§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I beg to move,That the Order which was made by the Board of Trade on the 9th day of October, 1922, under the Safeguarding of Industries Act. 1921, and published, and which was laid before this House on the 27th day of November, 1922. shall continue in force.After the very full Debate which took place in this House on Monday last on the general policy of the Act, I do not propose now to go into the general question of policy, but to confine myself to the sole question under this Motion, namely, whether this particular Order should or should not be confirmed upon its merits. The Order was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who was then President of the Board of Trade, on the 9th October, during the Parliamentary Recess, and it now comes to this House, in accordance with the terms of the Act, for confirmation. The Report of the Committee upon which my right hon. Friend made the Order has already been circulated and is in the possession of hon. Members. It was a strong Committee, of wide experience, as the names at the end are sufficient to justify, and the Committee was unanimous in its Report. The Committee gave a very extensive hearing to the case. They went into it most fully, they heard seventeen witnesses, some on behalf of the applicants, others on behalf of the opponents, and they also heard evidence, called by the opponents, from German witnesses who were members of the Convention of German Manufacturers in the incandescent mantle trade. The Committee were required to investigate and to find upon five questions. The first was. Is the price of the competing article below the price at which that article can be manufactured in this country? Secondly, If so, is that due to the depreciation of the exchange? Thirdly, Is employment in that industry being seriously affected, or likely to be seriously affected I Fourthly, What effect, if any, will such a duty have upon any other industry which uses these goods? Fifthly, Is there reasonable efficiency and economy in the manufacture of these goods in this country? Upon all those questions the Committee took evidence, and upon all of them they have reported in favour of the applicants.
1900 First, with regard to the scale of imports, the Committee find that in 1920 the imports from Germany—I am dealing entirely with Germany, which was the only country considered—were at the rate of 3,000,000 a year; in 1921 the imports were at the rate of 9,000,000, and for the period of 1922 which was before them during their hearing the imports had risen still further and were at the rate of 16,000,000; but the House will want to know more than that. The Committee held their sittings in June or July and August and reported at the beginning of September, and, therefore, before making an Order even upon that very strong Report, my right hon. Friend was careful to see what had been the rate of importation, not only during the time which the Committee had been able to review upon statistics, but during the time the Committee was sitting and after they had made their Report. There was a steadily increasing importation at a much higher rate than that which was given in evidence before the Committee, and upon which the Committee found in the strong way I have mentioned. In July the imports were 11,000 gross, in August 11,000 gross, in September 17,000 gross, and in October 26,000 gross. That is to say, that while the Committee, in looking at the 1922 figures which were then before them, taken in the earlier part of the year, found and recorded as very serious an increase which had come up to a rate of 16,000,000, if we take those four months and take the average the rate is increased to something like 28.000,000 a year. Then comes the question of the comparison between the English cost of production and the German cost of production, and on page 6 of their Report the Committee find this:The lowest of the costs we have examined (that is, the lowest of the English costs of production) is more than 50 per cent. in excess of the price at which the German mantles are sold, and we consider that this difference is too great to be substantially affected by any qualification we may make.They had got therefore this great and increasing volume of importation, they had got the fact that, looking at it at its best, the English cost of production was SO per cent, higher than the price at which the Germans were selling, and then they find as a fact that this is due to the depreciation of the exchange. In para- 1901 graph 7 of their Report they say—and there is no dispute about this, because they had the German witnesses:German witnesses admitted that, as regards wages, the German manufacturer, paying the current rate equivalent at the time to about 2½d. per hour, had an advantage over his English competitor who paid 7d. per hour.I should not have thought 7d. per hour was an excessively high rate of wages, and one might indeed hope, if this industry can get a chance, that wages might rise. [HON. MEMBERS: "Might!"] One thing we know with certainty is, that if this Order be not confirmed, every man and every woman in that industry will be thrown out of work and will get no wages at all. The comparison of the rates was sufficient to convince the Committee that there was a very considerable amount of competition due to the depreciation of the exchange, and they went on to say:Further, we are satisfied that overhead charges, and salaries in particular, form a considerably smaller cost in Germany than in England, and that the difference is at any rate largely due to the failure of wages, salaries and other costs to rise there in proportion to the fall in the exchange value of the currency.Precisely that bounty which this provision is designed to meet. I would draw particularly the attention of the House to this. They say further on, after having dealt with the problem of the depreciation of the exchange:Incidentally we may add that we propose to ignore for the purposes of this Report the rapid fall in the value of the mark, which has occurred since we completed the hearing of evidence on 21st June, as we have no knowledge as to its precise effects on German trade."But," they continue—and this is signed by so admirable an economist as Sir John Barran, who was rightly described by the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) as a first-class economist—But we would point out that our conclusions on this subject are only likely to derive additional support therefrom.That is, the headlong flight from the mark was calculated to increase rather than diminish the bounty, and so far as I have been able to ascertain, the Committee were perfectly justified in that assumption, because if you take the fluctuation of the mark, and you compare the purchasing power in Germany and the purchasing power in England, you find that, at any rate up to October, when 1902 the catastrophic fall of the mark in two or three months was something like 2,000 to 14,000, the internal value is at least twice what the external value is. To come to the effect upon employment in this industry, the Committee deal with that on page 9 of their Report, and they say that in 1920 you had an employment of about 3,100 rising to 3,280 people in this industry, and 156,000 hours a week work. In 1921 that fell to 2,900, and for the week ending 26th May, 1922–the latest figures they could get—the employment had fallen from over 3,000 to 1,158. Then there was the further question before them as to whether the imposition of a duty on this industry would exert any effect upon any other industry which used mantles. The Committee were in some doubt as to whether they could reasonably say that there was any industry at all which used gas mantles "as material," but they erred on the generous side, and said they would take evidence from the gas trade, and on page 10 they say:The only evidence given before us as to the effect which the imposition of a duty on gas mantles would exert on employment in any other industry, was given on behalf of the gas industry. Without expressing any opinion as to whether that industry can be regarded as using gas mantles as material, we think that the effect on that industry of a duty on mantles would be negligible. We know of no other industry which could possibly be regarded as using gas mantles as material.Then there came the question of efficiency, because we have always contended that the last thing we wanted to do was to bolster up an inefficient industry, and I am sure the House will remember an Amendment in the Act to ensure that that should not be done. It was referred to the Committee to find whether or not an industry making application was efficiently conducted. This is their finding as to that. It is on page 10, paragraph (11):It appears to be generally agreed that as regards equipment of the factories and methods of manufacture, the British industry is in every way as good as the German. Before the War two of the principal factories in this country were controlled by or closely associated with the leading German manufacturers, and were worked on identical lines with the German factories. They have continued on the same lines since they ceased to be German, and there is little, if any, difference between them and other British works. One of the German witnesses admitted that, if the English factories have maintained their methods and equipment up to the pre-War 1903 standard, they are as good as the German to-day. We see no reason for doubting that the quality of British mantles in general is fully equal to that of the German.There is, therefore, thoroughly efficient production, and a thoroughly efficient article produced. The only other question which is raised is with regard to capitalisation. The Committee say:Very strong criticism was directed by one of the German witnesses as to the relation of the capital to the turnover as indicated by the figures. Several German examples were given in support of the opinion that the turnover should be at least twice the capital involved. We are inclined to think that some weight must be attached to this view, and that the industry is over-capitalised, a condition which may affect its overhead charges; but we feel that if we take into account the special circumstances under which it was developed during the War, we are justified in finding that it is conducted with reasonable efficiency and economy.I think that will appeal to the House as a sound and reasonable conclusion. Of course, if factories were extended during or immediately after the War, and developments have taken place at times when prices were very high, that, naturally, if interest is to be earned on capital, does add somewhat to the overhead charges. But I would point out that if it is to be a reason in every case where you get thoroughly efficient production in every respect for ruling it out, it means that you rule out every single industry which has developed during the War, or immediately after the War, at a time when we were all pressing people to extend their factories, and the provision would be confined to the man who sat still in a time of crisis. I do not think that that would be either wise, right or reasonable. Might I point out that the amount of turnover on capital naturally depends and must depend upon the amount of trade which the industry is able to do, and if it is found that its output is falling off for the various reasons specified, including that of the depreciated exchange, it is natural and inevitable that the turnover should be smaller and, therefore, bear a higher ratio to the capital than it would have if able to compete under normal and reasonable conditions. I may say further that the fact that some extensions are made which are chargeable to the high price, that is a matter which really affects dividends rather than the cost of 1904 production. I do not think the hon. Member, who has a large business experience need be very anxious on that matter, because when you have the cost of production 50 per cent, higher than your competitor's selling price, it does not lead to making very large profits. Therefore the Committee found unanimously on all the five counts in favour of the applicants. So, I think, my hon. Friend was not only right but bound to make this Order which I now commend to the House for confirmation.
I would only add that the importance of this industry, not merely to the employés but to the country, was recognised by Lord Balfour of Burleigh's Committee. During the War it became of vital importance that we should strip our gas of various ingredients, with the results stated. The whole point is this—and I am quite sure that I am right in this—I think the experts here will bear me out that if you strip the gas you must use the mantle, and therefore it was accounted important to make special provision to ensure that the raw material in this industry should always be available for the manufacturer in this country, and specially taken out of German control. Therefore the industry not only stands on its merits, an industry employing a number of people, but is also an industry of very definite national value and of national interest outside itself. One final thing I would say: We are always told that the moment you put a duty on everybody raise their prices. That argument cannot be used in this instance, because since the Order was made the price of gas mantles per gross has fallen considerably. I commend this Order to the House.
§ Major ENTWISTLE
I hope the House will not confirm this Order which has been made by the President of the Board of Trade. The only argument I have heard the right hon. Gentleman put forward in favour of the Order, apart from quoting some of the remarks of the Committee, is that if this Order is not made, all the people in this industry will be thrown out of employment. Yet a few moments before he read from the Report the statement, which is on page 6:The lowest of the costs we have examined is more than 50 per cent, in excess of the price at which the German mantles are sold.If the Report be carefully examined you will see that in this comparison of the 1905 lowest cost of the British manufacturer and the highest price at which the German mantle is sold there is a difference of more than 50 per cent. The Report goes on to say:We consider that this difference is too great to be substantially affected by any qualifications we may make.What is the Order? The Order is to add 33⅓ Per cent. duty, which admittedly, on the face of it, will not help the British manufacturer at all. On the top of that we have the statement from the President of the Board of Trade that since the Order was made there has been a great fall in the exchange. If the exchange is the cause of the trouble from which the gas mantle manufacturers are suffering, the difference will be all the greater, and still less will be the advantage of this duty of 33⅓ per cent, to the manufacturer.
There is no doubt about it, that it is a farce to pretend that this 33⅓ per cent. duty is necessary. What did the President of the Board of Trade go on to say when he was using his own arguments, as apart from the arguments in the Report of the Committee? In regard to over-capitalisation, he said, that if that argument held any weight, it would mean that any industry in this country, which was started during or since the War, would not be able to stand on its legs. Yes, but if these applications are allowed to go on, on the evidence which is sufficient to comply with the terms of the Act, it means that the price of articles will be fixed by the standard of the manufacturer in any industry of mushroom growth, who has not the experience of the more highly technical and long-developed industry in some other country, and that we will have those of our industries, which rely upon these materials, suffering from the fact that we have to keep going certain industries which, obviously, have not experience enough to work on economic lines. We have an instance of this only too well in the fabric glove case. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] There, in order to keep alive a few manufacturers who started the business for the first time during the War, we are doing harm to the great cotton industry. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] If we protect, by virtue of this legislation, any firm or any industry which opened during the War or since the War under its protection, or under the exceptional conditions under which 1906 the industry was started—if we protect all these by this legislation—then it is good-bye to the general trade of this country. We shall lose our export trade, and we will have millions more unemployed on our streets.
Let us look at the history of this gas mantle case, which is a very illuminating history. We had, in the first instance, I think, a Committee which reported on what articles should be included within Part I of the Act as coming within the definition of articles of a key industry. That Committee, under the persuasion of the hon. Baronet the Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths), whom we all recognise as "the gas mantle workers' friend," that Committee included, or recommended that gas mantles should be included, as a key-article. When the Safeguarding of Industries Act came before this House who opposed the inclusion of gas mantles amongst this scheduled list of key articles? It was the Board of Trade themselves, and they did so on the ground that gas mantles were not necessary for the protection of the country, and were not a key industry. They very strongly opposed it, and Amendments were put down by the hon. Baronet opposite to get gas mantles expressly included in the scheduled list of articles under Part I of the Act, and the House, on the recommendation of the Board of Trade, refused to do it, and gas mantles were deliberately and expressly excluded from the Schedule under Part I of the Act.
What happened? The gas mantle manufacturers were not satisfied. Certain raw materials used in the mantles were amongst the articles scheduled under Part I, and so the gas mantle manufacturers went to the Referee and tried to get his decision that gas mantles should come under the Act. The Referee decided that gas mantles did not come within the Act, but that one or two of the materials used in gas mantles did, and he said that the Board of Trade could impose a duty on those raw materials, which were thorium and cerium. Still the manufacturers were not satisfied, and they announced that they would appeal to the Courts of Law against this decision. That seemed rather surprising, because it was already provided in the Act that the decision of the Referee should be final, and when the Board of 1907 Trade were asked how on earth an appeal could be made to the Courts of Law on this question, we got the astounding reply that, as the Referee had only announced his decision, but had not actually signed it, there was still the possibility of an appeal to the Law Courts.
But although that rather subtle argument appealed to the Board of Trade it did not appeal to the Courts of Law, and they refused to hear any appeal from the Referee. The Act says that no article shall be taxed if it has changed its identity. Can anyone say that the thorium and cerium in a gas mantle have not changed their identity? The mantle manufacturers, after failing to persuade the House of Commons to give them a tax on mantles, went to the Referee to get it by a side wind, and they attempted to interpret the law differently from that which this House intended. The mantle manufacturers then—in the teeth of a provision that no appeal lies from the Referee's decision—tried by a subterfuge to get a decision from the Courts of Law, but the Judges turned it down. You would have thought that they would have been satisfied with that, but they actually got the Board of Trade then to levy this tax on the raw materials.
It was obviously impossible in practice to value the raw materials in every gas mantle and levy a duty in respect of them. Therefore this duty on the materials failed to work, and the Board of Trade, under pressure of the manufacturers, had to decide how they could satisfy them. They said, "We cannot go into an investigation as to the value of the materials comprised in a mantle, but we will assume that on the average in the ordinary case of a gas mantle there will be a certain percentage of these raw materials," and they levied a 5 per cent, duty on the mantle itself. That was contrary to the referee's decision, and the Board of Trade said, "If you are not satisfied with that, you can go to the courts," and that is the position in which the case stands. Therefore we have a 5 per cent, duty levied as to which it is questionable whether it is authorised by law, and which cannot be levied in practice.
1908 Then the mantle manufacturers had another brain wave. They said, "We have this 5 per cent, duty under Part I, which is not working very well; let us have a shot to see what we can get under Part II." They went Lo a Committee of business men to get protection under Part II of the Act. As a matter of fact, the provisions of Part II are so wide that, believe me, almost any article which comes from any country with a depreciated exchange could properly be held, on the evidence submitted, to come under it and could be dealt with by these committees. Who is to say whether or not a depreciated exchange is the cause of goods from Germany or whatever any other country is concerned being sold lower than the cost at which such goods can be profitably manufactured in the United Kingdom?
What is the test applied as to whether the cause of the trouble is a depreciated currency? It is by having evidence of what wages the German workman is paid in terms of marks, and, having got that, they ask how much that will come to in sterling, at the current rate of exchange. Now that is a very fallacious test. I would like to take a much fairer test to decide whether the unemployment that any industry is suffering from is due to a depreciated exchange. We have only had a depreciated currency since the War. Before the War all exchanges were more or less stabilised, and there were only slight or minor fluctuations in those exchanges. Now, if we are to arrive at any true comparison as to the effect of a depreciated currency, I submit we must make that comparison with conditions which prevailed pre-War. That is the only comparison which is of the slightest value, and, therefore, the only proper test to arrive at a conclusion as to whether the cause of this trouble is depreciated exchange is to lake the prices at which these goods were sold in the markets of the world before the War, because that is what counts.
It is no good saying that we can erect a barrage round ourselves and be indifferent to world price, because if we do that we should very soon lose the whole of our export trade. We have to find out what were the prices of those goods before the War, and then ascertain whether the manufacturers of this country can manufacture those goods at those 1909 world prices plus the legitimate increase which has occurred all over the world in the cost of materials and through the depreciation of money. Let us look at the position with regard to gas mantles before the War. I am taking the evidence of the Report, as I have no other source of information. In April, 1921, the convention of manufacturers—that is of German manufacturers—raised the retail price of mantles from 9 to 11 marks apiece, the latter figure being equivalent, at the then rate of exchange, to 25s. per gross, retail price. This may be regarded as on the average about 50 per cent, above the pre-War price expressed in sterling. If you have to arrive at a figure on which 25s. is an increase of 50 per cent., it is approximately 17s. Therefore, 17s. was the retail price of gas mantles before the War.
What is the price at which Germans have been selling them—the price which our gas mantle manufacturers declare to be undercutting? We find that in March, 1922. the price was 41s. 10½d. per gross retail. That has to be compared with 17s. before the War. The net increase therefore is far more than 100 per cent. It is something approximating 150 per cent. Is not that a sufficient increase to enable the British manufacturer to compete if he is carrying on his business efficiently? The only test whether he is doing that is this: Is he carrying it on as efficiently as the German was before the War, when he had to meet the competition of world prices? What is the position taken up by the British manufacturer? He says he cannot manufacture at less than from 47s. to 54s. per gross wholesale. If you add to that wholesale price the ordinary difference which, judging from the other figures, is added to arrive at the retail price, you get figures ranging from 51s. to 58s. per gross retail, and that is the price which you have to compare with the German pre-War price of 17s., an increase of more than 300 per cent. Is not that far more than is necessary to allow the British manufacturer to compete? Would it not be enough, if he is able to sell at double the price which obtained before the War? I would ask Members of the Labour party, are wages, on the average, more than 100 per cent. above the pre-War figure? [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Wages constitute the one instance given to prove that the ex- 1910 change is the cause of the trouble, which is that the German workers are paid such small wages. But if you can get 150 or 200 per cent, increase over the pre-War price surely, with the British workman not being paid more than 100, and perhaps even less than 100 per cent., above his pre-War wage, it is impossible to say that the cause of the trouble here is the depreciated exchange?
It is nothing of the sort. It is because we are trying by means of this fatuous legislation to bolster up industries which cannot stand on their own legs without this artificial protection. That is the line of policy on which we are proceeding by means of this legislation, and in the end, if it is not checked, it will result in the entire destruction of British trade. It is a very serious thing. One necessary condition which has to be proved under this Act has not been satisfied because nobody can say it is depreciated exchange which is the cause of unemployment in the industry. There again I submit you cannot compare unemployment between 1922 and 1920. The rate of comparison should be pre-War: that is the only fair comparison. We have only the figures of imports from 1920 to 1922. We have the figures of employment from 1920 to 1922, but we have not the figures to compare with pre-War conditions, although they say that the cause of this trouble is depreciated currency. It is nothing of the sort. It is because we are trying to bolster up industries which, owing cither to lack of experience, or machinery, or the skill of the workers involved, have not yet reached the degree of efficiency which there is abroad. If we start bolstering up certain of these industries which are inefficient we are doing infinite harm to numerous other industries in this country which are efficient, and which can compete on the basis of world prices.
Another point which I should like to notice in passing is this. It is stated in this Report that the German manufacturers are further assisted by their large stocks of monazite sand which were accumulated in that country before the War and which will keep them supplied with thorium for a considerable period. Let it be noted, therefore, that one of the reasons why the Germans have been able to under-cut the British in regard to gas mantles, and why they can do it now, is that certain raw materials are available in 1911 their own country. These stocks of monazite sand, whatever they may do, do not prove that the cause of the trouble is depreciated exchange. If it is due to the presence of this monazite sand it is not one of the conditions which can properly be taken into account in determining whether or not an order should be made under this section. I think that the President of the Board of Trade has passed too lightly over the important item of this Report dealing with over-capitalisation in the gas mantle industry. When we come to the actual conclusions in the Report we find that paragraph (6) says:We are of opinion that the gas mantle industry is over-capitalised and that this fact must tell against full economy in cost control, but that as regards processes of manufacture and use of materials it is up-to-date and efficiently conducted.I submit that before applicants can be said to have satisfied the terms of the Act, they have to do more than satisfy the Committee and the House of Commons that the process of manufacture only is efficient. They must also show that the cost control is at a reasonable figure, and I submit that in view of the Report, which states that the industry is over-capitalised, that is a sufficient reason, with the other facts I have mentioned, why the Board of Trade should not have made an order in this case. I only want to add that I am convinced that, on the kind of evidence which is given, and which it has become a custom to give in these cases, with the German currency depreciated as it is, there is not a single article coming from any country with a depreciated exchange which cannot, with a sympathetic Committee, get the benefit of this Act. I think that that is a matter of extreme danger to this country. It is not a matter which merely affects a few workers who are friends of the hon. Baronet opposite (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths); it is one which involves a large principle, and which might in the long run result in great unemployment throughout every industry in this country.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
We are very much enlightened by the speech of my right hon. Friend who opened this Debate on behalf of the Government, and also by what was said by my hon. and gallant Friend who has just sat down. I had no 1912 idea that in my lifetime I could possibly become so notorious as I have become since Monday. On all sides of the House I have been hailed as, in the words of my hon. and gallant Friend, the gas mantle workers' friend. It takes my thoughts for the moment from this House to where those friends of mine are, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that, if he will come with me one night and see the workers, he will be ready to give up his own seat and come and contest mine. These workers, whose friend I am proud to be, are composed in roost cases of young women and girls, and one of the many joy spots in my experience in Central Wandsworth has been meeting these good people when they are full of work, happy and contented and prosperous, all going home with a smile, glad to have done a good day's work. My hon. and gallant Friend said that the gas mantle industry did not come within the Act and was not a key industry, but I would add that, as a result of many questions which I put in this House, and also of many deputations which I presented to the then President of the Board of Trade, a promise was given, which I think will be found recorded in the OFFICIAL REPORT, that, although the industry could not come within the scope of the Act as a key industry, it would come under the Act—I presume in Part II.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
That was the promise, and I believe it is on record in the OFFICIAL REPORT. I should like to mention one other point before I get on to my own story. My hon. and gallant Friend dealt with the question of efficiency. I have had some experience in travelling round the world and in industrial life generally, and I can assure my hon. and gallant Friend that, so far as efficiency goes, both as regards the manufacturers themselves and as regards the workers, I have never in all my experience seen an industry where the two work together with as much efficiency as could be expected anywhere. That is the ease in Central Wandsworth, which is the home of the industry in this country. As regards the question of capitalisation, I do not know how some firms work their business, but I do know that your working costs are not affected by what your 1913 capital is or what it is not. A properly run manufacturing concern or organisation will first take its actual cost of production, in labour and material, and should add the cost of the staff at the works which is necessary in order to product the article. That would be the actual cost of production.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I do not envy those who have any money in the industry. I would ask the House to follow me into what happened in the last Parliament. It will be within the recollection of hon. Members who were in the last Parliament that I presented a Petition to this House, signed by 4,200 workers,Praying that gas mantles may again be included as a key industry in the Safeguarding of Key Industries Bill.That was not signed at my instigation, but I was requested to present it. It was got up by the workers themselves, and those workers lived, besides working, in Wandsworth, Streatham, Mitcham, Battersea, Putney, Tooting, Westminster, Hornsey, Camberwell, St. Pancras, and many other districts, and if there are any hon. Members on the other side of the House who represent any of those places I would ask them kindly to note that. That petition was followed by a town hall meeting, with which, again, I had absolutely nothing to do. I did not know of it until I was asked to take the chair. I took the chair, and the meeting was packed by all these workers. It was organised by the Joint Industrial Council, which, as far as I can gather—I heard it for the first time to-day—is a body similar to the one that was mentioned by an hon. Member in connection with the cotton industry. On the platform was a Labour representative. I will quote his name. I am sure he will not mind. He was Mr. Scott, the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Industrial Council. This meeting took place on the 14th April last year. Mr. Scott referred to the fact that gas mantles had been included in the original Bill and then taken out, and he protested against the trickery of the Government in doing that in face of the numerous promises which had been given. That was from the Labour leader representing the workers on the platform in the town hall at Wandsworth, at a meeting called for the sole purpose of protect- 1914 ing the workers which he represented. The resolution at that meeting was:That this public meeting of the electors of Wandsworth and Streatham, representing over 4,000 gas mantle workers, draws attention to the serious unemployment in the gas mantle industry caused by the importation of mantles from abroad and demands that this industry be reinstated in the list of key industries, and further that this industry shall be protected against further German dumping.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Indeed there is, as I will point out presently. I do not think I have ever attended any public meeting in my life where there was more determination and enthusiasm to try to get some protection for the industry. These people wore working hard, turning out good work, quite well done and as efficient as any mantle which has ever been made. The hon. Member who preceded me quoted a price of 41s. 6d. That really does not convey much. There are soveral grades and it depends what grade it was. May I remind the House that in 1914 the industry was practically non-existent or in its infancy. The hon. Member who preceded me said, you want to make a comparison between to-day and pre-War prices and conditions. This would not be a logical conclusion to draw. There were certainly in 1921, as far as I can gather, 4,000 workers in the gas mantle industry in this country, and to-day there are only very few- over 1,000 working. Recently I had an opportunity to visit several of the works at Wandsworth which I have seen under different circumstances, and I can assure the House, without any exaggeration at all, that they are living from hand to mouth, not knowing how long they are going to keep going or when they are going to be shut up. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that what makes them happy?"] No. I was referring to the past then. I wish they were now as happy as when I saw them the first time.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
May I ask hon. Members to give the hon. Baronet a patient hearing. No one is obliged to listen to a speech.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
The difference between that 1,000 and the former 4,000 is that the remainder are unemployed through no fault of their 1915 own. Had this industry been included in the Act, I am convinced that the whole of the 4,000 would still have been working. I looked at the balance sheet of one company; it did not take more than a glance to see that there was a dead loss for the year of £183,000. I wanted to satisfy myself so that when pleading to this House for some protection under this Bill I could also state the financial position which is indeed very gloomy. I have not been into the figures of the trade as a whole. They are all working from hand to mouth. (An HON. MEMBER: "Over-capitalisation."] I do not think there is a single company there, as I conceive it, which has any big capitalisation at all. If anything they would probably be found to have too little working capital, and many of them will be wondering whether they will be able to continue next year.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I should say about 150 when I went there, and I have seen something approaching 600 when working full time. Another had something like 600. I believe some of the companies have other works elsewhere. [An HON. MEMBER: "In Germany?"] I never came across one who to my knowledge had works in Germany. If I had I should have been down on them like a thousand of bricks.
§ Mr. H. H. SPENCER
Do we understand that a factory employing 600 people lost £180,000 in one year's trading?
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Not necessarily in one factory. The net result of their trading for the one year, according to this balance sheet, showed a net loss of £180,000 odd.
§ Mr. SPENCER
Can the hon. Baronet tell us how many people were employed by the group of factories which lost £180,000?
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
No. I do not think I can tell the hon. Member that, but I think I am right in saying that there were 600 there when I first went. When I went there the other day the number was 125 or 130. They were women, and in addition there were about half a dozen men also.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I am certain that the firm in question would not object to show the balance sheet to the hon. Member, and it would be instructive to look at. That, is my best answer to the hon. Member's questions. It is generally known amongst people who had studied this matter that the total consumption of gas mantles in this country in one year is about 50,000,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "Seventy millions!"] I have taken it on a conservative basis at the present time. It may have been more last year or the year before. A fortnight before this Act came into force the foreigners dumped into this country one million gas mantles. Assuming that this million of gas mantles could have been kept out of this country, it would have, meant in one week wages of, approximately, £8,000, most of which would have gone to the girls and to women to whom I refer.
In 1921–and I ask the Members of the Labour party to bear this in mind—the average rate of wage paid abroad compared with what we were paying was 2½d. per hour as against our 9d. per hour. [HON. MEMBERS: "The Report says 7d."] Whether it is 2½d., 3½d., 9d., 10d., 8d. or 7d., there is a big difference between the wages paid here and the wages paid abroad, and it must fundamentally affect the whole position of the people whom I am trying to defend. My duty, as representing these people in the House of Commons, is to put their views before hon. Members, and to tell the House what they think and what, are their grievances. I saw in the "Times" this morning, and no doubt other hon. Members will have seen it, an article relating to the subject we are now discussing. It is a well written article, and no one could imagine that it was written in any partisan spirit. It is a general view of the position, and those hon. Members who have not read it would do well to read it. I may summarise it by saying that the article 1917 points out that this is a question of expediency. It asks whether these duties are really keeping these industries going, and whether they would shut down in the absence of these duties. The article further asks whether it is not a fact that, our competition is keeping foreign prices down. It is suggested by the hon. Member for South West Hull (Major Entwistle) that these duties will increase the cost of the article. May I point out that the German manufacturers met the duty of 8s. 6d. by cutting their price from 34s. 6d. to 24s. 6d. That is the gross average. Following that, the English price was also cut. It is on evidence that these duties, whatever else has been the result of them, have, in fact, meant a reduction in the cost of gas mantles. It is clear that the price has been out since the Act was passed, and that answers the point raised by my hon. Friend as to the price going up. What would happen if our works closed down to-morrow? The price would jump again to 51s. 6d. If the foreigners had no competition in this country they would put the price up against us.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
The pre-War comparison is quite out of the question. You cannot compare the cost of materials and labour pre-War with the cost to-day. Let the hon. Member ask the Labour Members whether the workers are not paid more to-day. I have done my best to show that, being a friend of the gas mantle workers, I am a friend of the British worker before I am a friend of the foreigner engaged in this trade. I wish hon. Members could have seen the factories as I have seen them in good and bad times. There is no difference of opinion, that is if we can get the gas mantle industry covered by this Act we shall certainly obtain more work for our British workers and produce more gas mantles.
All civilised Governments have three duties to fulfil. One is to protect the life of the subject. The second is to protect the freedom of the subject—social, political and religious. Thirdly, to protect the means of livelihood of the subject. That is all I am asking hon. 1918 Members to do. I am speaking on behalf of the workers in this industry. I wish the Leader of the Labour party had been in his place in the House, but in his absence I would ask the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) to press on his Leader the necessity of reminding his followers that these are not ordinary times and that young industries must be safeguarded. Throughout the Debates since the House met, we have heard it said on every side that we are all trying, in one direction or another, to find a means of helping our country over these difficult times. I do claim that this is one direction in which we can do some good. I do not now ask for this to be enacted permanently. I ask for its continuity for a time—the time specified in the Bill is short—but it will help in this industry to tide over these very bad times and to get the wheels of trade running again. I sincerely hope that the Labour party will not follow the Wee Free element by raising the old cry of Tariff Reform or Free Trade. May I tell the Labour party this? The sooner they say, "We have nothing to do with either Tariff Reform or Free Trade, but we will treat the industry of this country fairly and squarely and protect it where necessary," the quicker they will get on to this side of the House, but they never will until they do.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
May I get back to gas mantles, and draw the attention of the House to the nature of the opposition to the inclusion of gas mantles in this Act? Where did it come from, and what was it? The opposition to gas mantles being included in the Bill came from the gas mantle trade, the merchant side of it, the middleman. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Yes, we have had that in evidence.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
Is it not a fact that large corporations and city councils all over the country, in addition to the wholesale trade, protested against this Measure?
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Anyhow, the effective opposition came from the gas mantle trade itself, from the merchant side of it, also gas com- 1919 panies, with running contracts under which they had to supply the various municipalities with light and mantles, and so forth. The opposition came from no one except the people who had absolutely nothing to gain through the industry being maintained otherwise than for their own personal interests.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I have already told the House that I am speaking to the best of my ability for the workers. I am only trying to represent the workers.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is accusing the merchants of having acted in their own personal interests. I say that is exactly what the people whom he is representing are doing.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
Incredible as it may seem, the best those people could do who opposed the repeated application from the trade manufacturers and the workers to be incorporated in the Act was to produce two German manufacturers, bring them over to this country, and to take their evidence. I was so astounded when I heard it that I put a question to the President of the Board of Trade on 22nd June, 1922. I asked him:Whether he can give the names of any German manufacturers of gas mantles, or representatives of the same, who have been permitted to tender evidence or to make statements at the hearing of the British gas mantle manufacturers' application, under Part II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act; and whether any facilities for their attendance at the hearing of such application were afforded to them by the Board of Trade?The answer I received was as follows:I am informed that the Committee, at the suggestion of the interests opposing the application referred to, decided to hear evidence from Herr Heinrich Ziegler, one 1920 of the managing directors of the Auerlicht Gesellschaft, of Berlin, and from Herr Bernhard Young"—the name is "Young" here. His real name is "Jung"—manager of the mantle factory of that company. No special facilities were granted for the attendance of these persons, but the Board of Trade suggested to the Home Office that, in the event of their being no objection to the witnesses in question being admitted to this country, it would be convenient if the necessary permits could be issued without delay."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd June, 1922; cols. 1519–1520. Vol. 155.]All I can say is that if they have to bring two German manufacturers over here to bolster up their case then it must be weak. The workers to whom I have referred are people who want to earn their living. I leave it to the House to decide with what object the Opposition brought these people over here: whether it was in the interests of the development of British trade or in the interests of the British worker. We had two days very interesting debate on the 9th and 10th May last year. We are to-day to a greater extent repeating many of the things which were then said, and I would ask hon. Members who were not in the House then to read that Debate. A question was asked recently as to what duty was obtained from gas mantles imported into this country during a certain month. Fortunately I have the information. I will not weary the House with full details—[HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"]—but it suffices to say that the importation of mantles from Germany during the week ending 14th October and up to the week ending 25th November amounted to 38,916 gross, and the value was £55,393. Had the works in Central Wandsworth been making those gas mantles, it would not only have kept them busy full time and happy, but would have brought the Chancellor of the Exchequer £18,604 in duty.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
The number of mantles imported into this country in the week ending 14th October was 4,292 gross; week ending 21st October, 5,697 gross; week ending 28th October, 6,116 gross; week ending 4th November, 5,525 gross; week ending 11th November, 9,415 gross; week ending 18th 1921 November, 5,157 gross; and week ending 25th November, 2,714 gross, making a total of 33,916 gross.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I am not so much concerned in the matter of duty at the moment, but I do want to see these people at work, and I earnestly beg the House to remember that I have to present petitions to this House praying that these workers may have some protection under this Act. In the interests of those workers I beg the House with all earnestness not to consider this as a question of Tariff Reform or Free Trade. I appeal to the Labour benches to help these workers to carry on. Much has been said about the improvement of trade. My business lies mostly overseas in foreign countries and all my work is competing against the foreigner, and I am convinced that you are not going to have any quick recovery, and that while you are going to have ups and downs the position will not be much worse or much better than it is at present during the next seven or ten years. My only real fear is that under this Act the Government do not go far enough. I should like to hear the Prime Minister ask hon. Members of the Labour party to make some suggestions for some temporary protection for trade and industry in this country in the manner now suggested and really do something to protect the workers.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
The hon. Baronet is going far beyond the limits of the question under discussion.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
I am sorry, but I hope that my appeal will not be in vain. The picture which I have tried to paint is that of something which does cause uneasiness. There is anxiety in the minds of these workers, and there will be great relief among them if as a result of this Debate they will have some further protection in their trade.
§ Mr. W. GRAHAM
The hon. Baronet made a very strong appeal to the Labour Benches, on the ground that there is an industry in Central Wandsworth which urgently requires the protection which this Order affords. I think that I express the opinion of all Labour Members when I say that we should only too willingly support any proposal designed to 1922 provide employment in this country, provided we are satisfied that, having regard to the conditions of industry as a whole, it will do good. The hon. Baronet at the same time appealed to us to consider industry as a whole. That is precisely what we have to do now, so far as this Order is concerned. It is not a case of picking out hard and difficult circumstances in a particular industry here and there, but a case of pursuing a policy which is going to contribute to the industrial recovery of this country. But I would remind the House that in the concluding paragraph of this Order it is laid down that the Order shall continue in force until the 19th August, 1924. So we are asked to impose this Measure for a period of about, two years ahead, and the House will agree that there must be very strong, substantial reasons before we give our assent to any such proposal.
The President of the Board of Trade founded his defence of the Government proposal very largely on the Report of a Committee which considered this industry, but any hon. Member who reads this Report impartially will find as much in it against the present proposal as he will find in favour of it. Clearly the Committee has tried to discharge its duty impartially, and we could make a very strong case on the basis of this Report for rejecting the Order which is now proposed. There are one or two general considerations in the Report. In the first, place, this industry in Germany has enjoyed certain advantages in commodities necessary to the industry in comparison with this country. In the second place, there was apparently controversy before the Committee as to whether this was not, from some points of view, a declining industry, having regard to the demand for electricity for lighting purposes and gas for heating, and that may be a factor to be taken into account in considering the position of this problem in Great Britain. Thirdly, and much more important, there were very definite references to over capitalisation in the industry, and what I regard as a very strong statement by the Committee on that point in the five or six recommendations which they made on the subject.
Having regard to these three considerations alone, they would make it very difficult to-night for us to approve an Order of this character without very serious 1923 investigation, because the broad danger which arises is just the danger of giving a subsidy, whatever it may be worth—personally I think it may not amount to much—for certain conditions of inefficiency in an industry in this country, or at all events, if not conditions of inefficiency, conditions which would stand very considerable improvement. That is a fair way to state the case. On that ground alone I personally, and probably many others, would be prepared to oppose this proposal. But, very briefly indeed, there is a fundamental reason why we should reject the Order. Many of us recall in the last Parliament the circumstances under which the Safeguarding of Industries Bill was passed, and we remember the controversy regarding Part II of that Measure. Part II of the Measure was designed, as the then President of the Board of Trade explained, not to give any adequate protection to industries in this country which were suffering because of the export advantage of depreciated exchanges elsewhere, but to try to safeguard them to some extent. He did not suggest that this would in any way help the foreign exchanges or their recovery. He merely said that this is a Measure of safeguard or protection for certain industries which may be more or less closely affected by the abnormal conditions which now obtain, as far as the exchanges are concerned.
I think we can count for all practical purposes on the first two recommendations in this Report. The first recommendation is that the Committeeare in the main satisfied that the bulk of the German mantles which are imported into this country are sold to dealers at the prices fixed by the Convention of German Mantle Manufacturers.There is very definite regulation as far as price is concerned, and reference is made to that regulation in the course of the Committee's Report. In the second place, the Committee state that the price at which the mantles are soldis very much above German manufacturing costs.I find it quite impossible to understand how we are to reconcile this statement and the present proposal in the Order with the argument in support of Part II when it was passed through this House, because a very large part of the argument turned on an effort to deal with dumping 1924 or the offer for sale of goods in this country below the cost of production in the country of origin. That is not alleged in this Report at all. Therefore we get into very unsafe waters when we bring forward an Order and support it by a Report which does not fit the facts of the general Debate.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
I am sure the hon. Gentleman docs not want to misrepresent the position, or the purpose of this Committee's inquiry. It was never suggested that there was any case of dumping. This was an application in respect of depreciated exchange, and depreciated exchange alone.
§ Mr. GRAHAM
My contention is that the two things are very closely connected and, indeed, inseparable. This Order is entitled, "Safeguarding of Industries. Prevention of Dumping." It is under this Order that the proposal is made by the President of the Board of Trade. Either the circular or something else is wrong. The real reason for opposing all schemes of this character is that they are parts of a general policy which is utterly against the recovery of the foreign exchanges at the present time. It is certainly utterly against, the recovery of British industry as a whole and the provision of further employment. In the third of the Committee's recommendations there is a reference to currency conditions in Germany, and to the conditions of this depreciated exchange. But, to a very large extent, these conditions are internal conditions in Germany and, in any case, this proposal would not help the situation in the least. Every Committee which has reported on the recovery of foreign exchanges has laid it down that that recovery will depend to a material extent on the freest possible interchange of goods. But here is a definite proposal which is in the direction of the exclusion or the restriction of goods.
It may be a very hard doctrine to lay down to-night, but I believe it is absolutely sound—that we have simply to face the entry of German and other goods into this country if there is to be any recovery at all. I put that to hon. Members in all parts of the House on the ground of reparation, if on no other ground. How are we to get reparation if, step by step, we adopt Orders of this kind, which are definitely in the direction 1925 of trade restriction? So much stress has been laid on the precise terms of the proposal itself that I think it is unnecessary to say more on that point now. The general argument regarding industry as a whole is one which must always weigh with the House when we are considering individual orders. In my judgment, so far from adding to employment in this country, we have only to multiply Measures of this kind in order to lead us into greater difficulties than those which now exist.
§ Mr. PETO
The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. Graham) says we must be satisfied before approving of this Order that it is going to do something to assist industry as a whole, and that we must not pick out one industry here and another there. Unfortunately, I have not had the benefit which the hon. Member has had of attending the Debates in this House when this Act was passed in the last Parliament. I have had to turn to the Act itself, and I see the whole of Part II of this Act under which the present Order comes, is based upon the principle of picking out an industry here and another there. Section 2 of the Act, which is the commencement of Part II, states:If, on complaint being made to the Board to that effect, it appears to the Board that goods of any class or description (other than articles of food or drink) manufactured in a country outside the United Kingdom are being sold or offered for sale in the United Kingdomand so forth. There are two conditions, one or other of which has to be complied with. The hon. Member complains that this Order is headed "Prevention of dumping." That is the heading to Part II of the Act, and the phrase is obviously used to show that it is under this Part of the Act, and not under the earlier Part, that the Order is made. It would not be within the limits of orderly Debate to proceed on the general question of whether we ought to adopt a Protective tariff for goods generally in this country or not. The hon. Member says we should not pass this Order, because we are not dealing with the industry of the country as a whole. But 1926 if we cannot find employment for all our people, let us, at any rate, find employment for some of them. The hon. Member went on to ask what would happen if we applied these Orders more generally. The provisions of the Act are very wide, and I agree that a great deal can be done under Part II. I will be perfectly candid with the House. The hon. Member asks if we apply these Orders, how are we going to get reparation? If I got the choice as between reparations and employment for the people at the present time, I should choose employment. I believe we can devise a means of getting reparations without injuring employment, but that is not the question now. We have to consider whether this Order will or will not provide employment for the people of the country, and in that connection I ask the House to remember the Preamble to this Act. It says the Act is:
- (a) at prices below the cost of production thereof as hereinafter defined; or
- (b) at prices which by reason of depreciation in the value in relation to sterling of the currency of the country in which the goods are manufactured,"An Act to impose duties of Customs on certain goods with a view to the safeguarding of certain special industries and the safeguarding of employment in industries in the United Kingdom, against the effects of the depreciation of foreign currencies, etc.10.0 P.M.
It is definitely enacted to provide employment for the people, and here is an Order which, as my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Wandsworth (Lieut.-Colonel Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) has pointed out, in words which I think ought to appeal to the House as being pathetic, is intended to benefit those young women who are otherwise going to be thrown out of employment, and only one in four of whom are employed at the present moment. It is, at any rate, giving them some safeguard for employment during the next two years. I do not think it is much to ask, and I cannot understand how any hon. Member in any part of the House can oppose it. I think we are all agreed as to providing employment. I recognise fully that hon. Members opposite are anxious to do all they can to provide employment as long as they are satisfied that the means adopted will not cause more unemployment than employment. I am absolutely satisfied as to what the effect of the Order will be, and I will give the House one illustration of why I am satisfied. One of the most contentious matters introduced under Part II of the Act was that of fabric gloves. I followed the controversy very closely, and 1927 I think I am entitled to show what has been the operation in my own constituency of one of the last Orders made under this part of the Act, so that we may form some judgment as to what will be the effect in the case of gas mantles.
During the recent Election I studied more closely than I had before the various industries in two of the principal towns in my constituency. They are cabinet-making, shipbuilding, a mosquito net manufactory, a leather glove factory, a collar works, and a fabric glove factory. I found the shipbuilding yards were practically deserted, with 25 men employed where 500 had been employed. In other concerns only half the former numbers were employed at the best. The collar works were closed down, and one of the principal cabinet factories was in the hands of the Official Receiver. That was the story everywhere. Crowds of unemployed were taking their unemployment pay every Saturday. There was one exception, and one only—one busy factory, and that was the fabric glove factory. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. These practical illustrations are coming home to the working classes in this country, and I welcome this Act and -the inclusion of every separate industry, even if we have to pick and choose. Not only does it find employment here and there, but it educates the working classes in the value of Protection.
Hon. Members opposite know that the last thing I would do is to say anything personally reflecting upon them. I would never for a moment say that they are blind leaders of the blind, but I do say that the people whom they are leading are rapidly getting their eyes opened. If they had appealed on a plain Free Trade platform at the Election instead, of from the various planks of the platform which they did use, they would not have returned 140 strong to the House. They would have returned a very much smaller party, probably without the 100. I beg them to consider this—that whatever reasons they may give for this ancient system, which I regard as being rapidly discredited in the eyes of the working classes, do not let them carry it to extremes. Do not let them carry it so far as to refuse such assistance as the inclusion of industry after industry under this part of the Act will give to employment. I beg of them not to oppose 1928 this, and I do not think they will. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see!"] If they do, I tell them frankly I have a very poor opinion of their prospects at the next General Election. I am convinced it is not in their interests to do so, and I know the interests of the working class and what is in their minds, and I am making a wider appeal than any mere election speech.
I wish to ask a question of the President of the Board of Trade. Under the second part of the Act, if any industry can prove that by reason of dumping or depreciation of foreign exchanges it is not getting a fair deal with foreign competition, it is at liberty to make out its case if it can. The Prime Minister by d self-denying ordnance says he is not during the currency of the present Parliament—I do not quote the exact words but the tenor of his remarks—going to introduce any great change in the fiscal system of this country. I say the decision of the electorate which has returned to power the party to which I belong is a clear indication that they do not want any backsliding in the matter of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and such small measure of protection as the working classes have at the present time. I would ask the President of the Board of Trade whether there is going to be a policy of placing difficulties in the way of industries getting protection under this part of the Act.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I am afraid the President of the Board of Trade would be quite out of order in replying to that question.
§ Mr. PETO
I bow to your ruling, Sir, and I must ask your excuse, owing to my absence, in the country, in the past four years. If the President would be out of order in replying, I will certainly not press the question now, but put it on some more appropriate occasion. I make an appeal to hon. Members in all parts of the House to let us have a little agreement on this question of what is really one branch of the great question of finding employment for the people at the present time. I am convinced that the Act is effective where it is in operation, and therefore I say, Let us not turn down this one industry which is now before the House and put it back again where the hon. and gallant Member for South-West Hull (Major Entwistle) put it. I hope that no hon. Member will wish to push 1929 that argument of his, that there was practically no industry before the War. Surely we do not want to go back to a state of things where there is no industry at all in any industry in the country. The whole argument of the hon. and gallant Member was that this was not very efficiently managed, and therefore we should go back to where we were in 1914, when there was practically nobody employed in this industry in the country. I think that is an appalling argument at the present time. Let us, at any rate, take the step that we are asked to take to-night, which will have the effect on this industry, whatever it may have on other industries, of giving an advantage of an import duty of 33⅓ per cent, over foreign competition.
The only other argument I wish to mention is the argument of the hon. and gallant Member that 33⅓ per cent, was not enough. Is that any reason for having nothing at all? If it be not enough, surely it is something. I am amused at that argument in this House, because I met it in my own constituency in the matter of fabric gloves. The main argument of my opponent was that they would want 600 per cent, duty to be really effective, and so, if he came back here, he was going to vote for no duty at all. The hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) the other evening asked any of us whether we could really say we were returned here to support the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and I told him I was. That was the argument that I was up against during my election, and I am not surprised, as that argument was used, that it was found very ineffective, but I am surprised to find any hon. Member in this House using it here, and saying that, because 33⅓ per cent, is not as much as he would like in order to protect the industry, therefore he would vote for there being no protection at all. I thank the hon. Members most cordially for the kindly hearing they have given me on this occasion when I reappear in their midst.
§ Mr. HARDIE
It does not matter how high you may build a tariff wall round inefficiency, you cannot by heightening that wall make that inefficiency into efficiency, and all that has been said tonight with regard to the introduction of the manufacture of gas mantles into this country has been quite outside the known history of the gas mantle in Germany and 1930 in this country. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) gave us great enlightenment when he said that in the mantle industry in this country it was not so much a question of capital as that they had very small works, but surely he will admit that there is a difference between the productive power of a man with a machine and that of a man without a machine, and when he spoke about tariffs he seemed not to realise that the machine is part of that of which he spoke. The President of the Board of Trade, when introducing this Debate, spoke about the gas mantle and the gas, and I am just afraid that the right hon. Gentleman has never been very much about a gasworks. He spoke about the qualities of the mantle, and he tried to point out to this House that during the War the gas manufactured in our gas works was specially washed or scrubbed in order to extract the toluol to give us the basis of the great T.N.T. explosive. He wanted by that argument to make out that because this gas was washed in that way it was more difficult to get the value out of the mantles in use.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
If the hon. Member will allow me to interrupt him, what I said was that if you stripped the gas in the way which he has described, you then got a gas which had only heating properties and no lighting properties, and that unless you used a mantle you could not get light.
§ Mr. HARDIE
That is just what I understood the right hon. Gentleman to say; he has confirmed me. The stripping of the gas, he says, only left the heating qualities and took away the illuminating qualities. What is the history of the matter in this country? This House, at the very beginning of the gas industry, said to those manufacturing the gas, "You must make a quality of gas that will have 900 British thermal units as a basis." That was because you were using a flat, plain burner, and you required to carry forward these qualities to get these illuminating qualities in your gas. You had to carry forward all the rich qualities of ordinary coal gas, but what happened when the mantle was invented? Is it not a fact that when you put that on your ordinary burners, with that high quality of gas, as soon as you lit your gas your mantle burst? Very well, then, I do not know where the right hon. Gentleman 1931 comes in at all, and when it was agreed by the House of Commons to reduce from 900 British thermal units to 450, what happened? A further improvement was made in the manufacture of the gas mantles by the Germans, and we could come down to a value, not of 900, but of 350. I want the right hon. Gentleman to pay attention to this. During certain experiments in war-time in connection with the distillation of coal, we used in the night shift a mantle with gas of 350 British thermal units. There is a man—an Englishman—in the English gas world who has been proving right and left that he has done it in London in front of experts.
§ Mr. HARDIE
Yes, a Scotsman is always out for saving. What happened was that a debate took place as to whether you could heat a kettle, for instance, as quickly with 350 British thermal units as with 500, and it came out in favour of the man who claimed for the 350 British thermal units. What the right hon. Member did not tell the House was this, that during the War, when gas was being scrubbed for the Toluol, they did not intimate to the consumer that it was a question of having a poorer illuminant, but that it was a question of their being short of coal, and in order to increase the quantity they made the gas up with air, and charged the same price as they did for gas. The technical side of this subject is a very simple one. Here you have the introduction of a system of measurement by therm. Why? Because the gas works were putting in air and charging us the price of gas.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not think the hon. Member has yet had a fair chance of bringing his remarks to the question of approval or otherwise of this Order. He seems to know his subject.
§ Mr. HOHLER
With great respect to your ruling, the hon. Member has throughout his speech referred simply and solely to the question of the manufacture of gas in this country. It has 1932 nothing whatever to do with gas mantles in any sense or form.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I imagine that without gas we would not have any mantles. We must not prevent the hon. Member from proceeding. There is no doubt that he is coming to the question of the mantles.
§ Mr. HARDIE
The hon. and learned Member who has raised the objection may not have been in the House when the right hon. Gentleman made his observations in favour of what he is fighting for. I am putting my case, and if there had been any intention of protesting against anyone taking up too much time, I think it might have been done when the hon. and gallant Gentleman opposite was speaking. We have heard to-night from three different sources about the manufacture of the gas mantle. On our first experience of the gas mantle in this country all the gas-users in the district that I know of held public protest meetings. What did they say? They said that with the continued breaking of the gas mantles they were sure that the shareholders in the gas works had shares in the gas mantle factories too, because that seemed to be the condition of production in relation to the quality of the gas. You could only use the gas mantle in the first stages for four hours. I am not going to imitate some hon. Members here who begin a long speech by the observation that they will not detain the House for more than a few moments; but I will conclude with this: I am surprised that while a speaker has gone through this question as briefly as I have done, that the moment one gets up to give the technical side there is an endeavour made to crush him. [HON. MEMBERS: "No," and "Go on."] Unless you have technical knowledge of a subject that comes before this House, and the man who can develop the subject specially is given a chance, you will never get questions discussed as they ought to be discussed on the technical side. The introduction of the gas mantle into this country meant a change in the whole system of the manufacture of gas. During the War, I have explained what was done, and apart from what I have already stated, the companies allowed naphthaline deposits to accumulate in the pipe, and that meant the putting of another charge upon the gas consumer, who has been robbed right and left. 1933 The right hon. Gentleman concluded with a plea that you want to protect the gas-mantle industry. What are you trying to protect? You are trying, as I said at the very beginning, to cover up your incapacity to compete with other people making gas mantles.
What was the cry during the first period of the War? "We have been found without the necessary skilled men and products: no longer after the War will we have this state of affairs. We are going to give good wages to our chemists. There shall be a new system of education in order that we shall never be put in the same position again! "What have you done? By the Education Bill you have robbed us of the possibility of giving the young people of this country the chance to become technically educated. We have brains in this country. We have brain power that cannot be equalled by any other country, and it will have its effect if you can get the profiteering off our backs. Technical education was the basis of what was called the commercial success of Germany. The gas-mantle industry was not built up by tariff walls, but by men of brains. Yes, that knowledge that comes from true technical education placed Germany where she was commercially before the War. No amount of tariff wall building will make up for the technical mind, or by saying, in effect, "We will put up a tariff wall to conceal our ignorance."
§ Mr. H. H. SPENCER
I will give a homely parallel to the hon. Baronet the Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) who has been pleading the cause of some 4,000 girls who are employed making gas mantles. I have the honour to represent, I suppose, between 15,000 and 16,000 girls who make their living by weaving textiles for which work you want a good light. I could take the hon. Baronet to a weaving shed with 1,200 looms, and between every pair of looms there is an incandescent burner with a gas mantle on it. In the industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire the value of the products is governed by the world's price, and we cannot get any more for them than the world will give. Therefore everything that the Government does which increases the working expenses of these industries comes out of the wages of the people engaged in those industries. I took the liberty of saying a few words on Monday 1934 night on the question of dye work and I pointed out that we were paying twice as much for certain dye work as we ought to do in the textile industry. Now the hon. Baronet opposite wishes to make us pay twice as much for the light we use in our works.
We have arrived at agreements with our people to pay them up or down on a sliding scale according to the cost of living. There comes a point when our cost of production goes up to such an extent that we lose the orders in our export trade, and that is just what the things suggested by the hon. Baronet opposite do. They add to the cost of production and destroy our export trade, and for the 2,000 or 3,000 girls which the hon. Baronet wants to keep in work what is suggested will cause unemployment to exactly the same extent as it causes employment in that particular trade, because, whenever you make these things in a particular place in this way you throw someone else out of work, and other people have less to spend on something else. Those are arguments for Free Trade. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Peto) said his Tariff Reform argument was useful in his part of the world, but in my constituency we had 12 candidates for three seats. Four were Socialists, four Conservatives and four Liberals, and 11 of them were thorough-going Free Traders and the twelfth was very doubtful. I know that he got in, and I am waiting to hear whether he is a Free Trader or a Protectionist.
§ Sir J. NORTON-GRIFFITHS
What I argued was that hon. Members should not take into consideration on this question whether they were Tariff Reformers or Free Traders.
§ Mr. SPENCER
I will not pursue that argument. I want to make this point, which I think shows the very worst side of this Order, and it is that the whole level of our industrial and commercial legislation is lowered, and it is lowered by each Member thinking that he must look after the trade of his own constituency. I do not want to set myself up as better than anybody else, but I do want to make this point, that a plea is coming to this House from the great industries of Lancashire and Yorkshire to the effect that "we want nothing from the Government except to be allowed to carry on our business without inter- 1935 ference or assistance." The position of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth is that he has 4,000 girls making gas mantles. The position of the hon. Member for Barnstaple is that he has 50 or 60 girls making fabric gloves, and I suppose the position of the hon. and gallant Member for Burton (Colonel Gretton) will be when he has ceased making the best ale and his beer has conic down to the standard of Government ale, that he shall be given protection against Pilsener beer. These are the arguments of incompetence. The argument of the competent is that they want from the public the value of their produce and no more.
§ Mr. G. BALFOUR
Most of the arguments in opposition to the proposals of the Government have been, in my judgment, very weak and none weaker than those of the hon. Member who has just spoken. The strength of his argument was that we should go into some textile factory where there are a thousand looms, and then we should find a gas mantle used for the purposes of illumination between each pair of looms. The hon. Member pointed out that the cost of all these operating charges had to be borne out of the expenses of working, and if they were increased it would mean a diminution of the sum which would be available for wages for the workers. I think I correctly represent the arguments of the hon. Member opposite. Let me take him on that ground. What do we find? I am credibly informed—the hon. Member will correct me if I am wrong—that gas mantles cost something about £2 per gross wholesale. Therefore if we have one mantle between each pair of looms, and there are 1,000 looms, 500 gas mantles are required. Then comes the question of replacement. I do not know how many times the mantles have to be replaced each year, but let us assume that they have to be replaced 10 times per annum. That, I think, is a very liberal estimate.
§ Mr. SPENCER
The hon. Gentleman must remember he is not dealing with gas mantles in the seclusion of his own study.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I may tell the hon. Member I have been in a very large number of textile factories, and am quite able to deal with this question. I do not, however, wish to narrow this down to a small point, or to introduce unnecessary 1936 controversy. I am willing to accept any reasonable suggestion based upon experience. If there are 10 replacements a year of, say, four gross of mantles, that represents 40 gross of mantles have to be replaced per annum in a factory of 1,000 looms, at a maximum cost of £80 per year. That is the kind of argument which is advanced. It is said that this £80 per annum is taken out of the wages available for the employés in a factory of 1,000 looms, and that that is a sufficient reason why this Order should not be put into effect, although it may provide employment in a number of miscellaneous industries. Surely, however, some expenditure would have to be provided for the replacement of any form of illumination installed in the factory. I submit that the argument is absurd, and I shall certainly give my hearty support to the proposal submitted by the Government.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I was not, if I may be allowed to say so, very much impressed by the argument of the hon. Member for Hampstead (Mr. G. Balfour). His defence of this particular imposition and addition to the cost of production is that it is only a little one: but may I remind him that he himself has voted also for taxing the illuminating glassware that is used in factories, for taxing the chemicals used in trade, and for taxing endless other things. [HON. MEMBERS: "Six thousand!"] There are 6,300 in the Chemical Schedule alone, and if the hon. Member and his Friends had their way they would not stop at a tax on gas mantles. The taxation would spread to everything, and prices would be raised to such an extent that it would be impossible, as the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. H. H. Spencer) has pointed out, for the goods of this country to compete with the world prices prevailing among other competitors.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
May I remind the hon. and gallant Gentleman that I only addressed myself to one particular argument advanced from the benches opposite? I am quite ready to take up the defence on each of the others in detail.
§ Captain BENN
That is very characteristic of the Protectionists' point of view. They always do address themselves to one particular article. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Sir J. Norton-Griffiths) addresses 1937 himself to gas mantles, and the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Peto) to fabric gloves; and that is the way in which such diverse and variegated support is obtained for a general tax.
§ Captain BENN
The claim is put forward that we should, by means of a tariff of 33⅓ per cent., which even the Report declares to be perfectly inadequate for the purpose, attempt to maintain this particular industry at an artificial war standard. It is not suggested that the industry is in a materially worse position than it was before the War. The figures given in the circular sent out by the Incandescent Mantle Manufacturers' Association show that in 1913 about 1,800 people were employed, and that in 1920, at the worst of all the trade depression, there were 1,100; and the hon. and gallant Baronet wants to maintain that industry at the artificial war standard created at a time when exports from the Continent were not to be had. Moreover, the German import of mantles, to which the hon. and gallant Baronet referred, has not reached one-half of what it was before the War. They were then sending us 30 million mantles, that is to say, roughly about 228 thousand gross; while even this year's figures, stimulated as they were by the fear of this same Order, reach less than 200,000.
§ Captain BENN
The Order does not apply to Holland, and I do not understand the meaning of the Noble Lord's interruption. This Order applies to Germany, but, of course, one of the things it will do will be to stimulate Dutch competition in this country. With the German competition out of the way, Dutch—if there be Dutch—and all other foreign competitors will take advantage of it, and will fill the place of the Germans. That is all that will be achieved.
§ Lord E. PERCY
I was referring to the importation of German mantles via Holland. That took place on a large scale in the early days of the War.
§ Captain BENN
I do not want to be drawn aside and to take up too much time, 1938 but under this Act a certificate of origin is required. The importation of German mantles to-day, on the figures shown here in the Report, has not reached the figure of 1913, and yet we are told the industry is threatened by a competition which has been stimulated by the depreciation of exchange. There is no evidence of that. The President of the Board of Trade expressed what I thought were not very convincing condolences with the people who were earning low wages in this industry. He said: "I do not think myself 7d. an hour is a very big wage." But does he remember that when we moved from this side an Amendment saying that the duty should not be imposed unless the trade union rate of wages was paid in the industry he resisted it and defeated it in the Lobby? In these circumstances it comes a little badly from him to weep crocodile tears. In point of fact, in the happy Arcadia painted in such a fascinating way by the hon. and gallant Baronet the worker is contented with an average wage of 24s. a week, which at the present rate of the cost of living is certainly not very high. What is the effect of an order of this kind on our own exports to foreign markets? If you will not let the German mantle come here you force it to go and undersell us somewhere else. I quoted some figures on Monday in reference to this and showed that whereas the effect of legislation of this kind combined with import restrictions and other interferences has been to reduce the proportion of German exports coming to this country from 14 per cent, to 6 per cent., it had the effect of stimulating the proportion sent to other countries. In the case of America, it has recovered its pre-War figure, and in the case of neutrals it has risen from 7.6 per cent, to 11 per cent., and so on. [Interruption.] In point of fact this is exactly what the Report tells us has happened. The British export trade in mantles has fallen from 57,000 to 21,000. And moreover we find that when we forced the German convention of mantle manufacturers to raise the price to us, they sent the same mantles to America, only they make a lower price, because the Americans are not so foolish as to insist on a high-priced article coming into their country. [Interruption.] I am not giving my own opinion. I will read the passage. I would not express 1939 an authoritative view. I base myself on official information—The invoices and consignments and the prices fixed for export to America are much lower than these fixed for England.That is the report of the Committee.
§ Captain BENN
I am talking of the prices they make for sending things to America. The only effect of making these arrangements here is to force them to send their cheap goods elsewhere and cut out our people who are trying to beat them in the export trade.
The main and noticeable features of the Debate have been two. In the first place, it has been noticeable that hon. Members opposite, in view of the pledge given by the Prime Minister that he would not make a fundamental change in the fiscal system of this country, have great hopes that by means of this Act they may get all they want. The hon. Member for Barnstaple (Mr. Peto) said so. If this Act is going to be interpreted in the loose and wide way in which it is being interpreted by the Committee and by the Board of Trade it is quite possible that, despite what the Prime Minister said, a general tariff barrier may be erected round this country. The 33⅓ per cent, duty is not considered adequate by this Committee for this purpose. We know that these mantles are subject to other duties. When this Act was introduced—I think the right hon. Gentleman was a Member of the Government at the time—a pledge was given that 33⅓ per cent. should be the limit; that it should not be higher. There was a great deal of discontent amongst the supporters of the Government. A private meeting was held, and what was regarded as a definite pledge was given that that should be the rate of the duty. What has happened? In the case of gas mantles the duty is 35 per cent., then 33⅓ per cent.—
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
The hon. and gallant Member is accusing us of a breach of faith. He knows perfectly well that when Part I was introduced it put on a duty to protect key industries. He subsequently asked me whether if a key industry was still suffering from the 1940 depreciation of exchange it would be precluded from making an application, and I told him at the time that it would not, and that it would be perfectly open to it to make an application. He has no business now to accuse me of a breach of faith.
§ Captain BENN
I regret the extreme heat which the right hon. Gentleman thinks it necessary to import into this matter.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
We regard a breach of faith as something that is serious. [HON. MEMBERS: "Since when?"]
§ Captain BENN
In view of the statement of the Board of Trade I will read the pledge on which I base my statement. It appears in the "Times" of 7th May, 1921. That was before the Bill was introduced.
§ Captain BENN
Pledges may be given and broken before a Bill is introduced. Recalcitrant followers of the late Government, of which the President of the Board of Trade was a member, were entertained to breakfast by Lord Derby, who is a member of the present Government, and the "Times" states that at that gatheringwhat was regarded us guarantees were given by the Prime Minister, namely, that the 33⅓ per cent, would he the maximum duty to be imposed.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Yes, certainly. I am perfectly certain that the late Prime Minister—he knew what the Bill was and what the proposal was—gave no pledge inconsistent with the policy he afterwards endorsed in this House.
§ Captain BENN
What is the use of the President of the Board of Trade making statements of that kind? He gains nothing in conviction by the introduction of passion. Let me explain again to the House exactly what happened. 1941 Certain followers of the late Government, of which the President of the Board of Trade was a member, were uncertain about these duties. We are more in doubt and fear now than ever. We are afraid that these duties will be raised until they amount to a formidable and devastating tariff upon the industries of the people of this country. When these people showed signs of disquiet, they were entertained in this pleasing and altogether laudable way by Lord Derby. Here is the definite pledge, as quoted in the "Times," that 33⅓ per cent.—of course, if the right hon. Gentleman says that the "Times" report is incorrect, it is a pity that that was not done earlier. If he cares to say that the "Times" report is incorrect, I accept his statement.
§ Sir P. LLOYD-GREAME
Yes, I do say that, and I say that I am perfectly certain that the late Prime Minister never held out one point to people at a breakfast party and then came down and endorsed another.
§ Captain BENN
I think we can safely leave the matter as between the Parliamentary correspondent of the "Times," who is a person of authority, and the right hon. Gentleman, who is also a person of great authority.
§ Captain BENN
Then it is quite clear that the "Times" Parliamentary correspondent was wrong—[An HON. MEMBER: "Was he at the breakfast table?"]—I have no doubt that the Government will appoint a Select Committee, to inquire among hon. Members who were at the breakfast party as to what exactly was promised, but that was the impression that they gathered and it was in the faith of that that their fears were quieted. To-day we find that so far from the 33⅓ per cent, being the maximum duty, it is only one of three duties, namely, the 5 per cent., the 33⅓ per cent., and the 26 per cent. under the German Reparation (Recovery) Act.
I have heard a great many speeches in this House, but we have had a novel kind, which I do not recollect before, 1942 in which hon. Members have got up and frankly spoken on behalf of a private interest—I am not speaking of their personal interests—instead of the public interest. This hon. Member gets up and says, "I represent the gas mantle workers"; another hon. Member says, "I went to Somerset and I said I would do something for the glove workers"—
§ Captain BENN
I am not accusing the hon. Gentleman in the least degree, but the gist of his argument was that his policy was in the direct financial interest of those people in his constituency concerned in glove-making.
§ Captain BENN
That is quite a new feature of the Debates. There is one person who has not been named in this Debate to-night—perhaps hon. Members of the Labour party will do so—and that is the consumer. The interests of the consumer is the real interest of the House of Commons. We have not heard anything about the housewife, the poor people in the back streets, who have gas which cannot be used without a mantle and on whom an addition of 33⅓ per cent, to 9d. charged for the mantle is a substantial increase. When it is a question as between the interests of a small number of parties who desire that a tax should be laid on the general consumer for their benefit and the 70,000,000 purchasers of gas mantles during the year—that is to say, they make 70,000,000 purchases during the year—there can be no doubt as to what is the duty of the House of Commons. That is, to prefer to all private advantage the public weal.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)
I do not propose to take up time in giving detailed replies to the points that have been raised. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] It is, I believe, the desire of the House to go 1943 to a Division as soon as possible. I will, however, call attention to some figures which are illuminating as regards this matter. I repudiate the suggestion of the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) that we are trying in this way to introduce anything like a system of protection. We are simply trying under the provisions of this Act to deal with one or two particular industries which we conceive can be bettered by the provisions of this Act. That is the whole object. We believe that this gas mantle industry is among those. In 1914 the Germans had this trade almost entirely in their own hands. They were at that time endeavouring to force the British manufacturers into a fixed price, dominated by the German cartel. There were at that time 70,000,000 gas mantles imported annually into this country, of which from 70 to 75 per cent, came from Germany. During the War the German import was entirely stopped, and an industry was built up which, though it may be only a matter of 4,000 workers, is worth keeping if it is possible to keep it without detriment to the community at large. Very soon after the War German competition began again. In 1920 they sent here 3,000,000 mantles, in 1921 9,000,000, and this year they are exporting to this country at the rate of 16,000,000, and there is no reason to suppose that they would not increase that figure very largely as years roll on unless we confirm this Order.
In reference to the speech of the hon. Member for South-West Hull (Major Entwistle) I would say that it is not wise to exaggerate in this matter. The hon. Member, in arguing against this Act, said that the fabric gloves duties were doing infinite harm to the great cotton industry. Whatever else that is, it is a gross exaggeration. I have had the privilege of sitting for a Manchester seat, and I had a conference to-day with representatives of the Manchester cotton industry, and I am prepared to say that whatever effect the duties may have had on the cotton industry—and I think it was infinitesimal—it was at all events a gross exaggeration to say that they had caused infinite harm to the cotton industry. The same hon. Member went on to say that the Report said that this gas mantle industry is grossly over-capitalised. There is no such thing in the Report. The 1944 Report says that the industry is over-capitalised, and the hon. Member introduced the word "grossly" to produce an effect on the House as to what was stated in the Report. The Committee was to find out not whether the industry was over-capitalised, but whether it was efficiently conducted, and on that point the Report says:It appears to be generally agreed with regard to the equipment of the factories and the methods of manufacture that the British industry is in every way as good as the German.11.0 P.M.
There is not a word there of over-capitalisation, and not a word of the inefficiency which the hon. Member for Springburn (Mr. Hardie) dwelt on in his illuminating speech. Throughout this Debate it has been assumed by opponents of this Measure that the gas mantle industry is an inefficient one, and that we are trying to bolster up an inefficient industry at the expense of the community at large. That is not the Report of the Committee. Then the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), in a very closely reasoned speech from the Free Trade point of view, told us that the Germans had very great advantages in regard to raw material. No raw material included in the manufacture of gas mantles is produced in Germany. The whole of it comes from Brazil, or India, or elsewhere in the East. The question is not one of cheaper raw material or of getting material at a greater advantage than is possible in this country. The important factor is that the main costs in the production of these mantles is lower in Germany than it is here. The sole reason why we are asking the House to confirm this Order is not that it is protection at all, but that the English workman, the English manufacturer, is up against the depreciated exchange of Germany, and because of that fact he is entitled to such remedy as this House can give him.
The hon. Member for Central Edinburgh is perfectly fair. He told us that it was not a pleasant thing to say, but that for some time to come we have to face the entry of German goods into this country. Where does that take us? What is the logical conclusion? Clearly it is that if it is beneficial to us to import gas mantles made in Germany with the 1945 real wages at present paid to German workmen, it will be to our advantage to import everything possible that is made with cheap German labour, and the more we can import the better. I remember that years ago when the old Tariff Reform and Free Trade controversies were at their height, a very eminent statesman made a speech in favour of dumping and said "Let them all dump." This is not such a case. In a Debate last week a Member of the Labour party described the position of the German workman, his inadequate wages, the starvation, the miserable clothing, the terrible conditions of the worker and his family. We say that we are not going to have our workmen placed in competition with those conditions. The reason for the trouble is the depreciated exchange. That is clear, and it is so stated by the Committee in their Report. May I put this to hon. Members of the Labour party. I presume that they will say to me that I am perfectly at liberty to go to Germany, take my capital there, and build a factory there; that it is desirable in British interests that I should do so; that I should employ German workmen at starvation wages and manufacture mantles there and bring them in here to destroy the industry at home. [HON. MEMBERS: "You are doing it!"] I am not saying it is not being done. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about the miners [...]"] I am saying that on the speech of the hon. Member for Central Edinburgh it is a justifiable thing to do. I wish to carry the argument one stage further. Would hon. Members allow me to build a factory for the manufacture of gas mantles here and import into this country a thousand German workmen, and pay them at the rate of twopence halfpenny an hour? I think if I did so the trade union leaders would have something to say. The truth is, you are quite entitled to protect your labour, but do not allow the German workman—under conditions which you know perfectly well, and which were described in this House last week—to send these things in here to destroy an industry which we are trying to build up. That is the whole reason why we are asking the House to pass this Order. May I point out how employment in this country has fallen since the German competition began. The hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth has told us that there were 1946 4,000 workers employed, and I think it was the hon. and gallant Member for Leith who admitted quite frankly that the number had fallen to 1,100. Is it desirable or not to make some effort to find work for the 2,900? I am not here to say that this Order is going completely to do away with unemployment, but I am here to say that it is a real, definite effort, in accordance with the decision of the House of Commons last year, to deal with the particular evil of the depreciated exchange in Germany. It is an evil which the Committee admitted to be a cause of unemployment in this country. (Interruption.)
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member for Dumbarton (Mr. Kirkwood) should not make so many speeches when sitting down.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
I have only a few words further to say. I wish the House to realise that the Committee which considered this question was not a picked or packed Committee of Conservatives. The Chairman was Sir Bernard Mallet, a former Registrar-General and ex-President of the Royal Statistical Society, a name perfectly well known throughout the whole commercial world. There was Mr. J. Arthur Aiton, a member of the Executive Council of the Association of British Chambers of Commerce, and Sir John Barran, a former Liberal Member of Parliament for Hawick Burghs. We have known him in this House.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is not entitled to rise when another hon. Member is speaking, unless the hon. Member in possession should give way.
§ Sir W. JOYNSON-HICKS
Sir John Barran was not only a Liberal Member of this House, but he was also private secretary to the late leader of the Liberal party, who described him as one of the best economists in the House. Then there was a Mr. Moore, a business man, a merchant, and last, but not least, Mr. Arthur Pugh, a member of the Parlia- 1947 mentary Trade Union Congress. Is not that satisfactory to hon. Members opposite? [An HON. MEMBER: "Ten to one!"] No, there was no minority report. The whole Committee was unanimous. Do you think that a member of the Trade Union Congress is likely to sign a report that he did not believe in? I do not think so. I have too much respect for him to imagine for one moment that he would be coerced by his colleagues. The Committee did their work honestly, straightforwardly, and well. It was an independent Committee, formed for the purpose of going into this matter. They heard all the evidence, and they came to the conclusion that this industry was one which came within the provisions of the Act. I believe that if the House confirms this Order we shall be able to manufacture mantles in this country of as good a quality and at as good a price as we are now getting from Germany.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Bonar Law)
May I make a suggestion which I hope will find favour in all quarters of the House? The Eleven o'Clock Rule was suspended with the idea of taking the Importation of Animals Bill, but at this hour I do not wish to do that. If hon. Members will agree to give us a Division now, and also to let us have the Importation of Animals Bill, by the kind of Parliamentary bargain which is usual in this House, and which I have never known broken, by the dinner hour tomorrow, then, as soon is we have had the Division on this Order, the House will adjourn.
That the Order which was made by the Board of Trade on the 9th day of October, 1922. under the Safeguarding of Industries Act. 1921, and published, and which was laid before this House on the 27th day of November, 1922, shall continue in force.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 245; Noes, 194.1951
|Division No. 21.]||AYES.||[11.15 P.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Sir James Tynte||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton, East)||Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Alexander, Col. M. (Southwark)||Chapman, Sir S.||Gould, James C.|
|Allen, Lieut. Col. Sir William James||Churchman, Sir Arthur||Gray, Harold (Cambridge)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H. Spender||Greene, Lt.-Col. Sir W. (Hack'y, N.)|
|Archer-Shee, Lieut.-Colonel Martin||Clayton, G. C.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Wilfrid W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Gretton, Colonel John|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick W.||Cocker, Brigadier-General G. K.||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Hon. W. E.|
|Astor, J. J. (Kent, Dover)||Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Gwynne, Rupert S.|
|Baird, Rt. Hon. Sir John Lawrence||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.|
|Baldwin, St. Hon. Stanley||Colvin, Brig.-General Richard Beale||Hall, Rr-Adml Sir W. (Liv'p'l, W, D'by)|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cope, Major William||Halstead, Major D.|
|Banbury, Rt. Hon. Sir Frederick G.||Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Banks, Mitchell||Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Harvey, Major S. E.|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Craik, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Hawke, John Anthony|
|Becker, Harry||Croft, Lieut.-Colonel Henry Page||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.|
|Bell, Lieut.-Col. W. C. H. (Devizes)||Crook, C. W. (East Ham, North)||Herbert, S. (Scarborough)|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Crooke, J. S. (Deritend)||Hewett, Sir J P.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Curzon, Captain Viscount||Hiley, Sir Ernest|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Davidson, J. C. C. (Hemel Hempstead)||Hoare, Lieut. Colonel Sir S. J. G.|
|Berry, Sir George||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hohler, Gerald Fitzroy|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Davies, Thomas (Cirencester)||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Hood, Sir Joseph|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hopkins, John W. W.|
|Blundell, F. N.||Dixon, C. H. (Rutland)||Howard, Capt. D. (Cumberland, N.)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Doyle, N. Grattan||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Du Pre, Colonel William Baring||Hudson, Capt. A.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hume, G. H.|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Ednam, Viscount||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Elvedon, Viscount||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Brown, Major D. C. (Hexham)||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Hurst, Lt.-Col. Gerald Berkeley|
|Brown, Brig-Gen. Clifton (Newbury)||Erskine-Bolst, Captain C.||Hutchison, G. A. C. (Peebles, N.)|
|Brown, J. W. (Middlesbrough, E.)||Eyres-Monsell, Com. Bolton M.||Hutchison, W. (Kelvingrove)|
|Bruford, R.||Falcon, Captain Michael||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Bruton, Sir James||Fawkes, Major F. H.||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.|
|Buckley, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Fermor-Hesketh, Major T.||Jephcott, A. R.|
|Burn, Col. C. R. (Devon, Torquay)||Ford, Patrick Johnston||Jodrell, Sir Neville Paul|
|Burney, Com. (Middx., Uxbridge)||Forestier-Walker, L.||Johnson, Sir L. (Walthamstow, E.)|
|Butcher, Sir John George||Foxcroft, Captain Charles Talbot||Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)|
|Butler, H. M. (Leeds, North)||Fraser, Major sir Keith||Joynson-Hicks, Sir William|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Kennedy, Captain M. S. Nigel|
|Button, H. S.||Furness, G. J.||King, Captain Henry Douglas|
|Cadogan, Major Edward||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Ganzoni, Sir John||Lamb, J. Q.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Garland, C. S.||Lane-Fox, Lieut.-Colonel G. R.|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Gates, Percy||Law, Rt. Hon. A, B. (Glasgow, C.)|
|Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Parker, Owen (Kettering)||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furness)|
|Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Pease, Rt. Hon. Herbert Pike||Sparkes, H. W.|
|Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Penny, Frederick George||Stanley, Lord|
|Lorden, John William||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Steel, Major S. Strang|
|Lorimer, H. D.||Perring, William George||Stewart, Gershom (Wirral)|
|Lort-Williams, J.||Peto, Basil E.||Stott, Lt.-Col. W. H,|
|Lougher, L.||Plelou, D. P.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Loyd, Arthur Thomas (Abingdon)||Pollock, Rt. Hon. Sir Ernest Murray||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid H.|
|Lumley, L. R.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|M'Connell, Thomas E.||Pretyman, Rt. Hon. Ernest G.||Thomson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|McNeill, Ronald (Kent, Canterbury)||Privett, F. J.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Maddocks, Henry||Raeburn, sir William H.||Thorpe, Captain John Henry|
|Malone, Major P. B. (Tottenham, S.)||Raine, W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Margesson, H. D. R,||Rawson, Lieut.-Com. A. C.||Tubbs, S. W.|
|Mason, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Reid, Capt. A. S. C. (Warrington)||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Mercer, Colonel H.||Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P|
|Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Remer, J. R.||Wallace, Captain E.|
|Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Remnant, Sir James||Wells, S. R.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rentoul, G. S.||Weston, Colonel John Wakefield|
|Molloy, Major L. G. S.||Reynolds, W. G. W.||Wheler, Col. Granville C. H.|
|Molson, Major John Elsdale||Richardson, Sir Alex. (Gravesend)||White, Lt.-Col. G. D, (Southport)|
|Moore, Major-General Sir Newton J.||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)||Whitla, Sir William|
|Morden, Col. W. Grant||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)||Wilson, Col. M. J. (Richmond)|
|Morrison, Hugh (Wilts, Salisbury)||Robertson, J. D. (Islington, W.)||Windsor, Viscount|
|Morrison-Bell, Major A. C. (Honiton)||Rothschild, Lionel de||Winterton, Earl|
|Murchison, C. K.||Roundell, Colonel R. F.||Wise, Frederick|
|Nail, Major Joseph||Ruggles-Brise, Major E.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Nesbitt, J. C.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Wood, Rt. Hn. Edward F. L. (Ripon)|
|Newman, Colonel J. R. P. (Finchley)||Russell-Wells, Sir Sydney||Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)|
|Newman, sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Rutherford, Sir W. W. (Edge Hill)||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Worsfold, T. Cato|
|Nicholson, Brig.-Gen. J. (Westminster)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.|
|Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)||Sanders, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert A.||Yerhurgh, R. D. T.|
|Norton-Griffiths, Lieut.-Col. Sir John||Sanderson, Sir Frank B.|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Shepperson, E. W.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William||Skelton, A. N.||Major Gibbs and Major Barnston.|
|Paget, T. G.||Smith, Sir Harold (Wavertree)|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Elliot, Capt. Walter E. (Lanark)||Jowett, F. W. (Bra[...]ford, East)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)|
|Adkins, Sir William Ryland Dent||England, Lieut.-Colonel A.||Kenworthy, Lieut.-Commander J. M.|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Entwistle, Major C. F.||Kenyon, Barnet|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Evans, Capt. H. Arthur (Leicester, E.)||Kirkwood, D.|
|Attlee, C. R.||Fairbairn, R. R.||Lansbury, George|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Falconer, J.||Lawson, John James|
|Barnes, A.||Fildes, Henry||Leach, W.|
|Batey, Joseph||Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Lee, F.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Foot, Isaac||Linfield, F. C.|
|Bennett, A. J. (Mansfield)||Gilbert, James Daniel||Lowth, T.|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Lunn, William|
|Bonwick, A.||Gray, Frank (Oxford)||McCurdy, Rt. Hon. Charles A.|
|Bowdler, W. A.||Greenall, T.||MacDonald, J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||M'Entee, V. L.|
|Broad, F. A.||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Bromfield, William||Groves, T.||March, S.|
|Brotherton, J.||Grundy, T. W.||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Guthrie, Thomas Mauie||Marshall, Sir Arthur H.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Buckle, J.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mathew, C. J.|
|Burgess, S.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Maxton, James|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Hancock, John George||Middleton, G.|
|Buxton, Charles (Accrington)||Harbord, Arthur||Millar, J. D.|
|Buxton, Noel (Norfolk, North)||Hard[...]e, George D.||Mond, Rt. Hon. Sir Alfred Moritz|
|Cairns, John||Harris, Percy A.||Morel, E. D.|
|Cape, Thomas||Hartshorn, Vernon||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Chappie, W. A.||Hastings, Patrick||Muir, John W.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hay, Captain J. P. (Cathcart)||Murnin, H.|
|Clarke, Sir E. C.||Hayday, Arthur||Murray, John (Leeds, West)|
|Collie, Sir John||Henderson, Sir T. (Roxburgh)||Murray, R. (Renfrew, Western)|
|Collins, Pat (Walsall)||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Newbold, J. T. W.|
|Collison, Levi||Henn, Sir Sydney H.||Nichol, Robert|
|Cotts, Sir William Dingwall Mitchell||Herriotts, J.||Norman, Major Rt. Hon. Sir Henry|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Hill, A.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Hinds, John||Oliver, George Harold|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Hirst, G. H.||Paling, W.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Parker, H. (Hanley)|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Parry, Lieut.-Colonel Thomas Henry|
|Duncan, C.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Dunnico, H.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Philipson, H. H.|
|Edge, Captain Sir William||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Potts, John S.|
|Edmonds, G.||Jones, R. T. (Carnarvon)||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Rae, Sir Henry N.|
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Webb, Sidney|
|Riley, Ben||Stephenson, Lieut.-Colonel H. K.||Wedgwood, Colonel Josiah C.|
|Ritson, J.||Stephen, Campbell||Weir, L. M.|
|Roberts, C. H. (Derby)||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Westwood, J.|
|Roberts, Frederick O. (W. Bromwich)||Stockton, Sir Edwin Forsyth||Wheatley, J.|
|Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Strauss, Edward Anthony||White, Charles F. (Derby, Western)|
|Robinson, W. C. (York, Elland)||Sullivan, J.||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Rose, Frank H.||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||Whiteley, W.|
|Russell, William (Bolton)||Thomas, Brig.-Gen. sir O. (Anglesey)||Wignall, James|
|Saklatvala, S.||Thomson, T. (Middlesbrough, West)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sexton, James||Thornton, M.||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Shaw, Hon. Alex. (Kilmarnock)||Tillett, Benjamin||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Trevelyan, C. P.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Turner, Ben||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, c.)|
|Simpson, J. Hope||Walsh, Stephen (Lancaster, Ince)||Young, Rt. Hon. E. H. (Norwich)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Warne, G. H.|
|Snell, Harry||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.ߞ|
|Snowden, Philip||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Mr. Hogge and Mr. Neil Maclean.|
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)|