The Noble Lord who has just spoken has taken the Government to task for not having, at this early date in the Session, produced a full agricultural policy with regard to stabilisation of prices and so forth. I would like to point out that this is a Private Member's Motion, and I do not think one can expect the Government at a moment like this to unfold the whole of their policy on this matter. At the same time, I am very glad the question has been raised. I only wish the atmosphere of objectivity which we have heard in some speeches from the Opposition, both above and below the Gangway, had been continued in the speech of the Noble Lord—I regret to say I failed to notice it—because, after all, this is a very serious matter and one in which we should not try to score party advantages. My hon. Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) showed that there are taking place at present most important world economic developments which are going to make altogether obsolete the shibboleths of the old party controversies, and that is the keynote in which this Debate should have been carried on, as indeed I am glad to say it has been carried on in some speeches, because I believe it will be possible to find amongst all parties a certain common denominator of agreement in regard to meeting this new world economic situation.
I am speaking partly as one concerned with agriculture in the West of England, and I know it is true that the situation is very serious indeed this autumn. It appeared up to the end of this summer that the shortage of the wheat crop in the new world would generally tend to make prices somewhat higher in Europe. I have been making certain costings on my farm, and I find that, in the main, wheat has to be at a level of about 10s. a owt. to make it possible to cover the cost of production. It is very doubtful if, even at that figure, it will pay, but there is a chance of it doing so. There was a time this summer when the price of wheat went up to 12s. or 13s. a cwt., but then came a threat, which has been unfortunately translated into practice, of the import of German wheat under this so-called bounty system. At once the price goes down to 9s. 3d.—which obviously will not meet the cost of production.
The argument that I would deduce from that is that the growing of wheat is an absolute gamble in this country as in others. The Noble Lord quoted a farmer as saying: "If the Germans can afford to' make their farms pay why cannot we?" I do not know if the Noble Lord took that view himself, but it is an absolutely wrong point of view. The Germans do not make their farms pay. There is an agricultural crisis in Germany, and has been for some time past, as there is in most countries in Europe to-day. The economic conference at Geneva showed two years ago that agricultural depression is an international question and not one that can be dealt with from a national standpoint at all. What is happening, therefore, is that we are at the moment having to bear the burden of wheat which is being sent in from Germany. There are various reasons why. The hon. Member for East Leicester showed that one of the reasons was that Germany wants cash, owing to world conditions. I suggest that another reason is that Germany is now demanding a higher type of flour for her bread, the kind of wheat that we use in this country, that spoils our teeth and ruins our health. Germany is going one step higher in the ladder of civilisation and deciding to ruin her teeth and her health as well.