HC Deb 29 July 1924 vol 176 cc1867-70

asked the President of the Board of Trade whether he can now state the composition and the terms of reference of the proposed Committee of Inquiry upon British Trade?


Yes, Sir. I am glad to announce that Sir Arthur Balfour, of Sheffield, has been good enough to undertake the duties of chairman of this Committee, and the other members of the Committee are as follow:

  • Mr. John Baker.
  • Sir W. H. Beveridge.
  • Mr. Henry Boothman.
  • Mr. W. T. Charter.
  • Mr. C. T. Cramp.
  • Mr. Hugh Dalton.
  • Sir Harry Goschen.
  • Mrs. M. A. Hamilton.
  • Mr. F. A. Hargreaves.
  • Sir Norman Hill.
  • Sir John Hindley.
  • Mr. David Landale.
  • Sir W. Clare Lees.
  • Mr. P. J. Pybus.
  • Mr. Arthur Shaw.
  • Sir Allan Smith,
  • Sir Hubert Llewellyn Smith.
The reply from one further proposed member is still outstanding, owing to his absence abroad.

The terms of reference are: To inquire into and report upon the conditions and prospects of British industry and commerce, with special reference to the export trade, and to make recommendations in regard thereto. It is proposed also to furnish the Committee with a memorandum which, without constituting a definition of the inquiry, may serve as explanatory of the subjects on which investigation is specially desired. I will have a copy of this memorandum circulated in the OFFICIAL REPORT.


Does the right hon. Gentleman consider the terms of reference sufficiently wide to enable the Committee to investigate first, the hours of labour, and the wages paid in competitive industries in the principal competing countries; second, the restrictions, if any, in force in this country and in other countries in competitive industries; and, third, the corresponding burden of rates and taxes in competitive industries in this and the competing countries? I hope that they will be sufficiently wide.


H the right hon. Gentleman is going to make inquiry into all the matters mentioned by my hon. Friend, will he also make inquiry into the amount of the product per hour per day by the British worker as compared with the worker in competing countries? [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Then hon. Members opposite will come a cropper.


All the topics referred to by the hon. Member for Plymouth (Sir A. Bean) will certainly be within the scope of the reference to the Committee, and this will be made clear when hon. Members have an opportunity of reading the explanatory memorandum which will be circulated.


Is the Mr. Dalton referred to the gentleman who is responsible for the issue of the pamphlet to which reference was made yesterday Further, as it was the intention of the Government not to appoint Members of Parliament to serve on this Committee, may not that be taken as an estimate of that gentleman's chances?


I have no information as to either of these supplementary questions. Mr. Dalton as an economist of distinction was asked to act on the Committee long before there was any question of his candidature.


Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that very few of these gentlemen have any practical knowledge of these questions? Is he aware that most of them are theorists? Does he not think it advisable to put a representative of labour who has worked in industry and a manufacturer upon this Committee?


Is it not a fact that two of the members of the Committee represent the textile industry of Lancashire and Yorkshire, who have great experience of the work?


Who represents the iron and steel trade on this Committee?


I would ask hon. Members to reserve their opinions on the names until they have them before them with their designations, and they may be glad to be relieved of any criticism until they have the names before them. Nearly all the names are those of gentlemen who are engaged, and have been a long time engaged, in the principal branches of industry.

Following is the Memorandum:

The first question to which the attention of the Committee should be directed is the present position of British overseas trade and the prospect of British participation in the markets of the world being such as to ensure sufficient and continuous employment and a satisfactory standard of living in this country. The examination of tendencies and developments in the markets of the world and also in the chief competing countries will be involved, together with an inquiry into the growth of competition with British goods in these markets, the likelihood of its continuance, and its probable consequences.

The second question is the ability of British industry to meet competition under the conditions thus determined, and to adapt itself to changes in the nature of overseas demand. This involves an inquiry into British productive capacity and organisation, including the supply and efficiency of capital, labour and management, the present and future adequacy of raw materials and possible improvements in their utilisation, and the part played by the United Kingdom in new developments of industry, particularly those which are the outcome of scientific research. Matters to which attention might be directed are the present extent of large scale production, its possibilities and limitations; the efficiency of plant and equipment; power supply and transport as factors in cost of production; marketing organisation at home and abroad; and the current methods of industrial and commercial finance. It will be necessary, in addition, to take account of the effect of State regulative action upon costs and output.

The third question is that of the relations between those engaged in production. This will involve inquiry into methods of industrial remuneration, the main causes of unrest and disputes, and the methods of avoidance or settlement of disputes, as, for example, co-partnership, co-operation, wages boards and voluntary arbitration, State regulation of wages, and compulsory arbitration and compulsory enforcement and extension of agreements.

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