow and hill-sheep subsidy by the then Minister of Agriculture—I think, Mr. Soames. Almost overnight, farmers were faced with a loss of between £400 and £500 a year income on very small farms.
If anyone says after this debate that the cry for agriculture has come merely from politicians and from the farming community, let me say that if we temporarily dismiss the viewpoint of both those groups we can rely on the impressive speeches and evidence at the C.B.I. and N.F.U. conference. I think that the views of people like Fred Catherwood and Sir Kenneth Keith, who are extremely knowledgeable about priorities in the economy, were absolutely right in saying that we must raise the general level of profitability in agriculture and ensure that there is expansion.
Therefore, we need credit, we need a higher level of profitability and we need longer-term planning and a larger share of the market. That has been denied, not since a Labour Government took over, but for the past 20 years. The time has come when the agricultural industry should get a new deal so that it can play its full part in the economy of the country.
I am glad to participate in the debate at this stage and follow the Leader of the Liberal Party, because I agree with a great deal of the analysis which he has given.
I should like to start with the right hon. Gentleman's end point, concerning the timing of this debate. I am very glad that we are having this debate before the Review, because one of the disastrous mistakes in agricultural policy has been the notion that we in the House of Commons should never talk about agriculture in the three months before the crucial decisions are taken. That is the absolute antithesis of parliamentary democracy and has done tremendous harm to the farming community and to the general appreciation of agricultural policies.
I can, of course, understand that in the years shortly after the Second World War, when we had the feeling that we could have been starved out, when there were the "Dig for victory" campaigns and the rest, agriculture had a special position because we felt indebted to the industry for the tremendous efforts it had made during the time of great food shortage.
In these circumstances, when the 1947 Act was written up agriculture was given the unique position that the producers' organisations had a statutory right to be consulted; but that has caused harm once conditions changed and were not as favourable to agriculture. When Govern- ments—first Tory, then Labour—decided that they need not fully recoup the industry, harm began to be done because, as the Leader of the Liberal Party has said, the public were given no knowledge of the facts about agriculture. The facts were cooked up in secret. It was argued that we could not be told the facts before the final determination of prices. I see no reason why the basic statistics should not be issued the moment they are agreed. They could have been issued in time for this debate and we could then have discussed the subject on a basis of factual agreement. To have done this each year would have done a great deal to educate the public about the productivity of the industry and about what it has contributed in the past decade.
When we have the position that every year, out of the blue, there pops up in March a figure which is described as an "award" to the industry, the public are left with the idea that civil servants who make their living administering agriculture and the farmers' leaders have got together and cooked up something to the general detriment of the public. The only people who have lost by this whole proceeding have been the farmers.
I hope that we give up the machinery of the Price Review and now have a public discussion every year on the basis of a review of the facts, which should be agreed as they are now. We should then decide as a House of Commons what we recommend the Government to do, the N.F.U. should make its position clear, and the Government should be responsible for deciding what they wished to offer without being able to pretend that it is or is not agreed with the N.F.U. The final decision must be the Government's responsibility.
That may well be the case. There was no attempt on their part to have such debates before. I ask my hon. Friend to realise, however, that by the time we have examined the Conservative Party's agricultural programme in detail in this debate, they will not get any advantage from it. We will come on to that presently.
I think that the analysis of the situation that we have had from hon. Members who have spoken in the debate is, on the whole, generally accepted. I would not go so far as to suggest a period of 20 years of stringency, but I would say that since the 1957 Act agriculture has been squeezed on the ground that if its profitability was kept tight its production and efficiency would increase and on the general argument that there were food surpluses in the world and that many of the marginal units in agriculture were inefficient.
We therefore had the system of squeezing the returns to agriculture. Costs rose, and interest rates have risen, and yet the return to agriculture has not risen in any appreciable measure. That is the core of the problem. What bothers me about this is that we have to make a fundamental decision: is the country's agricultural policy to change, and are we intending to divert into agriculture a greater share of national resources than it has so far received?
The distressing factor about this debate is the tendency, to which my hon. Friend the Member for Midlothian (Mr. Eadie) has drawn attention, that it is becoming a bit of party banter back and forth without a clear-cut answer from hon. Members opposite whether they would clearly divert into agriculture more national resources than it has at present. To that question we need an answer and not the sort of rather boring, partisan treatment that we always get from the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber).
On the question of resources for agriculture, I should like to argue the case for putting more into the industry. The first and one of the strongest arguments, which has been given by the Leader of the Liberal Party, is that if we are to go into Europe, it must be with a strong and vigorous, and not weak, agriculture. Secondly, every extra element of production that we get from agriculture reduces the financial burden of going into the Common Market. These things are important.
Again, nobody has proved, as formerly was thought to be the case, that resources which are put into agriculture are less productive than resources which are put into industry. The Select Committee investigated this question, and there is no evidence that those resources are less efficiently used.
Similarly, the old argument put forward by the Board of Trade that we had to open our market to agricultural imports in order to expand our industrial exports is a completely unproved proposition for which there is no evidence. It is amazing that this hangover of the speeches of Cobden and Bright, made in the House of Commons in the 1840s, should still be dogging our agricultural policy today. It is a grotesque situation.
Do hon. Members for one moment believe the argument that Germany, which today is one of the most efficient industrial nations, would have been any less efficient if she had not protected her agriculture and kept up her standard of living on her farms and her agricultural production? So there is no argument against a diversion of resources into agriculture.
There are some technical difficulties about how one supports the efficient units while encouraging the less efficient to move out of the industry. This is a technical problem of great difficulty, because if one buoys up the whole industry, one buoys up the marginal and the inefficient producer at the fringes as well. We know that the vast majority of our agricultural production comes from 10 per cent. of the units.
The next question is: if we are to put extra resources into agriculture, how is it to be done? There are two rival recipes. One has been put forward in successive speeches by Counservative shadow spokesmen and one in the green publication released today by the Conservative Party. I am still not clear, after glancing through it, whether they are making a case for putting increased resources into agriculture.
Figures are given by the right hon. Member for Grantham on page 7, where he calculates the increase in food prices if present deficiency payments were abandoned, as £150 million—because this is roughly what deficiency payments are running at now plus an extra £100 million because of the height of the levies. Then there would be £25 million to £30 million in distribution, transport and other costs. Then he says—this is what I tried to pin him to in my intervention—that the Conservatives would add to the bill £50 million for incentives to get expansion. I tried to ask whether he now thought that the position of farming could be restored by the addition of £50 million. If so, the farmers will repudiate any such offer. The right hon. Gentleman leapt to his feet in great agitation and said, "Oh no, not £50 million, but £50 million above the current level of deficiency payments". If that is the case, he is deceiving the public about the cost in terms of higher food prices, because he has added in only £150 million when putting a figure on the level of deficiency payments.
The right hon. Gentleman cannot have it both ways. If he adds £50 million on top of higher deficiency payments, food price costs will go up further than his pamphlet admits. This is a plain deception on the public. He must make up his mind. I suspect that what he really believes is that, if there happened to be a change of Government, there would still be deficiency payments of about £150 million, and that the Conservative Party would add £50 million and that that would be the lot. If that is all the Conservatives can offer, then all their hot air about being the farmers' friends will fall fiat in front of the N.F.U.
Of course, if there is a change of Government, there will be a continuation of deficiency payments. If the hon. Gentleman has read the paper, he knows that they will go on for at least three or four years before they are phased out. My right hon. Friend, I thought, made it abundantly clear that he could not, thinking of a Price Review probably four years from now, lay down precisely what the figure can be, but he made it quite clear that this £50 million is taking into account a price review.
The hon. Gentleman has failed to understand my argument, which surprises me. Let me repeat it for him. If, at the time when a Government switch from deficiency payments to recouping the full cost from the market, the total of deficiency payments is considerably above £150 million— which is what he is arguing now—this should be added into the cost of the increased food prices, which it is not in this pamphlet. What his right hon. Friend has done in calculating food prices is to keep deficiency payments at £150 million. Then when he is telling the farmers what they will get, he quotes £150 million, plus other deficiency payments, plus the £50 million. The Conservative spokesmen cannot have it both ways; they are cheating the public on this point, and it will not be accepted, because the farming community will add the £50 million and the £150 million and know what is in store for them if hon. Gentlemen opposite have their way.
Another of the weaknesses of this extremely dangerous policy of the Conservative Party is the degree of certainty and uncertainty. Farmers always say—I agree with them—that one of the main problems in farming is confidence, and that if that is broken, investment drops off and the enthusiasm of farmers wanes. One of the great dangers of total recoupment from the market is that in those products where we are virtually self-sufficient, even if only for a limited period of the year, if farmers are recouping totally from the market, and if there is the slightest glut, the bottom drops out of the market. Hon. Gentlemen know that this happened, even with a deficiency payments system, in the fat cattle market two years ago, and they know the disastrous effect of this on confidence in farming. What will happen if this is repeated in a series of commodities at regular intervals, I hate to think.
This prospect so alarmed the farmers that the right hon. Gentleman, the "Shadow" Minister of Agriculture, went along to a meeting and argued, "You must then undertake support buying". When asked what the cost would be, he could not give a figure and said that, in any case, some of that money would have to come from producer organisations. He got such a bad reception that he went back and argued that there would have to be a fall-back guaranteed price somewhere below the target price. What a joke. No one is taken in by this. The crucial question, of course, is: how far below? If it has any validity, it completely removes the tax-saving element in getting rid of the guaranteed price system. It is a total deception to imagine that this is a solution.
I notice that the Conservatives call this a "belt and braces" policy. They will reduce farming to the level of a man whose braces are flapping on his shoulders and whose belt is around his knees. This is the situation when one has a low guaranteed price and a high levy price with a market price fluctuating wildly in between.
The hon. Gentleman was talking about the possibility of gluts. Would he not accept that under a system of levies with stringent import control there are much less likely to be gluts on the market than under the present system, when uncoordinated imports have so often ruined our market?
Imports have an effect, but I am saying, first, that the Conservative policy could produce this without a single ton of food imported.
I turn to the hon. Gentleman's point about dumping in this country. Again, the Conservatives' policy is completely incomprehensible, because in one section of their pamphlet they say that if there is dumping and a ship arrives with cheap food, up will go the levy to protect the farmer. Yet in another section they say that the levy will be maintained on import prices month by month to encourage British importers to try to get their products cheaper from abroad.
Again, they cannot have it both ways. If the levy fluctuates and is capable of dealing with dumping, it will not encourage importers in any way to try to get the cheapest prices abroad, because the cheaper they buy the imports, the higher the levy will go, which means that the British consumer will be paying the majority of the levy and this in turn will have a very detrimental effect on our balance of payments.
I have been drawn into a longer discussion of the Conservative policy than I had intended, because of its general weakness and because it is important to draw attention to the fact that there is no evidence that this policy will do anything for farming except increase uncertainty, and there is no evidence that it will bring a greater volume of resources into the industry.
Is the hon. Gentleman not being a little wilful about dumping? The assessment of the levies is related to foodstuffs which are genuinely on offer on the world market. Surely he realises—it has been said before—that there is a minimum import price linked in to avoid the question of dumping.
I am afraid that this does not get around the problem, because it is exceptionally hard to decide what is a genuine market price for the items of which we are the main purchaser. If there is a fluctuating levy which can deal with the odd isolated act of market breaking and of dumping, it will completely discourage British importers from getting the cheapest food from abroad so that the whole advantage of the levy will go to the foreign supplier. When I said this at farming conferences which the hon. Gentleman has attended, there was no denial and no counter argument, and none has yet been produced by any of the agricultural experts who have tackled this problem.
I turn to the alternative method of putting extra resources into the industry. The best method, it seems to me, is still the basic method which we have in this country, of putting it on the end price. That is by far the best method of increasing confidence, of putting more resources into the industry and of spreading them down through the industry, allowing the farmers to decide where they prefer to use their extra revenue. There is a good case for that policy, and I hope that the Government will accept it.
If we strengthen our agriculture, we are in a much better position to negotiate our entry into the Common Market. I will get round the difficulty which the Leader of the Liberal Party put to the Government Front Bench but in a slightly different way. I am keen to enter the Common Market, for it will be of great benefit to this country, but it has a protective system for agriculture. The misfortune is that it does not have a more sensible system of farm maintenance than that at present being adopted.
I should prefer it if we could go into negotiations by explaining to our future colleagues in the Common Market that the guaranteed price system has a much better effect on the farming industry than has the system which they are working. But until we get into the Common Market I see no reason for abandoning a system which, on the whole, has done well and which probably is the most effective in bolstering and encouraging the industry—one of our most efficient industries—to do an even better job.
From the speeches which we have heard so far it seems that everyone is glad that we are having this debate—except the Minister. Personally, I am thankful that we are having it because I know how extremely anxious my farming constituents are. When they read the speech which the Minister made today they will be filled with both disappointment and dismay. If there are any who are not already completely disillusioned by the Government's farming policy, they will be disillusioned when they have read his speech.
There seems to be an extraordinary lack of communication between the Minister and the Prime Minister. Hon. Members know that the Prime Minister recently visited my constituency and came to Monk's Wood. I live within two miles of Monk's Wood, but I could not go to the party to meet the Prime Minister. I was told that when eventually he spoke to the farmers he said that he understood their feelings and he expressed sympathy with them.
In the Minister's speech today we had not one word of understanding or sympathy. We had what I hope he will not mind my calling a hedgehog of a speech, which resented the valid criticisms made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and which picked upon a number of comparatively minor matters in which the Government consider either that they have achieved something or that something has been done which he thinks will bring good results. On the broad issues which face farming, the Minister put forward a completely negative case.
The right hon. Gentleman said that he could say nothing because of the Price Review. If the end product of farming policy is to depend upon the Price Review and the benefits or lack of benefits which the farmers get from it, it is an extraordinary situation if we are not to be able to have a debate before the Price Review in which the Minister considers himself free to discuss at least the issues involved and perhaps, as was so valuably said by his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), to give us some of the basic statistics which by this date, nearly into February, will not be disputed. The Minister could at least do that. If we are not to have a debate before the Price Review so that we may influence the Government in that way and if we are not to have a debate after the Price Review which will be of the slightest effect, because the Review will already have taken place, where does Parliament come into the matter?
This is a vital debate in which I shall speak briefly and make only two main points. I can make the first point best by referring to the speech of the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe), with much of which I agree. He said that farmers have suffered from under-recoupment for the past 20 years—and that statement is broadly true. But there has been a tremendous difference between the effect of under-recoupment under Conservative Governments and the effect of under-recoupment under the present Government. In the first place, in spite of under-recoupment under Conservative Governments, production increased very considerably, whereas in the last five years in some instances it has fallen and in other instances it has not increased nearly enough, and the expansion which is so necessary to the country's economy has not taken place.
Another difference is that in addition to under-recoupment, there have as a result of the present Government's policy, been several seriously adverse factors which have not only affected the incomes of farmers and their families but have prevented the expansion of the industry. First, there have been exceptionally high interest rates; secondly, there is the higher taxation, which has meant that even when farmers made a profit there was less money to be ploughed back for expansion; and thirdly, there has been the higher cost of everything that a farmer has to buy. In addition, there is capital gains tax—although it has not yet had the effect which it ultimately will have in depriving the industry of capital. It will have a progressively serious effect in all the years which lie ahead until another Government change this part of the law.
Because of other aspects of Government policy, therefore, under-recoupment has been made very much worse. If he were to do his job, in the Cabinet the Minister of Agriculture would not only be maintaining better communications with the Prime Minister but would be influencing his colleagues, especially in the Treasury, about these other aspects of policy which are so damaging to farmers.
The second main point which I wish to make has been touched on in an interesting way by the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian. It would be worth diverting resources to agriculture. The comparison between the situation of manufacturing industry and the situation of agriculture is a very unhappy comparison. Both manufacturing industry and agriculture, of course, suffer from frustration, but in the past 15 years manufacturing industry has increased the price of its goods ex-factory by about 30 per cent., it has had the benefit of protective tariffs and the benefit of payments by the Industrial Reorganisation Commission and other bodies. As a result, the exports of manufactured goods have increased—a fact in which we rejoice.
I invite the House to draw a comparison between what has happened to manufacturing industry and the treatment of agriculture. We find that the prices for wheat and barley, which are so basic, were lower in 1968–69 than in 1958–59. We find that, all round, farming has fared very much worse than industry at large. When we translate this into the incomes of the workers concerned, leaving alone the farmers and their families, we find the most astonishing results. Today industrial workers are earning, on average, £1,250 a year. These are earnings including overtime, bonuses, and so on. I know that a great many small farmers in my area wish that they had been earning as much as that on average during recent bad years.
As the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian rightly says, there is a strong case for diverting resources to agriculture. I hope that we will hear much more in future about helping agriculture to expand and to save imports, rather than further artificial stimulation of exports or more about protection through industrial import tariffs. I hope that the Government will take very seriously the feelings of the farmers. They are alarmed as well as frustrated. They have good reason to be and I hope that this debate will influence the Price Review and that the views of the farmers, as expressed not only in the debate, but by the N.F.U. and in the various demonstrations will bring about a completely different attitude on the part of the Minister from that which he appeared to display tonight.
Following on the last point made by the right hon. and learned Member for Huntingdonshire (Sir D. Renton), we could have a very interesting debate on the need to divert resources to the agricultural sector and the ways and means of doing that. The Motion as framed by the Opposition is a political stunt—no more and no less—and it deserves to be treated as such. If we try to analyse the motives of the Opposition in moving this blanket condemnation of Government policies we can only trace it back to the fact that a year or two ago they lost the sympathy of the farming population because of their playing about with the levy system. They are now desperately trying to mend their fences prior to a General Election.
It is surely no coincidence that our debate is timed to coincide not only with the N.F.U. meeting in London but with the publication of the right hon. Gentleman's "Green Paper". Hence the attempt to have the "belt and braces" attitude, the so-called fall-back guarantee, and this brave new system, torn to shreds earlier by the Minister. He did this admirably by asking on what basis it could be assumed that our existing treaty obligations with our suppliers can be renegotiated. One wonders what discussions the Opposition have already had, for example, with the Irish Government and what would be the reaction to their assumption that these import arrangements can so easily be renegotiated.
It is quite unprecedented to have this sort of Motion, based on blanket condemnation, immediately prior to a Price Review. I take the point made by the right hon. and learned Gentleman that if we cannot have a debate before the Price Review because of its imminence and if it is useless to have one afterwards, when can we discuss agriculture? Surely the difference now is that, as recommended by my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), the figures on which we would want to base our discussions are not available and the terms of this Motion show that it is no more than a stunt.
What does the hon. Gentleman mean by a "stunt"? Does he realise that I have only one industry in my constituency, farming, and that the whole of the farmers in South Worcestershire are seething with discontent with this Government? How dare he call it a stunt when I voice their legitimate dismay and their grievances, in South Worcestershire, not Monmouth?
I would have thought that the hon. Gentleman, who is an expert in stunts, would not need any lessons from me on the meaning of the word. What I mean by "stunt" is what I have said in part already, that is the timing of this Motion, the opportunist way it is being put forward, trying, in spite of past difficulties with the farming community, to pose as the farmers' friend. This I would call a stunt and I am sure that a large section of the farming community will recognise it as such, in spite of this seething discontent.
No. One lets a dog have one bite, but it becomes dangerous afterwards.
I also think it is quite unprecedented for the Opposition to take up the cudgels on behalf of one interested group in our community. One might contrast their position with, for example, the teachers and the nurses. The leaders of this group have expressed their dissatisfaction but are prepared to adopt a position of wait and see. Let me quote the President of the Farmers' Union, who recently said:
Farmers are so fed up with what they justifiably regard as gross exploitation of their position that unless the 1970 Review decisions are right there will be an explosion of anger …".
He is prepared, while voicing dissatisfaction on behalf of his members, to wait and see what results from the Price Review.
Hon. Members opposite are trying to be more partial than the president of the relevant interest group. Why are they now posing as the farmers' friend? Their own reviews were far from generous. There have been increased costs. Even after adjusting these figures for the cost change and the efficiency factor, the result is still favourable to the Government.
The question at this stage is: what about farm incomes? What about the complaints now being made by the farming community? One might say that there are bound to be annual fluctuations by the very nature of farming—the weather, the harvest and disease, such as the disastrous foot-and-mouth disease. The three-year average of incomes shows an upward trend. There was this fall of £40 million in farming income in 1968–69 which has sparked off the present militant reaction. This reaction has also to be placed in the context of what the farmers see happening in other sectors of the community, what my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity, called, rather unwisely, the avalanche of wage claims. This fall in 1968–69 has led to increased difficulties and action is surely needed now, when all the facts are known.
I will not rehearse at great length the problems facing the farming community, as they have already been mentioned by the Leader of the Liberal Party, and by others. My own farmers told me last weekend of their problems. There is the problem of tightness of credit, which affects the whole community, and in this case, at least, farmers are priority borrowers at the banks. A banker who deals particularly with farmers recently told me that he is very worried about how the present farmers' lending level is to be cleared on their present profitability—
I have not denied, and I do not now deny, that there is a problem, but I still maintain that there is a stunt on the part of hon. Members opposite. With interest rates at 10 per cent. and a return on capital of 4 per cent. farmers are in a very difficult period. One also hears that merchants do not grant the extended credit periods that would have been expected in the past. Massey Ferguson, too, as a result of the present farming situation, has written down its own contracts for sales in the United Kingdom. I hope that at the appropriate time, which is the Price Review, the Minister will review these needs and increase farm incomes. For the sake of my farming community, he had better do so.
The Motion reads:
That this House deplores the failure of Her Majesty's Government's agricultural policy.
Such a blanket condemnation paints a bleak picture which is very far from reality, as is evidenced by the Government's perhaps undramatic miscellaneous farming legislation, which has produced substantial improvements on a very wide front. The whole picture needs to be seen before one can properly assess the sort of blanket rejection and condemnation that we have had from hon. Members opposite.
The picture of previous restrictions on production and action has been altered as a result of Government policies. I can only give headings, here, because of the hour, but one cites the improvement in marketing and market stability; the Home-Grown Cereals Authority; the Meat and Livestock Commission; the voluntary restraint on cheese and butter imports. One can compare the relative stability in our own milk market with the very obvious failure of milk marketing policy on the Continent and in developed countries elsewhere. In February, 1969, we had the agreement to improve bacon marketing. Figures only recently published show the upsurge in domestic production.
We have preparation for modernising the farm structure in the 'seventies, aid for voluntary amalgamations and the encouragement of farm co-operation schemes. We see in the Agriculture Bill a reduction in paper work. One recalls important Measures for consumer protection and for the protection of human health. We have seen import saving developments. I agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian, that the period before entry into the E.E.C. is the time to increase our own domestic production so that the cost of entry, when it comes, is reduced.
I am confident that my right hon. Friend the Minister will not listen to the self-appointed spokesman for agriculture, whose own policy has seen many twists and turns over past years, but will listen, rather, to the genuine complaints, and they are genuine, of our farming community, and to the facts of the situation. Sympathy and action are needed, and we look forward to what my right hon. Friend does at the annual Price Review.
The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson), unlike his hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh), has shown himself to be quite out of touch with what we are discussing. When he spoke of the reduction in paper work I was reminded that only last week I helped one of our men to fill in the form needed to get a licence to drive a lorry. The form contained about 10 or 12 pages—as a direct result of recent legislation. The paper work mounts all the time. However, we have only a short time for this debate, and we shall not get very far if we pursue the hon. Gentleman's line of argument.
It is well known to all of us that in the last 10 years, while total personal incomes have gone up by 46 per cent., the farmer's income has gone up by only 7 per cent. Arguments between the two Front Benches about future policy do not really meet the present situation of the farmers before the holding of the Price Review. That Review has to be carried out under the present Act, by the present Ministers, on the present facts, and that is what we want to stick to.
If the Government are really committed to seeking entry to the Common-Market, does not the Secretary of State for Scotland agree that it means that this country will in future have to pay large sums into the Common Market agricultural funds? If that is so, it is surely essential beforehand to see that there is no denial of capital for the modernisation and improved efficiency of our farming industry. If we do not take this opportunity to keep our farming industry as efficient as possible we shall face great difficulty in future.
I see every sign in the country that farmers are not able to spend all the money they would like to spend on the modernisation of their farms and on maintaining fencing and draining. In many respects, the squeeze on prices has sometimes forced people to go in for what I would call bad husbandry. For instance, they have had to go in for continual cereal growing, with the result that the Government have had to bring in subsidies to try to redress what financial policy has forced people to do, though they do not think their action is in the interest of the land.
This is the right time of year to say that it is essential that whatever is gained by extra productivity should be retained by the farmers to be ploughed back into the industry. If the Government really mean to enter the Common Market, they should provide farmers with that opportunity to plough back. That is why this debate, against the background of the Price Review, is crucial. I do not wish to enter into arguments on commodities. We want an admission from the Government that they know the very real financial difficulties that exist. They must have the figures, for instance, of the ceiling of bank loans and must know that farmers have been forced to repay bank borrowings by going to other means of financing. This is all known to the Government. They should acknowledge and realise that unless more money is retained by farmers to plough back into the industry, particularly with the possibility of entering the Common Market hanging over us, more money will have to be channelled out of this country to the Continent and farmers will not be allowed to keep the full measure of their productivity.
Like some other hon. Members who have spoken, I am somewhat surprised that we should be having a debate on agriculture at this time. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Give me a chance. It is because my right hon. Friend's hands are somewhat tied in view of the negotiations which are about to start. One would imagine from some of the arguments put forward in the debate that we never debated agriculture in this House.
That is another matter.
We give more attention to discussing problems concerning agriculture than problems concerning any other industry. It is not correct to say that it is advisable to have this debate at this particular time to convince this Government of the necessity of maintaining a healthy and prosperous agricultural industry. The Government are fully conscious of the position of the industry. My right hon. Friend has had agruments put to him of which he is best aware in the recent days and weeks from leaders of the National Farmers' Union.
I can only suppose that the Opposition, in seeking to discuss agriculture today, have two things in mind. First, there is the conference of the National Farmers' Union which is taking place in this city this week. Hon. Members opposite want to cash in on the discussions which will inevitably take place at that conference. They want to appear as the champions of the farmer. Their support over past years cannot lead one to believe that they are to be the saviours of agriculture in the years which lie ahead. When we look back to the past when Conservatives were in power we see that their contribution towards a successful and prosperous industry left much to be desired.
The second reason why they want to cash in during this particular week and to show their renewed interest in agriculture and present my right hon. Friend with some difficulties in determining what line he should take over the Annual Review, is probably due to the fact that the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) has been very unsuccessful in convincing the farming fraternity that the policy he advocates—presumably that of the Opposition—would give additional rewards to those employed in the industry. We all know that only a month or two ago he decided to rehash his so-called policy and to add as a belated thought that some consideration would have to be given to the policy followed since the 1947 Act although it was weakened by the Opposition, when they were in power, by their 1957 Act. The fact that they have decided that there should be fall-back guarantees is an indication that they realise that they were unable to convince the farming fraternity that their target policy with levies on imports was likely to win the support they hoped for.
The impact of import prices on the cost of living will not be lost sight of by the general public. My hon. Friend the Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) put the case extremely well. The Conservative Party has not been altogether honest in its document about the impact on the cost of living. Hon. Members opposite have tended to slide over this, for obvious reasons. The first is that they know the general public would take exception to substantial rises in the cost of food, rises which need not necessarily occur. Secondly, their policy argues that taxpayers would be relieved if their system were adopted. Workers in low-paid industries or those such as pensioners on small fixed incomes are not particularly interested in any slight concession which might accrue by way of taxation. They are much more concerned with the cost of their food. This attitude cannot be brushed aside, although it may be wrong for the general public to take it.
The Opposition say that they would probably compensate those on low fixed incomes by additional social assistance. A large number of people, particularly old people, because of pride or lack of knowledge, do not seek the additional financial aid which is available. Such people are not likely to apply, except under pressure, for any enhanced assistance which might be available as a compensating feature of food costs rising substantially. This idea smells rather like the old means test which was so unpopular for many years under Tory Governments.
The very fact that food prices might rise substantially would lend support to those elements within the trade union movement who are consistently pressing for substantial wage increases, and this could have severe repercussions on the economy. If food prices rose substantially, no one could discourage substantial wage claims even if it were desirable to do so.
It is all very well for hon. Members opposite glibly to talk about the consumer paying. There is a stone wall of opposition that takes some overcoming. I accept that, relating producers' prices to consumer prices, producers are unfairly treated. I wish the Government would institute a much closer study of the wide margin which exists between the price to the producer and the cost to the consumer. Most Governments have failed to study this question in the required depth. The narrowing of this gap to the advantage of the producer, would benefit the industry substantially.
Five weeks ago I attended a seminar in Germany at which about 120 farmers from West Germany were present, and also the West German Minister of Agriculture. I had to explain our position and approach to the problems of agriculture, and German farmer after German farmer rose and said that he wished they had a system of agriculture such as we enjoy in this country. They are not at all enamoured of target prices. Target prices are not guarantees; they are merely something on paper. The producer is concerned not so much with target prices on paper as with the actual returns that he receives for his products. German farmers would like their Government to change the policy, and work towards a system such as we enjoy here, but they recognise that they are up to the hilt in the Common Market agricultural policy and that, therefore, such a change is unlikely.
When I hear so much about the serious plight of our agriculture, lack of confidence and so on, I cannot but reflect on the fact that farm rents have risen substantially over the last year or two and that the price per acre for farms in the market has soared—
—over the last five years, I accept that there has been a slight fall recently, but it has been very slight indeed compared with the substantial rise that has taken place since the present Government have been in power. The high rents and prices of land reflect the prosperity within this industry and the measure of confidence in it.
Do not let us forget that it is farmer competing against farmer for land on the market, whether for rent or for sale. I talked to a farmer in my constituency during the Summer Recess and he told me a terrible tale of woe. Like every other good politician, I listened to what he had to say without making many comments. Every day of the week I hear extravagant arguments of one sort and another. I was fascinated to find that within the last three weeks this farmer had bought another farm for which he had bid well over £300 per acre. Those two aspects of the case do not seem to me to tie up.
I am not blaming the farmers for agitating. I am a good trade union officer, I hope, and, in supporting any claim that I have put forward, it is my job to argue in order to convince those in judgment that my case should receive their favourable consideration. I have never entirely succeeded, and I have my doubts whether the farmers will succeed altogether in their demand. But I do not blame them for demonstrating or agitating. It is their job, within their union. I am not so sure that it is our job in this House to do their job for them, and I am not sure that if we tried to do their work for them we would succeed.
I recognise that agriculture is a long-term industry and that farmers want some reassurance. This is not unnatural. But the expansion policy announced by the Government will continue. I believe that it will. I believe that my right hon. Friend s 100 per cent. sincere in his desire that agriculture should continue to expand. I believe that this may well be reflected in the Price Review, but he cannot tell us that tonight. It would be wrong if he attempted to do so. It would take the whole meaning out of the negotiations. I do not think that the farmers would be glad as an official body if he were to announce in advance what his intentions are, commodity by commodity or on the total global figure. After all, the farmers are entering the Review for the purpose of negotiation and, therefore, my right hon. Friend could not give the House or anyone else a statement of what is in his mind as a means of meeting the demands of the farmers.
Agriculture is an efficient industry. No one can detract from that. It is as efficient as, perhaps more efficient than, agriculture in any other country. That efficiency has been built up because there have been guarantees, because there has been a measure of security and because the farmer is conscious of his responsibility to the nation. But, more than that, he is conscious of the fact that, if he maintains his efficiency, the country will not neglect to try to reward him accordingly.
I do not accept the argument of right hon. and hon. Members opposite. If I did, it would be because it was they who laid down certain conditions. They imposed standard quantities which my right hon. Friend has either removed or substantially removed. They agreed that it would be possible for any Government to reduce the guarantees by 2½ per cent. in any one year in any Price Review. They are the ones who, in the past, imposed restrictions. The present Government have agreed an expansionist policy. I believe that policy will go ahead and that we shall see that that is so when the Price Review results are announced.
Nothing could more clearly reveal the basic cause of the failure of the Government's agricultural policy than the speeches we have heard from right hon. and hon. Members opposite in this debate. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), in his remarks about the price of land, and his rather sneering suggestion that a large part of the farmers' complaint is a sham, put forward for bargaining purposes only, echoed the remark of the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Anderson), who called this debate a stunt and went on, almost incredibly it seemed to me, to reproach us for taking up the cudgels on behalf of one section of the community.
Agriculture is still the largest single industry in this country. In my constituency, not only is it the largest industry but the whole prosperity of the constituency depends upon the prosperity of agriculture. It is, therefore, almost insulting to be criticised for taking up the cudgels. What else is one here for except to take up the cudgels on behalf of one's constituents? Having in the past represented a partly mining constituency, I would be the last to criticise an hon. Member for championing his mining constituents and I am astonished that hon. Members opposite should criticise us for championing our farmers and farm workers.
I am sorry that the Minister is not now in his place. I make no complaint of his absence. I merely refer to it as part apology because I shall say some critical things about him. No doubt, however, the Secretary of State for Scotland will be able to deal with them.
The Minister, in his speech, only once came anywhere near approaching the heart of the matter. This was when he said that he was worried about the loss of farm income during 1968–69. The rest of his speech would not have led anyone to suppose that there had been any such loss or that that loss of income shows every indication of continuing at an accelerated rate in the current year.
In my part of Lincolnshire, at least, there is deep anger and considerable fear amongst the farming community. The farmers have a real sense of having been abandoned by this Government. If they had been able to listen to the speeches we have heard today from the benches opposite, that sense of abandonment would have become all the more acute. Having once fought a constituency following the resignation of Mr. Stanley Evans, I have a feeling that his philosophy that farmers were "feather bedded" is still widely believed on the benches opposite, but however true that may have been in the immediate aftermath of the war, when there was great shortage of food in this country and throughout the world, it is fundamentally untrue now.
One of the ironies of the present situation is that hon. Members opposite, who are so ready to identify injustices in other countries, seem so extremely slow to appreciate the change there has been in farming in the last generation and the very serious financial situation which now faces farmers. As has been said, farmers face steeply rising costs and high interest rates, on the one hand, and yet have steadily falling incomes and a steadily falling return on capital, on the other.
This is a nationwide situation. The Minister rightly said that the degree of seriousness varied greatly from one part of the country to another. In my part of Lincolnshire, where on top of all these other problems we have had two extremely bad harvests because of the shocking weather, the situation may be even more serious than it is in the rest of the country.
Through the kindness of some of my farming constituents, I have had the opportunity to study the books of a number of representative farmers in various parts of my constituency in recent months. As someone who has some knowledge of financial matters, it seems to me, having studied these books, that many farmers, including some extremely efficient farmers, in my constituency may well face ruin within the next year or two unless the profitability of farming can be substantially improved.
I am not one given to using extravagant language, but I use the word "ruin" in all seriousness, because I believe that to be the situation which faces them. Nothing in the Minister's speech seemed to reflect any awareness by him of the seriousness of the situation. I was surprised that the hon. Member for Norfolk, North who, after all, is a very distinguished trade unionist in agriculture, made light of the situation, because he must recognise that the prosperity of farm-workers is inextricably bound up with the prosperity of farmers and farming as a whole.
Of course I appreciate that the wages and earnings of farm workers are bound up with the industry as a whole. However, I remind the hon. Gentleman that wages are usually negotiated just before a Price Review and that in the Price Review the full impact of whatever award is conceded is one of the cost factors taken into account. In addition, the cost factor is based on the total number of workers at the time of the wage award, whereas we know that in the year which follows the number substantially declines—or at least it has done so for the last 12 years—so that the farmers have gained from any wage award by the end of the year.
That does not in any way influence the argument which I was developing. I am bearing very much in mind the fact that the Prime Minister promised that the gap between agricultural and industrial wages would be narrowed. Far from this having happened, as a result of the declining prosperity of agriculture in recent years, that gap is widening.
As the hon. Gentleman well knows, on 2nd February the minimum agricultural wage is to be raised by 15s. a week, but even then the average agricultural wage, as opposed to the minimum, will be only £16 3s. 9d. a week, which is £7 14s. 8d. a week less than the average industrial wage, and that for a three-hour longer working week and even taking industrial wages at the latest figures available last summer. If one takes account of the enormous wage increases which industrial workers have been obtaining in recent weeks, and the latest figures, of the December increases, which were the largest for 20 years, the gap is a good deal more than £7 15s. a week and is probably now well over £8 a week.
Is it surprising that in that situation there is an absolute flight of labour from the land? In the great agricultural county of Lindsey, in which my constituency is situated, the number of farm workers has halved from 18,000 to 9,000 in the last 20 years. The rate of decrease is accelerating all the time and, at the latest count, in the new entrant age group of 15–19 there were less than 800 farm workers left in the county of Lindsey.
I accept what the hon. Gentleman is saying about the wide gap between agricultural and industrial earnings and the decline of manpower. I have expressed concern about this on many occasions. I was making the point that if the farmers had offered farm workers in recent negotiations 30s. instead of 15s. the total figure would have been taken into account in assessing the additional cost at the subsequent Price Review.
From where is the money to come? Farmers are the first—certainly those to whom I have talked—to say that agricultural workers are disgracefully underpaid. They would be delighted to be in a position to pay them a wage which was competitive with that paid to industrial workers. But until farming has a very much higher income and a much higher return on capital, agricultural wages are bound to remain depressed. I would have thought that the National Union of Agricultural and Allied Workers and the N.F.U. were in precisely the same boat and that in this respect the N.U.A.A.W. should be bringing pressure to bear on the Minister to give the farmers a generous Review, or otherwise farm workers will never get a fair crack of the whip. If the hon. Gentleman cannot grasp that, I shall have to stand against him myself at the next elections in his union.
The serious effect of these inadequate incomes and inadequate profits is not only short-term, because it leads to the land being overworked and to a shift away from animal husbandry to excessive cereal production and a generally unbalanced state of agriculture. It also leads to the neglect of capital investment, work on ditches and fencing, the provision of new equipment and so on. This produces a situation which cannot be remedied overnight and this means that we are, in effect, mortgaging the future by allowing this state of affairs to continue.
I am glad to see that the Minister has now returned to the Front Bench because, having made some critical remarks about him in his absence at the outset of my speech, I wish to remind him of what I said. The right hon. Gentleman did not seem in his speech—except in the passage to which I referred—to understand the seriousness of the situation and the fact that his personal honour is now becoming involved.
We think of him as a man of integrity, and he is widely regarded as such in the farming community. But he must remember that at the time of the "little Neddy" report, in the autumn of 1968, he went a long way in public towards endorsing that report. Following a speech which he made at that time the farmers in my constituency expected a much more generous Price Review than they subsequently got.
At that time it was difficult to reconcile the Price Review with what the right hon. Gentleman had previously said when the "little Neddy" report appeared. The only way to explain it—I am prepared to accept what the right hon. Member for Devon, North (Mr. Thorpe) said about the Minister having done his best but having been overruled by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—was the fact that we were in the midst of a major economic crisis, that we were borrowing money from the I.M.F. and that the I.M.F. was making quarterly examinations of our books. No doubt the Treasury told the Minister during that crisis that a good Price Review was out of the question. And, as the right hon. Gentleman was relatively new to his portfolio, it was felt that he had done his best, and we were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
I warn the Minister that that will not happen a second time. He has now spent a considerable time in his present office. Now we are continually being told by the Chancellor that the economic situation has greatly improved. The time has come when the farming community not only expects the right hon. Gentleman to stand up and take on the Chancellor in a vigorous way, but to win. If the Minister is unable to produce from the Treasury a really generous Price Review this time—one which will go a long way towards putting right the serious faults which I have outlined—his only honourable course will be to resign.
I agree with much of what the hon. Gentleman is saying, but is he aware that the tenor of his argument is that the Minister must squeeze some sort of concession out of the Treasury? Is he aware, however, that it has been adequately demonstrated that it would be greatly to the advantage of the Treasury to allow agriculture to play a much bigger part in import saving?
I agree, and that brings me to the final point that there are two urgent needs now—first, for an immediate and substantial increase in the income of the industry, something which can be achieved only in the coming Price Review; and, secondly, in the long-term there must be a fundamental change in the present system.
All Ministers of all Governments will be faced under the present system with a situation in which, however hard they try on behalf of the farming community to improve matters, they will be unable to get sufficient money out of the Treasury. This is the root cause of the problem, and that is why the proposals of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), as expressed in his speech and in the latest Conservative document, provide the obvious long-term solutions to the problems of the industry. For this reason, the terms of our critical Motion are entirely justified.
I hope the hon. Gentleman the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) will forgive me if I do not follow him in his argument about why the debate is taking place today, except to say that I suspect that there is a connection between the debate and other events now taking place in London. One also suspects that in view of the furore caused in the farming community when the Leader of the Opposition made his statement not long ago about cutting taxes the debate has been called for partly because the need to explain current Conservative policy in the countryside.
One thing which I will not take from the hon. Gentleman is his questioning the motives and the views of some of us on this side of the House in regard to farming and the countryside generally. We are capable of expressing our own points of view on featherbedding or anything else.
I say this seriously to the hon. Gentleman because I grew up in a family who saw my father come home after sweating his heart out in tomato houses for 34s. a week. Knowing what a marvellous wage that was in 1938–39, the hon. Gentleman need have no doubt about my understanding of and commitment to farm-workers and the farming community generally.
Also, it ill becomes hon. Gentlemen opposite to state their case by appealing to the needs of the farm worker. Some of us have been involved in trade unionism for a long time and have seen the struggle of farm workers under all governments to obtain a decent wage. If the farming industry had treated its workers a little better in the past it would have a little better case today.
My main remarks are addressed to the case put by the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber). The right hon. Gentleman and I are near neighbours in the East Midlands, and we both know and understand the problems of the farming community in that area. I accept right away that there certainly are some problem although I would not go to the extreme to which some hon. Members have gone in this debate when they preach disaster.
The right hon. Gentleman mentioned my home county of Dorset. I can remember what the farming community was like in Dorset when I was a boy. I can remember how relieved we were—although it seems awful to say it—when the war came and the farming community could begin to recover from the bad situation in which people were living and working.
When I look around Dorset and the East Midlands now I see a great deal of land under cultivation. That is surely a measurement, and a good measurement, of whether there is prosperity in agriculture—the fact that farmers find it worth while to plough the land. It confirms the figures in the December Farm Census of the increase in autumn sown wheat, and other cereals. There is no evidence of impending disaster, although I would go so far as to say that there are very severe problems in agriculture in the constituencies of the right hon. Gentleman and myself and in other parts of the country.
Some of these problems have arisen accidentally because of the vagaries of the weather. I was speaking recently to a farmer who lives not far away from me. He is a fairly substantial and fairly prosperous dairy farmer and I am sure he is an efficient farmer. He told me that, amongst other things, his overdraft had increased by £7,000 in the last year.
This was almost wholly because of the phenomenally high prices for hay and straw last winter.
Another local farmer in the difficult times last spring lost the whole of his potato crop because his fields were flooded and the potatoes appeared above ground and just went black. Certainly, there have been some special problems and we all agree, I think, that my right hon. Friend has a responsibility to the farming community to help it overcome the problems which it has faced this year and last.
Also—again, I am with the right hon. Gentleman—there is a more general problem. It is not entirely a British problem. It is a problem being faced throughout the developed world. As the standard of living generally rises, farm incomes fall in relation to the gross national product. As I say, this is not a problem for this country alone. The Americans slaughtered hogs, and the French before the war had a policy of almost wicked waste whereby the flour extraction rate determined the price of cereals.
The problem has been growing. The figures relating farm income to g.n.p. and incomes generally over the past 10 years show how it has developed. I had a letter only the other day from a small farmer in a village only a few miles from where I live. He is working 10 hours a day, and six hours on Sundays, for an income which he estimates to be about £10 a week. He says, and he makes a reasonable point—
I write as a young married man with a family. I have no ambitions to be a tycoon. All I want is to be sure that in future I can supply the day-to-day needs of my children, but it does not look at the moment, if things do not improve, as if I shall be able to do that.
There are problems, especially for the small farmer, and we hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to do something about them.
I come now to the point at which I part company with the right hon. Gentleman. He has a reputation for being an honest man. I am sure that his concern for the farming community and for farm workers is just as genuine as that of my right hon. Friend or anyone on this side. So it is not his honesty I question, but I doubt if whether the right hon. Gentleman is telling farmers the whole truth. I suspect that he is an innocent abroad. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rubbish."] Hon. Members may say that, but not so long ago the Leader of the Opposition said in the House that one of the ways by which we could save the monstrous weight of income tax was to cut out deficiency payments. That is on record. There was a terrible hullabaloo in the farming community.
What the hon. Gentleman calls the new Tory policy is at least five years old. In fact, we fought the last General Election on it. The modification is merely a modification to avoid the great losses and troubles of support buying in which the Government might get mixed up with the physical handling of produce.
All I know is that the Leader of the Opposition told us that that was one way in which we could reduce taxation. We have been debating this evening precisely how much reduction there will be, and there is considerable dispute about it. I suspect, therefore, that a good many people in agriculture, much as they respect the right hon. Member for Grantham, will simply not believe that Tory policy is honest.
The farming community can look back over the years. I do not have with me the figures relating to the number of agreed Price Reviews under both Governments, but I am sure that there are plenty of people in agriculture who can remember all too well disastrous Price Reviews and disastrous Ministers of Agriculture under a Tory Administration. So disastrous were some of them that they were obliged quietly to move on to other things because of great pressure from the farming community to get rid of them. That was the way Tory policy worked.
May we come to the meat of the argument?
One reason why people will not trust Tory policy is that in the document published today there is a commitment that if the policy increases food prices by 6 per cent. old people and the poorest sections of the community will be looked after. I am sure that the right hon. Gentleman believes that to be the case, but I think that it would be as well to ask whether his right hon. Friends who are responsible for financial matters agree with him. In 1964 we had a spending boom, and a great deal of money was given away, but old-age pensioners had to wait. There is no evidence of great generosity by the Conservative Party to the less fortunate in the Community.
We have the Leader of the Opposition sailing in and out of Far Eastern ports promising that British troops will remain there and that the carrier fleet will be maintained. By implication, Tory posters promise a cut in motor taxation. The right hon. Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod) has promised professional people in my constituency that they will have more money to spend on luxuries abroad. The hon. Member for Worcester, South (Sir G. Nabarro) went to Long Eaton and promised categorically that S.E.T. would be abolished. The only question that I ask is how, faced with that sort of situation, and having to make good all those promises, as well as those made by the right hon. Member for Grantham, will a Tory Chancellor of the Exchequer be able to provide the money?
I was not aware that farmers paid S.E.T. directly, but I shall leave that. The hon. Gentleman merely confirms what I am saying. If it is official Tory policy to do all these things, it will be interesting to hear the arguments which the right hon. Gentleman will have with his right hon. Friends, if they—and I shudder to think of it—become responsible for the Government of this country.
Apart from what I have said about people at the bottom of the scale, pensioners, and others, being neglected, let us do a little arithmetic. If the amount which is now paid by way of support for fanning were removed, this would give a figure of £250 million to £270 million, about 6d. in the £ off the standard rate of income tax. I do not know exactly what difference a 6 per cent. rise in food prices and a 6d. in the £ off the standard income tax would make to a wage earner, with a family, on £15 a week. My estimate is that he will be lucky if he gets the price of 10 cigarettes out of it. Let us therefore be careful when we talk about helping people who are amongst the lower paid in the community.
I come now to deal with the hon. Member for Worcestershire, South. One of my particular interests is horticulture, another industry which has cause for complaint. Standing in a market place, bellowing through a microphone his contribution is—
We hear complaints about wicked French and Italian apple growers whose great sin is that they produce, pack, and dispatch apples in such a way that they are attractive to the British housewife. The most disastrous thing that we can do in an industry faced with over-production—and quite frightening over-production—in Europe is to erect further tariff barriers. The evidence is that this would encourage British producers to produce even more. I wonder what the effect of this policy will be if eventually we have to join Europe and face the full rigours of European competition. This would be a disaster for the industry.
I reject absolutely the policy that we have had outlined from the Opposition benches. I accept at once the challenge made from the Opposition Front Bench that the Government have a responsibility within the present system to provide greater incentives in agriculture. The cost of the deficiency payments system is not all that great. It has fallen by 27 per cent. in money terms and, I think, by 50 per cent. in terms of the gross national product over the last 10 years. It is not a costly method of supporting agriculture.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will be able to secure more resources for agriculture. I hope, too, that in the not-too-distant future he will be able to improve the system of agricultural credit. I reinforce the point made by my hon. Friend the Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell), who pointed to the need for marketing. Farmers simply cannot understand the difference between the price at the farm gate and the final price to the consumer. The Government have done a great deal to improve marketing, but a great deal more needs to be done.
In short, we should maintain the present system of agricultural support and, within that system, give the agricultural community greater incentives. One of the difficulties—this is a serious point which has been made by hon. Members on both sides—is that those of us who have any interest in agriculture believe that by its high productivity its contributions to balance-of-payment savings can be considerable, but we cannot prove it.
I hope that my right hon. Friend will have a crash programme to get that kind of arithmetic done so that we can compare inputs into agriculture with inputs into manufacturing industry. I hope that he will do this and give the farming community this year a degree of incentive that will help to restore some lost confidence. Agriculture has served the country well, particularly in terms of productivity. It has a claim to a higher share of the national income, and I hope that it will get it within the policies of the present Government.
I have great sympathy with what the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) said at the beginning of his speech about the past. My maternal grandfather made speeches in the country in the mid-1920s trying to get the farmers to agree to a minimum wage of 30s., but he was unable to get it. We do not want to see those days again. I also support what has been said on this side, particularly by my hon. Friend the Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell), about the need to bring agricultural wages up to a level which is more comparable with those of other industries. I only wish that other industries would let the agricultural worker catch up before they ask for more themselves.
The Minister must have been taking some military advice today, and not very good military advice at that. That advice may have suggested to him that perhaps the best form of defence is attack. He therefore directed most of his remarks to attacking our policy. The right hon. Gentleman seems to have the advantage over most back benchers on this side of having a copy, which we have not. I hope to get one in the post tomorrow.
The object of the debate is to examine the Minister's policy. We say that that policy is failing. It is very rare in an agriculture debate, or in agriculture itself, that one can be certain about anything, but one thing of which I am absolutely certain is that unless something is done quickly, because of what has happened at the last three harvests in particular, many small farmers, but some medium-size farmers also, will go under altogether.
Perhaps the most interesting thing which the Minister said today was that he thought that it might be necessary to regear the machinery for price reviews. If, by that, he meant that the outcome of a Price Review might be loaded to have different effects in different parts of the country, this would get us near what I have in mind is necessary now. There is no question that certain counties have been so hard hit that unless something is done before the next harvest there will not be a harvest in many places. This is one of the most serious aspects of the present review.
Of course, I recognise that the Minister cannot possibly tell us tonight what he will do, but I want to impress on him as earnestly as I can, after consulting farmers all over the Isle of Ely, that there is now a crying need for a cash injection to get all too many farmers through to the next harvest. How this is done is perhaps the Minister's greatest problem in approaching the Price Review. Bank managers say that they cannot lend these men any more, even if they dared to borrow it. The tragedy is that all too few of them dare not borrow any more. They are finding it very difficult to meet their interest rates, and even their tax bill, if they have one.
This is why I hope that the Minister, in going into this review, will recognise that not only a considerable advance in prices is required, but also an immediate cash injection in selected places where the need can be established. I put it no stronger than that, but I hope that it is a fair proposition; I should not be representing the interests of my constituents if I did not say this.
Finally, I want to talk about the expansion programme. As we have been able to calculate it, when the Minister announced this in November 1968, it involved an annual increase of about 4 per cent. a year in order to hit his target. It is absolutely certain that that figure will not be reached this year in the out-turn of the 1969 harvest. It certainly was not hit before then. I therefore ask the Minister what he now calculates to be the percentage annual increase necessary to hit that target.
What is happening here by itself justifies, if nothing else did—and many other things do—our saying that the policy is failing and is likely to go on failing unless something else is done. This has never been more clearly shown than by what is happening to the expansion programme. It just is not working. The Minister must do something in this review to make sure that it does, if he wants to hit his target. Unless he now aims at an expansion of 6 per cent.—plus for the remaining period, the industry has not a hope of hitting it.
We should be told what the Minister intends by way of encouragement, without mentioning any figures. He should be able to try to tell us what extra needs to be done in the remaining period of the expansion programme to ensure that those targets are hit. Unless they are, we shall continue to wallow in balance of payments problems from time to time.
As an advocate of five-minute speeches at this stage in a debate, I will try to confine myself to five minutes as so many hon. Members wish to speak. I will, therefore, raise only one main subject—that of antibiotics as raised in the Swann Committee's Report. In view of what was said by the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber), I should point out that I represent a rural constituency in relation both to distinguished sheep farmers like Brian Cadzow, and to firms such as "Chunky Chicks" which bring many hundreds of thousands of birds for the table each year.
I ask the Government what they propose to do about the control of antibiotics and I express the opinion that there ought to be some continuing and sustained mechanism of control, run preferably under the auspices of the A.R.C. What is to be the attitude on feed-antibiotics, particularly in view of the controversies which have surrounded the feeding of animals?
I urge on my right hon. Friend the advice of the Swann Committee Report and suggest that in his own Department and in the Scottish Department he ought to increase the epidemiology in the Government service. With that I combine the question what is the reaction to the Swann Committee's recommendations that universities should be encouraged to set up departments of epidemiology inside the academic set up. What will be done to carry out that recommendation?
May I ask specifically about penicillin? Does it satisfy the criteria for the control of antibiotics, in particular if we permit its supply and use without prescription? Should that system be revoked? This is a fairly urgent matter which concerns quite a number of farmers.
Another specific question—what is being done to conduct a survey to determine the presence or absence of anti- biotic residues in animal products? As my right hon. Friend knows, that is an urgent problem of interest both inside the farming community and outside it.
Finally, I turn to a point which is causing some eyebrow raising on both sides of the House—the whole atmosphere in which the recommendations of the Swann Committee's Report are being debated. It would not be proper to mention any particular firms which have been active in the matter. Some hon. Members on each side of the House have been their guests. But a serious problem is arising. Indeed, it has been raised elsewhere by the hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Ely (Sir H. Legge-Bourke).
The problem is, how does Parliament set about deciding the legislation which ought to be introduced in a set of circumstances in which the distinguished members of the Swann Committee gave one set of advice and a number of academics, such as Dr. Jukes and Dr. White Stevens, produced to a number of us a different set of advice? I do not know whether this is a case for the Select Committee on Science and Technology to look into or a case for the revival of the Select Committee on Agriculture.—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] These are deep waters. But it is a serious problem of how Parliament ought to look at the agricultural aspects of the Swann Committee's Report. As my right hon. Friend knows, this is extremely urgent. Those of us whose chief interests are perhaps scientific and technological and not agricultural are equally concerned, if not more concerned, about how the Department goes about this problem and the style in which my right hon. Friend will tackle it.
I agree with my hon. Friends the Members for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell) and Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) that some of us who are laymen in these matters marvel at the discrepancy between the prices which farmers receive and the prices in the shops. I would particularly make reference to the price of butcher's meat in Scotland. If I thought that a higher proportion of the meat charged in butchers' shops for Scottish meat were going to the producers I should be much happier.
Finally, I echo again the comments of some of my hon. Friends in expressing critical alarm at the statement made by the right hon. Member for Grantham that he would open the Treasury purse. He called upon the Government to open the purse strings much wider than they had been opened so far. I, too, have sympathy with the farming community, but is it not better in these debates that both sides of the House should be clear about the financial commitments involved? If it is true that more money ought to be given to the farmers, there are Treasury consequences, particularly for a party whose leading financial spokesman made such an interesting speech in the Chamber last Wednesday. I wonder whether the right hon. Member for Grantham had cleared his speech with his right hon. Friend the Member for Enfield, West (Mr. Iain Macleod).
I was a bit surprised at certain back benchers opposite who have questioned the value of holding this debate. At least two were members of the Select Committee which reached the firm conclusion that a Select Committee should be a permanent institution to look over matters of the Price Review and to advise the Government on the feelings of the House. It seems that, having wound up the Select Committee, the least that the Government could have done was to have expressed their gratitude to the Opposition for having this debate.
Coming now to the Minister's speech, I must say that I was quite appalled at its content. He made no reference to the dilemma and anxieties facing the farming community, which are so manifest to everyone reading our newspapers. I can only think that he has been listening to too many speeches by his right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland. It was the sort of sniping, evasive speech which we have come to expect from the right hon. Gentleman.
There was no mention of costs and of the present worries about the income position which is upsetting farmers. Let no one in the House doubt the seriousness of the situation facing many farmers. I know that it is a tradition for farmers to be disgruntled and perpetually dissatisfied. This time it is justified, and if anyone does not believe it I suggest that he goes to the countryside and talks to country bank managers who are the best judges of the solvency of farming businesses. I do not know whether the Minister has heard of the meeting in my constituency last week, which was the biggest meeting of farmers in Kendal that anyone has been able to remember.
First, let me take the example of fertilisers. We know that the fertiliser manufacturers are extremely worried at this time of the year. There has been a much lower take-up in 1969 than previously. The great dilemma is, will demand come?
There are real doubts as to whether the extra amount of fertilisers which were in the shortfall of 1969 will be taken up. It cannot be said that farmers have not been willing to take up these fertilisers in 1969 because they worried about credit. As the Minister well knows, the manufacturers of fertilisers have farm storage schemes which means that farmers can take early delivery of fertilisers and not pay until the following spring. This means that there must be another reason, and it must surely be that many farmers have great worries about whether they can pay for fertilisers in the spring. This is an example of the writing on the wall.
A second such example, and this is very significant, is that of new tractor registrations. This is a guide to the amount of investment that farmers have been making. There has been a dramatic reduction in new tractor registrations in the first nine months of 1969 compared with the first nine months of 1968. There was a 12 per cent. drop, of over 3,300 tractors registered. It is clear that this is not just synthetic anger. It is not as the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Haze11) suggested, a trade union exercise to accentuate the case and make it appear worse. This is genuine. The writing is on the wall, farmers are very worried and are facing great difficulties.
How has this happened? There are several reasons, but the one reason that I want to concentrate on is the matter of costs, which the Minister so glibly skated over. He told us about the rise in the guaranteed prices, but he did not tell us by how much costs have gone up in that period during this Government's husbandry of the industry. He did not tell us that in the first five years of Socialist administration farm costs rose by £185 million as compared with a rise of £87 million in a similar period under a Conservative Administration. To put it on a yearly basis is even more dramatic. He did not tell us that in five years of Socialism farmers' costs rose by £37 million a year, but rose by only £17 million per annum under five years of Conservative government.
The right hon. Gentleman spent much time boasting about the rise in guaranteed prices that his Government had brought about, completely ignoring the fact that his Administration's costs to farmers have been rising at £20 million a year more than did costs under the previous Conservative Administration.
Farmers are desperately worried. In marginal areas, in constituencies such as mine in the North-West, many farmers find themselves in their worst position for 30 years. Many farmers who have heeded Government entreaties to become more efficient, to invest more money in their businesses, and to go in for farm amalgamation by buying more land, now find themselves, as a result of listening to Government encouragment, with a millstone of borrowing round their necks on which, as a result of failure to get a proper return on capital, and of rising costs, they have not been able to service the interest charges.
There is now a clear duty on the Government to make sure that farmers in future are able to play their proper part in the expansion programme about which the Government still talk. There is still time for that to be done, but it is in the hands of the Government. We hope that the Minister will have the guts to stand up to his right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he fails, we hope that he will resign, as is his duty.
I am glad to follow the hon. Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) because for two years he and I served on the Select Committee on Agriculture, as did his hon. Friends immediately in front and one to his left. I therefore have an audience which I can address directly.
I do not quarrel with the party opposite for initiating the debate, but one has to be careful in the selection of a subject. We get many statements when disputes are in progress, and the plea then made to the House is, "Do not let us have too much talk whilst the matter is in dispute". I regard this present debate as largely a matter of propaganda. I have been listening to debates for the last 25 years, and they have been quite good, but there is a different atmosphere in these debates, and I have come to the conclusion that the sooner agriculture is taken out of party politics the better.
My right hon. Friend the Minister has made a courageous speech when one bears in mind the demonstrations taking place throughout the country. He has also been attacked personally, which I do not like. Nor do I like his being told by a hon. Gentleman that his personal honour is at stake and that he should resign. His is a collective responsibility. I am sufficiently close to him to know his views on a number of matters, particularly with regard to sheep farming.
I hope that hon. Members opposite will have a sense of reality. I am not against all that they have said in this debate, but last week they opposed the granting of £½ million to farmers for the Mid-Wales Development Board. They cannot have it both ways. The hon. Member for Torrington (Mr. Peter Mills) said that agricultural land was depressed to the extent of £50 an acre. I hope that if he catches your eye, Mr. Speaker, he will elaborate on that. I am a member of a local authority, and I will pass on the hon. Member's remarks to the district valuer there.
My right hon. Friend the Minister knows the position in Wales. He knows the angry farmers in Haverfordwest, but he also knows the calm people in my constituency. I attended the annual general meeting of the Brecon and Radnor Farmers' Union. That is a very good association. Its members do not go out with tractors and placards, but they did far better by sending resolutions to the right quarter—not first to the Minister of Agriculture, but to the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and then the Minister of Agriculture. We are gunning for the wrong Minister this afternoon. That is what we found in the Select Committee on Agriculture. [An HON. MEMBER: "Where are the other Ministers?"] If I were a Whip I should see that they were here. Ministers who should be here listening to this debate are those of the Treasury and the Board of Trade.
We said this in discussions in the Select Committee on Agriculture but we never had a debate in which we could argue it. If there is one reason why that Committee should be in session it is this occasion before the Price Review. I go along with an hon. Member who said that there ought to be permanent advisers to the Minister of Agriculture from the House of Commons itself. If the Minister can consult the National Farmers' Union, the Country Landowners' Association and the farm workers' union, surely there are sufficient expert people in the House of Commons to advise him—not to argue on the Price Review and go through all the commodities but give him good advice. I hope that in time that will be put into operation.
From what I heard at the annual meeting of the farmers' union in my constituency, costs for small farmers and others have gone up a great deal. The comparison between 10 years ago and now is not the same in farming as in other industries. The Select Committee should be looking at what the farmer gets for his product and what the consumer pays.
The right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) and I are good friends. We have served on the same committees, and when he was the Minister he was exceptionally good in accepting Amendments that I put forward and some of the promises he made came to fruition. I admit that I have not read the statement of policy which he has produced. Perhaps it is delayed in the post or perhaps we are awaiting the Welsh ver- sion by the Opposition spokesman on Welsh affairs.
The Minister knows about the difficulties of credit and the difficulties that farmers have in raising money at present. I say to him and to other members of the Government that if people are angry that does not mean that they put forward their case for political reasons. I have seen farmers, especially small farmers, this weekend, and I realise that they have a case. I hope that around the table in the Price Review discussions something will be done about it. If the Government can give in to demands for wage increases far in excess of what is required under the incomes policy, let them remember that here it is a question not of incomes policy but of giving a good standard of living to those in the industry.
Once again, I compliment the Minister on his courageous speech. It was courageous after what we have seen and heard throughout the country.
I want to underline what our national agricultural policy ought to be, and then to decide whether we are achieving it. There should be three objectives for our national agricultural policy. First, it should give a fair return on the capital invested in the farm, on the labour of the farmer and his family, and for the exercise of his management skills. That is a statutory obligation embodied in the 1947 Act.
Secondly, our policy should lead to a high-farming policy rather than a low one—in other words, high output per acre, rather than low output per acre. Every year we are losing about 50,000 acres of our better than average farm land, and our population is rising. So we must make it more profitable to go in for a high farming policy than a low one. If as a result of the Government policy farmers must follow a minimum cost policy—that is, a low output per acre policy—our national farming policy is at variance with what the economy needs.
Thirdly, our national agricultural policy should embody a full measure of import substitution, as the "little Neddy" recommended and as the Government accepted.
Those are the objectives which our national policy should have. Manifestly, that is not what is happening to agriculture. One of two propositions must be true. Either the Government have got the wrong policy, or they have the right policy but it has failed. There is no third alternative. By no stretch of the imagination could the Minister claim that farmers are receiving a fair return on their capital invested, on their own and their family's labour, and on their management skills. Demonstratably, they are not.
Under the present credit conditions and the near bankruptcy of the farmers who have followed the policy which the Government exhorted them to follow, namely, one of rapid expansion, all they can do now when they have run out of cash is follow a low-farming policy—a minimum cost policy—which is at variance whir what the Government declare their policy to be. This results in a complete failure to meet the import substitution targets, which were £160 million at constant prices, not at inflating prices, over a five-year period. So on all three counts the Government's policy has failed. That is exactly what the Motion says.
On 31st March last, the Government and their supporters trooped through the Division Lobby to assent to the following proposition:
That this House congratulate Her Majesty's Government on their decisions on the Annual Farm Price Review …
That was how that Motion began. It is quite clear that the Government's policy has failed miserably, not only to meet agriculture's needs, but also to meet the nation's needs.
My final point is this. There is not a conflict between the needs of agriculture and the needs of other sections of the community. The only known way of getting out of the cycle of punitive taxation, crushing interest rates, the miserable collapse of the national house building programme, quite unnecessarily high unemployment and everything that has gone with adverse balance of payments, is by a massive import-substitution programme. So the policy which I have outlined, and which should be obvious to the Minister, is not a sectarian policy just for the benefit of agriculture. It is what is needed by the country as a whole.
I hesitate to enter into this debate, not being a farmer, nor representing very many farmers. But, considering that the farmers make up only 4 per cent. or 5 per cent. of the population of this country, and that agricultural debates are almost always exclusively argued by farmers or by representatives of farming interests, I think it is fair that someone who might have the consumer interest primarily at heart should occasionally venture a word or two.
I venture a word or two in puzzlement, and I hope that my right hon. Friend when he replies will clear up some of the issues. I have listened with interest to the kind of arguments which have been presented on television by farmers' representatives. I have listened for lengthy periods to farmers on the B.B.C., and I must say that I do not know any section of the people who have so much opportunity to voice their views on their particular problems as the farming community. They certainly have much more opportunity to voice their views than have the steel workers, for example whom I represent, or the miners or other sections of our society. Nevertheless having listened, I am puzzled at what the argument is about.
As everyone knows, the farmer wants more money. I am not sure whether the farmer wants more money directly from the consumer—I think this is part of the argument at this stage—or whether he wants more money directly from the Government. But it seems to me that it has not emerged clearly what this Price Review is. A great deal has been said about the Price Review, and certainly the impression one gets from listening to these matters being discussed on the television and the radio is that the Government fix the price that will be paid for the various farming commodities, that there is a Government monopoly in this field, and that the Government deliberately keep farm prices down.
According to my understanding—and, no doubt, if I am wrong I shall be corrected—what the Government do in respect of the annual Price Review is to say, in effect, "We will set minimum prices. We will guarantee that if this particular commodity does not fetch this minimum price in the open market, with all the facilities one has for selling one's product, we will make up the price to the minimum." If that is so, it is not a question of the Government fixing the price of the product. It is a matter of the Government guaranteeing that the farmers' price will not fall below a certain level.
However, if the farmer can sell his product at twice that price, I take it that the Government say, "Good luck to you. We are not paying any subsidy on that basis. The higher the price you get for your product in this open market, the better pleased we are because we are not paying any subsidy. We pay the subsidy only when the price falls below these particular levels." If that is the case, I have not yet heard it fairly presented in any of these arguments.
I have heard farmers talking about the rage they feel, of how badly they are treated. I know of their demonstrations and of how they have stopped ordinary traffic. I have seen their threats not to pay rates and taxes. When they threaten not to pay rates, I wonder just what it is they are threatening. My understanding is that the farmer pays rates only on his house, his domestic property. He does not pay rates on his many farm buildings. We recently passed a Measure in relation to factory farming enabling farmers to pay rates on the same sort of basis as the ordinary factory owner pays. Nevertheless, the farmer normally does not pay rates except on his domestic property.
I wonder whether the farmers, on this basis, think that it is really an enormous threat to hold over society to withhold their rates. After all, the farmer gets many benefits from the rates. His children go to school, for example, and there are many other facilities. I want this sort of thing to be cleared up.
Are the farmers arguing that we should scrap the Price Review system? I understand that such is the policy of hon. Members opposite. The right hon. Member for Leeds, North-East (Sir K. Joseph) spoke over the weekend about getting rid of Government intervention and encouraging competition. The great cry is competition and efficiency. Is this what the farmers are asking for?
I suspect that many farmers are not of my political persuasion. I do not hold that against them, but do the farmers say that we should scrap the Price Review and that they should simply sell their products on the market? That is fair enough if it is what they are saying. I do not think that I would oppose my right hon. Friends if that were the kind of Measure they were prepared to bring in, but I wonder whether that is really what the farmers are asking for.
What the farmers were offered by the Labour Government in the 1947 Act was an incomes policy. In pursuance of that policy, they have increased their efficiency by more than three times the rate of industry, and during that period they have been deprived of more than half of their slice of the national cake. If my hon. Friend the Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson) thinks that that is fair, I do not.
My very good friend the hon. and learned Member for Northampton (Mr. Paget) puts an excellent case—indeed, the best I have yet heard for the farmers. But I have here a document called, "Scottish Agricultural Economics, 1969". It lists subsidies and grants to agriculture in Scotland alone. There are grants for fertilisers, lime, ploughing, field beans, field drainage except tilling, calves, beef calves, hill cattle, sheep, hill sheep, uplands sheep, winter keep, silos, small farmers, small business records, crofters cropping, etc., among others, making a total for Scotland alone in that one category—there are three categories—of £23,770,000.
If I understand these figures correctly, they mean that the Government are pumping into farming in Scotland, to raise the efficiency and output of the industry, nearly £24 million a year. If the farmers are raising their productivity, fair enough. Are they doing it? I do not know.
We spend a lot of money running agricultural colleges. I understand that there was opposition from farmers when it was proposed that there should be an employee training scheme in the industry. If it is that new knowledge, techniques and skills and new tools, new fertilisers and so forth, are reaching the farmers on the basis of very large public subsidies, then these things should be taken into account when we are discussing how much the farmers have raised productivity.
I gather that our farmers are saying that they are the most competent in the world, and that may be right. But if they are, what is the trouble? I gather again that what the farmers want at this stage is that the Government should largely control the imports of food into the country. I understand that this is a large part of the policy that the Opposition are offering. I do not quite understand where competition enters into it here. We have all this talk of competition and efficiency, but apparently what the farmers want is to shut out products from less efficient farmers abroad. Is this not really a process of organised scarcity so that prices can be pushed up? If that is what the farmers are asking for, it should be made clear to the people. It is my puzzlement that the people are not aware of what is the case. It should be made abundantly clear what the situation is.
In Scotland there are about 48,000 employees in the agricultural industry. The 1968–69 figure showed that the total of subsidies, in the form of price guarantees, relevant production grants and others under the heading of "other grants and subsidies", produced a total in those three categories of £51,790,000. That is substantially more than £1,000 of public money for every employee in agriculture in Scotland. That is fair enough if the farmers have a good case, but let us hear the case. So far I have heard little, not only here but outside, except the anti-Labour propaganda on this theme. Hon. Members should represent consumers, too.
By all means let us look after the interests of the farmers, but let us make clear what we are doing and not have so many garbled arguments which are partisan in the most extreme form usual when hon. Members opposite talk about the interests of farmers.
I welcome the opportunity to reply shortly to both the Minister of Agriculture and the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson). I want particularly to fasten at once on the peroration of the speech of the Minister of Agriculture when he described the activities of my right hon. and hon. Friends today as "cynical and opportunistic"; cynical, no doubt, because he believes that we are intent upon endeavouring to take party advantage of the discontent of farmers.
The hon. Member for Motherwell at once nods in assent. I reply to him and the Minister at once.
I have only one industry in my constituency—farming. Certainly, two-thirds of the farming interest is agricultural and one-third is horticultural. I have no other industry and surely it cannot be cynical to represent in the House of Commons what I described in an intervention in the speech of the hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Gardner) as the seething discontent of Worcestershire farmers. They have sent me here charged with that discontent, to express it on their behalf, discontent as to prices, discontent as to taxation, discontent as to exorbitant interest rates, discontent as to curtailment of credit, discontent as to a deluge of cheap, foreign, dumped produce on the British market. These are their legitimate grievances.
As for "opportunistic"; the right hon. Member for Anglesey (Mr. Cledwyn Hughes) has been in the House for a relatively short while, but I spent the whole of the 1950s and a substantial part of the 1960s endeavouring to explain to Governments first and to my farming interests second how an Annual Price Review is impressed upon the House of Commons without prior debate or debate in retrospection, save only by a Motion of censure by the Opposition. This is certainly the first time since 1950 and, I believe, the first time since the war, that the Price Review has been debated in depth before the Review has occurred.
I am glad to have the confirmation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber).
How can it be opportunistic—a ghastly word; I doubt that it exists in an English dictionary, but as the right hon. Gentleman used it, I will repeat it—for my right hon. and hon. Friends and I to come here today to repeat our grievances on behalf of the farmers?
In the couple of minutes available to me I will deal with the hon. Member for Motherwell. In one passage in his speech he said proudly that he represented steel workers and coal miners. Good luck to him! I wish that I did. But I represent farmers and they are the salt of the earth.
It used to be carpet workers, but, through a disability lasting only a few weeks, I had to change my constituency; but that is for the benefit of the House as well as my constituents.
I was about to say that farmers and farm workers in Worcestershire would get along without the coal and without the steel produced in the hon. Member's constituency, but his steel workers and his coal miners would not get along and do a day's work without a bellyful of good Worcestershire food. Food takes priority and is is more important.
However, if the hon. Member wants to talk about prices, I will give him a little dose of his own medicine. Lord Robens conveniently arranged for the price of coal to go up by 10 per cent. from 1st January, notwithstanding all the exhortations by the right hon. Lady the Secretary of State for Employment and Productivity to keep prices stable. As for steel; the hon. Member has not even read the tape tonight.
I am not giving way, so the hon. Member need not get ants in his pants; I have only two minutes and he took too long anyway.
If he had read the tape, he would have seen that steel prices are to rise tomorrow by 11 to 13 per cent. Coal is to go up by 10 per cent. and steel is to go up by 11 to 13 per cent. The seamen are asking for a 50 per cent. rise; the policemen are asking for 14 per cent.; the nurses for 22 per cent.; building workers are getting 26 per cent. I could go on through this whole catalogue of price rises, this roaring inflation set in train by devaluation by the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues. Why should not the farmers participate by increases in the price of food? All their costs have risen mightily. Their nett income in aggregate has remained almost static since the Labour Party took office. The latest published figure—even that is subject to confirmation—for 1968–69, is £472 million. The N.F.U. is asking for £650 million.
I will not comment on whether the increase is too large or too small, but I have formed the opinion that the prices of all review commodities should be advanced by 5s. in the £ to recoup farmers for their losses, for their increases in costs in the last two years and for their prospective increases in costs in the next 12 months. In other words, there should be a 25 per cent. advance in review commodities, and I direct that comment particularly to the hon. Member for Berwick and East Lothian (Mr. Mackintosh) who may be an agricultural economist and a professorial academic in agricultural matters, but who, if he had to live in the muck and manure of agriculture, might begin to understand these matters.
Yes, I do. I live in the middle of it, in the Vale of Evesham and that is why I understand the dilemma of the farmers I represent.
Although the horticulturist is probably even worse off than the farmer, we have not heard a word about horticultural interests. Horticultural prices are utterly depressed. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy), the Joint Parliamentary Secretary, said that Evesham apples were not sold in Leith for 2d. a lb. But they were, and when I proved that to him he said that they were rotten apples. In fact, they were good Cox's Orange Pippins, well graded and packed.
Why in the Vale of Evesham or in Coventry and Birmingham are Californian radishes being sold today? We are exporting Rolls-Royce engines, Jaguar motor cars and every manner of sophisticated engineering product to the United States to earn dollars which we dissipate by buying Californian radishes. This is a splendid example for the schools of Bathos. This is a policy of import substitution in reverse, and I declaim it.
When the Prime Minister made his statement to the House in July, 1967, he said that we must balance our trade not only by achieving a real increase in the value of our exports but by having a real diminution in the value of our imports, a policy of import substitution. He brought the entire House of Commons back the following January, 1968, with a gust of propaganda and publicity to hear his crisis statement on economic affairs, but he did not mention agriculture or horticulture in that statement.
I asked about this earlier, and the right hon. Gentleman said, in effect, "If we can get more agricultural production at a reasonable price, we will arrange to do so". and he went on to agree that import substitution was important. But there has been no import substitution in agriculture or horticulture. There cannot be any simply because our prices are so utterly depressed.
I promise the Minister that when he stigmatised this debate by using the words "cynical" and "opportunistic" he started something. I assure him that those words will be used in every one of the 66 speeches that I shall deliver in the Worcestershire, South constituency in the forthcoming General Election to decimate the Labour candidate there, poor fellow, and to emphasise once again what I sincerely believe and about which I blew off to the farmers of Pershore, which is that we have today the worst Minister of Agriculture in history.
This debate is about the situation in farming about which everybody—apart from those, I suspect, comparatively few people who do not watch television, listen to the radio or read the newspapers—must know. It is a situation which has been brought about by the agricultural policy of the Government.
One or two hon. Gentlemen, and the Minister himself, have asked why we are having this debate just now. The Minister, as my hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) said, described it as cynical and opportunist, and an hon. Gentleman behind him said it was a stunt.
My hon. Friend the Member for Westmorland (Mr. Jopling) pointed out that this was one of the recommendations of the Select Committee, and one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite who were on that Committee have subscribed to that view. That alone was, possibly, a good reason. But, apart from that, if the House of Commons is to be in touch with the country at all—and heaven help us if we cease to be in touch—how could it fail to take note of the present situation, genuinely felt, with disturbances and unrest, in so many parts of the United Kingdom?
Hon. Gentlemen opposite may try, as they have tried, to deflect the arguments which we have put forward on the failure of their own policy by questioning the merits of the policy advanced by the Opposition. I remind the right hon. Gentleman that he never even moved his Amendment, let alone referred to it in his speech.
The fact remains that an agricultural industry which five years ago had an edifice is today virtually down to its bare foundations. The policy has failed in that production from the land of Britain has slumped since the Government took office. An increase of 3 per cent. per year in our day has been turned into one of 3 per cent. over the period since 1964, and that can fairly be described as nothing but failure. The Government's policy has had the effect of reducing the increase in net income, a figure which right hon. Gentlemen, particularly the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Scotland, were very shy of referring to in the debate last March. It has reduced the increase in net income from about £80 million in the last four reviews prior to the last general election to only £5 million over the four reviews since. That is not only a failure. It has been nothing short of a disaster. This is why the farmers are demonstrating today.
With great respect, this is a short debate, and I should like to continue, if the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me.
Farmers have had their ups and downs before, but never has the trough been so wide and so deep as it is just now. If I recall aright, the Secretary of State for Scotland had his effigy burnt in Kilmarnock after the 1965 Price Review.
Then the report in the agricultural Press must have been most erroneous, because there were headlines about it. I do not think that that had ever happened to a Secretary of State for Scotland before. But, at least, the Secretary of State can take pride in saying that he has not had to surround himself with members of the Special Branch and remove himself down the back stairs. Perhaps that is a treat still in store for him.
Never have such widespread demonstrations taken place as are taking place now.
The hon. Gentleman refers to demonstrations. I was at one of these demonstrations in Northampton, the biggest meeting I have ever seen in Northampton. The theme of the meeting was complaint against the N.F.U. for having betrayed the farming interests and for failing adequately to oppose the Conservative Government when they introduced the 1957 Act, which ruined agriculture. That was the whole attitude of that meeting.
With respect, that is not exactly what I believe to be the motive behind the demonstrations throughout the country.
The Government may ask themselves why all this should have happened. "Look at all the awards we have made", they say, "Why has this happened?" The Minister of Agriculture went through what he thought were many of the good ace cards which the Government had played during the last four years. Look at the awards: £10 million in 1965, £23 million in 1966, and so on up to the last one in 1969. But this gives us—I put this as a point of some interest to the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Lawson)—a classic example of the subsidy system no longer being the answer.
If one wants a classic example of that, one finds it in the hills and high ground. The subsidies have been raised substantially for that sector of the industry, yet incomes have been falling steadily. It is, therefore, an entirely negative and unworthwhile operation.
The general malaise from which the industry is suffering stems from the fact—here, my assessment is entirely different from that of the hon. Member for Norfolk, North (Mr. Hazell)—that the profits and the returns which are given on capital still vary widely from one farm to another, and we shall never level this out entirely. I entirely agree with what has been said about the difficulties of small farms, and I add to that the great difficulties of hill farms. But what is now especially alarming is that the profits being made on any farm, be it small or large and no matter how well run, are not high enough to enable tax to be paid, living expenses to be drawn, and plant and equipment improved and developed, without increasing the requirement for an overdraft.
Running expenses have got the better of us. When I say that, I am not looking at just a single year's figures. I went into my present farm exactly 12 years ago. By the end of the first six years, by dint of what I like to think was good management, I had managed to reduce expenditure on what I call, for want of a better expression, the power house of the farm, that is, the items without which the farm could not run—the wages, the upkeep of machinery, fuel costs, electricity costs and so on. All that I had managed to reduce in those first six years. Now, however, this group costs me £1,300 a year more than it did six years ago.
Farm costs are creeping mercilessly up by between 3 and 5 per cent. every year, stimulated by measures such as the Transport Act and what I think is the most pernicious of all taxes, the S.E.T. Although it is true that farmers get a refund of the S.E.T., nearly all the services, machinery repairs, foodstuff merchants, and so on, are subject to it, and our costs have therefore been driven up. Haulage rates in the Edinburgh area for livestock were raised by 15 per cent. in October last, and another rise of l2½ per cent. has just been announced. If that is not adding appalling burdens on costs to the industry, I do not know what is.
I believe that I am typical of many farmers, and therefore I might perhaps say to the House what I said to an audience of young farmers the other night. I find it extremely difficult to see how, if I had not had a parliamentary salary during the last few years, I would still be farming what is admittedly not one of the easiest or the most productive of farms, although I believe that there are hundreds of farms which are less good. I could not have avoided hitting my head against the overdraft ceiling imposed upon the banks by the Treasury.
This is why there is the very disturbing situation that many farms on each side of the Firth of Forth are for sale, but they are not being advertised, because, if they were, the creditors would move in very quickly. This is a most alarming situation. My hon. Friend the Member for Fife, East (Sir J. Gilmour) said that he hoped the Government were alive to this situation. The hon. Member for Norfolk, North assured us that they were. This is not the Victorian melodrama which the right hon. Gentleman said it was when the situation was described to him in Committee. That is what he alleged it to be, and it is doubly devastating when the Ministers who are responsible for this industry either do not or dare not know the truth.
I believe that the root cause of almost all the difficulty is that I have my doubts about whether the Government really believe in expanding agriculture at home. If they do believe in it, imports must be reduced. Nothing but chaos results if the Government call for an increase in production, and at the same time bring in the same amount of imports, or even increase them. Does the right hon. Gentleman believe, as does Mr. Catherwood, who a month or two ago, in the best speech that I have ever heard from an industrialist, that import saving is essential to the balance of payments, and that agriculture can make a huge contribution to it?
My hon. Friend the Member for Worcestershire, South said that there had been no import substitution. How right he is. What makes me so doubtful about the Government's belief is to hear the hon. Member for Enfield, East (Mr. John Mackie) admitting that temporate food imports have increased by 17 per cent. in value over nine months of this year compared with nine months last year. There is no import substitution there. The right hon. Member for Edinburgh, Leith (Mr. Hoy) confirmed the view, which was expressed by the Secretary of State in the debate on 31st March, that we must always keep our eye on exports. This makes me more than doubtful whether the views of the "little Neddy" and the Select Committee have not fallen on Government ears which are totally and absolutely deaf.
On the radio on Saturday morning, I listened to a discussion on the problem of import-saving or export-winning and which was the more important. One of those taking part said:
It is really a question of deciding whether Great Britain is to be an agricultural or an industrial nation.
[An HON. MEMBER: "What nonsense."] Of course, it is nothing like a question of that kind. It is a question as to whether it makes sense to spend as much as £800 million on importing food which we could grow here, the bulk of it from countries with which we have a deficit every year of over £400 million and which do not, I believe, and will not, buy our motor cars because we buy their bacon or butter but which will buy our motor cars or our aircraft only if we can meet other competitors in price and delivery date. That is the reason for those countries from which we buy our food, buying our exports.
Is there not a very strong case for an increase in home production and a consequent drop in imports? The "little Neddy" thinks so, the Select Committee thinks so and we certainly think so, but we do not think that the Treasury can take on the additional burden which the cost of expansion on this scale under the present deficiency payment system would impose. I absolutely agree with the comment made by the Leader of the Liberal Party that probably in all this the Treasury is, if I may use the word without getting into trouble with the Race Relations Board, the nigger in the woodpile.
Hence comes our determination that prices in the market, in conjunction with dm production grants, must be good enough to meet the increased production which the nation needs. Not only shall we thereby give our balance of payments the best of all tonics, but we shall be able to cut public expenditure and taxation as well.
Of course, there will be increased cost of food, and we have not sought to deny this—2 per cent. a year over three years, coupled with tax reductions and social benefits, compared with a rise of 7 per cent. since devaluation plus swingeing tax increases as well. That is the contrast. A marginal increase of 2 per cent. a year would be well worth while when looked at beside the benefits to the balance of payments.
The right hon. Gentleman has told of the Labour record on higher prices. I would only add this. No one who has subscribed to our application to enter the E.E.C. has any right to cavil at the market increases which are spelt out here.
I wonder whether the Secretary of State for Scotland will recall a debate in which he took part in the Scottish Grand Committee. I dare say he does because it was the first time, I think he told me, that he had made a speech on agriculture, and it was in 1960. The right hon. Gentleman said two things which, I thought, were interesting and relevant to today. He said:
We are dealing with a serious subject, because Scottish farmers do not get upset over nothing.
I think Scottish agriculture is in a pretty healthy position."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Scottish Grand Committee, 28th June, 1960; c. 108–115.]
That was back in 1960.
Anxiety among the farming community, both north and south of the Border, and, I suspect, in Northern Ireland as well, is more deep-seated and wider spread than I have ever known it. But farmers, as everyone knows, are the greatest optimists in the world. They always have to be. They will already have observed one growing patch of brightness in the clouds above them. They know as well as we do that the Government's time is running out, that this will probably be their last Review. As we do, they give profound thanks that this is so.
I was beginning to enjoy the speech of the hon. Member for Edinburgh, West (Mr. Stodart), especially when he referred to a speech which I had made in 1960. I have not checked it, but he will appreciate that in 1958–59 the net farm income was £333 million, or exactly £16 million less than it had been in 1952–53. I presume that it was good Tory management which led to that increase.
As for wishing on the Scottish farmers a new Administration and Secretary of State, I am sure that that remark will alarm them. I can assure the hon. Gentleman that they did not burn me in effigy in 1965. There was a certain amount of wonderment in the streets of Kilmarnock then when they saw lorries passing through bearing the slogan, "Peart must go". They had not a clue who "Peart" was.
Their concern and the concern of Scotland is always with the Secretary of State. I think that they showed commendable discretion in not saying, "Ross must go". A year later there was a General Election and my majority rose considerably. So the hon. Gentleman had better not remind us of these things. [Interruption.] No, I have only 18 minutes in which to wind up, so I hope that there will be no interventions.
The hon. Member referred to the timing of the debate. I, and, I am sure, everybody on this side, welcomes an agriculture debate. Indeed, I have often referred jocularly to the price review having started a little early this year. Normally, we have a debate some time in the month of December. But the right hon. Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) said that this debate and its timing is unprecedented.
When hon. Gentlemen ask for figures which cannot possibly be made available, for the simple reason that, in our negotiations with the farmers, we deal with figures which are as up to date as possible, which are being processed at present and which have not yet been agreed, they are asking a little too much, especially since notice of this debate was only given towards the end of last week.
The hon. Member quoted some facts about food prices, implying certain devastating things about us, and said that we should not object to his proposals raising food prices by 6 per cent. The answer given last week was that, during the years of Tory administration, food prices rose by an average of 3·5 per cent per year, as against 4·1 per cent. during our years. Therefore, what we are arguing about is that there are inflationary trends, which have been there a long time. No doubt, if there were a change of Administration, they would continue. But what he is proposing is to raise prices, over and above those inflationary trends, by 6 per cent.
Many people who have studied the right hon. Gentleman's proposals have asked whether he has made adequate allowance for, say, margins in distribution as large as the increases. These are questions which cannot readily be resolved.
The hon. Member suggested that there had been reports of an increasing number of bankruptcies in the past year. The Sunday Times said that there had been five times the number of bankruptcies. The Board of Trade has not yet analysed the figures for the final quarter of 1969, but in the first three-quarters there were 138 bankruptcies compared with 174 in the whole of 1968 and 232 in 1967. There is no indication of an increase, so that, again, the hon. Member's figures are wrong.
One of the difficulties about discussing agricultural policy is that we tend to talk about agriculture generally as one industry when in fact there are contained in it six, seven, eight or even nine industries. These are sections of the industry which look upon themselves as quite separate. Meat and livestock regards itself as one industry, and within it the sheep industry looks upon itself as completely separate. The same remark is true about cereals. The hon. Member for Worcestershire, South (Sir G. Nabarro) complained of a failure by the Minister to mention horticulture. But horticulture was not in the Motion, so that the hon. Member must blame not us but his right hon. Friends. There is usually a lack of communication between him and his Front Bench.
Even when we examine a section of the industry—sheep or meat and livestock or cereals or potatoes, for example—we find that, geographically, different conditions apply even within one year. One section of the industry can be doing very well while another is doing badly. That is one of the difficulties about producing general policies which will benefit everyone.
Trends last year and the previous year which are bound to affect incomes disastrously included the disastrously bad weather at particular times of the year in certain parts of the country. The hon. Member for Horncastle (Mr. Tapsell) spoke about that. He will appreciate that we could have the best Price Review in the world, but if the weather were such that the potato crop rotted in the ground, he could not hold the Government responsible, or its pricing policy responsible, for that—and it has happened in some parts of the country. It happened to the sheep industry in Scotland in 1966–67.
If the hon. Member knew anything about the facts of farming he would appreciate that no Government can guarantee a farmer against bad weather which affects his planting, growing or harvesting. No Government in the world can guarantee a farmer against the effect of that disaster which hit agriculture in England and Wales the year before last—foot-and-mouth disease.
This is one of the difficulties about the right hon. Gentleman's selective statistics on farming incomes. Unless he wants The Government to accept responsibility for the weather, such selections of farm incomes are nonsense. He knows that had he taken as his base year 1963–64 and compared it with the previous year, he would have found in one year under the Tory rule a drop in farm incomes of about £39 million. All this is so much nonsense.
I want to say something about the Scottish position, because generally speaking Scottish farmers over the past two years have had far better weather conditions than those in the south—something which anyone booking a holiday should remember. That was despite the cold and late spring of 1969. To this extent they have been more fortunate than English farmers, and the harvest in 1969, particularly in main cropping areas, went exceptionally smoothly. Many people have never known such a harvest.
The Scottish cereal acreage in 1969 fell marginally, yields were above average, and cereal production was 1,691,000 tons, or an increase of 8 per cent. on the previous year. The hon. Member for Edinburgh, West knows that. The potato acreage declined by 12 per cent., but yields were above average and production was only 9 per cent. lower. Prices have been much higher than in 1968 so that the value of the potato crop in Scotland is estimated to be £3,500,000 higher than last year. The hon. Gentleman should be pleased to have these figures.
In Scotland there has been a particularly encouraging increase in beef cattle. The December 1969 census indicates an increase of 8 per cent. in the breeding herd and 9 per cent. in the total number of beef cattle. The hon. Gentleman never mentioned that. The number of young calves slaughtered is estimated at 65,000 this year compared with 80,000 last year, indicating that more animals are being reared for beef. These figures suggest that beef production should increase in the next year or two, in line with the selective expansion programme.
As to sheep, the hon. Gentleman should know that during the four or five years of his Government there was a squeeze on the sheep industry. We have barely recovered from that. That, together with the rise in barley, means a completely changed pattern in respect of rearing and fattening of sheep. The fall there has been in fattening in the Lowland areas. What we have been doing, with a certain measure of success, is trying to get more fattening in the upland areas. To that extent we have shaped our policies.
Pigs in Scotland in 1969 reached a record level of over 600,000; the June returns show an increase of 9 per cent. above the previous year and the December returns show an increase of 3 per cent. The expansion has been particularly noticeable in the North-East.
The credit squeeze applied to every section of industry in the country and we cannot completely exempt agriculture from it.
I have certain interesting figures in respect of the take-up of capital grants in Scotland which seem to belie the despairing picture painted by some people. Investment in farm buildings and other improvements is running at a high level, and the figures for the main capital grants scheme show a rising trend in recent years, including last year. This is borne out by greater expenditure in Scotland. The Scottish estimate for the farm improvement scheme is £2·64 million compared with expenditure of £1·77 million in 1968–69. This is an indication of the kind of improvement on which expansion is to be based. For the hill land improvement scheme, the corresponding figures are £600,000 this year compared with £226,000 the year before. There is nothing wrong with investment.
Now I want to come to Joseph, with his coat of many colours. The right hon. Gentleman has so much confidence in this that for every paragraph he has a cover. He gives nothing in this pamphlet. In fact, what are the last words? In "Conclusions", we read:
But it is not a blueprint for the proposed changeover. We have already taken advice from people throughout the industry, and we shall hold full discussions before proceeding to implement it.
It is even better in page 14:
Should we discover that the problems posed by any particular commodity are not soluble at that time through a levy system"—
I thought that he had it all worked out—
then we shall maintain the deficiency payments in their present form for that commodity as long as they may be required.
Who is to determine whether there is a problem? Is it to be the farmer? This is all Mark III. The right hon. Gentleman went to the farmers purely on the levy scheme—they threw it out. He went back and suggested support buying—they threw it out. So he comes back with this suggestion, and he has every conceivable variation and possibility in it. Is he to run two separate administrative schemes, one for levies and target prices and one for deficiency payments? That smacks of firm government, does it not?
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite just do not know. It is just not on, and the right hon. Gentleman himself knows it. The position is, I think, put rightly in an article in The Times this morning.
As one who has always considered the mechanism of agricultural support in Britain or in Europe much less important than the price level at which it is supposed to operate. I took up that point with Mr. Godber recently. I was not surprised to find that it had also occurred to at least one of his farming audiences and that he was not prepared to commit himself on it in advance.
The point is, at what rate is his target price to be added? How high is it to be? He tells us, in order to cover certain aspects of tax, savings, and so on, that
it will be fairly high. The present guaranteed price in respect of beef is 215s. per cwt. That means that the market price ranges from about 185s. to about 190s. It means that in order to cover what he says the right hon. Gentleman himself must have a target price of about 30s. or 40s. above that. It means, too, that according to the market they will never reach it. Does he think that by a reduction of imports of 1 per cent. a year he will give all these guarantees to the farmers? He says that there is a guaranteed price, but where is the guaranteed price to be? He does not tell us that, but we know pretty well that it will be low. The target price will be on the floor. If it is near the target price that the farmers would like, he cannot make the savings that the Treasury demands from him.
This is it. Right hon. and hon. Members opposite have not got over the trauma of 1960–61 when we had a Supplementary Estimate of about £80 million or £90 million—[HON. MEMBERS: "£70 million."]—but with the addition of
other estimates it was over £100 million. They have not got over that. What they started to do was to save the taxpayer. They did not mind about the consumer or the farmer. Now they say, "We are mindful of the farmer. We shall pass all the cost to the consumer". The right hon. Gentleman is throwing aside a reasonable system that can give stability in markets for uncertainty and taking us back to the chaos in agriculture into which the Tories led us—
|Division No. 51.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Concannon, J. D.||Foley, Maurice|
|Albu, Austen||Conlan, Bernard||Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Ford, Ben|
|Alldritt, Walter||Crawshaw, Richard||Forrester, John|
|Allen, Scholefield||Cronin, John||Fowler, Gerry|
|Anderson, Donald||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Fraser, John (Norwood)|
|Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard||Freeson, Reginald|
|Ashley, Jack||Dalyell, Tam||Galpern, Sir Myer|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Darling, Rt. Hn, George||Gardner, Tony|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)||Garrett, W. E.|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)||Ginsburg, David|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)||Golding, John|
|Bagier, Gordon A. T.||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)||Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.|
|Barnes, Michael||Davies, Ifor (Gower)||Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)|
|Barnett, Joel||Delargy, H. J.||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Bence, Cyril||Dell, Edmund||Gregory, Arnold|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Dempsey, James||Grey, Charles (Durham)|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Dewar, Donald||Griffiths, Eddie (Brightside)|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John||Griffiths, Will (Exchange)|
|Binns, John||Dickens, James||Gunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Dobson, Ray||Hamilton, James (Bothwell)|
|Blackburn, F.||Doig, Peter||Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)|
|Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Driberg, Tom||Hamling, William|
|Booth, Albert||Dunn, James A.||Hannan, William|
|Boston, Terence||Dunnett, Jack||Harper, Joseph|
|Bottomley Rt. Hn. Arthur||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)||Harrison, Waiter (Wakefield)|
|Boyden, James||Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Haseldine, Norman|
|Bradley, Tom||Eadie, Alex||Hattersley, Roy|
|Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Hazell, Bert|
|Brooks, Edwin||Ellis, John||Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis|
|Broughton, Sir Alfred||English, Michael||Henig, Stanley|
|Ennals, David||Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret|
|Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Ensor, David||Hilton, W. S.|
|Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Hooley, Frank|
|Brown, Bob (N'c'tle-upon-Tyne, W.)||Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas|
|Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Evans, Ioan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)|
|Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Faulds, Andrew||Howell, Denis (Small Heath)|
|Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Fernyhough, E.||Howie, W.|
|Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Hoy, Rt. Hn. James|
|Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Huckfield, Leslie|
|Carlisle, Mark||Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)|
|Castle, Rt Hn. Barbara||Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Rose, Paul|
|Hunter, Adam||Maxwell, Robert||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Hynd, John||Mayhew, Christopher||Rowlands, E.|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||Mellish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Ryan, John|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Mendelson, John||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Mikardo, Ian||Sheldon, Robert|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Millan, Bruce||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Molloy, William||Silverman Julius|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Moonman, Eric||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Slater, Joseph|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)|
|Judd, Frank||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Small, William|
|Kelley, Richard||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, W.)|
|Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Murray, Albert||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Neal, Harold||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Latham, Arthur||Newens, Stan||Swain, Thomas|
|Lawson, George||Norwood, Christopher||Taverne, Dick|
|Leadbitter, Ted||Oakes, Gordon||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Ogden, Eric||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||O'Halloran, Michael||Thornton, Ernest|
|Lee, John (Reading)||Oram, Albert E.||Tinn, James|
|Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Orme, Stanley||Tomney, Frank|
|Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Oswald, Thomas||Tuck, Raphael|
|Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'[...])||Urwin, T. W.|
|Lipton, Marcus||Padley, Walter||Varley, Eric G.|
|Lomas, Kenneth||Paget, R. T.||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Valley)|
|Loughlin, Charles||Palmer, Arthur||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Luard, Evan||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|McBride, Neil||Pavitt, Laurence||Weitzman, David|
|McCann, John||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)||Wellbeloved, James|
|MacColl, James||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|MacDermot, Niall||Pentland, Norman||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Macdonald, A. H.||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, S.)||Whitaker, Ben|
|McElhone, Frank||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|McGuire, Michael||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)||Whitlock, William|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Price, William (Rugby)||Willey, Rt. Hn. Frederick|
|Mackie, John||Probert, Arthur||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Mackintosh, John P.||Randall, Harry||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Rankin, John||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Rees, Merlyn||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|McNamara, J. Kevin||Richard, Ivor||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|MacPherson, Malcolm||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy||Woof, Robert|
|Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, S.)||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Manuel, Archie||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Mapp, Charles||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St. P'c'as)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Marks, Kenneth||Rodgers, William (Stockton)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry and|
|Marquand, David||Roebuck, Roy||Mr. Ernest Armstrong.|
|Marsh, Rt. Hn. Richard||Rogers, George (Kensington, N.)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Brewis, John||Crouch, David|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Brinton, Sir Tatton||Crowder, F. P.|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Bromley-Davenport, Lt.-Col. Sir Walter||Cunningham, Sir Knox|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Currie, G. B. H.|
|Astor, John||Bruce-Gardyne, J.||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Bryan, Paul||Dance, James|
|Awdry, Daniel||Buchanan-Smith, Alick(Angus, N&M)||Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Buck, Antony (Colchester)||d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry|
|Raker, W. H. K. (Banff)||Bullus, Sir Eric||Dean, Paul|
|Balniel, Lord||Burden, F. A,||Deedes. Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)|
|Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Dodds-Parker, Douglas|
|Batsford, Brian||Campbell, Cordon (Moray & Nairn)||Donnelly, Desmond|
|Bell, Ronald||Carlisle, Mark||Doughty, Charles|
|Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Carr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec|
|Berry, Hn. Anthony||Cary, Sir Robert||Drayson, G. B.|
|Bessell, Peter||Channon, H. P. G.||du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward|
|Biffen, John||Chataway, Christopher||Eden, Sir John|
|Biggs-Davison, John||Chichester-Clark, R.||Elliot, Capt. Walter (Carshalton)|
|Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel||Clark, Henry||Emery, Peter|
|Black, Sir Cyril||Clegg, Walter||Errington, Sir Eric|
|Blaker, Peter||Cooke, Robert||Eyre, Reginald|
|Body, Richard||Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Fair, John|
|Bossom, Sir Clive||Cordle, John||Fisher, Nigel|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John||Corfield, F. V.||Fortescue, Tim|
|Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward||Costain, A. P.||Foster, Sir John|
|Braine, Bernard||Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugr(St'fford & Stone)|
|Fry, Peter||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Galbraith, Hn. T. G.||Longden, Gilbert||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Lubbock, Eric||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Glovnr, Sir Douglas||MacArthur, Ian||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Mackenzie, Alasdair(Ross & Crom'ty)||Royle, Anthony|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Goodhart, Philip||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Scott, Nicholas|
|Good hew, Victor||McMaster, Stanley||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Cower, Raymond||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Sharpies, Richard|
|Grant, Anthony||McNair-Wilson, Michael||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||Silvester, Frederick|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Maddan, Martin||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Grieve, Percy||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Grimond, Rt Hn. J.||Marten, Neil||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Maude, Angus||Speed, Keith|
|Hall-Davis, A. G. F.||Maudling, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Stainton, Keith|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Mawby, Ray|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Stodart, Anthony|
|Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Harvie Anderson, Miss||Miscampbell, Norman||Tapsell, Peter|
|Hastings, Stephen||Monro, Hector||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Hawkins, Paul||Montgomery, Fergus||Taylor, Edward M.(G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Hay, John||Morgan, Geraint (Denbigh)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Temple, John M.|
|Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Heseltine, Michael||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Higgins, Terence L.||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Tilney, John|
|Hiley, Joseph||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Hill, J. E. B.||Neave, Airey||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wadding ton, David|
|Holland, Philip||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Hordern, Peter||Nott, John||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Hornby, Richard||Onslow, Cranley||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Howell, David (Guildford)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Wall, Patrick|
|Hutchison, Michael Clark||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Iremonger, T. L.||Osborn, John (Hallam)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Page, Graham (Crosby)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Page, John (Harrow, W.)||Welts, John (Maidstone)|
|Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Pardon, John||Whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Johnson Smith, G. (E. Grinstead)||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Jopling, Michael||Percival, Ian||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Peyton, John||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Kaberry, Sir Donald||Pike, Miss Mervyn||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Kerby, Capt. Henry||Pink, R. Bonner||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Kershaw, Anthony||Pounder, Rafton||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Kimball, Marcus||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch||Worsley, Marcus|
|Kitson, Timothy||Price, David (Eastleigh)||Wright, Esmond|
|Knight, Mrs. Jill||Pym, Francis||Wylie, N. R.|
|Lambton, Viscount||Quennell, Miss J. M.||Younger, Hn. George|
|Lancaster, Col. C G.||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Lane, David||Rees-Davies, W. R.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Langford-Holt, Sir John||Ronton, Rt. Hn. Sir David||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon||Mr. Jasper More.|
|Division No. 52.]||AYES||[11.13 p.m.|
|Abse, Leo||Boardman, H. (Leigh)||Crawshaw, Richard|
|Albu, Austen||Booth, Albert||Cronin, John|
|Allaun, Frank (Salford, E.)||Boston, Terence||Crosland, Rt. Hn. Anthony|
|Alldritt, Walter||Bottomley, Rt. Hn. Arthur||Crossman, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Allen, Scholefield||Boyden, James||Daly ell, Tam|
|Anderson, Donald||Bradley, Tom||Davidson, Arthur (Accrington)|
|Archer, Peter (R'wley Regis & Tipt'n)||Bray, Dr. Jeremy||Davies, E. Hudson (Conway)|
|Ashley, Jack||Brooks, Edwin||Davies, G. Elfed (Rhondda, E.)|
|Ashton, Joe (Bassetlaw)||Broughton, Sir Alfred||Davies, Dr. Ernest (Stretford)|
|Atkins, Ronald (Preston, N.)||Brown, Rt. Hn. George (Belper)||Davies, Ifor (Cower)|
|Atkinson, Norman (Tottenham)||Brown, Hugh D. (G'gow, Provan)||Delargy, H. J.|
|Bacon, Rt. Hn. Alice||Brown, Bob (N' c' tie -upon-Tyne, W.)||Dell, Edmund|
|Bagier, Cordon A. T.||Brown, R. W. (Shoreditch & F'bury)||Dempsey, James|
|Barnes, Michael||Buchanan, Richard (G'gow, Sp'burn)||Dewar, Donald|
|Barnett, Joel||Butler, Herbert (Hackney, C.)||Diamond, Rt. Hn. John|
|Bence, Cyril||Butler, Mrs. Joyce (Wood Green)||Dickens, James|
|Benn, Rt. Hn. Anthony Wedgwood||Callaghan, Rt. Hn. James||Dobson, Ray|
|Bennett, James (G'gow, Bridgeton)||Carmichael, Neil||Doig, Peter|
|Bidwell, Sydney||Castle, Rt. Hn. Barbara||Driberg, Tom|
|Rinns, John||Concannon, J. D.||Dunn, James A.|
|Bishop, E. S.||Conlan, Bernard||Dunnett, Jack|
|Blackburn, F.||Corbet, Mrs. Freda||Dunwoody, Mrs. Gwyneth (Exeter)|
|Dunwoody, Dr. John (F'th & C'b'e)||Kerr, Mrs. Anne (R'ter & Chatham)||Pavitt, Laurence|
|Eadie, Alex||Kerr, Dr. David (W'worth, Central)||Pearson, Arthur (Pontypridd)|
|Edwards, William (Merioneth)||Kerr, Russell (Feltham)||Peart, Rt. Hn. Fred|
|Ellis, John||Latham, Arthur||Pentland, Norman|
|English, Michael||Lawson, Ceorge||Perry, George H. (Nottingham, s.|
|Ennals, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Frederick (Newton)||Prentice, Rt. Hn. Reg.|
|Ensor, David||Lee, Rt. Hn. Jennie (Cannock)||Price, Christopher (Perry Barr)|
|Evans, Albert (Islington, S.W.)||Lee, John (Reading)||Price, Thomas (Westhoughton)|
|Evans, Fred (Caerphilly)||Lever, Rt. Hn. Harold (Cheetham)||Price, William (Rugby)|
|Evans, loan L. (Birm'h'm, Yardley)||Lewis, Arthur (W. Ham, N.)||Probert, Arthur|
|Faulds, Andrew||Lewis, Ron (Carlisle)||Randall, Harry|
|Fernyhough, E.||Lipton, Marcus||Rankin, John|
|Fitch, Alan (Wigan)||Lomas, Kenneth||Rees, Merlyn|
|Fetripr.Rt.Hn. Sir Eric (Islington, E.)||Loughlin, Charles||Richard, Ivor|
|Fletcher, Raymond (Ilkeston)||Luard, Evan||Roberts, Albert (Normanton)|
|Fletcher, Ted (Darlington)||Lyon, Alexander W. (York)||Roberts, Rt. Hn. Goronwy|
|Foley, Maurice||Lyons, Edward (Bradford, E.)||Roberts, Gwilym (Bedfordshire, s)|
|Foot, Michael (Ebbw Vale)||McBride, Neil||Robertson, John (Paisley)|
|Ford, Ben||McCann, John||Robinson, Rt. Hn. Kenneth (St.P'c'a)|
|Forrester, John||MacColl, James||Rodgers, William (Stockton)|
|Fowler, Gerry||MacDermot, Niall||Roebuck, Roy|
|Fraser, John (Norwood)||Macdonald, A. H.||Rose, Paul|
|Freeson, Reginald||McElhone, Frank||Ross, Rt. Hn. William|
|Galpern, Sir Myer||McGuire, Michael||Rowlands, E.|
|McKay, Mrs. Margaret||Ryan, John|
|Gardner, Tony||Mackenzie, Gregor (Rutherglen)||Shaw, Arnold (Ilford, S.)|
|Garrett, W. E.||Mackie, John||Sheldon, Robert|
|Ginshurg, David||Mackintosh, John P.||Shore, Rt. Hn. Peter (Stepney)|
|Golding, John||MacMillan, Malcolm (Western Isles)||Short, Rt. Hn. Edward (N'c'tle-u-Tyne)|
|Gordon Walker, Rt. Hn. P. C.||McMillan, Tom (Glasgow, C.)||Silkin, Rt. Hn. John (Deptford)|
|Gray, Dr. Hugh (Yarmouth)||McNamara, J. Kevin||Silverman, Julius|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Anthony||MacPherson, Malcolm||Skeffington, Arthur|
|Gregory, Arnold||Mahon, Peter (Preston, S.)||Slater, Joseph|
|Grey, Charles (Durham)||Mallalieu, J.P.W. (Huddersfield, E.)||Small, William|
|Griffiths, Erldie (Brightside)||Manuel, Archie||Spriggs, Leslie|
|Griffiths, Will (Exchange)||Mapp, Charles||Steele, Thomas (Dunbartonshire, 1|
|Cunter, Rt. Hn. R. J.||Marks, Kenneth|
|Hamilton, James (Bothwell)||Marquand, David||Stonehouse, Rt. Hn. John|
|Hamilton, William (Fife, W.)||Marsh, Rt. Hn, Richard||Strauss, Rt. Hn. G. R.|
|Hamling, William||Mason, Rt. Hn. Roy||Swain, Thomas|
|Hannan, William||Maxwell, Robert||Taverne, Dick|
|Harper, Joseph||Mayhew, Christopher||Thomas, Rt. Hn. George|
|Harrison, Walter (Wakefield)||Mcllish, Rt. Hn. Robert||Thomson, Rt. Hn. George|
|Haseldine, Norman||Mendelson, John||Thornton, Ernest|
|Hattersley, Roy||Mikardo, Ian||Tinn, James|
|Hazell, Bert||Millan, Bruce||Tuck, Raphael|
|Healey, Rt. Hn. Denis||Milne, Edward (Blyth)||Urwin, T. W.|
|Henig, Stanley||Mitchell, R. C. (S'th'pton, Test)||Varley, Eric G.|
|Herbison, Rt. Hn. Margaret||Molloy, William||Wainwright, Edwin (Dearne Vail|
|Hilton, W. S.||Moonman, Eric||Walden, Brian (All Saints)|
|Hooley, Frank||Morgan, Elystan (Cardiganshire)||Walker, Harold (Doncaster)|
|Houghton, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Morris, Alfred (Wythenshawe)||Watkins, David (Consett)|
|Howarth, Robert (Bolton, E.)||Morris, Charles R. (Openshaw)||Watkins, Tudor (Brecon & Radnor)|
|Howell, Denis (Small Heath)||Morris, John (Aberavon)||Weitzman, David|
|Howie, W.||Moyle, Roland||Wellbeloved, James|
|Hoy, Rt. Hn. James||Mulley, Rt. Hn. Frederick||Wells, William (Walsall, N.)|
|Huckfield, Leslie||Murray, Albert||Whitaker, Ben|
|Hughes, Rt. Hn. Cledwyn (Anglesey)||Neal, Harold||White, Mrs. Eirene|
|Hughes, Hector (Aberdeen, N.)||Newens, Stan||Whitlock, William|
|Hughes, Roy (Newport)||Norwood, Christopher||Wilkins, W. A.|
|Hunter, Adam||Oakes, Gordon||Williams, Alan (Swansea, W.)|
|Hynd, John||Ogden, Eric||Williams, Clifford (Abertillery)|
|Irvine, Sir Arthur (Edge Hill)||O'Halloran, Michael||Williams, Mrs. Shirley (Hitchin)|
|Jackson, Peter M. (High Peak)||Oram, Albert E.||Willis, Rt. Hn. George|
|Janner, Sir Barnett||Orme, Stanley||Wilson, William (Coventry, S.)|
|Jay, Rt. Hn. Douglas||Oswald, Thomas||Woodburn, Rt. Hn. A.|
|Jenkins, Hugh (Putney)||Owen, Dr. David (Plymouth, S'tn)||Woof, Robert|
|Jenkins, Rt. Hn. Roy (Stechford)||Padley, Walter||Wyatt, Woodrow|
|Johnson, Carol (Lewisham, S.)||Paget, R. T.|
|Jones, Rt. Hn. Sir Elwyn (W. Ham, S.)||Palmer, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES:|
|Jones, J. Idwal (Wrexham)||Pannell, Rt. Hn. Charles||Mr. Ernest Armstrong and|
|Jones, T. Alec (Rhondda, West)||Parker, John (Dagenham)||Mr. Ernest G. Perry|
|Judd, Frank||Parkyn, Brian (Bedford)|
|Alison, Michael (Barkston Ash)||Balniel, Lord||Birch, Rt. Hn. Nigel|
|Allason, James (Hemel Hempstead)||Barber, Rt. Hn. Anthony||Black, Sir Cyril|
|Amery, Rt. Hn. Julian||Batsford, Brian||Blaker, Peter|
|Archer, Jeffrey (Louth)||Bell, Ronald||Body, Richard|
|Astor, John||Bennett, Dr. Reginald (Gos. & Fhm)||Bossom, Sir Clive|
|Atkins, Humphrey (M't'n & M'd'n)||Berry, Hn. Anthony||Boyd-Carpenter, Rt. Hn. John|
|Awdry, Daniel||Bessell, Peter||Boyle, Rt. Hn. Sir Edward|
|Baker, Kenneth (Acton)||Biffen, John||Braine, Bernard|
|Baker, [...]. H. K. (Banff)||Biggs-Davison, John||Brewis, John|
|Brinton, Sir Tatton||Harrison, Brian (Maldon)||Osborn, John (Hallam)|
|Bromley-Davenport, Lt. -Col. Sir Walter||Harvey, Sir Arthur Vere||Page, Graham (Crosby)|
|Brown, Sir Edward (Bath)||Harvie Anderson, Miss||Page, John (Harrow, W.)|
|Bruce-Ganlyne, J.||Hastings, Stephen||Pardoe, John|
|Bryan, Paul||Hawkins, Paul||Pearson, Sir Frank (Clitheroe)|
|Buchanan-Smith, Alick (Angus, N & M)||Hay, John||Percival, Ian|
|Buck, Antony (Colchester)||Heald, Rt. Hn. Sir Lionel||Peyton, John|
|Bullus, Sir Eric||Heath, Rt. Hn. Edward||Pike, Miss Mervyn|
|Burden, F. A.||Heseltine, Michael||Pink, R. Bonner|
|Campbell, B. (Oldham, W.)||Higgins, Terence L.||Pounder, Rafton|
|Campbell, Gordon (Moray & Nairn)||Hiley, Joseph||Powell, Rt. Hn. J. Enoch|
|Carlisle, Mark||Hill, J. E. B.||Price, David (Eastleigh)|
|Oarr, Rt. Hn. Robert||Hogg, Rt. Hn. Quintin||Pym, Francis|
|Gary, Sir Robert||Holland, Philip||Quennell, Miss J. M.|
|Channon, H. P. G.||Hordern, Peter||Rawlinson, Rt. Hn. Sir Peter|
|Hornby, Richard||Rees-Davies, W. R.|
|Chataway, Christopher||Howell, David (Guildford)||Renton, Rt. Hn. Sir David|
|Chichester-Clark, R.||Hutchison, Michael Clark||Rhys Williams, Sir Brandon|
|Clark, Henry||Iremonger, T. L.||Ridley, Hn. Nicholas|
|Clegg, Walter||Irvine, Bryant Godman (Rye)||Ridsdale, Julian|
|Cooke, Robert||Jenkin, Patrick (Woodford)||Rippon, Rt. Hn. Geoffrey|
|Cooper-Key, Sir Neill||Jennings, J. C. (Burton)||Rossi, Hugh (Hornsey)|
|Corille, John||Johnson Smith, C. (E. Grinstead)||Royle, Anthony|
|Corfield, F. V.||Jopling, Michael||Russell, Sir Ronald|
|Costain, A. P.||Joseph, Rt. Hn. Sir Keith||Scott, Nicholas|
|Craddock, Sir Beresford (Spelthorne)||Kaberry, Sir Donald||Scott-Hopkins, James|
|Crouch, David||Kerby, Capt. Henry||Sharpies, Richard|
|Crowder, F. P.||Kershaw, Anthony||Shaw, Michael (Sc'b'gh & Whitby)|
|Cunningham, Sir Knox||Kimball, Marcus||Silvester, Frederick|
|Currie, G. B. H.||Kitson, Timothy||Sinclair, Sir George|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Knight, Mrs. Jill||Smith, Dudley (W'wick & L'mington)|
|Dance, James||Lambton, Viscount||Smith, John (London & W'minster)|
|Davidson, James (Aberdeenshire, W.)||Lancaster, Col. C. G.||Speed, Keith|
|d'Avigdor-Goldsmid, Sir Henry||Lane, David||Stainton, Keith|
|Dean, Paul||Langford-Holt, Sir John||Stodart, Anthony|
|Deedes, Rt. Hn. W. F. (Ashford)||Legge-Bourke, Sir Harry||Stoddart-Scott, Col. Sir M.|
|Dodds-Parker, Douglas||Lewis, Kenneth (Rutland)||Summers, Sir Spencer|
|Donnelly, Desmond||Longden, Gilbert||Tapsell, Peter|
|Doughty, Charles||Lubbock, Eric||Taylor, Sir Charles (Eastbourne)|
|Douglas-Home, Rt. Hn. Sir Alec||MacArthur, Ian||Taylor, Edward M. (G'gow, Cathcart)|
|Drsyson, G. B.||Mackenzie, Alasdalr (Ross & Crom'ty)||Taylor, Frank (Moss Side)|
|du Cann, Rt. Hn. Edward||Maclean, Sir Fitzroy||Temple, John M.|
|Eden, Sir, John||Macleod, Rt. Hn. Iain||Thatcher, Mrs. Margaret|
|Elliot, Capt. waiter (Carshalton)||McMaster, Stanley||Thorpe, Rt. Hn. Jeremy|
|Emery, Peter||Macmillan, Maurice (Farnham)||Tilney, John|
|Errington, Sir Eric||McNair-Wilson, Patrick (New Forest)||van Straubenzee, W. R.|
|Eyre, Reginald||Maddan, Martin||Vaughan-Morgan, Rt. Hn. Sir John|
|Farr, John||Marples, Rt. Hn. Ernest||Waddington, David|
|Fisher, Nigel||Marten, Neil||Wainwright, Richard (Colne Valley)|
|Fortescue, Tim||Maude, Angus||Walker, Peter (Worcester)|
|Foster, Sir John||Maudlins, Rt. Hn. Reginald||Walker-Smith, Rt. Hn. Sir Derek|
|Fraser, Rt. Hn. Hugh (St'fford & Stone)||Mawby, Ray||Wall, Patrick|
|Fry, Peter||Maxwell-Hyslop, R. J.||Ward, Christopher (Swindon)|
|Galbraith, Hn. T, G.||Mills, Peter (Torrington)||Ward, Dame Irene|
|Gilmour, Sir John (Fife, E.)||Mills, Stratton (Belfast, N.)||Weatherill, Bernard|
|Glover, Sir Douglas||Miscampbell, Norman||Welts, John (Maidstone)|
|Glyn, Sir Richard||Monro, Hector||whitelaw, Rt. Hn. William|
|Godber, Rt. Hn. J. B.||Montgomery, Fergus||Wiggin, A. W.|
|Coodhart, Philip||Morgan, Ceraint (Denbigh)||Williams, Donald (Dudley)|
|Goodhew, Victor||Morgan-Giles, Rear-Adm.||Wilson, Geoffrey (Truro)|
|Cower, Raymond||Morrison, Charles (Devizes)||Winstanley, Dr. M. P.|
|Grant, Anthony||Mott-Radclyffe, Sir Charles||Wood, Rt. Hn. Richard|
|Grant-Ferris, Sir Robert||Munro-Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh||Woodnutt, Mark|
|Gresham Cooke, R.||Nabarro, Sir Gerald||Worsley, Marcus|
|Grieve, Percy||Neave, Airey||Wright, Esmond|
|Grimond, Rt. Hn. J.||Nicholls, Sir Harmar||Wylie, N. R.|
|Gulden, Harold||Noble, Rt. Hn. Michael||Younger, Hn. George|
|Hall, John (Wycombe)||Nott, John|
|Hail-Davis, A. G. F.||Onslow, Cranley||TELLERS FOR THE NOES:|
|Hamilton, Michael (Salisbury)||Orr, Capt. L. P. S.||Mr. R. W. Elliott and|
|Harris, Reader (Heston)||Orr-Ewing, Sir Ian||Mr. Jasper More.|