§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment [8th February] to Main Question [2nd February],"That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign—
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and 1105 Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Hardy.)
Which Amendment was—
At the end of the Question, to add the words But it is our duty, however, humbly to represent to Your Majesty that our effective deliberation on the financial service of the year is impaired by conflicting declarations from Your Majesty's Ministers. We respectfully submit to Your Majesty the judgment of this House that the removal of protective duties has for more than half a century actively conduced to the vast extension of the trade and commerce of the realm and to the welfare of its population; and this House believes that, while the needs of social improvement are still manifold and urgent, any return to protective duties, more particularly when imposed on the food of the people, would be deeply injurious to our national strength, contentment, and well being."—(Mr. John Morley.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. J.F. HOPE (Sheffield, Brightside)
said the question under discussion was so large that it was difficult to know where to begin, and, judging by the experience of previous speakers, it was equally difficult to know where to end. He would deal first of all with an argument which had been advanced in the course of the debate to the effect that if we changed our fiscal system we should discourage the efforts of those who in foreign countries were advocating the policy of free trade. Exactly the contrary had been urged in the Frankfurter Zeitung, which argued that it was the bad example of Germany which encouraged the present movement in England, and pleaded for a commercial treaty with England. With the statistics of the prosperity of Germany before them, however, it was manifest that such an argument must fall flat with the readers of the Frank furter Zeitung. He has examined the trade statistics of Russia, Germany, Italy, Holland, France, and Belgium, and, taking the figures for 1890 and 1902, he found that in every case, with the solitary exception of Russia, those countries had increased their trade with us in manufactured goods, and we had decreased our trade with them. Taking 1890 and 1902, the first and last years for which the figures were available, he found that Germany in 1890 1106 sent us £9,500,000 of manufactured goods, and we sent them £16,000,000; in 1902 they sent us £16,000,000, and we sent them £16,500,000, or a balance against us of £6,000,000. In the same way, between the same years the trade with Italy showed a balance against us of £1,250,000; with Holland (mostly German through trade), £6,750,000; with France, £7,250,000; with Belgium £7,750,000; and with the United States £20,000,000; or a total balance against us with these six countries of no less than, £49,000,000. It was perfectly clear that with these facts before them all the wisdom of the professors would not avail with the people of Germany against the actual experience of their traders and merchants. The only means by which we could induce them to treat us more liberally was to play the same game. This fact showed the difference between ethics and economics; in ethics it was wrong to do evil that good might come, but in economies the only way to bring about true free trade was to indulge freely in retaliation.
So far as the, productive character of a country was lessened, so far did it lose something of that energy and virility whereby alone it had been made and would continue to be great. An illustration of the truth of this statement was seen in the contrast between a manufacturing town and a watering-place, the one a town of producers and the, other a town of consumers. Everyone connected with towns of that description would recognise that in the one there was an energy, corporate and individual, which was lacking in the other. Although the agencies of the distribution of wealth might be multiplied, still there was something inseparable, from the productive character that we should be sorry to part with in our national life. He did not for a moment say that we had come vet to be a country of consumers, but there were ominous tendencies in that direction. He had seen statistics of employment, divided into industries, in which the numbers employed had decreased within late years, those in which the numbers employed had not increased in proportion to the population, and those which showed an increase in proportion to the population. The first category included 1107 agricultural labourers, clockmakers, hemp and jute makers, lead miners, silk Workers, tin miners, tin-plate goods makers, and zinc workers; the second included chemical manufacturers, coal miners, dress industry, glass manufacturers, and textile fabrics; while the only Trades included in the third category were books, prints and maps; engine and machine makers, fitters and boiler makers; food, lodging, tobacco, and drink; and houses, furniture, decoration, and building. These facts were somewhat significant. Those in the book trade were engaged in a strictly protected industry; machine makers largely made that which would subserve and increase industrial development abroad; boiler makers had great difficulty in exporting, owing to the bulk and shape of their products; those engaged in the industries connected with food and drink obviously could not export to any great extent; and the houses and building trades were protected by the circumstances of their occupation from the competitive importation of ready-made goods. Therefore, according to those statistics, of the actually productive staple industries of the country there was not one in which an increase was shown. And that must be the natural consequence when a home industry had neither the market at home to itself nor the free entrance to foreign markets, for the greater the flow of imports the less must be the employment at home.
No Member would wish as an ideal that we should be a nation of consumers only. As to the diplomatic aspect of the question, it would probably be admitted that when diplomacy was stripped of its conventional finesse it resolved itself into inducements or threats. In many instances the questions of difference between nations, while not of first-rate importance, were still of great importance to large sections of the community, and in such cases how could we proceed? What inducements had we to offer? To enter into an alliance, with its accompanying risks, for the sake of a purely trade advantage was not worth the game. To offer territory was to part with real property in exchange for a very doubtful and contingent advantage. The offer of cash down would not be tolerated by any Chancellor of the Exchequer, and it would be an induce- 1108 ment to every nation in the world to blackmail us. We could not offer trade advantages, as we had given them away already. Having, then, no inducements to offer, could we offer threats? To go to war for an ordinary trade advantage would be simply wicked and immoral. We could do nothing without the power of retaliation, which at present we did not possess. He would not confine this argument merely to cases of commercial advantage; it could be applied to questions of international importance not necessarily or exclusively connected with trade.
In our difference years ago with Portugal an allusion to Oporto wine would have had a potent effect; the Newfoundland Fisheries dispute might have been ended by a reference to champagne and silks; and there were conceivable circumstances in which mineral oil might be of considerable diplomatic service. But, how should this power of retaliation be exercised? Statements had been made to the effect that it would be used only after Parliament had been consulted in each case. That was good as far as it went, but he would like to go further. The procedure on a Finance Bill or a Convention Bill was no more than the rest of the British Constitution—a good fighting machine. Just as in case of national emergency he would give the Executive Government power to raise and apply money without the previous consent of Parliament, so he would pass a general statute giving the Executive Government the power, within certain limits, to retaliate on its own responsibility, subject to the judgment of Parliament afterwards, against any country that treated us unfairly. In Germany the Government had not general or universal powers, but a restricted power of increasing or diminishing tariffs, which was subject to the judgment, not of the Reichstag, but of the Bundesrath only. When a country like Germany possessed such a power, surely we ought to allow our Government the use of a weapon equally prompt and effective, and not trust merely to the wisdom of this somewhat garrulous assembly. ["Oh!"]. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose had recently stated that the advocates of reform in this matter were acting on pure hypotheses. He could 1109 assure the right hon. Gentleman that in Sheffield there was no hypothesis whatever about the matter. There was real and sore distress, partly accounted for by the fact that there had been some delay in the Government orders for armour-plate—a point to which he hoped the Civil Lord to the Admiralty would give some attention—but more largely due to circumstances which nothing but economic change could touch. It must necessarily be so when shafting made by his constituents ceased to find a market at the Tyne ports, because Germany by its cartel system was able to sell the same article at £3 per unit less. There was no sin in dumping itself. It was a perfectly legitimate commercial operation. But as a matter of business, if one side played at it the other should also. His ideal was that dumping should be stopped on both sides, but if we could not get an entrance into foreign markets we ought at least to keep command of our own. If he might venture a criticism on the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, he did not think his right hon. friend had quite explained how he would harmonise the conflicting claims of the revenue and the retaliatory tariff. Looked at simply for the purposes of revenue, the tariff would not be effective for retaliation against dumping; and, on the other hand, in the conceivable case of retaliating against all the world, next to no revenue would be brought in. That was a difficulty which deserved attention. His suggestion would be that the Government should put the highest revenue tax on foreign manufactured goods their experts advised; they would then have their revenue and machinery. Having their revenue and machinery they should then add, in case of necessity, duties on any particular articles in accordance with the needs of fiscal warfare. In reply to the objection that they would never know what revenue they were likely to get, he would say that they should calculate their revenue well within the mark and let the balance go to he sinking fund. But then this question arose: the policy of the Government was to open foreign markets; how would that affect industries which do not export, particularly agriculture? From the policy of negotiation and retaliation he did not think agriculture or other non- 1110 exporting industries could gain. Would it gain under the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham? If, as was said in the case of the corn duty, the first shilling did not count, the only advantage to be secured was in the second shilling, and he did not think the addition of a shilling to the price of corn would make the difference between prosperity and depression. Therefore, as at present formulated, neither proposal met the difficulty. He thought the way out of the difficulty was indicated by Lord Salisbury some years, ago when he stated that exporting industries were suffering from foreign tariffs, while non-exporting industries were suffering from a home excise in the shape of rates. In the one case the remedy was to get rid of foreign tariffs, and in the other to reduce the rates.
Some critics had attacked the Government for proposing a revolution in the fiscal policy of the country. Although he disagreed with this he ventured to think that the proposals of the Government were not a small or insignificant part of the policy of fiscal reform. The proposals of the Government were good in themselves, and might be advocated and put into operation quite apart from any further measures. He remembered that during the discussions on the Finance Bill of 1902, he ventured to put forward views on fiscal policy which had since become more fashionable than they then were; for he found fault with it because it contained no retaliatory proposals. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdeen was kind enough to say that he had given a lucid exposition of exploded fallacies. He presumed the right hon. Gentleman still thought them fallacies but he must recognise that whether fallacies or not they had still considerable detonating power. The change had been such that nobody two years ago would have ventured to predict.
A good deal had been said against the attitude of the Prime Minister on this question. For his personal defence he needed no one but himself; but as a matter of speculation it was interesting to know what other course his critics would have had him take. Was he to anathematise the right hon. Gentleman 1111 the Member for West Birmingham, and all his works? If so, he would have been unfair to his own convictions, because he went with the right hon. Gentleman at least half the way. Was he to accept the new policy wholesale, and make it his own? If so, he would have been open to the charge of committing his party, unprepared and unsuspicious, to a revolution of which no man could see the end. Was he, again, to resign his post and acknowledge himself overcome by the stress of the situation? If so, he would have been false to the trust which a united party had unanimously committed to him a year before. Another course was possible to him, to accept the necessity for fiscal change, to determine the time and the measure of its application according to a sense of what was practicable for Parliament and expedient for the State, and to hold together his party for work, for reform, and for conservation in other regions of no less importance than the fiscal sphere. This the Prime Minister had done, and in so doing, he believed, he would be followed by the very great majority of his supporters with a loyalty which difficulties and calumny would make the more staunch and the more enduring.
The Government had been asked not only to declare their policy but also the actual details and methods by which they wished to carry their policy out. It had been said that it would not be very long before they had a General Election, and therefore he presumed that the Opposition also had a policy. What did they propose in regard to education? He did not know whether the solitary representative of the Opposition Front Bench would like a little cross-examination upon that. [Cries of "Yes," and an HON. MEMBER, "There is only one on the Government Bench."] The Opposition ought to be prepared to state how they would carry out a reform in the financial system of the country. Would the hon. Member in charge of the Front Opposition Bench be prepared to stand a cross-examination as to how they proposed to carry out their education policy? Did they propose to restore the School Boards, buy up the Voluntary Schools, or take them over without paying for them, and give secular instruction in all 1112 schools? His point was that the questions he had just put to the Opposition were no more unreasonable than the questions put to the Government as to how they were going to carry out their proposals in regard to fiscal reform. Ho feared that some of his friends forget that forty years passed from the time when first an agitation for free trade sprung up till the time when it was consummated under the treaty of 1860. They had to deal with what to many Englishmen had become a religion, and they could not drive religious convictions, even though they be based on ancient superstition. But that the change must come, and that it need not be feared, he was equally convinced. People talked sometimes as though, before free trade. England was a poor country of mean account; but our shipping supremacy was created by the Navigation Act of a Republican Government, our wealth (according to Sir R. Giffen) trebled between 1750 and 1800, and our credit, under another fiscal system, brought us triumphant through the strain of the great wars. It was true that by the middle of the last century the old system had done its work and could no longer stand; but the success of that which followed was aided by a rare combination of events and sentiment with which it became associated in the public mind, or the results of which it usurped in the popular tradition. It was synchronous with great discoveries of gold and a marvellous development of applied science. Again, it represented triumph over the landed interest, and the landed interest was not popular in the towns. Those who opposed it had opposed the Reform Bill, and it was therefore associated with democratic principles, a conjunction which all subsequent experience had shown to be fortuitous. Above all, the age in which it was passed was an age of illusions. Peace, brotherhood, the reduction of armaments, the decay of national sentiment, and rivalries were looked on as the natural fruit of diffused knowledge and extended communications. Now racial hatreds are everywhere stimulated, national rivalries are more bitter than before, armaments are multiplied on every hand. For our material defences they had learned their lesson. He trusted that in the economic sphere as well they would recognise the 1113 truth, that if we wanted peace we must be prepared for war.
§ * SIR. JOHN BRUNNER (Cheshire, Northwich)
said the junior hon. Member for Oldham, whose speech gave so much pleasure to all who heard it, gave credit to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham for courage and belief. No man in this House failed to recognise the courage of the right hon. Gentleman, and they gave him full credit for belief in his own doctrines. He, however, had come to the conclusion that there was but little foundation for that belief, and he had arrived at this decision after reading the ex-Colonial Secretary's speeches and criticisms upon them. The familiar case of the tin-plate trade had been blown into atoms, upon the highest possible authority, by Sir John Jones Jenkins, who had shown that in 1902 the tinplate trade showed the largest amount of business ever known in the history of the trade. Sir John Jones Jenkins explained that it was only the old-fashioned tin-plate works which were at a standstill, and that in the United States the rise in the price of tin-plates caused by the tariff had cost them so much that it would have paid the country better to have paid the cost of those works and pensioned all the work-people off at full wages. The right hon. Gentleman had also told them that the average price of wheat in the ten years following the repeal of the Corn Laws was higher than the average price of the three preceding years. This self-appointed teacher was not aware that the Act of 1846 decreed that the new duty should not come into operation until February, 1849. Therefore he took the years 1847 to 1856, as the ten years following repeal, including two years under the old duties and two years at 70s.a quarter, during the Crimean War. Again the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham told his audience at Newcastle-on-Tyne that the alkali trade of that neighbourhood had been ruined by foreign competition. This trade was carried on by two methods, one employing sulphur, and the other ammonia both invented in France in 1808. After many experiments it was then decided that the sulphur process was the best, because sulphur was the more 1114 easy to obtain. This process was rapidly developed in England and many fortunes were made by it. In 1861, however, a distinguished Belgian started again the ammonia process, and after experimenting with it for ten years he succeeded with his process and in 1873 made 2,600 tons of alkali. The process thereafter underwent an enormous development with the result that last year the amount of alkali produced by it had risen to 1,610,000 tons, while the total output of the sulphur process, the one worked at Newcastle, declined during the same period from 525,000 tons to 150,000 tons. Was that due to foreign competition? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham did not know even the A B C of this trade, and to attempt, by legislation, to stop such a process was like trying to legislate against last year's rain. He had come to the conclusion that the Member for West Birmingham was not a safe guide with regard to the position of certain specific trades. What were really the reasons why some trades were languishing in this country? One of the reasons was that the works in which the business was carried on were old-fashioned. There were trades which were seriously injured (he had no hesitation in saving in the presence of friends of his who represented organised labour), by the old-fashioned ways of some of the trades unions. Just as the plant in some works was old-fashioned, so the trades unions were old-fashioned if they limited the out-put and drove hard bargains with employers as to new designs, if they unduly limited the number of apprentices, or limited mechanical appliances.
Before they descended to such a method as protective duties, at least let the employers and the employed meet together in a friendly fashion and set their house in order. He was an employer in the wire trade, one sympathetically but mistakenly dealt with by the Member for West Birmingham, and he knew that it was suffering from a lack of courage on the part of the employers and consideration on the part of the employees. He hoped that before long employers and employed would meet together in that trade also to see if anything could be done to the mutual advantage of both. The right hon. Gentleman 1115 the Member for West Birmingham said that under a system of protection they would have greater steadiness of employment. The right hon. Gentleman had proved the contrary by his own statements. What was it that had produced trouble in the tinplate trade but an import duty—not a duty imposed in this country but in another. Impose duties in this country and they would produce violent charges just as duties imposed in another country had done. The first imposition of a tariff, and every change in a tariff, brought upon one trade or another some derangement. The steadiness of employment was less in every protected country than in our own. He had spoken of one cause why some of our trades were languishing, but there was another known as "rule of thumb" management.
He had heard of a woollen mill in Yorkshire, where on one floor the foreman had unlimited power of ordering a certain chemical, while the foreman on the floor below had unlimited power of ordering another chemical which counteracted the one above. The same traveller sold both. Not one of the directors knew why either chemicals was used. He remembered having a conversation with a soap manufacturer, a customer of his own. He coaxed the customer to tell him how much soap he had turned out in the previous six months and found that only one-third of the alkali supplied had gone out of his factory in the shape of soap. He recommended him to find out where the other two-thirds had gone. That gentleman discovered that it had gone down a sewer through a broken pipe. That was one instance of I "rule of thumb." His own firm once got a claim from a glassmaker, who said that his glass was ruined by the amount of sulphur in the alkali sold to him. The hon. Member knew there was no sulphur in the alkali, and he paid a visit to the glassworks. He succeeded in getting a sample of baryta which was being used there, and he sent it to the public analyst of Newcastle-on-Tyne for analysis. It was found to be sulphate of baryte, instead of carbonate of baryta, as it should have been. Hence those tears. Naturally no more was heard of the claim.
1116 Reference had been made in the course of the debate to the making of electrical machinery. It was the fashion now to be in favour of scientific education, but it was not so twenty years ago. A great blow came then upon the trade of making electrical machinery. By the Electric Lighting Act of 1882, any person who established an electric lighting installation in a town was bound, at the end of twenty-one years, to hand it over to the authorities of the town without any addition to the price for good-will or prospective profit. No business man in his senses, undertaking a new and risky business, would trade on such terms. The author of the Act was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Only a fortnight ago he heard of a case which afforded an illustration of how English trade got behind. It had been behind, but it was recovering. An Englishman, resident in one of the British colonies, found in the neighbourhood of his factory a plant which was likely to to produce a new dye. He sent a specimen to a correspondent in England, and that correspondent sent it to the Colonial Institute, with the view of ascertaining whether anything could be made of it. The authorities of the Institute said they never examined anything except for the Colonial Office. The English correspondent sent the specimen to a well-known firm of chemical manufacturers in Germany, the firm which was now threatening India with the absolute loss of the trade in indigo. They produced a new dye from it and that dye had been registered in the joint names of the German company and the English correspondent. The House remembered very well how, not long ago, a number of deaths were caused from the drinking of beer containing arsenic. In a trial just finished the names of two firms had been mentioned—one of whom made sulphuric acid containing arsenic and the other used the acid in making glucose for brewers. That trial had brought to light an appalling ignorance on the part of these firms, which was a shame to the chemical trade. He was glad that the English firm who manufactured sulphuric acid should have been excused from any allegation of fraud, but their ignorance was absolutely appalling.
1117 The causes of slackness I have spoken of are all removable causes. As showing the disadvantages of the protective system the hon. Member mentioned the case of an American inventor who introduced into England a machine by which matches were made without the intervention of hand labour from the time the blocks of wood were put in until they came out as finished matches. In England, matchmaking by that process was now a most prosperous trade, and the company was paying large dividends. The same machine was tried in Germany. It could only be used with a particularly soft wood, and none suitable was to be found within the limits of the Zollverein. The duty on the wood introduced from other quarters was so high that it was absolutely impossible to make the matches in Germany. He could give another illustration from the soap trade in Canada. His friend, Mr. Lever, had a soap factory in the colony, and he wanted to use cotton seed oil for making soap. All soap materials there were duty free, but cotton seed oil was not on the list. The other soap manufacturers did not want to use cotton seed oil and they took measures to prevent it being put on the list. That was an example of the lobbying that took place under protection.
The noble lord, the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs said that a free trade Government could do nothing for trade. Those who thought so were totally mistaken. The United States, 100 years ago, determined that the improvement of harbours and rivers should not be left to the locality, and should not be left undone because of the poverty of a locality. One Government in Europe after another had done great things to help trade, and in a thoroughly wholesome fashion, by reducing the cost of the internal transit of goods, the cost of the receipt of goods at ports, and the cost of loading. They were told that no practical recommendation came from the Opposition side; he submitted this one to his own leaders. The fruitful cause of protective duties was extravagant expenditure. He threw back in the teeth of any man the imputation that he was a Little Englander.
§ MAJOR SEELY (Isle of Wight)
said the hon. Baronet who had just sat down had shown clearly from practical experience how very much greater were the influences of scientific invention and co-operation between employers and employed, and other factors, than the factor of import duties upon trade. In that matter he struck at the root of the question which was agitating the country and the House as to whether, after all, import duties could help us in any way whatever. He was sure that hon. Members, free traders or free importers, were grateful to the Secretary for the Colonies for the speech he had made that day. The right hon. Gentlemen said, suppose you place an import duty of 5 or 10 per cent. for revenue purposes and you find, incidentally, it has a helping effect on the home producer or to the Colonies, are you to say it is a protective duty and you are to have none of it? He ventured to say, Yes. The Colonial Secretary had described free traders as being fanatics and ascetics in this cause. Frankly, he confessed that he was a fanatic or an ascetic, because he believed that any tax which had a protective effect was a tax which this country would do wisely to forswear. He had been impelled to the belief that protective taxes, whether small or large, whether involving colonial preference or not, contained so great and manifold evils that he for one would never be a party to their imposition. [OPPOSITION cheers.] Although the holding of this belief might drive him from the ranks of the Conservative Party, still he adhered to that decision. Anyone who proposed to take the grave step of voting against the Government ought to give some reason why he held this faith so strongly. He had already stated his objection to agree to a tax which would help the home producer, although imposed for revenue only. He cited the case of the working man who lived under the two systems. The working man at present went to a shop to buy sugar and other articles. He was aware that he was spending 6d. more than he need spend if there were no taxes at all. But the working man said to himself, "I know that the Army and Navy are necessary, and I am willing to pay my share." Under the system suggested by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham the working man, in 1119 buying his necessaries, would be aware, not only that he was paying 6d. more, bur he would now say, "A portion of the 6d. goes towards the Army and the Navy, but a portion also goes to provide Messrs. Jones and Robinson, the owners of the factory, with more money to employ more footmen and drink more champagne." And the working man would speak the absolute truth.
He agreed that the economic loss of wealth to the people of the country was very slight, because much of the money gained by the manufacturer would be distributed among his workpeople, but no one could deny that the man who paid protective taxes had a definite grievance. No one would also deny that the system under which we lived did produce a greater degree of social content than prevailed in any other country; and though he believed that while the economic loss suffered by protection was greatly exaggerated by free trade speakers, yet the social evils of protection had received nothing like sufficient attention. A country which had adopted free trade and reverted to protective duties, however small, must do one of two things. It must cither transfer the people to great countries with illimitable resources, like America, or it must have a military despotism such as prevailed on the Continent. He might be wrong in that belief, but at least it was a belief by greater authorities than himself. Taxes could not in any case be a source of wealth, and experience had proved that they could not transfer wealth from one country to another by putting on taxes. As countries could not tax one another, a Government had then to consider in what way they should put a tax on the people of their own country, on which class, and for the benefit of what other class. Now they came to the crux of the case, and the cause of all the agitation in the country. Were they going so to put on their taxes that part of them should be taken out of the pockets of the producers and the consumers, and put partly into the coffers of the State and partly into the pockets of another class of consumers and producers, or were they going to continue the principle under which we, had lived for the last sixty years, that money taken out of the pockets of the general public 1120 should go straight into the coffers of the State? He for one adhered to the view that it was wiser to stick to the plan of taxation for revenue purposes only, and he would ask his right hon. friend the Colonial Secretary whether he believed it possible to pledge his Government that they would, under no circumstances, except for purely temporary and combative purposes, impose any restrictive duties of any sort or kind on foreign manufactures?
§ * MR. LYTTELTON
The policy of retaliation does not prescribe the imposition of import duties on any class of commodities except for defensive purposes.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said he was glad to hear from his right hon. friend a definite pledge that it was no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government, that they had no intention now, nor at any future time, before or after any election, to put import duties of any sort or kind, except as a purely temporary expedient, upon foreign manufactured goods.
§ * MR. LYTTELTON
My hon. and gallant friend has no right, after asking a question and receiving an answer, to make a speech, and put into my answer that which it did not contain.
§ MAJOR SEELY
said he was sorry if he had misinterpreted his right hon. friend's view, but the matter was of so much importance, for it really embodied the whole question at issue. Might he ask him what was the position of His Majesty's Government? [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] It was apparent that His Majesty's Government could not possibly give that pledge, because their supporters had practically unanimously applauded every speech, every statement, of the Secretary to the Board of Trade when he pointed out that the imports of certain classes of foreign goods had deprived the working classes of £5,000,000 of wages. He excepted from this remark those who had remained firm to their free trade principles, although many had been half driven from them by some leaders of the Party, and many others had been misled. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had said that it was possible by a system of import duties to give 300,000 poor families in this country, who 1121 had been deprived of their work by the importation of foreign goods, 30s. a week. If there was one germ of truth in it, what an illimitable hope it held out to all these people who were struggling on the verge of poverty, and who thought that they saw by this method a relief from all their troubles! The true division was between those who believed that the exclusion of imports would, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham contended, give wealth to those who had no wealth, and employment to those who sought it, and could not find it, and those who, like himself, held that that was an idle dream. He asked his right hon. friend whether the Government would pledge themselves to the view that it was idle and absurd to suppose that relief from all their troubles could be obtained by import duties, and he could get no answer. He did not blame the Colonial Secretary, but from his right hon. friend's speech, and from that of the Secretary to the Board of Trade, it could be seen that they did believe that relief from the troubles of the poor was to be found in the imposition of import duties and taxes. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had deluded himself and the people of this country, with the best and most patriotic motives no doubt, into the belief that relief would come from taxation, then they must oppose his proposals by every means in their power, so that other greater reforms might not be swept aside, and so that bitter disappointment might not render our people more miserable than before. If it were true that any relief from suffering could be obtained from the imposition of import duties, then for Heaven's sake let the Government come forward with it at once. Let the Secretary to the Board of Trade, who had told them that £5,000,000 were abstracted from the pockets of Englishmen, stand forward at once like a man and say that he and his colleagues would put an end to these sorrows and troubles. He honestly believed that the hon. Gentleman sincerely believed it; but the hon. Gentleman could not say so—and why not? In order to keep the party together! He did not wish to say anything unkind, but he could not be a party to trifling with the deep feelings that had been aroused, and honestly 1122 aroused, on both sides in this matter. He was firmly convinced that all this protectionist talk was nothing but folly and an idle dream. For his own part no talk of retaliation, or of holding the Party together, would induce him to support a Party which held that idle dream, and he would unhesitatingly vote and would urge upon his friends not to doubt for a moment, but to vote also for the Amendment, which represented their opinions of the truth.
* MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire Particle)
said that there was no section of the House which felt more deeply than those who agreed with the opinions of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the loss from which the House suffered by his absence from this debate. They felt how much that absence prejudiced the cause in which they were interested. But there was one thing they thoroughly appreciated, and that was the generous sympathy which the House had shown for the cause of that absence, and the friends of the right hon. Gentlemen would not soon or lightly forget the deep and true feeling which inspired the phrases of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose when he informed the House of the cause of the absence of the opponent and friend with whom he had hoped to cross swords in this great arena. Such words leave a mark, not to be obliterated by the dints or the dust of the keenest party controversy. They had heard a very striking speech from the Colonial Secretary, with every word of which he thoroughly agreed. As one of his earliest friends in this House, he hoped he would be permitted to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on that speech, which showed to the world what his friends had long known, how fit he was to be the occupant of the great office ho now held. But there was another speech upon which a vast deal of emphasis had been laid by those opposed to the Government on that side of the House and on this, and that was the speech of the President of the Board of Trade. Those who were opposed to the Government were inclined to take that speech as a final and permanent definite declaration of policy, but to his mind it was nothing of the kind. He took it simply as an interim 1123 report—an explanation of the present policy of the Government, together with the personal opinions of the right hon. Gentleman who spoke it. The President of the Board of Trade had rightly declined to state the future policy of the Government, and he quoted as an unanswerable precedent the action of Mr. Gladstone. In due time and at a future time the policy of the Government would be put before the country, and it would be on higher authority—the authority of the Prime Minister himself, who, with all respect to the President of the Board of Trade, was a higher authority than he, was. He must say that he could not accept the system of successive General Elections which had been expounded by the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade. That was taking a great deal too many bites to the cherry. It was not in the power of anyone to say what the issues at the next General Election would be. These issues would form themselves, and no declaration now could hinder the Prime Minister or the Party from going to the country on the larger policy of Imperial consolidation, and preference to the Colonies if and when it seemed expedient to them to do so. The Prime Minister very rightly in his speech at Sheffield reserved his freedom on that point, and they, his followers, declined to take any limitation on that except from himself. It seemed to him that the line which the President of the Board of Trade had taken was a false line, it was open to attack from the free trade side and it was open to an acceptance which was just as damaging. It admitted too much, and reminded him of the excuse of the servant girl who, when an unfortunate baby appeared, said "Please, sir, it was only a very little, one." That was an excuse which would not carry any weight. In view of the declaration of the President of the Board of Trade, what became of the great Sheffield speech of the Prime Minister and the solemn questions which were asked in it? The Prime Minister said—The second question I will imagine put to me is this—'Do you desire to reverse the fiscal tradition, to alter fundamentally the fiscal tradition which has prevailed during the last two generations?' Yes, I do. I propose to alter that tradition by asking the people of this country to reverse, to annul, to delete altogether from their book of maxims of public conduct the doctrine that you must never put on taxation except for revenue purposes.1124 Then as to liberty of negotiation the Prime Minister said—Will the remedy you propose be complete? It will not be complete even if tried in its integrity, because the country will not tolerate the taxation of food.Was the whole answer to these questions to be that the Government wished to have the power, after obtaining the concurrence of the House of Commons, to use retaliation? That was not enough, as the outcome of such a speech. Mountains would have been in labour and have brought forth a very small mouse indeed. If the principle of freedom of negotiation were accepted, as it appeared to be on that side of the House, he asked why not proceed with it at once? It was said by the ultra-fiscal purists that retaliation was impossible, that it might lead to a tariff war. Of course it might, but so might any diplomatic negotiation lead to war, and it was the business of diplomatists to avoid that. The same was true in regard to fiscal negotiation. He denied the assertion that it made no difference in negotiating treaties, whether we had a power of retaliation or not. He would like to read an extract on this point from Mr. Morley's "Life of Cobden." In defending the policy of the French Treaty of 1860, Mr. Morley said—It is absurd to quarrel with the treaties because they do not sound in time with the verbal jingle of an abstract dogma. It is beside the mark to meet the advantages gained by the, international action of commercial treaties by the formula 'Take care of your imports and your exports will take care of themselves.' The decisive consideration is that we can only procure imports from other countries on the cheapest possible terms upon the condition that producers in those countries are able to receive our exports on the cheapest possible terms. Foreign producers can only do this on condition that their Governments can be induced to lower hostile tariffs; and foreign Governments are only able, or choose to believe that they are only able, to lower tariffs in face of the strength of the protected interests by means of a commercial treaty.He wished to give a further instance. He met the other day a gentleman who was concerned in drawing up the McKinley Tariff, who gave him a most graphic description of proceedings when that tariff was being drawn up. Article after article was discussed by the Tariff Committee, and the amount of duty to be imposed upon it. On one article the expert adviser of the Committee said "Be careful; remember 90 per cent. of 1125 this article comes from Germany; put on a low tariff." A low tariff was accordingly imposed. On another article it was said "Three-fourths of these goods come from France; you must not put the duty too high, for France can meet you." The duty was fixed accordingly. Another article came forward, when it was said "Oh, this article comes from England, do what you like with it." That was the style in which foreign countries dealt with a country which could not defend itself. There was another instance, and it was contained in the Blue-book on India issued the other day. In this Blue-book the views of the Government of India on the question of preferential tariffs were set forth and they stated that so far as they could see at present such a policy would not suit them. But they gave a variety of cases in which the Government policy, the policy of negotiation, where the tariff had actually been used in India, and used as a weapon against foreign countries in tariff negotiations had been of immediate and great value to the people of India.
The right hon. Baronet the Member for Northumberland (Berwick) had challenged them to cite a single instance in which the power of retaliation had been used with satisfactory results. Well, he would give them some from this Blue-book. In the year 1900 France proposed to submit imports from India to the higher or general tariff. More recently Russia threatened to raise her already exorbitant duty on Indian tea following the passing of the Sugar Convention Bill. In the former case the Indian Government were able, by the grant of a small tariff concession in favour of vinegar and copperas, to secure most-favoured-nation treatment, and to escape the almost penal enhancement to which their coffee and pepper would otherwise have been subject. In the Russian case the Government of India advised the Secretary of State that they would be prepared to impose a differential duty on Russian petroleum. "In both cases," it was stated in the Blue-book, "negotiation was rendered possible by the fact that India possesses an import tariff," and was ready in case of need to differentiate against the goods of other countries, the Governments of which assumed a hostile attitude.
* MR. PARKER SMITH
objected to these irrelevant interruptions. He was stating the case of India, and was proving from the Blue-book which had been quoted from by the other side on points favourable to them, that the Government of India had in the last few years reaped advantage from the very policy which the Home Government were claiming liberty to use, and which it had been asserted by hon. Members opposite it could not under any possible circumstances be of advantage to any Government to have. Indeed the Indian Government declared that in their opinion a greater freedom of policy would be attended by beneficial results, for they went on to say that if Japan were made to understand that the Indian Government were free when necessary to differentiate against foreign countries it would be possible to get better terms from the Japanese Government than had hitherto been the case. Thus they had three concrete instances of the advantages gained by the possession of these additional powers. But there was a great deal more beyond. He frankly confessed that it seemed to him there was no line of demarcation in this matter. Once accept the principle of using tariff for other purposes than revenue only and a great many other things must follow.
It was said long ago by Adam Smith that defence was more important than opulence. Now-a-days there were many things more important than opulence, and we wanted freedom to use the tariff in order to obtain them. The country would be asked for a, full and deliberate mandate to use the tariff for political purposes, to obtain employment and a higher class of employment for the people, and to draw the, parts of the Empire closer together—to bring the Colonies into closer union with ourselves. This undoubtedly meant preference, a duty on manufactures, a general tariff, a tax on food. He was not afraid of going with these views to the country 1127 when the country had had time fully to understand them. There were of course many difficulties to be faced, and some of them had been stated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol. Much elaborate negotiation would be involved, much adjustment in favour of one Colony or another corresponding to what the Colonies were willing to give us. The right hon. Gentleman had asked would it be a fair bargain to allow colonial imports to come here free while our exports were taxed. But how did that differ from the present condition of affairs? Only in so far as that was the slate of things with foreign countries as well as with the Colonies. They can all send their goods here free while we on our part had to pay duties on those we sent them. The worst that could be argued against the proposal for preference, then, was that the Colonies would be in the same position as foreign countries were in. He regretted that the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean had minimised unduly the capacity and willingness of our Colonies to meet us, but if after all we could not make a bargain with them we should be very much as we were. Free trade within the Empire—which was what we were hoping for in the future—might be far out of reach now; but was not the path to a union of that kind through closer arrangements with the Colonies? The influence of the Zollverein on German unity had not been sufficiently appreciated by the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich who did not appear to realise all that it had to do in leading up to the Union of the German Empire. German historians and economists placed great stress upon it and upon the public spirit of Prussia in entering into agreements with the smaller scattered States—separated not by the sea which united but by the land which divided—and in standing without scruple the great pecuniary loss thereby involved for a long time, they held that these bold sacrifices and this Fiscal Policy led up to the consolidation of the German Empire. Two other parallels were quoted by the noble Lord—the cases of the Union with Scotland and Ireland—and he drew from them the conclusion that in these matters fiscal interest counted for very little. He himself took an opposite view. The 1128 Union with Scotland took place in 1707, and at the time there was a strong feeling against it which was only overcome by the fact that the Union meant prosperity and fiscal advantage to Scotland. What better witness could they have of that than Sir Walter Scott, who, by the mouth of Bailie Nicol Jarvie describes how the strong feeling against the Union was overcome when it was discovered that by admission to the West Indian and Virginian trade Scotland gained wealth, prosperity, and happiness. That was the manner in which cordiality was created between the two countries. But how was it that with regard to Ireland the exact contrary was the case? There the Union was brought about on political grounds—grounds absolutely sufficient as he thought—but unfortunately England's fiscal policy proved absolutely destructive to the material interests of Ireland. No one would deny that the policy of free trade, however advantageous to England, was ruinous to Ireland in the middle half of the last century, and he feared that the fact that adversity instead of prosperity to Ireland being the result of that financial policy was responsible for the continuance till the present day of the feeling against the Union. Had the Union made Ireland financially prosperous in the same way as it did Scotland, the feeling against it would assuredly have died out by now.
Another argument which had been brought forward was in connection with the old Corn Laws. But nobody in their senses wanted to go back to the Corn Law policy of sixty years ago. Those Corn Laws were an absolute and hopeless blunder. That view was held by the most scientific protectionists, the German school, who had put the theory on a sound basis. But the Corn Laws were but a small and unimportant factor in the condition of the country. The real contest in the free trade controversy of sixty years ago lay between the manufacturing interest and the agricultural interest; and it was political passion that had given an exaggerated importance to the Corn Laws. They were perfectly unnecessary and led to extravagant prices in bad times without keeping the prices steady in good years, when they were inclined to fall too low. Cobden, in 1842, said the Free Trade 1129 movement was a middle-class agitation. He complained that the intelligent mechanics stood aloof, and the Chartists were hostile and suspicious. It was the great capitalist class who formed the basis of the anti-Corn Law movement, because they felt that their order was at stake. It was a false idea altogether that the growth of this country in the last fifty years was owing solely to free trade confined to those whose knowledge of history is only derived from political books and pamphlets. People forget that in the period immediately preceding steam had come into general use and that there had been an absolute change in our whole system of commerce. Adam Smith writing not much more than a century ago told them how in those days it took six weeks to carry a load of four tons by road from Edinburgh to London and back, while it took an equal period to take 200 tons the same distance by sea. Since then there had been an enormous and unparalled extension. Adam Smith told them also that the growth of population constituted the most decisive mark of a country's prosperity. Well, in the first half of the nineteenth century the population of Great Britain increased faster than it had ever done either before or since. In the forty years from 1800 to 1841—a period which the right hon. Gentleman opposite said was one absolut3ly miserable and wretched, the population of the United Kingdom increased by 65 per cent., and in the forty years 1851 to 1891—he left out the period of the potato famine—the increase was only 38 per cent. If they left Ireland out of consideration, and if they took Great Britain alone the increase in the first forty years was 70 per cent. and in the second period 60 per cent. Those were the days when the doctrine of laisser faire prevailed in all directions, growth was chaotic, and vast towns were springing up while there were not in existence sanitary or factory laws. It was the novels of the period that gave the truer picture of the state of the country. They had been referred by Mr. Morley to novels, and especially to those of Mr. Disraeli and Mrs. Gaskell. Let them read those and they would find that the most burning questions of that day, were not as to the dear loaf. They would remember the case of the old lady in "Sybil" who, when told she 1130 needed the cheap loaf, replied that the difficulty was she had no money to buy it with. The grievances dwelt upon were in connection with the Truck system and the repeated strikes, and they arose, too, from the wild and uncontrolled action of trades unions, as well as from the loss of employment from time to time, owing to the uncertain condition of trade. In "Sybil" the worst grievance is put thus—We don't see enough of our young Queen's head, for we are not paid in money but in waistcoats.That was also the kind of grievance described by Mrs. Gaskell, who had an intimate acquaintance with the condition of the people of Manchester. The distress during the period of the corn laws was caused not so much by the high price of bread as by the reaction from the war and the distress which followed on it, and by the rotten poor law which existed at the time and which encouraged men to believe they could prosper as well without as with employment. Then, too, there was the change going on from the staple agricultural condition to the industrial state of civilisation. Everybody was entering into fresh employment under conditions that were absolutely chaotic. These changes in the social system meant friction and much suffering, and of that they had an illustration in connection with the west of Scotland. The thriving textile industry of that district failed and was gradually transferred to Lancashire and other parts of the country. The great mineral industries sprang up to take its place, but the change which occurred during the time that it was going on led to very great distress. But was it fair or honest to exploit those memories of old bitterness and to pretend that a duty less than a tenth of the amount of the old corn tax could have in the slightest degree the effect which the old tax had. It was the old story of giving a dog a bad name and hanging him. But it was just as unfair to give oneself a good name when it was not deserved. That seemed to him to be what the Free Food League was doing. They were using a name which was entirely foreign to their doctrines, principles and operations, and which was absolutely incorrect in itself and calculated to mislead. They were trading under a fraudulent name. 1131 That seemed to him to be beyond the legitimate sphere of political warfare. When it was pointed out to the Duke of Devonshire he admitted that the name might be incorrect and somewhat misleading, but that it did not matter. He himself did not think that that was an adequate way of dealing with such a misrepresentation. The Free Food League meant that food was to be had free. To be accurate the name of the League should be "The Free From Protective Taxes Food League." There was no justification in using a name which was liable to misunderstanding, and to which the persons using it had no right.
The President of the Board of Trade gave it as his personal view that it would not be wise for the country to adopt the new fiscal policy. That might or might not be true at the present time, but he did not consider that the right hon. Gentleman gave any strong reason in support of his contention. He said that the effect of protection would practically be to put a tax on the consumer for the benefit of the producer. He himself did not consider that protection could be justified when it imposed a tax on the consumer for the benefit of the producer; but that it was to be justified when it imposed a tax for the benefit of the country at large. The best and soundest form of protection was protection by which no money was raised at all. Take the case of carpets in the United States. Before the McKinley Tariff there was a very large export of carpets to the United States. The McKinley Tariff put on a very heavy duty, with the result that a certain kind of carpet ceased to be imported into the United States. What happened? According to the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite the price of carpets ought to have gone up, and the consumers should have suffered; but the price did not rise at all; it remained exactly the same. The only difference was that the carpets were made in the United States instead of in Scotland, and that the workmen in the United States, as well as the manufacturers, had the whole benefit instead of the Scottish manufacturer and Scottish workman. That was an example of successful protection which increased employment to the benefit of the country at large. He thought 1132 hon. Gentlemen who differed from them on the question, should at least give them the credit for being concerned for the interests of the country at large, not for the interests of individual industries. It was not well for hon. Gentlemen to assume that all the virtue was on their own side if they wanted to understand what really was the position of their opponents. The view taken by the free importers was the view of those English political economists who thought only of the interests of the individuals composing the nation, and who assumed that what was good for the individual would be necessarily good for the nation as a whole. That did not follow at all. The view entertained in Germany and other countries where the principle of protection obtained was, that the interests of the nation were to be considered in preference to those of the individual, that if employment were encouraged it would be a general advantage to the country, and that by protection fresh employment was created, from which further wealth and prosperity followed both for the nation and for its individual members. There were two kinds of imports, namely, the labour causing imports and the labour displacing imports. All countries welcomed imports that caused labour, but imports which displaced labour were on a different footing altogether, and did harm to the country which imported them. The additional cheapness gained was small, but the loss in employment was very great. That was the only reasonable view to take. The English school of economists assumed that fresh employment could always be found if labour were displaced by imports, but that was a mere assumption, though it was the fundamental postulate upon which the whole structure of this reasoning depended. At present there was great difficulty in various directions in finding fresh employment. It was not contended that the country was ruined already, but it was con: tended that other countries were progressing more rapidly than this country, and they asked the people of this country to consider whether a doctrine of economy, which was good and right in a different state of conditions when this country had an overwhelming pre- 1133 dominance as a manufacturing country, should apply now, when this country was being left behind by several foreign rivals. I It was because the change was taking place more and more rapidly that it seemed to him that the time had arrived to reconsider the old doctrine and take thought as to whether free trade, which was a right policy when this country was the strongest in the world, remained a right policy now, when this country was becoming weaker than foreign countries. He hoped that when the time for a General Election came the country would be able to arrive at a right and wise decision.
§ MR. BELL (Derby)
, said that Labour Members had not taken very much part in this important debate. During the whole of this week the speeches on both sides of the House had been of a very practical character, and, whether for or against the Amendment, had been entirely in favour of the working-man's interest. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in his speech the other day, said that Mr. Cobden complained that the labour leaders took no part in the movement for free trade. It seemed singular that at present the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham also complained that the labour leaders took no part in this question. As far as his memory served him from reading the history of the trades unions, there were not in the days of Cobden what they now recognised as trades union leaders, and it would have been rather difficult for Cobden to have had the support of the trades union leaders when there were none. The hon. Member who had just spoken also referred to the trades unions in 1842, and to their wild action as being responsible for many of the difficulties of those days. He understood, however, that the trades unions were not in existence in reality until 1871, and any such unions as might have existed during the time of Cobden and during the years the hon. Member referred to were simply spontaneous combinations of workmen who felt themselves oppressed by employers. What did really suprise him was that the objects that both sections in this question had in view was the interest of the British workman. Those who wanted to tax his food wanted to do it in his 1134 interest. Those who wanted to maintain the present position, so far as the fiscal question was concerned, likewise desired it in the workman's interest. He had no doubt that when they came to scrutinise the division list they should find that those gentlemen who went into the Lobby on Monday in order to show their practical sympathy with the working man and the working man's interest, by taxing their food and other commodities, would be the same people as would be found in the Division Lobby on Tuesday in order to support the importation of Chinese labour into South Africa—and this in the interest also of the British workman. He certainly felt unable to reconcile the two positions. Even granting their contention, for the sake of argument, that protection would find them more employment, surely to take Chinese labour into South Africa, thus depriving the British workman of employment, could not also be to his interest. It had been said that the trades unionists of this country were not against the proposals—both the official and the unofficial policy of the Government—now before the country. Here, at any rate, he voiced the unanimous opinion of the few labour men they had in this House; and whilst Members who had spoken might say that they were speaking in the name of the working classes of this country—whilst perhaps they might admit that they were, for they were in this House by the support and co-operation of the working classes—at any rate, the direct voice of the working man had not been heard before now. At the outset the Trades Union Congress, which was the highest authority in this country—at any rate of the organised workmen—had proclaimed practically unanimously against the proposals which were now submitted for their consideration. And in spite of what had been stated from the Treasury Bench by the various Ministers of the Cabinet, they still maintained that the real object in view was the taxation of food whenever the opportunity was convenient, and as far as the organised section of labour was concerned they meant to resist it for all they were worth. He was grateful for the few complimentary references which the right hon. Member for the Sleaford Division of Lincolnshire made to one of his esteemed friends, Mr. Kelly, of 1135 Manchester, some of whose remarks he had endeavoured to use as being favourable to his views with regard to a protective tariff, and he would assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House likewise that his good wishes would be appreciated not only by Mr. Kelly himself but by all of them who were interested in this great question. Whilst the wishes of the right hon. Gentleman were endorsed by all of them, he ventured to say Mr. Kelly would be a great acquisition to this House, to them at any rate who directly represented labour, although if he were a Member there would be one vote the less for the views held by the right hon. Gentleman, because the Gentleman who now represented the division which Mr. Kelly was contesting was a very strong supporter of the right hon. Gentleman's views. It would be one more to their side if Mr. Kelly were returned, and therefore he wished him every success in his election campaign.
He thought it would be well at this juncture if he were to state the views of the representatives of labour on this great question, although some tendency had been shown to despise, perhaps, any observations made by those who were placed in the front rank of the movement and were endeavouring to lead the men as far as their own lights would enable them. The representatives of the great labour movement issued a manifesto to the whole of the workers of this country, and the result on being analysed showed that out of thirteen labour members in this House, the twelve who were present—one was absent at the time through illness—signed this manifesto; out of forty-four directors of the Co-operative Wholesale Society, thirty-seven signed the manifesto; and of the members of the Central Board of the, Co-operative Union, numbering eighty, seventy-three signed the manifesto. Of the thirteen members of the Parliamentary Committee of the Trades Union Congress one was bedridden for many months, but the other twelve signed the manifesto; the Committee representing the whole of the trades unions by federation numbered altogether sixteen, and fourteen of them signed the manifesto; and of the twenty-three labour representatives who formed the Moseley Commission to America sixteen signed the manifesto. So that here they 1136 found a very large majority, in fact, you might almost say the whole, against the proposals. Here, at any rate, they had practically the unanimous voice of the representatives of the trades unions and of the co-operative movement in this country. He thought that they had some reason to understand this question for themselves. Fortunately, they were not now quite so illiterate and ignorant as they might have been during the year 1840, and thereabouts, the time to which the right hon. Member had referred, and they had an opportunity now at all events of considering some of these things. The hon. Baronet the Member for the Northwich Division referred to the trades unions as being one of the things which to some extent injured the industries of this country. He was not one who would stand up here or anywhere else and say that trades unions had not made any mistakes, and that they had not done very unwise things on some occasions; but he claimed that there were employers as bad as any trades union had ever been. It was the bad employers, the oppressive employers, who were really the cause of the inception of trades unionism; and whilst perhaps a trades union in one instance might have shown some stubbornness in refusing to negotiate with the employers, he would guarantee that on the other side they could find five employers who were equally stubborn in refusing to negotiate with the union. He knew what this stubbornness was, and the employers knew what it was, and unless both employers and representatives of trades unions could exercise a little commonsense and come together and discuss these things in a proper and friendly and amicable way, they might expect similar things to occur in the future. He had had some experience in this matter; and he ventured to say that where there were good feelings existing between the representatives of the trades unions and the representatives of the employers they heard little or nothing of strikes or any troubles of the kind.
§ And, it being Midnight, the debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed this day.
§ Adjourned at one minute after Twelve o'clock.