§ MR. LYTTELTON (St. George's, Hanover Square)
moved a Resolution expressing regret that His Majesty's Government had declined the invitation unanimously preferred by the Prime Ministers of the self-governing Colonies to consider favourably any form of Colonial Preference, or any measures for closer commercial union of the Empire on a preferential basis. He said: The Imperial Conference terminated its labours on 15th May last, and the full Report of its proceedings was issued at a considerably later, though I do not say an unduly late date. That Report, deeply interesting as it is, discloses to us fully the proceedings at the Conference. It shows that the Colonial statesmen who were there present wrestling with a problem which, I think, in our political history is unique in interest, greatness, and difficulty—I mean the problem how to interlock the communities which were founded by the toil and adventure of our rare in a more stable and durable union—how to maintain the trade and territory which were founded by our forefathers, founded it may be in times more fortunate than the present, but which it is our duty at a moment of fierce competition, and in the presence of colossal rivals, to maintain if we can by peaceable and intelligent organisation. For eight or nine days the great subject of preferential trade was debated in the Conference. There were other expedients proposed which I do not underrate, but upon the question of preferential trade at the Conference there was absolute unanimity on the part of all the Colonial statesmen who were present. Those statesmen, many of whom are democrats, and many of whom are Radicals, repudiated from the outset in earnest, even in passionate language, any desire to increase the burdens of the poor in this country. They agreed that the question was not one of free trade and protection—and although I quite admit that I anticipate hearing in this debate, as we have heard on former occasions, these words used, chiefly, I think, as thought-saving appliances, I may quote what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said at the Conference, that the use of these general 364 terms without their precise definition is, at any rate, calculated rather to generate heat than to generate light. We on these Benches, I think, are in absolute accord with the Colonial statesmen as to the main proposition. We say that already per head of the population this country derives a greater revenue than any country in the world from import duties on articles of general consumption. We say that the obvious necessities of this country, as is admitted, I think, on both sides of the House, will require an addition to, and extension of, those duties, and we hold that in raising revenue now and in the future we should show some allegiance to the principle of the wider citizenship of the Empire, and that we should give some fiscal favour to our own citizens as against those of foreign countries. But against the unanimous wish and request of the Colonial statesmen at the Conference, an unqualified rejection was given to the demand, a rejection not of detail but of principle, and I think I am right in saying that, if I except the President of the Board of Trade, the end of this Conference shows that so far as His Majesty's Government are concerned, we have failed "one painful inch to gain." I say it is impossible for us who sit here as a Party on these Benches to let this matter pass without an expression of opinion upon it in the House of Commons. To do so would be to show an ingratitude which, I think, would be deplorable to those Colonial statesmen who advocated the cause with such brilliancy, such earnestness, and such power, and also to that great statesman, my right hon. friend the Member for West Birmingham, who initiated this matter with such splendid courage, and who has pursued it with such strenuous energy, even at the expense of health, and who showed in his predictions with regard to the view of the Colonies so remarkable a prescience and so remarkable an appreciation of what that view would be. I do not propose to notice any of those accusations which have appeared in the Press about rudeness, or the like, in regard to the action of His Majesty's Government at the Conference. I frankly admit that I do not think these accusations were justified. It would be presumptuous of me to 365 criticise in any sense the courtesy of the Chancellor of the Exchequer's manner towards the Premiers. But, unfortunately, since the Conference, the Under-Secretary for the Colonies has made two speeches. The right hon. Gentleman had imposed upon himself at the Conference an unwonted, and I am grateful to add, except upon one occasion, an almost unbroken silence. On one occasion, however, he did make a speech which was for the greater part devoted to showing the terrific consequences which might ensue if this question were to be debated by Englishmen in Parliament on Budget and other occasions. He spoke of the sullen hatreds, and the awful shocks which might arise when such discussions took place. It might have been supposed, in making his two speeches afterwards, that he was endeavouring to justify these portentous prophecies inciting natural resentment and disgust at his method of treating the subject—a method which was in woeful contrast to that of his colleagues who addressed the Conference on the subject. At Edinburgh he took upon himself to lecture the Colonial statesmen upon their duties as guests, as he was pleased to say, of the Government. I am afraid that on a later occasion he did even worse than that. He said no new facts had been produced at the Conference, and no new offer had been made, except an offer to take anything we might care to give, an offer, he added, which we might get from many quarters, and the right hon. Gentleman used other expressions on which I do not propose to comment. I think that every Colonial statesman knows what view I should take of them, and what are the views of those who sit behind me. The Under-Secretary devotes his talents very often to the arguing of questions fairly enough here, but he speaks from time to time, as it were, through a megaphone to larger numbers and lower intelligences. I think that on both these occasions he was using the megaphone. In view of the admissions which were made by the President of the Board of Trade and of the arguments which were pursued both by him and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer—arguments which I may fairly describe as not so much an en- 366 deavour to refute the case of the Colonies as to disclose what they believe to be the difficulties which our system imposes upon us in meeting them—I am relieved of a very considerable portion of that which otherwise it would be necessary to do. Let me read an extract, a very brief one, from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, which relieves me of what otherwise would be a large portion of my task. He said—In Britain we have the greatest market in the world. We are the greatest purchasers of produce raised or manufactured outside our own boundaries. A very large proportion of this produce could very well be raised in the Colonies, and any reasonable and workable plan that would tend to increase the proportion of the produce which is bought by us from the Colonies, and by the Colonies from us and from each other, must necessarily enhance the resources of the Empire as a whole. A considerable part of the surplus population of the United Kingdom which now goes to foreign lands in search of a livelihood might find it to its profit to pitch its tents somewhere under the flag, and the Empire would gain in riches of both materials and of men. We agree with our Colonial comrades that all this is worth concerted effort, even if the effort at the outset costs us something. The Federation of the Commonwealths is worth some sacrifice, for we never know when its strength may be essential to thy great cause of human freedom, and that is priceless.The right hon. Gentleman might have pursued the topic and have urged the great need of population in the Colonies. He might have urged, and we do urge, that the burden of defence which this country in the main bears would be very easily shared were these populations to be increased. We say our own market would increase both in stability and security if customers, friendly customers of friendly communities, were increased in power and number. We, have a surplus of able and skilled craftsmen whom we send out every year, not, I am afraid, to our Colonies, but to swell and increase the industrial strength of foreign competitors. The great market of this country has the power of calling into being populations in other countries. The House will need no assurance of that if they think of the population which has been created and called into being in the United States, Argentina, and the industrial parts of France and Germany. I do not think anybody can doubt that these populations have been created and brought 367 into being by the privilege of supplying the great English market. We have seen the dissipation and dispersal of this great industrial strength of the country. It is not too late to retrieve that at present. Surely we may yet organise, concentrate, and collect those populations within the boundaries of the Empire. We have also to consider our foreign policy. No one, I think, would for a moment hesitate to say that our foreign policy would gain greatly in strength in Colonial matters if we had more common interests with the Colonies. I may recall the case of Newfoundland, in which lately a divergence of interest has manifested itself in the commercial aspirations of that country and ourselves. The Prime Minister of Newfoundland some years ago nearly succeeded in making a treaty with the United States for reciprocal privileges between that country and his own. It was a treaty in prejudice to the commercial position of this country. The Senate threw it out; Newfoundland retaliated. Newfoundland called upon us, whose interests were adversely affected by the Treaty, to assist her in the retaliatory processes against the United States. We have done our very best to aid her by putting such pressure as was possible upon that country. The whole situation, however, has placed us in a difficult and sometimes even a ridiculous position. The moral of it is that cases have arisen and may arise in the future in respect to the Colonies in which divergent interests in commercial affairs may make themselves evident; and in the absence of some preferential trade between them and the Mother Country there is no effective counterpoise against the position of difficulty in which they find themselves in wishing to enforce their views. We have never, upon this side of the House, for a moment underrated what has been called the sentimental tie which exists between ourselves and the Coloneis. We acknowledge its force gratefully and with enthusiasm, but no one can fail to feel some apprehension that as generations roll on, and as the time when the first Colonists left the Mother Country becomes more distant, you require some assistance to that sentimental tie. There 368 is a danger of its being atrophied by efflux of time. You ought to renew it if possible by the process of mutual knowledge and of human intercourse. The commercial bond of preference which we advocate is so wide and so comprehensive, and brings so many citizens within its embrace, that it gives constant opportunity both for renewing the mutual knowledge which is easily lost and for that human intercourse for which, but for it, few opportunities would exist. The last men in the world who ought to deny that and to deny the force and the strength of the tie of commercial unity are the professed followers of Mr. Cobden and Mr. Bright. Those great men believed that commercial ties were so strong that they would overleap the barriers of race. Surely we may ask their followers to believe that at any rate those ties will have great effect. They are not desired to overleap the barriers of race, but to strengthen the cords of kinship which already are in existence. At any rate, at the close of three or four years discussion we may say that the argument which apparently had so much weight with the Prime Minister, that commercial interests were sordid interests, has been blown to the winds, not merely by those of our Party, but by his own President of the Board of Trade and by the voice of the Gentleman who in this House represents the Colonies. That unhappy and belated sentiment, at any rate, I think is dead. It has been killed by Gentlemen on this side of the House, it has been killed by every official who speaks with any knowledge of the Government of the day. They, as strongly as anybody, and no one more strongly than the President of the Board of Trade, have asserted that they desire, if they can see the means, to increase those ties and to strengthen and add to the Commercial interests already existing between the Mother Country and the Colonies. Let me summarise what I have said. Preferential trade was requested by the unanimous voice of Colonial statesmen. It would stimulate, if granted, the opportunities for intercourse, it would relieve many difficulties in foreign policy, and promote-consistency and coherence by transforming what are now divergent interests 369 into common interests. It would invigorate and consolidate Colonial populations, and it would, by the organisation of friendly custom, give confidence and security to British industry. All this and much more was of course argued at the Colonial Conference, and what was the result? The reply was given by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who said in relation to a proposal of Dr. Jameson merely to consider a preference on existing duties to South Africa—It means that we are to consider the question whether we shall treat the foreigners and the Colonies, as it were, differently, and that we are not able to do.Surely it is a strange paradox which appears on the face of that assertion. I defy anybody to sustain the proposition that a Government cannot show favour as between those who are our fellow-subjects and those who are not. I am unable to conceive any definition of country or nationality with which this amazing proposition can be reconciled. We are bound, to the last shilling of our resources, and to the last drop of blood, to protect our Colonies. They give us freely and we accept their services in time of war; therefore, is it tenable to say that we shall not give them any preference or favour in regard to commerce? I am bound to say that, although the Chancellor of the Exchequer did not say anything about "squalid bonds," or use any such obsolete and, as I think, preposterous phrase, he did argue the proposition which I have just read to the House, and I propose to examine that argument. It is not unimportant that, at the very outset and in the very forefront of his arguments before the Conference, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an eloquent passage dealt once more with significant irrelevance with the old subject of the loss of the United States and fiscal autonomy. I venture to say that these topics had no more to do with preferential trade and the arguments for it, any more than they have with the loss of Alsace to the French. Long before the right hon. Gentleman ad- dressed himself to this subject, the fiscal autonomy of the Colonies was asserted in the strongest terms by the late Lord Salisbury, and I challenge the right hon. Gentleman to show a single word from 370 any person of responsibility in this country which impeaches or invades fiscal autonomy in these proposals, or asserts that the proposition of taxing the Colonists against their will for revenue—a procedure which cost us America—is suggested.
§ THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. ASQUITH,) Fife, E.
I never said anything of the kind. I said, "We have given our Colonies fiscal autonomy," and mentioned as one of the reasons against the proposals submitted the hideous mistake we made when we tried to interfere with the fiscal autonomy across the Atlantic. My argument was that we have given the Colonies fiscal autonomy, and we do not propose to interfere with it, but we do claim the same autonomy for ourselves.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
Neither the late Lord Salisbury nor anyone else wished or proposed to impugn our fiscal autonomy, and I do not see any force in the interruption. What is significant is the irrelevance of these two topics. The right hon. Gentleman went on to describe, of in course an interesting manner, the situation of this country, and I do not think that anyone on this side of the House will quarrel with what he said as to that. He spoke of the 43,000,000 of citizens of this country bearing the whole debt incurred in acquiring—and most of that now spent in maintaining—the resources of the Empire. He also spoke of these 43,000,000 being largely dependent on extraneous sources for food supply and raw material. Yes, but the right hon. Gentleman failed to observe that with the rapidly advancing competition the supply of raw material should be fostered within our own borders and the food supply thus available should be so great as to leave us in no practical danger in time of war or times of danger and difficulty. Then again he went on to say—and here again I have little to fault find wish—that the real strength and wealth of the country ultimately depend in a large degree upon the productive capacity and skill of the people; that this country was the place of intermediate business, the 371 clearing house of nations, and he emphasised the importance and magnitude of our shipping trade. There again I do not think many of us on this side of the House will quarrel with what he said. But I would again remind him that intermediate business and carrying trade tend to follow and attend on productive capacity, that the real wealth of a country depends on the brain craft and hand craft of her citizens, and history shows that the loss of that capacity ultimately brings with it the loss of the industries which gather round energetic productivity. The Chancellor of the Exchequer endeavoured to minimise that which we might expect from the Colonies if preference is given, but the President of the Board of Trade admitted the enormous benefit which has been derived, because he said—Let me express for the Board of Trade our appreciation of the enormous advantage conferred upon British manufacturers by the preference given in the Colonial markets by recent tariff adjustments.That is a candid and honourable admission by the Board of Trade of that for which we have for years contended. It was pointed out by Sir Joseph Ward, who was alluded to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that Australasia and New Zealand were the third best purchasing customers of the British Empire in the whole world. The population of those Colonies is 5,000,000—hardly the population of London; they are communities which in regard to population may be said to be almost in their infancy. Our greatest customer is India. India takes our goods to the amount of £44,000,000 a year; Germany stands second with £29,000,000. and Australia and New-Zealand third with about £25,000,000, speaking in round figures. So here you have a population of 5,000,000 annually purchasing to the extent of more than a half of the Indian population of 239,000,000 and only a trifle less than the 60,000,000 of Germany. If you consider these facts they are most pregnant, and as the population of Australasia grows we might promote an enormous trade if we organised a system of preference. The next argument of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was that it was the settled policy of this country to tax only for revenue purposes and never for any ulterior pur- 372 poses. If any utility other than cash for the Treasury results from the imposition of a duty, then that duty is tainted with unorthodoxy. That really is a senseless doctrine. How can it be contended that it is not right to get money from A because that may possibly, as a result, do some good to B and C? That is, I know, an argument which has been claimed as a free trade argument, but I do not think it has anything to do with free trade. If a man has to pay a tax or a duty which he thinks is fair, I can conceive that he would pay it with much greater alacrity if his friend round the corner gets some advantage from it. But we know the countervailing argument. The Chancellor of the Exchequer asked what we were to prefer. The Colonies, he said, sent us £27,500,000 in foodstuffs, £32,500,000 in raw material, and £5,500,000 in manufactured goods; and he went on to say that we might surely neglect the £5,500,000 of manufactured goods. And if the duty on manufactured goods is not considered and if you are to show a preference you must resort to a duty on raw material or food.
[In reply to an interruption from an hon. Member, who was inaudible in the gallery, Mr. Lyttelton said these were the figures, and he believed they were substantially correct.]
§ MR. ASQUITH
I was accused of having made a trifling mistake of £62,000,000. I am glad to take the right hon. Gentleman's handsome acknowledgment that the figures are substantially correct.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I do not think the right hon. Gentleman's interruption is quite relevant. I have made what he considers to be a handsome admission. The reason for the misapprehension, if it existed—I have not followed the controversy—was due to the action of the right hon. Gentleman's own Government in preventing the publication of a verbatim report.
§ MR. ASQUITH
That is a statement which I cannot allow to pass. On the contrary, the non-publication of a daily verbatim report, although I do not know what newspaper could have printed it, was not due to the action of his Majesty's 373 Ministers; it was due to the resolution of the Conference itself. Nobody suffered more from the Curtailment of the report than the representatives of the Government.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
Of course I accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, and I will resume the argument which he interupted. It is considered necessary by the right hon. Gentleman, if we are to give the Colonies what he calls fair treatment, to tax raw material. I absolutely deny that. It is another illustration of the fallacy of supposing that all men expect that whatever diversity may exist in their products they can be taxed alike. It is not so. I have asked colonial statesmen whose countries have not the power of producing any other than raw material whether they expect raw material to be taxed in this country. They do not expect it for a moment. It is contrary to the existing practice, not only of this, but even of every intelligent protectionist country, and it is absolutely preposterous to credit colonial statesmen with the idea that they would be aggrieved because, having nothing on which preference could be shown except raw material, other countries in a happier position got a preference which they could not share. Then there is the question of food—the £27,500,000 on food. The Chancellor of the Exchequer seems to consider that when food is in question that is a barrier against all further rational discussion. My complaint against the Government is that in regard to preferential trade they will not even make a start upon the existing tariff. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says we cannot give a preference on wine or anything in which there is alcohol. Why not? What is the reason? The experience of the Coloniesis against this dogma; Canada and Australia, to mention instances, grant such preferencesinter se. What is the objection to it? What was the French treaty but a preference given to foreigners?
§ MR. LYTTELTON
No doubt other treaties followed; but if you look, not at 374 the form, but at the substance, and take Cape wine as compared with French light wine the effect of the French treaty was to give a preference to the foreigner over the colonial producer. One result if the regulation of the duties on wine in favour of France is, amongst others, to diminish, almost to extinguish, the export of Cape wine.
§ MR. ASQUITH
The preference given is to light as compared with heavy wine to the whole world equally. Spain and Portugal suffer as much as anybody else.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
I say again that the effect of the treaty from the point of view I am now taking was to prejudice the business in Cape wine, and in that sense to give a preference to the French wine. The question of the price of commodities which are taxed and how far it is affected by the tax is vitally important. It is impossible with any intellectual honesty to argue that question without in the first place seeing what the supply is, seeing what the foreign country is which supplies it and upon whose supplies the duty would be laid, and seeing whether that country could afford to lose our markets. The question is not to be disposed of by irrelevant talk on platforms. Unless we come calmly to investigate the question and are prepared to discuss it over a table with experts with a view to proving that the duty when placed on a commodity would necessarily enhance the price, we can not with intellectual honesty and with certainty say that it would do so. Take the United States and some of their great exports. You must inquire- whether it would be more valuable to the United States to maintain our market at a profit by paying a duty rather than lose it if they insisted on the profit they are now making. That is a preliminary inquiry to any sincere and careful opinion on this subject. It is an element in the question of price, and that, I venture to say, no one who thinks fit will deny. What next? Another inquiry which must be equally and calmly male, is what would be the result of taxes on foreign food in stimulating the area of production in the Colonies. Thirdly, contrary to his usual fairness in this matter, the President of the Board of Trade argued from the experience of France, Germany, 375 and the United States that a small duty must necessarily, under the pressure of interest become a large one. I say with the utmost seriousness that that argument is not sound, nor can it be even plausibly addressed to the people of this country. This country has an urban and industrial democracy, and the vast majority of the voting power of the country belongs to the urban industries, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that it is impossible to put a protective tax at all upon food; but to say that if a low duty for revenue purposes were placed on food, or any article of food, it might be pushed to the extent which Germany and France have pushed taxation on those commodities, is, I submit, in view of the pressure of this urban democratic vote, neither a substantial nor a serious argument. I gain a gleam of hope, and it is the only gleam I am able to get, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech, for I find there is a modification of some of the arguments with which this controversy was begun. On page 321 of the Blue-book, the Chancellor of the Ex-chequer said—When you impose a moderate duty on a commodity, which is necessary to life or industry, and when the commodity is of such a kind that you cannot substantially make up the supplies which you want from domestic sources, given those two conditions—and I carefully limit my proposition in that way—sooner or later, though the process may be delayed or deflected, that duty appears in added cost to the consumer.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
That is a perfectly fair and right qualification of the general proposition which is made by my right hon. friend, but is it not a fair inference that my right hon. friend means from sources either domestic or Imperial upon which no duty is levied? I do not ask the House to believe, without careful study of the matter, that these sources of supply are adequate; but I have my own firm conviction that they would be. What I ask the House to accept is, that the British Government had no right to refuse to inquire into or discuss this matter, and I affirm that this careful proposition of the Chancellor of the Exchequer can be satisfied, that you can show there would be an adequate supply of wheat coming from Imperial sources, and therefore untaxed, 376 sufficient to keep down the price, which can only be kept down by effective competition among those who command the supply. Let me, therefore, say that there is a case for serious discussion, namely, that there would be no addition to the price even if a small duty were imposed, for there would be sufficient untaxed supplies from our own Colonies to keep down the price. I am dealing with a most difficult and complicated subject, and I have detained the House at some length, and I will not be longer than a minute or two more. I cannot but think that thenon possumus attitude of the Government is due to a failure to grasp in its fulness the principle of wider citizenship that we on our side take as the foundation of our opinions. You cannot expect a Yorkshireman to think the same of Canada as of his own county; and you cannot expect a man of Victoria to think the same of Kent as he does of his own home. But the actual devotion of a man to his home, however strong, should not exclude, indeed should include, a comprehensive patriotism; his imagination should grasp the wider scope of the federation of the States of Empire. This sentiment is growing apace. Once it is fully grasped I believe the people of this country will sweep aside the arguments, technical and, I venture to think, narrow, which weigh with the Liberal Party at the present time. The path will then be cleared for the attainment of that ideal to which, I am convinced, the majority of our fellow-countrymen aspire.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed,
§ "That this House regrets that His Majesty's Government have declined the invitation unanimously preferred by the Prime Ministers of the Self-governing. Colonies to consider favourably any form of Colonial Preference or any measures for closer commercial union of the Empire on a preferential basis"—(Mr.Lyttleton.)
§ MR. SOARES (Devonshire, Barnstaple),
who rose to move an Amendment to the effect that the permanent unity of the British Empire would not be secured through a system of preferential duties based upon the protective taxation of food, said it was with considerable diffidence he rose to follow the right hon. 377 Gentleman. He fully recognised the importance of the great issues which were involved, and, if allowed to say so, he fully recognised the great ability and eloquence with which the right hon. Gentleman had stated his case. Before proceeding to the main question, he might be permitted to say how much here gretted the absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He had not had the privilege of having personal relations with the right hon. Gentleman, but ho had been long enough a Member of the House to be able to appreciate the virtues of political opponents, and he could only say that he sincerely trusted that the next time they debated the subject in that House the right hon. Gentleman might be present to give thorn his views with his usual clear and straightforward directness. The right hon. Gentleman who submitted this Motion had directed a great portion of his speech to an attack on the Chancellor of the Exchequer for refusing to give preference on articles which were at present dutiable, and complained that the Government would not make a start upon those existing duties. The right hon. Gentleman had spoken of this matter almost as if it was an entirely new question, whereas, in fact, it was as old as the hills. It had been raised, he thought, at every Conference that had been held. It was raised at the very first Conference held in 1887, when Sir Samuel Griffith, Premier of Queensland, moved—That if any member of the Empire thinks fit for any reason to impose Customs charges upon goods imported from abroad, it should be recognised that goods coming from British possessions should be subjected to a lighter duty than those coming from foreign countries.And what did Lord Salisbury reply? He said—The resolutions which were come to in respect to our fiscal policy forty years ago, set any such possibility entirely aside.''Lord Salisbury was at that time leader of a great free-trade Party, and the present Prime Minister was the leader of the greatest free-trade Party this country had ever seen. Yet the House was asked to censure the Government for doing what Lord Salisbury did in 1887 under precisely similar conditions. They were asked to give a preference on articles which were not dutiable, and there could be no doubt 378 whatever that this would be a breach of their free-trade policy. It would mean the imposition of taxes for purposes other than revenue, and it would mean also the protection and encouragement of certain favoured colonial trades. Of course it would be said that the duty was only to be a small one. He was a great believer in the principleobsta principiis; and the Government would have been false to their pledges, and false to the confidence which the country placed in them, if they had acceded to the request of the Colonial Premiers in this respect. The right hon. Gentleman had directed a considerable portion of his speech to the question of wine which now had a duty. He would only ask this. Did hon. and right hon. Gentlemen when they entertained their friends, give them Colonial wines to drink, or Boer tobacco to smoke? Of course, they did nothing of the kind. They gave their friends the best that could be supplied. When Colonial wine and Colonial tobacco became the best in quality, they would have a large sale in this country. But under existing circumstances the only people who would suffer would be the working classes. If they gave a remission of duty on Colonial tobacco, it would be necessary, for revenue, to raise the duty on other tobaccos, and the only people who would suffer in that case would be the working classes. They could not make a rich man, however large the tax, refrain from smoking his havanna; but they could make the poor man smoke another and worse kind of tobacco in his pipe, and every time he did so his loyalty and affection for the Colonies would evaporate in smoke. But surely all this talk about the question of dutiable articles was a case of "Much a do about nothing," when they considered the figures. The total imports from Canada in 1906 amounted to £28,035,036, and out of that only £15,368 was subject to duty. Out of nearly £16,000,000 of imports from New Zealand in 1906, only £163 was subject to duty. Surely, it was not worth while going through so much to do so little. Surely, it was not worth while to commit a breach of the great free-trade policy in order to give a preference on £163. The right hon. Gentleman had made a determined effort to revive the political side of this question, and had pleaded that some system of preference was a necessity to the unity of the Empire. He had been under the 379 impression that during the last few months that side of the question had undergone a material change. When this controversy was first started there were two main arguments put forward in support of it. The first was the political argument that unless a policy of preference were adopted it would mean the separation of this country from the Colonies. The second was the economic argument, that it would be to our mutual advantage to have a system of preference. Before the right hon. Gentleman spoke to-day, he thought the speeches delivered at the Conference had absolutely killed the political side, and the only point left to consider was what were their material interests. In other words, the question had come down from the region of high politics into the arena of the produce market. He was glad of it, because it would have been a most deplorable thing if the loyalty of the Colonies had been made a pawn in the political game. There was no anti-Colonial Party in the House. They all looked upon the Colonies with affection and admiration, and were ready to do their best to promote their success and prosperity consistently with the best interests of the Empire. When this controversy was first started, however, it was on quite different lines, because they were then told that unless they were prepared to tax food they must be prepared to lose the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said in a speech at Glasgow in 1903—If you want to prevent separation you must put a tax on food.In the same year at the Constitutional Club the same right hon. Gentleman said—A system of preferential tariffs is the only system by which the Empire can be kept together.''Talk of that kind could now be swept into the limbo of obscurity, because no Colonial statesman of any importance would say that a system of preference was necessary for the unity of the Empire. He would give the House a few quotations from the speeches of the Colonial Premiers on this point. Mr. Deakin advocated this question practically from the same point of view as the right hon. Gentleman, but he used these words—The possibilities of the severance of this Empire, of its defeat and destruction, are too 380 painful to contemplate, and, thank haven, in no prospect that we can see.When Mr. Deakin used those words ho was very well aware of the results of the last general election, and he knew that the Government majority were pledged to no preference and that the whole of the Labour Party were against it. And notwithstanding these facts he said that, "the severance of the Empire was in no prospect that he could see." Sir Wilfred Laurier, in the eloquent speech ho delivered at the Albert Hall in April, 1907, said—If preference for preference were not given, however, their loyalty would remain the same. The courageous ancient Gauls were afraid of only one thing, and that was the canopy of heaven falling. Those who entertain a doubt of the loyalty of Canada may just as well fear the fall of the blue vault of heaven.Then there was General Botha who, in his blunt manner, said—I only want to say this, that although no preference is given by the Mother Country to the Transvaal the bond between the Transvaal and the Mother Country will not thereby be weakened.He thought they might in future regard with absolute equanimity the danger of separation. They had been told that the Colonies might make reciprocity treaties with foreign nations. He did not think there was the slightest danger of that, because at the present time we gave the Colonies better terms than any other nation, and so long as that continued they were not likely to give foreign nations better terms than the Mother Country. The trend of events was quite the other way, because the Colonies were beginning to recognise the benefits they derived from their connection with the Mother Country, and were giving us a preference so far as they could do so consistently with their fiscal policy of protection. Was that to be wondered at when they remembered the enormous benefits which the Colonies derived from their connection with the Mother Country? Practically the whole defence of the Navy was paid for by this country, for it cost £30,000,000, towards which the Colonies contributed about £500,000. The House had spent nearly the whole of this session passing the Territorial and Reserve Forces Bill, under which they provided a quick striking force to meet the necessities of the Empire. This country also provided the embassies and lent the Colonies enormous 381 sums of money. Under the Colonial Trustees Act Colonial Government stocks had been made Trustee Stocks. That affected hundreds of millions invested in Colonial Government stocks, and would be of the greatest possible benefit to any new country in process of development. He was glad to think that the Colonies were gradually recognising these facts, and so long as they did that they were not likely to bother their heads about separation. They had to look at the question from a material and a business point of view. They had been told that there had been an offer. He did not wish to quibble with the right hon. Gentleman about the use of a word, but if the Colonial Premiers had made any offer it was about the vaguest he had ever seen. It seemed to him that the Colonies offered something which they could not define in exchange for something which they were not prepared to indicate. Mr. Deakin said he was prepared to give a new Bill of Preferences, but he absolutely refused to say what he proposed to put into it. There was an absolute disagreement as to the terms of the offer between preferentialists here and in the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman had ridiculed the idea of taxing raw material and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham had done the same thing. What did Mr. Deakin say? He said—It does appear to us from our point of view, that we are not suggesting anything unreasonable in the proposals we make even in respect, of food stuffs and raw material.Mr. Deakin used those words, and therefore there was in them a direct point of issue as to the terms of the offer. Then as to the question of the cost of the offer, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said in 1903—I do not believe there will be any sacrifice at all,and yet in the month of June the same right hon. Gentleman wrote in a letter to Sir Oliver Lodge—Probably by the next Conference in 1911 the British people will be prepared to make whatever sacrifice is necessary.According to those statements, in 1903 there was to be no sacrifice, but in 1911 there was to be a sacrifice. If the author of this policy did not know whether there was to be a sacrifice or not how were they to know in the House of 382 Commons? At any rate one Colonial Prime Minister at the Conference did know whether there was to be a sacrifice or not, because Dr. Jameson said—But I take it that we are here to-day to try and get something from the Imperial Government. I am not going to split words about it. I am not going to say we are making a wonderfully generous offer from the Colonies.Evidently Dr. Jameson was contemplating another raid, not on a Republic this time but upon the pockets of the British taxpayer. He believed that Dr. Jameson was right, because if tariff reform was ever introduced there would be a great sacrifice, and ho was glad that the onus of proving that sacrifice rested upon right hon. Gentlemen opposite. There was one thought which was very consoling with regard to the whole of this question, and it was that whether the Opposition persisted in adhering to this policy of preference or not and whether they over carried it or not, in no circumstances would the loyalty of the Colonies and the unity of the Empire be affected. He would now say a few words about the Amendment he proposed to move. This Amendment had a history behind it. In the last Parliament they were all most anxious to discuss the fiscal question, but the opportunities offered them were few and far between.
§ MR. SOARES
said he knew they took every opportunity they could get. The right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies succeeded in winning the first place in the ballot, and he moved the Resolution which he had put down as an Amendment to-day. What was the position at that time? The Leader of the Opposition had then no settled convictions.
§ MR. SOARES
said he was glad to hear that the right hon. Gentleman's convictions always had been settled with regard to fiscal policy, but the principal suggestion up to that time which he had made was that the whole matter should be relegated to the dim and distant future by means of two successful general elections.
§ MR. SOARES
Yes, but that could not be called a successful one. Many of the right hon. Gentleman's followers were in a similar position. They were between the Scylla of Birmingham and the Charybdis of the general election.
§ MR. SPEAKER
Order, order. The arguments the hon. Member is using do not appear to be relevant to this Amendment.
§ MR. SOARES
said that the Amendment which he now proposed was before the last Parliament in the identical words he was now moving. On that occasion the Leader of the Opposition moved the previous question, and they had the spectacle of timorous tariff reformers, peace loving wobblers, and timorous free traders all voting in favour of the previous question. The Leader of the Opposition could no longer shirk the issue. He would have to vote either for or against protective tariffs on food. The challenge was thrown down to the right hon. Gentleman, and it was a challenge which, he ventured to say, went to the very heart of the preference policy. No doubt they would hear quibbles in the debate with regard to the meaning of the word "protective" which he had used as describing protective tariffs on food. He had noticed that many tariff reformers in talking over the question quietly did not mind being called protectionists; it was only when they went on the platform and wanted the votes of Unionist free traders that the kaleidescope suddenly shifted and the dining-room protectionist became a platform free trader. If the policy of preference was introduced they would hear a good deal about protection, and very little about free trade. One effect of the policy of preference would be the imposition of duties for purposes other than revenue, and it 384 would mean the artificial encouragement of various forms of Colonial trade. He had always understood that a policy of that kind meant protection, although he understood the Leader of the Opposition did not admit that definition of protection. He would say to the right hon. Gentleman that theoretical definitions of nomenclature did not matter a bit. What politicians had to do was to see that the people of this country thoroughly understood the terms used. For over fifty years the policy of the Liberal Party—let them call it a policy of "free imports," or a policy of "no taxation except for revenue purposes "if they liked—had gone by the name of free trade, and therefore the converse of that must be protection. Liberals stood for the existing policy. Hon. Gentleman opposite desired to annul, delete, and reverse that policy, and therefore while ho and his friends stood by free trade they thought hon. Members opposite were obliged to take the name of protectionists whether they liked it or not. There could be no doubt that their policy was in essence as well as in name a protective policy, and he asserted without fear, in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman had said, that their policy would artificially raise the price of food. If it would not raise the price of food, why did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham say he would omit from his tariff maize and corn? It was because, as he said, they were the food of some of the poorest of the people, and the fact that he omitted thorn showed conclusively what he thought would be the effect of his tariff. Was it not a fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite had apppealed for support to the landed interest and to tenant famers on this very ground? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Bordesley Division had pleaded that a fiscal reform policy involving preference) would be a means of curing rural depopulation and increasing the amount of tillage in this country. Tillage could only be increased, and the wheat-growing area of this country could only be increased, by making the wheat which was grown more profitable, and that could be done only by increasing its price. Therefore the policy of hon. Members on the other side, on their own showing, tended artificially to increase the price of food. He thought the Leader of the Opposition 385 would not deny that the artificial bolstering up of trade was a policy of protection. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, when speaking at Glasgow in October, 1903, said—I propose that the corresponding tax which will have to be put on flour should give a substantial preference to the miller. I do that in order to re-establish one of our most ancient industries in this country.That, he thought, came within the four corners of the definition which the Leader of the Opposition gave at Edinburgh with regard to protection. The great protagonist of the policy, the Member for West Birmingham, had called himself on more than one occasion a protectionist. Speaking at Birmingham in November, 1903, he said—I ask you not to be guided by me—not by a protectionist, but by a free-trader.Therefore, he was justified in saying that this Amendment was a challenge which went to the very root of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, and he was very curious indeed to see how they would meet it. They had not been told yet, but there was one gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench who he thought, would not speak in qualified terms, namely, the ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer, for he, speaking in October last year, when explaining the reasons for the defeat of the last Administration said—They had by their own pledges voluntarily precluded themselves from taking any action on the great question of fiscal reform, and after a time they even abstained from divisions and discussions in the House of Commons on that subject. But that way lay disaster.… The effect was to paralyse the efforts of their most energetic supporters throughout the country.He was anxious to know whether the supporters of the right hon. Gentleman were to receive another dose of paralysis as the result of that debate. If the Member for West Birmingham had been present as leader of the Party opposite, he knew how the right hon. Gentleman would have met the Amendment. In the debate to which he had already alluded the right hon. Gentleman said that if that Resolution were carried it would mean that the Government would go to the Conference with their hands tied as to the only terms on which preference could be given, the only terms being the protective taxation of food mentioned in the Amendment. He went on to say further 386 that he did not shirk a division. the right hon. Gentleman said—I confess that if I could have had my way, if I had the influence which the hon. Member attributes to me, I would have invited the Government; to meet this Motion with a direct negative. That is my opinion. I do not like a challenge to be thrown down and not taken up.The issue now before the House was perfectly clear. Did they want to give preference to the Colonies at the expense of the very poorest of the population? Did they want to consolidate the Empire on empty stomachs? Did they want by the taxation of meat, bread, and dairy produce to handicap still further the already hard lot of their poorer brethren? Or would they remain satisfied with the enthusiasm of the Colonies and sternly refuse to substitute the unnatural bond of financial interest for the natural bond of affection? He begged to move.
§ MR. SIMON (Essex, Walthamstow),
in seconding the Amendment, said it appeared to him to express with sufficient accuracy and clearness what was the position of the Government when they met the Colonial Premiers in Conference and gave the answer which they did. The real kernel of the complaint made by the right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution, and by those who supported him, was that the Government in meeting the Colonial Ministers in Conference had plainly stated their views. The Opposition could hardly expect from the Government an avowal in favour of Colonial preference, and their real complaint was that those who spoke for the Government at the Colonial Conference stated explicitly and clearly that which the Government believed, and that which they were sent by the country to say. That fact was clearly brought out if the House would bear in mind that this was the second occasion this year on which there had been a debate in the House on this question. An Amendment was moved to the Address by the hon. Member for Durham which anticipated the Colonial Conference, and invited the House to express regret that no reference had been made to it in the course of the King's Speech. In that debate in February the Leader of the Opposition explained clearly enough what was the view of himself and those behind him. 387 He said the Government ought to go into the Conference with an "open mind" on this very subject. That was the way in which the right hon. Gentleman, had he been representing this country in the Colonial Conference, would have acted. The complaint was that the Government in going forward to the Conference had declined to maintain an open mind. He would say with great respect that there were some among the right hon. Gentleman's followers who did not value the open mind quite so highly as he did himself. It was, at any rate, a possible view to take that this debate, like previous debates on this subject, had been promoted in order that the right hon. Gentlemen's mind might not be quite so much open henceforth as in the past. The other complaint, embodied in the Resolution, was a complaint, if he understood it rightly, that the Government declined to consider favourably or indeed to discuss the question of Colonial preference at the Conference. The right hon. Gentleman said that he had read the greater part of the Blue Book, and he must have discovered that there was no subject at the Colonial Conference which occupied one-fifth of the time devoted to this subject of Colonial preference. It was a little difficult to understand what was the substance of the complaint that those who spoke for the Government were offhand, that they threw the thing on one side and declined to listen, to discuss, and to answer, when very nearly half of a great and bulky volume was occupied by the discussion of the subject. The right hon. Gentleman had recommended them to read Mr. Deakin's contribution to the debate. He had no doubt that most of them had read it, but he would suggest that it would be as well to read also the answer made first by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, then by the President of the Board of Trade, and he thought also by the Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. Would anybody who had read the Blue Book in its material parts really contend that no answer was given? No one expected in a threadbare controversy like this that opinions would be changed by arguments, the most subtle, eloquent, and overpowering. No one expected that. But it was one thing to say they were of the same opinion still, 388 and quite another thing to say that those who spoke in the name of the Government did not give an elaborately reasoned view to support the opposition taken up by the Government.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The hon. and learned Gentleman will forgive me. I did not complain of the method adopted by the Government. Colonial statesmen stated their view. The Government, through the Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated yours. What I said was that I was relieved from the necessity of repeating the arguments of Colonial statesmen because it had not been attempted to answer them except by a counter statement of the Government. That was the way in which the argument was conducted.
§ MR. SIMON
said that no one knew better than the right hon. Gentleman that, assuming two persons of different opinions were both going to keep to the point, it was almost necessary that one side should be expressed in terms contradictory to the views of the other. There was no other known means by which they could conduct a debate on one and the same subject, except of course the alternative course sometimes pursued by which one disputant sought to evade the point and discuss everything in heaven and earth except the particular thing in question. Hon. Members would see in the Blue Book arguments developed at considerable length, arguments of great subtlety and ingenuity, and he submitted that it was impossible to suggest that they were met with mere counter assertion. They were met by two other methods of argument: one was to ask a plain question such as the Chancellor of the Exchequer well knew how to ask: "What is the preference about which you speak and upon what do you say it can be given?" The circumstance that no plain answer was given was not a reason for complaining of the conduct of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The other line adopted in the course of the debate was this: Those who spoke for the Government pointed out to all our fellow-subjects across the seas the peculiar position in which England as a small island stood. They might well not have realised the extent to which our own 389 situation was peculiar. It was pointed out with a wealth of illustration and statistics which no one could challenge. In these circumstances, he failed to understand how it could be suggested that there was any substance in the complaint that the suggestions put forward by the Colonial Premiers were not fully and adequately discussed. There was yet a further reason for supporting the Amendment, and it had been afforded by the line of argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square. He claimed that tariff reformers had never put forward any suggestion which was going to interfere with the fiscal autonomy of the Colonies. The right hon. Gentleman surely could not have forgotten that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham at an earlier stage of the campaign proposed as an essential part of his scheme a schedule of prohibitive industries for the Colonies!
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)
I really have no right to interrupt the hon. Member, but perhaps he will permit me to say he is mistaken.
§ MR. SIMON
said that he of course readily recognised the right hon. Gentleman's right to interrupt. It was a matter on which he could claim to speak with authority. He (the speaker) did not want the House to think that he suggested that it might be found in the published works of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, but he certainly suggested that the proposal was reported inThe Times on the day following the Glasgow speech.
§ MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I think I know the passage to which the hon. Member is alluding, and which was omitted from the published copy of the speeches just because it had given rise to misapprehension which my right hon. friend had not foreseen, and which he took the earliest opportunity of correcting.
§ MR. SIMON
said he would very gladly say no more about it. There was another proposition put forward by 390 the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, which struck him as peculiar. The right hon. Gentleman said that if they had to go through the disagreeable course of getting a tax from A, why should they decline to get it by a method which was going to do a little good to B and C. There was another right hon. Gentleman on the same Bench who once wrote an elementary primer on economics, and, if he might say so, the answer was to be found in that or any other elementary book on the subject. The first object of a tax should be the Imperial Treasury, and, since there had been no method invented by which, if they extracted money from A, they could both pay it into the Treasury and to B and C, the reason why it was not thought to be wise to use it for B and C was because it was essential that the tax should go to the Exchequer.
§ MR. LYTTELTON
The hon. Member does not understand my argument. My argument was first to tax for revenue. Having taxed for revenue, some other object may be served. It may be beneficial to some other person. The tax is not to be declared bad merely because it has an ancillary effect in benefiting someone else. That, I think, is a solid argument, and I do not think anybody sitting on this Bench has denied it.
§ MR. SIMON
said that that was not an ancillary effect; it was an alternative effect. The tax might either benefit certain persons or the Treasury. It could not benefit the Treasury and as an ancillary effect benefit B and C. He begged the pardon of the House for mentioning anything so extremely elementary. Hon. Gentlemen opposite accused free traders of being pedants. He submitted that the real pedantry consisted in failing to see how the situation of this country differed fundamentally from the situation of any other country, and that they were dealing with a small island which depended for its existence on an immense supply of food and raw material from abroad. They were dealing with a different world from the protectionist countries to which other arguments might apply. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, 391 Hanover Square, was driven to the alternative: "Shall we give a preference on raw materials or shall we give a preference on food?" He looked at raw materials and said it would be contrary to the universal canon to tax them. Food was the only alternative he had left. He had to tax that, but the right hon. Gentleman used an argument which would be equally good as an argument for taxing raw materials. His argument was that food could come from many places, and he asked who knew but that the effect of a preferential duty might be to promote the production of food in other and more favoured places. Why then should they hold up their hands in horror at the idea of taxing raw materials? They came from many places too. Let them take the common Australian sheep. There was meat inside him and wool outside him. It was supposed that if a preference were given there would be an encouragement to the productivity of Australian mutton. Would it not also do something to promote the productivity of Australian wool? If there was any force in this argument advanced to justify the somewhat timorous proposal to put a small tax on food, which the right hon. Gentleman hoped, if he caught him rightly, would make food cheaper, he failed to understand why it did not apply with the same force to the taxation of raw materials. The taxation of raw materials would be met with an outcry no doubt from many great and powerful industries in this country. The taxation of food would also be met with an outcry, but not perhaps from people so great and powerful. The position they took up was that, after all, food was the greatest of raw materials, and the moment the proposition was conceded that the taxation of raw materials was impossible the whole scheme of preference fell to the ground and the taxation of food was inferentially condemned. The right hon. Gentleman had not thrown any further light upon the way in which Colonial preference was to be afforded. How was it to be afforded to Canada? No doubt Canada was an old adherent to the view of preference, but how did anyone suggest that preference was going to be secured for either Canada or Australia or the South African Colonies? The Chancellor of the Exchequer again 392 and again invited the Colonial Premiers to say what were to be the objects of Colonial preference, and no answer was forth-coming. He ventured to put the same question to hon. Gentlemen opposite—what were the objects in respect of which, according to them, Colonial preference should be applied? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's had not given weight to the essential distinction which existed between the offer of the Colonies, and what it was suggested this country could do for the Colonies. In the Colonies where protective tariffs already existed, a rearrangement was no doubt possible. In this country, where no such tariffs existed, the only way of offering a favour to the Colonies was by withdrawing it from the rest of the world. For that another word was required. It was not preference that was wanted from the Mother Country, because the only form which that so-called preference could take was a new imposition on others as distinguished from the lightening of any existing burdens on the Colonies themselves. That distinction lay at the heart and root of the subject they were discussing, and he therefore begged to second the Amendment.
Amendment proposed to the proposed Resolution—
In line 1, to leave out all after the word 'that,' and add the words 'in the opinion of this House, the permanent unity of the British Empire will not be secured through a system of preferential duties based upon the protective taxation of food.'"—(Mr. Soares.)
Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ LORD RONALDSHAY (Middlesex, Hornsey)
thought he owed some explanation to the House in seeking to intervene in a maiden speech in the course of so interesting a debate as that which was before them. He did so because the question of preferential trading with our Colonies was one to which the electors, or at all events a very considerable majority of the electors whom he had the honour to represent attached paramount importance. It was upon that question and above all other questions that he invited some 393 22,000 electors to give their verdict a short time since, and although he gave the utmost publicity to it and put it in the forefront, both in his election address and in his speeches on public platforms, no gentleman ventured to come forward to contest the views he expressed and he was returned to Parliamentnemine contradicente upon that issue. He felt, therefore, that he should not be dealing fairly with, or looking after the interest of, his electors were he not on their behalf to register some protest in the House in regard to the attitude which had been assumed by His Majesty's Government upon the subject at the recent Colonial Conference. He did not desire to dwell at any length upon the methods of procedure which were adopted at that Conference and the unfortunate secrecy with which the proceedings were enveloped at the time, but he did venture to protest against the insinuation which was made in the speech of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies at Edinburgh—a speech which had the supreme merit of displeasing his own supporters only a whit less than it disgusted his opponents—the insinuation that the representatives of our great Colonies had as the guests of the Government violated the laws of hospitality by addressing their views on this question to the people of this country. He could only suppose that the phrase then used, was one of those "terminological inexactitudes" with which Members of the House had become familiar. He was under the impression that the Colonial representatives were not the guests of the Government but the guests of the nation, and, agreeing as he did with the right hon. Gentleman, that the laws of hospitality did impose obligations upon the guest as well as upon the host, he thought it was the first duty of our guests, the Colonial Premiers, to put before the nation what was in their minds on this question. But he passed from that to that which was the fundamental issue between hon. Members on that side and hon. Members opposite, and that was thenon possumus attitude which the Government had assumed towards the representations of the Colonial Premiers. Many interesting admissions were made in the Blue-book, and the chief objections which seemed to be made to listening to any scheme of colonial preference were, 394 first, that the Government of the day had a mandate from the people against such a policy; in the second place, that no such policy could be carried out without taxing the food of the people; while, thirdly and lastly, it was said, and this was not the least important, that by adopting any such system we should be converting a cheap country into a dear country and controverting the fundamental principles and rules of our free trade policy. He noticed that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech at the Colonial Conference declared that we were 43,000,000 of people and that the general election showed that we were convinced that no system of preference could be brought forward which did not mean the curtailment of the supply of the necessities of life and of the raw material necessary for the industries of this country. It was perfectly true that at the last general election the Government were returned to power by a large majority, but even if that election had been fought upon the straight issue of preferential treatment of our Colonies, which it was not, it was hardly correct to say that we were 43,000,000 of people who were not content to accept a policy of that kind. The right hon. Gentleman must be aware that although something over 3,000,000 votes were recorded for the present Government, at the same time a total of nearly 2,500,000 votes was recorded for the Party who were in favour of colonial preference and who placed this subject in the forefront of their programme. In this estimate he was giving the Party opposite what he was not sure they were entitled to. and that was all the various sections of the Liberal Party—Labour, Nationalists, Socialists, and Independent. But he would like to ask whether anyone could say that the last election was fought upon this one straight issue. He was sure that anyone who went through the political orgie of the last election must have been aware of the vast variety of issues, which were brought to bear upon the electors. Why did hon. Members in all parts of the country masquerade as the custodians of the morals of their fellow countrymen in South Africa? Was it to be denied that their pamphlets and pictorial representations on the subject of Chinese labour were intended to influence and did 395 fluence the opinions of their fellow countrymen at the last general election? Could they deny that their manoeuvre to engineer a corner in consciences in regard to the. education controversy did not have a serious effect upon the controversy? Further, he would point out that since the general election and since this issue had become distinguishable from the bewildering medley of political cross currents which prevailed at that time, the votes of the electorate had been given in a very different direction from that in which they were given then. Since the question of colonial preference had been put fairly and squarely before the country at by-elections, 101,000 votes had been recorded for it and only 93,000 against. As to preference itself he did not think right hon. Gentlemen would dispute the fact that very considerable advantages would accrue to this country in consequence of the increased trade which would take place with the Colonies. As the President of the Board of Trade pointed out, the Canadian preferential tariff had produced a very marked effect upon our trade with Canada. The right hon. Gentleman further admitted that—Any reasonable and workable plan that would tend to increase the proportion of the produce which is bought by us from the Colonies, and by the Colonies from us and from each other, must necessarily enhance the resources of the Empire as a whole. A considerable part of the surplus population of the United Kingdom which now goes to foreign lands in search of a livelihood might then find it to its profit to pitch its tents somewhere under the flag, and the Empire would gain in riches of material and of men. We agree with our Colonial comrades, that all this is worth concerted effort, even if that effort at the outset costs us something. The federation of free commonwealths is worth making some sacrifice for.When he read those words he asked himself whether the wisdom of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham had descended on the right hon. Member for Carnarvon, and when he called to mind the speeches of the same right hon. Gentleman, when he recalled the lurid pictures drawn by the right hon. Gentleman for the benefit of the workmen of this country of a prospect of German sausage and black bread, of cat's meat and dog's meat as a result of the policy proposed by the Motion before the House, he again asked himself was Saul among the prophets? The right hon. Gentleman went on to emphasise the fact that the Government 396 were prepared to make greater sacrifices in the future, but said that to tax the food of the people was to put the larger portion of the sacrifice on the poorest in the country. That was the same argument that had been adduced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer a little earlier in the debate. He did not know whether either or both of those gentlemen were members of that organised hypocrisy the Free Food League, but he was quite certain that whatever pious opinions the right hon. Gentlemen might hold as to the enormity of taxing the food of the people they found very little difficulty in violating them in practice, as the recent debates on the Finance Bill showed. One argument used during the Conference to the Colonial Premiers was—You are asking us to do what no protectionist country in the world would think of doing: you are asking us to tax necessaries of either life or livelihood which we cannot produce ourselves, and of which you cannot, for many a long year, supply us with a sufficiency.''But surely the boot was on the other leg. He was under the impression that at the present time we were taxing tea, currants, sugar, and other commodities that we were not producing in this country, and it seemed to him absurd to inveigh against the Colonies for asking us to do what the requirements of our present fiscal system obliged us to do at the present time. The cry of taxing the food of the people was one which did not stand the test of analysis or of cold, impartial and unimpassioned investigation The 1s. registration duty on corn in this country had no result unless it was to cheapen the price of bread. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen also showed a tendency to ignore the fact that the duties proposed with a view to giving a preference to our Colonies were not upon all, but only upon foreign corn. And they also ignored the fact that the imposition of such a tax would so stimulate the industry in the Colonies affected that the corn-producing area would be increased by some 15,000,000 or 20,000,000 acres and give employment to thousands of British men. He remembered two speeches made by one right hon. Gentleman in one afternoon to two different types of audiences. In one it was pointed out to the working man that a preference to our Colonies would mean a steadily increasing price on their food, and in the other, 397 which was addressed to an agricultural audience, that agriculture in this county could not look for any profit from such a proposal as that of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, because the imposition of such duties would stimulate the production in the Colonies concerned, and that the production would inevitably increase as time went on. The latter argument was the true one, and the Party cry of cheap food must be stigmatised as an untrue cry. It was an insincere and inaccurate statement to make to say that the cost of the food of the people would be raised by these proposals. Even if it were not inaccurate he would ask whether cheapness was everything in this world? He was bound to admit from a considerable experience of other countries that the conclusion he had come to was that the cheaper the cost of living the lower was the standard of living of the vast majority of the population of the country. He was sure that the example he was going to put to the House would be appreciated by hon. Members opposite. He would refer to a country with regard to which hon. Members opposite showed such a profound and intimate knowledge, China. That country, besides having the privilege of supplying what were called slaves for the benefit of this country, also had the advantage of a fiscal system similar to that which we enjoyed at the present time. So great was the cheapness of living in the country that every necessary of life could be enjoyed by a man with an annual income of £3. But what was the condition of the working and labouring classes of this region of all-round prosperity? He would quote a short sentence from one who had lived in the country for the greater part of his life, the Rev. Dr. Smith, an American gentleman who described the lot of the labourer as that of a man "who is driven by the constant and chronic reappearance of the wolf at his door to spend his life in an everlasting grind." He ventured therefore to submit that cheapness was not everything in this life. In the interior of China the cheapest means of conveyance was by wheelbarrow, and a man could travel by wheelbarrow at four-fifths of a farthing per mile. It might be considered an advantage by hon. Gentlemen opposite 398 to travel at that rate, but would hon. Members representing labour in that House consider that it was a proper condition of life if they had to wheel hon. and right hon. Gentlemen at that rate of remuneration? A manifesto was issued not long ago by hon. Members sitting below the gangway. To what was it that they owed the conditions, so flourishing, of labour in this country at the present time? Was it not to this horrid word protection? There they had it in its most severe form, the protection of trade unionism, which was described by Cobden, the founder of the political belief to which they subscribed, as "founded on principles of brutal tyranny and monopoly." It had been argued by hon. Members that if we were to contract commercial treaties with our Colonies and dependencies the inevitable result would be to bring down retaliatory measures from foreign countries. In that respect hon. Members opposite showed unnecessary timidity, and wore making themselves miserable in anticipation of evils not likely to occur. Retaliation was not always followed by undesirable results. Russia had retaliated upon India by putting a countervailing duty upon Indian tea in consequence of our action in joining the Sugar Convention, but the retaliation, far from being a hindrance to India, had apparently been of great service to her. During the last four years, export of tea from India to Russia had increased from 1,500,000 pounds to 10,000,000 pounds at the present time. He came to the last question, that of flying in the face of fundamental rules and principles of our free-trade system. Why should they hesitate from flying in the face of those principles if, by so doing, they gained material advantages? Because a small tax might have some advantage to producers in this country, why should they be prevented from levying it and so bringing about those advantages which they had so nearly at heart? He knew very well that there were many among their opponents who said that such a policy was nothing more nor less than protection in disguise. He had heard the statement quoted from Lord Beaconsfield that protection in this country was not only dead but damned. But that appeared to him to be entirely beside the point at issue. 399 Why did they not also quote the remark of Lord Beaconsfield, which was very relevant to the question they had now under consideration, namely, that if they looked to the history of this country since the advent of Liberalism it would be seen that the efforts of Liberals had been in the direction of the disintegration of the Empire? why should they refrain from quoting from the same statesman another speech as to the self-governing Colonies? Lord Beaconsfield declared that self-government, in his opinion, ought to have been ceded as part of a great policy of Imperial consolidation, that it ought to have been accompanied by an Imperial tariff and by the institution of some representative council in this country. That appeared to him to be entirely relevant to the question which they had before them. He entered his protest on behalf of those whom he represented against the attitude adopted by His Majesty's Government at the Colonial Conference, and he supported most heartily the Motion which had been made by his right hon. friend.
§ THE UNDER-SECRETARY OF STATE FOR THE COLONIES (Mr. CHURCHILL, Manchester, N.W.)
The House will consider that it is now about time that some statement should be made from the Treasury Bench as to the position which we occupy this afternoon; and the first observation I would venture to address to the House is that we are engaged in discussing a vote of censure. A vote of censure is a very serious thing. When it is moved with great formality on behalf of the official Opposition, it is intended always to raise a plain and decisive issue. I must, however, observe that of all the votes of censure which have been proposed in recent times in this House, the one we are now discussing is surely the most curious. The last Government was broken up three years ago on this very question of Imperial preference. After the Government had been broken up, a continuous debate proceeded in the country for two years and a half, and it was terminated by the general election. This Parliament is the result of that election, and there is not a single Gentleman on this Ministerial 400 Bench who is not pledged in the most specific terms, not to grant a preferential tariff to the Colonies. Now, because we have kept that promise, because we are opposed to preferential tariffs, because we have declined to grant preferential tariffs, and because we haved one what all along we declared we were going to do, and were returned to do, we are made the object of this vote of censure. It may be said, "We do not blame you for keeping your promise, but for making the pledge." But what did the Leader of the Opposition promise? He promised most emphatically before the election that if he were in power as Prime Minister when this Colonial Conference took place, he would not grant preference to the Colonies. On many occasions the right hon. Gentleman said that not one, but two elections would be necessary before he would be entitled to take that tremendous step.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I have the right hon. Gentleman's words here. Speaking at Manchester in January, 1905, the right hon. Gentleman said—If that scheme were carried out, I do not see that we could be called on to decide the colonial aspect of this question until not only one, but two elections have passed.Yet the right hon. Gentleman is prepared I presume to join in a vote of censure on His Majesty's Government for not granting that preference which he himself was prohibited from granting by the most precise and particular engagement. Is it a vote of censure on the Government at all? Is it not really a vote of censure on the general election? Is it not a cry of petulant vexation at the natural, orderly, long-expected sequence of events? To such a vote of censure, however proposed, and with whatever arguments it may be sup-ported, an Amendment has been moved by my hon. friend who sits for the Barn-staple Division. I know something of the Amendment because in the late Parliament it was a Motion which I myself drafted in the days when we earnestly desired to procure a plain issue; and the Amendment which is now proposed is designed for that end and that 401 end alone, to procure a plain and decided issue in order to know, after the vote has been taken, exactly where every one stands. I have no idea what course hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite propose to take. The last time such a proposition was put before the House they met it with the previous question, and they carried that because they could not carry a direct negative. They found that in the late Parliament, that stern Parliament, elected on the impulse of the Khaki election, even with all the influence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, they were not able to meet the proposition which the hon. Gentleman is moving this afternoon, by a direct negative. The late Parliament shrank from its duty of pronouncing clearly and plainly to the country. Well, the question has come up again, not entirely owing to action on our part, but owing to the course which the right hon. Gentleman and his friends have seen fit to take; and I am inclined to think that the present House to-night will adopt a policy different from that which was adopted in the last Parliament, and will emphatically put on record its opinion on this most grave, and great Imperial and social question. The right hon. Gentleman who moved the Resolution made a very mild and conciliatory speech. But he confined himself to generalities. He avoided anything like a statement of concrete proposals which he thinks the Government ought to adopt. Those who take part in this controversy nowadays avoid any statement of the concrete proposals that would follow if their view were adopted. We are told what a splendid thing preference is, what noble results it would achieve, what inexpressible happiness and joy it would bring in all parts of the Empire and in all parts of the earth, what wealth would be created, how the Exchequer would gain, and how the food of the people would cheapen in price. But, though the Government is blamed for not acting on these suggestions, we are never told what is the schedule of taxes which it is proposed to introduce to give effect to these splendid and glittering aspirations. It is perfectly impossible to discuss colonial preference apart from the schedule of duties on which it is to be 402 based. It is idle to attempt to discuss it without a definite proposal as to the subjects of taxation and as to the degree to which those different subjects are to be taxed. And the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, who has studied this question, felt that in common fairness he must be precise and definite. We know what he proposed in the way of taxation on corn, meat, fruit, and dairy produce. What we want to know is this. Is that tariff before us now? I want to know, is it for not according such a preference to the Colonies that the Government are to be censured? Is it the view of those who support the Motion that the Government would have done right to impose the duties proposed by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham at Glasgow in 1903? Do the Opposition stand by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, or do they abandon him? That is what the House and the Government want to know—what we are going to know if we can—and that is what, the Colonies want to know. What will the protectionists in the Colonies say if they find to-morrow that the programme of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has been abandoned? It is indispensable to the discussion of this question that there should be a clear statement from the Leader of the Opposition whether or not we are to regard the Glasgow preferential tariff of the right hon. Member for West Birmingham as being still in operation or out of operation. Not only is it clear, however, that this tariff is still the proposal of the Party opposite, but no other policy can be framed on which a uniform, symmetrical, or fair preference can be accorded to the Colonies. But, even if the House looks at the alternative propositions put forward, the issue which it has now to decide is not less clear. The House has been told that the Government might have given a preference on a dutiable article. There are two objections which will occur to everyone as to that proposal. In the first place, such a preference operating over an area of £36,000,000 of revenue involves a considerable surrender of revenue. An obligation is laid on any Member, or on any Party who proposes a reduction of 403 revenue either to show a method which will render that economy unnecessary or propose an alternative fiscal issue. Has the Opposition such a fiscal issue? How is it proposed to fill the gap which will be created if we accord preference to the Colonies on tea, sugar, tobacco, and wine? Is it proposed to put a tax on corn, or on manufactured articles, or on meat and dairy produce? If so, let it be said, because I am certain that the proposals which would be made from the Opposition benches to meet this deficiency in the revenue will infallibly raise the old controversy raised by the right hon. Member for West Birmingham in the last Parliament. The second objection is that it introduces in our fiscal system an entirely new, and, as the Government think, the wholly vicious feature of discriminating between one class of producers and another. The whole basis of our financial and fiscal policy—a policy which has been pursued for so many years by this country and which has been supported by the practice and the precepts of so many great and distinguished men—is that it draws no distinction whatever between different classes of producers, whether they reside here or abroad, whether they live in foreign countries or in our Colonies. I am quite prepared to state that proposition in its simplest form. That is the fundamental principle of our fiscal system, and there is no discrimination. We have but one measure to give to those who trade with us—the just measure of equality, and there can be no better measure than that. That is the fundamental principle of the free-trade position, and if it is challenged, as it is by the Party opposite, the whole of the great controversy is again raised between free trade and tariff reform. I do not believe that the Opposition will be acting with can dour if they say they have abandoned the proposals which the right hon. Member for West Birmingham has made. I believe that those proposals are still their policy, and any lesser proposal put forward is only designed to lead up to them.
Now, let me meet another charge. I think it was suggested in the speech we heard from the right hon. Gentleman opposite and the noble Lord whose able 404 speech we have just listened to that the Government have been guilty of pedantry in dealing with the Colonial Conference, through not making some concession as to dutiable articles. The Colonial representatives, when they asked for a preference on wine and tobacco, did not ask for it because it was of value to them by itself. They knew well that the operation of such a preference must be unfair and unequal. They knew well that Canada, who has the most solid claims upon us for a preferential recognition, would receive no benefit from such a preference on wine. But the Colonial representatives of South Africa asked for a preference on wine and tobacco in order that, as they avowed with candour, we should concede the principle. That is a perfectly proper proceeding on their part; it is the natural way of advancing the views which they hold, because it would lead up to the larger principle and the larger policy. But the Government are opposed in this case to "the larger policy." The Government sit now on these Benches because they are opposed to it as a Government and as a Party. It is one of the fundamental conditions of our existence that we are opposed to such a policy. How, then, by any process of argument, can the Government be censured for not making an exception which must inevitably have led to the breaking of the great rule to which the Government have committed themselves? It is a very dangerous thing in this controversy, with the ugly rush of vested interests always lying in the wake of the Protectionist movement to be considered, to make even verbal concessions. Some time ago I made a speech in which I said that there was no objection to the extension of inter-colonial preference. By this I meant the reduction of duties between countries which have already a discriminating tariff; and it seemed to me in such a case that there is a net reduction of duty to the good. I do not see any objection to that, because it seems to me that under the most-favoured-nation principle any advantage we gain is also gained by the other party to the transaction. In any case the sums involved in inter-colonial preference at the present time are extremely small, and whatever they might be the matter is one which is wholly outside our control, because we have no 405 authority over the Colonies in this respect and we may just as well look pleasant about it and accord a sympathetic attitude to such a process. [Hear, hear.] Yes, but let those who reproach us with pedantry and with not showing a sympathetic desire to meet the Colonies listen to this: When such a statement is made by a Minister, is it accepted as a desire on the part of the Government to extend sympathetic treatment to the Colonies? Not at all. It is taken as an admission, and used for the purpose of trying to pretend that the Government have abandoned the principle of their opposition to the larger question of Imperial preference. We should be told that we had given up every logical foothold of preference, and that nothing prevented us imposing a tax on bread and meat except our inability to follow the drift of our own arguments. The disadvantages of preferential relations arise from the introduction of an extended area of discrimination, but in the case of our Colonies which at present discriminate there is a net reduction of the discriminating tariffs, and in that lies the distinction between a healthy and an unhealthy operation of this kind. There is another charge—an atrocious charge—which has been made against us. We are told that we have been ungrateful to the Colonies, that the Colonial representatives came over here offering us great things, and that we have met their offers with nothing at all. My hon. friend the Member for Barnstaple reminded the House that if a balance had to be cast between the services reciprocally rendered by the Colonies and the Mother Country there could be no doubt whatever on which side the balance of advantage would lie. I do not wish to dwell upon that. We avoid making our case in all its strength because we desire to see the British Empire woven together on the principle of family, with no sharp division of profit and loss in the calculation. When, however, we are reproached with treating the Colonies with ingratitude. I say that those who have to defend the free-trade policy of the country are forced to look narrowly into the profit and loss relationship between the Colonies and the Mother Country. What were the proposals put before us and the Colonial Conference? I have 406 referred to preference, but there was another proposal. I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, is not in his place at the moment. He put forward a proposal earlier in the year, and it was renewed in a slightly different form by Mr. Deakin at the Conference. The proposal was to impose a 1 per cent.ad valorem surtax on all foreign merchandise coming into the ports of the British Empire. That was a proposal which the right hon. Gentleman put forward as the least objectionable form of the preferential proposals, and he said of it that it was the least objectionable because it gave no loophole for the corruption which he evidently thinks will spring up in the wake of the other proposals made by hon. Members on the Benches opposite. Let me ask the House to examine this proposal for a moment. Has any serious civilised Government—I ask for information—ever been to the pains and trouble of erecting round their coasts a tariff with all its complications, with all the need of exacting certificates of origin on every class, of goods, with all the need of demanding strict assessment of all commodities brought to their shores—has any nation ever erected such a vast and complicated network as would be involved in such a duty simply for the paltry purpose of imposing a duty of I per cent.? I say there is no argument and no reason for such a course, and the only argument which could justify it is the argument used by Dr. Smartt at the Colonial Conference when he said (page 514 of the Blue-book)—The foreigner pays, and we do not.Mr. Deakin felt the force of the objection which would be entertained in this country to introducing such a tariff as the right hon. Gentleman has proposed, simply for fiscal purposes, and he proceeded to say that Great Britain, if she was a party to such a bargain, should be permitted to raise the money in her own way, and to contribute her proportion to the common fund. That was a great concession to the self-governing Mother Country. I would like to say to the House that there is a great difference, to my mind, between subventions and preferences—a subvention may, at any rate, be raised by a perfectly orthodox fiscal process. No more money is taken from the taxpayer than is required. The 407 whole yield of the tax by which the subvention may be raised can certainly go to the Exchequer, and when the subvention is paid to the foreign or Colonial Government it does not go as a preference would go to benefit particular interests in the Colony, but it goes to the Government of the Colony for the general purposes of State, and not for private advantage on either side. Therefore, on the face of it, I say that the method of subvention is very much to be preferred to the method of preference. But it would be necessary in examining a question of subvention to look at it on its merits. We have this year given a subvention to Jamaica of £200,000 on its merits, because of the disaster and confusion into which Jamaica has been plunged by the earthquake. And there is a proposal of which we have heard and which is being examined on its merits by His Majesty's Government for improving sea communication to and fro across the Atlantic. That may be a foolish proposal, or it may not, but each particular question has to be looked at upon its merits. It is upon the merits, and not upon the principle, that criticism would naturally be directed. This proposal of 1 per cent. put forward by Mr. Deakin carried the support of the official spokesman of the Opposition. Look at the proportions on which this new fund was to be subscribed I Canada was to dedicate—that was the expression used by Mr. Deakin — £400,000, New Zealand £20,000, Newfoundland £6,000, Cape Colony £40,000, Natal £26,000, Great Britain £4,500,000, and Australia—the proposing body—what was she to dedicate to this fund? No less than £100,000 a year, or one forty-fifth part of the contribution which was to be made by this country. And for what object was this fund to be accumulated? It is hard enough for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to raise the money to carry on so great an establishment as this country is forced necessarily to maintain. But here is a proposal to raise no less than £4,500,000 of extra taxation, for what objects? For objects not specified, for objects not yet discovered, for objects which could not be stated by those who made the proposal. The right hon. Gentleman said that there was to be a meeting of the representatives of the different Colonies in the different great cities of the Empire—one different great 408 city each year for seven years, excluding London, where there was to be no meeting, and they were to search for a method of spending this money. The House will see that the real essential fallacy of the protectionist proposal is the idea that taxation is a good thing in itself, that it should be imposed for the fun of the thing, and then, having done it for amusement, we should go round afterwards and look for attractive methods of expenditure in order to give support to the project. These are the actual proposals made to us at the Colonial Conference. These are the sort of proposals in respect of which we are to be censured, forsooth, because we have not found it possible in the name of the Government of this country to give our assent to them. These matters are very clearly understood in Australia. I have here a great number of cuttings from Australian newspapers. I am not going to read them to the House, because that would take too long, but I trust if they are published in the newspapers of this country, hon. Gentlemen who take part in these debates may find some opportunity of casting their eyes over them. There are a great many newspapers in Australia which thoroughly understand our position on this question, and thoroughly share the views His Majesty's Government have put forward. We do not hear always the views which are put forward by many of the most important journals under the Southern Cross, but when anything is said in detriment of the Government it is telegraphed swiftly back, and it appears in all the powerful papers of the Party opposite. But every Party in this House has its friends in the Colonies. Every opinion in this House has supporters and champions in the Colonies. Liberals and Labour men will find for their views the ready and sympathetic understanding which I say creates in all our hearts the warmest feelings towards those dominions where there is such shrewd and active public opinion, and where all questions are debated with fair representation on both sides.
I venture to review the economic argument as far as I can see it. I do not want to go into the difficult question of the incidence of taxation in any detail, but I venture to submit a proposition to 409 the House as a broad general rule. I daresay the right hon. Gentleman may rake up some hard case in conflict with it, but as a broad general rule I believe it will be found true to say that there is no power in a Government to impose taxation outside the limits of its territorial sovereignty. Although I am quite ready to admit that by sudden and unexpected alterations of the tariff temporary advantage might be gained, and some share of the wealth of other people and other countries might be netted for this or that set of traders within your own border, in the long run the whole yield of any tax, export or import, will come home to the people of that country by whom it is imposed. It will come home plus the whole cost of collecting the tax, and plus further the inconvenience and burden of the network of taxation which is needed. It will come home to them, if they be consumers, in the quantity, quality, or price of the articles they consume, and, if exporters, in the profit, convenience, or reserve power of the business which they conduct. If that general rule be in the main a not untrue guide in matters of taxation, it is evident, as was pointed out by someone or other, that preference means better prices. It can mean nothing else than better prices. If it does not mean better prices, it is a sham and a fraud. How are you going to call into being these new corn lands, or how is to be supposed that the tobacco culture and the export of Cape and Australian wines will be stimulated except through the agency of price? The operation is the simplest in the world. By an artificial tariff arrangement particular branches of industry are made more profitable to those engaged in them. They are able to secure a larger price for the goods they sell, and consequently there is a stimulus to engage in such a trade. That is the whole operation of preference. It can only operate through price, and it can, in our case, only operate through food prices. There is no parity between the sacrifices demanded of the Mother Country and the proposals of preference made by the various Colonies. To them it is merely a fresh application of their existing fiscal system. To us it is a fiscal revolution. To them it is a mere rewriting of their schedule to give an increased measure of protection to their home producer. To us it is a tax on the 410 food, and, as I assert again and again, upon raw material, and upon, I believe, the industries of these islands. If the Conference has established one thing clearly it is this, that none of the great self-governing Colonies of the British Empire are prepared to give us effective access to their own markets in competition with their home producers. That was established with absolute clearness, and even if they were prepared to give us effective access to their home markets, I submit to the House that, having regard to the great preponderance of our foreign trade as against our Colonial trade, it would not be worth our while to purchase the concession which they would then offer at the cost of disturbing and dislocating the whole area of our trade, and, therefore, we propose to adhere, and are prepared if necessary to be censured for adhering, to our general financial system, which is based and governed by the rule that there should be no taxation except for revenue, and based on the commercial principle of the equal treatment of all nations, and the most favoured nation treatment from those nations in return. Important as are the economical arguments against a preferential policy, they are in my opinion less grave than the political disadvantages. On other occasions I have addressed the House on the grave danger and detriment to the working of our Colonial system which must follow the intermingling of the affairs of the British Empire in the party politics and financial politics of this country. It is very evident upon the face of it that there is no better way of producing an anti-Colonial Party than to associate the relations which we have with the Colonies with the taxation of many subjects of taxation, and by so doing we should have forced upon the House year after year that very profit and loss calculation which we deprecate, and which, with great restraint, we have on the whole refrained from making in any very harsh form. There is the removal of taxes fixed by treaty with Governments scattered all over the world which preference necessitates, taken in conjunction with the fluctuations of price which occur in every commodity, and the immense swaying electorate upon which political institutions and the fortunes of political parties in this country rest. There has been a recent small rise in the price of wheat—not a very large 411 rise, but a sensible rise—which has caused suffering not less acute, because the cause cannot always accurately be traced, in many humble homes in this country. What a lucky thing it is that we, or hon. Gentlemen opposite, who are so skilled in these matters, have not got to go about the country explaining that that rise in wheat is due in any measure to the imposition of a tax! To establish a preferential system with the Colonies involving differential duties upon food is to make the bond of Imperial unity dependent year after year upon the weather and the crops. And there is even a more unstable foundation of Imperial unity. Does it never occur to right hon. Gentlemen opposite that this solution which they take of the problem of Imperial unity places the Empire not on a national, but on a purely party basis? Some day it may be that they will return triumphant from a general election. As party politicians they may rejoice, yet I think a wise statesman would try to win for the British Empire, our Colonial relations, the same sort of position, high above the struggle of parties which is now so happily occupied by the Crown and the Courts of Justice, which in less degree, though in an increasing degree, is becoming occupied by the Services. I venture to think that whatever advantages from a Party point of view may be gained, or whatever advantages from the point of view of gratifying Colonial opinion may be gained by food preferences, they would be very small compared with the enormous boon of excluding from the field of Colonial politics the great fundamental social and economic issues on which Parties in this country are so fiercely divided. It is possible to take a wider view yet of this question. I venture to quote the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, and let me assure the House that I do not do it for the purpose of making any petty charge of inconsistency, but because the words which I am going to read are wise and true words, and stand the test of time. When the right hon. Gentleman spoke at Manchester in 1897, not in the distant days before the great Home Rule split, but when he was already a Minister in the Unionist Government, and Secretary of State for the Colonies, and had been Secretary of State for the Colonies 412 for nearly two years, he used these words which I venture to say represent the highest wisdom upon this question—Anything in the direction of an Imperial Commercial League would weaken the Empire internally and excite the permanent hostility of the whole world. It would check the free imports of the food of the people. It is impracticable, but if it were practicable and done in the name of the Empire it would make the Empire odious to the working people, it would combine the whole world against us, and it would be a cause of irritation and menace. Our free commerce makes for the peace of the world.And it is with these statesmanlike words in the minds of the House that I would urge hon. Gentlemen to join with us, to insist upon imparting year after year to the British Empire an inclusive and not an exclusive character. We who sit on this side of the House, who look forward perhaps to a larger brotherhood and more exact standard of social justice, we value and cherish the British Empire because it represents more than any other similar organisation has ever represented, the peaceful cooperation of all sorts of men in all sorts of countries, because we think it is a model of what we hope the world, the whole world, will some day become, in times which we perhaps will not see, but which are approaching, and to the happy advent of which all of us may specially and even powerfully contribute. I think the House has to-night a considerable and important opportunity. If in rejecting this vote of censure, which is so ill-conceived and, I think, so little deserved, we choose to adopt the Amendment of my hon. friend the Member for Barnstaple, we shall have written upon the records of Parliament a profound political truth which will not, I think, soon be challenged, and which I believe, will never be overthrown.
§ MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)
It so happens that this is the first opportunity I have had of speaking to this House upon the question which is now before us. I hope therefore that hon. Members will grant me a little indulgence for a, short time, and perhaps I may be permitted to begin by saying this. The right hon. Member who has just sat down complains of the Motion which has been moved by my right hon. friend because it is, he says, unreasonable to move a vote of 413 censure on a Government who are simply carrying out the mandate of the country. Is it indeed, or was it indeed, the mandate of the country? The decision at the general election was taken about a vast variety of issues which were then before the country, and the statement of the right hon. Gentleman reminds me of a story told about myself during the Brigg election the other day. I know it is true, because it was told me by the Member for Brigg himself. One day during the election a small farmer friend of his came up to him and said, "Do you support Squire Chaplin's policy?" "What policy are you speaking of? "he said. He replied, "His fiscal policy." "Yes," said my hon. friend. "Ah well, then," the farmer said, "I cannot support you." "But why not?" "Oh," he said, "you know Mr. Chaplin passed the Vaccination Bill some few years ago, and we are told down here that if he carries his fiscal policy during the next session or the next Parliament, we shall all of us have to be vaccinated or re-vaccinated within a fortnight." That, I suspect, is not so bad a gauge of the mandate that you profess to have had, and as a good many hon. Gentlemen on that side of the House perhaps believe. It is absolutely true that the election was decided on a whole variety of issues, and if any part of it was decided, and if you had any mandate at all with regard to preference at that time, all I can say is that there has been a very considerable change of opinion since then, as is shown by a number of elections in all parts of the country. I turn if I may for a moment to the Amendment which has been moved by the hon. Member for the Barnstaple Division. The hon. Member and others besides him have declared over and over again, the hon. Member echoing almost, the language of his own Amendment, that the security, the unity, of the Empire can never and will never be maintained or secured by a system of preference which is based on I think he called it the protective taxation of food. I admit at once that some very small duties have been proposed. The right hon. Member who has just sat down asked if we still adhered to the policy of the hon. Member for West Birmingham, and whether we were going to throw him over or not. The right hon. Gentleman need hardly have asked that question of the Unionist 414 Party; he may be absolutely certain that whatever else may come the Unionist Party are not going to throw over, either now or any other time, that right hon. Gentleman, and we shall adhere to the main points of his policy, and before many years are over I believe we shall carry it into effect. The right hon. Member and his friends have maintained over and over again that the unity of the Empire can never be secured by the means that we propose, and I admit, as I said just now, that it is true that some very small duties have been proposed on food imported into this country, in order to enable us to give some preference and advantage to our Colonies and our own Possessions in our dealings with them over all foreign countries with whom we have dealings also. I have watched the progress of this movement pretty closely; I am aware, I think, of all the proceedings that have happened in connection with it, and I state to-night that I am a war of no single duty which has been proposed for that purpose of which it can be truly and justly said that it will be either protective in its effect or what is described in the Amendment and in the speech of the hon. Member as the taxation of food. I say taxation of food because I am one of those who, while differing with the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, agree entirely with one of the Colonial Prime Ministers, viz., Mr. Deakin, that a duty on food is not necessarily the taxation of food or felt by the consumer. Of course the chief of these duties is a duty on corn—a 2s. duty on corn coming from foreign countries, while corn from our own possessions is to continue to come in free. I frankly own that if I could have my way when the time comes, and come it will I hope sooner or later—sooner than hon. Gentlemen think—I should like to go a little further. In addition to the duty of 2s. on foreign corn, I should like to go back to the old 1s. duty on all corn for one reason and one reason alone, because of the great duty it will produce and which, if imposed to-morrow, would be very little short of £3,000,000. I am not at all certain that I should get my own way. There might be some opposition to that view. But many hon. Members would do well to remember that so fast and so rapid have been in late years the increased imports of Colonial corn into this country that at 415 the present moment it represents practically half of the whole importation, But 2s. on the half is merely the equivalent of a 1s. duty on the whole. For nearly a year during 1903, and at an earlier period for twenty-five years, this tax was retained with the full sanction and approval of Mr. Gladstone and of other great free traders like him, and it will puzzle the most extreme supporter of the Cobden Club to show that it has ever at any time been protective in its effects. And still less can a duty on corn which has never raised the price of the loaf by a fraction of a farthing be said to be a tax on food. I am aware that the answers to this contention are mainly two, and one of them, and the least important, is this—it was raised by the hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment to-night, and I think also by the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down: "If your duties are not meant to raise prices, and if they will not have that effect, then the unfortunate farmer is going to be left out in the cold, and you are going to do nothing for him." But who on earth ever supposed that the farmer was ever to be put on his legs again and agriculture restored to its old position in the country by such duties as these? The idea is absurd to anyone knowing the subject. But what you can, and what I hope you will, do sooner or later is this; these duties, small as they are in the aggregate, will produce very considerable revenues indeed, and if you apply as you ought to apply the proceeds of these particular duties to the needs and necessities of agriculture, then I grant you that indirectly, but only in that way, these duties will bring a real and material advantage to the one great interest which needs it the most in the whole of the country. Beyond this I do not think even the most advanced tariff reformer has ever demanded or asked for anything more. On the contrary, there is a paragraph in the Report of the Commission, of which I was myself chairman, and which was signed by every member of that Commission, many of whom were farmers, to this effect—Another proposal made in the evidence is that higher duties than those suggested by Mr. Chamberlain should be imposed. The evidence we have received is to the effect that no considerable extension of wheat growing can take place unless the price is at least 40s. per quarter, and to restore the growth of wheat to 416 anything like its old proportions a rise in price to 50s. per quarter would probably be required. This would mean duties as high as, and in most cases higher than, those which prevail in the most highly protected foreign countries, and we do not think that the imposition of such high duties is either practicable or desirable in the United Kingdom.The other answer I meet with is this, and it was used against the proposal of my right hon. friend the Member for St. George's, Hanover Square: "It is not a 1s. or 2s. duty we fear, but what it will lead to;" and nobody has really pressed this point more strongly than my right hon. friend the President of the Board of Trade, who says that what they fear is not a 1s. or 2s. duty, but that it will never stop there. The right hon. Gentleman raised this question in a very emphatic form at page 379 of the Blue-book, from which I am going to quote. The right hon. Gentleman said—First of all, I put the danger which undoubtedly we would incur from the temptation which has been found irresistible in France and Germany, the temptation to increase the duty. In France the duty started at 1s.; it is now 12s. In Germany it started at 2s. and it stood at 7s. 7d. in 1902, and has gone up, and I think it is now somewhere in the neighbourhood of 12s. If these powerful governments have been unable to resist the clamour for increased duties for the protection of agriculture, why should we be able to resist it?Why indeed? For the simplest and most conclusive reason in the world. Because the decision will rest with the voters of this country and the vast majority of those voters are firmly convinced that to have duties like these would be fatal and injurious to them and, what is more precious to them, to their little ones. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to think that there was some kind of analogy in this respect between Germany and France and ourselves in this country. But there the right hon. Gentleman is in error. It is directly to the interest of a very large majority of voters in France that these duties shall be maintained and especially in the country districts. Why? Because they are a race of peasants cultivating the land which they own themselves, and they are perhaps the most thrifty, most hard working, most industrious people in the world. Their whole object is to increase the profits on their little farms. Their prosperity depends very largely on these 417 duties which the preponderance of their voting power enables them to maintain. But it is exactly the opposite in this country, where few of the voters have any land at all, and where their first consideration is that there shall always be a cheap and abundant supply of food, and which they have and always will have the power to command. The same thing holds good to a large degree in Germany, though not to so large an extent as in France; but Germany has another reason in addition. Germany has an enormous land frontier to defend, and if the great calamity, which God forbid, happened of a war between Germany and her neighbours, the first result would be that the food which is imported across her frontier would be stopped at once. For that reason it is a national and military necessity of the first importance that a sufficient supply of corn should always be grown at home. I think I have shown that there is not the slightest analogy between these two countries and ourselves in this respect, and that the whole of the alarm which is felt by the right hon. Gentleman is absolutely without the shadow of a probability of foundation. I have also said enough to prove that what the right hon. Member and others who support this Amendment have said that preference is inadmissible because it means the taxation of food is wholly unsupported by the fact. This delusion, however, I hope the expression will not be regarded as offensive, as no offence whatever is intended—is shared by many others besides the right hon. Gentleman among those who sit with him on the Front Bench opposite. But in spite of that, on reading the Blue-book I read with the utmost satisfaction the passage quoted by my hon. friend this afternoon. Indeed I intended to have quoted it myself. When I read the generous, opinions put before the Conference in the presence of the Prime Ministers of the Colonies by the right hon. Gentleman sitting opposite to me I rubbed my hands and said: "the truth is that these Gentlemen are beginning to realise the facts of the situation, they are beginning to realise the importance of securing the Canadian and other markets." 418 But when I had read a little further all my hopes were disappointed. It all ended in what has been described by the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition. The Colonial Ministers were disappointed and the hundreds of thousands of people in this country who support this policy were also bitterly disappointed. In supporting the policy they adhered to, I am bound to say the right hon. Gentleman and the Chancellor of the Exchequer did their very best to make it good by statements of a very remarkable character; statements which, if they had been true would really, I think, have given a good deal of support to the policy they proposed. In defence of their views and the attitude, they took up at the Conference both the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade made some remarkable statements as to the present position of our trade in foreign markets. On p. 310, the Chancellor of the Exchequer speaks as follows:We stand better at this moment in the tariff protected markets of Europe than any of the nations which have protected themselvesinter se by retaliation.[Hear, hear.] Quite so, but that is not in accordance with some figures which I am going to quote, although I shall quote them with all the respect and deference that is becoming to the Minister in charge of the Board of Trade, and all the authority that office places upon him. On page 372 I find his colleague declaring in support of him that—There is not a great market in the world in which we have not done more than hold our own in recent years.If those statements were accurate they would do something to support the views of the two right hon. Gentlemen. But they are flatly contradicted by calculations based on the official returns of the United Kingdom and Germany respectively which have been supplied to me. I am going to ask the right hon. Gentlemen to give me their attention on this point, because I think it is a matter of considerable importance. These calculations show that in the last ten years the exports from, the United Kingdom to the six protected countries, viz., France, Austria Hungary, Italy, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States 419 have increased from £53,200,000 in the five years ending 1901 to £59,400,000 in the five years ending 1906, or by £6,200,000. In Germany, on the other hand, the exports show an increase to the same countries from £92,100,000 in the five years ending 1900 to £101,700,000 in the five years ending 1905—or by £9,600,000; so that with Germany, at all events, we have not by any means held our own, and her relative progress has been greatly larger than ours. What then is the excuse, what is the reason advanced by the right hon. Gentlemen for the attitude they took up at the Colonial Conference? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Ex-chequer said—We have come to the conclusion that the maintenance of Free Trade, in its fullest and widest sense, is not only expedient but absolutely vital to our economic interests. And that to listen to the appeal of the colonies would be the abandonment of Free Trade as part of the bargain.I do not follow the right hon. Gentleman. How can you abandon or maintain something that you have not got, and which you have never had since the present fiscal policy was adopted by this country. We have not got and we never have had free trade or anything approaching to it since our present fiscal system was first adopted by the country. And if the right hon. Gentleman disputes this I challenge him now across the Table to name to me across the floor of this House one single considerable foreign country with whom trade is free to-day. Can he name one? No, he cannot. The right hon. Gentleman is silent, he cannot name a single country where our trade is free to-day.
§ THE PRESIDENT OF THE BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. LLOYD-GEORGE, Carnarvon) Boroughs
I will reply to the right hon. Gentleman later on.
§ MR. CHAPLIN
Yes, but will you name one? No, the right hon. Gentleman will not reply now because he knows there is no considerable foreign country in the markets of which our trade is free to-day, and he knows that the statement I have made is unanswerable, because it is absolutely true. I pass on from that. What we have 420 got in this country and what has done duty all these years for free trade and what does duty for it now to the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade is nothing whatever but a system under which, although it is perfectly true that our markets are free and open to the whole of the world, every considerable foreign market that can be named is either partially or wholly closed to us by hostile and sometimes absolutely prohibitive tariffs. That is what the right hon. Gentleman insists upon putting before the country as trade which is free under our present system of free trade. Let the right hon. Gentleman ask British manufacturers who seek to sell their goods within the borders of the foreign countries of the world what the result is. There are many manufacturers in this House who will bear me out when I tell the right hon. Gentleman that the treatment which is meted out to them is this: They are told, "You can sell of course in our markets if you please, but before you begin to sell you will have to pay 20 or 30 or 40, or as it is in the case of Russia and America 80 or 100, per cent. on the value of your goods. Then you can sell in our markets with all the pleasure in the world." And that is what the right hon. Gentleman persists in describing to the people in this country as free trade. It is perfectly free to the foreign manufacturers and the foreign workmen, but it is the reverse of free so far as the manufacturers and workmen of this country are concerned, who are just as much entitled to earn good wages as their rival workmen in foreign countries. Hundreds and thousands of those men have come to the conclusion that this ridiculous and old-fashioned system must come to an end. How different the circumstances of to-day would be, the great promoters of the present fiscal system under which we live never foresaw. One, and perhaps the most serious, circumstance of all was that there were many trades in this country at that time in which we were not approached, in which we stood alone miles and miles in front of any other country without a single rival in the world. While I am speaking in this House to-day, by more than one of these foreign countries we have been passed and beaten in 421 the race for trade, and by one of them we have been outdistanced altogether. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade gave some figures at the Conference in support of the views which they put before the Colonial Premiers. I am going to put before the right hon. Gentlemen some figures now in support of the statement which. I have this moment made. The figures which I am about to quote cannot be contradicted. They are the earliest figures, which I have got, with some trouble and labour to myself, from the first Blue-Book which was published by the Board of Trade on this subject. I am going to take the iron and steel trade as an illustration of what I mean, and I am going to try it by the test which is declared by the Board of Trade in that same Blue-book to be the best, as to the progress of the trade that could be applied by any country in the world, namely, the production and consumption of pig-iron. What is the progress of Germany and the United States as compared with our progress in this country? I will take the production of pig-iron first, and then hon. Gentlemen can judge for themselves. These figures are indeed very remarkable, and I am only surprised that they were not quoted at the Conference; may be wrong, but I have not been able to find any reference to them. I have taken the figures in quinquennial periods from 1876 to 1880 to start with, and down to the present time. It was in 1879 that Prince Bismarck abandoned free trade and took to the protective policy. In 1876–80 the United Kingdom produced 6,700,000 tons of pig-iron. In 1901–5 she produced 8,600,000 tons of pig-iron. What is the case with Germany? In the same years, 1876–80, Germany produced 2,100,000 tons, but in 1905 Germany produced 9,500,000 tons, having beaten us handsomely in the meantime. In the United States in 1876–80 they produced 2,200,000 tons, but in the year 1905 they produced 16,400,000 tons. That was pretty good, but it is nothing to what happened in 1906. I have been able to obtain the latest figures on that subject. In 1906 we reached a total of 10,100,000 tons; Germany reached a total of 12,300,000 tons; while the United States 422 reached a total of 25,300,000 tons. And it must be remembered that the advance of those two countries has been from 2,000,000, while the advance in our case has been from 6,700,000 tons. I venture to say that these figures are of a most remarkable and striking character, and all the more remarkable and striking when you remember that in other trades, in the cotton trade, and to some extent in the textile trades, the figures seem similar in their effect, but not to the same extent as in the iron and steel trade. Surely, that is a matter for grave and serious reflection, especially when you remember that the iron and steel trade is so important that it has been described over and over again as the key to our national industries. What is the reason for it? There seems to be some good reason for a position of affairs like this, and if I may keep the House a few minutes longer I will make good what I believe to be the reason. This is the reason, and it is one which has been given to me over and over again by the greatest manufacturers in the country. What they always say is that the key of the commercial position, of successful commercial competition, is larger production. And that is the whole secret. Cheap production is large production. There is not a manufacturer in England, and if there is one in the House at this moment I am certain he also will agree, but will say that the more largely we can produce the more cheaply we can product. To have a large production the very first essential of all is that you shall always have the largest possible markets, perfectly free and open; otherwise, if you have not, you may be left with a great surplus of production which you will find it almost impossible to dispose of. Will the House bear with me while I ask them to compare our position in this respect with that of our foreign rivals. They have always two great markets open to them — they have their own, which they take pretty good care to keep to themselves by protective duties; they have also ours, which is still open to the whole world. When they have satisfied their own demand, if they have a surplus left, as constantly they have, they send it over here. They are men of business, and 423 they try to get the best price they can; still, at the same time, they know that they must sell it for whatever it will fetch, and over and over again it has happened in the past, and it will happen in the future again, they sell for less than it has cost to produce. That is what is called "dumping," which has done such infinite harm to the trade of this country in the past and will do infinite harm again in the future, as certainly as I am talking to this House, unless we take steps to prevent and change the present unworthy state of things. But that is not the only consequence of this character. Owing to our long and persistent pursuance of this foolish course we have to a large extent lost already, and we are losing still in a great degree, the great foreign market of the world which we formerly commanded almost as we willed. If we are to continue to remain a great prosperous commercial country in the future as we have been in the past, it is certain that other markets must be found in order to replace those we have lost. Where are they to be found? The Colonies have told you. They are ready, they have been ready for years to place their markets at our disposal, to give us the monopoly of them, if we had not been so foolish as to reject their offers. I remember that it has been said over and over again that they have never made us any offer of the kind. It is recorded in the Blue-book of 1902, in what is called the Memorandum of the Canadian Premiers —If you will only give us Is. duty on corn, the preference which is now in existence, or any other future duties you may impose on corn, although we give you a preference of 33 per cent. already, we will go back to our country, and we will do everything in our power with the Government and Parliament to increase and largely increase our preference still.I am bound to say that this was accompanied a few paragraphs further on by a grave and serious warning, which was to this effect, that if after making every effort in this country arrangements of that sort could not be made, then Canada would reserve to herself the right to take any course in the world she pleased. After waiting several years that has taken shape at last in the new Canadian tariff which was issued seven months ago, and in that tariff a new 424 intermediate tariff, as it is called, which it includes, has, I say, all the possibilities of very considerable injury to this country in the future, and injury which might have been entirely avoided if we had taken a course different from that which we have taken. I feel that I have been addressing the House at very considerable length, and I think that the House will desire that I should not trespass upon them at any greater length than I have done. All I wish to say in conclusion is that I deeply regret the attitude which His Majesty's Government think they were compelled to adopt at the Conference which came to a conclusion a very short time ago. I regret perhaps also to some extent that the refusals of His Majesty's Government were not couched in milder and softer language than sometimes they use. I am perfectly aware of this, that on both sides the feelings entertained by the members of the British Government with regard to the Colonial Premiers, and the feelings entertained by the Colonial Premiers towards the members of the Government, were such that nothing could be more cordial or more friendly. But I cannot help thinking somehow, whatever may be said as to what they ought to have expected, that when these men came from so many parts of the world — coming thousands of miles to discuss a subject of vital importance and interest to them — that it is too much to expect of human nature that they would not be gravely disappointed when all their hopes and aspirations were roughly brought to a close. We are told that the Government could not be false to their pledges or to the mandates which they had received from the country. I have said already what I think with regard to this mandate, but from that time to the present there has been a great and considerable change of opinion, which is, I believe, growing steadily and even rapidly from day to day. And what is the sacrifice which, after all, we are asked to make? The right hon. Gentleman opposite to me towards the close of his speech at the Conference made an appeal which would have been moving and powerful if it had had a better foundation. He concluded in these words —We are not refusing to meet you, I can assure you. We are anxious in our hearts to do it, 425 but we have here a poor population that you know nothing of. Here numbers of our poor people are steeped in poverty, and we have to think of them. It would be wrong of us, it would be cruel of us, it would be wicked of us, if we did not do it. I am sure if you realise that it would mean 2s. more for people who are already short of shillings to buy the very necessaries of life, you would be the last people in the world to come and beg us to add to the troubles of this poor population of ours. That is really why we are hesitating.That is why we hesitate. If the views of the right hon. Gentleman could be supported by the facts of the case, which they cannot, I should be the first person in this House to hesitate. To talk of a 2s. duty on corn as involving an expense of 2a. more on the poorest people of this country is the strangest and wildest calculation that was ever submitted to the House of Commons. I think I have shown that the 2s. duty on foreign corn, that is on half the corn coming from our own Colonies and Possessions, is only the equivalent of a 1s. duty on the whole. Will the right hon. Gentleman opposite, for his own satisfaction as well as for mine, allow me to put before him a little calculation which I have made with the assistance of one of the largest bakers in this country — I believe he is the chairman of the Bakers' Association — and he is one of the greatest millers in the South of England. I think this little calculation will do something to remove the apprehensions of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Hon. Members must remember that when the 1s. duty on corn was first imposed by Sir Michael Hicks-Beach a corresponding duty of 5d. per cwt. was imposed at the same time on flour, which was rather the heavier in proportion of the two. In order to be on the safe side I made my calculation with the assistance I have referred to upon the flour, and it comes to this: Every sack contains 2½ cwts. of flour, the duty would be 12½d. per sack, and from every sack is made between 96 and 100 loaves, according to the quality of the flour. If you divide 12½d. into anything over 100 loaves it will come out at something less than half a farthing on each loaf. When the right hon. Gentleman talks of the 2s. duty being imposed on all the poor people I would remind him that what it really would impose is that if the price 426 of bread changed at all it would be something less than half a farthing. That is an absolute fact, and I do not believe it admits of any possible contradiction. [An HON MEMBER: Who pays the half-farthing?] It is just the same thing when in order to raise additional revenue the Chancellor of the Exchequer put an additional shilling on a barrel o beer. I know it makes the brewer exceptionally angry, because they know they cannot get the tax back again out of the consumer as the number of glasses in a barrel of beer is so enormous that it is impossible to get the duty back in this way and the whole thing becomes absurd and impossible at once. For the reasons I have given I regret with all my heart the final decision of the Government with regard to the appeal made by the Colonies at the Conference. But be that as it may, it is all over now and settled, at all events, for the time. I for one shall never forget that the policy put forward at that Conference was a great Imperial policy and nothing else. It was a policy vital to this country, vital to its future commercial prosperity, vital to the interests of the Colonies as they believed themselves, and vital in my humble opinion to the future of this great Empire as a whole. For these reasons, Mr. Speaker, so long as I am granted health and strength to do it, I, am determined that I for one at least will give all my efforts and all my energies to the prosecution of a cause which is so vital to the interests of all classes in this country, but to no class so vital as that which depends for its livelihood and welfare upon constant employment. For these reasons I shall devote whatever health and strength is left to me to this cause, for a better, higher, or a nobler cause either to stand or fall in no English Minister and no English statesman need desire.
§ MR. CURRAN (Durham, Jarrow)
said he had a very difficult task before him in rising to make his maiden effort after the speeches of two distinguished statesmen. However, it was an ordeal they all had to go through, and he desired to face it and get it over at the earliest opportunity. It was a very strange coincidence that the 427 noble Lord who had recently been returned for the Hornsey Division and himself were both making their maiden efforts on the same evening. There was this distinction between them. In the constituency which he represented they knew exactly how many tariff reformers there were, and he did not think the noble Lord the Member for Hornsey knew exactly the strength of the Tariff Reform Party in his own division because he was fortunate enough not to be called upon to bear the responsibility and endure the exertions of a contest. During the election at Jarrow they had visits from many distinguished people, including the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon, who went to woo the Jarrow electors in favour of tariff reform. They were also favoured with a visit from the hon. Member representing the newer school of tariff reform, the hon. Member for Dulwich, and after the brilliant efforts of those two gentlemen and a number of lesser lights, and a most exorbitant form of expenditure, they were only able to persuade one-fourth of the electors of Jarrow that tariff reform was a good thing. In regard to the attitude of the Government he noticed that all the newspapers which supported the Government had declared that Jarrow was a victory for Free trade. He did not wish to question that statement, but at the same time he repudiated any attempt on the part of Ministerialists to claim any credit for his return. His position in the House made him the most independent member of an independent Party because he had been opposed by every political party in Jarrow. Labour secured the victory off its own bat, and in Jarrow as elsewhere, where the Labour Party had stood and succeeded in obtaining seats they kept the free trade flag flying. He believed he was speaking not only for himself, but for his colleagues as well, when he said that they were absolutely against the imposition of a tax upon any kind of imported commodities either in the shape of raw material or foodstuffs, because they were convinced that, so far as a remedy for poverty was concerned, such a tax would be an absolute economic fallacy. The noble Lord who made his maiden speech earlier in the evening had referred to trade unionists being essentially protectionists, but that was a very old and exploded 428 statement which had been used by tariff reformers ever since their campaign was opened some years ago. In the trade union world they combined together to protect themselves not against imposing duties, but against the class to which the noble Lord belonged. They had to protect themselves against capitalistic encroachments, and they did this in their collective capacity by contributing to their respective trade combinations. He submitted that there was no analogy whatever between that form of protection and the taxation of commodities which had been suggested on the opposition side of the House. Personally, he did not think that even the Government were sufficiently free trade in their policy. He recollected when he was a lad being connected with the Radical school of thought which a quarter of a century ago had for its political war cry the emancipation of the breakfast table. Strange to say upon his entry into Parliament he found himself called upon to record his first vote against the Government because it distinctly refused to emancipate the breakfast table. The point he wished to impress on the House was that what they wanted was not taxation of commodities, but relief from tariffs which burdened them at the present time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon when making comparisons between this and other countries in regard to iron ore, strangely enough did not mention the royalty rents paid in this country as compared with the small contributions which were levied in the countries which he quoted. If the right hon. Gentleman seriously believed in tariff reform, he hoped he would join the Labour Party and remove the tariff levied by the landed proprietors of the country, which was strangling the iron and steel industry. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would also join in the crusade against exorbitant railway rates, and against the ground rents levied by the class to which he belonged. These were Labour points of tariff reform, and instead of assisting in bringing about the imposition of taxes upon imported commodities, he and his friends wanted Parliament, not next year, or the year after, but there and then, to tackle these problems and remove the tariffs which he had mentioned. No one had referred in 429 the debate to the increase in the power of wealth production in the United Kingdom. The hon. Member for North Paddington had written a book recently which proved that our wealth producing power had gone up by leaps and bounds, that the national income was increasing year by year, and, paradoxical as it might seem, that there had also been an increase in unemployed, and a general increase of poverty and destitution in the lower paid section of the community. That was not due to free trade. It was due to many agencies, but the chief was the general development of mechanical science. In the shipbuilding and engineering industries the ratio of production was going up, but it was going up with less people employed. He was not going to declaim against the development of mechanical science. He and his friends were in favour of that development, but they were against the private monopoly of that development being used for the aggrandisement of a section of the community, and until either the present or some future Government saw its way to tax the unearned increment, and also the unearned income, and bring back to the community some share of the general results of the development of the mechanical and other sciences, we would always have poverty and destitution in our midst. In a word, he and his friends stood against the imposition of taxes in the sense justified by tariff reformers, and they stood for the development of public ownership. Of course they would be told that it was socialism, confiscation, and anarchy to talk about the development of public ownership of the concerns which were run as monopolies to-day. So far as he was concerned he cared not by what name it was called, and he cared not what class of politician was against it, and his presence there went to show that the workers of the country were rising to the necessity of pushing forward the principle of public ownership as against the various other nostrums which were prescribed by other schools of political thought. He and his friends believed in taxing land values by a graduated process up to 20s. in the £ 1. He was sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon would join in that crusade. They stood for the bringing under direct control of the 430 Government the railway system of this country. They believed that if the land was taxed to its full value, and the railway system brought under public control, this country would be able successfully to compete with any nation in the world so far as our staple industries were concerned. The Labour Party were pledged to do their utmost to persuade the present Government to introduce those comprehensive reforms, and if they were not successful in converting the ministry, they would have to try to convert their supporters in the country with a view to having the monopolies which were run to-day for the advantage of a small Minority brought under public control and used for the general good of the community.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said the speech of the hon. Member for the Jarrow Division was one of very great interest, and he felt sure that the whole House had listened to him with the greatest interest and pleasure. If he might offer one criticism, it was that the speech was not really applied to the question before the House. The hon. Member dealt with protection and possible alternatives. Protection might, and he had no doubt would, engage the attention of the House on some future occasion, but he did not apprehend that the Motion of his right hon. friend raised that question on the present occasion. The consideration of this Motion had given him personally a good deal of anxiety, and he had felt that his position and the position of those who agreed with him was one of very difficulty. He was not against Colonial preference in itself, but on the other hand he was against a preferential system based on the taxation of corn or other food commodities. Anyone who did him the honour of considering his present action would probably misunderstand him. If he voted against the Motion it would be said he was not in favour of Colonial preference at all, that he did not desire the consolidation of the Empire, and that he was, if an Imperialist at all, one of a some-what wishy-washy character who did not deserve the name. If, on the other hand he voted in favour of the Motion, some hon. Members and people outside would say that he had yielded the whole of the 431 free trade position, and that he was in favour of a tax on corn. It was the fate of a politician to be exposed to misunderstanding, and it was also a necessary incident of political life that no single question could be considered apart from all other questions. They had to consider not only the actual question before the House, but also what would be the effect of the decision of the House upon other questions which were before the country. He could not conceal from himself that the policy which the Government had recently definitely adopted had added very greatly to the difficulty of the position. They had adopted the policy of practically abolishing the House of Lords, and with that would go, in his judgment, the security for religious education, and the security against Home Rule. He saw no weakening in the claim of those opposed to his view on religious education. On the contrary, he understood that they were as extreme as they ever were. He saw no weakening in the proposals of those who advocated Home Rule. On the contrary, they went so far as to claim the sovereign independence of Ireland. That being so, he had decided to vote in favour of this Motion. Though, as he had said, he was not against Colonial preference in itself, he had the gravest doubts about the wisdom of what might be called the policy of preferential bargains, and as to the desirability of a policy which was to consist in bargains between this country and the Colonies by which we were to get certain commercial advantages and they were to give us other commercial advantages. He did not see any ground in history for thinking that that would lead to the unity of the Empire — he looked in vain for any historical precedent that would sanction that idea. He knew that the common precedent given was that of the German Zollverein. He did not wish at the moment to enlarge on the enormous differences between the German Empire and the British Empire, but the whole point of the Zollverein was the abolition of the internal customs. If they did away with custom houses they destroyed one of the greatest disintegrating influences that could possibly exist. One knew, when travelling, that the first thing that impressed upon one that one had come to a new 432 sovereignty was the visit of the custom house officers; it was the first exercise of the sovereign power of the new country into which one was going, and no one could have lived near a frontier without seeing how the existence of the custom house divided two countries profoundly one from the other. Therefore, to abolish custom houses was a very important thing in unifying two countries, and he had sometimes grieved that in the British Empire, if they might not indeed abolish custom houses altogether, which was not, he was afraid, within the range of practical politics, they did not do something to abolish custom houses as between themselves and their Colonies. He would like to see some kind of Imperial customs system which would at any rate enable all goods and people coming from the Colonies into this country to come in absolutely free, without any examination or interference at all, and even if that were not possible he did not see why passengers and their effects — within certain limits of weight — whether going from England to the Colonies, or coming from the Colonies to England, should not come in perfectly free, without any customs examination, and he thought that would have an enormous moral effect. That, he thought, would be a step towards free trade within the Empire, with which, he believed, with some very small exceptions, they were all in that House in agreement, believing that it would be a most desirable thing in the interests of commerce. He knew there were many hon. and right hon. Members who held that view, and he knew only of one important section — he would not say that, but as far as his side of the House was concerned, the Unionist Party, he believed there was only one section that distrusted that ideal, and that was the section represented by theMorning Post newspaper. He did not pretend to understand it, but when the-Morning Post was not denouncing the wiles and machinations of the Cecil family, it was arguing against the desirability of absolute free trade within the Empire. He would pass not to the historic argument in favour of preferential bargains, but rather to the argument which rested on the theory that increased commercial relations meant increased friendship between two countries. It 433 might be so — he did not say it was not — but he did not see much sign of it in history. Hon. Members would recollect the celebrated French commercial treaty, and they would also recollect that at that very period the suspicion of hostility between France and England was certainly not less — he thought it probably was greater — than at almost any other recent period of history, and if commercial intercourse really was so favourable to international friendship, it was a remarkable thing that the country with whom we had at this moment by far the largest commercial intercourse, viz., Germany, was not the one which he thought would be generally signalled by any Member of that House as the one with whom we had the warmest possible relations. It was said that even apart from the historic and commercial arguments, they might use the analogy of individuals; that individuals who had commercial relations with one another were apt to become more friendly. Well, he believed that to be true if the individuals were strangers, but he did not think it was true in individuals who were related to one another, and he thought everybody knew that a commercial transaction in a family itself was one of the things that most tested the affections and unity of that family. The reason was that each member of the family was conscious that in his own motives and in the motives of the other there were two elements — affection and commercial advantage, and he always suspected, or was apt to suspect, that he was, in the common phrase, being put upon by his relative, who was relying on his affection and feeling of family unity and thereby slicking out no small advantage. Therefore, though he did not pretend that they could press this analogy too far, he pressed it very much upon them whether there was not a danger that in such bargains there would always be the rankling feeling between the parties to the bargain that one or the other was relying too much upon Imperial feeling and thereby obtaining advantage of a commercial character from the other. If he might press the analogy of the family one step further, though a bargain tended to the disruption of families, the interchange of presents tended to their union. 434 That was to his mind, though a somewhat trivial ilustration in the mind of the House, the true attitude of mind in which to approach this question. By all means let them give advantage to the Colonies and receive advantage from the Colonies, but let it not be by way of bargains, let it not be a transaction of a commercial character. Let it rather be the interchange of free presents, such as Christmas presents between the members of a family. And from that point of view, and in that sense, he was strongly in favour of giving preferential advantages to the Colonies, but they must be what we could afford to give and what they desired to obtain; and on that ground, and because he believed very much in the desirability of that kind of intercourse between ourselves and other parts of the Empire, he saw no objection — on the contrary, he saw great advantages — to the granting of preferences on existing taxation. That seemed to him to be in every respect a desirable course to take. The hon. Member who spoke last said he desired relief from the present taxes. Well, the merit of a preference given on existing taxation was that its action was not by imposing new taxes, but by the remission or modification of existing taxes. That seemed to him to make a complete distinction from a preferential system based on the imposition of new taxes. The Under-Secretary had said that afternoon that that gave away the whole issue between free trade and protection, and he had listened to that statement with absolute amazement; he could not conceive why the right hon. Gentleman said it. The proposal was that on existing duties they should charge rather less if the imported article came from the Colonies than they did if it came from foreign parts. How could the remission of taxation be a measure in the direction of protection? He was utterly unable to understand it, and he thought if there was such an objection on the ground of principle, the objection came rather late. They had enjoyed for many years preferences from Canada and from other parts of the Empire. Surely, if they thought the whole system utterly vicious, they ought to have raised their protest when the matter was first mooted by the Colonies. 435 They had done nothing of the kind; they had accepted these preferences, and the present Government, the President of the Board of Trade among the rest, had said in the strongest way that he valued these preferences and thought them admirable and that they were most generous to this country. It therefore appeared rather late for them to say that there was an objection on principle to differential treatment based on existing taxation. The other arguments that were used were that after all it would be a very trivial affair, that the amount of the advantage they could give to the Colonies was a very small one. He agreed that it was very small, but he thought the Colonial Conference had made all the difference in that respect. They had had the Colonial Prime Ministers there, and they said unanimously — with the exception of the Home Government he understood Dr. Jameson's Motion was accepted unanimously — "We should like you to give us this preference, although we recognise that the matter is small, and does not make a very great deal of difference, still we should like it and should value it as a token and a pledge of your affection to us." He did not see why the Government refused to do that. On the strictest and most orthodox ground of free trade he could not see why it was objectionable; it seemed to him desirable from every point of view, and however trivial it might be, if the Colonies desired it the objection on the score of triviality fell to the ground. He was aware that Dr, Jameson said he desired it as an admission of a principle, but the principle was not the imposition of new duties; he could conceive that that would be a dangerous principle from the point of view of the orthodox free-trader, but that the remission of an existing duty was a dangerous principle he could not for the life of him understand.
§ MR. LUPTON
The difference is this — on Colonial goods the nation would pay the tax, but the Exchequer would not reap the benefit of it.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he did not follow what the hon. Member meant. He was surprised to hear from the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies a wholly new objection, viz., 436 that it would involve a very serious loss to revenue. He had talked of £ 36,000,000 of revenue being affected, but he (Lord R. Cecil) could not understand what he meant. He thought it was conceded that the whole revenue that would be affected would be a very small amount of £ 100,000, and therefore he did not understand why the right hon. Gentleman suggested that a revenue of £ 36,000,000 would be affected. He was opposed to a tax on corn and meat, and he refrained from considering the question whether a small duty was paid by the consumer or the producer. His objection to the suggested duty was based on political grounds. The essential characteristic of our system of Government was its party character, and when any party question was raised, it must inevitably be opposed by the opposing Party. It was, therefore, impossible to disregard the fact that a tax on corn had been for the last sixty years treated as a party question; and if preferential treatment of corn and meat were raised, the Opposition was raising a distinct party issue. He could not contemplate that position without severe misgiving, and he did not believe that the political campaign which would be started against such a preference would make for the unity of the Empire. If one Party really adopted this policy of a preferential system of taxation of corn, then the inevitable consequence would be that the Empire, in all its details, would become the ordinary topic of party politics. He looked upon that prospect with dismay, and he appealed to his hon. friends to consider whether there was not some other form or method of preference by which their legitimate wishes might be realised without plunging the Empire into the great danger which would arise from the adoption of the preferential system.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I much regret that I have not had the opportunity of listening to more of the noble Lord's speech than the few concluding sentences, because I was deeply anxious to hear what he had to say upon the subject. I know that the noble Lord holds a rather peculiar position in his Party on this matter, and I am much surprised that he has come to the conclusion that it is perfectly consistent 437 with his principles to vote for the Resolution. I thought the noble Lord was a free trader, hut the worst of it is that he has rather adopted the method which has been pursued by his right hon. relative for the last four or five years, of giving his own interpretation to terms to which another meaning is given by the vast majority of the people with whom he is associated, and by all on this side of the House, so that he will vote with men with whom he profoundly disagrees. I appeal to the noble Lord, and to all who are honest free traders, to say whether there is not a real danger in adopting an attitude of that kind merely for the sake of a temporary party adjustment. The noble Lord knows that the right hon. Member for St. George's has a totally different interpretation from his own. The noble Lord is against the taxation of corn.
§ LORD R. CECIL
said he had listened very carefully to his right hon. friend's speech, and did not understand him to say that he regarded his Resolution as necessarily involving the taxation of food. He understood him to say the contrary.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I am quite certain that the right hon. Member for St. George's, Hanover Square, would be the last man in the world to say that by a preference arrangement with the Colonies he does not contemplate some preferential tariff on the produce of the Colonies. He disclaimed any intention of imposing a tariff on raw material, but he unequivocally stated that he was in favour of the taxation of food. And that was the ground upon which he moved his Amendment. How can the noble Lord support this Resolution, moved by preferentialists who believe in the taxation of corn? That is the broad way which leads to protection; it is the way along which the Leader of the Opposition has already skidded. He, however, is not present, and I will reserve what I have to say about him until he arrives. In the meantime I will devote a few moments to examining what was said by — I will not say a more straightforward gentleman — but a gentleman who expounded his views more clearly. I allude to the right hon. Member for Wimbledon. The right hon. Member for Wimbledon is a pure, straightforward protectionist. He has always supported 438 Motions in favour of bimetallism, taxation on food, and quack remedies of that kind. The advantage of his speech to-night is this, that it did not merely dally with the question of preference on Colonial products. He at great length expounded his views on a general tariff, which is perfectly relevant, because it is perfectly clear that if you are going to have a preference with the Colonies you must have a general tariff. If you put 2s. on corn and 10 per cent. on cattle, the industrial districts will insist on protection for their industries. You must have a general tariff, as the noble Lord knows perfectly well, and yet he is going into the same lobby with the right hon. Gentleman simply in order to express different views. The right hon. Gentleman is firmly convinced that this country is on the high road to ruin, and he refuses to allow encouraging Board of Trade figures to mar in the slightest degree that gloomy prospect. He brushes aside the Board of Trade statistics with contempt, and goes to a higher authority — the Tariff Reform Commission, of which he has been a member. The right hon. Gentleman challenged me to name any country in the world where our goods are free to enter. We are as free to enter all countries as any of our rivals. It is true there is a tariff against us in the United States, but we are just as free to enter as France or Germany there or in other countries, and the result is that when we enter those countries we beat all our rivals so far as the markets of protected countries are neutral. Every protected country has a neutral market for certain goods, and in those neutral markets we more than hold our own. Can the right hon. Member name any country that exports as much of its manufactured products as Great Britain? He was full of the United States and Germany. We beat them by scores of millions every year in the goods we manufacture and export. And our trade grows. In the course of a few years it has grown by something like £ 100,000,000. In fact, our trade owes an apology to right hon. Gentlemen opposite because it takes such an unconscionable time dying. Our exports are growing and expanding. [OPPOSITION cries of "Coal."] If hon. Gentlemen would study the official papers and not poison their minds with 439 tariff reform leaflets, they would see that not in coal but in manufactured goods we sold abroad as much as any two other countries. The right hon. Gentleman referred to our textile trade of all things in the world. There has never been anything like our cotton trade. While in the quinquennial period 1902–6 as compared with 1897–1901 the United States, which grows all its own material, has increased its average annual cotton sales by £ 3,000,000or £ 4,000,000 and Germany by £ 2,000.000, we have increased ours by over £ 20.000.000, whose material comes from thousands of miles away. Are we absolutely excluded from the markets of the world? This trade is not with the Colonies. I know it has been suggested that the expansion of our export trade is due to the Colonies. That is not the case. If you take the protective countries of the world, France, the United States, Germany, and the rest, we have extended our trade to them far more than to the Colonies during the last five years. I am quoting from memory, but I am certain I am right. Our exports of manufactured goods to the Colonies during the past five years have increased by £ 13,000,000, while the increase of our exports to protected countries has been some £ 20,000,000; and when you take countries like China and the Argentine Republic, our trade with them has increased by leaps and bounds. But it is no use quoting Board of Trade figures for the Member for Wimbledon. The right hon. Gentleman possesses that simple faith that thinks it can remove mountains by refusing to look at the map. The right hon. Gentleman declares that agriculture would benefit from his scheme. How? He was careful to explain that a duty of 2s. on corn would not increase the price. If that is the case how is the farmer to benefit? Here again it is no use arguing with the right hon. Gentleman. He is firmly convinced that you have only to manure this country with a compost of tariffs, and industries and rents will spring up and blossom like his own luxuriant rhetoric. Now that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is in his place, I should like to say that the real interest of the discussion centres round his expected speech. I need not dwell on the rhetorical merit which is always part of the right hon. Gentleman's 440 utterances; but the real interest is to know what we are in for, or rather what he is in for. I wonder whether he realises for a moment that this vote of censure is meant for him. It is rather hard on us that we should be censured simply because hon. Gentlemen behind him suspect him — suspect that he is not straight. We are to be condemned for his shortcomings; we are to be hanged, drawn, and quartered for his treason. At last he is to be forced to-night to declare what he means. Really the interest of the discussion is to know whether he has been caught. It has been a long and rather curious process. I have watched it for years on that side of the House and now on this side. One has heard of armies chasing the foe, but this is the first time one has heard of an army pursuing its own general to capture him. For years he has successfully dodged his own troops. To-night we will wait to see whether he can show them another clean pair of heels. There are many things he is prepared to accept. He will not accept the whole of the programme, but to-night I am told he is to be forced at the point of the bayonet to cross thispons asinorum. We have been very anxious about it up to the very last. Watch the Press. They have been exceedingly anxious about it. [AN HON. MEMBER: No, no.] Yes; the hon. Gentleman does not read theMorning Post. If he did he would learn some home truths there. They have been just as anxious about him as the farmer is about the weather when his hay is cut and on the ground. They thought after the Albert Hall speech that the weather had settled; every spot had vanished from the sun. Then there was a little thundercloud in the neighbourhood of Hatfield and the weather broke up. In the meantime the tariff reform harvest was rotting in the fields. I looked at the glass this morning — at that letter which the right hon. Gentleman wrote. On the whole I think the indications are that the weather has set fair for the Tariff Reform League; but it all centres on the right hon. Gentleman, and the discussion is just to force him to declare his intentions — whether they are honourable. Lord Hugh Cecil said that he was still true to free trade. The hon. Member for Dulwich says that is not true.
§ MR. BONAR LAW
I dealt only with the question of fact. I stated that I had heard that the extreme Tariff Reform Party had urged my right hon. friend to put down this Amendment. I stated that that was not the fact.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
I accept the explanation. At any rate I have heard it avowed that he is faithful to tariff-reform; but theMorning Post says that he is a heartless philanderer. This debate is intended to make clear what he means. It is well that we should know where the right hon. Gentleman stands, because it is a matter of considerable importance. We are to be censured. Why? Because we have said to the country clearly what we would do. We told the country before the election and we told the Colonial Premiers after the election. Can anyone say that the right hon. Gentleman has made a clear declaration of what his policy is? We are entitled to ask, for they are moving a vote of censure. This is no Motion of ours. This is his Motion; at least he has adopted it. We are entitled to ask, since he has asked for a day to discuss preference, and we have given it to him, will he now say whether he is in favour of putting a tax on corn with a view of giving a preference to the Colonies? He has rather implied it in the Albert Hall speech. He has never said so clearly. He has suggested it in the House of Commons. After all, the right hon. Gentleman is a master of lucid utterance, and when he wants to make clear his intentions there is no man in Parliament who can do it better than he. Therefore I think we are entitled to ask him what he means. We can only guess what his policy is from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate. He is in favour of a tax on corn; but the right hon. Gentleman who opened the debate rather tried to shunt the discussion on to Colonial wine. Should we not make a little allowance on Colonial wine, South African tobacco, and something which comes from Canada — I think it was rye whisky? Does the right hon. Gentleman opposite really suggest to the House that the Colonial Premiers came over with all their retinue merely to get a little off Colonial wine? Mr. Deakin had a special 442 mandate from his constituents to demand preference, and in expounding his views to the Conference, I do not remember that he spent any time at all on Colonial wine. It was all wheat, mutton, and dairy produce. Somebody said it was discussed on Dr. Jameson's Resolution, but if you look at the proceedings you will see that the discussion lasted two and a half minutes in the course of which Mr. Deakin compressed his remarks into one line, which I should say was a fair indication of the importance he attached to the subject. The real question with the Colonial Premiers was as to wheat, dairy produce, meat, and so on, and not all the wine, tobacco, or rye whisky of all the Colonies put together. The Colonies are quite right. Certainly in regard to Australian and Cape wine, Natal tobacco, and Canadian whisky, I do not think there is a country in the world hitherto explored that has produced articles likely to compete seriously with these Colonial luxuries. Therefore they are quite right. They know perfectly well that the real question is with reference to wheat, meat, and dairy produce. Does the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition take the same view as the Colonial statesmen as to preference — that no preference is possible without putting a tax on these products? That is the real demand. There is a Resolution moved here from these benches, which the Government propose to support. It raises the issue whether the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are in favour of a protective tax on food. The right hon. Gentleman ran away from that Resolution when it was moved in the late Parliament. There was something to be said for running away then. He had just issued a pamphlet in which he talked about the downward tendencies of our trade, and at that time the returns issued from the Department presided over by his relative falsified every statement he made? After all, the right hon. Gentleman has before him the precedent of a prophet who has inaugurated a very successful era by flight. You have gone in for a succession of those flights. Does the right hon. Gentleman want to run away to-night? This is the real test of what he is in favour of, whether he is against the proposals put forward at the Conference, in the forefront practically, 443 by Mr. Deakin, on behalf of the Colonial Premiers. I do not believe that Sir W. Laurier even referred to these little duties on Canadian whisky or things of that sort. He did not want to waste time over trifles of that kind. He wanted to get to business. We have heard a good deal about the slamming of the door. Have the Colonies any real right to complain of the trading relations between them and ourselves? We buy from the Colonies £ 93,000,000 worth of their products every year. We are the best market in the world. Free trade has made us the best market, and it is to the interest of the Colonies that we should preserve the system that has made us the best market. Foreign countries all over the world put together buy £ 40,000,000 worth from the Colonies. Therefore, we buy more than twice as much as all the foreign countries put together, and what right have the Colonies to complain? But they do not complain, and the complaint is put forward on their behalf without any authority. It is the sort of argument one hears in regard to the poor widow and orphan who has invested money in brewery shares, the object being to shield somebody else. No, it is not being put forward in order to protect the Colonies, but to get a 2s. tax on corn at home. What do the Colonies buy from us? They buy £ 63,000,000 from us and £ 59,000,000from foreign countries. What is the balance of trade? We buy from them £ 30,000,000 worth more than they buy from us, while from the foreigner they buy £ 19,000,000 more than he buys from them. Is that favouring the old country? Can anyone imagine we are slamming the door against Colonial produce? Then, to take dutiable articles, we charge duties on 9 per cent. of the goods that come from foreign countries and other British Possessions, whereas we only charge on 3 per cent. of the goods coming from the self-governing Colonies. We give them an enormous preference in our arrangement of the duties. Why, then, should right hon. Gentlemen complain on behalf of the Colonies when we treat them in this way? Right hon. Gentlemen opposite seem to have forgotten that when they were in power for ten years they rearranged the duties on goods coming from British Possessions. They 444 raised the duties by 50 per cent. on goods coming from India, and they put on the sugar tax, and the only thing the present Government have done is to reduce the duty on tea which they put on; and to that extent we have done more for the Colonies than right hon. Gentlemen opposite. Then there is another point. If this country is going to become protectionist we must protect our goods against all our rivals. If we are going to protect the farmer, as the right hon. Gentleman opposite said —
§ MR. CHAPLIN
said it never entered into the mind of anyone that these duties were going to put the farmer on his legs again, or to regenerate agriculture; but he said that if the proceeds of the duties were applied to the aid of agriculture, then indirectly, but in no other way something would have been done for the advantage of agriculture.
§ MR. LLOYD-GEORGE
There has never been anything like these proceeds since the widow's cruse. They are to be used for old-age pensions and the reduction of the income-tax, the sugar tax is to go, the tax on tea is to disappear, we are to encourage all sorts of local industries, and agriculture is to be set on it legs again. It is rather interesting to know that the right hon. Gentleman does not think in his wildest moments that a duty of 2s. on corn will have the slightest effect on agriculture. That is a very important admission, and coming from him it will carry very great weight indeed. But does anyone imagine that if we began a protective system in this country we must not protect all round? Does the right hon. Gentleman think he can protect the iron, steel, cotton, and wool industries and leave the farmer in the lurch with only a sort of deferred share as against all these preference shares and debentures, and second preference and ordinary shares — with only a deferred share in this limited sum which is to be raised? Does he think he is going to satisfy the farmers with that? His powers of persuasion are great. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman has persuaded his constituents at Wimbledon —[An HON. MEMBER: They are not farmers]— that they have simply to put a tax on corn and enough corn will be grown on Wimbledon Common to supply all our needs. If we 445 start this kind of thing, will it matter to the farmer if he cannot sell his butter, whether he is kept out of the market by his Australian cousin or his Danish second cousin? It is all the same to him. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have had the opportunity, and may have it again, of showing their determination to make a sacrifice for the Colonies by means of trade in one way. Supposing we take off the embargo on Canadian cattle. It has been put on, and it has created great resentment in Canada. At any rate, I voted steadily against it. Nothing shows more clearly the danger of once imposing these protective systems. Once you put them on, it is exceedingly difficult to take them off. At any rate, if you take them off, it would not increase the cost; it would diminish it. I only want hon. Members opposite to put this as a test to their Imperial friends. Supposing that they go down to a Primrose League gathering in a rural district, and say that, in order to propitiate our Canadian fellow-citizens, it is proposed to take off the embargo, and then follow it up by asking the audience to join in the chorus, "The Maple Leaf for Ever." That would give us a real test of whether they mean only to protect their own industries or to advance the interests of the Colonies. This is a protectionist dodge from beginning to end. I am one of those who would do a great deal to unite the Colonies to the Mother Country even more closely than they are united at the present moment. When we hear of the sacrifices made by the Colonies for the Mother Country, I do not doubt them; but I think they are even greater in the promise of what the Colonies might do for us in a great emergency than they are in anything which has been accomplished up to the present. But are they the only nationalities in the Empire that have made sacrifices for the Empire? We are not to refuse anything which the Colonies ask, because they have made sacrifices. There are other nationalities that have made sacrifices. I will take, if you like, Irishmen. Irishmen are not very effusive in their expressions of loyalty to the Empire, but in every great war waged for the honour or the aggrandisement of the Empire, more Irishmen proportionately to their numbers have fallen defending the Flag than of any other nationality of 446 the Empire. Yet Ireland has been asking for the last fifty years at least for a boon which has been long conceded to the Colonies — namely, self-government. Where were those great Imperialists then? Did they come around and say, "You ought not to refuse this demand made upon the Empire? On the contrary, they have slammed the door themselves with insolent contempt. This is, undoubtedly, the Motherland, but it is the Motherland, not merely of the Colonies, but of 43,000,000 of people at home, and her first obligation after all is to the people upon her own hearth. A mother who is always neglecting those who remain under her roof-tree and running about protecting those who have left her and set up for themselves a happy and prosperous household elsewhere, is a bad mother and a worse mother-in-law. She is a blight upon both households. I would like to bring the Empire and the Colonies nearer; it would be a great advantage, not merely to the people of the Colonies, but to the people of this country. The nearer we can bring the people of the Colonies to this country, the better will the people of this country see what is happening in the Colonies. It would show the people of this country how their Colonial kinsmen are able to thrive and prosper without institutions, systems, and laws which are regarded here as part of the essentials of civilisation. They would be able to see, for instance, how the Colonies can get on without a State Church and yet how religion is more of a living force. Then I would like the people of this country to see how the Colonies have settled the education question and how the Colonies have got on without tricks and dodges for defeating the will of the people. The bringing of the Colonies nearer would, I think, accelerate the day when the people of this country will insist upon having themselves the same privileges and freedom which are enjoyed by their Colonial kinsmen. But this proposal would ruin the Empire and throw us further apart. It is a proposal to set one democracy preying upon another; it is a proposal which would put us in the bondage of great and greedy trusts which oppress honesty and industry, and threaten the very integrity of States. I am all for binding the Empire together, but let us see, at any rate 447 that the cords do not cut right into the flesh of the people.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I have always recognised frankly and fully the ingenuity of the right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down. But I am bound to say I never knew that ingenuity set itself so hard a task or accomplish it more successfully, than to drag into a speech on our commercial relations with the Colonies a tirade upon the brilliant achievements of our Irish fellow-countrymen in the field — a discussion, brief but pregnant, upon Home Rule, a sly dig at the House of Lords, and the general expression of a wish that we could more closely model our whole policy and procedure upon that of our free, self-governing Colonies. Is it a fiscal matter? It is quite true that the right hon. Gentleman's views are that the Colonies are blessed in the absence of a House of Lords, of an Established Church, of bad education, but when he desires that we should so study the methods of the Colonies as to imitate them upon every particular, I am rather surprised that he did not remember that in the one particular which we are occupied in discussing to-night, absolutely the only question which is relevant to this debate, n the first place the Colonies are protectionists, and in the second place, the Colonies are unanimously in favour of that policy which the right hon. Gentleman so vehemently repudiates. I think that, perhaps, that re ference of the right hon. Gentleman, which did not bear any marks of premeditation about it, might well have been omitted both from his own point of view and from the general point of view that perhaps we ought only to discuss one subject at a time in this House. But if we ought only to discuss 448 one subject at a time, that subject is divided on the present occasion by the fact that there is before us both a Resolution and an Amendment to that Resolution, which I understand to be an Amendment officially favoured by the gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite. It is extraordinary, that being so, how little we have heard of it. There have been a great many speeches directed towards the Resolution, but there really has been no speech — I can hardly make an exception in favour of the mover of the Amendment itself — which showed the smallest interest in that Parliamentary production. I believe that the Amendment really was introduced merely as an indirect but effective compliment to the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, because, I understand, what I admit I had forgotten during the course of the debate, that it is word for word taken from a Resolution which occurred to the ingenious mind of the Under-Secretary two or three years ago when he was in a position of less responsibility than he is at the present time; but I do not know why the Government on this occasion have raked in the dead cinders ofHansard in order to find some of the earlier efforts of the Under-Secretary for the Colonies and to reproduce them as the fine flower, the perfection, of all that can be done in the way of Parliamentary tactics and strategy on the present occasion. I have said that there has been very little reference to the Amendment, and I think it will be admitted on all sides, but I do not deny that there have been passing sentences of eulogy devoted to it, and by nobody more than by its original author — and that was only right, after all — the right hon. Gentleman the present Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies; and what was his particular 449 praise, of that Amendment? He said the Resolution of my right hon. friend was an ambiguous Resolution; nobody could make out what its purport was, and that the Amendment was clear, precise, and unmistakeable in its character; that very body knew exactly what was meant by a protective duty on food, and that, therefore, we could have a clear-cut and plain division. Well, Sir, that is great nonsense. And everybody who has the Parliamentary history of the last five or six years in his mind knows that it is great nonsense. Just let us cast our minds back for one moment to a period anterior to the fiscal controversy — not a great effort historically, because the fiscal controversy began in 1903, and I am only asking hon. Gentlemen to cast their minds back to 1901 and 1902, and if they can go back to the beginning of the fiscal controversy that further effort will not be beyond their strength. Before the fiscal controversy the late Government, for fiscal reasons, put a shilling duty on corn, and we had the most prolonged discussions in this House as to whether that was a protective duty or whether it was not. And at the moment, as everybody knows, we are divided in this House as to whether that was a protective duty or not. Yes, we are divided now. The present Prime Minister and the present Chancellor of the Exchequer declared that it was a protective duty. The then Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Michael Hicks Beach, and we now on this side of the House, I among ethers, said it was not a protective duty.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I should like to see the quotation, but I am quite certain that I did support it and took a part in the debates at that time, and that he and I were absolutely agreed that it was not a protective duty; but that shows that there is an ambiguity in the phrase which at all events prevents the Amendment having the very quality which its original author attributed to it, the quality of being unambiguous. It is essentially ambiguous. Perhaps hon. Gentlemen think that there was no good economist — at all events, there may have been some wretched people now sitting on this side of the House, like myself and others, ignorant of the principles of political economy who deny that it was protective in its character — but that no sound, no really learned economist would use that phrase; but I appeal to the most learned economist on that side of the House, the right hon. Gentleman the Under-Secretary for the Colonies, the author in 1905 of the Amendment which we are now discussing in 1907, but who was one of the defenders of the corn tax in 1902. The Undersecretary for the Colonies — and I am sure he has not learned all his political economy since that time — in 1902 informed the House, and I entirely, or largely, agree with him, that there was not a single argument that could be urged against the corn tax that could not equally be urged against the tea duties. Nobody had ever said the tea duties were protective, and by parity of reasoning we must assume that the corn tax was not protective. And I, for my own part, have never contemplated, and I do not think anybody on this side has ever contemplated, a tax which could more properly be described 451 as protective in the matter of food stuff than the tax which the right hon. Gentleman himself defended in 1902.
§ MR. CHURCHILL
I have not had an opportunity of verifying the speech to which the right hon. Gentleman refers, but I have a very clear recollection that I said the corn tax was technically protective, merely for the lack of countervailing excise.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Are we going to vote on something which is "technically" protective? The hon. Member who at the bidding of the Government has copied what the right hon. Gentleman said and put it down on the Paper practically in the name of the Government ought to add to it the word "technical," so that it would read: "In the opinion of this House the permanent unity of the British Empire will not be secured through a sys-tem of preferential duties based upon thetechnically protective taxation of food." I think the right hon. Gentleman will feel that the Amendment is, as it stands, extremely ambiguous, and that you can not prevent it being ambiguous without making it ridiculous. We heard something about running away just now in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman. It seems to me that the Government want to run away from the question whether we should or should not use such a fiscal system as we possess for purposes of preferential duty — they want to run away from that behind something which has nothing whatever to do with that question, which is wholly irrelevant to it, which is in itself ambiguous, and which will absolutely prevent the House coming to a decision upon the only question which is before it. ["No, no."] The question which is before 452 the House, not only technically but substantially, is not the question of whether there should be a protective duty on food, which nobody desires — [ironical cheers]— which nobody desires — ["Oh, oh"] — and which has been expressly repudiated by the two speakers on this Bench who preceded me — namely, my right hon. friend the late Secretary for the Colonies and my right hon. friend the Member for Wimbledon. Nobody desires or has ever desired a protective duty on food; and to ask this House to leave the question which is before it, which is that of Colonial preference, and devote its attention to something which is not before it, which is a protective duty on food stuffs, which nobody desires, is directly to run away from the issue before the House. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has been good enough to inform me that this Motion, suggested by me and submitted to me in its terminology, is directed against me. Well, he and I are fellow-sufferers. I am told that he is not beyond suspicion. He has, no doubt, done his best to redeem his character — as I am doing my best to redeem mine — by making a very violent attack on Colonial preference. But we have the right hon. Gentleman's speeches, the amiable and excellent speeches which he delivered to the Colonial Conference, and which have now been published. If the right hon. Gentleman had read out his own speeches to the Conference and had not delivered the carefully-prepared oration which he gave us tonight, the whole House would have said, "The right hon. Gentleman has gone over." He recognises as much as anybody, as much as the most ardent tariff reformer behind me, the enormous benefit given to British trade by the 453 Colonial preference we possess. He recognises its vast importance, and he thanked the Colonies for it; and that was not necessary if it was not true. I presume it is true. It is of enormous importance to British trade. I am bound to say that if the right hon. Gentleman and his friends behind him are agreed on the enormous importance to British trade of such preference as we already possess, and which, if we met the Colonies in the spirit they desired to meet us, would be a largely increased preference, then it seems to me that it is a very rash procedure on the part of any Government, be. their majority what it may, and be the origin of that majority what it may, to slam the door, whoever the porter may be, in the face of those who come to us with a policy on which they are all agreed. Every self-governing Colony is agreed, and the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, recognising all they are doing for us, says, in the name of his Government, that he and they mean to do nothing for the self-governing Colonies. I hold personally that if we could come to an arrangement with the Colonies in the matter of preference, it would be worth while to make some immediate sacrifices. [MINISTERIAL cries of "On what?"] I hold that now, and I have always held it, but I do not believe that these sacrifices are required. There must always be, in the situation that we have got to deal with, a great number of communities with their special needs and interests, and we with our special needs and interests. That constitutes the difficulty, not the impossibility. Let the House notice that that difficulty is vastly diminished by the difficulty in which we now find ourselves in refer- 454 ence to national finance. I doubt whether there is any careful student of contemporary finance who doubts that the present basis of taxation is one which can not, by any possibility, be permanent. As long as anyone held out to himself the hope that we could make great economies in national expenditure, or cherished the conviction that under new Governments new sources of revenue would come in view, then he could tolerate the old system under which we have for so many years lived. But all these hopes are scattered to the wind. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government to which he belongs all know perfectly well that national expenditure is not going to diminish. It is going to increase. I do not like it. He does not like it. Nobody likes it. But whether we like it or not, the facts are there; and I do not believe that you can face the increasing expenditure of this country, with all the new demands for social reform, on the present basis of taxation — income-tax at 1s. in the £, and 5s. duty on sugar. It cannot be done, and it ought not to be done. If the present Government had been well advised when they saw the strong and unanimous feeling exhibited by the Colonial Prime Ministers they would have said: "We hold certain views on this question, and we cannot alter fundamentally our system of taxation, but we will at all events use such taxation as we have — even though the results be trifling financially, though not Imperially — to carry out the wishes of the free, self-governing portions of the Empire." If they had done that they would have been well advised. But every man must believe that I am not prophesying in vain when I say that you will have to extend your basis of taxation, that you will have to diminish the 455 taxation upon some things which are now taxed and diminish it in accordance with your own pledges. There is, for instance, the tax which by universal admission is a tax not only on the food of the people, but also on a raw material — the tax on sugar. This is a tax which violates both the canons which you wish to establish — that you should never put a tax on a raw material or on a necessity of life. That is a system of taxation which cannot stand. The basis of your fiscal system must inevitably be broadened. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Narrowed."] There are some hon. Gentlemen who hold certain views in favour of throwing the whole of the burdens on the shoulders of a single class in the country, but I am not going to be led off into any parenthesis on that subject. I am assuming that the general principles of equity and justice existing in all civilised countries will remain with us, and then without doubt will have to broaden the basis of taxation. Exactly what new taxes you will have to impose, how you will broaden your system, it is not my business at the present time to indicate. At all events, I am not going to put myself into the position of hon. Members opposite who made promises at the election and afterwards, which they do not fulfil. It is better after all to say you will wait till you are responsible to say what fiscal system you will adopt than to promise when you are not responsible that when you are responsible you will do something which you refuse to do when the time comes. If I am right in the prophesy that you must, on grounds wholly dissociated and distinct from the Colonial question widen the basis of taxation, all I ask is that the policy of those who have to widen that taxation — the policy which I recommend to the Government even on 456 the present narrow basis, is to use the taxation they have, whether broad or narrow, for the purpose of giving such Colonial preference as is possible to the Colonies. That is all the Colonies ask for. They have not demanded of us that we should do that which from our own point of view is utterly inexpedient, but only that when we are carrying out a particular system of taxation we should do our best to make it a system which will bind the different parts of the Empire into one close, organic whole. I am well aware that hon. Gentlemen opposite have in their political armoury a great many very simple, and I think very fallacious, but still effective rhetorical points which they can use at by-elections or general elections, and out of which they can make great political play. But I ask hon. Members opposite whether they really think that the course they are adopting is in the long run going to promote the closer union between the different parts of the Empire, which I recognise they desire as much as we do. I attribute no mean motives to them. They have, I think, accused us on this side of being the mere instruments of financial and commercial interests; those charges I may be allowed to treat with contempt, and I do not retaliate. It would be very easy, it requires very small intelligence to make such charges, but at all events I do not mean to do it. I attribute to them as high a standard of Imperial patriotism as that which I endeavour myself to attain. But do they not see that by ignoring this general sentiment throughout the whole Empire, throughout all the self-governing portions of the Empire, though it be true that the Colonies are not on that account going to separate themselves from the Mother Country, they are nevertheless not going 457 in the path which does, must, and ought to lead to that close feeling of a common interest which is the very bond and solid basis of Empire? I am sure they are wrong. If their only fear is that we on this side are going to lend ourselves to these illegitimate financial transactions of which they seem so much afraid, if they really seriously suppose that this House is going to become the creature of great financial corporations, I can assure them that no plan that has ever found favour either with my friends or myself can by any possibility lead to that result. I do not desire, we none of us desire, to bolster up industries which under a fair system of competition would fail; what we do desire earnestly and passionately to obtain is to have some system which, while it subserves the great and growing needs of these united kingdoms, may also and at the same time subserve the not less great and growing necessity of binding us closer to those great communities with whose expansion and commercial future our own is so intimately and indisputably bound.
§ MR. ASQUITH
I will only intervene between the House and a division for a few minutes. The right hon. Gentleman has said we are running away; what are we running away from? There are two propositions before the House; one is the vote of censure on the Government on the attitude they took at the Colonial Conference. On that we challenge the opinion of the House of Commons. The other is the Amendment
§ of my hon. friend the Member for Barnstaple against any form of Colonial preference which involves the protective taxation of food. On that also we challenge the opinion of the House of Commons. The right hon. Gentleman has indulged in a number of eloquent perorations as to the desirability of improving our relations with the Colonies, but I want to bring the matter to a concrete point. Before we take this division, let us clearly understand how we stand. First, as regards preference on the basis of existing duties. It has been pointed out already by my right hon. friend the Under-Secretary for the Colonies that as regards sugar you yourselves have bound us not to enter into a preferential arrangement as to Colonial sugar. Then there is tea. About 97 per cent. of the tea we import comes from the Colonies and dependencies of the Empire. There is nothing to be done there. Now comes the real point, the point to which I wish to direct the attention of the House, the point the right hon. Gentleman ignored. The right hon. Gentleman says you must broaden the basis of taxation, and you must give preference to the Colonies. How is he going to do it? It he going to tax corn? Is he going to tax meat? Is he going to tax butter? Is he going to tax wool? He has no answer to any of those questions. That is all I have to say.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: — Ayes, 111; Noes, 404. (Division List No. 283.)459
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Balfour, Rt. Hn. A. J. (City Lond.||Bignold, Sir Arthur|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major||Banbury, Sir. Frederick George||Bowles. G. Stewart|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Banner, John S. Harmood||Boyle, Sir Edward|
|Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H||Baring, Capt. Hn. G.(Winchester||Bridgeman, W. Clive|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Bull, Sir William James|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Percy, Earl|
|Butcher, Samuel Henry||Hay, Hon. Claude George||Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon.J. H. M.||Heaton, John Henniker||Randles, Sir John Scurrah|
|Carlile, E. Hildred||Helmsley, Viscount||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Hervey, F. W. F.(Bury S. Edmds||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Cave, George||Hill, Sir Clement (Shrewsbury)||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Cavendish, Rt. Hon. Victor C. W.||Hills, J. W.||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Ronaldshay, Earl of|
|Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey-||Hunt, Rowland||Rutherford. W. W. (Liverpool)|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Marylebone, E.)||Kennaway, Rt. Hon. SirJohn H.||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Wore||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W.||Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Keswick, William||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham||Kimber, Sir Henry||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley George D.)|
|Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Smith. Abel H. (Hertford, East.|
|Collings, Rt. Hn. J. (Birminghm||Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich)||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)|
|Corbett, T. L. (Down, North)||Liddell, Henry||Stanley, Hon. Arthur(Ormskirk|
|Courthope, G. Loyd||Lockwood, Rt. Hn. Lt.-Col. A. R||Starkey, John R.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis(Antrim, S.||Long, Col. Charles W.(Evesham||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staff' sh.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Dublin, S.)||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Dixon-Hartland, Sir Fred Dixon||Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Lanark)|
|Doughty, Sir George||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Turnour, Viscount|
|Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)|
|Du Cros, Harvey||MacIver, David (Liverpool)||Walrond, Hon. Lionel|
|Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan||Magnus, Sir Philip||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Faber, George Denison (York)||Marks, H. H. (Kent)||Williams, Col. R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Fardell, Sir T. George||Meysey-Thompson, E. C.||Wilson, A. Stanley (York, E. R.)|
|Fell, Arthur||Morpeth, Viscount||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Fletcher, J. S.||Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield|
|Forster, Henry William||Nield, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES — SirAlexander Acland-Hood and Viscount Valentia|
|Gardner, Ernest (Berks, East)||O'Niell, Hon. Robert Torrens|
|Gretton, John||Parker, SirGilbert (Gravesend)|
|Hardy, Laurence(Kent, Ashford||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Harris, Frederick Leverton||Pease. Herbert Pike(Darlington|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.)||Bertram, Julius||Cheetham. John Frederick|
|Abraham, William (Rhondda)||Bethell, Sir J. H.(Essex, Romf'rd||Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Bethell, T. R. (Essex, Maldon)||Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.|
|Agnew, George William||Birrell, Rt. Hon. Augustine||Clarke, C. Goddard(Peckham)|
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Black, Arthur W.||Cleland, J. W.|
|Alden, Percy||Boland, John||Clough, William|
|Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch)||Bottomley, Horatio||Clynes, J. R.|
|Allen, Charles P. (Stroud)||Boulton, A. C. F.||Coats, Sir T. Glen (Renfrew, W.)|
|Ambrose, Robert||Bowerman, C. W.||Cobbold, Felix Thornley|
|Armitage, R.||Brace, William||Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)|
|Ashton, Thomas Gair||Bramsdon, T. A.||Collins, Sir Wm. J. (S. Pancras, W|
|Asquith. Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry||Branch, James||Cooper, G. J.|
|Astbury, John Meir||Brigg, John||Corbett, A. Cameron(Glasgow)|
|Atherley-Jones, L.||Bright, J. A.||Corbett, CH (Sussex, E. Grinst'd)|
|Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth)||Brocklehurst, W. B.||Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.|
|Baker, Joseph A. (Finsbury, E.)||Brodie, H. C.||Cory, Clifford John|
|Balfour, Robert (Lanark)||Brooke, Stopford||Cotton, Sir H. J. S.|
|Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight)||Brunner, J. F. L.(Lancs., Leigh)||Cowan, W. H.|
|Barker, John||Brunner, Rt. Hn Sir JT(Cheshire)||Cox, Harold|
|Barlow, Sir John E. (Somerset)||Bryce, J. Annan||Crean, Eugene|
|Barlow, Percy (Bedford)||Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Cremer, Sir William Randal|
|Barnard, E. B.||Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Crombie, John William|
|Barnes, G. N.||Burke, E. Haviland-||Crooks, William|
|Barran, Rowland Hirst||Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Crosfield, A. H.|
|Beale, W. P.||Burnyeat, W. J. D.||Crossley, William J.|
|Beauchamp, E.||Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Cullinan, J.|
|Beaumont, Hon. Hubert||Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Charles||Curran, Peter Francis|
|Beck, A, Cecil||Byles, William Pollard||Dalmeny, Lord|
|Bell, Richard||Cameron, Robert||Dalziel, James Henry|
|Bellairs, Carlyon||Campbell-Bannerman, Sir H.||Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)|
|Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R||Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Davies, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan|
|Benn Sir J. Williams (Devonp'rt||Causton, Rt. Hn. RichardKnight||Davies, Timothy (Fulham)|
|Bennett, E. N.||Cawley, Sir Frederick||Davies, W. Howell (Bristol, S.)|
|Berridge, T. H. D.||Channing, Sir Francis Allston||Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Dewar, Sir J. A. (Inverness-sh.)||Hodge, John||Menzies, Walter|
|Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.||Hogan, Michael||Micklem, Nathaniel|
|Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P.||Holden, E. Hopkinson||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Dilke, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Holland, Sir William Henry||Mond, A.|
|Dobson, Thomas W.||Hope, John Deans (Fife, West)||Money, L. G. Chiozza|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N||Montagu, E. S.|
|Duffy, William J.||Horniman, Emslie John||Montgomery, H. G.|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Mooney, J. J.|
|Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne)||Hudson, Walter||Morgan, G. Hay (Cornwall)|
|Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall||Hyde, Clarendon||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)|
|Edwards, Clement (Denbigh)||Idris, T. H. W.||Morley, Rt. Hon. John|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||Illingworth, Percy H.||Morrell, Philip|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||Jackson, R. S.||Morse, L. L.|
|Elibank, Master of||Jacoby, Sir James Alfred||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas|
|Ellis, Rt. Hon. John Edward||Jardine, Sir J.||Murray, James|
|Erskine, David C.||Jenkins, J.||Myer, Horatio|
|Essex, R. W.||Johnson, John (Gateshead)||Napier, T. B.|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Johnson, W. (Nuneaton)||Newnes, F. (Notts., Bassetlaw)|
|Evans, Samuel T.||Jones. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Newnes, Sir George (Swansea)|
|Eve, Harry Trelawney||Jones, Leif (Appleby)||Nicholson, Charles N(Doncaster|
|Everett, R. Lacey||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire||Nolan, Joseph|
|Faber, G. H. (Boston)||Jowett. F. W.||Norman, Sir Henry|
|Fenwick, Charles||Joyce, Michael||Norton, Capt. Cecil William|
|Ferens. T. R.||Kearley, Hudson E.||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Ferguson, R. C. Munro||Kekewich, Sir George||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace||Kelley. George D.||O'Donnell, C. J. (Walworth)|
|Flynn, James Christopher||Kilbride, Denis||O'Grady, J.|
|Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter||Kincaid-Smith, Captain||O'Kelly, James(Roscommon, N.|
|Fowler, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||King, Alfred John (Knutsford)||O'Malley, William|
|Freeman-Thomas, Freeman||Laidlaw, Robert||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Fuller, John Michael F.||Lamb, Edmund G. (Leominster||Partington, Oswald|
|Fullerton, Hugh||Lambert, George||Paulton, James Mellor|
|Furness, Sir Christopher||Lamont, Norman||Pearce, Robert (Staffs. Leek)|
|Gardner, Col. Alan (Hereford, S.||Langley, Batty||Pearce, William (Limehouse)|
|Gibb, James (Harrow)||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Pearson, Sir W. D. (Colchester)|
|Gilhooly, James||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, W.)||Pearson, W. H. M.(Suffolk, Eye)|
|Gill, A. H.||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Perks, Robert William|
|Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John||Lea, HughCecil (St. Paneras, E.)||Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton)|
|Glendinning. R. G.||Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington)||Philipps, J. Wynford (Pembroke|
|Glover, Thomas||Lehmann, R. C.||Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)|
|Goddard, Daniel Ford||Lever. A. Levy (Essex, Harwich)||Pickersgill, Edward Hare|
|Gooch, George Peabody||Levy, Sir Maurice||Pirie, Duncan V.|
|Grant, Corrie||Lewis, John Herbert||Pollard, Dr.|
|Greenwood, G. (Peterborough)||Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Greenwood, Hamar (York)||Lough, Thomas||Price, C. E.(Edinburgh, Central)|
|Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Lundon, W.||Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.)|
|Grove, Archibald||Lupton, Arnold||Priestley, Arthur (Grantham)|
|Guest, Hon. Ivor Churchill||Luttrell, Hugh Fownes||Priestley, W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Gulland, John W.||Lyell, Charles Henry||Radford, G. H.|
|Gurdon. Rt. Hn Sir W. Brampton||Lynch, H. B.||Rainy, A. Rolland|
|Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B.||Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester)||Raphael, Herbert H.|
|Halpin, J.||Macdonald, J. M.(Falkirk B'ghs||Rea, Russell (Gloucester)|
|Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis||Mackarness, Frederic C.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarboro'|
|Hardy, George A. (Suffolk)||Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r.)||MacNeill, John Gordon Swift||Rees, J. D.|
|Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithn'ss-sh.||Macpherson, J. T.||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Hart-Davies, T.||MacVeigh, Charles (Donegal, E.||Richards,Thomas (W.Monm'th|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||M'Callum, John M.||Richards.T. F.(Wolverhampt'n|
|Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.||M'Crae, George||Rickett, J. Compton|
|Harwood, George||M'Hugh, Patrick A.||Ridsdale, E. A.|
|Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth)||M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)|
|Haworth, Arthur A.||M'Laren, Sir C. B. (Leicester)||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.)||Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)|
|Hazleton, Richard||M'Micking, Major G.||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradf'rd|
|Healy, Timothy Michael||Mallet, Charles E.||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Manfield, Harry (Northants)||Robinson, S.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Mansfield, H. Rendall(Lincoln)||Robson, Sir William Snowdon|
|Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Markham, Arthur Basil||Roche, Augustine (Cork)|
|Henry, Charles S.||Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston)||Roche, John (Galway, East)|
|Herbert, T. Arnold (Wycombe)||Marnham, F. J.||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Higham, John Sharp||Mason, A. E. W. (Coventry)||Rogers, F. E. Newman|
|Hobart, Sir Robert||Massie, J.||Rose, Charles Day|
|Hobhouse, Charles E. H.||Meagher, Michael||Rowlands, J.|
|Runciman, Walter||Straus, B. S. (Mile End)||White, George (Norfolk)|
|Russell, T. W.||Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)||White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)|
|Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)||Stuart, James (Sunderland)||White, Luke (York, E. R.)|
|Samuel, Herbert L.(Cleveland)||Summerbell, T.||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)||Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)||Whitehead, Rowland|
|Scarisbrick, T. T. L.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)|
|Schwann, C. Duncan (Hyde)||Tennant, Sir Edward (Salisbury||Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer|
|Schwann, Sir C. E.(Manchester)||Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)||Wiles, Thomas|
|Scott, A.H.(Ashton under Lyne||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Sears, J. E.||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.)||Williams, J. (Glamorgan)|
|Seaverns, J. H.||Thompson, J. W. H.(Somerset, E||Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n|
|Seddon, J.||Tomkinson, James||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth)|
|Seely, Major J. B.||Torrance, Sir A. M.||Williamson, A.|
|Shackleton, David James||Toulmin, George||Wills, Arthur Walters|
|Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips||Wilson. Hn. C. H. W. (Hull, W.)|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. T. (Hawick B.)||Ure, Alexander||Wilson, Henry J. (York, W. R.)|
|Shipman, Dr. John G.||Verney, F. W.||Wilson, John (Durham, Mid.)|
|Silcock, Thomas Ball||Vivian, Henry||Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough)|
|Simon, John Allsebrook||Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)||Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.)|
|Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John||Walters, John Tudor||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie||Walton, Sir John L. (Leeds, S.)||Winfrey, R.|
|Soames, Arthur Wellesley||Walton, Joseph (Barnsley)||Wood, T. M' Kinnon|
|Soares, Ernest J.||Ward, W Dudley (Southampton||Young, Samuel|
|Spicer, Sir Albert||Wardle, George J.||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Stanger, H. Y.||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)||Wason, Rt. Hn. E (Clackmannan||TELLERS FOR THE NOES — Mr.Whiteley and Mr. J. A.Pease.|
|Steadman, W. C.||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Stewart, Halley (Greenock)||Waterlow, D. S.|
|Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)||Whitbread, Howard|
Main Question, as amended, put, and agreed to.
§ Proposed words added.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I wish to ask whether this can be inserted in the journals of the House as having been carried nemine contradicente.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
I do not know whether I am in order in moving that this be entered in the journals of the House as having been passednemine contradicente.