§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But call attention to the omission from the Gracious Speech of any reference to the recently announced policy of the Government party urging that the earliest possible steps should be taken to safeguard additional industries and especially the iron and steel industry, and to the Prime Minister's declaration that no partial measures, such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, can meet the situation, and respectfully submit that the most effective way to deal with the competition of countries where labour conditions are low is by international action to raise those conditions.We are moving this Amendment not merely on our own behalf, but in the interests, though unsolicited and perhaps not welcome, of the Bolshevist rebels on the Tory side of the House. We have read in the newspapers during the past week of the existence in the Tory party of great indignation and dissatisfaction with the declaration of the Prime Minister upon the question of Safeguarding. We have read of large and crowded meetings of Tory Die-hards—the left wing of the Tory party at which threats have been made to move an Amendment from the Tory side to the Address in reply to the King's Speech. We have read, too, that the situation became so serious that it was necessary for the Chief Whip of the party to meet those Trotskys of the party, and exercise once more those disciplinary measures which he exercised against the hon. baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), 922 perhaps not very effectively, near the end of last Session. He does, however, appear to have quelled this rebellion for the time being, for there appears on the Paper no Amendment which has the support of the whole of those 200 Members of Parliament who attended that indignation meeting. There are four or five members of the party who have put down an Amendment, and I shall wait to see whether they have the courage to move it and to incur the excommunication of the Patronage Secretary.
This is not a matter purely for the Tory party. It is a matter of very great interest and very great concern to the whole of the country. The Prime Minister has told us that the declaration that he made at Yarmouth is to form part of the programme upon which he will appeal to the country at the next election. Therefore I venture to submit that we all have a perfect right to demand from the Prime Minister a clear and definite statement of what he means by the declaration that he has made. It is perfectly evident that there are in his own party a very large number who either-do not understand that declaration or are dissatisfied with it, and it is for the purpose of getting a clear, definite, and unequivocal declaration from the Prime Minister that we are moving this Amendment. I am not going to discuss the general question of Safeguarding and Protection. That is not relevant to the purpose of our Amendment. We are, however, quite prepared to discuss it when we know what the Prime Minister's declaration means, and when we have a definite proposal before us for the introduction of Protection. Then we shall deal with the fantastic claims and the figures born of the imagination which are the stock-in-trade of the advocates of Protection.
I think we might begin to-day by a very short recital of the Jim Crow gyrations of the Prime Minister on this question during the last four or five years. The only clear and definite attitude which the Prime Minister has taken up on this question of Protection was at the General Election of 1923. He then claimed courageously a mandate for his party. He asked to be released from the pledges which Mr. Bonar Law had given, and, instead of using his Parliamentary powers to carry out his new con- 923 victions—or shall I say a, different policy, because I believe the Prime Minister has always been a Protectionist—instead of using his Parliamentary majority in breach of Mr. Bonar Law's pledge, he appealed to the country. What was the declaration that he then made? It is very important and very interesting and has a very pertinent bearing upon the matter now at issue. The Prime Minister said that:The only remedy for the prevailing distress and unemployment was a fundamental change in the fiscal system of the country.That is the introduction of Protection. And he added words that are incorporated in our Amendment:No partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industry Act, can meet the situation.4.0 p.m.
The situation to-day, in regard to trade and unemployment, is very much the same as it was when the Prime Minister made that declaration. Therefore, if he believed then that no partial instalment of Protection, no procedure under the Safe guarding of Industry Acts would meet the situation, surely as a consistent man the Prime Minister must hold those views today? He was defeated. The country would not have Protection. The country has never accepted Protection in recent generations, when the issue has been put fairly and squarely, as the Prime Minister did. Having been defeated in this policy of a general tariff, all round-Protection, the Prime Minister turned once more to what he said was an ineffective remedy, that is, Protection applied piecemeal and in small doses to special cases and particular industries. In the King's Speech in the first Session of this Parliament, 1924, he promised a Bill. That was the first of the pledges the Prime Minister broke. No Bill was introduced. A different procedure was adopted. A White Paper laying down the conditions was issued, and the procedure in that White Paper has been the method which has had to be followed hitherto by all the industries seeking Protection. But the progress has been too slow for the Protectionists. [HON.MEMBERS:" Hear, hear!"] What I declared to be one of the purposes of this Amendment, namely, that it was moved in the interest of hon. Members opposite, is already, apparently, being achieved. 924 The Protectionists have always chafed under the procedure of the White Paper method. They wanted Protection in larger doses and applied more rapidly. Things reached something of a crisis in the party upon this question in July of this year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking to the London bankers, said:We ought not to eon template any-reversal of our fiscal system upon which the whole commercial system of this country is based.I think the Chancellor of the Exchequer must have had in mind the statement of the Prime Minister in 1923, for the words of the two statements are almost identical. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that we must not contemplate any reversal of the fiscal system under which the commercial system of this country is based, and the Prime Minister said that we must have a fundamental change in the system. The two right hon. Gentlemen now sit side by side, cheek by jowl, just as though they were in perfect agreement looking like:Two souls with but a single thought, Two hearts that beat as one.Rebellion broke out in the Tory party. A deputation waited upon the Prime Minister urging him to accelerate the procedure of the White Paper, and particularly to impose a duty upon iron and steel. I do not think we are assuming too much if we assume that the statement of the Chancellor of the Exchequer was intended as a douche of cold water otherwise there was no need on that occasion for him to go out of his way to denounce Protection and reaffirm his faith in his Free Trade principles. That deputation, I understand, was very dissatisfied with the reply of the Prime Minister. They held another indignation meeting, and they resolved—and here one traces the hand of the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft)—"that during the coming autumn and winter a propaganda should be carried out all over the country under the direction of the Empire Industries Association (that is the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth)" in support of a policy of safeguarding. I suppose they were very active from that time up to the conference of the Tory party at Yarmouth. Now, the hon. and gallant Gentleman was expected to lead the 925 rebellious army to a triumphant attack at that conference, but he gravely disappointed his army, and some of the Tory newspapers were so unkind as to suggest that the gallant General's strategic movement to the rear was not altogether unconnected with vacancies on the Ministerial bench. But there were Trotskys in the rebellion who had more courage than the gallant General, and the most meek-minded of all, the hon. and learned Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Storry Deans) jumped into the breach, and carried the proposal. The Resolution moved by the gallant General read like this:That the Conference urges the earliest possible steps to safeguard additional industries.An Amendment was moved to that Resolution and was carried with almost unanimity.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Yes, the hon. and gallant Gentleman accepted it when he saw that discretion was the better part of valour, and accepted the added words "particularly iron and steel." Then came the Prime Minister's speech containing this declaration, and I suppose the reason for this dissatisfaction amongst the extremists in the Tory party is that the Prime Minister made no reference at all to the addendum in regard to iron and steel which had been added to the Resolution. Now I am going to read the pertinent part of the Prime Minister s speech, and then I will deal with it point by point. He said:We are agreed that there will be no tax on food. I repeat the pledge which I have given that Safeguarding will not be used as a side-door or back-door by which 'to introduce a general tariff until the question of a general tariff has been submitted to the country—a purely democratic proceeding—and in view of our record, in view of our treatment of this question, the country will trust us and take our word. I say this, that no industry will be barred from taking its case and proving it, if it can, before the appropriate tribunal. I would add one thing: if we are returned to power we have no doubt the procedure needs simplifying and shortening.That is the statement of the Prime Minister, and I venture to submit that it is couched in terms of calculated vagueness. There is nothing definite about it. It could be construed in a 926 hundred different ways. No wonder the dissatisfaction of the gallant General! There was another rebellion in the Tory party. They want to know what the Prime Minister means. We want to know. Now I will take the various points and examine the statement in a little detail. First of all, there is to be no tax on food. Why? Many reasons have been given by Protectionists. The Minister of Agriculture stated some time ago that the reason was that it would increase the price of food. Why should it increase the price of food?
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Mr. Guinness)
Because it has only been asked for by the farmers for that purpose. [Interruption.] was asked a question, and the reason why I made that statement was that the farmers made it perfectly clear that they did not want a larger market, which is the object of Safeguarding. They did not want an assured market, because their produce already finds a market, but what they wanted was a higher price, and I said that no protective system involving a higher price for foodstuffs could find a part in the Conservative programme.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The right hon. Gentleman would have been well advised to remain silent. Why should it raise the price? The foreigner pays. Why should not we make the foreigner pay? I think my memory in this matter is accurate, and it is that in the later stages of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's tariff compaign he abandoned the original ideal of taxing food, so far as maize was concerned, and he did it on the ground that maize was the food of pigs, and that pigs were the food of man, and that, therefore, it would be taxing the food of human beings. There is no difference at all, so far as the effect upon the consumer is concerned, between taxing food direct and taxing the implements by which food is produced, and there is no difference, economically, between taxing food and taxing cooking utensils—nearly every one of which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has taxed. It all comes out of the pockets of the consumer, and it is a matter of indifference to him, when particular articles which he must use are taxed, that others are free from taxation. It is the amount of the tax levied upon him that matters to him.
927 Then there is this further point in regard to the refusal to tax food. I am not, as I have said, arguing this afternoon the general question of Protection and Safeguarding, but, in view of the statement of the Prime Minister, I may be permitted to say this. You are going to tax the farmer by means of this Safeguarding. You are going to tax him upon almost every article he needs for the conduct of his occupation and industry, and yet, he alone, according to the Prime Minister's declaration, is to be denied the benefit of Protection. I shall await with interest what Tory Members will have to say in the agricultural constituencies when they are advocating a general tariff for everything and everybody except the farmer. The Prime Minister in this declaration says he does not propose to ask for a mandate for a general tariff. What is a general tariff? The Prime Minister does not know what a general tariff is. Mr. Hewins, the arch-priest of Protection, tried to put the right hon. Gentlemen right, but, I am afraid, without very great success, and I propose to give the House two quotations from the Prime Minister which show that he uses the term "general tariff" in two totally different senses. Speaking in February. 1924, just after we came into office, he said:To fight unemployment in the absence of a general tariff we must have the power to safeguard our people against unfair competition.In December of the same year when he was in office he said:Any duty in my view levied under the Safeguarding of Industries Act should be a general duty and not a particular one.If we transpose a word or two there, and use the word "tariff" instead of the word "duty" the Prime Minister's statement would be:Any tariff in my view levied under the Safeguarding of Industries Act must be a general tariff.A general tariff or a general duty. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"] "Must he a general duty" are the Prime Minister's words, "and not a particular one." What does the Prime Minister mean by a general tariff? [HON. MEMBERS: "What do you mean?"] I will tell hon. Members. The sense in which the term was used during the fiscal controversy was that the tariff 928 must be one which applied all round to any particular kind of goods; but the sense in which the Prime Minister uses it—in one of these statements but not in the other—is that a general tariff is a universal tariff, a tariff of an all-embracing nature. If that is the sense in which he uses the term, and apparently it is if words mean anything, then there is no such thing and there never has been any such thing in any country in the world as a general tariff, that is to say a universal tariff.
I want to put this further. How far have we to go protecting one industry after another until we get a general tariff, a universal tariff, and full-blown Protection? The Chancellor of the Exchequer has answered that question. The right hon. Gentleman answered that question himself in a speech which I shall never forget. It was a speech made by him in one of our finance Debates two or three years ago, and his statement made a great impression upon me at the time. He said if more than a few industries received this Protection the pledge of the Prime Minister was affected. That is the difference between Protection and Safeguarding. Now we have answers to that question given by other prominent members of the Government. The Chief Whip gave one only the other day. The Secretary of State for the Dominions—who is always consistent on this question and never retreats in the face of the foe like the hon. and gallant General the Member for Bournemouth—has also answered the question. What do they say? This is what the Secretary of State for the Dominions said on 29th September, and I believe that was just about the time of the Conservative Party Conference:If the Government is returned to power at the next election there will be no limit either to the character or the number of industries that will be able to secure Safeguarding.What is the difference between safeguarding and protection? The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury gave an answer to his constituents the other day. He said:It was no use to kick against the pricks.Let the rebel members of his party remember that— 929The country would not have it all at once, so they would have to take it a bit at a time, which was being done by safeguarding industries and wherever it had been tried it had proved a success, and he did not see why the needle trade should not be safeguarded.He was speaking in a needle-making district. What are we going to have? We are going to have every Tory Member at the next Election stating in his own constituency, whatever the local industry may be, "I see no reason why your industry should not be safeguarded." Now what is the difference between Protection, and "getting it," as the Chief Whip says, "bit by bit"? I will tell you what the difference is. The difference is just the same as in the case of a very devout Catholic who was very fond of beefsteak and who on Fridays took a beefsteak, baptised it in holy water, and christened it a cod steak. Now we have the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Hemel Hampstead (Mr. Davidson) also interpreting the Prime Minister's declaration, and he says:Naturally these words cover iron and steel.Do they cover iron and steel? I have a number of questions to submit to the Prime Minister at the end of my speech of which that will be one. Does his declaration include iron and steel? The right hon. Gentleman spoke in the great centre of that industry a, few weeks ago at the Cutlers' Feast in Sheffield. He never said a word about protecting iron and steel, but he made an appeal to them to put their own house in order. What were the views expressed by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons upon this question at the end of 1925? The Civil Research Committee and other committees had been inquiring into this matter, and the Prime Minister said:It became clear in the course of our investigations that the safeguarding of a basic industry of this magnitude would have repercussions of a far wider character which might be held to be in conflict with our declaration in regard to a general tariff. In all the circumstances we have come to the conclusion that the application cannot he granted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1925; col. 1945, Vol. 189.]Now the resolution of the Tory Conference demands the immediate application of the tariff to iron and steel. Does the Prime Minister agree? If he does, then the difference between Safeguarding in its application to the iron and steel trade, 930 and general Protection and a general tariff is the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The right hon. Gentleman the Prime Minister says that the country will trust him—[Hon. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—Yes, but the country has a right to know what he means, and how their trust in him would be used. No industry is to be barred. Therefore, and according to the statement of the chief Conservative organiser, iron and steel cannot be barred, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer said something similar the other day, while the Dominions Secretary said that not only can trey apply, but they can secure it. What is to be the constitution of the tribunal that is to be set up? Is it to be constituted, as all the tribunals under the White Paper have to be constituted, by a majority of persons who are known to be ardent Protectionists? Further—and this is most important, and the point has never been touched, let alone made clear—if the appropriate tribunal recommends a duty, is it the intention of the Government in every case to carry that recommendation into effect? Every industry can apply, and if they get a recommendation and the Government accept it, then every industry can be protected. Then what is the difference between Safeguarding and Protection? The Patronage Secretary is justified in saying that it is Protection bit by bit.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Commander Eyres Monsell)
I said nothing of the sort.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
But it will not be by little bits. There are at least 200 Members of the party opposite who will follow the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth and see that the Prime Minister toes the line once more, just as the Chancellor of the Exchequer, after the very interesting incidents of last July, had to toe the line. We had Ministers then making statements of an opposite character, and I understand there was actually a special Cabinet meeting to fine some excuse for these diverse declarations on the part of a united Cabinet; and the answer that the Prime Minister gave to the House of Commons was that those statements were an illustration of the verbal versatility of the Members of the Cabinet in giving expression to the many-sidedness of truth. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, having 931 been compelled to toe the line, went down to Cheltenham, and, in one of his characteristical rhetorical flourishes, said: "We are going to march forward with stronger steps along the path of well-tried experience."
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
The Chancellor of the Exchequer last Thursday reaffirmed the Prime Minister's declaration, but there was one word that he used which was not in the Prime Minister's declaration, and it was this, that the policy of safeguarding would be adopted "where a special ease is made out." Is it only where there are special, circumstances that the recommendation of a Committee will be accepted by the Government? I will leave Members of the Government and of the party opposite to reconcile these conflicting statements. What, I repeat, is to be the constitution of this Committee? Are the conditions of the White Paper to be scrapped? Has the industry to prove that it is subject to abnormal competition, to unfair international competition? What are the conditions which are to determine whether or not an industry shall be protected? The procedure, we are told, is to be simplified and strengthened. With regard to iron and steel, does the Prime Minister adhere to the declaration I have read, that if a duty should be given to the iron and steel trade it would be a violation of his pledge in regard to a general tariff?
These are the questions that I want to put to the Prime Minister, and I will hand them across to him when I sit down: What is the form and constitution of the "appropriate tribunal" to be set up I Will an applicant industry have to make out a special case? If the tribunal recommends a duty, will the Government invariably accept its recommendation? Seeing that every industry, except agriculture, is to be free to apply for Protection, and if the application is approved, will he tell us the difference between the policy he put before the country in 1923, which was rejected, and this new method? How does he reconcile this new method with his declaration not to introduce Protection 932 by the back door? Does he rule out a duty on iron and steel, and if so does he recant the declaration which I have mentioned already?
We have put forward this Amendment in order to get an answer to these questions, but before I sit down I want to deal briefly with one other part of our Amendment, which saysthat the most effective way to deal with the competition of countries where labour conditions are low is by international action to raise those conditions.That is the Labour policy, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer was quite wrong the other day, and he did an injustice to my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition, when he talked of his having advocated the prohibition of sweated goods.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
He was never under any obligation to toe the line. [Interruption.] I happen to have been the Chairman of the Committee that made those recommendations, and, therefore, I think even hon. Members opposite may take it that the Free Trade orthodoxy of those recommendations cannot he impugned. As a matter of fact, we condemned tariffs unreservedly. What we had in mind was to raise the world conditions of labour by international Conventions. My right hon. Friend was speaking to an audience that knew this report. What is our policy? What we propose is that in regard to the observance of the economic obligations of each State which has accepted a Convention of the League, the same principle is to be applied as has to be applied under the Covenant of the League of Nations to a State which refuses to conform, in a matter of international dispute, to the conditions laid down. That does not mean absolutely uniform conditions, but it means an international Convention ratified by all these States, and what is the use of such a ratification unless there can be some means to enforce it?—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—Not by force, but by the kind of sanction that is provided in the Covenant of the League of Nations.
We are not quite so foolish—I know that hon. Members opposite do not give us 933 credit for very much intelligence, and I will not say that we reciprocate it, although we might do so with a good deal more justification—as to think that embargoes or prohibitions could be imposed as a national policy. No one nation could enforce them. Supposing we did, what would be the effect? It would not carry out our purpose of helping the condition of the workers in less advanced countries, because their exports would go elsewhere. Therefore, our policy is the action of the League of Nations, which would be applied by all the constituent States of the League against any one State which refused to accept its obligations under the Convention, and, as a matter of fact, it is extremely unlikely that there would ever be the slightest reason to apply it, because no country would ever be so foolish as to set itself against the whole world where it was obviously in the wrong. I am certain that we shall receive the support of the Prime Minister in this matter. If he will permit me to say this to him, I listened with very great interest to his broadcast speech from the Guildhall on Friday night, and may I add this, though he has probably had the information already, that he came through magnificently and his every word was heard? I wonder if I might add this, that the officials at the British Broadcasting Corporation tell me that the Prime Minister and myself are the best broadcasters there are! I was particularly interested in this sentence in the right hon. Gentleman's speech:The more the industries of Europe can get together, both the employers and the labour sides, to thrash out their own problems, to try to elevate together the conditions of the people, the conditions tinder which they work, the more the nations will understand each other, and by that understanding the less likely will they he to fight.That is the underlying purpose and the policy of the Labour party. I have stated more than once in my remarks what the purpose of this Amendment is. It is to give the Prime Minister an opportunity of clearing up any doubts, any divergencies, any ambiguities in the statement that he made. I hope that the Prime Minister will take this matter in hand himself. I do not want any of his apostles, for nobody but the Prime Minister can give the answers that we demand.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
We have a perfect right to choose, and we have the right to demand answers from the Prime Minister, who is the only man who can give an authoritative reply. Is he going to put up the Secretary of State for the Dominions? Is he going to put up the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or is he going to put up the Home Secretary? From these three we should get three divergent views, and I am sure that the Chancellor of the Exchequer would not be able to resist—he has never been able to resist—after he has read the brief which has been supplied to him, introducing a reaffirmation of his own Free Trade faith. I submit this Amendment to the House and many hon. Members on the opposite side of the House will be grateful to me for having done what they would like to have done but had not. the courage to do.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for WAR (Sir Laming Worthington-Evans)
I told the right hon. Gentleman—[HON. MEMBERS: "Prime Minister!"]—that the Prime Minister proposes to speak later in the Debate and, indeed, to wind it up from this side of the House. In the meanwhile, I should like to deal with some of the matters which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) has raised in his speech. That speech was an admirable piece of Parliamentary fooling. I do not say that offensively. It was an amusing speech, which was not unfitted to the farcical nature of the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman has put upon the Order Paper. What is the object of this Amendment? Is it to help a single workman in this country to meet the competition of workmen employed abroad in inferior conditions? Is it to do a good turn to anyone, or to do a bad turn to the Government and the. Government's supporters? It has been conceived, as we who have been in Parliament some time know quite well, not to elicit information for information's sake, but to endeavour to divide hon. Members who sit upon this side of the House, and to enable hon. Members who sit on that side of the House to misrepresent our policy at the next General Election.
935 I think that I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that the Government and its supporters are not likely to be entrapped by so transparent a device. We are united, and our policy is one of Safeguarding, which cannot by any intelligent man be mistaken for a policy of Protection. There really can be no ground for doubt as to our policy. The Prime Minister's letter of the 3rd August last, to which the right hon. Gentleman has referred, stated in the most categorical terms thatsafeguarding has been the law of the land since it was established as a principle by Mr. Lloyd George's Government in 1921. It was the policy we adopted at the last General Election, and it will be continued. We are pledged, and shall continue to be pledged, not to introduce Protection. We are pledged, and shall continue to be pledged, not to introduce any taxes on food.Then the letter goes on to state thata careful examination of the administration of the Act, based upon the experience of the last four years, may enable us to simplify certain details of procedure—I propose shortly to give the House the result of the examination which we have had into the procedure—and no manufacturing industry will be barred from presenting its case before the Tribunal.We have no intention of altering that statement of our policy. It has been loyally accepted, both on its positive side and its negative side. The right hon. Gentleman asked if it applied to iron and steel. Let me answer that question. Iron and steel were not excluded under the Safeguarding Act of 1921, and they were not excluded in the address of the Prime Minister in 1924.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
They were not excluded on either of these occasions, and they are not excluded now.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
The right hon. Gentleman asked why, if they are not excluded, they are not admitted to the procedure laid down in the White Paper. That has been explained, I 936 should have thought without any shadow of doubt remaining, by the Prime Minister in an answer which he gave in this House in December, 1925. He referred to an application which had been made by the iron and steel trades for the appointment of a committee under the Safeguarding Procedure, and he told the House, in answer to the question, that it had been considered by the Civil Research Committee. Then he went on to say:It became clear, however, in the course of our investigations, that the safeguarding of a basic industry of this magnitude would have repercussions of a far wider character which might he held to be in conflict with our declaration in regard to a general tariff. In all the circumstances of the present time we have come to the conclusion that the application cannot be granted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st December, 1925; col. 1945, Vol. 189.]I will not shirk any part of this question of the repercussions which might have the effect of impinging upon the undertaking given by the Prime Minister. Steel, after all, as we are constantly reminded, is not merely a manufactured article, but the raw material so-called of many other industries, and at that time the users were certainly not convinced that, if a safeguarding duty were given, their own industries might not be prejudiced by an increased cost in the steel which they purchased. The steel trade now, however, put forward another case, a new case. They say that the low output precludes the steel industry in this country from international competition; the output capacity is many times the actual output in individual steel works, and if the output could be brought up to something like capacity, the reduction in costs would be very considerable. Not only would there be a considerable reduction in costs, but there would be a considerable improvement in the employment in that industry, and in the coal and iron industries as well. That is their case. Their case is that the repercussions which were feared in 1925 may be avoided by their being able so to reduce their costs that they can bring with them the support of the users of steel. That is a case which has never been considered by the older economists. These are new facts. Their case has, of course, not yet been proved, but it is a case fit for investigation by a tribunal, and it is not excluded from going to that tribunal.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I do not know under what circumstances or in what context that statement was made.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I was talking of procedure that will come into operation after the next General Election, and not of procedure now.
§ Mr. BENN indicated dissent.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
It has never been concealed, and there is no possible ground of doubt, or reason for the hon. Gentleman to shake his head, because he must know that I am talking of something which will occur after the next Election. According to the Prime Minister's letter of the 3rd August, a careful examination has been made of the administration with a view to seeing how far we can simplify the details of procedure, and here I can answer the first question which the right hon. Gentleman raised. There will be a tribunal set up by the President of the Board of Trade, which will be a body much on the same lines as the tribunal which has been set up under the Merchandise Marks Act. Instead of having tribunals or committees ad hoc, as we have had in the past, the tribunal will be a permanent body set up under the President of the Board of Trade.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked if the Government would be bound by the findings of such a tribunal. The Government, of course, has to take its own responsibility and is not bound by the advice of any such tribunal. Moreover, the House of Commons is not bound, because whatever duty may be proposed would come before the House of Commons in a Finance Bill, for which the Government is responsible, and the House of Commons will finally adjudicate upon it when the Finance Bill is before the House. We propose also that the procedure shall be made less expensive and less obstructive. Hitherto, no one industry has been able to appear before a tribunal to oppose an application unless 938 it could maintain that the imposition of a duty would have a serious adverse effect on employment in that industry, and agriculture has never been able to be represented before a tribunal as it has not been affected in that way. In future, agriculture will be entitled to appear before the tribunal should it have cause to fear that it will be prejudiced by any safeguarding duty which might cause an increase in its costs of production. I do not mean that agriculture could apply for a safeguarding duty. There was a misunderstanding in the House the other day in regard to that, so I take the opportunity of making it clear that I do not mean that agriculture can apply for a safeguarding duty, but that it can be represented when any other industry is applying for a duty if it fears that its own costs of production will be interfered with. The right hon. Gentleman also asked me to say whether a special case—he laid great stress on the word "special"—would have to be made by any industry which applied for safeguarding? I think I cannot do better in answer than to tell the House the general nature of the questions which will be before the tribunal when an industry applies for safeguarding. It will have to decide:
Whether foreign goods of the class or description to which the application relates are being imported into and retained for consumption in the United Kingdom in quantities substantial in proportion to consumption in this country.
Whether by reason of the severity and extent of the competition employment in the manufacture or production of such goods in the United Kingdom is being or is likely to be seriously affected.
Whether the foreign goods so imported are manufactured in the country of origin under unfair or inferior conditions of hours or wages.
Whether the applicant industry in this country could materially increase its present output.
Whether the applicant industry is being carried on in the United Kingdom with reasonable efficiency and economy.
Whether the imposition of a duty on goods of the class or description in question would exert a seriously adverse 939 effect upon employment or costs of production in any productive industry, including agriculture.
Whether having regard to all these conditions the applicant industry has in the opinion of the Committee established a claim to a duty, and, if so, what rate or rates of duty in the opinion of the Committee would be reasonably sufficient to countervail the unfair competition.
Whether the right hon. Gentleman calls it "special" or not I cannot say, but I would ask him to observe that the procedure is applicable in individual cases—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
No, it is not the White Paper procedure, it is different. I would point out that the procedure is applicable where importation is substantial, where employment in the United Kingdom is seriously affected, where competition arises from unfair or inferior conditions of hours or wages, where the applicant is efficient, and can increase output, and where no serious adverse effect on employment or costs of production in any other productive industry is caused. [Interruption.] Yes, that was in the White Paper. The right hon. Gentleman also asked what guarantee there would be against Safeguarding being used in the new Parliament to introduce Protection by a back door or a side door. These are the guarantees. Each industry has got to prove its own case; the duties have got to be imposed by a Finance Bill coming before this House. [Interruption.] On the contrary, under the 1921 Act there was a different procedure, a much more easy procedure in one sense, in that the President of the Board of Trade could include a particular article in an Order, and then a mere 'Resolution of the House would confirm that and grant the duty.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
What we are going to do is that every one of those duties will be included in a Finance Act. But a much more important safeguard than this is the pledge of the Prime Minister himself. He has 940 pledged himself that a general tariff is not part of our programme, and that has been faithfully fulfilled in this Parliament, as everyone must admit, and it will be equally faithfully fulfilled in the next. He renewed the pledge in the letter of 3rd August:We are pledged, and shall continue to be pledged, not to introduce Protection.I think I have answered the questions which the right hon. Gentleman has put to me, and now I wish for a moment to deal with this policy, which is referred to in the Amendment on the Paper. It says:Respectfully submit that the most effective way to deal with competition of countries where labour conditions are low is by international action to raise those conditions.I am not sure that he agrees with the Leader of the Opposition, in view of the explanation he gave of how he was going to carry out that policy. It differs from the explanation which the Leader of the Opposition gave when he was speaking at the Labour Party Conference at Birmingham last month. There he said:The only way in which British labour could maintain its higher standards and meet the competition of foreign labour with low standards was by international agreement through trade unions, labour policies, and Labour governments at home and abroad. Where there were glaring examples of sweated goods produced under conditions against which British people could not compete without lowering their standards of living, the remedy was not safeguarding but prohibiting the entry of such goods.I would like to examine that declaration for a moment. May I ask the right hon. Gentleman a question? He has been so good as to ask us several, to which I have endeavoured to reply. May I ask him this? When he came into power and was Chancellor of the Exchequer he dropped the McKenna duties and the Safeguarding duties. Does he propose to do that again? Does he propose to repeal the Safeguarding duties?
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
I think the best answer I can give to that question is to say, in the well-known words of a former Prime Minister, that the right hon. Gentleman had better wait and see.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
I think I will leave it at that. It would be interesting to know how the prohibition is to be carried out. He says by international action. There is a Convention which is now going round Europe to be ratified which already prevents that. It is called the International Convention for the Abolition of Prohibitions and Restrictions on Importation. It is an international convention which has been made lately under the auspices of the League of Nations at Geneva. That would actually stop the right hon. Gentleman from carrying out that policy. That is most unfortunate for him, having regard to his way of finding out how to stop British labour from being undercut by labour abroad, sweated labour abroad—
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
What does it matter whether the country is protected or not? To the man who is working in this country the point of importance is, "Is he going to continue to keep his work or is he not?" It does not matter to him by whom he is beaten. It does not matter whether the imports come from protected or unprotected countries. If the goods are made at sweated wages he is going to be put out of work, and the right hon. Gentleman's answer to that is, "We will prohibit the import of those goods by international convention." Unfortunately, there is an international convention now being ratified which stops him doing that.
I turn from that peculiarly foolish position, and am extremely glad of the opportunity of giving the House the results of some of the safeguarding, the McKenna and the Silk Duties, of which they ought to be reminded. The right hon. Gentleman has been extracting information for the benefit of those on this side of the House, and I am now going to give him information for the benefit of those on that side of the House. I assert that these duties have been successful not merely in safeguarding, but also 942 in increasing employment. It is a tribute to the work of the Committees, who have so often been abused as being protectionist, because the results of these duties prove that they exercised their discretion most wisely. Let me give a short and general statement of what I find by an examination of the details.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
Leave it to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). He has more imagination than you have.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
Employment in these industries has improved, especially in the case of motors, silk, artificial silk and leather gloves. The imports are in general lower than before the duties were imposed, and in some instances exports have steadily increased. The prices of commodities covered by the duties have not been advanced, and in some cases they have been reduced. The motor industry is expanding; two foreign manufacturers have established factories in this country and others are coming. Six new tyre factories have been established by foreign manufacturers. Sixteen new companies have been formed for artificial silk manufacture, and four foreign companies are setting up factories here. This is extremely important from the point of view of employment in this country.
§ Sir L. WORTHINGTON-EVANS
If there is any doubt about my statement that things have improved from the employment point of view, I will give the right hon. Gentleman some figures. In the motor industry in 1927 there were 230,000 people employed—I am giving round figures—an increase of nearly 30,000 over 1924. In the case of tyres the duty has only just been put on, and I am not able to give figures as to the effect it has had on employment, but I am sure it must have increased employment, because four American firms and two other foreign firms are setting up factories in this country. The number of people employed in the manufacture of musical instruments has increased from 20,000 in 1924 to 25,000 in 1927; and in the manufacture of silk 943 articles they have increased from 41,000 to 55,000. The 1928 figures are even better. Then there is the lace trade. That was not a growing trade; on the contrary, it was a drooping trade, but now it has revived, and the numbers of workpeople unemployed have dropped from 21.4 per cent. to 9.2 per cent, last quarter. The figures as to leather gloves and fabric gloves tell exactly the same tale. Those are substantial facts, and I would say to the right hon. Gentleman who has put down this Amendment that I hope he is satisfied with the answer he has had, and I will undertake to say that hon. Gentlemen on this side of the House are not going to fall into the silly little trap the right hon. Gentleman has laid for us.
§ Mr. DENNISON
I cannot understand any Member of this House who professes to take an interest- in the welfare of the working-classes of this country not supporting the Amendment which we have put forward, because our object is to adopt a policy which will raise the standard of life in those countries where labour conditions are low, and we want to do this by international action. It is a well-known fact that one of the most serious factors from which our manufacturers suffer in regard to foreign competition is the wages and the longer working hours adopted by our Continental competitors. If the effect of our Amendment is to remove this handicap, then all hon. Members who desire to improve labour conditions on the Continent and raise the standard of life among the workers should support our proposals. I think my hon. Friends who do not agree with me in regard to this matter may take it that the labour costs of a ton of steel represent the determining factor, and not necessarily the amount of wages paid par man employed. I think it will be admitted by those who have visited modern iron and steel rocks on the Continent that there are heavier labour costs in some particular branches in producing a ton of steel than is the case in this country.
Manufacturers and Members of the Government party tell us that we must adopt some method of protection in order to improve the standard of life among the working-classes and to prevent sweated goods coming into this country. 944 At the same time we also find the representatives of the Government at Geneva, and even members of manufacturing associations connected with the iron and steel trade, refusing to support the Labour representatives at Geneva with reference to the ratification of the Washington Hours Convention. It is difficult to believe that hon. Members opposite are sincere in all the arguments they put forward. The Secretary of State for War has told us what kind of committee is going to be set up to deal with the problem in regard to the iron and steel industry, or any other industry which may make an application for safeguarding. Of course, all that is on the assumption that the present Government will be returned at the next election. In dealing with questions of this kind, I want to avoid having a packed jury. I hope those responsible for setting up the committee which has been promised will take care that it is a committee in which all who are interested will have confidence, but how can we have any confidence in a committee set up with an individual at its head who is perhaps one of the most pronounced Tariff Reformers who sits in the House of Commons?
We have heard a good deal about the difference between Safeguarding and Protection, and we have been told that if Safeguarding is extended to the iron and steel industry it will not constitute a protective or general tariff. The ramifications of the iron and steel trade extend almost to everything in use in this country, if any additional cost is put upon imported steel, the result will be that that additional cost will put on the price of the plough, the reaper, and everything used by the farmers for the production of food. Of course, the farmer would pass on that extra cost to the consumer, and therefore it is no use hon. Members opposite saying that the application of Safeguarding to the iron and steel industry will not be a general tariff. It would not matter so much if it could be shown that there would be some compensation after adopting Safeguarding, but we have not had a single word to show any compensating advantage which will result from Safeguarding.
The organisation for which I claim to speak, and which is concerned with this particular trade, is very much concerned because this question is becoming a 945 political issue rather than an industrial issue. Not only the workpeople but many manufacturers are very much concerned because this question is being made a political issue. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am surprised that hon. Members say "Hear, hear" in regard to that argument, because they are entirely responsible for the whole policy of Safeguarding; in fact, that policy very nearly led to the breaking up of the party opposite when the suggestion was made that Safeguarding should be extended to the iron and steel industry. I can assure hon. Members that the matter we are discussing is causing considerable concern and uneasiness to many sections of the iron and steel industry. I should like to see the Government arranging for consultations with representative organisations connected not only with manufacturers but with every section of the industry, including the workpeople, because all interested parties should have an opportunity of expressing their views frankly and freely. The workpeople are carefully watching this question, and they want to see something done. I am afraid the remedy which the Government have suggested will be worse than the disease, and we want to make quite sure on that point.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I have listened with very great interest to the Debate this afternoon, and I was particularly interested in the remarks made by the hon. Member for King's Norton (Mr. Dennison). A most important statement was made by the 'Secretary of State for War with regard to the proposed modifications in the procedure of Safeguarding. I hope the right hon. Gentleman will not think I am disrespectful if I say that 'Safeguarding is a subject in regard to which we know the pitfalls and traps which arise, and we must look into these matters before we can bless the scheme suggested as being what we all want. I am very grateful to the Opposition for having tabled this Amendment, and I am particularly grateful to my hon. and gallant Friend because I cannot help thinking that he has produced the particular fly which has been put at the end of the line, and he is looking more innocent than usual. Hon. Members on this side of the House 946 have been anxiously considering how they could at the earliest possible moment secure a debate upon this question. We are grateful to hon. Members opposite for providing us with this opportunity for debate, because we should, probably have been told, if we had asked for a, day upon which to discuss this subject, that the time of the Government was extremely limited.
Many hon. Members on this side of the House are especially pleased with this Amendment, because it refers to the unanimous resolution passed by the Conservative party at the Conference held at Yarmouth. I am quite indifferent about what is said as to my retreats from battle on the occasion of Safeguarding debates in our party conferences. As the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) was so insistent upon this view, I think I am entitled to tell him that when I tabled my Amendment, I informed the authorities, who were perhaps not altogether pleased with it, that when I referred to additional industries, I particularly meant iron and steel. Anyone who was present at the Conservative Conference at Yarmouth knows that one-third of my few poor remarks were upon that subject, and were spoken in no uncertain voice. If hon. Members opposite were willing to omit from their Amendment all the words after the word "industries," and were willing to insert the words:and calls for action as urged in the resolution of the Sheffield Division of the Federation of Iron and Steel Workers,then, as far as I am concerned, I should be very much inclined to support them.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I thank the hon. Member for that statement, but I should like to give to the House the exact words of the resolution passed by the Sheffield Council, which embraces all the areas in the steel and iron industry from Leeds clown to Lincolnshire and Northampton. These were the words of the resolution:We therefore urge that all our Members who are Members of Parliament, the executive council and members of local governing bodies to vote and work for the safeguarding of our industry by means of a tariff on imported steel, so that an increasing number of unemployed brothers can be re-absorbed in the industry.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am sorry that there is not more unanimity on this question. Perhaps I may be permitted to ask the hon. Member a question, because I really have the most friendly feelings towards him. He is in a very difficult position in trying to make two worlds one, the Socialist world, and the trade union world. I assure him that it is impossible. I would ask him, would he agree with the unanimous decision of the Confederation of Iron and Steel Workers for the whole country? I under stand that he would. What did they declare on the 30th November, 1925? Of course, the later resolution which I have quoted was carried, as the hon. Member knows, this year. This is what they said in 1925, before their minds had progressed:This Executive directs the attention of the Prime Minister to the parlous condition of the iron and steel industry of this country, and the adverse competitive factors operating against it which are outside its control, and urges the Government to take immediate steps to prohibit the importation"—not to wait for international action, but to take immediate steps—of iron and steel from countries where wages rates and hours of labour are below British standards.I make my hon. Friend a present of that. As he has already told us, he accepts their decision. It would, indeed, be a unique occasion if we found the Socialist party endorsing the decisions of the trade unionists in the country outside, and, therefore, I do not contemplate that they will want to discuss very much further this question of the decision of the great Confederation to which I have referred.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The hon. Gentleman was not in the House when I read the first resolution, in which safeguarding was definitely urged.
§ Mr. MONTAGUE
There was a difference in area between the section which passed the one resolution and that which passed the other. The last resolution which the hon. and gallant Gentleman quoted was passed by a body more comprehensive in area than the other, and 948 it does not mention the question of tariffs.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The second resolution was passed in 1925, and the other in 1928. The resolution passed in 1928 urges, not that we should wait for international action, but that the Prime Minister should prohibit now the importation of iron and steel.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I think the hon. Gentleman will agree that that has nothing to do with the point, but I can assure him that, if he will come and co-operate with other Members of the House on this subject of employment for British industry, he will find very warm friends on this side.
§ Mr. DENNISON
May I say that the executive council of our organisation represents the whole of the membership of the organisation, and the executive council did not endorse, but refused to accept, that resolution?
§ Sir H. CROFT
I do not want to make a point of subtle distinction; I am quite satisfied with the fact that, whereas most of us on this side want to see action begun on wise lines of safeguarding iron and steel, hon. Gentlemen opposite want complete prohibition of imports. I am quite satisfied with that differentiation. Now I want to say a word with regard to other opinions in the party opposite. One might imagine that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley spoke for that party, but, as far as I can gather, he speaks for himself and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. W. Benn) and for no one else. I was disappointed that the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) did not move this Amendment, because he at any rate has nailed his flag to the mast and has the courage of his convictions. I would re- 949 mind the House, that, on the 25th February, 1925, he said this:The Socialist party must have a policy that would guarantee a decent standard of living to all workers in the country, and he thought that such a policy should consist of protecting the workers of this country against the sweated workers of other countries.All this is milk and water compared with the policy of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, to which reference as already been made by my right hors. Friend. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition is not satisfied with the resolution of the Confederation or with the kind of opinion given by the hon. Gentleman whom I have just quoted. In answer to a Socialist candidate in an agricultural constituency in the West of England, namely, the Bodmin Division of Cornwall, who asked at the Conference, amidst the cheers of his colleagues:How long are these unmitigated horrors of Free Trade to continue in this country?the right hon. Gentleman said:Our policy, the Labour policy, is not the policy of the Liberal party. Not a hit of it. We are out for absolute prohibition.That is to say, instead of using the scientific instrument of Safeguarding, and following the normal procedure which the wisdom of the world has so far discovered to be right, he comes along with a sledge-hammer and says that none of these people are going to be allowed to send their goods here if it can be proved that they are sweated. But the Leader of the Opposition is not the only one of these full-blooded prohibitionists, because there is another right hon. Gentleman—
§ Sir H. CROFT
He also is spoken of as a possible Prime Minister of this country. I refer to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Shettleston (Mr. Wheatley), and I am sure that the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) will accept his remarks. He says:If I were in power I would use the British Navy to sink the ships that brought from abroad the products of sweated labour to reduce the standard of living of British workmen.We on this side, who have not quite such militaristic minds, but who believe 950 rather in international agreement and arbitration, are not prepared to go quite so far as to use the British Navy to sink a merchant ship during a time of peace, but we can understand the right hon. Gentleman's feelings of wrath when he is moved to make so forcible a statement. [Interruption.] I have in my mind many quotations of the right hon. Gentleman, but, as there are still some very important matters with which I desire to deal, I hope hon. Members will permit me to proceed. I invite both of these aspirants to the Premiership of this country to tell us in the House to-day what they mean by sweated goods. I think there is a fairly simple test. The average rate of wages in the iron and steer industry of this country is, I believe, 60s. per week. If any workers in this country were to apply for work, and say that they were ready to work at wages of 50s., 38s., 33s. or 30s., I think both right hon. Gentlemen would say that those were sweated conditions, and that they could not allow this to take place. Am I right? Very well. These are the actual wages which are being paid at the present moment in Germany, the Saar, France and Belgium. [Interruption.] Does that raise our wages? If you take into consideration the working hours, and reduce the wage levels in these various countries to a common denominator, you will find that Germany's wage level in this industry is 75 per cent. of that of Britain, that of the Saar 57 per cent., that of France 50 per cent. and that of Belgium 45 per cent. of our wage level. Would hon. Gentlemen opposite allow Germans, or Frenchmen, or Luxemburgers, or Belgians, to come into this country and work at those wages? Not for one hour. And yet the right hon. Gentleman, speaking just now, gloried in the fact that the products of those workers are coming into this country and bringing this misery into the homes, of great numbers of our fellow-countrymen. [Interruption.]
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Mr. James Hope)
In a Debate of this sort, it is natural that there should be interruption, but it must not be carried to such a point that the argument of any speaker is rendered impossible.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am sorry if I got warmed up; the subject, as my hon. 951 Friends know, is very near to my heart. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley spoke the other day at Yeovil, and he said then that, if iron and steel were safeguarded, the cost of industrial plant would be raised 50 per cent. I have not the remotest idea of how he arrived at that miraculous figure, or where he gets his figures from, but I defy him to state that, even if that were true, the cost would be raised to a lesser extent by total prohibition—the policy of his Leader—than by the safeguarding policy adopted in regard to other industries by the party on whose benches I sit. I see that he was very solicitous at the same time—and he also made remarks of the same character to-day—about the ultimate price of motor cars as affected by duties on steel, glass, and so on. I am not at all surprised that he is really worried in his mind about this, because, after he committed his great folly in 1924, and after that was put right in the following year by the Conservative Government, the result has been from that day to this that the price of motor cars has enormously decreased. The price of a 10 horse-power motor car, since we reimposed the duties, has decreased by £29, and that of an 18–25 horse-power car has decreased by £84—truly a remarkable result; and, when the right hon. Gentleman once more waves the red flag to the British motor manufacturers, I should like to tell him that they are entirely converted to Safeguarding, because they see that it gives them a secure home market, with the result that Production can be increased and favourable conditions created for the export of their goods to the Continent.
§ Sir H. CROFT
The export of motor cars in the last two years has increased enormously. Perhaps the hon. Member will take it from me that that is so. I will give him the figures afterwards, because he is one of those intelligent inquirers after truth whom I shall be very glad to satisfy. The solicitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley even extends to bicycles, and yet we were informed quite recently that, supposing that a bicycle is made entirely of British steel instead of foreign steel, the difference in the cost would 952 amount to something like 3d. per bicycle. What is forgotten is all the labour that is used in the manufacture of these various goods, apart altogether from the initial cost of the raw material.
Now I want to pass to the middle portions of this Amendment. I am not going into the really absurd argument, if I may say so without offence, of the right hon. Gentleman when he tries to compare a duty on foodstuffs, which it is not possible, either wholly or even to any large extent, to produce in this country, with a duty on manufactured goods the whole of which could be produced in this country. That, really, is an extraordinarily infantile outlook on the question of economics. With regard, however, to the middle part of this Amendment, referring to the Prime Minister's statement in 1923, I agree with my right hon. Friend that it does not help employment very much to quote a statement made in bygone days, but I think I am entitled, since this has been mentioned, to refer to the statement of one other great statesman in recent years, the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party. I am sorry that he is not here. He said:I am prepared to say also that, in order to keep up the present standard of production and develop it to the utmost extent possible, it is necessary that security should be given against the unfair competition to which our industries have been in the past subjected by the dumping of goods below the actual cost of production. Beyond this T should say we must face all these questions with new eyes and without regard to pro-War views or, pre-War speeches.That was not a message to the American people. It was a message to the British electors. I hope we shall hear before long whether the right hon. Gentleman has once more turned one of his somersaults, or whether he adheres to those principles which he so clearly stated when as Prime Minister he was appealing for the suffrages of the great British electorate. I might even go better if it were possible. I might quote the late Lord Oxford, the leader of the right hon. Gentleman before he for the second time took wings. I might remind the House of his words, "Never again." I might remind them of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Swansea (Mr. Runciman) and what he said in those difficult times of war when he was in a position of responsibility. Why stop 953 there? I might go back to Cobden and remind the hon. Gentleman and his disciple that 80 years ago Richard Cobden said, "If you adopt Free Trade, within five years the whole of the rest of the world will be forced to follow your example." But we are only concerned with one question. That is the pledge of the Prime Minister at the last election to safeguard any efficient industry which was suffering from unfair competition, and in which the standard of the workers was imperilled.
The last part of this Amendment, which commences so admirably, ends in a joke which I regard as a cruel and a stupid joke. To hold out to the workers that their condition can be improved by any such solution may be good party politics but, when men are starving, I do not think it is very good to suggest to them that there is the remotest chance of European countries raising their wage level to the wage level of this country, and, still more so, to raise their wage level to that of the great Anglo-Saxon protected countries in the new world of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States. It is not the right thing to tell our people that that can possibly happen in the near future. Nor is any country on the Continent going to commit suicide by allowing such a thing, because they know perfectly well that, if their wage level was raised to that of Great Britain, Great Britain, by her superior skill and efficiency, would secure the whole of the market within probably the third year. [An HON. MEMBER: "Are not they protected?"] I refer to the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the protected countries under our own laws and more nearly approximating to our own system. I agree that they are the highest wage paying countries in the world.
Now I want to say a word or two with regard to our own party. We were elected to safeguard any efficient industry in which the standard of living of the workers was imperilled by unfair competition. We got a mandate and a majority. I must ask to what use have we put our power. It is generally admitted that the party was hamstrung by the White Paper almost immediately after the election, and that White Paper was couched in such terms as made it almost inevitable that the Prime Minis- 954 ter's pledge could not have been fulfilled. When we found that it was calculated to make our election decision ridiculous, what did we do? We did not scrap it. We regarded it as a kind of law of the Medes and Persians which must not on any account be altered, yet by a stroke of the pen—it was not the law of the land—we Could have got rid of these anomalies. Even of the few members in this party who disagree with the policy, I have never yet met one who did not think that White Paper was absurd. Many of us tried very hard to find some real reason why this policy was not pushed, and in view of that explicit pledge that was given to the country quite frankly, we have been at a loss to understand why more has not been done, for it was one of the most explicit pledges in Parliamentary history, and when the Prime Minister accepted the verdict of the country it was not such a very large turnover of votes in spite of what the right hon. Gentleman has said, the leaders of the Socialist party at that Protection election declared that they stood neither for Free Trade nor for Protection. It, is absurd, therefore, to claim that there was a great decision of the country against that policy, when if you add your vote to our's—[Interruption]. Do not let us leave it always to the Liberal party to make these calculations. [An HON. MEMBER: "Is that another joke?"] The joke to-day is that we stand for Safeguarding, you stand for prohibition and they stand for nothing.
It is not as if this policy has not been successful. It has been a triumphant success, exceeding the best hopes of any advocate of the policy in the Conservative party. I say that deliberately. They have been remarkable results. They have been startling. Even in the one industry which hon. Members opposite have referred to as a failure—the lace industry—the result is extraordinary in the last 12 months. Sales have gone up 50 per cent. Exports have gone up, in spite of the fact that it is a dying industry, as we were told, and is conducted so inefficiently. The Government policy has been a tremendous success. When we came into office unemployment was very grave. To-day it can be described as tragic. It is true that the coal dispute put back the clock of progress for some four years. In spite of that fact, 955 we have to realise that the situation to-day is a terribly serious one. Is it realised that since our Government took office—I am not, of course, blaming them for this; I am asking the House to realise the tendency of trade—imports of manufactured goods have increased by an amount which would have been sufficient to give employment to over a quarter of a million of British workers. Need any man wonder why it is that our unemployment figures are up by 250,000? Alter all, the writing is on the wall.
I come to steel. We are importing at the average rate of 3,000,000 tons a year. Some people actually imagine that the country is saving £3,000,000 by buying 3,000,000 tons of foreign steel at £1 a ton less than cost. I wonder if the Government quite realise that these 3,000,000 tons represent the employment of 120,000 workers in coal, iron and steel, and that this nation, in order to keep life in these people and their wives and families, is spending £9,600,000 per annum. Instead of being a saving, the country is losing by that process no less than £6,600,000 a year. Can any monetary loss equal the appalling misery that this folly costs in human character and physique and happiness? Why have we failed to safeguard iron and steel? Did we intend to exclude it at the time of the General Election, and, if so, why did we not say so? I have never yet heard 'a single reason for failure to implement that pledge which could be upheld either on the ground that it was infringing upon the honour of any Minister or any statement that had been made or on grounds of policy, or even on grounds of expediency. We had the weapon in the armoury, and for some extraordinary reason we have failed to use it. It may be said time does not permit. We have had four years. During that time we have introduced great new reforms. They are excellent and admirable, and I support them all, but many of us never knew that they were to be undertaken at all. We gave our pledges to our constituents, and I simply ask, is anyone surprised that many of us want to be reassured that we really mean business and that we really have a policy which is going to get right down to grips with this question of employment?
In this great iron and steel industry we are only producing at the rate of 68 per 956 cent., or it may now be 67 per cent., of our capacity. There is not a single business man in the House who does not agree with me that if you could raise that production from 67 per cent. of your capacity to 95 per cent. not only would there be no increase in the price of that steel, but inevitably the price must come down. Further than that, sooner than see a continuance of this tragic business, I, for one, would be prepared to join in any scheme to see to it that if you gave security to the industry the price should not rise. Rationalisation, amalgamation, greater efficiency, that is what the heads of Departments tell our business men. It sometimes reminds me of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon (Mr. Lloyd George), who said there is only one man who can understand farming, and that is a gentleman who lives at Churt. You can take it for granted that every man engaged in industry is trying to be efficient. If you go to a hospital and there see a dying man, and you say, "Rationalise yourself or amalgamate with another semi-corpse in the next ward," the thing cannot he done. You have to give a chance to this industry to live. Do that. Give it security, and then you have the power of opening new avenues to that industry and rationalising and amalgamating and producing the increased efficiency which you want to see.
What was our only fear? The Prime Minister made a most important declaration in this House towards the end of 1925, when, I think, he read the terms of the report of the Civil Research Committee. He told us then that the great fear, the fear of the Civil Research Committee—I shall be corrected if I am wrong—was the possible repercussion. I sometimes wonder from whence the word "repercussion" came. It seems rather to ring as if it came from a certain quarter where we are accustomed to poetic words and long descriptions. When we heard that the fear was the repercussion in other industries, presumed that what was meant was engineering, shipbuilding, and re-rolling in this country. Grant an inquiry to iron and steel to-morrow, and I will bring the greatest shipbuilders in this country to give evidence in favour of safeguarding iron and steel. Grant an inquiry, and I will bring engineers. 957 Grant an inquiry, and I will bring to that inquiry a score of hostile witnesses of five years ago who to-day are declaring that the safeguarding of the iron and steel industry is justified in this country. They are proclaiming their faith in Safeguarding—the industry which gave birth to shipbuilding, to engineering and to re-rolling in this country, and, I might almost add, to banking, without which these industries which I have mentioned must surely die. The case, the Prime Minister told us on that occasion, could be regarded as complete from the safeguarding point of view, but for his fear of repercussions and the general tariff to which we have had allusions this evening. My honest and sincere Belief is that things have so changed that there are no fears now of repercussions unless it be at the hands of the electorate, think that we can only get over that if we make it perfectly clear from now onwards that on this question we are really going to move forward with the stronger steps to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer referred and really mean to grapple with it.
The position in 1925, the Civil Research Committee declared, was serious. In 1928 the position is far worse than serious. It is almost disastrous. Our thought only a very few days ago were all carried back to the most tragic years of this country. These are things which, I know, it is always distasteful for us to mention. You, Mr. Speaker, will understand why I feel so strongly on this question if I ask the House to realise that for a prolonged period I had the honour of having a large number of these men from Northumberland and Durham, who are suffering so acutely, under my command. [interruption.] What I am desirous of saying is, that if there is any man in any part of this country who knew what these men in Northumberland and Durham did in the Great War, and who is not moved by their state to-day and will not do anything in his power to improve their lot, all I can say is, that he does not realise the sacrifices that have been made. [An HON. MEMBER: "What did you do in the lock-out?"] My appeal is this—[Interruption]—I am sure that the hon. Gentleman opposite is very sincere.
I am going to ask this one question. We may be wrong or we may be right, but 958 will not all parties in this House combine now in order to inquire into this matter and to see what are the real causes of this terrible distress. I can imagine that there are hon. Members who feel keenly on this subject for other reasons than those which I have stated. I can only say that any man brought into touch with these people and who knows what they are suffering—who has received letters perhaps week after week saying "Help us"—must realise the seriousness of the position. The time has gone by when we ought to make this a party question. The time has come when the Nation ought to come together, and, as the hon. Gentleman the Member for King's Norton has said, we should get together the greatest brains of this country. We should get our greatest shipbuilders, our greatest engineers, and leading trade unionists who are not in the political arena, someone like the right hon. George Barnes who has the confidence of b gentlemen opposite, we should get them together because the longer we delay on this question the greater is going to be the suffering of those people who have earned so well Of their country.
§ Mr. HARRIS
We have just listened to a very interesting speech and I would be the last one to doubt the enthusiasm of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) in the cause which he has expounded. Although he spoke for a long time he somehow forgot that there is on the Paper an Amendment to the proposed Amendment in the name of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey). I was expecting that the hon. Member would be fortunate enough to catch the Speaker's eye and move that Amendment. It is in line 4 to leave out from the word "industry" to the end of the Question and to add the words:and respectfully submit that as in this policy of Safeguarding lies the only hope of the basic trades, and in fact of the whole industry of the country, that a further extension of such policy he immediately applied.I was surprised that the hon. and gallant Member did not take advantage of the opportunity that was presented to him of moving that Amendment to the proposed Amendment. I do not know whether the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth intends later on to move it but I should have liked to have had his 959 opinion upon it. The hon. and gallant Member told us that the whole thing could be changed by a stroke of the pen. It is his honest and sincere opinion that the conditions contained in the White Paper on Safeguarding should be put into operation in regard to iron and steel. If he had moved the Amendment, he might have tested the opinion of the House. I think he might have carried conviction more by moving the Amendment to the proposed Amendment than he did by his peroration. I am quite prepared to agree with him, that if the extension of Safeguarding to other industries is going to be effective in giving employment it is the duty and the responsibility of the Government not to wait for some dim future date but to take action at once. If I believed that imports displaced labour and that by putting on a tariff I should be making a substantial contribution to this terrible economic problem—over 1,000,000 men being out of work—I should bring severe pressure on the Government irrespective of party or irrespective of abstract theories. I want to put all these problems to the practical test, as to what is likely to be the position of the country as a whole—not of a section or of one industry or one trade but the community as a, whole.
When I heard that this Debate was going to take place, I took the trouble to look up the latest returns published by the Board of Trade. I am very glad to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in his place, because when he was in a more free and independent position he never let any of these occasions go by without producing Board of Trade returns. The latest returns have been published up to the end of October. They are already in print and can be obtained in the Vote Office. When I look at the imports en, masse, it is just like the case submitted by the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth. When analysed there is quite a different story. First on the list and a long way ahead of all others, comes food and drink, £438,000,000. We have had a statement made by the Minister for Agriculture that the Government have abandoned all idea of taxing food and drink. Then comes raw material, £274,000,000. I do not say that it is even suggested for a moment by the hon. and gallant Member that raw material 960 should be taxed, although I think his Friends have been very near to it in one or two of their proposals. Third on the list comes manufactures, £266,000,000. That is a big sum. What are our exports? Our exports of manufactured goods, in spite of depressed trade, are very nearly double, £482,000,000. I notice that in an answer to a question by a Conservative Member only a couple of days ago, when they are put in a different form, the export figures are even more remarkable. The question asked was, What were the manufactured goods exported in excess of similar goods imported? The answer in the OFFICIAL REPORT Of 12th November was that in this country it was no less a sum than £5 17s. 4d. per head of the population. Then comes the United States of America with £1 17s. 10d. I put it to the hon. and gallant Member that here, in spite of everything else, our manufactured goods, which, after all, is the only question at issue, in the shape of exports are far in excess of our imports.
When the manufactured goods are analysed they are even more remarkable. The largest item has to do with raw material. It comes under the category of oil, fats and resins, £32,000,000; and the second largest is non-ferrous metals, £27,000,000. Would the hon. and gallant Member suggest that either of these items should be taxed? The three biggest items among the imports which are worrying the safeguarders are cotton, woollens, and iron and steel, and iron and steel in particular. Here, again, while we import £20,000,000 worth of iron and steel, we export £55,000,000 of iron and steel, with this difference that the exports are f.o.b. and the imports are plus cost of insurance and freight. Therefore, in actual volume they are very much less. When we come to cotton, which is, perhaps, more depressed than the iron and steel trade, our imports come to £9,000,000, and our exports to £122,000,000. In regard to woollens, the manufacturers of which have also been crying out for safeguarding, the imports amount to £15,000,000, and the exports to £48,500,000. I am not for a moment suggesting that our exports are satisfactory. We are suffering at the present time because of our restricted markets. It is not the home trade. Almost every manufacturer can tell you that. It is the difficulty of 961 expanding our exports. I therefore think that, big as the problem is, the safeguarders are really looking for the wrong remedy.
In other countries, the figures are almost equally remarkable. After the Great War we were always speaking as if Germany was one of the chief offenders in dumping goods into this country. As a matter of fact, our trade with Germany is expanding, especially in the direction of exports, at a very great rate. Actually, during the last three years our imports, curiously enough, have gone down. They have gone down from £49,500,000 to £46,750,000 while our exports to Germany have jumped up from £18,000,000 to £30,000,000. Unfortunately, our trade with Australia, it is rather a curious thing, has been decreasing. Largely because of the Australian hostile tariffs our trade has gone down from £45,000,000 to £40,500,000. On the other hand, there are other markets, neutral markets, that are expanding.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Does the hon. Member say that our exports of manufactured goods to Australia have gone down?
§ Mr. HARRIS
In money value. Our exports to Germany have gone up from £18,000,000 to £30,000,000 and to the Argentine from £18,000,000 to £24,000,000, and our exports to Canada have gone up. When hon. Members opposite think that by the introduction of safeguarding duties they are going to help employment, they might well use their time in analysing the figures, instead of talking in round numbers. They might take item by item and see how the position really stands. That applies particularly in regard to iron and steel. Once you start on the slippery slope of safeguarding, you are not going to help the general trade of the country. On the contrary, you are going to restrict it and to make the use of iron and steel very much less than it is at the present time. I see from a return which appears in the "Times" to-day that while there has been a very big drop in the production of pig iron since 1913, in the more finished products, steel ingots and castings, the monthly average output has gone up from 962 638,000 tons in 1913 to 756,000 tons in October, 1928.
I am not saying that because there has been that increase, everything is all right in the iron and steel trade. On the contrary, it is clear that owing to the changed conditions of industry and owing to developments abroad there has been a tremendous displacement of labour in certain staple trades, but that is largely due to causes quite apart from tariffs. It has arisen because of changes of fashion and from different methods of production and the substitution of new materials. Take the case of cotton. The substitution of artificial silk as a raw material has meant that certain counts of cotton are no longer required on the Continent, and that has been the cause, quite apart from tariffs, of a decrease in the demand for cotton goods not only in this country, but throughout the world. These problems have to be faced, but they have nothing to do with tariffs. Take the position of the woollen industry. In Bradford they have to face a very serious problem, but it has nothing to do with the question of imports. While in the weaving industry and the cloth industry in Yorkshire there has been less employment, in the Midlands, in Leicestershire particularly, the employment has doubled. The knitted gown has taken the place of the woven gown. That change has been going on all over the world and that has been bad for the Yorkshire woollen weaving industry. What Yorkshire wants are tariffs not against foreign imports, but against Midland hosiery, against Midland knitted garments.
The Secretary of State for War has talked eloquently about the progress in the motor industry. He has told us to look at the splendid results of safeguarding in the motor industry and the great increase in the output of motor cars. The motor industry did not get its protection from the safeguarding of industries, but from the McKenna Duties, which were passed in 1915 under the pressure of war conditions. I was in the House at the time when the Chancellor of the Exchequer came down to the House to justify the introduction of the McKenna Duties in his Budget, not on the ground of Protection, but in order to stop the consumption of luxuries and 963 to save cargo space that was badly wanted for munitions of war. He said that we had now to tax with objects beyond revenue, with objects which were purely temporary and without regard to the permanent effects on trade; we must look at the state of our foreign exchange and we must discourage imports. He also said that we had to have strict regard to the necessity of reducing consumption. Mr. Bonar Law said that duties of this kind would never be continued in any circumstances after the War was over. I am afraid that Mr. Bonar Law was a very bad prophet in that respect. It is very easy to put on duties, but very difficult to get them off. You create vested interests, and when any attempt is made to remove the duty, naturally, the vested interests cry out.
I do not say now and I have never said and no Free Trader has ever said that if you single out a particular industry for Protection it will not be able to prosper at the expense of other industries. If you give an industry a protected market it can make progress at the expense of others. On the whole, the motor industry would have done better if it had looked for world markets instead of concentrating mainly on the home market, as a result of Protection. The British motor industry largely disregarded world markets, for the first 10 years, at any rate, of the McKenna Duties, and allowed the United States of America to capture the Dominion markets. They did not bother so much, like other industries, about developing markets overseas but concentrated on exploiting the market at home in which they had to a large extent a monopoly. That has been one of the unfortunate results of the McKenna Duties. The British motor industry did not for a long time standardise production, until Morris gave the lead. It was not until the Chancellor of the Exchequer of a Labour Government removed the McKenna Duties that the British motor industry, fearing the loss of monopoly in the home market, looked abroad and set about putting their house in order, and started to compete in Australia and Canada for some of that market in which already the Americans had such an immense advantage through their having first captured those markets.
964 The latest theory, and it is a very curious theory, which has been pressed forward by the Protectionists is that if you put on a duty it does not increase prices. That has been stated from almost every platform, and this afternoon the Secretary of State for War repeated the argument. He said that the result of safeguarding had been not only increased employment but it had not in any way increased prices. I agree that it is very difficult to prove the working of prices. It is quite possible, as the Chancellor of the Exchequer pointed out, that a duty may be introduced at a time when there has been a world drop in the price of raw material and, consequently, it is very difficult to trace the working of prices right to the source. I happen, however, to have in my possession a copy of a trade catalogue. It is a purchasers' guide in regard to enamel ware, tin-ware, saucepans, kettles and so forth, and was issued in May, 1928. It was published just after the new Safeguarding Duties were imposed upon enamel hollow-ware and gives a list of revised prices, together with a statement that owing to the Safeguarding of Industries Act now applying to enamelled hollowware the enamelled ware shown in this catalogue was subject to an advance of 25 per cent. as from 15th June.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Herbert Williams)
Is that catalogue still in operation?
§ Mr. HARRIS
It is still in operation so far as I can find out. It has not been withdrawn and is still being circulated to the trade.
§ Mr. HARRIS
Yes. We have had some experience of the working of the Wrapping Paper Duty. That is a good example of the working of a Safeguarding Duty which was introduced in order to help production of wrapping paper in this country. The curious thing is that in most cases that duty was obtained largely on incorrect information. A statement was made that there had been a very large decline in the production of wrapping paper in this country, but when the census of production figures came out that statement was found to be inaccurate. Far from their having been a 965 decline during that period it was found that the production had gone up. Having got the duty, it is interesting to see its effect. One of the first effects was that one industry completely went down. There was an industry, which was apparently unknown to the Government, for the manufacture of textilose cloth. The result of taxing spinning yarn, which came in under the category of wrapping paper, was to make it impossible for that industry to carry on. As a result, the duty was subsequently removed from that particular item. That shows that foreigners did not pay the tax and that the result of putting a tax on a semi-manufactured article for the benefit of one industry crippled another industry. Other industries have also been interfered with as a result of the Wrapping Paper Duty.
I think I am right in saying that the envelope manufacturers, who are very large users of manilla, which comes under the category of wrapping paper, have been petitioning the Board of Trade to remove their raw material, which is a manufactured article, from the category of wrapping paper, because they are being handicapped in Holland, Germany and Norway in the envelope trade. They have been able to show that while the production of 10,000 tons of wrapping paper actually only employs 200 people the conversion of that amount of paper into envelopes employs over 1,000 hands. In the meantime, a good deal of the trade of the envelope industry has been diverted to Continental countries and British envelope manufacturers have been handicapped accordingly. I notice also that the manufacturers of corrugated paper, the other day, took a case into Court. They found that their raw material was being taxed and that they were being very seriously injured and Mr. Justice Scrutton, in giving judgment, said:That is always the result of these Safeguarding Duties; they hit somebody they were not intended to hit.That is what would happen if we begin to safeguard iron and steel.
§ Mr. HARRIS
It is possible that there has been a general decline in the price of raw material, the wood pulp, throughout the world and that has prevented the full force of the increase being felt by 966 the industry. In the case of iron and steel, if we had a fall in the price of raw material, it does not follow that the advantage of the drop in regard to raw material would go to the user of it. What the country really wants to know and what the industry wants to know is where they stand. Manufacturers have been led to believe that in a year or two there will be a protected market for them. We have had an elaborate explanation by the Secretary of State for War of the difference between a general tariff and a system of safeguarding duties. I want to know how many duties it is necessary to impose before we get a general tariff. In no country in the world is there a duty on everything that comes in, certain articles are exempt in the case of even the most protective countries, and as we have no less than 7,000 articles subject to a duty I suggest that we are getting very near to a general tariff.
We have a right to ask that the Government will make its position clear. The Prime Minister at Yarmouth said that he is going to simplify the process. Are we to have any change in the procedure; are we still to have a committee of three appointed by the President of the Board of Trade to adjudicate in every case, or does simplification mean that instead of there being one tribunal for each article there is to be a general committee which will adjudicate on the whole subject of tariffs? My view is that if we are to have safeguarding duties, a system of tariffs in this country, it would be much better to consider the problem as a whole and treat all the industries of the country as being interconnected with each other, instead of isolating certain trades who, because they have powerful influence and plenty of money, are able to have their particular case considered by the committee. That would be a much fairer system than one which singles out certain trades which are fortunate to have the funds to enable them to have their case heard.
The position of the Liberal party is quite clear. We do not for a moment say that you should prohibit imports under any condition because we have always contended that imports pay for exports. Articles coming in must be paid for by goods manufactured in this country by British labour receiving decent wages. It is in the interests of 967 the world that there should be a general levelling up of labour conditions in every country, but the proper procedure to secure that is the machinery of the International Labour Office at Geneva, which has agitated for an eight-hour day, a standard rate of wages and the same conditions in factories. That is the right procedure. You cannot improve the lot of labour abroad by prohibition; you only cause friction and irritation without solving the problem. It will not be done by tariffs but by international co-operation. We have never admitted that low wages mean cheap production. Our strongest competition in motor cars does not come from the low paid wages on the Continent, but from the high paid wages in America. We are unrepentant Free Traders, we shall resist all these insidious attempts by back door methods to introduce a general tariff because we believe it is neither to the advantage of industry nor the working people of this country.
§ Sir ROBERT SANDERS
I think it would appear to most hon. Members that this Debate is meant as a joke. That idea was fostered by the speech with which it was introduced by the right hon. Gentleman, but it has got less jocose as it went on and certainly no one would imagine that it was meant as a joke by the hon. Member who has just sat down. The same remark applies to the hon and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) whose enthusiasm for this subject we all admire, even those who do not entirely agree with him. I want very shortly to put the point of view of one or two hon. Members, indeed more than one or two, on these benches who are not so vocal as the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, but who still have very distinct ideas on the subject. First of all, let me say how far we agree with my hon. and gallant Friend; how far we can go with him.
We all feel that the Safeguarding Duties which up to now have been put on by the present Government have been justified by their success. The Secretary of State for War quoted figures this afternoon and they are not denied, and in the industry with which I am best acquainted, the glove industry, there is no doubt that most of the employers and 968 working people feel grateful for the imposition of the Safeguarding Duty and would be sorry to see it dropped. The ex-Chancellor of the Exchequer went down to the principal centre of that industry the other day and made a strong speech attacking these Duties. I have a few facts and figures with me to-day in case he used the same language in this House. He did not venture to do so, and when he was challenged yes or no as to whether, if he came into office, he meant to repeal these Duties, he would give no straight answer but merely said "wait and see." We agree also with my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth that there is some justification for the complaint that the measures which the Government have taken have not gone far enough.
It has never been alleged, and it could not be alleged, that the steps they have taken have gone the slightest bit beyond the pledges which they gave at the last election. Those pledges have been most faithfully adhered to, and although some hon. Members, like the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, may regret that it has been so, it has this great advantage, that when an election comes on again and the Government makes a definite statement on this point, the electorate will know that a statement so made will be the extreme limit to which the Government are prepared to go. And on a subject like this, which arouses so much suspicion and causes so many statements to be made which have no vestige of truth in them at all, it is a good thing for the Government to be on the safe side and for the people of the country to be quite sure that when the Prime Minister gives an assurance on this subject it is certain that he will not go beyond it. In the statement which was made by the Prime Minister a month or two ago, and which was read by the Secretary of State for War this afternoon, we have quite clearly the pledges which the Government are making with regard to the coming election. They say quite clearly:We are pledged, and shall continue to he pledged, not to introduce Protection. We are pledged, and shall continue to he pledged, not to impose any taxes on food.Those are very definite words, and you cannot have a more ample safeguard so far as pledges can go, against 969 the Government introducing a system of general Protection or anything like it. But I want to point out what is the strongest safeguard of all, stronger than any written or spoken pledges. There may be a fear—it was expressed by the Mover of the Amendment to-day—that the Government are going to be bullied by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth into adopting a general tariff. The pledges which the Government have given are amply sufficient to reassure the electors of the country on that point, but there is a further safeguard; that a very considerable number of hon. Members of the Conservative party are not prepared to support the Government in introducing anything like a general tariff from which agricultural products are excluded. Speaking for a great many agricultural members it may be taken that agriculture is not going to support a policy of tariffs from which it is left out, except in those cases where it can be absolutely certain that the cost of the article it buys is not going to be increased against it. That is an extremely necessary provision. An hon. Member opposite referred to iron and steel—that is the test question with regard to this old controversy. Agricultural members do not want for a moment to adopt a dog-in-the-manger attitude on this subject, hut we do regard any Duty of this sort which may be proposed with a certain amount of suspicion. I was glad to hear the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth say that he would undertake if such a Duty was put on—he was a little bit vague about it—that it would not raise prices against the consumer.
§ Sir H. CROFT
What I endeavoured to convey was that sooner than allow this great industry to perish, I for one, and speaking entirely for myself, would agree to a proposal under which iron and steel were safeguarded on condition that the Duty came off when the price w as raised.
§ Sir H. CROFT
If the right hon. and gallant Member puts it like that, I think that time is so vital that, under the exceptional circumstances—I have not the slightest doubt in my own mind 970 about it—the iron and steel industry would meet him in that direction and agree to allow it to be submitted to a tribunal. But, after all, it is for the Government to decide, and if they see that the industry is plundering people let them take the duties off.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
Undoubtedly it is for the Government to decide whether the imposition of such a duty is to be proposed, but it is for the agricultural members of the Conservative party to decide whether or not they will support the imposition of the duty. Undoubtedly it would make a very great difference if my hon. and gallant Friend's promise was carried out, and if a provision was put into the Measure which proposed that the duty should come off if the price of an article was raised.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
If we can be met in that way, I call it very generous dealing. Nothing could be more accommodating than the suggestion of my hon. and gallant Friend.
§ Commander BELLAIRS
Why do you not meet the iron manufacturers in the same way? When you say that you speak for agricultural Members of the Conservative party, I must add that you do not represent all the agricultural Members.
§ Sir R. SANDERS
I do not for a moment pretend to do so, but there are a certain number of Members of the House who have asked me to express these views. I am very glad that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth has met us so handsomely. If we can always be assured in an Act of Parliament that a protective duty is not to be allowed to raise the price to the consumer, it is hard to see how anyone could have an objection. But I do think it is only right to put it on record now, before the election comes and before the Government introduce Measures on this subject, that a great many agricultural Members and their supporters in the country look upon Measures on a large scale, such as are proposed, with a considerable amount of suspicion, and that in determining their attitude towards such Measures they will want to be convinced by more than 971 speeches in the House of Commons; they will want to be convinced by tangible evidence that the prices of the things that they buy are not going to be raised, while at the same time nothing whatever is done towards protecting the things that they produce. That is a word of caution that I want to give to my hon. and gallant Friend and to those who are acting with him, and I hope that in considering this matter he and the Government will take that attitude of ours into account.
§ Mr. MAXTON
When I rose to catch your eye, Mr. Speaker, the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) had just sat down. A certain portion of his peroration stung me very keenly, and had you called on me at that stage I am afraid that I would have characterised his utterance in language which would probably have earned your disapproval. I am very glad, for the sake of the regard I have for the hon. and gallant Gentleman and the regard I also have in some degrees, for the Rules of the House, that two speeches have intervened which have, to say the least, had a very sedative effect. I hope that I shall be able to continue my argument on this matter in the cool, calm, and reasonable way in which we can all discuss topics which, however important and interesting they may be, never have any effect in denying any one of us of food, clothing or shelter. It is possible for us all to be calm, quiet, academic and detached. I think the hon. and gallant Gentleman was perhaps not observing the best standards of public debate when he made the sentimental appeal to the soldiers who had fought in the Great War, and particularly the miners, because I am sure that he will recollect that the war drums scarcely ceased to beat and the cannon scarcely ceased to roar before British employers of labour were importing coal from foreign countries in order to beat the miners of this country.
The hon. and gallant Member will also recollect that the Government, of which he has been an ardent political supporter, did undoubtedly assist the employers of labour in the coal mining industry to reduce the wages of the miners and to increase the hours of their labour. It was a joke among the Tory back 972 benchers that the Government, with the present Prime Minister at its head, was afraid of the coalowners and succumbed to the coalowners' demands as against the miners. If you could not stand up to a few coalowners, then you must not come to the House now and make protestations about your earnest desire to do your best for the miners. It was a joke at the time of the coal dispute when the right hon. Gentleman was trying to negotiate with the representative of the coalowners, Sir Adam Nimmo, and a joke that was repeated in the Lobby by Tory Members, that"Nimmo me impune lacessit"was the motto of the Government. Sir Adam Nimmo could compel the Government to get down on their knees and obey his instructions. They joked about it on the back benches and in the Lobbies of the House. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] About two have denied the statement.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
The hon. Member must understand that if some of us do not deny it, it is because he himself says that he heard someone say it. We do not deny that he heard someone make that extraordinary punning and rather stupid joke. But none of us stated it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
It was a stupid joke, and the stupidity of it lays in this—that it crystallised a very solid fact that was obvious to all of us here. In any case, will the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth tell me how any amount of protection or any extension of Safeguarding is to help the mining industry of this country?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth is replying to a question that he was asked.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I have no wish to argue the point, and I am only answering the question that was addressed to me. The tonnage of coal to produce a ton of steel varies from seven to 2½ tons.
§ Mr. MAXTON
How is that going to help the miners? The steel owners are not going to make steel unless someone buys it.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Who buys it? To-day we asked a question in the House. I am not interested in steel, but in shipbuilding and engineering, and I am as anxious to get the shipbuilders on the Tyne a job as the hon. and gallant Gentleman is to help anyone else. To-day I heard the Admiralty admitting that at the Singapore Base they were using machinery made by other than British workmen. What is the good of making British steel if the Government in buying machines does that kind of thing?
§ Mr. MAXTON
That puts the finger right on the spot. We sit here and talk about national trade—our nation's imports and our nation's exports—and there is no such thing. There are bodies of private individuals actuated by the desire to make profits for themselves, and the result is called the nation's trade. Some run to the Argentine to get their bit of profit. The Prime Minister had scarcely put out on the hoardings the appeal, "Buy British goods," before the War Office was buying Argentine beef for the Army. I do not know how much was spent on the posters. When a question was asked about these purchases the answer was that Argentine beef was a halfpenny a pound cheaper. "Buy in the cheapest market and sell in the dearest," whatever the effect may be on the workers of this country; and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth is not essentially different from the others. He need not come here and try to stand as the Sir Galahad fighting for something different from private enterprise. He is here to defend capitalism and private profit. I agree with the general principle that he lays down but is afraid to apply to its logical conclusion, that it is a nation's first duty to look after its trade 974 —the nation's duty, not the duty of a million individual capitalists.
The views propounded by hon. Gentlemen below the gangway are absolutely distasteful to me—the conception that a nation should allow goods to come pouring into its borders unimpeded, without regard to whether they are needed or not needed and without regard to the effect on the nation's trade. That is really to make a farce of Government. That view is carried to its logical conclusion by the Soviet Government of Russia. The hon. and gallant Member should go over and have an interview with M. Stalin on the subject. The two hon. Gentlemen, when they have been thrown out of their present party for trying to be true to the few principles that they have, should spend their forced leisure in a visit to Russia, and they will find that that country lays down that export and import trade shall be a State monopoly. Under those conditions, you can regulate the inflow and the outflow of goods.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
I think I should wait until results were a little better than at present before I went to learn from them.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I may be unduly optimistic, but, as I examine the figures of Russian trade for the last seven or eight years, I seem to see that they have got steadily better while ours have got steadily worse. I may be looking at the figures through the wrong coloured spectacles, and it may be true, as hon. Members opposite would probably assert, that the Russian figures are cooked or something of that description, but certainly the Russian figures I have seen seemed to me to indicate that Russian trade is steadily improving and British trade is getting steadily worse. That is not a matter which can be left until the Tory party is able to make up its mind about Safeguarding, or which can be left to what my hon. Friend is going to do about Safeguarding Duties should he become Chancellor of the Exchequer.
I believe that we are rushing headlong to a crisis in this country and that we will be faced, not with a situation that can be met by a tax on steel or anything else, but with a situation in this country that will produce a revolutionary crisis. I see the unemployment 975 figures going steadily up, and I hear the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade speaking for the Government say: "We cannot explain it; it is inexplicable." Member after member of the Government has got up and told us that the recent increase in unemployment in this country is inexplicable, and that they do not know the meaning of it. They said "Give us industrial peace, and trade will be all right." They get industrial peace, and trade is not all right. They have had industrial peace for two years and it has intensified the conditions instead of improving them. They said: "Give us harmony between employers and employed." I look at the harmonious relations that exist between Lord Melchett and representative employers and the Trade Union Congress. Here you have the employers of labour and the most responsible of the representatives of the workers sitting down together, the lion with the lamb, ready to work together. Here you have all the conditions asked for. You have the reduced wages for the mines, which were to produce tremendous benefits, the longer hours for the miners, which were to produce tremendous benefits. After you have got all the things for which you asked, peace and harmony between employers and employed, reductions in miners' wages, and a lengthening in their hours, you come to a position when the Government tell us that they cannot explain why things are getting steadily worse. I see the hon. Member shake his head, but he said that himself.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
What I said was that I did not know why the unexpected slump came in the spring after the promise of January.
§ Mr. MAXTON
That is different from what I am saying, and I apologise. My hon. Friend repeats in different language what I have said, that the Government cannot account for the slump which has taken place in the spring. I can account for it by the fact that the purchasing power of the working-classes in this country is getting steadily lower. Your trade cannot go on if people cannot buy, and hon. Members opposite have done everything in their power to prevent the workers from buying. Are they going to tell us that wages and con- 976 ditions have improved in the safeguarded industries?
§ Sir H. CROFT
The wages paid by the Austin Car Company have gone up from an average of £100 per annum to something like £250 per annum in four years, taking the average of the whole of the industry.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I have never attempted to deny that the rich in this country are able to buy goods in very great quantities.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I know that it would be below the hon. and gallant Gentleman's contempt for his first car, but it might take a place in the queue. I gather from those who take an interest in this matter that the high peak of prosperity in the motor industry has already been reached, and that in the second-hand market particularly there are tremendous difficulties arising from an over supply. I do not know where the British motor-car industry is going to sell any more cars than they are selling at present. Within about a year at the outset you may have your motor industry in exactly the same position as the coal industry—more plants, more factories, more men and more organisations than you can employ to meet the ordinary normal demand and to make good the wastage that takes place from year to year. People who can afford motor cars have got motor cars, just as people who want ships have got ships. We are up against this tremendous problem in the shipbuilding industry, that we have the plant in this country that can rebuild the fleets of the world in five years if it is employed full time. We have coal-mining plant, cotton plant and woollen plant that can supply all the needs that we can conceive of in a very short period. You are up against this position, that wealth is being turned out in ever-increasing amounts. The possibilities of turning out wealth become greater every day, and, because the possibilities of turning out wealth become greater, workers become surplus in each industry, and the fact that workers become surplus in industry means that those that are 977 employed cannot increase their wages by ordinary industrial action. Therefore, your wages are going down, and the purchasing power of the people is thereby steadily and regularly reduced.
This is where I have recently, just like my hon. Friend, been occasionally in antagonism with some of the leaders of the Parliamentary Labour party. They believe that they have plenty of time, that they can easily look forward 20 years and, by slow constitutional methods of one kind or another can produce a new era of prosperity. The other two parties also believe that you can by a little reform here, a change in unemployment insurance there, some educational change and a tax on something else, meet the problems that are bearing down the shoulders of the people of this country to-day. I do not believe in anything of the kind. You have to get right down to the very middle of the problem, and the first part of the problem is to make your people comfortable—get your people incomes first and get your trade afterwards. If hon. Members do not believe that can be done, then they are in direct opposition to the view which I hold. I believe that we can do it, and I believe that I can persuade a majority of the people of this country that we can do it, and Heaven help you when I have persuaded them. First, we must make right the incomes of the people. Hon. Members opposite say it cannot be done. Well, they have managed it themselves. That is the first consideration.
There were 90,000 super-tax payers taking £600,000,000 last year with our industries dying and 1,000,000 miners getting 30s. a week. You have made your incomes all right. I say: Make the incomes of the common people only as secure as you have made your own incomes, just as secure as that and no more. Make them as secure as my income has been here, make them of the same amount that my income has been made here, a beggarly pittance to the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth, his Parliamentary salary, but an El Dorado for 99 per cent. of the persons whom I represent in this House. A Government, whether it is a Conservative or a Liberal or a Labour Government, must not be afraid to get right down to the very foundations of the social system and to alter the whole basis of ownership of 978 land, of mines, and of transport, and to get down to an entirely different method of distributing the national income between the various sections. If they will not recognise that this country cannot carry on with this overhead cost in the face of modern conditions—and the first heavy overhead cost which has to be raised is a useless nobility and rentier class which has to be paid for as a first charge on our industry all the time—and if they are not prepared to change the basis of ownership and the method of distribution of the national income, then they are up against a crisis and the responsibility will be upon their heads.
§ Mr. DIXEY
I desire to make one or two observations on the subject of this Debate and, in the first place, I should like to say that with many of the sentiments of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) I am in thorough accord. Nobody on this side of the House disputes the desirability of the Government affording opportunities of employment to the population of this country. Where I quarrel with the hon. Member is that I think any such scheme as he suggests must fail unless it is founded upon a real economic basis. The hon. Member put forward a wonderful scheme for increasing the purchasing power of the people. I ask him how does he propose to increase it and who is it that he proposes should pay for the economic standards which he suggests for the workers?
§ Mr. MAXTON
I will answer that question. I thought I had done so already. All the wealth of the country comes out of the wealth that the people produce and that is where it is bound to come from.
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the hon. Member will allow me I will make this, my last interruption of his speech. Rates and taxes represent just a fraction of the income received or the rent paid in the one case or the other. If you are paying £50 of rent to a landlord you are perhaps paying £10 of rates and if you have an income of £10,000 you pay perhaps £1,000 in taxes. [HON. MEMBERS: "Oh!"]
§ Mr. DIXEY
I do not want to carry an argument of that sort to a conclusion because it is obvious to anybody who 979 knows anything about practical business that, to-day, a vast amount of the money which is expended in this country has to be derived from some sort of manufacturing industry. The trouble of the situation is that all the people who have money today have to keep other people employed. There are men in this country who are rich on paper but whose financial position to-day is one of extreme awkwardness. I would urge on the hon. Member for Bridgeton to give his support to the proposed Amendment which I hope to move.
The first duty of the Government to my mind is to provide work, as far as it possibly can, for the people in the various industries in this country. Hon. Members on this side believe as sincerely as my hon. Friend opposite believes in his own point of view, that in a Safeguarding policy and the adoption of that policy on a large scale, the Government have a weapon by which they can force such a condition of trade in this country as to provide not only good wages for the workers but also security of employment. I came into this House after the last election believing that we, in British industry, were possessed of a pledge given by the Prime Minister that any British industry which was affected by unfair foreign competition should have its chance of appearing before a committee and, if it proved its case, that it should be entitled to the application of a Safeguarding Duty. I may be wrong but I can only refer to the pledge which was given and the statement made in the Election Address of the Conservative party. [Interruption.] In that Election Address it was definitely laid down that any British industry of whatever kind, if it suffered from unfair foreign competition should be entitled to the benefit of the Safeguarding Duty and I do not see why any hon. Members opposite should laugh at that. That was the assumption upon which I came to this House.
§ Mr. A. V. ALEXANDER
I certainly was not laughing. I was only remarking to an hon. Friend behind me that the hon. Gentleman was telling just the bare truth.
§ Mr. D1XEY
I consider that the duty of an hon. Member is to express in this House, fairly and properly, the point of 980 view which he takes and the principles which he holds. My position is this: I think it is absurd for hon. Friends of mine on the Liberal benches to deny that where Safeguarding has been applied its success has been manifold. I think fairer criticism than that would be obtained from those on the Labour benches. That is pure party prejudice. The Liberal party, if I may say so, is without an industrial policy in practice, although they have a very eminent and satisfactory book called "Coal and Power." I do not know where it has got to recently—nobody hears about it now—and that is the only industrial policy ever put forward by the Liberals. But I maintain that if it be true—and I understand that my party and the Government believe it to be true—has a real advantage has been given to employment in the industries to which these duties have been applied, then the Government should state the position in relation to the big basic trades where the real problem lies. I take the iron and steel trade, the coal trade and the woollen trade. [HON. MEMBERS: "Cotton!"] I will deal with my own examples first.
Hon. Gentlemen opposite will agree that there is real and heavy unemployment in the two basic trades of coal and iron and steel. They will also agree that, if an improvement were made in the heavy iron and steel trade, there would be an immediate effect on the coal trade. If the Government really rely upon Safeguarding and believe that good results have been obtained from it and that after the next General Election it would be an advisable thing to set up a committee—conditions now having altered—if they think that any real utility can be achieved in this way, why should we have to postpone it until after the next Election? The Secretary of State for War in a very able speech has told us that when the iron and steel trade first asked for the duty a Cabinet Committee examined the question and said that it would be an infringement of the pledge regarding a general tariff. But if I understood him aright the right hon. Gentleman also says that he believes circumstances have now altered in respect of the iron and steel trade, that a new condition of affairs has arisen and that certain trades which before were opposed to a duty on iron and steel, are now prepared to accept a duty. If the 981 circumstances have so materially changed in the view of the Government, I would ask them with all sincerity why cannot a committee be immediately set up, even if the duty is not given immediately? Why cannot a committee be set up before the Election so that we shall know and the country shall know by the time of the next General Eelection if it is a practicable and feasible thing to protect the iron and steel industry.
I want to be quite fair in this matter. I am one of the strong adherents of a Duty in respect of iron and steel, but it may be that if a Committee examine the whole position and consider employment in one trade and another, they may come to the conclusion that it would be inadvisable to give a Duty in respect of these heavy trades. Then I would ask the Government not to have a sort of "kidding" policy. It would not be fair to go to the electors of this country and say, "In the heavy iron and steel and coal districts we are going to give you a committee of inquiry; we are going to give you the right to go there, and you will possibly have a Duty advised by that committee; but even then the Government can come down and say that a Duty would be against public policy and an infringement of the pledge against a general tariff." I would plead with the Government in this matter. A large number of Members on this side if they have the courage of their convictions believe—[Laughter]—I say it quite definitely that a large number of us believe that in this Safeguarding policy for iron and steel is a cure for a large portion of the unemployment in this country. We believe, further, that it is a policy which could be applied not only to iron and steel but to the woollen trade, where there is also a good deal of unemployment. I ask the Government to let us know to-night if it is not possible to have this committee of inquiry straight away to deal with this question of the iron and steel trade, and if that is not possible, I ask them can we have the reasons why such a thing would be against any pledge given by the Prime Minister?
I am only asking that question, if I may put it quite frankly, because I think it is the interests of the nation to know something about the policy in regard to these industries. I am a loyal supporter of His Majesty's Government and I stand 982 by the Prime Minister's pledge, but I would remind the Government that, after all is said and done, the Conservative party in the country have on three definite occasions passed a unanimous vote demanding the application of this Duty in respect of iron and steel. [An HON. MEMBER: "Who is kidding now?"] I do not take any notice of that remark. It does not seem to be pertinent. These are the people who stand for the rank and file of the party in the country. They are the people who are in actual contact with industrial conditions. They are the people—they may be laughed at here—who have been considered worthy of being summoned to conferences and of having pleasant things said to them, and I think it is due to them as well as to the Conservative supporters in this House that the Government should give us a clearer line of action and give us the information to which we are entitled as to the lines on which the party are going. I am perfectly frank. If Safeguarding is merely to be applied to buttons, to little tinpot industries—important as these may be to the people engaged in them—if that is to he the absolute cessation of the policy of Safeguarding, then I am not satisfied. To my mind the only value of Safeguarding is as a partial cure for unemployment, and I hope that when the Prime Minister replies to-night we shall have a little more information than we have had from the Secretary of State for War. I desire to move my Amendment.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
Under the Standing Order, I have power to choose which Amendments shall be taken, and, after due consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I cannot take the Amendment of the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey) to the proposed Amendment.
§ Mr. BENN
We must all admire the candour and the courage of the hon. Member for Penrith (Mr. Dixey), who has just sat down. We have now got down to realism, and the hon. Member says he speaks for the rank and file of the Conservative party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] He said, "We are returned here for this purpose." We live in a time when the Conservative party do not speak very much, and I do not know whether there is anybody, save one or two, who will say that the party is not 983 in instinct and belief a Protectionist party. Is there anybody who will say that? [HON. MEMBERS: "Yes."] There are two hon. Members who say it. I remember the Prime Minister's first election address, and I remember him being introduced here as a new Member. His first election address was Protectionist, and half the Government are Protectionist. I did not hear "Yes" just now from the Secretary of State for the Dominions. The Conservative party as a whole are by instinct and belief a Protectionist party, and the only reason why they do not put Protection before the country is because they know that, if they did they would not be returned. So, although they have that belief, they prefer their position in the House of Common to the advocacy of the policy in which they sincerely believe.
I sympathise with the hon. Member for Penrith. I think it was very candid of him to say that he intended to move his Amendment on behalf of the rank and file of the party. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] He says they are summoned to conferences. I am sorry the Chief Whip is not here, but perhaps it is a good thing for the hon. Member that he is not, in view of what the hon. Member said. The party conference passed a unanimous resolution in the sense indicated in the Amendment, so that it does not matter whether it is the lesser conclave that meets upstairs for a quiet talk with the Chief Whip, or whether it is the public conference of the party, they all come to the same conclusion. The question is, What have they got to-day? Let us see. In the first place, they had a speech made by Lord Salisbury elsewhere in reference to this matter. He was speaking officially for the Government, and he said—I am trying to explain frankly to the hon. Gentleman where he stands and where I stand who agree with him in reference to his own party:When my Noble Friend suggests that we should carry it further and….safeguard iron and steel, I am afraid I cannot follow him. I am not sure that he has realised the reaction that the safeguarding of these basic industries would have upon other commodities and other industries and trades….We are opposed to Protection.That is the Government; that is the united party. Here is the hon. Member for Penrith, speaking for the rank and 984 file, the Yarmouth conference—[HON. MEMBERS: "No!"]. What is the good of quibbling? I do not know who goes to the Yarmouth conference. I have never had the privilege of having been given an invitation, and I am not sure that I would accept it if I had, but here is an hon. Member, speaking for an opinion unanimously passed—because the Amendment about iron and steel was agreed to by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) and was unanimously passed by the Conservative party—speaking for that vast conference, and he puts his views before the Government, he puts down an Amendment and attempts to move it, and what is the answer of the Government? They say that they are opposed to extending it to iron and steel, that they are opposed to Protection, that they are in exactly the same position as they were in before. That is the consolation that the hon. Member is getting out of his Government to-day. I hope that those who agree with him, if they are numerous, will support his view in the Division Lobby, although I have some considerable doubt on that point.
Further, what about the speech of the Minister for War to-day? He and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have been speaking about the safeguarding procedure which was set up under the Act of 1921.
§ Mr. BENN
The Safeguarding of Industries Act was passed in 1921, and it is a tremendous loss to this Debate that the author of that Act is not in his place to explain it to us, but that Act lays down the general conditions under which these inquiries should take place, and, without altering any phrase or sentence of the Act, the Conservative Government issued a White Paper setting out the general conditions of those inquiries. I think that is an accurate statement. The hon. Members who are in revolt, if they will permit the expression, are demanding a certain amendment of that procedure, and let us see exactly what they have got for their pains, for their conclaves upstairs, for their interviews with the right hon. and gallant Member for Evesham (Commander Eyres Monsell), and for their resolution passed at Yarmouth. In the first place, they have had 985 from the Chancellor of the Exchequer an announcement that people will have a locus in opposition to all this who have never had a locus before. Previously you had to show that you used these things which it is proposed to protect in the course of production or manufacture, and therefore a vast number of people, such as consumers, were ruled out of these inquiries as witnesses. Now the Chancellor of the Exchequer says that anybody, including agriculturists—he was misunderstood by Sir Herbert Samuel yesterday on that point—who is affected will have a locus. That will make it a great deal more difficult for the people who come forward before this Committee to get their duty. That is the first piece of sugar for the bird. The second is that every one of the conditions that were laid down in the old White Paper is to be retained.
§ Mr. BENN
Let us see. There is one exception, which I shall come to, and I recommend the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), not to get himself into further trouble. There are eight points that presently govern the procedure of these Committees. The first is that the industry must be of substantial importance. That stands. The second is that employment must be affected, and the third is that competition must be unfair. All these things are still to be proved, and there is no concession on any of these points. The fourth is that it has to be carried on with efficiency; then that the duty must not create an adverse effect upon the employment of people using this in course of production, and on anyone who may be affected. That last is the new locus that has been given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The sixth is that they have to recommend the rate of duty. The only alteration of these conditions is that it is not any further necessary, as I understand it, for the Committee to find that there is an abnormal importation. That is all that they have got for their Amendment, their Yarmouth resolution, and their meetings upstairs. They have got nothing but a fortified locus for opposition to the application, and one minor concession on the conditions which have to be found to be proved by the Committee; and they have, in addition 986 to that, to console the rank and file of the party, a definite pronouncement by Lord Salisbury in another place that the Government are opposed to Protection, that they stand where they stood formerly and that they will not extend safeguarding to iron and steel.
There is the situation as it is to-clay. You may say, "In that case, why blame the protective policy of the Government?" I am one who has a very high regard for the Prime Minister's pledges, and. I think he has a habit of saying a little less than he intends to do. I noticed that particularly in the Safeguarding of Industry Bill Debates. I watched him introduce that Bill seven years ago; and here is the difficulty today. They declare that if you safeguard iron and steel, you introduce a general tariff.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
What they have said was that it might be said, that somebody might say, you were getting very near a general tariff, but I have never said that.
§ Mr. BENN
I think it is better to leave things where they are. In the opinion of some persons unspecified, a tariff on iron and steel, which enters into almost everything consumed, is a general tariff. You are using the word in a general sense, and the Prime Minister says, "I will not safeguard iron and steel, because, in the opinion of some people"—but not of the hon. and learned Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Deans)—"it is a general tariff; but after the election am prepared to introduce iron and steel." That is what they think. That is to say, after the election the Prime Minister is prepared to throw open the door to a general tariff, and that is the reason why we suspect the Government. We believe they do intend to do what the Minister for Dominion Affairs and the Chief Whip said only recently. The Chief Whip, who hurried away, although his presence was urgently needed, during the speech of the hon. Member for Penrith, was waked in a constituency that manufactures needles why the Government 987 would not safeguard needles, and he replied, "We cannot do the whole thing at once." The Secretary of State for the Dominions said very much the same thing, and he believes very much the same thing. He will not deny it. He has been consistent from the beginning. He is a Protectionist out and out. He pushed his party over the cliff in 1923, and he wants to do it again at the first opportunity. He says they would be justified in imposing a general tariff, but in view of their experience in 1923, in view of the deep-seated prejudices associated with this question, they should deal with the matter by individual industries. That is why we are afraid. We think that, although now the would-be movers of the safeguarding Amendment have been given absolutely nothing in response to their revolt, the party cannot be trusted, if they had a majority, which is unlikely, at the next election, to keep this country free from import taxes.
I should like to say a word in passing about the Amendment. Why should hon. Gentlemen who are attached to the idea of import duties oppose the notion of an economic use of the League of Nations? Many people have seen in the League of Nations nearly a means of settling international political differences, but many working people see in it and the International Labour Office, a means of settling international economic differences. What is there wrong about that? And what can there be against joining the action of international trades union and the action of the International Labour Office in the economic sphere? If one is a good League of Nations man politically, why not he a good League of Nations man economically? We cannot expect any help from the Government side, because their sole contribution has been to make cheese-paring suggestions about the budget of the International Labour Office, and when a Convention was waiting our agreement for an eight-hours day, the Government did not confirm it.
When the Secretary of State for War says that there is a suggestion coming from the Economic Conference, which is parallel to the International Labour Office, asking for no trade barriers, and from the International Labour Office 988 asking for equal labour conditions, why should the Minister make fun of it and say that they actually sent out a resolution against prohibitions? It was a ridiculous and irrelevant remark, because the resolution to which he referred was directed against an increase of tariffs and restrictions on international trade. I remember a situation very similar to this 23 years ago. There were people then as clever even as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. There was Mr. Balfour, placed in exactly the same position, at the head of a party which was riven. He had the Salisburys of his time, who were Free Traders, and he had people as ardent, and possibly as candid and as eloquent as the hon. Member for Penrith, and he attempted to solve the difficulty exactly as the Government have attempted to solve it to-day. He did not have a White Paper he had half a sheet of notepaper, and he said: "We are not Protectionists." That is what Lord Salisbury says to-day. Lord Balfour also said they would never tax food, and that is also what the Government says to-day. He said that it was not, however, a breach of their policy to do certain things, and in that way he harmonised the party. All I can say, from a party point of view, is that if the result of this policy to-day is the same as it was in 1905, I shall not grumble.
§ Sir J. SANDEMAN ALLEN
In the King's Speech we have a clear indication of what the programme of the Government is for the next Session. It is a very full programme, and deals with unemployment in regard to the de-rating scheme, and matters of that kind. To-day we are discussing an Amendment which raises two points which are not in the Gracious Speech. One point is not in the Speech because Parliament cannot deal with it. The other, it has been clearly laid down, cannot be dealt with this Session. Everyone who has heard the speeches to-day will agree that we have had an interesting and possibly instructive time. I only rise because there is a point which it is essential that we should make quite clear. One can understand the Opposition on both sides of the Gangway being anxious to deal with Safeguarding as if it were Protection, because it enables them to get away with their own cries. What 989 puzzles me is that Protection and Safeguarding should be confused as one and the same thing. It is important in the cloudy atmosphere with which this subject is surrounded to make it clear, as the Prime Minister has done, that Protection and Safeguarding are two totally different ideas.
Many of us are as firmly convinced as ever we have been that the free exchange of commodities is the only sound economic basis for trade. Free Trade, if we can get it as well as give it, is the only reasonable and sound way of dealing with anything. Most of us are convinced that the country will not have Protection, as its logical conclusion would be a tax on food. I speak for a very large number of people in this House, and for a great many in the country, when I say that we are sick and tired of these political shibboleths. We want everything dealt with on a purely business basis. Business men want to feel that it is no longer a matter of gospels and ideals on this subject, but that there are business principles for dealing with every case on its merits. The business man who is worth his salt is prepared to change his methods to adapt his business to the needs of the time, and that seems to him the great feature of the Safeguarding scheme. Each business is taken up on its own merits, and we have to weigh up above all things whether the remedy proposed is one that will disturb other trades or the general trade of the country. It is no more like Protection than anything else you can produce.
We are going to the country presently—and one feels that this has been more like a dress rehearsal for the General Election than a Debate on the Address—and it is essential that the air should he cleared, and that everyone should realise that what we have to face is not Protection, but Safeguarding on lines that have been carefully laid down by the Prime Minister. It will be interesting in the next six months to listen to the various speeches which will be made, but, after all, the country is a pretty sound judge on these matters. The country realises that when the Prime Minister has given a pledge he sticks to it, and he intends to stick to his pledge in regard to Protection. Therefore, I have every confidence that the House will reject this Amendment as hav- 990 ing really no practical value, but having as its result, if not as its object, the clouding of the real issue and the real policy which was so clearly laid down by the Government through the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. JAMES HUDSON
The speech to which we have just listened interested me, particularly in its concluding part in which the hon. Gentleman expressed his faith in the sound judgment of the country on these matters. I am glad that he is able to say that so closely after certain bye-elections in which this issue was very prominently discussed, particularly in the bye-election that has just taken place at Ashton, where undoubtedly they gave a cleat judgment upon the issues which were put forward. I believe that in other bye-elections yet to take place, and in the General Election, the country will continue to exercise this judgment pretty much along the same lines. I propose to return to the last part of the Amendment, which contains our positive proposal with regard to this problem. It interested me to observe how derisively at the beginning of the Debate that point of view was received both by the Front Bench and hon. Gentlemen on the hack benches opposite, namely, the point of view that you can ultimately by international action, which may in cases include international prohibitions, deal with economic situations.
I can well understand the Government taking that derisive attitude because of their own career in the League of Nations in relation to economic questions. One of the most unsatisfactory parts of the Government's record, and of the record of private Members of the Conservative party, is their failure to realise the great advantage which it would have been to this country in its competition with other lands if the 48 Hours Convention could have been laid down as a rule, as the International Labour Office was prepared to have it, and its failure to realise what new openings we now have through the League of Nations and other ways to deal with the problems with which their safeguarding proposals have hitherto failed to deal. There is another aspect of the International Labour Office and the League of Nations to which I want to draw particular attention. I have a report of a Conservative Confer- 991 ence held not long ago in which some of the leading officials of the Conservative head office were confronted with the need of some new approach to the problems of unemployment and the economic breakdown. The report to which I refer is of a conference of the Midland Conservative Association, held in September, at which Mr. J. Starkey, the late Conservative Member for Newark, was in the chair. Speaking from the chair, he said that agriculture was down and that it was not alone. He continued:Still, it has not done badly on the whole. What it wants is Protection, but as Parliament is ruled by majorities, and the majority is against it, that is impossible as a full measure.Evidently he then had some prevision of the attitude of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury, because he went on to say:Do not try to run up against an impregnable position, but get what you want by roundabout methods.That is not the most interesting part of the conference. A speech was made there by one of the chief officers from the Conservative headquarters, none other than Sir John Green, who, in the course of his remarks, made this statament:As far as he was concerned he was sure that an effort should be made through the International Labour Office of the League of Nations to raise the standard of wages, stabilise prices and thus enable the British farmer to compete in our markets on fair terms.He stated further that the standards of all sections of agricultural workers in other countries were deplorable, whilst here wages were much higher than the poor farmer could afford to pay in view of the prices he obtained for his produce. In pushing the idea, he said:The great national Labour party are toying with this question and might do something with it.I submit that Conservative Members know full well the reasonable character of the central proposal in our Amendment. As I have shown by that report, they are saying similar things privately in their own conferences, where some of them showed they were prepared to try it as a political proposal in the next Election. What has happened to-night? The Secretary of State for War has not 992 only turned down those who stand by the Amendment to the proposed Amendment which the hon. Member for Penrith and Cockermouth (Mr. Dixey) desired to move, but has turned down a considerable body of thoughtful opinion in the Conservative party, outside, which was in some sense, at least, trying to apply the principles of the League of Nations and the International Labour Office to the economic difficulties which confront us. To-night they are back again, without qualification, to the old Safeguarding shifts and the old Protection shifts, though it is true they are going to proceed more carefully. The right hon. Gentleman gave us what purports to be a qualification of the White Paper now in existence, although I cannot yet understand the difference between the new procedure and that which has hitherto been adopted. I would ask those at present on the Treasury Bench to bring this point to the attention of the member of the Government who may speak later in this Debate—could not a promise be given to-night to print at the earliest possible moment for the use of Members of the House the revisions in the process now adopted under the White Paper which will be necessitated by the policy which has been enunciated? If there are any alterations we shall be glad to see them. So far as I can see, there is no very great difference in theory, but in practice there will be, in my judgment, very considerable differences. According to what I understood from the Secretary of State for War, in future we are to have the President of the Board of Trade himself presiding over a special committee similar to that which operates in connection with the Merchandise Marks legislation.
§ Mr. HUDSON
I accept the correction, but at any rate it is similar apparently to the Merchandise Marks Committee and not like the varying committees appointed under the Safeguarding procedure laid down in the present White Paper. If this new Committee is to be treated by the Board of Trade as the old safeguarding committees have been treated. I suggest that it is very unlikely that the Board of Trade, especially if it be led by the present President, will put before such a Committee all the 993 facts which it ought to have before a final judgment is arrived at. We cannot forget what has been happening quite recently to explode some of the decisions come to by former safeguarding committees. For example, there is the sort of information which the Board of Trade allowed to go before the committee on the lace industry and the committee on cutlery. In two or three cases those who were presenting applications for Safeguarding duties stated that the amount of trade being done had fallen off during the last ten or twelve years, but the figures given were so outrageously wrong—as we have seen later by the Census of Production published by the Board of Trade—that at the time they were submitted the Board of Trade must have been fully aware of the inaccuracy of the statements made. Still it never made any attempt to show that they were wrong. I suggest that that has happened in practically every one of the Committees which have been working on this question. Under the present regime the Board of Trade has throughout taken one side on this matter; it has never held an impartial attitude. It has appointed partial persons on the Committees and later, when facts were being submitted which the Board of Trade knew were wrong, practically nothing has been done in order to put the issue straight.
§ Mr. HUDSON
That may be true; but let me give some actual cases. In the case of safety razor blades the amount of trade which was being done by that industry was quoted by the industry so as to exclude entirely a considerable part, especially, of those blanks which are the basis of safety razor blades; and on that statement, although the Board of Trade knew that the position was quite otherwise, a decision was arrived at by the Committee. That is one case; there were several similar cases. Having that in mind we feel that whatever value there may he in the Prime Minister's pledge, and however strictly it may he adhered to in theory, the Board of Trade, with the present man at its head, cannot be trusted to do otherwise than was suggested by the speaker whose statement 994 at one of the party conferences I quoted at the beginning of my speech. They are playing tricks, they are working round about, they are going through back doors and side doors, and under the present régime at the Board of Trade the country cannot expect to have carried out the general pledge which the Prime Minister gave.
That is my first criticism; but I wish to go further into the general question of the adoption of safeguarding procedure. Many other industries will make claims; in view of the fact that some industries have got special advantages, I do not think there are many industries which will refrain from making a claim. The point, I wish to examine is, What is going to be the effect on the general industry of the country of a rapid extension of safeguarding? In the industries to which safeguarding has been applied employment has not increased at, the rate at which it increased before safeguarding was tried. In dealing with unemployment, hon. Members opposite have told us not to dwell so much on the number of the unemployed as on the numbers of those who are actually working in industries. I will take them on their own ground of the numbers actually employed in industry. Let us look at the figures in the case of the motor industry, which hon. Members opposite are so fond of quoting. I obtained these figures by subtracting from the figure of those who have insurance books on the 1st of July the numbers of those actually registered as unemployed. That is, naturally, the best way to arrive at the total numbers actually working in an industry. By that process I found that in 1923 there were 173,000 persons engaged in this industry, in 1924 187,000, in 1925 200,000 and in 1927 214,000. There was a steady increase in the number employed during the whole of that period, but let the House observe that between 1924 and 1925 the increase was at the rate of 6.8 per cent. per annum, but that in the two years following, when the McKenna Duties were operating in the motor trade, employment increased at the rate of only 3.5 per cent. per annum. Therefore, by bringing in the Safeguarding Duties you actually reduced the rate of the increase in employment which was being brought about by the rapid development of the motor industry.
995 One finds the same state of affairs in other industries—watches and clocks and musical instruments. I have the totals for all the industries affected by the McKenna Duties, and I find similar remarkable differences in the percentage increase of employment under the Labour party's policy and under the Conservative party's policy. In the years following the scrapping of the McKenna Duties, the total increase in employment was 5.3 per cent. in all those industries, and as a result of your policy there has been an increase of only 3.6 per cent. per annum. I suggest that by those figures, even in the most favourable industries hon. Members could quote to prove their case, you have failed to prove the success of your safeguarding proposals. The same result applies to the lace industry, the clog industry and some of those more recently affected by this procedure.
Under these circumstances the country is beginning to feel that the Government have so added to the difficulties of the workers by what they have done in the direction of safeguarding that neither the Government nor their policy can he trusted for very much longer. The purpose of our Amendment is to get a perfectly clear statement as to what the Government stand for. We want to get from the Government more clearly than the Secretary of State for War has made it, exactly the procedure to be adopted in connection with the safeguarding processes to be applied. When this policy is made clear the people will see that although in one or two instances the Government policy may have increased the number of those employed in a particular industry, that policy has made it Mare difficult for the workers to live because their household expenditure has increased on account of the higher price of commodities. People have to pay a higher price for the articles affected by the safeguarding duties with the result that they have less to spend on the other articles. That is one way in which safeguarding has undermined the trade of the country. The leaps which have taken place in the general unemployment figures are partly to be traced to the policy the Government have pursued. I hope the safeguarding policy will be made perfectly clear, and then I feel sure that the people 996 of this country will reject it as they rejected the same policy when it was put forward by the Prime Minister in 1923.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
There is no subject upon which there exists such a variety of opinion as upon the question of safeguarding. You have the Free Trade view which has been expressed by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) who regards safeguarding duties as vicious. You also have the extreme Protectionist view which regards safeguarding as something inherently good. I approach this question from the point of view of a free trader who, against his natural inclination, has been forced to the conclusion that safeguarding, rightly applied, may be a great benefit. My plea is for the safeguarding policy to be put upon a simple basis which, if adopted, would necessarily command the support of every reasonable person.
What is the problem which we have to face? We have got to import two-thirds of our food supply. We have also to import a great mass of raw materials and we have to pay for them. We have to pay for them in the main by the goods we manufacture, but the world will only take those goods from us if the purchasers can buy them from us as cheaply as elsewhere. Therefore we must keep before ourselves this cardinal principle, that we must do nothing to raise the cost of industrial production because if we do we shall only make it more difficult for us to pay that bill which, perforce, we have to pay. I start with the basic principle that nothing must be done to raise the cost of industrial production or the cost of living. Incidentally it may be noticed that this doctrine leads us to the conclusion that if it is right that you should do nothing to raise the cost of industrial production, then it is equally right that you should do everything you can to decrease the cost of industrial production.
What is the view of this problem as it presents itself to the protectionist? The protectionist realises that there are 48,000,000 people in this country, and he sees that it is essential to provide employment for those people. According to his view, from a purely economic point of view, a man out of work is of no use whatever, while a man 997 who produces something constitutes himself an important economic factor. Consequently whether you look at this problem from a humanitarian or economic point of view, there is the duty staring you in the face of finding employment for this vast population. It is a very big population, in fact in England and Wales it is as dense a population as you can find anywhere in the world. If you put the whole population of the world into the United States it would not he as densely populated as are England and Wales.
Therefore, we come to this conclusion that no industry is so small that it cannot play a part in finding employment for this great population. What happens? We see inroad after inroad being made into our industries. The returns show that we have a vast mass of stuff coming into this country from abroad which could be made here. One reason for this is the higher standard of living in this country. Another reason is the great advantage which our competitors have by mass production carried on behind tariff walls We know that other countries are not so heavily burdened with taxation as we are. It is owing to these reasons that we see inroads being made into our industries, and we also see the imperative necessity for doing something by utilising duties for the purpose of protecting these industries.
How are we—and this is the point of view from which I approach the subject—to reconcile these two conflicting views or principles? On the one hand, we must do nothing to increase the cost of industrial production, while on the other hand, if we are really to find employment for 48,000,000 people, we must do something to protect industry from this competition. Having got that far, we realise that the reduced production at home is leading to more expensive production. No one can challenge that, and, if you are doing something which is leading to an increased cost of production, you are doing something which is offending against the basic Free Trade principle that you must at all times be doing all that you can to keep down the cost of production. Therefore, you have the one result operating adversely on the other. Production goes down, and the cost of production goes up; and, as 998 the cost of production goes up, the industries concerned are less able to compete in the markets of the world, because they cannot produce as cheaply as they otherwise could. How are we to reconcile these two things?
Here I would like to define my view of Safeguarding. I think that Protection—a general tariff—means the use of a tariff without regard to its effect on the cost of industrial production, whereas I believe Safeguarding to be the use of a tariff with a rigid regard to that basic principle of doing nothing to increase the cost of industrial production. At any rate, that is what Safeguarding means to me—the rigid observance of the provision of the White Paper, which is the only one of any value, that no industry shall be safeguarded if to safeguard it will have an adverse effect upon any other industry. I take those words to mean, and they have been construed as meaning, that if by protecting an industry you are going to increase the cost of any other industry's raw material, that shall not be done. That is my view of what Safeguarding is. [Interruption.] It does not increase the cost of anyone's raw material. I am not saying whether that ought to be rigidly applied, but, as a principle, Safeguarding is the use of Protection with a rigid regard to the principle of doing nothing to increase the cost of industrial production. The proposition for which I contend is this, and I cannot see any criticism that can be advanced against it. It may not be of any great value, but I submit that as a proposition it is sound and a good starting point. If an industry can show that with Safeguarding, with its home market secured to it, it can supply the demand at the competitive Continental price, then it is for the good of the country that that industry should be safeguarded.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
If an industry can show that it can supply the demand—which agriculture, for instance, cannot—if it can and will, if safeguarded, supply the demand at the competitive world price, I say it is for the good of the country that that industry should be safeguarded.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
Yes. Let us take as an illustration the case of the shipbuilder and steel plates. If the steel producers of this country could show that, with the home market secured to them, they could and would supply steel plates at the price which the shipbuilder would be paying if there were no such thing as a duty, that is to say, the competitive Continental price, I say that it is for the good of the country that the industry should be protected. The user of raw material is at no disadvantage, for he is getting his material at the competitive world price, and he cannot command anything better than that. If the industry cannot prove that, and is not willing to back its view by accepting it as a condition of the grant, then, for my part, I cannot see how in fairness you can apply safeguarding to the steel industry. After all, a ship is all steel in one form or another, and, if anything is going to be done to prevent the builder of a ship from buying steel in the cheapest market, I cannot see how his industry is going to flourish, and the result will merely be to pass on unemployment from one industry to another.
That principle is not quite new. It was accepted in the Free State by the margarine manufacturers. They wanted safeguarding, and the President said to them: "Will you undertake to supply at the Continental price?" They said that they would, and they got their safeguarding on the express condition that the trade supplied at the competitive world price. Apparently they are doing so, for they are busy. It may be that some industries could not do this, and hitherto it may not have been so easy, but, with the 75 per cent. rate relief that is to be given, one of the most oppressive burdens on industry will have been removed, and if, with that benefit, an industry, whether the steel industry or any other, can prove, and will accent as a condition of the grant, that, with the home market secured to them, they will supply at the competitive price, I can see no conceivable objection, from the Free Trade point of view or any other, to the safeguarding of any such industry.
That is the plea that I want to advance. It is really putting into plainer language a test that has been part of 1000 the White Paper procedure since the beginning, that is to say, the one to which I referred just now, as to whether the protection of the industry in question will have an adverse effect upon any other. Why not put it into a simpler form, and make it a condition of the grant that the industry supplies at the competitive world price? No inquiry would then be necessary to prove this, that or the other. If the industry is ready to back its view by accepting this as a condition, it is all to the good that it should be safeguarded, and that these things should be made in this country which at present are made abroad.
§ Mr. CONNOLLY
Do I understand that the hon. and learned Member would make his support of Safeguarding conditional upon that? It is a very important proviso, and has already been adopted in the Free State and the Australian Commonwealth.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
May I answer that in this way? I was coming to it. So long as you are dealing with a finished article, like the articles which have been protected up to the present, it is not very material; but, the moment you come to a raw material, I for my part would rigidly adhere to that principle.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
It is not so important. Experience has shown, to begin with, that prices have not gone up in the case of the more or less insignificant cases that have been dealt with under the Safeguarding Act. Perhaps I should not call them insignificant, bat, at any rate, they have not been industries of any great importance, and whether the price of a tin pot goes up by 1d. does not seem to me to be very material. But the moment you come to something like the steel industry, which supplies a raw material for other industries, I can see no justification for extending Safeguarding to such an industry unless it can prove—and I would have it made a condition of the grant—that it can and will supply at the world price, because in my view you would not, in the long run, benefit even the steel makers if you destroyed the shipbuilding or the engineering industry. Therefore, I would press that view as strongly as I can. Let me give an illustration of how it might 1001 help. During the South African tour I was told that last year the South African railways bought £2,000,000 worth of railway material, practically all steel. They had tenders before them, and I was told that the German tender was 30 per cent. less than the British, and that, with all the good will in the world, they could not see that it was their duty to accept the British tender. Accordingly, it all went to Germany, as it had done in other years also. It is perfectly clear that something must be done to enable our steel industry to keep its costs down, even apart from the question of supplying the home market, in order to enable it to compete in the markets of the world. Our steel industry to-day is working at a rate of production which I think is about 65 per cent.—I am not sure whether it is 65 per cent. or 45 per cent.—
§ Mr. ATKINSON
Everyone knows the effect of that on the cost of production. Suppose that something costs, in material and labour, £10 to produce. I have a case in mind. When that firm was on full time, the overheads were 100 per cent. and the price doubled and £20 was charged. When the industry was on half time its overheads remained pretty constant and therefore 200 per cent. had to be put on the selling price of the thing and £30, instead of £20, became the selling price. That illustrates the effect of reduced production, and one result of this policy—and the industry concerned would have this in view in accepting as a condition of the grant that it supplied at the world price—would be that besides getting the benefit of the home market, its reduced cost of output would enable it to get more foreign trade. It would seem to me a policy which would assist both in gaining the home trade and, in consequence of that, gain a greater share of the Empire and foreign trade of the country.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I have no doubt it would require thinking out how to apply it, but the idea in my own mind was that there would be a Board of Trade Committee which would be in touch with prices. You can get to know what is the Continental price of steel 1002 bars. Every shipbuilder gets tenders from the Continent. Makers keep in touch with the prices at which they are supplied. If he has evidence that the Continent will supply him and he finds the price quoted in England is 10s. or £1 higher, he would only have to go to the Board of Trade and say "I want a licence to import steel. Here is steel being quoted in the Continental market at so much a ton and England is asking more, notwithstanding this condition of safeguarding, I want a licence to import." You have an example now with regard to dyestuffs. The Advisory Committee fixes prices for various dyestuffs and this is the rule. If producers here are asking more than these prices, a licence is at once granted to import. [An HON. MEMBER: "That is theory."] It is more than theory. At any rate that would be one way in which it could be done. Of course, another way would be that anyone would be free to apply for revocation of the safeguarding if the industry was not acting up to the condition. There are various ways, and I do not think there would be any insuperable difficulty in applying it. I am told there is not really any difficulty in knowing what the market price on the Continent is. At any rate, I want to throw out that suggestion as a basis of safeguarding which I believe no one could object to. I think it would be very difficult for even extreme Protectionists to ask you to go further.
It seems to me if the steel industry would have to charge more than the purchasers would have to pay if it was not safeguarded, it has a difficult case to make out. I am not sure that it is right to speak of it as one big industry, there are so many branches of it. I am told the wire industry, for example, would welcome this. The brush industry is another which would welcome it. They believe they could do it. I am told there is not much doubt that the wiremakers, who are very badly hit, if they had the home market secured, would he ready to supply at world prices. At any rate, there is the suggestion, and I believe it is one worthy of consideration, because it would seem to go a long way towards harmonising these views and would help to get rid of these complicated inquiries. I wish the gentleman who had the framing of these White 1003 Papers had been engaged in one or two of these inquiries. Take the question of abnormality. That has gone, but the question of unfairness remains. What does it matter whether competition is fair or unfair. If it is there, if it is leading to unemployment and if, ex hypothesi, it is right to prevent that unemployment by a duty, what does it matter whether competition is fair or not I would eliminate that entirely. After all, our first duty is to get secure employment for our people. if safeguarding is to be of no use at all, wipe it all out, but you are starting with this, that safeguarding is of use from the point of view of reducing employment and, if it is, for heaven's sake, I beg the Government to reconsider these conditions, to eliminate this about fairness and unfairness and eliminate everything except the one vital question, is the industry ready to supply at a competitive price, because if it is, and gets its safeguarding on that basis, no one is a penny the worse and the industry itself must be immensely better off for it.
§ Mr. J. BAKER
I think when the hon. Member who has just sat down wanted to rule out competition as a means of governing trade, he was getting on to the slippery slope of changing sides in this House. It is the sort of thing we have been advocating for a quarter of a century. But he would not work it by co-operating. He would work it by isolating each of the countries by means of tariffs sufficiently high to keep out the other people. We have been told to-night that if we impose tariffs, it would find work for thousands of people who are now out of work. We have not been told how it would do that. My own trade has been quoted as importing millions of tons of steel that could be made in this country, but they do not tell us what will happen to the steel that is now being made in other countries. They assume that if the rest of the world went on making the same quantity and we made 4,000,000 tons more in this country by the passing of a Resolution or a Bill in this House, we should immediately create a demand for another 4,000,000 tons. I wish we could. I wish it was as simple as that assumption appears to make it, but it is not quite so simple. If we were to keep out all the steel that 1004 comes into the country in any form whatever, because we could make it here in that form, it does not prevent the foreign manufacturer making it and selling the same steel in the markets we now supply. I think that is where people on the other side of the House get themselves confused. They look at all the advantages we should get by exclusion, but never for a moment inquire into the disadvantages, and to-night in support of that position we have had the same selection of arguments and the same evasion of an immense number of facts which have a bearing on the situation.
For instance, my own association has been quoted with an emphasis that was used to get this House to believe that at least the majority of the workers in the iron and steel trades are in favour of tariffs. It is not true, and the hon. Member Who made that assertion knows that it is not true. He was much more careful in making his assertion on this occasion than he was on a previous occasion. For the purposes of administration the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation is divided into seven districts. Each of these districts holds conferences once or twice a year and if there is anything on earth which they believe can improve the position of the workmen, they desire to see it explored. They expect the employers to do exactly the same sort of thing. One of these Conferences consisting of one-seventh of the divisions, having about one-seventh of the membership of the organisation, passed a resolution asking for tariffs. It is not fair to this House to quote that resolution without stating that it was passed by a Conference representing one-seventh of the members of that organisation. The other six-sevenths voted against that resolution and carried the one which the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) read to the House. He wanted to make the House believe that the one carried by the one-seventh of the organisation superseded the one that expressed the opinion of six-sevenths of the membership covered by the representative conference. This resolution, passed by six-sevenths of the organisation, reads as follows:That this Divisional Committee is of opinion that the importation of commodities manufactured in countries where wages rates and hours of labour are below the 1005 standard obtaining in the industries producing similar goods in this country is detrimental to the standard of life of the British workers. It therefore urges the Government to set up an International Wages Convention for the purpose of fixing an international minimum wage standard as a necessary corollary to the 48-Hours Convention; and pending the setting up of such convention we call upon the Government to prohibit the importation of competing goods where such goods are produced under conditions which are regarded as unsatisfactory by the organised workers in the country where such goods are made.Do not ask us to define what is sweating. It is going to be the people in the country where the goods are made who are going to define it. For instance there is a strike or a lock-out, whichever view you take in the German steel trade. There is a dispute. A Government Court of Arbitration awarded an advance, amounting to about 4 per cent., to the workers in the iron and steel trades. The employers refused to carry out the award. They locked out the men and appealed to the Law Courts and succeeded in getting the decision upset. The workers are now left to appeal to a higher Court. These workers have said that German steel is being made under conditions which are not satisfactory to them. Will this Government now exclude that steel? They will not. Hon. Members opposite should not bother about asking us what our definition is, they have got a definition from the people who are mostly affected.
This is the representative decision of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation until it is upset, which it may be at any time, because these conferences are held according to rule each year. Any branch or any member is entitled to go to his branch and put forward a resolution, have it sent forward to the head office and placed upon the agenda of the conference. I submit that it is not treating this House fairly to quote a minority view as though it is a majority view. Last year, if we are going to look at figures, was, on the face of it, most favourable to the Tariff Reformers' argument because we had, they assert, an importation of 4,406,000 tons of iron and steel. I have pointed out previously in this House that they never bother to tell the House that we exported 4,199,000 tons. If hon. Members will put these figures on paper they will see what really 1006 is happening. You produce 9,000,000 tons and you import 4,400,000 tons, making 13,400,000 tons. You export 4,200,000 tons and you have really a difference of 200,000 tons only which you might use in this country under the best of circumstances. Suppose everything went on as swimmingly as our imaginative friends assume that it would, you have only 200,000 tons from which you might get any advantage. I do not mind letting the House into a secret. If hon. Gentlemen opposite persuaded this Government to put on a tariff, thereby raising prices, I should get an increase in salary. It might be said that should be a sufficient argument to persuade me to go over to the other side. But I am afraid that what would happen is, that while the men who were working in the trade would be better off because of the sliding scales, there would be fewer working.
To-night we are concerned about the people who, in my opinion, anyhow, would be thrown out of work in this country if we imposed a tariff sufficiently high to keep out foreign steel. We have not even 200,000 tons to play with. I want to tell the House why. Our friends on the other side always discuss this matter as though it was a simple straightforward one and the iron and steel trade were one unit. As a matter of fact the interests in the iron and steel trade are many and varied and conflicting. In some sections of the trade they might get an advantage by a tariff but in other sections of the trade they certainly would be placed at a disadvantage. One cannot look upon it as a simple proposition for this reason. The major portion of the imported steel is made by the Bessemer process. That is the process which we used to employ in this country. We have always believed that quality was the thing to go for, and, as we can get better qualities of steel by other processes, we have gradually allowed the Bessemer process to die out. So far as I know, there are only two firms in Britain to-day producing and using Bessemer steel. They could not supply the demand for this low grade, cheaper quality steel if a tariff was put on to exclude all the Bessemer steel, and if we followed a policy of exclusion because our men do not work such long hours and for such low wages as do the workers abroad. We cannot manufacture 1007 in Great Britain a sufficient quantity, of Bessemer steel to meet the demand of those people who now use it, and who export the bulk of it.
We are up against another problem if we safeguard iron and steel. Some 70 or 80 per cent. of the bars, billets and rods that are imported into this country are manufactured, labour is added and then 70 to 80 per cent. of them are re-exported. Take the question of tin plates. We make tin plate, but on looking over the return of imports and exports of iron and steel, you do not see that we import any tin plate. We make it here and export the whole lot. Some of the manufacturers argue that unless they can get Bessemer steel they cannot possibly sell their products abroad. They are up against this difficulty that other countries are making tin plate to-day, India and Belgium, for instance, and yet if our people cannot supply tin plate to those countries at a cheaper price than they can make it themselves, they are going to make their own, substantially. Further, and I think this is a real danger and not an imaginary one, if we refuse to buy either the Belgian bar or the French bar we are going to compel the French and the Belgians to adopt machinery to carry their process another stage forward and to become competitors with us in the making of tin plate for sale in foreign markets. That is a matter which requires careful consideration.
I do not like the idea of making an obstacle race of trade. At the Economic Conference in Geneva, recently, representatives were present from all over the world, and the representatives of the chambers of commerce in Great Britain accepted a resolution which declared that ever-increasing tariff barriers were interfering with trade and making it more difficult for one country to exchange its goods with another. In the resolution which was passed, instructions were given for the sending out of a document, which has been treated as a joke in this House to-night, asking people to have regard to world trade, to refrain from increasing tariff barriers, indeed, to reduce their tariff barriers so that trade can get a chance, and so that we can exchange our goods more readily than 1008 we have been doing for the past few years. That argument applies to iron and steel as to anything else. The export of steel is influenced by many considerations. It is influenced by the question of markets, quality and price. One of the biggest influences, in my opinion, was the attempt to create an artificial prosperity by tampering with currency. Every country in the world was compelled to inflate its currency. We began to return to the gold standard a little earlier than our competitors, so far as the effect on iron and steel is concerned. Whilst we were deflating in this country, Germany, France and Belgium were in flating. As has been said by hon. Members opposite, deflation made things cheaper for us to buy abroad. Last night one of the Ministers was claiming credit for the Government having reduced the cost of living. He ought to be prepared to shoulder the responsibility for having made it impossible for many steel workers to live, because he has made German steel and French and Belgium steel cheaper than ours. If there is anything in the currency argument, it can be tested. If the return to the gold standard really does enable us to buy more cheaply abroad, our imports would show that. If a fixed rate of currency gives us a better chance our exports would show what has happened. Our imports of iron and steel have been steadily increasing since 1920.
Since we went back to the gold standard, France has stabilised her currency. What has been the result? Instead of having four million tons of steel imported we are going to have this year round about 3,000,000 tons. The French worker, the Belgian worker and the Garman worker are no better to-day compared with the English worker than they were last year or the year before, because they have now lost the advantage of inflation. We are getting down to a level mark where we are all on scratch so far as currency is concerned, and we find that imports are falling off. Last year, we had 4,400,000 tons imported, while this year of pig iron, sheets, tinplate bars, steel bars, wire rods, iron bars, angles, girders, beams, joints, plates and sheets, etc., we have imported to the extent of 2,218,000 tons in nine months, while we have exported similar goods, with the addition of galvanised sheets 1009 and terne plates, to the extent of 3,125,000 tons. If I had known that I was going to intervene in the Debate today I would have brought a list of the foreign prices which are printed in the trade papers. Since France has stabilised her currency she approximates not only to our prices but to prices in Belgium and Germany. France has lost the power to cripple Germany and Belgium and to compel them to cut down below a point beyond which they would not be willing to go.
International agreements also influence these matters. We have cartels on the Continent, and working arrangements. It would be interesting if hon. Members would inquire the prices quoted for rails for Australia, and get to know where the quotations came from and in what parts of the world we are allowed to sell rails. This is not an easy matter. It is complicated and difficult. Each of us can believe as he likes, but I hope that we shall give the closest possible attention to this matter so that we can get the facts. It may be said that I have a Victorian mentality and that I am an ingrained Free Trader, but I have given a great deal of time to inquiring into this question, because I do not want our industry to make a blunder by ruining employers because ruined employers are no good to us. I wish they were all prosperous because we should then have a chance of getting something out of them. We cannot get anything out of them if they have to go through the bankruptcy court.
§ Mr. STORRY DEANS
I congratulate the hon. Member for North Aberdeen (Mr. Benn) on having found his true party. Many hon. Members of the Socialist party have attained considerable success by stirring up strife and unrest, and the hon. Member for North Aberdeen has done his very best to stir up strife and unrest in the party of which I am a member. He has told us, almost with tears, how badly we have been treated by our leaders; how we have been chastised with whips, and I suppose will later be chastised with scorpions. He has assured us that if we had any courage at all we should rebel. In fact, he has tried to queer the pitch of the Government, and present to the country at the next General Election a 1010 disunited party. I am very sorry for an old member of this House, and may I say for an hon. Friend of mine, but I shall have to be so cruel as to assure him that his hopes are entirely unfounded; that he will be most cruelly disappointed. There is not the slightest chance of the Tory party splitting on the rock which he has so carefully placed in the tide-way. We shall go on. We may differ a little sometimes as to the speed of our movement. Some of us would go slow, others would go faster, but we shall all get there and in the course of time I assure the hon. Member he will see this party sitting on this side of the House carrying forward the policy of Safeguarding which was outlined by the Prime Minister some time ago and by the Secretary of State for War this afternoon.
There has been a little mistake in the mind of the hon. Member. Amongst his many gifts he does not possess the gift of concentration of thought. He has rather hastily read the statement of the Prime Minister in 1925, and is a little confused. What the Prime Minister then said was that having regard to the repercussions a Duty on iron and steel might be held to be a violation of his pledge against a general tariff, and I understand that to mean that the Prime Minister imagined that some other people would say so and would accuse him of violating his pledge, and rather than be accused of violating his pledge he was content to let the matter go.
§ Mr. DEANS
I had not forgotten that, and I was coming to it; but I think the hon. and gallant Member must take the observations of the Noble Lord sub modo. The hon. and gallant Member seems to be a little doubtful as to what I mean, and perhaps he will allow me to explain. He must take that statement having regard to the time and circumstances in which it was said. It is quite true, as I understand it, that the Government at present, and until there 1011 has been an inquiry which is to take place after the General Election, is not in favour of a. Safeguarding Duty on iron and steel. The Government stands where it did, and at the time Lord Salisbury was speaking in another place there had been a clear declaration by The Prime Minister that any trade might apply to the tribunal, constituted as it would be after the next General Election, and that the procedure would be considerably simplified. You must take the observations of his lordship as applying to the condition of affairs at the present moment, and I do not gather that he was trying to bind the Government to a statement or declaration of policy that never under any circumstances would they impose a Duty on iron and steel. I am sorry that the right hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) is not in his place. He described me as Trotsky.
§ Mr. DEANS
I really do not quite know which it was, but I do know that it was either Trotsky or Lenin. I do not know what I have ever done to the right hon. Gentleman for him to compare me with or name me in the same breath as, two such unholy blackguards. If he had called me a Daniel or anything of that kind I should not have objected at all, but I do rather object to being called either Lenin or Trotsky. It is a most unsavoury kind of comparison. I would not compare my worst enemy with either of these two celebrities. What is the good of bringing up an Amendment to the Address based on something which took place at a conference at Yarmouth or at a conference anywhere else outside the walls of this House? The word "exploit" is one which I have frequently heard on the lips of Labour orators. The right hon. Gentleman was trying to exploit us. I can assure him that the exploitation will not in the least succeed. We shall pursue our task with our usual serenity none of these little devices will succeed. The only pleasure I get out of this Debate is that it assures me that the hon. and gallant Member for North Aberdeen has really returned to this House, and intends to imbue his new party with some of the spirit which he found wasted in the party he so recently left.
After all, this Amendment was no doubt moved as a little bit of Parlia- 1012 mentary fun, and I have enjoyed it as much as anyone. But in listening to the merry quips and parliamentary points of the right hon. Member for Colne Valley I could not help thinking that, if he had been addressing an audience of unemployed steel workers in Sheffield, they would not have seen the joke quite as readily. I think they would have said something like this: "It is all very well for you Members of Parliament to have humorous Debates about the steel trade, but while you are doing it and while this Member and that Member are talking pure theory about Free Trade or international conventions or something of that sort, we are walking the streets and are unable to get any work." That is my view of the situation also. The question is, which of the two policies outlined to-day are we to choose? It is quite true that the policy of Free Trade, the policy of letting things alone, is discarded for ever. Remnants of the Liberal party still cling to it, but they do not count very much. The Labour party and the Conservative party have a remedy for this state of things. We both admit that there is an evil to be cured. In both parties we agree that Free Trade is not good enough and that something must be done. We cannot cure the evil by a rest cure. Some sort of medicine must he administered.
The Amendment in its tail admits that we shall not cure it unless we keep out the imports of foreign iron and steel which are made at half the wages that are paid in this country. Labour Members talk about prohibition. That is an admission that there is something to be prohibited. What is it that is to be prohibited? What is to he prohibited is the importation of this sweated steel and iron. If it is to he kept out of the country what is the right way to keep it out? We say, keep it out by imposing on it a duty—
§ Mr. DEANS
The hon. Member's strong point is not clear enunciation. I could not hear him or I should have tried to answer him. The Amendment says that the sweated steel should be kept out. We also say that it should he kept out. The Labour party would keep it out by prohibition unless they 1013 could get an international agreement making the wages and conditions equal in all countries. We say that we should keep it out by imposing a duty which it would be unable to surmount, by putting up a tariff wall that it would not climb over very easily. Which is the better policy? You cannot prohibit goods from a foreign country unless you get an international agreement to that effect, because to do so would be to impose an embargo that is equivalent to an act of war.
§ Mr. DEANS
It is permissible to put on a tariff which will have the effect of keeping goods out, but anyone at all conversant with international law will know that a prohibition as such cannot be imposed without a serious breach of international law. The hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston)) shakes his head. Except in the case of the United States, which prohibits liquor, I do not think he can give a single instance.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In Kelly's Trade Directory, under "Customs of the World," the hon. Member will find over 20 commodities mentioned, the entry of which into this country is prohibited.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
All we ask is that we shall extend the prohibition from sanitary to economic purposes.
§ Mr. DEANS
I do not wish to pose as a great authority on international law, but the study of it has come in my way, and I would like to assure my hon. Friend that if he asks anyone who has studied international law he would be told that you cannot, except for police and sanitary purposes, impose a prohibition on an export from a friendly country. If you do you become by international law, at once, an unfriendly country. I do not think that any British Government, Socialist or otherwise, could be found to prohibit imports of sweated steel. Then what is the next thing? I am glad to see 1014 that the Labour party are making a suggestion, because it shows that they recognise the existence of an evil which has to be cured. They say: "Let us have an international convention." I wonder how long it would take to get such a convention on a subject like this? Just imagine! We go to the Saar or to Belgium or to France, and we say: "We should like you to come into a convention; that will put up and very nearly double the wages of your steel and iron workers."
§ Mr. WALLHEAD
Is it not legitimate to ask how long it would take the Conservative party to bring in Protection?
§ Mr. DEANS
If it has taken three or four years to convince the country of the necessity of a safeguarding duty on steel, I suggest that it would take 40 years to bring about an international agreement, and I doubt if you would ever get it. What would be the position? You go to these foreign countries, and you say to them, "Now kind Sirs, will you enter into this agreement to double your workers' wages in the steel and iron trade in order to bring them up to the same point as ours?" What would be their answer? If we are frank, we shall say to them: "If you will only make your people's wages as big as ours, and put them on the same basis of working hours and conditions, such as we have, we, Great Britain, shall monopolise the steel trade of the world, because you could not compete with us anywhere, You can just undercut us with your present wages, hours and conditions, and if you bring them up to our wages, hours and conditions, such is the superiority of our workmanship, plant and organisation, that you will not stand a chance, and you will not sell a ton of steel anywhere in the markets of the world. We shall beat you in your own country and everywhere." Do you think they are likely to fall into a booby-trap like that? And unless they do—and, of course, they could easily see the position for themselves—what becomes of your international convention? It is idle to suppose that these countries will yield up to us the position of advantage in which they can compete with us to a very considerable advantage, not only in the neutral markets, but over here.
The hon. Member who spoke last, and who speaks with some authority as representing iron and steel workers, told 1015 us that we could not make in this country these cheap classes of steel—the Bessemer class of steel. He said we had shut down nearly all our Bessemer furnaces. All I can say is, that I know a very great number of steel manufacturers, and they make no difficulty about it. They say that they will be able to supply the 3,000,000 tons of cheap steel that we now import. Then the hon. Member said, "What about the tinplate makers?" It may be news to him, but it is a fact that the head of the biggest of all these works is now—though he was not at one time—strongly in favour of safeguarding iron and steel. A united trade, not merely the people who make steel, but those who are called the re-rollers, that is to say those who turn the steel into various kinds of manufactured commodities, ready for the engineers and for other people to use—they are now practically unanimous in favour of this policy. The shipbuilders or many of them have come round—I am told most of them have. The engineers have come round and all sorts of users of steel, who used not to be in favour of this policy and who were not three years ago, are now in favour of it, and I will tell you why. It is because they see that the iron and steel traders of this country are being slowly knocked out. They are more and more of them getting into the hands of receivers and of the banks. No fewer than 47 blast furnaces were shut down between August, 1927, and August, 1928.
That is not a thing I can contemplate with any great equanimity, and I am anxious to see what remedy can be found for this state of affairs. On my conscience, I assure hon. Members opposite that if I thought their international convention to keep out this sweated steel from abroad had the slightest chance of being brought off within the next two or three years, I would join them and vote for their Amendment, but I do not think it would. I think that there is only one practical step to meet the evil which, it is admitted on all sides, exists—for we are agreed that the one thing to be done is to keep out this foreign steel. I respectfully suggest to my hon. Friends on the other side that the more immediate and more practical way of doing it, 1016 is to impose a pretty stiff duty, rather than to wait for years and years, and try to obtain an international convention, which, perhaps, you may never obtain at all.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I would prefer to keep the Debate on the level that was instituted by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden) rather than listen to the meandering and rather purist expressions of opinion given by the hon. Member for the Park Division of Sheffield (Mr. Storry Deans). I am, like many Members of the House and many manufacturers in the country and many millions of voters, very anxious to know exactly what the Prime Minister and the Conservative Government mean by Safeguarding. I do not want to enter into the respective merits or demerits of Safeguarding or Free Trade. There is plenty of time for that and there be plenty of discussion of it. I pass an Employment Exchange every time I come to this House and I do not like to see it. I am sincere in my desire, as are many other Members, to whom we must give credit for their sincerity, but what we do want to know is exactly what is the method proposed? What is going to be done? I was very interested in the intriguing proposal of the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson), and I hope the Prime Minister has had that proposal specially noticed. The hon. Member proposed that Safeguarding should be given where a firm would produce goods, as a result of the Safeguarding at the market price, but he destroyed the whole tenour and usefulness of his proposal when he said that Safeguarding ought to be given if there is any kind of competition against the industry. First of all, he said, "unfair competition" and then he said "No, not unfair competition—any kind of competition."
I suggest that some of the most unfair competition that we get in the industries of this country comes from the captains of industry themselves, and I am prepared to prove it. My own textile trade has made an application for Safeguarding. I know the trade inside out, and I know that the very materials in respect of which they want Safeguarding are the very materials that they have been 1017 most careless in not producing. I have seen a cloth to-day that is produced in France at 2s. 7½d. per yard and the nearest we can produce it at is 3s. 3d. per yard. It is made of a single yarn, and in this country we do not make a single yarn. Why? The machinery from which this yarn is made was originated, invented and produced in this country, and it is used by the French in competition with our cloth, and rather than put down the machinery, our manufacturers would sooner ask for Safeguarding. That is quite easy, but I submit it is not fair to the industry itself or to the nation. I suggest to the hon. Member for Altrincharn that that is the kind of competition which ought not to be given Safeguarding—a competition which they themselves have instituted. I think we ought to get to know exactly what the position of the Government is with regard to Safeguarding. We have heard of packed committees. Are they packed. Are there any Free Traders allowed to be members of these committees? Are Free Traders going to have any opportunity of getting on these committees?
When the evidence is submitted to the committees, why, in the name of all that is wonderful, cannot Members of Parliament have that evidence? When a safe- guarding inquiry has been held and evidence has been submitted pro and con, the members of the committee and the witnesses have access to that evidence, but it is deliberately withheld from Members of the House of Commons. If you want to make converts to a point of view, you will not do so by withholding evidence. I submit to the Prime Minister that there ought to be a careful inquiry into the kind of things which manufacturers themselves are doing. It is not the case, as the hon. and learned Member for the Park Division of Sheffield suggested, that we in this country have the latest machinery. The latest machinery which we have been producing in this country has been produced for export. The people who previously were our customers but who are now our competitors in our own home markets, are using machinery produced in this country. I saw the prospectus of a new textile undertaking which referred to the use of machinery "not more than 20 1018 years old." That is the kind of machinery advocated as good enough for producing the manufactures with which we have to compete against foreigners who are using the latest machinery produced in this country, and very often capitalised with British capital.
All these points should be investigated. It has been said that owing to the bad time which our manufacturers have experienced, they cannot afford to buy new machinery. The hon. Member for South Nottingham (Lord H. Cavendish-Ben-tinck) suggested that some assistance should be given to manufacturers to purchase new machinery. I suppose he had the lace industry in mind. We are told that our manufacturers, having lost all their money, cannot buy the machinery which is necessary to us, if we are to compete with the foreigners. In the wool textile trade where as I have said our manufacturers ought to be producing a single yarn cloth I know of one manufacturer who ought to have been making that yarn and who, no doubt, would have said that the industry could not afford the latest machinery for the purpose and he has recently left £1,500,000. Some of the money which has been taken out of the industry ought to have been put back into the industry so that it could compete on a fair level with the industry abroad.
We see these things going on; we see the number of our unemployed increasing, and we see that the Government have nothing to offer but Safeguarding. As Members of Parliament, as representatives of the unemployed, as citizens of this country, we ought to know the conditions under which Safeguarding is going to be imposed. That is all we ask. If there are to be committees of inquiry, Members of Parliament should have free access to all the evidence submitted to those committees. I hate to sit here during a Safeguarding Debate and to be asked to give my vote for or against a duty on a certain article, knowing all the time that other people have evidence which is denied to me. The Prime Minister for his own sake and for the sake of the honour of this House. Ought to make it clear what the proposals are going to be and how they are going to be instituted, so that Members of this. House may be able to acquaint their constituents with the position of the Govern- 1019 ment on this very important matter. This Debate has been an excellent one and it was well worth while initiating it. It will prove to have been still more worth while if we can get the definition which we think we ought to have.
§ Mr. LUKE THOMPSON
I have listened with a great deal of interest to this Debate and especially to some of the later speeches. The hon. Member who has just spoken suggested that all we on this side had to offer was Safeguarding. That is certainly something to offer and while I have been searching for a remedy for unemployment from the benches opposite, up to now I have not found any solution offered from that quarter.
§ Mr. MACKINDER
I, and I think other Members of our party, have been trying to keep to the question of Safeguarding. We have not been discussing unemployment, otherwise I could reply to the hon. Gentleman's suggestion.
§ Mr. THOMPSON
I submit that the question of Safeguarding is so wrapped up with the question of unemployment that it is very difficult to differentiate between them. I would draw the attention of the House—and there is no attempt to side-track the issue—to the purport of the Amendment on the Paper which has been ruled out by Mr. Speaker. That Amendment—to which my name is attached—states that the only hope for the basic trades and in fact the whole industry of the country, is that a further extension of the Safeguarding policy should be immediately applied. How can you dissociate these two issues? The prime question which the country has to decide is the question of the employment of its people. In face of the fact that unemployment is steadily going up, surely it is legitimate to argue that Safeguarding, if not a complete remedy for unemployment, has at any rate this value—that it is a definite suggestion and a definite policy for dealing with unemployment.
For many years, I have been interested in this question. I received my baptism in connection with it, in the days of the late Joseph Chamberlain, and while I admit that I have, time and again, argued this question in an academic way, the circumstances of the last few years have shattered many of the theories which one 1020 formerly held. The suggestion has been made to-night that no reason can be given for the existing state of things. I would suggest a reason. While world trade has been expanding and is expanding, there has been a steady increase in the imports of manufactured goods into this country, with an inability to maintain, in proportion to the expanding population, the character of our exports. The result is that you have a state of things existing to-day which has become chronic. It is true that, with the development of trade and after the settlement of Europe, the various States called into existence have had time to settle and develop their internal resources, but allowing for all that, the fact remains that in whatever direction you look, whether at the iron and steel industry, at the woollen industry, or at the engineering industry, you find that there has been a steady increase in the imports of these commodities, with a lessened ability for our own people to find work in those directions. How far are we prepared to allow this to operate? I was looking the other day at the imports of machinery, and I found that there has been a steady increase. How far we are going to allow that to operate, I do not know. It applies not only in this direction, but it touches practically every industry in this country.
Less than two weeks ago I had my attention drawn to an industry which in my youth was fully operative in this country, and in my constituency to-day there are only two firms in existence. I refer to the glass industry. On that particular day the head of the firm that I am interested in as the supplier of coal to that industry was placing his orders, and this is what was stated to my firm, that he had booked tentatively an order for 50,000 articles of glass a few days before in London, and that that very morning he had received instructions cancelling that order, with the result that the operatives in that industry in Sunderland are walking the streets and receiving unemployed pay. The coal industry is suffering, and the shipping industry is suffering, because what is coming over is coming over largely in foreign bottoms, and there is not a single advantage that I can see accruing to this country from that operation. We have heard to-day about a £70,000 contract being placed 1021 elsewhere, and it is the multiplication and accumulation of these things that causes the present state of affairs.
Last week in the Manchester area I was told—and I had it confirmed—that a few days previously there had been dumped on the quay in Manchester no less than 250,000 piece goods and 10,000 pillow cases, and yet the operatives in the neighbouring mills are standing idle. How long can that sort of thing go on? It has been carried to such an extravagant extent that even in our building schemes the major part of many of the housing materials is brought from abroad. I know that in my own area we have foreign imported doors, foreign glass in the windows, and two-thirds of the tiles are imported from abroad. We are sitting to-day, week after week and month after month, devising plans in this House to relieve the unemployed, and the very instrument is in our hands by which we could give work to the people who could do it and who should have it. It is becoming a very complicated and urgent matter in many directions.
As the House knows, I represent a very big shipbuilding constituency, and there has been some doubt as to the position of the shipbuilders. It is true that there was a certain division of opinion regarding this question among them, but it also true that within recent months there has been an overwhelming opinion, even among the shipbuilders themselves, that there is a necessity to safeguard the iron industry for the safety of their own trade. I think I may be permitted to say that no less a light than Sir G. B. Hunter has come entirely over to that point of view. He has written—and it can be substantiated from every standpoint—that he is fearful that the shipbuilding industry, if ever the iron industry may pass into the hands of the foreigner, will be in an unsafe position. As a matter of fact, that is exactly what is operating at the present moment. I think this House should realise that so recently as the early part of this week I was conversing with one of my constituents who was out of work, and I asked him why he had no work. He replied, "Because of the nondelivery of German plates in our boiler shop." Has it come to this, that one of the basic trades of this country is dependent upon whether or not it can get delivery of German plates?
1022 This matter is of urgent importance, and it is being carried to such an extent that I, personally, had no compunction and no hesitation in placing my name to the Amendment that appeared on the Order Paper in regard to Safeguarding. In regard to the latter part of the Amendment put down by the Opposition, as follows:and respectfully submit that the most effective way to deal with the competition of countries where labour conditions are low is by international action to raise those conditions.That is really a Protectionist policy, and I want to suggest to hon. Members opposite that, if it is necessary to raise the standard of wages of foreign workers, why not make it possible for us to maintain curs instead of being dragged down to their level? Let me put it this way, that it were possible to import foreign workers into any of the main industries of this country, and allow them to operate at reduced wages either corresponding or approximating to what they are receiving elsewhere, would the trade unions of this country be prepared to accept them? You would not allow imported foreign labour to receive less than the standard trade union wages, yet you would be prepared, and are prepared, to accept the products of the labour of their hands to compete with your work here, without a penny of tariff or anything else being put on it! I say that that is an unfair state of things. I cannot for a moment understand a party that presumes to represent the working men of this country allowing such a state of things to exist. I can appreciate and understand certain hon. Members who talk about nationalisation, but if you had nationalisation to-morrow, you would be compelled to find work for your People; and if you were menaced by unfair competition, you would be compelled to protect them. Nationalisation means Protection.
I have 17,000 people out of work in my constituency to-day. At the peak of the shipbuilding industry output during the past 18 months I have not had less than 9,000. It is clear that we will never absorb in shipbuilding the whole of the workers in Sunderland. We shall have to absorb them under new conditions, either of revived industry or of new industry, and I want to put it to the House, and I put it to my people and 1023 to those on the Tyneside, that if it were proposed to start new industries at either of the places or round that district without an adequate security, they would get no investment whatever. If you were to give a security which is vouchsafed under safeguarding, they would get every penny of capital that they wanted. What is more, they would get immediate results. I have listened to all these Debates as far as I could, and I prefer to accept the experience and the definite statements of men who are engaged in industry, and I am assured by those who are engaged in those industries that are so severely hit that, if they had the protection for which they are legitimately applying, they would at once, not within years but possibly within a few months, increase the number of hands employed threefold. If there be any truth in that, and I believe that it is substantially true, I cannot understand the hesitancy of any party in launching out the proposals that we make.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
I agree with every word that the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said with reference to the necessity for a redistribution of the national income as the only ultimate method by which our people can get such a purchasing power as will enable us to make a large scale inroad into unemployment; but to-night we are challenging a proposal which, if carried into operation, we believe will result in taxing the last rag on the backs of the poor. In his election address of 1923, the present Prime Minister said that no partial measures such as the extension of the Safeguarding of Industries Act could meet the situation. Partial measures such as the Government now propose could not, he said, meet the situation. The most interesting episode in a very interesting Debate to-day was when the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wells (Sir R. Sanders) was speaking, and when he said that agriculture, so far as he could speak for it and the Conservative Members with whom he was connected, would not accept this partial measure of safeguarding unless it could get a guarantee that the prices to the farmer of his implements and his costs would not rise. It was interesting to find the leader of the extreme Protectionist 1024 party in the House, the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) rise and give the pledge. He said that, speaking for himself, and, I took it, speaking for those with whom he was associated—
§ Sir H. CROFT
What I said was that if it were a question of saving the steel industry now instead of waiting, I would support any proposal to safeguard iron and steel on condition that the duty only remains in force if the price is not raised.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
In other words, that he will not support a proposal for safeguarding if safeguarding raises prices. The hon. Gentleman the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson) said the same thing, and we are entitled to ask the Prime Minister, who can give us a more authoritative pledge, if he will inform the country that he and his Government will not support any safeguarding duty which will raise prices against agriculture. If we can get that pledge, we may have some interesting political developments in the country. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Come Valley (Mr. Snowden) dealt very elaborately with the attitude of Members on these benches to what is called Free Trade. I agree with every word that he said. The world widens. The time was when a Feudal baron levied an impost upon imports entering his domain. The free city and the Royal borough jealously guarded trade monoplies in their areas. The time was when Adam Smith could say that the merchants in this country had obtained a monopoly against the cities. With every widening of the area and the free interchange of goods, there has come greater prosperity, and none surely but a fool to-day would erect a tariff barrier on say the Scottish border.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
No one but a fool would attempt to limit or restrict the area in which a free interchange of goods takes place. But when we declare for free and untrammelled trade we believe that that trade must be on the basis of 1025 an adequate return to the producer, with humane conditions under which to labour. Over long years we have built up inside this country a protective labour system, with trade unions, trade boards, and factory Acts, and with these weapons we do our utmost to prevent a traffic in sweated goods within our own boundaries. We have minimum standards, enforceable at law, below which production is forbidden. But let some capitalist transfer his machinery to Bengal or Czechoslovakia, and get his labour supply at half the trade board or trade union price! There has hitherto been a school of thought in this country which welcomed the sweated product, provided always that that sweated product was produced outside the confines of this country. That system is indefensible.
To give one illustration of what is happening, I will take the Industrial Court Report upon coir and matting industries, which are suffering severe competition from Travancore and Belgium. In 1924 the Industrial Court found that Travancore wages were equivalent to 6s. 3d. per week. Belgian mats were produced with 7d. as wages, whereas British wages, fixed by a Trades Board, were 1s. 6¾d. Further capital goes to Travancore for cheap labour. A year later it is discovered that whereas imports of coir mats in the first seven months of 1924 amounted to £22,000, in the 12 months of 1925 they were £294,000, and in 1920 £387,000. British labour was down by one-third, and those who were working were on half time. That was done by British capital. We propose that steps shall be taken to follow the sweating capitalist with the Labour weapons and the weapons of the State which have been found serviceable in this country.
§ Mr. JOHNSTON
We have stated our remedy in detail; it has been scattered broadcast in pamphlet form. The report of a committee presided over by my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley has given in detail the remedies which we would impose, the protective system which we would impose against the sweater, and I have never heard one single effective criticism against it either inside or outside this House. I am going 1026 to deal with one ineffective criticism. I have never heard an effective criticism upon the main lines of that proposal. We reject tariffs because a mere fine upon the sweaters' goods is not enough. If there is a sale, the sweater has triumphed over our Trade Board standards of British civilisation, and the mischief is done. We reject the tariff, again, because if the sweated goods are excluded they have the run of our neutral markets and intensified corn-petition ensues there. A boycott by Britain alone—this is where some right hon. Gentlemen have obviously not understood our proposal—presents the same difficulty. If Britain alone were to boycott these sweated goods—jute goods, for example, coir matting and so on—they would have the run of the neutral markets of the world, and competition would be intensified. Besides, if Britain acted alone we should have difficulties with our favoured nation treaties. But at the International Labour Office at Geneva we secured what many of us believed to be the only thing worth saving from the wreckage of the War. We believe we have there a weapon by which, if properly used, civilisation can begin to save itself. By Article 23 of the Covenant the signatory Powers bind themselves in the following words:To endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend.By Part 13 of the Treaty of Peace the following declaration is made:The failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own country.We are asking that this country, which has a comparatively high standard, should propose to the International Labour Office at Geneva that conventions should be signed, and, when signed, should be enforced—[HON. MEMBERS: "By whom?"]—that when signed should be enforced by each country, and then at least the worst excesses of the sweating system in the world could be curbed. We have had the Washington Hours Convention. That was an attempt by the signatory Powers, the chief Powers in the world after the War, to level up the hours of labour. The Government have nothing 1027 to their credit in this connection, because they have declined to enforce that Convention. That Convention dealt with the hours of labour, weekly rest period, child labour and night work. Such a convention might be made equally applicable to the whole of Europe, because there are only 24 hours in everybody's day. Child labour and women's labour is carried on under unfair conditions such as I have outlined, and surely all these matters might be dealt with internationally. If not, will the Prime Minister tell us how they can be dealt with?
We propose that there shall be sanctions or conventions, and that when they are signed every country which attaches its signatures to these conventions of civilisation shall enforce them within their borders. If any country declines to enforce the conditions of the Convention, it should, after due warning, not be boycotted by Britain alone, but its sweated goods should be boycotted by every other nation where they have an alternative source of supply. We believe that from the national point of view such a proposal would have the assent of large masses of working people in all countries, and that it would have the assent and support of all decent employers of labour in all countries. We believe it would have the assent of the public opinion of Europe, and if with these organised workers, with the decent employers, with the public opinion of Europe, backing it up, we cannot put an end to sweating, then I am afraid that we cannot devise any means by which it can be ended.
An hon. Member has told us that it would be impossible to prohibit the importation of anything. May I remind him that the United States, at any rate, makes an attempt to prohibit alcohol, and I do not think it redounds to the credit of our nation that we should facilitate the breaking of the American regulations. In this country we prohibit the entry of quite a number of commodities. We prohibit the importation of indecent pictures. We prevent the importation of goods made in foreign prisons. We prevent the importation now—not by means of a tariff, not by putting a 3d. or 6d. fine upon them—we prevent the importation now of anthrax hairbrushes. We are endeavouring to preserve certain sanitary, moral 1028 and economic standards by the weapon of the boycott and the weapon of prohibition, and not by the weapon of a tariff. What would he said in this country if His Majesty's Government proposed to levy a moral safeguarding fine of 6d. upon every indecent print that came in—if, provided that they had paid a levy, provided that they had paid a tariff, such things were allowed to come in? We do not propose exclusion because the goods are cheap; we propose an international exclusion, an international prohibition, if they violate the international conscience.
It is absolutely no use for hon. Members on the other side to pretend that industries like the iron and steel industry and so on are, in this country, on the verge of despair because of foreign dumping or foreign competition. I have here an invoice of a British iron-founding firm, the Carron Company, dated the 19th June of this year. It is an invoice of large quantities of goods sent to British Columbia, and those goods are certified on this invoice to have been sent at 15 per cent. less than the price at which they are sold in the British market. They are dumped in British Columbia at 15 per cent. less than the British price, in addition to the transport charges from this country to British Columbia. All industries are doing it, all countries are doing it, and it is folly and hyprocrisy for hon. Gentlemen representing British capitalism to pretend that its methods are different from those of other countries.
The Secretary of State for War declared, in his answer to my right hon. Friend the Member for Colne Valley, that the League of Nations had already issued a recommendation against boycotts and prohibition. If the right hon. Gentleman had read this recommendation—I am perfectly certain that he had not, or he would not have misrepresented it—if he had read it, he would have seen that it is the most masterly exposition of the case for which the Labour party stands that has ever been put in print. To-night we are inviting the Members of this House to go into the Division Lobby to vote for or against international regulations to deal with the sweater. If this House refuses to take the initial step in international action against the 1029 foreign sweater, it will he our business to let the people of this country know the facts.
§ The PRIME MINISTER (Mr. Baldwin)
Except for the closing sentences of the hon. Member who has just spoken, I found myself, as I so often do, enjoying a considerable measure of agreement with what he said. I often feel that the time may come when we may be much nearer each other than we are now. There is one form of importation that we are obliged to make, and that is when we do not make the goods ourselves, and there is a German word. "Schadenfreude," for which we have no equivalent. It means taking pleasure in the other fellow's misfortune, and Schadenfreude is what political leaders often feel when they think that they can see signs of dissension in the ranks opposite. I have listened with very great pleasure to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Snowden). I was interested in his comments on the rapprochement between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and myself. If it proves anything, it proves that we have both learnt something from experience, and, at any rate, I would rather gyrate than stagnate. On this side, we enjoyed very much his history of recent events in our party, compounded of such documentary evidence as he was able to get, the lacunae being filled up with whatever such imagination as he possesses might provide. The wish in his case was indeed the father to the thought. The 200 Bolshevists exist only in his imagination. There is one thing in which our party perhaps is more distinguished than some others, and that is, first, the loyalty of the party to its leader, and, secondly, the knowledge that when the leader cannot lead he will make room for someone else.
I want to answer the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Colne Valley on what he called my gyrations. When I first entered into active politics, in 1903—I mean by active politics, when I became a candidate for Parliament—for nearly three years I worked, unsuccessfully as it proved at the 1906 election, in support of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain s campaign for tariff reform as it was then understood. I often think that had that campaign been successful we might have 1030 found it less difficult to meet some of the post-War difficulties than we have done. But after all that is really a matter of conjecture. History decided otherwise, and for many years that question slumbered, and then came the War. In the year or two immediately succeeding the War, in common with most men who think, I re-examined the question so far as I was able, and it was impossible, to my mind, to see then what the fiscal policy of this country should be until one saw what effect the War was going to have on the fiscal policy of other nations.
As we can all recognise now, one of the results of the War, for good or for evil, has been that the fiscal policy of the European nations has become more extreme and more nationalist too, and the tariff barriers, in spite of any efforts that the economic commissions may be making at Geneva, are remaining very high. They exist in some cases in smaller areas than they did, and the difficulties of international trade have in many cases become greater. I may say here what I have often said, and what my friends with whom I work know perfectly well, that if I had my way and were dictator of the world, I would sweep away all these tariffs. I have to frame my policy for the world as it exists to-day.
After the death of Mr. Bonar Law I became Prime Minister, in May, 1923. In the course of that summer, in common with many other people in this country, I became gravely anxious—an anxiety which has been with me ever since—as to the state and prospects of unemployment in this country. The slump that succeeded the boom which followed the War was just beginning, or had existed for a little time. It was a difficult problem for a young Prime Minister as I was at that time, and, after a great deal of thought, I decided, rather than stay in office maybe for another two or three years, that I would risk everything for the cause which I believed would do the most good to help unemployment. We were beaten at the general election as the House will remember, and had some of my opponents shown a little more wisdom from their own point of view, they had it in their hands then to smash up the Conservative party and finish with me in politics. 1031 They attempted it in the wrong way. When 1924 came and we had to put our policy before the country, my position was a very simple one. I have always said that I accepted the verdict of 1923. I accepted it loyally and fully. I accepted it fully in this sense, that I never meant, and I do not mean now, to do anything to bring in the policy rejected by the country at that time by any kind of back-door. I say that if the country will not give us the tools we want, we will use the tools that we can get. If you cannot get a shovel, use a trowel.
We fell back on the policy which was the policy of the Coalition Government, which they had practised regarding Safeguarding. That policy became our policy in 1924. It was carrying on the policy of the Coalition Government. [AN HON. MEMBER: "No!"] There are some differences of which I am aware. That policy is the policy of the Government to-day. I would make one observation here. After the election in 1924, we made one change in what had been the practice of Safeguarding before. We made the Safeguarding Duty applicable as against all countries, and not only as against the one peccant country, if I may say so, the country whose particular competition had given cause for the inquiry. That was the difference between Safeguarding then and Safeguarding before, and it was to that extent an extension of Safeguarding. It was because of that extension that, after careful consideration, we took the view that, having made that extension, we ought to be much more guarded and careful in employing safeguarding in this Parliament until the country were aware of the change that had been made and would give us authority, as I believe they will, to carry on the policy for which we were returned in 1924—a policy which applies to all countries, and not only to one country, as was the case before.
It is often asked, and it was said by the right hon. Gentleman, very naturally, and very properly: "You may say that you are not going to introduce a general tariff." I will pause on that word, because he rather twitted me on the use of that term, as if I did not understand 1032 as well as he does the technical meaning of it in economic books. I do not know whether he is aware—I certainly am not—of any phrase that would be understood by the people of this country at large, the man-in-the-street, the people who are not students of economics, which would better cover the case of a country which has a protective system, such as the United States of America and Germany. Most of us, in loose conversation, when we speak about these particular countries, speak of a country which has either a protective system or a general tariff. I know that may not be quite an accurate phrase, but everyone in the country knows what you mean by that phrase, and they know what you mean when they say that you are not going to introduce Protection by the back door. I say that, to make myself clear.
The right hon. Gentleman says to me: "You may say that you are not going to use safeguarding as a means of introducing Protection by the back door," and, when he is in a very beneficent mood, after dinner, he may say to one or two of his friends that, possibly, I mean what I say, but outside he cannot say that. There is, of course, a very good check, and the check is the best check there is in the country, and that check is the House a Commons. Every duty that is recommended, if adopted by the Government of the day, has to be brought here and argued on the Floor of this House, and, if at any time the House of Commons or any part of the House of Commons feels that the Government are going too near the danger point, it can raise the matter and it can fight it out, and if it can convince other people that the Government are going beyond their pledges—supposing we were in after a General Election—it would give them the finest cry in the succeeding election that they could possibly get.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
That is a question. I quite admit, that might be considered if we come into power. As to the printing of evidence, I would call the attention of the hon. Member to what usually takes place when an inquiry is held. In the first place, anyone can go to an inquiry and hear the evidence for 1033 himself. The expense of printing the evidence in detail would be very great There is a great deal of irrelevant matter brought out in the inquiries. Some of the inquiries have been extraordinarily protracted, by opponents very often. I am told that in one case of an inquiry which was held within the lifetime of this Parliament, the typescript of evidence made a pile three feet high. No one could ever read through it. It would be a very serious question to print the evidence in full, particularly having regard to the fact that the Court where the investigation takes place is always open to the public.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
My hon. Friend reminds me that occasionally some evidence is given in camera. In certain circumstances that would be necessary. I was very interested in what the hon. Member for Dundee (Mr. Johnston) said. I agree with the spirit of most of it. I know his enthusiasm and his willingness to believe everything that everybody says unless it comes from these benches. I wish I could share his enthusiasm. I agree with the spirit and sympathise with it very warmly, but, when he talks about this International Convention, I have very grave doubts as to whether he could accomplish anything in time to meet the difficulties with which we are faced.
The whole problem is to get agreement among a lot of different nations. It is not always easy to get agreement even on your own executive; how much more difficult is it to get agreement among a body of people none of whom work under conditions even as good as we do! Indeed, the Government are doing what they can. We have quite recently, on our own initiative, succeeded in getting an inquiry carried out on the minimum wage, how to fix it, and we have assisted or are assisting in inquiries in coal mines and textiles in order to get information in this international organisation on which we hope action may be based. Difficult as it is to get opinion moving in your own country, it is incomparably more difficult to get things moving when you get a number of foreign nations, and 1034 what I want to know is, what the hon. Member proposes to do in the interval; whether he will support us until such time as he can get his International Convention? We are not going to stand in the way of an International Convention. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about Washington?"] I should like nothing better than to say something about Washington if I had the time. I am trying to do justice to the Amendment.
The point I want to put to hon. Members opposite is that we have this problem of unemployment before us; we have been talking about it for the last three days. [An HON. MEMBER: "For four years!"] I know that; but for the last three days we have been talking about it at considerable length. We have to remember—and this fact was not mentioned during the Debate—that the cessation, or shall I say the lag, in emigration since the War has been very remarkable and has thrown a great many more people into these difficulties than I feel we ought to have. Few people realise it unless they happen to have the figures before them, but, if you take the emigration figures from this country for the five years before the War and the emigration figures for the five years ending this year, you will find that we have 700,000 more souls in this country to look after than we should have had if emigration had been equal to the emigration of the five years before the War.
§ Mr. BALDWIN
I am told that they do not include Ireland. The question is: are any special measures wanted to try and help unemployment on this side. We have always felt that, at all events in cases where imports into this country are produced in such circumstances as my right hon. Friend described and as are familiar to Members of this House, the industries should be allowed an opportunity of putting their case before a tribunal to see whether or not they could make it, and if they make it, and if the Government thought fit, the case should be brought down to the House of Commons for the House to give its verdict as to whether the employment of the people in this country should or should not be protected to that extent.
1035 A question was put to the right hon. Member for Colne Valley by my right hon. Friend as to whether he was going, if returned to power, to abolish the present protective duties, whether McKenna Duties or other duties, and he said, in effect, that he did not know. [HON. MEMBERS: "Wait and see!"] He said "Wait and see." I notice that only last year, on the Finance Bill, he made a very definite statement:The Chancellor of the Tory party may rely upon it that at the first possible, practicable opportunity, this Duty and other protective duties the Government are proposing, will be repealed.The right hon. Gentleman adheres to that statement.
§ The PRIME MINISTER
He has made up his mind singe 4 o'clock. I notice that among the 63 items of policy in "Labour and the Nation," there occurs the phrase:They stand for the abolition of taxes on the necessaries of life, and all protective duties.I think that settles that. So that the result is that, if hon. Members opposite are returned to power, not only will they take no steps to safeguard British labour in this country—[Interruption]—but they will abolish the duties that exist to-day. We on our part are quite content to go forward on our programme, and we have every confidence that we shall receive the verdict of the country on it.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I quite appreciate that all the great men who are now leaving the House do not quite understand the position. There are some of us who have never been married to the theory of Free Trade or Protection. Neither have we been led up the garden by the new name of Protection—Safeguarding. As far as we can understand the Debate to-day, it has been merely the safeguarding of the sweater that has been advocated. The only people who are to be protected are the people who want least Protection. We have heard about steel and iron. I will undertake to say that some of those who have spoken in defence of the steel and iron trade are themselves investors in foreign steel and iron.
1036 They get it both ways. They pretend in this House that they are friends of the British producer as against the foreign producer. [Interruption.] I quite appreciate the smiles on the other side. Their smiles always come conveniently to those of us who are ordinary workers. I will give you all you ask for. There is the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft)—that great industrial constituency—I will give him all he asks for—protection and the right to the fullest possible liberty. In Germany, in France, in Italy, in Belgium and in the United States—I say it without fear of contradiction—and in every other country in the world, you have got as big a proportion of unemployment as you have in this country in proportion to the population.
Even in the most marvellous country of them all, the United States of America, the American bureau of statistics at Washington admits there are 4,000,000 unemployed. [HON. MEMBERS: "What about Russia?] Russia?—Just as many. They are protected and restricted. You will not allow Russia to have an opportunity of trading with the rest of Europe, so you have got to hear some part of the burden and carry some part of the baby—I do not know which part. It is flogging a dead horse. Safeguarding, tariff, Protection—whatever you call it by, it is the same thing. It does not make the difference of the inscription on a tombstone. We give you all you ask for, and yet it leads to nothing, and unemployment still prevails. The capitalist system means the creation of unemployment. We have increased our productive capacity by 20 per cent. since the Armistice in 1918, and yet we have 20 per cent, more unemployment than we had when we signed the Armistice. You can put on any tax you like. When we move an Amendment to prevent the bringing in of goods, they say, "How can you do it?" I ask my hon. Friends opposite, if they really understand their own position, "How are you going to stop the bringing in of goods by merely putting a tax upon them?"
§ Mr. JONES
Then you agree with our Amendment. If the conditions which are 1037 internationally arranged are not satisfactory from the workers' point of view, I am prepared to vote to keep them out. Are you? We know what you will do. You will put your money abroad. It is always the same old thing. When we bring you down to brass tacks you are not prepared to face the issue. If our workers are being thrown out of work by unfair competition, we are prepared to face the issue, but you are not. The goods which you tax are coming in. Who pays the tax when the goods come in? We hear about factories being established in England, but those factories are being built at 3d. an hour less than the wages paid for the erection of the same factories in England by British firms. [Interruption.] Foreign motor cars are coming in and factories to build motor cars are being put up at less than British builders and builders' labourers are charging. These firms are coming into England and building their factories here to escape the tariff which you have put on their goods.
§ You say that you want to uphold the standard of British labour, but these firms are taking advantage of our unemployment problem to go below the standard rate. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] They are doing it here within three miles of this House. [HON. MEMBERS: "Where?"] At Hendon. [HON. MEMBERS: "What are the trade unions doing?"] The trade union rate is 1s. 3d., and they are paying 1s. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not strike?"] I am not here to argue about the merits or demerits of that. I know exactly where you stand. Free Traders, Tariff Reformers, Safeguarders—you are all the same. It is the old game—to take the worker by the scruff of the neck and get as much as you can out of him. It leaves me cold. Whatever system you stand for I am against it.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 158; Noes, 309.1041
|Division No. 4.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)||Greenwood. A. (Nelson and Colne)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Alexander, A. V. (Sheffield, Hillsbro')||Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)||MacNeill-Weir, L.|
|Ammon, Charles George||Griffith, F. Kingsley||Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)|
|Baker, J, (Wolverhampton, Bliston)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||March, S.|
|Baker, Walter||Groves, T.||Maxton, James|
|Barker, G. (Monmouth, Abertillery)||Grundy, T. W.||Mitchell, E. Rosslyn (Paisley)|
|Barnes, A,||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Montague, Frederick|
|Barr, J.||Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Morrison, R. C. (Tottenham, N.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hamilton, Sir R. (Orkney & Shetland)||Mosley, Sir Oswald|
|Beckett, John (Gateshead)||Hardie, George D.||Murnin, H.|
|Bellamy, A.||Harney, E. A.||Naylor, T. E.|
|Benn, Wedgwood||Harris, Percy A.||Owen, Major G.|
|Bondfield, Margaret||Hayday, Arthur||Palin, John Henry|
|Briant, Frank||Hayes, John Henry||Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.|
|Broad, F. A.||Henderson, Rt. Hon. A. (Burnley)||Ponsonby, Arthur|
|Bromfield, William||Henderson, T. (Glasgow)||Potts, John S.|
|Bromley, J.||Hirst, G. H.||Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Riley Ben|
|Brown, James (Ayr and Bute)||Hudson, J. H. (Huddersfield).||Ritson, J.|
|Buchanan, G.||Hutchison, Sir Robert (Montrose)||Roberts, Rt. Hon. F. O. (W. Bromwich)|
|Buxton, Rt. Hon. Noel||Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)||Robinson, W. C. (Yorks, W. R., Ellend)|
|Cape, Thomas||John, William (Rhondda, West)||Saklatvala, Shapurji|
|Charleton, H. C.||Johnston, Thomas (Dundee)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cluse, W. S.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Scrymgeour, E.|
|Clynes, Rt. Hon. John R.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Scurr, John|
|Compton, Joseph||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Sexton, James|
|Connolly, M.||Jones, T. I. Mardy (Pontypridd)||Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)|
|Cove, W. G.||Jones, W. N. (Carmarthen)||Shepherd, Arthur Lewis|
|Crawturd, H. E.||Kelly, W. T.||Shiels, Dr. Drummond|
|Dalton, Hugh||Kennedy, T.||Shinwell, E.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Kenworthy, Lt.-Com. Hon. Joseph M.||Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)|
|Day, Harry||Kirkwood, D.||Sinclair, Major Sir A. (Caithness)|
|Dennison, R.||Lansbury, George||Sitch, Charles, H.|
|Duncan, C.||Lawrence, Susan||Slesser, Sir Henry H.|
|Dunnico, H.||Lawson, John James||Smillie, Robert|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)||Lee, F.||Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)|
|Fenby, T. D.||Lindley, F. W.||Snell, Harry|
|Gardner, J. P.||Livingstone, A. M.||Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip|
|Garro-Jones, Captain G. M.||Longbottom, A. W.||Stephen, Campbell|
|Gibbins, Joseph||Lowth, T.||Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)|
|Gillett, George M.||Lunn, William||Sullivan, J.|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Aberavon)||Sutton, J. E.|
|Graham, Rt. Hon Wm. (Edin., Cent.)||Mackinder, W.||Taylor, R. A.|
|Greenall, T.||MacLaren, Andrew||Thomas, Rt. Hon. James H. (Derby)|
|Thorne, G. R. (Wolverhampton, E.)||Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)||Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)|
|Thorne, W. (West Ham, Plaistow)||Webb, Rt. Hon. Sidney||Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)|
|Thurtle, Ernest||Wellock, Wilfred||Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Welsh, J. C.||Windsor, Walter|
|Tomlinson, R. P.||Wheatley, Rt. Hon. J.||Wright, W.|
|Townend, A. E.||Whiteley, W.||Young, Robert (Lancaster, Newton)|
|Trevelyan, Rt. Hon. Sir Charles||Wiggins, William Martin|
|Viant, S. P.||Williams, C. P. (Denbigh, Wrexham)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Walsh, Rt. Hon. Stephen||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Mr. Allen Parkinson and Mr.|
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline)||Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)||Charles Edwards.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cope, Major Sir William||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles||Couper, J. B.||Henn, Sir Sydney H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Courtauld, Major J. S.||Herbert, S. (York, N. R., Scar, & Wh'by)|
|Alexander, E. E. (Leyton)||Courthope, Colonel Sir G. L.||Hills, Major John Waller|
|Alexander, Sir Wm. (Glasgow, Cent'l)||Cowan, Sir Wm. Henry (Islingtn., N.)||Hilton, Cecil|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Craig, Capt. Rt. Hon. C. C. (Antrim)||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Ashley, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Wilfrid W.||Craig, Sir Ernest (Chester, Crewe)||Hohler, Sir Gerald Fitzroy.|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Commander F. W.||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Holbrook, Sir Arthur Richard|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Crooke, J. Smedley (Deritend)||Hope, Sir Harry (Forfar)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Crookshank, Col. C. de W. (Berwick)||Hopkins, J. W. W.|
|Atkinson, C.||Crookshank, Cpt. H. (Lindsey, Gainsbro)||Hopkinson, Sir A. (Eng. Universities)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)||Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cunliffe, Sir Herbert||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Bainiel, Lord||Curzon, Captain viscount||Hume, Sir G. H.|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M,||Dalkeith, Earl of||Hume-Williams, Sir W. Ellis|
|Barnett, Major Sir Richard||Davidson, Major-General Sir J. H.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Hurd, Percy A.|
|Beckett, Sir Gervase (Leeds, N.)||Davies, Dr. Vernon||Hurst, Gerald B.|
|Bellairs, Commander Carlyon||Dawson, Sir Philip||Inskip, Sir Thomas Walker H.|
|Benn, Sir A. S. (Plymouth, Drake)||Drewe, C.||Jackson, Sir H. (Wandsworth, Cen'l)|
|Bennett, A. J.||Eden, Captain Anthony||James, Lieut.-Colonel Hon. Cuthbert|
|Berry, Sir George||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Joynson-Hicks, Rt. Hon. Sir William|
|Bethel, A.||Elliot, Major Walter E.||Kennedy, A. R. (Preston)|
|Betterton, Henry B.||Ellis, R. G.||Kindersley, Major Guy M.|
|Bevan, S. J.||Erskine, James Malcolm Monteith||King, Commodore Henry Douglas|
|Birchall, Major J. Dearman||Evans, Captain A. (Cardiff, South)||Kinloch-Cooke, Sir Clement|
|Bird, E. R. (Yorks, W. R., Skipton)||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lamb, J. O.|
|Bird, Sir R. B. (Wolverhampton, W.)||Fairfax, Captain J. G.||Leigh, Sir John (Clapham)|
|Blundell, F. N.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Little, Dr. E. Graham|
|Boothby, R. J. G.||Fanshawe, Captain G. D.||Lloyd, Cyril E. (Dudley)|
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft||Fielden, E. B.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hon. Godfrey|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Ford, Sir P. J.||Locker-Lampson, Com. O. (Handsw'th)|
|Bowyer, Capt. G. E. W.||Foster, Sir Harry S.||Loder, J. de V.|
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.||Foxcroft, Captain C. T.||Long, Major Eric|
|Brassey, Sir Leonard||Frece, Sir Walter de||Looker, Herbert William|
|Bridgeman, Rt. Hon. William Clive||Fraser, Captain Ian||Lougher, Lewis|
|Briggs, J. Harold||Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Lucas-Tooth, Sir Hugh Vere|
|Briscoe, Richard George||Gadle, Lieut.-Colonel Anthony||Luce, Major-Gen. Sir Richard Herman|
|Brittain, Sir Harry||Ganzoni, Sir John.||Lumley, L. R.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gates, Percy||Lynn, Sir R. J.|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. Andrew Hamilton||MacAndrew, Major Charles Glen|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C. (Berks, Newb'y)||Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Buchan, John||Goff, Sir Park||Macdonald, R. (Glasgow, Cathcart)|
|Buckingham, Sir H.||Gower, Sir Robert||Macintyre, Ian|
|Bull, Rt. Hon. Sir William James||Grace, John||McLean, Major A.|
|Bullock, Captain M.||Grant, Sir J. A.||Macnaghten, Hon. Sir Malcolm|
|Burgoyne, Lieut.-Colonel Sir Alan||Grattan-Doyle, Sir N.||MacRobert, Alexander M.|
|Burman, J. B.||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)|
|Butler, Sir Geoffrey||Greene, W. P. Crawford||Maitland, Sir Arthur D. Steel-|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Greenwood, Rt. Hn. Sir H. (W'th's'w, E)||Makins, Brigadier-General E.|
|Caine, Gordon Hall||Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)||Manningham-Buller, Sir Mervyn|
|Carver, Major W. H.||Grotrian, H. Brent||Margesson, Captain D.|
|Cassels, J. D.||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. (Bristol, N.)||Marriott, Sir J. A. R.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Guinness, Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mason, Colonel Glyn K.|
|Cayzer, sir C. (Chester, City)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Meller, R. J.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir Herbt. R. (Prtsmth. S.)||Hacking, Douglas H.||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Cazalet, Captain Victor A.||Hall, Lieut.-Col. Sir F. (Dulwich)||Meyer, Sir Frank|
|Cecli, Rt. Hon. Sir Evelyn (Aston)||Hall, Admiral Sir R. (Eastbourne)||Milne, J. S. Wardlaw-|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Ladywood)||Hall, Capt. W. D'A. (Brecon & Rad.)||Mitchell, S. (Lanark, Lanark)|
|Charterls, Brigadier-General J.||Hammersley, S. S.||Mitchell, W. Foot (Saffron Walden)|
|Churchman, Sir Arthur C.||Hanbury, C.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Clayton, G. C.||Harland, A.||Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Harmsworth, Hon. E. C. (Kent)||Moore, Sir Newton J.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Harrison, G. J. C.||Morden, Colonel W. Grant|
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George||Harvey, G. (Lambeth, Kennington)||Morrison, H. (Wilts, Salisbury)|
|Cohen, Major J. Brunel||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Murchison, Sir Kenneth|
|Colfox, Major Wm. Phillips||Haslam, Henry C.||Nelson, Sir Frank|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Headlam, Lieut.-Colonel C. M.||Neville, Sir Reginald J.|
|Conway, Sir W. Martin||Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)||Newton, Sir D. G. C. (Cambridge)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Henderson, Lieut.-Col. Sir Vivian||Nicholson, O. (Westminster)|
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hon. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld.)||Rye, F. G.||Thomson, F. C. (Aberdeen, South)|
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert||Salmon, Major I.||Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W. Mitchell-|
|Nuttall, Ellis||Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)||Tinne, J. A.|
|Oakley, T.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|O'Connor, T. J. (Bedford, Luton)||Sandeman, N. Stewart||Turton, Sir Edmund Russborough|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sanders, Sir Robert A.||Vaughan-Morgan, Col. K. P.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William||Sandon, Lord||Waddington, R.|
|Pennefather. Sir John||Sassoon, Sir Philip Albert Gustave D.||Wallace, Captain D. E.|
|Penny, Frederick George||Savery, S. S.||Ward, Lt.-Col. A. L. (Kingston-on-Hull)|
|Percy, Lord Eustace (Hastings)||Shaw, R. G. (Yorke, W. R., Sowerby)||Warner, Brigadier-General W. W.|
|Perring, Sir William George||Shaw, Lt.-Col. A. D. Mcl. (Renfrew, W.)||Warrender, Sir Victor|
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Sheffield, Sir Berkeley||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Peto, G. (Somerset, Frome)||Shepperson, E. W.||Watson, Sir F. (Pudsey and Otley)|
|Philipson, Mabel||Simms, Dr. John M. (Co. Down)||Watson, Rt. Hon. W. (Carlisle)|
|Plicher, G.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Univ,. Beltst)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Pilditch, Sir Philip||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Wells, S. R.|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kirc'dlne, C.)||White, Lieut.-Col. Sir G. Dairymple-|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Williams, A. M. (Cornwall, Northern)|
|Preston, Sir Walter (Cheltenham)||Smithert, Waldron||Williams, Herbert G. (Reading)|
|Preston, William||Southby, Commander A. R. J.||Wilson, Sir C. H. (Leeds, Central)|
|Price, Major C. W. M.||Spender-Clay, Colonel H.||Wilson, R. R. (Stafford, Lichfield)|
|Raine, Sir Walter||Stanley, Lieut.-Colonel Rt. Hon. G. F.||Winby, Colonel L. P.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Stanley, Lord (Fylde)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Reid, Capt. Cunningham (Warrington)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westm'eland)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Reid, D. D. (County Down)||Steel, Major Samuel Strang||Wolmer, Viscount|
|Remer, J. R||Storry-Deans, R.||Womersley, W. J.|
|Rentoul, G. S.||Stott, Lieut.-Colonel W. H.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir Kingsley|
|Rhys, Hon. C. A. U.||Stuart, Crichton-, Lord C.||Woodcock, Colonel H. C.|
|Richardson, Sir P. W. (Sur'y, Ch'ts'y)||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)||Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon, Sir L.|
|Roberts, E. H. G. (Flint)||Styles, Captain H. Walter||Wright, Brig.-General W. D.|
|Robinson, Sir T. (Lancs., Stretlord)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray Fraser|
|Ropner, Major L.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Ruggles-Brise, Lieut.-Colonel E. A.||Tasker, R. Inigo.||Commander B. Eyres Monsell and|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Thom, Lt.-Col. J. G. (Dumbarton)||Major Sir George Hennessy.|
Question put, and agreed to.
That an humble Address he presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.