Dumping of German Wheat.

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

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Photo of Major George Davies Major George Davies , Yeovil

I think I am voicing the feelings of everyone on these benches when I congratulate the hon. Member not only on the knowledge and interest in the subject which he displayed, but on the fact that we see an accession on the benches opposite of those who have had an opportunity of getting at close grips with the agricultural problem and have tried to face its implications and solve some of its problems. The reason why the Debate has run so successfully is largely that there is such an increased feeling in general throughout all parties that this is a great problem, and not merely a thing of party politics that we try periodically to spring on the House of Commons. I am sorry that the Minister committed himself so early to saying he was going to resist the Motion. I think he did it under two misapprehensions, first as to what the Motion implies, and secondly as to what is the real feeling, apart from party lines, in the mind of hon. Members. He seemed to want to read into it something in the nature of a demand for Protection and subsidies, and indeed he was backed up by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman), and I could not help feeling sorry, as I listened to his speech, full as it was of information and knowledge on the subject, that he has such a marvellous nose for a suggestion of Protection that he immediately went off the track and, as it were, threw a monkey wrench into the machinery which was beginning to work rather smoothly between all parties, because I assure the Minister that this Motion has not behind it some Machiavellian scheme for getting him to commit himself to import duties On meat, wheat and what not.

There is a real problem. Its dimensions at the moment are not as serious as they might become. It has been suggested that, possibly because we are one of the few open markets in the world, a country in straits like Germany would turn to us when she wants to secure an export business of this sort. Be that as it may, the fact remains that, as my Noble Friend has said, the farmers feel that the last straw has been put on the camel's back and we can begin to hear it crack. World supply and demand have reduced the price of wheat below the danger line of 10s., but it is "a bit thick" when a foreign Government, indirectly or directly, is actually loading the dice against us and, by means of a bounty or subsidy, producing a further depression, and with a special type of wheat which cannot be replaced by Canadian or hard wheat, but a special type which, if it comes into the country, will, bushel for bushel, displace the uses to which our home-grown wheat is put. If that is the problem, is it out of the way to pass a Motion which gives us an opportunity to call upon the Minister to appreciate the problem and hot merely to adopt a non possumus attitude and turn it down? His predecessor in office may or may not have done the same thing. I do not want to make a cheap party score out of it.

I and many others tried to press the late Minister of Agriculture, and we were deeply disappointed at the attitude which he adopted. The present occupant of that position, one of the few Members of the Labour Cabinet, who were considered of sufficient importance to succeed to the same office as he held before, is adopting the usual attitude of the Department. After all, what is the Department for? Largely to help to run things and largely to prevent any kind of change being made in the way things are being run. If a Minister goes to his Department and says: "What about this solution, what about that solution and what about the other solution?" there are innumerable reasons given why it is impossible to carry it out. Suggestions have been put forward this afternoon, and if the Minister would admit that the principles of the arguments were right and that something could be done, I believe that something really tangible could be produced. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. Ives, in his efforts to break up this love feast, so to speak, suggested that it might be possible to go to the German Government and shake the international weapon in their faces. I do not say that that is not a possible way out, but if we are faced with a problem and know that it is serious, and that the menace is such that it may really develop, not only from Germany, but from, other countries in a similar way, it is not out of place to ask the Minister to reconsider the action taken, and to say, "I realise that the country and the House of Commons mean business, and I am going to see whether, in view of the demand which has been put forward, it is not possible to. take some action, whatever it may be, to counteract (in the words of our Motion) the injurious effect this matter has upon this vital industry of agriculture."