(by Private Notice) asked the Minister of Agriculture whether arrangements have been made with the Argentine for the import of a large quantity of agricultural produce in return for their taking a similar quantity of industrial produce; whether similar arrangements have been made or are contemplated with any other country, and if he will state what steps he proposes to take to compensate the agricultural industry for the unemployment and loss of markets which will be caused by this importation?
I have been asked to reply. The terms of the provisional Agreement with the Argentine Government are still under discussion, but I can assure the hon. and gallant Member that it is not the intention of His Majesty's Government that the Agreement should operate to the detriment of home producers. No similar agreement has been made with any other country, but, if any similar agreement is negotiated, the interests of home producers will, of course, not be overlooked.
It would be impossible for me at this stage to say anything as to the ingredients of the agreement. Later, if that is possible, I may make a statement to the House, but I cannot at this stage.
My hon. and gallant Friend can never resist the temptation to make propaganda in another sphere. I do not think that point arises on this question. All that we are invited to do here is to see that in the negotiation of an agreement on specific points with the Argentine Government home producers are not penalised, and we are proposing to take those steps.
Will the right hon. Gentleman give to the House some indication of the manner in which it is possible to make this agreement without it being detrimental to the home producers?
When the time comes to deal with the agreement which is now in negotiation, I think it will be possible to prove conclusively to this House that there will be no detriment of that kind.
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the wheats from the Argentine are soft wheats similar to those grown in this country, and that consequently they would come directly into competition with English wheat?
I can assure my hon. Friend that all those facts are before us. In the negotiation of this agreement, I am in consultation with my colleagues in the Government, and no consideration will be overlooked.