§ Considered in Committee.
§ (In the Committee.)
§ [Mr. JEFFREYS (Hampshire, N.), in the Chair.]
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON (Yorkshire, W.R., Barnsley)
moved as follows—"On and after the first day of August, 1905,. one penny shall be substituted for one 101 shilling as the duty on coal under Section 3 of the Finance Act, 1901." The hon. Member said that, when the deputation from the coal trade waited upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer on April 12th, 1904, that Minister stated that he was keeping an open ear for any evidence and an open mind for the consideration of the Report of the Commission on Coal Supplies. This year the Chancellor was good enough to receive deputations both from the coalowners and coal exporters and the miners, and on those occasions he had said that he would make a statement in reply to the representations made to him on the Finance Bill. Those concerned in coal exports were, therefore, anxiously awaiting the statement. They expected to hear from the right hon. Gentleman to-day both in relation to the conclusions arrived at by the Commissioners on the coal supply question and also in reply to the statements made to him on the subject by the deputations he had received.
Since last year they had received the Report of the Royal Commission on Coal Supplies, and he ventured to say that they were indebted to that Commission for the most exhaustive investigations they made and for the lucid statistical and other information they had communicated. The main conclusions of the Commission were: First, that the coal export trade was of supreme importance to the country and essential to the prosperity of the coal producing districts; secondly, that there was no necessity to restrict artificially this export; and, thirdly, that the coal export duty did restrict such export. The Royal Commission rightly said that the coal export trade was of supreme importance to the country, and essential to the prosperity of the coal-producing districts, for no less than 5,000,000 people in this country depended for their livelihood on the coal mining industry, and no less than 80 per cent, of the cost of raising coal was paid in wages. Secondly, the Commission reported that there was no need to restrict artificially the exportation of coal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol, when he proposed the imposition of the tax in 1901, justified his 102 proposal largely on the ground that we were so rapidly depleting our coal resources that it was, in his opinion, desirable to check the expansion of the export trade. The Report of the Commission was really of the most fascinating and interesting character. They reported that under 4,000 feet in depth there were no less than 100,914,000,000 tons of coal, a quantity sufficient at the present rate of production to last for the next 450 years; but, in addition to that, they had unopened coalfields containing nearly 40,000,000,000. This altogether, the Commission informed them, Was enough, at the present rate of production, to last 690 years.
Then they were alarmed somewhat about the quantity of Welsh smokeless steam coal. The Royal Commission reported that we had got nearly 4,000,000,000 tons, which, at the present rate of production of 18,000,000 tons per year, would last 222 years. Therefore, he thought the somewhat alarmist view put before the House and the country to justify the imposition of the tax had been proved to be absolutely groundless. Not only, however, was this the case, but the Committee should remember that by the rapid substitution of electric power for steam power there was a probability that the output of coal in this country would diminish in the future rather than increase. The Commissioners, too, gave them another interesting fact. They expressed the opinion that, if the coal consumed in the United Kingdom were applied and used in a scientific way, a saving of from 40,000,000 to 60,000,000 tons annually could be effected. They were told that domestic consumers used 32,000,000 tons per year, and that, by the adoption of central heating, hot-water pipes, or stoves, they could reduce that consumption by one-half.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer told them that, in his opinion, the tax did not artificially restrict the export of coal, but the Royal Commission took the opposite view, and, after the fullest investigation, they stated that the duty did restrict such export. The fact was that an extra 1s. duty per ton to be defrayed between the pit and the consumer must inevitably have a material effect, especially in markets where other 103 sources of supply were available, and the British exporter had either been compelled to make a sacrifice of price to maintain his trade or to lose his position in the foreign markets. They found that the output of coal in the United Kingdom had gone up 7,250,000 tons since 1900, but there had only been 2,100,000 tons increase in exports, the other 5,150,000 tons having been absorbed by the home consumption or by the increased consumption of coal in bunkering. Bunkering coal had increased in the last four years by no less than 5,400,000 tons, mainly owing to the fact that it was free from any export duty, whereas in the coal subject to the tax the increase had only been 2,000,000 tons, though previous to the imposition of the tax our exports increased at a substantially greater ratio. He wished to state the case with absolute fairness, and he freely admitted that in 1904 as compared with 1903 there was an increase in the exports of coal of 1,300,000 tons with an increase of 400,000 tons of bunker coal in addition; but we had been fortunate in having abnormal demands springing up for coal in various quarters of the World. Last year the situation was saved by the strike in America, and this year, where in the first four months compared with the first four months of last year there had been an increase of 400,000 tons, we had benefited by the great strike on the Continent, affecting mainly Germany and the Netherlands. In the first four mouths of this year we sent to Germany and the Netherlands an increase of 1,455,000 tons, so that, except for that, our exports would have shown a decrease of 1,026,000 tons.
In the grouping of the statistics prepared by the Government Departments they had put certain countries together, which made it difficult to arrive at the exact result of the tax so far as the counties in which he was interested—Northumberland, Durham, and Yorkshire—were concerned, and he had, therefore, abstracted the figures, and he would very briefly state what had been the effect of the coal tax on the export trade of the United Kingdom to Holland, Belgium, and France. The coal produced in Scotland, Northumberland, 104 Durham, and Yorkshire, was of an ordinary quality and had no monopoly of any market. So far as Holland, Belgium, and France were concerned, there had been a decrease of exports to those countries from the United Kingdom, since 1900, of 3,000,000 tons; whereas, on the other hand, there had been an increase of exports from Germany to those countries of nearly 3,000,000 tons. Let them take the example of imports into France: Our export trade in coal to France in 1900 was 8,500,000 tons and in 1904 it was only 7,000,000 tons, a decrease of 1,500,000 tons, whereas Germany sent 400,000 tons more in 1904 than in 1900. Again, Belgium's trade with France had only diminished 9 per cent., whereas our trade with France had diminished 17½ per cent. The larger output rendered possible by the export trade enabled the collieries to be worked regularly and to the fullest capacity, and, seeing that the cost of production was enormously increased if collieries worked only four days out of six, consumers might rest assured that it was to their interest that the collieries should work full time if they were to get their coal at reasonable prices. Coal, also, was so essential an element of outward cargoes that any diminution of our coal exports must cause a rise in the import freights of goods.
If last year's output of coal in the United Kingdom were the highest on record, they should not lose sight of the fact that the trade of other nations had developed much more rapidly. The output of the United States had doubled in the last ten years, and the output of Germany had doubled in seventeen years, but it had taken thirty-five years to double our output. The Royal Commission had reports made to them by various British Consuls in centres where a large quantity of coal exported from this country was consumed. They stated that it was self-evident that the export duty must affect our competitive power and have an influence on the exportation of coal, and they stated that this view was supported by several British Consuls. The Vice-Consul at Rouen stated that the tax injuriously affected the introduction, of British coal into the French market; and again, the Director of 105 Customs at Paris told them that the English coal tax enabled German coal to be sold 1s. per ton cheaper than Cardiff coal. Let them, for instance, take the question of gas coal. We had had a monopoly of French orders for gas coal, but since the tax had been put on there had been, for the first time, an inroad made on our trade with the Paris Gas Company, and at the present time they had entered into a contract for 250,000 tons of German gas coal. The Consuls reported that during the last three years our exportation of coal to France had decreased, whereas the importation from Germany had increased sensibly. Then let them take the case of Belgium. There was a Report from His Majesty's Consul-General at Antwerp, starting that the quantity of coal and coke imported into Belgium from the United Kingdom had fallen off considerably in the last four years, and the competition of German coal was undoubtedly the cause of the decrease. It seemed evident that the competition would continue, greatly to the detriment of British coal. So long as the powerful Westphalian Syndicate, whose object appeared to be to drive British coal out of the Belgium market, continued to supply coal at a much less cost than the British coalowner could afford to do, imports from the United Kingdom would necessarily fall off. Ho showed that since 1900 British exports to Belgium had fallen off 542,000 tons, while German exports had increased 750,000 tons. He (Mr. Walton) could quote further examples from the reports of Consuls in various parts of the world, and especially in Europe, but they represented exactly the same state of things as those he had already read. It might be said that a shilling export tax on British coal was no detriment to us in competing against Australian coal, but that was not so. Let them take the case of Valparaiso. In 1903 we sent to Valparaiso 317,000 tons of coal, whereas Australia sent 485,000 tons. The shilling tax meant an absolute bounty in favour of the Australian coal producer as against the English producer, and that was quite counter to the fiscal doctrines and proposals as they understood them of His Majesty's Government's present advisers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might say that the tax had not operated injuriously 106 to the British coal trade, but he submitted that he had shown conclusively that, so far as Scotland, Durham, Northumberland, and Yorkshire were concerned, we had received 1s. per ton less at the pit's mouth on coal we exported in competition with Germany and Belgium than we should get if this tax did not exist.
The tax violated the principle of equal incidence of taxation; it was imposed on one great industry, an industry which was taxed to the hilt in regard to every rate and tax, local and Imperial, levied in this country. In addition to all the other rates and taxes which the industry had to pay equally with every other industry, it had to bear the burden of this tax amounting to £2,000,000 a year. In 1901 the Member for West Bristol said that it there were one kind of taxation more odious than another it was unfair taxation, and he could conceive nothing more unfair than that increased expenditure should be controlled by the voice of the whole people if one class only should be left to bear the increased burden. This was true in the case of the coal tax. The coal industry only was left to bear the burden of increased expenditure to the extent of £2,000,000 a year, and he hoped that it did not require anything more to be said to demonstrate how absolutely unjustifiable and indefensible it was to continue the tax. The coal trade in 1900 was in a prosperous state; to-day three collieries out of four in the United Kingdom were being worked at a loss, and the value of the coal exported had gone down on an average 5s. a ton. He estimated that the 46,000,000 tons exported were worth £11,500,000 less than when the tax was imposed, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer would recognise that this placed an enormous disability on the trade to bear this imposition.
He would give one example from his own constituency. He received a letter only last month telling him that the result of the tax had been that his informants had been compelled to sell their coal on the Continent at a heavy loss, that in consequence of this, they had decided to close the pit the next week. This would throw from 600 to 700 men out of 107 employment and cause great distress in the neighbourhood. In 1901 Sir Michael Hicks Beach said that, if he believed the tax would be paid by the miners, he would not impose it. Representatives of miners would take part in the debate, and he was sure they would have given to them statements which would clearly prove that the miners had suffered substantially in the reduction of their wages in certain districts solely as the result of the tax. He believed the Chancellor of the Exchequer was disposed to consider the question fairly, and though, perhaps, he would not see his way to take the tax off to-day, he hoped that the facts and figures in the Report of the Royal Commission, and which he had been able to produce, would lead him to say the tax was an unfair and an unjustifiable tax, and ought to be discontinued at the earliest possible moment. He would commend to him certain words of his distinguished father the Member for West Birmingham, who, speaking at a meeting of miners in 1903, said—You miners are only waiting to be eaten up. If you look, you will see that the production of coal in Germany, France, and America has been increasing with gigantic speed, and it is as sure as anything that in a comparatively few years they will want no more of your coal and that they will be, probably, exporters of coal here. What is your stand-by?He wished the Chancellor of the Exchequer to be their standby by removing this flagrantly unjust impost by which the export trade was so seriously handicapped.
§ MR. JOHNSON (Gateshead)
, in seconding the Motion, stated that he spoke for the great mining community of workers in the country, numbering over 5,000,000, upon whose means of livelihood there could be no doubt that the tax had made inroads. They, therefore, protested against the retention of a tax which was so detrimental to their interests. Since last year they had had the Report of the Royal Commission, and it had done two things. It had exploded the popular impression that, in consequence of the limitation of the possible quantity of coal in this country, we ought to keep the coal in the country as a national asset, because we had at least 450 or 500 years possible supply, and they 108 could therefore afford to be calm in their deliberations; and it had also exploded the fallacy that a tax would not restrain trade. The Report was very conclusive, and it indicated that the tax had very considerably interfered, and was likely very considerably in the future to interfere, with the exportation of coal. A gentleman from Durham last year told him that he had lost two contracts, one for 275,000 tons, and another for 40,000 tons, absolutely in consequence of the tax.
He would give some quotations from the Diplomatic and Consular Report issued August 11th, 1904. In Belgium the imports from the United Kingdom during 1902 were, in money value, £463,520, and the report indicated that, as compared with 1901, there was a diminution of £100,000; in Denmark it indicated that the British export duty on coal had not very materially increased the supply of German coal but, it said, if the tax were reduced by 6d. then it would absolutely prohibit the German coal from entering the market. The total import of coal into the port of Bordeaux in 1903 was 891,858 tons, which was a reduction of 93,840 tons as compared with 1902. This, he thought, was a pretty clear indication that the effect of the coal tax had been to restrain the trade. Another quotation would show how the tax had injured the trade. The imports of British coal into Bayonne had decreased—Welsh coal from 160,539 tons in 1901 to 155,123 tons in 1902 and to 119,589 tons in 1903, and north-country coal from 75,876 tons in 1901 to 45,345 tons in 1902 and to 50,298 tons in 1903, whilst the imports of German coal had increased from 3,719 tons in 1901 to 35,760 tons in 1902 and to 60,705 tons in 1903. This showed that the tax had so handicapped the coal exporters of this country that Germany had been able to compete with British coal so successfully that whereas in 1900 they sent no coal at all to Bayonne, in 1903 they sent 60,705 tons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might reply there had been an increase of our exports, but this was entirely due to the strike in the Westphalian and Belgian coalfields, and, as had been pointed out by German delegates at, a conference, in supplying this coal "The 109 British working men, in their judgment, had been cutting the throats of the Continental working men." But this matter could not be settled absolutely on the question of exports, however considerable it might be. The Chancellor of the Exchequer might reply that there had been an increase of 1,455,507 tons, but that enormous increase had been due to the Westphalian and Belgian strike, in consequence of which we had supplied the market on the Continent that year.
Coming to the question of the value of exports, he wished to say that it was the value of the exports which determined the question of the profits and ultimately of the wages. He was not going to postulate that the reduction in prices and following on that the reduction in wages was absolutely due to the shilling tax, but it had had a considerable influence upon it. While not postulating that the whole fact of the reduction was due to that, he wished to point out that if the condition of the coal trade in 1901 was such as to warrant the then Chancellor of the Exchequer imposing this tax that condition of things had now entirely passed away, as was shown by the present prices and wages, and therefore the tax ought to be now abolished. In the county of Durham in 1900 the price was 10s. 3.72d., in 1901 8s. 6.73d., in 1902 7s. 3.79d., in 1903 7s. 0.82d. and last year, in 1904, 6s. 5.97d. That indicated that between the putting on of the tax and the present condition of things there had been a reduction of price of 4s. a ton, which was sufficient evidence, if evidence were wanted, that the coal tax ought to be repealed. With regard to the question of wages. On the 1st January, 1901, in the same county, the wages were 65 per cent. above the standard rates, in 1902 40 per cent. above, in 1903 33¾ per cent. above, in 1904 32 per cent., and this year 27½ per cent. above. In other words, in the county of Durham they had had reduction of wages equal to 38 per cent. In the case of Scotland they stood at 100 per cent. above the standard rates early in 1900, and to-day they stood at 62½ percent. below that point. In South Wales they were 73¾ per cent. above standard rates in 1900, and since then they had been reduced 40 per cent.
110 He did not wish to pursue this matter further. He had indicated by the Report of the Commission and in the evidence he had given that this tax had been a considerable restriction on the trade, and from the wages and prices he had been able to adduce he had shown that the shilling tax had considerably handicapped us during that time. Whatever the reason might have been for the imposition of this tax, that condition of things had now passed away, and the tax ought to be removed. When the right hon. Gentleman was looking for revenue he ought to find some other sources than the working man's wages out of which to take it. There were other interests which at the present time did not contribute one penny to the revenue of this country which might be tapped. The owners of royalties were getting now £6,000,000 out of the royalties of the mines in this country and did not contribute a penny towards the national expenditure. On the other hand, the colliery owner had to sink his capital in the pits, while the miners themselves had to invest their lives, as it were, day by day when they descended the pit, yet these were the men who were called upon to pay the revenue. He hoped that the right hon. Gentleman, if he could not abolish the tax this year, would next year tax those sources which had not yet been tapped, that the burden might be taken off the shoulders of the working man.
§ New clause (Reduction of Coal Duty)—(Mr, Joseph Walton), brought up, and read the first time.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
"That the clause be read a second time."
§ MR. HOUSTON (Liverpool, West Toxteth)
said that, as he intended to adopt a different attitude on this occasion to that which he had adopted in previous years, he would like to explain his reasons for so doing. He had in previous years supported the several Chancellors of the Exchequer in voting for the imposition of this tax. The reason was simple. In time of war and stress he thought it did not do to too closely examine the sources from which the Chancellors of the Exchequer collected 111 funds either for the expenditure of this country or for warlike enterprises, but when the war was over he thought it was time now that, we were at peace to turn our attention to retrenchment and reform and take advantage of the opportunities to remedy injustices and to equalise the burdens of taxation, which might be much more evenly distributed than they were now.
He considered this tax unfair and unreasonable. In the first place, the class of coal affected most severely was the cheaper quality of coal mined in Scotland and in the North of England, which entered into competition with German and Belgian coal. He did not regard the Chancellor of the Exchequer as a true disciple of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who told the House that taxes were not paid by consumers but by those who supplied the commodities affected. This tax was therefore borne by the British coalowners and the workmen who mined the coal. It affected us also in other directions. With the shilling tax the coalowner could not compete with the cheap German and Belgian coal. The shilling tax represented something like 16 per cent. and he, in order to compete, naturally attempted to shift the burden on to other shoulders. He therefore pressed the shipowners for lower rates, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to know whether the shipping industry of this country was flourishing or not. The steamship lines which paid income-tax other than those which received subsidies were almost nil. They were not only not paying interest on the capital involved, but they were not providing for depreciation. Moreover, on every ton of bunkers purchased abroad by British ships the shilling tax had to be paid, and on every ton of coal exported to railways abroad, owned almost exclusively by British subjects, the tax was imposed.
There were many ways in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer could obtain an equal amount of money, though possibly they would not be so popular, and they might mean votes. For instance, a tax on bicycles would bring in a large amount, but few Chancellors of the Exchequer would venture to impose one. The present coal duty 112 was most unfair, and, with a view to conserving our great national asset (Smokeless Steam Coal), he suggested that a tax of 5s. or 10s. should be imposed on every ton of South Wales anthracite smokeless steam coal sold to a foreign Government. If it was thought that that would fall unfairly on the coal-owners, the Government themselves might purchase some of the collieries and keep the coal exclusively for our own Navy. In view of the fact that this coal would retain its quality almost indefinitely by being stored in submerged deposits, he submitted that its unrestricted supply to foreign Governments, who, while friendly to-day, might be our enemies tomorrow, was a grave mistake. If it was true that smokeless steam coal could not be obtained elsewhere, foreign Governments would pay almost any price to obtain it; therefore the Chancellor of Exchequer could supply any deficiency which might arise through the abolition of the present duty by the imposition of a considerably higher tax on coal sold to the foreigner. As he did not propose to support the Government on the present occasion, he had deemed it his duty to express his view to the Committee.
MR. PARROTT (Yorkshire W.R., Normanton)
said it was very refreshing to hear supporters of the Government denounce the action of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Several colliery proprietors on the other side of the House were greatly interested in the selling of coal, but instead of speaking against the coal tax they sat quietly by for fear of offending the leaders of their Party. The tax was not only testing the loyalty of the followers of the Government, but also trying the patience of their opponents. Personally he had been connected with the coal trade as a producer for over fifty years, and he had never known such a tax to be imposed before. Predecessors of the present Chancellor of the Exchequer had urged in reply to deputations that they had nothing to do with the late war, but that it was necessary for them to get the money, and as the coal trade was exceedingly prosperous they had placed this burden upon it. It was argued that the colliery proprietors would not have to pay the tax, but it had since been proved 113 that they and the miners had had to bear the burden. Possibly at the time the coal trade was able to afford the tax, but since then the proprietors had been doing badly, and although he was more concerned with the miners, he liked to see the proprietors doing well, because they could then afford to pay their workmen according to the work they performed. In the present case they were suffering, and he failed to see how any intelligent gentleman like the Chancellor of the Exchequer could sit idly by and imagine that colliery proprietors and miners were escaping the tax.
The mere fact that a particular trade was doing well did not make it fair that a heavy tax should be placed upon it. But the coal trade was now doing badly and the tax still continued. Unless something was done there would soon be a serious stir in the country. Miners could not go on for ever suffering reductions. Last year when the question was discussed, 600,000 miners were under notice of reduction, the coal tax being urged by the colliery proprietors as largely responsible. That reduction was quietly submitted to, and during the last two or three weeks further reductions had been made or notices thereof given. No business man would quietly allow his trade to be taxed in this way. In his, opinion it was wrong to tax trades; the Chancellor of the Exchequer should seek his money from some other source. It was recently stated that 500,000 people had incomes of only £50,000 a year; he wondered at the time how they managed to pull through, but they were the people who ought to pay taxes, especially for purposes of war, not the working man who were blamed in this House and elsewhere for encouraging the war—
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN,) Worcestershire, E.
I am sure the hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me or my colleagues. We have never suggested that any blame attached to working men for supporting their country during a great war.
said he remembered reading speeches in which it was stated that, as the working classes had encouraged the war, they must not mind being called upon to pay.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said the hon. Member used the word ''blamed," and he misunderstood his point.
said he was not in favour of taxing any trade, and if the right hon. Gentleman took the tax off the coal trade he would be doing what a wise man ought to do. He could not understand any gentleman outside a lunatic asylum crippling so important a trade as the coal trade. It was said that Chancellors of the Exchequer nowadays were not satisfied with hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of pounds; they had to deal in millions. The coal trade could not afford to have millions taken from it; workmen and employers were suffering; and he hoped the Chancellor of the Exchequer would see his way to sweep the tax off altogether.
§ MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)
said that although he did not agree with all the arguments adduced by the other side he thought sufficient had been said to show that there were other sources of revenue which for the country at large it would have been better to have touched, rather than the coal trade. Being to some extent interested in the trade he did not feel justified in taking a prominent part in opposition to this tax, and therefore he had not spoken in previous debates on the question. But he thought the position had changed considerably since last year. A variety of objections, had been put forward against the tax, some opponents making it clear from their own point of view that the coalowners paid the tax, and others that the burden fell on the miner, while many held that the consumer alone had to pay. It was very difficult to say upon whom the incidence of this tax fell, but it was a peculiar fact that some of those who were most ardent in their opposition to fiscal reform, and who would say, if this coal was exported from a foreign country, that the tax fell on the consumer, now believed 115 that it fell on the producer. He remembered distinctly the right hon. Baronet the Member for Berwick saying that the incidence of the coal tax fell upon the miner. Of course it might be said that one was an export tax and the other an import tax; but that did not really affect the principle of the argument, as it made no difference to the argument whether the tax was paid on one side of the water or the other. The crucial test to apply to the tax was whether it was the best means for the country at large of obtaining revenue. He believed it to be economically unsound and involving a deliberate transfer of trade to German coalowners at the present time.
His reason for saying that the position had altered since last year was based upon the Report of the Royal Commission. On April 12th, 1904, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, replying to a deputation representative of the coal-exporting districts, who sought the abolition of the tax, said that he regarded the question as being in a manner sub judice, and that he could not deal with it until the Commission on Coal Supplies had presented its Report. As all knew, the Commission had now presented its unanimous Report, and the facts and conclusions to which the Commissioners drew attention were as follows:—(1) that the coal export trade was of supreme importance to the country and essential to the prosperity of the coal-producing districts; (2) that there was no necessity to restrict artificially this export trade; and (3) that the coal export duty affected our competitive power and restricted such export trade. Everyone would wish that a man should be taxed in relation to his power to pay, but that was impossible if worked out. An artisan, for example, who earned 30s. a week and drank two glasses of beer paid far more in proportion than the man who did not drink. Yet nobody in the House would think it wise to take the tax off alcohol altogether at the present time. It had been suggested that royalties should be taxed more heavily. He represented a firm which paid a very large amount in royalties every year; but he did not think that that would be the best means of obtaining revenue. If an extra penny 116 per ton were put on royalties it would simply mean that the royalty owners would increase the royalties by the additional penny. There were other ways by which revenue could be obtained. He knew the Chancellor of the Exchequer's powers were limited under our present fiscal system, but he wished to remind him of the altered condition of affairs, and to express the opinion that it would be wise in the near future to remove the tax.
§ MR. FENWICK (Northumberland, Wansbeck)
pointed out that every speech in the course of the debate had been in opposition to the tax. There was no doubt, as the hon. Member for Darlington had truly said, that the position had materially changed since the tax was first imposed. There had been started a tariff reform crusade, the object of which was to increase our export of manufactured goods and to enlarge the opportunities of employment for the working classes. Those were laudable objects, but this tax, which operated in the opposite direction, was imposed and had been continued by the votes of Gentlemen who supported the tariff reform movement. It could not be denied that the operation of this tax tended to restrict our competitive power in markets abroad. The recent Royal Commission had declared that to be self-evident, and if it restricted our competitive power it also tended to restrict the opportunities for employment.
He could not help wondering at the situation in which the House frequently found themselves. When they were considering the question of the production of gold, it was necessary that it should be extracted with the greatest possible expedition, even though cheap indentured foreign labour had to be employed for the purpose; but when it was a question of extracting black diamonds in the shape of coal it was a matter of small consequence if the power of production was restricted—the commodity could remain in the earth as a sort of patrimony for generations to come. But the discoveries of science made it every day more likely that unless the potential wealth which we possessed in our enormous coalfields was realised quickly we 117 might not be able to gain a single advantage from its possession. Labour Members and trade union leaders had been again and again charged with inconsistency in supporting trade unions and opposing protection as though there was any analogy between the protection which trade unions offered to the labourer Against the selfishness of capital and the protection which tariff reformers proposed to give to capital at the expense of the interests of labour. The inconsistency lay rather with the tariff reformers, who were responsible for the imposition and the continuance of this tax. Trade unionists, when charged with inconsistency, were entitled to say to the tariff reformers, "Pluck the beam out of your own eye before you attempt to remove the mote of inconsistency from the eye of Labour Members and trade union leaders."
§ MR. PIKE PEASE
asked whether the hon. Member could name a single country where a protective system had been introduced and wages had not risen.
§ MR. FENWICK
said it was often contended that coal was not a manufactured article. He maintained, on the contrary, that the moment coal was brought, to the surface it was as much the manufactured product of the miner as locomotives or steamships were the manufactured product of the engineer or the shipbuilder. It was true to say that coal was not a manufactured article only so long as it remained embodied in the bowels of the earth. Further than that, it was a manufactured article, the export value of which was greater than almost any other that could be named. From 6O to 80 per cent, of the export value of coal consisted in wages. Was there another article of manufacture where wages formed so large a proportion of the export value? In his judgment there was not. What they had to complain of was that this was not a tax upon a particular industry, but a tax on a particular portion of a particular industry. There might have been some defence to urge for the tax if it had been imposed on all coal raised, but instead of that it was only on the coal 118 raised for the export market that the tax was levied. He considered that was very unjust.
The Royal Commission stated in their Report that the tax was one which hit most severely those districts where the price of coal was slightly above the margin for which coal might be exported free. That was the peculiar position of Northumberland. According to the official figures for 1903, the latest available, the total revenue derived from the tax was £2,300,000, and of that no less than £583,000, or more than a quarter of the total, was collected from the two ports of Blyth and Tyne. Although it might be true, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol said when the tax was first imposed, that the export of coal of small value must form a very small proportion of our whole export, still it was equally true that in some districts the proportion sold at low prices was very great indeed. In the county of Northumberland there was a practice of ascertaining the average selling price of coal every three months. The figures for the last five ascertainments were 6s. 4.45d., 6s. 3.39d., 6s. 3.59d. 6s. 2.69d., and 6s. 2.94d., giving an average for a period of fifteen months of 6s. 3.33d. per ton, which was little more than 3¼d. over the margin at which coal would be free of duty. Could they imagine an industry which was in that position being able to bear an export duty of 1s. per ton? It was utterly impossible, and if it had not been for the fact that we had had the benefit during the past three years of strikes, first in America, then in France, and at the beginning of this year in Germany, there would have been several collieries in Northumberland absolutely closed down. While he was at home during the Easter recess, only a few weeks ago, he was told that several collieries were working only one and two days per week; the price obtainable was not sufficient to pay for the working of the coal, much less to find wages for the miners, and yet this tax was maintained on the industry. It was monstrously unjust to levy this charge on an industry which was in that condition.
It had been said again and again—and this was the only justification 119 he had ever heard for the continuance of the tax—that the duty would fall on the foreign consumer. He was at a loss sometimes to follow hon. Members when they were dealing with fiscal questions. If it was an import duty on corn it was said that the foreign producer would bear the tax, and if it was an export duty on coal it was said that the foreign consumer would pay it. If that was so why did we not propose to tax both exports and imports and get our revenue for nothing? But they knew perfectly well that the foreigner did nothing of the kind. He objected to this tax also, because there was no corresponding duty upon any other trade or industry in this country. He opposed the war policy as strongly as he possibly could. He still thought that it was wrong. Nevertheless, those connected with the coal industry were not unwilling to bear their fair and proper share of the burden of taxation rendered necessary by a war which was hateful to them. But why should they be saddled with more than a fair proportion of the financial responsibility required to maintain the government of this country? There were other industries in the country in connection with which both employer and employed had reaped as great advantages as the miners and mineowners during the last three or four years of comparative prosperity. Did anyone ever suggest that they should be taxed in the special way the coal industry was taxed? There was not a single member of the Government who represented a constituency that was at all affected by the imposition of this duty. If there had been, that representative would have been called upon long ago to resign and confront his constituents on the subject. He had little hope that, at present, the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be able to accept the new clause that had been proposed by his hon. friend the Member for the Barnsley Division. This coal duty was of such an exceptional character and so unjust in its operation that its absolute removal either by this or some other Government, could not be long delayed.
§ MR. LAMBTON (Durham, S.E.)
said that in speaking in support of the re- 120 duction of the coal tax he would be only following the course he had taken in 1901, and he might say that four years experience had not diminished his belief that it was a bad tax. The objections, expressed by hon. Members to the imposition of the tax in 1901 had been amply borne out by the Royal Commission. The Commission had dealt with the matter in a broad spirit, and he thought the tax should be dealt with in a similar manner. It was a tax upon a locality and upon a single trade. If the revenue was necessary the taxes imposed should be spread fairly over all exports and not confined to coal. He was not scientific enough, to accept the doctrine that all taxes upon imports and exports were paid by the foreigner. In his opinion this tax was a departure from that freedom of trade which was the safeguard of our national industries.
Why was this particular trade selected for taxation? At the time it was imposed the tax was supported on grounds of remarkable inconsistency. It was said that it would be paid by the foreigner; that coal-owners were so rich and prosperous that they could afford to pay a tax of two or even five shillings; that the tax was excellent because it would diminish exports and keep coal in the country; that by sending coal abroad we were getting rid of our national capital for the benefit of the foreigner; and that we should keep our coal in the bowels of the earth for the benefit of posterity. All these arguments had been shattered by the Royal Commission. That Commission had upheld, what every man with the most elementary knowledge of the coal trade knew, that the tax was, a burden and a hindrance to trade and must diminish our competitive power abroad. It also showed that the export of coal was a matter of national importance and absolutely essential to the prosperity of the coal-producing districts. The tax not only affected our coal trade but also our shipping trade. On general grounds he would oppose the tax as he represented a constituency strongly affected by it, and he thought it ought to be removed as an act of justice, because it. was a partial tax, detrimental to localities, carrying on a great national industry.
§ MR. JOHN WILSON (Durham, Mid.)
said he was delighted to hear the voice of the hon. Member for Darlington in this discussion. The side which the hon. Member had taken with a large amount of diffidence was a good augury that the cause of those who were opposing the coal tax was winning. They must peg away for a short time longer. They were sure to win when they were able to convert such an ardent tariff reformer to the belief that this tax was an economic fallacy. He would not follow the hon. Member into any fair-trade doctrine, but ha had his own opinion about it. He thought he knew as much about the Continental miners as the hon. Member could know and, without boasting too much about the situation of our own workmen, it was, he knew, infinitely better than that of the workmen on the Continent or any country where protection existed. Hon. Members must have gathered that there were two features about the miners' representatives, some of whom had been thirty, some twenty, and others a fewer number of years in this House. They had never interfered in discussion except they had something of value to say on the subject-matter before the House; and secondly, they had their full share of the British bulldog instinct. They were as persistent and tenacious as the animal which represented John Bull. In that case they had indicated from the beginning until now that they had no idea in their mind of slackening of their opposition to this coal tax so long as it remained in force. They would make the same objections to it, advance the same arguments against it, and the sooner that it was removed the better it would be for the welfare of the country and the interest of the men they represented.
The hon. Member for Barnsley, in his clear statement of the case, made an allusion, in passing, to a matter to which sufficient attention had not been paid, although it was most important, and had been urged from the first by the miners' representatives. The hon. Member mentioned that a colliery in the neighbourhood of Barnsley had been stopped owing to the imposition of this tax. That was a matter that wanted looking into more closely. Whatever alteration 122 might have come in the minds of the hon. Member for Darlington, the hon. Member for Liverpool, and others and whether they in their hearts were against this coal tax, or gave that opposition with their lips—they should be consistent and oppose it by their votes. He, himself, believed in the economic fallacy of this tax. He and his colleagues had always maintained that there were villages in every mining county in this country which depended entirely up on the mines for employment and for the support of their adjuncts—the village shop-keepers; and that to stop a mine employing 600 workmen meant the depopulation of a district; to deprive 600 men of their employment, and they and their families of bread, except they were kept by the voluntary subscriptions of their fellows, was to cut off the incomes of the men who had private property and had laid out their money in building shops. The result was to augment the volume of the unemployed, which was a soreness in the great social fabric; to increase the volume of labour seeking employment; and to render employment risky and precarious.
Hon. Members talked of a 1s. tax as a mere bagatelle in the contract market. He did not think he had ever made a contract in his life, except one, and that he had never regretted from that day to this. He was persuaded to go on a certain journey; he went as a whole man and came back a half one. He trusted the bona fides of employers in this matter; and they said that the difference of 2d. or 3d. in the price per ton made all the difference between profit and loss. He believed that coal-owners on both sides of the House would admit that they had been shut out of contracts by a difference of 2d. or 3d. per ton. Employment had, in that way, been diminished, profits had been lessened, and wages had been lowered. They had been told by the hon. Member for Darlington that the foreigner paid the tax. He had always looked upon the foreigner as being as keen a business man as any Englishman, and as having as full a desire to buy in the cheapest market. He would not give 1s. per ton more for English coal if he could get the article for 1s. per ton less in his own country. 123 Therefore the 1s. must come out of the profits of the employers in this country and out of the wages of the workmen. No amount of reasoning on political economy constructed in the study of a political economist, and no amount of help given by permanent officials to assist the Chancellor of the Exchequer to frame his balance-sheet, would clear that principle out of the commercial life and industry of this country.
Now, he looked upon the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being a sort of Hyde and Jekyll. He looked upon the right hon. Gentleman as a man and as an official. He was confident that when the right hon. Gentleman got up to reply he would say that, as a man, he sympathised with them. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman would agree with that. Of course, he had heard the right hon. Gentleman speak so to deputations which waited upon him. On coming away from one of these interviews with the right hon. Gentleman, he told his fellows that after the genial expression of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and his kindly tone, he was sure the right hon. Gentleman desired to sympathise with them; and that led him to imagine that if the right hon. Gentleman could by any possibility remove this tax he would do it. But then the Chancellor of the Exchequer stopped him. Dr. Jekyll had laid his hands on Mr. Hyde; and while the man sympathised with them, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was seeking for an income. All human nature, like water, sought the least resistance. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that he was dealing with the least resistance. He would tell the right hon. Gentleman that he was dealing with a very patient body of men—a body of men which, in 1901, if they had taken the advice offered them, would have struck against the imposition of this tax. They did not take that advice; they were too patient; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, seeking for income, traded upon that patience, while the Member for Worcestershire sympathised with them. So far as he was concerned this was no Party question. He did not speak thus on this matter because he was politically in opposition to the right hon. Gentleman. 124 He told any prospective Chancellor of the Exchequer, even if he came from his side of the House, that if this tax was not removed the same opposition would be given to him as to the present Chancellor of the Exchequer.
He and his colleagues had no regard, no solicitude, no incitement, no impulse beyond the welfare of their people. That was their motive power. A great deal was heard about Imperialism; about extending the Empire, and rounding it off scientifically. There was talk about Little Englanders and Larger Englanders. He was Little Englander enough to confess that anything which impinged on the earning power of the men he represented; anything that lessened their ability to get bread for their families; anything that would bring a blight upon the conditions of their domestic life, he would oppose. That was the heart of the Empire to him. And he should make it his first duty and sole care that nothing whatever should impinge upon the possibilities of their lives. To the deputation, to which reference had been made, the Chancellor of the Exchequer gave expression to some words that were very pregnant to him. The right hon. Gentleman said—We cannot decide this question by general statements, however attractive; we must look to the actual facts of the trade.But in conjunction with that expression he would quote what was said by the Royal Commission, the existence of which the right hon. Gentleman had always given them, with due courtesy, as a pretext for not going into the matter. That Royal Commission had proved, on evidence taken, that it was the competition of the world that our employers had to contend with. But what were the actual facts? The Royal Commission stated that the mining industry—one of the most dangerous, difficult, irksome, and unpleasant trades that could be carried on, had had their wages reduced 60 or 70 per cent. by this tax in some cases. The wages of miners in Scotland had been reduced by 67 per cent.; and the reduction had been accepted loyally, if not cheerfully. Hon. Members referred to an income-tax of one shilling; what was that to a man with an income of £5,000 125 a year? The reduction in the miners' wages was equivalent to an income-tax of 4s. in the £. Had not the time now arrived for the repeal of the tax? Not a single argument which had been advanced by the Government in favour of it remained. He sympathised with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was in a quagmire. The Royal Commission had reported against the tax; all the Consuls with one exception gave their verdict against it. It was said that not only were the owners making great profits, but that the miners were earning fabulous wages. In their very best days miners only earned 7s. a day; which, if it were five times as great, would not compensate them for the dangers and difficulties of their work. Wages had decreased fearfully; and in his opinion, if the tax were not removed, they would decrease still further. The tax could not be tested in a booming market. It could only be tested when the supply of coal exceeded the demand; and when producers were rushing into the market.
Why should miners be specially taxed? One reason, which had been stated in the House, was that they were supporters of the Radical Party. They and their representatives opposed the war. Was that a reason why they should be taxed? When the right hon. Gentleman introduced his Budget in a splendid speech he said—That it was one of the objects of any system of national taxation that every member of the community should contribute his fair share to the expenditure of a Government which in the last resort was controlled and directed by the popular will. But, it was obvious that such a change as he had described, without any change in taxation, might upset the financial equilibrium and, by altering the proportionate burdens of different classes or individuals might render inequitable and unjust a system of taxation which in other times and with other tastes was both fair and reasonable.The right hon. Gentleman further said that the indirect taxpayer paid 51.8 per cent, of the total taxation excluding the tax on coal. Why should the mining industry be jeopardised and foreign competition strengthened in this fictitious way. During the Franco-German war the coal trade of this 126 country was developed beyond the dreams of any man engaged in the industry. The result of the tax was to give an impetus to the coal trade of Germany, France, and Belgium. Where was the equity?
He wished, in conclusion, to refer to the generosity with which hon. Members had listened to the arguments which had been advanced against the tax; and also to the kind attention which had been given to them by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would not be impervious to the arguments which had been advanced. They, the Labour Members, were connected with the working men in a manner the right hon. Gentleman could not know; they knew their hardships and dangers and how hard their lives were. He hoped that, if the Party of the right hon. Gentleman remained in office, the right hon. Gentleman would retain his present position, and that he would remove in his next Budget this most irksome and burdensome tax.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that no part of the Budget discussion, whether this year or last, had been conducted with more moderation, or with greater power and ability, or with closer reasoning and attention to the points actually involved, than that part (which related to the coal tax. He ought almost to regret to part from the coal tax, for it seemed to him to be the only tax the discussion, of which was concentrated on the real issues. He shared the opinion that the Committee owed a great deal to the investigations of the Royal Commission, which had enabled them to approach this subject with a completeness of knowledge that otherwise they could never have attained. He frankly admitted that the discussion was taken in very different circumstances to those which prevailed when the tax was imposed or when the discussion took place last year, and he was free to make the admission that neither he nor did he think that any one would be prepared to initiate the tax in the present circumstances of the trade. But what had to be considered was not whether we 127 should impose this tax now for the first time, but whether it should be removed from the statute.
He did not propose to dwell at any length upon the tax as an important source of revenue which, in the circumstances of the present year, he could not afford to dispense with, and which at this stage of the Budget proposals he could not replace; but he did venture to observe that in considering the conditions of the coal trade at the present time and in the comparison which had constantly been made between now and the year 1900, the year before the tax was imposed, it should be remembered that the coal trade was, and always had been, subject to great fluctuations, and that the profits for everybody, for miners, for owners, for everybody interested, were abnormal in particular years; and if there was any prospect of such profits being permanently maintained, of course they would induce an influx of capital and create a demand for labour in that trade out of all proportion to what had been the case. But it was well known that following on these very good years—and this had always been so—there came bad years, and we had, therefore, the good with the bad years; and, just as he could not justify the tax by reference only to the best years, so the tax could not be condemned by arguments drawn solely from the bad years.
The Report of the Royal Commission had undoubtedly cleared the ground to a certain extent, and had disposed of some of the arguments which had at different times been used in debate, arguments which he had not employed and to which he had not attached much importance in his replies. For instance, though they did not express in any number of years the duration of our coal supplies, they had shown it was still so large as to remove all anxiety lest the supplies should be exhausted. The Commissioners did say what hon. Gentlemen had repeatedly mentioned, that the export coal trade was of great importance to the country generally, not merely to the coal industry itself but directly to the shipping trade and indirectly to many other industries through freights being affected by the absence of outward cargoes should coal exports be greatly 128 diminished or on their extinction, were it possible for a moment to contemplate such a thing; and, referring to the tax itself, they said the export duty must affect the competitive power of this country and must have an influence on the export of coal.
Figures had been cited in the course of the discussion in respect to particular districts, or ports, or sections of the trade, but the Committee would perhaps, allow him to, present a picture of what the trade as a whole had been in 1904 as compared with the preceding year. It was obviously possible out of the great mass of statistics to select a particular port or market and there show a great falling off in the export of coal, and it was equally true that the increase in a market might be caused by a trade dispute, a strike, or some abnormal circumstance, such as the war in the Far East, creating a demand for a particular coal. It was, therefore, important, for a true appreciation of the case, to examine the trade as a whole and not look merely to individual instances. Doing that, the result shown was that the number of men employed in the industry in 1904 was larger than the number in 1903, and the number of days work in each week only fractionally less— 5.07 as compared with 5.09. The production of coal was greater in 1904 than in 1903 to the extent of over 2,000,000 tons, but the average price at the pit's mouth had fallen, as hon. Members knew. In all the export coal districts—South Wales, Monmouth, Northumberland, and Fife—there was an increase in the number of men employed and the coal produced; only in Fife had there been a reduction in the days worked. Such was the condition of the trade as a whole. Was there any other great trade in the country of which it could be said that employment was better than in the year preceding? [Several hon. MEMBERS mentioned the textile trades.] He had not the figures before him, but he doubted if such a result could be shown in the woollen trade. The cotton trade was very bad in the early part of 1904, though in the latter part of the year there was a great revival. But even if any hon. Members could find specific trades where that was the case, 129 speaking generally, the condition in those trades was not better in 1904 than in 1903.
The coal tax could not affect home consumption; it could only affect exported coal. In 1903 was recorded the largest export up to that time, and it was exceeded in 1904. Excluding coke, patent fuel, and bunker coal the exports in 1904 amounted to 46,255,000 tons as against 44,950,000 tons in 1903, an increase of 1,305,000 tons, or including coke, patent fuel, and bunker coal the exports of 1904 exceeded the exports of the previous year by over 2,000,000 tons. In relation to banker coal, which some gentlemen wished to exclude from this comparison because bunker coal was not subject to the tax, it should be remembered that up to 1900 no one had any particular interest in separating this from other coal, and to make a fair comparison about 2,000,000 tons would have to be deducted on this account and attributed to bunker coal which in previous years was not entered specially as bunker coal but included in the total actually shipped. He was also asked what about the coal not exceeding 6s. per ton. There was an increase of that coal in 1904 in round figures of 1,300,000 tons. To what was that increase due? Obviously the general fall in the price of coal must bring a larger proportion of coal within the limit of the exemption. That was probably the main reason for the increase in the exportation of coal not exceeding 6s. a ton, but another reason was mentioned by the Commission in their Report. In recent years there had been vast improvements in the methods and appliances for preparing and utilising small coal. A great deal of small coal previously unmarketable, and often left in the pit to the great detriment of the workings, was now brought up and found a ready market either at home or abroad. As coal was less able to bear the tax, so it came within the limit of exemption and the amount of coal exempted increased. In 1902 the percentage of all the exports which received exemption was 6.72. In 1903 it was 9.89. In 1904, when the value of coal had further declined, the percentage which received exemption rose to 12.32. It would thus be seen that, in spite of the tax, the export of coal had 130 continued to rise, and was greater in the last twelve months than in any previous similar period.
§ MR. FENWICK
Could the Chancellor of the Exchequer tell us the rate of development since the imposition of the tax as compared with the rate of development before the tax was imposed?
§ MR. JOSEPH WALTON
The increase in exports last year is much more than accounted for by the abnormal demand of the Russian and Japanese Navies.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
replied that one of the difficulties of discussing that subject was that they were told each year that the exports had been maintained by abnormal circumstances which could not recur, and hon. Members opposite were obliged to continue to advance the argument that although after each completed year the exports had increased, it was due to exceptional circumstances. At any rate, it was sufficient for his purpose to say, whether owing to abnormal circumstances or not, the export of coal, which dropped in 1901 from the very high figure of 1900, had now exceeded the latter figure and broken the record.
It was said that the price of coal had fallen. That was true of the price abroad, perhaps, more than at home. He had had some letters from gentlemen living in coal-producing districts complaining that the price quoted by deputations to them as being the price free on board for exports was a price at which they could not buy at the pit's mouth even if they sent their own carts for it.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that his informants told him it was the same coal. For the first three months of this year, when other abnormal circumstances had arisen, the increase was again retained and amounted to over 500,000 tons, of which coal not exceeding 6s. accounted for only about 160,000 tons, or less than a third. He invited the Committee to look to the proportion which coal exported from this 131 country bore to the total output of the country. That the coal trade had been suffering from low prices and was going through a bad time no one doubted; but was it the export trade, part of which was subject to this tax, which alone had experienced these bad times? He had shown that the exports had increased in spite of the tax. What had happened with regard to the amount of coal kept for home consumption? In 1900 the export was 25.93 per cent, of the total output. It had risen steadily in each year since then. In 1903 it was 27.7 per cent., and last year 28.32 per cent, of the total output. So this export trade, which it was suggested this tax would kill, bore a larger proportion to the total trade in coal now than it did in any of the previous years. Since 1900 the total output of coal had increased by 7,230,000 tons. The whole of that increase, and something more, had gone in exports, the home consumption remaining about stationary.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Of course it did. He was aware that the hon. Member for Barnsley thought that bunkers ought to be excluded altogether from exports, but he differed from him upon that point. He altogether disagreed as to omitting bunker coal from the calculation. Not only did last year show the largest export of coal they had ever had—an increase even upon the high figure of the twelve months before—but it had shown that the whole increase on the output of coal had been in coal shipped from these shores, and not in coal remaining at home, which was free from the tax. It would be difficult, nay impossible, with those figures before them to contend that this tax was having the ruinous effect upon the export trade that hon. Gentlemen had attempted to prove. It was alleged that the tax was particularly injurious to trade with France, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Spain, Scandinavia, and the short trades, and yet the export to those countries continued to increase, In 1902 it was 15,800,000 tons, and it had risen to 17,700,000 tons in 1904. If they took the countries separately they would find the exports 132 in each case rose to a higher figure in 1904 than in 1903, and the figures for Germany were not affected by the strike. In the case of France alone had there been a fall—from 6,976,000 tons in 1903 to 6,757,000 tons in 1904, not a very considerable fall, but one deserving attention and which they must expect to see continued in the current year. The same fall was noticeable in the first quarter of 1905. What were the reasons for their losing their hold upon the French market? Undoubtedly it was largely due to the increased development of the Westphalian coalfields. The hon. Gentleman who spoke last said but for the coal tax those fields would never have been developed.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said he thought the hon. Gentleman underrated the signs of development visible before the tax was imposed, the certainty that a great development would take place with the growing wealth and industrial progress of Germany, and that the competition of the Westphalian coalfields was further aided by the facilities for water carriage which they possessed, which enabled them to dispense with transhipment. That development was further stimulated by those favourable and preferential railway rates which formed no small weapon in the German commercial armoury. The Royal Commission reported that in this country coal exporters did not try to suit the requirements of foreign markets, and that the methods of Germany were more scientific and satisfactory. The great importance of cleaning, sizing, and sorting coal was insisted on. Our coal in a natural state was better and cleaner than the German, and the latter had only been brought into competition by careful cleaning and grading. Circumstances pointed to keener competition in the French market, where we should not in future, perhaps, hold the position that we had in the past. But the increase of our exports to a group of countries more than counter balanced this decrease in the case of France.
133 The representatives of the miners had pointed to the fall in wages which had taken place since this tax was imposed. With the fall in prices there had been undoubtedly a fall in wages, but to prove that wages fell because of the tax it was necessary to prove that the prices fell because of the tax. In 1900 wages, like prices, were abnormally high, and it was certain that worse times must come. But he had not been able to ascertain that the miners in the exporting districts had fared worse in 1904 than the miners in the non-exporting districts. [Cries of "Yes."] He was conscious that this tax stood in a peculiar position among our fiscal weapons. It was the only export tax that we had, and its effect upon the trade must be carefully watched. He could conceive positions in which it might exercise a very detrimental and even a fatal effect upon the trade. But it could not be said that it had excited that effect yet, or that the deterrent effect of which the Commission spoke had been sufficiently serious to impair the prosperity of the trade. The Commission reported that the volume of the coal export trade had steadily increased during the last thirty years, and that the rate of increase in exports had been greater than that of the total output. This showed that many other factors much more important than the coal tax had been at work. There was a case for watching the tax and a case for greater energy on the part of those engaged in the trade and for careful consideration by them of how their methods might be improved.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that the monopoly still remained in a great many markets. [Cries of "Oh."] But the competition was becoming keener. He could not understand what effect hon. Gentlemen opposite supposed the tax to have or what they thought would happen if the tax were taken off.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that if the coalowner and coalminer would have another shilling to divide for every ton, it was evident that they would not sell the coal cheaper, and therefore that they would be no better off in competing in the foreign markets.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire, Rhondda)
They would keep their trade. The export of South Wales coal for the first three months of this year is 500,000 tons less than in the same period of last year.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
said that the export trade from Bristol Channel ports in 1900 was 18,500,000 tons, in 1903 nearly 20,000,000 tons, and in 1904, 20,800,000 tons. The hon. Member was perfectly right as to the figures for the first quarter of the year. But it could not be shown that this tax had seriously restricted the output or export of coal or lessened the amount of employment available in the exporting districts. The contrary was the case. Though he admitted that the tax must be watched, there was nothing in the facts or figures to make it imperative in a year like the present, with taxes and expenditure at the present height, to part with a source of revenue which brought in £2,000,000, and for which he could see no satisfactory substitute.
§ MR. T. RICHARDS (Monmouthshire)
said if he rightly understood the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that no Chancellor would attempt to impose the coal duty for the first time in existing circumstances, it was only fair to argue that the circumstances were such that its reimposition should not be insisted upon. He believed that if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol were Chancellor he would not reimpose the duty. He did not think there was a more unpopular man with those connected with the coal trade than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol when he put this tax on their industry. Since this tax was imposed the wages of the South Wales miners had suffered a considerable reduction. The state of things in the coal trade was serious, and he impressed on the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the reductions in wages 135 must be considered when they were dealing with the Amendment now before the Committee. In dozens of collieries in South Wales and Monmouthshire, and especially in Glamorganshire, the working of inferior seams had been, stopped directly as the result of this tax, and large numbers of men had been thrown out of work.
On a fair estimate the miners in South Wales and Monmouthshire had drawn from £15,000,000 to £16,000,000 less in wages since 1900 than they would have received if the rate prevailing in that year had been maintained. He admitted the year 1900 was somewhat abnormal, and, although he was not prepared to state how far the tax had affected wages, he affirmed that it had reduced our competitive power. Although the output had been fairly maintained and the number of workmen had been increased, that was accomplished only by sacrificing prices and the consequent loss to the owner and miner. As compared with 1900 the wages of the miners were 14 per cent. less in 1901; 30 per cent. less in 1902; 35 per cent. less in 1903; and 40 per cent. less in 1904. In view of this terrible reduction in their wages, the miners thought something ought to be done to prevent it, and they thought a little restriction on the output would accomplish that result. The Committee knew what had been the disastrous results to the miners of their attempts to enforce ''stop days." As a consequence of the case in the Law Courts they had had to provide £57,000 damages out of the funds of their association, besides a large amount of costs. He joined in the protest against this tax, because he believed that it could neither be called preferential, protective, nor retaliatory, but was destructive of both profits and wages in the coal industry.
The new Labour leader, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, had made extravagant promises, but the coal miners would be satisfied with something less than two jobs for one man. They would be satisfied with the removal of this tax and the finding of work for the men who were at present out of employment in the colliery districts. They had hoped from the Chancellor's 136 opening remarks that if he were Chancellor next year he would not reimpose the tax, but although that hope had been dissipated by his concluding observations, the Members representing the miners would offer the most determined opposition to any Chancellor who proposed to retain this unjust impost.
§ MR. MILVAIN (Hampstead)
said he had never been in sympathy with the coal tax. He had never voted for it, and he did not intend to do so to-day. It was a new experiment in finance, and he did not think it had been justified by the results. If it was desirable to tax this home industry he should have thought that it would have been better to put a smaller tax on the whole output of coal than to put a tax on only a portion, and that the portion which went out of the country. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had pointed to the fact that sure the tax was put on the exports had continued to increase up to last year. That was quite true, but it was rather inconsistent with the prosperity of the coal trade that there should be an increase in exports and a decrease in prices. He knew that in the county of Northumberland there were collieries on the seaboard which exported from 80 to 90 per cent. of their output. Was it not inequitable that the tax should fall so heavily on these collieries, and that it should not be felt in the collieries further inland which supplied the inland trade?
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the tax required very careful watching; but there were certain circumstances which tended to increase the output which might have escaped the notice of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the North the wages of miners depended upon ascertained prices. When prices were high, wages were high, and the miners did not work so many hours a day in order to obtain a living wage. But when the prices of coal were low, they had to work so many more hours a day in order to obtain a living wage. Consequently the output of coal was greater. It was an axiom, of political economy that when the supply was greater than the demand prices must fall. The Northumberland, coal trade was in competition with that 137 of the Westphahan Syndicate in Germany which had been nourished and encouraged by low rates and railway concessions. He would not go so far as to say that the syndicate had been subsidised by the German Government. At any rate it had not been burdened with taxation.
What was the effect of this tax on the Northumberland coal trade with Germany? Our 1s. tax was a burden on the home trader and a corresponding subsidy granted by us to the Westphalian Syndicate. It therefore handicapped the home industry to the advantage of the foreign. That, surely, was a novel experiment in finance which could not be justified in argument. How was the home exporter to retain his foreign market in these circumstances? Simply by underselling the foreigner in his own market; and therefore the home trader was handicapped by the home taxation. He supposed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer knew something of the endeavour to retain the foreign market for the British trader, and that he was familiar with the complaint of what was called "dumping" in this country. He did not say that the Northumberland coal traders were guilty of the offence of "dumping;" but he thought there was a strong temptation for them to do it. Why should the Government, under these circumstances, drive them by this tax to do so? But even in the darkness of this subject there was light. He himself, had always been a fair-trader and was a follower of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and he could not see that the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham was in any way carried out by this burden on home industry. The opponents of tariff reform always said that it was the consumer who paid the duty. That depended entirely upon supply and demand. If the supply was greater than the demand it was the exporter who paid; if the demand was greater than the supply it was the importer who paid. Every speaker had agreed that in the present case the tax was paid by the exporter. Indeed, there was another axiom of political economy well illustrated in this debate, namely, that so long as 138 there was competition within the tariff area, that competition would keep down the price of the commodity. For the reason he had given he had never approved of this tax and could not support the Government by his vote.
§ MR. BURT (Morpeth)
said that on former occasions when this subject had been before the House of Commons he had spoken, perhaps, at unconscionable length, and he would have been inclined now to leave the case as it had been presented so admirably by the hon. Member for Barnsley and by his colleagues, the hon. Members for Wansbeck, Mid-Durham and for South Wales. But he represented a constituency that was very seriously and very directly affected by this tax. They had had a very interesting debate, if they could call it a debate, for, with the exception of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, not a single word had been uttered on either side in support of the tax. But the right hon. Gentleman's speech was rather half-hearted; in fact, he thought when he was mentioning the various altered circumstances under which they debated the subject that day as compared with last year, it almost meant a declaration on his part that the tax would be abolished, if not this year, certainly next. He had ventured to predict that they would not have a single Member of a mining constituency who intended to be a candidate at the next election, standing up and saying a single word in defence of the tax. Like most other Members he had in opponent. There was no particular reason why he should be exempt from opposition more than another, and considering that his opponent, who had recently been holding a series of meetings, began all his speeches by telling the electors what an excellent Member they had—of course he could have no objection to his holding as many meetings as possible at a time when he himself was not able to attend. But it was rather a significant fact that this gentleman at us very first meeting said, without any one asking him, that if elected, he would oppose the coal tax.
The, Royal Commission had unanimously decided that an overwhelming part of the evidence presented to them 139 went against this tax, that the tax had greatly weakened and crippled our competitive power and they gave some very reassuring evidence with regard to our coal resources. The facts and figures were almost bewildering in their magnitude. The Royal Commission of 1871 estimated our coal resources at about 90,000,000,000 of tons; but more than thirty years afterwards the recent Royal Commission stated that after nearly 6,000,000,000 tons had been taken out of our coal fields there were still over 100,000,000,000 tons of coal in Great Britain. In the case of a trade in which hundreds of thousands of men and millions of capital were employed it was absolutely necessary that it should be kept going to the fullest possible extent It was true that abnormal conditions, such as the strikes in America, France, Belgium, and Germany had helped to maintain their trade; but to his mind it was a very unhealthy condition if miners could only maintain their existence through the misfortunes of their fellows in other parts of the world. The Chancellor of the Exchequer rather objected to distinction being made between bunker coal and other exported coal, but he certainly thought that the distinction between coal exported to and bought by foreign countries, and coal that was used by our own countrymen in British ships was a very fair one to make. He, however, was mainly interested in the effect of this tax on wages, and there was not a shadow of doubt that it bore very injuriously on the wages of miners, for the coal-exporting districts had suffered much more severely in the reduction of wages than other mining districts. The right hon. Gentleman objected to the coal tax being called a war tax; but it would never have been imposed had it not been for the war. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself admitted that, if it had not been previously imposed, he would not have imposed it at the present time.
§ SIR THOMAS WRIGHTSON (St. Pancras, E.)
said he had always been opposed to this tax. The right hon. Gentleman said that the tax required watching. He himself contended that the proper way to 140 look at this matter was to take the total, cost of the article and to compare it with the price that could be obtained in a foreign country when subject to foreign competition. Let the Chancellor of the Exchequer take the nett cost of the coal in this country, add to that the charges for freight, then add this shilling, and then face the competition of Germany, which had no shilling to add to her cost. If Germany could put her coal in one penny a ton cheaper than that, England was beaten out of the market. The tax represented 17 per cent. on the present price of Northumberland coal. The case was sufficiently simple in itself. The objection to the tax was, that it added to the cost. We could not add a shilling a ton to our cost without giving the foreigner the benefit of it, and the consequence was that the foreigner laughed at us and developed his collieries as fast as he could. It was perfectly evident that if we added 1s. a ton to the cost we were handicapped in competing with foreigners, but until the right hon. Gentleman took that view he was afraid he would not take the course they hoped, he would adopt and abolish this foolish impost. The debate had proved incontestably, by no one getting up to defend it, that this tax was a bad tax, and he trusted it might not be long before it was taken off. He had great sympathy with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because, after all, he had to find revenue, and the area of taxation under our present system was a small one, but he thought the right hon. Gentleman might have given some indication that, if the area was widened, this would be the first burden that would be removed.
§ SIR JAMES JOICEY (Durham, Chesterle Street)
said he was somewhat surprised that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not given a straight forward promise that on the first opportunity he would relieve the coal industry of the objectionable tax. The arguments in favour of the tax had always been, first, that it was necessary to preserve our coal for the use of future generations, and second, that if we imposed this tax it would lead to a reduction of the price to home consumers. The Report of the Royal Commission had completely swept away both those fallacies. 141 No stronger justification could have been put forward for the arguments against this tax when it was first proposed than the Report of the Royal Commission, and if there was no justification, as appeared from that Report, for the imposition of this tax, there was no justification for its continuance any more than there was any justification for the imposition of any other tax on articles exported from this country. After the issue of that Report the right hon. Gentleman had not a leg to stand, upon, and he should have made it clear that on the first opportunity he would abandon the tax.
The right hon. Gentleman made a great admission when he said under the present circumstances no such tax would have been imposed. That in itself made it quite clear that in the right hon. Gentleman's own mind, apart from the extraordinary year 1900, there was no justification for the tax. But on that occasion the then Chancellor of the Exchequer was told in this House that the coal trade was a peculiar trade and liable to violent fluctuations, and that when judging a trade for the purposes of taxation it was not fair to judge it otherwise than on an average of years. No justification had been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the continuance of this tax. It was no argument to say that no trade, generally, was better. It was particular localities that suffered, and mining was unlike any other industry in the world. They could not stop their mines in the same way as they could stop a mill or factory. They must keep going, and the result was that if they could not get their regular customers to take their goods they had to make an effort to get customers elsewhere. The Government had no right to interfere with the coal industry and prevent it making use of all its markets, particularly when the Government was composed of gentlemen, some of whom held the opinion that we should not give preference to foreigners. We were certainly giving a great preference to those countries that produced coal.
Great production was taken as a sign of prosperity in the coal trade, but that was not his experience. His experience was the men when earning good wages did not do so much work. It was only when 142 their wages were low that they worked longer hours and produced more coal. It was generally found, also, that when trade was bad in this country and there was a difficulty in getting customers at home people were driven to seek customers abroad. In Durham, for instance, when the iron trade became depressed, collieries which had been in the habit of sending coal to the iron consumers immediately began sending it to the ports for shipment, with the result that prices went down and exports up. Then it was said the freights were low. But even with the low freights to France and Germany, we had been unable to maintain our position. Shipowners would agree that the shipping trade had not been so depressed for many years, and that had doubtless prevented coalowners feeling the full effects of the tax. But freights would not always remain in their present low condition, as shipowners were losing money, and there would have to be an increase sooner or later.
Then, too, in exporting to competing districts like France or Germany or Belgium, the tax had to be taken into consideration, and it affected the price all round. It was a remarkable fact that, the price for practically all coal sold abroad was fixed by the rate of the lowest contract; consequently, the effect of this tax was much more far reaching than could beat present realised. Home consumers generally obtained their coal at a lower price than foreigners, but a limitation of trade usually had the opposite effect, and if the Government persisted in making exporters accept a lass price in competing markets, where the tax had to be taken into account, the price to the home consumer would have to be raised to compensate for the lower price abroad. The coal business no more than any other could be carried on at a loss, and he hoped, especially after the Report of the Royal Commission, the Government would next year decide to remove the tax, which had been mischievous in every respect since its original imposition.
§ SIR WALTER PLUMMER (Newcastle-on-Tyne)
said he had been waiting to hear the case stated for the tax, but 143 speech after speech had been delivered alternately from either side and, with the exception of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was bound to defend it, no one had put forward a single argument in its favour. However disappointed the opponents of the tax might be at the remarks of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the fact that the impost had not found a single supporter on either side the House would give them great encouragement for the future, and he would be much surprised of any Chancellor of the Exchequer defended the maintenance of the duty twelve months hence. He ventured to intertene in the debate as one who had cot the qualifications possessed in so high a degree by most other Members who had spoken. He was not connected with any one of the four classes pre-eminently affected by the tax. He was not a coalowner—he wished he were—a shipowner, a coal exporter, or a miner; but he represented a place closely identified with the prosperity of all those classes. During his experience of Parliament he had never attended a debate in which the interest was more sustained than that day. The House had not been full, but every speech had been worth listening to, and none more so than that of the hon. Member for Morpeth, whom all welcomed back, and were glad to see so largely restored to health. He joined in the appeal, which he trusted might reach the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that before another year he might see his way to drop this tax.
Last year the right hon. Gentleman said, and said truly, that he was waiting for the Report of the Royal Commission, remarking that until the Report was issued he was prepared to keep an open mind on the subject. That afternoon the open mind had been changed to the watchful eye—the Chancellor stating that this was a tax which required watching. They meant to watch both the tax and the Chancellor for some little time to come. The situation had been changed, and changed entirely, since last year, owing to the Report of the Royal Commission. If an explanation was to be found for the very significant fact that not a single hon. Member had spoken on either side in favour of the tax it 144 was due to the circumstance that the Royal Commission had spoken so strongly and unanimously. Up to that time they might have considered that there were arguments in favour of the tax, but since the issue of the Report the whole position had been altered. The Commission had reported that the coal export trade was of "supreme importance to the country." No words could be stronger; no adjective could be used with greater emphasis. The Commission also reported that there was no necessity to restrict this export trade, and that the export duty did restrict the trade. An hon. Member had quoted somewhat extensively the figures the Commission had considered as to the extent of the coalfields of the country, and if he remembered rightly the hon. Member said that if the trade went on as it was doing, and as he hoped it would do for many years to come, there would be sufficient coal in the bowels of the earth to last for 400 or 500 years. If that was the case he ventured to think, in view of the discoveries of science and in view of the development of electricity, that we need not husband our resources, which was one of the chief arguments advanced by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol when he imposed the tax.
It was perfectly true that the Chancellor could point, as he had pointed, to the gross totals of our export trade and say with a certain amount of satisfaction that the trade was vigorous and imply that it was better than ever. But he did not think those two arguments went together. They might have a trade which was bigger but not better. [Hear, hear!] He was glad to hear that cheer from the opposite benches, because one of the arguments which he was trying to use was that the prosperity of a country, or the prosperity of a particular trade, was not necessarily measured by the volume of that trade, and though he believed that the Chancellor, pointing to the gross totals, could argue that the trade was bigger than ever, he ventured to say that when the trade was analysed, and when they took the extent of the bunker trade and the small coal trade, they would find that although they had a bigger trade in the gross, it was not better or more prosperous. If it were 145 so, prices would be higher and miners' wages would be going up instead of coming down.
There had been some confusion in the mind of the Chancellor, if not in the minds of certain Members who advocated the tax, between the ordinary increase in the trade and the increase upon the increase which was going on before the tax was established, and which they had a right to expect to continue in future. It was because they were not getting the natural increase upon the increase that they had an argument against the tax. He did not wish to repeat all the arguments which had been used in previous years with regard to the tax. He had not any confession or conversion to plead. He had always been against the tax, and tried to oppose it. What he would like to hear from the Government bench was a clearer recognition of the importance of the Report of the Royal Commission than they had had from the lips of the Chancellor that day. Would the right hon. Gentleman say, or would somebody say on his behalf, that he recognised to the full the importance of the Report which had been unanimously arrived at by a most able and influential Royal Commission on the coal supplies of the country? Would he say that he recognised that a Report of that character demanded his attention, and that the recommendations would be carried out on the first opportunity consistent with the financial affairs of the nation? He added his voice to the many that had been, heard in favour of the abolition of the tax.
§ SIR WILLIAM HOLLAND (Yorkshire, W.R., Rotherham)
said he wished to say word or two against this tax. He had the honour to represent a mining constituency, and if he did not speak against a tax of this character his constituents would be justified in hauling him over the coals. The Chancellor of the Exchequer admitted that he could not initiate such a tax as this under the present circumstances. Why could he not initiate this tax now? Was it not because it could not be justified? Why did the Government cling to a tax which could not be justified? The Chancellor of the Exchequer must 146 see very clearly that the coal tax had not got a friend in the House, and after the recommendations of the Royal Commission it would not have many friends in the country. The, right hon. Gentleman had sought to minimise the effect of the tax, but surely he could not seriously argue that the tax had not had a very injurious effect upon the industry concerned. If he did advance such an argument he would be making far too large a demand upon the common-sense of the House. The Chancellor of the Exchequer mast, from his own experience, have observed the loss of a very large number of contracts for coal by reason of this tax, and that must have pro tanto diminished employment of labour in this country. In effect it was very much as though this country was being discriminated against by every other country in the world, not merely every foreign country, but also our own Colonies as well, to the extent of 1s. per ton. This country, in effect, was being discriminated against to that extent, but the hand that inflicted the wrong was the hand of our own Government. That being the position of things he thought there was every reason why they should be up in arms against such an obvious injustice.
It had been urged again and again in regard to the coal duty that in the long run it would be paid by the consumer. He thought, with all respect, that the reason why this tax could not be thrown on the foreign consumer was that our foreign competitors were not competing with us on equal terms. If we were competing with them on equal terms there would be a chance of levying the tax on the foreign consumer, but our foreign competitors were not subject to this disability, and that was a bar to throwing the tax on the foreign consumer. Earlier this afternoon the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil asked when the Government were going to introduce the Unemployed Bill. The position of labour in this country had been very greatly aggravated by the imposition of this tax, and there would be very much less need for Bills dealing with the question of the unemployed if the Government would show more sympathy than unfortunately they at present did 147 Towards industrial questions when they came before the House. He very cordially supported the Amendment.
§ MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire, Rhondda)
said the representatives of coal-mining districts took this opportunity of protesting against the iniquitous coal tax. He had a good deal of sympathy for the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, in proposing the reimposition of the tax, was performing a duty his heart was not in. The right hon. Gentleman had to support this tax which was placed on the coal industry by those who preceded him. He had been obliged to tell the Committee to-day that although his father punished them with whips he must punish them with scorpions. Last year they asked for bread and got nothing but a stone. They expected something better this time, but still they were disappointed.
He agreed with the hon. Gentleman who said that it was not good enough to say that they should take no notice of particular cases. This question was made up of particular cases. In South Wales nearly half of the coal produced was exported, and on every ton sold at over 6s. the tax meant a loss to the community of 1s. There had been two periods in the coal trade since the tax was imposed. In the time of prosperity they were told that the tax did not affect trade. They were told by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Bristol when the tax was first imposed that it would not affect wages in any way. That could not be said that night. During the thirty years he had been connected with conciliation or other boards the employers had always stated that they got the last penny possible from the buyers of coal. If that was so, it followed that the 1s. duty now imposed was lost to the coalowner and the miner. When it was remembered that nearly half the coal produced in South Wales was exported, and that the 1s. tax was equal to about 10 per cent. on the value, it would be seen that the wages of the workers during the past four years must have been affected to the tune of 5 per cent. per annum. That meant that a man earning £52 a year lost £2 12s. out of his wages, and that 148 others who were earning higher wages, lost in like proportion, yet they were told that this tax did not affect the wages of the worker. No one could go to South Wales and tell such a tale as that. Members of this House who represented communities of workers, whatever their political views might be, had no hope of being returned again if they voted for the reimposition of this tax. Hon. Gentlemen, whether on his or on the other side of the House, if they desired to come back there after the next general election, unless they pledged, themselves to vote for the abolition of this iniquitous tax, would receive the vote of no miner in the country. It was evident that unless this iniquitous imposition was removed the coalowners, the coal-traders, and the shipowners would lose a portion of their profits, while the collier would continue to lose 5 per cent. of his wages. This question ought to be settled once and for ever. No more argument was needed. All that was wanted was the opportunity; and he thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was losing that opportunity now.
§ MR. CHARLES WILSON (Hull, W.)
said this tax was a very bad one for the shipowners. He remembered the Merchandise Marks Act, which took away a great deal of our transhipment trade with the Continent. Now it was proposed who should assist coal made in Germany to take away our coal trade, this being the effect of the shilling duty opening out the Westphalian coal-fields in competition. He knew that a shipping firm on the East Coast with some twenty weekly sailings to the Continental ports entirely depended on the export of coal to complete the cargoes of these trading steamers. They had chairmen and directors of the Great Eastern Railway Company and the Great Central Railway Company in the House. The prosperity of these two great undertakings was practically dependent on the export of coal. They could not defend this tax. He could sympathise with the colliery proprietors and the colliers who worked in the mines, but he wanted a little sympathy also for the shipowners. He desired to make one recommendation to the 149 Chancellor of the Exchequer, namely that he should do away with this tax and have one battleship less. That would help to cover it. It would probably be found, as a result of the war now going on in the Far East, that less reliance must be placed on these expensive and unreliable engines of warfare. He thought it his duty as a shipowner to protest and endeavour to abolish the coal tax. As an instance of the great reduction in freights consequent on the tax a contract had been entered into from the East Coast to Antwerp to carry coal at 2s. 3d. per ton over the whole season; and, if the tax remained, the carrying
§ trade over the North Sea from, the East Coast of England would be seriously injured and in some cases destroyed. He was afraid what they said, could not have much effect on this Government, which wished to interfere with trade in so many ways; and he would only say that he considered this tax one of the most serious disabilities that a great industry could suffer from, and one which was entirely unnecessary.
§ Question put.
§ The Committee divided:—Ayes, 167: Noes, 200. (Division List No. 183.)153
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Field, William||M'Crae, George|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Findlay, Alexander (Lanark, N E)||M'Hugh, Patrick A.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Fitzmaurice, Lord Edmond||M'Kean, John|
|Asher, Alexander||Flavin, Michael Joseph||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Flynn, James Christopher||Mooney, John J.|
|Asquith, Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Foster, Sir Walter (Derby Co.)||Murphy, John|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Austin, Sir John||Furness, Sir Christopher||Nolan, Joseph (Louth, South|
|Banner, John S. Harmood||Gilhooly, James||Nussey, Thomas Willans|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Goddard, Daniel Ford||O'Brien, Kendal (Tipperary Mid|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir. E. (Berwick||O' Brien, P. J. (Tipperary N.|
|Beaumont, Wentworth C. B.||Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||O'Connor, James (Wicklow W.)|
|Boland, John||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.,|
|Brigg, John||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||O'Donnell, John (Mayo, S.,|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Hammond, John||O'Dowd, John|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Harcourt, Lewis||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon. V|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Hardie, J Keir (Mcrthyr Tydvil)||O'Malley, William|
|Burns, John||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Burt, Thomas||Helme, Norval Watson||Parrott, William|
|Buxton, Sydney Charles||Hemphill, Rt. Hon. Charles H.||Partirigton, Oswald|
|Caldwell, James||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Paulton, James Mellor.|
|Cameron, Robert||Holland, Sir William Henry||Pearson, Sir Weetman D.|
|Campbell, John (Armagh, S.)||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Pease, J. A. (Saffron Walden|
|Campbell Bannerman, Sir H.||Hutton, Alfred E. (Morley)||Philipps, John Wynford|
|Causton, Richard Knight||Jacoby, James Alfred||Plummer, Sir Walter R|
|Channing Francis Allston||Johnson, John||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Joicey, Sir James||Rea, Russell|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Jones, D. Brynmor (Swansea||Reddy, M.|
|Cremer, William Randal||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Crombie, John William||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Reid, Sir R. Threshie (Dumfrics)|
|Crooks, William||Joyce, Michael||Richards, Thomas (W Mon'mth)|
|Dalziel, James Henry||Kearley, Hudson E.||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Delany, William||Kennedy, Vincent P (Cavan, W.||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Kilbride, Denis||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Doogan, P. C.||Labouchere, Henry||Robson, William Snowdon|
|Douglas, Charles M. (Lanark)||Lambert, George||Roche, John|
|Dunn, Sir William||Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Edwards, Frank||Lamont, Norman||Runciman, Walter|
|Elibank, Master of||Langley, Batty||Russell, T. W.|
|Ellice, Capt E C (St. Andrw's Bghs||Law, Hugh Alex. (Donegal, W.)||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)|
|Elliot, Hon. A. Ralph Douglas||Lawson, Sir Wilfrid (Cornwall)||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Ellis, John Edward (Notts.)||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Shackleton, David James|
|Evans, Sir Francis H (Maidstone||Leigh, Sir Joseph||Sheehan, Daniel Daniel|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||Levy, Maurice||Shipman, Dr. John G|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Lundon, W.||Sinclair, John (Forfarshire.|
|Fenwick, Charles||Lyell, Charles Henry||Smith, H C (North'mb. Tyneside|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Mac Veagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Samuel (Flint)|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Toulmin, George||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.|
|Spencer, Rt Hn. C R (Northants||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.|
|Stanhope, Hon. Philip James||Ure, Alexander||Wilson, W. J. (Worcestersh. N.)|
|Strachey, Sir Edward||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Woodhouse, Sir J T (Huddersf'd|
|Sullivan, Donal||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||Young, Samuel|
|Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr.|
|Thomas. J A (Glamorgan, Gower||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.)||Herbert Gladstone and Mr.|
|Thomson, F. W. (York, W. R.)||Wilson, Fred. W. (Norfolk, Mid.||William M' Arthur.|
|Agnew, Sir Andrew Noel||Dyke, Rt. Hon Sir William Hart||Lockwood, Lieut-Col. A. R.|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry Eden||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.)||Long, Col. Charles W (Evesham|
|Allsopp, Hon. George||Fellowes, Rt Hn Ailwyn Edward||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Bristol, S)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Fergusson, Rt. Hn. Sir J (Manc'r||Lowe, Francis William|
|Arnold-Forster Rt. Hn Hugh O.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Loyd, Archie Kirkman|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Finlay, Sir R B. (Inv'rn's B'ghs||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Fisher, William Hayes||Macdona, John Cumming|
|Bailey, James (Walworth.)||Fitz Gerald, Sir Robert Penrose||Maconochie, A. W.|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward Algernon||M'Arthur, Charles (Liverpool)|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Flannery, Sir Fortescue||M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)|
|Balcarres, Lord||Forster, Henry William||Malcolm, Ian|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Galloway, William Johnson||Marks, Harry Hananel|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Gardner, Ernest||Martin, Richard Biddulph|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. Gerald W (Leeds||Gibbs Hon. A. G. H.||Maxwell, Rt Hn Sir H. E. (Wigt'n|
|Balfour, Kenneth R. (Christch.||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Maxwell, W. J. H (Dumfriessh.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby||Melville, Beresford Valentine|
|Hartley, Sir George C. T.||Gorst, Rt. Hon. Sir John Eldon||Mildmay, Francis Bingham|
|Bhownaggree, Sir M. M.||Goschen, Hon. George Joachim||Milner. Rt. Hon Sir Frederick G.|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Mitchell, William (Burnley)|
|Bigwood, James||Graham, Henry Robert||Molesworth, Sir Lewis|
|Bill, Charles||Gray, Ernest (West Ham)||Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Greene, Henry D. (Shrewsbury)||Montagu, Hon. J Scott (Hants.)|
|Bond, Edward||Greene, W. Raymond (Cambs.)||Morgan, David J (Walthamstow|
|Boulnois, Edmund||Grenfell, William Henry||Morrell, George Herbert|
|Bowles, Lt.-Col. H. F (Middlesex||Gretton, John||Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer|
|Brassey, Albert||Greville, Hon. Ronald||Mount, William Arthur|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Gunter, Sir Robert||Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.|
|Brown, Sir Alex. H. (Shropsh.)||Guthrie, Walter Murray||Murray, Charles J. (Coventry)|
|Brymer, William Ernest||Hall, Edward Marshall||O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Bull, William James||Halsey, Rt. Hon. Thomas F.||Palmer, Sir Walter (Salisbury)|
|Butcher, John George||Hambro, Charles Erie||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Campbell, J. H. M. (Dublin Univ.||Hamilton, Marq. of (L'nd'nderry||Percy, Earl|
|Carson, Rt, Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashford||Pierpoint, Robert|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Hare, Thomas Leigh||Platt-Higgins, Frederick|
|Cavendish, V. C. W (Derbyshire||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles William||Heath, Sir James (Staffords N W||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Chamberlain, Rt Hn J. A. (Worc.||Heaton, John Henniker||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward|
|Chapman, Edward||Helder Augustus||Purvis, Robert|
|Clive, Captain Percy A.||Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.)||Pym, C. Guy|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Hickman, Sir Alfred||Reid, James (Greenock)|
|Coddington, Sir William||Hobhouse, Rt Hn H (Somers't, E||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine|
|Coghill, Douglas Harry||Hope J. F. (Sheffield, Bright side||Ritchie. Rt. Hon Chas. Thomson|
|Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Hoult, Joseph||Roberts, Samuel (Sheffield)|
|Compton, Lord Alwyne||Howard, J. (Midd., Tottenham)||Robertson, Herbert (Hackney)|
|Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Hozier, Hon. James Henry Cecil||Rollit, Sir Albert Kaye|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hudson, George Bickersteth||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.||Hunt, Rowland||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel Walter|
|Cripps, Charles Alfred||Hutton, John (Yorks. N. R.)||Round, Rt. Hon. James|
|Cross, Alexander(Glasgow)||Jessel, Captain Herbert Merton||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)|
|Cross, Herb. Shepherd (Bolton)||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt Hon. Col. W||Sackville, Col. S. G. Stopford|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Keswick, William||Samuel, Sir Harry S (Limehouse|
|Dalrymple, Sir Charles||Kimber, Sir Henry||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln)|
|Davenport, William Bromley||King, Sir Henry Seymour||Sharpe, William Edward T.|
|Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H (Renfrew)|
|Dickson, Charles Scott||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)||Sinclair, Louis (Romford)|
|Dimsdale, Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph C.||Lawson. Hn H. L. W. (Mile End)||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Lee, Arthur H (Hants., Fareham||Smith, Abel H. (Hertford, East)|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers||Legge, Col Hon. Heneage||Stanley, Edward Jas (Somerset)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Leveson-Gower, Frederick N. S.||Stanley, Rt. Hon. Lord (Lancs.)|
|Stewart, Sir Mark J. M 'Taggart||Tritton, Charles Ernest||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Stock, James Henry||Tuff, Charles||Wilson-Todd, Sir W H (Yorks)|
|Stone, Sir Benjamin||Tufnell, Lieut-Col. Edward||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Strutt, Hon. Charles Hedley||Tuke, Sir John Batty||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart|
|Taylor, Austin (East Toxtetu)||Walrond, Rt. Hn. Sir William H.||Yerburgh, Robert Armstrong|
|Thorburn, Sir Walter||Welby, Lt-Col A. C. E. (Taunton|
|Thornton, Percy M.||Welby, Sir Charles G. E. (Notts.)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Sir|
|Tollemache, Henry James||Whitmore, Charles Algernon||Alexander Acland-Hood|
|Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.||Wilson, A Stanley (York, E. R.)||and Viscount Valentia.|
§ And, it being after half-past Seven of the clock, the Chairman left the Chair to make his Report to the House.
§ Committee report Progress; to sit again this evening.