|Section eight of the Finance Act, 1925, shall have effect as if the following table of preferential reductions of customs duties in case of sugar, molasses, glucose, and saccharin were substituted for Part I. of the Third Schedule to first Act:—
|Amount of Preferential Reduction.
|Sugar which, when tested by the polariscope, indicates a polarisation exceeding 99 degrees
|Sugar of a polarisation exceeding 98 but not exceeding 99 degrees
|Sugar of a polarisation not exceeding 76 degrees
|Sugar of a polarisation—
|exceeding 76 and not exceeding 77
|exceeding 77 and not exceeding 78
|exceeding 78 and not exceeding 79
|exceeding 79 and not exceeding 80
|exceeding 80 and not exceeding 81
|exceeding 81 and not exceeding 82
|exceeding 82 and not exceeding 83
|exceeding 83 and not exceeding 84
|exceeding 84 and not exceeding 85
|exceeding 85 and not exceeding 86
|exceeding 86 and not exceeding 87
|exceeding 87 and not exceeding 88
|exceeding 88 and not exceeding 89
|exceeding 89 and not exceeding 90
|exceeding 90 and not exceeding 91
|exceeding 91 and not exceeding 92
|exceeding 92 and not exceeding 93
|exceeding 93 and not exceeding 94
|exceeding 94 and not exceeding 95
|exceeding 95 and not exceeding 96
|exceeding 96 and not exceeding 97
|exceeding 97 and not exceeding 98
§ mind the particular case which the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) has assumed. Perhaps the right hon. and gallant Gentleman will be satisfied with my assurance that I will have the matter looked into, and, if it is a point that we can meet by administration, we will try to meet it.
§ Major HILLS
I am afraid it is not the case that the landlord can protect himself, but I certainly accept the offer which the Chancellor of the Exchequer has made, and I will endeavour to persuade him that I am right.
§ Lieut.-Colonel SPENDER-CLAY
I am satisfied with the pledge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer will look into this matter.
§ Motion and Clause, by leave, withdrawn.173
|Amount of Preferential Reduction.
|Molasses (except when cleared for use by a licensed distiller in the manufacture of spirits) and invert sugar and all other sugar and extracts from sugar which cannot be completely tested by the polariscope and on which duty is not specially charged by reference to the other provisions of this Part of this Schedule:—
|If containing 70 per cent. or more of sweetening matter
|If containing less than 70 per cent. and more than 50 per cent. of sweetening matter
|If containing not more than 50 per cent. of sweetening matter
|The amount of sweetening matter to be taken to be the total amount of cane, invert, and other sugar contained in the article, as determined by analysis in manner directed by the Commissioners.
|Saccharin (including substances of a like nature or use)
|.—[Sir A. Pownall]
§ Brought up, and read the First time.
§ Sir ASSHETON POWNALL
I beg to move, "That the Clause he read a Second time."
The object of this Amendment is to increase the measure of preference already given to sugar coming from the British Empire. I shall not go at any length into the question of the Sugar Duties beyond saying that a preference was first given 11 years ago, which amounted to one-sixth of the duty. The Sugar Duties have been altered several times in the meantime, and at the moment the preference amounts to one halfpenny in the lb. The Committee will be aware of the Commission which was sent out last autumn with Lord Olivier as chairman, and no doubt hon. Members have read with great anxiety the report of the visit of that Commission to the West Indies. There are countries which produce sugar which have a large consumption of their own, and they are in a position to take strong action to keep their markets for the sugar grown in their own country. Australia is a case in point where there is a great increase in sugar, and they consume in a large measure the sugar which is grown in Queensland.
The West Indies are in a most unfortunate position with regard to this question. They have obviously no large sugar-consuming population. Fortunately, 174 they have Canada not very far away, and Canada has done her best to help the West Indian islands in the very grave financial difficulties through which they have been passing. At the same time, anyone who reads the report will see the grave difficulties that confront the West Indies, and we must, if we possibly can, bridge over those difficulties in some way, in order to carry the islands through this world-wide over-production in the sugar industry. Anyone who is interested in Cuba will realise the difficulties which are now being suffered by the sugar producers there, as is shown by the troubles of the principal railway company in Cuba. The trouble is worldwide, and I think it is up to this Empire to do what can possibly be done to help these relatively small Colonies in the West Indies, which, through no fault of their own, are on the verge of ruin owing to the over-production of sugar.
That is the reason why we have put down this Clause. It means, in round figures, that the preference, which is approximately ½d. per lb. at the present time, will be extended to, in round figures, ¾d. per lb. on sugar grown within the Empire. This will represent in the meantime a considerable loss to the British Treasury, but it is a loss which, in the circumstances, the Treasury, taking a broad view of its duties towards the Dominions and the Empire, has to confront. The right hon. 175 Gentleman will no doubt tell us the amount that the concession will involve. It is a very appreciable sum, but this is one of those matters in which we in the Mother Country ought to do what we can. These particular Colonies are among the oldest under the British Flag, and anyone who reads Lord Olivier's Report will come to the conclusion that something will have to be done for them. We think that this is the best means of helping the islands.
§ Major GEORGE DAVIES
To my sorrow, I know the truth of the remarks which have just been made by my hon. and gallant Friend. I know the parlous condition of world prices in the case of sugar, and the tremendous over-production, to which my hon. and gallant Friend has alluded, of that commodity. Sugar is not, unfortunately, the only commodity of general public consumption which is in a state of over-production, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer might very easily ask—and, from an economic point of view, I do not know that it would be possible to criticise the question—why we in this country should take steps to encourage continued overproduction of a commodity which is flooding the world to-day. I think, however, that the question is a great deal deeper than that, and that there is an Imperial and national responsibility in this connection; and I want to press that point of view upon the Committee.
The Mover of the Clause has stated that there is a very peculiar condition attaching to the West Indies in this matter, a condition which, generally speaking, affects sugar and many other tropical products. That is that the problem of competition in the markets of the world and in the development of the industry has become a very extensive and at the same time a very intensive problem. As in the case of many other tropical problems, it is impossible to deal with it on a small scale. The sugar industry, in common with many other tropical industries, has long ago been rationalised in most countries. It has been found that it must be concentrated, that it cannot, for example, be run by the small farmer. The overhead costs of up-to-date production, cultivation and harvesting are such that the small 176 farmer cannot possibly compete, and the result has been that many countries of the world, which have found their geographical, climatic and soil conditions suitable for this crop, have at the same time found that, in order to develop in world competition, they have been compelled to go into the industry intensively and extensively, with the result that the output of any particular sugar country is enormously greater than any potential consumption by its own population.
There are, of course, exceptions. Queensland has been quoted as one, and the reason for that is clear. In that great sub-continent, covering a variety of climatic and soil conditions, there is only one part that is suitable for sugar culture. The Australian Government in their wisdom have given that culture their encouragement, and the production, even on the scale to which I have alluded, is not too great for the present consumption, let alone what the future may have in store, of the products of that culture. The same thing applies to the mainland of the United States, where they have sugar cane culture, limited for area and for climate. But when you reach a country like the West Indies, where the production is far beyond the needs of the population, you come up against a state of affairs in which the production must be on a big rationalised scale. That is one of the reasons for sugar, like other commodities, suffering from the world over-production. These are admitted facts and figures which anyone who is acquainted with the sugar industry is aware of.
That does not alter the fact that we cannot go in this question on the ordinary theoretical economic lines which hon. Members below the Gangway would have us follow. There is a wider issue concerned in this matter. There is Imperial responsibility, and it is not merely a question of an industry which will make profits for capitalists who ought to be wiped off the face of the earth. It is the one industry that keeps the population alive. It is the one leg on which it all stands, whether you are speaking of education, social services, shipping or Imperial production. It is admittedly unsound. I have been through those parts of the world. The whole industry of the Hawaiian Islands stood on sugar alone, but we were able to discover a secondary industry, which has now nearly 177 become a primary industry, in the way of pineapples. But the West Indies have merely this leg to stand on. We have made ourselves responsible for the population there. Whether we wish it or not, our forebears, the white men who went there and developed the industry, and the coloured men who were imported there have built up a population which is dependent on this industry. Are we to say we take no responsibility for what has been done by our predecessors in office in the House of Commons or for what has happened in those Colonies and, therefore, they may stew in their own juice, and that we have no moral responsibility I do not think there is a Member in the House who could possibly take that attitude. We all give the same answer to the question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" In the West Indies that question come home very closely to every Member of the House.
This is not simply a question of economic law but of moral responsibility. The facts are at the disposal of everyone. I would not dare to bring forward a plea like this if it had not been for the Commission which was sent with the full authority of the Cabinet to tell us the facts. This is not a thing which is brought forward by a lot of Protectionist Tories. It is a report to the House of Commons by a Commission appointed by the Government of the day, and the same Government is now sitting in office. Are we to ignore those facts? Are we to shut our eyes to them? Here is an opportunity for us actually to put into practice that moral responsibility which I am sure each one of us feels. I speak to some extent against my own personal interest, but I feel so strongly that we have this responsibility that I must lose sight of that side and say, "Here is an opportunity at any rate to starve off that sweep to disaster which is starting there and which is so forcibly brought before us if we choose to read the Olivier Report." I hope, therefore, that when the Chancellor of the Exchequer comes to reply he will express appreciation of the responsibility which in this connection rests upon his shoulders, because he is the one who can help or hinder by permitting this Clause to be part of this Finance Bill. I support this Clause most thoroughly, and trust that it may be added to the Bill.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I want, very briefly, to plead earnestly to the Chancellor of the Exchequer on this subject to-night. The Government have just issued a White Paper in regard to the Dependencies in East Africa in which they declare to the whole world that the responsibility and the trusteeship for the negro people of these Dependencies cannot be separated from the Imperial Government, and they say that that is their decision irrevocably. In accordance with the report of their own committee presided over by Lord Olivier, it is clear that the negro population of the West Indian islands of Antigua, Trinidad, British Guiana, Barbados, and, I should add, the Indian population of British Guiana and of Mauritius, are at this moment facing a lowering of their standard of living, of their public services, and of their wages which is of the most serious consequence to the Imperial Government who are trustees for their welfare. As those reports show, that lowering of the standard of public services, of local revenue, and of the conditions of those people is brought about by the fact that British Colonial sugar is excluded from all the markets of the world other than Great Britain and Canada. Whereas in regard to the French West Indies, which are interlaced with our sugar islands, France puts a prohibitive duty on all sugar coming from the British Isles, she admits sugar from her own Colonies absolutely free, and she has only this year increased her duties in order to meet the serious situation which has come about by over-production. The United States of America has just been quoted. Sugar from the Empire of the United States overseas, their dependencies of Porto Rico, the Philippines and the like, goes into the United States free, whereas there is an increased duty put on this year against British Colonial sugar.
Unless the British Government are prepared to do more for the British negro population dependent upon the sugar industry, at any rate, until such time as the sugar prices become more in consonance with the cost of production, we shall not be carrying out our proclaimed trusteeship. Take Trinidad. The position there is that several large central sugar factories have been built up partly by Government assistance, and 40,000 179 natives, negro and West Indian small farmers, take their canes to be crushed at those factories. In the island of St. Kitts rationalisation has gone further, and in Antigua and St. Kitts there is one central factory. That is the only place where the crop can go from all these small proprietors, who are the descendants of the slaves who were dragged unwillingly to Africa, and settled in these islands. Ruin threatens the industry owing to the action of foreign Governments.
What is the cheapest way in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer can fulfil his responsibilities and the responsibilities of the Imperial Government for these negro people? I hold that the cheapest way that he can do it is by this Amendment. This Amendment indicates the recommendation of the Olivier Commission, namely, to increase the rate of preference given by Great Britain to the West Indies and Mauritius to the rate of preference which is given by Canada. It was recommended that it should be increased by, I think, 10½d., but this Amendment suggests a round increase of 1s. per cwt. That is only a comparative price; it is an increase of Preference. I understand that this Amendment would cost round about £700,000. I do not believe that if the Chancellor of the Exchequer rejects the Amendment he can possibly get out of his responsibility—if he allows the industry to be extinguished and he has to provide a dole or relief work for the cane growers and the negroes of the West Indies—for less than £1,000,000 a year, for a very considerable number of years. If the canes go out of cultivation and the negroes are left just to grow their local foodstuffs, and if they are to have any life at all and any public services, then it is going to cost far more in grants-in-aid than the Amendment would cost. I take the view that we have an absolute and definite trustee responsibility to the coloured people of the sugar growing areas and that the cheapest way and the most effective way of dealing with the situation presented to us this year is by the adoption of the Amendment. I plead with the Chancellor of the Exchequer to adopt this method rather than to leave it to future grants-in-aid, to future doles from the British taxpayer, which is the only possible alternative 180 which will face him within a year, simply to keep these unfortunate people alive.
As one of those who is, in a small way, responsible for giving the people of this country their daily ration of sugar, as well as for the employment of a good many thousands of East Indian and other labourers, let me place before the Committee the result of the possible turning down of this Amendment. The memories of this House and the memories of the country are rather short. I would ask the Committee to carry their minds back to August, 1914, when, owing to the fact that there was no Imperial supply of sugar available sufficient for this country, the Government had to expropriate the crops of the West Indian planters and fix a price. At that time they expropriated my crop at £16 a ton, when I could have obtained £19 a ton in New York. I had no grouse about that. One's natural patriotism was quite ready to stand that, but when one hears things said about one not putting by money for machinery and the rest of it, and when one remembers what happened, it does rather get on one's nerves. We had undoubtedly to get an Imperial supply under our own control. In the later years of the War the Chancellor of the Exchequer may remember something about rationing. A good many children who were brought up at that time were greatly the worse for the fact that they could not get sufficient sugar for their rations, and that fact is coming out at the present day in the reports of schoolmasters with respect to the children.
Look for a moment at the crops of the world and see what sugar is available under Imperial control in order to meet the demands of this country. It is unfortunate that one must go into figures on this occasion, but I can give the estimate of Willett and Gray as to the world production. The world's crop for 1929–30 was estimated at 26,786,500 tons, of which the United Kingdom produced 350,000 tons of domestic beet. I have no quarrel with that, but if the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants to describe anything as uneconomic he can describe British domestic beet as uneconomic in comparison with the sugar industry in the West Indies. It costs three times as much to produce a ton of domestic beet as it does to produce a 181 ton of West Indian cane. Without the subsidy I will undertake to beat the British beet industry every time. Canada produced 32,000 tons; Fiji cane, 98,000 tons; Queensland, 516,000 tons; Africa, mainly Natal and Mauritius, 699,000 tons, and British West Indies and British Guiana 351,000 tons. That is about 2,046,000 tons under British control in the Colonies. In addition there is British India, which produces 2,650,000 tons, but in the case of British India it consumes pretty well all its own sugar as well as importing from Java and Mauritius. That leaves available for the British market British Colonial sugar of 2,046,000 tons, less than what is consumed elsewhere.
Let us see where it goes to. Canada takes a substantial amount of British West Indies sugar and some Mauritius sugar; the exact figure is 58 per cent. of British West Indies sugar. A percentage of the Fiji crop goes to the east coast of Canada and the remainder to New Zealand. Queensland and Natal send us 15 per cent. of our imports; and in connection with that let me add that in Queensland and Natal the industries are highly protected. In the case of Queensland the cost of production is £23, and the internal price £27 per ton. The balance is dumped on this market. That is the kind of thing with which the British West Indies have to contend. We can produce it at about half that amount. If we are snuffed out I ask whether we can get Queensland sugar sent to this country at the price at which we are getting it now? The present production of 350,000 tons of domestic beet in this country does not provide for more than about one-sixth or one-seventh of the consumption; the balance has to be imported, and the question is where are we going to import it from? Java and Cuba are, of course, the two biggest producers, but Java and Cuba are in foreign hands.
Does the Committee seriously suppose that if the West Indies are snuffed out that the Cubans and the Javanese, the Dutchmen and Americans, will continue to give us sugar as though they were philanthropists? Not they. Once they have this country in their power they will squeeze us well, and if I go under in this matter I shall look on with a certain enjoyment at the process. Lastly, in considering the state of the West Indies, let 182 me refer to the question of labour. In Queensland, among other peculiarities, they are employing 7,000 Italian labourers on the estate. In the West Indies our labour is either black, negro or coolie. We have a few Chinese left and a few Madeirian Portuguese, but the bulk of these have drifted and taken to other occupations. The bulk of our labour is, therefore, British.
One more point which may bear with the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is rather a difficult one to put, and one which one does not want to dwell upon, because one does not like to contemplate such a thing. We in the West Indies are thoroughly loyal. In the islands, probably, loyalty is even greater than in British Guiana where, as the Committee may remember from the Snell-Wilson report, the population is strongly mixed. It has appeared in the Press on more than one occasion that British Guiana at all events would not be averse to going under the United States Flag. That is not an authoritative pronouncement because many of us would very strongly resent the idea of any such thing. But it has to be faced. If on account of these estates going out of cultivation there is distress, there are riots, there is disorder and there is a cry that we ought to go to the States, then we know whose fault it will be.
We have a claim for damages against the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Earlier in the year, when we were told that we would lose this Sugar Duty, for over six months the sugar market was completely demoralised. Buyers in this country insisted on placing clauses in the contracts that all sugar, whether melted or not, should be at the risk of the seller, and that the buyers should be liable for any rise or fall in the duty. How could we compete with a thing of that sort? For six months the market was completely disorganised. No one could sell sugar and nothing could be done, and the amount of money lost over that was—one does not like to put it into figures, but it was a very large amount, and to that extent one thinks that the Chancellor of the Exchequer should at least try to do something for us. One feels pretty strongly on this matter, and that is only natural when one contemplates what is going on out there now. Only last week I know of one cable 183 sent out to the Colony ordering the abandoning of an estate which has been in cultivation for the past 120 years. At the moment that estate is employing something like 3,000 labourers. To use a British Guianan expression they will be "on the dam" within the next month or so.
What is going to happen when it has all gone? Some few may find re-employment in the rice industry, but that will not take the place of sugar. Some others may emigrate and some go into the bush for the forestry industry and so on; but they will not be absorbed by the existing industries of the Colony. It is impossible that they could be. Sugar employs more than any other industries that we have in the place, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer is obdurate about this there is no doubt that within the next year or 18 months he will have to face the giving of a dole which will equal several times the amount which this duty will cost him.
§ Mr. P. SNOWDEN
There can be no difference in any part of the Committee in deploring and sympathising with the condition of those who are engaged in the sugar industry in every part of the world. The increase in world production of sugar, resulting in the abnormal fall in prices, has, for the time being, reduced these sugar-producing countries to a most deplorable state. Neither do I wish to deny for a moment that we have a responsibility in this matter. Therefore, it comes to the question, in what way, and how far within our means, we can meet this obligation, and give assistance to these people. In the course of his speech, the hon. Member who moved this new Clause said the efficiency of the industry in the West Indies was beyond all question. I do not want to be controversial in this, because I am quite sure it is the desire of all parties to do what is possible to ameliorate the conditions in the industry, but this much must be said, and it was admitted by a later speaker, the hon. and gallant Member for Yeovil (Major Davies) that there are, at any rate, areas in the West Indies where the efficiency of the industry leaves a great deal to be desired.
Reference was made also to the fact that there are whole islands there where work is given up entirely to the sugar 184 industry. This is, of course, unfortunate and it is not a state of things which can be remedied at once, but I think the experience of these recurring crises should show the desirability of trying to have other industries, because it generally happens, when one industry is very depressed, that if there are a number of other industries, some of them are in a fair condition of prosperity. However, that is the situation which, however unfortunate it may be, has been allowed to grow up, and no action at present can alter it. This Clause proposes an increase in the preference of one shilling per cwt. I was asked by the mover of the Clause what the cost would be. He did not commit himself to any figure, but he said twice that the sum would be very considerable. The right hon. Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore) said he thought it would not cost more than about £700,000 a year. I regret to have to say that figure is a woeful underestimate of the cost. The cost would be more than double that figure—at least £1,500,000 a year—and that is excluding what would certainly happen, namely, the extension of the increased preference to British-made beet sugar.
Suppose we gave this increased preference of one shilling. Is that going to enable the sugar producer in the West Indies to survive if world prices remain at anything like what they are at present? I know that there are opposite me, as, for instance, the hon. Member who has just spoken, those who have a most intimate knowledge of the industry, but the figures that I have as to the average cost of production in the West Indies at the present world prices, and the selling price in this country, seem to point to the conclusion that this increase of one shilling would do nothing whatever to put the West Indian industry in a better position in this country. These figures are probably not exact, but I think they are roughly correct. The cost of production at the present time is about 13s. per cwt., or £13 per ton. [HON. MEMBERS: "Too high!"] Well, say £12 10s. f.o.b. I said about £13. The world price is about 6s. 6d. per cwt., or £6 10s. per ton c.i.f. How can a preference of 1s. a cwt., or £1 a ton, make up the difference between £13 a ton and £6 10s. per ton, even with the present preference 185 of £3 15s. a ton added? I wish to correct a statement which I made just now in regard to beet sugar produced in this country. The figure of £1,500,000 includes that. There is a matter which, I think, I am justified in mentioning, because it was referred to in the newspapers. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), a little time before the Budget was introduced, headed a deputation representing sugar interests in every part of the Empire, and the request which they made to me was that the existing preference should be maintained. Surprised at the moderation which they displayed, I pressed them as to whether that was all they wanted, and they replied that it was.
§ Mr. SNOWDEN
What I said was that that was all they wanted from me. That was the only claim they put before me. For the reasons which I have given—because of its cost and its ineffectiveness for doing anything material to help the Colonial industries in their present plight—I regret that I am unable to accept this proposal. We are asked what we are doing. Well, we took steps some time ago in order to enable next year's crop to be handled. We made arrangements for credits for that purpose. Now the Dominions Office is in communication with the Governors of the various Colonies asking for information as to what is likely to be needed in the way of help, if distress upon any large scale should arise, and, if it should be necessary for the Government to give assistance in such a condition of things, then we are prepared to do it. I do not know that I can say more than that. If I thought that this proposal would be effective and if I could provide the money, I should be very glad to do it, because I do want to assure every section of the Committee that we realise the seriousness of the position, we accept our responsibility, and we are prepared to do what we can within reason and within our resources.
§ Mr. AMERY
I regret that we have heard a reply from the Chancellor of the Exchequer which I can only describe 186 as, in every respect, profoundly unsatisfactory. The right hon. Gentleman talks about his realisation of the seriousness of the position and his acceptance of responsibility, but he has not given us the slightest indication that any steps are being taken to fulfil that responsibility. He suggested two. One was the scheme to share some fraction of the loss which the banks would incur if they advanced sums of money to a sinking industry. As the banks are not going to be foolish enough to advance that money in order to incur the greater part of the loss, there is not the slightest prospect of that particular form of assistance ever being called for, and every one of the sugar Colonies has rejected it as utterly worthless. The second step is to make inquiries now as to what possible doles may be wanted later on when the policy of inertness on the part of His Majesty's Government has reduced these Colonies to a state of pauperisation. Our whole case is that it is cheaper in the interests of this country, to fulfil our responsibility by a slight advance on what has been the policy of this country for 10 years in building up the Empire sugar industry, than to include the black population of the West Indies among the millions of our dole population.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke about the cost. He said that, including beet sugar, the immediate cost of this concession would be at least £1,500,000. This concession for which we are asking is a concession of 1s. a cwt., or £1 a ton. Last year the total import of Empire sugar into this country was 710,000 tons, and the prospects of the present year are somewhat lower, so that at any rate, apart from beet sugar and apart from ultimate developments which may no doubt occur in future years from the expansion of Empire sugar, £700,000, the figure which my right hon. Friend gave, was a perfectly fair estimate of the immediate cost of that concession. If you included British beet sugar, you would have to allow for an extra £350,000 in the coming year, but I would suggest that it is at any rate open to consideration whether British beet sugar, which already enjoys a measure of subsidy far larger than Empire sugar, should necessarily be given this in addition to the 187 bounty which it is already getting. If that bounty is insufficient for the purpose of maintaining the beet sugar industry, there would be a case on its own merits for giving them a larger bounty or giving this preference without setting it off against the bounty, but if the British beet sugar industry is in a position to extend its cultivaton and pay its way without the preference in addition to the bounty, it seems to me there is no absolute necessity for the two together; and in that case the total cost would be, at any rate in the first instance, not more than £700,000.
But even if the cost were greater, I put it to the Committee that it is, from every point of view, far better to keep people at their work, to preserve the large amount of capital which has been invested in this industry instead of having it scrapped, far better to keep people in their normal occupation than to keep them on the dole indefinitely. The right hon. Gentleman talked of alternative industries. You might as well tell this country in its present plight that it had better drop manufacturing and take to growing fruit. There is not the opportunity in those countries to adopt alternatives. Take Trinidad, where there is the alternative of cocoa. Cocoa is as depressed as sugar. It is no good asking people to do something else in an emergency. Help them to do what they can do. At any rate, we have the testimoney of Lord Olivier in regard to the West Indies, and the testimony of Sir Francis Watts with regard to Mauritius, that on the whole those industries are carried on efficiently and could more than hold their own in the world under Free Trade conditions. What we suggest is that with our responsibility for these colonies, if we cannot secure them free trade conditions, let us at any rate secure them fair trade conditions in this market.
The right hon. Gentleman suggested that the preference for which we ask is wholly inadequate to be of the slightest use. There, again, as in a previous instance, he entirely misrepresents our moderation. We deliberately ask for only the minimum which we hope can carry these industries through, and we have based our figure upon the reports of the two Commissions which the Government sent out.
188 Sir Francis Watts was sent out to Mauritius. He pointed out that the island was heading towards absolute disaster, and his recommendation was a grant-in-aid of one shilling per cwt., which he believed would just enable them to tide over the present situation. That was also, in substance, Lord Olivier's recommendation. On page 22 of his report he recommends, not one shilling, but 10½d. to bring up our duty to the Canadian level. If the right hon. Gentleman makes any point between 10½d. and one shilling, we will accept the 10½d. Lord Olivier says:This rate of preference is not sufficient under present market conditions to cover entirely the average bare cost of manufacture, but it is reasonable to expect that the average price throughout the year may improve following a pronouncement by the imperial Government of a policy and maintaining the Colonial sugar industry. Also the fact of sympathetic treatment being accorded or guaranteed to the industry will encourage those who are in a position to improve their equipment to proceed with these improvements, and to make it possible for others to find the money for similar purposes, thereby reducing the cost of production.A policy of practical sympathy is what Lord Olivier recommends; that is what we are advocating; and that is what the right hon. Gentleman rejects as being utterly worthless. Let him ask any of the Colonial Governments if they would sooner have our proposed new Clause or his ludicrous suggestion for repaying the banks a fraction of their losses, I believe they would be willing even to carry on their industry at a slight loss if they once realise that we are wishful to carry them through. What we are asking is only the practical continuance of a policy which in the last 10 years has built up here at home and in every part of the Empire a great and important industry. In 1919 we were drawing only 8 per cent. of our sugar supplies from the Empire. Last year we drew 34½ per cent. from the Empire overseas, and with the home supplies, sufficient to bring our Empire production to over 40 per cent. of our consumption. All that meant tremendous development of the industry and investment of capital on production, and the building up of technical skill.
All these things are a real increment to the capital value of this country and the Empire. Now, simply because of a 189 rather more aggressive policy on the part of foreign countries, that industry in certain parts of the Empire has been put in a position of exceptional difficulty, and when we are faced with the alternative of either making good our policy or of the work of the last few years going to rapid ruin, the Chancellor of the Exchequer absolutely refuses to face the situation. It is not only the alternative between what this new Clause would cost and what he would have to pay in doles. There is another item in the ledger, and that is the trade we have at stake. We have in the last few years built up with the sugar growing parts of the Empire a trade worth £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 a year and representing several millions' worth of work and wages in this country. From the Clyde alone we send £2,000,000 worth of sugar machinery abroad every year, and at least a third of that goes to the Empire, and the loss of that third would in the opinion of the manufacturers seriously imperil their capacity to provide for their other markets. Surely those items are worth considering.
One of the most serious blows our trade has had in the last few months is the restriction of the Australian market, due to the fact that Australia is not able to send us her raw materials to an equivalent value of the manufactures we send her, and this Clause furnishes the possibility of a very substantial increase in the Australian sugar supply to this country, which is already worth £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year and might easily, as a matter of exchange, apart from all other considerations, facilitate our export of manufactures to Australia to the tune of £2,000,000 or £3,000,000 a year. On all these grounds we are appealing to the Chancellor to follow up a policy which has al ready contributed so much to the welfare of this country and the Empire and give some practical justification to his talk about sympathy and a realisation of responsibility, which at present means nothing.
After all, the cost of remitting that 1s. of the Sugar Duty is very little more to the Exchequer than the cost of remitting those Safeguarding Duties which run out in the present year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer may have theoretical objections to these duties, but that is not the point we are discussing at this moment. Can anybody suggest that their 190 maintenance could inflict as much harm upon any section of His Majesty's subjects as the refusal to accept this Clause is going to inflict on His Majesty's subjects in the West Indies? I put it again to hon. Members opposite: Is it really a part of their policy that ancient and loyal British Colonies should go under and be put upon the dole rather than that they should accept a policy which might add some small fraction to the price of sugar or involve those very minor remissions for which we are asking? I am profoundly disappointed with the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer and I hope we shall have the support of some, at any rate, of the hon. Members below the Gangway in pressing this Clause.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
We have heard from a representative of His Majesty's Government during a debate in another place that if this industry collapses we shall have a large proportion of the population, in some places almost the whole of the population, on the hands of the Government in a state of destitution. Has the right hon. Gentleman calculated the number of persons engaged in the industry and that if they are destitute and he is to do anything at all to keep life in them, it will cost him more than the £700,000 or £1,000,000 which has been referred to this evening? Speaking as a planter, though not interested in this industry, I say that if these plantations are to be "grubber" it will break the hearts of the men who have developed those plantations. It will mean that they cannot carry their overhead charges, that they must go into liquidation and that the natives, for whom we have a trust are going to be destitute and to be dealt with on the dole. With all our tragic experience no party is innocent. We have had our difficulties since the War. We all realise that we have made mistakes, but are we going to allow the great plantation industries of our Colonies deliberately to fall into the same position as we have allowed the depressed industries of Lancashire, Yorkshire and the North-East Coast? That is the real point. I hope that we shall lift this question above a party issue, and say to ourselves—not what is good policy and whether these old political cries are vital—let us consider 191 the interests of those Colonies, which are our best customers in the British Empire, and ask, are we wise to inflict this grave injury upon those good customers because we have not the vision and the boldness to make a stand and give them life this evening?
I urge the right hon. Gentleman this evening to consider whether this is not one more nail in the coffin of British industry,
§ and whether it is the right way to approach the coming Imperial Conference by saying that we are not going to lift almost a finger to help these Colonies at the present moment. I beg the Committee to remember these facts when we come to vote on this new Clause.
§ Question put, "That the Clause be read a Second time."
§ The Committee divided: Ayes, 141; Noes, 246.193
|Division No. 417.]
|Ferguson, Sir John
|Morrison, W. S. (Glos., Cirencester)
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Col. Charles
|Fielden, E. B.
|Morrison-Bell, Sir Arthur Clive
|Albery, Irving James
|Forestier, Walker, Sir L.
|Muirhead, A. J.
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.
|Nicholson, O. (Westminster)
|Atholl, Duchess of
|Gibson, C. G. (Pudsey & Otley)
|Nicholson, Col. Rt. Hn. W. G. (Ptrsf'ld)
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John
|Nield, Rt. Hon. Sir Herbert
|Baillie-Hamilton, Hon. Charles W.
|Glyn, Major R. G. C.
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)
|Gower, Sir Robert
|Penny, Sir George
|Balfour, Captain H. H. (I. of Thanet)
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)
|Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
|Beamish, Rear-Admiral T. P. H.
|Greene, W. P. Crawford
|Pownall, Sir Assheton
|Beaumont, M. W.
|Grenfell, Edward C. (City of London)
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John
|Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
|Bird, Ernest Roy
|Gunston, Captain D. W.
|Reynolds, Col. Sir James
|Boothby, R. J. G.
|Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)
|Bourne, Captain Robert Croft
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)
|Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell
|Bowyer, Captain Sir George E. W.
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
|Hartington, Marquess of
|Salmon, Major I.
|Braithwaite, Major A. N.
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
|Samuel, A. M. (Surrey, Farnham)
|Briscoe, Richard George
|Haslam, Henry C.
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)
|Henderson, Capt. R. R. (Oxf'd, Henley)
|Sandeman, Sir N. Stewart
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm
|Herbert, Sir Dennis (Hertford)
|Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)
|Butt, Sir Alfred
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
|Smith-Carington, Neville W.
|Carver, Major W. H.
|Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.
|Cayzer, Sir C. (Chester, City)
|Howard-Bury, Colonel C. K.
|Somerville, A. A. (Windsor)
|Chapman, Sir S.
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)
|Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer
|Hurd, Percy A.
|Southby, Commander A. R. J.
|Cockerill, Brig.-General Sir George
|Kindersley, Major G. M.
|Stanley, Lord (Fylde)
|Colfox, Major William Philip
|King, Commodore Rt. Hon. Henry D.
|Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur
|Colman, N. C. D.
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.
|Sueter Rear-Admiral M. F.
|Colville, Major D. J.
|Lewis, Oswald (Colchester)
|Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)
|Courtauld, Major J. S.
|Llewellin, Major J. J.
|Thomson, Sir F.
|Tinne, J. A.
|Crichton-Stuart, Lord C.
|McConnell, Sir Joseph
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
|Turton, Robert Hugh
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C.
|MacRobert, Rt. Hon. Alexander M.
|Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
|Culverwell, C. T. (Bristol, West)
|Maitland, A. (Kent, Faversham)
|Ward, Lieut.-Col. Sir A. Lambert
|Cunliffe-Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip
|Margesson, Captain H. D.
|Wardlaw-Milne, J. S.
|Dalrymple-White, Lt.-Col. Sir Godfrey
|Marjoribanks, E. C.
|Warrender, Sir Victor
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. (Hertford)
|Mason, Colonel Glyn K.
|Wells, Sydney R.
|Davies, Dr. Vernon
|Mitchell-Thomson, Rt. Hon. Sir W.
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
|Meller, R. J.
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
|Dawson, Sir Philip
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
|Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
|Dixon, Captain Rt. Hon. Herbert
|Mond, Hon. Henry
|Womersley, W. J.
|Duckworth, G. A. V.
|Monsell, Eyres, Com. Rt. Hon. Sir B.
|Worthington-Evans, Rt. Hon. Sir L.
|Edmondson, Major A. J.
|Moore, Sir Newton J. (Richmond)
|England, Colonel A.
|Moore, Lieut.-Colonel T. C. R. (Ayr)
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—
|Erskine, Lord (Somerset, Weston-s.-M.)
|Morden, Col. W. Grant
|Major Sir George Hennessy and
|Adamson, Rt. Hon. W. (Fife, West)
|Adamson, W. M. (Staff., Cannock)
|Bentham, Dr. Ethel
|Burgess, F. G.
|Addison, Rt. Hon. Dr. Christopher
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)
|Burgin, Dr. E. L.
|Amman, Charles George
|Caine, Derwent Hall-
|Bowen, J. W.
|Cameron, A. G.
|Aske, Sir Robert
|Broad, Francis Alfred
|Attlee, Clement Richard
|Brockway, A. Fenner
|Carter, W. (St. Pancras, S. W.)
|Baldwin, Oliver (Dudley)
|Charleton, H. C.
|Barnes, Alfred John
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts, Mansfield)
|Church, Major A. G.
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)
|Clarke, J. S.
|Brown, Rt. Hon. J. (South Ayrshire)
|Cluse, W. S.
|Bennett, Capt. Sir E. N. (Cardiff C.)
|Brown, W. J. (Wolverhampton, West)
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour
|Riley, Ben (Dewsbury)
|Riley, F. F. (Stockton-on-Tees)
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
|Davies, E. C. (Montgomery)
|Romeril, H. G.
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
|Law, Albert (Bolton)
|Rosbotham, D. S. T.
|Denman, Hon. R. D.
|Law, A. (Rosendale)
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)
|Lawrie, Hugh Hartley (Stalybridga)
|Salter, Dr. Alfred
|Lawson, John James
|Sanders, W. S.
|Ede, James Chuter
|Lawther, W. (Barnard Castle)
|Edge, Sir William
|Sawyer, G. F.
|Edmunds, J. E.
|Lee, Frank (Derby, N. E.)
|Edwards, E. (Morpeth)
|Lee, Jennie (Lanark, Northern)
|Egan, W. H.
|Lewis, T. (Southampton)
|Shaw, Rt. Hon. Thomas (Preston)
|Lindley, Fred W.
|Shepherd, Arthur Lewis
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univer.)
|Lloyd, C. Ellis
|Sherwood, G. H.
|Logan, David Gilbert
|Shield, George William
|Forgan, Dr. Robert
|Longbottom, A. W.
|Shiels, Dr. Drummond
|Shillaker, J. F.
|Gardner, B. W. (West Ham, Upton)
|Gardner, J. P. (Hammersmith, N.)
|Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)
|Short, Alfred (Wednesbury)
|George, Megan Lloyd (Anglesea)
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
|Simmons, C. J.
|Sinclair, Sir A. (Caithness)
|Gibson, H. M. (Lancs, Mossley)
|McEntee, V. L.
|Gill, T. H.
|McGovern, J. (Glasgow, Shettleston)
|Sitch, Charles H.
|Gillett, George M.
|Smith, Ben (Bermondsey, Rotherhithe)
|Glassey, A. E.
|McShane, John James
|Smith, Frank (Nuneaton)
|Gossling, A. G.
|Malone, C. L'Estrange (N'thampton)
|Smith, Rennie (Penistone)
|Mander, Geoffrey le M.
|Smith, Tom (Pontefract)
|Graham, Rt. Hon. Wm. (Edin., Cent.)
|Smith, W. R. (Norwich)
|Snowden, Rt. Hon. Philip
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. A. (Colne)
|Snowden, Thomas (Accrington)
|Grenfell, D. R. (Glamorgan)
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro' W.)
|Matters, L. W.
|Stamford, Thomas W.
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)
|Groves, Thomas E.
|Stewart, J. (St. Rollox)
|Grundy, Thomas W.
|Millar, J. D.
|Strachey, E. J. St. Loe
|Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)
|Mills, J. E.
|Strauss, G. R.
|Hall, G. H. (Merthyr Tydvil)
|Milner, Major J.
|Taylor, R. A. (Lincoln)
|Hall, Capt. W. G. (Portsmouth, C.)
|Hamilton, Mary Agnes (Blackburn)
|Morgan, Dr. H. B.
|Tinker, John Joseph
|Hardie, George D.
|Townend, A. E.
|Harris, Percy A.
|Morris, Rhys Hopkins
|Hartshorn, Rt. Hon. Vernon
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
|Vaughan, D. J.
|Hastings, Dr. Somerville
|Morrison, Herbert (Hackney, South)
|Viant, S. P.
|Haycock, A. W.
|Morrison, Robert C. (Tottenham, N.)
|Walkden, A. G.
|Hayes, John Henry
|Mort, D. L.
|Henderson, Right Hon. A. (Burnley)
|Moses, J. J. H.
|Wallace, H. W.
|Henderson, Arthur, Junr. (Cardiff, S.)
|Watkins, F. C.
|Henderson, Thomas (Glasgow)
|Nathan, Major H. L.
|Watson, W. M. (Dunfermline).
|Henderson, W. W. (Middx., Enfield)
|Naylor, T. E.
|Watts-Morgan, Lt.-Col. D. (Rhondda)
|Oldfield, J. R.
|Hirst, G. H. (York W. R. Wentworth)
|Oliver, George Harold (Ilkeston)
|Welsh, James (Paisley)
|Hoffman, P. C.
|Oliver, P. M. (Man., Blackley)
|West, F. R.
|Owen, Major G. (Carnarvon)
|Palin, John Henry
|White, H. G.
|Hudson, James H. (Huddersfield)
|Whiteley, Wilfrid (Birm., Ladywood)
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph
|Parkinson, John Allen (Wigan)
|Williams, David (Swansea, East)
|Perry, S. F.
|Williams, Dr. J. H. (Llanelly)
|Jenkins, W. (Glamorgan, Neath)
|Pethick-Lawrence, F. W.
|Williams, T. (York, Don Valley)
|John, William (Rhondda, West)
|Phillips, Dr. Marion
|Wilson, C. H. (Sheffield, Attercliffe)
|Wilson, J. (Oldham)
|Jones, Rt. Hon. Leif (Camborne)
|Potts, John S.
|Wilson, R. J. (Jarrow)
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
|Price, M. P.
|Winterton, G. E. (Leicester, Loughb'gh)
|Jowett, Rt. Hon. F. W.
|Pybus, Percy John
|Wise, E. F.
|Jowitt, Sir W. A. (Preston)
|Ramsay, T. B. Wilson
|Young, R. S. (Islington, North)
|Kelly, W. T.
|Raynes, W. R.
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
|Richardson, R. (Houghton-le-Spring)
|Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr.