§ The duty of Customs payable on tea until the first day of July, nineteen hundred and thirteen, under the Finance Act, 1912, shall continue to be charged, levied, and paid until the first day of July, nineteen hundred and fourteen, on the importation thereof into Great Britain or Ireland (that is to say):—
|Tea, the pound||…||…||fivepence.|
§ Viscount WOLMER
I beg to move, to leave out the words ["Tea, the pound—fivepence,"], and to insert instead thereof the words:—
|"Tea (if grown within the British Empire), the pound||threepence.|
|Tea (if grown in any foreign country), the pound||fivepence."|
§ The object of this Amendment is to take 2d. off the duty on tea that is grown within the British Empire, leaving the existing duty on the tea grown outside. I trust that I shall secure for it the support not only of those Members who believe in Imperial preference, but also of those who desire to mitigate the existing food 2090 taxes in this country. My proposal does not represent the utmost limit to which I should like to go in this direction. I would prefer to take more than 2d. off the tea grown in the British Empire, but I thought it only reasonable to propose an alteration of the Budget that would not involve a greater loss to the revenue than the Chancellor of the Exchequer could replace in the Budget before the House. In matters of this kind, caution is, no doubt, the safest policy. The question of where the revenue, which disappears owing to this remission of taxation, is to be replaced is not the question at issue at all. It is estimated that this Amendment will cost the revenue about £2,000,000 a year. Of course, if the Unionist party were in power that deficiency would be made good by Tariff Reform.
§ Viscount WOLMER
No; by a tax on foreign manufactured goods. If the Members of the Labour party came into office they doubtless are of opinion that they could raise the money by some Socialistic proposal; but the question of where the revenue is to come from is not raised by this Amendment. The only question before the House is whether the House does desire the high Tea Duty to continue. Therefore I hope that I shall be fortunate enough to secure the support of very many hon. Members opposite. The Tea Duty, unlike a protective duty falls wholly upon the consumer. The imposition of 5d. on the pound does not help a single industry or a single individual in the whole of this country. It does nothing to stimulate production or to benefit trade. It is a pure unalloyed and unrelieved tax on the food of the people of this country. It is absurd to say that the Tea Tax is not a Food Tax. Unless you take the view that the food of the people should be confined to bread and water, tea is as much a food as any other commodity. It is an article of universal consumption. There is hardly a humble home in the country which does not have a tea bill that bears a considerable relation to its total budget, and tea is one of the most highly priced petty luxuries that the poor people of this country have. The tea consumed in this country comes mainly from two sources, India and Ceylon in the first place, and also from China. The Indian tea, generally speaking, is cheaper than the China tea. The Indian tea is the tea that is consumed by the poor of this 2091 country. The China tea is the luxury of the rich. For that reason a vastly greater amount of Indian tea than of China tea is imported into the country. Last year the net import of tea from India and Ceylon was over 265,000.000 lbs., and from China the import was over 10,000.000 lbs. Therefore, the Amendment would propose to reduce the taxation on more than nine-tenths of the tea consumed in this country. That can be justified both on the ground of Imperial Preference and also because the Indian and Ceylon tea is the tea that is consumed by the poor of this country.
The fact that I do not propose to remit taxation on China tea is no argument against remitting taxation on Indian and Ceylon tea, because the price of China tea cannot have any effect on the price of Indian tea. The Indian tea merchants who supply the poor classes in the community are not in direct competition with the China tea merchants. Therefore, if the price of Indian tea is reduced and the price of China tea is left as it is, it will be as if there were two different commodities altogether; and the fact that China tea is taxed to the extent of 2d. per pound more than Indian tea would not tend to raise the price of Indian tea in the slightest degree. Therefore, I submit that the effect of this Amendment would be to reduce the price of Indian tea by 2d. per pound. By the full 2d. it would be a direct gain to the working classes of this country; it would be a direct remission of taxation that falls on their shoulders at the present moment, and, as such, I hope that it will have the support of hon. Members opposite, or at least of the Labour party opposite. I do not think they should reject this Amendment, seeing that it proposes to continue a tax on the luxuries of the rich. This proposal is a step towards the free breakfast table of which we have heard speak so eloquently the Members of the Labour party opposite. Therefore, I cannot. doubt they will support us unanimously in the Lobby on this Amendment. I say that because the hon. Members of the Labour party have on more than one occasion, both in this Hoarse and in the country, expressed their abhorrence of the present food taxes and duties. The hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes), in his election address at the General Election of 1906, said:—I am against existing taxes on the common necessaries of life.2092 The hon. Member for Barrow (Mr. Charles Duncan) in his address said:—Any taxation of food will have in myself an inveterate enemy, whilst every effort to bring about a free breakfast table would command my earnest and diligent support.The hon. Member for Merthyr Tydvil (Mr. Keir Hardie) in his address said:—"I would abolish the Customs House altogether, and do away with all forms of indirect taxation, save the Excise Ditties upon spirits: repeal the Coal Tax, denounce the Sugar Convention, and make good the loss to the revenue by a special graduated tax on unearned incomes.The hon. Member for Newcastle (Mr. Hudson) said:—As a means towards the solution of the social problem, I will press at the first opportunity for the removal of all taxes front the breakfast table.The hon. Member for Nuneaton (Mr. William Johnson) in his address said:—I am in favour of a breakfast table free of duties to be provided by removing existing taxation on tea sugar and other commodities.The hon. Member for Halifax (Mr. James Parker) in his address to the electors said:—I shall heartily advocate and do my utmost to carry into effect the abolition of indirect taxation.The hon. Member for Hallamshire (Mr. John Wadsworth) said:—I would, if possible, abolish entirely taxes on tea coffee, and other foods of the people.The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Wilkie) said:—I would support and press for tie abolition of all taxation on the food of the people.The hon. Member for Westhoughton (Mr. W. Tyson Wilson) said:—The poorer classes are too heavily taxed. The duties on tea, sugar, and other necessaries of life should be removed.Therefore, I hope that those hon. Members, having had the opportunity of seeing this Amendment on the Order Paper for about five weeks, will be sufficiently true to their cause to go with us into the Division Lobby when the time comes There are one or two other remarks of hon. Members of the Labour party to which I wish to refer. A speech was made in this House on 26th July, 1912, by the hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division of Glasgow (Mr. Barnes), in which he said:—The Liberal party have always been saying they are in favour of the abolition of indirect taxation and in favour of the abolition of taxation upon the breakfast-table commodities. I am also in favour of the abolition of these taxes.I hope the hon. Member for the Black-friars Division will be more true to his opinion than the Labour party have been. This year in this House, on May 7th, the 2093 hon. Member for the Blackfriars Division said:—I look back on the last few years during which we have been promised the abolition of these indirect taxes, and I think the time has come to put some of these professions into practice. This—the Tea Duty—is one of the most iniquitous and unjust forms of indirect taxation, because this particular tax bears particularly hard on the poorest of the poor.I sincerely trust the hon. Member will be of the same opinion on the question this afternoon, and, now that the opportunity is afforded, will put some of these professions into practice. The hon. Member for North-East Manchester (Mr. Clynes), on 11th June of this year, said:—This period of exceptional pressure and increased cost of living, resting so heavily upon the shoulders of the poor, commends itself to us as an exceptional reason for now proposing this frontal claim for the abolition of all these duties resting upon food.The hon. Member for Barnard Castle (Mr. A. Henderson), on the same day of this year, said:—Taxes on food, especially on tea and sugar, are indefeasible.He made that statement in speaking on the Amendment moved by the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). The hon. Member for Blackburn regaled the House with some of the past declarations of Cabinet Ministers on the question of the Sugar Duty and other food taxes. He said that he was giving them the opportunity of redeeming some of the pledges that they had made at election time. Unfortunately, however, the hon. Member for Blackburn in his Amendment did not give the House an opportunity of voting on a clear issue. He proposed to remit the food taxes, and, for revenue, referred to various other forms of taxation. Therefore, there were two issues at stake before the House. As I have already said, there is only one issue before the House in this Amendment—that is to say, whether the present Tea Duty ought or ought not to be reduced, and, in the words of the hon. Member for Blackburn, it gives. Members of the Labour party some opportunity of redeeming their election pledges on this question. I would like to refer to one statement which was made on the occasion of the Second Reading by the hon. Member for Barnard Castle, in which he asserted that the Conservative party when in power had raised the Tea Duty and other food taxes on the people of this country.
That statement, of course, if taken by itself, is substantially true, but he omitted to state that it was during the time of the South African War, and that the Unionist party at the same time enormously raised 2094 the Income Tax and other forms of direct taxation in order to provide the necessary money which had to be found for the war. Therefore it is not fair and it is not accurate to quote war taxes as the policy of any party in time of peace. The Unionist party have proposed this Amendment on several previous occasions, and their leaders have stated that the time has come when the present Tea Duty should be revised. It is a food tax which presses exceedingly heavily upon the poorest class of the community. Whatever may be the opinion of hon. Members as to what proportion of taxation the various classes of the community should bear, and whether they agree with the principles laid down by the Prime Minister on the Second Reading of this Bill or whether they do not, I think they must feel in their own minds that the present Tea Tax as it stands is indefensible. It is far too high a duty to place on this article of common consumption among the poor, and the Amendment I propose would not only have the effect of giving a substantial preference to our fellow subjects in India and in Ceylon, but it would also be a step towards a free breakfast table which hon. Members opposite heartily support.
§ Mr. LLOYD GEORGE
The Noble Lord made a speech which was for the most part irrelevant to the subject of the Amendment, and instead of speaking only on the one issue as to the Tea Duty, he referred to sugar, coal, and other taxes. The Amendment is for a preferential tariff, but the speech of the Noble Lord was addressed to very different issues. The one question now raised, and it is a very important and very interesting one, is a question to which the Noble Lord hardly addressed himself at all, namely, the very important question of the preferential treatment of the Tea Duty against China. I suppose I must address myself to the Amendment, and not to the speech of the. Noble Lord. What does the Noble Lord propose to do by this Amendment? He proposes that about 36,000,000 lbs. of tea which comes from China and elsewhere should be charged 2d. more than the tea which comes from within the British Empire. We consumed in 1912 about 260,000,000 lbs. of tea grown within the British Empire and about 36,000,000 lbs. grown in China and other countries. The Noble Lord apparently assumes that the working man does not consume any China tea. There he is perfectly wrong. China tea, I suppose, is 2095 the most delicately flavoured tea on the whole. Those who believe in Indian tea have not got a good word to say of China tea, and those who believe in China tea rather despise Indian tea. At any rate some of the most delicately flavoured teas come from China. To assume that the working men drink cheap tea is quite erroneous. Very often the workman who pays a very good price for his tea likes to buy China tea, because he thinks it is better, and some of the blends which contain China tea are very popular in some parts of the country. In discriminating between the different kinds of tea in order to benefit the working classes I think the Noble Lord is under a complete misapprehension as to what the facts of the case are. If it is true that some of the best teas come from China, I should have thought that would be an argument in favour of reduction of the duty on those teas, instead of discriminating against them.
China is a very good customer of ours, one of our very best customers, and that is especially the case with regard to Lancashire. What does the Noble Lord propose to do? He proposes that one of the best customers of the county which he represents should have a preferential tariff raised against it. I should like to know what Lancashire would think about that, and I am not at all sure that most of the goods which go to China from this country are not Lancashire goods. Let us just consider what happens at the port of Hong Kong. The total imports from China to this country amount to £5,600,000, while the total exports to China, from this country come to over £15,000,000. Thus you have in China a country that buys £10,000,000 worth more from us than we buy from them. There is no doubt China is on the eve of opening up to an extent which will probably amaze the civilised world in the course of the next few years. When there comes to be a scramble for trade, as there will be, and as there is beginning to be now, what would happen if we passed this? We should be handicapped by having discriminated against China tea, China being a country we had discriminated against. Russia, Germany, and the United States of America at any rate trade with China exactly as with any other country, while we should be discriminating against a country that at the present moment is one of our best cus- 2096 tomers. On the whole, I think she buys more from us than from any other country in the world, and the Noble Lord, who represents a Lancashire constituency, is trying to encourage trade between his constituents and China by saying, "We are going to penalise you to the extent of 2d. in the pound on a commodity you sell. "I do not think that is quite the proposal that will commend itself there. The Noble Lord is not at all concerned about the workingman's tea, China or otherwise; but what he is concerned about is to get a rise out of the Labour party, and the whole of his speech was directed to that. At the same time, when he goes down to his constituency he can explain that his special method of scoring off the Labour Members is by picking a quarrel with their best customers.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer has divided his reply into three parts, one part I need hardly refer to, and the second was as to the effect of this proposal on the domestic economy of our own people, and the other its effect on our foreign relations. I think that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have done more justice to my Noble Friend's argument from every point of view, and would perhaps have made it more clear to the Committee as to the subject on which he was talking, if instead of describing this Amendment as an Amendment to specially tax China tea, he had more correctly described it as a Motion to relieve British teas, and there is all the difference in the world between the two. The right hon. Gentleman says a great deal of China tea is drunk by the British working classes, but that is nothing like the amount they take of Indian tea. A larger proportion of China tea is a luxury, an infinitely larger proportion than of the Indian tea. Where the China tea is cheap it comes into competition with Indian tea on account of the cheapness, but the lessening of the price of the Indian tea cannot hurt the working man. It might enable him to drink better Indian tea than he can now afford instead of the worst China tea, but very likely this would force China tea to drop in proportion to the lower-priced Indian, and whichever way it is, if these results are attained, either alone or in combination, it must be a benefit to the working classes. The hon. Baronet the Member for Salford (Sir W. Byles)—
§ Sir W. BYLES
I was not laughing at anything the right hon. Gentleman said, but at some observations from the other side by some hon. Gentleman behind me. I never laugh at the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I am greatly relieved. I hope I endeavour to address suitable arguments to the House, and the hon. Member, I am sure, is always ready to appreciate arguments of that kind. I look to the other observation of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says this proposal is a proposal made by a Lancashire Member to penalise Lancashire's best customer, China. He says also there is no country in the world which is likely in the next few years to have so large a development as China. Did he think for a moment of India in either of those respects? Does he ever think of the British Empire in connection with fiscal questions? This is not a proposal to penalise China or to tax it. Chinese tea remains what it is, but it is a proposal to give a preference to India. Does the right hon. Gentleman mean to lay down and invite foreign Governments to act on the principle, that if we choose to treat the Empire as one they have a grievance? That is the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. It would be just as reasonable to say if we choose to treat Lancashire and Yorkshire as one for the purpose of Customs, or England and Ireland which we have done hitherto, though apparently we are not to do it in the future, that China has the right to protest. That is a doctrine which strikes at any possible view of Imperial unity, Imperial combination, and Imperial defence, and, whatever the Chancellor of the Exchequer does in his efforts to defend his present taxation and to relieve himself and his Friends from a disagreeable position, at least he should not put into the hands of foreign nations art argument so dangerous to the continued unity or the common action of the British Empire as that which he has used.
I venture to say again that he would come nearer to the truth if he would remember that this is not a proposal to tax China, but a proposal to extend a preference to British tea-growing countries, and amongst those tea-growing countries India is foremost. Is India less important to us as a market than China, or is India less capable of development than China? Indian potentialities of development are 2098 only limited by her power to raise capital to secure mechanical means for amt development, and she has made most extraordinary advances in her trade in recent years, and she may continue to make those advances. That is a market which it is just as well to cultivate as it is to cultivate the Chinese market, and it is a market better worth our while to cultivate, because it is a British market and part of the British Empire. Does the right hon. Gentleman think that he is for ever going to be able to maintain the present fiscal system of India? Does he think that he can for ever insist that because we choose to adopt free imports here, that therefore the Indian Government and the Indian people are not to be allowed any protection against foreign competition for any of their goods. If the right hon. Gentleman has read—I do not know whether he has or not—the very important discussion that took place in the Viceroy's Legislative Council on the Motion of an Indian member of that Council a few months ago he would know, or he would at least see signs to doubt, he would know that the present system is unpopular with the people of India, and he would see good reason to doubt whether that system can be maintained. I do not believe it can be maintained, and I believe that the choice before the constituents of my Noble Friend in Lancashire and the other Lancashire Members is not whether they can maintain the present system or not, but whether they will see India drift into a policy of pure Protection or whether, while there is yet time, they will link her with this country by a policy of Imperial Preference. I have always supported this Amendment, and I shall support it to-day. I support it as one step in the creation of a common and, therefore, a united Empire, as one means by which we can show a greater interest in our own Dominions, and as one measure by which we can assert that which the Chancellor of the Exchequer's argument denies, namely, the unity of the whole Empire.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I do not desire to be drawn into a Tariff Reform argument, which was initiated by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for East Worcestershire (Mr. Austen Chamberlain), or, if he will allow me to call him so, by my right hon. Friend the Member for East Worcestershire. I desire to refer to the speech which introduced this Debate. There is an aspect of the question before 2099 the Committee which has apparently been entirely overlooked. I understood the Noble Lord to say at the outset that if his Amendment was adopted the cost of it would be about —2,000,000 of money—that is to say my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose business it is to provide for the Appropriation Bill which we are going to pass presently, would be about £2,000,000 or £2,250,000 short, and at this time I do not think we ought to deprive him of that. It might cost the country a "Dreadnought," and that I am sure the Noble Lord (Viscount Wolmer) would be the last to desire. It is not for the first time that this financial question has cropped up, and in reference to it I use an illustration that I used before, for much as I may like the proposal I am not going to support the Noble Lord's Amendment, as I do not want to go into a trap. A mouse is very fond of toasted cheese, but it is a great fool if it goes into the trap to get it. I desire, as do my hon. Friends near me, a free breakfast table. That has been the desire of the Liberal party for a very long time. I am only disappointed that the present Government have not achieved it for us. Again, I should like to get rid of these indirect taxes, and to tax everybody as far as possible directly. There are many objections to indirect taxation, the most serious being that the people pay their taxes without knowing that they are paying them, and, therefore, without closely watching what becomes of the money raised thereby. Hence, Governments from either party are encouraged to squander the money obtained from indirect. taxes upon "Dreadnoughts" and other mischievous objects of expenditure. If the Noble Lord could induce any Chancellor of the Exchequer to put this money on to land values, I would be quite content to support him; but we have seen earlier in the afternoon how extremely reluctant the Noble Lord's party is to entertain the idea not only of Land Taxes, but even of land valuation, which might conceivably at some future time be the basis of Land Taxes. If we are to have taxation on food at all, and I suppose the Noble Lord desires taxes on food, tea is about as good an article as you could put it upon. Again, if the very poor are to pay their share of taxation, and there is no means of getting at them by direct taxation, there is a good deal to be said 2100 for tea taxation as a means of getting their share. I should like the poor to pay a great deal less than they do, although I do not think that any voters ought to be entirely relieved from taxation. The Noble Lord said that tea was an article of universal consumption. No doubt it is. Surely that is the very thing that recommends it to the Chancellor of the Exchequer! That is one of the virtues of tea taxation. The Noble Lord said that the Tea Tax was directly paid by the consumer. No doubt it is. That, again, is a recommendation.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I did not say it was directly paid by the consumer. I said it was wholly paid by him.
§ Sir W. BYLES
I understood the Noble Lord to say that it was a tax which must fall directly upon the consumer.
§ Sir W. BYLES
Surely a great point in the taxation, as far as I understand the canons of taxation, is that a tax when levied should actually fall upon the person whom you want to pay, and not be paid by somebody else on his behalf. The Noble Lord said further that the tax does not benefit a single person. No, and ex hypothesi it does not injure a single person. There is no tea grown in this country, therefore the tax cannot put up rents as a tax upon foreign corn would. The fact that it neither benefits nor injures a single person, is another of the arguable virtues of tea taxation. The object of it is not to benefit people but to raise money for the Exchequer. I shall not vote for the Amendment; we blow perfectly well why it is trotted out. Our constituents will know perfectly well that, although we vote against the Noble Lord, we are opposed to indirect taxation and taxes on food.
§ Mr. HEWINS
I wish to comment on the very unfortunate and inaccurate statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the question of discrimination. The term "discrimination" is not correctly applied to preferential duties in this or any other Empire. No foreign country would dream of penalising the trade of the United States because the United States Government gives a preference to its Colonies. The late Lord Salisbury claimed in more than one dispatch that the system of preference initiated by Canada was not differentiation in the ordinary sense of the term, 2101 and on that ground prevented penal action on the part of Germany. Since then the controversy has raged everywhere in the world where preference is given, and that is everywhere where there are Colonies. I think I am right in saying that it is now generally admitted that the establishment of a preferential Duty is not differentiation within the ordinary meaning of the term, and does not disentitle a country to receive the benefits and advantages of most-favoured-nation treatment. The controversy arose in connection with the Canadian tariff and the relations of Canada to the United States, but, as the right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well, the United States did not put into operation the maximum clause in her tariff, because Canada put on a preferential duty to our advantage, which is, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view, differentiation. If it were really differentiation, Canada would at once become subject to the penal Clause in the United States Tariff. I suggest that the right hon. Gentleman, in view of the delicate state of international relations on this very question, should withdraw what he has said about the establishment of a preferential system being discrimination against a foreign country. That is a very dangerous statement for a Minister of the Crown to have made. The establishment of preference within an Empire is now universally regarded as a domestic question, and there is no reason why a preference should not be established between this country and India, or between this country and any of its Colonies, without violating any Treaty obligations of any kind whatever. Preference, according to the definition of the Resolution of the Imperial Conference, is simply that where you have duties you should take them off or reduce them in favour of your Colonies. It does not imply any great change of policy, according to the view of the great statesmen of our Dominions and Colonies.
The Tea Duty occupies a particularly objectionable position. I do not want to develop that argument, because we had a Debate on the question not very long ago when a great deal was said on one side of the other. But as a matter of fact very few countries impose a Tea Duty. They would rather raise their revenue in almost any other way than imposing a Tea Duty which unquestionably must, to a very large extent, come out of the pockets of the working classes. After the enormous ex- 2102 penditure which the Government have let us in for, we cannot hope to do away with all these objectionable duties at the present time. But surely the Chancellor of the Exchequer might advance a little in that direction by reducing the Tea Duty! That would certainly be an unmixed advantage to the working classes who now have to pay it. I was surprised at the right hon. Gentleman's statement in regard to our trade interests in China, and his omission to deal with India. Surely it is desirable that, before he makes a speech upon such a subject, the Chancellor of the Exchequer should acquaint himself with the extremely delicate situation in which these subjects are in our great Dominions! If he would read the important statement last March by Sir Fleetwood Wilson, Finance Minister in India, who, I suppose, represents the British Government, he world realise that at the present time in India this fiscal question is one of the most delicate and difficult with which you could possibly have to deal. There is undoubtedly a strong and growing disposition on the part of the natives of India to press for full-blooded Protection, and the councils which the Government have established are a means of giving expression to the aspirations of India in that regard.
As I read his statement, Sir Fleetwood Wilson's point is that he does not think it probable that the present fiscal system of India can be maintained, but that the pressure of various economic forces in competition in the market of India, the changes in the fiscal situation in the Far East, movements like that of the Japanese tariff, and all those other elements which he details, are bound to force upon India a change of policy, and that change of policy, if it is pushed forward under the guidance and inspiration of the natives, must have an enormously prejudicial effect upon India and the trade of Lancashire. The point of Sir Fleetwood Wilson's statement is that a possible way of warding off this danger is to direct the movement in India into a new channel—a new policy, as he calls it, a policy which differs from the previous policy, and a precedent for which has been set by our own great Dominions—a policy of directing these aspirations in the direction of a preferential tariff, and though he does not pledge the Government or himself, he throws down the subject for discussion and consideration. In view of that, I should have thought the Chancellor 2103 of the Exchequer would have dealt with the subject a little more sympathetically than he has done. He might have dealt with it more sympathetically in view of the precedents which he and his Government have set. The Government claim to have been returned to power to maintain Free Trade, but they have, under the pressure of forces which we all recognise, set numerous precedents for carrying a Tariff Reform policy. They have entered into negotiations with foreign countries; they have made trade treaties such as that in connection with the Japanese Tariff; they have restricted the autonomy of this country in fiscal matters; they are affecting the Most-Favoured Nation Clause all over the world; they have themselves been parties to a preferential arrangement between the West Indies and Canada; and on 24th May last, Empire Day, the Foreign Secretary wrote a dispatch in which he refused on what must be regarded as purely Protectionist lines to give an Excise—
§ Mr. J. WARD
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member allowed to introduce a full-blooded debate on the question of Tariff Reform on this Amendment? I shall be delighted to follow the hon. Member, but, if he is allowed to proceed, I must certainly claim the same right.
§ Mr. HEWINS
I am not introducing a general Tariff Reform debate at all, and have not the least intention of doing so. I am simply cataloguing a few of the precedents which I say would cover any action which we desire the Chancellor of the Exchequer to take in regard to the Tea Duty.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN (Mr. Maclean)
The hon. Member says that he has no intention of proceeding further; otherwise, I am afraid I should have to call him to order.
§ Mr. HEWINS
That is so. I never had any intention of proceeding further. Obviously it would not be possible to raise a general Tariff Reform discussion in connection with this subject, but I submit I am perfectly entitled to point out to the Government that by their own action they have departed from the line of action and from the principles which stand in the way of the action suggested by the Noble Lord. In conclusion, I beg the right hon. Gentleman to consider more sympathetically the line of action embodied in this Amendment, which, 2104 from the point of view of the great statesmen of our Dominions, and from the character and precedents set by the Government, involves no revolutionary departure in policy. It is a domestic question; it reduces the cost of living, and the burden of taxation on the working classes. It does something to relieve the difficulty which Ministers feel in regard to India. It is easy enough to do. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will be able to find the money. There is no difficulty about that. But I do beg of him to give a more sympathetic consideration to this matter. If he cannot do it in this last week of the Session, the Government, when they bring in their new Budget, can develop in a natural, orderly way the precedents that they themselves have set.
§ Mr. J. WARD
There are just one or two observations I wish to make in reference to the speech to which we have just listened. I venture to suggest that all the cases cited by the hon. Gentleman opposite as illustrations of a Free Trade Government falling away from the principles in which they are supposed to be identified, and which they were elected to support, are away from the point. The cases mentioned in the speech might be taken seriatim, but the order you have given, Mr. Deputy-Chairman, precludes me from going into detail to show that there is not in them the slightest opposition to the principles of Free Trade. I was expecting the hon. Member to go on to the Patents Act. That is the usual style of the Tariff Reform lecturer—to show that by making these restrictions we are doing the Tariff Reform business. The hon. Member did not follow that out, though he might easily have done so, because that is one of the standard notes that are circulated by Tariff Reform lecturers—
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
The hon. Member had a very nice sense of order as a listener, which his observations as a speaker do not seem to support.
§ Mr. J. WARD
I am sorry I was led away from the strict path of order and procedure by the hon. Member opposite. I will not follow the matter any further, for I have said what I wish to say in regard to these points. I am interested in this discussion because of the observations of the Noble Lord who introduced the subject. We are usually criticised when we suggest that if you impose duties 2105 either preferential or otherwise, as in the case of this Tea Duty, upon a commodity coming into this country, that it sometimes is possible that the foreigner might pay the duty. But I was particularly interested in the Noble Lord's statement, repeated again and again, when the absurdity of the opposite contention was pointed out, in his declaration, that unquestionably in the case of this Tea Duty that we are discussing now it is the consumer who pays.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I said particularly that that was because it was not a protective duty, and because tea cannot be produced in this country.
§ Mr. J. WARD
That is exactly the situation. The worst of it would be that supposing for a moment that tea could be produced in this country that this duty would be much more immoral than it is now; because not only would you be increasing the price and making the consumer pay upon the amount of tea that was brought into the country, but you would be raising the price of the tea grown in this country, and therefore making him pay for a thing he ought not to be called upon to pay. That is really, so far as we are concerned, the whole contention with regard to the subject. I want further to say this, that, for myself, I would have supported him certainly if it were possible under the rules of order, if the Noble Lord had put forward proposals or any scheme by which in a direct way or by a direct system this £2,000,000 could have been made up. For instance, if this had been a declaration that we should reduce the duty on tea coming from India by 2d. in the pound, and we should make that up by a 6d. higher Income Tax on incomes over £5,000 a year—
§ Mr. J. WARD
I do not think if it were in order that I should find the Noble Lord supporting it, because, as a matter of fact, the Noble Lord knows that would be taking money for running the Government of the country out of pockets that he is particularly anxious to protect. [HON. MEMBERS: "Order."]
§ Mr. J. WARD
It may be offensive to the Noble Lord, but I am entitled to make 2106 my own deductions and to form my own opinion on his proposition. I am the more entitled to do this because the Noble Lord addresed his remarks more particularly and pointedly to the Labour Members. He suggested that he thought, no matter what the object might be or the result might be, that the Labour Members were bound to support this Motion under any circumstances. Naturally, we are obliged, when a proposition comes from the Noble Lord to take a duty off a certain thing, knowing he is not in favour of dropping the naval programme or any other of the expenses connected with the great spending Departments of the State, like the Army and the Navy, knowing that he has no proposal or no idea of reducing expenditure in those directions, and is making a proposition to take some £2,000,000 off the revenue, we naturally have to ask ourselves by what kind of taxation does the Noble Lord propose to make good this deficiency? We know the sort of taxes that we should like. We should like to take off all the burdens that we possibly could. That is one of the objects, I am sure, that all my Friends have in supporting any of the fiscal proposals of this House—to gradually relieve the burdens of indirect taxation upon the Very poor—
§ Mr. J. WARD
And so far as possible put it on the shoulders of that very class to which the Noble Lord belongs. Frankly that is our position in regard to this matter. We will support this proposal, certainly, for a reduction of 2d., and for the removal altogether of various taxes, but it will only be when the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made proper provision to saddle the duty upon the right shoulders.
§ Captain TRYON
In reply to the hon. Member who speaks, as he tells us, from the Labour Benches, may I point out that the party opposite is one that has consistently supported the food taxes throughout the present Parliament? I hope that the hon. Member when he goes down to address his constituents will tell them that in spite of all he has said as to his objection to food taxes at election times he has steadily voted for the food taxes during the present Parliament. The Labour party, at all events, will have this consolation, that if they keep these taxes on by voting for them they will be able at 2107 election times to continue their promises to take them off.
Mr. TYSON WILSON
Just as I came in I heard the Noble Lord making his speech, and I confess I was surprised to hear him quote the election addresses of the party with which I am associated. Surely he must think that the people of this country are more ignorant than they are if he thinks that they are going to believe that the taking off of part of the duty on tea coming from the Dominions is going to reduce the price of tea! Will he try to persuade the working men in Lancashire that by reducing the tax on tea coming into the country that the price of that commodity will be reduced?
Mr. TYSON WILSON
If the Noble Lord can guarantee that preferential treatment means an all-round reduction to the consumer, I will be prepared to go into the Lobby with him. As it is, the proposal of the Noble Lord will simply increase the profit of the middlemen.
§ Sir F. BANBURY
The hon. Member who has just spoken has contended that a reduction in duty, provided that duty is a preferential duty, has no effect upon price. May I ask, then, why the hon.
§ Member and his Friends objected to the proposed preferential duty on corn and wheat from the Colonies if it was not going to have an effect? The hon. Member says that a preferential duty on tea will not reduce the price. Neither would it, then, on other things. I fail to see the argument of the hon. Member. When it suits him to say that a preferential duty will increase the price, then he says it, when it suits him, in order to keep the Government in office, to say that it will have no effect whatever upon prices, he says that. I am going to vote with the Government. I have always voted in favour of a duty on tea. I have never gone down to my Constituency and in order to catch votes said that I would vote for this reduction; then, after I got into the House, refused to vote for it. I have always said in my Constituency that taxes have to be raised, and that this was one of the taxes which brought in money, and that I should vote for it. As I supported my party when they were in power I am now going to support the Government, who are only doing what my own party did when they were in power. That is consistency which hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway may note.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 192; Noes, 70.2109
|Division No. 268.]||AYES.||[5.28 p. m.|
|Abraham, William (Dublin, Harbour)||Crumley, Patrick||Henry, Sir Charles|
|Acland, Francis Dyke||Cullinan, John||Higham, John Sharp|
|Adamson, William||Davies, David (Montgomery Co.)||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Charles E. H.|
|Alden, Percy||Davies, Timothy (Lincs., Louth)||Hodge, John|
|Allen, Rt. Hon. Charles P. (Stroud)||Delany, William||Hogg, David C.|
|Baker, Harold T. (Accrington)||Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Hogge, James Myles|
|Baker, Joseph Allen (Finsbury, E.)||Devlin, Joseph||Holmes, Daniel Turner|
|Balfour, Sir Robert (Lanark)||Dillon, John||Howard, Hon. Geoffrey|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Donelan, Captain A.||Hudson, Walter|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Doris, William||Hughes, Spencer Leigh|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Duffy, William J.||Isaacs, Rt. Hon. Sir Rufus|
|Benn, W. W. (T. Hamlets, St. George)||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||John, Edward Thomas|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Esmonde, Dr. John (Tipperary, N.)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Sir D. Brynmor (Swansea)|
|Boland, John Pius||Falconer, James||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Jones, William (Carnarvonshire)|
|Bowerman, Charles W.||Ffrench, Peter||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Fitzgibbon, John||Joyce, Michael|
|Bryce, J. Annan||George. Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||Keating, Matthew|
|Burke, E. Haviland-||Gladstone, W. G. C.||Kellaway, Frederick George|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Goldstone, Frank||Kelly, Edward|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Greig, Colonel James William||Kennedy, Vincent Paul|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Sydney C. (Poplar)||Griffith, Ellis Jones||Kilbride, Denis|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Guest, Major Hon. C. H. C. (Pembroke)||king, Joseph|
|Carr-Gomm, H. W.||Guest, Hon. Frederick E. (Dorset, E.)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. G. (Devon, S. Molton)|
|Cawley, Sir Frederick (Prestwich)||Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Hackett, John||Lardner, James C. R.|
|Chapple, Dr. William Allen||Harcourt, Rt. Hon. Lewis (Rossendale)||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston S.||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Lawson, Sir W. (Cumb'rid, Cockerm'th)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Leach, Charles|
|Clough, William||Harvey, T. E. (Leeds, West)||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert|
|Collins, Godfrey P. (Greenock)||Hayden, John Patrick||Lundon, Thomas|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Hayward, Evan||Lyell, Charles Henry|
|Cotton, William Francis||Hazleton, Richard||Lynch, Arthur Alfred|
|Craig, Herbert J. (Tynemouth)||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||McGhee, Richard|
|Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.||O'Dowd, John||Samuel, Rt. Hon. H. L. (Cleveland)|
|MacNeill. J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||O'Kelly, Edward P. (Wicklow, W.)||Scanian, Thomas|
|Macpherson, James Ian||O'Kelly, James (Roscommon, N.)||Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)|
|MacVeagh, Jeremiah||O'Malley, William||Sheehy, David|
|McKenna, Rt. Hon. Reginald||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)||Shortt, Edward|
|Marks, Sir George Croydon||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John Allsebrook|
|Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.||O'Shee, James John||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Meagher, Michael||O'Sullivan, Timothy||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Outhwaite, R. L.||Thomas J. H.|
|Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton)|
|Molloy, Michael||Parker, James (Halifax)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Money, L. G. Chiozza||Pearce, Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Montagu, Hon. E. S.||Pearce, William (Limehouse)||Walters, Sir John Tudor|
|Mooney, John J.||Phillips, John (Longford, S.)||Ward, John (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Morgan, George Hay||Ponsonby, Arthur A. W. H.||Wardle, George J.|
|Morrell, Philip||Price, C. E. (Edinburgh, Central)||Waring, Walter|
|Morison, Hector||Pringle, William M. R.||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay|
|Morton, Alpheus Cleophas||Raffan, Peter Wilson||Webb, H.|
|Muldoon, John||Raphael, Sir Herbert H.||Wedgwood, Josiah C.|
|Munro, R.||Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||White. J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Munro-Ferguson, Rt. Hon. R. C.||Reddy, Michael||White, Sir Luke (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Murray, Captain Hon. Arthur C.||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Neilson, Francis||Redmond, William (Clare, E.)||Whitehouse. John Howard|
|Nolan, Joseph||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)||Wilson, Hon. G. G. (Hull, W.)|
|Norton, Captain Cecil W.||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Nugent, Sir Walter Richard||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)||Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow)|
|O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Robertson, Sir G. Scott (Bradford)||Yoxall, Sir James Henry|
|O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)||Robertson, John M. (Tyneside)|
|O'Doherty, Philip||Robinson, Sidney||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—Mr. Illingworth and Mr. Gulland.|
|O'Donnell, Thomas||Roche, Augustine (Louth)|
|Anson, Rt. Hon. Sir William R.||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Mount, William Arthur|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Fletcher, John Samuel (Hampstead)||Newdegate, F. A.|
|Barlow, Montague (Salford, South)||Forster, Henry William||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Barnston, Harry||Gastrell, Major W. H.||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Bathurst, Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Gibbs, G. A.||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Gilmour, Captain John||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Bird, Alfred||Goulding, Edward Alfred||Rawlinson John Frederick Peel|
|Blair, Reginald||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Ronaidshay, Earl of|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Royds, Edmund|
|Boyton, J.||Harris, Henry Percy||Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Henderson, Major H. (Berks, Abingdon)||Sanders, Robert Arthur|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Stanley, Hon. G. F. (Preston)|
|Campion, W. R.||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Stewart, Gershom|
|Cassel, Felix||Hills, John Waller||Swift, Rigby|
|Cecil, Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hoare, S. J. G.||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A. (Worc'r.)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Talbot, Lord Edmund|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Houston, Robert Paterson||Terrell, G. (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Courthope, George Loyd||Ingieby, Holcombe||Thompson, Robert (Belfast, North)|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Kerry, Earl of||White, Major G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Worthington-Evans, L.|
|Denison-Pender, J. C.||Larmor, Sir J.||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Dickson, Rt. Hon. C. Scott||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Younger, Sir George|
|Duke, Henry Edward||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—Lord Wolmer and Captain Tryon.|
|Fell, Arthur||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes||Morrison-Bell, Capt. E. F. (Ashburton)|
Question, "That the Clause stand part of the Bill," put, and agreed to.