§ Mr. WHITELEY
I beg to moveThat this House, being of opinion that in many cases the prices charged for articles of food and fuel are unreasonably high, thus inflicting hardship upon consumers, regrets the failure of His Majesty's Government to take adequate measures to prevent profiteering in the supply of these necessities.We have often heard expressions from Members of the Government to the effect that they were always anxious to maintain a reasonable standard of life on behalf of the people of this country, and not do anything that would have a tendency to depress the wages of the workers of this country. This Motion gives the Government a real opportunity of proving their sincerity in the statements they have made with regard to matters of that kind. In November, 1924, a Royal Commission on Food Prices was appointed, and their main recommendation was the establishment of a Food Council strongly representative of working-class consumers. They outlined the duties which such a Council ought to undertake. They said that they should examine and report upon prices and profits in the food trades, and assist in cooperation with the Board of Trade in the application to those trades of any general legislation regarding industrial combines. The Food Council has been set up, but. if has been given very limited powers. The Government have refused to confer statutory powers upon it. On 16th December, 1925, a question was put to the Prime Minister, and in reply he said:I do not think that legislation would necessarily make the Food Council a more effective body, and I do not propose to introduce any such legislation until it is shown to be desirable."[OFFICIAL REPORT. 16th December. 192,5, col. 1446, Vol. 189.]To-night I shall try to show the President of the Board of Trade that it is desirable now, as a result of the experiences of the Food Council since it has been in operation. The right hon. Gentleman may remember that the Food Council fixed periods for milk prices in this country. They said that during the summer period the charge should be 6d. per quart, commencing on 1st April, and during the winter period 7d. per quart, commencing on 1st October. Subse- 2178 quently they found that this arrangement was not being carried out by certain associations, and on 16th September last year the executive committee of the Food Council sent a letter to the Metropolitan and the Amalgamated Master Dairymen's Associations calling their attention to the fact that they were charging 7d. instead of 6d. during the summer period and asked them to state their reasons for so doing. The executive committee met on 28th September to consider the replies, decided that they were very unsatisfactory, and directed that a report embodying the views of the committee should be prepared for submission to the Food Council Here was a situation in which certain prices had been suggested by the Food Council and had been ignored. On 1st September the price of 7d.is charged instead of 6d., on 16th September the attention of these associations is called to the matter, and on 2'8th September the executive committee report to the Food Council that they are not satisfied; but because the Council has no power in the matter nothing is done.
Take the case of bread prices. Here again the Council endeavoured to set a standard for the price of bread. It fixed the standard grade of flour at 280 lb. to the sack, and suggested that when the price of flour was above 48s. a sack but not above 52s. the price of the 4 lb. loaf should not exceed 10d.; and that when flour was above 44s. but not above 48s. the 4 lb. loaf should not exceed 9½d. In the main this recommendation was carried out by firms throughout the country, but in 18 towns and cities local bakers' associations absolutely refused to put this scale into operation and took their own lines, and because the Food Council has no powers no action has been taken in the matter.
I read in the "Times" yesterday a report of the annual meeting of the Maypole Dairy Company. I would remark that this is another phase of the situation, and I am not suggesting that this company have ignored the orders of the Food Council. The Chairman of the company stated that 1926 had been a very difficult year for them, on account of the industrial stoppage and the consequent lack of purchasing power of the people, yet he was able to report that they had placed £10,000 to the reserve fund, in- 2179 creasing it to £81,667, that the suspense reserve fund stood at £508,272, and—it is only fair to state that there was this one generous action at least on the part of this company—that they had also placed £10,000 to the provident fund. In spite of having done all this, and in spite of the fact that it was a very bad year, they were able to pay their shareholders a 10 per cent. dividend. There was, however, no suggestion by the Chairman that they would undertake to assist consumers by reducing the price of foodstuffs during 1927, nor was there any suggestion that they would increase the standard of life of the employés of the firm. In this brief statement I think I have submitted sufficient evidence to show the President of the Board of Trade that the question of giving the Food Council increased powers needs very careful consideration.
I will pass now to the other part of the Motion, which deals with fuel. Yesterday the Prime Minister, answering a question in this House, said:As I have stated on many occasions, the question of putting into operation the recommendations of the Royal Commission is primarily and mainly for the industry itself. So far as it rested with the Government to make them effective, there are I think only two points on which we have not already taken action. These are the recommendations that the State should purchase the property in minerals and that local authorities should be given statutory power to trade in coal."[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April 1927; cols. 1868½9, Vol. 204.]I take it from that that the Government have decided not to set up selling agencies for the purpose of distributing coal. This is no new problem. In 1922 a Subcommittee of the Advisory Committee of the Secretary for Mines expressed the view that those responsible for the distribution of coal should take immediate steps to render considerable reductions possible in most of the items of cost. There was a further inquiry in 1924, when the Secretary for Mines endeavoured to ascertain whether any reduction had been effected in those costs. The fact that lowest Summer prices for coal were higher in 1923 than in 1922 and again rose in 1924, points in the opposite direction.
In order that the House may know the exact situation to-day as compared with pre-stoppage days, I will give some 2180 figures, relating to a coal-producing district which are very illuminating. In April, 1926, 146,629 persons were employed in this district, and in January, 1927, 124,700 persons, a decrease of 21,929. The output during the month of April, 1926, was 2,946,990 tons. In the month of January this year it was 2,872,726 tons, or a decrease of 74,264 tons. When we get down to the output per person we find in April, 1926, it amounted to 20 tons 2 cwts., and in January this year it was 24 tons 13 cwts. To boil it down a little further the output per person per shift worked in April, 1926, was 19.59 cwts., and this year it was 21.85 cwts. From these figures it will be seen that the workers are giving their full quota to increased production.
Take the question of wages. In April, 1926, the wages in the district I am dealing with amounted to 10s. 3d., and in January this year it was 8s. 4.34d., or a reduction of Is. 8d. per ton. The average output per shift in 1927 was just over the ton and just under the ton in 1926. With reference to cost other than wages in April they were 5s. 2.72d. and in January, 1927, 4s. 6.23d., or a reduction of 7.d. per ton, and this after all has been put into operation that the Prime Minister promised as a result of the recommendations of the Royal Commission. In January, for the district I have mentioned, the average price for all classes of coal at the pithead was 14s. 7d. per ton. In face of these facts I leave it to hon. Gentlemen opposite to consult their own experience and to compare this price of 14s. 7d. with the prices they are paying to-day for coal for domestic use. To day the Secretary for Mines gave the latest figures for the prices being charged in various parts of the country, and he informed us that he was not in a position to give us the pithead prices. I have given those prices for one district from the last ascertainment issued. The Minister for Mines states in his reply that in London the price of household coal ranges from 39s. to 51s. per ton; in Glasgow from 33s. to 37s. 6d. per ton; in Birmingham from 38s. to 49s.; in Man chester 36s. 8d. to 45s.; and in Sheffield from 36s. 8d. to 43s. 4d. per ton. When we compare those prices with the pithead price of 14s. 7d. per ton I think the President of the Board of Trade must realize that there is room for careful considera- 2181 tion of the prices charged for fuel in this country at the present time. On a number of occasions I have made an appeal to the Government to inquire into this matter, and I have given very definite examples of very heavy profiteering in the price of coal between the pithead and the consumer's home, and I hope that as a result of moving this Resolution the Government will face the situation with a view to doing something of real service on behalf of the consuming public of this country, I notice there is an Amendment down on the Paper which declaresThat an informed public opinion is the better method of securing reasonable prices of food and fuel rather than the cumbrous system of control.I want to suggest to those hon. Members who have put their names to this Amendment that the Resolution I am proposing does not advance any particular system, but it urges the Government to take adequate measures as a result of experience. We on this side of the House know that the Government are not prepared to put into operation a system of control, and my Resolution has been prepared in such a way that we want to assist the Government by passing a Resolution which will enable them to use any method they like for the purpose of giving the consuming public of this country any advantages that can be obtained. The experience of the Food Council shows the need of greater powers being given, and if the Government have set up a Food Council why not follow that up by appointing a Fuel Council and give both those councils sufficient power to enable them to operate in such a way as will keep prices within reasonable bounds.
I know many people would object to the control methods which were adopted during the War, and personally I object to them. There was one very effective power which was given during the War and it was the power to examine books and see what prices were being charged, and this made people realise that they could not charge the public whatever price they liked. It may be a good thing to educate public opinion, and I believe in that process. I suggest to the President of the Board of Education and to the Secretary for Mines that if they decided to give more powers to those councils which they have in operation, and those which they may decide to set 2182 up, it would have a great effect in educating the profiteers in the direction of realising their full responsibility and their duty to the citizens of this country. The President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines are ordained to render useful public service, but in the third year of office of the present Government they must feel very despondent that they have made no progress towards producing that higher standard of life which they have talked about and which they have expressed the desire to bring into operation.
This Resolution gives the Government an opportunity of realising what powers they possess with the voting strength behind them. It fixes no line but leaves the Government open to use any method they like to obtain the results we have in view. They can initiate what schemes they think right and proper. They can call the attention of those self-styled patriots the profiteers to the true meaning of patriotism, and how it should be expressed. Powers of this kind will give Members of the Government the opportunity of ensuring that their efforts have not been in vain, and they will have been given a chance of rendering a great service to the people of this country by a real step towards progress.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
I beg to second the Motion.
This proposal has been moved in a very lucid speech by my hon. Friend the Member for the Blaydon Division of Durham (Mr. Whiteley). He has rightly pointed out that, this question of food and fuel prices determines the very basis of the cost of living, which is a very important and a very urgent problem. My hon. Friend has given a number of instances which go to show that, in the case of many staple foods, and in the case of fuel, not only are the prices exorbitant, but the profits are enormous. One might spend a considerable time in giving case after case of unduly high prices of food and other commodities. One has only to turn to the OFFICIAL REPORT of the Debates which have taken place in this House on this very question; to find case after case which has never been refuted. My hon. Friend the junior Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) some time ago gave an instance of maladministration in distribution. It was the case of a cargo of 2183 2,500 bags of cocoa brought from the West Coast of Africa to Holland. It was intercepted on the way, bought by Liverpool merchants, and sent round by the south to the Mersey. When it arrived in the Mersey, it was sold to a New York merchant and transhipped across the Atlantic. When it got to New York, it was sold to a Philadelphia merchant and placed on the railway, and the Philadelphia merchant sold the whole cargo back to a Liverpool merchant, so that it had to come across the Atlantic again to this country. The whole cost of that, of the unnecessary carriage, and the unnecessary commissions, was added to the cost of that cocoa, and the consumer had to pay.
Let me take another illustration. The "Morning Post," which is not notorious for its sympathy with the Socialist Party, some time ago published a statement that in one year £175,000,000 was paid by the consumers of this country for meat, bread and milk, after paying 10 per cent. to every producer and distributor through whose hands those commodities passed. Then take the question of wheat, to which reference was made by my hon. Friend. When we remember that an increase of 1d. in the price of the 4-lb. loaf adds £10,000,000 a year to the bread bill of this country, and when we know that, under a proper system of control, the present price of the 4-lb. loaf might easily be reduced by 2d., that means that every year the people of this country are paying an extra £20,000,000 for bread. In August, 1924, the price of the 4-lb loaf in this country was S½d, and, owing to rigging of the markets, it jumped up from 8½d. in August, 1924, to l1d. in March, 1925. That increase of 2½d. on the 4-lb. loaf added £25,000,000 a year to the bread bill of the consumers of this country. Again, one may point out that the existing system has been condemned by every inquiry of an independent character that has been set up. One could quote from inquiry after inquiry showing that they are unanimous in stating that the present system, or lack of system, penalises the producer, who often needs encouraging, and also penalises the consumer, because you have between the two a body of men, many of whom are superfluous, exacting a very heavy toll from the purchasers of this country. My hon. Friend made refer- 2184 ence to the Commission set up by the Government. On this side of the House we criticised that Commission. We criticised it upon three grounds. We said that the personnel of that Commission did not give us any assurance that there would be any real, drastic inquiry into the present system of distribution.
§ Mr. DUNNICO
Yes. We also said that throughout the inquiry there was a tendency, on the part of the majority of the members of that Food Council, to accept the present system as being to a very large extent satisfactory. The third objection that we had against it was that it did not possess the requisite powers to put into operation even its feeble findings and pious opinions. The burden of our charge to-night is this, that the present Government, even on the findings of a Commission which was very moderate in its findings, have not really taken any action to put those findings into effect or to relieve materially or substantially the present situation. We are asking the Government to-night what they are going to do. The nineteenth century solved the problem of production. There is no difficulty to-day about the question of production. Our powers of production have been so enormously increased that to-day, if one took away the restriction of output and the manipulation of the markets, the powers at our disposal are great enough to produce all that is required to keep the people of this country in decency and efficiency. Our charge is that, while we have solved the problem of production, we are simply tinkering and playing with the problem of distribution. It is a somewhat ghastly reflection upon our so-called modern civilisation that, when Providence grants her bounties and her plenteous harvests, the greater the bounties and the more plenteous the harvest the more acutely the producer suffers, and the consumers themselves get very little benefit from that which is produced. I see from the Order Paper that two hon. Members of this House are responsible for an Amendment to this Motion. There are Amendments and Amendments, and, if I may be pardoned for saying so, I have seldom, since I came into this House, read an 2185 Amendment more at variance with the facts than the Amendment which stands on the Order Paper to-night. It declares that experience has shown that an informed public opinion is a better way of securing reasonable prices than Government control. With all due deference to my hon. Friends, I want to say that that statement is in direct contradiction to the facts. May I give an illustration of informed public opinion? In 1919, we had a Coal Commission, the Sankey Commission of Inquiry, and the evidence taken by that Commission startled and shocked the conscience of the nation. The Judge who presided over that Commission said that the conditions of labour, wages, hours and housing—the whole standard of life—were indefensible.
§ Mr. DUNN1CO
Public opinion did. Public opinion was shocked. The public opinion of the country was absolutely with the miners at that time. Eight years have passed away. What is the result? The whole standard of living, the whole condition of the mining population of the country is worse than when we were told by that Commission that it was absolutely indefensible. Therefore we say you want something more than an enlightened public opinion. You want a Government which has the courage to back up enlightened public opinion and to attack the vested interests that exploit the community and rob the nation. The Amendment goes on to state that a system of control will either be ineffective or will involve the State in loss. I wonder if the hon. Member who tabled the Amendment has ever read the Auditor-General's Report and the Trading Accounts and Balance Sheets of 1920 and 1921. I wonder if he has ever heard of the Ministry of Munitions and the Ministry of Food. I wonder if he has read what the Chancellor of the Exchequer had to say about them when he almost became a Socialist because of the amazing success of Government control. I wonder if he has ever read the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carmarthen (Sir A. Mond), who was in that Government. I wonder if he has ever read the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to the advantages of control. 2186 The terms of the Amendment are absolutely opposed to experience. I can quite believe the hon. Member would not have very much faith in his own Government controlling these things, but with an efficient, businesslike Government in power we could show even better results than those already on record. I seldom address the House, and perhaps hon. Members will not resent it if I make an appeal. I have never disguised my love for this country. There is no land to me which is so good as this land. No one loathes and hates strife and conflict, whether it be in the industrial field or in the international field, more than I do. I would to God we could develop a greater spirt of co-operation and good will! But how can you expect peace in the face of great evils such as those we are discussing to-night—preventable evils? How can you expect peace so long as these things continue?
We have had a great Debate to-night upon China. The Government in office—and I do not blame them—feel that they are justified in defending the lights of British nationals in China, but if you are prepared to do that and spend millions upon it, are not the rights of the toiling masses in this country also worthy of consideration? You are quite prepared to introduce a Bill to try to prevent the workers of the country1 from adopting certain methods to get their rights. Why are you not prepared to introduce a Bill to stop people from exploiting and robbing these people and lowering their standard of life? After all said and done, you have got to face it. Things cannot remain as they are. You cannot wonder if men become savage and bitter and say extreme things when their life is one grim struggle from the cradle to the grave. I do not want revolution. I want orderly progress, but the thing called democracy, harmless enough when lulled to sleep with political sleeping draughts, can become a terrible beast if it awakes and finds it has been deceived. There are men to-day into whose souls the iron has entered. I do not care much about party. I do not care who does a good thing if someone does it. I will support the Government every time it takes steps to alleviate the distress and misery of countless thousands of our own people who are living in it day after day. If you tell me 2187 these things are inevitable, then we have come to a very bad position. A civilisation which cannot provide a decent standard of living for the vast masses of the people is not worth preserving. I had rather be a pagan, a savage living under primitive conditions, hunting and fishing by day, breathing the pure air of God's atmosphere and sleeping under the silent stars at night than be condemned to live under circumstances and conditions that millions of our fellow workers are doing. If this is the price we have to pay for civilisation—I do not believe it is, but if it is—I say, with all respect to this House and with all deference to you, Sir, damn civilisation. Civilisation is not worth maintaining unless it can secure to the toiling masses of our people a decent standard of life, and, because I think this Motion is a step in that direction, I have the utmost pleasure in seconding it.
§ Colonel HOWARD-BURY
I beg to move, in line 1, to leave out from the word "House," to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the words:is of opinion that experience has shown that an informed public opinion is a better way of securing reasonable prices of food and fuel than a cumbrous system of control, which would either be ineffective or would involve the State in financing and managing many businesses at the expense of the taxpayer and without any guarantee of benefit to the consumer.I welcome the speech of the Mover of the Motion for its moderation. I really do not know what the gist of the attack was, he was so moderate in his views. He seemed to neglect the views so widely held by his own party as to the necessity of the State controlling the distribution and production of all the necessities of life. He disguised that point. All he suggested was that we should give a few extra powers to the Food Council. The hon. Member who seconded went a little further and suggested that we were only tinkering and playing with the problem of distribution. He was opening the way to the State taking over the problem of distribution. I think that was in his mind far more than in the mind of the Mover, and while I admired his peroration, and agree with him that what we want is a better spirit of goodwill and co-operation, where we differ from him is in the methods by which this can be reached. We all desire to prevent the 2188 toiling masses from being exploited by profiteers, but we believe that instead of the State doing that in the way suggested by the Opposition, by means of public opinion, and by limelight being thrown upon the profiteering, that profiteering will cease.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
No. Instead of its getting worse, prices are falling slowly. Last year was a bad year, owing to economic disturbances in this country. We cannot take last year, or the autumn of last year, as a fair reason why prices have increased, as they have in many cases. It was an unusual year owing to industrial disturbances. On the whole, in the last few years prices have been steadily going down. Let me give the hon. Member a few figures of the average retail prices for three or four necessities of life during the years 1921 and 192G. In 1921, the average price of bacon was 2s. 3½d., and in 1926 it was 1s. 7¾. The average price of butter in 1921 was 2s. 7½d., and in 1926, 1s. ll¼d. The average price of margarine in 1921 was 10d., and in 1926, 8¼d. The average price of sugar was 7¼d. in 1921 and 3½d. in 1926. Throughout these last few years prices have been steadily but slowdy going down.
The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico) alluded to the prices of bread going up in 1924 and 1925. In 1925, the Food Council was appointed and the first question they began to investigate was the question of the prices of flour and bread. The Food Council was formed for the protection of the public. It was given powers to investigate the subject, to call witnesses and report, and the result has been that limelight and publicity have been thrown upon the whole of the question of food prices. The existence of the Food Council is a safeguard which ensures the proper application and adjustment of the scales which they fix from time to time according to the price of flour. The other day a member of the Master Bakers and Confectioners' Protection Society wrote a letter stating that they were going to act on their own. What did the Food Council do? They said:It will be the duty of the Council to watch the price-fixing operations of your society, and they will not hesitate to call public attention to them if in the opinion 2189 of the council they are improperly exercised.The publicity directed to that matter has resulted in public attention being fixed upon the prices of bread, and the prices of bread to-day are not unreasonable.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)
The hon. Member has no right to make an observation of that sort.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Since the Food Council has been in being—it started in October, 1925—prices of food have gone down by 11 points from what they were two years ago, while the general cost of living has only gone down about five points. Therefore, the conclusion is that the prices of food have been steadily going down at a greater rate through the inquiries of the Food Council, even though prices of other commodities have not been inquired into as yet. I think we may say justly that the Food Council has been to a great extent responsible for that reduction by their work. We all know that during the War there was a Food Controller. The country was divided into, I think, 15 divisions and 1,800 areas, and there was something like 33,000 officials. I do not believe the Mover of the Amendment would set up again food control. I understand that he objects to it; but I wonder whether hon. Members on the back benches opposite object to it to the same extent.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Do hon. Members opposite think that the people of this country really desire to establish food control, with all the in-quisitorialness of that control, all this looking into the doings of 300,000 or 400,000 retailers and traders, and examining their accounts, and all that 2190 sort of thing? We are not Germans. The Germans are accustomed to things of that kind but we are not accustomed to that kind of thing in this country. We encourage our own private enterprise and if there is any profiteering, well, the more publicity we can get in the Press with regard to it the quicker will the prices fall. The Press and public opinion have had a good deal to do with bringing about reductions in prices.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
That has nothing to do with it. We are talking about food and fuel. The bakers are generally observing to-day the Food Council's scale of bread prices. The Food Council have started to investigate the question of tea. One of the leading tea merchants, in February, predicted that there was going to be a general rise in the price of tea. The Food Council started to investigate and, as the inquiry proceeded, instead of the prices of tea rising, they have been steadily dropping, clearly as a result of the Food Council's inquiries. The more inquiry we can get into these matters the better. We welcome it, and we hope the Food Council will carry on.
Hon. Members who would set up food control must realise the expense of food control. What does the Food Council cost the State? The 12 members of the Food Council are unpaid; they give their services free. The whole cost of the Food Council, including travelling expenses, the expenses of witnesses and the expense of the permanent secretarial staff is £2,613 a year. The work they do, surely, is well worth that. If, on the other hand, you set up food control with 30,000 or so officials, the cost to the State will be vast, and it will come out of the cost of foodstuffs or out of extra taxation. The Food Council have also inquired into milk prices. They have gone into the whole question and are still inquiring into it. We want to know, for instance, and we need satisfaction on the question, the difference of price paid to the producer and that paid by the consumer at the present time. The more limelight we can throw upon that question, the sooner we shall get the prices reduced. That is the way to do it.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Is the hon. and gallant Member not aware that the Linlithgow Committee threw all the light that was possible on that question?
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
This question is being gone Into very carefully at the present time, and the more co-operation we can get between the milk producers on the one hand and the milk consumers on the other, the sooner we shall get a final agreement which will arrive at the true price, and we shall avoid it going through the hands of extra middlemen, who are increasing, and putting up the price. Hon. Members will no doubt remember that during the War, when we had food control,, the Government at one time tried to control meat or, shall I say, rabbits. The rabbits disappeared; there were no rabbits—
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
The Minister of Labour in the Labour Government told us that he could not produce rabbits out of his hat; even without Government control he was not able to produce any rabbits. They disappeared. The Food Council have inquired into the question of meat prices, and have suggested that we should do away with publication of the prices in Smithfield market and instead that prices should be put up in all retail shops so that the public should know in their own shops what the prices arc. They consider that the prices in the Smithfield market are very misleading and that they rather help to keep up prices generally throughout the country. The Butchers' Federation is considering this proposal, and it is hoped they will adopt it very shortly. There has also been an inquiry into bacon prices, and while there has been a drop in the wholesale prices of bacon, there has also commenced a drop in the retail prices. The whole object of the Food Council is to inquire into the exorbitant prices of food, and the work they have done so far has been very good. We believe that a Food Council continuously interested in food prices is a far more effective organisation than a State trading body with a large staff, and with all the difficulties which always attach to such organisations. The fact that its 2192 members are not paid but are doing the work free is a very great asset. They are also to examine fruit, vegetables and all other foodstuffs.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Fish prices are being examined at the present time. Lord Bradbury, the Chairman of the Food Council, says:Our future programme includes investigations into the prices of fish, butter and bacon. We deal with only one subject at a time. Our investigation into fish prices has already begun. It is a curious fact that since our inquiries began, fish prices have fallen from 127 points to 114 points.There is always a certain number of people who would like to have their food practically free, if they could get it. Hon. Members opposite promised the electors all sorts and kinds of things; enormous wages and free food. Let me quote some words from Kiubysheff, the chairman of the Supreme Economic Council in Russia, which, of course, is the Mecca of hon. Members opposite, the country to which they look. On 30th March this year, he said:we cannot continue to live while the present high prices obtain, which are three times higher than the prices abroad—That is, in other countries where private enterprise obtains—and two and a half times above Russian pre-War prices, and in spite of all our efforts prices are still rising in several branches.That is what is going on in the Mecca of hon. Gentlemen opposite. They may pay short visits to Russia, but they always come back again. It is only really what we should expect to find under State control, which exists in Russia. Where there is no competition, prices are bound to rise. You have a monopoly, the dead hand of the State controlling things; and without competition prices must inevitably rise. In Russia whole classes of workers, including elementary school? teachers, only get £3 a month, and how can they live when prices rise and rise Yet, hon. Members opposite think that everything in Russia is perfect. They always like to look at Russia. Let me read what a famous novelist has said after travelling in Russia.
§ Lieut.-Colonel HOWARD-BURY
Yes, she spent a few months in Russia, and she says:Everything in Russia is by order of the Government. Everything in consequence is amazingly expensive. A cup of tea or a bath cost 7s. 6d.I do not know which hon. Members opposite would prefer in Russia, a cup of tea or a bath, but if they wanted either, they would have to pay 7s. 6d.The largest, indeed most of the Russian shops, have been confiscated, bag and baggage, without redress by the State. The service in them is appalling. May I never have to enter a State-owned shop again or pay its prices. There is no competition.That is the state of the country to which hon. Members are always looking. Here in this country we aim at stabilising prices by means of co-operation between producer and consumer, to reduce the seasonal fluctuations that occur and relate production to demand throughout the year. Co-operation is the antithesis of State monopoly. It is on these lines that we should work. Reasonably cheap and reasonably good articles will never be supplied as long as the State has a complete monopoly. Hon. Members no doubt have had experience of French matches, and they will know how abominable they are. Take the case of butter. You have butter produced by the farmers of this country and the butter imported from New Zealand and Denmark, and competition such as this will always keep prices down. Take meat You have competition from Australia, Canada and the Argentine, as well as the fresh meat in this country. In the case of wheat there is Canadian, Australia and Indian, and wherever you have competition you can be certain that the prices you have to pay will be the lowest. We believe that you will do away with all cases of profiteering if you throw the light of publicity upon them, and that the system which has been adopted by the Government, under which the Food Council investigates the question of all food prices, throwing the light of publicity upon them, getting the housewives of the country to realise where prices are excessive is by far the best way of reducing prices. It is far better than any form of State control, such as is advocated by hon. Members opposite.
§ Captain BOURNE
I beg to second the Amendment.
My only complaint against the hon. Member who moved this Motion was his failure to indicate the measures he would consider adequate. I should like, however, to pay a tribute to the speech of the hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dunnico). However much one may disagree with his views, there can be no doubt as to his sincerity. He struck me as being like many enthusiasts in pursuing a will o' the wisp rather than following the hard paths by which all progress is gained. The real danger of State control is that we may cut off the entire sources of supply in the vain hope of cheapening prices. The main bulk of our food supply in this country comes and must come from abroad. I looked up the return of the cultivated agricultural land in this country shortly before this Debate, and I found that 10 years ago it was 32,000,000 acres. Making what I consider a very reasonable allowance of two acres per human being, that would mean that that land would support a population of about 16,000,000. When you consider that much of the land is required for the production of milk, which requires more than two acres per cow, and that much of it is not of very good quality, it will be seen that we would be doing well if we could keep 16,000,000 people on our own soil. In England and Wales that leaves a large surplus to be maintained from foreign sources.
If you tried to control prices, you are up against a difficult problem and a problem which will easily load to international complications. We cannot compel the foreigner to send his food here. He sends it because it pays him, not because he loves us or our people. If he had another market that would pay him better he would send it there. It may be an unpleasant thing for us, but the fact remains that we have developed in this country under the industrial system a very large population which we are bound to feed by the export of manufactured goods. I am not prepared to argue whether that is a good or a bad result, but I do not think any attempt by Government control or Government purchase, which would mean the control of essential foodstuffs, would get the food supply any cheaper or would 2195 guarantee that those necessary foodstuffs would come to us. Once it was known that the Government was in the market the foreign producer would put up the price against us. It is a common experience. The hon. Member for Consett referred to the experience of control during the War. Perhaps he has not had the advantage that I have had of serving on the Estimates Committee and learning the practical details of the winding up of those transactions. If he studies it, he will see that during the later years, after 1920, the large profits made during the War developed into large deficits in nearly every case. There were large stocks left over—
§ Captain BOURNE
I think the hon. Gentleman will find that the Government did not give the stuff away, but sold it at the best price they could get. The price, I admit, was extremely low. It is one of the penalties of putting people into control who have not been personally trained all their lives for that work and who are not personally hit if there is a loss. The man who is purchasing and buying on his own account stands to lose if he makes a mistake in judgment. The Government official stands to lose nothing. If he makes a serious error, it is the taxpayer who has to foot the bill. I do not think you can expect from him either the same degree of judgment or the same caution in buying as from the ordinary private trader. He is not in the same position. Secondly, if you get Government control or Government purchase in any form, the permanent official is hampered by a very curious and complicated financial system which has grown up in this country. I am beginning to doubt whether it is suitable for to-day, but it was devised for the control of finance in this House, and for enabling the Government to answer any question which any Member in any part of the House might choose to ask. To buy successfully, however, you do not want to go and ask the Treasury for permission, saying, "Please may we buy this? I think it will do fairly well," and then have it passed round the office for three or four weeks until someone in power 2196 authorises it. That is what is bound to happen, and in the end, because of the very exact accounting of our financial system, we are bound not to buy at the cheapest price, which is a necessity if we are to succeed.
I really believe that the proper remedy for dear prices is to get the trade of our country back and to export goods overseas as we did before the war. That is where no small amount of liability rests upon hon. Members opposite. In their hearts I think they know that they have not done their best to get trade going since the War. They have supported any restriction which any trade union has imposed; they have defended people who have caused unnecessary industrial trouble. If we export a vast quanty of goods to foreign nations those nations are in our debt and have to send something to us to pay the debt, and what the majority of them have got to send is foodstuffs. In order to pay that debt they have got to sell at much lower prices than they would get in the open market. If hon. Members opposite will study the trade returns before the War, they will find that we, who grew little of our own food could succeed in buying foodstuffs cheaper than many of the nations of the world who grew their own food. That was because our foreign trade was successful, and that is the real way to deal with this matter. Setting up Government control will be a vast expense to the country, an expense which will be reflected in the price of food, and will do good to the country but in the end put another burden on the consumer.
§ Captain BOURNE
The hon. Member makes a slight error. In the War it was a case of making a very limited amount of food go round; it was not a question of prices. We had a very limited amount of food to distribute among the population. One of the facts of wartime control is that everybody thought they were entitled to a certain. amount of profit on their capital, a certain amount of payment for their services, and other perquisites in addition to profits. The customers were short, the profits were short—
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
The hon. and gallant Member misunderstood my interjection. Does he not know that under Government 2197 control the price of beef at Smithfield was 4½d. a pound during the War when it was 8d. or 9d. a pound in private shops?
§ Captain BOURNE
I regret I do not follow the hon. Member. If he will look at the whole of control of prices, he will find it encouraged people to look for higher prices and higher profits. I think the nation has suffered and is continuing to suffer because of the effects of wartime control. It was inevitable in the circumstances because we had not the supplies to go round and could not obtain them. But I do not think it has been a particularly successful method of controlling prices. It has cost the country millions of pounds, and although it was a necessity, yet we must look upon the expense as one of the inevitable results of war and one which we must shoulder regretfully.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I want to congratulate the Seconder of the Amendment on bringing the Debate back to something like serious discussion. I feel sure that while the Mover of the Amendment was speaking the House must have wondered whether we were sitting in Parliament or in a pantomime. The Seconder of the Amendment spent a good deal of his time in denouncing Government control and management. I am unable to understand how it is that Departments set up and controlled by Liberals and Conservatives for the last century are consistently denounced by those people who have had control. I have had the privilege of serving in a Government Department which gives a definite denial to all the criticisms of the two hon. Gentlemen opposite. The War Office buys wheat and meat in bulk for supply to its own troops. I could tell of the difficulties the Department had in facing some of the great trusts, and of other difficulties which had to be overcome. Yet in 1925 in this House, out of my own experience and with the War Office Estimate before me, I was able to draw the attention of the Committee and of the Secretary for War to the fact that a loaf was produced and supplied to the troops in this country and abroad at 6½d. at a time when a similar loaf, of the same quality, was being sold to the ordinary consumer at l1d. That is only one instance of buying in the bulk by a Government Department 2198 and supplying direct. The same thing can be said of meat.
I want to draw attention to one fact. Sir John Corcoran, who was in charge of the War Office Supply Department, and who for nearly 30 years presided over that department, when he finished his period of service was immediately snapped up as director of the National Union of Manufacturers. We have had illustrations from time to time of the permanent heads of Government Departments being taken over by the people who denounce the Departments over which these officials preside. The Mover and Seconder of the Resolution did not suggest anything of the kind that the Mover and Seconder of the Amendment have been denouncing. On the contrary, they were very careful to refrain from making any such suggestion. What we are asking the House to consider is that there is a very serious situation in this country, a very serious gap between the cost of production and the price charged to the consumer. It is not the trouble only of the ordinary consumer. It is a trouble even to business men. As to that let me give an illustration.
I think I am within bounds in saying that in the Durham coalfield the piece-rate workmen have lost something like 40 per cent. in wages since the mining stoppage. There may be hon. Members hero who doubt that, but I can assure them it is the fact. It is so well known that an iron master said to me the other day, with a very puzzled expression on his face, "Your men have had great reductions of wages?" and he added, "Yet the price of coke required for our purpose now is 10s. a ton more than it was before the stoppage." He asked me if I could explain how that was. I replied, "I was going to ask you if you could explain how it was." He lives only a few miles from me on the other side of the county. He gets the result of the work of the men among whom I live and work,, and he wants to know how it is that, while we are getting much reduced wages, the coal that he requires costs 10s. a ton more. What is the result? Middlesbrough has had to take 20,000 tons of German coke in order to produce her commodity. I submit that that is a very serious state of things. There is a further illustration in what is happening to the ordinary consumer of coal. The 2199 hon. Member for Blaydon (Mr. Whiteley) said the Secretary to the Mines Department had informed him that the retail price of coal in London was from 39s. 6d. to 52s. per ton. I gave the House a case not very long ago where two men produced 11 tons 15 cwts. of coal for £2 l2s. Thus they produced nearly 12 tons of coal for the price at which one ton is sold retail to the consumer. No one could justify a state of things like that. It may be said that there are costs of production in between, but surely ordinary costs cannot account for that difference. Only last week-end we were told' that a great retail coal firm in this city had announced a reduction of 5s. a ton in the price of coal and that those within the ring were threatening what would be done with the parties concerned. There seemed to be a great deal of fact in the statements made, and I ask the President of the Board of Trade if he has any knowledge that things of this description are happening. If it is possible to reduce coal by 5s. a ton, the only assumption is that robbery of the consumers has been going on in this city.
One could give many illustrations of the great gap between what the producer is entitled to, and what the consumer is charged and of the effect which rings have upon the consumer in general. The Mover and Seconder of the Amendment claim that public opinion is the best force for the reduction of prices. We usually speak here of Conservatives, but they are Tories in the real sense of the word. That is a very old doctrine and is to be found in speeches made in this House early in the 19th Century. When it was suggested that there should be regulation of mines and factories the same attitude was adopted and almost the same words used by the opponents of those Regulations, who claimed to be acting in the best interests of the people employed. Experience has shown that they were wrong. There was at one time in this country a demand for two shafts to each mine so that men would have a means of escape if anything went wrong with one shaft. The argument then used was that "well-informed public opinion" would see to it that proper steps were taken by the employers and that one shaft was quite enough. While the country was debating the matter, a great beam fell down 2200 a shaft in Northumberland and hundreds of men were left in a starving condition and the nation was shocked into taking action. And so it has been stage by stage. The history of the 19th Century is the clearest demonstration that public opinion is only effective in so far as it finds expression through the State in regulating those individual interests which have no regard for the consumer or for the worker. I have great pleasure in supporting the Motion.
§ Sir WILLIAM PERRING
It would have been much more helpful had the Mover and Seconder of the Motion gone a little more into details, instead of generalising so much. They should have told the House at what end of marketing or producing this profiteering was taking place. We hear much in these times of the need for the reorganisation of industry, and of efficiency, and of all these things which cheapen the cost of production, but immediately a few firms, by efficient organisation and improved methods, make a little more than the average rate of profit they are condemned as profiteers. If a firm by slack management or bad methods of production or distribution makes a loss, then I suppose in the eyes of hon. Members opposite, that firm is the ideal type of trading concern and one which we ought to bless. Reference had been made to a large firm of margarine manufacturers. While I know nothing of the firm in. question, I suppose it is true to say that it stands among the highest in the margarine trade and probably it has a high standard of efficiency and a cheap cost of production. But if you are going to standardise prices, if a Government Department is to fix the price for the importer, the merchant, the producer or the retailer, that price must of necessity be fixed for those who are producing at the highest cost, otherwise they will be losing money and must go out of business. It is an encouragement for those who arc producing at the lowest cost, if they are permit led to earn better profits than those who are working inefficiently and producing at a high cost.
Hon. Members who advocate the fixing of prices in this way do not seem to appreciate the ramifications of producing or manufacturing. I am sure there are right hon. and hon. Gentlemen opposite who know that profits and losses are pri- 2201 marily made by the volume of output and the volume of turnover. A man may sell dearly and yet lose money. A man may sell cheaply and yet make money. It is all governed by the volume of turnover, and if the Maypole Dairy Company, which has been referred to, were to reduce its turnover and output by one-half, even though it sold at higher prices, it would probably lose money. I never can understand how it is that hon. Members opposite do not seem to appreciate the factors which go to make a profit and the factors which go to make a loss. Whether it is that they have not had much experience of the internal working of business or not, I do not know. Reference has been made to the price of bread. Do hon. Members suggest that the Government ought to fix the price of the flour which comes into this country or the price at which bread is sold? I think Winnipeg has more to do with the price of bread than any Government Department. Canada to-day, in a very large degree, controls the price of flour, and those why buy flour in this country have to submit to the influences at work in Canada which fix the price of flour.
We also hear much about the price of coal—about the pithead price and the selling price and the distributing end, and all that—but nothing is ever said about the various grades of coal. We never hear about the coal which goes on to the slack-heap or about industrial coal. It is always the best coal which averages 30s., 42s. and 45s. about which we hear. I shall listen with great interest to the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), who often speaks for the cooperative societies, and who will probably tell us how much lower is the price at which coal is sold by the co-operative societies. This extra 10s., referred to by the hon. Member behind him, may be very high, inasmuch as this is a profiteering price to which he has referred. We shall naturally expect the hon. Member for Hillsborough to tell us that the cooperative societies are selling coal at 10s. less than anybody else, for, of course, they would not profiteer.
The hon. Member who moved the Motion talked about putting money to reserve and said it was wicked and that such money ought to be distributed to the consumers, but there are other people besides large producing companies who 2202 put money to reserve. Co-operative societies put large sums to reserve, and I hope the hon. Member for Hillsborough will tell us when he speaks that they contemplate that in future those reserves are going to be distributed amongst the people who are indulging in mutual trading, because I have always interpreted mutual trading to mean than the profits were mutually distributed to everybody concerned, and, therefore, I shall listen with great interest to what the hon. Member will tell us as to why they put by every year a million or more to reserve. The Seconder of the Motion said that profits are enormous and that the price of food is unduly high. I have a little knowledge of the gross profits in the grocery and provision trades, and I understand that in the grocery trade the gross profits, not the net profits, are somewhere between 12 and 14 per cent. If I am wrong, I shall no doubt soon be contradicted. If anybody in this House will say that the gross profits of grocers and people who are engaged in the grocery trade with a big turnover are only 12 or 14 per cent. and that that is profiteering, I have a lot to learn as to what profiteering means.
I am afraid that a good many hon. Members in this House who talk of profiteering merely use it as a phrase and never define what it means, because, as I said before, the efficiency of a firm makes for profits and not for losses. The Motion seems to suggest that we should have a Government Department to control prices, and we often hear of our war experience of controlled prices. I think that is a very unhappy reference indeed, because my information tells me that the profits were much higher during the War when prices were fixed than either before or since, and my experience teaches me that the competitive system is always the best protection to the public. Healthy competition brings out the most enterprise in the distributing and manufacturing trades.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
Is that why the grocers are forming a Grocers' Proprietary Articles Association for price fixing?
§ Sir W. PERRING
The hon. Member knows probably more about that than I do, but he may know that in proprietary articles there are discounts given according to the volume of business. Perhaps 2203 10.0 p.m.
he does not think I know that, and that by a group of retailers buying together they are able to get the same discounts as the co-operative societies are getting. We have been advising the retail traders to combine together and take a leaf out of the co-operative societies' book, and by that means they will be better able to compete in the open market with the distributing concerns with which the hon. Member is identified. I was saying, when I was interrupted, that it is an unhappy illustration to refer to the War experience of control. Everybody who knows anything about retail trade—I do not mean those who think they know, but those who have been in it all their lives—knows that there were more profits made, by the law of averages, when the prices were controlled than before or since that time, because, whatever may be said about the retailer and whatever charge is levelled against him, the mass of the small retail traders are competitive in their enterprise, and although they may vie in friendly competition with one another, they are always keen to get business for themselves if they can, and they do not believe in control or restriction. If you had control you would immediately get monopoly, and, of course, 1 recognise that hon. Members opposite are great believers in control in every sense of the word. They argue, and very often rightly argue, that keen competition leads to the cutting down of wages, and, therefore, they do not like too keen a competition. They believe in control, because when you get control you can then get wages lifted up, sometimes to an uneconomic level.
I may illustrate it in this way. We have now a measure of control in connection with the railways of this country. When the Measure was passed through this House that dealt with the grouping of railways and the setting up of rates and wages tribunals, there was introduced into that Bill a measure of control that has made for high wages, because as most hon. Members will know, it is the duty of the Bates Tribunal to fix the rates for the transportation of goods so as to produce a dividend equal to the pre-War dividend and a 5 per cent. dividend on any new capital. The effect of that is that we have ceased to have any 2204 keen competition in railway rates and that even the trade unions to-day are quite happy to co-operate with the railways and their directors to keep up wages. They do not grumble about the rates, and as a result the poor trader, whether he be a producer or a retailer, is now paying higher rates for his transportation of merchandise than he would have done under a competitive system. But, as a result of eliminating competition in railway freightage, they have been able to maintain wages, and I have no doubt they will take credit for that, but the final effect is that they have raised the price of commodities and affected the cost of living.
It must not be assumed that, because wages have gone up in any particular trade, they are always real wages. You have to consider what is the effect of those railway rates or wages or any other factor on the cost of living, and if, by putting up rates in one direction, or eliminating competition in another, or fixing prices so as to give a profit to the least efficient of those in a trade, you finally raise the cost of food, then the wages so earned are relatively not so high as they might have been under a system of keener competition. Therefore, in discussing this question of food prices and the cost of living, you have always to bear in mind what are the real wages and what is the spending or purchasing power of the money so earned. I have no sympathy with any control that means competition control and the raising of prices. I can quite imagine, under a Labour Government, prices being fixed very high so as to produce a bigger profit, and then in turn the trade unions turning round and squeezing those profits out of the employers' hands, so as to get higher wages. That will re-act again and increase the cost of living, and so we shall get back to the vicious circle that was in operation during the War. Therefore, I shall continue to support any proposal that keeps the individual efforts of the individual trader alive and vigorous, so that we can have keen competition, whether in purchasing, in marketing, or in producing. It leads to greater efficiency and to the elimination of waste, and it makes the manufacturer or the distributor watch keenly where he can cut out wastage through handling things two or three times.
2205 Competition is the greatest safeguard that the public can have and the greatest safeguard that the Government can encourage, because we are not only depending on home trade in this country but on export trade. We require a keenly competitive system in which the best is brought out of the captains of industry, the overseers and those who are organising industry, for the benefit of all concerned, not for the benefit of the manufacturers or those who are immediately looking for profits. It will be found that the competitive system in the end, taking all things into consideration, is the best for this country, because we are a country that depends so much on export trade, and the export trade and the home trade are so married and wrapped up together. You cannot divide one from the other, and, therefore, any suggestion that means fixing rates high and encouraging wages which are uneconomic and unsound, anything that will influence slowing up or kill keenness and freshness in production and manufacture will ultimately increase the cost of all the commodities for export, and we shall be unable to compete in the great markets of the world.
§ Mr. MARCH
We have heard from the Proposer and the Seconder of the Amendment that the Government and hon. Members on the other side of the House believe that public opinion will do all that is necessary to bring down prices. We have also had a good deal of discussion as to Government control over all necessaries in the shape of food and fuel. Certainly, hon. Members who say so have not read the Motion, otherwise they would not have come to that conclusion. Reference was then made to the Food Council. I do not suppose there is any one on that side, or even on this side, of the House who would complain of the work of the Food Council. We believe the Food Council is doing good work, although they are doing it in a voluntary capacity, and they deserve to have more power than they have got. It is a well-known fact that, as a result of their examination of witnesses and investigations into the whole question of bread, those in the trade decided that when flour is being sold at a certain price bread should also be sold at a certain price. That ought to apply to all those 2206 in the trade, and it would do so if the Food Council had power to impose penalties or fines upon those who evade the price. It has been publicly announced, week after week, that certain bakers in different parts of the country have refused to adhere to the prices which were agreed upon. If they continued to do that for a week or two they would be reaping an advantage, to the disadvantage of those who have reduced the price. Therefore the Government ought to do something to take adequate measures to prevent profiteering in the necessities of life.
If the Government gave the Food Council power to decide in regard to prices, then the prices so fixed should be? enforced. We have heard a good deal to-night about the co-operative movement. If the private traders in the country were as honest with their customers and with the people as the co-operative societies, we should not have much to complain about in profiteering. The dairymen of the country got together in London some time ago, and they decided between them-selves that they would supply milk at a certain rate. They fixed the rate in conjunction with the Food Council. Then the co-operative societies said, "We can supply milk better than that at 1d. a quart less." And they kept on doing so, with the result that the dairymen had to come down in their prices. There, again, you had the dairymen meeting and deciding upon a certain price, but they could not agree mong each other over the matter. I think the Government ought to urge the Food Council to go on faster. We did not hear from the Proposer of the Amendment as to the number of commodities that the Food Council have dealt with. They have not dealt with coal, which is a product in regard to which we have not to fear foreign competition. Whenever we mention coal we are told, "Look at the different qualities in coal." But there are also qualities in flour. When we learn that the price at which coal is being sold at the pithead, 20s. and 23s. a ton, and also that in London it is sold at 50s. and 55s. a ton, some of us would like to know where the difference goes.
I know something about the coal trade, as for some years I had to deal with the men who are concerned with distributing coal in London. A good deal of that 2207 difference in price goes in keeping up some of the magnificent offices of coal merchants in London. The coal prices in London are fixed on the Coal Exchange, and there is not the competition that one would expect there would be among the coal merchants, because they have their associations; they meet; they know what coal is coming into the market and where it is coming from, and they fix the price in London. Then we are told that the Press has a great deal to do with the price of food and the price of coal. But as the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) said, we would like to know who controls the Press. They are all in the same ring. The Press only talk about prices of things which suit themselves, because, otherwise, they would lose some of their advertisements. Therefore, we do not depend much upon the Press. We desire that the Government should do its duty by the Food Council and by the people of this country, by seeing that they get reasonable goods at reasonable prices, and that there is not so much profiteering.
§ Sir PATRICK FORD
I confess that sometimes I have wondered whether these discussions of private Members' Motions ever get us any distance. To-night we have had a very interesting discussion, and I was very much interested in the speech made by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Law-son). There is one point upon which I would like to differ from him. He objected to leaving things to public opinion, and he said that legislation always had been applied before we ever got any wrongs righted and reforms made. He cited the instance of the claims which had been made that we should have two pit-shafts where previously one existed. He said that the thing was discussed, and that suddenly a terrible accident took place, the consequences of which shocked public opinion and led to legislation, and that it was that legislation which brought about the remedy. I do think that in such matters as improving safety appliances and in doing mechanical things of that sort, you must have public opinion focussed and put into effect by legislation; but it is not entirely a true analogy to apply that to the very complicated financial situations, the very intricate workings of economic law when you 2208 come to try by legislation to fix prices. It is contrary to the Free Trade case. As one who believes in the efficacy of tariffs in certain circumstances, I am not at all prepared to admit that it is of necessity the best thing to leave these matters entirely to the working out of economic law, without some legitimate interference on the part of the Legislature; but, unfortunately, our experience of War control and, in fact, of any attempts at control of prices since, have not been very encouraging. (There has usually been some factor which has escaped notice, which has upset calculations and produced a result contrary to that which those who endeavoured to control the prices wanted.
I was rather disappointed that the hon. Member for Chester-le-Street, in a very well-reasoned and moderate speech, did not try to give us a little of his own ideas as to why the price of coal was so disproportionate when it got to the consumer to what it was at the pithead. He said that someone in his. constituency had asked him, and he replied, "I want you to tell me." It reminded me of a character in an American book dealing with American politics. When asked an awkward question, his favourite reply was, "You tell me and Pill tell you," and I was rather disappointed to find the hon. Member, from whom I really had hoped to get some information, taking up that attitude. I think with regard to coal, before we come to the action of the retailers in London or other cities and districts, we must remember that from the pithead to the distributing depots of the retailers there are very considerable steps to be taken, and v?ry high rates to be paid for transit, and if these rates are to be materially red-iced, I do not see how, even with increased efficiency in management, you are going to achieve that without reducing railway workers' wages. And when you come to the actual business of taking round coal in carts and distributing it, especially to the small consumer, which is the most expensive method, I do not see how you can pay the men engaged in that trade—the carters and the men who carry the sacks—the wages which they expect.
These things do bulk very largely, and it is for the convenience of customers that people have offices in rather expensive localities. You cannot get these conveniences without paying for them, and 2209 when these people have to pay high rent, rates, and so on, those things must be taken into account, because not even Socialist traders are out for purely humanitarian purposes, but want to make profits. Then we come to the question of what is a reasonable profit, and along with that the question as to how far small individual businesses are best. They, after all, are the ideal of the individualist, because we feel it is for the good of the character of a man to take an independent interest in furthering, by hard work and efficiency, the building-up of a business, making reasonable profits and finding employment for his fellow-men. We think, from that point of view, the small business is much the best type. But in many cases the cost of production and of distribution can be so very largely reduced by a large combination that we may be prepared to sacrifice some of that more definite individualism in the interests of the public at large.
We see that exemplified in the case of the Standard Oil Company. Many people have held up that Company as an instance of an enormous combine making undue profits. From all inquiries I have made into the question it seems to me there is no doubt we could not buy our oil so cheaply to-day had the production and distribution of oil been left to small individual traders. The Standard Oil Company by very efficient organisation over large areas, by the use of great pipe lines, and by other methods, has been able to sell oil a great deal cheaper than it could have been sold if that organisation had not been built up; and so long as a combination like that sells oil more cheaply than it could have been sold if it had not been in existence I cannot think the general public have a very serious cause of complaint. They are getting something they have not worked for put into their hands more cheaply. When, however, we find a deliberate effort by any ring or combine to hold up prices unduly, and to raise them above the prices which would be charged by an individual trader if he were not intimidated, then, I think, the State can step in. If cases can be established where members of a ring threaten those who are undercutting them with what is practically a boycott, with peaceful picketing and all the rest of it, I, as a supporter of the Trade Union Bill, would 2210 recommend the Government—and here I think the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) will agree with me—to introduce into that Measure some ameliorative legislation; but I do not think we could arrive at any solution of the problem by means of the Motion now under consideration.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
The hon. Member for North Edinburgh (Sir P. Ford) has spoken of the advantages which can be obtained for the community through the operations of a great combine such as the Standard Oil Trust. He spoke of the early beginnings of that great oil combine as having been based upon individual effort and enterprise, and its gradual rise to great efficiency by large bulk handling; but as I was listening to him I wondered whether he had ever read the rather famous history of the Standard Oil Trust and its fights against various anti-Trust Acts of Parliament.
§ Sir P. FORD
I would like to say that I was not going into the morality of the early operations of that Trust, but pointing out that to-day it sells us oil more cheaply—as consumers we ought to be, to a certain extent, grateful for it—than we could have bought it if that Trust had not come into existence. That was my point—it was purely an economic point and not one of morality.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
It is just as well that we should know that, because the point of what has been said by my hon. Friends was how much more could have been done for the general good if the large profits amassed in the past by the Standard Oil Company had been available for the whole community. Anyone reading the history of the Standard Oil Trust will find that in the days before gas and electric light were within the reach of ordinary people the price of petroleum was raised three times, four times, even five times in a decade, through the operations of that trust. It is just as well when we talk about the present position giving us lower prices to remember that what has been put forward may very largely increase prices. I want to say a word or two in reply to what has been said by the hon. Member for North Paddington (Sir W. Perring). The hon. Member represents very largely the small private trader, 2211 and he referred to co-operative trading, in which I am interested. Let me point out that all the inquiries held up to the present in regard to the prices of fuel and food have not resulted in anything detrimental to the history of the co-operative movement. I think I can assure the hon. Member that in any case, under whatever circumstances the profits are made,, in the case of co-operative societies they go back to the purchaser.
Mention has been made of the very large reserves put aside by traders in the food and fuel trades, and the hon. Member said he wondered what was the position of co-operative societies in this respect. We make no apology for putting sums to reserve, but when we do that we do not think they lose their mutual character. Instead of using those reserves as the Maypole Dairy Company do for maintaining the market price of shares or issuing bonus shares, we use our mutual reserves for maintaining discounts on purchases to our customers, or developing other branches of mutuality for the benefit of consumers in general. There is one point on which I feel quite sure the hon. Member will change his mind if he thinks a little harder about it, and that is the point that in his view competition would eliminate waste. All the evidence goes to show that competition produces waste in the distribution of a great many of the prime necessities of the food of the people. In the co-operative movement we have proved that where we could get a reasonable approach to block deliveries we can eliminate so much waste that the cost and the prices are lower and the profits are raised.
If I might give the hon. Member an example of that, I would refer him to the distribution of milk in the City of Derby, which, because of the fact that there is a stable artisan population in the great railway industry there, who are very largely co-operators, the result is that you get block deliveries and no real competition, but you get a lower price for milk and larger profits; the whole thing is more economical. I could repeat many other cases where the absence of competition, provided you have not a monopoly, if you like to call it so, worked purely for private profit, leads to greater efficiency; and there is no reason at all why a development of the co-operative supply of the food of the people, whether 2212 through co-operative societies or through the activities of the State, if that became necessary, would lead to anything in the nature of waste or inefficiency. It would be far more likely to lead to increased efficiency and a saving to the community in general.
§ Mr. ALEXANDER
The hon. Member repeats what was said in the House the other day concerning co-operative farming, and it always seems to give a good deal of amusement to hon. Members opposite. But one need not be ashamed to say, when it is necessary to say it, that a great organisation like the cooperative movement has had to buy its experience, and to buy it rather hard. It has had to buy its experience, but that is not a thing that should excite amusement in hon. Members opposite. It ought to show them that a great working-class movement is willing to experiment boldly in trying to meet the difficulties it is up against in that or any other industry. As a matter of fact, in trying to get to the actual sources of food production in this country, the cooperative movement has met with very great difficulties, but although, in some cases, they have lost money, and, indeed, have decided to give up farming, there are other cases where they are now showing very substantial profits, and they are not going by any means in all parts of the country to be stampeded out of their agricultural experiments.
Having, I think, answered those points which have been raised, I come back to the main part of the discussion of the Motion before the House. May I say that we are very disappointed with the position which has been arrived at as to Government action in this matter? I am quite sure the President of the Board of Trade well agree that the Government of which he is now a Member, in their appeal to the country in 1924—they were not it that moment the Government, but in their appeal to the country they laid very great stress, the Prime Minister particularly, upon the need for taking immediate and drastic action with regard to food prices in this country. In more than one speech during his election campaign in the country, the Prime Minister seemed to want to indicate to the country that it was not so 2213 much a question of the wages paid to the workers of the country, as of what they could buy with those wages. I think that in that statement he was perfectly right. I have seen in my recent visit to Australia, for example, that it is by no means the wage that is fixed, either by negotiation or through the Federal Arbitration Court, that counts; it is what can be bought with the wage when it is fixed.
I agree with the point made by the Prime Minister in his Election address. Where I am disappointed is in the fact that the action of the Government has been so feeble in trying to make the purchasing power of the wages of the people more effective. Although the hon. and gallant Member for Chelmsford (Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury), in moving the Amendment, gave some figures as to reductions in food index prices in the last two years, I am afraid I cannot accept his statement that the appointment of the Food Council, or the inquiries they have conducted, have been very largely responsible for that fall in prices. If, for example, the hon. and gallant Member—I have not got the figures with me tonight, and am speaking from memory—will examine the index figures for wholesale prices of the main imported food commodities, I think he will find that the actual fall in the index figure for retail prices of food has been far more due to variations in the world markets than to any action which has been taken by the Food Council. As I have said, I did not bring these figures with me, and am speaking purely from memory, but I think that as a matter of fact the experience of the last two years has shown quite conclusively that the forecast made by us on this side of the House, that the Food Council had not been endowed by the Government with sufficient powers, and, therefore, would be of very little effect, has been justified. The Prime Minister, as we have had to remind the House again and again, in his famous Albert Hall speech after the last Election, said that he had such a reinforcement of youth and capacity in his new-party that they would be able to cut through the jungle of any vested interests which stood in their path. I have been waiting to see the attack to be made by the Conservative Government through 2214 the jungle of vested interests and I have not seen anything emerge yet of a very startling character, except the attack that is now to be launched upon the trade unions, although I know it has been suggested by other vested interests that it would be as well if the Government would attack co-operative societies as well. But if that should come about, I dare say we shall be as well prepared to meet the attack in that direction as we shall be to meet it in the case of trade unions.
At the same time, I do not want it to be imagined that I agree with all the extreme things that are said about the level of food prices. Very often most misleading things are said. I see figures quoted, for example, as to the price of imported meat at the port of unlading, and I see Australian and New Zealand meat quoted as being sold at 3½d. a lb., taking the carcase, and, a very great deal of song is made of the fact that you have to pay 1s. 4d. to 1s. 6d. for certain joints of that carcase. Statements like that do not lead us anywhere. The average selling price of a carcase like that is very much below 1s. 4d. or 1s. 6d. But when you discount in every possible way extreme statements on the cost of living, there is far too great a range of price between producer and consumer, and that is the problem the Prime Minister promised the Government would devote themselves to if they were given the confidence of the country, and it is the way they have dealt with that that has led us to be disappointed, and to put down this Motion. We think you could do a great deal more than you have done if you gave the Food Council power. Nor do hon. Members on this side want to be associated with attacks upon the personnel of the Food Council or the way in which they are trying to do their work. Although I cannot say that Lord Bradbury appears to be very prominent in the matter, there are members of the Food Council executive who have done a great deal of public service, and have given a great deal of time. I have had to spend a great deal of time, both in my office and in the witness chair, to try to give them information for the purpose of their inquiry, and I want to pay special tribute to the chairman of the executive of the Food Council, who has given a good deal of time and labour to the matter. But I am also convinced that you will never 2215 get the effective results you want unless you give actual statutory powers to these men who have given of their time and of their labour for this purpose.
The President of the Board of Trade would do very well indeed if he would consult, say, the Combine Investigation Department of Canada. Canada is a very much younger and a very much more sparsely populated country than this. In Canada they found, only a short time ago, that it was very essential, if they were to get a proper standard of life, to make the purchasing power of the people go as far as possible, and when they discovered that the producer was not getting a fair price and the consumer was being charged too much, they passed an Act in 1923 which has been the most effective Statute of its kind I have yet come across. I discovered in Canada last year that when unfair prices were being-charged for fruit to the consumer, and the producer was not getting it, but it was going to the jobber and broker in between, under the Canadian Combine Investigation Act an inquiry was ordered and there was a prosecution and the people who were concerned in robbing both the producer on the one hand and the consumer on the other were fined a total of £40,000, spread amongst four defendants, and short terms of imprisonment, though they could have been sentenced to higher terms. There was no difficulty about getting the money. The people concerned paid the fines within three weeks. There is a way for the President to materially strengthen the hands of those who are endeavouring to deal with prices in this country.
It has been suggested to-night, and it is often suggested, that if it had not been for the maintenance of wages in the railway industry things might have been very much better. I would commend those people who raise that question to study a little book which was issued, not by the National Union of Railwaymen, but by the Railway Clearing House, a couple of months ago, which gives a very clear indication of how much the present railway transport notes affect the actual cost of food in this country. I am not going to suggest, speaking from the point of view of one interested in the general distribution of merchandise in the food trade, that I would not like to see railway rates lowered; but I do 2216 say that it is unfair to suggest, on the actual facts, comparing the prices of food to the consumer to-day with the prices of food to the consumer in 1913, and taking alongside with that the proper ratio of the cost of the transport of food to-day and in 1913, that the cost of railway transport is responsible for the present prices of food. That argument cannot be maintained, when the cost of food to the consumer has increased far and away on a higher ratio than the cost of railway transport has increased in the meantime. "We must lock for some other source of leakage to account for the increase in the food prices.
There is a good deal of truth in what was said by one hon. Member opposite about the tendency to maintain high prices as the result of War-time experience. I am not going to say whether that was due to actual State control or not. I think it was far more due to the fact that there was a restriction of goods available, and at the same time an inflation of currency. It is a great pity, in these circumstances, with all these high retail prices, that the Government are not taking steps to see that proper wages are paid in the retail distributing industry. In the meat trade, the drapery trade, the grocery trade and the catering trade, miserable wages are being paid by most of the people concerned, although these high prices are being charged to the rest of the community. I hope the Government will take the Debate to-night in the spirit in which it was intended. It was not intended as a sort of great frontal attack on the Government. We have been far more concerned to get the Government to say what they are doing and what they are prepared to do to deal with the great problem of the cost of living, which they said in their campaign in 1924 was one of the most vital things with which they had to deal.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
I certainly have no complaint to make of the manner in which the attack—the minor operation, as it was described—was launched, or the way in which it has been supported. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) is always ready to engage on a major scale in a major operation when he has the opportunity. The reason why the attack is a minor attack to-night and why so 2217 little force has been deployed in support of it was not the unwillingness to attack the Government, if the Government is ever open to attack, but because there was a very poor case to be made out. I shall not detain the House very long in proving that this attack has indeed been small. The House will observe that the attack is general. Very seldom did it come down to the particular, and when it dealt with the particular, with this or that price, hon. Members on this side of the House were able to give chapter and verse in every case.
This Motion, framed in general terms, states that prices are grossly and unfairly high, it alleges that the Government have done nothing to reduce them, and should take some further course. What course the Government are supposed to take has not been stated by the Mover of the Motion, because I think he did not want to commit himself wholeheartedly to the only two possible alternatives, complete control and nationalisation. He did admit in process of examination that he liked control and nationalisation, provided they were administered by a Socialist Government, and he felt that if nationalisation was under my direction it would be rather meagre. Let me come to the charge that prices are excessive. The evidence given in support of this was deplorable, and as a matter of fact prices have steadily fallen. The hon. Member said that if prices have fallen it is not due to the action of the Food Council but to the fact that world prices have fallen and that the retail prices have followed suit. I agree that nobody can control world prices, and all it comes to is this that as world prices fall, retail prices fall, and the Food Council has been able to get the advantage of this fall for the consumer, and I am quite certain that if they had not the hon. Member would have been the first to say, "What is your Food Council doing?" We have secured for the consumer the relative advantage due to the fall in wholesale prices.
In the last two years food prices have fallen by 14 or 15 points. That is a very considerable amount. And this is also interesting. The House is well aware of the food figure and the general cost of living figure. The food figure has fallen 14 points or more, but the general cost 2218 of living figure has only fallen eight points during the same period and, therefore, on the very point on which we are being challenged, the food prices, the fall has been much more rapid and much more complete than it has on the general cost of living figure. That is, I think, a complete answer to the first ground on which the attack was made. It is said that the Government have done nothing.; The Mover of the Motion did pay a very proper tribute to the work of the Food Council, and I am glad that such a tribute has come from the benches opposite, particularly to the admirable work of Sir Allan Powell, the Vice-Chairman of the Food Council, who has acted as Chairman of the executive committee. They have a great deal to their credit. Take bread; the most important thing of all. I do not think anything was done in regard to bread in the year 1924. The hon. Member who moved the Motion hit upon the year 1924 and said it was a bad year of high prices in food and fuel.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member was in office in 1924, or his party was in office, and Mr. Shinwell, then the Goverment expert adviser on this matter, after various committees of inquiry had considered the problem, thought he was going to succeed. He published a great White Paper and took into consultation the co-operative societies. He said to the co-operative societies: "Here is your chance. Look at these distributors of coal; they are charging excessive prices. I am not able to prove that they are excessive, but I feel it in my bones that they are excessive, and it will be for the co-operative societies to help. You have a good cooperative Government in office. We will give all the help who can and who will issue a clarion call to the co-operative societies to come out and save the nation." I cannot find that one single co-operative society reduced the price of coal by one single penny. The hon. Gentleman opposite was asked to-night whether the cooperative societies were selling coal cheaper than the ordinary retailer. He said he had not the figures with him. I 2219 have inquired, for I have been anxious to get prices down. Every time I inquired, when I found prices were not coming down fast enough, I said: "What, are those co-operative societies doing; will not they come in and help? There are no politics in the co-operative movement; they are all out for the good of humanity, and they will be ready to help the poor in London. What are they doing about it? Will they not come out and reduce the price of coal? They are not parties to any ramp which takes place on the coal exchange. I regret to say that on no single occasion have I ever been able to find one co-operative society which had sold at a penny a ton even cheaper than those wretched retailers.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I shall be delighted to hear of a case if there be one co-operative society which sets an example to all the thousands of other retailers.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
If they were selling cheaper, the hon. Gentleman would have been the first to make the point. In spite of the fact that the country had been deprived of coal and started with no coal stocks after the long stoppage, and when everyone had assumed that prices would remain high for much longer than they have, what is the fact to-day? Because the consumer has been wise enough to buy with discretion—which is the way in which you do get prices down far better than by control, for coal control cost this country millions of pounds without any benefit to the consumer—he has brought prices down, with the result that in spite of our starting with every handicap, to-day prices of coal are as low as they were this time last year before the stoppage took place.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
In many places good wages are being paid. The hon. Gentleman really cannot have it 2220 both ways. What he is challenging the Government on to-night is that prices are too high, and I am answering him with a fact which he cannot dispute, and that is that the price has come down so that to-day it is as low as it was this time last year. Therefore, there is no ground for the charge that prices are excessive, and, indeed, not a single proof has been advanced. As regards Government action, the price of bread has been stabilised; the Food Council have introduced and the traders have accepted a ratio by which, as the price of flour falls, so the price of bread falls. That arrangement is almost universally accepted throughout the country. Out of all the thousands and thousands of places in this country, we are told that there are 18 places where that is not being carried out in its entirety. I think that is a most admirable result. Then I was told that they had not been successful with milk, because the summer prices of milk should start at the beginning of April. As a matter of fact, I understand that they have been successful, and that the summer price is practically universal this April throughout the country. Then the Government have another great achievement to their credit—the Short Weight Act, which we passed last Session and which ensures that in all the essential articles of food the consumer shall know the weight that he is receiving. Let us be fair about the matter. Has the Government done nothing? The Labour Government could have passed a Short Weight Act in 1924. They did not do so. We passed the Act, and we are said to have done nothing.
The price of food has gone down 14 points while the present Government have been in office; the price of bread has been stabilised; the summer prices of milk begins in April; and we have got the whole field of food covered by a Short Weight Act. We are told that in spite of these successes there should be some system of control. I affirm that all experience shows that control is costly and that it does not bring benefit to the consumer, because inevitably the controlled price is far higher than the price at which the efficient producer can produce. That happened all through the War. If you adopt a system of control you cannot do so in a haphazard way. You have to take one by one every process in a busi- 2221 ness; you have to control the price from the beginning to the end; and that inevitably drives you into taking over the whole of the business. I wish that those who talk so glibly about control would read the Report of the Imperial Conference of three years ago. There the Ministers from the Dominions and from India sat with us to consider whether such control was possible. Unanimously they reported that control would be costly, that it would be inefficient, that it would tend to raise prices rather than lower them, that it would be of no value to the consumer, and that it would involve the State in the process of taking
§ over each industry upon which the experiment was started. That, of course, is what hon. Members want. We do not want it. We do not think it would be an advantage to the consumer; we know it would be a grave disadvantage to the taxpayer and we arc quite content with the results which we are obtaining at the present time.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 116; Noes, 201.2223
|Division No. 79.]||AYES.||[11.0 p.m.|
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)||Hayday, Arthur||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Hayes, John Henry||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Sexton, James|
|Ammon, Chariot George||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Baker, J. (Wolverhampton, Button)||Hirst, G. H.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Baker, Walter||Hirst, W. (Bradford, South)||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Barnes, A.||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield)||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Barr, J.||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Batey, Joseph||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Snell, Harry|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Broad, F. A.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Spoor, Rt. Hon. Benjamin Charles|
|Bromfield, William||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Stamford, T. W.|
|Bromley, J.||Kelly, W. T.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kennedy, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Hollox)|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Sullivan, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Lansbury, George||Sutton, J. E.|
|Cape, Thomas||Lawrence, Susan||Taylor, R. A.|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lawson, John James||Thurtle, Ernest|
|Clowes, S.||Lee, F.||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Compton, Joseph||Lindley, F. W.||Townend, A. E.|
|Connolly, M.||Lowth, T.||Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Lunn, William||Viant, S. P.|
|Davies, Evan (Ebbw Vale)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen|
|Day, Colonel Harry||Mackinder, W.||Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)|
|Dennison, R.||MacLaren, Andrew||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney|
|Dunnico, H.||Maxton, James||Wellock, Wilfred|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)||Westwood, J.|
|Gillott, George M.||Montague, Frederick||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Naylor, T. E.||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Oliver, George Harold||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Palin, John Henry||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Paling, W.||Windsor, Walter|
|Groves, T.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)||Wright, W.|
|Grundy, T. W.||Pethick-Lawrence, F. w.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Potts, John S.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Hardie, George D.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.|
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon||Riley, Ben||Whiteley.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Cecil, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)|
|Agg-Gardnor, Rt. Hon. Sir James T.||Blundell, F. N.||Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton|
|Albery, Irving James||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Clayton, G. C.|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir G. K.|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I.||Cope, Major William|
|Atkinson, C.||Broun-Lindsay, Major H.||Couper, J. B.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Brown, Maj. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C. (Berkt, Newb'y)||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islington, N)|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.|
|Barnston, Major Sir Harry||Burman, J. B.||Crooke, J. Smedley (Oeritend)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)|
|Bethel, A.||Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Campbell, E. T.||Daikeith, Earl of|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)||Ruggles-Brise, Major E. A.|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Kidd, J. (Linlithgow)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Dixey, A. C.||King, Captain Henry Douglas||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Knox, Sir Alfred||Salmon, Major I.|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Lamb, J. Q.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Elliot, Major Walter E.||Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.||Sandeman, N. Stewart|
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Sanders, Sir Robert A.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Loder, J, de v.||Sandon, Lord|
|Fanshawe, Commander G. D.||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley|
|Forestier-Walker, Sir L.||McDonnell, Colonel Hon. Angus||Slaney, Major P. Kenyon|
|Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Maclntyre, Ian||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||McLean, Major A.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Gadie, Lieut.-Col. Anthony||Macquisten, F. A.||Stanley, Col. Hon. G. F. (Will'sden, E.)|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||MacRobert, Alexander M.||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)|
|Gates, Percy||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)|
|Gauit, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||Makins, Brigadier-General E.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.|
|Gibbs, Col. Rt. Hon. George Abraham||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn||Strauss, E. A.|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Margesson, Captain D.||Streatfeild, Captain S. R.|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Mason, Lieut.-Col. Glyn K.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Merriman, F. B.||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Greene, W. P. Crawford||Meyer, Sir Frank||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Granfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)||Templeton, W. P.|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M.||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)|
|Grotrian, H. Brent||Moore, Lieut.-Col. T. C. R. (Ayr)||Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)|
|Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Murchison, Sir Kenneth||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Hammersley, S. S.||Nelson, Sir Frank||Tinne, J. A.|
|Hannon, PatricK Joseph Henry||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Harland, A.||Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Waddington, R.|
|Harrison, G. J. C.||Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Nuttall, Ellis||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Hawke, John Anthony||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Penny, Frederick George||Wells, S. R.|
|Henderson, Capt. R.R. (Oxf'd, Hentey)||Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.|
|Henderson, Lieut.-Col. V. L. (Bootle)||Perkins, Colonel E. K.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dafrymple-|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Perring, Sir William George||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hills, Major John Waller||Philipson, Mabel||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)|
|Hilton, Cecil||Power, Sir John Cecil||Wilson, M. J. (York, N. R., Richm'd)|
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Holland, Sir Arthur||Radtord, E. A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Hope, Capt. A. O. J. (Warw'k, Nun.)||Raine, w.||Wise, Sir Fredric|
|Hopkins, J. W. W.||Rees, Sir Beddoe||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Horlick, Lieut.-Colonel J. N.||Rentoul, G. S.||Womersley W. J.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Wood, Sir S. Hill- (High Peak)|
|Hume, Sir G. H.||Rice, Sir Frederick|
|Iliffe, Sir Edward M.||Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Jones, Henry Haydn, (Merioneth)||Ropner, Major L.||Lieut.-Colonel Howard-Bury and Captain Bourne.|
Resolutions agreed to.
§ Question proposed, "That those words be there added."
§ It being after Eleven of the Clock, the Debate stood adjourned.