§ MR. JENNINGS (Stockport)
, in rising to move—That, in the opinion of this House, it is expedient to raise a larger portion of the Revenue of the Country from Import Duties, and that such Duties should be levied on certain descriptions of fully manufactured Foreign goods, entering into competition with similar goods of our own make; and that the Revenue so obtained should be applied to the reduction of the Duties on tea, coffee, and cocoa, and of other burdensome imposts,said: The Motion of which I have given Notice may be objected to on the ground that it amounts to a proposal to resort to an exploded policy of Protection. An Amendment has been put upon the Paper by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) in which such a view is set forth. I have no doubt the hon. Member will advocate his Amendment with ability and fairness; but I hope that the House will not too hastily conclude that this is a mere Motion for the revival of old-fashioned Protection. I think I shall be able to show that it is something very different from that. I shall submit that the measures which I have ventured to suggest would have the double effect of enriching the Revenue and of tending to improve the condition of some of our great industries. That there is much room for improvement in both these directions cannot, 1046 I think, be contested in any quarter of the House. The work of carrying on the Government of the country becomes more and more costly year by year. In 1850 the sum of £55,000,000 sufficed to meet the Expenditure of the State; but in 1885 £100,000,000 was demanded of us, and this year we are required to pay £90,000,000. Now, while this increase in Expenditure has been going on, the means of raising the requisite money have been contracted in pursuance of a policy adopted 40 years ago, when we had a totally different set of circumstances to deal with. There has been of late years no increase at all in the elasticity of the Revenue; on the contrary, we have noticed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has called the attention of the House to the fact, that every source from which we obtain Revenue is somewhat on the decline. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, indeed, this year discovered some encouraging symptoms in the increased consumption of foreign eggs, bacon, and rabbit-skins; but I am not able to say that this discovery has tended to remove; the uneasiness and anxiety which hangs so heavily over the manufacturing districts. The smaller class of tradesmen in the country are suffering to a degree which few persons outside that class can conceive; there are thousands of them; who would have been far better off today had they retired from business four or five years ago. The middle class, as we call it, feels also with increasing severity the pressure of taxation. The Income Tax is a heavy burden on many persons who are ordinarily accounted rich, but who find it very difficult at the close of the year to solve the homely problem of making both ends meet. The facts and figures show that the working classes are by no means as well off as many people suppose them to be. We are, indeed, constantly assured that; the working classes were never so prosperous as they are now. But there can be no doubt whatever that the working classes are suffering grievously though silently. The Returns of their Friendly Societies, if we could get access to them, would prove that fact beyond all dispute. There are one or two of these Societies which have made known a few important facts bearing on that point—for instance, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers has informed the country that it had 4,000 men on its funds at the beginning of the 1047 year. The Society of Carpenters and Joiners also had 3,904 men on its funds; and it is well known that the drain upon the resources of these Societies has been growing more and more severe for the last two or three years. As for the volume of trade, it is, taken alone, an utterly delusive test of the prosperity of a nation. The argument is that as long as the quantities go up it does not matter much how far the values go down. You are to look at the quantities alone as the test of a nation's prosperity. That is to say, that if tradesmen and merchants are selling a larger quantity of goods this year than they did last, it is quite immaterial to ask them at what price they are selling them, or at what profit. This is the scientific way of looking at it; but it is not the way in which the matter is looked at by merchants and tradesmen who are obliged to make their books balance at the end of the year, and who could never do so on this principle. That the decline of the value of our commerce is very great can easily be ascertained by anybody who will refer to the Board of Trade Returns. No doubt, if I were to make any statement which I did not prove, I should be instantly contradicted; therefore, I feel it my duty to support my statements by the facts which I have been able to procure. As to the declining values of some of our chief commodities, I desire to call the attention of the House to the fact that we exported cotton goods in 1880 to the value of £63,662,443; in 1884 that had fallen to £58,935,154. In iron and steel our exports amounted in 1880 to £28,390,000 in 1884 they had fallen to £24,496,000. Chemical products, which the Earl of Beaconsfield looked upon, and rightly, as testing the condition of many trades, sank from £2,384,000 in 1880 to £1,403,000 in 1884. Linen manufacture showed a falling off of about £700,000. Concurrently with this downward movement, there has been an ominous decline in the value of some of the imports of the raw material of our industries. We are not only exporting less, but naturally we are importing less of the raw material of some of our manufactures. I will take raw cotton as an example. In 1882 we imported raw cotton to the value of £46,654,570; it fell to £45,047,796 in 1883, and to £44,485,889 in 1884. These figures are not often adduced in discussions of this kind, because 1048 it is much more convenient to assert that any proposal having the end that I have before me is a stupid, ignorant, and mischievous Protectionist proposal; it being always easier to abuse an argument than to answer it. But I can assert that in Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire these facts are sinking deeply into the minds of the working classes. I would not be understood to say a disrespectful word of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), who has placed a Notice of Amendment to my Resolution upon the Paper; but I would call the attention of the hon. Member to the fact that the industry with which he is best acquainted and most familiar is the one which is least likely to be affected by foreign competition; nor is it, indeed, in London at all that we shall first see the serious results of unfair foreign competition and hostile tariffs. We shall first find them in the great centres of our industries. One of those centres I myself have the honour to represent; and I can most truly assert that there is no question there which so touches the interests of working men—there is not a Scotch or English question—not even the Irish Question—which so deeply concerns the working men as this question of the conditions under which they carry on their own trade. One is frequently met on the threshold of the discussion by a denial that any serious depression exists. Only a few nights ago in this House I heard the Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Bryce) give it as his opinion that the degree of commercial depression had been much exaggerated. I do not think that he will find a dozen men engaged in business who will agree with him. On the 6th of this month, the hon. Member for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers) told the House that—I certainly believe that the panic itself has been mightily exaggerated. I am quite ready to admit that the Manchester cotton spinners are badly off, and if the time were suitable I could give a reason for it. I believe, further, that the coal and iron industries, except in the case of intelligent men like my hon. Friend the Member for Banbury (Sir Bernhard Samuelson), are suffering, and I think a good case could be made out to show that the agricultural interest is in a state of great depression; but the depression is either temporary or remedial. I do not believe that the great mass of the industry of the country is in a state of depression. I find that pauperism is decreasing; that the deposits in the savings' banks are increasing; and that, on the whole, the extra penny of Income Tax produces as much as it did 1049 before. Of course, I shall be told that the officials at Somerset House look after it more sharply than they did. That, no doubt, is one of the explanations the panic-mongers are always prepared to offer; but I believe that one of the most mischievous things which has occurred in this country is the incessant declamation about the depression of trade, and that if the facts were really known it would be found that the public at large have been gulled."—(3 Hansard,  447–8.)It seems, then, that we may have the cotton industry depressed, the coal trade depressed, the iron trade depressed, and the agricultural industry depressed, and yet we may still have the main sources of industry in the country remain in a flourishing state. I should like to know where the hon. Member for Southwark supposes that the main industries of the country are carried on? Of course, it would not be worth while, having an admission such as this before us, to go into the assertions just quoted and show their inaccuracy; but it is a great inaccuracy to assert that pauperism is decreasing. The fact is, that at the end of 1883 the number of paupers in the country was 714,704, and at the end of 1885 it was 743,478. The hon. Member is, I believe, a distinguished Professor; but it is an unlucky circumstance that Professors generally have thus far shown themselves unable to get a good tight hold of this Trade Question. It is not a subject to be settled, or even to be understood, by the application of what they are accustomed to call fixed laws and immutable principles. It can only be comprehended by going out into the actual world of trade and ascertaining what is really taking place there, and not what ought to be taking place if theories are working well. Anyone who does that will find that our great industries are no longer expanding in accordance with the increase of population; while some of them are absolutely declining. I shall be obliged to prove this statement in order that it may not be contradicted at a subsequent period of the evening, and I will very briefly mention a few facts to the House which I think are certain not to be contested. In Macclesfield, prior to 1860, there were 55 mills at work, employing 14,000 hands. There are now 30 mills entirely closed, and not more than 6,000 or 7,000 hands find employment. Mr. Dixon, the President of the Sheffield Chamber of Commerce, stated to the Royal Commission lately that the value of house 1050 property in that town had gone down 30 or 40 per cent, and the value of land outside the town at least 40 per cent. He further said—Then there are the American duties. I had a fine trade with America about 25 years ago—a magnificent trade. I had an agent there who was paid £400 a-year to keep stock there, and who did a big business. It is all gone, and I do not send sixpenny worth to the United States to-day.The cotton trade, which some Members representing London constituencies seem to think is a matter of extremely little consequence, is in a state calculated to excite the most serious anxieties of those who have a large capital at stake in it. I do not state this as a mere matter of theory, but as a matter of fact, after personal inquiry throughout the larger part of the cotton district. But, lest my opinion should be regarded as of no concern, I would ask the House to look into the valuable Report of the Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade, where they will find a great body of evidence on the subject. I will only, however, trouble the House with one locality as an example of what I mean, and I will take the best locality which can be found in the whole of the country—namely, Oldham. I choose that because it represents more than one-fourth of the whole cotton spinning trade in Great Britain. The mills in Oldham are fitted up with the best and newest machinery. The co-operative system is largely adopted; immense amounts of capital have been invested, and great enterprize has been shown, and yet the Spinning Companies, which made on an average 7 per cent in 1882, and 7½ per cent in 1883, made but 5 per cent in 1884, and returned actual losses in 1885. Mr. S. Andrew, the Secretary to the Oldham Master Cotton Spinners' Association, makes the following important statement:—But what I say is, that the margin between the raw material and the manufactured article is less than ever it has been before in the history of the trade, at least for the last 30 years; and that, therefore, in that sense, trade is more depressed to-day than it has been during that time.There is universal depression; and no one, I believe, who represents the cotton districts in this House, will assert that the trade of any district is advancing in proportion to the increase of the population. In other branches of trade it is getting but too common for the manufacturers 1051 to remove their capital and their means of carrying on their business to other countries. That is being done to a much greater extent than many people in London are aware of, and if continued it will inflict misfortunes upon the working classes such as few of us, I believe, dream of at this moment. It is by no means difficult to drive capital away from any country. It may be done by over-taxation; it may be done by offering to foreign nations undue advantages; it may be done by menaces and threats used sometimes in political controversies; but when once capital is driven away it is not so easy to tempt it back again, nor will it be easy to send our working people after it. The working classes at present are completely bewildered by what they see going on around them. The silk weavers, to whom I have referred, went down without a struggle; but then they belonged to what is called a weak industry, and, of course, weak industries ought to perish—at any rate, so the philosophers say. I, for my part, deeply regret to see any industry of this country perish; I deeply regret to see an industry belonging to this country—an ancient and once profitable industry—die out as the silk trade is doing. I think it is a national misfortune. Do you suppose that 1,500,000 operatives engaged in the cotton and textile industries will sink so quietly? At this moment they see their employment going from them; they see the mills going upon short time, and they do not understand what it is that is hurting them. When they do understand it—and the truth is beginning to dawn upon their minds—you will find that there will arise a Rights of Labour Question in England which will astound many eminent statesmen, and cause some of the philosophers to wish that they had never been born. Now, the existence of this depression is sometimes admitted. Occasionally, even in this House, it is admitted; but it is generally coupled with brilliant predictions that it will pass over soon—that it is a thing of yesterday, and to-morrow it will be gone. Now, I should like to know upon what bases these sanguine predictions of returning prosperity are founded. Practical men can see very little sign, if any, of renewed prosperity. They may hope for better days, but they cannot point to 1052 any signs of their return. The truth is, that the whole conditions under which we are trading with the rest of the world have been entirely changed since 1846. At that period the kind of manufactures which were required for the daily use of mankind could not be obtained by foreign nations unless they came to us for them. They had not learned to make them for themselves. They sent us their cotton, or their corn, and we sent them back our manufactures; and while that system lasted I need not say that nothing could be more advantageous to the nation. There are many perfectly honest and simple-minded persons who believe that this system is in operation to this hour. Mr. Cobden thoroughly believed that it would remain in existence for an indefinite period. He said, some years ago—If we bought corn largely from America, the Americans would be obliged to take our manufactures from us in exchange. This would lead to an increased demand for labour in the manufacturing districts, which would necessarily be attended with a rise of wages, in order that the goods might be made for the purpose of exchanging for the corn brought from abroad.Now, that is the way the system did work for a time; but a great change has come over it. America to-day actually does not buy enough commodities of us to serve as an equivalent for the raw cotton which we are obliged to buy of her. In 1844 we purchased of her raw cotton to the value of over £31,000,000; our total exports to her of our products and manufactures was valued at £24,500,000. We bought goods of her of various kinds to the value of £86,250,000; and our sales to her, as just quoted, brought in only £24,500,000. That is the condition under which we are carrying on trade with the United States. Let me refer the House to the statements of Mr. Ellis, Chairman of the well-known firm of John Brown and Company, and other large establishments. He was asked before the Royal Commission—Is it the case that those from whom we are importing this considerable supply of food are taking in return an increased amount of our produce?He said—No; it is not."You agree," he was asked—that that must react upon those who are engaged in the manufacture of products which might be exchanged for that imported food, 1053 and that diminished employment in consequence results in the diminished production of wealth in this country?He said—It must be so.Mr. Lord, of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce, testifies thatMany trades that formerly had their centre in Birmingham, solely for the world's supply, are now distributed for competition between four or five different countries.And so it is with the trades of other districts. Now, in former days it was held to be the duty of every practical statesman to modify the commercial system of a country in accordance with the changing attitude of that country towards foreign nations. This was the principle laid down in this House by Mr. Huskisson, and quoted more than once as authoritative and binding upon us by Sir Robert Peel. Mr. Huskisson, on the 21st of March, 1825, said in this House that he recommended certain changes—Because the circumstances and state of the world have changed; and it becomes us, as practical statesmen, to deal with those [commercial] interests with a reference to that change…. General theories," he added, "however incontrovertible in the abstract, require to be weighed with a calm circumspection, to be directed by a temperate discretion, and to be adapted to all the existing relations of society, with a careful hand, and a due regard to the establishments and institutions which have grown up under those relations."—(New Series,  1098.)Sir Robert Peel quoted that statement of Mr. Huskisson, and asked the House whether these were not the words of practical wisdom? Most people, if they approached the subject with fair and open minds, would answer "yes;" but in these days we are, as we think, more enlightened. We maintain that we have devised a commercial system which is beyond reach of change or improvement, and which must remain unalterable for all time to come, no matter what course may be pursued by the rest of the world, or what the condition of our own working men may be. I say that no one ever lived, or ever will live, who will be able to devise such a system of trade as that. It must be modified to suit the changing circumstances around us, in our own condition, and in the necessities of the working men. If the world changes its attitude towards you, you must change yours towards the world. This 1054 is part of the "immutable law," if philosophers only knew it. But we say we will never depart from the principles of 1846, and foreigners most earnestly commend our firmness and hope we shall stick to it. It enables them to come into this country and compete with us, and with our workmen, on terms of every possible sort of disadvantage to us. They say that if they can support their own industries they can always find a market for their surplus products, as they can pour them in upon us at any price—at unnaturally depreciated prices—not fairly competing with us at all, but competing at prices below the fair level. In that way they can make their industries flourish no matter what may happen to ours. Now, I maintain that even if a certain amount of cheapness were the result of this—if, for instance, you could buy foreign cotton goods in this market at a smaller price than you could buy similar goods of our own make—I do not hesitate to assert that it would not be an advantage to this country. It would not, in the case I have referred to, be an advantage to this country to buy cheaper cotton goods if our great cotton industry were weakened thereby. You cannot injure any great industry without bringing losses and misfortunes upon thousands of persons who stand beyond the circle of that industry. It used to be thought in this country that you could injure the agricultural interest, and that the manufacturing interest would still flourish. Well, we are paying dearly for that piece of folly, and shall have to pay more dearly still hereafter. The old theory was—and I dare say we shall be told pretty much the same thing again, presently—that consumers alone must be studied. But what the thousands of working men distributed throughout this country begin to understand is that you cannot have a nation of consumers unless they are first producers. It is quite impossible that you can proceed upon the theory that you are founding your industries and carrying on your trade for the benefit of consumers, leaving out of regard altogether the producers. I would not, however, venture to state to the House any opinion of my own upon this subject, because I can give it the opinion of one who is a high authority. I am quite sure hon. Members will receive with respect the 1055 opinion of the present Prime Minister on this important person, the consumer. In receiving a deputation of various Trade Councils on the 18th of May, 1881, he said—We do not regard with any satisfaction the system under which an artificial advantage is given in our markets to the products of foreign labour, the principle to be observed being that of equality. Some people say it is a good thing, because the consumer gets the benefit of it; but I do not think that any benefit founded on inequality and injustice can bring good even to the consumer.Now, I will quote one more piece of testimony from the other side of the House. I do not know whether the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. John Morley) is a political economist or not, but I suppose he would be regarded as some sort of authority. I will give the House what he said on the point some years ago—The orthodox doctrine has been that the interests of civilization are best promoted by the supply of his goods to the consumer at the lowest possible rate.I need not, perhaps, say that this speech was not made in the House. It was calculated for the meridian of Lancashire. He went on—But the social idea interposes. It is clear, on reflection, that the economic proposition is not really tenable, and that nobody acts as if it were so.So much for the consumer. Inequality and injustice, the Prime Minister says, are to be avoided. Well, these are the very things that our working men are now complaining of. What they say—and, of course, the subject presents itself to them in a very simple fashion—is, "We see that the foreigner will not take a single thing that we make without putting heavy taxes upon it, and the wise people up in London, the great philosophers and statisticians say—'That does not hurt you, but the foreigner who puts the tax on.' But our masters tell us that it has had the effect of diminishing the demand for our goods in America, and Germany, and every other country; and, therefore, it does hurt us very considerably." They say—"This is very unfair indeed, and there ought to be some means of putting a tax upon foreign goods also which come into direct competition with ours." It may be said that our workmen have not been properly trained; but if you look around a little further 1056 beyond the sphere of our workmen, you discover something which, I think, must often astonish hon. Gentlemen who have been brought up to take a certain narrow view of this question, and who never look beyond it. It is that every nation on the face of the earth adopts the system which I desire to recommend, only carrying it to a very much greater extent than I am prepared to advise. What they say is—"Foreigners who come to our ports, who have the advantage of our commercial facilities, of our police and everything else that they require, ought to pay, and shall pay, a certain proportion of keeping up the Government." And, as we are all aware, they have pursued that course for years and years. It is not because they have not been pelted incessantly with Cobden Club pamphlets that they have not abandoned it. There have been enough Cobden Club pamphlets and leaflets discharged upon America almost to bury it alive. I have seen the air white in that country with Cobden Club pamphlets, and, of course, the general effect of them is to deepen the belief of every foreign nation which receives them in the virtue and value of Protection. It is the most protective influence that I am aware of in existence at this moment. I am personally always delighted to assist in the dispersal of these documents, as an agency for promulgating my own opinions. You will find, on turning over these invaluable pamphlets, and you will also hear in other quarters, of the "Large Free Trade Party in the United States." But it is only in this country that you hear of that Party. When you go to the United States, naturally enough the first thing you do on getting up in the morning is to go out and look for the Free Trade Party. But you never see it, for the simple reason that it is not there. All the Free Traders in any State in the Union might easily be put into a one-horse omnibus without the slightest inconvenience either to the horse or to themselves. There is, no doubt, a large party who demand tariff reform; but tariff reform is a very different thing from what we mean by Free Trade. The Tariff Reformer in the United States is no more adverse to the system of raising the chief part of the Revenues required at the Custom House than the out-and-out Protectionist; and if any 1057 one on the other side of the House says the American tariff reformer is the right thing to be, I say that I am a tariff reformer, and earnestly desire to see that kind of American Free Trade adopted here. But we say that the Americans on this subject are a poor benighted set of people—we say that they do not know their own interests, and that they ought to come to us to be taught the elements of political economy. Well, I have no doubt the Americans would come to us to be taught political economy, or anything else, if they could see their way to make it pay; but what they contend is, that this is not a question of political economy at all, but a question of the welfare and prosperity of their people. And they point to the result of their system as affording the clearest proof of the superior advantage of their policy. We hear a great deal of our prosperity since 1846, and no doubt we shall hear a great deal more about it presently; but I should like to know very much what our prosperity has been, compared with that of the United States, during the last 25 years? Why, there is nothing in the history of mankind at all to be compared with it for a single instant. I could quote evidence on the question almost without limit; but my time, I know, is brief, and I am anxious not to overburden the House with evidence, in order that I may not unnecessarily occupy even a moment of time. I must, however, call the attention of the House to the fact that the growth of America and American industries has had nothing to do with its land; but that the pure growth of its industries under the system of Protection has been simply startling. In 1850 there were only 957,000 hands, all told, employed in American manufactures; in 1880 there were 2,700,000. In 1850 the whole produce of American manufactures was valued at a little over $1,000,000,000. In 1880 it amounted to $5,369,000,000. Between 1871 and 1883 the increase of cotton worked up by the Americans was 569,000,000 lbs.; our increase was only 362,000,000 lbs. Now, if everything withers up under Protection, if Protection is fatal to the growth of industries, I hope that some ingenious Member will be so kind as to explain how it is that America has made this wonderful progress, and what right she has to these 1058 industries at all under such an unsound system as Protection. The fact is that America must be a standing wonder to everybody who believes that a protected system is necessarily fatal to industry. We are told that we must not tax foreign goods, because to do that would be a violation of the sacred principle of Free Trade. Well, Sir, it seems to me sometimes that there are very few sacred principles beyond the reach of violation in these days. We have recently heard, on very high authority, that there is no such thing in the British Constitution as a fundamental law. And as for political economy—poor political economy!—that is bundled out of the window unceremoniously whenever it is in the way. Hon. Gentlemen opposite often tell us that the Democracy is bound to be victorious over other forces in the State. ["Hear, hear!"] Well, I am not going to dispute that; but let me tell those hon. Members that the triumph, when it comes, will be accompanied by some results for which they are little prepared. The first thing which the triumphant Democracy will demand will be high, if not protective, tariffs. ["Oh, oh!"] It is easy to say "Oh, oh!" but if anyone who says it will point out to me a single Democracy on the face of the earth that is not protective he will be doing a substantial service to his side of the question. You cannot alter facts by crying "Oh, oh!" in the House of Commons. There is no important Democracy on the face of the earth at this moment which has not adopted high or protective tariffs. You would suppose that the Americans certainly do not need Protection for their agriculture, yet they have a duty equal to 5s. a-quarter on corn, they have a duty on cheese, a duty on butter, and commodities of that kind, all of which they produce in vast quantities and send over to this country. I regret to say that more "Cheshire" cheese comes from America than from that part of the country I have the honour to represent. In France, again, the peasantry have repeatedly demanded a higher duty on agricultural produce; and if anyone supposes that when the land of this country is divided into small allotments, the cultivator will stand by sweetly smiling whilst the foreigner comes in and undersells him, he must be a dreamer of dreams. The facts will be too much for that theory, and it will perish with the 1059 rest of the theories which were good enough 40 years ago. Though they were good enough in 1846, they have no real applicability to the circumstances in which we find ourselves placed in 1886. Sir, the subject is much too vast for me to hope to do more than touch the mere surface of it. I would only point out that what our working men at present seek is not a protective tariff. What they ask for is only a moderate scale of duties upon manufactured goods. ["No, no!"] Well, my constituents ask for it. I am returned to this House by as large a number of working men as any single Member opposite. ["No, no!"] I was elected to this House by more than half of the total possible vote of my constituency, and they ask for such duties; and perhaps hon. Members will condescend to permit me to speak for my own constituents. They ask that a moderate duty should be put upon goods which come into direct competition with their own; and it would be no answer to them to assert, even if it were true, that political economists are against it. But it is not true. People only think it is true, because they will not read books on political economy. I do not blame them, because of all the dry, despairing books to get through those on political economy are the worst. I have here some extracts from the great political economists—from Adam Smith downwards; and if I were not afraid of wearying the House and exhausting my time I would read them. I will, however, assert that everybody who goes through Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, and the works of other writers, will find that they never deny that it is good policy for one nation to put duties upon the commodities of another nation, in return for a similar policy adopted towards themselves. I will read to the House three lines from another authority on the subject, who says—The only mode in which a country can save itself from being a loser by the revenue duties imposed by other countries on its commodities is to impose corresponding revenue duties on theirs.That was written by John Stuart Mill, who used to be accounted a good enough Liberal for anybody or anything. Perhaps now he would not be reckoned such an high authority; but, at any rate, his authority was great. Now, what are the causes of the existing depression? 1060 They vary very much in different localities. I hope no hon. Member will do me the injustice of supposing that I am going to assert that moderate duties on imported goods will have the effect of restoring all the industries of this country. I do not put forward any such absurd theory; but it is highly important to ascertain, as I have already endeavoured to show that there is depression, what are the causes of that depression? Now, there are two causes to which nearly all the Chambers of Commerce agree in tracing it, at least in part—namely, foreign competition and hostile tariffs. The evidence may be found in the Reports of the Royal Commission; but a few, a very few, extracts, by way of indicating the nature of that evidence, I will ask permission to give.These are at the bottom of all our troubles,reports the Chamber of Commerce for Barnsley and district to the Royal Commission. Cardiff reports—Hostile tariffs have materially affected our iron and steel trades.Huddersfield complains ofThe large import of foreign yarns, which is monthly increasing, and gradually beating down the home spinner in our own markets.Leeds reports—Foreign tariffs have seriously injured the trade of this district.These are the Reports of the Chambers of Commerce. Then, the Liverpool General Brokers' Association say that the effects of foreign competition are "very serious," and that foreign tariffs are "ruining some important trades." The Bleachers' Association declare that they are suffering from excessive import duties. The North of England Iron Manufacturers' Association send word that foreign tariffs and bountiesHave annihilated almost all trade with Germany, Russia, France, Spain, and the United States of America.The Paper Makers' Association earnestly desire "perfectly Free Trade with other countries," and declareThat the tendency of much modern legislation has been to handicap the British manufacturer as against his foreign competitor.I have many more extracts here, but I refrain from reading them. The whole tenour of these Reports is that foreign competition and hostile tariffs, between them, are murdering British commerce. 1061 It ought not to be so. They ought to benefit British commerce. The more competition and Protection in the world, the better it will be for us as Free Traders. So say the theorists. But it does not work so in practice. Let a man turn his eyes from the books on political economy, or his rows of statistics, and look at the world around him. He will see that the machinery is not working as he supposed, and that something has gone wrong with it. The Birmingham Chamber of Commerce — Birmingham, of all places in the world—traces the cause of depression partly to "foreign competition in neutral markets." Neutral markets! This statement will very much astonish many distinguished persons who have been systematically assuring us that Americans and other nations cannot compete with us in neutral markets. I have briefly endeavoured to show that in these subjects the Professors have put themselves out of court. They will have to go through a course of practical training, and endeavour to study the real causes which are at work in producing depressed trade, before their evidence is entitled to be heard. But why is it that so many of these wise men imagine that foreign nations cannot get into neutral markets? What is there to prevent them? If people who hold to the delusion that Americans and others cannot compete with us there would but look into the Consular Reports of which we have heard lately in this House, their eyes would be opened. In Japan the trade of the United States is now nearly as great as our own. In Shanghai and other Chinese ports our Consuls report that Lowell is threatening Manchester. In India American competition is daily becoming more formidable. We, ourselves, spend nearly £5,000,000 a-year in buying their manufactures—not much, it may be said; but I would rather see this £5,000,000 spent in articles made by English men and women. I believe it would be better for us. The American and Swiss watch trade is utterly ruining our own; in fact, there is no description of trade in which foreign competition is not making itself felt more and more. Of course, it must be understood that we are only at the beginning of this business. It cannot be shown, nor do I wish to show, that the amount of foreign goods coming in here is equal to 1062 the amount of our goods going into foreign countries; but the advantage the foreigner is gaining over us is increasing, and is affecting us more and more every year. You may depend on it that it will increase. There is nothing to stop it. When there is a surplus of any description of foreign goods in any foreign market it is poured in upon ours, and sold for what it will fetch. ["Hear, hear!"] Though some one says "Hear, hear!" I must, for my own part, repeat the assertion that I have made, that I do not consider that mere cheapness is everything in such a question as this. If you ruin your own industries, the cheapness of the foreign goods which you buy will not make you richer. Since foreign competition is thus inflicting practical injury upon us, according to the Reports of these Chambers of Commerce, what I want to ask is why you should not raise revenue from it? That principle, as I have shown, is adopted by every other nation. I desire that a portion, at least, of the Revenue which we require should be raised from duties upon certain descriptions of goods. It will be said—"Produce your list; you are only dealing with the matter in an abstract manner, and there are no goods on which you could levy a tax." Well, before I sit down I will produce a list. I do not wish to deal in an abstract manner with this question. I have the deepest conviction of its importance to the working classes of the country, and I will produce a list presently. But what I wish to point out is that, although I am well aware that I shall not be successful in my object to-night, yet that we shall be compelled to adopt the system I propose by two irresistible forces—the one is the stress of our own necessities, and the other is the demands of our working men. They will insist, in spite of all the doctrinaires in the world, and of all the sleepers in the enchanted palace of 1846, in having fair play for their industries. At present, they are told that there cannot be any distress among them, because pauperism is not increasing. I never heard such an argument as that produced on a Conservative platform. If you want to be told that nothing will be done for the working classes until they are registered as paupers, it appears to me that one has to go to the so-called Liberals. Now, 1063 Sir, I think that is a most cruel and a most delusive and misleading test to apply to them. Before the working man subjects himself to what he considers, and I think rightly considers, the great disaster of going to the workhouse for food or for shelter, he will pass through such depths of suffering as few can have any conception of. He will part with everything—with his clothing, with his furniture, with the very bed on which he sleeps, and when everything is gone—when he sees that all is over—not a few of them have turned round and calmly faced the most terrible of deaths—death by starvation—rather than go to the workhouse, and bring this disgrace upon themselves and their children. Is that a spirit which should be taken advantage of by any Party or any Government in this country? Should it be laid down as a settled principle that nothing shall be done for the working classes, and that it shall not be admitted that their trades are depressed until they are registered as paupers? All I can say is, that any Party or any Government which takes its stand on principles of that sort is doomed already, and mankind will pronounce that it deserved its fate. All the political nostrums and quack remedies it can invent will not save it. I have addressed thousands of working men—cotton operatives, and others—on this subject, and I know their feeling well. Their industries are in a depressed state. In the very borough which I represent the working men are in a condition which I do not hesitate to describe as most anxious, even if not highly alarming. Go from London—from the theorists, the philosophers, the statisticians, and the wise men who tell us there is no depression, and that it is all imagination, and in a few hours you may find yourselves in the district represented by the noble Marquess the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington), where some mills are actually falling into ruin, or in other places where the operatives have been put on short time. These are things which bring visibly before our eyes the depression of trade existing in the country, and make us confident that the men engaged in these trades will not submit for ever to be ruled by doctrinaire theories, or be told, as they are in the passage which I read from the speech of the hon. Member 1064 for Southwark (Mr. Thorold Rogers), that the main industries of the country are unaffected by depression. Sir, the main industries of the country are deeply affected by depression at this moment. I am aware that I ought not to address the House at this length; but my apology must be the extremely complicated and difficult nature of the subject. I should not feel that I had done my duty if I did not candidly produce the list of articles on which I think a duty would be levied, and could be levied, without the slightest injury to any class in this country. It is, of course, only a partial list of our imports of foreign manufactured goods. The figures which I propose to give are from the Board of Trade Returns. Taking the Returns of 1884, which is the last year accessible to me—I suppose we shall get those for 1885 about Christmas — I find that we imported into this country foreign silk manufactures to the value of £10,984,073; the woollen goods imported from abroad were £8,712,032; cotton, £2,669,460; iron and steel, £2,693,422; leather, £2,234,969; alkali and chemical manufactures, £2,204,196; embroidery, cordage, and other articles, £3,125,163; glass, £1,615,716; paper, £1,403,446; iron in bars, £1,165,948; clocks and watches, £1,043,263; furniture, £1,024,888; lace, £930,890; linen manufactures, £537,339; unenumerated manufactured goods, £6,305,730, making a total of £46,650,535. These are foreign manufactured goods, every article of which we can make quite cheap enough for the supply of our own people. Upon them I would place a duty calculated at about one-third, on the average, of the various protective duties imposed by foreign countries on our own goods. Twenty per cent would produce £9,330,000; [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Sir William Harcourt): Hear, hear!] The Chancellor of the Exchequer is evidently very grateful to me for desiring to make him a present of £9,330,000; and I am not surpised at his gratitude, when I know that he has been obliged this year to resort to the humiliating device of suspending the Sinking Fund in order to raise a paltry £500,000. Therefore, when I propose to make him a present of over £9,000,000 I am not astonished at the effusive nature of his gratitude. I venture to suggest that a portion of this money might be devoted 1065 to the reduction of the duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, and other articles in daily use among the working men. Although the amount I have stated was received with derisive cheers from the officials on the Treasury Bench, yet it may be known—I suppose it must be known to any Chancellor of the Exchequer—that it considerably exceeds the amount of the proceeds of all the duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, dried fruits, and other articles which are used so much in the daily life of the working classes. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer considers this amount so contemptible, let him take it and remit the duties which press so heavily on the working men. The duty on tea, for instance, amounts to 25 per cent, and to 20 per cent on other articles in daily use by the working men. The amount raised by all the duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, raisins, currants, and similar articles, is £5,138,797. Therefore, we might take off all these unnecessary burdens and have a handsome margia left of £4,000,000, which would save us from the necessity of falling back upon the Sinking Fund to make up the inevitable deficit in next year's Budget. Now, Sir, this is the proposition which I venture most respectfully to submit to the House. I thank hon. Members for the patience with which they have listened to me, and I appeal to them not to condemn my proposition offhand on account of what has been said upon it by somebody else at some other time. I trust that they will, at least, consider the arguments which I have put before them. Especially I beg that they will give heed to the earnest appeals which come to them from working men, and will do whatever may be possible to assist the great industries in which they are engaged, and to avert the great and unmerited sufferings which are now impending over their heads. Sir, I beg to move the Resolution.
SIR CUNLIFFE BROOKS (Cheshire, Altrincham)
, in rising to second the Motion, said, the time was when he would not have done so, because it contained matter which was inconsistent with that following of Free Trade which had always been one of the persistent objects of his life. In his youth he was told by Mr. Cobden, to whose friendship he had the privilege of being admitted, that Free Trade was one of the greatest possible benefits that could be 1066 conferred upon any nation. He had held that view all his life long, and he had looked with hope to see the time when we should receive the benefits of Free Trade. He was quite sure that he still was, and that he would ever remain, a firm and consistent believer in the principles of Free Trade. He had seen with satisfaction the great sacrifices that had been made by this nation to become practical Free Traders; but though those sacrifices had been great, he was confident they would be recompensed if, having made them, a system of sound Free Trade were universally established. But a long time had passed since we began to make sacrifices; and he wanted to know how long we were to continue making sacrifices, when we saw, as plainly as possible, all the other nations of the world refusing to join with us in this hunt after that Free Trade which we all desired? But we had not got it. Free Trade consisted of free buying and free selling. Free buying we had got, but free selling we could not, because other nations refused to receive within their territories the goods that we sent to them. Free Trade was a very pretty game to play at if all the players would observe the rules. We did; but other countries did not, and that was the cause of our bad trade. The prosperity of the country depended upon its labour. We allowed other nations to freely compete their labour with ours; but other nations did not allow the products of our labours to go into their territories and compete with theirs. What, then, ought to be done in the altered circumstances of the case? We ought to reconsider our position. That, he believed, would be the advice of Cobden himself had he been spared to witness the failure of his bright anticipations. We had waited long enough for Free Trade, and should wait no longer—not that he should object to waiting if delay did not cause suffering to thousands of our fellow-countrymen. He waited for the realization of another dream—the prevalence of universal peace; he wrote for it, he spoke for it, he hoped for it; but he did not object to waiting for that, because by so doing he did no harm to any mortal man. But by waiting for Free Trade which never came they inflicted an infinity of suffering upon their fellow-subjects. Cobden said—"Wait for five years, by which 1067 time all the nations of the earth will have become Free Traders;" but nearly 10 times that period had passed since the utterance of that prophecy, and it was still unfulfilled. If we saw that there was no probability of foreign nations following our good example, ought we not, as sensible men, to take our own action in the matter? He would put a duty upon all commodities where the labour of the foreigner entered into competition with the labour of Englishmen, excepting always raw material—such as jute, silk, and the like—and that article of universal consumption—corn. The people had said—"Thoushalt not put a tax upon corn;" and no Minister would ever dare to commit the crime involved in its taxation. Besides, there was the echo found in the breasts of everyone to the most beautiful sentiment uttered by the lamented Sir Robert Peel. The words were engraven on his statue in Manchester—It may be that I should leave a name sometime remembered by expressions of goodwill in the abodes of those whose lot it is to labour and to earn their daily bread by the sweat of their brow, when they recruit their exhausted strength with abundant and untaxed food—the sweeter because it is no longer leavened by a sense of injustice.Whilst, then, the English language endured it would be considered a crime to put a tax on corn. He would be told that if our domestic industries were protected many necessary articles would be made dearer. Our steam engines, our doors and windows would be a little dearer. He knew that that would be the result; but surely they would all gladly pay a little more when, with the extra cost, would come the grand satisfaction of knowing that the wages earned in the manufacture of these articles had gone into the pockets of British workmen, and were spent in the neighbourhood where the workmen resided. As matters were at present we sent hundreds of millions every year across the sea to swell the gains of the foreigner, and we never had any of the money back. Money was the life blood of a nation. Here we were letting it go too fast; we were bleeding ourselves to death. It was better to pay a little dearer for commodities than to be forced to find employment for thousands of unemployed workmen. In Manchester the unemployed were even at that moment demanding the erection of public works, 1068 for which the taxpayers would have to pay. He desired to knock down that idol of the Cobden Club called cheapness. Cheapness was not the only desirable thing. Employment was better—content and happiness were better. Several millions were spent annually in the purchase of manufactured silks coming from abroad. What a different state of things there would be in the East End of London and in the Northern districts if only half the sum so spent could find its way into the pockets of British workmen. When the imposed duties were first taken off, thousands of manufacturers and merchants were ruined, and thousands of working men were brought to destitution. It was thought that the foreigner would follow our example by abolishing his import duties; but he did not, and would not, do it. The time had come when we ought to revise our fiscal system thoroughly, taking an independent course. The reason why the members of the Cobden Club remained uninfluenced by the arguments against the continuance of our Free Trade system was that their feelings would be hurt by the admission of the failure of their doctrine. Saying, "Wait, and trust in Free Trade," they posed as soothsayers and oracles, careless of the injury done to the industries of the country. Recognizing that "Hope deferred maketh the heart sick," and seeing no probability of the realization of the Freetraders' anticipations, he trusted that the House would agree to the Motion of his hon. Friend.
To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, it is expedient to raise a larger portion of the Revenue of the Country from Import Duties, and that such Duties should be levied on certain descriptions of fully manufactured Foreign goods, entering into competition with similar goods of our own make; and that the Revenue so obtained should be applied to the reduction of the Duties on tea, coffee, and cocoa, and of other burdensome imposts,"—(Mr. Jennings,)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.)
, who had given Notice of the following Amendment:—That, in the opinion of this House, any proposal to revert to the old and discarded 1069 policy of Protection is misleading and mischievous in its tendency, and opposed to the best interests of the trade and commerce of the Country, and injurious to the welfare of the working classes,said, he was anxious that this question should be debated on its merits, as it had been dangled before their eyes on several occasions. He approached this subject from the standpoint of British working men, among whom he had lived and been associated with all his life, and of whom he was one now. It was very gratifying to hear from hon. Gentlemen opposite of the interest they took in the British working man. But it was a striking fact that of the 10 or 12 Members of that House who most distinctly represented the working classes not one could be found who would support such a Motion as this. So far as he knew the views of his hon. Friends, they were all on one side in this controversy. He was not a Free Trader because Free Trade was the policy of the Liberal Party, for if he felt that the opposite policy would benefit the working classes, he would, irrespective of Party, go for the protection of native industry. He was a Member of the Liberal Party because Free Trade was one of the cardinal points in its policy. He was a Cobdenite not merely because he believed in Free Trade in imports and exports, but because he believed in the whole of the large-hearted policy of that large-hearted man. The reason that the country had not yet obtained all the advantages and the blessings of Free Trade was because it had as yet only adopted a portion of that policy—that portion dealing with free imports—but had not yet crowned the edifice and secured the advantages of Free Trade in land. When hon. Gentlemen supported this, then he would have more faith in their professions of regard for the welfare of the working classes. It was said by hon. Gentlemen opposite that the democracy desired to see the imposition of import duties; but that he entirely denied. It was also said that if the labourers obtained their three acres and a cow, or their 12 acres and two cows, which would be better still, they would all become Protectionists. He was quite willing to run the risk of this. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had referred to America; but that was scarcely a happy instance, for America 1070 had at present her hands full of industrial difficulties — difficulties, however, which he sincerely hoped she might surmount. Whatever view they might take with regard to her industries, or Free Trade, or Protection, it was sufficient for him to know that, so far as this country was concerned, it would be perilous in the extreme, and absolutely ruinous, to attempt to reverse the policy of Free Trade, even if the path on which they had started was wrong. It was, therefore, most injudicious and mischievous to dangle before the masses of this country the policy of Protection; for hon. Members on the other side of the House must know full well that it was now impossible for us to retrace our steps. Why did not the Conservative Party, during the five years it was in Office, from 1874 to 1879, attempt to do so if it was possible? During those years the exports fell, year by year, to an extent never witnessed in recent years. They began to fall when the Tory Government came into Office, and they continued to fall during the five years of Tory Government, only, in fact, beginning to retrieve their position when the Liberal Government came into Office in 1880. Yet the Conservative Government never made a step in the direction of Protection. They would find that the export of British and Irish goods in the last five years had increased by an average of £32,799,219 annually. Surely, as a matter of common-sense, if trade and industry were reviving to such an extent as they had done during the last five years, that could not be an argument for the re-imposition of Customs Duties on imports. There was one statement of the hon. Member for Stockport which he thought was a curious one, if the hon. Member had read the Report of the Royal Commission on Trade in its fulness. The hon. Member had said that they had not increased their exports to America, from which they imported such a large proportion of goods. In point of fact, the exports to America from this country had increased. Thirty years ago their exports to America had been £21,000,000, whereas it now amounted to £28,000,000. This whole question was a very wide and complicated one, and one in which he took considerable interest, because of his connection and association with working men. The hon. Member for 1071 Stockport had said that the textile industries in this country were in a sadly debilitated state.
§ MR. JENNINGS
What I said was that they were not flourishing in proportion to the increase of our population.
§ MR. HOWELL
admitted that the trade of this country in many respects was not in that condition in which they would like to see it, and they would be glad to have a return to the condition of affairs that existed in 1872 and 1873. That, however, was hardly a fair way of looking at the question; what they had to deal with was the current of trade over a given number of years, and he disputed the correctness of an estimate drawn merely from this year or that year instead of a period of years. There had never been a time of greater depression and of misery to working men, except before the introduction of Free Trade, than the period of 1878–9, when trade had gone down and down in almost all respects. During the five years of Tory rule, when they had had the opportunity of dealing with this question from their own stand-point, they had imported more silk goods in the gross than in the last five years. But taking the current trade over a number of years, he maintained that progress had been continuous, with the exception of the period from 1875 to 1879, when the Tory Party was in power. During the last five years the excess of our exports of iron manufactures over the preceding five years amounted to close on £37,000,000, and in steam-engines, machinery, and other mill work alone, the increase was close on £20,000,000; and there was this singular fact—that while they were complaining of the import of foreign manufactured goods, how did the foreigner manufacture these goods? By the latest and best possible machinery made in this country, that formed one of the stable exports of this country. If hon. Members wanted to deal effectually with this question, and were to put an embargo on manufactures from abroad, they had better stop the engines and machinery made in this country for exportation, and which go from England to the Continent, and stop the emigration of English artizans. They could no more do the one than the other. As to the shipping trade of this country, those who spoke about its going to the dogs did not know anything 1072 about the statistics of the case. The truth was, that there was scarcely a single industry that did not show an improvement in its export trade during the last five years. Nearly every ship that came into their ports, whether under a British or foreign flag, went out again loaded with a greater tonnage than that with which she arrived. What did that mean? That she took away more goods than she brought. He challenged the accuracy of the hon. Member's figures as to raw materials. They must not forget, when they examined English trade, that other countries developed as well as this; and, although a patriotic Englishman, he ventured to rejoice that other countries were advancing in civilization. But he did not think there was cause for anxiety. He knew there was a fall in prices; and if by any reasonable means they could increase the prices without injuring the great masses of the people, he should be glad to see it done. Cheapness of production was not everything. Some of the things from which they suffered came directly from the manufacturers, and some of those who were called political economists, who had had too great a belief in the cheapness of production. There were other things which ought to be considered; and if English manufacturers had paid more attention to the quality of their products they would not have suffered so severely. They flooded foreign markets some years ago with inferior goods until shiploads of their goods rotted in foreign and Colonial ports, because they would not unship them. They sent so much of this shoddy material of one kind or another abroad that people began to think that they had better pay a higher price for home manufacture. The subject of technical education had been talked and inquired about for a long time, but nothing had been done for it. Our workmen were expected to compete with all the world; but they were not taught how to do it. He urged that something should be done in this direction. What he desired was that something should be done so as to bring home to our artizans quicker and better methods of production, so that in design, quality, beauty, and finish we should be able to compete with all quarters of the world. Another thing from which the trade of the country had suffered were the high railway rates; and he was 1073 glad the Government were hastening on a solution of that question. Then there was the question of mining rents and royalties, in which his hon. Friend beside him (Mr. Mason) took an interest. The truth was, that the capital of this country was locked up in too few hands, and ought to be employed in more numerous channels. But a return to more prosperous times was certainly not to be secured by the re-imposition of protective tariffs.
§ MR. BAUMANN (Camberwell, Peckham)
said, he thought no one could ignore the fact that this subject interested the constituencies of this country more keenly perhaps than any other question. He did not speak of the new agricultural constituencies, whose Representatives, as they heard the other day, were busy tasting samples of adulterated beer; but any one who had experience of the politics of large towns must be perfectly aware that when all other subjects failed the mere mention of our fiscal policy always exacted the greatest interest and attention. He was not prepared to admit that what were called the "labour" Members in that House represented, in any peculiar degree, or spoke with any special mandate from the labouring classes in this country. Who sat for the large towns in this House? The Representatives of the large industrial centres were on the Opposition Benches, not the Ministerial. ["Oh!"] Was it not so? How, then, about London? How about Liverpool, Sheffield, Oldham, Stockport, Manchester, and Leeds? How about Lancashire? The Radicals were driven out of the large towns to the uttermost parts of the country. Liberal candidates had been rejected by the great working-class constituencies, and had been forced to take refuge in the bowels of the earth—in the mines of Cornwall, in the Islands and Highlands of Scotland, in the barns and farmyards of that which its own Representatives had pictured as a beery Bœotia. He had had, unfortunately for himself, a considerable experience and a pretty long apprenticeship as a Metropolitan candidate, and had invariably found that the intelligent working man of London, at any rate, was by no means satisfied with our present tariff system, and regarded it with suspicion and misgiving. A large proportion condemned it, and they all, irrespective of Party, 1074 regarded it with an open mind and as an arguable question. The mental attitude of the working classes upon this question contrasted very favourably with that of gentlemen in high places—Cabinet and ex-Cabinet Ministers, writers of leading articles, and members of the Cobden Club, who from mere cowardice and laziness in trenched themselves behind a formula adopted 40 years ago under totally different conditions of production. He must exempt from the category of cowards and laggards the hon. Member for Bermondsey (Mr. Thorold Rogers), who, whatever his errors might be, certainly could not be accused of either cowardice or want of industry. As a matter of fact, nothing was more unhistorical or more unscientific than the attempt to exalt the doctrine of free imports into the regions of natural laws or self-evident propositions. It was thoroughly unhistorical, because we had only been a free-trading nation for the past 40 years; and it was most thoroughly unscientific, because the principle of political economy depended entirely upon the circumstances of the society to which the application was proposed. The history of Free Trade was not at all, as the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) seemed to imagine, creditable to the Whigs or to the Liberal Party. The statesmen in the last century whose names were associated with Free Trade were Lord Bolingbroke and Mr. Pitt, and the opponents of the Commercial Clauses of the Treaty of Utrecht were Sir Robert Walpole and his friends. The opponent of the Commercial Treaty with France was Mr. Fox. The manufacturing classes placed themselves at the head of the movement from which they had derived all the advantage, while all the risk and sacrifice was bound to fall upon the landed classes. It was his opinion that if this country had retained low duties, instead of abolishing free duties, they would, as Greville had said in his Memoirs, have been felt by nobody, and they might have been raised at any moment if the Revenue required it. The history of Free Trade did not show the movement to be any monopoly of the Liberal Party. The truths of political economy, as he had said, depended entirely upon the condition of the society to which it was proposed to apply them. Forty years ago England 1075 enjoyed a virtual monopoly of manufactures. We wanted corn, and we knew that other countries must come to us for goods in payment for their corn. But all this had been changed. Other nations had borrowed our capital to make their railways; they had learnt our language, and stolen our patents, and copied our processes. They now ran us neck and neck in every market of the world. The electric telegraph and the adoption of a gold standard by Germany had simply revolutionized the banking business of the world; and, therefore, he said, it was perfectly impossible to maintain, from a logical point of view, that the fiscal system which was good for the country 40 years ago was good for the country at the present day. His idea of a sound commercial policy was a policy based on mutual concessions and mutual advantages—concessions and advantages to be secured, not by Cobden Club essays, but, if necessary, by a tit for tat tariff, and to be embodied in Commercial Treaties. The policy of Commercial Treaties was practised, and successfully practised, every day upon the Continent and in the United States. It was practised successfully between Spain and the United States in 1867, and between Spain and Germany in 1883. He would like to ask the House what more ridiculous result could have happened to this country than that which befel us when Mr. Cobden's Commercial Treaty expired in 1880? We sent over to Paris the right hon. Baronet the Member for Chelsea and a packet of Cobden Club essays. The Parisians received them both with civility; but the result of it all was not a happy one. He did not rise to submit the Motion or the Amendment to an exhaustive analysis. He was very much afraid that the House was thoroughly debauched by the absinthe of Repeal, and was not in the condition to go deeply into this or any other question; but he rose for the purpose of showing the absurdity of treating this as a closed question, and to express his conviction that there was no subject in which the artizans of our large towns were more deeply interested, and that there was no result which they could more legitimately claim from their Representatives than this—that, as far as commercial legislation was concerned, they should be placed upon equal terms of competition with their foreign rivals.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
said, the question of Free Trade had often been discussed in that House, and always with one result. He did not think that the result of that debate would differ from the result of similar debates in the past. There was no use blinking or disguising the fact that the trade of the country had lost its elasticity. In nearly every branch profits were very small; in some of them a large amount of trade was done without profit; the status of the working class was being lowered, and there were larger bodies of men unemployed, or partly employed, at the present moment than was the case 10 or 15 years ago. In these circumstances, it was not surprising that the attention of the House was frequently called to the subject. But, granted that we were suffering from long-continued and severe depression, were other countries, which had adhered to protective tariffs, any better off than we were? There had been labour riots in the United States, resulting from the same congestion of labour that there was here. There had been great depression in the iron and glass trades of Belgium; and there had been great distress in Belgium, in France, and in the United States. The strongest upholders of the protective system had been France and the United States, and they did not appear to have derived much benefit from it. The United States and France had plausible excuses for a policy of Protection, because they had something to protect — undeveloped manufactures, which, without some protection, would be exposed to fierce competition. The United States produced all the necessaries of life, and only exported its surplus of food. France produced nearly all her own food. The peculiar position of England was that her people depended upon a large importation of food and of raw materials, and there were no means of paying for them except by exports. To us, therefore, Free Trade was a matter of life and death. We had practically to import the food of one-half the population—of from 15,000,000 to 18,000,000 of people; and we had also to import the raw materials for the greater part of our manufactures. For the enormous import of food and of raw materials, amounting to about £300,000,000 sterling, we had no means of paying except 1077 by our manufactured goods. It was essential that we should be large exporters and the cheapest producers; and, unless we were the cheapest producers, our position was one of great danger. It was said we imported £2,000,000 worth of cotton goods; but we exported somewhere about £60,000,000 worth. The cotton trade depended for its existence upon our being the cheapest producers, and being able to control the foreign markets. It was the fact that we were the cheapest producers that enabled us to control the markets of India, China, South America, and Africa. In all these markets we had absolute Free Trade, or, at all events, the benefit of the Most Favoured Nation Clause, and we were, therefore, unaffected by competition. The amount of trade with those markets carried off by other countries was a mere bagatelle compared with our own. It was quite true that we were losing trade with the protected countries of the Continent and with the United States; but we were gaining trade with the British Colonies and in neutral markets. We did not possess the means of improving our position by altering our commercial policy. No doubt, our import of foreign manufactured goods, about £46,000,000 worth, was too large; and it was to be regretted that our manufacturers should not be able to reduce it by competition; but if we were to place the duties suggested upon that £46,000,000 worth of goods, what would be the effect? No doubt for a time we should give a stimulus to the trades of this country that are competed with now; for a short time there would be more profit and a greater employment of labour; but the ultimate effect would be to raise the cost of production in this country generally, and when that was done we should lessen our trade with the other countries of the world. That we should lose the command of the great neutral markets would be the inevitable effect of any policy of that kind. It was, therefore, to us a matter of life and death that we should be the cheapest producers. Still, the question arose—Why was it that other countries were able to send us any manufactured goods? Why were Belgium and France able to send us silk and woollen and iron goods? It arose from two causes. The first was that other countries had cheaper labour and longer hours of work than we had; 1078 and the second was that by the spread of technical education they had discovered finer and better processes than we had. Our remedy was to out-trump them by discovering still finer and better processes. This country was the storehouse of mechanical invention, genius, and contrivance; and it was our own fault if we permitted any foreign country to get an advantage over us by technical superiority. As to the wages and hours of other countries, the fact that the wages were lower and the hours longer at all events constituted a caution to our artizans and Trade Unions not to press their claims too far. He viewed with the greatest satisfaction the increased comfort of the working classes, and there was nothing he desired more ardently to promote; but we could not shut our eyes to the fact that we were exposed to risk in competing with countries where men worked 15 hours per week longer, and were content with 30 per cent lower wages. It was possible to kill the goose that laid the golden egg. If we lost any trade from these causes it would be difficult to recover it. No doubt this country suffered from the protective policy of other countries in recent years. It was admitted that many Cobdenite prognostications had not been realized; but there were no means by which we could affect the reactionary policy of other countries. We might, perhaps, have gained certain advantages if we had retained the power of negotiation. We might at one time have insisted upon Free Trade in the Colonies and throughout the British Empire; but the day for doing it was past, for the great Colonies were virtually independent, and we could influence them by persuasion only. The population of this country was growing with rapidity, while its trade was not. We raised less food to-day in this country than we did 20 or 30 years ago. There were now more than 30,000,000 of population to support in Great Britain, one-half of whom were supported by the importation of foreign food. The increase in our population was going on at a rapid rate; and it became a serious question to consider the wants of our large towns, where millions of people were underfed, and where employment was inadequate. The remedy which he would venture to suggest was in this direction. We possessed a Colonial Empire 60 times larger than the United 1079 Kingdom. In England we had 450 persons to the square mile, a considerable portion of whom were on the verge of starvation; in Australia, on the other hand, there was but one person to the square mile. What was the natural remedy in the circumstances? Surely it was to be found in some steps being taken to remove our congested population to some of those more favourably situated Colonies. Unless we adopted some course of this kind he foresaw increasing labour difficulties in all our large towns, with the concomitant spread of Socialism. For these difficulties he could see no remedy, except that of spreading our large and growing population over the vast area of our Colonies. There was one chief cause for the terrible cloud of depression which hung over, not only the United Kingdom, but Europe and America as well. There was surely something wrong in the commercial system. This state of things had now existed for many years. Nothing like it had been seen since the gloomy days previous to the repeal of the Corn Laws. What was the chief feature of this remarkable state of things? It was the astonishing fall of prices, which had been perfectly unexampled in their time. He had taken great pains to investigate this question; and he could assure the House that the average prices now existing in this country, the United States, France, and elsewhere were about 40 per cent lower than was the case 10 or 15 years ago. This had an immense effect upon the traders of the country, because it might be truly said that a very large portion of the trade of this country was virtually bankrupt just now. The real owner of commercial plant in this country at the present time might be said to be the mortgagee. Nothing could be more discouraging to industry, because this state of things really put an end to all enter-prize. This was the condition of affairs just now in the United States, in England, France, Belgium, and to a less extent in Germany. There must be some common cause for this condition of things; and he believed, after much study of the question, that the main cause was to be found in the foolish and reckless monetary changes which had expelled one-half of the money of the world from its proper use, and which had thrown the business operations almost exclusively on the other half. 1080 The result was that they had these falling prices. By this change, too, they had transferred a great portion of the property of the country from the hardworking toiling classes to the idle money-lending classes. If they wished to get rid of this disease of depression they must get rid of their absurd and foolish monetary policy. Let them go back to the position held by Europe up to 1873, and he believed the effect would be a remarkable resuscitation of industy.
Notice taken, that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being found present,
§ MR. ARTHUR O'CONNOR (Donegal, E.)
said, he must compliment the hon. Member for Camberwell (Mr. Baumann) upon the felicity and the charm of his speech; but he could not help remembering that the 400 majority by which the hon. Member had secured his seat was due not to the intelligent interest which the English artizans took in the fiscal affairs of their country, but to the Irish vote. Neither could he help recollecting that when, during the end of the last and the beginning of the present year, money was so cheap that it could be borrowed at 2 per cent, thousands of acres of land were lying unproductive, while 20,000 dock labourers in London alone were starving. Some references had been made to the voluminous evidence taken before the Royal Commission on the Depression of Trade; but it was only fair that that evidence should be taken as a whole, and not treated in a piecemeal fashion. As a Member of that Commission, he might mention some of the facts that had come out in evidence. It was shown that there was unused capital, unused land, and workers idle by the thousand; that in agricultural districts the farmers' profits were swallowed up by landlords' rents; in mining districts depression was caused by the royalties to the lords of the soil swallowing up the profits of the mines; and, again, in the large centres of commercial industry, the system of ground rents to wealthy landlords made it hard for the industrial population to live—and those who were in work were earning what was hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together—and went far to explain the depression which existed. These facts ought not to be forgotten in discussing a subject of this kind. Under 1081 those circumstances, the evidence would bear a very different interpretation to that which it had been sought to place upon it.
§ MR. BAKER (Somerset, Frome)
said, that the subject brought forward by the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had been placed before the House by him in a most taking form. The proposal was, in fact, to raise taxation on certain foreign manufactures for the implied purpose of benefiting the labourers of this country. The hon. Member had made a great deal of the fact that while the United States imported £86,000,000 worth of produce into this country we, in return, only exported £24,000,000 in the year to America. The difference of £62,000,000 the hon. Member treated as being a direct loss to this country; but while the Americans did not make us a present of that sum, we certainly did not pay for it in specie. The hon. Member must be acquainted with the fact that specie was not paid for those American imports, and that if our exports did not go to the United States directly they went indirectly. The prosperity which this country enjoyed under Free Trade was shown by the Returns of the Savings Banks, which represented the savings of the working classes. In 1846 the amount of money in the Savings Banks was about £46,000,000, while, at the present day, it had increased to £95,000,000. With largely increased wages, and with a greatly diminished price of articles of consumption, it could not be denied that the condition of the labouring classes had very considerably improved. Directly we placed a duty on foreign manufactured goods we should raise the prices of those goods; and, whatever might be the opinion of the hon. Member for Stockport, who claimed to represent a working-class constituency, he begged to say that, in his own constituency, the classes who worked in the mills were all agreed that Free Trade was absolutely essential to their well-being. An import duty would, no doubt, benefit the manufacturer; but it would certainly be detrimental to the labourer, since it would be impossible to tax manufacturing imports without taxing agricultural imports. That would, of course, put a tax upon food; and he should be surprised if the constituents of the hon. Member allowed him to advocate 1082 that. The hon. Member had spoken about the increase in the numbers of people who were employed in American textile manufactures; but he believed it would be found that the increase of population in America during the same period was in excess ratio to the increased numbers employed in those manufactures. The Seconder of the Resolution (Sir Cunliffe Brooks) was a gentleman connected with banking, and, therefore, well acquainted with all subjects relating to finance. The hon. Member said—"We throw hundreds of millions away every year, and never see them again." He believed the House would agree with him that that was a very startling statement. Where did the hundreds of millions come from, and where did they go to? He thought the hon. Member would find that there was more money in the banks, and more in the pockets of the people, than at any former period. In conclusion, he would observe that although he admired many of the pamphlets of the hon. Member for Flint (Mr. Samuel Smith), he entirely differed from that hon. Gentleman on the question of bimetallism.
§ MR. JAMES MACLEAN (Oldham)
said, that while he was unable to support the Motion of his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), he was at issue with hon. Members on the other side of the House as to the facts of the present situation. The speech to which they had just listened was conceived much on the same lines as that of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), and the hon. Gentleman seemed to him to deny that any great and unparalleled depression of trade existed at the present time. He was glad to notice, however, that the last speaker did not infuse into his remarks that bitterness of Party and class feeling which, unfortunately, disfigured the speech of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green. With regard to the question whether there was any real and serious depression existing in the country at the present moment, he should like to cite one witness who would have been accepted not long ago by all Members on the other side of the House as a witness of unimpeachable authority. Early this Session the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, at that time President of the Local Government Board (Mr. Chamberlain), 1083 in a very sound and admirable speech, spoke on a Motion brought forward by the hon. Member for Leeds (Mr. R. Dawson) with regard to Harbours of Refuge, and on that occasion he described the results of inquiries he had made in regard to the condition of the working classes throughout the country, and he admitted that there was a great deal of distress existing among the better class of artizans, which could not, and did not, come under the notice of the Boards of Guardians. He said he knew nothing more admirable than the way in which the more respectable of the working classes shrank from having recourse to the Poor Law for help in their difficulties, undergoing, as they did, great hardship and privation, and almost starvation, rather than have recourse to what they considered to be a degradation. The right hon. Gentleman confessed that the distress amongst the classes to which he referred was considerable, and that, unless there was a speedy diminution in the distress, it would be a serious matter for the consideration of the House what steps should be taken in the matter. Now, that was the opinion only a short time ago of a distinguished Member of the Liberal Party, who was, until recently, a Member of the Liberal Government, of the condition of the trade and commerce of the country. Such was the state of the country after five years of Liberal rule; and it was a complete answer to the statement of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, that whenever the Liberals came into Office the trade and industry of the country at once began to improve. Now, not only did the depression of which the right hon. Gentleman spoke exist at that time, but it had since increased, as anybody who moved about in the manufacturing districts must know very well; and if hon. Members on the other side of the House had moved about in the manufacturing districts as he (Mr. Maclean) had, they would also know that there was a strong feeling amongst the working classes of those districts that foreign competition had a great deal to do with the depression of trade. [Cries of "No, no!"] Well, he knew that the feeling prevailed, to a large extent, amongst the working classes. He was not one of those who thought that was a feeling which ought to be encouraged by proposals to put 1084 taxes on the importation of foreign manufactures into this country. When people were out of employment and trade was bad their imagination was apt to be captivated by all sorts of schemes for the improvement of their condition. Most men were by nature Protectionists; and it required a strong and sustained effort, not only of the reason, but of the will, to confirm them in their faith in Free Trade. Persons engaged in daily labour had not the time or the opportunity to study the question deeply; and it was not unnatural that, in times of depression, they should think that relief was to be obtained by shutting out foreign manufactures. For himself, however, he did not think the proposal of the hon. Member for Stockport would have the result desired. His hon. Friend had suggested that the United States were prospering at our expense in the neutral markets of the world, in spite of their having a protective tariff. He believed that we had a stronger hold on the neutral markets of the world than any other competing countries, whether they were Free Trade or Protectionist. But, of course, the advantages in competition which we secured by Free Trade might be counterbalanced by other circumstances. It might be that other countries, where the cost of the raw material was smaller, or the markets nearer, or where the hours of labour were longer, might be able to force their goods into neutral markets in spite of Free Trade; but should we gain any advantage by abandoning Free Trade and increasing the cost of production to our producers at home? He certainly did not think that we should. The question was often asked, What country was prospering by Free Trade? He did not know of any country in the world which was prospering at the present time more than India was doing—she was enjoying considerable prosperity—and that was because India enjoyed the benefits of absolute Free Trade under British rule. His hon. Friend had drawn a distinction between consumers and producers which, to his (Mr. Maclean's) mind, involved a great fallacy. He said producers were not to be sacrificed in the interests of the consumers. But in England we were both producers and consumers, and especially we were consumers of foreign food and raw material; and it was a perfect fallacy to 1085 draw distinctions between the two classes. The great object which we should all have in view, in order to secure the prosperity of the industrial classes, should be to enable them to produce home manufactures at the lowest possible cost; and he would ask how was it possible we could produce at the lowest cost unless we had Free Trade for raw materials? His hon. Friend had been good enough to refer to the borough which he (Mr. Maclean) had the honour to represent—the borough of Oldham—as being in great distress. The state of things in Oldham, he regretted to say, was very distressing indeed. He acknowledged that the spinning trade, of which Oldham was the headquarters, was very much distressed, and far from satisfactory. At no time were the Oldham people more gloomy about their prospects. The witnesses who were examined before the Royal Commissioners on Trade Depression all agreed that at no previous time within their recollection were the profits on the manufacture of yarn in this country so small as at the present time. But could his hon. Friend point to a scintilla of evidence given before the Commissioners about Oldham to the effect that the cause of the depression was due to the importation into England of foreign manufactured goods? There were many causes for the depression. There were many markets which now produced a great deal of yarn that could compete successfully with the goods exported from this country. In India, for example, many cotton mills had been set up, and they were able to produce cotton yarns cheaply, because they had the raw material at their very doors. They imported coal from England at a very low rate; freights were cheap, labour was plentiful and cheap, and they got out the latest and most improved machinery at a cheap rate, and they acquired skilled supervision from managers from this country. Moreover, the superiority of manufacturing skill, which had hitherto given us a great advantage over competing countries, was constantly being diminished; and in India, also, there was a steady depreciation in the value of silver, which gave to the manufacturers of yarn and cloth in India a great advantage over the manufacturers in this country in the competition of yarns and cloth. Now these, he considered, were among the 1086 chief causes which contributed to the depression of trade in Lancashire. Now, he would ask, what would be the advantage of imposing a large import duty upon silk and other goods? He was not so strong a Free Trader as not to say that retaliation should be applied within a narrow compass or field, over which we ourselves had complete control, so that, for instance, we might avenge ourselves upon Russia, who was doing all that she could to prevent our trading in the far East. He had made such a proposition in that House, and hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side had laughed at the idea. That was a case where Protection might be resorted to with advantage; but the complexities of trade, industry, and commerce were so great and far-reaching in our trade with Europe that it would be impossible to adopt retaliation in some cases and not in others—to make bargains here and not in other cases without its having a retro-active effect on our own industries. He would take one instance in proof of this assertion. It would be remembered that the Commercial Treaty which Mr. Cobden negotiated with the Emperor Napoleon III. was announced with a great flourish of trumpets. In the Chief Secretary for Ireland's (Mr. John Morley's) interesting history of The Life of Cobden there was an account of the differences of opinion which prevailed between the Prime Minister (Mr. W. E. Gladstone) and Mr. Cobden, on the one hand, and the right hon. Member for Birmingham (Mr. Bright) on the other, over the negotiations for the French Treaty. The right hon. Member for Birmingham thought it was our business to look solely to our own tariffs, without consideration for what France wanted in return. Mr. Cobden and the Prime Minister thought otherwise, and the Chief Secretary adopted their views. Commenting upon this difference of opinion, Mr. Morley remarked—An economic principle in itself, as all sensible men have now learnt, can never be decisive of anything in the mixed and complex sphere of practice.That was an expression of opinion which would justify, not only special bargains and arrangements with other countries—Treaties of Commerce and the like—but it involved also the policy of retaliation. Experience had proved that both Mr. Cobden and Mr. Gladstone 1087 were totally mistaken in their estimate of what the effect would be of the Treaty with France, and that their departure from sound principle in this instance had been indirectly injurious to British trade with other countries. The exceptionally favourable treatment which England accorded to French productions had caused great irritation to Spain, which had lasted for 30 years, and it was not until a few weeks ago that that irritation had been removed. That showed what great harm might arise out of this kind of bargaining, and how difficult it was to have a commercial policy favouring one country at the expense of others, which would not do more harm than good to ourselves. His hon. Friend (Mr. Jennings) proposed a duty of 20 per cent on silks imported from France and other countries. But, in a Report presented on the manufacturing industries of France, it appeared that the silk industry at Lyons was depressed and languishing owing to the competition of German silks in which there was a mixture of cotton. The Lyons manufacturers were imploring the French Government to do away with the heavy import duty on the yarn spun at Oldham, in order that they might work it into their silks. Thus the effect of his hon. Friend's proposal would probably be to deprive Oldham of a large foreign market for its yarns. That trade gave a great deal of employment; and if a tax were imposed upon French silks it would be the duty of the English Government to find the manufacturers of Oldham another market. His hon. Friend proposed to unite two incompatibles—he stated that by the proposals he brought forward he would give to the Chancellor of the Exchequer £9,250,000 of Revenue, arising from import duties upon foreign manufactured goods, and that he would, at the same time, revive British industry. Well, the fact was the hon. Member could not do both. If he raised the Revenue, then the foreign goods must still be imported, and British industry would not be benefited. If, on the other hand, the import duties were high enough to exclude foreign manufactures and transfer the trade into British hands, then there would be nothing left to collect Revenue upon. He might do one or the other; but if he did one he prevented the realization of the other. His main objection 1088 to his hon. Friend's proposal was that it was a return to the old vicious circle. It was impossible to impose any particular duty without giving other industries the right to demand the same treatment. Why should one particular industry be protected and another left out in the cold? An import duty on corn would be demanded, and with the best show of reason, because the agricultural interest was the largest in the country. It was impossible to draw a distinction on the ground of raw material, as corn was the result of labour as much as manufactured goods were. These were some of the reasons why he considered that it was his duty to vote against the proposal made by his hon. Friend the Member for Stockport.
§ MR. BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said, that the Legislature of this country was the most honest in the world; and that was so mainly because its Members had not the same temptations to overcome which beset the legislators of Protectionist countries. He could illustrate the truth of that statement by a reference to the business in which he was engaged. All the sulphur ore used in the alkali trade formerly came from Ireland. He thought an alkali maker did not require sulphur ore; and if a duty were put on sulphur ore from Spain sufficiently high to bring the Irish ore into use again, his business organization would make a profit of about £500,000 a-year thereby, and he could afford, to offer huge bribes to Members to bring that about. He therefore conjured the House to oppose a Motion which would endanger the honour and purity of the Legislature.
§ COLONEL BRIDGEMAN (Bolton)
said, he would admit that a few years back the statesmen of this country need not have troubled their heads much about the employment of the people, because at that time labour had it all its own way. Things, however, had changed, and instead now of capital vying with capital to get labour, labour was vying with labour to get employment, and this would intensify as time went on, for the reason that the population of this country was increasing at the rate of between 200,000 and 300,000 a-year, and if we failed to get employment for our people now, how were we to do so in future years? The capitalist, whose capital consisted 1089 in gold, which was the accumulated labour of past years, cared very little how our Revenue was raised, whether from articles we could produce or not; but it was very different with the labouring man, whose whole capital consisted in his power to work. It was really a question of life or death with him whether he got employment for his labour, and, therefore, whether we raised revenue from articles which he produced or not. He protested against Gentlemen below the Gangway claiming to be the only Representatives of labour in the House. He claimed to be himself a Representative of labour, as he sat for a constituency of which the great majority were working men; and he could tell the House that the working men would not be satisfied until this question was thoroughly threshed out.
§ MR. JAMES ELLIS (Leicestershire, Bosworth)
said, that every man who gave his mind to the thorough study of economic laws would see that for England, at least, the only chance was to continue in the path of Free Trade. There was a feeling in the House that the importation of manufactured goods into this country was necessarily an evil; but he believed that it was just as much a blessing as the introduction of food. The fact was that if they allowed the channel of trade to be free, men would only exchange goods one with another when there was a profit on the exchange; and it was just as good for us to import iron from Belgium, or manufactured cotton from the United States, as it was to import raw material. Did hon. Gentlemen think that the United States sent us a quantity of goods without getting paid for them? There were plenty of French cucumbers and other vegetables to be got in Covent Garden Market. Was it supposed that Frenchmen sent those goods without receiving goods in return? It was simply an easier way of producing what was wanted in this country. It was true that just now there was a very large excess of imports over exports; but those who had gone into the question knew that, taking a period of 10 years, the trade was balanced. In the first place, it was balanced by a certain amount of goods we sent to the States; in the second place, by the considerable number of interests paid on mortgage and railway stocks in America; and, in the third place, by the exports 1090 sent to India and China. What would become of our trade with India and China if it were not for the amount of goods which we imported from America? If we began Protection it must be practised all round. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Stockport had given an illustration of the need of Protection which came under his own observation. He (Mr. Ellis) would like the House to know how his own constituency was affected by the present condition of things. In London the authorities had wisely changed the method of making streets. They no longer put down blocks of granite, but asphalte which came from Switzerland, and timber which came from Norway. Neither the asphalte nor timber paid English duty; but by its use there had been displaced the labour of thousands of men in his constituency and in Wales and Scotland. If the other industries of the country were protected his constituents would come forward and say—"You shall not import timber; you shall not import asphalte; but you shall be compelled to use our granite." As the Representative of an agricultural constituency, he was amazed that the Mover of the Resolution proposed to leave agriculturists out of the question. If it was intended to raise the price of everything agriculturists used, surely it was proper to put a tax upon wheat. If he would tax anything at all, he would tax agricultural produce, the price of which had fallen to such an extent that we had a difficulty in competing with the rich land over the water. It was impossible to tax manufactured goods. He was a Free Trader, and he would do nothing of the sort. It was impossible to play with Protection. If adopted it must be adopted all round. A poor man, at one of the meetings he addressed on this question, told him a story which very aptly applied to this case. His friend told him that he went to the theatre in some agricultural town. The people in the front began to stand up, then the people at the back stood, then those in front stood upon the forms, whereupon the people at the back, in order to see better, stood upon the forms. In the end all the audience were standing on the forms, which led to the remark by someone present—"My friends, I think we had better all sit down, and then we shall just be where we began." If we taxed everything which we imported 1091 we should find more trouble in collecting the duty; but otherwise we should be just where we were before. There was in many parts of the country great depression of trade. There were two cures for it—one was to lessen the Expenditure of the country by at least £10,000,000 sterling, and the other was to use that £10,000,000 to extend emigration. By adopting remedies the burden which fell upon every man in the Realm would be decreased, and other customers would be created over the water. If he had his wish he would employ the ships now engaged in blocking the Greek ports in carrying emigrants to the fruitful shores of Western Australia.
§ SIR HERBERT MAXWELL (Wigton)
said that, if he understood the argument of the hon. Member who had just spoken (Mr. Ellis), it was that in every period of 10 years matters righted themselves. But we were now coming to the end of a period of well-nigh 10 years. The present depression commenced about the year 1877 or 1878, and if things were to right themselves within 10 years a commencement must be made very soon. He had listened with attention and interest to the speech of the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), whose well-known experience of matters connected with the working classes entitled his words to earnest consideration; but he could not see that he threw any particular light upon the subject. The hon. Member asked why Import Duties were not imposed on home manufactures; but the answer to that was that duties were imposed upon them by foreign countries. He would give the House an illustration of what occurred to a well-known firm of ironmasters in Glasgow. Like many other commercial firms in this country, they had been driven by the condition of trade in this country to set up a manufactory on the Continent; and they had occasion, at the beginning of the year, to send out an engine the cost of which in this country was £600. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green said that the reason why foreign nations were able to compete with us was because they received machinery of the very best description from us. But what he did not say was this—that that machinery, before it went into a country whose products were here received duty free, was taxed upwards of 100 per cent. 1092 Therefore, the price which this firm had to pay for the engine costing £600 in this country before it could be laid down in their manufactory in Spain, exclusive of carriage, was £1,200, so that we not only handicapped our own manufacturers in this country by this fiscal system, but we handicapped our manufacturers when they went to other countries. A few years ago it required no small courage on the part of anyone to express in public any doubts as to the wisdom of the fiscal policy which we had adopted. It seemed to be in the minds of some Gentlemen little short of rank blasphemy, such magnificent claims were made in behalf of Free Trade, such vast results were attributed to it. Mr. Giffen, the well-known statistician, even claimed the increase in the population of this country as one of the results of Free Trade. That was to say, that the increase which had taken place since 1841, which amounted, according to the Census Returns, to 41 per cent, had resulted from Free Trade. But how about the increase that had taken place in the preceding 40 years before Free Trade? From 1801 to 1841 the population had increased 70 per cent; and therefore, when Mr. Giffen laid claim to Free Trade as a cause of the increase in population in the last 40 years, how did he account for the greater increase which took place before we had Free Trade? That was only one instance of the extraordinary attributes that were laid to the credit of unlimited Free Trade. The whole of our prosperity from 1850 to 1870 was laid by some people to the credit of Free Trade. Some were inclined to doubt that, and to ask whether it had not been effected in spite of Free Trade. There had, at all events, been some other causes at work. Lord Beaconsfield had pointed out that the enormous discoveries of gold had had something to do with the prosperity of the last 25 years. He had heard it said by thoughtful men that the present depression was owing, in a great measure, to the scarcity of gold; but, considering that at the present moment there was more gold in the world than at any former period, it was difficult to understand how the depression could be due to that cause. There were enormous discoveries of gold in Australia and California between the years 1850 and 1880. In 1850 the gold of the world was estimated at 1093 £630,000,000; in 1860, at £911,000,000; in 1870, at £1,175,000,000; and in 1885, at £1,504,000,000. The increase of gold must certainly have given a great impetus to the manufactures and industries of this country, so that it was hardly fair to ascribe their development exclusively to the establishment of Free Trade. Another great cause of the increase of our trade in the years between 1850 and 1880 was found in the wars that were then waged. These were the great American War which came to an end in 1864, the war between Austria and Prussia, and the Franco-German War. Those who remembered the immense impulse given to British trade by the demands which came from the countries which had been engaged in those wars would be slow to place all the prosperity of those years to the credit of Free Trade. But a short time ago those who expressed doubt on the subject of the vaunted efficacy of Free Trade were written down, and sometimes hooted down. Now there was certainly a change in public opinion. When the subject of our fiscal policy was referred to at public meetings speakers were listened to most intently. At Dumfries, two years ago, Lord Salisbury, when addressing a monster meeting, alluded to the subject; and he should never forget the effect that was produced upon the vast audience by the noble Lord's few words—which were not so clear and unmistakable as he could have wished them to be—but which, nevertheless, indicated that in the mind of the speaker there lurked some doubt as to the wisdom of the policy which the country had so long pursued. Between 1870 and 1884 the amount of our trade increased 24 per cent, while the amount of the trade of America and Protectionist Continental nations, taken together, increased 50 per cent. If Free Trade had really been the cause of our prosperity, it was worth while inquiring why the prosperity of Protectionist countries had increased in a greater ratio than ours. He should like to hear an explanation of that state of things from those who held that Free Trade afforded a sure path to prosperity. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) five years ago, referring to the apprehension that was felt by many people in consequence of the increase of our imports as 1094 compared with our exports, said that there was no cause for alarm, as the test of a man's prosperity was what he could buy, and that as long as our buying power increased there could be no reason to doubt our solvency. If the theory of the right hon. Gentleman were accepted there was undoubtedly cause for uneasiness now, for last year our imports showed a falling-off of £16,000,000—a great deal more than could be accounted for by a fall in prices, and our imports and exports together showed a shrinkage of £36,000,000. Hon. Members on this side of the House who spoke upon this question were often supposed to do so in the interests of agriculturists. But it was not only agriculture that was suffering just now. To take one instance, Sir Theodore Martin had lately stated that in consequence of the importation of Spanish lead, which could be sold at £8 5s. per ton, while English lead could not be produced at less than £8 15s., 169 lead mines had been closed in this country in the last five years, and 30,000 miners had been thrown out of work. Was it well that 30,000 men here and 30,000 men there should be thrown out of work, and that they should sit with folded arms as if it were an indifferent matter, resting content with the assurance that the existing state of things was good for the consumer? Were they alone right and every other nation in the world wrong? Every other nation saw the necessity of providing that every man should be a producer, and recognized that for him to be a consumer he must first be a producer, and they accordingly paid the first attention to his interests as a producer. We reversed that process. The importation of lead was about 100,000 tons a-year, and its price was £12 5s. a-ton, or a saving of about 10s. a-ton over native lead, which, on the annual amount imported, made a saving of £50,000. But the loss of wages thereby entailed was £1,250,000. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had alluded to the United States Tariff Commission. A Member of that Commission had recently written a book, in which he pointed out that the effect of Free Trade in England was to drive English capital abroad, and that as a result English manufacturers were to be found all over the Continent. In self-defence, he said, English manufacturers were taking their capital elsewhere. 1095 The explanation usually given was that wages were higher in England than on the Continent; but wages were higher still in America; and yet that did not occur there. A short time ago he built a new farmhouse; and although the contract was given to a local tradesman, he discovered that all the woodwork, lead, and other material had been imported from abroad. That caused him to make inquiries as to the wages of skilled artizans in America as compared with the wages in this country; and the result of those inquiries was that, whereas in England the average weekly wage of the skilled artizan was 30s., in New York the average weekly wage was 54s. He thought it was a matter of satisfaction that a subject of such pressing and vital importance had been introduced and discussed in that House, and that it had been done so with so little Party spirit.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
said, one of the advantages of getting old was that one returned to the old, old stories of one's youth with such freshness and pleasure. It was with that sort of pleasure that he had listened to the speech of the hon. Baronet, who reproduced all the old Protectionist arguments which many years ago resounded through the country. He did not wonder at that meeting at Dumfries to which the hon. Baronet had referred. It was said of Dumfries by someone—Paris may be a braw place, but for real pleasure gie me Dumfries,The hon. Baronet had taken his cue from the Marquess of Salisbury. There were few people, however, who in these days were bold enough to cling to the pure and unadulterated antique doctrine to which they had just listened. There was not a word in the speech of the hon. Baronet that referred to Reciprocity any more than there was in the Motion before the House, which sought to impose a mere duty on imports without reference to the fiscal policy of the countries from which the imports came. Any hon. Member who read the Resolution would not find one word about Reciprocity in it; it was to be a duty pure and simple. There was not a trace of their old friend Reciprocity, which it was formerly said by hon. Gentlemen opposite was needed for the protection of native industries. Therefore, it was a Protectionist Motion 1096 pure and simple. The hon. Baronet gave them an illustration concerning foreign material and work being used in building his house, which, for his own sake, he was glad he had been able to build at such a cheap rate. The hon. Baronet had specially referred to the importation of lead; but every man who had a roof over his head derived benefit from the cheapness of lead and other building materials, which enabled him to have a better house over his head than he otherwise would have for the same money if the importation of such materials was taxed. The hon. Baronet had argued that the loss more than counterbalanced the gain, as free importation destroyed and crippled certain industries, and thus threw numbers of men out of employment. That was the old fallacy, which, he thought, had disappeared like astrology and witchcraft. He did not know whether they still burnt witches at Dumfries; but possibly since the visit of the Marquess of Salisbury it had returned to the ancient faith. There was an admirable illustration of what the hon. Baronet had brought forward to which he would like to refer. It was given by the weightiest of all writers upon Free Trade, M. F. Bastiat. M. Bastiat had given this illustration—You want materials at a high price to occupy a great number of people, and to cost a good deal of money; that is the object of Protection. Well, exclude all oranges from warm countries which you may buy at a penny, and if you grow them in hot-houses in England you will employ builders and people who put up hot-water pipes, &c.; you will raise an orange which will be sold at 1s., to the great employment of native genius.But these were the familiar doctrines of Free Trade, and these were doctrines which all men of common sense had long since discarded. The arguments used against Free Trade were of the most illogical description. It was argued that if high prices ruled they would occupy a larger number of people at higher wages. That was the whole theory, but it was an utterly unsound one. It was said by those who were in favour of Import Duties that if they were put on all would be well. That was the elementary doctrine that was put forward; but it was a doctrine which he thought all men of common sense and experience had long ago discarded. He had observed that it was a tendency of human nature, 1097 perhaps, for everybody to think that the system under which they lived was the cause of all their miseries, and that their neighbours were much better off than they were themselves. He was very much struck the other day by reading the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Depression of Trade in France. An hon. Baronet had alluded to France, and to numerous trades that were better off there than in England, and had spoken of English merchants who had gone over to Rouen and other places because trade could be so much better carried on there. Spuller, in his examination of the causes of depression in France, spoke of the situation of the working classes in France as one which could no longer be considered a question of wages, but depended upon far wider and international contingencies, and said that trade in France was directly affected by the growth of America and by Protection in Germany. Yet when he (Sir William Harcourt) came to read the Report he referred to be saw it stated that the cause of the depression of trade in France was due to the persistent prosperity of England. France thus complained of the causes of depression in France. Here in England, on the other hand, they were told by the opponents of Free Trade that the depression of trade in this country was due to the prosperity of France because it clung to the system of Protection. ["No, no!"] Well, he had listened carefully to the speeches that had been made in favour of the Motion, and he distinctly understood that it was argued that the prosperity of every other country was due to their not having adopted Free Trade. Very well, exactly then if the prosperity of every other country was due to that, then the prosperity of France was due to it. ["No, no!"] Well, he maintained that every other country said the same of itself. He was afraid that he was guilty of an act of great ingratitude, as the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) had offered him £9,000,000 per annum of taxation on imported commodities by imposing an ad valorem duty of only 20 per cent. They would remember those old lines of Canning—In matters of commerce the fault of the DutchIs giving too little and asking too much.They finished up—Nous frapperons Falck avec20 per cent.1098 The foreigners here were to be frappés with 20 per cent. The hon. Member (Mr. Jennings) who introduced the subject referred especially to silk. Silk was one of the commodities which the hon. Member would tax, and a great deal had been said about silk. In that same Report on the Depression of Trade in France, it was said that the silk trade was among the first to suffer in depressed condition of trade throughout the world; that a still more important fact was that St. Etienne goods did not happen to be the fashion, and that the public taste preferred the silks of England. That was the cause of depression in the silk trade in France—and the public in France preferred the silks of England, and even of Switzerland, yet silks had been the subject of special complaint by some English Protectionists. It was the same story all over the world. There were the same fallacies, the same complaints, founded on the same delusive statistics. The Report had stated that English goods were cheaper, and were produced under circumstances more favourable than those which governed the market of St. Etienne. So they were manufacturing silks, according to the French authorities, under circumstances more favourable than those which governed the market of the Protectionist of St. Etienne. He thought that the best vade mecum of Free Trade would be found in the Report on the Depression of Trade in England. In that Report they would find inevitable conclusions better than any of the books of economists, because it gave facts and figures, and the history of 40 years of Free Trade. He had been amused to see how very little this Report of the Commission had been studied on the other side of the House. In the years 1874 to 1879 there had been a serious fall in the exports of this country; and since that time they had very satisfactorily recovered, as hon. Members opposite would have seen if they had studied their own Report. He would give the House the figures. In 1854, when Free Trade might be said to have got into the saddle, the exports were £97,000,000; from 1855 to 1859 the exports had been £116,000,000; in the next five years, 1860–4, they were £138,000,000; in the next five years, 1865–9, £181,000,000; and from 1870 to 1874 £235,000,000. Then came that 1099 unfortunate five years from 1875 to 1880 when they had fallen from £235,000,000 to £202,000,000, a fall with which everybody was familiar except a few hon. Gentlemen opposite. In the years 1880–4 the exports rose again to £234,000,000. What nonsense it was to say that it was Free Trade that was killing our export trade. On the whole, our export trade had been increasing by geometrical progression. It was true that there had been intervals—he was not so foolish as to attribute it to the effect of any change in political Parties in a particular period, but there were circumstances in trade, as in weather and in tides, which varied from time to time. On the whole, however, our progress was onward, as everyone knew who examined into the matter. If hon. Members opposite really thought that for 40 years we had been pursuing a false fiscal system they would surely find some proof in the statistics of the country. If they looked at the statistics of the growth of the accumulated wealth of the country, whether from Income Tax Returns or other sources of information, they would see that it had greatly increased. If they had been pursuing a false system, would they not find that the profits of their trade had been diminished, and that the amount of their capital had been reduced? The contrary was the case, and in this period of Free Trade these figures had enormously increased. But the hon. Baronet said—Were we wiser than all other countries? If he wanted ideas on that subject, let him read Mr. Crowe's Report, and he would find that the complaints made here as being the result of Free Trade were the very complaints which were made more strongly in Protectionist countries. Again, he would refer the hon. Member to the last volume of the Report of the Trade Commission. He would find there most instructive Reports upon the condition of France. He would find, particularly at page 175, most interesting matter for reflection. He did not wish to weary the House with the figures. Look at Germany, which had developed a formidable rivalry of ourselves. Let him read the Reports as to Germany at the present time. Let him read the Reports as to the United States. He had reason to know something about the manufacturing industries of the United States. 1100 What did they find there? In every direction they had had complaints at home. Were there none of depression in the United States? Let them ask any American. On the trial of Charles I. someone asked where was Fairfax, and Lady Fairfax said—"He is not fool enough to be here." There was one hon. Member of that House who was not fool enough to be present on that occasion. He referred to the hon. Gentleman the Member for the Ormskirk Division of Lancashire (Mr. Forwood), who had written a letter on this subject. [An hon. MEMBER: He is here.]
§ MR. FORWOOD
said, the right hon. Gentleman was in error. It was his brother, not himself, who had written the letter.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER
said, he hoped it was in the family. The gentleman referred to came back from America, and he described the deplorable effect upon the condition of the population produced by the protection of native industries. But an hon. Member had gone beyond all the theories they had ever heard, and had spoken of cheap windows and cheap doors of farm-houses imported, and he told them that the people who made these cheap articles were paid much higher wages than were paid here. He had not yet been able to understand how it was that high wages made the commodities produced cheap; and if the hon. Member really could make him understand that everybody was to have higher wages and everything was to cost less he would join his economic school. But was it true that things were cheaper in America? There was the question of woollens and other articles of clothing. Now, the hon. Baronet said the working classes were very much interested in this question, and so he (Sir William Harcourt) discovered at the last Election in Derby. His election was due entirely to the fact that his opponent was a Fair Trader. He asked his constituents what it was they wanted to have cheaper, and he never got an affirmative reply. His opponent suggested many things. He began with clocks. Why should a man, he said, not have a cheap clock? Well, he remembered the time when clocks were very dear, and now it was a great advantage to find them in every cottage. But according to the protective theory the price would 1101 be raised enormously; and at last, before the election was over, his Fair Trader opponent was reduced to pianofortes and artificial flowers. It was no use telling the men of Derby to tax woollens or linens, because they knew they would pay more for their clothes and their shirts. He would tell the hon. Baronet why it was that wages were higher in America. It was because the cost of living was higher than here, and it had been made so much higher by these protective duties. He met a friend some time ago from America, who said a man might buy three suits of clothes here and save enough to pay his passage to and fro, and pay his hotel bill while he remained. Well, that was, perhaps, not quite so; but it was near the truth. His friend showed him a coat—it was a good coat, perhaps a better one than he was wearing, and his friend said—"What do you think I gave for that coat in the States? Eighteen guineas." Did they suppose the working classes of this country did not know that? There was no man who lived in the days of Protection who did not know it, and if he did not know it his father would have told him. When corn was 100s. a quarter, what was the working man's wages? Six and seven shillings a-week. He spoke to a man in the New Forest the other day, and he said that when he began life he had 1s. a-day, and a loaf was three times the price it is now. To quote the language of Sir James Graham, which he heard long before he had a seat in that House, in a debate on coercion, the working man knew the change which had taken place, and he knew the reason why. The people of England now knew the reason why. They knew why there were higher wages than 40 years ago, and they knew why the purchasing power of those wages was doubled. Did they think they were going to delude them with a Motion of that kind, to reverse a policy of such inestimable value to them and to their children? No. They would not find the people of this country so unintelligent as the Mover of that Motion believed them to be; and if he went to a division he would certainly be defeated.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE (Lincolnshire, Horncastle)
Sir, nothing can be more striking to those who have listened to 1102 the course of this debate than the different manner in which the different speakers have approached this subject. The hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell) made an electioneering speech pure and simple; and he endeavoured to prove, by furbishing up all the arguments used at the last Election, and which I think were satisfactorily disposed of then, that all the bad trade which we have had in recent years is due to the policy of the Conservative Party. My hon. Friend who moved the Resolution approached the debate in a totally different spirit, and in his interesting and instructive speech there was much for every Member of this House to ponder over. My hon. Friend, indeed, spoke on behalf of a very important constituency, and he told us that he spoke especially on behalf of the working classes of that constituency. He told us that the views which he put forward are the views held by those whom he represents; and I do not think that anybody in this House can say that views put forward in that manner, and supported in that way, are not entitled to most careful attention and consideration on the part of every one of us. My hon. Friend pictured to us a mournful condition of things. He told us how trade has languished and fallen off, although, according to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who approached the subject in an entirely different spirit, everything is in a state of persistent prosperity.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Sir WILLIAM HARCOURT) (Derby)
I never said that. That expression was contained in the Report of a French Commission on the Depression of Trade in France. It was not my phrase.
§ MR. E. STANHOPE
At any rate, the right hon. Gentleman gave us to understand that all is for the best under the best possible Government. My hon. Friend on this side of the House drew a picture of the national depression of trade; but I did not hear the right hon. Gentleman admit that any depression of trade exists at all. Not one word of sympathy escaped the lips of the right hon. Gentleman for the classes who are suffering from that depression of trade. It was a common thing a year or two ago to say that there was, in reality, no depression of trade at all. We are now getting rid of that delusion. Formerly, when we talked of it we were called 1103 Protectionists. We were told that we did not know what we were talking about, and the existence of the depression itself was uniformly denied. I am bound to say that the logic of facts has been too strong for that kind of derision; and nobody can deny now-a-days that a very serious depression of trade does exist in regard to many of the trades of the country. Indeed, I am afraid that there are symptoms of the depression of trade we complained of a year or two ago having gone on increasing in intensity until some fear that it has a tendency to become chronic. While, upon the one hand, the system of bounties and the system of foreign tariffs has tended to diminish profits, so, upon the other, the diminished consuming power of the country has largely tended to the same result. I was much interested in what we heard to-night with regard to capital from the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell}. He tells us that capital is in too few hands in this country. We have heard the same sort of thing before. We used to hear that the land of this country was in far too few hands; and the persistent attacks of the Radical Party upon the owners and occupiers of land has grievously increased the difficulties under which those classes have had to labour, has enormously diminished the value of landed property, and lessened the eagerness which formerly existed among all classes who invested their capital in land. But now the attack is going to be one upon capital. We are told that capital is in too few hands; and I do not hesitate to say that if the sort of language we have heard from the hon. Member is that which we are likely to hear in this Parliament, the only effect will be that, so far from trade showing any improvement, the tendency will be for capital to be driven out of the country, and to seek investment in other countries where it will not be exposed to such attacks. [An hon. MEMBER: Let it go to Ireland.] The late Government, believing that considerable depression existed, appointed a Royal Commission to inquire into that depression. We all remember that reception which that Royal Commission met with, and the jeers directed at it; but I think that there has never been a greater testimony to the wisdom of the late Government in appointing a Royal Commission 1104 than the fact that the Chancellor of the Exchequer now says it is a most valuable argument in support of Free Trade, and he thanks us, in fact, for having appointed the Commission. [The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER: Hear, hear!] I know what the right hon. Gentleman means by that cheer. He suggests that we appointed the Royal Commission with a foregone conclusion. We did nothing of the kind. The late Government invited Members of the opposite Party, who were interested in the question of Free Trade, to take seats on the Commission. They refused to accept the invitation, and we were obliged to form the Commission without their assistance. We appointed the Commission with no foregone conclusion whatever, but with a desire to ascertain the state of the trade of the country, and what remedies could be applied, in order to remove the existing depression. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings), although that Commission is still engaged in its inquiry, now comes forward with a definite and distinct proposal. That proposal resolves it self into several parts. As regards the first portion of it, urging that further Import Duties ought to be imposed, I have really very little to say. I, for my part, am of opinion that it will be of advantage to this country if the area of taxation can be enlarged, and the number of articles from which we derive a revenue can be increased. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have been glad, when he brought forward his Budget the other day, and was under the unpleasant necessity of providing for a deficit, if he could have found any articles on which he could have increased the taxation of the country; and so, in the same way, I should be very glad to see one or two additional articles on which Import Duties could be levied, in order to give us greater weight in dealing with foreign countries. In our negotiations with foreign countries, in recent years, I believe that we have lost very much in having no lever, so to speak, with which to work. We have had nothing to give, and it was hopeless to expect to get adequate terms from foreign countries if we were not in a position occasionally to offer them something in return. I think I need not go 1105 further than the Spanish Treaty, the conclusion of which has been recently announced, because no one can deny that the greatest difficulty we have had to contend with in negotiating that and similar Treaties was the fact that this country was not in a condition to treat with any country in such a way as to show them that we could give them an adequate consideration for what we asked. My hon. Friend goes further than that, and he suggests that duties on articles imported should be levied upon goods entering into competition with similar goods of our own manufacture; and he has a plan, also, for disposing of the Revenue so raised. If my hon. Friend will forgive me for saying so, I cannot help thinking that that is too ambitious a proposal. I am not at all prepared to say that any increase of revenue, particularly if it were a large amount of revenue derived from the increased imposition of Import Duties, ought, in the first place, to be applied to the reduction of duties on tea, coffee, and cocoa. I cannot help thinking that the Income Tax-payers who have been called upon to make enormous sacrifices are entitled under such circumstances, at any rate, to the first place in the favourable consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Moreover, the proposal of my hon. Friend is not in itself a complete proposal. It could not stop where he leaves it. For instance, how is my hon. Friend going to meet the case of the farmer? He does not urge that any duty should be put upon food for the protection of the English farmer, nor does the English farmer urge that. We none of us put forward that contention; but what we do put forward, and are fairly entitled to say, is that if we are to be asked to pay an increased price for some of the goods which we buy in consequence of increased Import Duties for the benefit of certain trades at home, those who are interested in agriculture are entitled to ask that should they derive, at any rate, some advantage. They are entitled to say that the grievous burdens under which they are now suffering should have a favourable consideration at the hands of the Legislature, and that that favourable consideration should not be confined to the giving of an exceptional advantage to the trade of the country. That being so, I hope my hon. Friend 1106 will see that in bringing forward the Motion, and in putting before the House the views which his constituents and many other classes of the country entertain on this important subject, he has gained a great step. I trust he will also see that as there is a Royal Commission already considering the question, and as it is abundantly clear that, from his point of view, he is not able to take into the purview of the Resolution all the industries of the country, I hope he will consider that his object has been sufficiently attained by the discussion which has taken place to-night, and that he will not press the Motion further.
§ SIR JOSEPH M'KENNA (Monaghan, S.)
I do not propose to occupy much of the attention of the House, and shall confine myself to one single question which has been raised by the hon. Member for Flintshire (Mr. S. Smithy) — namely, the depreciation of silver. Very few persons have attempted to offer any explanation of the cause of the depreciation of silver. I think that Parliament is accountable for the depreciation in a great degree, and for a good many of the consequences which have resulted from the depreciation. Before the precious metals became the subject of coinage they were used as the medium of exchange and barter; and when large sums in value had to be conveyed from one person to another it was done by means of gold or silver vessels, ornaments, or works of art. I need not remind hon. Gentlemen that we are told in Scripture history that when what we should now call a subscription had to be made by the leaders of the Tribes of Israel for the building of the Tabernacle, that subscription was made up of chargers or dishes of silver and golden spoons. Of course, that was anterior to any time in which we have any record of coined money. The primary use of silver is thus shown to have been its manufacture into articles of luxury and splendour. In this country our system of legislation has reduced the commercial value of silver 40 per cent below its statutory value in coinage; and the action of this country has made it, as a commercial medium, almost useless in other countries. At present, by reason of our high duty on its manufacture, there is a difference in silver of 30 or 35 per cent, ad valorem, a loss of so much in 1107 connection with its use for ordinary purposes; and I think the existence of that duty is a matter which deserves the early consideration of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That tax per ounce, measured as an ad valorem duty on ordinary articles of silver plate, has, I believe, completely broken down the trade. It is worse than any protective duty; for it is one which has absolutely destroyed that trade in this country. The value of silver has been very much reduced from two causes—first, owing to the large quantities of the precious metal produced in Nevada, and various other parts of North America; while its employment in coinage has not increased proportionately, and its conversion into articles of luxury has been absolutely cut off, and the commercial value of silver has been enormously depreciated in consequence. It would have been the same with any other important articles of commerce. Take the case of petroleum, or wheat, or any other article of commerce which forms one of the items of exchange between nations and nations. If such article had had a duty to the same extent imposed upon it as in the case of manufactured silver there would have been a similar depreciation of value with the same results. What I wish to press upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer is this—that at the earliest possible moment he should take this question of the depreciation of silver into consideration, and that he should consider the advisability of abolishing altogether the duty on silver plate, by which means we should be able to open up a market, and promote the use of silver to an enormous extent in other directions than those to which it is applied at the present moment. The very moment silver reaches this country the duty now imposed upon it begins to take effect; and the consequence is that it is now found more convenient to demonetize silver even in Germany than to utilize it for commercial purposes. I place this before the Government for their consideration. I believe that if we could reverse the principle upon which our legislation has been conducted, anything which could raise the commercial value of silver and lead to its remonetization generally would be of great advantage.
§ MR. LLOYD (Wednesbury)
At this late hour I only propose to address a 1108 few words to the House; but I desire to express my view on this question, inasmuch as I have been sent here to give the opinion of my constituents on the very important question which is now before us. They entertain the opinion, and they think it is only reasonable that the House should have it placed before them, that it is not altogether just to the working classes of the iron and coal districts of Staffordshire that we should go on charging taxation upon the industries of this country, and at the same time allow the industries of foreign countries to come in and compete with our own, and permit the produce of foreign labour to be sold in this country scot free from all taxation whatever. I will give a case in point. I will give an instance of a colliery with which I am connected. We employ about 500 men, and we raise about 1,000 tons of coal a-day; every ton pays to the taxes of this country 6d., which means that we pay £25 to the taxation of the country for every day that we work the colliery. That coal is used largely in the manufacture of iron, and therefore the iron manufacturers are required to contribute in the same way to the taxation of the country. The unfairness of the system is this—that you allow foreign iron and steel from Germany, and foreign iron and steel from Belgium, to come into our district side by side in the market with the iron and steel which we produce. We have to pay this amount of taxation; but you allow foreign iron to come in scot free, and when we complain the only answer we get is—"You must endure these things." We know very well that taxes must be raised in order that the Government of the country may be carried on; but I would seriously ask the House how the English iron manufacturers and colliery proprietors can carry on their business against such odds? Of course, when I speak of the iron manufacturers and the colliery proprietors, I speak also of the iron workers and the colliers, because they are equally affected with their employers. Each ton of home-made iron pays, according to the labour expended upon it, from 8s. to 18s. towards our taxation. Therefore, every ton of iron you import comes into competition side by side, and duty free, with iron which is taxed from 8s. to 18s. a-ton according to the amount of labour put into it. Not 1109 only do we lose this amount of revenue by every ton of foreign iron, but it has this still more grievous effect—that it puts out of employment a very large number of our own men. What I ask is this—that it is only fair to the working classes that we should subject foreign-produced iron to the same amount of taxation we impose upon our own? Why should we love the foreigner so much? Why should we legislate in favour of the foreigner? Why should we back up the Railway Companies in importing foreign goods and discourage our own native manufactures? These are questions which require answering, and not the questions which we have heard to-night about depression of trade. It is not a question about depression of trade at all. The question is whether it is right and proper to tax the labour of the English workman and the collier, and at the same time allow the product of the labour of the foreign workman to come in untaxed? The English manufacturer has to compete in the markets of the world with the foreigner; and that is the reason why the foreigner can beat us. We, in effect, give a bounty to the foreigner to come in with his manufactured iron and steel, and other manufactured goods, to rob us of our home orders. Cannot hon. Members opposite see this? They say that they want cheapness, and to have our industries worked cheaply; but cannot they see that if they put taxation upon our own manufactures which is not put upon foreign manufactures, our own producers cannot compete with the foreigner as thoroughly as if both were taxed equally. Therefore, it is obvious that the taxation ought to be equal. That is what we ask for—namely, that the taxation we are called upon to bear should be equally borne by those who compete with us. I support the Motion of the hon. Member for Stockport, because, if carried into effect, it would help our working classes to live more cheaply, as the duties on tea and coffee would be taken away; or if not, and the foreign manufactured goods cease to come in, then we shall have more work to do in our own workshops to the extent of £46,650,000 a-year.
§ MR. ISAAC HOYLE (Lancashire, S.E., Heywood)
I should not have risen to address the House except for the reason that hitherto no Lancashire Member 1110 has spoken from this side of the House. Some hon. Members who have addressed the House this evening have based their arguments on the necessity of protecting working men. Now, I ought to know something about the condition of the working men of Lancashire. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) ridiculed the idea of the condition of the working men having been improved by the adoption of Free Trade. Either the hon. Member for Stockport is wrong, or I have spent my life to very little purpose indeed. What are the facts of the case in regard to the working classes? I know a manufacturing concern in Lancashire which is paying £75,000 a-year in wages. Before Free Trade measures were enacted the same concern would have paid only £40,000 a-year, and that was for 69 hours a-week compared with 56½ hours now. It now pays £75,000 a-year for 56½ hours' work a-week, whereas formerly it would have paid only £40,000 for 69 hours' work a-week; and what is the condition of the working classes compared with what it was formerly? They are better fed, better clad, better housed, and enjoy better health. [An hon. MEMBER: And are better educated.] Yes; and better educated; and if any hon. Member doubts that assertion, let him take a journey through Lancashire, and ask the opinion of any old people he may meet. He has nothing to do but to walk through such a town as Burnley, and he will find abundant evidence of comfort forthcoming in every direction. Life is brighter and better for the working classes than it was 45 years ago. I am speaking of what I know; but if there be any doubt the Registrar's Tables of Mortality will dispel the doubt. Life is longer than it was; and I would, therefore, advise the hon. Member for Stockport not to base his argument on the condition of the working classes. They know very well that they are better off than they were before. I will venture to say that there is no manufacturing country in the world where wages are not lower and the hours not longer than they are in Lancashire. The hon. Member for Wigtonshire (Sir Herbert Maxwell) mentioned an independent witness—Mr. Porter. Mr. Porter was sent by The New York Tribune, in the interests of the Protectionists of America, to find reasons for bolstering up Protection in that country; 1111 and yet Mr. Porter has been spoken of as an independent witness. I have read Mr. Porter's letters, and I know what they are. The hon. Baronet the Member for Altrincham (Sir William Cunliffe Brooks) mentioned the depression existing in Lancashire, and the large number of persons out of employment there. No doubt, there are many unemployed persons there, and we all regret the fact. But what are the reasons? Large mills have been built and furnished with the best machinery. The constituents of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. J. M. Maclean) can turn out scores of new mills, well built, and furnished with the newest improvements in machinery; and the consequence is that old-fashioned mills have dropped out of the race, and the working men erupted in them have been thrown out of employment. There are some mills standing in Lancashire which were built 40 or 50 years ago, and they are not at all adapted to the present condition of the manufacturing industry. The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Jennings) has offered the Chancellor of the Exchequer £9,000,000 a-year; but I wonder how he would get it. Either the volume of imported articles would diminish under a tax of 20 per cent, or there would be no protection to working men. I am afraid that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not get his money, nor would the workpeople be protected. Another hon. Member has stated that a Free Trade policy was certain to benefit the manufacturers, but that it imposes a penalty which the landlords have to pay. Can manufacturers build their mills in the air? They want land, and they must purchase it from the landlords. The building material also comes from the land, as well as coals to supply the steam engines. The land on which the workpeople live must be purchased from the landlords; and, as both houses and mills are built upon long leases, whatever becomes of the manufacturer the landlord is tolerably sure of getting his rent. I will not trespass longer on the patience of the House. I will only say I am quite sure the workpeople of this country know on which side their bread is buttered; and I believe they will not be led away by such arguments as have been advanced by hon. Members who support the Motion.
§ MR. HENNIKER HEATON (Canterbury)
said, he was not going to be 1112 put down, neither was he going to waste time by giving a learned disquisition on Free Trade or Protection. They would be interested to learn the result of an actual experiment tried in an Australian Colony, for the truth of which he could vouch. It had not been contradicted when he explained the matter to his constituents. When the Victorian gold-fields collapsed, 70,000 able-bodied men found themselves wandering aimlessly about the streets in search of employment. They found the shops and warehouses like the shops and warehouses in London to-day—that is, filled with imported goods of all descriptions from America, Germany, France, and elsewhere. They asked themselves, "Can we not make these things?" "Yes," was the reply of their leaders, "but first we must put a duty on the imported articles." The tariff was accordingly imposed, and tens of thousands found employment. The large importers then erected large manufactories, and only imported, the raw or unmanufactured products on which no duty was imposed. [An hon. MEMBER: How about New South Wales?] The hon. Member who referred to New South Wales could know nothing about the subject. That Colony was partly Free Trade, but it was four times larger than Victoria; it had splendid pastoral resources, and also mineral resources, which Victoria had not; and it had a smaller population Twenty-two years had passed since Protection had been in force in Victoria, and only the other day one of the leading men there, who was formerly a Freetrader, wrote as follows:—Very many things are now manufactured in the Colony that were formerly exclusively imported, and these industries have been materially aided by the heavy protective tariff now in force. Among the articles and preparations may be instanced account books, diaries, stationery, dyes, glass, cloth, paper, cigars, starch, pianos, furniture, carriages, clothing, organs, chemicals, blasting materials, oilmen's stones, safes, brush ware, soap, agricultural implements, &c.In all, the number of manufactories, large and small, exceed 2,000 exclusive of flour mills, breweries, woollen mills, brickyards, potteries, soap and candle works, tobacco factories, tanneries, fellmongeries, and woolwashing establishments.These 2,000 manufactories employ over 40,000 hands, and a manufacturing plant valued at over £6,500,000.Those hon. Members who still doubted might have ample evidence of the progress 1113 of Melbourne and the Colony of Victoria generally, if they would visit the great Exhibition at Kensington. [Opposition cheers, and cries of"Divide!"] Hon. Members might cry "Divide!" but he claimed to be heard on behalf of Kent, which undoubtedly was the most intelligent county in England. It was acknowledged to be so, and statistics proved it. ["No!"] Well, if hon. Members on the opposite side of the House wanted proof, he would point to the conclusive fact that at the last General Election Kent returned 19 Conservatives to Parliament, and not one Radical. He would not waste time, but give them facts. He quoted evidence to show that in June of last year one large manufacturer and merchant closed his mills in England, and imported from Westphalia goods into England, the labour alone of which represented £30,000. He (Mr. Heaton) contended that it would be difficult to persuade the working men of England that the £30,000 worth of work of which they were thus deprived was for their benefit. It meant starvation to hundreds of honest men, because the foreigner would not allow English goods to be sent to his country—a heavy tax was imposed. He had said all he desired to say, and in conclusion he asserted that in a very few years the working men of England would return a majority of Members to the House in favour of his hon. Friend's Motion.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed, "That Mr. Speaker do now leave the Chair."