§ The metals and ores to which this Act applies are zinc, copper, tin, lead, nickel, aluminium, and any other non-ferrous metals and ores to which this Act may be applied by order of the Board of 349 Trade, and the expression "ore" shall include concentrates, mattes, precipitates and other intermediate products.
§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to move, to leave out the word "copper."
When we had the discussion on the Second Reading of this Bill we were told a great deal about the danger to the State incurred through the machinations of the Germans in zinc ores and zinc metals and the way we had become dependent upon foreign sources for our supply of spelter. To a certain extent we have had the same story told about lead, but I have not, during the whole discussion, heard any allegations that any other non-ferrous metals were being improperly handled by our enemies, therefore I have put down Amendments to leave out some of these different nonferrous metals, in order to ascertain, if I can, what is the precise danger we have been running from the machinations of the German companies. I should like to ask the President of the Board of Trade to tell us in what sense we have been -deprived of our supplies of copper by the machinations of Germany? I understand that it does not come from Germany, but that it comes mainly from the New World. So far as I have any dealings in copper, it comes from Japan. I want to know what evidence the Board of Trade have that at any time and under any circumstances we have been prevented from getting copper by the machinations of the -German companies, and what reason the right hon. Gentleman has to think that the passing of this Bill will affect the supply of copper by a single half-pound per annum?
Sir A. STANLEY
It is quite true that in the Second Reading Debate particular reference was made to zinc ores and zinc metals. I did also say at that time that these German combinations were extending their activities, and that there was no doubt that they were getting control of other non-ferrous metals. I do not think there can be any doubt that it is possible for such a combination as the Metallgesellschaft Company in Germany to secure by various ways a very considerable control over most of the non-ferrous metals of the world. Their control was an extremely complicated one, and an extremely valuable and able one. It would be impossible to define that control in a few words. In some instances they secured complete control of the output of raw material.
Sir A. STANLEY
In some instances, I said, they secured control of practically the entire output of the raw material. That would be true of the zinc concentrates of Australia. It is quite true that since the War began that control has been broken. We have secured for the use of this country a very large part of the output of the zinc concentrates of Australia, and I am very hopeful that that German control will never under any circumstances be resumed. It would not be true to say that they had that same control or that same form of control with respect to copper. But it would be true to say that the Metallgesellschaft had through their connections with other companies established a certain control of the output of copper. Their control with regard to copper and zinc took this form: They had a control, either directly or indirectly, of the smelting plants, and they were able to determine the price that those plants paid for their raw material. They made every effort through their associations with these companies to establish those plants not in the country where the product was required, but to establish them in Germany and in places where the material could he used for the particular benefit of those countries. In this country they had a certain control over certain smelting plants, and it would be quite true to say that as a result of this extraordinary complicated form of control the Metallgesellschaft had all these various undertakings in various parts of the world whether with mining companies, refining companies, smelting companies or trading companies, and there was a common interest established by this great German combination which made all these subsidiary undertakings form some sort of alliance, either direct or indirect, with them.
I have never said and I do not profess that this great German combination had secured at the time the War broke out their ultimate goal. To secure that, they would have constantly extended their activities. They had gone a very long way towards establishing that control, and I say with confidence to the members of this Committee that if the War had not come, that control would have eventually been made absolutely complete. I say this further, that immediately before the outbreak of war, through the operations of this gigantic undertaking, this country was at that time labouring under a great 351 disadvantage. It can be argued quite correctly that the foundation upon which this great combination was secured was the obtaining of control of raw materials. How did they obtain control of raw materials? Simply by their power and by their vast resources. They could make it worth while for anybody to enter into an arrangement with them and to make a very long time contract whereby the whole output of raw materials would be bought either by the Metallgesellschaft or through one of their subsidiary undertakings. It was a beneficial arrangement both for the Metallgesellschaft and the particular company concerned.
Sir A. STANLEY
As I have said, the success of this great undertaking was really due to the fact that by their great resources, their financial strength and the great ability of those connected with it they were able to secure control of raw materials, and to control raw material even within the British Empire. As to why we did not do it, I can make no answer to that. I do not profess to give an answer. The fact remains that we did not do it. The Germans had the opportunity and they took advantage of that opportunity and have benefited by it. That scheme, I think, and in that I am fortified by the advice of the Committee which my predecessor set up; I am fortified in it by many investigations I have carried on myself; I am fortified in it by the facts known to everybody—must be a great menace to this country and the Empire. That being so, are we to leave the situation as it is? Are we to let the matter rest until the War comes to an end? Are we to allow this great German combination to go on, extending its control Already before the War it had done some things prejudicial to the interests of this country and beneficial to the interests of Germany. That being so, what is the position of the Board of Trade with that information before it? Are we to say to our people, "You should have taken advantage of the opportunity to have done for your country what the Germans have done for theirs"? I do not agree that that is the policy we should have pursued. We must recognise the facts and do all we can, realising the seriousness of the situation, not only to prevent German control from being con- 352 tinued and extended after the War, but to take steps which will give our people at least an opportunity of recognising the mistakes made in the past and of establishing themselves in a sufficiently strong position to deal with these particular metals which are so vital to our industries on just as wise and sound principles as those practised by this great German combination. That seems to me to be a right and proper business way of looking at this problem, and I feel I should be neglecting my duty as President of the Board of Trade if I did not recognise the situation and if I did not take an early opportunity of bringing the attention of this House to it by means of a measure which, I believe, will afford us the best way of working under the circumstances, and which, while it will defeat that great German combination and prevent German control after the War, will, en the other hand, encourage British traders to continue in these enterprises and establish them on a secure and satisfactory foundation.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I think on this point I must have an understanding with the Committee. May we take this discussion as covering all the other metals mentioned in this series of Amendments?
§ Mr. HOLT
No. As I have put the Amendments on the Paper may I state quite frankly my object in patting them down was to show that the case for the different metals is wholly different, and that though there may be a case for the Bill with regard to some of them, there is none as regards others? I do not, therefore, want them mixed up.
§ Mr. L. JONES
And for that particular purpose it is clear that the discussion on each particular metal must disclose facts in relation to that metal. The whole case for the Government Bill rests on the particular position in this country in regard to the supply of the metals before, during, and after the War. The case for each metal is different, and the discussion of the facts will give rise to different considerations, each of which must be dealt with— and dealt with, I think, at some length. I do not, consequently, see any possibility of discussing them together.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The Committee is quite entitled to take that view, and that is the reason why I intervened. I wanted to find out what was the view of the Committee. But we must not on each of the 353 successive metals have a fresh Second Reading Debate on the Bill. We will now keep to copper.
I propose to address the Committee purely on the subject of copper, and I am sure my night hon. Friend will agree that it is not out of any disrespect to him that I do not refer to the general principles he has raised. I abstain from doing so because of the ruling that has just been given from the Chair. It is clear, as we take each one of these individual metals, that the difficulty in which the House was placed on the Second Reading is accentuated at the Committee stage. The Committee will remember that the Minister for Reconstruction stated in a rather emotional passage that, owing to the absence of a measure like this before the War, tens of thousands of lives had been sacrificed. I need hardly say that an exaggeration of that kind did not help the case for the Bill. I doubt very much whether it impressed anybody who heard it. But the assertion was made, and it was repeated in newspapers all over the country. I had to speak after my right hon. Friend the Minister for Reconstruction, and I made particular reference to this metal—copper—and I remember that, in doing so, I excited some impatience on the part of the Leader of the House, who was good enough to speak with such clearness that it was possible for us on this side of the House to hear him remark, "What has that to do with it?" Now we find on the Committee stage what it has to do with it.
During that discussion and in the present one we have found ourselves in a very difficult position. My right hon. Friend says that the facts which have been disclosed to the Committee make out a good case for this method of dealing with the situation. But we do not know anything about the facts which were disclosed to the Committee. I venture to say that out of those who were invited to come and discuss this Bill in the House there are not more than four men who had read the Report of the Committee. Of course, my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade had done so; I take it for granted the Parliamentary Secretary has done so, and, in view of the active part he has taken in this discussion, no doubt the Lord Advocate had done so. Then, again, I have no doubt my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock had read the Report, but 354 I do venture to say there was not a single Member in the House other than these I have mentioned who had seen this Report and read it from cover to cover. We have been asked to deal with this Bill on its merits in respect of each individual metal, but we have nothing to go upon except the assurance given by my right hon. Friend that lie is .apprehensive particularly as to the future. What is the case in regard to copper? The right hon. Gentleman knows perfectly well that the Metallgesellsehaft, of Frankfort, had not world control of copper before the War. The control, on the contrary, was in England and America. The production of copper in Spain was controlled by two great English companies; the production of copper in America was under the control of two or three great groups. The smelting of copper required in this country was conducted in this country, concerns which were British firms and not under the control of the Metallgesellschaft. It was conducted in America by a great combination, not under German control, and although I agree that many of the names associated with the copper trade were German names, I am only sorry that the hon. Gentleman the Member for Wellington (Sir C. Henry) is not here this afternoon, because the firm, Charles S. Henry and Company, Limited, of which he has an intimate knowledge, is associated with the firm of Messrs. Guggenheim, of the United States, and he could assure the House that Guggenheims', although a German name, although a firm probably of German origin, are not under the control of the Metallgesellschaft, but are far more under the influence of the hon. Member for Wellington, whose nationality no one has ever doubted. if that is the case with regard to the main supplies of copper, how can the right hon. Gentleman say that before the War the Metallgesellschaft had control of our copper supply—that they had control either at the outbreak of war or after the War broke out?
I have drawn attention more than once to the fact that it could not have bad that control, and I am not going to be rebuffed by the fact that it bores the Leader of the House. When the War broke out we made it our business to get as much electrolithic copper in America as we required, and I am assured by the great firm which represented us in the United States that in the early years of the War—in the first twelve months at any rate—we succeeded in getting con- 355 trol of the whole of the electrolithic copper that was being used in the United States. That does not look as if the Metallgesellschaft had been very successful. What is more, a Government Department here, inexperienced in these matters, which had never attempted to do such a thing before, was enabled to get control of copper supplies here; therefore the idea that the Metallgesellschaft had obtained control either before or after the War is, I venture to suggest, contrary to fact. No doubt it did finance a good deal of the metal required for the Central Empires, but I see nothing pernicious in that. I see nothing pernicious in the fact of the copper in this country being financed by firms on the market here. My right hon. Friend suggested that in future, as regards copper, there might be an intention on the part of the Metallgesellschaft to influence the market. If a case had been made out as regards copper—and I think my right hon. Friend will admit it has not been made out—I wish to ask is this Bill going to give us any greater command of copper than we have had in the past? Will it give us a single ounce more of copper than we had before? Will it give us copper at a single shilling per ton less? Whatever may be the charges made in some quarters of the House that our business men have not successfully competed with the Metall gesellschaft in regard to copper, at all events we have no reason to be ashamed of our business procedure. The Metallgesellschaft was, perhaps, successful in controlling some of the other metals, and it is quite true they did it without Government assistance. They had not a Bill like this to help them. But I can only say, with regard to copper, the Metallgesellschaft had not contnol, and we have justified our business methods by securing a fair share of the copper of the world and by getting it in this country as cheap, if not cheaper, than it can be bought in any other country in the world, and we have been able to control the sources of supply. This method of dealing with copper by preventing certain firms from having any transactions in copper in this market will be detrimental rather than beneficial. One reason why we get cheap copper is to be found in the simple fact that this is an open copper market. Practically the price for Europe was made in the City of London. It was made there simply because there were 356 transactions by letter and by cable, and anybody could deal in copper. The price was made with the greatest facility, because there were dealings by all sorts of individuals, and this freedom in the market has proved of the greatest benefit to this country. Now for the first time this measure is going to interpose obstacles on that freedom. It is for that reason that I say that not only has the Government made out no case for the inclusion of copper in this Bill, but that by their actual proposals they will do that which is detrimental to the supplies of copper; and we shall be thoroughly justified in taking a Division on the inclusion in the Bill of this metal.
§ 5.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. D. REES
Such mining connections as I have are little affected by a Bill dealing with base metals, but as is incumbent on anyone in my position in close connection with those who have an intimate connection with mining, as regards base metals as well as others, I do venture to remind the Committee that the Institute of Mining and Metallurgy, which is an extremely representative body, including representatives of firms dealing in metals, base and others, engaged in that great market, to which the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Runciman) has referred, in the City of London, entirely adopts the view taken to-day by the President of the Board of Trade—
§ Sir J. D. REES
I submit it is so—and not that taken by the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken. He made a most extraordinarily persuasive and able speech, so much so that anyone listening to him who was inclined to differ is very much inclined to feel doubts as to whether he is really right in the attitude he himself takes up. Nevertheless, it is quite a fallacy, I venture to submit, to suggest that a consuming country can. obtain control of a producing country. It is not necessary for you to produce largely yourself in order largely to affect prices in the producing country. For instance, Germany, it is true, only produces a fraction of the copper produced in the world, but though Germany may have only a fraction of the copper she has nine-tenths of all the cunning in the world, and her great association, the Metallgesellschaft, is perfectly capable of making arrangements which though not on the surface do in a subterraneous manner affect that which 357 this Bill is designed to destroy. I should not really venture to address the Committee on this subject except that I do think the Committee is rightly reminded that a body of Englishmen, particularly capable and especially well-equipped to express a judgment on this subject, do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman opposite that you must necessarily produce a large amount of any metal in order to be able to make arrangements affecting its price. The effect of his speech on the Committee ought therefore, as far as possible, to be discounted by those circumstances.
Will the hon. Gentleman answer this one question? I understand he has spoken the view of the Metal Exchange. In expressing the approval of this Bill, have the Metal Exchange, either as individuals or as a body, suggested that this Bill in its application to copper will provide this country with copper any cheaper than in the past?
§ Sir J. D. REES
I am not prepared to be cross-examined in detail as to what they think. I do assert that they approve of this Bill.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I want to add one word to what was said by my right hon. Friend (Mr. Runciman). I think he showed that there was no pre-war danger to the copper consumer in this country, and I think he also established the fact that the bulk of the copper trade of the world was either in British hands or under British control. The object of this Bill, as I have always feared—always regarding it, as I have done, from the consumer's and not from the producer's point of view—is to throw the control not merely of copper but of all these other metal trades into the hands of a few individuals who, disregarding the needs, necessities, and requirements of the consumer, will fix their attention wholly and solely on the producer, and will put up, by reason of the 358 system of restricted trade imposed by this Bill, the price of this metal to the consumer. From that point of view this Bill is a most dangerous proposal, and I oppose it principally on that ground. There may be other Members of this House who are themselves interested in the trade or have a greater knowledge a the manufacturing trade or the merchant trade in copper and who may deal with it from their point of view. From my point of view, however, it is the consumer who is in danger, and there is nothing in the speech of the President of the Board of Trade that seems to me to take into consideation, to give a moment's consideration, to the requirements of the consumer. The whole of his attention was directed, perhaps properly—I do not deal with that aspect of the case now—to the needs of the manufacturer or the merchant. He did not pretend with regard to copper that there was any national danger; he only talked about trade in general. I am here to protest in the name of the consumer against any proposal which unnecessarily restricts trade when the right hon. Gentleman is unable to show—as, indeed, he has not attempted to show—that there is any real danger to the national trade in this matter. For that reason I oppose this provision.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I assure the Committee that, as far as I am concerned, my acquaintance with the topic of copper gains nothing from any connection with its production, and, differing from the right lion. Gentleman who spoke last, I am equally innocent of any experience of it in the capacity of consumer. What does strike me as being worth while to which to draw the attention of the Committee for a moment or so is the value of the argument that has been presented, particularly by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Dewsbury (Mr. Runciman), on its own merits. By that, of course, I do not mean as to whether he is right in asserting that copper was under no control at all by Germany, or whether my right hon.' Friend the President of the Board of Trade, with his information, opportunities, and knowledge, is right in saying that there was already certain control in copper before the War. I propose, being a lawyer, and finding laymen differing, to leave that question aside. I want the Committee to consider—while they will congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the ingenuity of the position he succeeded in taking up— 359 the argument he presented, on its merits. The argument is not to dispute—because he. knows it would be out of order now so to dispute that the Bill should apply to non-ferrous metals. It is not that, because that is already past praying for. The argument is not—and the hon. Member for Hexham (Mr. Holt) is desirous of preserving it, and also deserves the Committee's congratulations on his contribution to the ingenuity of the manœuvre—that it shall not apply to any metal, but that it shall not apply to copper, so that it shall be made not to apply to nickel in the next case, and so on, with the single exception of zinc.
We start with copper, and are to limit the argument to copper. I followed the right hon. Gentleman's argument with great interest, and let me say, as far as I can, what it is. Here is a measure with regard to which it is not possible to ask this Committee to say that there is no ground for it in the case of ferrous metals generally. But consider copper. "You ought not to apply it to copper." Why? Because—and here I am assuming the groundwork of the argument; I am not going to enter on the controversy, of which I know nothing, as to whether copper was under control or not—because, the right hon. Gentleman would say, copper was substantially, at any rate, not under German control before the War. Therefore, I think he would say if he could, "Do not touch any of the nonferrous metals at all." He says, "I quite see that some of these may quite properly come under the Bill, but not copper." Let us get that argument right down to its plain terms. You have been contesting with your antagonist. You have found yourself face-to-face with the Metallgesellschaft. The trade of this country has had to fight its way against this vast and powerful combination, and admittedly that combination has by its combined powers and unified methods which we did not have, or did not adopt, inflicted many wounds; on some metals, admittedly for the purpose of this discussion, serious wounds.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I am dealing strictly with the argument addressed to the House, deliberately and ingeniously selected—and I congratulated the right hon. Gentleman upon it—not because there is no 360 non-ferrous metal in which control has been established, but because copper was not one of them. I am taking the right hon. Gentleman on his own ground. The hon. Member for Hexham will tell the hon. Gentleman that zinc was one in which control was very nearly complete. This powerful antagonist has inflicted a considerable number of wounds. It has, let us say, blacked one eye; and the right hon. Gentleman says, "Whatever you do, do not put on this kind of knuckleduster that has blacked your right eye in order to protect your left." That is, in substance, a plain reproduction of the merits of the argument. "Do not touch this Metallgesellschaft with regard to copper, because before the War copper had not fallen substantially under German control. Admittedly you can apply it to metals of which control has been established, but for goodness' sake do not take time by the forelock and arm yourself in advance." Why not? I can quite understand the. right hon. Gentleman's position as an out-and-out opponent of the whole proposal. That is intelligible. But it is not legitimate in Committee. If we are in Committee, and the question is, "Was control established of one of these metals as completely as it had been of another?"—there may be, for all I know, another in which there was no control at all—what is the value, after all, of that as an argument against making it apply to the general class? It would be a first-class argument if there were some reason—
§ Mr. CLYDE
One moment. I do not want to take up an undue length of time. It would be an excellent argument if there wore some peculiarity about copper not lending itself to the control of the Metallgesellschaft, and the hon. Member for Hexham is going to try and persuade me on that point. That argument I can understand, but it is not the argument of the right hon. Gentleman. His argument is, "Do not touch copper, because you have not yet been hit. You are crying out before you arc hurt." If the Committee considers that, I think it will be very wary before it is led into that very ingenious argument.
The right hon. Gentleman naturally presents the matter in the form which suits him, but he has not put the case as I put it. The case, as I 361 put it, was with the object of preserving the free market. As I pointed out, this Bill will interfere with the free market in London, and it is owing to the free market, I maintain, that we have copper in this country as cheap as, if not cheaper than, in any other country in the world. That is the point which my right hon. and learned Friend has not met.
§ Mr. CLYDE
I am not consciously misrepresenting the right hon. Gentleman, but he did say that, in. the case of copper, before the War there was substantially no German control, and therefore we should leave it alone. I quite admit that he says that he thinks that a free market would be better preserved without control. That is a general argument which is not specially applicable to copper, and we are dealing with copper. What is there peculiar about copper on that point? Nothing. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman's argument, which was an argument about copper, was based on this. that the control of the Metallgesellschaft was not complete or was not established at all. What argument can be weaker than to say with regard to a huge combination, which aimed at world-wide domination of the metal market, that, because it had not been successful with one of the metals, therefore we should not deal with that metal? That argument leaves me cold, hut I admire the ingenuity with which my Friends on the other side, having no opportunity of a frontal attack, are now attacking the Bill piecemeal.
§ Mr. HOLT
I would not like to say that the right hon. and learned Gentleman has not appreciated the arguments brought against him, but, at any rate, he appears not to do so. The point is that the circumstances of the different metals are different. They differ entirely in their place of origin, and the circumstances in which they are controlled. You may be able to make a case to show that the provisions of this Bill will do something to secure control of these metals, but, having regard to the particular circumstances of copper, with which the right hon. and learned Gentleman did not deal, it is impossible that the provisions of this Bill can do anything whatever to increase the supply of copper in this country. Copper originates mainly in the United States of America. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman tell us what part of this Bill can possibly increase the 362 supply in this country of any article which is produced in the United States of America? There is nothing in this Bill to prevent the Metallgesellschaft from acquiring every ounce of copper in America. The. only thing that this Bill will do will be to secure that, if they were to acquire all the copper in America, they will not be permitted to sell any of it in this country.
§ Mr. L. JONES
The right hon, and learned Gentleman was good enough to say that he admired the ingenuity of the argument addressed by the former President of the Board of Trade. I admire greatly the ingenuity with which he endeavoured to answer the almost unanswerable arguments when the facts of the case are all against him. It is absolutely evident, from the speech of the President of the Board of Trade and the right hon. and learned Gentleman, that there in no case whatever for the inclusion of copper in this Bill. The right hon. and learned Gentleman has not appreciated the case put forward on behalf of the Bill. Why is it a nonferrous metal Bill? There is a clear distinction drawn between ferrous and nonferrous metals. The reason is that there are certain peculiar incidents affecting these metals with which the Government are endeavouring to deal in this Bill. The reason given was that there was danger of the enemy getting control of these metals. Before any particular metal is included in this Bill a case should be made out for inclusion. We do not admit that any case for this Bill has been made, but he says it is admitted that you have had a black eye, say, in regard to zinc, and why get the other eye blacked in regard to copper? We have not admitted that the eye was blacked. But that is the case for the Bill as put forward by the Government. Therefore, if they are going to include another metal, such as copper, because they argue that in the case of zinc we have suffered injury, it is for them to show that copper is in the same position as zinc. No attempt has been made to show that, for a very good reason, that it cannot be done. The facts are all against it. Not even the most ingenious of Scottish lawyers can make a case where there is no fact or principle upon which to justify it. We say that, other things being equal, it is better that trade should not be interfered with than that it should 363 be interfered with. That is the second proposition on which we are fighting certain parts of the Bill. Unless you can show that advantage will follow, that an evil has been suffered from which your Bill is going to deliver us, you ought not to include the metal in the Bill. The case which we make in favour of the Amendment is that no such proof has been offered. It is not even alleged. The most that is alleged, as justifying a departure from the old-established system of this country in regard to a metal in which we have been successful, is that this might be possible. The President of the Board of Trade said, but for this War, the German company might have secured control of copper. He hardly went so far as that, but he said that they bought some copper for use in Germany, and they actually, by means of foresight and cash, were buying copper where copper could be obtained. Is that control?
§ Mr. JONES
My right hon. and learned Friend quoted the President of the Board of Trade, and I think that the quotation was verbally accurate, but if there was any control claimed it was at any rate a very small amount of control, and the method of obtaining that control was to buy the copper and to exercise foresight in regard to it. The President of the Board of Trade based himself upon the Report, but he was careful not to say that the Report contained anything alleging that a case was made out for copper. We are labouring under the very great disadvantage that we have not seen this Report. It is a very unusual thing in Parliamentary Debates, I am not sure that it is not even a disorderly thing, that Reports should be referred to and used as a basis for arguments in the House when hon. Members have not had an opportunity of seeing the Report. The right hon. Gentleman does not quote from the Report to justify his action. I could call for it if he quoted for it. He tells us the substance of what it says, but he was careful not to tell us that the Report recommended the Board of Trade to deal with copper in the same way as with the other metals. The President of 364 the Board of Trade said he feared that, if the War had not come on, the Metallgesellschaft might have obtained control of copper. I do not think that he went so far as to say that they would have obtained control of copper. He knows full well how difficult it would be for anyone to get control of copper if it was not the people of this country—we were the people who had the most control of copper—but, on the other hand, he suggested that one of the causes producing this War was the failure of Germany to obtain control of certain things of which she would have liked to obtain control. I enter my protest against the continual references which are made in this Debate to German trade and German methods to the disparagement of British trade and methods. If you are going to compare the two I say that, before the War, our trade was stronger, healthier, and more wealth-producing than German trade. It is perfectly true that Germany, by special attention to certain departments of trade, had acquired a special hold in these departments. If we had tried we could have rivalled her in these any time we chose to do so. We sometimes gave them a start.
§ Mr. JONES
I think that I am justified in pointing out this, that we have asked specific questions in regard to copper and we receive nothing but general answers dealing with all metals. We are in the position of pleading for special information. We claim that the control of the copper situation is in this country and not in Germany, and that the effect of your action will be to transfer to America the control of copper from this country. What I am afraid you are going to do, and that is why I am so strongly opposing this Bill in some of its parts, is to transfer the copper market from London to New York. I believe that the fetter which is put on is unnecessary and will injure trade. I ask the President of the Board of Trade whether there is no danger of driving the copper market from London and setting it up in another part of the world. I apologise if I have wandered into the general question, but we have received only a general answer. On their own showing the Government asked for this Bill because they say that injury has been suffered in regard to metals dealt with in 365 this Bill. Therefore we are indebted to my right hon. Friend for putting down Amendments in regard to each of these metals. We have asked for the case in regard to copper and we get no answer. I hope that my hon. Friend will divide in order that copper at least may be saved from the tender mercies of the Board of Trade and left to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the British trader.
§ Sir C. CORY
It has been said in the course of this Debate that the Metal Exchange is in favour of this Bill, but Members of this House have heard that argument put before—when it was stated that the Mining Association represented the mine-owners of this country, though they did. nothing of the sort. I dare say in the same way the Metal Exchange does not to any further extent than in that case represent the metal interest of this country. My right hon. Friend (Mr. Leif Jones) said— and I agree—that damage was being done by interference to the trade of this country, and I cannot for the life of me see how this Bill is likely to bring a larger quantity of metal to this country. It seems to me that it will have exactly the reverse effect. If, in the future, the Germans were to come to this country to buy copper, would it not be infinitely better that they should do so, for, in that case, this country would derive a benefit from it that they would not obtain should they go to America to make their purchases of copper. If it were undesirable that Germans should buy copper in this country, it would be still more undesirable that they should go to America, and that the Metal Exchange should be removed from this country to the United States. I cannot see how this Bill is going to do anything to prevent the Germans from buying copper. All they have to do is to go to the producing countries. As has been pointed out, this Bill cannot stop their buying in producing countries, and, what I do know is, that these proposals will cause considerable inconvenience to copper producers in my own Constituency, for they will have to get a licence, their books will have to be overhauled, and all their business looked into, and all this for an object which, it seems to me, will not be accomplished by this Bill, because it will not prevent the Germans buying as much copper as they want, and because, as has been said in Debate, they have enormous cash reserves with which they could certainly go to the producing countries and offer very much 366 higher prices than could this country. I shall certainly support the Amendment if it goes to a Division, because I think the proposals of the Bill are against the interests of my Constituents.
§ Mr. SHAW
The right hon. and learned Member for Rushcliffe dealt with matters which, I think, really belonged to the. Second. Reading Debate on the Bill. But, in the course of his observations, he made an appeal for information which I may say has been tendered ad nauseam, and a similar appeal for information was made at an earlier stage by the ex-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman). It is in some respects a commentary upon that desire for information that, at the beginning of this War, the situation with regard to copper in this country was so serious, and the risk of the Germans getting hold of the copper available in the world was so serious, that the ex-President of the Board of Trade (Mr. Runciman) himself had to take very complete and stringent measures to see that this country got sufficient copper, in order to support the War properly. For those measures which he took with such promptness the country is under a great debt of gratitude both to the Board of Trade and the right hon. Gentleman. But I am rather surprised that the right hon. Gentleman should tell the President, in bringing forward and asking the House of Commons to give its assent to this Bill, which deals with all these nonferrous metals that are vital to this country in time of war as a means of defence, that he may safely leave out of account the most vital of all, namely, copper itself. The right hon. Gentleman told us that copper was safe, and we, therefore, need not be anxious to include it. The right hon. Gentleman knows that no metal, in time of war, is so important as copper, and to say that copper is safe is, I would say, to do less than justice to the right hon. Gentleman's own views that he held at the beginning of the War, when, as President of the Board of Trade, he took those stringent measures which he described.
The right hon. Gentleman has already himself assented to the principle of this Bill, and has said to the enemy that he is willing to pass a measure which, in principle, would shut Germany out of dealing in Great Britain in tin, in antimony, in spelter, lead, and zinc. He admits the strength of the case for zinc, but he says he will leave the door open for copper. 367 Virtually he said that what we are doing is locking the stable door, yet he comes and tells us, "Oh, do not lock the door on copper, for that horse has not yet been stolen." If a Bill like this is required at all, it is required for the purpose of national defence, and it should run through all the gamut of these metals, which are open to the threats and machinations of the German Metallgesellschaft. As the President of the Board of Trade has repeatedly explained, copper is one of these metals. We were told by the right hon. and learned Gentleman (Mr. Leif Jones) that we are inflicting fetters on the dealers in this country. An hon. Member of this House who knows more about copper than any other, and who himself is concerned in the copper trade, welcomes these fetters, and he is ready to go through the process of taking out a licence. All that this Bill asks is that the Government should be empowered to take measures to inquire into the character and antecedents of those who wish to engage in this business. That is all. There are no fetters about it. I respectfully submit to the House that one of the most vital metals in the interests of national defence would be excluded, and this Bill, so far as it looks, not at the past, but at the future, at the plans and ramifications of the German Metallgesellschaft, would be emasculated and rendered useless if this wrecking Amendment were passed by the Committee.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate has made a creditable attempt to grapple with the real issue, and he paid a tribute to the ingenuity displayed by my right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury, though certainly he was not less ingenious himself in defending the Government's position in regard to this question. But our attitude towards him ought, I think, to be one of compassion, for he does not profess to know anything about copper, and all he could do was to apply the forensic method of argument, a method which has become almost an abuse in some instances. The case put to him was a very simple one. The President of the Board of Trade has repeatedly stated that this Bill is necessitated by the fact of the constant encroachment of a certain German control of non-ferrous metals, but he never explained why this Bill is necessary from that point of view. In regard to the par- 368 titular metal—copper—which we are now upon, he went so far as to say that the Germans would have obtained control of the copper if the War had not intervened. Perhaps he did not mean to say that, but I understood him to say that it certainly would. He has given us absolutely no evidence in support of that proposition, and I may say, in regard to the use of the word "control," that he has never given any clear information of what he means by the word "control." Unless the word "control" is to be understood in regard to the power to divert or prevent a metal going to a given place and making it go to another, then there is no proposition before us at all.
The right hon. Gentleman never attempted to show at any moment whatever that such control as is alleged existed on the part of the enemy and prevented copper coming here. It is absolutely impossible forhim to make that argument, because a Member on that side of the House, who is an expert, assured us, the other day, that London was the great centre of the non-ferrous metal market, and especially for copper, in which he was specially interested; yet with these statements made behind him, the President of the Board of Trade says the Germans were getting control everywhere. The right hon. Member for Dewsbury gave an absolute negation of that, and pointed out that control had not been obtained, and in the nature of the case there Was no shadow of ground for believing that control could be obtained in future any more than in the past. That is a specific negation of the President's statement. Then my right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate comes forward with the argument that we on this side had singled out copper because it was a strong point. My right hon. Friend is making an assumption he has no right to make. It was remarked that we on this side had admitted having received a black-eye in regard to another metal. I never made any such admission, nor did my right hon. Friend. My hon. Friend did make attempts to meet the case of capper. He said that the ex-President of the Board of Trade had taken measures at the beginning of the War for getting copper, and the danger was that the Germans would get control of it. That holds good in regard to every kind of commodity of which you like to speak. My right hon. Friend the Member for Dewsbury did not merely buy copper; he bought wheat, sugar, wood—
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
I do not remember him putting it in that way. There are no special facilities in regard to copper. The Germans had no more power of buying copper in America than we had, unless we e are to be told that the Germans had acquired some mysterious power partaking of the nature of sorcery or witchcraft, which business men cannot compete with—unless you introduce a Bill of this kind to knock out of the ring more or less competent men they are afraid to compete with in business. My right hon. Friend was able to get his copper. If the Germans have this extraordinary power of forestalling us with regard to copper, which, as my hon. Friend has pointed out, is a matter of extraordinary importance and one of the primary necessities in war, and if they could not get that copper and did not get it, what becomes of all this case? My right hon. and learned Friend the Lord Advocate says, "Oh, you have not had a black-eye on this, but you might have!" That form of argument is decent only as backing up a Bill that will give you special control over copper in the future. You may say, "It is true we had copper, in spite of the Germans, for this War, but we do not know what will happen in another war, and we are really bringing in this Bill," as my hon. Friend the Member for Kilmarnock put it, "for the purposes of national defence." What pretence has there been to show that this Bill will give you an ounce of copper more than you had before? Surely it is the duty of the President of the Board of Trade to give us reasons for believing that it will give us more copper. I remember on the Second Reading he was challenged as to whether a particular firm of the kind they want to exclude prevented copper coming to this country. No, it was their business to bring it here, and the argument of my right hon. Friend the ex-President is that all these fetters you are imposing on trade, and all these difficulties you are placing in the way of legitimate trade, will simply place obstacles in the way of ordinary trade, while you are throwing open the door to foreign speculation by the Amendment of the hon. Baronet the Member for Wellington (Sir C. Henry), and giving every facility to the foreign speculator. 370 How is that going to bring in more copper? We are entitled to a rational answer to that question. It is no use for the President to mention the word "control" a hundred times. He used that vague formula again and again of "there can be no doubt," where there is the greatest doubt. To show that there is confidence in the report, we had a quotation from the Society of Metallurgy in favour of the Bill, and we were also told that the hon. Baronet the Member for Wellington was in favour of it. It is perfectly natural that the hon. Baronet should be in favour of a measure that will give him facilities and take them away from other people. I am not accusing him of any unworthy motive; I am sure he has none; but he ought not to be cited as if his mere approval of a Bill under such conditions were a justification for it. The Lord Advocate said that we are trying to whittle down the case for this Bill by taking one metal at a time. But that is the only way in which we can get anything like an argued case for the Bill. The case for the Bill has been a case of rhetoric and declamation and appeal to feeling and passion.
§ Mr. ROBERTSON
If the kind of argument used about copper here 'had been used in a discussion before chemists or scientific men, anyone who looked on would, I am sure, have been filled with absolute astonishment at such a discussion, and it would have been branded, I am afraid, as claptrap by any serious thinking man. It is not very respectful to the House of Commons that in such a case as this they should be supplied with arguments which no serious man would dare to bring before a board of business men discussing this question. The President of the Board, if he were putting his case as a business man before business men, would nut attempt to fob them off with the kind of generalities that have been employed here. He would know that they would be aware at least of some of the facts, and that they would want some reasoned justification. The right hon. Gentleman thinks the House of Commons can be got to back up a Bill of the kind on a case that would never be accepted in business by business men for whose judgment he had the slightest respect, and I am bound to say it can be got When we earnestly appealed to the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues to give us a detailed case, I think we are entitled 371 to something more than the forensic methods of the Lord Advocate. I think we are entitled to a reasoned case. The hon. Member for Kilmarnock did attempt to make out such a case, but in the allusion he made to the position taken up by the ex-President he totally failed to do so. Let me remind hon. Gentlemen that every shadow or argument used by the Lord Advocate or the hon. Member for Kilmarnock with regard to this Bill in justification of copper amounts to a very strong case for a ferrous metals Bill. There is no argument they have used that applies to copper that does not apply tenfold more powerfully to steel.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
It is an amazing thing that the Lord Advocate should seriously suggest that an Amendment like this is merely an Amendment of a wrecking nature. From the beginning of these discussions until now we have endeavoured to get from the President some sort of justification for putting copper into the Bill. I quite understand why he gives no detailed justification. He cannot give us a detailed justification because there is none. There was no German control of copper before the War, and nobody knows it better than the President. There was no control of copper during the War by Germany, and there was not the remotest danger of Germany obtaining that control. Why I personally attach great importance to this Amendment is for quite another reason. I would ask the attention of the President while I call certain facts to his notice which have not previously been mentioned. We are told that certain people are delighted with this Bill, although they are concerned with copper. If you look at the conditions in this Bill it is perfectly obvious to anyone, and it has been stated again and again in this House, that the conditions of the Bill are drafted exactly so as to fit one of the biggest copper dealers in the City of London, H. R. Merton and Company, Limited. [An Hon. MEMBER: "A German firm!"] Just after the War began the head of that firm, Mr. Henry Gardiner, was sent by His Majesty's Government to America. He is not a German, but is a, Scotsman. He was, as I say, sent to America at the beginning of the War, and authorised by the Government to proceed to New York and to buy all the copper that he possibly could. As a matter of fact, at that time the Americans had actually decreased their production, 372 and as a result of that he went there with the intention of getting for the Government all the copper available. But he was not successful at that time in his mission. But while there, and this is a point I would have the Committee notice, acting for the Government, he proposed to the American producers that they should appoint his firm the sole selling agents for the duration of the War, so that the Government could get control of the whole of the copper. He thereupon by that action brought himself into collision with the other cooper agents, because, acting for the British Government, ho proposed that his firm should undertake the whole of the copper-purchasing. He thereupon by that action, going out for the British Government, made himself the object for attack by the other copper agents, although he was safeguarding their interests that might be temporarily displaced.
From that moment to this that firm has been attacked, and resolutely attacked, and these, the largest copper dealers almost in the City of London, if copper is kept in this Bill, and the conditions are kept as they are, will be thrown out of dealing in copper, although they are the people who were chosen by the British Government to go out on their behalf at the beginning of the War. [An HON. MEMBER: "It is a German firm!"] I shall listen to my hon. Friend with the greatest courtesy if he endeavours to answer my arguments, but may I say the firm was not a German firm, and it was not controlled by Germans, and no amount of assertion of the kind will make it anything of the sort. It would not be relevant for me now to pursue this matter, and I am not going to be drawn away from my argument into irrelevancies. No case has been made out for bringing in copper on the ground that we were ever short of copper through any machinations of the Germans, or that they were likely to control copper. Copper is brought in now apparently. I cannot see any other reason for copper being brought in now, but a reason that I wanted not to believe through the whole of these Debates, namely, because the Bill is directed simply and solely at this one firm. We shall hear more of it as the Debate goes on, but it is the fact, and I challenge anyone to deny it, that it was the going out for the Government of a member of the firm of Merton and Company that aroused the antagonism of the other interests in this country. We now find 373 Select Committees largely composed of their trade rivals bringing in a Report which we are not allowed to see, wherein probably the Government show great discretion, and the result of which is that this firm, which was the first firm to which the Government went to deal with this question, if the Bill remains as it is, will inevitably be driven out of business and their business will go to their competitors. I say it is a most sinister thing and it is a thing that has not happened in this country for years and years. I do not know whether it is the beginning of the new era. It certainly seems to me that the House ought to divide against keeping copper in the Bill, because I think copper has been put in not for national reasons, but for reasons which I hesitate to describe in this House.
I should like to emphasise this fact, that at no time in the history of copper has the Metallgesellschaft or any other German firm had control of copper. If it is the fact that you are basing this Bill apparently on copper, and that there was some sort of control which you want to prevent in future, will my right hon. Friend tell me how he explains that the Germans have been trying to obtain copper from private utensils all over their country and that they have pulled up the conduits in the tramways and gone wherever they could to obtain copper? They could not get it outside, and does that state of things coincide with the suggestions made here?
§ 6.0 P.M.
You know more about the British Navy than you ought, but you do not know much about this subject. There is the fact that this is an enormous priced metal. A point has been made, and made a great deal of, that the metal market agrees with the Bill. I have inquired into that, and I find that a member of the Munitions Department, who had been a member of the Metal Exchange at one time, came down to them and told them it was a good Bill, and was intended to benefit them, and so forth, and actually it was passed by one of the very men who is going to be knocked out here. If he had understood the Bill, do you suppose he would have passed it? They did not understand the Bill. I have something more to say. I am speaking now for the consumers. 374 There was a meeting of the smelters in London the other day. They did not approve of the Bill, and said that the effect of it would be to render their operations more difficult, and to put the trade into fewer hands, and that they would, not be able to get such a free market for the copper to smelt. My right hon. Friend suggested there was somebody influenced by the Metallgesellschaft.
Is there a single copper smelter under the influence of the Metallgesellschaft? There never was. I challenge anyone to prove they ever had any control of the copper. He said, "Ah, you do not know what their ramifications may be! They have places here and places there." What is to hinder them getting the control of copper now? This Bill does not stop them. Do you mean to say that, because you are not to give any licence to a man who is a German,. you are thereby going to stop their controlling any metal—copper, at all events? Where does the copper come from? Sixty-six per cent. comes from America, 15, per cent. from Japan, and the rest is scattered about Spain, and so forth. The controllers of the copper have always been in America, and there is nothing to hinder them from going to America and buying up mines. This Bill does not stop them coming into the market here and buying the metal. There are only two ways of controlling metal. You may control it at the source, or you may buy the stuff in the market. This Bill does not stop the Metallgesellschaft or any other company from doing both. They can go into the market and buy up the whole of the market.
You know, of course, the President of the Board of Trade was allowed to make a long speech on the subject.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I do not know what happened; I was not in the Chair. I am only concerned with the remarks made at present by the hon. Member. I have heard him make that speech, if he will forgive me, twice already.
I shall be very sorry to contradict you, but I think you are 375 entirely wrong—in fact, I know you are. The question is, qua copper, Is the mere fact that you are going to grant licences, and that you are going only to grant licences to a certain few, and not to a certain smaller few, going to prevent anybody having control of copper, or is it going to give you control of copper? If it does not give you control of copper, which it does not, if it does not stop other people getting control of copper, then there is no ground for including copper in this Bill. If there is any danger in the future—there has been none in the past—merely restricting a few firms that are not going to get the licence is not going to be any remedy against any other body of men getting control of this particular metal either in the market here or in the markets in America—nothing of the kind!
§ Mr. D. MASON
The speech of the right hon. Member for Tyneside (Mr. Robertson) was of so convincing a character and so admirably put, that nothing can be added to it, and I only wish to make a few observations on one -point which I do not. think has been referred to. A great deal has been said of the support of the Metal Exchange. I hope I shall not be deemed uncharitable if I offer this explanation as a reason for the support of the Metal Exchange: I think it will be admitted that if this Bill becomes law, and this very gigantic monopoly is conferred upon the large dealers in copper and other metals, the price naturally will tend to rise. You will have a narrow market; you will have given the control to a limited number, and the price will tend to rise and be controlled by those who have this licence. You will have a gigantic trust created, and the natural tendency will be in the interests of those to raise prices. I assume that the profits and commission of the members of the Metal Exchange will depend on the price, and the higher the price the larger the commission, so that I think it can be easily understood, without assuming any uncharitable motive for their support, that it is to their interest to narrow the market and force up prices, and therefore they support this Bill or anything that tends to create a monopoly.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
Those are general remarks, which the hon. Member is not entitled to make on this Amendment.
§ Mr. MASON
It has been mentioned two or three times in the Debate, and I 376 do say, with all respect, it is relevant to the inclusion of copper, because the object of the Amendment is to exclude copper, and it is felt that if the freedom of copper in the market is interfered with by this Bill, it will very directly affect trade and trade relations. I only cite that as showing the reason why the Metal Exchange supports it. Therefore we are brought back to judge this case on its merits, and it was shown by the right hon. Member for Tyneside and the Mover of the Amendment that to include copper in this Bill is riot likely to increase by a single ounce the supply of copper. We who represent our constituents are large consumers of copper, and therefore we are directly interested in having as plentiful a supply of copper as possible. Copper enters into nearly every trade connected with engineering, and I ask Members if they think they are acting in the interests of their constituents by supporting this, and that they will weigh well their vote when they go into the Division Lobby? It seems to me that no case has been made out in favour of including copper, and the only argument of a really convincing character has been for the exclusion of this metal from the Bill.
§ Mr. A. STRAUSS
The general argument of the President of the Board of Trade is always directed to the Metallgesellschaft. He speaks of no other concern. But this Bill not only touches the Metallgesellschaft. It touches a good many other people, and therefore his argument does not deal fairly with all the other firms, individuals, and companies who are largely concerned in this copper business. So far as I understood the argument of the right hon. Gentleman opposite, he says you must include copper, not that the past has shown that this Metallgesellschaft or any other enemy concern had control over copper, but must take the precaution, so that in future they shall not get control of copper, because they may some day try to control some metal, and particularly copper. If that argument holds good, surely steel is far more important, and we ought to have the same kind of thing for cotton, wool, and everything which might possibly be used in war. We have had some experience of this control of copper. I have been in this business for fifty years, and I have seen copper controlled. At that time copper was easier to control than now, because now the annual production of copper is worth something like £150,000,000, and it 377 requires a pretty strong concern to control that production. But when production was not quite so large we had concerns controlling copper. The first and well-known attempt was that of the Société des Métaux, in Paris, the manager of which was Mr. Secretan. He tried to control copper, and the result was he failed and ended his days in prison. There were two more attempts to control copper. Those came from the United States. I cannot go so far as to say they w ere "corners," but they tried to control copper, and both of them ended, I will not say in disaster, but in loss to those who attempted it.
If you accept the Amendment, and exclude copper, at any time, when you think there is a real attempt to control by enemies or by enemy interests, you have the power to insert copper, because the Bill gives you the power to insert any metal you like. Therefore, surely there is no danger at all in excluding copper, which, by your own admission, is not controlled, and leave it to sonic future time when there is any trace of enemy control of copper. You have always the option of putting it in the Bill. Surely it is far fairer to follow that course than to include metals now which have never been included before.
§ Sir C. HENRY
I understand that my name has been mentioned in connection with the discussion. I should like to say one word. If copper is left out of this Bill, great criticism will come from every quarter of the House. It will be quite justified. Take my firm under this Bill. If they engage to buy large quantities of copper, or to corner copper, under the licence held from the Board of Trade that Department would come down and stop our operations.
§ Sir C. HENRY
Oh, yes The firm holds the licence until it is revoked. If the firm enters into transactions which are inimical to the national interest the Board of Trade will come down—
§ Sir C. HENRY
I have read this Bill. In Clause 1, Sub-section (4), I read that
"the Board of Trade … may revoke or suspend the licence."
§ Sir C. HENRY
"(4) The Board of Trade, if satisfied by evidence not before them at the time. when the licence was granted that such company, firm, or individual is, or has become, subject to any of the conditions set forth in the Schedule to this. Act—"
§ Sir C. HENRY
That point, I think, the Board of Trade has already dealt with My point is this: under a system of licence there is much less likelihood of the manipulation of any metal than without a system of licence.
§ Sir C. HENRY
That is my opinion. I can see no reason why copper should not be included in this Bill. If copper and tin are left out, it will be stated that it has been so decided in the interests of certain associations. I hope the Board of Trade will adhere to this Bill as drafted and allow copper to be included.
§ Mr. BRUNNER
We have had the most extraordinary statements made by the hon. Member opposite. He says, if his firm buys large quantities of copper and tries to corner copper, that the Board of Trade can revoke his licence. That is absolutely incorrect. There is nothing whatever in this Bill which enables the Board of Trade to revoke a licence because anyone endeavours to corner copper. It has been very frequently asked, and we really would like an answer from the Board of Trade to this very simple question, Which Clause in this Bill will increase the national supplies of copper? That simple question has not been answered yet. There is another. What administrative action does the Board of Trade intend to take under this Bill which will increase our supplies of copper? There has been no answer to that question. Both of these 379 questions are absolutely unanswerable. There is no reason whatever, therefore, why copper should not be taken out of the Bill. Moreover, there is no reason whatever why any metal whatever should be in the Bill.
§ Question, "That the word 'copper' stand part of the Clause."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 160; Noes, 54.381
|Division No. 141.]||AYES.||[6.20 p.m.|
|Addison, Rt. H on. Dr. Christopher||Fisher, Rt. Hon. H. A. L. (Hallam)||Pollock, Sir Ernest Murray|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Fisher, Rt. Hon. W. Hayes (Fulham)||Pratt, J. W.|
|Archdale, Lieut. Edward M.||Flannery, Sir J. Fortescue||Pryce-Jones, Col. E.|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Col. M.||Gibbs, Col. George Abraham||Rawlinson, John Frederick Peel|
|Astor, Major Hon. Waldorf||Greig, Col. J. W.||Rees, G. C. (Carnarvonshire, Arlon)|
|Baldwin, Stanley||Gretton, Col. John||Rees, Sir J. D. (Nottingham, East)|
|Barlow, Sir Montague (Salford, South)||Hamilton, C. G. C. (Ches., Altrincham)||Rendall, Athelstan|
|Barnston, Major Harry||Hanson, Charles Augustin||Richardson, Albion (Peckham)|
|Bathurst, Capt. Sir C. (Wilts, Wilton)||Harcourt, Robert V. (Montrose)||Robinson, Sidney|
|Beauchamp, Sir Edward||Hardy, Rt. Hon. Laurence||Rutherford, Col. Sir J. (Lancs., Darwen)|
|Bellairs. Commander C. W.||Haslam, Lewis||Sanders, Col. Robert Arthur|
|Benn, Arthur Shirley (Plymouth)||Henry, Sir Charles||Shaw, Hon. A.|
|Bentham. George Jackson||Henry, Denis S.||Smith, Albert (Lancs., Clitheroe)|
|Bethell, Sir J. H.||Hermon-Hodge, Sir R. T.||Spear, Sir John Ward|
|Bigland, Alfred||Hewart, Rt. Hon. Sir Gordon||Stanier, Captain Sir Beville|
|Bird, Alfred||Hewins, William Albert Samuel||Stanley,Rt.Hon.Sir A.H. (Ashton-u-Lyre)|
|Blair, Reginald||Hibbert, Sir Henry F.||Stanton, Charles Butt|
|Boscawen, Sir Arthur S. T. Griffith||Higham, John Sharp||Stewart, Gershom|
|Bowden, Major G. R. Harland||Hodge, Rt. Hon. John||Strauss, Edward A. (Southwark, West)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. C. W.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy||Sutton, John E.|
|Boyton, Sir James||Hope, James Fitzalan (Sheffield)||Swift, Rigby|
|Brace, Rt. Hon. William||Horne, E.||Taylor, John W. (Durham)|
|Brassey, H. L. C.||Hudson, Walter||Terrell, George (Wilts, N.W.)|
|Burdett-Coutts, W.||Hughes, Spencer Leigh||Thomas-Stanford, Charles|
|Burn, Colonel C. R.||Hunter-Weston, Lieut.-Gen. Sir A. G.||Thorne, William (West Ham)|
|Butcher, John George||Illingworth, Rt. Hon. Albert H.||Tickler, T. G.|
|Carew, Charles R. S. (Tiverton)||Jardine, Ernest (Somerset, East)||Tootill, Robert|
|Carson, Rt. Hon. Sir Edward H.||Jones, J. Towyn (Carmarthen, East)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Cator, John||Kenyon, Barnet||Walker, Col. William Hall|
|Cautley, H. S.||Kerr-Smiley, Major Peter Kerr||Walsh, Stephen (Lancs., Ince)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement||Ward, W. Dudley (Southampton)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. J. A.||Law, Rt. Hon. A. Bonar (Bootle)||Wardle, George J.|
|Clyde. J. Avon||Lewis, Rt. Hon. John Herbert||Wason, Rt. Hon. E. (Clackmannan)|
|Clynes, John R.||Lindsay, William Arthur||Watson, Hon. W.|
|Coates, Major Sir E. F. (Lewisham)||Locker-Lampson, G. (Salisbury)||Watson, John Bertrand (Stockton)|
|Coats, Sir Stuart A. (Wimbledon)||McCalmont, Brig.-Gen. Robert C. A.||Watson, Hon. W. (Lanark, S.)|
|Cochrane, Cecil Algernon||MacCaw, William J. MacGeagh||White, Col. G. D. (Lancs., Southport)|
|Coote, William||Mackinder, Haltord J.||Whiteley, Sir H. J.|
|Cornwall, Sir Edwin A.||McNeill, Ronald (Kent, St. Augustine's)||Williams, John (Glamorgan)|
|Cory, James Herbert (Cardiff)||Marriott, J. A. R.||Williams, Col. Sir Robert (Dorset, W.)|
|Cowan, Sir W. H.||Mason, James F. (Windsor)||Willoughby, Lieut.-Col. Hon. Claud|
|Craig, Colonel Sir J. (Down, E.)||Meux, Adml. Hon. Sir Hedworth||Wills, Major Sir Gilbert|
|Craik. Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred||Wilson, Capt. A. Stanley (Yorks, E.R.)|
|Crooks, Rt. Hon. William||Munro, Rt. Hon. Robert||Wilson-Fox, Henry (Tamworth)|
|Currie, George W.||Neville, Reginald J. N.||Winfrey. Sir Richard|
|Dalrymple, Hon. H. H.||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Wing, Thomas Edward|
|Dalziel, Davison (Brixton)||O'Connor, John (Kildare, N.)||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Davies, Ellis William (Eifion)||Orde-Powlett, Hon. W. G. A.||Wood, Sir John (Stalybridge)|
|Denniss, E. R. B.||Palmer, Godfrey Mark||Yate, Col. Charles Edward|
|Dixon, C. H.||Parker, James (Hallfax)||Young, William (Perthshire, East)|
|Duke, Rt. Hon. Henry Edward||Pennefather, De Fonblanque||Younger, Sir George|
|Duncan, C. (Barrow-in-Furness)||Perkins, Walter F.|
|Du Pre, Major W. Baring||Peto, Basil Edward||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Capt.|
|Faber, George Denison (Clapham)||Phillpps, Sir Owen (Chester)||F. Guest and Lord E. Talbot.|
|Folio, Sir Bertram Godfray|
|Ainsworth, Sir John Stirling||Ferens, Rt. Hon. Thomas Robinson||Jowett, Frederick William|
|Allen, Arthur A. (Dumbartonshire)||Gulland, Rt. Hon. John William||King, Joseph|
|Anderson W. C.||Harris, Percy A. (Leicester, S.)||Lambert. Richard (Wilts, Cricklade)|
|Arnold. Sydney||Helme, Sir Norval Watson||Law, Hugh A. (Donegal, West)|
|Barlow, Sir John Emmott (Somerset)||Hemmerde, E. G.||M'Callum, Sir John M.|
|Beale, Sir William Phipson||Henderson, Rt. Hon. Arthur (Durham),||Macdonald, Rt. Hon. J. M. (Falk,B'ghs)|
|Black, Sir Arthur W.||Henderson, John M. (Aberdeen, W.)||Maden, Sir John Henry|
|Bliss, Joseph||Hinds, John||Mason, David M. (Coventry)|
|Buxton, Noel||Hobhouse, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles E. H.||Molteno, Percy Alport|
|Chapple, Major William Allen||Hogge, James Myles||Morrell, Philip|
|Cory, Sir Clifford John (St. Ives)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merloneth)||Needham. Christopher T.|
|Davies, Timothy (Lints, Louth)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Notts, Rusheliffe)||Nuttall, Harry|
|Pearce, Sir Robert (Staffs, Leek)||Robertson, Rt. Hon. John M.||Williams, Penry (Middlesbrough)|
|Peel, Major Hon. G. (Spalding)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter (Dewsbury)||Wilson, Rt. Hon. J. W. (Worcs., N.)|
|Priestley, Sir W.E. B. (Bradlord, E.)||Smith, Sir Swire (Keighley, Yorks)||Wilson, W. T. (Westhoughton)|
|Pringle, William M. R.||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)||Wood, Rt Hon. T. McKinnon (Glasgow.)|
|Rattan, Peter Wilson||Toulmin, Sir George|
|Rea, Walter Russell (Scarborough)||White, J. Dundas (Glos., Tradeston)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Richardson, Thomas (Whitehaven)||Whitehouse, John Howard||Brunner and Mr. Holt.|
§ Mr. HOLT
I beg to move to leave out the word "tin" ["zinc, copper, tin, lead, nickel, aluminium"].
The principal supplies of tin to this country, as I understand, come from Cornwall and from the. Straits Settlements, with a certain amount from South America. The supply of tin which comes from Cornwall is certainly entirely under the control of the Government of this country. No commercial machinations of any Germans can prevent the nation getting the full use of the tin from Cornwall. Again, the supplies from the Straits Settlements are entirely under the control of the Government of this country. I would remind the Committee that, as a matter of fact, there is a most powerful monopoly there, an entirely British corporation, solely under the control of the Government of the Straits Settlements. That being so, I am absolutely at a loss to see what effect this Bill is going to have upon the supplies of tin to this country. No one, so far as I know, has ever alleged that German firms have been dabbling in tin. So far as I know, under no conceivable possibility could any German firm obtain control of tin to the detriment of the people of this country. Any control of tin obtained in order to injure the interests of this country must be physical control. So long, therefore, as this metal is in the hands of the Government of the country, in a time of war national interests can and must be fully protected; in this case all the great sources of this particular article are entirely under the control of the Government. There can, therefore, be no need whatever for any interference in the control of the supplies of tin. I would like to point out to the Committee, also, that dealings in tin, so far, at any rate, as the Straits Settlements are concerned, are carried on by general merchants, who deal in very few other articles except tin, because tin is almost the, only metal of any importance which comes from that part of the world. It would be a very great hardship that the importers of tin from the Straits Settlements should be required to take out a licence for their transactions in tin. The government have given us no explanation 382 of their reasons for including tin in the Bill, and I respectfully suggest that we should cut it out and allow it to remain in the category of other non-ferrous metals.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Wardle)
The hon. Gentleman who has moved this Amendment has gone over to some extent the same ground as was covered in regard to copper.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I should like to have an opportunity of addressing the Committee without being interrupted. The hon. Member is not correct in his statement that there is no way of controlling the output except that of being in possession physically of the ground where it is to be found. The object of this Bill is not control of the article itself, except so far as that control has previously been exercised through some financial arrangement. Even during this War an attempt has been made to buy up by a foreign company the tin mines in Cornwall, but that was stopped under the Defence of the Realm Act, and under those circumstances they were not able to proceed.
§ Mr. WARDLE
The question is whether it would come under enemy control, and, if it did, this Bill would stop it.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
If it is a case of a company under enemy control or association, it might; but if it is simply a foreign company, this Bill would not affect it.
§ Mr. WARDLE
That does not alter my argument. My hon. and learned Friend will see that if that company, whether it was foreign or not, came under enemy association or enemy control, it would be affected by this Bill. The question of whether the Metallgesellschaft could or could not control a company which controlled 383 the production of this metal is the point where this Bill comes in. This Bill cannot create copper or tin, but the operation of these particular companies can and may control the output through their financial association. As this Bill is aimed at keeping the financial control of these companies within the British Isles it therefore becomes necessary to deal with the question in this way, and this will operate to the advantage of this country. We do not suppose for a moment that we can create an extra ounce of tin, or bring an extra ounce to this country merely by this Bill, but we do say that financial control by British people of these tin mines is necessary, and if you have control of the people who have control of the men you can in a national emergency secure that the interests of this country shall be provided for. Really, I am astonished that there should be any doubt that those who obtain financial control of the companies which control the output of metal can divert those metals into other channels, and can use them either for anti-national or other purposes which they may desire. Under some conditions the physical part does play some part in the transaction. The fact that tin mines are within your own country does give you some possibility of getting control.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
My hon. Friend opposite has, I am sure, endeavoured to present as lucid and courteous a reply as any hon. Member would desire, but I am sure he will forgive me for saying that the reasons which lie advanced for including tin within the purview of this Bill are hardly adequate. The case for the Bill was that there was a positive danger to the British Empire arising from the interference of foreign firms, and enemy firms in particular, which was considered to be a danger to the stability of the United Kingdom in peace and in war by gaining control of various non-ferrous metals which are essential for the conduct of commerce and industry. That was the case made out by the Board of Trade. My hon. Friend opposite gets up in relation to tin and says that at some period recently a foreign company—not one which had any enemy association or enemy control; it might possibly be a friendly foreign country and not an enemy country—tried to obtain control of the tin mines in Cornwall. We do not know whether that transaction was completed or not, but for that reason it 384 is argued that it is necessary to include tin in this Bill as one of the metals to be licensed by the Board of Trade. Seriously speaking, I do not think that that was quite a satisfactory explanation of the necessity for including tin which was worthy of the subject or of my hon. Friend. If it was necessary to put tin into the Bill, there are a great number of other non-ferrous metals which ought to have been included for the same reason.
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
Yes; it may be applied to those metals by an Order. The same argument might be applied to iron and steel. Are they not going to be controlled? Are we going to have another Bill for ferrous metals, because a much greater danger arises in regard to the control of iron and steel by foreign countries than in regard to tin? It is acknowledged that nearly all the sources of our tin supply are within the control of the United Kingdom, because the Federated Malay States, where tin comes from, are actually under the control of the Colonial Office, and they can control the exports from the Malay States. You could not have pitched upon a metal of any sort or kind to which the arguments which have been used are less relevant than in the case of tin. I hope before the Debate closes we may have some more detailed explanation from the Board of Trade than has been afforded by my hon. Friend for the case of including tin within the purview of this Bill.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I know something about the article with which we are now concerned, and I know something about the company which has been attempting to buy those Cornish mines. If the company referred to was an enemy company, why was it not prosecuted? Surely there must be something amiss. If it was a friendly company, then I should like my hon. Friend to go down to Cornwall in order to hear what Cornishmen have to say to those who refuse to allow capital to go into Cornwall to work the mines. May I point out that the whole output of the Cornish mines amounts to about 4,000 tons a year in regard to an article of which the total production is about 120,000 tons? The Straits Settlements produce about 60,000 tons a year, and this is produced by a large number of 385 small mines which you could not possibly get hold of. There are only two smelting companies in the Straits, and one of them belongs to a gentleman who is a member of the Non-Ferrous Metals Committee. On no account could an enemy company get hold of that tin, because the Colonial Office can commandeer the output of the States Metal Company, and all that tin can be reserved for us. There is, however, one kind of tin which the enemy can get hold of, and it is Bolivian tin, a fraction of about 1,000 tons per month. Bolivian tin or the great bulk of it is at present smelted in England. There are only about three or four tin smelters in this country, and they smelt about 4,000 tons of Cornish tin and 15,000 or 16,000 tons of Bolivian tin. The Chancellor of the Exchequer will tell you that it is a very productive business for his revenue, and the only effect of this Bill will be that the Germans, unable to get tin here in the way that they want, will bay those ores themselves and smelt them in Hamburg or Essen, where there are smelting works, and we poor tin smelters here will be deprived of the opportunity of getting the ore. I do not know whether that is what the Board of Trade are driving at. but that would certainly be the result. The Metallgesellschaft have not touched a ton of tin for the last ten years. If they had, it would have come to my knowledge. They did deal in tin fifteen or twenty years ago, but for reasons of their own they have given it up. The Bill therefore is not directed against that particular company, and I cannot conceive of any reason why you should include tin within its provisions. You have got the power the moment you see that any of these metals may be controlled by the enemy or the moment that there is the slightest attempt on their part to control them to add that metal to the Bill. Surely, therefore, it would be more reasonable to exclude tin now, and to let the business go on, waiting until there is the slightest danger of enemy control and then adding it, instead of adding it now and disturbing a business of which the centre market was in London, but which already is shifting to New York, and which will shift there altogether if you do not exclude tin from the Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The very able and detailed speech made by the hon. Gentleman opposite deserves some reply from the Board of Trade. After all, he has told us something of the conditions of the tin trade. The hon. Gentleman who spoke on 386 behalf of the Board of Trade (Mr. Wardle) said nothing about the existing conditions of the trade. He based his case entirely upon the hypothesis that there was the possibility in the future of the Germans obtaining some control of tin, and he endeavoured to bolster that up by an allegation that a foreign company had attempted to purchase mines in Cornwall. It is very important, when a case of this kind is cited, that the Committee should be told the name of the company and to what country it belongs, so that we may know whether it is under any enemy influence, because the relevance of the argument entirely depends upon the fact as to its enemy association. I happen to know a company which did endeavour to buy mines in Cornwall, and I know that it was prevented under the Defence of the Realm Act, but the gentlemen mainly interested in that company were not foreigners; they were British Colonials—Australians. Is the hon. Gentleman, in order to get assent to the application of this Bill to tin, endeavouring to frighten the Committee by bringing forward a case in which the people concerned were not enemies and were not associated with Germans, but were actually our own Colonial subjects?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I know that there was a case of that kind, and I want to know if that is the case an which the hon. Gentleman depends. It is very important that we should know that, because it was the sole argument which he brought forward against the Amendment. There were a good many other sentence's about the probabilities of the future, but that was the only substantial point in his speech. We have been told in regard to this Bill that we must deal with this German combine. The hon. Gentleman who last spoke has told us that this German combine have not touched a ton of tin for many years. Consequently, there can be no fear of the German combine in regard to tin. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade says that there has been a foreign company after the Cornish mines. Had this foreign company anything to do with Germany, or was it a perfectly innocent transaction, as I claim that it was? I believe that one of the men mainly interested is now a senator of the Commonwealth of Australia. He was here on patriotic work, and addressed a large number of meetings in munition centres, 387 doing all he could to help this country's effort in the War. Apparently, because this company was not interested in this country, it was a foreign company, and it was prevented from speculating in these Cornish mines. Was it this company which the hon. Gentleman had in his mind when he endeavoured to frighten the Committee by the possibility of foreigners getting hold of our Cornish tin? The Committee is entitled to an answer on that point before we come to a decision on this Amendment.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
I want to ask the President of the Board of Trade one question, it being quite clear that the Metallgesellschaft does not deal in tin, Who is it that comes within the provisions of this Bill and that the Bill is designed to hit and control? We were asked to support the Bill to prevent Germans getting control. We are now told by someone who perhaps knows more about tin than any of us are ever likely to know that the Metallgesellschaft have never attempted to deal in tin.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Nothing could be easier, if there were other well-known German firms, for the Committee to be informed of them, but as a matter of fact we have not been informed, though it is information to which we are entitled when we are asked to support the inclusion of tin in the Bill. There have been suggestions made in this House again and again that the object of the Bill really is not so much to deal with German control in tin as to hit one definite firm that does deal in tin, and deal largely in it. The Metallgesellschaft does not deal in tin, but no one will deny that the firm of Mertons deals largely in tin. I want to know whether it is a matter of controlling Germans or whether it is another attempt to throw a British firm out of business.
The hon. Member (Mr. Wardle) cited a case which so far as the Front Bench was concerned was the only argument put forward in favour of the inclusion of tin. I will assume that it was an enemy company that tried to do this.
This Bill does not come into operation until after the War. Supposing the first year after the War an association comes forward and makes an offer for a tin mine in Cornwall, there is not a word in this Bill to stop them doing so. Yet this Bill is supposed to control and keep out enemy firms. It cannot possibly stop anybody coming and buying a tin mine if the Cornish mine-owner is prepared to sell it, and so far as tin is concerned the Bill is ridiculous.
There have been some differences of view as to how far dealings in tin have been conducted by German firms. The statement made by my hon. Friend below the Gangway (Mr. Strauss) was that the Metallgesellschaft has not dealt in tin, but I understand that the firm of Mertons has. If the dealings of the firm of Mertons afforded sufficient ground for this Bill, I should like to know why the Committee thought so. This is another example of the lack of information on the subject on which we are asked to legislatc. The Report of this Committee has been deliberately withheld from the House, and the only persons in the House who can say whether the Committee did find that there was any German control or that there was likely to be any German control over tin are some three or four gentlemen who have given us no information. We have had to depend entirely upon unofficial information. Apparently, the Metallgesellschaft have had no dealings in tin for some ten or fifteen years. Why not? I imagine it is because of the peculiar nature of the sources from which tin comes, and I emphasise this point in order that I may once more bring home to those who are responsible for this Bill and the President of the Board of Trade and my old friends in the Board of Trade the fact that the only way in which you can have effective control of the metal is to have control of the source of supply. I do not know the mind of the Metallgesellschaft and I have no means of knowing, but I can imagine that one reason why they did not attempt to conduct dealings in tin as they did in some other metals was that tin was produced mainly in the Straits Settlements and in Cornwall. It is with the object of pressing the point that if they wish to control this metal they must start at the root and not attempt merely to tinker with the subject as they are doing now that I intervene at this point.
Sir A. STANLEY
There was one statement of the right hon. Gentleman which I cannot leave unchallenged, because it would leave a wrong impression if I did. I had better take this opportunity of making the position quite clear. If I understood him rightly, he said that the Report of the Committee which investigated this matter on behalf of the Board of Trade and which he himself appointed had been deliberately withheld. It had been deliberately withheld, as I understood him, and he will correct me if I am wrong, with the object of keeping back from this Committee information having to do with this particular Bill.
No; I did not say so. I did not say what the object was. I said that it had been deliberately withheld, and that we were having to legislate in the absence of information which had been collected by the Committee. I did not say that it had been done with any object at all.
Sir A. STANLEY
I will, of course, accept what the right hon. Gentleman says, but I did infer from his remark that, knowing that we were going to introduce this Bill, the information had been withheld with the object of prevening information, relevant information, being given to the members of this Committee. Let me say at once that nothing of the kind took place, and that nothing was further from our minds in withholding the publication of that Report. It is one of a group of Reports furnished by Committees, nearly all of which were appointed by my right hon. Friend, I believe quite rightly. It was a very wise selection of men and of subjects for discussion and investigation. Those Reports will, I am sure, form a very -valuable source of information at a later stage.
§ 7.0 P.M.
Sir A. STANLEY
To those who are interested in the trades of this country and the men who conduct them, and I hope to all the Members of this House, because every one of those Reports is going to be published. It must be obvious to him, with all the experience that he has had at the Board of Trade, as it must be to other Members, that this is one of a group of Reports. Every one of these Reports has been referred to Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee. That Committee reviewed all these Reports, and to a 390 certain extent the Report of Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee was based upon the Reports of these Board of Trade Committees. Apart from any other consideration, I may say frankly to hon. Members now that I was against the publication of those Reports because I believed, in some instances at least, that they did give information which would be of value to the enemy. I was not in favour of publishing them. I believe now that when Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee's Report is published that these other Reports will also be published as soon as it can be done. At the right moment it will be done. I only wanted, if I could, to remove from the minds of any hon. Members of this Committee the thought that we had deliberately withheld the publication of this particular Report, thinking that that publication would have an adverse effect upon this particular Bill.
§ Mr. L. JONES
I do not know whether we shall be in order in discussing the President's statement, but one is entitled to make a short reply. The right hon. Gentleman entirely misunderstands the complaint made from this side if he thinks we are complaining because he has withheld the Report on grounds of public interest. All we are complaining of, and I think with justice, is the treatment of the House of Commons, which, in the course of many years, I do not remember to have met with before, namely, the bringing in of a Bill and the justification of that Bill by a Report which is not presented to the House. If it was necessary to withhold the Report, then some other justification should have been found for the Bill, or the Bill should have been withheld until it was possible in the public interest to publish the Report. We do not complain that the Report is withheld in the public interest; we do complain that the Bill is introduced and is justified by reference to the Report and practically nothing else. All this afternoon we have been asking for particulars and for the justification of the inclusion of one metal after another, and we are told in reply that it is desirable that it should be included and that the Report justifies its inclusion.
§ Mr. JONES
The hon. Gentleman is mistaken. He has not been here during a great deal of the Debate. The whole argument has been that the Report justified the Bill. That was the argument on the Second Reading, and the President has frequently referred to it and has done so to-day. While I accept to the full what he has said, that the Report was not suppressed with the object of getting this Bill while we were ignorant of what it contains, I say it has been suppressed, with the result that we are ignorant of what case is presented by the Report. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned a series of Reports. There are a great many different Reports, not all concerned with matters dealt with in this Bill. Is it too late before the Report stage to get a copy of the case which is made in regard to the particular metals dealt with in this Bill? Why should not that be presented confidentially to the House? I do not remember any such proceeding in regard to any Bill during the time I have been in the House of Commons, and the President must not complain if he meets with strong criticism from the House of Commons, which has not been accustomed to this treatment by a Minister.
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman (Mr. L. Jones) was quite justified in replying shortly to what was said from the Government Bench, but I must now recall the Committee to the fact that we have passed four Clauses of the Bill dealing with non-ferrous metals, and the only question now before us is whether tin should or should not be mentioned in the definition Clause.
§ Mr. HOLT
I should like to ask the President a perfectly simple question. Seeing that the Government have made no attempt whatever to show that there is any necessity at present to apply the provisions of this Bill to tin, and seeing that the effect of including tin in the Bill will be to cause annoyance to the tin miners of Cornwall, some of them very small persons, will he accept a proposal to leave tin to be included among the other nonferrous metals to which the Board of Trade may by Order apply this Bill?
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
May I ask a question of the President, which I hope will come within your ruling, Sir? We are not 392 told at what time these Reports upon each of these metals will be published. Can we have any assurance from the President that the facts in those Reports will be brought to the knowledge of the people who are going to be affected by this Bill before licences are refused to them, so that they will have an opportunity, before tribunals appointed by the Board of Trade, to answer and dispute the charges in many cases made by their trade rivals?
§ Sir C. HOBHOUSE
I think the Committee is being treated not very courteously by the President of the Board of Trade. Just see what the position is. I have had the advantage, or disadvantage, of sometimes sitting upon a tongue-tied Front Bench, but I do not think I ever sat upon it in such uncomfortable circumstances as the right hon. Gentleman would appear to be doing at the present moment. The only reason given why tin should be included in this Clause is because at one period some months ago a company, which has been described as having a Colonial origin—I do not know whether correctly or not—tried to buy and failed to buy a tin mine in Cornwall. Surely that is not the only reason. Surely there must be some other reason, and, if there is, cannot the right hon. Gentleman give that reason to the Committee? Failing that. we must assume that the hypothetical danger, which was removed in a moment. by the operation of an Order under the Defence of the Realm Act, was quite sufficient to disperse that danger. That is the only reason which exists for putting this metal into the Bill. I invite the right hon. Gentleman to disperse what I believe to be a cloud of unhappy error.
Sir A. STANLEY
I hope the Committee will not accuse me of any real intention to be discourteous. I rather refrained from speaking too often lest it might appear that I gave them too much information unnecessarily. On the question of tin, it must be quite obvious to all hon. Members that we have never pretended that this great German combination had complete control of tin. We have never said it. But we do say that undertakings associated with it have dealt in tin.
Sir A. STANLEY
After all, what is the point with which we are trying to deal? I am not for a moment suggesting 393 that any hon. Member who is opposing this Bill does it simply with the object of deliberately wrecking it. I try to feel, and I am entitled to feel, that they want to help to improve industry in this country. There may be a difference of opinion as to methods, but at least I am inclined to assume that the object of any criticism is a desire to help industry in this country. What is the point here? It is simply this: I think we have proved that it is possible, in some instances at least, for a foreign undertaking to secure the control of a non-ferrous metal. What we are proposing to do, recognising the serious danger which is involved in the control of non-ferrous metals, each and every one of them, by a great foreign undertaking, is to prevent that control extending and to prevent it entirely if we can. It is quite reasonable to assume that if this great German combination can secure the control of one non-ferrous metal, they can secure the control of others. I cannot conceive myself of any reason for assuming that it is absolutely impossible for this great German undertaking to secure the control of any nonferrous metal. I have every reason to believe that in time they would do it. That is exactly what I am trying to prevent. Surely nobody in this Committee can dispute that if it has been proved that it is possible, if in at least one instance it has taken place, there is every reason to believe that that control can be extended, and therefore that we should take steps to try to prevent it: It seems to be perfectly reasonable. I cannot help feeling that in a business proposition of this kind we ought to have more encouragement from hon. Members of this Committee than we have received. I do not want to say that disrespectfully.
Upon the particular point of the tin mine in Cornwall, certainly the company to which the hon. Member (Mr. Pringle) referred was not the one to which my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary made reference. It was an absolutely foreign undertaking. I do not know whether that foreign undertaking was or was not under German control. But it was quite possible for that company to be brought under German control, and if this Bill had been an Act of Parliament at that time the purchase, if by a company under enemy control, could have been prevented. It is only by the accident of war that that control was prevented. I do not want to take it too far. 394 I do not suggest that tin should or should not be included because of this one experience in Cornwall. Far from it. I only desire to point out that it is possible for control to pass to a foreign interest. That interest may be German or something else, but whatever it may be we have lost the control, and I am anxious, so far as I possibly can, to set up an adequate organisation and to establish machinery which would prevent that control passing to foreign hands.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I should like to ask one question. Supposing this foreign combination wants to get control of tin, what single line is there in the Bill to prevent them from buying every mine in the Federated Malay States, in Cornwall, and in Bolivia?
§ Sir C. CORY
The President of the Board of Trade has told us he intends to publish these Reports. I do not know whether he means during the War, but if he does, it is difficult to understand why he cannot publish them now when the Committee could have the benefit of them in the Debates on this Bill. He has also told us that there was an attempt on the part of some company or another to buy some tin mines in Cornwall. In the interests of this country it is a very great pity that the foreign company was not allowed to buy them. The tin mines in Cornwall have been anything but prosperous and it is very difficult to induce capital to go into Cornwall in order to open them up. If we had had foreign money developing these tin mines we should have had a certain amount of tin produced in this country, which we have riot got now, and, in addition, in war-time we could have prevented the foreigner shipping from this country. The effect of the Bill will be disastrous to the interests of the trade of the country.
§ Mr. D. MASON
The President of the Board of Trade complained of not getting more support. The reason is that Members of the Committee do not believe that the objects which he set out to attain will be attained in this Bill. He talks of German influence. An enemy State, as defined in the Schedule, is a Power that has been at war now or after the passing of the Act.
§ The CHAIRMAN
This is a general observation on the Bill as a whole. Really 395 I must remind the Committee that we had a Debate which ran for two hours on the subject of copper, and that was allowed by the Chair to take a rather unusually wide scope, certainly with the distinct understanding on the part of the Chair, that we were not on the subsequent Amendments to revert in a full measure to those broader questions. Otherwise this series of Amendments would be ruled out of order under the well-known rule that it is not possible to try to defeat the Bill by a series of diminishing proposals.
§ Mr. HEMMERDE
Will the right hon. Gentleman answer the question I put, whether we can have an assurance that before anyone's licence is refused any reports dealing with that person would be brought to his notice, so that he might have a chance of challenging reports made, in many cases inadvertently, by people who are his rivals in trade?
Sir A. STANLEY
Nothing contained in the report would influence us in respect of the issue of these licences. Every possible opportunity will be given to the applicant to state his case before the licence is refused.
On the point of procedure I should like to make a suggestion to the Committee. We have had a very full discussion of the topics which have been before us this afternoon. An arrangement was made last night that we were to bring the Committee stage to an end to-day. On the new Clauses there are some important matters to deal with, and we have still the extremely important matter of naturalisation in the Schedule. I appeal to my hon. Friend and to the Committee as a whole that we may get on to these very large topics.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I beg to move to leave out the word "nickel"
I raised the whole question of nickel on the Second Reading, and I referred to the 396 fact that the Government itself was one of the dealers in the metal, and that it entered into a deal to the extent of £600,000 with an absolutely derelict undertaking in Canada for the purpose of preventing nickel getting to Germany. I want to know what is the relation of the British Government to the new syndicate which is going to control nickel in the interests of Great Britain after the War, or is the Government to be a member of the syndicate, and is the syndicate to compete with any existing British company? My right hon. Friend (Sir A. Mond) has unfortunately recently been directing his attention to the British Museum instead of to the nickel industry, with which he is far more competent to deal. It would be well if he could state whether in his view it is in the interests of the British nickel industry that nickel should be brought within the purview of this Bill. Does he think it is necessary to have this system of licensing the nickel industry in order to defeat the machinations of any German competitor or does he not think, with his knowledge, that the existing British nickel industry is able, without any assistance and without any of these prohibitions at all, to fight on level terms with any German competitor? That is the point. If they can do so, if they could have provided during the course of the War, as I believe they could, all the nickel that this country required without this useless speculation in the British-America Nickel Syndicate, if our firms, relying upon their resources and their own knowledge could do that, why should we have this needless interference? I invite the Government to give a reply to these points. Is this syndicate, which the Government has subsidised to the extent of £600,000, to squeeze out everyone else? Is it going to use the special powers which it now has to see that it gets a return for its money out of the British-America Nickel Corporation? There is no doubt that the £600,000 has gone there. It has been admitted in reply to questions. The facts have been stated publicly in the newspapers. In fact the Canadian newspapers have no doubt whatever that the British Government has made a great fool of itself in throwing away its money on this bogus company. We want to know the case for bringing nickel within the Bill at all. Does any existing British nickel firm want it or is it not the case that the main companies engaged in the nickel industry in the United Kingdom are perfectly satisfied with their capacity to compete 397 with any German rival? If that is so there is no case for nickel in this Clause, and unless the Government can give some very good answer on the subject I shall proceed to a Division.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
There is the point whether the Canadian question is not the real reason for bringing nickel into this Bill.
Sir A. STANLEY
I can answer the hon. Member's question very briefly. The British-America Nickel Corporation has no connection of any kind or description with the Bill.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
That is only one point. I did not ask whether it had any connection with the Bill: I asked whether one motive for the Bill was not the necessity of making good the £600,000 which otherwise would be thrown away; and the other point I asked was whether anyone engaged in the nickel industry in this country wanted to have this Bill applied to the industry?
Sir A. STANLEY
The motive attributed by the hon. Member has not the remotest connection with the Bill. As regards the other point, it has been denied so frequently that I will not take up the time of the Committee in dealing with it.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I think I have put a question which can be answered by a single Yes or No. Has anyone in the nickel industry in this country asked that nickel should be included in this Bill? The right hon. Gentleman (Sir A. Mond) can answer it if the President of the Board of Trade cannot.
I think the right hon. Gentleman might give us an answer. What is troubling me greatly is this: It is rumoured, and I believe there is a good deal of substance in it, and I think the hon. Baronet (Sir C. Cory) was inclined to admit it—the did not deny it—when he said no one would put up money if they were to be subject to the machinations of the Metallgesellschaft in this country. It has been suggested that this nickel company, or some syndicate, is proposing to start nickel and other smelting near Bristol, and that this Bill is really intended, so far as 398 nickel is concerned, to get them a considerable amount of protection, so that they may get hold of the market. That is one question; and the other is, Have the Government undertaken to buy great quantities of nickel from the BritishAmerica Nickel Corporation or any other mines in America?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
We have had a surfeit of ignorance on this In my recollection, and I have listened to the Committee stage of many Bills, I have never seen a case presented by the Government in which the. profession of ignorance of the real reasons for the Bill has been so pronounced. The House has been treated with contempt—probably with the contempt it deserves. The fact, however, must be remembered to the credit of the House that, apart from the hundred paid members of the Government, the Government would have been sometimes in a minority on this Bill. As we have so many paid Members—I mean paid by the Government, whose tenure depends upon the existence of the present corrupt and inefficient Government—there are so many ready to bolster them up. The Tory party is prepared to save this Government as long as it can, in order to get Protection. These are the considerations whereby this Bill is being carried through. Hence we have so much ignorance displayed on this question, while important British interests are being needlessly and ruthlessly sacrificed.
§ Mr. WARDLE
I beg to move, after the word "Trade," to insert the words "The expression 'metal' shall not include metal which has been subjected to any manufacturing process except such as may be prescribed."
The object of this Amendment is to put outside the Bill these manufactured metals and to deal with the case of the marine store dealer, to which the hon. Member for Northwich has referred.
§ Mr. STRAUSS
I am sorry to have to come into conflict again with the hon. Member, but in this case I want to strengthen the Bill and not to weaken it. The proposal is that this Bill shall not include any mixture of metals nor any manufactured metal. The conse- 399 quence will be that on the Metal Exchange we shall deal in future not in raw copper, not in raw tin, but in manufactured metal, or in the alloys of various metals that are mentioned in this Bill. I well remember the time when we dealt not in copper ingots, not in tin ingots, but the great speculative article on the London Metal Exchange was copper sheets. More business was done on the Metal Exchange in metal sheets than in any other article. The quotations were not in raw copper, but in manufactured copper, in metal sheets, and other alloys. If this Amendment passes, the tendency is sure to be that those firms who will not be allowed to deal in raw copper or raw tin will go back to their speculative connection in manufactured copper, in metal sheets, in brass, and other articles which can be bought just as easily as raw copper and raw tin, and the purposes of this Bill will be defeated. There are many members of the Metal Exchange who are almost as clever as the Board of Trade, and they will soon be able to find a door if they want to do so. If this Amendment passes, a certain number of members of the Metal Exchange will be excluded by this Bill and they will endeavour and will succeed in getting all the business done in copper sheets and in various other metals, and by that means the hon. Member's Amendment will defeat its own ends. If this Bill is to pass I want a good Bill and not a bad Bill. My objection is that the Bill will not attain the object it has in view. I would urge the hon. Member to withdraw his Amendment.
I should like something a little more definite. I am entirely in favour of this Amendment, but I would like to know what is meant by the words "except such as may be prescribed."
§ Mr. WARDLE
It is proposed that they will be prescribed in the rules which are to be formulated by the Board of Trade. Those rules will be laid on the Table of the House and every opportunity will be given to hon. Members to study them.
We would like to have them in the Bill. We know that process too well. Cannot we get them in the Schedule?
We must get a Schedule. It is not for me to prepare a Schedule.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.