§ *MR. AINSWORTH (Argyllshire)
said that the substance of the Motion he had the honour to move was taken from the speech of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham at Glasgow in October, 1903. In that speech the late Colonial Secretary advocated a preferential tariff arrangement with the Colonies, with a tax on food and a 10 per cent. duty on imported manufactured goods. The first branch of the Motion had been dealt with a short time ago by his hon. friend the Member for Oldham. The Colonial Secretary in his reply objected to the form of the Resolution and said—Let us get out of a bewildering and endless maze into the safer region of a concrete proposition.He now proposed to deal with the second branch of the subject, in regard to which no fault could be found, as the wording of the Resolution was sufficiently concrete, and in doing so he would like to call attention to certain statements which had been made in regard to it. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in his speech at Glasgow said—Now a moderate duty on all manufactured goods, not exceeding 10 per cent. on the average, but varying according to the amount of labour in these goods—that is to say, putting the higher rate on the finished manufactures upon which most labour would be employed in this country, and the lower duty on goods in which very little or less labour has been employed—a duty, I say, averaging 10 per cent., would give to the Exchequer at least £9,000,000 a year.Whilst the Prime Minister at Edinburgh during the previous autumn said—A protective policy, as I understand it, is a policy which aims at supporting or creating home industries by raising home prices…. The means by which it attains that object is by the manipulation of a fiscal system to raise 882 home prices. If the home prices are not raised the industry is not encouraged.And later at Manchester—the "sheet of notepaper" speech, said—Fourth and last—I do not desire to raise home prices for the purpose of aiding home production.The point he was anxious to enforce was that the country had noted a distinct difference of opinion between the views of the Prime Minister and those of the late Colonial Secretary. The late Colonial Secretary expected that one of the results of his policy would be to raise home prices for imported articles. The objects of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham were admirable, as all would agree, his desire being to increase labour and wages at home and leave a large surplus in the Exchequer. He, however, submitted that the end did not justify the means. If, as the right hon. Gentleman expected, a duty of 10 per cent. excluded foreign competition, the home market could not have the same supply in proportion to the demand, and prices must therefore rise. If the foreigner was only partly excluded by the import duty, the prices would rise in proportion to the extent of the exclusion; and the Birmingham policy suggested that he would pay the whole of the 10 per cent. rather than be excluded at all. Was there any hon. Member who believed that this would be the case? But it was said that this was an academic question, and that no action was to be taken to further the fiscal policy during the lifetime of this Parliament. It might be an academic question to the Government and their supporters; but it was neither an academic question in the country nor for the future of the Conservative Party. The Conservative candidate for Bute in his recent election address said he was a supporter of the policy of the Prime Minister—Who had declared that policy in unmistakable terms.883 That statement had highly delighted the electors because Scotch constituencies had been trying to find out what that policy was. Unfortunately for this Gentleman, however, the Scotch electors had a habit of heckling, and at one of the meetings he was asked whether he was a subscriber to the Tariff League, to which he replied—' I am; and I am a supporter of Mr. Chamberlain.The result of that election was known, and yet it was said that the seat was lost to the Unionists owing to the misrepresentations of Liberal speakers. He was sorry, having regard to the number of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who had supported the right hon. Member for Birmingham at the various meetings he had addressed, that there was not a larger Unionist attendance that evening. The Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who presided at a meeting at Tynemouth in October, 1903, said—Mr. Chamberlain had gone to plough a furrow of his own, but it was not a 'lonely furrow.' For all his objects Mr. Chamberlain carried with him the hearty approval of his colleagues in the Government he had left.He was, however, pleased to see the hon. and gallant Member for Central Sheffield, "amid the faithless faithful only he," in his place. The action of the Prime Minister with regard to this Motion had been the old Indian policy of masterly inactivity, but he (Mr. Ainsworth) thought the result of the division that evening would be to place the Prime Minister in a more independent position than he had been for long. They were all of opinion that the policy of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham was played out, and the Prime Minister had scored all round. He begged to move.
§ MR. RICHARD CAVENDISH (Lancashire, North Lonsdale),
in rising to second the Resolution, said he should like to express the regret which they all felt at the enforced absence of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and the hope that they might soon again have the pleasure of hearing him take part in these fiscal debates. He also expressed gratitude to the Prime Minister for allowing this Motion to be discussed and voted upon without any official hindrance on the part of the Government. He felt 884 he could speak for those Unionists below the gangway who had remained true to the principles of free trade when he said they were deeply grateful to the Government for allowing the question, for the first time since this controversy began, to be decided on the merits. Speaking for himself, he believed the Government would have been well advised if they had adopted this course from the outset. It would have been not only better for the Unionist Party, but more in accordance with the traditions and dignity of the House. Objection had been taken to this Motion that it raised an abstract or academic question, but that, as had been shown, was not the case. Taking the situation as it existed to-day, he could conceive of many interesting abstract Resolutions. They might have a Motion as to whether discretion was the better part of valour. They might have a Motion as to whether when one is suffering defeat it is better to stand up to the foe to the end or to take the defeat lying down. Or they might have a Motion—Is moral courage a political virtue? All these subjects would, he was sure, cause very interesting debates, though they might not "enable Members upon whose assiduity the existence of the Government depends to enjoy those social functions for which the new rules of procedure were specially intended to provide opportunities."
The Motion before the House dealt with the proposals of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and had nothing whatever to do with any other proposals, least of all had it anything to do with the fiscal changes that were in contemplation by the Government. He was thankful that it did not fall to his task to explain what the fiscal proposals of the Government were, but, whatever they might be, he felt certain they contained nothing in the nature of a general tariff on manufactured or semi-manufactured articles. That being so, he hoped to see most of the members of the Government and their supporters go into the lobby in support of this Motion. The first and primary duty of the supporters of tariff reform was to show that these changes were urgent and necessary. During the last year and a half they had told the people that our 885 trade would be destroyed; that if something was not done speedily disastrous consequences would ensue. Most gloomy prophecies were made, but it was a notorious fact that not one of those dismal prophecies had been realised. On the contrarye, very one had been falsified, and instead of the trade and commerce of the country getting worse and worse it had risen to a higher and ever higher level. That fact needed no statistics to support it, but out of respect to the consistency and courage of the hon. Member for Central Sheffield, who he understood was going to move an Amendment, he would make one quotation which he obtained from the Engineering Supplement of The Times that morning. It was dated "Sheffield, March 17th."This is the company meeting season in Sheffield. Just at present the big firms and the investing public are thinking more of dividends than of engineering schemes. Within a short period all the important limited liability companies will be holding their annual meetings and all of them seem to be able to meet their shareholders with pleasure and confidence…. All the firms speak hopefully of a revival in trade. With the new year there came a brightening of the outlook, with an increase of orders all round.He did not base his opposition to the Glasgow programme of colonial preference upon the fact that trade was good. Assuming for the sake of argument that trade was bad, and likely to become worse, the placing of duties upon manufactured or semi-manufactured articles was the very worst thing that could be proposed. As most of those articles played very important parts in the commerce and industries of England, any duties placed upon them would handicap our manufacturers in the competition which they had to encounter, and so far had encountered successfully, in the neutral markets.
It was almost unnecessary to say more in objecting to a scheme of tariffs such as that suggested. In his opinion tariffs would be bad not merely for trade itself but disastrous to the future conduct of business in this House, and that was a thing which he did not think any tariff reformer had seriously taken into consideration. We had fortunately in this country been singularly free from certain features which characterised the Legislatures of other countries, 886 and he was convinced that if we once departed from the wholesome system which we now enjoyed we should not be able to prevent such a state of things He objected to tariffs also on the ground that they would lead to the creation of large trusts and monopolies such as were to be found in Continental countries and in the United States of America. We were at this moment almost free from such monopolies and trusts, and he thought it would be the worst day for us when we set up tariffs which would enable them to be brought about. As a Member for a Lancashire constituency he protested as strongly as he possibly could against any scheme of tariffs for this country. The staple industry of Lancashire was flourishing now, and that was due to the free-trade principles of the country. He defied the ingenuity of the most skilful tariff reformer to frame a tariff of import duties which could be of the slightest benefit to the cotton trade of Manchester, and equally he defied them to draw up any list of duties on articles which would not inevitably do that trade considerable harm. He had the greatest pleasure in seconding the Motion.
Motion made, and Question proposed, "That, in the opinion of this House, the imposition of a general duty on all manufactured goods imported from Abroad not exceeding 10 per cent. on the average and varying according to the amount of labour in these goods would be injurious to the commercial interests of the United Kingdom."—(Mr. Ainsworth.)
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR, Manchester, E.)
The House are probably acquainted, through the ordinary channels of information, with the course which the Government propose to adopt, and which they propose to advise those who act with them to adopt, in regard to this Motion. Our view is that for reasons which I shall state presently, it is not desirable that this should be made in any sense an occasion upon which the Government Whips should be put on. More than that, we think it would not be desirable, either on this occasion or on next Tuesday or Wednesday, or 887 on the Tuesday or Wednesday of the week following, as long as hon. Gentlemen opposite desire to carry on among themselves this interesting discussion, that we should take any part in it ourselves, or advise those who act with us to follow any other course. I observe that that announcement has met with some displeasure on the other side. [OPPOSITION cries of "No, no!"] I am glad that for once on a tariff reform question we should all be of one mind. Such a thing has not come within my experience before; but for once it appears that the course which His Majesty's Government have determined to pursue on this occasion is one that commends itself to all sections of the House. Perhaps the House will allow me, however, as it is possible that this universal approval may have different grounds among different sections, to explain the reasons upon which we base the policy that I have just announced to the House. [OPPOSITION cries of "What Policy?"] Use your own name; I never quarrel with a name. This policy is based upon two quite different sets of considerations—one relating to private Members' Resolutions as a whole; the other relating to the special Resolution now before us dealing with a subject upon which the House has already been engaged, and, as I gather from the Order-book, is likely to be engaged at intervals for some time to come.
Now, with regard to private Members' Resolutions, I associate myself with what I gather is the opinion of my hon. friend who has just made an interesting speech, namely, that, as far as possible, it is desirable that private Members' Resolutions should not be dealt with on Party lines, and that the Government Whips should not be asked to tell in the division. That has always been my view. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh," and What about the previous Question?"] That has always been my view, and I think, so far as I can judge from many years close observation of the procedure of the House of Commons, that is also a view which is coming more and more to be the Government view, from whatever side of the House the Government may happen to be drawn. Of course it is true that there are some cases in which it is difficult, and other cases in which it is impossible, 888 for the Government to avoid giving a guidance to the House emphasised by all the machinery of Party display. But I think those occasions should be made as few as possible. I was interrupted just now by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and asked how and why, if these are my general views, I could consent to have the Government Whips put on about a fortnight ago in connection with a Resolution on the fiscal question moved by the hon. Member for Oldham. As anybody will see who refers to the speech which I made on that occasion, the reason why I felt it desirable to act otherwise with respect to that Motion was that I thought, and still think, this House ought not to set the example of passing a Resolution which would prevent the Colonial Conference from being free. I think it would be unfortunate, so far as this House is concerned, but mainly so far as the Colonies are concerned, that we should set an example, which the Colonies might only be too ready to follow, of embodying our special views in a formal Resolution, and thereby hamper those who are to take part in that free conference, which I believe to be the only way of finding a final solution of this question, if, as I believe, a solution is possible. That was the reason for making a great Parliamentary effort to deal in that spirit with a Resolution which would have had the effect I have indicated. But that particular question is settled, so far as this session is concerned. I do not mean the whole fiscal controversy, but the particular question of the Colonial Conference. Upon that occasion all the Party formalities were employed. The Opposition Whips acted; the Government Whips acted. There was a good, honest, straightforward Party fight upon it, and we were victorious. I regretted, even then, to have to put on the Government tellers, though I think the occasion was sufficient to justify it.
The point is one that has not been brought prominently before the House for some time, because Governments for many years past have been in the habit of robbing private Members of almost all their opportunities of bringing forward these abstract Resolutions. Until the new rules of procedure came into force these opportunities were 889 few and far between. I hope the example which I have endeavoured to set in this respect will be followed by my successors, and that private Members will be allowed to retain the privilege—often a valuable privilege, often not wisely or well used—on two evenings of the week before Easter, and one evening between Easter and Whitsuntide, of bringing forward Resolutions in what terms they please, free from unnecessary limitations. But do not let the House make any mistake upon this point. If it becomes, as I think it will increasingly become, the practice to allow the House on these occasions to act without the ordinary machinery of Party management, the inevitable result will be, and must be, that the conclusions at which the House arrives on these occasions will be treated as very interesting expressions of opinion, but expressions of opinion which do not govern policy. I do not believe that that can be avoided. I think it is much more dignified to state beforehand that that will be the case than to do what hon. Gentlemen opposite have been obliged to do—to put on the Government Whips and have all the Party machinery set to work to guide the House into a particular channel, and being completely defeated on that matter, to say good-bye, to use a vulgar phrase, and to treat with complete indifference the decision arrived at.
A case has been quoted in the Government of Mr. Gladstone which began in 1868, when the Government was defeated in 1872 by a majority of 100 on the question of local taxation. Nothing happened. They did not resign, but left the thing alone. The thing Mr. Gladstone was required to do by the House of Commons was a very formidable business. It involved nothing less than a great legislative measure dealing with local taxation. I think the Government was justified in treating with indifference the Resolution of the House, because the House had not the ordering of Government business. The Government might have thought it their duty to resign, but they did not take account of the Resolution. But there is a much more interesting case at a later date to which I have seen no reference in public, and that is the example set by hon. Gentlemen opposite in Mr. Gladstone's Government which began in 1892. The 890 particular case I am now referring to was a private Member's Resolution on the form of Indian examination, which was carried against the Government, and against the Government tellers, on a certain Friday night. To carry out the mandate of the House of Commons required no legislation. It could have been done by the Secretary of State for India by a stroke of the pen. But, rightly enough, as I think, he did not do it. That Government neither resigned nor did it obey the House of Commons. It left the matter alone. I certainly am the last person ever to criticise its action or inaction, in the matter. I believe there was a great national interest at stake, and I think the Secretary for India would have been criminally foolish to take account of the vote of the House, even though it was passed in a formal manner against the Government Whips, as it was passed. Though I do not blame right hon. Gentlemen nor Mr. Gladstone for having ignored the deliberate verdict of the House, I do think it would have been better to have allowed the House to act on that occasion without the formality of Government tellers; because certainly it is a stiffer thing to ignore the House of Commons when you have done your best with the machinery at your disposal to get it to take one course, and when through obstinacy, which may show firmness or may show stupidity, it insists on taking another, I think it would have been better if the Government of that day had done their best to carry out what I admit cannot be a universal policy—that of allowing the House on these particular occasions to take its own course unrestricted by the ordinary Party methods. These are general observations as to the views which I have always held, although I may not always have been able to carry them out, and which my successors will more and more desire to carry out, and in doing so they will have my support.
I leave these general considerations as to the way of treating private Members' Motions, and I come to the particular Motion of to-night. What I have to say about the Motion is that the policy which I recommend my hon. friends to adopt, the House will understand I equally recommend them to adopt with regard 891 to every other Motion on the fiscal question. I will with all respect give my reasons for that advice. The House knows, because I have stated it more than once in the House and the country, that I have regretted from the very beginning of this controversy that it should have been necessary to treat as a matter of immediate Party difference a subject which from the nature of the case cannot be dealt with by the existing Parliament. That is my view, and the majority of the present Parliament take that view. I have always thought it unfortunate that both the House and the country should have been asked to take up this matter. I daresay some Gentlemen sitting on these benches have felt that that advice could not be followed; that the public interest in this question in some of its aspects was too keen and could not be kept out, as I think it ought to have been kept out, of the day-to-day controversies of Party. I know I do not carry general support with me on this subject. I believe, therefore, the precedent set on this occasion is one which will be followed in future on other subjects; and no doubt we shall be as anxious, when in Opposition, to know what views various members of the future Government held upon Home Rule, and whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Montrose wholly agrees in every respect with the future Labour member of the Cabinet with which he is to be associated; whether they touch politics, the actual politics of the session, or even the politics of Party. I do not think this new plan is a good one, but, of course, if it is adopted by one side it can be adopted by the other. I venture to hazard a prophecy that, on the whole, from a mere narrow Party point of view it will be more a gain than a loss.
I should like to know exactly, and the House would like to know, what the motive is that, animates the hon. Gentlemen who framed the Resolution with which we are now called upon to deal. It is quite certain, of course, that their main object was not to influence the House of Commons because this House of Commons would have nothing to do with carrying out this policy one way or the other. It is altogether apart from the duties which are thrown upon it. Therefore, it wholly differs from an 892 ordinary Resolution intended to influence the House or intended to modify the course of the Government and the policy, the present, actual, living policy of the country. That cannot be the object, because, whatever the result of the debate, no effect of this kind can be produced. If it is not to influence the House of Commons, is it to contribute to our knowledge of the fiscal question? I do not know whether the two Gentlemen who have spoken, and who have made, if I may say so, speeches in excellent taste, conceive themselves to be adding much to the knowledge which we already possess, or to the arguments which have from time to time been advanced either by scientific economists in the study or Party politicians on the platform. If they did suppose themselves to be making additional contributions, I think it must have been because their knowledge of the literature of the subject was imperfect, or because they felt that by the charms of their own eloquence they were adding to our knowledge. [Cries of "Oh."] Is that a reasonable interruption? I do not think that anything I said could be construed into an offensive observation. Certainly no offence was meant. I do not at all underrate the House of Commons as an arena for discussing economic questions, but I do not think it is in discussing abstract economic questions that it shines. They are complicated and not easy to deal with in the ordinary rough and tumble of deba[...]e, and we have had a considerable amount of discussion upon them already. An [...]ngenious friend of mine made a calculation, which I believe to be under the mark rather than over it, that no less than 1,100 columns of Hansard have been spoken on the fiscal question between the beginning of last session and the present moment. Eleven hundred columns is a good deal for us to have added to the priceless treasure of Parliamentary debate upon one subject in one session and a month more.
I do not think that this constant effort by the House of Commons to discuss this question can lead to any fruitful results. Do I stand alone in that view? Am I the only person who thinks so? [An HON. MEMBER: No.] Is there only one person who thinks it has been discussed enough? No, because I remember 893 that in the course of the debate on the King's Speech a formal Amendment, a formal vote of censure, was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fife; and from his speech it would be seen that he thought the Government ought to dissolve, because this question had been discussed enough.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think the right hon. Gentleman, had he had time to reflect, would not have made that interruption. Is he seriously going to draw the distinction which he has now indicated to us? [OPPOSITION cries of "Yes."] Very well; what must it; mean? It must mean that either Members of this House are not cognisant of what is said in the country, or that the country is not cognisant of what is said in this House. Allow me respectfully to say that it is absurd to attempt to distinguish in this respect between a sufficiency of discussion in this House and in the country. The discussion has been a public one, whether in the House or in the country; and if it is sufficient in the country it might well be sufficient in this House.
Well, Sir, if that argument were not sufficient, may I bring one other to the consideration of the House? On what principle do private Members draw the Resolutions that they submit for discussion within these walls? I am making no criticism of hon. Gentlemen opposite as distinguished from hon. friends of mine on this side of the House; but does any private Member in drawing a Resolution, on a subject which is matter of Party controversy, draw it in order to get a perfectly plain and unmistakable issue embracing the whole subject before the House, or does he draw it in order to embarrass his opponents? According to my observation—I make no criticism of the Member—it is always done, in these matters, to embarrass his opponents. And why should it not be so? It is quite right. We meet here, no doubt, to further national business, but we also meet here to fight out our Parliamentary differences; and we cannot ask a private Member to be so above the influence of 894 that Party atmosphere in which he lives and moves and has his being as deliberately to set to work to make the issue he raises as convenient, as clear, and as unambiguous as possible, in order that a decision may be taken upon it. He does nothing of the kind, and you will never get him to do anything of the kind. I do not blame him for it; but if that be true—and every one who knows anything of Parliamentary custom knows it is true—do not let us flatter ourselves that these private Members' Resolutions are simply dictated by an appetite for knowledge to be obtained by the free exchange of arguments across the floor of the House. Nothing of the kind. That really brings me to what is the last observation that I need make to the House. The hon. Gentleman has been successful in the ballot, and in moving this Resolution was, I understood from his speech—I may be wrong—rather acting with others for our temporary embarrassment by a Resolution which was provided for the purpose.
§ MR. AINSWORTH
If the right hon. Gentleman is anxious to know how the Resolution was drawn, and who were consulted, I can easily tell him.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have no doubt the names are estimable, and I have no complaint to make against the hon. Gentleman and his procedure. But why was it done? Was it done in order again to discuss a question which, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Fifeshire says, has been discussed adequately out of doors? Not at all. Of course, it was done to embarrass the Government, an admirable and laudable object from the point of view of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They set a trap. They were quite right to set a trap. We do not propose to fall into it, and we are quite right not to fall into it.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
That being so, surely it is quite plain that hon. Gentlemen opposite would like us to treat every Resolution on every conceivable phase of this often-discussed question, on every Tuesday and Wednesday, as a vote of 895 censure. We do not propose to treat it as a vote of censure. We do not think that it is consonant with Parliamentary tradition. We do not think it is a precedent that either could, or would, or ought to be followed by any Government which may succeed us, and in these circumstances we do not propose to follow it ourselves. The truth is, Sir, we have had our Party discussions upon the only matter which is relevant to the existing and present issue, the issue whether or not a Resolution should be passed hampering the freedom of the Conference. That fight has taken place. So far as I am concerned I shall not think it necessary to take part in any discussion raised in this way on the fiscal question in future, and if my voice has any weight with those of my friends who habitually act with me, I would advise them both to imitate my reticence of speech, and if they please—and I hope they will please—my absence from the division.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
Mr. Speaker, Sir, we have had a most amusing, interesting, characteristic speech from the right hon. Gentleman. He has asked for what purpose this Resolution has been put upon the Paper by my hon. friend, which is not a usual Question to address to any hon. Member of the House. He has come to the conclusion that it has been put down on purpose to embarrass the Government. But if we had an honest Government, with honest opinions which they had the courage to declare, there would be no need for a Resolution such as this. There would be no embarrassment to the Government. Why does the right hon. Gentleman call it embarrassment? [Interruptions.] There is no embarrassment at all in a Resolution which is a simple expression of opinion. [An HON. MEMBER on the MINISTERIAL benches: Ambiguous.] Ambiguous! The right hon. Gentleman is a master of ambiguity, for he has spoken thirty-five minutes and the House is exactly as well informed now as to his opinion upon the Resolution as it was when he rose. Why, the right hon. Gentleman says that private Members' Motions are to be treated as a mode of amusing the House and the country by a display of oratorical and dialectical powers. [MINISTERIALcries of "No, no.!"] 896 Well, he practically said so, but that the Government, of course, was not expected to take part in such childish amusement; their business was to settle for the country what its policy should be, and to enforce that policy when they came to a conclusion as to what it should be. Going back to past times the right hon. Gentleman was able to pick out two occasions when Mr. Gladstone disregarded a private Member's Motion, carried against him and against his Whips in the House of Commons. Well, I am fortunate enough to have survived both these Motions. I have the advantage of the Prime Minister in having been present on both occasions. The first was a Motion brought forward by a respected Conservative Member, and to the general amazement it was supported by a great defection of the Whig Party against Mr. Gladstone's Government. The subject had never been before the country, it was a complete novelty when it was introduced into Parliament, and there was no reason to believe that the mass of the people were interested in the subject or had made up their minds upon it. There was no reason, therefore, why the Government should treat it—I will not say not treat it with respect, but no reason why they should treat it as an order of the House of Commons or through the House of Commons a demand from the country, which we were bound to obey. The other case was a case of certain Indian competitive examinations. It was carried in a House almost empty on a Wednesday afternoon by a majority of eight against the Government; and this the right hon. Gentleman said was a result upon which the Government might have been expected to revolutionise its system of examinations.
§ *SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
That is a case, at all events, upon which he justifies his attitude towards a private Member's Motion. In passing let me say that I repudiate altogether his view of private Members' Motions and his duty to the House of Commons. He almost apologised to-night for intervening in what he described as an interesting conversation. Why, Sir, it is on the 897 House of Commons, on the support of the House of Commons, that the right hon. Gentleman depends for the position he occupies. Let him prove to us to-Light that he has the support of the House of Commons, and let us hear from him first of all a plain statement of his own opinion on this subject. If this is a mere academic question now, it was something very different on previous occasions. Was not a fiscal Motion to be expected to occur when the whole country was agitated by a great propaganda in favour of new ideas on fiscal matters? And when such questions arise is not the House of Commons entitled to have its voice heard? We are told it is a mere academic discussion now; but if it is so now, why was it a critical emergency on previous occasions? The right hon. Gentleman has referred to a fortnight ago, and justified his resort to the previous Question. Well, but that was not the first occasion; we had occasion after occasion last session. There was the celebrated occasion of the Wharton Amendment, and all those attempts of the House of Commons to elicit what we are entitled to know have through all these months been met by devices, by evasions, by sophistications to stave off a clear expression of opinion by the House. The House of Commons has been treated as if it were a sort of "Hall of Mystery." We have not had debates, but something more like séances. The moment the fiscal question came on the lights were turned down, we heard the crack of the whip, but we saw very little, and the question was, so far as we could judge, which particular wing of the Party opposite would hypnotise the other. But we cannot deal with the matter in this bantering, facetious strain; it is too serious.
For two years we have seen the Government quartered on the country, notwithstanding the persistent and continuous indications of the country's indignation against them and repudiation of them. They have engaged themselves even—in the way they treated repeated attempts to get at the truth of the matter—they have engaged themselves in the task of degrading the House of Commons, while outside they have been proclaiming, or some have, whom they did not venture 898 to contradict, the ruin of British trade, peril to the British Empire, and the probable disloyalty of our fellow-subjects. They have been evading and shuffling, treating concealment as the highest duty of statecraft, and yet, after all, they have deceived no one, neither the country, nor the House of Commons, nor the Opposition, or even themselves. They have pursued concealment as the only means of maintaining themselves in office. Sir, we are now told that the matter is of little importance, that the efforts of private Members to obtain a verdict of the House of Commons are more child's play, and should be disregarded. All these matchless exhibitions of Parliamentary effrontery were merely intended for our entertainment, and above all to enable us to admire the magnetic personality of one man as set against the dialectical ability of another. That is not the sort of work that the House of Commons should be set to.
We have passed through three stages of this fiscal question in the Parliamentary world. The first stage was when we were told that there was to be a grand inquiry, that until that inquiry was completed our duty was to hold our tongues. Discussion was suppressed. That was the stage of what I would call the closed door. Then we came to a further stage when discussion was reluctantly admitted, but on the condition that on no account should it come to a decisive or clear test, that on no account should there be a conclusion arrived at. Non-committal discussion was to be allowed, some sort of Amendment was to be moved which would neutralise the effect of the whole discussion. Something in the meanwhile was being submitted to the country as a collective policy, which we have had great difficulty in understanding. The treasure was hidden in earthen vessels which were deposited in various parts of the island. There was a pamphlet in Downing Street; there was a speech at Sheffield; then there was another speech at Edinburgh; there was a narrow escape of a third speech at Southampton which the Russian fleet prevented. And that, I think, we may call the stage of the previous Question. But 899 now we have come to a further stage. Those were the stages of the shut door and of the side door. We are now at the stage of the back door. Now all restraint has been removed, perfect freedom prevails on the other side of the House, not only of discussion and decision, but of presence or absence. Those who have exhausted every wile of concealment, every trench that could be dug, every finesse, every trick by which a little advantage in defence might be obtained, strike their camp, abandon their policy and their pretences, and leave their bewildered followers to take part in a general sauve qui peut. I observe that most of the tariff reformers are away. We are inclined to rub our eyes. Is not this Nelson's year? Where are the sons of Empire? I should have expected that they would have come here either to bury Cæsar or to praise him. There is one, indeed, I observe, who is faithful, ever faithful, the hon. Member for Central Sheffield, who is the real patentee of these fiscal theories. We cannot but drop a tear over the absence of the others.
And here, Sir, I would call the attention of the House to a thing even more grave than what I have been referring to. To-night we are dealing with a part of this question which is especially associated with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He has plainly put forward his policy. There is no fog or mist about it. What is controlled by my hon. friend's Resolution is an essential part of his policy. As I understand it, he wishes two things. He wishes to give to his country the abounding prosperity which he finds a high protective tariff has secured for other countries, and, in the second place, he wishes by a stroke of his magic wand—and it will require to be a magic wand to do it—at once to raise a large revenue by the taxation of foreign manufactures, and to increase employment at home by excluding those manufactures from our markets. That is the proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. That is serious enough. But what of next week's Motion? We must regard the conduct of hon. Members opposite 900 to-night in the light of what has been promised for next week's Motion? Next week the Motion is to be an assertion contrary to the peculiar and individual policy of the right hon. Gentleman—the policy, if we can understand it, of the Government, upon which they are going to take the sense of the country at the general election. And yet to that policy also the same process is to be applied—precisely the same treatment. Are we then to understand that the Government have absolutely renounced all policy of their own? They have ceased to attempt to control the votes of their followers. They dare not impose their will upon them, as is shown to-night. And yet this is the policy for which the Government was reconstructed—not the latest reconstruction, but an important reconstruction which still leaves its traces amongst them—and, although they may belittle the policy that is at stake to-night, they cannot surely repudiate their own policy. It is a poor thing, but their own. I say that, on the eve of a general election, coming nearer to us as the days go on and as events occur, the Government are found not to be able to face a decision of the House of Commons. That is the plain English of the tactics of to-night. It is not even the previous Question that is moved. I say let them take, late as it is, the only course that is open to men of courage, honesty, and honour. Let them get rid of this House of Commons, which they can no longer control or trust, and let them appeal to the country and see what the country will say.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
said he would endeavour to confine his remarks wholly and solely to the terms of the Motion moved by the hon. Member for Argyllshire. That Motion declared that—The imposition of a general duty on all manufactured goods imported from abroad not exceeding 10 per cent. on the average, and varying according to the amount of labour in these goods, would be injurious to the commercial interests of the United Kingdom.He thought every hon. Member who had listened to the debate would agree with him when he said that neither the mover nor the seconder of this Motion had shown that a 10 per cent, duty on manufactured 901 goods would be injurious to the commercial interests of this country. He had nothing to complain of in the tone of speeches of the mover and seconder of this Motion, and he thanked them for their courteous reference to himself. Having for the last twenty years by speeches and Motions in this House, and before he was a candidate for Parliament, advocated the putting of a duty upon manufactured goods which competed with the products of this country, he could not possibly, with the smallest consistency, allow the Resolution of the hon. Member for Argyllshire to pass without some few words of challenge. He would endeavour to be as brief in his remarks as possible, but it would be necessary for him to rely upon the indulgence of the House. He represented, and had represented for the last twenty years, a manufacturing constituency, and he could not venture again to go amongst his constituents if upon this occasion he failed to advocate a policy which they had loyally supported for so many years.
In the Amendment of which he had given notice he stated, "That this House looks with grave concern at the continuous increase, since the adoption of the free import system without reciprocity, in competing manufactured goods offered for sale in the markets of the United Kingdom." Had there been this continuous increase? In a Blue-book which was laid on the. Table of the House only a few days ago it was stated that in 1860 the importations of foreign manufactured goods was £15,000,000. It rose continually, until in 1903, when, according to the Blue-book, there was a total import of these goods of over £101,000,000. There could be no doubt that this importation had displaced a considerable amount of artisan labour in this country. This was the proposition to which he desired to call the attention of the House. This was entirely a question for the working classes and not a question for the capitalists, who could easily transfer their capital from one country to another where they could obtain the most remunerative return. But working men could do nothing of the kind, for they could not transfer their labour so readily. At the present time the working men of this country found it extremely difficult 902 to support themselves and their wives and children, and they were quite unable to put anything on one side for a rainy day.
According to the Return to which he had referred the importation of articles wholly or mainly manufactured was divisible into three classes. First of all there was the class of articles completely manufactured and ready for consumption in the United Kingdom, and requiring no labour in this country to place them on the market. The importation of this class of goods was increasing very rapidly indeed. In the year 1860 they amounted to £7,000,000, but in 1903 the total was £53,000,000, or seven and a-half times as much as they were in 1860. The second class referred to articles manufactured but requiring to pass through some process of adaptation before consumption in this country, thus affording a little employment to the British artisan. Of this second class, in 1860 £7,000,000 were imported, and, in 1903 £43,000,000, or six times as much as in 1860. The third class consisted of articles partly manufactured, thus giving partial employment to the British artisan. Of this third class, in 1860 over £5,000,000 worth were imported, whilst in 1903 the total was £19,000,000, or three and three-quarter times as much as in 1860. The most rapid growth had, therefore, been in the importation of fully finished goods ready for consumption, and giving no employment to British artisans, and the least in the category of partly manufactured goods.
He wished to argue this matter as representing his own constituency, who had felt the pinch very severely in recent years. Here they had £100,000,000 of foreign goods displacing home labour, which were allowed to come here in a preferential manner. They were, in the first place, absolutely free from the trade union regulations which prevailed in this country. They also enjoyed immunity from British factory legislation and from British rates and taxes, and had the advantage often of preferential through railway rates. Hon. Members had avoided the question of the uncertainty of labour in the home 903 market and of the distress which prevailed. [Opposition cries of "Divide."] He hoped hon. Members would give him a fair hearing; he had nothing personally to gain by the fulfilment of these ideas, which he had advocated ever since he had entered the House. In an article in the Nineteenth Century the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil stated that in 1903 the sum paid to those out of employment, distinct from strikes, by 100 of the principal trade unions amounted to £504,021, and the total for twelve years was £4,200,000. Therefore, it was clear that the trade unions were placed at a considerable disadvantage in respect of this enormously increasing importation of foreign manufactured goods competing with the home market, in which the trades unionists here ought to have a preferential right of employment. With regard to our factory legislation, he agreed that it was the best in the world, and the operatives were protected against many abuses which prevailed in other countries, but all these foreign goods were received without the slightest inquiry as to the conditions under which they were produced. Therefore, not only was this unfair as regarded wages, hours of labour, and conditions which trade unionists imposed in this country, but it was also unfair because these goods were placed upon the market upon terms and conditions against which the manufacturers of this country could not possibly compete.
He was surprised that the hon. Member opposite had not even mentioned the question of the uncertainty of labour or the great distress which existed at the present time. The whole object of the policy of those who thought with him was to increase employment in this country. It was impossible to represent a great constituency like Sheffield without being impressed with the enormous amount of distress and suffering which existed amongst the artisan class, and a great deal of this distress arose from the uncertainty of employment of home labour. The January number of the Labour Gazette of the Board of Trade showed how workmen's wages had diminished in the years 1902–4. In every district of London there was want of employment. 904 He should like to hear the views of the hon. Member for Battersea.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS (Battersea)
All the trade unions are against you and all the Labour Members of this House.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT
said the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) was not against him, and had on a former occasion divided the House with him on this subject. The Labour Gazette showed that there had been exceptional distress during the winter, and exceptional measures had had to be taken to meet it. Did this state of affairs exist in any other country? [OPPOSITION cries of "Germany," "France," and "Austria."] In what town? [An HON. MEMBER: "All of them," and laughter.] He perceived that hon. Gentlemen would not give him a fair chance. According to a book written by the Member for Aberdeen the total number of persons returned as paupers in the whole of America in 1880 was 88,000, or one to every 565 of the population. In this country the number of persons dependent entirely upon Poor Law relief was over 400,000. If hon. Members opposite had any sympathy with the unemployed—["Oh, oh!"]— how did they show it? Did they show any desire to give the unemployed work? The mover of this Resolution said the whole object of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, for whom he had no authority to speak, was to give employment to the masses of the people. There could be no doubt that the importation of a large quantity of foreign manufactured goods deprived the people of this country of legitimate employment, and it was only right that some toll should be placed on them. The present state of things also led to the emigration of our most desirable young men. Why were so many workmen emigrating and going to foreign countries if the maintenance of our system of free imports was such a desirable and beneficial system? [Cries of "Divide, divide."] There was evidently a great desire on the part of hon. Members opposite to speak, and he would not detain them very long. He could not thank them either for a patient or courteous hearing, but he 905 would like to ask them what was their remedy for the want of employment?
He should have been more interested in the speech of the Leader of the Opposition if he had spoken in some measure to the Resolution of the hon. Member for Argyllshire. He noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, in a speech he made on November 5th last, declared that the development of the home trade amongst our own people would be the greatest benefit that could possibly happen. Perhaps on some other occasion the right hon. Gentleman would tell the House how he proposed to develop home trade. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] He noticed that the hon. Member for Woolwich had already taken his seat upon the Treasury bench, and he wished to extend to him Ins hearty congratulations. [Cries of "Time."] He hoped the hon. Member would have an opportunity of telling the House how he proposed to put into practice the views he held in regard to a remedy for the want of employment. The hon. Member for Carnarvon was in his place, and he would like to hear what that hon. Member, who had stated that they wanted something better than the proposals of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, had to place before them in the interests of the unemployed and the masses of the people. He hoped the hon. Member would let the House hear what he proposed in the interests of the unemployed, better than the propositions which had been made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL (Greenwich)
said he had listened with interest to the speech of his hon. and gallant friend, who was well qualified to speak to the House on a subject in which he had taken an interest for so many years. He would submit to his judgment one general answer to the interesting line of argument he pursued. The hon. and gallant Member had fallen into the error of believing that there was a certain limited demand for commodities; that if that demand was filled up by foreign labour then there was nothing left for English labour to do. The mistake was that there was no such thing as a limited 906 demand for commodities. The demand for commodities depended upon the purchasing power of the public. If, therefore, they brought in from abroad cheap commodities, that cheapness was the difference between the price of those commodities and what similar commodities would cost if made at home. That difference was a clear gain to the purchasing power of the public, and was, therefore, in the interest of employment and labour. He could not accept the position the hon. and gallant Member laid down that the legal regulations affecting labour in foreign countries were in every case so much less drastic than they were in this country. In Germany, which was the most formidable of our competitors, the contrary was the case. The German laws protected or interfered with the perfect freedom of contract between employer and labour more considerably in reality than did our laws at home. Therefore he was not able to agree with the economic argument which the hon. and gallant Member put forward. But he did very heartily respect him for being there to maintain the view which he held so sincerely. He had taken a reasonable, straightforward, and courageous course. They heard of a mission; he was quite sure his hon. and gallant friend's method was the only way by which people ever made any converts. They could not persuade people to believe they were in the right if they did not take reasonable and rational opportunities of pleading their case, even though the occasion might be one in which they were exposed to an answer.
At an earlier period of the evening they listened to a very interesting speech from the Prime Minister, with most of which he was in hearty agreement He did not at all agree with the Leader of the Opposition in the reply he made upon the question how the Government ought to treat abstract Resolutions. What the Prime Minister said was most wise, and he only regretted it had not been more often acted upon in the past. There was no sort of reason why the Government should interfere as a Government with a great number of questions which came before this House. They had heard in recent discussions that 907 the House of Commons was going down in reputation, and he thought it was true. He believed the fundamental cause of that was the unnecessary intrusion of Party discipline and Party spirit into every branch of their discussions, and it was only by relaxing Party discipline that they would bring back the House of Commons to its former reputation and efficiency. He was, therefore, very glad the Government had taken the wise course they had to-night, and allowed the question to be presented to the House without interfering on grounds of Party loyalty. He could not follow the suggestion his right hon. friend made, that it was desirable not to take part in the debate, or, if there was a division, in the division, because in his view this was one of the very gravest questions which could be raised before Parliament, or which had been raised in their time. He did not know that he thought anything in the world so dangerous to this country, unless it were Home Rule, which Parliament could possibly debate, as the adoption of a general system of protection. He was convinced that not only was it an entirely quack remedy for whatever industrial or commercial difficulties we suffered from, and would have in consequence all the injurious effects that quack remedies invariably had of leading people to trust to those remedies rather than to their own exertions, but it would corrupt public life, divide classes, and bring into our country, as it had into so many others, that element of class antipathy, that conception of the poor man that the law was not fair as between the rich and the poor, but was an organised system by which those who could pull the strings were enabled to bring more wealth into their own pockets and more resources to indulge their luxury. It was because he thought this a matter of the very gravest importance that he was not able, as he would naturally wish, to assent to the suggestion which fell from the Treasury bench and take no part in the discussion.
He could not help feeling they had reached a point of no ordinary interest in the progress of this discussion. This was not an academic question. It probably would have been a question which could have been so treated had the Prime Minister and his colleagues been allowed 908 to manage it in their own way. But they had not been allowed to do so. Nearly two years ago the Tariff Reform League, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, took the matter out of the hands of the Prime Minister and his colleagues, managed the agitation in their own way, and made it perfectly clear that they regarded the present as the period of decision; they made it clear in many ways, but especially by attacks upon the seats of those who were not able to agree with them. Those attacks began about fifteen months ago, and from that moment it became clear, from the methods of advocacy adopted, that now was the time for decision, that it was not an educational campaign to instruct the public mind on the fiscal question, but a deliberate design first to capture the Conservative Party, to pack it, and then, when the whole process of deliberation and decision had been done beforehand, to submit, for the sake of constitutional form, a tariff to the House of Commons, which would be pledged to the last item to pass it verbatim et literatim. That was the design of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham and the Tariff Reform League, and it was the miscarriage of that design they were celebrating that night. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Birmingham was absent from a cause with which they all sympathised, and he made no comment on it except to express regret and to hope that he would soon be with them again. But there were other members of his Party, only less distinguished, who might some of them have been present. He missed the spacious form of his right hon. friend the Member for Sleaford.
§ LORD HUGH CECIL
regretted that his right hon. friend's sense of public duty led him to consider that meeting more important than the maintenance of his opinion in the House of Commons. But other advocates of the cause were absent or silent on the present occasion, and in order that there might be no mistake about the motive of their absence they held a meeting and decided that they should treat the debate "with contempt." 909 How odd that was for if they had been in a majority instead of a minority they would have felt no occasion for increasing that not very amiable quality of contempt; they would have regarded it as an opportunity to save a decaying Empire and dying industries, to rally to the flag of Imperialism at the rate of 2s. a quarter on wheat, and to vindicate once again the principle of legitimate protection of industries which would add to the burdens of no class, bring a vast revenue to the State, while excluding from competition all goods upon which it was proposed to levy that revenue. He thought that members of the Tariff Reform League, or the Members who represented the views of the league in this House, might have shown this diffidence of public and Parliamentary action a little sooner, and might even now show it more consistently and completely. He carried his mind back to eighteen months ago, when the Cabinet was broken up because of disagreement on the subject. A little more temperateness of management and a little more disposition to put off this question to a calmer hour, and there might have been no Ministerial crisis arid none of the dislocation in the Party which followed.
Twelve months ago there was another meeting of Members of the league, and very different was their mood. Then they sent an imperious message to the Treasury Bench requiring that a certain Amendment put down at the wish and with the concurrence of Government should not be proceeded with. Sic volo, sic jubeo, stat pro ratione voluntas, said the right hon. Member for Sleaford in those days, and fortunately he had not a meeting in his constituency on that occasion. He gave his orders, and in those days it was for the Tariff Reform League to give orders, and Unionist free-traders were accused of disloyalty to the Government. Now things were changed. For some time past the retreat from Moscow had been going on. That night witnessed the passage of the Beresina, and his hon. and gallant friend figured, as he was able to do, in the character of Marshal Ney. But those retreating forces, so diffident of argument in Parliament, were continuing their attacks on their free-trade colleagues, 910 uniting as it seemed in a very unusual manner a singular intolerance of disagreement of opinion with a singular lack of courage in maintaining their own opinions. They had a bigotry with all the narrowness and vindictiveness, but none of the courage generally associated with that quality. He confessed that he thought it was a little hard that opinions should be judged to be so sacred as to justify the driving out of Members of Parliament and should not be sufficiently sacred to be defended on the floor of the House of Commons, There was no doubt that hon. Members would say, if one could get them in a candid moment, that they believed what they were doing was good tactics. He thought this view showed that these hon. Members understood tactics as little as they understood economics. Of course, it was not in the power of any system of tactics to make those in a small minority exert the influence that belonged to a majority. On other questions in this House he had been in a very small minority. On Church and education questions it had been his fortune repeatedly to divide with very small parties indeed; but he was quite sure that if the school of opinion to which he belonged had exerted any influence at all it was because they did not shrink from maintaining their own opinions and because they were not so absorbed by a sense of their own dignity and such an exaggerated idea of self-respect that they were afraid of being found in a small minority in the division lobby. Did tariff reformers really suppose that after to-night they were going to get the public in the constituencies outside to take them very seriously? Did they suppose that the electorate was going to rally to those who would not rally to their own cause? Did they suppose that the example of flight as set by their leaders was to be a source of courage and heroism in the rank and file? No, the House had seen to-night a great landmark in the history of this controversy. They now knew how hollow were those pretences about a dying Empire and the dying industries of which he had spoken. The fidelity of Canada—this was part of one scheme; it all fitted together—which needed to be shored up, a dying industry in every town—for the right 911 hon. Member for West Birmingham wherever he went always found something amiss—all these things were now left to "get on with their dying." After to-night tariff reform would pass from being a heresy into being a laughingstock. The country was not dying; its industries were not dying; it held its own throughout the world, and it flourished. The only thing that was dying was the protectionist movement, which had been revived and galvanised into life by the genius of one individual and by a system of advertisement and organisation which he thought had been without a parallel in the history of political agitation. The moment they had succeeded in bringing the matter to a test—and it had taken a long time—the moment they had got the Government to leave the House to act as it pleased they were not even to be put to the trouble of fighting it out; the tariff reformers had fled at the very sound of their opponents' guns.
It was true that the Tariff Reform League might succeed in driving three, four, six, or twenty of those with whom they disagreed out of Parliament; but that prospect did not depress him at the moment. The loss of Parliamentary seats was one of the ordinary incidents in political controversy, and it mattered little. But that evening's experience was, he thought, almost unique. During the last eighteen months they had had a contest within the Unionist Party on this great issue. He was so grateful to the Government for what they had done on the present occasion that he did not wish to say a word of recrimination, but certainly in the earlier stages of the controversy the Government did not assume that proper attitude of neutrality which they had now adopted. There had been so to speak a cold wind in that quarter; only a small number of Members who sat on the Government side had felt themselves able to take an active part in the controversy; some of their friends had crossed the floor and now supported the other side; others had withdrawn on other grounds. But some supporters of the Government had persisted and now they had prevailed. Sooner than he had any reason to anticipate, they had made 912 it clear that the Conservative Party was not a protectionist Party and that it had not been captured by the Tariff Reform League; that it was, as it always had been, a Party indulgent and comprehensive, allowing all sorts of varieties of opinion, and was in its settled policy still an adherent to the principle of free trade. He was glad that this was so. He hoped that his hon. friends would join in freeing the Party as soon as possible from the evil reputation which the action of the Tariff Reform League had brought upon it. They had gone a long way on the road that evening, and he looked forward to better things still in the future. He looked forward to the day when the Party of which they were so proud would again enjoy that position which two years ago it enjoyed of being the most trusted and respected Party in the State. He looked forward to the building up of that edifice which in a reckless moment had been cast to the ground, and to the storing again of that treasure which, with a mad expenditure, had been cast into the sea. If it were so, what did it matter if a few of them here and there suffered abuse or exclusion from Parliament? They had contended for a cause which they were certain was the cause of the good of the Empire, and to-day they had before them the promise of an early and a certain victory.
§ MR. CROMBIE (Kincardineshire)
pointed out that the terms of the Resolution were the ipsissima verba of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and, therefore, when the Prime Minister complained of it as being embarrassing, he could only condole with the right hon. Gentleman in having so embarrassing an ally as the late Colonial Secretary. What were the circumstances? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had gone round the country declaring that British trade was in a most parlous state, that sugar and silk had gone, that wool and iron were threatened, and that cotton would go, but that fortunately he and his friends had found a cure. As to that cure there was a difference of opinion, the hon. Member for Central Sheffield believing that it would remove the difficulties connected with British trade, while others, 913 who were manufacturers themselves, were old-fashioned enough to believe that a tariff would simply ruin the home trade. But whatever their differences of opinion as to the cure, all were agreed as to the importance of the question. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had said—What is at stake is the welfare of the masses of the population…. To them it is a question of life and death.This was a question of life and death, but where was the Member for West Birmingham? They were sorry to hear that he was laid aside by illness. It must indeed be a calamity to be laid aside on so important an occasion. But the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have deserted the House of Commons. Where was he a fortnight ago, when the hon. Member for Oldham moved his Resolution? Somebody was in his place, wearing his clothes, and having all his external appearance, but it was a mere attentuated form. The real Member for West Birmingham was the missionary of Empire, the saviour of British trade, the great magnetic personality, the man who took nothing lying down; whereas he who was present a fortnight ago was an attenuated John Chilcote, with shattered nerves and ruined constitution, who cringed under the narcotics administered by the Prime Minister. To-night tariff reformers had been freed from their bonds; for the first time they were allowed to exercise liberty of conscience, and what were they going to do? They were going to run away! Was there ever so strange a change within two short years? Less than two years ago, at a great dinner-party at the Hotel Cecil, 122 Members of Parliament swore fealty to the cause of tariff reform. Where was that Party now? There was only one survivor—the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield. The hon. and gallant Member was in a strange position. For many years he occupied 914 all alone the desert island of protection But one day he was invaded by an army of statesmen and important personages, led by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. For two years they had hustled him in his own place, but this morning he had awakened to find they were all gone, and that he was again in sole possession of his desert island. Where were these hon. Gentlemen? Where was the hon. Member for Glasgow who so brilliantly represented the Board of Trade? As recently as Friday last, speaking in the country, he devoted the whole of his speech to tariff reform, and declared that in the iron trade alone £6,000,000 of wages had been lost to the workmen of this country. To-night it was only an academic question! Where was the Colonial Secretary, who they all knew was under the magnetic influence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham? Only two days ago he declared that that "magnetic influence" had worked a miracle, in that it had actually persuaded the magnates of the Transvaal to accept £35,000,000 of the money of this country without giving anything in return.
They all expected that the Prime Minister upon a question of life or death like this would have told the House his views. The right hon. Gentleman said that 1,100 columns of Hansard had been spoken upon the fiscal question, but he challenged the Prime Minister's followers to show him a single sentence which would give the opinion of the right hon. Gentleman upon the policy of the Member for West Birmingham. Why should the Prime Minister hide his opinion? Why did he refuse to tell them his opinion upon a matter of life or death? They all knew the reason why. It was because the right hon. Gentleman knew to express his opinion upon that question would be a matter of life or death with the Government. The Prime Minister lived by concealment. His relations with his 915 followers were like those of Cupid to Psyche. Cupid was condemned to woo Psyche in the dark. He lived in constant trepidation lest one night she should strike a match and see his real features. The Prime Minister had done all he could to make the darkness thick. He had shut the shutters of the closure, and drawn the curtains of the previous question. But to-night the fatal moment had come; the match was struck, and like Cupid he had run away. The action he had taken upon this Resolution was more than a defeat for the tariff reformers, it was a rout, and they could never hold up their heads again.
§ SIR FREDERICK BANBURY (Camberwell, Peckham),
seated and wearing his hat, and speaking amid cries of "Order" from the Opposition, said,—May I ask, Sir, whether, as the "Noes" appear to be in a very small minority, in order to save the House the trouble of a division, those who object to the Motion might not be called on to rise in their places?
§ *MR. SPEAKER
I am not in a position to form an opinion as to the numbers, I cannot adopt that suggestion.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 254; Noes, 2. (Division List, No. 79.)917
|Abraham, William (Cork, N E.)||Cawley, Frederick||Fuller, J. M. F.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cecil, Lord Hugh (Greenwich)||Furness, Sir Christopher|
|Ambrose, Robert||Channing, Francis Allston||Goddard, Daniel Ford|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Cheetham, John Frederick||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-|
|Asquith, Rt.Hon. Herbert Henry||Churchill Winston Spencer||Gorst, Rt Hon. Sir John Eldon|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Clancy, John Joseph||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Condon, Thomas Joseph||Grant, Corrie|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir E. (Berwick)|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Cremer, William Randal||Griffith, Ellis, J.|
|Beach, Rt.Hn.Sir Michael Hicks||Crombie, John William||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill|
|Beaumont, Wentworth, C. B.||Crooks, William||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Beckett, Ernest William||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan||Hain, Edward|
|Bell, Richard||Delany, William||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Benn, John Williams||Denny, Colonel||Hamilton, RtHn.LordG(Midd'x|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Hammond, John|
|Blake, Edward||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Hardie, J. Keir (MerthyrTydvil)|
|Boland, John||Dobbie, Joseph||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Donelan, Captain A.||Harrington, Timothy|
|Brand, Hon. Arthur G.||Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Harwood, George|
|Brigg, John||Duffy, William J.||Hatch, Ernest Frederick Geo.|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Duncan, Hastings||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Broadhurst, Henry||Dunn, Sir William||Hayter, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur D.|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Ellice, CaptEC(S. Andrw's Bghs)||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Hemphill, Rt. Hon Charles H.|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Bryce, Rt. Hon. James||Emmott, Alfred||Hobhouse, C. E. H (Bristol, E.)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Evans, Sir Francis H.Maidstone||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)|
|Burns, John||Eve, Harry Trelawney||Horniman, Frederick John|
|Burt, Thomas||Fenwick, Charles||Hutchinson, Dr. Charles Fredk.|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)|
|Caldwell, James||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, NE||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Cameron, Robert||Flavin, Michael Joseph||Jacoby, James Alfred|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Flynn, James Christopher||Johnson, John|
|Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Joicey, Sir James|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jones, David Brynmor (Swansea|
|Cavendish, R. F. (N. Lanes.)||Freeman-Thomas, Captain F.||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||O'Brien, P. J. (Tipperary, N.)||Smith, H. C. (North'mbTyneside|
|Jordan, Jeremiah||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Kearley, Hudson E.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Kennedy, Vincent P.(Cavan, W.||O'Dowd, John||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
|Kilbride, Denis||O'Kelly, Conor (Mayo, N.)||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Kitson, Sir James||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.||Spear, John Ward|
|Labouchere, Henry||O'Malley, William||Spencer, Rt. Hn.C.R.(Northants|
|Lambert, George||O'Mara, James||Stanhope, Hon. Philip James|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Stevenson, Francis S.|
|Lamont, Norman||Partington, Oswald||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Langley, Batty||Paulton, James Mellor||Sullivan, Donal|
|Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Pemberton, John S. G.||Taylor, Theodore, C. (Radcliffe|
|Layland-Barratt, Francis||Perks, Robert William||Tennant, Harold John|
|Leese, Sir Joseph F. (Accrington||Pirie, Duncan V.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Leigh, Sir Joseph||Power, Patrick Joseph||Thomas, David Alfred(Merthvr|
|Lewis, John Herbert||Price, Robert John||Thornton, Percy M.|
|Lloyd-George||Priestley, Arthur||Tomkinson, James|
|Lough, Thomas||Rea, Russell||Toulmin, George|
|Lundon, W.||Reckett, Harold James||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Reddy, M.||Vincent, Sir Edgar (Exeter)|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford||Waldron, Laurence Ambrose|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfries||Wallace, Robert|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)||Richards,Thomas(W.Monm'th)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|M'Crae, George||Rickett, J. Compton||Wason, Eugene, Clackmannan|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|M'Laren, Sir Charles Benjamin||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Weir, James Galloway|
|Malcolm, Ian||Robertson, Edmund (Dundee)||Welby, Sir Charles G. E(Notts.)|
|Markham, Arthur Basil||Robson, William Snowdon||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Roche, John||White, Luke (York. E. R.)|
|Montagu, Hon.J.Soott(Hants.)||Roe, Sir Thomas.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Mooney, John J.||Rollit, Sir Albert Kayc||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Rose, Charles Day||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Morley,Rt.Hn.John (Montrose)||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter||Whittaker, ThomasPalmer|
|Morrison, James Archibald||Runciman, Walter||Williams, Osmond, (Merioneth)|
|Moss, Samuel||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Wills, ArthurWalters(N. Dorset|
|Moulton, John Fletcher||Schwann, Charles E.||Wilson, Fred.W.(Norfolk,Mid.)|
|Mount, William Arthur||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)||Wilson, John(Durham, Mid)|
|Murphy, John||Seely, Maj. J. E. B. (Isle of Wight)||Wilson, John(Falkirk)|
|Nannetti, Joseph P.||Shackleton, David James||Wilson, J.W. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Newnes, Sir George||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)||Wood, James|
|Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South)||Shaw-Stewart,SirH.(Renfrew)||Woodhouse, SirJ.T.(Huddersf'd|
|Norman, Henry||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel||Young, Samuel|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Sheehy, David||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Shipman Dr. John G.|
|O'Brien, James F. X. (Cork)||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|O'Brien, Kendal(TipperaryMid||Slack, John Bamford||Herbert Gladstone and Mr.|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)||William M'Arthur.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Massey-Mainwaring, Hn. W. F.||Levy and Mr. Charles Allen.|