HC Deb 27 January 1897 vol 45 cc602-45
SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)

, in moving the Second Reading of the Merchandise Marks Act (1887) Amendment Bill, said that the main principles of the Measure had been before the House on several occasions. In 1894 the House went to a division on the Bill he had introduced in that year, with the result that, although it was defeated by the narrow majority of 26, it met with the approval of nearly every hon. Member on the Conservative benches. He did not lay this Measure before the House in the interests of Sheffield alone, because there was a considerable volume of public feeling in its favour, more especially among the industrial classes of the country. The Measure had been approved, among other bodies, by the Parliamentary Committee of the Trade Union Congress, and although this Bill differed in some degree from the Bill which that body had drawn up, the members had resolved to accept it and to give it their support. Owing to unexpected circumstances the Second Heading of the Bill had come on earlier than had been anticipated, and therefore it had been rather hurriedly printed, but any necessary alterations in its phraseology could be effected in Committee. He would divide his observations upon the Measure into two parts, the first dealing with the second clause of the Bill, and then with its third clause. The second clause proposed to effect an alteration in Section 16 of the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887. That Section required that a definite indication of the country of origin should be placed upon foreign-made goods, as "Made in Germany," or "Made in France," in cases where imports bore the name or trade mark of any person or firm in this country. A feeling, however, had sprung up that, by requiring such a definite indication of the country of manufacture to be put upon the goods, we were giving a gratuitous and unnecessary advertisement to our trade competitors. ["Hear, hear!"] He entirely concurred in that feeling. "What the second clause of the Bill proposed to do was to take away the necessity for a definite indication of the country of manufacture, and to substitute for it the indefinite term, "Foreign Made." He held in his hand a lamp glass which had the words "Made in Saxony" placed upon it in very small letters, so small that they could scarcely be read. The Bill proposed that the words of indication should be placed upon the goods conspicuously and indelibly. There was no necessity for him to detain the House in placing before them arguments in favour of effecting such a change in the law, because he found, from reading the speeches of hon. Members to their constituents, that many were ready to support such a change. The third clause of the Bill was, with the exception of a few alterations, the same as the Bill which he had already brought in every Session since 1888. Hon. Members would find that by the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, no indication of an article being of foreign make was required unless it bore some indication that it was made in this country. The result had been that quantities of plain goods were being imported, and that subsequently the name of some fictitious English manufacturer was placed upon them, with the result that the consumer was defrauded by having palmed off upon him an article of foreign make as being of English manufacture. That this was the case had been fully established by the evidence that had been given by the Chairman of the Board of Customs before the Committee of 1890. Such a state of things operated most injuriously upon English manufacturers, and upon the English artisans, who were dependent for their living upon their wages. He submitted that we were entitled to put a stop to such proceedings, and that this Bill did not raise the question of Protection in any degree. [A laugh.] He heard some hon. Member laugh, but perhaps that hon. Gentleman would accept what Mr. Gladstone had said upon the subject. In October, 1890, Mr. Gladstone wrote to a Trades Secretary:— The amendment of the Merchandise Marks Act, which you are endeavouring to promote, cannot be fairly objected to on the ground that it is inconsistent with free-trade principles.


Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what the Amendment was?


said it was his Bill which was before Parliament at the time. As he had mentioned Mr. Gladstone, he felt bound to remind the House that on November 28th, 1892, the present leader of the House wrote: As far as I am able to judge, your wishes seem in principle to be perfectly legitimate. I can see nothing that is not in harmony with public policy in the main object you desire to see accomplished. It might be urged that an inquiry by a Select Committee would meet the point. There had been such inquiries already, and, as all hon. Members knew, the appointment of a Select Committee was often a means of shelving a question. It might be that the President of the Board of Trade, who, he was persuaded was anxious to do his best to further the trading and commercial interests of the country, did not fully approve of the wording of the Bill. He was quite ready to adopt any improvement in the wording of the Measure, indeed all he was now anxious to secure was the adoption of the principle. He submitted to his hon. Friends and to hon. Members opposite that they were bound to give heed to the wishes and the desires of the working classes, who, by their organised societies had repeatedly declared that this was a matter to which they attached very great importance indeed. He earnestly hoped the House would unanimously and without a division agree to the general principle of the Bill. ["Hear, hear!"]

MR. AUGUSTUS GODSON (Kidderminster)

said that in supporting the Bill he would say but few words, the more particularly as he understood the President of the Board of Trade was anxious to fulfil an engagement elsewhere. He felt that this Bill was an improvement upon its predecessor, and that the objections taken, not only in the House, but in the country, to the needless advertisement we gave to our foreign competitors by requiring a specific statement of the place of origin was now avoided by the proposed use of the general term, "Foreign made. His constituents were very severely hit by the difficulty of compelling foreign producers to show on the face of their goods that they were of foreign and not English make. The third clause of the Bill in a great degree put this matter right. He therefore, on their behalf, hoped the House would read the Bill a second time.


apologised to the House for intervening so early in this discussion, but as his hon. Friend had said, it was desirable he should be able to fulfil a public engagement elsewhere in a few minutes. His hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield had rightly said that the Bill had been somewhat hurriedly prepared. [Opposition cheers.] One had some right to complain that the Bill should have been distributed at so very late an hour, and that a Measure of this importance should have been thrown together—he was afraid he must use that term—in such a way as to make it perfectly impossible to understand exactly what it meant. [Opposition cheers.] The Bill was received at the Board of Trade at a quarter to 12. Having regard to the great importance of the subject, his hon. Friend might have given the Department a little more time to see what the Bill really did mean. So far as he had been able to understand it, if the Merchandise Marks Act, 1887, were amended as his hon. Friend desired, Section 2 would read thus:— All such goods, and also all goods of foreign manufacture bearing any name or trade mark, being or purporting to be the name or trade mark of any manufacturer, dealer, or trader in the United Kingdom, foreign made, are hereby prohibited to be imported into the United Kingdom. He confessed he did not understand what that meant. [A laugh.] He gathered from his speech that what his hon. Friend wished to do was to get rid of the definite mark of origin and to substitute for that the words "foreign made." [Sir H. VINCENT: "Hear, hear!"] That was a perfectly fair and legitimate proposition to make, but that was not the proposition made in the Bill. His hon. Friend suggested that Amendments should be made in Committee; but before they read the Bill a second time they ought to know how it was to be altered to be in conformity with the desires of his hon. Friend. He had a good deal of sympathy with the desire expressed by his hon. Friend in Section 2 of the Bill. He was, and had been for a long time, of opinion that the marking of goods with the definite county of origin had been a most excellent advertisement of our foreign rivals—[cheers]—and if time permitted, and it were necessary, he believed he could give to the House some illustrations of how it had worked in the direction he named. Certainly the words "foreign made" would not have so bad an effect, but still he would like his hon. Friend to consider whether or not, even if the law were altered in the direction he desired, it would not still be teaching the people at home and abroad that if they wanted to buy articles at a low price—and some of them very good too—[hear, hear"]—they had a very large market in foreign countries. There were defects in the present law, and he thought the time had arrived when they ought to consider what had been the operation of the Act. ["Hear, hear!"] This had been pressed upon him from several quarters of the House, and his hon. Friend the Member for Islington intended to ask him to-morrow whether the Government would hold an Inquiry by a Select Committee as to the working of the Act. He hoped to be able to reply that the Government would grant a Committee, and he suggested to his hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield that he should not proceed further with the Bill to-day in order that they might be perfectly free-handed, that the Committee might be able to consider the whole question and perhaps give some extremely useful hints to the hon. Gentleman in regard to his desire to legislate. He knew his hon. Friend had only one object at heart, and that was to secure fair and proper treatment for English-made goods. He agreed with the hon. Gentleman that the suggestions he had made were not in any sense protective. They might, however, be unwise although not protective, and if he might offer his advice to the hon. Gentleman and those who agreed with him, he would suggest an alternative—namely, that English-made goods should be stamped "English made." ["Hear, hear!"] He was perfectly certain that if our manufacturers were to adopt a system of that kind—one which some, were now adopting with advantage—and thus teach our customers that if they wanted a really good and useful article they must come to England for them, they would probably do more service than this Bill would do. He did not wish to express any definite conclusion upon the proposals of his hon. Friend, except this—that as far as they were contained in the Bill they were impossible to understand, and in his opinion absolutely unworkable. Being 264th, or something like that, in the ballot, his hon. Friend did not expect to secure so good an opportunity as the present to bring forward his Bill. Having this opportunity he seized it, but in seizing it he had not devoted quite as much time to the preparation of the Bill as was desirable. He appealed to his hon. Friend to consent either to a Motion for the Adjournment of the Debate or to some other Motion in connection with the appointment of a Select Committee, and that he would not proceed with the Bill until an opportunity had been given to the House of considering fully and carefully what had been the operation of the existing Act. If it should be found that the present law had been evaded the defect might be remedied; or, if it were shown that the law ought to be materially changed, then that change could be effected after full opportunity had been given of calling evidence on the subject and of hearing all that could be said about it. [Cheers.]


asked the right hon. Gentleman whether he would guarantee that the Bill should be referred to the Select Committee which he proposed to appoint. He understood that it was the practice of the House that a Bill could not be referred to a Select Committee until it was read a second time; if that was so and the rule was adhered to in this case he should feel obliged to go to a Division.


replied that he believed he did not say, and he certainly did not intend to say, that this Bill should be so referred. What he did propose was that the whole question should be referred to a Select Committee with the view of ascertaining what had been the operation of the present Merchandise Marks Act, and in what way, if any, it was desirable to amend it. ["Hear, hear!"]


said that, in the circumstances, and having regard to the resolutions passed by the United Trades Congress, he felt bound to proceed to a Division.

MR. JAMES BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)

said the right hon. Gentleman had relieved him of the necessity of saying much with regard to the Bill. He had noticed, in the first place, that it would be quite impossible to proceed with the Bill upon the short notice which had been given. The Bill was a new one, and it had been distributed to the Members of the House only that morning. It had never been seen in the country, and it proposed to make a perfect revolution in British commerce and to do so without adequate notice. ["Hear, hear!"] Under these circumstances he should have thought that the Member for Sheffield would have seen that it was quite futile to ask the House to proceed with the Bill in the absence of any information from the country on the subject. The President of the Board of Trade had also made what he believed to be an exceedingly valuable admission with regard to the present Merchandise Marks Act—that it was injuring British trade.


said that what he had stated was his own personal opinion. He had often said that the Act was injurious to British trade, and he said so still; he had always been of that opinion.


said he was very glad that the right hon. Gentleman was of that opinion. He himself believed that the present Act was injuring British trade, and he had had considerable information confirming that impression. There was clearly, therefore, a strong ease for inquiry. The President of the Board of Trade had made another observation which went to the root of the Bill. He said that the Bill would probably extend the mischief which the present law-did, instead of specifying the particular place of origin, the Bill, according to the speech of the hon. Member for Sheffield, would substitute the words "foreign made" generally for any indication of specific origin. That would greatly increase the present mischief, because the Bill would apply far more largely to all goods, whereas the present law applied only to goods which purported to bear on the face of them something showing that they were not made in England. ["Hear, hear!"] For these reasons, without going into the details of the Bill, upon which a great deal might be said as to the practical impossibility of carrying it out and the extreme difficulty which would be imposed on the Commissioners of Customs, he thought it was not possible to read the Bill a second time. ["Hear, hear."] The Committee, when appointed, would go to the root of the whole question and would have to examine into the hypothesis, which had not yet been proved that British consumers always desired to buy British goods instead of foreign. ["Hear, hear!"] A great many British customers had told him that it was within their knowledge as dealers that it was a matter of perfect indifference to the buyer where the goods were made so long as they were good and cheap. If, therefore, the hon. Member desired to make good the ground of his Bill he must show that British customers desired to have British goods in preference to foreign. He understood from the President of the Board of Trade that it was his intention to move for the appointment of a Select Committee, to whom the whole matter should be referred, with, the view of bringing all the facts in regard to the existing law within the cognisance of that Committee, and that the best evidence of the mercantile community might be laid before them. He believed that an inquiry of that kind would dissipate many of the erroneous ideas that now existed. ["Hear."]

MR. T. P. WHITTAKER (York, W. R., Spen Valley)

thought it was gratifying to find that at last one of the chief supporters of the Merchandise Marks Act had come to realise that that piece of legislation was exceedingly foolish and damaging. ["Hear, hear!"] For his own part he would prefer that the marking of foreign goods should be abolished altogether. The present proposal was simply to mark all foreign goods, as far as possible, with the words "foreign made." It was true that the Bill suggested a somewhat simpler mode of indicating the foreign origin of goods, yet it practically served the same purpose of announcing to all the world, to the injury of our own trade and merchants, that we were buying foreign goods. He believed that no one would be prevented from buying foreign-made articles for their own use, if those articles suited them and were cheap. ["Hear, hear!"] One result of marking foreign goods had been to enlighten people that articles which they had previously thought were of English make were really of English manufacture; and, at the same time to convince them that the prejudice entertained against some foreign goods was unjustifiable. The direct effect of this was to extend the trade in foreign-made goods. ["Hear, hear!"] Those Acts also tended to interfere very seriously with an important branch of our import and export trade. A large number of merchants did an immense trade in importing foreign goods and materials from all parts, and re-exporting them to all quarters of the world, together with English-made articles. ["Hear, hear!"] But the effect of legislation of this kind would be to show foreigners, who came to London for goods, where they could get them, and ship them direct from the particular places of manufacture, and it did not require much shrewdness to perceive how prejudicially this would affect the commerce and shipping trade of the country. ["Hear, hear!"] The recent development of Hamburg was due to a large extent to reasons of this kind. By passing such Bills they would be really playing the game of foreign countries. ["Hear, hear!"] Moreover, such laws operated against the sale of goods of our own manufacture, for the more traders were induced to come to this country to buy, the more chance there was of their purchasing English-made goods. ["Hear, hear!"] It had already been made an offence to sell to a person a foreign-made article as an article of English make, and there was no necessity to proceed further than that. If English manufacturers would always stand by their own names and stamp their own goods, they would have the best possible protection against the foreigner. ["Hear, hear!"] When people bought foreign goods they did so because they were cheaper and more fitted to the particular purpose they had in view.


Are they better?


said that in some cases they were, and in other cases not, but they were bought because they were cheap and suited the customer. British manufacturers must recognise this fact and meet it. ["Hear, hear!"] How many of those who supported this kind of legislation thought of whence came the sugar they used, or where the cloth of the coat they were was woven, or where the paper of the books and newspapers they read was manufactured? This Bill was protection in disguise, because the object aimed at was to induce the people of this country, by fictitious means and prejudice, not to buy a foreign-made article. But it was protection that failed—as protection usually did. It had failed to keep out the foreign-made article. The object of the Legislature was to prevent the sale of foreign-made goods in England. The sale had grown since this Act was passed, and had grown very largely, owing to the advertisement which was thus given to them. It was damaging—as protection must be—to their own reputation if they announced that these articles were foreign-made. It was an announcement that they were not making them. It was damaging—as protection was—because it interfered with and disturbed the free course of trade. All this outcry that had been raised against the purchase of foreign goods and against German competition practically amounted to crying "stinking fish." It practically amounted to a depreciation of their own manufactures and their own articles. They had an enormous trade all over the world, and here they were going into fits almost because a small quantity of articles was sold here in competition with their own. They were announcing to the world that other people were very largely buying elsewhere, and the effect of the announcement was to send other people to buy there. They were seriously damaging their own trade, and discounting their own position by this outcry that was being raised against the damage that was done to them. How would this particular measure help them abroad? It was in the foreign markets of the world where they had foreign competition most seriously. If they were beaten at home, how would they get on in other markets and in their colonies throughout the world? This Merchandise Marks Act would not help them at all ill those countries. Reference had been made to the publication, "Made in Germany," which had been circulated very largely. A more misleading, a more inaccurate and a more discreditable publication, he ventured to say, had never been published on trade questions in this country. As a matter of fact, anyone who would refer to the Board of Trade returns for December giving the returns for the last year, and compare those returns with the figures of the two previous years—thus getting the returns of three years—would find that in the various textile departments the exports to Germany had been much larger during the last year than in either of the previous years. Then the competition with Germany, and with other foreign countries, was not to be defeated by devices of this kind. They could only beat their competitors by superior skill, superior enterprise, superior industry and superior taste; and it was only by being brought face to face with their competitors that they were stimulated to do their best in these matters. If they attempted to mask the competition by keeping out things that were competing seriously with them elsewhere, these goods were not brought to the notice of their workpeople and manufacturers as they otherwise would do, and they would not make that effort they would otherwise do. It was a very misleading thing to create an impression that everything was bonâ fide and of the very best that was made in this country, and that articles that were made abroad were rubbish and worthless. A great deal of rubbish was made in Sheffield and in Birmingham, but it got the English brand upon it, and was sent out to do injury to their trade in foreign markets. They had got to face the reality that good as well as bad articles were made in foreign countries. He wanted to get rid of this foreign mark altogether, because it was mere tinkering, and would be of no advantage whatever.


said he had hoped, after the President of the Board of Trade had declared, upon his official authority, that this Bill was unworkable and impracticable and impossible, and had given an intimation, which was, he thought, acceptable to the House generally, that the whole subject should be dealt with by an inquiry, his hon. Friend would not have persisted in pushing forward this Measure. He thought no one could have listened to the general discussion without feeling that the position taken up by the President of the Board of Trade had been completely vindicated, and that what was necessary at the present time was the fullest inquiry as to the effect and operation of the 1887 Act. In the first place, it was generally admitted that there were many Amendments which ought to be made in order to make that Act practically operative. They knew perfectly well that at the present time the Act was evaded by many means. On the other hand, he was quite sure that the facts which had been stated to the House led them to the conclusion that, in their own interest and in the interest of their own trade and commerce, it was absolutely necessary that they should trace what had been the effect of the Act and how far it might have injuriously affected that trade. Under these circumstances he had intended to move an Amendment in favour of inquiry, but, having regard to the intimation of the President of the Board of Trade, he should venture to move the adjournment of the Debate. He trusted his hon. Friend would be satisfied that the assurance given would be advantageous to the object he had in view, and that, on the other hand, they should escape the manifold evils which had been prophesied if they legislated in the direction he desired. He did not approach this subject hostilely to his hon. Friend. He was a member of the original Committee which recommended legislation, and he remembered well the evidence they then received that numerous frauds and acts of injustice were perpetrated upon traders in this country. He thought that, so far as it had been effective in the prevention of fraud, the Act had been beneficial. The question was, whether the Act had been effective to that extent, and whether it had brought with it some evils which might be removed by future legislation. He was convinced that the merchants and manufacturers and workpeople of this country simply desired a fair field in the competition with their opponents in other countries. He did not think there was any general desire whatever for protection, in the narrower sense of the term, as apart from protection from fraud, to which they were justly entitled. No one could be familiar with the operation of this Act without feeling that it had placed—whatever its advantages—a great restriction on dealing with commodities introduced from abroad. He wished to bear his tribute, from a, large experience of the Customs House authorities, to the excellence of their general administration in dealing with this matter; but no one had been more impressed than the Customs House authorities themselves with the difficulty of doing it. This Act had been a considerable impediment to the operations of trade, and that was an evil which they should try to limit, and, if possible, to remove. Then he would point out to the House that the cost of its administration had been very great, both to the nation and to the merchants. Then, again, they ought to try and make an amendment and, if possible, some limitation. Again, other countries had, in some ways, retaliated upon their Merchandise Marks Act. He ventured to say that, especially in their dealings with Spain, and in the difficulty of obtaining good trade treaties, what had occurred in relation to the Merchandise Marks Act had greatly aggravated the situation, and had produced much retaliation on the part of the Spanish Customs House in their official trade relations with this country. Whether this Act had been altogether effective, or whether it did not need very great amendment, if it was to continue in operation, was a matter for inquiry. There was a general misapprehension with regard to the Act itself. There was a general belief that all goods coming into this country had to be marked. It was said that, as a matter of fact, many goods were brought into the country without any mark, and after they were brought safely through the Customs House they were marked as of English origin. That was one of the defects which must be dealt with. If it was the case that goods were so brought in that great fraud was committed, the fraud existed after their introduction into this country, and in defiance of the Act. In that respect he thought in many cases great injustice was done to our people. Then again there was the question how the goods were marked. He had been consulted as to evasions of the Act, the packages being stamped, but upon the sorting out of the individual contents they were not marked at all. But a great disadvantage in connection with the Act was this, that in seeking to protect our own trade we were advertising the trade of those who dealt with us. ["Hear, hear!"] Had Members watched that important class of statistics in reference to re-exports of foreign and colonial merchandise? In reference to our colonial trade he did not hesitate to say these statistics were significant, and induced most serious considerations. Anyone familiar with the subject, and who knew of the increased embarrassments and difficulties shippers and merchants had to contend with—he was not speaking so much of maunfacturers—and who read these statistics in connection with the re-export trade, knew that foreign bottoms were more engaged to carry goods from foreign countries to the centres of consumption.


The bounty system.


said this was not merely due to the bounty system; there was a plurality of causes. It was a fact that the opening of the Suez Canal had altered trade routes, and there had been a re-establishment to some extent of old distributive centres, such as Antwerp, Hamburg, and Venice, which was becoming much more like the Venice of the past. Other causes for this might also be pointed out, among them the neglect of river conservators and the want of proper dock accommodation; and among the causes was this, that we had indicated to foreign rivals the places where they could obtain goods, so that England was becoming less the emporium for the world than she had been in the past. For these reasons, and he did not say they were all, this question had a wider aspect. With the changed conditions of trade, the departure of some of our trade to foreign ports, it was well there should be an inquiry in the first instance. Here was a Bill impracticable from the point of view of the President of the Board of Trade. The desire of those who would have all goods marked was impracticable, and with the fullest acknowledgment of the energy and ability his hon. Friend had brought to bear on this subject as affecting British trade, he thought it would be the best course to inquire, before proceeding to an Amendment of the Act, as to the means for stopping fraud while not inflicting injury on British trade. He moved the adjournment of the Debate.

MR. THOMAS LOUGH (Islington, W.)

rose to second the adjournment Motion, because he thought that would be taking the easiest way of getting rid of the question, but if there was a general view that a decision on the Bill should be arrived at he would not stand in the way.


If the hon. Member desires to second the Motion he can do so.

MR. W. FIELD (Dublin, St. Patrick)

said he would second the Motion. His name was on the back of the Bill—[laughter]—but he was induced to take this course after what he had heard from the hon. Member for Islington (Sir Albert Rollit) whom he regarded as an authority upon the subject, and with whom he was well acquainted in connection with the proceedings of Chambers of Commerce. The hon. Member's observations were very pertinent to the question. Although he was in favour of protecting our own trade from unfair foreign competition, which undoubtedly existed, at the same time he believed the matter required inquiry. He was not a protectionist, but our own traders should have fair play, and if this discussion induced the Government to take up the consideration of this subject, then it would have served a very useful purpose. Under the circumstances, he thought the most useful course would be to adjourn the Debate, having in mind what the President of the Board of Trade had said, and so he had pleasure in seconding the Motion.


said he had pleasure in appearing again in the favourite part of supporter of the Government, as he had during the Debates on the Address; against various sections of the followers of Her Majesty's Government, who did not approve of the course their Leaders had pursued. In the first of these Wednesday debates they seemed to be in exactly the same position. He had supported the Government against the Church Party, against their Irish supporters and other sections, and now he felt bound to support them against the hon. Member for Sheffield. The hon. Gentleman had not succeeded in obtaining the approbation of the Government for his scheme, the Bill had been pronounced impracticable and impossible by the President of the Board of Trade. That was a definite issue for the House to decide. The hon. Member for Islington, who had, perhaps, a larger knowledge of the conditions of commerce in the country than any other Member in the House, had equally pronounced against the Bill, though, to be sure, he did not come to a very logical conclusion when he moved the adjournment of the Debate. A complaint frequently made was that the House had not sufficient time for the transaction of necessary and important business. Why then keep on the Order Book for consideration a Bill which, by almost unanimous consent, was declared impracticable and unworkable? ["Hear, hear!"] Let the House at all events get rid of this Bill from its Order Book, in order that Bills that were possible and practicable might be proceeded with. The opinion of the House should be taken on the Bill, unless the hon. Member for Sheffield took the course pressed upon him by his friends, and withdrew his Bill. He had no wish to put the hon. Member in the invidious position of having his Bill negatived.


It might be carried. [Laughter.]


would not contemplate that as a probability. He wished to assist the Government to let the hon. Member down easily. He had been told that the hon. Member had been good enough to quote him as an authority in support of the Bill.


No, the Leader of the House.


said the hon. Member referred to the Leader of the Opposition.


No, the Leader of the House.


did not understand how the hon. Member could be under the impression that he had ever given countenance to the principle of the Bill. He had always thought the principle of the Merchandise Marks Bill to be unsound, and the effect had been, he believed, extremely injurious to British trade. He had received representations from most important commercial centres in the country as to its injurious effect on the shipping trade of this country in one of its most important branches—viz., the transfer trade in foreign commodities. No doubt the Suez Canal had been in many respects very advantageous to the trade of this country, but as regarded what was called the emporium trade, a good deal of commerce which used to come to London to be distributed now goes directly to ports in the Mediterranean and elsewhere. This matter must be familiar to anyone who paid any attention to trade matters. The particular policy intended by the hon. Member for Sheffield to be an advantage to the trade of this country had, he believed, in operation, an exactly opposite result. The colonies and various parts of the world were informed that English merchants had been in the habit of procuring goods required wherever they could get them best and cheapest. Under the auspices of the hon. Member for Sheffield these goods were marked with their place of origin, and so traders went direct to the foreign manufacturers—["hear, hear!"]—and the, transfer trade was largely affected. It would be observed that, while there was recently a large increase in the export trade of this country, the transfer trade showed a serious diminution. This was a very important matter for consideration, and he, therefore, thought the inquiry proposed was a very proper one in order to ascertain exactly what had been the operation of this sort of legislation, and how far the complaints of the shipping industry were well founded. Meantime, this Bill should be disposed of, either by the hon. Member withdrawing it or by the House expressing an opinion upon it. ["Hear, hear!"]


found himself in the unusual but not unpleasant position of agreeing with the light hon. Gentleman in his support of the Government. He thought his hon. Friend had not been able to give his usual care to the Bill, and confessed that he was not able to attach any meaning to the operative clause. He quite agreed with his hon. Friend when he said that there was no protection in his mind, but he believed that there was—if he did not wrongly interpret the sentiments of many hon. Members—an underlying desire to restrict commercial intercourse. What he was anxious to see was free commercial intercourse between all the countries of the world. He did not desire that the markets of any country should be confined to the limits of that country. The tendency of this legislation was dangerous, and it ought to be carefully and most narrowly watched.


I would remind the hon. Gentleman that the question now before the House is the Adjournment of the Debate.


considered that the Bill, if passed in its present form, would be injurious to trade, and that therefore more time should be given for discussion. It would be especially injurious to the whole of the carrying trade of this country. No one could doubt for one moment that their railway traffic gave employment to a large amount of labour of the highest and best possible class, and he believed any legislation which would impede the progress either of their mercantile marine or their railway systems must be highly injurious to the wage-earning classes of this country. That was one of his most serious objections to this class of legislation. He hoped they would not proceed rashly without further consideration of the question, and he therefore supported the proposal for the Adjournment of the Debate.


was willing to withdraw his proposal for the Adjournment of the Debate so that the discussion should not be restricted to that particular question.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.


was one of those who gave the hon. Member for Sheffield credit for good intentions in this commercial legislation, but what he had always feared, and what the hon. Gentleman's action had confirmed was, that he had not got much commercial experience. He did not think the Members of the House were ever placed in a more ridiculous position than at that moment, and what they were doing reduced legislation almost to a farce. The hon. Member had been told by his Leader that the Bill was unintelligible, and he had admitted himself that in the form in which it was printed it was unintelligible.


I said a few words were wanted.


said it was always a few words that were wanted. Two opportunities had been given the hon. Member to withdraw the Bill, one by his Leader and another by a Gentleman whose name was on the back of the Bill, but he had declined to accept of either, and insisted on carrying the discussion forward. He thought a protest ought to be made against their being called upon, to discuss the Bill under such circumstances. Questions of great importance had been raised, and he desired to say a word or two as to these. The hon. Member had spoken of the number of foreign goods which were to be found in the shops in this country. But had he never noticed the large quantities of English goods which were to be met with in the shops abroad? Did he not think that he would do more harm by excluding these English goods from the shops abroad than he would do good by excluding the few foreign articles that came over here? The question of the extent to which foreign trade had been interfered with by this legislation had been mentioned by the hon. Member for South Islington and the Leader of the Opposition. Neither of those Gentlemen gave statistics, and he could supply figures of a most startling nature to the House. They knew that the last year had been a good year for business. There had been an increase both in the exports from and the imports into this country; therefore, in the particular branch of commerce which this legislation touched, they ought to look for an increase also. If the increase in the re-exports was proportionate to the other increase of British commerce, they would find an increase of millions in the business of re-exports in this country. But this branch of commerce last year showed a reduction of over £3,000,000. If the hon. Member opposite were an emissary of those foreign houses whose trade he wished to extinguish he could not pursue the interests of the firms he represented more successfully than he did now by the promotion of such legislation. What was the object of the Bill? It was an attempt to amend the Act of 1887. That Act was not altogether bad, but yet it was marked with the fault that all this commercial legislation had. What were the objects of the Act of 1887? They were two. One was to stamp out fraud; the other was to stamp out the foreigner. That was what they were always doing. They never proceeded straight in this legislation of theirs against fraud. They always wanted to insinuate that the rogue was abroad, whereas he was generally found at home. Most of the fraudulent marking of foreign goods and adulteration took place at home; but in their legislation, instead of striking at the fraud where it existed, they turned aside and hit the foreigner. That was the reason why all the legislation of this kind was so bad, and why it always failed in the object they had in view. He thought the true view of the Bill was that it was a cry of despair. It was an admission, coming from the authors of the Bill, that the whole legislation itself was a failure. The Bill was unintelligible in its present shape, it was introduced without notice, and the hon. Member was not able to defend it. He thought they ought to arrive at a decision on this matter once for all, and if the House would only consider the large interests at stake it would feel that the commerce of this country must not be lightly interfered with in this way. The hon. Member seemed to think that people would take any goods if they were produced in England, but that was not the case. If English manufacturers and merchants would only produce goods of the same standard as those produced abroad they would get that trade they were so anxious for, but, unless they did so, no matter what legislation was passed by that House, they would not be able to secure the trade for them.

MR. ROBERT PURVIS (Peterborough)

considered that the Bill was, at any rate, an honest attempt to prevent fraud. The hon. Member for Sheffield had discussed the state of the present law under the Merchandise Marks Act, especially with reference to the matter of printing, and it seemed to be generally admitted that there was really a fault in the existing law. It was ludicrous to argue in favour of a system under which the law was complied with by printing so small that it could only be read with the aid of a microscope or magnifying glass. He sympathised with the views of the hon. Member for Sheffield, but, in the circumstances described by the President of the Board of Trade, he felt, with great regret, that he must vote against the hon. Member. To vote with him would be to vote for a Bill which had only just been printed. He trusted that the hon. Member for Sheffield would take the course recommended by the President of the Board of Trade.

MR. JAMES LOWTHER (Kent, Thanet)

agreed that it was no doubt hard upon the President of the Board of Trade to be asked to come to a decision upon a Measure which he had had no real opportunity of considering. It might be well to adopt the principle that no measure should be submitted for Second Reading until it had been in the hands of Members for some few days. ["Hear, hear!"] The Bill of his hon. Friend was open to criticism in some respects. The second clause, for example, proposed a somewhat reactionary step. [Laughter.] Of course, he did not object to reaction upon principle. [Laughter.] But, being an advocate of preferential and differential rates, he thought it was highly important that the place of origin of every article that came into the country should be clearly indicated. It might happen that future legislation would establish preferential rates in respect of goods coming from the colonies and countries which consented to give reciprocal facilities to British trade. It might be decided at a future time that goods coming, say, from Germany should be subjected to the payment of a higher tariff than goods coming from the great free trade country of Turkey, the only other free trade country besides England in Europe. [Mr. MUNDELLA: "No, there are Denmark and Holland!"] He certainly could not admit Holland, and he was not sure that he could admit even Denmark as a free trade country. Therefore he held that it was desirable that goods should be marked with the name of the place from which they came but the proposal of his hon. Friend was to classify all foreign goods, whatever their origin, under the designation of "foreign-made." The President of the Board of Trade took exception to the Bill on the ground that instead of hitting the foreigner it would hit the English trader. Surely if an English trader was guilty of fraud he did not deserve any protection. [Mr. RITCHIE said that he did not mean to convey that an English trader guilty of fraud should be protected.] As long as the law was impartially administered, no person carrying on a trade could reasonably complain because he was obliged to indicate on the goods he sold the place of their manufacture. The Leader of the Opposition, he understood, did not mind where an article came from or how many thousands of British workmen were unemployed—[cries of "Oh!"]—as long as the price which the consumer had to pay was not increased. [Sir W. HARCOURT protested against the right hon. Gentleman's interpretation of his observations.] He believed the right hon. Gentleman had said that as long as people had cheap food it was a matter of indifference to him whether that food was produced in this country or not. [Sir W. HARCOURT: "What I said was that I was in favour of cheap food for the people and against any change in the law for the purpose of making food dear."] The doctrine of cheapness of which the right hon. Gentleman had constituted himself the apostle came to this—that the House ought not to adopt any legislation which was likely to promote employment in this country, if that legislation would increase the cost of any article of consumption. For his part he was not prepared to subscribe to that doctrine. Some of his hon. Friends, he knew, objected altogether to legislation of this kind. For example, what his hon. Friend near him (Sir A. Rollit) would like to see was the repeal of all measures of this kind. [Sir A. ROLLIT observed that his right hon. Friend was mistaken, and that he had said nothing to indicate that he held such an opinion.] He had noticed that some of his hon. Friends would like to go a great deal further, and that many who supported legislation of this kind did so because they thought that it was as far as their constituents and public opinion were prepared to go. [Ironical cheers.] His own view was that the straightforward way of dealing with these questions would be to put a duty on the foreign article, and to say exactly why they did it. [Ironical cheers] But in the meantime they had better take half a loaf rather than no bread. He remembered a proposal made in connection with these Acts in regard to the labelling of fruit and mutton chops. [Laughter.] Undoubtedly the labelling of consignments of meat would be perfectly reasonable, and a mutton chop must be cut from a larger portion of the animal. In the so-called free-trade country of Denmark that very process was followed. He contented himself, however, by saying that if the object of Parliament was to place what were called legitimate and reasonable impediments in the way of competing foreign products, it would be far better to do so by means of duties levied at the ports rather than by the roundabout methods which were so largely favoured. He should be in favour of amending the Bill of his hon. Friend very considerably. He thought that the mark "foreign made" was decidedly less effective than the compulsory declaration of the place of origin. The right hon. Member created considerable amusement by taking a pencil out of his pocket, but he did not know whether it was declared to have been made in Germany. He did not get the pencil from any Government Department, so probably it was not made in Germany. [Laughter] On examination, however, he found it was declared to have been "made in Bavaria." [Laughter, ironical cries of "Oh, oh!" and "Shame!"] It had been conveyed to him in the ordinary course of trade without any rational alternative being afforded to him. The lead mines with which he was personally acquainted in the North of England had been shut down in consequence of this foreign competition which was now engaging the attention of the House. His hon. Friend said that all the pencils provided at the public expense for the use of the libraries in Parliament were of foreign make. [VOICES: "No;" "The best only!" and "No, not the best only!"] [At this point Sir H. Vincent handed the right hon. Gentleman a pencil which he said was provided by the authorities of the House. It was branded "Faber, Bavaria," and, further, it had the crown and "V. R." on each side of it, and it was also branded "Civil Service." The right hon. Gentleman passed the pencil back to Sir H. Vincent, but Mr. Ritchie rose from his seat and intercepted the pencil, placing it in his pocket, amid general laughter.] This, then, he continued, was a pencil supplied to a Minister of the Crown at public expense. He was not complaining of this supply, but it would be better if the authorities endeavoured to obtain the English-made article. No rational alternative was offered, however, because the lead industry of this country had been practically crushed by foreign competition.

MR. J. McLEOD (Sutherland)

No; it is bad quality.


said the hon. Member could not be aware of the intense depression which prevailed in many districts where the lead industry had been a most thriving branch of our trade. Mines had been shut down because the fellow-countrymen of the lead workers, headed by Ministers of the Crown, indulged in the luxury of foreign-made goods. He thought that his hon. Friend in charge of the Bill would do well not to press it forward hastily, especially when a fair opportunity of considering it had not been given. By postponing the Bill now a solution of the question might in the long run be obtained.

MR. A. J. MUNDELLA (Sheffield, Brightside)

said that his hon. Friend founded this Bill on the statements made before a Select Committee which inquired into the question in 1890. But the House should be told that the Committee all but unanimously condemned the Measure then before the House, while it practically condemned the present Bill in advance. He had only received a copy of the Bill before coming down to the House, and he thought it was extraordinary that the House should be asked to debate a Measure affecting the importation of £440,000,000 worth of goods from all parts of the world when the merchants of the country had not had an opportunity to examine and consider its provisions. Ever since the passing of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1887 the hon. Member had been trying to change the whole character of that legislation. The object of that legislation was solely confined to the prevention of fraud, to stop fraudulent marking of goods. It had nothing to do with the origin of the goods; but in the Committee of 1887 words giving certain powers to the Customs in the case of goods marked in English, of requiring a declaration of the place of origin were inserted in the Act, and most mischievous they had been in their operation. But a very small proportion of the goods that came into the country were marked with the place of origin. Nobody who sent goods to this country, if he described them at all, described them in a foreign language, but in English, and so the words "Made in Germany" appeared upon them. That the hon. Gentleman realised how mischievously the words of the section had operated was shown by the complete change of front he had made. Every year until this year the hon. Gentleman had brought in a Bill for a compulsory mark of origin being placed upon foreign goods; now he abandoned that position and proposed to substitute the words "foreign made." England had been up to this time the depôt market of the world. Frenchmen, Germans, Austrian", our own colonists, and United States people had come to the English market, say, to buy gloves. They found ranged in a row French, German, Austrian, and English gloves, and they bought the whole range; but they had learnt now, since gloves were marked with the country of origin, to go straight to France, Germany, and Austria for their supplies, and the result had been loss of trade to the English trader. Did the hon. Member intend that colonial produce should bear the words "foreign made?" If the hon. Gentleman had any experience of trade—which fortunately for him he had not—he would know that the whole prejudice of the fair sex was in favour of French manufactures. ["No, no, no," from Sir HOWARD VINCENT.] Yes; they liked Paris bonnets, Paris hats, Paris silks and ribands, and Paris gloves. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] His hon. Friend never realised—ho had often tried to teach him, but he was not an apt scholar—that the manufactures of one country were the raw material of another. Take the glossy silk hat with which the hon. Gentleman came down to the House. The whole covering of the British hat was made in France. [Sir H. VINCENT: "New Bond Street."] That was all the hon. Member knew about it. Let him go to his hatter and he would learn that the silk covering was made in France, and that it could not be made in this country. Notwithstanding that, the British hat was preferred to every other, and high prices were paid for it, because it was better put together, it was a better manufactured article on the whole than was made in any other country. How would the hon. Gentleman stamp the material of which every silk hat was made? We imported enormous quantities of rough tanned hides from the United States for the Northampton and Leicester shoe trade. We could not do without them, and we reexported them in a made article. His hon. Friend wanted to have stamped "conspicuously and indelibly" upon every piece of leather put into a shoe, "Made abroad," while the uppers were made in Midland towns and re-exported to the value of millions sterling a year. And so it would be with every button, every fastening for every coat, and every woman's mantle; it would have to bear the mark "Made abroad." The whole thing would be simply ruinous to British trade and industry. ["Hear, hear!"] He could conceive nothing more suicidal than that a country which was the largest manufacturer and exporter of any in the world should decry as an unpatriotic thing the purchase of foreign-made goods. ["Oh, oh!"] It was perfect nonsense to come down to the House with a Bill of this kind supposing that it was a way of bringing about protection. Why had not the hon. Member the courage of his opinions and boldly say, "I wish to prohibit the importation of foreign manufactures by putting a heavy duty upon them?" [Sir II. VINCENT: "I will do so next Tuesday."] There was not a merchant in the kingdom who had ever seen the Bill, it had not been seen by the House, and yet the hon. Gentleman asked a Second Reading for it. If he refused the inquiry offered by the President of the Board of Trade, he hoped the House would, by an enormous majority, convince the hon. Gentleman not only that it was opposed to the principle of the Bill, but that it was a Measure at once unintelligible and impracticable.

On the return of MR. Speaker, after the usual interval—


said it was rare that he was able to agree with both Front Benches, as he was on the present occasion, but he was bound to say a few words in consequence of what had fallen from the right hon. Member for the Brightside Division. He said my hon. Friend did not know anything about certain trades, or about ladies. As regards ladies the right hon. Gentleman no doubt had the advantage and knew more about them, but he should have supposed that the right hon. Gentleman knew enough about trade to prevent him from falling into an egregious error. The right hon. Gentleman was mistaken in supposing that the Merchandise Marks Act had had the effect of decreasing the foreign consumption of English gloves.


I said the export trade


said that was exactly what he was dealing with, and moreover he was dealing with Board of Trade figures at the time when the right hon. Gentleman himself was there. In 1887, before the Act came into operation, there were exported 60,000 dozens of gloves, while in 1888 87,000, and last year 134,000 dozen of gloves were exported. When he had been in Vienna he bought there a pair of gloves which were very good, warm, and cheap, and for the moment he became converted to the opinion the right hon. Gentleman expressed that English glove-makers would have a great deal to fear from foreign competition, but a day later he looked at the inside of the gloves, and found they were marked "Dent's Own Make." [Laughter.] It was the fact that English glove exportation had not decreased in consequence of the Merchandise Marks Act, but had considerably increased. He did not think it would be wise to pass the Second Heading of this Bill, and he would advise his hon. Friend to withdraw it, as its effect would be mischievous. One of the principal supporters of this Bill, the right hon. Member for the Isle of Thanet, was discovered to be in possession of one of the very articles which he rose to denounce, for he produced from his pocket a foreign pencil, which, he should have thought, he would rather have perished than possess. [Laughter.] If these Bavarian pencils were to be found in the green tree of the right hon. Member for Thanet what might they not expect from the diy tree of the right hon. Member for the Brightside Division? [Laughter.] No doubt there was a very large importation of foreign-made goods. They were trumpery, but they were flashy and cheap and suited the market, and he for one was in favour of keeping that market. In the picture book which he had with him, he observed that the very first picture was a portrait of H. R. H. the Prince of Wales, and underneath was the mark "Made in Germany." [Loud laughter.] It was not alone these insulting remarks in books, or the wooden products of German art, which were imported in their thousands, but gloves and lamp-shades were imported. To such a state of things had we come indeed that no less a thing than a candidate for Parliament had recently been brought from Germany and presented in public without being legibly marked as being of foreign make. [Laughter.] Of course, these were abuses, but they were abuses which he thought we must endure. Did the hon. Member for West Islington suggest that the British manufacturer took his own goods and marked them "Made in Belgium or Germany?" That was not probable; but however that might be, there were tricks in all trades, and if they were going to legislate like this in order to prevent small frauds in teas, clarets, and Sheffield cutleries, they would be doing material mischief, and would have a heavy job before them this Session. An enormous number of ladies' boots and gloves were exported by us to France, and the great emporium in Paris where people went to buy their stuffs was called in English "Old England." [Laughter.] He might mention that in the casino of Buda Pesth the cigarettes of Turkish tobacco which were sold were bought in Bond Street. Moreover, at this moment almost every Royal palace in Europe was being re furnished by a distinguished Member of that House. [Laughter.] By far the most important industry in which this country was engaged was the carrying trade, which was indeed of more importance than our agriculture or manufactures. He pointed out that almost every pound of tea consumed in Syria came from London, and that the cigarettes made from so-called Egyptian tobacco reached Egypt from Liverpool. It was first sent to Liverpool, and then sent back to Egypt. Such things as these were due to our unquestioned supremacy in the carrying trade. His firm belief was that a mistake was made in that respect by the Merchandise Marks Act. That Act seriously interfered with the carrying trade of this country; and the figures that had been quoted conclusively showed that this was the case. When an English customer was informed that articles he had hitherto bought in England, and believed to be English, were made in foreign countries and only passed through England, he naturally desired to go direct to the foreign country and obtain them from there, and he himself had no doubt that the result of the Merchandise Marks Act had been to divert a large portion of the carrying trade from English ports' to foreign ports. For these reasons he urged his hon. Friend to forego his attempt to get this Bill read a second time. The discussion, however, had been an advantage, because it had shown that the true principles of trade were not monopolised on the other side of the House, but were entertained equally on that (the Ministerial) side, and he thought it would have disposed, if not of the original Act, at any rate of any further attempt to aggravate it, and make it more mischievous. ["Hear, hear!"]


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put," but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

Debate resumed.

MR. JAMES KENYON (Lancashire, Bury)

agreed that many good articles came from abroad. English manufacturers were not afraid of foreign, com-petition provided they had fair play. If English-made articles were of equal quality and value with those made abroad he was sure the majority of English people in shops would prefer the former. Personally, as one who had had considerable experience in the commercial world, he should do so. He appreciated the importance of technical education in this country, but what wanted still more the serious attention of Parliament were the excessive charges of railway companies for the carriage of goods. Shipping had been mentioned, and he would like to point out that the shipping trade of Hamburg and Bremen had been considerably increased by the fostering and petting it had received from the German Government. Only within the last three or four months an additional subsidy had been given to the North German Lloyd Steamship Company to compete with our shipping. The marking of goods made abroad had distinct advantages to British manufacturers. When it came to a question of which to choose, the English end foreign-made goods being of equal value, the English customer ought to have the opportunity of giving preference to English manufactures. ["Hear, hear!"]

COLONEL VICTOR MILWARD (Warwick, Stratford-on-Avon)

said that from one point of view this Bill did not go far enough, and from another it was too ambiguous. There were many other questions which required consideration besides those which had been touched upon in the Debate. The real blot in the present Bill was that articles were brought here from abroad in bulk, but the bulk was broken and individual articles were sold without any mark upon them to say that they were of foreign origin. He alluded chiefly to small articles, such as cutlery, and notably scissors. They were imported into this country and passed through the Customs, and were marked as being made in Germany or France. But when they got into the shops—at the very point when they wished the public to know that they were foreign goods—there was no way of telling that this was the case, and the scissors were sold without any mark or indication as to where they came from. It was the same thing with pens. When they bought them, how could they tell where they were made? They were all aware that a quantity of hosiery was made in Germany and abroad and brought to England. Goods in bulk were marked with the place of origin, and when the articles were sold in retail it was impossible for anyone to tell where they came from. In these respects he believed the Act required amendment. That was a matter which could only be dealt with after serious consideration, and probably reference to a Select Committee. The Act was also extremely ambiguous, because it said there was no longer to be any definite indication of the country in which the article was produced. Was the foreign manufacturer not to put his own name on his goods? For instance, was Krupp, the gun maker, no longer to mark his gun so? He was simply to stamp on the gun "foreign made?"


We do not use Krupp guns.


What about the Chartered Company?


proceeded to say that what they wanted was to promote the interests of the private manufacturer everywhere. A large bulk of the trade of the country was foreign trade. ["Hear, hear!"] In foreign countries reliable English manufacturers were well known and valued. ["Hear, hear!"] The Merchandise Marks Act did not originate in this country. Long before it was passed in this country, France and America obliged us to mark all goods made in England, and what was good enough for those countries should be good enough for us. Where there was equal value, where there was equality of value and price, Englishmen would give preference to English-made articles. ["Hear, hear!"] The real reply to the whole of this question was to make better things in England than were made now, and, by means of technical education, to educate our workpeople so that we might regain the position of the first manufacturing people in the world. He still hoped his hon. Friend would see his way to withdraw the Motion he had made, because he was sure a Select Committee would be able to come to a better conclusion.

MR. GEORGE KEMP (Lancashire, Hey wood)

, referring to a statement by the hon. Member for Spen Valley that the ordinary English consumer purchased articles not because they were made in England or were made abroad, but because they were good and cheap, said it would obviously be an advantage, in cases where English and foreign made goods were equal in price and quality, that the purchaser should know which were English and which were foreign. Other things being equal the preference would naturally be given to English goods. He reminded hon. Members that they were not discussing the question of repealing the Merchandise Marks Act, but simply a Bill to modify that Act, and in the very direction advocated by hon. Gentlemen who opposed the original Measure. A great many of the arguments that had been adduced against the Bill were realty applicable to the Merchandise Marks Act, and not to the proposed Amendment. On that ground he gave the Bill his support.


said he had observed that hon. Members opposing this Bill had called it a very small Measure and a very bad one. Very often what were called small Measures were of more benefit to the country than some larger Measures. He had been particularly struck with the fact alluded to by the hon. Member who had just sat down that the larger number of the arguments or attacks made on this Bill were not attacks on the Measure itself, but on the present state of the law; and, as this Bill did not seek to repeal that law, these attacks seemed to him to be rather beside the mark. At any rate, surely it must be admitted, on the line of argument taken by those who opposed the Measure, that the present state of the law advertised certain foreign countries; surely it must be admitted that the proposal before the House was an improvement in that respect. After all, the great object of the Bill was really to change the law in that regard by directing that goods should be marked "foreign made." The Merchandise Marks Act, he submitted, was a good Act, in spite of all that had been said against it. He believed it had worked for the good of the trade of this country; but it had been found to be inadequate, and therefore for that reason his hon. Friend had introduced this Bill to amend it. It was, however, a very large subject, and he was disposed to think that the advice given by the President of the Board of Trade, that it would be well that a Committee should make an inquiry into the matter, had a great deal of force in it. At the same time, if the Member for Sheffield desired to press the matter to a division, he should certainly support him on the present occasion. It was his contention that this Bill was in the interests of both manufacturer and purchaser, and surely it was only fair and reasonable that a man should know, when he bought an article, whether it was British made or not. An argument had been used that purchasers did not care whether the article was British made or not. Some did and some did not, but it seemed to him that what they had to consider was whether it was fair that the purchaser should know what he was buying. It was, at any rate, for the benefit of the workman, because, as foreign goods replaced British goods in the market, his employment was interfered with; and, although he had had but a small experience in that House, he had been engaged in electioneering for 15 years, and ought to know something about the feeling of the working classes in this matter. He believed that the Merchandise Marks Act had improved the condition of the working classes, and that this Bill of his hon. Friend would receive their support. ["Hear, hear!"] They were, of course, met with the oft-repeated cry of Protection. No doubt it was protection in a practical sense, but it was not protection in the sense understood by political economists. As he had said, this was no new departure, but merely a Bill to amend the existing law, and though it was, perhaps, desirable that a Committee should inquire into the question, he believed some strengthening of the present law was required, and that some alteration would tend to the industrial welfare of this country.

MR. ARTHUR JEFFREYS (Hants, Basingstoke)

said he would like to say a few words on this Bill, in connection with another Bill, namely, the Bill for marking foreign meat. He hoped it would not be understood that there was no hope of carrying out that Bill. It had been said in the course of the Debate that it was impossible to mark foreign meat. It was, on the contrary, a very easy thing. All the foreign meat going into Belgium was marked with its place of origin, and if it could be done there it could be done in London. The only desire the promoters of these Bills had was to prevent fraud. They did not say that because an article happened to be marked "foreign made," it was a bad article. What they wanted was to prevent foreign articles being sold as English. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sheffield said that the consequence of marking would be that colonists would go to the place of origin direct. All he could say was that if this country was to take up the position of middleman it was a very great misfortune, and the sooner we got out of that position the better. Surely there were manufacturers in this country who could manufacture goods equally as well as foreigners. He thought the attempt of his hon. Friend was a good one. It was very desirable that anything that could be done to prevent fraud should be done. If a Committee were appointed to inquire into the whole subject, he dared say it would be wise to leave the matter to that Committee. But something ought to be done, because it was notorious that the bread was now being taken out of the mouths of the workpeople of this country. To the general scheme and idea of the Bill he gave a hearty support, but whether it would be wise to press it at the present moment he must leave to his hon. Friend.


said that he certainly could not agree with the speech of the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. It was his misfortune to be frequently opposed to the hon. Gentleman, but he could not help it. He supposed that it was because "it was their nature to." The hon. Gentleman, in dealing with this question, had discussed a Bill that was not then before the House—whether it was even in print he did not know. All that he could say was that there was no analogy between the Bill to which the hon. Member had referred and that which was then under discussion. The Bill which was brought into the House last Session for the marking of meat required that every piece of meat cut from a carcass which was imported from abroad should be marked as being of foreign origin, even if the carcass was cut up into hundreds of pieces. He regretted that he had not boon able to hear the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade in reference to this Bill. [An hon. Member: "He jumped upon it."] In that case he was sure the right hon. Gentleman must have pulverised it. After that very little remained to be said or done in the matter. It appeared to him that any alteration in the Merchandise Marks Act would do no good. No doubt that Measure, up to the present time, had operated very well, but he confessed that he had some apprehensions with regard to this doctrine of marking. It was quite enough for him to look at the names on the back of this Bill in order to make him suspicious of its real object. They all knew that the hon. and gallant Member for Sheffield was the apostle of fair trade and of all other kinds of trade. [Laughter.] He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Member was engaged in commerce, but with regard to the question of marking he was afraid that, if the hon. and gallant Gentleman had his way, they would be marked out of house and home. Last Session a Measure for marking foreign fruit had been ridiculed out of the House. He anticipated that the hon. and gallant Gentleman would some day or other introduce a Measure for the protection of the British onion, and would have nothing to do with the Spanish onion. ["Hear, hear!" and laughter.] They were asked to mark almost every article of food, into whatever small portions it might be cut, in order to benefit the working classes of the country. He did not believe that the policy would succeed in attaining its object. He believed that British trade would be able to hold its own. He did not regard healthy competition as being undesirable in the intetests of trade, because we learned much from foreign competition, and from the manner in which goods were made abroad. If we established technical schools in this country, and managed our business as our foreign competitors managed theirs, we should be able to more than bold our own.

MR. J. W. LOGAN (Leicester, Harborough)

said that it had been remarked that there was a very strong feeling prevalent among the working classes that the bread was being taken out of their mouths through foreign competition. He did not know whether that was the case or not, but if it were, the sooner the minds of the working classes were disabused of that idea the better. It had been remarked that if foreign-made goods were marked no one would look at them. But even the right hon. Member for Thanet, who was a protectionist of protectionists, had admitted that the pencil with which he was taking his notes was marked "Made in Bavaria." They themselves, the representatives of the British people, used many articles that were of foreign origin. He therefore did not believe that the British people were burning with the desire to purchase home-made goods only. The British farmer, who was continually crying out at the injustice of our importing foreign cattle, fed his own beasts upon foreign-made cake. What the British people desired was to purchase, not British goods, but good articles at the cheapest possible price. He wished to point out to the working classes that they must not be misled into believing that the marking of foreign-made goods would improve the trade of this country. We were beaten by the foreigners, because we were handicapped in the race, in consequence of the heavy rents which our manufacturers had to pay for the use of the land on which their manufactories stood. Then again, there was the amount of royalties which manufacturers had to pay for getting ores out of the land. They were told that Belgium could send manufactured iron into this country and sell it cheaper than our own manufacturers could do. That was because our manufacturers had to pay royalties amounting to 6s. 5d. per ton upon their iron. As a nation we ought to be ashamed of ourselves for crying out against foreign competition. We had the best land in the world, the best ironstone in the world, the best coal in the world, the best blood and bone and sinew in the world, and yet we could not compete successfully with other nations who had not our advantages. Why should we allow these enormous royalties to be exacted for the raising of the ore which had been placed in the bowels of the earth by the Almighty for the benefit of the community at large, and not of particular individuals. Let our manufacturers do as the German manufacturers did, and bring up their sons to be better manufacturers than themselves, instead of bringing them up to be gentlemen who did nothing but hunt and shoot.

SIR W. HART DYKE (Kent, Dartford)

regretted that he had been unavoidably prevented from attending to the Debate as he ought to have done. The hon. Member who had just sat down had not been content with denouncing the Bill, but he must go further, and declare himself in favour of the fraudulent importation of foreign-made goods. He was not sure that the hon. Gentleman would not receive a rather serious warning on the subject from his constituents, who were largely composed of working men. This Measure was intended to protect our home produce from the fraud of the foreigner. [Ironical cheers.] He had never given his vote in favour of a protectionist Measure, neither was he a protectionist nor a fair trader. The whole essence of the question was the fraudulent marking of foreign goods. He understood his right hon. Friend the Member for Thanet had spoken of the Bill as one forwarding another policy which he had always supported.


I said it was accepted by a good many as being a substitute which would go down with their constituents instead of the real remedy. [A laugh.]


thought his right hon. Friend's explanation was almost worthy of the columns of Punch. As he understood the Bill, it was not proposed to introduce a new system of marking, but simply to alter the wording of the marking. To the Bill, therefore, could there be any real or solid objection? Was there anything in the proposed change which could be fairly described as protective? All that was proposed was that the words "foreign made" should be substituted for the words which were now compulsorily placed on certain articles. Surely that was a proposal worthy of careful consideration. He was quite aware that in dealing with the retail sale of agricultural produce, and especially fruit, a great difficulty immediately arose. It would be ridiculous to suggest that every pottle of strawberries should be marked "home grown," but there was an amount, of fraud going on to the detriment of the great fruit industry in this country that hon. Members would hardly believe possible. Take the case of early fruit grown abroad. Thousands and thousands of English baskets were sent over to Antwerp and other ports. Foreign fruit was packed into the baskets, sent over to our English markets, and sold as English fruit. He did not plead for protection, but he thought care might be taken, by legislation or otherwise, to secure that a huge mass of fruit was not brought over in bulk, flooding our markets, and sold as English. The foreign early fruit certainly depreciated our markets for the whole year. English fruit came upon a depreciated market, and the market never recovered. The English paper trade, too, had been half ruined in consequence of the system of marking foreign paper. The marks showing the foreign make only appeared on the outside cover, with the result that tons and tons of German paper were being sold in this country as English-made paper. He did not say these were reasons why the House should lightly pass legislation like this, but he asserted that the cases of fruit and paper which he had mentioned showed that arguments could be advanced in favour of the object of his hon. Friend's Measure. But he rose particularly to refute the statements of the hon. Member opposite, who was never content unless he was denouncing landowners. He wished the hon. Member had gone through his experience as a landowner during the last five years. Had he done so he would know that the sneers he was always levelling against one of the most struggling classes of the community were not only irritating, but most undeserved.


denied that he had ever sneered at landowners. ["Oh, oh!"] He had always spoken against the system but not against individuals, and he should continue to do so in spite of whatever might be said.


said he did not wish the Debate to be unduly prolonged, and therefore, if the two essential principles contained in the Bill were included in the reference to the proposed Select Committee, he would ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Motion for the Second Beading.


said the reference to the Committee would be so general in terms that it would admit of the consideration of any proposals for the amendment of the present law, and consequently would admit of any proposals which were contained in the Bill. Under those circumstances he hoped his hon. Friend would withdraw the Bill. That, coupled with the fact that the Bill had never been seen by any merchant or manufacturer in the country, whom it affected so largely, would, he hoped, induce the hon. Member to withdraw the Measure. The discussion had been a very interesting one, and, he might add, a very needful one. His right hon. Friend the Member for the Brightside Division of Sheffield spoke of the original intention of the Merchandise Marks Act. The intention of that Act was not to protect any manufacturer from competition generally, but from fraudulent competition. Happily there was a large number of manufacturers in England, a larger number than in any other country, whose names were a guarantee to every buyer throughout the world of the quality and honesty of the work which they offered. The object of the Merchandise Marks Act was to prevent such frauds as the labelling of foreign-made knives with the name of "Joseph Rodgers, Sheffield," and of foreign-made needles with the name of "Milward, Redditch." When, however, the Act was altered in the direction of indicating the place of origin, it bore hardly on the English manufacturer, and had resulted in a decrease of our trade abroad. The hon. Member for Sheffield had produced a lamp-glass made in Saxony; but if he bad made inquiries as to the lamp trade in Birmingham, he would have found that there were thousands of men employed in it, that not only the lamp-glass, but the chimney, the reservoir, the foot, and the burner were all made in different parts of the world, and that the Birmingham manufacturer, through our system of free trade, could lay the whole world under contribution—[cheers]—and, by putting the different parts together, could produce an article that nobody else could touch. If they insisted that the burners, the framework, and the foot of the lamp were all to be marked, they would simply publish the information of the manufacture of the lamp everywhere. The right hon. Member for the Thanet Division had referred to the effect of ibis kind of legislation in the interests of British goods. Why, there were far more British goods sold abroad than foreign goods sold at home. "Hear, hear!" His hon. Friend behind him had spoken of English goods being unfairly driven out of the markets under present conditions. What about the £30,000,000 worth of goods we ex-ported to Germany; the £26,000,000 worth we exported to France; the £30,000,000 worth exported to the Continent of America; and the vast quantity sent elsewhere? ["Hear, hear!"]


What are the imports?


said that did not immediately affect the point to which he was referring. What the framers of the Merchandise Marks Act had in view, and what the Government had in view, at the present time was to prevent fraud. ["Hear, hear!"] That was the main object to attain, and it undoubtedly was necessary in common fairness to the British manufacturer. ["Hear, hear!"] Beyond Ibis, however, he thought the only view to be taken in those matters was to leave trade alone as much as possible. [Opposition cheers.] An hon. Member had spoken of the popularity of British goods. Well, what had secured them that popularity were their quality and the enterprise and skill devoted to their production—the fact that the British manufacturer had been kept at his wits' end to compete with the foreigner in every market. [Cheers.] Under similar conditions he was confident that British goods would always maintain their popularity. ["Hear, hear!"] In fact, more than ever the British manufacturer would have to feel that, in combating foreign competition, from whatever quarter, he must rely on himself—on his own well-tried skill, energy and enterprise, for if he failed in that direction he would fail altogether. ["Hear, hear!"] His hon. Friend had referred to cases of fraud which be said there were no means at present of reaching, cases in which articles of food—mutton, for instance—were openly sold as British but which were of foreign production. Of course that was actual fraud, and ought to be prevented. The purchaser, or consumer, ought to have the means of knowing what he was purchasing. ["Hear, hear!"] But they must be careful in amending the existing laws, or in passing fresh laws of the kind, that they did not further interfere with the position we held as described by the Leader of the Opposition, when he said that Great Britain was the emporium of the world—[cheers]—and that every piece of legislation which had a tendency to keep goods from coming to this great central market to be re-distributed over the world, not only took away trade from the British merchant, but reduced the work in the many forms of collateral employment. ["Hear, hear!"] In those circumstances, and after the valuable and interesting Debate his hon. Friend had raised—[Opposition laughter]—he hoped that his hon. Friend would not press the matter to a Division, but would withdraw the Motion. [Loud Opposition cries of "No."]


Am I to understand that the condition I laid down is accepted by the right hon. Gentleman—namely, that the principle referred to in this Bill will be included in the reference to the Select Committee? [Opposition cries of "No."]


What I said was that the terms of reference to the Committee will be so general that they will include any proposition that might be made for the alteration of the present law. ["Hear, hear!" and Opposition cheers.]


Well, Sir, as the right hon. Gentleman has undertaken, on behalf of the President of the Board of Trade—[Opposition cries of " No "]—that the matters to which I have called attention shall be considered—[Opposition cries of "No"]—I ask the leave of the House to withdraw the Motion. [Loud Opposition cries of "No."]


Is it the pleasure of the House that the Motion be withdrawn? [Loud Opposition cries of " No."]

The House divided:—Ayes, 97; Noes, 153.—(Division List,—No.7—appended.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Green, Walford D. (Wednesb'ry) More, Robert Jasper
Acland-Hood, Capt. Sir A. F. Greene W. Raymond-(Cambs) Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute)
Ambrose, William (Middlesex) Greville, Captain Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath)
Banbury, Frederick George Hanbury, Rt. Hon. Robert Wm. Myers, William Henry
Barnes, Frederic Gorell Heath, James Nicol, Donald Ninian
Brassey, Albert Bill Rt. Hn. Lord Arthur (Down) Pryce-Jones, Edward
Campbell, James A. Holland, Hon. Lionel Raleigh Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs) Howell, William Tudor Robinson, Brooke
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire) Howorth, Sir Henry Hoyle Samuel, Harry S. (Limebouse)
Charrington, Spencer Isaacson, Frederick Wootton Saunderson, Col. Ewd. James.
Coghill, Douglas Harry Jebb, Richard Claverhouse Savory, Sir Joseph
Colston, Chas. Edw. II. Athole Jeffreys, Arthur Frederick Scoble, Sir Andrew Richard
Cripps, Charles Alfred Johnstone, John H. (Sussex) Seton-Karr, Henry
Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton) Kemp, George Stanley, Henry M. (Lambeth)
Curzon, Viscount (Bucks) Kenny, William Stephens, Henry Charles
Dalbiac, Major Philip Hugh Kenyon, James Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Darling, Charles John Lafone, Alfred Talbot, John G. (Oxford Univ.)
Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred. Dixon Laurie, Lieut.-General Thorburn, Walter
Donkin, Richard Sim Lawson, John Grant (Yorks.) Tully, Jasper
Douglas-Pennant, Hon. E. S. Llewellyn, Evan H. (Somerset) Walrond, Sir William Hood
Doxford, William Theodore Llewelyn, Sir Dillwyn (Swans'a) Waring, Col. Thomas
Duncombe, Hon. Hubert V. Lockwood, Lt.-Col. A. R.(Essex) Warkworth, Lord
Dyke, Rt. Hon. Sir William Hart Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Webster, R. G. (St. Pancras)
Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham) Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E.
Finch, George H. Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Liverpool) Wilson, John (Falkirk)
Fisher, William Hayes Lowther, Rt. Hon. James (Kent) Wilson, Jos. H.(Middlesbrough)
Fison, Frederick William Loyd, Archie Kirkman Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks)
Fletcher, Sir Henry Lucas-Shadwell, William Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.
Galloway, William Johnson Macartney, W. G. Ellison Younger, William
Giles, Charles Tyrrell Macdona, John Gumming
Goldsworthy, Major-General McCalmont, Maj-Gen. (Ant'mN) TELLERS FOR THE AYES,
Goulding, Edward Alfred M'Hugh, Patrick, A. (Leitrim) Sir HOWARD VINCENT AND Mr. GODSON.
Graham, Henry Robert Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Mildmay, Francis Bingham
Allan, William (Gateshead) Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Firbank, Joseph Thomas
Allen, Wm. (Newc under Lyme) Colville, John FitzGerald, Sir R. U. Penrose
Allison, Robert Andrew Condon, Thomas Joseph Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Wol'tn)
Anstruther, H. T. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Fowler, Matthew (Durham)
Arrol, Sir William Courtney, Rt. Hon. Leonard H. Fry, Lewis
Austin, Sir John (Yorkshire) Crean, Eugene Garfit, William
Austin, M. (Limerick, W.) Crilly, Daniel Gedge, Sydney
Bainbridge, Emerson Curran, Thomas B. (Donegal) Gibney, James
Barlow, John Emmott Daly, James Gold, Charles
Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. H. (Bristol) Dalziel, James Henry Gull, Sir Cameron
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Dane, Richard M. Haldane, Richard Burdon
Biddulph, Michael Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan) Hammond, John (Carlow)
Blundell, Colonel Henry Davies, W. Bees-(Pembrokesh. Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Sir W.
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Harrison, Charles
Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn) Donelan, Captain A. Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale-
Brown, Alexander H. Doogan, P. C. Healy, Maurice (Cork)
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn. Doughty, George Healy, Timothy M. (N. Louth)
Burt, Thomas Ellis, Thos. Edw. (Merionethsh.) Hedderwick, Thomas Charles H.
Buxton, Sydney Charles Evans, Samuel T. Glamorgan) Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles II.
Caldwell, James Evans, Sir Francis H.(South'ton) Hoare, Edw. Brodie (Hampstead)
Cawley, Frederick Fardell, Thomas George Hobhouse, Henry
Channing, Francis Allston Farquharson, Dr. Robert Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.
Clark, Dr. G. B. (Caithness-sh.) Farrell, James P. (Cavan, W.) Jacoby, James Alfred
Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Ffrench, Peter Johnson-Ferguson, Jabez Edw.
Collery, Bernard Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne Johnston, William (Belfast)
Jones, William (Carnarvonsh.) Morley, Charles, (Breconshire) Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)
Kearley, Hudson E. Mundella, Rt. Hn. Anthony John Stevenson, Francis S.
Kennaway, Rt. Hon. Sir John H. Murnaghan, George Sullivan, Donal (Westmeath)
Kitson, Sir James O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary) Sullivan, T. D. (Donegal, W.)
Lambert, George O'Connor, Arthur (Donegal) Tennant, Harold John
Langley, Batty Paulton, James Mellor Thomas, Alfred (Glamorgan, E.)
Leese, Sir Joseph E.(Accrington) Pickersgill, Edward Hare Thornton, Percy M.
Leng, Sir John Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Tritton, Charles Ernest
Lloyd-George, David Power, Patrick Joseph Tuite, James
Lockwood, Sir Frank (York) Purvis, Robert Usborne, Thomas
Logan, John William Reckitt, Harold James Wallace, Robert (Perth)
Lough, Thomas Richardson, Thomas Wayman, Thomas
Lubbock, Et. Hon. Sir John Rickett, J. Compton. Wedderburn, Sir William
Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Roberts, John Bryan (Eifion) Weir, James Galloway
Macaleese, Daniel Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Whiteley, George (Stockport)
Maclean, James Mackenzie Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
M'Hugh, E. (Armagh, S.) Robson, William Snowdon Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
McKenna, Reginald Roche, Hon. James (East Kerry) Wilson, Frederick W. (Norfolk
McKillop, James Roche, John (Fast Galway) Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)
McLeod, John Rollit, Sir Albert Kayo Wilson, John (Govan)
Mappin, Sir Frederick Thorpe Russell, T. W. (Tyrone) Wolff, Gustay Wilhelm
Melville, Beresford Valentine Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees) Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Hud'rsf'ld)
Milbank, Powlett Charles John Seely, Charles Hilton Young, Samuel
Milward, Colonel Victor Sheehy, David TELLERS FOR THE NOES,
Monk, Charles James Sidebotham, J. W. (Cheshire) Mr. John Wilson (Durham) and Mr. John Burns.
Montagu, Sir S. (Whitechapel) Simeon, Sir Harrington
Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Spicer, Albert