§ 39. Sir H. Harrison
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he will give the estimated acreage under barley and wheat in 1965.
§ Mr. John Mackie
I am unable to make any such estimates so early in the season, but the results of the 4th March agricultural census will become available in the second half of April.
§ Sir H. Harrison
Is the hon. Gentleman aware of the great upset among cereal growers in the Eastern Counties as the result of the action taken by his right hon. Friend in the Price Review, because they are contributing so much to the balance of payments, on which subject the Prime Minister has exhorted us to do so well, and yet on the other side his right Friend the Minister has done everything to discourage the cereal grower?
§ Mr. Mackie
I am certainly not aware of that. I am sure I can produce figures to show that the farmers are perfectly happy with the cut. I think that the Front Bench opposite will agree that my right hon. Friend had no option but to make the cut.
§ Mr. Prior
Is the hon. Gentleman aware that it is no good going on with this argument because since the General Election his party has signed agreements on exactly similar lines with foreign countries with regard to minimum import price arrangements? Will he say whether the Government could not have given a bigger increase in the standard quantity for wheat and barley, and as the consumption of grain was up by £1 million last year and the standard quantity has been increased by only £350,000, could not the Minister have increased it further?
§ Mr. Mackie
On the second part, we have raised the standard quantity. It may not be up to the estimate of last year's crop, but it is well up. We do not yet know whether the estimate is correct, anyway, and so I do not think the hon. Gentleman can quibble about it. As to the first part of the Question, it is not true that we are raising the subject all the time. But hon. Members opposite are. Anyway, it does not alter the fact that, whether we agree to it or not, the international agreements are there.
§ Mr. Sheldon
Is my hon. Friend aware that the amount of taxpayers' money given to subsidising cereals has been increasing and is now running at more than £70 million and is this not a considerable amount, even for so well organised a pressure group as we know is operating in this country?
§ Mr. Mackie
One should appreciate the increase. The estimate this year 566 showed, along with the White Paper, that the cause of the increase is that the acreage has increased and thus has the tonnage which farmers are growing.
§ Mr. Jopling
If the Minister finds that the estimate which he has made is not up to what we think it will be, will he increase the standard quantity to take up the difference; that is, if it is proved by the figures when we have them?