§ 6.0 P.M.
§ I wish that I were at the end of my task I must, I am sorry to say, add something about trade policy. Here again I have to recall the conditions under which we are operating. I must ask every Member of the House, and all who are outside, to try to forget pre-1914 conditions—to think of the conditions as they are to-day, and to think of what remedy you are going to apply to those conditions. The conditions may be merely temporary, but for the moment they are dominant. They dominate the immediate future, and may be dominant for some time to come. I have already summarised these conditions. Our international trade is in peril, and our home trade is depressed by reduction of output and increased cost of production. Imports of manufactured goods from 2009 abroad have not counted. There is no immediate prospect of their coming. Germany is crippled. She has been deprived of her iron and coal, and whatever troubles may be in this country, they are not comparable to those under which Germany is labouring. When you come to the United States of America, which would be a formidable competitor, the mere fact that the exchange is against us is in itself a protection against the import of manufactured goods. If the exchange is down to 17s., that is equivalent to something like a 15 per cent tariff against the imports of any goods from the United States of America. More than that—the freights at the present moment are very high. I cannot see any prospect of their coming down to anything approximating to prewar rates. Thus, although you have a great disparity between the cost of production of an article in the United States of America and the cost at which it could be produced here, when you work out the exchange, and add to that the cost of bringing the goods over, you will find you have no profit for the United States manufacturer.
§ Mr. HOUSTON
That has not prevented American-made rails being delivered in Glasgow and in London for tramway purposes.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
You cannot possibly exclude things altogether, but the mere fact that rails have been delivered in Glasgow and in London under present conditions, when we have the power of prohibiting them altogether, shows that they were actually needed by the trade. There is complete prohibition except with the consent of the Board of Trade. I can give other cases. For instance, there is pig-iron. We are at present so short of pig-iron that there is not enough to employ our steel furnaces. What is the result? We are begging for pig-iron from Lorraine. If there were any real competition, you have got at the present moment, in the exchange and in the freights, the highest protective tariffs that have ever been proposed in this country; in fact, very much higher tariffs than any ever proposed.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
Because we are asking America to send them, and we 2010 are prepared to pay any price. These are the salient facts of the present situation. They may change; they may change soon. I can see no prospect of their changing. When there is a change in the conditions I hope this Parliament will be bold enough to provide a remedy that will be applicable to the conditions of the time.