HC Deb 28 May 1903 vol 123 cc135-41

in the absence of the President of the Board of Trade, presented a Bill to make provision for giving effect to a Convention, signed on March 5, 1902, in relation to sugar. He said: Hon. Members will remember that during last session a Resolution was passed by this House, authorising the Government to give effect to the Brussels Sugar Convention, and the object of this Bill is to carry out that Resolution. Under the terms of the Convention this country is bound either to prohibit the importation of bounty-fed sugar or to impose upon it a countervailing duty equivalent to the amount of the bounty. By this Bill powers are taken only to prohibit, but not to countervail; and therefore in the future bounty-fed sugar will stand in exactly the same position as some other articles do now—such, for instance, as foreign prison-made goods, books which infringe our copyrights, or cattle which come from countries where there is disease. I do not think any advantage would be gained now by going in detail into the provisions of this Bill. They are short and are contained in two clauses, but I will refer to only three points. Powers are taken to demand proof of origin in regard to all sugar imported; in the next place, sugar-refining is to be carried on in bond; and, thirdly, the expenses of the permanent Commission are to be met out of moneys supplied by Parliament. No doubt the principles involved in the Bill will be fully discussed, but I doubt, if many new arguments will be introduced into the discussion. There is one consideration which lies at the very root of the whole matter. Last November the President of the Board of Trade quoted some words of Mr. Gladstone's, and I think they are worthy to be quoted again— We do not regard with any satisfaction a system under which an artificial advantage is given in our markets to the products of foreign nations. Some people— Hon. Gentlemen opposite are some of those people— say it is a good thing, because the consumer gets the benefit; but I do not think that any benefit founded on inequality and injustice can bring good even to the consumer. I ask the House why is it that not only Mr. Gladstone but all the economists maintain that bounties are quite as bad for the country which receive as for the country which grant them? The reason is not difficult to find. The advantages of bounties, in the way of greater cheapness, are obvious; the disadvantages, though not less real, are not quite so obvious, and no one can tell how greatly a country suffers. I ask the House to consider the position of the sugar industry. If at the outset our markets had been closed to bounty-fed sugar, there is no reason to suppose that the consumption of sugar would not have increased as it has increased now, and as the consumption of tea has increased. But if that consumption had increased under natural conditions it would have been met by increased supplies. What would this have meant to this country? Our machine shops would have turned out more material, our workmen would have been employed in producing the sugar machinery which would have been required, our manufacturers would have furnished more material, our workmen would have produced the immense supplies required, more ships would have been engaged in carrying supplies and our workmen would have been employed in building the ships which the great increase of trade would have necessitated. There has been a great increase of trade on account of the beetroot sugar industry, but that is a trade in which this country has almost had no share whatever. No one can doubt that the absence which this immense trade has made to our country represents a loss infinitely greater than any slight advantage which has been gained by the comparative cheapness of sugar. The object of the Bill is to turn the sugar industry again into its natural channel, and at the same time to prevent the complete destruction of what has been in the past and will be again one of the most important industries in the British Empire.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill to make provision for giving effect to a Convention signed on the fifth day of March, nineteen hundred and two, in relation to Sugar."—(Mr. Bonar Law.)

*MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)

was sure that the House generally regretted extremely the absence of the President of the Board of Trade, and the cause of that absence. He thought every one would agree that the hon. Member who had just spoken occupied a very appropriate position in introducing that Bill. He had made himself the apostle of protection, and the measure, though most simple in its character, would be found to embody one of the worst systems of protection ever advocated in this country. The Brussels Convention was an agreement entered into by five Powers—Germany, Austria, France, Holland and Belgium—which were sugar-producing and exporting countries. Great Britain, however, was not a sugar-producing country—it consumed sugar, and the simple object of the Convention was to raise the price of sugar. The plan of the Bill meant the prohibition of imports. The House must have listened to the hon. Member's speech with the utmost amazement. In the only debate they had had on the Convention Ministers devoted their speeches to a justification of the imposition of countervailing duties. The President of the Board of Trade, the Colonial Secretary, and the Prime Minister, in answer to many Questions put by the hon. Member for King's Lynn, all had defended that method. But in this Bill that idea was dropped — a notable triumph for the Opposition, which had declared that such duties would be illegal and impossible. This was the most extraordinary retreat on the part of the Government since the London Education Bill was under discussion. But an even worse principle than countervailing duties was introduced into this Bill—the principle of the prohibition of imports. Let the House realise what that meant to this country. There were fourteen great countries, including Russia, Denmark, Egypt, the United States, the Argentine Republic, Peru, Chili, and the Danish and Dutch colonies—all outside the Convention, which last year sent us sugar amounting to 2,000,000 cwt.; but at the bidding of a foreign Commission in Brussels we were to close our ports to these imports. The country had in past times experience of closing our ports. But under the old Corn Laws this was done to protect our own people and an important British industry—the production of corn. The new principle of protection adopted by the Government was to prevent us from receiving an article which we did not and could not produce at home, with the result that the whole of the benefit of the new policy would accrue to neighbouring Continental nations. It was the habit of hon. Members opposite to quote Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Cobden on such subjects. But they did not want to hear from the Government any more of these names. These Statesmen were no longer here; the present generation had to fight its own battles as best it could without them; and they wanted to know from the Government the exact way in which the provisions of the Bill would be enforced. Some explanations had been given, and they sounded very strange to the House. Certificates of origin, punishments for fraud and forgery, the placing of manufactories in bond, under Government supervision by night and by day—these were the old weapons taken out of the mediaeval prison of protection and brought into use in this country once more to strike a deadly blow at manufactures which had grown

up in the last twenty or thirty years, and to lay heavy burdens on the people. A formidable opposition would be offered to the Bill at every stage, and he firmly believed that the opposition to it would be supported by a vast majority of the people.

And, the Motion being opposed, after a brief explanatory statement from the Member who made the Motion and from a Member who opposed it, Mr. Speaker put the Question in pursuance of Standing Order No. 11.

The House divided:—Ayes, 142; Noes, 82. (Division List No. 111.)

Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Gordon, Maj. Evans (Tr. H.'ml'ts O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)
Anson, Sir William Reynell Goschen, Hon. George Joachim O'Malley, William
Arnold-Forster, Hugh O. Greene, Hy. D. (Shrewsbury) Percy, Earl
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John. Greene, W. Raymond Cambs Pierpoint, Robert
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Grenfell, William Henry Platt-Higgins, Frederick
Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Groves, James Grimble Powell, Sir Francis Sharp
Baird, John George Alexander Hamilton, Rt. Hn. Lord G. (Midd'x Pretyman, Ernest George
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manch'r Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'd Purvis, Robert
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Hare, Thomas Leigh Quilter, Sir Cuthbert
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Harris, Frederick Leverton Rasch, Major Frederic Carne
Bignold, Arthur Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Ratcliff, R. F.
Blundell, Colonel Henry Hatch, Ernest Frederick G. Rattigan, Sir William Henry
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Heath, James (Staffords. N. W.) Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine
Brassey, Albert Heaton, John Henniker Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge
Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Henderson, Sir Alexander Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green
Brymer, William Ernest Howard, J. (Midd., Tott'ham Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Hudson, George Bickersteth Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lancs.) Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred Robinson, Brooke
Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm. Kenyon, Hn. George T. (Denhigh Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Worc Knowles, Lees Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Chaplin, Bight Hon. Henry Laurie, Lieut.-General Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford
Cochrane, Hon. Thos H. A. E. Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Samuel, Harry S. (Limehouse)
Coghill, Douglas Harry Lawrence, Sir Joseph (Monm'th) Sharpe, William Edward T.
Cohen, Benjamin Louis Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham) Simeon, Sir Barrington
Colomb, Sir John Charles Ready Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Smith, James Parker (Lanarks)
Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Stanley, Hon. Arthur (Ormskirk
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Stanley, Lord (Lancs.)
Cranborne, Lord Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Crossley, Sir Savile Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G. (Oxfd Univ.
Dalrymple, Sir Charles Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.) Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Denny, Colonel Lowe, Francis William Thornton, Percy M.
Dewar, Sir T. R. (Tr. Haml'ts Lowther, C. (Cumb. Eskdale) Valentia, Viscount
Dickson, Charles Scott Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft) Walrond, Rt. Hon. Sir W. H.
Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers Macdona, John Cumming Warde, Colonel C. E.
Duke, Henry Edward MacIver, David (Liverpool) Webb, Col. William George
Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin Maconochie, A. W. Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts)
Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W. Maxwell, W. J. H. (Dumfriesshire Wilson, John (Glasqow)
Fardell, Sir T. George Middlemore, John Throgmorton Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath)
Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r Milvain, Thomas Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Finch, Rt. Hon. George H. Mitchell, William (Burnley) Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson
Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne More, Robt. Jasper (Shropshire) Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Flower, Ernest Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Forster, Henry William Muntz, Sir Philip A.
Foster, Philip S. (Warwick, S. W. Murray, Rt. Hn. A. Graham (Bute TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
Fyler, John Arthur Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath Sir Alexander Acland-
Gibbs, Hon. Vicary (St. Albans) Nicol, Donald Ninian Hood and Mr. Anstruther
Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn Nolan, Joseph (Louth, S.)
Allen, Charles P. (Glouc., Stroud Farquharson, Dr. Robert Priestley, Arthur
Asher, Alexander Fuller, J. M. F. Rea, Russell
Atherley-Jones, L. Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Redmond, William (Clare)
Barran, Rowland Hirst Goddard, Daniel Ford Rickett, J. Compton
Black, Alexander William Gore, Hn. S. F. Ormsby- (Linc Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Blake, Edward Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir J. Eldon Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)
Boland, John Hayter, Rt. Hn. Sir Arthur D. Roe, Sir Thomas
Brigg, John Holland, Sir William Henry Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk. Rose, Charles Day
Burke, E. Haviland Hutton, Alfred K. (Morley) Runciman, Walter
Buxton, Sydney Charles Jacoby, James Alfred Suhwann, Charles E.
Caldwell, James Jones, William (Carnarv'shire Stevenson, Francis S.
Cameron, Robert Labouchere, Henry Sullivan, Donal
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall) Tennant, Harold John
Causton, Richard Knight Layland-Barratt, Francis Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.
Cawley, Frederick Leng, Sir John Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)
Channing, Francis Allston Lloyd-George, David Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Churchill, Winston Spencer Lowther, Rt. Hon. Jas. (Kent) Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan
Craig, Rohert Hunter (Lanark) M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Weir, James Galloway
Cremer, William Randal Markham, Arthur Basil White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Crombie, John William Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Cullinan, J. Nussey, Thomas Willans Williams, O. (Merioneth)
Cust, Henry John C. O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N. Woodhouse, Sir J. T. (Huddersf'd
Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh. Palmer, Sir Charles M. (Durham Yoxall, James Henry
Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Partington, Oswald
Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Paulton, James Mellor TELLERS FOR THE NOES—
Duncan, J. Hastings Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) Mr. Lough and Mr. Gibson
Edwards, Frank Pemberton, John S. G. Bowles.
Evans, Sir Francis H. (Maidstone Perks, Robert William

Bill ordered to be brought in by Mr. Gerald Balfour and Mr. Bonar Law.