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Agricultural Manpower

Volume 728: debated on Thursday 12 May 1966

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asked the First Secretary of State and Secretary of State for Economic Affairs whether he is satisfied that the release of agricultural manpower resources is proceeding fast enough to satisfy the requirements of the National Plan; and if he will make a statement.

Does the hon. Gentleman agree with the Prime Minister that we should not have much trouble if the whole of our manufacturing industry did as well on labour productivity as agriculture? Therefore, from the point of view of his Department, would he agree that there is no justification for the penalties which the Selective Employment Tax, as proposed originally, will lay upon horticulture and agriculture?

The hon. Gentleman will be aware that these are matters which are at present under discussion. In any case, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer made it clear that the cost would be recouped, if necessary, in the Annual Price Review.

Is the hon. Gentleman not aware that only part of the products covered by this additional impost are included in the Price Review, and that agriculture is being called upon to meet a great deal of the cost without a hope of recouping it?

It has already been announced that this question is at present under discussion.

Will my hon. Friend consider a proposal that, before these Exchequer contributions are introduced, tenant farmers shall be allowed to deduct them from their rents?

That is really a matter for my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture.

Would the Minister of State recognise that the Annual Price Review is a hopelessly inefficient instrument in this case for recouping the cost of the Selective Employment Tax? How does he think that a national review can possibly take into account the many individual cases which will affect the farmers of the country?

I think we had better leave the matter until we see the result of the discussions which are going on at present.