§ MR. RUTHERFORD (Lancashire, Darwen)
By the fortune of the ballot I have been enabled to put a Motion on the Paper regarding a question which is national in its character and vital to the people in the county of Lancaster, in which my own constituency is situated, my constituency containing within its area a quarter of the whole of the looms in Lancashire and a considerable number of spindles. And this being the first opportunity I have had of bringing the question before the House, I consider that I should have failed in my duty to my constituents if I had not done so. I do not propose to go into technicalities, or to take the House through a labyrinth of figures in regard to the cotton industry. It is merely my intention to touch upon the broad issues that are raised by my Resolution. I claim it as national in its character, because here is one of the greatest of the manufacturing industries of the nation passing through a time amounting to a period of great adversity, and the condition of this industry was recognised in the Gracious Speech from the Throne, on the 2nd February, in the following words—The insufficiency of the supply of the raw material upon which the great cotton industry of this country depends has inspired Me with deep concern. I trust that the efforts which are being made in various parts of My Empire to increase the area under cultivation may be attended with a large measure of success.That reference in the Speech from the Throne. Mr. Speaker, was a recognition that those in authority were cognisant of the serious depression that existed, and is existing, in Lancashire, and that recognition was greatly appreciated by the people of that county. Every Member of the House who comes from Lancashire knows the importance of this great industry, but I think, Sir, I had better state, for the sake of my case, the position which it holds.
According to the Blue-book issued on British and foreign trade and industry, it stands fourth on the list of the number of persons employed, there being some 582,000, or in round figures, 600,000 persons occupied in the industry; but, 1368 of course. Sir, that does not include other trades that are incidentally affected by the depression of this great industry. I should say there are no less than 4,000,000 of' people, one-tenth of the population of these islands, directly or indirectly affected by the cotton trade. It is estimated that in Lancashire no less a sum than £100,000.000 of capital is invested with a weekly wage bill of £400,000. It is the greatest of all our manufacturing industries, with an expos trade of £72,000,000 sterling, which is within a very few million pounds of the whole of the trade of this country that is done with France, which I believe is £90.000,000. During last year and up to the present time a great amount of that capital has been unremunerative. and an enormous loss has taken place also in wages. It is estimated, and I give the figures supplied to me by the chairman of the North and North - East Lancashire Employers Association; it is estimated that £150,000 has been lost weekly in wages to the workers since November last, or about £3,000,000 in all. But, Sir, I think to make it more understood, and no doubt everyone in this House will sympathise with the operative—an operative, with a wife and family, receiving 25s. a week, has that sum reduced by the action of short time to 15s. or 10s. per week. That fact is reflected in cases in the industrial co-operative societies in my own constituencies, whose returns show that there has been a diminution in the purchasing power for the common necessaries of life. There is one gratifying feature about all this, namely, that there has been no serious dispute between capital and labour. The operatives recognising fully the difficulties which the masters have had to contend with through the fluctuations and high price of cotton, have loyally supported them in their difficulties, submissively agreeing to 9 long period of short time.
The great disturbances of this industry have been traceable to two causes—shortness of the cotton crop of America, and the operations of the speculator and gambler in futures. The American crop lends itself specially to the gambler. The great gambling has taken place on the American side of the Atlantic, but it 1369 is not entirely confined to that side, for, although we are ready to condemn the cotton ring in America, we must remember there are those in this country, who. even if they speculate to a less degree—yet it all goes to assist in raising the price. Of course, I do not wish to be misunderstood with regard to them; legitimate buying for manufacture is a totally different mutter from speculating to pocket differences. Of course, a speculator does not in any way want the cotton. As I have said, he does it for the sake of pocketing differences and finds no money. So, if we could produce the cotton ourselves and force delivery the gambler and speculator would, to a very large extent, be baffled. The shortness of the cotton crop enabled the speculator and the gambler in futures to manipulate the American market, which market regulates the price of cotton, as it is from America where the great bulk of the cotton crop comes. Perhaps the House is not aware what a; large sum of money is involved when cotton rises or falls one half-penny per pound. Taking a bale of cotton to weigh 480 lbs., one half-penny per pound means £1 per bale, if the crop is estimated at 10,000.000 bales £10,000,000, and if the price rises 4d., £80,000,000.
I pass now to the importation of cotton into this country, and I take my figures from Professor Dunstan's Report to the Board of Trade which was issued on Saturday last. The importation of cotton into the United Kingdom amounted to 1,361,000,000 lbs. from the United States, 82,000,000 from India, including Ceylon and the Straits Settlements; 296,000,000 from Egypt; and 54,000,000 from other countries. That Report further sets forth that—the British cotton industry is now almost entirely dependent on the United States for supplies of raw cotton,and it also appears that no attempt has been made to obtain increased supplies from other sources excepting when there has been a scarcity of American cotton. And can we depend upon this supply in the future? I think that we cannot. With regard to this the Report says—The continual extension of cotton manufacture in the southern portions of the United States is likely to lead, in the near future, to a 1370 greater utilisation of the raw material in the country of its production and to a fall in exports to this and other countries. This may be illustrated by the fact that the consumption of cotton in the Southern States has increased more than eightfold during the last twenty years.I can only say that the increase of consumption of its own cotton by the United States is commendable, because it means a great increase of commerce, and I have no doubt it is the ambition of the States to, at some time, consume the whole of that production We also learn from the Report how the States values and fosters the growth of cotton. Here are the words of the Report—The present paramount position of the United States in cotton cultivation is largely due to the operations of the well organised and splendidly equipped experiment stations of the Department for Agriculture, which are continually engaged in the scientific investigation of the innumerable problems winch arise, and in the collection and dissemination of information,Those words I commend to our own Government.
I notice that Mr. Arthur Hutton, Vice-Chairman of the British Cotton Growing Association, in an excellent paper given before the Manchester Statistical Society on 10th February of this year, and which is now published in pamphlet form, states that the normal annual increase in the consumption of cotton is about 400,000 to 500,000 bales of cotton per annum, and, taking the world's production at the present, time at 16.000,000 bales, and if the increase should continue at the same ratio, we should require in five years time 18.500,000 bales, and in ten years 21,000,000 bales. I notice that my hon. friend opposite the senior Member for Oldham, in an interesting paper read at the Society of Arts, puts the prospective consumption somewhat higher than this.
Now, Sir, I have stated the importance of the cotton industry of this country, and I believe if it languishes or decays we shall not hold the same position in the commercial world as we have hitherto done. Is it wise in the face of the prospective increase of consumption, and our past experience, that we should be dependent upon one source of supply? I can only say that those engaged in the industry, and therefore most likely to know, think that it is not but that we should set about to find out a new source 1371 of supply. I agree with them. The outcome of this is the establishment of the British Cotton Growing Association for the purpose of discovering and experimenting as to new sources of supply of the raw material, and there are many hon. Gentlemen in this House who are members of that association and think highly of it. The initiative of that Association came from the Oldham Chamber of Commerce. The work of the British Cotton Association is one in which I think the whole of Lancashire, when its object was understood and brought before the people, took great interest and to which it gave hearty support. I cannot too strongly commend the work of that association. The North and North-East Lancashire Cotton Manufacturers' Association, for example, subscribed £10.000, and was prepared to give more if required; and the operatives, animated by the same feeling and spirit, also contributed most liberally. I cannot give the actual figures, but you can take it that they were liberal. I recollect at a meeting on this subject, which I attended in Blackburn on the 16th of January of the present year, it was stated that the operatives in that district had contributed £2,300, and it must be borne in mind that both the contributions of the masters as well as of the employees were given at a time when the trade was in a very depressed condition and un-remunerative.
The British Cotton Growing Association has proved that cotton can be grown in various parts of the world, South Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, and West Africa. I am sorry that my Resolution is confined to Africa. But hon. Members will sympathise with me in the reason why it is so confined. When you, Sir, call a name from the ballot, a Member has to make his mind up suddenly, and on the spur of the moment I said Africa. That is the real reason why it is confined to Africa. I believe there is a great field for cotton cultivation in the Egyptian Soudan, but if the cultivation is to be prosecuted it is necessary to complete the construction of the Suakim and Berber railway. Professor Dunstan goes further than that; he says in his Report—Among the most promising of these experimental districts are the British Central Africa 1372 Protectorate, Uganda, the West African Colonies and Protectorates, the West Indies, and perhaps Fiji, British North Borneo, and Cyprus.Here is a field of great possibilities for this Empire for the production of cotton. and one which I believe, with some assistance from the Government in the way of transit, can and will be developed. British possessions which the Cotton Growing Association has centred its immediate attention upon are Sierra Leone, Lagos, and Southern Nigeria. In Lagos the best of the cotton land is in the Hinterland; this is confirmed in the Report, and it is necessary that the railway should be extended beyond Ibadan, the present terminus, to Horin, and so open up the Yoruba country. I believe it is calculated that cotton can be grown commercially, for the question of labour and the difficulties of transport have been considered. With regard to Lagos this Report says—They (the inhabitants) have been somewhat discouraged by their past experience in coffee growing, prices having gone down after they had succeeded in obtaining excellent crops of this product. It has been explained to them that cotton, if cultivated carefully, will always realise a remunerative price. They have agreed to plant largely, and in the Egba country alone 4,000 acres will be planted out shortly.There is also a great field in Southern Nigeria. Concerning this district it is. stated in the Report that—Samples of cotton grown on the experimental plantation at Onitsha have recently been received in Manchester, and are said to. be equal to 'fully good middling' American, and exactly of the quality ordinarily required by the manufacturer. A power gin has been set up at Onitsha.and also—It is stated that labour can be arranged for and that transport is easy.In submitting this Resolution to the House, I believe that those engaged in the cotton industry are able and willing to meet their own difficulties. Lancashire does not come at all cap in hand. But there are things which they cannot do; they want Government help in providing transit, and where the Government cannot see their way to construct a railway or to extend any existing railways, they might guarantee a loan for that purpose. Sir, I have said nothing with regard to experimenting or establishing model plantations, or what other countries are doing for their Colonies, 1373 but they do vote large sums of money for experimental purposes. I venture to think that it might be to the advantage of this country if some money were to be voted for experiments in cotton cultivation in Africa. I should have liked to have said a word on India, for India is Lancashire's greatest customer, and if more cotton could be cultivated in that dependency of ours it would be as good for them as it would for Lancashire. Indian cotton is not at present suitable for Lancashire trade, but Sir George Watt, in a note appended to his report on the improvement of Indian cotton. says—That with the prosperity and education of Indian cultivators as fine cotton as any produced in America could be grown in India.My object in putting this Resolution has been for the purpose of bringing before the House the position of the cotton industry in this country, and the absolute necessity of not being dependent on one source of supply for the raw material. Sir, the Resolution is not in any hostile spirit to the Government, because I approve entirely of what the Government has done. It was stated in a market report the other day that the American crop was likely to be a large one this year. If that turned out to be the case, the situation might not be so acute as at present; but I would urge upon the Government not under any considerations to relax their efforts in aiding the production of new sources of supply of raw cotton. I should be prepared to accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Islington, which I think would cover the Amendment of the hon. Member for South Manchester. Thanking the House for its courtesy. I humbly and confidently submit this Resolution to the acceptance of the House.
§ * MR. FIELDEN (Lancashire, Middleton)
said he wished it had fallen to the lot of some other Member more capable than himself to have seconded this Resolution, but as the representative of a constituency, the large majority of the workers in which were employed in either cotton spinning or manufacturing, he naturally took a very great interest in the subject. As a cotton spinner and manufacturer carrying on business in the same locality in which it was carried 1374 on by his great-grandfather more than a 100 years ago, he perhaps knew a little bit about this question and the way in which it was affecting the people in Lancashire. He thought it was generally admitted that there was very considerable distress in that county, and that that distress was largely due to the shortage of cotton. If any evidence were required on that subject it was only necessary to refer to the Labour Gazette. In the February issue of that publication describing the state of the cotton trade during 1903 it was stated—Employment in the cotton industry was fairly good during the first four months of 1903. It then rapidly declined owing to the sharp upward movement in the price of the raw material and a prolonged period of short time ensued. Some recovery took place, however, towards the end of October and continued towards the end of the year. On the whole, however, the year 1903 was an extremely bad one for the cotton industry.That was the general tenor of the statement in that publication with regard to the state of the trade during the past year. In April the report in the Labour Gazette was—Employment in March continued bad in both spinning and weaving branches and much worse than a year ago. Owing to the continued high price of American raw cotton, short time continued to be worked in the majority of spinning mills using it. The quantity of all kinds of American cotton forwarded from English ports to inland towns in the first quarter of 1904 was 585,000 bales or 257,000 bares less than in the corresponding period of 1903.If any further evidence was desired with regard to the state of trade in that district, it could be very easily furnished by the decreased railway receipts both in goods and passengers, showing that the state of that county at the present time was far from satisfactory.
What was the cause of this? There could be very little doubt on the part of anyone who had given any attention to the subject that the cause arose from the fact that during the last few years the world's consumption of cotton had overtaken the world's production. The publication of Messrs. Lathom, Alexander & Co., set out very fully the production of cotton and the consumption of cotton during the four years ending 1902-3 and although in some of those years the production was greater than the consumption, the net result was that the consumption had exceeded the production by over 1375 a million bales, or something more than 2 per cent, of the total cotton grown. What the result of the present year was going to be they could not tell. There could be very little doubt in the mind of anyone who had any connection with the trade that it would show that a still greater inroad had been made into the stocks of raw material that were held in the various parts of the globe. This was a very serious matter for Lancashire, or while the consumption of cotton in the Lancashire mills had remained stationary, or practically stationary, during the last four years—excluding the present year, which he thought would show a falling off—on the Continent of Europe and in the United States the consumption had considerably increased. The increased consumption in America was due to the enormous prosperity, which had been evident to everyone, in that part of the world during the last few years, for there the people could well afford to purchase what were, comparatively speaking, expensive goods. The same argument, to a large extent, explained the reason why on the Continent of Europe the same thing had taken place. This country formerly supplied Europe with large quantities of that material. Owing to the. fiscal policy on the Continent, and the fact they had equipped themselves with mills and machinery to produce what they required, we had been excluded from that market, and the fact that the price of the finished article had risen had not prevented the people of those countries from purchasing the full requirements. With our trade it was different. Only 20 per cent, of the production of our spindles and looms was consumed in this country, the remaining 80 per cent, being exported abroad very largely to countries in the East where labour was paid for upon a silver basis. They all knew that the value of silver for a period of years had shown a tendency steadily to fall while cotton had shown a tendency steadily to rise. After the people in those countries had provided themselves with the absolute necessaries of life he was afraid that the balance left for them to spend was very small indeed, and it was a lather remarkable thing what an extremely small amount of cotton clothing 1376 appeared to be included in what were called the necessaries of life in the countries in the East. Consequently, owing to the rise in the price of the raw material, the mills in Lancashire had been unable, to obtain orders, and the manufacturers, speaking generally, had been wise enough to refuse to go into the cotton market to buy cotton at high prices until they were certain that they would have orders which they could turn out at a profit.
That being the position of the trade in Lancashire and in other countries, and it being clearly attributable to the shortage of the world's supply of cotton, the question arose, could anything be done whereby the grievance under which Lancashire was suffering at the present time could be removed. The United States of America at the present time produced 72 per cent, of the world's production of cotton, and in the last seventeen years America had increased her acreage under cotton from 18,000,000 to 27,000,000 acres. But with all their ingenuity in the United States they did not appear to be able to largely increase the yield of cotton per acre, and as they had failed to do this-in the past he very much doubted whether they could look forward in the future to any increased yield of cotton per acre in the United States of America. Then came the question, if they were to have greater quantities of cotton grown was it possible that the acreage under cotton in the United States could be very largely increased? He had been told by those who knew something about the business of cotton growing in that part of the world that if the acreage under cotton was largely increased it was very doubtful indeed whether it would be possible to pick the cotton after it was grown, because the labour supply in that part of the world at the present time was not equal to picking more than 12,000,000 acres. Whether this statement was right or wrong, he thought that in this country they would be very unwise if they looked in the future for any large increase of cotton production from that source. Therefore he thought they were right in turning their attention to other parts of the world, and especially to those parts which were under the Union Jack.
A very great work had been carried out in the last two years by the 1377 British Cotton Growing Association, and those who were interested and connected with the trade in Lancashire felt that to that Association, and to all those who had taken an active part in its work, they owed a very great debt of gratitude. They had supplied a certain amount of money for the work of that Association, and the results undoubtedly proved that the money had been well spent, and he was quite convinced that they would be able to raise very much larger funds for the work of the Association and thereby largely increase its area of benefit. The work of this Association hitherto had largely been one of inquiry, or distribution of machinery, the selection and distribution of seeds, and the appointment of experts to visit the different parts of the world to ascertain where cotton could be best and most easily grown. The different parts of the world that had been generally referred to were India, and they had had cotton from India for many years. Personally, he very much doubted whether they would be able to receive in future any very large additional supply of cotton from India. At any rate if they did, Indian cotton would have to be of a very much better quality than had hitherto been sent to this country from that great dependency. Without labouring the question of India, although he should be glad to see the cotton growing industry developed there, he should be very much surprised if in the future it was found that India could send them very much larger quantities of cotton than she had been sending them in the past. In Egypt, however, they had a field to which they might undoubtedly look for a large increase in their cotton supply. They should remember, however, that the cotton grown in Egypt was not the cotton they were at the present moment suffering from the want of in Lancashire. No doubt those who used Egyptian cotton would be better off if there was a good deal more of it grown, and the Cotton Growing Association, and those responsible for the Government of Egypt, were doing everything they could to increase the supply of Egyptian cotton. He could assure hon. Members that where American cotton was used the suffering that had been going on in Lancashire almost continuously for the 1378 last twelve months was very acute and very great. Could they find any other source where they could get cotton of the character that they received from the United States of America? In the very excellent Blue-book which appeared only a couple of days before, they had the evidence of Professor Dunstan that within the Empire and within Africa there were districts which gave every hope that the desire they had in view might be fulfilled. The professor said—In Northern Nigeria, to some extent in Southern Nigeria and in the Lagos hinterland there is a vast field. The native population is numerous, intelligent and thoroughly familiarised with the cultivation of cotton, which has been carried on in several localities for hundreds of years in a primitive yet effective manner.Again, a little further on, speaking of Northern Nigeria, the professor said—The most serious difficulty is the question of transport and it seems doubtful whether cotton can be economically exported from the interior of the protectorate-unless a railway is constructed from the Niger to Kano.He (the speaker) looked to something being done without loss of time by the Government in this direction. He thought that they in Lancashire had a fair reason to ask them to do something—something more than they had already done and to do it as quickly as possible. It might be said that Lancashire had no right to ask that a large expenditure of money should be made by the Government in order to relieve the distress. If he thought that this expenditure was doubtful as to the return it would bring he should hesitate, but it appeared to him that where we had undertaken the protectorate of a people who were civilised to a much larger extent than the people in other parts of Africa, and where cotton had been grown for centuries, it was not asking too much that that country should with the least possible delay be connected with the ocean, so that a free exchange might take place between them and the people of this country. He believed that there were many districts where cotton could be grown, but none where all the elements abounded so fully as in this one place to give the same promise of success. It was because the population of Lancashire thought that delay in this matter was of the most serious nature to them that they asked the Government 1379 to push it forward rapidly. It was in no spirit of antagonism to what the Government were doing in the matter that this Motion was moved. He would be the last to flog a willing horse in the person of the Colonial Secretary. But new times had come, and the man who did not put himself abreast of the times was soon left behind. An institution called the "hustler" had recently been imported from the United States. It was in the character of a "hustler" that he seconded the Motion.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, it is incumbent upon His Majesty's Government to use every endeavour to encourage the growth of cotton in those districts in Africa which are under British Government or British influence, and to cooperate as far as possible with such commercial associations as may be organised to secure this end."—(Mr. J. Rutherford)
§ * MR. EMMOTT (Oldham)
said there was only one remark which fell from the seconder of the Motion with which he disagreed. According to his own information there had been a good deal of short time and stoppage of work, not only on the Continent of Europe but also in America as well as here. He. was no carping critic of the Party system, but it was a relief occasionally on a night like this for both Parties to he able to join hands in order to further an object which was meant not only for the benefit of Lancashire and the United Kingdom, but of the Empire at large. It was fortunate that even the ubiquitous fiscal question did not enter into this matter that they had to consider, for he did not know that anybody had been found so stupid as to propose that a tax should be put upon raw cotton wherever that raw cotton might come from. Nor was this a question of a self-contained Empire—an Empire that should necessarily grow all the cotton that it required—for although that might be a desirable thing it was certainly a thing that we should not obtain, however quickly we progressed, for a great many years to come. Most certainly the cotton trade would buy its cotton wherever it could get it of a satisfactory quality 1380 and at a satisfactory price. It had been calculated that in ten years from the present time it would be necessary to have another 25,000,000 acres employed in the growth of cotton above what we had in the world to-day, that was to say, an area equal to about one-third of the area of the United Kingdom. It was the fact that we depended more and more in this country on the supplies of cotton from America. We depended more to-day upon the supply from America than we did at the time when the Civil War in America broke out, and it was the fact that the kind of cotton that we wanted was not the kind that we could get from India, but the kind that we got from the United States and from Egypt. So that being the case, and we having in the British Empire endless territory which was suitable for the growth of the kind of cotton that we required, it was surely our duty if we could, by a combination of private enterprise with Government aid, to grow more of the increased quantities of cotton that we required within the borders of the British Empire itself.
He wanted to emphasise in the strongest possible way that the British Cotton Growing Association, with which he had the honour to be connected, had no complaint to make in any general way of what the Government was doing, but rather desired to thank the Government for the great assistance it had given to it. That remark applied not only to the late Colonial Secretary but to the present Colonial Secretary, and in reference to this particular question he thought he ought to mention the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, the Duke of Marlborough, who had taken, ever since he came into office, a very lively and active interest in the furtherance of this question. In this matter it was the British Cotton Growing Association that represented private enterprise. He believed they were going to apply for a Royal Charter —they were certainly going to attempt to raise a sum of £500,000, mostly from the trade itself —and they would undertake, if the Royal Charter was given, that any profits that were made, at any rate for a period of years, should not be paid to the members of the Association, but should be devoted to the purpose of 1381 increasing the growth of cotton in the British Empire. The hon. Member for the Darwen Division had pointed out that it was rather his misfortune than his desire that the actual Motion put down on the Paper related to Africa alone. He quite agreed with him that it might be applied more generally—perhaps it would before the close of the evening. But at any rate Africa alone presented a sufficiently large field of discussion in the time that they had before them that night. One point in connection with the question of cotton-growing—a point of great interest -was the extraordinary change that had taken place as to the parts of the world whence the chief supply of cotton came. He believed it was a fact that in the year 1784, a ship came from the United States with fourteen bales of cotton on board, and that of those fourteen bales eight bales were seized by the authorities because it was stated that the United States of America certainly could not have produced at the time fourteen bales of cotton. A rather different state of affairs from a time like the present, when we were grumbling so much because the United States only produced a little over 10,000,000 bales, whereas we should like them to produce at least 12,000,000 ! At that time three-quarters of our supply came from the West Indies—about 45,000 bales a year. During the last few years we had not obtained more than 1,000 bales from the West Indies. The large supplies of cotton that we now obtained from Egypt were of course comparatively new. The growing of cotton only began in Egypt in the year 1828, and several other countries had grown cotton during the last century, and had ceased to grow it simply because they could not produce it at the price at which the market would take it.
This question of the changes of the sources of the supply of cotton was a point of interest because it showed, in the first place, that the production of cotton was possible in a very great many parts of the world; and in the second place a study of the question showed that it was principally in the United States and in Egypt, where the greatest scientific concentration had been exercised in regard to the question that the great advance in the production of cotton had taken place. 1382 In India, wherever the same scientific treatment had not been accorded to it the quality of the cotton had actually deteriorated in the last fifty years. Sir George Watt, in his interesting addition to the Blue-book which had been so much quoted that night, pointed out that in investigating the Report of Dr. Hove, made in 1785, and comparing the Reports which he gave of the various kinds of cotton grown in different parts of India at that time with the cotton grown in the same districts to-day he found that a great many better kinds of cotton grown in India then were not grown there at all at the presentday. Indeed, he believed it was a fact that the famous Indian muslins of many years ago could not be made at all out of any cotton that was produced in India at the present time. In the Blue-book, Professor Dunstan and Sir George Watt showed that failures in regard to the growth of cotton had been due to what they called ignorant experiment. They said that the agricultural chemistry of the growth of cotton was even still comparatively in its infancy. They stated that the whole literature, botanically and commercially, dealing with cotton was in a state of chaos, and that there was a very great deal still to be learnt as to the process of the selection of seed, and as to the most suitable manure, for the purpose of growing cotton. And they pointed out that the problem was a different problem in each place where they attempted to grow cotton, different both as to the seed that was required, as to the character of the cultivation, and different of course, also, as to the very important question of the labour required, and the transport that was necessary in order to make it a commercial success. He mentioned these points because he thought it was most important that not only Members of the House, but the country at large, should understand that no enormous results could be expected within a year or two. It could not be done very quickly. He was sure everybody who was interested in Lancashire must be pleased at the interest that was taken in this question throughout the whole country at the present time. But what he wanted to beg was that that interest should not be a mere fleeting interest but should be 1383 kept up through a series of years, because only by such interest being kept up. and by suitable people devoting their time and attention and abilities to this question, could any real success be obtained in the direction of growing that large extra quantity of cotton that we required. He would take the instance referred by his hon. friend opposite as an example. Experiments were being made in the Soudan as to the best kind of seeds and as to cultivation in general. When these questions were decided they would still have to teach the people who were going to grow the cotton. But all this would be of no avail until the railway from Suakim was completed to Berber, for until proper transport facilities were provided they would not be able to get the full advantage of the cotton grown in Egypt. In regard to the cotton grown in the Soudan they had at any rate one great thing for which they ought to be thankful. Operations would be carried on under the supervision of one of the best and greatest servants of the British Crown, Lord Cromer, who had taken a lively interest in this matter.
The Motion asked the Government to help in this question of cotton growing. He wanted to put one or two questions to the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary so that when he replied he might give some information about them. The points that required to be considered in regard to this matter were in the first place the selection of the seed, the suitability of manures to the chemical qualities of the soil, and the peculiarities of the climate of whatever district they were dealing with. The Government had already given considerable assistance in regard to these matters, and he was quite sure that the British Cotton Growing Association had a lively sense of gratitude for what the Government had done and were doing. But he desired especially to ask the Colonial Secretary a question with regard to the most important matter of labour. He had a very firm conviction that nothing considerable could be done unless they interested the natives of whatever district they were concerned with to undertake the cultivation of 1384 cotton themselves. They must let them have the profits so far as was possible, and they must not, if they could avoid it, merely employ them as labourers at so much a day. So far as the Soudan was concerned, Lord Cromer's last Report on Egypt mentioned how much the population of that province had been depleted. He did not know how much land there was in the Soudan capable of growing cotton; but the question he wished to put to the Government for subsequent consideration was this—that if there was a large territory suitable for the purpose and there was not a sufficient population, the question of the immigration of Indian coolies, if it could be satisfactorily done, might be considered. He said Indian coolies; he did not say Chinese coolies. [Ironical MINISTERIAL cheers.] Hon. Members cheered ironically, but he was going to add that the Indian coolies need not be kept in compounds.
Another matter he wanted to mention was in connection with labour in British Central Africa. In that country there was a very sore feeling in regard to recruiting labour for the South African mines. In the wet season labour was short there, although it was plentiful in the dry season. He was aware that the men got more wages in the mines than when engaged in agriculture at home, but the mortality in the mines was very heavy. It was rather hard that the people who were trying to develop British Central Africa should have their labour taken away from them to supply the South African mines. The last question to which he wished to refer was that of transport. He wished to ask the Colonial Secretary whether anything was being done to lengthen the railway in Lagos from Ibadan to Illorin. He understood that the country between these two towns was peculiarly suitable for the growth of cotton. Another question he had to put was, what was going to be done as to a railway in Northern Nigeria. That was a matter of enormous importance. At present they were paying a subsidy of £400,000 a year to the Government of that territory; and he ventured to say that trade could never be developed to pay for that subsidy without a railway. He hoped that the 1385 Government would favourably consider the building of a light railway there for the development of the country. The cost of a light railway would be comparatively small, and it could be built much sooner than a broad gauge railway. The British Cotton Growing Association were anxious to ascertain the amount of cotton received from our different colonies and possessions, and would like a Return of the exports of cotton from each of them for the last five years, stating the numbers of bags or bales, and their actual weight, and distinguishing between ginned and unginned cotton: and also showing the destination of the same, whether to Great Britain or elsewhere. If such a Return could be made monthly, or even every three months it would be of great interest, and bring before the country in a marked way the progress the Colonies were making in this matter. In conclusion, he had much pleasure in sup-portingthe Resolution, which was proposed not in the least hostility to the Government, but in the interests of the country and of the Empire.
§ * MR. SAMUEL SMITH (Flintshire)
said that he had visited most of the cotton-growing countries of the world. There could be no doubt that Lancashire had suffered very seriously, and the sole reason was the deficiency of supply. But for that we should have had a very good trade at the present time, for there was plenty of demand for cotton goods. There was a widespread idea that the main cause of the shortness of supply was the manipulation of the cotton markets in America. These speculations only aggravated but did not cause the short supply, which was really consequent upon a series of deficient crops in America. The crop last year only amounted to about 10.250.000 bales, whereas it required 11,500,000 bales to keep the mills of the world running full time. Again, there had been the great scourge of the cotton weevil, which had cut off the supply by 1.000.000 bales. It was an unfortunate thing that Lancashire depended so greatly on the American supply. There was a considerable supply from Egypt of good cotton, and now that they had the great dam at Assouan, that supply would be increased every year. He might state that he had visited the southern States of America forty-four 1386 years ago. At that time Lancashire consumed one half of all the cotton raised in America, whereas now it only consumed one-fourth. Before the Civil War in America, only 750,000 bales were manufactured in that country; now, they manufactured 4000.00O. Lancashire in 1860consumed 2,500.000 of bales; now the consumption was fully 3,000.000 bales, whereas the demand for cotton on the Continent had more than trebled since 1800. The position was a difficult one, and it was desirable that in the future we should depend less on America and more on other sources of supply. During the American War he visited India in order to see whether that country was capable of taking the place of America. At that time the price of American cotton was 2s. 6d. per lb., compared with 7d, a lb. before the war. The price of Indian cotton rose from 4d. or 5d. to 6d. 6d. or 2s. a lb. After careful inspection he came to the conclusion that India could not take the place of the United States; that the staple of Indian cotton was too short; that no amount of expense incurred in cultivation would much increase the staple; that the trial of American seed was not successful; and that the climate would prevent the production of a good and long-stapled cotton from India. As soon as the American War was over the Indian supply fell off: and the spinners in Lancashire had since never used Indian cotton to any great extent. Any expectation, therefore, that India would take the place of America as a source of cotton supply was certain to be disappointed. If we were to get a substitute for American cotton it must be from Africa. There were many parts of that continent where a good-stapled cotton could be grown But it must be done by the natives themselves. Large plantations would not answer. He believed that a trade could be carried on very profitably in African cotton on the basis of a price of 5d. or fid. per lb. He desired heartily to support the Motion of his hon. friend.
§ * MR. PEEL (Manchester, S.)
said he had listened with very great interest to the observations of the last speaker, because they were based on a very long experience. He should like to make one or two re marks on the interesting speech of the senior Member for Oldham, who was very anxious to avoid trenching on any controversial matter. He supposed that 1387 it was that hon. Gentleman's misfortune, and not his fault, that he did trench on the fiscal question and on the question of Chinese labour. He could assure the hon. Member that he would endeavour to avoid both those difficult and knotty subjects. He agreed with the hon. Member for Oldham that we must not expect either from Africa, or other portions of the world where we were trying to develop cotton growing, any large scale of production for years to come. Considering the amount of time cotton had been grown, in the world, and the enormous dependence of this country upon it, and the number of people who were clothed in cotton, it was remarkable that a more thorough and scientific study of the matter had not been made. It was known in those countries in which cotton was grown what kind of seeds should be sown, and at what degree of temperature the plants should be cultivated, but there was no knowledge of the kind of plants most suitable to different soils, and which would produce the best kinds of cotton. What was more remarkable was that our information on those plants had actually retrograded, and we had lost some of the information we used to possess. In his interesting Report, Sir George Watt stated that he found that in the eighteenth century there were better results from cotton growing in India than now, but the great bulk of the information then possessed in regard to cotton cultivation had been entirely lost. The reason why he had placed his Amendment on the Paper was that he wished to emphasise the fact that cotton could be grown in other parts of the British Empire besides Africa. He hoped that in the future a great deal would be done in various parts of Africa, but, of course, the class of cotton which could be grown in Egypt was not the finest or most valuable. It came after the finest and most delicate cotton manufactured in this country. That was one of those articles in which we had in this country a natural monopoly from the advantages of our climate; and it was found that those finer classes of goods could leap over any tariff which had been placed 1388 against them, because people would have those classes. Neither France, Germany, nor America had the atmospheric conditions in which those very delicate kinds of cotton thread could be spun. If that were so, we must make what use we could of that natural monopoly.
There were many reasons why we should look to the West Indies as a source of cotton supply of the finer kinds. First of all, the population of those Islands were accustomed and adapted to continuous labour. One of the greatest difficulties in West Africa was that, although there was a large population who were accustomed to commercial, and to some extent to agricultural, pursuits, they preferred gaining their living in an easy manner, such as by making palm oil. Furthermore, there would not be objection to subsidising cotton growing in the West Indies. We had spent a good deal of money in that direction already. Of course, it was quite possible that, in spite of the Sugar Convention, sugar growing would become a dying industry in the West Indies, for with more scientific processes applied to the manufacture of beet sugar that would compete successfully with cane sugar. Therefore, it was important in the interests, not only of Lancashire, but of the West Indies themselves, that we should find some substitute for the failing sugar industry. In days gone by a considerable amount of cotton used to be obtained from the West Indies, and within the last few years a class of cotton had been grown in those Islands which fetched from l0d. to Is. 2½d. per pound. It was quite as good a cotton as was produced on the sea islands off the coast of America. He attached the greatest importance to the second part of his Amendment, which called for the establishment of experimental farms in suitable cotton-growing districts. That was the root of all real progress in the matter of the development of cotton-growing in various parts of the world. Something of the kind had already been established in India, although he was sorry to say that the progress of the development of cotton-growing there 1389 had not been so satisfactory as could have been wished. It was very difficult to transport a particular variety of cotton from one country to another and grow it there, for cotton had an extraordinary tendency to revert to the type already existing in its new environment. It was, therefore, of enormous importance to examine the different classes of indigenous cotton growing in the various countries of the world and to submit them to examination and experiment. The observations upon this matter in the Report of the Government of India applied not only to India, but to Africa and other parts of the Empire, where it was hoped the Government would give some assistance in dealing with the problem. The matter had gone too long unattended to. We ought not to stop until we were not only less dependent on America, but had large supplies of the best class of cotton grown in the range of the British Empire. He moved to add after the word "Africa" in the Resolution the words, "And in other portions of the British Empire, and to establish or aid in the establishment of experimental farms in suitable cotton-growing districts."
§ * MR. SPEAKER
I understand there is no opposition to this Amendment, and in that case it would be better to put it at once and take the debate on the amended Resolution.
In line3, by inserting after the word 'Africa', the words 'and in other portions of the British Empire, and to establish or aid in the establishment of experimental farms in suitable cotton growing districts.'"—(Mr. Peel.)
§ MR. HARWOOD (Bolton)
wished to emphasise the fact that Lancashire did 1390 not ask the Government to take any exceptional action. The Cotton Growing Association did not desire their Resolution to be brought forward.
§ MR. HARWOOD
said he was aware of that, but the Association recognised that the Government had acted extremely well, and that business would not be greatly facilitated by academic discourses in the House of Commons. He believed that much harm might be done by the creation of a false impression that Lancashire and the cotton trade were pursuing a selfish policy. All that they wanted was that the Government should regard the Empire as an estate to be developed in the interests of the whole Empire. Lancashire did not desire that its cotton trade should be bolstered up, but they held that the Empire could not be fully developed unless they grew cotton, and they offered a large custom for cotton grown. One useful thing the Government might do, and that was, watch the growth of the seed. It was done in the case of tea in Ceylon, and the quality of cotton in Egypt had also been greatly improved by that means. He had not a great opinion of the advantage of bringing anything before the House of Commons. Once they begun chattering about a subject, it became a sort of football match between Liberals and Tories, both Parties trying to get the cheers of the spectators. That was not business. The Government were doing very well, and he did not see what good was to be secured by speeches in the House. He simply rose for the purpose of saying that Lancashire did 1391 not want anything done for them that would not be done for other interests and in the general interests of the Empire.
§ * THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. LYTTELTON, Warwick and Leamington)
I agree with the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that our business is cautiously and prudently to develop the great estate of which we are the stewards, but I do not agree with him in thinking that this discussion has been altogether out of place. On the contrary, I think that the House and the country are indebted to my hon. friend for having brought this question forward in order that we may, at any rate, become more fully acquainted with what the Government, through its various Departments—the Foreign Office, the Colonial Office, the Board of Trade, and the India Office—has done in connection with it. I do not think that anyone will dispute that Lancashire has a vast stake in this matter, and that to dislocate or impair the cotton industry of Lancashire would be to inflict a disaster on the nation. Formerly, it is true, the whole supply of cotton to this country came from India, and at a later stage —India having being displaced, nearly the whole supply came from the West Indies. I think that at the beginning of the last century 20,000,0001bs., and during the American War 26,000.0001bs., were exported to this country from the West Indies. In the last ten years the average supply of West Indian cotton has been practically nothing to speak of, only 400,0001bs., and India has also fallen out of the race. America has, of course, come to the fore. That has been due partly owing to the deterioration of Indian cotton, and partly also to the displacement of the cotton industry of 1392 the West Indies by the sugar industry, and the continual improvement in the quality of the United States product.
As the House knows, our main supply now comes from America, though we obtain a considerable quantity from Egypt. With very much less knowledge than that possessed by the hon. Member for Flintshire and the senior Member for Oldham, I should be disposed from what study I have been able to make of the question and from the advice I have received to suppose that the Indian cotton, from the shortness of its staple, will not be of great service to Lancashire, at any rate in the immediate future. The point does not require labouring, but it, seems to me there is a genuine peril in the dependence of such an industry as the Lancashire cotton industry for its supply of raw material on practically one country, and that, though a great and friendly country, still a foreign country. To say nothing of the climatic disturbances which may affect one portion of the world, and of the speculative operations of citizens of the United States, there is a continual progress of manufacture in the United States, especially in the Southern States, and it is quite probable, as I am advised. that at no distant time they will require the whole of their raw material for themselves. That state of things is not only somewhat alarming, but really surprising, for within the British Empire itself a vast field is open suitable as we believe for cotton growing. The British Empire presents climates, soils, and populations well adapted to the cultivation of this great staple commodity, but even these advantages have been of no avail against the organised and scientific pressure of the United States. It is such organisation and direction that I venture to 1393 think is the real necessity for this country.
It has been a characteristic of this country, I think until quite lately, that while we have thought it right and proper that we should spend vast sums on acquiring and maintaining great territories, we have grudged a few hundred pounds for ascertaining the sources of wealth which those territories contain. I venture to think that that great error is happily passing away. Much has been done in a tentative and cautious way, and. having regard to the financial position at the present time much is being done to remedy it. The Blue-book which has been quoted, compiled by Professor Dunstan, is an indication of the more enlightened ideas that are prevailing on these matters. Professor Dunstan with his small but enlightened and ably led staff have been taken over recently by the Board of Trade, and we have to thank them and the Department for a very interesting survey of the cotton-growing area of the Empire. It is very desirable and very important that we should consider what has been done with regard to this important question in various parts of the Empire. Passing by India, in Egypt we have already produced a considerable quantity of cotton such as is used in Lancashire, and under the energetic direction of Lord Cromer, a great deal has been done between Cairo and Assuan. From that extension of cotton-growing we have reason to anticipate considerable advantages. In the Soudan experiments have been made in the Berber districts, and Lord Cromer is sanguine that considerable results will be obtained there also. In the West Indies we have passed the 1394 experimental stage, and the best class of cotton is being developed there. The results were being carefully watched. In Rhodesia we are experimenting with every prospect of success and cotton growing on an extensive scale is looked forward to. In British Central Africa 4,000 acres are under cotton cultivation. The output is of the estimated value of £25.000 and cotton will probably be the staple product of that country.
He had already under his consideration the question which had been brought to his notice by the Member for Oldham as to how far it was expedient to decrease the population of Central Africa for the purpose of mining in the Transvaal, having regard to the progress made in the cotton industry. He was not fully informed upon the matter, but he would obtain the best information possible on the subject because he quite admitted that it was an important feature. He would not further discuss these sources of supply in India. Egypt. Rhodesia. Central and East Africa, but would emphasise the fact that at present the greatest activity had been displayed in West Africa. They had the greatest expectations of immediate development from the three colonies of Lagos. Southern Nigeria, and Sierra Leone. In 1901 information was sought from the Governors of those Colonics by his predecessor. In 1902 the Cotton Growing Association, which was an influential and representative body in Lancashire, was formed to promote the growth of cotton in the colonies of the Empire. The work was warmly taken up by the Colonial Office, by the West African Governors, and by the High Commissioner, and they worked together for nearly two years experimenting in a 1395 tentative and cautious way in those Colonies. The Colonies paid in the first instance the salaries of the experts who were chosen to superintend the experimental work, the association paying the remainder of the cost. The Elder, Dempster Company provided free sea transit, and free railway transit was also provided. The result had been that after eighteen months of careful experiment it had been proved that large quantities of good serviceable cotton could be produced at remunerative prices in Lagos, Sierra Leone, and Southern Nigeria. In 1904, and since he came into office, it had been arranged that the Government should pay the cost of experiments, the association contributing 25 per cent. of the expenditure providing that expenditure did not exceed £500. Since then they had arrived at the opinion that the matter might now leave the experimental and enter the commercial stage. It would have been unwise to pass too rapidly into this stage; the field of experiment had to be carefully examined in the first instance. In the course of long consultation and negotiation with the Cotton Growing Association in which he desired to cordially recognise the great services of his noble friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies,who had taken a very active part in the matter and had been of great assistance, they were convinced that they might now pass into the commercial stage. Only to-day it had been arranged between the Colonial Office and the Cotton Growing Association that for three years the association should contribute £30,000 a year. £10.000 to be spent in the Colonies of Lagos, Sierra Leone, and Southern Nigeria, and that these three Colonies should contribute £6.500 for three years. Southern Nigeria £3,000, 1396 Lagos, £2,000, and Sierra Leone £1,500. This was an earnest of the hearty desire of the Cotton Growing Association to help them selves and to help Lancashire, and in that desire the Government would cooperate. But they would not stop there. Land would be conveyed to the association on easy terms, railway facilities would be offered, at first free altogether, and for a time Elder, Dempster, and Co. had offered free transit for the cotton. The Cotton Growing Association for the first five years would take no profit out of the industry.
He wished he could definitely say more than he had said. There was no doubt, a very natural desire on the part of those interested to have railway facilities increased, and especially there was a desire to extend the Lagos Railway to the district pronounced to be suitable for the growth of cotton. The extension would be only seventy miles in length, and apart from the cotton industry it would probably prove remunerative. Certainly in the interest of cotton growing and of the colony there was a strong desire that the line should be so extended. But even for seventy miles of line, the expenditure would be considerable. Many Members opposite had been not unjustly exhorting the Chancellor of the Exchequer to economy, and those familiar with financial matters would be aware of the inconvenience attending the floating of a loan at the present moment. Notwithstanding these truths, which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not failed to impress on his colleagues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer looked with a favourable eye on the extension of the railway provided it could be shown likely to be profitable in itself, and that the contribution required would not be 1397 heavy. He did not wish to go any further than that, or to give any positive pledge to the House on the subject; but he thought that they might in the course of a few months give the House some earnest of their desire as well as of their ability to give practical shape to a proposal for the extension of the railway. With regard to the light railway to Kano, he recognised the importance of that in Northern Nigeria, but he thought the principle on which it was sounder to proceed in the matter of railways in these Colonies was this. There was a certain amount of waterway and a certain amount of railway already existing. There was a considerable amount of cotton area well worth exploiting near the railway and near the waterway; and it seemed obvious that those areas should be put under cultivation first before other areas were sought at a greater distance, to the cultivation of which the condition precedent would be the making of extensive railways. Even if they made a light railway in those climates of anything but the best material, money would have to be spent on maintenance and renewal which might as well have been spent at first. But he did not rule out light railways altogether. It might be necessary to put down this railway to Kano quickly, but at the present time he was not able to see any great urgency for it. The Government had. at any rate, met hon. Gentlemen opposite so far that a survey was now proceeding with a view to finding out the best route and the probable cost. Without repeating what he had ventured to put before the House he thought hon. Members would see that the Government of the country was endeavouring to bear in mind the necessity for cotton cultivation over a 1398 very wide field, and were prudently and cautiously advancing in the direction of procuring it. The advance made already, as had been proved by the Report before the House, had been such as to give very great hope for the future.
§ SIR WILLIAM HOLLAND (York shire. W.R., Rotherham)
asked if the right hon. Gentleman could say whether the Uganda Railway could be utilised?
§ * MR. HERBERT WHITELEY (Ashton-under-Lyne)
said as a member of the Executive of the Cotton Growing Association, and as one engaged in the cotton industry, he wished to say a few words. He agreed entirely as to the desirability of regarding this matter as non-political, and he also agreed that this was not entirely a Lancashire question. Indeed Lancashire questions were not always popular in that Assembly. The question concerned one quarter of the whole population of this Kingdom, 10.000.000 persons being engaged directly or indirectly in the cotton industry, and a fourth of the manufactured goods sent out of the country being of cotton manufacture. Lancashire was doing all it could to help itself, and it would not go to others for help until it had done all it could for itself. Lancashire had already contributed £250,000 sterling, and it was hoped to make it £500,000, for the purposes mentioned, and the workpeople were just as enthusiastic as the employers and contributed huge sums through their organisations, and individually, according to their means. He had no right to speak for the Cotton Growing Association, although he was 1399 one of the Executive, but he was sure that the association would thank the Colonial Secretary for the sympathetic tone of his speech. He would only add that those engaged in the cotton trade were doing their best, and they asked the country for its cooperation.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON (Norfolk, N.)
said he believed he was the only speaker who had ventured to address the House as representing not the cotton manufacturers but the cotton growers. He wished to thank the British Cotton Growing Association for the help they had given in connection with the cotton growing in British Central Africa. Last year a few bales were sent to this country as a sample, and this year—it was only a very small beginning —sixteen tons were sent, the bulk of which fetched 8sd. per lb. Some of the best fetched 9d. per lb. and some rather less. That was, he thought, proof that British Central Africa could grow cotton of good quality. He hoped that such a small beginning would develop into a large increase in growing, and that in the future they would be able to help the British Cotton Crowing Association. They did not really want encouragement from the Government. They wanted rather to be left alone. They were, however, very much in want of a railway in British Central Africa because the waterways were indifferent and lately had been almost impracticable. They felt it was lather hard when British Central Africa was endeavouring to get a railway for herself that it should be retarded by labour being taken away to work in the mines. The men were wanted not only for the railway but also 1400 to grow cotton on their own farms. He hoped the Government would take that into favourable consideration. They were greatly alarmed by a report which appeared in the papers last autumn about the dumping of tin from the Malay States. An hon. Member pointed out that the Malay States was not a colony, and that the policy adopted had no reference to colonial preference.
§ SIR BRAMPTON GURDON
said what he wished to convey was that no such policy should be adopted in connection with the industry they were opening up in British Central Africa.
§ MR. WHITE RIDLEY (Stalybridge)
said that if the Motion of his hon. friend had no other result than to elicit the clear statement the House had heard from the Colonial Secretary with reference to the action of the Government it would not have been brought forward in vain. There was one point, however, to which the right hon. Gentleman did not allude. After a careful study of the various Blue-books nothing struck him more than the great need of the further experimental cultivation of cotton. That was agreed on by all the experts. As regarded cotton in India the whole question seemed to turn on the development of knowledge in the growing of the plant. As regarded the experimental part of the work, it would appear from the speech of the Colonial Secretary that the Government were not considering it with the same attention as they were other aspects of the question. The whole of England was looking with great concern on the situation in Lancashire, and he was 1401 perfectly certain that the hon. Member for Bolton need not be afraid that those who asked the Government to consider the matter would incur a charge of selfishness. The country at large knew the state of Lancashire and sympathised with it. It was universally agreed that the only way by which the shortage of cotton could be remedied was to develop cotton growing within the Empire, and that the operations of private individuals required the assistance of the State. One of the real reasons of the shortage was not that less was grown in the United States, but that the policy of the United States had enabled the manufacturers of that country to develop their industry to such an extent that they required for themselves the raw cotton which we used to obtain. It was a matter for serious consideration that their policy had had that effect, whereas the result of our own fiscalpolicy had been to keep our trade stationary. In reference to our old Colonial policy, it would have been a good thing if in the past we had been able to work out a policy which would have developed cotton growing in the Empire. Many of the practical considerations which lay at the very root of the ideal of a United British Empire were to be found in this question which all Parties were at one in pressing upon the attention of the House. It was necessary both that the sources of supply should be increased, and that the sources of supply within the Empire should be developed.
§ MR. CAWLEY (Lancashire, Prestwich)
said it was beyond all doubt necessary to obtain cotton from a larger number of places. To be relying on the United States for 70 per cent, of our cotton was not a safe 1402 position for this country to be in. It was not difficult to imagine circumstances under which it would be impossible to obtain any cotton at all from the United States, and if that should ever happen the distress that would ensue in Lancashire was terrible to contemplate. All concerned would hail with gratitude the attitude the Government had adopted. Those who were specially interested in the cotton industry had done all they could to help themselves, and he was glad that their efforts had been recognised.
§ MR. CHARLES McARTHUR (Liverpool, Exchange)
said that in Liverpool they would do everything they could to help forward the movement for the development of cotton-growing within the Empire. The remarks of the Colonial Secretary would be received with satisfaction by all concerned in the cotton industry. What was most desired at present was an increase in the supply of raw cotton, and the extension of the area from which that supply was drawn. The commercial aspect of the question was most important, but its Imperial aspect was almost equally important, because the development of our colonial estates must tend in the best way to draw the parts of the Empire together. One of the great merits of this movement was that all Parties, whether free-trade or protectionist, could unite in its furtherance, and certainly so far as the shipping interest of Liverpool was concerned, it would give all the assistance within its power.
§ MR. HELME (Lancashire, Lancaster)
said that upon a sufficient supply of raw cotton depended the prosperity of Lancashire and, to a large extent, the trade of the country generally. It was the 1403 shortage of the supply that had caused the present dislocation and wrought such havoc in the happiness and comfort of thousands of residents in Lancashire. The success of the gambling spirit in America had led to bolder anticipations of the crop of the present season, with the result that the control of the crop had been secured, much higher prices forced upon the industry, and the demand in the trade had suffered to a lamentable extent. The success of the trade in future, and its freedom from such harassing conditions depended upon the margin of supply between the amount used in one year and that of the next, but at present the country did not possess any such margin and had no prospect of securing it from the existing area of supply. It was. therefore, highly desirable that the area of supply should be enlarged, and for that reason he urged upon the Government the importance of the proposal embodied in the Resolution.
§ MR. HUNT (Shropshire, Ludlow)
said he had received a statement from Burma that they could grow stacks of cotton there if only the mother country gave them the chance. He was unable to give any further opinions of the colonists, because they were not sufficiently polite to hon. Members on the other side to permit of quotation.
§ COLONEL PILKINGTON (Lancashire, Newton)
looked upon the matter as one of far wider concern than merely affecting the manufacturers and operatives in the cotton trade. The whole of the Northwest of England was concerned, because if the cotton trade was brought practically to a standstill all the trades in that district languished. In fact, the question was one of Imperial importance, in 1404 connection with which the strongest sympathies and efforts of the Government should be enlisted. The supply of cotton was too small, and it would tend to become smaller in comparison with the enormous amount of plant in the cotton trade, with the result that in the near future the position of the present year would be terribly aggravated. He hoped the result of the debate would be to strengthen public opinion, and so enable the Government to do far more than the Colonial Secretary at present hoped for.
§ SIR WILLIAM TOMLINSON (Preston)
urged the Government not to lose sight of the desirability of giving a little encouragement to those places where the cultivation of cotton was being spontaneously taken up. He had in his hand a letter from South Africa, in which the writer said he was devoting a portion of his farm to the cultivation of cotton, and that if the experiment proved successful there was a very large tract of land in the neighbourhood that might be brought into cultivation.
§ Resolved, That, in the opinion of this House, it is incumbent upon His Majesty's Government to use every endeavour to encourage the growth of cotton in those districts in Africa and in other portions of the British Empire, and to establish or aid in the establishment of experimental farms in suitable cotton-growing districts which are under British Government or British influence, and to co-operate as far as possible with such commercial associations as may be organised to secure this end.
§ Adjourned at five minutes after Twelve o'clock.