§ The SECRETARY of STATE for INDIA (Mr. Chamberlain)
I beg to move "That, whereas the Government of India, deeming the well-being and interests of the Indian Empire to be vitally concerned in the successful prosecution of the War, have recommended that a Contribution charged on the Revenues of India should be made towards the expenses of the same, such contribution to consist of the sum of £100,000,000 to be provided in part from the proceeds of a loan to be raised in India and the remainder by assuming liability for interest on British War Loan of the required amount, and whereas this Contribution has been offered to His Majesty's Government and gratefully accepted by them, and the Government of India have now made provision by legislation and in their Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for meeting, by means of increased taxation and otherwise, the annual charge for interest and sinking fund in respect of the Contribution as aforesaid, this House consents that a Contribution of £100,000,000 charged on the Revenues of India shall be made towards the cost of the War."
At an earlier stage of this War the then Secretary of State for India moved a Resolution in this House authorising the employment of Indian troops outside India. He announced the distribution of the charge which would then be made between the Indian and British Revenues. It was then arranged that India should pay only the ordinary charges of her troops, and that the extraordinary charges should be borne by the Imperial Exchequer. The Under-Secretary of State said that that arrangement was subject to modification by agreement, and with the assent of Parliament. It is in pursuance of the undertaking then given 1138 to Parliament that I rise to move the Resolution to accept, on behalf of this House, the latest, but not the last, of the many contributions which India has made to the successful prosecution of the great struggle in which the Empire is engaged. The Secretary of State for India makes infrequent appearances in this House. It is no loss to this House, and perhaps not disadvantageous to India. I hope, however, the House will pardon me if, in moving the Resolution to accept a gift of this kind, I permit myself a survey, as rapid as I can make it, of what the contribution of India has been. I know that the House is interested in one particular feature of the contribution which is under discussion to-day. I regret that in any shape or form, or particular, that the free and generous gift of the Government and people of India should be a matter of contention here at all. I earnestly trust that no word I speak today in the course of Debate will add fuel to the fires, or do anything to prolong the unhappy dispute. I must deal with that question later. Before, however, I deal with it, may I not say that as to the gift itself, and as to the spirit which prompts it, the Commons House of Parliament speaks with one voice: that voice is one of grateful recognition of the feeling of fellowship and community of interest which prompts the, gift and the generous spirit behind it. I would ask the House, before we pass to the particular gift now under discussion, to spend a little time in reviewing other contributions which India has made. The figures which I shall use, partly of necessity and partly from choice, have not been brought up to date. It is not desirable that the latest figures and the latest position should be revealed to the world. I hope, however, that the account which I shall be able to give will be one which shall do proper justice to India, be at the same time satisfactory to this House, and not misleading to anyone in India.
The Army of India, before the War, consisted of 78,000 British troops, and 158,000 Indian troops, or a total of 236,000 men. In addition to these, there were 18,000 Imperial Service troops. That force was organised for a purpose not confined, of its own motion, by the Indian Government, but laid down after consultation with the Imperial Government at home, to discharge duties which it was then contemplated the Indian Army might be called upon to fulfil. The 1139 Indian Military Budget in the year before the War amounted to £20,000,000. This country has, under the Resolutions of the House, borne the extraordinary charges attendant upon the employment of Indian troops elsewhere. The Indian Military Budget for this year, instead of being £20,000,000, is £26,000,000. That additional £6,000,000 of expense is, I may say, almost entirely due, and directly due, to the circumstances of the present great War. What use has been made of the Indian Forces, constituted as I have described, in the course of this struggle? Indian troops have fought, I think, in almost every theatre of the War—in France, in Egypt, at Aden, on the Suez Canal, in Gallipoli, in East Africa, and in West Africa.
§ 4.0 P.M.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Neither the House nor I am likely to forget that they have fought in Mesopotamia—nor will that Army Let the House cast itself back to the anxiety felt in relation to our Army in France in the winter of 1914. Nearly one-third of the forces were drawn from India. They were the first of the oversea troops. The Indian Army provided the first defence of British East Africa, and repelled the first Turkish attack on the Suez Canal. The Army in Mesopotamia, which in the last few days has retrieved—how gloriously retrieved!—the check and misfortunes of our earlier operations, and which has struck a blow that resounds throughout the whole of the Eastern world, and not the Eastern world alone, is an Army which, from first to last, through all its sufferings, hardships, and disappointments—and in its triumphs!—is in the main an Indian Army based upon India. It is difficult when one reviews the deeds of the Indian Forces in this War to select for illustration any particular instance, but the House will not forget, and the country will not forget, such episodes as in France the recapture of Neuve Chapelle in October, 1914, by the 47th Sikhs and the 20th and 21st Companies of Sappers and Miners. The 47th Sikhs lost in that attack 178 out of 289 engaged; and the Sappers and Miners lost 119 out of 300. They will not forget the attack of the Garhwal Brigade at Neuve Chapelle on 10th March, and I am sure the House will forgive me, on this occasion in particular, 1140 for referring to the actions—the glorious-actions—of the Indian regiments in Gallipoli. Who is there who can read without emotion of the action of the 14th Sikhs at Cape Helles, when the supporting troops on the other side, unable to get to them, fought their way, and held on to the last, with the loss of nearly all their British and nearly all their Indian officers, and with a loss of 430 men out of 550 engaged? When a day or two afterwards the same ground was traversed again in a successful advance of our troops, the General who was in command has told me every Sikh had fallen facing his enemy, and most of them had one of their enemies under him. May I remind the House that on that occasion, fighting alongside them, were the Lancashire Fusiliers? No narrow spirit of sectional or racial jealousy animated either of them on that day, but one glorious emulation as to how best they might serve the Empire, how best they might do glory to it.
I am going to ask the House to listen to a brief summary of what the Indian Army has contributed. On the outbreak of War there were 530 officers of the Army in India on leave in this country. They were made over to the War Office to help them to organise the New Armies which it was necessary to create here. Before the close of last year over 2,600 British officers had been drawn from India, apart from those who accompanied their units abroad, and the total number of British officers in India before the War broke out was less than 5,000. On the outbreak of War the Indian Army Reserve of Officers consisted of forty members. It comprises now over 2,200, of whom about 800 are on field service. Apart from the Indian Army Reserve of Officers, commissions have been given in the Indian Army to 271 cadets from Quetta and Wellington, where military schools corresponding to Sandhurst have been established since the War began. Of the rank and file—again, I say, I have not tried to get the very latest figures—the total British and Indian Forces which have gone on active service must approximate a figure of 350,000; and the Army, as I have reminded the House, before the War was 236,000. All the units of the Indian Forces have been kept well supplied with drafts, and, in order that that might be done, the establishments of the Cavalry regiments in India have been increased by 20 per cent., and the establishments 1141 of the Infantry regiments have been increased by 40 per cent. New units have been created, drawn not wholly from those classes or races which were recruited before the War; and in particular I note on this occasion—because I am anxious to correct a mistaken answer which I gave some months ago—that a company of Burma Pioneers was enlisted in consequence of the desire of the people to take their share in the great struggle. There is another experiment which has been made, which I am watching with the greatest interest and with earnest hopes for its success. A Bengali double company has been created, and I hope it will justify its creation.
I leave the direct supply of combatant troops, and the House will not blame me if I spend a moment over the medical services. The medical arrangements of the Indian authorities, whether at home or abroad, have come under severe criticism and this is not the occasion for me to offer any justification or any defence; but I want to tell the House in a few words what the Government of India did from the narrow resources—for, after all, they were narrow resources —at their disposition. Forty field ambulances, six clearing hospitals, thirty-five stationary hospitals, eighteen general hospitals, nine X-Ray sections, eight sanitary sections, seven advanced depots, and one general medical store depot have been sent on service overseas. The personnel provided for these unite and other services amounts to 258 officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps, 704 officers of the Indian Medical Service, 40 lady nurses, 475 assistant surgeons, 854 sub-assistant surgeons, 720 British nursing orderlies, 2,840 Indian ranks, and nearly 20,000 Indian followers. In order to meet the heavy demands on the Indian Medical Service nearly 350 officers have been withdrawn from civil employment, and some 200 private practitioners and civil assistant surgeons have been given temporary commissions. In the subordinate branches, 205 assistant surgeons and 560 sub-assistant surgeons in various kinds of civil employment have been released for military duty. May I say at once, whilst abstaining from any plea in defence of either the Secretary of State for India or the Government of India in connection with the military arrangements, that, as far as I know, all the testimony from everyone who has had experience concurs 1142 in this, that the devotion and self-sacrifice of the officers of the Medical Service attached to the Expeditionary Force have not been exceeded, and could not be exceeded, in this War? The House knows that this is not the last word of the Government of India on the subject. They have just made service compulsory for men of European birth and Anglo-Indians in India, and they have opened registers for Indians to volunteer for the defence of their own country.
I am afraid of wearying the House—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]—because a catalogue, even a catalogue of forces in battle, is apt to be monotonous; but no account of the effort of India would be complete, or pretend to be complete, which did not take account of the services of the Imperial Service Troops. The Imperial Service Troops have done, and are still doing, very valuable work in the different theatres of war, notably the Mysore Lancers and the Bikaner Camel Corps—a contingent recently increased at the special request of our army authorities are serving in Egypt—the Kashmir Rifles, Jind Infantry, and Faridkot Sappers in East Africa, and the Maler Kotla Sappers in Mesopotamia. The Kashmir and Jind Durbars received a special message of congratulation from General Smuts on the efficiency of their troops, and the Sirmur Sappers had the distinction of assisting in the gallant defence of Kut under General Townshend. I do not dwell upon the gifts of the Ruling Princes and Chiefs, and the generosity of the people of India towards funds either for the direct supply of military necessities or for the relief of the distress and suffering caused by the War. If I were to attempt to catalogue their gifts, my speech would never end. They have shown unrivalled generosity. The House will have noticed the latest gift of all, that from His Highness the Nizam, of £100,000 to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty to be used to combat the submarine campaign They have given aeroplanes, which I saw described in a letter by an Indian the other day as "a heavenly catastrophe"' against which our enemies could not stand up. They have given aeroplanes; they have given weapons and material of war; they have given ambulances, and they have given to the relief of the suffering. I must mention, in passing, the large miscellaneous personnel which has been supplied from India in connection with the Supply 1143 and Transport, or in connection with the railways which India has constructed or worked in East Africa, in Aden, and in Mesopotamia. I will just mention, and do no more, the Labour Corps which she has supplied for various theatres of war, and which are now, in response to the request of our military authorities, being recruited on a larger scale than hitherto. I mention, and I do no more, the great output of supplies for transport, including, even from the narrow resources of India,300 motor and armoured lorries, cars, vans, mobile kitchens, and so forth.
It is not desirable that I should give particulars of the output of munitions of war, but as an illustration of what India has done in that respect, with her very narrow and limited resources, I may say that her output of small arms ammunition has been increased threefold, and her output of shells and cartridges for field-guns hap been increased twelvefold. I could give other details, but that is sufficient to give the House some idea of the military contribution which India has made. I beg hon. Members to remember that India has no such resources to draw upon as we have, no such developed industries, no such masses of skilled labour for the supply of any machinery that may be required for the supply of many of the raw materials which can be obtained in this country. Having been accustomed to draw for the supply of her Army out of the markets of this country, when she was being urged to increase her efforts and was increasing them she was constantly held up because this country, from the greater needs of the other theatres of war at the moment, could not supply from our resources the deficiencies of hers.
I ask the House to remember that whilst all this effort of India has been made under all these difficulties, they are not the only difficulties or anxieties which have confronted the rulers of India. I speak in this matter quite as much for my Noble Friend who preceded me at the India Office as for myself, and quite as much for the late Viceroy as for the present; indeed, even more so, for the anxieties were greater in the early days than they have been at any time since. Some day, when the archives give up their secrets, the widespread character of German plots against this Empire will be made known. There was no field which offered the least chance of success which the Germans did not try to exploit, and they confidently 1144 counted upon India as a promising theatre for their operations. I cannot speak of the information we have in any detail now, but it is enough if I say that it was such as necessarily caused anxiety to the Government of India. I may remind the House that early in 1915 emigrants returning from the Pacific Coast who had been exposed to German and other seditious and anarchical influences, carried sedition into India itself. The Government of India had its own difficulties to face even in the midst of this great War. It had its own responsibilities for the peace and well-being of the populations under its control, and it had to take care—in fact, it was its duty to take care—that in doing everything it could to help the Empire it did not so strip the resources of India that these nefarious projects could not be dealt with. I am glad to say that the efforts of the Government of India were seconded by the Princes, the Chiefs, and the peoples of India, and nothing is more satisfactory than the fact that when these emigrants, poisoned with seditious teaching, returned to India to spread the plague in districts which they thought were ripe for it, it was the peasants of the villages who turned against them and supported the Government, from which they derived justice, liberty and peace.
The House must remember that it is not only the internal security of India but also the frontier security which must be a constant pre-occupation of the Indian Government, and while it was making these efforts in the comparatively early months of the War the Indian frontier was subject to six or seven eruptions of the untamed tribes of the frontier, such as in other times, when no such great events were in progress, would have filled the columns of our newspapers, and would have occupied public attention here. All these attempts to break the peace of India and of the frontier were resisted and successfully resisted by the forces on the frontier. I think the House will agree that having regard to those responsibilities, and to their means of making these efforts, the military effort of the Government and peoples of India has been no mean contribution to the success of the Empire in this War.
Very briefly I would just like to say that my review of the contribution of India to the War is not complete, and it cannot be complete without some mention 1145 of the aid rendered by India in producing and supplying for our needs products, raw or manufactured which were of vital importance to us. Her mineral resources have been of first-class consequence to the War. Take a single instance, that of the wolfram mines of Burma. Before the War the whole output was 1,700 tons, and that went to Germany. The exports now are at a rate equalling half of the pre-war production of the whole world, and they do not go to Germany, except in such a form as we should all wish. Then there is manganese ore, saltpetre, mica, shellac, jute bags, raw jute, tanning materials, wool, Army blankets, oil seeds, wheat, rice, and forage. All these things we have drawn from India, and all these India has contributed to help the Empire in its struggle. The list of commodities is a long one, and it has recently been calculated that the value of the Indian exports of direct national importance is over £3,000,000 a month, a figure which may reach or even exceed £5,000,000 during the season of heavy wheat shipments. The significance of these figures will be appreciated when it is stated that the total value of Indian exports to all destinations is, roughly, £12,000,000 a month, and to this country £4,000,000.
The adjustment of trade to meet the necessities of the War has led to the adoption in India of elaborate resources of State control, not merely in regulating the destination of exports and in providing transport facilities, but in direct State purchase, in fixing prices, in ensuring that adequate supplies are forthcoming and in stimulating production. To meet all these needs no single course of action has sufficed. We have employed different means almost as numerous as the commodities "themselves. It may, however, be stated broadly that three guiding principles have been observed. The existing agencies of trade have been utilised; the existing channels of trade have been followed wherever possible; and in regulating prices the aim has been on the one hand to meet the demands of His Majesty's Government and the Allies at reasonable rates, and on the other hand to secure a reasonable profit to the Indian producer, so that while profiteering is prevented producing is stimulated. That concludes my review of the general contribution of India to the War.
I come now to the special financial contribution which is a subject of the Resolution that I shall move. That India 1146 should make a financial contribution to-the cost of the War has been the intention of the Government of India, whether as represented by the Government in India or by the Secretary of State, from the very early days of the War. It has also been the wish of the people of India. As long ago as September, 1914, Sir. Gandgadhar Chitnavis proposed in the Legislative Council, and that Council unanimously adopted, a Resolution expressing the hopeThat the people of India, in addition to the military assistance now being afforded by India to the Empire would wish to share in the heavy financial burden now imposed by the War on the United Kingdom.That represents the spirit of the Government of India and of the people. But it was not at that time either possible or desirable that the Indian contribution should be immediately fixed. It was not desirable, because I venture to say that, if we are candid with ourselves, none of us would have been able in those early days to calculate the cost of the War, or to see what the proportion of any particular contribution then made might bear to the sacrifices entailed upon the Empire at large. I think it was not desirable to fix the contribution then—in fact, it was not possible. The financial years 1914–15 and 1915–16 in India closed with deficits. In 1916–17 new taxation had to be imposed to produce a revenue of £3,600,000 sterling, which was estimated to give a surplus, not too large under all the circumstances, of £825,000. It is not only that in those years there were deficits. In 1914–15 there were heavy withdrawals from the savings banks which severely depleted the balances of the Government of India, and India had to borrow £7,000,000 from the Gold Standard Reserve in 1914–15, and create in addition £7,000,000 of other temporary debt. Let me add that the exchange position—I am not going into disquisition upon Indian exchange—was at that time adverse to remittances to this country, and attempts to make large remittances would only have added to our difficulties in that respect.
In the circumstances, what were the first steps that India could take to ease the financial situation of the Treasury at home? Remember, in normal years India is an habitual borrower on our market for capital expenditure of vital importance to her. The only regret of every British statesman dealing with India is that he cannot get more. The first thing we had 1147 to do was to cease borrowing, so as not -to compete with the British Government in its own market when it required the whole of its resources. The second thing we had to do was to pay off, as far as we could, our temporary debt, so as to set free resources which, as soon as we released them, were contributed to my right hon. Friend opposite, the then Chancellor of the Exchequer. Let me say that in all these matters—my right hon. Friend will bear me out, and I think it is due to the Government of India, which has been so much criticised, that I should say this—the course taken by the Government of India was the one which my right hon. Friend and I agreed was the most helpful that India could take in the circumstances of the moment. Now the position has been totally changed. The exchange position is reversed. The difficulty is to get remittances from this country to India. The annual revenue has shown a most satisfactory elasticity. Owing to this, and to the new taxation imposed last year, we have paid off temporary debt to the extent of £14,000,000, and without further taxation there is in the Budget for the current year a surplus of two and three-quarter millions. With the new taxation imposed by the present Budget we have sufficient to meet the charges of the year, and, in addition, to make good the obligation of the Government of India for the contribution of £100,000,000 voted by that Government to the general expenses of the War.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The revenue with the new taxation imposed in this year's Budget. Without it, India would be quite unable to meet those charges. The House is aware, this offer having been made by the Government of India, that it was gratefully accepted by His Majesty's Government. Perhaps the House will allow me to read a passage from the letter of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, in which they express their appreciation of the contribution. They say:This offer has already been gratefully accepted by His Majesty's Government, but their Lordships, as more immediately responsible for the finances of the United Kingdom, desire to take this opportunity of placing on formal record their lively appreciation of the action of the Indian Government, and of requesting the Secretary of State to convey to that Government their warmest 1148 thanks for this splendid contribution, which will be of the greatest assistance to them in the onerous task of financing the War.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
3rd March. I do not think there will be much difference of opinion in the House as to the duty of His Majesty's Government to accept such an offer so made. I have, indeed, seen it suggested that we might have postponed the consideration of the acceptance of the offer, or of the making of the offer, until the close of the War, but I think such a course would hardly commend itself to the House for one moment. The Government of India was being criticised, and severely criticised, by Indian opinion in India, and with less excuse by critics in this country, for not taking their share. They were being abused for pursuing a selfish and insular policy, regardless of the great Imperial interests in which they were as much concerned as we were. They could not offer money before they could see their way to pay it, and at least it does not lie in the mouths of the critics who make these allegations to suggest that they were wrong to make their offer at the earliest moment it became possible, or that we were wrong to accept it. Just consider what a difference there is between that gift tendered now as the free will contribution of the people of India to the successful prosecution of a War in which their interests are as vitally concerned as ours, and the payment by them after the War of some sum to us in relief of burdens which we had already assumed. It would take half the grace out of the gift and destroy the spirit in which it was offered.
I regret that one feature of the Indian financial programme necessitated by the assumption of this obligation is the subject of strife in this country. I do not wish to traverse again in detail the ground which I attempted to cover when I met that very representative and important deputation from Lancashire two days ago, but I do beg the House to take a large, a broad, and a sympathetic view of this matter. The Government is asked why they did not maintain the declaration of the late Government, to which I and my colleagues were a party, that they would prefer to leave this question to be discussed at the conclusion of the War in connection with the large fiscal problems which must 1149 then arise. If the circumstances had remained unchanged, I should never have attempted to alter that decision. At that time India was asking to raise the Cotton Duties without raising the Excise, and it was asking to receive an assurance that the Excise should be ultimately abolished. It was asking all this not in order that it might better aid the Empire as a whole, but in order that it might balance its own Budget. Under those circumstances we asked them to postpone the question, as we knew it might give rise to controversy here. The circumstances now are wholly different. They have not proposed to raise the Customs Duties on cotton in order to meet the normal charges of India. They have asked for permission to do that as one of the means, and one means only, of raising the charges on the contribution which they make to the War. You may accept an offer of this kind or you may decline it if you like, but you cannot haggle over it. You cannot, when it is offered to you, say, "I will take it upon my conditions, but not upon yours." You cannot say, "I will take so much of it, but I will not take the rest, because I do not like the way in which you have put it." No, there is a broad choice to be made. Will you take the gift in the spirit in which it is offered? Will you consent to the desire of India to be associated in the fullest measure and throughout the whole field with the sacrifices and the burdens which the rest of the Empire is bearing, or will you say to them, "We do not like the conditions of your gift, and we therefore refuse to you the right to take your place with the other great Dominions of the Crown in maintaining the honour of the Crown and in sustaining its objects"?
I do not quite know what course the opposition which has developed to this proposal intends to take to-day. I understand that the Resolution which stands in the name of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Barton) and several colleagues is to be moved as an Amendment to the one which I am proposing. If that be so, and if that expresses the case which the cotton industry of this county wishes to present to the House, then it is not the case which they presented to my notice the other day. The case which is embodied in this Resolution is one of tenderness for the people of India, and regret that an unnecessary burden should be thrown upon them. If that means anything, it means that you are anxious lest the prices of cotton goods in India should be raised and 1150 the consumer should suffer. But the contention of the deputation which waited on me the other day was that Lancashire mills would be closed. The two contentions are not merely not the same, but they are irreconcilable. The contention of the deputation was that they would not be able to live and pay the duty, but if the prices are to be raised what have they got to complain of? They are only going to be ruined and their mills closed if the prices are not raised and if the Indian mills undersell them. I do not pretend to state exactly, or that anyone can state exactly, the limits of competition between Lancashire and India in the cotton industry. I do not doubt that exceptional cases can be found which will not follow any general rule, but I am profoundly convinced that the utmost conceivable injury which could be done to Lancashire would be nothing like that which they apprehend. I quoted to the deputation the other day the statement of an expert that only 2 per cent. of the output of Lancashire was really in competition with India. Assume that was an underestimate; double it, treble it, multiply it three times, and I appeal to Lancashire itself, Would it even then justify the apprehensions which they have expressed?
There is one great field in which Lancashire does not compete with India. At the other extremity there is another great field in which India does not compete with Lancashire. In the middle there comes an area not capable of exact definition where competition arises. Sixty per cent. of the yarns woven in India are 20's, and there is no real competition in regard to them; 10 per cent. of the yarns are 30's, and that portion is mostly produced by hand-looms, and have never been subject to any Excise at all. There remains 30 per cent. between the 20's and 30's, which is the outside limit of possible competition. I believe that that limit, as I said to the deputation the other day, and they did not contradict me, could be very much narrowed, and the actual field of acute competition is therefore very small. The fact is, there are other matters which are infinitely more important to Lancashire in the Indian trade than the exact co-relation of Excise and Customs. I speak broadly, of course. This is not the time to generalise trade statistics. There would be exceptions, and I quite expect to find my hon. Friends putting to me extreme cases.
1151 What I say, broadly speaking, is true, that the real differentiation between the Customs and Excise in the trade is 4 per cent., but the variations in price between American cotton and Indian cottons are frequently much more than the 4 per cent. which is involved in this difference between Customs and Excise. There are two other items which were only briefly touched upon by the deputation on which I should like to say a word or two to-day. A great many questions have been raised regarding the Factory Acts. Of course there are limitations of a similar character, but not at all the same in force in India as in England. But before the enforcement of proper factory legislation in India we have a duty which we must discharge. I do not for one moment say that we have reached the last word of factory legislation either in India or in this country. But, do not let us mix up two entirely distinct subjects, the relationship of the Cotton Duties in Lancashire and the factory laws which ought to prevail in India. I would recall to the House a deputation received by Lord Morley, who recognised as fully as anyone the obligation which rests on the Government of India for the protection of the weak and helpless. He told the deputation that he was glad there was no such question in this competition between Lancashire and India, because it there were Lancashire would be out of court. Let us discuss that question at another time on its own merits. Do not let us put ourselves out of court for urging further factory legislation for India by associating ourselves with a Lancashire grievance, whether it be real or merely apprehended.
One item I would ask the House to bear in mind. The House must not and will not suppose that the Government of India in this matter are exposing one British trade to exceptional disability. On the contrary, even when this has been done, the cotton trade of Lancashire is treated more favourably in India than any other British industry. Sir Henry Fowler, when he originally reimposed the Cotton Duties, exempted from Excise those products which were wholly consumed by the very poor. Was Lancashire satisfied with that exemption? Were those who then represented the views expressed in the Amendment to be moved to-day satisfied? No. They agitated until that exemption was abolished, and the Excise was applied 1152 to the poorest clothes as well as the finer. But it was for the cotton industry alone that any Excise was imposed. The duties on other British products had been raised 7½ per cent. last year and no voice was raised, as far as I know, inside or outside this House, to say that I. and my right hon. Friend were in a plot to break the party truce or carry out some nefarious and dark plan. All that we are doing to-day is in some partial degree to assimilate the treatment of Lancashire with the treatment of other manufactured goods which enter India. When hon. Members argue that when His Majesty's Government sanction the imposition of the increased Customs Duty they are bound to raise the Excise at the same-time, I tell them with all solemnity and gravity that they are asking for that which neither this Government nor any Government will do, for you would so affront Indian opinion, and your action would be so bitterly and deeply resented, that you would not carry with you that general consent of the Government, that general good will of the people, which is necessary to you under any form of government.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
And not less necessary when you are dealing with a Government so circumstanced as is the British Government in India. I would beg the House to be under no misapprehension as to the widespread character and gravity of the feeling in India on this matter. I can quote passage after passage from every Indian member of the Legislative Council protesting against these proposals. You may think them wrong or mistaken, but even then you cannot neglect their feelings. They speak of this differentiation from the policy, as it was then, as a course which righteousness and justice demand. I could multiply the quotations, but, to my mind,. more striking than the unanimity of sentiment among the representatives of Indian opinion is the unanimity of sentiment among the British, where you might have expected divergence of view. I read to the deputation the other day—and, with the permission of the House, I will read it at somewhat greater length now—a passage from a Memorandum addressed to Lord Hardinge on this subject:The strength of the political aspect of this question cannot be denied. It was potent before the War, and it is doubly potent now. The pro- 1153 blem is fast developing into one outside the special interest of any particular political party in England, and is becoming one of the solidarity of India and England. Considerations of Imperial policy no less than a sense of appreciation of the services rendered by India during the War make it imperative that we should convince the Indian people that their interests are our interests, and that we govern India for the benefit of the people and without any underlying selfish motives. Why, then, refuse a concession that will be extremely popular amongst all classes; that involves nothing affecting in any way the stability of our rule; that will abolish a purely adventitious piece of injustice, and that will probably, in the long run, be found to affect Lancashire interests little, if at all.I think there is hardly an Englishman in India not directly concerned in the Lancashire trade—and let me say, since I mention that particular class, that I need not except by any means all of them, for I know that many of them think with India on the subject—there is hardly an Englishman in India not directly prejudiced by his financial interests who does not share the view expressed by the Viceroy. Many Members of this House will remember Lord Willingdon, now the Governor of Bombay, who sat in this House as a Liberal Member before he went to India. He expressed to Lord Hardinge his views, and he said:As to the economic question, I entirely agree about the Excise Duty; India can no longer be exploited for the benefit of political parties at home. This view may appear to come strangely from one who was a party man not many years ago, but perhaps it comes with all the more force on that account, seeing that, after knowing more of the subject, I am clear as to the iniquity of the present tax.5.0 P.M.
The Governor of Bengal, another gentleman whom we knew and honoured in this House, Lord Carmichael, said:I have heard this duty discussed by people of all sorts. I have never heard anyone try to defend it, though I have heard people who—or whose friends—profit by it, say, that they hope the Government won't give up supporting it.In this matter the course we have hitherto pursued, and from which this change relieves us, sets us right with Indian opinion. I am told that I am breaking the truce which has lasted for twenty years. That is not the Indian opinion. All that time it has been an open and a running sore. [An HON MEMBER: "So has Ireland!"] It has offered a ready weapon to every ill-wisher of our rule; it has been the theme of every seditious writer; not only that, it rankles as an injustice and an indignity in the mind of every loyal Indian who cares about these things. [An HON. MEMBER:"A good Home Rule speech!"] I make my appeal to Lancashire to rise superior to their 1154 fears. Let them be confident in their strength, in their skill, in their enterprise, in the advantages of climate which protect them so largely. But I say one thing more. Is not the good will of that which is and must be their greatest market, is not the good will of the people of that market worth something more to them than a paltry 4 per cent.?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I am obliged to the hon. Member for his appreciation. It is the first time I have ever had in public such a cordial appreciation. I make my appeal to Lancashire. I recognise the difficulties, I recognise the apprehensions which prevail in Lancashire. I recognise the difficulties that Lancashire apprehends. I want to make an apepal, also, to my right hon. Friend (Mr. Asquith). I have had the honour to serve with him. I know his loyalty to colleagues. I know the equanimity and the magnanimity with which he confronted always good fortune and evil fortune, and I know that whatever mistakes he and we who were his colleagues may have made, how he tried to serve his country in this great crisis of its history. I appeal to him with some confidence. He knows that I and my Unionist colleagues never sought to embarrass his Government for a moment by pressing unduly or inopportunely any subjects which had divided parties in the past or any question the urgent settlement of which was not immediately required for the purposes of the War.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
He knows that I should not have raised the storm that has burst about my ears to serve a party purpose. Anybody who thinks about it for a moment will know that, if I had wanted to raise Tariff Reform questions, this is not the method which I should have chosen. He will absolve me from any desire to steal a march in regard to subjects which have divided us in the past. But the right hon. Gentleman does not meet with this question for the first time in his life. He met it in 1895. I met it then for the first time. The right hon. Gentleman has a better right to look back upon his record on that occasion with pleasure and satisfaction than I have upon my own. The right hon. Gentleman described what took place in a speech which I have no doubt he remembers. It is a double pleasure to 1155 me to read it. In a speech at Cambridge on the 20th March, 1895, the right hon. Gentleman said:First and foremost I will take the case of the Debate the other day in the House of Commons on the Indian import duties. What are those duties? The Government of India has a large and growing expenditure to meet. It has a poor population with a limited power of sustaining taxation. Casting about for some source of revenue to equalise its income with its expenditure, the Government. of India resolved to impose a duty on all foreign goods taken into the country. The claim was put forward to absolve a district and an industry in England from those duties. Upon that principle I should like to ask Englishmen, who have conquered India, who have held India by force, what possible justification can be alleged for an exemption in favour of a particular class of English produce? Such a claim amounts to this—and it is nothing unless it amounts to this—that in the Government of India we are to look not exclusively, not even primarily, to the interests of the Indian people, hut that we are to subordinate these interests to the conditions of those who command votes in this country. I say that to concede such a doctrine as this is to strike at the very roots of the system on which you can justify the maintenance of our rule in India.Then my right hon. Friend went on to ask:What happened?He described the course of the Unionist party on that occasion in terms of strong and fierce denunciation. I will not read the whole of it, but he said:One or two of their leaders, to their credit at least, Mr. Goschen and Mr. Courtney, broke loose and took the side of the Empire. As to the rank and file, the great mass of them, and still more as to the Leaders, history will record that upon this, the most crucial and critical occasion, they voted against the Government and subordinated the interests of India to the exigencies of party, or took refuge in obscure places.I was one of those who took refuge in my obscurity. I was a very young Member, a very inexperienced Member, and I was a Whip—not a position in which one finds the freest scope for the exercise of his own judgment. I was not very proud of the course I took then. Frankly, I have been ashamed of it ever since. Is that scene going to be repeated here to-day? I cannot believe it, and I appeal confidently to my right hon. Friend not merely to abstain from a vote which will be misconstrued throughout India, which will be resented throughout India, I appeal to him, acting in the spirit of great Imperial patriotism to cast his vote with the whole weight of his influence into the redress of a grievance which rankles in India now, which separates Indian sentiment from our sentiment, which leaves our Government, rightly or wrongly, under the aspersion that where some English section or 1156 influence clashes with the interests and aspirations of the people of India, we are ready to sacrifice India to save our electoral fortunes. I do not say for a moment that this last change in the Customs Duties constitutes the last word in fiscal policy or marks the definite relationship of India and its fiscal system to this country and to the fiscal system of this country and of the Empire as a whole. I, too, look forward, like the late Government, to that survey of the whole economic position of the British Empire, of the fiscal relationship which is to prevail between all His Majesty's Dominions inter se and between them and this country, which they contemplated at the end of the War. I hope and believe that when the time comes for that review India will recognise her obligations and her responsibilities, that she will show no jealous spirit towards an industry in this country which is of vital consequence to the Empire and which cannot be weakened without weakening India as well as ourselves, and that she will take her part in the common scheme of fiscal unity, which, out of the circumstances of this War and the events and co-operation of this great struggle, the Empire may evolve for itself to maintain the results which have been won and consolidate its peace, its prosperity, and its unity in the future.
§ Mr. BARTON
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words, "whereas the Government of India, deeming the well-being and interests of the Indian Empire to be vitally concerned in the successful prosecution of the War, have recommended that a contribution charged on the Revenues of India should be made towards the expenses of the same, such contribution to consist of the sum of £100,000,000, to be provided in part from the proceeds of a Loan to be raised in India and the remainder by assuming liability for interest on British War Loan of the required amount, and whereas this contribution has been offered to His Majesty's Government and gratefully accepted by them, and the Government of India have now made provision by legislation and in their Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for meeting, by means of increased taxation and otherwise, the annual charge for interest and sinking fund in respect of the contribution as aforesaid, this House consents that a contribution of £100,000,000 charged on 1157 the Revenues of India shall be made towards the cost of the War, "and to add instead thereof the words,this House records its gratitude to the Government of India for its recommendation that a contribution of £100,000,000 should be made by India towards the cost of the War, but regrets that the provision for meeting the charges of the same should include an alteration in the established system of duties on cotton goods, thereby throwing an unnecessary burden upon the people of India, and inevitably causing a controversy between different parts of the Empire, which it was most inexpedient to raise during the War.In its opening sentences my Amendment follows quite appropriately on the very eloquent speech which we have just heard. I desire to associate myself entirely with the right hon. Gentleman's observation that no word should fall from anyone in this Debate which should in any way be taken as reflecting upon the great and generous gift of £100,000,000 from our fellow subjects of India towards the cost of the War. We feel very strongly that we have a real grievance against the right hon. Gentleman, and I take it against the Government with which he is associated, that to this great and impressive gift there should have been tacked on this ancient controversy. We feel that it is totally wrong that we should be plunged into this distracting controversy at a time when we desire, above all things, to be free to give our whole attention to what is the great fact for us at the present time—the successful prosecution of the War. In the districts which are specially interested in this Amendment the War only is the greatest thought of our whole people, outside the earning of their living. We further feel that we have a real grievance against the right hon. Gentleman and his Government in that this whole controversy, which has been before this House in years gone by, and which was apparently before the Government a year ago, has been reopened without consultation with the parties who are specially interested in it. I do not. want to indulge in technical trade terms any more than is absolutely necessary. The time and the atmosphere of the House are not tuned to arguments of that kind. The blindness of politicians, as we think it, has plunged us into this controversy at a time when neither we nor the House desire it.
1158 For a long period of time the fiscal basis of the cotton trade of India rested on an Import Duty of 3½ per cent., with a countervailing Excise Duty of 3½ per cent. The magnitude of the trade will be appreciated when I say that during the year before the War it amounted to £37,240,000, or to 29.3 per cent. of the total cotton exports of the country. At a time when Lancashire is undoubtedly hampered—and when I say Lancashire I, of course, mean the adjacent counties or any other parts of Great Britain in which cotton manufacture is carried on—at a time when Lancashire is seriously hampered in the carrying on of its trade, and when the manufacturers of India, by reason of the War, are greatly advantaged in the carrying on of their trade, this disability is placed upon us. The Lancashire mill worker is not to-day in full-time employment in all cases, and in many cases there are mills closed down, not because of lack of labour, but because of lack of employment. His or her wages have advanced by some 10 per cent. to 15 per cent. at the most, whilst the cost of living has advanced anything from 60 per cent. to 75 per cent. The Lancashire operative, as I know him, is a patient and enduring man a man who, on just cause shown, will bear any burden which the needs of the nation or of justice, or the needs of justice in any other nation, impose upon him. If need be he will pull his belt tighter and just clem. But to-day that man or woman is undoubtedly in a state of great exasperation. He feels that at a time when we deserve consideration from the Government his interest, his employment, has been prejudiced, and prejudiced, as he views it, in favour of the wealthy capitalist somewhere else in the world—in India—who is carrying on his operations not at a disadvantage, but at an advantage such as never has been at any time enjoyed by the manufacturers of Lancashire. Under the circumstances the cotton trade as a whole begged the Secretary of State to receive a deputation. I was present at it as a Member of this House and I hope I may be forgiven for saying I was indeed proud of the trade with which I was associated. The deputation was well organised and each man put forward his portion of the case with a concise and lucid comprehensiveness such as I have never seen at any deputation at which I have been present. I was proud of my coworkers in the cotton trade.
1159 I come to the answer of the right hon. Gentleman. I am not an experienced Parliamentary orator, and I may be going to say things which an experienced Parliamentary orator would not say. I suffer under another disability. I am one of those unfortunate people, so far as polities are concerned, who cannot at times help a full meed of appreciation of the men who belong to the other side, and curiously enough I have always had a feeling of great respect and appreciation for the right hon. Gentleman. I did not agree with him, but I have always felt that he was a clean, sincere man, and as he thought in his heart so did he speak in this House. I did not a bit like either the tone or the matter of his answer to our deputation. I think for one thing he has been terribly unfortunate in his expert. I will not ask the right hon. Gentleman the name of his expert. I take it that when he was consulted by the India Office someone must have thought he was an expert; but if his name were revealed in Lancashire no one would believe for the future that he was indeed an expert. The right hon. Gentleman, in a line of argument which I hope I shall be able to show was in principle fallacious entered, again on the information of his expert, into detail. He divided the imports of cotton goods into India into three sections. We will take that for what it is worth. I should not have so divided it. By implication those three sections were more or less equal in amount and 2 per cent. was arrived at through a process of elimination. He started with white goods. He said there was no competition in India with those goods. My answer to this is that he should not rule them out because his information is wrong and there is competition. I suppose that is not argument: it is one dogma against another. But perhaps, as I happen to be engaged in that trade, the right hon. Gentleman will take the trouble at least to find out whether what I am saying is correct or not. Then he proceeded to another section of cotton goods which he called "printed goods." If I am anything at all, and I know I am not much, I am a calico printer. [Laughter.] They are all laughing. They thought I was a yarn spinner. I am not. We find, as time goes on, not only that there is competition in India with these printed goods, but if you want to buy new machinery for the purpose of producing print, you very often find that India is in in front of you. Do not let there be any 1160 misapprehension about this. We are not jealous on equal terms of the success and progress of India. We delight in it. Anyone who lays that charge at the door of Lancashire traders is saying something for which there is absolutely no justification.
By this process of elimination the right hon. Gentleman got to 2 per cent. of grey goods. That is the class that comes from the looms without any process of finish by printing or dyeing or anything else. By another process of eliminating counts he arrived, on the information of his, expert, at 2 per cent. as being the total amount of goods with which at present we are in competition. He told us that he had warned his expert not to put it too low, and he put it at 2 per cent. He himself put it something higher than 2 per cent., and to-day it is 2, 4, 6, 8, or 10 per cent., or anything you like. Surely that whole argument misses the point altogether. The question is not what is the competition as between these two classes of manufacturers to-day under existing fiscal conditions. Surely the whole question is what will be the effect of this sudden and, as we think, totally uncalled for, and, in the present circumstances, totally wrong preference of 4 per cent. As one who has been engaged in this trade all my life, I say without hesitation that at any time the half of 4 per cent. could decide whether the seller of goods in India, would get the contract or not. Every cloth that goes into India is in competition in the long run with every other. You add 4 per cent. to the value of quite a good commodity which may pass into India. As a matter of fact, there is certain strata and dividing lines, and if you take it out of the strata, then the former buyer has to be content with a cheaper and lower production. I begged the right hon. Gentleman not to take the course he proposes, but, alas for us, I take it the thing is done. I suppose at the present time I am simply talking to Lancashire and not to this House at all.
The right hon. Gentleman told us that we Lancashire people were people who were being protected. He said that in our mill stores, in our goods and in our machinery going into India for the purpose of their trade a duty was paid. I would ask him to turn to the Indian tariff, paragraphs 78 and 80. I may be wrong in my reading, but unless I have read those paragraphs wrongly everyone of these things under that Indian tariff is admitted entirely free of duty. But that statement 1161 of the right hon. Gentleman, I suppose, ought to be blamed on the expert. I nope I have not said anything in my ignorance that would at all seem to be rude to the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Mr. BARTON
But I am going to do it now. This is our chance of getting our own back. The right hon. Gentleman—but I will not say what I intended saying; I will only read what he said to us. He said:I have only one thing more to say to you. Nothing has struck me more in the speeches you have made than the want of knowledge of Indian conditions, and of Indian feeling.God bless my life, there were men in that room who had spent years in India, who knew every bazzar in India, and who had sold goods in India before the right hon. Gentleman was born. Do not let this House think—it would be wrong so to think—that those of us who are concerned with trade in India stop merely at the matter of trade. We are interested in the Indian people. We honour the Indian people. We are proud of our administration in India. We desire that Indian government shall be just, and we are proud to think it has lifted the Indian people both in knowledge and in their economic position. The real explanation is this, that that deputation, in so far as it was vocal, represented the producing side. They were concerned to prove to the right hon. Gentleman that Lancashire, in its production, in the wages it would be able to pay, and in the employment it would be able to offer, was seriously prejudiced. Anybody who knows anything about the cotton trade—and, of course, the right hon. Gentleman could not be expected to know—knows that in production and in distribution there is a wide gulf. The man who produces, as a rule, does not distribute, and, consequently, the men present in that room who were distributors in India said nothing at all on the matter.
I now come to what I think was the real gravamen of the right hon. Gentleman's answer to us. He said that the fiscal necessities of India compelled this course, and to-day he adhered in substance to that declaration. What fiscal necessity? The fiscal necessity arising from the service of this £100,000,000, so generously contributed towards the cost of the War by the Indian Government. That is a sum I take it with which he and those who advised him had something to do in fixing 1162 the amount. That is the service, because, in point of fact, he admits that the revenues of India are in a most unexampled state of prosperity. This fiscal necessity was not any burden of debt. It was not any obligation resting upon the Indian people which they were called upon to discharge through their Budget. It was purely and simply the service of this £100,000,000, in regard to which I take it that the Secretary of State for India had a strong voice in consenting to the amount. We are grateful, unfeignedly grateful, for the contribution itself, and even more for the spirit behind it. If the amount was fixed on the ascertained improvement of the financial position, why was not the amount fixed at such a sum as could have been raised without opening this ancient controversy? We feel very sore—I cannot say how sore—that the Government should in time of war throw this great industry into a condition of ferment. I am not a statesman. Pray God, I never will be! [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] In the long run our brain is turned in the one direction, and we come here and try to do our best. I did not mean to use the terra in any offensive way. Surely the Government are not unmindful that it is a very disastrous thing to put any considerable section of our own people into a state of ferment. I do not believe for a moment that Lancashire or any of its population will slacken in the slightest in their interests in the War. They will do their duty, and their idea of duty is to do the utmost they can. But surely we owe something towards our own people, and I do strongly complain that at this time the Government should have thrown this great source of trouble into our midst when, as we think, it is totally unnecessary.
Why did they do it? It is quite obvious. We want to be quite frank and candid about it. It was to propitiate India. I have travelled backwards and forwards from India. I have met the young students out there, clever young men, and I admit there has been during all the years that I have known India a regular plan for the removal of this Excise Duty. To many of them it was not a money matter at all, and it was not a trade matter. They did not understand money or trade. They wanted fiscal autonomy. They wanted to ensure Home Rule for India. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] It is all very well to say "Hear, hear!"but are you giving them Home Rule? You are giving them one thing, but are you ready to do the rest? There is no man who knows India 1163 but who would say at once that it is a great Continent, but increased liberty can only be given by wise and slow degrees, and steps. I am proud, and I believe the whole of the people in Lancashire are proud and glad, when any step in that direction can be taken. But when you are propitiating India, there are many other things you might have chosen. Do not let us evade that fact. India has many grievances, greater and more ancient than this one. Why was this one chosen? I do not think you can expect us as representatives of this great trade, and of the employment concerned in it, to fail to ask you these questions. I am permitted to tell you that we deeply grieve that you should have taken this action, and that you should have forced us to do the last thing in the world we wanted to do, and that is to oppose your Government in a time of stress and strain for the nation. This is a blow at the cotton trade at a time when we least deserve it, and when we were least able to bear it. Though I realise that in the Division—I suppose there will be a Division, although I do not care whether there is one or not—our vote can be nothing more than a protest, yet we feel that we must make this protest.
§ Sir HENRY NORMAN
I have been asked to second the Amendment, which has been moved in such an attractive manner and with such a wealth of knowledge by my hon. Friend, no doubt because with my hon. Colleague I represent a district of Lancashire most closely and most severely affected by the action of the Government. In doing so I shall try to draw a sharp line of distinction. The question raised by the action of the Government may be regarded from two points of view. One is the point of view of the general question of the fiscal policy of this country, and in the last analysis the point of view of Lancashire versus India. There is very much to be said from this point of view that ought to be said, and much of it has been said by my hon. Friend. It puts in the forefront the injury that is being caused to the greatest export industry of the country, which represents nearly one-third of the total exports of the United Kingdom. It is no light matter that a trade like that should have been menaced by an administrative act. That it is a serious menace there can be no doubt whatever. As my hon. Friend pointed out, the Secretary of State for India, advised by his experts, said he was struck by the ignor- 1164 ance of the deputation. We were aware at that time that amongst those in the room there was one man who had been to India ten times to investigate this question, another man had been seven times to India to investigate it, and there were others who had been there frequently, all of whom were familiar with the conditions of industry there, and who had been in the most intimate relations with their Indian customers. These men, and practically every man, whether employer or employed, in every branch of the cotton industry, are convinced that this action of the Government is in reality a most grave menace.
Lancashire is unanimous on this point, and it ought to be frankly said that Lancashire is ablaze on this issue. For instance, in support of that statement, I should like to refer to the action of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce. That very eminent body which only recently showed sympathy with the doctrine of Tariff Reform, came round again to the other point of view, and the Manchester Exchange voted by the substantial majority of something like 4,500 to 10 when they saw the first object-lesson I have no right to speak for the Manchester Chamber of Commerce, but I imagine that when they gave their approval to Tariff Reform they never imagined that the first fruits of it would be a protective duty against their own industry. The right hon. Gentleman said that if he had desired to raise the issue of Tariff Reform he would not have chosen this way. I am bound to say that it has proved to be a very good way of raising it. The action of the Manchester Chamber of Commerce is sufficient proof of the conviction in Lancashire that the menace is grave. When the Secretary of State stated to the deputation that they would not be detrimentally affected, I venture to say that it was probably he and not the deputation that was speaking without adequate knowledge. Incidentally I might point out the curious and instructive difference in the speeches to the deputations on this subject which were received, respectively, on Monday and yesterday. The Secretary of State assured the deputation that Lancashire really was protected now, and he also told them that Lancashire has no very serious competition to fear in India, whereas the very next day the Prime Minister asssured the very same deputation in these words:In ordinary circumstances your case would be irrefutable.1165 I should like to state two things within my own personal knowledge in illustrating further the gravity of the menace. To-day it is impossible to get new looms, because the industry is required for war purposes, but second-hand looms in Lancashire are being taken down, packed and dispatched to India; and since the decision of the Government on this point was made known in India an urgent order for 2,000 new looms, to be delivered as soon as possible, was placed with a firm whose head told me about it at the time.
§ Sir H. NORMAN
Yes. The other instance is this: The head of what I believe to be one of the greatest cotton concerns in Lancashire, a gentleman whose name I shall not mention, though it is held in most honourable memory in this House, said to me two days ago, casually in private conversation, that he was not at all sure that from his own point of view, and in his own interests, he would not be best advised to sell all his looms now for what they would fetch in India, rather than to wait for their value to be depreciated by the results which he believed would follow from this action of the Government. From what I have called the first point of view it may certainly be said that this duty will turn profit into loss. Lancashire has already been hit hard. For instance, in Blackburn itself no fewer than seventeen mills are closed to-day, and as a result of the ever-increasing production of the relatively finer counts in India there will be a constant encroachment upon Lancashire trade, at the cost of the worker in Lancashire and of the very poor consumer in India, while there will be an increase in the already gigantic profits of the Bombaymill-owners. Finally, there is a very important consideration which has not yet received in the country all the attention that, I think, it must ultimately receive. There was nothing in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State, or the Noble Lord the Under-Secretary, to the deputation, which was inconsistent with the proposal of a tariff in India that would cut out all Lancashire medium counts altogether, and similarly cut out in a large degree the product of many of our British industries equally. These speeches were a plain hint that those who made them were in favour of a complete Indian protective tariff.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
The hon. Member will perhaps allow me to say that I am accustomed to say what I mean, and he is not entitled to impute to me opinions which I disclaim, and which he can find in my words nothing to justify.
§ Sir H. NORMAN
I hope that I am not to be considered as saying anything personally disrespectful to the right hon. Gentleman. Nothing is further from my intention. All that I mean to say, and I think that I am justified in saying it, is that in my opinion, for whatever it may be worth, the argument which the right hon. Gentleman used would bear the interpretation that a protective tariff, such as I have described, would be justifiable. I am sure that there is no personal reflection in that statement.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I hope that the hon. Member will forgive me, but I thought that he was imputing that I deliberately used words to deceive.
§ Sir H. NORMAN
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will realise that I am incapable of such a thought about him. This is the briefest summary of the case from what I may describe as the first point of view. I believe that it is a sound case, a strong case and a case which upon economic principles and industrial facts is, in the language of the Prime Minister, an irrefutable case. But it is not the case upon which I desire to lay emphasis today. I base to-day my objection to the administrative act of the Government upon another point of view altogether, namely, the impropriety of the moment chosen for this action, and the unfairness of the way in which this has been done. In the first place, in believing that this issue would not be raised in this manner, Lancashire relied upon the promise of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I have several quotations from him before me, but as time is getting on I will only read one of them. It is from a speech delivered in Blackburn in April, 1910. The report says:Passing on to consider sonic of the grounds by which it was said Tariff Reform would injure the cotton trade, the speaker said he had been asked whether if they adopted Tariff Reform they would do away with the Excise system in India, in which their Lancashire goods went into India 1167 on equal terms with those which were produced in India. That seemed to him a very foolish question. The Government of India was now in the hands of the Secretary of State for India, who was responsible to the House of Commons. Pass Tariff Reform to-morrow, and it would be precisely the same. It would still be under the control of the House of Commons. Moreover, it had been stated by the Unionist Leader, who would take charge of this question when it came up, that he would not dream of doing away with the arrangement that gave Manchester workmen a footing of equality in the India market.Was this action under the control of the House of Commons? The right hon. Gentleman said that he would not dream of doing away with the arrangement that gave Manchester workmen a footing of equality in the India market. When he said that, he was not a Member of the Government or of a War Cabinet. But now when he is, he must have consented to do what he would not dream of doing then.
This is precisely the basis of our claim —that Lancashire relied upon the unanimous decision of the late Government that this issue would not be raised during the War. That decision has been overruled. How? Was it after consulting the leaders of the industry affected or after consulting this House, or even after consulting the other members of the Government representing Lancashire? Unless I am wrongly informed, the members of the Government representing Lancashire only learned of this decision from the newspapers. Suddenly—I hope I shall not be considered offensive again if I say furtively—by a secret administrative act, they presented us with an accomplished fact, and even then the Government did not announce it boldly, because I have read the statement —I do not know from my own knowledge—the other day in the "Manchester Guardian" that the news was conveyed to this country in a telegram so equivocal that, of all the newspapers in England, the "Manchester Guardian" was the only paper that realised its true significance. It is against the manner in which this was done, in which this grave controversy was suddenly raised, that we desire especially to protest. There has been a truce to political controversy. Every one of us Members of Parliament has loyally observed this truce. Suppose that I or any other Member had been so ill-advised as to go down to the constituency of the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for India and to make there a provocative speech upon Tariff Reform, or Plural Voting, or any other item of the 1168 old Liberal programme. It would have been said, and rightly said, that this was a breach,of an understanding among us that controversies involving differences of political views should not be raised during the War.
That is precisely what we say about the action of the Government to-day. I am sorry to say it, and I hope words like this will not be understood in a personal sense, but in a controversial sense, and, if it be possible, in a political sense, but I feel it, and, therefore, I am going to say it: the Government appear to me in this instance to have broken an engagement of honour. They have set a bad example to the country. They have departed from what I believe we private Members all understand to be the standard of conduct at this juncture. Of course, we are all very proud and very grateful for the magnificent work of India during the War. Everyone of us must have thrilled with pleasure at the moving and eloquent picture that the right hon. Gentleman gave of the services of the Indian princes and people during the War, but I think that one is entitled to ask was that really relevant to this issue? If so, will the leaders of India consider that they are in any way repaid by the additional profits of the mill owners in Bombay? Will the Indian villagers, who so lately drove out the agitators, find themselves recompensed by their shirting costing more? The right hon. Gentleman in his speech asked what the Government could have replied to India. It is not for me to say; I am only venturing respectfully to urge what they should not have done, but the right hon. Gentleman asked was it possible for the Government to say, "We accept this gift, but not upon your conditions." Suppose the proposal of India had been to raise a duty of 15 per cent., what would the Government have said? Would they have accepted that condition? Supposing that the Indian Government had raised the duty to 10 per cent., would the Government have accepted that condition? No; the condition they did accept was 7½per cent., and obviously the condition on which a gift is made, either in public or in private, is always open to friendly communication in such cases. Suppose, further, His Majesty's Government had said to the Government of India, "We consider you have a real grievance, and that the whole matter should 1169 be reconsidered at the earliest possible moment. But we agree with the unanimous view of the late Government that this moment cannot arrive till after the War, when the whole question of Imperial fiscal policy will be considered by an Imperial Conference and the House of Commons. We are in honour bound not to raise a highly controversial domestic issue now." I cannot help thinking that would have been a perfectly fair and friendly reply to make to the Government of India; it would have been a reply to which nobody in India could have taken exception, and nobody in this country would have taken exception.
No fresh argument has been adduced, so far as I can gather, either in the two deputations I have attended or in this House to-day. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of the "open sore" in India. It may or may not be an open sore—I will not say—but, if so, all that is done is to transfer the open sore to Lancashire. The Under-Secretary of State at the first deputation urged Lancashire "to do nothing now." Then why do the Government do it now? Then it is said, "Do not underrate the strength of Indian feeling." It is only fair to reply, on the other hand, do not underrate the strength of feeling in Lancashire. They speak of "the absolute disinterestedness of our rule." But is this disinterestedness to involve a heavy sacrifice on the part of Lancashire, without giving Lancashire or this House the opportunity of saying a word about it? I do not hesitate to say that such a situation would be impossible in any other Legislative Chamber in the world. I say again, without any personal charge in the matter, that it is not fair. If Free Trade is to be abandoned, and the Empire is to be organised upon a new fiscal basis—I am not saying at this moment whether it should be or not; I am only protesting myself most strongly against raising this most contentious issue at a moment when all our thoughts should be given to the War—then that must be done in the light of day, with a fair and square issue, and with all the cards upon the table. Such a step towards Protection should not be introduced in the guise of Indian patriotism. I hesitate to quote, in this connection, but it is difficult not to yield to the temptation, the words which fell from the right hon. Gentleman:India must not be exploited for the benefit of any political party at borne.1170 The Prime Minister asked the deputation yesterday what the Indian troops would think on their return if this boon were not granted. But what will they think on their return when they find that their shirtings and their dhoties cost more? What is worse, what will Lancashire operatives think, and what will the survivors "Lancashire Landing" think, when they find that places promised them are no longer open because the mills are closed? This is really a forced levy upon Lancashire for the Indian Loan, and I protest against Blackburn having to finance the patriotism of Bombay. We did not raise this question, and we regard it as intolerable that the Government should raise it, presenting us with an accomplished fact, and declaring that if we object we are imperilling our relations with India, and doing an unpatriotic act. The Government have thus deliberately diverted our thoughts from the one great issue, the successful prosecution of the War. I claim that the ground upon which we stand, the ground upon which Lancashire stands, is a ground of fairplay; it is an unassailable ground, it is a patriotic ground, it is an Imperial ground, and, for whatever happens we can say, in all justice, the Government alone is responsible. In conclusion, may I say one personal word? I hope I am as keen as any Member of this House in my desire to support any Government that is carrying on this War to a successful end. I have not mentioned politics since the War began. I have been in France since the beginning of the War, giving such help as my age and ability permitted. I did not imagine, like my hon. Friend who moved this Motion, that I should find myself voting against a War Government. But never, during the sixteen years I have been in the House, have I given a vote with a greater sense of responsibility, or a deeper conviction that it is a right one, than the vote for this Amendment that I shall give to-night.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
If there is a point upon which I am glad to say that opinion in this House—if it be divided in regard to the particular issue which has been raised by my two hon. Friends—is absolutely united, it is our hearty and grateful recognition not only of the pecuniary contribution which India now proposes to make for the purposes of the War, but the splendid and heroic services which all classes of that great community, from the 1171 highest to the lowest, in all parts of the Indian Empire, without distinction of class, or caste, or religion, have rendered, with a self-sacrifice and loyalty that I believe has few parallels in the history of the world. This House, speaking as they do in the heart and centre of the Empire as a whole, pay a willing and affectionate debt of gratitude to our Indian fellow-subjects for the magnificent way in which they have rallied to our Imperial cause. About that there will be no difference of opinion between us. It is therefore the more to be regretted that any note of discord should mar our recognition and gratitude. I am not going, in the few observations which I feel it my duty to address to the House, to discuss the merits or demerits of import duties or countervailing Excise. I adhere entirely to everything that was said in the speech which my right hon. Friend brought, I will not say to my recollection, but to my knowledge—a speech which I seem to have delivered twenty years ago, and which —as is not always the case with speeches dug up from the grave, where for the most part I am well content they should remain —seems to be instinct with good sense. I do not recede in any way from the opinions which I have expressed, but I must point out to the House that that is not the real issue, if issue there be, which can possibly divide us to-night. A year ago, or rather more than a year ago, the Indian Government, being then, I will not say in financial straits, but having some difficulty respecting their revenue and expenditure, proposed an increase in the Cotton Duty, together with a number of other changes in their tariff, some of which, as I freely admit, were of a protective character and which undoubtedly desired as my right hon. Friend knows, the abolition of the Excise altogether. It was a case in which the opinion of the Indian Government was of very great weight, because they were in a real state of financial necessity. The Government of that day, of which I was the head, after carefully considering the case for the Indian Government, which had been most ably presented and pressed by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in arguments some of which he has cited to-day, and the Memorandum of Lord Hardinge, which had been brought fully before us, 1172 decided, after full consideration in the terms which are set out in the telegram of the 26th of January, 1916, of which I will just read a few material paragraphs. My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in his telegram to the Viceroy, said:It was felt that the raising of this question at this moment would be little short of disastrous. It would provoke a fierce revival of old controversies here, and might prejudice the ultimate settlement of the larger issues raised by the War. The Cabinet feel that the fiscal relationship of all parts of the Empire and the rest of the world, must be reconsidered after the War, and desire, if possible, to leave the controversy raised by the Cotton Duty to be considered at the same time in connection with the fiscal policy of the Empire and the share, military and financial, taken by India in the struggle.That was the position taken up by the Government a year ago, and in my opinion it was a wise and sound position. Without going into the question which we did not go into then, and which I do not want to go into how, as to whether the Cotton Duties or an increase of the Cotton Duties was right or wrong, or whether any Excise or countervailing Excise is right or wrong, there can be no doubt that both those questions in all their aspects are in a high degree contentious. They are contentious both for historical and for practical reasons. In the first place, the moment you raise them, as we felt a year ago and as we see now, disturbance is certain to be created in the greatest of our export businesses, cotton manufacture, with all the other trades and interests whose prosperity is dependent upon trade relations with India. In the next place, quite apart from the special interests of Lancashire, and I think it is most unfortunate that this should be represented as a case between Lancashire and India, most unfortunate, and I cannot deprecate too strongly that in a matter of this kind what may be described as a sectional interest, either of the United Kingdom as a whole or of one part of the United Kingdom, should be arrayed, as it were, against what may be the sectional or local interests of any of our Dominions or parts of the Empire. Although it is perfectly natural that the case for Lancashire should be presented, as it has been presented to-night with very great ability by my two hon. Friends, I am sure they would entirely agree with me that when it comes to the time when the fiscal policy of India and of the other parts of the Empire is to be determined, 1173 it must be determined on much larger and wider and broader interests than the interests of any particular locality or any particular industry, whether in India or whether at home.
Whatever be the revenue - producing effect of a rise in the Cotton Duties without any corresponding change in the Excise it must have, I do not say whether it is intended to have or not, a protective effect. I do not say for a moment—and here I agree with my right hon. Friend—that quite apart from cotton India is free from imposts which are at any rate incidentally protective, and in regard to which the Import Duty is not balanced by any countervailing Excise Duty. Some of the duties we sanctioned last year were I think, undoubtedly of that character, though of course none of them anything so wide-reaching in effect or affecting anything like the same number of interests as these particular Cotton Duties. The Cotton Duty which is now proposed, the Excise being left unchanged, is undoubtedly a distinct step in advance, and a step of a very challenging kind, because as my hon. Friend who has just spoken has pointed out, this is a case in which the protection, or increased protection, is given not as against the foreigner but as against the Mother Country and one of our Allies, namely, the Empire of Japan. That is another reason for regarding any change of this nature as very controversial.
And, lastly, it was certain that any proposal of this kind would arouse, as it has aroused, the most acute controversy as to who it is who is ultimately going to benefit by the increase in the duty. Is it the native consumer who, primâfacie at any rate, has to pay a higher price for his clothing? Is it the workmen in the Indian mills? Do they get any advance out of this duty upon the admittedly meagre wages which they receive? Or is it the comparatively small class of mill owners and capitalist manufacturers who would be pro tanto more sheltered than they were before against their most formidable competitor? I do not dogmatise on any of those points in the least. I recognise as fully as anybody can the enormous complexity and difficulty of the matter, and I adhere, as I have said a few moments ago, entirely to the principle which I appear to have laid down twenty years ago, that this is a matter in which the interests of India ought to be dominating to those who, like 1174 ourselves, are trustees for the prosperity, the happiness, and welfare of the Indian people. I recognise that. All I would say is that such considerations which weighed with the Government a year ago, and which I think might have weighed with us still, point to the conclusion that a consideration of a matter of this kind, so thorny, so fruitful in possible and, indeed, in certain controversy, might well be reserved to the general view of our Imperial fiscal position which must be undertaken when the War comes to an end. Therefore, speaking for myself, I regret, and regret very much, that while the War is still going on the question should have been raised, with the result that in welcoming this magnificent contribution from our Indian fellow-subjects, there is in our acknowledgment to-day, and necessarily, a certain jarring and discordant note.
My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State in, if he will allow me to say so, a most cogent and able speech, with the tone and substance of which we shall all agree, and to which no one can take any reasonable exception, suggested that the situation was changed since last year, when the Cabinet came to the decision I have mentioned, by the fact that India, her financial position being assured, has: offered this contribution to the expenditure of the War. I am afraid I do not see my way altogether to agree with him. He says when a gift of this kind is presented to you you must take it as it is offered, and not haggle over it. As a matter of fact, as everyone knows, as we all know, a matter of this kind is a matter that had to be considered before any final proposition was made, by friendly discussion between the Government of India and the Secretary of State I do not know exactly what has taken place, but I cannot see myself any reason for thinking that there would have been any insuperable difficulty in pointing out to the Government of India, as we pointed out to them last year, that as much as possible their contribution should be made in such a form that it could be welcomed here without any kind of controversy or note of discord, even if that should involve some diminution in the total amount. I really cannot see why that could not be arranged without any difficulty in a discussion, carried on as it would be in the most amicable spirit on one side and the other, as between the representatives of the Imperial Government and the Government of India. 1175 Indeed, in one sense, the appeal made by the Government of India last year was a more cogent and a more stringent one than it is this year, for they were then asking for permission to raise the Cotton Duties in India on the ground of financial necessity, and there, of course, it was very difficult to say, "You must not do it, because you are raising controversial issues which ought to be postponed until the conclusion of the War." It does not seem to me that the same difficulty arises, or at least it is not so acute, when you are discussing what should be the amount of the contribution made as a free gift from India, in a most generous, and, if I may say so, filial spirit, towards the expenses of the Mother Country in this War. I, therefore, with all respect to the arguments of my right hon. Friend, do not think the fact that the question now arises, not in regard to India's financial exigencies of the revenue of the year, but in regard to this contribution, makes any difference so far as the inexpediency of introducing into the measure this controversial element is concerned.
But having said that—I hope in a fair spirit—I must add this, that when the House is asked to accept the Amendment which has been so ably moved and seconded by my hon. Friends, and which embodies, I am sure, a widespread, if not a universal, feeling in Lancashire and the surrounding parts of the country, there are one or two considerations to which I think I ought to call the attention of the House. In the first place, we have here in the House of Commons, strange as it may seem and unfamiliar as it is even to a great many Members here, no direct control of any sort or kind over the Indian Budget, and it is at least doubtful in my opinion—and I am sure my right hon. Friend has consulted the authorities—whether his Resolution is necessary at all.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I think not in point of law, but it was in point of Parliamentary honour, because of the statement made by the Under-Secretary.
§ Mr. ASQUITH
When I saw the Resolution I entertained very grave doubts, and I consulted my Friends, and I still entertain those doubts, whether any such Resolution was necessary at all. I think it is extremely doubtful, but whether that is so or not, the House of Commons has no power whatever to alter or readjust the 1176 items of taxation in a scheme which has been approved in the legislative council by the Viceroy. We have no power whatever to do it, and the increased duty is, I understand, now law. I suppose it has been made retrospective. It is at this moment being levied and collected, and it can only be put an end to by a repeal or an Amendment of the Act which authorises it. I suppose I am correct in saying that. What follows from that? We must have regard—and I venture to say this to my hon. Friends who represent Lancashire, with whom I am in very great sympathy in this matter—to the effect which would be produced in India if this House or this Parliament were to direct such steps to be taken. Could any course more readily lend itself to every kind of misrepresentation—ingratitude to India, subordination of Indian to English or local interests—the kind of misrepresentation which, above all things, it is desirable to avoid when, as now, we and our Indian fellow-subjects are jointly engaged in the prosecution of the War? A quarrel at such a time and under such conditions, or what looked like a quarrel, between India and the United Kingdom would be, to put it at the lowest, a deplorable misadventure.
We have preserved hitherto—and if I may venture to say it myself, I think, without undue presumption, I have laboured continuously now for two and a half years—national and Imperial unity, unity not only of parties in this country and in the United Kingdom, but unity of sentiment, of interest, and of action throughout the length and breadth of the British Empire. And with what magnificent results! Just look at what has been taking place during the last week or ten days, when a British Army, largely composed of our Indian fellow-subjects, but recruited from all parts of the Empire, after weeks and months of one of the most arduous campaigns in history, conducted on the part of the general with consummate skill and on the part of all officers and men who were with him with an endurance and fortitude which is beyond all praise, when this Army has entered the great historic city of Bagdad, which, second only to Constantinople itself, may be described as the key to the Eastern world. It would be indeed a sad thing at such a time if there was an avoidable appearance even of friction, or of misunderstanding, between India and 1177 this country. While, therefore, I am in the strongest sympathy, for the reasons which I have given, with those who hold that the exigencies of this War should not be taken advantage of—and they ought not to be taken advantage of—to prejudice or to compromise, as between us and India or as between us and any other part of the Empire, our future fiscal policy, and while I am as strongly of opinion as anybody in this House or out of it that it should be clearly understood, even in regard to the immediate question which is now in controversy, that it has not been closed down, I should be glad—and I throw out this suggestion to the Government, and I think it would make for unity and be in the interests of the Empire—if they would consent to add to their Resolution some such words as these:This House at the same time declares its opinion that such changes as are proposed in the Indian Budget in the system of Indian Cotton Duties should be considered afresh when the fiscal relationships of the various parts of the Empire to one another and to the rest of the world come to be reviewed at the close of the War.I think that will make it perfectly plain that, by the addition of those words at the end of the Resolution, what is being done, though it is now an accomplished fact, will not in the faintest degree prejudice or compromise the future. I think and I hope we might thus maintain and preserve not only the appearance but the reality of unity, which is the paramount Imperial consideration.
§ Sir J. RANDLES
I am quite sure that, after the words which have been addressed to the House by the Leader of the Opposition, Lancashire itself will be able to rise to the height of accepting the suggestion that has been made. It goes without saying that so far as the particular issue for Lancashire was concerned, there could only be one opinion in that county, namely, that the change was not desirable. But that was not the whole of the question, and that does not finish the controversy, and I myself for one believe that there is no part of the population of these islands which is more determined that the one thing that we should do at this time should be to win the War and to regard these questions from the point of view of winning the War than is Lancashire. It is the backbone of the resistance in these islands. It has sacrificed itself alongside of troops from India in France and Flanders. Its blood and its treasure are freely at the disposal of the Empire; and I am quite sure that Lancashire will be prepared, in view of what 1178 has transpired here to-day, to add one other to the sacrifices that it may think itself called upon to make in the interests-of our nation and our Empire. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment naturally desired to make a protest. and the deputation that waited upon the Secretary of State also desired to make a protest, but when we come to the terms of the Amendment that has been laid before the House, the Mover of it towards the latter part of his speech indicated pretty clearly that he cared little for his. Amendment, and that he would be quite willing that it should not be passed, or that it should be passed, as the House might desire. The Seconder of the Amendment made it quite plain that the Amendment was not the point at which he was driving, but that he was trying to make a protest against what was being-done; and, having made their protest. they seemed to leave the Amendment and its terms for slight consideration if not for complete indifference.
I myself believe that Lancashire, like India, is capable of taking a higher line than that of the purely material. I have some slight knowledge of India myself. It is folly for any man, on slight occasions of visits to India, to pose in any degree as an authority on India. But I did find out that there were two questions capable of arousing in India such public opinion as there is in that country to a fine pitch of heat, if not of excitement. When I was last there, these two questions were to the fore. One was the treatment of Indian subjects in other parts of the British Empire. In this the wise and sympathetic action of Lord Hardinge allayed what might have been a very dangerous and hostile agitation. The other question on which, so far as there is any public opinion in India, the people of that country, native or European were agreed upon, was this question of the Excise. It was, rightly or wrongly, regarded as an injustice done to India that these Excise duties were levied on cottons and on no other commodity; that because of the strong voice of Lancashire they were obliged to defer to the vote of the House in this country, and not have equality of treatment in respect of the Excise duties. They may have been wrong in their surmise. They may have been wrong in their method of approach to this question. But that there was that opinion, and that so far as there is public opinion in India it was all one way, there is no shadow of doubt.
1179 We have rejoiced time and again that greater deference was paid to the wishes of India in the Legislative Council, when native princes or persons in India have been added to that council, and that regard is being had to the desires of India as expressed through that Legislative Council. It was perfectly impossible with the unanimity there; with all the force, weight, and authority from India backing it up, that the Secretary of State should have turned down this proposal and should not have sympathised with, at any rate, the marked expression and desire of that great Empire to participate not only with their blood, but with their treasure in the sacrifice the Empire is expected to make. It is beside the question to bring in the points as to the protection or otherwise which will be afforded to their trade, and to their manufacturers of cotton. The great point with the people of that continent will be that in time of stress they offered to shoulder the burden of this large sum of money which must seem to the people of India a very handsome contribution to the expenses of the War in which we are engaged. I am quite sure that the speech to which we have listened to-day from the Secretary of State setting forth the services and the sacrifices of India, and those powerful words which have been addressed to us by the late Prime Minister, will make it clear, not only to this House, but certainly to Lancashire and to the whole Empire, that there is only one course which we can pursue at this time, that is gratefully to acknowledge the gift, adequately to express our appreciation of the sacrifices of India, and hopefully, from the practical standpoint of the future, so far as our local interests are concerned, to believe that Lancashire will still flourish, will still live, and will still find that India will be the best customer it has on the face of the globe.
The obligations of India to England are great. But they are great from this country to India, for we find there the most magnificent of markets in spite of all that has been said. In spite of what was said by the Mover of the Resolution on this point, there are large areas of the cotton trade which are unprotected from the protective point of view, and of what is proposed to be done. The finer counts of cotton are unaffected whether by Import duties or Excise duties. The coarse counts and the very coarse quali- 1180 ties of cotton are not in competition. I do not think that it is beyond the bounds of possibility, pending the conclusion of the War, and the Imperial policy that has to be designed, that there might issue a Commission from this country, consisting of a few representatives of Lancashire and a few representatives of India, who might, with a desire to agree upon a line of policy which will eliminate the protective nature of their duties on cotton goods, make it possible that some scheme should be devised which would meet the requirements, not only of India, but of Lancashire. With good will on both sides present at that Imperial Conference a scheme might be devised which would in no way hurt, but which would be helpful to every person, whether at home or abroad, in this great Empire. At this time we are still, I am convinced, perhaps prone in the House of Commons to give way too much to sectional and particular issues on questions of the kind. There are some Members of this House who may find that they desire to protest strongly against a particular line of action. Others may feel similarly on the Irish question, and others on matters like the Dardanelles, or agriculture, or other diverse questions. If we in this House, however, push our various contentions to an extreme issue, we are doing what I regard at this time as a positive injury to the Government. The first business of this House of Commons is to contribute in every possible way to the strength of the War Ministry, and to regard all these other questions from the war point of view. I believe that if we divide on questions of this kind, some day we may find ourselves, without intending it, going into the Lobbies on some question that is of very trifling importance as compared with the whole issue of the War, and giving a vote which will be really injurious in the eyes not only of our own people at home, but of our Allies and our great Dominions overseas. I think that the Mover and Seconder will be wise to withdraw their Amendment and to allow on this question a unanimous vote. The House should be amply satisfied by the suggestion of the late Prime Minister, which suggestion, I understand, the Secretary of State is prepared to accept, and which, I am sure, will conduce to the advantage not only of Lancashire, but of the whole Empire and of the great cause in which we are engaged.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Lloyd George)
I am sure the House will recog- 1181 nise the courage of the speech of the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, having regard to the fact that he represents an important constituency in an area which is the very centre of the protest against these particular duties. Before I come to the actual terms of the proposal suggested by my right hon. Friend opposite, I feel must say one or two words about certain things which fell from him in the course of his very eloquent and, if I may say so, high-minded speech. But I should regret very much if anyone were to go away under the impression, whether they thought we were right or wrong in the course we have adopted, that this is a course which has been wantonly pursued by the Government without due regard to all the considerations that ought to weigh with a Ministry which is conducting a great war. My right hon. Friend, in the course of his speech, stated, very fairly, that the first consideration when you come to weigh the equities of this case must be the interests of the population of India. I should not have thought there was any doubt at all in the minds of anyone that the first consideration was the interests of the hundreds of millions of people in India of whom we are the guardians and the trustees. By every canon of justice, fair dealing, and liberty, their interests should be paramount when you come to consider any of the fiscal matters directly affecting them. Is there, however, any doubt in the minds of anyone who knows anything about the opinion of the people of India as to what they think about this proposal? Without exception of class, creed, race, or nationality they accept this proposal as a measure of justice. If there were such a thing as a plebescite possible for the whole population of India, I have absolutely now no doubt, nor has anyone who knows anything about the opinion of India, how their votes would go.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Take all the great leaders of Indian opinion. Take the late Mr. Gokhale, who, I suppose, was the greatest Liberal reformer ever produced in India. He spoke repeatedly and strongly against these Excise duties. He made constant appeals to this country to repeal them. He was one of the very best friends that British rule ever had in India, and, speaking as a friend of Great Britain, and as one anxious that we should strengthen our hold upon the population of India, he never ceased to 1182 protest against the Excise Duty and to appeal for its abrogation. There was also a. Member of this House who was himself an Indian, and who sat here for years. He was, I think, a Member for a London constituency. I have heard him repeatedly speak strongly on this subject in this House. Take other Indian representatives. Take the native representatives on the Council of India. Take the Indian National Congress. Take every shade of Indian opinion. It is perfectly unanimous in its condemnation of the Excise duties which have been imposed, and in its demand that they should be repealed. So that there can be no doubt as to the view India would take in regard to the proposal put forward by my right hon. Friend. I therefore welcome the declaration made by my right hon. Friend that the interests of the population of India must be paramount in the consideration of this question.
The next point I should like to say a word or two upon is this. My right hon. Friend rather suggested that there were no altered circumstances that justified us departing from the decision we came, to last year. I was a party to that decision, I agree with him that at that time it was the only wise course to adopt. But the circumstances have changed very considerably—very considerably. There is no justification for embarking on this course unless it can be justified as a war measure. It may cause a good deal of mischief in a very important industry in this country, and there can be no justification for it except its urgency as a war measure. Let me tell the House in a very few sentences why the Government regarded this as an urgent war measure. We were inviting India, I will not say for the first time, to assist us to a special degree in the conduct of the War. We had, first of all, this great offer from India itself, which had a value much greater than the mere cash value, and that I will come to later on. There was the offer of £100,000,000, a substantial contribution when one considers the enormous burdens which this great War casts upon the shoulders of the people of this country. But it is a good deal more than that. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Churchill), in a series of speeches in this House, to some of which I have had the pleasure of listening, has constantly appealed to the present Government, and the late Government, to make a greater use of the man- 1183 power of India than they have done. There is absolutely no doubt that India could assist very materally in that respect, and we were making special arrangements with India from that point of view. We were also asking India to take a much larger share in the equipment and maintenance of our Armies. Here you have a great and gigantic Empire, in the East. The Empire is fighting for its life, and no man who looks at the facts can say for a moment that we have made the most of the enormous resources in that great Empire. We were taking special steps to enlist the resources of India, and to enrol and to utilise them for the purpose of the War. As to the steps that we are taking, I am sure the House will realise that it is quite impossible for me to go into that, and it would be a mistake if I were to dwell in too much detail upon the subject. But here were the special considerations. We were specially anxious to get the good will, the sympathy, the zeal, the enthusiasm of India, particularly at this moment.
My right hon. Friend, in one of the most eloquent passages in his speech, has described the share which India had in that great and resounding triumph which we have witnessed in Mesopotamia. But that is nothing to what India could do. More than that, it is nothing to what India is prepared to do. More than that, it is nothing to what India is anxious to do. I have met representatives from India who are in this country at the present moment, and I am assured that the House of Commons and the country have no idea of the eagerness of India to take part side by side with us and to do their share in this great struggle. We propose to offer an opportunity to India to make every effort to ensure the assistance of India, and we are taking special steps for that purpose. At this moment we thought, as a matter of policy, as a war measure, it was desirable that this great act of justice should be extended to India. And what has been the result? There has been no doubt about it that it has sent a thrill of enthusiasm right through that great Empire. I have no doubt we shall reap in abundance the harvest of this piece of justice, fair play, and equity which we have extended to the population of India. That is why we chose this particular moment. Here is a grievance which the whole population of India has been feeling, and feeling acutely.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
At any rate, here it is done now. It may be said it is a fact that the whole of the population of India has been demanding this measure of justice, and we have chosen this particular moment because we are anxious to ensure that the whole of the resources of the British Empire shall be mobilised for the purpose of winning a victory on which the life of the Empire depends. That is why we have chosen this moment to do it, and I thought it necessary, before I came to the suggestion put forward by my right hon. Friend, to make it clear that we have not provoked controversy in the middle of a great war If we had done so, we should indeed have justified all the condemnation all the criticism and censure which has been poured upon us; but we have done it because we thought as a war measure it was a real contribution to the effective prosecution of the War, and I think the House of Commons and the country will realise in a very short time what it does mean, what it portends, what it will lead to, and how it will help us materially in the prosecution of this great War. I cannot help thinking that the apprehension s of my hon. Friends the Members for Lancashire, who are naturally very anxious about the great industry upon which the prosperity of that county depends, arc-rather exaggerated, and I should rather like to call their attention to the fact that they expressed exactly the same fears when Sir Henry Fowler made his proposals? in 1895.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I was in the House on that occasion, and I certainly voted for Sir Henry Fowler's proposals. But I should rather like to read to the-House of Commons, and especially to call the attention of my Lancashire friends, to what Sir Henry James, who was not very extravagant in his language, said on that occasion about the effect of Sir Henry Fowler's proposals:There must be many loyal supporters of the Government who know how deep and true is the feeling in Lancashire on this question, and they can tell the Secretary of State for India that the demands they make upon him this evening are not the demands of capital working for the retention of inflated profits, or an attempt to secure great gains. On the contrary, they will tell him that this is a universal demand from the humblest men in Lancashire engaged in the trade whose prosperity is thus threatened, fearful of a time, perhaps not far remote, when the streets of busy 1185 Lancashire towns may be deserted, when mills may be closed and looms silent, and when they will search in vain for means to earn their daily bread.That was what Sir Henry James gave as a picture of the result of Sir Henry Fowler's duties in 1895.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend is quite wrong. The only thing that happened then was that there was a duty, it was true, for the poorest of the population. Surely no one means to suggest that is what made all the difference. Everybody knows that since then the trade of Lancashire with India has gone up by millions, and it has been going up steadily, and I am only quoting that in order to show that my hon. Friends may even now be exaggerating their fears with regard to what will happen in Lancashire. Should it turn out that they are correct, should it turn out that their apprehensions are realised, it is neither the interest of India nor of any part of the British Empire to destroy this great trade in Lancashire, which is one of the greatest assets of the Empire. It was the intention of the Government, and I said so yesterday when I had the pleasure of meeting a deputation of Lancashire Members, to consider the whole of the trade relations of the Empire, and, amongst others, the trade of India with Great Britain, and the trade of Great Britain with India, and the whole of these circumstances would have to be taken into review. That was the suggestion which I put before my hon. Friends yesterday, and my right hon. Friend has put that suggestion in the form of an Amendment. He has asked whether we would have any objection to the addition of these words:
"This House at the same time declares its opinion that such changes as are proposed in the Indian Budget in the system of Indian Cotton Duties should be considered afresh when the fiscal relationships of the various parts of the Empire to one another and to the rest of the world come to be reviewed at the close of the War."
Certainly. Not only have we no objection to it, but it was exactly what I put before my hon. Friends yesterday. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that that gives such pleasure to my hon. Friends from Ireland. My right hon. Friend said so in his speech to-night. If, 1186 by putting these words at the end, by-adding that proposal to the Motion which he has put before the House—if that will be acceptable, certainly we should not only have no objection, but should welcome the addition of these words. I do not know whether I should be in order, but I should certainly accept the responsibility of moving the addition of these words.
§ Captain A. SMITH
No one regrets more than I do having to speak against the Government on this question. We have heard from the Prime Minister that what was wanted for India was justice and equity. We heard from the hon. Baronet opposite that we ought to lift this matter on to a high plane and not to discuss it from a material point of view. I agree with every word that the Secretary for India, the late Prime Minister, and the present Prime Minister have said with regard to the part played by India during this War. But how is this question affected now that we are at War I It has been truly said that this is not a Lancashire question and that it is a large question which affects the Empire as a whole. This is a question which affects not only Lancashire, but four or five counties adjacent to it as well as the West of Scotland. I want to place before the House the position of the cotton trade in Lancashire as it is now after two and a half years of war. The weaving sheds of Lancashire have been an open recruiting ground for the Army, and nearly the whole of the men of military age have been taken from the weaving looms. There has been no question of certified occupations, and although the women who have returned to work in addition to performing their household duties have worked magnificently there are thousands upon thousands of looms standing idle in Lancashire today, and all that is lost to those engaged in the trade.
In addition to that, there are freight charges, insurance, and war risks which, prior to the War, was 4 per cent. from Manchester to India and now it is 8 per cent., or 100 per cent. more than it was before the War. In addition to that there is the high price of cotton and all materials connected with the trade, and all this has to be taken into consideration. All these heavy charges which the trade have to bear have had a detrimental result. Blackburn, which is represented by the Seconder of this Motion, is the centre of 1187 the Indian cotton trade. What happens in Blackburn? There are at the present time eight weaving sheds in Blackburn which used to do nothing else but the Indian trade, and they are all standing idle at. the present moment. In addition to this there are eleven or twelve mills standing idle in the same town, and 30 per cent. of the weaving machinery in Blackburn to-day is stopped not altogether for want of labour, but because they cannot see how they can get on with the increased charges that the employers have to pay owing to the War. Take the operatives' standpoint. They have received since the War began 10 per cent. increase in wages, but the cost of the necessities of life has increased more than 50 per cent., and they have recently been considering the desirability of asking for another increase of wages. There is 4 per cent. put on any increased war charges owing to freightage and insurance, and there is also an Indian duty of 4 per cent. upon all goods imported into India. Mill stores are higher by more than 100 per cent., and in some cases 200 per cent., than they were prior to the War, and if this new proposal is not going to injure the Lancashire cotton trade, I cannot see how it is going to do it any good.
At the first interview we had with the Secretary of State for India he attributed a great deal of ignorance upon Indian matters to the members of the deputation, but on that deputation I do not think there was a single man who had not been in the cotton trade the whole of his life. There was on the deputation a gentleman from India who was on one of his periodical visits to this country; he has been in the Indian trade all his life, and he says the Bombay mills paid a dividend of over 50 per cent. last year, and in the jute trade they paid 130 per cent. dividend for the last year. They are flourishing now, while in Lancashire they are actually pulling down looms to be exported to India because the loom makers are not in a position to make new looms. Recently I have spoken to the chairman of a large loom-making concern, and he tells me that they have been obliged to refuse an order to make 2,000 looms for India. The men who have left the cotton trade have been promised their looms back again, and they have been told that everything possible will be done for them when they return. I would like to know from the Secretary of State for India whether that promise was 1188 taken into consideration when the Government agreed to this 4 per cent. duty? I should also like to know who were the more ignorant of the cotton trade, the Secretary for India or the members of the deputation to whom he referred? It is no! use telling us to make coarser yarn because that proposition will not work. It frequently happens that work is substituted of a better quality to the extent of a few counts every week in the cotton trade. The process of manufacture after the cotton leaves the grower and the spinning wheel before it becomes an article on the market is rather a delicate matter, Can anyone say that a 4 per cent. duty on the woven cloth is not going to have any effect on the market? The position of Lancashire is getting worse every day, and this 4 per cent. duty will only accentuate the difficulty, while the position in Bombay is better than it has ever been before, so far as cotton is concerned.
I do not for the life of me see why the Lancashire cotton trade should be singled out in this way. We are opposing this in Lancashire not on account of any greediness or selfishness, and I do not want hon. Members to run away with that idea. If you can make the poor working man in India, referred to by the Prime Minister, richer by this 4 per cent. duty on Lancashire, or upon the whole cotton goods of the world and put it on to the coolies' wages, Lancashire will not say a word against it, because, if you increase the spending power of the poor of India, Lancashire would be satisfied, but the Indian Government are not going to get the whole benefit of this 4 per cent., because, first of all, the Bombay manufacturers and merchants are going to have something to say with regard to the allocation of the result of this 4 per cent. duty. It was stated to the deputation that an Excise Duty was being put on for the first time in India. If that is meant to recoup the Government for putting on a 4 per cent. duty they will be greatly mistaken, because it cannot be got through an Excise Duty, and it must be got through the ability to buy. If the native cannot buy a cheap quality he will have to buy less of a dearer cloth, and that will mean that there will be less cloth going into the Indian market and less will have to be made.
It is assumed very lightly by a great body of people that it is very easy to change from one market to another in the 1189 cotton trade. There never was a greater mistake than that, because the people who have been brought up to one particular trade develop it to a very fine point, and they get so expert at it that anyone who tries to compete with them finds a very great task, and they must invariably lose a great amount of money before they can succeed. It has been stated that 4,500 members belonging to the Manchester Cotton Exchange voted against these duties. May I point out that yesterday the chairman of the Manchester Exchange, speaking at a meeting of the shareholders, said that the figure was wrong, and that there was 5,500 against 10,000, and not 4,500. He also slated the membership of the Exchange at Manchester was 1,800 less than it was last year, on account of the War. We have tried to keep as many of these men in Lancashire as we possibly could, but if the exchange is losing these men at the rate of 1,800 in a year, if looms are standing idle in increasing numbers, and additional expense is going to be, put upon the manufacturers, it is only common sense to conclude that the cotton trade cannot stand this kind of thing for ever. I am sure that they cannot stand much more of this kind of thing. What has been proposed is a great mistake; in fact, I might call it a blunder. My view is that the Government know they have made a blunder, and they did not think that such an agitation would have been aroused on a question of this character. I know the feeling of the cotton operatives on this question, and even Tariff Reformers and Protectionists cannot find any argument why anybody should attempt to put an impost of 4 per cent. on any trade in this country at the present time for the purposes of revenue. I suppose they will accept the suggestion made by the Prime Minister, and probably they will find various excuses and say, "Well, it is on now, and it must remain." We would rather, however, go on as we are now. Why cannot an arrangement be made for the repayment of the contribution by so much less per year and let the tax stop as it is now?
You cannot persuade the Lancashire workman otherwise than that this £100,000,000 has been accepted, and that he is going to pay for it. All the eloquence of the Prime Minister or of any other member of the Government will not convince him otherwise. After all that has happened in the last two and a half 1190 years I am as willing and as anxious as anybody to win this War, and nobody is prepared to make bigger sacrifices than I am, but I cannot and will not turn my back on those people whose husbands and whose boys have gone away from their looms and agree to this 4 per cent. duty or any scheme that can be devised to modify the imposition. I could not conscientiously do it. They do not deserve it. They have never asked for it. They were never consulted. If they had been consulted it would never have been imposed, and there would not have been this trouble. Those people have made sacrifices as splendidly as anyone. The way they have gone with all the Lancashire regiments to all the various fronts has been something which has never been exceeded in the history of this country. I will not turn my back on those who are left behind. I shall be there when they come back, and I shall do all I can to make them amends. I would not like one of the difficulties with which we shall have to contend to be a duty put on Lancashire during the time that they have been fighting for their country.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I think my first word ought to be one of protest against the deserted condition of the Front Bench when an important matter like this is under discussion. I would have been quite content to have left the statement of the case after the speeches of the hon. Members who have spoken on its behalf were it not for the new phase that the discussion has taken after the speech of the late Prime Minister, ending, evidently, very much to the surprise of the Government, with the suggestion that he put forward. I rise for the purpose of saying a very few words about the extraordinary speech of the Prime Minister. If he and the Secretary of State for India had been present I would have suggested to them that it would have been well if they had taken counsel together as to the course each should follow in this Debate. If they have time and take the trouble to read their respective speeches to-morrow morning they will find a complete mass of contradiction. The case was supported by the one Minister with arguments which were wholly destructive of those put forward by his colleague.
The Prime Minister began his speech with an observation with which I heartily agree. He said that in the consideration of this question the interests of India ought to be paramount. In one respect I am in an unfortunate position in taking 1191 part in this Debate, because I happen to represent a Lancashire constituency, and a constituency which is more vitally interested in this matter than any other town in the country. In normal times the town of Blackburn employs 42,000 people in its weaving sheds, and 75 per cent. of that trade is with the Indian market. Therefore I can quite understand that I naturally lay myself open to the suspicion that I am speaking as an interested representative. I want to assure the House that is not the case. If I believed that these new import duties would be beneficial to the people of India, then I should not oppose them. I thoroughly endorse an appeal that was made in one of our leading London journals this morning to remember that India has not representative government, and that therefore we have a great responsibility for the well-being of the people of India. I look at this question mainly from the point of view of how this new impost is going to affect the countless millions of voiceless Indian people. I can quite consistently oppose these proposals on behalf of the people of India and on behalf of the cotton trade of Lancashire, because I believe that in this respect their interests are identical. I believe that in promoting the interests of Lancashire in this matter we are promoting the interests of the low-paid, poor, and poverty-stricken people of India.
What are the reasons put forward by the Prime Minister in support of these import duties'? We were reminded by my colleague who shares with me the representation of Blackburn (Sir H. Norman) that the Prime Minister stated to a deputation yesterday that the case of those who are opposing these duties is irrefutable. What did the Prime Minister say to us this afternoon? He told us that the opinion of India, from the highest to the lowest, is unanimous in deprecating the continuance of the Excise Duties. The right hon. Gentleman talks about the voice of India and about the opinion of India. What does he mean by the opinion of India? Why I venture to say that nine-tenths of the people of India have never heard of the Excise Duties. They know nothing of the Excise Duties. We have heard a great deal this afternoon about the benevolent results of British Government in India. I know that we have done something to improve the lot and condition of the Indian people, but what is their condition to-day? Ninety-five per cent. of the Indian people are illiterate. If 1192 the Government had wanted to confer some benefit on the people of India, and if we had wanted to show our appreciation of the great services which India has, rendered to the Empire in this time of crisis, then we might have done something to improve the education and the general social condition of the Indian people. When the Prime Minister talks about the voice of India, the opinion of India, and the people of India being united in opposition to the Excise Duties, which I may say I look upon as being a regrettable necessity, so long as the duties are continued upon imported cotton goods—I would like to see both the Excise Duties and the Import Duties on cotton swept away altogether, and I believe it would result in very great benefit to the people of India who have to consume these articles—he really means the Government of India, the riding classes of India, the rich Bombay manufacturers and capitalists who are going to gain by this duty. The Secretary of State for India said that for many years these Excise duties upon cotton goods had been causing irritation in India. I believe it was the Prime Minister himself who said that they were a running sore. It is not proposed to repeal the Excise Duty. The Excise Duty of 3½ per cent. will still remain. The running sore will still be open. Indian opinion is not appeased by what the Government are now proposing to do. We are told that we ought not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, but I think we are justified in looking a gift-horse in the mouth when we have a suspicion that it is useless and that if we accept it we are going to be put to the expense of keeping it.
I do not want to depreciate, or to appear to be lacking in gratitude for this magnificent offer India has made, but still, we must not be blind to all the conditions which are attached to it and to the circumstances which surround it. We must remember that for a long time there has been a powerful demand among the Indian cotton manufacturers for protection against Great Britain for their goods, and they have seized this opportunity. They have taken advantage of this gift of India in order to gain what the late Prime Minister told us in the opinion of the Government twelve months ago would be a disaster to India. What the present Prime Minister agreed twelve months ago would be a disaster to India is a war necessity to-day. It is an act 1193 of justice to-day. If it is an act of justice to-day it would have been an act of justice twelve months ago. Then it would have been a disaster to India to confer that act of justice upon them. That is not the only inconsistency in the Prime Minister's speech. He has accepted the suggestion of the late Prime Minister, and, if the forms of the House permit it, that suggestion will be added to the official Resolution. The whole thing is to be reconsidered after the War. That is one more pledge. Those who still attach the slightest value to any pledge made by the Government in these days may be quite content to attach value to it But we do not know that this Government will be in office when the War is over. We do not know that they will have any responsibility or any power in connection with the arrangement of fiscal questions after the War.
The real reply to this suggested Amendment is this, that if we are to accept these import duties now, we are prejudicing the consideration of this question when the general question of Imperial fiscal policy comes to be decided. If there be one thing in the question of the imposition of duties which carries with it a strong lesson it is the experience that when once a protective duty has been given to any particular class of manufacturers it is extremely difficult to get rid of it. Of this we may be quite certain: if we agree to the imposition of these new duties now we shall not get them repealed when the War is over. The appetite of the Indian manufacturers will have been whetted, and they will demand, and they will probably be supported in that demand by other parts of the Empire as well as by certain political parties in this country, still further measures of protection. India already possesses considerable advantages in the matter of factory legislation. The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India referred to a deputation which waited on Lord Morley, a deputation which, he said, was ruled out of court because there was no connection between the questions of Cotton Duties and factory legislation for India. I beg to differ altogether from that view. I say there is a most intimate connection, and that the absence of factory legislation is a sort of negative protection for the Bombay manufacturer.
He has a good many advantages not enjoyed by Lancashire. He uses home- 1194 grown cotton, and therefore does not have to bear the cost of transport to and from India. And he has very great advantage in the absence of factory legislation. [An HON. MEMBER: "No, no!"] I mean factory legislation comparable with factory legislation in this country. Such legislation cannot be said to exist in India. I should be sorry if I conveyed an impression that there was no factory legislation in India. What I say is that factory legislation comparable with that which obtains in this country is practically non-existent in India. There the hours of labour are considerably longer, running from twelve to fifteen per day. The wages are very much lower—5s. to 7s. 6d. per week—and that would not be possible or economic were it not the fact that the Bombay cotton manufacturers have practically an unlimited supply of labour. In a country like this a policy of low wages and long hours, combined with the absence of factory legislation, would be self destructive in the course of a generation. But these are advantages which India has, and that they are real advantages is proved by the profits which are made out of the Indian trade. The hon. Member who preceded me spoke with a lifelong knowledge of the Lancashire cotton trade, and he told us that it is worked on a very small margin of profit. Why, a dividend of 10 per cent. in Lancashire mills is regarded as something quite extraordinary! I am told that this branch of the trade is worked at a lower profit than any other branch of industry. But in India the profits made in this trade go up to 50 per cent. and in sonic cases 100 per cent.
Here is one thing which the Government of India can do to improve the lot of the Indian people. Instead of protecting the lot of the Bombay manufacturers still further, let them take some of these profits in order to improve working conditions. I said I supported the Amendment as much in the interests of India as in the interests of Lancashire, and I do it because I know that this means an increase in the cost of necessaries of life to the Indian people. The right hon. Gentleman was once identified with a movement which laid it down that it was the foreigner who had to pay import duties. But in this case Lancashire happens to be the foreigner. I am not a believer in that theory. I do not believe the foreigner will pay except in one respect. He will pay, of course, by the loss of his trade. But it is upon the Indian people that prices 1195 will be raised, and the Bombay manufacturers are going to get this additional advantage: What is going to happen under this arrangement is that you are going to swell the profits of the Bombay cotton manufacturer, and it means that in the home markets they will be able to raise their prices by 4 per cent., which is the equivalent of the duty that will be put on Lancashire goods entering India.
We have had a doleful picture painted of what is going to happen to Lancashire under these new duties. I frankly confess I do not agree with some of the extravagant statements which have been put forward. I think the case of Lancashire Is sufficiently strong to be supported by real facts and that imagination is not necessary. We have always heard these tales when any fresh step is going to be taken. At the time the Ten Hours Bill was under discussion we were told that the reduction of hours in the cotton trade would ruin the industry. We were told the same thing during the agitation regarding the 12 o'clock stop. But there is a very real difference between reforms of that character affecting trade and such a proposal as this regarding the Customs Duty. After all, a reduction in the hours of labour means increased efficiency in labour, and that is real economy. The same thing cannot be said of the proposal to increase the Customs Duty. I am not one of those who say that the imposition of these duties will result in the closing down of all mills, although it will seriously affect branches of the trade and certain localities. There is no doubt about that. But I understand that what Lancashire fears is, not so much what will happen to-morrow or next month or next year, but what this change will ultimately lead to. They fear it is the beginning of a system of protection for the benefit of the Bombay manufacturers to the detriment of the Indian people and to the disadvantage of Lancashire. An analogy has been drawn between the protective systems of our Colonies and Protection for India. But no real analogy is possible. If India had representative Government; if it were a democratically governed State and if it were to come to us and say, "We desire a protective duty on certain goods," as has been said by Canada and Australia, we might not like it, but we should bear with it.
The Labour party in this country and the great trade union movement has cer- 1196 tain obligations in this matter. At the last Trade Union Congress a resolution was passed protesting against the importation of sweated goods into this country. Of course that referred mainly to sweated goods from foreign countries. But still they are opposed to the manufacture of goods under sweating conditions in any part of the Empire. Lancashire is not afraid of competition—indeed it welcomes competition, but it likes that competition to be fair. I did not intend, when I rose, to make these observations. I rose mainly for the purpose of dealing with some of the strange contradictions in the speech of the Prime Minister. I attach not the least importance to the Amendment, or rather the suggested Amendment, which the Government is willing to accept. It seems to me there can be no compromise on this question. An impression has undoubtedly been created in the country that certain members of the Government formerly prominently identified with the Tariff Reform agitation have taken advantage of this opportunity in order to give effect to some scheme which they are anxious to see adopted. Whether that be so or not, I do not know, but, at any rate, that is the impression. As far as I am concerned I am not moved by this new proposal. I shall not support the Amendment suggested by the Government, and if there be but one other Member of this House willing to go to a Division, a Division there will be. We may not succeed in turning out the Government.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
There have been Governments before, and there will be Governments after this. The Government will have the support of their well-disciplined followers in the Division Lobby this evening But this question will not be decided to-day here by a Government victory in the Lobby. The agitation will be taken from the floor of this House to the country, and I know I am expressing the determination of practically the whole of Lancashire and of men of all political parties, of employers and of workmen alike, when I say that this agitation will be vigorously continued until a settlement is reached—a settlement which will do justice alike to this country and to the millions of Indians for whom we have a sacred responsibility.
§ 8.0 P.M.
I feel that I must correct one or two of the remarks which 1197 have fallen from the hon. Member for Blackburn (Mr. Snowden). He has given the House a picture of the great profits made by the Bombay millowners, and he tried to show that profits of 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. were normal profits. I have some knowledge of, but no interest in, the Bombay cotton industry, and what he said is quite untrue. We must not take war profits only. If we did we might find industries in England making 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. profit. In a matter of this kind we do not want to mislead people, but to get at the facts. If you take the year preceding the War—I have obtained the figures in a hurry, but I am confident they are correct from my knowledge of the person who gave them to me—you will find that for 1912–13 the average profits made by the weaving mills in Bombay were 10 per cent., and by the spinning mills 6 per cent. The previous year they were 1 per cent. more than that. I believe that those figures are approximately accurate. We must remember that, in addition, the price of money is considerably higher in India than in England. By considering these facts you will get a truer picture of the profits made by the Bombay mills than that presented by the hon. Member for Blackburn, in good faith, I have no doubt. Anyone who knows the Indian cotton industry knows that while large profits are sometimes made, as they are in every industry, it is a very fluctuating trade indeed, often shattered by plague and ruined by famine, and that there have been as many large fortunes lost in the Bombay cotton industry as fortunes have been made. I have not had the pleasure of listening to the hon. Member for Blackburn for two and a half years. I usually disagree with him, but I always like to listen to him. I was surprised to hear him use the arguments he did with regard to the helplessness of India in deciding her own fiscal affairs. It is inconceivable that we in an Imperial Parliament should adopt the line he suggested. He said that if Canada wants to put on a duty against her imports, we bear it. Yes, because we have to bear it. And he says that in India, because we have the power and they have no representation except through the Secretary for State in this House, and because the peoples of India are speechless, for that reason we are to do as we like, not as they like.
The national speakers at National Congresses are not quite voiceless yet, although they are nearly voiceless. Apart from that point, we have to follow such trend of Indian popular opinion as we can snatch by listening to it rather than following the dictates of any one industry in England.
§ Mr. MONTAGU
I am only anxious to know how far the hon. Member carries his argument. Does he confine it to a motion on Customs and Excise Duties or extend it to all resolutions passed at Congresses?
I go a very long way. I am one who believes that India, in the very near future, will have a great deal more liberty of government. I wish to see it. I also agree with the hon. Member for Blackburn in saying that this is the beginning of a great change, but I am not. against it for that reason. India is on the verge of a big industrial development. In the future, when she has acquired the power to do what she likes with regard to her own fiscal policy, as she will have before another twenty-five years are out, are you always going to say to India, when she has created a large industrial population, that she must be checked whenever it comes into conflict with any one industry in this country? That is not a possible policy, and the sooner it is abandoned the better. Even if this Duty—this objection I believe to be absolutely frivolous—is going to injure slightly or result in smaller profits for Lancashire, I should still take the same view. Where will you be led if you are going to follow the Manchester policy in this respect? Millions of pounds have been spent on the steel industries in India, which have been of great value to us in this War. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] They have been of great value to us in the War and will be of greater value in the future. If India wanted some protection for those steel industries, are we, because it would conflict with the interests of our steel industry in this country, to say "No," and allow her steel industry to be crushed? History gives us no uncertain lessons of what happens when a country is governed solely on the basis of self-interest.
A far better conception of our duty with regard to India is to encourage, by every possible means, her industrial development on fair and sound lines. We shall be doing far better for our own industries in this country by taking such 1199 measures as we can to assist her industries before she has power herself to force us to accept the tariff which will then be hostile to our industries. If we to-day take a large and generous view of her future and industrial development, before long we shall share in that development, and in the riches India will create by her own genius and her own energies. In conclusion, I believe that, far from damaging the interests of Lancashire by taking this step, in two or three years time it will be shown that this was one of the most statesmanlike measures passed by this House, and we shall have a clearer vision than is possessed by a good many people of the consequences. I have often spoken to Indians who understand the question thoroughly, and they have told me that if we persist in our attitude and do nothing to allay the suspicions of our attitude they have in regard to this question, when the day comes and they possess the power to retaliate, we shall find that we shall share not at all in the advantages we might have had if we had chosen. No one who has seen what the Indian troops have done for us in this War, who have seen their gallantry and devotion and who know the sacrifices they have made, can consider this an inexpedient moment to give a proper and fitting reply and to make an advance towards Indian opinion. It will be found throughout the length and breadth of India that the step taken by the Government to-day will receive the most cordial welcome and assent.
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am afraid that the people in Blackburn to-morrow will learn with some astonishment that their hon. Member, the representative of that democratic constituency, has dwelt in this House upon the great advantages the Indian mills have in being able to work for unconscionably long hours, and in getting rid of those troublesome bodies, trade unions. For my part, I have been the servant of a bureaucracy for a quarter of a century, and I have never heard so autocratic a speech as that of the hon. Member (Mr. Snowden). I have never heard the law laid down by any official in the Council of India in the manner in which the hon. Member laid it down to-day. I did not rise to criticise the hon. Member, but I cannot help pointing out, when he denies that there is any representation of India or any public opinion in India, that he is throwing overboard all 1200 the efforts made by all the Liberal statesmen here, including Lord Morley, to bring about a representation of India. He is also throwing over all the able representatives of public opinion there, who are very able men. He throws them all over, and says, "There is no representation whatsoever of India: I am the representative of India. I, the hon. Member for Blackburn, can state what is the public opinion of India, therefore I am in a position to vote upon this subject." I hope I shall not be saying anything that is unparliamentary, but the arrogance of that statement is extreme, and does not lead one to suppose that the hon. Member is as right as he says. He asks, "Are the people of India not to be the judges in this matter?" By every representative they have, they have approved of this measure. They will not stand a further increase of the countervailing duties, and they are quite right. I occupy the unique position of being the only Member of this House who voted for these countervailing duties, so that if there is a white sheet to be worn, I must wear it.
Perhaps I may be allowed to explain the position. In 1906, in the Council of India, practically constraint was put upon the official members to vote for the countervailing duties. I most regretfully voted for them, because India was a part of a fiscal system in an Empire which, as a whole, professed the doctrine of free imports or Free Trade. It occurred to me that they must fall into line; therefore the demand of Lancashire for a countervailing duty was not, in the circumstances, altogether unjustifiable. Not only do I regret having voted in that way, not only did I support strongly the present proposal, but I believe that every official member like myself—the Council then consisted of a few members representing vast constituencies and vast Presidencies—if he were here to-day, would explain that he voted as I did, practically under official constraint, and that he knew then, as all unprejudiced people must know now, that the duties were intensely unpopular in India, as they always have been. They regard it as a badge of inferiority that they should be imposed upon them; they believe them to be unfair in principle, unfair in incidence, and they long for the day when they can be abolished. Therefore it is surely a great day in the history of India and a proud day for those who have fought for this to find that now that the Import Duties are raised, no 1201 corresponding increase in the countervailing duties has been made, by which, as I take it, the principle is admitted that the countervailing duties are not just or reasonable, and we may fairly look, I think, on the next occasion for their total disappearance, which I for one shall as heartily welcome as any of the representatives of public opinion in India. Then the hon Member (Mr. Snowden) said why was not this done twelve months ago. For a very excellent reason. The finances of India did not admit of this subvention of £100,000,000, in connection with which the present measure is taken. The hon. Member dwelt upon the low wages which the mill owners in India pay. Again the people of Blackburn will be surprised to hear what a great advantage it is to have low wages. So great an advantage is it to pay something less than a living wage that Lancashire cannot compete with manufacturers who possess that great advantage. So that low wages, long hours, and no trade unions are the most important factors in industrial competition. I think it is an amazing position for a Radical Member to take up. Again, he said there ought to be an excess Profits Tax. I believe it is being imposed. I understand that at the present a proposal is before the Legislative Council for the levying of an Excess Profits Tax, so that what the hon. Member says in that respect will shortly be corrected.
Then, in regard to the speech of the Prime Minister, I think he did not take into account that one result of this measure will be that the poor man in India will get his cloth cheaper than he did before. It is upon that ground that the leaders of public opinion in India chiefly welcome this. I believe it too. I believe they will be cheaper than before. There is no competition in regard to the coarser counts of cotton, of which alone such clothes are made, and so far as I am capable of understanding the situation the result will be that the clothes worn by the millions of the country will be cheaper than they were before, and that is evidently the belief of all the leaders of the Congress, and of other leaders of native opinion, because that is the ground upon which they have always protested against countervailing duties. I am perfectly well aware that it is difficult to dogmatise on a matter like that, and many opinions are held as to the result of the duties, but evidently the opinion which I am expressing is that which is 1202 held by the leaders of the Congress and the other leaders of public opinion in India. Then, even as regards Lancashire, is opinion so unanimous as it is represented to be? What about the makers of cotton machinery? Will they not profit? They are a very great factor in Lancashire. Will they not largely profit by the extension of the cotton industry in the Bombay Presidency and elsewhere? I think they will. We have not heard anyone speak for them to-day, and I cannot claim to do so, but I should like to have an answer to that question. I doubt whether they would agree with the position put forward by the representatives of Lancashire. The practical effect of the Amendment is "let us take the money, but let us not allow the Government of India to provide for the necessary charges in order to give us the money." It says it regrets that provision for making the charges is made by an alteration in the established system of duties on the cotton goods. But the hon. Member did not say what alternative he proposed. It is extraordinarily difficult to find alternative taxation in India. I was on the Council of the Governor-General for four years, and it was allowed by men of all schools to be a matter of the utmost difficulty to find any method of raising taxation. I believe they have adopted the best, probably the only method open to them, and surely they are better judges of what is on is not an unnecessary burden on the people of India and whether it is a burden on them, than the hon. Members from Lancashire who moved the Amendment.
A good deal has been said about the use that is to be made of India in future. I sincerely hope that opportunities will occur and means will be devised of making use of the superabundant loyalty of India, and turning to greater account the population we have there. That it will be a very easy matter I do not believe, but the desirability of associating all classes, castes, and peoples in India with us to the utmost extent at present requires, I think, no proof from anyone. I was speaking just now of the effect of this new tariff on the coarse cloths. One effect it will have will be to put a spoke in the industrial wheel of Japan, which has come in to supply these coarse cloths which Lancashire does not. If the result of the action taken is to preserve to India trade which is being taken by Japan, I shall not regret that, although Japan is 1203 an honoured Ally. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Montagu) looks as if he is going to demolish my contention as to what the future price of these cloths will be, and how this measure will affect it. I shall be glad if he will also deal with the effect of the measure upon the great and increasing competition of Japan in these very coarse counts which are not affected by competition with Lancashire. Any argument in detail is practically unnecessary, because the ground has already been covered, but one point which has not been mentioned is the consideration whether some difference of import duty in respect of the foreign made or foreign exported goods should not be imported into an arrangement like this, and that. I hope, will receive attention when the settlement comes after the War of this and other connected questions. It has been stoutly denied by several speakers that the cotton trade had any advantage in India over the other trades of England, but not one hon. Member who has made that statement has referred to any single trade for the benefit of which a countervailing duty has been imposed in India, and until that is done I really think statements to that effect must be regarded as merely academic in character. Neither jute nor wool has ever received a countervailing duty. I really do not know what there is in the cotton industry, except that it is a greater one, which should make justifiable in respect of it any totally different principle.
I see the argument put forward that the whole effect of the Excise duty is to put the Indian cotton manufacturer on an equality with his Lancashire competitor. That is a very bold and extraordinary statement. The answer to arguments of that character is that the world is not one market any more than India is identical with England. This tariff at the higher rate of 7½ per cent. is a revenue tariff and not a protective tariff. I do not know on what ground it is suggested that the Bombay millowner is going to get anything out of this extra 4 per cent. The money will be collected by the servants of the State in India and I do not think they will be inclined to share anything with the Bombay millowner. I quite understand that the Bombay millowner will be able to make such arrangements as he can to protect himself; nevertheless, this duty remains as a pure revenue duty. I do not think it will be productive in its incidence. 1204 The only protection is the protection of the countervailing duty, and I think we should be glad, in the interests of India, that it is to remain for the present at 3½ per cent. and is not to rise proportionately with the rise now sanctioned in the Import duty, and that there is every prospect that at no long-distant time, when the War is over, we shall see the-countervailing duties disappear altogether. There were many points raised by the hon. Member for Blackburn. He raised the whole question of Indian administration, and if they were relevant it would be interesting to answer them or rebut them. I do not think he gave any grounds for his statement that the Government of India wanted countervailing duties. Notoriously the case is to the contrary. They never wanted countervailing duties; they protested against them, but they were forced to vote for them when they were asked to put them on. The Government of India and the people of India have been of one mind and now, thank Heaven, the Government at home and the Government of India are of one mind, and it is a joyful day for India that this change has been made.
§ Mr. NEEDHAM
I am one of those who regret exceedingly that we have had to discuss the question of Cotton Duties at the time when this wonderful and splendid gift of India has been announced in this country. I share to the utmost the feeling of regret that we should be in any way put in a false position, as if we in Lancashire were in opposition to the general spirit and the general desire of India to support us in this great War. This is a matter upon which we feel the very greatest regret. I cast my mind back to the day, at a very early part of the War, when the hon. Member for Lincoln (Mr. C. Roberts), who was then Under-Secretary of State for India, announced the very wonderful gifts and offers of help by large numbers of Ruling Princes and Chiefs in India. It seemed to me that it was an occasion of tremendous importance for the unity of the Empire that they should come forward voluntarily and offer their help in the way that was told to us by the hon. Member for Lincoln. Not only that, but we cannot help remembering the aid which has been afforded by the Indian soldiers. They came in the very early days of the War to help us on the Western Front, and they have fought with our men in every field of action. These things are ever present in 1205 our minds. We rejoice with the Secretary of State at their splendid success in Mesopotamia, and, therefore, having in mind all these wonderful feats on behalf of the Empire, and the fact that this gift has been offered, tendered, and accepted, we regret very much indeed that we have to discuss such questions as Cotton Duties.
I happen to be a Member for Manchester, but I do not wish it to be thought that I am speaking for Manchester pure and simple. The last speaker talked about Manchester and Manchester profits. He also spoke about the cost of cotton cloths, and as to whether the action of the increased 4 per cent. duty would or would not affect Lancashire. On the point as to how it will affect Lancashire I do not want to put matters too high. I do not say that the streets of Oldham, Blackburn, Burnley, Padiham, Clitheroe, and the rest of the towns will get grass-grown because this duty is put on. Lancashire is not at the moment, as I understand the position, complaining of the effect of these duties on trade here and now, but Lancashire has it in its mind the effect which this policy will have in future. Lancashire believes that this duty which is now being put on is the beginning of a very considerable duty against Lancashire trade. It not only believes that the duty may in the future be increased, but it also believes that it is probable, not very far from the present time, that the present rate of Excise will also be taken off. We see a suggestion of that in the speech made last year by Sir William Meyer in introducing the Indian Budget, because he very definitely refers to the taking off of the Excise. This afternoon the Secretary of State has also referred to the question of the retention of the Excise as being a running sore in India. The action of the Secretary of State and the Governor-General does not seem to me to have quite definitely attempted to cure that running sore. On their own showing they have left the Excise in existence, although they have put up the duty. I can only read into the words of the Secretary of State that if he has it in mind that this is a running sore of so serious a character that it must be cured, it will not be very long before the Excise is removed from the list of Indian revenues. In that case I believe that Lancashire is quite amply justified in looking carefully at what they believe will be the effect of this 7½ per cent. duty in regard to imported cotton goods.
1206 The Secretary of State told us there was only a very limited area—ne was rather controversial as to the width of that area —as to which there was competition. May I draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman to the fact that the more you, increase the protective tariffs of India the greater, obviously, the area will become, and the more, therefore, you react upon Lancashire trade. This is a very great industry in Lancashire. Practically speaking, I believe I am right in saying that every two complete days in every week the production of the cotton mills throughout the whole cotton trade is exported to India. I do not mean to say that two days' work out of every mill is exported to India, but taking the total production of cotton in the whole country the production of two-days out of every week goes from this country to India. That is a very good reason why Lancashire should examine this question closely. Lancashire complains very much about the way this question has been brought forward and decided. They think that this question should have been one of those left for determination at the end of the War, and they regard it as entirely inopportune to bring this highly contentious and vexed question up for discussion at this moment. At the present time we have our minds fixed on winning the War. I do not want to repeat platitudes, but we are concerned to keep out of existence if we possibly can matters which are apt to set us one against the other. The right hon. Gentleman himself on Monday practically admitted that he had been surprised at what he termed the passion which had been aroused by this question. But if they had taken the trouble to consult Lancashire in the matter they need not have been surprised at the passion which has been aroused. The majority of people connected with the cotton trade in Lancashire could have told them that this was a question which would be highly contentious, and would arouse considerable passion.
In support of my statement I may refer to the resolution which was passed by all the Chambers of Commerce concerned in Lancashire:That this chamber is of opinion that His Majesty's Government should take immediate steps to postpone such a controversial measure until after the War.That is sufficient quotation to show that this is a very highly controversial question, and one which the large bulk of the people of Lancashire think should not be 1207 brought forward at the present time. In one of yesterday's London papers I read the statement that Lancashire is divided. I can only answer that by saying that I was on 'Change last Tuesday on the Manchester Exchange, and the one subject of discussion was the new tax suggested by the right hon. Gentleman, and it had got no friends at all. That that is the case was shown when a vote was taken on the Manchester Royal Exchange, when, without any speech in favour of or against it, the resolution which I have already quoted, which was passed by the Chambers of Commerce of Manchester, Oldham, Blackburn, and other places, was passed by some 5,000 votes in favour of it, while those who opposed it amounted only to the large number of ten. Those 5,000 people do not represent any one shade of political opinion. They do not come from any one party in Manchester. I imagine, though I have never counted them, that more members come to the Manchester Royal Exchange from outside Manchester than from Manchester itself. Those who know Manchester business life know that on Tuesdays and Fridays the exchange, which holds several thousand people, and at this moment is in process of being extended, is crowded, and that those people come from outside Manchester, from Blackburn, Oldham, Bolton, Nelson, Bury, and all the rest of it. Therefore, that audience who listened to the resolution when it was put on the Manchester Royal Exchange is a very effective answer to any suggestion that Lancashire is divided on this point. If it is divided, then it is in a proportion something like that by which the resolution was voted in the Royal Exchange on Friday last.
I do not quite understand the exact significance of the suggestion made by the late Prime Minister except that it is an advantage to have on record that the House of Commons does not completely agree with the resolution that has been passed and that it is a matter which ought to be considered later on. That expression of opinion I think is useful as far as it goes, but it cannot in any sense bind the House of Commons to discuss this matter in future. I do not suppose that the House of Commons could be bound to discuss it in future by any form of words. Therefore the question is how are we to record our protest against this imposition? What practical step can we take? It is true that we can make speeches. We can 1208 say that we agree or disagree with the resolution, but the House of Commons, after all, provides only two Lobbies, and if we are to put on record our objection to this proposal, much as we regret it on such an occasion, when the right hon. Gentleman who has the warm congratulations of every Member in this House on being able to find such a splendid gift from India, how can we voice our opinion on these particular duties? It is with the greatest regret that I shall find myself voting against as it were, even criticising, even with the least breath, this splendid gift from India. But I do not know how by any form of Parliamentary procedure one can do other than put on record one's vote as to his opinion in regard to the duties which are being imposed.
§ Mr. CHARLES ROBERTS
If the Lancashire Members had signified their willingness to accept the appeal which was made in a very great speech by the ex-Prime Minister I certainly should not have intervened in the discussion. It would have been a far happier ending to this Debate if this conflict of interests, as it is capable of being represented, even if it is not a real conflict, should not be on record, and if Lancashire Members had been satisfied with the chance of making their case at the Imperial Conference, and later on in the general discussion of fiscal questions which will come at the end of the War. They have not thought fit, I understand, to adopt that course. In those circumstances I think that it would be desirable briefly, as far as I can, to say how this matter appeals to my own mind. I regret that at this great moment we have not been able to respond without a jarring note to the most generous, even princely, gift which has come from India, but if the matter has to be argued, and, still more, if the discussion is going to be carried on after this Debate, then I think that I must very briefly explain why I am unable to follow the Lancashire Members. I agree with them, so far as their criticism goes, as to the manner in which this change has been made, and I regret with them the fact that a controversial issue has been raised at the present time I think that with defter management and more foresight my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State might have avoided the collision between these two respective interests which has now taken place. I have no desire to criticise my right hon. Friend or bring any charge against him, but I mention the point for a purpose to which I shall refer 1209 later on. What I wish to do is to draw attention to the fact that we are dealing with a proposal that has created an intense local storm of opposition. One point which strikes me very strongly is that the Lancashire Members have not seriously disputed the statement of the Secretary of State as to the small area of competition between the goods imported into India and the goods produced in India. The "Manchester Guardian" to-day makes the statement that the Lancashire leaders do not question the accuracy of the Secretary of State's estimate of the small area of competition immediately affected, and the whole of the question is now shifted to the ground of what will be the future effect of what is regarded as a protective duty which, as they rightly say, though it begins in a small way, may grow as time goes on. What is the position in regard to the Excise Duty in India, which affects coarse cottons and the finer cottons? The Lancashire cottons imported into India are, by admission of the Lancashire Members, of the finer qualities, and they only to a limited degree conflict at present with the cotton produced in India.
I do not think it is possible for me to represent the views which I find expressed by Indian speakers in the Debates m India, or in literature, on this subject, but I have tried to acquaint myself with them. In the last Debate, some years ago, there was an Indian Member of Parliament here, Mr. Naoroji, who represented the feelings of the Indians on the subject at the time. All of us feel that we are under limitations in trying to get views which we cannot express at first-hand; but the point which strikes me in reading the literature about these Excise Duties is the way in which Indian speaker after Indian speaker refers to those duties as self-evident monsters of iniquity. Why is that? That is a point which requires historical explanation. Long ago we forgave ourselves for the selfish policy of the eighteenth century, which crushed out beautiful fabrics from India by fiscal prohibitions; but, on the other hand, it should be remembered that those who have lost have long memories. Indian speakers lay great stress on the anomalies of our unscientific excise policy in India. It is only on a single trade that the Excise Duty is imposed, but it is impossible to deny that there may not be a protective flavour in some of the other Import Duties in the Indian tariff where there is no corresponding Excise. Where Excise Duty 1210 is limited to a particular trade they allege rightly or wrongly, that it is not a consistent or coherent application of the policy of Free Trade. If the Excise Duty had remained as Sir Henry Fowler arranged it, an Excise Duty levied on that class of goods with which Lancashire cotton really competes, you might have defended it from the point of view of Free Trade; but it is not the same article on which the Excise Duty is levied. In levying the Excise Duty on cottons it is also imposed on the coarser cottons with which the English exported cotton does not compete, and admittedly does not compete.
It was admitted to-night in the "Manchester Guardian" that the area of competition is very small, and, if that be the case, I would ask hon. Members who are prepared to support this Amendment to be a little careful, otherwise the Finance Minister in India might possibly put an interpretation upon it which they do not intend. The hon. Member for Blackburn said that a burden upon the consumer in India was the result of these duties, but the Import Duty levied on cotton is paid, not by the poorest consumers in India, but by those better off and more well-to-do-individuals who buy the finer and more expensive cotton that comes from Manchester. Nobody is going to say that in time of war the Indian Finance Minister is to be debarred from asking the better-to-do class in India to contribute to what the Executive specifically say is a war tax by means of Import Duties. You ask him, by the Amendment, to take away the duty which falls upon the poorest of the poor. He has said that when a time of peace and prosperity is again restored he may have to reconsider the taxation which has been imposed in the years 1916 and 1917, but the only indication which the Finance Minister gave us was that he would take off taxes which fall upon the poorest classes of the community. There, I think, we will be with him. If you vote for this Amendment, if any appreciable body of Members of this House vote for the Amendment, I think the Finance Minister of India may say, "I am invited by an appreciable body of the House of Commons to relieve the consumers of cotton from imposts which fall upon them." In that case I think he would be more likely to take off the Excise Duty on the trade that is not in competition with Lancashire than remove the 1211 Import Duties, and in that case I think you would not be carrying out the object you have at heart.
My hon. friends had, I think, two points in their minds, especially those hon. Members, who may, perhaps, be attracted by this Amendment and who are not connected with Lancashire, but are looking at the matter from the point of view of free Trade. One is that they feel that here is an arrangement under which the mill owners and wealthy capitalists in Bombay and other parts of India, who have been prosperous under war conditions, paying on an average, I believe, 10 per cent., according to the Official Returns, are going to get some great advantage out of this. I do not think if they had the offer of the whole of this taxation which has been imposed in those two Budgets that they would have said "Thank you" to the Government of India. After all, an additional Income Tax and Super-tax of 3s. 9d. in the £ will take a good deal of the profit which any Parsee or Bombay millowner may secure. I think that ought to be borne in mind. The other point I wish to put before my hon. Friends is this. I admit that the raising of the Import Duties last year in a considerable range of articles-Manchester getting a special exemption from the general rise on all the Import Duties, which special exemption is taken off this year—has left the Import Duties, put on ostensibly, and I believe honestly, for the purposes of Revenue, with a certain protective element there; but is it wise to treat that as an admission of the principle that there has been a departure from Free Trade? That is not the way in which these duties were commended by the Finance Minister in India. He said, referring to the taxation last year and this year:Our present measures arise only through the participation of India in the greatest War in which the whole future of the Empire is at stake.9.0 P.M.
That is the object for which the Government of India imposes these taxes. I only hope, in the interests of Free Trade, that my hon. Friends will not think it necessary to make the Excise Duty a part of the battle-ground of Free Trade. I am quite ready to take part when the time comes in any battle for Free Trade, and I think it would be criminally unpatriotic to raise that controversial issue now. [HON. MEMBERS: "It has been already raised."] I think not. I think these duties were imposed for war purposes. I personally am in favour of Free Trade for India, partly 1212 on general economic grounds, believing that the industries of India can be best built up under a Free Trade system. I am also anxious to preserve the present Free Trade arrangements between this country and India on political grounds, because where we have not got the tie of race to hold great communities together in an Empire like ours, which transcends the tie of race, then the more ties of trade and commerce we can get, the better for good relationship between ourselves and the other parts of the Empire. If my hon. Friends are going to make this a battle-ground of Free Trade, then they must either be logical and consistent by imposing Excise Duties on all articles liable to Import Duties at a great cost of unpopularity, or else they must be willing to abandon the defence of a particular impost which is quite illogical, which is quite anomalous, and which presents features which, when you look at them, are absolutely indefensible. I can only say this, my hon. Friends criticise my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State on the ground of the time and method in which he has proposed this reform. I will ask them in their turn, not to make similar mistakes of time and method in the way in which they propose to get a remedy, for certainly the House of Commons would make a terrible blunder if it thought that it could intervene to strike out of an Indian Budget which has been passed into law any particular tax It has never done so. It is quite open to it to lay down principles on which the finances of India should be governed, but clearly to pass this Resolution, or vote for it, would be to put the House of Commons absolutely into a wrong position.
Let us consider how this matter cannot but appeal to the Indian peoples. The Indians at the beginning of the War were in a state of glowing expectation of some great and generous act of statesmanship, which was going almost immediately to extend their liberties. They have waited long with a patience which is remarkable, but the strain of the prolongation of the War is great, and the record of Parliament, at all events, whatever may be the record of the Government of India, is not wholly happy. There was one small measure to which they attached some importance perhaps two years ago, which proposed council government in one of the Provinces. That was torn up and rejected in another place. Now, I think Indian 1213 opinion would say, "Whether this question has come up at the right time, or in the right method, is a matter on which we have no opinion, but here is something that we have asked for for a long time, and it is before the House of Commons." Is any large or appreciable body of Members of this House going to vote for the rejection of the first measure to which Indian opinion attaches great importance? Frankly, I think that that would be deplorable and that it would have a lamentable effect upon public opinion in India.
My right hon. Friend (Mr. Chamberlain) has not hesitated to deal with this controversial question, feeling that this was one of the measures which it was necessary to deal with. Hitherto, India has been told that it was impossible to deal with any question of Indian reform in the midst of a great war, because it was unwise to raise controversial questions. It is impossible, I think, to use that argument any longer, and there are other points, some of them controversial, some of them non-controversial, which have been postponed hitherto until the end of the War, which it will be difficult in future to postpone. If you can deal with one controversial question, you may be able to deal with another. If the right hon. Gentleman is prepared to meet with so much courage attacks which have been made on his policy, he might meet attacks which might be made from another quarter in a similar way. What of the question of the colour-bar which prevents the granting of commissions in the Army? What of taking some step forward along the lines of the Commission on the Public Services in India? What of the measures which are asked for for the extension and the reform of the Councils in India, and of some extension of liberty by these means? Those will all be urged. Some people have said in the Press and elsewhere, that tariffs of this kind are to be no substitute for civil and political liberties, and I do not believe that my right hon. Friend intends them to be so. As he has broken down the rule which has hitherto barred out the treatment of controversial Indian questions, I think he must be prepared for greater pressure now to deal with other Indian questions which may raise controversy, which in my mind cannot be delayed longer, and for which certainly the present reforms are no substitute.
I have said nothing of appreciation of the spirit in which the money which is proposed to be granted under the Resolu- 1214 tion has been offered us by India. I am glad to see that the Amendment expresses full appreciation of that. I think in Indian literature I have noticed that the refusal of gifts proffered is regarded as a signal act of discourtesy, and to argue over the gifts would, I think, come under the same condemnation of Indian opinion. One reads of material assistance from India, forces of combatants which have been supplied to us, the visible power of armies, the long catalogue of all the material and financial help which has come from India, princely gifts of rajahs and maharajahs, and so on. But I think there is something else which we should recognise from India. The late Viceroy (Lord Hardinge) has said proudly that though India had never sent more than 18,000 troops away from her shores in any previous war, on this occasion she has sent some 300,000, and there was one period in the early stages of the War when, having assured himself of the loyalty of India's leaders, he was ready to risk the practical evacuation of India by the British forces, and for some weeks a sub-continent with a territory as large as all Europe, apart from Russia, was held by a force of from ten to fifteen thousand white troops. That seems to me one of the moments which ought to be for us an indelible memory. It is eloquent of the real hold by which we secure to the Empire the loyalty of India, and that justification of our rule seems to me one of the facts which we should always bear in mind.
§ Sir J. RUTHERFORD
I would like to say at the outset that when the Lancashire Members met they had arranged an Amendment to this Motion, but it appeared that the right hon. Member for Rushcliffe (Mr. Leif Jones) had got an Amendment in before it, and as I did not exactly approve of the words of it, thinking it raised a more political question than the Lancashire question, I did not see my way to second the Amendment. I join with those who regret that we are discussing the Cotton Duties at this time. No one more than I do appreciates the great gift that India has contributed to the War, nor can anyone appreciate more than do my Constituents and myself the great services that India has rendered in this War. My Constituency, I suppose, comprises within its area more looms than any other constituency in Lancashire. I 1215 believe that either the Clitlieroe or the Darwen Division is the largest, and there is no constituency which these duties will affect more than the people who live in that particular district. We all want to see justice done to India, and it is to the interests particularly of Lancashire to promote the welfare and prosperity of India, but a time comes when one must look after one's own Constituents, and I think this is an occasion when I am obliged to take the view my Constituents take on this question, namely, that they are opposed strongly to the imposition of these duties. I believe it is a fact that many people in that district will be thrown out of employment, and, if I believe that, there is no alternative for me but to go into the Lobby with the Lancashire Members, although I do not commit myself to all the terms of this Amendment.
Why do the Lancashire Members propose to go to a Division on this question? They proposed to go to a Division on this question to emphasise their opposition to these duties, and more especially because these duties were sprung upon Lancashire and because the cotton trade was not consulted before they were imposed. I may say at once, I am not myself engaged in the cotton trade, nor can I enter into the technicalities of it, but I thought it was only right that I should explain why I did not second this Resolution, and why I am going into the Lobby to support my Lancashire colleagues. There is one other point: when we go to a Division on this Amendment we shall emphasise our position. When that Amendment is disposed of, and when the main Motion is put, with the addition of the words suggested by the late Prime Minister, I would suggest to the Lancashire Members that they should accept them, after having entered their protest in the previous Amendment.
§ Mr. TOOTILL
I would not have intervened in this Debate but for the fact that I fully realise the vast urgency and importance of the subject which is now before the House, and as it affects my own Constituency. I think it would not be denied by hon. Members that they are here to represent, as far as possible, what they believe to be the organised, matured, and well-considered opinion of those they have been sent to represent. If I understood the Secretary of State for India, 1216 when we met him on Monday, he put forward as his case the state of public opinion as he discovered it existing in India itself. I may say at once that he received us most cordially, and he was very frank and candid in the expression of his opinion. He stated then that the burden of his claim for consideration for India were as I have just said. I would, however, like to hear from him on what principles and by what methods and means he has discovered the real opinion in this matter of the Indian population? I attach very great importance to this. The ex-Prime Minister gave us a magnificent speech, to which we all listened with rapt attention. In regard to the speech of the Secretary of State, it may be that I have not been in this House very long, but I have never seen himself with such vigour and enthusiasm. It suggested to me, at any rate, that he felt that this threatened opposition to his Motion must be met with the greatest possible vigour that he could command. I do not, as one of the Lancashire Labour representatives, want to-treat this subject merely from its labour aspect. I want to treat it in a manner and spirit which I hope will be appreciated by the Secretary of State himself. We will not, I say, as Lancashire Members, be held responsible either now or in the future for having provoked this controversy at a time like the present.
If the patriotic feeling, as the right hon. Gentleman suggested, and as this magnificent gift shows, is an actuality in India, all I can say is that we appreciate wholeheartedly the spirit and motive that prompted the gift. But will the right hon. Gentleman explain further to the House this attempt to pacify the people of India and the trading interest of India? It may be that it represents only 2 per cent. A small thing to him. But that 2 per cent. represents a great and fundamental principle which will operate not only now, but in days to come. He himself cannot define its limit. The operatives of Lancashire and the working classes of that great county were never more solidly determined, so far as in them lies, not only to protest in this matter, but to take every means in their power, by every possible legitimate means, to help the people of Lancashire to realise how this thing—it may be unintentionally—is going to prejudice their interests now and in the future. We would have been glad and have rejoiced if the Secretary of State and the Indian Government had spared us the 1217 undesirable position in which we to-day find ouselves. Some of us have been labouring night and day to reserve the unity and strength of the working classes for the prosecution of the War. There can be no denial of the passionate feeling represented by that vote in the Manchester Exchange last Friday. It was not a vote of working men, but of employers and traders, of all political interests and parties in the county Palatine of Lancashire.
Now what can we do? If we were to set about to get mass meetings of the people in Manchester and district, their thoughts and interests and feelings would be turned from the War and the purpose we all have in view to bring about a decisive victory in this War. We do not want to pursue any such course. The ex-Prime Minister this afternoon, I believe, made a great impression on the Secretary of State for India when he pointed out that it was practically unbelievable that such a thing could have been brought forward at such an inopportune moment. I have always contended that you cannot play ducks and drakes with great commercial interests as effecting labour and capital in this country, and that you cannot disturb them without inflicting injury upon both those great interests. We are here, I suppose, to represent and to uphold those great principles which contribute to the welfare and to the livelihood of the great mass of the working classes of this country. Now those who have been responsible for forcing this issue at this great crisis—the greatest crisis that ever this House has had to deal with—cannot, in my opinion, exempt themselves from the view and from the consideration that they have been seriously lacking in that beautiful quality, the sense of proportion, which should be exhibited by statesmen, even far more, I think, than by the ordinary Member. However great was the pressure from India, however great the pressure of public opinion in India, it cannot be held on any grounds of logic and reason, and even the Prime Minister himself, when he met us, said that in ordinary times our position was absolutely irrefutable.
This is said to be an emergency measure, but in any other emergency measure that we have had submitted to this House has there been incorporated any serious, provocative, disturbing principle such as is incorporated in this? I say again, that if that patriotic feeling which is represented 1218 to exist in India—and I do not for a moment doubt it—there was nothing to prevent some principle of negotiation by which to prevail upon India to bear, what they had borne for the last twenty-two years, a little longer until they had finished this great war. There was nothing to prevent that being done except the admission that the resources of statesmanship and civilisation were exhausted. I do not want to prolong this Debate. I realise the position that, unless we as Lancashire Members go to the extent of voting against the Government, unless we follow up our protest in that manner, we have not justified the position that we have assumed on this question, and, so far as I am concerned, if I was going in the Lobby alone, I should go there to register my protest against the inopportuneness on the one hand, of this thing being brought forward in this manner. The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for India, and the ex-Prime Minister seem to centre their views and thoughts in the direction that India demanded this, and that this great gift of theirs could not be brought to a successful consummation, without injury to the employing class, I fear, rather than to the population of India. I conclude by saying that I hope the Lancashire Members as a whole will take their courage in both hands and go into the Lobby, whatever may be the consequence, and register their vote against what I regard as this pernicious principle being introduced at this very serious and inopportune moment.
§ Mr. THEODORE TAYLOR
My hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln seemed to think just now that the Lancashire Members, of whom I have the honour to be one, did not dispute the smallness of the present area of competition. I do not know whether he can endorse the statement made by the Secretary of State for India the other day, and I think repeated or enlarged to-day, as to the total area of competition being about 2 per cent., but I think my hon. Friend could not have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham, who did make clear, as I thought, that we do dispute that the area of competition is only 2 per cent. of the total trade to India. If for no other reason, I should dispute it on the same ground that he disputed it, namely, that, although the cloths made in India are different from those made here, this border line of 2 per cent. is elastic, and, as a matter of fact, 1219 all cloths practically compete with all other cloths by the process of substitution in the same market. My hon. Friend also seemed to minimise the value to the Bombay mill-owners of the 4 per cent. duty, supposing it all went to them. I will tell the House why it is not so much to them. It is because they are getting such enormous profits already. They have been getting dividends of from 50 to 80 per cent. in Bombay recently. [An HON. MEMBER: "And more."] I have been told a good deal more, and they are setting profits aside by way of reserve, and so on. But I like to make my statements as moderate as possible, and, to my mind, a profit of from 50 to 80 per cent. is quite enough. I wish the Lancashire mill-owners were all getting one-tenth of that. Then my hon. Friend said that these Import duties on cotton goods into India were raised for war reasons—to raise money, I suppose.
If these duties were put on simply to raise revenue, why was not the Excise put on to raise money. We know why it was. I made a proposal that these duties, instead of being 7½ and 3½ per cent., should be 6 per cent. all round, but we were told that that would not do. What is the objection to it? It would not concede the principle of Protection. That is really what is wanted and that is what makes this thing acceptable to Indian opinion. I am sorry that the Secretary of State for India is not here because he stated that nearly all of the Indian trade is in goods made from 24's to 28's. I have some figures that are very striking, and they are actual figures from the Board of Trade returns of the amount of yarn in 40's, 50's, 60's, 70's, and 80's sent from this country to Calcutta during 1914, 1915, and 1916. In 1914 the total amount of yarn sent from this country of these high counts, about 40's to 80's was 5,483,000 lbs. In the first eight months, from April to November. 1916, India herself spun 3,000,000 lbs. weight of yarn of 40's and upwards. Take that as 4,500,000 lbs. for a year, and add that to the 5,500,000 lbs., and you get a total weight being sent to India and spun in India of 10,000,000 lbs. weight over 40's in counts. Of course, 80's yarn would be of great value. These are finer counts, and the weight counts for much more in value than in thicker counts.
The Secretary of State for India and the Prime Minister spoke much in the same sense, and described this matter as an open and running sore. The Prime 1220 Minister, speaking on this raising of Import duties without an equivalent raising of Excise duties, said there was no justification for this measure except as a war measure, and as a war measure this "great act of justice to India was only fair-play and equitable." May I point out that justice and equity to India are not based on the circumstances of the moment, and if it is so to-day it would be so a year or two hence, and would so remain when negotiations take place at the end of the War, when it is said we are going to reconstruct the Empire on a new basis. This means that the Prime Minister regards the present state of things clearly as a wrong to India. If I regarded it as a wrong to India I could not stand up here in the interests of Lancashire or any other county and vote for inflicting any wrong, or continuing any wrong that exists, upon India. To the extent to which India refuses to take our goods, to that extent will she be able to send us less of her goods, because imports and exports pay for each other. One of my great reasons for objecting to the introduction of Protection into India is that it will have a sectional effect upon the Empire. I maintain instead of being an Imperial policy it is a sectionising policy and it is not Imperial at all. I believe the interests of this Empire are best served by having a free interchange of products between one part of the Empire and another. It is good for India and ourselves that we should take India's produce in jute and other goods and that we should send her in return our cotton manufactures. I think the Secretary for India told us that £9,750,000 of the goods made annually of products of India were made chiefly from Indian cotton of a poor, short quality. That is quite true, but I would remind hon. Members and the right hon. Gentleman that last year alone cotton of American length as used here was produced in India to the extent of 250,000 bales, and if the recommendations of the Board of Trade Textiles Committee are carried out, instead of 250,000 bales we shall soon grow in India some 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 bales of cotton a year.
One of the reasons alleged against the great expense of promoting the growth of superior cotton in India, which is now being done so sucessfully, was that the cotton might be used by the cotton manufacturers of India in competition with us. Now I wish to promote the growth of that cotton in India and that competition. 1221 Some writers in the London Press have been alleging that Lancashire is now asking for a special privilege for herself, but all we want is a fair field and no favour, and we are demanding that now because we have had it in the past. I am deeply sorry to have to vote against the Government. I am prepared to support this or Any other Government during the War, but in this matter there is a great principle at stake. I know that during this War we have had all sorts of things presented to us in the name of patriotism, proposals that we consider are great reversals of policy, and it is said that we are not patriotic if we do not vote for everything that is proposed. If, however, we were to vote for this proposal, it would be to abdicate our functions as representatives of the people.
I represent a certain corner of Lancashire which is deeply interested in this trade, but I would not advocate even the interests of my own Constituency if I thought I was inflicting a wrong upon India. I recognise that we are all trustees for India, and we are responsible for what we do in the sight of the unvocal millions of India. The Prime Minister spoke of this great gift from India as if it were a great surprise sprung upon the India office, but these are matters of negotiations backward and forward. This is a piece of Government policy for which the Cabinet in Downing Street and the India office are as much responsible, and, in fact, more responsible, than the Head quarters at Delhi, in India. There is no reality in this kind of surprise packet, presented as such a wonderful thing that we ought to be very grateful for. If we take that present in the way it is given we shall be doing a wrong to the consumer in India and the producer in Lancashire at a time when the mill owners in India are making money remarkably quickly, and at a time when the operatives in Lancashire have not enough work. We have not only the general hindrance of the War in our trade with India, but we have a particular hindrance. I am told to-day that the freight to India is 240s. a ton. We know that it is correspondingly high to bring cotton here from the United States. We know that the difficulties are very great and serious and are increasing, and it is by reason of them that the Indian manufacturers are enjoying additional protection as compared with the Lancashire manufacturers. There is the extra cost of the carriage on the raw material 1222 across the Atlantic, and there is the extra cost of doing business in India because of carriage, insurance, and so on. These considerations give sufficient protection for an industry that is already getting extravagant and exorbitant profits at the expense of the Lancashire people, in speaking for whom I feel that I am not doing any wrong but a service to the people of India.
I rise as one of the Lancashire Members to enter my strongest protest against the imposition of this tax in India, and I am more serious because in the course of this Debate we have learned that the Imperial Legislative Council of India can impose protectionist duties without the consent of this House. If that is the state of things, it is high time that the Government took the matter into their consideration and altered the law. If it is a tax which is deliberately imposed for the purpose of protecting the Indian industry and crushing the English industry, then the law should be altered and this House should have some control. I am fully convinced that this tax was imposed purely as a protectionist measure. This is an extract from the "Calcutta Statesman, "which appeared on 13th May last year:The aim of the Indian Imperial Legislative Council and the Indian Government, as now constituted, is to exclude Lancashire cotton goods, and if England claims the right to frame tariffs in her own interests, it will be impossible to deny to India the equitable right to construct such tariffs as she thinks fit and proper. These tariffs, it is now abundantly clear, will impose increasing burdens upon British exports, and especially on Lancashire goods.They therefore know the whole situation over there.Indian politicians"—Not the Indian people—backed by the Indian Government will do their utmost to penalise Lancashire goods for the benefit of the Bombay cotton industry.That was the position when my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State moved this Resolution to-night It is quite clear that the tax is not imposed for revenue, strictly speaking, but that the intention and spirit of it is protectionist. They have been trying to do this for the last twenty years. They have found an opportunity, and they have at last got it. If the duty were intended to be permanent and were made permanent by the Resolution to-night, I should certainly vote against the Government, because even in time of war one is justified in voting against the Government if they introduce a permanent tax and put on record a permanent principle which is 1223 contrary to all the principles one professes and which one believes is injurious to his own country and in the long run to India itself, the country on whose behalf it is proposed. The original Motion provided amongst other things, for the payment of £1,000,000 per year, interest and sinking fund on the loan and for it to be obtained from the cotton trade. It meant that this would be an extra tax of 4 per cent. imposed upon Lancashire goods until the year 1947. That is nearly a generation. It was originally intended to impose it for protectionist purposes, and being for a generation there would have been no chance whatever of its ever being taken off again. Now the original Motion is to be materially altered by an Amendment suggested by the late Prime Minister to the effect that the tax shall be considered afresh and reviewed as a whole after the War at the Imperial Conference. It is now, therefore, a tax only for the period of the War, and it is put forward as a matter of war urgency and of the greatest possible Imperial importance. The Government hope by it to get such a spirit of enthusiasm in India that they will be able to mobilise all the forces of India for our assistance. If it is an urgent matter, and it is only for the period of the War, I do not see my way to oppose the Government. The fact that this Amendment of the late Prime Minister is to be added to the Resolution is of itself notice to the Indian Government that at the end of the War they must be prepared to drop the tax if the Imperial Conference so decides. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"]
My hon. Friends seem to think that they mean nothing, but I think they are a pledge by the Government that the matter will be reconsidered at the Imperial Conference.
I have no doubt that as the hon. Member has already asked that question, my right hon. Friend no doubt will answer it if he thinks necessary. If it had been originally the intention of the Government that the matter 1224 should be reviewed as a whole at the end of the War, I should certainly not have opposed the Resolution, and, although I think the tax is a very bad tax, I cannot vote against the Government in a time of war on an urgent Government measure when the tax is a temporary one for the purposes of the War. I regard the imposition of this tax as one purely for Protectionist purposes. I say it is not necessary in any way for revenue. That is perfectly clear, because it is for an extraordinary purpose—the raising of this money for a contribution to this War. I put down a notice—hon. Members may have read it; it is the first Amendment on the Paper—to the following effect:
"This House, whilst warmly appreciating the devotion and generosity of India throughout the War and welcoming the munificent contribution to the cost of its operations, would prefer that the portion of the contribution which is to be met by the allocation of the increased Customs Duty on imported cotton goods should not be paid until such time after the War as the finances of India are able to bear the repayment without recourse to the aforesaid duty, and that in the meanwhile the increased duty be abandoned."
The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary for India said the other day he never expected that the contribution of India would be fixed until the end of the War, and he never expected either that it would be paid until the end of the War. But the contribution has been fixed now and six millions of money are required every year to pay the interest on the Sinking Fund for the redemption of India's portion of one hundred millions of our debt. One of the six millions is to be provided by this Cotton Duty. Is there any reason why, even now, the Government should not say to India, "You need not pay that one million a year towards the redemption of the fund which is represented by the Cotton Duty. You can postpone the payment of that money and begin to pay the five millions a year now, and you can pay the other million with arrears of interest when the finances of India are in such a state that India will be able to pay it out of her ordinary surplus in a time of prosperity, or by some tax other than this tax, which in this time of war is particularly objectionable"? Does not the right hon. Gentleman think, even now, that that 1225 would be the best way of meeting this question? The tax could be dropped at once. The British Government really does not want this million a year, seeing that it is spending five millions a day, and if the course I suggest were adopted, then Lancashire would be satisfied. If the right hon. Gentleman does not take some course of that kind, I am afraid the trouble will not be ended here to-night. There will be persistent agitation during the rest of the War until this question is absolutely settled. This is a very serious matter, because this 4 per cent. really means a great deal more. Lancashire manufacturers, I am told, turn their money over four times in a year, and therefore the duty really means 16 per cent. The people who will feel the tax the most will be the operatives. When they ask for an increase of wages, the employers will say, "We cannot give it you because the effect of this tax is to deprive us of the power of paying a higher wage." Again, the tax must reduce the -output and sale of cotton goods for India. Further than that, employers in the cotton industry are under a pledge to the men who have gone to the front to reinstate them in their former posts when they come home, and one effect of this duty may be that they will not be able to carry out cither their wish or their pledge in this matter. I regret very much that the Government have brought this Resolution before the House. I protest very strongly against the way in which it has been sprung on the country without giving the Government time to advise themselves of the feeling of the country. It is nothing but the emergency of the War that prevents me voting against the Government.
§ Sir J. SIMON
No one who was present in the House this afternoon, and who heard the two speeches made from the Government Bench, can fail to have been struck by the very great difference between the lines of argument presented by my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India and later on by the Prime Minister. They spoke in joint defence of the view which the Government recommends to the House, but they spoke as it seems to me with very different voices, and, indeed, the argument which the Prime Minister used appears, in some most material respects, to be quite destructive of the argument put forward earlier in 1226 the Debate by the Secretary of State for India. Let me just remind the House—I will do it very briefly—what was the argument of the Secretary for India. He came here and, in the course of a speech which everybody who heard it recognised to be powerful and persuasive to a degree, he pointed out that, in his view, we were faced by a generous freewill offering tendered to us by the people of India as a proof of their patriotic determination to share in the common burden of the War and that it would be ungracious and, in the circumstances, impossible, to refuse the boon which they offered to us. There is no Member in the House of Commons, wherever he sits, who does not feel the compelling force of that appeal. Whatever views we may take in this Debate we have no difference about this that we sympathise with fully and without reserve and we recognise without qualification the generosity there is behind the offer which has just been explained to us. That is the view of the Secretary of State for India, and if I may presume to say so, he appears to me to have taken much the more persuasive ground for justifying this proposal.
But what is the position of the Prime Minister? That right hon. Gentleman in the same Debate has told us that the acceptance of the Government plan is necessary because it is only by accepting the Government proposal that we can render an act of justice to India, and anyone who does not adopt the recommendation is thereby denying to India that to which India has a right. These two propositions are mutually destructive, they have no possible relation one to the other. If it were really the case that the Prime Minister was justified in arguing that the acceptance of the offer which India makes is the only way in which we can render to India that which has long been her due, then it is absurd to profess that the offer is, in itself, a boon proffered by India to us. I much prefer to accept the view advanced by the Secretary of State for India. I did not think the Debate should close without that most astonishing contradiction being pointed out, and an explanation being asked for as to which is really the accepted and authoritative view.
The mystery does not stop there. The Prime Minister, having told us that we must adopt the proposal of the Government because it was an act of justice to India, went on to say that, of course, it was only an act of justice during the 1227 period of the War. I do not understand how such a limitation as that can be an honourable discharge of an act of justice. If anything could complete the state of mystery and muddle into which the argument ultimately leads us, it would be this: We are told by responsible authorities—it is not denied by the Prime Minister—that so recently as yesterday he asserted to the deputation which waited upon him that, if it had not been for the War, those who oppose the Government suggestion would have an irrefragable case. How can anybody, even so recently is yesterday, have an irrefragable case against an act of justice? How can an act of justice, a long-delayed act of justice, be an act of justice which it is well understood is going to be revised as soon as the War is over? I really do think that in a matter of this great importance, straining, as it obviously does, almost to breaking point, the feelings of a large section of the community, that I am entitled to ask the question, which of these two mutually destructive views is the view we are invited to adopt?
The matter does not stop there. There is a second but equally fundamental difference between the speech of the Prime Minister and that of the Secretary of State for India on a second point. As I listened to the Prime Minister, as we all listened to him, it was surely quite obvious that he was pressing this proposal upon this House as being a decision of the Government, which the House in the circumstances ought to accept and to ratify. Indeed, he told us not only that it was so, but that it was, as a war measure, one of the war measures of this War Government that he recommended us to adopt it. I must be excused for saying that that is not quite the view which the Secretary of State for India put forward. I rather understood from him that he had been engaged, on the one side, in considering on behalf of the British Government an offer which had come to the British Government from the Government of India. Is that quite so? Is that either practically or constitutionally the position? I could not help being reminded, when I heard my right hon. Friend describing that conversation which, so to speak, passed between him on the one hand and the Government of India on the other, of the Lord Chancellor in "Iolanthe," who felt himself greatly dis- 1228 turbed because he had to decide whether he could grant his own application to marry his own ward. When I look at the Government of India Act, 1915—I have no doubt it has been strictly observed—it becomes perfectly obvious that the proposal which the Government of India made was a proposal which was made with the assent of the Secretary of State and which could not be made unless he and his Council approved of it. Section 21 of the-Government of India Act, 1915, runs as follows—I would ask the House to observe the language:
"The expenditure of the revenues of India, both in British India and elsewhere, shall be subject to the control of the Secretary of State in Council—
that is my right hon. Friend—
"and no grant or appropriation of any part of those revenues, or of any other property coming into the possession of the Secretary of State in Council by-virtue of the Government of India Act, 1858, or this Act, shall be made without the concurrence of a majority of votes at a meeting of the Council of India."
Do I misunderstand when I suggest that the Council of India meets in London and that the Secretary of State, seated opposite me, is the chairman of that body? Therefore we can hardly treat this as though there had dropped at the feet of the Secretary of State one fine day from the clouds an offer, with certain conditions attached, which he felt he must either return to the destination from which it had come or accept without qualification. Surely that is not either constitutionally or practically what happens here. Everybody desires to attach proper weight to what is the strong and widespread feeling of different classes and sections of our fellow-subjects in India. I have no doubt that it is true—I accept it quite unreservedly—that there is in India and that there has been for years a very deep and widespread desire to see a change in the system of the Indian Cotton Duties. I have no doubt of that. But I am not quite certain that when we say of ourselves in this House of Commons that we regard ourselves as trustees for the people of India, that the trustees discharge their duty merely because they at once agree to anything which the cestui que trust wants We have to consider what is the real effect and operation of the proposal now made. So far as this proposal does- 1229 anything to raise revenue, it is, according to the Statute, a proposal which can only be adopted, an appropriation which can only be made, a gift which can only be given if the right hon. Gentleman and the majority of his Council here in London approve.
If it is a question of raising revenue, I suppose it is not disputed that if you increase an Excise Duty at the same time that you increase an Import Duty you will raise more revenue than if you only increase one without the other. Is the question to be regarded from the point of view of those who have to purchase cotton fabrics in India? I notice that the right hon. Gentleman interposed in the course of this Debate when it was said by one hon. Member that the effect of this new proposal would be to increase the price of the cotton fabrics in India. The right hon. Gentleman interposed to say, "If the price of cotton goods is going up as a result of this proposal, what on earth is there for the manufacturers of cotton fabrics in Lancashire to grumble about?" Is that really a conclusive argument? If, at the end of the War, there is imposed a high tariff on goods imported from Germany, with the result that the prices of those goods are higher than they were before, would that be an encouragement to German trade? If it will not be an encouragement to German trade to put on high tariffs or any tariffs on their goods coming into this country, even though it raises the price of the fabrics, what is the good of meeting the argument here put forward on behalf of the manufacturers and others in this country by saying that a rise in the price of cotton fabrics in India cannot do any harm to those who manufacture cotton goods? Profits do not depend so much upon high prices as they depend upon abundant production. The margin of profits in the case of cotton manufactures is a particularly narrow one. Consequently, you must look at this matter from the point of view of the Indian consumer. The House of Commons does not discharge the whole of its duty merely by saying that there has been for many years—as I do not doubt there has been—a wide, deep, and very general desire, I will not say throughout the peoples of India but throughout that small section of them that is vocal and can be heard, with regard to the duties. There must be hundreds of millions of people in India who never 1230 heard of the Cotton Duties. You really do not dispose of the matter by referring to this demand.
But my real difficulty in this Debate, and the difficulty which many of us feel about it, is that the matter, which was brought, as it seemed to me, very near to a better understanding by the speech of the late Prime Minister, was subsequently presented to the House in an entirely new aspect by his successor. No one can reproach the present Secretary of State for India with having changed his mind on this subject. He has been perfectly consistent right through. We were told by my right hon. Friend on this bench that last year this very same proposal in principle was pressed upon the then Government, and that my right hon. Friend, speaking as Secretary of State for India, pressed it upon his colleagues by the very argument which is used to-day. He has been quite consistent. It is not the Secretary of State for India who has changed. It is the Prime Minister who has changed, and he has changed in this way. He comes and tells the House of Commons, as he tells the country, not that this is a generous offer which in the circumstances we must accept in the spirit in which it is offered, not that we have reached a stage when we must not examine even in matters of this great commercial importance a proposal of this sort from a commercial point of view, not that we must try and take a wider and broader view and remember the importance of meeting Indian opinion —not that, but he comes and says to his fellow-countrymen, "For years you have been doing India an injustice, and now at length you must do equity." I deny altogether that the policy which has hitherto been followed by this country was a policy of injustice. I deny altogether that it was an inequitable policy in the circumstances at all. It appears to me to be lamentable that such a question should be raised now, and I would remind my right hon. Friend who leads the House that whatever may be said of other controversies this is not a controversy which the critics of the Government have raised, and if we are to avoid in the times which are coming and to come upon us a repetition of controversies of this sort, not provoked by critics of the Government at all but brought upon the country by the Government's own action, we are entitled to have a plain answer to this plain question. What is the situation you are going to be 1231 met with next time? Supposing there is an Imperial Conference. Supposing that there is confidential consultation between the Government and representatives of our great Dominions overseas, are we going to have the Government coming down after the Conference is over and saying, "We have to announce to you an accomplished fact. We have made bargains in the name of this country, and we call upon the House of Commons to ratify these bargains." I say deliberately, if they do that they will be repeating, on a larger scale, the essential unfairness of what they have done on this occasion. Let no one say if such a situation as that arises that we continue to live under Parliamentary Government. The people of this country have no reason to be ashamed of the part which they have taken in this War, and the House of Commons has no reason to be ashamed—none at all. They have spent themselves liberally and freely and they have preserved their unity, which will always remain one of the most remarkable landmarks of a remarkable occasion. I would appeal to them to realise in the light of the controversy which this incident has aroused, which my right hon. Friend admits is much greater than anything he had anticipated—let them realise after that event, but before they take the next step, how impossible it is, even in time of war, to put that kind of strain upon a liberty-loving people.
§ The CHANCELLOR Of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Bonar Law)
I had not intended to take any part in this Debate, but as I know the House wishes to come to a decision on the Amendment, and it would be impossible to move the addition of the proposal of my right hon. Friend if they wait till 11 o'clock I am sure the House will desire to come to an early decision. I would not, however, like the speech of my right hon. Friend to pass without any remark, unprepared as I am to deal with the subject to which he has addressed himself. The first part of his speech was very interesting and very amusing. It was good logic, and it was, if I may say so, the best type of that kind of discussion. My right hon. Friend drew a distinction between the attitude taken by the Secretary of State for India and the Prime Minister. I do not think the distinction was so plain or so obvious as he made out. The Secretary of State for India put this view: "An offer has been 1232 made by the Government of India. It has come spontaneously from the Government of India—
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
Yes, absolutely. I am very glad my right hon. Friend made that observation. There was no suggestion of any kind from the Government of this country.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
The Prime Minister told us in the course of his explanation that this was part of a series of measures which we are taking. He spoke of a number of war measures which we are taking which are on all fours with this.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstood what the Prime Minister said. He was speaking of those efforts which we are making to use to a greater extent the resources of India in connection with the War. Those were the other measures we were taking to which the Prime Minister referred. I do not think that the distinction between the attitude of the Secretary of State for India and the Prime Minister is quite so great as my right hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) made out. The Prime Minister put it in this way, and I think everyone will agree with him—"Whatever view we may take of this matter, there is no question whatever that the opinion in India in every quarter is in favour of this change, and doing away with the Excise Duty." I heard, for instance, talk of this being a question of the Bombay mill owners and the great mass of the people not wishing it. I remember three or four years ago when we were engaged in fiscal controversy, and I was busy amongst it, a meeting of the Legislative Council was held in India. This subject was discussed there, and every Indian representative on the Legislative Council, without exception, voted in favour of the repeal of the Excise Duty, and nearly every one of them spoke in favour of that. There was not a vote on the other side given by anybody except by the official members, and that vote was given, of course, as it had to be, in order to carry out the views of the Government. What my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister says is that this is something which, to the Indian people, appears to be an act of injustice, and from that point of view it ought to be remedied. Is there any contradiction in that, from what was said by the Secretary of State for India, when he said, "Here is an offer made, and 1233 we had to accept it or reject it"? My light hon. Friend (Sir J. Simon) made another remark. He said that the Secretary of State for India really controls these matters.
§ Sir J. SIMON
If I said that I went beyond what I intended to say. I did intend to suggest, or rather to inquire, whether my right hon. Friend was not a party to the offer. I did not say he controls these matters.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly right in the legal position. The offer could only be made with the consent of the Council in London, of which the Secretary of State for India is the head. But that is not a point; it is really a technicality. The offer to which he referred was made and was discussed in the Legislative Council in India. They made the offer. They suggested it to the Council here. It was from them the offer came, and if my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for India had begun to bargain about it, it would in reality, if not technically, have been just as much a case of haggling by the Government as if it was done by the Prime Minister or any other member. I do not think we are interested much in these aspects of the question. My right hon. Friend stated that the Prime Minister had mentioned to the deputation yesterday that were it not for the War the deputation would be right in the view which they took. I am not at all sure that he is wrong in that view. If he regarded it from the point of view of the justice and the merits of the case he would have been wrong, but if it were regarded from the point of view—and I think that it is the strongest point made against it—that during the War we ought not to have done anything which was likely to raise controversy, then his answer meant this only, and I agree with it, that it was the necessities of the War and regard for opinion in India which alone justified us in taking this position.
My right hon. Friend said, speaking of the statement of the Prime Minister, that while the Secretary of State for India had been consistent the Prime Minister had been inconsistent. He really is wrong. I forget whether he was a member of the Cabinet at the time, but at that time I was opposed to its being brought forward, and I was not opposed to its being brought forward now. I will tell the House why. There was a great change in the situation. 1234 Last year the Government of India wished to raise these duties on cotton as on other things. They were not allwed to do so. What happened only shows the strength of Indian opinion. They raised the other duties, but as they could not force Indian opinion to the extent of increasing the Excise at the same time they had to abandon the Excise Duty on cotton altogether, though it was from that source that the largest part of the revenue was to be derived. We knew, as the Prime Minister has pointed out, that we were in hope of getting even greater help from India. They came forward and made us this offer. The Viceroy, in putting it forward, made it perfectly plain that it would be almost impossible, and certainly absolutely impossible with the good will of India, to get this loan of £100,000,000 unless this change were made. This was the position with which we were faced. We knew that there would be trouble in Lancashire, though we certainly did not anticipate that it would be as great as it has been, but we were certain that if we did not take this course there would be trouble in India, and what we had to decide this year was simply this: From the point of view of the War is there likely to be more trouble at home or in India? That was the question which we had to decide, and it was on that basis we gave our decision. I say this, speaking for myself, that during the War that is the point of view from which I regard all these things. I recognise that anything which divides the nation, whatever some hon. Members opposite may think, is one of the worst things which we can have from the point of view of carrying on the War.
§ Mr. BONAR LAW
It is not so inconsistent as the hon. Member thinks, because whatever does give trouble during the War is a source of weakness to the nation, and that is to be avoided if it can be. But developing the point of view which I took in this matter, we did not expect so much trouble from Lancashire, and I will tell the House why. Hon. Members have spoken as if this were the thin edge with regard to Tariff Reform, as if it were Tariff Reform which was making us do this. Why this proposal, if it were to 1235 be final, is as much opposed to the views of Tariff Reformers, to all the views which they have ever put forward in regard to the cotton trade in India as well as anything else, as it can possibly be to the views of Free Traders. I have always taken the view, for instance, in regard to India, and it is worth keeping in mind, that while it is perfectly true that we have the control of India, we have no right to look at India from that point of view, but from the point of view of the interests of India. I have always thought, in view of the unanimous feeling of India, that, whatever change may be made, in my belief, in the interests of Lancashire as much as that of Great Britain, nothing can be worse than to give to India the impression that it is local and particular interests that are interfering with the carrying out of what is manifestly desired in India. I think the secretary of State for India was right when he said that India is the best market for Lancashire. One of the worst things Lancashire could do is to create ill will in India towards its markets. I am convinced that system could not have gone on indefinitely and I am sure that when the time cornel to review fiscal policy—of course the House knows my views—the best chance of Lancashire having a good market in India is by arrangement between the two and by looking at these fiscal questions with fair play to India as well as to Lancashire; that when proposals are made in India they should consider not merely what the effect will be in India, but what the effect will be in Lancashire and so arrange their fiscal system that it will do good to India and as little harm as possible to a particular industry at home. That is my view. Let me put the position as I see it. What we have done in my view does not settle the principle which we have fought about so long. It does not settle and obviously it cannot settle it, for this reason, that neither political party in this country is satisfied with that arrangement. Free Traders will try to establish an Excise Duty corresponding to the Import Duty. Fiscal Reformers will certainly, and, if they have control in the matter, will certainly insist that there shall be a system of Preference. It is obvious that is, for either of the political parties, a final arrangement. It is perfectly true that the theory and view of Free Traders has always been that an Import Duty should be accompanied by 1236 a corresponding Excise Duty. I remember a speech of the late Professor Fawcett on this particular subject of India, in which he said that to impose a theoretic view of economies under all circumstances is not Free Trade nor statesmanship, but simply pedantry. What has happened? Import Duties have been imposed in India without the corresponding Excise Duties, and they have been imposed by Free Trade Governments. Why? Because the duties were revenue-duties pure and simple, and they were willing to submit to the little measure of Protection that was involved, rather than impose the inconvenience and annoyance which a system of Excise inevitably brings about.
My right hon. Friend the late Prime Minister showed not only Parliamentary skill, which I always envy, but a real determination not to allow this question to become an impediment to the carrying on of the War. My right hon. Friend, in referring to the old speech which he made, gave an account of it which completely satisfied the House, but it does not alter this fact—that on the merits of this question he is against the views of those who are now pressing it as representing Lancashire. He said in that speech that anything which gives any particular trade or industry special treatment cannot be defended. This does give special treatment to the cotton trade in India, while all other trades have to submit to this Import Duty without corresponding Excise. I put it to the House, I put it to Lancashire, if I may, they cannot really be afraid of this 4 per cent. for the purposes of revenue. That is not what they are afraid of. What they are afraid of is that the principle is given away, that it means that India may be permitted to put on duties designed for the express purpose of keeping out Lancashire goods. If that were the result I should not have approved of it. I did not consider that this settled the question for all time for the reason I have given that it satisfies the views of no party. I am convinced of this, that though the people of Lancashire are convinced that this is going to-do them harm, they are greatly exaggerating the amount of harm it will do them. I am convinced of this, that they are in precisely the same position in which the merchants of Bristol were when they refused to allow Edmund Burke to stand again for that city. They will find that 1237 this does not mean ruin to them, that this does not settle the principle which is involved, and that in the long run they will get more value out of the Indian market by showing good will to India by trying to get an arrangement with India than by creating the impression, however false the impression is, that political influence is being used in the interests of Lancashire against the interests of our
§ great Indian Dominion. That is all I wish to say, and I suggest to the House, since there is to be a Division, that it is just as well that it should take place, if possible, now.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 265; Noes, 125.1239
|Division No. 14.]||AYES.||[10.40 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher||Dennies, E. R. B.||Kollaway, Frederick George|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Dickinson, Rt. Hon. Willoughby N.||Kerry, Earl of|
|Archdale, Lieut. Edward M.||Du Cros, Arthur Philip||Keswick, Henry|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. Martin||Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Astor, Hon. Waldorf||Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Larmor, Sir J.|
|Baird, John Lawrence||Duncannon, Viscount||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Edwards, Clement (Glamorgan, E.)||Layland-Barrett, Sir F.|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Edwards, John Hugh (Glamorgan, Mid)||Lloyd, George Ambrose (Stafford, W.)|
|Barnes, Rt. Hon. George N.||Eyres-Monsell, Bolton M.||Lloyd, George Butler (Shrewsbury)|
|Barnett, Capt. R. W.||Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)|
|Barrie, H. T.||Fell, Arthur||Lockwood, Rt. Hon. Lt.-Colonel A. R.|
|Bathurst, Col. Hon. A. B. (Glos., E.)||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L.||Long, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Bathurst, Capt. Charles (Wilts, Wilton)||Fitzroy, Hon. Edward A.||Lowe, Sir F. W. (Birm., Edgbaston)|
|Beach. William F. H.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||M'Calmont, Col. Robert C. A.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Fletcher, John Samuel||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Forster, Henry William||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk.B'ghs).|
|Beck, Arthur Cecil||Foster, Philip staveley||Mackinder, Halford J.|
|Beckett, Hon. Gervase||France, Gerald Ashburner||M'Laren, Hon. H. D. (Laics.)|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Ganzoni, Francis John C.||Macmaster, Donald|
|Bentinck, Lord H. Cavendish.||Gastrell, Lieut.-Col. W. Houghton||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Bigland, Alfred||George, Rt. Hon. D. Lloyd||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)|
|Bird, Alfred||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Macpherson, James Ian|
|Blair, Reginald||Goldman, C. S.||Magnus, Sir Philip|
|Blake, Sir Francis Douglas||Goulding, Sir Edward Alfred||Malcolm, Ian|
|Booth, Frederick Handel||Greenwood, Sir G. G. (Peterborough)||Mallaby-Deeley, Harry|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Greenwood, Sir Hamar (Sunderland)||Marks Sir George Croydon|
|Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Gretton, John||Mason, James F. (Windsor)|
|Boyle, William (Norfolk, Mid)||Guinness, Hon. Rupert (Essex, S.E.)||Meux, Hon. Sir Hedworth|
|Boyton, James||Haddock, George Bahr||Middlebrook, Sir William|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Hambre, Angus Valdemar||Middlemore, John Throgmorton|
|Brassey, H. Leonard Campbell||Hamersley, Alfred St. George||Mildmay, Rt. Hon. Francis Bingham|
|Bridgeman, William Clive||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Mills, Lieut. Arthur R.|
|Brookes, Warwick||Hamilton, Lord C. J. (Kensington, S.)||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred|
|Bull, Sir William James||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Montagu, Rt. Hon. E. S.|
|Burdett-Coutts, William||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Morison, Thomas B.>|
|Burgoyne, Alan Hughes||Harmsworth, Cecil (Luton, Beds)||Morrison-Bell, Major E. F. (Ashburton)|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Harmsworth, R. L. (Caithness-shire)||Mount, William Arthur|
|Butcher, John George||Harris, Rt. Hon. Leverton (Wor'ter, E.)||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert|
|Carlile, Sir Edward Hildred||Harris, Henry Percy (Paddington, S.)||Newton, Harry Kottingham|
|Carnegie, Lieut.-Col. D. G.||Haslam, Lewis||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield),|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham)||Nield, Herbert|
|Cator, John||Hendry, Denis S.||Norton-Griffiths, Sir John|
|Cave, Rt. Hon. Sir George||Herbert, General Sir Ivor (Mon., S.)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.|
|Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Herbert, Hon. A. (Somerset, S.)||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Cecil, Lord Hugh (Oxford University)||Hewart, Sir Gordon||Parker, James (Halifax)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord R. (Herts, Hitchin)||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Parkes, Ebenezer|
|Chaloner, Colonel R. G. W.||Hickman, Colonel Thomas F.||Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)|
|Chamberlan, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Hinds, John||Pearce, Sir William (Limehouse)'|
|Clive, Captain Percy Archer||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Pearson, Hon. Weetman H. M.|
|Coates, Major Sir Edward Feetham||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Pease, Herbert Pike (Darlington)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Pennefather, De Fonblanque|
|Compton-Rickett, Rt. Hon. Sir J.||Hope, Lieut.-Col. J. A. (Midlothian)||Perkins, Walter Frank|
|Cooper, Sir Richard Ashmole||Home, Edgar||Peto, Basil Edward|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||Hunt, Major Rowland||Pollock, Ernest Murray|
|Cory, James H. (Cardiff)||Hunter, Sir Charles Rodk.||Pratt, J. W.|
|Cowan, W. H.||Illingworth. Albert H.||Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Craig, Ernest (Cheshire, Crewe)||Ingleby, Holcombe||Priestley, Sir Arthur (Grantham)|
|Craig, Colonel James (Down, E.)||Jackson, Lt.-Col. Hen. F. S. (York)||Prothero, Rt. Hon. Rowland Edmund|
|Craig, Norman (Kent, Thanet)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Pryce-Jones, Colonel E.|
|Craik, Sir Henry||Jardine, Sir J. (Roxburgh)||Quilter, Sir Cuthbert|
|Croft, Lieut.-Col. Henry Page||Jessel, Colonel H. M.||Radford, Sir George Heynes|
|Currie, George W.||Johnston, Christopher N.||Randles, Sir John S.|
|Dairymple, Hon. H. H.||Jones, Edgar (Merthyr Tydvil)||Ratcliff, Major R. F.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Davies, M. Vaughan- (Cardiganshire)||Jones, W. Kennedy (Hornsey)||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arfon)|
|Denman, Hon. Richard Douglas||Jones, William S. Glyn- (Stepney)||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, E.)|
|Denison-Pender. J. C.||Joynson-Hicks, William||Reid, Rt. Hon. Sir G.|
|Remnant, James Farquharson||Starkey, John R.||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Richardson, Arthur (Rotherham)||Staveley-Hill, Henry||Webb, Sir H.|
|Roberts, Charles H. (Lincoln)||Steel-Maitland, A. D.||Weston, Colonel J. W.|
|Roberts, George H. (Norwich)||Stewart, Gershem||Wheler, Major Granville C. H.|
|Roberts, Sir J. H. (Denbighs)||Stirling, Lieut.-Col. Archibald||Whiteley, Herbert J.|
|Roberts, S. (Sheffield, Ecclesall)||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)||Williams, Colonel Sir R. (Dorset, W.)|
|Rothschild, Lionel de||Swift, Rigby||Williams, T. J. (Swansea)|
|Rowlands, James||Sykes, Col. Alan John (Knutsford)||Wills, Sir Gilbert|
|Royds, Edmund||Sykes, Sir Mark (Hull, Central)||Wilson, Captain Leslie O. (Reading)|
|Rutherford, Watson (L'pool, W. Derby)||Terrell, Henry (Gloucester)||Wilson, Lt.-Cl.SirM.(Beth'l Green,S.W.)|
|Salter, Arthur Clavell||Thomas, J. H.||Wilson-Fox, Henry|
|Samuels, Arthur W.||Thomson, W. Mitchell- (Down, North)||Wnfrey, Sir Richard|
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir Harry (Norwood)||Thomas-Stanford. Charles||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Samuel, Samuel (Wandsworth)||Thynne, Lord Alexander||Wood, Hon. E. F. L. (Yorks, Ripon)|
|Sassoon, Sir Philip||Tickler, T. G.||Worthington Evans, Major Sir L.|
|Scott, A. MacCallum (Glas., Bridgeton)||Touche, Sir George Alexander||Yate, Colonel C. E.|
|Scott, Leslie (Liverpool, Exchange)||Tryon, Captain George Clement||Yeo, Alfred William|
|Seely, Rt. Hon. Col. J. E. B. (Ilkeston)||Turton, Edmund Russborough||Younger, Sir George|
|Smith, Rt. Hon. Sir F. E. (Walton)||Walker, Colonel William Hall|
|Smith, Harold (Warrington)||Ward, A. S. (Herts, Watford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Spear, Sir John Ward||Warde, Colonel C. E. (Kent, Mid)||Lord Edmund Talbot and Mr. Primrose|
|Stanier, Capt. Seville||Warner, Sir Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Stanton, Charles Butt||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney)|
|Adkins, Sir W. Ryland D.||Hayden, John Patrick||O'Connor, T. P. (Liverpool)|
|Agnew, Sir George William||Hazleton. Richard||O'Doherty, Philip|
|Anderson, W. C.||Holme Sir Norval Watson||O'Dowd, John|
|Arnold, Sydney||Hibbbert, Sir Henry F.||Oyden, Fred|
|Baker, Rt. Hon. H. T. (Accrington)||Higham, John Sharp||O'Grady, James|
|Baring, Sir Godfrey (Barnstaple)||Hoggs, James Myles||O'Malley, William|
|Bentham, George Jackson||Holt, Richard Durning||O'Neill, Dr. Charles (Armagh, S.)|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hudson, Walter||O'Shaughnessy, P. J.|
|Boland, John Pius||John, Edward Thomas||O'Sullivan, Timothy|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rushcliffe)||Outhwaite, R. L.|
|Boyle, Daniel (Mayo, North)||Jowett, Frederick William||Pollard, Sir George H.|
|Brady, Patrick Joseph||Joyce, Michael||Pringle, William M. R.|
|Brunner, John F. L.||Keating, Matthew||Raffan, Peter Wilson|
|Burns, Rt. Hon. John||Kelly, Edward||Reddy, Michael|
|Buxton, Noel||Kennedy, Vincent Paul||Redmond, John E. (Waterford)|
|Byles, Sir William Pollard||Kilbride, Denis||Redmond, William Archer (Tyrone, E.)|
|Byrne, Alfred||King, Joseph||Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)|
|Chancellor, Henry George||Lambert, Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Tyneside)|
|Clancy, John Joseph||Lardner, James C. R.||Roch, Walter F. (Pembroke)|
|Clough, William||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)||Rowntree, Arnold|
|Condon, Thomas Joseph||Lough, Rt. Hon, Thomas||Runciman, Sir Walter (Hartlepool)|
|Cosgrave, James||Lundon, Thomas||Rutherford, Sir John (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Crumley, Patrick||Lynch, Arthur Alfred||Scanlan, Thomas|
|Cullinan, John||Macdonald, J. Ramsay (Leicester)||Sheehy, David|
|Devlin, Joseph||McGhee, Richard||Simon, Rt Hon. Sir John Ailsebrook|
|Dillon, John||MacNeill, J. G. Swift (Donegal, South)||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Donelan, Captain A.||MacVeagh, Jeremiah||Smyth, Thomas F. (Leitrim, S.)|
|Donovan, John Thomas||Maden, Sir John Henry||Snowden, Philip|
|Doris, William||Mallalieu, Frederick William||Swann, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E.|
|Dougherty, Rt. Hon. Sir J. B.||Mason, David M. (Coventry)||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Duffy, William J.||Meagher, Michael||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Farrell, James Patrick||Meehan, Francis E. (Leitrim, N.)||Toottll, Robert|
|Ffrench, Peter||Meehan, Patrick J. (Queen's Co., Leix)||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Field, William||Molloy, Michael||Trevelyan, Charles Philips|
|Fitzgibbon, John||Molteno, Percy Alport||Wardle, George J.|
|Fitzpatrick, John Laior||Mooney, John J.||White, J. Dundas (Glasgow, Tradeston)|
|Flavin, Michael Joseph||Muldoon, John||White, Patrick (Meath, North)|
|Glanville, Harold James||Needham, Christopher T.||Whitty, Patrick Joseph|
|Goldstone, Frank||Nolan, Joseph||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Gwynn, Stephen Lucius (Galway)||Nugent, J. D. (College Green)|
|Hackett, John||Nuttall, Harry||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr. Barton and Sir Henry Norman|
|Hall, Frederick (Yorks, Normanton)||O'Brien, Patrick (Kilkenny)|
|Harvey, A. G. C. (Rochdale)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)|
Question put, and agreed to.
§ Main Question again proposed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:The House at the same time declares its opinion that such changes as are proposed in the Indian Budget in the system of Indian Cotton Duties should be considered afresh when the fiscal relationship 1240 of the various parts of the Empire to one another and to the rest of the world comes to be reviewed as a whole after the War.
§ Resolved, "That, whereas the Government of India, deeming the well-being and 1241 interests of the Indian Empire to be vitally concerned in the successful prosecution of the War, have recommended that a Contribution charged on the Revenues of India should be made towards the expenses of the same, such contribution to consist of the sum of £100,000,000 to be provided in part from the proceeds of a loan to be raised in India and the remainder by assuming liability for interest on British War Loan of the required amount, and whereas this Contribution has been offered to His Majesty's Government and gratefully accepted by them, and the Government of India have now made provision by legislation and in their Revenue and Expenditure Estimates for meeting, by means of increased taxation and otherwise, the annual charge for interest and sinking fund in respect of the Contribution as aforesaid, this House consents that a Contribution of £100,000,000 charged on the Revenues of India shall be made towards the cost of the War. The House at the same time declares its opinion that such changes as are proposed in the Indian Budget in the system of Indian Cotton Duties should be considered afresh when the fiscal relationship of the various parts of the Empire to one another and to the rest of the world comes to be reviewed as a whole after the War."