HC Deb 04 June 1891 vol 353 cc1613-4
MR. HOLLOWAY (Gloucester, Stroud)

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade if his attention has been directed to the rapidly increasing disparity between the imports and exports of merchandise during the past half-century, and the ever increasing consumption in this country of foreign produce and manufactures, without a corresponding export of British productions, such disparity having increased from £80,000,000 in the 10 years ending 1850 to £1,000,000,000 in the 10 years ending 1890; and if the Labour Commission will be directed to inquire into the effect which this ever increasing consumption of foreign goods has upon the industrial classes of this country?


I could not answer my hon. Friend's question without entering into argument on a subject which has afforded material for innumerable discussions for many years. But I may say that, though there is no doubt that the excess of imports over exports has been increasing during the last 30 years, the figures given are not correct. There was no valuation of imports in 1850 as there is now, but only an old official computation based on the prices of 1697, which was entirely out of date, and several very important items of our receipts, such as the interest on foreign investments, the earnings of our ships, and the commissions of merchants, are not included in the Returns of imports. It is for the Royal Commission on Labour to judge how far this matter may properly fall within the terms of their Commission, but I should say that it could only incidentally do so.