§ [NINTH DAY.]
§ 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 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. BELL (Derby)
said that when his speech was interrupted on the previous night by the adjournment of the debate, he was explaining by what means organised labour in this country had expressed itself against the proposals now under consideration, and he wished now to point out how even the unorganised workmen, though they had no direct medium through which to make their views known, had at the by-elections very distinctly pronounced against a policy which was ostensibly put forward for their benefit. The Secretary to the Board of Trade in his very able and remarkable speech, endeavoured to show how manufacturers in protectionist countries produced a hundred tons of some commodity, of which seventy-five tons was for home consumption, while the remaining twenty-five tons was dumped on the British market at a price actually below the cost of producing it here. But the hon. Gentleman never gave any reasons why we accepted those dumped goods. Personally he did not believe that any section of the British nation purchased these commodities except for the reason that they required them either for consumption or for manufacturing purposes. The dumping of these goods worked to our advantage in more ways than one. In the first place, they employed our shipping and our railways and enabled our manufacturers to compete with the foreigner in other markets. He would cite a glaring illustration of the direct advantage of dumping, and of the manner in which it injured those who dumped. A short time ago he saw an extract from a Report of the United States Consul at Frankfort, to the effect that the German papers were complaining that their manufacturers had been beaten by English manufacturers in a competition for the construction and erection of gasometers at Copenhagen. The German bid was £11,250, while the English tender was only £10,930, and it 1201 was explained that the English manufacturer had to obtain his iron from Germany; that, in fact, by means of iron "dumped" by Germany or this country he was able to tender at a lower figure and to employ British labour in constructing the gasometers and erecting them at Copenhagen. Now, a small import tariff on that German iron would have prevented the British firm getting the contract, and British labour would have suffered to that extent. He had another statement he would like to call attention to. Mr. Arthur Chamberlain, the brother of the ex-Colonial Secretary, in addressing recently the shareholders of a large firm with which he was connected, said that British manufacturers either would not or could not supply them with the steel they required for the manufacture of tubing. The firm in question employed 10,000 men, and a 10 per cent. tariff on imported steel would add 30s. per ton to the cost of the tubes, thereby making it increasingly difficult for them to compete with the foreigner. It was all very well to declare that the purchase of steel for manufacturing purposes,or of raw material from the foreigner deprived some of our workmen of employment. No doubt it did to some extent, but he ventured to assert that it enabled the employment of considerably more than it displaced, and, as Mr. Arthur Chamberlain had pointed out, in that one case the purchase of German steel enabled his firm to compete successfully with foreign tube-makers and to give employment to some 10.000 men who otherwise would not have had it.
They had heard a good deal about the effect of protective and preferential tariffs in securing more regular and remunerative employment for the workers of this country, but it was a noteworthy fact that the pig-iron imported from Canada into this country was about equal in amount to that obtained from all other parts of the world, and if, in order to prevent foreigners sending any to this country, we put on a protective tariff, the inevitable result would be that Canadian makers would increase their prices and get control of the market. Where in that case would the benefit to the home workers come in? It could not make much difference to them if the iron were dumped 1202 by Germany or Belgium or by Canada; they would not get any more employment or any increase of pay. It was estimated that the pig-iron imported into this country represented the output of four Canadian furnaces, and of five furnaces in other parts of the world, so that if we prohibited the importation of pig-iron we should have to set to work nine blast furnaces to produce at home an equivalent quantity. They had been told that the decay of out industries was due to the lack of energy on the part of employers, and he noticed in an article in a recent issue of "British Industries" a statement to the effect-that in England the output of a blast furnace was 25,000 tons a year against an average of 61,000 tons for the American furnace, the difference being due to the more modern appliances adopted in the States.
Reference had been made by many speakers to the fact that our exports were decreasing while our imports were increasing. But there were reasons for decrease of our exports other than those which had been advanced, and he would suggest a very simple explanation of the fact that our exports had not increased in recent years of exceptional prosperity. Wages had been high, and there had been an increased demand in the home market in consequence of the improved position of the working classes. He had a letter from a working man, giving a list of the things which he had been able to buy in the years between 1892 and 1898, and that list included a piano at twenty-eight guineas, a suite of furniture at six guineas, a bookcase at two guineas, a carpet at four guineas, a fender, 25s.,spring bedstead, three guineas, a bicycle, eight guineas, and so on. Thus one working man during a period of prosperity spent all that money in order to furnish his home, thereby creating a market for home industries and lessening the quantity of the goods available for export. Was it not: probable that thousands of others acted in a like m inner. He thought that if the tariff reformers, who were pushing forward their campaign with so much energy, would divert their efforts to other channels with a view of extending the number of men who acted as this working man had done it 1203 would be far better for the country at large. We are now spending £180,000,000 yearly on drink alone, and of that. £110,000,000 was said to come out of the pockets of the working classes. If by advocating temperance they could induce the worker to spend his money on home comforts rather than on drink, there would be very little to export. Facts and figures did not bear out the statement that protectionist countries were so much more prosperous than ourselves. The manufacture of pig-iron in the United States had fallen off very seriously—to the extent of something like 70,000 tons a month, and the New York correspondent of the Pall Mall Gazette, in November last, said a large percentage of the smelting works were being forced to discontinue operations.
The Colonial Secretary, speaking on the previous evening, put himself in the position of a glass worker earning £2 a week. But was not the right hon. Gentleman aware that for every workman in this country who earned £2 weekly, there were seven who got considerably less and certainly three who did not get more than £1 a week, so that the standard of living he had set up was not the average standard. They had been given to understand that a protected country was simply a paradise—a garden of orchids where everything was beautiful and nothing was wanting. Yet America clearly was not so prosperous as had been suggested. He would not stop his comparison there. He would take the case of protected continental countries. Herr E. E. May's Report upon the Gerresheim Glass Works stated that in 1900 their exports of bottles were 37,500,000, or 31.2 per cent of the total, whereas in 1901 they fell to 29,250,000, or 29.7 per cent. The cause of the decrease, he said—Is the tariff, and especially our diminished capacity for competing owing to dear fuel. The fact that neighbouring countries can get German coal at cheaper rates than we have to pay in this country means that our industry is being progressively driven out of the worlds market.Which of those statements were they to accept It was very difficult to reconcile the two, and according to the German statement the decay in the glass industry was more progressive in Germany than in England. Again, the foreign workman 1204 living under protective tariffs was said to be much better off than the British workman, but the facts did not bear out that statement. The respective wages in London and Berlin were—of patternmakers, 42s. and 21s.; of brass-moulders, 36s. and 26s. 7d.; cabinetmakers, 42s. 8d. and 28s. 6d. He admitted that wages were considerably higher in America, but the purchasing power of money was much smaller, and, having examined into the matter, at any rate so far as railway-men were concerned, he was prepared to say that he would rather be a railwayman in England at 30s. a week than a railwayman in America at £4. Then there was the condition of the textile workers in France. According to the description which he had, the father and mother each earned 12s. a week; there were five children, aged twelve, nine, eight, six. and three years respectively. Rent represented 1s. 7½.; potatoes, 1s. 2d.; groceries, including sugar and coffee, 4¾d.; meat, 2s. l0d.; bread, 3s. 2½d.: washing, 9½d.: clothing, 1s. 7½d.; milk for the children, 6½d.; help for the children whilst the mother was at work. 1s. 7½d.; a total of 17s. 9¾d. per week. The conditions of the workers in this country, while not satisfactory, were far above that standard, and he was convinced that if either the official or unofficial fiscal proposals were adopted in this country it would be considerably against the interest of the working classes. It would be ridiculous for representatives of labour to take up an attitude of opposition to a protective tariff or anything else if it would really improve the condition of the workers. They were engaged by the workers themselves; their salaries were paid by the workers in order that they should consider these things and give their advice as to the best course to be pursued in the workers' interest; consequently they would be neglecting their duty if they did not conscientiously consider these questions and advise according to the conclusions at which they arrived. He opposed the proposals because he was absolutely convinced that any change—for the present at all events—in the direction of preferential or protective tariffs would be most injurious to the interests of the workers. The position of the German, as compared with that of the English worker, might be gathered 1205 from the 1902 report of the Factory Inspector at Leipzie, in which it was stated—The economic conditions of the workers have not improved during the past year. Since the incomes of many workpeople have undergone a further diminution, partly owing to reduction of wages and partly owing to curtailment of hours of work, and since the prices of the most important articles of food have increased, the endeavour to economise shows itself in the diminution of the consumption of meat and the largo demand for horse flesh.Millions of working-men in this country were unable to get much meat at present, but what little they did get was, he hoped, good and wholesome, and he had no desire to see them following the example of the Germans and eating horse-flesh, dog-flesh, or anything of that sort. Articles were purchased because they were cheap. Manufacturers purchased foreign manufactured and partially manufactured goods because they were cheap. Why did not British manufacturers, who always held themselves up as being foremost for patriotism, purchase British instead of German steel? They would probably answer that according to natural laws they bought the cheapest. But surely if they desired to put a tariff on that cheap steel they would ultimately have to pay for it the price now asked for British steel. Might they not, therefore, as well buy it first as last, and so create a demand for British steel? They felt, however, that if they paid the price, they would not be able to compete with the makers of cheap steel in other countries. Hence the same results would accrue if protective tariffs were imposed on the imported article and the cost of production increased here. Even in the Colonies the people found that tariffs were not always to their advantage, as the following extract from the Toronto Globe for 25th December would show—A large assemblage of unemployed workmen, skilled and unskilled, gathered together at short notice, reveals a decided fluctuation in the labour market. The attitude of the Government should be neutral. The workmen have already the advantage of the law preventing the importation of labour under contract, but that is counterbalanced by the tariff on goods, which, so far as it is protective, tends to improve the position of the employer.That quotation showed that in a period of depression a protective tariff was to the advantage not of the workman but of 1206 the employer. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had been asked how his proposals would benefit railway men. Unfortunately, railway men were not the only workers who were not producers. A large majority of the working population of the country were in the same position. All these, including shop assistants and other business people, would be adversely affected by the imposition of a tariff. But in reference to railway men, the right hon. Gentleman said—Railway men, like all others who do nor live by invested capital, depend for their subsistence on their daily employment. When there is too little employment in the country railway receipts fall off, railway men's wages go down, and railway men are dismissed. On the contrary, if there is plenty of trade there is more employment.Whatever authority the ex-Colonial Secretary might be on some matters, he was not a greater authority on railway matters than he (the speaker) was. For sixteen years he had served the Great Western Railway Company, and on five occasions had represented his fellow-workers before the Directors. Members interested in railway companies would admit that the period 1899, 1900–1, was one of exceptional prosperity from the railway point of view; the companies were unable to carry with any despatch the whole of the traffic they were required to take What was the result? At the same time the companies had to pay such high prices for fuel and other commodities that their dividends were no higher, if as high, as before; and consequently the railway men, when they applied for an advance of wages, were told that the companies could not afford to accede to their request. But under a protective tariff the railway companies would have to pay more for all the commodities they required, and, as they could not get more traffic than they had in the period to which he had referred, they would have no balance out of which to pay additional wages to the men. He could hardly suggest what, would be the result if protective tariffs were adopted and the railway companies went to the manufacturers and said: "You are getting higher prices for the goods you manufacture, and we ask you a higher rate for the carriage of such goods." He was inclined to believe there 1207 would be great resentment felt even by the manufacturers who benefit by the tariff, and certainly by the travelling public, who would have to pay higher fares. For these reasons he suggested that railways, at any rate, and those directly concerned in them, were not going to benefit at all, but were going to lose considerably if any such proposal was adopted. He would like to call attention to the way in which events repeated themselves. In Macaulay's "History of England" they found that there happened to be a Mr. Chamberlayne in the House of Commons in 1693, and he said—There would be no taxes, and yet the Exchequer would be full to overflowing. There would be no poor rates, for there would be no poor. The income of every landowner would be doubled. The profits of every merchant would be increased,and so on in those days. The present Mr. Chamberlain, speaking at Liverpool, said—I believe that some change of the kind I propose will put money in the pockets of you all. I believe that it will put wages in the pockets of the working classes. I believe that it will restore industries which we ought to have, and I say to you what is deep in my heart, that for that part of the subject, although I am bound to devote to it a great deal of attention, I care much less than for that other side (the imaginative side), and one on which I may appeal to you who are occupied in business houses, for surely you are something more than business men; you are Britons; you are patriots.Now those words were practically the same as were used by the gentleman in 1693, who was not exactly a namesake, because his name was spelt differently, but whose name was similar in pronunciation to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. It was very remarkable that they should have these speeches and promises; but he had not yet been convinced by all the able speeches that had been made in this House—by those who supported either the proposals of the Government or the proposals outside the official programme—that the masses of the country would benefit by the change if it was made. He was going to quote two authorities for this. One considered itself a great authority, and as to the other there might be a difference of opinion with regard to its consistency. The first was the Daily Mail, which immediately after the ex- 1208 Colonial Secretary's speech at Birming ham said—Before we had free importation of foodstuffs the poorest classes were not merely on the verge of starvation, they were actually starving; there were bread riots throughout England, and the nation was on the brink of rebellion. The free importation of foodstuffs and raw materials laid the foundation of our manufacturing and industrial prosperity, and that condition is as essential to our success today as ever it was.The Mail had changed its opinion now, as it had frequently done, but that at any rate was his opinion and his conviction from which he had not changed. He was a poor hand at perorations, and, therefore, when convenient, he occasionally borrowed a peroration. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division made a speech last night that was full of perorations; at any rate there were so many that a number of Members on this side of the House rose several times, thinking each peroration was the end of the speech. He had borrowed as his peroration a peroration of the late Colonial Secretary which conveyed his conviction, his honest belief. The right hon. Gentleman, speaking on this subject in the House of Commons on 12th August, 1881, said, and he endorsed every word of it—I can conceive it just possible, although it is very improbable, that under the sting of great suffering, and deceived by misrepresentations, the working classes might be willing to try strange remedies, and might be foolish enough to submit for a time to a proposal to tax the food of the country, but one thing I am certain of: if this course is ever taken, and if the depression were to continue, or to recur, it would be the signal for a state of things more dangerous and more disastrous than anything which has been seen in this country since the repeal of the Corn Laws. A tax on food would mean a decline in wages. It would certainly involve a reduction in their productive value; the same amount of money would have a smaller purchasing power. It would mean more than this, for it would raise the price of every article produced in the United Kingdom, and it would indubitably bring about the loss of that gigantic export trade which the industry and energy of the country working under conditions of absolute freedom have been able to create.I therefore heartily support the Amendment before the House.
§ * SIR EDGAR VINCENT (Exeter)
said the debate had been most satisfactory in one respect, for it had shown that there was a department of British industry 1209 which was still vigorous since forty I speeches had lasted rather more than thirty hours. In this direction they had not fallen behind the vigour and stamina of their forefathers. They had not, however, succeeded in obtaining from His Majesty's Government a clear definition of their policy. He heard the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, but the reassuring effect which that declaration made upon him had been largely modified since by attenuating interjections from the President himself, and by other speeches from the Treasury Bench, which sounded a much less clear note of free trade. Before the debate ended the nine muses who, in the absence of Apollo, represented the Government would probably give them compositions in which the leading themes of protection, retaliation, and free trade would be mingled in various proportions. He hoped that the somewhat discordant sounds which had pained and perplexed them during the debate would be resolved in a chord of full harmony. They wanted not only harmony but clear and definite declarations. They wanted to know whether the Government were prepared to defend the cause of free trade against the onset of economic Mahdis. They wanted to know that the policy of retaliation the Government proposed to adopt was a clear and definite issue by itself, that it was self-contained, self-reliant, and self-sufficient, and that it was no mere instalment of a larger and more extensive policy. If he might employ a simile, he would say they were somewhat in the position of sailors about to embark upon a voyage. They had confidence in the captain and in the statements made by the authority of the captain, but their suspicions were somewhat aroused by the character of certain officers of the ship. Their language was far from clear, and there were some of them, like his right hon. friend the Chief Secretary for Ireland or the President of the Local Government Board, who had a bold buccaneer appearance which led them to suspect that they had sailed the Spanish Main under Captain Kidd, and that ordinary commercial gentlemen would not be very safe in their company. It had happened before now that a virtuous and well-meaning captain had been 1210 overpowered in mid-ocean and offered the choice between toeing the line or being marooned upon some desert island. That was not an agreeable alternative to set before the Prime Minister, and they desired to save him from it. Therefore before they put to sea, let them know clearly and definitely what port the ship was bound for. Before he discussed the policy, he should like to pay a tribute to its author. He had a profound admiration for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but he admired him rather as an orator—and if he might use the term, as a prose poet—than either as an economist or a man of business. He appeared to enjoy to the full the poetical distaste for figures and the oratorical contempt for facts. The truth was that the unrivalled command which he possessed of incisive diction, and the severe restraint he imposed upon his vocabulary gave a pseudo-business appearance to what were in reality lyrical effusions. The form might be prose, but the underlying structure was of the nature of emotional enthusiasm. He was afraid from the declarations of the breezy socialist who delighted certain sections of the House last night that the right hon. Gentleman's successor at the Colonial Office would not prove to be a more reliable guide on economic science.
The new policy divided itself into two sections, the commercial and the Imperial. He would deal first with the commercial. It was suggested that this country should imitate Germany and America and impose a protective tariff against foreign goods. It appeared to him that the physician had prescribed without making a correct diagnosis either of the circumstances or the condition of the patient. He could understand that in the case of a community in a primitive position regarding industrial development, it might be held that industries required the support of protective tariffs. They were unable to compete in the great world markets, and, therefore, they were obliged to confine themselves within their own frontiers. What was England's position? We had gained our wealth and strength by open competition and by world trade. It appeared to him that 1211 there were only two theories of commerce—the national theory and the world theory—the theory of the Chinese and the theory of the English. On the one hand, it might be held that the best for the national community was to shutout communication from the outside, and to deal exclusively with its own people; but the other, and in his judgment the wider and the nobler theory, was that prosperity and wealth were increased by international commerce and by international relations. He could understand the national view of commerce being held by countries which gained nothing from international trade. Was that our case? We gained everything by international trade. We were the world's carriers; we were the world's bankers; we were the world's commission agents. If they divided the commerce of the world into water-tight compartments, they not only considerably restricted and diminished the total body of trade, but entirely destroyed the trade of intermediaries, and that business was one from which we had derived a large portion of our wealth and strength. The policy of the Tariff Reform League had been supported by quotations from the great German writer. List, but he submitted, that writer's teaching was altogether opposed to the programme. In 1840 he said—For England free trade is the right policy. a protective system ought not to be the permanent order of things, but temporary and pro-visional only. It is in fact a means of industrial education carried on at the expense of the nation and ought to cease with the necessity for it.Therefore the appeal to the teachings of List in their application to England is altogether beside the mark. Again, the Tariff Reform League claim for their policy all the advantages of the retaliation party. They suggest that by our abandoning free trade and adopting protective tariffs we should increase our world commerce and diminish the barrier of foreign tariffs against us. It appeared to him absurd to suppose that by adopting protection here we should do anything else but strengthen protection in foreign countries. Our foreign trade had been largely hampered by protective tariffs abroad, but it still amounted to a considerable figure, and if instead of the free 1212 imports we now admitted to this country we imposed a tariff of an average of 10 per cent., it was absolutely certain that foreign protectionists would take advantage of the opportunity, and would increase the barrier that they now placed against our goods to at least an equal extent. They considered that English goods were dumped on their markets just as the tariff reformers here considered that their goods were dumped here. Therefore it appeared to thim that the proposed change would aggravate the very evils of which we complained.
In regard to the colonial side of the question, the German Zollverein was quoted as a precedent to be followed, but there was no anaology whatever. The main result, and a beneficial result, of the introduction of the Zollverein in Germany was the entire abolition of internal tariffs. What internal tariffs would be abolished by the introduction of the policy of the Tariff Reform League? Absolutely none. He would go further and say that, so far from diminishing tariffs within the Empire, protection almost necessarily created them. He would endeavour to make this good in a few minutes. but, looking at the thing from a large and general standpoint, what was the trade of the British Empire now? It amounted in the aggregate, including imports and exports, to £1,350,000,000. Of that amount only £200,000,000 was carried on by protectionist communities, while £1,150,000,000 was carried on by free-trade communities. It was proposed in adopting a new scheme of commercial policy that 85 per cent of the British Empire should abandon their practice in order to conform with the practice of 15 per cent. Was not that on the face of it unreasonable? He was convinced that the closer federation of this Empire, which he desired as heartily as any member of the House, could only be effected on a free-trade basis. The advocates of colonial preference, it seemed to him, saw neither fair nor far. They did not see fair because they exaggerated out of all proportion and perspective the importance of Australia and Canada, and they depreciated to an unreasonable extent the importance of the mother country and of all the other colonies, more populous, in some respects 1213 more wealthy, and not the less to be regarded because they were less frequently thrust upon public attention. He had said the result of the adoption of the Birmingham programme would be to increase the internal duties within the Empire. The view he took was this, that if free trade was abandoned as the commercial policy of this country, and if protection was taken as the keystone and the watchword, so to speak, of our commercial relations, it must indubitably follow that both in India and South Africa, and other free-trade colonies of the Empire, similar principles must be allowed to prevail. Did they suppose for a single moment that the merchants and manufacturers of South Africa would allow their territory to become the dumping ground of British manufacturers? Did they imagine for one instant that in India, where the cry for the protection of the Indian industries was already heard in high tones, it would be possible to maintain the present condition of affairs and insist on a countervailing duty imposed on English goods. The thing was absolutely inconceivable. The only justification had been a belief in free trade. He had endeavoured to elicit from the representatives of the new policy some declaration of their view respecting India. He had challenged them to state what their views were, but his challenge had remained unanswered. They had this really absurd proposition, that a great Empire policy was to be put before the country which neglected the interests, which did not take into consideration at all the views of three-fourths of the population of that Empire.
Assume for a moment that he was correct in the view that you risk the establishment of protective duties in colonies which are now free trade, not only against foreign countries, but also against the mother country, what was the arithmetical result? What did that mean in figures. Our total exports to the Colonies now amounted to £131,000,000, and of that amount £90,000,000 went to free-trade colonies, and only £41,000,000 to protective colonies. Therefore they risked the imposition of new duties—duties which did not exist now—on £90,000,000 of our exports, 1214 and what did we get in exchange? A possible reduction on £41,000,000. But we now knew that in Canada and Australia no reduction of the tariff against England was in contemplation. On the contrary, they proposed a totally different thing—not to reduce our duties, but to increase the tariff wall against foreign countries. As a matter of exchange, he considered it a deplorable transaction. Viewed from the point of view of an empire builder, it appeared to him that they were proceeding not towards the goal but in a precisely opposite direction. If they admitted that free trade would be eventually the basis of the federation of the Empire, they were going, not towards Imperial free trade and not towards a Zollverein, but exactly the contrary way. In addition to that, they would set the whole world against our colonial Empire, with which they intended to forbid foreign countries to trade. He would add that in his judgment they would imperil the loyalty of colonial manufacturers, who would come more and more to regard this as a scheme which led them into direct antagonism and rivalry with English manuturers.
The House had the other night from the Secretary to the Board of Trade one of those delightful speeches which they all listened to with pleasure and admiration, in which he clothed with new life and colour the most time-worn and exploded fallacies. He took the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Fife to task for stating that excess of imports over exports was a proof of commercial prosperity, and he instanced America to show that a large excess of exports over imports was a sign of great commercial vigour. But the hon. Gentleman appeared entirely to forget that America was a heavy debtor to England and Europe. He omitted to say that that indebtedness of America was estimated by the best authorities at something like £1,000,000,000 sterling, and that the interest on that vast sum amounted to no less than £45,000,000 or £50,000,000 a year, which interest was equal to half the excess of exports over imports in that country. He also omitted to mention that the imports into America were notoriously under-declared and under-valued in order to 1215 avoid the high ad valorem duties. That was one of the incidental advantages of a high tariff, that it entirely falsified statistics. He omitted to mention the important factor of the very large remittances made by America to residents and tourists in Europe, far exceeding in amount the sum sent in the contrary direction. If the hon. Gentleman would add together these three totals, he thought he would find that they went far to explain the difficulty. He was all the more glad to suggest this explanation because the explanation the hon. Gentleman offered—viz., that there had been a large transfer of capital from here to America, was absolutely topsy turvy. If that transfer had occurred it would have increased American imports and would have diminished the excess of exports, so that his explanation, in place of solving the difficulty, would have been a considerable factor in the other direction. The hon. Gentleman went on to say that this excess of exports was the cause of cheap money in America; and he suggested the converse proposition—viz., that the large excess of imports in this country was the cause of the dear money which had prevailed here for the last three years. A similar argument was attempted in the City by his right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, and it was not altogether well received; the reply given by the audience was that the cause of dear money had been the war. He would also suggest that it had been our local and Imperial extravagance. Quite apart from that, let him say that excessive imports could hardly be the cause of dear money when they saw that during the last twenty years England had imported nearly £3,000,000,000 more than she exported; and yet, up to the time of the war, London enjoyed cheaper money than any other foreign capital. And if he might add another illustration from his own experience, he would draw the attention of the House to two countries—India and Egypt—both, like the United States, heavily indebted, and both exporting every year a large quantity of merchandise in excess of their imports—and yet countries where the rate of interest was steadily higher than in those European countries in which the imports exceeded the exports. He would 1216 not only say this, but would point to the fact that the dearest money occurred year after year and season after season at the period of the largest exports. He trusted that after this they would not be told that an excess of exports and cheap money were cause and effect. That could only be said by those who were still involved in the old fallacy of the mercantile theory—"Import largely and you lose your gold, export largely and you will become rich." These theories had been thoroughly exploded for now nearly 200 years.
Might he be permitted to say a few words, before concluding, respecting the Free Food League. They had been subjected to a considerable amount of criticism. He did not complain of that; but he would ask their critics to consider what course was open to Unionists, who not only thought that protection would be disadvantageous to the country, and considered it, at the same time, disastrous.
Party politics? Could they allow their friends to blunder without either protest or warning? He could not hold such a debased view of national duty or Party loyalty. In 1902, when the corn tax was introduced, he opposed it to the best of his ability. He believed that it was a disintegrating measure; that it would necessarily lead to the division which was so soon to come. He believed that that tax was paltry as a financial expedient, and that it was vicious as a principle. What had been the result? Since that date they had had twenty-six by-elections and the Unionist party had fluctuated between failure and disaster. In twenty-five, fate had gone against them; fortune had only favoured them in one, and on that occasion the Unionist candidate opposed the taxation of the food of the people. He ventured to put forward these figures and to draw the attention of his friends on that side of the House to them, not by way of denunciation, but by way of a guide to future conduct. It did seem to him that the writing on the wall was absolutely clear, and that the late Lord Salisbury and the Prime Minister were right in holding that the British people had an ingrained dislike to the taxation of food. If that happened to be the case; if the Prime Minister 1217 happened to be right; were they prepared to go into the desert for twenty years while that ingrained feeling was being overcome? But, he based his observations on other grounds than the loss of this or that election. He held that the association of the Conservative and Unionist Party, identified with a cause which, rightly or wrongly, was opposed to that held by a large section of opinion in this country—the interests of the few at the expenses of the many. He saw in that the elements of social trouble and discord, which elements might, for more than any mere electoral results, cause infinite injury. It might be a coincidence, but it should be remembered that in every foreign country where protection prevailed there was Socialism in its various forms. In America the protectionists were identified with the capitalists, the monopolists, and the trusts. Were they on these Benches to be pilloried as the supporters of the capitalists, the monopolists, and the trusts? It would be a profound mistake for the wealthier classes of this country not to realise that the great security of their prosperity and security lay the in general content of the working classes. It would be a poor exchange if, in order to increase their profits, they ran the risk of the destruction of that confidence between class and class that had been characteristic of England since the abolition of the Corn Laws. For his own part he should do his utmost to prevent that Party to which he had the honour to belong from committing what he considered to be a grave error of judgment. And if the efforts of those who thought with him were unavailing, then it appeared to him that the only course consistent with political sincerity was to do their utmost to save the country from the policy from which they had been unable to restrain their Party. He held that protection was altogether unsuited to the commercial needs of England, and he was convinced that in its ultimate results it would imperil the safety, the loyalty, and the cohesion of the Empire.
§ * MR. DUKE (Plymouth)
said that the hon. Member for Exeter had, in the course of his speech, discussed the con- 1218 duct of the Government at the present time and their attitude towards the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in regard to their effect on the well-being of the Conservative Party. Unfortunately, his hon. friend in the course he had taken was at a disadvantage, in that he spoke on behalf of a minority of his Party, whose conduct with regard to the fiscal policy of the Government had been, in most instances, condemned—indisputably condemned—by their constituencies. ["No."] Were those Members of the Unionist Party who agreed with the hon. Member for Exeter supported by their constituencies. Why, throughout the debate they had been conspicuously sympathetic with themselves and condoled with by their political opponents because they insisted that they had been almost overborne by what they regarded as the tyrannical action of the local Conservative organisations, which they resisted and resented. Did any hon. Members suppose that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham controlled the Conservative organisations in this country. The right hon. Gentleman would only control those organisations so far as he commanded the adhesion,the sympathy, and the confidence of the Conservative Party. For his own part he had come into contact with the rank and file of the Conservative Party in various parts of the country, and he found they were breast-high for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; and they had no doubt in the capacity of Ministers to give effect to and carry through the intentions of the right hon. Gentleman. He agreed the Amendment was really a question of confidence in His Majesty's Government. His hon. friend drew an interesting analogy between the present position and the case of a sailing ship, in which some of the crew had experience of serving under Captain Kidd, and were hesitating whether it was advisable in the general interests that there should be a mutiny. In that case, no doubt, the captain might have to walk the plank, but the Conservative Party in this House were not serving in such a humble craft. They were serving on a King's ship, and the course of that ship would not be dictated by the lower deck. The crew was not in a state of 1219 mutiny, or anything approaching it. It had confidence in its captain, and if the voyage, like that of the old man-of-war, was "all the way and back," the crew would stand by its captain. He did not like to have to deal with this question on the ground of the relations of Members of the Conservative Party to their Leader. He had had a presentiment for some time that they might bye-and-bye lose some of his hon. friends. That would be a matter of great personal regret to him, but there was in this question a far higher and deeper interest than the fortunes of any Party. It was the question of the necessities of the nation, and behind that lay the future of the Empire.
He had not been able to make up his mind, during the course of the debate, whether hon. Gentlemen opposite were really persuaded that there was in the present condition of industry and commerce in this country a cause for anxiety, a cause of danger, and a cause of mischief, or whether their view was that the apprehensions of the leaders of the Conservative Party were unfounded and imaginary. He had read words which fell from the Duke of Devonshire in which he said that the excessive tariffs of other nations had inflicted, and still inflict, a great injury upon some of the principal industries of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose Burghs, in moving his Amendment, said he saw cause for anxiety in many things which had happened in the course of the last few years. Hon. Gentlemen opposite were aware, as they on that side were aware, of phenonema with reference to industries in this country which could not be misunderstood. Hardly a week passed but they saw reports of furnaces being shut down and mills closed in the steel industry, not because of any decline in the consumption of the goods they produced, not because of any inadequate or useless appliances, not because of want of enterprise by the manufacturer, not because of any trade disputes on the part of the workmen, but because foreign manufacturers combined behind tariff walls, and by trusts and cartels were able to deposit in this country, at a price with which it was impossible for the home manufacturer to compete, such quan- 1220 tities of their manufacture as to make it impossible for the home manufacturer to continue his undertaking.
§ MR. J. A. PEASE (Essex, Saffron Walden)
said that there would be an equivalent reduction in the foreign countries.
§ * MR. DUKE
said that whatever the result might be in protectionist countries, the result in this country was disastrous to the manufacturer and detrimental to the workman. That was a result which they saw repeated with monotonous reiteration during many weeks of the present winter. They had heard over and over again of this firm and of that finding it necessary to establish their works on the other side of a tariff wall, He did not know whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had made up their minds that the state of affairs required the attention of statesmen. The declarations of the President of the Board of Trade had been misunderstood by many hon. Members on his own side of the House, and. he believed, by many hon. Members opposite also. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to have given the impression that the policy of the Government was to consider whether, at some future and remote date it would be desirable to ask this House if some homeopathic process of remedy might be applied in some glaring instance of wrong. He thought he was justified in saying that that was misstating the policy of the Government. If it were possible that His Majesty's Government could have renounced the view stated by the Prime Minister that this was a serious question, that evil and mischief were now occurring which ought to be dealt with, then perhaps it might have not mattered much so far as trade and commerce were concerned whether this Amendment were carried or not. He did not believe it of the Government. The attitude of hon. Members on Monday night rather reminded him of the story of the benevolent traveller and the mongoose. He met an unhappy man who was afflicted with the idea that he saw snakes. He offered to produce a mongoose which would get rid of them; the sufferer replied they were not real snakes, whereupon the 1221 Samaritan explained, "The advantage is that mine is not a real mongoose." [An HON. MEMBER asked who were the snakes?] The hon. Member must work that out for himself. It did seem to him on Monday night that hon. Gentlemen opposite offered to enter into a kind of make-believe that there was a real danger provided the Ministry would join them in make-belief, and limit themselves to a make belief remedy. He did not. however, think that the country was ready to disregard the phenomena of the industrial situation to which he had referred. That was a question of fact. Every hon. Member who had spoken had felt bound, in view of the knowledge possessed by the country at large on this subject, to admit that there was danger and mischief; and if that were so, was it not the business of the Government to provide a remedy? His only complaint with regard to the policy of retaliation which had been definitely adopted by Ministers was that they did not say to what, and when, and how it would be applied. He regretted that the Government did not see their way now to define the measures they proposed, and the area in the field of mischief to which they would be applied, and he hoped that one result of the debate would be that Ministers would crystallise into some form which would make action possible—the conclusions at which they had arrived as to the particular acts of foreign countries against which this country had cause of complaint, and in regard to which this country was entitled to take action, and the methods by which, in their view, it was desirable that action should be taken. He did not think that the Ministry would find the people of this country, either manufacturers or workmen, uncharitable critics of their conclusions or proposals.
He would pass from the question of fact. No One could have listened to the speeches of the debate without seeing how impossible it was for hon. Members to convert one another. The doctrines of Cobden were accepted almost as if they had been inspired; but he took to himself the consolation that this was a practical question. It was believed in the country to be a simple question, and he thought that the attitude of the people in this country with regard to the authorities which were being 1222 arrayed against them was an attitude of revolt. Let them see in the light of the two recent instances how the matter stood, and how the interests of the country were served when we came to govern our conduct in serious affairs by texts and maxims laid down in past times, by competent persons no doubt, but which were texts of human origin. There were two conspicuous instances—there was the instance of the conflict that arose between Canada and Germany with regard to the preference given by the former to this country. That was not settled by reference to economic texts. It was settled in defiance of political economy by the unanimous voice of the people of this country. It was settled in such a way as to prove our determination to resist any external attempt to sever the unity of the Empire by the use of those unque tariffs, undue measures of commercial legislation, which it was proposed by Germany to employ against Canada. Another illustration, which could not be regarded with the same amount of satisfaction, was the corn duty. We happened lately to have a corn duty which did not hurt a living soul in the country, and one day the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that it was to be taken off. The first criticism that reached him was, "You had much better have kept it and established old-age pensions"—and that was a criticism that did not come from anyone on the Conservative side of the House. Every one knew that that tax did not, in fact, raise the price of bread by one farthing, and in regard to that tax a proposal came from Canada which said: "You have got, this tax; it does not hurt you. and, therefore, out of that £2,500,000 which you are getting give us something in exchange for advantages we will give you in order to show that you you are walkidg in the same paths with us towards Imperial progress and Imperial unity."
That might have been done, but for the fact that one Minister in the Government had such exaggerated devotion for certain maxims about taxation that he was prepared to resign his position rather than to consent to this course in the interests of Canada. When men came to consider the effect of what was called the free-trade doctrine, in the first instance, as it affected this country, and in the second 1223 as it affected Canada and the rest of the Colonies, he had not very much doubt as to the judgment at which they would arrive and the course which they would pursue. We were not going to be satisfied much longer with a solution of these questions which depended upon the servitude to the letter of a dead and inapplicable text. There had been no such devotion to the dead letter since the time of the Scribes and Pharisees, and he looked for the end of the at tyranny.
What was the position in which we now stood with regard to the Colonies? For nearly a life-time the constant cry of the Colonies to this country had been "try preferential trade." That cry, which had been heard over and over again, began in Canada, where they had the American system in full operation under their eye, but it extended to all the Colonies. It was repeated by Ministers of those Colonies at successive conferences, and, down to the year 1896, it met from Ministers of both Parties in the State a flat and uncompromising negative. Then in 1897 Canada, with a courage and devotion not often recognised, on her own initiative gave us a rebate of her duties of 25 per cent., which she subsequently increased to 33 per cent. It had often been said that that was worth nothing to us. But it cost Canada something. The loss to Canada by that patriotic act was £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which was not a small sum to a young country. The result of that was immediate action on the part of Germany. Germany saw the danger, from the German point of view, of that act and dealt with the matter severely. Now, hon. Members who had read the correspondence knew that it was the present Government who denounced the treaty which gave Germany a right to complain of the action of Canada in this matter. In 1902 this Government, perfectly aware of the desires the Colonies had so long cherished in this regard—desires which had been so long repelled—invited the colonial representatives in London to discuss the case of Imperial preference—a discussion opened by a speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, in which he explained that it was the desire of the Government to take account of this question of 1224 Imperial preference and to know what was its practical shape in the minds of the Colonies. It was a relief to him on the previous evening to learn from the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary that the Government had not departed from that position. The matter immediately before the House was to consider whether this Government, which took a real view of real dangers, and which desired to meet them with real remedies, should have an opportunity of formulating its policy, at the same time placing no impediment in the way of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and those who believed in his policy, to prevent their placing his proposals before the country. Then they might be able to say to our brethren in the Colonies that we would walk with them reasonably and cautiously in the path in which we were invited to walk—the path which had proved for them a path of prosperity. The alternative was that they should be left each to take their separate individual course. He would deplore that possibility more than the defeat of the Government or any member of it. He believed that the path which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had marked out with regard to the future was the right path; the goal was the right goal, and it was consistent with the Imperial past of this country. He trusted that it would produce an Imperial, prosperous and beneficial future. At any rate, so far as he was concerned, upon the question of the moderate and cautious proposals of the Prime Minister, which in no way contradicted the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, he trusted that the Government would listen to the advice of their hearty supporters, the great body of their supporters, who had confidence in their judgment and loyalty, and that they would not be afraid of the possibility that a few young gentlemen on that side of the House might perhaps join the legitimate Opposition.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
said that the hon. Member for Plymouth, who had spoken last, had favoured the House with a nautical simile, and had said that whatever action some of his Party might take he would be loyal to his 1225 captain. Which captain did the hon. Member mean? The one who had left or the one who now governed the ship? The hon. Member had told the House that he had been sunk in the depths of despair by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, because he thought the policy of the Government was free trade; but that then he had heard the right hon. Gentleman the Colonial Secretary and was buoyed up to the pitch of enthusiasm. He (Mr. Crombie) thought the policy of the Government must be like the mongoose in the story which the hon. Member had told them. It was not real. He had heard the speeches of four Ministers, which were somewhat contradictory. The President of the Board of Trade had said that the policy of the Government was entombed in the breast of the Prime Minister, and so far as the right hon. Gentleman was concerned that might have been the case, but the other Ministers who had spoken seemed to be quite aware of what the policy was. The revelations which had been made by the President of the Board of Trade had shown the House that the Government itself, like the beast in Revelations, was a winged beast, and it was only natural that from such a Ministry they should have an extremely hybrid policy. That policy was to put on protective duties in order to extend the area of free trade. That was the retaliation policy of the Government. If he might indulge in metaphor he would compare the policy of the Government to an imperial pint measure filled with the most potent protection liquor with a free trade label on the outside.
Speaking as a practical manufacturer, the question he would like to ask was how would the policy of protective retaliation or retaliatory protection, which ever they might call it, affect the woollen industry in which he was engaged? They had been told that the woollen industry was threatened; it was threatened by a return to protection. He was not old enough to remember the days of protection, but the firm of which he was a member, during the first forty years of the last century enjoyed the blessing of protection. Those years ought to have been prosperous years, but 1226 curiously enough they were years of stress and struggle and adversity, while the intervening sixty years of free trade between now and then, had been years of peace and prosperity for the business. He admitted that during the last twenty years the woollen imports had grown considerably, but they were imports of goods which foreigners could make cheaper and better than we ourselves. In this country every woollen manufacturer had a speciality of his own on which he made his money, and it did not pay him to manufacture the speciality of his neighbour, and that system enabled the foreigners to take what we made exceptionally well in exchange for the goods they sent here. Although there is a tariff put on everything they used we were able to sell our goods in France, Germany, and America, because we purchased everything we made in the cheapest markets of the world. Free imports were the secret of the strength of the British manufacturer. It was the free imports that made our exports the greatest exports in the world, and now came the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham with a proposal which, if accepted, would destroy the strength of the woollen industry by cutting off the secret of that strength as the hair of Samson was cut off by Delilah. Were they going to put a tax on wool, that was the product of Australia? Supposing the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham discovered that Australia wanted a preference, was it suggested that that preference should be given on wool? Fifteen years ago the woollen trade used to use logwood for dyeing, and they were beaten by foreign dyes, but the result had been that they had imported the foreign dye and could now dye as well as foreigners. His own trade as a woollen manufacturer would be absolutely ruined if it were handicapped by duties put upon dyes, machinery, and carding materials. He looked upon the McKinley Tariff with absolute detestation, because it shut him off from valuable customers, but, while he recognised that fact, he also recognised that it shut out most formidable competitors. The American patent loom, so largely used to-day, was now made in Yorkshire by English workmen and English capital, because the inventor was unable to export 1227 it cheaply enough to this country, and had, therefore, to dispose of the patent here. High tariffs threw us into the arms of the Colonies. Thus McKinley and Prince Bismarck had been "missionaries of Empire" and had done more for our trade with the Colonies than the Member for West Birmingham. He did not ask hon. Members opposite to "think Imperially," but to think clearly. If they wanted protection, it was feasible; retaliation was feasible, preferential duties were feasible; but to clamour for all these at the same time was to ask for things contradictory to one another. For his part he was contented with free trade.
§ MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)
said that it was the duty of the Opposition to oppose, and naturally hon. Gentlemen opposite revelled in a vote of censure. He looked upon this Amendment as a test to the Conservative Party of the principles which differentiated free trade from protection. Parties were always with them, but principles—well, it remained to be seen. He had looked forward to the opportunity of hearing the Prime Minister clearing up the doubts which had exercised the minds of many of his supporters during the past six months, for the right hon. Gentleman was the head of the Unionist Party, and its members loyally responded to his efforts in its behalf. He thought that the Prime Minister of a Government might be likened to the trainer of a racing establishment who was responsible for the training and running of his horses. If the "public form" of those horses was outrageously inconsistent the trainer might be called upon for an explanation. This demand was not necessarily any reflection on the ability or honesty of the trainer, because the faults in the horse might be due to outside influence, or to the animal itself, in which case it was usually drafted from the stable. There was another rule on the Turf. The trainer was fined for every horse that ran in the wrong colours. He could not remain satisfied with the "public form" of the representatives of he Government, for they were not running in the colours which were now printed on the official card. This state of confusion had been going on for some 1228 time. He had never complained that they had no "settled convictions," and he thought that it was courageous on the part of the Prime Minister to stand up and say that he had no "settled convictions." But he did remonstrate with the Government that, inasmuch as they had no settled convictions of their own. they ought to have observed an attitude of neutrality to those of their followers who had. Had this been the attitude of the Government? The House wanted a discussion on this subject last year, but the opportunity was refused. The opponents of the fiscal policy were told to bring forward a vote of censure, and this they had now done. In the meantime, however, the Government had given an unfair advantage to one section of their Party. By postponing this discussion in Parliament for nine months the ex-Colonial Secretary had made good use of his opportunity, and the other section of the Party and the Opposition were now attempting to catch the right hon. Gentleman up. Why? He thought that it had been owing to the by-elections, for the cause of which through the death of hon. Members there could be no feeling except one of profound regret. But nearly the whole of the newspaper Press was on the side of the fiscal reform advocates, and if there had been no by-elections to test the feeling of the country, it would have been believed abroad that the ex-Colonial Secretary was sweeping the country. He was convinced that the opinion would have gone forth to the world that Great Britain was a protectionist country and that all the Colonies had adopted the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. That would have caused more dislocation of trade than had already taken place. He wished the Government to consider their position. The Government knew well that a large section of their Party was opposed to the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman. Personally he had been treated with scant courtesy by the Liberal Unionist Party in his constituency. No word of sympathy or of help had come from the Government; all the sympathy and assistance had come from the, other side. He now asked the Government to consider the forces they had to contend with, because they were very great. It was said that all the 1229 business men were against the free-traders, and he had read in the newspapers that an hon. Member was reported to have said, referring to the right hon. Member for East Fife, that he was only a lawyer and could not have a sound opinion on this subject, that the country had been too long governed by lawyers and the aristocracy.
§ MR. LAMBTON
, continuing, said the same hon. Member told them that the sons of Dukes were going about opposing the ex-Colonial Secretary because they knew that the doom of the lawyers and the aristocracy was sealed. A few weeks later the hon. Member for Newcastle took a prominent part in the election at Gateshead; and in its results he congratulated the hon. Member on the doom of the aristocrats there. They had also been called Cobdenites, and he wished to inform these hon. Members that he was not a Cobdenite, but a free-trader. Free trade was no more invented by Mr. Cobden than protection was invented by the ex-Colonial Secretary. The predictions of Mr. Cobden had no more to do with him than the predictions of Mother Shipton. It was also said that Mr. Cobden made many mistakes; but the modern missionary of protection had made more mistakes in six months than Mr. Cobden did in the whole of his career. The Secretary to the Board of Trade had taken up the "all fools" argument of the ex-Colonial Secretary to the effect that nearly every country was protectionist except ourselves; therefore it was asked, "are they all fools?" The same argument was used in this House the other night. How far did the hon. Gentleman mean to carry his opinion, for it could not only be applied to the fiscal question? There were other subjects in which we might copy foreign nations. If the Secretary to the Board of Trade envied these countries their protection, did he also envy them their conscription, their morals, or their religion? The members of the Christian Church were in a minority in the world, but did the hon. Member contemplate a pilgrimage to Mecca with a hankering after the harem of the Turk? That was 1230 an argument that might be carried too far. He was not one of those who wished "to think continentally." That was the saying of an American statesman quoted by the ex-Colonial Secretary. He preferred the saying of a famous Englishman, not an imported saying. John Milton, the great poet and statesman, said—Let England never forget her precedence in teaching nations how to liveThe free-trade Unionists had had to contend not only against poetry and songs but against the literature of the Tariff Reform League, and in that the league was supreme and unapproachable. Then the letters of Sir Henry Howorth must have an effect on any cause which he espoused—an effect which was quite incalculable. Those letters would be invaluable to the historian of the future who wished to depict the manners and customs of the tariff reformers. Among other letter-writers, the hon. Member for Central Bradford had taken under his protection the Prime Minister and the trade of Bradford, while the hon. Member for Tun-bridge Wells had performed the same kindly office for the late Colonial Secretary and the county of Kent. From the latter hon. Member a letter generally appeared at the necessary moment, and it received an answer from the right hon. Member for West Birmingham. The hon. Member asked in one letter if protection would be extended to hops, and he received an answer that hops would be considered. Did the hon Member for Central Bradford agree with that dictum of his leader?
§ MR. LAMBTON
suggested to the hon. Member that it would be conducing to the prosperity of the country to have high-priced hops in Kent and high-priced beer in Bradford. But Kent did not live by hops alone. It was one of the largest sheep-producing counties in England. The hon. Member for Tun-bridge Wells had been thinking of hops; but suppose his brain should turn to wool. Would the hon. Member for Bradford support a tax on wool for the benefit of Kent? In one of Mr. Joseph Brails-ford's letters there was the statement that foreign countries were wiser 1231 than we, because when they had a boom they kept it to themselves. But how long had the interests of the producer been such a matter of great consideration? A few years ago there was a boom in coal which was not received with much favour by hon. Gentlemen, and in which the coal producer did not meet with much sympathy. It was even suggested that as the miners had benefited by the war it was fair to tax them. The ex-Colonial Secretary made a speech and referred to this point. He went down to Birmingham and there he stated that the duty on coal was paid either by the coalowners or the foreigners who bought the coal. That was the opinion of the ex-Colonial Secretary, The President of the Board of Trade suggested that the miners of this country had benefited by the war, and said that as they had benefited it was only fair to tax them. Was the same principl to be followed in respect of any particular trade that benefited by retaliation? That was one of the questions which would have to be considered by the Tariff Commission.
He had told his constituents that he should oppose any advance in the direction of the late Colonial Secretary's policy. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, he admitted, was actuated by high motives and he had dreamt of a mighty Empire. Other people had dreamt of great Empires, and some countries had waded through oceans of blood to gain them, but the ex-Colonial Secretary proposed to gain this mighty Empire by restrictions on trade. He did not think that was a wise plan. The right hon. Gentleman had underrated the loyalty of the Colonies, which had never been greater than in recent years. If Queen Victoria's name had been received throughout the English-speaking world with such enthusiasm, why was it? Because she was the freedom-loving Sovereign of a free people, and not because of anything she could give. When his constituents asked him whether he was in favour of the Prime Minister's policy, he replied that his intellect was not a cute enough to follow that policy. But he gave a definition of his own policy which was practically that of the President of the Board of Trade without the protectionist part. He said to his constituents that he 1232 would go so far, but not an inch further; that he would oppose those members of the Government who supported the policy of the ex-Colonial Secretary, and that he would ask the Prime Minister to choose between such Ministers and himself. The House had heard a remarkable series of speeches from this free-trade Government. A great deal had been written on the slate, but each Minister rubbed off what the one before him had written. Adapting some well-known lines, he might say of the Government—You may break, you may shatter, the slate if you willBut the scent of protection will hang round it still.He loyally supported the policy of the Prime Minister as announced by him, but he objected to that policy being made a stepping-stone to a further policy. He intended to vote for the Amendment. He did not know how he stood in the books of the Whips; but ho maintained that he was acting with perfect loyalty to the Government, to his principles, and to his Party in taking that course. He had been one of the first on that side to warn the Government against tampering with free-trade principles. Three years ago, when they introduced this change in the fiscal system of the country by their export duty on coal, he begged them not to taste blood, and he told them what the inevitable end would be if they did. If that end was now in sight it was not his fault, and he was not responsible, and he was perfectly convinced that, if he supported the Government on this occasion, he would not be doing his duty either to his constituents or to his own conscience.
§ * MR. RENWICK
said he had read in a newspaper that in this debate no star was to speak to-day. When he read that he said "Thank heaven, we have had enough of stars in the debate." He sincerely hoped that they were going now to have speeches of a practical character. Ho thought that had been the case so far with the debate today. The hon. Member for South-East Durham had referred to speeches which he himself had made in Newcastle and Gateshead. In answer to what the hon. Member said, he would say first that he took a considerable and 1233 an active part in the Gateshead election, and he thought there was nothing to be ashamed of in connection with the result. The Unionist candidate polled 1,304 votes more than ever a Unionist polled in the constituency before. In the face of figures like these, who could say that the fiscal proposals were losing to the Party any of their followers? But there was something else in connection with the Gateshead election which would be heard of in this House hereafter, and that was that the election was not fought on the fiscal proposals, but on the question of Home Rule. It was claimed by the Leader of the Home Rule Party as a direct victory for Home Rule. In a speech made after the election, he himself said, and he repeated the statement now, that the Member for Gateshead had sold himself body and soul to the Home Rule party. The hon. Member for South-East Durham had also said that, in referring to a speech of the hon. Member for East Fife he asked, "What do lawyers know on the subject?" adding that we had been too long ruled by lawyers. He wished to tell the House he was speaking then under a sense of what he felt to be a slight on the manufacturers of this country, when he found that sons of Dukes and other members of the aristocracy were going about the country telling manufacturers that they did not understand their business, and that they ought to employ better machinery and better methods. He was proud that he did say, "What on earth do they know of manufacturers, and the struggles of manufacturers?" What did they know of the ruin of factories, even in the Tyne-side district? He recently accompanied the Mayor of a Tyneside borough to a new forge which was fitted up with the latest machinery at a cost, he thought, of £50,000. Not one piece of the machinery there had ever been turned on except for experimental purposes, and this was entirely owing to imports from Germany which came into our markets. That was a forge which if in operation, would give employment to between 300 and 400 men. Such forges were not only on the Tyne, but also on the Wear, and in the district. They were told by an hon. Member opposite of the prosperity of the chemical industry in which he was inter- 1234 ested, but he did not tell them that his company were the possessors of a most valuable monopoly, and that other manufacturers could not use the same patent. The hon. Member also did not tell them that while his company was so prosperous and paying from 50 to 100 per cent., in recent years other chemical manufacturers had to close their factories. Nor yet did he remind the House when he talked of the chemical industry of the Tyneside that, by the new Russian and Austrian tariffs, duties of from 100 to 200 per cent. would be imposed on manufactures from Tyneside, which would entirely destroy the export to those countries. Facts like these made them indignant when they were told by lawyers and young aristocrats how they should conduct their business. He knew these hon. and right hon. Gentlemen had done good service to the State, but do not let them go down to the country to teach manufacturers their business.
He wanted to make his position perfectly clear in regard to the vote which he was going to give in that division. He was a supporter—a loyal supporter, be trusted—of His Majesty's Government, and therefore he should vote against the Amendment. But besides being a supporter of the Government in their policy of negotiation and retaliation he was in favour of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and he considered there was nothing inconsistent with regard to their conduct in that matter, nor inconsistent in the attitude taken up by the Government. They quite acknowledged that the country was not yet ripe for the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham; but he did believe it was ripe for the policy of retaliation and negotiation. With regard to what had been said by the hon. Member for Derby, who would welcome foreign goods dumped into this country, he asked the hon. Member if he would equally welcome the foreign workman who made the goods, because he thought it would be better for the country as a whole if the goods were made in this country by foreign workmen rather than that they should be made abroad, since in that case the money earned would be spent in this country rather than in a 1235 foreign country. Was it not the fact that foreign imported goods fixed the prices of the home produce? Undoubtedly they did. Then was it not inconsistent and illogical on the part of the trades unionists that they should allow these goods made by men working longer hours for less wages to come into the country free of any duty whatever? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wolverhampton stated that our free-trade policy had been ratified by the unparalleled prosperity of the country, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Croydon said the result of it had been that we had wealth beyond the dreams of avarice. An hon. Member opposite had reminded them that they ought to read their Hansard. He had been taking that advice, and he found that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on 13th May, 1902, said—Thirty per. cent. of the population has been shown to be in a state hovering on a verge of poverty if not actually plunged into it, and it is these people who will suffer.He found also that on 22nd April, 1902, the hon. Member for Derby said—Not only are there a large number of workmen employed at 18s. and 19s. per week, but here in London alone there are about 500,000 people always out of employment, and taking the whole country throughout we find by the returns that there are nearly 1,000,000 workmen always out of employment.Did these people participate in the wealth beyond the dreams of avarice? Did they thank Heaven that we had had unparalleled prosperity because of free trade? Ask the 1,000,000 people out of employment what their opinion was. The hon. Member for Derby had asked what railway men had to gain by any alteration in our policy. As long as there were 1,000,000 people out of employment there would always be more people demanding work on railways than the railway companies could give, and so the rate of wages would be kept low. He was told that there was doubt as to the state of poverty in the country. He had taken the trouble to ascertain what the hon. and learned Member for South Shields said in regard to that matter. In the debate on the corn tax on 12th May, 1902, the hon. and learned Member called attention to a speech by the Member for 1236 West Monmouth on the number of paupers end people on the verge of destitution. He said—We are able to give the proportion of that underfed class with extreme precision. When I last addressed the House on this subject on the night of the introduction of the Budget, I gave some figures from Mr. Rowntree's book with regard to the population of York. I pointed out that by a most admirable calculation Mr. Rowntree had given the family budgets of 1,465 families. He showed that these people were systematically underfed.,He also pointed out that the dietary of these people was systematically and necessarily less than the workhouse scale of diet. Had they then reason to bless the so-called unparalleled prosperity and wealth beyond the dreams of avarice? He maintained that as long as they had 1,000,000 people out of employment and others always on the verge of starvation, there was ample justification on their part for having raised this most important question. He maintained that the fiscal proposals should be care-full considered when there was such a lamentable state of things always in our midst. It was a state of things which imposed very great responsibility on the labour leaders in this country. He sincerely trusted that they would state what they proposed as an alternative. policy to that now before the country for dealing with this important matter. The junior Member for Oldham said he also knew that a large number of people were on the verge of starvation in his constituency. He was a popular, clever, and accomplished young man, and, although an aristocrat, he acknowledged he had a great future before him. Considering such a state of things, had he been endowed with the hon. Member's advantages, he would have taken the advice of the Colonial Secretary on the previous day not to close the door to colonial preference, because the object of that policy was to eventually make the Empire self-sustaining. He thought his conduct so far had been such that he had made it impossible for him to join any Government on the Unionist side for many years. He might accept a position on the other side, but when he was asked to support Home Rule he would find that the cheers would not come from the other 1237 side. The hon. Member speaking in this House on 12th May, 1902, said—Every argument which could be used against the corn tax would be equally applicable to the tea tax. I have listened to the frequent quotations which have been made from Mr. Rowntree's book, which must have impressed everyone who has read it. In all these pitiable budgets of the poor, tea figures as universally as bread. Do not mix sentiment up with taxation. In taxation what is required is equity, and sentimental notions ought not to be allowed to prevent any Government from taking the correct financial course. The only chance the struggling millions of whom we read in Mr. Rowntree's book and whom we see in our own constituencies ever have of enjoying the bounties of nature and science lies not in any socialistic system of taxation, not in any charitable enterprise, or charitable immunity from taxation, but solely and simply in an effective and scientific commercial development.He agreed with the hon. Member this was not a matter of sentiment. It was in the development of oar commerce that he believed this country would find its strength in future. He did not believe it would be done merely by better education as some hon. Members told them. He asked was it because of their better education. that they had protection in the protectionist countries? The first thing they had to find was work for those who required it. He reminded the free-traders that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had stated that he would take great care that whatever happened the food of the people should not become dearer. He believed this and if he thought the food of the poor would cost one penny more than at the present time he would not support his policy.
§ * MR. HENDERSON (Durham, Barnard Castle)
said he would not have ventured to take part in this important debate, seeing that he was a comparatively young Member of the House but in so many of the speeches to which they had listened from the other side of the House, reference had been made to the interests of the workers of the country, that he had come to the conclusion that it was time that the workers spoke on their own behalf. The hon. Member who had just sat down had thrown out a good many challenges to the labour leaders. If the House would listen to those who directly represented the workers, he thought they would be able to prove that the 1238 workers were directly opposed to the policy the hon. Member just laid down. If, as he and others said, this policy was being propounded on behalf of the workers of the country, it seemed very strange that every means afforded the workers of demonstrating their opinions, had shown that the workers were directly opposed to the attitude he and others had adopted. Reference had been made to recent by-elections. He would certainly like to allude to two of them. Hon. Members must be aware that shortly after the policy suggested by the right hon. Gentleman the ex-Colonial Secretary a by-election took place in a northern constituency called Barnard Castle. There were three candidates. Two candidates were against the policy advocated by hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House and one in favour of protection. What was the result? Although there were two free-traders against one protectionist, the protectionist failed to be returned. That was an emphatic answer on behalf of the working people so far as that constituency was concerned. But another election had occurred to which reference had been made, he meant at Gateshead. The hon. Member for Newcastle had tried to convince the House that he was exceedingly anxious for the working men of this country, but he showed that anxiety in a most marvellous fashion, because he went down to that constituency and did all in his power to secure the d feat of the representative of the working men, and to secure the return of the representatives of a section of the community whose whole interest was against that of the working people. Perhaps the hon. Member was not aware that only two days ago an important conference had been held in Bradford which represented directly over 1,000,000 of the workers of this country. If he might be pardoned for saying so, that conference represented more directly the workmen of Great Britain than any other conference that had been held. It was generally known that they were in the various constituencies, entirely independent of the old orthodox political Parties, and therefore it could not be said. as in the past, that that conference represented the satellites of one political Party. At that conference a resolution was proposed on the lines of 1239 the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman now before the House, and another motion was proposed on very much the same lines advocated on the Government benches. What was the result of the vote? 970,000 were in favour of practically the Amendment now before the House, and only 27,000 in favour of the position advocated on the other side of the House. He maintained that that was an indication of the mind of the workers of the country on this great and important question.
He had listened with some interest to the speech which had been delivered by the hon. Gentleman, who represented the constituency in which he had resided for many years, and in reply to the hon. Gentleman he would trouble the House with a few statistics. The doctrines now preached by the junior Member for Newcastle had been served out for twenty years by his predecessor, Sir Charles F. Hammond. and during the whole time covered by Sir Frederick Hammond's speeches, which period had been referred to by the hon. Gentleman who spoke last, between 1871 and 1901, the population of the counties of Northumberland and Durham increased by 67 per cent., and the number of males increased in that time by 194,902—in fact, almost double. The increase in the number of men employed in the Tyne shipyards was from 2,42.3 in 1880 to 6,657 in 1900. He held that that was a fair index of the number of men employed in the North-eastern shipbuilding yards. The number of men employed in the shipyards had increased from 5,423 to 14,777, and the total tonnage built on the Tyne had increased from 361,326 tons in 1880 to 865,274 tons in 1900. The wages in the trade, with which he had been officially connected for the last twenty years, had risen from 30s. to 37s. During the debate many statements had been made as to the ruin of certain industries in this country. He wished to give as illustration from his experience. He had spent sixteen years of his life in the foundry of a firm of locomotive engineers and was cognisant with the various departments in these works. Many hon. Gentlemen in the House knew that these works held the highest position in the world in turning out locomotives. 1240 They were in a position to refuse orders for years, resting on the reputation that they had built up; but there came a time when they could not get orders. Other firms in Glasgow and elsewhere with modern appliances undertook to complete a locomotive engine in a week all the year round, while the firm to which he had referred could not do so. As a matter of fact the Stephenson Locomotive Engineering Works had recently been transferred from the Tyne to Darlington, the town in which he himself lived, and had been organised with up-to-date machinery. Not only were many establishments carried on with obsolete machinery, but their management was altogether inefficient. Formerly the employer stood in close relation to his workman, but now-a-days the limited liability-director came upon the scene, and managers of works were appointed who had no practical experience of the business. The result was that the efficiency of the work and the output fell off, but surely free trade was in no way blamable. Then a great deal had been said about higher wages for the workers—well, he had been engaged for the last twelve or fifteen years in arranging the rate of wages in a particular trade by means of a conciliation board. His experience was that an advance of wages was not always got when trade was good. Would the hon. Gentleman. who said that he was so much interested in the poor working men, back up his views by voting for the Resolution which his hon. friend Mr. Paulton had introduced in behalf of the trades unions in this country? His experience was that good trade had not always brought increased wages, unless organisation had been good also. It was not more restriction on trade he desired, but less restriction. If hon. Gentlemen opposite would turn their attention to royalties, and railway rates, they would approach real remedies and would help the manufacturers without penalising the mass of workers in this country. He and those who agreed with him had no Whip to obey, but were ready to act with either side on a question of improving the condition of workers of this country, but they felt on this occasion that they must go into the Lobby and vote emphatically 1241 in favour of the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose.
§ MR. BECKETT (Yorkshire, N.R., Whitby)
said he wished to congratulate the hon. Gentleman on the speech which he had made. The subject under debate had been discussed at portentious length, and he did not wish to trespass unduly on the attention of the House, but, speaking from the point of view of the bankers, he thought that it was rather remarkable that, wide as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had spread his net, he had not been able to capture a single banker to serve on that committee of political blacksmiths who were engaged in forging fetters for British industry—[MINCSTERIAL cries of "Oh; oh!"]—and who, if they had paid any attention to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, must now be pursuing their labours with somewhat heavy hearts. Bankers had a peculiar right to speak on this question, because they were not interested professionally in one particular trade. They were interested in all trades, because their fortune rose and fell with the fortunes of the commercial community as a whole. He wished to speak, not on behalf of the bankers of London, who represented the greatest money market of the world, but on behalf of the country bankers, whose fortunes entirely depended upon the industries which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham declared were about to be ruined.
They had had a long recital about ruined industries, and in listening to the hon. Member for Newcastle he had been struck with the significant omission which that hon. Gentleman had made of the shipping industry. The hon. Member was connected, he be lived, with the shipping industry, and that was one of the biggest, if not the very biggest, industry in the country. But they had not heard from the hon. Member for Newcastle one single word about it. Why was that? It was because the hon. Member knew full well that the shipping industry was in a prosperous condition. This omission of the very industry with which the hon. Member was connected was an exemplification of the mode of argument adopted by pro- 1242 tectionists all over the country. The industries which were not in a flourishing condition were the industries, of course, which cried out that they were being ruined. Now, those who argued that our industries were being 'ruined had to prove, first that the proportion of ruined industries as compared with the flourishing industries was something more than infinitesimal; then that the ruin of industries was foreign competition, not home competition and effete methods and business inefficiency, and finally that the disappearance of such ruined industries was not soon followed by the emergence of others better equipped, with larger profits, and affording greater employment. When protectionists had proved these three things, their arguments would have some value, but not till then. It was not the ruined industries that caused alarm to the right hon. Member for Sleaford: it was the great increase, as he said, of the wealth of Germany and the United States. He should have thought that it was rather late in the day to trot out that argument in the House of Commons. The Prime Minister himself had disposed of it effectually once for all, by showing that it was to our advantage to deal with the people who were well off, even if they were protected countries. Every one knew perfectly well that even in protected countries there were periods of depression. Trade must contract and expand; it was the law of nature. In this country there were some signs of contraction, but there were no signs of decay. There was no necessity to throw ourselves into a state of alarm and rush to the adoption of quack remedies for that contraction. The causes of that contraction were perfectly well-known. He would specially mention the late war. They could not throw away £250,000,000 without feeling the effects of it after. America had not thrown away £250,000,000, and yet she was suffering from a great depression in trade, and he was told that there was a greater amount of unemployment in that country than in this. Last year, when American exports reached the highest figure ever known, and when Germany exported more than in its previous history, there was the greatest depression in employment. The reason was that 1243 when the home market was unable to take up the goods produced, the manufacturer had to rush and sell his goods abroad. The test of a nation's prosperity by the amount of its exports was utterly fallacious.
It was a business maxim that if you took care of the consumers the producers would take care of themselves. When the consumer was prosperous the whole community was prosperous; but the producer might be producing a great deal, and yet the community be impoverished. How they were to get prosperity out of that policy he was unable to understand. Then it was said that it would create more work for the workmen. It would make more work only in the sense in which an ultimely shower of rain on the farmer's hay made more work for the farmer. Besides, where was the fund out of which they were going to pay higher wages for labour? That point had not yet been explained by the right hon. Gentleman. Another argument advanced in favour of the policy was that we had not a fair share of the world's commerce. It seemed to him that we had infinitely more than our fair share as the figures stood at present. Our trade with all the world last year was £900,000,000 for a population of 40,000,000, while the foreign trade of Germany and America with a population of 133,000.000 was only £979,000,000. Therefore, our trade was three times as great per head as the trade of Germany and America. It could not be contended that an Englishman had three times as much talent, energy, or capital as the American or German; consequently that extra share of trade must be due to our free-trade system and nothing else. The arguments of the right hon. Gentleman with reference to dumping had been refuted again and again. The argument against dumping by foreign countries meant that he cheaper the goods we imported the more zealously should we strive to keep them out. People bought goods because they wanted to have them cheap, and their cheapness enabled the manufacturers to make profitable use of them, and upon it the prosperity of various industries had been built up, but if they placed a heavy duty on these cheap goods, many industries would be injured to the advantage only 1244 of a few. He would like to ask his protectionist friends whether or not they contended that a protective tariff kept out "dumped" goods. According to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the Colonies were suffering from dumping; therefore protective tariffs did not prevent it.
The conclusion he had come to was that the keener the competition to which this country was exposed the more closely ought the people to adhere to free trade. The Government, however, did not take that view. They thought that they could mitigate the pressure of foreign competition by a policy of retaliation. He disliked the word retaliation, he disliked introducing the phraseology of war into a question of trade, and he disliked the thing still more. It was vague, uncertain, partial, arbitrary, and hazardous. No member of the Government had defined what retaliation meant. The President of the Board of Trade had stated that it would be sufficient to threaten, but he predicted that the tariff walls of foreign nations would not collapse at the blast of the ram's horn blown by the President of the Board of Trade. Threats would be no more successful in the sphere of commerce than they had been in the political sphere. The Colonial Secretary had reproached the free-traders for saying at one moment that retaliation meant much, and at another that it meant little. There was no contradiction between those statements. It might mean much or little. The Government tried to make the free-trade Unionists think that it meant little, but when appealing to the protectionists they made out that it meant a great deal. The Hous2 wanted to know where retaliation began and where it was to end. What trade was the Government going to select for their experiment? How were the words "outrageous unfairness" to be defined? Every Government had a right to protect its own industries as it pleased; therefore there was no "outrageous unfairness" on the part of Governments. Was it he result of cartels? But the promoters of the cartel system simply fined their own people for our advantage, so that the unfairness, if any, was to their people and not to us. A clearer definition and 1245 clearer thinking on this matter were desirable. Where was the scheme to be applied? It was true that the principal trade of Bradford was hard hit by the M'Kinley Tariff, but there were compensations. Up to that time Bradford had been a city of one trade—a disadvantageous circumstance to any town. Since that trade had diminished in prosperity other trades had grown up in its place, greatly to the advantage of Bradford, and one of them was of a most remarkable character, because the hon. Member for Central Bradford said it had been able to convert him from the raw material into the finished article. The Government said they wanted to extend the area of free trade, but they were going to proceed to do it in a strange manner. They appeared to be going to foreign countries to say, "If you do not become free-traders we will become protectionists." The action was akin to that of going to the Chinese and saying, "If you do not become Christians we will become Confucians." It was said that retaliation only meant commercial treaties. He should never forget hearing Mr. Gladstone, who knew more about these things than most people, saying that there were great disadvantages attaching to all commercial treaties, and he believed that that statesman abandoned a commercial treaty he was negotiating with France simply because it entailed a reversal of our free trade policy. The Government might expect to do great things by commercial treaties, but it should be remembered that the two greatest financiers and statesmen of the century, Peel and Gladstone, had the weapon of negotiation or retaliation in their hands, but they deliberately abandoned it because they believed it was of no advantage to this country, and where they failed he did not think the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was likely to succeed. The President of the Board of Trade had urged that the knowledge that the British market was open encouraged other countries to erect tariff walls against us. He believed it had the opposite effect. By flinging away our open markets we should throw away our best card. If we closed our markets there would be no more advantage to the foreigner in dealing with us than with any other 1246 nation. Our open markets had made us the best customer among the countries of the world, and those open markets secured better terms for our traders than the finesse of any statesman with the weapon of retaliation in his hand. The open-market policy, besides, encouraged other countries to establish friendly relations I with us, to fear the loss of those relations, and to refrain from interference when we were engaged in extending our Empire. The British Empire could not have existed in its present state had it not been for our open markets, and if the Government erected tariff barriers jealousy against England would assume a dangerous shape in all other countries.
Finally, he wanted to know what was the attitude of the Government. Retaliation was on their lips, but protection was in their hearts. With one important exception Ministers had made protectionist speeches. The doctrine of plenary inspiration had received a new interpretation in Ministerial speeches, because Ministers, having apparently accepted the same doctrine of inspiration, had all spoken with I differing voices. He wished to know which was the true voice. The Government were supported by those who made protectionist speeches, who had set their hearts on protection, and would be content with nothing less. They would be kept in office by protectionist votes, and he believed that the protectionists were sufficiently good bargainers not to give their votes for nothing. If their votes were given to the Government the protectionists would expect the Government to pursue a protectionist policy whether they liked it or not. The Colonial Secretary had said the Government would support those who honestly supported the Government policy. Great stress was laid on the word "honestly," and that raised a doubt in his mind, or rather it left him in no doubt. He did not believe that Unionist free-traders could "honestly" support the policy of the Government. It was the duty of every honest and convinced free-trader to vote for free trade now, when, for the first time, a clear and definite issue was presented to the House. It would be a different thing if it were a sincere and convinced free-trade Government that asked for this power of retaliation. He would be reluctant to do so, but in such a case 1247 he would agree. But this Government was tarred with the brush of protection. If the Prime Minister had, in September, spoken the words uttered the other day by the President of the Board of Trade, the free-trade members of the Cabinet would not have resigned. But they were allowed to retire, and the protectionists Were exalted to great honour. The speech of the President of the Board of Trade seemed like a death-bed repentance; he did not believe in death-bed repentances; and as a free-trader he could not possibly give a vote of confidence in a Government which contained members expressing the views of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Colonial Secretary—in a Government of unsettled convictions and divergent opinions, that had played and dallied with a question of the greatest national importance, and that, in a great national crisis, had shown no power to guide or control. The Unionist Party was split into two sections because they had two leaders, one of whom had led too much and the other too little. The result was deplorable, but matters could not be mended by compromising with conscience, by crying "peace" when there was no peace, or by giving a cowardly and vacillating support to a policy which in their hearts they detested and condemned.
§ * MR. EVELYN CECIL (Aston Manor)
said that references were continually being made to "the traditional policy" of the Conservative Party, and the free-fooders had claimed that they were following that policy. But as far back as 1891 the National Union of Conservative Associations unanimously passed resolutions in favour of—The extension of commerce upon a preferential basis throughout all parts of the British Empire," and "expressing the earnest expectation that. Her Majesty's Government will see their way clear before the next electoral campaign to make some decisive declaration of their intention to promote mutually favouring Customs arrangements between the Colonies and the mother country.Therefore it was not the free-fooders, but the main body of the Party, the supporters of the Government at the present time, that were more nearly supporting the traditional policy of the Conservative Party. He was in favour of ideal free trade, but it was useless to talk about "the expansion of natural demand"—as 1248 free trade had been defined by the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick—when that expansion was forcibly restricted by the action of other nations. We had never had free trade, and he feared that it was as Utopian as universal citizenship or universal peace. There were aspects of our trade which pointed to the necessity of some fiscal change. Till lately Bridport in Dorsetshire had had a large trade to North Brittany in cotton fishing-nets made from cotton-twine. By the imposition about eight years ago of a 20 per cent. duty in France upon cotton-twine that trade had been destroyed. He knew of a pottery in the Midlands the owner of which had decided to transfer his works to Germany, as he would then be able to sell his goods in that country without paying import duties and still be able to bring his surplus stock to this country free. The result would be that a number of hands would be discharged in this country, and Germans employed in their places. Another case was that of a publisher who wished to reprint an American edition of his books. The cost of the printing in United States was £5,000 more than in this country, but, as it would cost £20,000 to import the books into the United States owing to the 25 per cent, duty on English books, the publisher had decided to have them printed in the country. Was not that a loss to British workers directly due to the hostile United States tariff? Tariff reformers desired to retain these trades for the benefit of our own people, for if the present policy continued they would certainly be sacrificed. Some alteration must be made. He did not approve of Lord Rosebery's "commercial repose." There was a danger of our being like the ostrich who put his head in the sand; we should awake to find some of our best feathers plucked, and very meagre, sorry object? we should then be. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Member for Croydon, speaking of German iron, imported into Great Britain, had said that we resold it as ships to Germany, so that dumping was really an advantage to us. But how long was that likely to go on? As soon as Germany had succeeded in squeezing out or killing the production of iron here she would put up her prices to suit her own 1249 trade. It could not be too strongly emphasised that tariff reform was desired not to assist one trade at the expense of the general taxpayer, in the old protective sense, but for the purpose of defence. There was all the difference in the world between putting up a shelter to preserve a plant which would naturally be hardy and which would only be made tender by being sheltered, and putting up a shelter to prevent its being blown down by a foreign hurricane. He was entirely opposed to bolstering up a particular industry for its express benefit, but it was a very different thing to defend our trade against the action of commercial rivals. Cheapness was not our only concern. It was no use being able to buy in the cheapest market if we had no market in which to sell our own goods to get money with which to buy. They had heard a great deal about cheapness. Cheap food was very desirable, but it should not be forgotten that regular employment was even more so. He was not committed to any precise tax on food; and he did not vote for the repeal of the registration duty on corn. He maintained that if a small duty such as that, or not very much greater, were maintained for the purpose of welding the Empire together, so long as its imposition did not increase the cost of living, it was a policy at which they ought all to aim; and he was very glad to gather that the Government would not be opposed to something of that kind.
They were told that the Tariff Commission was of very little use; but he did not agree with that view. It was most essential that they should not commit themselves to a definite policy until they had had a scientific inquiry; and he would not be prepared to say what tax should be put on this or that article until the matter had been carefully considered by experts. A Royal Commission was suggested; but he doubted whether very much would be gained by adopting that course. If such a Commission spent all its time arguing in the abstract between the merits of free trade, or protection, or self-defence they would not get very far. It was quite cer- 1250 tain that as long as foreign countries were succeeding under a protectionist policy, while the trade of this country was remaining stationary or not advancing at the same rate, the people of this country would become more and more in favour of some tariff reform. He looked forward with the utmost confidence, in the long run, to a change from the present system; and he believed the Government would be authorised to make it by the vast majority of the electors. A great deal had been said about the difficulty of arranging Colonial preference, because this country would have to make bargains with the Colonies. He did not fear a bargain as much as some hon. Gentlemen did, who said that bargains were causes of quarrel, and that this country could not make a bargain with the Colonies without the risk of a quarrel. Ordinary business experience showed that bargains wore, as a rule, for mutual advantage, and that they were more frequently sources of gain to both parties than sources of quarrel. He thought that that would be the result of colonial preference. He was glad the Colonial Secretary appealed to his hon. friends and also to hon. Gentlemen opposite not to close the door to colonial preference as probably it could be worked to the advantage of this country and also to the advantage of the Colonies, and would weld the Empire together. He had heard with the greatest satisfaction the proposal for the solidification of the Empire by trade exchanges between its units, and the extension, as far as possible, of the principle of a Zollverein. A commercial union, not less than a political union, was a valuable setting for the jewels of the British Crown, and he protested against perpetually smarting under the disadvantages of one-sided free trade and unfair foreign competition, such as were occasioned by free imports into this [country when hostile tariff walls were erected against British goods in foreign countries. This present system under modern circumstances represented the forces of dogmatic pedantry and alleged political economy against those of practical business experience.
§ * SIR EDWARD STRACHEY (Somersetshire, S.)
said he desired to address the House from a point of view which had not been sufficiently considered up to the present—viz., the agricultural point of view. Looked at from that point of view the policy of the Government was simply a policy of taxing the agriculturist in every direction and, at the same time, not giving him any advantage at all. The President of the Board of Trade put forward the present official policy; of retaliation but they were told there was a much stronger policy behind it. He admitted that the policy of retaliation would not hurt the agriculturist as much as the other policy which lay behind it. That was the policy of the Prime Minister which, as far as it was possible to understand it, was the policy of the half-way house. The Prime Minister's policy was to impose taxes only on manufactured articles. The effect of that policy would be that every farmer, and every agricultural labourer, would have to pay more for everything be had to buy; the tendency would be that wages would fall; and the actual result would be that the farmers would be crippled and the labourers would be crippled. That would be a bad thing for those who had to live on the land and by the land. He was confirmed in that view by what had been said at the Central Chamber of Agriculture by a well-know Agriculturist. Mr. Rider Haggard, who said that the policy of the Prime Minister would nearly approach ruin, and appealed to the farmers to resist it to the last. That was the opinion of a gentleman who was a Conservative and whose opinion in the matter would be treated with respect by agriculturists. Mr. Haggard also said that it was all very well for the leaders 1252 of his Party to say, "Jump into the fiscal river and when you are beginning to sink, Mr. Balfour in a boat will be ready to pull you out. He did not believe in Mr. Balfour's boat, it might be wanted when it was not there. There was no half-way house on the steep road which ran from free trade to protection they must have one or the other." He himself thought that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Sleaford Division was very well advised when, the other day, he did not venture to refer to what the effect the Prime Minister's policy would be on agriculturists. A stranger in the House would, with the exception of two or three sentences, have thought from his speech that The right hon. Gentleman was a great manufacturer and not a great agriculturist as the whole tenor of his speech was what the policy would do for the manufacturers. The right hon. Gentleman was the leader of the agriculturists; but he did not say a word as to how the policy of the Prime Minister would affect them, because he knew that that policy meant certain ruin for farmers. The right hon. Gentleman also supported the policy of the ex-Colonial Secretary. He himself was willing to admit that on the face of it that policy appeared to be to the advantage of the agriculturist. That was the policy of the "wholehogger?" which would put taxes on all round. He had looked in to that scheme to see what advantage it would be to agriculturists, and although he would be prepared to make sacrifices himself and would not add to the cost of the living of the working classes of this country for his own benefit. He must give his advice to his Agricultural friends upon its merit, and not upon sentiment alone.
1253 Examining the scheme he found that it was essentially a manufacturers and Colonial one for the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham stated in the most frank way that this country was not an agricultural country and never would be, and that the main source of the prosperity of the country was its great manufactures. The essence of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was to pretend to benefit agriculturists and throw dust in their eyes and persuade them that they would be better off under protection. The tax the right hon. Gentleman proposed on agricultural produce was 5 per cent. only as compared with 10 per cent. on manufactured articles and a 2s. duty a quarter on wheat. Mr. Martin Sutton, a great authority on this question, declared in a letter to The Times that a 2s. duty on wheat would not be the slightest advantage to the farmers, and that a 10s. duty was the smallest duty that would be of any use to them. As regarded the 5 per cent. duty on dairy * produce and meat, it should be remembered that at the present moment there was enormous competition from the Colonies and the essence of the right hon. Gentleman's scheme was to stimulate further competition from the Colonies. The object of the tax on dairy produce and meat was not to help the agricultural interest in this country, but to help Canada and Australia by stimulating the production of meat, butter, and cheese, in those countries. As regarded meat, it should be remembered that half the meat now imported was colonial; and therefore, the English agriculturists would not get the benefit of the 5 per cent. duty, but would only get the benefit of half of it. The west of England knew already what colonial competition was. In Somerset-shire the Cheddar cheese industry had 1254 suffered severely by the importation of Canadian cheese and in many places it had quite destroyed the making of cheese. As regarded dairy produce, the result of the tax would be to further stimulate colonial competition as well as to increase the price of feeding stuffs which were imported from foreign countries. They might be told they could use maize instead, on which no tax was to be put. Maize might be very valuable, but it could not, be used entirely by itself. It was not, moreover, of such value as oilcake or cotton-cake upon which 10 per cent duty would be imposed. Then it was said that the farmers would have plenty of corn offals; and that, owing to the duty on flour. The farmer had, however, some experience already on that point. When the duty of 5d. cwt. on flour was put on, it was said it would be an immense advantage to the farmers; but it turned out, as was stated by himself at the time, that offals were exported to the very countries which were competing with the British farmer in dairy produce. The offals were exported because the freight abroad was cheaper than railway rates at home, and the drawback of 2s. 6d. a ton on offals exported was also an important stimulus. Under the scheme of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham the exporters of offals would get a bounty of 5s. a ton, and the inducement to export offals abroad doubled. The Prime Minister confirmed that view, as, speaking on the removal of the corn tax, he said—He was by no means certain that the extra quantity of wheat offals milled in this country went to the farmer, as the drawback offered an extra inducement to millers to export them to the rivals of farmers on the Continent. He was convinced, he said, that fiscally it was a good tax, but the farmers had more cause to complain of it than any other class.1255 The truth was that it was much easier to export offals than consign them to distant counties at home owing to the heavy rates charged by the railway companies. He ventured to say that the Government would be doing more good to the agriculturists if, instead of putting a 2s. tax on wheat, to give preference to the colonial farmer, they were to forbid the railway companies giving preferential rates to foreign goods. The late Mr. Hanbury urged on the Board of Trade to prevent the present state of things under which bacon, butter and cheese from abroad was taken from Southampton to London for 6s. a ton, whereas the same British produce was charged 17s. l1d. per ton. The farmers should insist the Government should provide that foreign goods should be charged same rates as English goods, and that the English goods should be carried at the same rates as foreign goods. Mr. Chamberlain's scheme by its tax on feeding stuffs would destroy the milk trade which was none too prosperous by increasing the cost of the production of milk.
They were being told of the good old days of protection. They might have been good old days, but only for a very limited class indeed. The farmers suffered very much in the early part of the century. Evidence was given before Select Committees of this House in 1821 and 1833. Before the former, a large farmer in Somerset said he sold wheat at 64s. a quarter, paid his men 8s. a week wages, and considered that the right price for wheat was 10s. a bushel. In 1833 when wheat was 52s. 11d. a quarter, nearly double what it was at present, another Somersetshire farmer complained that if wheat fell to 50s. a quarter poor land 1256 would go out of cultivation altogether. He added that his labourers who were paid 8s. a week were better off than he was. Agriculture must have been in a very bad state at that period when a farmer told a Committee of this House that his labourers receiving 8s. a week were better off than he was. If the extreme protectionists had their way, as no doubt they would if the Government continued on the slide they were on, agriculture would be in as bad a state as it was before the repeal of the Corn Laws. The farmers and the labourers would suffer and the landlords would get very little advantage as shown by evidence given before the Select Committees he had referred to, that land was unlet and rents falling owing to tenants having lost their capital though price of wheat, was double or treble what it now was. As an agriculturist he, therefore, most strongly supported the Amendment of his right hon. friend.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the debate be now adjourned,"—(Sir Howard Vinceant.) put, and agreed to.
§ Debate to be resumed upon Monday next.