Motion made, and Question proposed,
That a sum, not exceeding £39,160, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1931, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Department of His Majesty's Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs."—[NOTE:£19,000 has been voted on account.]
§ The CHAIRMAN
Before I call on the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), I want to say that several Members have asked me as to the scope of the discussion on this Estimate. There is nothing for the salary of the Dominions Secretary in this Vote, and the only matters covered are Oversea Settlement and Empire Marketing Board. If the right hon. Gentleman desires to make any statement in relation to certain conferences that are to be held later, he may state the agenda, but there can be no discussion on any part of the agenda which requires legislation.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
The Secretary of State for the Dominions said yesterday at Question Time that he expected to-day to be called upon to meet a Motion for the reduction of his salary. That is very far from being our intention. We have no desire to harass or criticise, but rather to encourage, and indeed to congratulate, the right hon. Gentleman upon his accession to the office of Secretary of State for the Dominions. As Minister in charge of unemployment, he did not receive very many bouquets. Indeed, the only flowers which are likely to be offered to a Minister exercising those functions are in memoriam wreaths. Now he has passed to this other Department, I trust that he will be able to win as much distinction in it as he did six years ago when he occupied with universal applause and approval the post of Secretary of State for the Colonies.
1376 The right hon. Gentleman will be called upon at a very early date to take an active part in the Imperial Conference and the Imperial Economic Conference, and there he will have to deal with many questions of Imperial trade. I propose to-day to speak mainly upon these questions of trade in general, with which he will there have to deal, although there will be large numbers of other questions of equal and even greater importance, for any nation which thinks only of trade is not likely to succeed even in trade. But in these days of acute economic depression the question of trade must occupy a leading place in our thoughts, as it will, no doubt, in the thoughts of the conferences that are to be held.
I had hoped to-day, on this Motion for the salary of the Secretary of State, he being about to take a leading part in those conferences, to discuss the general question of Imperial trade, and particularly the proposals which are so strangely named Empire Free Trade, although really proposals for Empire Protection, but I understand from your Ruling that that cannot be done on this occasion. I hope, however, that some future occasion will arise on which the House may discuss these proposals without restriction, for it is most necessary that the views of the House should be expressed, and I am sorry that the Empire Crusaders have so far shown no great eagerness to bring this matter to the Floor of the House. The most satisfactory feature about Empire trade in recent years has been its remarkable growth and development. Lord Passfield told the Colonial Conference two or three days ago that the exports of the Crown Colonies before the War, in 1913–14, were under £100,000,000, and that in the last completed year they had risen to £236,000,000, without, one may mention incidentally, any adventitious aids, but solely owing to the activity, energy, and enterprise of the peoples of those Colonies. In the same period the exports of Canada have doubled and the exports of New Zealand have increased by 50 per cent., and the total trade of our Empire has now reached the enormous total of £3,000,000,000 a year.
A body of which too little is heard, the Imperial Economic Committee, has been at work for some years dealing with 1377 certain aspects of Empire trade under the chairmanship of an old Member of this House, Sir Halford Mackinder, and with Sir David Chadwick as secretary. A few weeks ago it published a very interesting report which showed that in spite of the decline of the trade of this country in relation to the rest of the world, Empire trade as a whole has not only held its own but has slightly increased. Before the War the Empire had rather over 27 per cent. of the trade of the world, and it now has 29 per cent., in spite of the decline in the United Kingdom. That is equal to the whole of the trade of all the countries of Northern and Western Europe put together, and more than double the whole of the trade of the United States. The report mentions that in the last recorded year the merchandise passing between Empire and foreign countries was about three times that passing between Empire countries.
I hope the right hon. Gentleman, when he endeavours at the conference to take whatever administrative steps are possible to increase and develop Imperial trade and communications, will remember at the same time that the trade with the outside world is three times as great, and that, while encouraging and developing the one, he will do nothing to hamper or to restrict the other. He should remember, also, that, while the Empire bought from us in the last recorded year £325,000,000 worth of goods giving employment to an immense number of our workpeople, the rest of the world bought more than £400,000,000 worth of goods. Therefore, whatever measures are taken to develop Empire trade should not restrict or diminish the trade with the 1,400,000,000 of people who live outside the bounds of our Empire. No doubt he will use all his efforts to secure that his policy shall be wholly constructive and in no degree restrictive.
There is a very great deal of work already being done in various directions by different bodies, of which the country is not fully aware, and of which many Members of this House are not aware. There is the admirable new Committee formed by the present Government, and arising out of the Colonial Development Act, which was one of the first Measures passed by this Parliament and which had the support of all parties. The right hon. 1378 Gentleman and his colleagues have put it into active operation. They have appointed a Colonial Development Advisory Committee, which has sanctioned already a large number of projects for the development, agriculturally, industrially and commercially, of the Colonies and mandated territories, and their communications, and not less important, their sanitation. From a report recently presented it appears that up to the end of February projects have been approved involving an expenditure of £5,600,000, to be spread over five years. The charge which will devolve upon the British taxpayer does not, however, approach this sum. Almost the whole amount is being provided by loans or by the expenditure of the territories themselves, with the assistance of certain grants from the British Exchequer largely by way of assistance in the matter of the interest on the loans. The only charge which devolves upon us, and it is spread over a period of five years, is £780,000, and it has been the means of securing the investment, for purposes of development, of a sum approaching £6,000,000. It brings a good deal of employment to many workpeople in this country, in providing many of the commodities needed.
I am sure the right hon. Gentleman must take satisfaction from these facts, and will probably promote the further prosecution of this work, but I hope that he will not come to Parliament and ask for more money than has already been granted. A charge of £1,000,000 a year may be imposed upon the British taxpayer, which is ample for present needs, and I am only afraid that the excellence of this work may lead to further burdens being placed upon our Budget which would, perhaps, not be fully justified, for, although this country gets a considerable indirect benefit, the direct benefit accrues to the territories concerned, and the financial provision ought to be mainly provided from their awn revenues and resources.
There is another body doing most admirable work in various directions which is better known to the public as a whole, and that is the Empire Marketing Board. The nation usually considers that the work of that Board is mainly devoted to publicity. It is natural that that should be so, because the part of its work which attracts the public eye, from its very 1379 nature, is its publicity work. I am not quite sure that the great expenditure under that head is fully warranted. There has been an expenditure of more than £250,000 upon these posters and other forms of publicity. The posters are admirable artistically, they help to redeem our hoardings from the ugliness that pervades them, but whether they have an economic value equal to the expenditure I am not sure. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) is an active member of the Board, in which he takes the keenest interest, and possibly he may have something to say to the Committee on that point later.
With regard to this measure of publicity I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that when he is in conference with the Dominions and Colonies he might inquire whether there might not be some measure of reciprocity. The whole of this expenditure devolves upon the British taxpayer, while the benefit of it is derived not only by British industries but by Dominion and Colonial and Indian industries and the Mandated Territories. We rejoice that this should be so, but in return possibly they might take similar and concurrent action within their own territories, in so far as competition with their own industries is not involved. I do not think they are likely to advertise our goods in competition with their own, but there are a great number of our goods not in competition with their own and which they might assist in that manner.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
Is the proposal that the different Governments should grant money for the purpose of this Vote?
§ 4.0 p.m.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Of course, it rests with them; it does not rest with this Committee. The action must come from them, but, when the whole of the matter is being discussed at these conferences in the autumn, possibly the suggestion might be made that one good turn deserves another. By far the larger work of the Empire Marketing Board does not come before the public in the same manner. They are actively engaged in promoting scientific research in many directions, biological research is among 1380 their activities, and in a score of ways they are bringing science to bear to assist in combating diseases of men, plants and animals in various parts of the Empire and elsewhere, and are making most useful researches. After all, science is the key which unlocks for mankind the storehouse of nature, and the more we can bring science to bear on industrial development the more likely our progress is to be assured.
This highly skilled scientific work must be centralised and put in the hands of the most eminent researchers, and consequently it is pre-eminently a function which devolves on the capital country of the Empire. The National Physical Laboratory, and in a much less degree the Imperial Institute, have been co-operating in this work for some years. There is further the Institute of Tropical Medicine. I was a few days ago at the great exhibition at Antwerp, where the admirable British pavilion, upon which I would congratulate the Secretary for Overseas Trade, is meeting with the approval of all Englishmen in Belgium and of the Belgian people also. In that exhibition one of the most striking exhibits is that of tropical medicine, similar to that which was at Wembley. There Great Britain is taking the lead among the nations, and the work it is doing, for its efficiency and the marvellous results achieved, fills with admiration all those who witness it. I think in this House we ought to express our gratitude to those who in these various ways have been working to promote progress in our Dominions.
There is, further, the British Cotton Association and the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, which now for 20 years, again without any adventitious aids from tariffs, have by investment and enterprise and wise expenditure been developing cotton growing in various parts of the Empire. Twenty years ago the Empire, excluding India, produced 30,000 bales of cotton. Last year it produced 472,000 bales of cotton, a wonderful growth in that period. Lancashire has been able to treble her supplies of cotton compared with what they were before the War, and this might be an example that could be applied in certain other industries. Along somewhat parallel lines there is another way in 1381 which Empire industry might be encouraged and Empire trade developed. It has been stated in a very succinct form by the Federation of British Industries, which has lately prepared an interesting report on some of these questions. They say:It is essential that individual industries in Great Britain and the Dominions should together explore the possibilities of rationalising their production. … As part of any such scheme of rationalisation steps should be taken to develop a closer technical alliance between the industries of this country and of the Dominions with a view to combined action on such questions as research, standardisation and simplification.That is a question of great importance, and one to which the right hon. Member for Bewdley (Mr. S. Baldwin) has referred in some of his speeches. I hope the Secretary of State will be able to say something about this in his reply, because of the interest taken in the endeavour to reorganise and rationalise our industries, not merely on a national, but on an Imperial scale, and to secure that they shall work together as one whole rather than as active competitors against each other. Further, there is the question of communications, which in an Empire like ours, scattered over the continents and the oceans, must hold first place in importance—shipping, ports, docks, railways, cables, wireless and now the very important new means of communication, the air services which are being developed so rapidly, partly under the auspices of the Air Ministry, but mainly through the energy and enterprise of our courageous and skilful airmen and women. Only to-day we hear of the arrival in America of British airmen, and the leader of the expedition, we are glad to think, is an Australian. Only recently the whole country was thrilled with admiration at the exploit of the airwoman who flew alone from here to the Antipodes.
There is the question also of migration. In answer to a question I put in the House the other day, I was told that in the last 10 years there have been 700,000 fewer migrants from this country than in the 10 years before the War. That, of course, has a most important bearing on our problem of unemployment, and if the right bon. Gentleman can do anything to promote the flow of 1382 migrants of suitable types for Dominion conditions—is that out of order?
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must safeguard the right hon. Gentleman from going too far into it. There is another Vote for Overseas Settlement.
§ Mr. AMERY
On a point of Order. Is it not within the scope of your Ruling, that inasmuch as the Secretary of State will have to deal with this question of migration at the Imperial Conference, the right hon. Gentleman might go into it to the extent of asking how far the Secretary of State will take up this matter at the Conference. I understand the Secretary of State will only make one speech in reply, and it would be a pity if he could not give us an indication of the attitude that he is going to take up on migration and the Empire Marketing Board, both of which questions we shall discuss on other Estimates.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
One or two of my hon. Friends wish to deal with this matter, and it is not one which gives rise to acute controversy like Empire protection.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It is not a question whether it raises acute controversy or not. I am concerned with the fact that, Estimates are prepared and submitted in order to secure adequate discussion. I cannot allow detailed discussion of the matter, because Overseas Settlement is covered by a Vote in the same group, and all details of the Dominions are there stated.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I must leave it to my hon. Friends to succeed as best they may in putting this point. Lastly, among the things coming under review, there is the Conference of Colonial Governors now sitting. It was initiated three years ago by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), and proved most successful in co-ordinating methods and pooling ideas, and the Conference now sitting is likely to have equally useful results. I have covered a fairly wide field, and I wish to ask the Committee and the Government to view these proposals as one whole and to see that, if all these various matters and measures are taken together, 1383 there emerges a very large, practical and non-controversial policy of Imperial unification and development. It is a profound error to think that there can be no Empire policy except a tariff policy, and the point I wish to press is that those who are interested in Empire questions need not stand aside and adopt a merely negative attitude in face of the vehement campaign which purports to aim at Empire unity and proceeds on other lines. All these bodies, committees and organisations—the Imperial Economic Committee, the Colonial Development Advisory Committee, the Empire Marketing Board, the Cotton Growing Associations, those who are engaged in rationalisation of industries throughout the Empire, those who are concerned with communications and with migration—are working on parallel lines, but perhaps not with sufficient information about each other's efforts nor with sufficient co-ordination of their efforts.
The whole of these matters are brought under one purview once in three years at the Imperial Conference or at the Conference of Colonial Governors. I submit to the right hon. Gentleman the question whether they do not need continuous attention and constant initiative, not only from the British Departments, the Dominion Office and the Colonial Office, together with the India Office when it is concerned, but from some body which contains representatives of the Colonies, Dominions and India. There is need for a new C.I.D., not a Committee of Imperial Defence but a Committee of Imperial Development constituted on much the same lines, a permanent standing body not dealing with great questions of controversial policy but dealing with those very matters with which I have concerned myself this afternoon, containing perhaps amongst its members the chairmen or the representatives of all those different bodies dealing with various aspects of the question. The point which I wish specially to put before the right hon. Gentleman is that when this Conference meets he will take special pains to explore this particular aspect of the question, so that if the Dominions, the Colonies and India concur, some steps may be taken to form a standing body of those authorities such as I have adum- 1384 brated. If that is desired by them I am sure it would be received by this House, not with indifference, and still less with hostility, but with the greatest possible encouragement, and by this means the right hon. Gentleman might be able to signalise his term of office by taking effective practical measures for promoting the development, prosperity and unity, while, at the same time, maintaining the full liberties of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
§ Mr. AMERY
I think I ought to begin by offering my sincere condolences to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) upon the disappointing check which he received by the Chairman's Ruling. The right hon. Gentleman appeared to have mounted his powerful artillery in a very dominant and strategical position with the evident intention not only of pouring out a well-directed instructional fire on the Front Bench opposite, but also with the intention of directing a powerful destructive fire on these benches.
§ Mr. AMERY
I am afraid, Mr. Chairman, that your Ruling has narrowed the right hon. Gentleman's angle of fire, and has also narrowed my opportunities of replying to his remarks. Consequently, like the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darden, I shall confine my remarks to the immediate duties of the Dominions Office, and to the task which confronts the Secretary of State for the Dominions at the forthcoming Imperiod Conference. Before doing so I should like to congratulate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas) upon his appointment, and I also would like to congratulate the Government upon their decision to separate finally the two offices which deal with the Dominions and the Colonies. The division is, however, far more complete than the Prime Minister indicated in his reply the other day. The work of the two offices has been entirely separated during the last five years, and the division of their duties has proved a complete success. The combination of those two offices in one person was undoubtedly a makeshift, and whichever Government came into power after the last Election would have found it necessary to make this change. I do not 1385 think anyone in this House who contemplates, at this moment, the vast amount of work which confronts the Colonial Secretary in East Africa and other Colonies, and at the same time considers the problems which the Secretary of State for the Dominions has to envisage in connection with the constitutional aspects of the Imperial Conference, and the immense field of economic inquiry which he has to cover before the imperial Conference meets, can doubt that this division of offices has come just in time to enable justice to be done to these questions.
I should like to ask the Secretary of State one or two questions about the Imperial Conference itself. I fully realise that a great part of that conference will be taken up considering the report of the conference on legislation which was submitted to the various Governments of the Empire a few weeks ago. That is one of the most momentous documents which has ever been presented to Parliament. It has carried to its logical extremity the liberation of the Dominions from any control of the Imperial Parliament and of the Government of this country. It is a document so farreaching that many Imperialists in this country regard it with the profoundest misgivings. That is not my view. I have always held the view that the unity of the Empire must be based on complete equality and on complete independence of its constituent parts. The process of declaring freedom has now reached a point which was referred to by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) at the Empire Press Conference the other day, when the important thing is to turn our minds now to practical measures to secure effective unity, practical co-operation. At the Imperial Conference itself I hope the Secretary of State for the Dominions will throw his whole weight not only in the direction of carrying through what I might call the negative and deliberative conclusions of the previous Imperial Conference and of the conference on legislation, but also the constructive suggestions which have been made to secure the permanent unity of the Crown, effective and reciprocal legislation to secure a common status for British subjects, a common status for British ships, as well as that 1386 unity of shipping legislation which is of such importance to our Empire trade.
In the same way I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will do his utmost to ensure that serious consideration is given to the proposal for setting up of an inter-Imperial tribunal for dealing with any questions of a justiciable character which may arise, and with which the Privy Council in its present form, in view of the attitude towards it of some of the Dominions, is not altogether fitted to cope. At the same time I fully realise that on the constitutional side we are not going to make, at this stage of the Empire's history, very great constructive advances. For more than 30 years it has been plain to anyone who has taken part in Imperial Conferences that, on constitutional issues, and on defence and other kindred issues, the whole tendency of the Dominions was to the separate assertion of their national autonomy. The one aspect in which they have always been ready for closer co-operation and more intimate relations has been on the economic side. It was not a mere hankering after tariffs that forced Mr. Chamberlain to take the attitude which he took 30 years ago. Mr. Chamberlain took up that attitude because he felt that it was only on the economic side that really effective progress could be made towards Imperial unity.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has consequently rightly laid stress upon the great importance of the Imperial Economic Conference. There are one or two things which I should like to ask the Secretary of State about the composition and the procedure of the Imperial Economic Conference. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that more than once, in recent years, he himself from these benches, as also did the Prime Minister during his first term of office, raised the issue as to whether the Opposition in this House, as well as the Government, ought not to be represented at the Imperial Conference. I felt constrained to reply that there had been very little indication of any enthusiasm for such a proposal on the part of the Dominions. There is also the more serious objection that the Imperial Conference is essentially an executive body dealing with executive policy in regard 1387 to which the responsibility could not be divided, at least in ordinary times. I do not think that those considerations apply to the same extent to the economic conference. I would add the suggestion that if, in the opinion of the present Government, the same objections do not hold good in the case of the Economic Conference, they are by no means compelled to hold their hand until all the other Governments of the Empire have decided to adopt a similar line of action. After all, it is for each Government of the Empire to decide the composition of its own delegation at the Imperial Conference.
I remember that in 1917 Mr. Massey, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, brought with him Sir Joseph Ward, the leader of the Opposition. I agree that while we are divided profoundly in our points of view as to the importance of certain methods applicable to the situation it would not be worth while attempting to bring in all parties where questions of economics are being dealt with. We are, however, living in very difficult times. I do not think anyone can say that the differences which divide us across the Floor of the House, and across the Gangway to-day, will be as deep next October as they are to-day when we shall be face to face with the prospects of the coming winter. What I submit to the Secretary of State is that if it should happen that the force of circumstances brings us closer together in our outlook upon this problem, then the right hon. Gentleman should give serious attention to the possibility that a great departure in British policy at the Imperial Conference should have the unanimous assent of the leading representatives of all parties.
There is another question with regard to the composition of the Conference to which I should like to draw special attention, and that is the question of Colonial representation. The Colonial Empire, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen has pointed out, has grown enormously in importance in recent years. Its export trade, which was £100,000,000 a year just before the War, is not far off £250,000,000 to-day. Both as a source of our raw material and as a market, it ranks second only to India in 1388 the markets of the world. Not only has it grown in economic importance, not only is it likely to grow even more in economic importance, but its political status has, in certain respects, been insensibly changed in recent years. There are, after all, a great many Colonies which enjoy in varying degrees some form of representation, and it is not only in India that the convention has grown up that the economic policy of a great number of our Colonies is governed by public opinion, and by their own representatives, and not by any fiat or decree from this country. The West Indies, for instance, have entered into definite trade agreements or treaties with Canada.
I submit that, with an Empire that has reached that state of importance, it is not enough that it should be represented at the Imperial Economic Conference by an Assistant Under-Secretary of State. Beyond this purely official representation, ways and means ought to be devised by which the more developed Colonies can be directly associated, through representatives of their public opinion and of the elected element or the nominated element in their Legislatures, in these discussions, which are bound to be of such vital importance to themselves. More than that, I would suggest to the Secretary of State, though I do not wish in any sense, Mr. Young, to trespass beyond your Ruling, that there is nothing to-day to prevent the Government of this country, from an economic point of view, entering into direct discussion with at any rate certain Colonies or groups of Colonies, as they would with the Dominions, to see whether some reciprocal agreement may not be arrived at. Let me take the case of the West Indies, Mauritius and the other sugar-producing Colonies. I am not at this moment going to enter into the appalling plight to which they have been reduced by the present state of the sugar market, a condition of things under which, although they produce sugar more cheaply than two-thirds of the world, they cannot sell it without a ruinous loss. Nor am I going to enter into the wisdom or unwisdom of the Government in refusing to give them assistance, either by the means that we on these benches would advocate, or by the means which their own Commissioner, Lord Olivier, suggested.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
You would be out of order if you did.
§ Mr. AMERY
I am not going to do so, but I suggest that at an Imperial Conference, if the Government are not prepared on their own responsibility to be generous to these dependencies, they are at any rate fully entitled to see whether, out of the need of these dependencies, they might not be able to strike a business bargain of advantage to this country. As a part of that bargain, in one form or another—I am not discussing whether legislative or administrative measures are required—they might give them something for which they would give something in return to this country.
So much for the composition of the Economic Conference. Now may I say something about some of the things which, like my right hon. Friend, I hope to see emerge from that Conference? The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, in his closing sentences, laid immense stress on the importance of a further development and consolidation of our rudimentary and inchoate machinery for consultation, consideration and research on the economics of the Empire. The right hon. Gentleman, however, is not the only one who is urging this. It is a very significant fact that the preparatory committee of the Associated Chambers of Commerce of the British Empire have recommended the same thing. They recommend the setting up of what they call a permanent Economic Assembly, which should both study and plan and work out problems of Empire trade, and should also prepare and organise for the periodical meeting of Economic Conferences. That is the proposal made, if I may say so, from the capitalist side; but I gather from to-day's papers that almost identically the same proposal has been put forward in the report which has just been accepted by the Trades Union Council. While they use slightly different terms—they speak of an Imperial Trade Secretariat, where the other body speaks of an Imperial Trade Assembly—they also speak of such a body planning, studying, and preparing for frequent inter-Imperial Conferences.
From both sides, therefore—from the point of view of organised labour, from the point of view of organised capital, 1390 and, I venture to say, from the point of view of all parties in this House—the Secretary of State is being urged to give life and effect to the conception that the time has come when what is done in the Economic Committee at Geneva among the nations of the world should be done among the nations of the British Empire, which have so much more intimate an interest in each other's welfare.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen also dealt with the Empire Marketing Board. There, again, I do not think I should be keeping within your Ruling if I entered in any detail into the work of the Empire Marketing Board, but I must dispel at any rate one misconception under which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen is labouring. He implied that this work of the Empire Marketing Board was work on which we spent money for the benefit of other parts of the Empire without any reciprocal return on their side. That, however, is not the situation at all. At the Imperial Economic Conference in 1923, the Dominions represented to us the very greatly extended advantages to British trade which they had recently been giving, and, as a return for those extensions, we offered to give certain preferences, which afterwards, for reasons into which I need not enter here, were commuted into the spending of £1,000,000 a year to help the marketing of Empire produce in this country. We have no claim, on the basis of reciprocity, to ask the Dominions to do anything, but, at the same time, if they would care to show that they not only reciprocate in other forms, but regard this form of publicity and research work as worth reciprocating, of course we in this House would welcome such action. I might point out that in the field of research there is already a great measure of reciprocity. To a very considerable extent the research grants of the Empire Marketing Board are matched by sums found by Dominion Governments or institutions overseas.
My right hon. Friend was inclined to disparage the publicity expenditure of the Empire Marketing Board, but I think he is very much mistaken if he does that. I believe that that expenditure has had a profound effect upon public opinion in this country, an effect which has been translated into the steady and remark- 1391 able increase of Empire purchases in this country, more particularly of the kind of articles which receive assistance from the publicity work of the Empire Marketing Board. There is, however, another value which is not less important, though it cannot be measured in terms of money or of trade. I said just now that this work of the Empire Marketing Board is reciprocity on our part for what the Dominions have already done for Empire trade, and I can assure the Committee that this publicity work of ours in this country, whatever effect it may have had upon British public opinion, has had an immense effect upon public opinion overseas. Every Dominion visitor who comes over here goes back to his own country to say that the British Government is spending its money on helping him and his fellow citizens, and that has an Imperial value that cannot be measured in terms of money or in terms of immediate trade results. There is yet another value of that publicity on which I should like to say at any rate a word. Every one of these posters not only appears for a few weeks on our hoardings, but appears in a reduced form in our schools. Over 21,000 schools in this country have voluntarily, and without any advertisement or appeal from the Empire Marketing Board, asked for sets of these posters, and I only wish it were possible for me to quote some of the letters received from schoolmasters, and from school-children themselves, to indicate the extent to which this form of what I will call education rather than publicity has been valued and appreciated throughout the schools of the country.
The right hon. Gentleman referred to shipping and to air. I do not think I need dwell upon those subjects, except just to express the hope that this forthcoming Conference, like previous ones, will mark a great advance in the development of Empire air routes. In using that phrase, I should like to draw attention to one fact. Owing to the necessity of Government assistance to aviation, air routes have been developed steadily, so far as long-distance routes are concerned, on Imperial lines, in order to promote inter-Imperial intercourse. Shipping has never been considered from that point of view. Shipping regards itself as a great industry flourishing all over the world, and con- 1392 cerned with developing its interests in every direction. We should be the last to wish to restrict the development of British shipping in any trade of the world, but at the same time it is true to a very considerable extent that that interest of shipping sometimes tends to conflict with the function which shipping fulfils as an inter-Imperial carrier. I could quote, if this were the occasion, many instances where, through the operation of shipping arrangements, cheaper freights are available to our Dominions from foreign ports than from British ports. I submit that the whole question of encouraging British shipping to subserve inter-Imperial trade more than it does at present requires looking into.
Migration is another topic which can be more fully discussed under its own heading. I would only say, in reply to what the right hon. Gentleman said, that, while it is true that migration has been more limited in scope since the War than it was before, that has been due to a great variety of reasons—to much higher costs of transport, to the difficulty of saving the money to meet those costs in this country, and, above all, to the fact that the economic situation in the Dominions, as well as in this country, has been one of difficulty, and that, therefore, there has not been that inducement of hope which is the real prime mover in migration at all times. The right hon. Gentleman said something at the close of his speech about envisaging all these problems as a single whole, and there is no question of which that is more true than of migration. You will never solve the migration question, or make more than very limited progress, even with the admirable machinery that exists at present, until you set the trade of the Empire moving with far greater force and intensity than it is moving to-day. Meanwhile, however, I think it is satisfactory to reflect that, in the 10 years since the War, including the 370,000 and more who have been directly assisted under the Overseas Settlement Act, and the 90,000 who went out under the ex-service scheme before that, something like 460,000 persons have gone out to settle in the Dominions, and most of them have settled successfully. Only a very small fraction of that number would ever have left these shores had it not 1393 been for the schemes of assistance which we set on foot, with the co-operation of the Dominions, after the War.
I should like to put in a plea for the consideration of another very important, though technically difficult problem at the Economic Conference, and that is the question of Empire currency. It was raised in a very interesting speech by the hon. Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby) a few days ago, and it was also raised at the Economic Conference in 1923. It was then side-tracked for the reason, which seemed sufficient at the time, that not only in the Dominions but in this country we were looking forward to an early re-establishment of the gold standard, and believed that that re-establishment would provide a sufficient basis for all inter-Imperial transactions without any dislocation occurring. We did not foresee at that time the extent to which the gold of the world was going to be sucked into the maw of America, or even the extent to which our neighbour, France, would endeavour to build up a new world trading and banking position by the accumulation of an immense stock of gold in Paris. These circumstances have led to a grave shortage of currency. They have, I believe—I do not speak as an expert—played a not inappreciable part in that tremendous fall in prices which has been the beginning of the trade dislocation from which we are suffering at this moment.
In those circumstances it becomes well worth considering whether within the Empire, at any rate, we could not dispense largely with gold for inter-Empire trade purposes and keep our gold mobile for the purposes of external trade. Take the present dislocation of the Australian trade, I believe to a large extent temporary, due to the sudden break in wool prices. If Australia had had enough gold, she could have sent it over here, and trade would have pursued its normal course. In the absence of gold, or any other medium which might take its place, Australia has been forced to adopt emergency measures of the most drastic character which, by restricting our trade with Australia, have aggravated our problems.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the present extraordinarily difficult situation in Australia is due to the question of currency?
§ Mr. AMERY
Yes, to this extent—that I believe if we had had a somewhat different system it might have been much easier to find a way out of that difficulty instead of resorting to measures which not only aggravate our economic situation by restricting trade with Australia, and so narrow our market for Australia, but also add to the cost of production in Australia. If it were possible to do between this country and Australia what this country does with East Africa, with West Africa, with Malaya, with the West Indies, and set up some sort of organisation to keep the currency stable—there is more than one way of doing it—I believe it would help enormously to keep up the flow of inter-Empire trade. If it were possible to set up such a scheme, or if, as an alternative, it were possible to arrange for the issue, by the exchange of Treasury Bills or otherwise, of an Empire bank note, you would have an entirely different situation. These notes would circulate within the Empire and adjust temporary fluctuations without compelling trade to be restricted. Australia might well have contented herself in these conditions, if they had existed, by restricting foreign trade, which requires to be paid for with gold, and allowing Empire trade to be carried on with the help of some such machinery.
There is another matter of very great importance to the Dominions which is bound to arise at the Imperial Conference, if not at the Imperial Economic Conference, and that is the position of trustee stocks. That is a form of preference, which we have given to the Empire since 1901, whose value has been estimated at not much less than £5,000,000 a year to our fellow citizens overseas. That preference has always been accompanied by certain Treasury demands with regard to the legislation of the Dominions which, simple, obvious and natural as it was to impose them 30 years ago, are utterly out of keeping with the present constitutional position of the Empire. The demand is that the Dominion Government concerned should pledge itself that any legislation which it may bring forward that is calculated to affect the value of those securities, shall be subject to veto by this country. That is an impossible position to-day and there is grave danger that the whole of this valuable system, which costs us nothing 1395 and means so much to the Empire, may go by the board. I hope it may be possible at the Imperial Economic Conference to consider whether we cannot accept from the Dominions their own declaration as a sufficient assurance to the British Government that it will admit these securities as trustee stocks; and if by any chance that declaration were dishonoured, the natural remedy would lie, not in a British veto, but in the submission of the issue to some Imperial tribunal such as the one to which I referred just now. I hope that that question, amongst others, will receive from the right hon. Gentleman and from the conference the most careful consideration.
When it comes to other matters that we can do to help the Dominions, I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen that we have to approach these questions from every angle and there is no method of dealing with them which we should rule out. We on these benches certainly are not wedded to one remedy alone. We are only too willing to look at every proposal that may help the situation. Indeed, there are many articles where we would readily admit that the method of duties is by no means the best method of approaching the question. It is a matter of widespread agreement that, if you take such a substance as wheat here in this country, the needs of British agriculture have to be met, if they are to be met at all, by some scheme, whether of quota or guarantee or whatever it may be, rather than by the method of imposing a duty. If we come to some such conclusion about wheat in this country, is there any insuperable difficulty in extending, with such modifications as may be necessary, the same process to the wheat of the Empire, including it in whatever quota we may fix or establishing a separate quota, or arranging with each Dominion for the guarantee of a suitable price? There is a method which does not touch on controversial issues. Sugar is another case where, I dare say, the quota method might be just as effective, in developing the sugar Colonies and making the Empire independent in its sugar supplies, as the method of duties. We are not making a fetish of duties. But we are not making a fetish of the negation of duties. That 1396 is not a matter which I need go into further. We fully recognise that the effects of the duties will depend on an immense variety of circumstances. In some circumstances they may add to the cost of an article. [Interruption.] They are not the only taxes which affect the cost of production. That is the only slight side shot that I will allow myself in answer to the right hon. Gentleman.
All these matters require treating as a whole, and I appeal to the Secretary of State to deal with them as a whole and with an absolutely open mind. I would ask him to give an assurance, not only that no methods and no subjects will be barred from discussion at the forthcoming Conference, but that he himself, and his colleagues, will enter into every proposition that may be brought before the Conference with an absolutely free and open mind, prepared to discuss it on its merits in the spirit in which Mr. Dunning, the Finance Minister of Canada, said he was introducing his Budget and coming to the Imperial Conference—a spirit of mutual helpfulness, a spirit of open-mindedness, not tied down by any particular party proposition or any of the issues that divide us. The right hon. Gentleman has had a year during which he has been confronted with the gravest situation that has ever faced this country. He has looked upon that terrible situation, which may well be even graver in prospect when the Autumn comes, from the angle of what it means to industry and the workers of the country. Now, in a new capacity, he will be confronted with what I believe to be an unexampled opportunity, which may perhaps never recur, of finding a truly hopeful solution of that problem. I believe the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues, when they are faced both with the magnitude of the problem and the greatness of their opportunity, will not hesitate, but will act with the courage of their convictions.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I am in somewhat of a difficulty here because for 12 months, either at Question Time or on the Vote for my salary, I have been called upon to explain what "man months" mean, and I cannot very well apply man months to the British Empire. To-day, although my own salary is involved——
§ The CHAIRMAN
The right hon. Gentleman's salary is not involved. There 1397 is nothing in this Vote for his salary at all.
§ 5.0 p.m.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I was apprehensive on those occasions as to what the result of the Vote was going to be, and I can afford to be indifferent to it at this moment. Although we are limited in the scope of the debate, it would be a profound mistake for any Minister in my party not to realise that there is existing in the country to-day more anxiety and a deeper feeling and a greater appreciation of the possibilities that are opened out by the Imperial Conference, than probably at any other time in our existence. I welcome that interest. I think it is a good thing that there can be discussions, that there is interest and anxiety in what I would call great Imperial questions. It will be equally a mistake not to realise frankly and fully that the present world economic position and the particular and special position of our country, very naturally make people look for some means of dealing with the situation. Whilst I welcome that interest and whilst I will do all I can to encourage it, I want to point out that in my judgment no greater harm is likely to accrue to real Imperial unity than by creating hopes and anticipations which cold and hard facts can never allow to materialise. In other words I answer the right hon. Gentleman quite frankly by saying again, speaking for myself and the Government, that we will enter this Imperial Conference and exclude nothing from our consideration. We will object to nothing. We will discuss everything on its merits and with a single-minded desire to do all that is possible, not only in the interests of our country, but in the interests of the Empire as a whole. In saying that, it is a profound mistake not to face facts. It would be a profound mistake to create in the minds of our people, had as is the economic position now, and bad as it may be in the future, the impression that out of the Imperial Conference there is coming an absolute solution for our unemployment problem. That it may, and I hope will, contribute something towards a solution, is what we all ought to hope.
In that connection let us consider the exact facts so far as trade is concerned. The position can be summarised in a few simple figures. Including imports and 1398 exports, the present position is that we do one-third of the trade within the Empire itself. We do one-third of trade with what is known as Europe, and we do one-third, approximately, of course, with the rest of the world; so that the present position is that our Empire trade is just one-third of the total. It is also important to keep clearly in mind another fact, and it is this: Our trade in the Empire is necessarily on our part, a buying from them of food and raw materials, whilst our great trade with Europe is mainly a selling to them of our manufactured articles. Another factor must be considered. The position of our Dominions has changed very considerably in the last 20 years. Twenty years ago they were mainly concerned with food production and the production of raw materials, but the remarkable development of Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Africa tends to show that they themselves are manufacturing today considerable quantities of the goods that hitherto we supplied to them.
That is borne out by some other facts. From 1913 to 1928, the total world expansion of trade was approximately 20 per cent. Curiously enough, taking the Empire as a whole, the Empire's quota of that development in trade is also 20 per cent., which shows that the general Empire trade was proportionate to that of the general world trade; but unfortunately, whilst the world trade has increased 20 per cent. and the Empire trade has increased 20 per cent., our trade, that is the trade of the United Kingdom, has dropped 20 per cent. Those are very important facts that must be kept in mind, and must of necessity have a very important hearing upon all the discussions at the Imperial Conference. So far as I can see the only thing likely to be excluded is the referendum, because there is no mention of it. I cannot deal wholly with the agenda because, the House will quite understand, the agenda must be an agreed agenda with the Dominions: but so far as we can see at this moment every range of subjects, except the referendum, that is likely to affect our interests, our trade and commerce and industry, is in some form or another bound to be raised by the items that are already on the agenda.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Will the right hon. Gentleman pardon me? I should be 1399 pleased if he would explain whether Vile very important figures he has just given refer to value or to volume of trade.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Value. If it had been merely volume I should have had to take into consideration the comparative prices.
§ Mr. THOMAS
It could probably mean volume, but it really means values, because it also takes into consideration the change in prices, in values, in the period. Therefore, the figures can be compared, as like with like, for the two periods.
§ Mr. THOMAS
I want to answer the first question by my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir Herbert Samuel). I can tell him that all the items that he has mentioned already are subjects for discussion, and I take this opportunity of saying that I think it is a good thing that the nation should know the value and importance of these items, and not assume that the Imperial Economic Conference is merely discussing one item to the exclusion of all others. For instance, I would take a few: questions of Imperial co-operation in matters of research and dissemination of intelligence amongst producers; all matters concerning the International Institute of Agriculture; cotton-growing in the Empire, forestry, minerals; the work of Imperial organisation; petrol production and refinement within the Empire; research statistics; transport; communications; shipping—and so I could go through the whole list, all of which covers the right hon. Gentleman's point, and many others of a similar nature.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Yes. I think my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) made a similar suggestion. He asked, Would it not be possible to set up some permanent body, a sort of secretariat or whatever you might call it, whose work and function it would be exclusively to consider from day to day and from week to week the economic side of the Empire? I think it would be a good thing. The danger, as I see it, and I am sure the House will appreciate it, is that the Dominions naturally resent any sort of idea that they are being run from London. We must get over that difficulty. We must not create the impression that this is merely a stunt, as it were, to run their business. We have to make it perfectly clear that it is as much in their interests as in our interests, and that it is a committee for the whole and not necessarily for ourselves. I think that that is the spirit in which the right hon. Gentleman suggested it, and certainly that is the spirit in which I intend to deal with it.
He also asked what is the position in regard to the Colonial Development Act, and he expressed the hope that I would not be coming along for more money for that particular Act. I introduced that Act as an unemployment Measure, but I did not disguise from the House of Commons that Colonial development was also a factor to keep in mind. I did not think for one moment that we were likely to come to the House for more money. I did not think it would be fair to do so, because a tremendous amount of work and development can be carried out with an annual sum of a million, and there is the fact that a million a year for this item alone is something that we ought to say is the limit.
I want to go further. To-morrow morning I am meeting the whole of the Colonial governors who are in London for a conference, and I am meeting them for the purpose of pointing out the absolute necessity, in the interests of the Empire and of unemployment, of using that money, because I believe this is the time to use it, not only because of the unemployment at home, but because of the possible development that will accrue later on. I think that that is the answer which my right hon. Friend de- 1401 sires. With regard to migration, the figures read out must convey to the House what a bearing these figures have upon the problem for which I was lately mainly responsible. I hope that an opportunity will be given later on to examine exactly the comparative figures of migration for this year as compared, at least, with the last five years, but it is only fair to point out to the Committee that it is not for us to condemn any of our Dominions on this matter.
Anyone who goes to the Dominions to ask them to take our people with a view to solving our unemployment problem will not only meet with a short answer, but he will be doing considerable harm to the real problem of Empire develop-anent and migration. You have only to examine the situation in Australia and in Canada, where they are bothered with their own unemployment problem, clearly to understand their difficulty and to appreciate that they are not very anxious to have a large number of newcomers during the present industrial depression. On the other hand, if the right hon. Gentleman means, as I think he means, and I believe that my right hon. Friend has the same view, that the bigger problem of migration, in a wider sense than has ever before been approached, ought to be discussed, I entirely agree. It is no secret that Australia found themselves compelled to suspend, at least, the very generous arrangements which we bad entered into in 1924–25. Canada, as I have already explained, is experiencing the same difficulty, but it does not mean, in my judgment, that there will not be a change in the future, because I do not take the view that the present economic position is a permanent one. I hope and believe that there will be a change, and, when that change comes, we ought to be in a position to discuss this big and important question, not only from our standpoint, but from their standpoint in such a way that the question of migration will not be left to be dealt with by a few shipping or railway companies, but will be dealt with in a practical and responsible way by responsible Governments as an obligation to those with whom they are dealing. That, at least, is the spirit in which I intend to approach the question.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of the value of benefits con- 1402 ferred on us by the different parts of the Empire. I do not minimise those benefits, and I wish to pay tribute here and now, not only to the concession which was made by Mr. Dunning in his last Canadian Budget speech, but to the spirit in which the concession was made. I think that the whole Committee and the country are indebted to Canada and their Government for their action and for the spirit which prompted it. Do not let us get into the mistaken view that all the benefits are always conferred upon us without any return. That is equally a mistaken view. I did not hesitate to say publicly in Canada that I did not go there asking for a favour. I was asking them for a fair return, because we were their best customers. It is not generally realised and appreciated what a tremendous contribution we in this old country make to the Empire as a whole.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the question of trustee securities. I think that he gave the figure as, approximately, at least £5,000,000 per annum. That £5,000,000 is based upon the assumption that the benefits of our Trustee Act are only equivalent in advantage to them—he will correct me if I am wrong, but I gather that that is what he said—to one half per cent. I do not think that any Member of this House or anyone with any knowledge of the City would put it so low. It is a very low estimate. I should have no hesitation in putting it at least at one per cent. Therefore, you have there in that one item £10,000,000 odd. Do not let it be forgotten that the great bulk a that money was invested by us at a time when it was really difficult and when other folks were not entering into these markets, and when the risk was much greater than it is to-day. That is something of which we ought not only to be proud, but something which we are entitled in our own interests to emphasise. In the same way with regard to defence. Examine the figures! Ourselves, a sum of £55,000,000 for naval defence. What were the contributions from the Empire? A sum of £4,000,000. We have no right to forget those figures when we are considering the relative position of this country and the Empire as a whole. Another item is the Empire Marketing Board—approximately £1,000,000 per year. It is an important item. But I 1403 am not giving these figures with the desire or intention of conveying the impression that nothing can be done. I believe that things can be done, and I hope that they will be clone. I want our own people and the country clearly to understand all that is involved in this question and not to create the impression that as far as we are concerned we are not playing our part. We are playing our part, and it is necessary to emphasise that fact.
I have been asked what is my view with regard to the Empire Marketing Board. I want to pay tribute to the Empire Marketing Board. I believe that they are doing a magnificent work. I want to see that work continue, because, as the right hon. Gentleman has said, the value of the impression created on all our oversea visitors when they are able to see the real work which we are doing on their behalf is amazing. If I were asked—and indeed I might as well face it now—what is my attitude, I would reply that I would not ask any of our Dominions to make a contribution. I would not for one moment think of doing so, but I would point out to them the value of our work, and I would urge, not press, that perhaps reciprocation might be carried out in their countries by acting similarly on our behalf. I do not think that that would be asking too much. I do not think that it is an unfair request, but a request to which there would probably be a favourable response.
The right hon. Gentleman raised a very difficult question with regard to the position of the trustee securities. Shortly, he says, when we were enabled to extend our own trustee lists for the benefit of our Dominions a restriction was imposed which is repugnant to the position which they occupy to-day. I think I have summarised the right hon. Gentleman correctly. Let us look at the facts. I will, first, place myself in their position. I will place myself in the position of a Dominion which is anxious to borrow money. I would hesitate, if I were in their position, before I asked for any alteration, and for this reason. I am assuming that there is a large number of Members in the Committee who do not know the technical point involved. When these securities were established as a trust they were accompanied by a declaration that if any legislation were 1404 introduced in the Dominion which was likely to imperil the security of that trust, it could, on an appeal by a British Minister to His Majesty, be annulled. I think that those are the short facts of the case. The right hon. Gentleman asks, "Why not boldly face the situation and say 'Well, that declaration ought now to be abolished, as it is not necessary'?" The first observation I will make is that it could not possibly apply to the existing contracts. Therefore, it could only apply to new money. But the answer; surely, is that those who are in the position of lenders are not Governments. We do not lend to the Dominions. They themselves must come to the money market. This is a safeguard not only to them, but to those who are lending as well. It would be a very dangerous thing to interfere in any way with what is accepted as a guarantee in a trustee security. The first effect, if you amended the arrangement, would be to lessen the value of the security, and by lessening the value of the security you would, inevitably, put up the rate of interest, and, instead of helping the Dominions, it would have the opposite effect.
§ Mr. AMERY
I hope that the right hon. Gentleman will allow me in a sentence or two to put my point again. The value to the investor lies very largely in the action of the British Government in allowing these securities to be listed as trustee stocks. In the early days of Colonial government it was very natural that the investor, in addition to that advantage, should look for the ultimate security of his stock to the British Government's control over the Colonial Government. I believe that to-day that aspect, the mere honouring of the bond, is sufficiently supported by the standing and position of the Dominion Governments themselves, especially if emphasised by the formal declaration of the Governments concerned, and, in the last resort, by recourse of the British Government to an inter-Imperial tribunal. But the other factor, the value added to the stock by being on the trustee list, is due to the action of the British Government, and I hope that it may be possible for that value to continue to be added to Imperial securities even if Dominion Governments no longer feel it possible to give a guarantee in the precise form constitutionally accepted 30 years ago.
§ Mr. THOMAS
Every prospectus issued bears the clear declaration that it is not guaranteed by the British Government. It is no use to say that the hall-mark ought to be that of the British Government, because that could only be true if the British Government were guaranteeing it. The British Government clearly and definitely say: "No, we do not guarantee it," and the Dominion is compelled to issue that clearly and definitely on the prospectus. If it is to be said, "After all, the British Government's name ought to be good enough," see what that involves.
§ Mr. THOMAS
That is the implication of it. The right hon. Gentleman raised the question and I felt that it was necessary for me to give my views at once. I cannot possibly hold out any hope so far as I am concerned—I have had no chance of discussing the matter with my colleagues—but speaking for myself, I do not think it would be a good thing, and I do not think that it would be in the best interests of the Dominions themselves. I certainly should feel if I were either a borrower or a representative of a Government borrowing, that it would be a very dangerous innovation. That is my view at the moment.
The right hon. Gentleman also asked what was to be the position in regard to setting up some tribunal to deal with the very important matters arising out of 1926. I say frankly to the Committee that I do not think the country has had any opportunity of fully appreciating the tremendous importance of the highly contentious and in some cases, unless very carefully handled, dangerous innovations made. The right hon. Gentleman knew that, because he was responsible, and he also knows that while they were contained in phrases and resolutions, the implications of them, the giving effect to them and the interpretation of them, are a source of considerable anxiety to all of us at this moment. They are things which, whilst not occupying the public stage and not receiving that publicity that other matters in connection with the Imperial Conference are receiving, are such that it would be a profound mistake for anyone in this House to minimise their tremendous importance, not only for the future of this country, but for the 1406 very constitution of the British Empire. I say no more than this, that they are occupying our attention. We are not responsible for them, but we find ourselves in the position of having to deal with them.
A suggestion was made that there ought to be what I would call some Imperial court. Hitherto, prior to this position being created, the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council usually dealt with these matters. Then there came the changes and talk about other tribunals, all of which are being considered by us at this moment. We are exploring very carefully, with all the very best advice at our command, the possibility of some such tribunal to deal with these matters as mentioned by my right hon. Friend. I am sure that the Committee will excuse me from saying more on this very delicate subject than that I hope that will be the way in which we shall get over the difficulty. I hope that we shall succeed. If we do succeed, I cannot find words to express the value that I should place upon that decision as being one of the most momentous steps ever taken towards the consolidation and the real democratic advance of the British Empire, as we know it. It will be in that spirit and with that object in view that we shall deal with the situation.
The right hon. Gentleman also raised the question that I raised with him when I was in Opposition and he was Secretary of State for the Dominions, with regard to the representation of the Opposition at the Imperial Conference. I raised that question on behalf of my party, because I felt then, and I feel now, that nothing is more calculated to do harm than an Imperial Conference being held, decisions being arrived at, a change of Government following, and all these decisions being then upset. The bad impression created in those circumstances in different parts of the Dominions cannot be overestimated. Therefore, I suggested prior to the last Imperial Conference, on behalf of our party, that we might get over the difficulty by representation of the Opposition. There are still, in my judgment, many questions, especially the one with which I have just dealt, the technical, difficult, constitutional and legal problems, which are vital to all parties, and in regard to which a continuity of policy is essential. I 1407 have no hesitation in saying that this kind of question ought to be the subject not merely of party decision but of Government decision which would be applicable to all. It was in that spirit that I made the suggestion to my right hon. Friend. He replied to me then—I have looked up his reply—very definitely. He pointed out that as far as his Government were concerned, they could not accede to that request, and they were fortified in that view by the action of the Dominions themselves. Unfortunately, that is the position to-day.
The Dominions hold very strong views on that matter, but, speaking for our own Government, I want to make it perfectly clear that we stand on that question just as I indicated when I made the request from the Opposition side of the House. If the Dominions themselves agree to it, then, so far as we are concerned, we certainly would welcome it, but, on the other hand, it would be absurd for us to impose a condition which was not acceptable to the other parts of the Empire. Whether certain questions might receive consideration from other than Governments is a matter that would have to be further considered. Whether our own Government would take the risk of ourselves being represented in a different form from the other Dominions, because it would be ourselves that would be doing it, would be, I think, an innovation that would be calculated to do more harm than good. I have, however, indicated that, so far as we are concerned, we have not changed our view, and if any of our Dominions feel that they would like that policy to be adopted, there will be no opposition so far as we are concerned.
The right hon. Gentleman raised the very important and controversial subject of internal currency, internal in the sense of Empire currency. The general question of currency and the virtues and vices of the gold standard I have had hammered into me during the last 12 months until, God knows, I do not know which is right and which is wrong. I am happy that I am not called upon to give any explanation hearing on the gold standard and man months. We are asked whether this question will be discussed at the Imperial Conference. It is a tremendously difficult and tremendously important question. I do not 1408 think that anyone is in a position to dogmatise on any of these technical questions. There was a time when it was quite easy to argue the merits of the gold standard, when it would have been easy to have had a straightforward, simple explanation of the value or otherwise of inflation or deflation; but the economic position of the world to-day and the remarkable changes which have occurred, make one feel that it would be unwise to dogmatise as to the virtues or otherwise of any of them.
No one knows better than the right hon. Gentleman that this subject bristles with internal difficulties so far as the Empire is concerned. I will give one simple illustration that has occurred to me without a moment's consideration. Look at the amazing difficulty there would be in Canada, with the borderline of America, with the daily trade as between America and Canada, with American transport running into Canada, with American methods practically over the whole of Canada. One can see at a glance the tremendous difficulty that would be encountered there. If the question is to be raised, and I understand that it is likely to be raised, well, it will have to be considered, but whether the result of that consideration will enable some scheme to emerge one cannot tell until the discussion has taken place. I say on this subject, as I have said previously with regard to others, all these things are legitimate subjects for our consideration.
I have only been Secretary of State for the Dominions about 10 days, and I have replied as clearly as I could to the many technical points that have been raised. I am very happy to be able to take part in this discussion to-day, rather than in a discussion on the Lord Privy Seal's salary. I look forward to the Imperial Conference with interest and pleasure—interest because I believe there never was a time when a more thorough and impartial consideration should be given to all our problems than at this moment, because I believe the present state of our own country is such that nothing ought to prevent any individual or party from examining anything and everything that will tend to mitigate, ease or help our problems; and pleasure because it will enable me to renew the acquaintance of many old friends in the 1409 Dominions in a more agreeable atmosphere than that of the office of the Lord Privy Seal.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
It is an unfortunate circumstance, so far as this debate is concerned, that the right hon. Gentleman's salary does not yet appear in the Vote, but I feel certain that not even for £5,000 would he return to the office of the Lord Privy Seal, and we are all glad to see him discharging his great responsibilities as the head of the Dominions Office. Let me say a word or two, first of all, on the question of the representation of parties in the Imperial Conference. As the right hon. Gentleman pointed out, the subjects to be discussed will be of peculiar delicacy, difficulty and complexity. It will be a very critical conference. We have been warned of that my many of the great Imperial statesmen, including General Smuts in his speeches both in this country and in Canada. It is, of course, vital not only in connection with the delicate constitutional question referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, but also in regard to economic questions, that we should preserve continuity of policy. We have generally achieved a broad identity of aim and view on the main objectives of Imperial policy, but I have some doubt as to whether we are not exposed to an unnecessary risk so long as Governments enter into these conferences without the support and co-operation of other parties in the State. This question was discussed last year on the initiative of the right hon. Member for Derby (Mr. Thomas), who raised the issue on this Vote and put forward the idea that we should have a conference of Parliaments. He said:I myself have suggested that the real solution is that the Imperial Conference, instead of being a Conference of Governments, should be a Conference of Parliaments. By a Conference of Parliaments I mean a conference where representatives of all parties would be present."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1929; col. 441, Vol. 227.]Later on in the same speech he said:Evers view I have expressed to-day is and will be the considered policy of our party and what we intend to give effect to."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April 1929; col. 447, Vol. 227.]What steps have been taken during the past 12 months to give effect to this policy? There are, of course, difficulties. 1410 It is not a policy which you can ram down the throats of the Dominions; it can only be considered if they are willing to accept it. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), in opposing the suggestion last year, made it quite clear that one of the difficulties was that the Dominions were not favourable. But have any steps been taken by the present Government to ascertain whether the objections of the Dominions are less strong now than they were then? Even on such comparatively small matters as an adjustment of tariffs and fiscal arrangements, which the Conservative party proposed to the Imperial Conference of 1923, their rejection was undoubtedly an unfortunate episode, merely from the point of view of Imperial relations. It was inevitable from the first day that they were announced that they would be strongly and sincerely opposed by representatives of other parties in this country, yet the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook last year said that he did not realise that they ran so counter to the conditions of other parties, and he added.I will go so far as to say that it might conceivably have been a good thing in 1923 if, outride the Economic Conference, we had taken some Members of other parties into consultation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th April, 1929; col. 483, Vol. 227.]I hope there will be some measure of consultation between the other parties in the State on the important questions which are to be discussed at the forthcoming Conference. The principle of continuity of policy is in some degree opposed to the principle of rapidity of action, but in matters concerning the whole economic progress of the great family of nations which is known as the British Empire progress must be slaw and continuity of policy, in my submission, is vital. But continuity of policy can have very little validity as a principle of political action for any political party unless there is previous consultation. I will only add that the idea of placing large issues of policy outside the range of party controversies and even outside the range of Parliament sovereignty by a mechanical constitutional device like the Referendum is not only chimerical but dangerous. I agree with the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that there should be some organisation actively in operation between these Imperial Conferences, and 1411 I am delighted to hear that this matter is on the agenda of the next Conference.
I want to refer on broad and general lines to a question which is one of the most important and perhaps the most fundamental that will come before the Imperial Conference, and that is the question of oversea settlement. If we are frank we must admit that progress has been disappointing in recent years. The Secretary of state agrees, and says that it ought to be discussed in wider aspects than it has been hitherto. I am glad to hear that statement from the right hon. Gentleman. I quite agree that it must not merely or mainly be considered as a means for meeting the unemployment difficulties of this country. Ultimately and indirectly it will have an immense effect upon the future prosperity of this country but, in the meantime, it is a common imperial concern. You have these vast empty spaces in our great Dominions and teeming populations in other countries knocking at the gate, and that is a great danger not only to this country but to every single Dominion and to the whole structure of the British Commonwealth of Nations. We must take the lead in these matters. I have a few practical suggestions to make but I understand that I must not do so on this Vote, but must wait until a better opportunity occurs later on.
There is one consideration, however, which I might mention now, and that is this, that it is a great mistake for us to discuss the question of Imperial and overseas development on the one hand and home development, agricultural development in this country, on the other hand in watertight compartments. They are all part of the same policy. We do not want to get them into antagonism, some people saying that we must go in for the development of agriculture and others that the important thing is to get the men abroad. They are all part of one problem; and the foundation of that problem is the development of the countryside at home. Unless you have a policy for the development of agriculture at home, for the development of the countryside, a policy to meet the land-hunger which exists for small holdings, you are trying to build your Imperial house without its foundations. The foundation is a healthy, prosperous and 1412 vigorous peasantry in our own country, from which you will be able to find the pioneers. People often complain that in these days there are no pioneers. The reason is because we have dried up the supply of pioneers at the source. Our villages are empty, our farm servants, our agricultural labourers and our fishermen are leaving the countryside. You will have to reverse that process if you are to lay the foundations of a strong and vigorous Empire.
From a consideration of oversea settlement it is natural to turn to the question of markets and the full economic development of our Imperial resources. I do not agree with the right hon. Gentleman for Sparkbrook that this is the only direction in which the Dominions are prepared for Imperial co-operation, but it is certainly an important one. It would therefore be a tragedy if in the name of Imperial unity and with the object of promoting the freer flow of trade and rapid economic development we were to place upon the trade of this Empire the shackles—the dangerous and galling shackles—of a system of tariffs.
§ The CHAIRMAN
I must point out to the hon. and gallant. Member that the question of tariffs does not arise on this Vote at all.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I am sorry to have transgressed but I am speaking in general terms. I was not going to refer to any particular policy.
§ The CHAIRMAN
A denunciation of tariffs by the hon. and gallant Member means that I must allow an appreciation of tariffs from the other side of the Committee.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I thought we had an appreciation of tariffs from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook.
§ The CHAIRMAN
It may have been so, but at that moment a colleague of the right hon. Gentleman was asking me a question about another Vote on Monday.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
That is wonderful staff work on the part of the Front Opposition Bench. I do not wish to transgress the Ruling you have laid down and, therefore, I take it that the question of the Import Board, a subject in 1413 which the hon. Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Wise) is interested, is also outside the discussion?
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
Surely it will be possible to discuss the Import Board in relation to the forthcoming Imperial Conference? It does not entail legislation, and I do not think it comes in the same category as tariffs. It is the same thing as currency.
§ The CHAIRMAN
In relation to the question of currency I understood the right hon. Gentleman wanted to know whether it would come up as part of the agenda of the forthcoming Imperial Conference. There is no reason why the hon. Member for Aberdeen, East (Mr. Boothby) should not make inquiries as to whether the Import Board is coming up on the agenda, but a general discussion on the work of the Import Board cannot be allowed.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I will only express, in passing, the hope that by this time next year the Secretary of State will have received his salary and that we shall have a wider discussion on Empire settlement and other matters which we have been prevented from raising on this occasion. I should like to have the opportunity of expressing my full agreement wall) those practical and constructive proposals which were put forward by the right hon. Member for Darwen. I am glad to see the Postmaster-General here. It would be well if we could have a cheapening of Imperial postage, with freer circulation of newspapers and reviews, and I hope that all those matters, with cable, and wireless, and those very important questions which have already been mentioned by the three right hon. Gentlemen who have preceded me, will be considered.
There is one particular matter in that connection, the importance of which I would like to stress, and that is the question of aviation. It is important from many points of view. It is important from the point of view of swift communication between the peoples in various parts of the Empire, and it is important because we have here a great new industry, which we have been a little slow in developing on the industrial side. We are leading on the technical side. Our pilots 1414 and airmen have proved themselves to be the finest in the world. Those great flights that have been made across the Atlantic—which our pilots, after all, were the first to fly—and to Australia, the speed records which we hold, and the winning of the Schneider Trophy have placed us in a leading position in the aviation of the world. On the operational side, too, the work of Imperial Airways is second to none among the operating companies in the world, and they are now giving advice to operating companies in every country.
We are at the present time spreading our Imperial air routes. The mileage grew last year from 19,000 to 35,000, or nearly double in 1929 compared with 1928, and there are great opportunities and great need in the vast spaces of the Empire for the development of civil aviation, for the improvement of communications between the different parts, and, as I say, for the building up of a great new industry, which will take its place in future years among the great industries of the Empire, just as shipping has in the past.
I would also mention the importance of voluntary Preference, as I am not allowed to discuss Imperial Preference. It is a very important thing, and one which arouses no controversy in any part of the House—the importance of the work of the Empire Marketing Board in this country, and its publicity work in particular, in promoting a willingness on the part of the people here to buy Empire goods. It is a great asset that we have a family of nations, and it is a very great asset for the trade of this family of nations that there is this inclination to buy the goods of other countries in the Empire.
There was perhaps only one portion of the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen with which I did not find myself in complete agreement, and that was his reference to the publicity expenditure of the Empire Marketing Board. Nor on the other hand do I think it deserved the strictures that the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook passed upon it, because he did not criticise it root and branch, but suggested that it was a part of the expenditure of the Board that ought to be particularly carefully watched. As a matter of fact, 1415 although it is true that sums of approximately £200,000 have been voted in a year for the publicity side of the Board's work, it does not all go in posters or in Press campaigns. Actually last year only about £60,000 was spent under each of these headings, but, a lot of it goes to exhibitions in this country, like those which the right hon. Gentleman himself so much admired and by which he was so much struck when he visited Belgium the other day. That comes under the head of publicity expenditure. Then there is work in connection with cinemas, and not only has it this great effect in encouraging Empire buying here and in satisfying the Dominions that we are doing something for them, but I would like to remind the right hon. Gentleman that the Imperial Economic Committee, whose work he praised so highly and so deservedly, recommended that no less than £600,000 should be spent on publicity work. Therefore, I think these sums which we are now spending on publicity are, having regard to the immense field in which we have to operate, by no means excessive.
I entirely agree with him that by far the most important branch of our work is the research work which we are doing. We have supplied for this Imperial research work, which is all agricultural research work at present, plant, money, and the means of co-operation between scientific workers of the highest capacity, working in an immense variety of conditions, which will enable them to make progress which, without that co-operation and without constant interchange of information at every stage of the development of their work, would have been quite beyond the range of possibility. It has given better prospects for young men to enter upon this career of research, which is so vitally important, from the standpoint of the necessities not merely of this country or even of the Empire, but of mankind as a whole.
It is one of the weaknesses of our civilisation at the present time that these scientific research workers who give themselves up to the pursuit of truth and knowledge are so badly paid, that there are so few prizes to encourage them to go into that kind of work, and I am proud to think that the work of the Empire Marketing Board—in which I 1416 have had a tiny share, for which I am grateful to the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook and to the present Secretary of State—is enabling us to do something, at any rate, to advance towards a solution of that problem. We have set up these Imperial and Economic Bureaux, which study great questions like dietetics and genetics, and we have men in each of these sciences, working in different countries, under different conditions, and sending their information and the results of their work back to a clearing house in this country, where it is all sifted, and then that which is of interest to different workers in different parts of the world is sent out again to them.
It is a magnificent system, and it will, in the course of years—it will, of course, take time—produce great results; and I should like to see that extended to aviation. You have, in different parts of the Empire now, these centres of air activity. You have research stations in Canada and other parts of the Empire, and I think it would be a good plan if they could be linked up in the same way so that discoveries made here at the National Physical Laboratory at Teddington, or at Farnborough, and other places, some of which may not have very much application to conditions here, but would be of immense value to research workers in other parts of the Empire, may be pooled with the results of research workers in other parts of the Empire, and co-operation organised in a central clearing house or Imperial Bureau. I hope that will also be discussed at the Imperial Conference and some such organisation instituted for aviation research. This work of linking up scientists all over the Empire is going to enable us, I hope and believe, to take a real lead in this vital work all over the world. It makes it simpler when they are all working together, with men talking the same language; it makes it easier for them to make progress; and no doubt one other thing that makes it easier is the fact that there is a little of the spirit of national egotism or patriotism entering into the work and inspiring them as they go along. National egotism is a dangerous force. It creates armaments, it leads us into war, and it deludes us with all sorts of economic heresies, but if it is harnessed, it can be made of use. Let it quicken our statesmanship, let it inspire and lead to co-operation among our great 1417 scientific research workers in all parts of the world, and let it be our proudest boast, not that we have greater armaments, or more money, or wider territories than any other nation in the world, but that we are foremost among the nations in the pursuit of truth and knowledge and thereby contribute the more abundantly to the progress of civilization and to the welfare of the people not merely of our country, or the Empire, but of all mankind.
§ Mr. WISE
In the interesting speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), there was one point which I think requires some consideration. He talked about the desirability, before the Imperial Conference starts, of proper consultations between the three Front Benches. Whether or not that may be desirable—and on the whole I think it is, and I gather from the smile of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who is leading the Liberal party at the moment, that he shares my view, and possibly he has good reason to feel confident as to its possibility—I would suggest that it is more important that there should be an opportunity in this House, before the Imperial Conference starts, of discussing the proposals which the Government intend to lay before the Conference.
Many of us on these benches had hoped that this Vote to-day would have given us that opportunity, and I hope the Government, in full accord with their views on relations between Governments and Parliaments in the past, will take the House into their confidence and give us the opportunity of a full discussion on the measures which they propose to lay before the Imperial Conference, and particularly those that refer to the economic relations between the Dominions and other parts of the Empire and this country. That is a matter which raises great controversial issues of public policy, and the House is entitled to discuss them, as I think, before the Government commit the country to them.
§ The DEPUTY - CHAIRMAN (Mr. Dunnico)
I think the hon. Member would not be in order in discussing that question in detail. He is entitled to ask questions, but he could not discuss the merits or the details of specific relations.
§ Miss WILKINSON
On a point of Order. As it has been ruled that we cannot discuss these varied questions because the salary of the Secretary of State has not been put down, would it be in order for me or one of us to move that the salary of the Secretary of State should be minus £5, in order that we could get on to the business which we all want to discuss—that he owes us £5.
§ Mr. WISE
I have no desire to discuss the merits of a policy which, in fact, has not yet been disclosed. The Minister in his speech referred to the figures of trade between this country and the Dominions. He drew attention to the fact that while the trade of the Dominions, like the trade of the rest of the world, had in the period between 1913 and now increased by 20 per cent. or more, actually the trade of this country was down by 20 per cent., and he gave some indication that figures of this sort might in due course come before the Imperial Conference. I observe that the Empire Marketing Board, among its other valuable activities, is conducting some interesting economic researches. I regard the Board as one of the most interesting experiments in State Socialism in which the party opposite has yet indulged, because it brings the State into a whole range of activities and a whole sphere of interests which hon. Members opposite always told us were the special preserves of private traders.
The researches to which I refer constitute no small part of its work and though they cover a rather wide range, the actual investigations, at present, seem to be rather narrow and particular in their scope. They are looking into such questions as the sale of Australian butter in this country and the better marketing of Scottish eggs and matters of that sort, and, incidentally, under this heading they finance the investigations of the economic missions which sometimes make extremely valuable reports on trade between Australia and this country. I suggest to the Government and those who direct the policy of the Board that those researches ought to be extended to cover a much wider range and that before the Imperial Economic Conference 1419 sits, Parliament should be furnished, and of course the Conference itself should be furnished, with reports bearing on a number of important problems of a much wider range than those which seem to be dealt with under this heading at present.
The Minister referred to the total figures of Dominion trade and to the export trade of this country. If he had carried his investigation into the detailed figures of the trade of particular Dominions with this country, imports and exports, I think he would have disclosed facts and tendencies which are extremely grave and dangerous. Actually it is quite true that the Dominions' trade—their exports and imports—have largely increased, but if we take the trade of Australia, New Zealand or South Africa with this country in the last year for which figures are available, namely 1928, and compare that trade with their purchases from this country in 1913, and reduce the figures to a common level of value, it will be found that the purchases by the Dominions in this country in 1928 were rather less than they were in 1913, although in that period the purchases of the Dominions from other sources of supply very largely increased. For example, Canada's purchases in this country in 1928 were comparatively very little larger, comparing value with value, than in 1913, whereas her purchases from the United States increased by tens of millions of pounds.
Australia's purchases in this country in 1928 were in value no larger than in 1913 though her purchases from the United States and Japan increased three-fold. In South Africa we find the same state of things and, generally, it is fair to say that while there has been a big increase in the purchase by the Dominions of manufactured goods in the great industrial countries, practically the whole of that increase has gone by this country and those purchases have been made in the United States, in Germany or in Japan. That is a matter of great importance. During most of that period Governments have been in office in this country which, at Election time at any rate, made a great deal of their desire and intention to improve trade between this country and the Dominions. They seem to have failed entirely in securing 1420 for this country any part or any substantial part of that great increase in trade from Canada or other Dominions, which, after all, is one of the most important phenomena in the world of trade to-day. The general purchases of the Dominions in the last 10 or 15 years have increased at a much greater rate than the general increase either of the trade of this country—which in fact has gone backwards—or the general increase of the trade of the world. I think that is a question to the investigation of which the Empire Marketing Board ought to divert a good deal of the money which it is prepared to spend upon research.
I should like the Board to carry it further and to examine the position of each Dominion in detail to see what each Dominion is getting from its trade with this country and what we are getting from our trade with each Dominion. For example, this country takes the largest share of the Canadian wheat export. We also take a great deal of timber, much cheese and various other commodities and altogether, according to the figures given by the late Lord Privy Seal, Canada is selling to us about five times as much as she is buying from us. We find much the same thing in regard to Australia though not to the same extent, and, also, to a smaller extent, in the case of South Africa. This is a matter which no doubt will receive attention at the Imperial Conference. In the meantime, some weeks or months have to elapse and the actual facts and figures trade by trade and commodity by commodity both ways ought to be carefully examined.
Are there no means of utilising the immense value of the British markets to the Canadians and perhaps consolidating their position in some way? Two or three methods have been proposed. There is the method proposed by hon. Gentlemen opposite above the Gangway and there is the method of import boards into which I cannot go in detail at this moment. But at any rate it should be within the powers and possibilities of the Empire Marketing Board, in its inquiries into methods of improving trade between this country and the Dominions—and those are its terms of reference—to investigate carefully various methods which may be and have been proposed and to report on the technical details 1421 which will at a later stage arise. Not only could they go into the question of providing Canada and Australia with a more secure market in this country but I think it would be well within their terms of reference, as well as being vital to this country, in view of the figures which have been laid before us as to the general trend of inter-Imperial trade, to examine the various methods to which I have referred. I would stress particularly the method of using the power of bulk imports in bargaining with the Dominions for increasing our export trade and selling to them a larger proportion of the goods which at present they buy from other countries. The Board, as I say, could examine the question of how far these various methods would meet the difficulty arising from a tendency which, if it continues, will be disastrous to British trade.
It need not end there. The case of Canada I have mentioned. The cases of the other Dominions are analogous and a whole range of questions have been raised in a general way, by discussions both outside Parliament and inside the Tory party, in relation to our trade with the Colonies which seems to require careful and elaborate examination so that we may have presented to us an exact and reliable report on the facts and figures involved and on the economic administrative and business effects of the various remedies proposed. I believe that the Empire Marketing Board and the various committees of investigation which have been set up under it have performed and are performing services of great value to this country, in view of the very critical position at the moment of our trade generally and our trade with the Dominions—which, after all, has been and should be a big standby to us in our economic problems. I think it is time that the Board expanded its operations so as to provide for Parliament that exact and reliable material which could be made the basis and foundation of an effective policy of trade expansion, on lines suited to the changed circumstances of world trade, in which we are getting great concentrations of buying and selling in other countries, and on lines more in accord with the general temper of this House and of the country, which looks to the expansion of State activities rather than to the fostering and 1422 buttressing up of private trade as the way out of our difficulties. I believe that these reports would be of immense value to the country.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
The speech of the hon. Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) was, as his speeches usually are, very interesting and proved to be a plea for some measure of accurate thought applied to the economic problems of the day. It always seems to me, especially when we are dealing with a question such as that before us now—the importance of which cannot be over estimated—that one of the tragedies of our age is that all the problems that matter are purely economic. They are not moral, ethical, religious or political, but are enonomic problems, pure and simple. No other problems at the present time are of the slightest importance. But party politicians, unfortunately, are not the people who, by reason of their profession, are best qualified to address their minds to the solution of these problems. We must sooner or later in this country set up some machinery which will help us to achieve a solution of the economic problems which press upon us so severely. I believe that the hon. Member for Leicester is quite right in pointing out that the Empire Marketing Board might be developed, and indeed will have to be developed, into one engine of economic thought, so that the politicians—and the Government of the day—may be supplied with accurate information upon certain questions.
There are one or two parts of the problem to which I wish to direct the particular attention of the Under-Secretary. Although I disagree with some of the speech of my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair), he made one observation which I regard as profoundly true. It was that the question of British industrial and agricultural prosperity and the question of Imperial prosperity are only two parts of one central, interrelated problem; and I believe he was also right when he went on to say that the whole future of Imperial economic prosperity must be founded upon British agricultural prosperity. That perhaps is the key to the whole major problem at the present time. I hope that the Imperial Economic Conference will have its attention directed continally to the 1423 state of agriculture, not merely in the Dominions, but also in this country. But General Smuts went to the root of the question of Imperial trade when he pointed out, as long ago as 1922, that you could not fairly expect the Dominions to continue to take manufactured goods in large quantities from these islands, and at the same time get no reciprocal advantage from us in the way of taking their produce. We in this party believe that reciprocal tariffs must be an essential part of the future economic structure of the British Empire; and I would ask the hon. Gentleman a definite question, which has not yet been answered, namely, whether the consideration of such tariffs is definitely excluded from the agenda of the Economic Conference? I hope that the question will not be excluded.
The same thing applies to import control and bulk purchase, about which the hon. Gentleman the Member for East Leicester has been talking. If ever there were a problem which in its essence ought to be non-party and outside the political bias of all sections of the community, it is this. It is a highly technical question; many powerful arguments can be adduced in its favour, and a great many can be brought against it; it certainly ought not to be handled by the Central Office of the Conservative party on the one hand or by the Publicity Bureau of the Labour party in Eccleston Square on the other, nor by the "pamphlet" method. This matter of import control is far too technical to be made the sport of party politics. It is a question which ought to be considered on its merits by trained economists. The difficulties are not political difficulties; they arise out of the danger of not being able to stop if you once embark on a policy of this kind, and whether you would be led further and further, ultimately to control the whole of production. Some of us are apprehensive about that. If you once embarked on a course of this kind, and there was a breakdown in the machine, a very grave state of affairs would arise.
On the question of inter-Imperial transport, the hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Caithness and Sutherland made an extraordinary statement. He said that we led the world in air transport, and that "Imperial Airways"—of all companies, in the world— 1424 was the finest and most efficient company. I submit that we have made disgracefully slow progress in the matter of inter-Imperial air transport in the last 10 years, and I am certain that "Imperial Airways" compares most unfavourably with almost any other important air company operating on the Continent. Compare the discomfort and slowness of "Imperial Airways" with the services you get in Germany; there is room for a vast amount of improvement in the whole of our air development, and organisation. The fact that we won the Schneider Cup is of no substantial importance one way or the other. Compare the importance of the Schneider Trophy, on the one hand, with the whole question of Imperial air development, particularly the development of air transport to India and the Far East, on the other. The service through the Middle East to India has not been developed as it ought to have been in the last three or four years, and the services are not so frequent as they ought to be. I hope that this question of air transport, and also that of telephone communication, will receive the special attention of the Government.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
As the hon. Gentleman has not appreciated my point, perhaps he will allow me to elucidate the position. I did not say that we led the world in aviation, but in technical development and the ability of our pilots. The Schneider Cup shows that we have reached a particular standard of technical development in the production of speed aeroplanes; it was in that respect that I referred to the Schneider Cup. Actually, we increased our mileage by 70 per cent. in 1929 as compared with 1928, and by 70 per cent. in 1928 as compared with 1927. These are no mean achievements, and do not deserve to be entirely brushed aside, as if there were something radically wrong with the aviation of this country. My argument was directed to show, as the hon. Member agreed, that we ought to make a great further effort to improve the position of aviation.
§ Mr. BOOTHBY
I do not remember the hon. and gallant Gentleman ever having mentioned the excellence of British pilots. If he says that he did, I entirely accept It, and I agree with him; but the excellence of British pilots and 1425 our skill in technical development only make more deplorable our failure to build up air transport on a far larger scale, and to provide a much more efficient and speedier service throughout the Empire.
I wish to turn to a question which was raised by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery), a question which I hope will be put upon the Agenda of the forthcoming Imperial Economic Conference. We did not get a direct answer from the Secretary of State on the point, although he said that the question would not be definitely excluded; but we want to know definitely whether it will be included on the Agenda. I refer to the question of currency—the institution of an Imperial currency. The chief cause of the recent rapid rise in unemployment in this country, and in almost every country in the world, has been the sensational and continuous decline of wholesale prices. The Secretary of State for the Dominions said that we cannot afford to be dogmatic on this question. Nobody can afford to be dogmatic on the subject of anything, but there is one thing that ought to be clear even to the right hon. Gentleman, and that is that the world fall in wholesale prices must be due to monetary causes and can be due to nothing else. Nobody can deny that by inflation we would immediately get a cheek in the fall of wholesale prices, followed by a rise; which proves that monetary causes are responsible for any upward or downward movement over a prolonged period in wholesale world prices.
Some of us have been asking ourselves recently what remedy there is because the Government apparently believe that they are in the grip of world forces over which they have no control whatsoever. For the last four or five months the Government have been telling us that they are practically helpless in the face of these world causes, and that there is nothing for us to do except to sit down and pray that things will be somehow better. That summarises not unfairly the policy of the Government in relation to unemployment. Here is a possible method of escape from forces which, I agree, are world-wide in their operation. The Genoa Conference of 1922 laid down as axiomatic that there must be co-opera- 1426 tion in the use of gold between the central banks of issue, and they recommended that a conference should be summoned forthwith to consider two things—the economical use of gold and the stabilisation of the value of gold in relation to commodities. They are the two things which were held to be necessary if an international gold standard was to be operated successfully. No conference of any kind has been held, and, as the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook pointed out, there has been during the last two or three years a scramble for the available supplies of gold, which in any event were insufficient for the annual volume of production. The Federal Reserve Board of New York and the Bank of France have been busily sucking in the already insufficient available supplies of gold in the world at the present time.
What are we going to do if we cannot secure international co-operation between the central banks of issue? There would appear to be only one way, and that is to establish an Imperial currency, based upon a gold exchange standard. We ought not to forget that 70 per cent. of the annual output of gold is produced within the British Empire, and I am certain that, if we were to form a common gold pool for the Empire, we could manage to get along by ourselves, and ultimately to free ourselves from dependence on New York on the one hand, and Paris and Amsterdam on the other. If we could establish a gold exchange standard within the Empire, which would mean that the currencies of each participating Dominion or Colony should be exchangeable into one another at par, and if, by one method or another, we could contrive to use to the full the gold resources of the Empire, and also form some form of gold pool, so as to economise its use, we could not only free ourselves from foreign dependence, but do more—stop the disastrous fall in wholesale prices all over the British Empire. Thereby we should do much to relieve the problem of unemployment. I beg the Under-Secretary to give some answer before the House rises in July and indicate that this question will actually be placed on the agenda on the forthcoming conference.
One other point I want to raise relates to the question of machinery, of which we have heard a good deal. I cannot 1427 think that there is sufficient co-ordination on the purely administrative side. How can we expect the Dominions and Colonies Departments, the Overseas Trade Department, the Empire Marketing Board and the Imperial Economic Committee, all these various committees and institutions, to work harmoniously together and evolve a coherent and logical policy of Empire development? It is not possible, and the time has come when we must have some form of permanent organisation to sit between Imperial Conferences to be guided by the decisions of those Conferences, with representatives of the Dominions sitting upon it, but also with a permanent secretariat of its own.
I do not see why the Empire Marketing Board should not be made to serve that purpose. The Empire Marketing Board is one of the most interesting economic experiments that has been carried out in the last few years, and the work that it has done has been beyond praise. I agree with the hon. Member for East Leicester that its work ought to be enormously extended. More research ought to be done over a much wider field, and on the purely marketing side a deal more might be done. I do not see why it should not be fused with the Imperial Economic Committee. I do not see why it should not have a permanent secretariat, and I do not see why, under, of course, the supreme direction of the Secretary of State himself, and ultimately of the Cabinet, it should not be given certain administrative powers and made, in effect, the supreme technical authority so far as the economic development and organisation of the Empire are concerned. At any rate I would beg that this question of machinery should come under the consideration of the Conference.
I will conclude by asking this question: "Will machinery, currency, import control and reciprocal tariffs all come up for consideration at this forthcoming Conference?" because I am perfectly certain that it is upon those four main points that the future economic organisation of the British Empire must ultimately be built up. I do not say they must all be put into operation, although I am perfectly certain there ought to be a change of machinery now; but these are the four vital questions from the purely economic point of view, and they 1428 ought to be exhaustively considered. As is well known, many of us on this side of the Committee, whatever our political allegiances may be, do believe that unless we in this country can be brought to form part of an economic unit which is large enough to take the goods which are produced now under mass production, unless we can form part of an economic unit larger than ourselves, we shall be isolated, and cut off by the powerful economic unit of the United States of America on the one side and by Europe on the other side, both surrounded by high and growing tariff walls. That is our fear, and we do see in the Empire, in no jingo or tub-thumping spirit, a potentially more powerful, richer and stronger unit from every point of view than any unit the world has ever known.
§ Mr. CHARLES BUXTON
I wish to bring to the notice of the Committee and the Under-Secretary a subject which has not been alluded to but which happens to be within the sphere of competence of the Dominions Office, and that is the question of our relations with Southern Rhodesia. I had intended to raise some other questions which, I understand from your predecessor in the Chair, would not be covered by the Vote, but this particular subject, as far as I can ascertain, can only be dealt with on the Estimate for the Dominions Secretariat, because it has no special Vote of its own. It is one of those cases where the Dominions Office still retain functions very similar to those of the Secretary of State for the Colonies, where, owing to the peculiar difficulty of separating out on a logical basis the functions relating to the Dominions and Colonies, certain obligations for the protection of native interests are still left with the Secretary of State for the Dominions. When a Constitution was granted to Southern Rhodesia which makes it, in effect, a Dominion, and therefore brings it under the Dominion Office, certain restrictions were imposed in it in the interests of the native population, who number some 800,000 persons, as against the 40,000 white persons to whom the government of the whole country was committed. The restriction related to the acquisition of land. By Section 43 of the Constitution a native may acquire, hold, encumber and dispose of land on the same conditions as a person who is not a native.
1429 The Southern Rhodesian Government wished to introduce a Measure which was inconsistent with that provision. That Measure declared that certain areas of land should be open for purchase by white persons only and certain other areas open for purchase by natives only. I am not attacking the principle of this Bill at all, but am raising a question of more general application, namely, the method by which we are to enforce or apply the restriction embodied in this Constitution. I suggest to the Under-Secretary that the action taken in this respect has not been very satisfactory. The Bill proposed that some 18,000,000 acres should be open for purchase by whites and 8,000,000 acres, a very much smaller area, for the natives, and that round about another 18,000,000 acres should be left over for future allocation, without any provision being made for it at all. This clearly goes against the provision that the native must be allowed to Purchase land on exactly the same terms as the white, and, therefore, a change had to be made in Clause 43 of the Constitution. I am not suggesting to the Under-Secretary that he should have refused to sanction the Bill. There is a case for it. I am not saying the Southern Rhodesian Government could not make out quite a reasonable argument to the effect that the natives would, in the long run, be better off under these new provisions than they are now in actual fact, but I suggest that the position of the Secretary of State, who had to see that this Clause was observed or altered, should have enabled him to impose—I will not say "impose," that is a disagreeable word, but suggest—better terms for the natives. It might have been suggested that a large proportion of the land left unallocated should be allocated to native purchase. The terms were not fair in my opinion, even though the principle of the Bill might be fair.
As far as I understand it what has happened is that the Secretary of State has been willing virtually to abrogate this restrictive provision in the Constitution altogether and not merely in order to allow this Bill to become an Act of Parliament. We have been told that Amendments are being introduced in this restricted Clause doing away with the protection which was formerly guaranteed to the natives in respect of land purchase, and that this abrogation 1430 applies not only to this Bill but to all future times. For aught we know, there may be other suggestions in future that are inequitable as between the natives and the white inhabitants, and the protection laid down by Clause 43 will no longer be available. I ask for information on the subject, because on the face of it it looks as though a most valuable protection had been thrown away; but I admit that I do not know, because we have not been told, what exactly the Amendment of Clause 43 has been. If the Under-Secretary can show that this Clause has only been amended in such a way as to let through this particular Bill and that something is still left of it which still provides that protection for native interests which was reserved to the Imperial Government no one will be better satisfied than I shall be.
§ Mr. MANDER
I desire to raise certain points in connection with the work of the Empire Marketing Board.
§ The DEPUTY-CHAIRMAN
I think it is obvious that it is almost impossible to separate the two Votes, and if it is the wish of the Committee I propose to allow the Empire Marketing Board to be discussed on the first Vote.
§ Mr. MANDER
It seems to me that there are two very different sides to the work of the Board, and I desire to distribute a little praise and blame over the two sides. I would like to pay a tribute to the excellent work being done in research and marketing. That is a thoroughly sound and businesslike way of developing the Empire, and I am glad to see a considerable increase in the amount budgeted for this year on that side of the work. I hope the Government will concentrate as much of their energy as they can on the research and marketing side. I wish to ask the Under-Secretary what steps are being taken to prevent overlapping. We have in the Board a very effective instrument, but within the last year we have set up under the Colonial Development Act another body which is doing, to some extent, similar work, and we also have the Imperial Institute, and I rather think there are other bodies also engaged in work of this kind. I believe there is considerable overlapping. I think the Government ought seriously to consider 1431 whether the Imperial Institute is really necessary and ought to be continued on its present scale in the existing situation. I understand that some years ago there was an idea of bringing its functions to an end.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Lunn)
Is the hon. Member putting this in the form of a question, or has he any evidence of his statement?
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MANDER
I am asking the question. I want him to be good enough to give the Government's view when he replies. I certainly think there is something in it. On the publicity side of the work of the Board there has been a shocking waste of public money. This country is obtaining no value at all for a great deal of that expenditure. No doubt it has had a certain effect in bringing orders to this country and making people buy the products of the Empire, but not in proportion to the amount of money expended, and I believe the public are getting rather tired of seeing these posters about the country. I think the frames themselves are too small to attract the proper attention in an outside advertising campaign, and that the appeals are lacking in freshness. I hope the Government will see their way to cutting out as far as possible the whole of the work on the Press publicity side. I am glad to see they have cut down expenditure to a certain extent this year—£18,000 on the Press campaign and £35,000 on the poster campaign; but we are still spending £263,000 a year on distributing orders to newspapers and placing posters all over the country in order to persuade ourselves to buy goods which we might not otherwise want to purchase, and in some cases to persuade one Dominion to buy the goods of another Dominion, a matter which does not affect us directly at all. I say that it is a fundamentally unsound and unbusinesslike arrangement. We might as well expect when we purchase some Bovril or Cadbury's chocolate or Guinness to receive in addition to the article a bill making a charge in order 1432 to help to pay for the advertising of those products. That is what is happening in the operations of the Empire Marketing Board, and I say this practice cannot be defended on its merits. The inception of the Empire Marketing Board was none too respectable. It really arose through an attempt to get the Leader of the Opposition out of a hole into which he had fallen. He was at that time dabbling in one of his efforts at food taxation. In 1923 he went to the country with a very limited scale of food taxes, only taxing tinned salmon or something of that kind, and the electors rejected even that small amount of food taxation as they will always reject food taxation, whether protected by referendum or by any other device. When they rejected it and the right hon. Gentleman came into office again, he desired to keep faith, and, being unable to put duties on food, he decided to spend £1,000,000 in order to make up for the pledges he could not keep. As channels had to be found to spend the money, a large sum had to be placed out on publicity work which is thoroughly unsound.
As to the other side of the propaganda, when we had the "Buy British" campaign, it did a lot of harm to this country in other parts of the world. It was keenly resented by foreign countries who thought that we were not interested in their needs in any way. I ask the Government to consider seriously the reactions of this policy. We are exporting to foreign countries £400,000,000 of goods, and it is worth considering whether it is wise and tactful to seem to be interested only in trade with the Empire and to be not really interested in trade with South America or Europe or any other part of the world. There is a great deal to be said for cutting down this expenditure which is doing very little good and in many respects is doing harm. On page 83 of the report of the Empire Marketing Board there is a reference to the poster frames erected in other countries, Australia, New Zealand, West Africa and the British West Indies. Have we really got to this position, that we are spending money to erect frames in the West Indies, in New Zealand, and other places in order to persuade the West Indies, for example, to buy South African goods or the New Zealanders to 1433 buy Australian goods? As I understand the scheme outlined on that page, that is what it means at the present time, and it is an extraordinarily far-fetched development, of the Empire Marketing Board, and beyond all reason. I hope the hon. Member will be able to explain why it is being done and hold out some hope that it will be reconsidered in the interests of the taxpayer of this country.
I notice that among the posters displayed was one headed, "The Empire stands for Peace." Is it the intention of the Marketing Board—though there is a great deal to be said for it—to go in for peace propaganda? It is an interesting development, if it is so, but it is somewhat novel, and the Committee ought to be told that the Government are entering upon definite propaganda all over the Empire in favour of peace through the Empire Marketing Board, which was never intended for a purpose of that kind. We do not in the least object to it, and the more of it the better, but whether this particular Vote ought to bear it is a matter for most careful consideration. The Government may say that they have got all these poster frames all over the country and ask what is going to happen to them. I am going to make a suggestion, which was made by my hon. Friend the Member for Birkenhead (Mr. White) the other day. Would it not be possible to let those poster frames to one of the political organisations in this country as was done at the time of the last Election? Would it not be possible to put the Conservative party and Lord Beaverbrook in competition for the hiring of those poster frames in order to put the public in possession of their varying plans for taxing the food of this country? That would raise a good sum of money and would enable the people to see exactly what these food taxation proposals are.
In conclusion, I would say that there are three points I wish to press on the hon. Member: First, to cut down as far as he possibly can the wasteful and uneconomic expenditure on publicity at present; secondly, in so far as work of this kind is carried on by the Board, we should endeavour to make it reciprocal and try to pursuade the Dominions to come in and make it a mutual concern and not place the whole of the burden upon the taxpayers and people of this 1434 country; and, lastly, while saving the money on publicity, we should support the really admirable work being done on research and marketing under the excellent administration of the Empire Marketing Board at the present time.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I am really sorry the hon. Member who has just sat down has made this attack. He misunderstands the policy of the Empire Marketing Board in what it is trying to do, and he is still possessed of the idea that the publicity work of the Empire Marketing Board is in come way associated with political propaganda. Let me assure him that from the very outset, under this Government and the last Government, continually through its history every effort has been made to keep any propaganda of that sort out altogether and keep it on an absolutely non-party basis.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
From the first, the value of these posters has been that they do bring home to the people the fact that this country and the Empire overseas do produce articles that they can obtain. The publicity has not been to push the sale of particular commodities, but to give a general background to the whole of the people of this country of the economic advantages of all knds of Empire development. The slogan, "Buy home and overseas" has been welcomed by producers of this country quite as much as by producers overseas. It is not so much the slogan but the general educational value of this publicity in a field which has never been touched before. The hon. Member says that it is doing actual harm. What possible harm can it do people to know what the resources of the Empire are and what is being done in different parts of the Empire?
The use that is being made by the schools up and down the country, and not only in this country but in all parts of the Empire, of those posters has alone been worth all the money. No school need take the posters. Each school, if it wants the posters, must apply for them, and it is entirely a matter for the local teachers and local education authorities if they want them. Thousands of schools controlled by Liberal and Socialist bodies as well as by Conservative bodies have very gratefully received the posters, and 1435 they are enormously appreciated as works of art quite as much as because of their real educational value. I see absolutely no harm in that, but the hon. Member asks why they go overseas.
We want, the people overseas to know that we at home are producing and are doing something to help producers throughout the Empire. Incidentally, it shows the oversea producers that a, real effort is being made by the British Government to find a market for the products of the people we encourage and assist to migrate and produce. The inception of the proposal to spend a certain proportion of the Empire Marketing Board's money on publicity came from the Imperial Economic Committee, a nonpolitical body, and very largely as the result of representations by producers in different parts of the Empire to that effect. The Imperial Economic Committee suggested, as a matter of fact, that a very much higher percentage of the Empire Marketing Board's money should be spent on publicity than on research. In practice the percentages have been reversed. It is right that they should be so.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I am afraid I have not the figures. You must remember that, under the head of publicity, there are included not merely posters and Press, but such things as trade shows, shows at the Ideal Home Exhibition, at the Grocers' Exhibition, at the Cookery Exhibition, and at the British Industries Fair, both in London and Birmingham, a whole series of efforts to bring forward what is done in the different parts of the Empire. Anybody who has been to the British Industries Fair, for example, always comes back saying that the Empire Marketing Board's display was one of the most valuable displays and was the means of getting orders both in this country and all parts of the Empire.
The publicity is dovetailed in many cases with the work of the scientific side of the Board. Take what has been done in regard to marketing research. We have found that the best way to get that carried out in practice has been to show what can be done by taking a shop window and showing the properly graded 1436 eggs and butter and so on. It has been an invaluable help in bringing home to the traders of this country how quality in showmanship and in the actual article always pays, and it has been an immense benefit to the producers of this country and of the countries overseas.
The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) suggested that the poster frames should be leased for political purposes to politial parties, but I hope that, under no circumstances, will that be done. The poster frames have been placed upon sites which do not enter into competition with ordinary commercial advertising. They are used only for educational purposes, and in every case the sites are chosen with the consent of the local authorities. They are erected on sites where the local authorities would not allow hoardings to be erected for political propaganda, and long may that continue to be the policy of the Empire Marketing Board.
Reference has been made to the question of overlapping. I made a speech on that subject last year when the Colonial Development Bill was introduced, because I was apprehensive, at that time, that there might be overlapping between the various organisations in regard to scientific work. The present Government asked me to serve on some of those committees last year, and I know that machinery has been devised for preventing overlapping. The chairman of the Advisory Committee attends regularly at the meetings of the Research Committee, and there is no overlapping in regard to the work of the Imperial Institute. On the publicity side, the director of the Imperial Institute is the chairman of the Board, and there is no overlapping in regard to the work. The chief association between the Imperial Institute and the Empire Marketing Board is in regard to the exhibition of scientific films, and both those bodies work together for scientific and educational purposes. I have visited the Imperial Institute, and I have seen the Marketing Board at work in the cinemas, and, if we could develop throughout the Empire and oversea the exhibition of more scientific films instead of the criminological films which are so frequently seen on the screens, I believe that we should be doing admirable work. Scientific films are of the utmost importance to agriculture and to science, 1437 and generally, they are of the greatest assistance. The hon. Member for East Wolverhampton seems to be under a misconception as to the value of the work and the policy now being carried out by the Empire Marketing Board.
There is one aspect of the Empire Marketing Board about which I am not very happy. On previous occasions when this Vote has been considered, there has always been a Suspense Account, and this is the first occasion when that account has not appeared in the Estimates. As some of the Committees are in a position of disquietude as to what is intended in regard to the finances of the Empire Marketing Board, I would like to have some assurance on this point. We have heard of £1,000,000 a year being available, but the Empire Marketing Board has never spent £1,000,000 a year. The Board works under a properly controlled and regulated system, and it only spends money upon carefully considered schemes which have to satisfy the Secretary of State, who remains responsible for such expenditure.
We have always understood that that board did not want £1,000,000, and that if it had useful means of spending £1,000,000 that sum would be available. There is no indication to that effect in the Vote as presented to us this year, to say nothing of the unspent balances from previous years. I can foresee the bringing forward of some very important schemes for scientific work which will require increased finance, and, if those new schemes are to be met by cutting down the useful work which is already being done, and by switching the expenditure on to new projects, that policy is bound to hamper the proper activities of the board. In many respects, we are very much behind other countries, and therefore it is essential, even if we expect to keep level with other countries in our efforts, that more money should be spent.
I should like to ask the Under-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs what is the policy of the Government with regard to financial provision for the Empire Marketing Board in the future? We have heard something in this debate concerning the Agenda of the Imperial Conference. We have been told that economic questions loom very largely in the Agenda, and that a whole range of sub- 1438 jects will be discussed. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) asked how the dependent Empire was going to be represented at the Imperial Conference in reference to economic questions. It is necessary that all sections of the Empire should be represented. I remember that in 1923 economic questions had a large significance at the Imperial Conference, and arrangements were made whereby those familiar with the economic conditions of the various groups of Colonies were formed into a sort of ad hoc committee to assist the Secretary of State in presenting their views to the Imperial Economic Conference.
Ever since that time there have been representations from various people interested in Colonial activities to the effect that their interests cannot be left entirely to the Secretary of State to be dealt with at those conferences. Take, for example, such questions as the relations between Canada and the West Indies. Those two countries are now intertwined in a special commercial agreement, and the agreement has been made between the West Indies Government and the Government of the Dominion of Canada. If a question like that arises at the Conference it is only right that those countries should be directly represented. I hope that the spirit of the speech of the Secretary of State for the Colonies at the Colonial Office Conference will be borne in mind by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs when he is drawing up the Agenda for the Imperial Economic Conference. We have been told that the trade of the Colonial Empire exceeds that of the Dominions, and that 50,000,000 people in different parts of the Empire are represented at the Imperial Conference by His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. I think it is right that at the forthcoming Conference the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs should set up some organisation whereby the Colonial Empire can be adequately represented at the Imperial Conference.
I wish to ask what is to be the exact position of the self-governing colony of Southern Rhodesia at the forthcoming Conference. I am aware that, under the constitution of that colony, certain matters are reserved, and are dealt with by the Secretary of State for Dominion 1439 Affairs, but this is the only opportunity we have of making any reference to Southern Rhodesia. I want to know whether the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs is going to be assisted at the forthcoming Imperial Conference by any representative of the Southern Rhodesian Government, or whether a Commissioner from Southern Rhodesia has been invited to take any part in the preparation of the agenda, or has been consulted upon any matters to be placed before the approaching Conference. I think it is important that both those points should be cleared up.
The position of the whole of our Colonial Empire is becoming of more importance, and the questions which arise are common problems, economic and social. I think it is very important that the Imperial Conference should not have the appearance of merely discussing economic questions relating to certain Dominions and Great Britain. It is of the greatest importance that the whole Empire should be envisaged when we are dealing with economic questions. Besides political and constitutional questions, the interests of the dependent Empire ought to find a place in the discussions with our self-governing Dominions. They still stand in a special relationship to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, but on all other questions it is essential, to my mind, that their claims to be heard, their claims to be adequately represented, should be preferred, and should be preferred in a manner which is agreeable to them, in view of their great importance, their great resources, and the general part which they play in the economy of the Empire as a whole. I have raised these two points in the hope that the Under-Secretary, in enlightening me, will be able to say something which will reassure the whole Colonial Empire that, at the Conference for which his chief is now preparing both the agenda and the personnel, their interests will not be overlooked by the Government, and that they will be considered as they should be considered.
§ Mr. LUNN
This has been a very interesting debate, and, although at the beginning the Chairman ruled rather narrowly, as some hon. Members thought, it is remarkable how expert hon. Members can be in overcoming even a narrow 1440 Ruling of the Chair. The discussion has not, perhaps, been so wide as the promoters of the debate would have liked it to be, but, nevertheless, we have had a fairly wide discussion upon the Dominions Office Vote and upon the Empire Marketing Board. I have heard every word of the debate, and have been struck by the remarkable way in which one hon. Member has cancelled out or answered the speech of the previous speaker. Perhaps the best illustration of that has been provided by the last two speeches. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford (Mr. Ormsby-Gore), in the first part of his speech, dealt with the points made by the previous speaker, and, having had the experience of being on the Empire Marketing Board since its beginning, he was able to give an answer to the questions which were put by the hon. Member who preceded him.
§ Mr. ORMSBY-GORE
I think that perhaps I ought to explain that I did so because I was Chairman of the Publicity Committee for the first four years of the existence of the Empire Marketing Board, and I felt it necessary, not merely to speak, but, in view of the statements that were made, to defend my own policy.
§ Mr. LUNN
Since, as the right hon. Gentleman said, practically the same policy is being carried out by the Empire Marketing Board to-day, the right hon. Gentleman has answered for my position as well on that matter. After all, it is as well that in the House we can have days off, as it were, and discuss subjects upon which there is common agreement. It would not be to the advantage or benefit of us all if every day we were discussing points upon which we were far away from agreement as parties, and there is no doubt that there is a good deal of agreement between all parties on the points that have been raised in this debate. There is no disagreement in the House as to the anxiety of all parties for the development of the British Empire, and of those parts of the British Empire which we know as the British Commonwealth. Although we may differ as to the method of bringing about that development, I think I can safely say that we are all anxious, even if we do not believe in what is called Empire Free Trade, for freer and more abundant trade between all parts of the Empire, and 1441 whatever can be done in that direction will have the co-operation and encouragement of the present Government.
Those who have heard the debate will have noticed that there have not been very many new suggestions since the speech of my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State. He dealt with the Imperial Conference, and I can only repeat his statement that no question will be ruled out from the agenda of the Imperial Conference which it is considered would bear upon the welfare of the Empire; and, as the subjects will not be settled by this country, but suggestions are coming from the Dominions as well as from this country, there is no reason why any question that is of interest to any part of the Dominions or to the home Government should not be discussed on that occasion.
The right hon. Gentleman raised two points regarding representation. As regards Southern Rhodesia, I think I might mention here that the representation of Southern Rhodesia has not yet been settled, because we have not yet had the opinion of Southern Rhodesia as to who should represent their interests at the Conference. As to the representation of the Colonial Empire, its interests will be looked after in the first instance by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. I suppose that the right hon. Gentleman will be taking part in the discussion on the Estimates for the Colonial Office, and I would ask him to put his question on that occasion, when, perhaps, my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary may be able to give him some information on that particular matter.
Before I deal with other matters relating to the Imperial Conference and the Empire Marketing Board, I should like to refer to one point which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elland (Mr. C. Buxton), as to the change which has taken place recently in Southern Rhodesia in connection with the Land Apportionment Act. Southern Rhodesia is a self-governing Colony, but it is not altogether a Dominion in the sense in which Canada, or Australia, or the Union of South Africa is a Dominion, and there are certain matters especially concerning the welfare and interests of the natives which are reserved. I would point out to my hon. Friend that, if the Committee could understand the 1442 smallness of the matter that he has raised, they would see that it does not mean quite so much as his remarks would appear to indicate. I am not objecting to his raising it, and I intend to deal with it, because it is as well that it should be cleared up, especially after the steps that have been taken by many of my hon. Friends to call attention to it in a very high quarter during recent weeks.
In Southern Rhodesia there are, I believe, not more than 100,000,000 acres of land, and, prior to the grant of the Letters Patent in 1923, there were 21,500,000 acres reserved for native requirements. I do not think that anyone will doubt my statement when I say that those reserves, as reserves, are adequate, and will be for some time to come. The Letters Patent granted in 1923 did, however, lay down the question of equality as between the natives and the Europeans in the purchase of land. I am as strongly in favour of equality between all peoples as any Member of the House, and as desirous of securing the best interests of the natives. It was laid down that there should be equality as between natives and Europeans in the purchase of land for individual tenure, but it was also stated at the same time that, if it was found that this did not work out quite satisfactorily, the matter could be raised later.
It was soon shown that it did not work out quite satisfactorily, and, indeed, before 18 months had elapsed after the Letters Patent had been granted, it was found that 31,000,000 acres of land had been purchsed by Europeans, and only 45,000 acres had been purchased by natives; and, as it was apparent that the whole of the land was going to be, as I should say, "collared" by the Europeans, the Legislature and the Government realised that some steps must be taken and the Land Commission was appointed early in 1925, That Commission went into the question of the future of the remaining land in Southern Rhodesia and heard evidence from 233 European witnesses and over 1,700 native witnesses. As a result of its inquiry, it reported, and its finding was accepted by the Government of Southern Rhodesia, that the land should be apportioned—that the 31,000,000 acres which had been purchased by Europeans should be extended to a total of 48,000,000 acres——
§ Mr. LUNN
I cannot say what the position was in regard to differentiation of price, though I am quite sure that there would be differentiation of quality in the land of Southern Rhodesia; but Europeans were to be able to purchase up to 48,000,000 acres, and the natives, who had 21,500,000 acres as reserves, were to be able to purchase another 7,500,000 acres. As the natives had only purchased 45,000 acres, and the Europeans had purchased 31,000,000 acres, it was considered, by everyone who has looked into the matter, including my predecessor, who went fully into it, and also the previous Secretary of State, that this method of dealing wilth the matter could not be objected to. The Land Apportionment Bill introduced in the Legislature provides for that allocation, and reserves for future allocation 17,800,000 acres, which can be dealt with later by a further Commission, as the Premier of Southern Rhodesia has foreshadowed, to be set up when the question arises. Although I agree with the sentiment expressed in Section 43 of the Letters Patent, that there should be equality of opportunity for both native and European, not only in the matter of land purchase, but in all other matters, I think that what has been done is in the best interests of the natives of Southern Rhodesia. With regard to the Amendment inserted in the Land Apportionment Bill, about which my hon. Friend asked, that was not an Amendment of substance, but was only one of form.
§ Mr. BUXTON
I did not ask about an Amendment in the Land Purchase Bill, but I asked what was the Amendment in Clause 43 of the Constitution. That was the Amendment that was alluded to.
§ Mr. LUNN
I am afraid I cannot say just now what was the Amendment in Clause 43, but the Amendment in the Land Apportionment Act was one to secure for the natives equal rights with the Europeans; it was only to insert words to make that matter clear. I hope I have dealt with the matter satisfactorily to my hon. Friend.
§ Mr. BUXTON
Will my hon. Friend be good enough at some time to give us the effect of the Amendment to Clause 43?
§ Mr. LUNN
I will do that with pleasure, because I feel much concern about this question, and have devoted a good deal of time to it, having been most anxious for a long time to see what were the effects of it, how far it went, and whether or not it was against the interests of the natives, because I personally was very anxious to see that it was not against their interests.
Coming to the questions that have been put to me this afternoon, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Stafford, who is a member of the Publicity Committee of the Empire Marketing Board, and is quite a good supporter of the Board, having answered two or three of the criticisms which had been made by his right hon. Friend, put to me a question which had been raised before by the late Secretary of State, and which was answered by my right hon. Friend. I will give a further answer, which is perhaps of a more definite character. The right hon. Gentleman asked if any steps had been taken, on the lines of the suggestion of the Secretary of State last year, to secure the attendance at the Imperial Conference of representatives other than members of Governments. Only a very short time ago—I have not the actual date, but it was during this year—a question was asked of fire Prime Minister as to whether he would consider extending invitations to the Leaders of the Opposition parties in the Dominions, and the Prime Minister replied:The suggestion that Imperial Conferences should not be confined to representatives of parties in office for the time being is one which has been made from time to time in the past, and I myself in 1924 put it forward tentatively to the Prime Ministers of the Dominions in an official communication. It will be seen from the correspondence which took place on that occasion, and which was published in Command Paper No. 2301 of 1925, that the suggestion did not meet with support, and I do not think that any useful purpose would be served by its being made again at the present time."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 13th November, 1929; col, 2028, Vol. 231.]I do not think I could give an answer more substantial than that given by the Prime Minister, nor could I possibly take up the case again after what has been said to-day.
§ Mr. LUNN
It is possible that there was later, at all events it has been raised later, and the Prime Minister referred the hon. Member to the answer he had given, which I have read.
I am now able to answer the question raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Elland. Clause 43 of the Southern Rhodesia Letters Patent was amended in such a way as not to repeal the existing Section, but so as to add a new Sub-section to permit of the scheme provided in the Lands Apportionment Act to be brought into operation.
The hon. Gentleman was not very enthusiastic in support of migration. I appreciate that very much, because it is difficult to become enthusiastic at this moment with conditions as they are in different parts of the Empire. The question was first raised by the hon. Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) after the Secretary of State has spoken, and I, as Chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committee, am very much concerned with the figures of migration as they are likely to be in 1930. They went up last year, so far as Canada was concerned, largely because of the £10 ocean rate which had been arranged my predecessor, Lord Lovat, and which has been one of the best passenger arrangements that has been made and one which I hope is going to be continued in the future. 1930 is not very hopeful as far as we can see, and, though there is a separate Vote for Overseas Settlement, which can be brought forward on some other occasion if hon. Members desire, I was pleased as Under-Secretary to hear my right hon. Friend say that over-sea settlement will be an important subject at the Imperial Conference and that it will be discussed, not in any narrow aspect, but in the widest possible aspect, as to how far it will be possible to increase the number of people who go to the immigrating countries which have taken our people for generations. To give one illustration, the 3,500 settlers of 1820, it might safely be said, laid the basis of the British population in South Africa and, as we know that 98 per cent. of the population of Australia are British, we can only hope that those 1446 who desire to go from this country should have facilities provided for them.
It is not that we want to send unemployables, and our unemployed are not unemployable. They are anxious to work and, if they had money of their own, they would not come for Government assistance, but they would go overseas, as they did before the War when there was no assistance, in larger numbers than they have gone since the War and since the Empire Settlement Act has been in operation. At the same time, the Empire Settlement Act has created a wonderful impression between this country and the Dominions and many of the hardships that were known to those who went before the War are avoided and, no doubt settlement has been done on much better lines since the Act was passed than ever before. But at this moment it is not just in that state that we should like to see it, and I am hopeful that, although 1930 may not be a year of hope, there is a future, and we have not just to think of this matter for the moment, but to try to think of the days to come, and I hope and believe that more people will have the opportunity and that the Dominions will be able to settle more people satisfactorily than is the case at the moment.
Then a number of suggestions were made by my hon. Friend the Member for East Leicester (Mr. Wise) dealing with inter-Imperial trade and trade between this country and other parts of the world. I do not know that I can say more than the Secretary of State has said, that these matters naturally will all be of the first importance at the Imperial Conference and will be discussed. The hon. Member for Aberdeenshire put four points to me, whether or not tariffs are to be excluded from the Imperial Conference, whether import boards will be discussed, whether or not currency will be raised and whether all the bodies which deal with Empire development will be co-ordinated. If he had heard my right hon. Friend he would know that the first, and second are likely subjects and that he is not clear whether the third will be raised specifically, but he felt that it could within the agenda that is now being arranged. So far as I understand, there will be an opportunity before the House rises for the Adjournment for Members to be made aware 1447 what is the agreed agenda up to that time. The other matter is not so much altogether one for the Imperial Conference, but it is an important matter for the Government of this country and, without doubt, they themselves ought to take steps to see that bodies that deal with the same matter should be co-ordinated and there should be an understanding between them so that we should know where to go if we want to know what is taking place.
The hon. Member for Wolverhampton East (Mr. Mander) criticised the Empire Marketing Board and he thought the money spent on publicity was a gross waste. I differ entirely from that point of view. I believe the Empire Marketing Board has raised the standard of art posters throughout the country. In London the Underground Railway has done a good deal in that matter. We have no Underground Railway in the North of England and we have not posters of that character, but we have 1,800 frames of the Empire Marketing Board throughout the country and people are getting an opportunity to see, not what is in the mind of one artist. There are a large number of artists responsible for these posters and they have not only raised the standard of posters but they have done a great deal to create an impression of the connection between the United Kingdom and the Governments overseas that was never done before. With regard to one poster that the hon. Member alluded to, "The Empire Stands for Peace," there has been a change of Government and a General Election and, while it was not a Member of the Government, so far as I know, and certainly not myself, who made the suggestion as to the poster, I think all members of the Publicity Committee certainly agreed that it was a great idea to publish it just at the time of Armistice Day. There is a good deal of sentiment in the Empire Marketing Board and there was great sentimental value in that set of posters published at that time. But I have no knowledge that the Empire Marketing Board is exhibiting these posters in other parts of the world. I do not know that we have frames in any part of the Dominions.
§ Mr. MANDER
This matter is dealt with on page 83 of the report. It says:The Board has now a certain number of posters in the United Kingdom and specimen frames have also been erected in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the British West Indies.It says that in certain Dominions it is not only British goods that are being advertised, but the goods sent from one Dominion to another—paid for by us, but not our goods being advertised.
§ Mr. LUNN
We are doing such good work that we have no object in sending samples to other parts of the Empire. I can quite understand that frames have been sent abroad in order to show what we are doing in this country to encourage the purchase of Empire goods by our people. As a matter of fact, we have a wonderful film of the Empire Marketing Board and we are sending a copy of it to other parts of the Empire and the appreciation we have had, particularly from Canada, as to its value has well repaid us for sending it. The Empire Marketing Board lays down its policy, but Empire buying begins at home. We have taken steps in all our publicity to see that home produce should be given the first place, and much of the money that has been spent on publicity has been spent on advertising home productions. But there are many things the Empire Marketing Board Publicity Committee is doing besides putting posters on boards in different parts of the country. Valuable work is being done with the young, and there are 21,000 school teachers who desire copies of all the literature that is produced by the Board, and they much appreciate it. Most of us would say, if we cannot obtain the goods we require from home production, we should purchase goods within the Empire if we want the reciprocity which has been urged so much to-day.
The right hon. Gentleman put a question regarding the finance of the Empire Marketing Board. The Board, which was started in 1926, was to be guaranteed £1,000,000 a year, but it has never spent £1,000,000. In the first year, it only spent about £132,000, and I do not think up to this year it has ever spent £500,000. But what would be the position with the balance supposed to be reserved for future requirements? That balance over from last year was £1,550,000. In Decem- 1449 ber last a discussion took place at the Empire Marketing Board upon this matter, and it was quite naturally understood and suggested by the Estimates Committee that the Empire Marketing Board should come to Parliament and ask for the money that it was estimated it would require in the coming year. Parliament never hesistated to grant the money that was placed on the Estimates for the use of the Empire Marketing Board. In December, it was estimated that we should require £550,000 for this financial year, together with the balance from last year, which was estimated to be £250,000, or £800,000 for the year. The Board were quite satisfied, in the discussion which took place between the Secretary of State and the Board, after discussion with the Treasury, that they could meet the requirements of the Board for this year. I am not so sure that the balance is likely to be £250,000, it may be less than that amount, and that may necessitate coming to the House for a Supplementary Estimate in order to meet the needs of the Board. As to the question of the balance, as that is a matter which is to be dealt with between the Board and the Treasury I am not able to give a definite answer at this moment.
I hope that nothing will be done to curb the work of the Empire Marketing Board and not only in its publicity, because that is only £250,000 a year, while on research grants we are spending over £500,000 a year. The work that has been done, and is being done, by the Empire Marketing Board in scientific research is some of the most valuable work that is being done with regard to disease and pests and wastage of the food produce of the world. I hope nothing will be done in any way to injure the work that is going on so far as research is concerned. It is work for which we cannot definitely say how much will be wanted in any one year. It is largely a matter in which we have to look ahead and cover a number of years. I am pleased that the debate has taken place on the Empire Marketing Board and that we have beard all that we have heard to-day in the way of appreciation and criticism. After all, if members have criticisms, they ought to bring them forward, even of a Board like this. There is a danger of money being squandered and wasted. I myself, 1450 as Chairman of the Publicity Committee, immediately took up one point where thought money was being squandered. I am not sure even now that it is being spent as carefully as it might be. I do not object to criticism that is in the interests of the taxpayers and directed to seeing that money is spent wisely and well. I hope the Empire Marketing Board will be able to take up many suggestions that have been made this afternoon as to what the Board can do in the way of developing trade between this country and other parts of the Empire. Whatever can be done in that direction which will be helpful to our country and to the people of the Dominions ought to be taken up and encouraged by every one of us. I am satisfied with the debate that has taken place, and I feet no doubt that we shall now get our Vote.
In my opinion there has never been a year when the bonds of Empire have been stronger than they appear to be in 1930. We have heard during the past few weeks of a young girl from my county who has flown across the world to Australia and who is being received in every part of Australia with enthusiasm. That is bound to have its effect, not only on Australia but on this country. To-morrow we shall be wanting tickets to go to Lords to see the opening of the second Test Match. Australia has lost the first, but they are hoping to win the next two or three. They are creating a wonderful impression in this country. The Imperial Conference which is to be held will strengthen the economic relations between this country and the Dominions. I hope it will do much for our common welfare. I would like to say, as my last word, that I believe that the greatest instrument for peace in the world is the British Empire.
§ Mr. WARDLAW-MILNE
I have no desire to stand for more than a very few moments between the hon. Gentleman and his Vote. I would like to congratulate him on the unusual, but I think very practical, way in which he finished his speech, and the remarks he made on the development of inter-Empire feeling which is coming about as the result of sporting events. There is no Member of this House who has taken a greater interest than the hon. Gentleman in the matter of migration. There is almost no Member who has devoted so much time 1451 to it. I am bound to say, however, that those of us who look back over the history of migration in the last few years cannot but feel that it is extremely disappointing that the results of the Oversea Settlement Act have been so meagre. I do not think that this is a matter for the apportionment of blame. I know that there is a special Vote in connection with migration, and I have no intention of going into details. I only want to follow it in a few sentences to the extent raised by the hon. Gentleman. At a suitable opportunity, perhaps, the Government will be able to tell us that they are seriously considering what further measures can be taken to help migration and to put on a batter footing the work of the Oversea Settlement Act. While believing that, I think the hon. Gentleman should consider once again the proposal that has been put before the House in a Bill by the hon. Member for Windsor (Mr. A. A. Somerville). That Bill would co-ordinate the work of all the charitable bodies with that of the Government in the matter of migration, and I think we should see very different results in a short time. For the reasons which I have given, I do not propose to follow the matter to-night.
It seems to me to be perfectly natural, in a debate of this kind, that the House should concentrate principally on the forthcoming Imperial Conference. We must be grateful to the Liberal party, who raised this issue to-day, because we have had from the Secretary of State for the Dominions a very remarkable statement of what is going to happen at the Imperial Conference, and for that statement alone the debate has been of great value. I understand that the Secretary of State has made it quite clear that no subject cognate to the Dominions and the Empire generally will be excluded from the Imperial Conference. If that be so, it is perfectly clear to every one in this Committee that tariffs cannot possibly be excluded, because the Government of the day may wish to exclude them; it is perfectly certain that the Dominions will raise that matter at once. I do hope that, whatever form the discussions will take, this country—and I use the word "country," because the question is not a party question at all—will be prepared to consider and acquiesce in the necessity of setting up a 1452 permanent body, an economic body, not appointed by the Government of this country, or even appointed by Great Britain, but appointed by the Imperial Conference and acting under the orders of Imperial Conference, responsible to the Imperial Conference, and reporting regularly to the different parts of the Empire.
There has been, if I may say so—and I sat for some years as a member of the Imperial Economic Committee—a little confusion between the functions of the Imperial Economic Committee and those of the Empire Marketing Board, perhaps not unnatural to those who have not followed the two bodies very closely. The work of the Imperial Economic Committee will be of immense value, but what I visualise in the future is something a great deal stronger than the Imperial Economic Committee as it exists to-day. I think the probabilities are that the coming Imperial Conference will require the setting un of a permanent body to advise and recommend what form of preferential treatment is necessary, not only between Great Britain and the different Dominions of the Empire, but also between Dominion and Dominion and between the great Colonial Empire and the Dominions. I think that that body will do what I really believe Members of all sides of the House would wish to be done—the raising of the whole question of Empire preference and tariffs out of party politics altogether. I am positive that as a result of discussions which must take place at the forthcoming Imperial Conference there will be the setting up of some body of this kind.
Quite true, it can only give recommendations, because the fiscal freedom of every part of the Empire must be maintained, but all the same, a body of that kind, sitting permanently and studying this question from the purely economic point of view, quite apart from party politics and from politics altogether, would be in an immensely strong position. It surely would arrive at such a position of standing and authority that it would be essential that the different parts of the Empire which were not able to put its recommendations into force should give the very strongest reasons to the rest of the Empire why they could not do so. I believe that that is a suggestion which is bound to be made before the 1453 coming Imperial Conference, and I hope very sincerely, without asking for an answer at the present time, that the Government will very seriously consider the possibility of the suggestion being made before the Conference meets, and will, if it is made, approach it in the very widest non-party spirit.
There is one other point on which I want to touch for one moment, and that is in connection with the question which has also been mentioned by my hon. Friend the Member for East Aberdeenshire (Mr. Boothby)—the currency question, which is bound to come up at this forthcoming Conference. I do not want to go into the whole question, which is also bound to arise, because there is, as the Committee knows, a Committee already sitting, appointed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to deal with these matters or to make recommendations so far as Great Britain is concerned. The point I particularly want to bring before the notice of the Government is that here again it is very desirable that we should have the recommendations of the present Committee before the meeting of the Imperial Conference. These recommendations should be available for the members of the Imperial Conference, because upon them it may alone be possible to set up an Imperial currency policy.
It is clear to those who have studied this problem that unless and until we can produce an Imperial currency policy we shall continually be faced with difficulties between one part of the British Empire and another. There is not the slightest reason why the difficulties between Great Britain and some other parts of the world in regard to currency and credit which necessarily face us, should equally face us as between Great Britain and different parts of the Dominions. This matter should be settled by common agreement. I hope that there again the Government will be prepared, in view of the Committee which is now sitting, to face the problem and also to have it raised at the Imperial Conference. Although in this debate matters relating to the Dominions and to the Colonies have of necessity been somewhat mixed up, I think that we have had, in the reply of the Secretary of State, a most satisfactory statement regarding the Imperial Conference, and I only hope that the House and the 1454 Government will be prepared for the very numerous subjects which are bound to be raised when the Conference meets.
§ Mr. ANNESLEY SOMERVILLE
Before we pass from this Vote, I should like to raise a matter which has been suggested to me in consequence of the presence of the Postmaster-General. The Post Office is regarded by successive Governments as a means of making profit. I would suggest to the Secretary of State that his Department should use their influence to induce the Post Office not to regard circumstances in that light when they are dealing with such questions as Empire communications by cable, wireless and telephone, and to take a more far-seeing and broad-minded view of this great Imperial matter than that of simply making a profit. The two Departments should work together and should not regard themselves as being watertight. The Dominions Office should infuse the Post Office with an Imperial spirit, and I hope that this great question will be fully discusesd at the Imperial Conference.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. T. Kennedy)
I beg to ask leave to withdraw the Motion.
§ Motion, by leave, withdrawn.