§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time.''
This Bill is a similar Bill to that which was introduced last year by my hon. Friend the Member for North West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell). It has had certain Amendments made in it to meet objections which were taken on the original Bill, and I should like at the outset to say that if, in the present form in which the Bill is drafted, it should be found that there are some little difficulties of phrasing which could be altered to relieve any fears arising in the industry, the promoters of the Bill will be very glad during the Committee stage to give favourable consideration to any such suggestions. The Rubber Research Association has been carried on since 1920. partly by Government grants and partly by subscriptions from the various Associations connected with it, but its work for the first two years was affected because of the inadequacy of the premises which it then occupied. Then it secured premises at Croydon, where a very handsome research station was established, fitted with the latest appliances for experimental work. There was some difficulty in 1924 with the subscriptions. The trade had been handicapped, and some of those who had subscribed found that it was impossible to continue their subscriptions in view of the financial position of their own undertakings. That, and one or two other reasons, led to a reduction of the subscription, which, with a diminution in the Government grant, made it difficult to carry on the work of research.
Having in mind what had been done under the Cotton Industry Act, the Research Association considered that if its officers were to have security of tenure, if there was to be the proper procedure for laying down a recognised system of investigation, it was necessary that the income should be more assured than under existing conditions. It therefore approached its members to see if any scheme on the lines of the Cotton Industry Act could be made applicable to the particular industry of rubber, and it 1488 met with a considerable response in favour of the request. The point which arises now is whether there is a need for co-operative scientific research. Those who are opposed to this particular scheme suggest that there is not a need for it, and that the work of research can be adequately carried out by each works in its own establishment and under its own chemists, but we put forward this morning the plea that works research and cooperative scientific research are auxiliary the one to the other and that one should not supplant the other.
Is there any need for this co-operative research in connection with rubber? I will read to the House what was the opinion, set out in a Report, of a Committee of the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research which went into this question in 1925. They say:The British rubber industry is one which affords ample openings for scientific co-operation. The remarkable properties of its principal raw material, rubber, cannot be said to have been fully explored in the light of existing scientific knowledge, nor can it be said that the real nature of the change occurring during vulcanisation, one of the commonest processes of the industry, is understood. The industry has big general problems awaiting solution by science so large that no single firm could be expected to undertake their investigation. There is consequently scope in the rubber industry for co-operative scientific research. Further, the industry in this country is engaged in the production of a fairly wide range of articles, and thus a number of questions capable of scientific solution, and intermediate in character between fundamental and works problems, must constantly arise.I think we may take that, the opinion of Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, as justifying the need in the rubber industry for a research organisation. Then the question arises, Is this particular research association a competent body to deal with the problem? It is a body which is drawn solely from the different, people who have industrial rubber works. They have the sole control of the organisation. It is run by the memorandum of association set out in 1920, and that memorandum can be amended at the instigation and under the advice and co-operation of every single manufacturer who is connected with rubber. There is no exclusiveness in its composition. When these articles are amended, it will be open to every person who has the slightest interest in rubber manufacture to be identified with 1489 the organisation and the management of the body. Therefore, if there should be any doubt as to the competence of this particular research association to carry out its duties, it may be dissipated, because it is entirely in the hands of the rubber industry itself. May I just read what one very prominent Member connected with the rubber industry said of this research association? Mr. J. H. Mandleberg, speaking at Manchester a year or two ago, used these words:The Research Association of British Rubber and Tyre Manufacturers had built a magnificent research laboratory at Croydon, and there work was to be carried out, and was being carried out now, which was beyond the scope of the works laboratory. Obviously, there were many problems which a works laboratory was not in a position to carry out, either because there was a lack of men of the highest skill and technical training who could devote their time to research which might not be immediately useful in that particular business, or because very expensive and complicated apparatus was required. The Research Association was formed to do such work as that, and in the future many young chemists would pass through those laboratories and find there a first-class training school.I think that that testimony as to the importance and completeness of the research station at Croydon from so capable a manufacturer, is in itself sufficient to commend the project to this House. The next point is whether the method proposed in this Bill is the correct method of meeting the situation. What is proposed? It is proposed to make a contribution of one-twentyfifth of a penny per pound upon raw rubber which is imported into this country and retained for home consumption. The amount of the levy is not of very great substance in comparison with the value of the article. Some people have suggested that this is a compulsory tax which will be a great burden upon the industry. I do not consider that a contribution of this nature can by any means be considered to be a tax. Taxes are generally applied, after collection, to general purposes, but this contribution has to be applied, not to general purposes, but to the particular object and for the particular benefit of those who have subscribed the money. A large majority of the firms are in favour of this Bill. It is, I think, a striking feature that a large proportion of those 1490 who are connected with this industry are in favour of this contribution being paid.
I should like, however, to recognise that there is some opposition to the Bill. There was a meeting held in Manchester on the 1st March which was supposed to voice the opinion of the trade. I am sorry that, from a tactical point of view, those who are favourable to this Measure, members of the industry itself, did not attend that meeting in Manchester, but they had previously given their adhesion to the principles of the Bill, and they considered that it was not necessary to go from all parts of the country to Manchester in order to listen to what the disgruntled Manchester manufacturers had to say to them. Unfortunately, those who are opposing this Bill have issued a statement to various Members of the House, in which they have put forward that, because the voting at Manchester was 21 in favour of the Bill and 11 against it, that that is representative of the opinion of the trade.
What are the facts? There are 121 firms connected with the trade, of which 80 firms, with a capital of £87,000,000, have actually signed in favour of this Bill; 15 other firms, with a capital of £7,230,000, have approved of the Bill through their trade associations; four firms, with a capital of £1,100,000, are neutral, and 22 firms, with a capital of £4,000,000, are opposed to the Bill. Therefore we have 95 firms out of 121 in favour, which is equivalent to 79 per cent. of the total number of manufacturers. If we take the test by the capital in the industry, only 9 per cent. is opposed to the Bill; or, on another test—consumption of rubber—then of the firms consuming at least 85 to 90 per cent. of the rubber used in this country are in favour of this Bill. Is this House entitled to give, or justified in giving, a Second Reading to this Measure with 79 per cent. of those directly concerned with the trade in favour of the proposal? I venture to think that on the precedent which we have, the precedent of the Cotton Industry Act, we are more than justified in doing now what we did in that Act.
What was the position there? In 1921 the cotton industry had a voluntary levy. That voluntary levy was contributed to by 67 per cent. of the firms in the trade. It was found impossible to get a continuance of the levy unless it was made obligatory upon all the trade. Therefore, a 1491 circular was issued asking if they were willing for this levy to be made obligatory. It will interest the House, perhaps, if I read a report of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation of Great Britain in December, 1922. This will explain the position, and I think will justify us to-day in giving a Second Reading to this Bill:The Corporation felt that it would be unfair to allow the levy to become a voluntary matter instead of being obligatory on all, and, moreover, it would be impracticable for the Corporation to draw up any scheme of policy if it were dependent for its income on voluntary contributions which might fluctuate considerably. Its work could only be carried on with hope of success if its income is assured and known approximately. The spinners were accordingly invited to say if they would be willing to support legislation to make the contributions obligatory, and replies in favour of such a course were received from the owners of 79 per cent. of the spindles. In view of this remarkable measure of support, the necessary steps were taken and a Bill was introduced into Parliament.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
It was a deliberate scheme for increasing supplies of raw material, but the analogy that we claim is that it is a contribution from an industry for the purpose of improving that industry. Now the conditions in the cotton industry of 79 per cent. are actually the conditions which we have to-day of the 79 per cent. in the rubber industry. I, therefore, suggest that as this House decided then unanimously—there was not a division; there was hardly a debate; in fact, it was accepted unanimously by the cotton industry—this House, having accepted that principle, we are entitled now to say to the rubber industry that we will grant it the same facilities which we gave to the cotton industry. Some suggest that we ought not to follow this precedent. I think it is a very admirable precedent, and I should be very glad indeed if it were carried out in other industries. If we can have the co-operation of those in industry for the improvement of their industry by small contributions of this character, I think it is very much indeed to the credit of any industry to bring forward such a scheme. There has been issued to Members of the House a statement against the Second Reading of this 1492 Bill, and I would like to deal with some of the points which are there raised. One of these paragraphs states thatthe proposals of the Bill are based on the analogy of the cotton industry, similar conditions having been imposed on the cotton manufacturers by the Act of 1923. The comparison is not appropriate, for the cotton levy was imposed to encourage the growing of British and Colonial cotton, whereas rubber production is at present subject to restriction.Those who have framed this paragraph have very little knowledge, either of the cotton industry or what the Cotton Industry Act proposes, because no manufacturers come under the operation of the Cotton Industry Act. It is strictly limited to those who are the first users of the article, that is, the spinners. So, too, in this Rubber Bill, the levy will be strictly confined to those who are the first users of rubber after its import, and it will not fall on any second or subsidiary manufacturers of rubber. I am not sure what is meant by the growing of British cotton, because it was never understood that cotton was to be grown in Britain. Empire cotton growing is established, of course, but there was never any suggestion that cotton was to be grown in Great Britain itself. The cotton industry works under two systems. It has in existence, for its internal manufacture, the Cotton Industry Research Association, which has been established at very great expense in Manchester. That research station is finding the same disability that rubber has found in carrying on its work from voluntary sources, and more difficulty will probably be experienced in a year or two from that cause. It is likely, therefore, that the demand will come from the Lancashire cotton trade that the levy, which is now applied purely for the purpose of Empire cotton growing, shall be made partly applicable to cotton research in the Industrial Research Station at Manchester. Unless there had been a very large fund available to support that industrial research, it could not possibly have continued. As a matter of fact, £225,000 has been contributed out of what was known as the Cotton Control Fund to this cotton industrial research. That fund is now coming to an end, and it is likely that the cotton trade will have to come to this House to get the fund embodied in the cotton-growing levy. I hope, therefore, that hon. Members will 1493 seriously think before they seek to discourage the principle, which we are advocating to-day, by voting against the Measure, for in a year or two a similar type of Measure will have to be brought in to benefit cotton industrial research. This memorandum further says:The cotton levy expires this year and there is already an agitation on foot by responsible manufacturers in that industry to prevent its renewal.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
My. hon. Friend is behind the times. The thing is settled. The poll has been taken, and 81¼ per cent. of the cotton spinners have voted in favour of the renewal of the levy. The experience of that trade surely justifies support of this Bill. When it was introduced, 79 per cent. voted in favour, and with five years' experience 81¼ per cent. have voted for its renewal, in spite of the fact that the industry is suffering from the shocking conditions in its own trade. It is further stated on page 2 of this Memorandum:The Research Association, if made the subject of an Act of Parliament, may assume the character of a Government Department.Where an association is governed entirely by those in the industry, if it assumes bureaucratic methods, it, is the fault of those managing its own affairs. The next point is:It is apprehended that the control of the Research Association may fall into the hands of a few of the larger firms, which would be subversive of the interests of the industry as a whole.I agree that it would be subversive to the industry if one or two of the firms were to get hold of the control of the management. Under the Memorandum of Association, the existing conditions of management, it is impossible. There are 13 members on the Board of Administration. One is a Government official representing the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, and the charge is made—and although names are not mentioned, it is pretty well understood that the firm of Dunlop is meant—that a firm is able to get control and run this particular association of research. Dunlops have three votes out of 13 on this Board of Management. It will be impossible, under the extended membership of the Association after this Bill becomes law, for them to have even 1494 so near an approach to control as they have at the present time. Another point which is made is:No sufficient safeguards are provided in the Bill for preserving secrecy, and on this ground many manufacturers would hesitate to submit their problems to the Research Association for solution, fearing that their methods might be divulged to their competitors.That is rather a nineteenth century idea. It is hardly something we should have thought anybody would have put in a circular in opposition to the Bill. What is the disclosure that is apprehended? If firms do not wish to approach the best forms of research because of this particular fear, there is little hope that they are going to be in the first rank of progress. I have been connected with the administration of the Dyestuffs Act for several years. When that Act was going through this House, and in the first few months of its administration, there was the same fear that people could not legitimately go before the Advisory Committee, and that injury would be caused by the disclosure of people's business to, their competitors. But, after six years of experience, I do not think that there is anyone in any part of the country who would suggest that the dyestuffs administration has ever been guilty of any disclosure of information from one party to another. The technical experts under that Act are welcomed in any dye-works in the country. Their experience is invaluable to dye users, and the fear which was expressed under that Act has completely died away. I am satisfied that any similar fear which rubber manufacturers may have will die away under the experience of the administration of this Measure. Another point which is made is:The incidence of the proposed levy will be unequal; the imported raw material varies greatly in quality—it may be dirty, full of impurities or washed and cleansed, but, whatever its condition, it will bear the same amount of tax.I am instructed by those who know what the imports are that only 6 per cent. of what is called wild rubber is imported into this country and that that 6 per cent. generally has about 20 per cent. of dirt with it, but in the price which is paid allowance is made for that dirt and for the necessity for washing it out, and that same allowance would be taken into account for the contribution under 1495 the Bill. The same thing, of course, obtains in the case of cotton. There is no difference made between the finest sea island cotton which is imported, and which contains a very small percentage of dirt, and the dirtiest American, East African or East Indian cotton, which may have as much as 25 or 30 per cent. of dirt. The amount of the duty is calculated on the gross weight which comes into the country, and every buyer knows that, and makes provision in his price for the wastage on account of the dirt.
Another complaint has been that an objectionable feature of the scheme is that there must be a disclosure of the amount of raw material imported by respective firms, because it will be gauged by the contribution which each makes. I do not think that is borne out if we examine the provisions of the Bill. This Measure, as amended from last year, provides that a declaration of a chartered accountant that the duty has been paid shall be an effective discharge. If hon. Members will turn to the Second Schedule they will see that it contains no declaration of quantity, being expressly framed so that there shall be no opportunity for disclosure of the quantities which have been actually used. That does not happen in the case of cotton. With cotton there has to be a disclosure of the gross weight which each spinner has taken, and the return has to be sent to the Empire Cotton Growing Association.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Surely the payment of the levy by any firm would show conclusively to the Research Department exactly what the importation of rubber had amounted to? It would be a simple arithmetical calculation to find that out, whether there was a certificate by an auditor or whether the amount of the payment was stated.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
That would be so if the amount of the levy were paid by the manufacturer direct to the association, but that is not the procedure. The importer, who is not the manufacturer, but deals purely in the importation of rubber, sells to the manufacturer, and charges the particular duty on the invoice which he sends to the manufacturer. The manufacturer may buy from half-a-dozen different brokers, and they 1496 in every case charge the levy to the manufacturer. That broker or series of brokers makes a report to the Association that the levy has been charged in respect of so many pounds of rubber sent out during the six months. They do not say to what manufacturers they have sent it, and no manufacturer need give any further disclosure. Under Clause 8 of the Bill it is the broker who will make the return to the Association.
The definition of manufacturer in the Bill is objected to, and it is stated that it will make, subject to the levy, all sorts of traders who are not rubber manufacturers in the ordinary sense, including crêpe sole makers, dental surgeon workers, leather workers, garment workers and numerous others. I think, perhaps, there is some substance in that suggestion, and I am sure that if it could be shown there was going to be a hardship, and a reasonable Amendment to avoid it could be introduced, that that Amendment would be accepted. So far as the case of crêpe sole makers is concerned, I happen to be the chairman of a shoe and slipper company which uses many tons of crêpe sole in a year. There would be no difficulty whatever in that company making a return if it were required to be made, but it would be made by the importer in London. No burden of any sort would be placed upon such a shoe and leather company, unless they themselves were directly importing rubber from the East, which they are not likely to do, because the facilities in London are so much easier for them. As regards the other trades, however, I am not so sure that there may not be some room for Amendment. With reference to crêpe soles I would like to say that this Research Association has been of definite benefit to that section of rubber users. An investigation has taken place and many definite results have been established of advantage to the crêpe sole trade, and if the Research Association went a little further, following the example of the Boot and Shoe Research Association, it is the opinion of the trade that it would lead to a very substantial advance in the use of that material and cheapen it to consumers.
I will now go rapidly through the different Clauses of the Bill. Clause 1 is the definition Clause. There has been a suggestion that guttapercha and balata 1497 should be taken out of the Bill. The reason against those two articles being taken out of the Bill is that they are closely allied to rubber, that balata of the right quality for use in this country is becoming scarce, and that it is very essential that research should take place in order to see whether rubber cannot be substituted for balata. Clause 2 deals with the contributions of manufacturers. Clauses 3 and 4 are to secure that there shall be an average income throughout the period of the levy. Clause 5 is to prevent the double payment of contributions. Clause 6 deals with the returns of the manufacturers, and the provisoin the last part of the Clause has been put in specially to meet the objection on the point of disclosure, and to make it impossible for disclosure to take place. Clause 7 defines when the contributions are payable. Clause 8 is the Clause to which I referred a few moments ago in describing the manner in which the payments would be made, showing that they would be made by the Central Association. The rubber importers have agreed to collect the levy in the same way in which the cotton importers of Liverpool and Manchester collect the levy for cotton and make the necessary returns to the Research Association.
In Clause 9 there is the usual provision for the recovery of contributions. Clause 10 provides that the Act shall operate for five years, the same period as in the case of the cotton industry. It is a useful provision, enabling both the industry and Parliament to review the situation in five years in order to see whether the work which has been done justifies the renewal of the levy. Clause 11 shows how the money has to be applied, and that is subject entirely to the articles of association. Clause 12 is to secure that the proceedings of the Research Association shall be duly reported to the proper authorities. The First Schedule deals with various qualities of rubber and latex which have different forms, and the percentages as defined in the Bill are approximately to give the right value to the different qualities of latex. It is an infinitesimal portion of the total quantity of rubber imported. The Second Schedule secures for all members of the industry that they are absolutely secure from disclosure.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
The amount must not exceed £15,000 a year. If it exceeds that amount, it is provided in the Bill that the difference shall be adjusted in a subsequent year. This provision will be found in Clause 3. Of course, £15,000 a year is a very small amount, and much smaller than the amount produced in the case of the cotton levy, but it is considered adequate for the purpose.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I beg to second the Motion.
I fathered a similar Bill myself last year, and it has been altered in accordance with investigations made by myself concerning the objection of sonic of the firms who were opponents of that Bill. I intend to deal later on with the actual alterations which have been made. I should like to correct a statement made by my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale (Mr. Waddington) in regard to one figure which he mentioned. He stated that the capital of those in favour of this proposal was £87,000,000, but he meant £37,000,000. It is obvious that was only a slip, and I mention the fact in case the Reporters in the Press Gallery might take down the wrong figure for publication. I have great pleasure in supporting this Bill, because I am and always have been a great believer in research. That is the fundamental idea of the whole Bill, and, judging by the case which has been put up by the opponents of this Measure, it appears to me that they are inclined to discourage research altogether.
I happen to have lived for a great number of years in a country where research took a foremost place, and I am perfectly convinced that had we in this country for some years back paid more attention to research, not only in rubber but in regard to other things, we should have been in a far better position to compete with those on the Continent than we are at the present moment. The sooner we and the opponents of this Bill learn that lesson the better it will be for everybody concerned. I am speaking from experience in this matter.
I am afraid that I shall have to repeat a little of what I said on this subject in 1499 the last Debate. I want hon. Members to visualise that a great deal of the income of the Research Association goes, at the present time, for the purposes of propaganda and such-like things including advertisements, and an attempt to try to do wonderful things. I want all the money collected to be used for the purposes of research and not propaganda, and you can only secure that object by having a regular income sufficient to ensure the employment of a first-class staff, the maintenance of a first-class laboratory, and a really first-class research Association. The opponents of this Measure seem to think that the firms who have their own research associations do not need any others. I have had a great deal of experience of those gentlemen who are opposed to this Measure. The firm with which I was connected in the East used to run sugar mills, rubber estates, produce coffee and tea, and many other things, and on every one of our Estates we had our own chemists and laboratory. Nevertheless, we supported other organisations, because there are many things which one may do in one's own laboratory which may be considered sufficient for that particular work, but we want to find out what other people are doing; and, though a particular firm may have their own experts, very often they are not in a position and have not the time and the opportunity of doing the thing so thoroughly as people who are engaged in regard to that particular thing all day long.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Yes, it was voluntary, and paid for by contributions from all those interested. It was supported by the Rubber Association, the Sugar Association, the Cocoa Association and so forth, and the arrangement was very satisfactory. My own experience in this respect was confirmed by many others. When the Indian Sugar Committee was travelling round the world on behalf of the Indian Government to find out how India could improve her sugar production, they came to Java, and visited the estate of which I was managing director. I showed them round the sugar mills and explained the work of our research association, and this is what they said in their Report: 1500The commanding position which the Java sugar industry holds has been secured by admirable organisation for mutual assistance in all directions, and, above all, in regard to research.The members of the Indian Sugar Committee were flabbergasted when they came there. They said there was nothing to approach it in India, and until India adopted a similar organisation their view was that they could not be expected to turn out a good sugar crop. The results varied from 5 per cent. to 50 per cent. owing to the work of the research association. I have been asked why the proposals of this Bill should be made compulsory. My reply is that if you do not make them compulsory you cannot be sure of a definite sum being collected each year, and that is one of the main things. How can you get an adequate staff, or promise them at least five years' surety of tenure unless you are sure of a regular income?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Precisely, that is what this association has already done, and that is why I am speaking on its behalf to-day. On the other hand, if those who are opposing the Bill would have preferred a voluntary levy, why has no one brought forward such a scheme? It is all very well to try to break down a thing, but we want to build up something. We want to build up this Research Association. So far as I am concerned, the various suggestions in the Bill are secondary points. I want research, and to my mind the only way to get it is by having a compulsory levy, by having an assured income, and by being able to secure an adequate staff. I have mentioned that the Bill has been substantially altered in the endeavour to meet the opposition. I should like to know, incidentally, whether the hon. Members who are opposing the Bill have taken the trouble to go to the Research Association and find out anything about it, or whether they have taken the trouble to read any of the literature which has been published by it. To my mind that is a very important point. Are they going to get up and merely speak from a brief which has been handed to them with some such statement as this: "Here is the case; you may not believe in it, but 1501 we can assure you it is a jolly good one, and here are the facts as given to you by us"?
On the other hand, the Mover of the Bill, myself, and some of the others who are backing it, are speaking from experience, and not because we have been given a brief. Moreover, we are speaking because we are keen on it, and I believe that the opponents are just as keen as we are, but they have been briefed against it, and we shall doubtless hear them make quite good points, but points which I hope we shall be able to meet. As regards the documents which have been issued in opposition to the Second Reading of the Bill, my hon. Friend has already mentioned some of them, and here is what is said in another:This levy will constitute an additional tax upon the industry, which like all other trades, is already overburdened by State taxation and local rates.Well, it will. Obviously, if you have to pay one-twenty-fifth of a penny per pound weight, it is a certain sum of money, but, with rubber at round about 1s. per pound, as it is to-day, it will amount to one-three-hundredth part of the cost of that pound of rubber, which is not a great amount. They say, "over-burdened by State taxation and local rates." What a lot of rubbish! Surely this money which is spent by them comes back into their own pockets. You may pay rates and taxes, and other people benefit by them, but, in this particular instance, the people who pay the tax are the people who have the rubber, who are interested in the rubber, and it is in their own interest to pay this tax, so that they may get it back probably a hundredfold. [Interruption.] I do not care two-pence where they get it back from; they will get it back. The next thing that is said is:We do not admit that the industry as a whole has benefited by the operations of the Research Association in the past seven years, and see no reason for the continued existence of the organisation, and the attendant expense to the trade.12 n.
If they have not benefited, I submit to them that they have not endeavoured to benefit by it, because those people who are in favour of it say that they in fact have benefited by it. I have here a Résumé of Work and Publications between 1920 and 1927. I will not weary the House by reading it, but there are 1502 here all kinds of documents and data which have been collected from all parts of the world. When I went down to Croydon, unannounced, I thought I would see if these people's library was as good as they professed it was, and I asked for two obscure documents in which I happened to have had some hand in the Dutch East Indies. They looked up their card index, and they found the documents, which were documents bearing on the manufacture of rubber. I maintain that, in the case of a private institution at a single establishment, it is quite impossible for the librarian or chemist, or whoever it is, to get an opportunity of access to the vast collection of information which this Rubber Research Association has from all parts of the world. It is obvious that no private firm would be able to keep such a staff as would be able to collect all that information. I have a whole book of it, which anyone may read at their leisure if they wish to do so. Then there is another article here, which says:The continued existence of the Research Association will not relieve any of the manufacturers of maintaining their own expert staff of chemists, research workers, experimenters and technical advisers.It goes on to say that, owing to the double research, the expense would be increased by the amount of the compulsory levy without any return. I should like to ask those hon. Gentlemen who are opposing the Bill to tell us—it would be very interesting to the House—how many people there are on this list who have their own research stations. I do not believe there are more than three or Four that have their own research stations, and, if they have, what do they amount to? Is there one man employed? Are there two men employed? How many men are employed? I may be perfectly wrong, although I do not think I am, but I do not believe that one-fourth of the people who are mentioned on this list have any research laboratory or chemist of their own at all. In the first place, there are only a few of them who are firms of standing, and, therefore, in the nature of things, most of them would not be able to afford to keep an extra man merely for reseacrh purposes. Although that particular item may look very well on paper to those who know nothing about it, those who know anything about it will realise that that 1503 statement is an exaggeration. If hon. Gentlemen who are opposing the Bill do not themselves know, they will be able to find out from certain sources before they make their speeches, but I do not believe that more than three or four of the firms mentioned here have any research at all at their own establishments.
There is another objection, and that is as to the penal Clause. With all respect, however, to the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson), who, I understand, is going to move the rejection of the Bill, I do not think that he will object to having a penal Clause. Surely, it is only natural that there should be a penal Clause. How is it possible to say, under an Act of Parliament, that, if people disobey, they will have to pay up, unless there is some penal Clause? I may mention that not only the people in the rubber trade in this country, but also the rubber growers, are very keen indeed on this Research Association—
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
It is a very staunch backing if, notwithstanding the fact that there is a great deal of research in the Straits Settlements, in the Far East, and in other parts where rubber is grown, they, too, are keen on research in this country in order to find new outlets. One has to remember that the rubber industry may go through some very difficult times, and that is an argument, I understand, why people should not be committed to more expense. That is one side of the question. The other side is that the worse rubber goes, the lower the price, the more necessary is it to find new outlets. Therefore everything that can be done through research to give new opportunities for the use of rubber, the better it will be for the rubber itself.
As regards the firms on the paper that has been circulated by the opponents of the Bill, I have had some information put into my hands that there are only two, the India Rubber Co. of Silvertown and Messrs. Moseley, who are of any real account as consumers of rubber. Three others, the Clyde Rubber Co., Ingrams and McClellans, are known as comparatively small buyers, but the rest are quite insignificant from the point of view of their consumption of rubber. I admit 1504 that most firms have started in an insignificant way, but their names are put in with the others, and they appear to the uninitiated as if they held a very great stake in the industry.
It may be stated that whilst firms representing £46,000,000 of capital are supporting the Bill, only £4,500,000 of capital is against it. That is a very substantial amount, and from the figures given by the Mover, I am sure the House will realise that though there may be objections to certain Clauses in the Bill, those questions can all be discussed in Committee, but in principle the Bill is necessary in the interests of research itself. I am only sorry the hon. Members whose names are on the Order Paper as opponents are good friends of mine, and therefore one cannot thrust as deep as one would otherwise. It reminds me somewhat of a field day on Salisbury Plain, where I was 30 years ago, and where the London Scottish, to which I then belonged, were fighting a Manchester regiment, because all the names against the Bill live in a small circle, or in any case their constituencies are in a small circle, very near each other, and I am afraid when the infection started it reached the lot of them. I think the House will agree there is a very good case for a Second Reading. I do not deny that there may be points that need reconsideration, but that can be done in Committee, and I believe those behind the Bill are willing and anxious that its opponents should join with us in trying to make it a really first-class Bill and doing it entirely for the benefit of those concerned.
§ Sir B. PETO
My hon. Friend has stated the amount of capital represented by those who support the Bill and that represented by the opponents of the Bill. Can he state the number of firms who support the Bill?
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now." and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day six months."
I do not know what the hon. Member meant when he suggested that we who are against the Bill are speaking from a brief 1505 and do not believe in our case. One might just as well retort that those people who are interested in rubber who are supporting it are doing it because they have their own axes to grind. It is true it is necessary for people who are not in the trade to get their information from people who are in it, but, having got that information, and having become perfectly satisfied that the Bill is unjust and ought not to be passed, I am entitled to express those views as my own and not merely because I have received information from those who know. There is no question here about the value of research. It is not a question of research or no research. There is nothing in the wide world to prevent these 81 people who have been spoken of combining and going in for any voluntary co-operation they like if they think they will benefit by it. Most of these firms, I am told, have their own research departments.
The question, and it is a very important question of principle, is whether a whole industry should be compelled by law, against the wishes of an important number of its members, to pay a levy for a particular purpose which may be no use to them and to pay it to an association which, it is common knowledge, is under the control of a particular group. Compulsion should not be imposed upon an unwilling industry. That is the text from which I start. It seems to me it is wholly inconsistent with our principles of individual enterprise, and individual effort, and if this were passed it must inevitably interfere with the individual effort of those firms, who have their own research. If a man is to be made to pay £400 or £500 a year to this Association, it must inevitably tend to cramp his own research and to make him think it is no good to go on with it. It must inevitably tend to discourage individual effort in the direction of research, which has already done a great deal for the industry. I submit that in principle the compulsion of an unwilling industry is wrong.
There is one thing we might get out of the way at once, and that is the false analogy of the Empire Cotton Growing Association. There was an attempt, at a very critical stage in the fortunes of the cotton industry, to deal with the very grave danger that the largest exporting industry in the country might be crippled for lack of raw material. 1506 The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston (Mr. T. Shaw) made that very clear on the Third Reading. It was the practically unanimous demand of the cotton trade. It has been said that on a vote being taken 79 per cent. were in favour of it and nobody was against it.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
There were 11 per cent. of the spinners against the Bill then and 11 per cent. against it now.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I only know what was said in the House. There was no opposition at all in the House. No one opposed it, and no one had given any indication, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston said it was the perfectly unanimous demand of the cotton trade that compulsion was intended,not to compel a whole body of unwilling people, but to make certain that the scheme should not fail from one or two refusing."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1923; col. 2486, Vol. 165.]It was on that basis that that Bill became law, and one is entitled to say that there was no opposition. Not a word was said on the Bill on Second Reading. The Committee stage seemed to provoke no discussion, and on the Report stage there was not a word. There was a little discussion on the Third Reading, when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Preston said what I have read. There, I repeat, the effort was to produce the necessary raw material which was available for everybody and which individually no one could do anything to further. It was a case of combination or nothing. The individual could not do anything to assist Empire cotton growing. It was combination or nothing, but the results were there inevitably at the disposal of and for the benefit of everybody in the industry alike. I will show, I hope, quite conclusively that the results, if there be any, of this Association are not for the benefit of all, but are confined to the benefit of the few.
I want to deal with the question of figures and numbers. It is said that 81 people have indicated their assent to this Bill. We do not know in what form they have done it. They have not done it by joining the Association. Some comments were made derogatory to these firms that have signed the memorandum opposing the Bill. I know that a good 1507 deal that was said was inaccurate. I know that many of those firms are firms of the utmost importance. I wonder how many of the 81 are insignificant firms? If criticism is going to be made of the 23 who have signed this memorandum of opposition, we have no information at all of this proposal of the 81. We have some evidence as to the view of the trade. A meeting at Manchester was referred to. That meeting was one of great interest. I was not at it. I was merely at the very good lunch that preceded it. At that meeting there were 21 firms who voted for this proposal and 12 voted against it. I am told that it was very obvious to the meeting from what was said that very few members knew anything really about the scheme proposed. But there is this important fact which has not been mentioned and which is really a basic point. Of those 21 firms, seven belong to and are controlled by Dunlops, so that eight of them—Dunlops and seven others—really belong to the same firm and are in truth only one firm. Yet their individual entity has been preserved, so that suddenly they have spoken with the voice of eight instead of with the voice of one, but the voting of those eight firms were all signed by the same gentlemen. If you deduct seven from 21, you have actually 14 firms voting in favour and 12 against.
There is another way of seeing what the views of this trade are. Let us look at the membership of this Association which has been going on for so many years. I have in my hand a document which was published on the 8th October, 1927, and here a list of members of the Research Association are set out. They numbered 13, eight of them being the Dunlop firms. Apart from the Dunlop group then, there were five rubber manufacturers who were members of this Association. It is very difficult to believe that the trade can really think that this Association is of such benefit to them, when at that time, after six years' existence, only five outside the Dunlop group were members. The present position, judging from their last book, is that there are 31 members of the Association, again including the eight, which, you observe, is about 25 per cent. of the whole. It is a perfectly fair proposition to say 1508 that a group controlling 25 per cent. of the voting power of an association is pretty much in control.
There is another interesting direction in which we can investigate the faith of the industry in this Association. I have a copy of the Memorandum of Association which was signed by the representatives of ten different firms. By last October half of those firms had disappeared from membership. Why had they dropped out? The hon. Member for Rossendale (Mr. Waddington) who introduced this Bill referred to a Mr. Mandelberg. His firm was one of the firms that signed the Memorandum of Association. His firm was one of the five that dropped out. I happen to know—at least I have been told—the reason he resigned. He wanted some particular research adopted in connection with the colouring of rubber-proof garments. He was not in control, and the research was declined, and he retired from the Association assuming that it was of no use to him.
You have, therefore, these outstanding facts about this Association to which this money has to be handed. It started with ten subscribers, half of whom had disappeared by October last, and that at that time there were 13 members, eight of them being the Dunlop group. Of the whole of the rest of this industry, only five had sufficient confidence in the Association to remain members of it. Therefore, it is absurd for anyone who chooses to bring an unprejudiced mind to bear on this matter to talk of this Association as one which has commanded or now commands the confidence of the industry as a whole. Why does it not command the confidence of so many people? You have only to look at this scheme to see why. To begin with, a definition of this objection has been indicated. "Manufacture" goes a very long way. The term "manufacturer" includes those who are engaged not merely in the manufacture of rubber, but the preparation for sale of rubber or any article in the manufacture or preparation of which rubber is used. Therefore, everybody who is engaged in preparing for sale articles in which rubber is used, such as tennis shoes, golf balls, rubber bricks, hot-water bottles, football bladders and numerous other articles of rubber manufacture, come within the penal provisions of this Bill. With regard to the 1509 question of payments, it is all very well to talk about a scheme for preserving secrecy, but that is not the Bill, Clause 7 says:The contributions payable under this Act shall be payable to the Association (a) in the case of rubber purchased by or delivered to a manufacturer on the date on which payment becomes due for such rubber.....What does that mean? It means that when a manufacturer makes a purchase he has to send a cheque to the Association, and anyone who is capable of putting two and two together will be able to calculate the precise amount of rubber which the manufacturer has bought. One of the last things in the world which a manufacturer wants is that his opponents, his competitors should know the amount of his stocks, should know when he is running bare, or when he is bare, or the amount of business he is doing. It is true that Clause 8 says:The Association may make arrangements with any dealer, body, association or corporation for the collection of the said contributions,but there is no real protection there. What this House is asked to do is to pass a Bill which makes it compulsory to pay to the Association direct unless the Association chooses to adopt some other method of doing it. Moreover, Clause 6 imposes upon every manufacturer—and the term "manufacturer" includesany corporation, firm or person wholly or partly engaged in the manufacture or the preparation for sale of rubber or any article in the manufacture or preparation of which rubber is used"—the duty of making a return at fixed periods, or from time to time, whenever called upon to do so by the Association. There is nothing to prevent the Association demanding every week or every month, or whenever they like, returns from every manufacturer as to precisely what he is doing. True, he may submit instead a certificate from an accountant, but he may be called upon to submit a certificate every week so far as his business is concerned. You cannot get an auditor to issue a certificate without paying something to him for going through the books, and that in itself would impose quite a serious tax upon manufacturers, particularly the small manufacturers. If you are a single day late in making the return 1510 you may be fined £10 on summary conviction, whether the delay was due to accident or not. Clause 6 stipulates that:if any manufacturer fails to comply with the requirements … within the time specified, such manufacturer shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding ten pounds for every day during which the default continues.Therefore, unless the manufacturer presents the return or the certificate of the auditor on the precise day—30 days' notice is given—the Association has the right after the expiration of the specified period to prosecute and to claim, if they can get it, a fine not exceeding £10 for every day during which the default has continued.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
May I remind the hon. and learned Member that, in connection with the cotton industry scheme, the Penalty Clause has never operated, and this Penalty Clause is on exactly the same lines.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I fail to see the weight of that argument. Because some other industry has conducted its business in a particular way, it does not seem to me to throw any light on the way in which another association may conduct its business. In this Bill, the Association asks for certain powers. If they are powers which the Association has no intention of exercising, why ask for them? Why not put into the Bill the scheme which they intend to adopt? In this Bill weapons are to be placed at their disposal which will enable them to know from top to bottom the amount of business which any manufacturer is doing. Clause 10 is also well worth examination. The Mover and Seconder of the Bill spoke as if it is only on rubber which a manufacturer imports or buys from the importer that he is liable to pay. That is not so. Clause 10 says:The contributions payable under this Act shall be payable in respect of any rubber purchased by or delivered to or imported by a manufacturer on the 1st day of January, 1929,.....Therefore, it applies to any purchaser of rubber, except in so far as it is modified by Clause 5. Any purchaser of rubber may be dropped upon in this way. It seems to me an amazing thing that everybody concerned in the manufacture of these small rubber articles, who may be in quite a small way of business 1511 should have this penal obligation imposed upon them. I do not know whether hon. Members have noticed this fact, that there is not a word in the Bill which gives anybody outside the Association the right to know anything at all of the results of the researches. The manufacturer has to pay his money, but there is nothing in the Bill which gives him the right to know of a single discovery, a single improvement which this Research Association may make. Before he can even put himself in the way of doing that, he has to join the Association. Let us assume that the Association will give him the right to join it. He can only join, according to the Memorandum of the Articles of Association, by paying an entrance fee or subscription. I have studied the Memorandum of Articles of Association from beginning to end, and there is not a single word which gives a member of the Association the right to know or to share in the results which the Association may discover.
It is when one appreciates these things that one realises how it is that the industry as a whole has kept so clear of this Association. It is all give, and nothing to secure to them or to any member who joins the Association the results or the benefits of what may be ascertained through the research. It is, however, perfectly obvious that the results of the research will reach the members of the Board, because the Board have to direct it. In fact, there are by-laws which have been made by the Board which are of considerable interest, which provide for the election of sectional advisory committees consisting of members and employees of members, of course, appointed by the Board, and these sectional advisory committees are to advise upon the specific researches to be undertaken. Does anyone suppose for one moment that the dominating power in every one of these committees will not be the Dunlop group? Does anybody suppose that the power which can command eight votes as against anybody else's one is not going to dominate these committees and to decide the direction in which research should be conducted?
It is recognised by Article 40 that the members of the board will be the people who will get information as to the results of the researches, because that article 1512 puts upon every member of the Board the obligation of signing an undertaking to observe strict secrecy as to what he may learn and binding him not to use or to take advantage in his private capacity of any knowledge so obtained. How futile that really is! A member of the Board learns something from this research department. He may have something to do with research which is going on, say, in a direction in which he knows from what the Research Association has done is all wrong, that they are pursuing a false course and that he ought to turn his investigation into some other direction. Does anybody suggest that even the most honourable member of the Board would sit still and allow his firm to continue experimenting in a direction which he knew was false, and which he knew would lead nowhere? Does anyone think that he would sit still and not direct them as to the proper direction in which to conduct their research? The thing is really absurd. There is no means whatever of finding out whether members of the Board are observing that undertaking. I understand that under the new draft Articles there are to be 24 members of the Board. How can they all be watched? You get this extraordinary provision in Article 41:Nothing is to prevent the discussion, disclosure, or publication as between members of the Board and the Association.Any member of the Board is free to disclose what he knows to any other member of the Board or any other member of the Association. Let us suppose that a director of Dunlops gets to know something about what is going on. He is permitted by the Articles of Association to disclose it to all in his own group or to any other firm whose support he wants. This is a provision which has done a great deal to create mistrust and dissatisfaction as to the work and constitution of this Association; it is a provision which makes it possible for the members of the Board to acquire all information as to the results of research, to disclose it one to the other or to any favoured member of the Association but which imposes no duty to disclose it to all members and gives members no right to know the result of this research. There is another Article which is wholly objectionable and that is Article 43:— 1513Any member of the Association who shall consider that his personal interests may be prejudicially affected by any proposal of research to be undertaken by the Association may appeal to the Board against the particular work proposed, and he shall set forth in the appeal the grounds of the objection. The Board shall consider such objection and may order such research to be discontinued.See what that means. Some manufacturer has got hold of something that he has discovered, which is secret. At once the whole power of this research department can be turned in the direction of finding out the secret. The member has the right of appealing to the Board to restrain research in this particular direction. Does anybody suppose that a weaker member of the Association would be listened to? But supposing Dunlops got hold of something good, which is secret, and that this Association is working on a line which may discover their secret. They have a right to appeal to the Board to stop the investigation in that direction. Does anybody suppose that this research department would persevere in a research which was distasteful to Dunlops, who in fact control the Board? The extraordinary favourable position in which a big concern is placed, with the domination in the matter of votes and in conjunction with this Clause, enables them by means of this research department to discover everybody else's secret and at the same time protect themselves from any discovery of their own.
There is another point which is also of some interest. As a result of the import Duty on tyres works representing five different large tyre firms are being built in this country. There is the Goodyear and Michelin Companies, and several other tyre firms, all of which I suppose would be deemed to be foreign companies. Everybody has a right to join this Association except a company in which three-quarters of the capital is not owned by British subjects. We may assume, I think, that in the case of these big American, French and Italian companies that three-quarters of the capital will not be held by British subjects. They cannot be members of the Association. They have to pay, of course, under this Bill, but they have no right to become members of the Association with a chance of getting some benefit from it. But does anybody suppose that 1514 this pious provision for excluding them from membership would prevent them getting information, if the members of the Association are entitled to have the information? There are 121 firms thoughout the country. Assume that the Association say that while they are not bound to disclose what they discover to the members of the Association they are of course going to do so. Suppose they do so. Does anybody think that if the result of their discoveries are disclosed to 121 firms that the information will not very soon be in the possession of these powerful foreign corporations? If members have a right to this information they have only to create a small subsidiary company with more than three-quarters of the capital in the hands of British shareholders and then they too would have the same right to the results of research, and the information would be in the possession of our rivals all over the world.
Either there is to be discrimination in the spread of this information or there is not. I do not know how it is to be done in fairness. No one has any right to it, and if you arc going to have discrimination you at once get an opportunity for unfair treatment. If you say no, every member is to be treated alike, then this information becomes public property not merely in this country but throughout the world. The real ground of our objection is that a very large number of manufacturers are opposed to it and that the history of the Association has shown that it has lost the confidence of the industry. That cannot be denied. Here is something, created and supported by the penal provisions of this Bill, which imposes a tax amounting to many pounds per year on the whole industry, including the willing and unwilling. If the advantages are so great, if the industry believes in it, why not go on without those firms who are unwilling to join? On principle I object to the compulsion of an industry where you have not practical unanimity. When I analyse the grounds of the objection they are not false grounds, they are well founded as the result of experience. Mr. Mandelberg has not gone back. This is a dangerous scheme and one which ought not to be lightly forced upon the industry by this House. I do not know where we shall stop if we begin here. It is a principle which other industries may 1515 call for, and there may be cases in which very powerful and dominating firms will seek to impose their will on less powerful concerns. All these things should be borne in mind and we shall do right if we reject this Measure.
§ Mr. CLAYTON
May I ask one question of the hon. and learned Member? He said that the big firms like Dunlops could restrain investigation in certain directions of research. Has such a case ever occurred? Have Dunlops ever stopped any research?
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I mentioned one case, in which Mr. Mandelberg was concerned. I do not know whether Dunlops stopped it, but Mr. Mandelberg wanted a research in connection with the colouring of rubber garments stopped, and the Board refused.
§ Mr. CLAYTON
Does that state the reason for opposition by the firm or was it stopped because it was an unsuitable subject for research by the Association?
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I do not know, but if my hon. Friend would read Article 43, I think he would appreciate the distrust that that Article raised in the minds of Members.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
I beg to Second the Amendment.
My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) who moved the Amendment has made such a good case against this Bill, that there seems very little more to be said. It was a very lucid statement and showed all the implications that really lie behind this Bill. It may be said that he has made a devastating attack upon it. I had personally a good deal to do with the blocking of this Bill towards the end of last Session. Perhaps a little history of that occasion would be informative and interesting. It is true that there were two gentlemen representing two of the large companies who were detailed by the industry to draft a Bill. The Bill was drafted and presented to the House. It was never circulated and its actual provisions were unknown. The fact that the Bill had been introduced and given a First Reading, was not known by the majority of manufacturers in this country until they took up their papers one morning 1516 and found that the Bill had received its First Reading. The Bill came as an absolute surprise to the majority of them and other rubber manufacturers in this country, except perhaps the two large companies whom these two gentlemen represented.
When I blocked this Bill, the promoters said there was only one firm opposed to it, and that firm, they said, was very obstinate and pig-headed over it. I soon found out that that statement was quite unwarranted, because there were many other firms also against the Bill. There was one very large firm, the India, Rubber and Gutta Percha and Telegraph Company, of Silvertown, with a capital of £1,250,000, which, I was told, was in favour of the Bill. Soon after I got a letter to say that they were not in favour of it, never had been and never would be. At that time there seemed to be rather a conspiracy on the part of certain interests to rush this Bill through the House without any discussion whatever. Nobody knew about it. Night after night it was objected to, and it knocked about for a week. It was only then that a firm I know perfectly well discovered that the Bill was on the tapis at all. It was said to be an agreed Bill. In fact, my hon. Friend, one of the promoters of the Bill, told me that he would certainly not, at that late date of last Session, have promoted it unless he had been told that it was an agreed Bill, and he had no reason to suspect any objection whatever.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
May I say that I told my hon. Friend that I did not realise there was as much opposition as appeared later? I knew there was a certain amount, but I did not think it was as great.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
Practically an agreed Bill, we will say? Is that good enough? I want to know how it could be an agreed Bill unless the representatives of the firms had met together and agreed. There was no meeting at all of the manufacturers to discuss the Bill or agree with its provisions. It was only this year that there was a meeting of the trade, with the Bill before them to be discussed. About that meeting the House has been told to-day. There were 21 in favour of the Bill and 12 against. There were four proxies put in afterwards for the Bill, and two proxies 1517 against it. Two other proxies, unfortunately, were ruled out because they were not addressed to the Secretary. So that you really get 25 minus seven, that is 18, to a possible 16. I see that amongst the firms who voted in favour of the Bill is one of the big foreign firms, the Goodyear Tyre and Rubber Company. There is another big firm, the Michelin Company, which was dead against it because it did not see why it should pay when it got no benefit from the Research Association. Perhaps the Goodyear Company subscribed because they hoped to benefit, and probably they will get a good deal of value out of research in their foreign interests.
With regard to the capital of these companies, I do not think that any of us can take the figures that have been provided to-day as correct. In fact I understand that the capital represented by the voting at the trade meeting was something like £24,000,000 to £8,000,000; that is, about one-third of the capital was against the Bill. It is very difficult to calculate in the case of some of these private companies. I do not know how the promoters calculated the Dunlop capital. Perhaps they calculated it at £20,000,000. As a matter of fact that is the authorised capital; it is not the issued capital, which is only £11,000,000. So much for it being an agreed Bill. I shall not say anything about the comparison with the cotton industry and the Act of 1923, because that has been well thrashed out by the Mover of the Amendment. It is enough to say that of course the two things are not on all fours at all. On the contrary they are absolutely different. One is for the production of the raw material for the benefit of cotton growing in the Empire, and the other is a totally new scheme of taxation of a raw commodity in this country for the benefit of manufacturers.
There is no doubt, of course, that this is a day of research, and it is the word "research" that recommends the Bill to many people, especially those who do not know anything about the Bill. It is a very good scent to run on, but it is a great mistake to overrun the line. There has been a good deal of lobbying going on in regard to the Bill. Someone will say, "Of course you are going to vote for this Bill?" The answer is "Oh really, what is it?" That brings the further statement "It is for research." Then there 1518 is the further reply "If it is for research I shall vote for it."
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister)
From my own experience, I gather that the lobbying has not been all on one side.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
Possibly, but I think there has been a great deal more on the one side than on the other. I may be wrong. I am frequently asked '"Why are you against research?" One is not against research; one is against this Bill. I am against research in the form in which it is in this Bill. I am all for research if carried on in an efficient way, without waste and when it is wanted. Research, of course, is very necessary in every department and in every industry and in most professions. We find it most useful. The Government have come forward in the medical profession and agricultural interests and so on. But those things and a great many of these professions or interests, have no money behind them. They are very individualistic, like agriculture. They have no Money. They have no big companies or corporations behind them to back them. Therefore, the Government come forward and allot them money out of the revenue. Of all great fundamental inventions, I do not think you can point to one that has not come about through an individual. The improvements in all great inventions have come about through competition between the firms engaged in that industry. Research by private enterprise employs wits, which have been sharpened by competition, and it is competition which engenders the spirit of rivalry, and leads to development. Different firms have their own laboratories and chemists always trying to improve their manufactures, their productions, their machinery. Competition between firms is a stimulus to progress and invention.
If you are going to tax raw material in this way, and for this purpose, in order to get a Central Research Association, where is it going to end? Are we going to do the same in all industries? There is a little handbook of the Research Association in which I notice a passage to the effect that the committee of the Privy Council assisted by an advisory council largely composed of prominent scientific men, formulated a scheme for the employment of the grant and it refers 1519 to 20 industries. It does not say what those 20 industries are. Are we going to tax raw material to provide research associations for all these 20 industries? Is this only the beginning of a new system in this country of taxing raw material in this way for the benefit of certain industries? It is said that the amount is very small—that it is only one-twenty-fifth of a penny—but rubber is already paying one-fiftieth of a penny to the Malayan Research Institute. Rubber already has to pay brokerage. Those who are recommending the Bill point out that this is only a tithe of the brokerage. But there are these items, and the subscription to the general research association, and all these things mount up. To-day we suffer from being over-burdened with taxation and local rates, and it is the last straw sometimes that breaks the camel's back. If this Bill is not wanted why on earth should we have it? Another point is, could the Research Association do the work which would be required of it? We know that instances have been mentioned in the House where they could not do the work required of them by a certain firm.
We must remember in how many ways rubber can be used at the present time. A great many people do not realise the multifarious uses of rubber, but one had only to go to the rubber stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition to see the extraordinary number of uses to which rubber can be put. Many people think of rubber only in terms of tyres, but the uses of rubber now-a-days have increased in a most extraordinary way. One can have rubber tiles or rubber flooring. Then there are rubber garments and, in fact, rubber enters into nearly everything. When we talk about being mobilised down to the last button, probably that button is vulcanised rubber, or ebonised rubber, which, I am told, is exactly the same thing. How is this Association going to carry out research in all these different directions? It cannot do so with its present £15,000 a year. The firms will all have to continue their laboratories and their chemists just as before, and it will simply be a question of duplicating research in every particular. It will lead to overlapping and waste of money. Who wants this Measure? I am told that the Government 1520 are supporting it. Naturally, they do not want to see a sum of £30,000 running to waste, and they would like to justify the expenditure, and, of course, there is always a way of passing it on, if they can get somebody else to hold it. The Research Association naturally are doing their best to be retained. They are only human and they wish to make it appear that they have a great deal of important work just as all departments wish to do. It is delightful to read the recommendations they have sent to us saying how much they have done. Those recommendations are most ingenuous. The people who really want this are a few big firms who control this Association and control a great many firms in the industry. What do they want it for? I understand that a big firm which has been mentioned a great deal to-day, has the finest laboratory in the world of this sort. Do they hope they are going to get anything more by the creation of another research department, smaller than their own? I cannot see that they will benefit by it at all in the direction in which they are supposed to benefit by it. There are many other reasons and ways in which they might benefit by it which have been mentioned by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) so I would ask hon. Members not to think that this is entirely altruistic.
A good deal has been said about the activities of the Association during the past seven years, but we have not heard much about what is to the credit of its account or what advantage it would be to the industry. We have heard of one case in which it has been a disadvantage, but what has it accomplished? We may yet hear something more about that, but up to the present all we have heard is that it has collected a library in which two very obscure documents were discovered by the hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell). We have not yet been told what other discovery it has made, or in what way it has improved the industry during the past seven years. I take up this Report of the Committee of the Privy Council for Scientific and Industrial Research for the year 1926–1927, and I find that this Association is mentioned in Appendix 8, but the only thing 1521 I can find about it is that two gentlemen produced a book on "Volatile Products formed during the Oxidation of Balata." If that is a year's work for £15,000 I do not think this Research Association would be much benefit to the trade as a whole. I observe that after five years the Association is to present a report to both Houses of Parliament, but after seven years we have had no information at all. I think we might have a report after seven years. Perhaps the reason why we have not a Report is because it would show up the whole matter and stultify this Bill. I hope this House will not give this Bill a Second Reading, but will throw it out as it deserves.
§ Notice taken that 40 Members were not present; House counted, and 40 Members being present—
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins), who has just spoken, commenced his remarks by saying that he was strongly in favour of research, and then he spent a quarter of an hour or 20 minutes in decrying the results that had been achieved by research, particularly in regard to the rubber industry. I should like, after having listened for the last hour or so to criticisms of the Bill from the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) and the hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford, to recall to the House the object with which this Bill is introduced and the circumstances which have led to its introduction. Those circumstances are that the Government assistance which has hitherto been given to the association for research in the rubber industry is coming to an end. If that is withdrawn and there is nothing to replace it, and if the work of the Association is to be carried on, it would leave the burden of the expense on only a portion of the industry unless some other means were devised for distributing it over the whole of the industry. The object of this Bill, as hon. Members will see from the Memorandum on the front page of it,is to ensure the continuance and development of scientific and industrial research into the problems arising in the manufacture of rubber.1522 It has been argued that the principles of this Bill cannot be compared in any way with the principles of the Cotton Levy Bill, because the principles underlying that Bill were devised in order to increase the production of raw cotton, whereas the principles underlying this Bill are devised for research into the use of manufactured rubber. I should like to remind the House that the main underlying principle of the Cotton Levy Bill was to spread the expenses that would be incurred in improving and increasing the production of cotton equally over the whole industry, and in the same manner in this Bill it is desired to spread equally over the whole industry the expenses of rubber research. For that reason, I think there is a very great analogy between the principles of the Cotton Levy Bill and those of this Bill. It should be unnecessary, at this period, to speak of the value of research to an industry like the rubber industry, but I do not think—my hon. Friend the Member for North West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell) made a reference to it—this House should be allowed to forget for one moment what the condition of the rubber industry is at the present time.
We none of us know how the Committee that is going to inquire into it is going to report, but there are a great many of us who are satisfied that, sooner or later, restrictions will come off rubber, and if that is going to be the case, it is more than ever important that research should be active and alive to find new means for using rubber, because if the price of rubber falls, as it is likely to fall, in the near future, the great hope of the industry is that some new methods for its application should be devised, and devised quickly. I would ask the House also to remember that the whole object of this Bill is to secure an income of the large sum of £15,000 a year. One might have thought, from the discussion this morning, that there were millions involved. It is really a very small sum, but if the Bill goes through, that £15,000 will be secured by a levy which will be imposed in the most equitable way on the users of rubber. My right hon. Friend the Member for Neweastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), the individualistic Member of the Socialist party, has, I noticed this morning, been not a little exercised by the question of principle 1523 that was referred to at some length by the hon. and learned Member who moved the rejection of the Bill, who said he objected to compulsion being brought upon an unwilling industry.
In the first place, I would ask, Is it an unwilling industry? From all the inquiries that I have been able to make, the vast majority of the industry are in favour of this Bill. Arguments have been used on the other side to detract from the figures and from the importance of the firms on the one hand, and to enlarge upon the figures and importance of the firms who are objecting, but I am satisfied—and I should not support this Bill unless I were satisfied—that the vast majority of the industry are in favour of this Bill. That being so, are we justified in calling it an unwilling industry? Secondly, what is the assistance for which they ask? Thank goodness, they are not asking the Government for a subsidy, but what they are asking for is the assistance of this House by legislation in order to assist their industry. If the majority of a great and important industry come to this House and say, "Our industry can be materially helped by passing legislation of this character," I think this House ought to give very serious consideration to such a request, and, unless there are over-riding objections to it, should accede to that request.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme thinks, I know, that even if one person objects, that is sufficient reason against any legislation to compel him against his will, but I would ask him, Is the whole of a great industry to be interfered with and held back because there may be one or two recalcitrant members in that industry? Is it not a democratic principle that the minority should give way to the majority? I have always been brought up to believe that that was the basis of all democratic principles.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
My hon. Friend must really get away from the idea that democracy and justice are incompatible.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
That was the last thing I was arguing. I was arguing that democratic principles always involve justice, and did away with injustice. I should like, further, to point out that there is this paragraph in the statement 1524 of objections to the Bill which has been circulated:Already this compulsion has been applied to cotton. It is now proposed to apply it to rubber. Why should it not be extended to every other industry? It is a pernicious principle.With regard to that, I would say that the control would be in the hands of firms who are affected. The Board will be elected. You have the majority of the industry saying they want this. The Controlling Board is to be elected by themselves. Could you have a more democratic principle? All that they say is, "Do not let our attempts at research in order to benefit the industry be held up by a few recalcitrant members, and thereby throw the burden on the others." It was the same with regard to the Cotton Bill. A few people would not come in, and legislation had to be passed to make them come in. That is what this House asks for now. A great many of the objections raised on the other side are really objections to the machinery of the Bill, and the promoter has expressed his willingness to meet objections of that sort, so as to make the working as smooth as possible to all concerned. I would ask the House to remember that there is no pernicious principle involved in this Bill, and I think it is the duty of this House, when a vast and an important industry like the rubber industry asks for assistance of this sort, that we should give it, unless there is some great principle which prevents us from giving the assistance they ask.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Never have I thought that in my declining years I should hear such lamentable views expressed on Liberal benches. The coercion of minorities, the selective taxation of certain industries is new and bad. The practice grows. But, first, I desire to call the attention of the House to the shocking lack of equality of treatment about this Bill. It is admitted. I think, that the beneficiaries of this Bill are not likely to be the manufacturers alone. The producing industry is vitally interested in this research work, but the producers pay not one penny piece towards the taxation of the industry required for this research work. Why? Because they are too poor? As a matter of fact, we all know that if it had not been for the collapse of the misbegotten Stevenson scheme, bringing down the 1525 price of raw rubber, this Bill would never have been thought of. This Bill, nominally a Bill to inculcate research into how rubber may best be preserved, is really a Bill to inculcate research into how best rubber may be used up. The research may resolve itself into advertising by telling people to "Use more rubber!" which will be more profitable to the producing industry than a system of recovering rubber from exhausted tyres.
The first point, therefore, I wish to make is that if the producing industry is, as must be admitted, one of the elements which will benefit from this Bill, it ought to pay just as much as any manufacturer in this country. The second point I wish to make is to point out the complete fallacy of the comparison with the cotton trade. It is said that we now have a system of levying compulsory taxation upon cotton spinners for the benefit of Empire cotton-growing. I do not know that I entirely approve of that scheme, but, at any rate, that scheme has the merit of increasing supplies of raw material which will benefit, mark you, not merely the producer, not merely the manufacturer, but also the consumer.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
I would ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman to direct his remarks to me rather than to the Orkneys.
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I regard you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, as requiring no conversion in this matter. It is the regrettable lapse on the Liberal Benches.
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
May I ask the right hon. and gallant Gentleman whether it would not benefit the producers of rubber if new openings were found for the use of the article which they produce?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Of course it would; but in the case of the cotton industry what was proposed was that supplies should be increased—not benefiting producers. In this case what is proposed is that the demand should be increased. Naturally, demand reflects itself upon supply; and it is a very different thing, whether you are going to increase and develop demand as here or increase supply as in the case of cotton. I would, in passing, enter my little ineffectual protest against levying new unbudgeted taxation upon people of this 1526 country. Because compulsory contributions are taxation of selected individuals, which taxation does not appear in the annual Budget. The worst case of all, of course, was the Chancellor of the Exchequer levying compulsory contributions on the manufacturers of this country according to the number of men they employ, for the benefit of pensions for widows and orphans. One cannot protest against that now. It has become almost common form that there should be an enormous amount of unacknowledged taxation in this country to-day. This is only £15,000, I know, but it is a bad principle. We are taking steps to pass a Measure which shall not increase supply, but which shall, if we judge by the speeches of hon. Members who proposed this Bill stimulates special research into the use and preservation of rubber, and, naturally, everybody in this House, including a great many of my friends on these Benches, say that it is worth while to institute this research, and to ensure that the rubber industry shall have at its disposal a skilled department—not a department of State, but a department of the industry which shall do research work in this industry.
That may or may not be right, but let us recognise that that principle may be extended to every other industry in this country, and what we want to make clear in our own minds is, first, whether it is desirable that research institutions should be supported by voluntary contributions or by compulsory contributions, and, secondly, whether they should be absolutely new research institutions, or whether the research work should be carried on in the present institutions, using the present experts and present staff at our research laboratories throughout the country. There are two questions—first of all, should it be compulsory, and, secondly, should separate institutions be set up, or should we use the existing institutions of the country to do this work?
To speak of an industry which I know, the potting industry, like the rubber industry is extraordinarily dependent upon chemical research. I have no doubt that most of the big potting firms in this country would, like most of the, rubber manufacturers, be in favour of a research institution devoted to their form of production. It would help them. But there 1527 is no movement in that direction at the present, because, in North Staffordshire, we have admirable public institutions, supported very largely by the voluntary contributions of the manufacturers, to do that precise work. So that it is not desirable from the point of view of the potting industry—at present, but it might come—to have a special research institution for pottery, because the institutions provided for general purposes in North Staffordshire do the work admirably, and all that research work, combined with chemical education and physical research, is an example for most of the other industries in this country. Therefore, you have the alternative of a voluntary contribution using the already existing institution, and a compulsory contribution requiring a separate institution and a fresh staff concentrated on that one particular industry. Let me give another ground for doubting the advisability of this specialisation. The hon. Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell) who seconded the Motion for the Second Reading, gave us an admirable example from his own experience in Java. He said that there they had an excellent research institution into the production, not merely of rubber, but of sugar and other sub-tropical products. I asked him if it were a compulsory institution, and he said that it was not. It is an admirable example of what sensible manufacturers can do by putting their minds to getting an institution which would be dependent on their voluntary contributions.
Hon. Members will observe, however, that in Java, the research and the technical skill is applied to the production of rubber and the manufacture of the raw material. In the present instance, you are doing something quite different; you are asking for research and experiment, not in the production of rubber, but in the production of rubber goods. That is a much more varied line of research. You are trying to specialise, in one institution, research which normally would be scattered in institutions throughout the world, where they are carrying on special research into the special branches of manufacture. In the manufacture of rubber goods, not merely the rubber has to be considered, 1528 but a vast number of other factors have to be taken into account. There are hundreds or thousands of articles made of rubber, and it enters into all manner of finished articles, and if you are going to have research into the use and durability and manufacture of these finished articles, you will require an institution whose efficiency cannot possibly be supported by £15,000 a year. It would require specialised laboratories which cannot be got together in one institution to deal with these problems. If an institution is to specialise, it cannot specialise on some small particular form of manufacture, such as the impermeability of mattamacs or the silence of crepe soles. That would be only a very small element in the rubber problem. The big elements would be Dunlops and Michelin and all the other big firms. The vast capital which has been referred to is invested in these concerns, and their manufactures will be the principal problems which will be inquired into. Whether that be so or not, that is one ground for saying that it may be justifiable for some of the non-tyre manufacturers to desire to stand out of this research institution. They- know perfectly well, or they may believe, that any research that went on in that institution could not be usefully applied to their particular branch of the use of rubber.
My hon. Friend the Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton), whose Liberalism is still undefiled, said, "Democracy means compulsion; Democracy means the forced taxation of everybody in the industry, if three-quarters of the people agree." Would my hon. Friend apply that principle all round? Would he apply it, for instance, to other industries, to other bodies who may believe that compulsory association is their one safeguard? Would he apply it to trade unions? He said that if three-quarters of the rubber manufacturing trade come to the conclusion that a compulsory scheme is necessary, the minority should be coerced into joining the scheme, and compulsorily levied for that purpose. We should, he said, be justified in the interests of majority rule in compelling every manufacturer to join the association, and to subscribe his annual levy to the fund. What strange Liberalism!
§ Sir R. HAMILTON
May I ask the right hon. Gentleman what he proposes to put in the place of majority rule?
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
I have still much to teach! Are hon. Members who are proposing this grave infringement of individual liberty prepared to apply it to trade unions? Every member of a trade union believes, with some justification, that joining a union is a man's safeguard in keeping up his end in the economic struggle. There are many efforts on the part of trade unions to get all the workers in an industry into their ranks in order to make the unions cast iron and watertight. Yet would anybody dare to come to Parliament and introduce a Bill to compel men who worked in an industry to join the trade union of that industry and pay the levy or go to gaol? That would apply the argument of compulsory membership, which is being applied in the present case. In the interests of the bulk, the minority must go to the wall. I do not believe it. I think that you will get your unions and associations of research much better and stronger on voluntary lines. When people have to show value for their money, you get better work than when the money comes in automatically whether service be rendered or not. That is broadly the case against this Bill, as I see it. The whole of the history of the rubber companies in the past has been a perfect scandal of economic stupidity. Everyone on the benches opposite, not on our's, thank goodness, was connected with the Stevenson scheme, and with tile idea of restricting production to keep up prices. We tried it during the War, and we have tried it over and over again throughout the ages. You try to fight political economy, but political economy hits you back a great deal harder on the rebound. They have found that out, and having found out what a failure it is to try to restrict production, they are now trying another desperate dodge to bolster up the industry, which ought to be able to stand on its own legs. This research which we are to pay for—
§ Colonel WEDGWOOD
Oh yes I shall. I am a consumer of tyres, and a consumer of tyres pays. The point is that the foreigner will get the benefit of all 1530 your research, because you cannot keep the secret; and the foreigner does not pay! This is similar to the Stevenson scheme, under which restriction was put on the British rubber growers, prices went up, and the foreigner promptly doubled his production. A scheme of this kind will not do any good. I suggest that the best thing for the British rubber industry in this country, is to say: "Let us have free and unrestricted production, even if it means cheap rubber and the weaker companies going to the wall." That would bring about the possibility of rubber becoming available for use not merely for motor tyres, as at present, but in a hundred and one other ways which will follow as soon as rubber comes down to an economic price, that is to say, the cost of production, without any bolstering up of the price.
§ Sir WILFRID SUGDEN
I want to approach this subject in not quite the class interest which is displayed by our opponents and particularly by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood), who, as we all know, is an example of class supremacy.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
He is endeavouring to inflict upon us an autocracy which is not for the well-being of the democracy of this country. He has said not one single word about the workers in this industry. He cares nought for the workers. What he stands for is that exclusive autocracy which, as applied to a particular industry the pottery industry, has done so much to contribute to the artistry of the world; but for the toiler he cares nought. I would like to say a word for the workers. Much has been said about certain leading firms in the rubber industry, but what was my position when I, as a responsible member of a rubber manufacturing Company was compelled to give notice to hundreds of our workers in the rubber industry, to turn the key in the lock and say: "We cannot find you any more work," because of the supremely scientific foreign productions? That was not an easy position for one to take up whose relations with the workers have always been of the most pleasant and happy kind. I am pleading this afternoon for this Bill definitely on behalf of organised 1531 labour in the industry. Unless we have such legislation as this, the rubber industry of the world will pass on to a trustification basis.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
My hon. and gallant Friend is taking little bits out of the economic position and is endeavouring to make something out of a particle of the problem instead of applying his mind to the whole problem. We must survey the position as a whole. We must not take a smal bite out of the pie and then presume to pass an opinion upon the whole pie. Let us be frank about the position. Unless we have such legislation as this to deal with research in its broad and wide aspect the rubber industry of the whole world, not of this country alone, is going to become subject to trustification. The little man is going to be wiped out, both in this country and in other countries. One of the dangers of safeguarding, which one must carefully watch is seen here, but I will make a present of that to my Liberal friends, who are not with us at the moment. Five of the greatest tyre makers of the world are now establishing themselves in this country. They will employ British labour or the danger is they may bring their workers with them and they will begin to make tyres. When I was in the tyre industry, the usual output of an average tyre-making company, in this country, was 1,500 to 2,000 tyres a day. Firms which could produce 80,000 tyres a day are now coming into this country, and unless we wake up and use scientific research to the utmost extent, the little, tiny fellow who for 10, 15 or 20 years has been struggling on in the endeavour to make his contribution to the industry and to retain his band of workers, is going to be squeezed out of existence. The foreigner, forsooth, is to come here and wipe out maybe—though it is quite possible to exaggerate this point—those who have been toiling in the rubber industry for 10 to 40 or even 50 years. Trustification will come in this industry unless corporate research is encouraged as detailed by this Bill.
Let us consider for a moment what is contained in this proposal. Take the case of the Mellon Institute in the United 1532 States of America, which is operating in connection with the rubber industry. We find that all the trade unions in the rubber manufacturing industries of the United States are, to a man, supporting research, and I challenge any opponents of this Bill to produce a resolution from any trade union in this country condemning what we are now proposing. Industry cannot be run by the capitalist section alone. The organised workers of this country are not against progressive research work, and no complaint was made about it now. Again so long as the Government were paying for it no complaints were made, but when 1/300;th part of the price of a pound of rubber is claimed from the capital in the industry, we get —I say it deliberately—this squealing from certain interested sections of the industry. I mentioned just now the Mellon Institute. Let us consider also the Bureau Standards, which are concerned with rubber research not only in the United States of America but in Germany. Some of the most progressive and evolutionary methods in the treatment of rubber came from Germany. When Germany was cut off on her seaboard from the civilised world in respect to the supply of rubber, scientific research was able to give her an opportunity of carrying on in a manner of which we in this country have no conception. It is a matter of protection. It is not only an opportunity for the workers, but it is also an opportunity for the protection of our economic life industrially as well as from the food standpoint, for I could show, if time were available, the containing processes and manufacture of foods and foodstuffs are both concerned in the manufacture of rubber goods.
We have in this country two types of national research associations but these are mainly dealing with general tests. One is the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington and the other is the British Engineering Standards Association. It. may be suggested, in fact it has been suggested by my hon. and learned Friend opposite, that the major benefit that is going to come in respect of this matter is to a certain named firm, but I want to say to the House and to those who are interested in progressive evolution in industry that if this firm that has been mentioned so 1533 frequently in which I have not a penny share and have no interest whatever, and which I have fought industrially by competition on more than one occasion—if what has been said about that firm is true it would be impossible for the Association to carry on. I want to challenge anyone to contradict my statement when I say that under proper opportunities the firm mentioned have given full facilities to other producers to come into their laboratories and avail themselves of some of their remarkable discoveries and thus have given public spirited opportunities to others of knowing their research work and have helped the smaller man who could not keep a chemist and who could not purchase the expensive machinery required. The suggestion has been made that each individual firm might run its own laboratory. We have to consider these matters from a practical point of view however.
Let us take the latest type of calender. A calender machine is used for the purpose of impregnating the mixture of rubber when it is at a certain heat or temperature and impressing or pressing it into a fabric. It may be cotton woven fabric, an Egyptian woven fabric, or a lattice kind of fabric. Such a calender could not be bought under £12,000. Where is the small manufacturer to be found who is prepared to take the risk of going to his bankers and asking for a guarantee of £12,000 or £15,000 for the financing of a new process which might enable the manufacturer to produce a better quality article at less cost; for example, say, tyres which will stand 15,000 or 20,000 miles running on rough roads. When one thinks of the wonderful improvements in accelerating autoclaves, mastification, vulcanization, and all those specialised classes of process machinery in their new phases of application to rubber manufacture, it is quite impossible for a little man or small manufacturer to carry on and progress via single-handed research and keep his work-people together in face of the competition of the Americans and the Germans who have already installed magnificent national laboratories. In face of such competition it is impossible for a small man to do his duty and purchase the magnificent and remarkable rubber utensils that would have to be used. This Bill is his only help.
1534 The next point I wish to make concerning research deals with fundamental rather than with supplemental issues. I wonder if hon. Members recollect that whether it be in the growth or use of rubber the British working classes are more interested than any other working classes in the world. The biggest holders of stock, of share capital in regard to the growth of rubber are the British working classes. It is well to remember that the more we can do in this House to assist the use of rubber production and manufacturing processes for utilising rubber the better it will be for the working classes. We must remember that seven-eighths of the rubber of the world is produced either under the British flag in the Malay States, or in the Dutch Malay Colonies, the main proportion of whose shareholders are also of British nationality. Therefore it is essential that we should do all we can to encourage the growth and use of rubber and its further application, from an industrial standpoint.
Now let us take even a wider view than that. Whether for good or ill—some of us believe for ill—the country-side of this country is going to suffer by the dust of an intensive motor haulage. There has been an enormous increase of motor cars both for home use and abroad during the first three months of this year and the number has multiplied six, seven or eight times as compared with any other period of our existence. This House has already given permission for the railways also to put motor haulage on roads. All these vehicles are to use the public roads. It may be suggested that the last word has not been said in respect of motor cars. At the present time, you have your charsa-bancs with 6-inch, 7-inch and 8-inch tyres, and you have these large juggernauts weighing 15 or 20 tons traversing our countryside where the houses of the people have been erected. I want to make this next point very definitely, namely, that with this increased traffic there is going to be a serious danger to property that has recently been built in the shape of one million houses as well as to the old houses. There is a distinct danger as to whether these houses will be able to face the heavy and increasing traffic on our roads which in the near future is likely to be multiplied many times. There 1535 is a need for more scientific research in regard to the future, therefore, of rubber paving.
It was my privilege some two years ago to make some experiments in connection with rubber paving, of which there are two systems in this country, and one must pay one's tribute to those who have been, up to a point, successful in that regard. We have to take a long view in these matters, and the future with respect to the use of rubber for our roads and the protection of our roads is not yet known. When it has been proved that rubber is economical in conjunction and association with ferro-concrete, macadam, or the other methods now used in road work, who shall say that this research for which we are now pleading, this one-three-hundredth part of the price of a lb. of raw rubber is going to ruin some of the wealthier sections of the rubber manufacturing industry, that it will not be the means of solving some of these problems to which I have referred? There is another point about which I want to speak, and that is the vital need of research in regard to rubber for surgical purposes. I notice that one of the opponents of this Bill belongs to the medical profession, and, when he speaks, as I hope he will, I hope he will say something about the remarkable results which followed during the War from German and American research in regard to the use of rubber in surgery—for the draining of wounds, the substitution of throats and internal organs, and so on. All of that was the direct result of national research work in America and in Germany.
§ Sir W. SUGDEN
No; I challenge my hon. Friend to contradict me when I say that the most useful and most efficient rubber research association in America is that which is supported by a compulsory quota mainly drawn from the industry, and it is the same in Germany. Taking the broad issue, the time has gone by when an industry such as this can work by rule of thumb, and when one section of the industry, the capital section, can dominate the policy to the exclusion of the workers in the industry, and say that, whatever may be the desire of the workers, it will object to contribute its quota to such a work. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) criticised to some 1536 extent, not merely the main issue of the Bill, but the rules of the Association, but we are dealing with a Rubber Bill, not with the rules of an Association, I join with the Mover in saying that we shall do all that we can in respect to eliminating any minor defects there may be in the Bill. If we are to progress in the thousand and one directions in which rubber may be helpful hygienically, industrially, and from a national standpoint, if we are to continue to carry forward that work, it can only be done by discipline among all classes in this industry. We accept, very properly, discipline in this House from the Chair, and in our national life the truest type of democracy is rightly and primarily a form of discipline. Privileges also involve responsibilities, which in turn involve discipline. These proposals will not give an autocratic but a benevolent discipline, and will be helpful, not only to those who hold the capital, but also to the toilers and workers in the industry and the whole British public.
§ 2.0 p.m.
§ Mr. REMER
I desire, first of all, to refer to a Bill to which my hon. Friend the Member for Rosscndale (Mr. Waddington) made considerable reference in his speech, namely, the Bill dealing with the cotton industry. My name happened to be at the back of that Bill, and, therefore, I can, perhaps, give a different version of its passage from that which my hon. Friend gave to the House this afternoon. In the first place, the vote taken in the trade itself, of which my hon. Friend spoke, was not a vote given for or against the principle of a levy. The vote on that occasion was solely as to whether the levy should be 1s. or 6d.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
My hon. Friend is entirely wrong; it was on the question whether it should be obligatory or otherwise.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
With great respect, there has been no suggestion that it should be 1s. The proposals now are respectively 6d. and 3d., 3d. being considered sufficient to meet the requirements, and 3d. has been put into the new Bill as against 6d. in the old Bill, which has expired.
§ Mr. REMER
My hon. Friend is now rather switching on to considerations concerning the present time, but what I am saying is that, at the time when the Bill was going through in 1923, the opposition to it which came from the cotton industry was not opposition to the Bill altogether, but on the question whether the levy, instead of being 1s., should be 6d.
§ Mr. WADDINGTON
I really do not want to interrupt my hon. Friend, but this involves a question of fact. I was a member of the Committee which drew up the Bill, and a member of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation. What happened was that, when the question of paying a voluntary levy was put to the spinners, they refused to continue to pay unless it was made obligatory on the whole trade. A vote of the spinners in the trade was taken, and 79 per cent. voted in favour. That was what brought the Bill to this House.
§ Mr. REMER
I think my hon. Friend only confirms the point which I was going to adduce from my argument. It is quite a simple one, Let me remind my hon. Friend of what took place in this House at the time when that Bill was passing through. It was introduced in the Session of 1922, and there was no opposition whatever from any Member of the House except one very vigilant gentleman, who is now known as Lord Banbury. He used to sit in the same seat which my hon. Friend is occupying at the present moment. Lord Banbury persisted night after night in opposing the Bill which was introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Moss Side (Mr. G. Hurst). In the 1923 Parliament, my hon. and learned Friend again introduced his Bill, and, Lord Banbury having then entered the House of Lords, he succeeded in getting a Second Reading for it, not by the luck of the Ballot. which has enabled my hon. Friend to introduce his. Bill to-day, but, as I might say, "on the nod." at Eleven o'Clock at night, by saying to Mr. Speaker, "Now, Sir." By that means he secured, without any opposition, the Second Reading of that Bill in this House. I venture to say that my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell (Mr. Campbell) will be the first to admit that no Bill, if there is serious opposition to it, can secure a Second Reading in this House 1538 in circumstances like that, because I know that my hon. Friend tried very hard to secure the passage of this Bill last Session in exactly the same way.
I would like particularly to refer to the question which I asked my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale at the end of his speech. It was a very simple question, as to the amount that this proposed levy was calculated to realise, and we were told that it would realise the sum of £15,000, or rather, I think my hon. Friend said that it was limited to £15,000. It is monstrous to waste the time of the House of Commons with a proposal to compel people to find a pettifogging sum like £15,000. Only yesterday the chief advocates of this Bill, the Dunlop Rubber Company, declared their dividend of 25 per cent. They could afford to pay the whole of this £15,000 themselves without any further trouble. My hon. Friend said that the opponents of the Bill had not brought forward any alternative. It is not our job, in criticising a scheme, to bring forward an alternative. In any case, this is a compulsory scheme. Our alternative would be purely voluntary.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I asked whether if they were really keen on research would they not have a voluntary scheme.
§ Mr. REMER
If a voluntary scheme was brought forward, that would not require an Act of Parliament to enforce it. I do not believe for a moment that those associated with this research association cannot find a paltry sum of £15,000 without wasting the time of the House. The hon. Member for North-West Camberwell asked, in rather rude terms, whether we were briefed. He knew my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) was a member of the legal profession. That was a very nastly remark from one member of the party to another. I am not briefed. I have given very careful consideration to the question, as my hon. Friend knows, and have consulted, not one firm, but many gentlemen who are constituents of mine and who know a great deal more about this question than I can pretend to do. My hon. Friend suggested that we all came from one district, but that is the most important district in the country, because it is vitally interested in the subject. and their position should 1539 command attention from the House. I protest against my hon. Friend discounting the 23 firms who have circularised the House. He said that only two of them were of any importance. I am informed that 15 of them employ over 1,000 people, and they cannot, therefore, be lightly dismissed. There may be firms employing a great many people who use very little rubber, and there may be firms using a great deal of rubber who employ very few people.
This is a very great industry with very widespread associations. The hon. Member for Rossendale mentioned the firm of Mandelberg. Colonel Mandelberg is one of my constituents, and he has told me that he is completely neutral so far as this Bill is concerned, and his father, Sir Charles Mandelberg, who has been President of the Federation of British Industries, told me that the Bill would cost his firm only £40 a year. For that reason, he was not going to express any opinion one way or the other. He told me—I commend this particularly to hon. Members on the Labour benches—that the reason he resigned from the Research Association is that there is one process in their works which is so dangerous to health that it is only possible for the workpeople to work one hour per day. He suggested to the Association that, not only for the sake of cheaper production, but for the health of the workers, they should find some means to overcome this great danger, and it was because the Association refused that he resigned.
If this Research Association is to be protected by an Act of Parliament, it must be a wide association incorporated by Parliament itself, and on which the Government itself is represented. We cannot give an Act of Parliament to an association of this character if there is any suspicion that there are going to be any irregular transactions and that someone is going to get an advantage out of it. I should like to repeat the figures which have been given by my hon. and learned Friend for the benefit of those who were not in the House at the time. We have been told of the vote of 21 for the Bill and 12 against in the Association. We ought to repeat on every occasion that eight of those members represented either Dunlop's themselves or their subsidiary concerns, 1540 so that we had the same gentleman representing eight different concerns, voting eight times over. Therefore the majority of 21 to 12 ought to have been only 14 to 12.
I feel so strongly about the matter that I think we ought not to allow this Bill to become an Act of Parliament. For my part, I shall oppose it, not only at this stage, but word by word and line by line at every stage of it. I shall, by every possible means, endeavour to prevent it from becoming an Act of Parliament until I am satisfied that there is to be fair play to all parties. I am more strongly against this Bill after having heard the great attack made upon it by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham, and to whom no reply has been given up to the present time. I cannot conceive that any Member of this House who listened to this attack, the going through of the Articles of Association of this Association word by word and line by line, as only he is capable of doing, showing conclusively that this as an association dominated by one firm to the disadvantage of all others in the rubber industry, can think that this is an occasion to give great powers of that character.
I want to add, as far as research is concerned, that I accept every word that has been uttered by my hon. Friend the Member for North-West Camberwell and also my hon. Friend the Member for Rossendale. If this Research Association were to be put upon a proper basis, my opposition would vanish. All people who use rubber should be entitled to the full benefits of the research. It seems to me that this Association is dominated by one big corporation. They can take all research from their opponents, and they can prevent all their opponents from getting the benefits of the research which they themselves have secured. Here is this concern with a great research department of their own trying by this means to secure the research of smaller people who may have secured some great benefit.
§ Mr. REMER
My hon. Friend shakes his head. I happen to know that one firm at the present moment have secured a very great secret. Under this Bill, 1541 they will be forced to give the whole of those details, and if the Dunlop Rubber Company secure a great secret they have, as my hon. and learned Friend proved conclusively, the right of preventing that secret going to any of their competitors. I have come to the House to oppose the Bill, because I believe that the Research Association can mend their own ways. They can put their own house in order, and put it in order in a way that it will give the smaller man, who has his rights though he may be in a minority, the same advantages as those enjoyed by other members. The Association can be put on a right footing and by that means enable research to go forward on terms that are beyond suspicion. [An HON. MEMBER: "It will go bankrupt."] It is said that this Association is of vital interest to the rubber industry, but £15,000 is all that they are going to get out of this Bill. It is sheer moonshine, absolute nonsense, to suggest, if the Association is of such value, that it would be allowed to go bankrupt for a paltry sum of £15,000.
§ Mr. T. KENNEDY
I hope the House will not be unduly disturbed by the threats of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer). He is to oppose this Bill word by word, line by line, and Clause by Clause in its subsequent stages. He assumes—and I think we all have a right to assume now—that the Bill is to have a Second Reading, and, as I think the House is ready to come to a decision, I shall not speak for more than a very few minutes. I rise to remove, if I can, any possible impression that the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) was speaking for those of us who sit on this side of the House when he attacked this Bill. The right hon. and Gallant Gentleman in this matter, as in other industrial issues, is an industrial anarchist. He dislikes discipline. He stands for voluntaryism. He hates organisation of any sort or kind. Although it is difficult to appreciate exactly where the opponents of this Bill stand to-day, I think I am right in saying that, roughly speaking, the issue boils down to the question of whether, for the rubber industry, we are to have a system of research or not.
§ Mr. KENNEDY
A system of research for the industry as a whole. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme stands for voluntaryism, and he sought to draw an analogy between the conditions of the rubber industry and the potting industry. We know in the potting industry what have been the completely satisfactory results from the present system of voluntary research. If that be so, naturally the manufacturers in that industry will go on as they are going on now, but that is not the condition in the rubber industry. We have had the voluntary method up till now. It has broken down, and the majority of the manufacturers and those interested in the rubber industry, not merely from the point of view of numbers but from the point of view of the capital invested, are agreed that to-day a new basis of research is necessary. What is the object of this Bill? As I understand it, it is to place the British Rubber and Tyre Manufacturers' Association on to a sound financial basis, in order to ensure the continuance and development of scientific and industrial research in matters relating to the rubber industry.
§ Mr. KENNEDY
To put the Research Association on to a sound financial basis. If the hon. Member had listened, he would have found no occasion for the interruption. Until now, as I have already stated, the Association has maintained itself on a voluntary basis. I say, and everybody who knows the facts will admit it to be true, that the Association is now in a position of financial difficulty. It has been maintained until now by means of voluntary grants and subscriptions from individual manufacturers, but not by these subscriptions and grants alone. The Association has been maintained 1543 to some extent by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research out of the £1,000,000 provided and set aside by Parliament in 1907 for research purposes. This Government support ends next year, and that renders it essential, if the work of research is to go on, that it should be placed on a self-supporting basis. Otherwise, work which in the past eight years has involved an expenditure of something like £60,000 will be brought to a conclusion; work which has been carried on not for the benefit of individual firms or individual manufacturers but for the benefit of industry as a whole. We should try to realise when discussing the conditions and the financial resources of the rubber industry, that we are discussing a matter of national concern and not merely the concern of those who have invested their capital in the industry. From the point of view of those who are employed in the work of research, a very serious consideration emerges in the sense that if the work of research is to proceed, those who are engaged in that work should have some security of tenure in their occupation. They have no such security at this moment, and if the work is to extend, as we hope it will, the provisions of this Bill are absolutely necessary.
What are the objections which have been advanced against the Bill as now drafted? I heard one hon. Member suggest that after seven years' work, the operations of this Association had proved absolutely worthless to the rubber industry. I am sure that it will be admitted that that statement is an exaggeration. I will present, briefly, an outline of the work done by the Association in those seven years, and leave the House to judge whether the criticism of the Bill on the ground that the Association has been of no use to the rubber industry, is justified. During the seven years the Association have issued 42 research reports which are at the disposal of the industry as a whole. They have issued 22 laboratory circulars and three important reports relating to patent processes in the industry. They have published 35 papers relating to standardised machinery used in the industry, 63 information bureau circulars. They have also published a monthly circular, available to the industry as a whole, of current literature, with 1544 valuable extracts and references for the benefit of the industry as a whole.
Another objection has been taken to the Bill on the ground that it would tend to disclose the industrial and financial circumstances of individual firms in the rubber industry. If critics of the Bill would only read Clause 6, I think it is, they would find that all that is required of individual manufacturers is that they shall be required to render a full and accurate account of the amounts payable under the Act, and all they have to do in that connection is to employ a chartered accountant to provide a certificate that they have fully met their obligations. No detailed particulars of quantities or values are required. The fact of the matter is, that the objections to the Bill are sectional and are brought forward by manufacturers who are perfectly willing to avail themselves of the advantages of scientific research without being called upon to pay anything for the advantages they enjoy.
If the objection that this Association will be an independent organisation has any validity and that manufacturers will be called upon to pay their subscriptions and will not be in a position to realise any value out of their subscription, all I need do is to refer the House to the provisions of Clause 12, which provide very definitely that before the 30th June, 1933, a Report shall be prepared and presented to both Houses of Parliament of the whole work of the Association during the four years ending December, 1932, and that for the purpose of this Report, from time to time reports shall be submitted to both Houses of Parliament and to the Board of Trade, representing the nation as a whole, in order that not merely the industry but the nation may realise the value of the work which the Association is doing. For all these reasons, I think the House would be well advised to establish this national. co-ordinated system of scientific research into the conditions of this important industry, and I hope, speaking, I think, for the overwhelming majority of those who sit on this side of the House, that the Bill will receive a Second Reading.
§ Dr. WATTS
I wish to speak an this Bill from a totally different point of view from that which has been taken by any previous speaker. Most of the arguments in favour or against the Bill have come 1545 principally from the manufacturing point of view. Although I represent a constituency which has been referred to as the district whence the chief opposition to the Bill comes, I wish to say that I have no interest in any shape or form in the rubber manufacturing industry, but I am, unfortunately, intimately concerned with the plantation interest, and it is from that point of view that I wish to say a few words. We have already suffered seriously. I might almost say we have been ruined, by the Government Research Council, which is sitting at the present moment, and we object very strongly to any further research commission of any kind being set up by Act of Parliament.
Speaking on behalf of the plantation industry, I perceive certain dangers in the work of this commission. For example, I can quite well see that they may direct a considerable amount of their attention to the question of increasing the amount of reclaimed rubber. However much that might be to the advantage of our friends across the Atlantic, it has a very bad and injurious effect upon the rubber plantation industry. During the last 12 months the United States have reclaimed £70,000 worth of rubber. For these reasons, I support the Amendment and oppose the Bill.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
By what right does the hon. Member speak on behalf of the planters. seeing that I have a letter from the Rubber Growers' Association in favour of the Bill.
§ Dr. WATTS
I had a letter yesterday in which this particular matter was mentioned, and I was asked to voice these opinions this afternoon. An attempt has been made to draw an analogy between this levy and the cotton levy. There is no analogy in any shape or form between this levy in respect of rubber and the levy which is paid on every bale of cotton. On the one hand the cotton levy has to do with the production of the raw material and has nothing to do with the manufacture, whereas this rubber levy has to do with the production of articles besides the purchase of rubber. Figures have been brought forward to show that the cotton levy had been passed by a large majority at a meeting of the cotton trade in Lancashire. It was; but on the 1546 understanding that the levy was to be reduced from 6d. to 3d. Had it remained as it was I am perfectly sure the levy would not have been passed. I believe the House is ready to come to a decision on this Bill and, therefore, I will not detain hon. Members any longer. This Measure is entirely unnecessary. The amount of money which it is proposed to get, £15,000, is absolutely futile, and it is far less than the sum which many firms are already spending privately, and will continue to spend if it is to their advantage. I hope the House will refuse to give a Second Reading to the Bill.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I only intervene for a few moments in order to express the view which the Government have formed on this Measure. A great deal has been said about the details of the Bill, matters which I think are more conveniently thrashed out in Committee. I do not think this House ever refuses a Second Reading to a Bill, if it were satisfied that the principle were right, because some of the details require amendment in Committee, and this consideration applies particularly to Bills introduced by Private Members. They have not the same facilities for drafting a Measure which the Government of the day enjoy. There are matters of detail in this Bill which will require investigation; that is what the Standing Committee is for. What we really have to consider to-day is whether the broad principle of the Bill is one which should be endorsed. Matters of detail, whether the particular rate of contribution which it is proposed to levy is right or not, whether the incidence of the contribution as between one firm and another, or one type of firm and another, is the fairest possible method, whether you have selected the best form to ensure that those who contribute to the levy shall have secrecy maintained as to their internal affairs and accounts, can be considered in Committee. Let me say in passing that these are matters which every industry has to face when there is a movement to get a common effort within the industry. I could cite numbers of industries in which this proposition has come up, and where it has not been found impossible for individual firms within the industry to entrust to responsible accountants the returns and accounts of firms, giving each firm a number or 1547 letter. Every trader knows that when that takes place the collected information which is necessary for combined working within the industry is made available and there is never any disclosure of any essential matters which are private to a particular firm. I am sure that this House is not going to reject a Bill, if it thinks it is sound in principle, on the allegation that firms might have some private matters of their own disclosed.
All these things seem to me to be essentially points which should be raised in Committee, and dealt with in Committee, and if this Bill goes through the representative of the Government on the Committee would help to make the arrangements watertight and sound, and I am sure the promoters of the Bill mill be only too anxious to see that these points are met. The real issue today is: Is it right, in principle, where you get a great majority of the people engaged in an industry in favour of combined research in that industry, to compel a relatively small dissentient minority to come in? That is the sole issue that I see before the House on the Second Reading of this Bill. I have no doubt at all that the value of central research in an industry is enormous. Anyone who has had experience of research in a single great undertaking will agree that it is enormously important to centre that research in a single department if you are going to get value for your money and avoid overlapping in research work. You can then concentrate your research on matters of the greatest importance. If that be true in the case of a single firm, undertaking research for its own purposes, it is even more true in the case of a large number of firms combined for the purpose of common research. That is the way in which the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research has always worked. Where the Government of the day has invited Parliament to vote money, the principle has always been that, wherever it is possible, the assistance which Parliament votes should go, not to individual firms, but to research associations which supply information to all the firms in the particular industry. If that be the principle which Parliament has followed as the best way in which to give Parliamentary assistance to research, surely it is quite right that Parliament, 1548 in dealing with public money, should give assistance where the large majority of trades are agreed that it is on these lines they want to conduct the industry as a whole.
I therefore say that the case for research, for centralised research, on merit is made out. We have had arguments addressed to us this afternoon such as we always get from certain hon. Members in the House. They are sincere no doubt. We have had the duet by the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). These two old Parliamentary stagers, who are the last remnants of that splendid individualistic school of a, century or more ago, speak to us with the voice of the Middle Ages, and say, "Never let us combine for any purpose." It is interesting, to find in the ranks of the trade union party and in the ranks of the Conservative party hon. Members who are yet faithful to the old worn-out creed of Liberalism.
Has not this sort of thing gone by the board? In every successful business it has. I am perfectly certain that there is one thing we have to overcome in British industry—I think we are overcoming it gradually—and that is, too keen an individualism. It is good, up to a point, to encourage initiative. But if we are to get the best results we must combine, and combine for research. I have always been the greatest advocate of combinations, and I have been attacked for going too far in encouraging combinations. But here is an issue upon which the main bulk of us can agree. We can join to encourage combination for a purpose which has been of benefit to the whole trade—research. It is not as if we were compelling constituent firms in this industry to give up the management of their own concerns. That is not in the least what is proposed, although the House has not been unwilling in the case of necessity to do that. The House was very ready on all sides to assent to the Mining Industry Act, under which power was given to firms to go to Court and so to compel a dissenting minority to come in. Therefore, that is no new principle. But that is not what is involved to-day. Here the constituent firms surrender nothing of their own individuality. They join in a very 1549 small way only for the purpose of what is a common interest, and in order to obtain information which will be available to all.
The only grounds upon which the present proposal could reasonably be refused are either that the industry is not substantially in favour of it or that the proposed body will not be effective. We have all paid lip service to the need of research and to the need of getting together. We have often heard hon. Gentlemen make speeches about the value of getting together. People do not get together in order to be together in a crowd: they get together in order to do something effective. They cannot get together for anything that is more effective than common research for the whole industry. It seems to me that there are only two considerations which, if these principles are at all right, would lead the House to reject the Bill. One is that the industry does not want it. But I am informed that 80 per cent. of the industry does want it. I have asked those who instruct me whether those figures are correct, and I am told that the figure is 80 per cent. of the number of firms. If we take the capital involved, I understand it is considerably greater—something like 90 per cent. of firms which have signified their approval in writing of the proposal.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-L1STER
I made inquiries, and I am told that the figures I have given stand as the record within the last three days. But that matter is easily checked, and if the hon. Gentleman is able to produce evidence in Committee that a number of firms who were formerly assenting parties are now withdrawing their support, that might be a consideration, but I am really not going to take across the Floor of the House from the hon. Member something that he heard three months ago, when the information that I have asked for is that the number of people who have signified their assent up to the last few days is 80 per cent. An hon. Friend was perfectly right in saying 1550 that on the cotton levy Bill there was no opposition. There was not. It is true that there was not very vocal opposition in the House. Perhaps there was none. In that case the hon. Member for Macclesfield missed a great opportunity. What the House is really interested in is, how much opposition is there in the trade? In the cotton trade a ballot was taken, and 11 per cent. of those who voted, voted against the Bill. But that did not prevent this House from adopting unanimously the cotton levy Bill.
I submit that the proposal of this Bill is right in principle, and that an adequate majority in the industry supports the Bill. Eighty per cent. is certainly an adequate majority. There remains only the argument, if any such is produced, that this Association is not likely to engage in research of any value. I have two answers to that. The best test of whether this Association is likely to give value to the trade is, what measure of support does the trade give to the Association? If we find that 80 per cent. of the trade thinks it worth while to pay this levy in order to get the Association put on a stable footing, it seems to me far and away the best answer to those who are urging that it is not worth while. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. T. Kennedy) gave a very interesting account of the work which this body has already done. I may supplement that by saying that I am informed by the Department of Scientific Research that this body has already engaged in work of the following kinds: Investigations into chemical and physical properties of many raw materials; effects of changes in the physical and chemical properties of these materials upon vulcanised goods; tests of physical properties of rubber; tests of the deterioration of rubber in service under normal and exceptional conditions; tests of deterioration of the insulating properties of ebonite when exposed to light; the resistance of rubber to oxidation; and the effects of exposure to light and heat. That certainly covers a fairly wide range and I think it is sufficient to rebut the charge that all that this body has done in the past nine years has been to produce one book. Unless the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research had been satisfied that this was a useful body, it would never have renewed the grant 1551 which was made to it out of Parliamentary funds.
As I have said, we have already agreed in this House, in principle, that where a great majority of an industry are anxious to join together and ask to bring a small minority into something which is to the common interest of the whole industry, this House has on previous occasions not been unwilling to support them. I submit that research is as valuable a common objective as any industry can have. The proper place in which to discuss details, whether this Bill is fair as between one firm and another, is in Committee. I say that the Bill has the undoubted support of a great majority in the industry, and I certainly hope that the House will give it a Second Reading to-day and approve the principle of the Bill, the details of which can be threshed out in Committee.
§ Sir B. PETO
I must admit that I was astonished to hear my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade say that the bulk of the speeches in opposition to the Bill were really concerned with matters of detail that ought to be considered upstairs in Standing Committee. My right hon. Friend made reference to two speeches, but he carefully abstained from making any reference whatever to the speech of the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson), who moved the rejection of the Bill in a speech which had nothing whatever to do with details and Committee points, but was an absolutely smashing answer to the Mover and Seconder of the Second Reading. It seemed to me that at the end of my hon. and learned Friend's speech there was very little more to be said. The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Making) undoubtedly picked up the pieces and did whatever was necessary in further wiping the Floor of the House with the Bill. In supporting this Private Member's Bill, the President of the Board of Trade has not given a word of reply to either of those speeches or any reason why those speeches should not carry the majority of votes in the House.
The President of the Board of Trade based his argument on a principle which, in itself, is the reason why I oppose the Bill and the reason on which the speeches 1552 which I heard in opposition to the Bill have been based. The right hon. Gentleman said a central Research Department for the industry was essential. I want to know if there are any other industries in this country where a central Research Department has powers granted by Parliament such as are asked for in this Bill, to levy a rate upon all members in the trade or industry irrespective of whether they agree to that rate or not. Frequent reference has been made to the cotton industy. The right hon. Gentleman referred to it, but I shall not go into the question further than to say that the right hon. Gentleman's speech on that point was, if I may use an Irishism, answered by the speeches which preceded it. The object of the levy in the cotton industry is one which is common and which must of necessity be common to every branch of that great industry, because all are vitally concerned in the increase of the production of cotton from sources on which they can depend. This is a totally different matter. The President of the Board of Trade and also the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy (Mr. T. Kennedy) told us how much the present Industrial Research Council in this industry had done in the last seven years. That appears to be a complete condemnation of the Bill. Either it has done nothing, as alleged in some speeches, or it has done a great deal. If it has done a great deal, on what basis has it done so? It has done so on the basis of a voluntary levy with the assistance of £2,000 a year—gradually diminishing at the rate of £400 a year—from the Government.
§ 3.0 p.m.
§ Sir B. PETO
I am only quoting the facts as given in the two Front Bench speeches. The President of the Board of Trade gave us one list, and the hon. Member for Kirkcaldy gave us another list of the things that have been done. Except for the money which was subscribed voluntarily by the industries themselves, I understand that all they received from the Government, at any rate in recent years, was the sum of £2,000 a year and that has been a diminishing factor. Therefore what we are asked to do is to spend a Friday afternoon discussing how this great industry, in which so many millions are invested, 1553 is to collect by forced means the sum of £2,000 a year to replace the disappearing Government subsidy. The President of the Board of Trade said the Bill only gave compulsory powers for a very minute levy; that it was for a purpose common to the whole industry, and that it did not ask the constituent firms to give up the management of their industries. I agree that the Bill does not go to that length but it has a principle in it and I deal only with the principle on this occasion. It has the principle of forcing combination and forcing a levy on people, whether they agree with it or not. I would remind hon. Members on this side that it is not so very long since this Government passed a Measure to prevent trade union leaders and officials from forcing a levy on unwilling constituents of their unions. Now we have the President of the Board of Trade in a Conservative Government saying that there is no difference between the two Front Benches on this question and that they are entitled to ask the House on a Private Member's Bill to vote with the body of Members opposite—with the solitary and notable exception of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood).
§ I have always wondered when I have heard him on industrial questions, how he came to be in the party opposite, because he is a stout individualist and has proved himself so this afternoon. There are one or two matters of vital principle on which we are asked to vote in connection with this Second Reading. If once we admit that this principle can be introduced, then it can be extended to every other industry in the country. The President of the Board of Trade has failed to show that we have any precedent for a levy of this kind for such a purpose, and there is no reason why it should not be extended indefinitely. I am certain it will lessen initiative and there is great risk of failure to preserve the secrecy of the individual industries concerned. Therefore, as an industrialist, I strongly object to a principle being brought into any industry which I would never agree to in the industry with which I have been connected during the greater part of my life. I oppose the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Question put, "That the word "now" stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 104; Noes, 52.1555
|Division No. 63.]||AYES.||[3.3 p.m.|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Hacking, Douglas H.||Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)|
|Allen, J.Sandeman (L'pool, W. Derby)||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Penny, Frederick George|
|Applin, Colonel R. V. K.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Robinson, W.C. (Yorks, W. R., Elland)|
|Baker, Walter||Hardle,. George O.||Rose, Frank H.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hayes, John Henry||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)||Rye, F. G.|
|Batey, Joseph||Henderson, Capt. R. R.(Oxf'd,Henley)||Salmon, Major I.|
|Berry, Sir George||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)|
|Blades, Sir George Rowland||Hennessy, Major Sir G. R. J.||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Bowerman, Rt. Hon. Charles W.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard||Smith, Rennie (Penistone)|
|Bowyer, Captain G. E. W.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Hume, Sir G. H.||Snell, Harry|
|Broad, F. A.||Huntingfield, Lord||Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)|
|Brockiebank, C. E. R.||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert||Sprot, Sir Alexander|
|Bromley, J.||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Storry-Deans, R.|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Kennedy, T.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Lansbury, George||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Charleton, H. C.||Lister, Cunliffe-, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip||Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton. E.)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Livingstone, A. M.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Cove. W. G.||Long, Major Eric||Viant, S. P.|
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Lucas-Tooth. S'r Hugh Vere||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Dalton, Hugh||Luce, Maj.-Gen. Sir Richard Herman||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lynn, Sir R. J.||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Davles, Sir Thomas (Cirencester)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R.(Aberavon)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Davies, Dr. Vernon||Macintyre, Ian||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)|
|Day, Harry||McLean, Major A.||Westwood, J|
|Edwards, J. Hugh (Accrington)||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Wright, W.|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)||Yerburgh, Major Robert D. T.|
|Galbraith, J. F. W||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive|
|Gosling, Harry||Nelson, Sir Frank||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Greenwood, A. (Nelson and Colne)||Newman. Sir R. H. S. D. L. (Exeter)||Mr. Waddington and Mr. Campbell.|
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||Owen, Major G.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Grotrian, H. Brent||Ropner, Major L.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Groves, T.||Sanderson, Sir Frank|
|Bennett, A. J.||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Savery, S. S.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Hopkins, J. W. W.||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Sexton, James|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Kelly, W. T.||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A.D.Mcl.(Renfrew,W.)|
|Cluse, W. S.||Lawrence, Susan||Steel, Major Samuel Strang|
|Couper, J. B.||Little, Dr. E. Graham||Stott, Lieut-Colonel W. H.|
|Crookshank, Cpt. H.(Lindsey,Gainsbro)||Lowth, T.||Varley, Frank B.|
|Duncan, C.||March, S.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A.L.(Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Dunnico, H.||Meller, R. J.||Watts, Dr. T.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Moore, Sir Newton J.||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple|
|Finburgh, S.||Morris, R. H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Ford, Sir P. J.||Naylor, T. E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Forestler-Walker, Sir L.||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Forrest, W.||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Mr. Atkinson and Brigadier-General Makins.|
|Gates, Percy||Remer, J. R.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y,Ch'ts'y)|
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.