I do not remember in what connection my right hon. Friend did use it, but what he was talking about as the deplorable phenomenon was the position of British agriculture, which we all deplore. I shall now examine to what extent the positron of British agriculture is due to the importation of this particular class of wheat. Its position is not due to this; it is due to many other things. It is as well to keep out of the region of discussing agriculture in terms of Protection and bounties and countervailing duties. The fact is that those terms are getting to have less and less application to the world's marketing system. Even the old expression "Free Trade" is ceasing to have very much application. The hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise), in an extremely well-informed speech, showed what has really happened, and he has had first-hand knowledge from day to day. He has shown that what, in fact, has happened is that there are coming to be fewer and fewer sellers and fewer and fewer buyers, that the sales of grain over the water in Canada and the United States—and I have no doubt in the Argentine soon—are becoming consolidated into groups that control the whole supply. It was only recently that we saw the Canadian Pool holding up supplies and suddenly having to unload at lower prices because they had to pay to their farmer suppliers at stated periods.
The lesson I am trying to draw without any party bias is that the control of supplies is getting into fewer and fewer hands. Only this year we have seen a sudden slump of price brought about by the fact that the holder of a large quantity had suddenly to unload. What is happening in terms of sellers is happening in terms of buyers. As the hon. Member for East Leicester explained quite clearly to the House, the main buying organisations—I am leaving out of account now all the intervening merchanting transactions which may or may not take place—are coming to be represented by three large combines and the Co-operative Wholesale Society. How long they will remain none of us know. It is not a very hazardous prophesy that in the near future they may be fewer than four. What does that mean? It means that the old play of sale and resale, which was the main process by which prices were kept stabilised is becoming limited by the fact that you have the grain holdings in fewer hands and that the people who buy are becoming fewer and fewer. Therefore, I suggest that the old-fashioned way of looking at things does not apply in these cases. We are not very far in the corn trade from a great trust—that is the plain English of it—a great trust in buyers, just as you are getting on the other side of the water a great trust in sellers. It is clear, therefore, that we have to look at this issue in a new way.
The Noble Lord the Member for Alder-shot put a number of rather passionate interrogations which, as an old Parliamentary hand, he will perhaps see were not quite called for at this early stage of the Session. He upbraided my right hon. Friend very much because on the second day of the Session he had not produced a Government policy on this matter. I am not going to be tempted to make the very obvious retort to the right hon. Gentleman. If you are to devise any machinery on marketing and to try and secure for the farmer a greater stability in the prices which he will obtain for his goods, anybody with any experience of affairs at all knows perfectly well that you cannot devise or bring about any new system at all unless you do it with great care and deliberation and carry with you the assent and cooperation of all those important agencies at present engaged in the business. It is, therefore, a little absurd to suggest that my right hon. Friend, on the second day of the Session, on what is perhaps one of the most intricate and difficult questions ever presented to a Minister, should suddenly produce a cut and dried plan in the form of a Bill.