HC Deb 10 June 1903 vol 123 cc533-88


Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [9th June], "That the Bill be now read a second time"—

Which Amendment was— To leave out the word 'That,' to the end of the Question, in order to add the words 'this House considers that the financial policy of His Majesty's Government, in the remission of indirect taxation imposed only last year for purposes of a permanent character involves a needless and injurious disturbance of trade and a serious loss to the Revenue, without substantial relief to the consumer; and that, if any remission of indirect taxation is considered necessary by His Majesty's Government, such remission ought to be made by a reduction of the Duties proposed to be levied on tea or other articles of general consumption." (Mr. Chaplin.)

Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."—

Debate resumed.


When the sitting was interrupted I was endeavouring to show that while from the point of view of the large farmers possibly the retention of this tax might be looked upon with some favour, from the point of view of the small holders and the agricultural labourers it is looked upon with alarm. And I was giving my reasons why I could not give my support to the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Sleaford. The argument that the high price of food creates a high wage is not an argument based on our experience of the past, but on pure fancy, and an argument which it is not desirable to adopt. In the interest of the small farmers, small shopkeepers and labourers, and all those who are not owners of large landed property, I was protesting against the retention of this tax. In connection with the taxation of food, the Colonial Secretary has admitted one thing, stated another, and promised two others. He has admitted that the working classes pay three-fourths of the taxation of food' because it has been shown that of the indirect taxation of this country the working classes pay three-fourths, and he has made a promise that wages would increase, and a kind of semi-promise that if the workers are not starved by the time they are sixty-five they shall have 5s. a week. With regard to these statements, the figures I have quoted show the statements cannot be founded on the facts of the past, because although it may be true that there may be some increase of wages in some directions, it is not true generally. It may be that some of the branches of the iron workers may get an increase of wages, and the makers of ammunition may get an increase of wages, and that a great deal of the rubbish made in Birmingham may sell at a higher price, and that the workers may benefit, but what about the miners, the operatives in the building trades, the small investors and the like? Is the Chancellor of the Exchequer going to pay bigger interest on Consols? Are the investors in the savings bank to get more for their money? What about the postmen, the civil servants, the policemen, the arsenal men, and the soldiers and the sailors? Is their pay going to be correspondingly increased? Practically everybody but the Colonial Secretary is convinced that his optimistic view will not be held long after the food stuffs of the country are taxed in the way that is suggested. If there is an increase in the wages at all, it must come not by the free will of the masters, but after a long series of strikes and disputes, in the course of which the workmen will be reduced to the point of starvation, as is the case at Penrhyn, before they secure their rights. Is the Colonial Secretary going to help them in their battles, and, after all these strikes, will he speak from their platforms and do what he can to get their wages raised? Then there is promised also a sort of ready reckoner for the working people of the country from which they will be able to make out what they ought to have. I have never found that they ever had any difficulty about that; they know already; their difficulty is to get it. When can we see a copy of this table? Is it to be placed in the library, or must we go to the Unionist agent to give us the particulars of the scheme, and is the table promised going to be of any interest to the working man when he cannot get what it says he ought to have? The working men of this country will not have it.

The headquarters of the Party opposite are in a state of chaos and confusion at the present moment, because they are told that this scheme of increased taxation on the food of the people will not be tolerated in the constituencies. The Colonial Secretary is wrecking his Party in the same way, as we have reason to know, as he wrecked our Party in the eighties. The old lesson has been starved into the people of this country, and they will not have protection. It is all very well to say this tax is to be withdrawn because it is subject to misrepresentation, but that is not the case. It is being withdrawn because it is thoroughly understood; because the people know what it means, and because many of them who have passed through the old black starvation days of protection have no wish to go back to them. The Colonial Secretary speaks with two voices, and the people agree with what he said in 1885. We know that the Colonial Secretary has taken for his motto "What I have said I have said." The voice in 1885 said taxation of food would reduce wages, but the other voice says it will increase them. It may be a fair election cry. The taxation of food will raise the wages of the people, but right hon. Gentlemen opposite know in their hearts that the people will not have the Birmingham scheme though it may be called by a German name. The Colonial Secretary admits that the poor pay three-fourths of the indirect taxation. That being so, where was he when the Budget of last year was being conceived? Why did he sit still then and hear it said that this tax would not fall on the poor, and why, when the argument was used that it would broaden the basis of taxation, did he not say that three-fourths of the indirect taxation was paid by the poor? It was admitted last night that one-third of the population of this country was below the border line of what was necessary to keep them alive, and it was suggested by some speakers that that fact in itself was sufficient to warrant the country in reversing its present fiscal policy which has been so successful. I do not view it in that light. I agree with the right hon. Member for the Cambridge University when he said that to reverse the fiscal policy was not the way to remedy that state of things, that the effect of altering our fiscal arrangements would be to bring some of those who are just above, below that line; to press those now beneath it still lower down, and to bring distress to every class. Why is one-third of the population below the line? That is the question we want to answer, and we want to conceive a plan by which taxation shall be made less hard on the one-third below the border line in its unfair and restrictive incidence.

We on this side of the House are fully justified in the action we took last year, and we welcome the Budget so far as it goes. The future, the Government tell us, is to be met by a point of interrogation. There is to be an inquiry. How long have the Party opposite been fond of inquiries with a view to legislation? Was there an inquiry on the part of the Government before the South African war? I venture to think if there had been there would have been no war, Was there an inquiry with regard to the Education Act? We are told there was one in convocation, but did the Government hold an inquiry, and did they take the views of the Nonconformists of the country? The reason they are converted to the idea of an inquiry now is because it is a convenient way of shelving this question for a time. I hope the Colonial Secretary will give us the light and leading which has been sought on both sides of the House, and that he will tell us, as was suggested by the right hon. Member for East Fife, whether he has converted the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or whether the Chancellor of the Exchequer has converted him. I think that would be very helpful to us in coming to a decision on this matter. I think the Prime Minister ought to come down off the fence. We have been twitted with the fact that there was a united Party opposite, and that we sat on the fence. The Party opposite are in that position now. We know where we are now—we are on the right side of the fence, and we ask that the Prime Minister, who is the leader of the Government after all, and is responsible for the Cabinet so far as he can be, should tell us to-night what Minister he favours; which view he takes; what is to be the policy of the Government; and whether he is in favour of taxing the food of the people, or in favour of keeping up the old traditions of free trade, which has done so much to make us the people we are? One of the most heroic characters in our history was old Sir Richard Grenville, who refused to flee from overwhelming foes and forsake his sick and wounded. When the enemy surrounded him, he was prepared to sink his ship rather than fall into their hands. If the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister tells us it is his intention to sink his ship rather than give up the principles of free trade, he also will go down in history as a hero, and the poor, the destitute, and the starving will bless him for what he did to help them in their hard struggle for life. Mr. Speaker, I have simply risen to say that although I am the representative of an agricultural constituency, I cannot go into the lobby with the mover of this Amendment.

*MR. DUKE (Plymouth)

The hon. Member who has just sat down has recommended the Prime Minister to model himself on Sir Richard Grenville. The view a man like Sir Richard Grenville would take might often help us, if we knew it, and in so far as this corn duty before the House is bound up with the much greater question which we all desire to discuss at an early opportunity, it is a question which appeals to those large considerations which governed the Empire-builders of past times. So far as the question on which we have to come to an immediate decision is concerned, those considerations do not arise. I assume that in the division which will take place there will be an overwhelming majority in favour of the repeal of the duty. On the other side, the Amendment will be voted against with great heartiness, because it is supposed to contain the germ of dangerous legislation. If I thought this vote would be taken as the decision of the House upon the greater question which has been suggested, I could not give my vote in favour of the Government. It seems to me there is a great gulf between the decision which the House is to give to-night as to whether the corn duty shall be discontinued as a registration duty, and the question whether the corn duty shall be retained in order that in some future session of some future Parliament it may be made the foundation of a new course of legislation. At the present moment it appears to me that the conclusion impressed upon the minds of most of us is that this duty has no protective tendency at all, and the real controversy is whether it should or should not be continued as a foundation for future protective legislation. I do not think we are entitled to take advantage of the exigencies of a great war and the patriotism of the masses of the people which permitted this tax; on the first necessary of life, to start on a new financial policy for which there is no mandate from the electors; and taking that view, I am not at all ready to vote for the Amendment of the right hon. Member for Sleaford. On the other hand, I cannot ignore the facts on which the right hon. Member founded his Motion. It seems to be assumed on the other side of the House that the condition of things which exists in 1903 is the condition of things which existed in 1852. I take the view that none of the facts material to the case at the present time were in existence in 1852. The United States as a source of food supply for this country did not exist to any substantial extent at the time of the decision of 1852. The German Empire, as an entity in politics or as an industrial force, did not then exist. The British Empire, as we understand it to-day, did not exist at that time. It is true we had scattered over the world a number of colonies which were regarded with great alarm and apprehension among politicians whose successors sit on that side of the House. [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no."] Well, let hon. Gentlemen opposite consider the speeches made immediately before 1852, and they will see at once whether the politicians of those days regarded the unity of the colonies with the mother country as a thing worth striking for or making sacrifices for. [Sir H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN: What of Mr. Disraeli?] The right hon. Gentleman refers to Mr. Disraeli, and if Mr. Disraeli had pronounced an opinion upon facts such as we have before us to-day, it would be very relevant to this discussion; but what I am venturing to point out to the right hon. Gentleman, and to those sitting behind him, is that none of these salient facts with which we are confronted to-day existed at the time of the decision of 1852. For my own part, I cannot go to my constituents and my fellow-countrymen who are confronted with gigantic difficulties which threaten the existence of their industries and attempt to fill their mouths and to silence them with something which somebody said in 1852, when the facts were so entirely different. I think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford is entitled in the present state of the facts to ask this House and the country whether, upon the facts as they now stand, the judgment of 1852 would be the right judgment. If I had to decide now, without further in formation and without inquiry, whether there should be free trade in corn and all other commodities at this moment I do not hesitate to say that I should cast my vote in the affirmative that there should be free trade. I cannot, however, disregard these matters, and I do not think the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sleaford can be expected to disregard them.

Let me remind the House of two or three facts which emphasise the observations I have just made. In 1871 the population of this country was about 32,000,000, and it has now increased by about one-third of that number. At that time the import of wheat into this country was 31,000,000 cwts., but it is now 81,000,000 cwts. The import of meal and flour into this country in 1871 was 5,000,000 cwts., but it is now 20,000,000 cwts. So that it will be seen that the import of agricultural produce into this country has been increased in respect of corn by about three times the amount, and in the case of wheat, meal, and flour by about four times the amount, whilst the population has increased by something like one-third. During that period a new trade in fresh meat, bacon, and hams has grown up. The importation of bacon has increased from 500,000 cwts. to 5,000,000 cwts. During the same period the import of beef has increased from 1,200,000 cwts. to 3,500,000 cwts. The import of fresh mutton did not exist then to any large extent, and now it has grown to a total of 3,500,000 cwts. In face of facts like these it is expected that the agricultural community of this country, who have a right to look forward at any rate to supply something towards the daily necessaries of life for the mass of their fellow countrymen, should be content with the present state of things, which practically excludes them from their own market and which, in the course of about thirty years, has had the result of producing a trebled increase in the importation of wheat, a quadrupled increase in the importation of flour, and has brought into existence this immense importation of meat of all kinds. The agricultural classes of this country naturally say that if there is some doctrine—certainly not of divine origin, but absolutely of human origin—rejected in every other country in the world but accepted in this country, and operating with such results to them, they should be allowed to examine that doctrine. While the population of this country is increasing at a great rate, and while wealth is increasing, they wish to know whether it is in fact essential for the well being of the country that the agricultural interest should be sacrificed. There cannot be any doubt that it has been sacrificed. No one can doubt the accuracy of the figures which have been given us by the Board of Trade in regard to the importation of food.

There is another set of statistics which ought to be considered, namely, the population of this country which is directly engaged in agriculture. In 1871, when our population was so much smaller, when these imports hardly existed, that population was one-third greater than it is at the present time. So that while the population of this country as a whole has increased, and while the prosperity of the country has increased, and the consumption of all kinds of agricultural produce has also increased, the population which used to get a livelihood out of agriculture has decreased by one-third, and the condition of the agricultural population is considerably worse at the present time than it was thirty years ago. Are we to be told that because our forefathers half a century ago decided that free trade was their only possible policy, we are to otter an absolute non-possumus to the agriculturists who, after all, are our fellow-countrymen, who represent one of the greatest, and certainly the oldest of the industries in this country, and who ask to have their case considered. Are we to offer them nothing except the catch words of free trade which sprang up in a controversy half a century ago, under conditions absolutely different from the conditions existing at the present time. If I were driven to vote now upon the question whether we should have free trade, I should be bound in the present state of my knowledge to say "Yes," because we have had, perhaps, sixty years of prosperity. But it is impossible to ignore the decaying villages and the farms which have gone out of cultivation; it is impossible to ignore the state of the iron and coal trade, and the fact that we are exporting the coal which is the foundation of all our industries. It is impossible to look at these facts and say that we live in a state of things which makes the judgment of fifty years ago a relevant judgment at the present time, and although I am in accord with what has been said against retaining this tax as a badge of protection, I decline to be a silent Member of what was described from this bench last night as an overwhelming majority which was to be got together in favour of a perpetual system of what is now called free trade. It is not free trade, it is free imports, which is a totally different thing, and a thing which the founders of the free trade doctrine never dreamed of, and which, if they had dreamed of they would never have sanctioned.

I ask hon. Members to bear in mind that those great men who devised the great plan of that time predicted that within a short time of that period free trade would be the commercial policy of the world. But it has not become the policy of the world; it is the commercial policy of one kingdom in the universe, and we have to face the difficulties here of the com- petition of competitors who do not hesitate to use every kind of artificial means to build up the prosperity of their own countries. Under these circumstances, and seeing in the condition of agriculture a state of things which is likely to be repeated in the condition of the iron trade and the woollen trade as far as future prospects are concerned, and also in the condition of the cotton trade, and knowing that these staples of our commercial life represent more than two-thirds of the exports of this country, upon which the masses of our people depend for their daily bread, it is no satisfaction to me to be told that there is great wealth in this country and that it has come to the country entirely by free trade. To whom has the great wealth come? It has not come to the masses who are so crowded in our great towns. The task which lies before this House is to provide some means even of housing those masses so that there may be a reasonable expectation that they will grow up as good Englishmen and Englishwomen as their predecessors. It is no argument to say that there are great classes in this country who have accumulated wealth. We are told that we pay for part of our imports out of the interest on our investments abroad and out of the earnings of our shipping. I may point out that the agricultural labourer in the rural districts of this country and the labourers in the great towns have no share in that wealth. It may be satisfactory to them to hear that their neighbours are exceedingly prosperous, and that it does not matter to the great body of hon. Gentlemen sitting opposite, and to some Members sitting on this side of the House, whether the industry of this country is maintained at its present level or not. But the state of things to-day cannot be satisfactory to the labouring classes in the great towns or to the working farmer or the agricultural labourer. For my own part, Mr. Speaker, I am very glad that this division is taken at a time when we know something as to the future from the pledges of the Prime Minister who, after all, is the leader of this House, and who speaks the views of the Government upon matters upon which they are agreed. It is a satisfaction to me that I have to vote upon this question in the face of a promise of the right hon. Gentlemen that no step which shall be taken now, shall be held to exclude the Members of the present Government from taking any means that may be found possible to remedy the present condition of things.

As matters stand English land is going out of cultivation, English agriculture is a shrinking industry, although the consumption of agricultural products is daily and steadily increasing in this country; and the industries of this country other than agriculture are threatened with competition abroad, which is likely to be, in the case of some of them, as overwhelming a competition as it has been already in others. It is a further satisfaction to remember that the Secretary of State for the Colonies has pledged himself to apply his abilities to see if he can find some means of remedying the decaying condition of agriculture, and the threatened condition of our other industries. This seems to me to be a task worthy of statesmanship. It may not seem so to those who rejoice in the wealth accumulated in this country. To them it may not be a matter of great concern whether this country as the home of a population of 40,000,000 or 50,000,000 people shall continue or not. To me it seems to be one of the very first questions in the politics of the present day. I know hon. Gentlemen opposite take different views, and I hope they will tell their constituents their views upon this question. [OPPOSITION cries of "We will."] I find no difficulty in telling my constituents that I think their first duty is to do everything that is necessary to maintain the prosperity of this kingdom and the greatness and unity of the Empire. I believe that the guarded and cautious policy forecasted by the Colonial Secretary is a policy which at any rate shows some concern for those interests which are so much threatened at the present time. Therefore I shall give my vote in support of the Budget of the Government and the Second Reading of the Finance Bill, and reserve the liberty, from which hon. Gentlemen opposite have been careful to cut themselves away, not to reject because they are contrary to doctrines of Adam Smith or of Mr. Cobden, devised under different circumstances, proposals which in my judgment will promote the prosperity of the kingdom and the unity of the Empire.

*MR. M'KENNA (Monmouthshire, N.)

The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down first gave us an argument against the repeal of the corn tax, and then he told us that he intended to vote for the repeal. I suppose we must leave the matter there. There is only one observation of his to which I should like to refer. He stated the policy of this country was one of free imports. Yes, it is; and there is no greater triumph of our free trade policy than that our imports this year should have exceeded £500,000,000 in value. The hon. and learned Gentleman imagines that these £500,000,000 are not paid for by British labour. I can assure him that there is no other way by which this £500,000,000 value of imports can be paid for except by British labour. In part it is British labour of which no mention is made in the Board of Trade Returns, but it is British labour nevertheless. I will give the hon. Member one illustration, which I will draw from the speech of the hon. Member for Hampshire. The hon. Member for Hampshire told us in his condemnation of a general free trade policy that the United States had exported to this country this year no less than £108,000,000 worth of goods; but the hon. Member did not tell us that those goods were almost entirely carried in British ships. He might also have told us what the freights on those goods amounted to, say, something like one-sixth of their value. Therefore the United States did not get £108,000,000, but perhaps £90,000,000, and about £18,000,000 of the sum total which appears under imports from the United States really represents British labour. The same thing is true of our exports. Our exports represent the value of the goods as they leave our coast, but you have to add to that the value of the British labour in the shipping. The hon. Member has spoken of the United States and their gigantic trade. Not only do we carry the exports from the United States to Great Britain, but we carry a considerable part of the general United States trade, and they have to pay a tribute to British labour both on their exports and imports. Let it not be forgotten that the profits we make upon our shipping and mercantile trade are the largest profits in business and the profits most easily made. Under free trade it is perfectly true that we have to a great extent changed the character of our industry. We were at one time an agricultural nation, but we are an agricultural nation no longer. We were at one time a great manufacturing nation, and we are still. But even that is giving place to trading and shipping. We are the merchants and the carriers of the world. The great highway of the world is ours, and scarcely a ship load of goods is carried on the ocean highway but what a Briton exacts his toll; and it is by this means that we pay for this gigantic figure of £500,000,000 of imports. That is why, when we come to examine our import and export figures, we shall have to put down another £200,000,000 for what is called invisible exports. We can show a total foreign trade, including our shipping and mercantile services, exceeding £1,000,000,000 a year.

We have been promised an inquiry, and the Government are going to get out of their difficulties by giving us an inquiry into the whole subject of free trade and protection, as if we had never discussed or considered that subject before. Would any man who ventures to come into public life in this House dare to go down to his constituents and tell them that he had not formed an opinion upon the fiscal policy of this country. The only inquiry that is relevant now is an inquiry into the state of mind of the Prime Minister. Has he made up his mind as to his policy? How can we submit this subject to a Commission? Is the Colonial Secretary going to inquire? He is not inquiring, he is fighting, and we are to have our hands tied for two years while the inquiry goes on. The Colonial Secretary is to carry fire and sword into every constituency. He has not waited for inquiry. He comes down to the House with "my policy." He promised us an inquiry, but to do what? Not an inquiry into "my policy," but into the plan by which "my policy" is to be carried out. The intricate details as to the articles on which the colonies may legitimately have a preferential tariff are to be the subjects of the Colonial Secretary's inquiry. But the Colonial Secretary, say what we will of him, is a man who knows his own mind, and needs no inquiry into the subject. What authority could any Commission have against the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary? Is any worthy gentleman who sits on this Commission, and who will examine all the figures which are as much open to the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary as they would be to the Royal Commission itself, and who forms a judgment on these figures, to come forward with the authority of the Prime Minister and the Colonial Secretary? What is to happen to us? The Commission gives its decision. Suppose it gives a decision against the Colonial Secretary, will that muzzle him? The question before the House now is—on what principle are we repealing this tax? Is it on the principle of free trade, or is the principle on which we are to act to be, as The Times newspaper expressed it, reculer pour mieux sauter? That is the question before us now. We are entitled to challenge the Prime Minister to declare to the country his opinion on the controversy between protection and free trade. Suppose the Commission delivers its judgment against the Colonial Secretary, he has prejudged the question. He has appealed to the colonies. He has told us in this House—I wish to quote his own words—that— Nothing could be worse than to leave the colonies in doubt. Mr. Seddon has taken advantage of the statement and he is pressing us for a conclusion on the subject. Are we to wait for two years while the Prime Minister who has not burned his boats, sits in his conning tower and views the fighting of his lieutenant. Is he then going to make up his mind after two years which side is going to win? The issue has to be fought out now. We did not raise the question. It was the Colonial Secretary who threw his sword into the scales, and the battle has now got to be fought. I have read and re-read the speech of the Prime Minister, and I can say frankly that I have studied it from the point of view of getting quotations by which I could pin the Prime Minister or the Government to some policy, but read and re-read that speech as you will you will not get any definite expression of opinion in it. I admit that the Prime Minister at this moment is absolutely at liberty, so far as regards anything he has said, to declare himself a pronounced protectionist or a pronounced free trader. Not so with the Colonial Secretary. He has expressed his opinion, and he is going to the country on a protectionist policy. Is the Prime Minister going to stand by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and tree trade? Can anything be more tattered and moth-eaten than the protectionist banner raised by the Colonial Secretary and inscribed with a promise of increased wages for the working classes? The Colonial Secretary has outlined his plan in detail. He is going to raise money by import duties and fight foreigners with preferential tariffs for the purpose of increasing the wages of the working classes and giving them old-age pensions. That is a declared policy which we can understand, and on that we join issue. But I would appeal to the Prime Minister to state whether he is going to stand by the Colonial Secretary or not. If he is not, we are entitled to demand in the interest of the Constitutional Government of this country that the Colonial Secretary should no longer remain a member of a Government which abjures his principles and declines his policy.

*MR. MALCOLM (Suffolk, Stowmarket)

This debate has been labelled with many adjectives. It has been called sham, interesting, embarrassing, inconvenient; but whichever be the appropriate adjective, I think every one will admit that this has been the biggest free trade demonstration since the Corn Laws were repealed. After a great deal of deliberation, and uneasiness, I have come to the conclusion that it is my duty to vote for the Government on this occasion; and I should like to recommend this attitude of Party loyalty to certain hon. friends on this side of the House, who, with unnecessary violence, when some weeks ago some of us disagreed with the Government, advised us to cross to the other side of the House. I desire now to vote for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and I hope he will perhaps be able to do something for me. For six months after the last Budget it was my good or ill fortune to go about the country a good deal, trying to persuade the people that the corn tax was going to be felt by nobody, and to be paid entirely by the foreigner. What am I now to do? I would be enormously assisted if the Chancellor of the Exchequer would provide me with a speech which I could use, without stultifying myself too much, in explaining to the people that I was wrong during all those months. I would put it among the curiosities which adorn the tea-room, and in place of my ordinary refreshment I would endeavour to read, swallow, and inwardly digest my own words. At the same time I would also ask my right hon. friend to provide the Party with some new pamphlet for the new Party organiser, to take the place of the leaflet which was circulated in thousands last year, proving how excellent a thing the corn tax was; unless the new Party organiser has been selected on account of his own proficiency in providing escapes on his own account. In spite of my personal discomfiture, however, I will vote for the Government, because this has been chosen as the battle ground on which the protectionists are going to give battle to the free traders. Last year, I am free to confess, I did vote for this measure as introduced by my right hon. friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, thinking that it was a perfectly proper fiscal measure to increase our national revenue for war expenditure. I, for one, was not averse to the proposition that people who voted for the war and thought the war necessary and righteous should feel the pinch of taxation in order to pay for it. But now that on his responsibility the Chancellor of the Exchequer tells us that he can meet his liabilities without this additional taxation, I am perfectly convinced that the just and right thing to do is for the right hon. Gentleman to remove this tax from the food of the people. I am extremely glad to find that he has done it. No doubt a rumour has got abroad that if this tax were to be kept on it would be used firstly as a lever to increase itself; in the second place as a lever to impose similar taxation upon other articles of primary necessity; and in the third place that it might pave the way for a fiscal change whose beginning is only just foreshadowed, but whose end nobody can foretell. I am not the slave of any shibboleth at all. If protectionists tell me that the people would be better off—better clothed, fed, and educated—by reverting to the system of protection, and could prove that, I would cease to be a free trader, but I am not going to become a protectionist on their saying so. They must show me figures and facts which at least I can understand, and I will be prepared to consider their position. At present I am convinced that such taxation as the corn tax is not necessary, that it presses hardly on some people, and that it is inadvisable for all; and, because the whole question is inextricably mixed up with some nebulous scheme of protection or preferential tariffs which I do not yet understand, I ask earnestly for guidance from the leaders of my Party.

*MR. STEVENSON (Suffolk, Eye)

The hon. Member who has just spoken desires guidance and light in this matter from the leaders of his Party. It appears to me that those who are at present in doubt as to the policy of the Government are like men groping about in a marsh on a dark night. On the one hand there is a certain light from the will-o'-the-wisp of the Colonial Office, and on the other hand there is the steadier, though rather dim light, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury. I am very glad that the hon. Member has taken a sound line with regard to the general policy on which the trade of the country should be governed. I understand that he supported the tax last year because on the one hand it was described as a war tax, and on the other because it would be a broadening of the general basis of taxation of the country. Either one or other of these principles was sound, and for my part I am utterly at a loss to know how these two positions can be reconciled one with another. My object in rising is to refer to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth. He left his seat where he usually sits below the gangway in order to fire what appeared to be a protectionist broadside at the devoted head of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who sat immediately below him. In the course of his speech he said that the population of the country had increased during the past fifty years by at least one-third.


I said that it had increased one-third since 1870.


Well, since 1870. That makes out a stronger case for free trade. If there are 10,000,000 mouths more to feed now it appears to me that supplies 10,000,000 more arguments in favour of the free trade case. But the hon. and learned Gentleman referred to the case of the agricultural interest, and as one who has sat for eighteen years for an agricultural constituency, I think I am entitled to speak on agricultural matters as well as the hon. Member for Plymouth. There are various shades of the agricultural interest. As far as agricultural labourers are concerned, there are men still living who remember the days of protection, and the miserable food and wages of those times. The recollection of those days weighs upon them like a hideous nightmare. In the past fifteen or twenty years there has been among farmers a change of opinion, due, not to any theory, but to the gradually changing conditions of agriculture. Live stock now plays a very much more important part in the life of a farm than was formerly the case, and in order to feed live stock, it is necessary to have feeding stuffs at a reasonable and cheap rate. At the present time it is only the best kind of barley and the best kind of wheat that is sent to market. The rest is consumed on the farm and supplemented in a very large, and in many districts to an increasing, extent by means of food stuffs obtained from abroad, and it is a matter of the greatest importance that these supplies should be obtained at a cheap rate. If the policy which would be involved in the retention of the corn tax were enlarged and extended by such proposals as have been recently put forth in the country, the effect would be to encourage in the colonies, to our detriment, the growth of meat for the purpose of importation into this country. I believe there is nothing in the world would do more injury to the farming interest of this country than a policy of that kind. Those who think that by a policy of that kind they would greatly assist the farming interest are greatly deceiving themselves and others. It would have a directly opposite effect, and the agriculture of the country would suffer to an extent and in a manner in which it has not suffered even in the most gloomy days of the past. Therefore, the hon. and learned Member for Plymouth and others who got up to speak on the agricultural interest are surely ignoring the changed conditions that have come over the country, and also the change of feeling that has come over the classes engaged in agriculture, and also the consumers, who are themselves, to a great extent, concerned in agricultural pursuits.

We all desire that the depression in the agricultural districts should come to an end. We all desire that means should be provided for restoring the soil to the population which they have so largely lost. But that is not to be done by artifices of this kind. It is to other directions that we must look for remedies, and we must leave suggestions of this kind to be relegated to those who still believe in the principles shared by the Colonial Secretary and by the hon. Member for the Central Division of Sheffield. At this time our only desire is to ascertain what is the mind of the Prime Minister in regard to this great question. Although the debate has been limited to the question of the remission of the corn duty we all of us have a wider topic in our minds, and we are all desirous to know what is the mind of the Prime Minister with regard to that infinitely greater and wider subject—a subject that goes to the very root and vitality of this Empire and affects the solvency of the great industries on which the prosperity of this country depends. At present there is divided opinion on the part of the Government. We have free trade expressions from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we have opinions of an opposite kind coming from the Colonial Secretary. It is impossible that this House or the country should be satisfied with that state of things, and we are anxious that the Prime Minister should steer his Party and the House out of this Slough of Despond into which those flickering lights are leading them.


It is not my intention to follow hon. Members into those questions of free trade and protection, even within the limits which you, Mr. Speaker, have prescribed. The few observations which I will venture to address to the House will be of a somewhat personal character. I have had the honour of sitting in the House for nearly a quarter of a century, and I cannot call to mind any occasion on which I have felt the obligation, or at all events obeyed the obligation, of voting against my Party and Party leaders, until the present. I feel that obligation on this occasion, and it is one which causes me considerable pain. I am unwilling to give a silent vote. I have looked for guidance to the quarter where I have been accustomed to look for it, and where in the past I have been accustomed to obtain it, and I have looked on this occasion in vain. I find divided counsels, ambiguous utterances, contradictory principles, and, therefore, I am obliged to take my own line. I have looked to the Prime Minister for guidance on a question of this great importance, but I find little light in his benevolent sophistries. I have looked to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and find still less guidance in his less intelligible casuistries, and, therefore. I am obliged to rely upon my own judgment. [Laughter from the OPPOSITION Benches.] My own judgment may appear to be a light thing to hon. Members opposite, but it has not been arrived at without some searching of heart, some reflection, and some consultation with historical precedent, and I do find a great difficulty in detecting in the history of the past century any parallel to the present occasion. I have heard it said that under Lord Liverpool's Ministry there was a great question, that of Catholic Emancipation, which was treated as an open question in the Cabinet; and Mr. Canning and Lord Castlereagh used to rise from that bench where they sat side by side, and speaking diametrically opposite opinions. But it is obvious that there was then a peculiar condition, which it is unnecessary to specify, and which has no existence now. Why have we the present contradictory counsels from that bench? Not only between separate leaders, but contradictions upon the very utterances of the same leader within a few weeks. I am very glad to see the Chancellor of the Exchequer come into the House. I was not present last night to hear his speech, but I read it with amazement this morning, because I remember that on 8th April, little better than two months ago, he received in his private room behind Mr. Speaker's Chair, a Deputation from the Parliamentary Committee of Co-operative Societies, which number 1,600 through out the Kingdom; and he addressed them in what appeared to me to be a most reasonable and intelligent manner. But it was a manner wholly irreconcilable with what he said last night. He said— Did they really think that the demand (for the repeal of the corn tax) which they had put forward was reasonable, having regard to all the circumstances of the case? They were asking the Government to arrange for carrying on the affairs of the country without any contributions from the working classes at all. In regard to the corn tax it had remained on at the very hey-day of free trade, and if it was protective in a sense, it had enabled the great free traders of the past to disregard the smallness of the protection as something not worth counting, and that was the position now. It was not really protective in the ordinary sense. He did not suppose that a single acre of wheat more had been grown in this country because of the shilling duty on corn.


I am sorry to interrupt my right hon. friend, but the deputation which came to me did not ask only for the corn tax to be removed, but for a free breakfast table, and it was in my answer to the demand for a free breakfast table that I made the observation that I could not assent to any proposition which was going to relieve the working classes from their proper share of taxation, while they had their share of political power. And with regard to the corn tax I am perfectly prepared to make the same declaration now—that the shilling registration duty is not a protective duty.


I have not at hand the report to the speech which my right hon. friend made last night; but the impression made on my mind, and I am sure on the mind of any intelligent person in the country, was that the Chancellor's speech last night is wholly irreconcilable with that of April 8th. At all events they represent a different attitude of mind.


Not the least.


At all events my right hon. friend must admit that his speech of April 8th compared with that of June 9th is liable to misrepresentation. With regard to this tax. It is spoken of as a protective tax, and we who demur to its removal are regarded as protectionists. Well, it is idle in me to disclaim the term protectionist. I am not a protectionist, but that is not here or there. What I want hon. Members and the public to consider is the absurdity of applying the term protection to a shilling duty on corn. If one wants to find what protection really was let us go back to the year 1828, when Mr. Huskinson was President of the Board of Trade. That right hon. Gentleman then handed in his resignation because he could not attain what he considered a proper remission of the duties on corn; but he withdrew his resignation on what condition? Upon receiving the assurance that the duty on wheat should not exceed twenty shillings a quarter unless the price of wheat fell below sixty shillings a quarter. That was protection, and to compare protection of that nature with a shilling duty on corn, appears to me to lead to a confusion of the issue and to an abuse of terms. It is impossible for me to go back on the vote I gave last year in support of the shilling registration duty on corn as proposed by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, and to support its remission on the present occasion.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

No one who has listened more especially to the last two or three speeches can have failed to express some commiseration with the perplexities of hon. Members opposite. They have during the last few months expended such large quantities of sympathy on this side of the House, that we are only too delighted to return them the compliment when the opportunity occurs. The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down has complained, I think rightly, that the Government has not treated, him or those who supported the corn tax last year, very fairly. I do not think they have treated the colonies fairly either. They led the colonies to believe undoubtedly, at least that is the inference which they drew, that this tax was imposed with the view to make some remission or trade preference in their favour. It was rather extraordinary that shortly before the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget Speech, an answer was given in the Canadian Parliament to a Motion made from the Opposition of the House in favour of preferential tariffs. The Canadian Minister of Finance said there were negotiations pending in London. A corn tax was to be imposed. Mr. Chamberlain was in South Africa, and he deplored that, but Mr. Chamberlain was coming back soon. And then the Canadian Minister went on to say that the Budget speech of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer had not yet been delivered, but that when that speech was delivered he expected something to be said by the British Government in connection with preferential tariffs. That shows that the colonies had been led to believe that by the imposition of this corn tax something was to be done in the way of preferential tariffs. What is the position at the present moment? The Colonial Secretary, who has been pressing this matter to the front, and arguing in favour of a tax on food with the view of giving a preference to the colonies, and has made certain pronouncements on the subject in the course of our discussions, has not been here to-night. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Yes."] Yes, I know; the right hon. Gentleman is silent; he has been put under hatches by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who is now sitting on his head. But at any rate the Colonial Secretary, who more or less induced the colonies to believe that this corn tax was to be used as a means of preferential trade between the colonics and this country, has practically run away from that position. He has retired to his tent. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] Where has he retired to, then? I know there are other means of retiring. He is sighing because there are no more Parties to split.

But a much more serious position has been created by the Prime Minister. My right hon. friend sitting below me said that the Prime Minister was not going to burn his boats. That may be so, but he has anchored out in mid stream. The Prime Minister may not be either on one side or the other of the Rubicon, but he has a hawser probably on both sides. There is one alongside him now, but the other is not here. Well, now I think the House is entitled to know from the Prime Minister what his position is. There was a situation like this in Canada within the last twelve months. We there had a Minister who promulgated a policy on his own account; and what happened? His colleagues did not believe in him, and the Prime Minister, who is a real Prime Minister, dismissed him. What is going to happen to the Colonial Secretary? He has pledged the Party to protection. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] At any rate, if he has not pledged the Party he has pledged the Leader of the Party. We hear that he has offered to resign. [An HON. MEMBER, "No."] An hon. Member says "No," but what does the Prime Minister say about it? I really think the House of Commons is entitled to guidance from the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister did undoubtedly lead the House of Commons to believe a fortnight ago that he supported the policy of the Colonial Secretary. He made a speech on the question. He said he was not in favour of taxing raw materials, but of taxing food. The Colonial Secretary said he was in favour of a tax on corn in order to give a preference to the colonies. But since then the Chancellor of the Exchequer has repudiated the Prime Minister. Something has been said about mutiny. What I want to know is, who are the mutineers? It cannot be the Prime Minister, because he is the captain; and it cannot be the Colonial Secretary, because he is the captain's chief mate or guide. But here is the Chancellor of the Exchequer who repudiates his captain and throws him overboard. He is the rank leader of the mutiny. I think we are entitled to know what is to be done with these mutineers, and on what principle the ship is to be run. We want to know what is to be done with the Colonial Secretary. We told hon. Gentlemen opposite years ago what the Colonial Secretary would do. He is an excellent advocate in a bad cause, but a very bad family solicitor. He has squandered the political fortunes of hon. Gentlemen opposite, and now he is going to invest the balance in these colonial preferences. What is the Prime Minister going to do? That is what the House is entitled to know. I have a great respect for the Prime Minister; we all have; in fact I have more respect for the Prime Minister than he has for himself. I did not think it possible that he could stand in this humiliating position. He is the First Lord of the Treasury, with every other person on the Treasury Bench presumably under him, but he has been thrown over by all his subordinates; by even the latest recruit to the Treasury Bench. The principal has been repudiated by the office boy. That is the present position. Unmistakably, the Prime Minister did commit his Party to the policy of the protection of food as far as he could; and that a fortnight ago. We have heard a great deal about taking the opinion of the constituencies. Why do you not take the opinion of the constituencies? The hon. and learned Member for Plymouth rather taunted us with it. He said "Consult your constituencies." We are perfectly willing.


I was only speaking of my own constituents, and I said I thought I knew their mind.


The hon. and learned Member will have a much better opportunity of knowing their mind if he can only persuade the Prime Minister to give them the chance of expressing their opinion on this subject. The issue is a perfectly clear one for us—no preferential tariffs in either religion or commerce. That is the policy we want the opinion of the country upon. Here is free trade, which this country has prospered by adhering to. The moment there is any difficulty at all, it is to be thrown away. That is not worthy of this country; and I say that the sooner we have the Prime Minister making a clear declaration as to what the policy of the Government is and giving the country an opportunity of pronouncing upon it the better.


I almost feel inclined to preface the not very lengthy remarks which I mean to address to the House by asking you, Sir, whether I shall be in order in speaking to the Amendment? The hon. Member who has just sat down, the hon. Member who preceded him, and the hon. Members before him in almost endless succession have absolutely ignored the issue before the House. Successive speakers have ignored the subject on which we are about to vote, and have devoted themselves to subjects with which we are not at all concerned. The actual topic before the House is the Budget for the year 1903. But as far as I can gather, from the tenor of the speeches which I have heard from both sides of the House, no interest whatever is felt in the Budget of 1903. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen are occupied in conjuring up real or imaginary Budgets for the years 1905, 1906, and 1907. I am sure that those Budgets will be very interesting topics; but they are not the topic before the House; and, though I shall feel myself obliged to reply to certain personal attacks made upon myself, it seems to me that I should be grossly transgressing the rules of debate laid down by Mr. Speaker if I were wholly to ignore and be absolutely silent upon the Amendment so ably introduced twenty-four hours ago by my right hon. friend. If no one else remembers it I will remember it. May I say that this debate, interesting in many respects as it has been, besides being irrelevant, has given food for much interesting reflection on various side issues, and has given rise to various curious Parliamentary episodes? My hon. and gallant friend the Member for the Fareham Division of Hampshire made a very interesting speech this afternoon, in which he stated to an astonished House that he agreed so much with His Majesty's Government that he proposed to vote against them—a novel Parliamentary proceeding, though one which may perhaps have its justification. Then there is my hon. friend the Member for Wigtonshire, who speaks with quite exceptional authority upon the Parliamentary and political history of this country, and who attacked me for not having given him guidance in this debate. Well, except by thought transference I could not give him guidance, for I had not spoken; and it is rather hard that he should complain of my silence on the subject when he must know that it is the practice in this House for the Leaders on the two sides to speak late in the course of the debate. Then there was another hon. friend of mine, the Member for the Stowmarket Division, who bitterly complained of the Government, because, he said, he had been going about the country all through the autumn explaining to his constituents, and to the constituents of a great many other people, so far as I understood, that this corn tax—which I hope the House is about to repeal—did not fall upon the consumer at all. Well, that may or may not be the case as a matter of economic fact; but my hon. friend went on to say that he had voted for it last year because, in his opinion, if the general population of this country desired to support the Government in a war it was only proper that they should pay for it. I really cannot reconcile the two statements of my hon. friend. If he voted for the tax at this time last year because it fell upon everybody I cannot understand how he reconciles with that view the fact that he went about the country, according to his own account, describing it to his constituents, and to the constituents of other people, as a tax which did not fall upon the consumer at all but on the producer in America and elsewhere.

Then there is one other topic on which I will say only a word, partly because of the intrinsic interest of the subject, and partly because of the importance of the right hon. Gentleman who brought it before the House. I allude to a portion of the speech of the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick. That right hon. Gentleman, I think almost exceeding the latitude which the speakers in this debate have given themselves on this Amendment, appeared to think that the most important effect of either the shilling duty on corn or of any small duty on corn of a like nature related to its effect on the physique of the population of this country. [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Well, I gather that the right hon. Baronet is not here, and I do not want, therefore, to deal further with the subject. But I will content myself with saying that, although I think the subject of the physique of our race is probably the most important topic which can exercise the mind and the intelligence of any person dealing with social phenomena, I cannot believe that it has any relation to this topic at all; because it was the fathers and the grandfathers of the schoolchildren who my right hon. friend the Member for Cambridge University thinks are to be injured by this kind of tax, who were brought up when wheat was at 60s. and 70s. a quarter, and when the tax upon it was £1 a quarter, and their degenerate descendants, whose physique we are asked to consider, have come into being at a time when free trade in corn has been in existence for more than a generation, during which there has been no duty on corn, and its average price has been incomparably lower than it was in the old days. I only mention these facts in order to put out of the way what I think is a quite irrelevant issue Whatever be the cause of the phenomenon, if that phenomenon be true, of which personally I have some doubt, that the physique of the race has diminished, it must be—according to the familiar form of argument of post hoc being equivalent to propter hoc—it must be due to free trade and free corn—a paradox which I recommend to the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Berwick, if he does me the honour to read a speech to which he has not been able to listen. Now I come for a brief space to the universally ignored topic of the merits of my right hon. friend's Amendment. I think of all Members in this House I might be absolved from any detailed reference to it, because my right hon. friend, while introducing a deputation to me a month ago, made very much the same speech as he made to the House yesterday; and if I replied to it now it would necessarily be very much in the same speech as I made then. He had the opportunity of replying to that speech when he brought forward his Amendment; but I do not see that he has done so, and I really do not think that I need detain the House at any great length on the merits of the question. But let me briefly say that I think the charge that we have broken any pledge, expressed or implied, as to the permanence of this tax is wholly absurd. It is perfectly true that we refused last year, that my right hon. friend the late Chancellor of the Exchequer refused on behalf of the Government, to make this a tax for a year. It would have been folly to do so. But the fact that the tax was not made an annual tax does not throw any obligation upon the Government, and could not do so, to continue it for more than a year; and when I tell the House, as they probably remember, that the peace came after the tax had been proposed and before it was passed, and that it was considered whether that was not a reason for dropping the tax, they will see that, in the opinion of the Government, last year at all events, there was no obligation of the kind which some hon. Gentlemen have suggested.

Then, we have been told by my hon. friend the Member for one of the Sussex Divisions, by my hon. friend the Member for Stowmarket, and other Members on this side of the House, that they have gone about the country using arguments in favour of the tax, and that now that the tax has been abandoned those arguments have fallen to the ground. Well, I do not know where my hon. friend the Member for Stowmarket got his arguments. I was so cut to the heart by my hon. friend's reproaches that I sent out for the speech I made in favour of this tax, and I went through the painful process of reading my own production; and I can assure my hon. friend that it he confined himself to the arguments I, at all events, used, he need be in no difficulty. There is not a single argument that I used from which I withdraw a hairs breadth. The tax was a perfectly legitimate and proper tax. It was not put on for protective purposes, and I do not believe that, so far as corn is concerned, it has had any material protective effect. I do not believe that it has been a heavy burden on the people, and it seemed to me then, as it seems to me now, that this is not a duty of which either the free trader as such, or the social reformer as such, had the smallest reason seriously to complain. Yes, but is that a reason for keeping on the tax permanently? The right hon. Member for East Fife, who made a brilliant speech earlier in the afternoon, said that nobody could understand why the tax was put on—that ninety-nine out of 100 Members in the House could not understand why the tax was put on, or why, having been put on, it was taken off. Really the reason is so prosaic that I hardly like to give it. The reason we put the tax on was that we wanted money, and the reason we took it off was that we ceased to want money. It is not a very elaborate proposition, surely. I do not know why any further explanation should really be required.

Before concluding this branch of my speech I must make two further observations. We brought in the tax as a non-protective duty. We did not bring it in to benefit the farmer or the miller, we brought it in to get money. Then how is it we are charged with inconsistency be cause some of the farmers, according to the right hon. Gentleman, and some of the millers say the tax really did benefit them, and object to its being taken off? There is no inconsistency there. My right hon. friend says the tax proved to be a protective tax in regard to the miller. If so, it was a mistake. It may have been a beneficial mistake. I will not argue that point. It was a mistake; it was not the object of those who put on the tax; and, therefore, if consistency is to come in at all, the fact that the tax is proved to have an effect which the framers of it never contemplated is a reason, not for keeping it on but for taking it off. I recommend that to my right hon. friend when he charges us with inconsistency. But there is another point which I think of far greater importance connected with the Amendment of my right hon. friend. I have some doubts whether we did make the mistake with which we are charged. In other words I have sometimes doubted whether the tax is protective to the miller to the degree which is asserted. But, without going into that, let me say that I frankly for myself admit that there was one phase of the tax of which I did not fully appreciate the consequences. I was perfectly aware, of course, as we are all aware, that this was a tax, not merely on grain for human consumption, but of a great many forms of imports which are used as feeding stuff's. I was reproached with imperfect acquaintance with the results of the tax. I submit to the reproach with meekness and humility. I confess I was not aware of how great a tax this was upon raw material used by the farmer in his industry. That did come upon me a few weeks ago as a surprise. It turns out. I will not say that the farmer is paying, but that there is a tax upon the raw material of the farmer, amounting to something between one-fourth and one-fifth of the whole produce of this tax; so that the farmer, and I believe the farmer alone, is subjected to a tax on his raw material from which his foreign competitor is free. The foreign importer, whether it [...]e of meat or of stock, is not subject to this tax. The farmer who breeds stock in this country and uses feeding stuffs, the dairy farmer in this country, is subject to a tax from which his rivals are free. What is the reply of my right hon. friend to that fact? He does not deny it, but replies that the farmers are the best judges whether this hurts them or not. He says they would like the shilling duty to be continued, and, therefore, you are doing them a great injury by abolishing it.

MR. CHAPLIN (Lincolnshire, Sleaford)

I did not say that. I said the farmers spoke from experience and that the right hon. Gentleman was speaking from theory.


Something between one-fourth and one-fifth of a tax of £2,500,000 is charged on the raw material of the farmer. That is not what is called theory. It is more than theory. I greatly distrust opinions like those which my right hon. friend has expressed on an occasion of this sort, because I doubt whether they express the matured convictions of the farmers after long experience of the facts. I remember twenty-three years ago, in 1880, when Mr. Gladstone introduced his first Budget in that Parliament, in which he announced the repeal of the malt tax, my right hon. friend getting up on behalf of the agricultural community and with an eloquence which has not diminished, thanking Mr. Gladstone for the great boon he had given to the farmers. There is not a farmer in this country who does not know that the worst thing ever done for agriculture, since the repeal of the Corn Laws, was the repeal of the malt tax. I have some distrust of these hasty generalisations, founded, as I know they are, not on actual experience of facts, but on hopes which gentlemen of protectionist proclivities entertain as to consequences which might ensue. I do not think really that I need detain the House any more upon the subject of the Amendment. We have heard all the arguments on the one side and the other. Upon that subject, at all events, I have inside this House and outside this House given my reasons, absolutely consistent with everything I said last year on the subject, why the Government have not been ill-advised in choosing this form of making the necessary remission of indirect taxation.

Now I come to some of the other topics less obviously connected, if I may put it mildly, with the Amendment before the House than the matters which I have been venturing to lay before hon. Gentlemen. It is quite obvious, as I think I have already indicated, that the House do not care one farthing about the Amendment on which they are going to divide. They are even indifferent to the Budget to which that Amendment is moved. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] Well, I have heard very little about the Budget. It may be that hon. Gentlemen have been suppressing their feelings. If so, they have suppressed them with remarkable success. What they are interested in apparently is certain constitutional questions — Ministerial responsibility and the like—and certain other questions connected with possible fiscal consequences which they think are going to loom very largely in the future. On Ministerial responsibility, let me say that I think a very great deal of misapprehension prevails. What do we require of a Cabinet, whether drawn from hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite or from Members on this side of the House? What we require is common action and common responsibility. Nobody asks for uniformity of speech. Nobody who knows how human nature is constituted, nobody who knows how Cabinets are constituted will expect among members of a Cabinet absolute uniformity of opinion. I have been fortunate in my political career in having to act with colleagues who, I believe, have been remarkable for unanimity of opinion upon great questions with which they have had to deal. I do not know that right hon. Gentlemen opposite have had the same happy experience. I make no complaint from a constitutional point of view, or, indeed, from any point of view, of differences that have existed among right hon. Gentlemen opposite and which are known to have existed, for example, in Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet of 1880, in Mr. Gladstone's Cabinet of 1892, and in Lord Rosebery's Cabinet of 1894. It would not be proper for me to deal with this topic in detail. It is enough to say the fact is known that there were the greatest differences of opinion, and this will not be denied; but it was no affair of mine, it was no affair of the then Opposition, there was Ministerial unanimity of action, there was Ministerial uniformity of action, there was Ministerial responsibility. I heard cheers when I used the words Ministerial uniformity of action, and I think those cheers must have been evoked by the impression that I said uniformity of speech, but this there was not. Mr. Gladstone was continually taunted by us who were in Opposition, with the fact that his colleagues made speeches upon various controversial topics which were not in conformity with the declared policy of the Cabinet to which they belonged; and Mr. Gladstone invariably held, and I think rightly held, that this was not his affair, this was not his business. His business was the common action of the Cabinet, the common responsibility of the Cabinet. In any Cabinet of any Government if a member does not think he is justified in giving in his resignation he is responsible for the common action of the Government of which he forms a part. That is true, sound, constitutional doctrine; and you will do no good, you will not improve the constitutional traditions or practice of this country, if you endeavour to do what Mr. Gladstone never endeavoured to do—to draw tighter the bands of Party discipline than on the lines I have ventured to sketch; and certainly I, who have never felt myself bound in the way some Members think a Minister should be bound, am not going to exercise over my colleagues an authority I would never submit to myself. That is my view at all events, and I do not think it will be contradicted by right hon. Gentlemen opposite who have served in many Cabinets or are well acquainted with the constitutional history of the country.

I leave this broad question to deal with the narrower issue raised, directly or indirectly, in or out of order, by almost every speaker. But I do not mean to treat this subject—it would be grossly improper for me to do so—so to speak, on its merits; I am going to confine myself to replying to the personal charges made against myself, and personal appeals, charges made chiefly from the other side and appeals made from both sides of the House. What do those charges amount to, what is their characteristic? I have been told in every tone, from menace to entreaty, that the position of the Government is absolutely impossible, that it is humiliating, that it is humiliating to myself individually, that it is humiliating to the House. I have been told it is unfair to the Party to which I have the honour to belong, that it is unfair to the general body of Members, that it is unfair to the country, that it is unfair to the civilised world, unfair to the universe at large. Well, on what are these charges founded? So far as I can make out the gravamen of the indictment is this, that I have not on behalf of my colleagues, on behalf of the Party I represent, for the moment at all events, in the House and in the country, that I have not made a declaration—not upon the Budget before the country, not on the Budget which is to come before the country next year or the year after—but upon certain great financial, fiscal, colonial, and international problems which have been raised by recent speeches. I profoundly and emphatically dissent against this view of my duty and obligations. I not only feel no humiliation with regard to it, I not only feel no shame at not making any pronouncement such as that which has been so clamorously required of me, but I think it would be a great dereliction of my duty if I attempted on an occasion like this, or on any occasion, to make any pronouncement of the kind which has been demanded of me.

I will now go on to refer to some other matters, and I hope I will not be accused of egotism, and that no charge will be made against me if I have to use the first person singular in any observations I may make. Now, if a fair judgment is to be passed on the course which an individual has to take—and I am trying, as I am bound to, to follow hon. Members who have spoken on both sides of the House—I hold that hon. Members must make some effort to put themselves at the point of view which I hold with regard to the financial and the fiscal condition of the country. I admit at once that I do not belong to that happy band, the self-confident band, who think that the fiscal system established fifty years ago under profoundly different conditions from those which now prevail must necessarily remain unmodified to all time. I do not believe in infallibility, and I do not think that even Sir Robert Peel or Mr. Cobden would claim it. They had not, and could not have, any knowledge of the special problems with which we have to deal; and it seems to me altogether absurd to say that these great fiscal sentiments are to be regarded as sacred utterances given us by some infallible authority never to be questioned and never to be altered. I do not take that view. Of course I do not say that the work of Sir Robert Peel as an administrator, or of Mr. Cobden as a public speaker, and of Mr. Gladstone in his early days, will, in its main outline, not be permanent. I do not believe that we shall ever go back—indeed, I am quite certain that we shall never go back—to the absurd and complicated tariffs which Sir Robert Peel in 1842 set to work gradually to reform. I do not believe that we shall ever go back to a time when the agricultural interests are going to be ranged against the urban interests, and in which it is going to be a fight between those two as to which of their pockets shall be best filled. I regard that part of the controversy as beyond all recall; and for my part I am not sure that I do not regard as the most dangerous enemies of fiscal reform, if and in so far as fiscal reform is required, those who are merely the traditional standard-bearers in a controversy which has long, in my opinion, been outworn and out past. And I go further and say that, whereas the old tax on food was deliberately put on to subserve what was then called "the country interest," no tax on food will ever be put on in this country, in my judgment, except with the full assent of the workers both in town and country. Does not that differentiate the present position absolutely from the old fight between the owners and occupiers of land on the one side, and the rising manufacturing interests on the other? That is, in my opinion, gone. If in any present or future discussions any man tries to drag them back to that old level, he shows himself totally and absolutely ignorant both of the history and the evolution of economic thought, and of the history and evolution of the industries of his country.

With that preface let me say that I do not belong to the happy band who think that this ancient and traditional system is the most valuable—possibly the only—system under which we can live; I do not belong to the band which say it is beyond criticism; I do not belong to the set of people who say it is profanation to touch it. [OPPOSITION cries of "Who says that?"] Well, I thought everybody on that side of the House did. I may be very stupid, or I may have expressed myself badly, but I was certainly under the impression that I gave a not uncharitable description of every gentleman who has addressed us from those benches in the course of this debate. As regards the question of dealing by what is called "retaliation," which is not, perhaps, a fortunate word, with commercial treaties—in other words, having a weapon in our hands—may I say that my doubts as to our present position are of no new birth, and of no recent date? I turned up to-day with another object, the discomfiture of my right hon. friend the Member for Sleaford on the malt tax, the debate on Mr. Gladstone's Budget of 1880; and I found in it a speech of mine which exactly describes the opinion have always held on this subject, but which I had forgotten I had ever expressed to the House. Mr. Gladstone was at the moment trying to give something to the French with regard to their wines, in order to get something from the French with regard to their tariffs; and I ventured to point out—I had only been in the House nine years, so I did it, I hope, with becoming modesty—that the possible process of bribing foreign nations by concessions on our tariffs to make them give concessions on their tariffs—a process begun by Mr. Cobden in his great treaty—was coming rapidly to an end, and that I did not see how, in the future, we were to negotiate these tariffs on favourable terms to this country unless we had the power of carrying out something in the nature of retaliation. But since 1881, when I thus spoke, a great deal has happened. We have seen, to begin with, a tariff wall steadily raised against us in every one of the great countries with whom we desire to deal. We have seen, in the second place, an enormous growth of the trust system working behind those tariffs, as to whose operations I am quite convinced that there is no man who knows anything about them who does not feel some disquiet as to the effect they may produce on the great staple industries of our country. And there has been a third phenomenon brought prominently before us by the Prime Ministers of our self-governing colonies — namely, that they do desire, if it can be done, that a closer union should be made with the mother country by fiscal means. I ask the House whether it is my business to ignore all those phenomena?—to say "I put them on one side; I will not allow them to be mooted in the country I will not allow any colleague of mine to touch them; I will not concede even for a moment that they raise questions worthy of examination." As I do not think so I will not say so. I think these are circumstances eminently worthy of investigation by this country, but eminently difficult.

If I have carried the House with me so far, may I now put to them a further question eminently deserving of their serious consideration? It must be necessary from time to time, in a great and complicated community like ours, that great changes—not necessarily fiscal changes—have to be contemplated, and, it may be, tried. What is a Prime Minister, what is a Ministry, to do when he thinks, or they think, the time has come in which examination into the new difficulties raised by new circumstances ought to be undertaken? There are two courses, and, so far as I know, only two courses, open to a Prime Minister or to his colleagues in such circumstances. The one is to mature in silence and in private his or their opinions, to let no hint escape that any doubt has assailed his mind or their minds, and to act in public as if the old system was absolutely impeccable in all its parts. That system has been tried within the memory of living men. It was tried by Sir Robert Peel in 1845. It was tried by Mr. Gladstone in 1886. I do not think it was successful; because what it involves, and what it involved in both these cases, was that the Prime Minister in silence, apart possibly from his colleagues, apart certainly from his Party, and equally certainly from the public, gradually matured a great change of opinion, which he then in the twinkling of an eye, and at a moment's notice, thrust upon his followers. In each case the result was disruption. The Tory Party was destroyed in 1845 for twenty or thirty years, and deprived of all its ablest men. I do not go into 1886. I do not wish to dwell upon it. I do not wish to make a point against anybody on this occasion. I would rather confine myself to Sir Robert Peel's case. Sir Robert Peel came into office as a Minister pledged to retain the corn tax. It is perfectly true he had indicated a leaning towards free trade, but it never was an open question in his Party—just as I believe Mr. Gladstone had for years the germ of the Home Rule policy in his mind, but his Party absolutely knew nothing of it. There are inconveniences in the course which I have adopted on the present occasion. I do not deny it. I have been attacked by friends of mine as well as by opponents for not professing to have concluded convictions upon a thing which I have not got concluded convictions upon. Ought I under these circumstances simply to have brooded over the excessively complicated questions involved, and then, supposing I had come to the conclusion that a great change was required in our system, suddenly to have got up one morning and either written a letter to a paper or made a speech, saying that was henceforth necessarily the policy of any Party of which I happened to be the leader? I think I should have played a very poor part by my friends had I done that. I do not, of course, deny that any change, supposing that any change was necessary—any important change—must produce some division among old friends, some difference of opinion among those who have hitherto acted together. It is inevitable. But at all events let us see that the subject is thoroughly examined, that all the facts and all the arguments are thoroughly understood, so far as they can be, and, if there be a difference of opinion among us, that it shall not go beyond the question on which we differ, shall not strike at the root of Party unity or Party loyalty, shall not be allowed to carry its baneful influence throughout the whole organisation to which we belong.

I wish further to point out—and this will be the last observation that I will address to the House to-night—in all seriousness I wish to point out that this is an incomparably more difficult and an incomparably more complex question than either Sir Robert Peel had to deal with in 1845 or Mr. Gladstone had to deal with in 1886. In 1845, confining myself to that question, it was a question simply between rival interests between the four seas, within the confines of the British islands. It was a question, as I have said, between the agricultural interest and the urban interest. It involved no complex economic doctrine.

MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)



No complex doctrine. Well, the right hon. Gentlemam shakes his head. All I can say is Mr. Cobden never went beyond the most simple and straightforward arguments on a most limited point. [MR. MORLEY dissented.] I will not dispute the matter with the right hon. Gentleman; but at all events, he will admit that the complications or the difficulties arising out of international arrangements never perplexed Sir Robert Peel or Mr. Cobden for a moment.


He was called the international man because he foresawal these international perplexities and future arrangements.


He may have been called the international man. I do not know what the phrase means. I do not in the least know what the phrase means. But if Cobden really foresaw that, thirty-five years or thirty-six years after his death, the doctrines he preached would be less regarded throughout the civilised world than they were when he was alive, and that we, the free trade country which he did so much to make a free trade country, would have, as part of its functions, to make these elaborate negotiations with the protected countries without anything to negotiate with, he was a better prophet than I have given him credit for being. I think that he did not foresee that. That is new; and I think it is difficult. Then again, nobody foresaw these colonial complications. They are entirely novel. What is described, not very happily, as retaliation—but that seems to be the accepted term—is, of course, quite outside any colonial question, or, at all events, is only indirectly involved; but the colonial question raises considerations of extraordinary difficulty and importance, because it involves, not merely public opinion in this country, but public opinion in all our self-governing colonies. Well, then, I am justified in saying that the considerations we have taken into account are incomparably more difficult than those which Sir Robert Peel and the fiscal reformers of his day had to deal with. They may have had political difficulties to overcome, as great as or greater than those with which we have to deal; but the economic problem with which they had to deal was infinitely simpler than that which we now have to consider. Now, Sir, I have, I think the House will admit, explained with perfect candour my views and my position. I should consider that I was but ill-performing my duty, I will not say to my Party, but to the House and to the country, if I were to profess a settled conviction where no settled conviction exists. [OPPOSITION ironical cheers.] There may be hon. Gentlemen, and I gather from that cheer that there are, who think it part of the duty of a Prime Minister to have a settled conviction on every point which may be raised relating either to the present or to the future. I hope they will never have a Prime Minister of that view, though I think there is every probability of their having a Prime Minister who has not a settled conviction even with regard to the present. I admit, of course, that the occasions on which these great problems arise are fortunately rare in the history of the country; but when they do arise, then I earnestly trust that every man who stands at this box in my place will take the course which I am confident I am right in taking at the present time, and say it would be folly and rashness to interfere with a great system which has been in operation all these years without a most careful examination of every side of the problem and, with all due regard to the history and traditions of the past; not to ignore new problems which the ever-changing phases of industrial life present for the decision and the action of statesmen. This is my justification. This is my answer to the appeals and to the attacks which have been made continuously to and upon me during the past two days, and I am convinced that the House and the country, if they will read it in a candid spirit, will admit that—I will not call it the apology — the defence is adequate to the occasion.


This debate has been, from the first moment of its commencement, almost unprecedented in the experience of any one of us in this House, for many reasons, and especially for this: that it has been conducted under the influence of our rules and practice which, as explained by the Speaker, prevented those who took part in it from entering on the great question which occupies the public mind at the present moment, and speaker after speaker was necessarily, therefore, confined to the mere technical matters dealt with within the four corners of the Budget Bill, and could not—and indeed, was checked if he attempted it—reach those larger questions which, as I say, were of the most interest to us all. But force of circumstances has broken down the barrier. I have noticed as the speeches went on that they became more and more free from those restrictions; and now we have the singular fact that the right hon. Gentleman has made a speech devoted almost entirely to questions outside the Budget Bill, while many Members who took part in the debate as it went on yesterday and to-day, and who possess great knowledge and great power of dealing with the larger questions, have not been able to put their opinions before the House. This constitutes a clear case for the right hon. Gentleman finding some way which will enable the House of Commons to discuss at length and with freedom the vitally important questions raised. It is quite impossible that I or anyone else, or any half dozen or score of Members, should be able to night to discuss adequately these great issues. I could say something on some of the points which stand out from the rest, but we shall require to consider with great care and elaboration the various matters put forward. I put aside the question of the corn tax, the case for and against which, seeing that it has stood for the last year and is now to be remitted, I agree has been adequately put before the House. The right hon. Gentleman had a good deal to say of the constitutional question, and of the relations of Members of the Cabinet with each other and with the Prime Minister, and of the relations between the Cabinet as a whole and between individual Ministers and the community. The right hon. Gentleman said that you ought to have uniformity of action in a Government, but not necessarily unanimity of opinion, and he quoted cases of Cabinets where there were great divisions of opinion. The cases he quoted, I observed, were cases of Cabinets of which he could have had no personal knowledge whatever; and even supposing what he said were true as to the division of opinion, that was mere conjecture, unless, perhaps, it was founded on communications made by those who sit near him. But I accept the doctrine of the right hon. Gentleman—that uniformity of action is what is required, and that absolute unanimity of opinion cannot be expected. But let me put this to the right hon. Gentleman, who has had some experience in diversity of opinion among colleagues — I take questions which, if they are not living now, were living within the last few years. I take the case of the Catholic University; the right hon. Gentleman has differed from his colleagues, I believe, upon that subject. I take the case of bimetallism; bimetallism appears to have dried up and evaporated altogether; but not very long ago it was a very lively question, and the right hon. Gentleman was the protagonist in the matter, entertaining the strongest opinions. No one complained, no one reproached the right hon. Gentleman with it.

But this year we have another state of affairs altogether with regard to a great question higher and deeper than either of those which I have named. Another state of matters, because a prominent Member of the Government, the most prominent Member except the Prime Minister himself, informs the country that not only is he prepared to revolutionise the fiscal system of the country, but that he will make it the question upon which the next general election is to be decided. There he steps out of the region of opinion; it ceases to be pious opinion, it becomes practical action on the part of a Minister. It is a translation of what might have been but a theory, or but hopes and ambitions entertained by an individual, which are creditable to him, and which he is quite entitled to entertain, and even in reason to express his sympathy with; it passes, from that phase altogether, and becomes a positive declaration on the part of His Majesty's Government of the course that they are going to take before the country. That is the point which differentiates entirely this case from the others to which I have referred. And I maintain that for a prominent Minister to make, and to repeat more than once, the announcement of this intention, and to elaborate it, and bring it into the House, and for the right hon. Gentleman at the head of the Government to express his sympathy—although he did not go the whole length of speaking of the general election, as far as I remember—yet to say that he had an open mind on the question, and was in favour of considering fully whether these great changes should be introduced, it is this action taken by those two Members of the Government that entitles us to ask, "Is this the settled policy of the Government or is it not?" We should be entitled to ask that even if the other Members of the Government were doing nothing. But we find the Chancellor of the Exchequer bringing in a Finance Budget which actually repeals the tax upon which the whole of this edifice practically was founded; and therefore, in a still stronger degree, I think we are entitled to ask the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues what their policy really is. The policy, as explained by the right hon. Member for Birmingham, is inconsistent to the mind of a plain man—to the average man in this country, with the opinions expressed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Secretary to the Treasury. They made a perfectly courageous and clear statement of their opinions yesterday; we know where we have them; but we wish to know where we have the Prime Minister. I do not think we need ask about the Colonial Secretary. The Prime Minister of the country is drawn, or suspended between those two, and that we should not know in which direction he intends to go and that that state of things should be allowed to continue is not, I think, respectful to the House of Commons or the country. The right hon. Gentleman went on to talk of the question of free trade, and he discoursed at length in answer to arguments that have never been used. I am not aware that anyone here, I, at any rate, have not found anybody who is a fanatical devotee of the precise arrangement that was made fifty years ago.


Hear, hear.


We make no fetish or object of worship either of man or of thing or of opinion But what we do say is that the main lines of free trade have been the settled policy of this country for all these years, and that in our opinion the country has prospered under them to an extent that no other country has prospered. If we are told that we must examine into the whole matter from the commencement and see whether the system is to be maintained, then I say that the right hon. Gentlemen opposite, the heads of the Departments of the State, the Colonial Department, the Treasury, the Board of Trade, and so forth, have furnished us within the last few days with facts and figures and full particulars up to date of the trade of this country which, unless they are all entirely wrong and unless they mislead the public to form a wrong opinion, justify abundantly the policy which the country has pursued through all these years. Let those who wish to change it prove that we are losing our trade. It is for them to prove that.


That is what we want to do.


No, that is not what you want to do. That is not what the right hon. Gentleman said was to be done. We are to go back and to examine into the whole thing as if it was res integra, as if it was a new matter, to see if the old theories and policy still hold their ground. I say if you can find fault with it, if you can prove here is a weak point, or there is a weak point, prove it, and we will be ready to consider it. You impute to us a superstitious and senseless adherence to what you call obsolete doctrines. We maintain, on the contrary, that the experience of the country shows that it is your doctrines that are obsolete, that it is your doctrines that are out of date and ought not by any means to be revived. The right hon. Gentleman said that we maintained that the system established fifty years ago should be unmodified to all time, that it had an infallible authority and should never be altered. No one ever contended that. No one among us in this debate, or at any time, has ever said anything which justifies such an assertion. The objection that I make especially, and I believe that the people of this country will make, to the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary is that the taxing of the food of the people in order to establish certain advantages, or for retaliation, as the Prime Minister said, or for arrangements with other countries or the colonies, is a thing which we will oppose to the very utmost of our ability and with a determination in which we shall be backed by the people of the country.

We know what the condition of the people of the country is. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Cambridge University gave the keynote of this debate last night in the powerful speech which he addressed to us, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer also admitted the same fact—that the people of this country are not sufficiently fed at present, and if you tax their food you do them the greatest damage it is possible to do them. I saw in The Times of this morning that this was spoken of as the old-fashioned claptrap about the food of the people. I suppose we shall have—I am not sure we have not had already—clap-trap about civil liberty, clap-trap about the right of free speech, clap-trap about the right of public meeting, and claptrap about the liberty of conscience. All those doctrines, which are the foundation and the strength and the prosperity and the happiness of this country, are treated asclap trap. Very well, we shall see what the people of the country think. In the meantime, the proposal is that, in order to have something to give, we are to tax anew the food of the people. We used to hear of a submerged tenth in the population. We now know there is a submergeable third. The effect of taxing the food of the people would be to turn the submergeable into the submerged. If this is to be done in order, as I say, to have something to give away, who is to give it, and what is it we are to give? It is the very food and life of the mass of the people of this country that we are to give, for some problematical advantage at the other end of the world. No, Sir, I do not think the people of this country are likely to join in that mad scheme. But in the meantime the right hon. Gentleman has put it forward at a time when he knows he cannot go on with it. What can the effect be but to disturb and confuse the trade of the country, to affect the trade interests of the country when we know not what may happen, and therefore, to bring danger to the very prosperity which it is the wish of us all to enhance in every respect? Sir, I began by saying that in this hurried way, and at a moment's notice, one cannot meet all the points that the right hon. Gentleman has raised; and unfortunately, all the capable Members of

this House who have spoken in the debate have been debarred from taking any part in this great branch of the subject which so far outweighs the other. I therefore trust that it will not be long before we have a full opportunity of discussing as it deserves to be discussed this most vital point in the history of the country.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 424; Noes, 28. (Division List No. 116)

Abraham, W. (Cork, N. E.) Brown, Sir Alx. H. (Shropsh.) Cripps, Charles Alfred
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Brown, Geo. M. (Edinburgh) Crooks, William
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Cross, Alexander (Glasgow
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Bryce, Right Hon. James Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton
Aird, Sir John Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Crossley, Sir Savile
Allan, Sir William (Gateshead) Bull, William James Cullinan, J.
Allen, Chas. P. (Glos., Stroud) Burke, E. Haviland Cust, Henry John C.
Allhusen, Aug. Henry Eden Burt, Thomas Dalziel, James Henry
Allsopp, Hon. George Butcher, John George Davies, M. Vaughan(Cardig'n
Ambrose, Robert Buxton, Sydney Charles Delany, William
Anson, Sir William Reynell Caldwell, James Denny, Colonel
Arkwright, John Stanhope Cameron, Robert Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Dewar, John A.(Inverness-sh.)
Arrol, Sir William Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Dewar, Sir T. R.(Tr. Haml'ts
Ashton, Thomas Gair Carew, James Laurence Dickinson, Robert Edmond
Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbt Hy. Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.
Atherley-Jones, L. Carvill, Patrick Geo. Hamilton Digby, John K. D. Wingfield-
Atkinson, Right Hon. John Causton, Richard Knight Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Jos. C.
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Cautley, Henry Strother Donelan, Captain A.
Austin, Sir John Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Doogan, P. C.
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Doughty, George
Bain, Colonel James Robert Cawley, Frederick Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers
Balcarres, Lord Cayzer, Sir Charles William Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich) Doxford, Sir William Theodore
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm Duke, Henry Edward
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc. Duncan, J. Hastings
Barlow, John Emmott Chamberlayne, T. (Southmptn Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin
Barran, Rowland Hirst Channing, Francis Allston Edwards, Frank
Barry, E. (Cork, S.) Chapman, Edward Elibank, Master of
Beach, Rt. Hon. Sir M. Hicks Charrington, Spencer Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas
Beaumont, Wentworth C. B. Churchill, Winston Spencer Ellis, John Edward
Beckett, Ernest William Clancy, John Joseph Emmott, Alfred
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Clare, Octavius Leigh Evans, Sir F. H. (Maidstone)
Bignold, Arthur Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E. Evans, Saml. T. (Glamorgan)
Bigwood, James Coghill, Douglas Harry Faber, E. B. (Hants, W.)
Black, Alexander William Cohen, Benjamin Louis Faber, George Denison (York)
Blake, Edward Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse Farquharson, Dr. Robert
Blundell, Colonel Henry Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Fellowes, Hon. Ailwyn Edward
Boland, John Cook, Sir Frederick Lucas Fenwick, Charles
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasg.) Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith
Bond, Edward Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r
Bousfield, William Robert Cox, Irwin Edwd. Bainbridge Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Bowles, T. Gibson (Lynn Regis Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S. Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.
Brand, Hon. Arthur G. Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne
Brassey, Albert Cranborne, Viscount Fisher, William Hayes
Brigg, John Crean, Eugene Fison, Frederick William
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Cremer, William Randal FitzGerald,Sir Robert Penrose
Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) O'Kelly, J. (Roscommon, N.)
Flannery, Sir Fortescue Layland-Barratt, Francis O'Malley, William
Flower, Ernest Leamy, Edmund O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Forster, Henry William Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W. Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington) Palmer, G. Wm. (Reading)
Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)
Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Leigh, Sir Joseph Parker, Sir Gilbert
Fuller, J. M. F. Leng, Sir John Parkes, Ebenezer
Fyler, John Arthur Lewis, John Herbert Partington, Oswald
Galloway, William Johnson Llewellyn, Evan Henry Paulton, James Mellor
Garfit, William Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Pearson, Sir Weetman D.
Gilhooly, James Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham Pease, H. Pike (Darlington)
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J. Long,Rt.Hon.Walter(Bristol,S Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)
Goddard, Daniel Ford Lonsdale, John Brownlee Pemberton, John S. G.
Godson,SirAugustusFrederick Lough, Thomas Percy, Earl
Gordon,HnJE(ElginandNairn Lowe, Francis William Perks, Robert William
Gore,Hn.GR.C.Ormsby-(Salop Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Philipps, John Wynford
Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft Pirie, Duncan V.
Goschen, Hon. Geo. Joachim Lundon, W. Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Grant, Corrie Lyttelton, Hon. Alfred Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Macdona, John Cumming Power, Patrick Joseph
Greene,Sir E. W.(Bury St. Ed. MacDonnell, Dr. Mark A. Pretyman, Ernest, George
Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Priestley, Arthur
Greville, Hon. Ronald MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward
Grey, Rt. Hn. Sir E. (Berwick Maconochie, A. W. Purvis, Robert
Griffith, Ellis J. MacVeagh, Jeremiah Pym, C. Guy
Groves, James Grimble M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool) Randles, John S.
Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill M'Arthur, William (Cornwall) Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton M'Calmont, Colonel James Ratcliff, R. F.
Guthrie, Walter Murray M'Crae, George Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Hain, Edward M'Iver,SirLewis(Edinburgh W. Rea, Russell
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. M'Kenna, Reginald Reckitt, Harold James
Hall, Edward Marshall M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Redmond, Jn. E. (Waterford)
Hamilton,RtHnLordG.(Mid'x M'Laren, Sir Charles Benj. Redmond, William (Clare)
Hamilton, Marq. of (Londondy Majendie, James A. H. Reid, James (Greenock)
Hardie,J.Keir(Merthyr Tydvil Malcolm, Ian Remnant, James Farquharson
Harmsworth, R. Leicester Mansfield, Horace Rendall Rickett, J. Compton
Harwood, George Markham, Arthur Basil Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge)
Hatch, Ernest Frederick G. Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Ridley, S. F. (Bethnal Green)
Hay, Hon. Claude George Maxwell,WJH(Dumfriesshire Rigg, Richard
Hayden, John Patrick Melville, Beresford Valentine Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Hayne, Rt. Hon. Charles Seale- Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)
Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D. Milvain, Thomas Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Heath, James (Staffords, N. W. Molesworth, Sir Lewis Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Helme, Norval Watson Montagu, Hon. J. Scott (Hants.) Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Hemphill, Rt. Hn. Charles H. Mooney, John J. Robson, William Snowdon
Hickman, Sir Alfred More, Robt.Jasper (Shropshire Roe, Sir Thomas
Hoare, Sir Samuel Morgan, D. J. (Walthamstow) Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Hobhouse, C. E. H. (Bristl, E. Morgan, Hn. F. (Monm'thsh.) Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Holland, Sir William Henry Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Horniman, Frederick John Morley, Charles (Breconshire) Rose, Charles Day
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Morley, Rt. Hon. John(Montrose Royds, Clement Molyneux
Hoult, Joseph Morrell, George Herbert Runciman, Walter
Houston, Robert Paterson Morrison, James Archibald Russell, T. W.
Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Rutherford, John (Lancashire
Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C. Mount, William Arthur Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley) Mowbray, Sir Robt. Gray C. Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Muntz, Sir Philip A. Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Joicey, Sir James Murnaghan, George Samuel Herbert L. (Cleveland
Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea) Murphy, John Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)
Jones, William (Carnarvonsh. Murray, Rt.HnAGraham(Bute Schwann, Charles E.
Joyce, Michael Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry) Seely, Chas. Hilton (Lincoln)
Kearley, Hudson E. Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight
Kennedy, Patrick James Nannetti, Joseph P. Shackleton, David James
Kenyon, Hon. G. T. (Denbigh Nicol, Donald Ninian Sharpe, William Edward T.
Keswick, William Nolan, Col. John P. (Galway, N. Shaw, Charles E. (Stafford)
King, Sir Henry Seymour Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick, B.)
Kitson, Sir James Norman, Henry Shaw-Stewart, M. H. (Renfrew)
Knowles, Lees Nussey, Thomas Willans Sheehan, Daniel Daniel
Lambton, Hon. Fredk. Wm. O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid) Shipman, Dr. John G.
Langley, Batty O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)
Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow O'Brien, P. J. Tipperary, N.) Sinclair, Louis (Romford)
Law, H. Alex. (Donegal, W.) O'Connor, Jas. (Wicklow, W.) Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Lawson, J. Grant (Yorks., N. R.) O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.
Soames, Arthur Wellesley Thomas, F. Freeman (Hastings) Whiteley, H. (Ashton-u.-Lyne)
Soares, Ernest J. Thomas, J. A. (Glam., Gower) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Stanley, Hon. A. (Ormskirk) Thornton, Percy M. Williams, O. (Merioneth)
Stanley, Edw. Jas. (Somerset) Tomkinson, James Willox, Sir John Archibald
Stanley, Lord (Lancs.) Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M. Wilson, F. W. (Norfolk, Mid)
Stevenson, Francis S. Toulmin, George Wilson, H. J. (York, W. R.)
Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart Trevelyan, Charles Philips Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Stirling-Maxwell, Sir Jn. M. Tritton, Charles Ernest Wilson, J. W. (Worcester., N.)
Stock, James Henry Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward Wilson-Todd, Wm. H. (Yorks.)
Stone, Sir Benjamin Ure, Alexander Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Strachey, Sir Edward Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter) Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf'd
Stroyan, John Wallace, Robert Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart
Sullivan, Donal Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H. Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester) Walton, Joseph (Barnsley) Yerburgh, Robt. Armstrong
Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxf'd Univ Wanklyn, James Leslie Yoxall, James Henry
Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth) Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Taylor, Theo. C. (Radcliffe) Wason, E. (Clackmannan) TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Tennant, Harold John Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney) Sir Alexander Acland-
Thomas, A. (Carmarthen, E.) Welby, Lt-Col. A. C. E. (Taunton Hood and Mr. Anstruther.
Thomas, Sir A. (Glam., E.) White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr Whiteley, G. (York, W. R.)
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith Lee, A. H. (Hants, Fareham) Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H. (Sheff'd
Brymer, William Ernest Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Walker, Col. William Hall
Carlile, William Walter Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent) Warde, Colonel C. E.
Chaplin, Right Hon. Henry MacIver, David (Liverpool) Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts)
Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready Manners, Lord Cecil
Davies, Sir H. D. (Chatham) Maxwell, Rt. Hn. Sir H. E. (Wigt'n TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph Quilter, Sir Cuthbert Sir Henry Seton-Karr
Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon Renwick, George and Lord Willoughby de
Gunter, Sir Robert Robinson, Brooke Eresby.
Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Round, Rt. Hon. James
Heaton, John Henniker Sandys, Lieut.-Col. Thos. Myles
Hudson, George Bickersteth Tollemache, Henry James

Main Question again proposed.

MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)

At this late hour, Sir, I would desire not to continue the debate, but, in view of the fact that we have not had the usual debate on the Budget, it is desirable that the House should have an opportunity for general discussion on the Second Reading of the Finance Bill. I beg to move the adjournment of the debate.


; I do not, under the circumstances, propose to resist this Motion, but I hope it will be understood that the debate must be concluded by Friday.

Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned"—(Mr. Joseph Walton.)

Put, and agreed to.

Debate to be resumed upon Friday.

*MR. TENNANT (Berwickshire)

asked for an assurance that the Employment of Children Bill would not be taken at the conclusion of the debate on the Finance Bill on Friday.


was prepared to give such assurance.

Adjourned at eighteen minutes after Twelve o'clock.