HC Deb 01 August 1904 vol 139 cc350-91

Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Question (1st August), "That this House regrets that certain of His Majesty's Ministers have accepted official positions in a political organisation which has formally declared its adhesion to a policy of Preferential Duties involving the taxation of food."—(Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman.)

Question again proposed.

MR. PURVIS (Peterborough)

said the arguments in support of the Motion had been confined to the question of the taxation not of food in general but of bread in particular. It was true that the fiscal policy of the Liberal Unionist. Council included a tax upon corn, but only in order that the amount obtained should be returned to the people in remission of taxation on other kinds of food. They allowed that their policy involved the taxation of corn, but they disclaimed the charge made in this Motion. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Motion asked the Prime Minister how he reconciled the policy of Sheffield with that of Birmingham, but the Government and the Liberal Unionist Council and the Unionist Party were no more in favour of the taxation of every kind of food than the right hon. Gentleman himself. It might not be wrong to tax corn in particular because it was wrong to tax all food. All this arose owing to the opinion held by hon. Gentlemen opposite that we were going back to the days of the old Corn Laws, but the days of the old Corn Laws, with their sliding scale and all their shackles, were gone for ever. The aim of the fiscal reformers was not protection at all, they were as much free-traders as hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite. What they sought was a step towards universal free trade, but that was as far off at present as universal peace. They were endeavouring to obtain free trade within the Empire. They had it in the United States of America. The war between North and South was not a war fought primarily on the question of slavery but for State rights. The North wished to abolish State rights, the South to retain them, and Lincoln declared over and over again that if the Confederated States agreed to give up State rights, so as to make free trade within the United States of America possible, he would agree with them though slavery were not abolished. They fought the matter out, with the result that free trade within the Empire was secured and was now enjoyed by 80,000,000 of the human race. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham sought to secure the same result by peaceful means, for the benefit of one-fourth of the civilised world. This matter lay with this country and this country alone; the Colonies were ready and willing to join hands with us. Turn away from them and the Empire would he like a tree shorn of its foliage in summer, its life gone; but this surely would not be allowed to be. We recognised the wishes of our Colonies and agreed with them, and those wishes would realise themselves and this problem would be solved.

*SIR WILLIAM HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)

said it had been stated that the Unionists did not propose to tax all food, but only certain kinds. It was because they proposed to tax that kind which was most used by the people that they met with so much resistance from the country. It was also said that free trade within the Empire was a very desirable object if it could be attained. So he said, but no one would be more emphatic than the right hon. Member for West Birmingham in admitting that free trade within the Empire was utterly unattainable, because our self-governing Colonies were dependent upon their tariffs for their revenue, therefore it would be useless to ask them to sweep them away. The right hon. Gentleman quoted various colonies as being entirely favourable to his proposal, and he laid great stress upon the opinion of Canada. He did not pretend to set his opinion against the right hon. Gentleman's, but his experience at the congress of the chambers of commerce held in Montreal last year showed that although there was a large volume of opinion in favour of colonial preference it was on the distinct understanding that the preference should not inflict harm upon the industries of the mother country or other parts of the Empire. Canada recognised that if such an arrangement would inflict injury upon the mother country it would be only less disastrous than injury done to herself. While it would be easy for some of the Colonies who at present had a tariff wall round them to make a preference arrangement, it would be altogether a different matter for the mother country, who had no such tariff walls in existence. Not only Canada but our Colonies generally greatly valued their fiscal freedom. A system of Imperial preference would limit that freedom. The advantage of this freedom was shown in the case of Canada recently, when the preference of 33 1–3 per cent. on woollen goods from this country was reduced to 15 per cent., because the larger preference had the effect of closing certain woollen mills in Canada, and at the same time the preferences in respect of other articles were reduced from 33 1–3 to 20 per cent. Canada was undoubtedly acting within her rights in that matter. The right hon. Gentleman had said the impulse towards preference had come from the Colonies, and yet when the right hon. Gentleman was invited to visit Australia it was represented to him by Mr. Deakin that his visit would give an immense impetus to the preferential movement out there. That seemed to indicate that the movement was hanging fire in the Commonwealth, and that was not surprising in view of the fact that the chief export from Australia was wool, which would not be likely to get any advantage from the Birmingham proposals.

He held that the system of preferential tariffs would involve us in great risks, whereas we should stand to gain very little in return. The system was by no means new. We gave a preference to colonial sugar from 1660 to 1854, to colonial corn from 1766 to 1849, to colonial wool from 1721 to 1860, and to colonial coffee from 1800 to 1851. They were dropped because they were found to do more harm than good. Very adequate reasons must therefore be shown before this country gave its consent to revive that old discredited policy. He did not reflect upon the wisdom of other nations when he held that free trade was the best system for this country. Under that system our industries had been built up, and he would never listen to any suggestions to discard it unless after full and careful inquiry, not with closed doors, but in a perfectly open way by an impartial Commission under Government sanction, who would receive evidence from men holding various fiscal views. Our industries had adapted themselves to existing fiscal conditions. Some industries had developed abnormally, but that fact only increased the danger of tampering with the system. The case of Germany could not be quoted in support of colonial preference, because that country had not adopted anything of the kind. Great Britain had as free access into German colonies as Germany herself. The hon. Member for Stretford had drawn an attractive picture of a system which would draw taxes out of the pockets of the taxpayers without their knowing it, but he could not help thinking of the advice that if one found oneself in company with a person who could extract money from people's pockets without their knowledge, the best thing to do was to get as far away from him as possible. Retaliation often did more harm to the country which retaliated than to the country which was retaliated upon. Retaliation also frequently led to tariff wars, which had proved highly injurious to the countries resorting to them. Take the case of the Franco-Swiss tariff war of 1893–5. What was its effect? Swiss imports from France fell off 42 per cent. Swiss exports to France fell off 37 per cent. And in the result third parties alone were the gainers, whilst Franco-Swiss trade had never since regained its former dimensions.

While he should be willing to deal with each case on its merits, before he supported a policy of retaliation he would have to be assured that it gave promise of success that he should hit his opponent much harder than he would be hit himself, and that Parliamentary sanction had been obtained in each particular case. Those safeguards would be necessary to prevent abuse of the system. He believed this vote of censure was justified because of the want of candour which had characterised the attitude of the Government with regard to the subject. He thought the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham that the right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister had expressed his sympathy with colonial preference even if it should involve a slight taxation of food would perplex the country more than ever, because he did not see how such a statement could be reconciled with the declaration of Lord Lansdowne that the Government were opposed to preferential arrangements with the Colonies which involved the taxation of food. If Lord Lansdowne had said as much as that at the Albert Hall there would have been ructions, and he might have been invited to resign the vice presidency to which he had just been elected. They complained not so much of Lord Lansdowne's speeches, although they seemed to vary with his surroundings, as of his conduct in joining an association which had undergone reorganisation and was pledged to support the whole policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It was unfair that Lord Lansdowne should have been persuaded to accept this high position, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham must be laughing in his sleeve at the way he was capturing one Minister after another. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of colonial preference being a more urgent question than any other. Surely that statement ought to have made Lord Lansdowne very careful before accepting the position of vice-president. Should Lord Lansdowne desire to contest that view with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, it seemed to him that he would now be entirely muzzled, for the chairman at that meeting said that it was the essence of the Party system that the minority should not use their power to hinder the work which the majority had decided upon. The Colonial Secretary that afternoon laid stress upon the alleged sympathy of the Prime Minister with the Birmingham fiscal proposals. He thought the Prime Minister had receded from the favourable view he held in this respect some time ago; for, speaking in Manchester on 12th January, 1904, he used these words— I have expressed the opinion both in 1902 and last year that a closer union with the Colonies must be looked for in the direction of fiscal union. Well, I have somewhat changed that opinion. They all agreed that the idea of consolidating the Empire was a fine inspiration, but unless Ministers were very careful the result would be more one of disruption than consolidation. In the report of the interview with the Colonial Premiers in 1902 it was stated that the circumstances of the different Colonies differed so widely that it was apparent that no arrangement applicable to all the Colonies could be devised. He thought a more hopeful way would be by the federation of the Colonies with the mother country in some Imperial Council, and in that way they would give effect to the wise words of Sir Wilfrid Laurier when he said, "Call us into your counsels."


said that this debate was one which involved the commercial and industrial welfare, not only of this country, but also of the Colonies. The last speaker had said that tariff walls necessarily meant tariff wars, but that statement had been entirely disproved by experience. Where retaliation had been projected by one country against another a tariff war might have ensued, but it had not in the case where a majority of the commercial exploiting countries had adopted a protective policy. For instance, between Germany and the United States, or between France and the United States, there had not been tariff wars inimical to either or both of those countries. The proposition that they must not try an experiment in protective policy or retaliation, because they would endanger a tariff war, had not been proved by the evidence of the past. The noble Lord the Member for Greenwich said that trade did not unify, and he instanced Germany as an example of federation secured by the sword. But whilst that was so, he would remind the noble Lord that in that case after conquest the States concerned combined for the purposes of a common commercial enterprise and a common exploitation of their general interests. They were used to hearing the statement that the United States was a combination of States with very different interests, but he thought the British Empire had more differing interests than the United States. Within the combination of the United States they had many nationalities, including Frenchmen, Spaniards, and native-born Americans, all combining first by conquest, and then by a common commercial purpose, for the general national benefit and interest.

His noble friend the Member for Greenwich threw some doubt upon the possibility of our achieving any benefit front a combination with the Colonies—he meant in the sense of exchange carefully arranged. He had in his pocket a letter from one of the most prominent colonial statesmen in the Empire, and in that letter he said that if the British people granted the Colonies what they were asking for it would not be a sacrifice but rather a preference for a preference; the battle would be sooner over, and the British elector would come to the conclusion that no sacrifice would be required, but rather that there would be a general gain by an adjustment of interests with consideration for all local requirements. That might be a difficult matter, but he did not admit that it was impossible. He had heard again and again the statement made that they would invite irritation and opposition, and produce a danger to the very consolidation of the Empire if they attempted to arrange commercial treaties. Was it not the case that the true federations which now existed within the Empire were achieved upon the basis of compromise? In Canada they had complicated tariffs at the time of the federation. It was then asserted that if they attempted federation they would be faced by the perils of a tariff war, and that they would experience those very anxieties which had been prophesied if they attempted federation now. What had been the result? The seven colonies of the Dominion had combined for the common purpose of national development. In Australia they had six colonies combining, one of which had steadfastly stood out for free trade from the beginning, and they had sacrificed the immediate and local interests to the common and national good. It was said that in this case distance was a factor which would naturally prevent a harmonious combination. He thought they could devise a scheme of preference which would work to the common good. With the advantage they had of quick transportation nowadays there was constant communication with the Colonies, and Quebec was no further from London in this sense than Liverpool was from London forty years ago. Therefore the argument of distance fell to the ground. The argument of differing tariffs also fell to the ground, because what might be achieved by a small organisation might also be achieved in a larger one such as was represented by the Colonies of this Empire.

The Leader of the Opposition said that they could not make a bargain with Australia because in order to carry it out they would have to put a tax upon raw material. A tariff in favour of wool would not benefit the Australian, because wool did not need stimulation, and the limit of wool production had been practically reached. It was, however, quite different with corn. Australia desired a tax upon foreign wool, foreign meat, foreign wine, and foreign corn, because at the present time there were twice the number of people employed in agricultural wine-growing pursuits in Australia than were employed in pastoral occupations. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields had informed the House, apparently without any knowledge of the exact conditions which pre- vailed, that this policy of preference was projected by the free-trade Party in the Colonies. That statement was wholly and absolutely incorrect. A Resolution in favour of preference was passed by the Canadian Parliament in 1892, and at that time the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol expressed a feeling in favour of a commercial Zollverein with the Colonies. There had been no question of Party in the Colonies in regard to this policy of preference. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham was, he believed, expressing the opinion of 90 per cent. of the people who lived in the Colonies when he said that they desired a closer commercial union with the mother country. This request of the Colonies for a closer commercial union was not a question of sudden growth. After twenty years of residence in the Colonies he expressed the conviction that this country need not fear the possibility of irritation, quarrelling, and conflict with the Colonies if such a commercial arrangement was made. Abraham Lincoln once said that "it is easier to make bargains with Your own kin than to make treaties with foreign countries."

He ventured to say that there was very little faith in a man who would not at least give an opportunity for a fair judgment, and for himself he begged to say that there would be a good many repentances before this movement had reached its goal. Yes, repentances on that side of the House. He would say without any acrimony or feeling that hon. Members opposite would occupy the Benches on his side of the House in the ordinary accidents of time and fortune, and quite apart from the ordinary rewards of virtue. He said, with an absolute sense of conviction, that in opposing this movement, as they were doing, they were alienating the best thought and feeling of the Colonies. He said that because he thought he had more communication with the men who represented the opinion of the Colonies than any other man, except those who sat on the Front Bench of the House, and he said to hon. Members opposite that in the somewhat violent criticisms they had made on the action of the Colonies last week concerning their contributions to the Navy they did nothing to advance the end which they all aimed at, namely, to see a common contribution from all the Colonies to the defence of the Empire. But they would not get it by constantly nagging and by petty and petulant speeches in this House, such as he had heard ever since he entered it, upon the question of the Colonial contribution. Hon. Members thought it easy for the Colonies to understand how it was that they ought to contribute for the defence of the Empire. The Colonies thought it extraordinary that we should not understand how it was that a commercial union might be for the benefit of all. He would quote a portion of a letter he had received from a colonist— I notice an expectation in some of your circles that the Colonies should throw themselves into this movement. I do not think that such action would be wise at this juncture. Could hon. Members wonder why? Were they to incorporate into local politics a great Imperial issue until we had decided whether we would present to them that great Imperial issue or not? The writer also said— I am surprised that so little use has been made of the official Paper put in by the Canadian Ministers at the Imperial Conference of 1902. If he remembered rightly these Imperial Papers embodied not only a wish to give preference to this country, but a distinct promise that they would, when they returned to their own countries, present to their Parliaments proposals for preference. Since that time they had given us a preference of 33⅓ per cent. It was not a great deal. It had only doubled the trade of Canada with this country during the last seven years. Could any Member on the Opposition side of the House say that the Colonies had not given us an earnest of what they meant. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean had said that the speech of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich was like the last sermon of a ritualistic parson before going over to the Church of Rome. Remembering how he was thrilled by the problems of Greater Britain and by the ends the right hon. Gentleman desired to see achieved for the Colonies, he felt that the speech of the right hon. Gentleman was like the last effort of an evangelistic parson before turning infidel. The right hon. Gentleman represented a feeling which was common on the Opposition side of the House—a feeling of scepticism, agnosticism, and doubt. They would not believe, but he ventured to say that they would have an opportunity of rectifying their opinions when they themselves came officially in contact with the Colonial Administrations of the future. Whatever Party was in power they would do well not to reject those offers without inter-communion, by conference or otherwise, with the statesmen of the Colonies. If we were patient the Colonies would give much more than an occasional contribution to the defence of the Empire; they would give us the opportunity of commercial union.


said he rose to make a few remarks in support of the vote of censure. Although this was the first time he had spoken on that side of the House, he had not suddenly come to the conclusion that it was his duty to do so. He put aside all questions on which he had differed from the Government, such as the Chinese Labour question, the Licensing Bill, and the Army question, believing that if there was only the fiscal question it was his duty to oppose this Government. He regretted having to part from old friends, but there was only one clear issue before them—were they in favour of free trade or of protection and preferences involving the taxation of food? He had held the opinion since last October that the weight of the Government would ultimately be thrown into the scale of protection. He would ask the hon. Member for Gravesend what was Canada prepared to give us on our woollen goods.


What is this country prepared to give Canada on her corn?


said the hon. Gentleman seemed not to understand that we in England started on a different basis from Canada. We let her goods come in here free. He had asked the supporters of the Birmingham policy in the Division he represented in Lancashire what they could say for colonial preference, and there was not one man in any of the clubs throughout the Division who had a word to say in favour of colonial preference. He asked the Unionist free-traders whether this was a time to shrink back, to take cover and avoid the fight. What would their followers think if they either abstained from voting or voted with the Government? The country understood a fighter, and the followers of the Unionist free-traders would say that there was a fighter on the one side and not on the other side. Any responsibility there was for this vote of censure rested on the heads of the Government and of the Prime Minister, and he trusted that the free-traders in the House, if they believed, as he believed, that the Birmingham policy would be the ruin of the country and the cause of the disintegration of the Empire, would not by their action seem to acquiesce in it or acquiesce in the policy of a Government which, having been elected to carry out one policy, did its best to promote its exact opposite.

MR. J. F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)

said he repudiated the notion of the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich that the policy of the Conservative Party was identified with the doctrine of laissez faire. The legislation of the Conservative Party had been totally opposed to that doctrine. The hon. Member for Durham had said that the members of the Government who held free-trade opinions had not had liberty given to them of expressing their opinions. He himself could not reconcile that view with the fact that the hon. Member voted for a Resolution proposed in that House welcoming the assurances of certain members of the Government that they were opposed to protection and taxation on corn, and it was well within the memory of every one that the Lord Chancellor and the Postmaster-General had expressed strong free-trade opinions.


I think my hon. friend must be mistaken in citing the Lord Chancellor as having expressed strong free-trade opinions.


thought that what he said was absolutely correct. He could not very well understand the hon. Member's position. He was as staunch a Unionist as anyone in that House, but he must know that, if the Resolution were carried that the Union would be in danger, that our policy in South Africa would be in danger, and that the maintenance of a strong Army and Navy would be in danger. Why had he raised all these questions? Could it only be for the sake of the barren claim of an economic doctrine? If the Resolution were carried it would introduce the principle of tests into our political life, and establish in it a new "quicunque vult." It would mean that whoever entered into political life should of necessity hold the Cobdenite faith. If this principle of tests were admitted, how would the Government of Lord Aberdeen have stood when there were in it six Whigs, six Peelites, and one Radical? This question ought to be judged on its merits and not in the light of any old tradition. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had put forward a great ideal. Although some of them were not convinced that the exact details of the proposals were the best, or were necessary to the attainment of the ideal, nevertheless, they must all give the right hon. Gentleman credit for the grandeur of the conception and the courage with which he had put it forward. Let it be judged on its merits, and not merely because it ran counter to a theory which had held domination over the minds of Englishmen for some time. There had been other theories in the past which were equally considered by public opinion to be vital to our national life; but these theories had disappeared and it could not be said that this last theory of our grandfathers was to stand for ever. The scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham might be right or it might be wrong, but if it was sound, they could not resist it.

MR. LLOYD-GEORGE (Carnarvon Boroughs)

said that in the speech which he had delivered the Member for West Birmingham had thrown his lasso over the Prime Minister, and, he thought, had very effectively caught him. Last week it was "stand and wait." To-day it was "stand and deliver." The right hon. Gentleman had been perfectly straight in regard to the course he had taken, and he had no quarrel with the political position which the right hon. Gentleman had created, so far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned. He was evidently in favour of testing the opinion of the country on these proposals. The right hon. Gentleman, it should be noted, commanded 200 supporters on the Ministerial side of the House. That meant that a majority of the Members of the House were in favour of a dissolution. The Prime Minister, with a minority, for reasons of his own, withstood the desire for an appeal to the judgment of the country upon this great issue. After their recent experiences the Opposition were naturally anxious for a dissolution. Hen. Gentlemen opposite, on the other hand, had not much reason for satisfaction. No doubt when the dissolution came there would be a good many fiscal reform furnaces blown out. The most important thing in the right hon. Gentleman's speech was the way he had endeavoured to commit the Prime Minister to his position, without any challenge or contradiction from the Prime Minister. He said that the Prime Minister had assured him that he sympathised with his scheme of colonial preference, even if it should involve a slight taxation of food. He went further. He said that all the Prime Minister was pledged to was not to propose such a policy to the present Parliament, and that what they meant to propose to the next Parliament was not the business of anybody. He asked the Prime Minister whether that really was his position. Of course they were entitled to know the Prime Minister's position with regard to a 10 per cent. tariff all round. As he understood from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, the Prime Minister was only pledged so far as the present Parliament was concerned, but that he was not pledged not to go in for that in the next Parliament if he had a majority. The right hon. Gentleman had been holding out in the hope of something turning up. Supposing something did turn up and he was returned to power, did he hold that his pledge would extend to the next Parliament? That was a question he had never answered although it had been put to him by the country and by hon. Members opposite.

What was the position at present? Here was the volunteer fleet of the right hon. Member for Birmingham raiding the high seas. Had it the Prime Minister's commission, or was it a piratical commission? It had sunk some very good vessels. It had sunk the Member for Croydon. Was that an act of piracy or had it the Prime Minister's commission? He thought really they were entitled to know that, and he trusted that right hon. Gentleman would answer the question although it came from a private Member. This was the sort of thing that had been going on. The Prime Minister and the Member for Birmingham recommended the same candidates at elections. They might not have the same concern, but they seemed to have running powers over each other's lines. Would they come forward at the next meeting of shareholders with a scheme of amalgamation? The Prime Minister had declared his sympathy with colonial preference, including the taxation of food. There was only one limit he put upon it. He said "I sympathise with it; I think it a great idea, and I should like to see it carried out. But it has one fatal defect: it is unpopular." The right hon. Member for West Birmingham admitted that it was unpopular, but that did not deter him from placing it before the country, and that was a position they could understand. But supposing the right hon. Member for West Birmingham succeeded in his campaign—as he naturally thought he would. That was the very essence of his courage. It was his hopefulness—and the last obstacle to the Prime Minister's conversion would be gone. Great was the Prime Minister's deference to public opinion. There were certain limits to his deference to public opinion. The reconstruction of the Army—that was a question to be decided by public opinion. Was the Militia to continue to exist or not—that was a question for public opinion. Was the whole Empire to be reconstructed—that was a question for public opinion. If public opinion was in favour of it he would accept it. The only limit to that deference to public opinion was when public opinion asked him to retire. Then he said, "I draw the line there; that would involve a disaster to the Empire."


I never said that.


said that evidently the right hon. Gentleman had not read the whip he received yesterday. On this point the right hon. Gentleman said his conscience was touched and he became a passive resister on the spot. Frankly, he did not think the position of the Government was a cerditable one. Why was the right hon. Member for West Bristol not present supporting his policy? It was for this reason. His opinion was that this policy would be beaten and that then it would be abandoned. There was no conviction, no principle behind it. It was purely a question of popularity or otherwise, and he thought it would be abandoned. Well, the right hon. Gentleman knew his Party better than he did. In his view, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham and the Government were climbing the same peak. The right hon. Gentleman was far in advance, but they were both on the same road. The right lion. Gentleman took all risks. He bridged the chasms, he cut the steps in the ice, he found the safe ways, he negotiated the difficult rocks. If he succeeded the Government would allow themselves to be dragged up behind him and they would rally round his flag on the summit. But if he failed they meant to cut the rope. That was the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol.


How do you know?


said that if these were not the right hon. Gentleman's opinions, the right hon. Member for West Bristol would have been there to turn out the Government. He ventured to suggest that that was a very mean conception of the duty of a great Government to a great question. The Prime Minister's position was clear in one respect. He said to his Party, "Don't press me about this thing. The taxation of food does not bother me, or whether the federation of the Empire on these lines will succeed, but I am in difficulties and have to get out the best way I can." It reminded him of the speech of an Athenian general who thus addressed his men—"Fellow soldiers who are posted with me in this dangerous situation, I conjure you in your urgent extremity to throw away all superfluous wisdom." That was the policy of the Prime Minister. It was a position which no House of Commons which had any regard for its own dignity or for the efficiency and power of the Government could ever tolerate without making its opinion perfectly clear.


This debate has been in my opinion a very good debate. I think the speeches from both sides of the House—including the speech which we have just heard—have been of their respective kinds very excellent, with some of those exceptions which I am afraid we must always expect in a debate which lasts through a full Parliamentary day. But none of that credit, I think, is due to the Resolution we are discussing. It seems to me to be one of the most foolish that ever was put upon the Paper of the House of Commons. An hon. Gentleman, speaking for a few moments from the unaccustomed position of the other side of the House, said that this Resolution gave us, for the first time, I understand, the opportunity for a fair and square division upon the respective merits of free trade and protection. Let me read the Resolution which affords us this happy ground for our manœuvres. [An HON. MEMBER on the OPPOSITION Benches: "On the Foxhills."] It is a perfectly justifiable analogy. Now this is the Motion:—"That this House regrets that certain of His Majesty's Ministers have accepted official positions in a political organisation which has formally declared its adhesion to a policy of preferential duties involving the taxation of food." Are Gentlemen opposite so ill-acquainted with the real essence of the contest between free trade and protection that they think the issue is raised, except in the most remote and indirect fashion, by that Motion? The truth is that the whole interest of this debate has turned upon matters which are only just within the limits of order, as connected with the Motion, and even the right hon. Gentleman who put it upon the Paper and moved it hardly touched upon it at all. I suppose I must pay it, in passing, the respectful attention of telling the House why it is foolish, as it appears to me. The principles laid down by the right hon. Gentleman, both in regard to Ministerial responsibility and the relations of Ministers. of the Crown to the organisations belonging to their Parties seem to me to be utterly subversive, not merely of the constitutional traditions of this country, but of any traditions which we could allow to be framed so as to govern the action of our successors.

As regards the Ministers of the Crown, an hon. friend of mine well acquainted with the Colonies who touched upon this question quoted a sentence from Lord Macaulay about the traditions which prevailed a little more than a hundred years ago. That quotation indicates what nobody can doubt, that in the gradual evolution of this House of Commons two things have happened. One is that if you are to carry on the business of the country it is necessary that Party ties should be drawn closer than they were in Mr. Pitt's time, and, in the second place, that Ministerial responsibility and the absolute identity of opinion with regard to current matters is a new doctrine, but, I think, an inevitable doctrine. I do not quarrel with it. I think it is not the old tradition of this House. There was a time, and not very long ago either, in our constitutional history when no attempt was made to draw as tight as the right hon. Gentleman desires for the moment—I fancy only for the moment—the ties among members of the same Government. Let us remember, as the constitutional question has arisen, that there is something more at stake in this part of the question than the fate of this or any other Ministry. What is the principle upon which Governments are formed, and upon which they can only be formed? I have been reproached by the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down that I did not give a pledge with regard to my opinions not only in the next Parliament, but the Parliament after, and I suppose all Parliaments until in the course of years I shall be withdrawn from these debates.


I said the next Parliament.


I do not know how long the hon. Gentleman's tests are to apply, nor does he. But I am not only to be expected to give pledges as to what my own opinions are to be months or years hence, when the whole circumstance of the case may have changed, but all my colleagues are expected to give pledges that they shall always agree with me upon all subjects that are to be brought forward. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh, oh." !] I think that is not merely absurd, but I think anything at all resembling it would be wholly destructive of every form of Cabinet or Parliamentary government. I will not say, although it is obvious, that it makes impossible any coalition, because I am not sure that coalitions in this country have been great successes; but whatever the crisis the country was passing through, whatever the distribution of Party in this House, however difficult it may be to form a homogeneous Ministry out of a single Party, you must put coalition on one side. The Opposition say, "Here are gentlemen who are only agreed upon the policy of the session. But we want more than that. We want them to subscribe to some test to show that after this Parliament is dissolved, and possibly after they have been out of office for years, after Parliament is dissolved, they are to come back one homogeneous body, subscribing to one single system of fiscal doctrine." I am certainly not going to make any pledge for myself, and I am certainly not going to ask any pledges from my friends. After all, the only question immediately raised is whether a Minister of the Crown ought to belong to an association representing his Party in which resolutions are passed with which he does not agree, or in which he is not obliged to agree. [An HON. MEMBER:" Do you or do you not agree?"] Well, Sir, I remember Lord Randolph Churchill voting for a resolution in favour of protection. That did not bind the leaders of the Party in his day, nor their successors. I do not know why less liberty is to be allowed now. For my own part, I think it wholly improper that any attempt should be made to control the resolutions passed by the National Union of Conservative Associations. No attempt has ever been made to control them. I do not know how right hon. Gentlemen opposite manage their affairs. Perhaps their followers are better drilled but, unless I have been misinformed—I do not know whether it is true or not—the Trade Union Conference in 1893 passed a resolution in favour of the nationalisation of all the mineral resources of the country, and the hon. Member for Morpeth, for whom I have as great a respect as I have for any Member of the House, was a member of that conference, and also a member of Mr. Gladstone's Government. They passed such a resolution, and why should they not? And why should the hon. Gentleman not have remained a member of that Government? This idea of restricting the liberties of these representative institutions may find favour upon that side of the House, but as far as I am concerned, they shall never find favour upon this side, and I shall never recommend friends of mine who belong to the Liberal Unionist section of the Party to bind themselves in the sort of fetters which apparently commend themselves to the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends.

We have been told that the Government ought to speak with one voice. I think a Government ought to speak with one voice; but if you want them to speak with one voice, human nature being what it is and human beings modifying their opinions as they do, it must be for a limited time. Can you ask The members of a Cabinet to agree for more than the Parliament in which that Cabinet leads? If you are to lay down that doctrine. how on earth is the Radical Party ever to come into power? I quite admit that the divisions on this side at this moment are greatly occupying public attention and are greatly embarrassing, if you please, to the members of the Party themselves; but one must get accustomed to a disease. Everybody knows that there is an immunity derived from long suffering under certain microbic invasions. Hon. Gentlemen are immune from this particular disease, because, as everybody knows, they have had divisions from time immemorial. And their divisions are far more fundamental now and are going to remain more fundamental than any which exist on this side. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] Well, now, who is bold enough to challenge this? Here we have hon. Gentlemen opposite, some of whom are fervent believers in Home Rule. There are others who think it is an academic question, like the right hon. Member for East Fife, and there are others who hate the name. How many of them would agree that we ought to nationalise the mineral resources of the country? I see some hon. Gentlemen who would be seriously embarrassed if that particular policy were ever carried into effect. In truth, at this moment they are agreed on only one subject, and that is the question how they are most quickly to get into office. Their eagerness may be a matter of surprise, but it is a perfectly legitimate object of ambition. But, after all, it is an inadequate bond for a great Party. It hardly provides a sufficient basis for agreement on which to carry on a solid and patriotic policy for the country at large. I do not complain of their difficulties, from which I anticipate considerable personal enjoyment in the future, but what 1 do complain of is that they should turn upon us and reproach us as if they were a united family, bound together in the bonds of brotherly love, having but one opinion upon all the great questions that can divide the country, including fiscal reform. I think that absurd. And inasmuch as it is absurd, I perhaps may be allowed to leave the Motion which is immediately before the House and deal with more interesting and important questions.

I cannot conceal from myself that this vote of censure, though nominally directed against Lord Lansdowne and Lord Selborne, against my hon. friend the Secretary to the Treasury and other of my Liberal Unionist friends and colleagues, is in reality and in truth a vote of censure on myself. I have no objection to that. I have very little complaint indeed to make of the extraordinary wealth of adjectives hurled at my head in the course of this debate, and in previous debates on the same subject, in connection with the line I have thought it my duty to pursue. I have made a list of these adjectives; it is rather long; but perhaps I can sum it up by reminding the House that I have been accused of being a kind of Macchiavelli trying by mere dexterity, mere manœuvring—the phrase was loudly cheered—having no strong opinions of my own, of being desirous only of maintaining, as far as may be, the union of the Party which I lead, and of keeping office for myself and friends as long as possible. That is the expurgated substance of the attacks made upon me this afternoon and on previous occasions. Of course there are a certain number of politicians whose whole stock-in-trade consists in first misunderstanding and then in misrepresenting their opponents. I hope and believe that there are few in this Assembly, and if there are, I never wish to deprive a poor man of his livelihood. I am the last man to complain of any Gentleman who thinks it is the proper and best way of carrying on a controversy; but I believe that the vast majority of Gentlemen on both sides of the House are not desirous to indulge in deliberate misrepresentation, and are really anxious, if it does not cost them too much trouble, to make themselves acquainted with the point of view even of those with whom they most differ. It is to the second class and not to the first class I appeal. I do not in the least mind. I think the House will give me credit when I say that no man minds hard words less than I do. I am not raising this point in order to defend myself and to make an attack on any individual who may have thought it part of his duty to attack me; but the misunderstanding is so great that something may be gained by clearing it away. Hon. Gentlemen think that I have treated them badly by clouding my opinions in ingenious phrases, by never making a declaration of policy, by attempting to hold the balance between the two extremes, and by various Parliamentary artifices which, if ever justifiable, are not justifiable in regard to any prolonged discussion of any national issue. My view is that I think I have done more than any man in my position, than any previous Minister or Prime Minister, has ever done to make his position absolutely clear.

I have not dealt with these subjects for the first time, nor since the fiscal controversy came into an acute stage. I have been interested in economics for many years. I have spoken on them before the fiscal question came before the country in its present stage. I have spoken and written upon them frequently since. Any one who will take the trouble to read through these various speeches and writings I have made in the last twenty years of my political life will see that everything I have said on these economic subjects belongs to one consistent body of doctrine. It is possible, though I doubt it, that there may be here and there a verbal inconsistency; 1 have not read these back numbers, but that there is a substantial inconsistency I do not believe, and it is evident to any one who looks at the documents in a fair and honest spirit, that from first to last I have uttered the opinions I formed quite independently of the present controversy. No man, however much trouble he took, can preserve that verbal consistency for all these years. I have taken no trouble. I have spoken on each occasion for the occasion, and any critic with the smallest perspicuity or fitted with an elementary knowledge of the subject discussed would see that the docrines I have recommended to the country are not doctrines intended to harmonise any possible extremes, not doctrines to meet a particular occasion in a particular way, not examples of superhuman dexterity combined with superhuman infamy, but simply an exposition of views long held and maintained, consistent with themselves, economically sound, and which even the trade economists who differ from my conclusions will admit are not open to the charge that I had fallen a prey to any idols of the market-place or to the popular fallacies into which we are apt to fall when addressing popular audiences on these great and difficult questions.

I do not charge hon. Gentlemen opposite with any desire at any time to deliberately misrepresent; and that being so, I have tried to think why it is that they have attributed to me motives which were never in my mind and doctrines which I never professed. I believe it to be due to two causes. In the first place they think that I am bound, holding the general views that I have expressed in the country, to explain in detail how, if I am a member of a Government returned to power after the next general election, I mean to carry my views out. I think that a most unreasonable claim, and one that I would not give way to on any subject on earth. Think of any policy you choose. The Minister who should not merely express his general concurrence with a general line of policy, but should go into details as to the way in which it was to be carried out, would evidently lay himself open to such a degree of criticism as would embarass both himself and his colleagues in a manner which I do not mean to do. I do not think that any Gentleman on the Front Bench opposite would ever think of doing it. Why ask me to do what no Prime Minister has ever done before? Why ask me to go into details when I have been perfectly clear and explicit with regard to general principles? All that can be asked of me is general principles, and those I have given in unmistakable terms.

What is the second ground of misconception on which, I think, hon. Gentlemen innocently have made me a victim? They are unconsciously irritated at not being able to squeeze my opinions—which are my opinions—definitely into any of the divisions in which they prefer to carry on political controversy. They have one or two epithets on which either they plume themselves or which they throw at the heads of their opponents; and if my doctrines do not exactly square with or fit into these hard-and-fast divisions they think I am to blame. I would remind them that it is possible that they may be to blame—that it is not the speaker or writer, but the hearer and the writer who have misunderstood. I say it with. all respect. To-day we had an instance of it. The hon. and learned Member for South Shields made one of his characteristic speeches, one of those speeches with all its characteristics of style. He ended by saying that a certain pamphlet which I wrote carried on the face of it protectionist doctrine. He then proceeded to give not the words of the pamphlet—naturally he thought he could express my views far better than I could express them myself, for I do not pretend to rival his mastery of exposition. I acknowledge him my superior there, but where he failed was to understand what I meant. It may be my obscurity. I have been told that there are gentlemen who do not understand that document. But it is not because I have used ambiguous phrases or that I have wrapped up my meaning in vague and cloudy rhetoric. I have attempted in that pamphlet, as in my speeches, to state with the utmost precision. in phrases as clear as my poor powers of style enable me to use, the belief that I really entertain.


rose. Mr. A. J. BALFOUR remaining standing.


The hon. Member has no right to continue standing unless the right hon. Gentleman gives way.


sat down.


I only desire to ask the right hon. Gentleman whether he will answer the Question of the noble Lord about the 10 per cent. duty on manufactured goods.


Order, order! The hon. Member has no right to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman with a Question of that kind.


I have been asked, among other things, whether I am a protectionist or a free-trader—two terms which particularly commend themselves to hon. Gentlemen in conducting this controversy. Well, I am a free-trader. I have always been a free-trader. I quite admit that when I hear free trade expounded by some of its disciples on the other side I begin to hesitate as to the accuracy of the definition. There is the hon. and learned Member for South Shields, for example, who told us that free trade was co-extensive with human morality—a rather serious reflection, when we remember that that would confine human morality to the British Isles and the Turkish Empire. But in truth, though I do not think that the hon. Member for South Shields knows much about free trade—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh."] Well, I never make these assertions without reasons. I have given one reason; I will give another. The hon. and learned Member said that it was the essence of the free-trade doctrine that in a community of nations where free trade existed, that must be necessarily the best for all parties concerned.


I hope the right hon. Gentleman will pardon me for interrupting him, but I uttered neither of those propositions. I never dreamt of saying that free trade was co-extensive with human morality; indeed, I said nothing of the kind. Nor did I make the second point.


Well, I think if the hon. Gentleman looks at his speech he will see that I had reason for my views, but, of course, if he disavows them I am the last man to press them upon him. But whether the hon. and learned Gentleman was accurate or not as to the essence of free trade, I thought an excellent definition of it was given by my hon. friend the Member for Durham, who made one of the many good speeches made during the debate. He described protection as a policy which aimed at producing high prices in order to benefit the manufacturers. Well, that is a very good definition, I think, and that certainly has never been my principle. It has never occurred to me, nor have I ever suggested in public or private, that the policy of this country should be to produce high prices in order to benefit the manufacturers. But I think that free trade, or at all events the older school of free-trade economists, have shown themselves, naturally, incapable of foreseeing all the conditions with which we have to deal now. One of the things in which they have shown themselves most wanting is in the power of foreseeing that protection adopted by our rivals in trade would not produce all the evils to those rivals in neutral markets and in our own market which they anticipated. The old doctrine of free trade and protection was this—that if a country had protection it would in the first place render itself incapable of keeping to the front in the matter of invention, having no healthy competition. Invention would slacken, production would diminish in efficiency, and, therefore, that country, however secure it might be in its own markets in consequence of its protectionist system, would not be able to compete with a free-trade country like ourselves in neutral markets. Well, that is all wrong. I think it was a most natural hypothesis, but I think experience has clearly shown that it is incorrect. The three great manufacturing protective countries which we need most to consider are the United States of America, Germany, and France, and I venture to say all those three countries show at least as much power and skill in adapting new scientific researches to industrial purposes as we have ourselves shown. That was the first mistake that was made. Then they greatly underrated the evils that would ensue to a free-trade country in commercial contact with great protectionist countries on account of the mobility of movable capital and of the enormous increase in the amount of immovable capital—which requires movable capital to make it worth anything—which was part of the equipment of the free trade-country. It is too late to go into an analysis of this point now, though it is extremely important. It is one you will not see mentioned in the older text-books at all, but I am perfectly convinced the more you study the conditions of modern industry the more you will see that these protectionist countries obtain an unfair advantage over a non-protectionist country. The last of these errors which I wish to mention is that which is due to the older economists not having realised that any fiscal arrangement which gave a protected country the power of running its mills in certain industries at an even rate gave them an artificial advantage over countries which, owing to their free trade, could not run at that even rate. The hon. Member for Oldham laughs,—


I laughed because the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said a few months ago that 10,000,000 tons of iron and steel would be dumped into this country from America, whereas the facts are that there is a much greater stoppage of work there now than in this country.


I am making my own speech, and am expressing my own opinions to the best of my ability; and I do not know why the right hon. Gentleman interrupts me on a totally irrelevant issue. It is perfectly true that these protectionist countries carry out this process at great cost to them selves, but that is no comfort to us. They do carry it out, and in my judgment it is part of the duty of those who are responsible for the policy of this country to see whether the evils which protection is producing in neutral markets as in home markets, as well, of course, as in protected markets, cannot by some means be mitigated. Removed they cannot be, but I do not despair of their being mitigated by any Administration which is not hide-bound in maxims which were applicable in the days not only of Adam Smith, not only of Ricardo, but much later than that, but which are not applicable to the modern conditions of industry.

I have attempted within the conditions of time to summarise certain of the strictly economic doctrines which I hold, which I have endeavoured elsewhere to explain, and which I believe are of enormous importance to this country. But political economy is not the only thing to be considered. No nation worthy of the name has ever considered political economy only, and, when you go outside the bounds of political economy, you have to consider how much you lose and how much you gain morally and materially by any particular policy which may be suggested. I will put a very extreme case, because extreme cases more easily illustrate general principles. Suppose it could be shown, which I do not think can ever be shown, that not only did our race utterly deteriorate when transplanted to urban districts, but that there was no possible hope of making those urban districts so sanitary that the evil effects upon the physical well-being of our people could ever be obviated, is there a man in this House who would not say that, at whatever cost, means must be taken to keep a large population in the agricultural districts? That would not be a protective policy, that would be a sanitary policy. Then it is evident that everything turns on a matter of degree—what you give in the way of money and in other ways, and what you get in the way of money and in other ways, whether it be in national greatness, wealth, or health. It is a balance of good and evil. It is perfectly plain that there are circumstances under which it would be the duty of this country to put a tax on food. I do not say any such circumstance has arisen; I do not think it has. When, therefore, I am asked to lay it down as a principle that this country is never to put any tax, however small, upon food, how can I lay down such a principle? I was a member of the Government that put a tax on food to raise revenue, and most of my free-trade friends voted for that. If you put a tax on food to get revenue you may put it on for other purposes which are as great as, or greater, than revenue.

So much for the theory. Then I am asked whether I think a tax ought now to be put on for any purpose of colonial preference. I have expressed my view in the clearest language on that point, and I see no reason for altering it. That reason is not founded, as I understand the reason of some of my hon. friends is, upon some immutable scientific and economic ground. It is based upon the fact that, I believe, for historic reasons, there is a feeling about all taxation of food, however insignificant—or, at all events, all taxation of wheat, because we tax food already—altogether in excess of any damage which a small tax is likely to produce. I have expressed that view over and over again. Anybody who looks back upon my speech on the introduction of the corn tax will see my economic views upon that subject put quite clearly. That was long before the fiscal controversy arose. They will also see these views put to the deputation which met me when the corn tax was repealed, and the views which I then expressed before the fiscal controversy started are the views which I hold now. Where is the deception? Where is the shiftiness; where is the lack of definiteness in this statement of policy? But if I am asked whether I think colonial preference is a cause worthy of our attention, I must express my strong dissent from the views of my noble friend, admirably expressed earlier in the evening. He thinks that to take the Colonies into our confidence upon foreign affairs is quite a simple operation. Well, it is difficult enough for the Government to take the House of Commons into its confidence on foreign affairs. In fact, there are always aspects of foreign affairs which never are and never ought to be made a question of debate in this House. How, then, is it possible to carry out my noble friend's suggestion of drawing closer the union with the Colonies in that way? Whether in time to come some great constitutional inventor will find a method of having a representative institution dealing with the whole affairs of the Empire I know not, but I think my noble friend will admit that at present we are very far indeed from that. But as to the ideal which my right hon. friend has sketched out, that we should draw, if possible, closer the commercial bonds between us and the Colonies—that it is our business to find out what they can give and what we can give, what they want and what we want—of that I never have had a doubt and I have never expressed a doubt. I have always told the House and the country, and my views are unalterably fixed upon that subject. [OPPOSITION cries of "What are they?"] That being so, it seems to me that I have absolved myself to-night from the charge, if I ever was open to the charge, of keeping the House in ignorance of my views. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] I may not have dissipated the ignorance of the Member for Oldham. But to more impartial, I will not say to more favourable, hearers, whether on that side of the House or on this, I think I may say that the statement I have made to-night, consistent in every particular with the statements I have made before, is lacking neither in clearness nor in candour.

*Mr. ASQITH (Fifeshire, E.)

The right hon. Gentleman began his speech with something in the nature of a complaint that the debate had travelled beyond the limits of the Motion. I must say he has bettered any example that has been set him in the course of his own observations. If the debate has gone beyond the scope of the Motion, as it undoubtedly has, that is largely due to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman will not allow us any other opportunity of discussing the fiscal question except; on a vote of censure. The right hon. Gentleman, conscious of the embarrass- ments of a position which, as his speech shows, is logically indefensible, has, not for the first nor for the second time, endeavoured to escape from the difficulty by a very familiar, but a very futile rhetorical device—the device, I mean, of asking what, in some contingency which has not occurred, a body of persons who are not at present responsible for the government of the country would do or would not do. The right hon. Gentleman appears to forget, but the House does not need to be reminded, that we are discussing the conduct of the responsible Ministers of the Crown in relation to a question which does not belong to the dim and remote future, but which is at this moment, and will remain until the general election, the paramount issue in our domestic politics. Of what relevance is it, when that is the subject under discussion, to put hypothetical questions as to what somebody else would do in another set of circumstances? Sir Robert Peel defined the function of the Leader of the Opposition perfectly clearly when he said, "I will prescribe when I am called in." The right on. Gentleman said, "I am not in." He is in. He is in the sick room, at the bedside of the patient, a patient who, according to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, unless some drastic method is appiled, will soon be in articulo mortis The right hon. Gentleman who is in, and is the chief physician of the body politic at such a time, thinks it consistent with his duty to the House of Commons and the country to mumble a half-hearted approval of some homœopathic but undefined measure of retaliation while, as this Motion points out, he allows and even encourages his colleagues to go into an adjoining room and start a loud agitation in favour of a good strong searching dose of protection. When the right hon. Gentleman seeks to find some way of escape from the difficulties of his position by imagining difficulties for us, I make this answer. When a Liberal Government is sitting on those Benches, if it pursues the same ambiguous strategy as he and his colleagues are pursuing in relation to Home Rule or in relation to Disestablishment or in relation to any other question, I care not what, the right hon. Gentleman, if he is sitting on this Bench, will have abundant opportunity and, in my opinion, will have ample justification for moving a vote of censure upon them.

It is curious that the right hon. Gentleman does not yet appear to understand the gravamen of the charge conveyed in the Resolution of my right hon. friend. He speaks of the action of those colleagues who have joined—I was going to say the Tariff Reform League, for it really is the same thing—as if they had become members of the committee of the Psychical Research Society. He ignores the whole history of this matter. I need not go back as far as the resignation of the five Cabinet Ministers last autumn. One of them, the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, pointed out this afternoon with perfect clearness that the only point on which he for his part differed from the Prime Minister, was in their relative views as to the ripeness of public opinion. Their aims were absolutely the same. Their methods would be the same, only they differ as to whether public opinin owould stand it or not. Public opinion sometimes ripens very rapidly. Sometimes, on the other hand, public opinion makes a very slow response to the most assiduous and skilful agricultural operations. I shall never withhold the tribute to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham of my opinion that, however deeply and profoundly we differ from him, and no one differs from him more profoundly than I do, he took the only manly course when he laid down his office—an office which he cherished, and in which even his most severe critics will admit he performed great services to the Empire—and went out into the wilderness as a missionary, regardless of the consequences and determined to convert his fellow-subjects to what he believes to be the truth. That is the position and the only position, except indeed, that of those colleagues who retired on entirely different but equally conscientious grounds, which history and posterity will regard with honour or even with tolerance.

I must come to a later period, if the House will forgive me for bringing them back to the Motion. What was this meeting which the colleagues of the right hon. Gentleman attended and at which they were created officers of this association. It was not an ordinary meeting of the Liberal Unionist Association to denounce Home Rule, or alien immigration, or any of the other spectres of which some of them are afraid. This was a meeting to celebrate the triumph and reap the fruits of a successful revolution. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had succeeded in transforming the association from an oligarchy managed by dukes and people of that sort into a republic. And the peculiarity of this new republic was this—that, whether from ostracism or voluntary withdrawal, not a single free-trader was to be found within it. The Liberal Unionist organisation had been not only democratised, but purged. It was on such a body, so reconstituted, and at such a moment, that these three members of the Government were invited to accept, and accepted, responsible positions. I will not say much about the resolutions. They knew what those resolutions were. The resolution passed in the afternoon must have been known to them, although it seems to have been doctored and diluted in the evening, in order to suit the less robust digestion of my right hon. friend the Secretary for the Colonies; but it was a resolution in favour of the scheme for preference, and when at the evening meeting Lord Lansdowne, one of the representatives of the Government, made some hedging observations with regard to the difficulties which might attend the realisation of this splendid ideal, we are told that they were received with marked coldness by the audience, and I did not observe that they were repeated, either by the Secretary of State for the Colonies or any subsequent speaker. Now, Sir, just to sum up matters. Here you have three Ministers of the Crown joining a protectionist organisation from which free-traders have been completely excluded. That organisation is a body whose president has declared and does declare that one of its main objects is the promotion of preference. which involves the taxation of food. They join it at a moment when it has formally and explicitly passed a resolution in favour of preference, and they take with them the unabated sympathy of the Prime Minister with the object in view. That was the language used, and yet we are told that all this has no actual political significance, and that, after it all, the Government, as a Government, may be treated as neutral or even hostile to the taxation of food. I say that is flying in the face, not only of probability, but of common sense.

I will pass to the second part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. He was very indignant—I will not say indignant, but surprised, pained, and startled that his opponents should have charged him with playing in this matter a Machiavellian part, that he appeared, at any rate, to collude with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his schemes and projects. I do not think that charge proceeded in the first instance from the right hon. Gentleman's political opponents. I remember a passage in a great organ of public opinion favourable to the Member for West Birmingham, in which, with many admiring phrases, the right hon. Gentlemen were compared to consummate whist players who understood one another's hands, and who adjusted their play accordingly. It was not with those ignorant, stupid, and malevolent opponents that the charge in the first instance originated. The right hon. Gentleman tells us by way of apology that his whole past economic record is so clear, so consistent, that he who runs may read, and that there is no excuse for any doubt or ambiguity as to his real views. For twenty years, he says, he has been putting forward these same opinions to the public. I could not help distrusting my memory for a moment when I heard this; but I verified my recollection and I have discovered that as lately as June, 1903, he informed us in this House that he should consider he would be ill-performing his duty— I will not say to my own Party, but to the House and to the whole of the country, if I were to profess a settled conviction where no settled conviction exists. Pretty good for a consistent economist! I remember very well that the right hon. Gentleman used another phrase about the same time, which he applied to himself and his colleagues. He said they had open minds, and it was for the purpose of settling those unsettled convictions and closing those open minds that the inquiry was ordered, on the pretext of which we were debarred from all effective discussion on the matter. I should not have alluded to this, had the right hon. Gentleman not laid claim to praise for consistency. Bat whatever way have been his opinions in the past, is there any man now sitting on those Benches who can tell me what his opinions are today? [An HON. MEMBER: Not one.] The right hon. Gentleman was put two or three very plain, unambiguous, and simple questions, and to not one has he vouchsafed an answer. He has told us he is a free-trader. How does he proceed to justify his appropriation of the name? By pointing out that protectionist countries have discovered fundamental errors in the doctrine of free trade, that they have by abandoning free trade pro tanto stolen a march on us—the inference being, if these remarks were intended to lead to anything at all, that if we are to hold our own in the race it can only be by abandoning free trade and following their example. The right hon. Gentleman's zeal for free trade is on a par with his economic consistency!

There is another point on which we are more anxious still to obtain information, and that is with regard to this simple question. Is he, or is he not, in favour of the proposals of the Member for West Birmingham? I say no real answer has been given to that. The only answer the right hon. Gentleman has made is this, "I do not think that public opinion in its existing condition would tolerate such a thing." There is no objection in principle Apparently such a tax would, in the right hon. Gentleman's view, be not inconsistent with what he understands to be the doctrine of free trade, and so far as I am aware—and I am one of those who have tried patiently, laboriously, and conscientiously to understand what he means—so far as I can understand him, his sole objection to the imposition of such a tax is the stupidity or backwardness of the opinion of his fellow-countrymen. Why does he not follow the example of his late colleague? Why does he not join in the crusade to enlighten ignorance and to bring public opinion into conformity with what he says, could it only be carried out, would be a splendid and ennobling idea? I say the net result of the right hon. Gentleman's speech is in exact harmony with the inference we draw from the action of his colleagues, that the Government is a protectionist Government. that their sympathies are with the Member for West Birmingham, and that they are only restrained to the extent that they are restrained from active co-operation by the fear of public opinion. I will not impute to the hon. Gentleman the same motives which he has imputed to us, but I will say that they believe it is of paramount importance to the interests of the Empire that they should retain office. But I must point out that the country makes no distinction whatever between these two policies. The candidate is sent down to the constituency. He may be one of those mealy-mouthed gentlemen who say they cannot see their way at present to go further than the Sheffield programme. Or, on the other hand, he may go down with ail the pomp and circumstance, with the cymbals and brass, of the Tariff Reform League. It makes no difference. The electors do not discriminate between them. They recognise that the return of either would mean a step towards protection; they recognise that the rejection of both is the only rational way to support the cause of free trade. We are told that we ought not to pass this Resolution because of foreign complications, because we might weaken the hands of the Government in face of the world. Is there a Chancellory in Europe which appraises at more than a few months purchase the political existence of this Government? This country at any rate has clearly made up its mind; it only awaits the moment for rendering its verdict and executing its sentence. For my part, I do not believe

that even a vote of censure of this House would sensibly impair the remnants of the moral authority of this Government. Nevertheless, it is our duty to-night, on the last occasion this session will afford, to offer to the House of Commons by this Motion the opportunity of giving clear and explicit expression to what we believe to be the national mind in condemnation of what I do not hesitate to describe as a political imposture, than which the anuals of our history record none which is, at the same time, more transparent and more grotesque.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes,210; Noes, 288. (Division List No. 290.)

Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.) Cremer, William Randal Griffith, Ellis J.
Abraham, William (Rhondda) Crombie, John William Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton
Ainsworth, John Stirling Crooks, William Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.
Ambrose, Robert Cullinan, J. Harcourt, Lewis V. (Rossendale
Asher, Alexander DalZiel, James Henry Harcourt, Rt Hn Sir W (Monm'th
Ashton, Thomas Gair Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen) Harmsworth, R. Leicester
Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry Delany, William Harwood, George
Atherley-Jones, L. Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway Hayden, John Patrick
Barlow, John Emmott Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.) Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.
Barran, Rowland Hirst Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Helme, Norval Watson
Bell, Richard Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.
Benn, John Williams Dobbie, Joseph Henderson, Arthur (Durham)
Black, Alexander William Donelan, Captain A. Higham, John Sharpe
Boland, John Doogan, P. C. Holland, Sir William Henry
Bolton, Thomas Dolling Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark) Horniman, Frederick John
Brigg, John Duncan, J. Hastings Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.
Bright, Allan Heywood Dunn, Sir William Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk,
Broadhurst, Henry Edwards, Frank Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)
Brown, George M. (Edinburgh) Elibank, Master of Jacoby, James Alfred
Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson Ellice, Capt E. C. (S. Andrw's Bghs Johnson, John (Gateshead)
Bryce, Rt. Hon. James Ellis, John Edward (Notts.) Joicey, Sir James
Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn Emmott, Alfred Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Burke, E. Haviland- Evans, Sir Fran. H. (Maidstone) Jones, William (Carnarvonshire
Burns, John Eve, Harry Trelawney Joyce, Michael
Burt, Thomas Farquharson, Dr. Robert Kearley, Hudson E.
Buxton, Sydney Charles Farrell, James Patrick Kemp, Lieut.-Colonel George
Caldwell, James Fenwick, Charles Kilbride, Denis
Cameron, Robert Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith) Kitson, Sir James
Campbell, John (Armagh, S.) Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond Labouchere, Henry
Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H. Flavin, Michael Joseph Lambert, George
Causton, Richard Knight Flynn, James Christopher Langley, Batty
Cawley, Frederick Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.) Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)
Channing, Francis Allston Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry Leamy, Edmund
Churchill, Winston Spencer Freeman-Thomas, Captain F. Leese, Sir, Jos. F. (Accrington)
Clancy, John Joseph Fuller, J. M. F. Leigh, Sir Joseph
Condon, Thomas Joseph Grant, Corrie Levy, Maurice
Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark) Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir E.(Berwick) Lewis, John Herbert
Lloyd-George, David O'Malley, William Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)
Lough, Thomas O'Shaughnessy, P. J. Tennant, Harold John
Lundon, W. Partington, Oswald Thomas, Sir A (Glamorgan, E.)
Lyell, Charles Henry Poulton, James Mellor Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyr)
Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden) Thomas, J A (Glamorgan, Gower
MacNeill, John Gordon Swift Perks, Robert William Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)
MacVeagh, Jeremiah Philipps, John Wynford Tomkinson, James
M'Crae, George Pirie, Duncan V. Toulmin, George
M'Hugh, Patrick A. Power, Patrick Joseph Trevelyan, Charles Philips
M'Kean, John Price, Robert John Tully, Jasper
M'Kenna, Reginald Priestley, Arthur Ure, Alexander
M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North) Rea, Russell Wallace, Robert
Mansfield, Horace Rendall Reckitt, Harold James Walton, John Lawson(Leed, S.)s
Markham, Arthur Basil Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)
Mooney, John J. Rickett, J. Compton Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.
Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion) Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)
Morley, Charles (Breconshire) Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Morley, Rt Hn. John (Montrose Robertson, Edmund (Dundee) Weir, James Galloway
Moss, Samuel Robson, William Snowdon White, George (Norfolk)
Moulton, John Fletcher Roe, Sir Thomas White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Murphy, John Rose, Charles Day Whiteley, George (York, W. R.)
Nannetti, Joseph P. Runciman, Walter Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)
Nolan, Joseph (Louth South) Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland) Whittaker, Thomas Palmer
Norman, Henry Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel) Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid.
Norton, Capt. Cecil William Schwalm, Charles E. Wilson, Henry J.(York, W. R.)
Nussey, Thomas Winans Scott, Chas. Prestwich (Leigh) Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)
O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork) Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.) Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh., N.)
O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid.) Sheehan, Daniel Daniel Woodhouse, Sir J. T (Huddersf'd
O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny) Sheehy, David Yoxall, James Henry'
O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.) Shipman, Dr. John G.
O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W. Slack, John Bamford TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. William M'Arthur.
O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool) Soames, Arthur Wellesley
O'Donnell. John (Mayo, S.) Soares, Ernest J.
O'Dowd, John Stanhope, Hon. Philip James
O'Kelly, Jas. (Roscommon, N.) Sullivan, Donal
Agg-Gardner, James Tynte Bousfield, William Robert Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge
Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F (Middlesex Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.
Aird, Sir John Brassey, Albert Cripps, Charles Alfred
Alhusen, Augustus Henry Eden Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)
Allsopp, Hon. George Brotherton, Edward Allen Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile
Anson, Sir William Reynell Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.) Cubitt, Hon. Henry
Arkwright, John Stanhope Bull, William James Cost, Henry John C.
Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O. Burdett-Coutts, W. Dalkeith, Earl of
Arrol, Sir William Butcher, John George Davenport, William Bromley-
Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ. Davies, Sir Horatio D. (Chatham
Aubrey-Fleteher, Rt. Hn. Sir H. Carlile, William Walter Dickson, Charles Scott
bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H. Dimsdale, Rt. Hn. Sir Joseph C.
Bailcy, James (Walworth) Cautley, Henry Strother Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph
Bain, Colonel James Robert Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbyshire Dorington. Rt. Hn. Sir John E.
Balcarres, Lord Cayzer, Sir Charles Wlliam Doughty, Sir George
Baldwin, Alfred Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers
Balfour, Rt. Hon. A. J. (Manchr' Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. (Birm Doxford, Sir William Theodore
Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey) Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A (Wore. Duke, Henry Edward
Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin
Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch. Chaplin, Rt. Hon Henry Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Chapman, Edward Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)
Banes, Major George Edward Charrington, Spencer Fardell, Sir T. George
Bartley, Sir George C. T. Clare, Octavius Leigh Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J. (Manc'r
Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin Clive, Captain Percy A. Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst
Bentinck, Lord Henry C. Coates, Edward Feetham Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.
Bhownaggree, Sir M. M. Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E Finlay, Sir Robert Bannatyne
Bigwood, James Coghill, Douglas Harry Firbank, Sir Joseph Thomas
Bill, Charles Cohen, Benjamin Louis Fisher, William Hayes
Bingham, Lord Colomb, Rt. Hn. Sir John C. R. Fison, Frederick William
Blundell, Colonel Henry Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole FitzGerald, Sir Robert Penrose
Boscawen, Arthur Griffith- Compton, Lord Alwyne Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon
Boulnois, Edmund Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Flannery, Sir Fortescue
Flower, Sir Ernest Loder, Gerald Walter Erskine Rolleston, Sir John F. L.
Forster, Henry William Long, Col. Charles W. (Evesham) Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert
Foster, P. S. (Warwick S. W.) Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S.) Round, Rt. Hon. James
Galloway, William Johnson Lonsdale, John Brownlee Royds, Clement Molyneux
Gardner, Ernest Lowe, Francis William Rutherford, John (Lancashire)
Garfit, William Lowther, C. (Cumb., Eskdale) Rutherford, W. W (Liverpool)
Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H. Loyd, Archie Kirkman Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford-
Gordon, J. (Londonderry. S.) Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander
Gordon, Maj. E. (T'r Hamlets) Lyttelton. Rt. Hon. Alfred Samuel, Sir Harry S. (Limehouse
Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby. Macdona, John Cumming Sandys, Lient.-Col Thos. Myles
Goulding, Edward Alfred MacIver. David (Liverpool) Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Gray, Ernest (West Ham) Maconochie. A. W Saunderson, Rt. Hn. Col. Edw. J.
Green, Walford D. (Wedneshury M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire) Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)
Greene, Sir E. W (B'ry S Edm'nds Majendie, James A. H. Seton-Karr. Sir Henry
Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury) Manners, Lord Cecil Sharpe, William Edward T.
Greene, W. Raymond-(Cambs.) Martin, Richard Biddulph Sinclair, Louis (Romferd
Grenfell, William Henry Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F. Skewes-Cox, Thomas
Gretton, John Maxwell, Rt Hn. Sir H. E (Wigt'n Sloan, Thomas Henry
Groves, James Grimble Maxwell. W. J. H. (Dumfriessh.) Smiith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)
Hall, Edward Marshall Melville, Beresford Valentine Smith, Rt Hn J. Parker (Lanarks
Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F. Meysey-Thompson, Sir H. M. Spear, John Ward
Hambro, Charles Eric Middlemore, Jn. Throgmorton Spencer, Sir E. (W. Bromwich)
Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry Milvain, Thomas Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk
Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford Mitchell, William (Burnley) Stanley, Edward Jas,(Somerset
Hare, Thomas Leigh Molesworth, Sir Lewis Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)
Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th) Montagu, G. (Huntingdon) Stock, James Henry
Harris, Dr. Fredk. R. (Dulwich) Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.) Stone, Sir Benjamin
Haslam, Sir Alfred S. Morgan. D. J. (Walthamstow) Stroyan, John
Haslett, Sir James Horner Morpeth Viscount Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Hay, Hon. Claude George Morrel, George Herbert Talbot, Rt. Hn. J. G (Oxf'd Univ.
Heath, Arthur Howard(Hanley Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer Thornton, Percy M.
Heath, James (Staffords., N. W. Mount, William Arthur Tollemache, Henry James
Heaton, John Henniker Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C. Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Ed w. M.
Helder, Augustus Muntz, Sir Philip A. Tritton, Charles Ernest
Henderson, Sir A.(Statford, W.) Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute) Tuff, Charles
Hermon-Hodge, Sir Robert T. Murray, Charles J. (Coventry) Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward
Hope, J. F. (Sheffield, Brightside Murray, Col. Wyndham (Bath) Tuke, Sir John Batty
Horner, Frederick William Myers, William Henry Valentia, Viscount
Houldsworth, Sir Wm. Henry Newdegate, Francis A. N. Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. H (Sheffield
Hoult, Joseph Nicholson, William Graham Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.
Houston, Robert Paterson O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens Wanklyn, James Leslie
Howard, Jn. (Kent, Faversham Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury) Warde, Colonel C. E.
Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham) Parker, Sir Gilbert Webb, Colonel William George
Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil Parkes, Ebenezer Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.
Hudson, George Biekersteth Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington Wentworth, Bruce C. Vernon-
Hunt, Rowland Percy, Earl Wharton, Rt. Hon. John Lloyd
Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.) Pierpoint, Robert Whiteley, H. (Ashton und. Lyne
Jeffreys, Rt. Hon. Arthur Fred. Pilkington, Colonel Richard Whitmore, Charles Algernon
Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton Platt-Higgins, Frederick Williams, Colonel R. (Dorset)
Kennaway, Rt. Hn. Sir John H. Plummer, Sir Walter R. Willoughby de Eresbv, Lord
Kenyon, Hn. Geo. T. (Denbigh) Powell, Sir Francis Sharp Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)
Kerr, John Pretyman, Ernest George Wilson, John (Glasgow)
Keswick, William Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks
Kimber, Sir Henry Purvis, Robert Wodehonse, Rt. Hn. E. R. (Bath
King, Sir Henry Seymour Pym, C. Guy Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm
Knowles, Sir Lees Randles, John S. Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson
Laurie, Lieut.-General Rankin, Sir James Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow) Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne Wrightson, Sir Thomas
Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monmouth) Reid, James (Greenock) Wylie, Alexander
Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool) Remnant, James Farquharson Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Lee. A. B. (Hants., Fareham) Renwick. George Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.
Lees, Sir Elliott (Birkenhead) Ridley, Hon. M. W. (Stalybridge
Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.
Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S. Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)
Llewellyn, Evan Henry Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)
Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R. Robinson, Brooke