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OBJECT AND CONSTITUTION OF THE COMMITTEE
The Agricultural Committee on National Wheat Stores was nominated, in part by Mr. Yerburgh, M.P., and in part by the Council of the Central and Associated Chambers of Agriculture :
• To inquire and report how far, and in what way, the proposed establishment of national stores of wheat would affect the interests of British farmers.'
The Council nominated :~Mr. B. St. John Ackers, Gloucester; Mr. W. W. Berry, Kent; Mr. 0. D. Johnson, Suffolk ; Mr. T. Latham, Oxfordshire; Mr. C. Middleton, Yorkshire, Mr. James Stratton, Hampshire.
Mr. Yerburgh nominated :-Mr. F. S. W. Cornwallis; the Earl of Coventry; Major Rasch, M.P.; Mr. R. Henry Rew; and Mr. D'Arcy Wyvill, M.P., who, with himself, completed the Committee.
The Committee, which was expressly constituted with the view of representing agriculturists, examined fifty-four witnesses, including corn merchants, corn dealers, tenant farmers, and millers, and comprising many who are recognised as the most representative men in their particular vocations.
In their Report the Committee say:
Before stating the conclusions to which they have arrived, the Committee wish it to be distinctly understood that, in their opinion, under no circumstances should National Wheat Stores be drawn upon, except in case of grave national emergency caused by actual war.
The Committee are unable to conclude from the evidence that has been laid before them, that National Wheat Stores would have any material effect upon
the interests of agriculture or of the corn trade.
The Committee are profoundly impressed by the evidence given as to the immense importance of Government Wheat Stores as an essential item of National Defence.
The Committee recommend that the Government be most strongly urged to obtain the appointment, at the earliest possible date, of a Royal Commission, comprising representatives of Agriculture, the Corn Trade, Shipping, and the Army and Navy, to conduct an exhaustive inquiry into the whole subject of the National Food Supply in case of war.
Nearly all the gentlemen examined by the Committee were strongly in favour of the formation of a reserve of some kind 'to guard against the risk of famine.' Amongst them may be mentioned :
Mr. Seth Taylor, of the Waterloo Flour Mills and chairman of the Committee of the Baltic Company; Mr. Bridges Webb, President of the London Corn Trade Association. (This Association manages the corn-trade business, not only of London, but also of the country, makes all the contracts, and settles by arbitration nearly all the disputes in the corn trade.) Mr. Webb considers our present position
is a dangerous one, and that a national wheat reserve will strengthen the hands of the Army and Navy.
Admiral F. A. Close, who has for years so ably advocated a strong navy and the necessity of a national reserve of wheat.
Mr. James Birch, farmer and miller, and Secretary of the Lancashire Agricultural Society, said the proposed grain stores would be an enormous benefit to the country, and that probably 'no one realised it more than those who attend the Liverpool Corn Exchange ;' he said, “ At present we are practically in the hands of the plunging speculator. A national reserve would steady the position and be of advantage to our wheat-growers.'
Mr. Wilson Marriage, Vice-President of the National Association of British and Irish Millers, thought our present position very critical ; that a national store of wheat was quite practical, but would prefer to see wheat-growing in this country encouraged by a bounty.
Mr. Henry Overman, farming 4,000 acres in Norfolk, advocated a national reserve of wheat in the interest of the country, and of opinion that it might be so formed as to benefit our farmers.
Mr. Clare Sewell Read, formerly Parliamentary Secretary to the Local Government Board, and a large farmer, said our present position was one of incalculable danger.'
Colonel H. Hozier, Secretary of Lloyd's, spoke in favour of a reserve, and said it was quite possible we should find corn made contraband of war. He had long thought our present position a most dangerous one.
Mr. Seton-Karr, M.P., considered that wheat stores are as necessary to this country as our arsenals,' and added : 'I feel very ? strongly that we ought to have this reserve of grain, either in the land or in some form of granary.'
Captain Hunter, R.N., said a reserve of wheat would strengthen our Navy, as probably half our warships would have to be employed convoying grain ships, thus crippling its offensive power.
Mr. George Broomhall, Editor of the Liverpool Corn Trade News, Milling, and the Corn Trade Year Book, said the State is gratuitously running a great risk in allowing the country to be denuded of its food-stuff.
Mr. V. Walbran Chapman, whose scheme for a Government reserve of 10,000,000 quarters of wheat was before the Committee, gave most valuable evidence; he estimated the total annual cost to the country of such a reserve at little more than 800,0001.
MR. SETH TAYLOR'S ESTIMATE OF COST OF A RESERVE
Mr. Seth Taylor, of the Waterloo Flour Mills, and one of the largest corn merchants in London, said he felt that the only possible guarantee against danger from war is the system of national granaries.' Mr. Seth Taylor is, I believe, the largest wheat operator in London, and it seems to me that it is difficult to exaggerate the importance of the fact that he, who knows perhaps better than anyone what a gigantic question the feeding of London is, should be so strongly in favour of national granaries. Mr. Seth Taylor said he had worked out the cost to the country annually of holding a reserve of 10,000,000 quarters of wheat, and he made it rather more than Mr. Chapman's figures; he put the total annual cost at 1,250,0001., and added that it seemed to him an infinitesimally small cost, compared with the Navy estimates of 22,000,0001.,' and “the result will be we shall have a store in case of war, or even famine. There is a point I have not heard mentioned, and that is, this scheme would also be an insurance against famine caused by universally short crops, which is a thing that is possible. . We were within an ace of it six years ago.'
It is impossible to go here into the technical details so fully and clearly dealt with in the Minutes of Evidence' already referred to. They prove, I think, beyond possibility of contradiction, that it is perfectly possible to hold Government reserves of wheat in this country, without upsetting trade in any way, and at a triling expense—i.e. trilling provided the necessity for having a reserve at all is made out, and I think it is.
The scheme which I have suggested in my book for providing and maintaining a reserve of wheat has been termed by the Miller an automatic granary'scheme, and my.object has been to endeavour to do away with the necessity of buying and selling on the part of the Government, in order to renew the reserve, as is proposed in other granary schemes.
Under my scheme the Government would only buy once, and would never sell, except to ward off famine. To keep good the corn it bought originally, I suggest it should have the same power that it has now over tea, tobacco, wine &c.—viz. a control of entry—and that it should renew its reserve by taking the shipments of new com arriving at our ports and giving the importer an order on the Government reserve for a corresponding quantity (value for value) of wheat imported twelve months previously. In this way the amount of new wheat taken off the market would be instantly replaced by the stored and improved year-old wheat out of the reserve. The Government, after completion of its first purchase, would never have to bother about the current price of wheat. The basis of exchange would simply be the quality and quantity of bread an equal weight of the new wheat and of the wheat a year old would make; and over a series of years this varies in best kinds of wheat on the average very little, if at all, although the price may be 258. one year and 50s. the next. I do not suggest that the Government should be obliged to take newWheat, clean and improve it, and get nothing for doing
50—it would charge what a corn merchant now pays. The corn trade would find the Government granaries an immense boon in their business, saving delays in delivery, bothers of storage, &c. By automatically renewing the reserve in this way, the danger of upsetting the market by the periodical Government purchase and sale of great quantities of wheat is avoided, it seems to me, and we could keep the * reserve' always about equal to the annual import. What does it matter to a corn merchant that the corn he sells is new or a year old, as long as he gets the same profit exactly; and what does it matter to the bread-eater ? Most of the bread we eat is made from corn and flour more than a year old, and is better for being a year old. Corn merchants themselves deplore the fact that the tendency is to sell .ex ship’ and not to store, as formerly, in granaries. The effect of this is very much the same as for a town to attempt to do without a reservoir of water because a stream runs through it; it is all right until there is a drought or some other town above cuts the water off.
When our Henry the Fifth was besieging Rouen, he said : War has three terrible handmaidens ever waiting on her-Fire, Blood, and Famine—and I have chosen the meekest maid of the three.'
We have reserves in abundance of everything except food, and I am confident we need fear no foe if we can only keep famine at bay.
R. B. MARSTON.
LORD SALISBURY'S SCORE IN CHINA
In concluding my article on 'The Partition of China,' in the January number of this Review, I urged that we wanted a policy for the Far East, and a statesman who would carry it out. A few days after the number was published a Cabinet Council was held, a policy was fired on, and on the 10th of January it was announced at Manchester by Mr. Balfour. Speaking for the Government, Mr. Balfour informed us that our interests in China were not territorial, but commercial
, and that the broad principles by which the details of our policy should be governed were:
(1) That it was a disadvantage to take territory, except so far as it was necessary to supply a base for possible warlike operations.
(2) That, owing to the extent of our trade in China, we had a special claim to see that the policy of that country was not directed towards the discouragement of foreign trade.
(3) And that no exclusive commercial privileges should be granted to any nation, but that all should alike enjoy freedom of trade.
We were, moreover, told that there were two ways alone by which our trade interests with China could be interfered with :
(1) The destruction of equality of opportunity by foreign Governments bringing pressure to bear upon China to make regulations adverse to us and favourable to them.
(2) And the dotting of the coast of China with stations under protectionist nations, through which the trade of the world would not be permitted to freely permeate, because of the erection of Customs barriers hostile to others and favourable to themselves.
The policy of the Government, we were assured, consisted in their determination to do their best to see that in neither of these mars should the trade of this country be injured.
A little over four months, at the time I am writing, has passed since the policy was announced, and Lord Salisbury has asked the nation at large to judge the course taken by the Government by the results that have recently been made public.
Of course, in judging the results of a policy that has to be brought into conflict with the rival policy of antagonistic nations, we must take into consideration that the policy, to be successful, should not be