HC Deb 03 March 1893 vol 9 cc977-8

I beg to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether the exports of British iron and steel were last year 1,440,000 tons less than they were in 1889, and that the production of pig-iron in the United Kingdom was 1,840,000 tons less in 1892 than in 1889; and in such case, having regard to the serious consequences to all engaged in the iron trade, what steps Her Majesty's Government propose to take?


The Board of Trade have no official Returns of the production of pig-iron, but the hon. Member has correctly stated the falling off in the exports of iron and steel. The year 1889 was one of the highest years of export in the iron and steel trade, and the falling off began immediately after the financial crisis of 1890. The chief decline is in exports to the Argentine Republic, to Australasia, and similar countries, due to the financial disturbance in those countries. These crises are beyond the control of Governments. After similar fluctuations there has always been a recovery in exports.


May I ask whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware that in 1870 the exports of Germany and Belgium to neutral markets was only 20 per cent., and in 1891 36 per cent.; and whether he is aware that in 1870 Germany exported nothing to this country, and in 1891 98,249 tons against exports from this country of 55,293 tons; and, further, whether there is any explanation of the reason for this serious state of affairs?


I am afraid I can not answer this question, but admitting the facts to be as the hon. Member has stated them, I cannot see what steps the Government are to take in order to increase the export of iron and steel, or to increase the production of pig-iron. These questions depended entirely on the financial state of the country, and had nothing to do with the Government.


Are not the foreign prohibitory tariffs largely to blame, and can no steps be taken to get them reduced?


The hon. Member must know that the tariffs have been reviewed within the last year, and the present tariffs are a reduction. We are looking forward to some change in America which will be beneficial to trade.