§ Captain TRYON
I beg to move, as an Amendment to the Address, at the end, to add the words:—But this House humbly expresses its regret that the persistent refusal of Your Majesty's Government to modify the fiscal system of the country is imperilling the advantages at present derived by British commerce from the preference granted by Your Majesty's Dominions overseas, has deferred the closer commercial union of the Empire, has deprived the country of the most effective method of inducing foreign countries to grant fair treatment to British manufactures, and is adversely affecting labour conditions of the country.I understand that there has been some kind of comment in the House that we have not previously been speaking on the subject of Tariff Reform. The explanation is that we were waiting until the Amendment which deals with it came before the House, but if we have not been speaking about Tariff Reform we cannot say that of the Labour party. I noticed that the hon. Member for Leicester (Mr. Ramsay Mac-donald) introduced Tariff Reform frequently into his speech. I would further say that we are indebted to the Labour party for the very interesting information that at the end of a further period of trial of six years of Free Trade under the Liberal Government that food is dearer, that the rich are getting richer and that the poor are getting poorer. We think, therefore, that we are fully justified in again debating this subject and considering how far our policy of Tariff Reform can fee applied to the great industrial problems of this country. We may as well take some sort of national stocktaking. There are, for instance, the trade returns, about which the Liberal party appear to be keen, since they show an increase. I notice, however, that there is a larger increase in German trade. Those are not the only figures that affect this question. We have, for instance, the exports of capital. There are, of course, some who preach at street corners and who looking capital as the enemy. If capital is the enemy, we certainly have a number of 749 politicians who are calculated to drive the enemy out of our country. We find that the "enemy," capital, is leaving in large quantities, and simultaneously labour is leaving too, to go to those countries which our capital, leaving our shores, is helping to develop. We are very glad that so much of that capital is going to our own Empire. We are very glad to see that a large proportion of the emigration is going to our own Empire, but before there are any Liberal rejoicings over the proportion of our unemployed we ought to take into account the fact that the pressure on the labour market has been enormously relieved by the fact that about 260,000 persons left this country last year, of whom a very large proportion naturally are workers.
We are at this moment, according to general belief, at the top of a wave of large trade returns, and it is as well to examine our position, not only in moments of depression, but also in those moments when, I suppose, Free Trade is doing as much for us as it is ever likely to do. It has undoubtedly broken down in this respect—that after six years the position of the workers of this country is worse than it was before. I wonder whether any of those who talk of the conflict between labour and capital—the Labour party, for instance—ever note what strange allies they have on their own side of the House? Capital is not all on one side of the House. There are some, and I am not making any personal attack, of great wealth in the Liberal party making very large fortunes, and sometimes their denunciation of the House of Lords is so successful that they get peerages. They are men who, by their eloquence on the platform, and by their votes in this House, are denying to the industrial classes of this country that protection from foreign competition which, by the formation of combines and corners and trusts, they successfully achieve for themselves. Those are strange allies for the Labour party. I suppose we shall be told that the trust flourishes in the protected country. We have a good many of them here, but under tariffs there is no monopoly whatever for the man who has a factory in this country or for the capitalist, as, under the Patents Act, foreign manufacturers came over and put up their works, and so, under tariffs, there is absolute freedom for foreign manufacturers to come over here, put up their works, develop their industries, and compete with other capitalists and other 750 manufacturers in giving employment to British labour.
I think that when the Labour party say that combines are unable to raise prices under Free Trade they must be thinking of the operations of trade unions, which are themselves a great combination, and which are, as we see, unable effectively to raise the price of labour. I should like, however, to deal at once with their remedy. I think the vast majority of the House will agree that our present industrial position is not satisfactory. Certainly labour is not satisfied with it. The Liberal party have, I believe, no remedy. The Labour party have suggested a proposal which I have listened to and read with very great attention. It is a proposal for the abandonment of Free Trade principles and for the introduction of the very crude form of Protection in the form of a minimum wage. I would like to answer this proposal from the mouth of the Government itself. The proposal has been answered by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade about a year ago, and I only discuss this question of a minimum wage in so far as it affects the tariff issue. He said, speaking a year ago, and expressing the views of the Liberal Government, that:—Any considerable or sudden increase in the rate of wages must increase the cost of production. If you raise your cost of production unduly you invite foreign competition.And he ended with the inspiring remark that "low wages are most undesirable"—we agree with that—and that "no wages at all may be even worse." The Liberal Publication Department are very happy in coining phrases for use on their posters at election times, but I do not think if they had "Vote for Free Trade and low wages or no wages," that that would be a very effective poster, although it has this advantage, that it combines, in one happy sentence, the whole "allied forces of progress," because it represents what the Liberal party expect from the Labour party's programme, and what the Labour party declare we have got under the Liberal party. We have got a new advocate of moderation in this country and quite a new champion in the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Replying to the Leader of the Opposition when he said the workmen of the country wanted higher wages: "I wonder," said the Chancellor of the Exchequer, "whether he realised what he was doing? He was dropping a match? into a prairie scorched by a long drought."
751 4.0 P.M.
I do not know what the word "long" referred to, whether it is sixty years of Free Trade or whether it is six years of Liberal government, or whether it is two years of "The People's Budget." At all events we know that the prairie is parched. I remember the word "parched" in some other speeches of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I think there were the "parched lips" of the multitude, and I think they were going to be benefited by that fruit of the "People's Budget" which, although not particularly "refreshing" can at all events be accurately described as "rare." When he talks of this prairie as being parched, there are two sides to that question. There is the natural unrest among the working classes because their conditions have got worse, a natural unrest with which we sympathise. There is another and a much more dangerous element, and that is that this prairie has become much more inflammable owing to the class hatred engendered and put forward in the campaign against the House of Lords, and used to forward "The People's Budget." I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer who looked forward in his speech to the day when poverty shall be "as rare as the wolves" that once "infested our forests" need not talk in terms of reproach about those who are honestly putting forward a policy which they believe to be in the interests of the country. After all, we believe that you cannot found social reform on class hatred. We believe that you cannot deal with the problems of social reform except upon the basis of an increased demand for British labour. We consider that, just as the Patents Act brought factories over here by threatening manufacturers with the cancelling of their patents unless they put up their works in this country, so we should endeavour to attract enterprise here by duties on the importation of foreign-manufactured goods, and that we should also do our best to perpetuate and develop that principle of Colonial preference which means so much to us, of whose merits both the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have spoken in terms of acknowledgment, and which necessarily means that our great and growing Dominions will purchase from us rather than from our foreign competitors. On both grounds we hold that our policy will create an additional demand for British 752 labour, and we claim that we have every right to put it forward.
I am going into a delicate matter, but I shall not go into it from the international point of view. When we put forward these remedies at the end of last Session the Liberal Member for Blackburn (Sir H. Norman) told us:—Our protectionists are wise to be conscriptionists also, for a system of preferential tariffs throughout the British Empire would be more likely than anything else to cause Germany to draw the sword.I should look upon a war between this country and Germany, whatever its result, as an appalling disaster to both countries. There are retorts which might be made, but which I shall not make, because from the international point of view they are better not made. I will not discuss this new proposed Liberal veto; but I will discuss the question merely from the point of view of the sincerity of certain arguments put forward by the Liberal party. We were told that if we had Tariff Reform our financial position as the centre of the world's banking would be lost. We were told, without any argument, that we should lose our shipping trade. We were also told, and this is the point I particularly wish to emphasise, that we should lose our power to compete against our rivals in neutral markets. What can be thought of a party which threatens us with the intervention of a foreign Power to prevent our committing suicide? I have often heard of people, frequently a gallant policeman, jumping into the river to rescue some would-be suicide, but I never heard of anybody killing a man to prevent his committing suicide. I am beginning to be doubtful as to how far some Liberal speakers believe all the arguments they put forward. I noticed the other day that there was a meeting at Ebbw Vale, and the chairman of that meeting said:—At Ebbw Vale they had received a nasty knock and had been obliged to close down for six months, He need not say that the cause of the recent stoppage was the depressed condition of the steel trade and the heavy importation of steel bars from foreign works.I should like to have some solution from the Labour party as to how far they would work their plan of a minimum wage in the case of works which are closed by foreign competition. At this same meeting a gentleman, who was a Member of this House until 1910, and sat for a Welsh constituency for, I believe, eleven years, said that if Protection came it would probably mean a happy and prosperous time for Ebbw Vale at any rate. Why did we not hear that before when he was a Liberal Member of Parliament? Why did he not 753 say it in this House? He has given us the explanation. He said:—now he was out of Parliament he was free to express himself. He really believed that they were going to have Protection, and he would tell them why. They were approaching budgets of £200,000,000.I hope that when there is another General Election many Liberal Members of Parliament will be in that position which will enable them to express with greater freedom their views on the fiscal question.
As to negotiation with foreign countries, I will take only three cases very briefly, because I believe the seconder of this Amendment is going to allude to that part of the question. I will take cases from three periods: first, the period when we had a tariff; secondly, the period now, when we have not one; and, thirdly, a future time when we hope we shall have a tariff once more. The first case was when Sir Robert Peel retained certain duties as "instruments of negotiation," to use his words, and Mr. Cobden, finding that other countries were not adopting his views as rapidly as he had expected, went over to France and, working with these particular duties, negotiated with France and achieved a great lowering of the French tariff, which brought about a large increase in the trade between the two countries. That was the last time we had a tariff with which to bargain. My next case is in connection with Canada, when the United States not merely offered to lower their tariff to Canada, but, on the admission of the Prime Minister, they were prepared to give lower terms to Canada than they gave to us, showing that in this particular case a tariff country got better terms than a Free Trade country. Then we come to the future. The other day the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that Tariff Reform was heavily mortgaged. He did not go far enough into the question, because if he had told his audience that he was the first man to raise a mortgage on Tariff Reform he would have given further information which would have been valuable. In the case of our Treaty with Japan, when Japan brought out a scheme of much higher duties, they agreed to lower them under a commercial arrangement made by this country, in which we made certain concessions in our future tariff to the people of Japan. That is the first mortgage, and it was put on by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs. I wonder whether, when that bargain was made he explained to the Japanese people that in the opinion of the Liberal party Tariff 754 Reform was dead. Apparently the Japanese people do not think so. I am told that all this is stopped because of a rule that you must put on taxation for revenue purposes only. That is not a claim which can be made with justice by the party that put on the Undeveloped Land Tax. Judging by the results, one hopes that that tax was not put on for revenue.
I turn now to the Imperial side of the question. It has been argued that we lost the United States through interference of this kind. There is no foundation whatever for the assertion, except a statement by the Under-Secretary of State for War on the eve of a by-election at Bootle. When the Colonies themselves met at the time and framed their charges against this country, they particularly stated that they did not object to the preferential arrangement in existence at that time. The West Indian question is very interesting in this connection. Canada gave a preference to West Indian sugar. A Commission was sent out, including several prominent Free Traders in this country, and it reported that there was great danger that the West Indies might lose this very beneficial preference unless they gave something in return. The West Indies is not the only country that is liable to lose a preference if they give nothing in return. I return to Canada and the reciprocity treaty. I wish to make it perfectly clear that we in no way blame Canada for anything that has been done. If you bang the door in anybody's face you cannot blame him for going elsewhere, but you blame the people who banged the door. There is no doubt that in this reciprocity question there has prevailed an unpleasant sympathy between Westminster and Washington. A year ago Westminster and Washington were, in the words of the Prime Minister, "preparing to celebrate the obsequies of what used to be called Imperial preference." The obsequies have been postponed, owing to the very interesting fact that the Liberal party in Canada allowed the people of Canada to have a vote on the question after they had seen the proposal—an example which I commend to the attention of the present Government in another connection. Perhaps if the Liberal party of Canada had had a Parliament Act they might have got their reciprocity treaty.
I have brought up this question of Canada because we believe that anybody wishing to wreck our policy of Imperial preference could not do it better than by 755 striking a blow at the heart of the movement. It was in Canada that the first preference was given to us. It was Canada that did her duty by the Empire and gave a preference to the West Indies. It is Canada that is now developing a proposal for preference with Australia. Therefore anything which upset the movement in Canada would be almost fatal to the whole movement. That is why the Liberal party were rejoicing so much a year ago at the prospect of a reciprocity treaty. The House may think that this matter is settled, that the reciprocity treaty is dead, and that the question need not be discussed. That is not the view that the Liberal party can take, because shortly after the elections in Canada their principal evening paper brought out an article headed "The First Round in Canada," showing that in their opinion the reciprocity question was by no means settled. In any case, the danger that we ran there is a danger that we must run in other places. Canada is not the only Dominion likely to receive offers of closer commercial relations from foreign Powers. Therefore I should like to discuss the question from the point of view stated by our opponents. I believe that when this question was under discussion a year ago some of the Liberal party said that they were cheering Free Trade. It has also been stated that the reciprocity treaty is only an extension of the wholesome movement towards Continental Free Trade. That means Free Trade between the United States and Canada, from which we are excluded. How anybody can describe that as wholesome to us I do not know. It may be wholesome to the United States; but one man's meat is another man's poison. What would it mean commercially? It would mean that, instead of preferential advantages in the Canadian tariff, or of equal treatment, we should find ourselves faced by a high tariff, from which the goods of our competitors in the United States would be absolutely free. It would mean the destruction of millions of pounds' worth of our present trade in the year. What would it mean politically? It would mean the absorption of Canada within the commercial system of the United States. It is not the triumph of Free Trade; it is the absorption of Canada into the protectionist system of the United States.
The other day the Financial Secretary to the Board of Trade (Mr. J. Robertson) protested very vigorously against any 756 suggestion that Ireland should be allowed to frame her own tariff. It was a very natural protest. I am not attacking him for it. It was natural for two reasons: first, because, after all, Free Trade has never in the long run survived the grant of self-government to any of our great self-governing dominions; and secondly, because—this is, I think, the grounds upon which he put it—a common fiscal system is a great bond of union. He thought we might lose Ireland if we had not the same fiscal system. If a common fiscal system is a bond of union between us and Ireland, what would be the effect of a common protectionist system which included the United States and Canada in one common bond? It is an unfortunate thing that the Prime Minister last year should have described this great policy, advocated and enforced alike by the Labour party of Australia, by the Liberal party in Canada, by Dutch and English in South Africa, as "one of the greatest and most disastrous political impostures of modern times." I venture to say that I prefer the description of the Chancellor of the Exchequer who, speaking on Australian preference, told us of "the spirit of comradeship, I may say the spirit of affection, which has inspired this new policy."
The Government seem to have two views on the subject, and if I am to have a vote in the matter, I shall vote for the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. We believe that on political grounds we cannot look on and see these commercial treaties being made between foreign countries and our Colonies without endeavouring ourselves to approach them and meet them with concession for concession. After all, we have been distinctly urged by our Colonies to change our policy. I do not know whether anyone disputes that? We believe that if evil should come the responsibility lies, not on the Colonies—we do not blame them—but on the Government, which deliberately refuses to change our policy in the face of the present situation. We believe that our policy is necessary in order to increase a demand for British labour as a foundation for social reform. We believe it is necessary in order to negotiate with foreign countries for a fairer exchange of products, and I hope a larger exchange between ourselves and our neighbours. We believe it is necessary in order to complete the commercial union of Empire in that spirit of comradeship of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke.
§ Mr. MILDMAY
I beg to second the Amendment. I am, I know, tackling a very big subject, a subject on which I am by no means well qualified to speak. I am quite sure the House will agree with me that my difficulties have been increased a hundredfold by the admirable way in which the Mover has dealt with the subject. I can only assure the House that I am very conscious of my own deficiencies compared with my hon. Friend. One thing I do regret, and that is that any Amendment to the Address must of necessity be debated from a party point of view. I mean that it must be voted upon apart from the merits of the question. The "Outs," of course, must support it, and the "Ins" must vote against it. I am sorry that this should be so, because I wish to put my arguments from a non-party point of view, as moderately as I can, and with a real desire to carry hon. Gentlemen opposite with me, as far as possible, in my direction. Perhaps I may individually claim their toleration as one who entered this House as a supporter of Mr. Gladstone and his fiscal system. I am not sure, but I rather think that I was at one time subjected to the suspicion of that mysterious body of members entitled "The Confederates." However that may be, my conclusions I have come to honestly and arrived at after a great deal of thought. I will put them before the House for what they are worth.
I stated that it is my wish to carry hon. Members opposite so far along my road as possible. I presume that we shall not part company when I refuse to characterise our present trading conditions as "Free Trade," for the very obvious reason that there is no single commercial nation in the world with which we trade freely. Hon. Members opposite will agree that we are merely "Free importers." Neither will hon. Members in any part of the House, I think, be disposed to dispute the assertion that our foreign trade is a double process, the exchange of goods for goods. This being undoubtedly so, if the foreigner raises a high wall of protective duties against us, if he interposes every possible obstacle when we wish to pay for the goods he sends with our goods, we cannot be said to be trading freely. Free Trade means free circulation of trade, and such a system cannot be one-sided. It means freedom, not only to buy goods from the foreigner, but freedom also to pay for those goods with goods of English manufacture. So we have got to recognise that the high protective duties imposed by many foreign nations at their frontiers on 758 our goods are just as serious an interference with the free circulation of our trade as would be high protective duties imposed at our ports on foreign imports. I think those are almost exactly the words of Lord Morley, than whom hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree there is no more staunch upholder of Cobden's theories.
Lord Morley, in his "Life of Cobden," has denounced as erroneous the pet dictum of hon. Gentlemen opposite:—Take care of your imports, and your exports will take care of themselves.He has brushed aside this theory as fallacious, and has said:—It is not so much Free Trade between any two countries which should be our real aim, but rather to remove obstacles in the stream of free exchange of commodities; in this circulating system every tariff is an obstruction, and the free circulation of trade is in the long run as much impeded by an obstruction at one frontier as at another.This being so, I am prepared to subscribe to the doctrine that in cases of obviously unfair treatment by the foreigner we should endeavour by negotiations, by commercial treaties, by the temporary use, if needs be, of retaliatory duties, to compel foreign nations to desist from unfair action and to moderate these high protective duties. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear."] Yes, to moderate their high protective duties. Surely the hon. Member will agree with me it is desirable to do that; to moderate these high protective duties which prevent us from enjoying all the advantages which would come to us from freedom of trade. Many, like the hon. Gentleman opposite, may doubt the success of that policy, but it does seem to me that we have in the fact of the absolute necessity of the English market to the foreign producer a most effective means of applying pressure. Is it futile to imagine that we can bring about a condition of trade more favourable to ourselves by the means suggested in the Amendment? I do not like to dogmatise on this complicated subject. I do not trust my own opinion. But I am emboldened to believe in this possibility by the utterances of those recognised by hon. Gentlemen opposite as authorities. Lord Morley has said:—We cannot experience all the benefits of our trading policy unless foreign nations reduce their protective duties.Further, he has added:—In order to bring this about we must negotiate commercial treaties.But surely if Lord Morley contemplates negotiations of this nature to bring about 759 commercial treaties, he, of course, has realised that the use of the term "negotiation" implies that we have something to withhold, and conversely something to offer, in exchange for the benefits which we seek from the foreigner. If that something is not access to our markets, I am at a loss to know what it can be. Therefore it seems to me that Lord Morley was of opinion, as I am of opinion, that we should use the necessity of the English market to the foreign producer as a lever in our negotiations to bring about more advantageous conditions of trade. Further, I think that Lord Morley must have recognised that to preface our negotiations with the declaration that under no circumstances would the access of the foreigner to the English market be interfered with would be to invite failure. Recognising that, I do not see how his Lordship could have done otherwise than contemplate some degree of so-called retaliatory action. Let me give another who will be accepted as a great authority. I refer to the late Duke of Devonshire. In the same connection he said:—The Government should be supported in proposing to Parliament Tariff legislation for the purpose of negotiations of commercial treaties, and mitigation of hostile tariffs.There was Lord Rosebery. He seems to me to have the same thing in his mind when, at the very beginning of this Tariff Reform controversy, he said:That Cobden's theories must not be considered as having all the weight of the Sermon on the Mount.That cryptic utterance has never been explained to us, but it seems to me it follows in the same direction. A more recent convert to this view was the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Admiralty, who, I remember some time surprised his party in the House by saying "that there were some cases in which we should have recourse to retaliation." The right hon. Gentleman was, of course, tackled at once, but he stuck to his words. I do not quote them for the purpose of scoring off the right hon. Gentleman, but for the purpose of claiming him as a witness on my side, because it seems to me that he stated the whole case. We all know that the Radical doctrine is that we should submit to anything and everything the foreigner does, and under no circumstances ought we to think of retaliation. I remember well that the First Lord's words caused a great deal of consternation on the opposite side of the House, and attempts were made to explain them away, and to 760 tell us that he did not mean what we mean. But that hon Members opposite very fully realised that the case had been given away was plain from the irritation which was expressed in the Government newspapers next day.
I agree that we must be very careful in using this weapon. Speaking for myself, I believe that retaliation ought not to be used in an extreme protective sense; to bolster up home industries against legitimate competition. So used, it would act as a premium on inefficiency. [HON MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] I quite agree that to so use it would be to act as a premium upon inefficiency, and hon. Members opposite will agree that it would retard our industrial progress. I maintain that retaliation should be directed against that distinctly unfair action of the foreigner of which we have constant cause of complaint. Frankly, I tell the House I do not believe in looking on with folded arms at the desperate, and indeed, successful efforts which are being made to exclude us from foreign markets. I am convinced that such a passive altitude will in the end be our undoing. I am quite sure that that is the view of the country. May I for one moment point out how closely our fiscal position resembles our naval position. Hon. Gentlemen opposite very frequently say how monstrous it is that so much money should be spent on warlike weapons. We all agree. We all have a horror of war. We all know the untold suffering caused by war, not only on the field of battle, but the long-drawn out suffering in the homes of the poor.
The mere possibility of war in these days of civilisation is scandalous. We have done our best as a nation to give effect to that view. I think it was Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman who first approached Germany and asked whether it might not be possible to come to an agreement as to naval expenditure. We offered to take the first step if Germany would conform, and we did take a long step at one moment in the direction of reducing our shipbuilding Vote, but Germany, for reasons, the validity of which I do not wish to question, absolutely refused to listen to us, and our duty became plain. We must make our Fleet so strong as to be equal to any combination that should be brought against us. The point which I wish to make is that the way of disarmament was barred to us. That is where our naval position resembled our fiscal position. As regards munitions of war, universal disarmament 761 was our ideal, but we could not get it, and therefore we must put ourselves in a position to guard against aggressive, injurious, and unfair action by the foreigner. We are all agreed as to this. The fiscal situation is exactly the same. Universal Free Trade has long been our ideal as a nation—universal disarmament as far as trading conditions are concerned. By force of example we have tried to get foreign nations to disarm, and cast aside the heavy duties with which they warred against British trade, but we have not been successful, so we must guard ourselves against unfair action by the foreigner unless we are to go to the wall.
What do I mean by unfair action? The way in which, with free access to our markets, the foreigner is trying to exclude us from his markets in an ever-increasing degree. If it continues it is bound, in the end, to mean ever-increasing unemployment. We do not object to legitimate competition, which is a stimulus to efficiency; we do not mind fair competition, but are the conditions under which we trade and compete, fair conditions? Most distinctly, No. The interests of the consumer are important; but we can not entirely ignore the producer, as our opponents would have us do. To a great producing nation like ourselves, access to foreign markets is as the breath of life. Without that access our prosperity goes, and that access is becoming year by year more difficult. Let me give another instance of the necessity for "fair treatment," to use the words of the Amendment, and this time in the home market. Our manufacturers have serious cause to complain in that they do not compete on equal terms with the foreigner, even in the home market. The advocates of our Free Trade system, adopted in 1846, claimed to have established a system of trading under which England was to give to the commerce and manufactures of all other nations an equal chance with our own in the home market, but it has so happened that the system has not carried out that desire, for the system granted to the foreigner terms of access to the English markets more favourable than those enjoyed by the home producer of the same article.
Before our great producers, our great manufacturers, can use the home market they are heavily taxed and heavily rated for the upkeep of the same. It is not denied that these rates and taxes add 12 per cent. to the expense of production. Then why should not the foreigner, to whom the 762 market is so important, be taxed in the same degree, and contribute in the same degree towards its upkeep? By taxing the home producer to the extent of 12 per cent. before he can use the market, and allowing the foreigner to use it free of all such taxation, we are to the extent of 12 per cent. actually protecting the foreigner in the home market; we are to the extent of 12 per cent. handicapping the English producer in his difficult competition with the foreigner. Is it outrageous, in return for the use of the market, to require the foreigner to pay his fair share of upkeep? I know what the hon. Gentleman opposite will say, "Yes, but such taxation would increase the foreign manufacturer's expenses of production, and possibly the price of the foreign goods to the English consumer will also be increased." Without admitting this, I would ask whether this was a valid reason for absolving the foreigner from contributing his fair share; for, if it is a valid reason, it is no less valid a reason for exempting the home manufacturer from all taxation which adds to his expenses of production, and this is obviously an absurd proposition. I hold that it is the very first duty of any English Government to insist that its industrial population compete on equal terms, and certainly not at a disadvantage, with the foreigner—at any rate in the home market.
I feel that I must not weary the House, so I have used no figures or statistics. There is an old saying in this connection that figures could be found to prove anything. Hon. Gentlemen opposite would doubtless point to the figures of the trade returns as proof of their ever-increasing prosperity under present conditions; but let us not forget that the trade returns figures of our chief rival, with a very different fiscal system to our own, are just as remarkable, and even more remarkable. I am very willing to admit that in the past very shaky arguments have been based from this side of the House upon the increased trade of foreign nations as shown in percentages of increase, but it is no longer a question of percentages. Let us remember that the increase of German trade bulks much larger than our own, which is a disquieting fact. Hitherto you have always found fault with the argument in that connection because you said the figures were based upon percentages. You can no longer depend upon that argument. It is really to be lamented that a question so important as fiscal reform 763 should so often, in a desire to get party advantage, be debated upon false premises. Hon. Gentlemen opposite delight in representing us as being desirous of adopting the heavy protective duties of the United States. Nothing can be further from the truth, and if I might venture to say so, they know it. Speaking for myself, it is against unfair conditions that I want to guard our trade. I do not wish to foster by heavy protective duties industries for which we have no natural aptitude, for such a course would obviously mean waste of our productive powers.
I am not touching upon the Colonial point of view, nor will I at any length, but I do want to say something in this connection. Let me say only this. I believe that our attitude at the last Colonial Conference in refusing to hear what the Colonies had to say with regard to Preference was a most short-sighted action. Hon. Gentlemen opposite said that no "offer" had been made worthy of a return: they contended that the Colonies did not "mean business." I do not think that this view can be persisted in, after what took place at the recent Canadian elections. The Canadian people have made it clear that they are ready to sacrifice immediate pecuniary advantage in their desire to associate themselves more closely with the Home Country. But let it be granted, for the sake of argument, that no offer of a substantial nature had been made, at least let us not refuse to hear what they wished to say upon the subject. Let us encourage the Colonies to speak frankly to us, it cannot hurt us. I want that threshed out in the light of day. We like to look on the Colonies as the children of the Mother Country; let us, as does a mother to her children, invite their confidence. If they asked too much, more than could be given them, we could explain to the Colonies why they could not have it, as a mother to her children. That is the way to treat the Colonies, and that is treatment they would understand. Speaking for myself, I place implicit confidence in the reiterated utterances of Colonial Prime Ministers, to the effect that the poorer classes of England should not be expected to make sacrifices for the cause of Preference. Sir Joseph Ward said, "I believe that anything in the way of Preference which the Colonies might suggest, if it was calculated to increase the price of food to the masses of the people, ought to be opposed, and rightly 764 so, by the British people." Sir William Lyne spoke in the same sense, and Dr. Jameson said, "We have no idea of imposing any burden upon the poorer people of this country."
Let me say, finally, that I make no claim to great wisdom in these matters, but am simply a learner, and I think it would be a good thing if a great many others so regarded themselves. It seems to me there are so many unseen, complicated, and unrealised influences at work where international trade is concerned, that the confident predictions which are made from both sides as to the immediate result of this or that action are scarcely justifiable. We find ourselves confronted by two fiscal policies. The advocates of the one maintain that we should allow the foreigner to do whatever he likes to us, that we should submit to whatever treatment he chooses to mete out to us, even though such treatment might mean serious injury to English industries and grievous distress to English working men and their families. The advocates of the other policy repudiate any such doctrine as that, and hold that it is the first duty of an English Government to insist, so far as they can insist, upon fair play and equal conditions of competition for English producers and English working men all the world over.
I have considered these two policies from the point of view of one who has upheld universal Free Trade as an ideal for years. But Free Trade does not begin and end with free imports. Free Trade, as I have been taught it, means a free exchange of goods at natural prices, prices determined by the laws of supply and demand, unhampered by duties at this frontier or that. Are we anywhere near that? No. We are drifting further and further away from true freedom of trade, and I am convinced that it is only by the methods indicated in the Amendment that we can bring about a condition of trading less unfair to English labour.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the ADMIRALTY (Dr. Macnamara)
Let me congratulate the Mover and the Seconder upon the way in which they have performed their task. For the last three years this Tariff Reform Amendment has been presented to us with all the pomp and circumstance of a Front Bench Motion. It has, if I may say so, in the past been put right in the middle of the front of the window, but now we find it is relegated to the lees conspicuous second row. 765 I will say, however, in regard to the speeches of the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment, that it has not lost any of its importance by the treatment it has received at their hands. The fact, however, remains that it is in the second row, and that fact is significant, in my opinion, of a very great deal, because I think it reflects the position of the movement in the country. I confidently expect to see it even taken out of the second row and labelled, "Slightly soiled, must be disposed of, no reasonable offer declined." I congratulate the Mover and Seconder upon their speeches, because to preach Tariff Reform in bad times is simple enough. At such a time all sorts and conditions of men will listen to you, and if you have got nothing else in the window but Tariff Reform you will always have a crowd around all day long. You may even make a good many people shake their heads and begin to doubt whether, after all, Free Trade is not an anachronism which has outlived its usefulness, its day and generation. Certainly you may make a lot of the very poor people, overwhelmed with cares and anxieties of the moment, say, "Well, things could not be much worse than they are; let us give this thing a chance." That is where you got your votes in January, 1910. But it is a very different thing having to preach Tariff Reform in good times. We are all Free Traders in good times. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] Well, except some of the very specially faithful. Even this Motion is not what it used to be. I do not complain of that, but I merely mention the fact. Let me read to the House the 1909 edition of this Motion, which was moved by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain). This is how it ran, and I call particular attention to its terms:—But humbly represent to Your Majesty that this House views with anxiety the state of trade and employment in this country and the failure of Tour Majesty's Ministers to recognise the nature and gravity of the situation, and regrets that there is no mention in Your Majesty's Gracious Speech of any proposals for enlarging the market for British and Irish produce and increasing the demand for labour by a reform of our fiscal system, which would promote the growth and stability of our Home trade, provide means for negotiating for the mitigation of foreign tariffs, and develop our oversea trade through the establishment of a system of mutual preference between the different portions of the Empire.The 1910 edition was in precisely similar terms, but I ask the House to observe that we were asked to "view with anxiety the state of trade and employment." We were reproved, or to be reproved, for not having recognised the gravity of the situa- 766 tion by proposing the reform of our fiscal system. Very good, but we have not made any change in our fiscal system. Why, then, does this Motion not now persist in its anxiety about the state of trade and employment. Why are we not now reproved for our failure to recognise the gravity of the situation? Simply because you cannot put your case against Free Trade on the same ground as you put it in. 1909–10. The fiscal system is the same. Free Trade is as much or as little responsible as ever it was, but, happily, trade and employment have greatly improved, and you are not justified in charging against Free Trade the condition of things which you seized hold of to hang the earlier editions of this Motion upon. Let me come to last year's Debate, when a Motion was moved, again by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire. I will repeat his Amendment to the House:—This House humbly expresses its regret that the persistent refusal of Your Majesty's Government to modify the fiscal system of the country is imperilling the advantages at present derived by British commerce from the preference granted by Your Majesty's Dominions overseas, has deferred the closer commercial union of the Empire, and has deprived the country of of the most effective method of inducing foreign countries to grant fair treatment to British manufacturers.[An HON. MEMBER: "It is the same."] No, it is not the same. There is another phrase added. I have taken careful note of the form of this Motion. I observe, in the first place, that any reference to Irish produce has disappeared from this Motion. The point may have no significance whatever. This year's addition is in precisely similar terms except that there is added at the close these words:—and is adversely affecting labour conditions of the country.That is an addition to the Motion now before us as compared with last year's Motion. That addition to me, is a very characteristic touch. You look around to see if there is anything wrong anywhere, and then you put it into the Tariff Reform prospectus and guarantee to remedy it. The faith healers are the quintessence of hard, unimaginative matters of fact alongside the Tariff Reformers. There never was such a magnificent fanaticism as that of the Tariff Reform. If the farmer wants protection for home produce against foreign-grown produce, the remedy is Tariff Reform. If the cost of living for the artisan in the great towns is to be reduced—Tariff Reform. Does the artisan and the labourer want higher wages—Tariff Reform. Is 3d. a 767 week from the employer in connection with the Insurance Act a ruinous tax on industry—Tariff Reform. Do you want to let the foreigner in, tax him, and thereby make him help to meet the demand for additional revenue—Tariff Reform. Do you want to keep the foreigner out, and by that means give work to the man out of a job—Tariff Reform. And then people go about pretending that the age of miracles is over.
I am bound to admit that Tariff Reformers, to my mind, have been the most successful failures up to date. You cannot beat them in the art of getting out attractive prospectuses. Like all the great artists, they know the value of a well-placed topical allusion. The Leader of the Opposition tells us that he believes that Tariff Reform will tend to raise wages. Please observe that we are asked to believe in one breath that Tariff Reform will raise wages and in the very next breath—not by the Leader of the Opposition, I think, but by some of the advocates of his cause—complaint is made against us of the unfair competition of underpaid Continental labour. Those two propositions are not consistent. Tariff Reform, it is said, will tend to raise wages, and yet the complaint is made of unfair competition by underpaid Continental labour. The latest virtue alleged for Tariff Reform by the Mover of this Amendment is its potency to cure labour unrest. I suppose that is why this new phrase has been added. That was the claim made for it by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire when he spoke at Yardley on 29th January. For a country situated as we are I think we shall enter upon a very dangerous course indeed if we ever attempt to cure labour unrest by the application of Tariff Reform. On this matter I will be perfectly frank with the hon. Gentleman opposite, and I will say that I am under no apprehension that we ever shall apply that remedy. I am not a doctrinaire, and I do not think there is anything particularly sacrosanct about any fiscal system. I could sum up a whole library of works upon economics in the simple phrase, "The proof of the pudding is in the eating." If hon. Gentlemen opposite can prove to me that their proposals for a reform of our fiscal system will advance permanently the well-being and prosperity of this realm they can write
768 5.0 P.M.
me down under their banner at once. But mere promises will not do, because the matter is far too vital for that. You will have to prove it, and the more seductive and glittering you make your promises the more closely I shall examine your guarantees. Here we are in this country, numbering, I suppose, some forty-five million people. Our cupboards and tables day by day vitally depend upon duty-free importations of foreign foodstuffs. Our mills, factories and workshops depend day by day upon duty-free importations of foreign raw material. I am irresistibly driven to the conclusion that whilst this fiscal system may suit this country, and that fiscal system may suit that country, our sheet anchor is Free Trade. That conclusion is enforced by an examination of the course of events since that time, sixty years ago, to which the Mover of the Amendment referred, when Gladstone and Peel, Bright and Cobden struck aside the cramping and restrictive fetters of Protection. What do I see as the result? I see we have gone right ahead, until to-day we are at the head of the world in shipping, in commerce, in our great industrial enterprises, and, despite social shortcomings—and they are there, and Heaven forbid I should minimise them—in the measure of solid comfort enjoyed by our artisan population. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) is not the man to praise existing social conditions without good cause. He is not precisely lavish in eulogy at most times. A year or two ago he went on an extended tour round the world, and he made a statement, reported in the "Daily News" of 25th March, 1908, and from that statement I take the following, which struck me as rather remarkable:—I come back also with this opinion, that for solid comfort there is no part of the world to compare with this old country of ours.That is a remarkable testimonial. The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil is not the easiest man in the world to satisfy, certainly not in regard to social conditions. Let me just add a very slight sidelight upon the condition of our artisan classes. I will not carry it far. I do not think it proves much, but it is worth noting on this problem. On Saturday afternoon, 13th January, the first round of the English Football Association Cup Tie was fought out. Half-a-million people, many of them of the artisan classes, paid just under £17,000 to watch thirty-two matches. On 3rd February the second round of the 769 English Football Association Cup Tie was fought out, and something like a quarter-of-a-million of people paid £10,000 to watch fourteen matches. I want to ask right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite if they will tell me where the artisans of the protected Continental countries, or, at any rate, a great many of them, were on those self-same Saturday afternoons? [HON. MEMBERS: "At work."] I am not asking my hon. Friends below the Gangway; I directed my inquiry to the other side of the House. The conclusion that Free Trade is our sheet anchor is still further enforced by the staggering refutation which has befallen the Tariff Reformers' every doleful prediction and every dismal jeremiad. It is now eight years ago since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain)—and I join with everybody in expressing regret that he is no longer among us—opened what I may call the first chapter of the new "Book of Lamentations." We were heading straight for the rocks, and nothing could save us except the prompt application of protective duties. We did not put them on, we have not put them on, and we shall not put them on. Now observe this. The total value of our over-sea trade in 1903 was £903,000,000, and in 1911 it was £1,237,500,000. Let me recall, if I may, that awful prediction which faced us at our breakfast on the morning of 8th October, 1903:—Agriculture as the greatest of all trades and industries of this country has been practically destroyed, sugar has gone, silk has gone, iron is threatened—
"Hear, hear."cotton will come! How long are you going to stand it? At the present moment these industries, and the working men who depend upon them are like sheep in a field. One by one they allow themselves to be led out to slaughter, and there is no combination, no apparent prevision of what is in store for the rest of them Do you think, if you belong at the present time to a prosperous industry, that your industry will be allowed to continue?I observe one hon. Member cheers this prophetic statement. Let us see. The value of the exports of silk and manufactures of silk in 1903 was £1,693,000, and in 1911, £2,388,000. "Silk has gone."
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
If the right hon. Gentleman is alluding to me he is totally mistaken in thinking I cheered the statement at all, and I am sure he will withdraw the suggestion. May I ask him, however, if he is in a position to divide those exports between our Colonies and protective countries?
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I rather gathered the hon. Gentleman did cheer the statement that "iron is threatened, wool is threatened, and cotton will come." The value of the exports of iron and steel and the manufactures of iron and steel in 1903 was £30,400,000, and in 1911 £43,800,000. "Iron is threatened." Well, threatened industries, like threatened men, live long and apparently prosper. "Wool is threatened." The value of the exports of woollen yarns and manufactures in 1903, was £24,600,000, and in 1911 £37,300,000. "Wool is threatened." The last of these quotations was "cotton, will come." The value of the exports of cotton, yarns, and manufactures in 1903, was £73,600,000, and in 1911, £120,100,000. Let hon. Gentlemen opposite take the deplorable fate which has befallen all four of those industries. The total of the value of the exports in 1903, of the four of them, was £130,250,000, and last year, not £130,250,000, but £203,500,000. Yet, they were being led out to slaughter, and Free Trade was to be their undoing. That is the foundation, if you please, upon which this demand for a change in our fiscal system has been reared. But, gloomy as was the prediction of eight years ago, what shall be said of the trouble in store for us as the result of the passage of the Budget of 1909–10. The value of the over-sea trade for January, 1909, was £89,000,000; for January, 1910, £90,000,000; January, 1911, £109,000,000; and January, 1912, £117,000,000. I quite admit the Board of Trade returns from the point of view of Tariff Reformers are most annoying. They keep on predicting dirty weather, and every time they tap the glass it steadily rises. It is rather provoking for them. I want to deal with their gloomy prediction with regard to unemployment. The right hon. Gentleman, the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin), moved a resolution at the meeting of the National Union of Conservative Associations at Manchester, on the 17th November, 1909, and in that resolution this phrase occurred. He spoke ofthe ever-increasing want of employment under our present Fiscal system."Ever-increasing," as all those who fought in the poorer parts of our great industrial centres in the dark days of January, 1910, know, was the battle cry of the campaign. At the close of November, 1909, the month when this resolution was moved, of 696,415 trade unionists making returns to the Board of Trade, 45,569, or 6.5 per cent., were unemployed. I am sorry to mention 771 percentages, because I understand Tariff Reformers are going to give up percentages; I must apologise for mentioning them at all. I think they have arrived at a very happy conclusion. In January, 1912, of 820,874 trade unionists making returns, 22,485, or 2.7 per cent. were unemployed. The mean percentage of unemployment for 1911, 3 per cent., is the lowest since 1900. That is the ever-increasing unemployment on which right hon. Gentlemen opposite laid such stress in the campaign of the General Election of January, 1910. Poverty was to be increased if we stuck to this fatuous anachronism, Free Trade. I remember the working classes going to work through a glittering avenue of catch-phrases, "Workshops, not work-houses." I take that to mean if you stuck to Free Trade there would be more work-houses, but if you took to Tariff Reform there would be more workshops. But what are the facts. Take the statistics with regard to pauperism. In England and Wales at the end of December, 1909, if I specially omit persons in fever and smallpox hospitals, persons in receipt of medical out-relief, casuals, and lunatics—these are special classes which are left out from the Local Government Board returns of pauperism issued month by month—if I leave them out, at the end of December, 1909, there were 820,493 persons in receipt of poor relief in England and Wales, and two years after, at the end of December, 1911, the number was 670,894—a reduction in two years of 149,599 on an estimated increase of population of nearly three-quarters of a million, our fiscal system remaining the same.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
Really I am getting on as fast as I can. I was going to explain to what I attributed this decrease in two years of 149,599 persons in receipt of poor relief in England and Wales. But what about the workshops and the work-houses? We were told that if we stuck to Free Trade we would want more workhouses. That was the proposition a moment ago. Yet here we have this big reduction of 149,599 paupers in two years. I really shall have to give the Tariff Reformer up. I admit at once that the decrease is partly due to the improvement in our trade, and that it is mainly due to our system of old age pensions, which was made possible by Free Trade finance; also 772 it is specially due to the striking away, as from the 1st January, 1911, of what was known as the pauper disqualification. If the course of affairs at home does not help the Tariff Reformer, what is to be said of the course of affairs abroad? I say quite frankly that the course of events in this country has made the Tariff Reformer at home look extremely silly in the light of his dismal predictions. But take the state of affairs abroad. There he sees the working people protesting against high food prices, made higher by tariff walls.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
The prices here are not made higher by tariff walls. Yet at such a moment as this we are reproved for not having proposed to alter our fiscal system in a Protectionist direction. Those who reprove us might be better employed. As the Mover and Seconder said, and as the Tariff Reformer may say, "All that is very fine, although we all rejoice at finding trade improved, unemployment decreased, and pauperism decreased, although all these things falsify our predictions, never mind, we take great joy in the better prosperity of the land and of the realm." I wish he would do it a little more cheerfully. He may say it is all very fine, but other countries—and one country in particular which has been mentioned—is forging ahead faster than we are. That was the proposition—
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
No, that was ray way of putting it. I do not wish to make the hon. Gentleman responsible for my phraseology. But supposing that were true to-day it does not necessarily follow that you are entitled to lay all the blame upon your fiscal system. Yet that is what hon. Gentlemen opposite invariably do. In enterprise, in alertness, in adaptability, in commercial methods, in education, and in plans for pushing for new trade while retaining the old, one has need to be always watchful in order to keep pace with other countries. Let me say a word on the matter of Colonial preference. My hon. Friend and colleague the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will speak on that matter later in the day, and will speak with greater authority and ability than I can. But let me just remark, I think it is a pity that the course taken 773 by any British Dominion in the dispensation of her domestic affairs, whatever that course may be, should be laid hold of for partisan purposes here at home. A good deal has been said recently about the Canadian elections. There were references to them this afternoon. I make no complaint of the way in which they were treated, but the Canadian elections are a matter for the Canadian people, and it does not become us to utilise them as pawns in our party warfare. We shall, all of us, whatever part of the House we sit in, watch the great enterprise and splendid development of the old Dominion with an eye of the keenest regard and keenest sympathy, and some of us, like the Leader of the Opposition, and myself, and others in this House who hail Canada as our birthplace, will do so, if that is possible, with oven deeper feelings of affection. We are all sure that time, and whatever time may bring with it, can only strengthen the ties of affection, regard, and good will between the old Dominion and the Old Country.
Let me say this in conclusion. I have listened to these fiscal debates many times during the eleven years I have had the honour of being a Member of this House. I have never before taken part in them, but I have constantly had my mind filled with two thoughts. The first is this: If this change in our fiscal system would secure half that which its most ardent advocates claim for it, who would be moving this Motion to-day? It surely would be moved by the Labour Members. There they sit. They spring from the people. They know the hopes, the fears, the anxiety and the aspirations of the people. But they do not move. All the glib assurances of more work and higher wages and better time all round leave these Members cold. [An HON. MEMBER: "Absolutely."] You must think them singularly unmindful of the block from which they were hewn. You have piped unto them and they have not danced; you have mourned with them and they will not weep. Why? Because they do not believe in your remedy: because they know it is very much too good to be true. And they are right. The other thought is this. I have often felt if all the time and money and labour involved in this eight years of discussion as between Free Trade and Tariff Reform, as applicable to our particular case, had been spent in perfecting our methods of commercialism, in improving our system of education, in removing 774 social shortcomings, which are quite improperly attributed to our fiscal system and which have nothing whatever to do with it, how much more profitably it would have been employed.
My last word is to my hon. Friends on this side. Our duty is to defend Free Trade as the only possible fiscal policy for a country situated as we are. To Free Trade we stand irrevocably committed. But there is something more than that. All the time the Tariff Reformer is attacking Free Trade he is in effect calling attention to our social shortcomings, and, in many cases, there is little or nothing of economics in the discussion. He can appeal to sorrow, distress, and unemployment, and he can promise a remedy for, or a mitigation of it, but there is little or nothing of economics in it. These social shortcomings the Tariff Reformer attributes to Free Trade, and he assures those whom he seeks to convert that he can remove or mitigate them. In that, I say, he is doubly wrong. These shortcomings are there in spite of, and not because of, Free Trade, and I say, further, that, situated as we are, Tariff Reform would accentuate rather than mitigate those shortcomings. But there they are. Those who desire to come forward in defence of Free Trade will best serve that purpose by going forward to attack and, as far as possible, remove those social shortcomings which, though they are not in any way attributable to our fiscal system, will always be the best weapon in the armoury of its opponents.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
The right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken commenced his observations by expressing great satisfaction that Tariff Reform had now been put back to the second row of goods in the shop-window display, and that it came under the description of "slightly soiled." He told us that in bad times it was easy enough to support Tariff Reform, but that it was most difficult in good times. The times are good at present—so good, indeed, that he suggested that it has no chance whatever. But for whom is it a good time? Does the right hon. Gentleman say that this is a good time for the workers of the country? Is that his contention?
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
That is not the point. The right hon. Gentleman's argument was that we could do nothing with Tariff Reform because the times were now so good, 775 and when I appealed to him to say for whom they are good, and whether they are good for the workers of this country, he is absolutely silent. He has no reply whatever. He suggested that Tariff Reform, which he described in his most ornamental rhetoric as the most magnificent fanaticism and the most successful failure that had ever been known—this successful failure he declared would never raise wages, and he maintained that it was an absurd contention on our part. But is it so very unreasonable? If Tariff Reform lessens foreign competition—and does he deny that that must be its tendency—if fewer manufactured goods are imported into this country, surely that must result in a greater demand for employment in this country, and does not that mean an increase of wages? The right hon. Gentleman appeared to ignore all these considerations, which are amongst the most elementary we have to consider in dealing with the question which is now before us. The right hon. Gentleman fell back upon the old figures of our over-seas trade, and he was especially severe upon me for an observation I made, I think, some three years ago, of which I have no precise recollection at this moment, but it was because, I understand, that I described unemployment as ever increasing.
§ Dr. MACNAMARA
I only wish to refresh the right hon. Gentleman's memory that it was at the meeting of the National Union of Conservative Associations.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
I had forgotten the fact. It is a long time ago, and it is the misfortune of gentlemen in my position to make a great many speeches and to move a great many resolutions in the course of the year. The right hon. Gentleman fell back upon Mr. Chamberlain's figures. With all respect to the right hon. Gentleman, I am not much concerned with the figures he put before us to-night, and when he taunts me with saying that unemployment in this country three years ago was ever increasing, I should like to observe in the first place that his figures in no way whatever relate to the whole employment of this country. I understand they are taken from the trade union figures alone.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
The figures given by the Board of Trade. They do not include anything like the whole employment of the country, and I affirm, notwithstanding all that the right hon. Gentleman has said to-night, that, on the balance, for a great number of years unemployment has been steadily increasing, until it is not denied that it has at last become chronic in this country. Will the right hon. Gentleman deny that?
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
Then what on earth is the meaning, if unemployment is such a happy condition, of that great Bill upon which the Government have been spending so many months, one part of which is devoted expressly to providing for the unemployment that is so rife in the country, and which made it absolutely necessary to introduce that measure.
§ Mr. CHAPLIN
It is all very well to nod your head and say "Hear, hear," but that is what we should like to hear from the right hon. Gentleman. What I am really concerned with in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman are certain figures of his own that he adduced in regard to the iron and steel trade. He gave them with an air of triumph which rather surprised me, considering that I have the latest figures with regard to the progress of the iron and steel trade in this country, which I will give to the House. The right hon. Gentleman must know that the admitted test, according to the statements of the Board of Trade itself, of the progress in any country of the iron and steel industry is the consumption and the production of pig iron. That is a well-known fact, which is denied by no one. What are the facts with regard to the relative progress of the United Kingdom under a Free Trade system and of Germany and the United States of America under a protective system? What is the history of the iron and steel trade in this country for the last thirty years? The figures given to me are the latest by which you can compare the relative progress of these countries. They are 777 something almost appalling. Although the right hon. Gentleman congratulated himself upon the figures he gave us with regard to the iron and steel trade, I wonder what he will say when I compare them with the figures of Germany and the United States. I have taken the date when Prince Bismarck abandoned Free Trade in Germany and took to Protection. What was the production of pig iron at that time? In Great Britain it was 6,000,000 tons; in Germany it was 2,200,000 tons, and in the United States it was 2,700,000 tons. That is to say, that during the years from 1879 down to the present time, during the time that we remained a Free Trade country and Germany and the United States took to Protection, according to this test, admitted by the Board of Trade itself as the best test of the progress of any country in that particular industry, we increased 4,000,000 tons—from 6,000,000 to 10,000,000. Germany increased 12,000,000 tons—from 2,000,000 to 14,000,000 tons; and the United States increased from 2,700,000 tons to 24,700,000 tons. That is to say, Germany increased more than three times the increase that we made, and the United States increased six times more than our increase in that particular period.
That is a most remarkable and extraordinary state of things, and there must be some good reason for it. What is the reason? I am going, with permission of the House, to give a reason. It is not my own reason, but it is given to me by great manufacturers in the country, who have told it to me over and over again. I make this affirmation in spite of all that the right hon. Gentleman has said to-night, that in the case of some of our great industries in this country in which we were formerly unapproached, and in which we stood alone without any foreign rival in the world, it is the positive fact that by more than one of these foreign countries we have been absolutely beaten, and in one of them in particular we have been outdistanced in the race, and that is the particular trade of which I am speaking at this moment. What is the reason that I have been given? It is this: that the secret of commercial competition in these days is cheap production, and the whole secret of cheap production is large production. Every manufacturer in the country will tell you that the more largely he can produce, the more cheaply he can produce. The very first essential for cheap production is that you should always have the 778 largest possible markets perfectly free and open to you. How do we compare in that respect with our foreign rivals? I should like the right hon. Gentleman to consider this impartially and for himself. They can produce as largely and therefore as cheaply as they please, because they have always two markets open to them. They have their own market on the one hand, which they take very good care to keep entirely for themselves by the heavy protective duties they impose on goods coming into their country; and when that market is satisfied, and after they have made a good profit out of it, they then send the surplus that they have to dispose of straight into this country. They are good men of business, no doubt, and they get the best price they can, but they also know that they must take whatever price they can get, with this result, that their goods in these circumstances are very often sold for less than their cost. That is where our old friend dumping comes in, which has done such an infinitude of mischief to industries of our own in days gone by, and when a trade boom comes again will do still more, if we continue to adhere to our foolish, worn-out, and antiquated system.
What is our position? We have only one market—or, rather, only that part of one market which the foreigners are kind enough to leave us. Our manufacturers cannot manufacture as largely as they please because they are always afraid of having a surplus of which they cannot dispose. There is no getting away from these facts. I have put this case occasionally before Free Traders in different parts of the country, and never once have I been able to obtain from any single one of them anything in the semblance of an answer. We have found ourselves in greater trouble in regard to unemployment and duration of bad times than the countries with whom we have to compete in these circumstances. I have given one particular instance of this trade. I give that particular instance because the trade is so important that it always used to be called the keystone of all our national industries, because it is so much mixed up with a number of other trades. If that is the case, what is to be the remedy? There is only one possible remedy, in my opinion, and that is the acquisition of better and larger markets than we have at present. I say it is the remedy, because larger markets mean more orders to the manufacturers, and, consequently, more employment and better wages for the men. 779 Where are they to be found? They are to be found, of course, in the markets of our Colonies beyond the seas, and in our own markets here at home. Having read many years ago one of the late Sir Robert Giffen's essays on this, particular subject, and having discussed it with him afterwards, I learnt from him—and there was no higher authority—that, in his opinion, the value of the home market by itself, if left to us, would be worth, I think he said—it sounded like exaggeration, but he convinced me that he was right—eight times as much as all the foreign markets put together. Again, of course, they could be got in the Colonies beyond the seas, and, if it had not been for the incredible folly of this country, we should have had a most beneficial and advantageous share in the Colonial markets long ago. For remember Canada's offers to us, not at the last Conference, nor the Conference before, but at a Conference still further back.
What Canada really offered us came practically to this: not that she would admit our manufactures, which would have injured, and possibly destroyed, her own, perfectly free, but that with regard to all those articles which she could not make for herself she was perfectly ready and willing so to arrange her tariff in the future as to give us practically the control of that part of her markets for ourselves. These things are all recorded in the Blue Book. There is the offer made, and what was the price to be paid for it? Nothing but a wretched single 1s. duty on corn, of which she was to have a preference in return for the possession of these priceless markets, which would have been the greatest boon which could possibly have been conferred upon the working classes of this country. All this splendid market has been at our disposal over and over again for years, and would have been ours at the present time if it had not been for the folly and the prejudice of our present rulers. They did their best to lose all chance of it, and to this country and to our working classes for ever. But thank God they were prevented by the patriotism and the affection of Canada for this country. Now once more we have the chance, which I put before the House from my own personal knowledge of Canada. I have travelled through those wide districts and can give a description of the natural resources and wealth of that country, which are really sometimes to me almost inconceivable. It is because I have been for years convinced of the surpassing importance of friendly 780 action in this direction towards our great dependencies, and because I know what the loss of it will mean to the workers of this country, that I long ago determined to devote whatever was left to me of health and strength to the prosecution of what, I believe, would be the most beneficial work ever carried out in the industrial interests of the United Kingdom. This Amendment lays it down that the action of the Government has imperilled the Imperial preference which has been for so long at our disposal. It has deferred the closer commercial union of the Empire, it has deprived us of the chance and the power of retaliation with foreign countries when we are unfairly treated by them, and, above all, it is because it lays down that it is most injurious to the labour conditions of the workers in this country that I give my hon. Friend the heartiest support I can offer.
The Mover of the Amendment, in the course of a very interesting and able speech, made a remark which struck me rather forcibly. He said it was with considerable difficulty that he could persuade himself that we, upon this side of the House, who are opponents of any and all forms of Tariff Reform, Protection, Preference, and so on, were really in earnest. That is curious, because it happens to be exactly the position and exactly the difficulty that I am in in regard to them. I have not yet been able to persuade myself that they really mean it. I am not yet convinced that they are so blind as to what is going on around them, that they are so unaware of the experience that is theirs to be had if they like to seek it, as to continue asserting as they do the benefits of Protection. I noticed, however, that the moderate tone of both Mover and Seconder was most marked. It is certainly a very great departure from what I may call, if it is a Parliamentary word, the cockiness which has characterised our Debate upon this subject in previous years. There has been no confidence such as we had exhibited before, no strong statements as to what Tariff Reform will do, barring the suggestion that here and there it might do something. Of course, I recognise quite well that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) has been a consistent advocate of this policy for many years past. Along with the late Sir Howard Vincent he was preaching it in season and out of season. But so far as its modern history is concerned there has come a great change. In 781 the first few days after the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) had startled the country by his remarkable proposal, we had all sorts of extravagant statements as to what Tariff Reform was going to do. It was going, in the first instance, to find two jobs for every man. Then it dawned upon someone's mind that it might only be one job and fifteen-sixteenths of another. So it dwindled down and down until I well remember the time—I had only been in the House a few days—when the late Leader of the Opposition very gravely warned his followers not to put their demands too high and not to make their promises too lavish. From that day to this those promises have been getting staler and staler. I, like the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara), cannot help feeling a little sorry for the conditions under which the Opposition have to move their Amendment. Certainly it is rather difficult to make out a good case when exports and imports are booming, and when the trade of the country has so very much improved.
There was one remark that the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Chaplin) made in which I very largely sympathised with him. He was rather combating the statement made by the Financial Secretary to the Admiralty that unemployment had not increased, and that there was not a tendency for it to increase. I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman. If you take a long term of years that certainly is true. We can look as we like, and we cannot blind ourselves to the fact. Twenty, twenty-five, and thirty years ago unemployment was bad at periods and then recovered, and during the process of recovery every able-bodied and willing worker could find work. Unfortunately, that is not the case to-day. Unemployment has increased to this extent, that even during the best of times there is a big margin of unemployment. But I am afraid I must join issue with the right hon. Gentleman here. I do not think Tariff Reform would help us in the slightest degree, but would rather aggravate the symptoms and not cure them. After all, what is the position? Why has unemployment increased? Is it not because of the marvellous increase in the power of production? Is it not because of the introduction of machinery? We have increased our capacity to produce during the last fifty years by twenty times. Of course we are not making use of them to that extent. We are only making use of 782 them to the extent of twice. Does the right hon. Gentleman expect when the workers of this country are not receiving that return for that labour which, if they were receiving it, would make a bigger demand, and that demand in itself would stimulate trade—that under these circumstances it is likely that we may really expect that unemployment should not grow worse? We may look at the question from whatever standpoint we like. To me Tariff Reform, Protection, Preference, by whatever name you like to call it, is not only economically unsound, but at the same time all the experience that we can gain from other countries and from the past history of our own country, will teach us the same thing, that under Protection these things are likely to grow worse and not to grow better.
I am always interested when I hear Members of the Opposition interesting themselves in the welfare of the workers. I am not going to suggest that they do not mean all they say, but those of us who sit upon these benches, every one of whom has worked amongst the workers, lived their life, and knows something of the things they have to endure, knows the conditions of employment and all the rest of it, should at least have some little knowledge of the subject so far as we think it would affect us, and consequently we are more than likely to have studied foreign conditions to see how it affects the workers. I want to emphasise very strongly, not only on my own behalf, but on behalf of every single man of the Labour party, this statement made by the right hon. Gentleman (Dr. Macnamara), namely, that if any man or any body of men can convince us that Tariff Reform is for the benefit of the workers, we will be Tariff Reformers at once. Of course, they may believe it is possible to do it. I have looked around and analysed the arguments, and I have found them singularly unconvincing. I want for a moment to look at the experience of other countries. I have been reading to-day a book which, I am sorry to say, I had not the opportunity of getting hold of before, because I think, if I had had time to go through it, I could possibly have-swept away every one of the arguments likely to be used in regard to the steel trade as it affects this country and our relations with foreign countries. I must content myself with one or two extracts which may indicate the line of argument, and the wealth of material for argument, 783 in foreign countries in regard to such matters. In the first place, I would like to suggest that America is the country in which possibly the most scientific compilation of tariffs has yet been made, and if there is anything in Protection that country gives us rather a curious spectacle. If we were to accept the view of hon. Gentlemen opposite, we would expect that the people in protected countries were all as well as they could be, that there were harmonious relations between employer and employed, that employment was steady, that poverty was unknown, and that wages were high and getting higher. On none of these points does America bear out that position. On every one of these points it has an opposite verdict to give. Poverty there is not getting less, but it is increasing.
Take the case of the Pittsburg works. What are the facts there? There are about 43 per cent. of the workers in that huge concern who are not getting more than five dollars per day. You may think that a large wage, but I wish to point out that, while that is true, there are 60 per cent. not getting more than two dollars per day. Again, you may say that is a large wage. But if you want to draw a comparison, let me point out that before the Trust achieved the power it has, before it spread its tentacles over the United States, and before it crushed trade unionism, as it has done since, those people who are getting five dollars were getting ten to twelve dollars per day. I invite the attention of the House to that particular fact. I do not say that is the natural outcome of Protection, but I do suggest that whatever may be assigned as the real cause, Protection does not, as its advocates declare it will, prevent falls or lead to increases in wages in any way. As a matter of fact, wages have decreased rather than increased. And so it is in regard to a great many other industries Things are so bad in America that they are starting investigation pretty much as we have done in this country. I hold in my hand a copy of a weekly paper called "The Survey." It is published by the Charity Organisation Society of the City of New York. I know that charity organisation appeals to some hon. Gentlemen opposite, and unless they believe that there is some strange difference between charity organisation in that country and in this, they will be disposed to listen to the evidence of this particular journal. 784 That organisation is conducted by men who have no particular axe to grind. I do not know that they represent any particular party. They are men who are anxious to know the causes of social distress in the United States, and to suggest remedies if they possibly can. One investigation that has been carried out is in regard to women's labour. I find that they examined a considerable number of women—17,000 or 18,000 altogether—and they state that 41 per cent. of the candy workers, 10.2 per cent. of the saleswomen, 16.1 per cent. of the laundry workers, and 23 per cent. of the cotton workers earn less than five dollars per week, and that, respectively, 65.2 per cent., 29.5 per cent., 40.7 per cent., and 37.6 per cent. of them earn less than six dollars per week. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that in New York?"] That does not refer to New York. It refers to some part of Massachusetts. It applies indeed to the whole State so far as I can see. If I were to make many quotations from the book, I think it would be found that there is a great deal of this kind of thing going on.
There is another point infinitely more important, and that is in regard to the efforts to be made, or the suggestions to be made, to overcome these grave social evils, and to bring some little betterment to bear on the conditions of these people. A number of very celebrated men in social economics in the United States are putting their intellects together and endeavouring to see if they cannot make some practical proposal, and this, after all, is, in my opinion, the most important suggestion that has yet been made as to the cause of unemployment, poverty, and the like. I invite hon. Gentlemen opposite to recognise that these men have come to the conclusion that it is no good for any nation to endeavour to find out the causes of social unrest, poverty, or unemployment so long as they confine their investigations to their own country. Professor Irving Fisher, a member of the American Economic Association, tells us that prices have risen during the last fifteen years 50 per cent. in the United States, 30 per cent. in Germany, and 20 per cent. in this country. I may say that it is an infinitely difficult matter to arrive at any reliable information on this point. I was reading the other day similar figures given by a celebrated man who read a paper before the Economic Society of this country, which was highly appreciated. Although he gave different figures from 785 those I have quoted, the strange thing is that the proportions were pretty much the same as in this particular pronouncement. Professor Kemmerer, of Cornell, believes it was an open question whether, in spite of the seeming prosperity of most of the period since 1896, the labouring classes are not worse off than they were fifteen years ago.
I wish the House to see the trend of my argument. I am not suggesting that things are any worse in Tariff Reform and Protectionist America. What I am going to prove is that, although they have all the safeguards which hon. Members opposite are asking us to adopt in this country, things are going from bad to worse in America, as they are here. We have not many conditions so bad as those that are to be found in America. We have never yet seen a drop in wages equivalent to a drop of from ten or twelve dollars to five dollars. I do not think you can point to any industry where in fifteen or twenty years wages in a particular trade or industry have been reduced by that amount.
I can see that our Friends opposite are abandoning the argument as to percentage. We have not had such high wages, but hon. Gentlemen opposite know quite well, without confusing the issue, that there is no comparison between wages in this country and wages in America. The comparison must be between American wages and the cost of living there, and English wages and the cost of living here Unless you can prove that the American worker is able, out of his wages, to maintain a better and more decent existence than the worker can do out of the wages he receives in this country, it cannot be said that the American worker is in a better position. I do not believe there is a man in the House or out of it who can prove that. I think all the facts go to prove that it is the other way about. There is a Year Book published by one of the agencies in America dealing with wages, the conditions of labour, and other matters. It points out that so far as the average wage in the United States is concerned it is manifestly impossible for the bulk of the people to live in decency and comfort. It gives the number of dollars per week necessary to maintain decent existence, and afterwards it gives the average wages. So far as America is concerned Professor Chapin, 786 who is regarded as the most thorough investigator in regard to social phenomena, makes this statement:—It is not possible, except for a single man, to live a decent existence in the United States with a wage under from ten to twelve dollars per week.If that is so, then it is a most remarkable fact that that is not nearly the average wage calculated in America. As a matter of fact, American wages are not ten to twelve dollars, but six dollars per week, or four dollars less than what is laid down as the absolute minimum on which a married man can carry out the decencies of existence. I have pointed out that wages at Pittsburg declined severely. The Steel Corporation has spread its influence far and wide, and has almost succeeded in getting the whole of the steel industry of the United States within its grasp, but fortunately it has not quite succeeded. There are others which have had subsequent rises which have not come within the influence of the Steel Corporation.
What I said I thought was that it had spread its influence and almost succeeded in getting all the trade in its grasp, and then I went on to show that there are others that are not yet included, and this is one of them. Conditions are bad in Pittsburg, but they are a little worse, so far as actual wages are concerned, in the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. I was rather amazed when I read the conditions of the workers of this particular firm. Sixty-five per cent. of them are receiving wages of 17 cents an hour and working twelve hours a day, and 30 per cent. of them are working a seven-day week. I suggest that that is food for thought on the part of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They are always telling us that they want Tariff Reform to improve conditions, but here is this particular firm, which is only different from the rest in being rather worse. That is to say, the conditions for employés in the United States are very bad indeed. The social conditions are bad, the housing conditions, the number of hours of labour, and so on, are all bad from top to bottom and from start to finish, and the only way that the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company differs from others is that they seem almost to have touched rock-bottom. I wonder whether, after all, hon. Gentlemen opposite would like to see in this country what 787 there is to be seen there? I have heard them profess friendship for trade unionism. I wonder would they at the same time like the condition to obtain here which obtains in this particular film? Trade unions in this firm have been totally annihilated with the exception of one trade union, which has been able to keep together.
I naturally look at this question from that particular standpoint. I am not so much interested about imports and exports, and I know that, after all, they are not a final test as to prosperity or otherwise. So far as the workers are concerned, you can have exports going up and imports going up, and you can have all the outward and visible signs of prosperity, and at the same time have the workers poor, miserably paid, hard-working, and gradually being driven to despair. But when I see these despairing conditions across the Atlantic, where all the safeguards you want to give to us have had plenty of scope for operation, and have resulted in making conditions worse than anything we know of here, then you must prove to us that the application of your principles in this country is going to have a different effect from what it had abroad before we can listen to the story which you have to tell us. Even the 17 cents per hour is not quite so big as it may appear, even without taking into consideration the ordinary cost of living, for the workmen are not allowed to do what they like with their own money. They are paid fortnightly, and in the meantime they have to trade at the store, which is the property of the firm, and pay prices very much in excess of the cost of living to ordinary American working men. That is to say, they have to endure the truck system in its most unadulterated form. Although they have an eight-hour day in force, so far as the law in Colorado is concerned, this trust is so powerful that it can snap its fingers at the legislature and the administration and say, "Make what laws you like: we are going to make our men work twelve hours a day"; and by no other possibility than a growth of trade unionism in that particular district will they get hold of an eight-hour day which will be of some worth.
Not only that, but the law in Colorado instructs those who are responsible for running mills and so forth that they must fence machinery and must protect the life of the worker against accident. But that 788 is flagrantly ignored. All these conditions are of very great importance—at least, from our particular standpoint. We do not want to return to the time when our fellow workers were chopped and mauled by machinery, with no protection for them either from law or from anywhere else. We do not want to see a return to the twelve-hour day or the seven-day week, but we do suggest that our friends the Protectionists should try to see if it might be possible after all to apply those provisions to this country without these things being likely to follow in their track. The Mover of the Resolution spoke of the minimum wage which we are trying to secure as Protection of a kind. I quite admit that it is Protection of a kind, but the saving words of course are "of a kind." It is not Protection in the sense that the hon. Gentleman opposite advocates as protection for industry. I mean this. The obvious result of the establishment of a minimum wage would be to place the possessors of that minimum wage in possession of an adequate, or at least a more adequate, command than they have now of the purchase of the good things of life. Therefore it would rather tend to raise the standard of life than otherwise. But you cannot say that of the protection which adds to the cost of commodities which have to be bought. That would rather reduce the workers power of purchasing those things. Where the Protectionist always gets astray is that he assumes that because you are going to change the process of imports being paid for by exports or other things, and you are going, he says, to have those things that were imported made at home in addition to the things that are exported, and therefore that you are going to increase the demand. I am not at all sure that is going to follow. If by your tariff you raise the cost of goods and raise the selling price in this country—it may very easily happen, in many cases it would happen, you do nothing of the sort—you would not increase the demand, but restrict the demand because of the increase in price, and any advantage you might hope to gain from such a thing would be more than counterbalanced by the added price you would have, not only for the imported articles, but for all the rest of the articles that are manufactured here of the same industry.
Therefore it is altogether a different matter speaking about the protection of industries in the sense in which Tariff 789 Reformers mean it and the protection that we in our efforts to secure a minimum wage are anxious to obtain. There is one thing that I have never been able yet to understand. It is quite true that when the preference was given by Canada to this country, our trade with that country increased. But it is also true that the trade with America, which did not have a preference, increased in a tremendously greater ratio even than ours did. But I am rather surprised that it increased at all. During the Election of January, 1910, a friend of mine came home from Canada and told me of a conversation which he had had with a responsible member of the Toronto Chamber of Commerce. My friend asked, "Is it correct that agricultural implements on the Canadian market are selling at the same price, whether they happen to come from England or Germany or are home-made Canadian products?" "Yes," was the reply, "it is true that these things are all selling at the same price." My friend said, "How does that tome about? The Canadian product has paid no tax; your English product has paid a preference tax, and the German product has paid a big tax." "Well," was the reply, "do you not see that we have got to keep a market for our grain, and if we allow the tax to operate in the natural, ordinary way what would happen would be that we would not be able to conduct the exchange of our wheat with foreign countries with that case and facility that we can do when we leave open our market for their goods." "Therefore," said my friend, "if those be the facts, the whole force of the preference is utterly lost. After all, do you think that is fair to the farmers out West who are paying more for their agricultural implements than they otherwise would be? How would you justify such procedure? Surely the real thing would be to allow them to buy the Canadian article in the cheapest form and not artificially inflate it in order to bring it up to the level of the other goods which have paid the tax?" "Oh," said the chamber of commerce representative, "business is business, and that is all that is to be said about it."
If business is business it is all right, so long as we understand exactly what the business is. We have heard something today about dumping. What is the remedy for it I am sorry that the hon. Gentleman who represents the Ecclesall Division of Sheffield (Mr. S. Roberts) is not in his place, because I am going to use 790 certain figures which he used a little while ago in the columns of the Sheffield Conservative Press. I think it is nearly two years now since there was a great outcry in the country about an order for steel axles going to Krupps of Germany. I think the amount of the order was £65,000, but the figures are immaterial. A great outcry was made against dumping, and my hon. Friend the Member for Ecclesall said that the cost of producing those axles in this country is £17 per ton, and the cost of producing them in Germany at Krupps is £16 per ton. But they were being dumped here at £11, and he advocated Protection as a remedy.
I do not want to push the argument too far. It is quite possible for certain gentlemen to be united on a principle, and yet be divided as to the methods of teaching. That I can quite understand; and we find some in favour of a 10 per cent. tax, some of a larger tax, while others are in favour of varying the tax according to circumstances. I quite agree that it is not always easy to get uniformity, but at least this can be said, and it is an important point, that for a tax to have any relative value whatever it could not be done for a 10 per cent. tax, and you could not do it in this case under a 64 per cent. tax. The question is, therefore, are you prepared, where the circumstances warrant it, to put a tax of 64 per cent. upon any foreign article coming into this country, with a view to keeping it out? If so, then I think we ought to know it. If not, all I have to say is that dumping will continue, notwithstanding your 10 per cent. or 25 per cent. tax; and no tax will be sufficient which falls short of such an amount as will at least level up the cost of production. Another steel manufacturer in Sheffield came along with a remedy, and it is interesting to note that the right hon. Gentleman opposite hinted at it, although he did not dwell long upon the point—namely, that the reason that Krupps and others in Germany can do this is because they do a tremendous amount of business, and because of the grand scale upon which they work. The further point is made that it pays them to get rid of what they produce at any price rather than have it upon their hands. I accept that, if you like, as a possible explanation. I want to know if manufacturers in this country are so behind in business foresight as not to be fully alive to the value of conducting their industries upon a grand scale; they know something about the saving that can be 791 made. They understand that to let things go at cost price is sometimes in the long run a saving. Why does not the manufacturer here adopt the same methods as the German members of the steel trade are so fond of doing?
The right hon. Gentleman said he has not the same market. I am not quite sure that he is correct in saying that. I believe, after all, that the secret of the German success is the application of technical education, science, and business principles, so that he gets his goods on to the market cheaper, and it is he who has made the market and not the market which has made him. In the "Daily Mail" of the day before yesterday there was a rather significant statement by Sir Robert Hadfield, a man of high authority in the steel trade. His position in the metallurgical world is entitled to the greatest respect. He is the man who discovered the point of temperature at which steel and manganese would amalgamate, and he laid the foundation of at least an increased fortune by that means. His position is that of second to none in this country in his particular line. Sir Robert Hadfield said that it was in the laboratories of Essen, Berlin and Gross-Lichterfelde that the German victories were being won; it was the brains of the German universities and technical schools, and not Protection. I know it may be suggested that Sir Robert is a Liberal, and all the rest of it. I think he is a Liberal, but, as a matter of fact, though I worked for him during some time, I always regarded him as my opponent, whether Liberal or Tory. Though he is a Liberal yet he is not prompted by sentiment simply, but he weighs every circumstance before coming to a decision, and if he thought Protection or Tariff Reform was going to be to his advantage sentimental objections would not stand in his way. He is a successful man in more than one sense. For many years his particular firm paid 25 per cent., then it dropped to 22½, but never within recent years at least has it paid less than 17½. per cent. He is endeavouring to do in this country what he says the Germans are doing in theirs. He has won his victories by applying technical education and scientfic knowledge to the advance of his business.
792 I say that, speaking as a man born in Sheffield—I have never worked in the cutlery trade but I have always done my best to try and understand it—the cutlery trade of Sheffield is infinitely poorer than it would be if conducted on proper lines. Take the German cutlery trade, at Solingen, for example. It is, as with other industries in that country, carefully organised. In this country a firm gets an order for 3,000 or 4,000 of a certain kind of goods—it may be an order for knives, and in the Sheffield trade they have what is called the "little master," to whom part of the work is given out. One little master is given so much steel to deal with, and this little master sub-divides his work between others. One workman forges the blades, another does work on some other portion of the knife, and all this work is subdivided among a number. Each workman returns his finished work, and gets further work, which he takes away with him, and so the process goes on; there is this travelling backwards and forwards to the central place for work and material, and these skilled men, instead of being kept to skilled work, are performing errands which could be discharged by boys of fourteen years of age, or, since I am in favour of a higher standard, boys of sixteen years of age. Under the system existing here, we have this waste of the time of skilled workmen on mere errands to and fro—men who are the most skilled workmen in the world in their own particular industry. All that is going on, instead of our having an up-to-date system, where skilled men would be employed upon skilled work, and not upon work that can be done by boys. As an illustration of the high organisation of the cutlery industry in Germany, I may mention the fact that the number of rivets for an ordinary penknife are already provided to the hand of the workmen, so that he has to waste no time whatever, and he has to put his skill to the very best use. Could Tariff Reform make any alteration in that? Could any Tariff Reform whatever, no matter how scientifically arranged, make any alteration here in view of this highly trained industry abroad?
I know that there are well-organised cutlery manufactories in Sheffield, but those from whom the howl is going up are those men who conduct their business upon the lines of a hundered years ago. They say, "My father did it, and my grandfather did it, and surely it is good 793 enough for me." You read in sixpenny illustrated magazines about the magnificent Sheffield workers, and about the marvellous touch and skill of those workers, whose, forefathers had been engaged from generation to generation in this particular type of work. But why do they not put that marvellous skill to the very best use, instead of wasting the time of skilled men upon going errands which could as well be discharged by boys? In my opinion we are rather too greedy in this country. Let me give a simple illustration. A Derbyshire firm not long ago tendered to the Lincoln Corporation for the supply of pipes for certain works which that body was carrying out. Their tender was for £62,000. A German firm tendered for £50,000. The Lincoln Corporation did not like the idea of the work going out of the country, and they sent the tender back to the Derbyshire firm asking what they were going to do about it. The Derbyshire firm withdrew their first tender and tendered a second time for £49,000—£1,000 under the German tender. I have not heard that the firm has gone into the bankruptcy court yet; as a matter of fact, it is still paying a huge dividend. If we are going to stand in our own light, and if we are going to keep up these antiquated methods in regard to production, or in regard to a big turnover in the shape of profits, instead of being content with smaller profits to tide over a difficulty, then, so far as I am concerned, I rather think that Tariff Reform, even if it could do the things hon. Gentlemen opposite claim, would be a disaster rather than a help to us.
We do not want anything that is going to encourage the incompetent or the idle—I do not care whether they are among the workers or among the manufacturers. I believe, with Sir Robert Hadfield, that the whole secret of successful industry is to be found in the laboratory, and in the advantage which is taken of technical education, which would cause the steel industry to prosper and flourish like the green bay tree. For my part, I am not going to say that things in this country are satisfactory. I know the poverty, the unemployment, and the despair which exist here. I know there is misery, but I am quite convinced that in the struggle which is going on there can be no alteration on the lines of Tariff Reform. The only alteration which can be effected is that which can come from an equitable sharing of the wealth of 794 the country, and that is one of the reasons why we advocate a minimum wage, why we advocate an eight-hour day, and why we urge the nationalisation of monopolies, which, we hold, should be under national and democratic control, and conducted on principles which would permit of the workers sharing in the profits. I believe that on no other lines can we secure that blessing, and that we must recognise, quite frankly, that the worker is entitled to a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. Unless we are prepared to give them a minimum wage on which to exist, we cannot expect to keep up a sufficient supply of efficient labour to maintain us in the forefront of the industrial world, any more than hon. Gentlemen opposite could hope to build up an Army and Navy to protect our industries—if that be necessary—with inefficient and ill-paid labour.
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
My advocacy of the cause to which I and my hon. Friends behind me are so much attached, I must honestly say for myself, is not in the least affected by the somewhat long, though interesting, speech which has just been delivered from the Labour benches. The hon. Member who has just spoken lacks nothing in ability, nothing in experience; what he lacks is a case. I am perfectly satisfied that, having heard what I take is the case of the Labour party against the proposal of Tariff Reformers, the cause which we advocate is a cause which cannot be resisted, because the representatives of labour are unable to present anything like a case in defence of Free Trade principles. The hon. Member talked to us about the position of the American workers. He told us that if it could be shown that the American worker was in a better position than the English worker owing to the adoption of that system that we ask for, that he would be satisfied that there was something in the case for Tariff Reform. I naturally cannot provide at the moment sufficient in the way of statistics to perhaps convince the hon. Member, but I am quite sure that during the course of this Debate he will hear, if he really desires to hear, the information, and wishes to be convinced. My hon. Friend presented a good many arguments to the effect that the American worker is infinitely more prosperous than the English worker; and to show that that prosperity is due, and due only, to the fact that they have the good sense to protect their own industries, and to look after their own working classes. I have in my hand something which I will venture to bring to the 795 attention of the hon. Member. It is the forty-first annual report of the statistics of labour, issued from the Bureau of Statistics of the State of Massachusetts. It is an official report, and in it I find that the American bricklayer gets 110s. per week. Can the hon. Member point out to me any English bricklayer who gets half that. I find that the American painter in the State of Massachusetts—
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
I could not quite catch the interruption of the two hon. Members, but I am speaking about a protected State and about wages in a protected State, and wages, as the hon. Members must surely know, is a question of comparison. The painter gets 83s. 5d. per week; the plasterer, 119s. 4d. per week, and the plumber 100s. 10d. per week. Hon. Members opposite who talk to us about working men in America know perfectly well that they cannot point to anything approaching those wages. We know that the hon. Member has not produced a single argument to show that the English working man, when you compare the cost of living with the wages which he earns, by comparison is not infinitely worse off than the American working man. I have one other quotation which is not an official report. It is a report from an article in the "Manchester Guardian" of 29th December. I am sure the hon. Member will not accuse that journal of trying to favour the case for Tariff Reform. That paragraph states thatamong the passengers on the 'Lusitania' a few days ago there were a party of bricklayers returning to their homes in Lancashire. It is their custom to spend nine months working in the United States and to return home for three months rest.And well may they do it on a wage of 110s. per week. Do any of the hon. Members friends happen to be bricklayers, or those with whom he is acquainted, and does he happen to know of any English bricklayer who takes three weeks, let alone three months holiday. Those men come home to spend in Free Trade England the money they have earned in Protected America. I am not going to attempt to argue with the hon. Member who spoke last as to the enormously increased brain capacity of the German manufacturers. If he asks the House to accept the case that he gave of 796 the Sheffield cutlery manufacture as a fair sample of British manufacturers, then I can only say he has got a very unworthy and a very undeserved opinion of—
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
Then my criticism is more justified, and I repeat that he takes a very unworthy and a very improper, if I may say so, opinion of British manufacturers. I invite him, if he suggests that the case of Sheffield is anything like a fair test, to my Constituency in Lancashire which has known as "the-town-of-all-trades." I would cheerfully spend with him as many days as he likes, and he can go about amongst the various manufacturers in my Constituency who make all classes of articles, and I invite his assistance if he can show those manufacturers how to do their business better than they are doing it. It is an odd thing that an hon. Member who claims to speak for the Labour party in this House should have so poor a case to present to the House, and it is truly an odd coincidence that the German brain is so great, according to the hon. Member, that it has been able to overcome the vast and tremendous trade difficulties which, according to the hon. Member's party, are to be found in any country which adopts a system of protective tariffs.
I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty in his place, because I listened to the very long and, if I may say so with great respect, not very convincing apologia from him on the subject we are debating. I realise that this country depends very largely for its existence and commerce and trade on its ships. I would respectfully suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that he has of late years been applying so much of his mind to the ships that he has entirely forgotten what he may have known at one time as to the commerce of the country. There is one comment I have to make on his speech. I do not complain in the least of him comparing the trade of 1903 with the trade of last year, but what I have to say of that is that the right hon. Gentleman compared a bad year with an exceedingly good year. [Laughter.] Hon. Members laugh. Do they dispute what I say? He compared, I repeat, a very bad year with an exceptionally good year, and he asks the House to believe that my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain) was totally wrong when he told us that certain 797 trades had been threatened and were being threatened. My right hon. Friend in the prophecies which he made, and most of which have been justified, never suggested that if there was a general trade boom throughout the world that this country would not take part in it. We have, of course, shared in the great trade boom which the whole civilised world has experienced during the last year, but we have not shared in it with that success, or to anything like the same extent, that our trade rivals have.
The right hon. Gentleman, in criticising the speech of the right hon. Member for East Worcestershire, took certain trades—silk, cotton, iron, steel, and wool. He compared, if I remember aright, the exports of those trades in the year 1903 with the exports in the year 1911. I have not any corroboration of those figures. I am quite sure no corroboration is necessary, as the right hon. Gentleman would not quote them unless they had been very carefully considered, but they prove nothing. I feel that I am perfectly justified, without having made any examination of these figures, in saying that if you examine them in closer detail I am convinced that you will find that the increase is to a considerable extent to our Colonies, and not to the protected countries. [HON. MEMBERS.: "NO, no."] I submit—and I think I am right—that the increased trade is trade largely with those who have given us a preference, and not with those who have not given us a preference. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman to further consider some of those trades. I would ask whoever speaks subsequently on behalf of the Government to say whether he is satisfied, taking the silk trade, that for every pound's worth of silk that we export to foreign countries that we should import £8 10s. worth. Thus we say to the manufacturers of foreign countries, in effect, "Send to us every yard or every pound of manufactured goods which you can, and the more you send us the more happy we shall be, and the more prosperous our working classes." Let me just ask the right hon. Gentleman, when he is talking about my right hon. Friend's prophecy as to the silk trade being threatened, does he remember not very long ago the proposal in France to further increase the tariff against our silk manufacturers? That was a threat, and a very serious threat, the result of which would have driven some more of our working classes out of employment.
798 7.0 P.M.
Again, the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the cotton trade. While we are undoubtedly, and I think are likely to be for many years to come, the premier manufacturing cotton producers of the world, that is due to two great reasons. It is due to the fact that we started first, and due very largely to the fact that there is in Lancashire a climate which is particularly suitable to the manufacture of cotton, and which you do not find in other countries or other counties in England. Owing to the particularly damp atmosphere of Lancashire, we have a natural protection which has been given to us without the necessity of that other protection to which hon. Gentlemen opposite object; but even in Lancashire we import from Germany two and a half times as much finished cotton goods as we export to Germany. Is that satisfactory? The hon. Member opposite, who was so pleased with the fact that we are now the premier manufacturing country in the world as regards cotton, surely cannot be satisfied with that position. As regards France, we import from that country more than we send to it; and as regards Belgium, the imports about balance the exports. What have you to say about the East? Hon. Members may say that because our trade is good to-day it is sure to be good for all time. Go to the county of Lancashire and you will find that the working classes there depend enormously to a very great extent on finding a free and ready market in the East for our cotton goods. What is the position of Japan? A few years ago nobody ever dreamt of Japan competing with our cotton exports in the East, but she is to-day a competitor, and promises, it is well known to those interested in the cotton trade, to be a very serious competitor, and with wages which we cannot touch here at all. How can hon. Members opposite view that state of affairs without a considerable amount of alarm, and without realising that whenever Japan increases her output of cotton goods in the East she is by so doing depriving our Lancashire working men of wages which they hitherto had, and which, I believe, in many ways maintain if you gave them the opportunity of protecting their labour which other countries have.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt further with iron and steel. He is really an incurable optimist and the most ardent Free Trader I have ever come across if he 799 can be satisfied, as he is, with the position of this country as regards iron and steel. Not many years ago we led the world. Having flung aside Protection and the necessity, as we thought, for Protection, we went abroad for a time and led the world, and the Free Traders of those days thought of the iron and steel trade as hon. Members opposite think of the cotton trade. They thought there was no competition which could deprive them of that proud position. What is the result? Everybody knows that we have now taken third place in the production of iron and steel [An HON. MEMBER: "Why?"] I will deal with that interruption later. Incidentally I may say that by an odd coincidence Free Traders attribute every decline in trade and every regrettable circumstance in our social life to all sorts of reasons, but to the question of the tariff. As regards iron and steel we have heard to-day from the Mover of this Amendment what Mr. Thomas has said. Occupying as he does a high position in that great industry in South Wales, and having sat for some twelve years as a Liberal Member in this House, he has told us that in the iron and steel trade we are going to have Protection, and that while he is opposed to Protection on principle, he is bound to say that such protection would be of enormous benefit to this trade in his district. That is one remark to which I would call the attention of the right hon. Gentleman who apparently glories in our position in the iron and steel trade. Let me quote another equally reliable authority. As it is a very long report I will give a summary of what was said in his Presidential Address by Mr. Walter Dixon, President of the West of Scotland Iron and Steel Institute No one will doubt his authority. He said that many of our blast furnaces have lately had to be blown out; that some of our steel works are closed and others partially closed; that many of our iron works are running on short time; that many of our workers, both skilled and unskilled, are out of employment; and that no adequate or reasonable profit is being earned. [An HON. MEMBER: "What is the date?"] It is last year's Presidential Address; I have not the month, but I can give it to any hon. Member who comes to me afterwards. How can hon. Members opposite be satisfied with the condition of the iron and steel trade, having regard to the fact that we have dropped to the third position as producers, and to these expressions of 800 opinion from such high authorities as Mr. Thomas and Mr. Dixon. Here again we import twice as much iron and steel manufactured goods from Germany as we export to her, and we import from the United States, Belgium and France more finished manufactured iron and steel goods than we export to them. The right hon. Gentleman, in his rather one-sided presentation of this case, refrained, perhaps not unnaturally, certainly very discreetly, from giving us these facts. I submit that as regards these three trades the satisfaction of the right hon. Gentleman is far from being justified.
I turn now to the woollen trade, which at one time I had occasion to study. Not many years ago the biggest customer we had for that wonderful woollen cloth produced in the West Riding of Yorkshire was the United States. I had an opportunity of considering this industry, because I fought unsuccessfully an election at Huddersfield. Just outside the station at Huddersfield there is an enormous square, surrounding which are large well constructed buildings, now let for all sorts of purposes, except for the purpose for which they were erected. They were erected for those who had a trade as woollen merchants, in order to cope with the enormous export trade of woollen cloth to America. Our trade with America has gone. We have now practically no export trade with America. America buys from us only that wonderful, perfected cloth which she cannot yet make herself, because she has not the advantages or experience that we have; and whereas she used to be one of our biggest customers, to-day she has practically ceased to buy finished manufactured cloth from us. We still export to America, but it is not woollen cloth; we are exporting raw wool. In the year in which I stood as a candidate for Huddersfield there appeared for the first time in the Board of Trade Returns the item of raw wool, or what is classed as raw or semi-raw wool, exported to America. An hon. Member asks me how much. In the year 1910, the last year for which complete figures are available, we exported to the United States of America £3,627,000 worth of either raw wool or wool which has just gone through the stages in which there is least labour, and we exported £1,827,000 worth of finished cloth. How can anybody say, having regard to the great export trade in finished cloth that we used to have with America, that that 801 is anything but a most unsatisfactory state of affairs?
I cheered the right hon. Gentleman when he quoted the opinion of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham, to the effect that wool was threatened. I believe that although the woollen trade is prosperous to-day, there is no trade in England which stands to lose so much by maintaining our present fiscal policy or about which you can more justly say that it is a threatened trade. I will tell you why. We have had the experience of our woollen export trade to America. In the West Hiding of Yorkshire there are two classes of woollen trade. One is the trade in which they make the best woollens—the kind of cloth which I am sure most hon. Members opposite, and certainly the Members of the Labour party, wear. The second trade is locally called the "shoddy" trade, or working men's tweed. The largest foreign customer that we have at present for our woollen trade is Germany. America was, but we have lost her trade. Germany is taking less than she did, and we had reason to believe, not very long ago, that there was a strong agitation in Germany further to raise her tariff against our woollen goods. If Germany does what America has done, and we lose that enormous trade, we shall certainly drive thousands of Yorkshire working men out of employment. With regard to the tweed trade, our biggest customers are the Colonies. That is an increasing trade, a fact largely due to the preference which these Colonies have given us. But that preference is threatened; it cannot go on for ever. It was threatened last year; it will be threatened again. In view of the fact that one of these two trades is very largely dependent upon the German market, and the other upon the Colonial market, does the right hon. Gentleman say that these two trades are not threatened? I firmly believe that in the woollen trade we have a trade which is seriously threatened, a trade which is now prosperous, but which will be anything but prosperous if, as I anticipate, before many years, Germany raises her tariff against us, or our Colonies make reciprocal arrangements with some country which has greater common sense and more business acumen than we possess.
Let me say, in conclusion, that while the right hon. Gentleman and the representative of the Labour party (Mr. Pointer) have trotted out for our benefit many old 802 bogies with which we are very familiar, it is gratifying to find that at any rate in this House we have had no mention of black bread and horse sausages. They have been kept for the hoardings of the town where Free Traders fight elections. I cannot refrain from commenting on the gross inconsistency of the Labour party—the party which more than any other in the State seeks protection for wages, but refuses, for reasons which I will not express here, that protection for labour which every other country in the world has adopted. What would be the position of any representative of the Labour party on a local town council in a town producing, say, pottery, if that council desired to buy a large amount of pottery and found they could get it a little cheaper from a foreign country? If that Labour representative pursued the same line there he would not be in his place a day after the following election. Labour representatives go further than that as regards municipal matters. Not only do they say, "We will not buy from the foreigner," but they say, "We will not buy from the next town if we can buy the required article from our own town at a slightly increased cost." I venture to say that grosser inconsistency was never known. We feel that the working classes of England are realising that it is essential that their labour, while not being unduly protected, should be fairly protected against the competition that is unfair. For that reason we pursue our advocacy on these benches. I cannot refrain from drawing the attention of the House to a remarkable occurrence, to my mind remarkable anyhow, which I came across not long ago.
Some years ago there sat in this House for some years Mr. W. H. Lever, the head of that great soap manufacturing firm known as Lever Brothers. He sat on the opposite side, the representative of the Wirral Division of Cheshire, represented now, I am glad to say, by one of my hon. Friends behind me. Mr. Lever is a business man first and a politician second, like a good many Free Trade business men in this country. It became necessary for his manager in South Africa, where the firm are building a factory—as they have done in most protected countries in order to get behind the tariff, and to employ foreign workmen—it became necessary for his manager to give evidence before a Commission sitting in South Africa to inquire into tariff conditions. I am not going to read the report, but I notice, among other 803 things in it, that Messrs. Lever's manager asked for several increases in the protective tariff. He said they were satisfied with the existing tariff, under certain conditions, in respect of various articles, even extending to raw materials, but he asked for increased tariffs. There is one striking passage in his evidence which I commend to the attention of hon. Members below the Gangway. Cross-examined by Mr. Martin, he explained the position which Messrs. Lever Brothers had won for themselves in England. He said they had built up for themselves a foremost place in trade without the assistance of Protection. This was due to the cheap materials and the cheap labour that they got in England.
I do commend that to the attention of those hon. Members below the Gangway, particularly, who come to this House and complain of the state of wretchedness, misery, and despair which our working classes are in owing to their inadequate wages. They tell us that there are 100,000 workmen on the railways of the country earning less than £1 a week. When they are advocating Socialism they enlarge upon the miseries I have spoken of, and which I say are due, and due only, to the fact that the wages of labour in this country, as Messrs. Lever's manager says are cheap. I do not hope for the moment that our Amendment will have much effect in the Division Lobby. I do believe that before very long we shall be able in this House to congratulate ourselves that we have won our way, perhaps after a somewhat laborious journey, to those benches opposite, owing largely to the great principle which we are advocating, and which is summed up in the words "Tariff Reform," and owing to the fact that we can put forward a practical policy—a policy which has been adopted by every great country in the world. We believe that with such a policy, and by means of our proposals, that the working classes will improve their status in life, and will secure a greater stability of labour and employment and an increased rate of wages.
§ Mr. LYELL
No longer can it be said that, as on Monday and Tuesday, we are engaged in debating an Amendment to the Address which is in effect a Vote of Censure upon His Majesty's Government for their failure to redeem a hypothetical pledge. To-day the House is asked to pass what is in effect a Vote of Censure upon the Government, not for doing what they said they would not do, not for 804 refusing to carry out some policy which Ministers had all put in their Election addresses, but for simply carrying out a policy which they all said they would carry out, for carrying out a policy which they had had before the country at three successive General Elections, and which at those three General Elections had been ratified by the country. The Government are to be censured for not carrying out the policy of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite which on each of these three occasions had been rejected. On this occasion at least I think there is going to be no question of a Vote of Censure on the ground of any breach of faith. Nobody from the benches opposite is going to suggest that any Member of His Majesty's Government was at any time during the last Election or previous Elections anything but a Free Trader, or failed to make his position on that ground perfectly clear. The House is asked to censure the Government on four separate counts. I am going, in the few remarks I offer, to adhere a little more closely to the Amendment than has been done in the interesting speech to which we have just listened. The four counts are: The Government's failure to modify the fiscal system of this country, which is "imperilling the advantages at present derived by British commerce from the preference granted by Your Majesty's dominions overseas, has deferred the closer commercial union of the Empire, has deprived the country of the most effective method of inducing foreign countries to grant fair treatment to British manufactures, and is adversely affecting labour conditions of the country."
I suppose these are the four wheels of the Tariff Reform chariot, or, perhaps, I should say the four legs of the Tariff Reform charger on which the Tariff Reform party have ridden forth to battle before, and, will, no doubt, do again. We are going to show that the animal is unsound on all its legs, and so long as Tariff Reformers mount this particular charger so long will they be defeated in battle. The Amendment talks about imperilling the advantages at present derived from British commerce owing to the preference given. What is the history of this preference? It began so long ago as 1896—that is, the preference in its present and modern form. In 1896 the Dominion of Canada accorded quite spontaneously to this country a preference of 12½ per cent. In the following year that spontaneous offer—that gift—was increased to 25 per cent.; 805 and in the year 1900, as we all know, the preference was increased to 33 per cent. The last thing that I or anybody else on these benches would wish to deny are the advantages of that preference. We do not wish to cavil at it in any way whatever. The Amendment specifically mentions commercial advantages. On that point it would not become us, as I say, to belittle in any way the preference. We might be criticised as being unpatriotic, and as looking a gift-horse in the mouth. Therefore I am just going to quote some words from one whose patriotism cannot be questioned in any way. I refer to the right hon. Member for West Birmingham, a man whose single-hearted and single-eyed advocacy of a great cause and whose desire to press forward that matter we can all admire, though we differ radically as to methods. We think it is an entirely wrong line to take up in endeavouring to arrive at a goal which we all wish to reach. What did the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham say on the subject of these advantages when he addressed the Second Colonial Conference in 1902? He said:—The time that has elapsed since the preference was granted has been sufficient to enable us to form judgment of the effect of an arrangement of this kind. I have to say to yon that, whilst I cannot but gratefully acknowledge the intention of this proposal and it's sentimental value as a proof of good will and affection, yet its substantial results have been altogether disappointing to us, and I think they must have been equally disappointing to its promoters.What did the right hon. Gentleman mean by "substantial advantages being disappointing"? I will give the percentages of British exports to Canada and their proportion to the total trade. In 1897, the last year before this preference became effective, British exports into Canada were 30.53 per cent. of the whole, and the percentage of American exports to Canada was 46. In the next year, 1898, the first year in which preference became effective, the proportion that went from this country actually fell, being 30.23, whilst the American proportion was 51.4. In 1909, the last year for which I have available figures, the proportion was 29.84 English and 51.76 American. In 1908 the exports from this country into Canada have arisen to 32, while in other years it was about 30 or a little over 29 per cent. of the total trade. Preference thus has had practically no effect at all in raising the proportion of goods that Canada takes from this country as against those she takes from America.
The percentage of ad valorem dutiable goods in 1897, the last year before the 806 preference took effect, averaged from this country to Canada rather over 30.69 per cent., whilst similarly, the average of American ad valorem dutiable goods was 26.72 per cent., so that on the whole our goods have been taxed even at a higher rate than American goods. That is not because Canada has exercised any discrimination against us. It simply means that the goods that we sent were of a kind liable to a higher duty. In 1898, the first year that preference began to be effective, the average ad valorem duty on British goods going into Canada was 29.47, that on American goods 26.11. In 1909, the average on British goods was 25.75, and on American 24.86, so that even with the preference of 33 per cent. British goods on the whole still pay a higher tax than do American goods. So much for the value of preference in Canada, for the actual "substantial value" which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham found disappointing.
Let us for a moment turn to Australia. Australian preference was not given till 1906. Then it took the form, not of a rebate upon British goods. In the new tariff, in which the duties on British goods were in very many cases advanced, the preference was that the duty on foreign goods was advanced still further. I do not want to say hard things about the Australian tariff. I associate myself with what has been quoted already from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and gratefully acknowledge the mark of good fellowship referred to. But I would like to quote the remarks of a newspaper in this country, the "Times," which is certainly not distinguished by a bias towards Free Trade principles. The "Times" called the Australian preference a derisive preference. While on the subject of Australian preference, that is the raising still higher of the tariff walls against foreign competitors, let me again quote the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham. He said:—So long as preference tariff, even a munificent preference is so prohibitive as to exclude us altogether or nearly so from your markets, it is no protection to us to know you have proposed even greater disabilities upon goods coming from foreign markets.That is what the right hon. Gentleman meant when he described the substantial result of preference as disappointing. So far as we examine preference we are grateful for its sentimental rather than its substantial value. The Amendment says preferences are imperilled. What does that mean? If it means anything it means 807 that this preference actually given us by our Dominions is given in a huckstering way, much in the same way as a whisky manufacturer sends round samples of whisky by way of inducement to people to buy more. That was what Sir Wilfrid Laurier meant in 1910 when he said:—It is not the policy of the Canadian Government to ask Great Britain to change her fiscal policy one iota. We make our own fiscal arrangements to suit our own interests; so it is with Great Britain. I have heard it said that unless Great Britain gave Canada some mutual tariff arrangement, there was danger of an estrangement of our Dominion. That is an insult to the Canadian people. Let the world know that the loyalty of Canada to the British Empire, of which she is proud to be a part, is not dependent on any tariff arrangement. Canada is united to the Motherland in heart and in life, independent of all tariff arrangements.Hon. Members opposite may say Sir Wilfrid Laurier is no longer Prime Minister, that there has been a great upheaval in Canadian opinion, and that another sits in his place. Yes, but what was the issue, and what was the result? Was the upheaval or the result because of some weariness on the part of the Canadian electors at the British connection, or at the dilatory way in which His Majesty's Ministers on this side received their proposal, or at their not giving reciprocity as to preference? It had nothing to do with it. I heard a story about two defeated Liberal candidates in Canada who had foregathered. One said to the other, "Who beat you?" The other answered, "I do not know the fellow's name, but I believe he is the chap who wrote 'Rule Britannia.'" Is that the kind of spirit which prompts them to approach this country in a huckstering, bargaining kind of way, as if to say, "Unless you change your whole system and adopt the tariff preference we have already given you, that preference will be imperilled"?
Canada is not the only country that has given preference. It was given as long ago as 1903 by New Zealand. Let me read to the House what was said by Mr. Seddon on that occasion. He said:—We, in granting the concessions proposed in this Bill, are demanding nothing in return. I say here that the preference we propose to give under this Bill is the first instalment, and that we can, with credit to ourselves and with profit to our own Colony, and with advantage to the Empire, do more. There must be no bargaining over a great national question like this.I will give a later quotation. It is from the "Wellington Evening Post" of 7th January, 1910:—John Bull may rest assured that his children have no wish to dip their fingers in his pockets, that if he comes to the conclusion that to grant these preferences would have that effect, it is the very last thing that 808 they would desire. He may also rest assured that they will never be so mean or so petty as to regard his refusal to sacrifice his interests for them as the scornful repudiation of any invitation that they have made or have any right to make. They realise that the preference which, with their high tariffs, it is easy for them to grant, is a very difficult matter for him to reciprocate. To ask Great Britain to abandon Free Trade merely in order to give us a preference, is an invitation which the Colonies never have made and never will make. If made, it certainly would justify that scornful repudiation of which Mr. Balfour speaks, but of which we have heard nothing from Mr. Asquith and his colleagues.So much for the question of imperilling preference. I think I have said enough to show there is no danger in that direction. The next charge is that through their want of action His Majesty's Government has deferred the closer commercial union of the Empire. What is meant by that? Are hon. Gentlemen opposite going to pursue the closer commercial union of the Empire as an end or a means to an end? It can be nothing but a means to an end. What we all desire is not so much the commercial union of the Empire as the union of the Empire in love and loyalty, the quickening sympathies and understanding between its inhabitants. That is what we all want, and if hon. Gentlemen opposite could show that commercial union is going to quicken that temper and understanding, and to promote the spiritual and intellectual union of the Empire, let us by all means embark upon the policy they want. It is because I, for one, believe that in their proposals for commercial union lie the greatest dangers to the reunion of the Empire that I am opposed to it. Hon. Members want to tax food, but not all food. They refuse to tax raw materials. I, for one, cannot make out what the distinction is between food and raw material. Both are elements of production; there is only one difference, and that is this—raw material is paid for by the manufacturer, food is paid for by the workman. Does anyone imagine if we have an entirely different system by which the manufacturer paid for the food of all his workmen, and gave them less wages because all the workmen boarded in, that a rise in the cost of food would not be at once recognised as an element in the cost of production1? And in that case I do not think this proposal would ever have been brought forward.
How are we to bind our Colonies together on the basis of arrangement by which we tax, let us say, Australian and New Zealand mutton and Canadian corn, and give a preference to some of those parties, but refuse to give any preference to another who is producing merino sheep 809 for the wool and paying no attention to the mutton. A system which, for instance, prevents us giving any preference whatever to the great Canadian lumber trade and the hide trade in South Africa would not bind the Empire together. That is raw material, and nothing can be done for it. The moment you try to make such a system and get the various interests of the Colonies together, you will find it perfectly hopeless to come to any arrangement that will not leave bitterness and disappointment to a far greater extent than any advantage you can give. Let us suppose all this is done. How does it work out? Let us suppose this country is giving a substantial preference for foodstuffs, and let us suppose in return our Dominions are giving us a real preference to enable us to enter their markets with manufactured articles. To whose advantage and to whose disadvantage will that be? The people disadvantaged in this country are partly those who have to pay a greater proportion of their income for food—that is the working classes—because the price must rise if preference is to be effective. If it is not effective, you offer your Dominions a sham; if it is effective the price of food will rise, and any advantage there may be would go into the pockets of a few farmers.
Who are to be disadvantaged in the Dominions? The preference is to be effective, ex hypothesi, that is to say, manufactured articles are to find their way in effectively in competition with the factories in the Dominions in their own market. Who is affected? In the first place, that would cause dislocation of employment among the working classes of the great towns in Australia and Canada. The people who get the advantage there are the people who grow mutton and beef and who are producing foodstuffs. In each case it is the few who are advantaged and the many who are disadvantaged. We want to enthrone the idea of Empire and of the Imperial connection, not in the hearts of the few, but in the hearts of the many. That is what we desire. To connect the idea of Empire in the minds of the working classes of this country, and in the minds of the working classes of our Colonies, with dear food and scarcity of employment, would be doing a very bad day's work for the Imperial connection. What unites us is a better thing. One great element is the sea, which is a barrier to our enemies and a bond to our friends. What does our control of the sea mean? 810 It gives us our seaborne commerce. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said he was unable to see how that had anything to do with Tariff Reform. His inability to see that is not shared by hon. Members engaged in shipping. They know the story of shipping here and in America. In 1850 American tariffs were like to our own; America took to Protection and we took to Free Trade. We all know that a short time ago a Commission was appointed to deal with this matter, and witness after witness gave evidence before that Commission to the effect that, other things being equal, a protectionist country could not compete with building or maintaining ships with a Free Trade country. When this House decides to accept the proposal of hon. Members opposite, it will be a deadly day for that seaborne commerce of which we are now so proud and which has done so much to unite the Empire. In support of this Motion I was rather surprised to hear the name of Sir Robert Peel. I would like to quote one remark from Sir Robert Peel on this question of inducing other countries to afford fair treatment to this country. Sir Robert Peel, speaking in the House of Commons on 5th July, 1849, said:—I maintain that the best way to compete with hostile tariffs is to encourage free imports. So far from thinking the principle of Protection a salutary principle, I maintain that the more widely you extend it, the greater the injury you will inflict on the national wealth and the more you will cripple the national industry.When we recollect that those are the views of Sir Robert Peel, we must be surprised that his name has been quoted in this manner. Retaliation has been referred to, and that is a very attractive term. I think the best definition of retaliation was given to this House by the Noble Lord the Member for Oxford University (Lord Hugh Cecil). He said that on one occasion a boy was playing whist, and his partner trumped his ace by inadvertence. The boy said to his partner, "You have trumped my ace, and I will trump yours," and later on in the game he did so, and they lost the game. A better illustration of retaliation I have not heard for a long time. By the adoption of Tariff Reform we should find ourselves disadvantaged at every turn in competition with countries armed to the teeth, as hon. Gentlemen opposite wished us to be armed. There would be plenty of tariff wars, devastating in their effects, from which the countries concerned would never recover. I think it is quite unnecessary to attempt to censure the Government for any failure 811 to provide ourselves with any methods of negotiations as long as our position is as strong and unchallenged as it is at the present moment. The fourth proposition in the Amendment is that our policy adversely affects labour conditions. I think that point has been amply covered by the hon. Member for Sheffield. The hon. Member who moved this Amendment said that the effect of Free Trade was to make the rich richer and the poor poorer, but that is not a theory which is shared universally by hon. Gentlemen opposite. I have here a quotation from a speech by the hon. Member for Reigate (Colonel Rawson), who, speaking at Dorking on 20th July, 1910, said:—What they wanted to do was to make the rich richer, for it meant more work for the unemployed. As a result of the Budget, there had not been the same amount of employment, and had the working classes profited by that? What they wanted was a policy which would give more work and more employment, and which would allow the rich to become richer. Tariff Reform would have that effect.I am contrasting what the Mover of the Amendment said and what was said by another hon. Member opposite, and I want to know which we are to believe. I would like to know on which leg hon. Members opposite stand. Nobody on this side of the House is going to maintain that tinder our present system all is well. We hear to-day a good deal about labour unrest, more especially amongst the miners. One reason is that through various economic causes you get a great production of coal, and although prices have risen wages have remained practically stationary for the last twelve years. That is enough to cause unrest in the labour market, and this unrest is not confined to this country. The United States has been going through a period of labour unrest, and the same applies to other countries. Germany is often held up to us as an example, and I quite agree that it is a better comparison than the United States, which possesses unexhausted resources. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon (Mr. Chaplin) quoted as an example the price of German pig iron as showing that we were dropping behind, and he said that this was due, not to economic causes, but to Protection. The real facts are that Germany has got far more unexhausted natural resources than we have, because she came into the industrial field later. It is only lately, owing to the scientific discoveries made in Germany, that the great magnetic beds of iron could be properly worked, 812 and that is the secret of the great progress in Germany with regard to pig iron. They have the same number of hours in a day in Germany as we have here and the same number of days in the week. Some time ago a deputation went over to Germany from Batley, and I think I am right in saying that it was organised by a Tariff Reform newspaper and was very largely financed by Tariff Reformers. Only one of those working men who formed that deputation could speak German. His name was Mr. Wilson, and this is what he said:—I found the German woollen workers averaged about 4s. less per week than the average woollen workers, though he works five hours longer per week. … If he will have a dwelling as good as the average English worker, he must pay as much or more for it. … Food is dearer than in England with the exception of vegetables and fruit.Upon the subject of employment it is difficult to make fair comparisons, but if hon. Members think that the German working man is satisfied with his conditions all we can do is to point to the great upheaval which took place the other day in Germany. That opinion is not shared by the German working man, who has voted Socialist in enormous numbers, not because he is really a Socialist, or a doctrinnaire, or believes Marx's theories, but because he finds that Protection raises the price of food and the cost of living and diminishes his power of competition. I would like to give the House one more quotation, and I apologise for the number of quotations I have already given. I will read a quotation from a great newspaper, the "Frankfurter Zeitung," which published an article very shortly after the Tariff Reform campaign was instituted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham in 1903:—We could, from the point of view of pure malice, wish Mr. Chamberlain a speedy triumph, for it is intolerable that the English workers should enjoy the cheapest bread and meat obtainable while ours must go short in the interest of our great landed proprietors. We look forward with great apprehension to the coming into force of the new German tariff, which will again raise the price of food and reduce our competing capacity in the world's markets. It would certainly relieve our anxiety if England were to be so amiable as to equalise by means of that food the handicap to which our manufacturers are looking forward.I have done my best to cover the four points contained in this Amendment. The point I wish to conclude with is in regard to what has been said about a united Empire. Nobody can foresee the future and the time may come when hon. Members opposite may sit on these benches and be responsible for the destinies of this country and the future of this great Empire. I know perfectly well that they are 813 honest in their pursuit of the prosperity and welfare of this Empire, and quite as honest as anybody on these benches. We all desire the same thing although we try to achieve it in different ways, but I ask hon. Members opposite to think long and carefully before they associate the idea of a united Empire in the minds of the working classes of this country with the idea of dear food and the possibility of taxation upon their bread.
§ Mr. CROFT
There are one or two points I should like to make in the speech to which we have just listened. It is said that if we grant a preference to the Dominions in the same way they have granted it to us, we shall have to consider the bitterness and resentment which will be caused amongst the wool producers in Australia, because you give a preference to the Australian wheat grower or producer. Does that bitterness and resentment exist among the manufacturers in this country because they do not have the benefit of Canadian preference? No such resentment exists in this country, because Germany raises her tariffs against one article more than another. If we gave Australia a preference I do not think we should find that the wool growers would feel that they were badly treated. With regard to shipping the hon. Member opposite thinks that if tariffs were introduced our exports would be reduced owing to their operation. If that is his view, I would ask him to consider whether it is not a fact that our chief commercial competitors have actually in proportion increased their exports more than this country during the last few years, and this is borne out by the answers given by the President of the Board of Trade last Session. I think it will be admitted that the amount to be carried by the ships will not be lessened by the effect of the tariff. It must be remembered that the strength of our shipbuilding industry in this country was undoubtedly built up under a tariff system and nobody can reasonably say that the American shipbuilding industry has gone under owing to her protective system.
A Member of the Labour party opposite used an argument which he quoted from a magazine published by some charity organisation in the United States of America. I would recommend him to go to the Board of Trade Returns for his comparisons rather than to magazines, which may have been sent to him by friends who have emigrated in order to get work over- 814 seas. He took as his case the basis of wages in the United States of America, and a large part of his argument related to the Colorado steel and iron works, but it is admitted that they pay the lowest wages throughout the length and breadth of the United States. He went on to tell us that the Steel Trust now controls almost the whole of the manufactures of the United States. If the hon. Member had not been reading his magazine so much he would have known that that statement is not correct, because the Steel Trust controls only 55 per cent., and that is less than it did ten years ago, a fact which disproves the value of his argument.
§ 8.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CROFT
I think he said almost the whole. If he did not say so, and the hon. Gentleman can say he did not, I willingly withdraw. He went on to point out that the working men had to buy at the stores of their employers. I should like to ask him whether the Steel Trust has such stores as he mentions. I believe that is not the case. It is very interesting to find a Member of the Labour party telling us Protection is economically unsound. I think the Labour party must gradually be beginning to realise Protection is their very life and existence. It is the doctrine upon which their whole organisation is built up in this country. Everything which the Labour party does is Protection, and it is not always remembered that the more British labour protects itself the more it increases the competition with foreign countries to which it is subjected. It was also suggested by the hon. Member that there was a great amount of unemployment in America. I would ask the Labour party whether they always take into consideration the fact that the United States absorbs 1,000,000 new citizens every year. Then we were told of the desperately low wages which exist in the pits of Pittsburg. The hon. Gentleman did not tell us, however, to what class of labour he referred. He did not say whether it was the labour of children or of adults. If that is to be used as an argument, why is it so many go every year from this country to work in the Pittsburg pits and remain there? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty asked why it was this question was put into the second row. Is not that argument a little bit cheap? Has it not been repeated a little too often? Are there not sometimes special considerations which make it impossible to realise 815 that which you desire above all other things to be immediately fulfilled? So long as the Constitution, as we honestly believe, is absolutely suspended, and so long as the pledge of the Government is not fulfilled, we regard it as our duty to tell our countrymen so.
It was also interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman tell us that in January, 1910, we got our votes on Tariff Reform. We are very glad to hear that declaration from the right hon. Gentleman, because up to now we have been told that was the Election when the mandate for the Veto Bill and other questions was given. It is at least an acknowledgment for which we are grateful. I wonder whether, when he was dealing with the actual position of the workhouses in this country, he realised that in the last ten years something like one in forty people of this country have migrated? Had that not been going on, our workhouses would have been getting fuller year after year. When I interrupted him, I only wanted to apply the old age pension argument, because it was the argument the Chancellor of the Exchequer has always used. He has always said that was how the workhouses were going to be emptied. The right hon. Gentleman told us the cost of living was going up and that Tariff Reform hoped to remedy that, and at the same time to give higher wages. We can frankly say that is our honest belief. It is perfectly obvious Free Trade has not been able to keep the price of food down. We believe the one insurance for the food of the working classes of this country, and for keeping the food cheap, is the production of more wheat in the world, and that can best be done by giving a preference to the Dominions. There is hardly a Free Trade orator who has denied that. There is hardly a Free Trade orator who has denied that if we give a preference to the Dominions so much more wheat would be produced. It being admitted by the other side that our policy will stimulate the growth of wheat in the Colonies, it must also be admitted that, if there is more of that commodity on the markets of the world, it is really impossible for wheat to rise in price. We believe by insuring that supply and by the introduction of a tariff, we can find money for the reduction of other taxes, the burdensome effect of which the people of this country feel so much. That is why we believe it is good we should take the duties off the article 816 we cannot produce and place them on such articles as we can in time by development produce within the British Empire.
I remember the First Lord of the Admiralty, speaking prior to the Election of January, 1910, told us that under our tariff system the most we could hope to do would be to exclude £40,000,000 worth of foreign manufactured goods. The Labour party will bear me out when I say we were told in the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission that if we could have £10,000,000 more circulating amongst the workers of this country per annum, we should practically solve chronic unemployment, at any rate in good times. The First Lord of the Admiralty told us we might keep out £40,000,000 worth of goods. If we keep them out we make them at home, and therefore, according to the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission, we should have doubly sufficient circulating among the workers of this country to solve chronic unemployment. The hon. Member who laughs apparently differs from the First Lord of the Admiralty. It may be a matter of proportion. He may think we may exclude more manufactured goods, in which case, let him remember, we should have more money for social reform and for the uplifting of the workers of this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty said, "You say you are going to raise wages when at the same time it is pointed out you are getting cheap goods owing to cheap labour from protected countries." We do not say this has anything whatever to do with the tariff argument. It is perfectly true you have cheaper labour in Germany, and it is also perfectly true you have labour doubly well paid in the United States, in Canada, and in other big protected countries where they speak our language and understand our ideas. What we complain of is not necessarily cheap wages. We admit they exist in one or two Continental countries. What we do complain of is that these goods should come into our country bearing not £1 or 1s. with regard to the initial expense of their production. My hon. Friend referred to the fact that the burden upon British manufactures was 12 per cent., but I believe he will find that by the introduction of the Old Age Pensions Act, together with the Insurance Act, that has been raised to 15 per cent. It is perfectly true foreign manufacturers have also to bear local and Imperial taxation, but all goods which are produced over the quantity necessary to make their 817 business pay do not bear that burden. That is all we say. It is absolutely unfair, and we cannot believe the Labour party really like to see goods coming into this country which they know could not be turned out by British workmen under honest conditions of labour at the same price.
Does the right hon. Gentleman really suggest the wages in Germany are lower than in this country owing to Protection? If he will cast his mind back he will see that when we were the great—indeed, almost the only manufacturing country in the world—German wages were in proportion further behind than they are to-day. They are gradually coming up to us. The hon. Member for East North Hants (Mr. Chiozza Money) has himself, I think, declared quite recently that wages in Germany are increasing more rapidly than in this country. From 1860 to 1900 wages in this country were continuously on the upgrade and food was getting slightly cheaper throughout that period, but it is admitted on that side that from 1900 to the present day wages have been stationary, whilst food has been going up enormously in price. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] Well, should we say wages have increased 3 per cent. It has been said twice to-night that they have remained stationary. Is there anyone who can really deny the fact that so long as the conditions of the working men in any country in these days are going back you must have discontent? We submit the only way in which you can have greater content among the working classes is to raise wages, and you can only raise wages in this country if you afford protection to our industries against foreign industries. Otherwise, you will see industries like the jute industry, and many others, immediately go under if there is a rise in wages. It was very interesting to hear the right hon. Gentleman tell us how happy the working classes of this country are, whilst the representative of the Labour party told us all was not well.
Why is this great fight going on for a minimum wage throughout the country? The British people are not accustomed to agitate for a thing which common sense tells us is altogether wrong. I say there is something wrong. We shall have to raise wages in this country even if it is going to cost more for production. It is the producer who makes this country. The producers are the people who need to be considered. They are the people who, in 818 the end, whether they be manufacturers or working men, make for the wealth and future prosperity of the country. There is one more word I would wish to say in answer to the hon. Gentleman. It must not be altogether admitted that we suggest there is no value in the percentage argument in the future. A percentage of 1 or 2 per cent. under various conditions is of no use whatever in drawing comparisons. But if we find the trade of foreign countries year by year increasing 20 per cent. more rapidly than our own, then the comparison becomes valuable, because, before many years have passed, that country will not only have reached, but it will have passed us. It must be admitted that we are far from first among the nations of the world in the actual proportionate increase in our trade last year—a year in which trade boomed throughout the length and breadth of the world.
I should like to say something with regard to the Imperial issue raised by the hon. Member who spoke last. I fervently believe—although he honestly thinks that you can hold an Empire together by merely talking sentiment and by keeping your thoughts concentrated upon those great things—which I do not undervalue—the flag and the Throne — I honestly believe you cannot for all time refuse to make business terms with your own people, especially when they are giving you advantages wherever you turn in whatever part of the Empire. I think it is sometimes forgotten by those whose eyes are naturally on the wages part of this question what is actually happening to this country. Some of us are inclined to forget, when we speak somewhat slightingly of Australian preference, as if it is not a thing of great value, or of Canadian preference as a thing which has not done us much good, we are inclined to forget what the Dominions are doing for this country in the matter of trade. When it is remembered that Australasia, with under six millions of population, has bought from us as much as the German Empire, with sixty millions of people at our very gates—when it is remembered that Canada and New Zealand, with under nine millions of populations have bought from us nearly as much as the United States, with its ninety millions of people—
§ Mr. CROFT
I got these figures from the President of the Board of Trade, and I think they are valuable ones which the 819 hon. Gentleman would do well to study. I say that when you find that Australia, with five millions of people only, is buying more than France, who is at our very gates, then I believe that these facts are of more value than any percentages. It is an argument that never appeals very much to people apparently, but when you find a man in New Zealand buying at the rate of £8 per head, surely that is much better than a man in a foreign country who buys at the rate of 10s. per head. When it is suggested that Canadian preference is of little value, I would like to point out that the trade of Canada was going down year by year until preference was granted. We were actually being driven out of Canada by the United States, but from the moment preference was put on our trade began to go up, and within fourteen years it increased from £5,000,000 to £19,000,000 per year. Remember, too, that this increase represents no less than £7,000,000 per year for labour, and that is not to be sneezed at in these days. Take the fact that Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa, with an aggregate population of under twenty millions, are year by year buying £80,000,000 of goods from this country, and if trade progresses in the same ratio it will easily be seen that in twenty years' time that trade will represent over £200,000,000 per year. When you realise the existence of this vast field of labour for the future, can you hesitate to adopt a policy which, at any rate with regard to the Imperial side of the question, will keep that trade for our own people, especially when we remember that an assurance of that trade is needed in every factory and mill in this country for the future. I would not have spoken on this question but for the fact that I had on the Paper an Amendment calling attention to another Imperial problem of pressing importance. I believe the people of this country must assume that we are not five nations, as is sometimes suggested. We are one nation living in five countries. Every man who goes to the Dominions still remains a friend of this country, and proves it by buying so much per head. He is also a contributor to British defence and to British strength, whereas, if he went to a foreign country, he would be a contributor to foreign defence and to the cost of building foreign battleships. I hope there may be one or two hon. Gentlemen opposite who will support this Amendment, because I firmly believe that there, and there alone, lies the real salvation of the 820 workers' position in these islands in the future—a position besides which any palliative falls into utter insignificance.
§ Mr. MOLTENO
The hon. Member who last spoke has dwelt upon the amount of trade with our Colonies, and has compared it with our foreign trade. But I would like to point out that the position during the last few years has remained practically identical, and foreign trade and Colonial trade remain practically on the same lines. I would like to ask the hon. Member if he thinks we ought to treat a foreign country worse than we treat our Colonies, and what justification there is to doing so, based on an examination of the Customs Tariff. Take the case of a country like Holland. Holland puts an average duty of 3 per cent. upon our products, whereas the duties imposed by Canada, Australia, and South Africa range from 12 to 40 per cent. How, then, could it be fair or just to say that we should treat Holland worse than we treat our Colonies?
§ Mr. MOLTENO
We must deal with this from a business point of view, and, undoubtedly, Holland treats us far better than either Canada or Australia. I ask on what principle we should treat Holland worse than we do those countries. Then take the case of Germany. Machinery is a very important article of export. Look at the relative duties in Germany and in our Colonies. They come under three headings: In Germany the duty on textile machinery is 5 per cent., on locomotive machinery 9 per cent., and on sewing machinery 9 per cent. What are the corresponding duties in Canada? Sixteen and two-thirds per cent. against a 5 per cent. for textile machinery, 23½ per cent. against a 9 per cent. for locomtive machinery, and 20 per cent. against the 9 per cent. for sewing machinery. Let us take another foreign country, Germany, where textile machinery pays 3 per cent., as against the Canadian 16 2–3 per cent.; locomotive machinery pays 4 per cent., as against the Canadian 23½ per cent., and sewing machinery pays 1 per cent., as against the Canadian 20 per cent. The idea which was put forward by the Mover of the Amendment that the duties in foreign countries were being continually increased against us, while those of the Colonies were being decreased, is altogether out of accord with the facts. The 821 fact is that Colonial tariffs have been increasing. At the Colonial Conference of 1907 figures were put forward showing our trade up to within three years of 1907. They showed that the only countries where our trade had actually decreased in volume were Australia, New Zealand and Russia. When you come to examine the facts, I think you will find that the trade mainly decreased because Australia and New Zealand have imposed enormous duties. Although the Canadians lowered their tariff, the Australians kept their duties exactly as they were, and put additional duties on foreign countries. As a matter of fact, they suddenly raised their duties on bicycles from 15s. to £5 per bicycle, and the preference they gave us was 5s. on that. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham pointed out to Canada the mistake of high tariffs. He asked them what was the use of their preference so long as their tariff walls were kept high enough to keep cut our goods.
It is worth examining what would happen to our trade if we were to throw away our trade with foreign countries and expected that we were going to recoup ourselves from the Colonies with their much more limited markets. The Debate shows how far we have got from the position put forward by the Member for West Birmingham when he first proposed his policy. What were the two great props or legs on which his policy stood? One was that our trade would be destroyed if we did not adopt this policy. Great as our trade was in 1902—he thought it was going to be the nraximum—at has gone up enormously. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has entirely disposed of the idea that our trade has in any way suffered since the right hon. Gentleman first announced his policy. His statement was a phophecy. It was a prophecy which has been entirely falsified by the event. What have hon. Members opposite done? The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. Harold Smith) struggled bravely with the figures. He is a lawyer, and he knows that hard cases mean bad law. He referred to factories that have been closed. But one case of a mill or factory being shut down does not mean that our trade is ruined; it does sometimes mean that there is occasional bad management. We have many unsuccessful traders in this country who become bankrupts, but it does not mean that our trade is going to the dogs because we have many bankrupts. There is another argument used by the hon. Member. He said 822 that Japan is introducing a tariff and that we should lose our trade there. He seemed to think that each country whom to-day we supplied with goods should receive exactly the same supplies or take the same amount and the same class of article in the future as in the past. Why should they? Why should not our customers vary as their needs vary? When you take a class of trade which shows a satisfactory increase, the mere fact that one country does not take so much at one period as at another is not proof that our trade has gone. I think hon. Members were making the best of the very unfortunate position in which they found themselves.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty has dealt with trade. I should like to supplement what he said with some figures with regard to shipping. We are in an island, to which shipping is of enormous importance, and every Member of this House is agreed that all the obligations which are cast upon us should be met with regard to our mercantile marine. What is the case with regard to Free Trade and shipping? Free Trade has given us a growing and increasing lead in shipping. The output of our yards last year was over 2,000,000 tons. In Germany it was 255,000 tons, and in France 125,000 tons. France has enjoyed the benefits of Tariff Reform for nearly thirty years, and they have been endeavouring to overcome the difficulty which they realise was imposed on shipbuilding through high tariffs. They have given bounty upon bounty, and the net result is that they turned out 125,000 tons last year. Take the case of the United States. They turned out 175,000 tons last year. These totals are infinitesimal compared with ours. We to-day stand in a position without record in our own country and in all the world with regard to shipping. How can Tariff Reformers deal with that? They never attempt to deal with it because it is impossible.
Free Trade is the very life and breath of shipping. I can only advise hon. Members if they feel gloomy and despondent to take the "Times" newspaper and examine a column in the "Times" for January last, where an account is given of all the different industries in this country, the woollen trade, the cotton trade, the machinery trade, and the iron trade, and they will find recorded there extraordinary prospects of enormous activity. Some factories are doubling the output 823 and doubling the works. Everything we can do to examine the position in detail shows that there is nothing alarming and nothing dangerous in it, and the "Times" described the condition of these industries as being almost phenomenal in their prosperity. Coupled with that we have this gratifying condition of things, that we enjoy the highest wages, the shortest hours, and the cheapest food in all Europe. Those wages may not be entirely satisfactory, but they are the best in all Europe. That is a very remarkable and gratifying fact, and one we should not risk by changing our fiscal system.
Let us look at the other leg upon which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham established his policy. It was that the Empire was in serious danger of going to pieces if we did not adopt the policy of Preference. He attached so much importance to this that when in 1903 he proposed the policy of taxing food, he said he did not do it for any protective reason. He found that protective instincts were so strong that once you gave them any encouragement at once they rose and slaughtered you. Now we find that the whole case is one of Protection and nothing more. To take the position of the Empire, What is the position of the Empire to-day? Is it one fore-boding disintegration in any way whatever? The relations between the Mother-country and the Colonies have never been more cordial and more sympathetic. There has never been less friction than there is to-day. That is a most satisfying result of the position at which we have arrived.
I should like to go a little further into that. This proposal that we should adopt the system of Preference is a revival of a condition of things which existed not so very long ago. Until 1846 we had this system of preference with the Colonies, and it led to immense friction between us and them because in order to maintain a monopoly of the Colonial market, we constantly and continuously interfered in the local concerns of these Colonies. We refused to allow them any control over their fiscal system, and although, when we lost the American Colonies, we realised the danger of imposing duties upon them for our own purposes, still we retained the power, and we did here in this House impose duties on the Colonies, but we refused to allow the Colonies their fiscal freedom because we were afraid of this Preference of ours being endangered. We 824 knew they would evade it—they were bound to try to evade it—because it was so detrimental to their interests, and therefore we retained that power. Why did we give it up? We never did it while we had a protective system and preferential trade. Then came the year 1846, and with Free Trade and the abandonment of the policy of Preference we began to relax our hold upon the internal affairs of the Colonies, and in 1846 for the first time we gave the power to Canada to repeal the preferential duties placed by us upon the products of other countries. The Canadian Legislature immediately repealed them. They did not waste a moment. They did not consider that Preference was any benefit to them. They repealed the duties in 1846, and we gradually relaxed our hold upon the Colonies and gave them greater freedom, and finally gave them the most complete and absolute self-control in regard to their Customs.
In 1859, when the Duke of Newcastle was Colonial Secretary, a proposal to modify the Customs Act passed by Canada gave rise to a tremendous and violent protest that their interests should not be subjected to the views or interests of the Imperial Ministry here, but should be guided solely by the interests of Canada. When you come to examine the question of our Colonial Empire, this free Colonial Empire has only been made possible by reason of our adoption of Free Trade. It gave birth to the free system which to-day we all recognise as absolutely essential and vital to our Imperial existence. If in the past we had friction—dangerous friction — with our Colonies over these matters, is there any reason to think that if we began to have these closer associations with the Colonies we should be likely to do any better? Only to-night the Mover of the Amendment criticised the policy of Canada in a way which gave rise in my mind to considerable alarm, and only a short time ago the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Balfour) attacked the policy of the late Canadian Ministry in the strongest, language and, I think, the most dangerous language. He said, if they pursued their policy, it would be a disaster to the Empire. It is a very serious matter when we are dealing with the internal affairs of the Colonies to criticise them in language of that kind. There you have again what will happen to a very much greater extent once you come to get into these tariff bonds with the Colonies. We shall lose 825 this sense of complete confidence, we shall lose this readiness on their part to assist us in every way, and that will again give rise to this friction which was so disastrous in the past. This Amendment gives a number of reasons, and tells us that we are going to endanger Imperial Preference by not giving something in return. I do not think the Colonies have ever made such a suggestion. I do not remember it. I have looked up what Sir Wilfrid Laurier, the author of the preference, says on that very subject:—What we have done in the way of tariff preferences to England, we have, as I said, done out of gratitude to England and not because we want her to enter upon the path of Protection. We know that the English people will not interfere with the policy of Free Trade, and we do not desire them to do so. We know that by buying more goods England will buy more from us and so develop trade, and the moment trade is developed Canada is benefited.That is the way the Prime Minister put it. He recognises that we have already conferred great benefits, and he wants something to give us in return without injuring himself. Let me take another Prime Minister, We have often heard of the offer of the Colonies, and that if we do not accept it we are doing something which they will resent. Here is the Prime Minister of South Africa at the Conference of 1907—Dr. Jameson. He says:—I take it we are here to-day to try to get something from the Imperial Government. I am not going to split words about it. I am not going to say we are making a wonderfully generous offer from the Colonies, and it rests with the Imperial Government to do what it likes.'There is a perfectly clear statement there. The suggestion is that if we find it to our interest to do it we may be very glad to do it, and if we do not we must take care of our interests and they will take care of theirs. What will the people of Canada think about this? Will they be enormously benefited by Mr. Chamberlain's 1s. or 2s. duty? Do they really press for it? Do they think it will be a great injury if we do not adopt it and do not carry it out? Here is a resolution passed by the National Council of Agriculture in Canada, when they had a great meeting on 16th December, 1910:—Believing, as we do, that the provision of revenue by Customs duties is economically and morally wrong, we desire that Free Trade should be established between Great Britain and Canada in as short a time as possible without unduly disarranging existing business conditions. We do not ask for any preference in British markets for our produce in return, since we regard Free Trade between Canada and Great Britain as being in the best interests of the development of Canada, nor do we suggest or desire that Britain should tax foreign foodstuffs for our benefit. Canadian farmers recognise the protection afforded to our country by the Motherland and are willing to do their part in the maintenance of the British Empire by supplying the British people with the food products they require in open competition with any other country.826 That is a good British sentiment of self-reliance which we expect to find in our Colonies. It is the same sentiment as is embodied in Sir Wilfrid Laurier's statement. I do not think there can be any resentment on the part of the Colonies if we do not change our policy in the direction hon. Gentlemen opposite desire. It appears to me that there is nothing for us to gain in this commercial union. The Canadians have adopted a tariff of their own, and in regard to trade relations they make their arrangements with France and Germany. I think it was the Mover of the Amendment who complained that they make arrangements with foreign countries. What would we have to do if we had a tariff? The argument on the other side of the House is that we would be able to bargain with other countries in regard to the goods we export to them if we had a tariff here applicable to the commodities they send to us. All the Tariff Reform arguments are mutually destructive. What Tariff Reformers propose is that we should levy duties on foreign goods. The result would be that the more foreign countries did for us the more we would have to do for them. The hon. Member who seconded the Amendment said that we are being subjected to foreign tariffs which are doing much injury to our trade. That is exactly what was being done in the time of Sir Robert Peel, who abolished the tariff which was in force in this country. He said: "We have done everything we can by attempting to bargain with foreign countries. We offered to lower our tariff if they would lower theirs. We have entirely failed to induce them to accept that offer, and we have to give it up. It is absolutely hopeless, and we propose to fight foreign tariffs with free imports." That was in 1846. Have we succeeded or not in fighting foreign tariffs? I need only refer the House to the magnificent return which was quoted by the Secretary to the Admiralty earlier in the Debate. That return shows that we have been most successful in resisting the foreign tariffs.
What happened in Canada? An enormous development took place in their trade. [An HON. MEMBER: "They are protectionists."] They repealed the duties upon imports. They adopted our system, and between 1846 and 1852 they doubled their trade. We all know that the prosperity of the Colonies has been immense. The Colonies have benefited immensely by this policy of Free Trade, and so have we. As to our Colonial relations, I con- 827 sider that nothing but injury could come from our getting into tariff disputes with them. I could quote the authority of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain) in support of that view. He pointed out that our vast Colonies are in the best parts of the habitable globe. Any Gentleman who has read Lord Cromer's account of his stewardship in Egypt will remember that he pointed out how in the face of immense difficulties he had been able to administer that country successfully, simply and solely because it had adopted the Free Trade system and had no preferential tariffs against foreign countries. Germany has built up a very large trade in our Colonies. If the expansion in their trade is to be threatened by a system of tariffs, I can only believe that our relations with Germany must be worse in future. I say "Put yourselves in their position." I would regard the adoption by this country of a system of tariffs as one of the greatest dangers to the peace of Europe, and I consider that that policy as regards our relations with our Colonies and with foreign countries would be one of the greatest and most serious disasters that could possibly happen to this country.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I have followed, so far as I was able, the interesting speech of the hon. Member (Mr. Molteno). It is a very remarkable thing that in the last portion of his speech he referred to the successful administration of Egypt by Lord Cromer, and that he attributed all that to a Free Trade policy. But he entirely forgot that Lord Cromer, on behalf of the Sovereign of this country, signed a convention imposing a Customs Duty in respect of Egypt of 8 per cent. or 10 per cent. He did that in the interests of the Egyptians.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
I said he imposed a Customs Duty. The hon. Member for Dumfriesshire also called the attention of the House to the fact that certain Continental nations put on less duties against this country than are imposed by Canada after the deduction of the preference allowance. He entirely forgot that whereas Canada imposes full Customs Duties against all foreign nations they make a reduction as regards this country, and thereby confer what is known as Colonial preference. It is in that respect the con- 828 duct of foreign nations must be considered when we are comparing their policy with the policy of our Colonies towards us. What we say is, if the Colonies have granted to the people of this country an advantage of a certain per cent. over all other competitors, it would be reasonable on the part of this country to make, I do not say an exactly corresponding concession, I will not define exactly what the concession should be, but, at all events, some concession in favour of the Colonies that treat us better than foreign Powers do. That concession might be made, not merely in respect of customs, but in respect of dock and port dues. That certainly would require special legislation in this country. But whatever may be the benefit towards the Colonies, whether in respect of dock or port dues or Customs, I am certain that it will be appreciated by the Colonies, and would be a very considerable advantage to them. The hon. Member who spoke last attributed the prosperity, progress, and great recent development of our Colonies to Free Trade. But their progress is not at all attributed to Free Trade, because nearly every one of them cast off Free Trade. The real boon that the people and Government of this country have conferred upon our great Colonies is not Free Trade, which they never accepted, but was the gift of responsible Government, which enabled those Colonies to rule themselves in their own best interests.
The last speaker referred to one of those fantastical propositions put forward, as he said, on behalf of Tariff Reform, namely, a contention that by putting a duty on foreign goods we could create a revenue on goods coming from abroad, and at the same time by keeping them out create work for our own people at home. There could not be a greater fallacy than this. I do not know of any public man advocating Tariff Reform who ever put forward any such proposition. It is a pure invention of our political opponents, and has no basis in our contention. Our contention is, as the hon. Member for Totnes (Mr. Mildmay) pointed out, that on all the products produced in this country there was a necessary expenditure of about 12 per cent. before there was any balance for any useful purpose whatever. That had to be paid to the State in the way of King's taxes, rates, and other charges. That being so, his argument was that it would be a perfectly reasonable thing, as against the foreigner, that there should be a like duty, or a like impost, put upon his 829 products, particularly his manufactured products, through the medium of the Custom House, when introduced into this country, especially the products of a character which we could make ourselves, and which, when brought into this country, come into competition with the labour production of our own country. Our suggestion is that if a duty of 10 or 12 per cent. were imposed on articles of that character, the first result would be that to the extent that imported manufactured articles were brought into this country they would pay the duty, and it would go to the National Treasury, and that amount would go in reduction of the taxation of the people of this country. But it would not keep out all foreign manufactures, because it would be a very moderate duty, and what the foreign manufacturers would do would be that, instead of coming in as he does now and walking off with the whole profit of the transaction he would have less profit, but meantime our Treasury, would be benefited to the extent of the money he paid into the Treasury. They would not come in to the same extent as they do now. They might not come in to more than one-third or one-half the extent that they do at present. But as this is the best market in the world, and as they must sell their goods, they could not forego this market, so he would still come, and to the extent to which he came he would pay the duties, and to the extent to which he did not come the products would be manufactured by our own people, to the benefit of our labouring classes and the people who invest money to keep up our great enterprises.
As less commodities would come in from abroad the manufacturer in this country would be in a better position than at present. He would have to supply the deficiency of the local market caused by the decline in the supply from the foreigner, and in doing so he would employ a larger amount of labour, there would be larger demands upon the labour supply, and that would enhance the value of the labour and contribute to the advancement of wages. It may be said that this increase in wages would increase the price of the product. The answer is that the manufacturer, by extending his business would produce more cheaply, and be able to meet the limited foreign competition in the local market, and also extend his operations to foreign markets. On the other hand, such portion of the foreign production 830 which came from abroad would create competition in this country, and that would be a guarantee for the cheapness to the consumers of this country. An hon. Gentleman from the Labour point of view spoke about dumping. He asked, supposing the foreigner does produce a number of excess articles in his own country and dumps them in this country, what injury is that to anybody, and why should not he do it, and why should not Englishmen do it also if they chose to adopt the same policy? One difficulty with regard to the Britisher doing it is that if he has a surplus to dispose of and wishes to find a market for it, he has got to get an entry into that market by paying a high tariff, as has to be done in the United States, Russia, France and Germany, where you must pay this gate money before you get in with your dumped goods, whereas the foreigner who has got a surplus to sell after providing for his own market can come in here and sell free.
I know that the hon. Member does not wish to misrepresent my argument. My argument was that if it paid Germany to dump into this country any goods produced under cost price, perhaps it would pay our people to supply our home market with those same goods under cost price rather than let the German come in.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
The difficulty with regard to that is that you sacrifice your own local market, and allow the foreigner to come in. The most valuable market to Germany is her local market, and the most valuable market to this country is our local market. In Canada 85 per cent. of the produce sent to the local market for local consumption is the result of the investment of British capital and Canadian labour. If you first destroy the local market, how can you possibly ask the British manufacturer to supply goods and sell them at a sacrifice price? If the conditions were equal, if we had Free Trade all round, both could play the same game. But that is not so. Whereas if the British manufacturer has a surplus of products he cannot count upon sending them to a foreign country and selling them there, but the foreigner can count with dead certainty upon his doing so in this country. With the local market the foreign manufacturer keeps his machinery going and gives employment to his workpeople. If he has so many hundreds of thousands of tons of surplus products he can send them to the United Kingdom of Great Britain 831 and Ireland and get rid of them, instead of keeping them over till the next year, when they might become stale stock. He turns them into cash, and turns over the money again. I have seen that in practical operation as between the United States and Canada, my own country. It has been put into operation in the most effective way. The United States used to sell their exports in Canada, breaking down the Canadian manufacturers. When they had broken them down they raised the prices and occupied the market.
I may say that I am an old Free Trader; I was brought up in the Free Trade school; but practical experience of business showed me how one was confronted with obstacles, and how it was an absolute impossibility to continue it under the conditions which existed. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that though you may see many seeming wise thoughts in books on this subject, when you come to the real affairs of life you often discover that they are wholly impracticable, and will not work. It is said that this is a prosperous country, very rich, and that we should be very well satisfied with our condition. Certainly I have no inclination whatever to disparage the country, of which we are all very proud, but we must recognise the disabilities and infirmities even of our own great and rich country. You can find no higher authority than the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who, when speaking at Cardiff the other day said:—There are millions of men, women and children in this, the richest country in the world, who, through no fault of their own, go through life sodden in poverty, wretchedness and despair.Can it be pretended for one moment, granting that this is a rich and prosperous country from the point of view of those who have prosperity, that the land is in a satisfactory condition, or that the people in it are enjoying a rational existence, when millions are in that position? Surely not. I do not say it arises from one thing or another; it may arise from a combination of several causes, but at all events it ought to be recognised that under this great Free Trade policy—which is not Free Trade at all—such a condition of things exist in this country. I see from the Returns that no less than 262,000 people left this country in 1911. Why did they do so? From the spirit of adventure? Or was it some necessity that compelled them to go elsewhere to fight out the battle of existence. [An HON. MEMBER: "Cheap land."] 832 Cheap land? It may have been that or it may not; but, at all events, there is this much certain with regard to the matter, that if this country, as we have been told, is the happiest and best country to live in, then the people would certainly have remained here. That would be my opinion at all events. But I know too well that a great many of these people, for some of them have told me so, were compelled to leave this country because of the conditions under which they had to live. Many of them said that there was no opportunity for their labour here, that the wage was insufficient if they got it, and that there was no prospect whatever. Therefore the conditions cannot be so very bright here after all, despite the glowing description of the greatness and prosperity of this land under Free Trade.
There went from this country, as I said, 262,000 in 1911. How many went from protectionist Germany? Under 30,000, I think, last year. About the same number the year before, and the year before that again about the same number, whereas our people have been going in multitudes. There has been a reversal in regard to the exodus from Germany since the establishment by Bismarck of a tariff. For years before that event, and for a few years afterwards, the people left Germany to the number of at least 200,000 a year. In many of the large towns in the United States of America the fact that the German language is so largely spoken in the streets is the result of that exodus. Take Cincinnati. If you go to that place you see that it is a German city, like so many other cities of the United States—all the result of the exodus from Germany in the old days before Tariff Reform was established. Since the establishment of Tariff Reform of course Germany has been greatly improved. I heard an hon. Gentleman opposite say that there was far more unemployment in the United States of America than there is in this country. I admit unemployment has been decreasing quite recently in this country, but how could it be otherwise when you have the fact that people are leaving at a rate of 262,000 a year? In regard to unemployment in America, a great number of emigrants land in New York. They do not know the language, they do not know the ways of the people. [An HON. MEMBER: "I thought they were all English?"] I am talking of another brigade of people who emigrate to the United States from many lands. The 262,000 were all Britishers. The 833 other brigade of people who go to the United States of America, to the number of about a quarter of a million, stay in the city of New York. They are unable to speak a word of English, and until they acquire the language and get into the ways of the work of the country and obtain employment they are included in the census of those who are unemployed. As to the cost of living, I should like to give a statement from an official report made by the Board of Trade. It is known that the Board of Trade appointed a number of people to go to the United States to find out the conditions of life there, and the wages, cost of living, and conditions of living. The report has been made to this House, and it is a public document open to the inspection of any Member of the House. The report described the different groups of people, the twenty-eight large cities they saw, how some of the people were foreigners, though mostly natives, and described their conditions of life. This is the conclusion of one part of the report:—By the budgets, as a whole, however, various features are brought into relief, and among those may be mentioned the high level of family income, the large contribution made by children in the higher income classes, the insignificant earnings of the wives, the considerable expenditure in food, and the large proportion of income remaining after the cost of food and rent has been deducted.Thus in this official report we have it noted that there is this considerable expenditure on food, and that consequently the people are living well, and that even when the cost of living is taken from the weekly wage, there is according to the report a considerable sum of money in hand. That, I regret to say, is unfortunately not very true of the people in this country. In addition, we are told in the Report that the supply of food among the working classes is larger, is "more liberal," and is "more varied." They also say that in those three great trades they investigated the hours are shorter. They also show that where in one of those three great trades, a man in this country would earn 100 shillings, he would earn 230 shillings in America. They also show that the cost of rental there is about 38 per cent. more than in this country and, balancing one thing with the other, they make out the total cost of food and rent to be about 52 per cent. higher than it is in England. Notwithstanding all that, the wages are so much higher as to leave a very considerable balance in the pockets of those people at the end of the week.
834 The right hon. Gentleman who replied from the Government Benches spoke about the inadvisability of drawing questions of Canadian politics into discussions in this House in relation to British politics. That is all very well, but suppose there is co-relationship between the two, and supposing there is responsibility on the Government of this country in connection with events that have transpired there, then, I submit, that is a perfectly proper subject for criticism in this House. The words of the Amendment declare that the commercial advantages we derive from the concessions made by the over-seas Dominions are imperilled by the course that is being taken by this Government, and that that course is adversely affecting labour conditions of the country. Is there any ground for saying that the advantages we get from Canada are imperilled? We all agree that the preference this country has from Canada is a great benefit and advantage. The Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister said so in the speeches at the Colonial Conference. The hon. Member (Mr. Pointer) will remember that he stated that when this preference was introduced that, although the importations from this country had been running down rapidly before that, that that immediately stopped, and the importations then commenced to increase. That undoubtedly is true, and was owing to the advantage given to this country. The only thing the hon. Gentleman said he did not understand was that the American importations came to a standstill, and that they did not increase.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
The American importations did not. They came to a standstill, and went on increasing, but very slightly. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no."] I know. They were going up by leaps and bounds over the British importations, and what brought them to a halt was this preference given to importations from this country. The only reason why the American importations held their own against the differential preference of 33⅓ per cent. is by reason of the propinquity of the two countries, their continuity, and the further consideration that supplies could be more readily ordered from there than from here. If it were not for our preference the British trader would be swept out of the Canadian market by his American competitor. What were the propositions made by the United States of America 835 to Canada when the Canadian Commissioners arrived at Washington, and this, let me remark, is not sufficiently known. The offer of the United States to those Commissioners was absolute Free Trade between the United States and Canada. On that very day, 19th January, 1911, the British Ambassador at Washington sent a telegram to Sir Edward Grey advising him that that proposal was before the Commissioners. President Taft has told us that he offered absolute Free Trade to the Canadian representatives. Did the British Ambassador point out to the British Government what the meaning of absolute Free Trade between Canada and the United States would be, and, as the Government received the telegram on the day the offer was made, what was their action? We moved for the Papers, and we have all the Papers, but there is not one scrap to say or to show that any Member of this Government stood up as they should have done for the best interests of the trade of this country, or that they pointed out to their Ambassador or the Canadian Commissioners that the result would have been the complete destruction of this preference which has been of such great benefit to the people of this country.
I won't go into the further and ancillary question of what interpretation was put on that offer and the ultimate bargain all over the United States. It was looked upon as the fore-runner of political absorption. It was something that could not be withstood. Canada could not have one tariff for all the countries in the world except the United States, and the United States could not have a tariff for all the countries except Canada with Free Trade between them, because, say, if the tariff of Canada was lower than that of the United States, the importations could be sent into the United States through the back door of Canada. The whole Press of the United States interpreted this bargain as meaning in the end political absorption. The leading men in their legislature took the same view. When they did that was there anything said in this country? Was there a word of warning uttered or a guiding hand extended to those who were negotiating that business? It was not concluded for a considerable period, but there was nothing of the kind. I respectfully submit that in that respect it is not dragging Colonial politics into this House, but it is dragging into criticism the conduct of the Government here for their lack of interest or for 836 their absolute acquiescence in a transaction which would have been disastrous to Canada and to this country, and which would have led to the political absorption of Canada in the United States. What was the view of our Government with regard to that transaction? The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, before it was put to the Canadian people, that the agreement was "common sense." What did the Prime Minister say? After the agreement had been signed and executed, he said in this House that he thought we were now celebrating "the obsequies of Imperial Preference," which in the same speech he characterised as the "greatest imposture of modern times." Did Mr. Taft think Imperial Preference the greatest imposture of modern times? He was so anxious to carry the scheme that he delivered a sentence which is a classic in regard to the great danger of this policy coming into operation, so far as American affairs are concerned. He saw that it was so serious that it would have such a commercial, binding, and beneficial effect on the British Empire, that he said to the country, "You must pass this treaty now or never." Here are his words:—Forces which are at work in England and in Canada to separate Canada by a Chinese wall from the United States, and to make her a part of an Imperial commercial band, reaching from England round the world to England again by a system of preferential tariffs, will derive an impetus from the rejection of this treaty. If we would hare reciprocity, we must have it now or give it up for ever.The treaty was before the public. The Canadian people in the end well understood what it meant, and they give it its quietus, and determined that this proposal to destroy the commercial band should not take effect—in other words, that the commercial band should prevail. If we have to thank anybody for the commercial band, which we hope will prevail, and for the preservation of the status of Canada in the Empire, we have not to thank Mr. Bryce or this Government, but we have to thank the patriotism of the Canadian people.
§ Mr. THEODORE TAYLOR
The hon. Member who has just spoken omitted to remind us that large numbers of farmers have been going over from the highly protected United States to less-protected Canada, where they are able to live more cheaply, as well as to have cheaper land. That is one of the reasons why they are settling there. There is another thing of which the hon. Gentleman did not remind us. It is quite pertinent to his argument, though it would not have supported it. It is that the great progress which has taken 837 place in Canada has taken place under the lower duties levied by the late Liberal Government, rather than under the higher duties levied by their predecessors. It is true there, as everywhere else, that the freer the trade the quicker the development. I think that the hon. Gentleman, in common with other Protectionists, reminded us that the English market was the best market in the world. I quite agree in that respect. I am only surprised that Tariff Reformers should bring that out as an argument against Free Trade. In the many journeys I have made to different countries I have come across one universal testimony among those who export produce to this country, namely, that the moat, butter, cheese, and other eatables that they send are always their best. What is the reason they have given? It is that there is most competition in this market. It is the freest, the most open, and the most competitive market in the world. Therefore, our people are fed on the best, and not on the worst, food grown in other countries.
I was reminded also of an incident that occurred in my own experience two or three years ago. I am the head of a large firm of woollen cloth manufacturers. A large customer of ours, a French house, was buying our goods to send to the United States, and he asked us for a certificate with regard to some goods for which we were charging 1s. 10d. per yard. He wanted this certificate to prove to the appraisers in New York that they really were produced at that price before the appraisers levied duties of 100 per cent. on their value on the supposition that they were worth 2s. What is to be learnt from that incident? Here is a French firm sending English made woollen cloth to the United States. We certainly did not pay their 100 per cent. ad valorem duty; we did not know to what country the goods were sent. It was certainly the consumer in New York who paid the 100 per cent. duty, and not we. What struck me most forcibly was that here was a French firm, not sending French goods to New York, not even merchanting them in Park, but merchanting them in England, and the trade of that large woollen house is much greater here than it is in Paris. Because we are a Free Trade country this is the best market in the world. The hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. H. Smith) is under a misapprehension with regard to the woollen trade. I am the head of one of the largest firms in that trade. I have 838 lived all my life within nine miles of Huddersfield, and I know that town quite as well as the Gentleman who once contested it. The hon. Member quoted Huddersfield warehouses as being closed. Some of them are closed, and so are some in Dewsbury and Batley. Why is that? Is it contemporaneous with the shutting up of mills? Not at all. It is because manufacturers in this country, in consequence of consular reports and other means, have been waking up during the last few years and are sending their travellers to their customers instead of waiting for their customers to come to them. In these West Riding towns, which I know perfectly well, having lived in the district all my life, the fact that a few warehouses are closed does not mean that there is any less trade. There is a great deal more trade.
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
I did not mention warehouses. I mentioned vast buildings which had been used as offices by those who were merchants for the American trade.
§ Mr. T. TAYLOR
I will not quarrel about the word. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. It is practically the same thing. I say without hesitation, knowing the Huddersfield district well, that last year, the year before, and the year before that, there was a larger trade done in that district than ever before in its history. A large number of mills have been built in the Colne Valley, which the hon. Member must know very well, having had to pass through it many times on his way from Lancashire to Huddersfield. It is a very progressive district. The most extraordinary statement that has been made in my hearing to-night is that in which the hon. Member said that the woollen manufacturers of this country have not been sharing in the boom that our rivals have had. Is that correct or not?
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
The quotation is incorrect. I never said anything of the sort. I went so far as to say that the woollen trade is extremely prosperous. What the hon. Member is saying now does not in the least resemble any argument that I used.
§ Mr. T. TAYLOR
I put the hon. Gentleman's words down at the time, and we 839 shall see in the OFFICIAL REPORT to-morrow who is correct. What I have got down is that the woollen manufacturing business in this country has not shared the boom that its rivals abroad have been having. That is what the hon. Member said according to my hearing. He certainly made there a slight mistake, and the mistake he has made is this. He has not remembered exactly, I suppose, what he has heard or read, because it is a, fact that our woollen manufacturers' rivals in other countries during the last two or three years have not been enjoying the boom we have been enjoying. That is true. In regard to the worsted trade—that is not exactly the woollen trade, though it is very largely akin to it—I only heard this week from a customer of my firm in London who has been buying French and German goods, that in Roubaix, where the worsted trade has been very bad this year, while it has been very busy in Yorkshire, 4,000 looms have recently been broken up, by arrangement with the manufacturers, on protectionist principles. This was to reduce the quantity produced, so that the manufacturers could retard the cheapening of production and control their home market, though all the time we were sending goods into France from Bradford.
Germany has been slack in regard to the woollen trade. In the United States, the great object lesson of Protection, the woollen trade has been very bad there for the past two or three years. The remarkable thing is, as I have already informed the House, that we are selling woollens there. We are not sending large quantities, because it is quite right on the part of the hon. Member to say that owing to the high and prohibitive duties many years ago, not just lately, but forty or fifty years ago, the Americans cut off our low-class trade. Twenty years ago the United States very largely excluded our high-class goods. How far has it helped them? They have been taking some of our goods, and of course they have to pay 100 per cent. duty Has it resulted in employment for their people and money being made during the last few years? Why, even the small amount of woollen goods that we export to them is larger than their export of woollens to the rest of the world.
Would this House like to know the real figures, the quantities, not values, because I should not be at all surprised at somebody getting up and criticising, say, the 840 figures in the cotton trade, and saying that the cotton exported, large as it was last year, was undoubtedly swollen as regards amount beyond the usual price. There is going to be a bigger trade in cotton this year, and more money made by possibly a less amount of total exports, because the price of cotton now is cheaper. I think it was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon who said what we wanted was cheap production. I quite agree. What is the way to get it? By good production, scientific production, by applying brains, science, industry and co-operation to business. That is the way to get true business; not artificial, but true production, and really inherently cheap production. I do not mean cheap and nasty, but cheap and good, because I am thankful to say that one of the features of the woollen trade in which it has greatly improved is the quality of the goods we are making—and it is not in the lowest class of goods. I think the hon. Member opposite rather hinted that it is not in the highest class of goods that we are increasing our exports, but rather in the cheaper class.
Let me give figures of imports and exports of woollen cloth into and out of this country during the last fifteen years. I will not trouble the House by reading the yearly figures. I have grouped them in quinquennial periods, and any Gentleman who cares to look at the Blue books will find that I am giving an absolutely fair comparison. During the years 1897–1901 we imported into this country an average of 5,000,000 yards of woollen cloth, and we exported 48,000,000 yards of woollen cloth; or nine and a half times as much exports as imports. That is a pretty good comparison. In the years 1902–7 we imported under 4,500,000 yards, and exported nearly 63,500,000. Take the last five years, 1907–11, we imported 2,750,000, and we exported nearly 86,500,000. It may be said, "What about the last two years?" It is fair to give the House the figures of the last two years. In 1911 our total imports were 2,500,000 yards of woollen cloth, while our total exports for 1910 were 95,300,000. Last year our imports of foreign cloth from all countries had fallen to less than 2,250,000. Our exports have increased to 97,000,000. Let us take the year in which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham said that the woollen trade was going. In 1903 we imported 5,000,000 yards and exported 47,000,000. Last year our imports and exports are what I have just said. In other 841 words, taking the five years' periods, during the years 1907–11, we exported thirty-one times as much as we imported, whereas in the first five years' period we exported only nine and a half times as much. So much for one trade.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wimbledon is a real, good old champion of Protection, and an honest man, who has always stuck to his guns, and we must admire him—I, for one, admire him, and am sorry he is not here now. He tried to make our flesh creep. He said that we did not produce so much pig iron as we used to do. Well, the very great desire of Tariff Reformers was, I thought, rather to make the higher classes of goods and the finer types of machinery than to manufacture pig-iron and to have blast-furnaces and blast-furnace men. There are very good reasons why we do not import so much pig iron as we used to do. I venture to prophesy that as time goes on we shall produce less and less pig iron. I was talking to a pig-iron merchant in Melbourne the other day. He told me that he had for many years imported pig iron largely from India, and now he was importing it largely from China. I venture to make another prophecy, not a very dangerous one, and to say that in a few years China will be producing the cheapest pig iron in the world. Why? Because she has got the largest coalfield in proximity to one of the richest, if not the richest, fields of hematite ore in the world. I hope that we shall go on as we have begun—that is, lessening our production of things like pig iron and increasing, as I am glad to say we are, comparatively enormously our manufacture of the higher type of machinery, such as electrical machinery.
Just one word about the cotton trade. Although these figures were swollen last year in regard to the 120 millions of export, they are marvellous figures, and the best object lesson I know of as to the strength of the Free Trade position. We bring our cotton from different countries in the world, from America, Egypt, and India, across the ocean in Free Trade ships. We send it back spun and woven to the uttermost ends of the world to the very countries, in some cases, from which we imported it, and we pay in Lancashire far better wages, if we only reckon the dollar as equal to 4s. of our money, than they pay in the cotton mills of Georgia and Alabama where they work mere children of eight and ten years of age. Lancashire is an object lesson as to the strength of the Free Trade position. I say, as a 842 manufacturer in a kindred trade and knowing something about cotton and woollen trade, it is Free Trade that has given the unique position to our manufactures as compared in all respects with other nations. I beg the House not to give way to the very specious argument which causes people who have no time to think to imagine that it must be right to keep things out of the country so that more work may be provided for our people. There may be more work, but there will be less wages for it. It would not lighten the burdens we have to bear. It is difficult enough for people to live and to bear their burdens without increasing the cost of production, without raising the cost of people's living. That is the secret of Briton's strength, and I hope and believe we shall always retain the position we occupy under Free Trade.
§ Mr. ALFRED LYTTELTON
It is not from any disrespect to the hon. Member who has just spoken, nor from any lack of interest in the details of this problem we are discussing, that I ask the House, as I have only a little time at my disposal and as I must shortly give place to the representative of the Board of Trade, to look with me at the Colonial side of the question in the first instance. I have perhaps some small title to speak on that part; at any rate I have a much greater title to speak on that side of the question than upon the other. But I do not like to leave that portion of the Debate without congratulating both my hon. Friends, the Mover and Seconder of this Amendment on the great ability they have shown, and I trust it will not be taken with any disrespect to the Secretary to the Admiralty if I say that I think his arguments have been fully and satisfactorily met by other hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House.
The Prime Minister said in the last Debate in which he took part on Colonial preference, that "the greatest and most dangerous of political impostures was about to be buried by the completion of the American and Canadian Reciprocity Treaty." That was an extremely unhappy prognostication which was based oh an absolutely unfulfilled anticipation. The Prime Minister did not know the stomach of the Canadian people, and I do not think a distinguished man in this country was ever more conspicuously and publicly rebuked for such a statement than he has been by the decision of the Canadian Parliament jointly, not merely the decision of the Conservatives but of the Liberals also. 843 Both sides of the Canadian Parliament have disposed of that question, I hope, for all our time, and disposed of it on a distinct basis, that a pecuniary advantage might have been theirs if they had accepted it, but they had preferred Imperial relationship in its integrity. It would be idle for me not to say, that as a result of that, the Unionist policy of closer commercial relationship with the Dominions stands upon a firmer basis than ever before. It hold's the field as the only solution as I think for problems of most far-reaching importance.
The Dominions themselves, I am informed by news which lately reached me, have negotiations for preferential treaty arrangements between Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, and they are within measurable distance of completion, and as we stand alone outside, and as Canada has made every movement in our favour, is it not time that some requital should be expected? I quite admit, and I say it freely, in colloquial language, that no one could behave as greater gentlemen than Canada has in this matter. They have never pushed their claim, but after this great sacrifice, for it was a pecuniary sacrifice, which they made in the recent declaration and in connection with the recent treaty, it is not unnatural to find that a conspicuous Member of their Ministry, Mr. Pelletier, has pointed to this country and called upon this country to do something in response to that. He said, I think on 27th October:—The defeat of reciprocity has brought the question of commercial preference with England to the fore. But the next move is with the Mother Country. Why did not England requite Canada in this matter? One of the principal reasons why Canadians had voted against reciprocity was that they did not wish to run the risk of being involved in a closer political union with the United States. Britain then, for her part, should cement the union between herself and the Dominion by more intimate trade relations. The French-Canadians had been faithful to their traditions and history during the last election in preaching the maintenance of the British connection. Perhaps it would not be out of place if he, as one of their representatives, suggested that those on the other side of the ocean should do something to correspond with what had been done on this side.May I endeavour, if I possibly can, to make clear what this problem of the relations between ourselves and the Dominions is, and to appreciate the gravity of the problem. We must glance for a moment at the political changes which have taken place in the last three years in the relationship between them and us. Only ten years before I was in office Lord Ripon 844 wrote a dispatch which at that time was considered quite a classic, in which he expressed himself in these words in regard to these relations. He said:—To give the Colonies power of negotiating treaties for themselves without reference to Her Majesty's Government would be to give them an international status as separate and sovereign States, and would be equivalent to breaking up the Empire into a number of independent States, a result which Her Majesty's Government are satisfied would be injurious equally to the Colonies and to the Mother Country and would be of advantage to neither. Negotiations, being between Her Majesty's Government and the sovereign of a foreign State, must be conducted by the representative of Her Majesty at the court of a foreign Power, who will inform the Government and send instructions from them as necessity arises.This was in 1885. This claim was strongly set up by Lord Ripon on behalf of the Liberal Government—that is to say, the claim to control the commercial relations of the Colonies—and their treaty-making power has now been abandoned by the consent of all parties. I do not make any complaint in respect of that, because the Government know as well as I do that after the refusal of His Majesty's Government to enter into reciprocal separate relations with Canada the Canadian Government claimed the right to enter into separate treaty relations with other foreign countries. That claim was conceded to them by the Foreign Secretary in the present Government. I make no point of that because that facility was given them with the assent of the then Leader of the Opposition, who not merely assented, as we must do when the claim is made, but actually welcomed the fact that Canada had attained to such a position as would entitle her to make this arrangement with foreign countries on her own part. This fact has really brought a new problem before the Empire, which I have no doubt was dimly foreseen by the imagination and the foresight of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham. Until the last few years, however, no one knew of it, and no one had granted it, and we are now in the unique position in the history of the world of possessing an Empire, the States of which in time of war each claim the right to join or not to join, as they think fit; and in commerce they claim the right, not merely to discriminate and differentiate between themselves, but actually the right to make agreements with foreign countries without mutual consent. I believe that is an absolutely unique position in the history of the world. I do not say this problem is greater than the matter which has been discussed so largely this afternoon, but it is a matter which this House, without distinction of party, should give 845 its most grave consideration. The problem is how in such conditions of loose organisation we are to maintain and fortify the cohesion of the whole Empire. The House is aware that the Unionist policy is partnership both in defence and in commerce. In regard to the first matter there is much common ground. I recognise that with our consent and co-operation, and, indeed, I think I may say, without offence, with our stimulus, His Majesty's Government have entered into arrangements with the Dominions by which the defences of the Empire have been strengthened. The extraordinary thing is that they failed to see that it would have been a very great force if they had always admitted the principle of partnership in commerce. The preference which has been granted by Canada has been described by the hon. Gentleman opposite as not a very great affair. On this point I will quote a very recent authority on Canada, which I think the hon. Gentleman will admit has considerable weight, namely, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who said, at the Conference in 1907:—The statement has been made—we heard it in 1902 and again in 1907—that Canadian preference has not done as much for British traders as has been hoped for. I repeat there is a way of doing this. It is by adopting a mutual system of preference.That deals with an objection to the system of preference, which has apparently operated on the mind of right hon. Gentlemen opposite, and especially on the mind of the Prime Minister, for I recognise some traces of what he said before in the speech in the hon. Member from Edinburgh. The Prime Minister and hon. Member for Edinburgh are afraid that not harmony, but friction, will result from preferential relations, and their case is that these preferential relations would operate against the safety and harmony of our relations with the Dominions, and they mean to maintain at any price the status quo. Will the House bear with me while I endeavour to show that the maintenance of the status quo and this policy of laissez aller between us and the Dominion will create far more dangerous friction than any which they anticipate. Why do I say that, and from whence do I draw that apprehension? Simply from the Most-Favoured-Nation treaties. That is the danger point. The House is familiar with those treaties, but there may be one or two hon. Members who have not gone into that matter, and for their information I may explain that these treaties are the machinery whereby when two nations make a bargain the third, fourth, and fifth parties benefit by that bargain. Supposing 846 France and Germany negotiated a treaty, and then by bargaining France gave Germany some advantage, and Germany gave France some advantage. Those advantages do not stop with the two nations who receive them by that treaty, but automatically they pass on to other nations. The advantages agreed to between A and B pass automatically to C. D, E, and F. Consequently there is a vicarious bargaining by C, D, E, and F, without exertion at all, and those countries get the advantage of the bargain between the original parties. As a matter of fact, several other nations without effort come in on the tide of other nations' exertions. The United Kingdom has many such, treaties. I think we have between thirty and forty. What will be the effect of these upon our commercial relations with the Dominions and upon the question, vital to the whole House, of the consolidation and further cohesion of the Empire? We know that the Prime Minister, in polite terms, but in terms which I can never forget, in 1907 said firmly to the Dominions, when refusing a preference to them:—A preference means, as it wore, treating our Colonies better than we treat foreigners, and that, we say, we cannot do.Repelled thus, the Dominions are thrown, back upon making agreements with other countries, and, in pursuance of that policy, as we know, Canada has approached, and has made a treaty with France and has been approached by the United States, happily, at present, unsuccessfully. Just think of the position which must inevitably arise if the status quo is preserved. You have said in one word to the Dominions, "We cannot help you in preferential relations, go elsewhere if you think fit and make arrangements there." Very well, Canada goes, let us say, to Germany, and there finds that an arrangement which would be absolutely to her advantage if the limits of it were only with Germany becomes useless and futile and even damaging to her if the advantage she is giving ta Germany is also to be extended to several other countries. What will your position be? His Majesty's Government, I quite admit with the assent of ourselves, have said to Canada, "You are fiscally autonomous. You have a perfect right, not merely to manage your internal affairs, but we will not throw any obstacles in the way of your going to foreign countries and making agreements and treaties with them." What will your position be when you have told them that, and when you have told 847 them you will give them no commercial preference whatever, when they come to you, and say, "But for your Favoured-Nation Treaty we could make an advantageous treaty with, say, Germany or Russia. You have conceded us fiscal autonomy. You have permitted and encouraged us to go elsewhere, you have refused to us preference or commercial advantages in any form whatever." What answer will you have when they say, "What a mockery it is if, under these circumstances, you will not release us from obligations which were not of our making, and which, if they exist, render fiscal autonomy a futility.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. J. M. Robertson)
§ Mr. LYTTELTON
The obligations which arise upon the Favoured-Nation Clause in treaties. If I might sum up the matter, it might be put thus in the mouth of any member of a Dominion Government: "If you are genuine in your wish to afford us fiscal freedom, fiscal autonomy, and if you are determined, as the present Government is, to refuse us any special favour whatever, then, at least, give us the liberty to make the arrangements which we think are in our interests with foreign countries. What answer would you have if such a position were taken up by any statesman in the Dominions? Let me show, also, the dilemma in which you would be placed by the request which I am assuming he has made. If you refuse to grant the concession which is asked by the Dominion—that is to say, if you decline to denounce the treaties which set up these international obligations, these Favoured-Nation obligations—then, of course, you will set up a friction compared to which the friction which has been mentioned by the hon. Member for Edinburgh is as nothing. You give them a real ground for grievance. You are purporting to give them a great concession, but you are making it useless and futile. On the other hand, supposing you say, "I agree with you. We ought to liberate you from these treaties to which you were not a party and set you entirely free for the purposes of making these arrangements with foreign countries." Then you will introduce without the slightest question enormous confusion and even chaos in this country by suddenly depriving the commercial and mercantile community of 848 those Favoured-Nation Clause treaties on which they have so long relied. I do not think that really is a position which is tenable. At present the Free Trader boasts that, although he is absolutely unarmed for the purposes of direct bargaining with foreign States, he has the great merit of indirect bargaining by means of the Favoured-Nation Clause. You propose, without giving him the arm to negotiate directly, to take away the Favoured-Nation Clause which is some protection to him indirectly. I do not therefore care which way you take it. If you denounce the treaties, you cause chaos and confusion here, and if you do not denounce them you fetter and hamper the Dominions in their dealings with foreign countries.
I put this to the hon. Gentleman who is so distinguished in economic theory. I say that quite genuinely. Have we not reached the position with our Dominions which was long ago contemplated and written of by Adam Smith, the greatest of all Free Traders as a relation in which both sides practically had political independence? The evolution which has taken place during the last 150 years has brought us in this position with the great Dominions. Practically, we are five independent and Free States of a great Empire. Adam Smith argued long ago that in such a relation the United Kingdom quite legitimately might make treaties with her Colonies over-seas so as to secure her greater advantages than she at one time enjoyed, treaties which might dispose them to favour us alike in war as in trade. I ask the hon. Gentleman, because no one is more capable of doing it than he if it is possible to be done, how in principle he distinguishes between what is quite economically sound according to his own admission, making treaties with foreign States, and making preferential treaties with independent States of our own Empire? It seems to me there is no difference in principle whatever. My last word shall be this: That in this state which I have so imperfectly depicted, but in which there is no reality and no true, real independence, fiscal as well as otherwise, in the Dominions and between the Dominions and ourselves—is it not time that instead of making futile academic and partisan objections to Colonial Preference all parties in this Kingdom should set to work to see whether they cannot make natural arrangements as between the family, and give preferential treatment as between each other in 849 commerce? We for a long time have urged it would bring enormous advantages to the community of interests in addition to the affinity of race.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I think the House will understand that my right hon. Friend, who in the ordinary course would have finished this Debate on behalf of the Government, has, during the past few days and especially to-day, been so absolutely occupied in matters of most urgent public importance outside, that it was quite impossible for him to follow the discussion. I may perhaps feel less diffident in taking his place, because I have a suspicion that to-night's Debate is not regarded by hon. Members opposite as of the same importance as we used to attach to it some years ago. I suggest that because I detect a cooler atmosphere; it is not like the Debates of a few years ago, and the very fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, whose name is so particularly associated with this cause, has not thought fit to take any part in it seems to give some ground for that view. There may be other reasons for the right hon. Gentleman's abstention; he may have had some misgivings with regard to speeches he made from this bench not so many years ago, as, for instance, when in June, 1902, speaking in Committee on the Finance Bill, he said it had been suggested that manufactured articles from abroad might be taxed and there were many grounds on which that proposal might not be considered unreasonable, but it was obvious there were two insurmountable objections—first, the interference with trade; and secondly, that it was impossible to tax one manufactured article without immediately raising an agitation for the taxation of all manufactured articles. Later on, in the same speech, the right hon. Gentleman said that this question of the Customs Union seemed to be surrounded by difficulties almost insurmountable.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
I happen to remember that speech very well. It was almost the first I made in this House, and when I sat down Sir Henry Fowler, who sat here, said, "There is a full-blooded Protectionist."
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I suppose the breed was held at that time to be generally rather anæmic. But there are same difficulties about a statement of that kind which unfortunately cannot be checked. 850 In the same speech the right hon. Gentleman went on to say:—The greatest difficulty was that the Colonics could send nothing but raw material and largely food, which was the last thing it would be wise or possible seriously to taxIn the same speech the right hon. Gentleman further said:—Under existing circumstances, Free Trade was best for this country."—It was within two months of that speech that the right hon. Gentleman was appointed to a post in the then Government. No doubt the selection was made because of the attachment to Free Trade principles which the right hon. Gentleman had there justified.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
All that the right hon. Gentleman need do is to dispatch communications to the Press, which I have no doubt—[Interruption.] I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dublin University (Sir E. Carson) might not use some strong epithets about such changes if he were speaking. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I admit that, in one point I have been met with a little of the old animation. I wish to lake a survey of the merits of the Debate, which is a different thing from the merits of the Amendment. In following the speech of one hon. Member opposite—who I think is quite entitled to the compliments paid from this side to the Mover and Seconder in respect of the general ingenuity of his arguments—I remember the hon. Member for Warrington (Mr. H. Smith) did take up what we may regard as the general case in connection with the Amendment, although to a large extent he could not be said to have spoken to the Amendment. In particular he gave us an amazing vindication of the celebrated historic prophecies of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain). He complained that my right hon. Friend who spoke for the Government earlier in the evening had confuted the prophecies of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham by taking the development in trade that had occurred since those prophecies were made. He said that the year in which those prophecies were 851 made was a bad year. I suppose they would hardly have been made if it was not a bad year. He went on to say, "You are comparing the trade of that year with the trade of a good year." Everybody knows that what followed upon those predictions was a general improvement in trade for a whole period of years. Everyone in this House knows that that improvement was arrested in the year 1907, and that after two bad years—which somehow failed to realise the hopes of the right hon. Gentleman of two bad winters—we again had a revival of trade, and now, in the face of that continuous and cumulative refutation of the prophecies of the Member for West Birmingham, we are told that the right hon. Gentleman never meant, in making those predictions, that we should not do very well even under Free Trade, when there is a boom, Joy sharing in it. This, forsooth, is a vindication of the most grossly falsified prophecy of modern politics. What could the prophecy mean if it is to be saved in that fashion? You prophesy that all your trades are going to the bad. Then it is shown that they do very well, and then the prophet, or someone for him, turns round and says, "Oh, when I said they were all going to the bad I did not mean that you would not do very well when trade was good." The same thing could be said of the state of every Protectionist country, that is to say, that they only do well when trade is good and do badly when trade is bad. The right hon. Gentleman himself was the first to predict, before it tame, the collapse of the trade of the United States in 1907. As he told us in one of his public speeches, "There is an end to fall booms," yes, even for the Protectionist country, and so the prophecy of the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Joseph Chamberlain) is defended by being shown to be absolutely empty of meaning altogether.
The hon. Member went on to show, as he told us, that a workman in the United States, and this seems to have been supposed to be a central point in the Debate, was, on the average, infinitely better off than the workman here. The word "infinitely" is very characteristic of the whole Tariff Reform propaganda. We see what even finite prophecies come to when we subject them to comparison with facts. What is the justification for this monstrous assertion about "infinitely better"? The main evidence that the hon. Member 852 gave us, and he seemed to have the subject matter pretty well in hand, was that bricklayers in the United States, I think he should have said in New York, earned wages as high as £5 10s. per week, and he challenged my hon. Friend to show a case in which a bricklayer in this country got any such wage as this. These are New York wages. They are also, as my hon. Friend pointed out, wages in a non-protected trade. My hon. Friend also pointed out the surprising lowness of wages in protected trades in the United States. That fact might have given the hon. Member some pause if he had been trying to understand the economic situation. But he incidentally revealed a few things, and I will reveal one thing more which, I think, will dispose of that argument for the infinite superiority of labour conditions in the States. I suppose the hon. Member is not aware that in New York at this moment the poverty line, as we call it, is drawn at anything from £120 to £150 per annum. It is latterly put at £150 per annum. What is the value of wages of £5 10s. a week in New York? I believe you would be overstating it if you said they were as good as £2 10s. in London. I am going on facts and figures covering a series of years. The hon. Member cited £5 10s. as if they had a purchasing power like £5 10s. over here.
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
May I quote from the Government's Report of an inquiry by the Board of Trade on "Working-class Housing, etc., Rates of Wages." I will refer him to Page 5 of the introduction, in which it distinctly says that, taking the index number as 100, the wages earned are as 230 to 100 as compared with this country—in America and not in New York—and that the cost of living is as 138 to 100, leaving a benefit in the difference of 92.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The average for the United States does not in the least dispose of the figures for New York. Does the hon. Member think he is entitled to shift from the specific figure for one city, and then, to justify his argument, put the figure for America?
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
Does the hon. Member mean that that is the average bricklayer's wage in the United States?
§ Mr. HAROLD SMITH
I allege what I alleged in my speech, that it was the official return for the bricklayers' wages in the State of Massachusetts.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I have only to say, in the first place, that it is one of the most precarious trades. As the hon Member himself told us on somebody's testimony, some of these bricklayers were in the habit of returning home annually for three months for a rest to spend in Free Trade England what they had saved in the protected United States. [An HON. MEMBEB: "For a holiday."] Yes, a holiday in the man's unemployed time. My Friends below the Gangway, who know something of the conditions of labour, are aware that in all countries the bricklayer's occupation is a precarious one. It is the one that suffers most from unemployment, and that holds equally good in the United States. The bricklayer has to come home to Free Trade England for these three months or more, for if he remained over there he would have very little money left to him if he spent his savings in America. It is a singular fact that such is the cost of living in the United States that it pays a man to take the ocean voyage both ways, and to find his living here at the lower rate in this country. [Laughter and interruption.]
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I would ask hon. Members to give the Minister a fair hearing. The Front Opposition Bench has, I understand, asked a series of important questions, and the Minister who is now replying will, I have no doubt, reach them in due course; but he cannot do so if he is constantly being interrupted.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The next point in the hon. Member's speech with which I desire to deal bears very closely for once upon the Amendment. The hon. Member stated, as to the increase in our export trade in recent years—I took down his words—that that increase was largely in respect of our trade with the Colonies which have given us preference. I have the respective figures here, showing the average annual trade in the years 1901 to 1905, as compared with the average annual trade in the years 1906 to 1910. If we take first our exports to Germany, we find that in the second five-year period the percentage increase is actually 42. As regards France, the average increase is 38.6, to the United States it is 29.4, and to the six other principal protected countries it is 854 45.2 The total average increase of exports to the protected countries is 39.3 per cent., to the neutral markets 46.2, to British East India 27.3, while to the British self-governing Dominions it is only 14.2, so that the lowest percentage increase of all, for the five-year average is precisely to the self-governing Dominions, in respect of which the hon. Gentleman alleged our trade had chiefly increased, and that because they had given us preference. That is, I think, a sufficient answer on that point.
I will not deal with all the points of the hon. Member, but I will note in passing that, according to him, Japan is going to be a dangerous competitor with us in respect of low wages under Protection. That is another admission which is not in favour of Protection. I wish to say a word or two as to our iron production. He said that once we led the world in iron production, and he promised to deal with the question as to why we no longer were first, but the subject perhaps passed from his memory, and he did not do so. The argument seemed to be that if we were no longer first in the production of iron Germany has taken the place that we once held. That may be true, and therefore I put to the House a question: If you have fifty tariff countries, if a tariff serves to produce a notable increase in iron production, why is it that there are only two countries to which you are able to point as exhibiting any great increase? If the tariff is the efficient factor, why is there not a similar increase in France or in Belgium? Why does it not put all the countries ahead of us as well as Germany? As my hon. Friend behind pointed out, and it is an indisputable fact, the advance of Germany in the matter of iron production is not in the least degree owing to the tariff. I do not think that you will find a single German expert who would suggest that the tariff had anything to do with it. It is simply due to the fact that the German hematite ores, which a generation ago, were worthless for commercial purposes, have now, through the invention of a well known process, become marketable ores, and on that basis the iron ore that Germany possesses becomes marketable, especially since the patents have expired and the process referred to can be used more cheaply.
These are the main points in what I may call the typical and competent speech on the other side. But use was made by the hon. Member of the case of the woollen trade. In view of his reply to the 855 hon. Member for Radcliffe, I have some little doubt as to what he thinks. I understood him to say that it was a threatened trade. As a fact, it has been one of the most prosperous trades in this country for many years past. Take a period of fifteen years, and you will find imports greatly reduced and exports nearly doubled. Employment has been so great that over and over again at certain times you have had employers bidding against each other for hands. Labour Exchanges can give evidence on that head. Yet the hon. Member selects that as a threatened trade. In that sense every trade is a threatened trade, and the word comes to be as meaningless as the predictions which we have heard explained to-night. As regards the statements about the export of raw wool to the United States, is the hon. Member aware that the wool exported from this country is very largely Colonial and other wool, this country being a great emporium? Is he aware that English wool goes to the United States largely because it is of a quality which they do not produce there? Is he aware that while wool goes into the United States with a monstrous tariff it is the case that the American workman cannot afford to buy a woollen suit? Is he aware, from a recent official inquiry into the woollen trade in America that, on the one hand, the price of woollen goods has been so monstrously raised that poor people practically cannot wear woollen clothing, that clothing purporting to be woollen often contains not more than 10 per cent. of wool, that the clothing worn by the working classes is usually a bad mixture of shoddy and cotton, and that with all that the woollen industry is in an extremely unsatisfactory state, because its workers are of a low grade and badly paid, while, on the other hand, its machinery to a large extent is obsolete, and the whole process has been often described as a process of protecting inefficiency? If the hon. Member had only dwelt on a fact or two like that he would not have advanced an argument which is so ineffective in this House and still less effective outside.
In that connection I would like to say a word on the important point raised by the hon. Member for the Chertsey Division (Mr. Macmaster) on the policy of Colonial Preference. The hon. Member for the Chertsey Division—and I take it that this is a serious matter—complained that Mr. James Bryce, in the negotiations with the 856 United States, did not lend a "guiding hand" to Canada in pointing out the dangers of the negotiations going on. The right hon. Gentleman opposite has just pointed out that Canada is absolutely free in these matters. Canada has claimed independence in such matters. What did the words "no guiding hand" mean unless they meant to suggest that there ought to be something in the nature of paternal pressure? Is it seriously suggested that the statesmen of Canada do not understand business negotiations? I hardly suppose that the hon. Member meant to suggest that they were children in these matters.
§ Mr. MACMASTER
What I suggested was that as the representative of this country, and as the protector of the interests of this country, he should have extended a guiding hand to the Canadian representatives.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
That is exactly what I stated. The hon. Member has only repeated his words; he has given no defence of them. I leave it to the House to say whether that is a justification of the attack made on Mr. James Bryce, who, as the British Ambassador, was bound to act with perfect impartiality, and without any pretensions to wield authority over Canada, lending his good offices to statesmen who knew the facts of the case as well as Mr. Bryce did. I come to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite. So far as I follow him—I confess I am not quite sure that I understand it—I think he admitted that it was a complicated argument—he contended that if we were to go on with the Colonies as we are they would find themselves in an extremely disadvantageous position in respect of the most-favoured-nation treaties into which we have entered, and would want to get rid of the obligation, and to make more advantageous terms with other countries. I do not know what advantages the Colonies can get from foreign countries, what advantages they would get from Germany, which they could not get through us. If there is anything in the right hon. Gentleman's argument, it surely follows that if we were going to entangle ourselves with systematic Colonial preference we in turn might lose the advantages we now get from the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause with other countries. The right hon. Gentleman has never once attempted to deal, nor did the Mover 857 and Seconder of the Amendment, except by indirect allusion, with what he knows is the constant and emphatic answer of this party to all of these propositions. We do not enter into the system of preference with the Colonies, because it has been shown, and said, surely a hundred times, that in order to have such preference there must be a tax on food, and if you extend preference to raw material we have abundant admissions from the Canadians that it would ill-become them to make us follow a policy to make food dearer Is it said that the policy of preference would not make food dearer? Is that the argument? Having no answer "Yes" or "No" I am bound to infer the answer "Yes"—that the policy would not make food dearer. Then on what grounds do hon. Members opposite refuse to carry the policy further, and, on Imperialistic grounds, give preference to the Colonies in respect of wood and wool as well as food? They say they would not tax raw material. When they do not believe in their own argument as regards the effect of a Preference Duty, how can they appeal to this House to reverse the Free Trade policy?
I should like to ask what is the theory of Colonial preference; what is the theory behind the whole argument tonight? Let me put my argument in the form of a question. What is a tariff for? In the terms of this Amendment a tariff is among other purposes to beat down other tariffs. Is not that implied in the Amendment—that it is a great means of forcing countries to lower their tariffs. When Canada put on her tariff against the United States, did she or did she not want to beat down the United States tariff? Surely that was the purpose. Yet the moment it seemed to have that effect there was a roar of indignation from the whole tariffist party. They are always telling us of the power of the "big revolver," but as soon as Canada seemed to hit the target with the big revolver a shriek of terror arose. An hon. Member said to-night that anything like a rapprochement between Canada and the United States would be unwholesome. [HON. MEMBEES: "For us."] Be that so or not, that nevertheless is the natural result of a tariff policy in Canada, and would be impossible under a Free Trade policy. If there is any unwholesome result it is the natural outcome 858 of Tariff Reform as laid down by hon Members opposite. Hon. Members opposite who profess their zeal for the welfare of the Empire, show singular heedlessness in the discussion of the operation of a tariff. The hon. Member for St. George's (Mr. Lyttelton) told us that Canada alone could so develop her wheat crop as to be able to fill our markets adequately. So could India, and so, perhaps, could Australia. Thus that is going to be a fine thing for the agriculturists of three Dominions of our Empire to make wheat a drug on the market. That was the argument used by the hon. Member for St. George's, that the wheat would be at a lower price than ever before. That is one consideration; there is another. More than once in modem times the harvests of Australia and India have failed in the same year. Suppose that you had that again, and that you had at the same time a failure in Canada. Hon. Members opposite never reckon on such a thing as the failure of crops. They assume that wheat in Canada is produceable in any year in a definite quantity. What would happen to this country if we reversed our policy and were left dependent on those three Dominions and had either lost or closed such sources of supply as you have in other parts of the world. You would have put all your eggs in one basket. You would run, for Imperial purposes, such a danger of famine as you have never run before.
I should like to say a word as to the general bearing of this policy upon our commercial system. To guard against a misapprehension, I may say, in passing, a word about the cost of living. It is true, and I rejoice that it is true, that whereas we in this country started at a very high point with regard to wages—in the year 1000 we were very much ahead of other European countries—the progress of other countries since has been relatively good. That is to say, the progress of Germany in particular has been relatively good. German wages have undoubtedly improved, and possibly—it is very difficult to get really thorough statistics—they have on the whole down to 1910 kept pace with the cost of living. If that is so, no one would rejoice more than Free Traders in general. We have no reason to be chagrined at progress of that sort in other countries. But this fact must be borne in mind. If these other countries have made any such progress in recent years they have at least very large leeway to make 859 up. When you ask what are the labour conditions referred to in the Amendment, we must remember that so late as the year 1905, the last year for which I am able to get accurate comparative statistics, whereas weekly wages in England and Wales stood at the figure 100, in Germany they stood at 83, in France at 75, and in Belgium at 63. On the other hand, the weekly hours of labour, taking them at 100 in England, were 111 in Germany, 117 in France, and 121 in Belguim. I need not remind the House that during the last year, while there have undoubtedly been increases in the cost of living, though not in regard to all things, in this country, where, I am happy to say, some prices went back—bread on the whole year went back by some 9 per cent., as against a rise of a similar amount towards the end of the year in Germany—while there had been a rise in prices here, the position of the British worker is still the best in Europe in respect of wages, purchasing power, and hours of work. Therefore the proposition in the Amendment that our policy has adversely affected labour conditions here is one that cannot be, and has not been, supported by one tittle of evidence.
On the total merits of the case let me make a suggestion. The right hon. Gentleman opposite enlivened the political situation by putting forward the charge that this Government had introduced into British politics what he called the spoils system. The meaning of the phrase is pretty well known. Either the right hon. Gentleman did not know the exact specific force of the term as regards American politics, or he presumed rather courageously on the ignorance regarding it among the general public. The right hon. Gentleman is perfectly well aware that the spoils system, as they call it in the United States, could not be set up in this country. He is perfectly well aware whatever he meant to charge against the Government, that the spoils system so called could not be and has not been set up here. But there is another system that goes on in the States which I should be disposed to call the plunder system. That system might be set up in this country—[An HON. MEMBER: "It is set up"]—and if the right hon. Gentleman gets his way and lives to carry a tariff policy into effect, set up in this country the plunder system will be. I shall not be 860 disposed to deny the good faith of many hon. Members opposite; nor their patriotism, and disinterestedness in their advocacy of the policy of Tariff Reform. But the fact remains that the operation of the policy of Tariff Reform in any country in the world is always the exploitation of one part of the population in the interests of another. That is the simple explanation of the development of protectionist policy in our own self-governing Dominions. In Canada the explanation of the policy of Protection is that the burden of it has fallen on the agricultural classes, even as it did in the United States. In the United States the agricultural class can only save itself by imposing a return burden on the working classes in respect of those very woollen duties which we have been discussing, and which the people of the United States are doing their best at this moment to throw off. In Australia the explanation is the same. There the burden is laid on the agricultural class, and part of it goes to the industrial class. That is the fatal flaw of Protection always. There is always the plunder of one set for the benefit of another. Under the Corn Laws the masses of the people were exploited in the interests of the landlords, as they had been previously in the interests of the manufacturers. At the repeal of the Corn Laws England turned over a new leaf, and though it is quite true, as the hon. Member opposite suggested, that we have not attained, even as regards our own action, ideal Free Trade—for it is not easy to attain ideals in this world—I have no doubt the Noble Lord (Earl Winterton) always realises his—
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The policy that we call Free Trade—it is mere pedantry to limit ourselves to a phrase about "free imports," as it is on the other side to use the term "Tariff Reform," which is taken bodily from the Free Traders of the United States—the policy of Free Trade has been to maintain for this country the most honest fiscal system the world has yet devised—a fiscal system under which nobody is exploited, and no class is exploited for the sake of any other class. I take it that this House on voting on this Amendment will to-night reaffirm for another period, at all events, the policy of the Government.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
As the hon. Gentleman has been kind enough to quote an old speech of mine, I should like the opportunity of quoting two extracts from it, as they seem to show that my views have not changed much in the interval. One of those was:—If we claimed that our industrial position was due to Free Trade, might Germany not claim that hers was due to Protection?
And later on I said—and this is exactly what I have been preaching for seven years:
The time might come when the only chance of continuing the industrial prosperity of this country would be in some system of bringing the trade connections of the Empire closer together and keeping British trade in British hands.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed be there added.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 193; Noes, 258.865
|Division No. 5.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, James Tynte||Goldman, Charles Sydney||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Aitken, Sir William Max||Goldsmith, Frank||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Amery, L. C. M. S.||Gordon, John (Londonderry, South)||Norton-Griffiths, J. (Wednesbury)|
|Anstruther-Gray, Major William||Goulding, E. A.||O'Neill, Hon. A. E. B. (Antrim, Mid)|
|Astor, Waldorf||Grant, James Augustus||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Baker, Sir Randolf L. (Dorset, N.)||Greene, Walter Raymond||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Balcarres, Lord||Gretton, John||Paget, Almeric Hugh|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Guinness, Hon. Walter Edward||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Gwynne, R. S. (Sussex, Eastbourne)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Baring, Maj. Hon. Guy V. (Winchester)||Haddock, George Bahr||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Hall, Fred (Dulwich)||Pole-Carew, Sir R.|
|Barnston, Harry||Hall, Marshall (E. Toxteth)||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Barrie, H. T. (Londonderry, N.)||Hambro, Angus Valdemar||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bathurst, Hon. Allen B. (Glouc., E.)||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Beach, Hon. Michael Hugh Hicks||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Quilter, William Eley C.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||Hamilton, Marquess of (Londonderry)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Bennett-Goldney, Francis||Harrison-Broadley, H. B.||Rawson, Colonel Richard H.|
|Beresford, Lord Charles||Helmsley, Viscount||Remnant, James Farquharson|
|Boles, Lieut.-Col. Dennis Fortescue||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith-||Hickman, Colonel Thomas E.||Rolleston, Sir John|
|Boyle, W. Lewis (Norfolk, Mid)||Hill, Sir Clement L.||Royds, Edmund|
|Boyton, James||Hills, John Waller||Rutherford, John (Lancs, Darwen)|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hoare, Samuel John Gurney||Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Salter, Arthur Clavell|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hope, Harry (Bute)||Samuel, Sir Harry (Norwood)|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Sanders, Robert A.|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Horne, William E. (Surrey, Guildford)||Sanderson, Lancelot|
|Butcher, John George||Horner, Andrew Long||Sandys, G. J.|
|Campbell, Capt. Duncan F. (Ayr, N.)||Houston, Robert Paterson||Scott, Sir S. (Marylebone, W.)|
|Campbell, Rt. Hon. J. (Dublin Univ.)||Hume-Williams, Wm. Ellis||Smith, Rt. Hon. F. E. (Liv'rp'l, Walton)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk. (Bath)||Smith, Harold (Warrington)|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Ingleby, Holcombe||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Stanier, Beville|
|Cassel, Felix||Kerr-Smiley, Peter Kerr||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Kerry, Earl of||Staveley-Hill, Henry (Staffordshire)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cave, George||Kirkwood, John H. M.||Swift, Rigby|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Lane-Fox, G. R.||Sykes, Alan John (Ches., Knutsford)|
|Chaloner, Col. R. G. W.||Larmor, Sir J.||Sykes, Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Chaplin, Rt. Hon. Henry||Lawson, Hon. H. (T. H'mts., Mile End)||Terrell, George (Wilts, N. W.)|
|Collings, Rt. Hon. J. (Birmingham)||Lee, Arthur Hamilton||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Cooper, Richard Ashmole||Lewisham, Viscount||Thomson, W. Mitchell (Down, North)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Lloyd, George Ambrose||Thynne, Lord A.|
|Craig, Charles Curtis (Antrim, S.)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Tobin, Alfred Aspinall|
|Craig, Captain James (Down, E.)||Locker-Lampson, O. (Ramsey)||Touche, George Alexander|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Col. A. R.||Tryon, Captain George Clement|
|Croft, Henry Page||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter||Valentia, Viscount|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Lonsdale, Sir John Brownlee||Ward, Arnold S. (Herts, Watford)|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. A. (St. Geo., Han. S.)||Warde, Col. C. E. (Kent, Mid)|
|Faber, George D. (Clapham)||Lyttelton, Hon. J. C. (Droitwich)||Weigall, Capt. A. G.|
|Faber, Capt. W. V. (Hants, W.)||MacCaw, Wm. J. MacGeagh||White, Major G. D. (Lancs, Southport)|
|Fell, Arthur||Macmaster, Donald||Wilson, A. Stanley (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Fetherstonhaugh, Godfrey||M'Calmont, Colonel James||Winterton, Earl|
|Finlay, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert||M'Mordle, Robert||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine)||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Malcolm, Ian||Wood, John (Stalybridge)|
|Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry||Wortley, Rt. Hon. C. B. Stuart-|
|Fletcher, John Samuel||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Forster, Henry William||Mildmay, Francis Bingham||Yate, Col. C. E.|
|Foster, Philip Staveley||Mills, Hon. Charles Thomas||Yerburgh, Robert|
|Gardner, Ernest||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Gastrell, Major W. Houghton||Mount, William Arthur||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Major Henderson and Mr. Ashley.|
|Gibbs, George Abraham||Neville, Reginald J. N.|
|Gilmour, Captain John||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin Harbour)||Goldstone, Frank||Muldoon, John|
|Abraham, Rt. Hon. William (Rhondda)||Greenwood, Hamar (Sunderland)||Munro, Robert|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Grey, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward||Murray, Capt. Hon. A. C.|
|Agar-Robartes, Hon. T. C. R.||Griffith, Ellis J.||Nannetti, Joseph P.|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Guest, Hon. Major C. H. C. (Pembroke)||Neilson, Francis|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Nicholson, Sir Charles N. (Doncaster)|
|Armitage, Robert||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Nolan, Joseph|
|Asquith, Rt. Hon. Herbert Henry||Hackett, John||Norton, Captain Cecil W.|
|Baker, H. T. (Accrington)||Hall, F. (Yorks, Normanton)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. L. (Rossendale)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds.)||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||O' Doherty, Philip|
|Barnes, George N.||Harvey, W. E. (Derbyshire, N. E.)||O' Dowd, John|
|Barton, William||Harwood, George||O' Grady, James|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Haslam, James (Derbyshire)||O' Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)|
|Benn, W. W. (T. H'm'ts., St. George)||Havelock-Allan, Sir Henry||O' Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Hayden, John Patrick||O' Malley, William|
|Black, Arthur W.||Hayward, Evan||O' Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Bcland, John Pius||Helme, Norval Watson||O' Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Henderson, J. M. (Aberdeen, W.)||O' Sullivan, Timothy|
|Bowerman, C. W.||Henry, Sir Charles S.||Palmer, Godfrey Mark|
|Brace, William||Higham, John Sharp||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Hinds, John||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Brocklehurst, William B.||Hodge, John||Pease, Rt. Hon. Joseph A. (Rotherham)|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)|
|Bryce, John Annan||Hudson, Walter||Pointer, Joseph|
|Buckmaster, Stanley O.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus||Power, Patrick Joseph|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Jardine, Sir John (Roxburghshire)||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Burt, Rt. Hon. Thomas||John, Edward Thomas||Priestley, Sir W. E. B. (Bradford, E.)|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Jones, Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)||Radford, G. H.|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Jones, Edgar R. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Rea, Rt. Hon. Russell (South Shields)|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Jones, Leif Stratten (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)|
|Cawley, H. T. (Lancs., Heywood)||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)||Reddy, M.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Jowett, Frederick William||Richards, Thomas|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Joyce, Michael (Limerick)||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Clough, William||Keating, Matthew||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Collins, Stephen (Lambeth)||Kilbride, Denis||Roberts, G. H. (Norwich)|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||King, J.||Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs.)|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Lamb, Ernest Henry||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)|
|Cotton, William Francis||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)||Robertson, J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Cowan, William Henry||Lansbury, George||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Crawshay-Williams, Eliot||Lardner, James Carrige Rushe||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Crooks, William||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumbr'ld, Cockerm'th)||Roe, Sir Thomas|
|Crumley, Patrick||Levy, Sir Maurice||Rose, Sir Charles Day|
|Cullinan, John||Lewis, John Herbert||Rowlands, James|
|Dalziel, Sir James H. (Kirkcaldy)||Lough, Rt. Hon. Thomas||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Low, Sir Frederick (Norwich)||Russell, Rt. Hon. Thomas W.|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Lundon, Thomas||Samuel, J. (Stockton-on-Tees)|
|Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Lyell, Charles Henry||Samuel, S. M. (Whitechapel)|
|Delany, William||Lynch, A. A.||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Schwann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Devlin, Joseph||Macdonald, J. M. (Falkirk Burghs)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|Dickinson, W. H.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B.|
|Dillon, John||MacNeill, John G. S. (Donegal, South)||Shortt, Edward|
|Donelan, Captain A.||Macpherson, James Ian||Simon, Sir John Allsebrook|
|Doris, W.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Duffy, William J.||M' Callum, John M.||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||M' Kenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||Spicer, Sir Albert|
|Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||M' Laren, Hon. H. D. (Leics.)||Stanley, Albert (Staffs, N. W.)|
|Edwards, Enoch (Hanley)||M' Laren, Hon. F. W. S. (Lincs, Spalding)||Strauss, Edward A. (Scuthwark, West)|
|Edwards, Sir Francis (Radnor)||M' Laren, Walter S. B. (Ches., Crewe)||Sutherland, John E.|
|Elibank, Rt. Hon. Master of||M' Micking, Major Gilbert||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Elverston, Sir Harold||Manfield, Harry||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Esmonde, Sir Thomas (Wexford, N.)||Markham, Sir Arthur Basil||Tennant, Harold John|
|Essex, Richard Walter||Marks, Sir George Croydon||Thomas, Abel (Carmarthen, E.)|
|Esslemont, George Birnie||Martin, Joseph||Thomas, James Henry (Derby)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Masterman, C. F. G.||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Field, William||Menzies, Sir Walter||Verney, Sir Harry|
|Fiennes, Hon. Eustace Edward||Millar, James Duncan||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs, Ince)|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Molloy, Michael||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Molteno, Percy Alport||Walton, Sir Joseph|
|Gelder, Sir William Alfred||Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Mooney, John J.||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Gill, Alfred Henry||Morgan, George Hay||Wardle, G. J.|
|Gladstone, W. G. C.||Morrell, Philip||Waring, Walter|
|Glanville, Harold James||Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)||Whittaker, Rt. Hon. Sir T. P.||Winfrey, Richard|
|Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)||Wiles, Thomas||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|Watt, Henry A.||Wilkie, Alexander|
|Wedgwood, Josiah C.||Williamson, Sir A.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|White, Patrick (Meath, North)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed. Debate arising,
§ And, it being after Eleven of the clock, and objection being taken to further proceeding, the Debate stood adjourned.
§ Debate to be resumed to-morrow (Friday).