HC Deb 01 October 1909 vol 11 cc1613-9

On and after the thirty-first day of March, nineteen hundred and ten, the duty of Customs of one penny in the pound on raw cocoa shall cease to be payable, and so much of the Customs Tariff Act, 1876, as refers to this duty is hereby repealed, and the Customs tariff of twopence per pound on imported manufactured cocoa shall be reduced to one penny per pound.

On 11th July, 1907, the Prime Minister said "he thought the duty on cocoa interfered injuriously with the food of the people, but he asked the Committee to continue the duty until the time of the next Budget." I think it is quite time that the duty was repealed. Right hon. Gentlemen opposite are always accusing Unionists and Tariff Reformers of wanting to tax raw material. Yet here we tax at the rate of a penny per pound raw material which, according to the Prime Minister, is a food of the people, and there is an additional 1d per lb. on the manufactured food of the people, which the Liberal Government are going to insist on. Yet at the last General Election, at every Liberal meeting in my division, and, I believe, everywhere else, it was insisted that even as much as one-fifth of a farthing per pound on wheat on only half the supply used in this country was going to bring starvation to our people and to the children of our country. I ask hon. Gentlemen opposite: Could Free Trade humbug be better shown up than by the insistence on this comparatively heavy duty on a raw material and a food of the people? And on top of that they have got their own particular friend, the cocoa manufacturer, protected by another penny per pound. The Prime Minister said, on 18th April, 1907:— There is a good deal of the flavour of Protection about the present scale of the Cocoa Duty. I should not defend it myself from the point of view of Free Trade, and I do not think it is defensible. The head of a great cocoa manufacturing firm not only, I think, runs one of the great Liberal papers, but he gave £20,000 just before the General Election to help the Free Trade party.


Did he get a peerage?


That is coming. That Gentleman was wise in his generation. He not only got protection from unfair foreign competition in his own industry, but took particularly good care that no one else should have the same advantage, and thus passed on some of the money to the Free Trade party. That is one of the ways in which the Free Trade business is run. Cocoa is used to a very considerable extent in most of our towns by the very poor. It is considered by them to be both a food and a drink, and has the advantage of being very nourishing, while it has not got the disadvantages of tea and coffee, yet unless this Amendment is accepted this great Free Trade Government is going to put 1d. per pound on the raw material and 2d. on the manufactured article.


"Why did you not take it off?"


I do not think I had found out about this. But if we want to know what excellent stuff this cocoa is I will take the "Alliance News and Temperance Reformer," which I am sure many hon. Gentlemen opposite must be very fond of. This well-known paper says, "Cadbury's cocoa is a liquid food, and a high-class beverage, produced by British labour under the very best conditions." So it is, but it is protected from unfair foreign competition, and if we could have the same for our other industries we could have the same well-treated labour. I do not see why there should be protection for that one industry, in which the manufacturers were the particular friends of the Liberal Party, and no protection for anybody else. I may fairly say this, that as the cocoa industry is protected from unfair competition we certainly ought to have the hop industry protected— —


That appears to be going outside the scope of the Amendment.


It was only an instance, of course. I was allowed to make it last year, and I thought I should be allowed to make it this year. The effect of differentiation between cocoa and hops is that you encourage people to drink beer and discourage them from drinking cocoa. I think that that would be altogether against the principles of many hon. Gentlemen opposite. Furthermore, the growing of cocoa produces no labour. Another point is that chocolate imported into this country, if it is over 50 per cent. chocolate, has to pay the same duty as if it was all manufactured cocoa. Therefore the home producer gets a tremendous advantage, because he has much less taxation to pay on this kind of chocolate than the foreign producer. That is how it is that almost all the chocolate used in this country is made in this country, and that not one-twentieth part of it is imported from abroad. The consequence is that a great industry has grown up to the extent, I think, of something like £10,000,000. Hon. Gentlemen will thus see what an enormous advantage it is to protect our industries from unfair foreign competition, and how very much it helps the labour of this country. I hope the Government will accept this Clause. We shall anyhow have the chance of knowing whether hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the other side are in favour of keeping this tax on raw material and the food of the people—a tax which does give the cocoa manufacturer of this country very effective protection from unfair foreign competition.


I do not propose to follow the hon. gentleman into the ethics of Tariff Reform, but I desire to state to the Committee what would be the effect of the hon. Member's proposal. It would do three things. It would repeal in the first instance the Customs Duty of one penny a pound on imported raw cocoa from 1st April, 1910; it would, in the second place, leave in force the duty on husks and cocoa shells of two shillings a hundredweight, and it would, in the third place, reduce from twopence to one penny the duty on cocoa and chocolate which is in any way manufactured. The hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that that would make a very considerable hole in the revenue, and it would reduce the amount received from the tax by £290,000. I do not think the hon. Member can expect us at this period of the financial year to accept the proposal.


I would like to support the Clause of the hon. Gentleman for reasons which I have on many occasions put before this House. In the first place, I support it because it proposes to reduce the amount of the indirect tax, and in the second place to reduce the amount of taxation levied upon an article of food. In supporting the Clause I do not commit myself absolutely to its details. I should not, were I to propose such an Amendment, leave, for instance, the penny duty on the imported manufactured article, for that is Protection pure and simple. In regard to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman, it is the old story of the late period of the Session and the interference with the Budget. May I ask how long it is since the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the first time made a concession to the landlords which involved, not the sum spoken of just now by the right hon. Gentleman, but about double the amount? It is largely a matter of willingness. I am sure the Government cannot complain of want of support on the Labour Benches during the progress of this Bill. I suppose this will be the second or third time I have voted against them in connection with this measure. There are many things in the Budget with which I and my colleagues are in hearty agreement. May I be allowed to say that I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer could have made the Budget far more popular than it is, and at very little cost to the country, if he had swept away the Cocoa Tax, which I do not think gives a total revenue of more than about £300,000. The amount of revenue from the tax on coffee is somewhat smaller, and therefore the Chancellor of the Exchequer might have repealed the duties on these articles. If the hon. Gentleman carries his proposal to a Division I shall go into the Lobby with him.


I do not think the right hon. Gentleman has given any answer to the question I have raised. He merely says that the Government cannot afford to lose the revenue. That is a very poor reason, considering the smallness of the amount. According to the right hon. Gentleman's own principles, he had no right to leave this duty on. To put a tax on a raw material which is a food of the people is bad enough, but to put an extra tax on a

competing manufactured article is to break the very principle which the Prime Minister enunciated, that no duty whatever should be placed on any article which could possibly have the effect of doing any good to any man, woman or child in this country. Yet the Prime Minister himself permits this tax of twopence on manufactured cocoa, thus breaking his own principles and the traditions of his party. I think we may take it, in view of these circumstances, that the Free Trade system is entirely burst up.


I find that the hon. Member's Clause proposes, in the first place, to take off taxation on raw material, and, secondly, it proposes to put on the manufactured article enough to protect British industry.

Question put, "That the Clause be now read a second time."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 47; Noes, 130.

Division No. 753.] AYES. [3.45 p.m.
Balcarres, Lord Gretton, John O'Shaughnessy, P. J.
Banbury, Sir Frederick George Guinness, Hon. R. (Haggerston) Parker, Sir Gilbert (Gravesend)
Banner, John S. Harmood- Guinness, Hon. W. E. (B. S. Edm'ds.) Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)
Barnes, G. N. Hamilton, Marquess of Remnant, James Farquharson
Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.) Harris, Frederick Leverton Renwick, George
Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. H. M. Hermon-Broadley, H. B. Salter, Arthur Clavell
Carlile, E. Hildred Healy, Timothy Michael Snowden, P.
Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H. Joyce, Michael Steadman, W. C
Cooper, G. J. Kimber, Sir Henry Talbot, Rt. Hon. J. G. (Oxford Univ.)
Craik, Sir Henry King, Sir Henry Seymour (Hull) Thorne, William (West Ham)
Dalrymple, Viscount Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R. Walker, Col. W. H. (Lancashire)
Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott Lonsdale, John Brownlee Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-
Fell, Arthur Lowe, Sir Francis William Younger, George
Fletcher, J. S. Lundon, T.
Gardner, Ernest M'Arthur, Charles TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. R. Hunt and Mr. J. W. Hills.
Gooch, Henry Cubitt (Peckham) Markham, Arthur Basil
Goulding, Edward Alfred Morrison-Bell, Captain
Ainsworth, John Stirling Elibank, Master of Janes, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)
Alden, Percy Essex, R. W. Jones, Leif (Appleby)
Allen, Charles P. (Stroud) Esslemont, George Birnie Keating, M.
Ashton, Thomas Gair Evans, Sir S. T. Kekewich, Sir George
Baring, Godfrey (Isle of Wight) Everett, R. Lacey Laidlaw, Robert
Beale, W. P. Ferens, T. R. Lamont, Norman
Benn, W. (Tower Hamlets, St. Geo.) Foster, Rt. Hon. Sir Walter Layland-Barratt, Sir Francis
Bowerman, C. W. Gibb, James (Harrow) Lehmann, R. C.
Branch, James Glendinning, R. G. Lever, A. Levy (Essex, Harwich!
Brunner, J. F. L. (Lancs., Leigh) Goddard, Sir Daniel Ford Lewis, John Herbert
Burns, Rt. Hon. John Gulland, John W. Lloyd-George, Rt. Hon. David
Byles, William Pollard Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose) Lynch, H. B.
Channing, Sir Francis Allston Harmsworth, Cecil B. (Worcester) Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.
Clough, William Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N.E.) Macpherson, J. T.
Cobbold, Felix Thornley Haslam, Lewis (Monmouth) M'Callum, John M.
Compton-Rickett, Sir J. Hazel, Dr. A. E. W. M'Micking, Major G.
Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow) Hedges, A. Paget Maddison, Frederick
Corbett, C. H. (Sussex, E. Grinstead) Helme, Norval Watson Mallet, Charles E.
Cornwall, Sir Edwin A. Henderson, Arthur (Durham) Marnham, F. J.
Cotton, Sir H. J. S. Higham, John Sharp Massie, J.
Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth) Hobart, Sir Robert Mond, A.
Cullinar, J. Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H. Morse, L. L.
Devlin, Joseph Hodge, John Muldoon, John
Dickinson, W. H. (St. Pancras, N.) Horniman, Emslie John Murphy, John (Kerry, E.)
Dunn, A. Edward (Camborne) Illingworth, Percy H. Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C. (Kincard.)
Dunne, Major E. Martin (Walsall) Isaacs. Rufus Daniel Myer, Horatio
Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor) Jardine, Sir J. Nicholls, George
Nugent, Sir Walter Richard Rose, Sir Charles Day Walker, H. De R. (Leicester)
Nuttall, Harry Rutherford, V. H. (Brentford) Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)
O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.) Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland) Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)
O'Malley, William Schwann, Sir C. E. (Manchester) Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)
Paulton, James Mellor Seddon, J. Waterlow, D. S.
Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek) Seely, Colonel Watt, Henry A.
Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H. Shackleton, David James White, J. Dundas (Dumbartonshire)
Power, Patrick Joseph Sherwell, Arthur James White, Sir Luke (York, E.R.)
Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central) Sloan, Thomas Henry White, Patrick (Meath, North)
Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.) Stanger, H. Y. Whitehead, Rowland
Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (Gloucester) Stewart-Smith, D. (Kendal) Whitley, John Henry (Halifax)
Reddy, M Straus, B. S. (Mile End) Williamson, Sir A.
Rees, J. D. Tennant, H. J. (Berwickshire) Yoxall, Sir James Henry
Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln) Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)
Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside) Toulmin, George
Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke) Ure, Rt. Hon. Alexander TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Joseph Pease and Mr. Fuller.
Roe, Sir Thomas Vivian, Henry
Rogers, F. E. Newman Wadsworth, J.

Sir ARCHIBALD WILLIAMSON moved to insert the following:—