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International Wheat Conference

Volume 437: debated on Monday 5 May 1947

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asked the Minister of Food if he will make a full statement of the reasons why His Majesty's Government have rejected the wheat agreement proposals at the final plenary session of the International Wheat Conference on 23rd April.

I refer the hon. Gentleman to the statement made on behalf of His Majesty's Government by the leader of the United Kingdom delegation at the final meeting of the Conference which was fully reported in the Press. I am circulating this statement in the OFFICIAL REPORT.

Is not the hon. Lady aware that the consumers in this country will be delighted to hear that her right hon. Friend is beginning to learn the lesson which I have tried to teach him, and has been compelled to call a halt to the disastrous policy of Government purchase and Government sales?

My right hon. Friend is just as concerned that the producers should have a fair price as that the consumers should not be exploited.

Following is the statement:

"SIR HERBERT BROADLEY (U.K.): Mr. President, I am sorry to have to announce that the United Kingdom Delegation is unable to associate itself with this Wheat Agreement. With its general plan we are in complete agreement, and the United Kingdom Delegation took a substantial part in shaping it. In fact, in many ways we regard it as a model for future commodity arrangements. It preserves the opportunity for freedom of trade so that the price finds its own level, and, at the same time, it provides maximum and minimum wheat points, rather like gold points, so that the consumer is protected against too high prices, and the producer against too sudden and too deep a fall.
"It is the prices themselves, Mr. President, with which the United Kingdom Delegation are unable to agree. We regard certain of these prices as excessive. We do not admit that the present and future wheat prices quoted on particular markets are any indication of what should be a reasonable price for wheat, either now or in the coming years. At the same time, we agree that some of the low prices that ruled before the war were equally unjustifiable. What the United Kingdom seeks is a price which is fair to the producer and the consumer alike. The world must face much lower prices for wheat than those which rule at present, and we want to see those lower prices achieved in a manner which protects the producer against hardship, and enables such arrangements as are necessary for every form of Agriculture to be made without serious dislocation and disaster.
"But, having said that, and being prepared to recognise the system which contains these safeguards, 'the United Kingdom delegation must place on record its feeling that the price scheme proposed in the Agreement in Article VI does not enable the price to come down to a reasonable figure sufficiently quickly. The United Kingdom cannot afford to pay excessive prices for its imports, and the reduction of the cost of our imports is a corollary to the expansion of the volume of our exports."