§ * MR. LOUGH (Islington, W.)
said the object he had in view in calling attention to the Brussels Sugar Convention should be kindly received by the Government, for members of the Administration had accepted it as a kind of working model of the new fiscal arrangements. He might begin by explaining what the Permanent Commission was, and in what relation it stood to the Sugar Convention. The Convention was not like many treaties, a simple obligation entered into with a clear appreciation of what it involved, and which, so long as its provisions were observed, caused no further trouble to any of the parties. This Convention set up a body called a Permanent Commission, both legislative and administrative in its character, and invested with very great powers. The duties of the Commission were, first to acquire information with regard to sugar legislation, the duties and bounties that existed in every country in the world, and it was empowered to pronounce an opinion on the practice of all countries. It therefore had a very wide field of operations. More than that, it worked in secret, and the only thing that was absolutely known with certainty was the decisions at which it arrived. It had condemned the practice of Austro-Hungary with regard to sugar—although they 1546 had never heard what had become of that condemnation. It had found fault with France, and had absolutely condemned Russia, Denmark, and The Argentine, and it had ordered our Government to prohibit imports from those countries, which it had done. They were at a loss to know why the Government did not also prohibit imports from Japan and the United States and other countries which appeared to have been equally condemned. They knew nothing of what occurred at the October meeting, and thus they had a very mysterious body, with very autocratic powers, which had been exercised with very bad results on the commerce of this country. The Commission might have fulfilled a very useful function had it given full information with regard to the sugar bounties, It might also have proved of great service to the traders of the country, who, he held, had a right to complain of the secrecy observed. The noble Lord the Under - Secretary for Foreign Affairs told him the other day that it was not proposed at present to publish what had taken place at the October meeting. That was greatly to be] deplored. The Commission, after all, was appointed to deal simply with a matter of trade. It was supposed to act fairly between the eight great nations which sent representatives to it, but this secrecy had created grave suspicions with regard to its proceedings. It was rumoured that instead of carrying out its duties as an international Commission, it had become a sort of cartel or trust, controlled entirely by the sugar producers of the Continent.
Let them consider for a moment what it was that the Commission was appointed to do, and what it had done up to the present. Its main work was, of 1547 course, to abolish sugar bounties. For twenty-five years there had been an agitation in this country against these bounties. Although they were told that the bounties constituted a powerful instrument for cheapening the price of sugar yet it was urged that they were objectionable. But they had never had any perfect information as to what the bounties really were. The Board of Trade had never been able to tell them accurately. In the year 1889, the late Baron Henry de Worms, who was a consistent opponent of the system, prepared a convention something like the present one, but the negotiations fell through owing to the suggestion to substitute a surtax for the bounties. But our Government had since accepted the principle and on the 1st September last those bounties were abolished. What had been the effect on this country of the abolition of the bounties? It had been exactly what he warned the House it would be. The Government had agreed to substitute a surtax system, for which we were directly responsible and which did great injury to the country, for the system of bounties, for which we were not responsible and which did us no harm, even if it did not do us a great deal of good. The immediate result had been great benefit to the sugar-producing Powers and great injury to this country. The sugar-producing countries benefited because prices there at once began to fall and the consumption to increase. It was, of course, very difficult to get exact figures after only six months experience, but he believed that in France the increased consumption had been something like 60 per cent.; while it was said the retail price had fallen from 6d. to 3½d. per lb., in Germany the increase in consumption had been something like 40 per cent., and in Austria from 30 to 25 per cent. The Board of Trade had informed him that, although figures were not forthcoming, the consumption of sugar on the Continent had greatly increased while the price had fallen considerably.
But let them turn to the condition of affairs in their own country. A pamphlet had been circulated to hon. Members which gave the facts as the effect on the pric3 of sugar here. Commencing with the year 1902, 1548 when the Convention first began to affect prices they found that the average price of 88 per cent. beet sugar f.o.b. at Hamburg was 6s. and had risen to 8s. 4d. in December, 1903, a rise of 38 per cent. in the wholesale price, which was of course immediately reflected in the retail trade. The result so far as consumers were concerned was an immediate decrease in consumption in 1901, the consumption was returned at 1.7 million tons, in 1902 it was 1.6, and in 1903 it had fallen to 1.3, or a fall of something like 26 per cent. That was a very serious fall. This was an article of which the consumption, prior to the Convention, was steadily increasing. Now a change had taken place and there was a tendency in an exactly opposite direction. This Motion declared that grave injury had been inflicted on manufacturers of sugared products. This was a matter of which the House had had cognisance for a considerable time, for on the 24th November, 1902, when the Convention was confirmed, the Secretary to the Board of Trade in one of his speeches declared that one benefit the sugar manufacturers of this country would derive from the Convention was, that they would participate in the limitation on the surtax, which was embodied in Clause 3 of the Convention, which would prevent any foreign Power who was a party to the Convention from charging an additional tax of more than 2s. 6d. per cwt. on any of our manufactures that went into their country. On the 2nd December following, the President of the Board of Trade, in answer to a Question, assured the House that the full benefits of the limitation of the surtax would be secured to English manufacturers. That statement was repeated over and over again in the course of the debates, and the Government consequently succeeded in pushing the Bill through without alteration. But the Permanent Commission had decided the question, and now they had had a curt letter from the Board of Trade stating that the decision was that the limitation of the surtax did not apply to sugared goods, and a severe blow had been inflicted on the industries of this country. It was pointed out in the debates last year that an extraordinary development had 1549 taken place in the export trade of sugared goods which constituted one of the most satisfactory features in the growth of British commerce in recent years. Owing to the cheapness of the raw material we have been able to make artistic and expensive goods and sell them back to the country from which we obtained the sugar. These exports had been growing year after year, but immediately after the Convention was passed a reduction set in, and now confectionery and preserves showed a falling off of £44,000, biscuits and cakes £8,000, pickles and condiments £9,500, and condensed milk sweetened £61,000. In the item of refined sugars and candies there was a decline of £30,000 in our exports to the Continent. The figures might seem small to some, but then they must remember that the Convention had only been in full operation for four months.
They had heard a good deal of dumping—it was in fact in connection with the sugar question that the word first found currency in the House and the country. It was claimed that the Convention would stop dumping, but it had had an exactly opposite effect. The imports of prepared or manufactured chocolate had increased by £142,000, and of confectionery by £147,000. On the other hand, there had been a falling off in the import of raw cocoa amounting to £300,000. These figures were very significant, and showed what a blow had been inflicted on our industries. The result, so far as our manufacturers were concerned, was this. When they could import sugar from any country they were ready to fight the foreigner with free hands, but now their hands were tied behind their backs; and so we saw the import into this country of all those products, while we could not get admission into the foreign markets. Nor were the sugar refiners any better off under the new circumstances than they were before. The imports of raw sugar had declined by 500,000 cwts., although the price had increased by £500,000, and the imports of refined sugar had increased. But the class that was to be benefited most by the Sugar Convention was the planters of the West Indies; and what was the effect upon them? The effect appeared 1550 to be that we had struck the last blow at their waning industry, The export of sugar from the Islands last year, when the Convention came into operation, fell off nearly one half. The total imports in thousands of cwts. during the last three years were 929, 1,280, and 672, so that there appeared to be a great falling off in the import of sugar from the Islands. Several causes had been at work to produce this result. Cuba had come into the market again, and had sent vast supplies not only to the United States but also to this country. By this means the preferential treatment West Indian planters received in the United States had been seriously interfered with. The position of the planters was very well summed up in Mr. Czarnikow's circular of December 31st—Our West Indian planters are hardly better off than during the worst days of the bounty period, when beet was at 6s. 1½d. f.o.b. Hamburg, West Indian sugars sold at to-day's quotations.Thus the rise in the price of beet sugar had quite failed to improve the market for cane. The truth was there was only a limited outlet in this country for the produce of the Islands, and the beet sugar producers knew how to maintain the advantageous position they had secured. In an Answer given to the hon. Member for Dundee on Wednesday last the Colonial Secretary pointed out that an improvement had taken place in the exports from the Islands to this country for the month of January, but he added he had not. and was not likely for some time to come, to have any official information showing any definite improvement in the condition of the West Indian sugar planters resulting from the Convention. That was the net result of this violent interference with free trade. The mistake this House made was in inventing the wrong cure for the case of the West Indies. In estimating the difficulties which the Convention had imposed on the country it was necessary to take a somewhat wider view. The Government having adopted the alternative of prohibition of import instead of countervailing duties, serious difficulties had arisen in our commercial intercourse with friendly nations. Immediately the Act was passed into law, importation from Russia, Denmark and the Argentine 1551 Republic was prohibited. When the Government took this step it was of opinion that little or no sugar came to this country from Russia: but it had since been discovered that we had very large indirect imports from that country through the Baltic ports, altogether amounting in 1902 to something like 100,000 tons.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. GERALD BALFOUR, Leeds, Central)
On what authority does the hon. Member say that?
§ * MR. LOUGH
said the fact remained that it was the case. This trade was interfered with. Russia did not take it lying down, and she immediately put a retaliatory duty upon tea. We sent just twenty-seven millions pounds of tea to Russia through the same indirect channels that Russian sugar came to us, and the curious fact was that the quantity of tea she took from us balanced the sugar we took from her. What better system could obtain than for us to take Russia's sugar while she took our tea?
It might be said that prohibition did our exports no harm. But any violent interference with the course of imports was certain to be reflected in the exports. Members of the Government had lately displayed an extraordinary change of attitude with regard to this Convention. In another place a distinguished member of the Government had recently stated that he was an out-and-out opponent of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but that he was a supporter of the Sugar Convention, and that that was a model of the policy of retaliation of which he 1552 approved. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol preached the same story at Manchester, where he was speaking against the Birmingham policy. Other Gentlemen opposite also had claimed this Convention as the expression of the policy of the Government with regard to retaliation. What nonsense it was! Who invented the Brussels Sugar Convention? Whose genius pushed the Bill through the House? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. The idea at the root of the Convention was colonial preference. The scheme had failed in its object, and it was the most perfect illustration of the right hon. Gentleman's policy that could be found. When the Government declared that they were against the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but that they were in favour of the Sugar Convention, they were really playing with the House, as more complete allegiance to the Birmingham policy could not be shown. But he would be asked what practical suggestions could be made? It might be said that we were tied to the Convention for five years, and that therefore nothing could be done. He contended that a great deal could be done. His complaint against the Government was that we were not well represented on the Commission. Our present representative was Sir H. Bergne, a well-known protectionist. But we were a free-trade country, and we ought to be represented by someone who would make a fight for that which the Government declared still to be the policy of the nation. Sir H. Bergne was assisted by Mr. Martineau, the representative of the sugar refiners. Why was not some representative of those great sugar industries which were suffering so much, sent to fight our battle at Brussels? The gentlemen at present there appeared to take every blow against this country lying down. Instead of fighting for the country they seemed to be fighting on the side of those shrewd sugar producers who were simply endeavouring to raise the price of sugar and to destroy our manufactures. Under the Convention there was power to appeal within eight days of any decision. Was an appeal lodged by Sir H. Bergne against the decision on the question of 1553 the surtax? Another thing the Government could do was to give up once for all the bad policy of secrecy which had distinguished the conduct of the proceedings of this Commission. Let them publish the proceedings, as they were at liberty to do, so that the country could know what was going on. Then, too, the Government ought to adopt a fighting policy instead of the complaisant course hitherto followed, and when the Commission suggested the condemnation of a country like Russia, with which we had commercial interests, the decision should be fought against.
The effects of the Convention, briefly summarised, appeared to be these: It had caused a rise in the price and a decline in the consumption of sugar in the United Kingdom, at the same time that there was a decline in the price and an increase in the consumption of sugar in other countries which were parties to the Convention. It had brought about an increase in foreign dumping and a decrease of British dumping. It had shut out from British markets important sugar supplies. It had produced a decline in imports from the West Indies to this country. It had raised new tariffs against British grown tea. It had obstructed the general import trade. It had caused the adopion of certificates of origin and the bonding of factories. Finally, it had led to a great dislocation of industry and a great decrease in employment. Those were serious matters. Possibly he had not made good all those points, but he was in difficulties as he was the party making the attack. What the Government had to do was to show the benefits we had received, and that would be a difficult task. Had any advantage whatever arisen to the country from the Convention? He appealed from the Government to the Gentlemen who sat behind them. They could not be ignorant of the sense of wrong with regard to all these matters which was spreading out of doors. He appealed to those higher traditions of the House of Commons, which rose above Party loyalty, and asked Gentlemen opposite to force the Government not to continue to carry on by those secret methods what was nothing less than a total revolution in our free-trade traditions without obtaining an 1554 expression of opinion on one side or the other from the electors of the country.
§ * MR. KEARLEY (Devonport)
in seconding the Motion, remarked on the great similarity between the arguments by which this Convention was commended to the House, and those which had since been used in connection with another policy. In both cases the appeal was based on the alleged ruin of industries at home, the Empire in danger abroad, and the evils of foreign dumping. He desired to point out the effect of the Convention on the industries in whose interests the Government were supposed to have moved. The West Indies were the trump card of the Government. They had urged that the case was so grave and urgent that the only way in which the prosperity of the West Indies could be restored was by the abolition of bounties, that unless their export trade was improved both in volume and value it would be impossible to carry on civilised government, that they would be face to face with ruin, and that starvation would ensue. The opponents of the Convention argued, on the other hand, that the causes of the decline of West Indian trade were economical, and did not arise from the bounty system; they pointed out that the causes of the trouble were out-of-date methods, obsolete machinery, and heavy charges on the land, and that the price of sugar which to the West Indies spelt ruin enabled other sugar-producing countries to carry on a satisfactory industry. Bounties had disappeared, and it was now possible to see what effect the abolition had had on the volume and the prices of the sugar coming from the West Indies. Prior to the Convention, West Indian sugar had always been able to obtain in the Mincing Lane market £1 or £2 per ton more than beet sugar. Within the last twelve years West Indian sugar had been as high as £20 per ton, and within the last twenty years it had been as high as £30. But during the whole of that period there had been constant clamourings that the Islands were being ruined, and that bounties wore the cause of their downfall. Consequently those who had followed these matters closely had always had their doubts as to the genuineness of the agitation, for agitation it undoubtedly 1555 was. Up to a certain time, as he had said, West Indian sugar obtained a higher price than the corresponding article in beet. What was the position now? In July, 1902, 88 per cent. beet was 6s. 1½d. per cwt.; the corresponding quality of West Indian sugar was 7d. 9d., an advantage of 25 per cent. in price. Instead of bringing about an increase of price the abolition of bounties had had the contrary effect, for to-day the corresponding prices were 7s. 3d. for beet and 8s. for West Indian sugar, so that the latter was 35 per. cent. worse off as compared with two years ago.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
asked whether the hon. Member contended that the Convention had produced that result.
§ * MR. KEARLEY
said that that was his contention. What had been the effect on the volume? In 1901 the importation of sugar from the West Indies was 46,000 tons; in 1902, 64,000 tons; and in 1903, 33,000 tons, or a drop of nearly 50 per cent. Did that look as though the West Indies were in a fair way of being saved? It would be interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman's explanation of those figures. Then as to the general position of the West Indies. Before the abolition of bounties the West Indies had preferential access to the markets of the United States. The reason of that was, that in 1897 the United States decided to countervail all sugar from bounty-fed countries. The West Indies were not a bounty-giving country; consequently their sugar went in free of any countervailing duty, whereas sugar from the Continent was countervailed to the extent of 15d. or 18d. per cwt. To-day, however, all the sugar-producing countries on the Continent that were in the Convention had access on the best terms to the United States market, and the preference to the West Indies had disappeared.
§ * MR. KEARLEY
said it had very much to do with it. The Convention had worsened the position of the West Indies in the United States market. The right hon. Gentleman could not deny that 1556 before the Convention the West Indies had a preferential access to the United States market as compared with European countries. He knew that the United States had entered into a reciprocity treaty with Cuba giving a preference of 20 per cent. But Cuba was not supplying the whole of the requirements of the United States, and the fact remained that the position of the West Indies in competing with European countries for the United States market, was worsened.
He now came to the question of how the Convention had affected the sugar-using industries of this country. They had lost the advantage of cheap sugar. Before the Convention they bought in a free market; the whole world was their market; the representatives of all the cane and beet producing countries in the world were on our market, and there was no question of priority to one or another. That was the system of free trade which they desired to see continued. Was there freedom of trade in the transaction of one's own business to-day? Not at all. The control of the destinies of the sugar-using industries now was not in London, Silvertown, or Dundee; it was at Brussels, and it was eight to one against the interests of the British manufacturers, who, thanks to the Government, were unrepresented there. The Confectioners' Alliance, when they saw the names of the expert advisers nominated on behalf of the Government, asked that they also might be represented by an expert adviser, but the Government would have none of it; they preferred the services of Messrs. Martineau and Lubbock. Everybody knew what the interests of those gentlemen were, and it did seem hard that these other trades should not have been allowed to give the representatives of the Government the benefit of their experience in their own trades. The Convention had made sugar dearer at home and cheaper abroad. What had been its effect on the home market? Before the Convention, owing to enormous visible supplies of sugar, prices were very low. That condition had not changed, because there were still enormous visible supplies of sugar, and he did not hesitate to say that but for the Convention sugar would have been 1s. or 1s. 6d. cheaper to-day. In July, 1902, beet sugar was worth 6s. per cwt., 1557 but from the moment the Government] placed their influence at the back of the Sugar Convention the price had been steadily rising. He contended that the rise was wholly due to the Convention, because the visible supplies of sugar were so large to-day, and had been ever since July, 1902, that only circumstances operating outside the regular way, could account for the increase of price, which now amounted to something like 35 or 40 per cent.
Another result of the Convention had been to transfer the boon of cheap sugar to the Continent at our expense. The consumption in Germany had increased by 39 per cent., in France by 63 per cent., in Austria by 25 per cent., and in Holland by 43 per cent. Instead of the British consumer securing a corresponding advantage, he had been the victim of the whole situation. As the result of dear sugar at home and cheap sugar abroad, coupled with the broken pledges of the Government, our home market was being invaded by manufactured goods which previously never had access to it, and our exports to markets over which for years we had had unchallenged supremacy were diminishing. In speaking of the broken pledges of the Government, he referred to the statement in which they declared that the conditions laid down by the Convention would be applicable to sugared goods, as well as sugar, by which declaration many Members on the other side of the House were induced to support the measure. He remembered the hon. Baronet the Member for Norwich making a strong speech at the time his Amendment, in which he sought to insert an express declaration in the Bill to that effect, was before the House, and the hon. Baronet was followed by the hon. Member for York. Both stated that they were satisfied with the pledge the Government had given that sugared goods would be assimilated to sugar and be entitled to the same treatment. What was the position to-day? Although in moving the Amendment he had pointed out the danger of unfair treatment being meted out to our exports, and the danger of dumping on our markets, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary to the Board of Trade said that there was no chance of that; that our manufacturers 1558 would get the advantage of the protection of the surtax, and the same privileges in approaching foreign markets with sugared goods, as they would with sugar-. The President of the Board of Trade emphasised this more strongly. On 5th August, 1903, the right hon. Gentleman said—The hon. Member opposite was absolutely wrong in saying that confectioners would be worsened rather than improved by the provisions of the Convention with respect to the surtax. The surtax would reduce any possible advantage the home producer might have over the foreign producer to a maximum of six francs. The result, of that would be that our sugar products would find a freer entry into the contracting States.Were they finding a freer entry into the protective States? Was that the experience of the Government? He did not think it was. The right hon. Gentleman continued—Certainly the import of the articles into the contracting States would not be rendered more difficult. He granted that it was conceivable that danger might arise such as the right hon. Gentleman for Norwich laid great stress on, and that we might find in future our confectionery and jam manufactures, and so forth, exposed to unfair competition.The suggestion was that the unfair competition might arise from the fact that bounty-fed sugar might be made into sugared goods, and that these would be sent into our market. The right hon. Gentleman then gave an undertaking that that would not be permitted, that if an instance of it was brought to the notice of the Government, steps would be taken to prevent injury to the trades concerned. When we had more experience of the working of the Convention, it would be found, he maintained, that the foreign manufacturers were dumping their sugar products down into our markets to the detriment of the home manufacturers. The. Prime Minister the next day said this—The statement that the Government were prepared to admit chocolates and other manufactures into which sugar entered, which manufactures might be made out of bounty-fed sugar, was based on an entire misconception. The Government objected equally to bounty-fed sugar and bounty-fed chocolates, and the only reason why they did not accept the Amendmentwhich he had himself moved—which was discussed at great length yesterday, was, in the first place, because they did not believe, as a matter of fact, that there would be 1559 any chocolates, or similar products thrown into this country made of bounty-fed sugar. They did not believe, from the best advice they could obtain, that there was the smallest probability, or possibility of that result. They laid down, in the second place, that if this result occurred, it would be the first and most immediate duty of the Government of this country to stop it by legislation; and, in the third place, the only proper way to stop it was by legislation ad hoc. because if the legislation was to be embodied in this Bill the manufacturers of chocolate, and others in this country would be compelled to carry on their manufactures under the control of the Brussels Convention.If the Government had accepted his Amendment it would have prevented all this difficulty, for although the foreign manufacturers were carrying on their manufactures now under the cloak of the Brussels Convention, unless the Government took very speedy steps to give that protection which our home manufacturers needed, their last stage would be worse than the first. The fact was that the Convention was being evaded on the Continent, where they were using what was practically bound-fed sugar; and sugared products were being dumped upon our markets to the detriment of the home manufacturers. But no legislation had been introduced, or even promised, by the Government in order to put a stop to this evasion of the Convention. When Mr. Boyd, an important man in the sugar industry, complained to the Government that although the Government had given them to understand in regard to sugared goods that they were to get the benefit of the Convention, it had been vitiated by the action of the Brussels Commission, their only reply was—The Brussels Commission has decided that the limitations laid down in Article 3 of the Convention do not apply to sugared products.Article 7 of the Convention gave our representative the right of appeal when a decision was given adverse to the interests of this country, providing that right was exercised within eight days. Would the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade tell them whether our representative had exercised that right on any occasion when the interests of British sugar refiners or the sugar-using manufacturers had been invaded? He believed that no notice of appeal had been given on any single occasion; and, 1560 if that were so, it afforded ample justification of the claim which was made by the sugar-using industries to have a representative on the Commission to advise the Government as to the course to be taken. Their application for such a representative was ignored, however, and they were now smarting from the ill effects that had arisen in consequence.
What sort of treatment was being meted out to our manufacturers in foreign markets? The Secretary to the Board of Trade had told them, as a sort of consolation, that although they would pay more for their sugar, they would stand in a better position in foreign markets because their sugared goods would be admitted on equal terms with sugar. Well, at the present moment some of these countries were imposing a duty of 30s. per cwt., which was much more than 100 per cent., on some of the sugared goods entering those countries. Before the Convention Act was passed they had nothing of that kind to contend with. Sugar entering into Germany from this country was charged a duty of 8s. 5d. per cwt., and sugared goods 30s. 6d. per cwt. In Austria the duty on sugar was 11s. per cwt., and on sugared goods 35s. 6d. per cwt. Did the hon. Gentleman wonder that the sugar-using trades charged the Government with a great breach of faith. They were only told that their appeals were receiving careful consideration, that they were to possess their souls in patience, and that the matter would be brought before the Commission in March. Even the sugar refiner, the spoiled child of the Government, had his grievance, and was up in arms against the way in which he was being treated. Mr. Martin, honorary Secretary to the British Sugar Refineries, addressed a letter to Lord Lansdowne, dated 20th January last, in which he drew attention to the duties in Belgium, Germany and Austria on imported syrup. Mr. Martin said—It appears that since 1st September the import duty on syrup containing over 50 per cent. sweetening matter has been 25.50 franca, which is tantamount to the charge on refined sugar. By the new Belgian law, 14th December. 1903, the Excise duty on sugar used in the manufacture of invert sugar, has been considerably reduced, but no reduction has been made in the import duty, so that the invert sugar manufacturers in Belgium are enabled to raise their price for home consumption to the amount 1561 of the surtax and therefore obtain a considerable bounty on their production.and then he went on—Apparently the Belgian Government were treating invert sugar and golden syrup as byproducts, and consider themselves free from the conditions of the Convention with regard to these two articles. My Association contends strongly that these articles are formed of sugar, and are not by-products, and that the terms of the Convention should apply to both of them. If this is not insisted upon, not only will a large and growing export trade to Belgium in syrup, and possibly in invert, sugar be entirely killed, but it may, and probably will, come about that our own home and export markets will be invaded by bounty-fed invert sugar and syrup to the detriment of many of our refiners. Any Belgian refiner who makes invert sugar would be enabled to apply some of the benefits he obtained from the latter to cheapen his refined sugar.Thus all the interests the Government were supposed to protect by the Sugar Convention Act were showing that this Sugar Convention had absolutely failed in its purpose.
He wished to say a word in behalf of an interest that had not much consideration given to it in this House—the interest of the consumer. He had been very much struck in the fiscal debates with the fact that, although there was a great amount of argument all round the question on behalf of the producer, very few Members spoke on behalf of the consumer, who bore the burden of all our sins and follies. In spite of the belief of some of the hon. Members opposite to the contrary, whatever increase there might be in a cost of an article, it finally worked its way down to the consumer. He maintained that the Convention alone had advanced the price of sugar by a ¾d. a pound; the duty was a ½d., so that the consumer paid ½d. a pound more for his sugar than he did before. He used to buy his sugar at l¼d. a pound, now he pays 2d. The result was that the consumption had fallen, and that was not difficult to understand, when the methods of the consumer were considered. He estimated with the greatest precision and nicety his weekly budget, and if the price of a commodity advanced he could spend only the same amount of money so must satisfy himself with less of the commodity which had advanced in price. He thought that 1562 enough had been said to show that the consumer, that trade, and manufacturers had suffered equally, and that the interests in whose behalf the Government were impelled to move had not benefited in one single degree from the Convention.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the decisions of the Permanent Commission of the Brussels Sugar Convention have operated so as to inflict grave injury on the manufacturers of sugared products in the United Kingdom as compared with their Foreign rivals, and that the Convention has failed to confer the anticipated benefits on the West Indies."—(Mr. Lough.)
§ MR. DAVID MACIVER (Liverpool, Kirkdale)
said that the speech of the hon. Member who had just sat down, however little he intended it, was evidently in favour of the introduction of the principle of retaliation. The result of the speeches of the mover and seconder was that they would, if they could, destroy the Convention and restore the bounty system. Their speeches had been elaborated with considerable length of detail and a great deal of inaccuracy. One conspicuous inaccuracy of the hon. Member for Islington was his statement that the Sugar Convention was the special policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and was designed to give a preference to the Colonies. Now, as a matter of fact, the Sugar Convention expressly prohibited any preferences being given to the Colonies. He would like to remind the House that, as a result of a bounty system, which hon. Gentlemen opposite wished to see restored, sugar refining had largely disappeared from Liverpool. There were still five considerable refineries in that city, but within his own recollection there were three times that number. The same result followed in Greenock. He would remind the House also that Mr. Gladstone had denounced the bounty system with all his eloquence on many occasions; but he wished to do away with it by agreement, by negotiation, in other words, by convention. He must confess he had never given his confidence to this Convention, because it was the work of free-trade statesmen 1563 and agitators. His objection to it was that it was a clumsy free-trade device for restoring the natural price of sugar, and for affecting that which, from his point of view, would have been better attained by frankly protectionist means. He had not the slightest hesitation in saying that the right thing to do was to put a large duty on bounty-fed sugar, and give a preference to colonial sugar. He recognised however, that, having regard to the free-trade views which prevailed in the House and the country, that was impossible, and the Convention was the only practicable measure. He believed that it had done a great amount of good, and that it would do a good deal more. He asked the House, was there any industry in the country which ought to depend upon the dishonest bounty system? They all knew that that system was intended to ruin the sugar refining industry in this country. It appeared to him that the arguments used by hon. Gentlemen opposite amounted to this, that they wished their profits should be increased.
§ MR. DAVID MACIVER
said he withdrew the remark at once. What he wished to say was that if there were any hon. Members in the House who were personally interested, they might use the same arguments as those employed by hon. Gentlemen opposite. Even in his own case, he suffered largely from the Convention, because he used to carry in his steamers a large amount of bounty-fed sugars. Notwithstanding that, he gave his hearty and cordial support to the Government, and he did not think that the confectioners had any justification for their present agitation.
§ MR.WINSTON CHURCHILL (Oldham)
said that the hon. Gentlemen who moved and seconded the Resolution had made out a case, and he would try and cast his remarks in a mould rather more favourable to the position of the Government than he might otherwise have done. He did not believe that, on the whole, it was true to say that the Convention had altogether failed in its 1564 objects. After all, the primary object of the Convention was to effect an improvement in prices. He confessed that he doubted at the time whether that improve-meat would be so rapidly effected. There were many causes which might have retarded any rise in prices; but the Government had succeeded much better than, in the view of many people, could have been expected. The hon. Gentleman opposite had been able to show how prices had steadily advanced; how there had been a rise of over £2 per ton since the Convention was enforced. The monthly returns of the prices of sugar f.o.b. at Hamburg showed a steady and constant rise; and naturally that had made itself felt in retail prices. The same class of sugar which was sold at 12s. 6d. per cwt. before the Convention, now fetched 15s. 3d. in the London markets. Naturally and necessarily that had had an effect on the retail prices of ordinary sugar purchased by the consumer. He believed the price in all cases had advanced a ¼d. per lb. in consequence of the Convention. There had already been a considerable measure of success for the Government. But the Government also held out hopes that there would be no fluctuations, or fewer fluctuations, after the passage of the Convention. He had never himself been able to see how the abolition of bounties, which was almost the only fixed factor in the price, should be regarded as making for greater stability of price. One would have thought when there were so many factors affecting the price—combinations, freights, new processes, new areas of production, and above all, variations of the harvest—that these elements would be more responsible for the fluctuations of the price of sugar than the fixed bounties given by foreign Governments, but the fact remained that our Government had certainly succeeded in limiting the fluctuations in one direction, at any rate. The downward fluctuation had ceased altogether, and the manufacturer and the consumer had now only to adapt themselves to fluctuations in the direction of a steady and constant rise since the Convention. Most undoubtedly that must be counted as a partial triumph for the efforts of the Government.
He asked himself whether it was altogether fair to say that these results on 1565 the price of sugar were due to the action of the Government or to the Convention. Could these results be really claimed as arising from the Convention? What other reason could be assigned? The natural circumstances of the world did not seem to provide any explanation of it, and he thought that the Government was entitled to the whole credit, undivided and unstinted, of any alteration in the price of sugar. His hon. friend the Member for Islington felt conscious of the fact that it might be argued against him that it was, perhaps, a little too soon to judge of the results of the Convention. That was an admission which gave great satisfaction to his right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade. He quite agreed, for there were many indications which went to show that the rise in the price of sugar was by no means complete. After all, the Convention had only been influencing the market since 5th March, 1902. and it had only been actually in force since 1st September. In the circumstances, however, he thought that the very marked and substantial stiffening in price which had been already achieved ought to be extremely gratifying to those who sat on the Treasury Bench and to one who no longer sat there. It ought to be especially gratifying to the First Lord of the Treasury, because the Convention was the first example of his own new policy—the first example of the employment of retaliatory powers.
A great many people had been saying in the autumn—he might have been among them—that the policy of retaliation was an afterthought designed to tide over the exigencies of the Party situation; but the first fruits of the Convention proved beyond all doubt that retaliation was a real policy, and that its use in the hands of Imperial statesmen not hampered by the old traditions of British finance or the pedantry of economics or arithmetic, might produce results which sensibly affected the industries of the people and the comfort of the working classes. He thought also it was a great proof, if what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham told them was true, of the commercial strength and prestige of Britain. Let them consider the picture 1566 the right hon. Gentleman submitted to the country. Here were all these great protectionist nations—the followers of a policy of scientific taxation. We were often told that they were not all fools; they were pursuing their self-interest, and in doing so they had for a long course of years adopted a two-fold policy—they had stimulated their home industries by means of bounties, and had pursued a relentless policy of dumping in the British marker. Why did they dump? The late Colonial Secretary said it was very clear that they dumped because they wished a monopoly, and that they nearly got it, but at the critical moment, in the nick of time, the President of the Board of Trade stretched out his hand, and a voice from Downing Street went out and stopped those nations in the flood-tide of victory. The moment the British Government intervened, so they were invited to believe, the whole fabric of continental protection, in so far as sugar was concerned, collapsed, and continental nations, rather than face the fury of the right hon. Gentleman, proceeded, not merely to throw over their system of bounties, not merely to starve their home producers who had grown up under this munificent system, but to abandon the monopoly of the English market which, according to the late Colonial Secretary, they had almost within their grasp. They not only submitted to our dictation, but they submitted with an uncommonly good grace. So perfect were the manners of foreign diplomatists and so correct their conduct, that one could almost imagine that they thought that they were the parties getting the benefit of the Convention and that we were the parties going to lose. But there was a more remarkable test of our power in the composition of the tribunal. Ten or twelve Powers were represented, and we had only one delegate. We were one against twelve. Austria-Hungary had secured two representatives—one for Austria, and one for Hungary. One might almost have thought that a claim might have been lodged on behalf of Great Britain and Ireland, but we did not need to worry about that. Our position was so strong that one Englishman representing a country of our commercial strength was able to stand up against all these foreigners. One representative of a free-trade nation was sufficiently strong to 1567 preserve the interest of this country against so many protectionists, and to force those nations to carry out in detail conditions of the Convention which must be galling and humiliating, and which inflicted such loss on all of them. He could not repress a thrill of patriotic emotion when he contemplated the spectacle of this solitary champion of Britain fighting alone for free and freer trade against the world, and preserving, by his own individual authority and the moral force of the Government he represented, against overwhelming odds, the interest of the tea planters of Jamaica and the sugar refiners by the banks of the Clyde.
He thought the President of the Board of Trade would admit that ho had dwelt only on those aspects of the Government policy which might be the subject of legitimate congratulation. Before sitting down he wished to say one or two words on the reverse of the medal. Very many of the valuable objects which the Government had in view had not been obtained without some cost. The price of sugar had gone up by £2 a ton, and one had only to calculate how many tons came into the country to estimate the loss arising from that fact alone. He would put aside altogether the question of the consumer, because it had been very well dealt with by the hon. Member for Devonport. So far as the producer was concerned, he had never been able to make out why it should be honourable, patriotic, and Imperial to refine sugar, and contemptible, unworthy, and pro-Boer to be engaged in jam and pickles. He should have thought that in a commercial country any change in legitimate trade, if employment was considerable and conditions healthy and wages rising, was worthy of the respectful attention of the statesmen directing its affairs. And it had been proved that fifteen times as many persons were employed in this despised and degrading industry as in the patriotic business of sugar-refining. It had been proved that more than five times the number of persons displaced by foreign competition or other causes from sugar refining had been accommodated in the secondary industries of sugar. Jam and pickles had to fight foreign competition like 1568 everybody else, and they had been fighting it rather well. There was scarcely any branch of our export trade which had undergone such a notable expansion as the jam trade group. The Government had done a great injury to all these important trades. They had done on injury both direct and indirect. At the same time that they had raised the price of the raw material here the Convention had depressed the price of raw material abroad. It was not merely addition; it was addition and subtraction. It was like votes sometimes given by Members against their Party, which counted two upon a division. This double operation had produced striking effects. The consumption of sugar here had fallen off immediately, whereas, up to 1901, we were increasing our consumption at the rate of 40,000 tons a year. In the two years influenced by the Convention and the negotiations, the consumption in this country had fallen off by 200,000 tons each year. While that had been done here, French and German consumption of sugar had increased by 122,000 tons. In fact it might be said, speaking in general, that the consumption of sugar by continental Powers had gone up between a quarter and a half as much again during the period covered by the Convention. If he were willing to embark on a line of argument which might be gratifying to the hon. Member for the Kirkdale Division, whose strong protectionist views were well known to the House, he would point out that the effect of this increased consumption abroad and the decrease here had resulted in an increase in the import of foreign manufactured sugar into this country, and a decrease in the manufactured sugar going from this country to foreign countries.
Some of the inducements held out to the House to support the Convention had not been altogether realised. They were urged to support it because it would make us more independent of the sugar production of the Continent, and make this country more dependent on the sugar production of our own Colonies. The very contrary was the fact, as the debate had already shown. Since the passing of this Convention we had become dependent in a larger proportion, according to the figures, on continental supplies, and in smaller proportion than ever in recent 1569 years, on the supply coming from the West Indies. Not only had foreign dumpers controlled the market commercially, but we had provided them with an instrument in this astonishing tribunal which enabled them to control the sugar market from a diplomatic as well as a commercial point of view. We were promised certain advantages under Article III. of the Convention. We were led to believe that under the Convention the duties on British sugar products, imposed by States who were parties to the Convention, would be reduced from the high and almost prohibitive level at which they now stood. The Secretary to the Board of Trade was a Minister closely connected with this class of legislation, and he had earned a reputation for close and cogent reasoning; it was therefore disappointing to find that some of the statements he so confidently made were not borne out by the teachings of experience. But the object to which the Government above all attached importance had not been achieved. The case for joining the Convention was based on the needs of the West Indies, as was apparent from the speech of the First Lord of the Treasury on 26th June, 1902. Naturally the West Indies were brought very prominently before the country by the Association headed by Sir Nevile Lubbock, which was, perhaps, not altogether disinterested, and which operated by a very ingenious method of agitation, that of exciting the honest Imperial enthusiasm of the English people and of turning it to commercial profit. Sir Nevile Lubbock was the individual who made an impression on the Prime Minister, because on 26th June, l902, the right hon. Gentleman said that—If it were not, in effect, for the case of the West Indies, there was no conceivable reason why we should not allow the foreigner to tax himself for the sake of our consumer.That was said in the pre-tariff reform epoch. That was before "Economic Notes on Insular Free. Trade" was published. His purpose in alluding to that was not to revive that greater controversy, but to show how absolutely the case for our joining the Convention was based upon the need of the West Indies. The facts were patent to the House. It was a very remarkable fact that, while other kinds of sugar had been artificially raised in price, the one class of sugar the 1570 Government desired to raise in price, and for which they embarked on this legislation, was the one class in the whole of the sugar market which had not responded to the new conditions. There had, in fact, been a collapse in the West India trade; the importations from thence during the period covered by the Convention had fallen off in value and tonnage. The West Indies were given £250,000 to help them until the Convention came to their relief, but the prospects for the West Indies were as dark as ever they had been, and it was a melancholy comment on the recent policy to find the Colonies-now pinning their faith to the fiscal policy of the Member for West Birmingham, and the hope of an arrangement such as that between the United States and Cuba. That right hon. Gentleman had been a Minister of many policies, but this was a policy in which be had had absolutely his own way; it was pressed by him on an in-different or a reluctant Cabinet, and forced by every measure of arbitrary pressure through a distrustful and even contemptuous House of Commons. The Government had put a considerable strain on their faithful followers; no Government ever had followers more faithful, no Government ever gave such opportunities for the display of loyalty. He was bound to say there was something about the vote of this majority that reminded him of the machine-made majorities of the United States rather than the reasoned, independent assent of the House of Commons. The majority that registered its approval of the Army Corps scheme, that registered its approval of Chinese labour, and registered its disapproval of the free-trade Resolution would, no doubt, set its seal of sanction once more on the Sugar Convention. But the story would not end there.
Here was a case where the Member for' Birmingham had been able to have his own way, and the results were before the country. What were those results? The price of an essential article of food, a matter of comfort and health, and the raw materials of many industries, by the deliberate intervention of the Government, had been unnecessarily enhanced. It had been put up in England, and it had been put down on the Continent of 1571 Europe. At home the trades which depended on sugar had been depressed while abroad they had been exalted. They were more than ever in the power of the Continental producer, and they had abandoned their right of buying in the markets of the world. A very large proportion of the countries of the world were prohibited from trading with them by this Convention, and they had embroiled themselves in a tariff dispute with Russia. They had set up a complicated and vexatious machinery which they had hoped they had given up for ever. Meanwhile the West Indies were worse off than ever they were before, for they were now in a miserable condition, and they had no guarantee that the House would not be presented with other demands of the kind of which this House had already had sufficient experience. As free-traders they deplored most of all that through the agency of this Convention another turn of the screw had been given to increase the price of food. Lastly, no restrictions had been placed on the supply of manufactured foods from abroad. Perhaps it was a good thing, that in view of the circumstances of a political situation that was known to all, and on the eve of a great departure of policy, they should have provided for the country this object lesson of Ministerial ineptitude. He hoped they should have opportunities to refer to it in this session, or in the next session of this Parliament, or in the next Parliament or in the interval between the two Parliaments; but in the meantime he thought it should be nailed to the parish pump as a warning to tariff meddlers, tariff mongers, and tariff muddlers of all denominations.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
The hon. Member for Oldham has just delivered a humorous speech, and perhaps he will excuse me if I refuse to regard it as a serious contribution to the debate. So far as the hon. Member for Oldham has used any arguments against the Government they are the same arguments as those which have been used by the hon. Member who initiated this debate. It is therefore to the speech of the hon. Member for Islington that I prefer to turn if I am to understand rightly the case that is to be made against the Convention. This Resolution consists of two parts, and it reflects upon the Permanent 1572 Commission and upon the British representatives upon that Commission. The substantive Resolution declares that the Convention has failed in its object and—That the decisions of the Permanent Commission of the Brussels Sugar Convention have operated so as to inflict grave injury on the manufacturers of sugared products in the United Kingdom as compared, with their foreign rivals,I shall refer to the two branches of that Motion later; but I wish to point out that the statement that the proceedings of the Permanent Commission are conducted in secret and that it gives no account of its labours is incorrect. A report has already been presented to the House. As a matter of fact the shorthand notes of the proceedings of the July meeting are to be seen in the Library at this moment. The hon. Member knew perfectly well that no report of the proceedings in October had yet been issued because some of the most important of the subjects discussed have not yet been finally dealt with. The hon. Member, not content with attacking the Permanent Commission, has attacked the British representatives on that Commission. I have always thought that it was a good rule of the House that the agent of the Government should not be attacked, but rather the Government itself. The Government are prepared to accept full responsibility for Sir Henry Bergne's acts. The hon. Member has attacked a statement of mine with respect to the amount of sugar imported from Russia in the year 1902. I have stated that the amount in value is only £2,000, but the hon. Member told the House that it amounted to between £800,000 and £1,000,000. When asked for his authority for that statement the hon. Member said he had been making inquires.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
Then the only authority which the hon. Member has is avowedly a partisan pamphlet.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I should like to have those authorities. I will state to the House the results of my own inquiries into this matter. I will take the Russian statement of the exports from Russia in the year 1901, because we have not got the Russian statement for a later date. According to that statement the total amount exported from Russia to all destinations in 1901 was 126,000 tons. Of that total only 700 tons were sent to the United Kindgom. That is the statement given by Russia herself of Russian exports. We have not yet got the detailed figures for the following years, but I can give the amount to Germany and the United Kingdom for 1902. In 1902 the amount sent to the United Kingdom was 1,000 tons. I think that is a fair example of the accuracy which has characterised the statements of the hon. Member for Islington. Then the hon. Member told us that the sugar refiners are not satisfied, and road a letter from Mr. Martin, the Secretary of the Sugar Refiners' Association. It would be strange indeed if nothing could be said against an international instrument of this kind, but I am authorized by Mr. Martin to say that the sugar refiners are satisfied with the working of the Convention.
The hon. Member for Islington raised seven points, and said at the end of his speech that perhaps he had not made good those seven points. That is the only part of the hon. Member's speech with which I heartily agree. I did not think that the hon. Member has made good those seven points, or any one of them. The Resolution states that—The decisions of the Permanent Commission of the Brussels Sugar Convention have operated so as to inflict grave injury on the manufacturers of sugared products in the United Kingdom as compared with their foreign rivals, and that the Convention has failed to confer the anticipated benefits on the West Indies.Now let me look at these two propositions for a brief period. The first thing I have to observe is that nobody except the hon. Member for Islington and the hon. Member for Oldham could have imagined that, within six months, it would be possible to form a fair estimate of the effect of this Convention. It is said that exports from the West Indies have positively diminished within 1574 the last year. The right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, also used this argument to prove the uselessness of the Convention at an earlier period of this session. As a matter of fact examination shows that, while there was a reduction during the period preceding the coming into operation of the Convention, there has been a steady increase of exports since that event. I do not profess to attach much importance to that, but if it is a good argument to say that eight months preceding the Convention there was a reduction; it is an equally good argument to say that after the Convention actually came into operation those imports increased.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
These were the words used by the right hon. Gentleman, the Leader of the Opposition, on the first day of the session—In the first place it was hoped that the Sugar Convention would help the West Indies, but the imports have fallen by nearly one half.It is perfectly true that the imports during the year have fallen, but the imports since the Convention came into effect as compared with the previous years have increased. [An HON. MEMBER: Do you include January?] No, but by including January the result is more favourable. The hon. Member for Devon-port referred to a fall in the price of sugar from the West Indies and I asked him what the Convention had to do with that fall so far as it had occurred. The hon. Member answered my Question by asking me another Question, but I observed that under the cover of that-other Question he never answered my Question. I do not think it can be shown that the fall which has occurred has any relation to the Convention whatever. I rather fancy that the hon. Member was referring to the brown West Indian sugar, and it is perfectly true that during the month of February the price of that sugar has fallen to 7s. 3d., but if you go back to 31st December you will find that at that time it commanded a price of 1575 8s. 11½d. The truth is that these temporary fluctuations in the market are often very difficult to explain.
§ * MR. KEARLEY
said his point was to draw a comparison between the relative values of West Indian sugar as against beet sugar for a certain period, and he pointed out that two years ago it was 26 per cent. higher and it had now fallen considerably below that.
§ MR. GERALD BALFOUR
I do not think the hon. Member has made his point very much clearer. It is impossible to draw any just conclusion from the price on a particular day without a careful examination of the surrounding circumstances. The hon. Member for Oldham has referred to matters which have nothing whatever to do with the Convention, as, for example, the arrangements between Cuba and the United States. His Majesty's Government knew perfectly well, when they contemplated the Convention, that some such arrangement as that respecting Cuba was threatened, and that afforded an additional reason for their action. As regards the other arguments used by the hon. Member for Oldham, according to his view, and the view of his hon. friends opposite, a bounty goes entirely to the advantage of the consumer. If that is really so the result of this Convention should be that neither an advantage or a disadvantage will be given and we shall be exactly where we were before. I will leave, it to my hon. friend the Member for Oldham to consider, if a countervailing duty goes entirely to the advantage of the consumer, what difference does this make to the West Indies? If this is not so it appears to me that one of the favourite arguments used by the hon. Member for Oldham and his friends entirely breaks down.
The Resolution also declares that the decisions of the Permanent Commission have inflicted grave injury on the manufacturers of sugared products in the United Kingdom. Where is the evidence of this injury? I have listened in vain for any figures to prove it. The hon. Member did quote a partisan pamphlet, to which he appears to attach 1576 very much importance, to show that the sugar exports from this country have diminished and that the imports have increased. It is true that the exports fell off in 1903 as compared with 1902 from £846,000 to £802,000; but here, again, it is never safe to take a single year or even a few years. I ask hon. Members to go back to 1901, when it will be found that the exports of sugar goods from this country were £749,000, and therefore since the year 1901 there has been an increase to £802,000. There is surely nothing very alarming in those figures. The hon. Member referred to cocoa and chocolate, and said that there had been a fall in 1901 from £197,000 to £129,000. The figures for 1903 have risen from £129,000 to £141,000. The hon. Member for Oldham said that the. Convention had been influencing the sugar world since March, 1902. It is remarkable that while there has been the shadow of this Convention over the sugar market in those years, 1902 and 1903 have shown the lowest average price in the history of the sugar industry. [An HON. MEMBER: The average price.] Yes, the average price and the lowest price, too. What I say is equally true of refined and unrefined sugar. The average import price of refined sugar in 1902 and 1903 has practically stood at the same figure, being 10s. 7½d. in one case and 10s 8¼d in the other. There has hardly been any rise or fall, but the price is lower than has ever been known before. There has been a rise in price between 1902 and 1903 from 7s. 7½d. to 8s. 0¼d. There has been in the case of refined sugar since September last arise of something like 10d., but since the end of the year a fall of 3½d., making altogether a rise of price of less than 7d. But here, again, if we wish to realise the significance of the figures we must compare other years, and in 1902 the rise in price between September and December was almost the same as in the year 1903. Taking the monthly average of prices in January, they cannot be said to be alarming. As to actual prices I will make a comparison with the year previous to the time the Convention was made. I take 1901, and in January of that year the price of refined sugar was 12s. 7¼d., whilst in 1904 it was 11s. 1¾d., or less by nearly 1577 1s.6d. The price of unrefined sugar in January, 1901, was 10s, 3d. and in January, 1904, 8s. 11¼d. I think the House will admit that these prices cannot be said to have inflicted much injury. The confectioners are, in fact, crying out before they are hurt. No injury has been shown, or can be shown to have been done to them by the Convention. The complaints refer not to any injury already inflicted, but to a possible and prospective injury arising from the fact that the Permanent Commission has decided, contrary to the opinion of the Government as to the true interpretation of the Convention, that Article 3, which limits the surtax on sugar, does not apply in the case of sugared goods. I admit that it is a great disappointment to find that in this matter the Commission has not taken the view which I still think the correct one, namely, that Article 3 does apply, and that the real meaning of the Convention is that there should be no greater surtax on sugared goods than upon sugar. We do not consider that the question of the surtax is by any means closed. The decision of the Commission leaves Article 1 of the Convention absolutely untouched, and when the Commission meet again, in a week's time, it will be the business of our representative to require a clear statement as to the scope and effect of Article 1, having regard to the decision on Article 3. The subject is still sub judice and under discussion, and if the interpretation put by the Commission on Article I should render it possible for the contracting States to give what bounty they please on the sugared product itself, apart from the sugar contained in it, a grave situation will arise, necessitating such steps as may be required in order to provide a suitable and adequate remedy.
SIR H. CAMP BELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling, Burghs)
It is quite unnecessary for me to say anything upon the general question after the most masterly exposition of the present state of affairs by my two hon. friends behind me. and the brilliant speech of the hon. Member for Oldham. The first part of that speech was the most sustained piece of irony I have ever heard in the House of Commons. My hon. friends have asked in a very pointed 1578 manner of the Government what benefit has come to any one from this Convention. Acts of Parliament are passed not for the purpose of avoiding doing mischief to someone, but for the purpose of doing actual benefit to someone. It has been abundantly proved by the speeches of my hon. friends that damage has been done by this policy, but no attempt has been made to show that anyone has gained anything from it. But I wish particularly to direct attention to the position of the House in this matter My hon. friend the Member for Islington said we might demand a change in our representative on the Commission at Brussels. I doubt whether that would have any effect. The truth is that we are in this position, that it is out of our power-to alter the substance or to modify the working of the Convention in any respects. We are tied and bound helplessly. The most we could do would be to suggest to the Government that they should suggest to our representation on the Commission that he should suggest to his eleven colleagues -all of whom represent States which are our competitors and adverse to us in policy—that they should assent to some little modification being made in the working of the Convention. That is the whole extent of the power of the House in the matter. It is an excellent illustration of the way in which fiscal reform and Parliamentary control come into collision. I have looked up the historical pamphlet which caused the break up of the Cabinet and find it asserted there that, as regards our fiscal policy "what is fundamental is that our liberty should be recovered." One feels inclined to say "O liberty, what political crimes are committed in thy name." By this policy you deprive the House of Commons of its freedom of control and the country of its freedom of trade. I think the Sugar Convention is a most useful object lesson at the present juncture of affairs. It shows the worthlessness of the rampart which it was proposed to erect against foreign dumping. The debate will also show the country that this policy of retaliation, or what the retaliators call the resuming of the liberty of negotiation, means a very different thing after the negotiations arc concluded; and I trust that when the effects of the Convention are realised by the country its determination will be 1579 strengthened to take no step on the path which they have been asked to tread.
§ MR. WALTER PALMER (Salisbury)
said he had listened carefully to the speeches of the hon. Member for Islington, the hon. Member for Devonport, and the hon. Member for Oldham, and not one practical instance dealing with the first part of the Motion had been given by them. It was all very well for the hon. Member for Oldham to come down to this House and make speeches for the amusement of the other side, but this was a very serious question, and it was because he recognised the seriousness of it that he wished to raise his voice against some of the statements made by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and to say that he entirely disagreed with many of their arguments. He stated the grounds of his disagreement last year, and most of the arguments advanced by the hon. Member for Islington were the same as those which were contained in his speech of a year ago at Birmingham. The fact that important trades in this country which were interested, were not represented on the Brussels Convention was a matter which might be more favourably dealt with by the Government. But he entirely disagreed with the junior Member for Oldham, and thought the time had come when retaliation ought to be resorted to by this country. Hon. Gentlemen opposite had not made out their case, particularly in regard to the consumer in this country, who, he thought, would not suffer. He maintained that the Convention had secured us freedom, so that in future we should not be ruled by cartels on the Continent. He believed that thereby the production of cane sugar would gradually be increased.
§ * MR. TOMKINSON (Cheshire, Crewe)
said it had been stated without contradiction that the real originator and author of this Convention was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham. He should like to read to the House what the ex-Colonial Secretary said nineteen
years ago in the year 1885 upon this question—
Really the sugar question is about as strong as any we can have I would as soon fight this fair-trade humbug upon sugar as upon any other thing. I know something about the Workmen's Association for the abolition of the Sugar Bounties—I have met the gentleman before. It is a sham association, with precious few work men about it. It is got up and paid for by a few West Indian planters who want to make a profit out of an increased price of sugar. Ah! I have great sympathy with any real movement on the part of the working classes, but I have no sympathy at all with those who sell themselves to an agitation of this kind. Well, I have no doubt my constituents will know how to deal with them when they come. The only arguments they have got which is worth a moment's consideration is this: they say that cheap sugar has thrown out of employment a number of decent, industrious working men who were engaged in the refinery trade, and they ask you, the whole population of the country, to submit to an additional charge for your sugar in order that these poor fellows may be set to work again. The claim upon you to submit to a great sacrifice, to raise the price of every cup of tea you drink, of almost every article of consumption—for sugar enters into almost the whole consumption of your household—this claim, made by these eighteen-penny working men, is not made on behalf of the working classes, but it is made in order that the few West Indian planters may double their fortunes rather quicker than they otherwise would do.
§ It might be said that anyone was at liberty to change his opinions, but facts and principles did not change, and the facts and principles of this question v, ere the same to-day as they were in 1885. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham and his friends who had changed, including the Member for the Bordesley Division, who, after a life-long devotion to free trade, had suddenly discovered that he had been worshipping a hollow idol all his life and that our system of free imports was "as dead as Queen Anne." Well may they say, Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 162; Noes, 202. (Division List No. 37.)1583
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Bayley, Thomas (Derbyshire)||Brigg, John|
|Allen, Charles P.||Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Broadhurst, Henry|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Beckett, Ernest William||Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)|
|Asquith, Rt Hon. Herbert Henry||Bell, Richard||Bryce, Rt. Hon. James|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Black, Alexander William||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Boland, John||Burke, E. Haviland|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Caldwell James||Joyce, Michael||Redmond, William (Clare)|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Kearley, Hudson E.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Kilbride, Denis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Kitson, Sir James||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Cawley, Frederick||Labouchere, Henry||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Lambert, George||Roche, John|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Langley, Batty||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Crean, Eugene||Layland- Barratt, Francis||Rose, Charles Day|
|Cremer, William Randal||Leese, Sir Jos. F. (Accrington)||Runciman, Walter|
|Crombie, John William||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Russell, T. W.|
|Cullinan, J.||Leng, Sir John||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Levy, Maurice||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Davies, Alfred (Carmarthen)||Lough, Thomas||Schwann, Charles E.|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardigan||Lundon, W.||Seely, Maj. J.E.B. (Isle of Wight|
|Delany, William||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shackleton, David James|
|Devlin, Chas. Ramsay (Galway)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Devlin, Joseph (Kilkenny, N.)||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Sheehy, David|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||M'Hugh, Patrick A||Shipman, Dr. John G|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||M'Kean, John||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)|
|Dobbie, Joseph.||M'Kenna, Reginald||Slack. John Bamford|
|Donelan, Captain A.||M'Killop, W. (Sligo, North)||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Doogan, P. C.||M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Mansfield, Horace Rendall||Spencer, Rt. Hn. C. R. (Northants|
|Duncan, J. Hastings||Markham, Arthur Basil||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Elibank, Master of||Mooney, John J.||Sullivan, Donal|
|Ellice, Capt E C (S.Andrw'sBghs||Murnaghan, George||Tennant, Harold John|
|Emmott, Alfred||Murphy, John||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Farquharson, Dr. Robert||Nannetti, Joseph P.||Thomas, D. Alfred (Merthyrl|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Tomkinson, James|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Toulmin, George|
|Ffrench, Peter||O'Brien, K. (Tipperary, Mid.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.)||Wason, Jn. Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||O'Dowd, John||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Grant, Corrie||O'Malley, William||Whitley, J. H (Halifax)|
|Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Mara, James||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Haldane, Rt Hon. Richard B.||O'Shaughnessy, P J.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth|
|Harmsworth, R. Leicester||Partington, Oswald||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Harwood, George||Paulton, James Mellor||Woodhouse, Sir J. T (Huddersf'd|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Power, Patrick Joseph||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Herbert Gladstone and Mr. William M'Arthur.|
|Holland, Sir William Henry||Price, Robert John|
|Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Priestley, Arthur|
|Horniman, Frederick John||Rea, Russell|
|Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Roddy, M.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Bignold, Arthur||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Bigwood, James||Collings, Rt. Hon. Jesse|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Blundell, Colonel Henry||Colomb, Sir John Chas. Ready|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. Hugh O||Boscawen, Arthur Griffith||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F (Middlesex||Compton, Lord Alwyne|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Brassey, Albert||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)|
|Bailey, James (Walworth)||Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Cox, Irwin Edward Bainbridge|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Brotherton, Edward Allen||Crossley, Rt. Hon. Sir Savile|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.)||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Balcarres, Lord||Bull, William James||Dalrymple, Sir Charles|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (Manch'r)||Burdett-Coutts, W.||Davenport, William Bromley|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Denny, Colonel|
|Balfour, Rt. Hon. G. W. (Leeds||Cavendish, V.C.W. (Derbyshire||Dickinson Robert Edmond|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Dickson, Charles Scott|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Disraeli, Coningsby Ralph|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A (Worc.||Doughty, George|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen Benjamin||Chapman, Edward||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers|
|Beach, Rt. Hn. Sir Mich. Hicks||Clive, Captain Percy A.||Doxford, Sir William Theodore|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Coates, Edward Feetham||Durning-Lawrence, Sir Edwin|
|Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir William Hart||Lawson, Jn. G. (Yorks., N. R.)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Lee, A. H. (Hants., Fareham)||Robinson, Brooke|
|Faber, Edmund B. (Hants., W.||Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Pinch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Llewellyn, Evan Henry||Royds, Clement Molyneux|
|Fitzroy, Hn. Edward Algernon||Lockwood, Lieut.-Col. A. R.||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Flannery, Sir Fortescue||Long, Col. Chas. W. (Evesham)||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Forster, Henry William||Long, Rt. Hon. W. (Bristol, S.)||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Foster, P. S. (Warwick, S. W||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander|
|Galloway, William Johnson||Lowe, Francis William||Sandys, Lt.-Col. Thomas Myles|
|Gardner, Ernest||Lucas, Col. Francis (Lowestoft)||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Gibbs, Hon. A. G. H.||Lucas, Reginald J. (Portsmouth||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Godson, Sir Augustus Fredk.||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Gordon, Hn. J. E. (Elgin & Nairn)||Macdona, John Cumming||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Gordon, Maj. E. (T'r Hamlets)||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Smith, James Parker (Lanarks.|
|Goulding, Edward Alfred||Maconochie, A. W.||Spear, John Ward|
|Graham, Henry Robert||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Stanley, Hn. Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Manners, Lord Cecil||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.|
|Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Maxwell, W.J.H. (Dumfriessh.)||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.|
|Greville, Hon. Ronald||Milvain, Thomas||Stock, James Henry|
|Groves, James Grimble||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley|
|Hall, Edward Marshall||Montagu, Hn. J. Scott (Hants.)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester;|
|Hambro, Charles Eric||Moore, William||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nderry||Morpeth, Viscount||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Hardy, L. (Kent, Ashford)||Morrell, George Herbert||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Hare, Thomas Leigh||Morrison, James Archibald||Tuff, Charles|
|Harris, F. Leverton (Tynem'th||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Tufnell, Lieut.-Col. Edward|
|Haslam, Sir Alfred S.||Murray, Rt. Hon. A. G. (Bute)||Valentia, Viscount|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)||Vincent, Col. Sir C.E.H (Sheff'ld|
|Heath A. Howard (Hanley)||Nicholson, William Graham||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.|
|Heath, James (Staffords., N.W.||Palmer, Walter (Salisbury)||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|Heaton, John Henniker||Parker, Sir Gilbert||Webb, Colonel William George|
|Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.||Parkes, Ebenezer||Welby, Lt.-Col. A. C. E (Taunton|
|Hickman, Sir Alfred||Peel, Hn. Wm. Robert Wellesley||Welby, Sir Chas. G. E. (Notts.)|
|Hoare, Sir Samuel||Percy, Earl||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Hogg, Lindsay||Pierpoint, Robert||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Hope, J.F. (Sheffield, Brightside||Pilkington, Colonel Richard||Willox, Sir John Archibald|
|Howard, Jn. (Kent, Faversham||Plummer, Walter R.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E.R.|
|Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Hudson, George Bickersteth||Prctyman, Ernest George||Wodehouse, Rt. Hn. E.R.(Bath|
|Hunt, Rowland||Purvis, Robert||Wortley, Rt. Hn. C. B. Stuart|
|Hutton, John (Yorks., N. R.)||Pym, C. Guy||Wrightson, Sir Thomas|
|Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Randles, John S.||Wylie, Alexander|
|Kenyon-Slaney, Col. W. (Salop||Rankin, Sir James||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Keswick, William||Rasch, Sir Frederic Carne||Wyndham-Quin, Major W. H.|
|Kimber, Henry||Richards, Henry Charles|
|Laurie, Lieut. -General||Ridley, Hn. M. W. (Stalybridge)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Mr. Ailwyn Fellowes.|
|Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Ridley, S. Forde (Bethnal Green|
|Lawrence, Sir Jos. (Monmouth)||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson|
|Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Adjourned at ten minutes after Twelve o'clock|