§ 11. Mr. Stodart
asked the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food on what basis he has assessed the efficiency factor in the last two Price Reviews at £30 million.
There is no precise calculation of the amount which the industry gains each year through increasing efficiency. The figure of £30 million, which relates to Review commodities only, was estimated at the 1966 Review in agreement with the Farmers' Unions. The method used was a broad assessment, taking one year with another, of the gain from increases in the physical productivity of farming and in the scale of operations.
§ Mr. Stodart
Is not this a very rough and ready method to apply to an industry of such greatly varied interests, ranging from the highly mechanised arable areas to production on the hills? Does the hon. Gentleman think that this increase can be absorbed by all sectors of the industry indefinitely?
§ Mr. Mackie
As I said, this affects only Review commodities and no other section of the industry. If the hon. Gentleman thinks this a rough and ready method, I remind him and his right hon. Friend the Member for Grantham (Mr. Godber) that they used it when they were in office so I do not see what the hon. Gentleman is carping about. He had 13 years to get it put right if he and his right hon. Friend did not like it. This has the agreement of the unions concerned, which were, of course, consulted, as is always the case. This has been the method for all these years and we see no great reason for changing it.
§ Mr. Godber
The hon. Gentleman clearly wants a comment from me. Will not he accept that the present Government have increased the figure from £25 million to £30 million at a time when the opportunities for absorbing this additional sum are far less? Such changes never happened throughout our 13 years so that 517 there were far greater opportunities for absorption.
§ Mr. Mackie
That is not the case. I am speaking off the cuff, but I think I am right in saying that from 1957 to 1959 there was a bigger decrease in production than there has been in the last two years, and the increase in the productivity figure was taken account of in the same way then as it is now. So the right hon. Gentleman's argument will not hold water. I did not want him to interrupt. I was merely wondering why he was sitting muttering while I was speaking.