While, as I say, it is only 1.3 per cent. of our total imports—that is to say, we import round about 28,000,000 quarters, and the import from Germany for the last 12 months was, I think, about 330,000 quarters, rather over a quarter-of-a-million; it varies from year to year, up to 1.4 or 1.5 per cent.—it is quite true that in relation to the British crop the importation of German wheat has now run up to about 7½ per cent.
What are the remedies? I listened attentively, as no doubt other hon. Members did, to hear the immediate steps which are proposed. Two steps were suggested in the proposals put forward by the Mover of this Motion. I noticed that the Seconder made no proposal whatever as far as I could follow—he made an interesting speech, but no proposals—but the Mover of the Motion said that the two remedies were these: on the one hand, he called upon the Government to place a duty upon the import of wheat, which, as he said, was bound to be paid, and, on the other hand, to use the revenue for the purpose of subsidising the growing of similar cereals in this country. May I submit, in the first place, that as has already been pointed out, both those remedies have been condemned by his own party. In view of the remarks made by the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham and Worthing (Earl Winterton), in which be contended that it is only recently that the importation of German wheat has become serious, and giving that as an excuse why nothing was done by the late Government in this matter, it is rather interesting to remember that this very question was discussed at some length in
another place as recently as the 14th February of this year, and, in reply, the Minister acting for the late Government said:
We cannot take any step in the matter, though of course it is receiving our consideration.
Therefore, it is quite obvious from that point of view that the only steps suggested have been condemned by a Government representing the Mover and Seconder of the Motion to-day.
After all is said and done, while the importation of this wheat is having its effect in certain parts of the country, that effect is of a limited character. The effect has been simply to increase the price by from 3s. to 4s. per quarter in certain markets almost entirely confined to about four ports on the East Coast. Take Boston; take Kings Lynn; I am not sure whether it would go as far as Newcastle; and take Hull. It affects the whole of those ports, but it does not affect the British markets at all in other parts of the country. "[HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because it is sold only in those markets. Therefore, the remedy which is sought to be applied is a remedy which would give to other parts of the country a subsidy for which there is no call.
As a final point, may I add that, when all is said and done, the more one considers the effect of a situation such as is now pictured by this Motion—an effect which is local, though no doubt serious to those who are locally concerned—the clearer it becomes that the whole remedy is, as the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) pointed out, to have a system of dealing with wheat, whether it comes from Germany, from South America, or from Canada, by which it goes into one pool and does not have a local effect at all, does not depress prices, but is managed by a national board on a stabilised price basis.