§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. GERALD HURST
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
The object of the Bill which I have the honour to introduce is to prolong fur a further period of live years the operation of the Cotton Industry Act of 1923, which otherwise would come to an end on 18th July of this year. The object of the existing Act is to impose a levy of 6d. on the sale of every bale of raw cotton bought by cotton spinners within Great Britain, the proceeds of that levy being applied to further the purposes of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation. The purposes for which this Corporation came into being, and which the existing Act is designed to help, are well known. They are to broaden the basis of the supply of the raw material of our greatest textile industry by fostering the growth of raw cotton within the British Empire. The ideal of a self-sufficing Empire is as old as the British Empire. The idea of diminishing our excessive dependence upon American supplies of raw cotton is as old as the Lancashire cotton trade, and the aims behind the Cotton Industry Ace were canvassed and ardently supported long before the War by the British Cotton Growing Association. After the War the danger of this dependence upon America became more evident than ever, and a voluntary levy of 6d. on the sale of every bale of raw cotton was started amongst the spinners of Lancashire.
On 1st November, 1921, the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation received its charter, the purpose of the Corporation being the development of the knowledge of the growth, cultivation and use of cotton. A grant of £978,000 was made by the Government to the Corporation, but such grant was conditional upon the continuance of the levy among British cotton spinners. It was then felt that it would be unfair if some backsliders should avoid their obligations to pay the levy. It was felt to be unfair that they should share the benefits without sharing the burdens and a movement was set on foot by which this voluntary levy was to become a universal and compulsory levy, 1228 although its mainspring was, in fact, the voluntary desire of the English cotton industry. The original of the Cotton Industry Act was a Bill which I brought in under the ten-minutes rule on 22nd July, but that Bill did not proceed to its further stages in consequence of the dissolution at that time. The Cotton Industry Act was passed in 1923, and its justification was precisely the same as the justification of the Bill which I am moving to-day. It is a fourfold justification.
First of all, it is felt that is is very dangerous indeed that four-fifths of the cotton used in the Lancashire mills should come from America, and be subject to the wild fluctuations in quality, quantity and price in consequence of that entire and complete dependence. Secondly, the ravages of the boll weevil render the quantum of the American supply very variable from year to year, necessarily causing instability in prices. Thirdly, there has grown up such a substantial spinning industry in the United States that in the future supplies from this source may be more and more curtailed and less and less available to the Lancashire cotton trade. Lastly, there is always the danger of some international emergency arising, such as the American Civil War and the Great War, to make supplies of raw material for our great staple textile industry precarious and difficult to rely upon.
Therefore, the aim behind the Bill is to increase the supply of Empire-grown cotton. No local capital is available in the African dependencies which are the most fertile and hopeful source of this supply, and consequently Lancashire has voluntarily taken upon itself the burden of this levy, with a view to fostering and developing these sources of Empire-grown cotton. The levy brings in something like £80,000 a year; in good times, of course, that sum would be increased. This cotton growing levy, although in form compulsory, is in spirit voluntary; if it had not been volunteered by Lancashire no Government would have consented to make it compulsory, because it is a burden borne only by the cotton spinning industry in Great Britain. It is unique in this country. I do not think any other body of men have ever come forward and offered of their own volition to submit themselves to any kind of taxation. This is true to Lancashire 1229 tradition. It is what the 17th century would have called a self-denying ordinance, what the 19th century would have called a monument of self-help, and what to-day we call a sound business proposition. It has received the consistent support of the great body of the cotton trade in Lancashire. The existing Act has been in force for five years, and the only question we have to ask is, Have the results of the Act passed five years ago justified the imposition of this levy? In my submission, the results have amply vindicated the wisdom of the Measure passed in 1923.
In the seven years between 1920 and 1927 the raw cotton produced in the British Empire, excluding India, has increased from 100,000 bales a year to 427,000 bales a year, and three-quarters of this increase is in cotton of the American type, which is most suitable for the great bulk of the mills, certainly in East Lancashire. On the whole this supply is better and cheaper than the American supply; cheaper because land and labour cost less in the African dependencies than in the United States. The result of this movement has undoubtedly been to make the supply of raw material not only larger but also more stable in price, and more available to the English demands.
The Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, to whom this levy is paid, has nothing whatever to do with the actual growth or trading in or marketing of Empire cotton. The object of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation is to stimulate and to guide the research which makes this expansion of cotton growing possible. All over the world skilled staffs, very largely recruited by men who have held studentships granted by the Corporation, are guiding developments in our Colonies and our dependencies. Whatever scientific school in England you go to to-day, you will see persons who hold studentships of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation carrying out research essentially devoted to the development of the cotton supply. In Cambridge you will find men experimenting in the selection of cotton seed. In the Manchester University you will find persons investigating the pests which sometimes develop in raw cotton. You will find in the botanical department of the Imperial College of Science experiments being made in processes for delinting cotton, 1230 at Rothamsted experiments in the endeavour to make up for the deficiency in nitrogen in the Gezira plantations. And above all, in the Imperial College, Trinidad, and the Central Cotton Research Station there, you will find exhaustive inquiries and wide scientific research being undertaken with a view to selecting the best soil and the best climate for developing the expansion of cotton growing.
The result of this research is evident in such countries as the Sudan and Uganda, where the growth of raw cotton has been most developed. At the present time 140,000 bales of raw cotton are grown in the Sudan and 130,000 bales in Uganda. Those figures represent a very great increase since the Cotton Industry Act was passed five years ago, and all over the Empire, from Nyasaland to the Fiji Islands, and from Queensland to Cyprus, you will find seed supplies given by the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, and an enormous development in the science of cotton growing and in the subsidiary research into the best way to utilise that cotton production by the development of roads, railways and motor transport. Those are the results from the point of view of the British Empire, and I think anybody who has travelled through the Empire, or who realises the importance of the development of our Colonies and our Dependencies will give no other welcome to this Bill than a very warm and hearty one.
The real issue is not so much whether this is a good Measure from an Imperial point of view, but whether its benefit to Lancashire has been so great as to warrant a continuance of a tax borne exclusively by the cotton industry itself. The funds behind this Measure are not national, except so far as interest accrues on the loan which was made to assist cotton growing. The funds which this Bill provides come entirely out of the pockets of the cotton spinners themselves. The line of criticism adopted by some hon. Members has not been directed against the principles, but against the exercise of the principles embodied in this Bill. It is said, and I think, with a great deal of force, that it is an ironic thing that something like one-half of the raw cotton grown in some of our East African Dependencies is not sold in Lancashire, 1231 England or Britain, but is, in fact, sold to the Japanese and other competitors of ours. It does seem an anomalous thing that the benefit of our research should not be devoted entirely to Imperial British users of cotton.
Another line of criticism has been that in the marketing of some of this Empire grown cotton in the Sudan, instead of being sold in Manchester, which is the most economical business centre for the cotton spinners of Lancashire and West Yorkshire, it, is marketed through certain brokers in Liverpool. There may be great force in an objection of that kind, but in fact such objections are irrelevant to the purpose of this Bill, because the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation has nothing Whatever to do with the actual growing of the cotton, and still less with the trading in or the marketing of the raw cotton grown in those dependencies. It may be well to call the attention of the Board of Trade or the Colonial Office to these grievances, but that does not affect the principle embodied in this Bill, which is a measure for stimulating the supply of raw cotton. The true judges as to whether or not this is a wise step are of course the cotton spinners themselves, and, notwithstanding the canvassing and the prevalence of feeling on the two points I have mentioned, they have by their vote taken in recent ballots shown unmistakably that whatever defects there may be in the system they are in favour of the continuance of the present Act.
By a ballot taken in connection with the Master Cotton Spinners' Association it was shown that 87.79 of the voting power was exercised in favour of a continuance of the present Measure, and only 11 per cent, were against it. I think that every Lancashire Member of Parliament feels that his constituents are in favour of a continuance of this Bill. The Hon. Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Fielden), who is going to second the Motion for the Second Reading of this Measure, is a member of a distinguished firm of cotton spinners. I do not think that there is any representative from Lancashire who takes a hostile view in regard to this Measure, and I cannot conceive that any Government, whatever 1232 its politics, would look askance at a Bill which represents so much unanimous feeling among the persons on whom the burden imposed by the Bill is going to fall.
There is one change in the Bill as compared with the Act which it is intended to prolong. The Act of 1923 provided for a levy of 6d. on the sale of every 500 lbs. gross weight of cotton, and that levy is lessened by this Bill from 6d. to 3d. and it may even go down to a lower level with the approval of the Board of Trade. Hon. Members will very readily gather the purpose of the diminution in the tax which is simply to make allowances for the tremendous trade depression which is now weighing so heavily upon the people of Lancashire. How long that depression may last we cannot tell, but the actual causes of the depression and the way in which it may be met are irrelevant to this Bill. It is hoped that a population like the people of Lancashire, with all their initiative, enterprise, and experience, will find a way out of their trouble. It may be that a great relief will be given to productive industries by what has been promised in the Budget, which I understand will operate as a relief to the extent of something like £750,000 in regard to the rates of mills in Lancashire. It may be that that will do much to help to relieve the present situation.
We have taken a conservative view, and we have made the levy half of what it has been in the past. This proposal has received the support of the great majority of the houses concerned in this business. We have almost the unanimous support of the industry behind this Measure, and for these reasons I commend the Second Reading of it to the House. I feel very proud that the honour of bringing it forward has fallen upon me for the third time, because the project behind the Cotton Industry Bill is one which is, in my view, great in its conception, rich in its achievement, and boundless in its ultimate promise. Although this is a Measure which may not take long to discuss, it is one which, from end to end, represents an enormous interest for Lancashire, as well as for the whole of the British Empire. It is very difficult sometimes for us to gauge the relative importance of Bills which from time to time occupy the attention of this House, and who can deny that a great 1233 many of the Measures which to-day loom large in the public imagination will recede into insignificance in the long perspective of history? But this Measure which means so much to the well-being of Lancashire and to the development of the Empire will, I believe, be rightly regarded by posterity as a fruitful and outstanding memorial of the wisdom of their ancestors.
§ Mr. FIELDEN
I beg to second the Motion.
My hon. and learned Friend who has moved the Second Reading of this Bill expressed, towards the end of his speech, some doubt as to what, the future of the Lancashire cotton trade was likely to be. I can assure him, and I can assure Members of this House, that, unless we have a satisfactory quality and an ample supply of the raw material, the future of the Lancashire cotton trade is bad indeed. Those who work this Measure, namely, the master spinners and the manufacturers, are practically united in the opinion that this movement is a desirable one in regard to the future of their industry. There seems to be very little, if any, opposition in the trade itself and the question then arises whether the future shows us a satisfactory prospect of a sufficient supply of the raw material. We have been dependent, and we are dependent, in Lancashire, for the most part, on cotton grown in the United States of America, the second large area of cotton supply being Egypt. The cotton grown in the world has increased from about 16,000,000 bales in 1900 to about 31,000,000 bales in 1926—a very enormous increase. But the consumption has kept pace with the increased supply, and the stocks were no greater, or practically no greater, in 1926, than they were at the commencement of the century. I think, therefore, that we may argue that cotton is not likely to go out of consumption, but that probably it will continue to be more in demand as the years go by than it has been in the past.
The two great cotton growing countries, the United States of America and Egypt, have to a large extent met this increased demand. Can they continue in the future to increase their production at anything like the same rate? In the United States of America, they have spread their cotton fields until they have come up 1234 against Mexico, and pretty nearly up against the Pacific Ocean, and I do not anticipate that they will be able very largely to increase their acreage, although they may possibly, by careful study, increase somewhat the yield. In the case of Egypt, the production per acre shows signs of diminution, and, although the area cultivated has somewhat increased, that area again is limited. I do not think that we can look in the near future for any large increase of raw cotton from either of those countries, and it is, therefore, incumbent upon us, if we are to have a full supply of the article in Lancashire, to concentrate on our own Empire in order to find what is required.
Fortunately, we have in our Empire vast fields well fitted as regards soil, climate and labour, which can produce cotton of quite satisfactory quality. Twenty-two years ago the British Cotton Growing Association was formed, with a capital of £500,000, a very considerable proportion of which was subscribed by the working people connected with the cotton factories. The growth of cotton in the Empire, as my hon. and learned Friend has said, has increased, since 1906, from under 20,000 bales to over 400,000 bales in 1926, but, although this is a satisfactory expansion,, it only shows how slow the movement is; and the movement has been slower than it might have been, owing to the fact that experiments were being tried, and there was not the experience necessary to produce a more rapid expansion of the cultivation of cotton in those countries.
The fact that greater scientific knowledge was required, and a staff more experienced and attaching more importance to the development of the whole system of growing, marketing and transporting cotton, caused, seven years ago, the creation of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation. To this Corporation the Government came forward with a loan of £1,000,000, and, shortly after its formation, a levy was made upon the users of cotton in this country of 6d. per bale. The Government thus showed their appreciation of the requirements of the trade; but that was not the first time that the Government of this country had showns its appreciation of the requirements of the cotton trade, because I have in my hand a letter from 1235 the Foreign Office, dated January, 1861, which says:Lord John Russell, therefore, desires to place at the disposal of the cotton manufacturers in this country the services of any of Her Majesty's Consuls residing in countries which, from the information now in the possession of the Cotton Association, offer a prospect of immediate supply, if it were necessary to have recourse to them.That shows the undoubted sympathy of the Government, even in those days, in regard to the supply of cotton for Lancashire. But there is some difference between the Government of 1861 and the Government of to-day, because the letter goes on to sayLord John Russell would not, indeed, think it right that Her Majesty's Consuls should be allowed to incur any expenditure of public money on this account, or in any way to pledge the Government to the collectors or producers of cotton within their districts that the fruits of their labours would surely find a British market.We have gone some time since then, and we have found that the Government realise the importance of supporting this endeavour to increase the cultivation and growth of cotton in the Empire. The levy and the interest from the Government loan brought in about £120,000 last year. The Corporation have set up, in the Island of Trinidad, a college for the study of tropical agriculture, and the men who are taken to that college as students have opportunities of engaging in research work up-to-date. After they have been at the college for a certain time they are equipped with knowledge which enables them to be most useful in the research stations and the experimental stations which the Corporation has set up in our dependencies and in India. By this means it is hoped—and the hope is quite likely to be realised—that we shall be able very much more rapidly to develop the area of land in the Empire suitable for cotton growing.
It is very interesting to read the accounts of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, or the British Cotton Growing Association, and to see the enormous number of failures in the different portions of the Empire. Those failures are due to the fact that special scientific knowledge has not been obtained as to what is the best seed and the best period of the year in which to plant the cotton 1236 in these different areas. When that has been discovered, the production of cotton in the Empire will, I believe, increase very rapidly. It has been found that American seed cotton grown in Nigeria is unsuitable, although perhaps that same seed may be quite suitable in Uganda or Northern Rhodesia. In the same way, cotton seed grown in India from American seed is sometimes a failure, whereas other seed may bring about a great success, and it is interesting to see that at the experimental farm in India the amount of cotton grown per acre has increased from 600 lb. to more than double that amount. It shows that not only must the seed be carefully selected for the different areas and soils in which it is to be grown, and therefore a crop realised, but that by careful selection of the seed an enormous increase in the yield may be reasonably hoped for. This development can only take place if those who have been scientifically trained are in sufficient numbers to carry out the work. It is a work we cannot expect to be done quickly. It must take time, but ultimately we have the soil, and we have the climate, and all that is necessary is scientific knowledge to produce the correct seed and the correct method of cultivation.
When the cotton is grown in these distant parts it is useless, as far as Lancashire is concerned, unless it can be transported to the markets of the world without undue cost, and the question of transportation comes in very largely. In the Sudan and the Gezira large quantities of cotton are already being raised of an excellent quality and the transportation is reasonably satisfactory. The railway from Khartum to the Red Sea is there, and there are excellent facilities at the ports. In Uganda, another centre of cotton growing, the possibilities of which are very great, there is a railway connecting with the sea near Mombasa. That railway will, no doubt, supply transportation from the centre of the field to the ports for some time to come, but undoubtedly both the railway and the port will want to be very largely increased in capacity if large quantities of cotton coming from that area are, as we hope, to be produced. Nigeria again requires very considerable additional railway transport, and in addition to the railways there is the question of motor transport. So far 1237 it has been largely of an experimental nature, but it is found that certain motors are most useful and will add very largely to the area in which cotton can be grown. The areas are very divided, but they are mostly in Africa and in India, and, if this Bill becomes an Act, we shall undoubtedly be doing something to maintain the staple trade of Lancashire. If it does not maintain its position of absolute supremacy, those connected with the trade still believe that Lancashire will continue to hold a very prominent place in the cotton trade of the world. So far as quality is concerned, we are satisfied that, with a plentiful supply of the raw material, we shall continue to hold the position we have done in the past.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
I understand that the promoters of the Bill desire to obtain a Third Reading, and, if we have long speeches, there is a danger that it will not pass to-day, so I shall keep strictly away from controversial points and merely state, as concisely as I know how, the position of the organised workers in Lancashire with regard to this question. There is no doubt whatever that they are heart and soul behind this Bill and would support it in every possible way. The Bill merely gives statutory effect to an understanding arrived at by an overwhelming majority of spinners to pay so much per hale of cotton for certain specific purposes, and that they, through their representatives and through the representatives of the workpeople, shall have a voice in determining how the money realised from the levy shall be used. That is what the Bill proposes to do. It does not propose that a subsidy should be given by the Government. It proposes that this levy, which has been agreed upon by an overwhelming majority, shall have the force of law and shall be paid in a specific way. I want the fact to be kept clearly in mind, that this Bill has nothing at all to do with a Government subsidy of any kind.
If I may call attention to one important fact, I should like to say that for over a quarter of a century the workers and the employers have combined with a view to developing cotton growing within our Empire for very serious practical reasons. Anyone who knows what it has meant to Lancashire to have the main part of its crop coming from one field alone—the American field—who knows what the result of a short crop or a short harvest 1238 has been, who has seen the gambling that takes place and knows what havoc gambling in the cotton crop has wreaked on the Lancashire trade, upon employers and employed alike, will want to see cotton growing developed all over the world, in order, if I may use a common axiom, that all their eggs shall not be in one basket. We desire to see as much cotton grown as possible within the limits of our own Empire. That is, after all, what this 3d. a bale will be used for.
The first organisation which was referred to in a previous speech was the British Cotton Growing Association, which was a combination of employers and employed, both subscribing, and helped by subscriptions from persons outside. That organisation helped the growing of cotton. Generally speaking, it may be said that the principle at work both in the original British Cotton Growing Association, which was a limited company, and the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, has been to help the growing of cotton and to guarantee a minimum price to the producer and to leave the product to be sold in the open market. That has been the policy up till the present. There are certain arguments for that policy but, as I said, I do not want to enter into controversy may point out one essential fact. A lot of this cotton which is grown by the help of this fund and other funds is of a character and of a staple rather unsuited for the ordinary Lancashire trade. It goes to other countries, and those countries are then not so great competitors against us in the market for cotton which is of a suitable character for our own manufacturers. That is a technical point well known I think by those of us who know the trade best. Anyway, I can state the fact without any explanation whatever. If there were any question of, I will not say the improper use, as I think that is the wrong term to use, but of a mistaken use of these funds, all I have to say is, from a very considerable and long knowledge both of the British Cotton Growing Association and of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation that I have never heard complaints made by the spinners. There may be complaints, but if there are they are never made to the centre where these complaints can be dealt with. That, I think, is broadly a fair statement of the facts.
1239 It is of tremendous importance to Lancashire and to all other countries in England that this work should go on. It is not merely the growing of cotton. It is the research work which has given us a better quality of cotton. Those of us who have had to take off our jackets and work in the factories know the difference between a good type of cotton and a bad type of cotton. A good type of cotton means shillings a week for the workers with much less work, but a bad type of cotton means an extra amount of work, spoilt work and less wages. Evidently it is to the interest of the Lancashire worker, above all other workers, to be not merely calm and pacific supporters of a movement of this kind but really active and zealous supporters of movements of this description. It needs a lot of imagination, and it needs a tremendous amount of determination to realise the ideals that Lancashire set before herself over a quarter of a century ago. She has had tremendous difficulties. There is any amount of land in the world that will grow cotton, but, generally speaking, unfortunately, the land is either situated where there are no people who know how to grow cotton or situated where, if you have the people who know how to grow cotton, you have not the transport. The difficulties which have to be overcome are tremendous. Some of them have been overcome, but relatively few. I think the progress in the future will be at an accelerated rate.
In any case, whether these hopes are realised or not, there can be no question about the great desire of the organised Lancashire cotton workers to help forward this movement of cotton growing within our Empire in every possible way. Apart altogether from the sentiment which attaches to the Imperial idea, the merest common-sense shows with regard to a trade of the dimensions of the cotton trade that it is vitally essential that its raw material should neither be at the mercy of any one climate nor of any one country. The idea that lies behind this 3d. a bale is that the Lancashire cotton trade shall not be dependent upon the climate of any one country or upon the vagaries or the whims of the growers of any one country. It is, as I have said, not a Government subsidy. The Bill itself 1240 means nothing more than giving a statutory right to a voluntary agreement, and I hope the House will not only give a unanimous Second Reading to the Bill but will pass it through all its stages, so that it can go to another place before the day's sitting ends.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
The House will have heard with very great pleasure the tribute paid by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw). I desire with equal brevity and with equal clarity to say that the Government are as wholeheartedly in favour of this Bill as are its promoters, the cotton spinners, and the workers in the mills of Lancashire. It was my privilege five years ago to welcome this Bill when it was first introduced into this House. I think that the whole House will now welcome it as an old friend. It is a tremendous tribute to the sterling qualities of Lancashire and to the determination of Lancashire that in these dark days when money is hard to come by and losses are far more common than profits that they should, by a united voice, come forward to maintain this levy for the common interest, to impose, as my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Moss Side (Mr. Hurst), said, a self-denying ordinance, and, I would add, to maintain and develop a new model. The work of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation is so well known that it needs no recommendation. Successive Imperial Conferences have paid tribute to it. The last Imperial Conference placed on record that itnotes with pleasure the success attending the activities of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation and commends to the favourable notice of the respective Governments the steps which the Corporation has taken to co-operate with the Administrative and Agricultural Departments concerned in the promotion of cotton growing within the Empire.Lancashire is ready to continue to support this Corporation. It is not only, as has been said, a question as to whether for the time being there may be a certain shortage of cotton in the world, but it is important to ensure supplies in the future, taking the long view, in abundance and from as many quarters as possible. It is certainly desirable on Imperial and practical grounds to secure that as large a proportion as may be of 1241 those supplies Dome from within our own Empire. It is not only a question of the quantity being produced, but it is equally important to ensure that where the cotton is grown you are growing the best quality and getting the best yield. It is there, particularly, that the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation has done what no other body has done and what no other body could do. It has engaged in progressive research all over the Empire and already this work is bearing very rich fruit. This levy, which the cotton trade voluntarily imposed on itself and asks Parliament again to confirm, is a wise investment from the point of view of Lancashire and a great asset to the whole of the British Empire.
My hon. Friend the Member for the Exchange Division of Manchester (Mr. Fielden), who seconded the Motion, pointed out that five years ago or more the Government guaranteed to the Cotton Corporation, with the authority of Parliament, a loan of nearly £1,000,000, on condition that the work was continued in the way that it had carried on, and that the levy of 6d. was maintained. I am sure that the House to-day, in these much more difficult times so far as Lancashire is concerned, will very readily agree to that money continuing in trust at the disposal of this great Corporation, with a reduced levy of 3d. from the Lancashire cotton trade. It would be unreasonable to expect Lancashire to find more money to-day. I believe that this Bill can be commended to the House as a great practical measure of co-operation and as a great Imperial endeavour. I hope that it may readily pass through all its stages.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
Hon. and right hon. Members have blessed the Bill wholeheartedly and have offered not one word of criticism or asked one hostile question. I, like the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw), am whole-heartedly in favour of the principle of the Bill, and I propose to do nothing whatever to obstruct its progress, but I think we ought to use this opportunity to ask some questions with a view to eliciting whether on grounds of State policy the money that has been raised in the past, not only by the levy, but as a result of the £900,000 odd loan, granted by Parliament, is being used by the British Empire Cotton Corporation to the best national advantage. While the industry itself is to pay 3d. per hale in future, I understand that the 1242 State is putting up an equivalent sum as a result of the proceeds of the £900,000 loan. The State is putting up, roughly, £40,000 a year and the industry another £40,000.
The hon. Member who seconded the Motion referred to Uganda. I happen to take an interest in the movements of Empire trade, and I have been interested for some time in watching what is happening in some of our Colonies and Dominions. I find, according to the last published report of the Overseas Trade Department, on page 52, an appendix giving a number of the exports from Uganda. I find that from January to June, 1927, the cotton exported from Uganda went to the following destinations—£125,000 worth came to Great Britain—[An HON. MEMBER: "That should be bales!"]—125,000 bales came to Great Britain; 108,000 bales went to Japan and 226,000 bales went to India.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The hon. Member is wrong in his figures. They are not bales, there is not that quantity produced.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am sorry. I have been misled. They are centals—hundreds of pounds. The 226,000 centals of cotton that went to India are stated to be partly destined later for Japan. We are, therefore, faced with the fact that more than one-half, in fact something, in the neighbourhood of three-fourths of the cotton produced in Uganda, raised by a subsidy granted to the cotton corporation from State revenue and partly by a levy on the Lancashire cotton industry, is going to a great economic competitor with Lancashire.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
Will the hon. Member state the total amount of British grown cotton and the proportion of that amount which comes from Uganda and its qualities as applied to Lancashire?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I am not able to understand the point of the interruption. I am taking the exports from Uganda because that country was referred to by the hon. Member who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Will the hon. Member take the whole of British grown cotton and compare it with the small proportion grown in Uganda and consider 1243 the bearing of the various markets requirements of Lancashire for raw cotton.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I could do that easily and examine what proportion of cotton grown, say, in Kenya and Tanganyika goes to Japan. I have only taken Uganda as an illustration of the fact that money which is being expended by the British Empire Cotton Growing Corporation is not necessarily expended on a wise national policy. If the Labour Government were doing this and expending public money in this way; if the right hon. Member for Preston had been in charge and was spending money in subsidising material for our greatest economic competitor in the Far East, he would not be very long before he was decorating a lamp-post in Whitehall.
§ Mr. T. SHAW
If I were in charge, I would let Japan have all the poor quality cotton and keep all the good quality cotton for ourselves.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I heard my right hon. Friend say, a few moments ago, that Japan is buying nothing but the cheaper quality cotton, but there are spinners within the sound of my voice who declare that that is not so and that they themselves are handicapped by the fact that Japan is getting this cotton. The Overseas Trade Department makes this specific complaint, that not only is this subsidised cotton going to Japan but that the Japanese Government is very heavily subsidising its steamship services in order to get raw cotton into Japan cheaply. On page 42 of the Report for 1926–27 the statement is made that:The Osaka Shosen Kaisha receive a heavy subsidy from the Japanese Government, but, so far as can be ascertained, the service is not a paying one, and is, therefore a matter of speculation as to the reason for the establishment of the competing Japanese service, which has no similar subsidy.These two Japanese services are now running to East Africa, taking cotton to Japan and bringing back to East Africa manufactured cotton goods, a trade which was previously done by Lancashire. I cannot understand the policy of subsidising the production of raw cotton and then selling it to Japanese manufacturers, who get it by means of Japanese steamers which are heavily subsidised. Let me draw 1244 attention to the freight of our own steamship services. They might be revised in order to give Lancashire a decent chance. If you want to do something to help Lancashire then examine the steamship freights. On page 11 of the Report of 1922 of the Overseas Trade Department it is said it is cheaper to send this cotton via Bombay. It saysThe transport costs, via Bombay, even including transhipment, are often not dearer and sometimes cheaper than those by direct shipment to Liverpool.In other words the cheapest method of sending raw cotton from East Africa to this country is via Bombay. Some of us have raised this point by Question repeatedly, but there does not seem to be any improvement. The President of the Board of Trade says that His Majesty's Government prefer that it should be left to the free play of private enterprise. At any rate they did not leave rubber to the free play of private enterprise. Here is an industry which is suffering severely at the moment—
§ Lord HUNTINGFIELD
I thought the hon. Member was in favour of leaving it to the free play of private enterprise?
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
No, and I have been trying to show that private enterprise in regard to this industry has been a failure, and that you are subsidising your opponents.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I said that you had interfered with rubber; and in a very stupid way. There are methods to the hand of the Government by which they could assist the cotton industry to fight unemployment and give better wages, but only on the understanding that they are prepared to interfere with private enterprise and will regard the cotton industry as a great national interest which should not be left to the free play of a private enterprise.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I do not intend to take up much of the time of the House because there are other Lancashire members who desire to speak on this Bill, but I cannot let the statements which have been made by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. T. Johnston) pass without some comment. He speaks of it as being an unwise national policy that cotton which is grown in the Empire should be 1245 free for purchase by any purchasers in the world. I am sure everybody in Lancashire will take exception to that view.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I must make my point clear. I did not say that at all. I say that cotton which we subsidised here should not be offered on cheaper terms to our opponents.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The cotton which is grown is not grown under any part of the subsidy. The subsidy is merely to help in research work in the various districts, in order to enable greater prosperity to come to the particular areas. There is no suggestion that the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation interests itself in the merchanting of cotton in any way. That is done to a large extent by the British Cotton Growing Association. The two bodies are quite distinct. It is an economic fallacy to suggest that because we are encouraging the growth of cotton within the Empire we must therefore restrict the use of that cotton to Lancashire users. The original object, as the right hon. Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) has said of Lancashire in going in for the growing of cotton was to promote a greater supply, and if the supply is there for all spindles in the world, however much we can increase that growth, we are quite ready to let all the spindles of the world compete for it. If they are taking that portion which is not suitable for us, although it may be grown in the Empire, they are leaving available for us the other cottons which are suitable. Incidentally, it helps the development of Empire grown cotton by allowing that cotton to be taken by other countries.
Cotton is not all of one grade. I myself have known cotton come from Africa to Liverpool, and in our own mill we have experimented in the use of that cotton. But the experiment was unsuccessful. That cotton was not fit to be used by anyone in Lancashire. A great many thousand bales of it had to be sold and exported for Indian consumption. If we were to restrict to Lancashire the use of cotton grown in Uganda, we should be preventing the development of Uganda. What is the position there? There are various cotton growing districts and the growth will vary from 50 lbs. to 350 lbs. per acre. 1246 It is the badly-grown cotton, cotton that is bad in colour, short in staple, cotton that breaks in the gin and dirty in output, that is not suitable for Lancashire. It is that type of cotton that the Corp oration is endeavouring to eradicate from the areas where cotton is grown. But until the Corporation has succeeded in this eradication, by its research work and the education of the farmers, it would be unjust to these local growers, the natives, to say "This cotton is not suitable for Lancashire. It is only suitable for use in inferior yarns and in countries like India and Japan. We refuse to let the natives get the full advantage of what they are producing, however inferior it may be." That would be unjust to the native. We should have hon. Members opposite, and my hon. Friend who has just spoken would be one of the first among them, getting up in this House and protesting against the British Government preventing the sale of this cotton to any part of the world and thereby preventing the native from making that progress which he ought to make.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
The statement is that this cotton is unsuitable for Lancashire and suitable only for India and Japan. Can the hon. Gentleman explain how it is that the cotton was suitable in 1926 but not in 1927? The exports from Uganda to Lancashire in 1926 were 315,000 centals, and there was a very considerable falling off in 1927. How was it that the cotton was unsuitable for Lancashire in 1927 but quite suitable in 1926?
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The cotton of one particular year may be in demand in Lancashire and it may be possible to use a different grade. The grades vary so slightly that you may have a greater proportion of the Uganda cotton which will answer certain grade requirements in one year and not in another year. Likewise you may have a difference in price. But I am not suggesting that that is the only reason why we should allow this freedom of trade. I would go so far as to say that even if all the cotton which is produced in Uganda were of one grade, if Japan was prepared to give a higher price than Lancashire, Japan should be entitled to have the cotton. The same remark applies to India or Germany. All that we want is to have a wider field for the grow- 1247 ing of cotton, that within our Empire we should develop that growing as much as possible by the means which this Corporation is using. By its efforts in various parts of the Empire the Corporation is undoubtedly producing satisfactory results, and if we can get the development of growing we shall be satisfied in Lancashire. In spite of what the hon. Member says as to the restriction of the sale of that cotton, we shall be satisfied if we can increase the supplies and give to the whole of the world's spindles a greater measure of their requirements. I am sure that this Bill commends itself to all parties in Lancashire. We want to see a wide development of Empire-grown cotton.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
It was no part of the case of my hon. Friend the Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) that we desire the cotton produced under the scheme we are discussing reserved for Lancashire. What we object to in the proceedings that are likely to follow, as I think they have already followed, from the adoption of this scheme, is that apparently, although you provide subsidies from State funds and provide heavily from voluntary contributions to this scheme, in Lancashire you have very little guarantee that the cotton produced will be either sufficient for your purpose or of the quality required. We have been discussing both quality and quantity in this Debate. There is no guarantee that the quality is of the standard at which you are aiming. The figures that have been produced by my hon. Friend go to show that if there is unsatisfactory cotton, produced under this scheme, going to Japan, there is a great deal too much unsatisfactory cotton produced under this scheme.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
Will the hon. Gentleman also consider and discuss the cotton grown for our purposes in other parts of the Empire, as well as the cheaper type of which my hon. Friend has been speaking?
§ Mr. HUDSON
No, I am discussing a definite piece of evidence. I am told 1248 that there is an improvement in quality, and yet at the same time it is said that because there is a large amount of cotton in Uganda which is not of the quality required, that is justification for the cotton going elsewhere rather than to this country. I say again that that is an indication that we are not altogether accomplishing the ends which hon. Members set before themselves in the scheme.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
Surely the hon. Member realises that in all agricultural operations there are different results from different lands.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I admit all that, but at the same time I want to take the statements which hon. Members themselves have made in giving a reason for this cotton going in such large quantities to other countries. I rose, however, not to put that point alone, but mainly to protest against the unbalanced way in which this case has been presented to the House. The hon. and learned Member for Moss Side (Mr. Hurst), who moved the Second Reading, made a claim on behalf of it that would lead us to suppose that the operations of this scheme in the past have conferred more monumental benefits on Lancashire—I think that was his adjective—than almost any scheme or any work that has been done in Manchester for many years. In fact, when listened to his peroration, I had almost the vision that when next I went to Manchester I should see a monument to the hon. and learned Member rising in the square of Manchester, beside the monuments of Bright and Cobden. My complaint about this scheme is that it seems to be fiddling while Rome is burning. Lancashire to-day is confronted by conditions which have not been dealt with and cannot be dealt with in schemes of this sort. We are faced not so much with a shortage of raw material in Lancashire, as with shortages of finance and there is a stranglehold upon the industry due to other factors.
It seems to me that to make claims such as the hon. and learned Member for Moss Side made, when we know there are far more important considerations to be taken into account, is in the long run to flout the needs of the cotton industry. I shall vote for this Measure, but I do so with some disappointment at the fact that the contribution is to 1249 be reduced from 6d. to 3d. I understand the difficulties in Lancashire and it may be that owing to those difficulties it was essential that that contribution should be reduced, but, if the President of the Board of Trade believes in the necessity for this Bill to the extent which he has indicated, he ought to have come to the House with the proposal that the diminution in Lancashire's contribution would he met by an increase in the assistance given by the State. Lancashire's cotton difficulties cannot he dealt with along the lines suggested in the Bill. One or two small benefits will be obtained. I am willing that those benefits should be obtained. We should take the crumbs if we cannot have the loaf; and for that reason I support the Bill, while protesting against the very large claims which have been put forward in its justification.
§ Sir SYDNEY HENN
My excuse for detaining the House for a few minutes is that I may explain some of the points raised by the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. T. Johnston). I happen to know Uganda I have been there on more than one occasion and have seen at least two cotton crops. The hon. Member is under a misapprehension in regard to this matter of Uganda cotton. Uganda cotton is a superior type of rain-grown cotton used in an increasing percentage in the Lancashire trade. It must be perfectly obvious that even if the crop could be brought to market immediately it could not be utilised at once. It is not useable as an alternative to ordinary American cotton. It has to be mixed with other cotton and the result of that is that when the cotton is rushed to the sea-board in order to obtain finance, it cannot be immediately transported to this country, for no shipping line could within a very short period bring the cotton here. It cannot be held at the port in those tropical countries, or at any rate in that particular port, and it is to a certain extent taken over to Bombay to be warehoused, just as American cotton is often brought to Liverpool and warehoused there and distributed to the trade afterwards. It is a fact that a portion of this cotton is used in India, but what is sold there mainly goes, and has always gone, to Japan.
We are all aware that Japan is greatly increasing her share in that trade. On the other hand, the greater percentage 1250 of the crop that goes to Japan does not necessarily inflict any hardship upon Lancashire for the simple reason that if Lancashire buys less Uganda cotton, she can at the right season for her purpose purchase a larger quantity of better class cotton elsewhere. The Uganda crop simply comes in to help to supply the pool of that class of cotton and there is the guarantee to Lancashire that, if she requires a proportion of that cotton, she can get it. It does not matter to her whether the cotton comes from America or Uganda. The hon. Member for Dundee and the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) have both complained that by allowing this cotton to be sold to Japan we are wasting good British money in subsidising a Japanese industry. Even supposing it were the case that none of this Uganda cotton came to this country and that Japan, apparently, obtained the full benefit of this particular subsidy—which, of course, is not the case—the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation would still be carrying out that very valuable policy which was outlined by the President of the Board of Trade when he read the reference in the Minutes of the last Imperial Conference. That reference was to the effect that the work of the Corporation should be, and indeed was regarded by all members of the Empire as an Imperial work and not a specifically national work. Therefore, even if it were the case that none of this cotton came to this country, we must remember that Uganda, one of the group of British territories, does in fact reap from that trade a very great advantage indeed.
§ Mr. HILTON
I had not intended to intervene in this Debate, but after a speech like that, of the hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. J. Hudson) I thought it was time that somebody should speak who really understood the case. I claim to be a practical man in this matter and I have had considerable experience both, as regards cotton growing and cotton using. The hon. Member for Huddersfield has not got the fundamental basis of the argument. The point of our discussion is the sanctioning of a levy for the next five years from the Lancashire cotton trade and I do not think that point has been mentioned for the last hour. The object of that levy is two-fold. In the first place the major portion of the cotton used in Lancashire is what is known as 1251 "bread and butter" cotton, and is of the quality described as American Texas cotton. That is just a portion of the American crop—about a quarter of the American crop comes from Texas alone—and that cotton is used for the manufacture of shirtings and pillow cases and so forth. The cotton which is grown in these districts in Africa under the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation is, by reason of the climate and the seed unsuitable for the sort of material which we require, and one of the objects of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation is to provide Lancashire with an alternative to the "bread and butter" cotton which comes from America. When the British Cotton Growing Association was started some 25 to 30 years ago, its object was to make the Empire self-supporting in cotton. The long staple cotton is unsuitable for the "bread and butter" requirement, but the fabric which we put into motor tyres, for instance, requires greater strength and a more extraordinary resilience than the shorter staples which come from America.
We have talked and trimmed this morning on the edges of technical terms that most hon. Members do not understand, but to tell you how difficult it really is to know exactly what you are talking about in regard to this development of cotton within the Empire, I will mention that there are five different standards of cotton, and they are all marked "inch one-eighth." There is "shy inch-one-eighth," there is "near inch one-eighth," there is "inch-one-eighth," there is "good inch one-eighth," and there is "full inch one-eighth"; and they can all he marked "inch one-eighth." It is the duty of the experts of the Empire Cotton Growing Association to put all these into their proper categories. If there is one thing we do know in Lancashire it is what we want, and the aim and object of this Empire Cotton Growing Association is to give us this. That is my point, and we are prepared out of our own poverty-stricken pockets, still to subscribe a little more to help these people to do the work. As to the point of other people taking what our hon. Friends assume to be the residue, it is not the residue; it is what we do not want, and I may submit to the hon. 1252 Member for Huddersfield that the more the production is increased the cheaper the bales come to us.
§ Mr. HUDSON
My complaint was that there was so much of it that was residue, or what we do not want.
§ Mr. HILTON
If it comes to that, we could develop this argument on technical details all the afternoon. To-day we are only using about 3,000,000 bales of cotton in this country, roughly speaking. We are using less, but we are turning out on full time many more yards of cloth. Hon. Members will he in a difficulty if I do not explain that to them, but it is the quality and fineness of the stuff we are now using. I hope this Debate will finish now and that we shall get on with the Bill, otherwise I shall spend too much time in correcting some of these technical irregularities.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read a Second time.
§ Resolved, "That this House will immediately resolve itself into the Committee on the Bill."—[Mr. Hurst.]
§ Bill accordingly considered in Committee, and reported, without Amendment; read the Third time, and passed.