HC Deb 04 March 1908 vol 185 cc774-815
SIR JOSEPH LEESE (Lancashire, Accrington)

, in moving "That this House is of opinion that the recent high price of bread in this country is due to natural causes alone, and that any import duty on wheat would tend to raise the price still higher and aggravate the suffering caused by dear bread," said that, as some of his right hon. and hon. friends might recollect, by the fortune of the ballot, he had charge of a very similar Motion in the last session of the last Parliament, and they were able to register a vote on the records of the House of Commons nem. con. It might be said to him, "Why bring forward this Motion again," and that he was showing a great want of originality in raising the question of taxes on bread. Let him try to justify his action in bringing it forward. In the House of Commons of late there had been little or no discussion on the fiscal question, at any rate very little as compared with the vigorous campaign which was being carried on in the country by the Tariff Reform League. The free traders had been comparatively silent, not so much for want of zeal and full faith in free trade as from lack of opportunity and lack of occasion. Moreover, they found themselves in that position whilst a great war was going on outside in which some Members of that House were advancing opinions which they did not attempt to repeat or re-echo within the walls of that Chamber. His Motion would afford an opportunity to those Gentlemen to repeat with emphasis their outside opinions; and would give to the Liberal Party an opportunity to express its undying allegiance to the principles of free trade and its consequent cheap bread. Might he further preface his justification by a statement of what was now a simple historical fact? A cardinal principle of the Tariff Reform League was the taxation of wheat. Further, the Tariff Reform League had captured the Tory Party, its organisation, its money, its social and political influence, and last, but by no means least, its Leader. It had also captured the Chief Tory Whip, late Patronage Secretary to the Conservative Government. Under these circumstances the great political aspirations of the Tariff Reform League were now the political aspirations of the Tory Party. Therefore, the Tory Party would tax the people's food if it got the chance. If that was the situation in which Liberals and free traders found themselves, was there not full justification for his Motion? He had said that the Tariff Reform League had captured the Tory Party—he had almost said lock, stock, and barrel, but perhaps not quite. Whilst the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, Lord James of Hereford, Lord Avebury, Lord George Hamilton, Mr. Arthur Elliot, Lord Hugh Cecil, and many others stood outside this food-taxing party, it could not be said to have captured the highest intelligence amongst the Unionists. Again, did not some confusion arise when the persistent question of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the captured Leader, as to whether he would agree to this tax on food, remained unanswered? This uncertainty on the part of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, the late Prime Minister, as to whether he would put a tax on food, must be cleared up. His Motion was justified if only because he was giving an opportunity to the right hon. Gentleman of saying whether he would put a tax on food and how much that tax was to be. His opinion, clearly expressed, was a matter of deep public concern. If the right hon. Gentleman said that a tax on food was unnecessary to carry out the policy and the important requirements of the Tariff Reform League, would he tell them how the policy of the League, which was the policy of the Tory Party, was to be carried out without such a tax? However dangerous the principles of the Tariff Reform League might appear to Liberals, and to the best intelligence of the Unionist Party, it was impossible to be blind to its activity. Its methods, by reason of the amalgamation alone, had naturally become the methods of the Tory Party. One of the most trusted Members of the Conservative Party and of the Tariff Reform League was his hon. and gallant friend the Member for Central Sheffield. His efforts for the propaganda of Tariff Reform League principles were therefore efforts for the propaganda of Tory principles. He did not know, but he had been given to understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman had been given charge of certain vans and gramophones. At any rate, he was Chairman of the Literature Committee of the National Union of Conservative Associations. He did not know whether the hon. and gallant Gentleman had anything to do with the vans and gramophones, or whether it was his special duty to fill the vans with scrupulously truthful statements, to tune the gramophones to the same high key, and see that, so laden those vans were turned loose upon an innocent and unsuspecting public. But whether or not he was responsible for the vans and gramophones, he certainly was for the National Union leaflets. Almost without looking at them one could guess what the burden of their song was likely to be. He found in the Order Book of the House of Commons a Notice down in the name of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield as follows— Cost of living. To call attention to the increased cost of living in Great Britain and Ireland during the administration of the present Government, and particularly to the increased cost of bread, tea, bacon, butter, jam, cheese, cocoa, rice and coal, and the effect of such increase upon the welfare of the masses of the people in the augmentation of pauperism and suffering, and to move a Resolution. There was no doubt what the meaning of that was. It was that the Liberal Government was responsible for the recent high price of bread. But the Liberal Party stood for free trade just as the Tory Party stood for protection. Therefore, free trade must be found responsible for the recent high price of bread. [OPPOSITION cheers.] He was glad he got so much acquiescence from hon. Gentlemen opposite. But they knew and admired and made allowances for the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Central Sheffield and his political eccentricities, and he did not think that if the hon. and gallant Gentleman stood alone that the Liberal Party, the Liberal Government, and free traders would be very much perturbed. But he did not stand alone. Here was a choice quotation from his right hon. friend sitting opposite to him, the late Chancellor of the Exchequer. It was from a speech made in Birmingham in his own constituency on the 15th November, reported in the Birmingham Post on the 16th of November. This was what the right hon. Gentleman said— Now I see my friend, Sir Alexander Acland-Hood. I make him a suggestion. Let him go to the Secretary of the Liberal Publication Department, and let him make an offer for their stock of big and little loaf cartoons. He will have to make a little alteration in the text. The big loaf will represent the taxed loaf of the Unionist Government, and the little loaf will symbolise, more accurately than it has symbolised anything hitherto, what a Radical Government in two short years has made it. Yes, gentlemen, your food is costing you more, and it is not an accident. The meaning of that was clear. It was that the Liberal Government in two years had done this mischief, and he could well understand that people would assume that it also meant that they were to turn the Liberal Government out and take, instead, the right hon. Gentleman opposite and his friends, who proposed to cheapen the loaf and make it bigger by putting an import duty on wheat. But again, these two champions did not stand alone. He did not say how they might treat the situation if they did—he assumed that it would be with great respect. The hon. Member for Dulwich, who in this matter was supposed to carry great guns, which he did, had also made a speech, at Aberdeen, a short time ago, and this was what the London Times reported him to have said— He maintained that the Liberal Party were responsible for some part of the rise in the price of bread, because it was the result of a shortage of supply which would have been obviated had this country years ago given a preference to the wheat-growing portions of the Empire. The preference would have stimulated and increased the supply and widened the area from which the supply came. The hon. Gentleman said that the Liberal Party were responsible for some part of the rise in the price of bread. He would like to know how much blame was to be attributed to the Liberal Party and who was to bear the other portion, of the blame because this Government did not give preference to the wheat-growing portions of the Empire years ago. Did he mean five, ten, or twenty years? If he meant ten, up to 1906, the ten years were passed entirely in the hands of the Party opposite. If he meant twenty years, with the exception of 1892 to 1895 a Conservative Government was entirely in power. Did he mean a generation? If so, what had he got to say for the high priest of tariff reform who in those days was as keen on free trade as any of them? Was he to be blamed because he chose to live in the darkness of free trade rather than in the light of protection? That statement by the hon. Member for Dulwich was hardly a fair statement, and was intended to suggest something which he did not say straightforwardly. He took one more example. This time it was a leaflet issued by the authority of the chairman of the literature committee of the National Union of Conservative Associations. He believed it was also a poster. It represented the Prime Minister in the dowdy garment of a greengrocer about to go out to wait. In his hand he held a platter on which was a loaf and on the loaf was written "a 4½d. loaf for 6d.," and above were the words "Radicalism means dearer living," and under the drawing which at best was a vulgar and malicious libel about which he did not think his right hon. friend would trouble himself very much, was printed the name of the Prime Minister and then, all honour to the poetic genius of the hon. and gallant Gentleman who issued it, there were these classic lines— When this you see, Remember me. This meant beyond all doubt that there had been a deliberate attempt on the part of the Conservative Party to try to fix on the Liberal Government the responsibility for the recent high price of bread, by any means legitimate or otherwise. He had in his hand a charming election address with the name "E. A. Goulding" in a prominent place, and in it he found the words "Radical Government" in large red letters, and there followed this— The country has had two years experience of the rule of a Radical Government, with this result, food, fuel and clothing are dearer to-day. Having sufficiently illustrated the issue which his Resolution raised he had now to fulfil the more serious part of his obligation which was to prove, as he hoped he might be able to do, that the recent high price of bread was due to natural causes alone, and if the House would bear with him he would shortly point them out. The advance in the price of wheat began to make itself felt last June when the wet and unfavourable weather in Europe and the late spring in America and Canada indicated that the world's crops of 1907–8 would be seriously deficient. The anticipations of a short crop of wheat throughout the world, which began to affect the price of wheat in June, 1907, were unfortunately realised. The crops of Germany, Roumania, Hungary, and Bulgaria in 1907 were the smallest for many years. The Russian crop was also a comparatively small one, and unfortunately the crops of America and Canada were also seriously deficient. To summarise, the world's production in 1906 was 441,000,000 quarters, and in 1907 it was 394,000,000 quarters, showing a falling off of 47,000,000 quarters, or nearly one and a half times the amount of Great Britain's annual consumption. Roughly speaking, we imported one half of all the wheat we required from foreign countries and one fourth we grew ourselves, while the remaining fourth came from our Colonies. Thus, if a 2s. import duty were put on for the benefit of our Colonies we should be taxing the British consumer and benefit those who only sent us one fourth of all we required. It was inconceivable that if they taxed a half of the whole supply so as to give a preference to the Colonies and protection to our own growers that they would not raise the cost all round. But not only had the world's production fallen off, but in the present year the crops had been especially bad in nearly every one of our wheat producing Colonies. The Canadian crop was a virtual failure because of the lateness and coldness of the spring, but on the other hand the Australian and Indian crops, which at one time promised so well had failed for lack of rain, so that in Canada there was too little sunshine, and in Australia and India too much. The crop of wheat in Canada in the past year was only 10,500,000 quarters, in comparison with 15,400,000 quarters in the previous year. Of this crop, about 30 per cent. was not millable, so the net crop available for food supply was only about 7,350,000 quarters. Of this, 6,000,000 quarters were required for the home consumption of Canada. So Canada this year had only 1,350,000 quarters, available for export. There were, however, about 1,500,000 quarters of old wheat unsold, and so the total amount of wheat which Canada had for shipment was only about 2,850,000 quarters. In 1907, Canada's shipment of wheat and flour amounted to 6,500,000 quarters. Again, the crop of Australasia was deficient in consequence of drought. The estimated yield was only 6,000,000 quarters in comparison with 10,000,000 quarters last year, and Australasia would apparently require the greater portion, if not the whole, of this 6,000,000 quarters for her own consumption, whereas last year, her shipments of wheat and flour amounted to 4,500,000 quarters. In October last it became apparent that the Indian harvest would be short, and this fact was largely responsible for the advance in wheat which took place then. Fortunately, good rains had since fallen, and the outlook was much more promising than it was in November and December. Nevertheless, the absence of rain in India last autumn prevented the farmers of India, from getting seed into the ground, and the average devoted to wheat this year showed a decrease of no less than 10,000,000 acres, or 33 per cent. of the usual quantity. Given favourable conditions of harvest, the Indian wheat crop of the current year would probably not exceed about 25,000,000 quarters in comparison with 39,000,000 quarters last year, and after satisfying her own requirements apparently India would have only about 5½ million quarters of wheat for export, and most of that was of last year's crop. Thus the combined crops of India Australasia, and Canada in the present crop season of 1907–8 would probably be about 41,000,000 quarters in comparison with 64,000,0000 quarters last year. Under these circumstances could there be any doubt what the real cause of the rise in prices was? The price of bread in all probability would have been higher still, but for one fortunate circumstance and that was that in Argentina there had been a good crop. This year, it was estimated to reach 24,000,000 quarters in comparison with 19,000,000 quarters last year, and the amount of wheat which Argentina would be able to ship was 17,000,000 quarters in comparison with about 13,000,000 quarters last year. The policy of Great Britain in keeping her markets open freely to the produce of all countries had undoubtedly encouraged Argentina and other countries to produce wheat, and had consequently been the direct means of providing British consumers with bread at a reasonable price even in years in which the harvests had failed throughout the British Empire and the world. He firmly believed that, but for these open ports, this country would have been exposed to the same famine conditions from time to time as it was prior to the introduction of the "open door" policy in the hungry days of the forties. It seemed almost unnecessary to prove that if a great raw material went up in price the manufactured article would of course become dearer. But it was a very consistent rule that bad crops forced wheat up in price and that high priced wheat was followed by high priced bread. Thus one had only to find a year of high average price for wheat to be quite certain that bad crops preceded it and that dear bread came after. Let him give some illustrations. In 1891 the average price of wheat in the United Kingdom was 37s.—a very high price for wheat. The mean price for household bread, the 4lb. loaf, in London was 6.21d.—also a very high price. In 1893 the price of wheat fell to 30s. 3d., and bread to 5¾d. Why was wheat so dear in 1891 and 1892? Because in 1890 the world produced 20,000,000 quarters too little for its wants. In 1891 there was a further deficiency of 8,000,000 quarters. But in 1893 the world began to produce more than it required by 11,000,000 quarters, and the price went down to 30s. and was followed by the price of bread to 5¾d. He took the year 1897. In that year the Indian, Australian and Canadian crops and in fact the crops all over the world were very bad.

From 1896 to 1906 the Conservative Government was in power; but no sane Liberal ever thought of charging them with responsibility for the dear bread of those years. On 1st February last, the price of the 4lb. household loaf was 5½d., an increase of from a half-penny to a penny over its price on the same day last year. This was a case of history repeating itself. He had shown how they had bad weather, bad crops, dear wheat, and dear bread in 1907, and the Liberal Government had no more to do with that rise in price than the man in the moon. Where would they be if on the top of this high price of bread they had an import duty of 2s. or more? They were liable to these recurring bad seasons—they would always come. Surely no sane economists would deny now that an import duty would add to price, if not always to the full extent, yet nearly always to a very large degree. France and Germany offered very conclusive illustrations of this. According to an answer given by the President of the Board of Trade the other day the average price of wheat in Great Britain in 1907 was 30s. 7d. In France it was 40s. 7d., and in Germany 43s. But the duty on wheat in France was 12s., and in Germany also 12s. In Germany the price, therefore, was the world's price, namely the English market price free from all duties, plus rather more than the duty. In France where the duty was 12s. the difference between the world's price and the average price was only 10s. This was accounted for by the abnormally good crop of wheat in France in 1907, whereby she found herself in possession of large stocks, and could now export wheat if she so desired, and if prices in other countries were sufficiently attractive. But there was an even better illustration. As they all knew Hamburg was a free city. He was told on most excellent authority that allowing for differences in quality, cost of transit inland, and other technical points, wheat in Berlin was dearer by the amount of the German import duty than it was at Hamburg. So far as the Government and the Liberal Party were concerned, they knew what they bad to expect and they could take care of themselves. It was obvious that the great "constructive policy" of the Unionist Party known as fiscal reform was to be run on any lines, fair or unfair, if only it could be made to win. It was the horse on which the Unionist Party hoped to ride back into power. That any party should govern in this country the chief item of whose political programme was to make bread dearer by import duties was in his view a great danger to the State, and must entail misery and suffering on the very poorest of our poor people, and it was time for those who held those views to defend them in the House of Commons. He had raised the question with the hope of preventing the insidious creeping into their political industrial and economic systems of those dangerous heresies promulgated by the Unionist Party, and he respectfully asked the House of Commons to accept his Resolution.

COLONEL SEELY (Liverpool, Abercromby)

seconded the Resolution. He said the first thing that occurred to his mind was a sense of poignant regret that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, whose name was bound up with what he believed to be the right and just cause of tariff reform, was not present with his clear mind and pregnant phrase to illuminate the debate. It was well that hon. Gentlemen opposite had thought fit to meet, fairly and squarely, this question as one not to be talked out, but divided upon. Perhaps it would be well, at the outset, for both sides to go as far as they could go in agreement. He thought they were all agreed upon this general proposition, that the imposition of a tax upon any commodity—in this case, wheat—could not conceivably tend to increase the world's production, but must, on the contrary, tend in some degree to reduce the production and to increase scarcity of that commodity. [OPPOSITION cries of "No."] Surely it was inconceivable that the imposition of a tax on any commodity could increase the world's production of that commodity. No doubt the reply of the Opposition to the Motion would be two-fold. First, they would say that, since taxes or tolls were necessary, there was no more harm in taxing bread than in taxing tea, sugar, or alcohol. To that assertion the Liberal Party advanced this frank denial—all taxes were bad, but a bread tax was the worst, because it bore most hardly upon those least able to bear it, the poor, to whom bread—being the cheapest of all commodities—was the main article of food. The second answer of the Opposition would probably be that, in point of fact, no toll would be levied upon bread; in other words, the British Empire was self-sufficient to provide supplies for the requirements of these islands. Would the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire tell the House how long he thought it would take for a quarter of the home supply to become the whole under 2s. or any other tax on corn? It was obvious that any tax which the right hon. Gentleman dared to name would take twenty or thirty years before the whole supply of the British Empire was produced in the Empire itself in good and bad years. Last year had been a bad year in certain parts of the globe as well as in the United Kingdom. The total amount of wheat available for export from British Possessions last year was 15,000,000 quarters, and that amount reached these shores. In the year that the House was now considering the amount to be expected was between 3,000,000 quarters and 4,000,000 quarters only. The Tariff Reform League in 1904 bought the Sun newspaper, but he suggested to them with great respect that they could not make the sun shine at their will. They could not avoid the kind of disaster which had befallen our Colonies and possessions oversea this year and reduced the amount of wheat we imported from our possessions from 15,000,000 quarters to between 3,000,000 and 4,000,000 quarters. How did the right hon. Gentleman propose to multiply the amount by five so as to keep bread at its normal price and prevent scarcity? The thing was unthinkable, and it could not be done. In order that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends should prove their case they would require not twenty but a hundred years; but whatever they did, however great the tax they put on imported wheat from foreign countries, they never could deal with the kind of disaster which had this year befallen the British Empire. By a fortunate Providence in other parts of the planet the sun had shone, and rain had fallen, or refrained from falling when not wanted, and so they saw that the alteration in the price of wheat and bread had been small and insignificant. He could state on the authority of the largest shipper of wheat in Liverpool that, had it not been for the importation of Argentine wheat, the price of wheat must have risen 12s. and the price of bread another 2d. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would impose this corn tax to bind our Colonies to us. But if dear bread caused suffering to the poor, who were five-sixths of the people of these islands, did it not follow that whenever a tax on wheat was imposed so as to increase the price of bread, whenever the Colonial supply failed, every poor man would curse the Empire, would hate the Colonies, and would raise a clamour which few Ministers would be able to resist to have the preferential duty abolished which had caused the scarcity? Had this tax been imposed, as he understood that some would have wished, twenty or thirty years ago, they would at that very moment, instead of debating the question raised by his hon. friend, have been debating the question whether they should take off the preferential duty in order to relieve the suffering of the poor. It should be observed, for the point was not often realised, that the suffering would not only be in this country, but also in the self-governing Colonies which provided us with wheat. The thing would be double in its disaster. At the present moment in Canada, owing to the failure of the wheat crop, the Government was distributing seed wheat in order to enable the farmers to sow their crops, but were the Empire founded on a wheat tax, there would be at the same time, as hon. Members could see, an agitation here for the abolition of the tax which was causing the scarcity of bread, and there would be an agitation in the Colonies to maintain or increase the preference in order to enable them still to earn a living. Therefore, both here and in the Colonies, the moment the world's supply of wheat failed, a violent agitation would be produced in this country to abolish the preference which at that moment was most needed in our self-governing Colonies. He did not quite agree with hon. Members opposite that the omens were so favourable as they thought for their return to power. He realised that some of them might think that recent elections had shown that they might shortly have the power to impose a bread tax. He did not agree with them. He thought the indications were somewhat vague. The Opposition thought that Hastings was an omen favourable to them. But not for the first time in our history a principle which England held dear had been defeated at Hastings. It was true that free trade could not stand without support, and he seconded this resolution because he believed that a tax on wheat was wrong in its conception, unjust in its incidence, and would be fatal to the well-being of the Empire.

Motion proposed, "That this House is of opinion that the recent high price of bread in this country is due to natural causes alone, and that any import duty on wheat would tend to raise the price still higher and aggravate the suffering caused by dear bread."—(Sir Joseph Leese.)

MR. GOULDING (Worcester)

moved "to leave out all the words after the word 'causes,' and add the words 'and neglect of British resources, and that great advantage to the consumers in the United Kingdom would follow such a rearrangement of duties on food products as will encourage argiculture in the United Kingdom, give a preference to the Colonies, stimulate the productive power of the Empire as a whole, and so lessen our dependence on foreign countries for the necessaries of life." He said that he was glad all were now agreed that natural causes must play a part in regard to prices, but he would remind the House that the Radical Party in 1904 unanimously disputed that theory in regard to the rise in the price of sugar, though the shortage in sugar then was about 10 per cent., while that of wheat was now about 3 per cent. One of the great objects of free importation was to secure that the shortage in one part of the world should be compensated by abundance in another. This theory had clearly broken down, and was likely to do so even more frequently in the future. In the past we had depended on the United States for a large portion of our wheat supply, but any man who knew what had happened in regard to the continuous and steady reduction in the import of corn to this country from the United States must realise that that source of supply could not be relied upon for ever. Further than that, we were becoming increasingly dependent for our corn supplies on countries situated near the Equator, where the chances of drought were more frequent. [MINISTERIAL ironical laughter.] He saw no reason for laughter; was not that true; if it was not, some hon. Gentleman opposite might explain afterwards. But if that were the case it was clear that we must exercise foresight, and endeavour to secure by policy that cheapness which could not be guaranteed by free imports. In pursuit of that policy we had at our hands within the Empire what we wanted if we cared to use it, but it clearly could not be obtained by banging, barring, and bolting doors. The policy of free imports in its very adoption was a deliberate rejection of development of Imperial resources. The early preference, especially of 1843, stimulated wheat-growing in Canada, and Mr. Gladstone in a letter to Lord Cathcart, of a little later date, admitted that this was the case, and further, in the history of his life by the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India, it was stated that he advocated that extension to other parts of the Empire. Connected also with this policy of free imports was the abandonment of the established practice of State-aided emigration, which without any cost to the British tax-payer, provided the labour necessary for the cultivation of the virgin soil in Canada. Colonial opinion was now unanimous in favour of the readoption of preference, and experts everywhere were agreed that British Imperial resources were practically inexhaustible. By a policy of preference was not meant merely a tariff advantage on wheat alone, but a general agricultural policy, of which preference would be an essential part. Such a policy required the rearrangement of import duties on food products, without adding one fraction to the proportion borne by the working classes, yet supplying the machinery, which did not exist, and which could not be invented ad hoc, for preventing the destruction by dumping of our national industries. As to the policy of corn preference, two objections were urged. First, that the small duties proposed could not be effective; secondly, if imposed, that they must lead to an early increase. In regard to the second objection it was the familiar argument of their old friend: "The thin edge of the wedge," which was used on every occasion and generally by those who had a bad case. It was to his mind always a poor and unconvincing argument. They might just as well say that because a man entered into the bonds of matrimony he was bound in the near future to become a bigamist, or that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he proposed last week in his Licensing Bill that one policeman was to have the right of visiting clubs, must of a necessity go on and impose in the near future the presence of a whole division of these estimables on a club. No, each generation would act in this matter according to their own lights, and what they deemed best for the country as the occasion arose. As a Tory democrat, he had faith in the good sense of the masses whose vote would decide the question. In regard to the first point, that a 2s. duty would not be effective, they had it in a statement of the Prime Ministers of the self-governing States of the Empire that this 2s. preference was all that they wanted, that it was sufficient, and that it would give them the turn of the market. If what he had said as regarded British resources was true, it surely came to this, that within the Empire itself they would be able to provide all that they desired in regard to wheat, and therefore one of the chief objections fell to the ground. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Where?" and "How?"] Because with unexhausted resources the Empire would be able to send such a quantity of wheat into this country as practically to decide the price, and the foreigner who sent corn into the country and paid the import duty necessary for its admission—[MINISTERIAL cries of "He would not, according to your own argument"]—could not impose a price which would increase the cost in this country, but the tendency of his corn would be to decrease the price of that coming from the Empire. He preferred to deal with an example of what existed to-day rather than enter the realms of prophecy. He would take the case of France, which practically produced all the corn which she required for the needs of her people. There was a duty of 12s. 2d. in France on all corn not produced in that country, but, as the hon. Gentleman who opened the debate admitted, the price of wheat in France was practically the same as it was here. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."]


I am sorry to interrupt, but what I said was that the average price of wheat in this country in 1907 was 30s. 7d., while the average price of a similar quality of wheat in France was 40s.


It is the price of to-day we want. [Ironical MINISTERIAL cheers.]


said he regretted to have misrepresented the hon. Gentleman, but he would take his own statement that the price of wheat to-day—the wheat used by the French people for the manufacture of their bread—was exactly the same as the price paid in this country. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No," and interruption.] Was it fair-play on the part of the vast majority on the Ministerial Benches to interrupt him so? They had challenged those on that side of the House again and again to bring forward this question, and now when they did so they interrupted him in debate. [MINISTERIAL cries of "What is the price of bread in France?"] The price of bread in France to-day was practically the same as it was here. [An HON. MEMBER on the MINISTERIAL Benches: He does not know it.] In some places it was a fraction above, in other places it was a fraction less. Now let him ask how would this proposal benefit home agriculture. That was a fair question. [Interruption.] He must say that it was desirable to examine the whole policy as expounded by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham and the Tariff Commission of Professor Hewins. That was, however, so large that it would take another night to discuss it. What he desired to point out to the House was the deplorable dependence upon foreigners we in, this country were in for the neces- sities of life. That had been stated by both hon. Gentlemen, and he took their facts. But what he argued was that surely every effort should be made to make this country more self-sufficient as regarded the necessaries of life, and that it must be to our advantage to strengthen those who were for us rather than those who were against us. He was very grateful to the House for the indulgence that they had extended to him, but he could not resume his seat without a protest against the unscrupulous falsehoods made in regard to the character of the tariff reform movement and in regard to those engaged in it. Here were two recent examples—the flagrant poster: "A vote for Clive is a slice out of your loaf"; and at Leeds, the Free Trade Union: "One hundred babies have starved to death in Toronto since New Year's Day—therefore tariff reform means starvation." He also protested against the unworthy suggestions that because tariff reformers pointed out that they believed bad trade was coming and that grave disaster would follow persistence in our present policy, they were gloating over the inevitable hard times which even the President of the Board of Trade himself admitted were coming. Surely a cause must indeed be making progress when implements of this kind had to be used to try to prejudice its success amongst the very poor. In considering this question that night the minds of many hon. Members on those benches were turned to the author of this movement, and he did not think there was a man in any part of the House who did not regret the cause of the absence of the right hon. Gentleman. He ventured to say that when the history of the tariff movement came to be written it would reveal no such heroic figure as that of the man well on in years, and already with the crown of success on his achievements, who undertook this gigantic task, well knowing the difficulties before him, but deriving his strength from his faith in our Imperial destiny, the urgency of the question, and the danger of delay. What wonder if after the sacrifices that he had made our countrymen throughout the universe blessed him as the great Englishman of the age, and, inspired by his example, were determined to carry this movement for the consolidation of the Empire to a triumphant issue! He begged to move the Amendment which stood in his name.

EARL WINTERTON (Sussex, Horsham)

, in, seconding the Amendment, said that the point which struck one most prominently on first looking at the Resolution was the great love of body - snatching which existed among hon. Gentlemen opposite, because they were told, not once, but on many occasions after the last general election, that tariff reform was dead and buried for ever. And yet hardly a month went by without some fresh attempt being made by hon. or right hon. Gentlemen to dig up the corpse. Sometimes it was dug up apparently with a trowel by the President of the Board of Trade and sometimes in a more rough-and-ready fashion with the homely agricultural spade as in the case of the hon. Gentleman who proposed this Resolution. At any rate, it was constantly being dug up, and it certainly was a great compliment to the advance which had been made by tariff reform in the country. But there was the second point which struck one about the Resolution, and that was the gradual shifting which had been going on now for some time—the gradual shifting of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite from the rather insecure boggy ground on which they stood at the general election on the question of food to what they now thought was firmer territory. They remembered that at the last election not merely were attacks made upon them as tariff reformers for their policy, but it was said that under free trade it could be practically guaranteed that bread would be cheaper. [Loud MINISTERIAL cries of "Quote."] He was going to do so. He had in his hands a number of leaflets and pamphlets issued by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite in regard to the price of food, which documents he would not sell for their weight in gold. He had therefore plenty of quotations from every grade of Liberal opinions, from the hon. Member for North Hackney to the ultra-respectable First Commissioner of Works. The constituents of the right hon. Gentleman the First Commissioner of Works were asked to "Vote for Harcourt and a big loaf for our little children." History would tell whether the right hon. Gentleman's relative made the same boast at Hastings, where he had been somewhat unsuccessful. It would not be desirable for him to quote the whole of these leaflets or pamphlets at length, but he would like to refer to the specially priceless example of this kind of leaflet issued at the last election by the hon. Member for Brentford, who invited the electors to "Vote for Dr. Rutherford and free trade all round thus freeing your table of existing taxes on food. Vote for the big loaf and the cheap one." Another example, perhaps the best of all, was a leaflet issued by a Member for one of the divisions of Oxfordshire: "Remember every vote given for Sir Robert Hermon-Hodge is a vote given for the little loaf. Surely your loaf is little enough now! Look at these pictures of the loaf now and the loaf which Sir Robert Hermon-Hodge would give you." But the most amazing thing of all was hon. Gentlemen on the Ministerial side now pretending that at the general election they did not guarantee that food would remain cheap. For every leaflet published officially there were hundreds of similar statements made from Liberal platforms and privately to the electors in all the smaller parishes of England. He could give a case in his own division where a Liberal speaker said that it was likely that whenever the Liberal Government came into power everything would be cheaper because the Government would carry on a less ruinous system of finance than that of its predecessors. [Cheers, and ironical MINISTERIAL cheers and laughter.] He could not congratulate hon. Gentlemen opposite on the standard of conduct which they seemed to have adopted on this occasion. It was not necessary for him to continue to quote the leaflets which were issued at the last general election, but there was evidence that at the last elections these methods were still in vogue. Many of them on that side of the House would remember pamphlets, leaflets, and posters issued at the Mid-Devon election. They remembered in particular one of the Liberal candidates' leaflets, which ran: "The children's prayer: Give us this day our daily bread and vote for Buxton." Hon. Gentlemen opposite had pretended that they had never guaranteed that the price of food would remain cheap. He therefore wanted to deal with that view for a few moments, but he did not want to continue to refer to the question of the leaflets, more especially as it would appear from something he saw in a local paper at Hastings that hon. Gentlemen opposite had adopted a fresh method of appealing to the electorate. He saw that the hon. Member for East Denbigh, speaking two nights ago, said he would not care to go to Parliament over the bodies of men and women lying drunk in public-houses. Let them go on to consider, with rather less heat if possible on the opposite side of the House, the fresh standpoint which hon. Gentlemen opposite had taken up. They had deliberately abandoned—it was not denied by right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench or their supporters—the standard they took up at the last election that under free trade food could not become dearer. The hon. Member who seconded the original Resolution referred in particular to the effect which a duty had in raising the cost of an article. It had, he knew, always been laid down by hon. Gentlemen opposite that any duty on wheat raised the price of bread by the amount of the duty upon it. Reference had been made to the case of Prance. When his hon. friend was speaking, he was called upon by hon. Gentlemen opposite very frequently to give some quotations of wheat prices in France. As hon. Gentlemen were anxious to have them he would be very glad to give the figures which he had at his disposal. They were taken from official Return. The mean average price of wheat last year in Paris was 41s. 1d., and in London (British wheat) 31s. 6d. There were two or three facts which had to be taken into account in connection with that. The President of the Board of Trade would not dispute that those facts existed. In the first place the comparison was not a very good one, because, whereas only about 6 per cent. of the British wheat was used in bread in the London area, the wheat sold in Paris was mainly French grain. There was also the difference that London was a port and Paris an inland town with a long railway system. There was, too, another fact, and that was that the majority of the wheat used for bread-making purposes in London was imported wheat for which the price was higher than for British wheat. Probably, if they compared the prices of wheat in the London area with the prices in Paris for Australian and Argentine wheat, if the figures were available, the difference between the two quotations would be found to be considerably less. He could give the House the quotations for two months of the present year of prices in Paris, and in Mark Lane, in one case for Argentine, and in the other for Australian wheat. In Paris up to the end of February the price of Argentine wheat was 38s., and in Mark Lane 39s. 10d. In Paris Australian wheat was 41s, and in Mark Lane it was 44s. He was anxious to give the House some statistics which perhaps might be of more interest. Lately, for medical reasons, he had spent a short holiday in the South of France, and while there he took the opportunity of comparing the prices of commodities there with the prices in his own constituency. In the case of bread, the price of the kilogramme loaf for the week ending 23rd February was 35 centimes in the district round Biarritz, and the price of the 2 lb. loaf in his own constituency of Horsham during the same week was 3¼d. These figures were somewhat involved, but the actual comparison worked out at 3¼d. per 2 lb. loaf in Horsham, and 3.6d per 2 lb. loaf in that district of France. At the same time the price of wheat there was 38s. 5d., and at Horsham 33s. 11d. A further comparison which he undertook in those two districts came out in this way. Whereas bread was practically the same, wheat, milk, and coffee were cheaper, and tea and sugar were somewhat dearer. But on the basis of the President of the Board of Trade's Budget, of the amount which an English householder would require for the household, the comparison worked out as follows: France, 212 pennies per week; Horsham, 209. If tea was eliminated for the comparison, it worked out at 10d. in favour of France. The point he thought they were entitled to make was that they had been grossly and unfairly attacked by hon. Gentlemen opposite over this, question. It had been shown on many occasions that the cost of living in protectionist countries on a system far different from any that had been proposed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham, was very slightly, if any, higher than here. They were, therefore, entitled to protest against the continued issue of pamphlets and the continued use of arguments, some of which had been used that night by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and against the attempt to introduce prejudice into the question by pretending that everybody in protectionist countries was in a state of poverty and living on black bread and horse sausages. Reference had been made by the hon. Member for Accrington to the question of the capabilities of Canada, for the supply of wheat to this country and to the Empire, and he was surprised that the mover and seconder of the Resolution should have expressed so much doubt that the Empire would be able in a comparatively short time to supply all its own needs in wheat. He thought the mover of the Resolution had stated that no one would contend that in the lifetime of anyone in this House, or for a very long time, Canada would be able to supply all our needs. It was laid down by the most competent authorities in Canada that within a period of ten to twenty years Canada alone, if she continued at her present rate of progress, would be able to supply all the wheat we required.


. With bad harvests like this year?


said that no one would pretend that we should rely on Canada alone, but his point was that the normal wheat supply of Canada within twenty years, at the present rate of progress, would be sufficient for our needs. We should have Australia and India to fall back upon. An hon. Gentleman had asked how preference would help to bring that about. The one thing needed to make Canada the greatest wheat producing country in the world was more capital and more men. Though she was obtaining more men and more capital she was not doing so nearly as fast as the Cana- dians would like to see or as the country was capable of doing. There was not the slightest doubt that preference to Canada would enormously stimulate wheat growing and tempt an enormous amount of capital and men over the border of the United States. For years the process had been going on and men and money had been sent over to farm the western portion of Canada, and if it was stimulated he had not the least doubt that in twenty years Canada alone would be capable of supplying the whole of the wheat required for this country. Speaking at the Colonial Conference the Chancellor of the Exchequer said it was the policy of His Majesty's Government, as it had been of this country, to maintain unimpaired in quantity and quality and unenhanced in price the food of our people. Did he now pretend that that position was assured? Had he read the Blue-book issued three years ago by the Royal Commission which inquired into food supply in time of war? No one who had read that Blue-book or had lived through the last few months could pretend that the position the right hon. Gentleman had laid down was assured. The way to assure that position which he hoped everybody on both sides was anxious to see assured was by developing the resources within our own Empire. No one who was conversant with Canada, could deny that we had there a priceless asset for carrying out that policy. The President of the Board of Trade, though opposed to preference, was strongly in favour of developing such things as transport within the British Empire. Did the House realise in what a favourable position we were as regarded the transport of wheat from Canada? We had the most magnificent transport that could possibly be imagined. The system of the Canadian Pacific Railway was if anything superior to the railways of other wheat producing countries such as America. If there was any way to assure our wheat supply in time of war it could only be done by developing the Empire and keeping a sufficiently" strong Navy to protect the trade routes. The real objection which hon. Members opposite felt to preference was not so much hostility to duties, as opposition to the Colonial idea and the Colonial spirit. They knew that the whole Party, from the Prime Minister to the Member for Salford, were permeated more or lees with the spirit of universal brotherhood, and cosmopolitanism, and it was because hon. Gentlemen knew that if preference was adopted, their schemes of universal brotherhood were put off for another thousand years that the Liberal Party had always shown opposition to it. The Government would find that the attitude they had taken up against Preference would be as much a millstone about their necks as their subservience to Gentlemen below the Gangway had been. They, on that side of the House, rejoiced from a party point of view that their opponents had taken up this attitude, but from a national point of view they regretted that anybody should be opposed to preference and to the Imperial spirit.

Amendment proposed— In line 2, to leave out all the words after the word causes, and add the words and neglect of British resources, and that great advantage to the consumers in the United Kingdom would follow such a rearrangement of duties on food products as will encourage agriculture in the United Kingdom, give a preference to the Colonies, stimulate the productive power of the Empire as a whole, and so lessen our dependence on Foreign countries for the necessaries of life—(Mr. Goulding) instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

MR. ESSEX (Gloucestershire, Cirencester)

said he would like to ask the mover of the Amendment one or two questions. He represented thousands of men whose earnings did not exceed from 11s to 12s a week. He wanted to ask the hon. Member how he could encourage agriculture and yet benefit the consumer. He had followed the hon. Member as closely as he possibly could through every word of his speech. He was glad in one sense to see him there, and men like him who were the representative priests of this heresy. They wanted them on the floor of the House that they could nail them down to statements they made outside. The hon. Member did not stick at all to his Amendment and did not explain how he proposed to reconcile these two self-contradictory things. He took it that agriculture could only be encouraged by the lowering of rents or wages or by the increased price of its products. If they were going to increase the prices how were they going to benefit the consumer? He had a lot of other questions he wanted to ask, but he thought these one or two might do. He had a question to put to the hon. Member for Gravesend who suggested in hi? Amendment on the Paper that if the preference on Colonial wheat was excessive in amount they would find it out in the heightened price of bread. But who was going to pay it if it was a small tax? The hon. Gentleman hoped possibly that it would be disguised in the fluctuations of the market rate. If they did not get it out of the consumer they had to take it out of the pockets of the miller or the dealer in wheat on the baker. The noble Lord opposite had urged the necessity of stimulating Colonial produce. The growing of wheat was a matter of population as well as of area. If in anything like a short number of years, the whole of the wheat supply was to be grown within the British Empire without the contribution of India, nearly 74,000,000 cwt. more would have to be grown. If 11,250,000 of the white population of the British Empire to-day produced 23,000,000 quarters, how many more millions of white people would it require to produce a given proportion of the 74,000,000 cwts. required? Hon. Gentlemen did not wish them to come from foreign peoples with other national ideals and sympathies. Would they bring them from America or from Southern Europe or Scandinavia, for, if they did, what would be done for the consolidation of the British Empire? The hon. Member for Worcester had contended that the same economic generalisation which applied to corn applied with still greater-force to import duties on tea, coffee, cocoa, and the rest. He would be glad to see all indirect taxes done away with, and hoped yet to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer say that in his ideal system of taxation the e would have no place; but he would point out that all these products were grown abroad and the whole amount obtained from them minus the small amount necessary for collection, passed into the Exchequer. It should not be overlooked that fifty or sixty loaves out of every 100 consumed by the Britisher were made from foreign wheat and as it bad been proved by the experience of Germany and France that to tax any portion of the bread stuffs of a country was certain to bring about an all round heightening of the price of all the bread stuffs home grown and other, used in such a country, it followed that although we only levied a tax on the foreign flour and grain all our bread would cost us more. Moreover, while the Exchequer would gain the tax paid upon foreign corn and flour, the added price on the home and Colonial supplies would go from the consumer entirely into private pockets. Tariff reform was tariff robbery and nothing else. Furthermore there was a question he would like to ask the newly elected Member for South Hereford. When he said in his election address that a tax on wheat would be paid by the foreigner and help to neutralise the lessening or removal of present duties on tea and other articles, could he prove that taxes in either case did not fall on the consumers? These were points he would like to see cleared up in a debate of this kind, because he was searching after truth in this matter.

MR. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN (Worcestershire, E.)

The hon. Member who has just sat down has engaged himself in the harmless and interesting occupation of putting questions to my hon. friends, some of whom have already spoken and cannot, therefore, rise to answer and others will be shut out by the exigencies of debate. I can assure the seconder of the Motion and others that on this side of the House we are most anxious for a full discussion. I may be permitted to say that when I rose immediately after my two hon. friends, I thought it would be for the convenience of the right hon. Gentleman opposite who would follow. On this side of the House we want not only a debate but a vote. A further word of a personal nature will not be impertinent. It is impossible to listen to the words of the hon. and gallant Member for the Abercromby Division in allusion to my relative without being touched by the general feeling of regret that one who never shrank from meeting his opponents nor hesitated to put his own views clearly forward cannot be present on the occasion. I rejoice that the hon. Gentleman has been successful in moving his Motion. His object, no doubt, is to put the Party on this side of the House into the dock and arraign them for their conduct. I do not know if the hon. Gentleman and his friends are satisfied; I can assure him that the Party whom he has sought to arraign are satisfied. It sometimes happens that unfortunate innocent persons are arraigned, but when the case comes on for investigation the parties quickly change places, and the accuser takes the position he designed for another, in the dock first and elsewhere afterwards. I cannot help thinking that it would have been better for the hon. Gentleman to have cleared the beam from his own eye before he became so much concerned with the motes which he found in ours. The terms of the Motion are divided into two parts, but practically the whole of the speech of the hon. Gentleman was devoted to one part only. The whole of his argument was addressed to the question of natural causes, and was a condemnation as severe as could be uttered of the attitude of himself and his friends who sat on the Opposition Benches a few years ago, when they accused the late Government of the responsibility for the rise in the price of sugar which was due, and which was known to everybody who cared to look at the facts to be due, to shortage of crop in Germany and elsewhere. If the hon. Gentleman and his friends wish to bring on to the floor of the House he issues tried at the by-elections in the country where verdicts have been given against them, if they wish to come to the House as to a Court of Appeal—which it is not; the country is the appellate Court from the House—why did he not frame his Resolution so as to put on the Notice Paper the contention advanced in the country at the last election? They did not say mildly in the words of the hon. Baronet that any import duty would tend to raise the price of food. They said they stood for cheap food. My noble friend who seconded the Amendment quoted a Bill which was issued by the First Commissioner of Works asking the electors to "Vote for Harcourt and a big loaf for our little children." Of course, the First Commissioner of Works did not stand alone in issuing that Bill. The hon. Member for North Paddington takes a great interest in this question. In his election address he said— The issue, it should be remembered, is free trade or protection, cheap food or dear food.

MR. CHIOZZA MONEY (Paddington, N.)

As the right hon. Gentleman has done me the honour to quote from my election address, I must ask him to read the whole of the part in which I referred to the taxes which he seeks to impose.


I have quoted enough for my purpose, which is to get at the expectations which the hon. Gentleman raised in the minds of his constituents. He said the question was cheap food or dear food, just as other Members said "big loaf or little loaf." Why does the Motion not say that the Liberal Government have given the big loaf or cheap food? Because it is not true. Because that which they said at election times is not only not true, but so -absurdly and palpably false that the hon. Member dare not put it before the House. That is the first comment I want to make. When the hon. Member professes to bring before the House of Commons for trial here as between the two sides the statements made at elections he does not dare to put on record on the Paper of the House the statement to which hon. Members owed in large part their majority. [An HON. MEMBER: Chinese slavery.] That does not concern the question before the House, but I am obliged for the reminder. The "terminological inexactitudes" in which hon. Gentlemen opposite indulged were not confined to one question only. They ranged over the whole political field, and what they are suffering from, and the reason why they come whining to this House to-night, is that those whom they duped by those misleading statements are now finding out the mistake they made and at every opportunity that they have are turning against hon. Gentleman opposite, and showing that they will not forget nor forgive the broken promises, the misleading statements, the false accounts of what they would do and could do, by which they won the last general election. These gentlemen come here to-night as the guardians of public morality at election times to set up a lofty standard of what may and may not be said. Are they any better to-day than they were at the general election? They cannot talk about the big loaf, because it is not here. It is gone. But they are ready to talk about it the moment that the price of bread falls. My hon. friend the Member for Worcester spoke about the Worcester election. He did not mention the Bill, "A vote for Goulding means protection; a vote for protection means horseflesh and rye bread." [Cheers.] Are hon. Members not ashamed to cheer falsehoods of that kind, and at the same moment to complain that they are unfairly treated in election literature? I do not think the hon. Baronet was any more in a position to raise a question of misstatements at recent by-elections than the man who lives in a glass house is in a position to throw stones with safety. Were misstatements made? What is the contention of hon. Gentlemen opposite as to the effect of these duties? My object, at any rate, is to repeat the statements I have made outside and to bring to the test here statements by which hon. Gentlemen won their seats. I am entitled to do so, and it is relevant to the Motion to repeat them. What is the view which hon. Gentlemen opposite take of their action in regard to these duties? Is it that they are really accurate and that they do not merely indulge in the display of terminological inexactitudes? Their contention, often repeated in the country, but not put into the Motion, is that a duty would raise the price of the commodity taxed by the full amount of the duty, and generally by something more. (Cheers.) There is a little hesitation in that cheer. The wiser ones shake their heads: but the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not deny that he advanced the view again and again that the tax would raise the cost of the commodity by the amount of the tax and probably a little more.


Yes, in the long run.


I say that as a general statement that is not true. It is based on the assumption that what is called the world's price of a commodity is one and the same the whole world over at any given time. It is a beautiful theory, but the facts are against it. The price of a commodity is not the same all the world over at the same moment. All sorts of conditions and circumstances, local and general, affect the price. I have prepared a return of the average price of wheat for the first and second six months of each year for a series of years. From that I will give one quotation. In the first half of the year 1901 the average price of wheat in Liverpool was 134s. per ton, and in the same period the average price at Antwerp was 129s., Mannheim, 139.4s., and at Hamburg was 130.6s. per ton. [MINISTERIAL cries of "Freight."] Freight will not explain the difference between Liverpool and Hamburg. It shows the untrustworthiness of the world's price upon which hon. Members opposite have so confidently based their calculations. The effect of a duty charged upon a commodity depends upon whether the whole of that commodity consumed in the country is taxed or not, and, if not, upon the proportion of the supply coming in from elsewhere. Take the tea duty. Except in unusual circumstances the whole of the cost of the tax must full upon the consumer, because no part of the commodity comes in duty free. But where a portion of the supply comes in duty free, then the whole of the cost of the duty will not fall upon the consumer, and we may safely add that the amount which is paid by the consumer will bear the same proportion to the amount of the supply that is taxed as to the amount that is free, and that destroys the whole case of hon. Gentlemen opposite. Even free traders dispute the view advanced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in regard to the effect of duty on price. I wish they would read their own literature. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the month of January in the House quoted certain corn figures which I venture to say were misleading. He illustrated the doctrine well known to economists that the duty not merely raised the prices to the consumer to the amount of the duty but by something more. I recommend him to read an extract from the Free Trader, the organ, I believe, of the Cobden Club. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No."] Well, Free Trade Union, which says that that is the ordinary free trade explanation, but that it is not economically sound to say that the consumer can only pay the entire duty in cases where the whole supply of a commodity is imported. The soundness of my contention that the effect of a duty on prices is governed largely by the free portion of the supply is seen in the French figures already-quoted. It is not a fair test to take the Gazette prices of British wheat, for it is only about 10 per cent. of our whole consumption. The prices are lower than the bulk of the wheat that goes to the making of our bread, probably Is. 6d less, as the Minister for the Board of Agriculture has admitted. In October, November, and December the Gazette prices here were 35s 3d, 36s 6d, and 35s 6d for British wheat. The Liverpool prices were 39s 6d, 38s 5d, and 37s 1d. The official average at Paris was 30s 3d and 38s 5d What, then, becomes of the doctrine that the consumer pays the whole of the duty? In two cases out of three, Paris is getting corn cheaper than we are getting it, despite the import duty in France. The hon. Baronet attempted to get rid of the French comparisons on the ground that the French produce nearly the whole of their wheat for themselves. Is that any answer? We are not asking what the United Kingdom can produce, we are asking what the British Empire can produce. An untaxed supply of wheat can be derived from within the British Empire; and as to the men necessary, we can keep our men under the flag, instead of sending them to the United States of America. We can keep the necessary men under the flag rather than send them to foreign countries, and we can keep our capital here rather than send it abroad, because we can get from the Empire large supplies of wheat. That brings me to the charge, if charge it is, that I have to make against the Government. I say that the rise in the price of bread is not an accident, but is due to a shortage of supply; and that the only way to guard against the recur- rence of such accidents is to stimulate-and increase the wheat production of the Empire. This country has it in its power to do this by preference. The complaint against the Government is not that they have produced this shortage by anything they have done, but that they have refused to do anything to protect the country against its recurrence. The hon. and gallant Member for Abercromby, by the repetition of an argument which he puts into two forms in his speech, asks me by name to assent to the proposition that the imposition of a tax must tend to reduce production, or he said the imposition of a tax could not increase production. I join issue with the hon. Member, and will give him an instance to the contrary. What about the output of steel and iron in the United States, where protective taxation has increased not only American production but the world's supply? By an extension of preference to our Colonies we may call into existence new sources of supply of wheat, and so-increase the world's supply, and especially our own. That is one of the main, objects of tariff reformers, and it is so clearly understood to be so, and it is so-certain that the object will be obtained, that it is made a charge against tariff reform by Lord Rosebery and others. Lord Rosebery said, when he talked to-farmers on this subject, that this 2s duty would stimulate colonial production, and that wheat would not rise, but would fall. That is our case, and, in reply to the hon. Member, I will say that I have never pretended that the farmers will derive any advantage from the 2s duty on wheat. I repudiate in the strongest possible terms the charge which hon. Gentlemen have tried to-fasten upon us that we are endeavouring to raise the price of bread, or that we would raise it, and I throw back on them the accusation of dishonesty which they have chosen to introduce into the House and of which their own election literature condemns them.


We have had a very interesting discussion, and rather a lively one, which shows that, after all, this is really a live issue. I am very glad that it should be discussed on the floor of the House, where statements can be made and either proved or disproved. The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down stated that my hon. and learned friend attempted to put him and his Party in the dock. That is not the object of the Resolution. It is, rather, to clear the Liberal Party of accusations which are made in the country, but which hon. Member opposite have not the courage to make here to our face. The charge is made against the Government that they have been responsible for the increase in the price of food, fuel, clothing. Surely that is a very serious charge to bring against a Government; and I should have thought that one of the first duties of the Party in opposition would have been to arraign the Government for a policy that has brought home such mischief to every man, woman, and child in the country. The Address was allowed to pass, and not a word about it. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings passed, and no balloting—[OPPOSITION cries of "No luck"]—and the charge is not brought even now. At any rate, I congratulate my hon. friend on one result of the discussion, and that is that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have absolved the Government from all responsibility for the weather. Reference has been made to charges which we brought about either Chinese labour or sugar. They were all brought on the floor of this House. I was a Member of the House at the time, and I remember that we constantly exhausted every Parliamentary resource in order to get a debate on those two topics.

MR. A. J. BALFOUR (City of London)

Does the right hon. Gentleman say that we were responsible for the weather and sugar?


The right hon. Gentleman has quite naturally joined his Party on this subject rather late, and he is, therefore, not quite in touch with what has been going on. I am simply answering an accusation that we have made charges about Chinese labour and sugar, and my reply is that we made those charges on the floor of the House. My only complaint is that it has been left to us to seek that opportunity to call upon hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite to justify the charges they have made on every platform in the country. There is one thing which, I think, is more interesting even than the discussion, and that is the choice made by the Opposition of the Amendment on which they are going to challenge a division. I would like the House to look at the Order Paper. The hon. Member for Gravesend, who is now an old and distinguished Parliamentary hand, and who is in the habit of addressing urban and industrial audiences, found it necessary to dwell on the fact that any duty which would be imposed upon wheat would be a small one. The hon. Member is first on the Order Paper, and therefore, in the natural course of things, would be called first. ["No, no."] He is brushed aside. ["No."]


I handed in my notice last Friday—the very first notice.


I accept the statement fully, but I want to point out the choice that has been made of Amendments. There is a very serious difference. The hon. Member for Gravesend said— Well, this duty does not matter; after all, it is only a small one. But the Party opposite are getting bolder and would have none of it. "No," they said, "it must be a duty which will develop agriculture in this country." The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken said it would not affect the price of wheat in this country, so that the farmer here would not benefit by it. It was to benefit, not England, but Assiniboia; the right hon. Gentleman was thinking not of Mid Devon, but of Saskatchewan. That is the interpretation which the right hon. Gentleman places on this Amendment. It is not the development of agriculture here but in Australia, Canada, India, and elsewhere. I am glad to have that interpretation; but the right hon. Gentleman could not have read the Amendment, because the hon. Member for Worcester wants to develop agriculture in the United Kingdom. But he knows perfectly well that the growing of wheat in the United Kingdom became unprofitable from the moment that the price dropped under 40s a quarter. I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon present. I see he is also satisfied that we are not responsible for the dear bread. He has found something else which is much better. He gives up bread, and now he says we are responsible for foot-and-mouth disease. According to the Tariff Reform Commission, or at any rate according to the statistics of the Board of Agriculture, the cultivation of wheat went down in this country from the moment the price fell below 40s I would ask the right hon. Gentleman if he thinks any farmer will break up his grass lands for 2s a quarter on corn.

MR. CHAPLIN (Surrey, Wimbledon)

The right hon. Gentleman seems to think corn only includes wheat, but it also includes barley and oats, which is chiefly grown here.


I do not forget it at all, because if we put a duty on corn we shall soon know that there are-other kinds of grain included, as Germany found, for instance, that there is rye. I am sorry I cannot answer all the points raised, but there are one or two things I should like to say. One is with regard to France. France has played a great part in this discussion, especially in the arguments of hon. Gentlemen opposite. What has happened in France? There has just been a very successful harvest. The result of it has been that France is in the position of not being under the necessity of importing. Really France could export. How long has France been in that position? Can hon. Gentlemen opposite point out a single year during the last ten years when France has been in that position? That, of course, is our answer. You are dependent entirely upon the weather in France or in any particular area from, which you draw your wheat if you are protectionist, and if you have bad weather there, up goes wheat. I have got the prices of wheat in France since 1885, and I cannot not find a single year in which the price of wheat in France has not been from 6s to 10s above the price of wheat in this country. France has not had a year like this for the last twenty years. The advantage of free trade is that we are not dependent upon a mere accident of that kind, which only occurs once in twenty years. People cannot live for nineteen years without bread in the hope that they may have a good harvest when the twentieth year arrives. Something has been said about imported wheat being cheaper in France. Hon. Members ought to know the reason. The real reason is that it is wheat for re-export; it is practically in bond. The duty is paid, but if wheat is re-exported there is a drawback. If that wheat is used for consumption in France, up goes the price by the duty. That is what hon. Members really ought to have known.


That does not apply to Biarritz.


I have no time to follow the researches of the noble

Lord in the south of France. Let E give one figure. The price of bread London is 5½d. the 4 lb. loaf; it is 6½ in Paris. That is a difference of 1d. c the 4 lb. loaf, in spite of the good harvest in France. If I had time to go into it, Germany is the best case of all. Germany is a country with a teeming population. Germany has now not merely to pay 11s duty on all wheat that is imported but also 11s duty on her home-grow wheat. That ought to be a sufficient warning to us. The right hon. Gentleman opposite got very angry, because in some pamphlets we said this meant starvation and I really think I could not do better in conclusion than by quoting the were of the right hon. Gentleman's relative— If you are going to tax the bread of the people, you will affect every household in the land, and you will throw back the working class of this country to the starvation wages and to the destitution from which Mr. Gladstone an Sir Robert Peel have relieved them.

Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes, 293; Noes, 90. (Division List No. 30.)

Abraham, William (Rhondda) Barran, Rowland Hirst Byles, William Pollard
Acland, Francis Duke Barry, Redmond J. (Tyrone, N.) Cameron, Robert
Adkins, W. Ryland D. Beale, W. P. Carr-Gomm, H. W.
Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R. Beauchamp, E. Causton, Rt. Hn. Richard Knight
Agnew, George William Beck, A. Cecil Cawley, Sir Frederick
Ainsworth, John Stirling Bell, Richard Chance, Frederick William
Allen, A. Acland (Christchurch) Bellairs, Carlyon Channing, Sir Francis Allston
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Belloc, Hilaire Joseph Peter R. Cherry, Rt. Hon. R. R.
Armstrong, W. C. Heaton Benn, W.(T'w'r Hamlets, S. Geo) Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Bennett, E. N. Cleland, J. W.
Asquith. Rt. Hn. Herbert Henry Berridge, T. H. D. Clough, William
Astbury, John Meir Black, Arthur W. Clynes, J. R.
Atherley-Jones, L. Boulton, A. C. F. Cobbold, Felix Thornley
Baker, Sir John (Portsmouth) Bowerman, C. W. Collins. Stephen (Lambeth
Baker, Joseph A.(Finsbury. E.) Bramsdon, T. A. Collins, Sir Wm. J.(S. Pancras, W
Balfour, Robert (Lanark) Branch, James Cooper, G. J.
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Brocklehurst, W. B. Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)
Barker, John Brunner, J.F.L. (Lanes., Leigh) Corbett, C.H.(Sussex, E. Gr'st'd
Barlow, Percy (Bedford) Burns, Rt. Hon. John Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.
Barnard, E. B. Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas Cotton, Sir H. J. S.
Barnes, G. N. Buxton, Rt. Hn. Sydney Chas. Cowan, W. H.
Cox, Harold Jackson, R. S. Philipps, Owen C. (Pembroke)
Cremer, Sir William Randal Jardine, Sir J. Pickersgill, Edward Hare
Crosfield, A. H. Johnson, John (Gateshead) Pollard, Dr.
Crossley, William J. Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea Price, C. E. (Edinb'gh, Central)
Curran, Peter Francis Jones, Leif (Appleby) Price, Robert John (Norfolk, E.)
Dalziel, James Henry Jones, William(Carnarvonahire) Radford, G. H.
Davies, Ellis William (Eifion) Jowett, F. W. Raphael, Herbert H.
Daves, M. Vaughan-(Cardigan Kearley, Hudson E. Rea, Russell (Gloucester)
Davies Timothy (Fulham) Kekewich, Sir George Rea, Walter ussell (Searboro'
Davies, W. Howel (Bristol, S.) Kelley, George D. Rees, J. D.
Dewar, Arthur (Edinburgh, S.) Kincaid-Smith, Captain Rendall, Athelstan
Dewar, Sir J.A. (Inverness-sh.) King, Alfred John (Knutsford Richards, Thomas (W. Monm'th
Dickinson, W.H. (St. Pancras, N. Laidlaw, Robert Ridsdale, E. A.
Dickson-Poynder, Sir John P. Lamb, Edmund G.(Leominster Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)
Dobson, Thomas W. Lamb, Ernest H. (Rochester) Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)
Duckworth, James Lambert, George Roberts, John H. (Denbighs.)
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Lambton, Hon. Frederick Wm Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)
Edwards, Clement (Denbigh) Lamont, Norman Robinson, S.
Edwards, Enoch (Hanley) Layland-Barratt, Francis Robson, Sir William Snowdon
Elibank, Master of Leese, Sir Joseph F.(Accrington Rogers, F. E. Newman
Erskine, David C. Lehmann, R. C. Rose, Charles Day
Essex, R. W. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich) Rowlands, J.
Esslemont, George Birnie Lever, W.H. (Cheshire, Wirral) Runciman, Walter
Evans, Sir Samuel T. Levy, Sir Maurice Russell. T. W.
Everett, R. Lacey Lewis, John Herbert Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford)
Fenwick, Charles Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David Samuel, Herbert L. (Cleveland
Fiennes. Hon. Eustace Lough, Thomas Scarisbrick, T. T. L.
Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Lupton, Arnold Scott, A.H.(Ashton-under Lyne
Freeman-Thomas, Freeman Luttrell, Hugh Fownes Seaverns, J. H.
Fuller, John Michael F. Lyell, Charles Henry Seddon, J.
Fullerton, Hugh Lynch, H. B. Seely, Colonel
Furness, Sir Christopher Macdonald, J. R. (Leicester) Shaw, Charles Edw. (Stafford)
Gibb, James (Harrow) Macdonald, J.M.(Falkirk B'ghs Shaw, Rt, Hon. T. (Hawick B.)
Gill, A. H. Mackarness, Frederic C. Shipman, Dr. John G.
Gladstone, Rt. Hn. Herbert John Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J. Silcock, Thomas Ball
Glen-Coats, Sir T.(Renfrew, W.) Macpherson, J. T. Simon, John Allsebrook
Glendinning, R. G. M'Callum, John M. Sinclair, Rt. Hon. John
Glover, Thomas M'Crae, George Smeaton, Donald Mackenzie
Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford M'Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald Soames, Arthur Wellesley
Gooch, George Peabody M'Laren, H. D. (Stafford, W.) Soares, Ernest J.
Grant, Corrie M'Micking, Major G. Spicer, Sir Albert
Greenwood, G. (Peterborough) Maddison, Frederick Stanley, Hn. A. Lyulph (Chesh.)
Greenwood, Hamar (York) Mallet, Charles E. Stewart, Halley (Greenock)
Gulland, John W. Manfield, Harry (Northants) Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal)
Gurdon, Rt. Hn Sir W. Bramptson Marks, G. Croydon (Launceston) Straus, B. S. (Mile End)
Haldane, Rt. Hon. Richard B. Marnham, F. J. Strauss, E. A. (Abingdon)
Hall, Frederick Massie, J. Summerbell, T.
Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis Menzies, Walter Taylor, Austin (East Toxteth)
Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worc'r) Micklem, Nathaniel Taylor, John W. (Durham)
Harmsworth, R.L.(Caithn'ssh-sh Middlebrook, William Tennant, Sir Edward(Salisbury
Hart-Davies, T. Mond, A. Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire)
Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E. Money, L. G. Chiozza Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)
Haslam, James (Derbyshire) Montagu, E. S. Thomas. David Alfred (Merthyr
Haworth, Arthur A. Montgomery, H. G. Thompson, J.W.H. (Somerset, E
Hedges, A. Paget Morgan. J. Lloyd (Carmarthen) Toulmin, George
Helme, Norval Watson Morrell, Philip Trevelyan, Charles Philips
Hemmerde, Edward George Morse, L. L. Verney, F. W.
Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Morton, Alpheus Cleophas Wadsworth, J.
Henry, Charles S. Myer. Horatio Walsh, Stephen
Herbert, Col. Sir Ivor (Mon., S.) Napier, T. B. Walters, John Tudor
Higham, John Sharp Newnes, F. (Notts, Bassetlaw) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampt'n
Hobart, Sir Robert Nicholls, George Wardle, George J.
Hodge, John Nicholson, Charles H. (Doncast'r Waring, Walter
Holland, Sir William Henry Norton, Capt. Cecil William Warner, Thomas Courtenay T
Holt, Richard Durning Nussey, Thomas Willans Wason, Rt Hn. E.(Clackmannan
Hope, W. Bateman (Somerset, N Nuttall, Harry Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Horniman, Emslie John O'Grady, J. Waterlow, D. S.
Howard, Hon. Geoffrey Parker, James (Halifax) Watt, Henry A.
Hudson, Walter Partington, Oswald White, J. D. (Dumbartonshire)
Hyde, Clarendon Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) White, Luke (York, E. R.)
Idris, T. H. W. Pearson, W.H.M. (Suffolk, Eye) Whitehead, Rowland
Illingworth, Percy H. Philipps, Col. Ivor (S'thampton Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Whittaker, Sir Thomas Palmer Wilson, Henry J. (York, W.R.) Wood, T. M'Kinnon
Wiles, Thomas Wilson, John (Durham, Mid)
Wilkie, Alexander Wilson, J. H. (Middlesbrough) TELLERS FOR THE AYES
Williams, J. (Glamorgan) Wilson, J. W. (Worcestersh, N.) Mr. Whiteley and Mr. J. A.
Williams, Llewelyn (Carmarth'n Wilson, P. W. (St. Pancras, S.) Pease.
Williams, Osmond (Merioneth) Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)
Williamson, A. Wodehouse, Lord
Anson, Sir William Reynell Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers- Moore, William
Anstruther-Gray, Major Duncan, Robert (Lanark, Govan Morpeth, Viscount
Arkwright, John Stanhope Faber, George Denison (York) Nicholson, Wm. G. (Petersfield)
Aubrey-Fletcher, Rt. Hon. Sir H Fardell, Sir T. George Nield, Herbert
Balcarres, Lord Fell, Arthur O'Neill, Hon. Robert Torrens
Baldwin, Stanley Fletcher, J. S. Parker, Sir Gilbert(Gravesend)
Balfour, Rt Hn. A. J.(City Lond.) Forster, Henry William Parkes, Ebenezer
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Gardner, Ernest Pease, Herbert Pike(Darlington
Banner, John S. Harmood- Gibbs, G. A. (Bristol, West) Randles, Sir John Scurrah
Baring, Capt. Hn. G (Winchester) Goulding, Edward Alfred Ratcliff, Major R. F.
Beckett, Hon. Gervase Gretton, John Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel
Boyle, Sir Edward Haddock, George B. Remnant, James Farquharson
Bridgeman, W. Clive Hamilton, Marquess of Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)
Bull, Sir William James Hardy, Laurence (Kent, Ashf'rd Ronaldshay, Earl of
Burdett-Coutts, W. Harrison-Broadley, H. B Rutherford, W. W. (Liverpool)
Carlile, E. Hildred Heaton, John Henniker Salter, Arthur Clavell
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edw. H Helmsley, Viscount Sassoon, Sir Edward Albert
Castlereagh, Viscount Hill, Sir Clement Starkey, John R.
Cave, George Hills, J. W. Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)
Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor) Houston, Robert Paterson Thomson, W. Mtchell-(Lanark)
Cecil, Lord John P. Joicey- Hunt, Rowland Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Chamberlain, Rt Hn. J. A.(Worc. Kenyon-Slaney, Rt. Hon. Col. W. Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)
Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry Keswick, William Willoughby de Eresby, Lord
Clark, George Smith (Belfast, W. Kimber, Sir Henry Winterton, Earl
Clive, Percy Archer Lane-Fox, G. R. Wortley, Rt. Hon. C.B. Stuart-
Coates, E. Feetham (Lewisham Law, Andrew Bonar (Dulwich) Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George
Corbett, T. L. (Down, North) Lee, Arthur H.(Hants, Fareham
Courthope, G. Loyd Long, Rt. Hn. Walter (Dublin, S) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Craig, Charles Curtis(Antrim, S. Lowe, Sir Francis William Sir Alexander Acland-Hood and
Craig, Captain James(Down, E.) M'Calmont, Colonel James Viscount Valentia.
Darlymple, Viscount Marks, H. H. (Kent)
Doughty, Sir George Mason, James F. (Windsor)

Main Question again proposed.

Debate arising.

And, if being after Eleven of the Clock, and objection being taken to further Proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.