The House is indebted to the hon. Members who were fortunate enough to secure a place in the ballot, for the introduction of a most interesting and stimulating Debate. It is seldom that the House of Commons has heard a Debate upon an agricultural subject which has lasted for so long and which has continuously interested a large attendance of hon. Members, or has invoked so much interest on all sides. Therefore, nothing but good can come from this Debate. There is singular unanimity as to the conditions of agriture itself. No one has controverted the statement of mine, quoted by an hon. Member opposite, that what is wrong with agriculture at present is that its economic basis is unsound. When we get as far as that, the unanimity ceases, except perhaps on this. Any-one listening to this Debate without prejudice on either side will agree that the old-fashioned methods which have existed so long have been singularly unfruitful of results, and it behoves us to see if we cannot explore some new avenue.
There are one or two points to which I would refer in relation to State aid. The right hon. Member for St. Ives (Mr. Runciman) impressed upon us that, if we were aware of any action taken by the German Government that was in contravention of their treaty obligations, it was our duty to call attention to it. So far as the Department is concerned, nothing that has happened has been in any way in contravention either of the spirit or of the letter of any treaty or understanding between us. The German Government are fully entitled to take the action which they have done under the treaties. If we had acted as is suggested in the Motion, it would have been in contravention of our own treaty obligations. We can put that on one side altogether.
Some speakers spoke as if this were some new departure. The Noble Lord the Member for Aldershot (Viscount Wolmer) and others described it in various phrases as the last straw, a new phenomenon, a new development, a new and serious menace, and so on. I do not see anything new about it. It has been going on for years. As a matter of fact, four years ago it was worse than it has been this year. In 1925, the German imports were 102,000 tons; in 1926, 112,000 tons; and the next year they dropped to 14,000 tons. Here is a very remarkable example showing how the influence of this kind of movement is easily exaggerated if you look upon it as an isolated phenomenon. In 1926, when the importation of German bounty-fed wheat was 102,000 tons, the average price in the British market was 53s. 3d. In the following year, when the importation of German wheat dropped to 14,000 tons, notwithstanding that enormous drop in the importation of German bounty-fed wheat, the price in the British market, instead of rising, fell to 49s. 3d.