§ (9.18.) MR. HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I rise to call attention to the growing desire of the great colonies to enter into closer commercial relations with the Mother Country and with one another, and to moveThat, in the opinion of this House, an early opportunity should be taken of inviting the self-governing colonies to confer with the Imperial Government upon the best means of developing the trade of the Empire.I am mindful that a somewhat similar Motion was brought forward in another place; but from what then took place it is evident that the Prime Minister has an open mind upon the subject, for he said that whenever he perceived that public opinion was favourable thereto he would be willing to take steps to ascertain the feeling of the colonies more definitely upon the subject. In view of that 909 expression on the part of the Prime Minister, I trust I shall not be considered as taking up the time of the House unnecessarily on a subject which is second to none in importance to the future welfare and integrity of the Empire. It is perfectly true that the argument might be justifiably advanced with, regard to our extraordinary fiscal system; which, while it affords the most extravagant protection to freedom of competition at home, admits to this country not only foreign labour but foreign goods, with the effect of submerging one-tenth of our population and reducing tens of thousands of others to a state bordering on poverty. However, Mr. Speaker, this is a domestic matter in which we need not mix up a colonial question, and especially as we shall have other opportunities of raising it. A large number of hon. Members on both sides of the House are warm sympathisers with the idea of Imperial federation, and many are members of the Imperial Federation League. It is not too much to say that commercial federation is the only road to that Imperial federation of the British race which was so dear to the heart of the late Mr. Forster, and which he hoped to see an accomplished fact. The Colonial Conference, which was the greatest event of the Jubilee year, was a step towards it. But the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for War, during his too brief sojourn at the Colonial Office, in his Despatch of Invitation expressly excluded this subject from consideration. The fruit of commercial federation has since, however, become far riper. Mr. Hofmeyr, one of the most prominent and loyal of our Dutch fellow-subjects in South Africa, even then presented on behalf of Cape Colony a formal Resolution to the Conference upon the subject of the trade relations between the Mother Country and the colonies and between the colonies themselves. He presented it not as a Protectionist measure, but as an effective measure for the unification of the Empire. The Motion of Mr. Hofmeyr urgedConsideration of the feasibility of promoting closer union between the various parts of the British Empire by means of an Imperial Customs Tariff.It was submitted in a speech that was eulogised by the other members of the Conference, and the proposal 910 was described by not the least distinguished among them as "the only concrete one that had been brought forward for the unification of the Empire." The present Premier of Queensland, Sir Samuel Griffith, the ex-Premier of Victoria, and many others took part in the discussion, and no one could read the Report without seeing how strong and unanimous was the feeling in favour of closer trade relations between the great self-governing colonies and the Mother Country. Sir William FitzHerbert, whose death New Zealand has lately mourned, spoke with warmth, but not in warmer terms than the circumstances justified. He said—Friend or foe, white or dark man, it is no matter for England. There is no favour or preference given to kith or kin, wherever they may be. If we are to draw closer the bunds of union between the British Empire all over the world, this matter of the trade relations of the Empire is of fundamental importance, and one with which we must attempt to deal.This view was corroborated by the Prime Minister of Queensland, who declared—The first duty of every one of us in every country in the Empire is a duty to the Empire before our duty to any foreign country.Nor can I forget to quote from a speech by Mr. Service, the distinguished Australian politician. When it was insinuated by one of his colleagues at the Conference that the course recommended might be against the canons of the gospel of one sided Free Trade, for the support of which the Cobden Club would avow that Englishmen are expressly born into the world, Mr. Service declares—I am a Free Trader, but I am not one of those Free Traders who believe in Free Trade as a fetish to be worn round our necks, and who regard it as always indicative of precisely the same condition of things that it was indicative of in the Cobden period, or hold that circumstances might never arise of an Imperial character which might demand a revision of our policy upon that question.I have to ask the pardon of the House for making these extensive quotations, which are necessary to prove what is the condition of colonial feeling on this question. It has been urged, in reference to another matter which we have been discussing, that we should wait until the people have spoken. In this matter we are urged to wait until the colonies have spoken. I contend that the colonies spoke on the subject, and very emphatic- 911 cally, at the Conference of 1887. They have also spoken since 1887, and are speaking to-day through their most representative men. Now, on the 22nd June, 1889, Sir Charles Tupper, the High Commissioner of Canada, who during his residence here has won the regard of all classes of the community, said publicly—I believe myself that it is most important that Her Majesty's Government, with the support—the united support—of Her Majesty's Opposition, should take the necessary steps for summoning here in this heart of this great Empire Representatives of all Her Majesty's colonies. Means should be adopted by having a great Convention representing every portion of the Empire here in the Metropolis to consider a scheme in all its details.With the help of my hon. Friend opposite, the Member for Battersea, steps were taken to press home by influential representations this view upon the Government, though I am sorry to say up to the present time with indifferent success. The development of inter British trade and the termination of all trade engagements with Foreign Powers was also urged in April of last year upon the Dominion House of Commons by General Laurie, a distinguished Representative of Nova Scotia in that House, and recent events have undoubtedly strongly developed Canadian feeling, expressed eloquently as it was by Sir Charles Tupper, the High Commissioner, and expressed, too, in the heart of the Dominion of Canada by General Laurie. Recent events, I say, have intensified Canadian feeling. Now, it is very easy for right hon. Gentlemen on both sides of the Table to endeavour to persuade themselves that the M'Kinley Tariff will very soon he repealed, but, for my part, I shall only believe it will be repealed when that repeal is an accomplished fact. What has the M'Kinley Tariff done already for the United States. A Trade Convention is in progress of negotiation between Newfoundland and the United States. It has won for the United States a preference of 25 per cent in the markets of Brazil. Most undoubtedly it has provoked a very serious political crisis in the Dominion of Canada. Here at home it has reduced by 45 per cent already the trade of my constituents with America. In South Wales, and in parts of Ireland also, working men either find themselves without work, or with 912 reduced wages, in consequence of this M'Kinley Tariff, because we have no means of negotiating with foreign countries for the repeal of duties against British trade, having, as was stated authoritatively from the Government Bench several times in the course of last Session, nothing to give in return. But for the Dominion of Canada the state of affairs provoked by the economic legislation of the United States is far worse. Let me quote the words of Sir John Macdonald, the veteran Prime Minister, who, speaking at Halifax on the 2nd October last, said—The United States practically say to us in Canada, 'if you want reciprocity with us or trade with us, there is only one of two thing you can do—either annex yourselves to us, or sever yourselves from Great Britain. Start out for yourselves or join us, and we will deal with you; but so long as you are a portion of the British Empire we will not deal with you.'Sir John Macdonald went on to say—According to the old saying this would be a case of the lion and the lamb lying down together, but with the lamb inside the lion. No such fate threatens us, however, if we are true to ourselves and true to our country, and true to our children and our children's children. We must continue to remain as we are—happy in living under a magnificent climate, happy in the possession of a fertile soil, and a law abiding population, and happy in being an integral portion of the greatest and grandest Empire known to history.And then upon another occasion more recently the Canadian Ministry, speaking on the economic condition of affairs produced by the M'Kinley Tariff in the Dominion of Canada, said—For trade, for new markets, we will look to Australia, to the West Indies, to the Mother Country.Communications are already in progress between the Dominion of Canada and Australasia; communications are already in progress between the Dominion of Canada and the West Indies; and will not the House of Commons say that, so far as possibly can be done, the great Dominion of Canada shall not look in vain to the Mother Country? It would not only be a fitting answer to send this evening to a veteran servant of the Empire, whose motto and watchword at the present time is "A British subject I was born, a British subject I will die." But in October, 1889, the leader of the Political Opposition in Canada is reported to have said— 913I would be in favour of a more close commercial alliance of Canada with Great Britain. I would favour it with all my soul.There is only one more witness I call: Sir Gordon Sprigg, speaking last year in London, said—How are the component parts of the Empire to be held together? Having given a great deal of attention to this matter it appears to me that the basis of the Imperial Federation of the future must be a Customs Union. Supposing you do'nt bind together your colonies and dependencies by some such bond as a Customs Union, what guarantee have you that you will hold your Empire together? It has been doubted whether the colonies themselves are in favour of such a proposal"—and I particularly invite the attention of right hon. Gentlemen to this: Sir Gordon Sprigg replies—I will only say that in travelling through this country upon occasional visits I keep my eyes and ears open, and I sometimes think that it I wanted to find illustrations of men who hold fast to the best traditions of Old England I would not look for them here in the centre, but I would go to the distant dependencies where the sons and daughters of England keep watch and ward over the outposts of the Empire.And these views are, I know, undoubtedly warmly held by Mr. Cecil Rhodes, the present Prime Minister. I have endeavoured thus to show the House, through the mouth of representative men in Australia—one the present Prime Minister of Queensland, another long the holder of political authority in Victoria, a third for a lifetime the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly in New Zealand; through the mouth of the present Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada, and also of the leader of the Political Opposition; through the mouth of the ex-Prime Minister and other representative men in South Africa—that there is at the present time a growing desire on the part of the great colonies to enter into close commercial relations with the Mother Country and with each other. I might quote Sir Julius Vogel and other eminent exponents of the feeling of the colonies. But it is not necessary. I urge, then, upon the House—in our own interests quite as much as in colonial interests—that early opportunity should be taken of inviting the self-governing colonies to confer with the Imperial Government, not upon a cut-and-dried proposal, not upon some definite scheme, which might or might not be popular; 914 but upon the best means of developing the trade of the Empire. I urge this view upon hon. Members, not only because the colonies expect it of us, not only because it is our bounden duty, but also because the vast growth of inter-British trade compared with foreign trade, now amounting to upwards of £250,000,000 a year, shows that such a union within the British Empire would be commercially advantageous both to the Mother Country and to the colonies. Lastly, I urge it upon the Government, and I do so by reason of the declaration of the Prime Minister at the Guildhall on the 10th November. These were Lord Salisbury's words:—We know that every bit of the world's surface that is not under the British flag is country which may be, and probably will be, closed to us by a hostile tariff, and therefore it is that we are anxious, above all things, to conserve, to unify, to strengthen the Empire of the Queen, because it is to the trade that is carried on within the Empire of the Queen that we look for the vital force of the commerce of this country.And not only have we this authority from the Prime Minister of this country; but I find from the latest publication of the Cobden Club, issued within the last few days, by authority, no doubt, of the hon. Member for Rochdale, under the title Fiscal Federation and Free Trade, which ends thus:—The Empire would then be commercially impregnable; the Mother Country, the colonies, and India would reign supreme in each other's markets… Such a fiscal federation would require no adjustment; it would avoid all disputes, all jealousies; it would form a bond of union which would defy the threats or blandishments of any scheming Foreign Powers, and prove more durable than any other that could be conceived.I think I am justified, therefore, in asking the support for this Motion of Free Traders and Fair Traders alike, of both sides of the House, and in asking hon. Members, by acceding to this Motion, to do something, at any rate, towards developing the trade of the United Empire.
Motion made, and Question proposed,
That, in the opinion of this House, an early opportunity should be taken of inviting the self-governing Colonies to confer with the Imperial Government upon the belt means of developing the trade of the Empire."—(Mr. Howard Vincent.)
(9.38.) MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)
I rise to second the Motion. There are two 915 points which are raised by the Resolution. The first is the great desire of the colonies for a closer commercial union with the Mother Country and with each other. What is it that has brought about that desire at the present time? Undoubtedly the trade which they are carrying on, and which is so fast developing in Australia and in Canada, may be, to some extent, a reason for the growing desire that is thus shown. But there is another matter which I think has a much closer relation with this view, and that is, that our colonies have before them, to a greater extent than ever before, as a great object lesson, the prosperity and increasing greatness of the United States of America. The United States call themselves—and, without doubt, to some extent, properly—a Free Trade country. They have a thorough free inter-State trade, and that is one of the points which is regarded, especially in Australia, and to a very considerable extent in Canada, as the cause of that prosperity. They say here are several States which are able to produce everything they can altogether desire. They have no duty at all on goods passing from one State to another. The duties which they levy are on articles brought in from the outside world, and thus raising their required revenue by a tax by means of which they avoid all other taxation. I do not think that could be better illustrated than by a case which was alluded to by Sir Henry Parkes at the Conference held at Melbourne in February last on the subject of the federation of Australia. The State of Maryland allowed Baltimore to levy a Wharfage Duty on all goods coming into Baltimore from other places than those in the State of Maryland. A potato merchant coming in was asked to pay four or five dollars Wharfage Dues, having come from some other State. He refused to pay it, and was taken before the Court, which ordered him to pay. He appealed to the Court of the State, which affirmed that decision. He then went to the Supreme Court, which held that—It must be regarded as settled that no State can consistently with the Federal Constitution impose upon the products of other States more onerous public burdens or taxes than it imposes upon like products in its own area.This establishes beyond all doubt the 916 doctrine that America is in this sense a Free Trade country, and allows no duties to be levied as between State and State. That is the great object lesson, which is held before Australia and before Canada. Canada is told, "Set yourselves entirely free from the Mother Country, or even keep yourselves still in alliance with the Mother Country, but join yourselves together to levy duties against the outside world, and have an inter-State thorough freedom with us, and you will become a great country." This matter was brought before the Australian Conference last year as one which would direct their minds on the federalisation of Australia. They would see how, by bringing together Queensland and all the other colonies, they might produce a great country, which might have inter-colonial Free Trade levying duties on the outside world. And when a Free Trade State is told that she cannot profitably enter into a federal connection with Protectionist States, there is one part of the Dominion to which I will call especial attention. It is a vrey great illustration of what may be done in this way. I allude to British Columbia. Victoria in British Columbia was a free port where no dues were levied, and they were very much opposed to being brought into the Dominion of Canada and being thereby subject to fiscal duties. She joined the Dominion, however, and what has been the result? I took the trouble to inquire into the prices and into the duties that were being levied in British Columbia, and I find that the people there are in a singularly more prosperous condition than they were during the time that Victoria was a free port. Wages are very much higher, the highest probably that you can find in the whole circuit of the globe. The necessaries of life, although there are heavy dues, are cheaper than are to be found anywhere else. It might have been supposed that at the Australian Conference there would be a difficulty in discussing this question between Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland, and Tasmania, all Protectionist countries, and New South Wales, a Free Trade colony. But that difficulty was dropped entirely. My hon. Friend, in the second part of his Motion, discusses the desirability of a Conference as the best means of developing 917 the trade of the Empire. Can anybody doubt that the tendency throughout the British Empire is to form a federation of the Empire? Can anybody doubt that if this Empire is to hold its own it will be by a closer union between the Mother Country and the colonies? I can only say this for myself: I have gone for many years through the country speaking on different platforms, and I have never, before any part of my countrymen, talked about a closer union with the colonies without finding that it was the one great thing that seemed to interest them more than anything else. The question of the Customs Union must arise whenever this subject comes on, and the question, then, will be; What has England to give, and what has England to gain, by a Customs Union? The colonies will say, "You want customers for your manufactures; look at the M'Kinley Tariff, which is aimed at you," and who can doubt, who has any acquaintance at all with the subject, that the M'Kinley Tariff is aimed at our supremacy, aimed first of all at the detachment of England from Canada? Do not tell me it was a question of the hour. I was in the United States during the Presidential Election in 1884, and the speeches then made by Mr. Blaine were to this effect:—If there is anything that can come into our country which we can produce we shall put a duty on it which shall prevent it being introduced; if there is anything that comes in which we cannot produce, let it come in duty free.That was the doctrine of 1884; it is the doctrine of the present time; it is a doctrine which has got an immense hold of the people. It was put forward not as a political action at all, because it has ruined to a considerable extent the man who brought it forward. It was put forward as the steady studied resolve of the American people, and it will remain for years to come. We must, then, face the M'Kinley Tariff as an existing fact. In addition to that, Russia, France, and Germany all have recently increased their tariffs. We may well say to the colonies, "We require your aid to take our manufactured goods from us." England will say, "I have tried all arguments with other countries, and I find I can make no impression upon them, in the sense of making them come to our view of Free Trade." The 918 colonies will reply, "You can give us a preference in bringing in our raw material for manufacturers, and in the shape of food. Find out if we in India, in Canada, in Australia, in New Zealand, and in Egypt produce more than enough to feed you without stint, and when you have found that, say that you will give us a preference to your markets, and we will lower out duties in favour of your manufactures." Sir John Macdonald said to me in 1881 that if England would put but a half-dollar duty on corn coming from all countries, other than colonies he would undertake that Canada would allow a preferential duty in favour of England. That is the proposition that is made by Canada, and that will be made by Australia and the other colonies, and I say we should do very well to accede to it. I feel sure the time is closely approaching when the working men of England will see that if they are to keep up their wages, and retain their places in this country, it must be by getting better outlets for their manufactures, and they can only get that by giving to the colonies an opportunity of selling the goods here. I am glad to know that the news that this Motion is made will reach Sir John Macdonald on his electioneering tour. He is a man who, above all others, has the interest of England at heart, and I am sure everyone will wish that Sir John Macdonald may long'remain Prime Minister of Canada, and maintain the greatness of the Empire.
§ (9.57.) SIR LYON PLAYFAIR, (Leeds, S.)
I have nothing to blame my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield for in the way that he has brought forward the Resolution in regard to the Conference, in so much as he has said; but I have some fault to find with him because he has not told us what is the nature of the subject which he is about to bring before this Conference. He could not invite the whole of the colonies to come to a solemn Conference in England without a basis on which the Conference shall go, and he has given us no indication in regard to that basis. So far as the terms of the Motion go, the colonists might be asked to come and discuss with the Free Traders the benefits of Free Trade, and give their views on Protection. Does my hon. Friend want to make a Debating Society by asking the whole of the colonies to come into a solemn Con- 919 ference in this country without indicating a clear and distinct basis upon which this Conference is to take place? He is asking a very serious question—he is asking the colonies to come and confer, without giving the slightest information as to what they ought to confer about. The basis of discussion ought to have been distinctly laid down. In the course of his speech my hon. Friend showed that he was first a Fair Trader—whom I have always looked upon as a Protectionist wearing a domino—and then a Protectionist. What is the object of this Motion? The right hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet Division of Kent (Mr. J. Lowther) the other day placed upon the Paper a Motion which throws a bull's-eye illumination upon the Motion of the hon. Member for Sheffield. The right hon. Gentleman, in his Motion proposing to invite the colonies to send representatives to a Conference to be held in this country, asserted that there was imminent danger menacing the integrity of the Empire and the interests of all classes engaged in the industries of the United Kingdom, because Parliament has not yet established a differential system of taxation in favour of colonial produce. I have no doubt that the right hon. Gentleman will to-night give the House a thorough-going Protectionist speech in illustration of his Motion. But I should like to ask the right hon. Gentleman what are the facts upon which he bases his alarming suggestion as to the danger to the integrity of the Empire and to all classes engaged in the industries of the United Kingdom? The Trade Returns for 1890 show that our trade for that year amounted to some £684,000,000, and showed an advance over that of 1886 of £122,000,000. Therefore the trade of the country is largely increasing. The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the industrial and the poorer classes were being injured by the importation of foreign manufactures, but the published Returns show that employment is general throughout the country, that wages are good, and that poverty and crime are decreasing. In my opinion, therefore, the right hon. Gentleman has not made out that there is any cause for alarm on the ground that our industrial classes are suffering through our free importation of foreign goods, and there is no ground on that score to ask our colonies 920 to send representatives to attend a Conference in this country. It would, therefore, appear that the black cloud which the right hon. Gentleman seems to see hanging over this country is visible to his eyes only. What has really frightened my right hon. Friend and my hon. Friend is clearly the Canadian elections. There are, no doubt, serious features connected with those elections. There is one Party in Canada which desires to foster the trade with the United States, and to impose differential duties as against British goods. The other Party has a strong feeling of loyalty to England, and desires to obtain reciprocal trade in natural products with the United States. To this England could not have the slightest objection, because the natural products of Canada reach this country free of duty, and if they reach the United States free of duty also all Free Traders would much rejoice. Personally, I am afraid of speaking about the Canadian elections, and I do not think either Party in Canada would thank this House for discussing the subject. I am glad to see that my hon. Friend (Mr. Howard Vincent), who in the Motion that first appeared on the Paper mentioned Canada, has since substituted the words "self-governing colonies," which is much safer and better. Now, when England gave taxing powers to the colonies she gave those powers without conditions. We did not reserve to ourselves the right of insisting that British goods should enter free of taxation. Some of the colonies are Free Trade countries.
§ SIR LYON PLAYFAIR
New South Wales is a Free Trade country, and so, practically, is the Empire of India. Other colonies are strongly Protectionist, such as Canada, Victoria, and Western Australia. The average duties imposed on imports, for the purpose either of protection or of revenue, vary from 4 per cent. in India to 29 per cent. in Canada. The real object of the Motion of my hon. Friend is no doubt to secure the adoption of the plan which he indicated as having been brought forward with so much ability by Mr. Hofmeyr in 1887. What that means is that all foreign goods of every kind are to be taxed.
§ SRI LYON PLAYFAIR
But that is the only interpretation we have of colonial views and wishes. What is it he is aiming at? Is it a general Zollverein? Are the duties in the colonies to be of equal value or of varying value? How is it possible to have a general Zollverein? You have the greatest varieties in the colonies. You have different climates, different soils, different products, and different people, and, as a result, it has been shown that, with all the efforts to make a taxation upon a moderate scale, the colonies differ as much as from 4 per cent. to 29 per cent, in the mode in which they levy the duties on goods. That is because taxation suitable to one colony is not the least suitable to another colony. But there was one thing that in the 1887 Conference all the colonies were perfectly and absolutely agreed upon. All the colonies desire that England should put a tax—moderate in amount, it is true—upon all foreign imports, but that all imports from the colonies which were not employed for our Revenue, such as tea and tobacco, should be admitted free of duty. At the same time, the colonies absolutely refused to be bound in any way to lower their duties upon British commodities. Now I come to Mr. Hofmeyr's proposal. He said—We require a Defence Fund for the Empire, and I propose that we should put a 2 per cent. tax upon all foreign imports that either go into England or go into the colonies.He was careful to explain that taxation of foreign goods would be of no use to the colonies unless England taxed food and raw materials. If we taxed foreign imports coming into England 2 per cent., the colonies would agree to put 2 per cent. on foreign imports in addition to what they charge now. The product of the tax is to be kept separate, and made into a Defence Fund, and he calculated then and I calculate now that such a tax would produce a revenue of about £8,000,000 [An hon. MEMBER: £7,000,000.] He said £7,000,000, but now it is increased. Therefore, the colonies propose that England shall tax itself for this special Defence Fund. At present we pay all the expenses of the naval armaments. We are to tax the people of England to 922 the extent of £6,250,000 for the purposes of this Defence Fund; for if all the colonies agreed to come in, the colonies would not pay more than £1,750,000. But would they all agree to come in? Just look at the matter in the light of common sense. The colonies have the greatest varieties in their dealings with foreign countries. For instance, Australia only imports 10 per cent. of foreign goods. Canada imports more than 56 per cent., and the West Indies, 40 per cent. Do you think the colonies are all going on this simple and equal method, to have their foreign commodities taxed when there is such variety amongst them? The foreign trade of the colonies amounts to less than £67,000,000, while the foreign imports of England amount to £325,000,000. The proposal is that England should put an additional tax on its people in respect of this £325,000,000, while the colonies should only put a tax on in respect of £67,000,000. There was a significant circumstance which occurred in that Conference. Some of the colonies said that a 2 per cent. tax on foreign imports into England was of no use to them; it must be much more than that. Mr. Hofmeyr said that he only mentioned 2 per cent. to begin with; it might rise to 5, 10, or even to 50 per cent. Thus we are gradually to be squeezed up until we are in the firm grip of Protection once more. The colonies are to be perfectly independent to tax Great Britain as they like, but England is not to be at liberty to put anything but a tax on foreign products of all kinds. England, after one celebrated experience, has been chary of interfering with the taxation of the colonies. We once tried to interfere with the taxation of our colonies in North America, and we therefore lost the United States. But what is this that is proposed? It is that the colonies in their turn shall come and tax England; it is that the pelican shall vulnerate itself in order that with its own blood it may feed its young. The House will understand the matter better if I take as an illustration breadstuffs. The United States send to this country 35,000,000 cwt. of grain calculated as flour; Canada sends 4,000,000 cwt. From what hon. Members know of the United States and its desire for retaliation, do they think that the United States would rest satisfied to see this 923 country taking the 4,000,000 cwt. from Canada free into this country while harassing the former with all the new Customs apparatus and the duty on the 35,000,000 cwt. which they send here? You know perfectly well that there would be such retaliation immediately as would make us bitterly repent. The whole foreign supply of wheat calculated as flour is 66,000,000 cwt., and of that the colonial supply is only 13,000,000 cwt. Take the case of cotton. The United States furnished us last year with 1,344,000,000 pounds, and the West India Colonies, her near neighbours, send us 500,000. We are to put a tax upon the American cotton. Do you mean to say that the United States would not at once put a retaliatory duty on our cotton fabrics? [Hon. MEMBERS: They do.] They would make the duty prohibitive if you taxed their raw material. The hon. and learned Member for Staffordshire (Mr. Staveley Hill) referred to the M'Kinley Tariff. Does he not know that there has been an enormous upheaval in the United States against that tariff? I have studied the question longer than the hon. and learned Gentleman, and I have noticed the splendid education that has been going on throughout the United States with reference to the tariff; and now there is a new Congress which is pledged to make a reformed tariff immediately, and it contains a very large majority against the ultra-Protectionists. Suppose we were at once to accept the policy of the hon. Member and put a tax upon foreign commodities in order to please the colonies. What would result? You would bring Canada and the United States into a most critical attitude, because you would give a preference to the exports of Canada. We ought to encourage the United States as much as possible to go on in their career of tariff reform, and bring about much better relations with the rest of the world, and especially with Great Britain. I have the greatest admiration for Canada. It has shown itself a most energetic nation. It has connected the Atlantic and Pacific by an iron band which has given to England a new route to the East, for which we ought to be very grateful. I do not blame Canada for her protective tariff, indeed, I think she is forced into it by the action 924 of the United States, and I sympathise with Sir John Macdonald in his efforts to establish with his powerful neighbours reciprocity, for natural products. That reciprocity which continued from 1854 to 1868, bound the two countries together so firmly that, although the United States was engaged in one of the greatest wars which any country has ever had, they did not require one soldier more on the frontier or one single ship of the United States to prevent Canadian Alabamas preying on commerce. Most of us have for years been strongly in favour of political and, so far as we can obtain it, commercial federation with the colonies, but there is much more than that involved. I hope my right hon. Friend (Mr. J. Lowther) who runs his politics just as straight as he runs his horses, and who does not hide his views under a bushel, will tell us what his views are. I will tell him what his views were in 1885. In a speech which he made in Lincolnshire, he said: "the monstrous claptrap of the cheap loaf must be described as moonshine." As my right hon. Friend cannot tax moonshine, he is going to tax the cheap loaf by this difference in favour of the colonies. Consider for a moment what better commercial relations we could have with our colonies than we have at present. England is a great maritime and a great manufacturing nation. As a manufacturing nation this country takes all the raw materials and all the food supplies of our colonies free of duty. We convert them into manufactures, and we send them out as cheap manufactures into the colonies. It is the fault of the colonies if those commodities become dear there. The colonies have their own ideas of taxation; England has its own ideas of commercial freedom. This country finds that it has prospered enormously by making its commerce perfectly free, and we are far from blaming the colonies. I think that they will come round to the views of the question entertained in this country, just as the United States are rapidly coming round to those views, and will eventually largely reduce their duties. There is no antagonism between the commerce and the trade of the United Kingdom and the colonies. The economical conditions of the United Kingdom and those of the colonies differ altogether. Their raw materials come to us free; our manufactures do not go to them free, 925 but in spite of the duties they enter to a considerable extent. We have a large capital in this country, and we are glad to invest it in our colonies for the promotion of colonial undertakings; and if we leave things as they naturally are, it is to be hoped that the colonies will benefit us and that we shall benefit them. There are few fairtraders who advocate this policy who dare to say on public platforms that they want to tax food or raw materials. When those gentlemen speak they always say that they do not wish to tax food or raw materials, but the proposal of the colonies is that we should tax food or raw materials. With all this difference of opinion, therefore, with the right claimed by the colonies to taxation, independently of a Zollverein with us, there is no basis put forward on which Parliament can ask the colonies to enter a Trade Conference. I think that it is not unreasonable to hope that the colonies, when they consider the whole question, and knowing the determination of England to have untaxed food for her people and untaxed raw material for her manufactures, will see that a freer recognition of the principles of commercial freedom must add happiness to the people and security to the Empire.
(10.31.) MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)
My right hon. Friend who has just sat down has taken the mover of the Motion to task because he confined his speech to the Motion which stands in his name, and suggested that the Member for Sheffield ought to have extended his speech to another Motion, which does not stand in his name. Now I venture to think that my hon. Friend would have laid himself open to a call to order had he adopted such advice.
MR. J. LOWTHER
It is a Motion I have been unable to bring forward in consequence of arrangements of business to which I need not refer, but which still stands upon the Order Book. I am bound to say I am under no obligation to decline to answer the straightforward question addressed to me by the right hon. Gentleman. The right hon. Gentleman asks me in effect whether I adopt the programme which has been mentioned to-night as instituted by Mr. Hofmeyr, and I reply that the pro- 926 gramme of Mr. Hofmeyr is one which in no shape or form am I prepared to endorse. I have not heard of any person in any way responsible for the movement represented on this occasion by my hon. Friend (Mr. Vincent) or who takes an interest in the matter who is prepared to endorse in its details the programme of Mr. Hofmeyr. I have no doubt that Gentleman expressed views on this subject in general agreement with my own. I am disposed to concur with him in his general object, but as to details I most distinctly decline to be bound by his utterances. What did my right hon. Friend go on to say? He said that the supporters of this Motion advocated a system under which this country is to be bound by certain definite obligations to the colonies, while the colonies are not bound by any definite obligations to the Mother Country. Where did he derive that information from?
MR. J. LOWTHER
Then all I can say, knowing the care and attention my right hon. Friend has bestowed upon that Conference, is, that he must have eliminated chance sentences from the remarks of one or two speakers, and mistaken them for the unanimous opinion of the Conference. I venture to protest against such an idea as that. We have always insisted on something altogether different. We advocate absolute liberty of action, both for England and the colonies, as to the duties imposed on the introduction of all goods into their territories, with this solitary exception—that such duties as are imposed upon any goods coming from another part of the British Empire shall be met with an increased duty upon similar goods coming from other parts of the world. My right hon. Friend mentioned other matters I certainly have never suggested. My right hon. Friend says that there is to be taxation on wool, which, so far as I have ever heard, has never been so much as suggested, although as to bread stuffs I certainly hold that we ought to be independent of all sources outside the British Empire; and I think when the system comes to be fully considered it will be found that the people of this country will have the advantage of obtaining food supplies from within the limits of the Empire, which. 927 are sufficiently wide to include food-producing territories almost boundless in their capacity, and the cry of dear food is a bug-bear we may discard from our minds. My right hon. Friend proceeded to talk with that moderation and good sense which always distinguishes him upon the subject of Free Trade and Protection, an example which might, with advantage, be followed by others who take his view of these questions. My right hon. Friend has convinced himself that Protection is dead in the United States. Well, I thought it was only the other day that the M'Kinley tariff was proposed—an enactment far exceeding in its Protectionist tendency anything that any other country has attempted. My right hon. Friend is labouring under a delusion if he thinks that because the details of that measure have caused dissatisfaction therefore there is any feeling in the United States in favour of Free Trade. There is none whatever—absolutely none, in the sense in which the term Free Trade is used in this country. There is no Free Trade Party in the United States worthy of the name. We have been told that no person is fit to be at large who denies that Free Trade is a universal panacea for all human ills—that the man who doubts Free Trade is a person who doubts the rotundity of the world, or who denies that two and two make four. My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale is not present, or I would thank him for supplying me with an unlimited amount of literature in which these and similar sentiments are eloquently enforced. What is the feeling of the world on this question? I presume that we shall not now be told that all the wise men of the world are the advocates of Free Trade, while the advocates of Protection are fools. For what are the facts? All the leading men of all political parties in all quarters of the globe, with one solitary exception, have during the last 25 years or more been staunch and avowed Protectionists. All the statesmen of Germany and Russia have never for a moment swerved from the doctrine of Protection. If my right hon. Friend doubts that statement of mine I will supply him with an authority presently which I think he will respect. 928 In France during the reign of the late Emperor Napoleon there were tentative steps taken in the direction of Free Trade. We used to be told that the despotisms of the world were depriving the people of the great blessings of Free Trade. What has been the case with France? The moment the French people gained popular representation steps in the direction of Free Trade were promptly abandoned, and now in France Protection rules supreme. I might go the world through and point that out. I will go to no less an authority than the Member for Mid Lothian to show that Free Trade is on the decline and Protection advancing. At a presentation which took place to my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale—a presentation in which I would cordially have joined were it not confined to a Political Party—the Member for Mid Lothian, in making the presentation, made some remarks which recall the idea of a skeleton appearing at a feast, and lead one to suppose that he was a doubtful addition to the hilarity of the entertainment, for he said—I think we certainly must recognise—I hope you will forgive me for introducing matters that are not those of congratulation—how much ground has been lost by the doctrines of Free Trade within the last 25 years. It is a great and heavy disappointment. I have no doubt that the dreadful militarism which lies like an incubus, like a vampire, upon Europe, is responsible for much of the mischief, but not for all. You must not forget that in other countries where there is no such militarism Protection is gaining ground. It is gaining ground in America, and I regret to see that it is gaining ground also in our own colonies.Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to say—When we pass over the countries of Europe together with the great Republic of America, we see that, although the doctrines of Free Trade have never been unconditionally accepted in any of these countries, yet there was a kind of qualified progress towards them. That progress was then exchanged for a stationary condition of opinion, and of late that opinion has been actively retrogressive. But I know of two subjects for consolation—at least, I remember only two at this moment in that survey. In some of our own colonies the principles of Free Trade are still cherished.These were the statements made by the Member for Mid Lothian in a speech delivered on May 12, 1890, and I advise hon. Members to refer to that speech and read it in detail. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that in one of the colonies—New South Wales—the colonists had steadfastly, 929 under circumstances of great difficulty, gallantly adhered to the cause of Free Trade. But if the right hon. Gentleman had made that speech in 1891 he would have had to recognise the fact that at the last election in New South Wales, Political Parties upon this subject were so evenly balanced that I am told on unquestionable authority that at present the majority is only 4 or 5 in the Legislative Assembly there in favour of the doctrine of Free Trade. Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to talk about France; but again, I say, if the right hon. Gentleman had to refer to the fiscal policy of France in 1891 he would have to add to that eulogy of Free Trade in that country, that at no period in French history has the policy of Protection been so rampant as at the present time. A proposal involving the addition of a minimum duty of something like 25 per cent. on all British manufactures is now before the consideration of the French Legislature. I will not weary the House with detail, but I think I have shown that my right hon. Friend is, I was going to say, premature—but distinctly he is speaking a day after the fair. Can my right hon. Friend name another colony besides New South Wales, to which I have referred, where Free Trade principles are in the ascendancy?
MR. J. LOWTHER
I must ask my right hon. Friend as a candid man first to remember the distinction always drawn between our colonies and our great Indian dependency, and that India acts in this matter as the British House of Commons wills. But I will also ask him to remember that not many years ago Members of this House used to have their attention probably called to the fact that for revenue purposes in India duties were levied on Manchester goods, a condition of affairs which was only changed after strong protest from those responsible for Indian administration. I have shown that in New South Wales the majority in favour of a Free Trade policy is very small. India we may omit, because the people have no voice, and rightly have no voice; they have not the machinery for suggesting their own fiscal policy, think I have shown, and I think it is admitted on all hands, that the policy of Protection has rapidly superseded that 930 of Free Trade throughout the world. Only in our own country is there retained a decided prejudice against the introduction of Protective Tariffs. The Mother Country, England, is the only part of the world where this doctrine, which falsely passes under the name of Free Trade, is accepted as a dogma. Sir Gordon Sprigg ex-Premier of Cape Colony, to whose speeches my hon. Friend has referred, and himself a Free Trader, has said that when he went out to the colony, he soon found that Free Trade in the colony was considered to be made for man not man for Free Trade, and Sir Gordon Sprigg went on to say that in the colony it was regarded as a system, to be defended by argument, but by no means to be regarded as a fetish. Now, I ask the House to consider the position in which we stand. If we are prepared to say that in no circumstances whatever will we even allow the colonies to place their views before us in a Conference, and state what suggestions they have to make for the development of trade between us and them, the sooner we give up prattling about the British Empire the better. The policy which is promoted by the leader of the Opposition in Canada—of entering into close fiscal relations with the United States and discriminating against the Mother Country—I am happy to think a large patriotic Party declines in any shape or form to assent to is one which, if adopted, must end in the breaking up of the British Empire, and the fact is that if the Mother Country is not prepared to consider some modification of pre-conceived fiscal opinions, the burden of Empire must fall from our hands. What I understand to be the object of this Motion is, not the laying down of any hard and fast line within which alone a Conference should proceed, but that, speaking broadly, it is suggested that it should proceed on the lines of a preferential fiscal system. But I never would presume to dictate to the colonies as to the details by which they should be bound in such a Conference. The House is not asked to express to-night an opinion as between Protection and Free Trade. I do not ask Her Majesty's Government to afford any indication as to which direction their personal views may incline. I do not ask them if they are of one mind on the subject. But 931 what I do ask them is whether they are prepared to entertain this question, as not only a practical question, but an urgent one, without committing themselves to laying down at present any definite programme, without pronouncing at present the exact time or circumstances under which this Conference is to be convened; but that this subject, which is engaging so much attention throughout all parts of the Empire outside these Islands, shall receive some consideration, and that promptly, at the hands of Her Majesty's Government. During the last quarter of a century, I would point out to the House that, of late years a marked change of feeling has taken place in the country on this question. We know that the balance of power has shifted during the last quarter of a century. I have personally incurred no responsibility with regard to that transfer, and, therefore, I may speak with perfect freedom upon the point. But the House knows well that, whereas the old £10 householder was for the most part connected with the retail trade of the country, and as a middleman, he was easily taken in by the specious cry that the producer must be left to take care of himself, and that it was only the consumer towards whom we ought to show any regard. The power has been transferred from the consumer to the producer, and those who possess the power have no hesitation, as I think is borne out by the attitude of hon. Members below the opposite Gangway, in advocating measures which they believe will redound to their individual advantage, however much they may offend against the doctrines of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill, as evidence of which I may remind the House of the Motion unanimously adopted upon Friday last regarding Government contracts, which, a few years since, would have been denounced as tending to deprive the people of the blessings of cheap lodgings and cheap clothing. The working classes have, however, realised that they have the means of securing their full share of increased prices, and that labour derives advantages from what formerly redounded only to the benefit of capitalists and landlords. There has, moreover, grown up a strong Imperial feeling among all classes of the people, 932 and I think the Government may rely upon it that the old clap-trap cries which at one time used to prevail have lost their hold upon the electors, and that there is now among all sections of the inhabitants of these Islands a firm determination in every possible way to advance legitimate intercourse between Her Majesty's subjects in all parts of the globe, and to promote the true interests and greatness of the British Empire.
§ (11.5.) THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN, St. George's, Hanover Square)
I could have wished that the chances of the ballot had placed this Motion somewhat later, because, in some respects, it would have been better that the Canadian elections should not have been alluded to during the present Debate. It has been said that if this Motion were to pass, it would be a cordial message to Sir John Macdonald, but whether this Motion be passed or withdrawn, the sentiments of the House of Commons with regard to the Canadian struggle would remain precisely the same. I know that I shall be expressing the unanimous feeling of the House when I say that no inferences should be drawn from the present Debate, or from whatever may happen to the Motion, that we should in any way desire to influence the Canadian people in voting on the one side or on the other. I am disposed to think that we should—I will not say resent, but should dislike during our elections any such influence coming from any of our colonists to us; and I trust that all Parties, whatever happens in the present elections, though we have our predilections, and strong predilections, on the one side or the other, will feel convinced of the loyalty of the Canadian people towards this country. There are some respects in which I may say I cordially agree with the Mover and Seconder of this Resolution. I doubt whether the right hon. Gentleman (Sir L. Playfair) sufficiently appreciated the bearings generally of this question. If it were a question of Protection and Free Trade—if it were simply a question of that kind—then I can quite conceive that he would be perfectly right in almost every word he said, though not in all. But the issue is far wider. I believe, with many of my hon. Friends on this side of the House, and a great many hon. Members on the other 933 side, that the feelings of this country towards the colonies during the last 25 years have become warmer, and that a great desire for nearer relations with our colonies has become distinctly a political feature of the present time. I would be prepared to acknowledge that the statements and sentiments which have fallen from the leading statesmen of the colonies deserve the respectful attention of this House, and that we should certainly endeavour to consider how far this fiscal question may be a political question in the very widest sense. I have from the commencement of my political career been one of those who have always held these views with regard to the colonies. There was a time when those of the extreme Radical school of Free Trade could scarcely be brought up to the proper mark with regard to consideration for the colonies, and when it was thought the colonies might be simply a burden to this country. They used to add up the expenses caused by the colonies and make an arithmetical calculation in respect to imports and exports, and then to consider whether the balance was in favour of our retention of the colonies or not. I am glad to think that any such ideas have ceased to be prevalent. Now, a fair appeal may be made to the country at large to consider fairly what are the interests of the colonies, at the same time with the distinct belief that there are common interests, and that this Empire is more powerful the more closely our colonies are knitted to it. Of course, all this may be difficult of proof, but it is the less necessary to prove it now than it was in times past, because it has become more accepted as a political axiom. I will concede to my right hon. Friend who spoke last that in another respect, too, there has been a change in public opinion. I was much struck by the remarks he made as to the change of sentiment with regard to the item of cheapness which has taken place in the country generally. I think hon. Members opposite will have felt that he was justified in saying that doctrines which used to be held almost as sacred—the doctrines of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill—have no more that strong hold over the opinions of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that they used to have. Being myself one who does 934 not hold that those doctrines ought to be banished to Saturn, but who is convinced that they have rendered great service to this country and will continue to do so, I feel that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have lost much of the firm ground on which they stood, because in so many directions they have abandoned those sound doctrines one of which was Free Trade, but others of which no longer command their adhesion and scarcely their respect. That being so, I must advise them to furbish up all their arguments for defending that sound position in which they still believe with regard to Free Trade. My right hon. Friend was perfectly correct in saying it will no longer do to speak of certain views as simply clap-trap. In these days not only Smith and Mill but every authority in the world has to submit to be questioned; the advocates of orthodoxy in every direction are obliged now to look to it that they are able to defend their case; and the sublimest truths of religion are questioned in sceptical and frivolous conversation. My hon. Friend brings forward this Motion with a view to bringing the colonies and the Mother Country closer together. The right hon. Member for Leeds connected this Motion with one made last year by my right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet. But there is another Motion with which it may be connected, one made in another place about a week ago, and which not only embraced the question of drawing closer together the colonies for the sake of trade, but which extended the object to the desirability of providing a fund for the common defence of the Empire. My hon. Friend has to-night laid no stress whatever upon that point, and those who supported him scarcely endorsed that view; but it is one of the points which has laid hold of the imagination of the colonists, that possibly they might by some re-arrangements of their fiscal systems contribute somewhat to the naval defence of the Empire. I hope I shall not offend any one by saying that I hope the colonial movement as it is called—that is, a movement for closer union with the colonies—will not be prejudiced by any suspicions that its champions have got a kind of sneaking desire to promote Protection at home. The right hon. Member for Thanet carries his badge upon his sleeve; others have not 935 been quite so open. I am bound to say we must endeavour to scent out Protection, if I may say so, because Protectionists lurk in many places where you would scarcely expect to find them. Some of them mingle with the bi-metal-lists behind their silver robes; others join the Imperial Federationists and wrap themselves round in the folds of the Union Jack. I trust we may be able to keep separate this question of closer union with the colonies, because I am afraid, being in favour of that closer union myself, if it is suspected of too much of the Protection taint, it will not have that influence on the masses which we desire. I am anxious to keep the whole of this great question, in which I feel as deep an interest as any man, out of those questions which may prejudice it when we come to have it argued on platforms. The hon. Member for Staffordshire spoke of what he said on the platform; I presume he was able to put it to his constituents in this way—"Will you pay in the shape of somewhat dearer bread for the consolidation of the Empire?" I think it possible that the advantages of the consolidation of the Empire may be so great that, if the increase in the price of the loaf is extremely small, the producers, with whom the power now lies far more than with the consumers, may not object. I am not so absolutely certain of the answers to be given if the matter was considered at an election time, because the one Political Party would say, "You are going to increase the price of the loaf." If it were made a political question, if it were put as a question of making bread dearer, I am bound to say that no such plan would enter into the region of practical politics. That is my strong belief. But, on the other hand, I cannot deny that I think this country may well be prepared to pay something for continuing the union of the Empire. I hope our colonists will thoroughly understand that you could not put, in my judgment at least, a duty upon corn without raising the price of bread. The feeling among some of my hon. Friends is this. The area devoted to the production of wheat in the colonies is so immense that they would be able to provide for this country with the assistance of our own farmers, so that we might be independent of all other countries. I understand 936 my hon. Friend to say that although the proposed change might increase the price of bread, the advantages gained in the greater consolidation of the Empire will be worth the sacrifice made. I ought, perhaps, to say that, in my judgment, it must raise the price of bread. What is the grievance of the Protectionists with regard to bi-metallism and the imports of wheat from India? It is that the wheat of India, with the bounty given it by silver, has lowered the price of wheat all over the world. What is the converse of that proposition? If the accession of India to the wheat-producing countries is sufficient to lower the price of bread, does it not stand to reason that the withdrawal of Russia or America from the wheat-producing countries from which we purchase will raise the price of bread? I am anxious to carry conviction to the minds of some of our fellow-subjects in the colonies, who think we might legislate in this direction, the extreme difficulties of such a course. What can we do? There are two great systems—one, the system of Customs Union; and the other that of imposing differential or discriminating duties. The hon. Member for Staffordshire pointed out that the United States of America is practically a Free Trade country, because there are no barriers of Customs between the different States. If our colonies were prepared for a Customs Union in that sense—that there should be Free Trade with no barriers of Customs to keep out English goods from the colonies or colonial produce from this country—if that were the case, I should say, "The colonies mean business, and let us see how far we can re-construct any portion of our fiscal system which militates against such results." I should say the difficulties would be enormous, though they ought to be faced for the sake of the great objects to be secured. I differ from the right hon. Member for Leeds, who supposed that if we had any Customs Union or arrangement by which favour was shown to the colonies, that the United States would have a right to interfere. I do not think the United States would have a right to remonstrate or interfere in the way he suggested. The right hon. Gentleman suggested England would be brought to her knees; but I must enter my protest against such an extreme application of the view, that 937 under no circumstances could we make fiscal arrangements with our colonies without injuring other portions of our trade. If we find we could make the whole Empire one as regards Customs, surely we have the same right of Zollverein Union with our colonies as Germany has with Bavaria, or the United States among themselves. I claim for ourselves the same right. I think the right hon. Gentleman opposite will not deny that we have the right; but how near are we to any such consummation? What chance or hope have the colonies held out to us that they are prepared to move in this direction? The most they would do in the way of approaching this suggestion is that they will keep a wall 10 feet high against us and make it 11 feet high against foreigners. Supposing we made immense sacrifices to effect a Customs Union with the colonies, it might be that the opening made for our goods was on such a small scale that it would be but a slight relief against the immense sacrifices of trade we should be obliged to make in other directions, because of the imposition of dues. We ought to have securities from the colonies, not merely that they would put a 5 per cent. extra tariff upon foreigners, but that their tariff itself should be such as would be likely to protect this country from loss. In some articles their business might be sufficient in the quantity of goods taken from this country, but in many cases their tariff might be so prohibitive that the exports from this country might be lessened. What portion of foreign goods would be excluded, and what portion of our goods would be admitted in its place? I am afraid the portion of foreign goods which ours would displace would in many cases be very small. It is suggested that we should put on some duties in this country; but if we were to do that, they must be discriminating duties as against the foreigner. But how can we manage that with our present tariff and with the present items of consumption which we tax? What do we tax? We tax tea, tobacco, spirits, and wine. These are articles which are not produced in any quantity by our self-governing colonies, by Australia or Canada, and therefore it would not affect the position of those colonies as regards those articles. What should we have to do there- 938 fore? We should have to have recourse to other articles; we should not be putting a discriminating duty, but we should be putting on a duty for the first time, and there is the great difficulty. There are very few articles which are imported in so great a quantity from our colonies as to really affect their trade largely, with the exception of food stuffs, wheat, and wool. Supposing you put a duty on wool——
§ An hon. MEMBER: No, no!
§ MR. GOSCHEN
I certainly agree with that. Supposing you put a duty on raw materials—on wool—would not our manufacturers in Bradford and elsewhere have to pay 2 per cent. more for their wool than now?—and, in fact, from the falling off of competition they would have to pay 4 or 5 per cent. more. How then would they be able to compete with the manufacturers from abroad whom they are endeavouring to displace? If we endeavoured to secure a greater output for our manufacturers by imposing duties on raw material which hampered the industry, we should shatter a part of our commerce without getting that increase of manufactures by our colonies which we should all unanimously desire to see accomplished. I think I have put some formidable arguments before my hon. Friends. I do not mean to say that if the colonies came forward with proposals which meant large changes some alteration in our fiscal arrangements might not be brought about; but we have had no proof whatever of a desire of that kind on their part. None of the declarations of Prime Ministers or speeches made in the colonies show that the colonies would be prepared to do more than pay an addition of 5 per cent. on the small amount of imports which they take from foreign countries, or, as Mr. Hoffmeyer said, 2 per cent. That is all they propose, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds was justified in what he said with regard to the defence of the Empire. The arrangement suggested under the Hoffmeyer scheme is such that this country would have to pay £6,300,000, while the colonies would only pay £1,300,000. At the same time, I respect the view of the colonies that something should be done for Imperial defence. I have thought it right to say what I have said, not by way of throwing cold water on the desire 939 of the colonies to come closer to this country, but it is only following a will-o'-the-wisp if we simply utter general sentiment, without pointing out some of the first conditions necessary to closer commercial relations, and some of the difficulties to be overcome. I confess, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, nothing would be pleasanter to me than to see the taxpayers of this country relieved of some of those gigantic sums for naval defence which they almost alone contribute at the present time. I am bound to say that the amounts contributed by the colonies towards naval defence in its broadest sense are extremely insignificant. The cost of defence has increased enormously; every ship, every gun, every article of war, has increased in expense to an alarming extent, and this country bears almost the whole of that increase, while we do protect our colonies, and they know that they can rely on our Navy securing the highways of commerce, and that right of access to all parts of the world to which our fellow-subjects in the colonies believe themselves quite as much entitled as any subject of the Queen living in Great Britain and Ireland. Therefore, I should be only too glad that colonial statesmen should approach the idea that there should be a wider area over which the cost of our Imperial defence should be spread. To come to close quarters with the Motion, I may say that nothing would give me greater pleasure personally than if representative men connected with the finances of the various colonies conferred together, and with me, as to what changes, if any, might be made on both sides. But to invite a formal Conference of all the representatives of the colonies without some basis or ground which would lead us to believe that some progress would be made, and to ask them to meet here without first principles having been settled upon which any arrangement could be come to, would seem to me to be a course which must end in disappointment, and would be unlikely to lead to any practical result. But I can assure my hon. Friends that Her Majesty's Government shares with them their desire that some means should be found to bring the colonies closer to this Empire; and we shall neglect no opportunity of seeing whether, out of the discussions which have taken place, and out of future discussions, 940 some good may come, and such changes may be made as will, if they do not realise the dreams of my hon. Friend, at all events, result in good to all classes of the country. I do not deny that I am glad that it has been put forward to the people of this country, upon platforms and elsewhere, that our Colonial Empire is a matter of supreme importance; and I think the people may be fairly asked: is the House of Commons—are your leaders—prepared to make any sacrifice of convenience or pocket in order to contribute towards the solution of this question? The first thing is that we should decide what is our real object. I think the greater part of the House are agreed that if we could have closer commercial relations with our colonies it would be desirable. I think that even the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Leeds would be glad that we should have closer commercial relations with the colonies. But do not let us ignore the tremendous difficulties, or encourage the colonies to believe that we can achieve impossibilities, or ask this country either to tax raw materials or take any steps which will substantially raise the price of living to the people.
§ (11.39.) MR. S. WILLIAMSON (Kilmarnock, &c.)
This Motion, on the face of it, looks a somewhat harmless one; but I am inclined to think that it is not so harmless as it looks, and I sincerely hope the House will not give it much sympathy. It seems to me that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer has gone quite far enough; but I should like to add a word or two to the forcible arguments against the Motion which have been brought before the notice of the House. We are asked to invite the self-governing colonies to confer with the Imperial Government upon the best means of developing the trade of the Empire. There are two doctrines in this country on the subject of the best means of developing the trade of the Empire. There is the party—who overwhelmingly preponderate amongst our mercantile classes—who believe that the best means of developing trade is by an unrestricted interchange of commodities—in fact, by Free Trade. On the other hand, there are the Protectionists, represented by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Thanet—the party who speak about "the 941 clap-trap of the cheap loaf." I would give one example of what that clap-trap means. It means that in France, with an Import Duty upon wheat, the artizan with a wife, and, say, four children on an average spends £4 10s. per annum, or 2s. per week, more upon flour than the artizan spends in England. To talk, then, of the clap-trap of the cheap loaf is simply monstrous, and I sincerely hope that that style of argument will not be indulged in. Why should we invite colonists to come here and confer with us as to the best means of developing trade? We set them already the best example by admitting all goods free. They, on the other hand, impose on our manufactures very onerous duties. Duties are levied either for the protection of native industries or for revenue purposes. Are we to dictate to other countries the mode of taxation they are to adopt? Are we to say, "You shall depart from your indirect mode of taxation and adopt a direct mode—an Income Tax or something of that kind, though it may be wholly unsuited to you." Let me present to you two examples: Victoria sends wheat, wool, and meat to this country, and the Argentine Republic sends wheat and meat. The Argentine Republic imposes duties on our manufactures for revenue purposes only, but Victoria imposes duties upon us largely for the purpose of protecting her own industries. Therefore she is much the greater sinner of the two. Are we, then, to adopt the measures proposed in favour of a colony which treats us in this way? If we do, what would be the result? Why the Argentine Republic, whose products were taxed by us, would retaliate by raising the duties on our goods or putting an Export Duty on goods sent to us. It is impossible that we can deal with the colonies in the way indicated It would necessitate the breaking of our engagements with foreign countries who have given us the most favoured nation clause in our Commercial Treaties. The whole policy indicated in the Resolution is utterly unsuitable to this country as a large manufacturing nation, largely dependent upon foreign countries for its food supplies.
§ (11.48.) MR. COOKE (Newington, W.)
I hope the hon. Member for Sheffield will withdraw his Resolution. I should like to vote for a closer union 942 with the colonies, but not at the cost of having to adopt a system of Fair Trade. Who brings this Motion forward? The hon. Member for Sheffield, the hero of the celebrated Conference held at Oxford, where he submitted a resolution in favour of Fair Trade, and got only one supporter. The Conference met again at Wolverhampton, and the hon. Member brought forward his Resolution once more, but he did not dare to put it. The previous question was carried against him.
§ MR. COOKE
At all events, something happened which the hon. Member very much disliked. That not satisfying the hon. Gentleman, he became Chairman of the Land and Labour League, which advocated the principles of Protection. Members of that League came down into the county in which I live, and, in one town, finding me in the street, they asked me to take the chair at a meeting. I did so, although I told them I was opposed to every proposition that was likely to be brought forward. They held meetings of a similar character throughout the county, and I was not surprised, not long after, to receive from the secretary an application for a subscription to help to defray a debt of £20 they were unable to pay. Having, I hope, established the proposition that this Motion comes from a truly Protectionist source, I must congratulate the House on the altered tone in which Protectionists are now being addressed by Free Traders. To a great extent the cry for Protection is to be attributed to the tone in which the Free Traders are in the habit of addressing Protectionists. It would be better if instead of saying to them "Thou fool," we said, "Come, let us reason together." I am opposed to any proposition to re-impose Protective Duties, for Great Britain is an artificial country, which cannot live on its own resources. We are compelled to manufacture in order that we may live. We cannot supply ourselves either with sufficient raw materials for our manufactures or with enough food for our ever-increasing population. As to our trade with the colonies, it is very good now, and I doubt whether it would be any better under a system of Protection. The amount of trade we do with the colonies, and its character, was forcibly put before me the other day 943 by a person who did me the honour of serving in my household very usefully for some years, and who went to the colonies two years ago. I asked her whether it was not a great change to go to Australia, and she said—"No, it was like being at home. If you went to the cupboard there was Column's mustard and Cadbury's cocoa staring you in the face, and if that is not like being at home, what is?" I do not think the colonies are likely to take any more of our exports under a system of Protection. My hon. Friend was not, I think, quite fair in the quotation he made from a Cobden Club leaflet. I hope that the "forcible feebles" of the Cobden Club will be able to do a little better than shower pamphlets of this kind among people who do not want to be convinced. I get any number of them myself, but I do not think they circulate among the masses of the people. My hon. Friend, in citing the pamphlet, did not say he quoted from that part of it which referred to fiscal federation based on Free Trade. He omitted the sentence "In any other market we should then compete successfully with all Protectionist rivals," and led the House to conclude that the paragraph actually supported the system of Protective Duties. Now, Sir, is it likely that the colonies will reduce their Protective Duties for the sake of drawing closer the bond between them and the Mother Country? What do they impose Protective Duties for? In order to develop their resources. Our position is very different from theirs. Our mineral and other resources are already developed, and we are in full swing as a manufacturing country. The colonies have not yet developed their mineral resources, and the staunchest Free Trader will admit that it is legitimate to impose Protective Duties in such cases in order to foster new industries. The colonies teem with mineral wealth, and they wish to become manufacturing countries in the course of time. Under these circumstances, it is, I think, hopeless to expect that the colonies, for the sake of drawing closer what is, after all, a somewhat sentimental bond, will so far neglect their material interests as to reduce their Protective Duties against the Mother Country. I do not wish to talk out the Motion, and I would appeal to my hon. Friend to withdraw it, so as 944 not to put us in the invidious position of appearing to vote against that which we all wish to support—a close union between the Mother Country and the colonies—when we are really voting against the imposition of duties on goods imported into this country.
§ (11.58.) MR. HOWARD VINCENT
After the sympathetic speech of my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer I beg leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Question again proposed.
§ The Previous Question, "That that Question be not now put,"—(Mr. William. Henry Smith,)—put, and agreed to.