HC Deb 25 July 1927 vol 209 cc873-991

1. "That a sum, not exceeding £45,076, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Fishery Board for Scotland, including Expenses of Marine Superintendence, Loans to Herring Fishermen for the Purchase of Drift Nets, and Grants in Aid of Piers or Quays."

2. "That a sum, not exceeding £296,617 be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the Sear ending on the 31st day of March, 1928, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, and Subordinate Departments, including certain Services arising out of the War."

First Resolution agreed to.

Second Resolution read a Second time.

Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)

I understand that it is desired to have a general discussion on trade, and I think that, following the precedent of other years, it will probably be convenient if at the outset of the Debate I give the House, as far as possible, some appreciation of the present position and—it is not very easy—some comparison of our present position with that of past years. To make that comparison to-day is not easy, because, of course, last year was an abnormal year—I hope it may be regarded as a unique year, never to be repeated. When we come to comparisons we really can take nothing more than the first quarter, or the first four months, of last year, and for a standard of comparison over the whole year we have to go back to 1925. As the House knows, whenever anyone tries to make an appreciation of the trade of this country based upon figures he is at once faced with the difficulty that, apart from the figures that come to hand from time to time in the Census of Production, there are no full figures of production year by year, and we are thrust back upon the figures of export and import trade. The position to-day is that while we have the figures of the last Census of Production in 1907, and that we shall have, when they are complete, much fuller figures for the Census of Production of 1924, these latter figures are not yet complete. We can only present a complete picture of the export trade of this country and of the imports into this country.

4.0 p.m.

I want to say again, what I am afraid I have said many times, that I would make an earnest appeal to all trade organisations in this country to give us something which will enable us to get a picture year by year of the production of this country. When the figures for the 1924 census are complete I have a plan for trying to keep that census up to date in a smaller form, a voluntary form, so as to be able year by year to present some account of our complete production with a reasonable measure of accuracy, at any rate as regards the more important trades of the country. But I can only do that if the trade organisations and, where there are not trade organisations, the larger individual firms, will co-operate. I sincerely hope that that help will be forthcoming, for I am sure that it is good for business that production figures shoud be known and that people lose nothing by putting their knowledge into the common stock. There are a few trades in which yearly and, indeed, monthly production figures are obtainable We get them for coal, for iron and steel, and for shipbuilding, and I think it will be useful if in those cases I give the House a statement as to the present production. I do it with this reservation, that while they are great basic industries employing large numbers of men, they do not, of course, employ anything like the majority of the people of this country, and it would be quite an inaccurate picture if it were assumed that the prosperity, the amount of work of the mass of other trades, the consuming trades, as I may call them, which, in the aggregate employ an enormous number of people, were to be measured by these three basic industries. The position in them, I think, is quite different. I think it would be generally acknowledged to be true that the more basic industries are the industries which have taken longest to get going completely. It seems as though the individual purchasing power of this country and of the world was there, and was growing, but that the more corporate purchasing power was lagging a good deal behind. But, with that reservation, I will take some figures of these trades. Let me take coal first, and I take the two things which are important—aggregate production and exports. The average production of coal from 1911 to 1913 was 273,000,000 tons. The average exports for those years was 67,500,000 tons. The year 1913, of course, was a bumper year—287,500,000 tons production, and 73,500,000 tons exports. In 1925, the production was 243,000,000 tons, and the exports 61.6 million tons. In 1925—I take the first half year——


Is 1925 the best year, seeing that there was a subsidy. Would not 1924 be a better year?


No, because in 1924 you had a very artificial position in the Ruhr. I think the much fairer comparison is with 1925 than with 1924. I think that was the comparison which the Coal Commission took. I can say at once that I have not selected any sort of year with an arrière-pensée. I have been at some pains to select those years which appear to be the best years for the purpose, but I would take the first half of the year 1925, and compare it with the first half of this year. In the first half of the year 1925, the production was 124.32 million tons, and exports 25.85 million tons. In the first half of 1927 the production was 128.13 million tons, and the exports 26.32 million tons. So much for coal.

Now let me come to iron and steel. Take pig-iron first. Owing to the amount of scrap which is now used for steelmaking, I do not think a comparison with pre-War output is a very fair one, but, for what it is worth, I give the 1913 monthly average production in this country, namely, 855,000 tons. In 1926, for the first four months, the average was 535,000 tons, and for the first six months of this year the average is 621,000 tons. I come next to steel production, which is much more important, and I take it on the recognised basis of ingots and castings. In 1913, the monthly average production was 638,600 tons. In 1926, for the first four months, the average production was 697,000 tons. For the first six months of this year the average was 831,166 tons. That figure starts in January with a production of 730,000 tons, and works up to a production of nearly 950,000 tons in March, and it fell for the month of June to 747,000 tons. [An HON. MEMBER: May?"] In May it was 882,000 tons. I say at once that the big output in this industry undoubtedly owes a great deal to the banked-up orders, and I hesitate to make forecasts, as I am always chary of doing so. But I do not think there is any chance of the output in the industry for the second part of this year being on the scale of the first part of the year. There was a great deal of work on accumulated orders, and that is shown by the fact that it went up in March to nearly 950,000 tons, and it has fallen in the later months, though I agree that June is not a very fair month to take. It is not fair to take those figures without looking at the steel production in the great steel-producing countries of the world, because the really fair comparison to make is not with what we are doing as compared with 1913, but as compared with what the other great steel competing countries have been doing. For that purpose, I have taken the United States as one unit, and I have taken Germany, France, Belgium (including Luxemburg and the Saar) as another unit. In that way, I think you get a fair comparison of unit. If you lump them all together, pre-War and post-War, you get a convenient basis for comparison. These are the monthly averages in thousands of metric tons:

U.S.A. Germany, France and Belgium (including Luxemburg and Saar).
1913 2564 2165
1926 3794 2307
1927 (first five months) 4127 2628
That, I think, is the most useful figure I can give for a complete comparison between the movement of English production and that of the two great units of our competitors. Having given that in steel production, I turn to the exports and imports of steel for this country, and, in giving those figures, I think it is only fair to give them in values and not in volume of tonnage, because, plainly, a mere statement of tonnage does not afford any real basis of comparison of the value or the amount of work which goes into the two classes of goods. Largely, the imports are a cruder class, and the exports carry a good deal more work with them. Therefore I think it is fair here not to give the tonnage, but the value in each case.


Would it not be better to have them both ways?


I will do that. I have taken the first quarter of 1913, 1926 and 1927 and also the second quarter of 1927. The first quarter of 1927 was abnormal, in that there were large imports ordered during the coal stoppage, so that the imports were larger and the exports smaller than normally. I will give the tonnage and the value. These are net imports of iron and steel and manufactures thereof:

Net imports.
Thousand tons. £ millions (declared values).
First quarter of:
1913 576 4.0
1926 705 5.8
1927 1,473 11.3
Second quarter of:
1927 1,089 8.2
Now I take British exports for the same period:
British exports.
Thousand tons. £ millions.
First quarter of:
1913 1,186 13.6
1926 1,083 18.3
1927 824 15.5
Second quarter of:
1927 1,123 18.5
I think that gives as fair a picture as possible of the actual position. I now pass on to shipbuilding, which is the third industry for which I can give positive production figures. Here, I think, a comparison with the pre-War position is of very little use. What is much more important is to notice how new orders are beginning to come along and to what extent we are making up our position in competition with other shipbuilding countries; or, in other words, what share of the total shipbuilding of the world we are getting. For the quarter ending the 31st March, 1926, the total gross tonnage under construction was 843,000 tons in this country, and our proportion of the world total was 42 per cent. For the quarter ending the 30th June, 1926, the figures were 841,000 tons building in this country, or 42.2 per cent. of the total world tonnage building. The total was a little lower in September, and for the quarter ending 31st December, 1926, the figures were 760,000 tons building in this country, or 39.3 per cent. of the total number of ships being built in the world. Take the quarter ending 31st March, 1927, and we find that the picture improves both absolutely and relatively. For that quarter the total was 1,217,000 tons building here, and that was 47.4 per cent. of the total number of ships being built in the world. For the quarter ending the 30th June, 1927, the total being built here was 1,390,000 tons, representing 48.9 per cent. of the total world's shipbuilding. I think those figures form a very satisfactory picture of our shipbuilding trade.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give us the percentage of pre-War shipbuilding?


I cannot give the percentage of pre-War ships under construction. I do not think we have got the figures which the right hon. Gentleman asks for, but if they are available I will get them. I thought I should be able to get them, but I was told that they are not available.


Not even at Lloyds?


No. The figures for our shipbuilding total for 31st March, 1913, are 2,063,000 tons, but the percentage is not available.


Is that a comparative figure with the end of December, 1923?


Yes, it is the total at the end of the quarter.


Can the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion are foreign orders?


I can give that information later, but I have not got it here. I have had an estimate prepared, and if the hon. Member will put down a question I can give him a fairly good estimate for the last quarter of the number of ships built for foreign orders. So much for shipbuilding.

Before I pass to the general export and import position as it is to-day, there are certain facts which already emerge from the material already sifted under the census of production which afford a comparison between production in 1924 and production in 1907. Briefly they are as follows: Preliminary reviews which we have made of the results already published cover 72 trades out of 121 issued, each trade having a separate schedule. The total number of people employed in the trades covered was 3,973,000 in 1907 and 4,759,000 in 1924. If you omit coal mining, on account of its special circumstances, the numbers are 3,135,000 in 1907 and 3,561,000 in 1924, showing an increase of 426,000, or 13.6 per cent. There remain to be covered industries which employed about 2,750,000 in 1907, and if a similar proportionate increase should be shown in these the increase in the numbers employed will be about 800,000, but one has to remember that since 1907 there has been considerable reduction from 54 hours per week to 48 hours, if not less. Therefore, the increase in numbers has been little more than would maintain output if the output per hour were kept about the same.

In respect of nearly one-half the persons employed in the industries reviewed, other than coal mining, some rough measure of change in quantity of gross output and in average price of products has been found feasible. The result is to show an increase in average prices of these products of between 90 and 100 per cent., and in quantity of output of between 11 and 19 per cent. according as 1907 output is valued at 1924 prices or 1924 output at 1907 prices, or, taking the mean, of 15 per cent. The increase in numbers employed in these trades is 13.1 per cent. I do not know to what extent there is greater or a less duplication in the returns, but this comparison of numbers and gross output appears to suggest that the physical output per head has been approximately maintained or even very slightly increased. In view of the general statement that there has been a considerable reduction, I was rather pleased that the 1924 census shows that result.

Before I come to the details of our own exports and imports I think the picture will be more clearly viewed if we try to visualise the volume and character of the external trade of the world as a whole. It has been estimated that the share of the United Kingdom in the total world exports of all kinds (excluding bullion and coin) is as follows:

Per cent.
1913 13
1923 14
1924 13
1925 12
Confining ourselves to manufactures we get this position. Our share of world exports of manufactures was as follows:
Per cent.
1913 28
1924 26½
1925 25½
If you compare these with the United States you find the figures are:
Per cent.
1913 11.2
1924 14.9
1925 15.5
Those are remarkable figures. When we realise that manufactures represent about 75 per cent. of our total exports and when it is realised that even allowing for a 50 per cert. rise in price in 1925 compared with pre-War the world exports of manufactures were greater in 1925 and were probably greater in 1924 than in 1913, the position is not satisfactory. The figures for this comparison always come very late; the 1926 figures, when available, will be no test because of our abnormal year and we shall not have the 1927 figures for a long time. Nevertheless, I thought it would be convenient to try and put into one single statement all the figures on this subject. Having dealt with our relative position in the export trade of the world, I want now to consider the distribution of our export trade by markets, dividing it into the British Empire, Europe, and the rest of the world. Taking, first of all, the total imports into this country, in 1913 24.87 per cent. of our imports came from the British Empire, 40.27 from Europe, and 34.86 from the rest of the world. In 1925, 29.63 per cent. came from the British Empire, 32.46 from Europe, and 37.91 from the rest of the world.


Does the British Empire include mandated territories?


No, the British Empire includes, for the purpose of these figures, only that which was British both before and after the War. Of British exports, in 1913 the British Empire took 37.18 per cent., Europe 34.02 per cent., and the rest of the world 28.80 per cent. In 1925, the British Empire took 39.18 per cent., Europe 31.20 per cent., and the rest of the world 29.62 per cent. I will now take the first quarter of 1927. It is not fair to take this in the case of imports, because imports are seasonal, and, therefore, in order to get any fair comparison, the whole year must be taken. I think, however, it is not unfair to take a single quarter in the case of our exports, which are of much the same character all the year round. In the first quarter of 1927, we exported to the Empire 43 per cent. of our total exports. These figures exclude the Irish Free State, so as to make the comparison equal before the War and now. I have given the figures for the total exports, but, if we confine ourselves to the figures for the export of manufactures alone, cutting out raw materials and food, the proportion going to the Empire is greater even than the large proportion I have stated for total exports. In the year 1925, for instance, the Empire, excluding the Irish Free State, etc., took 43 per cent. of our total exports of manufactures.


Does that include territories which have been mandated territories since the War?


No; I have taken, as an absolute standard of comparison, British territory before the War.


Except in the case of the Irish Free State?


I cut out the Irish Free State for different reasons. Before the War, the Irish Free State trade was internal trade, and, therefore, I cut out the Irish Free State, and have not included our exports to the Irish Free State. I have treated the United Kingdom as before the War as a unit, and have taken an exact comparison of the territories which were included in the British Empire before the War and which are included in the British Empire now.


That, of course, includes the Indian Empire?


Oh, yes. Before I come to the last of my tables, which deals with the exports and imports of this country, I ought, perhaps, to give the latest figures for the apparent trade balance. I do not want to enter again upon a discussion of the total net trade balance. We published our estimated figures at the beginning of this year, and they were widely canvassed and much criticised, but ultimately they were generally accepted, because no one could supply anything better. These calculations, really, can only be usefully made at the end of the year. If anyone has a really valuable criticism to offer as to the basis of these calculations, I shall be only too keen to get it, in order that each year the calculation may be as close as possible. Nor do I now want to speculate on what invisible exports are. When you pass from things like shipping earnings, which can be calculated with reasonable accuracy, it becomes very difficult. At any rate, I think we may safely take our stand on the figures which were published—conservative figures, certainly—until we can find something better, and, therefore, what I am now giving is only the apparent visible balance of imports over exports. In 1913, for the first half-year, the apparent adverse balance was £70.4 millions. In 1924, for the first half-year, the figure was £122.5 millions; in 1925, for the first half-year, it was £206.2 millions, and in 1927—I leave out 1926—in 1927, for the first half-year, it was £209.5 millions. I want to divide up the first half-year of 1927, because, during the first half of that year, we were taking in imports which were still directly related to the crisis through which we had been passing in 1926. That is shown very clearly from these figures. For the first quarter of 1927, the apparent adverse balance was £117.6 millions, and for the second quarter £91.9 millions.


There would have been a spurt in exports, too, in the first quarter.


That, I think, is true; I think it would probably, be found that another quarter would be somewhere between the two; and, of course, during the autumn of the year there are always large importations, so that quarters do not make a very convenient basis of comparison. I think, however, it is only fair to quote the second quarter, in order to show that, over the whole of the year 1927, we need not anticipate that the figures for the first quarter are likely to be repeated.

Now I come to the last table that I want to give to the House, namely, a comparative statement, firstly, of the total net imports and exports of all kinds, and, secondly, of the net imports and exports of manufactures. I am now using our own trade classification. In each case the estimate is based on volume, that is say, an attempt has been made to adjust the value down to the 1913 level and in each case the 1913 volume is taken as the basic figure of 100. I will give first the figures for the total net imports and then the figures for the total net exports and then I will give the figures for manufactures.

Net Imports—All Trades.
1913 100.0
1924 106.6
1925 111.8
1926 117.4
1926 (1st Quarter) 117.9
1927 (1st Quarter) 132.1
*1927 (2nd Quarter) 127.0
* Provisional figure.
Exports of United Kingdom Goods—All Trades.
1913 100.0
1924 76.1
1925 76.0
1926 67.9
1926 (1st Quarter) 80.3
1927 (1st Quarter) 75.7
*1927 (2nd Quarter) 78.5
* Provisional figure.
Net Imports—Manufactures alone.
1913 100.0
1924 105.4
1925 117.9
1926 129.1
1926 (1st Quarter) 120.8
1927 (1st Quarter) 145.4
1927 (2nd Quarter) 143.1
Exports of United Kingdom Goods—Manufactures.
1913 100.0
1924 75.3
1925 76.8
1926 71.7
1926 (First Quarter) 79.6
1927 (First Quarter) 74.4
1927 (Second Quarter) 77.4
In considering these figures as bearing on our present position two considerations have to be borne in mind. It is almost certainly true that our exports of manufactures to-day are on the whole of relatively higher value, ton for ton, than in 1913, and, therefore, the adjustment which one must make for a mathematical calculation of this kind presents a picture rather more gloomy than is justified. As I have said, ton for ton our exports are probably more valuable, and, therefore——


Is not that so with regard to imports also?


No; I should say that on the whole they would be less valuable. I think that undoubtedly the tendency is for more finished articles to be exported. I know there are exceptions. If you take, for instance, the woollen textile trade, the tendency is the other way. Probably much less of the finished cloth is being exported; we are exporting yarns. I think, however, that, taking it broad and long, the value ton for ton is undoubtedly higher to-day as regards exports. Certainly there is a great deal of machinery. Therefore, I think some allowance—I cannot say what, and I do not think that anyone can—has to be made for that. Also, we have to look back and see what are the retained imports of raw materials at the present time. Taking these on the same basis as before, we find the following figures, for the first half-year in each case:—

Retained Imports of Raw Materials.
1913 100.0
1924 83.4
1925 103.6
1927 119.2
The 1927 figure is rather better than it looks. In the first place, some 2,400,000 tons of coal had still to come in at the beginning of this year's figures, and there is also a fairly large sum for rubber, the position in regard to which was quite abnormal. In 1925, stocks were running down, and actually the re-exports of rubber were much greater than the quantity taken in, whereas now stocks are being piled up. Allowing, however, for the rubber position, and also for coal—this figure only accounts for half the year—the position is still considerably better than it was in the first half of 1925.

Even if we discount those figures n accordance with those two considerations I do not think anyone would deny that we should be in a healthier position if we could reduce our imports and increase our exports, and there certainly is a wide enough margin between the two for that proposition to be a truism and not a paradox. I would, therefore, say that the whole policy of encouraging people in this country to buy British goods, whatever right hon. Gentlemen on the other side may say about it, is a very sound policy. Indeed, the more that can be carried out the less the margin is going to be, the more work you are going to get for your people and the more money you are going to have for developing other markets. And it is also important for this reason. There is no doubt whatever from the figures I have given, and from the experience that everyone in business has, that the home market to-day is relatively a much more important thing for manufacturers in this country than it was before the War. The activity of the distributive trades shows that. You find that, whether you take the statistics of the co-operative societies, who have been good enough to give me their figures, or whether you take the great stores, when you look at the figures of importation and see that employment is as good as it is in some of the consumers' trades, there is not the least doubt that the home market is of far more importance than it was before the War, and the old formulæ about the proportion we used to export are utterly out of date and we have got to consider the home market a great deal more.

The next lesson I will draw from the figures I gave as to the distribution of trade is the enormous importance of developing the Empire market. In 1925, excluding the Irish Free State, 44 per cent. of our exports of manufactures went to the Empire. We enjoy great advantages, and there is great good will and there is a tremendous opportunity, both in the Dominions and the Crown Colonies, of doing a large, remunerative win growing business. The third lesson I would draw, which is equally obvious, is the importance of the most efficient selling organisation and most efficient representation our manufacturers can have in oversea markets. We have a great reputation for quality. We have a tremendous good will throughout the whole Empire, and not only throughout the Empire but in other markets. When you find in the Argentine a spontaneous movement growing up with the slogan of "Buy from those who buy from us"—I am afraid the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) would say that is bad economics—but they have formulated that slogan and "Buy from them that buy from us" means buy from Great Britain. When you have that good will the best salesmanship is wanted all over the world. Salesmanship has to begin in the factory. You have to make what your customer wants and not supply what you think your customer ought to have. Therefore, the study of markets and representation in those markets ought to go hand in hand. I know it will be said representation costs money and the times are difficult, but I am sure it is worth while, and I am sure you cannot trust everything to an agent who has many other interests.

I had an extraordinarily interesting example of that the other day from a distinguished Canadian who is over here. He told me a large Canadian firm wanted to place an order with a British firm. Their agent, who was agent for a number of other foreign firms as well, said the English firm did not produce the type of material and could not possibly quote a price. He came to this country and approached the firm and they said of course they could do it, and he made a large contract at a price that suited him perfectly well. That was a bit of luck, because it is not the business of the buyer to hunt out the seller. It it the business of the seller to hunt out the buyer. Undoubtedly it pays to have good representation in the oversea markets, and the further afield the markets are the more important that is. I know the cost is large, but why cannot firms combine in order to have a single representative on the spot? Combination for representation must be good business. It is better business for a first-class English representative to get that order for a firm in England than that the order should go to a foreign firm. It means that the order comes at any rate to an English firm and that it is an advertisement for every other English firm in the same line of business. Therefore I would appeal to firms to combine for representation abroad.

I have no doubt that would lead, if they combined in a selling organisation, to factory amalgamation. Selling amalgamations and factory amalgamations are both to-day in the national interest and I am sure the public need not be alarmed. It is unreasonable to start criticising an amalgamation the moment it takes place. Without saying anything controversial, I would say to some hon. Members opposite who are inclined to criticise one form of amalgamation and to shout for another, it is no good saying you must have selling and producing amalgamations in the coal industry—I quite agree with them—if, at the same time, whenever any other industry begins to amalgamate they start asking the Board of Trade to have an inquiry into it. Amalgamations to-day are sound business and are in the national interest, taken broad and large. As long as you have a manufacturng capacity in practically every industry in the world which is far greater than the world is likely to absorb, it is good business for manufacturers to produce and sell as much as they can. There is not the least risk, really, that amalgamations are going to lead to a reduction of output in order to get higher prices for the limited amount. In order to bring down overhead costs they must work for the maximum of production and sale, and therefore it is in the national interest, and the consumers' interest, that these amalgamations, whether selling or factory, should take place. I have given the House as full a picture as I can of the trade position. It is impossible to make a general forecast. Anyone is rash who attempts to do that. I am sure it is futile to make forecasts of one trade and apply them to another. The same conditions do not apply to all, and probably it is much more useful to draw the kind of lesson I have tried to draw from the facts and figures I have given than make any general forecast where the people in the trade would be unwilling to make a forecast themselves. I do not think either pessimism or optimism based on guesswork is very valuable but I am sure that given good will, given mutual understanding, given efficient organisation, the industry of this country can still face the future with confidence.


I am sure Members of all parties will agree that it was probably a good thing, even at this late stage of the Session, to put down this Vote in order that we might have an opportunity of getting such a kind of general trade survey as we have had from the right hon. Gentleman. Whilst of course he will not expect us to criticise the details of his statement, he has not said anything which will reassure us very much about the general trade outlook. I am going to move a reduction of the Vote by £100——

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)

That cannot be done. Mr. Speaker has already put the Question "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

5.0 p.m.


It will make no difference. We will vote on the Main Question. We consider that the duty of the Board of Trade is to undertake administrative, educational in certain regards, legal and legislative action, both national and international, in order to foster British trade and thereby promote national prosperity. We had last week a discussion upon the Economic Conference at Geneva and I fastened on to a certain phrase the right hon. Gentleman used which interested me very much concerning the trade attitude of other countries. He said justification in this regard must be by works and not by faith. When we come to consider a Vote of this kind we test the efficiency and the policy of the Department under review by works and not by faith, upon the showing of the President himself. Let me examine some of the trading results of the last two or three years from my own point of view, and not so much from the point of view of the statistics the right hon. Gentleman has given. I find that in 1924 our exports were roughly £800,000,000, and in 1925 they were £773,000,000. Whilst of course you do not take 1926 as a good year for com- parisons such as the right hon. Gentleman has been making, we must draw special attention to the very great falling off in exports in that year. In 1926 the figure was £652,000,000. That is a decline since 1924 of £149,000,000. It is perhaps not fair to stress too much the year 1926, although of course the Government cannot escape responsibility for the general policy they deliberately adopted of trying to reduce wages in order to deal with the trade position by getting cheap coal. But the position is equally disturbing when we come to an examination of the first six months of 1927. If I take the first six months and compare them with 1925, I find that the exports show a decline of £50,000,000. But then if you compare that with 1924 they show a decline of £46,000,000. You have not got very far to seek the main cause of decline in our export trade. Coal, iron and steel, and a trade in respect of which we have been curiously lacking in information this afternoon, cotton yarn and manufactured yarn. We have had no review of the very important textile industry of this country. If I compare the exports of 1926 of cotton yarn and manufactured yarn with those of 1924, I find that there is a decline of £45,000,000, and in the woollen section of the textile industry a decline of £19,000,000. The losses shown in exports in those particular industries in the first six months of this year are equally disturbing. The decline in the cotton industry in the export trade in the first six months of the year is as large as £26,000,000 as compared with 1921 and £32,000,000 compared with 1925. There was a corresponding decline in our export of woollen textiles for the same years of £5,500,000 and £4,500,000 respectively.

These figures indicate a very serious position indeed in regard to these basic industries of the country. The position is not alleviated in any way by an examination of our export of imparted merchandise. Let me say generally upon that subject that a good many hon. Members of this House when discussing trade questions seem to place far too little value upon our re-export trade. When we have been discussing questions like the effects of the Russian purchases on the British market we have been told that those purchases do not count because they are not purchases of British manufacture. But the re-export trade is a very valuable trade. It is of the utmost importance to the merchants of the country, it is of vital importance to the shipping and port industries of the country. In 1926 there was a decline in our re-export trade of £14,500,000 as compared with 1924, and even in 1927 taking the first six months we see a reduction of £378,000 compared with 1926, and £8,000,000 reduction for the first six months of this year as compared with 1924. I cannot help thinking that those who have been urging the Government from time to time to do all that they can to protect the home market by artificial means and by restricting imports must have rather a sad view of the situation when they examine the entrepot trade of this country for the last two or three years as a result of the policy of the Government. I have put down some figures as to the adverse trade balance, but the President of the Board of Trade has covered these already.

But while there are various opinions expressed upon the effect of having a large or a small adverse balance of trade, it is perfectly clear that unless we can adjust that balance of trade to a different position from that which prevails at present, we shall go on being in the position of having either no margin or a very small margin of savings for investment abroad. It is also perfectly clear, especially to those hon. Members who may perhaps have a more intimate knowledge than I have of the dealings of financial houses in the City, that where you have loans floated overseas, there are numerous instances where the trade goes in the same direction. A disturbing feature of the last period which we have had under review to-day is the number of public loans for public works to be undertaken for municipal and other purposes abroad which have increasingly been floated on the American market and the quite certain indication that the flotation of these loans abroad means that the orders for the materials and the contracts for public works have gone to the country where the loans were floated. It is obvious that trade does not always follow the course of the floatation of these loans, but there have been several indications in the last two or three years of this very important factor.

I would now like to say a word about the position of iron and steel. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade gave us a number of figures which, if I may say so, I hope to examine in more detail under more favourable circumstances to myself. I shall want to look at them snore closely. But with regard to the figures which he quoted for this year let me remind him of the statement which appeared in the "Economist" of the 18th June. This states: The figures of production of iron and steel for May give the first indication that the peak of production has now been passed, and that production is now declining. Compared with March the steel output shows a drop of 67,100 tons. The number of furnaces in operation at the end of May—184—was five fewer than at the beginning of May. More furnaces were closed down in June and July. That is not a very optimistic outlook from the iron and steel point of view. I consulted a, friend of mine who is connected with the trade union organisation, and he tells me that, unemployment is growing worse and is now 17 per cent. The increasing depression is particularly marked in the tinplate section.

Let me say a word about the shipbuilding industry. There can be no question from the figures he gave as to the increasing activities during the first six months of this year, nor is there any reason to challenge the comparison of production in percentages of the total world production. But I cannot help thinking that he was a little optimistic of the future of the shipbuilding industry. I have been looking at the various trade reports. I see from the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" that while the figures of the tonnage of the work actually in operation in the shipbuilding yards in the first six months show an increase, they also show that there was a reduction of no less than 122,000 tons of newly commenced building in the June quarter, as compared with the March quarter. That is not a very satisfactory or hopeful feature. Moreover, what I am concerned about in shipbuilding is, that while during the period of the industrial stoppage last year there was, it is true, a very high percentage of unemployment the returns of the Ministry of Labour show, I think, 36 per cent. in some centres and 50 per cent. in others. The general percentage shown by the "Ministry of Labour Gazette" has been reduced only to 22 per cent., and that is still a very high figure. Moreover, that is vitiated by the fact that in the important shipbuilding centres the percentage is much larger than 22 per cent. In the North-Eastern District it is 28.2 per cent.; in the North-Western District, 26.8; in Scotland it is a little better, 19 per cent.; but in the North of Ireland it is 26 per cent., and these percentages are after taking into account the fact that the number of insured workers in the industry appears to have been considerably reduced. I make that statement with considerable reserve because I have not the very latest figures and the total number of insured workers. The Ministry of Labour figures are old, but the last comparison we have by the Ministry of Labour shows a reduction of 17,000 insured persons in the industry. While one welcomes the fact that there was some revival in the shipbuilding industry in the first two quarters of the year, there is nothing, as far as I can see, which would encourage us to believe that there was to be any large increase of activity in the near future. You still have about 22 per cent. of the workers to be absorbed.

The same feeling, I think, applies to the textile industry. Here I do not take a sectional point of view, I take the words of the secretary of the Woollen and Worsted Trades Federation. Speaking at a meeting of the Royal Statistical Society he said: Compared with the maximum period of employment (May, 1920) the numbers on the pay rolls had fallen at December, 1926, by 16 per cent. and the average earnings of those in work were 7½ per cent. less than they would have been had they been working full time—the reduction in all was nearly 25 per cent. 47,500 less people were in employment than in the spring of 1920. As regards the cotton trade, the "Economist" of 30th April gave the following figures:

"Shipments of cotton cloth for three months ended 31st March in
1925 £43,279,119
1926 £35,538,588
1927 £27,523,349.
That is very little more than half in the first quarter of this year of what the exports were in the first three months of last year.


I do not think that gives the true position, because there has been a fall in the value of the, goods and these figures are therefore quite misleading.


It is true that the value has gone down a little since 1921, but I do not think that that at all explains the decrease, and I think, on examination of the figures, that the hon. Member will agree with me. May I sum up my view as to the trade outlook of the country not in words of my own, but in the words of the "Times," whose correspondent has recently been conducting an inquiry into the state of industry in this country? In a leader in the "Times" on the 16th July, it was stated: There is clearly no solid assurance of continuing improvement or even of the permanence of the present degree of activity in the industries commonly regarded as the mainstay of our national prosperity. The hopes of a genuine and widespread revival of industrial prosperity are not being fulfilled. That is the trade position that we have to face to-day, and I think we are entitled to ask the President of the Board of Trade what active measures are the Government taking through the Board of Trade, or even through the other Departments, with which they are collaborating to improve the outlook which is so serious for the country to-day?


Can the hon. Gentleman suggest any possible steps that the Board of Trade might take?


I am entitled to say that the Government who obtained election in 1924 assured the country at the time that if the electors would give them a term of office, they would be able very much to improve trade and employment and to alter the conditions in the country. I never know whether the hon. Member for Mossley speaks for the Conservative party.


I certainly do no such thing.


Out of the many suggestions which were made from time to time, not by the hon. Member for Mossley, but by members of the Conservative Government, for the improvement of the trade of the country was the Safeguarding of Industries. Since the advent of the Government to office and the return of the present President of the Board of Trade we have had active operations—procedure I think it is called—for securing the safeguarding of industries. We are entitled to ask, in view of the Election promises and pledges of the Government, what has been the effect upon the trade outlook of the country as a whole of this great and heaven sent project for dealing with the bad state of trade by the safeguarding of industries procedure. The present Prime Minister, speaking at Sheffield in 1924, said: I have made it perfectly plain that in no circumstances at this election should Protection be the issue, nor would I employ the Safeguarding of Industries Act as the thin end of the wedge to introduce Protection. [How. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad to receive that applause. All I can say is that the general view expressed by most hon. Members opposite, when we consider safeguarding procedure in this country, is that there is an urgent need for general safeguarding of all British industries by similar procedure. An hon. Member shakes his head, but one has only to listen to the questions put from time to time by such Members as the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft).


That will require legislation.


I think not, Sir. I think it is only dealing with the extension of safeguarding procedure which is at present administered by the Board of Trade.


The hon. Member spoke of a general measure of safeguarding.


It may not be done at once, but it can——


We are now on the Supply of the year.


During the Supply of the year we have the very thing we are going to refer to, the gradual process of industry after industry being taken separately, but all in the same direction of increasing the number of industries to be safeguarded under the procedure. Out of the 30 or 34 applications which the President of the Board of Trade has received for safeguarding under the new procedure, I think that only 13 have been turned down as not showing a good case for inquiry. We are entitled to ask how far the safeguarding of industries under this procedure of the Board of Trade has brought any benefit at all to the trade of the country. I doubt very much whether it can be shown that any substantial advantage has been brought to the trade of the country as a whole in the case of any one of the duties imposed under the Board of Trade's new procedure.

We have had duties put on in respect of six articles—lace and embroidery, fabric and leather gloves, cutlery, gas mantles, packing and wrapping paper, and pottery quite recently. I believe that the figures in regard to the lace industry would prove to any impartial mind that the duty has not helped but hindered the development of that particular industry. In 1924, the imports were £762,000, the exports £1,196,000, and the re-exports £673,000. In 1927, the imports had fallen to £179,000, the exports to £785,000, and the re-exports to £46,835. The figures I am giving are for the first six months in each of those years. So you had the re-export trade of the lace industry reduced from £673,000 in 1924 to £46,000 in 1927. Apparently, there has been a decrease in the number of operatives employed in the industry as far as one can gather from the Ministry of Labour returns. There has been a greater percentage of imported lace retained for home consumption after the operation of the duty than was the case before the duty was imposed. It is very difficult to understand how hon. Members can argue that that is good either for the lace industry or for the industry of the country as a whole. When you lose a re-export trade of £650,000 in six months in one industry, surely, you cannot get away from the loss of labour at the docks in handling that re-export trade or the shipping employed, with its effect upon freight, or its effect upon the shipbuilding industry in the long run.

Take the case of gas mantles. Apparently, owing to the "ring" of manufacturers operating in this industry the price is absolutely controlled to the British public. The cheapest mantles sold by the "ring" are now 37s. 6d. per gross, as against a German gas mantle previously obtainable at 22s. 6d. per gross. That is an increase of 60 per cent. I am not suggesting at the moment that the whole of that is passed on to the consumer, because that would not be a statement of fact. But on the showing of the figures it is clear that there is far less possibility of a reduction in the price to the consumer because of the duty which has been imposed on the German article, and the consequent arrangement made for a combination of British and German manufacturers of gas mantles.

I am interested to see how far the safeguarding procedure of the President of the Board of Trade will take him in the direction of special subsidies. With regard to the Gas Mantle Duty, he explained to us with very great care that it was introduced very largely owing to the fact that it was necessary to conserve the production of thorium and cerium in this country. As far as I can gather—I have been unable to get very reliable figures, and I give them with reserve—the total value of the production of thorium and cerium is about £35,000 a year, and in order to maintain that industry, important though it may be to the War Office, we put on a duty which is equal to £100,000 per annum, and which ultimately, of course, the consumer will have to bear. It is difficult to understand how that can redound to the benefit of industry as a whole.

Take the case of fabric gloves. In spite of the operation of a very high duty of 33⅓ per cent, the imports of fabric gloves for the first six months of 1927 were actually double those during the same period of 1924. At the same time, the export of fabric gloves has steadily declined. The imports for the first six months of 1924 were £219,000, exports, £52,000, and re-exports £49,000. In 1927 the imports were £456,000, exports £15,000 and re-exports £16,000. That is to say, that we have lost in export and re-export trade for the first six months of those two years something like —60,000, or two-thirds. What I want to point out is this, that in the meantime—as was suggested just now in an interruption—the price of raw cotton is considerably reduced, but cotton glove prices, covered by the duty upon fabric gloves, have not been reduced at all in consequence of the reduction of the price of cotton. In fact, the operation of the duty has prevented any reduction in price of the raw material from benefiting the general consumer.

If I might use the glove industry as the place to quote the special experience of America on the futility of safeguarding, I would say that President Coolidge provides a fitting commentary of trying to deal with a bad trade outlook with such a policy as the safeguarding procedure of the Board of Trade. He refused an urgent request from the American fabric glove makers for an increase of a duty which is already 75 per cent. in that country. Let us see how the 75 per cent. has worked in America. In 1919 they were making in the home market 1,500,000 pairs of fabric gloves. In 1924 it had shrunk to 68,000, only an infinitesimal proportion of the output of 1919. The 75 per cent, duty had no possible effect in safeguarding that industry in America. But in regard to the important export and re-export trade of this commodity we have suffered considerably in shipping and in the employment of port labour.

Take the duty on wrapping paper. I think the Government have already begun to understand that they were not helping but actually hindering trade by the operations of the duty, from the action they have taken in the Finance Bill this year in repealing some portion of it. There has rarely been a worse case submitted for a duty than that. I have been interested in making some inquiries as to what is the state of finances of some of the firms who make these applications for the protection of certain industries. I find that Henry Bruce and Sons, Limited, who were one of the applicants for the duty on wrapping paper, in 1918 paid 50 per cent. on their share capital; in 1919, 33½ per cent. on their share capital; in 1920, 12½ per cent.; and in 1926, 250 per cent, Take Messrs. Spicer. They paid in 1918, 12½ per cent.; 1920, 14 per cent.; 1921, 7 per cent, and bonus shares equal to two-thirds of their capital, and in 1925, 4 per cent. upon a capital which was one and two-thirds as much as it had been previously.

Take another case, that of E. S. and A. Robinson. That company paid 15 per cent. in 1918; 15 per cent. in 1919, with a new capitalised bonus of 65 per cent.; 16 per cent. in 1922 upon the increased capital; 13 per cent., and a further bonus of 25 per cent. in 1923; and 16 per cent. in 1925 upon a capital which, as I have shown, was, roughly, double that upon which the dividend was originally paid in 1918. I will give one further classic illustration, and that is the case of the Ramsbottom Paper Company, who were also applicants. In 1918, they paid 25 per cent., and issued a special distribution of shares equal to 466⅔ per cent. of their share capital; in 1919, 15 per cent. upon that and in 1920, 20 per cent. It seems to me it would be far better that something should be done by squeezing some of the water out of the capital in some of those concerns instead of those firms asking us to protect them by the use of the safeguarding procedure, with its consequent ill-effect upon the general trade of the country.

I want to complain about the way in which the safeguarding procedure has been administered. It seems to me that the President of the Board of Trade has not done enough, even if this procedure is to continue, to have inquiries made of a sufficiently judicial character. I am not going to suggest, as some hon. Members have suggested, that he is always actuated by biased intentions when he appoints individual members to these Committees, but I am bound to say that, in the long run, looking back over the members who have been appointed to these Committees, it would seem that they have not been the type of person likely to be able to come to a really judicial judgment. I do not want to put it more strongly than that. Under the Merchandise Marks Act there has been a rather better procedure adopted, and in the case of the chairmen, at any rate, they have generally been of a character likely to lead to a proper judicial inquiry.

Another complaint I have to make is that when firms come along and ask for this special protection it is often exceedingly difficult and sometimes impossible to get any adequate evidence from them an to their financial position. In the various inquiries which have been held, unless we take special measures to obtain it by private means, we do not get the minutes of evidence published. We have ascertained on more than one occasion that the financial position or the balance sheets of the companies concerned are never laid before the Committee. There are no real grounds of financial stringency clearly proved by audited accounts as to the need for protection under this procedure. The President of the Board of Trade ought to deal with both these points, whilst he continues in charge of the administration of the safeguarding procedure, and to see that a more judicial character is added to the Committees and that the full financial position of the applicants for the Duty is made plain to the Committee and is made public to Parliament before Parliament is asked to pass the Duty.

Before passing to the next subject of complaint, I want to say something about an industry in which I am interested as a representative of Sheffield, and in respect of which a Duty has been imposed. I refer to the cutlery industry. There is nothing in the figures, as far as one can see, of exports and imports which would lead one to say that the Duty has been a success. It certainly has decreased to some extent the trade in some directions, but the trade seems to have increased slightly in other directions. However, there certainly is more unemployment in the cutlery industry to-day than at the time when the Duty was imposed. I wish that we had separate figures of the percentages of unemployment in the cutlery industry Unfortunately, they are not published separately by the Ministry of Labour; but the general percentage of the group in which the cutlery figures are included in the Ministry of Labour returns shows an increase of unemployment from 12 to 17 per cent. There is, therefore, no ground for supposing that the safeguarding procedure has helped in any substantial way the cutlery industry of Sheffield.

I should like to make one or two complaints about the administration of another effort of the Board of Trade, which it was said would considerably improve trade and industry in this country. I refer to the administration of the Merchandise Marks Act of 1926. Already, the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture have dealt with applications for marking in respect of 22 groups of articles. It is almost impossible to make Members of this House understand to what extent business men in the wholesale and in the retail distributing trades are harassed and hampered by the administration of this Act. Inside one of the 22 groups which I have mentioned you may have, perhaps, six different commodities, and one merchant may be dealing not merely with one commodity or one group but with six of the groups under inquiry at one time by the Board of Trade. If he wishes to safeguard his position and to give evidence before the Committee and to explain how the marking or stamping of merchandise will interfere with the business, he has to give up a good deal of his time to attend before the Committee and give his evidence, and always he is in the position, finally, of complete uncertainty as to what the effect is going to be upon his particular business.

I speak with some feeling upon this matter, because I have had experience. So far as the inquiries which are proceeding now before the Board of Trade are concerned I have not up to the present been able to find time to give evidence before some of the Committees to whom I should have liked to have submitted evidence on behalf of the movement with which I am connected; but in regard to the Ministry of Agriculture side I have had experience of days and days and days of time of busy business men being occupied in trying to safeguard their interests against the procedure which has been adopted by the Board of Trade and the Ministry of Agriculture in this matter. I am bound to express great disappointment at the way in which the trade has been, shall I say, led into appreciation of what the Act really means by the Board of Trade. A very detailed memorandum has been printed which would require a considerable amount of time to be spent upon it by the business man if he sought to study it, and it would still leave him in almost complete uncertainty as to how certain sections of the Act will work. It is true that upon a large number of specific inquiries as to how Section 1 will work which have been addressed to the officials of the Board of Trade they have, with their usual courtesy and skill, endeavoured to answer as well as they could, but we are in a position under Section 1 of the Merchandise Marks Act of being quite uncertain in regard to a great range of articles as to whether we are liable to prosecution or not. Accordingly, there is great hesitancy in making new purchases or indulging in the development of new lines in any of these particular articles.

May I now return to the general trade outlook and ask the President of the Board of Trade whether, in order to assist in dealing with the general trade of the country, he is able to suggest any means by which the census of production figures can be made available to the trading community much earlier than has been the case on this occasion? We had the census carried out in 1924 and possibly partly in 1925, and we are in July, 1927, and——


We have to tabulate the results and if the results are delayed in coming in to us the census figures are delayed in publication. If the figures came in quicker, the results would be available earlier.


I am aware of the difficulties, but I would impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the superiority of the trade statistics of the United States of America which are made available. I am not sure whether the authorities there have statutory powers to enforce quicker returns, but possibly it may be due to the willingness of the American business men to contribute much more freely, sometimes through groups rather than individually, to the statistical returns of the Department of Trade. It is a very great pity that we have to wait three or fear years after the actual date of taking the census before we get adequate information as to the results.

We are very much indebted to the delegates appointed by the President of the Board of Trade to the International Economic Conference for the general statement which they presented to the Conference on the position of British trade. I think the statement which they submitted to the Economic Conference, if I may say so, was a clearer statement as to the present position of British trade than that which we have had to-day from the President of the Board of Trade. Obviously, of course, the right hon. Gentleman has been limited by time and the kind of statistics which he wanted to give.

I concur in the view expressed by the delegation of this country to Geneva that the recovery of British export trade is essential to Great Britain if Great Britain is to get back to anything like prosperity. That recovery is equally essential to the rest of the world as well as to ourselves. The President of the Board of Trade laid great stress upon what he thinks is the change which has taken place in the relative value of the home market and the export trade. We ought never to undervalue the home market. We have always consumed in the home market nearly 60 per cent. of our total production, but if we are to deal with the problem of the absorption of a margin of 1,000,000 unemployed, the largest proportion of which unemployment seems to have arisen and can be directly traced to the fall in our export trade, we must see that something is done to try to recover our export business. It is essential to other countries that we should recover our export trade, for unless we can continue to export we cannot continue to buy at our present rate of one-fifth of the rest of the world's exports. Our need, therefore, is the restoration of old markets as well as the search for new markets. As far as can be judged from the statistics, the total volume of industrial production in this country is, roughly, the same as before the War, and meanwhile the population has very largely increased. That means that we must contemplate, unless we can change the position, permanently carrying a burden of one million or more unemployed. The cost of maintaining these unemployed is, in the main, very largely the explanation of the reduction in our margin of savings. There would be a very much larger margin of savings for investments if it were not for the, duty of having to maintain that permanent margin of unemployed. The British delegation to Geneva estimated that the margin had fallen from 16 per cent. to 12 per cent. From statistics of a sectional character with which I am familiar I should think that the margin is lower than 12 per cent., but I have not sufficient statistics of a national character before me adequately to judge.

The serious factor to be faced in world trade from our point of view is the growth of industrialism in other nations. The President of the Board of Trade drew attention, and quite rightly, to the fact that not only had the exports of manufactured goods increased in percentage ratio from the United States of America, but he stressed the figures in regard to Japan. The industrialisation of Japan, China, India, and, indeed, the moving of a much larger volume of industrial production to the Pacific, is something of which we must take particular note in this country. In addition to the setting up of all this new fixed capital in these countries for industrial production, we have the extra fixed capital which we set up as the result of war exigencies.

A general view of world production to-day gives us this concrete result, that we have increased our power of production in many of the larger industries since the beginning of the War by at least 50 per cent., but we have not seen an increase in the consuming capacity of the peoples of the world by anything like that figure. In some cases the consuming capacity of the peoples of the world has actually declined. In other cases it has increased much slower and certainly not sufficient to enable it to absorb the increasing output of the extra capital employed. In such circumstances it is not surprising to find a growth in the minds of business men in all nations of a belief in what is known as the limited market, and there has been since the War a tendency in certain nations to try and deal with the situation of the limited markets by trying to conserve their own partiticular markets for themselves. I do not believe myself at all in any such thing as a limited market. I do not believe there is any limit to the power of humanity to consume the wealth produced by labour and capital if only there is a proper distribution of the wealth that is produced.

I have examined this problem again and again, not merely in the light of post-War exigencies, but in the light of the industrial history of the last 100 years, and because of the failure of those who have been responsible for the orientation of industrial policy for the last 100 years to see that the people whose labour has been applied to capital had a proper share of the industrial dividends there has always been a tendency to invest too large a share of the wealth produced in fixed capital instead of consumable goods. That tendency has become much worse because of the conditions which arose during the War. I want to know whether, in considering the general trade of this country and the world, the President of the Board of Trade is dealing with what is, after all, the fundamental basic problem. I do not believe it is of any use suggesting little piecemeal measures for dealing with the trade situation. You have to commence now a constructive policy. It may be that for some years it will be a very hard task, but you have to get a constructive policy started in this country with a different basis for the distribution of the product of labour, aiming at securing the confidence of labour and the gradual extension of the acceptance of that principle by other countries as well as ourselves.

The Prime Minister at Sheffield a night or two before the last General Election suggested another way in which our trade position might be helped. In one of those short phrases of his he said that what we want is more work and cheaper food, and he suggested that if the Government were returned to office they would assist the purchasing capacity of the people and therefore ultimately the problem of production by reducing the spread of prices between the producer and the consumer. He said this: If we are returned to power we will have a Royal Commission to inquire into the causes of the rise in the cost of food and the remarkable discrepancy which exists in many cases between the prices obtained by the producers of food and the prices paid by the consumer. I will guarantee this, that if as a result of the inquiry it is discovered that any practical steps can be taken to cure these ills, we will take them. I would like to know what the Board of Trade has achieved in this direction. It is quite true, if you take a comparison of the index cost of living as between 1924 and 1927, that there has been some reduction, and even if you take the food items alone that there has been some reduction. But there has been no reduction, and I say it deliberately, in the price of food in this country as a result of the operations of the Board of Trade in connection with any reduction of the spread of prices. So far as there has been, a fall in food prices in this country during the last three years it is owing to the fall of the wholesale prices of imported foods. Generally speaking, there has been no reduction at all in the actual spread of prices between the producer and the consumer. The real fact is that as soon as the Royal Commission began to get on with really important work the President of the Board of Trade, or some stronger persons than he in the Cabinet, ordered the Royal Commission to come to an end. They were becoming too dangerous. The Government set up instead the Food Council, a very painstaking and hard working body, but they have no power at all. Another thing happened. I appreciate the work which has been attempted and done by the Executive Committee of the Council over which Sir G. A. Powell presides. I have appeared many times before that Committee, and I appreciate the devotion which the chairman has shown to the work undertaken; but the fact is that nothing happens and there is no real tackling of the problem of the spread of prices between the producer and the consumer.

One of the ways, therefore, in which we could help to arrange for the redistribution of wealth which is necessary to a revival of trade, has not been tackled. If you could, by a reduction of the spread of prices, increase the purchasing power of the working men of this country you would be doing a tremendous amount towards reviving the general position of trade and industry. I want to point out something else; and it is this. At the same time that you have a failure to reduce effectively the cost of living you have also a reduction in the actual monetary wages of the workers. I have looked at the returns of the Minister of Labour and I find that as a result of all the adjustments of wages which have taken place in 1927, after allowing for the increases, there has been a net reduction of £220,000 in the weekly wages of the workers of this country. We are not tackling the problem in that direction. If there is to be a real and permanent improvement in the trade of this country you must increase the purchasing power of the people. There is one other way in which it can be done, and that is to get a larger measure of industrial conciliation than is operating at the moment. The President of the Board of Trade said that what we wanted is good will. I wonder what the present regime has done to create good will which is so essential to any revival of trade and industry in this country. It seems to us at any rate that so far from having done anything to create good will, they have by the Bill which is now passing through another place——


The hon. Member is not in order in referring to contemplated legislation.


It is not contemplated legislation. It is legislation which has been passed by this House, and at the moment is passing in another place; and it is not likely to create goodwill in industry to-day. The President of the Board of Trade said something about combination in industry, and he seemed to think that we on this side generally took a wrong view of combination in industry. We have never denied that amalgamation and combination may yield a more efficient management, a more efficient production, and, if properly looked after, a reduction in prices. I do not think there can be any doubt, reading the Report of the Industrial Commission, that that has been the result in America, but I doubt very much whether you can say of the amalgamations and combinations which have taken place in the last 25 years in this country that all these things have accrued. I remember that the Report of the Standing Committee on Trusts, and also the Memorandum issued at the time by the Government, said that the increase in production and the efficiency in general output of the industries which had been the subject of combination were not any more than would probably have been effected if the units had not been the subject of combination. We think that a general combination in industry will tend to efficiency and improvement, and may lend itself to a change which some of us would like to see. I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) that large combinations of industries would make it much easier in certain basic industries to secure ultimate national ownership, but in the meantime the Board of Trade should watch the effect of combination upon the general price level of the country.

I want to say a word or two before I sit down on the general search for new markets. I deprecate the fact that we never hear anything from the Board of Trade except on the general need for developing Empire markets. That seems to me to be the absolute limit of the imagination of the President of the Board of Trade. I do not under-value markets like Australia, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and India to this country, but we must not forget that at this moment nearly 60 per cent. of our manufactured exports are going to countries other than those within the British Empire. I have never heard the high figure of 44 per cent., mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade today, as the percentage of our manufactured exports which are going to the Empire.


The figure of exports is higher if you take the figure of manufactured exports.

6.0 p.m.


I have the figure mentioned by the President of the Board of Trade, and it still leaves 56 per cent. of our total manufactured exports which go to other countries. I cannot get away from the feeling with which I came back from Australia and Canada last year, and that is that these countries are very largely concerned with one idea, that as soon as they can they must be economically self-supporting. There was a tendency to overstress the need for development in those countries of secondary production as compared with primary production. I think that the time has come when the Government ought to put to the Dominions the need for far closer consultation in regard to developments of that kind. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will recognise I would not suggest anything of a character which could be said to interfere with their fiscal autonomy, but when we hear of Australians saying, "What you ought to do is to export your factories, your plant, your capital and your industries en bloc in certain directions, to other countries," and at the same time we find in many instances their own primary industries are languishing because they are forced to sell their products at world parity prices, it does seem to me that we might have far closer consultation with them as to which industries should be "artificially" fostered and devoloped in the Dominions and in this country, for the benefit not of this section or that section of the Empire but for the benefit of the whole. No one suggests that our Dominions could possibly be asked to remain primary producers only, only hewers of wood and drawers of water for the old country, but I do think that they are at present stressing far too much the importance of secondary industries and that they forget, when they quote America as an example, that America had for 200 or 300 years, followed in the main the development of primary production before coming to the very heavy industrial production of the last 60 or 70 years. We ought to have far closer consultation with the Dominions as to the policy in that direction. I am convinced that unless a change takes place a good deal of the publicity that we now give to Empire trade is going to result not in lasting benefit to this country but in actual restriction of the employment possibility and development of British industry in this country. That would be a catastrophe and matters could be arranged better if we came into closer consultation.

Whether we think of the British Empire or any of the other markets of the world, we cannot ultimately get the revived trade and the development of industry that we desire unless we can improve the purchasing power of the people everywhere. We ask first of all that there should be a move in this country to improve the purchasing power of our own people. But that cannot be conclusive and I want the Board of Trade to tell us whether they are prepared to make representations to the Economic Section of the League of Nations with a view to proceeding more rapidly by Convention to a general recognition of what are proper standards of industrial production, and ultimately to move not to a position of erecting artificial fiscal barriers to trade and commerce, but to the application of economic sanctions against those countries which fail to come up to what are the recognised standards of industrial production. Unless some such action as that is taken we are not going to get that revived prosperity which should come with revived trade for the mass of the people of the country. Unless we are careful, the result will be exactly what was the result of the Napoleonic Wars. Trace the history from 1819 to what are called the Hungry Forties. There you had a continued decline in the standard of life and the purchasing power of the common people. We are faced with such a situation as that to-day unless the Government are prepared to embark upon a much bolder policy of administration in the trade department. I remember well a speech that the Prime Minister made in Sheffield in October, 1924. He said: No man can say, having regard to what has happened in the last 60 years, the ultimate goal of evolution. It may lead in time to Socialism, but"—— I do not know how his followers like this— I am prepared to work with it and if in time it does lead to Socialism, possibly we shall be better prepared for it than we are to-day. We say on this trade issue that if we are going to wait and wait for that development our people will continue in poverty. We ask for a policy which is a forward policy, based upon fairness and justice first to the common people so as to increase their purchasing power and then applied generally to solve once and for all the increasing problem of how to relate consumption to the increasing powers of production.


I think the House will desire to congratulate my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade upon the very lucid account which he has given to us of some of the more important features of our trade position. It is quite obvious that in a speech of 50 minutes' length he could not by any means describe the whole situation, but he dealt with its leading features in a way which, I am sure, must have impressed itself upon us as an authoritative statement, recounting how some of the main trades of the country stand at the present time. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander), who has just sat down, rather contrasted my right hon. Friend's speech with the account which has been given by the delegates at the Economic Conference at Geneva, as to the present position of trade. It is obvious, of course, that they were writing at length upon a situation which they had much more time to describe, and, naturally, theirs was a more detailed statement. In regard to that particular matter, while the hon. Member blamed some of the apparently prejudiced appointments which he said were made by the President of the Board of Trade, no one can complain that the delegates sent to Geneva, represented the opinions on fiscal matters held by the great mass of people who sit on the Government Benches. Rather they represented what some of us are inclined to think are doctrines that do not at all fit the circumstances of our trade to-day.

I would like also to thank the hon. Member for Hillsborough for his speech. I do not quite know how to deal with it by way of reply, if I am expected to give any reply. In so far as it was expository, I do not think I disagreed with it. In so far as it was interrogative, I think all his questions were pointed, and equally with him, would like to have answers. In so far as it was constructive, I am afraid that I was too stupid or too obtuse to pick up entirely what was meant by some of the vague suggestions that the hon. Member contributed. There was, however, at the end of his speech a phrase which arrested my attention. He talked of the application of sanctions to nations which did not work under conditions which were economically justified. If that phrase has any meaning at all it would appear to indicate that to nations which did not keep up the wage standard which we observed, the hon. Gentleman was prepared to adopt even, I think he said, a policy on the lines of prohibition. If that is the point of view at which the Labour party has arrived, all I have to say is that it goes much further than anyone on these Benches has ever suggested.


Let me explain. It was not the conditions that we observe. What we ask is a general acceptance of a convention by all the nations, and then the application of the sanction to the nation which disobeyed.


My hon. Friend, in all the disquisitions I have heard him make on the subject of wages, has been active in the propagation of the idea that our wages now in this country are at a low limit which could not reasonably be left to continue, and if that is his position, when it comes to drawing up the convention which he describes, I imagine that at least he will say that our limit is as low as you can fix it. At any rate, whatever the detail at which he ultimately arrives on that question, the principle which he is prepared to recognise with regard to conditions in other countries, shows a great advance, which I am glad to welcome, in the minds of the Labour party. My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade gave us a very balanced judgment in regard to our prospects. So far as I could gather, he showed neither pessimism nor optimism. He did not paint a picture in any except neutral tints. But there was one particular matter to which he referred with more cheer and encouragement than any other, and that was our trade with the Empire. I am sure that he is justified in that view. Any one who has studied the particulars of our trade over recent years, will easily discover that, but for the increasing trade which we have had with our Dominions and Colonies, our condition of depression to-day would be infinitely worse than it is. It is partly due to the sympathy and good feeling which they have for us, and partly due to the preferences which they give us and those which they enjoy to some extent in our country, that our trade with our Dominions has so much increased. We should be in a parlous condition to-day if those increases had not materialised during the times of great difficulty through which we are passing.

My hon. Friend opposite, at one stage of his argument, indicated another point of view which I am glad to welcome. He pointed to the fact, which, of course, is well known and is a very natural symptom in growing countries, that our Dominions begin to wish to carry on not merely the primary duties which agricultural countries discharge, but also to develop those industrial agencies upon which we depend mostly in this country for our livelihood. He suggested, in connection with that matter, that we should sit down and consider with our Dominions how we can adjust the balance of our trade so as mutually to benefit both. That is a suggestion which I welcome, because, as everyone will realise, that primarily raises the question of what we are going to give them in our market in return for what they are to give us in their markets. As soon as my hon. Friend is agreeable to sit round a table with some of the representatives of our Dominions and to discuss such a matter reasonably and honestly and with sincerity and candour, then I think again we shall be able to get a large accession of strength from the Labour party to a movement which we have long advocated from these benches.

But when we leave the question of our Imperial trade, I fear that the picture is not one upon which we can look with any satisfaction now. The balance of trade is not only against us, but is to-day, I think, worse against us than it has been at any previous time. Last year the Board of Trade estimated that the balance of trade, taking into account all our invisible exports, our commissions and shipping services, would be £12,000,000 on the year to the bad. That is as I recollect the figure. Looking at the figures of the present year, and listening to the exposition of my right hon. Friend this afternoon, I gather that, taking the first six months of the year, we are £11,000,000 worse in this year on the balance than we were last year. Comparing with 1925 instead of with 1926—in case 1926 should be an abnormal year—we find that the figures of the first six months of this year show that we are £2,000,000 worse than we were in 1925. It is obvious that there is going on that process, to which reference has already been made, in which we are not able any longer to make those large investments abroad which we used to make and which have been one of the great sources of employment for our people. Those loans ultimately mean orders in our shops, and therefore if we are no longer able to make them it is a disquieting feature.

I turn to another matter. My right hon. Friend gave figures showing how our export of manufactures is going on as compared with our imports of manufactured goods. It is worth while bringing to the mind of the House the importance, when considering these figures, of giving due weight to those which represent manufactures compared with those which represent raw material. It is upon the manufacturing side that the employment of this country depends. The figures show that while our imports of manufactures have been steadily increasing over recent years—taking 1913 at a figure of 100 they have risen to something like 145 to-day—our figures of the export of manufactures have been steadily going down. Again, comparing with 1913, we are to-day only exporting 78 per cent. of what we exported then. To a manufacturing country these figures are very serious and, indeed, one cannot exaggerate their importance, especially when one discovers that our great rival of to-day, America, is not only increasing its exports but holds a position in the volume of its exports which for long generations was held by Great Britain. The United States are exporting more to-day than Great Britain, and it is a country which does not live upon exports as we do. It is in many respects self-sufficient, but it has such an enormous margin of production that it is able to invade the markets of the world formerly held by us.

If we take these figures in conjunction with what confronts us in the future they become even more perilous. What we have to anticipate, and what everyone in America anticipates, is that a position of saturation will be reached in that country. One knows of America's tremendous development in manufactures and its increasing absorption of everything manufactured, the goods going almost straight from the factory to the consumer with only a momentary hesitation in the hands of the middleman. That has been going on for some time, and America's growing prosperity in that period has been due to it, but everybody anticipates a time when the development of America's productive capacity will have outrun the consuming capacity of the country. What is going to happen then? It is inevitable that America will, more and more, invade the markets to which we have been accustomed and the competition from which we suffer will be immensely greater. We must also anticipate the increasing power of Germany as likely to have a similar effect. Germany has been re-equipping herself with great assiduity, tremendous zeal and intense energy. It is only want of finance which has, to some extent, delayed the resumption of her efforts, but finance is pouring into Germany from America to a greater extent to-day and we may anticipate very serious competition from Germany as well as from the United States.

It is no good disguising those facts when we are debating our trade position. We must confront them with such courage as we can command, and prepare to meet them with as much foresight and vision as we can bring to bear on the subject. The capacity of Great Britain to meet a difficulty is undoubted. Reference has been made to the question of pacification in industry. I think it is apparent to everyone that we could not, for long, suffer such shocks as that of last year, If we had many more upsets of that kind one would despair of our being able to recover our previous prosperity. One ought not to waste words in arguing this matter, but I do not think the hon. Member for Hillsborough ought to blame Members on this side of the House for introducing an element of acrimony into the present situation which is apt to have a bad effect on industry. He talks about the Trade Unions Bill but he must have recognised that that Bill would never have been introduced but for a certain action which did not arise on this side of the House. Do let us leave these matters aside and let us all strive together in a situation of immense gravity and increasing difficulty to try to save the country. Why should we seek to destroy the wealth and prosperity upon which we all depend, when by pulling together we can do a great deal to save the country?

I should direct attention to two industries in particular to which my right hon. Friend has referred. The woollen textile industry is going through a very difficult period. We are accustomed to think of other industries and to forget what was happening in the case of the woollen industry. Between 1923 and 1926 the import of woollen goods into this country has risen from 20,000,000 yards to 34,000,000 yards. In those four years the import of woollen goods has increased by 60 per cent. and more and more people are going out of employment in that industry. The whole matter was the subject of an inquiry by a Committee set up by the Board of Trade to consider whether a safeguarding measure was necessary for the trade. While finding that the situation was very serious, that Committee, as I think, ignored the proper consideration in connection with unemployment. They came to the conclusion that only 10 per cent. of the people in the trade were unemployed, which was lower than the figure in other trades. I am sure it is recognised now by those who have gone into the figures that the amount of unemployment in the woollen trade is nearer 33 per cent. than 10 per cent. and that the figure of 10 per cent. was arrived at upon an entirely erroneous view of what the returns of the employment exchanges show. More than 33 per cent. of the looms in the woollen trade are unemployed and there is a much larger figure of unemployed in that industry than has been calculated up to the present time. I ask the President of the Board of Trade if it is possible to have a reconsideration of that case. The position is very parlous and, unless something is done to redress it, we shall see a condition of affairs in that industry—upon which we for so long depended—which will startle us and which may even imperil other industries with which it is connected. It is enough to say that about 30 per cent. of our exports used to be woollen goods manufactured here to enable the House to appreciate the effect upon our general trade if the woollen trade is to suffer other severe shocks.

I turn to the question of steel. The figures which the President of the Board of Trade gave us to-day indicate a greater production of steel. It is true there has been an increased production in recent times, but we cannot forget that much of that has been due to the fulfilment of orders which were in abeyance during the stoppage of last year. It is rapidly going off again, and figures which seem to me to bring home to us what is happening in the steel industry, show that whereas we used to export of steel goods three times as much as we imported, yet in the first five months of the present year we exported 1,500,000 tons of steel and imported 2,250,000. I have no doubt there are people, like the hon. Member for Hillsborough, who still hold the view that it is just as good to buy foreign goods as it is to buy English goods. I so little appreciate that view that I cannot even begin to argue it, but whatever your view may be upon some theoretical basis, what are you going to say to the decline and perhaps ultimate failure of an industry which is the very essence of national defence? How could you possibly be regarded as an opponent who, in war, would be able to put up a fight, if you had not the plant and the skill and the active industry which could produce steel for you in the moment of agony. Nobody knows better than the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that the last war was a war of steel. It was upon steel that the War was won.


Have another war.


I am in hopes there will never be another war, but the way in which to have another war is to leave yourself quite unprotected. The Government of this country is, in some respects, more responsible for the condition of the steel trade than any other single influence. It was under the pressure of the Government that the steel-producing capacity of the country was so greatly increased. My right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, greatly to his credit, and with results which happily justified him, used great influence with the steel trade to get them to develop and extend the industry in a way which one would have formerly imagined impossible. The result is that we have to-day enormous plants, erected at very high cost, which have not sufficient work and although the Government helped in the erection, nevertheless, they stand today with overhead charges such as make it impossible for many of them to work at a profit at all or even to carry on without loss. That situation requires careful consideration. I am not prepared any more than the hon. Member opposite to suggest practical ways of dealing with that matter, but I am sure that unless something is done in connection with the steel trade the present position will have results which cannot be received by this country with equanimity. Personally, I think two things are essential; one is that combinations should be formed of steel firms in this country. Many must fall out and I think that is a matter in which the Government, looking to the parlous condition of the industry, might reasonably be asked to help. I throw that out as the first suggestion.

My second suggestion is this: It in no wise involves anything that the President of the Board of Trade could do, but he might help, and that is that it is absolutely essential that these great combinations which are being made upon the Continent of Europe, these alliances between the steel plants of Prance, Luxemburg, Germany, and Czechoslovakia—that international arrangements of that kind are absolutely essential to our future competition in the marketing of steel, and that the steel makers of this country ought to be encouraged to do everything in their power to achieve such arrangements, which would minimise the cut-throat competition in which they are at present engaged. There are other things which I am glad to note that the President of the Board of Trade has taken up with enthusiasm. There is, for example, the question of the standardisation of products and of things which are in use in the factories of this country. That is a matter which, I know, the engineering trade in particular have taken up, and it applies in other industries, but in America they have eliminated immense waste and reduced costs very greatly by the extent to which they have developed this principle, and I hope my right hon. Friend is finding encouragement among the manufacturers of this country to adopt similar methods.

The hon. Member for Hillsborough spoke of the surplus population which we have in this country now, and which under present conditions could never find employment, and he indicated that even supposing our position became quite normal, we could not possibly use all of the surplus unemployed people we have at the present time. I am perfectly convinced that that is a sound diagnosis of our position, and I believe we can only remedy it by following out arrangements for emigration, by sending our people overseas, where the opportunities for employment will ultimately be greater than they are here, and who will at the same time reciprocally provide markets for our goods. With these rather discursive observations, I would venture to congratulate my right hon. Friend upon the speech which he has made, and to urge upon him some consideration of the suggestions which I have made.


I congratulate my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) upon the ingenuity with which he has made a speech on tariff reform without transgressing any of the Rules of this House. He has circumnavigated the Chair with extraordinary skill, and I am afraid I could not possibly venture upon that dangerous course; otherwise, my speech might make shipwreck. What really matters is not that we should discuss remedies at this stage, but that we should agree about the facts, and that is vital. Let us get the real facts about our trade. We can then apply our intelligence, avoiding as many frictions as we possibly can, to try and find the necessary remedies, and then courageously apply them. But it is essential that we should get the facts. I join my right hon. Friend in congratulating the President of the Board of Trade upon delivering a very informative and a very lucid statement. It is not the first time that he has, on these occasions, taken the lead in giving us a very useful survey of the trade of the country, and he has done so to-day, but I consider it to be a very grave statement, not merely for what he said, but even more for what he omitted to say.

It was very significant that, after giving us figures which I thought were on the whole rather depressing, he did not venture upon a forecast. That was an indication, to my mind, that the right hon. Gentleman felt that there was nothing very cheerful that he could say. After all, he could have given us some information with regard to the way in which orders are either coming in or not coming in. I read the monthly reports of the great banks, and they are very useful, but they are not very encouraging reading at the present moment by any means. When you go through the various industries and the great centres of production, you find statements like these—"The prospects are not very satisfactory," "We have exhausted the orders that followed the great struggle of last year, and there are no fresh orders coming in," "The outlook is not as encouraging as it was"—all that, I think, is very serious, and there is nothing that amazes me more—and there is nothing that has amazed me more during the last few years—than the apparent apathy of the public in view of this condition of things.

If I may say so quite respectfully, it is reflected in the attitude of the House of Commons. I have been at many of these discussions, and I generally find that not one-fifteenth of the Members of this House seem to take any interest at all in the trade and industry of this country upon which the livelihood of everyone depends, and until the House of Commons takes the lead, and takes it, first of all, by taking a serious interest in the matter, I do not think it will be possible, I will not say to stir up the necessary interest, but to secure the necessary concentration upon what ought to be done in order to improve these conditions. I would not like to say that they are chronic, but they are long-time symptoms. It is not the ordinary trade cycle, something which lasts a year or two, and then you look to the spring for an improvement. It, has lasted for years and years, and the figures given by the right hon. Gentleman to-day do not indicate, to my mind—and I think he will agree—that kind of resilience in our trade which one would like to see.

I took down his figures in regard to the exports of manufactured goods, and I think they are rather alarming—in fact, very alarming. Here, after seven years of serious trade depression, our exports of manufactured goods for the second quarter of 1927, which is the better quarter—the right hon. Gentleman divided the quarters into two, in order to show what an improvement there has been effected in the second quarter as compared with the first—the export of manufactured goods is 77.4 per cent. of what they were in 1913. Our population then was 3,000,000 less than it is to-day, and if we had gone on at the same rate as we were going on then—obliterate the War and compare the improvement in the seven years preceding the War with what has happened in the seven years after the War—instead of being 100, we ought now to be 120, but we are 77.4. That is a very alarming figure, and it calls for the very much more serious attention, if I may say so, of the public than it seems at the present moment to have secured.

On the whole, I did not think the figures with regard to steel bore out the interpretation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead. It was very good of him to refer to the part which I took in increasing the production of steel in this country during the War. I agree with him that it is essential for security, for the defence of our shores, that we should have a considerable steel production in this country, but my impression, from a pretty close study of what has happened in the steel trade, is that if unfortunately we were landed in another conflict, we are better off than we were in 1914. We are, I think, producing more steel, and we have very much better furnaces. We are better equipped altogether, and I should face the prospect now with very much less anxiety than I did when I started the manufacture of steel for munitions of war in 1915. We are better off, and, although I agree with him that the figures of the first six months are not sufficiently reliable to build upon——


I said so.


That is right, and, if I may say so, I thought the right hon. Gentleman was exceedingly fair in the figures which he chose and in the way in which he handled them. He did not endeavour, as far as I could see, to make out a case for any particular theory; he gave the facts honestly to the House. But they do show a considerable increase upon 1913, and even if you make allowance for the fact that you had arrears of orders at the beginning of this year, and that, therefore, you must expect a considerable falling off, in spite of that, there is a very considerable margin of improvement in the steel trade compared with 1913. If you take in the main the whole of our staple industries, we are undoubtedly worse off, in cotton, in wool, in shipbuilding; and there are four or five other industries which also show a very considerable falling off. That is a very serious matter. I was looking at the figures of employment—I know that something has been said about the improvement in the employment figures—and I have a comparison here of 1926 with 1923. There, there is, apparently, an increase of 391,000 in the numbers employed in the course of the three years, and these figures have been quoted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer; but there is one disquieting feature about those figures.

The improvement is not in the productive trades. If you leave out the building trade, which is a subsidised trade at the present moment—there is a very considerable Government subsidy being given to it, and if we withdrew that subsidy, we should find a very considerable collapse, in my judgment, in the building trade; therefore, it is abnormal—if you take out the figures of the building trade, and the distributive trades, which are not productive, such as food, raiment, and so on, where there is an increase of 260,000, and if you take out the building of public works, which also has been subsidised for employment purposes, you will find that there is a balance on the wrong side of 56,000 as compared with three years ago. Taking the purely productive trades, coalmining is put here as being down by 28,000. As a matter of fact it is down by considerably more than that, so that there is a real decrease of between 100,000 and 200,000 persons employed in the productive industries of this country, compared with 1923. That is a very serious fact, of which cognisance ought to be taken. In addition, there is the short-time. Cotton, for instance, appears to show an increase in the numbers employed, but there is no increase in the employment, because you have about 12½ per cent., I think, of the cotton industry suffering from short-time, and, as my right hon. Friend who referred to the woollen trade knows, there is very considerable short-time in that trade as well.


Between 80 per cent. and 90 per cent. short-time.


I did not know it was as high as that. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and the last speaker referred to the improvement in the exports of the United States of America. I have no doubt at all that the improvement in those exports is due to a factor which explains very largely the diminution in our own export trade. It was put very forcibly in an interjection by the hon. Gentleman the Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) when he said to the right hon. Member for Hillhead, "The United States has become a creditor country, whereas formerly it was a debtor country." I forget whether I have mentioned this in the House before, but a very important gentleman in the City of London told me that if there was a great loan say of £25,000,000 to be made either to Europe or to Asia or even to our Dominions, the United States of America came over to Europe and there was an apportionment of the loan, the United States taking about 15 millions, Great Britain taking about 5 millions and the rest of Europe taking about 3 millions. I was told by him that that represented the proportions very fairly as far as the advance of money to the world is concerned. The United States or America have become the great lending nation of the world. Our trade balances have been disappearing very rapidly during the last two, three or four years. I think the last time we had a large trade balance was in 1920. That was due to the fact, as has been pointed out by the President of the Board of Trade, that although our export trade was only about 60 per cent, of what it was pre-War we were getting very, very high prices for our goods. We were getting almost any prices we asked at that moment, and therefore we were making high profits and were in a position to lend money to the world. That is no longer the case.

The trade balance has completely disappeared. I know the President of the Board of Trade has pointed out that there was a revision of the figures of the trade balance last year, and that although there was a great deal of criticism people have accepted the Board of Trade view. What else can they do? They are bound to do it. If the Board of Trade says that, what is the use of criticising? The fact of the matter, which is beyond doubt, is that when we saw our trade balance disappearing we began, as anyone does when he finds his money is gone, to go through every pocket to see whether there was not a spare sixpence somewhere. You look everywhere, in every corner and in every cupboard, and you find a threepenny bit here and a penny there—odd sums that you had forgotten all about. The very fact that the Board of Trade have done that shows the state into which we have got. In the old days it was not necessary to go into these minute revisions. We had a very considerable balance, and we advanced scores, and sometimes hundreds, of millions to the world upon the basis of that balance. Now we have to add up little percentages and little decimal fractions here and there in order to show that the trade balance has not completely disappeared, and in order to prove that we have still £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 left.

The United States of America are not in that state. They have a huge balance and are in a position to advance huge sums of money to the world, and they are doing it on condition that the money shall be spent there; because, as everybody knows, when you advance, say, £20,000,000 you do not send, the money in cash but deliver it in the form of goods. That is really why the United States of America are in a better position; it has nothing whatever to do with what my right hon. Friend so very ingeniously managed to suggest it was attributable to. I cannot argue that matter, because I must keep my eye upon the Chair, but that is the real reason. They have got money to advance to the world and their custom is attributable entirely—entirely, mind you—to that. They could not compete with us otherwise. It is a most serious matter. We have become, to a very large extent, a debtor country, and I do not think the £34,000,000 per annum we are paying to the United States helps us very much in our trade. Rather, that payment helps the United States of America.

I agree with what has been said by the right hon. Member for Hillhead that it is very gratifying that the trade of the Empire is improving, and I agree with him that it ought to be encouraged, but I do not take his view that something ought to be given in return. As a matter of fact, we are the best customers of the Empire. If my right hon. Friend will look at the figures of the Board of Trade, look not merely at the exports but at the imports, and look at the back pages and find out from where we are buying our stuff, he will find that we are buying tens and scores of millions' worth of goods—of food and raw material—from these distant parts of the Empire. We are giving them what they want. We are giving them custom. We are far and away their best customer. I do not say that is the only reason why they are buying from this country. I have never taken that line; on the contrary, I have no doubt at all that if they had the choice of buying good's from us or from some other country, and the goods were of equal quality and of equal price, they would, without any exception, give the benefit to us.

My attention was called the other day to a point which bears out what the President of the Board of Trade said as to the importance of our getting a chance to sell our goods. I am told that one of the reasons we lost so heavily in Australia immediately after the War in regard to the sale of our motor cars was that during the War all our best agents were captured by America. The United States of America got hold of all the best agents for the sale of motor cars in Australia, and when the War was over we had to fall back upon second and third-rate agencies for the sale of our cars. We are improving in that respect, so I hear; and there is no doubt that that is a very important matter.

As I have said, the right hon. Member for Hillhead must not run away with the idea that we are giving nothing to the Empire in return for what the Empire gives to us. May I also say that we have not merely to maintain and develop our trade with our Empire, but we must recapture our foreign trade? There we have had a bad drop. The figures given by the President of the Board of Trade as to the growth of the exports of Japan are very significant, and he must take care. I do not know what proposals he has got in his mind, they may be purely administrative, they may not involve legislation, he did not expatiate upon them, but whatever they are he must take care that they do not add to our difficulties in recapturing our foreign trade; because although the Empire is very, very important the number of people and contingent customers in the rest of the world is very much larger.

I am going to end with an interrogatory. When is the report of the inquiry going to appear? When are the recommendations to appear? Are they ready? Is there any prospect of their coming. This creeping inquiry has been going on——


The Balfour Committee?


Yes. It has been going on ever since 1924. In 1923 I ventured to suggest that the facts of the situation were so very grave that we ought to have an inquiry. At that time it was received with mocking laughter, but my right hon. Friend the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) thought over the matter—if he is given plenty of time he comes to a very sound conclusion—and after twelve months reflection he came to the conclusion that the suggestion I had made was a wise one. But that was in 1924, three years ago, and the Committee are still going on. This inquiry, this diagnosis of our trade, will merge into post-mortem if it goes on from year to year. What is the condition of the patient? What is the prescription they have got? I think they really ought to be hurried up. They have published very valuable information, but they ought not to have taken three years to compile it. Most of it is in the Board of Trade—not all—and it ought not, have, taken all this time. Probably the President of the Board of Trade will not reply to-night but I see there the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary who is equal to anything, and I have no doubt he will be able to give us a very satisfactory answer. I would ask him to take this matter in hand, and then there will be some hope for our trade. I ask him whether he will not give us some hope that this Committee, which has been sitting for two or three years, is going to lay its egg at last? It has been sitting for three years, and I think we ought to know what its view is. It is a very able Committee and a very thoughtful Committee, and it is not going to be hurried, but I think it ought to be prodded. I can see from the speech of the right hon. Member for Hillhead—and there are other symptoms—that we may once again have to decide in the course of the next year or two vital issues with regard to our trade, very vital issues. Let us get the facts. Let us get the view of this Committee, which is a quite impartial Committee, from all I can see of it; I am perfectly certain my right hon. Friend would not have appointed one if it had not been completely impartial. I do not know when the election is going to come, but if you are going to delay it until this Report appears you will have to renew the Quinquennial Act. We ought to get the information in time for the public to get the full facts of the situation and get the views of these very able experts in regard to what ought to be done. They have collected as much information as any human being can possibly digest. They have got tomes of figures, statistics, reports and surveys. Let us know what they think about it. I press the right hon. Gentleman to give us an answer, and I have no doubt at all that if it is not altogether satisfactory at any rate it will be very entertaining.

7.0 p.m.


The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), in his exhaustive and interesting survey, has, at any rate, dropped one hint which will be of service in certain directions. He spoke of an egg which the right hon. Gentleman had either laid or had placed under a hen, and he said that if that egg did not hatch out satisfactorily it ought to be prodded. I think that allusion will be of interest to those who cultivate and consume this delicious fruit in many parts of the country, but we did not get from the right hon. Gentleman any real help towards the solution of this grave problem. I have listened to-day to two speeches from Front Bench Members opposite, but from neither of them did we get the smallest suggestion of the line that we should take. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) told us that our trouble was that the tendency was to invest too much in fixed capital instead of in consumable goods. Surely, the danger to-day is the very opposite. The danger is that we spend too much and invest too little. The hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise), speaking in this House on Friday, gave very interesting statistics about the comparative investments of this country and the United States. He said that in the first six months of this year, our investments were £196,000,000 and those of the United States £854,000,000. The United States were able to invest four times as much as we could for the six months. The right hon. Gentleman says that they have got the foreign trade, because they are able to send money abroad and to invest abroad. I say, rather, that they are able to send money abroad because they have the foreign trade.

We, in this country, had the trade before the War, and we did invest. We have had that trade since the War, also. In 1919 and 1920, we had re-secured those foreign markets; we had got again a growing export trade; but, when the post-War boom was over, we lost it. The decline has come since the War. It is not therefore due only to the tremendous impetus that the Americans got during the world struggle. I am not at all sure whether our Departments do not still think too much of commerce and too little of industry. One hundred years ago, we were referred to as a nation of shopkeepers. We were then, in fact, a nation more of buyers and of sellers than of producers; but we had a population of 8,000,000. To-day, we have got six times that population and, perforce, we must become, as we have become, producers. It is not enough to do what the hon. Member for Hills borough suggested, to concentrate on shipping and dock labour in handling imported goods. We must handle the goods we make ourselves, and employ our own men in making our own goods. I am not sure whether the policy of the banks is the best that is possible. I am not sure that banks in this country, as opposed to banks in America, are not apt too much to support commerce to the detriment of trade. I believe that a, word in time from my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in that direction might be of real service to the country.

A good deal has been said at one time or another about marketing. Undoubtedly, marketing is of vital importance. I constantly hear of gentlemen in my constituency who see their own manufactures in their own town marked up at 100 per cent. increase above their sale price. One hears, too, of merchants who ask for goods from manufacturers in 12ths of a dozen instead of in dozens of dozens, as in pre-War days. It is possible that the large merchants have ceased to perform their function of providing capital for industry. If that be so, they will automatically be eliminated. I do not suggest that the Ministry should take any action in that direction at all, but I do suggest that they should have the information available so that, if and when the manufacturers in any industry want information about forming amalgamations for selling, they can go to the Ministry and get that for which they ask. It is quite clear that these merchants and retailers do not put on 100 per cent. on English goods and only 50 per cent, on foreign goods. They are patriotic, just as the manufacturers and the vast majority of the people of this country are patriotic. They put on their profit equitably, and they may probably put more on foreign goods than on our manufactures. The whole thing is that our products are too expensive to compete in our own or in the world's markets. Can we wonder at that, when we look at the position of labour in Europe to-day? A few months ago, in the "Ministry of Labour Gazette," a schedule of figures was published which showed that the German wage was 63 per cent. of ours, while in other countries they have got to pay only 44 per cent. of ours. How can we hope to gain markets in face of that competition, and when we remember, also, that the Germans keep their home market to themselves and with their surplus compete against us in the world market?


How does America deal with that?


I am going to deal with America. We have got to economise and cut down national expenditure in every way we can. Liberals, Conservatives and Socialists, alike, have failed really to economise. This Government alone has been able to reduce the burden on the taxpayers, slightly. [Laughter]. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs laughs. Before the War, the right hon. Gentleman was responsible for increasing the taxation of this country by more than 30 per cent., from £120,000,000 to nearly £200,000,000, and he is the last person who should laugh.


The hon. and gallant Gentleman will allow me to interrupt. It was also due to the action which I took that the taxation of this country was reduced by £200,000,000.


I quite agree with the right hon. Gentleman, but it was also due to him that the taxation of this country was increased by many hundreds of millions of pounds at a time of national emergency during the War. When the right hon. Gentleman is taking off a part of what he put on, surely that is not a very great credit either to him, or to anybody else. I want to refer, for a moment, to a small industry, the latch-needle industry, which is of considerable interest in parts of this country. I put down a question about it to-day, and received the very encouraging reply that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade would continue to keep this industry under his observation. If he had said that he would put it under his observation, I might have hoped that the benefit of that observation would bring prosperity out of chaos, but to continue to keep an industry under observation which has already been observed for a very long time without anything being done cannot encourage people in the industry to hope for very much better times.

What exactly is the position? It is true that this is a protected industry under the Key Industries. There is a duty of 33⅓ per cent. ad valorem on these needles. I would point out to the right hon. Gentleman that it is very difficult for the Customs officials to judge properly and accurately what class and character of needles are being imported. I am informed that this 33⅓ per cent. very often dwindles to 20, and even 10 per cent., owing to packets of needles being invoiced at much below their proper value. I confess that I am not thoroughly conversant with all the details of the industry, but some time ago a committee was set up by the Board of Trade to examine it. The industry was told that nothing could be done, because it was expected that the price of German needles would rise. In point of fact, in the last 18 months the price of German needles has fallen from 43s. 11d. to 41s. 7d. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary, not necessarily to increase the duty or to consider only the aspect of an increased duty, but whether it is not worth while to set up a committee to examine the possibility of altering the basis of the duty from an ad valorem duty to one by weight. That has been done in America, where the duty is not less than 50 per cent., and it has been done in France and Germany. I cannot see why, with our short experience in tariffs, we cannot be guided by these countries rather than strike out a line for our own.

I do not view this question of Protection from any mere party standpoint. I was, it is true, brought up in a Protectionist school, but I was converted, as many other people have been converted, to the Free Trade school. Now, I think, I may say that I watch this controversy entirely from the point of view of the benefits to trade. What we want is thriving trade and prosperous industry; what we need is neither Protection nor Free Trade, but fair trade in this country. An hon. Member, speaking on the Finance Bill, last week, referred to a certain duty as being a back door to Protection. What does it matter if it is a back door, a front door, a side door, or a garden door, if the door leads to prosperity and better times? I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to enter by that door boldly, and to carry, if possible, some measure of relief to industries in this country.

An hon. Member on the other side of the House interjected something about America. I should like, if I may, to refer to one or two details of wages and, incidentally, to a comparison of wages earned in America. The first comparison I shall make is from this month's Board of Trade Return. I see the wages paid in the wool textile industry, for a week of 47.9 hours, was 51s. 6d., whereas the wage in Government industrial establishments was 65s. 7d. for a somewhat shorter week. I am not quite sure whether that is a proper and fair comparison.


Is that a comparison of like with like, because I can assure the hon. and gallant Member, as one dealing with Government workers in industrial establishments and with workers in textile industries, that I find it very hard to understand those figures.


I do not for a moment mean to say that the Government figures are too high. What I want to point out is that the textile figures, as compared with the Government figures, are far too low. It is quite true that in the textile figures a certain amount of women's labour is included. I apologise to the House, I have given the figures for males, only! The comparative figures for all labour were 37s. 9d. and 59s. 4d. The figures for males, alone, were the ones which I gave, 51s. 6d. and 65s. 7d. The right hon. Gentleman knows that the textile workers bear a share of the wages of these Government establishments, and I hope that he and his Department will consider what reductions in the Government industrial staffs can be made in order that this burden, which is carried by workers in the other industries, can be lightened. In the American clothing trade—I am dealng with wool textiles—a wage of 33¼ dollars a week is paid. The comparable average wage is 35s. 7d., only a quarter of that paid in the United States. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) asks how do I account for American prosperity. I would like to ask how does the right hon. Gentleman account for these wages. American prosperity is tied up with American wages, and both are tied up to the American fiscal system. I believe that something can be done to help our industries in this direction. I wish particularly to refer to the woollen textile industry. The President of the Board of Trade has already given us some excellent figures for this year, but I want him to remember that our exports of worsted tops have declined from 2,972,000 1bs. weight in 1911 to 336,000 1bs. in 1926, a decrease of 90 per cent. The export of worsted yarns has declined from 60,000,000 1bs. in 1911 to 17,500,000 in 1926, a decrease of 70 per cent. The export of worsted and woollen manufactures has decreased from 78,000,000 yards in 1911 to 43,000,000 yards in 1926.

I am aware that these last figures are not strictly comparable because one is linear yards and the other is square yards, but any rate they unmistakably show the tendency, and there is no doubt that our textile trade is in extremis. The President of the Board of Trade and his Department should immediately devote their attention to this trade or it may be too late to do anything for it. The hon. Member for Hillsborough Mr. A. V. Alexander) said that during the War a tremendous amount of fresh machinery was installed in this country, and I want to know how is that machinery going to be employed. It should be employed as machinery was employed before the War upon a division of foreign trade and home trade, but if we cannot get the foreign trade we have a right to say that we must have a larger share in our home trade. I am sure that we have in this country by far the finest market in the whole world. The hon. Member for Hillsborough said that the greatest need of to-day was to recover our lost markets, but let us start by trying to recover our lost home markets, and in that we can get the assistance of the President of the Board of Trade.

I want to deal briefly with the question of unemployment in the wool textile trade. I was sorry my right hon. Friend had not time to refer to this subject in his survey. The percentage of unemployed is 9.4, but in addition to that in some sections of that trade there are 38 per cent. on short time, losing on an average 12½ hours each per week. If those figures are worked out it will be found that the total amount of time lost means at least that there is 20 per cent. of unemployment in this particular industry. It should also be remembered that a good many people have left the industry and gone into others where employment is better and more regular. How long can this state of affairs go on? I do not consider that it is hopeless at the moment. If I may use a racing simile I should like to ask my right hon. Friend to look round his departmental stables, and I think he will find there a very useful colt sired by Welsh Wizard out of Dire Necessity; his name is Safeguarding. In spite of the remarks made by the hon. Member for Hillsborough, this horse has been tried many times, and he has never been a disgrace to his owner, while he has often carried his colours to victory. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not place too much faith in that old horse Laissez Faire, which was by Mechanical Superiority out of the Manchester School, a good breed in the past but a sorry one to-day. Ailing far a long time, he died during the War, and we can no more place our hopes in the progeny of Mechanical Superiority. Manchester School, exhausted by the efforts of producing Laissez Faire, died while giving birth to that useless foal the much heralded Universal Free Trade.

It is true that there are two other colts in the field. One is of foreign pedigree and training, an animal named State Ownership, a horse that has proved a failure whenever it was pulled out and is totally unfit for a British course.

Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT



Yes, broken-winded, with splints and a spavin as well. The other colt is called State Subsidy, a badly-bred colt by Cowardice out of Incompetence. I do not think any of these horses can be a match for the colt of my right hon. Friend. I believe that the President of the Board of Trade will win fresh laurels for his stable, bring fresh glory to the Board of Trade, and the trainer of his colt, and that in this way alone will he be able to save the honour of our industrial stock. I therefore urge him to run his horse frequently, train him well this autumn, and enter him freely in the Budget Stakes next spring.


I will not endeavour to follow the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester (Captain Waterhouse) in his quotations from the leading article in a racing paper. Before the hon. and gallant Member came to his peroration, I was trying to find out what was his remedy for the parlous condition of the British Empire, and I gathered that his remedy was to induce the President of the Board of Trade further to reduce wages in this country.




The OFFICIAL REPORT will show who is right. The hon. and gallant Member was at some pains to prove that Government wages were rather higher than textile workers' wages, and he argued that textile workers had to pay their share of Government workers' wages, and therefore those wages should be brought down to the level of textile workers' wages.


That was not my argument. My suggestion was that the number of employés in Government Departments should be decreased and not that wages should be reduced.


Then I do not understand why my hon. and gallant Friend contrasted the modern rate of wages unless he wanted to exploit the wages in the sheltered industries. I was amazed later on when the hon. and gallant Member came to discuss American wages, because he said that one of the causes of the abounding prosperity of America was the very high rate of wages which he himself had derided a few moments before. I intervene in this Debate chiefly for the purpose of referring to a statement which was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who affected surprise that the hon. Member for the Hillsborough Division (Mr. A. V. Alexander), when speaking from the Treasury Bench, visualised the ending of this competition in international services. The rght hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead has no other conception of British industry than that we should struggle for markets by beating someone else and undercutting some other set of workers in foreign countries. In other words, he suggested that there should be a competition in starvation, and that trade should go to the nation that could live on the least. Sir Adam Nimmo expressed his view on this point with great lucidity in an article in the "Observer," in which he declared, in connection with the coal industry, that the only solution was to cut down the cost of production and cut wages until we could beat the competition of the Czechoslovakians and the Germans out of the market. Of course, the Germans would be prepared to work for less wages, and the result would be that we should have to come down to their level again and the Germans would be worse off than ever. What can be the end of such a policy as that?

There is one other point to which I wish to draw the attention of the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester, and it is that if we cut wages in the home market with the object of capturing foreign markets from the Czechoslovakians or the Germans every cut in wages destroys the home market, and it destroys the purchasing power of the people in the home markets. When the hon. and gallant Member for South Leicester talks about the parlous condition of our textile trade, does he not see that there is some connection between that parlous condition and the fact that the collier's wife can no longer buy a silk jumper or hosiery, and the fact that the wages in the home market have been cut down prevents these people from buying British goods.


In the past the collier's wife did not buy a British jumper, but she bought one made abroad by sweated labour.


I will deal with that point later. As a matter of fact, the collier's wife did buy a British jumper, and the home market does absorb a very great proportion of the produce of this country.




No, not silk. I am dealing with woollen goods, and I want to deal with one thing at a, time. The British trade in these goods has gradually faded away and many of these factories are closing up or working short time. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead said that he had never heard any proposal put forward by the Labour party for dealing with this competition of sweated goods. I am afraid he is rather behind the times in that respect, because, for two or three years now, it has been the declared policy of the Labour party, approved of in annual congress and expressed in their publications, pamphlets and programmes, to attempt, through the League of Nations and the International Labour Office, to get a common standard of labour conditions set up, and an agreement that, if any nation, after the warning, refuses to conform to that accepted standard, or violates that standard, its goods shall be prohibited from entering into the country of every other signatory of that convention so long as there is an alternative source of supply. [Interruption.] There is no reason whatever for the surprise that is expressed——


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but I was saying that I should say "Kamerad" to that; it is so extreme.


The suggestion is that the Government should make that proposal at Geneva now. We know that it will have the hearty assent of the working classes in all European countries, whatever the capitalist classes may say. But, whenever we make that proposal, the President of the Board of Trade declares that it will interfere with most-favoured-nation Clauses, that there would be international difficulties of one kind or another, and that is where it stops. We say that the Government should take the initial step. Why stop at the Washington Convention? Hours of labour are a common standard all over the world. You may try to mesmerise us about the purchasing power of the mark, the dollar and the pound, but hours of labour are a common unit. The principal countries of the world agreed at Washington to a certain standard. Why not let the Government go to Geneva and say, "We propose that, on and after a certain date, if any country refuses to honour its signature at Washington, then, after due warning, its goods shall be boycotted by all the other signatory nations"? If we were to level up the standard of working hours all over the world, would it not bring about a higher standard of production by preventing the competition of a lower standard of production? As you do that with hours of labour, so you can proceed to do it with wages and purchasing power. If the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead will use his undoubted influence with His Majesty's present Government to induce them to take steps along that road, we can have a large common measure of agreement in this country which I think would be considerably to the benefit of British trade.

There is something else that the President of the Board of Trade could do, and, I think, without legislation—it may be not, but I think he could do it without legislation. He ought, surely, to attack the speculators who are harassing British industry. Take the chief industry in the city that I represent—the jute industry. With the prices of raw material fluctuating between £29 and £61 per ton—for the same crop, grown in the same part of India, namely, Bengal—owing to the operations of speculators and middlemen, of whom there are about six grades, what chance has a manufacturer? Moreover, whenever the manufacturer, so to speak, gets the baby to hold, he always passes it on to the workers, with the result that the workers in the jute industry never have a living wage, and live in the most incredible misery. Here is an industry the raw material of which is under British control, and in which for years one city in this country has had practically a monopoly of manufacture; and yet, because the Board of Trade stands idly by and allows a small group of speculators and middlemen to operate in the bazaars in India and on the London market, this industry suffers very considerably.


What is the hon. Member's suggestion? Is it that the Board of Trade should become the sole buyer?


I was just waiting to hear what was going to follow.


I was endeavouring to avoid stating a specific remedy, because I knew that if I gave it I should be entirely out of order; but the rhetorical question put to me by the right hon. Gentleman a second ago is not necessarily the only remedy, although, in my view, if I were in order in saying so, it would be a proper one. Surely, however, he can encourage joint buying, and, if they will not do it voluntarily, he can find some means to compel them, or, at any rate, to induce them, to adopt joint buying. If the objection to joint buying on a voluntary basis be that one or two are making more money out of speculation in the raw material, then it is up to the right hon. Gentleman to come to this House for legislative powers. I will not, however, stray any further in that direction.

There is one further point that I should like to note. In my belief, the possibilities for British exports are positively unlimited. I offer the right hon. Gentleman the example of what has happened in the British Colony of the Gold Coast. Only a few years ago—by voluntary effort, I agree—the cocoa manufacturers in this country, led by the late Sir George Cadbury, decided that they would no longer purchase slave-produced cocoa from San Thomé, in Portuguese West Africa, but that they would encourage the growth of the cocoa bean in a British Colony by free native producers. The whole story is told in Mr. Nevinson's "Life of George Cadbury." What has been the result? The result has been that we are buying our cocoa now practically entirely from a British Colony, the natives of which are prospering, and are buying more British bicycles——[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Yes, because you set out to make them prosperous; and, because they get more, because they can consume more and wear more, they buy more British bicycles, I believe, than in any other part of the world.


Except Tanganyika.


I am not going to refer to Tanganyika, because I have not the figures, but I say this, that the native of the Gold Coast is a, better purchaser of British goods to-day than is the citizen of the United States of America. Those lines can be followed whenever the President of the Board of Trade and the Government desire to increase the purchasing power of our customers abroad and our consumers at home. Whenever you depart from a policy of wage-cutting, of competition in international starvation, and follow the line of increasing the purchasing power of our consumers, we shall get prosperity in our industry. In conclusion, let me give one illustration of what I mean. Last year, the Secretary of State for the Dominions introduced into this House a proposal to give a credit of £10,000,000 for the development of certain parts of the British Empire and outside the British Empire; and one direction in which that was to be done was in facilitating the development of a coalfield in Portuguese East Africa—not in British territory at all—by building a bridge over the Zambesi River in Portuguese territory, to extend a Portuguese railway line in order to open up a Belgian-owned coalfield in Portuguese Nyasaland, where the production was estimated to be 300,000 tons a year, and the wages were to be 5s. a month. My authority for this is the Report of the Under-Secretary. It was proposed that British credit should be spent in order to do that sort of thing. It seems extraordinary, and it is extraordinary. In this House we went to a Division on it. All the facts were explained in this House, and they are not denied. The Secretary of State for the Dominions does not deny them. At the best he says that he is holding up the proposal until he has made further inquiries, but actually that credit has been passed by this House; His Majesty's Government proposed it and carried it, and the Government Whips carried hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite into the Lobby in favour of it. Against that, let me put this proposal. I have put it before. I put it to the Secretary of State for India, through the Noble Lord who represents him in this House; I put it to the Minister of Labour; and I can get no further. You have under your control now, directly or indirectly, one-fifth of the whole human race in India. They are living in incredible poverty; they cannot buy your goods—they cannot buy Lancashire goods; and they are unable to buy because they have nothing beyond primitive, almost mosaic, implements for cultivating the soil. Why cannot you lend them ploughs——


They will not use them.


That tale was good enough until the Royal Commission on Indian Agriculture, which the present Government set up, began to take evidence. That evidence is available; it is in the Vote Office of this House; and the evidence given before that Commission is not that they will not use these ploughs, but that, in every district where they have been tried, they have been used, and used with avidity. Let us take it that the Government of India believe that they would be used, and we have the adviser of the Government of India giving evidence that they would be used—ploughs, automatic pumps for raising water from the village wells, and all the rest of it——

Mr. A. M. SAMUEL (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

I said that a long time ago.


You never got any further. Why cannot you go to the Government of India and say, "We will lend, through you, to your agricultural co-operative societies, the necessary implements to increase their productive power"? If you can only increase the purchasing power of the ryot by half-a-crown a year—three farthings a week—you would increase British exports by £40,000,000 a year, and you could set all your engineering trade busy. You have only to give them the credit—they are perfectly sound financially——


The hon. Member is saying exactly what I said in a speech in Newcastle 12 months ago.


I said it three years ago, but I will give the hon. Gentleman the credit of it; I am not interested in the date. Will he, before he leaves the Department of Overseas Trade, get up in this House and tell us what stops it from being done—where is the obstacle? It is not the officials in India. I discussed it with them——


As far as ploughs are concerned, we are just as eager that they should have them as the hon. Gentleman can be, but the difficulty of getting into operation arrangements which would enable those ploughs to be mended if they got broken is almost insuperable.


The Department of Agricultural Co-operation in India do not think it is insuperable. Their officials have given evidence, as I have already said, before the Agricultural Commission which has been set up, and which is now taking evidence in India. These gentlemen say that there is an unlimited market—as there is. The increased productive capacity lying latent in India is beyond our power to contemplate. I know what is wrong. It is not in this House. There requires to be some sort of legislation in India which will prevent the Zemindar, the landlords in India, from scooping up the results of the productivity by way of increased rents. In my belief, there is unlimited scope for British exports if we would use our credit nationally, if we would use our powers of organisation to increase the buying power of the people. All the efforts of this Government have been to decrease the buying power of the people—everything they have done since they came into office—and every section of workers at home and abroad. If we could get the purchasing power of India, the Gold Coast, everywhere, increased, there would be unlimited prosperity for the people here.

I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman, who I believe still represents that not yet defunct organisation, the Department of Overseas Trade, what has become of his insurance scheme against bad debts incurred in credit operations abroad. I should like him to tell us whether it has disappeared, or is still functioning, and what has been the result, and what his Department is going to do. How far are they assisting British traders at all? When a meat contract is given out to the Argentine, and the Government of Australia does not get the contract, on the ground that her price is too high, and when we ask if there was in the Schedule a Fair Wages Clause, we are blandly assured that there was not. If the Government purchases goods in this country, it is compelled to insert a Fair Wages Clause, but, if it purchases its goods out of the country, the Fair Wages Clause does not operate. They can buy their meat in the Argentine, and no question is asked about wages, hours, or conditions of labour. It ought to be the duty of the Overseas Trade Department to see to it that British Government contracts have the Fair Wages Clause inserted, and neither our farmers at home nor the meat packers in Australia, who are paid decent wages and have a 44 hours week, should be penalised by cutting out the Fair Wages Clause from Government contracts.


The hon. Member who has just sat down often advocates the prohibition of imports of goods that are produced under worse conditions than at home, but I am not quite sure whether he has quite followed out the logical consequence of what he says. He has referred to-day to hours of labour in America, and has said that if America did not sign the Washington Convention the Board of Trade could prohibit imports from America. That might be reasonable if he would specify the goods, but I wonder what the people in the county I come from would think if they were told that because the South American States pay less wages than we do in the Lancashire cotton mills, and work longer hours, no raw cotton from America was to come to Lancashire.


This can only be done internationally. All the other importing countries would have to agree, and it could only be effective for trades where there was a satisfactory alternative source of supply.


So long as we are secured and the hon. Member is not going to prohibit the importation of raw cotton into Lancashire, I am quite content. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) referred in very doleful tones to the position of the Lancashire cotton trade, and gave us figures of values which were certainly very depressing, but it would be well, in dealing with the cotton trade, to give figures of volume as well as of value, because of the alteration in the prices of the raw material. We agree that the Lancashire cotton trade is in a most deplorable condition, but we do not want the rest of the world, or our own people at home, to think it is in an even worse condition than it actually is. The value of exports of cotton piece goods for the first six months of 1925 was £79,290,000, and the quantity was 2,284,000,000 square yards. For the first six months of 1927, the value was £53,823,000. That is a very serious drop of 33 per cent. in value, and that was the only figure the hon. Gentleman gave, but the comparative figure of volume, which, after all, is the basis of employment, is 2,075,688,000 yards, which is only a decrease of 200,000,000 square yards, or 9 per cent., against 33 per cent, in value. Our exports of yarn for the first six months of 1925 were 96,815,000 1bs., of a value of £16,000,000. In 1927, we have actually found more employment by exporting 106,758,000 1bs. of yarn, but the value is down to £11,872,000, a decrease of almost £5,000,000 in the value of the yarn. So that while we are bad, we are not so bad as the hon. Gentleman pictures us. It is as well that we should occasionally try to put our position in the right light.

The President of the Board of Trade spoke of the need of finding markets and said we should have a better organisation for selling. I agree with him that there is no business organisation that is perfect. We can all learn, whether it be from Government officials or from other trades, but I want to draw his attention to one feature in connection with trade where his Department ought to be able to help the trader to market his goods under proper conditions. There is in existence an Imperial Shipping Committee, set up by the Coalition Government in 1920, in order that persons who found freights or shipping conditions that militated against the export trade could bring their case before the Committee and have their grievance remedied. In principle, the Committee is an excellent institution, but what is it actually doing to support British trade? In 1925, the Government referred to it the case of the North American freights in connection with the Canadian trade, and a report was made to the Board of Trade in 1926 that they were considering the matter. No further report has yet been made.


The Committee does not report to the Board of Trade. It reports to the heads of each Government of the Empire.


That means that the report is in effect to the Board of Trade, and their report is issued as a Command Paper here, and those who are interested in these questions can get the information. I think a portion of the expenses of the Committee are borne on the Vote we are discussing.


I was not suggesting that it was out of order, but I did not want to have it referred to as a Board of Trade Departmental Committee.

8.0 p.m.


There are many inequalities and injustices that ought to be brought before this Committee, and I suggest that the Board of Trade have been remiss in the way they have carried out the duties imposed upon them by the Royal Commission, and, secondly, the Report of the Imperial Shipping Committee in 1923. Both those Reports recommended that the Board of Trade should see that there were established in different parts of the country organisations of manufacturers, merchants, and shippers who would be working in conjunction with the Board of Trade and which should be for the purpose of meeting the shipping conference rings. It is recognised that these shipping rings, if left alone, become monopolistic and charge rates which are unduly harsh, and the two Reports suggested that the Board of Trade should assist in the formation of representative Committees as an alternative to Government interference. They said, first of all, "Do not let us have Government interference if, by trade organisation, you can get a remedy." I was informed to-day, in answer to a question, that the Board of Trade understood some of these organisations existed, but they had no cognisance of what work they were doing. I think that is no help to British traders to find the market which they ought to find. I have been reading a Report which has just been issued by the Federation of British Industries. They have had a Special Commissioner out in the Near East examining the condition of trade there, and examining the reasons why British trade was not getting the share which it enjoyed in former years. What does that Report say? This is the Report of the Federation of British Industries on the commercial and economic conditions in the Sudan, Egypt, Palestine, and Turkey, and it was issued in June of this year. On page 19, this Report says: There has been no improvement in British freight quotations, and the disparity which exists between home rates and those quoted by foreign steamship companies remain so great that it is seriously interfering with our trade. If we could have a great industrial organisation which could report on the conditions with regard to the disparity of freights between Continental rates and British rates which is seriously interfering with trade, I think that such a suggestion is something which the Board of Trade ought to bring before the notice of the Imperial Shipping Committee in order to find a remedy. It is a most important matter. I speak in connection with a trade of which I know something—the cotton trade. These difficulties of freight are most important. It is cheaper to bring cotton goods from New York to the Near East than it is to take them from Liverpool to the Near East. The difference in several cases is equal to 30s. and 40s. per freight ton on a commodity, and that, on the actual weight, reckoned in pounds, is to the disadvantage of the Lancashire producer to the extent of one halfpenny, three farthings, and up to a penny per pound. The difference that a halfpenny per pound makes in Lancashire and to the production of Lancashire goods is something between £1,000,000 and £2,000,000, and that is enough to kill the trade. The disadvantage in freights is so great that in many cases it makes a difference to the actual trade being done. There has been taken from Lancashire during the last few years a considerable amount of trade by America. If we could have these freight adjustments so that the Lancashire manufacturer would have a fair deal in delivering his goods against American and other competitors, the Board of Trade would be very materially helping the traders of the country.

It does seem singular that we should have goods going from this country to Canada, one of our own Dominions, and that these shipping conference rings will actually convey British goods in the boats and charge 85s. per ton, and that in the same boat they will convey Continental goods at 42s. 6d. per ton. I put that forward as a question in this House, and that was admitted. At present we are sending goods to Canada at a difference in price which is equal to 2½ per cent. on the commodity, not a difference in the freight of 2½ per cent., but 2½ per cent. on the value of the commodity. A Canadian buyer has told me that it has often made a difference between his placing an order in Lancashire and his placing an order on the Continent—this excessive difference in freight. Until we can have these matters remedied, until we can have some pressure brought to bear by the Board of Trade upon the shipping conference rings, the Board of Trade cannot show that they are doing all they ought to do in the interests of Lancashire and British trade.


I am sorry to interrupt the hon. Member, but he is an expert on the cotton trade. Can he give the House the difference in wage between the different sections of the employés and the craftsmen in the cotton trade which the difference in rate represents?


The difference between the Canadian rate from Britain and from the Continent in cotton goods is equal to 10 per cent. of the wage of the weaver, and that may bring home to my Labour friends on the other side of the House the fact that this question of freights is really a very much more important one than may appear on the surface. What is the Government going to do in connection with the South African fight that is going on at the present moment? The South African freight war is certainly interesting from a traders' point of view, and it is also interesting from the national point of view. We have there a competing line, and, in order to beat that competing line out of existence, the rates of the conference lines have been reduced on certain commodities from 35s. to 5s., and on other commodities from 80s. to 30s. per ton. There is no suggestion that those rates are to remain at that figure. They are only to be reduced to that amount until they have beaten this competitor out of the field. It is not right that the Board of Trade should be standing idly by and allowing this shipping conference ring to impose its own terms and conditions upon the South African traders and, by this tyranny and this monopolistic action, prevent a fair deal from the point of view of the trader and prevent him from entering a market which he could enter with reasonable profit to himself. I suggest that the Department should take care that this South African freight war is watched, because we have had experience in Lancashire of similar freight wars. There was a case many years ago of the freight war between Liverpool and Bombay. An independent line came in and the rates were reduced from 40s. to 20s. The independent line was beaten out of the field. The conference lines then immediately raised the rate to 40s., and within three months afterwards to 60s. The British merchants, unfortunately, took no definite action. Fortunately for the Lancashire piece goods trade, the Bombay native piece goods merchants formed themselves into an organisation and decided that they would have lower rates and they chartered British boats to convey the cotton goods from Liverpool to Bombay and broke the conference and the conference had to come down in its prices. By that means the rings were broken and the prices reduced from 60s. to 25s. Unless we have some association of traders or some Government action by the Board of Trade to see that similar things will not happen when this freight war is over in South Africa, we shall have a repetition of what happened in the instance I have quoted, and we shall have the same old conference rings boosting prices once more.

It does seem also that the Board of Trade have been unable to equalise the rates between this country and South America or the Far East with the rates from the Continent. I am often asked, when this matter is being discussed: "Why do not the Lancashire shippers send their goods to the Continent for trans-shipment there, and take advantage of the cheap freight from the Continent?" That was done some years ago by some Manchester merchants. They put their goods on the Ship Canal and they trans-shipped them at Antwerp in order to take advantage of the lower rates. As soon as that came to the knowledge of the shipping conference rings, they sent a circular round to all their customers to the effect that anybody shipping in this manner again would not only lose all their rebates, but they would be penalised by the addition of 20s. per ton to the normal rates. It seems to me that if conditions of that sort are imposed we are no longer free. There is plenty of room for the Board of Trade to help the traders and to take steps to see that there is a greater penalty imposed in connection with these unfair charges by the shipping rings. One good method for the Board of Trade would be to obtain the figures for the present shipping rates which are charged for goods going from the Continent and from this country. If they would obtain those rates and publish them in a Command Paper of this House, so that this House and the country could know what the difference in these freights was, then we should be able to get up such an agitation that there would be no doubt that the shipping conference rings would be very much penalised, and publicity would be given to these unfair charges by the shipping rings.


When I took the liberty of giving notice at Question Time to-day that I intended to raise this question of freights, I did not know that the hon. Member who has just spoken also intended to raise it. He has dealt with it, if I may respectfully say so, and with the general question in so complete a manner that I shall content myself with adding to the many instances which he gave, and which appeared to be largely lost on the Parliamentary Secretary, a few other instances of the kind of intimidation which goes on. No other word will properly describe the pressure which is being brought by the shipping monopoly to bear not only upon shippers but upon manufacturers who incur their displeasure, because they ship their goods by ships other than those of the shipping monopoly. It has been said in the House this afternoon that the one bright spot in our trade is the trade with our Dominions. If that be the bright spot, there is a very black spot on the bright spot, because I have just been looking up the figures of the trade with South Africa, and I find that, during the first quarter of the present year, South Africa imported the lowest proportion of British goods on record, and the proportionate decrease in the importation of British goods is reflected in the proportionate increase in the importation to South Africa of American goods. There is a cause for that, and I am going to submit that we have not to seek further for this cause than the state of affairs in the shipping world as it exists between this country and South Africa to-day. When the shipping conference which has already a monopoly of the shipping trade with South Africa saw that their supremacy was being threatened, it naturally caused them some little agitation. They felt that, since they had been carrying these goods to South Africa for so long, they had conferred certain benefits upon the South African trade, and, therefore, they were entitled to the perpetual gratitude of the South African shippers, who ought never to ship goods by any other sea route. Therefore, when it was found that certain manufacturers and shippers in this country were actually exporting goods to South Africa by other lines they instituted certain repressive measures.

If the House will bear with me, I have been able to provide myself with some specific measures, and when I have given them I am going to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to give the matter his attention. He has been very much engrossed in his speech and in his papers for the last half-hour. Two hon. Members have raised a question which they consider to be vital to the future trade of this country. I should like to have the Parliamentary Secretary's attention, because we hope he will be able to deal with it. The Debate has ranged over a wide ground and very vague remedies have been discussed, but here is a specific instance brought to his notice in which trade could be improved with South Africa, and with other parts of the world as well. I am going to show what are these repressive measures which have been inflicted by the Shipping Conference upon the manufacturers who have committed the great offence of chartering ships other than Conference ships between this country and South Africa. First of all, there has been a most extraordinary reduction in rates. I notice that the reduction on galvanised iron from here to South Africa has decreased from 60s. to 10s. per ton. These were the figures a few weeks ago, but I do not know whether they are the exact figures now. The Shipping Conference steamers, which a couple of years ago, or even a year ago, could not ship a ton of galvanised iron to South Africa for less than 60s., with this new menace to their supremacy threatening them find they can ship the same goods at 10s. a ton. In the case of fencing standards, another article greatly used in South Africa, the amount of freight was reduced from 60s. to 5s. a ton.

These are only examples. I could give other examples of uneconomic reductions of freight. I am not suggesting for a moment that this Shipping Conference has not the right to reduce its rates as low as it likes. I am only pointing out that this is the first of their repressive measures. Its effect on the South Africa market has not been too clear. There have been many cases in which these freights have been largely reduced, and the South African market is in a state of great uncertainty, because they know full well that these uneconomic rates will not remain, and trade in South Africa in some of these markets has been thrown into great confusion. It is entirely a mistake to think it is going to benefit our trade in South Africa; it is only going to disorganise it. If they had confined their operations to the reduction of freights, I do not claim that the case for intervention by the Board of Trade would be a very strong one, but they have gone further. They have taken upon themselves to refuse to allow any shipping rebate not only to shippers but to manufacturers who supply independent shippers of this country with goods for South Africa. That appears to me to be carrying trade warfare too far. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he considers that to be the kind of fair trade to which on the other side hon. Members have claimed themselves for so long to be the champions.

I am not merely making vague charges. I have, fortunately, been placed in possession of several specific instances, which in a moment or two I propose to read to the House. All this has got a very detrimental effect on our trade. This intimidation has come to such a pass that South African merchants who have been chartering independent steamers are finding it increasingly difficult to find the manufacturers in this country who will supply them with goods at all I know of cases where large buyers of British goods in this country are finding it so difficult to buy these goods, owing to the action of the Shipping Conference, that they are seriously considering the necessity of giving up the attempt to buy these goods in Great Britain and buying them in America or on the Continent of Europe. I consider that to be a very grave situation, and one which demands some action from the Parliamentary Secretary.

I promised the House I would give some instances. Here is a whole batch of papers, and I am not going to read a great many of them, but it consists of letters and documents which show that firms in this country are utterly unable to fulfil orders from our Dominions unless they are allowed to send those goods out to our Dominions by the Conference line of steamers. That is to say, if I am a South African merchant or an East African merchant, and wish to buy 500 tons of iron in this country, I cannot buy it unless I undertake to ship it by a particular steamer. Here are some examples of that kind of thing. The first one deals with the great firm of Baldwins. The hon. Gentleman has good reason to know about the firm of Baldwins. If I choose this firm of Baldwins, I do not do so out of any desire to cast any reflection at all upon the Prime Minister, although this firm is associated with his name. I do so because Baldwins is well known as a great and powerful steel corporation in this country, and if they have to bow to these freights of the Shipping Conference we can conclude that the position of this country is not healthy. Here is one case where one of the largest South African merchants had made a special order with Baldwins for 500 tons of iron to be shipped by a certain line. That order was not fulfilled because the goods had been ordered to be shipped by a non-Conference steamer, and we find Baldwins having to write this amazing letter to their customers in South Africa—I can give the names to the hon. Gentleman if he desires them later: DEAR SIRS,—We have received your letter of the 24th September and can well realise your surprise and annoyance that we were unable to undertake shipment of the 500 tons you ordered by the Dutch East Africa line, without asking you to indemnify us up to an amount of £600. We have done all in our power to carry through this shipment, but owing to the fact that we signed the conference agreement some years ago, we were informed that if this shipment took place, all our readjustments of freight would be forfeited. The Conference Lines were fully entitled, it appears, to withhold these readjustments from us as shippers of iron on a non-Conference steamer, although we had maintained all through that this matter concerns us only.' What does this great firm of Baldwins think of the methods adopted by the Conference Line? Naturally, says this letter, although we were very eager to oblige you and dislike intensely the attitude adopted by the Conference Line, we cannot agree to lose so large a sum solely for the benefit of your firm, and we do not think in the circumstances that you could have expected us to make this sacrifice. I do not know what became of that particular order, but I have no doubt it went to swell the trade of some country other than Great Britain. That is one instance. I have more instances here. Here is a case where 500 tons of iron were ordered by a Dominion firm which Baldwins were unable to fulfil unless the Dominion firm could indemnify them to the extent of £600 over and above all the ordinary costs of manufacture and shipping—£600 to meet the intimidation of the Shipping Conference Line. I consider that to be a very disgraceful state of affairs. I will quote one more instance. I have selected them not as the worst instances, but as typical instances, and I am prepared to allow the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to see the whole of them if he so desires. Here is a case where a very large firm of shippers in this country wrote to a big importing firm in South Africa: You will observe that in making you this offer per Conference steamer it is a stipulation we feel compelled to make at this juncture, and will be consistent with the writer's private communication of the 11th March last. The net history of the past six months has meant the glutting of the South African markets, the end of which is not yet, and the consequences we fear will fall on unoffending heads. This dossier is full of them. I will content myself with one last extract. It is a letter from Baldwin's, Limited, of a later date than the one which I have already read. It was sent last year. I want to be quite clear in regard to the position. This is a letter sent to a large Dominion manufacturing firm by Baldwins, Limited. It says: We have to point out that as we are at present situated it would not be possible for us again to quote you for anything but shipment by Conference lines. They have taken an extremely one-sided view of our sales to you for shipment by your chartered boats, and have withheld all the cash refunds on our own shipments by their own vessels of Baldwins (South Africa), Limited. Here we have Baldwins, Limited, unable to ship goods without losing the whole rebate to their own representative in South Africa. The letter goes on: We have not the slightest doubt that, legally, although not common carriers they have no right to discriminate between various shippers; but Baldwins, Limited, have no intention of having the matter tested in the Law Courts, with its inevitable delays, expense and risks, if they can obtain the payment of refunds without recourse to such action. We have taken your side in this matter throughout, but we cannot be put to a further lengthy discussion and correspondence with the Conference lines on a matter which, after all, is your sole concern and not the concern of Baldwins, Limited. It is the concern not only of that firm of importers, but of many other concerns in South Africa, and it is the concern of this Government to see that where large manufacturing and shipping corporations in this country are being compelled to refuse Dominion orders because a powerful line of steamers is able to bring an illegitimate form of pressure upon them some action shall be taken by the Board of Trade. I have attempted to state the case with moderation and fairness. The Government is often charged with having great affection for high principles where those principles coincide with party welfare. Here is an opportunity for them to show that they are prepared to tackle intimidation not only when it exists in trade unions, if I may bring in that analogy, but where it is exercised by powerful vested interests against which large public corporations in this country are unable to stand. This is eminently a case for Government action, and the Government will be lacking in their duty if they do not take steps to deal with the matter.


One has been struck by the fact that while we are dealing with trade there seems to be much more interest in darkest Africa or some far away point than in home affairs. While we have to-day been treated to talk about far-flung parts of the Empire, we should not forget the picture in to-day's papers of the mass of unemployed men turning up in Piccadilly in the hope of being able to secure a few days work in taking up the street. The queues of these men in Piccadilly, white men, seem to have been lost sight of altogether in the argument to-day. Because there is some place far distant where it would seem that it is possible for people to buy a bicycle or two from us and, therefore, it would appear that that must be the basis of our discussion with regard to British trade. One would have thought that in dealing with British trade the basis of the argument would have been our unemployed and how best to absorb them. Some hon. Members might reply that that is what we are trying to do by trying to get foreign trade. Had that been true I should not have been speaking as I am speaking now.

Only two weeks ago, when the Under-Secretary of State for India was dealing with the position of that country of disaster, in the minds of many of us, he had to admit that certain opportunities of trade between this country and India had been spoiled by the stupidity of British captains of industry. The question of pumps has been raised to-day—pumps to be used in India. The Under-Secretary on the former occasion admitted that some pumps had been sent to India, and it was discovered that they were far too large and heavy to be worked by the Indians, and were no use in that country. The firm which made the pumps—if they were not gathered up out of the Government stock at Slough—according to the statement made by the Under-Secretary, had representations made to them and he had to admit that in this great and enlightened British industry, led by these great enlightened captains of industry, that firm replied that they had been making that kind of pump for 30 years and they were not going to change. What is to be said of those in charge of industry when they adopt an attitude like that, when there is a chance of a big market such as the one that would have been available if a smaller pump had been produced? What is the use of talking about expanding trade, when the Government allows a firm to stand in the way of business when it depends on the manufacture of a smaller pump?

We were told to-day by the Secretary to the Department of Overseas Trade that we could not send ploughs to India, because the ploughs would require repairing and there was nobody in India who could repair them. That seems very strange. We have heard about the Indian fakir who can make ropes out of sand and send a boy up and down the ropes, and who cam make plants grow without seeds. Now, we are told that a plough cannot be repaired in India. If we go up the city and look in the shop windows we see many wonderful things being sold as the product of Indian hand and brain, but very often they come from Birmingham, but that does not detract from the fact that the Indians had the original skill to carry out this delicate work.

How can hon. Members opposite square this with the statement that ploughs, when they go wrong, cannot be mended in India? Would it be such a very difficult thing to take skilled engineers from your army of unemployed engineers, or skilled workers in wood from your unemployed in the dockyards and shipyards, and send them out to India in order that they may repair these wooden and metal ploughs? It seems to me a silly thing to say that we must not make ploughs in England because, if they are sent out to India and anything goes wrong, there is no one in that country able to repair them. If the Government took the same line in other matters I could excuse it, but they do not. Take your air routes; you do not, leave it to the natives to repair your machines. You send out men, mechanics, to these air routes in order to do the repair work. If these millions of pumps and ploughs are going to be required in India and ought to be made in this country, what difficulty is there in transferring some of our skilled unemployed to India in order to do this repair work? It would benefit the people of India, because more produce would be grown, and the earnings of the natives would increase, and it would reduce the number of unemployed in this country. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will take up this question, and that we shall have from him, as we always expect, a scintillating and brilliant answer which will sweep up the mess in which this question is left at the moment.

We have heard a great deal about the carriage of goods abroad. I want to draw the attention of the few hon. Members who are at present in the House to the question of the carriage of goods at home. Take the fish trade. If you buy fish and you think there is something wrong with the price, you are always told that it is due to the high railway freights and the high wages paid to the railwaymen. I hope something will be done here to refute this false statement. Take the herring fishing. The steam drifters come into Oban and they land their herrings on the pier. At the period of the year I am referring to the fishermen were getting something under one halfpenny per pound for the herrings they landed. I went into the fish market, Glasgow, and was charged 8d. per 1b. for herrings. I asked why they were so dear, and I was told that it was due to the railway freight. I went up to the station and saw the goods manager, who was good enough to give me a copy signed by himself showing that the herrings were carried from Oban to the Glasgow fish market at 5 1bs. for one penny. Therefore, the fishermen at Oban and the railway company together were getting under one penny per 1b. for herrings for which I was charged 8d. per 1b. I want the Government to tell the country that whatever may be the cause for the increase in the price of fish, it is not due to railway transport, according to these figures. If we had had to deal with a shipping ring for the carriage of fish, one would have been able to take a direct line of action, but here you have the statement that those who catch and land the fish on Ohm; Pier and the railway company, which carries them to Glasgow, get under one penny per 1b. I want to know what the Board of Trade is doing to control things like this; to prevent these great fluctuations in prices, fluctuations Which, as a rule, are mostly upwards.

We are not supposed to be trading with Russia. While the Government would not loan money to Russia we loaned money to Germany, and when Germany got this money she gave a loan to Russia on condition that Russia traded with Germany. Therefore, Russia is getting £12,000,000 of British money, loaned to her by Germany, who not only gets 4 per cent. interest but gets the Russian trade in addition. We have to trade with Russia in certain things. We are so stupid as a nation, or the Government is so stupid, that we take goods coming from Russia, either through Germany or America, and both these countries get a profit out of the transaction. I think the Board of Trade ought to pay more attention to questions like this, because this policy tends to raise the price of something in this country. It is all very well from the point of view of hon. Members opposite who think that it is a great crime to trade with Russia, but the community has to pay for such a policy. What is the use of talking about trade with India and Africa, and Germany, and leaving out any other country? The whole basis of the argument to-day has been that the more trade we do the better it is for the country. Why, then, should you not, no matter what Government may be in power—we have nothing to do with Governments in trading matters—sell where you can and buy where you can?

It is not a fight for our own trade, it is a fight against vested interests which are throttling both our home and foreign trade. The letter which the last speaker has read shows this quite clearly. They are gentlemen calling themselves British patriots, flying the British flag at the masthead of their ships, but ready to throttle British trade by the grip of a combination out to protect their own interests. This is the extent of their patriotism—it takes the form of a ring in restraint of British trade, a combination in restraint of trade. There are men meeting in conference at Geneva, and it is said that the Conference is breaking down. It is not breaking down because of the lack of good intentions on the part of those meeting at Geneva; it is breaking down because of huge economic forces, such as the combination of shipping interests of which we have been told, and the combinations of capital between Germany and this country in steel and metals, and all those things. We shall never have the trade that we ought to have until the Government is prepared to look upon the world not as something to control and to throttle, but as something with which it must have trade intercourse. Only on that basis can we ever succeed.


I listened to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, and I was particularly interested in that part of it which dealt with the coal industry. The right hon. Gentleman tried to create the impression that the coal industry was getting better, and to prove his statement he gave figures of the export of coal for the first six months of this year, and compared them with the figures for the first six months of 1925. He showed that in the first six months of 1925 we exported 25,000,000 tons of coal, and in the first six months of this year we exported 26,000,000 tons. In that way he created the impression that there had been an increase of 1,000,000 tons, and that the industry was getting better. The right hon. Gentleman made the same mistake during the Mines Debate only a fortnight ago. He then said that the industry was not as bad as it had been, and he stated that in June, 1925, there were about 300,000 miners unemployed, but that in June of this year the figure had fallen to 200,000. Both those statements are very apt to mislead Members, because of the periods with which the right hon. Gentleman made his comparison of the figures of this year. In taking to-day for comparative purposes the first six months of 1925 the right hon. Gentleman took one of the worst periods for unemployment figures that it is possible to take. The first six months in 1925 were just previous to the mining subsidy being paid to the industry. For many weeks, if not months, before the end of June in that year, the coalowners had been stopping colliery after colliery and throwing men out of employment, and that process was stopped only when the subsidy was paid. Therefore, the right hon. Gentleman in selecting that period for comparison, in my opinion, took an unfair period in order to illustrate his argument.

As a matter of fact, he could not have taken a worse period, and in the Debate a fortnight age, when he gave the figures relating to unemployment, I could not understand them. A day or two later, I put a question to the Minister of Labour asking him to give, not only the unemployment figures for June, 1925, and June, 1927, but also for June, 1924. One found from those figures that, whereas there were over 200,000 unemployed in June of this year, there were over 300,000 miners unemployed in June of 1925. But had the right hon. Gentleman taken for comparison June, 1924, he would have found, not 200,000 or 300,000, but only 59,000 miners unemployed. So, in regard to to-day's Debate. The President took the first six months in 1925, which, as I have said, is the worst period that he could have taken. If he had taken the period represented by the first six months of 1924, he would have found that instead of the export of coal showing an increase, it represented a decrease compared with 1924. In 1924 the coal exported was about 34,000,000 tons, compared with 26,000,000 tons exported in the first six months of this year. The right hon. Gentleman to-day, when interrupted, said, "Ah, it would not have been fair to have taken 1924, because in that year a large amount of the exports was due to the Ruhr invasion." As a matter of fact, the export for the six months of 1924, although it was 34,000,000 tons, was very small compared with the pre-War figures, which were something like 40,000,000 for the same six months. Therefore, in 1924 in spite of the Ruhr invasion we were 6,000,000 tons down compared with the pre-War figures.

I wanted an opportunity of correcting the statement made by the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. The coal industry is not getting better, and it is not in a flourishing condition. It is in a very bad condition and largely because of the Government. When the present Government came into office, as the 1924 figures show, the coal industry was in a much better condition than it is to-day after three years of Conservative rule. The President of the Board of Trade to-day dealt not only with coal exports, but stressed the importance of the home markets. There I agree with him, and I think that the right hon. Gentleman is justified in urging their importance. I wish that the right hon. Gentleman had not been satisfied with giving merely the figures for the export of coal, but had given the figures relating to the home markets. One would like the Parliamentary Secretary, when he replies, to give us the figures for the home market. If we take the home market in 1924, we find that 15,000,000 tons of coal were consumed by the railways and 141,000,000 tons of coal were used for domestic and general manufacturing purposes. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what are the figures to-day of the amount of coal consumed by the railways and used for domestic and general manufacturing purposes? The figures would be interesting if we could get them. There is another aspect of the home market which I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will not forget. I believe in the importance of the home market. People sometimes talk of the coal industry as if it depended on the export to foreign countries, but, in fact, the amount exported is a small proportion of the total output. I would like the Board of Trade to take steps to see that more coal, especially domestic coal, is used in this country, but the Government at present are pursuing a policy which will tend to the use of less coal by domestic consumers. They are pulling down wages, especially in the sheltered trades, and we have seen recently how one or two borough councils have had to——

Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain FitzRoy)

The hon. Member is now dealing with a subject which has nothing to do with the Vote under discussion.


I am endeavouring to show that, if wages were not reduced, the workers would be able to buy more coal, and that that would help the coal industry, and I was going to show that the Government's policy is one of reducing wages.


That is a question which may be raised at the right time, but this is not the right time. It does not arise on this Vote.


I was under the impression that the Vote dealt with the question of trade and of increases of trade and, believing that, I thought I would be in order to mention this matter. I should think I would be in order in asking the Government if they have made up their minds as to what they are going to do to help the coal trade.


That again is a matter which does not arise on this Vote, but which would be more appropriate to the Vote for the Mines Department.

9.0 p.m.


I have listened to the greater part of this Debate, and I am surprised at the manner in which these subjects are placed in watertight compartments in this House. We are here discussing trade, and one would think from the speeches which have been delivered that the trade of this country was something quite apart from the operation of other economic factors for which the Government are more or less responsible. I have heard something, even from our own side, to-night about sweated goods. I should like the term "sweated goods" to be clearly defined before we discuss whether goods are to be allowed in or kept out. If sweated goods are to be barred, then some of the coal about which we have been hearing is the worst example of "sweated goods" that could come into a person's house. With regard to barring sweated goods generally, I think, until we have a clear definition, anyone who runs after that phantasy is bound to drop into the Tariff Reform campaign carrying a Union Jack. So I am not going to run after the sweated goods proposal. I think it is sheer nonsense and waste of time. I listened to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade, and I was amazed. He gave figures which indicated that a golden time is coming, that trade is becoming full-blooded, that the anæmic condition is passing and that we are going to have very happy times. But that is a contradiction of the statements which one hears at first hand from men actually engaged in industry. In Lancashire and in the Potteries they do not present one with such a rosy picture. This week-end I have been in Wales and I found no rosy picture there. This morning I saw three large mines shut down and hundreds of miners walking the streets. One leaves those conditions and comes into the House of Commons to find the right hon. Gentleman telling us to cheer up and that the trade barometer shows a marked advance.

I often wonder is there any need for the President of the Board of Trade or his Department. One of the best things that could happen to this country would be if the Government left it alone. It would be logical if when we are discussing trade we discussed everything that either encouraged or hindered trade, but to-day not a word has been said about what is going on up and down the country. The so-called captains of industry tell us that industry would revive if wages were reduced and if longer hours were worked. Those are the catch phrases of the employing classes of this country. In the "Observer" yesterday one saw a pronouncement from Sir Adam Nimmo. He set out to reply to Sir Herbert Samuel and was not wanting in scathing denunciations of the recommendations of the Coal Commission Report. Then one came to the final proposition by the author of that article—that the coal of this country could find a foreign market if the price of production could be reduced and if the miners would work longer hours; and the inference behind the so-called reduction in the cost of production of coal in order to get this foreign trade was, of course, that the miners should accept lower wages.

The article of yesterday reflects the mentality of most of the so-called captains of industry in this country. You are losing foreign markets—and let us be honest about it, despite the figures offered at that Box to-day—because you are being severely undercut by foreign competition. Your prices in this country are inflated, no doubt, by the ring operations of the shipping combine to which reference has been made already, but your prices are also inflated by the enormous local rates levied upon the areas where these industries are carried on; because the manufacturers of this country will not pay the rates to the local authorities if they cart merge those rates into the prices of the materials which they are producing, with the result that these things go into the foreign market inflated with the heavy rates which your local authorities levy, plus the national taxation, because they try also to merge as much taxation as they can into the prices of their goods. Coal is not peculiar. It applies to almost every exported article that leaves this country. Your taxation and rating are inflating your prices, your goods go into the foreign market with these inflated prices upon them, and you are undercut by countries which are carrying nothing like the local rates and national taxation which you are carrying here.


Hear, hear!


The Under-Secretary agrees, and I think many other hon. Members would agree with what I am saying if they were in their places. The author of the article is the "Observer" was suggesting—and the suggestion was constantly enunciated on that side during that weird and disastrous Debate in this House on the coal problem, when one after the other was constantly telling us—that the export trade could not revive unless the miners reduced their wages. That was the point at which the economy had to be made in order to reduce the cost of production. I would rather suggest that if there is to be a reduction in that cost of production, it should be made along the lines of reducing that element of rates and taxes which is merged into prices. I know I should be on dangerous ground were I to suggest the alternative means by which these rates and taxes might be levied in order to take them out of the realm of industry, but I may just point to one of the main features which is inflating your prices and heavily handicapping you in the foreign market. I was discussing this very problem with one of the mining magnates in South Wales this morning, and he put it to me that the mines are closing down because we cannot sell our coal in the foreign market on account of the price being too high. We cannot get our coal produced at a price that will come within the ambit of the competitive ring on the Continent; this generates unemployment in these areas; these unemployed men traversing the streets call for subsistence; and that can only be met out of local rates and national taxation, which two things come, like a vicious circle, back again upon the struggling industries.

All that I am trying to make out is that all this afternoon we have been discussing trade, and I am amazed, when I see the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir F. Wise) opposite, that he has not been up long before now. Knowing his attitude of mind in these matters, I thought he would have done the job which I am trying to do in rather a crude way, and would have pointed out that trade in any country will revive only in so far as it is encouraged and not discouraged by Government action; but this country is going on its merry course, with local rates piling up and with taxation not coming down. All this money is coming from the common pool of industry. You are doing nothing more nor less, in pursuing your old canons of local rating and taxation, than putting the brake more heavily on the industries of this country annually; and then we have this Debate on reviving trade, without discussing one of these main features that ought to have been discussed. What I have said may have seemed a little wide of the mark, but I have felt that it had to be said, and I know that hon. Members will appreciate the strain under which I have spoken in having had to keep strictly within the rules of order and not having been able to formulate my alternative policy.


The head of the Board of Trade gave us some very useful statistics, for which we shall all be grateful, but I had been wishing to have something of the Government's reflections on the state of trade after another year had gone by, particularly in view of the eventful background of British industry which characterised the year. We should not only have liked philosophic reflections on the present condition of industry, but I had hoped for a political miracle, namely, the announcement of good news, so far as industry is concerned, and something like a Government policy to deal with our present situation. However, we have to console ourselves with the reflection that the Government, in this very important part of our national life, really have no policy to offer; at all events, they have indicated none this afternoon. I find that the President of the Board of Trade is just about as sceptical, on the whole, in his survey of the prospects of British industry as our great national newspaper, the "Times," was last week at the conclusion of a very important survey of the whole of our national industry. The House will recall that the "Times" correspondent, summing up, after a very careful and scholarly survey of the present state of our industry, said: The hopes of a genuine and widespread revival of industrial prosperity are not being fulfilled, and he went on to point out that in several industries subject to severe foreign competition there is an obvious fear that conditions may be worse before there is a change for the better. In view of these facts and of the now admitted knowledge that the boom of March and April of this year was a temporary boom, growing out of the trade suspension during the disputes of last year, I should like to ask one or two definite questions with regard to Government policy. No one who has watched the developments and changes that have taken place in British industry over recent years can have viewed with other than disquiet the policy of watering capital, for example, which has become increasingly the habit in British industry and, indeed, in many industries other than British. This development is relatively new, but it has proceeded at such a rapid rate that we can now describe it as a commonplace method of manipulating the capital side of British industry. It does not matter whether we think of iron and steel, of cotton, or of shipbuilding—all alike are characterised by the very ready use of this method of handling the capital side of British industry. In view of the very wide experience of the House of the deliberate falsification of the real capital in industry, and all the reactions that has had in the way of fomenting discontent and trouble in the general relations of capital and labour, I would like to ask if the Board of Trade have come to any decision as to whether they ought to have a national policy towards this great problem. We interfere in all kinds of ways with the labour side of industry, for the nation's good, and is it not time for the nation to have a policy towards capital, so that we can limit the free and voluntary practice of watering capital which has grown up in the course of the last generation? No one who wants to see a more harmonious and fruitful cooperation between capital and labour in industry can deny that there is scope here far a national policy, and that it might render first-rate service. Is the only policy of the Board of Trade to leave industry to develop its own ideas about watered capital, or have they any policy which they can apply either administratively by the use of the powers they already possess, or for which they intend to seek legislative sanction?

In the second place, I wish to speak about amalgamations. So far as I could discover from the speech of the President, the, only recommendation of a constructive character for the improvement of British industry was that business men should develop amalgamations at a more rapid rate than hitherto. He knows perfectly well that the growth of amalgamations, trusts and combines has been one of the most phenomenal developments of British industry within the last 25 years, and especially since the War. Every industry has adopted the trust method, and trustification and combination are one of the most general features of industry in Great Britain at the present time. The President of the Board of Trade is rendering very poor service in recommending, in an academic way, a further development of this process. In 1919 the Government made a very careful survey of the problem raised by the growth of trusts and combinations up to that time, and the Balfour Committee have accumulated an important body of evidence bearing on this aspect of modern industrial organisation, and I would like to know whether this platitudinous and academic way of recommending the free and independent growth of amalgamations and trusts does, in substance, represent the policy of the Tory party towards the whole question. Where do the community come in? What policy have the Government got for protecting consumers, or indeed, for protecting business men against one another, in the rapid rise of prices which, as we have seen over and over again, has characterised the growth of trusts and amalgamations? Have the Government got any other policy than that of mere laissez faire, other than advising those business men who have hitherto been somewhat backward, as in the mining industry, to get on with this process? Ought not the Government to have an amalgamation policy, and ought not the largest group of all, the community, organised through the State, to take a lead in this matter and work out its broad relation to all the multitudinous trusts and amalgamations which have grown up in the course of the last 25 years?

In the third place, I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade a question with regard to European trade. I was very much interested in the figures quoted this afternoon by the President showing that, although since 1913 there has been a slight decline in the proportion of European trade as compared with that of the Empire and the rest of the world, the trade we do with the Continent, both import and export, still represents more than 30 per cent. of our trade. The Conservative Government emphasise very strongly the necessity for an Empire economic policy, but we must not overlook the fact that almost one-third of all the goods that go out of Britain go to the Continent of Europe and that almost one-third of the goods that come in from all countries of the world come from the Continent of Europe. That fact makes it absolutely indispensable that we should have a European economic policy as well as an Empire economic policy. It is just as important that we as a nation should be thinking out ways and means of linking ourselves up with the Continent of Europe, of which we are a part, as that the Tory Government should be devoting the greater part of their time to thinking out how to apply an Empire economic policy.

From that point of view, I cannot help deploring the utterly negative speech of the President of the Board of Trade in the golden opportunity presented to him last week when we were discussing the Economic Conference at Geneva. All he did last week was to wrap himself round in a mantle of Free Trade and praise the British industrial system for the benefits which have followed from the adoption of the Free Trade system. He had nothing at all to offer to Geneva, not the least hint that we as a British people were a part of the Continent of Europe to the extent of one-third of our export and import trade. I can imagine that the right hon. Gentleman had a very bad night when he recalled the utterly negative and barren speech he had made about one of the most important economic conferences held since 1919, a conference at which I, and I think Members in all parts of the House, would have liked to see Great Britain taking the initiative, not humming and hawing and saying we would give the matter our consideration. We ought to have stepped out and said definitely and explicitly that we desired to see a European economic policy built up and have put forward our proposals. I would like to ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether he can give us the after-thoughts of the President's speech last week, and tell us whether the Government really have a European economic policy.

When we survey the industrial position of our country after another year of Conservative Government and see the prospects which are held out before us, it looks as though we must settle down to the prospect of having 1,000,000 grown-up people out of work in perpetuity. Seven years have gone by, and 1,000,000 people are still out of work. Only last night the Secretary of the Miners' Federation stated in Southport that 400,000 miners are receiving less than £2 a week and that between 200,000 and 250,000 are out of work. I think it is deplorable that we have had a mere scientific dissertation on figures, and no bold, imaginative attempt to deal with what is our biggest national problem. There are 1,000,000 people out of work, many people on short time, and everybody, business men and workers, know that until the nation organises itself and develops a national policy through its Government or any succeeding Governments we cannot hope to settle adequately our basic problems. I venture, therefore, to submit these three questions which I have already referred to, namely, policy with regard to capital, the question I submitted with regard to European economical policy, and, thirdly, the question whether the Government really has a national policy to deal with the situation which is growing up with regard to amalgamations at the present time and their promotion in days to come.


I desire to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on the quick change artistry which he has shown between his speech to-night and his speech last Wednesday to which the hon. Member who has just sat down referred. Last Wednesday the President of the Board of Trade was in his highest mood of, shall I say, ecstatic rhapsody, and he delivered a panegyric on the administration of this country with regard to trade. He was really full of rapture. He said that part of our glory has been that our tariff is the least protective tariff in the whole world. He gave it definitely, as I understand it, as the policy of the Tory party on the subject. He then took credit for having granted more freedom to trade than any other country and because we have been more active in making agreements with regard to trade than any other country. Then, greatly to our credit and for which we deserve the gratitude of the world, he said that foreign nationals receive national treatment when they came to this country. He said: There is in our administration no sort of discrimination, no manipulation by which one company is advantaged as against another or by which our nationals are treated differently from the nationals of other countries." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1927, Cols. 530–1, Vol. 209.] That is a very remarkable series of statements. Unfortunately, the President of the Board of Trade to-day did not repeat them or allude to them. Nor did he disavow them. Perhaps he expended all his rapture on the previous occasion. When the Parliamentary Secretary, in his reply, wipes the floor with me, I shall be pleased to know how far he agrees with his right hon. Friend in regard to the policy laid down by him for this country, and whether he has any contrary programme to set before the nation for the restoration of our trade as against that which the right hon. Gentleman set forward. I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his declaration of last Wednesday. I hope his declaration can be taken as the last word of the Tory party on the matter of trade. I noticed there were no cheers from his own side of the House when he made his declaration, and I could not help wondering whether he was expressing his own views or the views of his party. They, on the contrary, received his speech in what I can only call an atmosphere of gloom. To-day he seems to have caught that atmosphere. We were told that our exports were down and those wicked imports were up, and that whatever trade we looked at we could only report gloomy statistics. The iron and steel, shipbuilding, coal, cotton, and woollen trades were bad. He did point out that these were all exporting trades, and that they were all unsheltered trades, but there is something more to be told about them than that. The right hon. Gentleman assumed that the condition of all these trades is due to that particular attribute.

There is another attribute. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) referred to the way the steel industry had been developed during the War, and to the fact that, as a result of the War, all the other steel countries in the world—the United States, Germany, Belgium, Austria and others—had increased their capacity for production, some of them by 100 per cent. The result is that when all this need for steel came to an end the world had more steel plant than it required. The world's consumption of steel goes up, but only by a small amount per year, and the inference is that half of these steel forges must go out of use. They cannot go on producing steel without a demand for it in such quantities. What is true of iron and steel production is remarkably true of shipping. In pre-War times the tonnage of the world was 45,000,000; now it is 60,000,000 or 33 per cent, more than it was. There is not 33 per cent. more goods to be carried, but less goods to be carried, and we have 60,000,000 tons of shipping to carry that changed amount. That means that a great many ships are laid up in one country or another, and the shipowners have conferences to try desperately to maintain their freights. If you measure one trade by the percentage of idle shipping, or the percentage of iron and steel forges which are vacant, it is clear that you have to face badness of trade for a very long time. The right hon. Member for Hillhead added his quota of gloom in relation to the woollen trade. He was trying to make it clear that the woollen trade had been unfairly treated in being refused a Safeguarding Duty, and, the House will remember he said that 30 per cent. of the mills were idle.

The capacity for coal production has enormously increased within the last few years. In the United States, France, Germany, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, China, and India, the productive capacity of the collieries has enormously increased, and there is no demand for such an increased quantity of coal. The result is that a lot of mines have had to shut down in this country and in the United States because the industry is suffering from over-production. So far as I am concerned, I am prepared to say that the survey made by the President of the Board of Trade was not unduly gloomy; in fact, I do not think it was gloomy enough. Of course, it all depends upon what is the true cause of the stagnation in trade, and we have to consider what ought to be the remedy. I wish to impress upon the right hon. Gentleman the inference that it is not possible to cure this trouble by protective duties. You cannot cure our lack of freight for the swollen shipping tonnage by protective duties, neither can you cure the disease of the multiplicity of small engineering places in this country by putting on a duty.

With regard to what has been said about the adverse trade balance, I do not think that is quite so conclusive an element of gloom as the right hon. Gentleman has tried to make out. The diminution of the trade balance is certainly not so conclusive an argument as is commonly supposed. I want to suggest that the falling away of our trade balance is largely due to the cessation for a long time and then the diminution of loans to overseas countries. Whenever we make a loan to an overseas Dominion or to another Government, the proceeds of that loan go away from this country in the shape of goods, and consequently the exports for that particular year are swollen to the amount of the loan. The result is that the trade balance of that year is immensely more favourable than if there had not been such loans. It is a fact that, if you do not make these loans, our trade balance is not so favourable. Of course, it follows from this argument that, if you want to turn your balance of trade in a favourable direction, you can do it by making foreign loans. Those loans will increase our exports and alter the figures of the trade balance, making it more favourable. I do not mean that our position is satisfactory. On the contrary, I suggest that it is dangerous that we should be in our present position with regard to trade balance, because it makes us much more sensitive to financial disturbances which may come from any quarter. The very large question of reparations is going to be a very serious matter next year and the year after. The whole question of foreign debts may have an immense effect at any moment upon the London market, and all that is an increased danger.

So far I have been dealing only with the gloominess of the picture which has been drawn by the President of the Board of Trade. There are some features in the picture which the right hon. Gentleman left out, and they deserve to be brought in. First of all, do not let us imagine that no progress has been made. I suggest that there has been a very remarkable resilience in the development of new industries in this country.


While I gave three instances of depressed industries, I was careful to say that the instances which I gave did not represent the great aggregate of the industries to which the hon. Member is now referring.


I am only anxious to bring out certain other features in this Debate. The right hon. Gentleman should be grateful to me for bringing out these features of the picture, in order to make the total effect more correct. In the first place, although we have not the figures, there has certainly been a most remarkable development of everything connected with electricity, which includes, of course, things large and small. A large part of the engineering industry is concerned, and a great deal else, from wireless sets to telegraph cables.

Then, of course, there is the familiar instance of the motor car. We have not yet equipped every family in this country with a motor car as is said to be the case, though I have my doubts about it, in the United States, but in this respect a very profitable industry has been developed. We do not, it is true, eat our motor cars, but we are not the poorer for our motor cars, and it is quite a profitable business. Then there is the equally remarkable development in regard to artificial silk. That is a wonderful development which comes to the aid of our trade, and, perhaps, if the cotton industry is no longer the great stand-by that it used to be, we may still live by artificial silk. Then there is the whole development of passenger traffic. I do not mean merely the railway passenger traffic, but it is the fact that an enormously larger number of journeys are made than there used to be. Again, we cannot live on journeys, but the increased production in connection with passenger locomotion in various ways is a distinct new industry, or, at any rate, an enormous development of an old industry, employing more people and making a good deal of profit.

Perhaps a word or two may be said about foodstuffs. The right hon. Gentleman referred rather slightingly to the distributive trades, and, of course, they are not in the first line of our industries, but there has been a very remarkable expansion in the distributive trades. I am afraid it is partly a bad thing, though partly it has been due to what is in a sense a new product. I refer to the great development of made-up foods—packet foods. The grocer to-day is no longer the deacon of the chapel who, with his own hands, blended the tea, mixed the sugar, and performed all the other operations behind the counter. To-day he gets practically the whole of his stock ready done up in packets. That is the case still more in the United States, but even in this country there has been an enormous development of this method of dealing with food on its way to the consumer, and that accounts for a great increase in the numbers employed in the distributive trades. Then another instance may be quoted of quite a different kind. The coal industry, we are agreed, is in a bad way, but are coal by-products in a bad way? The figures are not published; they do not come into the ascertainment which governs the miners' wages; they were not ascertained even by the Royal Commission; but they do represent a very extensive industry which has grown up in the last few years, and which, unless common rumour is utterly wrong, is extremely profitable. All this gives an indication of a resilience about British trade which I think may be regarded as a considerable set-off against the gloom that we experience when we are considering only the old staple trades.

Another thing to be noted is that these newly-developed industries are producing much more for the home market than for the export market. The other industries about which we are so gloomy produce very largely indeed for the export market, and, consequently, the effect upon the export trade of any up or down movement in their development is very large. These newer industries do not so much affect the export figures; they concern the home market. There is another interesting feature about them. They mean what might almost be called, and has actually been called, the industrial revolution in the 20th Century. It may be comparable in extent and importance to that which we call the industrial revolution in the 18th Century. Certainly there has begun a very considerable transference of industry from the North to the South. I was very much struck the other day by a notice in the Ministry of Labour's returns as to the districts in Which unemployment was at its minimum. The district which had the least unemployment of any district in England was Chelmsford. Chelmsford is a busy centre for the newer kinds of engineering industries and of much else. It includes of course a rural district all round, but it is striking that the district of all England which had the lowest percentage of unemployment was Chelmsford. I think that probably the next is Coventry. Coventry is humming with business at the present time, and not only motor car business, though it was busy making motor cars before the new duty was put on. That is a place which may be said to be in the South of England as compared with the Tyne or the clyde.

The right hon. Gentleman wants to develop Empire markets, and I am not going to say a word against them. Let us develop them all that we can. But there is one thing that is very often forgotten. The right hon. Gentleman told us that Empire markets accounted for roughly one-third of our imports and exports. I would say, try and increase and improve our sales in our Empire markets which take as much as one-third from us, but I hope we shall consider it equally important to try and increase our sales in Europe which also takes one-third. Both of those are equally important to us; they both buy the same proportion of our goods. It is true that it is possible to make out that New Zealand buys a great deal more per head, but part of the trouble is that there are so very few heads in New Zealand. There are 400,000,000 people in Europe, and although they buy less per head they are so numerous that they buy as much as New Zealand, Canada, Australia, India and all the other places which comprise the British Commonwealth of Nations put together. Surely it would be very bad business to do anything which in seeking to do a little more trade in our Empire markets should cause us to drop a good deal of trade in our European markets. As far as I know, the fortunes of the House of Lords and even of the House of Commons have been built up during the last 50 or 100 years by trade with those places and they have not discriminated as far as I know. Equally so far as employment in this country is concerned, trade with Europe causes as much employment as trade with the Empire; and there is also the rest of the world.

Moreover, what do these figures for our trade with the Empire, with Europe and with the rest of the world, come to? They only come to something like 30 per cent, of our aggregate trade. Sixty or 70 per cent., or, perhaps, even more, of our production is for the home market; that is to say, the home market is worth twice the whole of our Empire markets, or twice the foreign markets—twice the European market, twice the rest of the world. Let us keep the figures accurate. Our home market is equal to the whole foreign market. It is twice the Empire market now, and I point out that it will still be twice the Empire market a generation hence, when its importance has grown, so that, instead of being 1,000,000 people in New Zealand, there will be 2,000,000, and instead of 6,000,000 in Australia, I hope there will be 12,000,000. [An HON. MEMBER: "50,000,000!"] I think the hon. Member has not looked into his arithmetic. I am hoping that Canada, which has long hoped to get up to 10,000,000, will get up to 20,000,000 by that time. Still, the home market will even then be greater than all these put together. I am not saying that to belittle the Empire market, still less to belittle the foreign market, but in order to preserve a sense of proportion and to hope that, in developing the Empire market, we shall not forget that it would be ruinous to do that at the expense of losing the European market, and still more ruinous to do it at the expense of losing the foreign market. What merchant would go out to get one more customer if by so doing he lost two? That is not the conduct of a sane merchant. It is not the conduct of a sane Government. It is not the conduct of our sane and experienced Board of Trade. I do not suggest that the right hon. Gentleman is going to pursue that policy. I am only anxious that no one should imagine that he suggested we should develop our Empire market at the expense of our foreign trade or of our home trade. I was only anxious to emphasise that our home market is twice as much as our Empire market and is equal to the whole of our foreign market, and, therefore, certainly there is equal scope for expansion.

That home market is limited at present. We have a sense that there is no freedom for expansion. It is limited by the penury of the great mass of the wage-earners, because four out of five of the whole population are manual wage-earners. The dukes, managers, landowners, farmers, shopkeepers and professional men come to one-fifth. If their purchases are limited by penury, your home market is restricted and you suffer very considerably. It is obvious that if a million of them are unemployed you have a still further limitation. The home market is limited also by the fact that £300,000,000 is spent upon alcoholic drink. Make what you like of it. That amount of expenditure on alcoholic drink inevitably limits the amount that can be spent on anything else, other things being equal. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) described the wealth of the States and the way they were making foreign loans to the extent of £100,000,000 or £200,000,000, and I could not help reflecting that they had stopped the expenditure of several hundred million pounds a year on alcoholic drink. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] There is no doubt about it. You can get as much alcoholic drink as you like at a price, and those people who care to break the law and have the money to pay for it get their drink—I admit it—but the reduction in the aggregate consumption of that 120,000,000 people has been enormous. I do not want to build too much on it, but it is a fact that 99 out of 100 of those people who were spending several hundred million pounds a year on alcoholic drink are not spending that amount on it now. I cannot help thinking that this has had an indirect share in enabling these great investments in foreign loans to be made. Those are ways in which, at present, our home market is limited. There are other ways, of course.

10.0 p.m.

I should like to draw attention to another point. If you are going to try to develop your home and foreign markets, surely we ought to try to prevent extortion in the way of freights. It ought to be possible to prevent such scandals as have been described. They are not new. When I was going round the world in 1911, I came across the same thing, equally serious. It has been going on all the time. There is another thing. This penury in the largest of our markets is to some extent aggravated by the excessive loading that is put upon the goods as they leave the factory or the wholesale warehouse, before they come into the hands of the retail purchaser. The difference between wholesale and retail prices seems to be very large. There has been a considerable and continued fall in prices, but that no more than corresponds to the fall in wholesale prices due to world causes, and the loading remains as great as it was, and much of it is plainly unnecessary. It is said it costs as much to sell an article now as to make it, and if an article leaves the factory at the value of 6d. it is very often 1s. before it gets into the hands of the retailer. If that is so, that is a great aggravation of the penury of the market.

There is a Food Council under the right hon. Gentleman's direction, so far as it is directed. What is it about? We see that it makes inquiries. We have rather sparse Reports at intervals. They do not work very hard, or at any rate do not produce very much, and we do not see much effect on prices. Is it possible to do anything? Must we sit down for ever and pay a shilling over the counter for an article for which the man in the factory only charges 6d.? Can we not produce a more economic system than that? That means that there is a less purchase of boots in Northampton, and less purchase of the thousand and one things the wage earner can buy. Can we expect that our overseas trade will be at its best when that state of things prevails. I say nothing about Central and Eastern Europe, which have not yet recovered by any means from the devastation of the War, and China, I suppose, is suffering very severely. There is Russia, another quarter of the world, with 140,000,000 people with whom we used to trade and with whom we are not now trading. I notice that the City Editor of the "Times," probably inspired by the right hon. Gentleman's speech of the 23rd instant, says: In no small part the abnormal amount of unemployment in this country is to be attributed to the absence of Russia from the economy and comity of nations, following her widespread default. The direct trade may not be important, but the indirect trade is of importance to this country and to those immediately concerned. I would ask His Majesty's Government to consider how far they can bring, first, devastated Europe, secondly, China, and, thirdly, Russia, into action. Those three together amount geographically to something like one-third of the world and one-third of the world's surface. It seems to me that as long as one-third of the world's surface is out of action we shall not get back to the datum line of 100 for our overseas trade.

I am very glad that the Government have decided to allow the Department of Overseas Trade to continue in existence. I should like to see a Home Trade Department functioning, doing the work for oar home trade which our Overseas Trade Department has done so well for our foreign trade. I do not see why we should not do as much to extend our home markets as we do to extend our overseas markets.

There are one or two other things that I should like to mention before I conclude. Undoubtedly, one of the troubles with which our manufacturers, exposed to the competition of other nations, have had to contend has been in regard to the costs of production. The costs of production have been greatly increased by the burden of the local rates. The local rates have gone up enormously in recent years. For instance, in the shipyards, when business is bad, the same rates are paid as when business is good and when work is coming in regularly. The consequence is that it is difficult to cut down costs when the rates are so heavy. I need hardly remind the House that the Colwyn Committee pointed out that Income Tax did not have that effect on struggling industries. If they were making no profit they paid no Income Tax. It was only when a profit was made that Income Tax was paid, and the greater the profit the larger the Income Tax paid. But the rates are paid whether there is a profit or not, and that is why rates are increasing the cost of production. The right hon. Gentleman and the Government have done their best to help the farmer in this respect and to lighten the farmer's rates by allowing him to pay on one-quarter of the rateable value. They have reduced his rates—not all at once, but they have reduced them—from £1 to 5s., deliberately, because they felt that the burden of rates was so heavy on the agricultural producer. What has the manufacturer been about that he has not worked for a corresponding reduction? The shipbuilders in the North have had to pay enormously heavy rates, aggravated by unemployment. What have they been about that they have not asked for reductions as well as the farmer? I suggest the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade should put before the Cabinet that the time has come really to take in hand the question of the incidence of rates, because the burden of the rates upon businesses, whether they are making a profit or not, is a very heavy one. It has grown worse during the last few years. The burden of rates has become colossal owing to unemployment and all the rest of it. But it has become worse under the present Government, because, by the restriction of unemployment insurance, the poor rate has been forced up, thus affecting those towns which are already suffering from a trade depression.

I have said something about the producers and the middleman's profits, and now I want to say one word with reference to the remarks of the right hon. Gentleman on Wednesday last. He said: Foreign nationals are free to trade in this country, they receive national treatment when they come here …… There is in our administration no sort of discrimination, no manipulation by which one country is advantaged against another, or by which our nationals are treated differently from the nationals of other countries.—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 20th July, 1927; cols. 532–33, Vol. 209.] In another place they have just considered the Aliens Bill. That will come down here presently. Do we find that when the foreigner comes here to trade he receives national treatment? He does not. He has to register under compulsion, and when he goes from one place to another, from Liverpool to Manchester or Birmingham, even if it be only for a night, he has to register again, and so on. He does not like being compelled to register every time he moves. That treatment does not encourage him to come here, and he does not receive national treatment when he does come here. We do not increase the opportunities of our nationals in other countries by such treatment. We try to make it as disagreeable as we can for the foreign trader when he comes here. That is not the way to promote trade. That is not the way to recover our trade in Europe, which has fallen off and which accounts for one-third in the fall of our overseas trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hillhead has alluded to the matter. He knows better and the President of the Board of Trade knows better. We have had to-night, as we had on Wednesday, his exposition and demonstration of the futility of proposing to deal with this question of trade by way of protective duties. That being so, I congratulate the right hon. Gentleman on the information he has given to the House, and also on the excellence of his sound doctrine.


I am disappointed that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) is not in his place. He concluded his speech this afternoon by saying that he found I was going to reply, and he expected that, at any rate, even if I were not informative, I should be entertaining. I have not yet decided in my own mind whether to take that, from such a distinguished Parliamentarian, as a compliment or not. I can assure him that on such an occasion, when we are so solemnly discussing such an important matter as the trade of this country, whatever I may be, I shall not fall into the error of being what is commonly described as entertaining. Although this is a matter which may not create the excitement that a sectional matter might create among us, I do feel that we cannot have a more important and serious matter to discuss. We have had evidence of this in the discussion this afternoon, because every speaker has approached this matter, not in any kind of tirade against the Government, but in a serious, thoughtful, earnest, anxious way, to discover how, and by what means, we can find improvement in the trade of this country.

What emerges? I have been sitting here all the afternoon and have heard most of the speeches that have been made. Curiously enough, in my opinion, the debate has divided itself, as one would expect it to be divided, according very much to the benches from which hon. Gentlemen were speaking. The hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander) spoke for an hour and a quarter and delivered a speech on which, if I might respectfully do so, I would congratulate him. There was nothing that he did not touch upon, and he sent us ultimately to Geneva for a solution of our difficulties. He was supported by every hon. Member on that side of the House except the last speaker, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb). I did not find him going to Geneva for a solution of our difficulties. My right hon. Friend the Member for Hiilhead (Sir R. Horne) and other speakers on this side sailed as near as they could to the rock of Protection, and I have much sympathy with them. The hon. Gentlemen from the Liberal Benches had nothing more to say than this: "What is the Balfour Committee doing; when are they going to report and advise us what to do?"

I must try and reply to some of the very important and interesting points that have been raised during the Debate. In the first place, I will deal with some of the points raised by the hon. Gentleman, the Member for Hillsborough. If I may say so, his speech contained a greater proportion of inaccuracies than any other speech I have heard during the afternoon. He started with the question of exports—exports have been referred to a good deal in the discussion to-day—and complained that my right hon. Friend in his opening statement had left untouched the question of cotton exports, and suggested that he had avoided dealing with the subject because his story was such a poor one in relation to cotton exports. The hon. Member was foolish enough, if I may say so, to deal with the cotton exports on the basis of values. I find, on examining the figures which he quoted, that he is completely wrong. Let me quote the figures for the three years 1925, 1926 and 1927. Our exports of cotton yarn in the first half of those years, in regard to which the hon. Member took such a gloomy view were, in weight of yarn, 96,800,000 pounds in 1925, 87,900,000 pounds in 1926 and 106.7 million pounds in 1927. It is true that the corresponding values had decreased in those years because of the great fall in the price of cotton. With regard to piece goods for the same years, in millions of square yards, I find that in 1925, 2,284 million square yards were exported, in 1926 2,040 million square yards and in 1927 2,075 million square yards. [HON. MEMBERS: "For the first half of each year?"] Yes. Those figures are the exports for the first six months in each year. At the price prevailing in 1925 the exports of yarn and piece-goods in the first half of the present year would have represented £90,200,000 instead of the actual £65,700,000, and it is that figure which should be compared with the £95,800,000 which was the value of the exports in 1925. I hope those figures will cheer the hon. Member.

The hon. Member expressed certain views about shipbuilding, the textile industry, iron and steel and so forth, in which he was perfectly justified. He seemed to go on the same terms, I understand, as those expressed in a "Times" article the other day, and painted a gloomy picture of the future. I am rather relieved to find that the right hon. Member for Seaham does not agree with the hon. Member on that point. The hon. Member asked what the Government were doing about it. He asked: "Where are your Election promises?" Then he proceeded to criticise the safeguarding of industry endeavours which we have made. Here, again, he was very far wrong. He said that only 13 applications had been turned down by the Board of Trade.

The facts are these. Up to the present 44 applications have been received and the Board of Trade have referred 15 to the Committee. A duty has been imposed in seven cases, while 22 applications have been rejected altogether by the Board of Trade. The hon. Member spoke about several of the duties that have been imposed. As to the fabric glove duty, he said that it had not created any improvement anywhere, and that employment had not been increased. As a matter of fact, employment has increased remarkably in the fabric and leather glove industries. As to the gas mantle industry—I do not want to spend too much time on these topics—here again he quoted figures which are quite misleading. He said that the price of gas mantles is 37s. a gross, whereas pre-duty it was 26s. a gross for the same article. He is totally wrong. He was comparing one class of article at one price with another class of article at another. He was not comparing like with like. He spoke of the trade agreement with the German gas mantle manufacturers as something of an immoral procedure, but the effect of that agreement with the German gas mantle makers has enabled our own gas mantle makers to sell their mantles and preserve for themselves certain Dominion markets. And it has not increased the price; because, as I proved in the House the other day, I can buy gas mantles to-day cheaper than I could get them previously. I could go on criticising the speech of the hon. Member. I have already told him that out of 44 applications for a duty 22 have been turned down, and that disposes of any suggestion that there was any bias or that the Committee had been packed in any way by the President of the Board of Trade.


Does the hon. Member mean that the Board of Trade have turned down 22 applications, or that 22 altogether have been turned down after an inquiry?


Forty-four applications have been made, and a duty has been imposed in seven cases. Twenty-two applications have been rejected altogether. The right hon. Member for Hillhead agreed with the hon. Member opposite that there should be further consultations with the Dominions with a view to stimulating our home trade. With that I think everyone on this side will agree. He spoke of the woollen textile industry and the difficulties under which it is labouring. I can only say that these conditions are known and they are being very carefully watched by the Board of Trade. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs did not help us in the very least. He asked about the Balfour Committee. I can only say that the members of the Balfour Committee are doing a very great deal of useful work and are working very Bard to do it. In July, 1925, they published a volume entitled "A Survey of Overseas Markets," also a memorandum on "Transport Development and Cotton Growing in East Africa." In March, 1926, there was issued a "Survey of industrial Relations," and in February, 1927, "Factors in Industrial and Commercial Efficiency," being Part I of a "Survey of Industries." The question has been asked, when is this Committee going to report? That one cannot say. We cannot dictate to the Committee as to when it should report. I hope that it will report possibly this year, but I cannot say anything more definite than that. I do not at all agree with the statement that no one takes any interest in the immense problem of our home trade, because the work that is being done by these gentlemen on the Balfour Committee, I am sure the right hon. Member for Seaham will agree, is of the greatest possible value and of the most strenuous kind.

I could follow the speeches of other hon. Gentlemen, but I shall not do so in detail. The hon. Member for Penistone (Mr. Rennie Smith), although he made a most earnest speech, seemed to be very much in the air. He took us into the regions of the trustification of the capital side of industry and all its bad effects on our industry to-day, and he, too, ended up at Geneva. He did not in the least help us when he got there. Next I come to the right hon. Member for Seaham. He really was encouraging and comforting. In the first place he quoted my right hon. Friend's speech of Wednesday last and congratulated him both on that speech and on the speech my right hon. Friend made to-day. He then pointed out features which my right hon. Friend had omitted to mention to-day—encouraging features which he might have mentioned. It is true the right hon. Gentleman spoke of the bad conditions of the shipping trade, the steel trade and the coal trade, and said that the markets of the world were overloaded, and he mentioned engineering. But it was pointed out that my right hon. Friend was even more sombre than he intended, and that there were more hopeful matters which he should have mentioned. The right hon. Gentleman mentioned the electrical trade, and I am very glad he did so, the motor trade, and the artificial silk trade. The duties, especially that on motor cars, do not seem to have had the disastrous effect that was predicted.

The right hon. Gentleman spoke of transport and of its value to our home trade, but I confess I cannot follow him in his references to our trade balance and to foreign loans. I do not know what point he intended to make, but he seemed to say that if you want to create a good trade balance you should lend more money abroad, and that did not seem to have much point in debate. He asks what has the Food Council done, and I suggest that is, in itself, a reply to the query, "What is the Government doing?" The establishment of the Food Council is one thing done by the Government which was not done by the preceding Government in this and other matters such as the question of short-weight. The Food Council has an influence on the general course of food prices, if only from the fact that the traders of the country are aware that through the Food Council there is an opportunity for public opinion to make itself heard. That is the great factor about the work of the Food Council and I think it is a real factor and one which will have a practical effect on food prices.

As to this very vexed matter of shipping conference lines and the effects of the power which is said to be held by shipowners I am a little surprised at that subject being brought up to-day because, as a rule, one expects to have notice of the raising of a question of that kind and I certainly had no indication from anybody that it was going to be raised except by a suggestion at Question Time from an hon. Member who is not now in his place. The position of the shipping conference lines was investigated by the Imperial Shipping Committee in 1923 and their Report has been considered as a balanced pronouncement on the subject. On this Imperial Shipping Committee there are representatives of Great Britain, the Dominions, India and the Colonies and also of shipowners, merchants and manufacturers. I am referring to this subject briefly because an hon. Member in the course of the Debate has dealt with some suggestions made by this Imperial Shipping Committee. This is my understanding of the findings of the Committee. Their conclusion was that if shippers wanted regular, frequent, and efficient services and freights which were both stable and equal for all shippers, large and small, conferences of shipowners were necessary, and they must have some hold over their shippers, either by the agreement system or by some other system. In the past seems clear that practically all shippers embraced in the South African Trade Association have been behind this conference in their fight with the outside ship. Shippers generally prefer stable freights, and that, I think, is the main answer It is all very well to describe it as the restriction of trade and so forth——


Did the Imperial Shipping Committee in their Report suggest that they were in favour of a discriminating freight against this country and in favour of Continental goods? Did they not say that, with the formation of committees of manufacturers, shippers, and merchants on this side, you would establish a body which would make it impossible for the shipowners to exact the terms that they are exacting from merchants to-day?


Yes, they did, and what has happened? The shippers and manufacturers and the people whom they recommended to get together in association have not done so, and they have not combined in this way except in certain places. It is not for the Board of Trade to go to any body of traders and compel them to go into conference. They seem to have combined in the South Africa Trade, but they do not seem to have done so elsewhere as a result of that recommendation of the Imperial Shipping Committee. Under the agreement which I have mentioned with the South African shippers, the shipowners have to consult the association before making any general alteration in rates, and arbitration is provided for in the case of disagreement. I think that is the best answer I can give on that question. I have tried to answer the specific questions that have been put during the Debate, and with that I will content myself.


I hope the House will forgive me if I delay them for a very few moments, but I have endeavoured to get in all the evening to say a few words on this vital subject, and I am sure that, whatever other subjects we might want to cut short, it would not be the question of the nation's trade at the present time. We have had speeches from various quarters of the House, and I think that those who have listened to the Debate will agree that we have heard very little which is really constructive. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) gave us no suggestions whatever which were of any help to the Government. The right hon. Member for Seaham (Mr. Webb) gave us a most interesting lecture on world economics, but he too had no constructive suggestion to make. It is true that he proved himself to be a second Christopher Columbus, and discovered, what his colleagues have not discovered in recent years, that there is a home market which is of supreme importance, a fact which, I am glad to say, has for some time been recognised by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), who really did make a speech which appeared to me to appreciate the fact that production, both in this country and the Empire, is what we have to look after more than anything else.


And wages with which to purchase that production.


Excepting the speech of the hon. Member for Dundee the arguments which have been advanced from those benches have not given us anything constructive to think about, and I would like to make one or two suggestions to my right hon. Friend as to how possibly we may get a move on. The Board of Trade, in its efforts to assist British industry, has not, apparently, been able to exert its influence upon other Departments, and I would like to draw the right hon. Gentleman's attention to what I regard as a real national scandal. While we as taxpayers and ratepayers are advancing vast sums of money to build houses for our people and have so many unemployed, it is almost immoral that so large a proportion of the material should be purchased from abroad. An enormous number of foreign tiles is being used in the building of subsidised houses, even in such an intellectual county as Hampshire, and I can conceive of nothing more stupid than this vast expenditure upon foreign materials while we as a nation are finding money to assist in the housing of our people. The two policies seem to me to be contradictory. The second matter to which I wish to refer is this: I believe I am right in saying that, roughly speaking, 75 per cent. of the taxicabs on the streets of London are of foreign make. I do not know whether that figure is correct, but it was a figure which was given to me. I think the reason why foreign taxi-cabs are bought is to be found in certain Home Office Regulations, and some really constructive work might be done if those Regulations were so altered as to make it easier for British taxi-cabs to be put on the streets.

We are not going to solve our problems by speeches like that from the right hon. Member for Seaham. The right hon. Gentleman, whose learning is recognised throughout the world, was leading us astray when he told us that we ought not to pay so much attention to the trade which New Zealand and Australia are doing with this country. He said, "What is the good of quoting the amounts of money per head spent in trade?" I am sure he would not like to deceive the House, or to have us think he was withholding the fact that New Zealand, with a population of 1,000,000 people and the country which is farthest away from us in the world, is buying from us more in quantity than the French nation, with 45,000,000 people and nearest to us. It is exactly the same with Australia. Australia, with a population of a little over 6,000,000 people, is buying from us not so much more per head, but Australia is buying from us more than any foreign country in the world. Does the right hon. Gentleman deny that? If he does, then it shows he has not studied the case and is teaching us economics without making the whole of the case clear. When he beseeches my right hon. Friend not to neglect foreign markets in order to try to stimulate Empire markets, I really do not think he can seriously suggest that the right hon. Gentleman would wish to lose any trade or prevent us getting back any trade with foreign countries. It must be clear to anyone that the markets in which it is possible to hope for a great expansion are the undeveloped markets of the Empire. Therefore, it is a question of insurance for the future which I understand my right hon. Friend is anxious about and the question as to whether that trade is going to pass, as there is great danger of it doing at the present moment, into the hands of the United States, or whether the proportion is going to remain the same in this country. If the proportion remains the same, then the hopeful expectations of the right hon. Gentleman with regard to the increased population in the three Dominions of which he spoke will mean doing a very great deal towards restoring our prosperity and giving employment to our people.

I have only a few other words to say on the matter. We have heard a great many speeches from the Opposition to-night referring to what is still so serious a question, namely, unemployment. I want to assure hon. Members that I am perfectly certain the vast majority of Members on the benches on which I sit are equally concerned about it. The right hon. Gentleman knows we all appreciate the difficulties with which he is faced, and I can tell him that the vast majority of Members in our party are not satisfied with the state of affairs. We do not look forward even to meeting the electors, although we have improved the situation so greatly since the late Government were in office, and have absorbed something like half-a-million adult workers into the labour market and have cut down unemployment by 20 per cent. in addition to that. It does not satisfy us. There are some of us who put this question above all other reforms, and, if the right hon. Gentleman will take his courage between both hands during the coming year and will go on with the policy with which he has made good and which has succeeded in the various lines which he has attempted, I am perfectly certain he will find sympathy not only from his own party, but from the vast majority of the hon. Gentlemen on the Opposition Benches who, I believe, have also one desire above anything else, and that is to see their countrymen employed and the standard of living of our workers maintained. That standard cannot be maintained so long as we allow the policy of drift to continue.

If we have to decide between the kind of policy recommended by the hon. Member for Hillsborough (Mr. A. V. Alexander)—who seems only to look at this question from the point of view of the merchant and one who is engaged in large business undertakings in selling and who entirely neglects the producer at home—if we have to choose between his policy and the policy of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston), I think we shall find the majority of this House will rather share the views of the hon. Member for Dundee than the hon. Member for Hillsborough. They will realise that this country is not going to succeed merely by selling cheaply, but by restoring our productive industries, and that the vast majority of our people are producers and not consumers, and that the consumers should not be the first consideration, because there is not a consumer—not even the right hon. Gentleman himself—who would have a rag on his back but for the efforts of some producer. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad that at last this great fact has got hold even of the Members of the Labour party. It is not for those who have specialised in theory and dogma to come and lecture this House upon trade questions. The people who are producing have made this country what it is, and it is only by securing production that you are going to restore the prosperity of this country.


Hon. Members on the opposite side who have spoken in this Debate seem to have forgotten that the greatest potential market for our trade is our own country. Some of us think that that market has been largely taken away by the policy of the Conservative party in reducing wages. [HON. MEMBERS: "No, no!"] The policy of hon. Members opposite has reduced wages by £10,000,000 per week, and that is bound to have an effect upon the purchasing power of the people, and it also has a great effect upon the producing capacity of the country. I can assure hon. Members opposite that the woollen and worsted trade of Yorkshire does not depend upon protection for its future prosperity, but upon the possibility of the people engaged in other industries being able to purchase the goods made in Yorkshire. I have no hesitation in asserting that the most dangerous policy that has ever been instituted in this country which has produced more unemployment, poverty and degradation among our people and created more unemployment is the policy of the reduction of £10,000,000 in wages which was instituted by hon. Members opposite. [HON. MEMBERS: "Vote!"] It is a great pity that little more interest has not been taken in this

Debate. We now find that hon. Members who did not listen to a single speech made in this Debate until after Ten o'clock to-night are now crying out "Vote!" Had those hon. Members been present earlier in the evening we might have had a better Debate, and a little more interest shown in this important subject.


There is just time to say a word in reference to the speech which has just been made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I hope the President of the Board of Trade will make use of the facilities afforded by modern science in the way of wireless communication to send a message to the Prime Minister as to the desirability of having a Tariff Reform election in the Conservative party.

Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."

The House divided: Ayes, 222; Noes, 86.

Division No. 284.] AYES. [10.58 p.m.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel Crookshank,Cpt.H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro) Haslam, Henry C.
Agg-Gardner, Rt. Hon. Sir James T. Curzon, Captain Viscount Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.
Alexander, E. E. (Leyton) Davidson, J.(Hertf'd, Hemel Hempst'd) Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
Allen, J. Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby) Davidson, Major-General Sir John H. Henn, Sir Sydney H.
Apsley, Lord Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.
Atholl, Duchess of Davies, Dr. Vernon Herbert, Dennis (Hertford, Watford)
Balfour, George (Hampstead) Davison, Sir W. H. (Kensington, S.) Hills, Major John Waller
Balniel, Lord Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard
Banks, Reginald Mitchell Edmondson, Major A. J. Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)
Barnett, Major Sir Richard Elliot, Major Walter E. Hopkins, J. W. W.
Barnston, Major Sir Harry Erskine, Lord (Somerset,Weston-s.-M.) Hopkinson, A. (Lancaster, Mossley)
Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H. Fairfax, Captain J. G. Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney,N.)
Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake) Falle, Sir Bertram G. Hume, Sir G. H.
Betterton, Henry B. Fanshawe, Captain G. D. Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer
Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton) Fielden, E. B. Huntingfield, Lord
Boothby, R. J. G. Finburgh, S. Hurd, Percy A.
Bourne, Captain Robert Croft Ford, Sir P. J. Hurst, Gerald B.
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Forestier-Walker, Sir L. Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)
Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W. Forrest, W. Jephcott, A. R.
Braithwalte, Major A. N. Foxcroft, Captain C. T. Jones, G. W. H. (Stoke Newington)
Brittain, Sir Harry Fraser, Captain Ian Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Frece, Sir Walter de Kindersley, Major G. M.
Brooke, Brigadier-General C. R. I. Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E. King, Commodore Henry Douglas
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C. (Berks, Newb'y) Gadle, Lieut.-Col. Anthony Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement
Buckingham, Sir H. Galbraith, J. F. W. Knox, Sir Alfred
Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James Ganzoni, Sir John Lane Fox, Col. Rt. Hon. George R.
Burman, J. B. Gates, Percy Lister, Cunliffe, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
Butler, Sir Geoffrey Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John Little, Dr. E. Graham
Butt, Sir Alfred Goff, Sir Park Locker-Lampson, G. (Wood Green)
Cadogan, Major Hon. Edward Gower, Sir Robert Loder, J. de V.
Campbell, E. T. Grace, John Long, Major Eric
Chadwick, Sir Robert Burton Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.) Looker, Herbert William
Chapman, Sir S. Grant, Sir J. A. Lougher, Lewis
Christie, J. A. Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Harman
Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer Greene, W. P. Crawford Lumley, L. R.
Clarry, Reginald George Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London) Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)
Clayton, G. C. Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E. Maclntyre, Ian
Cobb, Sir Cyril Gunston, Captain D. W. Macmillan, Captain H.
Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D. Hacking, Captain Douglas H. Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm
Conway, Sir W. Martin Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich) McNelll, Rt. Hon. Ronald John
Cooper, A. Duff Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.) Macquisten, F. A.
Cooper, J. B. Hanbury, C. Mac Robert, Alexander M.
Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Makins, Brigadier-General E.
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Hartington, Marquess of Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn
Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend) Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington) Margesson, Captain D.
Marriott, Sir J. A. R. Rye, F. G. Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden) Salmon, Major I. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement
Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. B. M. Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham) Waddington, R.
Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr) Sandeman, N. Stewart Wallace, Captain D. E.
Moore, Sir Newton J. Sanders, Sir Robert A. Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.
Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C. Sanderson, Sir Frank Warrender, Sir Victor
Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury) Sandon, Lord Waterhouse, Captain Charles
Murchison, Sir Kenneth Shaw, R. G. (Yorks, W.R., Sowerby) Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)
Nail, Colonel Sir Joseph Sheffield, Sir Berkeley Watts, Dr. T.
Nelson, Sir Frank Shepperson, E. W. Wells, S. R.
Neville, Sir Reginald J. Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down) Wheler, Major Sir Granville C. H.
Newman, Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter) Skelton, A. N. Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)
Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert Smith,R.W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.) Williams, Com. C. (Devon, Torquay)
Nuttall, Ellis Smith-Carington, Neville W. Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)
Oakley, T. Smithers, Waldron Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)
Oman, Sir Charles William C. Somerville, A. A. (Windsor) Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
Pennefather, Sir John Spender-Clay, Colonel H. Wise, Sir Fredric
Penny, Frederick George Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F. Withers, John James
Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings) steel, Major Samuel Strang Wolmer, Viscount
Perkins, Colonel E. K. Storry-Deans, R. Womersley, W. J.
Perring, Sir William George Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C. Wood, E. (Chest'r, Stalyb'ge & Hyde)
Philipson, Mabel Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn) Wood, Sir Kingsley (Woolwich W.)
Plicher, G. Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Woodcock, Colonel H. C.
Price, Major C. W. M. Tasker, R. Inigo. Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
Raine, Sir Walter Templeton, W. P. Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.
Ramsden, E. Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton) Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (Norwich)
Rawson, Sir Cooper Thompson, Luke (Sunderland)
Remer, J. R. Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, S.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y) Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell- Major Cope and Captain Lord
Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint) Tinne, J. A. Stanley.
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock) Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton) Ritson, J.
Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro') Hardie, George D. Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O.(W. Bromwich)
Ammon, Charles George Hayday, Arthur Rose, Frank H.
Attlee, Clement Richard Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley) Salter, Dr. Alfred
Baker, Walter Henderson, T. (Glasgow) Sexton, James
Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery) Hirst, G. H. Shiels, Dr. Drummond
Barnes, A. Hirst, W.(Bradford, South) Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John
Batey, Joseph John, William (Rhondda, West) Smillic, Robert
Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W. Johnston, Thomas (Dundee) Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
Broad, F. A. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
Bromley, J. Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Snell, Harry
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Kelly, W. T. Stephen, Campbell
Brown, James (Ayr and Bute) Kennedy, T. Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
Buchanan, G. Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M. Strauss, E. A.
Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel Lawson, John James Townend, A. E.
Charleton, H. C. Lee, F. Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. C. P.
Connolly, M. Livingstone, A. M. Viant, S. P.
Dalton, Hugh Lowth, T. Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Lunn, William Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney
Day, Colonel Harry Mackinder, W. Wellock, Wilfred
Duncan, C. Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan) Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)
Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer-) Montague, Frederick Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
Gardner, J. P. Murnin, H. Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
Gillett, George M. Naylor, T. E. Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
Gosling, Harry Oliver, George Harold Windsor, Walter
Greenall, T. Palin, John Henry Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)
Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Coin[...] Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan) Ponsonby, Arthur TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Potts, John S. Mr. Hayes and Mr. Whiteley.
Groves, T. Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)

Question put, and agreed to.