§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
I beg to ask the First Lord of the Treasury if his attention had been directed to the loss of £37,000,000 in the foreign trade of the United Kingdom during the past six months (September to February inclusive), compared to the same period in 1889–90, and to the simultaneous increase of 115,000 Trades Unionists, reported to the Labour Department by some 20 Societies as being without employment; and what steps Her Majesty's Government propose to take to diminish the distress prevailing among the industrial masses owing to want of work, short time, and reduced wages?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
The falling off in our foreign trade in the six months ending February, 1893, compared with the same period three years ago, is 1314 £30,890,000, and not £37,000,000, as stated by the hon. Member. The comparison, however, is misleading, inasmuch as the six months taken three years ago was a period of great inflation and high prices just preceding the crisis of 1890, as against a period of severe depression and low prices. 1890 was the highest year in the history of our foreign trade. The difference is very largely a difference of price both in imports and exports. With regard to what the hon. Member describes as "the simultaneous increase of 115,000 Trades Unionists, reported to the Labour Department by some 20 Societies as being without employment," no such Report has been made by the Labour Department. It would appear as though the hon. Member, instead of taking the average of the six months, has added together the numbers for each mouth and given the total, and has thus multiplied the number of the unemployed six-fold. It is not within the power or functions of Her Majesty's Government to prevent fluctuations in trade.
§ COLONEL HOWARD VINCENT
Is the figure of £30,000,000 taken from the Trade and Navigation Returns, and is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the maximum number of unemployed in any one of the six months named in 1889–90 was 4,900, and the minimum in any one of the six months in 1892–93 was 16,974?
§ MR. MUNDELLA
The hon. Gentleman has proved my case. He has taken them month by month for six months and added them together. I am sorry to say it is impossible to convey any idea of figures to the hon. Gentleman.