Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £100,775, 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, 1929, 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."—[Note.—£115,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
It will probably be more convenient to hon. Members if, as last year, I open this Debate and endeavour to give some review of the trade of the past year and an appreciation of the present position. On previous occasions when we have had this Debate we have been driven by the force of circumstances to depend on The records very largely of exports and imports, and upon other such information as we can collect in regard to the present position, in order to form an estimate of the amount of trade we are doing and how we stand. I told the Committee last year that we were trying to base ourselves on the Census of Production of 1824 in order to obtain a regular index figure which will give us an accurate idea of the production in the different industries in the country. I am glad to say that we have made considerable progress with most of the trading organisations, and in the course of the Debate to-day I shall be able to give to the Committee an index figure of production for the year 1927 and for the first quarter of the year 1928 covering two-thirds of the industries of the country. I hope we shall be able to get figures which will cover absolutely the whole of the productive 836 industries of the country and public utility services and be able to produce a quarterly index figure showing where we stand each quarter.
I think it will be convenient in the figures I have to give, if, instead of taking the year 1913 as the base year, I take the year 1924, first, because it is the year of which we have accurate figures of the Census of Production and, secondly, because it is fairer to take as our standard of comparison in postwar years a post-war year. I shall be able to give to the House, of course, comparative figures for the year 1913, but throughout this review I propose to take as the basis the year 1924. Following the precedent of last year, I turn first to the volume of our export and import trade. Taking the total imports retained and putting 1924 as 100, the figures are: 1913, 94.2; 1924, 100; 1925, 103.9; 1927, 111.3; and the first four months of 1928, 121.7. Then I take the retained imports and divide them into retained imports of manufactures, and retained imports of raw materials. In the case of retained manufactures, the figures are 1913, 95; 1924, 100; 1925, 112.2: 1927, 128.4; and the first four months of 1928, 149.5.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, throughout I am talking of volume. That is why I am taking 1924 as the figure of 100, and unless I say otherwise I am comparing like with like. In the case of retained imports of raw materials, the figures are: 1913, 111; 1924, 100; 1925, 106.7; 1927, 113; and the first four months of 1928, 118.8—practically 119—a rather more satisfactory result than one would have expected in the early period of this year. So much for imports. Equally it is convenient' to take the total of British exports and exports of manufactures, again comparing volume with volume. The figures for total exports are: in 1913, 131.4; 1924, 100; 1925, 99.3; 1927, 102.3; and in the first four months of 1928, 107. In the case of the export of manufactures, the figures are: 1913, 132.8; 1924, 100; 1925, 101.5; 1927, 104.4; and for the first four months of 1928, 111.4. It will be seen that in total exports and exports of manufactures, the four months of 1928 show an improve- 837 ment on the same periods of 1924 and 1927. In these calculations it is assumed that the April price level is about the same as the price level for the first three months of this year, which is a reasonable assumption. The figures for May have just been received.
I will first give the figures of imports. They make rather better showing than I should have expected. The retained imports of raw materials for May are £500,000 better than for last April, and £2,000,000 better than for May, 1927, I think that increase compared with May, 1927, is largely due to higher prices; but the imports of raw materials were greater than in April and, in volume at any rate, they were at least level with the corresponding months of last year. Imports of manufactures in May were about £1,000,000 down on April, and about level with May, 1927, imports. Exports of manufactured goods in May were £1,500,000 up on April and nearly £4,000,000 down on May of last year. I think that in order to complete the picture of export trade, one ought to see what the export trade of the world is, and what the European share of the total world trade is. I think, probably, it is true that, whereas in 1913 we were down something like 13 per cent of the total export trade of the world, in 1927 our share fell to something like 11 per cent., but the European share of world trade has shrunk also at the same time. It is interesting to note that of the combined total export and import trade of the world, whereas the share of Europe in 1913 was 62 per cent., in 1927 it had fallen to 52 per cent., although there were more countries in Europe, and therefore, on the face of it, we might expect the aggregate volume of trade passing across the frontiers to increase rather than to decrease.
I pass to the balance of trade. Here, I think, the figures are not unsatisfactory. If I may take, first, the visible adverse balance, the declared adverse balance against us in 1924 was £324,000,000; in 1925, £383,000,000; in 1926, £474,000,000 and m 1927, £391,000,000. In the first four months of 1927, the apparent adverse balance was £158,000,000, but this year the apparent adverse balance in the first 838 four months is only £112,000,000. Therefore, you come to the net figure, taking into account invisible exports, that is the balance of income and expenditure in the transactions, other than lending and repayment of capital, between the United Kingdom and all other countries. Our balance in, 1924 was £86,000,000, and in 1925, £54,000,000. In 1926 the deficit was £7,000,000, and last year there was a balance in our favour of £96,000,000.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
A figure I am not quite certain about is the adverse balance at the beginning of this year.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
For the first four months of this year the apparent adverse balance, that is, of course, the visible adverse balance, was £112,000,000. I have had the figure checked, and if there is any correction to be made, I will see that the corrected figure is given, but I think I am right.
I observe in some quarters there has been some criticism as to an apparent discrepancy between estimates of the total balance of trade given by the Board of Trade and the estimates made in other quarters. As a matter of fact, if the basis on which the official and the un-official estimates were made is correctly appreciated, it will be seen that, so far from there being a discrepancy, really the official and unofficial figures confirm one another.
The figures which were published by the Board of Trade were the balance of income and expenditure in the transactions, other than lending and repayment of capital, between the United Kingdom and all other countries; that is to say, it is a profit and loss account and not a balance sheet, and the £270,000,000 given last year as our estimate of the net income of oversea investments, which, as I said at the time, I thought was a conservative figure, corresponds very closely with the estimate of £280,000,000 which Sir Robert Kindersley produced as the result of his investigations. I want also to make clear that the Board of Trade figure does not take any account of the repayment of capital. Sir Robert Kindersley estimates Sinking Funds at £34,000,000 in 1927. Nor does the Board of Trade 839 figure take into account the fluctuating movement of short-term money between London and New York and other financial centres. It is, as I say, a profit and loss account and not a balance sheet, and the fact that we do not estimate the amount of the Sinking Funds—I am very glad that an outside estimate has now been made—and that we do not make any estimate in that annual account of the fluctuating movement of short-term money, is quite sufficient to explain that, apparently, we are able to invest abroad a larger amount than what would appear to be the net balance. In fact, the outside investigations which have taken place have really served to show the conservative accuracy of the estimates made at the Board of Trade.
Turning to the volume of the export trade, I think it is probably convenient if I shortly show how the export trade and the import trade are distributed by markets. Of the total imports into the United Kingdom in 1913, 24.87 per cent. were from the British Empire, 40.27 per cent. from Europe (foreign) and 34.86 per cent. from the rest of the world. In 1927 the figures were 26.87 from the British Empire, 36.7 from Europe, and 36.44 from the rest of the world. In the first quarter of 1928 the imports were 29.35 per cent. from the British Empire, 32.67 per cent. from Europe and 38 per cent. from the rest of the world. Exports in 1913 were 37 per cent. to the British Empire, 34 per cent. to Europe and 29 per cent. to the rest of the world. In 1927, the exports to the Empire were 42.5 per cent., to Europe 29.5 per cent. and to the rest of the world 28 per cent. In the first quarter of 1928 they were 41.7 per cent. to the British Empire, 29.8 per cent, to Europe and 28.5 per cent. to the rest of the world. If exports of manufactures be taken as distinct from total exports, the proportion taken by the Empire is larger still.
It seems to me that that shows the importance of concentrating in our export trade on where the best opportunity offers. The Empire, clearly, has enormous advantages. I am sure that within the Empire the Canadian demand, which comes at a time of greatly increased prosperity in Canada, is worthy of the greatest possible study of our manufacturers. Outside the Empire, an 840 obviously increasing market is available in South America. I am glad to think that that market is being taken advantage of. In the Argentine there is a great increase of British exports to a market in which a still greater trade can take place. If you take into account the fall in prices, as well as the increase in volume, probably it is fair to say that our exports to the Argentine in the first quarter of 1928, as compared with the first quarter of 1924, have increased by something like 50 per cent. There is also, I have no doubt, a very great opportunity in spite of a high tariff, of selling in the United States. That country is rich enough to buy irrespective of price, and that fact, coupled with the fact that the existence of the Panama Canal brings British manufacturers as near to the western States, as far as freights are concerned, as the middle of America,, should encourage manufacturers to an increasing study of the United States market.
Here, again, I would put in a plea for combination in selling, particularly in those countries where competing firms are selling practically the same kind of goods. Take, for example, steel. The tinplate selling pool has proved a considerable success. I cannot believe it would not be wise policy for the steel-makers of this country to get much closer together in their representation in foreign markets. You get better representation at a smaller cost, and you get the elimination of internal competition, which is very real. I have known cases where we have tried to push British claims to a contract, and there have been two firms competing in the same market for the same contract for exactly the same type of goods. I am perfectly certain that the more you can get combined representation, the more you will be able to concentrate where concentration is most required. I know in some cases, where goods are not similar, it is difficult to have combined representation unless you have a closer combination of production, but I hope that combination on representation overseas will lead to amalgamation in production as well as amalgamation in selling.
I repeat what I have often said, that I am quite satisfied that, both nationally and internationally, as long as you are combining like with like, and as long as 841 your combinations are producers' combinations and not promoters' combinations, the more combination we have in this country the better it will be. As long as the productive capacity in industry here and throughout the world is in excess of consuming power, the whole incentive to manufacturers and producers is to sell a large turnover and not a small turnover. Therefore, the fear of monopoly- through combinations is one which, I think, we need not for many years regard as a serious danger. On the contrary, any risk of that kind is far more than outweighed by the advantages. But let me add this. You must really make up your mind whether you believe in combination or not. I must say to hon. Members opposite that I have stated my view quite frankly, and that I am all for these combinations. But you cannot with one breath say, "Let us have amalgamation; let us have working arrangements and combinations," and the next minute say, "Let us dig it all up, and see whether it is working all right, or whether it ought to be curtailed here and there." You must make up your mind which horse you are going to back, and then put your money on it, and see it has a chance of winning the race.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Let us discuss one thing at a time. It would be quite out of order for me, to discuss tariffs, which involve legislation. The hon. Gentleman knows what is our policy in that respect. With regard to trusts, he can, in the complete absence of any policy of his own, no doubt try to attack with catchwords the advice given by others, but if, in place of "trusts," he would say "the combined effort of the industry to get the most efficient results and the cheapest production and the highest wages," he would be putting it in a truer perspective.
If I may, I will pass from that subject. [Interruption.] The right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) knows that we have all got certain things to reconcile. We have all to face facts, and I do not suppose that We on these benches have more difficulties in reconciliation than he has on those benches. I do not want to be enticed into being polemical in this Debate. Let me pass 842 to figures about production which I want to give These are the best tests that one can apply in order to see what volume of trade we are doing. I must give one warning. I have obtained these figures for this Debate. They may need some slight adjustment, but I think it better to give to the House even approximate figures of production, even if they want a little adjustment afterwards, than to come with more perfect figures two months later. If I am a point or two wrong, I shall be excused. I propose, therefore, to give figures covering something like two-thirds of our industry. I shall take 1924 as 100 and give the index figures for trade groups for 1927 as a whole year, and for the first quarter of 1928.
Let me say, first, how our index figures of production have been arrived at. In each trade within a group—I have taken the Census of Production for 1924—we start with the best available quantity figure that we can get. We have the corresponding quantity figure in each trade for 1924. We know what was the added value in production or manufacture in 1924 to allow upon the quantity figure for each trade. We then apply the appropriate added value figure to the quantity, and we obtain the value figure for 1924 and the corresponding value figure for the current period. This process is followed in each constituent item in the trade group, and the aggregate added value figures of all the items gives us the total added value for the group. We then have, for each group, the total added value figure for 1924, and the cor[...]esponding total for the current period. I take the 1924 figure as 100, and the corresponding current figure is either above or below 100, as the case may be, and becomes the index figure for the group for the current period. Working on this basis, the following index figures have been calculated for production in 1927 and for the first quarter of 1928. The index figures for the first quarter of 1928 have been calculated in relation to the quarterly average for 1924. Let me take these groups, which cover about two-thirds of the whole industry of the country.
|MINES AND QUARRIES.|
|1928 (first quarter)||96.2|
|IRON AND STEEL AND MANUFACTURES THEREOF.|
|1928 (first quarter)||105.6|
|1928 (first quarter)||115.5|
§ In the next group, engineering and shipbuilding, I am able to include shipbuilding, marine engineering, motors and electrical engineering, but I am not yet able to include the figure for general engineering. I hope that before long that figure may be available.
|ENGINEERING AND SHIPBUILDING.|
|1928 (first quarter)||118.0|
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, I could, but I cannot for the purpose of giving a comparative figure. I will do that later on, when I come to a detailed review of the trade. I will then give the trade estimates of motor production. I presume the hon. Member refers to motor cars. As a matter of fact, the same point occurred to me, and I therefore got a special figure prepared. When I give it the hon. Member will be able to make his own calculation.
|1928 (first quarter)||109.7|
|LEATHER, BOOTS AND SHOES AND RUBBER.|
|1928 (first quarter)||147.5|
|FOOD, DEINK AND TOBACCO.|
|1928 (first quarter)||98.6|
§ I think that that covers about three-quarters of the total amount of food products manufactured.844
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
What I am giving is not consumption. It is the actual food manufactured and is based on supplies. It includes drink, and I am not sure whether we are consuming or producing as much. These are not consumption figures. They are the figures of production and manufacture. It may be that we produced less drink in 1927 than we did in 1924. The evidence as to consumptive power, on the contrary, is that it is steadily advancing all the time. That is the evidence from the large stores and from the very valuable information given to me by the Co-operative movement as to their sales all over the country.
|GAS AND ELECTRICITY.|
§ For 1928 I cannot give the gas figure, but in the first quarter of 1928, as compared with that of 1924, the electricity generated is up by 47 per cent. It is satisfactory to see, in one group after another, considerable progress in the volume of production in 1927 and the first quarter of 1928, as compared with 1924. I hope that now, having once made a start, we shall be able to get an index figure complete for all these industries, and be able to produce it regularly as a quarterly contribution to the intelligence of the country. Side by side with the figures I have given I would like to give the total number of those employed. The increase in the total number employed corresponds, as we would expect it to do, with the increase in production. Figures which have been estimated regularly by the Ministry of Labour, of the total number of insured people in employment, show that if you take the five months of 1928 and compare them with the corresponding months of 1924, you have an average of 535,000 more people employed than were employed in the corresponding months of 1924.
§ Let me add, as regards a few industries, some further details. As to trade groups, I have given the volume figures of production. With regard to coal, probably I ought to give the actual production figures for 1925 and 1927 and the first months of 1928. These are the figures:
|1928 (first four months)||82½|
§ Coming to steel, I have given the index figure of production, which shows a considerable increase on the figure for 1924. I think I ought to give the imports and exports over the same period. I take the monthly averages of the imports and exports.
|IRON AND STEEL.|
|1928 (first quarter)||280,000||2,250,000|
|The exports for the same period were:|
|1928 (first quarter)||353,000||5,550,000|
§ Here I would point out the much greater value per ton in the exports than in the imports.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes; it is the figure in the Trade Returns, "iron and steel and manufactures thereof." I would refer him to the Trade Returns. It is group "C" in these Returns.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
It does not mea t those products which are included in the engineering returns. It represents those things which are not engineering products but are manufactures of iron and steel. I think a fair description would be the products of the rolling mills and steel factories as distinguished from the products of the engineering firms.
The question which I wish to put is: Are we right in assuming that what it really means is the finished product of what are known as iron and steel manufacturers, and the raw material DE all the users of iron and steel?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I had rather not commit myself to a definition as close Is that. [interruption.] No, I assure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley that I have no arrière pensèe ill this matter. The right hon. Gentleman does me less than justice, because I pointed out that the value per ton of exports was much greater than the value per ton of imports, which shows that the exports in large measure are of those types of steel which have passed through further processes of manufacture. Perhaps the definition is not clear, but there is a clear distinction in the official return between engineering products on the one hand and iron and steel, and the manufactures of iron and steel on the other. I have kept to that classification, both in this statement and in the statement as regards production.
Let me come to shipbuilding. Here there has been some falling off in orders following a considerable improvement earlier on, which I think is the reflection of the low shipping freights which rule to-day, but one thing is satisfactory, and that is fiat we are to-day holding our own in building whatever tonnage is required as against the rest of the world. I give these figures to show it. Of the vessels under construction on 31st March, 1927, 1,220,000 tons were under construction in the United Kingdom. That was 47.4 per cent. of the world construction. On 31st December, 1927, when we reached the peak figure of vessels under construction, the tonnage under construction in 847 the United Kingdom was 1,580,000 tons, or 50.7 per cent. of the world total under construction; and on 31st March, 1928, we had 1,440,000 tons under construction in. this country, or 49.8 per cent. of the world construction. The tonnage commenced in the first quarter of 1928 in this country was 342,000 tons, which is 56.5 per cent. of the total construction begun in the world.
While, of course, full employment in shipbuilding can only come from better trade all round, higher shipping freights and larger orders I have no hesitation in saying—and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) will bear me out in this—that to-day, owing to modern engineering, we can offer to the shipowners of the world a quality and range of expertness and a variety of designs such as no other country can offer and such as has never been offered at any other time. I take a ship like the "Duchess of Bedford," an oil-burning ship with water tube boilers, in which you have a boiler pressure and a temperature of a sort which has never been experimented on before. To take another case, there is the Blue Star Line, for which a ship has been fitted with the very latest machinery for using pulverised fuel—the fuel being pulverised on the ship, which is what we wanted to see done. That will give us a full scale experiment to show what pulverised fuel can do. You get in another yard the very latest designs in turbo-electrical propulsion. I think all this is a great encouragement. It shows that, difficult as times have been—and no industry has had more difficult times than shipbuilding—designers and men have kept the efficiency and the vitality and the novelty of British designs as well before the world as ever has been done in the very best of times in the past.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, I have not got them here. I have compared our figures with the total world figures. I probably could get the German figures, if the hon. Member will give me notice, but I thought that on this occa- 848 sion the most interesting figure would be that showing whether we were holding our own against the whole world. We have to consider not only German, but Italian and other shipbuilding, and when you come to deal with engines you have to take Danish shipbuilding into account.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, those figures are not included. Now let me turn to engineering. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) asked me a question about the motor industry, and I agree with him that it is desirable that one should have detailed figures in regard to that industry. I have the estimates of total output made by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders. These figures deal with private cars and commercial cars combined, and they are as follow:
These figures include chassis but they do not include cars assembled in this country of parts imported from overseas. The last return which I have from the motor trade states their estimate of the present position. Their estimate is that the 1927 output is being maintained and that they expect an increase in the production of commercial cars. There is some improvement in the export of commercial cars, particularly to South America—to the market which as I suggested before is an obviously increasing one.
Year. Total Output. 1924 132,000 1925 153,000 1926 180,000 1927 209,000
§ Mr. MAXTON
Is it not possible to divide those figures as between private cars and commercial cars?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, if the hon. Gentleman wishes I can do so for each year. The figures are:
Private. Commercial. 1924 105,500 26,500 1925 121,000 32,000 1926 138,500 41,500 1927 157,000 52,000
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, it looks as if commerce were expanding and as if the purchase of motor cars were widening among the people of this country—and indeed I am assured that that is so. It is not that the motor manufacturer is making expansions in regard to the very expensive cars. What he is devoting his attention to is the small-powered cars in which he expects to have an enormous sale. They now look forward to vast masses of the proletariat becoming the possessors of baby Austins and other "babies."
§ Mr. MAXTON
From my point of view the man who has £200 to buy even a very cheap car is a rich man. Presumably, from the right hon. Gentleman's point of view such a man is a pauper.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
But he is going to be able to buy these cars much cheaper than that. I understand that one is going to come on the market at £100.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
Yes, and every year we expect to get better and better. I find that there is one figure which I omitted to give and which I ought to have given earlier; and perhaps the Committee will allow me to go back upon what I was saying. I refer to the figure of the combined production of all the groups which I enumerated earlier. The comparison is as follows:
That is the aggregate of all the groups which I have already given to the Committee. To proceed with the details, in textile machinery you have a contrast. Trade there has fallen. In rolling stock and locomotives—
1924. 1927. 1928 (first quarter). 100 108.1 108.3
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
No, I cannot give those figures. In connection with this index of production I have been given confidential figures, both by trade associations and individual firms, but, of course, I must be allowed to exercise the 850 same discretion as that which Parliament has imposed in connection with the Census of Production and I must not give figures which would indicate the production of individual firms. Otherwise, it would be quite impossible to get these figures, as will be readily appreciated. In connection with locomotives a certain number of foreign orders have been obtained If I may now turn to electricity undertakings we find things rather brighter—in fact, distinctly brighter. We find a very good record in the face of keen foreign competition. Among the five great exporting countries of the world, Great Britain takes the lead in the export of electrical machinery. I think that is a very remarkable thing because, before the War, while I do not know exactly what our position was in this respect, it was not at the top. In 1927, we exported 31.4 per cent. of the total ex )orts; Germany exported 30.4 per cent. and the United States 29 per cent. I think that is very creditable. In the home market there has been some temporary falling off in orders, but in view of the great expansion which is indicated in the production figure, and as new schemes are sanctioned by the Electricity Commissioners, no doubt large orders will be forthcoming and I do not think we need be anxious about the volume of work which the electricity industry is likely to get.
As regards cotton, I do not think I have much to add to what I have said in recent Debates on that subject. It is interesting to note that to-day, apparently, the world is consuming something like 4,000,000 to 5,000,000 bales more than the consumption before the War, but the United Kingdom is consuming about l, 000,000 bales less. The world increase is, I suppose, largely accounted for by the, fact that different nations are manufacturing for their own internal consumption. In the case of Japan, we find there is very keen competition. The volume of trade in the cotton industry is reported to be about the same as in recent months, but there is no doubt that the threats of disputes, and the overhanging possibility of serious disputes in that industry have held up in recent weeks, perhaps in recent months, the placing of orders. Now, fortunately, that major issue seems definitely out of the way, and I think we may hope that pro- 851 gress may be made both in amalgamation within the industry and in combined effort by the various sections, which, as I have often said in this House, are too divorced in that trade from one another—I mean the manufacturing, the finishing, and the selling sections—to find their way into those markets which are consuming the 4,000,000 or 5,000,000 extra bales of cotton which are being consumed in the world.
In the woollen and worsted trade there was a distinct improvement in the early months of the year, but in the last month a distinct falling off. Here again the possibility of trade disputes has no doubt discouraged orders, and the uncertainty of future wool prices has also been a factor in making people hold hack in the placing of orders, but again in that industry I find—I will just quote this to emphasise what I said about concentration on markets and particularly the South American markets—that the one bright spot in the woollen and worsted trade has been the export to South America of men's goods.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
One thing in Australia has, I gather, been creating uncertainty in the trade, and it is this, that whereas the Australian wool clip used to be sold only during a few months of the year, now that clip is held up and is being sold over longer periods. The result is that people are rather uncertain about wool prices, and I think that the spread of the sales over a longer period is probably having an effect upon prices. It is something to which the trade has, of course, to adjust itself, both on the manufacturing side and on the buying side.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I do not think I can say as yet. There is a very high preference given under that tariff, and I am not sure of the results. A large tariff naturally tends to restrict the entry of goods, but I should not like to give a considered judgment on the measure of that restriction without notice. In the chemical industry steady progress is reported, and the present position of export orders on hand com- 852 pares favourably with previous years. In non-ferrous metals, which are generally a good barometer, the position has become rather stagnant. There have been larger purchases of copper, but probably that is due to a fear of a rise of the American price rather than to the larger volume of trade.
It is not at all easy to give a trade forecast at the moment. No doubt in the last two months there has been some set-back in trade, which appears to be due to a slackening of buying rather than to intensive competition. I think the figures of imports indicate that; and the low freights show, I think, that there is a general sag in trade throughout. It is difficult to assign reasons. In the textile trades, no doubt, there has been a slackening of orders in view of the risk of trade disputes, but the slackening in the last month or so has been more general than that. I think that just as one has to recognise it it would be unwise to exaggerate it, and it is too early to say how the rest of the year will pan out. May exports were about a day under the average of previous months, but the increase in the volume of retained imports of raw materials is a better sign. We have to remember this, that to-day the productive capacity of the world is very large, and where you get a productive capacity, as in the steel industry, enormously increased, an accession of orders is now rapidly filled.
Therefore, I would sum up our position in this way. While progress is certainly being made—all the index figures of production which I have given and the increased number of people in employment to-day show that we have been making progress in the last year—that progress will probably tend to be jerky rather than to go quite steadily forward, and I would venture to draw two lessons from that. If more normal progress is liable to be interrupted by these jerks, it is very important that we should concentrate on those prosperous foreign markets to which I have already referred; and it is even more important that we should, by ready co-operation between buyer and seller, get the largest possible share of our home market for ourselves.
There is no doubt at all that the home market to-day is far more important relatively than it was before the War. 853 Just look at the position. We are exporting less, we are importing a great deal more, and we are producing more, as those index figures and the employment figures show, and the difference of that larger import, that larger production, the balance from that smaller export, is being bought and consumed somewhere. There is only one place where it is being consumed, and that is in the home market, and the purchasing power in the home market is maintained in the most extraordinary way, as is evidenced by the figures of the big stores and of the co-operative societies. Social services help this. We rightly spend enormous sums upon social services, and this must mean the spending of more money across the counter in purchasing goods, and surely it is enormously important that the money the British taxpayer spends should, as far as possible, feed British trade rather than foreign trade. It is desirable in itself, and it leads to less money being required for those services and more money being paid out in trade.
That leads me to say a word or two on the results of two recent Acts. First of all, with regard to the Merchandise Marks Act, the requirement that a British name on British goods should indicate British origin has undoubtedly led to larger purchases of British goods, and the number of applications which have been made for marking orders shows the popularity of the Act and the efficiency of form in which it passed this House. The smoothness of working, the expedition with which the inquiries have been conducted, and the large measure of agreement reached at those inquiries show that that Act, to which this House devoted so much attention, has been giving great help to British manufactures with the very least possible—indeed, with probably no—inconvenience at all to others. I think a tribute is due to the Committee, consisting of Sir Hubert Llewellyn. Smith, Mr. Barnes, and Mr. Davenport, who began their work, I think, in May, 1927. They have already held 31 inquiries; we have had an Order covering eight industries, and there are current Orders covering 12, while 15 more applications have been referred to the Committee. That, I think, shows that that Act has been satisfactory.
854 We are also making an effort to do some more work in connection with standardisation. It will be remembered that the Imperial Conference laid emphasis on the importance of standardisation and of securing common standards and common types throughout the Empire. The British Engineering Standards Association, as far as standardisation goes, is already doing admirable work, and I think it should be in close contact with the Dominion authorities, but more is needed if we are to get simplification of types. That is more novel, but, I think, not less necessary. We are a very individual stic people. Manufacturers like their own types, and many buyers, not least the local authorities, display an extraordinary ingenuity in insisting upon variety of types. We have a very varied export trade, and we are also, of course, a free market. Therefore, it is more difficult here, but not less necessary to try and get economy of production in the simplification of types, and we are making an effort to bring both buyers and sellers together. We have started a Central Committee with all the large manufacturing organisations, with buyers' organisations, with chambers of commerce; and the co-operative societies, I am glad to say, have combined with us. In that way, I hope we shall be able to get an educative force behind a campaign in favour of simplification. But, while that has been done by the Board of Trade and the bodies I have mentioned, the main work must remain with the trades themselves. A start is being made on hollowware and crockery.
I want to add one word about one other Act designed to assist British production and British trade, namely, the Films Act. That Act is undoubtedly already showing itself to be a signal success. Of 932 films registered t p to date, 104 are British. Of the total length registered, over 12 per cent. is British. Take long films alone, which are most important; over 13½ per cent. of the films registered are British films, and that means that, we have more than doubled the number already required for the quota in the first year. There are more than 20 British makers, studios are being built and enlarged, and American distributors are buying for distribution here. But what is most important and what is the 855 real test is not how far we are carrying the distribution of British films in this country, where we are far exceeding the quota, but how far we are carrying the distribution of British films across the world at large, where there is no quota for British films and where they are only going to take them on their merits. I venture to say that I am sure it is the only way of getting quality, and of spreading British films outside. Distributing agencies have been started for distributing British films in Australia and New Zealand. A block of British pictures has been sold to one of the largest American distributing houses for distribution in America. Arrangements have been made between British and German distributing companies for mutual distribution and the distribution of British films in Germany. Arrangements have been made for distribution in France, other European countries, Asia Minor and South America. There is no quota in those countries and British films are making their way into those countries, and are being distributed on their merits, because this House was wise enough to see that they had merits.
In this review I have tried to cover as much of the industries of the country as I can. I admit that there is some slackening at the present moment, but, taking the figures I have given, I think that they show a rather remarkable advance. I am saying nothing polemical, but merely recording the fact, that the unhappy year 1926 was bound to cause a terrible setback, not only while it was taking place, but in the recovery from the aftermath. With that we must all agree, but I think that the advance that we have made in production in 1927 and the early months of this year, in spite of that setback, is a very remarkable record. If our progress in 1927 and in the first months of this year has been somewhat arrested, the more need is there for the combined efforts of all of us, the more need for mutual understanding and goodwill, so that we may in the later months of this year restore and exceed the success which we achieved in the earlier months.
§ Mr. WILLIAM GRAHAM
I am sure the Committee is indebted to the right hon. Gentleman for the very compre- 856 hensive review of our trade position, and the Committee will agree that, rightly regarded, this should be one of the most important Debates of the whole Session on the Estimates, affording an opportunity, as it does, of considering some of the larger problems of trade and industry, and of indulging in all kinds of constructive criticism of the administrative efforts which we should like to see directed to the removal of the deep-seated unemployment of recent years. May I make two preliminary observations of a general character on these Estimates. We approach them at a time when we have still 1,000,000 people out of work, and when the burdens of our National Debt and annual taxation are beginning, so to speak, to settle down into post-War conditions. Notwithstanding all the efforts of recent years, we have made little or no inroad upon aggregate unemployment, and the Committee recognises that a very large amount of industrial skill is running to waste, and that large numbers of young people have come up who have never known in the post-War period a regular occupation. Then, from the purely financial point of view, it is plain that, taking our dead-weight debt at nearly £8,000,000,000, and the stabilised service which has been now introduced, it is very unlikely that this country in the near future will have an annual Budget of much less than £800,000,000, and probably rather more. Only with a more or less dramatic fall in prices will any change be brought about. We have these two things, the dead weight of unemployment, and this national obligation, which immediately face us when we consider these Estimates, and the trade review which they involve.
It is also clear that the statement of the President of the Board of Trade to-day is one of only partial satisfaction. I propose, briefly, to try and state the trade position from another angle. It is sometimes suggested, for example, that the volume of world trade is smaller than it was in pre-War times, and in particular in 1913. That is not so. The most reliable statistics of recent days indicate that the volume of world trade is to-day probably 8 per cent. or 9 per cent. above the volume of 1913, after allowance has been made for an adjustment on 1913 values. The question which immediately concerns us, and which, in fact, is raised in the speech of the President of the 857 Board of Trade, bears on the percentage of that volume of trade, increasing within narrow limits in that way, which Great Britain enjoys. The right hon. Gentleman made that perfectly plain. In 1913, that percentage was about 13.9. A year or two after the War it was 12.9. It fell to 10.6 in 1926, admittedly an exceptional year, and the President of the Board of Trade puts it to-day at about 11 per cent. So that when the necessary adjustment has been made to pre-War values or pre-War prices, we have not regained our proportion of the general export trade of the world, a fact which must have an important bearing upon the condition of employment in this country. May I say, in passing, that we on this side of the Committee do not for a moment under-estimate the importance of the home market. On the contrary, we urge there is room for all kinds of development in the domestic industry of this country, in the cultivation of that market, and in the building up of a far greater economic strength at home. All that is true, but the fact remains that from our geographical position, in view of our financial commitments in the world, and for a variety of other reasons, we depend, and will continue to depend, to a very large extent upon the export trade. A review of this kind is therefore of the highest practical importance, particularly in those heavy industries, with their weight of unemployment, struggling to recover their place in the markets of the world.
With the percentage rather against us at the present time, let us ask ourselves what has happened in the different parts of the world. That seems to me to fall clearly into three parts—the amount and volume of trade which we have in foreign markets, what we are doing within the British Empire itself, and the extent to which we are being displaced in certain parts of the world. So far as foreign markets are concerned, there is not the slightest doubt that, taking the situation generally, America is in a position of advantage in existing conditions. That is clearly illustrated by two charts which have been prepared, indicating the comparative position of the United States of America and of Great Britain in the important markets of South America, and in China and Japan. If a strict com- 858 parison be made of two very important parts of the world, it will be seen from that chart that, taking 1913 down to 1926, the position of America and Great Britain has been almost exactly reversed. In other words, America has gained in those markets the position which we enjoyed in 1913.
In the next place, there is not the slightest doubt that America has made substantial progress, if within narrower limits, on the Continent of Europe—a progress which has been assisted to an appreciable extent by the manner in which in recent years, and under post-War conditions, America has penetrated the European financial system. Then again—and this raises a very important issue—America has undoubtedly made progress in the British Empire itself. Our proportion of imports within the Empire is about 40 per cent., and it is, of course, true that we are maintaining our position, and that we have still a strong position within the Empire, as compared with the comparative weakening in other parts of the world. But the fact remains that, in parts of the Empire like Australia and Canada, America is making undeniable progress. No one who has studied Canadian financial conditions, and the manner in which the United States has followed her financial contributions by appeals for orders in recent years, will take other than this view, that an important and even serious situation in Canada is developing for Great Britain. You have, therefore, a first-class issue within the realm of what are called Imperial economics. To an appreciable extent that is also true of Australia; the success of America in the motor car industry in the Australian market is of very great importance. That is the situation as I see it in rough outline for the purposes of this Debate, and it indicates exactly how the percentage has fallen in the foreign markets, while we are in danger of losing the comparative strength of recent years in certain parts of the Empire.
When we come to the further analysis of the situation, we have at our disposal a wealth of material. We on this side of the House will never cease to be justly proud of the fact that it was the Prime Minister of the Government of 859 1924, on the recommendation of the then President of the Board of Trade, who appointed the Balfour Committee, six of whose reports on a wide variety of industrial and commercial conditions are now at the disposal of hon. Members of this House. Side by side with that information, we have a vast mass of material, which has been submitted within recent times, on the economic side of the League of Nations, and we have a great deal of other matter which has been considered by representative conferences, particularly during the post-War period. Taking the analysis of the first report of the Balfour Committee, because it undoubtedly contains material of great constructive importance, we find that, first of all, they direct attention to the growing and very great difficulty which has emerged from the paralysis or the weakness of certain markets which we formerly enjoyed. In that connection, they undoubtedly have in mind the Continent of Europe.
Take the economic conditions in Europe during and after the War. It was on Europe that the great burden of war expenditure and war exhaustion fell; it was in Europe after the War that we had all that dislocation of the exchanges, the distraction of industry, the erection of new Customs barriers, the establishment of all kinds of restrictions based upon a futile and useless, as I regard it, self-sufficiency in a matter of this kind. To-day, at a distance of ten years from the Armistice, we begin to be able to see that Europe is being adjusted in terms of the great changes brought about by the War. Germany has not made the same advance as certain other countries, from some points of view, but it is a noteworthy fact that the German rate of recovery has just moved slightly ahead of that of Great Britain, a factor which I regard as of great significance in existing conditions. Because of our geographical position we must always appeal to the European market, and accordingly it is a fair question to ask the Board of Trade what it is doing, so far as administrative action is possible, to hasten European recovery.
When we pass beyond that, the next point taken by the Balfour Committee as regards the change in the course of trade was the growth of industries in certain 860 parts of the world which formerly were largely concentrated in Great Britain, or industries in which, at all events, we were in a strong position to compete in the world markets. That revolution or change has been very much greater than we commonly imagine. A recent statement indicated that the industrial productivity or industrial capacity of the Argentine is three or four times what it was in 1913, and while it is true that Great Britain has made a certain advance in the Argentine market and in South America within recent times, the President of the Board of Trade ought undoubtedly to have qualified the observation he made by referring to the change in the respective positions of the United States and of Great Britain in that market. In the next place, we are all familiar with the great -development of industry in India, more particularly the cotton and other textile industries. In countries like India, Brazil and the Argentine there has been a large scale development of these factories, leading to the very serious question whether under the best conditions we in Great Britain are likely to recover to the full extent the markets we formerly enjoyed there.
At this stage, a more important consideration emerges, What contribution are we to make within the British Empire itself? I have already recalled that we enjoy a large percentage of Empire trade, but I have indicated that in some ways that percentage is weakening, particularly as a result of American competition in some quarters. I am speaking here purely from an economic point of view, and not from party considerations. It is suggested that there is some kind of antithesis or bed rock competition between Imperial and international trade. I do not regard that as a correct view of the situation. We have no immediate and practical jurisdiction within the foreign countries of the world, but we have a very large range of influence within the Empire itself, and, irrespective of party, one fact stands out, namely, that much of the most valuable untilled territory for the purposes of economic progress lies within the British Empire. Therefore, it is the plain duty of all who are interested in economic progress to see that that territory is developed and cultivated on sound and humane lines with the least 861 possible delay. Such a development would be a starting point for a more effective appeal in what, for the purposes of this Debate, I will call the foreign market, or the ordinary international sphere. On that point there is now a mass of evidence accumulating on that point which I should like to see more closely studied by all sections of industry and commerce in this country.
May I now turn to the purely domestic aspect of the case of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon? All these things as to the development of trade within the Empire and in the international sphere may be perfectly true, but what are we doing within Great Britain to make the structure of our industry more efficient and to bring it into line with the undeniable changes in other countries in the world and into keeping with the enormously increased public and other burdens which we have to carry in post-War conditions? The President of the Board of Trade indicated that he was a believer in the extension of the combine, the syndicate and the trust. In two of the volumes of the Balfour Committee's Reports we have abundant material on that point. Within the limits of this Debate one cannot make any reference to legislation, but one can certainly state a number of the facts which emerge from these reports and refer to the possibility of certain administrative action. Broadly speaking, the vertical and the horizontal trusts have both made considerable progress in Great Britain. These reports point to certain industries in which they are getting down, by one stage after another, to the ownership or control of the raw material itself, and they are adding to that very great distributive power in the market.
It may be perfectly true that there are only a limited number of industries in which that vertical progress, coupled with the power of distribution, in which there is no real competition, is complete, but the number of industries in that position is tending to grow. Side by side with that there are innumerable "gentlemen's agreements," pooling arrangements, price associations, organisations for the regulation of output, and a great number of other real and definite bargains of a more or less permanent character, together with many terminating or shorter-period associations. The 862 President of the Board of Trade so far agrees with us in welcoming a development of that kind. Unfortunately, we are precluded this afternoon by the Rules of the House from stating what we believe to be the inevitable result of the process and what we regard as the inevitable solution, but taking the situation as it is there is this growth of agreements and syndicates and combines and trusts, and the question arises as to whether the mass of the people at home and the service of our Imperial and international trade are getting the benefit of these changes. It is rather remarkable that they should be Welcomed by many hon. Members on the other side of the House, because those reports prove that in the great majority of cases the combines have been formed, or the agreements, for the express purpose of getting rid of competitions in existing conditions. No doubt a stimulus was provided by the changes which have come about following the War, and by the burden of taxation and the rest, but in the main they appreciate the futility of continuing any longer their competition either within home markets or in markets outside.
We are so far on our way; but there is a certain danger for the mass of the people which cannot be overlooked. If hon. Members add up all these agreements and these combinations of recent years, surely it is fair to suggest, even making allowance for the industrial depression, that the advantages of the resulting economies should be much more conspicuous in our price level in Great Britain than they are. I do not see the price level falling to any appreciable extent, and I rather think it is true, as is argued by certain schools of economic thought, that the advantages and the benefits of this form of combination are tending to flow mainly to the people who are in power or in control, and are not passing out to the millions of British consumers, and I am not sure that the advantages are being expressed to the full extent in our competition with other countries in which somewhat similar industrial reorganisation has taken place. Beyond all question, certain of these combinations have a definitely restrictive character in their effect upon the mass of the people.
I will take two illustrations at the present day. Both of them are quoted 863 in the Balfour Committee's Report. There is the Proprietary Article Trades Association, on the one hand, and the British United Shoe Machinery Company on the other. Remember that the object of industry acting along these lines, according to the views of hon. Members opposite, should be the definite service of the consumer. But as regards probably 5,000 articles coming within the first scheme there is a definite arrangement which prohibits the supply of these articles to retailers unless they are prepared to sell them at a certain price. In point of fact, any retailer who does not agree to those terms will not be able to obtain his supplies. In the case of the British United Shoe Machinery Company there is an agreement or an arrangement in the boot manufacturing trade in Great Britain under which, for all practical purposes, there is a prohibition on the introduction of other and, for all I know, probably better machinery. That operates over a large part of that industry. The rules and the regulations of the organisation make the introduction of other machinery—it is leased to the manufacturers—virtually impossible.
This action has been raised administratively with the Board of Trade within recent times. It raises a fundamental question of law and economic practice in this country. Some of us on this side of the Committee have taken up the question with the Board of Trade and they suggest—I mention this only in passing—that they have no legislative power of an anti-trust character to deal with the problem. But let us look at the purely administrative side. The real contest is between sanctity of contract, between these people and the people who have made a bargain with them on the one hand and an act which many of us would describe as in restraint of trade on the other. Apparently the tendency in many quarters is to lean rather to the sanctity of contract. I am the last to dispute that the trust movement and combinations must proceed in Great Britain. For my part, looking to the ultimate solution, I want them to go on and to make all the progress they can, but as an immediate duty what does the Board of Trade propose to do in an issue of that kind? After all, there are certain administrative powers, and there is some kind of influence which the Gov- 864 ernment short of legislation can exercise where trade is being definitely restricted by the existence of a device of that character.
One word more on the general position of this world development. In Great Britain we are in rather a different position from the United States and Germany. The Balfour Committee points out that the United States has tended in legislation to take up a line hostile to the trusts, whereas in Germany the tendency has been rather to give that development a form of State assistance. The British attitude has been different. We have not had the development of the trust and the combine to anything like the same extent, and, accordingly, we have watched the process more as spectator without any kind of legislation or other interference with trade. Therefore, we have to depend upon the administrative efforts of the Board of Trade in regard to such parts of the problem as they can touch. I think the Government and the Board of Trade are open to the criticism that if they want to secure better organisation and to use our administrative machinery in the interest of the unemployed, the Board should give more direction and leadership in rationalisation than it is giving at the present time. One of the tragedies of the present situation is that we get all these reports, books, and documents dealing with overseas trade and they do not seem to reach more than a small fraction of the parties interested in trade; nor do they seem to be run for all they are worth administratively by the Government.
I would now like to say one or two words of a general character. I do not think that there is any reason in the world why any of us at the moment should give way to despair regarding the prospects of British trade. After all, what is to be the real test in the near future in regard to the distribution of the world's commerce? We cannot consider the speech of the President of the Board of Trade this afternoon without thinking of the broad proposition that to a very large extent the contest is going to lie between ourselves and the United States. Germany is coming up to an appreciable extent, but at the moment the two countries which figure 865 at the head of these tables are the United States, which is now enjoying the first place in the world's commerce, and this country. The only prospect according to certain schools is an undeniable competition with some kind of feeling that good will ultimately result. I cannot regard that as a likely development. It is true that if the United States had used its very great gold power within recent times it might have made a greater inroad in certain markets of the world. The policy adopted by the United States has tended to sterilise that gold; in fact, they have pursued a somewhat cautious policy. This test still remains in certain schools of thought.
I believe the correct answer to this problem has been given by Mr. George Peel in his book on "The Economic Impact of America," in which there is a careful analysis of America's position in the world's commerce. It deals specially with the position of men and women who are unemployed in Great Britain. We should regard The United States of America—and in this view there is the co-operation of at least a section of American opinion—as largely trustee and steward in the interests of world recovery and especially of European recovery. As applied to America it may be suggested that that is an economic ideal. I think the time is coming when the importance of American and European co-operation will be far more pronounced and far clearer than it is under existing conditions. Mr. Peel's conclusion was not one of impact but of compact. So far as we can encourage that spirit under the administration of the Board of Trade, I believe we are rendering a great service to world restoration, because we are bringing the undeniable strength and prosperity of the new world to the happiness and the prosperity of the war-exhausted old world.
§ Mr. RAMSDEN
I should like to call attention to the procedure which is followed with regard to the Safeguarding of Industries. I think it is generally agreed, by those who have had any experience of safeguarding, that the present procedure is far too cumbersome. If there had been any doubt about this, it must have been removed by a number of recent reports dealing with certain 866 industries which have been examined by Committees appointed by the Board of Trade. I should like to make it clear that in the remarks I am making I am not criticising the personnel of the Committees so much as the methods by which they have to do their work. Their hands are tied by the rules and regulations laid down for them by the Board of Trade. These reports show that the tests laid down by these rules and regulations make it very difficult for any industry to get through them. One of the recent reports referred to the application made by the granite industry, which has failed because that industry has been unable to satisfy the first test laid down by the Board of Trade with regard to the size and importance of the industry. That is one test which I feel very strongly should have no place whatsæver in any examination of this kind. After all, the size and importance of any industry seems to me to be a very unfair way of judging whether it should be safeguarded or not. If we allow an industry to be completely swept away by foreign competition, then, naturally, one is left with an industry which is of no importance whatever to this country. If this is going to be maintained as one of the tests, and if we are going to allow industries to be destroyed by foreign competition, it is certain that, if this process is continued long enough, none of those industries will be able to overcome Test No. 1.
The granite industry was not considered to be of sufficient importance to be allowed to come in. I grant that this industry is not a very important one compared with many other larger industries, but, from the Report issued by the Committee, I find that 650 more workpeople would have been employed if some means had been adopted to keep out the foreign goods which at present are allowed to come into this country. The state of the labour market, and the large number of unemployed that we still have in this country, makes it important that we should consider the claim even of an industry of this kind. After all, 650 additional workers at £3 a week which is given in the Report as the average wage of those employed in this industry, makes a difference of just under £100,000 a year in wages. 867 This sum which at the present moment is being paid to the foreigner, could very well have been paid to our own people, thus providing work and wages for our own workers. There is another report of a Committee which again goes to show how impracticable and unfair are the tests which the Committees have to apply—I refer to the Report of the Hosiery Committee. Here it was found that the applicant industry was one of substantial importance, and that it was effectively run.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; Committee counted, and, 40 Members being present—
§ Mr. RAMSDEN
it was decided by this Committee that the hosiery trade was one of importance, and, as far as cotton hosiery and underwear were concerned, it was found that similar goods were being imported in abnormal quantities into this country, and that the wages paid abroad for the manufacture of those goods were much lower than the wages paid for the manufacture of similar goods in this country. In the next place, it was shown that these goods were being sold at such a price that our manufacturers were not able to compete with them, and yet the Committee reported thatEmployment in the manufacture or production of the goods to which the application relates is not at present being seriously affected, nor was sufficient evidence put before us to satisfy us that serious unemployment was likely to arise in the future.In view of the decision at which they had arrived with regard to the quantity of goods imported, the wages paid, and also the efficiency and importance of the industry, it does appear to me very curious indeed that they were not able to recommend that this industry should be safeguarded. All the more is that so when we find that, as far as cotton hosiery is concerned, according to the evidence given before this Committee, in the year 1927, 3,270,566 dozen pairs of cotton hose were imported, of a value of £1,278,983. The rules to which the Committee have to work are certainly very difficult, but it does look as though in this case they had made them still more severe.
Before I finish referring to particular instances, I should like to quote also the 868 Committee that inquired into an application made by the manufacturers of buttons, hooks and eyes, and snap fasteners. That Committee decided that in one of these cases, namely, that of buttons, they could make a recommendation urging that a duty should be applied. I suppose we ought to congratulate ourselves upon this fact. As regards the other industries that applied, the Committee decided that they could make no recommendation. Here, again, I should like to point out that in this case—I quote the words of the Report—The Committee think that wages are so different in the main competing countries from those which are enforced by a trade board in this country as to render the competition unfair.Nevertheless, in that case again, as the applicants failed to satisfy the other tests, they were turned down. Many other instances could be given of the effect of the rules laid down in Command Paper 2327. If further proof be required, one only needs to observe the small number of industries that have managed, first of all, to establish a prima facie case before the Board of Trade, and, secondly, have been able to obtain recommendations from a Committee. The fact is that industries are now becoming afraid to apply. The chances of success are so small under present conditions, and the expense involved in going before a Committee is so great, that they do not feel that they are justified in applying for safeguarding, although they realise that it would help the industry very much, and would also provide a considerable amount of employment.
There is another thing to which I should like to refer in connection with these inquiries, and that is that very frequently the fact that an applicant industry is carrying on an export trade seems to be one of the reasons, if the export trade is of any importance, for not granting safeguarding. I am very much afraid that the committees do not inquire into the destination of the exports that leave this country. I think that in every case they should do so, because I believe that, in certain industries, it is easier for manufacturers to sell their goods in one of our Dominions or Colonies where preference is given to them than it is in this market, which is unsheltered. Therefore, in estimating the value of the exports and deciding 869 what relation they bear to the imports, I think that every committee should consider very carefully in what countries the exports are sold.
I should like to recommend every Member of the House to try to attend some of these inquiries held by safeguarding committees. I believe that, if they did, they would be considerably surprised, and that they might at the same time receive rather a severe shock. I had the opportunity of attending such an inquiry some time ago. I found that the people there who were opposing the application were typical of those who are to be found at every such inquiry. Those who were opposing the application seemed to consist of merchants, importers and agents who earned their livelihood by selling foreign goods in this country. I am certain that in no other country in the world could such a situation be found, nor would any other country in the world tolerate that, when people were trying to improve their industry and provide more employment for their own people, the opposition should in the main come from foreigners, or representatives of foreign firms, or those interested in the sale of such goods. In every case it will be found, on going through the list of witnesses and opponents of the application, that there were present persons who were really representing not British, but foreign interests.
I desire to plead for simplicity in the rules and regulations which apply to safeguarding. I quite realise that the Government must keep the pledges which they have made, but, if they cannot decide to alter them during the lifetime of the present Parliament, I sincerely hope that it will be possible for them in the near future to announce that they will ask the country for powers to deal with this matter on a larger and wider basis after the next General Election. I am certain that it will be very easy to do this, and that the present very cumbersome tests could be easily replaced by two which would cover everything of importance that is contained in Command Paper 2327. The two tests which I would suggest, and which I regard as of equal importance, are, first, whether the application of safeguarding would provide more employment in the industry; and, second—and, as I have said, I consider this of equal im- 870 portance—whether it would adversely and seriously affect employment in any other industry. If the first of these tests could be replied to in the affirmative and the second in the negative, there is not the slightest doubt that safeguarding could be safely granted to the applicant industry. This matter is of the very greatest importance, and I hope that the Government will make their policy with regard to it known as soon as they possibly can.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I do not propose to take up much of the time of the Committee, and, as a matter of fact, at one time I was almost persuaded to say nothing at all, but the right hon. Gentle-made what was in my opinion one very serious omission in his otherwise very lucid and instructive speech. Figures are always correct in themselves as such, but it depends entirely upon who uses them. I can congratulate the President of the Board of Trade upon his consummate skill in proving by figures that trade is flourishing when it was never in a worse plight. It is very significant that in his speech he omitted to refer to one of our greatest industries, namely, shipping—
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Herbert Williams)
My right hon. Friend certainly pointed out the low level of shipping freights.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
—I am not referring to freights so much as to the volume of cargoes. The right hon. Gentleman omitted to mention that shipping to-day is not suffering so much from low freights as from lack of cargoes; on that point he did not say a single word. As my hon. Friend who is now in charge on the Government Bench knows quite well, there are two classes of shipping, namely, the tramp ship and the liner. The prosperity or otherwise of the tramp ship is the first indication in the barometer of trade. The tramp ship is the first to feel an approaching slump, and it is also the first to realise a rise in trade. I am sorry to have to say, as a shipowner and as one closely interested in trade, that there is no sign of any such rise to-day. Since the slump after the War, there has never been such a serious state of affairs in the shipping industry as that which exists to-day. Tramp tonnage is lying up in all the ports of our country, 871 and there is unemployment consequent upon that, but, apart from that, the fact that these ships are laid up is an indication that there is no foreign trade moving, and yet the right hon. Gentleman comes down with his figures showing that things are booming, that exports are exceeding imports year by year. One would think, from what he says, that we are living in a veritable El Dorado. Although we have 1,100,000 unemployed in the land to-day, and although we have shipping laid up and congesting our ports, he still comes down to the House perfectly happy and contented, saying, "See what a wonderful prosperous country we are."
Really, the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues in the Government must get down to brass tacks; they must find out what the trouble is. It is no use coming here with figures and trying to prove something which does not exist. The fact is that the trade of this country has never been in such a bad state as that in which it is to-day. I am an optimist by nature. Every Celt is an optimist. The hon. Gentleman is a Celt, and I suppose that that is why he exerts such a great influence in making his right hon. Friend so optimistic. But really, in business, we cannot afford to let our imagination go; we must come down to actualities; and the actuality to-day is that this country is going from bad to worse, and the sooner we realise it, and endeavour to find out where the trouble lies, the better I think it is not out of place to suggest to my hon. Friend that a Committee of Inquiry should be instituted.
How is it to-day that those ships which are sailing the seas, when they come to pass their periodical survey, as they have to do every four years, they have, if they are in a British port, to leave that British port from sheer necessity. It is not for the love of shifting, because shifting costs money, but from sheer necessity they have to be taken to Rotterdam and Antwerp to get the necessary repairs done in order that they may pass survey. Shipowners have to live, and they have to repair their ships and pass survey in the cheapest port. There is something radically wrong with costs in this country to-day. To give an instance, let me take the Port of London. For a 7,000-tonner it will cost, in the Port of London, £1,500 872 or thereabouts—my hon. Friend will correct me if I am wrong—to discharge a cargo; but that same cargo from a similar sized ship can be discharged at Antwerp or Rotterdam for £500. [Interruption.] The hon. Member must join the Committee of Inquiry which I am suggesting. There are certainly reasons for the high costs which prevail in this country, and which are operating against every branch of our trade, and I would suggest once again to my hon. Friend that, instead of coming here with figures which really do not demonstrate the position of our trade to-day, the Government should hold an inquiry and investigate the causes of the high costs of production and operating, and should try to diagnose the disease. Let us find out what it is that is operating against this country and in favour of Continental trade. I have an office at Antwerp; I employ many men there. There is not a man or woman unemployed in Belgium to-day—and this is the ironical part of it. Belgium to-day has her franc stabilised. She got into that happy position by British credit, and from a business point of view she is in a happier position than we are. That is a matter that this Government should inquire into very carefully. The same thing applies to many other Continental countries. There is no unemployment in Holland. Every shipbuilding yard there is full of orders for the next four years. What about this country? There is not a shipbuilding yard which could not lay down a ship, if not more than one ship. Why do these things exist? There is a good reason for inquiry, and I submit that the hon. Gentleman should bring it to the serious notice of the President.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am afraid the hon. Baronet has allowed his own very unfortunate experience in using figures to warp his mind altogether. Not very long ago, he said the losses of the Scottish herring industry, owing to the absence of the Russian market, exceeded £1,000,000. I am afraid the devastating criticism of his statement on that occasion has succeeded in making him mistrust figures generally.
§ Sir R. THOMAS
I admitted at the time that I was not an expert, but I also said I depended for my information on 873 someone else, who unfortunately misled me. In regard to this matter I am in the business.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I was only pointing out that I was afraid the hon. Baronet's unfortunate experience on that occasion had allowed his mind to become prejudiced against figures as such. Perhaps in the future he will become reconciled to the judicious use of figures. We have listened to-day to two very interesting speeches, an analysis by the President of the Board of Trade, very cogent, clear and comprehensive, of the general trade condition and the position in which the country finds itself, and a speech from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham), as usual of extraordinary lucidity and very great interest. I do not think there is any cause for great discouragement about the trade position of the country to-day for two reasons. First of all, I do not think it is generally recognised to what an extent we are—what I may perhaps describe as a "rentier" nation, living to a certain extent upon the proceeds of profitable investments made abroad. Our accumulated foreign investments, which have not substantially diminished as compared with pre-War days, enable us to maintain a very large excess of visible imports over exports. A great many of these imports are due to us as interest on our foreign investments. Our foreign investments are colossal. That a cause of satisfaction, and it is a cause of particular satisfaction that they are not substantially less to-day than they were in 1914. A large part of our pre-War exports were not required to pay far imports, and therefore represented fresh foreign investments. Accordingly, if at any time our exports were to fall off to an alarming extent, we could retrieve the situation temporarily, without a serious outflow of gold, by slightly modifying the extent of our foreign investments. That, I think, should be a source of satisfaction to us, and our position as the second largest investor abroad of any nation in the world should cause us still more satisfaction.
The second cause for satisfaction which seems to me to present itself is the great and increasing prosperity of very many of what I may call our lighter and more technical industries. You get to-day in the distributing trades, and also in such 874 industries as artificial silk, the gramophone industry, the motor-car industry and the higher and more technical forms of electrical engineering, a very great degree of prosperity, showing enterprise and skill on the part of the manufacturers of those commodities, and I believe in the course of the next 10 or 15 years the manufacture of those commodities will develop enormously and that those classes of industry will absorb an even greater number of our people into employment. I am not going into the question of shipping at the moment, because I believe that depends on the general state of our export trade, but the only cause for real anxiety with regard to the internal economic position of the country is the position of our heavy industries, coal, iron and steel, and cotton being those principally affected. I have always held, and I hold now, that the most urgent requirement of modern times is the reconstruction, or as some will have it, the "rationalisation" of our heavy industries, and I should like to say how much I, and many of us on this side, and perhaps some on all sides of the House, agree with what was said by the President of the Board of Trade, when he welcomed the tendency towards combination and amalgamation in the heavy industries. I think he was right when he challenged the Labour party to clarify its attitude on this question, because I have heard over and over again speeches from the Opposition Benches advocating and supporting the idea of a reconstruction of our heavy industries by means of amalgamation on a large scale, and "rationalisation," and then, on the very next clay, I have heard hostile questions, to the Minister of Mines for example, with regard to amalgamations that have taken place in the coal industry.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Surely the hon. Member does not compare the two-county or five-county scheme for selling coal with the suggestion made by the right hon. Gentleman to-day? What the right hon. Gentleman suggests is that the whole of the steel producers ought to amalgamate into one concern for selling purposes, and have you not a dozen county schemes operating?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
My answer to that would, of course, be that the iron industry, and I think also the coal industry, 875 ought to have one single agency for exporting, but you cannot do it in one jump. You have to go stage by stage. You have to set it up from the beginning. I suppose the highest developed form of organisation in the coal industry is the Rhenish-Westphalian Coal Syndicate. They started to do that in the last century. They began tinkering with the organisation about 1896. It took then 15 or 16 years to develop anything like the modern organisation, and, even so, in the course of the last two or three years they have been able to improve it out of all recognition. I do not believe you can do these things in one jump. I welcome the five-county scheme, and still more the Scottish scheme, which seems to me to be based on more scientific and better lines. I should welcome any scheme upon a district basis, because I believe you must get these schemes into full operation and working well before you can hope to get on to a national basis. It is only by the proper organisation of the coal industry, district by district first of all, that you can ever hope to get it on to a national basis for selling purposes later on. You must do it step by step.
For that reason, I welcome most cordially all the developments that have taken place in the coal industry during the last 18 months. They are fraught with great possibilities for the future of the country, and if the hon. Member would really study the Scottish scheme, he would find in it, if he allowed himself to approach it with an open mind, a great deal of which he could whole-heartedly approve. I think hon. Members' minds are prejudiced because they are made anxious by the number of men who are thrown out of employment as each successive wave of amalgamation which involves the scrapping of uneconomic pits takes place. It is natural that those who represent mining districts should be anxious, but there are some of us who believe the mining industry cannot support more than about 900,000 men, and at present it contains about 1,200,000. That being the case, though we should like, if possible, to see provision made for those who are thrown out of the industry, we must recognise that there are a number of men for whom no employment is available in the industry at 876 a decent wage. But I think the President is quite right in appealing to hon. Members opposite to make up their minds on which horse they are going to gallop. Are they going to gallop on the amalgamation, nationalisation, combination horse, or the anti-trust horse, because they cannot have it both ways. I have no doubt which horse I am going to choose, and have chosen for some time past.
I should like to say a word or two as to the actual position of trusts and amalgamations. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh talked about the sanctity of contract as opposed to restraint of trade. The legal position with regard to amalgamation is very peculiar. I believe the speech of the President of the Board of Trade in itself would be sufficient to cause a Judge of the High Court to alter his mind if a case were now to be brought before him. There have been some amazingly contradictory judgments given in the High Court on this question the last few years. Some amalgamations have been held quite arbitrarily by the High Court Judges to be in restraint of trade, and I believe there was a judgment of Mr. Justice Eve some time ago, in which he quite expressly laid down that any large combination must be in restraint of trade. There have been other judgments of the High Court which have held that the contract had to be upheld, and there was no question of restraint whatever. From that point of view the right hon. Gentleman's speech in itself may have made a difference. The position is anomalous, and it ought to be cleared up. We have in the last two or three years passed Acts of Parliament to prohibit the banks from amalgamating, to force railways to amalgamate, and to enable mines to amalgamate. It is a very peculiar position, and I think the President of the Board of Trade, having gone so far, having so nobly expressed himself in favour of the idea of amalgamations and combinations, ought to give his mind still further to this matter, and endeavour, if he can, to clear up the position satisfactorily from the point of view of all concerned. At any rate, I do hope we shall not, in the future, go in for any antitrust agitation such as has gone on in the United States, as I believe that the 877 course which has been pursued in Germany of assisting and enabling in every possible way these amalgamations to become more efficient has proved more profitable from a practical point of view.
There is only one other point I would like to make at this stage, and it is this. There is a great difference between amalgamation in the heavy industries and amalgamation in the light industries. The heavy industries—I refer to coal, iron and steel particularly—may be said at the present time to have a potential production in excess of demand. That is not the case in the lighter and more technical industries. When you get that situation obtaining it means that your demand is more or less estimable, and therefore you are, or should be, enabled to stabilise more or less both the production and the price of the commodity in question. The significant thing about the position of our country to-day is that we are making by far the greatest progress in amalgamation—in rationalisation if you like—and with astonishingly successful results in the lighter industries, in the cotton trade, in silk, and in jute. I could quote at least half-a-dozen others to show that we have made the greatest possible progress in those industries where it is not so urgently required. It is in those industries which, in my opinion, require amalgamation most urgently that we have been delayed and tend to lag behind. What has been the cause of this? I believe that the causes are two or three, of which over-capitalisation is one.
§ Mr. AUSTIN HOPKINSON
Has my hon. Friend noticed the fact that in this country over-capitalisation is almost the invariable accompaniment of amalgamation?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
On that point I cannot agree with my hon. Friend. I do not think that is the case. I do not think, for example, that Imperial Chemicals to-day is over-capitalised.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I am equally certain that there are a great number of cotton mills in Lancashire to-day, and also a great many small colliery companies, which are enormously over-capitalised, which on the present basis, will not be 878 able to get going again. In the cotton, coal and iron and steel industries there are many firms in this condition, as a result of the riot of 1920, and the sooner they make up their minds, and the sooner the banks make up their minds, that their capital has got to be written down, practically to scratch, the better.
§ Mr. HOPKINSON
May I call my hon. Friend's attention to the cotton trade where one of the biggest amalgamations has just reduced its capital most drastically to avoid bankruptcy?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
That seems to be another argument in favour of large amalgamations as against small firms.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
It seems to me that if we car put our industries upon a really sound financial basis it is bound to increase the trade and prosperity of this country in future. But if the hon. Baronet seriously contends that you can properly, with advantage to the nation and the country as a whole, continue upon a false financial basis of over-capitalistion, and allow all our industries to remain with capital quoted far above its real value, I can only say that I profoundly disagree with him. I think there is another cause. I believe that the attitude of the banks has to a certain extent been to blame in this matter during the last three or four years. The Prime Minister indicated in that very remarkable and I think a very courageous speech that he made to the cotton spinners at Manchester that it might be a good thing for the banks to agree that they themselves will have to bear a small portion at any rate of the loss. I think that the banks will have to make up their minds to do that. I think that the banks are keeping afloat far too many "dud" companies at the present time, which will require to be drastically reorganised or else go under. The sooner the Joint Stock Banks make up their minds on this point, and the more pressure the Board of Trade can bring to bear on them, the better.
Lastly, I think that the natural and very admirable conservatism and independence of some of our manufacturers has been the cause of our failure in some 879 cases to make such progress in the reorganisation and reconstruction of our heavy industries as has been made in other countries, particularly in the United States and in Germany. It is particularly noticeable that the coal-owners find it very difficult to arrive at the agreement which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) was advocating. But at the same time I do not believe that it is beyond the bounds of possibility. I believe that for the first time, to a large extent owing to speeches and efforts of the Prime Minister, there is in these particular industries, and amongst those who run them, a growing realisation of the necessity for reconstruction and amalgamation on the widest possible scale.
I would like to revert for a moment to the conditions which obtain in Germany at the present time. The late Mr. Walter Rathenau is the man who was more responsible for the reconstruction of modern German industry than anyone. He summed up the objective of modern industrial organisation in a single sentence. He said that it was the scientific concentration of firms within one industry for the execution of common functions by means of a central and independent executive without—and I would draw the attention of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Edinburgh to this final sentence—in any way impinging upon the principle of private ownership. That was the conception of the late Mr. Walter Rathenau, and he carried his conception into force and into practice with very remarkable and astonishing results. The rationalisation of German industry, and the formation of the central executives, had a profound and beneficial effect both upon the development of industry in Germany and the relations of those engaged in it. A Trade Survey Institute was set up about the same time, to supply information to German industrialists, a very large and comprehensive scheme of export credits was instituted, and freight reductions were introduced on the lines indicated by the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his Budget speech. Central advisory industrial councils were also set up, and in this respect I think we may be permitted 880 to hope for something to emerge from what has become known as the Mond Industrial Conference.
I am perfectly certain that these central industrial advisory councils set up by industries in Germany have been of immense benefit not only in the development of German industry as such, but in the development of better relations between those engaged in the industry, and, finally, immense power plants were set up district by district long before our Electricity Bill was even thought of. So you may say they have developed a national system without the clogging and cloying hindrance of national ownership. You see the result of these developments in Germany, a large part of which took place within a period of nine months between 1923 and 1924. The output of pig-iron increased from 4,936,000 tons in 1923 to 7,812,000 tons in 1924. The output of steel ingots increased from 6,305,000 tons to 9,836,000 tons and finished steel products increased from 5,486,000 tons to 8,174,000. That is the result obtained within a year of putting these methods and these ideas into practice.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
All these increases took place after the French evacuated the Ruhr. Not only did the increases take place, but there was in process of reorganisation and reconstruction the whole of the Ruhr Valley during that particular period. There is only one other point I should like to mention, and that is the necessity for securing adequate information and statistics for our industrialists and traders. Unfortunately, at the present time in this respect we are very far behind the United States of America. Here is a matter which directly concerns the administrative staff of the Board of Trade, and I would like to direct the urgent attention of the Parliamentary Secretary to it. I would like to refer him for a moment to one or two sayings of Mr. Hoover in the United States. Mr. Hoover took office as Secretary of Commerce in the United States with the observation that a remarkable transformation of the whole super-organisation of their economic life was in progress, and he set himself, from the very outset, to direct the course of industry and trade in the United States 881 with astonishing results, as I am sure my hon. Friend will agree. Statistics, the like of which have never been seen before and which indeed are unknown in this country or in any European country, have been pumped out by Mr. Hoover under this system to traders, merchants and industrialists all over the United States—weekly, monthly, bi-annually and yearly, collected by his agents not only over the United States of America, but over the whole world, and made available at the public expense for every single industrialist and trader who cares to avail himself of the information they contain.
His example has been followed by many traders and industrial institutions and firms all over the United States. You have not only got a magnificent statistical system in the Department of Commerce there, but that example has been taken up. Take the case of the Stock Exchange. The information furnished by the New York Stock Exchange upon every single company and of the affairs of every single company operating in the United States far exceeds the information available on the London Stock Exchange. If any hon. Gentleman cares to compare the statistics of the detailed information which any member of the New York Stock Exchange can get about any single company in the world, including our own companies, he will find they are far clearer, fuller and more up-to-date than the information published in cur Stock Exchange guides. I merely instance that as an example of how private enterprise and industry can go on and develop as a result of the example such as that set by Mr. Hoover. I must quote, for the edification of the hon. Gentleman, a short paragraph from an article which appeared in the "Times" a few weeks ago upon this very subject, and upon the subject of Mr. Hoover. When Mr. Hoover took office, this article said:An appalling waste was going on. One industry was making 66 varieties of paving bricks, of which a bare half-dozen accounted for five-sixths of its annual turnover—now there are four. So it was with ironmongery, shoes, ploughs, timber, textiles, bath-room and electric fixtures, and many more. By the standardising of commodities the utilisation of waste products, the minimising of business abuses, the development of new products, and in a score of other ways a saving to industry and the nation impossible to calculate has been made. And this is only the beginning of the tale of the achievements of one extraordinary man, 882 guiding and inspiring the work of as alert and able a body of specialists as perhaps has even been gathered together.I want to see my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade develop into the Mr. Hoover of Great Britain. I believe that he has it in him to do that. Let him concentrate upon what Mr. Hoover has actually done. Let him concentrate upon that article in the "Times." Let him really set his mind up in supplying our traders and industrialists and merchants, and, above all, our bankers, with that information which Mr. Hoover supplies in the United States. Let him get a move on. I understand that he is presiding over a Committee on standardisation. That is one of the first essentials at the present time, and it affords a great opportunity for him to begin a work which will make his name and fame re-echo through the twentieth century.
What about the immediate future development of trade and industry in this country? I believe that any rationalisation upon a large scale in this country, such as is in process of coming about at the present time, will inevitably be followed by international agreements upon a fairly large scale. I have spoken on this subject in the House before and I am not going to develop the theme now, but it is quite obvious that there is a limit to the consumption of coal and raw iron in Europe. That being the case, it is wholly desirable that at some stage the great coal and iron producing countries of Europe should come together, in order to regulate the production, and to maintain such a price for their products as will ensure a decent standard of living and a decent wage for those engaged in those particular industries. I do not think that any great future expansion or development of the coal or heavy iron industries in this country or in Europe as a whole is to be anticipated in the immediate future, unless much more progress is made in the scientific development of coal and in the development of coal into oil than can be expected at the present time. It is, however, only a question of time before we have some agreement on this matter in Europe. Germany, as we know, is more than anxious to come to some agreement in regard to coal and iron with this country.
Let me take one example of the kind of thing that is going on at the present 883 time. There is a substantial demand in Belgium for coking coal. The only two countries which produce coking coal are Germany and ourselves, but instead of coming to some agreement as to the price we are going to charge Belgium, this country and Germany are in the very fiercest competition. The result is that both sides are engaged at the present time in selling coking coal to Belgium at a hopelessly uneconomic price. Consequently, the Belgians are mingling the coking coal with the coal extracted from their own mines and are making steel at a very cheap price and are thereby able to knock out our own steel products, and those of Germany. It seems to me a more or less elementary proposition that the coal producers of this country and of Germany might come together and suggest that they should share the Belgian market at a fixed and remunerative price. The result would be that they would get a higher price for their product instead of producing it at a loss, and it would cost the Belgians more to produce the steel which is in competition with ours. I give that as an indication of the kind of nonsense which is going on in Europe at the present time.
I would like to make one final appeal in regard to the future trade and industrial development of this country. I think that world conditions at the present time render the mass production of low-grade goods upon anything like pre-War conditions increasingly difficult for us, because labour in foreign countries is content with lower wages than it is in this country. I am not blaming labour in this country for that. Therefore, we shall have to go in more and more for the expansion and development of the more refined industrial processes, employing the higher skilled workers, such as fine cotton spinning, artificial silk, and the electrical industry. It seems to me that in the development and expansion of these particular industries far the greatest market is afforded within the British Empire, and I was glad to hear that I had in that view the support of the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh. I agree with him that there is no reason on earth why international trade and Imperial trade should be mutually destructive, or 884 even highly competitive. There is no inherent conflict between the two, but in the development of the more highly skilled industries the British Empire affords us a far better market than Europe, which can produce these more refined articles in great quantities for itself. Our Dominions are still in the stage of developing their primary industries, but we have passed that stage, and are in the process of developing the more highly-skilled industries. Therefore, we might well do a deal with the Dominions and the Crown Colonies upon these lines, to provide for ourselves within the Empire a sheltered market for these particular classes of goods, which would enable us to compete with European producers with even greater efficiency and success in the future, than we are doing at the present time.
I beg the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to consider the standardisation processes with which he is dealing, particularly from the Imperial and Empire point of view, because standardisation is more important for the development of Imperial trade in the course of the next few years than perhaps anything else. We ought to concentrate within the Empire upon the particular classes of produce which it is most suitable for any given part of the Empire to produce. For example—a Very crude example—what is the use of developing the wheat-growing industry in New Zealand or South Africa if Canada and Australia can supply all the wheat that we require? We need to concentrate upon particular parts of the Empire for providing other parts of the Empire with a given commodity, and specialising in that commodity.
It seems to me an extraordinary thing that we should have so many bodies in this country at the present time engaged in advising upon the development of inter-imperial trade. We have the Department of Overseas Trade, the Empire Marketing Board, the Imperial Economic Committee, and, on top of that, coming in and out at odd moments, we have the Food Council. There is no co-ordination between these various bodies. None of them has executive authority, but they have the widest advisory powers. The time has Dome when we ought to consider whether it is necessary to maintain the separate 885 existence of the Department of Overseas Trade, the Empire Marketing Board, the Imperial Economic Committee and the Food Council. I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary to consider whether these bodies overlap, how far any particular one is unnecessary, and whether it would not be better to form a single important Imperial Economic Committee, with a permanent secretariat, and containing representatives from the Dominions and other parts of the Empire, to co-ordinate and direct the channels of Imperial trade; because I am quite certain that it is in the rationalisation of our heavy industries, and the constructive development of the resources of the Empire that the chief hope for our future as an industrial trading community lies.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member who has just spoken, who found some difficulty in reaching his final conclusion, has suggested that if we could obtain sufficient information in respect of trade and could gather together sufficient statistics, we might improve matters. In that respect he follows the President of the Board of Trade, who devoted nine-tenths of his speech to a résumé of the statistical operations of his department. I suggest that however much you may succeed in compiling information in respect of national and international trade, you can never attack the real problem unless you can obtain some measure of control over both. That is the essence of the matter. I have no desire to follow the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) in his perambulations. It is much more substantial for the purpose of this debate to deal with the President of the Board of Trade. When he spoke—I regret his absence, although no doubt it is due to proper causes—I recalled an occasion in 1923, when I was formerly a Member of this House, where the right hon. Gentleman stood at that Box and made a speech in almost the same terms as he did this afternoon. Then, as now, he was full of optimism. He had just returned from a banquet at Belfast where, in the course of a post-prandial oration, he was most buoyant or flamboyant in respect to the possibilities of British industry. This afternoon, in precisely similar terms, he revealed his incurable optimism. Trade is growing 886 better and better every day. There is every reason to be encouraged. The hon. Member who spoke last made a reference to the encouragement which emanated from the President of the Board of Trade.
What is the test of this supposed improvement in trade? Is it to be found in statistics? Not at all. Is it to be found in rationalisation? Hardly. You can only test it by actual results. When I speak of results, I am not referring to mere production but the consumption and the spread of the consumption over the widest possible field, and here I come to what is the real test of improvement in British industry, namely, the wages of the working classes in this country. When wages are high and sufficient to enable the wage-earner to obtain the largest measure of the goods that are produced, there is a substantial improvement in British trade. If employment increases and if instead of there being a large number of people unemployed there are fewer unemployed, that means a substantial improvement in British trade, but the Parliamentary Secretary can hardly point to improvement in either direction. Wages have not gone up; they have gone down. Employment has not increased; it has decreased. I invite the Parliamentary Secretary, with great respect, to deal to seine extent with these two points. Unless he can show an improvement in respect of employment and remuneration, affording the wage-earner of this country all the employment necessary to enable him to earn wages, he can hardly find any measure of satisfaction in the statistics so elaborately compiled by his Department.
What is the outstanding feature of the present situation? Almost every speaker in this discussion, and one finds the same thing outside, on the platform, in the public Press, in the economic journals and the trade journals, a demand for the elimination of competition. We on these benches are the last to complain of that demand, for we have advocated the elimination of competition for a long time, recognising it to be wasteful and inefficient, and now that industrialists and financiers and politicians associated with the Conservative and Liberal parties advocate the elimination of competition, we cannot complain; we welcome it. We have to consider the direction in which 887 that leads us. May I remind hon. Members opposite that it is not sufficient to advocate the elimination of competition and substitute co-operation, or what is called rationalisation, unless you are prepared to recognise its full implications? If you examine the matter for a moment you will find that rationalisation as such—to use a common expression at the moment—is of no value to the great mass of the people of this or any other country.
We do not complain of rationalisation, as such, far from it. Rationalisation, cooperation, the elimination of competition in industry may well lead to greater economy in production and greater efficiency. Undoubtedly it does, but it may also—and I say it without reserve—lead to a more humane consideration for the workers engaged in those industries. But when you have reached that stage, assuming you do—it is subject to certain qualifications some of which have already been referred to—the workers are still without the wages which they believe to be necessary to proper living, and unemployment is rife. Rationalisation is insufficient. Let me give what I think is the reason. If you set a limit to consumption you are bound at the same time to set a limit to production. It is inevitable. If you say that the workers' wages will only enable them to buy a certain measure of production, clearly production will be limited sooner or later and, therefore, what is the purpose of producing more, developing your machinery, unless at the same time you spread that greater production over the widest possible area?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The hon. Member will forgive me, but he must admit that there are certain classes of goods upon which there is bound to be a limit to the consumable capacity of any country.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
I am not arguing for a moment in respect of certain goods that you could go on producing ad infinitum—far from it. There is an inevitable limitation in respect of certain industries, but I submit that we cannot consider production apart from consumption. Something was said in the course of the Debate on the Finance Bill and referred to in subsequent Debates about the analogy of a pair of scissors. Production and consumption are precisely in that position, and to do as hon. Mem- 888 bers suggest, promote rationalisation in the hope of finding a solution is following an elusive will-o'-the-wisp. Let me refer to the question of shipping raised by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Sir B. Thomas). I have never listened to a more inaccurate speech than that delivered by the hon. Member. That he should say that there is no unemployment in Belgium or Holland is, to say the least of it, drawing the long bow. There is unemployment, as hon. Members know, in these places, not perhaps so much as in this country or in Germany, but I happen to know that in Antwerp, referred to by the hon. Member, there is considerable unemployment among the seamen there. How it happened to escape the attention of the hon. Member who is a shipowner, I cannot understand, unless it is because shipowners very rarely know anything about the conditions of their men.
What is the real trouble in respect of shipping and shipbuilding? You cannot disassociate the two. A vast change has occurred in the shipping and shipbuilding position of this country. We are no longer the chief shipbuilding nation in the world. Japan is now building ships, whereas formerly she had them 'built in this country. The Scandinavian countries, and other countries as well, are now building more of the ships they require for their own use than before. It is true that we are still producing, proportionately, the largest amount of ships, but, having regard to the national capacity for production, having regard to the greater volume of world trade and the increase in world population, having regard to the general expansion, we do not occupy to-day the position which we occupied in the past. There is another cause, and I would direct the particular attention of hon. Members to this. The hon. Member for Anglesey spoke of the tramp steamer. Tramps are not so important on the high seas as they once were, they are slowly giving place to the liner, which is carrying a larger volume of trade than ever.
There is another factor which is operating. Liners formerly used coal as fuel; now they are using oil, and to that extent have a greater volume of cargo space. All these factors are operating, and to the extent that they do operate it means that fewer ships are required. 889 That is the reason why the tramp steamer is not doing as well as formerly, and the reason why shipbuilding companies are not producing tramp steamers. As far as the liner trade is concerned, it is more flourishing than ever. It has gained where the tramp steamer has lost. I do not propose to follow that line any further, but to come to what I think are one or two constructive suggestions. While we on these benches recognise the inevitability of rationalisation, we point to its implications, namely, the nationalisation of the basic industries of this country, a matter which I cannot pursue within the limits of this Debate, and international agreements. Since I cannot speak about nationalisation ha respect of our basic industries, I want to say a word or two about international agreements. Take coal. You cannot disassociate the coal position from the genera] trade position, nor can you disassociate the national coal position from the international coal position. They are associated in the closest possible way.
What steps have been taken by His Majesty's Government to promote international agreements, particularly in respect of coal? It has been said that the coalowners will never agree, on this side or in Belgium or Germany, to any European agreement. The same statement was made in respect of the co-operative coal selling in this country only two years ago by the coalowners on the Co-operative Coal Sales Committee. They argued against the co-operation of this country, contending that it would be disastrous and prejudicial to their interests. They have now accepted it, and no doubt hon. Members opposite will say that these arrangements, these coordinated efforts, are now advantageous. I believe the time is approaching—it must inevitably approach—when a European agreement must be effected in respect of coal distribution and sales throughout Europe, and I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to bring before the notice of his right hon. Friend the very positive suggestion that an effort should be made to bring together the coalowners of this country and the coalowners of Europe for the purpose of discussing the proposal. I go no further than that at this stage, I say that we ought to be discussing the matter. I do not pretend 890 that it would solve the miners' problem in this country—far from it. I think reorganisation is necessary on much more advanced lines, but, at the same time, it would be a step in the right direction.
My second point is this. We are menaced, we are told, by foreign competition. For the moment, I express no opinion about foreign competition in general, but time and again hon. Members opposite direct our attention, quite properly in many instances, to the low wages paid to the workpeople in European countries. That, surely, requires some consideration by the Board of Trade and the Government, and I suggest that here again the Government might take steps to promote discussions, the end of which should be the setting up of international agreements in respect of wages and conditions for European workers. If there were time I might criticise the Government because of their failing in connection with the Washington Hours' Convention, but this is not the proper moment, nor is the time available for it. But leaving the Washington Hours' Convention aside, I seriously suggest that some step might be taken, some approach might be made, in order to effect an international agreement which might eliminate international competition, which is regarded as a menace by hon. Members opposite. I must leave time to the Parliamentary Secretary for his reply, and as I understand the Debate is to be closed by 7.30, I will leave it there.
Speaking with no political partisanship, if hon. Members will accept that, with no political prejudice, I say it appears to me that this constant searching for foreign markets is a mistake. This relentless idea to expand trade thousands of miles away, while forgetting the market here at home, is bound in the end to prove disastrous. In addition, if the Board of Trade is to be a capable administrative body, rendering service to British industry and to the community here at home, it must take a much livelier interest in the international applications and implications arising from British industry. One last word, and that is to direct attention to the very pregnant utterances of the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh in reference to the American octopus. Make no mistake about it. American economic penetration may well bring this 891 nation down to the position of one of not more than fifth-rate economic importance. We must be exceedingly careful. If we are to waive off that attack, then it is essential that our attention and consideration to these economic problems must be national and international in character.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Whether the discussion ends at 7.30 or not, does not rest with me. If the discussion on the Private Bill lasts till 11 o'clock, it will be impossible to continue the Debate, and I understand there is a considerable possibility that that may happen. I ought to say in explanation of the absence of my right hon. Friend that, while he was speaking this afternoon, a communication arrived as to the serious illness of his father, and he has left for Yorkshire. The Committee will, I am sure, regret the cause of his absence. The hon. Member who has just spoken said the constant searching for foreign markets was a mistake. It is inevitable with us. We have got in the United Kingdom 45,000,000 people, and they cannot live in these islands unless we search for foreign markets. Let me give him one example. The cotton trade exports 80 to 90 per cent. of its output The cotton trade cannot live by any conceivable expansion of the home demand for cotton goods. If, by waving a wand, I could to-morrow double the purchasing power of the British people, I doubt whether they would double their purchases of cotton goods. The cotton industry can only live if they can sell abroad. The implication of the hon. Member's suggestions would be the abandonment of at least two-thirds of the British cotton industry.
§ Mr. SHINWELL
The hon. Member does not, I am sure, intend to misrepresent me. I did not suggest the abandonment of a foreign market nor that we should not try to expand our trade, but I say that to concentrate on foreign expansion is a mistake. We are forgetting the home market.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am sure if the hon. Member would consult the right hon. Gentleman in front of him, he would find 892 complete disagreement. What is the real cause of the unemployment in Lancashire to-day? It is, broadly speaking, that they are only selling two-thirds of the former quantity of cotton cloth, and that is partly due to increased competitive production in India and to the increased exports from certain European countries. Lancashire can only live by replacing old markets by new ones. If they do not search and find successfully, perhaps 100,000 people now working in the cotton industry will be driven to seek work elsewhere. We have got to seek markets, whether we like it or not, and no alteration of our political or economic system will prevent the population of these islands looking for markets abroad. The hon. Member raised the question of our shipbuilding position In the year ended 31st March, 1014, 50.6 per cent. of the tonnage of ships constructed in the whole world was constructed in British yards. The position is not quite as good as it was, for on 31st March this year it was 48.3 per cent. When one bears in mind everything that has happened since 1914 and the extraordinary construction which took place over a short period in the American yards, it is perfectly amazing, with all those events, that to-day we are able to say that half the ships building in the world are building in British yards. It is something on which the shipbuilders and their workpeople are to be congratulated.
The hon. Baronet the Member for Anglesey (Sir R. Thomas) gave us a very deplorable account of the shipping industry. Everyone knows that shipping freights are not too good to-day—that is the price for time charters—and that is a reflection of the fact that employment for shipping is not as good as it might be. Since he spoke, I have taken the trouble to find out the figures for tonnage laid up. In January, the latest figures for this year, there were 359,000 tons of British shipping laid up in our ports, the lowest figure of any year that I have got—and my figures go back to 1924—and it is a third of the figure of January, 1913. So the hon. Baronet, unless a great revolution has taken place since January of this year, was misleading the Committee when he said our ports were, packed with laid-up tonnage.
I am sorry. I misread the figures. It is 1923, and not 1913. As compared with 1923, the laid up tonnage is only a third; as compared with January, 1922, it, is a fifth. That means there is a very substantial improvement. I do not mean I am satisfied. I shall not be satisfied until the tonnage laid up is negligible, and new orders are flowing into the shiypards. The last Member who spoke gave us an interesting speech and raised some issues as to the future fundamental form of society, which I would like to debate, but the present moment is hardly the right occasion. He said, on the comparison which the President of the Board of Trade gave, arising out of his introduction to the House of the new index figure of production, that, as between now and 1924, wages have not gone up arid employment has not gone up. It is perfectly true that money wages in most industries are, roughly speaking, the same now as in 1924. In coal mining, they are lower; in engineering, there has been some increase. One can mention increases and decreases, but, on balance, there is no material difference between now and 1924, except in those industries where there is a sliding scale and where wages are related to the cost of living. If you take the other industries, the position is that their real wages are definitely higher than in 1924, because it is common knowledge that the cost of living has fallen. Wages as a whole have not fallen. They have fallen in certain industries, but they have gone up in some. On balance, the purchasing power of the wages paid to the general body of our workers is higher now than in 1924.
It is perfectly true that unemployment continues at a distressingly high level. We all deplore it, and we all seek for a remedy. His Majesty's Government have made proposals which have been discussed in a certain Bill which, I believe, will help. This is not the occasion to discuss that, because we are not discussing legislation. Let us realise the fact that there has been a substantial expansion in employment as between now and 1924. The President of the Board of Trade gave the figures of the number of insured workpeople in employment 894 to-day as compared with then. What is the expansion? It is substantially over 500,000; 500,000 more people in jobs to-day than this time four years ago. It is satisfactory, though not as satisfactory as I would like, because there are still over 1,000,000 registered insured unemployed.
Then the hon. Member talked about the purchasing power of wages for consumption. When everything is running smoothly in a factory, you produce a certain amount of goods and an equal volume of purchasing power. They get spread cut through the whole volume of goods until they meet. Your production power and your purchasing power are, and must be, identically equal. You may get fluctuations, but throughout the years they must be identical. What you do get it a disturbance in the balance of production. Supposing to-morrow, by a magic wand, I could get everyone double his income, what would happen? You would have complete disorganisation of industry. People would not eat twice as much bread; they might eat less. Many of them might double their consumption of meat. The demand for expensive musical instruments might be quadrupled. The demand for luxuries would expand much more than for necessaries if to-morrow by a magic wand everybody's wages were doubled. It is true that the direction of demand is constantly changing and one of the causes of unemployment in all countries at all times is the change in the direction of fashion—ain I use that word in its widest sense to cover changes in Government policy. Unbalanced production is, in my opinion, one of the outstanding causes of unemployment at all times.
I do not want to pursue this general economic argument. [HON. MEMBERS: "Go on!"] I know it is very interesting, but if hon. Members want some more of it, I can recommend them to a most admirable book. The right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh (Mr. W. Graham) gave us, as he always does, one of those very admirable, quiet, reasoned speeches on economic problems with which he invariably delights the House. So far as the greater part of his speech is concerned, I have nothing to say, because though he may have emphasised some aspects more than I would have done, I cannot find any general disagreement. He went on to suggest that there was no 895 fundamental difference between trade between this country and foreign countries, and trade between this country and other parts of the Empire. He is on rather unsound ground there. Trade between this country and the Empire is complementary. Broadly speaking, the rest of the Empire is not to any axtent in competition with us, if we except certain manufacturing establishments in Canada that compete with us. Australia may be producing manufactured products, but she is not shipping them abroad in competition with us, except to New Zealand to a small extent. Broadly speaking, our exports to the Dominions consist of manufactured goods; our imports from the Dominions consist of foodstuffs and raw materials.
When you visualise a very great part of the trade between this country and the Continent, or between this country and the United States, you do not find quite the same thing happening. You find that trade is largely competitive. Therefore I was surprised that the right hon. Member for Central Edinburgh should have made that remark, which was not justified by the facts. Then the right hon. Gentleman moved on to the problem of combinations, which was also discussed by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) and the last speaker. I am not one of those who are terrified by the idea of trusts, nor am I one of those who are constantly seeking to turn everything into a trust. We have to take a balanced view on the subject. So long as the supply of raw materials is open, no trust is going to stop anyone else from starting in the production of any commodity. Many trusts have been formed at one time or another and they have not eliminated competition; other people have come along and started business. Broadly speaking, if a trust is efficient—and by that I mean that it goes on selling at such a reasonable price that we do not object—
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
A reasonable price is one in which there is no abnormal unit profit. That is one element. If there is some great firm with an enormous combination of capital and an enormous number of people employed, and if in 896 the annual report of that firm I find that there is a profit of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000, I am not astonished or offended. I do not mind if I find that that enormous profit is the result of efficiency in production and the result of a very small unit profit. When we look round at big combinations, we find some that have achieved great success and some which have not achieved the same measure of success. Do we find that the ones with the record of great success are, broadly speaking, profiteering? That is not my experience. So far as investigation into the profits of these successful combines can show, the fact is that their success is due to efficiency of production. Broadly speaking, in such combinations there are very good conditions of employment and a small unit profit. When that is the result of combination I am glad. Suppose that there is another combination conducted inefficiently which seeks to make large unit profits. It does not succeed because competition comes along and knocks it out. I am not in the least afraid of the combine and trust. I do not suggest imitation of the United States method, by starting a great campaign of "trust busting." The campaign did not succeed there. I doubt whether we should be wise to follow the example of Germany by seeking to turn everything into a trust. From time to time there are obvious directions in which some extension of combination is likely to be desirable, and when these extensions are proposed the deliberate policy of my right hon. Friend is to encourage combination where he thinks it is going to be helpful to British trade.
The right hon. Gentleman also made reference to the Balfour Report, and wondered whether enough was being done with its recommendations, and whether the contents of the Report have been placed sufficiently before the public. I am able to report that the sale of the volumes is satisfactory. A large number of people are very interested. The Press has given very great attention to the contents of the volumes. We have not yet reached the final Report, the documents containing the recommendations. That is to be the next volume, and I do not know when it will be out. I understand that the Committee are actively engaged in the preparation of it. I cannot go beyond that statement. We cannot very 897 well act until we receive the considered recommendations of the Committee, which was appointed by the late Prime Minister—a very competent Committee, if I may say so, which has devoted great attention to the subject. No doubt when we get the final Report, we shall have something which will be of great value to the nation, and which may help us to solve some of the problems that we cannot solve now.
My hon. Friend the Member for North Bradford (Mr. Ramsden) raised the question of the Safeguarding procedure. I believe he was not present during the Whitsuntide Adjournment Debate, when the same matter was raised by one of the Members for Leicester and my hon. Friend the Member for Loughborough (Mr. Rye), who spoke more particularly about the Hosiery Report. The hon. Member for North Bradford also made some reference to the granite industry. It is my unfortunate trouble, in my present office, on one day to be attacked by hon. Members on the Liberal Benches when the Safeguarding procedure produces a live and kicking infant, as it did last Friday, and on another day to be attacked by hon. Friends on this side when the procedure produces a still-born child. As I have said before in previous Debates, I recognise to the full the severity of the tests contained in the White Paper procedure. They are so terribly severe that I can never understand why Liberal Members do not cheerfully accept the recommendation when one trade manages to get through. Only nine applications have got through out of 49 up to now.
Why does the White Paper impose these severe tests? The people of this country were consulted in 1923 on a broader aspect of policy, and they said "No." In 1924, the present Prime Minister committed himself in pledges that had both a positive and a negative side, and the White Paper was intended to give expression to those pledges. It is the Prime Minister's view that the White Paper does give that expression, and it is also his view, expressed more than once, that the document cannot be altered during the lifetime of the present Parliament. That, briefly, is the reply to my hon. Friend the Member for North Bradford. I regret that the conditions in this White Paper are so severe. On the 898 other hand, when one realises what led to that White Paper, one must agree that it is difficult to escape the view that the Prime Minister could have done no other and keep faith with the nation.
Having made that general statement, I do not think it would be desirable for me to discuss in detail the points raised by the hon. Member for North Bradford on the granite industry or the hosiery industry. But I would correct one misunderstan ding in the mind of the hon. Member, and that is on the question whether an industry is substantial or not. He seemed to think that if, as a result of foreign competition, an industry gradually got smaller and smaller, its substantiality would he measured by its condition at the time that it applied for safeguarding. That would be a nonsensical view to take. Though the Board of Trade does not give instructions to these Committees, which act in a judicial capacity, so far as I know every Safeguarding Committee has always tried to interpret "substantial" by what the condition of the industry was before the competition became what is now regarded as abnormal. Quite clearly you have to consider what was the size of the patient when in a condition of normal health.
I am very sorry that my hon. Friend the Member for East. Aberdeen is not here, because as usual he made an interesting speech, and I wanted to say this, which is not quite so complimentary. He spoke with an assurance, as to the way in which these problems can be solved, which is very much greater than that of people who have had a lot more experience than he has had. I do not say that with any intention of being unkind. If it were as easy as be suggests to solve al these problems, we should have been out of our difficulties long ago. My hon. Friend emphasised the importance if having good statistics. He was full of oraise, for the Americans and above all he praised Mr. Hoover. I could not help thinking that Mr. Hoover was like a certain domestic article with which we are a all familiar, but running in reverse, because he seemed to blow out statistics with the same facility as the Hoover pick up dust.
With all respect in the world to Mr. Hoover, who some day may occupy an even more exalted position, let us be fair to our own statistical departments. 899 They are not so bad. They are fairly prompt in publishing their information. Some reference has been made to the extent of unemployment in the United States. No one has the faintest idea how many people there are unemployed in America, because there are no statistics kept concerning them. On the other hand we do know here, with a considerable measure of accuracy, the numbers of our unemployed. The hon. Member for Rochdale (Mr. Kelly) may disagree with me as to whether the live register represents all the unemployed of this country, but he and I do not argue as to whether the unemployed are 1,100,000 or double that number. In America, on the, other hand, some say there are 2,000,000 unemployed and others that there are 4,000,000. Anyone who wants information as to our foreign trade, has only to go to the Department presided over by the Member for Chorley (Mr. Hacking) and he will receive information with an efficiency and promptitude as great as that afforded by any Government in the world. I do not want hon. Members to run away with the idea that our statistics are badly compiled or inaccurate. Anyone who reads any of the volumes of the Balfour Report with their great mass of very carefully compiled statistics, the bulk of them statistics produced regularly and there brought together in one volume, must be impressed with the completeness of the information supplied.
§ Mr. KELLY
I beg to move to reduce the Vote by £100.
In listening to the Parliamentary Secretary one would imagine that things are very bright and rosy in the trade and industry of the country, but when we look more closely into the details, we find that there is a great deal more to be done in order to bring industry into a reasonable condition. I am not going to follow the Parliamentary Secretary further in regard to statistics. I know that the statistics in some of the Departments are of a good order, but there could be a considerable improvement in his own Department as well as in that of the hon. Gentleman representing the Department of Overseas Trade. Let me refer to some of the industries. We were told that there had been an improvement in engineering. Under engineering we 900 were given many sections, and it was not possible for the President of the Board of Trade to separate those sections in a way that would make them understandable. Could the Parliamentary Secretary manage to separate not only the motorcar section of the industry, but also the marine engine section and the section with which he is well acquainted, the machine tool section, from the textile machinery? I want that separation in order to show that even the Government has some responsibility for the absence of prosperity in some of the sections.
§ It being Half-pest Seven of the Clock, and there being Private Business set down by direction of the Chairman of Ways and Means under Standing Order No. 8, further Proceeding was postponed without Question put.