Earl of DALKEITH:
I would like to be allowed to congratulate the hon. Member for South-West Norfolk (Mr. W. B. Taylor) upon his excellent maiden speech. I rise to support the Motion on behalf of those who farm and those who are employed upon farms in Scotland, and to draw attention especially to imports of foreign oats. This year excellent crops of oats have been harvested here, but owing to artificially cheapened grain being dumped into this country just at the opening of the marketing season the prices for home-grown oats have been much too low. There have been references to the magnitude of the imports both in this year and in preceding years, but it is not only a question of magnitude, it is a question of effect, and there is no doubt at all that this year the effect upon our markets has been very serious. A feeling of grave anxiety is general among the farmers in Scotland, nothing is so much discussed at the present time, and we are indeed fortunate that the winner of the ballot chose this subject for the first Motion. The worst danger arising from this situation is the possibility that land will be laid back to grass. That would mean great injury to many families, who as a consequence would lose regular employment. This is likely to occur in many districts unless confidence can be quickly restored, and if the land is allowed to go back to grass it will not be a very easy matter to bring it under corn again. Then I would like to emphasise that all the agricultural organisations in Scotland have protested against these bounty-fed imports, and no doubt the Government have had an opportunity of considering their representations as to a countervailing duty and also a revision of commercial treaties if they are harmful to British farmers.
I think the Minister of Agriculture and other hon. Members made a mistake in turning the discussion of this Motion on to the general question of Protection or subsidies. The point is that to-day we have this one definite and serious matter with which to contend. The President of the Board of Trade stated not long ago that no industry could carry on under a system which forced it to sell at a loss, and yet farmers are being obliged to sell their oats at a price which is less than what it cost to grow them. I think it is most important that it should be fully realised that if nothing is done in regard to this question we shall be simply encouraging Germany to increase her cultivation by making it easier for Germany to sell, while at the same time we shall be making it harder for our own people to sell. If it is true that other countries in Europe intend to follow the example of Germany in this matter the situation will become worse than it is at the present time. I am sorry that on this subject the Government have taken up the attitude of leaving things as they are because nothing has been done previously. The effect of past policies has been very much aggravated this season, and that is the reason why it is all the more urgent that something should be done at once. The principle of the whole thing is wrong, and that is what annoys the farmers, when they realise that they are not having fair play in our own markets.