Dumping of German Wheat.

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons on 30th October 1929.

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Photo of Mr Walter Runciman Mr Walter Runciman , St Ives

The House, I am sure, appreciates the good temper with which the right hon. Gentleman has addressed himself to this subject. I am sure that if that spirit continues in the Ministry of Agriculture during the next few years, some of the projects which the right hon. Gentleman has in mind may be carried with the consent of the whole House. I was a little surprised to notice the avidity with which he was prepared to proceed along non-party lines. I remember that last year one of the important agricultural organisations in this country requested that there should be a meeting with the representatives of the three parties in order that they might devise means of dealing with such subjects as were not of high controversy and on which there was general agreement. The right hon. Gentleman and his friends declined to go, and so did the representatives of the then Government, and we of the Liberal party were the only people who accepted the invitation. In those circumstances I have been to-day a little surprised to hear the right hon. Gentleman say that he would like to proceed along these lines. Is it possible to do anything in that way? I must say, with some knowledge officially and privately of these subjects, that I believe it is. There is a very wide field in which he will find agreement in each of the three parties. There are a great many things that can be done if they are not dealt with in a controversial spirit or a party sense. I would be prepared on a suitable occasion to go into that subject, and so would my right hon. and hon. Friends. This, however, is not the moment for that. If there is any movement towards a non-party treatment of agricultural questions there will be no warmer friends of that movement than those who are to be found on the Liberal Benches. I hope that the Minister will keep that in mind when he is making his programme of non-controversial subjects.

But just as there is a very wide field in which all parties can play their part, so to-day I think we must say that the two hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Resolution have chosen the most controversial way of dealing with this subject, because there is not even agreement in their own party. There was not agreement among them in the last Parliament and there is not now. We know that it is impossible to achieve agreement between the two sides of the House on the lines of old-fashioned Protection, and that is what the two hon. Gentlemen mean by their Motion. It is very difficult to decide what there is in the Motion. I listened very carefully to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder, and I have great respect for the opinions of both on the subject. What did we hear? We heard no definition of what is meant by the dumping of German wheat. There is the question of comparisons between the importations of wheat grown abroad and the importation of wheat which is stimulated by Government bounty. I do not know which they meant. Were they in favour of or were they prepared to resist artificial means of preventing foreign wheat coming into this country? Were they in favour of any means by which foreign wheat could be prevented from coming into this country?