§ Order read, for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment proposed [19th February] to Question proposed [12th February], "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign,
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—(Mr. Tomkinson.)—
§ Which Amendment was—
§ "At the end of the Question to add the words 'But this House humbly expresses regret that no reference is made in Your Majesty's Speech to the approaching Colonial Conference, and to the opportunity thereby offered for promoting freer trade within the 864 Empire and closer commercial relations with the Colonies on a preferential basis.' "—(Mr. Hills.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)
said Mr. Speaker, we were treated yesterday to a spectacle which, I think, is unique in the matter of Parliamentary arrangements, at all events is unique in my experience. A Motion was brought in, the importance of which, whatever we may think of it, is denied by no section of this House. It was moved and seconded in speeches of great ability and of great moderation, and the Government took six hours to reflect before they put up one of their members to reply. The ordinary course, the most ordinary course, is that some member of the Government shall rise to give his opinion and the opinion of his colleagues upon an Amendment to the Address immediately after 865 the Motion has been moved and seconded. I quite agree that is not an invariable rule, and there is no impropriety in allowing some interval to elapse between the Motion being put and the reply of a responsible Minister; but I never heard of that interval being extended from a quarter to five in the afternoon till a quarter past ten in the evening. When I listened to the speech which was delivered at a quarter past ten in the evening some glimmering of the reason for the postponement began to dawn upon me. I think the Under-Secretary for the Colonies had anticipated that his task would be to reply to quite a different kind of speech from the very able speeches which were in fact delivered by my two hon. friends behind me, and that his artillery, against the efficiency of which I say nothing, at all events is deficient in mobility. He requited some hours reflection before he could readjust his batteries to the new situation. But even then the hon. Gentleman failed altogether to deal with the very able and interesting speech delivered by my hon. friend the Member for Dulwich, who spoke late last evening. Indeed, he told my hon. friend with perfect truth that his speech was a model of close reasoning, but whether the reasoning was too close to be answered, or for some other reason, there was literally no attempt to deal with my hon. friend's arguments, unless we are to consider it as dealing with his arguments to describe that speech as an overt declaration in favour of protection. Nobody who listened to the speech, who also happens to know what protection is, could for a moment suppose that that charge was justified by anything that my hon. friend said. My hon. friend's argument was a most able argument in favour of the advantage—nay, more than the advantage, the pressing necessity—to this country of markets outside these shores. Those who think the need of this country for external markets is a great and growing need are not therefore protectionists. There are, on the other hand, those who see clearly what is the inevitable result, which I for one am willing to face, of the great movement which culminated in the abolition of the Corn Laws in 1846. It is that movement which has made these external markets a necessity. If you keep a great agricultural population in the country in the 866 only way you can, by protection—the way the French, the Germans, and other nations, subject to this foreign competition in the matter of food, keep such a population—no doubt the need for foreign markets may be less pressing—it would always be great, but it would be less pressing, less absolutely imperative than it is under our existing system. But we have deliberately, and I think rightly, said we do not mean to hamper our national development by attempting to preserve a great agricultural population by high protective duties on foodstuffs. I am prepared to face the true consequences of that choice, when we openly proclaimed ourselves a country which has to live by its manufactures, which has to import vast quantities of food stuffs, vast quantities of raw material, which must have a great export trade, and to which it is an absolutely vital necessity that that export trade should be carried on under the most favourable conditions. That is not protection; that is free trade; and it was to that thesis that my hon. friend addressed himself in the powerful speech he made last night. I should not complain, however, of the Under-Secretary's evading the duty of replying to his predecessor in debate, if his own speech had really contained any contribution to the really great national issue which this Amendment involves. The hon. Gentleman could not get above the level of the ordinary electioneering platform speech. He is an excellent platform speaker and an excellent electioneerer. My praise is sincere. There is no tincture of irony in it. He is an excellent platform speaker and electioneerer, but there are occasions, and I think this is one, on which the representative of that department which has to deal with all the great self-governing Colonies, might have kept the Imperial aspect of this question before his mind. A little less Party would not, I think, have been unbecoming the representative in this House of one of the greatest departments in the State. Who would have guessed, from listening to the hon. Gentleman, that the great self governing Colonies had practically without a dissentient voice expressed, not once or twice, but persistently and for a series of years, their desire to see this preferential system adopted? No one would have conjectured, or would hardly have conjectured, such a request had been 867 made. The hon. Gentleman, at all events, did not think it of importance to deal with that aspect of the question. But to me that aspect of the question is the most vital, the most fundamental, of all, because I think that here the Colonies have themselves made a contribution towards a solution of the greatest problem which any Empire has had to face, a problem which is absolutely new in the history of the world, for which we can learn nothing from history, to which no parallel exists in the records of civilisation—I mean how an Empire which consists of these separate self-governing Colonies is both to grow in strength, in numbers, and at the same time in unity.
It is one of the commonplaces—not, I think, a very illuminating commonplace—to liken the Empire of which we are citizens to the ancient Empire of Rome. But the problem we have to deal with is not only not the same problem which the Romans had to deal with—it is exactly the opposite problem. The problem they had to deal with was how to bring within the compass of the Roman Empire a large number of States that had previously been independent States, to make them forget their independence, to make them merge all their aspirations in the larger unity of the conquering City, and to regard themselves no longer as Greeks, Egyptians, Gauls, Spaniards, or Britons, but as citizens of Rome. Our problem is exactly the reverse. We have to deal with young, growing nations conscious of their destiny. We do not want to make the Canadian forget that he is a Canadian and that Canada is going to be one of the greatest communities in the world; we do not want to make the Australian forget he is an Australian and that Australia is going to rank as one of the great free communities which owe their origin, no doubt, to this country, but have a great independent life of their own. We want to find a plan by which this growth of nationality, this consciousness of a great future, which these young communities have in so full a measure, is to be combined with that sense of communion in some higher unity with the Mother Country which gave them birth. That is a problem which we have only half solved, and of which the half solution we have given deals only with the negative half of the question. There was a time when, 868 I think very naturally, this country, although far in advance of other nations with regard to management of colonies, had not realised—there are some politicians who have not realised it yet—that you cannot call into being great representative Assemblies and put one under the control of, and in subordination to, another, and that, if you choose to have Legislatures in Massachusetts, going back to the eighteenth century, and in Canada, going back to the last century, if you choose to have a Legislature in Ireland, looking forward to the possibilities of the future, it is folly to suppose those Assemblies you have brought into existence, those very institutions to which you have given birth, when you have brought them into existence are going to subordinate their views even to the Mother of Parliaments. So far as the Colonies are concerned we learned the lesson, and it was a sharp lesson, in dealing with America. I am not sure I should say we have all learned it. I have heard suggestions of dealing with the last offspring of our colonial effort in a manner which I think shows that the lesson of America has not penetrated to the depths of the consciousness of hon. Gentlemen opposite. At all events, I think we may broadly lay down that the solution of the negative half of the problem is, at all events, very generally accepted, namely, that we are not to interfere, and that we cannot interfere, with the development and free conduct of their affairs by these self-governing communities. But the positive half remains unsolved and has been a constant perplexity to statesmen of all parties, and to thinkers of all times. How are you going, if you do not mean to have any constitutional power of interference, to keep living the bonds that unite those separate autonomous communities? Many suggestions have been made. It has been suggested, for example, that there should be an Imperial Council with executive powers, in which all these Colonies and in which, of course, we should be represented. I think that must be for this generation, and for many generations, perhaps for all time, but at all events for the present generation, absolutely abandoned. I do not believe that we should submit to it. I am quite positive that our autonomous Colonies would not hear of it. Mould it how you 869 will, have it how you like, frame it how you will, such central council must interfere with some of the prerogatives, and some of the powers which no representative Assembly having Ministers responsible to it would ever submit to have interfered with.
Giving up that solution we must also, I think, give up the idea of an Imperial zollverein in the true and full sense of that word. If by zollverein is meant some arrangement with regard to taxation similar to that which prevails in the German Empire, which involves powers of exceptional taxation, and powers on the part of the central authority to arrange the fiscal system of all the separate units of which the Empire consists, that power will never be given to any central body, nor do I see how it could be given without the utmost inconvenience, and worse than inconvenience, to all the separate States concerned. Although we may all aspire in the language of the resolution to seeing freer trade adopted within the Empire, the idea that the British Empire can be like the German Empire, and have within it no Customs House lines is an idea which however attractive, is quite impracticable under existing conditions. If these two great ambitious plans are rejected, as they must be rejected, there are humbler methods and humbler contributions, the merits of which I do not mean to dwell upon now. It has been thought, I thought, and I still think, that the peculiar constitution of the Committee of Defence gives the Colonies an opportunity—it is in itself not an executive body—of consulting with us on any question which they desire to consult us upon, and arranging with us questions concerning our common security against external attack. That has been done under the late Government. I do not know that it has, as yet, been very largely taken advantage of, but a sufficient beginning has been made to make me hopeful that that is a contribution, modest but substantial, towards the positive solution of the problem which I have endeavoured to describe to the House. There is another positive contribution which I think might have been made, which we began to make, but which for some reason wholly unknown to me the present Government has abso- 870 lutely put their foot down upon. I do not think the suggestion was objected to by any Colony, and it was very enthusiastically welcomed by many Colonies, that there should be some kind of permanent staff in this country which should have no executive and no diplomatic authority, but whose business it should be to prepare the work for the Conferences as they meet at each four-yearly period. That suggestion was in an advanced state when we left office, but Lord Elgin or someone in the Cabinet, I presume, for some reason wholly unknown to me and not explained to the House in any Paper, has put his foot down upon it and expressed dissent from it, and that very modest and very excellent contribution towards a positive solution of the problem has been deferred sine die by the executive action of the Government.
Putting this aside, in what direction can we turn for a contribution to the positive solution of this subject? We can only turn, I think, to encouraging in every way we can mutual service and mutual obligations between different parts of the Empire, and a constant consciousness in each part of the Empire that it is but a part of a greater whole, and to that greater whole each must, within reasonable limits, do its best to contribute. We do a great deal in the way of defence I quite agree. That is a valuable contribution. Now the Colonies come in, and widely scattered as they are, some in the northern hemisphere and some in the southern hemisphere, with no organised system of intercommunication, have all come to an agreement upon this point, and they believe that this feeling of mutual service and mutual obligation between different parts of the Empire will be ministered to to an important extent if we can only establish some form of commercial preference within the Empire. Of course I quite grant that if the ideas which we associate, perhaps wrongly, with the days of the late Mr. Cobden had been carried out, if we were all extreme individualists in domestic politics, if we were all extreme free traders in fiscal politics, and if we were all given to that separatism which regards disruption of the Empire with indifference, if not with favour, I quite agree that that solution would be no contribution to the final 871 result. But although practically fragments of Mr. Cobden's doctrine remain, as a coherent system it has been abandoned by everybody. Extreme individualism, and extreme free trade may exist, although under cross-examination it usually breaks down, and certainly it does not exist in the mind of the author of the Shipping Bill or of the Patents Bill. All countries in the world, excepting our own, whether their fiscal system be one of extreme protection or protection of a more moderate type, use the fiscal machinery at their disposal for carrying out general ends. Do not let any man in this House suppose that I think that if we adopt the general view we are going to lighten the labours of the House. I do not think we are. I think that fiscal arrangements are always difficult, and if I could believe as people so frequently did believe sixty years ago, that the height of wisdom in government is for the Government to do nothing, that every individual must fight for himself without help and without favour, that it would not matter whether Empires stood or Empires fell so long as the individuals composing those Empires could buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest market—if I could believe that the height of fiscal wisdom was to put all your taxes upon the smallest number of commodities, and these not manufactured or capable of being manufactured in our own country, I quite agree that it would be a creed of delightful simplicity which would be dear to the heart of any man, who ever has been or is connected with the Government of the country or is connected with those who have had such a connection. I cannot believe that. I am afraid that we must submit to the universal necessity. We must face the fact that in all departments of life Government is becoming more difficult and more complicated, and problems are arising for solution which our fathers would not have attempted to solve, but would have brushed on one side as altogether outside the scope and sphere of government properly understood. I am very sorry that is so. I wish my lot had been cast in a simpler age—for this amongst other reasons, that I see manifest signs 872 that the reaction against this extreme and now abandoned individualism in all its forms is in danger of running to excess. We are face to face with those who wish for extreme protection in fiscal matters, socialism in political matters, who wish unduly to extend, as I think, the functions of the State, and who are going to get themselves and the whole community into difficulty by their action. I was led into that remark by a cheer, which I suppose was ironical, and by a very interesting speech which I heard yesterday from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Leicester. He gave us a description of what the working man in Australia thinks on the fiscal question. He appears to be not only a protectionist in the sense in which protection is understood in France, Germany, and America, but he appears to have carried protectionist views to a point which I do not think was ever dreamt of by any economist of any school that ever existed. He represents what may be a tendency not of the Australian working man alone. I think the time may come when I shall be endeavouring to prevent hon. Gentlemen opposite being swept away by a protectionist flood which will derive all its volume, as it derives its volume in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and America, not from the wealthy few, but from the great mass of the employed. The time may come when my opinion, so unwelcome now, will be viewed by hon. Gentlemen opposite in a far more favourable light.
If I am right in stating the mere fact that the Colonies put forward as their ideal, or an approach to their ideal, this system of Imperial preference, is it not a fact of the greatest possible importance, and ought not the Government, upon going into conference with the Colonies, to keep an open mind on the subject? Their action in this respect is what I complain of; I do not complain of their seeing objections to such a system; what I do complain of is that they refuse even to discuss with the Colonial Premiers means and methods by which such a proposal might be carried out. Then I am told I am quite wrong, that the Colonies do not really want to make any change, and that we have only to study their fiscal aspirations to see that, whatever their public men may say in 873 public, they do not mean to give the slightest advantage to goods of British origin. I confess I do not accept that view. It seems to me directly contrary to all evidence, contrary to the plain facts of the case. But supposing it to be true, would that not come out at once if His Majesty's Government went into conference with the Colonial representatives and said, "We should like to hear how you propose, on our present basis of taxation, to establish a form of preference between the different parts of the Empire?" Then, if the Colonial Prime Ministers held the view which has been attributed to them, if the whole thing be a mere shallow pretence, it would come out in the course of examination and be clear to all men, the question would drop, we should hear no more of it, and Colonial preference would be another ineffectual effort to find a solution of a practical difficulty and would disappear from the arena of political controversy. Observe, the Amendment does not ask, and I believe the Colonies do not ask, that we should adopt a wholly new system of taxation in order to carry out such a proposal. They do not demand that we should abandon our system and add enormously to the list of articles subjected to duty—that is not the demand they make; in fact, to do them justice, I do not think they make a demand at all. The suggestion they make is that an attempt should be made to use whatever fiscal system we possess to carry out a scheme of Imperial preference between the different parts of the Empire—that we should make an attempt. And why should not an attempt be made? Why cannot you make an attempt? It seems to me it is open to you to ask how they would propose to do it. You go into conference and say:—"We do not propose to put a duty on any article not now subject to duty, and with this limitation can you suggest a method for carrying out such a scheme? Let us talk it over." But the Government will not do that; they reject, plainly and directly, without circumlocution, what is, after all, a demand made by every one of those great communities, and which we should consider in connection with our first duty to bind them more and more closely with the Empire of which they are part. I quite agree, according to the views many of us on this side of the House hold—views I hold—you will be 874 forced by the mere pressure of your financial necessities greatly to widen, to broaden your system of taxation. I do not believe that any man who seriously considers the demands made upon the Exchequer and the resources the Exchequer has to meet those demands, can seriously believe that the present basis of taxation can be maintained. If you have to adopt a new system of taxation, a new basis of taxation, I say of that, as I say of the present basis, see how far it will go to carry out what the Colonies desire in the shape of a preferential arrangement between the different parts of the Empire. I go further. We on this side are more impressed than are hon. Gentlemen opposite with the growing difficulty in finding the necessary markets for our increasing productions. I believe the strangulation of our development as a great commercial nation is to be feared if these markets are not to be found. I am not comforted, as the Under-Secretary for the Colonies was comforted, by a study of the trade statistics of this year or that year. We have heard some interesting speeches in which the view was expressed that there had been no great change in, the industrial world in the last quarter of a century, and that we might look on our rivals with the same contentment in 1906 as we did, say, in 1876. But that is a complete illusion—it is a dangerous illusion. We are face to face, not with a temporary difficulty, but with a situation of growing difficulty, and it is the duty we have to meet this growing difficulty that should preoccupy the mind of those who wish to use the fiscal controversy, not for Party purposes, but to further the interest of the Empire as a whole. The time must come when we must have a broader basis of taxation and be able to use that broader basis of taxation for increasing our command of foreign markets and for obtaining closer commercial connection with our Colonies. If anybody draws a lurid picture, as the Under-Secretary did, of the suffering to be imposed by such broadening of the basis of taxation on the poorer classes of the community, let me tell him that a reason for broadening the basis of taxation is to meet the needs of the poorer classes. It is for their sake you will do it, if you have to do it. The idea that their lot is going to be injured by any such readjustment as I have suggested shows that those 875 who entertain that idea have not considered the elements of the problem, for the demand must come from the poorer classes and be understood by them before the House is likely to accept it. Of course, these are matters for the future, and we do not ask the Government to enter upon them. All that this resolution asks for is that the Government should not rule out of the business of the Conference some attempt at discussion of the possibility of giving, on the present basis, some preferential advantage to the Colonies by one means or another. If you persist in the course you are adopting do you not think you will check that very feeling in the Colonies upon which the stability of the Empire depends—that mutual desire to give and to receive services as parts of one organic whole? The Under-Secretary for the Colonies paid a deserved compliment to the Colonies when he said their position was "perfectly correct." Of course, it is perfectly correct, but in what connection do we habitually use this word "correct"? We use it of husband and wife, who, long at feud, yet keep before the world a "correct" attitude. We use it towards two nations who maintain all the courteous formalities of diplomacy, who do not contemplate war, but who watch each other with the unsleeping eye of jealous suspicion; their mutual action is correct. ["Hear, hear," and "Oh, oh."] I am not content with such a correct attitude. I should like the Government to have welcomed the representatives of our great self-governing Colonies, not only with that warm hospitality, which, of course, will be accorded; I should like them to have met in a sympathetic spirit, and that the Government should tell these great Colonies that on the question of preference which is their contribution towards the solution of this problem:—"There are difficulties in the way. Our system is different from yours. We do not propose to change it to carry out your scheme. You do not ask us to change it. Let us see if we can carry out preference under these conditions. No doubt it will be carrried out very imperfectly, no doubt it will not reach the height of your desires, your wishes, but we feel so strongly that the method you suggest for cementing the different parts of the Empire ought not to be rejected hastily, that at all events we will enter into discussion with you in the earnest hope and desire to find, something 876 in the nature of a solution that will be satisfactory to all." The Government have rejected that course, by their decision they will induce the House to reject that course, and by so doing they will do their best to atrophy, to destroy, this sentiment which may be difficult to embody in practical legislation, but nevertheless, whether easy or difficult, is the one bond on which we rely to keep together the different parts of this great Empire. I profoundly regret the line the Government have taken and hope even now they may see fit to make some modification in their declared attitude.
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS (Reading)
said he did not think that any complaint would be made against the Opposition for having brought forward this Motion. They on the Ministerial benches did not complain of the tone of the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite; certainly they had no fault to find with the tactics of the Opposition in bringing forward the Motion which the House was now discussing. Before he proceeded to deal with the Amendment he wished to refer to the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition that the Government had for five or six hours refrained from answering the arguments put forward by the Opposition. They did answer them, and he would remind the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when he made that reproach that this Government did not run away as did the last on several occasions when fiscal reform was brought before the House, but remained to answer the arguments and challenge a division upon the Amendment. He might add also that this Government were in the position of having submitted this question to the country. If therefore comparison was to be made between the attitude of the present Government and the last in relation to the manner in which the fiscal question was treated when it came before the House of Commons, the present Government would not lose. He was sorely tempted by some of the observations of the right hon. Gentleman to wander into the by-paths and side issues traversed by the Leader of the Opposition; but he preferred to deal immediately with the question before the House. It was important that they 877 should not forget—that hon. Gentlemen on the other side of the House should not forget—that in recording their vote in favour of the Amendment, they were pledging themselves to the taxation of food. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] He heard two or three hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches, sitting very quietly in a corner, denying that proposition. He was surprised, if it was true that the Amendment did not involve the taxation of food, that the retort was not much more emphatic. If it were true that preference did not mean that food must be taxed, then he must ask what became of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. Might he ask, with any hope of receiving an answer from the Leader of the Opposition, was the right hon. Gentleman in favour of the taxation of food? Was he in favour of the policy of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham? Did the right hon. Gentleman now approve of a system of Colonial preference based upon the taxation of food? [An Hon. Member on the Opposition Benches: "That is begging the question."] Begging the question! It was begging the question not to answer it! The position which the Liberal Party had always maintained, and maintained now, was that recourse could not be had to the system proposed in the Amendment, without imposing a tax on food. If not on food, then the only alternative was to impose a tax on raw materials. But was there any Member in the House, or any person in the country, who suggested that raw materials should be taxed in order that we might give a preference to the Colonies?
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS
said he observed that one hon. Member on the Opposition Benches ventured an interposition suggesting a defence of such a proposal. Nobody knew better than the hon. Member how difficult it was to draw a line between semi-manufactured articles and raw materials. And nobody knew better than he that it would be impossible to ask any Government of this country to en- 878 dorse a policy of imposing a tax on raw materials. But he certainly knew that the hon. Member for Sheffield saw in this Amendment a means, a step, to obtain that for which he had worked for long years, viz., the taxation of imported manufactured articles. But the Colonies to whom it was proposed to give a preference did not send their manufactured articles to this country. The result was that, looked at from any point of view, and with the greatest desire to meet the views of the Colonial Premiers—the desire of all Members of the House—the real difference between them was whether the proposed method forgiving preference was possible. He desired to give credit to hon. Members on the Opposition Benches for not repealing the suggestion—now that the election was over—that they on the Liberal side were neglectful of the interests of the Colonies. And it was for the reason that the election had taken place they could not discuss this question with the Colonial Premiers. The difference between the Opposition and the Ministerial Party was that the latter refused to consider the possibility of preference involving taxation of food after the verdict given at the general election by the people, who would have none of it. They believed that that decision of the people was right politically and economically. He joined issue with the Leader of the Opposition when that right hon. Gentleman said, and repeated more than once, that they, on the Liberal Benches, refused to discuss any question of preference with the Colonial Premiers. Surely the right hon. Gentleman was not right in that contention. They did not refuse to discuss the question; they were desirous of discussing every question that might be brought forward at the Colonial Conference; but what the Government could not discuss was any suggested plan to draw the bonds of Empire closer by means of a preferential tariff which, not only according to the Liberal Party, but according to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, could not be imposed without the taxation of the food of the people. It was idle for any hon. Member opposite to shut his eyes to this conclusion. He waited, and a good many Members on the Opposition 879 side of the House waited also, for the words from the Leader of the Opposition, which were to give, after many attempts to obtain it, a plain answer to a plain question, but the right hon. Gentleman had left them in the same state of ignorance as before.
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS
asked if the noble Lord understood that the right hon. Gentleman was in favour of the taxation of food?
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS
said he would put the question in another form which might admit of an answer: Was the Leader of the Opposition, like the noble Lord and other hon. Members beside him, in favour of the taxation of corn? The position was now as before the general election. The Leader of the Opposition, in the course of his speech, had asked, "Have they learned nothing; has time taught them nothing?" He would retort by asking whether the result of the tactics of the last two or three years had taught the Opposition nothing. There might possibly be some hon. Members who thought that he was attaching undue importance to this question, but he would prove that they were mistaken by referring them to the words of the right hon. Gentleman who was, in the first instance, responsible for the proposition now before the House. He urged those Members of the Opposition who still wished to refrain from pledging themselves in any way upon the taxation of corn to pause and consider whither they were being led. The Motion ran: "But this House humbly expresses regret that no reference is made in Your Majesty's Speech to the approaching Colonial Conference, and to the opportunity thereby offered for promoting freer trade within the Empire, and closer commercial relations with the Colonies on a preferential basis." Had it stopped at the words, "closer commercial relations with the Colonies," he could better understand the position of some hon. Members on the Opposition side, but when they had inserted in the 880 Amendment the last four words, "on a preferential basis," it appeared to him that they were taking one further step along the path of protection. They would, if this were assented to, have at last taken the step which would compel them to tax corn to provide the preference which they desired to establish. The mover and seconder of the Amendment had used some arguments in favour of a preference to be founded on existing duties, and the Leader of the Opposition also suggested that we might make a beginning with those at present imposed. The same observation had fallen from the hon. Member for Dulwich. But let them imagine going to a Conference to discuss a preference founded on duties on the present basis. They were, it appeared, to begin with a preferential duty on Australian and Cape wine. Had the hon. Gentleman considered what relation the total imports of wine from Australia bore to the whole of their products which were sent to this country? Was it not an insignificant portion?. He thought it was less than a twenty-first part. [Mr. BONAR LAW: A twentieth.] Well, he would not dispute with the hon. Gentleman. At all events it was an insignificant proportion. Was it any use discussing the question on that basis? Then with reference to sugar it had escaped observation that the Sugar Convention would prevent this country from giving a preference on sugar. He really would not pause seriously to discuss dried fruit, but when they came to the question of tea, which was of importance, he would ask if the Members of the Opposition had forgotten India. They must bear in mind that our imports of tea in the main came from India. Further, he might ask whether those who were proposing that we should discuss with our Colonies the giving of this preference had considered the question raised by the most interesting speech of the hon. Member for Leicester. He had waited with great interest to hear what the Leader of the Opposition had to say in regard to that speech, because although he differed from the right hon. Gentleman, he was most interested in all his arguments. He was also most anxious to hear what answer that most able exponent of tariff reform the hon. Member for Dulwich would make upon 881 this subject. Like the Leader of the Opposition, the Hon. Member referred to it, but did not answer it. Let hon. Members reflect what it was desired to do. It was that we should impose a tariff to give a preference to our Colonies in order that they might send to us more food stuffs and raw materials. Yet at this very time, it appeared, there was an agitation proceeding in Australia with the avowed purpose of preventing the export of raw material, which was what we desired to attract by means of these proposals. He desired to call the attention of the House to the important aspect of this problem from another standpoint. It was said that the basis of the proposals of hon. Gentlemen opposite was to put taxation on food, but how did the Opposition propose to deal with the Colonies which did not send food stuffs to this country but sent only raw material? He had heard that question put several times, notably by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the course of the recent campaign, but neither inside nor outside the House had anyone ventured to give an answer to it. It was like the question in regard to the taxation of corn. They could not get an answer. As to the taxation of food, he quite admitted that it was the right hon. Gentleman's Party tactics which prevented him answering that question. They all knew the difficulty which the right hon. Gentleman was in and sympathised with him deeply. To answer the question as to raw materials, however, would not involve the Leader of the Opposition in tactical difficulties, and therefore he thought they might be told how it was proposed to deal with such colonies. Let them take, for example, the Sonth African Colonies, which, as far as they knew, could not be described as the most contented of our Colonies. From South Africa we received substantially nothing but raw material, and how did the Opposition propose to deal with it in order to give it a preference? The Transvaal, the Orange River Colony, Natal and the Cape Colony would complain if preferences which were of no benefit to them were given to the advantage of Canada, New Zealand, and Australia. It appeared to him that they would not draw the Colonies of the Empire together by means of this course, but 882 would run some risk of loosening the bonds. They would sow the seed of disunion and jealousy among the Colonies in the negotiations which must necessarily take place when a Conference met for the purpose of arranging tariffs, and each Colony would naturally strive to obtain the best arrangement it could in its own interests. In relation to the Canadian preference of 1897, the figures quoted must not be taken as reliable proof of its value, but they must remember that during the period from 1897 the United States had done better relatively than we in Canada. It had been said that we would draw our corn from Canada by means of this preference, but there was one item which did not appear to have entered into consideration in relation to this matter. The hon. Member for North-West Lanark had told the House that for some weeks during the year Canada was not able to ship her corn, but for some six months of the year she could not depend upon shipping from her seaports. During the six winter months, the corn was transmitted through the United States and shipped at United States ports. No doubt there was an inter-Colonial route which would take it to Halifax, but that was of little value, because it was a longer and more expensive route. During the winter months, therefore, the corn had to be transmitted through the United States—and, let it be remembered, through the United States, in bond. Had those who advocated these preferences considered what the effect would be on the United States of this proposed preference to Canada? Had they considered what the United States would have to say with reference to the corn passing through the United States in bond which was so seriously to compete with and hinder the exports of their own country. Did anyone in the House imagine that the United States would allow that corn to go through in bond? And if they did not, how was it proposed that we should import it at anything like the same rate? This point applied not only to corn. Other products had to go through the State of Maine in bond. This was a matter worthy of serious consideration. The House must remember also that the slight trivial advantages which we could now offer to the 883 Colonies as a basis for preference might have the effect of causing difficulties with a number of foreign countries. He did not mean that that was a conclusive reason why there should not be a preference, but he did say that before we endorsed a policy of this character we must count the cost. We must carefully give weight to such considerations. For instance, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and Portugal would all be affected by the proposed preferential tariff on wine. Before we entered into this policy for such a trifling advantage to Australia and Cape Colony, we should bear in mind that we might endanger our commercial relations with foreign countries or at least make them more difficult. The hon. Member for Dulwich had said that the question was, was Colonial preference worth having? That was not, he submitted, the real question. They must add, "on a preferential basis," and, in view of what those added words comprehended, the answer must be "No." This matter had been fairly and fully discussed and put to the country by both Parties at the last general election. What they now wanted to know was whether there had been a change of policy or method—was the Opposition as a Party now proposing to adopt the policy and the method advocated by the Member for West Birmingham? To that apparently they were to have no answer. But whether hon. Members intended to follow the policy of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham or not, they were committing themselves irretrievably to preference on the basis of the taxation of food. The general view of Members on the Ministerial side of the House was that the Colonies did not demand and did not desire that we should impose this tax upon the food of the population of this country for the purpose of giving a preference to the Colonies. It could not be disputed that if a tax was put upon corn it would tend to make corn dearer, and it was not by such methods as those that we would bind our Colonies to us. The Colonies did not expect it. They knew too well what the answer must be. It was urged that we should lose our commercial supremacy, and that foreign countries would obtain our trade with the Colonies, but it had been well said by Mr. Reid that England gained her supreme commercial position, 884 not by barricading her ports, but by proving herself superior by technical skill, in manufacturing better, and in knowledge of business methods, and she must ultimately rely on those weapons for her success if she was to retain her high position. He would conclude by saying that the last weapon that England ought to be called upon to use in the battle for her Colonies was the imposition of a tax on the food of the poor of this country.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER (Gravesend)
said it was no disparagement to the hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down to say that the arguments he had used were not strictly original. They had been the stock arguments of the orators of the Liberal Party for the last ten years. The hon. and learned Member had complained that no new arguments had been adduced in favour of this Amendment. It was no disparagement of the hon. and learned Gentleman or of his great and recognised ability to say that he (Sir Gilbert Parker) had listened in vain for some new argument from the Liberal side against it. The hon. and learned Gentleman was perfectly definite. He said, "Upon this ground we stand. We will have no tax on food;" that was to say no tax of any kind on corn. The main point of the hon. and learned Gentleman's argument was that he had not an open mind. The Under-Secretary for the Colonies had said frankly enough that the Government had not an open mind upon this question. The hon. and learned Gentleman who had just sat down had also said that if Natal, cape Colony, or some other Colony did not get the same advantage as Canada, irritation would be produced, and they would be blamed for not giving more; and because they could not get all that was obtained by some other country more developed, therefore they would be dissatisfied. But one would think that this question had only just been raised. One would imagine that South Africa, or Canada, or Australia had not thought over the question. They had been thinking it over for twenty years, and had been acting upon it for ten years. Did they suppose that any delegate or Minister who attended the approaching Conference would not come with an 885 open mind, and also with a full understanding of the difficulties that might be in the way of England's giving preference to the Colonies? It was said that South Africa would not benefit. When South Africa produced both raw material and food supplies sufficient for her own use, then would come the question whether she was going to benefit largely from any preference given by England. South Africa could do little for herself as yet, except in the matter of gold; there she did a great deal for us. But there was a time when she was building up a trade in wine, which the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean despised because of its smallness. In 1859, when Mr. Gladstone made his treaty with France, preference was taken away from Cape wines. He thought about £200,000 worth was imported at that time. Since the preference was taken away the imports into Great Britain had dropped at once to £17,000, and to day they represented about £1,000. Suppose the preference had been kept on until this day, would we not now have perhaps £1,000,000 worth of wine coming from Cape Colony? Might he make one little suggestion with regard to the speech of the right hon. Member for the Forest of Dean? Everyone knew what an authority the right hon. Baronet was upon Colonial affairs. One of his earliest remembrances, when he was able to take an interest in political or worldly affairs, was reading "Problems of Greater Britain." The right hon. Baronet had great hope then, but he did not think he had as great hope now. There was nothing throughout the right hon. Baronet's speech yesterday but a note of depressing hesitancy. He could find nothing in these proposals for preference which could possibly be of any benefit to the Colonies or to ourselves. The right hon. Baronet had done a thing which one would have thought to his logical mind would seem not quite right. He had dragged into the matter the question of the Consultative Committee. He had said that Canada did not want it. But Canada was not the whole of the Colonies; and what in the world had that to do with this question of commercial union on a preferential basis? Then the right hon. Baronet had also said that the Colonial 886 Premiers would not press upon the Conference the matter of preference, and that there was not a demand from England for preference. Who did not know that? He was sure that the right hon. Baronet did not think that there was a single Member of the Opposition who supposed that any Colonial Minister was coming to this country to hold a blunderbuss at the heads of delegates. The right hon. Baronet had asked what possible good could come to Australia from any preference. It had been thought that the preference on wine would be of no value, and also that it would be no good even if we placed a preference on wheat, which he had advocated. A shilling would be enough. One-eighth of a cent per bushel would be sufficient to give Canada the advantage of this market. A shilling tax on corn, which was kept on as a registration tax by a Radical Government, would be sufficient to give Canada and Australia all they wanted, as concerned wheat. The right hon. Baronet had repeatedly said that it was no good giving Australia a preference on wheat. He differed from him entirely. Did not the right hon. Baronet know that the wheat production of Australia had steadily increased? Canada produced 90,000,000 bushels last year. Australia in 1905 produced over 54,000,000 bushels. He had taken the trouble to find out what the wheat production of Australia had been for some years back. He went back to the year 1897, when the total wheat yield of the Commonwealth was 20,000,000 bushels. In 1898 it was 28,000,000 bushels; and now they came to the point on which the right hon. Gentleman based his argument, 1903, when the yield was 12,000 000 bushels; in 1904, 74,000,000; in 1905, 54,000,000. As to 1906, he did not know the exact figures, but he knew that they exported and sold more wheat than was mentioned here as the total wheat yield of Australia. That showed how thoroughly unsound the right hon. Gentleman's argument was. He would take them back twenty years further, and they would find exactly the same thing, though there was one year of fluctuation in which the yield dropped tremendously. The same remark applied to wool. Compared with those of Canada, the agricultural possibilities of 887 Australia in one good year were immensely superior. They would have their two and three crops a year. The agricultural possibilities of Australia, in average years, were, to say the least, quite as good as those of Canada. Australia was built up by her wool production, by her wheat production, and by her gold production. He asked the right hon. Baronet whether on reconsideration he did not see that in Australia a shilling registration tax, or a shilling preference, would have a stimulating effect on the supply which he had previously disregarded as unimportant. The hon. Member for Leicester, who knew Australia and who knew the Colonies, had made the most astonishing statement that he had ever heard from a representative of labour. He had said that it was no good their attempting to do anything with Australia, because she was going to prevent the export of her raw material. A more monstrous travesty of labour principles he had never heard. If Australian labour people meant that—and he did not believe they did—then the doom of Australia was scaled. Why, the production of raw material was the only one in a new country, in its initial stages, which could possibly give food to the worker and work to the maker. Yes; but the hon. Gentleman, with political sagacity, used it as an argument to depreciate the preference which they were advocating. It was an unsound argument; it was absolutely contradictory of all the principles of labour. They knew as well as anybody in the world that Australia would not put an export tax upon anything which she produced. Let them take the United States; under their Constitution it was impossible to put an export tax upon raw material, so strongly did that democracy feel with regard to raw material, because they knew that in their initial stages their whole salvation depended upon the products of the soil, and the export of products of the soil. He ventured to say that there was a way to get an advantage in the Australian and in the Canadian markets. The hon. Gentleman who had just sat down had depreciated the preference given by Canada, and had said it was not important. The hon. Member for Gloucester, who 888 knew and had studied the question, and who was concerned to give an honest and unequivocal opinion—he did not say that anybody did not give an honest opinion—stated the other day with perfect truth that the advantage in preference to the English manufacturer was great, because the goods purchased consisted of partially or wholly manufactured goods. The hon. Member for Reading, when he made his argument, did not tell them that what Canada exported through the United States was chiefly raw material and a few manufactured articles.
§ *MR. RUFUS ISAACS
said the hon. Member was under a misapprehension. What he had pointed out was that the figures which had been quoted by the hon. Member opposite did not warrant the deductions which he had sought to draw from them, because the years from 1897 had been specially good years in Canada.
§ SIR GILBERT PARKER
said that that surely was not an argument. Did the hon. Member think that the good years began in 1897? No; he could tell them when the good years began. He remembered when in Canada they could buy a pair of chickens for 1s., a pound of butter for 3d., a dozen eggs for 2d., and the best beef for a 1d. and 2d. a pound. What a Paradise indeed for the poor man. Yes, but the poor man had not money with which to buy. The upward trend in Canada began in 1885; when the Pacific railway was constructed, there began that upward tendency in the trade of Canada which had led to great prosperity. It was true that Sir Wilfred Laurier gave preference in order to induce greater trade within the Empire, but he had no idea of breaking down Canadian tariffs, and Sir Wilfred was as good a free trader to-day as he himself was. At one time he was a free trader himself, but what converted him was writing free trade articles for the Sydney Morning Herald. He would like for a moment to analyse the assertion made by the hon. Member for Reading that if we put on a tax up would go the cost to the consumer. New South Wales was a free trade Colony up to the year 1895. In that year a duty 889 of 2d. per lb. was put on butter which was then 1s. per lb., and the price of butter in New South Wales in 1897 was 1s. per lb. duty free. In 1895 the price of cheese was 8d. per lb., when a duty of 2d. per lb. was upon it. In 1897 the price of cheese was 8d. per lb. duty free. The price of bacon in 1895 was 7½d. with a duty of 2d. per lb., and the price in 1897 was 8d. per lb. duty free. Rice was 2½d. per lb. in 1895, with a 60s. duty, and in 1897, with no duty, it was still 2½d. He had twenty illustrations and he had only quoted these to show that there were other considerations which entered into the question. It was difficult to find out who would pay a shilling registration tax on corn, and we were not able to find it out when a shilling duty on corn was imposed a few years ago. A good many considerations entered into the minds of shippers and railway people which disposed of that shilling, and he believed the price of bread did not rise. It was said that the people of this country would not have a duty on corn. His opinion was that they would have a great deal when they understood all sides of the question. The people of this country might be slow to move and think, but their judgment could be trusted in the long run. Did hon. Members think that the judgment at the last election on this question, complicated as it was by other issues, was a final one? He would remind the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, who had spoken in a peroration of lurid Splendour concerning the antagonism of this country towards colonial preference, that 11,000,000 of our colonists accepted the principle of preference, put it into action, and asked this country to give a preference which would give the greatest good to the greatest number. What, tariff reformers were aiming at was to prevent the displacement of our trade in Colonial markets. In Canada any further displacement had been successfully prevented and it was proposed to do the same with Australia. In 1894 the United Kingdom had 71 per cent. of the export trade to Australia, British possessions 11 per cent. and foreign countries 16 per cent. In 1905 the United Kingdom had 57 per cent. of the export trade to Australia, British possessions had 13 890 per cent. and foreign countries 30 per cent. So that since the year 1894 England had lost 14 per cent. of her export trade to Australia, and exactly 14 per cent. had been put upon the export trade of foreign countries to that Colony. The Australian wool trade could not be stimulated, because the area for sheep grazing was practically all taken up and therefore further industrial development must lie in other directions. So much had Australians recognised this fact that they had not sought to develop their wool-growing trade, but the development of dairy products had been enormous. There were now employed in purely agricultural and dairy occupations in Australia more people than were employed in pastoral or wool-growing occupations. The House ought to approach this question with the intention of not disregarding the opinions of men who for twenty years had been thinking the subject out. Tariff reformers asked that the advanage we already enjoyed in Colonial markets should be still further developed. He desired a preference given to the Colonies which would enable us to have a real union, which could never exist so long as the question of pounds, shillings, and pence entered into consideration. It had been suggested that preference would cause friction on the part of the Colonies and foreign nations, and that India would be punished by Russia. This very controversy started upon just such a situation with a foreign country. Canada not long ago demanded that the Treaty with Belgium and Germany should be denounced, and she forthwith put a tax upon German sugar because Canadian goods had been penalised in the German market. The result was that not a single pound of German sugar came into Canada the year after, and every pound of sugar imported by Canada came from British Colonies. In that way Canada was able to defeat Germany and at the same time secured a great advantage for British Colonies. We need not fear any punishment from foreign countries; they were only too anxious to come into our markets. In Canada and Australia, and by-and-by in South Africa, we should have greater markets for our goods if we gave 891 the preference suggested, no matter how small. He believed that through such commercial action would steadily develop and grow up a warmer and heartier feeling between the Colonies and the Mother Country. He did not think there was a Member of this House who, if he thought a benefit could be gained by a preference of a shilling, and if it did not raise the cost of the food of the people of this country, would object to it. He did not believe a single Member objected to preference on principle. All that hon. Members objected to was that it would raise the cost of the food of the people. But supposing that he could show the hon. and learned Member for Reading that a shilling tax did not necessarily raise the cost of the food of the people, would he then take so almost violent an attitude as he had taken to-day? Would any Member of this House do so? He believed not. He believed honestly that if every Member of this House attended the Conference, if there was open discussion, and if each side presented its case simply with the desire of presenting it and not of overcoming the other, there would result a change of opinion in the minds of a great many Members which they themselves could scarcely believe. The idea which the supporters of the Amendment aimed at was one which ought to commend itself to the mind of every patriot and citizen. At any rate hon. Members would give, them credit for wishing, not to hurt, but to do good to the people of this country—credit for endeavouring to keep their eyes open, to see what were the needs of the moment, and to adapt themselves to present conditions instead of to the conditions of ten, fifteen, or twenty years ago. This movement which had been started in favour of closer union with the Colonies on a preferential basis would not end with this session, or next session, or with the session after that. The friends of the movement were concerned to educate; they were concerned to convince and they would use every effort to convince. Their opponents wished them to drop the subject. [Ministerial cries of "No."] He did not suggest that with their diminished numbers in this 892 House the supporters of the Government need be afraid of any attack from them, but Ministerialists thought the subject should be dropped because they believed that those who were in favour of fiscal reform had been beaten. Tariff reformers, however, did not believe that they had been beaten. They had every confidence that the agitation would continue, and they had faith that the people of this country, sooner or later, and perhaps sooner than many hon. Members thought, would come over to their views, and accept the principle that preferential relations with the Colonies would be the basis of larger prosperity and of a healthier condition of British trade.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE, Carnarvon Boroughs)
The hon. Member for Gravesend always speaks with a good deal of knowledge of all Colonial subjects, but I think he made one mistake. He addressed his arguments to hon. Members on this side of the House. The first thing he ought to do is to convert his own leader. We have had an exceedingly interesting speech from the Leader of the Opposition today. He complains, first of all, of the arrangements made by the Government for conducting the debate. He complains that no one got up from this bench until late yesterday. I remember a debate on the fiscal question when the whole of the Government of the day ran away and did not reply at all. The right hon. Gentleman the other day, alluding to some speeches by members of the Government on the fiscal question, said that he did not know where he was. Well, I venture to say that after his speech to-day no one else knows where he is.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
If the right hon. Gentleman is perfectly clear as to where his leader is on this subject, perhaps he will tell us whether he is in favour of a tax on food or not. Is he in favour of the proposals of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham? It would be interesting to find that out. To-night he says, supporting a Motion in favour of Colonial preference, "All we 893 ask is that the possibility of some fiscal discussion on the basis of our present system of taxation should not be rejected." Is that really all that it comes to, this great Motion in favour of preferential arrangements with the Colonies? Is the whole demand that we should admit discussion of preference on our present basis of taxation at the Colonial Conference? Of course, at the Conference there will be the utmost liberty to discuss any question affecting the Colonies and the Mother Country. What is the suggestion that the right hon. Gentleman makes? He does not say a word on the taxation of wheat or meat. He confines his arguments in favour of preference to the suggestion of the hon. Member for Durham—some arrangement about wine, tobacco, apples, and dried fruit. Is that really the only point in difference between the Opposition and the Government? Is that the whole case for Colonial preference—a mere rearrangement of the wine duties in favour of Australia and of the tax on dried fruit? Is that what the Tariff Commission has been at all this time? Sitting at great expense for weeks, months, and years simply to reduce the duty on Tintara; to found the Empire on pippins! If that is what all this controversy is to end in, I really do not think it is treating the House of Commons respectfully.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Where am I misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman? He first quoted the hon. Member for Durham and said that the hon. Gentleman had only proposed a readjustment of the existing duties. Well these are existing duties—tobacco, dried fruit, Australian wine. The right hon. Gentleman never spoke of India from first to last. The idea that you are going to the Colonies to ask them for substantial concessions—for that is the idea—of 25 or 33 per cent. on their tariffs merely on the basis of a readjustment of duties that do not concern one hundredth part of our whole trade with the Colonies, would really be an insult. That is what it comes to. If I misrepresent the right hon. Gentleman in saying that all he suggests is a preferential treatment on the basis of existing duties, I should like to be corrected.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I will explain. The proposition I laid before the House was that, for reasons I gave, it was of the most vital importance from the point of view of Imperial sentiment to try to meet the one proposition that the Colonies have made to increase Imperial unity; that that could be done, though very imperfectly, on the basis of present taxation; and that the attempt should be made. I said that I did not think the Colonies were asking us to alter our system; and that I should therefore meet them at this Conference on the present basis. But I added that in my view the demands made on the financial resources of the country would compel us to widen our basis of taxation; and that I should give the same advice with regard to the wider basis of taxation as with regard to the present narrow basis of taxation, and so make the best of it in cultivating Imperial sentiment among the Colonies.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
In what particular have I misrepresented the right hon. Gentleman? He has put in a much better way what I was labouring to lay before the House. He would confine the whole transaction to our existing duties. Has he, in that explanation, committed himself in either way on the question of taxing meat or wheat? That is the one thing he has avoided. The speeches in support of this proposal by hon. Members behind him all ended up by the recommendation of the taxation of wheat and meat. But the right hon. Gentleman has carefully avoided committing himself at all on that proposition. If Australia wanted a readjustment of the wine duties, I have no doubt that the Government would consider that question just as they would if any other country asked for the same thing. That is a question which of course we should discuss with a Colony as we should with any one else. [Cries of "No."] But I will consider the case that has been made for this Amendment. The right hon. Gentleman did not attempt to make a case at all. He avoided it from the first; India he did not touch. He knows perfectly well that India has not only not made us an offer, but has refused to consider the proposal at all. She considers that any sort of preferential arrangement would do her harm and involve her in difficulties with some of her best customers, while it would not do us any good. The 895 result is that India has absolutely refused to enter into any discussion of the question at all. Therefore, we are confined purely to the proposal whether we should enter into a preferential arrangement on the basis of the taxation of food—of the only commodities with which the Colonies supply us. All those commodities mentioned by the hon. Member for Durham will be of very little use if you want a real business arrangement in which you ask for a substantial concession. It would be using a whale to catch a sprat. They would want something really more substantial than the little sprat of a proposal which came from the right hon. Gentleman just now about wines and things of that sort. And may I point out that the whole of Canada, New Zealand, and half of South Africa would not come into an arrangement based on these little commodities at all? New Zealand does not grow tobacco or tea or wine. Half South Africa, the whole of Rhodesia and the Transvaal, would be out of it. Therefore, you have got to deal with it on another basis, and it is only on that basis on which you can contemplate, if it is to be contemplated at all, the question of colonial preference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham put it very clearly in his great speech at Bristol about a week before the general election. This is what he said, and if the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire is going to follow me, it would be very interesting to know whether he agrees with this pronouncement now. The right hon. Gentleman said—We are agreed upon retaliation, we are agreed upon preference. I will add to that—because I am determined to withhold nothing in my appeal to the country—you cannot have retaliation—and the more you look at it the more it will be clear to you—without a general tariff. You cannot have preference—that is to say, you cannot secure for your kinsmen abroad the advantages which will accrue to their trade, their ever-increasing trade, unless you think in the same spirit, unless you will treat them a little better than your rivals and competitors, unless you will give to them, in return for a preference on your manufactures, a preference on their chief product, even though that product may be described as a principal part of the food of this country.And here is a word which I think must really have been intended for the right 896 hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition—It is useless to try to hide yourselves in the sand.And then he goes on to say that it is useless to try to avoid misrepresentation by trying to hide what your policy is. That is what the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said, and to-night the right hon. Gentleman opposite has attempted—I will not say to hide what his policy really is, because I really do not know whether he is committed to the taxation of wheat and of meat, and I am sure no one sitting behind him can tell either. This debate was not intended to influence the House or the country. It was got up actually, I believe, for the conversion, the conviction, or the committal of the right hon. Gentleman, and if I may respectfully do so, I congratulate him upon the very skilful way he has eluded the snare set by very ingenious fowlers sitting around him. The right hon. Gentleman has not committed himself, but, at any rate, the bulk of his Party have done so. They have committed themselves to this declaration of the Member for West Birmingham. The right hon. Gentleman himself is still free. Therefore, we have got to consider the wider proposition, which is really the only businesslike proposition left to consider. The other is trifling with the Colonies, trifling with us, and trifling with the country. What is that proposition? It is that we should put a duty on corn and on meat with a view to making a deduction on all those commodities that come from our self-governing Colonies. India is outside. India makes no offer, she is satisfied with the present arrangement, she has protested against anything of the kind, and we have no right to force it upon her. What do we stand to gain by it? In the first place, who asks for it? We have heard a good deal about the offer from the Colonies, and during the last few years we have heard that this offer was urgent. We are constantly told—"Here is an offer which is made to you, made probably for the last time. Hear the voice of the Colonies. If you do not do it now, it may be too late." Really, on going into a tariff reform meeting, to hear the language used you might think you had stumbled into a 897 revivalist meeting. I will say this for the right hon. Gentleman, that he never adopted that tone. He said, "There is no hurry." He said, "Let us eat, drink, and be merry, for to-morrow we die." He never did it, but that is the sort of tone, less urgent, less insistent, that we have heard in the course of this debate. Who is it that makes the demand? Somebody last night quoted, I think, Mr. Fielding. Well, he could not quote a higher authority. But Mr. Fisher is another very important member of the Canadian Government. He represents the farmers in Canada, and surely they are the people who are more interested in this question than anybody else. If anybody wanted preference it would be the farmers of Canada. This is what Mr. Fisher says—I quote it from The Times:It was a calumny to say that, unless Canadian products were granted a preference in the English market, Canada would be liable to break away from the Empire.I am glad hon. Members agree. I thought this preferential duty was essential to bind the Colonies to us, but that argument has gone. Mr. Fisher continued—The object is to give Canadian food products an advantage in the English market. If any people were to make such a demand, it would be the Canadian farmers who were producing and selling these products. But I say, as Minister of Agriculture, that the Canadian farmers are not interested. In this I represent the feeling of the Canadian farmers. We farmers of Canada want no preference in the English market. Why it is that we as farmers want no preference? England, under existing conditions, takes and absorbs everything in the nature of food products we can send. She opens her ports to us, so we are able to sell everything there that we have to sell, and sell it at profitable prices. And if we do not send more it is because the productive capacity of the agricultural population of Canada is not able to produce it. There has been no check in the export of those articles to England. The farmers of Canada are not worrying about preference for their food products, and if they he not worrying, there is no necessity for other people to worry.But why do they worry? The farmers of Canada do not worry about it. They do not want this preference; they are satisfied with the market that is made for them.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
In every Government I know of, except the last one, Ministers always agreed with their Prime Minister, and when Mr. Fisher makes a declaration of that sort as Minister for Agriculture I assume he is making it with the full assent of his chief.
§ SIR HOWARD VINCENT (Sheffield, Central)
His opinion was challenged in the House of Commons. [Ministerial cries of "Order."]
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
His opinion was challenged in the House of Commons. Well, you have got a Rump of protectionists there who are constantly trying to worry the Prime Minister. They were hopelessly beaten at the last election in Canada, and, after all, Mr. Fisher is speaking on behalf of the majority of the people. There is no demand, therefore, from the Canadian farmers, and rightly so. I am not one of those who say that Canadian preference has not been a great advantage to this country—as well as to Canada. But it has been a greater advantage to Canada than it has been to us. [OPPOSITION cries of "Oh."] I will give figures. I am not challenging the fact that it is an advantage. If you get a country that will give a preferential advantage in its markets, of course it is an advantage. It is absurd to deny it. I do not think it is a debateable point. But it has been an advantage to Canada. Our exports to Canada have gone up from £6,000,000 to £12,000,000 in round numbers since we got the preference, but their exports to us have gone up from £13,000,000 to £26,000,000 as the result of preference. Why? It is the natural result of preference. It is the natural result of freedom of trade, and, if they got rid of the duties altogether I have no doubt the business between the two countries would increase still more. If an abatement of 33 per cent. makes such an improvement as that, why, if they had no duties at all, the business would be trebled or quadrupled. Take what has happened since then. We practically buy 92 per cent. of their wheat. How can you improve upon that? Take the cheese that is produced in Canada. I am not sure about the other dairy products, but I believe it is the fact that practically the whole of the exportation 899 of cheese is purchased by this country. How can you improve upon that by any system of preference? What was the proposal made last night? The hon. Member for North West Lanark, in a very able speech, put it quite frankly. He said the Canadians get less by 8½d. a quarter for their wheat than the Americans do; we pay them 8½d. less a quarter for their wheat than we pay the Americans, and it is plain that that is due to climatic reasons. The rivers were frozen, so they could not bring the stuff to England in time. He said, "How long do you think the Canadian farmer will stand this? You have got to make it up." Well, how are you going to make it up? Preference will not thaw the rivers. The only way you could make it up would be this—by putting 2s., say, on United States wheat the Canadian could sell his wheat to us, but you put 1s. 6d. on the price. This 8½d. he could then pocket and make another 10d. out of the transaction. Well, that is the transaction. I would not call it a business proposition, but, at any rate, it is a proposition which is perfectly clear, and which you can meet. Then do we really stand to gain? We have gained a good deal in trade through preference, no doubt, because the reduction of duty has been an advantage; but I am not quite sure that all the gain of trade during the last few years with Canada is attributable to preference. There has been an enormous accession of prosperity during these years. It is very largely due to the fact that they have opened up those immense territories in the north-west, and also due to the fact that they have got a Liberal Government. That is by the way. At any rate, there has been an enormous increase of prosperity in Canada. They buy more from everybody, and certainly from the United States. The increase in their purchases from the United States has been, I should say, about twice as great as the increase in their purchases from us. [AN OPPOSITION MEMBER: "No."] An hon. Member quarrels with that. The hon. Gentleman will agree to this, that there has been a greater increase in the purchases by Canada from the United States than from us. [AN OPPOSITION MEMBER: "Not by percentage."] Oh, it is the old argument about per- 900 centage! But this is a question of the actual increase. If they bought 1 lb. at one time and bought 2 lb. ten years afterwards, there would be an increase of 100 per cent. but that is not the sort of increase that we have got to do with. But there has been a great increase. Why? Because of the great increase in the prosperity of Canada, and because of the opening top of these great territories in the north-west; that is the real reason. Well, supposing we put a duty on corn, who would benefit by it? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham made a calculation. He said that the total available trade of all the Colonies which we could possibly get under any system in addition to what we have got already is £30,000,000. There are a good many things that we cannot sell to the Colonies under any conditions. For instance, look at what they buy from the United States of America—raw cotton and iron, and we could not compete with them in anthracite coal. There are a good many commodities of that kind in which we could not compete with the United States of America. They are across the border. They run a truck across from a colliery not far distant from the frontier, and nothing would enable us to compete with the United States there, especially in the western parts. But the right hon. Gentleman said—There are £30,000,000 at any rate, of goods which you might sell to them if you had a preferential tariff.Well now, in the first place, would any tariff that you could reasonably expect to put on give us the whole of any trade? It is too much to expect. Take any tariff, even that of the United States of America, which is as high a tariff as you could contemplate; still goods do get in from this country. And therefore, if you put on a tariff and gave a preference, it does not mean that you would get the whole of the £30,000,000; and you certainly would not get it against the United States. Because one thing that the German prosperity has proved is—as hon. Members would see if they just looked at the figures—that the great advantage Germany has got over us is its central position in Europe. Nothing we could do would enable us to compete on equal terms with Germany in the countries that are contiguous You just 901 put your goods in a truck and run them across the border without unloading. All that sort of thing means far more than a tariff. The same thing applies to the United States of America and Canada. No preference that we could give would prevent the United States of America from beating us in selling certain commodities in Canada. And of course there is the great arrangement of trusts whereby this sort of thing goes on there: they sell rails in their own country at $27 or $28 a ton, but they have sold them in Canada at $20 a ton—that is a difference of $7 a ton. No preference could possibly cover that difference. Therefore we could not secure the whole of this £30,000,000. We might get a certain part of it, but that is all. But what trade would you risk? The right hon. Gentleman in the course of his speech to-night talked of our being excluded from markets. He said there was a process of strangulation of our trade going on, and that what we had to look at was not actual facts, but tendencies. Well, let us look at the tendencies and the facts. In 1895 our total exports to foreign countries—not to the Colonies—of British produce was £156,000,000.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
Yes, I said foreign countries. I include all countries which you would not register as British possessions. Last year it was £254,000,000, an increase of £100,000,000 in the course of ten years, and that is what the right hon. Gentleman calls a slow process of strangulation! What is the matter with that tendency? It is an upward one. The tendency there is all right. Very well; but is it advisable for us to endanger the trade we have got with foreign countries, which is so enormous, and is greater than the trade of any other country in the world at the present moment—is it advisable to risk it on a precarious foundation, which would enable us probably to get one-half of the £30,000,000 which is available? That is the problem before us. I was appealed to repeatedly last night to treat this not as a Party question, but as a business proposition. I agree. It is a business proposition, although I observe that 902 the right hon. Gentleman during the whole of this fiscal controversy has carefully avoided figures. I think he is very wise. I was looking through a volume of his speeches and his pamphlet within the past few days, and I could not detect a single figure from beginning to end, except in an appendix. At the same time, trade has a way of working out into figures which upset all your philosophies. And that is what we have got to consider here—what it is that we gain and what it is that we risk. Well, we risk, first of all, our trade with those other countries. You put 2s. on corn, but where does your corn come from? It comes not from the Colonies, but 70 per cent. of our wheat comes from foreign countries, 30 per cent. coming from British possessions, including India. What are the countries we draw our corn supply from? The United States of America, the Argentine Republic, and Russia. Well, the Argentine is one of our very best customers, and the custom of the Argentine is growing. Last year the goods which we sold to the Argentine amounted to £7,000,000 more than we sold to Canada. They had grown to £l9,000,000. We have beaten the United States of America and Germany out of sight there, and the amount is growing year by year. After all, as my right hon. friend pointed out last night in the very powerful speech he made, we have great interests in the Argentine. We run everything. We have the docks, the railways, the waterworks, and we very largely run the country from a financial point of view. I am not sure that we have not greater financial interests in the Argentine than we have in Canada, and at any rate there is a greater prospect for our trade there than in Canada, and for a very good reason. You have not got a great manufacturing country right on the border of the Argentine, and the result of the contests of the last few years between various countries has proved that wherever we got away from boundaries we beat any and every competitor who came into the market. We cannot beat Germany in Austria or in Russia, I think, nor in the Netherlands, but we can beat her everywhere else. We beat her in the East, in the United States of America—we beat her everywhere. Well, what are we to do?
903 Here is the Argentine Republic, one of our best customers, getting a better customer every year. We are asked to put 2s. on her wheat and 5 per cent. on her meat; how long should we retain the custom of the Argentine Republic? Take the United States of America. The United States is a very good customer of ours. It is becoming a better customer. While doing its very best, I have no doubt, to oust a good many of our products, still she takes them, even tinplates of South Wales; they are selling about £600,000 worth to America, I think we increased by millions our sales last year to the United States of America, but that does not represent the whole of our trade to the United States. We carry 50 per cent. of all her oversea trade for her, and that is an enormous item in our business. The same thing applies to Russia. Russia is not a very great customer of our commodities. She buys about £9,000,000 worth of our goods, but we carry about 42 per cent. of her oversea trade. In the case of these three countries—excellent and growing customers of ours—we put 2s. against their goods; what would be the result? We hear a good deal of retaliation. Are we sure that our country is the only country that can retaliate? It is not for me to suggest what might be done, but I have seen it suggested what might happen. Are we quite sure that if we excluded United States wheat they would not retaliate—because that is what we are driving at by colonial preference. The object is to make an Empire that will produce everything for itself, and take nothing from the United States, nothing from the Argentine, and nothing from Russia. It is a deliberate policy to exclude the products of those great customers of ours. The United States is not the sort of country that takes a thing of that kind without an answer. Their policy is purely protectionist; they have deliberately gone in for that policy. Is that the policy hon. Gentlemen opposite advocate? [A Voice: "No."] There is one hon. Member who is bold enough to say it is not. They certainly would hit our shipping, and hit it very hard. At the present moment they have under discussion the question of a subsidy for their shipping. We 904 should provoke a Bill of that kind if we embarked upon a policy like this. It would be a disastrous policy. The hon. Member for Dulwich, in his able speech last night, said that in his judgment this resolution was merely a beginning. The real policy which proceeds from his speech and the speeches of hon. Gentlemen opposite is a policy of protection. To put colonial preference first is to my mind simply a guarantee that this country will become a purely protectionist country. The one great difficulty the protectionists have had to encounter up to the present is to induce the people of this country to tax their food. It would have been easier for them to persuade the people to put 10 per cent. on foreign manufactures; but they know perfectly well that they cannot do that without protecting the former. You cannot make your commodities dearer for the former without giving this protective duty as well, and therefore a tax on food is an inevitable corollary to anything in the nature of protection for your industry. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite say "We will not call it a, tax on food; we will appeal to the Imperial sentiment of the people; we will call it Imperial preference." They know the people are at heart proud of this great Empire, and they hope to arouse their sentiment by saying "Will you make that sacrifice for the sake of the Empire?" The moment they do so this country will be a protectionist country for all purposes, not merely for food. Is it worth the risk? We may gain a share of the £30,000,000 worth of goods now sold by foreign countries to the Colonies. We may; but it is doubtful. We risk quarrelling with our best customers, and he is a foolish tradesman who circumscribes the number of his customers; the business of every trader is to widen the area of his custom and not to narrow it. We might endanger our shipping. And all for the sake of becoming a protectionist country, with a tax on our food, with increased prices on all our necessaries of life. Should we benefit our Colonies? Well, I think every business man would say that the most unwise thing a man can do in business is to mix up sentiment with business; it generally ends in destroying them both.
905 Let us consider this as a business proposition; it will be better for the Colonies, it will be better for us, it will be better for the Empire. We hear a good deal about all our industries, but never a word about our great shipping trade, which has been built upon free trade. What is happening to the shipping of other countries? I find that out of the tonnage that enters the ports of Russia about 90 per cent. is foreign. Out of the tonnage that enters the ports of the United States, in the oversea trade, about 80 per cent. is foreign. Sixty-three per cent. of the tonnage that enters the ports of France is foreign, and 50 per cent. of the tonnage in the oversea trade that enters the ports of Germany is foreign. In Great Britain only about 30 per cent. is foreign. Russia has the highest tariff of all, and only one out of every nine of her ships is Russian. The United States has the second highest tariff, and not one-third of the ships in the oversea trade that enter the ports of that country are American. The third highest is France, and she has got only 40 per cent. of the tonnage entering her ports. Germany, which has a lower tariff, has 50 per cent.; and Great Britain, with free trade, 63 per cent. of the tonnage entering her ports. Does not that show that in the building up of a great industry free trade is an essential element? This is a matter of the most vital importance to our people. If you tax food, even in the slightest degree, as my hon. friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies pointed out in his eloquent speech last night, it is a serious matter for millions of our population. Canada is a prosperous community. In New Zealand and Australia, like all other great countries where you have an unlimited quantity of land available, where you have untapped resources, the population is a thriving one. I met the other day Sir John Gorst, who has just returned from New Zealand, where he has been representing with great distinction the British Government in the New Zealand Exhibition. He gave me a very glowing account of the state of things in New Zealand. It is a kind of paradise of labour—good wages, low rents, not very high rates, and the aged poor the honoured 906 wards of the State. You get men going over to Canada from this country almost penniless and becoming considerable freeholders. I remember in crossing one of these prairies I met a man from West Birmingham. He was an artisan, and he extended to me his hospitality for the night. I am not sure that he would have done it now. He told me his story. He was an artisan and knew nothing about the land. But he had got about 300 acres of first-class corn-producing land, and he had what is called a very commodious lumber residence. He had just got in his wheat, and was looking forward to selling it in a few weeks and getting hundreds of pounds for it. The railway was two or three days' distance from there. He was getting old, and he was looking forward to selling his farm and retiring to the neighbourhood of West Birmingham, where, no doubt, he is a tariff reformer at the present moment. Suppose he had remained at home, or think of the condition of his associates who have not got a great freehold like this. Yet we are called upon to put a 2s. duty on corn for the purpose of subsidising the thriving community of New Zealand, or enriching and endowing these gentlemen farmers on the prairies of the West. Who asks for it? I never heard of a Colonial statesman who asked for it. Mr. Fisher says he does not ask for it; and the farmers do not. I venture to say that this Parliament, at any rate, a Parliament elected to redress the evils the people have endured too long, is not going to add any burden to the dreary catalogue of their wrongs.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I hope the House will allow me to preface the observations I am going to make with a single personal remark. I have sat through most of this debate, and I have heard so many kindly references to the absence and the cause of the absence of my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, so many expressions of genuine regret on both sides of the House that he cannot be here, that I hope the House will not think it impertinent of me if I desire to thank them. No one who has listened to this debate, I think, can hesitate to say that it was 907 necessary that we should have the discussion, and that now there is an obvious reason why we should recur to the subject upon future occasions. The discussion has continued to pursue the peculiar course upon which my right hon. friend the Leader of the Opposition has already commented. The President of the Board of Trade deferred his reply to my right hon. friend until much later in the afternoon, but when he did rise, did he make any reply? Let the House recall the great Imperial problem placed before them in such urgent terms by my right hon. friend—a problem which confronts any one who aspires to undertake the work of a constructive statesman in this country. Has the President of the Board of Trade contributed a single idea or a single thought to the solution of that great problem? No, Sir. But he has shown, I must say, a want of knowledge of Colonial opinion and Colonial sentiment which might be excusable in a gentleman whose whole business was to have regard to trade, but is inexcusable in a member of a Government which is the principal Government in this great Empire. He comes to this House to tell us that nowhere in the Colonies is there any desire for preference. He quoted to us a single phrase from a speech of a particular Minister in Canada, out of harmony with the declaration of the Prime Minister of that Colony, out of harmony with Acts solemnly signed and sealed by the Prime Ministers, out of harmony with all the statements made by the Colonial Premiers at recurring Conferences. I know that there is great difficulty in touching the Colonial side of this question. He says, and says truly, they do not demand a preference from us. They do not come asking a favour; they come as young nations, strong in their strength, to offer a bargain advantageous, as they believe, to us as well as to them—to offer a means by which they believe that a purpose which is common to us both may be served with advantage to us both, not merely in our national or Imperial relations, but in our commercial and industrial relations. To suggest because they put this before us as an offer which we are free to accept or refuse, because they do not urge or press it upon us, or some of us, if they think we are in the meanwhile opposed to 908 it, that therefore they do not care about it, is a travesty of fact unworthy of anyone pretending to knowledge, and dangerous in a Minister responsible for a Department. But, Sir. I will deal with the problem from our own point of view. The right hon. Gentleman has contended that we have no special reason for studying the Colonial market, that we have no special dangers to fear in other markets, that we are indeed excluded from some by natural circumstances, largely excluded, but that wherever natural circumstances are equal, we hold our own and beat our competitors out of the field. Then he proceeds one step further, and asks, as the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean has asked, whether we should risk our present trade with foreign countries in order to secure some doubtful advantage in Colonial markets. Now, Sir, I propose to examine the thesis of the right hon. Gentleman and to give the House some figures by which they may test it. The right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean was content to quote our exports per head of the population, showing how much larger they were than those of our principal competitors per head of the population, and asks what more we want. When I listen to the right hon. Gentleman I never know whether to be more amazed at the extent of his information or the misuse he makes of it. What has that to do with the question? What possible inference can you draw from it? The only test which would have any value is the export per head of that proportion of the population which is engaged in manufacture for export, and, fortunately, or unfortunately for us, I will not undertake to say which, we have probably a much larger proportion of our population engaged in manufacture for export than, for instance, such a country as Germany. Why, Sir, the view put before us ignores altogether the fact that in Germany agriculture is still a prosperous industry, that something like one-third of the people of the German Empire still find their living in agricultural pursuits. May I not turn the tables on the right hon. Gentleman, may I not say that, if you are to look at our exports per head, you should also look at the imports per head of our customers? Which, 909 then, is our most valuable market—our own Colonies with an import per head of their population varying from 41s. in Canada to 112s. in the Cape of Good Hope and Natal, or Germany, Holland, and Belgium with 12s. 9d., France with 8s. 6d., and the United States with only 5s. 9d.? I go further; I challenge the right hon. Gentleman's statement that we hold our own, that when once we meet our competitors, Germany and the United States, for instance, away from the immediate neighbourhood of their boundaries, we are beating them out of the field. Let me remind the right hon. Gentleman—I think he has forgotten it for the moment in the excitement of the debate—that he is President of the Board of Trade. As President of the Board of Trade he has presented to this House a Return which deals with our trade and the trade of Germany and the United States. what does it show? It shows that the [...]ports to China, including Hong Kong, [...]in the United Kingdom increased[...]2,244,000 on an average for the five years 1900–4 above the five years 1890–94. He says that we beat our competitors out of the field because the whole increase is £2,250,000 in round figures, while the increase of Germany is £1,260,000. Our increase is greater than that of Germany, but our percentage of increase is very much less. [MINISTERIAL laughter.] I expected that laughter; I invited it and was waiting for it. Now let us have the figures of the United States, which are not contiguous to Hong Kong or China. We at any rate have a depôt in Hong Kong under our own flag. What is the increase of the United States?—£3,255,000, more than a million more than the increase in the exports of this country, which is beating America out of the field.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to give the actual figures. I think he ought to. America sold £5,000,000 worth, Germany £3,380,000 worth; we sold £13,000,000 worth, almost twice as much us both of them together.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I have not the slightest objection to the 910 right hon. Gentleman giving any figures he likes.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
But I would beg him to choose them fairly. I say in the first place that I was not going to give those figures because that was not relevant to the argument he advanced. His statement was not that our trade was greater than theirs—that we all knew, we were first in the field, and we still have a lead—but that we were beating them out of the field. But now I take his figures. He has taken the figures of the single year 1904. The Return is made out in averages of years; why did he not quote the average of years? He has chosen a year in which American trade fell from over £5,800,000 to a little over £4,900,000—a year in which American trade fell by nearly £1,000,000—to compare with a year in which our trade happened to jump up by £4,000,000. I do not call that a fair use of figures. Let me take the five years' average as in the Return.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I should do the right hon. Gentleman injustice if I suggested that he was deliberately choosing those figures which were not representative or accurate, but he should know his own Return; and when he has occasion to quote it, he should have in his mind these facts, which make the particular quotation he chose wholly misrepresentative. On an average of five years our trade was £9,900,000; Germany's trade £5,300,000; that of the United States £2,800,000. We are not beating our competitors out of the field. The same is true of Argentina. Instead, however, of taking Argentina alone, I will take the whole of South America. There is no foreign trade we have, I suppose, more important to us than the South American trade. Germany has no special advantages; it is not just over her borders; the United States are not close at hand. Are we beating Germany out of the whole of the South American trade? 911 The increase of Germany, if we compare the average of the two periods of five years I have already taken, was £2,500,000. Yet Germany is hampered by the high protective tariff which, according to the right hon. Gentleman opposite, causes raw material to become dearer, and the cost of labour to be increased, and which, therefore, destroys her power of effective competition. Yet her average increase is £2,500,000. The United States increased under the same disadvantages by £1,750,000, and Great Britain, with its doors wide open to the goods of every country in the world, no matter at what price they may dump, no matter at what cost to our own industry, with no tax on corn to raise the cost of labour, with every advantage that the right hon. Gentleman can desire for it, her increase is what? Sir, we have no increase. There is a decrease of over £400,000. Is it not trifling with the House for the Minister who presented that Return to make to us the statement that wherever natural conditions are not adverse to us we beat our competitors out of the field?
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, Sir, there was an increase last year of £14,000,000, as the right hon. Gentleman says. I have taken out figures for last year. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to bring up his Return to date; I am sure he will be glad to do so; and I will undertake to say you will find that though there was an extraordinary expansion last year, it was not confined to us. There was a large expansion with our competitors as well, and though it will perhaps wipe out the decrease in the trade for the average of five years, it will not alter the tendencies which I have described, and which are shown in the Return I have quoted. It is conceded by every one, and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer first of all, that with the threat protective nations of the world our trade is becoming more and more difficult. It is not only becoming more and more difficult, but what we preserve of it is altering its character. There was a German official statement the other 912 day recounting the fact in bald and uncoloured language. It said the export trade from England to Germany was almost entirely in raw materials or goods in which little work had been employed, whilst the export from Germany to this country was now mainly in highly-finished manufactures. Nobody can contend that we are holding our own in these great protective markets. I have shown by the right hon. Gentleman's own Return that we are not holding our own in the neutral markets, where, if anywhere, we ought to be doing best. Our colonial markets, I say, then become of increasing importance; we must cultivate them; we must seek to make good there, where at any rate they are willing to welcome us, what we lose, or cease to gain elsewhere. What, then, are the objections? The right hon. Gentleman objected—following the right hon. Baronet the Member for the Forest of Dean—that it was impossible to deal with the case of India. He went further. He said, in positive terms, that the Government of India rejected any notice of it. What authority had he for that statement? It is not contained in Lord Curzon's despatch. Has he a new despatch, and will he lay it on the table? No; he has no new despatch, and he gives no authority. All that I need say about India on this occasion is that the case of India must, of course, be considered in the interests of India. The right hon. Baronet seemed surprised because I cheered the statement that it would be monstrous to force on India a tariff or preferential system to which India herself was opposed. I should have thought it was common sense to say so. It is obvious that she must be invited to consider the question and that her treatment must be governed by those who are competent to speak for her as to how she should be treated. But he speaks as if the present tariff system of India was the work of the people of India, and was that which by preference found favour in her eyes. Is here a living soul who knows anything of India who thinks that India would maintain her present fiscal system for a day if not compelled? Our own Anglo-Indian officials would alter that system to-morrow if the Secretary of State for India would allow 913 them. We shall not make greater difficulties for India; we may be able to give her greater advantages than she has hitherto had from our control over her fiscal system. I come to the case of the Colonies. There are two main objections that have been raised to any preference by the Colonies. The first is that they have nothing to give us. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Liecester spoke of the case of Australia. Nobody would dream, to listen to his speech, that the Prime Ministers of the Governments of Australia and the leaders of the Labour Party in Australia were all in favour of preference and had publicly expressed this. The hon. Gentleman thought Australia had nothing to give us and would have even less in future. He suggested that they might put on a system of export duties on raw materiel. I do not know whether he is right or not. If he is, I draw exactly the opposite inference from that which he drew. Preference becomes not less important but more important. There is no duty that Australia can impose on which a preference would be of such importance to us as a preference on any export duty on their raw material. He says, as other speakers have said of other Colonies, that you cannot have any effective offer from them because they are people who wish to keep their own work to themselves We never supposed that they were going to be one of those unwise countries which put all their eggs in one basket. We look forward to their development, not as hostile to us, but as taking pride such as a father felt in the growth and development of his son. We do not desire to hamper or limit them. What they desire to offer us is a preference, in those things which they cannot supply themselves, over all the rest of the world. The hon. Member says the Australian cry is, "Australian work for Australian workmen;" the New Zealand cry is, "New Zealand work for New Zealand workmen;" and the Canadian cry is, "Canadian work for Canadian workmen. "I, for one, am not ashamed to say that I want British work for British workmen in as large a measure as we can obtain it. I doubt if there is a single hon. Member who would care to say the opposite. If we differ, it is not as to our object; it is as to our 914 means. I believe that the means which we must use are the means which have been pointed to by my right hon. friend beside me (the Leader of the Opposition). We must secure fairer terms for our people at home. We must cultivate the best markets that are open to us and seek to extend them. The hon. and learned Gentleman who spoke earlier in the afternoon, followed fast by the President of the Board of Trade, though much more cautiously, I was glad to see, argued that the Canadian preference did us no good, or a trifling amount of good, because there had been a great expansion in Canadian prosperity, and because the United States of America had increased their exports to Canada even faster than we have ours. You have to remember that, in the first place, that preference covered only a limited number of articles; and, secondly, that the preference is ad valorem, and that where the duty is low the preference will be low, and may be insufficient to turn the trade our way. The President of the Board of Trade spoke of the competition in steel rails and said, "How can you compete on any system of preference when the Americans dump their rails at 20 dollars a ton which it is a fair profit to sell at home at 27 dollars a ton?" Does the right hon. Gentleman know that Canada has not merely a preferential tariff, but a penalty tax on dumping? Does he know, or is this an insignificant detail which it is not worth while for the President of the Board of Trade to give attention to, that Canada put that tax on American rails when the Americans dumped them and threw the trade into our hands by doing so? Of course, the American trade has increased faster than our own; but the significant fact is that American trade was increasing all along. Ours, until the moment that preference was given, was going down. From the moment we got preference it rose; and I do not think there is a manufacturer dealing in the articles on which we have a preference and doing Canadian trade who will not say that he has derived benefit from the preference he has enjoyed. The hon. Gentleman and others argue that you cannot have a uniform system giving the same preference to all your Colonies. Whoever pretended you could, or ever asked such a thing? That is not how 915 Canada offers its Imperial preference. It makes a tariff of a preferential kind in which it admits from the British Empire certain goods on favourable terms. It does not make an exact debtor and creditor account, and try to strike a precise balance between what it gives and receives, and that is the force of the argument addressed to us. The hon. Gentleman asks, "Do you think you can give any effective preference upon the duties now in existence?" What is the use, says the hon. and learned Gentleman, of a preference on wine to the Cape? Does he know; if not, will he allow me to inform him, that the Cape Government on more than one occasion—more than one Cape Government—has specifically asked for that as something of great benefit to themselves? But even if that were a small benefit, is there no sentiment in this matter? Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen would bid us rely on sentiment alone in our relations with the rest of the Empire. There is a sentiment for union which finds expression among our Colonial kinsmen in a desire for preference. If you cannot give it on a large scale, at least respond to the sentiment by doing it on a small scale. And if you set sentiment so high as you have been inclined to do, do not despise the effect which even a small preference might have on their sentimental feelings. But the right hon. gentleman wants to know where, in my opinion, we ought to stop, whether, if we make full use of our duties at present existing, we should have a broad-based system of preference within the Empire. I do not think so. You may supplement it with any new tax if you cannot find means by bounties on shipping or by preferential rates—means by which some other countries give considerable assistance to their trade; but, for my part, I admit I do not think you can have any broad-based preferential schemes within this country without imposing new Customs duties at our ports, new Customs duties which in part must fall upon food. I agreed with my right hon. friend, and we do not stand alone in this matter, that the financial needs of this country will force us to broaden the basis of our taxation. That is no new doctrine of the Party for which I speak. It has been preached by Lord Goschen, who, I am sorry to say, will never again help us in 916 our financial discussions, and it has been preached again and again by Lord St. Aldwyn, who, because he felt it so strongly, put taxes on coal, corn, and sugar. We repealed the tax on corn. You abandoned the tax on coal. What an unnecessary sacrifice of revenue you made the great demand now shows and the high prices which prevail.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Gentleman is not very courteous; and he is also wrong. These taxes have gone. I believe you must find new taxes, and I say to my right hon. friend that if you find new Customs duties, we must use these new, as we would use our present duties, to give the widest preference we can to our own kinsmen. Hon. Gentlemen opposite want to know whether I would tax food. I have never made any secret of that. I would tax food as they tax food; it is merely a question of what food should be taxed. I would not make harder the struggles of the poor, I would not impose upon them a heavier burden; if a sacrifice is to be made let it be borne by those who are best able to bear it. What I propose is not an addition to, but a redistribution of, the burden upon the poor, and that is the most that is involved. It is constantly argued as if the main question for the poor was cheapness of food, as if the most important question for the poor was to be able to buy in the cheapest possible market, and it is argued again and again that any import duty must raise the price of the article, at least to the extent of the duty. I wish hon. Gentlemen would test that theory by a little conversation with any British manufacturer doing an export trade in any but patent or monopoly articles. Is the export trader with Germany or the United States in any article they make there able to secure from his customer the whole of the duty paid upon the article?
917 No, we know it is not the case; the manufacturer is compelled to give way, and unless he takes part of the duty upon himself the purchaser he desires to secure will go elsewhere. This is constantly done. There is nothing peculiar in this respect in regard to food. If there is a sufficient supply within the Empire the foreign exporter will have to do what the British manufacturer has had to do to get his produce into foreign countries, take part of the burden upon himself; how much, or if the whole, will depend upon the supply at home. Is cheapness the greatest consideration for the working man? Nothing in the course of this debate has struck me more than to find how far the Cobdenites of the new school have travelled from the ground occupied by their master. Cobden did not argue that price was all-important; he made a speech in which he rebuked Sir E. Peel for promising cheapness, and said that it was not a sign of wealth and prosperity and that high prices accompanied prosperous times. Not only Cobden, but Mr. Gladstone held that view. The House will understand that I quote him for no more than his view that cheapness is not of the most importance to the poor of this country. In 1860, in the course of his Budget speech, he said—I do not hesitate to say that it is a mistake to suppose that the best way to assist the welfare of the poorer classes is simply to operate on the articles they consume; to do them the maximum amount of good you should rather operate on the articles which give them the maximum of employment.If my memory serves me rightly the speech was made upon the occasion when Mr. Gladstone proposed the abolition of the paper duty and was defending himself against the objection that he should have taken the shilling duty oft corn. He wished to give a greater relief to the working classes and did not take off the corn duty. Mr. Gladstone said—What has brought about the greatest change in late years in the position of the working classes? Not the lightening of taxation here and there of a penny or two-pence in articles consumed; it is that the general course of trade has been set more free. It is that there has been opened a wider field and higher remuneration for labour.Then Mr. Gladstone went on to refer to the effect of the repeal of the coin duties. Hon Members have not, per- 918 haps, studied the effect of that change; they may accept Mr. Gladstone's statement made in 1860—It may possibly be doubted if up to this time you have given them cheaper bread, or at the best it is but a trifle cheaper than before.I do not doubt the good object of Mr. Gladstone and Cobden in their day; but do their methods serve the same end now? Do they make more free the general course of trade? We know that the course of trade is more than ever hampered by foreign tariffs. Do they give a greater field of employment for our people? Much of the trade we used to have has gone to other countries because of our defenceless position against tariffs. There is another question I will put. The price of bread on any day you like to take varies in different parts of the country, varies even in different streets of the same town, and in working-class quarters of the same character. Have you ever heard of a man moving to another town because there bread was ½d. a pound cheaper? No; if he moves it is not in search of cheaper bread, but in search of work. It is to secure for him more employment that, from our point of view, we press this subject on the House. We do not ask hon. Gentleman to commit themselves in any way to a proposal; but we hold this to be a matter of vital importance to ourselves and to the Empire at large, and we would improve our own condition while strengthening the unity of the Empire. The resolution invites the House to allow consideration of the whole problem in its relation to different parts of the Empire. What is the aim of our policy? Have we as a country any settled policy at all or any coherent body of thought behind it? Have we a well-defined purpose or settled means for attaining it? I do not suppose any member will avow indifference to the future of the British Empire, or does not desire the continuation of the union of the parts now composing it; but who can say that was the view held when our present fiscal system was adopted? Is it not notorious that, so far from the fiscal system being adopted with a view to the unity of the Empire, it was rather regarded as a gentle dissolvent which, in the most gradual way, might pave the 919 way for separation and the setting up of the Colonies as friendly but independent States? Who cherishes such an ideal now? We have surely a better, a higher ideal. Men then looked forward to the time when these countries would no longer be part of a great Empire—though they did suppose there would still be a United Kingdom.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
They looked forward to a time when international barriers would be broken down, when national armaments would be reduced, national rivalries softened, our intercourse with foreign nations peaceful, and trade directed to the supply of each other's deficiencies. But the whole trend of affairs has been directly contrary to anticipations, rivalries have intensified, armaments are greater than ever. In these sixty years we have had the creation of a new Italy, a new Germany, formed first by trade and then by "blood and iron"; a consolidation of the United States also by "blood and iron"; we have seen the birth of a new Japan amid the clash of arms, and perhaps we shall see a new Russia. The whole situation has changed, our ideas, our objects, have changed, and our policy must change too. I will not say more now in regard to the changes in our Colonies; they are not Colonies in the usual sense, they are not dependen-
§ cies, they have become sister nations superior to us in territory, and in time they may become greater in population and wealth. What are our relations to be with them? We abandoned the laissez faire and laissez aller policy upon which our fiscal system was founded long ago; we have abandoned the old ideas, and is it not the irony of fate that this Government should be the feeble echo of the obsolete thunders of the Liberty and Property Defence Association, and should support views that prevailed in the early stages of Colonial development? Our development would have been different. It would not have been less rapid, less fruitful, or less prosperous. But it would have been less isolated, less careless of the common aim. We cannot retrace the past. We cannot do to-day what would have been so easy to do sixty years ago. But it is still time for us to fortify the ties of sentiment between us and our Colonies with ties of common interests and daily intercourse. Let us embark our fortunes on a common venture. Let us man the ship of Empire with the hopes and the fortunes of all. So only can we be sure that when the tempest breaks we shall meet the crisis with a common purpose and a common effort
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 98; Noes 363. (Division List No. 6.)923
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn.J.A.(Wore.||Haddock, George R.|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Coates, E. Feetham(Lewisham)||Hambro, Charles Eric|
|Ashley, W. W.||Collings,Rt.Hn. J.(Birmingh'm||Hamilton, Marquess of|
|Balcarres, Lord||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Hardy, Laurence (Kent,Ashf'rd|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Courthope, G. Loyd||Hay, Hon. Claude George|
|Balfour,Rt Hn.A.J.(City Lond.)||Craig,Charles Curtis (Antrim,S)||Heaton, John Henniker|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Craig,Captain James(Down,E.)||Helmsley, Viscount|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Dalrymple, Viscount||Hervey,F. W. F. (Bury S.Edm'ds|
|Banner, John S. Harmood||Dixon, Sir Daniel||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Dixon-Hartland,Sir FredDixon||Hills, J. W.|
|Beach,Hn.Michael Hugh Hicks||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Houston, Robert Paterson|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Duncan,Robert (Lanark, Govan||Hunt, Rowland|
|Boyle, Sir Edward||Faber, George Denison (York)||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt.Hon.Col. W.|
|Bridgeman, W. Clive||Fell, Arthur||Lane-Fox, G. R.|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Fletcher, J. S.||Lee,Arthur H.(Hants.,Fareh'm|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H.||Forster, Henry William||Liddell, Henry|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||Lockwood,Rt.Hn. Lt.-Col.A.R.|
|Cave, George||Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West)||Long,Rt.Hn. Walter (Dublin, S.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Gordon, J. (Londonderry, S.)||Lonsdale, John Brownlee|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Gordon,SirW.Evans-(T'rHam.)||Lowe, Sir Francis William|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Percy, Earl||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Lanark)|
|Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel||Vincent, Col. Sir C. E. Howard|
|Meysey-Thompton, E. C.||Remnant, James Farquharson||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Middlemore,John Throgmorton||Roberts, S.(Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Ropner, Colonel Sir Robert||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Moore, William||Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)||Wilson, A. Stanley (York,E.R.)|
|Morpeth, Viscount||Salter, Arthur Clavell||Wortley,Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Muntz, Sir Philip A.||Sloan, Thomas Henry||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Nicholson, Wm. G.(Petersfield)||Stanley,Hon.Arthur (Ormskirk|
|Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)||Starkey, John R.||Tellers for the Ayes—|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff'sh.)||Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia.|
|Pease,Herbert Pike(Darlington||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N. E.)||Cheetham, John Frederick||Gooch, George Peabody|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Grant, Corrie|
|Adkins, W. Ryland D.||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)|
|Agnew, George William||Clarke, C. Goddard||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Clough, William||Griffith, Ellis J.|
|Alden, Percy||Clynes, J. R.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Collins,Sir Wm.J.(S.Pancras, W.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.|
|Asquith,Rt.Hn. Herbert Henry||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Hall, Frederick|
|Astbury, John Meir||Corbett,C. H. (Sussex,E.Grinst'd||Halpin, J.|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Cory, Clifford John||Hardie,J.Keir(Merthyr Tydvil)|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.||Hart-Davies, T.|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Cox, Harold||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Harvey, W.E.(Derbyshire, N.E.|
|Barker, John||Crombie, John William||Harwood, George|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Crosfield, A. H.||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)|
|Barnard, E. B.||Crossley, William J.||Haworth, Arthur A.|
|Barnes, G. N.||Cullinan, J.||Hayden, John Patrick|
|Barry, E. (Cork, S.)||Dalziel, James Henry||Hazel, Dr. A. E.|
|Beale, W. P.||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Hedges, A. Paget|
|Beauchamp, E.||Davies, M. Vaughan (Cardigan)||Helme, Norval Watson|
|Beaumont,Hon. H.(Eastbourne||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Hemmerde, Edward George|
|Beck, A. Cecil||Davies, W. Howell(Bristol, S.)||Henderson, Arthur (Durham)|
|Bell, Richard||Delany, William||Henry, Charles S.|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Herbert, Colonel Ivor (Mon.,S.)|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r'Hamlets,S.Geo.||Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.)||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)|
|Bennett, E. N.||Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Higham, John Sharp|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Dillon, John||Hobart, Sir Robert|
|Bethell,Sir J.H.(Essex,Romf'rd||Dobson, Thomas W.||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.|
|Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Dolan, Charles Joseph||Hogan, Michael|
|Billson, Alfred||Donelan, Captain A.||Holden, E. Hopkinson|
|Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Holland, Sir William Henry|
|Boland, John||Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hooper, A. G.|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Hope, JohnDeans (Fife, West)|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Horniman, Emslie John|
|Brace, William||Elibank, Master of||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Ellis, Rt.Hon. John Edward||Hudson, Walter|
|Branch, James||Erskine, David C.||Hutton, Alfred Eddison|
|Brigg, John||Esmonde, Sir Thomas||Hyde, Clarendon|
|Bright, J. A.||Evans, Samuel T.||Isaacs, Rufus Daniel|
|Brooke, Stopford||Everett, R. Lacey||Jackson, R. S.|
|Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs.,Leigh)||Farrell, James Patrick||Jardine, Sir J.|
|Brunner,Rt. Hn.Sir J.T. (Cheshire||Fenwick, Charles||Jenkins, J.|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Ferens, T. R.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Ffrench, Peter||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor(Swansea)|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Jones, Leif (Appleby)|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Flynn, James Christopher||Jordon, Jeremiah|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Jowett, F. W.|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Fuller, John Michael F.||Joyce, Michael|
|Buxton, Rt.Hn.Sydney Charles||Fullerton, Hugh||Kearley, Hudson E.|
|Cameron, Robert||Gill, A. H.||Kekewich, Sir George|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Ginnell, L.||Kelley, George D.|
|Causton,Rt.Hn.Richard Knight||Gladstone,Rt.Hn. HerbertJohn||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick||Glendinning, R. G.||Kincaid-Smith, Captain|
|Chance, Frederick William||Goddard, Daniel Ford||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)|
|Kitson, Rt. Hon. Sir James||Nuttall, Harry||Soares, Ernest J.|
|Laidlaw, Robert||O'Brien, Kendal(TipperaryMid)||Stanley, Hn.A.Lyulph (Chesh.)|
|Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Steadman, W. C.|
|Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester)||O'Connor, James (Wicklow, W.||Stewart, Halley (Greenock)|
|Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm.||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)|
|Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)||Strachey, Sir Edward|
|Leese, Sir JosephF.(Accrington)||O'Dowd, John||Strauss, B. S. (Mile End)|
|Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich||O'Grady, J.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)|
|Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N||Stuart, James (Sunderland)|
|Levy, Maurice||O'Malley, William||Sullivan, Donal|
|Lewis, John Herbert||O'Mara, James||Summerbell, T.|
|Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)|
|Lough, Thomas||Parker, James (Halifax)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Lundon, W.||Partington, Oswald||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Lupton, Arnold||Paul, Herbert||Tennant,Sir Edward (Salisbury|
|Lyell, Charles Henry||Philipps,Col.Ivor (S'thampton)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Lynch, H. B.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)|
|Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Thomas,David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Macdonald,J.M.(Falkirk B'ghs)||Power, Patrick Joseph||Thomasson, Franklin|
|Mackarness, Frederic C.||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)||Thorne, William|
|Maclean, Donald||Price,Robert John (Norfolk, E.)||Tillett, Louis John|
|Macnamara, Dr.Thomas J.||Radford, G. H.||Tomkinson, James|
|MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Rainy, A. Holland||Torrance, Sir A. M.|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah (Down, S.||Raphael, Herbert H.||Toulmin, George|
|MacVeigh,Charles (Donegal,E.)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro')||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|M'Callum, John M.||Reddy, M.||Verney, F. W.|
|M'Crae, George||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||Wadsworth, J.|
|M'Kean, John||Redmond, William (Clare)||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)|
|M'Kenna, Reginald||Rees, J. D.||Walters, John Tudor|
|M'Killop, W.||Rendall, Athelstan||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)|
|M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Richards,Thomas (W.Monm'th||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)|
|M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Richards, T. F.(Wolverh'mpt'n||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n|
|M'Micking, Major G.||Richardson, A.||Wardle, George J.|
|Maddison, Frederick||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)||Waring, Walter|
|Mallet, Charles E.||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robertson, Rt. Hn. E. (Dundee||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)|
|Marks,G. Croydon (Launceston)||Robertson,Sir G.Scott(Bradf'rd||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Marnham, F. J.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)||Watt, H. Anderson|
|Massie, J.||Robinson, S.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Meagher, Michael||Robson, Sir William Snowdon||Weir, James Galloway|
|Meehan, Patrick A.||Roe, Sir Thomas||Whitbread, Howard|
|Menzies, Walter||Rogers, F. E. Newman||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Micklem, Nathaniel||Rose, Charles Day||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Molteno, Percy Alport||Rowlands, J.||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Mond, A.||Runciman, Walter||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Montagu, E. S.||Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Montgomery, H. G.||Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland)||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Mooney, J. J.||Scott,A.H. (Ashton-und.-Lyne)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)||Sears, J. E.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Seaverns, J. H.||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Morley, Rt. Hon. John||Seddon, J.||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Morrell, Philip||Seely, Major J. B.||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Morse, L. L.||Shackleton, David James||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Murphy, John||Sheehy, David||Wilson, J. W.(Worcestersh. N.)|
|Murray, James||Sherwell, Arthur James||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Myer, Horatio||Shipman, Dr. John G.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw)||Silcock, Thomas Ball||Winfrey, R.|
|Newnes, Sir George (Swansea)||Simon, John Allsebrook|
|Nicholls, George||Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Tellers for the Noes—|
|Nicholson,Charles N.(Doncast'r||Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Norman, Sir Henry||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Norton, Capt. Cecil William||Snowden, P.|
|Nussey, Thomas Willans||Soames, Arthur Wellesley|
§ * MR. THORNE (West Ham, S.)
moved the addition of the following words:—"But humbly express our regret that, whilst 5 per cent. of the most highly-skilled artisans are out of employment and the Unemployed Work- 924 men Act has proved inadequate to deal with distress due to lack of employment, no mention is made in Your Majesty's gracious Speech for any proposals for dealing with this serious and menacing evil." He said that after the very 925 eloquent speeches delivered that afternoon upon the policy of Colonial preference it was very difficult for a Member like himself to follow. The House would not expect him to deliver anything like a University or academical address on this question of the unemployed, seeing that he started work when between three and four years of age and had never received any scholastic education. He had, therefore, some difficulty in finding words to give expression to his feelings on the subject dealt with by his Amendment. There had been many questions discussed during the last week, but to his way of thinking there was none more important than that he was about to raise. The organised workers were very much disappointed with the Government because they were not promised any legislation this session. In the King's Speech of 1906 he believed there was some reference made to legislation in order to amend the Unemployed Workmen's Act of 1905. Up to July, 1906, however, absolutely nothing was done, but a promise was made to distribute £200,000 among the distress committees. Such a sum as £200,000 was, however, useless to deal with the unemployed question. It was indeed like a drop in the ocean, and in his opinion £5,000,000 would not solve the problem. No doubt the £200,000 had been properly spent, and the President of the Local Government Board would tell them how it was distributed. To the Distress Board of West Ham £7,000 was sent, for which they were very thankful, but he might point out that in that borough they had 4,000 men and women who had registered their names under the Act as being out of employment. What was true of West Ham applied to other parts of the town and country. Last year £4,500,000 was granted to Ireland in relief of distress, and no doubt the economic condition of the labourers of Ireland was very bad indeed, but it should not be forgotten that the economic condition of the labourers of this country was as bad as that of the workers in Ireland. Under those circumstances one Would have expected that the President of the Local Government Board would have obtained more than £200,000 from the Treasury. No doubt the right hon 926 Gentleman would later on allude to the booming state of trade and to the tremendous increase of the imports and exports of this country, and he admitted that trade in most of our industrial Centres was much better than it was two years ago. The Returns presented by the Board of Trade, however, showed that in regard to highly trained men 80 per 1,000 were out of employment in January, 1905, in 1906, 50 per 1,000, and in 1907 40 per 1,000. Therefore, there had been very little difference in the figures from year to year in regard to skilled artisans. Professor Giffen, who held a responsible position at the Board of Trade, had stated that there were 10,000,000 adult workers in this country, and according to the percentages 400,000 or 500,000 skilled men and women were out of employment at the various centres. That was merely on the basis of the skilled workers, but as far as the general or unskilled workers were concerned there were a great many more out of employment. Even if trade was a bit better now than it had been, they had to remember that there were cycles both of good and of bad trade. Assuming that this good cycle of trade would last two years, he thought the Government ought still to pass legislation so that when the cycle had ended local authorities would have power to deal with the most difficult and complex question of the unemployed. In his opinion the Unemployed Act of 1905 was nothing more than a rate-saving machine. Before that Act the local authorities were enabled to spend money out of the rates when men were out of work, but since the Act was passed they had refused to do anything of the kind or grant any money in any shape or form. They relied upon the Act of 1905, and the result was that many men had been starving because no relief whatever could be obtained for them. He recognised that in our large industrial centres machinery was being introduced and industrial inventions had been brought forward which must deprive a large number of men of their work. For instance, in the gas working trade during the last eight years new methods had been introduced which had deprived many men of their employment. In one factory at Bristol the foreman told him that under 927 the old system fifty-six instead of twenty-four men would have been employed. That state of things applied to all trades up and down the country. No doubt they would be told that the late war was to a large extent responsible for the present depression; but that could not be the case, because the war occurred in 1899, and as a matter of fact in 1885 and 1886 he and his right hon. friend opposite were the chief movers in a great agitation which tried to stir up the Government of the day. They worried the then President of the Local Government Board the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, and urged him to send out circulars to the local authorities giving them power to find work for unemployed men. Therefore he did not think the war was altogether responsible for the tremendous number of men who were out of work. Then again he expected that they would be asked to find out remedies, but that was for the Government. They were paid for the job. He for many years past had pinned his faith for the betterment of this condition of things to a legal eight hours day, and he believed if it were brought about it would absorb all the unemployed. It was said that this would make it impossible for our manufacturers to compete with the foreigner. He admitted that foreign competition was keen in some industries, but there were many trades in which there was no competition at all. There was none in regard to railways upon which the hours of labour were very long indeed. Moreover, if the Government were in earnest let them put their own house in order. If they reduced the hours of labour men would not, as now, be discharged from our arsenals and dockyards as they had been recently. Then again by a very short Bill the local authorities might be made to reduce the hours of labour of their employees to eight hours a day. In some cases in which he had been interested that policy had been adopted by mutual agreement; but the people were not satisfied with their administration, probably because they thought they had done too much for them, and they sent many of his friends about their business and many of the men were working as they did in the old days. Everybody who had studied it knew the gravity of the 928 problem and he did not care whether this was looked upon as a vote of censure or not—something would have to be done, because £200,000 was quite inadequate to deal with the question, especially if we had a cycle of years of depression. The Local Government Board ought to bring forward a Bill so as to have at hand some machinery by which when a man dropped out of employment he could be picked up at once, because in most cases when men were out of work for a week they were, vulgarly speaking, on their beam ends and had to pawn something to find food for their wives and children. He begged to move.
§ MR. O'GRADY (Leeds, E.)
, in seconding, said the House would see that this Amendment was somewhat different from the other Amendments dealing with the same subject which had been placed upon the Paper. It claimed that there were 5 per cent. of skilled workmen out of employment. As representing a union of skilled workers it was only proper that he should speak for the skilled workers and point out that what was happening to that class was also happening to the unskilled workers to a greater degree. So far as the skilled workers were concerned, 400,000 were out of employment. A few evenings previously it was stated in this House, and he believed the President of the Local Government Board agreed with the statement, that if we could get more technical education it would result in more employment, but he desired to point out that some of the most skilled men in the cabinet-making trade in London were walking about the streets unemployed. Owing to the building of large factories, which crowded out small employers, and the laying down of labour-saving machinery and the strict division of skilled work within the factories, this type of man was restricted to a small number of shops in a particular part of London who only did what was called bespoke work, special work, which was not done by the factories. The same thing also affected the other skilled industries, the logical outcome of a more economical process of production involving a greater reduction of work both of 929 the skilled and the unskilled worker. His hon. friend the Member for West Ham had quoted one example of the condition which obtained in every industrial centre. The figures with regard to West Ham, which were the figures of Mr. Humphreys, the secretary of the Borough Council of West Ham, and were correct, showed that during the four months from 1st October, 1906, to 31st January, 1907, there were registered as out of employment 3,816 persons, of whom 1,444 were skilled workers. Similar figures applied to the whole of the large industrial centres of the country, and from that the House would readily see that this was a far more startling problem than it appeared on the surface. His hon. friend had also stated that on the basis of an industrial population of 10,000,000, 10,000 would be out of employment. He thought his hon. friend had rather under-estimated the figure. Upon his estimate there would be no less than 90,000. He arrived at that estimate by taking the figure given in the return 4.2 per cent. on one-third of the membership of the trade unions, which made about 25,990 out of employment, and multiplying it by three, which gave 77,970 organised skilled workmen out of employment. Taking those figures on an industrial population of 16,000,000, which was nearer the mark than 10,000,000, the result obtained was 800,000 out of employment. He knew how difficult it was to deal with the question of unemployment; that the road to remedial and palliative legislation bristled with difficulties; and that the statesman was not yet born who could solve this problem; but all the Amendment asked was for sympathetic consideration and the adoption of legislative proposals upon right lines. In his opinion the problem was insoluble, owing to the fact that the present system, under which trade was engaged in for profit, was dependent on its being at all times able to draw upon a large supply of unemployed labour, and there being no desire on the part of those engaged in the pursuit of wealth under this system to grapple with the solution of the unemployed problem. It was quite obvious that if 400 or 300 adults were taken from the unemployed ranks and given work the security of those em- 930 ployed in the factories would be greater, because, there being less unemployed, wages would go up and hours go down. He would not say that all the unemployed were what they should be, but he would point out that the system which obtained to-day created the wastrel, and the only course to follow to recreate that man and bring him back to industrial usefulness was some method by which the problem of unemployment could be grappled with without delay, and without the aid of charity. The reason why trade unions were so interested in this matter was that the unemployed problem cost the organised trade union movement no less than from £600,000 to £800,000 a year, which he thought was grossly unfair. They were faced with a greater enemy than the judgments of the Courts which attacked and impaired the usefulness of their funds, and which they reversed last year. They were faced with the enemy hunger, and with the certainty that the percentage of unemployment would grow year by year. In this the most prosperous year that he had known, when the output both as to quantity and value was greater than ever it had been, the average of unemployment had grown to 5 per cent. That was to say for five out of every 100 of skilled workmen engaged in the cabinet-making trade there was no room, and they expected with the extension of the factory system that that percentage would grow from five to ten and from ten to fifteen, with the result that it would whittle away the membership of the unions. Looking to the question of unemployment or working short time, it was obvious that, if the funds of unions were constantly drawn upon for unemployment benefits, in time they would not be able to pay them, and therefore they would be unable to keep up their membership. Labour Members did not grumble at the increase of machinery, which ought to be a blessing, nor did they grumble about the more economical methods of production. What they did say, however, was that the nation is a whole reaped the benefit of increased productivity and of more economical methods of production, and that by improved processes more men were thrown out of employment. They submitted that the nation ought to recognise 931 the position, and deal with it not merely from a humanitarian point of view, but because they had taken upon themselves the responsibility of recognising the right of every man to sustenance and means of earning his living. Broadly, that was their case. What did they suggest as the best course of dealing with this question? Might he emphatically remind the House that last session a promise was made in the King's Speech with regard to the subject of unemployment? They were all delighted to hear that promise. They were satisfied again when, at the adjournment for the Easter holidays, the right hon. Gentleman promised that the Act should be amended. On the adjournment for the Whitsuntide holidays, he regretted to say that the right hon. Gentleman somewhat shifted his position, if he might be permitted to use that expression, as to the character of the legislation to be undertaken and the action to be taken. The right hon. Gentleman said that figures did not affect him; what weighed with him were the difficulties of the situation, and the need, concurrently with palliative measures and financial provision for next winter, of legislation and change of a preventive character that would render all soup kitchens and farm colonies unnecessary in five or ten years. On the adjournment on the 19th July, the right hon. Gentleman made the definite declaration that the Government intended to keep their promise to amend the Act; and the point was whether it was wise or not to do so. All agreed that the Act was inadequate, but the one thing that the Act did was to admit the responsibility of the State for dealing with unemployed workmen. There was great value in that admission of principle, and, as far as he was concerned, his position was that the Act ought to be amended in the direction of giving greater authority to local bodies. He was one of a Committee, in conjunction with several other hon. Members with whom he acted, who considered the question of the unemployed, and how it could be effectively dealt with. They submitted to the late Premier and the then President of the Local Government Board a circular in which they made certain suggestions. The 932 late Prime Minister, rightly or wrongly, thought their suggestions were not at all practicable. One of the suggestions was as to afforestation. We had something like 22,000,000 acres of waste land, and he submitted that we ought to begin the experiment. He submitted also that this work could be undertaken effectively by the local authorities. He was himself in the wood trade, and they knew that the time would come when they would have seriously to consider the supply of this raw material. How could that be done? He submitted that at least half of the 22,000,000 acres of waste land should be put under timber, and that would employ a large number of workmen. The ex-Premier had told them that the accomplishment of this object was not probable, and yet they had seen enough to learn what splendid results had been achieved in this direction in Germany. A Committee of the House of Commons had reported that—There were 21,000,000 acres of waste land in Great Britain, of which at least half were suitable for forestry. In 1903 we imported £21,000,000 worth of fir timber alone. Of the 135,000,000 acres which composed the German Empire, 35,000,000 are under wood. They give employment to 400,000 workpeople, and yield a revenue of £18,000,000 to the State.Lord Powers court had explained that on his estate he obtained a yield of £1 an acre from waste land planted with trees, while the value of agricultural land in the neighbourhood had been enhanced by 10s. an acre. He submitted that all that was needed from the amendment of the Unemployed Workmen's Act was to give greater powers to the local authorities. Secondly, they ought to recognise that the solution of the problem was a matter of national responsibility, and that it should therefore be dealt with on national lines. A conference of local authorities who met in the City of Norwich to consider the question of the erosion of the sea-coast, agreed that this was distinctly a question for the Government, and they petitioned that works for preventing erosion should be undertaken. The point of that was that such an undertaking would provide work for the unemployed, not only for the unskilled labourer, but for large numbers of skilled workmen. The right hon. Gentleman would recollect that he attended a conference held in 933 the Guildhall, in 1903, in regard to the unemployed. The question of the reclamation of waste land was under consideration, and the conference almost unanimously declared that this also was a work that would be profitable to the nation, and would find employment for large sections of unemployed workmen. His hon. friend the Member for Tottenham had written a very valuable pamphlet on that kind of work, and he only wished he had time to quote from it. All these things would aid to some degree in grappling with the problem. Above all, unemployed men would be given work instead of charity, and they would obtain wages for the work they did. Parliament ought to look at this question from the point of view of how it would affect the nation, and also from the economic point of view. To place in the hands of 500,000 men, which he submitted could be done, wages obtained for work of the character he had indicated, would inevitably increase the general prosperity of the country, because these men would want clothes, furniture, and house room. It would prevent men from becoming wasteful, and it would preserve the family life. The time had come when they ought to grapple with this matter in an effective manner, and the only way to do this was not by charitable methods, but by giving, in the first place, local authorities additional powers; and, in the second place, by creating some machinery able to grapple with large masses of men and to put them to some useful work which would be beneficial to themselves and to the nation.
At the end of the Question, to add the words, 'But humbly express our regret that, whilst five per cent. of the most highly-skilled artisans are out of employment, and the Unemployed Workmen Act has proved inadequate to deal with distress due to lack of employment, no mention is made in Your Majesty's gracious Speech of any proposals for dealing with this serious and menacing evil.' "—(Mr. Thorne.)
§ Question again proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ *MR. ALDEN (Middlesex, Tottenham)
congratulated the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment upon the forcible way 934 in which they had stated their case. It seemed to him that it was quite unnecessary to appeal for sympathy in this House, because that was already assured. What they had to do was to suggest ways and means by which this evil could be remedied. He thought they might confidently say that there were in this country quite 500,000 unemployed. That number might be disputed, but even if there were only 250,000 the question would be big enough for any Government to solve. He agreed that the time had gone by for dealing with this question by charity. There were already a large number of charitable institutions attempting to deal with this question, but he was afraid that they were not making the evil any less, and probably they were intensifying it. He did not wish to say anything against the efforts of certain religious institutions, but he would like to ask those organisations to consider very carefully whether in their wood chopping in labour yards they were not in some cases doing more harm than good, and ousting the regular labourer. He hoped they would give thoughtful consideration to that matter, because he had a great deal of evidence to show that in the past some harm had been done. The only two suggestions which had been made to meet the difficulty were relief works and emigration. With regard to relief works he quite endorsed what had been said about them by the hon. Member for South West Ham and about the condition of West Ham. He thought 4,000 was rather under-estimating the number of unemployed in the West Ham district. That in itself was a very serious matter. Not long ago the Charity Organisation Society investigated over 3,000 of these cases in order that they might be able to say definitely whether these men were genuine unemployed and really wanted work, or whether they were the won't-works. After careful investigation they decided that something like 8 per cent. were men who could be styled lazy and unwilling to work. He did not think that was a very large proportion when they remembered the large amount of casual labour in that district, and what a bad effect casual employment had upon the morale of the labourer. What were they to do with the remainder? 935 If it could be proved beyond a shadow of doubt that the great majority of these men in West Ham and Tottenham were willing to work, there was nothing for it on the part of any Government worthy of the name but to make some attempt to supply them with work. Some attempt had been made, and he wished to give credit to the President of the Local Government Board for having acted promptly in the cases which concerned his own district. The moment they had put forward works of general utility which would not in the ordinary way be carried out by local authorities, the President of the Local Government Board had met them immediately, and granted the necessary supplies. He wished to give the right hon. Gentleman credit for that. But the difficulty of relief works was to find the right kind of work, and that was almost impossible in some districts. Therefore they could not regard relief works as a solution of the unemployed problem, but only as a temporary expedient which tided them over a difficulty during a passing trade depression. If relief works were to be useful they ought to adopt the co-operative gang system which had been so successful in New Zealand, where the State had a department dealing with the unemployed. The unemployed in New Zealand were broken up into small gangs of ten or twelve men, and they selected their own foreman. They were then permitted to contract for any small piece of work such as the clearing of a forest, or the making of a piece of road, and they did it at a price which the Government engineer fixed. They were then allowed to carry out the work in their own time, and the quicker they got it done the more money they earned. If the local authorities could adopt this co-operative gang system they would at once remove many of the difficulties which had presented themselves in regard to relief works. The other remedy suggested was emigration. Before they tried that remedy upon any very large scale he certainly thought they ought to try migration. In Ireland the Congested Districts Board were at present considering the problem of migrating from the congested districts many hundreds, and perhaps thousands of labourers, who could not earn a 936 livelihood, whose holdings were not economic, and who, if they were to be enabled to earn a livelihood, would have to be planted upon better and richer land. The Congested Districts Board were seeking compulsory powers to acquire some of the rich grazing lands in Roscommon, and he thought England ought to follow the example of Ireland in this respect. There should be some machinery by which the men who had migrated from the country districts to the towns could be once more placed upon the land. With regard to afforestation, it was a great, important, and lucrative industry. He thought also that the question of coast erosion needed the attention of the Government and would be of great value to the country as a whole and especially to the unemployed. He would like to point out that there were already in the Government pigeon holes a scheme for afforestating thirty or forty thousand acres of land in Scotland, and he thought that might be taken up. The land had been inspected, and it was exactly suited for such an experiment. If the Government would begin by making this experiment he was sure they would go on. The industry was so valuable that he was very much surprised that we had not followed the example of other countries in this matter. As to coast erosion, he had come to the conclusion that nothing but Government interference would be of any avail. It was impossible for small watering places to deal with coast erosion in their own immediate neighbourhoods. He had known a case where the rates had gone up 2s. or 3s. in one year. He wished to make one more suggestion which he believed had not been made in this House before. It was that help should be given to skilled workmen who were out of work. He asked a question the other day as to whether it would not be possible for the Government to help trade unions to pay out-of-work pay. The answer was that the trade unions had not made any attempt to get it. He would advise the trade unions to make the attempt, and he would advise the Government to encourage the trade unions in paying out-of-work pay. He believed that half of the difficulty in connection with the unemployed question would be solved so far as skilled workmen 937 were concerned if trade unions could be subsidised in the way he suggested. He did not say that an enormous amount of money should be paid by the Government, but he thought that if of the sum required the Government supplied one-third and the trade unions two-thirds the unions would be encouraged to go on providing for the unemployed. He could not see how the Government could properly deal with the unemployed question, seeing that there were five different departments concerned in it. At present the President of the Local Government Board had not power to deal with the unemployed problem as a whole. Either he or somebody else should have power to consider the question as a whole. A great deal had been learned on the subject in the last few years, and he would suggest, not for the purpose of delaying legislation, but rather with the desire to expedite it, that a small Select Committee might be usefully appointed to go into the matter and report upon it. He thought hon. Gentlemen opposite would not be averse to that suggestion.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN (Shropshire, Oswestry)
said he was extremely glad that the House had an opportunity of discussing this important question. The three speeches which had been delivered contained valuable suggestions, although he confessed he failed to distinguish in them any absolute remedies for this crying evil. One of the speakers had said that it was insoluble.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN
said he was not satisfied with palliatives. He would like to see remedies. Of all the men who sat on the Treasury Bench the President of the Local Government Board was the one in whom he had greatest confidence so far as common sense was concerned. The hon. Member who moved the Amendment had said that it would probably take £5,000,000 to settle the question.
§ MR. BRIDGEMAN
said that was only a different way of saying the same thing. But whether it would need so much money or not, he took it that the general view was that they would prefer that relief should be obtained, not from the State or the rates, but, if possible, by direct employment of a remunerative kind. There were a good many arguments both for and against an eight hours day, but the only result of that remedy, so far as he could see, would be that the same amount of money would be distributed in wages to a larger number of people. Profits were cut so low that capitalists could not pay more, and if they could not get their work done on remunerative terms they would take their capital abroad. Whether an eight hours day was meritorious or not, it would not by itself solve this question. He would like to see a condition of affairs in which an eight hours day would be possible without doing harm to a great many labourers. An hon. Member had stated that unemployment was in some measure due to improvements in machinery. If that was so, the difficulty was absolutely insurmountable, because there was no likelihood whatever of there being any set back in the improvements in machinery. Improved machinery was claimed as one of the great advantages in the industrial world because it produced the wonderful cheapness which many people thought almost the only important factor in our social system. He was inclined to think that afforestation was capable of helping more than anything else which had been mentioned. It was a very difficult question, and one which had been very little considered in this country. At present there were heavy rates and taxes placed upon woodland property. There were properties where wood grew which were more highly rated than land close by let for agricultural purposes. That was not the way to encourage afforestation. He had great confidence that the President of the Local Government Board would take that question into consideration. He thought that catch words which had prevailed during the past two years, owing partly to the election and partly to other reasons, had hindered many people in the study of the question of the unemployed. One 939 of the catch words had been "the volume of our trade" exports and imports. It had been said that the volume of our imports and exports had been so satisfactory that there ought not to exist such a number of unemployed at the present moment; that there must be something wrong, and that if they were unemployed it was because they would not work. That he did not believe, for he was convinced that many would work if they could get work. It was generally supposed that by adding imports to exports a proper result in estimating the volume of our trade was arrived at. But many people missed this point: the relative prices of exports and imports and the relative quantities. Everybody admitted that an ideal system would be one under which we could buy raw materials at the lowest possible price and sell our manufactured articles at the highest possible profit. He found that in regard to raw materials in this wonderful year which was boasted of so much, there had been an increase over 1905 of 11.4 per cent. in value, but only an increase of 2.1 per cent. in quantity. That was to say, that although we had been importing slightly more raw materials we had had to pay considerably more for them. That was not satisfactory, for the result was that less money was paid in wages. In regard to the exports of manufactured articles, there had been an increase in 1906 over 1905 of 5.4 per cent. in value and of 7.9 per cent. in quantity. That was to say that we exported more manufactured articles but were getting less for them than before. He would put the case in another way. If a man imported, in 1905, 1,000 tons of raw material for which he paid£1,000, and exported 100 tons of finished articles for which he got £2,000, he would have £1 per ton to spend on labour and profit. But taking the average increase shown for value and quantity for 1906 over 1905, he would have bought in 1906 1,020 tons for £1,114, and sold 108 tons for £2,109. In the volume of trade this would appear as a gain of £114 in imports and £109 in exports, or £223 altogether. [Ministerial cries of "Hear, hear!"] That looked very well, and it had taken some hon. Members in 940 who called "Hear, hear!" But it came to this, that a man paid 1s. 10d. per ton more for his raw materials and received 9s. 6d. less per ton for the finished articles. In other words, he would have made in 1906 about 17s. 2d. on every ton of raw materials he bought against £1 in 1905. He thought that that argument was of some importance. An argument generally advanced by the official representatives of the Government to account for the trouble we were in with regard to unemployment was that our education system was insufficient. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had told the House that all that was wanted was to mix more brains with our work. He did not believe that that would solve the problem. He thought that some of those who had the consideration of our affairs should mix more brains in the discussion of our trade Returns. Again, it was said that the price of wheat was the predominating factor in the matter of unemployment. But when he examined the figures he found that in 1858 the percentage of unemployed was 11.9 and the price of wheat was 44s. 2d. per quarter—a lower price than it had been for some years before and after. In 1879 the percentage of unemployed was 11.4 and the price of wheat 43s. 10d. In 1886 the percentage of unemployed was 10.2 and the price of wheat 31s. per quarter. Then the good years of employment covered the period when the price of wheat was dearest. For instance, in 1872 the percentage of unemployment was 0.9 and the price of wheat was 57s. per quarter; while in 1873, when the percentage of unemployed was, 1.2 the price of wheat was 58s. per quarter, a higher price than it reached at any time in the subsequent thirty-eight years. [An HON MEMBER on the MINISTERIAL Benches: That was immediately after the Franco-German War.] His argument was that employment or unemployment did not necessarily depend on the price of wheat in this country and that cheapness was not everything. He did not believe that this problem of unemployment was going to be solved on the lines laid down by the Prime Minister in his election address; and until the Government awoke to the fact that something had happened to alter 941 the conditions and factors in our trade we were not likely to have a solution of the unemployed problem.
§ *MR. THEODORE TAYLOR (Lancashire, Radcliffe)
said he wished to draw attention to the fact that in His Majesty's gracious Speech several measures were mentioned which, after, all would have some effect in remedying the general causes of unemployment. It was proposed to deal with the liquor laws, to introduce measures in regard to small holdings in England and Scotland, for the better housing of the working classes, to amend the patent laws, and to deal with the hours of work in mines. Although they were all at one in desiring to get a real remedy for unemployment, he would point out that, not only were a large number of people out of work in these good times in this free trade country, but there were more in protectionist countries. There were two aspects of this question. There was the ultimate aspect of the question and the more immediate aspect of how to deal with the distress. Much as he would have liked to discuss the general causes of unemployment, he intended to confine himself to the aspect with which the President of the Local Government Board was more concerned, and that was how to meet the recurring emergencies of unemployment. He was glad to see the late President of the Local Government Board present, because as a political opponent of the right hon. Gentleman he wished to say that we had not had a President of the Local Government Board who had shown that he had this question more at heart. This was not, and ought not to be, a Party question. He thought they all desired sincerely to help each other to find out the best way to deal with it. He noticed that the Member for East Leeds, whose moderate and statesmanlike speech he listened to with great pleasure, had given as a reason why there was, perhaps, no desire to grapple with the problem, that the present industrial system was based on the necessity for the continual existence of an unemployed class. He (Mr. Taylor) did not for a moment subscribe to that doctrine. He did not believe the present industrial regime was based on the continual existence of an unemployed class, and he held that if they could 942 remedy the evil of there not being employment for men who were able and anxious to work there would still be a field for the present system—the competitive system if they liked to call it so—to exist. He did not believe the question was one between extreme socialism or collectivism and extreme individualism. It was quite true, as had been said in another debate that afternoon, that there were only the Member for Preston and one or two other Members in the House who had the courage to stand up as ultra-individualists, but he did not think they were striking at the root of the present industrial system if they did away with the unemployed class, as it was their duty to do. Surely there was no sadder spectacle in the world than a man who desired work and could not find it, and he was sure we had no right as a Christian country to allow this to go on. What did this mean? It meant that the community must undertake the responsibility that every man who could work and was willing to work should have work found for him. Indeed they had agreed to this in voting for the Act of 1905. He knew that to his individualistic friends this sounded very shocking, but it was not shocking at all. He wished to lay down two conditions for the finding of work for the unemployed. He held, in the first place, that they would never get the consent of the public to find the necessary amount of money—and it would take a great deal of money to employ the total number of unemployed by the State—unless they were willing to deal with the certain proportion of men who are able to work, but would not. Their advance must be made upon two lines. They must find work for those able and willing to work, and they would have to make work those who were able but unwilling, and he believed there was no class in the world more willing to make idle men work than the working man who was willing to work. He contended they had no right to go to the public for the money needed, unless they protected the public from the loafer—the man who was a curse to his neighbours and his to family. They would have to provide adult reformatories for those who were able but not willing to work, or they would have no moral right to go to the public for money to provide work for 943 the willing, and, what was still more difficult, the machinery to provide work. He was talking a few weeks ago to one of the greatest financial authorities in the country, the chairman of one of the largest banking companies, and he asked him whether he thought afforestation was sound from an economic point of view. He reminded this gentleman, who was a free trader, of the arguments used so often that whatever we imported we paid for by the export of our manufactures, and, anticipating arguments which might be used on this line against the Government's adopting the business of afforestation, asked if it could not be urged that we should lose the corresponding export trade in manufactures we now have if we ceased to import the timber. His answer was that we should not lose the trade, because we should be employing our own people, who would consume our manufactures. Again, he said, speaking from the investment point of view, he knew nothing so likely to be remunerative in the future as the production of timber; but when asked why he did not himself invest in it, he said the return was not quick enough. If the return was not quick enough for a rich man, what must it be for a poor man—and they heard from the other side, the Party of so many landowners, that they were all very poor! He believed the national investment of waste human labour upon waste lands in this country was one of the finest investments the country could make. He believed it would pay in actual cash as well as the Suez Canal, and beyond that would give a great return in happiness and relief to a large part of our population. He held, however, that as a condition for relief works, so long as they were unremunerative they should give the worker rather less than the standard rate of wages. Another condition was that in finding work for one man they should not drive or force others out of work, as had happened through operations of some charitable agencies in London. They must produce something which was useful and would find a ready market, without competing with existing trades, and he thought timber such a commodity. Coast erosion repair had been mentioned, but he doubted whether that would always be economic, and nobody wanted to 944 spend £100,000 of public money only to get £10,000 in return. If we employed public money in relief works of any kind which were not remunerative we were always running a risk of creating a reaction against this kind of public help. It was in his opinion very desirable that every experiment in the way of finding employment for the unemployed should be economically sound in itself to be of any lasting benefit, so that we should not make a charity of finding work for the unemployed. In doing this he would object to give the standard rate of wages for emergency work. For instance, in regard to afforestation, he thought that those who would be employed upon it and who were not able to find other work and could not do a regular workman's work should not have the same rate of wage as the regular workman until they could do his work. It was all very well to say that they should give every employee of the State full wages, but he held that while standard rates of wages should be given in all works carried on for the public good, such as tramways, post office business, and so on, in a department undertaken specially for the employment of the unemployed, at all events if the work was unremunerative, something less than standard rates should be paid to those for whose benefit the work was carried on. It was in the interests of the unemployed themselves that they should have a little less than the standard rate of wage. He could imagine some of his friends saying that that would not do for the working man because it would lower the rate of wages. He did not think it would do so. They must remember the condition he had laid down. The work was to be new work. Not one job the fewer but so many the more. Fewer people being out of work must tend to raise wages and not to lower them. Then as soon as the work became remunerative and not a relief work the men would be paid better wages. He thought afforestation ought to have been adopted long ago. It was very successful in India, where £500,000 was coming annually from the forests. It would be a paying business in the long run and would help to relieve the labour market of much surplus labour which from the industrial point of view was not a blessing, but a curse to it. We 945 had no right to pose as a Christian country while we saw the piteous spectacle of men able to work yet unable to such an extent as now existed to find it.
§ MR. BRACE (Glamorganshire, S.)
said he associated himself with the proposal before the House and earnestly regretted that no measure had been foreshadowed in the King's Speech for dealing with the unemployed; but he was not without hope that the President of the Local Government Board, in whom he had the fullest confidence, would be able to offer a satisfactory explanation. Year by year the question of the unemployed became more pressing. The wisdom of the nation was directed and would be directed to production at the lowest cost, and every captain of industry was devoting a larger portion of his time and intelligence to inventions by which the cost of labour might be decreased. It was impossible to introduce labour-saving machines without displacing labour, and the Labour Party held that it was the duty of the State when a man was out of employment to step in and make some provision to prevent him from becoming demoralised through want of employment. He had given some attention to the question and he pinned his faith very largely to afforestation. It was in his opinion a practical scheme which would carry them a long way towards a solution of the problem. In his district, where the mines were in the valleys, hundreds and thousands of tons of pitwood could be grown on the barren hillsides which were of no use for agriculture, but were suited admirably for planting trees for pitwood which would find a market close at hand. He was persuaded that this was not a matter that could be dealt with locally or municipally. It must be dealt with by the nation. It was a problem that was confined to particular districts. It seemed to him, therefore, that the resources of the nation should be used, and he hoped this progressive Government and the progressive President of the Local Government Board would be able to show that the Government were really in earnest in dealing with the question of the unemployed upon practical lines.
§ MR. PICKERSGILL (Bethnal Green, S.W.)
thought it idle to suggest that the pledges made by the Government to deal with the question of the unemployed were redeemed by promises relating to technical education, or by any proposal of social reform contained in the King's Speech. They were admirable proposals no doubt, and would be heartily supported by the House, but they must by their very nature be slow in their operation, and, however successful, the most they could expect from them would be that they would prevent the introduction of a new generation of the unemployed. Meanwhile, they had a great mass of unemployed and unemployable, due partly to the transitory state of labour and partly to the neglect of the community of its most obvious elementary duty. It was an exceptional situation and demanded an exceptional remedy. He thought they might look to Ireland for the remedy. There was a distinct precedent in the West of Ireland, which was the country of experiments, which we in this country followed with lagging steps. The present Leader of the Opposition brought into existence the Congested Districts Board, for the purpose of dealing with the agricultural slump. That Board was now working quite outside ordinary administrative principles, and the founders of it recognised that the matter justified exceptional treatment. The Board made roads and bridges, and in other ways improved the locality, and for this purpose it employed local men at fair wages. It had also established an entirely new industry, which might be described as an exotic so far as Ireland was concerned, by starting a carpet factory. But in London the Central Unemployed Body was doing very little except that they had ear-marked £30,000 for the purpose of promoting emigration. If they were sending to Canada the bad as well as the good there would not be so much objection to the process, but they were transferring the upper crust of the unemployed. And he said most emphatically that this country was the poorer by the expatriation of these people. They took the best of the unemployed and left only the residuum in this country which he did not think 947 was fair, and he thought the President of the Local Government Board should take some steps in regard to the matter. With regard to unemployment, what was the Central Unemployed Committee doing? He found that in January it was employing 1,562 men—470 at Hollesley Bay, 150 at Farnbridge, 670 by the London County Council, and 272 by four London boroughs. That number was only given a certain modicum of work. How many unemployed mustered in December and January last? The number on the register was over 10,000. So far as numbers were concerned, at all events, the machinery was absolutely inadequate, and he thought he might say had broken down. There was one matter of detail which he would like to press upon the right hon. Gentleman, viz., the great delay which occurred between the application and the giving of employment. This had a mischievous effect, because the best men did not register themselves until the very last moment, and after their resources were exhausted. The Secretary of the Unemployed Committee had recently stated that at least one month elapsed between the application and the granting of work. He thought that was economically wrong, and certainly it was very inhumane that men should be kept waiting in this way. Reference had been made to the farm colony experiment of the Poplar Guardians. It seemed likely to succeed; it started well, and then it failed. He was afraid that the Local Government Board was in some respects responsible for that failure, because the farm colony had been diverted from its original purpose, and it became little better than a branch of the Poplar workhouse. He associated himself entirely with the hon. Member for East Leeds in his plea for afforestation. Apart from planting waste land, a good deal might be done in various parts of the country by making a better use of Crown lands. In Hampshire, the Woods and Forests Department some years ago called in a distinguished scientist, Dr. Schlick, who reported on the Alice Holt Woods in Hampshire, and in his report he sketched out a plan which if carried out in its entirety would have given considerable local employment in forestry operations, conducted at periods when the agricultural industry was 948 slack. He respectfully suggested to the President of the Local Government Board that he should use his influence with the Woods and Forests Department to get them to carry out the scheme in its entirety. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would recognise the gravity of the case, and that as regarded London he would see that the machinery at present provided was utterly inadequate. He further hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would make such a reply as would render it unnecessary to press the Amendment to a Division.
§ MR. ROWLANDS (Kent, Dartford)
wished to make an appeal on behalf of a district South of the Thames where they had a large number of unemployed. Last year, in some of the districts, great efforts were made to find them employment. He urged the Government to realise that this great problem of the unemployed must be dealt with from a national standpoint. If the emigration upon a large scale of our strongest and healthiest men continued there would be a call for another Royal Commission to inquire into the deterioration of the race. The Prime Minister had already indicated that he believed in home colonisation. Outside all our large towns and cities there were extensive areas suitable for afforestation where population was wanted, and where the land was waiting to receive the workers who ought to be put upon it. Might he suggest to the President of the Local Government Board that he could do a great deal towards meeting this want of employment by introducing as early as possible one of the Bills mentioned in the King's Speech. Having been a member of the Select Committee which inquired into rural housing, he was convinced that one thing that would put a much larger number of people upon the land was the supplying of rural cottages. At the present time many people in agricultural districts had to leave their localities because there was no cottage accommodation for them. He desired in conclusion to associate himself with what had been said on this question by previous speakers
§ MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)
said that during the debate on the last Amendment 949 one Member of the Opposition had asked what was the use of having a cheap article at 1d. if they had not got 1d. to buy it. The same hon. Member then proceeded to suggest the adoption of a policy which would make that article l½d. and that was a thing which he could not understand. There were a good many sides to the unemployed question. Personally he regretted that nearly eight days of this session had been wasted up to now. Some day he believed they would get the King's Speech and the Amendments to it disposed of in one day, and then they would be able to get on with their work. There was no more important question than the one under discussion. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Dublin took a real interest in this matter when he was a member of the Government, and it was not his fault that they did not get a better Bill. He certainly looked to the present Government to amend that Act, and he asked them in all seriousness to look upon it as a bantling which required nursing into vigorous life instead of throttling it. There was plenty of work in London that could be usefully taken up, but the everlasting cry was: Where was the recoupment to come from? There was work for 600 men at Hackney-marshes, but while people were haggling nothing was done. The working man might be here and there a loafer, but the loafer was not confined to one class. He saw people about in the park and elsewhere wearing top hats and spats on their boots, and they did not show any very keen desire for a job. These people spoke of the unemployed as wastrels who would not work if they had it, but the people who uttered those words were of the same class. As had been pointed out by the hon. Member for Bethnal Green, when a man asked for a job he had to get his name registered. In the case of a man from another district it might be necessary to ask questions, but surely when it was known in a place that the character of a man who applied for work would bear the strictest investigation, the fact that he was asking for a job because he could not get work in any other way should be enough. This system of inquiries delayed the administration of relief or the provi- 950 sion of temporary work. Some authorities appeared to have gone quite mad over the emigration of the unemployed. He had received that very day six applications for a character on behalf of working men and their families who were arranging to go to Canada. He contended that we wanted all these people at home, though he would be very glad to subscribe something for the fares to Canada, or some other place, of the Members of the other House, in the hope that they might find useful employment there instead of wrecking the measures which were sent up to them. They were not the people the country needed. The toiler, after all, was the person who had to be looked after. It was said that there was much less unemployment to-day than a year ago, and still less than two years ago. He was not going to argue about percentages, because unemployment was still too large. He knew that since he had been away from the House he and his fellow guardians had passed twenty cases for relief under Article 10 of the Poor Law in order to keep body and soul together. These applicants were outside the scope of the Unemployed Act; they had received relief and could not be counted. He himself had been a teetotaler all his life, and in spite of the fact that he was a mechanic and a member of a trade union, he had known what it was to go hungry. There were plenty of better men than himself who had to do that at the present moment. The unfortunate circumstance about this question was that, not being of great Imperial interest, it did not inspire any enthusiasm either inside or outside the House; and when some of them had tried to save the lives of hungry workmen and their families they were too often met by hesitating doubt and delay. Last year the Poplar Guardians tried to keep the life's blood in its unemployed. They fed 600 men and their wives and children; and the result the House knew in the light of what he had gone through. They were accused of wasting other people's money, making paupers, and encouraging sweating. It was the sweating employers who had made these people paupers. It was the Poplar Guardians who had kept them up to the working pitch. That was the first thing they had to do, 951 for if people were out of work and underfed for a time the less able were they to resume work. They relieved 3,000 cases at the rate of 5s. 11½d. per head for eighteen weeks, and that was what was described as wasting the people's money. London was at present divided into thirty districts, and the rates were levied separately instead of in one assessment over the whole. The result was that the poor were made to keep the poor, and when the poor had done so they were abused for doing it. He asked the President of the Local Government Board to give a promise that this matter would be dealt with. The right hon. Gentleman had said that no man degenerated so quickly as an unemployed man. His spirit became broken, and, after all, that was one of the most valuable qualities that a man could possess. The guardians sent the men to the labour farm colony, with the assent of the Local Government Board. It had been said that they made of the farm only an able-bodied workhouse, but at any rate they turned the talents of these men to the advantage of the whole community. The late President of the Local Government Board sent twenty-four men out to Canada, and these men, who formerly did not know a mangold-wurzel from a clod of clay, were now usefully employed on the land in that colony. What was wanted, however, was to give these people a chance in this country on the land, and it was cheaper to do that at once than to keep them on out-door relief. What he wanted to know was what the Government Departments were going to do? At present there was no organisation in either the Board of Trade or the Local Government Board to deal with work on to which, in times of depression such as there occurred this winter and last winter, men could be turned, for all that the distress committees had been able to do was to emigrate1 per cent. of them. Why should not the Local Government Board send a circular round the country to find out what practical work there could be done in road-making, house-building, and afforestation in times of commercial depression? The Local Government Board could decide what work was of a national character, and then raise a loan to carry it on. The reports from the 952 country could be docketed in the office of the department and the whole thing ought to be done with the greatest ease.
§ *The PRESIDENT of the LOCAL GOVERNMENT BOARD (Mr. John Burns, Battersea)
The House is to be congratulated generally upon the excellent spirit and tone of the arguments which have been imported into this interesting debate by nearly every one who has taken part in it. I will not deal with administrative points, many of which have been referred to this evening but which are not altogether germane to the Amendment to the Address proposed by the hon. Member. When an opportunity comes for criticism of the distress committees and their relation to the Local Government Board, I shall be prepared to deal with those points better than at present. Personally there was no need for the hon. Member for South West Ham who moved the Amendment to apologise to the House for not possessing university training, or an academic manner. These are not characteristic of South West Ham. I would rather he spoke, as he did, of the simple annals of the poor in a speech racy of the soil. The hon. Member had said that the grant of £200,000 which had been extracted from the Chancellor of the Exchequer was miserably inadequate, and he followed that up by stating that even £5,000,000 would not be enough for the unemployed.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
I would venture to put this to the hon. Member that, whether £200,000 or £5,000,000 were spent for the relief of the unemployed under the present industrial system, we have got to be very careful as trade unionists, labour men, and citizens that that money should not be used by the employers, as the old Poor Law was used, as a bonus in favour of low wages, as a subsidy to irregular employment, and as a boon in aid of the employer at the cost of rates, and thus lower the standard, both of wages, and of comfort of the old people. The hon. Member for South West Ham made one significant omission, and if he 953 will allow me I will put it in. It is significant that not a single Member of the House has said a word about the lack of promptitude in dealing with the necessities of the cases or accused my Department of niggardliness or tardiness in responding to the applications that have been made by the various Distress Committees. Every Member who represents in this House one of the sixty districts with the officials of which I have come into friendly, kindly, and prompt communication has, and I thank them for it, had nothing but a tribute of praise for the way in which I have, during the last six months, day in and day out, discussed the question of these grants with the various Distress Committees. The hon. Member for South West Ham would like to know the facts. In January, 1905, there were 26,000 paupers, indoor and outdoor, in West Ham, and in January, 1906, the number was 22,000. I am glad to say the number is now less than 18,000. In the borough of Poplar there are now 3,000 fewer paupers than there were eighteen months ago, and nearly 4,000 less than there were two years ago. Altogether I have granted £11,600 to West Ham for various purposes. The hon. Member for South West Ham has said the present period of good trade will rapidly pass away. I do not agree with that. In my opinion trade is going to be better. The evidence of the Labour Gazette, on which hon. Members can rely, points in that direction. I do not say that with regard to the building trade, which each winter contributes to the ranks of the unemployed. There are 1,300,000 men engaged in the building trade at the present time. It must be recognised that foundations in the building trade are henceforth going to be taken out less by the navvy than by the steam grab. The plasterers, bricklayers, and masons must recognise, as they are not sufficiently inclined to do, that the engineer, the boiler-maker, the blacksmith, and the riveter are now enjoying a greater proportion of trade formerly the exclusive possession of the stone workers and the bricklayers. Between 1881 and 1891, 35,000 men entered the building trade; but between 1891 and 1901 it was entered by 327,000 men. These significant figures should be borne in mind, and either fewer apprentices should be sent into this trade or it must be frankly recognised that the conditions 954 are altered. I congratulate the Member for the Gorton Division on his services to the steel workers by securing shorter hours and by the adoption of three shifts as against two and so absorbing 2,000 unemployed men in less than three years. I commend the example of the steel workers, gas stokers, and London compositors in abolishing overtime, and so distributing the work to be done over a larger number. As to the suggestion that an organisation should exist to pick up a man the moment he falls out of work, I would view with apprehension the universal organisation of State relief works of whatever kind. Personally, I do not intend to attempt, and he would be no friend of labour who did attempt, the organisation of State labour on the relief-works line, if it even approximates to that organisation which was attempted in Paris in 1848, when it was laid down that when trade reached a certain condition there should be State or municipal relief-works, which should provide work for the men who would otherwise be out of work. The effect of that would be that masters would care nothing about setting their own industrial house in order. It would be a premium on casual labour and a bonus for unemployment, and the final result would be the aggregation of workmen in crowded quarters and the drawing of them from the country to the towns. What we ought to do, as organisers of trade and industry, is, so far as we can by legislative enactment, so to organise in the towns as to turn the stream of migration back to the country, which will do more good than many of the remedies that have been suggested. We have been told that the Government, in this direction, have done nothing. I ask any reasonable man not wedded to palliatives, not enamoured of pauperising relief works, to look at the King's Speech, and, when he has read it, admit, as he must, that the organic changes promised by the Government as a substitute for palliatives, transient in their effect and demoralising in their consequences, have been carried out. The unemployed difficulty in the towns is increased by the rush from the rural to the urban districts, and a Scottish Land Bill, promised in the King's Speech, is a step in the right direction for remedying that. Then there is the Bill for the reduction of the hours of labour in mines, and for an Amendment of the patent 955 laws, the effect of which must be to encourage new trades and facilitate new industries. That is free trade. If trades have been locked up by absurd regulations fettered by the red tape of Departments and obscurantist legislation, that is no reason why we should not free those trades from endless trammels and shackles, and that is what the new patent law will do. The hon. Member for South West Ham must remember that much of the money required by the local authorities to grapple with the land question in congested districts is unavailable, and their efforts to deal with the housing question are unavailable so long as land valuation is in its present form. Small holdings are also included in the King's Speech. Moreover, the Government can pride themselves on the fact that by their Trade Disputes Bill of last year they have enabled labour, skilled and unskilled, to obtain higher wages and shorter hours through its organisations. That in itself must lead to more employment in the building trade; and it also gives an opportunity for a man to ensure for himself a good home, as well as being an inducement to cultivate the soil. Mr. Speaker, I have been criticised, but only inferentially, it is true, upon the administration of this Act. It has been suggested that I have availed myself of technical reasons for refusing grants under the Unemployed Act. That is not so. Few men stand less on convention than I do; and as for red tape, I have ordered green for my office. To some thirty of the districts from which the Board have received applications we have granted sums varying from£31,000 to the Central Unemployed Body of London—which always has money in advance of its actual needs—to nearly £12,000 to West Ham, £3,600 to Tottenham, £2,675 to Edmonton, £3,180 to East Ham, and sums of £10,000 each to Ireland and Scotland, the whole amounting to £90,000 up to the 10th inst. with another six or eight weeks to go in which applications may be made. Now what has been done with them?
§ MR. THORNE
I have a letter dated 15th February, from the Secretary of the Unemployed District Committee in which he states that £7,000 has been granted.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
I may inform the hon. Member that £4,000 was sent yesterday. Of course he could not have knowledge of that, and I do not blame him.
§ MR. JOHN BURNS
But, Sir, it has been suggested that we have not responded as liberally and as promptly as we might have done. ["Hear, hear."] There is only one Member who says "hear, hear!" and he asked me to make a contribution for the benefit of his district, but for a purpose for which the Act was not instituted. I did the next best thing and gave the locality a loan in the ordinary way for coast erosion work. I sincerely regret that I could not make the loan for a longer period, but I could not supplement it out of this fund, for to have done so would have been to act contrary to the provisions of the Act. Let us deal with the facts. Hollesley Bay Colony is getting £550 a week subsidy from the Local Government Board to be spent on less than 300 men, costing, on an average, of over £2 per week per man. Many will think that so long as that amount of money is spent there will always be plenty of people willing to go to Hollesley Bay, and that lots who are there will be very reluctant to leave for work in London or elsewhere. Therefore a simple statement like that disposes of the charge that we have not been either prompt or generous. I do not know whether the hon. Member for North West Ham is here; I am not asking for testimonials; I never do and I do not want them; but the hon. Member for North West Ham surely will admit that in maintaining the colony at Ockendon I have been as reasonable and prompt as could be expected. If that be so, as it is, that disposes of the criticism as to lack of promptitude and generosity. What have we done for coast erosion work? I have only to say that my work at the Local Government Board, like Sam Weller's, is "extensive and peculiar. "I am at once farmer, market gardener, horticulturist, engineer, surveyor, and Poor Law supervisor. Beyond the work in connection with Hollesley Bay and Ockendon, I have had added coast erosion and reclamation of land. No complaint has been made on 957 that score. I have handed over £17,000 for one scheme of land reclamation and coast erosion, carried out by the central unemployed body at Fambridge in Essex, and I have received no other application either for coast erosion or reclamation work. Then I have been asked what I am doing for afforestation. I hope that on the matter of afforestation, with the co-operation of the Office of Works, the Board of Agriculture, the Department of Woods and Forests, and my own Department, and also with the co-operation of some landlords and local authorities, we may be able to evolve the nucleus of a national afforestation scheme. The hon. Member for East Leeds referred to the question of afforestation which he remitted to me, with my practical knowledge, to deal with at once. The hon. Member knows—no one better—that I have done all that man could be asked to do. I went down to Leeds in my holidays to inspect the water shed of the Leeds Corporation. I saw some 360 acres of land which, in my judgment, and in the judgment of experts to whom I went, was capable of afforestation. Immediately I got back to London I sent them down £1,000 as a first instalment for unemployed labour upon this afforestation scheme. Although the result has been sad and melancholy, I am not going to be distressed by transient difficulties. I gave that £1,000 as a first instalment of the afforestation scheme; 293 men were offered employment, and only 139 accepted; 102 only commenced work; 56 threw it up very soon; and at this moment there are only 46 out of 293 who were offered employment engaged upon the very forestry work that I have been blamed for not encouraging.
§ MR. O'GRADY
May I point out to the right hon. Gentleman the fact, that there is only accommodation in this valley for fifty men, and that the average number of men staying there is twenty or thirty.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
I can assure the hon. Member he is mistaken. I went there to the quarters, and they are better quarters than navvies have on any railway work, and no body of men could have a better caretaker and matron to look after them than the buxom matron I saw there. So much for 958 afforestation, and I am not going to be distressed by the difficulties of this experiment. On the contrary, we are going on with it, and if any other local authority has a watershed at its disposal which we can similarly treat, I am disposed not to stand before difficulties, but to go on; at this moment we are doing our best in conjunction with the Department of Woods and Forests and the Board of Agriculture to put this work on a permanent footing, so as to enable a large number of men in proper districts, and at the right time, to be employed. May I sum up the account of things which we have attempted out of our grants? We have tried afforestation, we have helped coast erosion, we have granted money to the two Labour Colonies, and we have helped emigration, only when voluntarily demanded by workmen. We have granted a sum to West Ham to enable them to take men out of the district; but whatever measures we may approve of generally, cannot be applied to a district which, from a practical point of view, is waterlogged by having more men within its limits than there is work for. I have suggested to surveyors, engineers and other officers of local authorities a better organisation for the relief of unemployment. I have been in communication with the heads of other Governmental departments to stop overtime, and to stop, wherever possible, discharges at times when the industrial conditions are adverse to the obtaining of employment; and the Post Office have adopted our suggestion to employ, not those who have already work and are receiving salaries, but men recommended by local district committees, at Christmas and at other times of pressure. In a word, I have lost no opportunity of dealing with many of the suggested remedies which I have been criticised in ignorance for not doing. May I deal for a moment with the suggestion of the hon. Member for Tottenham. He thanked me for what I have done for his district. I may say that I have done no more than my duty. The hon. Member warned the House to remember that we have to be very careful, in the creation of new industries or in stimulating philanthropic enterprises, that we do not defeat our object, however good our intentions may be. He drew attention to the fact that certain religious organisations, unguarded by economic 959 knowledge and foresight, often did things in which the remedy was worse than the disease. At the same time I recognise certain dangers in the way of injuring people already in work. At the present time there are in Leicester, London, and elsewhere, decent, industrious wood-choppers who are being made paupers by the score, because wood-chopping work is being done by religious associations. That applies to many other industries. I have received complaints from Ipswich and Felixstowe, that the professional agricultural labourers and market gardeners are being dismissed and turned into paupers by reason of the operations of the Labour Colony at Hollesley Bay, these people coming up to London and in turn going to swell the ranks of the Colony at Hollesley, and making more paupers. This is a serious matter, but I have done my best to grapple with it. Tariff reform and broadening the basis of taxation have been suggested as a remedy. I assert that in countries where they have tariff reform and protection the percentage of unemployment is much higher than here.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bordesley says "No. "Has the right hon. Gentleman looked at page 76 of the last American Report on the unemployed which was delivered at his house a week ago? I make this statement, and I challenge contradiction, that the maximum of unemployed in this country, whether of skilled or unskilled labourers, is never more than the maximum in the United States of America. In the last American Report on the unemployed I find that the average unemployment in New York State over a period of three years, including 1903, 1904, and 1905, is 17 per cent. That is for the last busy time in America. If we go back to 1897, 1898, and 1900 it will be found that the percentage of unemployment ranges from 16 to 26 per cent.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
We do not want to hear any more about Germany, but three years ago when a newspaper, that shall be nameless, said that this country had lost the electrical industry to Germany, I, as an engineer, went to Germany to examine the statement at first hand. I found there that the percentage of men engaged in engineering and the electrical industry who were out of work was 26 per cent., while in this country, taking the same number of workmen, it was only 2 per cent. I admit that the electrical industry of Berlin is better than it was three years ago. The number of men out of work there is not larger than in the similar class of men at home. We happen to have in connection with that industry an increasing area of work in this country. I wish to correct a statement which was made in regard to the number of unemployed. There are over 15,000 men in the country at this moment engaged in connection with labour paid for out of public funds, and we have had no complaints made about the administration of this Act during the experimental period. Now I shall be asked, What do the Government intend to do for the amendment of this Act? My reply to that is that the reasons given last year—when trade was worse, and when the unemployed were more numerous—which induced the Government to give an annual grant for two or three years until the Commission had reported, hold good in my judgment more strongly now than they did a year ago. This question, as hon. Members have admitted, is one of the most delicate, difficult, and serious with which we have to deal. Not only is my department concerned, but also the Home Office, the Board of Trade, the Board of Agriculture, the Commissioners of Woods and Forests, and many other departments. They are not in the pillory to-night, but I am, and being a loyal colleague, I intend to take upon my shoulders not only my own responsibility but theirs as well. I would not be worthy of my salt as a Minister unless I did, but I do ask members like the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil not to expect too much under the circumstances. The hon. Member said last week that we wanted greater access to the land, 961 and he argued that the land question was at the bottom of this problem. I ask the hon. Member to realise the logical consequence of that statement, and not to expect too much from us as an administrative Ministry organising to the best of our ability, and according to our means, what is admittedly a palliative measure. I do ask the hon. Member not to misunderstand or misinterpret what I was reported to have said the other night. He rather critically said that I have suggested that technical education was a remedy for the problem of the unemployed. I was distributing the prizes the other evening at Battersea Polytechnic to the lads and lasses attending both the domestic economy and the manual instruction classes, and I ventured to ingeminate the need for and the wisdom of greater training in the subjects taught at polytechnics. I also said that too often men were out of work, not from insufficiency of employment, but from deficiency of skill and weakness of character. There is nothing unfair or untrue in that. Men are unemployed in many cases because they are unskilled, not because they are poor but because they are ignorant and unable to adapt themselves to new conditions and changes in industries. I urged those whom I was addressing to lay hold of technical instruction as a means of reducing unemployment and giving people opportunities which they do not now possess. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil, who has read the prison statistics, ought to know that 20 per cent. of the poor people in our prisons cannot read or write. I venture to say that if the percentage of people who cannot read or write were reduced, there would be far fewer people jail. They would be equipped with in knowledge and intelligence, and they would join trade unions and friendly societies, and adapt themselves to a higher standard of life, which they cannot do at present on account of their ignorance which leads them into crime. I should be false to my position as a Labour Leader if I did not urge my fellows to take the course which I suggested. I should be false to my position if I did not remind Labour Members that, while they are talking about £200,000for the relief of the unemployed as insufficient, while we are told that £5,000,000 would be insufficient to deal with the question, there is the 962 melancholy fact that the working classes of this country spend regularly every year anything from £75,000,000 to £100,000,000 on drink. I do not attribute to that circumstance more than is due to it. The total drink bill for the year is £160,000,000, and the amount spent by the working classes is variously estimated between the figures I have given. I am glad to say that the total bill is £22,000,000 less than it was five years ago. If the money spent by the working classes on drink were spent by the bread winners in furnishing their homes there would be more work for the cabinet makers of Leeds, the constituency represented by the hon. Member who seconded the Amendment, because there would be more suites of furniture required. If instead of people living in one room "cribbed, cabined, and confined" in the slums of towns, the money were spent on higher house rents there would be more work for the bricklayer, the carpenter, and the labourer. If it were diverted to higher and better things there would be an incentive and stimulus given to all branches of industry which are now depressed. What I stated at the Polytechnic the other night I stand by now. May I, in conclusion, say that we stand by our statement of last year. We are not going to add another link to the pauperising chain of relief works and demoralising employment. We are not going to deal so much with symptoms as we are going to deal with causes. The Government by dealing with organic change—the colonisation of England, the housing of the poor in rural districts, allotments, small holdings, licensing, and Scottish land Bills—are doing the best thing in the permanent interest of the unemployed. I ask the Labour Members to rest satisfied with the work which my Department has done, to withdraw the Amendment, and let the Government get to business.
§ MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)
No one can desire to deprive the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Local Government Board of the intense enjoyment he derives from occasions like the present. It is always interesting to listen to his autobiographical reminiscences; he comes every time to the scratch with an inexhaustible supply of information. I asked myself when I listened to the right hon. Gentleman what would have happened 963 to me when I was at the Local Government Board if I had made reference to social legislation and housing legislation, and had announced the sound doctrines to which the right hon. Gentleman has given expression. One thing is certain, that the Labour Members would have offered uncompromising opposition to me; they would have poured scorn upon me, and divided the House against me, and every Member now occupying the Government Benches would have voted with them. The President of the Local Government Board is to be congratulated on many things. He has told us that he is making a real start on drastic reforms in his Department, and that he is not going to be bound up any longer by red tape. I think that the Leader of the House, when he reads the morning papers, will rub his eyes to find that there have been two discussions to-day in which opposite opinions were expressed by his followers. It is most remarkable that one hon. Gentleman who is an advocate of a distinct free trade doctrine, when a question of afforestation was raised, said that that would be an interference with the great industry of timber importation; and then we were told that we should not interfere with the great shipping industry. I honestly regret, with no desire to take Party advantage of it, that the Government; have only been able to give us the fag-end of an evening to discuss the situation of unemployment. The interesting speech of the President of the Local Government Board, compressed as it was, showed that we could have spent a whole day on this discussion; and I know that if we, on this side of the House, when in office had adopted the course taken by the Government scorn would have been poured on us by the Labour Members for the curtailment of the debate. The subject under discussion engaged my most anxious attention at a time when the problem was more difficult than at the present moment. The numbers of unemployed were greater, and the pressure on the local authorities and on the Government was heavier. I confess that I listened with astonishment to the figures as to pauperism quoted by the President of the Local Government Board. These figures form no real criterion of the condition of unemployment. In order to secure a permanent solution of the unemployed question we 964 must discuss its causes before seeking to apply remedies. The action of the Government of which I was a Member has been severely criticised; but when the action of the present Local Government Board is challenged the reply is that things are not so bad as they are represented to be, and that a Royal Commission appointed by their predecessors is now sitting and has not yet reported. I do not blame hon. Gentlemen opposite for their caution. But I dourge the President of the Local Government Board to see that no step is taken to stop one important change which has taken place. Previously action by boards of guardians meant the pauperisation of the men and their families, and other bodies were attempting to find employment for the unemployed as a charity. They were doing it in an unregulated form and they were doing it without any prospect of the men being better off when their employment ceased than they were when it began. It was to put an end to this state of things which I considered undesirable, on that ground amongst others, that we thought it right to establish a central body to deal with the unemployed. No doubt they have made mistakes and might have done better work, but they have made a beginning. I hope we are coming to better times in regard to the condition of the unemployed, but emergencies in regard to them arise suddenly, and I would urge upon the Government to take care that they are not caught napping and that they will see that the bodies now in existence make reasonable provision for any sudden emergency. At this late hour I do not want to discuss this question in a jaded House. It is a question far too complicated to embark upon its discussion at this period of the evening. It opens up considerations and suggestions of all kinds, some of them dangerous and some of them feasible, and all I can say is that I congratulate the President of the Local Government Board on the courageous line which he has taken. I consider that for the President of the Local Government Board in a Progressive Government and who is also a Labour Member to take up such an attitude requires great courage, and I hope that the outcome of his remarks will be a peaceful solution of one of the most difficult of our social problems.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE (Merthyr Tydvil)
said that speaking for himself and for the Party with which he was associated they were in the main in hearty agreement with what the right hon. Gentleman had said about technical instruction and temperance. But they protested against the attempt which was being made to persuade the public into the belief that the unemployment at present existing was due either to drink or to the lack of technical instruction. He admitted, however, that some of the unemployed did drink, but if they became sober it could not be disguised that others who were now employed would be dismissed in order that they might find work. His complaint was that by raising questions of this kind right hon. and hon. Gentlemen were misleading public opinion, because the real causes of unemployment were not brought home to the public. He could give a score of causes, but he would content himself with taking one illustration. He instanced the case of the railway servants. During the last few years, owing to the increased size of engines, the extra length of trains, and so forth, 10,000 less men were now employed than formerly in the goods and mineral department. The men now employed performed the name amount of work as would have been done by themselves and these men had not machinery taken the place of those who were now out of employment. That was a case in which no amount of abstinence from strong drink and no amount of technical skill would have made the slightest difference. What the country required to be brought face to face with was that the increasing power of machinery, and the consequent decrease in the number of people employed on the land, were the root causes of the present unemployment, and, therefore, that they had to approach the question from that point of view. The President of the Local Government Board had told them that the Government were going to stand to their pledges of last year. What were those pledges? In the King's Speech there was a distinct pledge of a Bill to amend the Unemployed Workmen's Act of 1905. On the 19th July last year, when the right hon. Gentleman was introducing his proposal in regard to the £200,000, he alluded to this matter in the most definite manner.
966 It appeared from the report in Hansard that the right hon. Gentleman promised an Amendment of that Act. Therefore those who accused the Government of not having kept the pledge given, first, in the King's Speech and, secondly, in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, were justified in their attitude. Their complaint was twofold. First, that the powers of the existing Act had not been administered to the fullest extent to deal with this evil, and, secondly, that the Government had not dealt with the question in such a way as to enable local authorities to grant more relief. Further, the statement of the President of the Local Government Board had led the House to believe that £2 per week was being spent on the 300 men who were employed at Hollosley Farm. That statement was grossly misleading. It was true the total cost of the colony worked out at £2 a man, but that included the capital expenditure on thousands of fruit trees and fruit bushes that had been planted and the general improvement of the estate. The cost per man was 5s. 6d. a week for food, the allowance made to his family who were kept in London was 14s. 6d., and the other charges averaged 4s. a week, so the total cost per man was 24s. In return for that there was the produce from the fruit, vegetables, poultry, and so on. He now came to the most serious part of his complaint against the Local Government Board. The right hon. Gentleman had at last been converted to the belief that the real solution of the problem was to get the surplus population back to the land. He used to oppose it.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
said he never opposed it, but he did not think much of it. What he thought was that it was much better to keep the people on the land than to let them migrate to the towns.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
said that was exactly what they were going to do. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Local Government Board was no longer to be strangled by red tape, but they heard that the Laindon Colony was strangled by the Local Government Board. Deputations had waited on the right hon. Gentleman and pointed out that the scheme for finding employment for women had not been able to come into operation for lack of sufficient funds.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
said the hon. Gentleman was not stating the facts. He (Mr. Burns) gave the Central Unemployed Body three months ago over £1,000 to commence. Three workrooms in London were now in operation. They received £1,000 last week and had now, owing to the recoupment from clothing produced, a considerable balance in hand.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
asked whether it was not the case that the application of West Ham to establish a workroom had been refused.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS pointed out that the hon. Member did not mention West Ham. That application was before the Board at the present time.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
said that very likely after the discussion to-night the grant would be made, but the fact remained that it had been refused. The London Central Unemployed Committee, with the sanction of the Local Government Board, had a certain scheme in hand for turning the stream of migration to the town back to the country. Their policy was to take men from the towns, and find out by actual work those best adapted to agricultural pursuits, give them a training, and finally provide an allotment, and the means of beginning to farm it, but the amount of £7,000 required for the scheme had been refused, and was still refused. So that to that extent the Hollesley Bay Colony and its administrators had been hampered in their work. Let the House compare that with the money misused on emigration last year. Last year the Committee spent £17,000 on emigration.
§ *MR. JOHN BURNS
said he did not give a single penny to the London Central Body last year or this for emigration. He thought the sins, if any, of the Central Body ought to be visited on that body, and not laid on his shoulders.
§ *MR. KEIR HARDIE
said he was pointing out that this money was being spent on emigration. Seventeen thousand pounds was spent last year and £40,000 was proposed for this year His point was this. The Local Government Board had refused their sanction to spend £7,000 on the purchase of the Woodbridge 968 estate, but had sanctioned £57,000 being spent on sending men to Canada. This money, instead of being spent on emigrating our best men to Canada, should have been spent in settling them upon the land of England. Surely that was a very sensible policy, but it was one to which the Local Government Board had neither given encouragement nor lent sanction. Under the Unemployed Act there were certain powers for combining two or more similar authorities for the purpose of carrying out the Act. Twenty-nine authorities had applied for grants out of this £200,000, and had been sent empty away. Let them take a typical case. Swansea last year applied for a grant and was informed that money could only be given to supplement local contributions, of which none was forthcoming. In consequence, the unemployed could not be set to work, and so they were chivied about from pillar to post through lack of funds, and through red-tape administration by the Local Government Board. In laying down the law, the President of the Local Government Board, he submitted, had departed from the pledges he had made. He said—The grant, which would be under the control of the Local Government Board, would be voted to existing district committees, in accordance with the demands that might be made from each of the particular areas now constituted, in accordance with the necessities of the district. The poverty of the unemployed, and the distress of the district would be alone considered, and the Local Government Board, in conjunction with other Departments, would see that this money was promptly and efficiently used.Subsequently, a circular was issued on exactly opposite lines, laying down, as the fundamental position, that money must first be raised locally before anything could be done from the central fund. He submitted that the distress committees of the country were first of all misled by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, and they had a right to complain that conditions were subsequently imposed upon them of which, in the right hon. Gentleman's opening speech, little or no hint was given. The committees were hampered and restricted unnecessarily in dealing with this matter. The small areas were admittedly hard to work, by reason of the difficulty of finding employment within their boundaries. The Local Government Board had power to bring about a combination of several district 969 committees, so as to widen the area within which they might operate. Were this done the carrying out of schemes of afforestation and land reclamation, and of dealing with waste land, and training and equipping men to settle upon the land would have been a comparatively easy matter. Last year they had been content to accept the promises which were held out concerning the unemployed. They could not accept promises this year in lieu of performance. They welcomed the promise of various social reforms contained in the King's Speech, but what they had to remember was that there was a clamant need there and then to deal with starving and desperate men. At that very moment, at a quarter past twelve o'clock at night, under Hungerford Bridge, there were a thousand men of all ages, from the youth beginning life to old men, standing shivering with cold and hunger, waiting for a basin of soup from the Salvation Army shelter. In face of such facts as they knew to exist, the Local Government Board, far from seeking to restrict the efforts of such bodies as the distress committees, should encourage them, and even if mistakes were made, it was only by making mistakes that the proper way would be found in the end. They could not expect a perfect method of dealing with this question. They did not ask for heroic measures; what they did ask for was that the full powers of the existing Act should be applied to grapple with and meet the needs of the people, and that where the Act was deficient, it should be strengthened, as he believed it would be with the full consent of the House, so as to enable the committees to do more than they were able to do at present.
§ MR. T. F. RICHARDS (Wolverhampton, W.)
said he could not agree with the President of the Local Government Board in reference to unemployment being caused through drink and lack of skill. He happened to belong to one of the skilled industries—the boot and shoe trade—and he was one of those who suffered through the rapid introduction of machinery. So far as the statement about distress committees was concerned, he had a report to the effect that in the town of Leicester, where he had spent some twenty years of his life, the average of operatives out of employment in the boot 970 and shoe trade was 395. The report of one of the secretaries of the union was that out of one particular department of the industry they had 740 men upon the books anxious to obtain employment and unable to get it. The suggestion that they were unskilled could be met by the fact that most of them had been apprenticed to the business; and with regard to their being unable to turn their attention to other fields of work, he might state that some four years ago, through himself and others who were at that time members of the Leicester Town Council, the borough surveyor was instructed to put down a permanent track by direct employment. The permanent track was put down by direct employment, and 50 per cent. of the persons employed were boot and shoe operatives. One would naturally think, from some of the speeches made by the President of the Local Government Board, that men from the factory could not do this kind of work. That work was done by direct labour at a saving of £17,000. With regard to what had been said about the drinking habits of working men, after thirteen years official experience he had no hesitation in saying that there were more men displaced by machinery than by drink. He protested against the working man being preached at in this way. If the right hon. Gentleman who appeared so anxious to lecture working men would lecture other individuals in higher places he would do more good. He had seen several letters stating that the Local Government Board had prohibited borough councils from utilising certain loans for the direct employment of labour. He hoped that statement was not correct. He knew where in one trade there were 740 men who wanted work and could not get it, and it was the duty of the Government to see that something tangible was done in the near future to remedy this state of things.
§ MR. MADDISON (Burnley)
said that whatever view they might take of this question it was undoubtedly one of great importance. In his opinion an attack had been made upon the President of the Local Government Board upon far too slender grounds; in fact there were no grounds at all for making the attack. The hon. Member for South West Ham had moved the Amendment in a speech to 971 which he had listened with great pleasure, and he was delighted with the frank and manly way in which he put his case. He might say the same of the speech of the hon. Member for East Leeds. But what concrete remedy had been suggested? What real complaint was there against the President of the Local Government Board? The hon. Member for East Leeds had said two sensible things, and one of them was that the problem was insoluble. What he meant was that it was a problem so wide that it was absurd to think that there was any ready settlement, or any perfectly complete settlement of it. The next thing the hon. Member had said was that this question should be approached from a business point of view, and he emphasised that view by again and again repeating that he only wanted such work as would be remunerative, and would give some return to the community as well as to the unemployed. He did not believe there was an hon. Member in this House who would object to unemployment being dealt with on those lines. Hon. Members sitting on the Labour Benches ought not to imagine that because they took a certain line on the unemployed question they were the only friends of the unemployed. He himself had known what unemployment was, and in all his experience nothing had been so bitter. There was nothing which anybody could say that could too much emphasise the misery of unemployment. He had, however, lived long enough to know that very few problems were solved by the heart alone; the head must be used as well. When the hon. Member for East Leeds laid it down that they must treat this question from a business point of view he anxiously waited to see whether the President of the Local Government Board would respond in a wise and judicious fashion to that very reasonable request, and he had done so. But when the hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil got up he put the unemployed question in quite a different
§ light. The hon. Member's remedy was simply the labour colony, planting men here and there to do certain things, just as if they would solve anything by that. That kind of thing very often accentuated the difficulty. Hon. Members should ask the labourers who were employed near these colonies, who would tell them that the men kept by the rates were better off than they were. He hoped that the Government would not budge an inch in the direction of endorsing the doctrine that the State was to make itself absolutely responsible for every man who fell out of employment. He would fear the existence of machinery which was always ready to be put into operation for dealing with the unemployed. He had not sufficient belief in Government departments to think that they would be able to resist the pressure that might be brought to bear upon them by organised agitation, and which might prevent them from looking at the matter fairly and squarely. There were very few votes which he could give with a clearer conscience than the one he would give against the Amendment. It was by legislation which was best for the nation as a whole, which put industry in the freest condition, and which gave the greatest and fullest access to the land on broad national lines, that they should approach the solution of this question.
§ MR. R. DUNCAN (Lanarkshire, Govan) rose to continue the debate, when
§ MR. CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put."
§ Question put accordingly, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 47; Noes, 207. (Division List No. 7.)975
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Brace, William||Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)|
|Barnes, G. N.||Bridgeman, W. Clive||Crooks, William|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Clynes, J. R.||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness|
|Duncan, Robt. (Lanark, Govan||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Summerbell, T.|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Macpherson, J. T.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Gill, A. H.||O'Brien,Kendal(Tipperary,Mid||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)|
|Glover, Thomas||O'Grady, J.||Thorne, William|
|Hardie,J.Keir(Merthyr Tydvil)||Parker, James (Halifax)||Walsh, Stephen|
|Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare||Wardle, George J.|
|Hay, Hon. Claude George||Randles, Sir John Scurrah||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Hills, J. W.||Richards, Thomas (WMonm'th||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Hudson, Walter||Richards,T. F. (Wolverh'mpt'n||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Hunt, Rowland||Richardson, A.||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Jenkins, J.||Rowlands, J.|
|Jowett, F. W.||Seddon, J.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Mr. Arthur Henderson and Mr. George Roberts.|
|Kelley, George D.||Shackleton, David James|
|Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sloan, Thomas Henry|
|Agnew, George William||Ferens, T. R.||M'Callum, John M.|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||M'Crae, George|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Fletcher, J. S.||M'Kenna, Reginald|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Fuller, John Michael F.||M'Micking, Major G.|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Fullerton, Hugh||Maddison, Frederick|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Gibb, James (Harrow)||Manfield Harry (Northants)|
|Astbury, John Meir||Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert J.||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Glendinning, R. G.||Marnham, F. J.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Goddard, Daniel Ford||Massie, J.|
|Barker, John||Gooch, George Peabody||Menzies, Walter|
|Beale, W. P.||Grant, Corrie||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Beauchamp, E.||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Gulland, John W.||Mond, A.|
|Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets,S.Geo.||Gurdon, Sir W. Brampton||Montague, E. S.|
|Bennett, E. N.||Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Montgomery, H. G.|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Hall, Frederick||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Bertram, Julius||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Billson, Alfred||Harmsworth, RL(Caithn'ss-sh.||Morrell, Philip|
|Boulton, A. C. F.||Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||Morse, L. L.|
|Bramsdon, T. A.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire,NE||Murray, James|
|Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs., Leigh||Haworth, Arthur A.||Nicholls, George|
|Bryce, J. Annan||Hedges, A.Paget||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Helme, Norval Watson||Norton, Captain Cecil William|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Hemmerde, Edward George||Nussey, ThomasWillans|
|Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Herbert, Col. Ivor (Mon., S.)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas.||Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Paul, Herbert|
|Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard K.||Hobart, Sir Robert||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Chance, Frederick William||Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Pollard, Dr.|
|Cheetham, John Frederick||Holland, Sir William Henry||Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)|
|Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.||Hooper, A. G.||Price, Robert J. (Norfolk, E.)|
|Churchill, Winston Spencer||Horniman, Emslie John||Radford, G. H.|
|Clarke, C. Goddard||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Clough, William||Idris, T. H. W.||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Cobbold, Felix Thornley||Jackson, R. S.||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Collins, Sir W. J.(S.Pancras, W.||Jardine, Sir J.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Corbett,CH(Sussex,E. Grinst'd.||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Rees, J. D.|
|Cory, Clifford John||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Cox, Harold||Kearley, Hudson E.||Renton, Major Leslie|
|Craig, Herb. J. (Tynemouth)||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs)|
|Cremer, William Randal||Kitson,Rt.Hon.Sir James||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Crossley, William J.||Laidlaw, Robert||Robinson, S.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lea, Hugh Cecil (St.Pancras,E.||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Davies, Timothy (Fulham)||Leese, Sir J. F. (Accrington)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)||Lehmann, R. C.||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)||Lever, W. H. (Cheshire, Wirral)||Rose, Charles Day|
|Dewar, John A. (Inverness-sh.||Levy, Maurice||Rothschild, Hon. Lionel W.|
|Dickinson, W.H.(St.Pancras,N.||Lewis, John Herbert||Runciman, Walter|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Lockwood,Rt.Hn.Lt.-Col.A.R.||Samuel, Herb. L. (Cleveland)|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Lough, Thomas||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Elibank, Master of||Lupton, Arnold||Schwann, C. Duncan (Hythe)|
|Erskine, David C.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Seaverns, J. H.|
|Evans, Samuel T.||Lynch, H. B.||Seely, Major J. B.|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Macdonald,J.M. (Falkirk B'ghs)||Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)|
|Fenwick, Charles||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Shaw, Rt. Hn. T. (Hawick B.)|
|Sherwell, Arthur James||Toulmin,George||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Silcock, Thomas Ball||Verney, F. W.||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Simon, John Allsebrook||Wadsworth, J.||Williams, L. (Carmarthen)|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hn. John||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Ward, W. D.(Southampton)||Wilson, Hon. C.H.W.(Hull, W.|
|Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.||Waring, Walter||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.)|
|Strachey, Sir Edward||Warner, Thos. Courtenay T.||Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.|
|Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney||Winfrey, R.|
|Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Watt, H.Anderson||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A. Pease.|
|Tennant,SirEdward (Salisbury)||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.||Whitbread, Howard|
|Thomas, David A. (Merthyr)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Tomkinson, James||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
Main Question put, and agreed to.
§ Resolved, "That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:—
§ "Most Gracious Sovereign:
§ "We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdon of Great Britain and Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors and Members of His Majesty's Household.