§ Mr. BALDWIN
I beg to move,That it is inexpedient, in the midst of the present distresses, to remove the new Import Duties imposed by the Finance Act of 1915, by which much employment has been preserved.4.0 P.M.
There seems to be some interest taken in this Debate to-day. I think the reason, very largely, is that this is the second occasion during the holding of office by the Labour party that Madame Humbert's safe is going to be opened. The first occasion was that on which they were to declare their policy by which unemployment was to be prevented in this country. The second occasion is when the Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to tell us what he failed to tell us during the Budget Debates—namely, the reason which actuated him in proposing the removal of the McKenna Duties. In a discussion of this kind, which is one of extraordinary importance, it is a very important matter to try to start, at any rate with our perspective clear. To my mind, the whole question of whether these Duties should continue or not is not one in any respect that should bring into this House, although I have no doubt that it will, the age-long contest between Protection and Free Trade. I say that bearing in mind the words of one of the Leaders of the Liberal party, who, in November, 1918, said:The object which we have in view—and everyone in this House has it—is to increase to the greatest possible extent production in this country, so that no man or woman may want and that all who do an honest day's work may have comfort for themselves and their children. In order to secure better production and better distribution, I shall look at every problem simply from the point of view of what is the best method of securing the objects at which we are aiming without any regard to theoretical opinions about Free Trade or Tariff Reform.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I gather that my hon. Friend the Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) recognises in that the language of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd 1188 George). I hold that in prefacing the advocacy of a case it is wise and it is well to give your opponents credit for the best motives, and I therefore have come to the conclusion that, as there can be only three possible motives, one to increase employment, one to decrease it, and one to leave things as they are, the object of the Government is to increase employment. You see the Labour party came into office with the only positive remedy for unemployment! We have watched the Labour Ministry and the Labour Minister's performances have been as the gestation of an elephant, which, I am told, takes from two or three years. The House of Commons cannot wait, and it strikes me that probably the intellectuals of the Labour party said: "This period of gestation is one of undue length; we must avoid elephants, and we must take smaller but more intellectual animals." So it is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is now about to produce something speedily to reduce unemployment. On that, I should like to say a word. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is one of those fortunate men who has what people describe as "a first-class brain." I have always noticed, just as the results of inebriety are most painful with the habitually sober when they give way to it, and just as the greatest saints have often been the greatest sinners, so when a first-class brain does something stupid, as it not infrequently does, the stupidity of that action is colossal.
I know that there are very distinguished economists—and I find myself to some extent in agreement with them—who are of opinion that trade in this country has got into a kind of rut, that men to a great extent have lost heart, and that what is wanted above everything, if anyone can devise a method, is to find some means of giving a jog to the machine that will start it going. I have myself proposed such a jog, which the country rejected. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is going to provide a jog, but what the effect on the machine will be—whether it will make it go forward or backward—is the point that we, have to investigate to-day. But undoubtedly it will be a jog. I might perhaps at this point suggest that if he wishes to give trade a jog, and if he wishes to reduce or to take away any remaining shackles and fetters from trade—he will tell us later 1189 what is in his mind with regard to the McKenna Duties—he should turn his attention for a change from Coventry to Bristol, because there is an industry there which gives a very large amount of employment with very substantial help from duties. That is the making of cigarettes, and it seems to me that if this jog is going to help the motor trade and the music trade, it would be a great pity to avoid giving it to the manufacturers of cigarettes. Cigarettes are used by all classes, and cheap cigarettes mainly by the working classes. If it be the view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that these productions should be obtained at the lowest price possible, there is no doubt that in an entirely free market cigarettes could be made much cheaper by Egyptian labour than by British labour. There is the further advantage, as in my belief a number of men will be thrown out of work by the removal of the McKenna. Duties, of providing them with cheaper cigarettes. They would be better able to afford them, and have more time in which to smoke them. I commend that to the Chancellor of the Exchequer if so be it is his object to remove all the shackles and fetters that are still bound round the ankles of British trade.
I regard this question almost entirely, as I am afraid I am apt to regard nearly every question that comes before this House, from the point of view: Is it going to help employment, or is it not? To my mind, that is the only subject that matters to-day. It is from that point of view that I wish to examine in the short time that I propose to take what may be the possible effects of what he proposes to do. I want to try to look at facts as they are; I want not to waste the time of the House in debating what were the reasons which induced the Government of the day to put these duties on at the time when they were put on; and I want, above all things, to avoid exaggeration, because there is no subject on which more exaggeration exists on one side or the other than these questions that touch the employment of the people. One of my many faults, I think, has been that I am not liable to exaggerate. It is one of the reasons why my style of oratory has always "been singularly ineffective. The only exaggeration that I have been guilty of is that I have been a little too apt to 1190 attribute more cleverness and honesty to people than perhaps they have always deserved, but I am ready to mend my ways as I get older.
First I notice, as the result of these duties, whatever the reason was for which they were put on, one incontrovertible fact. I am not saying whether it be a case of propter hoc or post hoc; but the fact remains. I am going to speak, I may say, principally, as far as I adduce arguments, of one trade, the motor trade, because there will be other speakers who come from centres where the other industries affected by these duties have their headquarters, and they will be able to speak in detail. I do not want to overload what I am saying with detail. I notice, with regard to motors, that we have latterly increased considerably our production in this country. Of course, it has been said that so has the import of the foreign car been increased. That is perfectly true, but that is not the whole story. The motor market is an expanding market. You would expect to see a greater production to a point, but what we must never lose sight of is that while the increasing market in this country has taken more and more cars, it has increased relatively the amount of the home-made cars that it has taken against the imported car. The relative position of the home trade is steadily, and has been, steadily improving, and you have a curious phenomenon which seems to puzzle so many people. You are having increased employment in the country in a certain trade, and at the same time you are drawing a substantial revenue. I should like, by the way, to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if, finding that he could do without this revenue, and that we really do not want it, it would not have been better to have given some direct advantage to people by reducing the duty on tobacco which, if I remember rightly, has not been touched since the War, and have left these duties as they are, and not have risked a possible amount of unemployment. Probably he has thought that out very carefully, and will give us the reasons which have actuated him in coming to his decision.
There are many trades which are affected, whether the duties exist or not, which are not directly liable to the imposition of the duties. In the motor trade you have all these businesses which 1191 make the various accessories. You have timber and woodwork. You have the motor duck for the covers of the smaller cars, you have the twill for the linings of the cars, and you have the tyres. I name those three together, because they all contain a considerable amount of cotton, and if it should be that there is a reduced demand for the home-made production of these accessories, you are striking a direct blow, it may be to a limited extent, but still a blow, at the Manchester cotton trade. Again, there is leather, there is paint, there is steel, and the glass which is used for lamps, for windows and for screens. The reason I mention these accessories is that where a car is made in this country it almost invariably employs accessories also made in this country. When the car comes in from abroad, all its accessories are foreign. So, should there be an increased import of foreign cars, we lose not only the cars but the accessories. And not only that. I am told that where an accessory of any given kind comes in on a foreign car, the tendency is for the replacement to be ordered from the same market. I think the reason for that is fairly obvious.
I should like to say one word about the export trade. The export trade might be a trade of great value to us, although the number of markets in which in any circumstances we can hope to export cars is very strictly limited. But we are sometimes too apt to forget what happened in the War, and what happened in the War was that the motor-car industry was turned on to one form or another of munition work, and the export trade died, with the result that America was able to enormously increase her output, and to capture without the slightest difficulty markets of ours in the Dominions, where before the War we had held a very good position. Motor cars are like proprietary articles, and many other things in industry. They are very apt to be sold by name. You get a name in a market which is known and valued, and people ask for that name. There are instances of British cars being known in that way in the Australian market before the War. The War came; the name died; the cars could not be got. Other cars have come in, mainly from America, and the goodwill which we had built up with 1192 infinite difficulty was swept away by a mere stroke when war was declared. Whether we shall ever be able to regain that position, is I think, in any circumstances doubtful and I believe it will be more doubtful after these duties have been removed. But the fact remains that the trade had been progressing to this extent, that it was beginning—as all export trade must be based on a successful home trade—to capture a portion of that export trade, and last year the export of cars was 2½ times the export of 1922.
There is one other feature which we must not forget. The Dominion of Canada has benefited by the preference given to her under the McKenna Duties, and you have seen an increase in the production of cars in that country, largely aided by American capital, which has come into that country to get the benefit of the preference. The advantage of that, to my mind, has always been that it helps to fill up one of our largest Dominions, and it means that there, among our own people, you have an industry which employs skilled men, and enables skilled men in this country who may want to see what they conceive to be better chances abroad to get those chances in our own Empire, without having to go to a foreign country. There is nothing to my mind so full of ill-omen for the future as that stream which has gone on for so many years, that takes the best of our skilled men, and puts them in America into a market where they cease to live under the flag, and where in the course of generations they must lose that feeling for our country which exists in the Dominions; and they go to work in a market which affords no facilities to us for the work of our hands and the work of our people. You propose to remove those duties, and I want the Chancellor of the Exchequer to tell us what he thinks will be the result.
I saw some observations of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I may tell him, what he does not know, that I had the great pleasure when I was in Edinburgh of seeing the walls of that city placarded with the inscription, "Vote for Graham, the people's friend." He is a man of such transparent honesty that he would never allow an inscription like that to be used of himself—if he were not a friend of the people—one I have never ventured to use myself—and 1193 he will doubtless tell us what the friendly action is in the removal of these duties. How is he going to benefit the people by the removal of the Duties? I know he thinks he is going to do it, but we do not understand it. I understand, if I may go back to some observations of his which I have read—and one can always understand what he says, even if one does not agree—that he has had no experience himself in business—that he is quite clear that if the motor manufacturers would go in for mass production, all would be well.
I think at this stage it might be worth while saying a word about mass production, because we know a good deal about it, and mass production has just as much bearing on the subject as the word "Mesopotamia," which also begins with "M." I do not want to use any phrase which may jar on anyone's feelings, but I say as a plain matter of fact that, whether mass production be a good thing or not, mass production under Free Trade in a competitive world is an impossibility, and I think we may leave that out of the question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] One of the difficulties is this. You find cases of business in England which wish to compete abroad. There are exceptions, I admit, to every rule, but I am giving you the general statement. There are cases in which an English manufacturer wishes to make his goods known and to compete in a foreign country. To do that he builds a factory in that foreign country. It may be, and for the sake of my argument it is, to produce the same goods that he produces here, but goods which he cannot get in over the tariff. The man who is producing the same goods for world competition in a foreign country can produce them in that country, both for his own country and for our market. I do not say it is of universal application, but it is of very general application. Wherever you get a case like this—and there are such cases well known among the businesses I have described—the penalising of the English manufacturer lies in this, that to produce the goods for the two markets he has to have two factories. That means higher overhead charges. The man with one factory has lower overhead charges, and when you come to produce on a large scale, the whole difference between profit and loss really lies in the overhead charges. To get mass production for export you must 1194 have, either from natural circumstances, from a duty or anything else you like, that security of market which will enable you to produce up to the point where you can run the works full, and bring your overhead charges down to a minimum. When you have got to that point, you can extend to any amount that you like. That is exactly what has happened in the Ford works. It is what might happen, if these duties were left on, among the ablest of our men in this country. It is what cannot happen if the duties be taken off.
It has often been said that motors will be cheaper if the duties are taken off; people will have more to spend, they will buy more goods, and therefore trade will be better. That is an old argument, but it is what very seldom happens in practice. Supposing it does happen, what is the advantage? If it did happen, first of all you get men thrown out of work. You know all about that, but you comfort yourself by saying that orders for some other goods will come in, you do not know what, and someone else, you do not know who, will get a job. It is a little risky. What really happens, and what I fear will happen, is that at first it is possible there will be a lowering of prices. Remember for a moment what is the American production of motor cars It runs into millions where ours runs into tens of thousands. When manufacturers are deciding what orders they shall proceed with in their works, and they work on a scale like that, the smallest fractional error in estimating consumption may leave them with products which can swamp any market that is open to them.
Goods may come in cheap, but no one sends goods in for the benefit of his health. He sends them in for profit, and at the moment, when, as I fear, the English production will fall, if that happen, the English cost goes up, and nothing can stop it. The moment the English cost goes up, the foreign car goes up, keeping just beneath the English price, so that if it be as I fear—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tell me where I am wrong—the only result in 12 months' time will be that you will have more unemployment, and be paying move for your motor-cars. In addition to that, if my fears be right, you will have dealt a blow at this Canadian trade to 1195 which I alluded earlier in my speech, and the result of that, coupled with the result of the action of the Government in regard to certain preferences which were negotiated at the Economic Conference, will be, I fear, to make the Dominions less rather than more responsive to any ideas of reciprocity. I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he has consulted the bankers at all about the financial position of the motor trade—as to whether they can get through any possible hard times through which they may be going, and as to what their financial position is. And I want to ask him one more question, and that is, whether the Government have completely closed their mind to having an impartial inquiry, an inquiry that has been asked for by many people.
I say nothing here this afternoon about the various communications that have reached me and many other Members of the House of Commons, because I am perfectly certain that, in the present mind of the Front Bench, they believe that whatever communications may have come have been engineered by the masters. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear."] We will leave time to show. If you will only prove to us—and we listen to arguments—that what you are doing is going to increase employment in this country, we will vote with you to-night. You came in very largely on the cry of unemployment. You have done nothing, and I venture to say that Mr. Morris, who started from the ranks making his small motor car, has done more for employment in this country than you will do in ten years.
The encouragement which you are proposing to give to British industry reminds me of something that happened many years ago, when I was a child in Worcestershire. There was a man there, living in a small town, a very different man from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, because he had as few brains as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has many, and this youth when walking by the side of a lock in the canal, saw his father fall in. The father was not a very good swimmer, and he struggled and splashed to an extent that delighted this youth, and when at last the father got his hands on the sill of the lock, the son pushed him in, with the words: "Daddy swims well; swim 1196 again." That is what you are doing to the working men, and particularly to those engaged in this motor car industry. They gave themselves to their country in the War, and they lost their trade. They are beginning to get their trade back again; they are, as it were, just getting their feet on dry land, and you are going to push them back.
I want to say a word, in finishing, not to the intellectuals, but for those who have worked with their hands. I dare say some hon. Members opposite have not left the various works in the country in which they worked so long that they cannot recognise the truth of what I am going to say. There is no cloud that hangs over men, even in good employment, that is comparable for depression with the prospect of unemployment. It weighs particularly on the older men. I have met it over and over again in my daily life with my men before I came into this House, and I have known, over and over again, that there was no better means by which I could put fresh heart into a fellow when he was getting down than to say: "You shall have your job; it is there, and we want you as long as you can work." Just ask yourselves to-night, before you go to a Division, are you, by this vote to-night, convinced in your innermost mind that the vote you are giving is going to help the fellows in the works, or is it going to render it more difficult for them to get employment? You may believe honestly that it is going to help them, in which case you will vote with your conscience, and against this Amendment. But if you have a lingering doubt in your mind, if you feel that as a result of this vote that you are giving some man, who in the last year or two has been in good work, has to face that unemployment and the dole which men are facing now in hundreds of thousands of cases, think twice before you give that vote, because, even though you may have a moment of triumph in this House, there may come some day later on when you will look back with regret on the vote you have given. For my own part, feeling and believing as I do, and convinced as I am convinced that this is one of the stupidest things that has ever been done, I shall give my vote to-night with more confidence and with a better heart than I have ever before given a vote in this House.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Snowden)
There is no Member of this House who will not agree with the very touching concluding words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), and I am sure there is no Member who does not believe that those words were uttered from a heart which sympathises with the man who is out of work. The right hon. Gentleman has just submitted to the House of Commons a Vote of Censure—
§ Mr. BALDWIN
Will the right hon. Gentleman allow me to say that it can hardly be described as a Vote of Censure?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On a point of Order. In view of the Resolution come to last night, that the McKenna Duties should continue only to the 1st August, I submit that this Motion is a direct negative of that Resolution, and that had this Motion not been intended as a Vote of Censure, it would have been out of order.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am sorry that I have been more obscure than usual. I submit that it is in accordance with the rules of this House that, when the House has come to a decision, it cannot accept a Motion which is the direct opposite of that already accepted. Last night the Resolution of the House was that the McKenna Duties shall continue only till the 1st August of this year. The Motion which is now before the House is, in effect, to negative that decision, because this Motion says it is inexpedient that they should come to an end. It is, therefore, inviting the House to negative the decision at which it arrived last night.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I am making this submission, that if the House has decided that in the present financial year these duties shall extend only to the 1st August, it is an attempt to circumvent the Standing Orders of the House to move to negative that decision. Those Standing Orders prevent anybody other than a Minister of the Crown moving an increased charge, and I submit that as this Motion, if taken by itself, and not as a 1198 Vote of Censure, would infringe the rules of the House in that respect, therefore it is only because it is a Vote of Censure that it is in order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Resolution just put from the Chair does not, in my view, contradict definitely what the House decided last night; otherwise, I should not have allowed the Motion to be put. It is not for me to lay down a definition of what is or what is not a Vote of Censure. All I can say is that the Motion to-day has been accepted by me as being in order.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I am quite well aware that the party opposite are anxious that this Resolution should not be regarded as a Vote of Censure upon the Government, and Tory newspapers have been so frank as to give the reason why they do not wish that it should be so regarded. They are hoping, by avoiding the form of a Vote of Censure, to gain the support of Members who are not ordinarily associated with them in the Division Lobby, but I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the party on the benches opposite that those hopes are doomed to be disappointed. I am rather surprised at the mildness of the attack of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I had expected, from the almost unprecedented violence of the campaign which has been raging in the newspapers in the last two or three weeks, that members of the party opposite would have come down to the House this afternoon in full war paint, and shouting war whoops. But the speech of the right, hon. Gentleman, apart from a few humorous quips, was a mild and milk-and-watery production. The right hon. Gentleman himself was not able to see hon. Members sitting behind him. I was, and there were times when I quite expected to see a not inconsiderable number of hon. Members opposite lose a sense of consciousness in sleep.
The right hon. Gentleman conveniently forgot quite a number of matters which have a very pertinent relation to the subject he has brought before the House He said he was not going to enter into the history of these duties, and that he would confine his observations to one point only, namely, what effect the duties have upon the problem of unemployment. Before I sit down, I shall not forget that that was the right hon. Gentleman's one point, and I may say here that I welcome this interest in the 1199 problem of unemployment which Eon. Members opposite have so very recently developed. [HON. MEMBEKS: "Withdraw!" and Interruption.] One thing which the right hon. Gentleman so conveniently forgot was the fact that he forced an Election upon this issue. He made the one issue at the last Election a tariff upon imported manufactured goods, not as a means of alleviating unemployment—[HON. MEMBEES: "Oh!"]—but as a solution of the unemployment problem. The right hon. Gentleman this afternoon said very little about the general question of preference and the question of a general tariff. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why should he?"] Apparently a tariff upon one particular industry is now of far greater importance than the general tariff, upon which the country defeated him six months ago. Last week, his colleague the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir E. Home), when speaking in the general Budget Debate, said that the workers of Coventry did not at the last General Election vote for the repeal of the McKenna Duties, but they voted against a general tariff. Although I do not accept that, assuming it is true, what did the workers of Coventry vote for? According to the right hon. Member for Hillhead, they voted for protection for their own trade, and free trade for everything they purchase. That is to say, they wanted a protection for their own trade at the expense of the general community. What free trader has ever denied that it is possible to give an advantage to a trade by a high protective tariff? We have never denied that, although even the advantage of that disappears as you extend the measure of protection. But no trade which did derive an advantage from protection ever did so, except at the expense of every other trade in the country.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Noble Lord the Member for Hornsey (Viscount Ednam) must restrain himself. The Leader of the Opposition has been listened to, and, if we are to have an argument on this matter, we must listen to both sides.
§ Viscount EDNAM
I bow to your ruling. But I would point out that the right hon. Gentleman is making statements of which he cannot give any proof.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The Noble Lord has been long enough in this House to know that that is a feeling about opponents' speeches on both sides. The Noble Lord is encouraging hon. Members on this side to interrupt in the same way when things are said which they do not like.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Before the interruptions, I was saying it is not altogether a matter of surprise that the employers, and, to some extent, the workers, in a protected industry wish to retain that protection if they imagine that they derive some special advantage from it. This was in reference to the statement that was made by the right hon. Member for Hillhead, assuming that it is true that the workers of Coventry voted against a general tariff and for the maintenance of the McKenna Duties.
Now the right hon. Gentleman (Mr. Baldwin) put a number of questions to me. May I put this question, not to him, because he will have no further opportunity of replying, but to his right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain)—Do they associate their demand for the maintenance of these duties with the propaganda and desire for a general tariff upon manufactured goods? If they do not, at any rate, a number of the employers who have been carrying on this raging propaganda outside do.
The Noble Lord said just now that I had been making statements I could not prove. I think there were any number of statements made by the right hon. Gentleman in his speech that he made no attempt to prove. He made, for instance, some kind of reference to the gestation of an elephant, and compared that with what the Labour party had done in regard to unemployment during the few weeks they have been in office. I said there were a number of things that the right hon. Gentleman had, apparently, forgotten To one of those I have already referred. He said he was not going into the history of the question. I am going into the history of the question, though I am not going to weary the House at any great length with it. There are a few historical facts bearing on this matter of which it is important the House should be aware. Twelve months ago the Labour party on the Finance Bill moved an Amendment for the repeal of these duties. The reply of the Government was given by the then Financial Secretary to the Treasury, the 1201 right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks), and, in the course of that speech, the right hon. Gentleman never said one word in defence of the maintenance of these duties on the ground that they were providing employment, and that their repeal would add to the number of unemployed. He defended the maintenance of these duties wholly and solely on the ground that they produced a certain amount of revenue, and it is only now, when the proposal is made for the repeal of these duties, that the party opposite are pressing to maintain them, not for revenue purposes, but for the purpose of Protection.
I know of nothing in my political experience more mean and dishonourable, in view of the way in which the country accepted these duties during war time, than now to try to keep these duties as an aid in the fiscal controversy which, for so many years, has been carried on by the party opposite. When these duties were first imposed, was there any idea that they were going to benefit the trade of the country, that they were going to increase employment? They were imposed, as every Member of the House of Commons knows, for two or three specific purposes. It was necessary to limit imports, on account of the scarcity of shipping accommodation, and on account of the state of foreign exchanges. Those were the reasons that were then advanced. Incidentally, they raised a little revenue. What did Mr. McKenna say when proposing to impose those duties? I am not sure about now, but 12 months ago I am quite sure the opinion of Mr. McKenna would have been received with great respect by the right hon. Gentleman opposite. Might I ask him, when he invited Mr. McKenna to become Chancellor of the Exchequer, did he come to an understanding with Mr. McKenna with regard to the repeal of these duties, and are we not justified in assuming that then the right hon. Gentleman was willing to agree to the repeal of these duties as the price of getting the help of Mr. McKenna in his Government? Mr. McKenna said the purpose of these duties was to raise revenuewith no intention of continuing the tax, with no desire to protect trade, without beginning any new Tariff Reform movement, but simply and solely for the 1202 declared purpose of this particular tax now, and in this War."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th October, 1915; col. 1725, Vol. 74.][HON. MEMBERS: "When did he say that?"] He said that on 19th October, 1915. Could anything be more explicit, more definite, than that statement? The imposition of the duties has nothing whatever to do with Tariff Reform; it is not for the protection of trade; it is "simply and solely for the declared purpose of this particular tax now and in this War." But the War is over. The circumstances which might have justified the imposition of these duties at that time have changed. Now, I repeat, hon. Members opposite are trying to obtain the continuation of these duties for a purpose for which they were never intended. Mr. Bonar Law was almost as emphatic in repudiating the idea that these taxes were the thin end of the wedge of Protection, as was Mr. McKenna himself. Mr. Bonar Law, on 29th September, 1915, said:If I were merely to consider this question from the fiscal point of view, and if I were considering how it would help us when the War is over in carrying on the controversy in which we were so interested, I should say at once that these duties are the very last which I would impose myself and that they are in a form which seems to me contrary to all the principles I laid down at the time I was advocating a change in our tariff."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th September, 1915; col. 913, Vol. 74.]Have the party opposite abandoned the idea of a general tariff? If they want-to keep these duties as the nucleus of a universal system of Protection, there they have the statement of Mr. Bonar Law, who certainly was the ablest advocate of Tariff Reform I have ever heard, either in this House or outside. I never had the privilege of hearing the late Mr. Chamberlain, but Mr. Bonar Law, at any rate, knew something about this question, and he tells us that the very worst thing you can do to protect trade is to protect it by imposing a tariff in this way at the rate of 33⅓ per cent.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Mr. Bonar Law also said:Duties of this kind would never be continued under any circumstances when the War was over."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 29th September, 1915; col. 913, Vol. 74.]The War is over. So I might go on quoting. As I have already pointed out, 1203 a great deal has been made in this controversy of the suggestion that we are cutting off these duties at short notice. That is not correct. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham himself gave most definite notice to the trade five years ago that these duties were going. On 8th July, 1919, when he proposed that the date for the abolition of the duties should be moved from the 1st August to the 1st May he said:I am willing to alter the date and so make a difference between these Duties and the other Duties in the Budget. … It will distinguish those Duties from the others and mark the fact that they are provisional."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th July, 1919: col. 1713, Vol. 117.]The motor manufacturers themselves had equally long notice given to them from another quarter. In 1918 a Committee of the Ministry of Reconstruction, on which there were eight representatives of the British motor industry, made this recommendation:The British motor industry should be assisted by the imposition of an Import Duty on foreign motor vehicles and parts for a period of at least three years after peace.That is six years ago—twice the minimum length of time suggested by the British motor manufacturers themselves. Therefore, there is not the shadow of foundation for the statement that we are breaking faith with anybody or that we are not doing something of which the motor trade has had very ample notice. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), when speaking on the Budget, made a remark to which objection was taken by hon. Members opposite. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman is better able to defend himself than I am, and I am not attempting to do so, but he said something to this effect, that if the motor trade suffered they had nobody but themselves to blame. We need not put it quite so harshly as that. I am quite sure the right hon. Gentleman did not mean to put it harshly, but, at any rate, he was expressing a fact, and that is that the motor trade has had years of notice that these duties might be repealed in any Budget, and if they have not made the necessary preparations for any change of conditions which may result, then the fault is certainly not the fault of the Government.
1204 I desire now to say a few words about the agitation which has been going on outside. I was not in the House at the time, but I understand that this afternoon a number of petitions were presented praying that these Duties should not be repealed. About a week ago, I gave a reply to a Supplementary Question and speaking on the spur of the moment I said that, so far as I knew, all the protests I had received came from employers of labour or purported to come from bodies of workmen and that these protests have been sent on to me by the employers themselves. I had that matter carefully looked into and I find that up to the time I made that statement, there were only two letters of protest or resolutions which had not come from the employers themselves. Many employers enclosed petitions purporting to have been signed by their employés, and of two which did not conform to that description one was a telegram from a trade union which gave the name of the union but no address and the other was a letter from the Deputy Mayor of Coventry, enclosing a copy of a resolution which had been passed at a public meeting. Now the statement I made in the House a week ago has evidently been noted by the employers who are conducting this agitation against the repeal of the Duties. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh, oh!"] Oh yes, on the day after I made that statement in the House of Commons, the following letter was sent out by the British Ignition Apparatus Association Limited, to a large number of firms in the country:We strongly urge you who are directly interested immediately to take a similar course."—That is, to have committees of local employers and get their workpeople to pass these resolutions. This is the sentence to which I wish specially to draw the attention of the House, to show how the whole of this is being engineered, not by the workers by themselves, but by the employers—These meetings should be addressed by a representative of the workers themselves and we enclose you a number of petitions already prepared for signature. These should be signed in duplicate by each of your workers and the completed forms despatched not later than Saturday next to the Prime Minister and the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is also of the utmost importance that these petitions should be 1205 forwarded by the workers' representative as we are advised they will carry far more weight if submitted in this way.Since then that advice has been followed, but not fully. The petitions have been sent on to me, not as formerly, with a covering letter from the employer, but, unfortunately for the success of this plan, in almost every case with the name of the firm on the outside of the envelope. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"]
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I never imagined these disclosures would be so unpalatable. I have had innumerable letters from workers in regard to the way in which these petitions have been arranged and about the way in which men have been intimidated into voting. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The name and address is given in every case, and I could keep the House all this afternoon reading them. I will give one instance. This workman writes:In the first place I should like to state as I was one of the workers present"—that is, at a meeting in a certain works—that the meeting was held in the works time which meant that every workman had to fit tend or stop at work, but as the machinery closed down it was obvious what we were meant to do. A notice had been previously sent round that every man leaving the works before the usual time would be instantly dismissed.[Interruption.] Do hon. Members opposite want to add one more to the number of those cases in which men have been dismissed, not because their services are not required, but as an act of terrorism? I may add that this man states in this letter that he was the one man in that works who held up his hands against the resolution. [HON. MEMBERS: "Give the name of the firm."] Do hon. Members opposite want to find out the name of the man?
§ Mr. BALFOUR
Does the right hon. Gentleman decline to give the name of the firm? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes!"]
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I wanted to deal now with these cases which have a very 1206 pertinent bearing upon the gist of the arguments of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). There has been during the last two or three weeks, as every hon. Member knows, a violent campaign in certain newspapers against the repeal of the duties on the grounds that they would, if repealed, ruin the motor industry. I gather from one observation the right hon. Gentleman opposite made that he does not altogether endorse some of the statements made in opposition to the repeal of these duties. I am glad, if I rightly understood the right hon. Gentleman. One leading employer in the motor industry has virtually made himself leader of this campaign against the repeal of the duties. He has made himself responsible for the statement that, if these duties are repealed, a million men will be thrown out of employment and 4,000,000 more will be indirectly affected.
May I just refer to a statement of an even more outrageous character, which has not been made by an employer in the motor trade, but by an organisation of one of the leading political parties in this country? I have had sent to me an advertisement in a Wood Green newspaper, and I hope for the sake of the respect I have for the hon. Member for Wood Green (Mr. G. Locker-Lampson) that he is not responsible for this advertisement. It is headed:Wood Green Parliamentary Division Constitutional Association,and it says:The McKenna Duties are to be abolished, which will throw out of employment nearly 2,000,000 British workers.Does the right hon. Gentleman endorse that? Does any hon. Member on the opposite side of the House endorse that statement—that 2,000,000 of men are to be thrown out of employment if these duties are repealed?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Mr. Morris to whom I referred just now claims to have turned out last year 30,000 cars, and made arrangements this year for a doubled output—that is, if the duties are retained This means that of the total number of cars produced in this country last year, according to the figures supplied to me by the British Motor Manufacturers' 1207 Association, Mr. Morris claims to have turned out one-half. By his method of standardisation, he would employ fewer men per car output than most of his rivals in the trade. If 300,000 men are employed in producing 62,000 cars—the number of 300,000 was given by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) last week—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) put the figure at 200,000, but he was corrected by the hon. and gallant Gentleman—if 300,000 men are employed producing 62,000 cars then, if we make allowance for the greater output of the Morris works per man, it is not at all unreasonable to say that that firm will employ 40,000 men. As a matter of fact, Mr. Morris claimed in the newspaper the other day to employ directly and indirectly 40,000 men. He claimed, too, to have the power of dismissal of these men in his hands, because, he said, that "of that number I shall probably have to dispense with the services of 25 per cent." How is the figure made up? He employs, be says, directly or indirectly—[HON. MEMBERS: "Oh"!] Yes, he said: "We are being forced to dismiss"—therefore they must be in his employ—"we" are forced to dismiss one-third of the 40,000 men directly or indirectly engaged in the production of Morris cars. The British Motor Manufacturers' Association has given me the number of men employed by Mr. Morris, which have been supplied by him to them. It is not 40,000. It is 4949. I admit that the number of men is smaller to-day than earlier, for this card which I hold in my hand is one which Morris Motors, Ltd., has been sending to their workmen during the last few days. They say:Owing to the falling off of orders due to the proposed removal of the McKenna Duties we are very reluctantly compelled to advise you that your services will, unfortunately, not be required after the 9th of May.I hope hon. Members opposite are proud of that move! Here is notice of dismissal given because of the falling off of orders due to the proposed repeal of the McKenna Duties. In the "Daily News" this morning is a signed letter which says:One of our directors placed an order for a Morris saloon car on the 6th of March. Delivery was promised in a few weeks. After repeated inquiries they say: 'This 1208 car now stands twenty-eight on the schedule of deliveries, and we therefore fear that some three or four weeks will elapse before we are able to give delivery of the same in view of the large number of orders,That was the W. R. Morris Motor Works, Limited.
§ Major EDMONDSON
Might I point out to the right hon. Gentleman that motor manufacturers have many lists, and the saloon car to which the right hon. Gentleman refers is a car which is not sold very largely by the Morris Motors; it might conceivably be the twenty-eighth on the list, while at the same time the firm were turning out less in other directions.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The House, I am sure, will accept the explanation of the hon. and gallant Gentleman for what it is worth, but I am afraid it does not explain away the letter of Mr. Morris as to the orders waiting. [An HON. MEMBER: "On the 9th March."] There were 62,000 cars made in this country last year, so I am informed by the British Motor Manufacturers' Association. Suppose I were to say that the average price is £400—it would not be that, but put it at £400—that means that the total car output in this country is of the value of £25,000,000. Mr. Morris says there are 4,000,000 persons directly or indirectly employed in the motor industry in this country. These 4,000,000 workers produced a capital value of £25,000,000. Hon. Members opposite who are employers will possibly agree, if I say that half of that £25,000,000 was wages. As a matter of fact I am informed by a leading man in the trade that it would not be 25 per cent. However, I give hon. Members opposite the benefit, and say 50 per cent. [HON MEMBERS: "No!"] Why, the agent takes 20 per cent! The wages bill of the whole car production of this country last year was £13,000,000 and, says Mr. Morris, there are 4,000,000 men employed in the production of this output. Therefore, their average wages are £3 per year! What is the number of men employed in the motor-car trade? It is difficult to get the figures, but I am led to believe that there are more people employed in garages and repairing shops and the like than there are directly employed in the manufacture of private motor cars. The Board of Trade inform me that it would be a full figure to take 200,000 men as the total number employed in the private 1209 motor-car industry and allied trades in this country, that is those who are directly employed in the production of private motor cars. I ask hon. Members to remember that the motor-car manufacturers employ an enormous amount of juvenile labour. Nearly every one of the letters I have seen from workmen dealing with the way in which this agitation has been engineered, refer to the fact that boys and girls from 14 to 18 years of age form, in many cases, the majority of those who have signed these petitions Supposing you take the number at 200,000 men and that it takes that number to produce 62,000 cars. There are a million men to be thrown out of work, and according to this argument we are going to reduce the present output of 62,000 cars by 300,000 cars a year. I will now pass from all this agitation, which one of the leading motor-car manufacturers referred to asthe colossal humbug of this Press campaign.Let me refer to a remark in the "Auto-car," copies of which have been sent to every Member of this House, and in which this view is expressed that some leading motor-car manufacturers are praying to be saved from their friends.
Let us now come to more reasonable arguments. [Cheers.] Hon. Members opposite cheer that observation, and I am glad they are so anxious to escape from the effects of the campaign which has been carried on in support of the abolition of these duties, and I am glad to hear that they are ashamed of what has been done. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley made three points. In the first place, he said that the McKenna Duties increased employment; secondly, that they reduced the price of the cars, and were helpful in increasing exports; and, thirdly, that they raised revenue. I will take the last point first, that in regard to revenue. It is quite true, as I said this afternoon, that they have raised in revenue since they were imposed a very considerable sum of money—I believe the amount is about £19,000,000—and although they have raised this sum, according to the arguments of those who are desiring that they should be retained, they do not want any revenue at all, because they are anxious to keep out of this country cars from foreign countries. The answer to this argument is that we can do without 1210 it, and that, in sacrificing this revenue, we are honouring a very definite pledge which was given when these taxes were imposed.
Let us take the question as to whether the duties have increased employment. It must be remembered that the motor-car industry is a comparatively new one. It was in its infancy in the years immediately preceding the outbreak of war, and therefore it was quite natural and inevitable that it would be an expanding industry, and, tariffs or no tariffs, there would have been a gradual development of the motor-car industry. We have had other contemporary industries which have not had this alleged benefit of protection. When I first came to London a little more than 20 years ago there was not a motor omnibus on the streets of London, and there are thousands now, but do hon. Gentlemen opposite maintain that it is protection that has developed that industry? I believe that private motor-cars would have developed just in the same way if there had been no protection at all. Motor-car production has progressed because it is a commodity in which there is a constant progress of invention.
With regard to reduced prices that has nothing whatever to do with the protection which has been given to the trade, and Mr. Morris is in the main responsible for the reduction in price which has taken place within the last few years. As a matter of fact, it is really the British motor-car manufacturers who are competing against each other, and that is what they have to fear far more than foreign competition. Mr. Morris claims that he has turned out half the cars which were put upon the roads last year. If that be the case one can imagine the effect it would have in cheapening the cost of care.
I have been asked what harm have these duties done, and I will tell hon. Members. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley put to me what I thought was a very indiscreet question. He asked me if I had first of all consulted the bankers about the financial position of the motor car companies. I noticed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Twickenham (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks) in a letter in the "Times" two days ago, said that something like 75 per cent. of the motor car companies in this country were in the hands of the banks. The British Motor Car Manufacturing Association tell me, 1211 in a Memorandum, that 50 per cent. of these firms are in that position. I might ask, in view of the financial position of more than half of the motor car manufacturing companies of this country, what good have the McKenna Duties done them? Hon. Members cannot have it both ways. As a matter of fact, if there has been an improvement in certain directions they claim it as a result of the McKenna Duties, but if they make that claim they must be prepared to admit that anything which is disadvantageous is also due to those duties. Of the capital invested in motor cars under the protection of the McKenna Duties in the last three years some £10,000,000 has been lost.
The British Motor Car Manufacturers' Association have presented me with a list of the Stock Exchange quotations and the shares of a number of motor companies, and I notice that some of them are down as low as 4½d., some of them are at 1s., and quite a number of them are at 5s. What was the state of the motor industry before the War? Their shares were then standing at a premium, find that is a fact which hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must explain. They must tell us why, under the operation of the McKenna Duties, 75 per cent. of the motor car companies of this country have had to put themselves into the hands of the banks, and according to the British Motor Car Manufacturers' Association 50 per cent. of them are on the verge of ruin.
I turn now to the question of exports, to which the right hon. Gentleman attached so much importance. He did not go back to 1913 because that would not have suited his purpose. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that in 1913 we exported more motor cars from this country than we did in 1923? What have the McKenna Duties done there? If the operation of the McKenna Unties has been the determining factor in the British Motor industry then they have succeeded, notwithstanding the mechanical improvements of the last 14 years, in reducing the exports of motor cars from 8,829 in 1913 to 3,041 in 1922. [An HON. MEMBER: "There has been a war."] But surely the War was over in 1922, and other trades besides the motor industry have suffered from the War. The factories 1212 connected with other trades were turned to other purposes during the War, and why should the motor industry have a protection which has been denied to other industries? The fact is that your exports have actually declined under the operation of the McKenna Duties.
Has the operation of the McKenna Duties stopped imports? In 1913 the number of motor cars imported into this country was 14,728, and in 1923 the number was more than double, the total being no less than 30,025. According to the argument of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley, every one of those imported motor cars robbed some British workman of his employment, but what is the effect of it? I am going to give an opinion from an authority which I am quite sure will be received with respect and reverence by every hon. Member opposite. This is a reference to a proposal of the Indian Government for protection of the steel industry:Admittedly the loss of the industry would be a severe blow to India, but acceptance of the Board's recommendations is calculated to result in an increase of prices and at the same time, by removing competition, destroy the incentive to lower production costs.That is an extract from the "Morning Post," and it appeared in an issue which contained a violent attack upon myself because I am proposing to repeal the McKenna Duties. That is my indictment against these duties, which have not reduced prices, but they have kept prices higher than they otherwise would have been, because they have destroyed the incentive to lower production costs. That is the explanation of the fact that 50 per cent. of these companies are, admittedly, in an insolvent financial position to-day. I apologise for the length of the time I have spoken, but I should not have occupied quite so much time if my observations had not been so very entertaining to hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about unemployment?"] I have already spoken in another connection with regard to the decrease of employment which has already taken place in the motor industry. I have already pointed out that this has happened, but there have been reasons for it, and one reason is that it is part of the campaign against the abolition of the McKenna Duties. A second reason is, and I am sure that there is no hon. 1213 Member opposite who will disagree with me, that this time of the year is always a slack time, and men are always put off. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] I did not know that there were so many experts in the motor industry among hon. Members opposite. The busy time in the motor manufacturing industry is after the Motor Show and up to Easter. Naturally, people who buy new cars want them by Easter.
The effect of these duties has, in my opinion, ceased to be protective, for the reason that the right hon. Gentleman himself mentioned, namely, that the British manufacturers have specialised upon a car which is suitable to our comparatively short distances and good roads. The Americans some years ago tried to get into the British market with a light car, but they completely failed, and what competition there is in the motor-car trade in this country is, as I have said before, that of competing British manufacturers. I wonder if hon. Members opposite, in order to prevent an increase of unemployment, would suggest that a protective tariff should be given to every British motor-car manufacturer against the competition of Mr. Morris? [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Why not? There is another argument, which I do not expect for a moment will appeal to hon. Members opposite. It is this: When you have imposed a tariff, even a Free Trader will tell you that the taking away of that tariff may be followed by some temporary dislocation. That is one of the dangers, one of the evils, of tariffs. It is almost as bad as the political corruption which a tariff always engenders.
The Free Trade argument, however, has always been the national or social argument. As I pointed out in the early part of my observations, no Free Trader has ever said that you could not selfishly benefit one particular trade by giving it protection; but you do so at the expense of the people. That trade appropriates part of the purchasing power of the people who have to buy the protected commodity, and, therefore, there is so much the less for them to spend in encouraging employment in other industries. The repeal of these duties, therefore, is not calculated to reduce employment, but to increase it. That, certainly, will result after the motor trade has gone through the inevitable process of reconstruction, 1214 which is bound to come, McKenna Duties or no McKenna Duties. Everyone on those benches knows that. When the motor-car trade has gone through the inevitable reconstruction, when it has taken out its watered capital, when the trade has been put upon a sound financial basis once more, and has got into a healthy condition, it will find that it does not need protection, and it will get back what there is of prosperity in the trade at the present time. What these duties have done, as my immediate predecessor in office interjected a moment or two ago, is that they have brought in, in duty, something like £20,000,000. That is an abstraction from the pockets of the taxpayers of this country, and they would have had £20,000,000 more to spend. They would have had even more than that, because, as no one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman, if you impose an import duty of 33 per cent., when it gets to the consumer it is much more than 33 per cent. Therefore, if you make £20,000,000 of revenue by the imposition of these duties, you have probably taken out of the pockets of the British taxpayers a spending power of at least £30,000,000. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I did not expect hon. Members opposite to appreciate the truth of that argument, but I am beginning to hope that they are not altogether beyond salvation.
These are the reasons why we have decided to repeal these duties. In the first place, we were in honour bound to do so. We are bound to honour the pledges that we gave when we were elected. There are some things upon which one may compromise, where no question of honour is involved; but this is not a matter for compromise—the Government stand or fall by it. There has been a good deal of talk about dissensions in the Cabinet, but there have been no dissensions in the Cabinet. Every member of the Cabinet feels that we were in honour bound to deal with this matter, and we are going to deal with it. We stand or fall by it; but we shall not fall. There are sufficient honourable men left in this House not to violate their election pledges in a manner so outrageous as they would if they voted for the continuation of these duties. Therefore, I await the decision which will be taken this evening on this question, and I await it with the certainty that the 1215 majority of the House of Commons will approve the decision that we have taken. And I have this still greater certainty, that our decision will be applauded by the overwhelming majority of the electors.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
It is with great diffidence that I address the House after the two right hon. Gentlemen who have already spoken. I have listened to their speeches, and I confess that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer appeared to me to be based on bias and prejudice. He did not answer the questions put to him by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin). He seemed to be prejudiced against the employers. He told us that the workmen sent their petitions in envelopes on which were the employers' names. Does he realise that in the works there is often a reading or writing room, where there are envelopes with the employer's stamp on them, and that they take those envelopes and make use of them—they write their petitions there and send them to the Chancellor of the Exchequer? The Chancellor has also complained that the employers have forwarded these petitions; but is it not the natural instinct of the working man to go to his employer when he has a grievance, and ask him to forward it to the House of Commons? Does he not think that the employer will have greater influence, and that when he forwards a petition, greater attention will be paid to it? The Chancellor made great play, in a very class-conscious speech, about terrorism being exercised in the workshops against the employés, but does he not realise that these men to-day are fighting for their bread and butter, that they are liable to be turned out, and that that is the reason why they are taking every step that is possible to prevent this unemployment?
I will not go back into the history of these duties, but I should like to point out to the House that they have saved the motor trade in this country. Does the right hon. Gentleman realise that all our workshops during the War were turned into factories for making munitions? The Americans did not do that, and, after the War, the Americans started with a very great advantage. They were enabled, at that time, to flood our 1216 markets and to destroy our young motor industry, which was just starting again. It is the very greatest misfortune for the motor industry that the right hon. Gentleman has made it the sport of party politics. It is a matter of business, not of politics. No over-statement of any case can do any good, and the right hon. Gentleman has seen his opportunity in over-statements of the case made in many newspapers. He was quick to seize upon those over-statements and make play with them, but I would suggest that the right hon. Gentleman himself has made over statements in pretending that doing away with the McKenna Duties will have no effect whatever in regard to unemployment. That is a very great over-statement. The right hon. Gentleman refers to the efforts of the workmen in this country to keep their work as a ramping, raging propaganda, but has he been to the constituencies that are most affected, and would he dare to make such a speech there when the men are being turned out? I feel quite certain that were he to go there during the next three or four months, he would meet with a very hostile reception indeed. We know how kind and friendly are the feelings of the Chancellor of the Exchequer towards the foreigner. He has been so kind as to reduce the Reparation duties on German goods from 26½ per cent. to 5 per cent., and in three months' time—
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The hon. and gallant Gentleman is quite wrong. What I did was in effect to raise the levy to 5 per cent., for it was yielding nothing before.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
The right hon. Gentleman, in answer to a question, said that they were bringing in £800,000, while now they are bringing in only £150,000; and in three months' time any German firm will be able to send a motor ear over to this country on payment of 5 per cent., while we cannot send a single motor car to Germany, because they refuse to have them.
§ 6.0 P.M.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
The manufacturer here has a gloomy face when he looks at the future. The French 1217 man wears a smile on his face, seeking to capture this very valuable market of ours. Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that since these duties have come into force five foreign firms have set up factories in this country? What will happen to those factories in three months? They are giving employment to British workpeople who, I am very much afraid, as a result of his action will be thrown on the street, because the manufacturers will prefer making those cars in their own country. Another point that my right hon. Friend the Member for Bewdley made was the effect these duties have had on Canadian trade. Canada has taken advantage of the preference, the tax being only 22 per cent. instead of 33⅓, and numerous factories have been started there, and the trade from Canada to this country in manufactured articles since the duties were imposed has increased enormously. I am afraid it is going to have a very serious effect on our trade with Canada. I know how bigoted the Chancellor of the Exchequer is on this subject. He will make it a question of Free Trade and Protection, whereas it really is not. Here is a letter from a Wolverhampton firm of manufacturers of various spare parts of different cars:We are supplying castings to many of the largest motor car manufacturers in the country. Among these is the Ford Motor Company. We, some time ago, accepted a contract from this concern at the American price plus the duties, delivered here, and we have been making no profit whatever off their work. The reason is obvious. In the American foundries making this work they are turning out possibly 100 times more than we are doing here, consequently their establishment charges are very much less than ours. We have just equipped ourselves with very up-to-date moulding plant in order to bring our costs down, and at the moment there is some prospect of earning a profit, but it is perfectly obvious to us that if the McKenna Duties" are allowed to lapse, the Ford Company will bring all of their material from the United States of America. In fact we are of the opinion that they will stop making cars in England altogether.There is another example I should like to put before the right hon. Gentleman. Commercial cars pay no tax whatever, and how does the commercial motor manufacturer stand at present? I have another letter from an up-to-date firm. I have no interest, financial or otherwise, in any motor company, but this affects very large numbers of my con- 1218 stituents, so I know what I am speaking about. This firm is giving up the manufacture of commercial motor-cars. It looked round and said: "The ordinary touring car now is protected to a certain extent," and they have started to turn out touring cars. They say:Immediately we saw there was a possibility of the McKenna Duties being removed, we stopped all further development in this department and if the Duties are removed we shall certainly not proceed with the manufacture of touring cars, with the consequence that we shall not be employing anything like the number of people we should have done otherwise. There are something like 82 firms manufacturing touring cars in this country against approximately 14 commercial vehicle manufacturers. The number of touring cars manufactured exceeds the touring cars imported, but the number of commercial vehicles imported considerably exceeds the quantities manufactured here.I know the right hon. Gentleman would only throw Slough at me if I did not point that out. He also alluded to the fact that the motor industry is new. We all agree that it is a new industry, but I would ask him to compare these two branches with regard to employment. The touring-car industry is to-day employing more people than at any time in its history, whereas the number employed in the commercial-vehicle industry is, approximately, 45 per cent. of the 1920 figure.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
They have been sent me by a firm which has collected them—the Guy Motors.
§ Captain Viscount CURZON
On a point of Order. Is the hon. Member in order in suggesting that my hon. and gallant Friend is supplying "cooked figures" to the House?
§ Mr. PRINGLE
On that point of Order. I never attributed to the hon. and gallant Gentleman the cooking of figures. I asked him where he got them, and he told me, and I said they were cooked by the people who gave them to him.
§ Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr. Robert Young)
The statement is not meant to apply to the hon. Member, and he is not charged with cooking the figures.
§ Lieut.- Colonel HOWARD- BURY
These figures are much more correct than the hon. Member's. If he wants to supply them, he will be able to do so later on. It is also interesting to note that at the last show at Olympia, the number of British and foreign firms exhibiting was within one or two of the same number as at the exhibition 12 months ago, whereas, with regard to commercial cars, the number of British firms exhibiting was far less and the foreigners had increased their exhibits by over 60 per cent., and they would not do that unless they had some very good idea that they were going to capture our market. The right hon. Gentleman made some play with regard to banks, and said that 75 per cent. of the motor manufacturing firms in the country were in the hands of the bankers. The motor industry has had a very difficult time to go through. They are just beginning to get clear and, had the right hon. Gentleman carried these duties on for another five years, and given some form of stability to the motor industry, the figures would have been very different from what they are to-day.
For what purpose is it necessary to do away with these duties, which are bringing in £2,500,000 a year? Is it that the right hon. Gentleman has made some arrangement with the Liberal party in order to get their support during the summer months? In former times arrangements were made between different parties. The price may have been a peerage or two or three offices in the Government.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
You will not get peerages to-day, but the price of the bargain is the number of men you are throwing out of employment. It is a far more immoral bargain than was ever concluded in former times. The right hon. Gentleman says "we will have no compromise." Had he lived three or four hundred years ago, I feel confident 1220 he would have gone to the stake for his fiscal religion. He would have watched, had he been in power, the agonies of the heretics that he had sent to the fires of Smithfield with equal pleasure. To-day, far from the madding crowd, in the cool sequestered chambers of the Treasury, he can still watch the sufferings of the thousands he is throwing out of employment. He is a fanatic for Free Trade. I wish the question of Free Trade and Protection had never been brought into the matter. It is a matter solely of business, and it should be judged on its merits. The right hon. Gentleman is afraid to have an impartial inquiry. He knows too well that the case is too strong for him, and for his argument. I wish the question of the McKenna Duties could be stabilised, and they could be put outside party politics for the time being. It is, after all, the welfare of the working people that we are out to benefit, and I cannot conceive any policy more detrimental to this than making these questions the play of party politics. I would ask the right hon. Gentleman before it is too late to have some form of inquiry into these industries and to consider carefully what the effects are likely to be not only on our export trade but also on our internal prosperity. It is a very important question indeed, and the right hon. Gentleman knows better than anyone, if we buy, as we shall do, large quantities of motor cars from America what effect that will have upon our exchange. We have to pay a very great debt to America, and the more we buy from her the lower will be the value of the £. No one is keener than the right hon. Gentleman in upholding our fiscal credit, but his action, I am afraid, will tend to lower it. We shall have to buy far more in foreign markets than we do to-day. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the English market will not be able to supply them.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
The hon. Member must be aware that under these McKenna Duties motors have been produced in very much larger numbers than they would be if they were subjected to unfair foreign competition, with depreciated exchanges.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
We want to give work here, but will the hon Member say he would prefer to buy an English car for £200 when he can buy a French car for £130? With these duties to-day, it makes the difference so slight that people prefer to buy the English car. You have only to compare the figures of the actual cost of the car in 1914. The Austin 20 cost in 1914, £640 and in 1924, £595. Hon. Members know the value of money in 1914 and what it is to-day. The Morris-Cowley 11.9 cost in 1914, £200; and to-day, £198. The Standard 14 cost £385 in 1914 and £379 to-day. What is the secret of that cheapness? It is because they have manufactured in large numbers. If the number of cars that can be sold in this country is limited and a very large number of foreign cars come in, it means that our manufacturers cannot turn out the same numbers that they were able to do while they have been protected and as they are to-day.
I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer to go carefully into this case and not to make it a purely party political question. We know his prejudices. We know that he is a fanatical Free Trader, but could not he for once drop his fanaticism? I am afraid that he will never drop it. His fanaticism is going to cost his party many seats at the next election. I do beg of the right hon. Gentleman before he takes this step to go more carefully into the matter and see whether he cannot continue these duties until next year, and to establish meanwhile a Court of Inquiry to go into the whole question, because it is a question in regard to which, unless he is very careful, he is going to bring hunger and misery to thousands of the most skilled artisans in this country.
§ Captain WEDGWOOD BENN
I had a great deal of sympathy with the hon. and gallant Member in his desire to avoid the use of the unfortunate word "Protection" or "Protective Duty." He skirted round in every way. He described it as a business arrangement, and the McKenna Duties, but whenever he got to the word "Protection" he pulled himself up. Once he half uttered it, but he pulled himself up, and his plea was that we should put aside what he calls party prejudice and decide the matter as a business question. It is one of the chief characteristics of this campaign on the motor tax that 1222 the Lobbies of the House of Commons are filled with people who are here to press their own interests. Our letter bags are filled. We are summoned by cards time after time from people who are not here in the public interest. It so happens that the public interest is strangely and uniquely identified with their own interests.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I have no interest whatever in the motor industry. My point is that it is purely to the advantage of trade to carry on these duties.
§ Captain BENN
I quite understand that the hon. and gallant Gentleman is not acting in his own interests. I am speaking about the Lobbies of this House, and I am referring to the change that has come over our political campaigns in connection with this sort of debate and this sort of duty. We are constantly being pressed by people who come here, not for grievances to be redressed, not for some public interest to be attended to, but because they want something done which will put money into their pockets. Men who in the old days thought of nothing but their customers and pleasing their customers think now of nothing but wheedling Members of Parliament and nobbling Ministers. People who in the old days thought that the secret of success was to give better value for money, say to-day, "If we can get a tariff, better value is of no account." Their object is not to promote the public interest, but to manipulate Divisions in the House of Commons.
That is a complete change and a very evil feature. It is only one step from that to the existence of secret funds, secret supplies, mysterious candidates and people being refreshed from interested sources. It is but one step from that to the corruption of the public life of this country. I cannot summarise this point better than in the words of a Tory of Tories, the Noble Lord who sits for the University of Oxford (Lord Hugh Cecil), who said:Protection will lead to the corruption of our public life as it has led to the corruption of the life of other countries. The purity of our public life is the life-blood of Europe. If Conservatives go in for Protection, I will have nothing to do with such an apostate party. If they determine to travel down the path of dishonour and Imperial ruin, I will wash my hands clean of so great a crime.1223 These are not the words of a fanatical Liberal or Labour Free Trader; they are the words and the considered judgment of a rightly honoured member of the Conservative party. Nobody has denied, least of all the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that tariffs can put money into the pockets of certain people. No one has ever denied that. If that be true, then the whole argument that has been used this afternoon to the particularised case of the motor-car industry can be applied to any industry in the country. Do hon. Gentlemen apply it to other industries? They do not answer; they dare not answer. They know that when Protection becomes a general application it loses its virtue. They will not say why, if there should be a tax for the benefit of the motor-car maker and to put money into its pocket, there should not be a tax for the benefit of the farmer. Everybody knows that an industry specifically organised and protected by one tariff can make great profit therefrom.
§ Captain BENN
We always hear the same story—that is an infant industry. We hear a great deal of argument which is in favour of the private interests, but I should like to argue the question as to whether it is in the public interest that this tariff should be allowed to continue. Particularly, I should like to try to answer the question, "Whom does the duty harm," and to show that it does a great deal of harm to individuals and to the general public. Secondly, I should like to try to answer the question whether the electors have approved or disapproved of this duty. In the third place, I should like to deal with the question of the pledges to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred, and the effect of the breaking of those pledges on the public life of the country and, incidentally, on the party opposite.
Who is harmed by the duty? We have heard a great deal of wild talk from the propagandists of the motor car industry—organised political propaganda. We hear that the depreciated exchanges make it impossible for them to stand up against competition from the Continent. For three years machinery has existed for testing that claim, namely, the Safeguarding of Industries Act, and not one of 1224 these people, who are now so full of rhetoric, have dared to put their claim before an impartial tribunal to decide whether there is anything in it or not.
§ Captain BENN
That is the greatest compliment that has ever been paid to tariffists in this country. They could have had the impartial inquiry for which they are now pleading, but they did not get it because they were afraid.
§ Mr. W. GREENWOOD
Does the hon. and gallant Member remember that when a particular Order was to be put into force under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, the lobbying which he has I been denouncing took place and prevented the Order from being put into force for six months?
§ Captain BENN
Yes, but the people were then lobbying in the public interest, while to-day they are lobbying for private interest. Take the case of dumping from America. We are told that we shall have cars dumped into this country from America. Are hon. Members not aware that the machinery for the prevention of dumping is permanent? The Safeguarding of Industries Act, under which the dumping provision exists, is an Act. It has not been repealed by this Government. If anybody will come forward and say that there is a dump coming from any country—apart altogether from the question of the depreciated exchanges, which is a three years' Measure and expires—and if they say that cars are being dumped in this country, they can go to the I impartial inquiry which they are now claiming and submit their case, and if they can make out their case they can get a tariff of 33⅓ per cent. put against the dumped goods.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Will the hon. and gallant Member support their claim when it comes up under the Safeguarding of Industries Act?
§ Mr. REMER
Is the hon. and gallant Member aware that Part II of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, which includes the dumping Clause, comes to an end?
§ Captain BENN
The hon. Member is no better informed in regard to the Statute than he is on the general subject of economics. The anti-dumping provision is permanent. The hon. and gallant Member for Bilston (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury) has been pleading for an impartial inquiry. He is not satisfied with the impartial inquiry which is provided in the Act, and he asks me whether I will bring political pressure to bear in regard to the matter.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I asked whether the hon. Member will support their claim under the Safeguarding of Industries Act.
§ Captain BENN
It is not a question of supporting their claim; the machinery exists, and they can make their claims under that machinery. The impartial inquiry for which the hon. and gallant Member is asking is there provided for, because that is a permanent provision. If he has a case of dumping, he can go to the impartial tribunal and have inquiry made, and have a duty imposed if he makes out his ease, but he is afraid to do so.
§ Captain BENN
We shall see. In any case, the machinery exists, and if the evil exists the cure exists, and there is no need for this Resolution to-day. Let me turn to the wider question. I make the very bold claim that the interests of motoring, of motor manufacturing and motor selling are harmed by these duties If the abolition of the duties means cheaper cars, it must mean more cars. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
§ Captain BENN
I do not want to take up the time of the House, but I could give to the hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) quotations from the "Times," gathered haphazard in the last few days, giving the opinion of leading manufacturers of motor-cars, who declare that the abolition of the duties means a reduction in prices. I thought that was an agreed point.
§ Captain BENN
The argument is that the cheap foreign car will keep out the British made car. If it means cheaper cars it must mean more cars. This country is grossly under-motored. People talk to-day that the motor car trade is a luxury trade. Motor cars are not a luxury. They should become a necessity of transport in this country. Every person of small means should be able to afford a motor car. We have in this country one motor car for every 110 persons, while in America they have one car for every 11 persons. [HON. MEMBERS: "Under Protection!"] In France they have one car for every 350 persons under Protection. The fact of the matter is that this industry, if it were allowed freedom to extend, would extend from what is merely its infancy into very strong manhood. If that be so, and we can get an extension comparable with the extension that has taken place in America, it will mean that you have so many more people who make, sell, repair and drive cars, who buy and sell petrol at the garages, and who supply the thousand and one appurtenances which motorists buy in the course of their experience. I am told by motorists that the expense by no means terminates when you have bought a car. Surely, all these facts are good arguments for the cheapening of the motor car, and the more you cheapen the car the greater must be the demand for the cars. I contend that in the next 20 years we shall increase the production and consumption of motor cars by five or, perhaps, tenfold. Is not that a very great step towards making employment for all those engaged in the motor industry?
Then take the other classes which are at present penalised. There are the users of motor-cars who have to pay on account of the duty. What about the farmers who are supposed to find their special patrons in hon. Members opposite? The farmers were so strongly opposed to the Safeguarding of Industries Act that they got hon. Gentlemen opposite in dozens to pledge themselves to repeal that Act if it were not extended to agriculture. The farmers must have cheap cars to get about their daily work. Then there are commercial travellers. I asked the Commercial Travellers Association how many commercial travellers have got cars, and I was told that of the 1227 40,000 commercial travellers, 5,000 or 6,000 have got cars. What right have the Government to put a tax on private people to build up an industry in this country?
There are 37,000 medical practitioners in England and Wales. I am informed that about 75 per cent. of them have cars. What right have the Government to say to one of the hardest worked and most deserving class of public servants, who are often underpaid, "For one of the instruments of your business you will pay an additional £40 or £50 to go into the private pockets of a certain group of manufacturers in this country"? Are not these people damnified by the duty? They provide some of the answers to the question: "Whom does the duty harm?" What about the people, of whom I represent a great number in this House, people engaged in the industry of transport—dockers and railway carters? If these cars cannot come in and the ports cannot be used to have these cars come in, does it not put the dockers at least out of employment? If they are to be importing cars and sending out the other goods which would have to go out in exchange, they would be busy. All these transport workers are damnified by anything which interferes with the free exchange of commodities.
§ Mr. COOPER RAWSON
What is the car which they mostly use? Is it not the Ford car? The hon. and gallant Gentleman is talking a great deal about certain people who use the cheapest class of cars.
§ Mr. RAWSON
If many dockers use cars, I take it that they use the cheapest cars. I am interested in this matter. There are more Ford cars in this country than any other, and they are built up behind a tariff wall in America.
§ Captain BENN
I think that I can see all the points which the hon. Gentleman has in mind. What I was saying was that all the import trades are injured by anything that interferes with the free exchange of commodities between this country and others. I believe that I am 1228 right in saying that there are about 400,000 private cars in this country. Taking the average price at £300, and assuming that 25 per cent. reduction would have been made in the price if there had been no duty, there is £30,000,000 taken out of the pockets of purchasers and given to the motor industry, which might have been used in the purchase of other commodities. Hon. Gentlemen opposite say that these duties injure nobody, but if you diminish the purchasing power of the public, everybody who might have had a share of the amount which would have been spent in other ways, is damnified by the fact that the duties find their way into the private pockets of the manufactuer.
A second point is, have the electors, approved or disapproved of this duty? Anyone who has read the election oratory of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Bench opposite knows that their chief argument was the McKenna Duties. I have not had time unfortunately to read all the speeches. I took them out lately, and I got Barlow, Birkenhead and Baldwin and I had to stop there for the time being. The then Prime Minister, Lord Birkenhead who was his henchman in Lancashire, and Sir Montague Barlow, who suffered a fate which we all on personal grounds must deplore, gave the McKenna Duties as the great example of their policy. What about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Lloyd-Greame)? Does he deny that the McKenna Duties were an issue at the last Election?
§ Sir PHILIP LLOYD-GREAME
I do entirely deny that. They were kept on by Government after Governmnt. The only argument which the hon. and gallant Gentleman can advance now in favour of repealing them at present is that they might form a precedent hereafter.
§ Captain BENN
That is a very interesting statement, but does the right hon. Gentleman, who was President of the Board of Trade, and therefore the special spokesman of the Government at the time, deny that the McKenna Duties were an issue before the electors? The point I make is that they were before the electors and were condemned by the electors. In the "Times" of the 26th of "November last, at which time the elec- 1229 tion contest was near its close, we have an article:
§ "The Government view.
"By the right hon. Sir Philip Lloyd-Greame, President of the Board of Trade."
I will not read the whole of the two columns, although they would well repay the listener. I will come to the peroration:
A practical example is worth any amount of theory. One section of the motor industry has enjoyed the benefit of a duty. The result has been increased efficiency, increased development," etc.
That was the then Government view. That was the one practical example by which their policy was to be tested. Does the right hon. Gentleman then say that the case was not put before the electors when it was put so ably by himself? Even the late Financial Secretary to the Treasury, who is not present to-day, made a speech on much the same lines. If the ex-Prime Minister concedes the point, I need not argue that the duty was put before the electors and was condemned. In the "Times" of the 22nd of November, we have:
PROTECTION IN THE MOTOR INDUSTRY.—Sir W. Joynson-Hick's Challenge.—I throw out the challenge that the example which I am going to give deals with every possible point in argument in favour of our policy. Unless Mr. Ramsay MacDonald or Sir John Simon, with all his legal subtlety, can shatter the argument in this case we shall claim the credit at the hands of the country.
Extracts of that kind might be multiplied indefinitely. In face of them, how is it possible for the Opposition to claim that the McKenna Duties were not an issue at the last Election? Of course they were. They were put before the electors and condemned by the electors in the proportion of eight to five in two succeeding elections. Eight million voted for the Labour and Liberal parties, and 5,000,000 voted on this issue in favour of the duties.
§ Captain BENN
The strange thing is, having put this case before the country, the leading protagonists of this case, with one or two exceptions, nearly all suffered reductions in their majority, or actually represent minorities in this House. One exception is the ex-Prime Minister, and it is natural that he should strengthen 1230 his position in his constituency after his services in that distinguished office. The other exception is the hon. Member for the Sparkbrook Division of Birmingham, the ex-First Lord of the Admiralty (Mr. Amery). Of the others, everybody who put this issue before the country got his majority reduced. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, I will say, every leading man. Let us take a few. The hon. Member for Acton (Sir H. Brittain) comes here pleading for Protection from a constituency in which there is a majority of Free Trade voters. There were 11,000 votes for Free Trade and 8,700 votes for Protection.
§ Captain BENN
He wanted Protection for the finished article and Free Trade for the raw material, but the number of people in that district who wanted Free Trade for the raw material exceeded the number who wanted Protection by 2,000 or 3,000. And so one might go on through a large number of the leading Members opposite. I might refer to the Birmingham district, or I might take the gas mantle workers' friend himself in Wandsworth, or I might take the hon. and gallant Member for Battersea (Viscount Curzon), whose majority was reduced from 6,600 to 1,100. I do not want to use an unparliamentary word like "effrontery," but it shows amazing courage on the part of hon. Members who have suffered such reductions in their majority or have come here as minority Members to press their present case on the ground that the country has approved of these McKenna Duties and the policy for which they stand.
Then there is the question of the pledge. Nobody doubts that the pledge was given that these duties would come off. Mr. Bonar Law in debate even gave the date when they would come off. He spoke of nine or 10 months. The point is that the pledge has not been fulfilled. I have heard all the debates on this subject since the War. I have heard the extraordinary twistings and turnings and shufflings and wrigglings of the official representatives 1231 who were then the Government party, explaining why they were not taken off. The first reason was that trade was too depressed; the second was that trade was too prosperous; the third was that exchanges were bad; the fourth was that motor cars were luxuries; and the fifth was that the Government wanted the money. We have heard all these arguments, but we never heard of the redemption of the pledge. Now the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) makes an observation, which for cynicism really deserves remark. We ask, "What about the pledge?" and he replies, "People are very wise to go upon the facts rather than upon what politicians say." That is his view on a pledge given by Mr. Bonar Law, who was the Leader of his own party.
What is the bearing of this, I will not say on politics in general, but on the future of the party opposite? We know perfectly well that in thy party opposite there are strong forces pressing for a full protectionist and imperialist and preferential programme. They want full taxes, taxes on meat, and taxes on boots, and so on. There are large forces in the party opposite pressing for the full programme. The right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. A. Chamberlain) said after the ex-Prime Minister had made his speech at Plymouth, "I only wish he had taken my father's whole programme; it would have been a much bolder thing to do." The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), who is supposed to have devised the programme, is said to be in favour of wheat taxes, meat taxes, and the whole thing. How can the electors be certain that we are not to be let in for these taxes? I put in my election address, "The Prime Minister has pledged himself not to tax wheat." I took his word, of course. But how can the electors in future take the words of the tariff reform leaders if they openly repudiate a pledge given by Mr. Bonar Law years ago? There is no security. On the fate of the party opposite their action to-day, and their repudiation through the right hon. Member for Hillhead of a pledge, will have a very great bearing and influence indeed. In future, when people say, "We fear the Conservative party. It is a Protectionist party, and it will bring us food taxes and taxes on the necessity of the poor," and repre- 1232 sentatives of the party get up and say. "We are pledged not to tax wheat and clothes," the electors will retort, and with some justification, "What is the value of your pledges? You gave pledges to repeal the McKenna Duties, and then, having refused to fulfil those pledges, you brought in a Vote of Censure when a more honest Government decided to fulfil those pledges." This question of pledges has a very great bearing on the future of Protection and of the Protectionist party in this country. As far as I am concerned, I rejoice in the Debate, because I believe that it will stamp the Conservative party as a Protectionist party, and will keep them in Opposition.
§ Mr. DIXEY
In rising to make a maiden speech I ask for that consideration which is generally extended to Members in my position. It is rather amusing to hear from the Front Liberal Bench a gentleman so solicitous for the future welfare of the Conservative party. It seems to me that a little more attention by him and by his colleagues to their own internal arrangements would be far better than attempts to criticise others. In listening to this Debate, I have not heard one good argument, either from the Chancellor of the Exchequer or from the Liberal party, as to why these duties should be removed. I thought that the whole question was a question of employment. I thought that the whole reason for maintaining these duties, the whole of the vital case of these duties, was to keep in employment men who were desirous of earning their living. It seems to me that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in defending the removal of these duties, did so entirely on the ground that a pledge had been given by him and "his party at the Election that the duties would be removed, and, secondly, on the general ground and principles of Free Trade. Let me deal with the pledges of his party first. In thy Election I saw a lot of Labour programmes, but I fail to remember one in which the repeal of these duties was made a vital issue. There were other far more ornamental notices in the programmes of the Labour party, and the McKenna Duties were kept very much in the background. In fact, in a lot of constituencies, when Labour candidates were tackled about Tariff Reform or Protection, they wafted it on 1233 one side and said, "We are not pledged either to Free Trade or Protection, but what we are out to do is to give the complete pleasures of existence to the working man, and to provide some occupation for every man who is prepared to work."
That is the first point that the Chancellor of the Exchequer makes—that his party was pledged to repeal these duties. I say that there was no evidence before the country at the last Election that the Labour party were pledged to repeal these duties. Secondly, there was the Chancellor's defence on the general principles of Free Trade. His whole point is this—once a tariff is put on, it cannot be anything else but wrong. As a doctrinaire Free Trader who dislikes a tariff, he says that nothing good can result from a tariff in any form. His attitude, reminds me of the story of a juryman. A man was charged with some offence, and it was obvious to all the jury that he was perfectly innocent. The only man—he came from Lancashire—who would not agree, was approached by the foreman, who said: "Look here, Jones, it is quite obvious that this man could not have been guilty of this crime." "Well," replied the juryman, "what I says to myself is this, 'There he is in the dock, and he would not be in the dock if he had not been doing something.'" That is the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He says: "Here is a tariff. No matter what the result or the evidence, may be, it is bound to be wrong, because it is a protective tariff, which I utterly abhor."
There can be no doubt that we are dialing, not with Free Trade principles nor with Protectionist principles, but with the actual facts of the situation. You have a trade which admittedly says, "We desire this protection to be maintained. We can keep our men in employment if we are allowed this protection, I and we can keep this industry going where before it was in a state practically of collapse." Before the Government acts in defiance of that trade it ought to have the strongest possible information and scientific data available. I agree with the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was considerable exaggeration by the motor firms in this country as to the possible extent of unemployment. I say frankly, and I think 1234 every hon. Member will agree with me, that we cannot take responsibility for statements which obviously are an exaggeration in a particular case. It does not matter whether 100,000 men or 1,000,000 men are to be thrown out of employment. The principle is there. You cannot, as a Labour party, and I throw it at you—[Laughter]. You may laugh, but I say you cannot afford to throw out of work at the present time anybody, unless you guarantee some other employment. There is no evidence that these men whom you are to turn out of employment will get other work. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says the motor industry must go through a difficult time, and that if you take a tariff off in any industry there is bound to be a difficult time in that industry. The right hon. Gentleman knows that there will be a loss of employment to certain men in those industries. The compensation you are going to give to a man is that he is to find somewhere about the country some little cheap benefit that he is to get. It reminds one of the story of the boy who bought a penny box of matches to look for a halfpenny. Only the other day Mr. Barnes, a Labour man, an engineer who knows his trade, said frankly, "Have a Court of Inquiry and investigate this question from a scientific point of view. Throw away your old principles of Free Trade and Protection. "He say, "Let us go into it properly and see what can be done." I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what could be the damage to the Government if they bad that proper investigation for the benefit of an important industry before they took off these duties.
§ Captain DICKIE
I hope that the House will be good enough to extend to me that indulgence which, I understand, it is the invariable practice of the House to offer to a new Member on making his maiden speech. In the subject under discussion there is a certain amount of ground which is common to all sections of the House, and in particular there are two points on which there is almost unanimity. The first of these is that at the time when these duties were originally imposed there was no question of Free Trade or Protection. The second is that, owing to the failure of this House to redeem its pledge to get rid of these taxes, the taxes have become in the interval in 1235 their character and incidence purely protective taxes. These taxes were imposed in 1915 as a War-time emergency measure for the express purpose of economising shipping space. Shipping is one of the most important industries of this country. In the words of Mr. Rudyard Kipling: our ships are theShuttles of an Empire's loom.7.0 P.M.
Every protective duty which tends to interfere with the transport of goods is a piece of grit introduced into the delicate and complex machinery of our mercantile marine, and tends to prevent the working of this particular machine at the highest rate of efficiency. If these Duties succeeded in the object for which they are imposed the logical and inevitable result would be that they would very seriously affect our shipping trade. The first natural result is that the earning powers of our ships are lowered considerably. The second is that there is a lessened demand for cargo space, and, consequently, there is a lessened demand for ships and more unemployment in the shipbuilding and ship repairing trades, which are already very heavily hit, and which, if any artificial assistance is to be given, are much more in need of that assistance than is the motor car industry. That is the first point I wish to make. The twin enemies of mankind are tariffs and war, and one almost inevitably leads to the other. The first prevents men from reaping the full fruits of the best efforts of mankind, and the second completes the work by destroying. On this issue the Election was fought; on this issue the last administration was defeated, and it was as a consequence of that defeat in the country that they were defeated in this House. I remember that the right hon. Gentleman the Minister for Health in the last Administration (Sir W. Joynson-Hicks), in an address which he delivered, referred to me and to a number of my new colleagues, as "Daniels come to judgment," Well, Sir, I think it is not unfair if I remind the House that the Election was fought on this particular issue, which hon Members opposite allege they have dropped, but which, by questions across the Floor of the House, or by inference, still remains a question in their programme; and we make no 1236 apology whatsoever that the first judgment which we had to deliver took the form of a notice to quit to the right hon. Gentlemen opposite. So far as this question is concerned, as to whether the McKenna Duties were a factor in the Election, I can only quote the hon. and gallant Member for Leith Burghs (Captain W. Benn) who said:The constituencies were flooded with literature referring to the motor car industry and pointing to the advantages which has accrued as a result of the McKenna Duties.So far as my particular constituency is cencerned, there is no doubt whatsoever that this was a clear and definite issue at the last Election.
On this side of the House we believe these duties to be unsound in principle and mischievous in operation. We have never denied that it is possible to protect and to shelter and foster an industry, whether an infant industry or any other industry, but we do maintain that that can only be done at the expense of the remainder of the community. We believe, in short, that the duty levied at the Custom House is passed on in every case to the consumer and ultimately becomes a part of the cost. That doctrine was laid down by no less distinguished a gentleman than Lord Balfour, 20 years ago, in 1904, when he expressed, in the most clear and lucid terms, the object of a protective duty—The object of Protection," said this distinguished authority, with whom I hope hon. Members opposite will agree, "is to protect home industry. The means by which it attains that object is by the manipulation of the fiscal system to raise home prices. If home prices are not raised, the industry is not encouraged. If the industry is encouraged, it is because prices are raised.Even that pellucid illustration has never been bettered or seriously challenged.
It is perhaps of some importance to remind the House that if right hon. and hon. Members opposite had their way, the 33⅓ per cent. duty on the finished product would not be all. There would be a tax on steel that goes to make the chassis, a tax on leather, a tax on glass, and a tax on many other component parts which go to make up the motor. If I remember correctly, an hon. Member was advocating a tax on oil. The result of the incidence of all these taxes is precisely the same 1237 in every case. It is added to the cost of the article, and paid by the consumer, for the good and sufficient reason that there is no one else to pay it. The result of the incidence of this taxation is inevitably to lead to restricted demand and consequent unempolyment—not more employment, but less—and not only in the motor manufacturing industry, as my hon. Friend pointed out, but in all the subsidiary trades which go to make up the industries which serve the motoring public.
We propose to repeal these taxes, in order to make motoring cheaper. The policy of those who sit on the other side of the House is to retain these taxes, which will have the effect of making motoring dearer. I would like to remind the House that we are living in an age of mechanical transport, and that age is as yet only in its infancy. We are spending millions on roads, widening, strengthening foundations, straightening and cutting off corners, and building bridges, and it is the duty of this House to look with vision and foresight to the development of this great industry of mechanical transport, which ought to be encouraged, but not encouraged in the way the right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite think it ought to be encouraged. Every artificial obstacle which is put in the way of private initiative and private enterprise, whether it is under the influence, the enervating influence of a tariff, or whether under the paralysing influence of State control constitutes a hindrance to development and a barrier to progress.
I believe myself that the removal of the duties would be an actual stimulus to the motor trade, and not a hindrance. The British workman is still the best in the world, and it is the duty of those who control the industries to show that their powers of organisation for large-scale production is at least equal to that of their competitors. Under the influence of tariffs, expansion is bound to be slow. The price of the home article does not fall rapidly enough, and the export trade is insignificant Hon. and right hon. Members opposite remember the late Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, who said, "It is to your exports that you must look." The only way, in my judgment, in which this problem can be solved is by large-scale production, by cheapening motoring instead of making it dearer, and by 1238 bringing the motor-car within the reach of thousands who are to-day unable to enjoy it. In that way lies the solution of the problem, and I think it would have a serious effect on the important question of employment which we are all so anxious to solve. If we can bring the utilisation of the motor-car in this country into line with something like the scale on which it is employed in America, where there are ten times the number of motor-cars that we actually have on the roads to-day, I ask the House to consider what effect that would have on trade and unemployment. Production on big lines is production on the right lines, and is production on the only possible lines which will find a solution of the problem.
There is only one other aspect of this question to which I should like to refer, and it has been touched on already by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Leith Burghs. Nearly all the arguments on this question have been of an economic or an industrial character, but I should like to point out that there is another and a higher one, and that is the ethical. Wherever protection has been introduced it has been productive of corruption. It was an American citizen who, commenting on the famous observation of Abraham Lincoln, "Government of the people, by the people, for the people," said: "Government of the people, by the machine, for the trusts." It was the effect, of tariffs which caused a prominent Midland business gentleman, not unassociated with the right hon. Member who represents West Birmingham, who said, "You give me a tariff, and I will make more money in the House of Commons in one week than in honest industry in the whole year." It is the tariff which poisons the wells of public life. I would like to quote a few words from one of the greatest authorities on economies who ever sat in the House, one whose exposition, has never been equalled since this controversy became acute, 20 years ago—the right hon. Russell Rea, who represented the constituency in which I reside. He said that this controversy—has a deeper and wider significance, that it is a battle not only between truth and error, but between light and darkness; that in the realm of trade, it is a constant struggle of benefit industry and intelligent enterprise against corruption and intrigue; and, in the realm of political life, a struggle of the greatest influence for 'peace and goodwill among nations' against inter- 1239 national jealously and strife, is an aspect of the question scarcely noticed in the din of the controversy. And the reason of this is clear, it is that on the ethical plane there are no two sides to the question.He finishes up by saying:And thus Free Trade stands justified, In the sphere of ethics it is the path of humanity, honesty, and commercial purity, but no less in the sphere of politics is it the path of safety and in the sphere of economics is it the path of profit.I wish to conclude with that, on the ethical side of the question. As for the duties, I stand here pledged to my constituents to sweep these duties off the Statute Book altogether. I wish to express the hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will not yield in any way to the foolish arguments and hysterical clamour with which the proposal to repeal them has been greeted.
§ Mr. PURCELL
I very gladly avail myself of this, my first opportunity, to address the House upon this subject, but I am afraid that what I have to say will not assist to any considerable extent the arguments of most of those hon. Members who have already spoken. I am afraid the manufacturers will find that in the long run I am not such a friend of theirs as may have been imagined, and it is because I wish to speak as a workman, and as one representing the workers of Coventry, that I look at this matter from a totally different standpoint to that taken up by the majority of the previous speakers. So far as the last Election is concerned, I think the workmen of Coventry made it quite clear that they were urging—as we have urged all the way through—that neither Free Trade nor Protection is any help to them at all. I believe that to be the case now, and despite all that has been said in the course of this Debate with regard to corruption being the result of Protection, I have visions of just as much corruption occurring under Free Trade, and if I am asked to believe that there is less unemployment under one system than under the other, I go back to Lancashire, I look round, I see Free Trade in operation and I see large numbers of people unemployed, while I suppose one would discover that long periods of unemployment occur in Protectionist countries. I do not think that the question of Free Trade or Protection, in the main, affects the position of the workman.
1240 A great deal of interest is being taken by some people in Coventry at the present time and that interest almost reached its maximum last December. If hon. Members look up the "Midland Daily Telegraph" of 5th December last they will find a half-page advertisement on behalf of the Conservative candidate laying it down that if he were not elected there would be 50 per cent. less workmen in the motor shops in Coventry. Then quite recently we had our Liberal friende in Coventry, on the same platform, because they did not believe it was a good thing to remove these terrible McKenna Duties so soon. I wonder to myself what they are both driving at. I may feel that there is safety in neutrality and that a position of neutrality is in all the circumstances perhaps the best position, but I am not going to be neutral. The position of the workmen of Coventry is that no body of workmen have suffered more. Unemployment has been their lot as bad as it has been experienced anywhere, and something more has been their lot. In many instances children have taken their places on certain operations in the works. I heard complaints made about the signatures of girls and boys being obtained for these petitions. Many of these girls and boys are the children of men who have no hope, of resuming their old jobs in these factories. I have also heard it said that many men have signed these documents through fear of the employers. It is quite true, I believe, that many of these men, who are in work at the present time, signed because they feared the consequences. I do not think that will be disputed. I think we could produce quite a large number who would say that such is the attitude which they had to take up for this reason—that having been so long unemployed, having now got back again to the shop, they were not eager to put themselves out once more, and, consequently, they signed. I do not think there is anything wrong about that attitude, and I am not making any complaint against anybody regarding it. I do not suppose the Tory party supply an isolated case in this respect. I have heard of petitions on behalf of the Free Trade case which would scarcely bear much more investigation than these petitions.
We can afford to be neutral upon this question. [HON. MEMBERS: "Can you?"] Yes, we can. Hon. Members should not 1241 make any mistake about it. What we say is that, apart from Liberal or Tory, Free Trader or Tariff Reformer, it is our own industrial organisation which will protect us if we ever want protection at all. That is our view, and I believe at this moment, so far as the trade union men in Coventry are concerned, they believe these duties ought to be retained. I say that because as a result of my association with them I can pretty easily guage their feelings and opinions. I am a trade unionist myself, and I have acted in the trade union movement, and, naturally, the unions are in a position to supply the necessary information in that respect. I am not spying anything about the documents which have been mentioned, or expressing an opinion as to whether they are good, bad or indifferent. I am not concerned with that question, but I am certain that the feeling among the union men in Coventry is in favour of the retention of the duties. I say that because of the expressions of opinion which I know have been made on their behalf, and because of the documents which I have received, and to which the men have subscribed themselves through the presidents, secretaries, treasurers, shop stewards or check stewards of their particular branches of the union. I must be guided by that expression of opinion, and if these men feel that they are going to be thrown into unemployment, I am not going to cast my vote in any direction except in such a direction as will make it a protest against their being thrown into unemployment.
All the talk about what can be done by producing more cars; the statement that all we have to do is to get 100,000 cars instead of 62,000, or 516,000 motorcycles instead of 416,000, and other statements of that character, may be all very well, but what we have to ask ourselves is this: If we remove these duties, where are the men to go in order to get employment? The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), in some letters to the Press recently, implied, in effect—I do not quote his actual words—that some consolation was to be found in the fact that a large firm was about to start to manufacture motor tyres at Leyland, in Lancashire. He said this firm had £20,000,000 capital, and that it was a good thing that it should come to this country. I dare say it will be a good thing, but is it meant to suggest that 1242 the people who are liable to be thrown out of work temporarily by the removal of these duties are to go to Leyland and start making tyres? That is the question which the workmen will ask. I leave the motor trade for a moment or two, though I propose to return to it later, and I direct the attention of the House to the position in the piano trade. I happen to know a little about it, because I worked in that trade. Again, I am not concerned about the position of the manufacturers but about the members of my own particular union. I know that, before the War, the condition of employment in the piano trade was the most precarious of that in any trade in the woodworking industry. I speak now of firms in and around London, but there is very little piano making outside that area. These men were so precariously employed that they were regarded as being only in partial employment during the months of April, May, June and July. I leave it to hon. Members to decide for themselves whether the change is all due to the McKenna Duties or not, but I am entitled to say that since 1920 the trade has been so regulated, or rather employment in the trade has been such, that for the last three years it has run continuously rather than as a seasonal employment. The men will tell you that they prefer that condition of affairs to the condition of affairs which previously prevailed.
These are facts, and hon. Members will have something to do to controvert them. All the academic talk we have heard will not convince me, if I am working in the British piano-making industry, as against such facts as I have mentioned. You may produce all the documents and all the figures you like, but, as a worker in that industry, I will reply that what I want is a week's work every week. If Protection gives it, I will take Protection; if Free Trade gives it, then I will have Free Trade. If I can get a bit from both, then I will take both. That is the view of the workmen. There are hon. Members sitting on these benches who represent the Miners' Federation. I make the assumption—it is only an assumption, and I make it respectfully—that, if foreign coal mining could be carried out at a much cheaper rate, if coal could be extracted abroad much easier than here, and could come across here and be a formidable competitor with British coal, 1243 the Yorkshire miners would be the first to object. If other people could compete against them and cut rates so low as to endanger the Yorkshire miners, the Yorkshire miners would oppose it. I go further than that and I say that one day we shall destroy all these contradictions and all this zig-zag which runs through all our industry and through the whole social make-up at the present time. I wish we could destroy it to-day. I am inclined to think, whenever we give the workpeople in any industry a standard of living which we regard as correct, and when we say that the conditions of life are not to fall below that standard, we would indeed be fools if, under a better social order, we allowed anybody else to interfere with that standard and with those conditions. The only thing is that, under a better social order we should probably do it better than our Friends on the opposite side of the House propose to do. We would say, "You cannot come in under any circumstances."
All these difficulties arise because of the capitalist system, which in this and every other country has so entangled itself in a maze of contradictions and of zig-zag operations that it finds itself hopelessly unable to carry out any reconstruction policy. While I support the maintenance of these duties I do so because the workmen feel that, having just got back into their employment in Coventry and other places, this is a menace to their prospects of getting back some of what they have lost during the past two and a half-years Many of them who are friends of mine and who have been concerned in negotiations, tell me that immediately this matter got going their relationships with the employers were cut off, that there was very little chance of bargaining with safety, and that there have been adjournments and suspensions of negotiations again and again. If, for no other purpose than to establish them in a stronger position and enable them to bargain more effectively with their employers, I would be in favour of the maintenance of these duties simply in order to give them that strength. That is the view I take.
The next point is that the conditions in these shops are not of the best. What I feel is that if there be any lessening in the amount of work available—I cannot 1244 follow the figures that have been given, and I believe you could use them to prove almost any argument—it reduces these men's chances of reorganising themselves in order to see that there shall be less and less cheap labour employed in these factories. It, as it were, reduces them to that extent, and that is an additional reason why I take up the attitude that I do, but I cannot conclude without saying a word or two with regard to the condition of industry generally. No one can look at the industry in Coventry without feeling that there is an immediate and urgent necessity for more efficient organisation among those people. I am not reading a lecture to employers. I am speaking entirely to our own people, and my own view is that some day we shall change this condition of things and reorganise it into a totally different position. Those machines could be made considerably cheaper, and the home market would be all the better developed—much better than at the present time. I do not think that that can be gainsaid at all, but what applies to the motor industry applies to every other industry as well. What applies with regard to the conditions in the woodworking or the piano trade, applies throughout the whole of industry, and it is because I feel that during that transition period, during whatever change that may be imminent at the moment, we have no scheme ready on which to put our skilled engineers, that I cannot be a party to the removal of these duties. I resent this idea of talking about the dole, the most insulting thing that was ever uttered, so far as the workpeople are concerned. It is not a dole at all. It is theirs, every penny of it, and I do not want to be a party to putting another one of them on it. I regard it as a great pity that this very excellent Budget should be, as it were, wedged in with this thing that could well have been left out, and feeling that that is the attitude that I ought to express to this House, and that it is the view of the people whom I represent in most of the trade unions in the Coventry district, I cannot support the removal of these duties.
§ Mr. ROBERT MacDONALD
I rise in this House for the first time to say what little I can say in regard to this fundamental problem of the McKenna Duties. We have heard a great deal this afternoon from various speakers, but we have 1245 had no speaker who has denied that the McKenna Duties have increased employment in this country, and we have had no direct statement that the removal of these duties will not cause unemployment. We certainly have had quite a large number of statements based upon ethics and science, but I would like to remind those hon. Members who have used them that neither science nor ethics has ever proved anything in this world. The only way in which you can prove anything, says the scientist, is by experiment, and the experiment of the McKenna Duties has proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that they have relieved unemployment and that they have created employment. I can assure the House that I have a great deal of sympathy with the remarks made by the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Purcell), who has just sat down, and I would like to compliment him on his speech. It was undoubtedly a speech worthy of any statesman or Member of this House; it was a speech of a coming statesman, if the Government stay in long enough, because I have no doubt that the day is not far distant when he will be able to stand up there and to say to his friends, who are opposing him to-day: "I told you so, so many years ago."
Particularly was I interested in his reference to the piano industry in the City of London. I make no apology for stating that I have been associated with and attached to that industry practically all my life, and what the hon. Gentleman said regarding the sweated state of the industry some little time ago, I can in every way verify. Previous to the War this was an industry which, at this time of the year, automatically closed up for three or four months, but since the operation of these beneficent duties, every piano manufacturer in the whole of London—and that represents about 90 per cent. of those in the whole country—has been enabled to continue his factory in full and active operation for 48 hours per week. The increase in price is regulated entirely by the increase in wages, and I would like to tell the House that this particular trade, whereas in 1914 it was a sweated, underpaid industry, to-day is the best paid craft trade in the United Kingdom. Working men in this particular trade receive 1s. 9½d. per hour, and I think I am right in saying that 1246 that is the highest paid craft trade in the United Kingdom. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Well, it is one of them. As to whether or not the McKenna Duties have benefited the trade, the latest figures available show that in London alone last year we produced 90,000 pianos, and that we imported 12,000 pianos from all over the world. In pre-War days, from Germany alone we imported between 30,000 and 40,000 pianos, and then there were pianos imported from America, France, Austria-Hungary and Russia.
The trade to-day is undoubtedly in a very flourishing condition, and the men, without in any way being forced or inordinately petitioned, have voluntarily petitioned the Federation to petition the Government in the hope that the McKenna Duties would not be removed, because, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer has already been informed, the men in this trade are organising their unions to apply for an advance in wages, and if the McKenna Duties are retained, as the Chancellor has been told, there is great likelihood of the men getting an advance, so that it is on that basis that they have exhorted the Federation to make application to the Government. Apart altogether from the manufacture of that colossal number of instruments in the United Kingdom, I would like to remind the House that there are other industries entirely contingent upon this particular trade, which, if the duties are removed, will be compelled to go out of business altogether. Let me give one illustration of a particular firm in the City of London which manufactures the mechanical part of the instrument known as the action. In pre-War days, in the City of London, that firm employed about 100 or 150 men at the busiest season. To-day they are employing between 800 and 900 men, and it is an established fact that as this particular firm have a business on the Continent, the natural corollary of the removal of the duties would be that they would automatically close up their factory here and transfer their activities to the Continent. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because the rate of wages here is at 1s. 9½d. per hour, and they could not possibly compete with continental labour at one-third of that rate. [An HON. MEMBER: "Under Protection!"] If hon. Members take that line, they should take into consideration, not the Continent, but 1247 the United States of America, where the wages are equally high.
There is no doubt that even the threat of the withdrawal of these duties has caused a great displacement of labour in this particular industry. I was on the telephone some two or three hours ago, and I had the latest figures, which can be verified, if necessary, by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, showing that already 35 per cent. of the piano trade are drawing the dole—35 per cent. out of the 10,000 employed in this trade. That is the result of the mere suggestion of withdrawing the duty, and if the right hon Gentleman or any other sceptically-minded Member had been in the North of London yesterday, in one most important factory, he would have seen 100 or 150 men dismissed and marching towards the Employment Exchange in order to register themselves as unemployed. The reason why these men are being dismissed at the moment is because of the momentous statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the McKenna Duties will be withdrawn on the 1st August this year. Between now and the month of August is the time when this particular trade manufactures its stock. There is no real demand for the production of this trade at this moment, but they must provide during the summer months for the demands during the winter months, and consequently, the demand being good during the tenure of this particular duty, they would normally manufacture during the next two or three months, but no manufacturer to-day can afford to manufacture a stock instrument which costs him 1s. 9½d. an hour per man to make, when, on 1st August, the Continental productions will be dumped into this country, compelling him to sell his article at least a third below its immediate cost.
I can assure the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer that in this particular trade, as in the motor-car trade and in the other two trades which are protected by the McKenna Duties, his proposal is looked upon as a direct attempt to limit the activities of these trades, and it is a plain indication that the Government are out to abolish the prosperity of these trades altogether. It is admitted on all hands that the prosperity of the four industries operating 1248 under the McKenna Duties has been very great indeed, but surely, at a time like this, when unemployment is rampant all over the country, when every man interested in the welfare of the workers of this country is anxious to promulgate some method whereby unemployment can be relieved, the prosperity of any industry cannot be too great, and it is for that reason that I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman to reconsider the matter. I hazard the statement that no one, better than the present Government, knows the results of unemployment, and no one knows better the sufferings and misery contingent upon unemployment. When this Act was put on the Statute Book, it was recognised by all sides of this House as a most commendable measure, and I can assure the House that the trade unionists of this country are looking upon the mere suggestion of repealing this Act as a most retrograde step.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Does the hon. Gentleman say that the trade unionists associated with this industry are favourable to the continuance of these duties?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Very well. I have a letter from the Secretary of an organisation, and, if the House cares, I will read it:We also wish to inform you that this question was discussed for an hoar and a half at a trade union delegate meeting held on the 26th April, when the workers rejected a proposal for a joint deputation to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by an overwhelming majority. This has since been endorsed by a delegate meeting on Friday.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
May I ask the name of the organisation from whom the right hon. Gentleman received that letter?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I shall have great pleasure in giving the name. It is from the organising secretary of the Workers' Industrial Management Committee connected with the British Music Industries Association.
§ Mr. MacDONALD
What I am interested in is, that I as a manufacturer have had notice which entirely contradicts the statement the right hon. Gentleman has made No one denies, even at this stage, that the withdrawal of these duties will cause unemployment. I 1249 would ask the Government not to forget, as bearing upon the statement made by the hon. Member for Coventry, that every man put out of a situation to-day in this trade means that you are stabilising a foreigner in the situation. For every 10, 100, or 1,000 men you are displacing in this trade, you are automatically stabilising certain tradesmen on the Continent of Europe. You are not, as has been suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn) penalising the capitalists in this particular trade at all. It is the trade union man, the poor worker, who is to be thrown on the scrap-heap. What is to become of him? All these skilled men will be compelled to emigrate to some foreign country, where the services are required of men with high skill, which has been sometimes gained after laborious work. In those particular countries the trade unionist workers are safeguarded but the Government, evidently, have no sympathy whatever with trade and industry in this country. To use a slang word and a vulgarism, I think you are simply kyboshing and sand-bagging the trade. Next week it will be in a comatose condition, and in three months they will be out of business altogether. No argument submitted on the other side has proved to me that you have an alternative method whereby unemployment will cease in this country. We on this side of the House are absolutely persuaded, like, I venture to think, many hon. Gentlemen above and below the Gangway, that a strong application of the principle underlying these duties is the only Measure which we can adopt for the alleviation of the working-man of this country, and for promoting his happiness and stabilising his industry.
With great respect to most of those hon. and right hon. Members who have addressed the House, I would say that we have not really been discussing the question on the Paper. That question is whether, in the time of the present distress, we ought to repeal these duties. That is the question which is put by the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), and it is to that that I propose to address a very few remarks. In connection with that matter, I at once challenge my right hon. Friend and co-Free Trader, the Chancellor of the Exchequer—for I yield not one inch to him in my devotion to Free Trade—upon 1250 his assertion on the point of honour. It is always rather dangerous to raise the point of honour in this House. He said the point of honour was that we must remember promises to our constituents. I do not know what promise the Chancellor of the Exchequer made to his constituents, but I do know the promises which were made by Members of all parties in this House, not least by my Liberal Friends, who, when challenged on this question of the McKenna Duties, with hardly one exception said what I pledged myself to every time, namely, that while it was quite true these War-time taxes were to be abolished in due course, and that all parties were pledged to it, the duties having been high and maintained for so long, great dislocation that would be caused by their abolition—[An HON. MEMBER: "Speak for yourself!"]—without due notice. I have the quotations from many hon. Gentlemen here. They said that adequate time must be given to enable those engaged in the industry to find other occupations. A great many hon. Members said that, and I think it would be a reasonable thing to say. My hon. Friend the Member for Harborough (Mr. Black) says he did not, but I shall look up his case. I think I remember that, when challenged about throwing men out of work, he said you ought to give due notice. Most of my hon. Friends said so. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]
The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself says that due notice must be given. He says they will give notice to the 1st August. Most of my hon. Friends used some phrase of the same kind. I am here to say that I do not consider that that is due notice. I have reason to believe that the result of the right hon. Gentleman's action, well-meaning though no doubt it be, will be to throw a very large number of men out of work who otherwise would not be thrown out of work. Even taking the Free Trade case as proved, and that ultimately the goods being paid for by goods and services, the people displaced will find employment in other ways, the period is so short that great distress will be caused which is quite avoidable if you give sufficient notice. That is the question we are debating, and I trust my hon. Friends will permit me to state the case, and, in order that they may not think this is a peculiar view of my own, I will appeal to an authority which will, I am sure, 1251 appeal to them. This is the statement of the case, and I think it is a very true one:There is no serious doubt that the abrupt removal of these duties will cause very serious dislocation in the industries concerned. That is the fact, when all the propagandists have done their best and their worst.That is a very true saying, and it is from a leading article in the "Daily News." Really, I do commend to my hon. Friends those words from the "sea-green, incorruptible" exponent of extreme views of Free Trade, and I would ask them, in their zeal to support the Budget of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, whose admirable exposition of it filled us all with delight, not to forget we are here as trustees of our constituents, and to see that avoidable hardship is not caused. I have taken a great deal of interest in this question, although I have no personal interest whatever in it, and have nothing whatever to do with motor cars, except occasionally to drive one; but my constituents, and especially my Liberal constituents, have suffered very grave unemployment owing to the end of the War, and the depression in shipbuilding, and they naturally take a great interest in unemployment. While I was conferring with them on the subject I went to Sheffield, in order to plead for the lifeboat cause, and there I saw a number of my Free Trade friends—as staunch Free Traders as ever there were—and the facts they told me seemed to be unanswerable.
People like the leader of the Liberal party there. Sir William Clegg, strong Free Traders like Sir Robert Hadfield and others whose Free Trade principles cannot be called into question, assured me that the abolition of these duties on the 1st August would mean grave avoidable unemployment in Sheffield, and they gave me the figures, which I believe to be true. The House has not been troubled with any particular facts yet. May I give what I believe to be facts stated by very impartial people, who are all Free Traders, and have vouched for their accuracy. In Sheffield very few motor cars are made, but the steel for a great part of the motor trade is made there. In the manipulating of this steel, 6,240 men are employed. You may say there are about 6,000 as a minimum. All the people concerned have agreed that the result of the abolition of these duties will
1252 be that from 30 to 50 per cent. of these people must lose their jobs, and the reason, of course, is obvious to anyone who has ever studied economics. The effect of a 33⅓ per cent. duty is, of course, to protect the home trade. If that were not its effect, why should we as Free Traders worry about it? If the duties did not stimulate industry, what would be the objection? The fact is, of course, they do, and, indeed, already, as the result of the announcement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, four firms out of the 40 I have quoted—for the 6,240 men come from 40 firms—have already received notice that 25 per cent. of their orders must be cancelled. Of course, that must be so, and, in the course of time, I think it will be agreed that from 30 to 50 per cent. of the work will not be required to be done, and, for the time being, from 30 to 50 per cent. of the 6,000 people employed by these 40 firms, out of 200 in Sheffield, will be, out of a job, Why? I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, why should he deliberately throw 2,000 men in Sheffield out of a job when by giving adequate notice they would have time to find another job, and the manufacturers time to turn their works to other purposes? I have followed a perfectly consistent course in this matter. I have fought the Free Trade cause right through my time, and when it came to the Safeguarding of Industries Act, I urged the same point I am urging now, that you ought not to take off duties in times of distress without giving adequate notice. The notice given is not enough. I put down an Amendment on the Paper suggesting that at least two years' notice should be given. I think it would be wiser to make it three. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] It is all very well for my hon. Friend to raise an ironical cheer. He will not raise an ironical cheer when 23,000 people are out of work. Unless all economic theory is wrong, unless everyone from Adam Smith onward is wrong, unless every Free Trader is wrong, it is absolutely certain—taking the number of men employed in this industry, deducting all these absurd exaggerations to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred; I myself think that he put it too high at 200,000; my estimate would be a less figure than that; I should have thought from 100,000 to 125,000—that the result of the sudden repeal of 1253 the duty, operating after a period of eight years, must be to throw out of work at least a quarter of those people.
I speak not in any party spirit, but because I think we are doing a great wrong to the nation, and I urge hon. Members to pause before they condemn 23,000 men to be out of a job, and to drawing what is improperly called the dole. It is peculiarly unfortunate for those who are Liberals and Free Traders. If this Motion be carried, it is the end of Free Trade. It has not happened in our time, to let an industry grow up like this—a hothouse plant—under the shadow of a Protective duty. It was never before said: "All right, let us take the plant straight out into the frost and let it die." When the people concerned are your own friends and brothers, whom you represent here, it ought not to be done. It should be done gradually and by slow degrees. This action will almost be the end of Liberalism. Be it observed that when these 23,000 men come to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, he will be able to say to them: "Well, I am sorry, but when my plans have been brought fully to fruition, you will own your own factory, or the nation will take it over on your behalf, and we shall very likely have an international arrangement which will avoid all these troubles." But we Liberals do not believe in the possibility of that. So when we say to the working man, who is out of a job, "Do you mind this?" and he say, "Yes, I do, why have you done it?" And we can only say in reply, "But think of the glories of Free Trade," the workman will say, "Away with your Free Trade. All I know is, I used to be drawing £4 a week, and now, through your precipitate action, I am out of a job, and my wife and my family and myself are dependent on the dole." I am sure it is wrong, and I would urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer to consider whether he will not, even at this eleventh hour, give a further extension of time. It would be no surrender on his part. He has already conceded the principle that there should be an interval of time. I am not attacking him in any party spirit. Why should I? I, as a Free Trader, do not want Free Trade to be destroyed. The result of his action will be, for the first time in our memory, to produce a small army of unemployed men. It will be so disastrous that I would beg of him, at this eleventh hour, to make 1254 some concession in order to avoid a disaster which would recoil on all parties in this House, and, principally, on those who have supported Free Trade.
§ Sir PHILIP SASSOON
The right hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, has made a speech which will carry conviction in all parts of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] Some hon. Members who have spoken this afternoon have, perhaps, allowed themselves to be carried away too much by their fervent economical and political opinion. One does not need to be a Protectionist, or a member of the Opposition, to be in favour of the retention of these duties for a while, and it would be a grave misfortune to allow this question to be decided on party or doctrinaire lines. I hope, and I am sure that many Members on this side of the House hope with me, that after the speech to which we have just listened hon. Members below the Gangway will not renounce the sacred ties of parentship, and commit their own offspring to an untimely grave. I ask them to remember the claims of their own working men supporters before they aid and abet so unnatural a crime. One does not need to be a Protectionist to realise that if these duties were necessary and justifiable in 1915, they are no less necessary and justifiable to-day. The conditions affecting trade and industry are no less exceptional to-day than they were then. The burden of our debt is immeasurably greater, and we are confronted with the further handicap of the collapse of foreign exchanges. The burden of unemployment is far greater. The same reasons that excused the begetting of these duties justify their retention. The years following a war are more difficult for industry even than the years of the conflict itself. It is idle to maintain that a short period of six years is sufficient to repair the ravages of the great War. That is the overriding argument in favour of retaining the duties, and it appeals to a very wide opinion outside this House—far wider than is comprised within party limitations. It will be a thousand pities to settle this matter from a party point of View. It goes without saying that if these duties are repealed, it will offend all those who hold it as a general principle that our own home markets should be protected; but it will also offend a vast number of those 1255 who, while not being Protectionists, are content to let well alone; and it will offend a still greater number of those who think, rightly, that unemployment is the most vitally important problem with which the Government have to deal. I hope the Government will not think that because the announcement of their intention has provoked a storm of protest from the industry affected, and a harvest of resolutions, petitions and deputations, it would weaken their position if they seemed to yield to outside pressure. He may find that the allegiance of members of the Liberal party is dearly bought at the price of turning out of employment many thousands of skilled workers. There have been many cogent arguments put forward on all sides to-day in favour of these duties. It has been urged that the industries have flourished under the shelter of these duties, that the prices of the manufactured articles have fallen, and many other things good for those particular trades have occurred. The argument I would like to put forward for the attention of hon. Members opposite is a simple bread-and-butter argument. Whoever pays for these duties, the articles themselves are in the nature of luxuries: but the point is that the people who make them cannot afford to lose the employment with which their manufacture provides them. The nature of the agitation that has been referred to to-day is even more illuminating than its volume. Since the intention of the Government was made public, we have seen an extraordinary demonstration of unity and accord among employers and employed. I say this with due deference to what the Chancellor of the Exchequer said. It is in signal contrast with the influence that has hitherto affected the relations between employers and employed since the advent of a Labour Government to office. All ranks and classes in the districts affected are at one. They find themselves fervent, if unexpected, allies. If that wore the intention of the Government in the action they have taken, I would like to congratulate them very heartily on the result. We have seen a remarkable example of the solidity of the interests of capital and labour, and if that lesson is laid to heart we may find that the most recent and, perhaps, the final sacrifice of the Liberal party on the altars of Free Trade, may 1256 not have been made in vain, for from the ashes of their immolation there may, perhaps, arise a new and more liberal understanding of the mutual inter-dependence of capital and labour. While we see capital and labour, employers and employed, combining in protest against a common peril, the nation, which, according to some speakers to-day declared an emphatic verdict in favour of Free Trade at the last election, has raised no voice against these duties. You have a few-doctrinaire Free Traders like you have a few doctrinaire Tariff Reformers arguing on the matter, but that is all. There is no popular demonstration against these duties. I think the Government of a democratic country exists to give effect to the expressed view of the people, and the machinery of government should be used, not to elaborate ideas of economic symmetry wherewith to further their own or their party's interests. There has been no popular desire for the removal of these duties, and there has been a widespread desire on all sides, and in all sections of the electorate, that nothing shall be done that in any way shall tend to increase the numbers of the unemployed.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
I do not think that the hon. Member is voicing the opinion of anybody in this House when he expresses a doubt that there is a widespread feeling in the electorate against doing anything to increase unemployment.
§ Sir P. SASSOON
If the hon. Member needs conviction, I am sure he has only to go down to his own constituency and get it. I do not see why this should be in any way made a party question, or even a matter of party discipline. The vote, as I said, is not one upon the economic policy of Free Trade. It is not even a Vote of Censure on the Government. It is a plain, straightforward vote on the point of view of a very important industry. The point is, that almost all those who are employed in this industry, whether they are workmen or employers, or whether they are employed in the auxiliary trades that depend upon 1257 the prosperity of industries affected, agree that if these duties are taken off, it will result—in fact, the process has begun already—in the immediate reduction of production and employment. I have only, in conclusion, to ask one question. Can any party or can any Government do anything that will turn out into the street one single man profitably employed to-day? I think there is but one answer, and it can be given effect to without laying a greater burden upon the consciences of free traders opposite, or below the Gangway, than was cheerfully assumed by the very high priest of Free Trade when these duties were first imposed.
§ Mr. DARBISHIRE
I regret the speech which has just been delivered from this side, and for my part I do not for one moment recognise the appeal that this ought not to be made a party question. I am a member of the Liberal party because it is the Free Trade party. If the Liberal party is going to abandon Free Trade, as I understand the right hon. and gallant Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely) proposed that we should do, then I shall not remain a member of the Liberal party. I assume that the Amendment put down for an extension of the time of these duties is a demonstration in force of the new Liberal wing of the Conservative party. The unfortunate thing about that wing is that it does not fly. Still, there might be an attempt made to cross the Floor of this House, and I venture to suggest that it would be well if some hon. Members would get across.
I should like to congratulate the Government that in this question they have abandoned the policy of continuity which was given as an excuse, for the prolongation of Tory Measures and ideals which they inherited from the last Government. It had a bad pedigree, this policy of Continuity, being out of Tranquillity by Honesty. This Budget is a welcome break from the policy of past Budgets, because it is founded firmly on the principles of Free Trade. I should like to take this opportunity of conveying to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the President of the Board of Trade the feeling of relief which is felt by all men who are interested in the great staple industries of this country, and who are associated with banking, commerce, and 1258 great financial matters of this kind, at finding that we have now on the Front Government Benches men who are well-grounded in the principles of political economy. In the last Government it was not so. The President of the Board of Trade was a representative whose utterances on trade and the exchanges were the laughing stock of the City, and of those other places which are interested in the export and import trade of the country.
This Debate has been made remarkable for one fact, in that we have had the belated intervention of the ex-Prime Minister. I agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I am disappointed for the right hon. Gentleman did not contribute anything very coherent or cogent to the discussion. That is not surprising when one considers the rather confused and congested state of the right hon. Gentleman's mind on questions of economics. I do not wish to give illustrations, but let me give just one. The ex-Prime Minister, not so very long ago, told this House that reparations from Germany could only be obtained by a surplus of exports. He then went across to America, and negotiated the funding of our debt to America, and I applaud him for it. I have nothing to say against him in regard to that I am not one of those who believe that we should break our financial bonds because our debtors have defaulted. The right hon. Gentleman poses as being in a state of puzzled bewilderment in an abnormal world. He looks like the central figure in a game of economic blind man's buff. He came back from America, having settled the debt, and tells this House that the only solution to our economic troubles is to restrict exports, and that in view of the fact that he had made a settlement with America which involved a surplus export to that country of £35,000,000 a year. He comes to this House, and tells us that, after thinking things over, the only solution is a restriction of exports. No one was more astounded than hon. Gentlemen opposite, and one of them explained in a state of great excitement, "You mean imports?" and the right hon. Gentleman promptly answered, "No, I mean exports." I give that as an example and illustration of the muddle-headed thinking of the ex-Prime Minister on questions of political economy.
1259 What is the policy of the hon. Gentlemen opposite? We were told they had abandoned Protection, but now somebody cries out for it. What is the meaning of it? I can only imagine that the conscience of the ex-Prime Minister has been pricked. At the Tory Nonconformist Conference the other day, he discovered, or disclosed to an astonished world, that he was descended from some Wesleyan stock which had been quite willing to go to the stake for the sake of a principle. I think he subsequently found out the difficulty of reconciling his declaration with the facts. Protection in November; its abandonment in January. That is the only thing which accounts for this sudden reversal of the policy of the right hon. Gentleman. What is the real reason. It is only an illustration of a dog returning to its vomit. The Tory party stands for Protection just as Liberals and Labour Members stand for Free Trade. In spite of the fact that the ex-Prime Minister said that be was going to abandon Protection he has now returned to his vomit and is licking it up again. We Free Traders are ridiculed by adolescent noble Lords opposite because we adhere to Cobdenite dogmas and doctrines, and they are fond of using the word "shibboleth." May I remind them that those who tried to vise the word shibboleth in the old days perished, just as many of the hosts of the ex-Prime Minister perished at the last Election. The bringing in of the word "shibboleth" is supposed to give the impression of something ancient and rigid, but there is something even more ancient and less elastic than Free Trade and that is Protection.
One of the idols of hon. Members opposite, especially of the Tory Democrats (that strange contradiction in terms.) Mr. Disraeli, told us many years ago that Protection was "not only dead but damned." The right hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely) has advocated the extension of these duties, but no one with any idea of business could advocate a course of that kind. I speak as a business man, and my opinion is that these duties ought to be abolished on the 1st of May, and I think Mr. Morris advocates that himself. There is nothing so demoralising or damaging to business as a state of suspense, and now we do not know what 1260 prices are going to be when the duties are repealed. They may rise or they may fall, and as a matter of fact prices usually do just the opposite to what most people expect them to do.
I am sure every business man will tell you that it would have been much better to have repealed the duties straight away, and the trade would have known by this time what the prices were going to be. Prices always cast their shadow before to a certain extent, but I urge the Chancellor of the Exchequer, if be has any intention of altering the date, to bring forward his proposal at once and not postpone it. We have three summer months before us, and people want to buy cars, but the result of this policy will be that people will wait till August in order to see what the price will be then. This will slow down orders, and there will be a general dislocation of the trade. I hope the Chancellor of the Exchequer will take into consideration my plea that these duties should be removed at the earliest possible moment.
What is the reason for suggesting this delay? It is not put forward to help the industry, but the real reason is that if hon. Members opposite can keep these duties on for another year they are hoping that there may be some turn of the political wheel, and perhaps a fall of the Government, and a possibility that hon. Gentlemen opposite may come into power and have an opportunity of keeping these duties on. We have been told that the Liberals have no mandate for the repeal of these duties, but if hon. I Members will only refer to the Liberal manifesto issued at the last General Election they will see it sets forth that every tariff restriction on trade was a cause of unemployment.
I stated in my election addresses in 1922 and 1923 that I stood for unqualified Free Trade, the repeal of the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the ridiculous Dyes Act which is bringing ruin to the dyeing trade in this country. Some years ago Mr. Bayard, the American Ambassador, told us that Protection placed politics on the level of a mercenary scramble, and we see an illustration of this when we notice the length manufacturers will go in order to maintain a subsidy which they are drawing from the rest of the community. The length to which this agitation in the 1261 papers has been carried is enough to make one shudder for the purity of public life.
I appeal to the Government to do something to stop this new system of writing letters to Members. At the last Election a number of men employed in certain tyre works urged me to vote for a 33⅓ per cent. duty on foreign tyres. I reprimanded those who wrote me on this subject, and pointed out that this was a most undesirable innovation, and I held meetings outside the gates of the works concerned, and I succeeded in convincing those men that what they were suggesting would ruin their industry, and when I left the meeting I had a great ovation. We have been told that there will be a flood of imports if we take off these duties, but we all remember that the same story was told us years ago in connection with bicycles. At that time there was an agitation because we were being flooded with American bicycles. In 1899 £300,000 worth of bicycles were imported, and we exported £100,000. We then proceeded to develop and organise that industry, and now we are importing only £10,000 worth of bicycles an exporting seven times the value of bicycles we were, exporting 24 years ago £700,000. If that can be done with a small article like a bicycle, how much easier it will be to do the same thing with a large article like a motor car.
We have been told that these duties have attracted capital and men to this industry, but this has resulted in an artificial industry being built up which will not stand healthy competition. We have had five years of this protection and not one in three of the companies engaged in this particular trade pays a dividend. The whole finance of it is rotten, and the men in charge of this industry are not worthy of being in charge of any important industry in this country. These companies have got into a state of insolvency which is a disgrace to any business man, and this after four years of Protection. A motor manufacturer said that once we have stabilised the whole market we shall be able to quote especially low prices for export trade. This means that we are to pay through the nose in order that foreigners, German and French can buy our motor cars more cheaply than we can. All those engaged in business know that there are always two prices in 1262 these matters, one for the home market and one for abroad. The Australians put a duty on certain articles because we were selling those goods in Australia cheaper than we were selling them in this country. As a matter of fact there are no bigger dumpers in the world than the British people.
No wonder the ex-Prime Minister could say "We are out for the producer all the time and every time," in a public speech that he made recently. I envy the ex-Prime Minister in having a flock so sheep-like—I was going to say go stupid, but I will not say that—as hon. Members opposite. They start out for Protection, and they get stopped at the gate. Their Leader turns round, and they turn round with him. He pokes his nose through a hole in the fence, and they follow him. It reminds me of the story of the father, mother and five children who all slept in the same bed. One of the children was asked, "How is it that you do not fall out?" and he said, "We all lie like spoons, and when father turns, we all turn." It is the same with the Tories and the ex-Prime Minister. It is true that Lord Derby is a little bigger and stouter than the rest, and so he cannot get round so easily, but he gets round all the tame in the end. May I remind the House that Lord Derby explained before the last Election that Protection was only temporary, and that it would fade away? We see this evening how the McKenna Duties would fade away if hon. Members on the other side had their way. I congratulate the Government on their Budget, and I congratulate them on this proposal most of all, because it does indicate that the Chancellor of the Exchequer is a Free Trader heart and soul.
§ Mr. CRITTALL
I wish at the outset to claim that indulgence which is extended to every Member who makes a maiden speech in this House. I should like, first of all, to address myself to this problem as it affects the constituency which I represent. That constituency is the Maldon Division of Essex, and I think there are very few rural constituencies which are more widespread. It includes some eighty villages, a great many small holdings, and a few small towns, and, in brief, is a constituency which extends almost across the County of Essex. I think the most important 1263 question to the people living in that constituency is the question of transportation, and I want to look at this matter from the point of view of just what is good for them, without any particular reference to what the effect may be in the rest of the country. Transportation is the most important matter that they have to consider. Farmers, carriers—who are a great institution in that part of the country—every baker and butcher, plumbers, and all people of that kind., have widespread businesses which very largely have to be taken care of by some means which enables people to be carried about the country. For that reason, any thing that will tend to bring down the cost of transportation—which, as I claim, the taking off of the McKenna duties will do—must be for the benefit of that constituency, and, therefore, from the point of view of the constituency that I represent, the taking off of the McKenna Duties must be a good thing.
It is not that we have not industries, or, at any rate, one industry, that is affected by the taking off of these duties, and I have had a petition from a factory operating inside the Maldon Division. I have taken particular pains to investigate the origin of that petition and the circumstances in which it was obtained. I think I am wrong in calling it a petition; it would be more correctly described as a resolution. It came to me yesterday from a factory employing some 600 people making components for the motor-car business, and I immediately set inquiries on foot to ascertain, if possible, just what, was the question that was put to the people who voted on the matter, and the circumstances in which the question was put. I found that the circumstances were peculiar, in that the voting took place at 11.30 on Saturday last, the men being summoned by the blowing of the hooter in the factory; and on going from their work they found that the gates of the factory were locked, and they all had to go to the mess room and be addressed by one of the directors on the awful effects which the taking off of the McKenna Duties would have on their employment. They were told also that they would be paid for the time they were losing in voting on this important question. I think that to pay people to give a free expression of their opinion, and to compel them to go to the voting, is at least something 1264 rather in advance of what is considered to be fair play in this country, and I think that for that reason I am entitled to disregard this resolution which has been sent to me.
Another point in this connection is the question of the Ford Motor Company. For a period of some four years, from 14 to 18 years ago, I was employed in the City of Detroit, and can claim, from that time right up to the present time, to have a pretty intimate knowledge of Detroit conditions. I have visited Detroit frequently, and am closely connected with a business that is operated there at the present time; and in the earlier days of the Ford Motor Company at Trafford Park, I had a good deal to do with supplying material used in that business. Since then I have frequently done business with them in their various extensions, and I was very much surprised to find that in, I think, "The Motor" of last week or the week before, a picture was shown of the Ford Motor Company's works at Trafford Park, and the heading of the picture was, "What the McKenna Duties have done." To say that the Trafford Park works have anything to do with the McKenna Duties is simply misrepresentation, because the Trafford Park works were there long before the McKenna Duties were heard of, and the Trafford Park works would exist, McKenna Duties or no McKenna Duties, as they are the definite result of a policy on the part of the Ford Company—a policy of decentralisation, which they entered into some eight or ten years ago. That policy was brought about by the enormous production at Detroit, which reached a stage when the cars they produced and the materials they purchased were more than the railway facilities of the city could take care of. They could neither bring raw materials into the city nor take the products out, and for that reason they adopted a policy of decentralisation, which resulted in the building, I think in some 12 leading American cities, of big Ford factories to take care of local requirements, a natural corollary to that being the extension of Ford factories abroad, in England and other countries. We have heard that the company contemplates a further extension in this country, either at Southampton or somewhere else.
1265 Possibly I am speaking rather beyond the extent to which I am entitled to go, but I think I can say with certainty that this factory will go on whether the McKenna Duties come off or not, and I think that to use the Ford Company as an argument for the retention of the duties simply indicates that the people who do that either do not know what they are talking about or are prepared to misrepresent the matter at all costs. Another matter which has been touched upon to-day is the matter of cancellation. We have heard a great deal in the Press lately about motor manufacturers telegraphing and writing to their suppliers of raw materials cancelling 10 per cent. or 25 per cent. of their orders. That sort of talk is stage talk. Business people do not do their business in that way. This wiring of the cancellation of 25 per cent. of the requirements simply is not and cannot be done in the very nature of things. Goods are not bought in a way which allows them to be cancelled in that manner, and to talk about these cancellations is to endeavour to hoodwink the public, which all said and done is a public of shopkeepers who have a pretty good idea of business arrangements.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer talked about the financial rottenness of the industry, and various people have spoken of the state of the motor-car firms and their financial standing and that sort of thing. I should like to go a little further and deeper and speak more particularly of the people who supply the various parts and components which go to make up the car, and particularly of those firms who supply those parts, not only to the motorcar trade, but to the engineering trade in general. I refer to the makers of castings, forgings, stampings and what not. I do not think it will be argued that those people are in a bad state financially, but practically all these trades are subject to price rings. Unfortunately or fortunately I am the managing director of a business which has to buy very largely in the same market that the motor-car manufacturers buy in, and I buy a very large quantity of goods in the Coventry district. I have been receiving for two or three years past a supply of several thousands a week of a particular part from a certain firm in the Coventry area at the same price. For a period the supply became bad in point of quality, and I had to send to investigate 1266 what was going on. I found to my surprise that the stuff, instead of being made by the firm that supplied it, was bought by them from a smaller firm. The smaller firm got into touch and quoted a price 29 per cent. below what I was paying the Coventry house. Some three days later they wrote and said they were very sorry they had made a mistake, and the price was the original price I was paying the Coventry firm, indicating that they had been told to behave themselves. I was, naturally, rather angry at having to pay through the nose in this way, and I made investigation to see if I could not find a firm making this product who were not subject to the same influence. Eventually I was able to get a quotation 52 per cent. below the original Coventry price, and I am now buying some thousands a week of those parts at that price. This is only one instance of what I think any engineering manufacturer can tell you of the result of the action of price rings in industry. I am glad the President of the Board of Trade has indicated that he will introduce legislation to control that sort of thing. I think there is a very crying need for it. It is no exaggeration to say that if the people who are behind this industry, who are in the supply of the raw materials used in it, would organise themselves, if you like; on a trust basis, which should have as its fundamental principle the encouragement of efficiency in industry rather than inefficiency, they could supply the motor-ear trade with their raw material at a price which would enable the trade itself to disregard this taking off of the 33⅓ per cent. protection which they now enjoy.
I agree with one of the recent speakers on the matter of the period of the taking off of this duly. I think if there is a mistake "that the Chancellor has made it in the granting of the three months' grace. A motor car is not exactly like a loaf of bread. If a man wants a loaf of bread, he has to have it to-day. If a man wants a motor car he can generally afford to wait three months, and I think there is, generally speaking, an impression amongst buyers that the proper time to buy a motor car is after 1st August. For that reason the trade may be suffering, and I am sure is suffering, considerably because of this hold-up of three months. I do not suppose it is possible at this 1267 juncture to alter the policy in that respect, but the reason I mention, it is that if there is to be any pointing at loss and saying, "Here is the result of the taking off of the McKenna Duties," that result will have been very much more brought about by the three months' delay than by the actual taking off of the duty itself. Figures have been quoted as to what has happened already in the piano industry as the result of the mere threat of the taking off of the McKenna Duty. We were told that some 35 per cent. out of 10,000 employés were already on the dole. No right-minded person will say that in these few days 3,500 men can have been genuinely put in unemployment. I should like to appeal not so much as a Member of the House but as a manufacturer to other manufacturers to play the game and to give this thing a fair show. If they are going to endeavour to prejudice the issue by unfairly discharging men simply to create an atmosphere they are not playing the game, and I only hope that for the good of British industry as a whole, and for the good name of English manufacturers, they will not fail to play the game in this matter.
§ Mr. FERGUSON
I propose to talk about what I really know and what affects my own constituency. It is very unfortunate that the question of Free Trade versus Protection should have been brought in at all, because, all said and done, I would remind my Liberal Friends opposite that the Socialist party did not fight the Election on Free Trade. There is not one Minister, not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who would dare to stand up and say they fought the Election on Free Trade. To say that the Unionist party lost in the recent Election is absolute nonsense. They are the largest party. I represent a constituency which has been Liberal and Free Trade for generations. Some of the greatest Liberals that ever sat in this House have represented that constituency, but since 1918, in view of foreign competition in the iron and steel industry, it has gone over either to the Socialist or the Protectionist side, with the result that at the last three Elections the Liberals have been entirely squeezed out, and what was one of the greatest Liberal and Free Trade strongholds in Britain is now entirely wiped out, and I believe in the forth-coming Election the battle will be waged 1268 between Mr. Newbold and myself, with no Liberal in the field. [An HON. MEMBER: "Wait and see!"] You do not need to wait and see. It is a fact. I do not rise in any spirit of hostility to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for I know that Protection is absolutely impossible so far as this present House is concerned, and all I am really concerned about is as to certain industries which we have in my constituency. Wherever foreign competition has come in we are down the drain. I use that expression advisedly. The bricklayers want 2d. and you will have to give it them or you will not get houses. It was the same with the recent tramway strike. "Give it to them, because they are dislocating everything." It was the same with the railway men. It will be the same with the miners. "If they come out on strike, you will have no fire. Give them everything they want." When it comes to the iron and steel workers who have to compete with the foreigners, you say, "Go out on strike, if you like. You can die in the ditch. We can get our iron and steel from abroad." It is the same with the textile industries in Lancashire and elsewhere. Whenever an industry comes up against the foreigner, its case is absolutely hopeless. In regard to other industries, what is given to them can be put upon the public; the consumer has to pay. Whenever we come up against the foreigner we are out of it. That is where Free Trade has brought us.
In my constituency there are 12,000 men working for 6s. 3d. a day. Their earnings for a full week are only 30s. That is because of the foreign competition which they are up against. They cannot better themselves. We had 20,000 unemployed at one time in my Division, which is the centre of the iron and steel industry of Scotland. One company, the Clyde Alloy Steel Company, as a result of the 33⅓ per cent. duty which was put on in favour of the motor industry, under the former Prime Minister the right hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith), was able to open its gates and to take on a large number of men making back axles for Ford's motors. I cannot say how many men were taken on, because I might not be telling the truth. I want to speak the truth, and not to be like some hon. Members I opposite. I do not want to beat the air and to talk nonsense. The Clyde Alloy 1269 Steel Company was able to open its works when 25 other works were standing with their gates closed, and 20,000 men were unemployed. Another works, the Atlanta, has been making spares for Fords, and have been able to employ a very considerable number of men.
Therefore, I say to hon. Members, that in the interests of these two works in my constituency, the Atlanta making spares for Ford's and the Clyde Alloy making back axles, I support the retention of the McKenna Duty for a further period, and in doing so I do not consider that I should be giving a vote of censure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I would not support a vote of censure on the Chancellor of the Exchequer in asking him to give an undertaking to carry on these duties for at least another three years. In the interests of trade as a whole, and not for any particular enmity I have against hon. Members opposite, I hope that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will tee his way to retain the duties for two or three years to come.
§ 9.0 P.M.
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I can well understand the position of the hon. Member for Motherwell (Mr. Ferguson), just as I could understand the position of the hon. Member for Coventry (Mr. Purcell), who spoke earlier. They are thinking of industries in their own locality, and arguing for them. Exactly in the same way we have dockyard Members arguing for their own particular dockyard. One can understand them doing that, but this House, as a whole, has not to think of any one particular industry or any one particular constituency. Our business is to think of the country as a whole and of industry as a whole. We have to consider not whether a particular duty may be good for one particular city or one particular industry, but whether it is good for the country as a whole and for employment throughout the country.
The right hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely) was the first to deal with what is really the essential issue before the House as to the retention of these particular duties. I could not help being amused while he was speaking about the fortunes that would be involved for the Liberal party and Free Trade if this vote is carried. I could not help wondering what one of his leaders, the right hon. Member for Car- 1270 narvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), would think, when he said that if the Liberal party supported this vote it would bring about the early demise of the Liberal party. Hitherto, we have been told that there is no one inside the ranks of that party who are predicting its decay. I could not help wondering how a party could destroy itself by carrying out its own principles. On the issue that he raised, it is not whether Protection is is good thing, but whether any change should be made in the continuance of these duties. There is a good deal of truth in the adage that it is very unkind to cut off a dog's tail by inches. It is very much better for an industry to know where it is at once than to have the thing suspended for three years, as the right hon. Member for the Isle of Wight would suggest. If an industry knows where it is, it will adapt itself to the position. If, on the other hand, we have a three years' delay, we stand a chance that, at the end of the first year, the duties would not be begun to be taken off, or in subsequent years the further process might cease. Both these prospects would lead to a great deal of uncertainty, and the position would be worse than under the proposals made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
The hon. Member for the Cathcart Division of Glasgow (Mr. Robert Mac-Donald) asked how it was possible for the piano industry in this country to go on when they had to pay 1s. 9½d. an hour in wages, while in France the manufacturers could get their workpeople for a smaller wage. In that case, how is it that hon. Members opposite are afraid of competition from the United States of America, because in that country the wages that are paid by the Ford industry and others are very much higher than the wages paid in this country?
§ Mr. PETHICK-LAWRENCE
I am dealing with the arguments of hon. Members who say that, as a result of lower wages and depreciated currency on the Continent, we cannot compete. How docs the argument apply in regard to America, where there are higher wages paid, and the exchange is in the other direction? The hon. Member for Hythe (Sir P. Sassoon) told us that the motor industry was an infant industry. He 1271 asked us to realise that six years is much too short for it to mature from its infancy. The Leader of the Opposition referred to the gestation of an elephant, which occupied over two years before bringing offspring to birth. I could not help feeling that, if the hon. Member for Hythe thought that the infant would be more than six years before it was weaned, he must be contemplating an animal with a still longer period of development even than the animal contemplated by the Leader of the Opposition.
Now I come to the main issue on which this Debate has turned. I would put before hon. Members opposite this question. Is this simply a question of Protection, or is it a special matter different from the ordinary Protection issue? Many of the speakers opposite have claimed that this is not a question of Protection or Free Trade, but is a distinct and separate issue. I have not heard one speech from the other side which explains in what the difference lies. I have been waiting to hear what they claim are the specific features of this case as distinct from the Protection case generally. It is true that these duties as originally imposed were imposed for other than Protectionist reasons, but the reasons given by the promoters of these duties originally have been thrown over by hon. Gentlemen opposite, because it was distinctly stated at the beginning that these duties were provisional, and that they would be taken off later on. Hon. Gentlemen opposite have thrown over those arguments, and now that these duties have become Protectionist they are seeking to retain them, and I do feel that this is a test question for the party opposite.
We remember the remark, already quoted on this side of the House, which was made by Disraeli about Protection being dead and damned. I understand that hon. Members opposite do not go as far as that. I think that they do not go as far as admitting that Protection is dead, but I think they say that it is sleeping. If that be so, I want to know exactly whether it is in a fit of somnambulance, or why it is they keep on bringing this sleepy creature to conscious life every now and again. We have had it on other occasions and we have it now. Hon. Members opposite do not seem to 1272 realise what it is that we object to in Protection. They ask us, and they are entitled to ask us, is any particular protective duty at the present time doing any harm? I answer simply that every form of protective duty is a restraint on trade, and every form of restraint on trade is bad for industry, and is bad for employment in this country. If hon. Members opposite again attempt to argue that this is a distinct matter, that this is not a question of Protection at all, but is something entirely separate, how long do they propose that the motor duties should be continued? Do they themselves fix any date when they shall be brought to an end? If they do not propose any date when they shall be brought to an end, then they are asking that they should be continued for ever.
I challenge any one of them to explain how this differs from any other type of Protection. We on this side have been challenged with regard to the question of unemployment. We have straight definite answers with regard to it. First, we do not believe that in the long run, or even for any considerable time, this action is going to endanger the position of the motor industry, or other industries which are being protected at the present time by these duties. I believe that when the time does come for the infant to be weaned it will be in the interests of the infant that this should be done. Just as the time comes when a convalescent has to go out and face the elements, so it is in the interests, not only of the home trade, but of the export trade, of this country that the time should come when these industries should be on the open market. I would remind hon. Members that the period of time that the motor industry and these industries have had to put their house in order and face the outside world is nearly double the period which they asked for at the close of the War. They asked for three years and they have had close on six years.
Then I ask hon. Members, do they believe that the result of these duties will be to bring foreign cars into this country? If they say "No," to that, which I do not think they will, then obviously the removal of the duties has done no harm to the motor industry, but if they say "Yes," and still continue to plead that they should be retained, so as to provide employment, I would remind 1273 them of the economic fact, which no doubt they will consider merely theoretical, but which nevertheless works out in practice, that goods coming into this country are paid by goods and services going out of the country. Hon. Members smile at that, because it happens to be at the same time both theory and practice, and theory is not a very strong point of hon. Members, but that does not prevent it being true. Anyone who has studied the statistics of this country and the figures of the Board of Trade can verify this for themselves.
We in this House are here to consider the interests of the trade and the workers of the country as a whole, and not the interests of one particular industry, trade or constituency. We have to bear in mind that if there are motors coming into this country they can only be paid for by other goods going out of this country and services rendered, and therefore for every pound's worth of import you get a pound's worth of export or service, and therefore the amount of employment given owing to the increase of oversea trade is fully recompensed, and in our opinion more than recompensed, and more' employment is created than is destroyed owing to any effect produced in these industries themselves. One hon. Member referred to the payment to the United States of America. That payment is made partly in goods, and partly in gold. Hon. Members opposite who think that because it is made partly in gold that negatives the idea of employment being given in this country, forget that we do not mine gold in this country, and that every ounce of gold which we send to the United States we have ultimately to buy by our own industry, which enables us to purchase it from those countries where it is produced.
Summing up the position I would say that hon. Members opposite have failed completely to distinguish between this question and any other question of protection of any kind. That being so they cannot plead that the vote given at the General Election does not fully justify the Government in taking this course. They are in the habit of looking at trade not as a whole but at one particular thing at a time. Consequently they are deluded into the idea that a particular case of protection is for the benefit of trade and employment of the country. The moment 1274 you transfer your gaze from one particular spot or industry to the industry of the nation as a whole, you can see clearly that this idea of benefit arising to industry from these duties is not founded in fact. For that reason I shall record my vote in favour of the Government and the removal of the duties.
§ Major the Marquess of TITCHFIELD
I wish to say a few words on an industry which has not yet been mentioned. It is an industry which, if the McKenna Duties are allowed to lapse, will be affected very adversely. It is the industry of ball and roller bearings. This industry is subsidiary to and dependent on the motorcar industry, and if the Socialists intend to kill the motor-car industry, as they undoubtedly do, ipso facto the industry of ball an roller bearings will go too. Before the War this industry was in the hands of Germany and America. So much so, that when the War broke out the Government had to buy up a foreign factory to supply the aeroplanes and motor cars to be used in the War. The factory I have in mind is in my constituency. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] Charity begins at home. In this factory 95 per cent. of the ball bearings that are sold are sold in this country. The factory has a yearly turnover of about £500,000, and I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that it does not sell £20 worth of ball bearings abroad. That is not because the management is inefficient or because it does not want to sell abroad, but because it cannot. The factory has agents in Germany, France, Italy, Spain, South Africa, India and Canada, and the reasons for the difficulty are not far to seek.
The first reason is that we have a collapsed exchange. One hon. Gentleman said that that had nothing to do with the position. I think it has. Secondly, we pay our men higher wages in this country than makers abroad. Hon. Members have heard of the Citroen factory in France. The men there are paid 7d. an hour. The factory in my constituency pays 1s. 6d. an hour. It is, therefore, not difficult to see why Messrs Ransome & Marles will be nearly closed down if the McKenna Duties are withdrawn. In my constituency the unemployment problem has been entirely solved by the Safeguarding of Industries Act and the McKenna Duties. Before the War there 1275 were employed in this factory 100 men. The factory now employs 1,600, and that is entirely due to the fact that it has grown up under the wing of the McKenna Duties. In the last two years the factory has increased its output 12 times, and it is turning out more ball-bearings in a month now than it turned out in 12 months only two years ago. Surely that is a happy change of affairs. If the Government abolish the McKenna Duties, I have it on no less authority than that of the manager of these works that he will have to dismiss at least 50 per cent. of the men. Since the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Budget speech, 25 per cent. less in orders has come in than would have been received in the ordinary way. Hon. Gentlemen opposite are always proclaiming from the housetops that they are the friends of the working man. I can assure them that the working man in Newark will not think that they are his friends if they repeal these duties. In the name of my constituency, I implore the Government to think twice before doing this mad act. On 6th May the Chancellor of the Exchequer, in answering a question put to him by the Noble Lord the Member for South Battersea (Viscount Curzon), said:I am not aware that I have directly received a single communication from the workers engaged in the industry. I have received quite a number of resolutions passed, or purporting to be passed, by the employés, but these have invariably been transmitted to me by the employers themselves."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 6th May, 1924; col. 223, Vol. 173.]I understand that the right hon. Gentleman in his speech to-day said that before he made that statement he had received two genuine petitions from the working men in these factories. I ask him, was the petition, details of which I have in my hand, one of them? It was written on 28th April. Let me read a letter on the subject:
§ "RANSOME & MARLES BALL AND ROLLER
§ BEARING COMPANY, LIMITED,
§ "7th April, 1924.
§ We herewith enclose copy of letter which we are forwarding to the Chancellor of the Exchequer with reference to his reply to the Viscount Curzon in the House of Commons on 6th instant."1276
§ The enclosure referred to is as follows:—
§ "To Mr. PHILIP SNOWDEN,
§ "Chancellor of the Exchequer.
§ We beg to acknowledge receipt of yours of 28th ultimo re resolution and petition sent by the employés of Messrs. Ransome & Maries Bearing Company, Limited, Newark, with reference to your answer in the House of Commons on the 6th instant to a question put by the Viscount Curzon re resolution submitted by the workers at these works. We wish to emphasise the fact that this meeting was organised by the workers, presided over by a worker, also the resolution was both proposed and seconded by a worker, and that no pressure was exercised in any shape or form by the management at these works."
The reason that the resolution and signature were sent in an envelope bearing the firm's heading was purely a question of facility for despatch. [An HON. MEMBER: "Do you want to insult these men?"] The letter proceeds:
We do most strongly affirm that the resolution and petition presented to you on behalf of the 1,300 workers employed at this factory was an entirely spontaneous expression of opinion by the workers. Trusting you will give this your courteous attention.
Signed on behalf of the employés—Albert W. Beard, chairman of the meeting; E. Lewis, proposer of resolution; E. G. Towle, seconder of resolution.
That is all very curious; it is all very puzzling, and I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer, before this Debate is over, should give some explanation of this very curious thing.
§ Mr. ALSTEAD
We ought not to complain if we find that the workers engaged in the motor industry are prompting the employers to place their views before hon. Members of this House, because, in so far as the circumstances will permit, it will result in nothing but good for the workers engaged in the motor-car industry to understand the sound economics of this particular problem. I would like to remind hon. Members of the fact that the Leader of the Opposition has recently placed the matter of Free Trade versus Protection before the constituencies of this country, and if there is anything to enable us to judge of the temper of our countrymen, it is that they have definitely—once more definitely—refused to accept the programme of the Conservative party for the improvement of employment and of trade. Complaints have been made in the House, and views 1277 have been expressed that the recent Elections were not fought on the question of Protection at all. I have heard a complaint by hon. Members across the Floor of the House that, at any rate, hon. Members of the Labour party did not fight the recent Election on the question of Protection. However true that may be—and the Labour party themselves can decide whatever may be the truth or otherwise of that opinion—I think that, in the main, it is true to say that the Members of the Liberal party did fight on the challenge of the right, hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, and that the bulk of the hon. Members who sit on these benches below the Gangway are here because they stood firm and steadfast for the principles of Free Trade. In the constituency in which I was privileged to fight, we made Free Trade one of the principal planks in our platform, and with this result, that in a constituency which was represented by a Conservative Member who was returned to this House in 1922 with a handsome majority of something like 8,000 votes, that vote was reversed, and the people in the division, composed for the main part of men and women engaged in trade and industry in the great city of Manchester and adjoining towns, reversed that representation on the Free Trade platform, and returned a Free Trade representative to this House. That being so, I ask: "How can I do anything but vote in favour of the abolition of these duties?" I know it is quite easy for hon. Members across the Floor of the House to instance the case of works where the output and the employment of labour have gradually increased during the operation of this protective time. But if it is time to protect a trade at all, if hon. Members across the Floor make the point that the trade and prosperity of our country have improved, and that employment has improved, by the operation of these protective tariffs, why not advocate protection of all our industries?
We hope soon again to face the electors in the constituencies. If hon. Members opposite will have the courage of their convictions at the next Election, if they will refuse to twist again on this question, if they will advocate in the country what they are ceaselessly advocating in this House, I venture to prophesy—although I am no prophet—that their defeat in 1278 December last year will be as nothing compared with their defeat on this occasion. If it is right to protect motor cars and musical instruments at the expense of the consumers and the other manufacturers of this country, why not, in the constituency represented by my hon. Friend who sits for the division of Macclesfield (Mr. Remer), protect silk? The whole policy of the hon. Members opposite is a Protectionist policy, and I doubt if they have the courage to say so. If it is right to have these protective duties on motor cars, clocks, watches and musical instruments, why not put a protective duty on the importation of Dutch cheese? Why not protect the Cheshire cheese industry? If you advocate one phase of taxation on the goods that may be produced in this country and which might be brought in from other countries, why not protect the lot, and have the courage of conviction? In the recent Election, if the verdict of the electors is interpreted aright, it is that they do not intend to allow the shackles of Protection to be imposed on them at all. I want to bring hon. Members opposite to the point that they must be made responsible for the position they take up on this important question. We hear hon. Members talking about the necessity for protecting the British manufacturer and the British worker against the Continental workman. They think that the French workmen and the Italian workmen earn so much less that it is impossible for the British manufacturer to compete with them. But these are the very countries where the people enjoy these doubtful blessings. I suggest, in all respect, to the motor industry, that the thing we need to-day is to concentrate on abundant supplies of raw material for the industry, at a cheap rate, as suggested by my hon. Friend who sits above the Gangway. I suggest that we should concentrate on a more intensive form of production of vehicles which would find a market not only in this country but in all the countries of the world. If one goes to the towns and cities of South America one finds it almost impossible to buy a British car. In the cities and towns of that vast Continent British cars are sought for in vain. Why is it? How is it that we fail so to concentrate on the production of vehicles as to get into that market? The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) shakes 1279 his head. I will give him information privately which will prove my statement to be absolutely true. These towns and cities are flooded with American cars. Why are they not flooded with British cars, and why should not we have the same chance in that market that we have in our own home market?
§ Mr. ALSTEAD
I do not wish to detain the House any longer, but having won my seat in advocating the principles of Free Trade I intend to vote for the abolition of these duties.
Sir HENRY COWAN
The hon. Member who has just sat down made a very interesting and impressive speech, but he certainly did not deal with the subject of the Motion nor with the question of the McKenna Duties at all. He confined himself to an interesting dissertation on the general question of Protection. I do not propose to follow his example, but I wish to speak with regard to the McKenna Duties as they appear to the constituency which I have the honour to represent. It seems to me that the case for the continuance of the McKenna Duties turns entirely upon their efficacy or otherwise in the matter of preserving employment and preventing unemployment. There can be no doubt, for it is within the knowledge of us all, that there is widespread unemployment in the country. There is certainly very widespread unemployment in North London and it is a singular and significant thing that the only industries which are not afflicted with this scourge of unemployment on any large scale are the industries which have been protected by the McKenna Duties. I do not propose to say anything in regard to motor cars. That industry is not to any large extent carried on in my constituency, but I wish to say a few words regarding the piano industry. The piano industry in North London may be described as an oasis in the wilderness of unemployment. In that one industry, and in that one industry alone, there is practically no unemployment at all. Before the War, as has been said by the hon. Member for Cathcart (Mr. R. MacDonald)—who speaks with intimate personal knowledge of the trade—em- 1280 ployment in the piano industry was of an intermittent and irregular character. There were long period of unemployment or short time. There is nothing of that sort to-day under the McKenna Duties. I submit in the case of the McKenna Duties as applied to the piano industry, their imposition inflicts no hardship upon anyone. After all, a piano is a luxury. No man is obliged to buy 'a piano, and no man or woman can say truthfully that they could not live without one. I do not see why unemployment should be caused, why any one man should be put out of his job, in order that some privileged persons might be able to buy pianos a little cheaper than they are able to do just now.
I think in his stubborn adherence to the worship of the discredited fetish of Free Trade, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has shown a narrowness of vision, a want of breadth of view, which one would not have expected in a man of his great attainments. It is easy to understand how galling it must be to people who owe their seats to advocacy of the pure old doctrinaire Free Trade idea to find themselves confronted with a successful experiment in what they call Protection. There is no question of its success in this case. The industries which are protected under the McKenna Duties undoubtedly are prosperous. They form the one bright spot in our industrial situation, and it is vain for our friends on the other side of the House, either Labour or Liberal, to cell us that the McKenna Duties are a failure. I have followed this Debate closely. I think I have heard every speech made this afternoon, and I have been impressed by one fact more than anything else. It is the fact that no one, not even the Chancellor of the Exchequer, has denied that the discontinuance of these duties will mean unemployment. The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed a touching and pathetic sympathy with one man whose name he would not give us—he would not even give us the name of the firm who employed the man lest this one individual should lose his employment, and I am indeed surprised that the rïght hon. Gentleman who is so solicitous that this one man should not lose his job, is willing to put hundreds and even thousands of men out of employment in order that he may maintain a futile and pitiable con- 1281 sistency. We have heard of "man's inhumanity to man." That is indeed a characteristic of imperfect humanity, but I must say it is a revelation to see in this House and in this connection such an exhibition of Labour's inhumanity to labour. Yesterday afternoon an hon. Member on the other side of the House, in the course of a Supplementary Question, made the statement that pianos were dearer than they were before the War. Of course pianos are dearer than they were before the War. Is there anything which is not dearer than it was before the War? [HON. MEMBERS: "Motor cars!"] I have no brief for the motor car industry, but we all know that the motor car industry, however profitable it may be from the point of view of Labour and however much employment it may afford, is not profitable from the point of view of capital. The piano industry, however, is profitable both to labour and capital. It is a sound industry. It has been restored under the sheltering wing of the McKenna tariff, and with the McKenna duties that industry will stand or fall. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely) said: "We are here trustees for our constituents and to see that avoidable hardship is not caused to them." That is my reason for putting the case of the piano workers of Islington before the House.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I desire to congratulate my right hon. Friend, who has just spoken, not only on his return to the House, but on his fervour in relation to his new faith. Many of us remember when he sat on this side of the House, and when we understood that he held tenaciously to the Cobdenite ideas which he now despises. Nobody can accuse the hon Gentleman of "futile and pitiable consistency." He says he deals with these things on practical grounds. It is on practical grounds, obviously, that he bases his party allegiance. We have had a speech this evening from another right hon. Gentleman, whose party position, not being quite so clear as that of the hon. Gentleman, is a matter of greater speculation. But his doctrines are equally bewildering. The right hon. Member for the Isle of Wight (Major-General Seely) has indulged in prophecy. He has told the Members of the party to which he still nominally belongs that, 1282 if we vote against this Motion to-night, it means the extinction of the Liberal party. Apparently the prophecy is based upon his own intentions. He thinks the party is going to die because he intends to leave it. Well, the Liberal party had a few years of prosperous existence before the right hon. Gentleman joined it. It has already managed to survive one defection by the right hon. Gentleman, and I think it will be able to survive another.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
The right hon. Gentleman said the Liberal party was not pledged to the repeal of these duties—
No, no. My hon. Friend did not hoar my speech. I said no such thing. I said the Liberal party was pledged to their repeal, and so was the other party. The question was as to the time.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
I will deal later with the question of the immediate repeal. We have been challenged as to whether we are pledged to repeal these duties. So far as I was able to judge of the Election, the great majority of hon. Members on this side of the House, both above and below the Gangway, made it perfectly clear during the Election what their attitude to these duties was, and it is right to recall that in the last Parliament, when the action of right hon. Gentlemen opposite was challengend in relation to these duties, Members of the Labour party and of the Liberal party voted for their repeal. Therefore, we are now merely carrying out what we professed in the last Parliament. There seems to be a prevalent delusion among hon. Members on the other side of the House, and it seems to be shared by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Isle of Wight, that there was no motor trade at all of any consequence in this country before the War; that it was necessary for the establishment of that industry that we should have these McKenna Duties, and that, apart from these duties, there would have been no business done in motor car construction, or, at any rate, that it would have been purely negligible. I have looked up the records of the period immediately before the War in an un-impeachable authority, namely, the 1283 "Times" newspaper. On the 3rd of February, 1914, there was a review of the motor industry in the "Times" which contained these sentences:Motoring has been the means of building up a vast industry. The Board of Trade Returns show how erroneous is the popular idea that our foreign trade is email compared with that of other nations. Although we import 12,000 cars more than we send abroad,"—I would remind hon. Members that we have been importing more than we have been exporting since the War—we export more than 16,500 motor cycles against less than 1,400 imported. We are over half a million to the good on the whole trade. This speaks well for the soundness of the home industry, especially when it is remembered that it is but a decade since our export trade was insignificant, and that the bulk of the cars in use at home are foreign. In point of fact, last year, in spite of the very large number of cheap care which are now being imported from America. 73.8per cent. of the cars and 96.8 per cent. of the motor cycles bought by British motorists, were of British manufacture.That is clear evidence of the strength of the industry in 1914. That was attained without any assistance from a duty, without any help at all from a tax on the rest of the community, and I maintain that results which could be attained in pre-War days under Free Trade conditions, can once again be attained and surpassed when these duties are withdrawn. It is very difficult, however, to ascertain exactly what the position of right hon. Gentlemen opposite is in relation to this question. It is a very innocent Motion—an anæmic Motion. It has been supported by speeches which were in keeping with its anæmic character.
§ Mr. PRINGLE
It is pleasing to hear that there is at least a certain amount of strength of conviction opposite. The greater part of the speeches in favour of this Motion have had no relation to its terms. They have simply put forward a conventional Protectionist argument, the advantages of Protection for the purposes of obtaining employment as a general proposition, and the arguments which have been advanced in order to justify the retention of these duties could equally well be employed to support a general tariff. Indeed, the right hon. 1284 Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) argued that a Protectionist tariff was necessary for any industry which desired to go in for massed production. He said that massed production was impossible under Free Trade conditions. That may be in accordance with Protectionist theory, but it is not in accordance with experience of this country. There are many industries in which we have had mass production in this country. One of the great points he made was that in the Protectionist country the manufacturer could have mass production, because he did not require to establish works in another country for the purpose of getting over the tariff, whereas in a Free Trade country the manufacturer had to establish branches in Protectionist markets, and thereby his overhead charges were increased. But can the right hon. Gentleman account for the fact that industries established for the first time in Protectionist countries have come to Great Britain and established branches? I am not going into a list of them. I will quote the most significant case, that is, the Singer Sewing Machine Company. That was an American company. There was no tariff here against sewing machines, but they came and established works on the bank of the Clyde, and their production there is now larger than in America. There is mass production. They established their works there, not for the purpose simply of providing for the markets in Great Britain, but for the purpose of exporting to neutral markets. It was because the Free Trade conditions here not only give an advantage so far as our own market is concerned, but give an advantage for the export trade of that great industry.
I say the same conditions apply in practically every other engineering industry, and I have no doubt that this will be increasingly found, as industry tends to return to normal, as it is bound to do in a very short time. We have been told that foreign car manufacturers have come here because of the McKenna Duties. It is true that there has been an increase in the number of foreign works established in this country since the War, but the process had begun before the War, and it would have continued since the War apart from the Duties. The Fiat works were in existence before the War, and several others. There were no McKenna Duties then, and it was solely 1285 on account of the conditions of a Free Trade market for the purpose of the motor industry that that process had begun in pre-War days.
On these grounds I think we have made it clear that, from the point of view of Protection in an industry like the motorcar industry, you have every condition for export purposes that you obtain in any protected market, and, therefore, I say, although there may be momentary dislocation, in the long run conditions will be vastly improved. You will have the cheapening of cars, which will not only increase the purchase of cars in the British market, but will enable us to do a far larger export trade than the motor industry has ever done before. While I am dealing with this question of foreign firms coming here, I would like to mention another case. We were told at the Election a great deal about motor-car tyres. It is the only accessory of the motor car which is not protected in the motor-car industry—[An HON. MEMBER: "Shame!"]—and we were told then that because that protection did not exist, the British motor-tyre industry was languishing, and would go out of existence shortly. I believe a number of people received notice, unless the late Government were returned to power. There has been the same kind of thing in any number of other industries. Attempts were made to blackmail the workers. [Interruption.] I hope the hon. Members opposite who use foreign cars will not interrupt me. What is the situation now? We have a large American firm manufacturing motor tyres coming in and establishing works in this country, although there is no duty, although there is no expectation of a duty, and although they know the Conservative Government is out and is never likely to come back. There are only one or two other considerations which I desire to put before the House. I have shown that this! is not the kind of industry which, even on the accepted view that many free traders have taken, is one that deserves protection. It does not come within the infant industry category. It is not an industry which has to be naturalised in this country, because engineering is what I may call an indigenous industry in this country. Consequently, the infant industry argument does not apply. You have all the con- 1286 ditions favourable for the motor-car industry here without a tariff.
Then the question comes: Is this the moment? I think the right hon. Member for West Birmingham will deal with that, because when he dealt with these duties in 1919, he altered the date, on the ground, he said, that he might give notice that they were purely provisional. He certainly used the word "provisional," and, consequently, I understand he regards time as of the essence of the position in this case. The question I have to put is: What better time could there be? In the first place, I have shown there is an industry for which the conditions of our country are favourable. What is the position of the industry itself? The industry is prosperous, it is admitted on all hands. It is well established. There is little unemployment in it, we are told. It is quite true that, financially, some of the companies are not in a sound position, but that is not due to industrial conditions. It is due to the way they have been financed. It is not true there has been a slump in shares during the last fortnight. I took the trouble to go through a list of 10 shares, and I found three had gone up, and where there were reductions, it was only a matter of a few pence.
Then, again, I think it is fair to state that there is a rising market. Prices are going up. If prices are going up, these are the conditions under which Protection ought to go, because, obviously, the people are raising the price of their cars under the protection of the tariff. We know that one of the Canadian cars that has the benefit of Preference has put up its price. We know, also, that Mr. Morris, of whom we hear a great deal, who is as good at propaganda as motorcars, has given notice that he was likely to raise his price. In another case, the Arrol Johnston, while the Election was going on, the managing director wrote a letter to the "Times" saying that 33⅓ per cent. was not enough, and that 50 per cent. was required. He has had a meeting at his works as well, and he has got a resolution passed. But what has he done? Raised the price of his cars £52. When you find these prices going up, you find the conditions which are favourable to the removal of the duty, if ever there are going to be conditions arising favourable to the removal of the duty.
1287 Then there is the third matter with which I think we ought to deal, and that is the very important matter of the exchanges. We have the advantage in regard to the exchange in relation to America; America has the disadvantage for the purposes of importing to this country. What remains? There is France. It is true that the franc has depreciated as compared with the pre-War standard, but if you take the conditions now as compared with two months ago, there has been a large appreciation of the franc, and, in view of that appreciation, many exchange experts say that there is no advantage in the exchange for the purpose of importing French cars to this country. [Interruption.] The German car was the fashionable car in those days. I remember the late Lord Northcliffe getting the late W. E. Henley to write a poem on motors, and the car chosen was the Mercedes. That is an indication of how patriots regarded the motor in those days. So far as Germany is concerned, there is no competition at all, because German prices are above world prices. Therefore, I say that if you look at the motor from the point of view of the general conditions of the industry, from the fact that there is a rising market, in relation to the problem of the exchanges, if we are going to deal with this matter on grounds of time, there could be no more favourable time than the present for these duties to be abandoned. I would appeal to hon. Members opposite in their own interests. They constantly ask what harm the duties have done. Well, they led the right hon. Gentleman opposite into the last General Election, and they led to the defeat of the Conservative party on that occasion. I suggest that they should willingly cut off their association with this evil thing, that it may be no longer a stumbling block to their political aspirations.
§ Mr. AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
I do not know in exactly how representative a character the hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Pringle) has just addressed the House, but, perhaps, I shall not be mistaken in assuming that, in the concerted absence of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for the Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), the hon. Member for 1288 Penistone is in the position, at any rate temporarily, of leading his party. Certainly, it seemed to me that he was more interested in the party aspect of the question than in any other. He more thoroughly enjoyed himself when he devoted his mind to the attitude of my hon. Friend below the Gangway or my right hon. and gallant Friend on the Front Bench opposite than when he rather laboriously betook himself to the accustomed Cobdenite argument, but he was not alone in his refusal to consider this case upon its merits. I think that anybody who listened to our Debate today without party prepossessions, would have been struck by the contrast between the whole tone and attitude of mind in which my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition introduced this subject to the notice of the House, and the tone and temper in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer replied. The Chancellor of the Exchequer with an air that attributed Machiavellian machinations to my right hon. Friend, complained that my right hon. Friend had put down a Motion which is not in terms a Vote of Censure. He said: "With what object has he done it? In the hope of getting votes from those who are not his usual supporters." Quite true. If we had been acting solely as party politicians, we would have put down a direct Vote of Censure that would have made it difficult for any man not of our party or of the Liberal party to vote for it, but we were not thinking of party advantage. [HON. MEMBEBS: "Oh, no!"] I know what I am talking about. I know, and the benches behind me know, that the very moderation of the terms of our Motion gave offence to many of our friends. We deliberately put down the Motion in these moderate terms in order that anyone who wanted to vote on the merits, without prejudice to the position of the Government, should be able to do so. The Chancellor of the Exchequer is outraged by our conduct.
It is only a little time ago that the Prime Minister was appealing to us to treat matters in this way, and promising us that, if we would not give our Motions a party turn or import into our speeches party bitterness, they should be considered on their merits. What says the Chancellor of the Exchequer? [An HON. MEMBER: "What says the Press?"] I am not concerned with the Press. What 1289 says the Chancellor of the Exchequer? "This is not in terms a Vote of Censure." Then he adopts the naval order, "Then make it so," and for the purpose of deterring his own followers, some of whom he knows are restless, from giving a vote according to their conceptions of the best interests of their countrymen and their class, he deliberately converts it into a Vote of Censure. Then the Chancellor of the Exchequer proceeds to denounce, in terms of violent and prolonged—very prolonged—indignation, any effort on the part of an employer to share his knowledge of the business in which he is engaged with his men, to show his men on what foundations its prosperity rests, and to interest them in its success. The right hon. Gentleman, for reasons which he must explain, which he will be expected to explain, has gone out of his way, not merely the other day, but again to-day, to sneer at every working man who ventures to differ from the policy which he pursues, and to suggest that all these working men, in any other capacity the salt of the earth, because they disagree with him, are the slaves and tools of their employers. I heard the remarkable speech of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Coventry (Mr. Purcell). I take the assurance of the hon. Member for Coventry, which is based on personal knowledge and fact as to the attitude of the trade unionists of Coventry, in preference to the studied offensiveness of the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I propose to examine a little the case made by my right hon. Friend and the answer made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The Chancellor of the Exchequer threw out a challenge to me or anyone who intervened in this Debate to answer a question which he would put. It was: "Do we associate to-night's Resolution with a general tariff?" That is a fair question, a straight question, a clear question, and it demands an answer of the same kind. We do not. We have confined our Motion to a specific case. We have put before the House a business proposition, and we ask them to judge it as such irrespective of theory or general policy in trade matters. My right hon. Friend put in very moderate language a very simple case. Here are duties which, whatever the reason for putting them on, have resulted in an increased home production, increased employment, in a grow- 1290 ing export trade, and in the production of the articles at a lower cost than before the War. What possible reason can there be, when it is giving you a revenue not to be despised in these hard times, for the Government proposal. When the Chancellor spoke the House would have observed that he spoke for an hour and a quarter. One hour of that speech was spent before he came to the argument of my right hon. Friend. The major portion was devoted to answering something which he said that Mr. Morris said. I never made Mr. Morris's acquaintance till after the Chancellor of the Exchequer spoke, when I met him in the Lobby. All I am going to say about that is that he informs me that the Chancellor's account of what he had said was a traversy of the real argument. I come to matters of which I am more competent to speak, from that part of the Chancellor's argument which was not devoted to Mr. Morris, but which was devoted to the history of the case. The right hon. Gentleman is very imperfectly informed about this affair. I sat on the Finance Committee of the Cabinet with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Paisley (Mr. Asquith) when these duties were imposed.
There were many reasons for imposing these duties. One was to prevent money being spent on luxuries which we could not afford: another was to prevent a drain on the dollar exchange at a time when every dollar was needed for our national safety. Is it not equally important to-day that there should be no unnecessary drain on the dollar exchange? It was done to save cargo space, but it was not only to save cargo space that we put duties on films, musical instruments or even on straw hats. There was another reason. We were at that time making increases in direct taxation, and we thought it right and proper at the same time to widen the area and not only increase indirect taxation but we thought it wise to spread the net wider on articles of luxury.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I do not think anybody in the Cabinet thought that there should be an Excise Duty, but I know Mr. McKenna said that would be impracticable.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I really am not here to answer for Mr. McKenna. I am here to answer for myself, and the Cabinet Committee of which I was a member.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
When we come to the final speeches in the Debate, the time has been allotted, and interruptions only diminish the opportunities of the two spokesmen who are to finish the Debate.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
It is within my own knowledge, and I say that one of the objects was without increasing indirect taxation necessarily we desired to spread the net further over articles which were not a primary necessity. It is perfectly true that the late Mr. Bonar Law never contemplated that these duties would be permanent. Not one of us Tariff Reformers on that Cabinet Committee would have proposed those duties in that particular shape, and we did not believe they could be maintained. We have, however, had experience of them now to guide us. We are not now arguing on theory. We have got certain industries working under certain conditions, and with certain results, and the only questions we need to ask are whether the results are so bad now that you must alter the duties, and are the circumstances of trade so good that you should choose this moment to disturb any industry which is even tolerably successful?
I have my old speech here, to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer alluded. I spoke twice on that occasion, once making a brief interruption, partly in reply to the appeal of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), and partly in answer to the hon. and gallant Member for Leith (Captain W. Benn). The Chancellor of the Exchequer's use of the single quotation that he made was disingenuous, and if it was not calculated to deceive, it did or might have deceived anyone who did not know my views on this subject. It is not, however, worth while spending time on that. That is not the real interest that we have before us. What are the facts of this industry? It has had a great increase of output; it has begun to do a successful export trade—not in a market, as before the War, where everyone was a beginner, but in foreign markets where, owing to the War, and to the War only, our manufacturers have been absolutely wiped out 1292 and their trade destroyed. It has been doing an increased home trade; it was beginning to do a foreign trade, or an oversea trade; it was one of the few bright spots in our industries.
The right hon. Gentleman says the duties have nothing to do with it. Will he find for me, or will he communicate it to the Financial Secretary so that he may give the answer to the House, a single other industry of which you can say that it is producing a better article than pre-War, at less than pre-War price? Is there no connection between the security given by these duties and the demand created by them, and the capacity to produce this better article at a lower price? I wondered, as I listened, how much some hon. Gentlemen have ever tried to understand the processes of trade and manufacture. Consider what the expenses of a manufacturer consist of. They can roughly be divided into three classes. There is the cost of his raw material; there is the cost of the labour that he employs; and there are the overhead charges of his works—repairs, maintenance, rent, rates and taxes. I am not speaking of profits, but of the expenses before there is any profit.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I really hope that hon. Gentlemen will do me the honour of listening to an argument which is seriously intended, and which, I think, is of some consequence to those whose interests they so specially profess to represent. I say that, roughly, you can divide the expenses of a manufacturer under these three heads. What happens if trade falls off? He at once buys less raw material, and that head of expense goes down in proportion to the falling off of trade. He throws machines out of use, and, with that, he discharges employés, and his labour bill goes down. So far, the employer is neither worse off nor better off. The people who suffer are the employés in the subsidiary industries which supply what is his raw material at any rate, and his own workmen. But what happens to the overhead charges? They remain the same, and, accordingly, every time the demand falls off, and he has to reduce his production, the units which he still produces cost him more per unit. That is I the secret of the success which these duties 1293 have given to the motor trade, the piano industry and the other industries affected. They have helped our manufacturers by giving them a larger market, and the larger the market the lower the cost, the lower the cost, again, the lower their selling price, and the lower their selling price, again, the larger market. What is the alternative? If you want to help your manufacturers to a large market—[An HON. MEMBER: "Reduce your prices!"] You cannot do that except at the expense of the working man, and your alternative to lower wages is the larger market which these duties have given you. That is the real secret of the success which these duties have brought to the trade.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer says it is true the duties have brought in £19,000,000 of revenue, but we do not want it. I think he is a little reckless. He may be counting on a short life and a merry one, but he may find himself still in office next year. What provision is he making for the accumulated debt or the accumulated obligations which he and his colleagues are undertaking at present in vague promises of Bills to be introduced at some time which must come home to roost sooner or later, and each of which will bring fresh expenditure in its train. I think he may find reason to regret giving up this money, if he were to give it up. If he did not need it for other purposes I think he might have found better ways of spending it than throwing it out of the window. Then he says as regards price that price had no connection. The right hon. Gentleman, usually very clear, on this occasion seemed to me to suffer from some confusion of thought. He said that these duties had kept prices higher by destroying the incentive to lower the production cost. To anyone who knows anything about manufacturing that is nonsense on the face of it. He took care to answer it in his next sentence. He said the effect of the duties had ceased to be protective because of the internal competition. Will the Financial Secretary to the Treasury tell us which way the Government mean to face? We cannot have a succession of Mr. Facing-both-ways in these matters. Are the duties protective? Have they raised the price? Is the consumer penalised? That is half their argument. The other half of the argument is that the manufacturer has nothing to fear. If the prices have not been raised the duties 1294 are not protective, and the internal competition has destroyed all the protective effect they might otherwise have had. But the internal competition is the creation of the duties. If that internal competition ceases no external competition will keep our prices down. Go to the dye industry—I invite the Chancellor to do it—and look at the way in which the German prices for dyes dropped every time the development of our English manufacture enable us to compete in a new dye. Of course, as long as we have great internal production our foreign competitors will drop their prices as low as they can to meet the internal competition, but if our home production is once destroyed he must be a fool indeed who thinks that love of us will cause the foreigner to sell us his motor cars at any lower price than he can extract for them.
I want to say one word more about employment. There is one side of this question which I am sure will appeal to all sections of the House in connection with employment under these duties. I am informed on good authority, that two of the industries in which disabled ex-service men have most successfully been trained under Government auspices are the vehicle making industry and the musical instrument industry, and that we have at the present time, trained or in course of training, in the vehicle building industry, mainly bodies of motor cars, nearly 5,000 disabled ex-service men, and another 500 odd in the musical instrument-trade. These are people for whom the House always expresses great concern, and for whom it might have a little care when their interests come up in a particular manner; but it is a wider question than that. Look at the state of our engineering trade to-day. Is any right hon. or hon. Member opposite satisfied with it, or other than anxious about it? Here is one of our most highly skilled industries, an industry which the hon. Member for Penistone said is not an exotic but an indigenous industry, yet the highly skilled artisans in that industry cannot get to-day as a standard wage as much as a-man who stands on the tail-board of a county council tramcar.
In that engineering trade there is one bright spot, and that is the motor industry. The success of the motor industry was encouraging many of those engaged in the engineering trade to put 1295 forward a demand for increased wages and for some remedy for the present unsatisfactory state of things, and at this moment, the Government, wantonly, insolently by the mouth of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and callously, disturb the only branch of the engineering trade which is prosperous. Hon. Members opposite ask, "How long would you keep on the duties? What better moment can you find for taking them off?" I repeat the question of the hon. Member for Coventry: "Show me a place where an engineer discharged to-morrow at Coventry from a motor works because of diminished orders can find another job?" If you must make this change, not because the duties are injuring anyone, but to satisfy your theories, or to satisfy your spite, at least wait until the victim of your spleen is a little stronger, and until he has some chance of taking up elsewhere suitable employment in place of the employment of which you deliberately rob him.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. William Graham)
I am sure the House will bear with me in the 20 minutes which remain if, somewhat hurriedly and, I am afraid, inadequately, I try to reply to some of the arguments addressed to the House to-day. Before I try to do so, may I say with what great regret, personally, a regret which I am sure will be shared in other parts of the House, I have listened to portions of the right hon. Gentleman's speech. I do not think that anyone who knows my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer would accuse him of a callous attitude towards great masses of workers in this country. We must recognise that, in presenting the case which he was obliged to present in the course of his duty, he had to answer a campaign of exaggeration and misrepresentation which, I am bound to admit, was very largely outside this House, but which completely distorted an issue of this kind. If we wanted any adequate reply to that kind of misrepresentation, it was found in the studied restraint of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin), who opened the Debate. There was the widest contrast between the Press and the outside campaign and the speech which the right hon. Gentleman made.
1296 I have very little time at my disposal, but I do not in the least complain, because this was a day on which private Members of the House were entitled to a large opportunity in Debate, but it is difficult to make up our minds on what ground we stand in the discussion. When I say that I mean more particularly the attitude of hon. Members opposite. I may recall that the McKenna Duties were imposed in 1915 on a provisional and exceptional basis for five or six reasons which were particularly related to war-time conditions. I need not do more than mention them now. There was the difficulty of tonnage, and the importance of the American exchange, and the desire to cut down what Mr. Bonar Law called himself, on many occasions, sumptuary articles, and to fulfil one or two other conditions which we all recognised during the War were largely justified by their war importance.
No hon. Member in the course of the Debate has sought in my hearing to suggest that those war conditions any longer remain. Four or five of them have more or less definitely disappeared and the others are hardly of urgent application now. So that the only other ground, it seems, for the purpose of argument would be the ground of the protection which the continuance of those duties would afford to the four or five industries to which they are applied, and yet on that point the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken expressly dissociated himself from any conception of a general tariff. I agree that, for the purpose of academic debate, it may be possible to take a step of that kind, but I do ask the House, as a matter of plain economic reasoning to tell me where there is any distinction between this very high and severe tariff of 33⅓ per cent. and many of the proposals which were made by Protectionists in other days, and which are made now in tariff schemes which they have in mind?
A fair statement of the case seems to be that while originally these duties were imposed in the midst of war conditions for certain specific purposes, the large scale disappearance of those conditions leaves the duties to-day in the position of a protective tariff. I do not think that that argument will be seriously disputed by the people who formed the deputation which came to us on these duties or by those of us who have listened to many of the speeches of private 1297 Members to-Bay. The short and simple issue which is taken by hon. Members opposite is that the disappearance of the duties will contribute to some substantial degree of unemployment in this country. The Government have no hesitation in meeting an issue of that kind. We feel very strongly that if all the facts are fairly summarised they point to this: that there is little or no danger of the widespread dislocation and distress which some hon. Members have in mind. Do let us keep this matter in proper proportion. After all, the aggregate amount of these duties is only about £2,500,000 at a time when we are raising £780,000,000. The decisive point which has been taken by many hon. Members this afternoon is the Motor Car Duty, bringing in about £1,250,000 a year.
From the merely revenue point of view, although I do not exclude or forget its deterrent influence, the problem is not large. From the point of view of the personnel immediately affected, no hon. Member can suggest, however sympathetic and however anxious to cover the case from the Protectionist standpoint, that more perhaps than 200,000 people are directly affected by the class of car we have in mind, and there are reliable estimates that the total definitely engaged upon the manufacture of those cars to which the duty applies in this country does not exceed about 125,000. Beyond that, it is plain that the whole of the 125,000 are not going to lose their employment. No one suggests that. Therefore, the narrow and strict issue before the House is the partial effect upon some portion of 125,000 people. That is not much, as our industrial population goes. I do not want to suggest that it is unimportant. My whole object, in putting the matter in proper proportion at this stage, is to show that subsequent argument will make it plain that there is little or no danger of that comparatively small but important section of our people being, in fact, adversely affected.
I exclude, here the case of the commercial car Some hon. Members have referred to the depressed condition of that part of the industry, as compared with the kind of prosperity enjoyed by the protected portions. There is a practical reply to that on two grounds. First of all 1298 we have had three years or more of industrial depression in this country, which would, of course, have profoundly affected the production of the commercial car. In the second place, we dumped on a limited market in Great Britain 60,000 vehicles or more of this class from the Disposal and Liquidation Commission. These two facts of themselves would account for this depression, and I do not think that it is necessary to do more than mention them here.
I pass very briefly to another argument to which frequent reference has been made: Is any threatened dislocation or difficulty in this industry due to the probable withdrawal of the McKenna Duties? Many hon. Members themselves have conceded that there are proven weaknesses in the finance, in the organisation, and in the general conditions of the motor trade. We all recall the boom in 1919 and 1920 which followed the War. We know perfectly well that there has been certain wasteful competition. To use a popular expresison, but I believe a perfectly accurate one, during that boom period and without taking into account the depression which was bound to come, some people, and I think a very fair number in this industry, bit off more than they could chew, and that is the kind of difficulty which we find represented hereafter. But the two main arguments are the probable dumping of a large number of American cars in this country when the duties are repealed, and also the probable arrival here of fairly large Continental supplies. May I offer a word or two in regard to our standpoint on these conditions? I think the House will agree that to a considerable extent the Continental problem is one of exchange. It is true that the exchange in some cases has appreciated, and in other cases has been temporarily stabilised, but there are still, as regards the Continent of Europe, certain export advantages in the depreciated exchange. Now while it may be possible, under war conditions, to safeguard ourselves against an exchange problem, everybody who is familiar with the exchange issue, actual war conditions having passed away, knows that we are only going to remedy that state of affairs by a means which ensures the free interchange of goods and commodities and services. Every argument on the dislocation of exchanges has pointed to the importance, especially for 1299 a country like our own, for this free interchange, and that is a plain, though a somewhat bold, argument which we must face at the present day.
With regard to competition and probable dumping from the United States of America, I presented a few days ago in this House, in reply to an hon. Member, a reply which indicated that, in 1923, of 4,000,000 vehicles produced in the United States of America, about 96 per cent. had been absorbed in America, and only about 4 per cent. had been exported to the whole of the rest of the world. We only got our proportion, and I do not think it can be seriously contended that there is likely to be any substantial departure from that state of affairs, having regard to the conditions over there. The United States of America has a very large home market, but even if the McKenna Duties are to be repealed, as they will be, it does not follow that these American manufacturers are going to send to this country very large numbers of cars at prices substantially lower than those that British manufacturers are able to offer. My own view is that there will be a tendency to approximate to the British price. In any case we have to remember that the American producer has to overcome the very practical tariff of the freights over those thousands of miles, of insurance and to some extent, if you like for the purposes of argument, of the higher wages in the United States. He has all that to overcome before he can compete in this market with a car which, after all, has a very great deal of individuality, namely, the car of British production. I would say with perfect candour, and I dare say many hon. Members will agree that if the British motor trade cannot compete with an American industry of that kind there is something very seriously wrong. If we are going to continue an artificial tariff of this kind we are, in fact, postponing real regeneration in the industry and that efficiency which it is in the true interests of this country and of every one of us to promote.
There is another argument which several hon. Members have put forward. It is an argument turning on the fact of 1300 the large scale production, the standardisation, the scientific management of the United States. The right hon. Gentleman who introduced the Debate was kind enough to quote a passage from a speech which I made elsewhere, but I think he himself would agree that the sooner we in this country face such issues and get rid of the artificial protection of tariffs in order to face such issues, the better for British industry from every point of view. I am afraid that in the very limited time left to me I have compressed this argument into very close compass indeed. One point remains which has been raised not only to-day, but in the controversy of the recent weeks. It has been asked why the date 1st August was selected for the repeal of the duty and an Amendment has been moved or suggested, that the duty should be taken off in one, two or more stages in order to give the motor industry greater time to accommodate itself to the changed conditions. May I say at once that in the discussions which we have had with representatives of the trade they themselves have tended to the view that if the duties were going to be removed, they should be removed at once, or, at all events, on very short notice, since a postponement of a year or more would only have the effect of continuing this controversy, of continuing the uncertainty and possibly exaggerating it, and would not be in the interests of the trade itself. The Government fixed on the date 1st August in order to provide that a little notice should be given of the termination of the duties which would otherwise have been entirely cut off as from the date of the Budget unless we had made this provision. On all grounds we are satisfied that there can be nothing more than a temporary dislocation, and that the step which we have taken will minister to the industrial efficiency of this country and to the employment of even larger numbers of people.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 252; Noes, 317.1305
|Division No. 73]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Ednam, Viscount||Morden, Colonel Walter Grant|
|Ainsworth, Captain Charles||Elveden, Viscount||Morrison-Bell, Major Sir A. C. (Honiton)|
|Alexander, Brig. Gen. Sir W. (Glas. C.)||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||Nall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Joseph|
|Allen, Lieut.-Col. Sir William James||Falle, Major Sir Bertram Godfray||Nesbitt, Robert C.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Ferguson, H.||Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)|
|Apsley, Lord||FitzRoy, Captain Rt. Hon. Edward A.||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Forestier-Walker, L.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Frece, Sir Walter de||Nicholson, William G. (Petersfield)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert|
|Austin, Sir Herbert||Galbraith, J. F. W.||Norton-Griffiths, Sir John|
|Baird, Major Rt. Hon. Sir John L.||Gates, Percy||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Gaunt, Rear-Admiral Sir Guy R.||Ormsby-Gore, Hon. William|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Gilmour, Colonel Rt. Hon. Sir John||Pease, William Edwin|
|Banks, Reginald Mitchell||Gould, James C. (Cardiff, Central)||Pennefather, Sir John|
|Banner, Sir John S. Harmood-||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Penny, Frederick George|
|Barnett, Major Richard W.||Greenwood, William (Stockport)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.|
|Becker, Harry||Gretton, Colonel John||Perring, William George|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase||Grigg, Lieut.-Col. Sir Edward W. M.||Philipson, Mabel|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon W.||Guest, Capt. Hn. F. E. (Gloucstr., Stroud)||Pielou, D. P.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Guinness, Lieut.-Col. Rt. Hon. W. E.||Pilditch, Sir Philip|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry Cavendish-||Gwynne, Rupert S.||Pownall, Lieut.-Colonel Assheton|
|Berry, Sir George||Hacking, Captain Douglas H.||Ralne, W.|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Hall, Lieut.-Colonel Sir F. (Dulwich)||Rawlinson, Rt. Hon. John Fredk. Peel|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Rawson, Alfred Cooper|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Harland, A.||Rees, Sir Beddoe|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Reid, D. D. (County Down)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Hartington, Marquess of||Remer, J. R.|
|Bowater, Sir T. Vansittart||Harvey, C. M. B. (Aberd'n & Kincardne)||Remnant, Sir James|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Hennessy, Major J. R. G.||Rentoul, G. S.|
|Brass, Captain W.||Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Herbert, Capt. Sidney (Scarborough)||Richardson, Lt.-Col. Sir P. (Chertsey)|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Hill-Wood, Major Sir Samuel||Roberts, Samuel (Hereford, Hereford)|
|Briscoe, Captain Richard George||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Ropner, Major L.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Hogbin, Henry Cairns||Roundell, Colonel R. F.|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Hogg, Rt. Hon. Sir D. (St. Marylebone)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy||Russell-Wells, Sir S. (London Univ.)|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Hood, Sir Joseph||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Burman, J. B.||Hope, Rt. Hon. J. F. (Sheffield, C.)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Burney, Lieut.-Com. Charles D.||Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Sandeman, A. Stewart|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Horne, Sir R. S. (Glasgow, Hillhead)||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Howard, Hon. D. (Cumberland, North)||Savery, S. S.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Howard-Bury, Lieut.-Col. C. K.||Scott, Sir Leslie (Liverp'l, Exchange)|
|Campion, Lieut.-Colonel W. R.||Hughes, Collingwood||Seely, Rt. Hn. Maj.-Gen. J. E. B. (I. of W.)|
|Cassels, J. D.||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Shepperson, E. W.|
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)||Huntingfield, Lord||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ., Belfst)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord H. (Ox. Univ.)||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton||Jackson, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. F. S.||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. A. (Birm, W.)||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Somerville, Daniel (Barrow-in-Furn'ss)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Jenkins, W. A. (Brecon and Radnor)||Spender-Clay, Lieut.-Colonel H. H.|
|Chapman, Sir S.||Jephcott, A. R.||Stanley, Lord|
|Chilcott, Sir Warden||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Steel, Samuel Strang|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Kindersley, Major G. M.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Clayton, G. C.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Lamb, J. Q.||Sturrock, J. Leng|
|Cockerill, Brigadier-General G. K.||Lane-Fox, George R.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)||Sutcliffe, T.|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)||Sykes, Major-Gen. Sir Frederick H.|
|Cope, Major William||Lloyd-Greame, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Terrell, Captain R. (Oxford, Henley)|
|Courthope, Lieut.-Col. George L.||Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn. N.)||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Craig, Captain C. C. (Antrim, South)||Lord, Walter Greaves||Thomson, Sir W. Mitchell- (Croydon, S.)|
|Cralk, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry||Lorimer, H. D.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Lowe, Sir Francis William||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Lumley, L. R.||Turton, Edmund Russborough|
|Cunliffe, Joseph Herbert||Lyle, Sir Leonard||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Curzon, Captain Viscount||M'Connell, Thomas E.||Waddington, R.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||MacDonald, R.||Ward, Col. J. (Stoke-upon-Trent)|
|Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||McLean, Major A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Davies, Alfred Thomas (Lincoln)||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||McNeill, Rt. Hon. Ronald John||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Davies, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Wells, S. R.|
|Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Weston, John Wakcfield|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Wheler, Lieut.-Col. Granville C. H.|
|Deans, Richard Storry||Mason, Lieut.-Colonel Glyn K.||Wilson, Sir Charles H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Dixey, A. C.||Meller, R. J.||Wilson, Colonel M. J. (Richmond)|
|Doyle, Sir N. Grattan||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Dudgeon, Major C. R.||Mitchell, W. F. (Saffron Walden)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Eden, Captain Anthony||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Wood, Major Rt. Hon. Edward F. L.||Wragg, Herbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Wood, Sir H. K. (Woolwich, West)||Yate, Colonel Sir Charles Edward||Commander B. Eyres-Monsell and|
|Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.||Colonel Gibbs.|
|Ackroyd, T. R.||George, Rt. Hon. David Lloyd||Lowth, T.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Francis Dyke||George, Major G. L. (Pembroke)||Lunn, William|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. William||Gillett, George M.||McCrae, Sir George|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Gorman, William||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)|
|Alden, Percy||Gosling, Harry||McEntee, V. L.|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Gould, Frederick (Somerset, Frome)||Macfadyen, E.|
|Alstead, R.||Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Mackinder, W.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Graham, W. (Edinburgh, Central)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Attlee, Major Clement R.||Greenall, T.||Macnamara, Rt. Hon. Dr. T. J.|
|Ayles, W. H.||Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Maden, H.|
|Baker, Walter||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Mansel, Sir Courtenay|
|Banton, G.||Griffith, Rt. Hon. Sir Ellis||March, S.|
|Barclay, R. Noton||Groves, T.||Marks, Sir George Croydon|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Grundy, T. W.||Marley, James|
|Barnes, A.||Guest, J. (York, Hemsworth)||Martin, F. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, E.)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar (Banff)||Guest, Dr. L. Haden (Southwark, N.)||Martin, W. H. (Dumbarton)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Masterman, Rt. Hon. C. F. G.|
|Benn, Captain Wedgwood (Leith)||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Maxton, James|
|Berkeley, Captain Reginald||Harbord, Arthur||Meyler, Lieut.-Colonel H. M.|
|Birkett, W. N.||Hardie, George D.||Middleton, G.|
|Black, J. W.||Harney, E. A.||Millar, J. D.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Harris, John (Hackney, North)||Mills, J. E.|
|Bonwick, A.||Harris, Percy A.||Mitchell, R. M. (Perth & Kinross, Perth)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Mond, H.|
|Bramsdon, Sir Thomas||Harvey, T. E. (Dewsbury)||Montague, Frederick|
|Briant, Frank||Hastings, Sir Patrick||Morel, E. D.|
|Broad, F. A.||Hastings, Somerville (Reading)||Morris, R. H.|
|Bromfield, William||Haycock, A. W.||Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)|
|Brown, A. E. (Warwick, Rugby)||Hayes, John Henry||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hemmerde, E. G.||Morse, W. E.|
|Brunner, Sir J.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Mosley, Oswald|
|Buchanan, G.||Henderson, A. (Cardiff, South)||Moulton, Major Fletcher|
|Buckle, J.||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Muir, John W.|
|Burnie, Major J. (Bootle)||Henderson, W. W. (Middlesex, Enfield)||Muir, Ramsay (Rochdale)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Hillary, A. E.||Murray, Robert|
|Cape, Thomas||Hindle, F.||Murrell, Frank|
|Chapple, Dr. William A.||Hirst, G. H.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Hobhouse, A. L.||Nichol, Robert|
|Church, Major A. G.||Hodge, Lieut.-Col. J. P. (Preston)||Nixon, H.|
|Climie, R.||Hodges, Frank||O'Connor, Thomas P.|
|Cluse, W. S.||Hoffman, P. C.||O'Grady, Captain James|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Hogge, James Myles||Oliver, George Harold|
|Collins, Sir Godfrey (Greenock)||Hore-Belisha, Major Leslie||Oliver, P. M. (Manchester, Blackley)|
|Compton, Joseph||Howard, Hon. G. (Bedford, Luton)||Owen, Major G.|
|Comyns-Carr, A. S.||Hudson, J. H.||Paling, W.|
|Cory, Sir Clifford||Isaacs, G. A.||Palmer, E. T.|
|Costello, L. W. J.||Jackson, R. F. (Ipswich)||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Parry, Thomas Henry|
|Cowan, D. M. (Scottish Universities)||Jewson, Dorothea||Pattinson, S. (Horncastle)|
|Crittall, V. G.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Perry, S. F.|
|Darbishire, C. W.||Johnston, Thomas (Stirling)||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Davies, David (Montgomery)||Johnstone, Harcourt (Willesden, East)||Phillipps, Vivian|
|Davies, Ellis (Denbigh, Denbigh)||Jones, C. Sydney (Liverpool, W. Derby)||Pilkington, R. R.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Potts, John S.|
|Davison, J. E. (Smethwick)||Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)||Pringle, W. M. R.|
|Dickie, Captain J. P.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Raffan, P. W.|
|Dickson, T.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Raffety, F. W.|
|Dodds, S. R.||Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W. (Bradford, E.)||Ramage, Captain Cecil Beresford|
|Duckworth, John||Jowitt, W. A. (The Hartlepools)||Rathbone, Hugh R.|
|Dukes, C.||Kay, Sir R. Newbald||Raynes, W. R.|
|Duncan, C.||Keens, T.||Rea, W. Russell|
|Dunn, J. Freeman||Kennedy, T.||Rees, Capt. J. T. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Dunnico, H.||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Rendall, A.|
|Edwards, C. (Monmouth, Bedwellty)||Kirkwood, D.||Richards, R.|
|Edwards, G. (Norfolk, Southern)||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Egan, W. H.||Lansbury, George||Ritson, J.|
|Emlyn-Jones, J. E. (Dorset, N.)||Laverack, F. J.||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|England, Colonel A.||Law, A.||Robertson, J. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Falconer, J.||Lawrence, Susan (East Ham, North)||Robertson, T. A.|
|Finney, V. H.||Lawson, John James||Robinson, S. W. (Essex, Chelmsford)|
|Fisher, Rt. Hon. Herbert A. L.||Leach, W.||Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., stretford)|
|Fletcher, Lieut.-Com. R. T. H.||Lee, F.||Robinson, W. E. (Burslem)|
|Foot, Isaac||Lessing, E.||Romeril, H. G.|
|Franklin, L. B.||Lindley, F. W.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)||Linfield, F. C.||Royce, William Stapleton|
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, North)||Livingstone, A. M.||Royle, C.|
|Gavan-Duffy, Thomas||Loverseed, J. F.||Rudkin, Lieut.-Colonel C. M. C.|
|Samuel, H. Walter (Swansea, West)||Stranger, Innes Harold||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Scrymgeour, E.||Sullivan, J.||Wedgwood, Col. Rt. Hon. Josiah C.|
|Scurr, John||Sunlight, J.||Weir, L. M.|
|Seely, H. M. (Norfolk, Eastern)||Sutherland, Rt. Hon. Sir William||Welsh, J. C.|
|Sexton, James||Sutton, J. E.||Westwood, J.|
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)||Tattersall, J. L.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Sherwood, George Henry||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)||White, H. G. (Birkenhead, E.)|
|Shinwell, Emanuel||Thompson, Piers G. (Torquay)||Whiteley, W.|
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)||Thomson, Trevelyan (Middlesbro. W.)||Wignall, James|
|Simon, E. D. (Manchester, Withington)||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Williams, A. (York, W. R., Sowerby)|
|Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Thorne, W. (West Ham. Plaistow)||Williams, David (Swansea, E.)|
|Simpson, J. Hope||Thornton, Maxwell R.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)||Thurtle, E.||Williams, Col. P. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Sitch, Charles H.||Tillett, Benjamin||Williams, Lt.-Col. T. S. B. (Kennington)|
|Smillie, Robert||Tinker, John Joseph||Williams, Maj. A. S. (Kent, Sevenoaks)|
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)||Toole, J.||Willison, H.|
|Smith, T. (Pontefract)||Tout, W. J.||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Snell, Harry||Turner, Ben||Windsor, Walter|
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip||Turner-Samuels, M.||Winfrey, Sir Richard|
|Spears, Brig.-Gen. E. L.||Varley, Frank B.||Wintringham, Margaret|
|Spence, R.||Viant, S. P.||Wood, Major M. M. (Aberdeen, C.)|
|Spencer, George A. (Broxtowe)||Vivian, H.||Woodwark, Lieut.-Colonel G. G.|
|Spencer, H. H. (Bradford, S.)||Wallhead, Richard C.||Wright, W.|
|Spero, Dr. G. E.||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Young, Andrew (Glasgow, Partick)|
|Stamford, T. W.||Warne, G. H.|
|Starmer, Sir Charles||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Stephen, Campbell||Watts- Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Mr. Spoor and Mr. Frederick Hall.|
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)||Webb, Lieut.-Col. Sir H. (Cardiff, E.)|
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.