§ (Considered in the Committee.)
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. J. W. LOWTHER (Cumberland, Penrith) in the Chair.]1528
§ Clause 1.
§ * MR. LEVY (Leicestershire, Loughborough)
moved to leave out Sub-section (1). He objected to the Sub-section because it allowed a foreign permanent Commission, formed principally of trade rivals, to dictate to this country whether it should admit or prohibit sugar from certain countries, even perhaps from our own colonies. The Colonial Secretary said it was only a Commission of Inquiry, but he thought it was more than an Inquiry.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said the hon. Member was not confining himself to the Amendment. It appeared to him that the only question the Amendment really raised was whether the Convention should be carried out by means of prohibition or by the imposition of a surtax or countervailing duty.
§ * MR. LEVY
said the question appeared to him to be one of considerable importance. If they prohibited sugar in any large quantity it must necessarily increase the price and create a burden for the great majority of the people of this country. At the present time they had no reason adduced, except to help the West Indies, why they should prohibit sugar coming into this country. He thought he was therefore justified in moving the rejection of the Sub-section.
In page 1, line 14, leave out Sub-section(1)."—(Mr. Levy.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out to the word 'is' in line 15, stand part of the clause."
* THE CHAIRMAN
The Question I have to put is that the words of the Subsection down to line 15 stand part of the clause.
* THE CHAIRMAN
All the Amendments down to the Amendment standing in the name of the hon. Member for Dundee in line 15, are out of order, 1529 because they are all contrary to the Convention. They suggest all sorts of conditions and stipulations which cannot be made.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)
asked whether they were to understand that they could not discuss the different clauses of the Bill because they carried out the stipulations of the Convention.
* THE CHAIRMAN
You may not suggest any alterations in the Convention. The Government have accepted the Convention, and this Bill is limited to the purpose of carrying out the Convention. It is not for the purpose of carrying out other proposals not contained in it.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON (Dundee)
asked whether his Amendment, to insert at the beginning of line 14 the words "Subject to the obligations of existing treaties," was out of order. It seemed to him that all existing treaties were equally obligatory on the Government.
* THE CHAIRMAN
There is nothing in the Bill to carry that into effect. This Bill is for the purpose of giving effect to a particular Convention. We cannot consider the provisions of other conventions or treaties.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)
asked if it was not open to the House in accepting the Convention to accept it on terms.
* THE CHAIRMAN
This Bill does not propose to do that. It is limited to one narrow purpose—namely, to give effect to a particular Convention. Therefore the Committee cannot go outside that.
* THE CHAIRMAN
did riot think that left it open to the House of Commons to accept the Convention or not, because the Bill had received its Second Reading.
§ MR ROBSON (South Shields)
asked whether it was not in the competence of 1530 the Committee to say that any measure which the House assented to in order to confirm the act of the executive might be so far limited as not to interfere with existing treaties. Surely the House was entitled under this Bill to raise the question as to how far it affected the most-favoured-nation clause, and how it should be amended so as not to interfere with treaty engagements.
* THE CHAIRMAN
All these considerations seem to me to be outside the scope of the Bill, though not beyond the scope of the House. The House can do anything, of course. But the question is as between prohibition and the imposition of countervailing duties. This clause proposed total prohibition.
§ MR. LOUGH
said that this was one of the most important points raised in the Bill. The Government had adopted the plan of prohibition, which no doubt would be sufficient, but he denied that it was judicious for the House to adopt such a drastic method of treatment. The Colonial Secretary had said that this Brussels Commission was to be a Commission of Inquiry. It was to be nothing of the kind; it was to be a permanent Commission, an autocratic body whose decision left no option for the Government. Thus the Committee was placed in a very difficult position by the difference between the statement of the Colonial Secretary and the terms of the Bill. It was not safe to prohibit importations from those countries against which a prohibition order might be issued because they sent us a small quantity of sugar in a particular year. Such a method of prohibition raised a large principle for consideration. If America, Argentina, or Chili sent only a small quantity of sugar we would prohibit it, and it would not inconvenience our merchants. But that would be a dangerous policy for this House to adopt. These countries might send us a great deal next year. There were four countries which had all been condemned by this permanent Committee. The first was Argentina, which, in 1900, sent out 217,000 cwts., and in 1902 806,000 cwts. In two years the imports from Argentina had quadrupled. Therefore, if we had prohibited on the figures of 1900 we should have placed the trade of this country in a very serious difficulty. It wa not safe for the Government to assume 1531 that they could prohibit importations from those countries against which a prohibition order might he issued because they sent us a small quantity of sugar in a particular year. Such a method of prohibition raised a large principle for consideration. A very small quantity of imports was enough to regulate the price, and if we shut off these importations then the country which sent us the largest supply would raise its price accordingly. The whole policy of prohibition was a most dangerous one to adopt.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that to prevent the import of sugar into this country would be to raise the price of that commodity, and put our manufacturers in a worse position than now, compared with those of France and Germany. After that injury had been inflicted on the British manufacturers and consumer, the question was how you could alleviate the injury. The British Government having made up their minds to penalise the bounties, that penalisation ought to be in their own hands, and beyond the control of foreign countries, which were our rivals in commercial affairs. It was unfortunate, however, that this country should be in the hands entirely of a Commission on which we had only one vote, and our competitors and rivals had ten votes. The Colonial Secretary said the other night that every one of these foreign countries had only one vote. That was true, but after all, the interests of all the other Powers went one way, and our interests went another way, because they were producers and we were consumers; they were sellers and we were buyers. Tins Commission once created—and apparently they were not allowed to discuss, in Committee, whether it should be created or not—it was a most serious question whether we should allow it to dictate to us in regard to the countries whose sugar we should penalise or prohibit. At the present time, six countries, including Great Britain, had ratified the Convention. All the other countries—a considerable number of them, perhaps the majority, being sugar producing countries—were outside the Convention. Of the five other countries which had ratified the Convention only the sugar systems of Belgium and Germany had yet been passed by the Commission as satisfactory, and that only by a 1532 small majority. He understood that the British representative was in the minority. Therefore, at the present time, there were only two countries the importation of whose sugar we might not have to prohibit. And we might have to-morrow to prohibit imports of sugar from Austria-Hungary if the Commission reported against the system of the Dual Monarchy. The Colonial Secretary had said that if Austria-Hungary broke away, a new Convention would have to be held. That was not so, for Article X. said that in the event of one of the States denouncing the Convention and withdrawing from it, the other States should retain their right of also withdrawing. There was no question therein regard to a new Convention. His point was that we were putting ourselves in a most dangerous position. We would be called upon to prohibit sugar from other States at the beck and call of our-foreign competitors, and we would not have the option of imposing countervailing duties. Therefore we should lose our sugar on the one hand, and our revenue on the other. He must say that the whole of this Convention was founded upon the most extraordinary piece of politico-economic folly which had come under his observation for many years. Under this new fiscal policy we were going to give up to our competitors £8,000,000 a year, and to put ourselves in a worse position with regard to Germany and other countries than we were ever in before; and all this in the name of free trade! He was sorry that the Government should have endeavoured to carry it through, and he believed that if this, matter had not been turned into a Party question by the Government, they should never have been able to pass the Convention through the House of Commons.
THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF. TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOLR, Leeds, Central)
said that the hon. Member seemed to have taken this opportunity to make a Second Reading speech, through which, however, he did not intend to follow him. There was only one question before the Committee, and that was whether the Government were to be empowered to carry out the Convention; and yet, after a quarter of an hour occupied by the hon. Member, he was as much in the dark as ever as to the policy which the hon. Member wished the Government to adopt.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said that the point of his argument was that the Government ought to keep the matter in their own hands, and not place the country in the position of being dictated to by foreign Powers.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that that remark of the hon. Gentleman amply justified the criticism he had made. The statement of the hon. Member would go absolutely against the principle of the Convention. He did not know whether the hon. Member for Poplar meant to move an Amendment to that effect, but if he did, he would he ruled out of order, because he would remind the hon. Gentleman that that was not the question before the Committee. The only question before the Committee was whether power should be given to the Government to prohibit the importation of sugar from certain countries, and to impose countervailing duties. The hon. Member for West Islington took exception to the statement made by the Colonial Secretary the other night to the effect that the Government were not bound to prohibit. The Government were not bound to prohibit for two reasons. First of all, the special powers taken under the clause now being discussed would not necessarily be exercised. A distinction had to be drawn between the contracting Powers and the non-contracting Powers. If hon. Members would look at Article VII, they would see that the duty of the Commission was limited to finding and investigation. Did not that amply justify the description of the Colonial Secretary that this was a Court of Inquiry? It was only in regard to the non-contracting States that the findings of the Commission were binding on the parties to the Convention. If the permanent Commission found that any one of the contracting States did not bring its legislation into harmony with the Convention, or gave a bounty, they would have to report their decision to that effect; and in that case it would not carry an obligation either to countervail or prohibit sugar coming from a contracting State. What would occur under these circumstances, he presumed, would be the summoning of a new Conference. The case was clear enough in regard to the non-contracting States.
§ MR. EDMUND ROBERTSON
asked if the right hon. Gentleman meant that 1534 Clause I did not apply to the contracting States at all.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that there was no obligation on this country to prohibit sugar coming from a contracting State, although that State might be giving a bounty on the manufacture and export of sugar. In the case of non-contracting States, the Commission had not merely to report whether such States gave a bounty, but, if they gave a bounty, it had got to report what the amount of the bounty was, and then, under Article 4, the contracting States would be bound either to propose countervailing duties or to prohibit. But, so far as regarded contracting States, there was no such obligation. He did not know whether the hon. Member who moved the Amendment would prefer that power should be given to the Government to impose countervailing duties rather than to prohibit sugar from bounty-giving States. That, at any rate, was not the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Monmouth, who, in November last, speaking for the Opposition, saidOf course, nobody would have preferred countervailing duties to prohibition.The Government believed that, in almost every case, prohibition was a policy preferable to the imposition of countervailing duties. At the same time, they recognised that there might be circumstances in which a countervailing duty would be preferable to prohibition, and they provided for that, and, although they did not take power in the Bill to impose such duties, they did, at the end of Sub-section 1, distinctly contemplate the possibility of such duties having to be imposed.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)
said it was clear from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman that the Government had not thought out the problem which was most likely of all to arise—namely, that one of the contracting Powers should withdraw from the Convention that had been come to. He wished to endorse what the hon. Member for Poplar said as to the majorities on these international Commissions. Those majorities were invariably hostile to British trade, and anxious, by 1535 acting together, to clip the wings of British trade in every part of the world. Let the Committee consider what was at stake in this proposal. They had it admitted by the Government that they at once penalised Russia and Argentina among other Powers. Every one knew that a large amount of sugar came from Russia, although it came in under other names, and the figures showed what the sugar trade with Argentina was. From a trading point of view, Argentina was more a colony than our own colonies. It was a country that lived entirely on British capital, and traded entirely with this country, and yet they were proposing here to exclude a large branch of our trade with Argentina.
§ MR. ROBSON
said that in reference to the alternatives of prohibition and countervailing duties, the latter had this mitigating circumstance, that they would probably not exceed the amount of the bounty, and would accordingly leave some margin open to competition in case the Powers interested in the Convention raised the price of sugar to some dangerously high figure. On the other hand, if the policy were adopted of absolute prohibition, there was scarcely any figure to which the price might not be raised. It had been urged that the amount of sugar imported from the States which were not parties to this Convention was small. The United States had been given as an instance. The United States, however, had sent considerable quantities of sugar whenever the price had been unusually high in this country, and in similar circumstances they would again become substantial competitors. When prices rose this country would stand in need of the United States as a safeguard against an excessive rise. They ought to keep the United States in reserve for that purpose. Moreover, absolute prohibition of United States sugar would be a breach of the most-favoured-nation clause, unless it extended to every other country. The United States had, indeed, contended that they were at liberty to give concessions to other States, for particular considerations, which this country was not to share, but they had disputed that position, and the United States had hitherto yielded in part to that conten- 1536 tion. But if this country resorted to prohibition what excuse could it make?
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
asked what excuse the hon. Gentleman thought the United States would offer, if they brought against this country the charge that it was violating the most-favoured-nation clause, when it was pointed out that the United States themselves levied countervailing duties?
§ MR. ROBSON
said that if the United States levied countervailing duties that did not prevent them also giving bounties. If the right hon. Gentleman thought that because the United States levied a countervailing duty it could never give a bounty and could never come under the operation of this clause, he did not know the way in which bounties were given. The direct plan of giving a bounty in the form of a positive gift of money to exporters was not the most insidious and frequent form. He predicted that they should find themselves coining into conflict with the United States. No one desired to see this result produced, though, as retaliation was apparently to become the favourite principle in the peaceful pursuit of commerce, the Government might possibly regard the prospect of commercial conflict with America without misgiving. If the country was to have a choice of evils, he thought that a countervailing duty, though a bad alternative, would be preferable to prohibition. Let them choose the lesser of the two evils at any rate.
§ MR. BRYCE (Aberdeen, S.)
said he had listened in vain for arguments by the President of the Board of Trade to show why prohibition was better than countervailing duties. In the debate on the Second Reading the right hon. Gentleman said prohibition was better, because it would be a rather strong thing to impose countervailing duties by Order in Council. But if that power were reserved to the Government, why not indulge in it. He could not understand why the Government should have preferred the policy of prohibition to the policy of countervailing duties. It seemed to him that whichever way one looked at it, the one they looked at 1537 seemed to be the worst and he supposed that the Government in its difficulty took the policy which would give the least trouble. His hon. friend had suggested a reason for countervailing duties—viz., that they could get some revenue from them, whilst prohibition would yield no revenue at all and at the same time would diminish their sources of supply. Really the further one went into this matter the darker it became, and when he heard of the difficulties raised with regard to the different countries and the unsatisfying replies received from them on the questions put to them, he thought they were legislating in the dark. They did not know what effect it would have upon other countries—upon Chili for instance. Even the Commission did not know what the effect would be. What were they going to do with regard to Chili or the Philippine Islands, which were becoming great sugar producers? It seemed that they were taking the very steps which it was least reasonable to take. They were going to exclude the sugar of the one country, Argentina, of all sugar-producing countries that was in closest commercial connection with ourselves, where the largest part of the trade was done in British vessels, and from which, therefore, we had the greatest likelihood of obtaining large cargoes of sugar. And yet at the very same moment we were beginning to threaten foreign Powers with, and asking this country to enter upon, a general war of retaliation against them. We were submitting ourselves to an international Commission that was likely to give every decision against us.
§ Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE
said he under stood the President of the Board of Trade to tell them that as far as the non-contracting Powers were concerned, we were bound to prohibit or to impose countervailing duties at the dictation of this European body, while in regard to the contracting Powers, if they, by giving bounties, broke the Convention, it would he necessary to summon another Conference before taking action. That was a very serious position for this country to be in. What did it mean? The price of sugar was very largely regulated by outside bodies, and as a result of the action of the Government our rivals 1538 would have the whole thing in their hands. The fact was that in regard to this Convention this country had just walked into a trap, and had not the satisfaction even of a nibble at the cheese. The whole thing had been given away. Never was a sillier bargain entered into by a business country. With regard to the choice between prohibition and countervailing duties he was reminded of the Irishman who, when asked by a tourist which was the better of two hotels, said it did not matter which his honour went, to for he would be sure to wish that he had gone to the other. We had entered into a great conspiracy to rob ourselves, and to hand all the swag over to others. We were prohibiting cheap sugar for the benefit of the very conspirators who had led us into the trap. Prohibition was an insult. We were very tender of our own susceptibilities; no country was more susceptible than we were, and the Colonial Secretary made use, for electioneering, purposes, of the slightest use of words against us made by Germany. He repeated that prohibition was an insult; for the goods against which it was, directed were put on the level of diseased cattle and obscene literature. And whom were we insulting? Our one ally, Japan. German had dominated the situation. We were quarrelling with neutral markets in the interests of the one country from which the Government declared that they would not "take it lying down." Why, they were taking it crawling from Germany. As to the price of sugar, that, of course, largely depended on the state of the market in the country of production. Our imports from Argentina were rapidly increasing, and it would not matter how high the prices went up in Europe so long as we had that source to fall back upon. The whole position was ridiculous, and he was surprised that the Government should submit to it.
§ * MR. MOULTON (Cornwall, Launceston)
said he wished to point out the absurdity of the House of Commons solemnly arranging how His Majesty may do acts amounting almost to acts of war against our best friends simply because they wanted to make sugar cheap in England. He was unable to look upon it seriously. The thing was too ridiculous to last. It was quite fair to treat it with comparative 1539 cheerfulness, because it was so ludicrous. According to the Convention, as soon as the Commission decided that any country was giving bounties, directly or indirectly; for production or export, then we were to prohibit the entrance of sugar from that country. But the definition of a bounty in the Convention covered very minute matters. For instance, we were remitting the duty on molasses used for feeding cattle. That was an indirect bounty, and it might happen that if another country were to follow our example in regard to molasses we might find ourselves called upon to prohibit the importation of sugar from that country. Again, supposing one of the contracting Powers put a premium on the manufacture of chocolate, the absolute prohibition of the whole of the sugar coming from that country would immediately follow. England was the only country which had either taken it thus seriously or was stupid enough to fall into such a pit. The other nations put forward countervailing duties. They could put a countervailing duty upon molasses used for cattle food without a serious disturbance of the trade of the world. But were the Government forgetting that the rules of the Convention were so minute that it had solemnly adopted the almost hostile punishment of complete prohibition for all infractions of the Convention. Countervailing duties were inquisitional and contemptible, but they were Letter than the clumsy legislation which made the final punishment of prohibition follow the smallest infraction. He trusted that Members on both sides, seeing what a serious thing they were committing themselves to, seeing that they were going to say to the United States and Argentina "we will prohibit totally the importation of goods which you make and may want to sell in our markets," would at all events say to the Government "Give us a Bill which more or less carries out the policy of the Convention as it is understood by sensible people, and do not commit us to this blundering absurdity of complete prohibition for an infraction of such rules as the Convention has established."
§ MR. BOUSFIELD (Hackney, N.)
said hon. Gentlemen on the opposite side 1540 appeared to proceed on the supposition that the remedy provided under this clause was prohibition, although two distinct alternatives were provided. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] It was true the settlement of this matter might arise at a time when it would be difficult to obtain the assent of Parliament to the alternative of countervailing duties, and he did not understand why the Government did not take power to lay their hands at once on either alternative. The only reason which the President of the Board of Trade had urged against it appeared to have been based on the authority of the right hon Gentleman the Member for West Monmouthshire, but in his opinion that was not sufficient. A very slight alteration of the clause would enable the Government to have the alternative of countervailing duties to prohibition. In theory, however, it was in the clause. Was it too late to consider that suggestion?
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON (Leeds, S.)
said that when one considered the serious character of any proposal involving total prohibition without regard to the amount of the bounty or to the value of the imports, one could understand the fortitude of the hon and learned Member for Hackney giving way. Under this sub-section, although the bounty might be trivial in amount, the penalty was the total prohibition of the import. This applied not only to sugar but to all sweetened products—biscuits, condensed milk, preserves, chocolate, and, in fact, every commodity constituting an article of food into which sugar entered. As the hon. and learned Member had pointed out, this was a grossly illogical clause, and the common-sense view of the situation was to fight a trifling bounty by means of a countervailing duty, and not by means of this savage and extreme penalty, by which we should simply punish ourselves. The right hon. Gentleman by his argument had completely condemned the framework of the clause, for he had shown that it was not only illogical in substance, but that as to one portion it was absolutely meaningless He had stated that under this clause the Government had no power to prohibit the imports from any signatory 1541 at all, however gross its violation of the terms of the Convention might be. If that was the case, why had not the clause been so framed? As the clause was now drafted, the prohibition extended to all foreign States; there was no discrimination between signatory and non-signatory Powers. He appealed to his hon. and learned friends on the other side to say a word against the last sentence of this provision. The right hon. Gentleman, who was not a lawyer, and whose knowledge of constitutional doctrine was not derived from a direct source, had stated that by this last clause in the section he was reserving power to the Government at some future time to propose to Parliament, instead of this policy of prohibition, a policy of countervailing duties. Who had ever heard of a statutory reservation of power to propose legislation? It was open to the Government to propose any legislation; there was no limit to the power of Parliament to enact a law on any subject, to accomplish any object, and in any form; therefore this provision was absolutely meaningless and unconstitutional. The matter ought to be dealt with on some logical basis. The policy of the Government was either countervailing duties or prohibition, or else it was reservation of power to adopt an alternative policy. Why did they not enact definitely the policy they intended to pursue? He submitted that to frame a clause in this way was to reduce an Act of Parliament to a political speech, and to substitute for the clear language of a statute the vague and meaningless phraseology of a Government Department which had not made up its mind as to the policy it would adopt. With regard to the most-favoured-nation clause, it seemed quite possible that the language of treaties would have to be construed in reference to the fiscal system in existence at the time the treaty was signed, that the most-favoured-nation clause ought to be construed without reference to bounty-fed exports, and that the Government were entitled to discriminate against a nation which fed its exports by means of bounties. That might be held. But what he wished to point out was that the meaning of the most-favoured-nation clause 1542 was immaterial, because if countervailing duties infringed it, prohibition must a fortiori infringe it, and that therefore if the United States were entitled to complain against countervailing duties they would have an infinitely stronger ground of complaint against prohibition. He should vote for the Amendment in order that the clause in its present illogical form might be struck out. If the right hon. Gentleman asked to strike out the clause in order to insert prohibition, he would be disposed to work for the clause, but in its present form it was impossible to say whether it meant countervailing duties or prohibition, or, in fact, whether it meant anything at all.
§ MR. SHACKLETON (Lancashire, Clitheroe)
desired to correct a statement made on the Second Reading to the effect that the policy of this Bill was supported by the working people of the country. On that occasion a circular was quoted giving fifty separate societies which had passed resolutions in favour of the abolition of the bounty system.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said the point to which the hon. Member was referring was hardly relevant to the Amendment before the Committee.
§ MR. SHACKLETON
said he desired to show that the statement that the working people of the country were in favour of this clause was altogether erroneous.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that that did not seem to be relevant to the argument, viz., that it was more desirable to impose countervailing duties than to enforce prohibition. If the hon. Member could add anything on that point the Committee would be glad to hear him, but to correct statements made on the Second Reading would not be relevant.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that that was not so. The Amendment was to omit Sub-section (1), which dealt with a particular point.
§ MR. SHACKLETON
thought he could bring in his point on the question as between countervailing duties and prohibition. If the people were in favour of the Bill as drawn they would be in favour of prohibition, but he contended that they were not in favour of the Bill. The circular which had been quoted, although it was dated 1903, was really sent out in 1888, or fifteen years ago, and it was now put forward as an expression of the opinion of the working people in regard to this particular Bill. It was a most absurd contention, and certainly not a fair way of stating a case as between countervailing duties and prohibition. He was against the Bill entirely, but, the principle having been accepted, he, as one who believed in accepting the lesser of two evils preferred to vote for countervailing duties. Such a policy would not lessen the supply; it would bring in a certain amount of revenue, and the price of sugar would not be increased to so large an extent as by prohibition.
§ MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
said that as there was no disposition on the part of the Government to reply to the many forcible arguments which had been put forward, he would throw a fly in the shape of a few figures. There seemed to be a general impression on the part of supporters of the Government that the countries outside the Convention were small producers of sugar. But what were the facts? At present we had access to the markets of the world, representing 10,250,000 tons of sugar annually. After 1st September we should be confined to countries producing only 5,000,000 tons, and the Committee would realise what that meant. The Government were actually proposing to exclude our merchants, buyers, and consumers—aye, and our ships—from the privilege of trading with the greater part of the sugar producers of the world. That was a most serious step to take, and one which could not fail to be hurtful to our interests. When one considered that we received no benefit from the Convention, and that this country had, in fact, been made the victim of the confidence trick by continental Powers, he thought the least 1544 the Committee had a right to expect was that the Government would at any rate state what their case really was and what they expected to get out of this policy.
§ * MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said the question ought to be considered very carefully, because by this prohibition they were going to allow certain combinations on the Continent to fix the price of sugar and raise it to any degree they liked. If they had countervailing duties instead of prohibition that would not be possible, because when people combined they were able to raise their prices to what extent they liked only when there was no outside competition. By this Convention the Government were going to prohibit outside competition with these people, who were likely, if they had not already done so, to join themselves together in a huge cartel. They could not do that if certain other countries were able to deliver sugar into this country even against countervailing duties. Therefore he thought that it was entirely wrong that they should not be allowed to impose countervailing duties instead of total prohibition. It seemed to him that the Government were taking every precaution they possibly could to raise the price of sugar, but whether the consumers would be grateful to them for it he did not know. He could not understand how any Member could vote for this proposal.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said there were one or two points in connection with this subsection which it was now proposed to delete which had not been sufficiently touched upon, such, for instance, as the meaning of the term, "direct or indirect bounties." Under the head of indirect bounties they might surely include preferential railway rates in other countries, and the remission of rates and taxation. In many countries, particularly in new countries, in order to encourage a particular industry the local authorities allowed certain remissions of rates for a considerable period. Under the terms of this clause, it seemed to him that such remissions of rates, although local in their application, would be regarded as indirect bounties.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said the hon. Member would not be entitled to go into the meaning of the phrase on this Amendment.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR
pointed out that the words were contained in the portion that it was proposed to delete.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said he could not argue again the point he argued two hours previously; the hon. Member must accept the ruling he then gave.
§ MR. THEODORE TAYLOR
said that on the point as between countervailing duties imposed by Parliament, and prohibition imposed by Order in Council, it seemed to him to be a very good reason for preferring countervailing duties that they were under the control of Parliament rather than of Orders in Council. It seemed to him that that was a reason why the House of Commons should support countervailing duties rather than prohibition. It was also a great advantage that while we were thrusting back the benefit into the pockets of foreign finance ministers we should also be putting some duty into the pocket of our own Chancellor of the Exchequer, if we adopted countervailing duties. It was not a question of whether or not they approved of bounties. The question was as to the best way under this Bill of dealing with bounties. He was one of those who strongly objected to countervailing duties, because they were continually varying. The bounty in the country against which we were countervailing might be altered. On the other hand, it was a very great advantage to be able to put some money into the 1546 pocket of our own Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, as had been very powerfully urged, we should be reserving to ourselves a very much larger area of the world's competition, because it was not a light question that the price of sugar should remain not artificially cheap, but that it should possibly be made artificially dear. It was not the intention of the Government that there should be an artificial dearness, but under this Bill that was quite possible. This Permanent Commission consisted of ten or eleven Powers in which they had only one Vote, but one of the competing countries—Austria-Hungary—had two Votes. The Commission represented countries whose customer we were, and if he wanted to restore natural competition in a business, he would not have as a Permanent Commission, a Commission consisting of the people who sold goods to him. The Commission consisted of Powers who had no doubt seen with envy and dissatisfaction that England had created a world-wide trade on the strength of cheap sugar. The point he wished to impress upon the House was, that in their desire to make sugar dearer, to Conform to natural conditions, the Government were making the mistake of producing the opposite state of things, and putting it into the power of our rivals to make sugar artificially dear instead of artificially cheap. It was because he preferred artificial cheapness to artificial dearness that he supported the Amendment.
§ MR. GUEST (Plymouth)
said he was one of those who had the profoundest dislike to the policy of the Sugar Convention, because it seemed to him to raise the cost of living in this country without any adequate advantage. But with others on the Ministerial side, having made their protest, as they did, in voting against the Second Reading, they felt that, as the House had given its sanction to the policy, they ought to support the Government in giving effect to it. He desired to ask the President of the Board of Trade to explain to those who were not so well up in the details, why it was that he preferred the policy of prohibition to the policy of countervailing duties. Take for instance, the 1547 case of America. Why was it better in regard to America to adopt prohibition rather than countervailing duties? The introduction of American sugar, it was said, was simply a matter of price, and if the price of sugar rose, it was indubitable that American sugar would find its way into the English market. There was another instance, and that was the case of Argentina. They did a great deal of business and general trade with the people of Argentina, and he was sure his right hon. friend would appreciate the importance of freights. It might in some circumstances pay the producers of sugar to pay the countervailing duty, and bring the sugar over rather than send an empty ship over without freight. There were many things which they could do if they were willing to pay the compensation or fine which their action involved. He understood that the avowed object of this Sugar Convention was to increase the area of sugar-producing countries from which this country might ultimately draw its sugar supplies. The effect of this prohibition would be to prevent this country getting sugar from half the sugar-producing areas of the world. Again, more than half the sugar was produced under conditions which would lay it open to absolute prohibition, and consequently this proposal seemed, on the face of it, a somewhat contradictory state of things. He appealed to his right hon. friend to explain why he had been unable to accept the advice offered by the hon. and learned Member sitting below him, that he should take power under this Bill to have either prohibition or countervailing duties.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said the argument in favour of prohibition was its extreme simplicity. If, indeed, there were any reasonable probability that a very large portion of the available supplies of sugar was likely to be entirely cut off from this country by prohibition, in such case undoubtedly countervailing duties would be preferable. But he saw no probability of that whatever. When he did see any such probability he should be perfectly ready to consider whether countervailing duties should not be applied, but he thought it would be better That Parliament should be consulted before taking such a step.
§ MR. URE (Linlithgowshire)
said the explanation which had just been given them was quite inconsistent with the views put forward by the Government in November last. He had read carefully the speeches made upon that occasion, and he found a great many arguments offered in favour of countervailing duties, but none in favour of absolute prohibition. If there was an explanation, he supposed the English language was capable of conveying it. Hon. Members had been left to conjecture a good deal as to the reason for this proposal. He would offer one reason which, to his mind, was conclusive. He had been examining Clause 4 of the Convention, and he thought the real answer would be found there. That clause laid down a rule for calculating the countervailing duties, and the Committee would find that it was not too strong language to say that it was absolutely idiotic. The real reason why the Government had adopted prohibition was that they had found that in Clause 4 they had been hoaxed by the high contracting parties. Those high contracting parties were allowed to retain their surtax, and that, in the opinion of all who had really considered the question, knocked the bottom out of the whole scheme. Notice how countervailing duties were to be calculated in order to meet the sur-tax. A sur-tax was the difference between the excess of the Customs. Was the countervailing duty to be equivalent to the bounty? Nothing of the kind. They had to deduct six francs, and half of the remainder in order to calculate the countervailing duty, so that this proposal was futile and absurd. If the sur-tax was twenty francs they had to deduct six and that left fourteen. By halving this they got to seven, and therefore they had a countervailing duty of seven francs to meet a sur-tax of twenty francs. The thing was preposterous and the Government had been hoaxed. If that was not the real reason he should like to have a frank statement upon this point from the right hon. Gentleman, so that they might know exactly where they were.
§ LIEUT.-COLONEL GEORGE KEMP (Lancashire, Heywood)
said he was one of those who had opposed the Second Reading of this Bill, but 1549 as the House had given its opinion in favour of the principles of the measure, he should not offer any further opposition. He was, however, still in the dark with regard to this question of countervailing duties and prohibition. He wished to know whether it would not be possible in this Bill to have the option either of countervailing duties or prohibition. The right hon. Gentleman had said that it might be necessary to have countervailing duties, but if he admitted that possibility why did he not make provision for it in this Bill?
§ MR. RUNCIMAN (Dewsbury)
said that reference had been made to the effect which prohibition was likely to have, not on the producers alone but upon those who undertook the carrying of sugar. Prohibition was not a matter of simplicity, for it might land them into commercial difficulties which he was perfectly sure the President of the Board of Trade had not foreseen. Take the case of a vessel that went out to the River Plate with a cargo of coals. That vessel might have chartering engagements to
§ carry sugar to the United Kingdom A prohibition order might be issued, and when that vessel arrived in the Thames the captain might be informed that prohibition had been issued against Argentine sugar, and he might be requested to go down to the Nore lightship and throw his cargo overboard. Could anything be more preposterous than that? The only other alternative was to ask that captain to cruise round Europe in the hope of finding a market for the sugar, which of course meant absolute ruin. The Parliamentary Secretary was of the opinion that longer voyages for sugar cargoes would be a great advantage to the shipping trade of Great Britain, but by this subsection they diminished the chances of these longer voyages. As a matter of fact, wherever one looked at this question from the point of view of the carrying trade, total prohibition was absolutely impossible.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 154; Noes. 86. (Division List No.211.)1551
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Hamiltom, Rt Hn Lord G (Midd'x|
|Allhusen, Aug. Henry Eden||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim S.||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Cripps, Charles Alfred||Heath, James (Staffords. N.W.|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Crossley, Sir Savile||Hermon-Hodge, Sir Hobert T.|
|Bailey, James (Walworth.)||Davenport, William Bromley-||Hogg, Lindsay|
|Balcarres, Lord||Dickson. Charles Scott||Jameson, Major J. Eustace|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A.J. (Man'r)||Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C.||Johnstone, Heywood|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. G. W. (Leeds||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Keswick, William|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks. N R|
|Bigwood, James||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Faber, E. B. (Hants, W.)||Leveson-Gower, Frederick. N.S.|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith-||Faber, George Denison (York)||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Bousfield, William Robert||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Ed.||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Fergusson, Rt Hn. Sir J. (Man'r||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S|
|Bull, William James||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Butcher, John George||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||Lowe, Francis William|
|Campbell, J.H.M. (Dablin Univ||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Lowther, C. (Cumb. Eskdale)|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Forster, Henry William||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Foster. Philip S. (Warwick, S.W||Lucas, Reg'ld J. (Portsmouth)|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Fyler, John Arthur||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Galloway, William Johnson||Majendie, James A. H.|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Maxwell, W.J.H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Milvain, Thomas|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hon J (Birm||Gore, Hn G. R. C. Ormsby-(Salop||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hn J.A (Worc||Goschen, Hon. Geo. Joachim||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Chapman, Edward||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.|
|Charrington, Spencer||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs||Morgan, D.J.(Walthamstow)|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Cochrane, Hn. Thos. H. A. E.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Hall, Edward Marshall||Mount, William Arthur|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Hambro, Charles Eric||Murray, Rt Hn A. Graham (Bute|
|Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Murray, Col William (Bath)||Round, Rt. Hon. James||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Myers, William Henry||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir Wm. H.|
|Nicholson, William Graham||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens||Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew||Webb, Col. William George|
|Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Percy, Earl||Smith,James Parker(Lanarks.||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Pierpoint, Robert||Smith, Hon. W. E. D. (Strand||Wilson-Todd, Sir W.H. (Yorks.|
|Platt-Higgins, Frederick||Spear, John Ward||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath|
|Pretyman, Ernest George||Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C.B. Stuart|
|Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Stanley, Lord (Lanes.)||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Purvis. Robert||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Wylie, Alexander|
|Randles, John S.||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Remnant, Jas. Farquharson||Talbot, Rt. Hn. J.G. (Oxf'd Univ|
|Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Renwick, George||Thornton, Percy M.||Sir Alexander Acland-|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson||Tollemache, Henry James||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Ed. M.|
|Asher, Alexander||Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.||Rigg, Richard|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Helme, Norval Watson||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Holland, Sir William Henry||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Bell, Richard||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Rose, Charles Day|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Jacoby, James Alfred||Runciman, Walter|
|Brigg, John||Kearley, Hudson E.||Samuel, Herbt. L. (Cleveland)|
|Bryce, Right Hon. James||Kemp, George||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Kirbride, Denis||Shackleton, David James|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Labouchere, Henry||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Caldwell, James||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Levy, Maurice||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lewis, John Herbert||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Chanuing, Francis Allston||Lloyd-George, David||Spencer, Rt.Hn. CR (Northants|
|Cremer, William Randal||Lough, Thomas||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Crooks, William||Landon, W.||Tomkinson, James|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj.||Toulmin, George|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Moss, Samuel||Ure, Alexander|
|Doogan, P. C.||Moulton, John Fletcher||Walton, John Lawson (Leeds, S.|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Murphy, John||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Elibank, Master of||Norman, Henry||White, Luke (York, E. R)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)|
|Evans, Sir F. H. (Maidstone)||O'Brien, P.J. (Tipperary, N.)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Foster. Sir Walter (Derby Co.||Partington, Oswald||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Paulton, James Mellor||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Price, Robert John|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Priestley, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Harwood. George||Rea, Russell||Mr. Herbert Gladstone and|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Rickett, J. Compton||Mr. William M'Arthur.|
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
moved to insert after "bounty" the words "as defined in the Convention, the provisions of which are set forth in the Schedule to this Act." He said the object of the Amendment was to elicit from the Government an explanation of what they meant by direct or indirect bounty. He objected to the system of legislation by reference, which was becoming very injurious in connection with Acts of Parliament. They had already had from the right hon. Gentleman a different explanation of the Convention from that which appeared on the face of the Bill. This Amendment would enable the 1552 Committee to obtain information from the Government as to what they thought were direct and what were indirect bounties, for at present the Bill did not make the meaning clear. He understood that the importation of molasses was on no condition to be prohibited under this Act. That was to say, any amount of bounty-fed molasses might be brought into this country without involving a contravention of the treaty to which the Government had put their hand. That was obviously a total breach of the intention of the Convention, and it might be taken for granted that the Commission would condemn this particular 1553 Act. What were the Government going to do then? Were they going to climb down to the Commission? If they carried out the Act as the House of Commons passed it, they would be breaking the Convention, and if they did not carry out the Convention the Commission would condemn them. Then according to the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Convention would come practically to an end, and there would be another Conference. That was a point of material importance. There was another point which he wished to direct the attention of the Committee to. The condition of the West Indies had been the only reason assigned why we should pay 8s. more for our sugar, but the opponents of this measure thought it was rather a one-sided bargain. Of course he could not discuss that at the present moment, but he was entitled to ask how the Government reconciled the vote of £200,000 to the West Indies with the condition to which they had agreed, that they would neither encourage nor provoke the production of West Indian sugar, either directly or indirectly. That money was as direct a bounty for the production of sugar as could possibly be conceived. What answer would our representative give to the Foreign Permanent Commission in regard to that matter if they said that this allowance must be withdrawn? If the money should be withdrawn on account of the action of the Commission, the West Indies would be no further from ruin than before. What was meant by the expression "excess of yield"? He could understand a case in which it might be said that some of our sugar-producing colonies were giving a bounty in that direction. The real fact of the matter was that all these questions of bounties were of the most complicated nature.
* THE CHAIRMAN
said that the hon. Member insisted on going back on the Second Reading. He must really ask the hon. Member to confine himself to the Amendment.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he apologised if he had wandered in any way; but the point to which he had referred did require explanation.
In page 1, line 15, after the word 'bounty,' to insert the words "as defined in the Convention, the provisions of which are set forth in the schedule to this Act.'"—(Mr. Sydney Buxton.)
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there inserted."
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said that, as the hon. Gentleman remarked, this was a drafting Amendment, but he considered it entirely unnecessary to attach the provisions of the Convention to the Bill as a schedule. The hon. Member had asked a number of questions, but he would point out to the hon. Member that what had to be considered was not whether a bounty was given, let him say, to the West Indies, but whether the permanent Commission found that a bounty was given. If the Commission found that a bounty was given, of course we should have to take that finding into consideration. A question had been asked as to the effect of Article I of the Convention, which included, among the advantages which constituted a bounty the profits derived from excess yield. It was a common form of bounty to exempt the amount of yield of sugar beyond a certain proportion from internal dirty, but as there was no internal duty in the West Indies the question would riot arise in relation to West Indian sugar. The hon. Gentleman asked whether we would be compelled to bring to an end the assistance which we had given to the West Indies during the last few years. That assistance would come to an end by itself; it was only given as a temporary expedient until the Convention came into operation.
§ MR. SYDNEY BUXTON
said he would remind the right hon. Gentleman that a large amount had been spent, or was in the course of being spent, on central factories in the West Indies.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
said he would wait to see whether the permanent Commission would include capital expenditure on these central factories as among the cases to be treated as bounty. When it did arise, the Government would take the matter into consideration. [OPPOSITION cries of Oh, oh.] They need not be at all terrified. Neither glucose nor molasses came within the operation of the Convention.
§ * MR. MOULTON
said that there was a special exemption of glucose from the operation of the Act, and there was also an express exemption of molasses from the first clause which applied to sugar, which showed that sugar without that exemption would have included molasses. He thought that they need not go to foreign countries in order to discover what were bounties on excessive yields. If the right hon. Gentleman would refer to the Finance Act of 1901, he would there find that the lower duty allowed on molasses amounted to a violation or infraction of the Convention. That was no orginal discovery of his, because as the right hon. Gentleman must be aware, it was pointed out at the Conference that the provisions of the Customs Act imposing a duty on sugar did give a bounty on excessive yield. The whole object of the Convention was that this country should be the milch cow for foreign nations. Did the right hon. Gentleman think that the Courts of law would translate the words of the Act by reference to the Convention unless it was specifically set forth in the Act? When called upon to interpret the words of an Act, they had no right to send out and buy a copy of the Convention on which it was founded. If the right hon. Gentleman thought the Courts were going to interpret the words of this law by the terms used in a French Convention the right hon. Gentleman was, he imagined, very much mistaken. Now, did the right hon. Gentleman mean the word "sugar" to have the same meaning as it had in the Convention? If so, then it included chocolates, biscuits, and condensed milk.
§ * MR. MOULTON
suggested that the question was raised as to whether it was necessary that the Convention should 1556 be made part of the Act for the purpose of fixing the meaning of the words used. There were words used through out the Act which in the Convention had a special meaning, and if "sugar" was to be translated as it was in the Convention, then "sugar" ought to be put in a definition clause, or the Convention made part of the Act. The fact was the Act would be interpreted according to the meaning of the English language, and the Courts would not follow the example of the Government, and allow the meanings of English words to be defined by a foreign Convention.
§ MR. LOUGH
said the President of the Board of Trade had spoken of this as a mere drafting Amendment. If that were his view, surely he might facilitate the progress of the Bill by asking the Law Officers of the Crown whether or not it was necessary. He might further ask them if the Bill would not be more perfect if the Convention were incorporated in it. Hon. Members on the Opposition benches were opposed to the principle of the Bill, but it having been adopted by the House, they were not disposed to make any obstinate resistance to it. All they asked was that the Convention on which the Bill turned, from beginning to end, ought to be attached to the Bill.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
failed to understand why his right hon. friend opposed the Amendment. If it made no difference he might very well accept it, but he was a little sceptical of the suggestion that the Government merely opposed it because it was unnecessary. He could not help thinking that there must be some objection to this Amendment which the Government had not disclosed. He wished to call attention to a statement he had heard with some surprise—one to the effect that in the view of the right hon. Gentleman the word "bounty" did not include capital 1557 expenditure on sugar factories. If that were the case he doubted whether it would not he found possible to drive a coach and horses through the whole Convention. If it were true that the West Indian grant was not in the nature of a bounty, it would destroy the Convention altogether.
§ MR. BRYCE
hoped the Government would recognise the great convenience of including the words of the Convention in the schedule of the Bill for the interpretation of a Court of law. At least Article I. should be included, and perhaps Article VII. In the island of Jamaica there were certain conveniences of storage allowed. Would that come under the definition of indirect bounty, and would facilities of conveyance by railway on a Crown colony, when the railway was under State administration, be an indirect bounty? Another point was, suppose we did something in this country or in one of our Crown colonies which was alleged before the Permanent Commission to be in the nature of a bounty. If that body decided that it was an indirect bounty, would we not be bound in good faith to withdraw the legislation in order to keep within the spirit of the Convention? And if we thought the Permanent Commission had come to a wrong decision and taken an unfair advantage of us, would it be a reason why we should withdraw altogether from the Convention. They knew that Austria-Hungary was already in a state of revolt. We certainly ought to know before we pass this Bill what is covered by the words "direct" and "indirect" bounties. He would like to have some further elucidation of the meaning which the Board of Trade and 1558 the Government attached to this. Were they proceeding on the assumption that the Convention was imported into the Act to guide their conduct? If they were the Court of law would say that they know nothing about the Convention. That position ought to be anticipated, and it could be by the acceptance of the Amendment. Let the Government either embody the Convention in the Bill or put in their own definitions. The matter ought not to be left in its present uncertain state.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said the Government had declared that a bounty in the nature of capital expenditure was not a bounty if that expenditure were incurred before a given date.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
That is only my opinion. It will be for the Permanent Commission to decide the point. It is not a question on which we or any other nation can take any action until the Permanent Commission has given its opinion on it.
§ * SIR CHARLES DILKE
said the difference of opinion likely to arise between the President of the Board of Trade and the Permanent Commission was very like the difference of opinion between a Parliamentary candidate and an election Judge as to the date at which expenditure became illegal. Some candidates were under the impression that money which was illegally expended 1559 after a certain date was legal expenditure before that date. It seemed to him that the answer of the Government to the question "When is a bounty not a bounty?" was, When it was not found out by the Commission. It was a most unsatisfactory position. He could not accept the suggestion that this was a mere drafting Amendment. It was an Amendment of substance, for they alleged that there was a difference in terms and tone between the Bill and the Convention which the Bill purported to, but did not in fact, incorporate. He doubted if any hon. Member could remember a Bill so completely based on an international Convention which had not the Convention incorporated in it. He could quote several cases to the contrary.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
said the question was one of great practical gravity, as under this clause the Government might issue a prohibitory order preventing the importation of sugar or products of sugar from certain specified States.
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
said it was true the Commission were to make a report on the subject, but was it to be understood that that report was to be regarded as conclusive as to whether or not bounties had been placed on sugar, and that the Government were to retain no discretion whatever in the interpretation of the word "bounty."
§ MR. LAWSON WALTON
said if that were so, it was no use arguing the meaning of "bounty," because it would mean whatever this foreign Commission, on which this country was in a permanent minority, might decide. Neither the Courts of law, nor even the Government itself, was to have any voice in the matter. The whole of the administrative, executive, and legal machinery of the country was to perform the ministerial office of giving effect to the dictates of a foreign tribunal. If that was the view of the right hon. Gentleman, a very simple answer to the Amendment was to say that under the Bill we were to have no voice in the matter, but were to carry out the behests of the Commission, no matter how inequitable we might think their decisions to be.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
said the real reason for the opposition of the Government to this Amendment had been made clear, not by the speech, but by the interruptions of the right hon. Gentleman. The Amendment was opposed because it claimed for this country some sort of discretion in the interpretation of the Convention. We had that discretion in relation to every treaty into which we entered, but in this case it was proposed that we should surrender our private judgment, and to that, as a Protestant, he objected. Was a subsidy to West Indian shipping a "bonus on exportation?" We were at present paying about £40,000 in such subsidies, and that might easily be interpreted as a bonus on exportation. But the interpretation was not left with us at all. We were actually handing over the management of our colonial affairs to a foreign Commissioner at Brussels. He did not say that such 1561 an arrangement would be much worse, and certainly not more dangerous to the peace of the world, than the present colonial management, but at any rate the Committtee should clearly understand what they were doing. The Colonial Office was being removed from Downing Street to the Continent, from Birmingham to Brussels! That surely went to the root of the whole Empire, and it could not be contended that it was not a point of substance. To say that we were not to reserve any discretion to ourselves, that the matter was to be left entirely to this foreign tribunal, was to make an entirely new departure. These Amendments, although they might not be accepted by the Government, had this advantage: they were making clear, step by step, the nature of the bargain into which we were entering, and with each Amendment it became increasingly evident that we were handing over the control of our commerce to a body whose interest it was to destroy it.
§ MR. RUNCIMAN
said that unless some clear definition of "direct or indirect" bounties was incorporated in the Bill, there would before long be two definitions in the field, viz., the English definition as given in the English law Courts, and the definition as given by the Commission in Brussels. What would be the peculiar position of the trader who desired to import sugar into this country? In dealing with an American State, or possibly with one of our Crown colonies, he would not know whether to make any engagements or not. Under one subsection sugar in transit was specially exempted from the penalties, but sugar in transit was only a very small part of a trader's commitments; he would probably have commitments carrying him six or 1562 twelve months, or even two years ahead. Not feeling sure of his position, he might ask some eminent counsel whether he would be safe in making engagements with Jamaica or the Argentina, and the reply would be, "We do not know; we can tell you what the English interpretation is, but we do not know what the Brussels interpretation will be." It was a question whether the subsidy given to the Jamaica Line, not for the carriage of mails, but for the exportation of Jamaican goods, would not render those goods liable to be penalised. They knew nothing whatever as to the meaning of the words. Here they had a Minister of the Crown asking them to pass words, about which he could give them no definite explanation. He thought they ought to wait until the meaning of those words had been determined. He thought it was very unfair to the House of Commons to ask them to enact words which the responsible Minister could not define, and which the House was not allowed to know the meaning of.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said it was of the very utmost importance that they should have a proper definition of these bounties before they proceeded further with the Bill. Many suggestions had been made, but he would make another, which he thought ought to meet with the acceptance of the Government. He would suggest that they should take their definition from Birmingham. A few weeks ago the Colonial Secretary gave his definition in one of those interesting letters to a working-man, with which he had enlivened the papers so much recently. His definition of a bounty was something produced in the absence of factory inspection, and under lower 1563 labour conditions than those in England. Supposing the Brussels Conference took that view, and said that the absence of factory inspection and the lower labour conditions constituted a bounty in the production of sugar. How would the West Indies stand that? What about the coolie labour which would be in direct competition with the sugar from Germany? The Government was not treating the Committee fairly in merely pushing this matter on to the Permanent Commission. When they were asked to assent to the passage of Bills they were supposed to be convinced that they were in the interests of the people of this country, and he thought they would be neglecting their duty if they allowed a Bill to pass which placed such powers in the hands of a foreign Commission where they had only a single representative.
* THE CHAIRMAN
Order, order. It will not be in order to discuss that question now. There is an Amendment which will come up later on upon which the hon. Member's observations will be in order.
§ MR. WILLIAM MCARTHUR (Cornwall, St. Austell)
suggested that the simplest course would be to adjourn the discussion in order that the Ministers in charge, might get to know what answer to give to the House of Commons.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER (Staffordshire, Lichfield)
said this Permanent Commission might take the view that no Englishman would accept, and which an English Judge might think was not a bounty. Were they going to allow English merchants to be treated in a way which was unfair to this country? Was an English Court of law to be no protection, no matter how unfair foreign jurisdiction might be? What remedy had they got in ease the Permanent Commission made some decree which everybody in this country thought unfair? Were they going to acquiesce in that?
* THE CHAIRMAN
The hon. Gentleman is not confining himself to this Amendment, and he is taking a very wide view of the subject before the Committee.
§ MR. COURTENAY WARNER
contended that the Convention ought to be printed as schedule to this Bill. If it was not printed they came to the difficulty that a Court of law had no power to protect a British subject, even though the Permanent Commission might have done something contrary to this very treaty, which ought to have been in the Bill.
§ MR. LEVY
said it appeared to him that one of the reasons why the President of the Board of Trade objected to the words of the Convention being added to the Bill was that we were at the present moment at variance with the majority of the parties to the Convention, with regard to the action of our colonies. We were claiming to deal with our
§ colonies as we liked, and the other signatories declared that we had no right to do so.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 61; Noes, 118. (Division List No. 212.)1567
|Asher, Alexander||Hayter, Rt Hon Sir Arthur D.||Runciman, Walter|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Helme, Norval Watson||Samuel, Herbt, L. (Cleveland)|
|Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Holland, Sir William Henry||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Shackleton, David James|
|Bryce, Right Hon. James||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Kearley, Hudson E.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Caldwell, James||Kemp, Lieut.-Colonel George||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kilbride, Denis||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Tomkinson, James|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Lewis, John Herbert||Toulmin, George|
|Cremer, William Randal||M'Arthor, William (Cornwall||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Dalziel, James Henry||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Ure, Alexander|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj.||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Elibank, Master of||Moss, Samuel||Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)|
|Emmott, Alfred||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Partington, Oswald||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Priestley, Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—|
|Gurdon Sir W. Brampton||Rickett, J. Compton||Mr. Lough and Mr. Levy.|
|Harwood. George||Rigg, Richard|
|Hayne, Rt. Hon. Chas. Seale-||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Davenport, William Bromley||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S|
|Allhusen, Aug. Henry Eden||Dickson, Charles Scott||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph||Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine|
|Arnold-Forster, Hugh O.||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Long, Rt. Hn. W. (Bristol, S.|
|Atkinson, Right Hon. John||Darning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin||Lonsdale, john Brownlee|
|Balcarres, Lord||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lowe, Francis William|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Man'r||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Lowther, C. (Cumb. Eskdale)|
|Balfour, Rt Hn Gerald W (Leeds)||Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch||Fergusson, Rt Hn Sir J. (Manc'r.||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Forster, Henry William||Maxwell, W.J.H. (Dumfriessh.|
|Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S.W||Milvain, Thomas|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Fyler, John Arthur||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Galloway, William Johnson||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Campbell, J.H.M. (Dublin Univ||Godsor, Sir Augustus Frederick||Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Morgan, David J (Walthamstow|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.)||Gore, Hon GRC Ormsby-(Salop||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh||Goschen, Hon. Geo. Joachim||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Chamberlain. Rt Hon J (Birm||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs||Mount, William Arthur|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. JA (Worc.||Guest. Hon. Ivor Churchill||Murray, Rt Hn A Graham (Bute|
|Chapman, Edward||Hambro, Charles Eric||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Charrington, Spencer||Hamilton, Rt Hn Ld.G.(Midx||Nicholson, William Graham|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Hare, Thomas Leigh||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse||Heath, Arthur H. (Hanley)||Percy, Earl|
|Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready||Heath, James (Staffords, N.W||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Keswick, William||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North.)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim S.||Lawson, John Grant (Yorks N.R||Purvis, Robert|
|Crossley, Sir Savile||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Randles, John S.|
|Reid, James (Greenock)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Webb, Col. William George|
|Renwick, George||Sturt, Hon. Humphry Napier||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Ritchie, Rt. Hn. C. Thomson||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)||Talbot, Rt Hn. J.G. (Oxf'd Univ||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Robertson, H. (Hackney)||Thornton, Percy M.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford||Tollemache, Henry James||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Weight||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Smith, James Parker (Lanark)||Valentia, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Walker, Col. William Hall||Sir Alexander Acland|
|Spear, John Ward||Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.||Hood and Mr. Anstruther.|
|Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
Bill read the third time and passed.
§ Committee report Progress, to sit again this day.