§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, since it is understood that they have given encouragement to a United Kingdom Mission to the U.S.A. to protest against the unrealistic marketing price of cotton in relation to the abnormal accumulation, and since the massive protection to Canadian wheat farmers has resulted in abnormal accumulations of wheat, Her Majesty's Government will now consider similar representations to Canada with a view to securing some reduction in the cost of wheat supplies for this country.]
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving me the opportunity to dispel some possible misunderstanding about the Canadian arrangements for marketing wheat. As I understand the matter, such protection as the Canadian wheat farmer receives is limited to that afforded by the existence of the Canadian Wheat Board as the marketing organisation for prairie grain. The farmer delivers grain to the Board against an initial payment to him and leaves the Board to market it at prices which are fixed according to what the Board think they can realise. Of course, the Board are free to vary these prices in the light of circumstances affecting the market. I do not think, therefore, that a marketing arrangement of this kind can by itself be said to result in abnormal accumulations of wheat in Canada. In view of what I have said, and having regard to the fact that the continuing world wheat surplus affects almost all the main exporting countries, it would be difficult for Her Majesty's Government to press for unilateral action by Canada in the matter of her export prices.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, arising out of the noble Lord's reply, I take it that the noble Lord has admitted that the price of wheat is decided by the Canadian Wheat Board and, secondly, that there are abnormal accumulations in Canada. It would seem to follow automatically that the prices are held at a level which protects the Canadian grower. In view of the emphasis put by the Canadian 6 Government on supporting the liberalisation of trade in general and the removal of all artificial control measures, I would ask the noble Lord whether that situation does not constitute a "massive protection" and, therefore, works inimically to the interests of this country so far as the price of wheat is concerned?
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, I have endeavoured to answer the noble Lord's Question within the terms in which he framed it. In his Question the noble Lord compared the situation in regard to wheat in Canada with the price of cotton in America. I do not think that the two are in any way comparable and I cannot agree, as I have done my best to explain, that the arrangements in Canada represent a form of "massive protection" of the wheat farmer. As I have said, the Board fix their prices according to what they think they can realise; and that is the position. The question of cotton may be one of "massive protection" to the grower, but it is not so in the case of wheat. I do not think that the Canadians can be blamed. It is in their own interests to maintain the price of wheat and to get what they can for it. They are perfectly free to vary their prices if they so wish.
VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLS-BOROUGH
My Lords, would it not be better for the noble Lord, Lord Barnby, to get the Government he supports to re-adhere to the International Wheat Agreement, because apparently many of the price difficulties of Canadian wheat are due to the withdrawal of the support of Her Majesty's Government from the International Wheat Agreement? If they would do that, there might be occasion for the noble Lord to ask for similar treatment for this country.
§ LORD BARNBY
My Lords, before the noble Lord, Lord Chesham, replies, may I make it clear that I was not asking for any compassionate treatment towards cotton in the United States? May I also ask the noble Lord (perhaps he will write to me if he cannot answer now) whether it is to be understood from his reply that it is erroneous to believe that Her Majesty's Government have given any encouragement to the Mission in the United States in urging a reduction in the selling price of cotton.
§ LORD CHESHAM
My Lords, it is perfectly correct that such encouragement 7 has been given to the Mission, but perhaps I did not make myself clear. The Mission has gone to the United States to tackle a problem of a nature quite different from that which exists in the case of Canadian wheat. So far as adhering to the International Wheat Agreement is concerned, I can only say that I have no news that I can give the noble Viscount at the moment.