HC Deb 14 April 1908 vol 187 cc1001-20

then moved the adjournment of the House until 27th April.

Motion made and Question proposed, "That this House do now adjourn till Monday 27th April."—(Mr. George Whiteley.)

*SIR CHARLES DILKE (Gloucestershire, Forest of Dean)

asked as to the ballot. He presumed that it was intended to have a ballot for notices of Motion on the day on which the House reassembled. His point was that there would only be one day's notice between that date and the first private Members' night.

MR. WALTER LONG (Dublin, S.)

May I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer—to whom I desire to offer the warmest possible congratulations upon his accession to that office, which I am sure he will fill with the utmost credit to the country and himself—if he can tell us a little more about the business than the information contained in the somewhat bald, and, so far as I know, quite unprecedented statement on the part of the Patronage Secretary in regard to business when the House meets again? I do not think there is any precedent for the House finding itself in the position in which we find ourselves. The whole circumstances of the case are exceptional. A programme of business had been arranged leading up to the adjournment, and it had been intimated in the usual way that following the adjournment the business would be, as it generally is, of a non-controversial character for the first few days pending the reassembling of Ministers. We are now met with the very simple statement of the Patronage Secretary—it is more of a fighting announcement than a statement of business—that the first business of the House will be the Licensing Bill. Does that mean that the Second Reading of the Licensing Bill will be taken de die in diem for the first week after we meet? Does it therefore mean that Thursday, which is usually given to Supply, will be devoted to the Licensing Bill, if necessary, and are we to have no information until after we reassemble in regard, first of all, to the introduction of the Budget—which is obviously a matter on which the House ought to have some information before it meets after Easter—and also in regard to the Second Reading of the Miners (Eight Hours) Bill? The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer will realise, I am sure, that the House ought not to separate without Members knowing more as to the arrangements for the business of the House, so that they may make their plans to be here on the days on which special business is to be taken.


In reply to the question of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Forest of Dean, I think the most convenient plan will be to take the ballot after Question time on Monday, and it will then be open for two or three days, so that Members who are successful can take their choice of days.


Can the right hon. Gentleman also say when the Education Bill will be taken?

MR. BURDETT-COUTTS (Westminster)

As it has been announced that the Licensing Bill is to be the first measure taken after we meet on the 27th, may I ask the right hon. Gentleman who is now leading the House, and whom I, in an unofficial sense, beg heartily to congratulate on his promotion, whether it would not be advisable that we should have some statement as to the exact measure of the extensive modifications which we understand are to be made in the Licensing Bill?


I am sorry the right hon. Gentleman should think my statement unduly bald. I limited my remarks when I first moved the adjournment, because I had nothing else to say, and I thought what I had said was sufficiently explanatory. The Licensing Bill will be taken on the Monday that we reassemble. I am quite aware it is rather unusual that a big Bill of that character should be taken, but the right hon. Gentleman must remember we have lost ten valuable days, and that if we do not press on with the important Bills, we shall find at the end of the session we have not achieved the legislation we desire to achieve. The division, we hope, may take place on the Wednesday night. Whether the Leader of the House will see fit to give Thursday or not I cannot say, but, as a rule, these are matters that are arranged between the Chief Whips of the Parties during the course of the Second Reading discussion of a Bill. If there were really a demand and a necessity for Thursday, I do not suppose the Premier would oppose it. With regard to the Miners' Eight Hours Bill no arrangement can be made beyond the first week. That statement necessarily applies also to the Education Bill and the Budget. The Government plans do not extend beyond the first week; but in all probability, as soon as possible after the first week, the Budget will be taken. With regard to modifications in the Licensing Bill, so far as I am concerned, there are none.


Has the right hon. Gentleman realised that Wednesday night is a private Members' night, and therefore the suggestion which comes from him as Chief Government Whip is that we should debate the main Bill of the session on the Monday and Tuesday and divide at eight o'clock on the Wednesday? Surely that can hardly be a serious proposition.


The right hon. Gentleman is a good hand at making a bargain, and it is not usual to give away, in the first instance, all one is perhaps prepared to give in the end.


Is there any truth in the report that the Education Bill is to be dropped?

EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)

Is the Housing Bill to be taken in the first fortnight after the recess?


We hope to take it as soon as we possibly can.


Will the right hon. Gentleman make an announcement on the Monday as to when these Bills will be taken?


An announcement will be made in the usual way on the Thursday.


said he wished to put a question to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and at the same time to apologise to the right hon. Gentleman for having been unable to give him notice. During the last few weeks there had been a disturbance of industrial conditions, particularly in the county of Kent, one of the boroughs of which he had the honour of representing in that House. He referred to the hop industry. [Laughter.] Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen might consider that a laughing matter, but he represented a borough in a county the people of which looked on it as a very serious matter, and he was quite certain that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not look upon it as either trivial or unimportant. [A voice: What is your question?] He presumed he had the privilege of putting his question in his own way. [Cries of "No speech."] He thought he was entitled to make a speech, and he proposed to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had been used to dealing with emergencies, and no doubt, during his tenure of his new office, he would have to deal with a great many more. Let them consider the action be had taken, for instance, with regard to patents and to merchant shipping. That action had been absolutely independent of what might be called Party feelings or Party considerations. The right hon. Gentleman had looked at the interests of those engaged in the industries of the country from the standpoint of patriotism. He submitted that the question he was about to put to the right hon. Gentleman was one of grave importance. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and many of those who sat upon the Treasury Bench had again and again said that, in any case of undue competition—in any case of dumping which was clearly proved—the intervention of the Government could be made independently of legislation. That was said by the late Prime Minister and by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, both of whom stated that it was in the power of the Government, in case of any undue disturbance of industrial conditions, to take action without legislation. Ho submitted to the House that in this case there was imminent danger of injury to the industry concerned. Hon. Gentlemen sitting below the gangway, when workmen were discharged from Woolwich recently, raised the question in the House as one of imminent danger; they moved the adjournment and asked the Government to intervene. Within the last three weeks there had been dumped down on the shores of the Thames something like 8,000 tons of hops to be sold at 25s. a cwt., which was something like 17s. per cwt. less than the cost at which the hops could be produced in the county of Kent. Had that price of 25s. been the normal price produced by the ordinary competition of business, he would not have been disposed to raise the question. [A voice: Are they new hops?] The 8,000 tons, which had been dumped down on British soil to compete with British hops, were the excess production of the United States, where they would bring a larger sum than in England. Did not the Chancellor of the Exchequer consider this a serious question? He believed there would be during the next fortnight something like 15,000 tons of hops dumped down upon our soil to compete with hops grown in the county of Kent. In the past the hop industry had been one of great importance. During late years it had declined, and the right hon. Gentleman should know that something like 8,000 families had been thrown out of employment by the grubbing of 23,000 acres under hop cultivation in Kent. Last year 1,700 acres of land which had been under hop cultivation were grubbed, and the consequent loss to British workingmen alone represented about £600,000. The dumping down of these 8,000 tons at the present time was making it impossible for those who grew lops in, the county of Kent to make a living thereby. It was within the power of the right hon. Gentleman to deal with this serious situation and to put an end to the dumping down of these hops. It was in his power to prevent it. No doubt the right hon. Gentleman had followed very closely the inquiry going on upstairs into the condition of the hop industry, and if he had not read all the evidence he probably knew the general trend of it. He would know, too, that the hop growers in the county of Kent could not compete with the American growers if the latter were thus allowed to dump down here their surplus production. The right hon. Gentleman had to consider the whole subject. It was not a question of putting a permanent tax upon hops, though he believed there were among hon. Members sitting behind the right hon. Gentlemen some who advocated such a course when their own particular industry was touched. He understood that the hon. Gentleman who represented the Faversham division of Kent, in which hops were grown, strongly advocated a tax upon hops. He believed, too, that the hon. Member for Macclesfield, where silks were manufactured, also asked for a tax to be put upon silks. But he was not asking that in regard to hops. What he was asking was that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should deal with an abnormal situation. The right hon. Gentleman might ask how he was to do it. He would refer him to the speeches of his Leader, the Prime Minister, and of his ex-Leader, the late Prime Minister, both of whom had said in that House that if a case of dumping occurred it was not necessary to ask Parliament for any legislation, but that it could be dealt with through the Treasury itself without legislation. Possibly the right hon. Gentleman had not found it possible as yet to avail himself of the information possessed by his predecessors in office, but he submitted to him that what he was asking was founded upon principles which they who held views as strongly as he and his friends did on tariff reform had every right to urge upon him. If the right hon. Gentleman could not take action in such a case of excessive dumping, what did his leaders mean when they said that in such cases of special injury to British industry the Treasury could intervene without having to ask the assent of Parliament? Would the right hon. Gentleman seriously consider the situation? If Workmen, were; thrown out Of work—Whether they were hop growers or Woolwich artisans; it was all the same thing—if they were thrown out of work by unfair and undue competition, had the Government no answer, and had the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his hands no remedy whatever to enable him to deal with such a situation? The present situation was abnormal, but if this dumping of hops was to be persisted in it would become normal, and it would mean the steady and absolute destruction of hop production in this country, and the expatriation of the people now employed in the production of the hops, or else their absorption in that vast army of unemployed on which the Government were prepared to expend large sums of money every year. He put it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he could not possibly begin his career as a Minister at the head of a great office concerned with the industrial interests of the country better than by dealing with such a situation as this, and he asked him for a frank and direct answer, such as he was accustomed to give when President of the Board of Trade, as to whether he intended to act upon the professed policy of the Government in the past, a policy which he had no reason to believe had been changed.


I am not sure that I am entitled to speak as Chancellor of the Exchequer at this moment; I am only Chancellor-designate. I thank the right hon. Gentleman and the House for the very kind way in which they have received me. I agree with the hon. Member for Gravesend that this is a very important matter. I should be the last man in the world to minimise anything which affects British industry. I should have thought it important enough for me to have notice of it. It is very difficult for me, on a highly technical matter of this sort, to give—


I will only say I was ignorant of the fact that the right hon. Gentleman would be here to-day. I thought he would have to go to his constituency, or I should certainly have given him notice.


At the present moment I have not taken up my quarters at the Treasury, and I have only followed this matter in a general way, though with great interest. I agree that it is a matter of considerable importance, but I do not think anything is to be gained by exaggerating it. For instance, the hon. Gentleman has talked as if this were purely a sudden emergency, and the hop industry which had been prosperous hitherto had been damaged by a sudden inrush of foreign hops. That is not in accordance with the facts. If the hon. Member had taken the trouble to look at the facts he would have known that compared with thirty years ago we have imported less foreign hops. There has been a steady decline in each decade in the quantity of hops imported from abroad. There are two things which have really affected the hop trade. The first is machinery. We are producing the same quantity of hops out of a smaller acreage. That has nothing to do with the trade conditions, but has a good deal to do with improvement in the methods of production. In itself it is a good thing, but, unfortunately, you cannot have good things without occasionally bringing some sort of disadvantage on others who are not benefited by them. The result is a good saving of labour, and those who are engaged in the hop industry have suffered to that extent. This change is not attributable to the importation of foreign hops, which has declined; it is entirely attributable, first, to machinery and improved methods of production, and, secondly, to the use of hop substitutes. Instead of asking the Chancellor of the Exchequer to introduce some sort of legislation the nature of which the hon. Gentleman himself cannot quite indicate to me, why should he not go to his friends the brewers—they are great patriots; in fact we might suppose from the sort of language used recently they are the only patriots—and say, "Here are you, a great patriotic trade; why are you using all this foreign stuff, some of it, I understand, consisting of rather deleterious ingredients, instead of the good old British article, hops?" Hops produce better beer, clearer beer—I do not pretend to be an authority, but I am told that that is the case. Why not appeal to them? I think the hon. Gentleman will agree with me that it is a mistake to have legislation, unless it is absolutely necessary, to interfere with an industry. If you got a trade like that to use the real British article instead of resorting to this adulterated, deleterious, mischevious, pernicious foreign stuff, the situation would be saved. That is the suggestion I make to the hon. Gentleman; he has greater influence with that community than I have. If the great brewing syndicates were induced to use hops grown in Kent instead of hops grown in California, and other stuff grown in all parts of the world, I think the hop industry in Kent would have much more reason to thank the hon. Gentleman than it will for making vague and wild suggestions, which he himself has really not outlined, and which would not be effective if they were put into operation. I do not wish to dogmatise. A very able Committee, presided over by one of the ablest men in the House, is at present inquiring into this industry. It has been sitting seven days, and has taken evidence from the leading hop-growers. It is to have evidence, too, from the brewers, and it is pursuing its inquiry with every expedition. It is not for me to indicate the nature of that inquiry, but it is too early to have a discussion on the subject. The hon. Gentleman is entirely wrong in suggesting that there is some abnormal dumping of foreign hops. When he talks about 8,000 tons he is absolutely wrong. He has mistaken tons for hundredweights.


I suppose the right hon. Gentleman does not wish to misrepresent me. I said 8,000 tons, and I mean 8,000 tons.


The hon. Gentleman is accustomed to tariff reform statistics.


I do appeal to the right hon. Gentleman.


The hon. Gentleman has only himself to blame for my not having the actual figures. If he had given me even three hours' notice I could have given him the figures. I am informed generally that 8,000 tons is an exaggeration. The total number of tons last year was 10,000, and that seems to represent on the whole the quantity which has been steadily coming in for years. During the twenty years of the Unionist Government this was going on, and every member for the county of Kent was a supporter of that Government. They never thought it necessary to interfere; and surely when we have been in power only two years we might at any rate be given some time to inquire into the matter. I am not sure that we are the only Government who have really inquired into the matter. I think it is a wise course not to legislate without inquiring first. It is much better than legislating first and making investigations afterwards. If the hon. Gentleman does not mind our looking into the matter and getting our facts and information first, I think that will be our wiser course.

MR. FORSTER (Kent, Sevenoaks)

did not think the right hon. Gentleman, who was no doubt in a state of suspended animation realised the urgency of the case and the real grounds of the apprehensions that existed in the hop-growing districts. The dumping of American hops was part of a settled policy declared by the hop growers on the western coast of America, to make it impossible for hops to be grown in Great Britain. It was part of a policy to make the British market a happy hunting ground for the American hop grower. That was the new fact in the situation which the right hon. Gentleman seemed to have left out of account. He hoped he would include it in the scope of his inquiry. The result, he was confident, would be to force him to the conclusion that some steps must be taken unless hop growing was to come to an end as a British industry. The right hon. Gentleman asked why an attempt was not made to persuade brewers to give up using hop substitutes. Why did not the right hon. Gentleman tax the substitutes?

MR. J. MACVEAGH (Down, S.)

Our beer would cost us, more.


said that that was a prospect which some hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite would view with unconcern. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would realise the urgency of this matter.

MR. PIKE PEASE (Darlington)

said the Chancellor of the Exchequer I had tried to make a party point with reference to tariff reform statistics. It was quite possible that tariff reform statistics like everything else might sometimes be incorrect. The other night the right hon. Gentleman himself gave some remarkable figures with regard to the unemployed of Germany, his figures including some women and some partly employed people. When he (Mr. Pike Pease) put a Question in the House on the subject three or four days afterwards, the right hon. Gentleman accepted his correction. Under the circumstances he need not have referred to tariff reform figures. With regard to the question of hops the right hon. Gentleman had said that thirty years ago there was a great number of imports into this country. That was perfectly true, but when they were considering the question of exports and imports he should take into account the question of population and the total amount of exports and imports. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman would really consider the question as one of infinite importance to a very large number of the population of the country and one in which the House took great interest.

MR. GRETTON (Rutland)

said the right hon. Gentleman had inadvertently made one or two statements which were not in accordance with facts, at any rate, as they had been put before the Hops Committee, of which he was a member. It had been given in evidence that in brewing only a small proportion of hop substitutes was used. The relative importance of this question of substitutes should be laid clearly before the House. The official returns showed that something like 571,000 cwts. of hops were used in brewing last year, and only 246 cwts. of hop substitutes. Personally he would be quite willing to see them entirely abolished. The importation complained of was an abnormal consignment of Californian hops two years old. It already amounted to about 5,000 tons, and a further consignment of about 3,000 tons was expected. It was in regard to that exceptional importation that the hon. Member for Gravesend had appealed to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to come to the help of the hop industry in Kent, which was undoubtedly in a very deplorable condition. The inquiry of the Committee was not complete. As far as he was concerned, he was strongly of opinion that when the season was good there were no better hops than English hops, but unfortunately the seasons were not always good. The House was not yet in a position to judge how far foreign hops were necessary. He strongly supported the appeal that had been made in regard to the special importation, which threatened grave injury to the hop industry during the coming season.

*SIR W. J. COLLINS (St. Pancras, W.)

said the Select Committee on the Hop Industry, of which he was chairman, was only appointed four weeks ago, and it had addressed itself to its rather wide reference with considerable expedition and industry, having sat sometimes twice a week, and for five or six hours at a stretch. Its terms of reference included the whole subject of the past and present condition of the hop industry. There had been no inquiry on the subject for seventeen years, and a great deal of valuable evidence had accumulated. The Committee would be able to report to the House precise figures as to the acreage formerly under hops and the extent to which that acreage had been reduced in Kent and Sussex. Figures would also be given in respect of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. The growers had presented their case in a fair and satisfactory manner, and after the recess evidence would be given on behalf of the brewers, the hon. Member for Rutland having suggested certain witnesses who would be able to give valuable evidence. The whole question of foreign imports was also engaging the attention of the Committee, and precise figures would be given of imports not only from the Atlantic Coast, but also from the Pacific Coast. There was no intention to delay the inquiry, and the Committee was anxious to make it as complete and satisfactory as possible in order that legislation, if necessary, might follow full investigation.

MR. HAROLD COX (Preston)

said he had lived all his life in the centre of a hop-growing district, and to his knowledge there had always been an outcry in the hop country against foreign hops. He could go back for a period of thirty years and he remembered that Lord Salisbury told the hop growers of Kent that they could not expect a tax on their particular product unless they were willing to concede a tax upon other people's products; and he asked them whether there was any likelihood that the people of this country would consent to a tax on bread to please the growers of corn. Hitherto the Party opposite had declared that they would never tax raw material. Did the hon. Gentleman opposite adhere to that position?


said he did not ask for a general tax on hops. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deal with an abnormal situation in accordance with his promise that if a case of excessive dumping was shown he could deal with it under our present fiscal system.


said that for more than thirty years the Kentish farmers had been asking for a tax on hops in order to raise the price. Tariff reformers told them they did not desire that the price should be raised; they only wanted the foreigner to pay the tax. Yet recently a meeting of Kentish farmers passed a resolution declaring that a 40s. duty was required in order to raise the price of hops by 40s. It was complained that the Americans were sending their surplus production. Of course they were, and one of the secrets of business was to -sell what one did not one's self require.


If you reduce the price of hops can you ensure a reduction in the price of beer?


The hon. Member has exhausted his right of speaking.


, continuing, said that what the hon Member proposed was to put a tax on raw material in order to raise the price. Now they had a clear definition of what was meant by tariff reform. It did not mean taxing manufactured articles, or taxing the foreigner, but it meant raising the price of raw materials, and raising the price to the home consumer.

MR. FELL (Great Yarmouth)

suggested to the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he had power to prevent the passing through the Custom House of this abnormal shipment of foreign hops, which were two years old and were to be sold at a knock-out price. In view of their age, it might be that they contained the germs of disease and were not fit to be sold on the market. Let the right hon. Gentleman place an embargo on them until it had been ascertained whether they contained any deleterious matter, or whether they were really fit for consumption. He thought that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in such an abnormal case, might take some steps to put an embargo on hops which were proved to be unfit for consumption. Until the Select Committee had made its report, and the matter had been thoroughly looked into, he hoped that the right hon. Gentleman would cause some steps to be taken to prevent hops being brought here until it was ascertained that they were thoroughly fit to be introduced into the country.

MR. ANNAN BRYCE (Inverness Burghs)

said he wished to ask the Leader of the House if in arranging the business ho would include an Education Bill for Scotland. He might remind the right hon. Gentleman that they had already had six Education Bills introduced by two Governments during the last seven years, and it would be a source of great disappointment in Scotland if an Education Bill for Scotland were not carried this session.

MR. JOWETT (Bradford, W.)

said he would like to put before the Chancellor of the Exchequer the consideration of a matter in connection with hops, having relation to the changes which had taken place in regard to home brewing. Brewing, in consequence of the changes, had been driven into the hands of brewing syndicates. About 1880, when Parliament took the tax off barley and placed taxation on liquor, the result was practically to cut off the old custom of brewing at home which used to prevail in a large part of the country. He asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer whether he would see that the Committee which had this subject under consideration inquired into the advisability of reverting to the old system of encouraging harmless brewing of beer at home, instead of patronising the substitutes and chemicals used by the brewers of the country. He also asked the right hon. Gentleman what he proposed to do with regard to a far more important subject—that of unemployment. It would be within the recollection of Members that a proposal made from those benches for the Second Reading of a Bill on the subject of unemployment was rejected by the House. That might be right or wrong. Personally, he thought the Bill was sound, for he could not get over the feeling that it was the duty of the State and of the community to see to the interests of the unemployed so long as they were willing to work. He therefore contended that it was the duty of the Administration to say what they intended to do in the matter. It was exceedingly difficult under the forms of the House to get a discussion on any subject. Private Members were almost wiped "off the mat" so to speak. There could be no more important subject than the unemployment problem, Doubtless the right hon. Gentleman would answer that there were various reforms which might have some influence with the question. Hon. Members above the gangway believed that certain charges in the matter of the importation of foreign hops might have some influence; some hon. Members on the other side of the House believed that the taxation of land values might have some effect on unemployment, and others believed that in the years to come, how many years they could not tell, the Small Holdings Act, passed last year, might have some influence also. But all these things were in the dim and distant future, while unemployment was present with us. Men were without work, and were wanting it, and since private Members had no responsibilities in the House under the present system of national administration, and since Ministers only were responsible for their own Departments, he asked them to exercise that responsibility, and say that day what they intended to do about unemployment. It was a most pressing question, and he thought he was within his rights in respectfully demanding a. reply from the right hon Gentleman as to what was intended to be done.

MR. CLEMENT EDWARDS (Denbigh, District)

said he represented a constituency where a very large number of electors were engaged as workmen in breweries. On the occasion of the last election the Tariff Reform League carried on an agitation among them, and one of their representatives was asked whether the League were prepared to run the risk of injuring the brewing trade by putting a tax on the raw material—hops. The very emphatic reply was given by the representative of the Tariff Reform League that they were prepared to do nothing of the kind. He was sure that if that kind of representation had not been made his majority at the election would have been even greater than it was. They had that distinct reply from a representative of the League, which, it had been said, could not blow both hot and cold; but if their policy with, regard to raw material had changed, he would ask as a personal favour that the League should send a representative into his constituency to explain that fact. He protested most emphatically against the proposal to increase the number of unemployed by putting a tax upon the raw material called hops. Doubtless they would hear, in connection with another Bill which was to be discussed immediately after the holidays, a great deal about throwing persons out of employment in connection with the brewery trade; but he ventured to say that the number thrown out would be the merest fraction compared with the number that would be unemployed if the ideas of the hop farmers were realised, and a tax were put upon the raw material of the brewing trade.

CAPTAIN CLIVE (Herefordshire, Ross)

said that hon. Members had not attempted to define what they called raw material, and he thought the House would readily agree that there could be no bard and fast line drawn. He was prepared to say about hops, whether they were raw material or not, that very much more money went in labour with hops before they reached the brewer than after they became the raw material of manufacture. It had been pointed out by both the present and the late Prime Minister that under present legislation it was perfectly possible to deal with special cases of dumping as they arose. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his reply to his hon. friend had made no reference to that point whatever. His hon. friend had taken particular care not to dictate what should be the remedy adopted; he had simply pointed out that both the present and the late Leader of the House had declared their ability to deal with special cases as they arose; and he had asked the right hon. Gentleman to put the existing powers in force. He was not sure whether under the rules of the House the Chancellor of the Exchequer could speak again, but it would be interesting to know how the Government would be prepared to deal with such cases as the one in question. The frequent statements they had made of their ability to deal with them had constituted one of the commonest arguments, at any rate, against the urgency of the introduction of tariff reform.

MR. VERNEY (Buckinghamshire, N.)

said he would remind hon. Gentlemen opposite that this was not the first ship that had approached the English shores with hops: many and many another ship had come. The hon. Member and his friends asked that the Government should exercise their powers—powers which had never been defined or explained by them. He had been listening in vain for some definition. What hon. Members really asked for was drastic legislation, not to meet this particular case, but to put a duty of 40s. on hops to last from now until Doomsday. He had asked every witness who had come before the Select Committee on the Hop Industry whether the 40s. duty which had been alluded to time after time by witness after witness was to meet this particular case; and all those who had had the greatest experience had answered "No." What they meant was a 40s. duty on hops, and that the duty was to last as long as the hop industry continued. That was the evidence put before the Committee. This question had arisen before and had been argued out time after time as being a permanent duty on hops. He hoped the House would not be under the impression that anything else had been asked for from the Committee, because that and that only was the demand made by witness after witness.

CLYNES (Manchester, N.E.)

said he had put down a Question to the Home Secretary respecting the imprisonment of a number of leaders of the unemployed in Manchester. He asked if the right hon. Gentleman would ask for a report in regard to the circumstances of the imprisonment of these men, and whether he would take any action with a view to reducing what was deemed by the Labour Party to be a very extreme sentence. Perhaps the Under-Secretary could say whether any report had been received, and if so, whether any action in the direction the Labour Party wished was contemplated.


The hon. Member did not give me any notice of the Question and I am afraid therefore that I cannot give him any definite reply, but I will make immediate inquiry to see whether any action is possible.

MR. CROOKS (Woolwich)

said the desire of the Labour Party was that the House should rise to a sense of its own responsibility. They were constantly told that inquiries would be made, and in that way the whole thing drifted on from year to year with occasionally a little sop to keep men quiet. Imprisonment could have no terrors to men or women who lived a life which, under present conditions, was almost a hell to them. Imprisonment would not terrorise people into obeying the law when the State permitted them to exist in a far worse state outside prison than inside. The Under-Secretary had promised them further inquiry and sympathy. There was nothing in the world so cheap as sympathy. They were constantly being told that the House of Commons could do nothing and that it was a deliberative Assembly. They had had a good example of that that day, because they had been deliberating for some considerable time on nothing in particular. They were not punishing these men but rather relieving them for a time by putting them in prison. It behoved those representing the Government to look round to see if the existing state of things could not be relieved. They had some hopes that the new Chancellor of the Exchequer with his deep sympathy and brilliant intellect would be able to help them In this matter in the past it had been found necessary to cajole, flatter, or abuse the Government in order to encourage them to do something. If they called attention to the fact that a poor woman by the neglect of some official in an institution had been put into a bath and boiled, the hon. Member would simply get up and say, "I can assure the hon. Member that boiled lunatics are not in my Department." He appealed to hon. Members during the next ten days to consider what could be done for the surplus population. They must be absorbed in some kind of useful work and it was the duty of the Government to do something to find them employment. This sending of the unemployed to prison was a very serious thing, not only for those who were imprisoned but for those outside, because prison had no terrors for them. He hoped the Home Secretary would be able to send a message of peace to those poor men who had been imprisoned at Manchester after being found guilty of what? Simply of trying to get their daily bread honestly.

MR. WILLIAM ABRAHAM (Glamorganshire, Rhondda)

asked when the Miners (Eight Hours) Bill would be proceeded with. He had been appealing to the House for the last twenty years upon this question. Only a few weeks ago a distinct promise was made that the Bill would be introduced before the Easter holidays. He knew that certain things had happened which were in no way under the control of the Government, and no body of men sympathised more with the ex-Premier than the miners. There was a rumour that the Miners (Eight Hours) Bill was going to be dropped. He knew that the Government had sufficient trouble without dropping the Miners Bill, and he hoped that course would not be dreamed of, because the consequences would be very serious indeed.

Question put, and agreed to.

House adjourned at twenty-five minutes past Four till Monday, 27th April.