HC Deb 02 May 1895 vol 33 cc298-9

It is sometimes contended that a diminution of the published values of our imports shows a decreasing consuming power in the people. But this is an error. You may have a great increase of consumption—as, in fact, has been the case last year—and yet pay much less for the articles consumed. Thus, referring to the tables given in The Economist of January 19, 1895, we find that in the year 1893 we paid several millions less for our food supply from abroad, whilst we received a greater quantity, which, at the former price, would have been represented by many millions more. If it is said that the comparison is made with a year of marked depression, like 1893, it will be found that, if the comparison is made with 1890—a period of signal prosperity—though the capitalist in that time made more profit, the workmen had not more to eat. On the contrary, the quantities of consumable commodities were greater per head of the population in 1894 than in 1890, on almost every article. Whilst, therefore, it is not to be denied that there has been heavy depression in trade and great agricultural distress—though the severe frost of the past winter inflicted great temporary suffering, and the labour troubles have produced much disturbance of industry, it is well also to look at the other side of the shield and to consider that there are at least some compensating and reassuring features in our social condition. I would quote on this point the opinion of The Economist newspaper—

"All these statistics go to show that the condition of the masses of the people did not deteriorate during 1894, but rather slightly improved. Any reductions in their wages appear to have been more than compensated by the reduction in the cost of living; and, although there was a pinch in many directions, it was not they who felt it."

The fall in the price of raw materials has enabled the manufacturer to continue to a great extent, the employment of the workmen, even on diminished profits Mr. Giffen reports to me—

"The year 1894 must be considered as, on the whole, a year of prosperity for the working class, in which they were better off than they have been before."

It is well that upon this subject we should examine facts as they are.