§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ Mr. BELLAMY
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
This is not the first time that this Bill has been before the House. In 1927 the then hon. Member for North West Camberwell introduced a similar Bill, and in 1928, the then hon. Member for Rossendale introduced a Bill which was given a Second Reading and passed through Committee stage. The present Bill is substantially the same as that which left the Committee in 1928, with the addition of an important Amendment to Clause 7 which was inserted in accordance with the promise given during the Committee stage in 1928, and which is designed to ensure strict secrecy in regard to the rubber consumption of individual manufacturers. In the draft manuscript the words "and Tyre" were inserted in the title of the Bill, but we are quite prepared to ask for their deletion in the Committee stage. This is a non-party Measure. In 1927 the Bill was moved by a Conservative Member and supported by Members on all sides of the House. The same thing occurred in 1928, and on the present occasion, although some attempt has been made to make capital out of the fact that there were only six Socialist Members supporting the Bill, I must remind the House that it is now backed by representatives of each party in the House and it can therefore be accurately described as a non-party Measure.
The object of the Bill is to ensure the continuance and development of scientific and industrial research into the problems arising in the manufacture of rubber, by providing for the maintenance of the Research Association of British Rubber Manufacturers on similar lines to those adopted for the maintenance of the Empire Cotton Growing Association under the provisions of the Cotton Industry Act of 1922. The Bill provides for the collection of a sum not exceeding £15,000 per annum which is to be used for the continuance of the work of the Research Association. Under the First Schedule, 1322 the contribution from manufacturers is limited to one twenty-fifth of a penny per lb. of raw rubber purchased or imported. That figure was based on the amount of rubber used a few years ago, but I am informed that on the basis of the consumption of the industry last year the amount required to provide the sum needed would not be more than one forty-fifth of a penny per lb. of rubber.
The operation of the Bill is limited to five years. Before the expiration of that period, the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Board of Trade must report to both Houses of Parliament so that Parliament may have ample opportunity of deciding whether the work of the Association justifies a further period of existence. The details of the Bill have been framed by the representatives of the industry itself. They are responsible for it, and every effort has been made to meet the views of those manufacturers who, although in favour of the principle of the levy, desire the fullest possible safeguards. Let me say something about the objects of the Research Association, who are to be given an opportunity of continuing their work. The Association was instituted in 1919 by a number of members of the India Rubber Manufacturers' Association and the British Rubber Tyre Association. Its object was to take advantage of the offer of Government assistance for the institution of co-operative industrial research. With the exception of the richer organisations the trade is unable to bear the cost of special laboratories, staff and equipment, but a central organisation, such as this Bill seeks to keep in existence for a further period, which is splendidly equipped, would meet the difficulties of individual organisations. It provides all the necessary machinery for the collation and distribution of the results of scientific study of the underlying principles of rubber manufacture to the members of the rubber industry.
In considering the relation of the central research organisation to the industry and its constituent manufacturing units, it should be borne in mind that a distinction exists between research and what may be best described as development work. The first consists essentially in developing new knowledge and scientific data, and the other in applying these results to the every- 1323 day problems of the factory. The work of the scientific staff of a research association is essentially to supply the facts, what may be called the tools needed by the industry itself for the improvement and control of the factory processes and products.
I should like to say a word with regard to the composition of the Research Association, and I propose to go into a little detail in order to meet the points which were raised during the Second Reading debate in 1928. The Research Association at present is composed of some 58 rubber manufacturing firms, and they represent a capital of over £31,000,000. These 58 members are responsible for electing a board of management which controls the Association for a period. Therefore, the work of the Association and the control of the Association is entirely in the hands of the rubber industry itself. It is true that there are two Government representatives on that Committee, but they are few compared with the rest of the Committee, and they can in no way directly affect its policy by their numbers. The articles of association have been revised in order to try to meet what would be the position in the event of the levy scheme, which is proposed in the Bill, coming into operation. That has been done with the assistance of the allied organisation, and of the Association connected with the rubber industry, to ensure that all British manufacturers, in whatever branch of the industry, who contribute to the levy, should have a voice in the control of the Association and have the full benefits of its work. I submit, therefore, that there is no ground for complaint, in so far as the Association itself is concerned, but that it is under the control of the manufacturers in the industry.
With regard to the finance of the Research Association, as I said earlier that Association is supported by voluntary subscriptions from the various associations and firms connected with the rubber industry, and by yearly grants from the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, out of the £1,000,000 provided by Parliament for scientific and industrial research. Owing to trade difficulties the voluntary subscriptions have fallen off, and that factor, together with the gradual 1324 decrease of the Government grant, has hampered and fettered the work of the Association. The basis upon which the scheme was started was:
It was found from experience during the first years of the work of the Association that the basis of assessment on capital excluded the accession of a number of firms whose rubber consumption was low in relation to the amount of capital involved. It was, therefore, decided to attempt to find a more equitable basis for the collection of the money. In 1924, on the termination of the Government grant, the Research Association was placed in a very difficult position, and it became doubtful whether its work could continue. After negotiations with the Government further financial support was given for five years on a fresh basis of fixed block grants, and by the aid of contributions, some of them very generous contributions, from firms and associations, the work has continued, although under very great difficulty.
- (1) A Government grant, limited to five years, of £1 per £1 on all trade revenue up to £5,000 per annum and 10s. per £1 thereafter.
- (2) Trade contributions based upon an assessment on capital with a minimum of £50 per annum and a maximum of £1,000 per annum.
The miscellaneous character of the trade is such that an assessment on a capital basis is applicable only to a limited section of the industry, and in an industry containing a preponderant unit, no uniform system of assessment which will ensure democratic control is practicable on a voluntary basis. The Rubber Industry Bill, therefore, by arranging for a maximum levy of one twenty-fifth of a penny per round of raw rubber used, will provide a basis and provide the Association with an adequate stable revenue, render it independent of State aid, and will place every manufacturer, large or small, on an equal footing. The latter provision seems to be quite a bugbear to some of the opponents of the Bill.
I may be permitted to give the House some information as to the valuable work that the Research Association has done hitherto. I shall quote from the Tenth Annual Report of the Research Association of British Rubber Manufacturers in 1325 order to give some idea of the work. The reports shows that—The establishment of this organisation has entailed a good deal of pioneering work of an educational character. In common with other civil institutions founded under the Government scheme for the encouragement of co-operative industrial research, the Association realised that in order to ensure the active support and co-operation of the constituent units of the industry it was necessary to convince them of the value of scientific research in the development and progress of their businesses, and of the advantages of a separate organisation to undertake the investigation of the many basic problems incidental to manufacture generally. There were several prejudices to be overcome—It does not appear to me that they have all been overcome—and it had to cope with the suspicion, which still persists in certain quarters, that scientific research is primarily academic, and therefore not likely to be of much assistance in the solution of the particular problems which perplex the industrialist.Due in large measure to the work already accomplished, it is now realised throughout the industry that it is the careful and methodical investigation of industrial and not academic problems that constitutes, in the main, the scientific research with which the Association is concerned.From the first, the Association has kept one principal object in view, namely, to ensure that the activities of the research staff should, as far as possible, be directed along those channels of investigation which promise to he of greatest service and maximum utility to the rubber industry. For this reason a director was appointed who was not only a trained scientist, but also an expert rubber technologist, well acquainted with the practical requirements of the industry.I am convinced that if the House were able—it will have an opportunity—to go through the very large number of technical subjects that have been dealt with, and to note the appreciation that has been expressed by many of the manufacturers in the industry, it would have a sufficient guarantee of the good work done during the period named. It may be asked: what is the necessity for industrial and scientific research? My answer is that by an overwhelming majority the manufacturers in the rubber industry desire the work to continue. There is no doubt that the future development of the industry depends largely on science, and that under present conditions of world trade co-ordination of effort by British manufacturers is essential for maximum individual efficiency. If confirmation were 1326 needed of that view, it can be found very fully in the Report that was issued by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research in 1925, which was referred to in the last debate in 1928. Let me quote from the annual report of that Committee to this House:The British rubber industry is one which affords ample openings for scientific co-operation. The remarkable properties of its principal raw material, rubber, cannot be said to have been fully explored in the light of existing scientific knowledge nor can it be said that the real nature of the change occurring during vulcanisation one of the commonest processes of the industry is understood. The industry has big general problems awaiting solution by science so large that no single firm could be expected to undertake their investigations. There is consequently scope in the rubber industry for co-operative scientific research. Further, the industry in this country is engaged in the production of a fairly wide range of articles, and thus a number of questions capable of scientific solution and intermediate in character between fundamental and works problems must constantly arise.One or two individual complaints have reached me, that the trade generally has not been consulted with regard to this Bill. I had sent to me yesterday from the opponents of the Bill a document which seemed very formidable, and I wish to call attention to two features of that document. The first is a statement on page 3:The Bill has been introduced without the knowledge or concurrence of the India-rubber Manufacturers Association or the industry generally.Although not engaged in the industry, yet from the knowledge which I have gained during the last few weeks I cannot conceive how anyone associated with the industry could write a paragraph of that kind without knowing that he was placing on paper something which is not quite accurate. The Bill, as I mentioned earlier, has been before the House and before the industry for three years. It was drafted by a committee on which there were representatives of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association. After the presentation of the Bill now before the House, the levy scheme committee which was responsible for the drafting of the Bill, again had the matter before them. They had a meeting and at that meeting a representative of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association was present and supported the proposal.
1327 I have not referred to the fact that prior to the adoption of the levy scheme a meeting of manufacturers was called and supported the levy scheme. What I am referring to at the moment is the statement in this document that the Bill has been introduced without the knowledge or concurrence of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association, and, speaking from my own knowledge, I submit to the House that that statement is not accurate. It seems to me that greater care might have been exercised in that respect. It may be that some members of the Association are not favourable to the terms of the Bill, but I suggest that it would have been better for these manufacturers, during the three years that this Bill has been under consideration, to have raised their opposition inside their associations and to have prevented the introduction of the Bill, as they could have done had they been in a majority. But they have waited until this late hour, and now they seek to prejudice the House by an unfair statement of the case despite the fact that the individual firms engaged in rubber who have intimated their agreement with the levy scheme number 99, with a capital of over £33,000,000.
The second point in this document to which I would direct the attention of the House is this. The opponents of the Bill have produced here what appears to be a formidable list of names of associations, but I would remind the House that the overwhelming majority of the associations whose names are in that list as opposing the Bill are in no way concerned with it. The opponents themselves show their hand in this matter. I suppose there has not been sufficient opposition in the trade itself and accordingly they have had to go to other firms interested in rubber. Probably Messrs. Woolworths or some of the people who sell rubber might have been included as opponents of the Bill. That indicates, I think, the extent of the opposition in that direction. I submit that the Bill is necessary in the best interest of the trade and that the large majority of the manufacturers in the rubber industry are anxious that it should be passed and that its provisions should operate. The evidence shows that the Research Association of British Manufacturers has proved itself worthy to carry out faithfully the obligations which the Bill will impose and, 1328 finally, I submit that the provisions of the Bill are just and equitable to all concerned and will enable this essential work of scientific research to be carried on free from financial worries, and thus enable the industry to equip itself to take the first place in rubber manufacture among the nations of the world.
§ Sir JOHN FERGUSON
I beg to second the Motion.
I do so for two reasons. First, I firmly believe that this Measure will give a considerable amount of employment in this country. Secondly, I wish to make plain to the House what my position is in relation to the industry and the reasons which I have for speaking on this matter. I happen to be chairman of one of the great rubber companies, the India Rubber, Gutta Percha and Telegraph Works Co., Ltd., better known as the Silvertown Company. Hitherto we stood aside from taking any part in this matter, but after some years of serious consideration I have come to the conclusion that it is our duty as a great industry to assist this proposal. I shall read to the House a letter which we wrote a short time ago after consideration with our experts, and after obtaining all the reliable information we could on this subject:We have now reconsidered the effects of the Rubber Industry Bill on our company in the light of the Amendments which have been made to the Bill, and we have come to the conclusion that the Bill would be an advantage to the industry and consequently we should be glad to see the Bill passed. We have also gone very carefully through the articles of association and are satisfied that the interests of individual manufacturers would be safeguarded in the methods suggested for the management of the association.This Measure closely follows the Cotton Industry Act and has as its object the imposition of a very trifling levy on the rubber used for manufacturing purposes to provide funds urgently needed to place the Rubber Research Association upon a sound financial basis to carry on the scientific work essential to the well-being of this important British industry. In the case of the Empire Cotton Growing Corporation, the revenue raised is devoted primarily to developing new sources of cotton supply, so that those contributing automatically enjoy the results of their contributions in connection with their purchases of raw materials, but the object of the Rubber 1329 Research Association's work is not the development of wider supplies of the raw material, but the scientific work needed to improve its methods of manufacture.
By way of introduction, it may be pointed out that the Bill is put forward by a Joint Committee composed of representatives of all the trade associations directly or indirectly interested in the industry, and I would like to mention the names of five most important associations. There are the India Rubber Manufacturers Association, the Institution of the Rubber Industry, and The Research Association of British Rubber Manufacturers, and then there are the Cable Makers Association, the Rubber Growers Association, and the Rubber Trade Association, all of which are intimately associated with each other. In regard to the first three manufacturing organisations, they are officially supporting this Bill, but in the case of the Cable Makers Association, the terms of their constitution preclude them from taking an active part in it, but its representative holds a watching brief on their behalf at the present moment, and it should also be appreciated that the procedure followed by the Association has been to obtain the approval of their members to the principle of a levy for research on the lines of the Cotton Industry Act and to leave considerations of detail to the Joint Committee in consultation with their respective councils and executive committees.
The hon. Member for Ashton (Mr. Bellamy) has explained that very fully and frankly, and if I may be permitted to say so, from the Association's point of view, most accurately. The existence of the Joint Committee in this case, representing all sections of the industry, is in itself a proof that the principle of the Bill is accepted by the trade generally. We know perfectly well that there are some who object to it, hut, taken as a whole, I think we may say that the trade generally accept the principle of this Bill, and its importance has certainly been referred to by both the Balfour Committee and the Imperial Economic Committee.
The hon. Member who preceded me referred to a pamphlet which he had received this morning. I received it only a few hours ago, and on glancing at 1330 it casually I see extraordinary evidence of its having been put together very hurriedly. It is followed by a list of names, which reminds me of nothing more than those petitions for clemency which are frequently addressed to the Home Secretary. My hon. Friend referred to the pamphlet received this morning, in which it is stated that the Bill had been introduced into the House without the knowledge of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association. I cannot believe that that was intended to be conveyed to this House by this pamphlet, because all the Members of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association, with one or two exceptions—and we know who they are, but I will not mention names now—are already members of the Research Association. It continues in the same paragraph to say:and at the instance of a few persons.Might I suggest to the House that a list of names like Callender's Cable and Construction Company, the Dunlop Rubber Company, Henley's Telegraph Works, our own company, the Silvertown Company, Leyland and Birmingham Rubber, The Mandleberg Company, the North British Rubber Company, and George Spencer Moulton and Company—do they suggest for a moment that those are a few persons? They are some of the greatest companies in the British rubber industry.
§ Sir J. FERGUSON
Yes, and that is not all. I find in this list of names that there are three names given, and I have here extracts from letters subsequently received in which one of them—again I shall not mention names—says:We have given the Industry Bill our careful consideration, and in view of your remarks during your call, we have decided to withdraw our opposition.Let me give you another:We are in receipt of your letter of the 11th inst. enclosing copy of Rubber Industry Bill amended to meet the various objections and now consider same is quite in order.There is still another:We now return herewith the Articles of Association you kindly left with us for perusal. So far as we can see, these are satisfactory, and we have no further suggestions or criticisms to put forward.1331 That was in 1928, and the Bill as amended since then is much more acceptable to the industry.
§ Sir J. FERGUSON
The objects of the Bill are briefly referred to in the introductory Memorandum, from which it will be seen that the Bill is similar to one which was read a Second time in this House in March, 1928, and passed by a Standing Committee in July, 1928, with an Amendment to meet a point raised in Committee. Unfortunately, however, it was crowded out in the pressure of Parliamentary business at the end of the Session.
Some of the objects of the Bill are very technical indeed, but they are also very important, and I would like to touch on one or two very technical points which mean a very great deal to us as manufacturers. They may be summarised as follows: One of the things we are striving for is co-operative research in regard to problems common to rubber manufacturers, and under this heading I would include the properties of materials used in rubber mixtures and the determination of their suitability for, and their effect upon, rubber mixtures. Another point is the properties of rubber in relation to their suitability for various purposes. That is a never ending source of inquiry in order to find new methods and new uses for rubber. Then there are the effects or methods of rubber preparation and mixing and the properties of the resulting products. There is also the standardisation of methods of testing rubber. We want the development of standard specifications for our rubber products, the co-ordination and abridgement of public information with reference to rubber and its allied products. All these things are of inestimable value to the industry as a whole, and secure, for a comparatively small expenditure from each company, what would cost small companies prohibitive amounts if they were to rely entirely upon their own independent efforts. This small expenditure would be of very great benefit to these as a whole. The Association, I suggest, should be supported from a national outlook. Its work will tend to raise and maintain the quality of the products of 1332 the British rubber industry vis-à-vis foreign rubber products, and I need not assure hon. Members that I will do everything I possibly can, not only to protect our own industries, but to protect the rights and privileges of the worker in that industry.
Let us examine for a moment one or two of the Clauses. Under Clause 2 the payment by each company prescribed in the First Schedule to the Bill is in proportion to the quantity of raw rubber used, limited to one twenty-fifth of a penny per lb. and, as my hon. Friend pointed out, that one-twenty-fifth, from what we know quite well to-day, is much more likely to be one-forty-fifth or one fiftieth of a penny per lb. Under Clause 6, adequate safeguards, such as the appointment of a collector who shall be a chartered or incorporated accountant, are provided for in the proper control of the Association, and to guard against confidential information as to one company being obtained by another. Personally, I may say that I have not the slightest fear that any company can obtain anything regarding the nature, say, of the mixture of another company in the construction of any article which may be their leading line of production, and the company will have no knowledge itself what another company may be doing.
Then, under Clause 11, the operation of the Bill itself is limited to five years. I think that is a very good time in which to try the scheme. In Clause 3, the total contributions are limited to £15,000 per annum. In Sub-section (2) of that Clause a surplus or a deficit in any one year will materially affect what the levy is to be in the following year, but, in any case, it is not to exceed £15,000 a year. Safeguards in the other Clauses have regard to the collection of contributions, and certification of accounts by an auditor, who will sign a declaration of secrecy, as shown in the Second Schedule attached to the Bill. The other Clauses have been so clearly defined by my hon. Friend that I will not refer to them further now. Stress has been laid, and I can quite understand it, on the last occasion as to the position of foreign firms operating in Great Britain under the provisions of the Bill on the ground that exclusion from benefit would be unfair, while full disclosure would render the result of the 1333 association's work public property. That point has been dealt with in the new articles, which contain the following provision:Manufacturers under foreign control contributing under the levy are entitled to be elected as associate members.That is Article IV on page 12, subject to the approval of the Board of Trade in Article XVI on page 15. The expression "foreign corporation" is defined in Article VI (g), page 16, and Article V, page 14, to cover all likely contingencies, the essential point being therein that no firm shall be regarded as of British origin unless 75 per cent. of the issued capital and the voting power are in British hands. Surely that is sufficient to satisfy anyone that the interests of this country are being safeguarded. Then the associated members shall have no voting power under Article V, page 14; nor can they be represented directly on the board of management by Article XVII (a) and XVII (b), pages 21 and 22. The information which they receive with regard to the work of the Association shall according to Article 38 on page 32 he subject to the discretion of the Board of Management.
The important rôle which science must play in the welfare of our industries generally, is widely admitted, and to industry in this country is that statement more applicable than to the rubber industry, in which the exact nature of the raw material and the changes which it undergoes in the course of manufacture are still only very imperfectly understood. From small beginnings, the rubber trade has become an industry of first importance, and, in my opinion, from careful observation of what has taken place in the last few years, I should say that it is only in its infancy. Its work, therefore, is becoming increasingly important, and the obtaining of scientific data and control of the future development of the industry, and its success in meeting competition from over-sea countries, must largely depend upon the provision for research for which we are asking in the Measure now before the House. It is on these grounds that I ask for the support of members to secure the passage of the Bill, which is welcomed by the Committee on Industry and Trade, who say: 1334We hope that this scheme will receive legislative sanction, and that it may serve as an example to other industries to adopt measure, suited to their special conditions, for placing the finances of their research associations on a permanently satisfactory basis.I commend that view to the House with all my heart, in the best interests of one of our great industries, and I beg to second the Motion.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the wordy "upon this day six months."
This Bill raises a question of very great importance, a question of principle, and one which, I rather think, would be better raised upon some Measure introduced with the responsibility of the Government behind it, because the question is, how far compulsion is to be applied to the industry, and how far is a charge to be levied upon that industry for research or any other purpose you like? To a great extent, I think, it is the rule of the House that Bills imposing a charge, generally at any rate, can only be introduced by the Government of the day. Apparently, there is an exception if a charge is to be levied on any other section of the community; at any rate, any Bill imposing a charge needs the very careful consideration of the House. There is no doubt that research of any kind is of value, and one would have thought that if the results of the combined research in this particular case had been of such benefit to the industry as a whole, they would not have had to come to this House for compulsory powers to raise the paltry sum of £15,000 a year. We were told that the combined capital of this Research Association amounted to £31,000,000. Fancy people commanding a capital of £31,000,000 having to come for compulsory powers to raise the small sum of £15,000 a year. I cannot make out whether it is 1/200ths or 1/2,000ths of that capital, but it is something so minute that to come here for compulsory powers to raise that sum seems like taking a big mallet to kill a small fly. Whether the Bill be passed or not, the great bulk of that money will still be found by the people concerned, because they use the large proportion of the rubber which is imported into this country. Therefore, they are really 1335 bringing in this Bill in order to pass part of this burden on to the small manufacturers.
The first point that I want to make is this. When this Bill was brought in in 1928, the ground on which the House was asked to accept it was that it was supported by the great majority of the people who would be affected. Mr. Waddington, who introduced the Bill, made that point as clear as he could. The hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Sir R. Hamilton) said that he supported it, but that he would not be supporting it unless he were convinced that the vast majority were in favour of it. The then President of the Board of Trade said:Is it right … where you get a great majority of the people engaged in an industry in favour of combined research … to compel a relatively small dissentient minority to come in?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1928; col. 1547, vol. 215.]12 n.
He said that that was the sole issue. I have taken the trouble to read the Debate again, and if anybody will take the same trouble, they will see that the basis on which everybody supported the Bill was that they believed, rightly or wrongly, that the vast majority of the people who would be affected were in support of the Measure. What was the position, and what is the position now, as to whether the industry is in favour of it? One would have thought—indeed, there can be no question about it—that any industry or anybody causing a Bill to be introduced and asking the House to pass it on the basis that it had the support of the industry or persons concerned, would bring some evidence to satisfy the House that that was the fact. We have had no evidence whatever. Strange to say no memorandum has been published with a list of signatures of those favouring the Bill. No resolution of any association, showing what that association's views are, has been produced, nor has there been any signature of any firm in the country which is in favour of the Measure.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I have heard references to letters, but no name has 1336 been published, even by my hon. Friend. Of course, we know the names of those who are behind the Bill. The persons who are actively concerned, and who have caused the Bill to be introduced are Colonel Sealy Clarke, of the Spencer Moulton Co., and Mr. L. V. Kenward, Chairman of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association, and a director of Dunlops. That is common knoweldge. The controlling influence of this Association, with its big capital, is behind the Bill. When, however, we are asked to pass a Bill on the basis that it has the support of the majority in the industry, some steps ought to be taken to satisfy us about that. I said in the last Debate, and I say now, that if that were definitely proved, I would not oppose the Bill in principle. There are plenty of details to which I object, but, if it were true that the vast majority of the industry wanted the Bill, it would be on a totally different basis. Where did the confusion come in? It was said in the last Debate that there were 95 manufacturers in favour of the Bill, and 26 against. My hon. Friend says that there were 99, but no one knows who they are, except possibly the hon. Member.
I say this, and I challenge denial, that only one meeting has been called to ask the views of the manufacturers about this Bill, and that was before the Bill was introduced in 1928. I have seen a letter circulated by Colonel Sealy Clarke among the rubber industry the other day, and the meeting to which he refers is what is known as the Manchester meeting. I happen to know something about it, because I was there at the lunch which preceded the meeting. I was not permitted to be at the meeting, but I know the figures. Thirty-three manufacturers were represented, and 21 voted for and 12 against. Of the 21, however, there were eight companies under one control. The Dunlop Company and seven subsidiary companies controlled by them were all represented by one man, so that he had eight votes. If he is counted as one, there were 14 in favour and 12 against. It was published that the Bill was supported by a mass meeting; there was no mass meeting, but only a meeting of a small number who were almost evenly divided, if you take into consideration the fact that Dunlop had eight votes.
1337 I want the House to appreciate the great confusion about what is meant when one talks about rubber manufacturers, The rubber manufacture, as defined in the memorandum and articles of association of this Research Association, is much more limited than the definition of the Bill. A rubber manufacturer there means any employer engaged in rubber manufacture, and membership is limited to those who are bonâ fide rubber manufacturers. Of course that is not definitive, I agree; it has to be construed, and it is construed in practice by reference to the object of the Association. It has never yet been pointed out to the House that this is not an Association of rubber manufacturers in the broad sense. There is the name of the Association to begin with. I am looking at what I believe is the last edition of the memorandum of association, one which was in being so late as July 1929. I do not know whether it has been changed since, but at any rate up till then, and long after the Bill was last introduced, the name was "The Research Association of British Rubber and Tyre Manufacturers." I would point out that they are "rubber and tyre manufacturers", and the object of the Association was to promote research and other scientific work "in connection with the rubber and tyre manufacturing trade or industry"—hon. Members will see they are calling it one trade or industry, the rubber and tyre industry—" and other trades and industries allied therewith or accessory thereto." In truth, it is an association of manufactuers concerned directly or indirectly with the motor tyre industry, and that is why they spoke about there being 95 in favour and 26 against. They were speaking of some 121 firms who come within that description. Will the House realise that the rubber manufacturers who would be affected by this Bill cover a class of a very different kind? According to the Bill "manufacturer" meansany corporation, firm or person engaged in Great Britain or Northern Ireland in the manufacture or the preparation for sale of any article in the manufacture or preparation of which rubber is used.That is a very different thing. A whole heap of people who never would think of describing themselves as rubber manufacturers before this Bill appeared are 1338 brought in by that definition. Take, for example, a boot-and-shoe manufacturer who uses natural rubber for the purpose of vulcanising and making the crêpe soles which he stitches on to the shoes he produces. He never would have thought of calling himself a rubber manufacturer, but he is made a rubber manufacturer for the purposes of this Bill. Technically, the description includes even a dentist who uses natural rubber for any purpose, the makers of toys and of rubber hot water bottles—in short, anybody who uses natural rubber in the very smallest degree for the purpose of forming part of any article which he sells becomes a rubber manufacturer and liable to pay this levy. I have always distrusted those behind this Bill since an Amendment which we moved in Committee on the last Bill to cut out the small users, anyone who used less than half a ton a year, was resisted. This levy comes to about 4s. 2d. a, ton, and we said that people who used such small quantities that they would need only half a ton a year, and on whom the levy would come to about 2s. at the outside, ought surely to be cut out of the Bill; but the promoters and the supporters of the Bill would not have it. They insisted on every user, however small, being kept within the scope of the Bill.
Therefore, when we consider whether the majority of people affected by this Bill are in favour of it or against it, we have not to consider merely those big motor tyre firms who belong to this Rubber Manufacturers' Association, but the people who will be affected by the Bill. We have to consider the people who are engaged in the manufacture or preparation for sale of any article in the manufacture or preparation of which rubber is used. For the purpose of testing the views of those people the opponents of this Bill caused a statement to be sent out to 567 persons who apparently are engaged in "the manufacture of rubber" as defined by this Bill. The replies they got showed that 211 object, 28 said they were not interested, and only 20 were in favour. This is the only test which has been made of the feeling of the people who will be affected by this Bill, and of those who took the trouble to reply the vast majority are opposed to it. This statement is over the signature of 15 or 20 firms of the very highest standing, 1339 firms with considerable capital, people who are all dead against the Bill.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
We will try to get it during the day; but those supporting this Bill have got the statement which was sent out, because it went to them as to everybody else, and if there had been anything in it to which to object we should have heard of it. These names cannot be brushed on one side in the way the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Bellamy) attempted to brush them aside. This list contains the names of many well-known firms. The cable industry was referred to. The biggest makers of these cables, British Insulated Cables, Limited, have declared in writing that they are opposed to this Bill. Therefore, the only thing we have before the House at the moment is this fact, proved as far as anything can be proved without elaborate inquiry, that there is no evidence whatever as to the people who are in favour of it, and that there is definite evidence that there is at least a very large section of the industry against it. I will read a letter I received from one of the biggest tyre companies, the India Tyre and Rubber Company, Limited, dated the 27th of this month: They state that before the Bill comes onthis statement to which we have subscribed will be in your hands. It sets forth very clearly why we, with the majority of the rubber manufacturers of the country, object to this Bill. We are thoroughly convinced that the Bill is pernicious in principle. As manufacturers we are satisfied that the finding of the Research Association cannot help us in the least, as the chemists to whose hands the research work will be entrusted cannot have the technical training and experience which are essential. If the Bill passes into law we can only look forward to being harassed with making returns and replying to questionnaires which the provisions of the Bill impose on the Industry. We commend our view to your earnest attention.There is a statement from one very large firm, obviously having a good opportunity for knowing that the majority of the rubber manufacturers are against it. Therefore, we really start with that fact. There is no proof that the majority of the trade are in favour of it. Referring to Colonel Sealy Clarke's letter, I see that he does not even claim that there is a majority in favour of it.
1340 Let us examine in a little detail what the proposals of the Bill are. The Bill proposes to make a levy, which is to be paid to a private concern. I should think that that in itself must strike the House as something rather strange. It is to be paid to a concern over which this House will have no control whatever and a concern which has had some ups and downs. I do not know how many Members there were originally, but on the 8th October, 1927, they were reduced to 13, of whom eight were the Dunlop firm. So it very nearly went out by then. By March, 1928, when this Bill was first introduced, the numbers had been whipped up to 31, including, of course, the eight Dunlop firms. At any rate this Association has had its ups and downs, and to-day we are told that it consists of 58 members.
I want to come back to the memorandum of association. I repeat that it is still an Association the primary object of which is to promote research in connection with scientific work. Complaint has been made that this Bill has been introduced without the knowledge or concurrence of the India Rubber Manufacturers' Association, but there was no suggestion that that Association did not know all the facts in 1928. The point is that the Bill we are discussing has been introduced without the knowledge of the Association, and it has not been brought before that Association. The hon. Member who moved the Second Reading of the Bill rather resented that suggestion, and maintained that the Association knew all the facts in connection with the previous Bill. I agree that that is so, but they have not had any notice with regard to the Measure which we are discussing.
§ Mr. BELLAMY
I am sure the hon. and learned Member does not want to misrepresent what I said. I stated that there was a meeting in January of this year at which there was a representative of the India Rubber Manufacturers' Association, and I assumed that he would report to them.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I am stating the position correctly when I say that the subscribers of that Association never had any notice as to what was being done in this matter; the members never had a meeting expressing their view about it, and did not approve or disapprove, because they did not know that the Bill was being introduced. What has been done is based upon the authority which was given three years ago upon the introduction of the original Bill.
I want to say a word or two about the analogy of the cotton industry. The Bill which was promoted to deal with that industry had for its object the production of the raw material of the industry. At that time the industry was faced with a rather serious crisis, because they foresaw a shortage of cotton. Of course, that was something in which the individual could do nothing to help. The manufacturers had their own research arrangements. Everybody can conduct research, but an individual cannot go and promote cotton growing within the Empire. The question of compulsion never arose, because there was no opposition, and that is an argument which we rely upon. When Mr. Waddington brought forward the Bill of 1928, he was quite frank about it and said that in the case of the Cotton Industry it was accepted unanimously. The Secretary of State for War who then represented Preston, and still represents that constituency, said on the Third Reading of that Bill in 1923:—The compulsion is intended, not to compel a whole body of unwilling people, but to make certain that the scheme shall not fail from one or two refusing."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th June, 1923; col. 2486, Vol. 165.]At no point during the discussion of the various stages of the Measure was there any opposition, and it never raised the great question of principle of applying compulsion to an unwilling industry. I think everyone will agree that there should be no compulsion unless everybody was going to get equal help and be equally treated. I will consider this Bill from that point of view. How is this money to be spent? Clause 11 provides that:The money received by the Association in respect of contributions payable under this Act shall be used only for the objects for which the Association was established, as set out in the memorandum of association of the Association.1342 Therefore, you cannot use that money for any other object, and the primary object is merely for scientific work in connection with the problems arising in the manufacture of rubber. There are expenses connected with printing, publishing, books, papers, periodicals, gazettes, and all that kind of thing, and all sorts of other business, and the only thing that is excluded is contained in the provision in the memorandum and articles of association which says:Provided always that nothing herein contained shall empower the Association to carry on the business of life assurance, personal accident assurance, fire insurance or employers' liability insurance, or the business of insurance within the meaning of the Assurance Companies Act, 1909, Section 1.The Association seems to have very wide powers as to the use they may make of this money, but so far as this Bill is concerned there is not a word to secure the benefit of research to any man. That point cannot be said to have been overlooked, because much was made of it three years ago. With the exception of Clause 11 which deals with the application of the contributions and the way the money is to be spent, there is not a single word to secure to the people who pay this money the benefit of any scientific discovery or any information that is available. These people pay their money, and they know nothing whatever about how it is to be used or how it will be spent. When you come to the memorandum of articles of association, what is the position? Every subscriber to the Association and everybody who has paid these levies does not receive anything for merely paying the levy. Article 38 provides that:It shall be the duty of the director of research to render once quarterly in every year to the Board a report in writing of the nature of the research work carried on in accordance with the general programme and of the results obtained, and at the same time to send a copy of such report to every ordinary member of the Association.Therefore, it is limited to sending it to members of the Association, and it remains, I think, incapable of contradiction that the mere payment of the levy imposed by the Bill secures to no one any rights whatever to the information. Before they can get that benefit, they have to incur a further tax and become a member of the Association. What have you to do to become a member of the Association? You can be quite sure that 1343 you have to pay, and, when it comes to the question of payment, the small man pays the same as the big man. Article 14 says:Every member of the Association shall be bound as follows:Every member shall pay the contributions payable under the Act if and when the Act be passed, and such annual subscriptions as shall from time to time be fixed by the association in general meeting.Therefore, they all pay the same subscription.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The people who attend the meeting decide themselves what the subscription will be, and I dare-say my hon. Friend knows something about these metings. These are concerns spread all over the country. A meeting, I suppose, would be had in the place most convenient to the Board. It might be at some place in London, such as the Cannon-street Hotel. Does anyone suppose that all the manufacturers, hundreds of them in quite a small way about the country, are going to come up to attend these meetings? Everyone knows what happens at these meetings. But at any rate they have to pay the subscription, and its amount, I repeat, is quite vague and uncertain. I think that that is wrong. Under the Bill this House has no control over the Association. They might change their Articles tomorrow and say they are not going to give this information even to members. If the House imposes a levy of this kind, there ought to be something in the Bill to secure the benefit from that payment—something which the Association cannot take away. The position is that these people are at the mercy of the Association, and are entitled to nothing unless they pay. I think that that is wrong.
I should like to explain why so many people say that this research is not going to be of much use to them. Everyone can see that the research in which a manufacturer is really interested is research connected with his own work. Suppose that a manufacturer has some new idea, and wants some tests made in a certain direction. He may hear of some new mixture, or something of that sort. Who, to begin with, is going to 1344 direct the work which this Association is to carry on? Committees are appointed by the Board, which decide what work shall be done. Is the small man really going to be able to get this Board to direct its staff to make some inquiry which is of interest to him and to him alone? They may do so, but everyone knows that it is not easy for small people to get what they want done; it is the big people who get their way. But, suppose that these chemists do test this idea, and come to the conclusion that it is a good one, enabling, say, something to be turned out which is better than anything that at present exists, what is done with that information? It has to be distributed broadcast to every member of the Association. Is it to be supposed that a progressive rubber manufacturer, who is always trying to improve his material and find out something new, is going to send his ideas for testing to an institution whose duty it is to be, if there is anything in them, to distribute them broadcast to all subscribers to the Association Of course not. Really progressive people who want something found out proceed with their own testing and research and keep the results to themselves. To suppose that this Research Association is going to be of real value to the great body of manufacturers is a fallacy, and that is what is meant by the statement that the results will be of no value to the industry as a whole, because the inquiries are not directed to their particular requirements, and, if they were, they would only be the means of making this knowledge the knowledge of everyone.
Coming to the machinery of the Bill, we see that there are new offences, for which you can be fined £5 a day. These little manufacturers using even a few pounds of rubber in the year—we could not get people who use only half a ton, or even dentists, kept out—have to make returns at least twice a year, within 30 days, of the quantities of rubber which they have used. We tried to get the word "wilfully" put in, but no, there is to be a rigid code, so that, if they are late by a day, even if it be only due to accident, illness or oversight, they can be summoned by the Association, which can inflict a fine of £5 a day. That may happen twice a year. Moreover, unless they give these full particulars themselves and take responsibility for their 1345 accuracy, the only alternative indicated in the Bill is to go to the expense of employing an accountant to give a certificate. Think of a small man, using, perhaps, half a ton of rubber a year, whose levy is some 2s. or 3s. a year, having to go to the expense of employing an accountant to write a certificate, after going through his books, that he has only used so many pounds of rubber in the year. [Interruption.] At the moment I am looking at this matter from the point of view of the rubber manufacturer, and not of the lawyer or accountant. I cannot see that it will put anything in my way.
Then we come to the constitution of the board, which is rather strange. You have a board of 12 elected at a general meeting. I would ask anyone who has had anything to do with companies how often the board is changed? It is always an invidious thing to object to So-and-so remaining on the board, and so the same board goes on year after year. I know that in theory the members can be changed, but, I ask again, is it to be supposed that these rubber manufacturers throughout the country are coming up to these annual general meetings? Then there are 12 members who represent, not manufacturers, but allied trades. Why in Heaven's name allied trades are allowed to come on to this board, and help to control the way in which this research work is carried on, I do not know.
§ Mr. BELLAMY
Is the hon. and learned Member quite sure that these 12 members represent allied trades? Are they not sectional members, that is to say, members interested in particular processes in the industry? I would point out, also, that the number of co-opted members is limited to only four.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
I may have got it wrong, but we can easily see. It says:Twelve or such number of persons being partners, servants, or the representatives of ordinary trades associations, who shall represent such sections, interests or activities of the rubber industry and its allied trades as the Association in general meeting shall from time to time resolve and appoint.I think I was not wrong in saying it included the representatives of allied trades.
§ Major CHURCH
I do not think the hon. and learned Gentleman said it was representatives of the industry and allied trades. The point he made was that it represented the allied trades.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
They might, of course, all represent the allield trades, but, if I did not make it clear, I am sorry. It is:Such sections, interests or activities of the rubber industry and its allied trades.And the Board has power to co-opt four further persons, who need not all be Members of the Association and need not qualify for membership of the Board by subscription. At any rate, it is an extensive Board which will represent a great many interests. I submit that we ought not to pass the Bill. The great reason is because there is no evidence to show that the majority of those who will be coerced are in favour of it. All the evidence is the other way. After all, the opponents here can take a bold step and show the fairness and justice and truth of what they are saying. They publish a list of names whose written authority they have. They come out into the open and say, "All these people are definitely against this Bill." On the other hand, you have no memorandum, no list of names published to give us any evidence that any important part of this industry want it. Do not let us be misled when we talk of this industry by merely thinking of those rubber and tyre manufacturers who compose the two or three associations which have been referred to. They do not represent the people who are going to be hit by this Bill. When you think of the matter, and whether it is night to single out one industry and apply compulsion in circumstances of that sort, it is no answer to say "this combined research may be good." If it is so good as people say, and is going to be so helpful, you surely would not have to come to the House to ask for compulsion. The people who are going to get the benefit can do it themselves.
I should like to say a word on what are called the foreign companies. There are quite a number of them in this country now. They come here and employ British labour for the building of these splendid factories. They employ British workmen, and their goods are sold in this country. We are saying to 1347 them, "You have all to pay, but, as far as the Bill is concerned, you are getting nothing out of it. You are not to be entitled to any information." We turn to the articles, which may be changed tomorrow, and they say, "Unless you can can show that three quarters of your capital is British, you cannot become members of the Association, and, therefore, you can never get anything out of this research." I agree that there are two rather conflicting interests to consider. You may say, "We do not want these companies to have the benefit of this information, because they have probably foreign connections and the information may go abroad." But, on the other hand, you are treating them as English concerns. You are treating them as subject to this levy. They are to be made to pay. Have you any right to say to these people, "We will tax you, but we will jolly well see that you do not get anything out of it, and, if anything is discovered, you are not going to get the benefit of it" It does not seem to me a very fair position to take up. I think the House ought to reject the Bill and make it quite clear that it cannot be considered until definite proof is brought that the vast majority—that was the expression used before—of people who will he made to pay the tax are in favour of it.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
I beg to second the Amendment.
My hon. and learned Friend seems to have absolutely devastated the Bill, and its fate should be a foregone conclusion. I was thinking only the other day that it would almost have been better if the Prime Minister had taken private members' time on Fridays instead of Wednesdays. On Wednesdays we have our pious resolutions, which do not go much further, but they perform certain duties in criticising the Government on certain questions of the day. The majority of these private members' Bills are very much better off the Statute Book. They are mostly very interfering affairs. They are anything but innocuous, and they involve great waste of time in Standing Committee. I have probably wasted more time in Standing Committee on these private Members' Bills than I care to think of. After sitting probably for many days, and perhaps getting a run 1348 occasionally, because there are not enough people there—it quite spoils one's morning—most of them come in for the slaughter of the innocents at the end of the Session. It is a misnomer to call them innocents, because they are mostly anything but innocent. We shall be very wise if we put this Bill out of its misery at once and save its parents and godparents from the disgrace of a child which will only bring them discredit in the long run, and save us a good deal of time.
We ought to look a little more into the history of this Bill. The Mover gave us one or two facts. He said it was introduced first of all in 1927 and got on to the Paper for its Second Reading. It is a very curious thing that it was only when it got on to the Paper that most people in the trade even knew that it had been introduced. There had been a meeting of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association, and two gentlemen were asked to go into the question and see whether they could formulate some Bill on the present lines, but the trade, after all, were never consulted. They never saw the provisions of the Bill, and they heard nothing more about it. There was no other meeting until the Bill appeared before the House and was put on the Paper for Second Reading. It was blocked, and nothing more was heard of it. When it was put on the Paper, people went about saying it was an agreed Bill and would slip through all its stages all right. There seemed to be a regular conspiracy to get it through the House without anyone knowing anything about it. Then there was the meeting at Manchester which has been described by my hon. and learned Friend. Since then there has been no other meeting at all, and I hold in my hand a letter from the Secretary of the India Rubber Manufacturers Association Limited written four days ago. He says:The Bill was drafted and read a First time on 16th November, 1927. There has been no subsequent reference to the India Rubber Manufacturers Association General Committee of any matters connected with the Rubber Industry Bill, and I am unable to state officially or unofficially as to what the personnel of the present levy scheme or the personnel or the committee responsible for the drafting of the present Bill is.We have heard the result of the voting at the Manchester meeting. It has become quite famous in the three years, 1349 and nothing has occurred since. There has been no meeting of the manufacturers since. This Bill was introduced again in 1928, and it passed through Committee upstairs after three or four days' work. It was severely cut about, and there was so much opposition to it that no time was found for it, and it simply was slaughtered at the end of the Session.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
On a point of Order. I do not think that my hon. and gallant Friend should make that statement. The Bill was not slaughtered; there was no time for it.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. There was no time for it, but they always call it the "slaughter of the innocents" when a Bill is dropped. I have always heard that expression. I am sure my hon. Friend will not desire me to go into detail as to what the word "slaughter" means, but the Bill was slaughtered, as innocents always are slaughtered. I do not want to argue the point, but I think that hon. Members will generally agree that the Bill was slaughtered.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
I think the interruption is rather far away and beside the point. The Noble Lord the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale), who is in opposition to this Bill and is, unfortunately, unable to be here to-day, gave me various letters from rubber manufacturers in his constituency, one of which is from the India Tyre and Rubber Co. (Great Britain) Ltd., which is more or less on the lines of the letter which has already been quoted by the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson). There is another from the Clyde Rubber Works Co. Ltd., who also state that they are very much against this Bill which will throw additional burdens upon the rubber trade. They say:The Bill has for its object a compulsory levy or tax on every pound of raw rubber purchased by a manufacturer,and so on and so on. Another letter is from George MacLellan and Co. Ltd., who are also fundamentally opposed to 1350 the Bill. There have been a very great many criticisms about a number of the names appearing on the statement issued against the Second reading of the Bill. I anticipated that a certain amount of scorn would be poured upon a few of them, but at the same time, even the names in small print are of very considerable importance, such for instance, as George Anderson and Co., the Bath Rubber Mills, Bells United Asbestos Co. and the General Electric Co. I suppose that a few people have heard about the last-named company who use an enormous amount of rubber, and about various other companies, apart from the very important firms which are put in large print at the beginning. I think that it is possible that some of the companies in smaller print will be rather annoyed that they are not in larger print, because they are very important firms.
Why is this Bill wanted by those who support it? The Research Association naturally are doing their best to keep it alive. It is only human nature. I know a gentleman who has taken the greatest interest in it, and I am certain that for what it is he thinks that it is quite a good research station. I can understand that those who have been helping it for some years would be very sorry to see the research station disappear. But if it is not wanted, we do not want sentimental reasons to be given for its continuance. We do not want a station like this kept as a sort of pet when it is of no use at all to the manufacturers at large and no good to the trade. It is much better that it should disappear and so save all waste of money and interference.
What has this station at Croydon done? What is its record? We have been told that it was started in 1919. One would expect to hear a great deal of what it has done in the way of research and invention. Here are various copies of the report of the Committee of the Privy Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. The first one for the year 1925–26, says:The Research Association of British Rubber and Tyre Manufacturers has continued to work on the possibility of introducing a purchasing specification for motor tyres which they undertook at the request of the Department.1351 That is the only mention of it in that year. That is all they have done in regard to motor tyres. After all, there are any number of large motor tyre companies which have enormous research stations which probably do a great deal more than a small station of this sort can do. In the following year, 1926–27, there is no mention in the publication of what they have done. There is just one reference in Appendix VIII to a pamphlet that was issued with regard to the volatile products formed during the oxidation of balata. We come to the next year, 1927–28, and we find that they have done a little more. There is actually a page devoted to what they have done.The more important features of the work of the Research Association over the period relate to investigations carried out into tests for pneumatic tyres, the study of the properties of various forms of cellular rubber, and the initiation of a programme of research into the properties of ebonite.We come to the next year:The investigations in connection with the development of a specification for pneumatic tyres, reached a stage during the year at which further progress was dependent upon the provision of the equipment needed to put the proposals into operation.After all is said and done, after 11 years, there seems to be very little of any use which they have done for the trade at large. They have done a certain amount for the pneumatic tyre trade, but what about a great firm like Dunlops, with an enormous research station probably double the size of this research station? What have they done in regard to research on pneumatic tyres? What a great amount of overlapping there may be. The research station can be of very little use to the trade at large.
There is another thing to which I should like to call attention. It stales in the Bill that at the end of five years the Department must make a report to both Houses of Parliament about the research which they have conducted during those five years. We have had the research station in being for 11 years and one would have thought that there might have been a report as to what they have done during those 11 years, but not a bit of it. There is no report for us to go on at all. Who else wants this Bill? We have been told that a majority of the trade want it. We question that alto- 1352 gether. We believe that there may be a slight preponderance, but nothing more. Certainly, numerically considered, there are many more firms against it than there are in favour of it. As regards the capital, it may be that the big combine at the head of the trade commands a little more capital, but when one sees the list and notes the letters I do not think there is as much in it as they try to make out.
Why do this big combine want this research station, when they have a most wonderful research station of their own? They say to the other members of the trade: "You do not know your business. It will be a very good thing for you to have this research station. You cannot afford a research station." But the people who are supposed to be given this great advantage from the research station say that they do not want it. Why should not they do their own business as well as the great combine at the top of the trade? They feel that when this research station has been established, the combine will try to impose on the trade certain standards and specifications, and many of them think that they will not tend to progress in inventions and improvements. If you stick to certain standards and specifications in large government contracts, the tendency is to retain those standards and specifications for many years. I am told that in regard to some contracts certain standards which have been set up have remained for years. The manufacturers feel that they would be limited in regard to inventions, because they would have to make their goods to certain standards and specifications, and that would be a drag on the wheel of improvement.
This Bill has obtained a certain number of adherents because it is brought in under the blessed word "research." Everybody is in favour of research and improvement where it can be done without waste and overlapping. But this proposed research station is not wanted and it will set up a vicious principle unless it can be shown that there will be compensating advantages. It is a bad precedent to start taxing raw material in this way with no advantage accruing. Where is this sort of thing going to end? If it goes on you will tax raw sugar for the benefit of the refiners, and tax wool from Australia for the benefit 1353 of the woollen manufacturers of Bradford! It it no use saying that the present proposal is on the lines of the arrangements that were made in regard to the cotton industry. What was done in regard to the cotton industry was for quite a different object. Even in regard to cotton, it is rather a vicious principle to tax cotton by the bale, but in that case there was a great compensating advantage, because they were going to produce more raw material in the Dominions and the Colonies of the Empire, and to cut themselves free from America. There was a great deal to be said for that, but I do not think there is anything to be said for the system of interference in taxing raw material for the benefit of the rubber industry, when it is not wanted.
If they really want it, this big combine are strong enough to start the research station themselves, if they want a small research station in addition to tneir own large one. I read in the "Times" of the 23rd January that the printing industry are making an encouraging start by setting up an entirely new body for research, and it is entirely voluntary. If the rubber industry want anything on the lines suggested, it should be done on entirely voluntary lines. I hope the House will save the time of hon. Members who might be called upon to serve on the Standing Committee, by throwing out this Bill. It deserves to be rejected.
§ Notice taken that 40 members were not present; House counted, and 40 members being present—
§ Major CHURCH
There is a very strong feeling throughout the country that every possible step should be taken to encourage the prosecution of scientific research, particularly research applied to our industries. That principle is one which is generally accepted in this House and I think it has the approval of the country as a whole. The House to-day is called upon to deal with an important issue, and not with the Committee points which have been raised. The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins) has criticised the proposal from the brief summary of the work that has been done by the British Rubber Research Associa- 1354 tion. He has criticised the Association on the basis of the paucity of the results which he alleges have been obtained during the last five years. No one has any right to comment on the work of an association based on any particular item in a report which is admittedly a very cursory summary of the main work done by a particular research laboratory, without having taken the trouble to find out what the research association is doing.
That is the whole point. Nothing is given of the actual detailed work which is done on behalf of various firms because it is secret to the subscribers to the Association. Where publication can be made is in connection with standards and specifications, and it is hardly fair to say that nothing very much has been done and to ask how this very little research work is going to benefit the small man in the industry. It may have the greatest benefit so far as he is concerned. It is most unfair to judge the work of any research association on the basis of the report of the Department. It has never been suggested that it is a full report; it is just a summary.
One of my objections to the report of the Advisory Council, which is issued each year, is that it does not give in sufficient detail the work that is being done. The reply of the Department is that it is the subscribing members of the Association who object to publication and that probably they would refuse to subscribe if the results were published in any detail. There is nothing to prevent subscribers knowing what is being done. Some of the large firms which subscribe to this association have been trying to keep it going for years. They have behaved most generously. Their objection is that they have been subscribing for 10 or 12 years and have been bearing the whole of the burden. They think it is time that the industry as a whole which benefits from this research work should bear the cost in proportion. The amount they are asked to subscribe is one forty-fifth of a penny per pound of rubber. What an enormous amount: especially when you consider the prices which will be obtained for most of the goods which enter into the manufacture of rubber.
Sir G. HAMILTON
May I ask where the hon. Member gets the figure of one-forty-fifth of a penny? In the Schedule 1355 I see it is one twenty-fifth of a penny for one class of rubber and one thirty-fifth of a penny for another.
§ Major CHURCH
I am quoting the argument of the hon. and learned Member who moved the rejection of the Bill. He said it worked out at 4s. 2d. per ton of rubber which is one forty-fifth of a penny per pound.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The hon. Member who moved the Bill said it would be at the rate of one forty-fifth of a penny per pound, and I worked it out on that basis.
§ Major CHURCH
In any case it does not amount to much and it is not a burden on the industry. It may be a burden on a small firm having to make returns, but that question can be considered in Committee. The industry as a whole is based upon scientific research applied to the industry. If hon. Members opposite say that the basis of the rubber industry is not scientific research then I agree that the Bill is of no value, but if we want more and more research, if we want to pursuade small manufacturers that they should make themselves acquainted with what is being done in the scientific laboratories of the country, if it is their duty as industrialists, not merely to themselves but to their work-people and to the country, to carry out research work and if they are too poor, as many of them are, to employ the services of a first class research worker then I submit that it is their bounden duty to pay this small levy and get the benefit of the results which are obtained by the Research Association. Let me give one simple example of what has been done by research work towards the improvement of tyres. It is now possible for any heavy car to run about all kinds of roads for 20,000 miles without a single puncture at speeds anything from 50 to 60 miles per hour. That is my own experience. My own car has run 21,000 miles without a single puncture, and last Saturday I was travelling between 50 and 60 miles an hour and was quite safe. That is one example of what research work will do for one section of this enormous industry.
I want to appeal to hon. Members opposite to change their attitude on this Bill. A good deal has been said about 1356 the failure of this particular research association to get more support from the large concerns. The large concerns are carrying out a great deal of research work in their own laboratories and their subscriptions are, therefore, somewhat in the nature of subscriptions to small firms in the industry, something in the nature of a charitable donation rather than something which is going to benefit them particularly and immediately. One of the troubles of all research associations is that they depend too much on voluntary subscriptions; and we have the striking fact that certain leading financial concerns and bankers within the last five years, incredible as it may seem, saying to firms which are suffering from trade depression "you can cut down your subscription to this particular research association, it is an unnecessary luxury." That is the attitude which has to be fought not alone among a number of industrialists but also in the financial world. It is the attitude that research does not matter in a time of depression. That is the very time when we should accelerate progress in research.
What are we spending in comparison with the Goodrich Tyre Company which spends 1,500,000 dollars per year on research and employs 300 first-class research men. That is only one of the firms engaged in research. If this country is to hold its own it must spend more and more on research. Since we inaugurated the Department of Research the total amount subscribed by the State to its operations is not £1,000,000, and during that time nearly 30 associations have been started. About an equal amount has been subscribed by the various large industries. The Director of the Rubber Research Association, like the directors of every other co-operative research association, has been spending too much of his time for years in going round begging for alms. That is not the function of a director of research. His function is to get on to programmes of research, to get his committees together, and there should be people who would go about every day telling the manufacturers that their attitude towards research is niggardly in the extreme. The firms should be induced to admit "We have not been sufficiently enlightened. We are too narrow-minded. We are too afraid that any small improvement in a process, which has been made by us, may be communicated to some other firms."
1357 The trouble of this country is that it is difficult to break down these prejudices of individual firms, which think that they have some precious secret which must not be given to the world—a secret which is about as secret as the prescription for Beecham's Pills. It is time that industries, small and big, changed their attitude. In the larger and most progressive industries in the country there is that change of attitude already. I hear that the General Electric Company object to this compulsory levy. They have objected probably because they have been sufficiently wide-awake to have spent more on research than any other industrial concern in the country. They subscribe voluntarily to about a dozen of the different co-operative research associations.
No firm has a right to-day to claim to be ignorant of what is going on in other countries and in the industry in this country. Firms must keep themselves up to date if they are to survive. One of the main functions of this research association is to keep its subscribing members supplied with the latest information from all parts of the world. Is that no small task? I hope the Bill will get an overwhelming majority for the Second Reading. As I have said, we shall be able to meet any of the small committee points that have been raised.
Sir G. HAMILTON
I am sure the House has thoroughly enjoyed the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Central Wandsworth (Major Church). If it had been an appeal for individual firms to join together voluntarily in order to encourage research, I should have supported the hon. and gallant Member, but this Bill is an entirely different proposition. The hon. and gallant Member has told us that the Goodrich Tyre Company spend 1,500,000 dollars a year on research. The British Goodrich Company have large works in this country. They would have to subscribe compulsorily to this research station in addition to carrying on their American research. But from the research station here they would get only such benefit as the Committee which governs the station would allow them to have. The Goodrich Company will not be allowed a representative on that governing body. The hon. and gallant Gentleman stated that firms were anxious to keep their individual secrets, and he 1358 said how necessary it was, for the general good of the trade, that these secrets should not be kept zealously and selfishly to one particular firm. Then why do supporters of the Bill object to giving these foreign firms, as they are called by the articles of association, the result of this research?
The hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Bellamy) moved the Second Reading of the Bill with such charm, that I was persuaded for a moment that the Bill was sound. Yet there was a feeling within me that there must be something wrong about the Bill. I asked myself, why does a great organisation like the rubber business of this country have to come to Parliament with a Private Member's Bill and ask Parliament to waste a lot of time in compelling the industry to do something which that industry apparently is not willing to do voluntarily? It is a disgraceful waste of the time of Parliament. Moreover, the principle of this Bill undermines the whole of the principles that I hold in politics. If ever there was a Socialistic Measure this is a Socialistic Measure. If ever there was a Measure which inflicts taxation upon individuals without representation, this Measure does. It taxes foreign companies and does not allow them representation. As a result of the action of the Conservative party the British Goodyear Company and the British Pirelli Company and many others have come to this country and at their own expense have put up magnificent factories, where they pay good wages and find much employment for our people. Now the House is asked to consider a Bill which will tax them, not in their own interests—
Sir G. HAMILTON
Now the House of Commons is being asked to penalise the very firms that we have persuaded to come here. I give another reason for my objection to this Bill. During the consideration of the Trade Disputes Bill there has been great discussion on the 1359 question of contracting-in or contracting-out. We think that contracting-in is right, but hon. Members opposite believe in contracting-out. In this Bill you do not even allow contracting-out. An unfortunate foreign firm which comes to this country is not being allowed to contract-out, but is compelled to contract-in, and it gets next to no benefit unless it can prove that 75 per cent. of its capital is British owned. We who believe in Safeguarding know that in these cases 75 per cent. of the capital is not British owned. We know that thanks to Safeguarding it is foreign capital which is coming here and is finding employment for British workpeople and producing goods in this country. I cannot understand how the hon. Member for Twicken-ham (Sir J. Ferguson) who is a Conservative and a believer in Safeguarding can support this mischievous Measure.
It is all very well to say that the bulk of the trade want this Bill. The hon. and gallant Member for Wandsworth spoke of research. Are there not other industries in this country which go in for research? What about the great chemical industry? Are we to believe that the late Lord Melchett would have come to this House for a Bill to compel the chemical industry to contribute towards the upkeep of a research laboratory? The Noble Lord knew more about business than to do that; he went to the firms in that industry and induced them to combine voluntarily and there is more research carried out in that industry, and more research necessary in that industry, than in the rubber industry. If the whole of the rubber industry want this research, why should they ask Parliament to compel people to join in the scheme? If they have an overwhelming majority in favour of this proposal, why can they not get their people to join up voluntarily for the purposes of this research work? If the hon. and gallant Member for Wandsworth were free I would suggest that the rubber companies should ask him to go round and talk to these small firms who are unwilling to join, and if he makes the speech to them which he has made to us to-day, I believe that they would join voluntarily.
Among the firms which are standing out the General Electric Company has been mentioned. What about the British 1360 Insulated Cable Company, another vast concern. These firms are just as important as the Dunlop Rubber Company with its seven subsidiaries. Am I to be told that Sir Eric Geddes, a former Member of this House and a former Minister, has not as much influence as the late Lord Melchett had? If he and the hon. Member for Twickenham and others wish to organise the rubber industry to get this miserably small contribution per ton of rubber for the support of a research station, I am sure that he is a large enough and an important enough man, in every respect, to carry the trade with him. I think he wants to get busy on those lines and not to forget that he is, or used to be, a Conservative holding anti-Socialist views. Then there is also the Michelin Tyre Company and David Moseley and Sons who have been active in fighting against this Bill. I have known David Moseley and Sons in Manchester all my life and I can say without fear of contradiction that theirs is one of the few concerns in Manchester to-day which is still giving good employment at good wages. When there is no smoke coming out of the chimneys of other firms you can see when you arrive at London Road Station, and look out to the left, the Moseley Rubber Works working busily. Surely we must take into consideration the opposition of such an important firm. As I see it, this is a Bill which we on this side cannot support. I appeal to my hon. Friends who still believe in individual liberty and individualism in industry, to oppose it with all their strength, and I hope that the promoters will not any further waste the time of the House.
§ Mr. PYBUS
I rise, not to interfere in the domestic quarrel which is taking place between the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) and the hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir J. Ferguson), but to try to clear away as far as one can from the consideration of this subject, those family quarrels. The tearful advocacy which we have heard is in aid of the poor downtrodden foreign firms who have so generously settled in this country, and who seem determined that the seeds of invention shall not grow here but that invention shall be done in Germany or America and sent over here to be used in the secrecy of a foreign-owned factory while our own British development is to 1361 be left undone. What is all the talk about? A great list of firms who oppose this Bill has been set out. I do not know how many there are, and yet all they are asked for is their paltry share of a sum of £15,000 a, year for five years in order to put research on its feet in connection with a very important industry and which is so important, to give it permanency. In order to do that a period of five years is essential. Professors will not come in to undertake this work for one year only, and you cannot organise a laboratory for one year only, and the period of five years seems to be a minimum. For such a small sum I suggest that it is shameful to hold back purely British research. Why should the smaller firms be deprived of the benefit of research because the big firms, many of them foreign ones, are not willing to undertake their tiny share of this £15,000?
§ Mr. PYBUS
I plead that the hon. Gentleman will not quarrel with me, but will keep the quarrel within the Tory family. He asks me why should there be compulsion—why should you not try sweet reasonableness? Would this Bill be before the House if the policy of sweet reasonableness had succeeded? It is because that policy has failed that the industry is asking the sanction of Parliament to put this research work on a sound and proper basis. We have a duty not only to the poor foreign firms referred to by the hon. Member, who have come so tremblingly here under our protection, but we have also a duty to the small men in this industry. Some of the finest inventions that have ever been discovered have been carried for a certain length in a small factory but owing to the lack of funds and the lack of technical assistance many potentially great inventions have not been developed because the small firm had not the facilities for carrying them through in the same way as the big firm. Brains and inventiveness are not confined to the great firms of this country. Many of the most important inventions are discovered in small works, but they cannot be brought to a conclusion, they cannot even be patented in many cases, because there is not the money to do it. I ask the House to support this Bill and I believe that in doing so, the House will not only 1362 render industry an assistance but will help on the cause of science without which I am sure British industry cannot regain its proper place in the world battle.
§ Mr. MILLS
Like the hon. Member for Harwich (Mr. Pybus), I am reluctant to interfere in the domestic quarrels of the Conservative party. Unlike the three opponents of this Bill I represent an industrial constituency. Those three hon. Members, who have since disappeared from the House one by one, are a trinity of lineal successors to the gentlemen who sat on these benches 70 years ago and said that if guards were putt round machinery, industry would stop. What constituencies do these gentlemen represent? Altrincham is purely residential, Knutsford is purely residential and Ilford is a residential district and I guarantee that the hon. Member for Ilford (Sir G. Hamilton) dare not stand up there and explain to the representatives of the learned professions who reside there in such numbers, the point of view which he has put before us to-day. He has to remember that while many industries have come into being in the last 20 years the rubber industry is an infant industry.
Sir G. HAMILTON
The hon. Member refers to Altrincham as a purely residential district, but, if he looks at this list, he will find half-a-dozen rubber companies working in Altrincham and Broad-heath.
§ Mr. MILLS
Of course, I know that industry is beginning to encroach. I happened to work there myself as a young craftsman, and I know the town and that the residents of Altrincham protested against trams from Manchester daring to come into Altrincham itself. That gives you an idea of how well they are represented by the type of mentality which is opposed to this Bill. Take the work of the Minister of Transport. Does anyone dare deny that rubber in the future will play an important part even in the making and laying of roads? Everyone knows that it will. Take the research that went on during the War, and the marvellous work that was done in the replacement of the actual throats of men whose tubular organs had been shot away. They were replaced owing to the scientific research of the rubber industry. Look at the argument that was given about the Goodrich Company in America. This very principle 1363 of a compulsory quota is paramount in America, and equally so in Germany, the two biggest competitors that we have.
On a Friday afternoon, with other Bills waiting to be discussed, it is far from my wish to follow the obstructive arguments of those who have opposed this Bill, but the representatives of the Conservative party who have been doing so are in direct contradiction to their own President of the Board of Trade. I have here the remarks of the right hon. Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister), who was President of the Board of Trade up to the year 1929, and in recommending the previous Bill to the House, he said:I submit that the proposal of this Bill is right in principle, and that an adequate majority in the industry supports the Bill. Eighty per cent. is certainly an adequate majority.He went on to say:There remains only the argument, if any such is produced, that this Association is not likely to engage in research of any value."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 30th March, 1928; col. 1550, Vol. 215.]Then the right hon. Gentleman went on to give a list of the various kinds of research work undertaken by that Association. It is because it is an industry that is in its infancy and needs all the research that we can put into it, that I heartily support the Second Reading of the Bill.
§ Colonel Sir JAMES REYNOLDS
I am not an obstructionist in regard to research. I think it is essential in this country that we should pursue research, though primarily for those concerned with our productive industries, but I think the introduction of Parliament to compel levies for research is something that should be foreign to our requirements in this country. It is quite true that the cotton industry did bring in Parliament in the matter of the Empire Cotton Growing Association, and I have risen to speak primarily because I was connected with that Measure, but that particular matter, I submit, was a totally different proposition from this.
The trade were almost unanimous in their desire that something should be done to increase the production of cotton for the benefit of Lancashire and the cotton trade generally. We were, and still are, chiefly dependent on the United States for our supplies of raw cotton, and for 1364 several years it had happened that the crops grown in the States were not sufficient to allow the full development of the cotton industry, except at prices which were dangerous and disadvantageous to the trade as a whole. In addition, the British Empire was producing such a small proportion of the cotton available for Lancashire that the patriotic feelings of Lancashire were also aroused; and after very many meetings, both in Manchester and Liverpool, an almost unanimous decision was come to that steps should he taken to set going some entity that would help the development of cotton growing within the Empire, following the work that had already been done by an organisation that had been previously started in Lancashire, but which was too small to grapple with such a large scheme.
It came about that the Liverpool Cotton Association were asked by our Manchester friends to make such arrangements that the cotton suppliers were entitled to charge, I think it was, 3d. a bale on all cotton that went forward to the Manchester Exchange. It then appeared obvious that the Liverpool Cotton Association could not do that without the consent of the spinners themselves, who had to pay this levy, and it arose from that that the Bill was brought to the House of Commons to enable the Liverpool cotton suppliers to make that charge legally, without having it sent back and deducted by any spinner who chose to change his mind. It was on that basis that the Bill was brought forward, and I consider that it was perfectly justified in that case. I see no evidence whatever in this instance that the great bulk of the rubber trade are demanding this Bill. If they were, I should be in favour of the Bill, and I admit that the argument is that the great bulk of the trade has obtained unanimity. To my mind, the statement which has been sent round against the Bill entirely disproves that argument, and I shall be compelled, therefore, to oppose the Bill.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. W. R. Smith)
I think it will be expected that the Government should give some indication of what is in their mind in regard to this Bill. When the Bill was before the House on the last occasion my right hon. 1365 Friend the then President of the Board of Trade, as has already been stated, commended the Bill to the House, and asked that it might be given a Second Reading. I think he also expressed the hope that after examination in Committee it might be able to find its way to the Statute Book. That is the position that I find myself in to-day, of being compelled, on the merits of the question, to ask the House to give the Bill a Second Reading, so as to permit of its examination in Committee; and then, if sufficient agreement can be found in regard to the Measure, that will itself possibly facilitate its further passage through this House, although perhaps in that direction I ought to issue a warning that the state and volume of business is an aspect of the case that cannot be overlooked. Certainly, if agreement could be reached on the points that have been raised, most of which are Committee points, that would be a facilitating circumstance so far as the further stages of the Bill are concerned.
As I have already indicated, this is not a new question for this House. It has been before us, I think, on at least two occasions recently, and at the present time the whole matter is in a much more favourable position, because, as I say, a Second Reading has previously been given, and the Bill has passed through its Committee stage, while many of the points raised as objections on the last occasion have been met by Amendments to this Bill, and, as I am also advised, a promise that was given in regard to a further concession has been embodied in this Bill. I do not think it has been denied, even by the opponents of the Bill, that research is essential and very desirable for this industry. I believe that, in any examination or inquiry that has been made, so far as industrial conditions go, there has always been approval for the proposition that research ought to be developed to the fullest possible extent in order that our industries may not be lacking, so far as ability to meet competition with other parts of the world is concerned, and I do not think that that principle will be seriously contested on this occasion.
But a difference of opinion seems to arise as to how the research in itself shall be provided for. Up to the present there 1366 has been a great deal of research generally in connection with the manufacturing side of the industry, and, although there has been an attempt to suggest that the value of the work has not altogether been worth the money spent upon it, I do not think anyone who reads the report of the Research Association could seriously assert that the results have not been very valuable indeed to the industry. Nor do I think anybody could suggest for a moment that the value of the work has been confined to any particular section of the industry. The results of the research have been very widespread, and have facilitated the development of the manufacture of rubber in directions that might not, perhaps, have been possible had not that research been carried on. Although, as I say, it would be agreed that the work done has been of great value to the industry, it is desirable that the House should keep in mind the possibility of the effort which has been made being rendered useless, unless some more effective method can be found for financing the effort that is necessary to he made.
It is rather astounding to me that the opposition to this proposal should come from the quarters that it does. I believe that those who oppose it, generally speaking, are on the side of economy as far as Government expenditure is concerned, and I ought to point out to the House that, up to the present, research has only been possible by virtue of the fact that the Government of the day have subscribed on the principle of pound per pound subscribed by the industry towards the funds necessary for this purpose. If the proposals contained in this Bill are put into operation, it will mean that the industry itself will be financing all the research work that is necessary, and, I may add, has placed itself under an obligation to refund to the nation some of the money that has already been advanced for that purpose. Therefore, I suggest to some of my right hon. and hon. Friends opposite that really this Bill, in effect, is in harmony with the view which they very strongly express at times, namely, in favour of economy so far as national expenditure is concerned.
The whole discussion seems to be turning on two points. One of them is as to whether the industry requires this Measure; and, secondly, whether or not 1367 it ought to be on a voluntary basis. Had I been speaking yesterday on this proposal, I should certainly have argued, from the information in my possession, that the majority of the industry did desire that this Bill should be placed upon the Statute Book. I am not certain, even in face of all that has been stated here to-day, that that is not still the fact of the situation. I notice that my right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister), who was President of the Board of Trade when the Bill was before the House on the last occasion, stated—I am speaking from memory, after reading his speech—that the proposals in the Bill were supported by 80 per cent. of the industry and about 90 per cent. of the capital invested in the industry. I have not seen anything to challenge that until the document that has been issued. I did not see it till this morning, and I do not think it was published until yesterday. That is the only material part of the argument that has been submitted here in opposition to this Measure. One is entitled to draw attention to the circular that was responsible for getting these replies, and it is greatly to be regretted in a matter of this description, when prejudice and bias, as far as possible, should be excluded from consideration, that a circular of this description should have been sent out containing several misleading paragraphs. Let me draw attention to almost the first sentence in it:—It was introduced by (six members) all members of the Socialist party.That conveyed to the industry that this was some subtle attempt on the part of Socialist Members in this House to establish by means of a Private Bill the principles for which they stand, while the facts are, as was stated by my hon. Friend who moved the Second Reading, that this is by no means a party Measure, it is supported by Members on all sides of the House, and, on the back of the Bill, are names which afford evidence in that respect.
§ Mr. REMER
Is it not a fact that on 1st December, when the circular was sent out, the names of the introducers on the Bill were all Members of the Socialist party, that the names of Conservatives were only added when the Bill was printed, and that the circular in question was sent out before the Bill was printed?
§ Mr. BELLAMY
Is it not also a fact that mention was made that the industry knew about this Bill in December?
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
Is it not also the fact that this statement, which came into our hands only yesterday, does not contradict the gross misrepresentation when the first circular was issued?
§ Mr. SMITH
I cannot say how far the statement of the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) is correct. I do not think it materially affects the position. The hon. Member knows very well, and I think that the interests behind this circular knew very well, that the Bill which was being introduced was based upon the result of a Committee examination last year. These things are not secret. After all, this is not a new question. If this had been a Bill relating to a new subject that was being brought before the House for the first time, then I could understand that there would be some justification for the terms of this circular, but seeing that it relates to a subject that had been debated in this House previously in regard to a Bill that had passed the Second Reading, and gone through the Committee stage, I say that all the facts connected with the position were of such a nature as not to warrant a statement of this kind, which is sent out to prejudice the whole position, in the hope of replies being sent on a very scanty consideration of the matter. I submit that to the House, and I say that there is nothing in the history of this matter which warrants the statement made that this is a piece of Socialist policy as distinct from an issue which commands the confidence and support of all sides of the House. There is another question which hinges on the same point. The statement goes on to say:The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Board of Trade are to be obliged to present to both Houses of Parliament a report on the work of the Association, for which purpose the Research Association shall afford to them such information as they may require.The whole purpose of that and of the sentence following is that there is to he some form of compulsion prejudicial to the industry, whereas, as a matter of fact, the Clause of the Bill to which it refers is a protective Clause in order to see that an organisation or associa- 1369 tion which has obtained certain powers from this House, among which is the right to raise money, shall not abuse those powers, but shall present a report in order that the House may have an opportunity of knowing and judging whether they are honourably treating the obligations and the duties that have been imposed upon them. Therefore, my submission is that the replies that have been received to that circular must to a very large extent be discounted, because they have been obtained upon a basis very largely of prejudice and not a fair presentation of the facts.
I wish to deal with one or two points raised by the hon. and learned Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson). I was surprised to hear him say that this is a Bill that should have been introduced by the Government. I wonder what he would have said if such a course had been taken. He would have protested, more strongly then he has done to-day, against the presumption of the Government compelling an industry to do what they are to be compelled to do by this Measure. He would have argued that it was a fit subject for a private Member's Bill, as indeed it is, for I do not know any subject that could be brought before the House that is more suitable to be introduced by means of a private Member's Bill than this. He said that no provision is made to convey the benefits of research to the members. He contradicted himself in that respect, because later on he pointed out that one of the absurdities of the situation was that every piece of information and knowledge that resulted from research would be broadcast to everybody.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The difficulty to which I drew attention was that the Bill gave no right to anybody, but that you Pad to go to the articles of association to see what benefit you were going to get; and my whole point is that in the Bill, which is the only thing that this House car control, the rights of the people who are to be made to pay is to be made to rest largely on some article of association which may be changed to-morrow.
§ Mr. SMITH
I agree that that was the way in which the hon. and learned Gentleman expressed himself in regard to that point, but it is also true that later on one of his complaints was that 1370 the information and the knowledge obtained would be broadcast so as to make it useless, because everybody would have it, and, if everybody obtains the information in the way that the hon. and learned Gentleman suggests, it is difficult to see how there can be any question of withholding it from any members. If, however, that is a point of substance against the Bill, it can be dealt with in Committee, for there is no difficulty in dealing with a point like that, in Committee. If anything is lacking in the proposals, which withhold unfairly or confer any position upon the small man so he might be prejudiced, that is a matter that can very reasonably be examined in Committee and amended if, in the judgment of the Committee, it were felt desirable so to do. The hon. and learned Gentleman also mentioned that firms carry on research for themselves, and I gather from his observations that that fact in itself was an argument against the necessity for this Bill. It is interesting to note—and I think that I am justified in saying this—that the very firms who are best able to carry on their own private research are those who are asking for the Bill. Therefore, the opposition in that respect is not very sound. The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins) also said that his objection to it was that it was compulsory, and one of the points which he submitted in support of his argument was that this was to be a tax on industry. He objected to raw material being taxed. He is strongly in favour of research being carried on, but he thinks that it should be done voluntarily. But can it be done with-out expenditure of money? If research be necessary, if it be a desirable thing in itself, and if the objection to compulsion be that it imposes a tax, my submission is that you do not get out of that difficulty, in so far as it is an economic one, by transferring your activities from compulsory to voluntary action, because it has to be paid for. The method in the Bill is an economic method of carrying out research, because it spreads out the cost over the whole, and each one will be called upon to subscribe the lowest possible amount necessary in order that the work may be effectively done. Therefore, this method, 1371 viewed from the standpoint of an economic issue as a tax on raw materials, is by necessity the best way if you want the best results from research.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
Does the hon. Gentleman really think that these companies are going to give up their research stations in order to give the work to the research station at Croydon?
§ Mr. SMITH
That is a point which they will determine, but it is covered by my previous submission that those who are best able to carry on their own private research, and do carry it on, are among those who are asking for this Measure. They are therefore undoubtedly of opinion that this wider research and the more general application of research is essential in order to supplement the work that they do themselves.
§ Brigadier-General MAKINS
When their research is on a much more extended scale, why should they want this research, which will be on a much smaller scale?
§ Mr. SMITH
I can only assume that these people, who are very keen business people, are capable of judging this matter for themselves. The fact remains that the people who, by virtue of the size and magnitude of their business, are able to carry on research work of their own, are among those who are asking this House to pass the Bill. The question has been raised as to the amount of money that will be levied. There seems to be some doubt as to the provision in that respect, and two sums have been mentioned, namely, one twenty-fifth of a penny per lb. and one forty-fifth of a penny. The latter sum does not appear in the Bill, but in the First Schedule one twenty-fifth of a penny is laid down as the maximum rate of the contribution per lb., and there is the further provision in the Bill that the levy shall be spread over a period of five years, and that the sum to be raised shall be not more than £15,000 a year. Working that out on the standard and volume of rubber that is handled in the industry to-day, it comes out at about one forty-fifth of a penny.
Having touched upon and answered some of the objections which have been raised, I ask the House to give the Bill 1372 a Second Reading. It is most desirable that research should be organised on as wide a basis as possible, and I would draw attention to the fact that the Balfour Committee on Trade and Industry, which examined the problems relating to this subject in a very thorough manner, strongly recommended this principle, and not only that, but strongly recommended its application in this form to industry. The conclusions of a body of men of their standing and experience in the industrial life of this country ought to carry weight in this House. The further progress of the Bill, if it receives a Second Reading, will be determined very largely by the pressure of business in this House; and if in Committee a measure of agreement can be reached in regard to the points that have been raised, that will not be without its effect on the question of the further facilities which may be given to the Bill.
I am very sorry that I did not hear the whole of the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary, because we all know that whatever has been said by him has been said because he means it and it is his firm opinion. I regret, also, that I cannot agree with what I gather has been his recommendations. From his concluding remarks and the views expressed by the promoters of the Bill there appears to be some misunderstanding regarding our opposition. We do not oppose research, we are all in favour of research, want the most complete, up-to-date and widespread research into every industry where such research can benefit; what we object to are compulsory methods. I am perfectly certain that it is far better that research should be undertaken voluntarily rather than that it should be made compulsory. There is a freedom about, effort which is voluntary, and there is a success about it, which is never seen where compulsion is introduced. This Parliament has been a perfect plethora of unwanted Bills.
Take, for instance, the Coal Bill, and the Trade Disputes Bill, and now this Bill. All those Bills have one sinister common denominator, they all deal with levies. The Coal Mines Bill imposes a levy on the owners, which is a tax on the consumer. The Trade 1373 Disputes Bill imposes a levy—a tax on the unfortunate trade unionist. This Bill imposes another levy, a tax on every single person and organisation producing and dealing in rubber. This particular juncture in our industrial history is not the time to place fresh burdens on any industry, and particularly on the poorer and more struggling sections of this great industry. We are up against a stiff proposition to-day. Compulsion is the order of the day. We started with it in the case of cotton; then it was extended to the coal industry; and now we are asked to apply compulsion to the rubber industry. Where is it going to end? Are we going to have any freedom of life or thought or will? We shall find ourselves socialised out of existence, compelled to get up in the morning when we want to stay in bed, and compelled to go to bed at night when we would rather sit up.
However, it is no good making criticisms if one has no constructive suggestions to offer. Here is a large industry with wide ramifications, and still a wealthy industry in spite of all it has lost—at least, some sections of it are very wealthy. Let those firms who are at present conducting experiments and engaging in expensive and meticulous research continue on a voluntary basis, and when they have achieved any success, have ascertained anything which would help the industry, let those who do not wish to join in this research enterprise buy the information which has been secured. It does not seem to me to be impossible to leave out the compulsory element. Let it be a voluntary organisation engaged in ascertaining what will be for the benefit of the industry, and let those who are either unwilling or who are unable to contribute their quota to this research work be in a position to acquire the benefits of that research by purchase, after results have been obtained.
That is British, that is free, and it is better than forcing people who are already, possibly, paying all they can to get such results as they are desirous of achieving to pay still more for research out of profits which are not very high at the moment. I know that those who are promoting the Bill are acting with absolute sincerity and with the idea that they are serving the best interests of the industry; but I ask them to reconsider the 1374 question of introducing compulsion. Compulsion grates upon British ears; fundamentally we do not like it. Even hon. Members opposite do not like compulsion, though they would apply it as part of their Socialist creed—fundamentally they like freedom. Let us have freedom in industry as well as freedom in our ordinary life.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
I rise to say a very few words on behalf of the small manufacturers and the small traders, whose interests are in grave danger of being overlooked. The big rubber manufacturers are, and have been for many years, conducting exhaustive experiments into the growth, use and manufacture of rubber, and there is not the slightest doubt that such research has brought to them largely increased trade and largely increased profits, and, no doubt, it has brought increased trade and profit to the country as a whole. On the other hand, there are small traders and manufacturers with businesses in which such elaborate research is not needed. The most scientific research and the newest inventions cannot benefit them very much. Let us take one or two of the names which appear on this protest. I will take the very first one on the list, that of the Advertising Balloon Company. What on earth have they to gain from research? Is an increase in the tensile strength of rubber likely to benefit them in any way? They are asked to make a contribution to research which will not benefit them in the slightest way, though it will benefit other people, the vast majority of whom are infinitely better off than they are, and much better able to afford the research necessary in the case of large businesses. I think the hon. Gentleman who explained the attitude of the Government made rather an unjust statement in regard to the circular which had obtained the signatures when he said that it had been sent out unfairly at a time which did not give a full opportunity for consideration.
§ Mr. W. R. SMITH
My point was that the terms of the circular were misleading, and I gave instances to support my contention.
§ Sir A. LAMBERT WARD
I take the very opposite view. Ever since this Bill received a Second Reading in 1928 1375 opinion among manufacturers has been steadily crystallising against compulsion of any kind, and the result is that we have these signatures to the statement which we received this morning. There is not the slightest doubt that many of the companies are carrying out a most elaborate system of research, and my point it that they will continue to do so whether they receive support from the Government or from the other manufacturers or not. It is to their advantage to do so, because they themselves will reap the greatest portion of the benefit from such research.
It is unfair to ask small people who will not benefit to contribute compulsorily under this Bill to support research which is not going to benefit them, but is calculated to benefit firms which are infinitely better off, and which make infinitely larger profits than they do. For these reasons, I think the Bill is unsatisfactory, and unnecessary at the present time. Of course, we all believe that vast improvements in the manufacture of rubber can be effected by experiments, but I think the people who are going to benefit should put up the money for this purpose. It is now some seven or eight years since similar legislation was introduced to compel the Cotton Board to contribute towards research, and I ask hon. Members whether the state of the cotton trade at the present moment is such as to justify that Measure being held up as an example. Let those who want research, and those who are going to benefit by it find the money, and do not place an increased burden on the small man by compelling him to contribute to research from which he is not going to benefit in the slightest degree.
§ Sir WILLIAM LANE MITCHELL
I have been trying to find out exactly what is the position in regard to this Bill, and it seems to me that the only opposition comes from Manchester. The result of my investigation is that but for the opposition of one particular firm in Manchester there would be no opposition at all to this Bill at the present moment. I have a rubber manufacturing concern in my own constituency, and the proprietors come to me every time this Measure is introduced asking me to support it. I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was perfectly right when he said 1376 that 80 per cent. of the rubber trade and 90 per cent. of the capital supported this particular Measure. That position may have been slightly changed, but I notice a statement in the circular which has been issued to the effect that 50 per cent. only consume a ton of rubber every year. I would suggest that the small man should be exempted even up to five tons a year. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore), when he introduced his Bill dealing with the humane killer, was very much in favour of the application of compulsion, but nevertheless he is opposing this Bill which does apply compulsion. I should like to know if there is anything in the Bill to prevent firms like the Goodyear Tyre Company getting the benefit of the money which they are putting up. My opinion is that 75 per cent. of the trade want the Bill, and it ought to be supported.
§ Mr. REMER
I should like to make it quite clear that what has been suggested about these foreign firms is quite impossible. It will be noted that the control of these funds is in the hands of the Research Association, and the Articles of Association of that Company deal with this question of foreign firms.
§ Sir W. LANE MITCHELL
The foreign firms are made English companies in order to carry on this business.
§ Mr. REMER
It is quite easy for these foreign firms to obtain the information which they want by making themselves English companies, and then all the valuable research information of British manufacturers will come into the possession of those foreign firms. I would like to ask if the foreign firms propose to give us the advantage of any improvements that may may make. Firms like the Goodyear, Firestone, Michelin, India, and the Pirelli have erected factories in this country in recent years. One of the most dangerous things in connection with this Bill is the position of the foreign firms which have been created in this country, and these are the beneficent results of the McKenna Duties.
I suggest to the House that there never has been a more gross waste of Parliamentary time than we have seen to-day. The Bill ought never to have been introduced on this or any previous occasion. To bring the quarrels of the rubber in- 1377 dustry on to the Floor of this House for a pettifogging little amount of £15,000 is an absolute disgrace to the hon. Gentleman who introduced the Bill. It is not worth the time of the House, and certainly not worth the expense of printing the Bill and the literature which has been issued in regard to it. It has been said that there is only one firm in Manchester that is opposed to the Bill. I am not concerned with that; that is a matter between Messrs. Mosley and the Dunlop Company. But what does it matter I It has nothing to do with Parliament. If they think that they should not be made to pay this money, is it not obvious that it is not within the right of Parliament to put compulsion on these unwilling people?
I am not going to enter into the quarrel of my hon. Friend about humane slaughter, but it is not as though there were only the one firm. My hon. Friend the Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins) read letters which have been received by the Noble Lord the Member for East Renfrew (Marquess of Clydesdale)—a new Member of the House who, unfortunately, cannot be here today—from factories in his constituency, large substantial concerns, including the India Company, all of whom are violently against this Bill. A great deal is made in the Memorandum on the Bill, and has been made by the hon. Member who introduced it and by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, of the analogy of the Bill which was passed some little time ago dealing with the cotton industry. I was in this House at the time when that Bill was passed and I would point out that it was introduced by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Moss Side (Sir G. Hurst), whose name is attached to the Amendment for the rejection of this present Bill. Those who were in the House at that time will recollect that my hon. and learned Friend secured a Second Reading for his Bill after Eleven o'clock at night, without any debate, without any opposition, and when even one Member of the House could rise in his place and say, "I object," and prevent the Bill from getting a Second Reading. It went to a Committee, and with one slight alteration it gassed its Report and Third Reading stages with only a very short Debate, very late in the Session, when, as everyone knows, the House of Com- 1378 mons wants to get away and it is very difficult to get from the Government any Parliamentary time. After a few hours of Parliamentary discussion that Bill was put on the Statute Book, and I myself was one of its backers.
I would point out that the great difference between that Bill and the present one, apart from the difference that has been already mentioned to-day, that it dealt with the growing of cotton and had nothing to do with research, lies in the fact that already 99 per cent. of the cotton trade was subscribing to the Cotton Association, and the Bill was only passed to compel the one per cent., those mean people who did not want to pay their contributions—[Interruption]. It was precisely to hear those cheers that I made that observation, because, if it be through meanness that the firm of Moseley and others are opposing this Bill, I would point out that on the last occasion when the Bill was before this House it cost that firm over £260 to oppose it—a great deal more than the amount of the contributions that they would have to pay during the whole period of five years. The situation now is quite different. I have been told, and my hon. Friend the Member for Twickenham (Sir J. Ferguson) said something to this effect, that this is a means of finding new uses for rubber, and by that means creating new demands for rubber—in other words, for substituting rubber for some other material which is finding good employment in other directions. Is it the business of Parliament to put one set of people into work and by that means turn another set of people out of work? This is a matter which should be very carefully considered.
I know that the word "research" always appeals to the Labour party. It is a magic word. But I would remind them that all words are dangerous. They forget that there is research of a right kind and research of a wrong kind, and I suggest that the right kind is the research which takes place in the works and in the factory, and that this theoretical research is, generally speaking, of very little use. Last week, the "Manchester Guardian" published photographs of the opening of a new rubber research factory belonging to Imperial Chemical Industries. That is open for any member of the rubber trade to go into, to use and 1379 to investigate, and out of that industrial research a great deal more value will come to the rubber industry than will ever come from this research department at Croydon.
The question of the safeguards given in this Bill has been mentioned. I do not think that those safeguards are worth the paper on which they are written, and I am more than surprised at the muddled idea of finance which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade put forward in his speech. He said he was surprised that Members on this side of the House, who were advocates of economy, should oppose this Bill. He said, "If we can only get this money out of the rubber trade, they will be able to pay back to the Government the money we have already subscribed, and that means economy." I have never thought it economy to rob Peter in order to pay Paul, to take money out of one pocket and put it into the other. The only real economy is that which comes from counting your pennies in order to save your pounds.
Another point against the Bill is that, as has been pointed out by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Altrincham (Mr. Atkinson), this is definitely a tax on the raw material of the rubber industry. Though this research may be of some value to big motor tyre manufacturers, there is very little prospect that it will be of any use to such a manufacturer as I am going to describe, who is in my constituency—a manufacturer of crêpe soles for tennis shoes. Of what advantage is that research going to be to him? Yet he told me that, although he only employs a few workpeople, it will cost his firm £250 a year.
§ Mr. REMER
The hon. Member is quite as good a mathematician as I am, and I am sure he will be able to make his calculation. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend will be surprised at the figure. Whether it is £250 or £25, this is a tax on the raw material of the rubber industry, and at the same time the Board of Trade is allowing crêpe soles to come in from abroad to compete with him, cutting his business out and beating him free of duty, and making no attempt to protect 1380 the industry against that unfair foreign competition, and the Parliamentary Secretary has to-day advocated a tax on his raw material. The hon. Gentleman referred to the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Hendon (Sir P. Cunliffe-Lister) two or three years ago. My right hon. Friend on that occasion said quite clearly that his support of the Bill depended on the practical unanimity with which compulsion was received. Three-quarters of the concerns which have replied are against the Bill, nearly half of the total number that were circularised have replied against it and only a miserable 20 firms in its favour.
§ Mr. REMER
By Messrs. Moseley. The question has arisen, when my right hon. Friend was not in the House, as to what that questionnaire of Messrs. Moseley was. It is a very long letter, but if the House will take my word for it, it was a very simple questionnaire. It states the case against the Bill very fairly and at the end of it asks the simple question, "Are you in favour of the Bill or not?" It was said to contain a reference to the fact that the Bill was introduced by six Socialist Members. It is dated 1st December. At that moment the Bill had not been printed. All that was known was from the Votes and Proceedings that it was introduced by the hon. Member for Ashton-under-Lyne (Mr. Bellamy) and that the names of five other Members of the Socialist party were on the back of it. I have spoken to many people in the rubber industry and I have not found one who is in favour of the Bill. The point that prompted them was that in these days we have too many taxes and too many obligations, and here would be a great deal of difficulty in carrying it out satisfactorily. I believe the term "manufacturers" is far too wide. If it was simply a case of dealing with rubber tyres, or some big portion of the rubber industry, there might he some case for it, but there are so many hundreds of people who use rubber as a raw material in some form in their business. I believe this is a bad Bill: it is even worse, it is a stupid Bill; and for that reason I ask the House to reject it, believing that it will do grave injury to the rubber trade, will cause serious dissatisfaction and a 1381 great deal of trouble at a time when the industry of the country ought to be helped and not injured.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The hon. Member has appealed to the House to reject the Bill as being bad, stupid and dangerous. It does not come before the House as a novel Measure nor as a Socialist Measure. It comes before the House, I was going to say in precisely the same form in which it came before it a year or two ago, but that would be understating the case. It was backed then, as it is to-day, by members of all parties. It has absolutely nothing to do with Socialism or Free Trade. The hon. Member opposed it then, and he found an ally in the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood). Those two great Free Traders and stout defenders of individualist principles, one from the Socialist benches and the other from our own, joined together in much the same arguments as have been addressed to the House to-day. By a majority of exactly two to one the House decided that it was not a foolish Bill nor a bad Bill nor a dangerous Bill, but one to which, a Second Reading ought to be given, and it was sent to a Committee. In the Committee a number of points were raised of the kind which have been raised to-day and objections were made in all sorts of detail. It came back to the House and, had Parliamentary time been available, I have not the least doubt that, by a much larger majority than two to one, it would have passed through both Houses of Parliament and would now be the law of the land, and I have no doubt the industry would be the better for its operation. It comes to the House to-day in the form into which it was moulded in Committee and, therefore, there is an even greater claim for its consideration.
I supported it warmly on the last occasion and shall most certainly vote for it again. It seems to me that the issue lies in a very small compass. Many of the arguments that have been advanced are of little relevance. I adopt the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir W. Lane Mitchell), than whom I suppose no one in the House knows more about the rubber trade and all that appertains both to its misfortunes and, I hope, to its future welfare. If the House 1382 wants an expert view as to what is likely or is not likely to help the industry, I am sure there is no Member to whom they could look for a more authoritative statement than my hon. Friend. That the hon. and gallant Member for Ayr Burghs (Lieut.-Colonel Moore) should come down and say that compulsion is an appalling thing—I do not know whether I should be in order in using such an expression—seems to be a piece of Parliamentary impertinence.
I would point out that the Bill is opposed by 215 rubber producing and rubber manufacturing firms. I dealt with the national demand and the country's development.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I supported the hon. and gallant Gentleman in connection with his Bill, and judging by the speeches which were made against it and by the volume of opposition which he encountered in all quarters of the House he would indeed be making a very wide claim if he suggested that there was for that Bill a deep national demand to which there was no opposition. I can assure him that I have been spoken to outside this House by opponents of his Bill in terms which even the hon. Member for Macclesfield would hardly have dared to use inside the House about the present Bill. The point is, that he has come down to the House to-day to say that you must not have compulsion, and that if you have any form of compulsion you are a Socialist. With great respect I think that that is nonsense. All legislation, of any kind, is compulsion, and because some of it may be very bad is not to say that we should have no legislation of any kind at all. That kind of argum[...]nt carries no weight. What you have to consider, in your support or opposition, is not whether this particular Measure involves, as all legislation does, a measure of compulsion but whether it is going to be of public benefit and in the interests of the particular industry. Therefore, the argument of the hon. Member is wholly irrelevant.
The Cotton Bill is an exact parallel. The hon. Gentleman supported that Bill. There is no difference in principle between the two Bills. I was intimately connected with both, and much more intimately connected with the Cotton Bill which came to this House backed by 1383 Members of all parties. What was that Bill? It was a Bill to say that you should have a compulsory levy per pound of cotton throughout the cotton industry in this country and that it should be paid over a period of years into a common fund to be used for the development of cotton growing within the Empire. "Yes," said the hon. Member for Macclesfield, "But look at the difference; look at the great difference in principle that is involved." That was to develop cotton growing, and this Bill is to assist research. What is the difference in principle? In each case you are compelling the minority to fall in with the majority. My recollection is—and I had to study the figures very carefully at the time—that there was not a 99 per cent. majority. I think I am right in saying that at the time the Bill was presented, although I will not pledge myself, the figures I was able to give to the House were something like 80 or 85 per cent. of the volume of cotton consumers in favour of the Bill.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
The exact volume does not matter. What happened was that there was a very large majority in favour of the Bill and a very small minority opposed to it. Even the hon. Gentleman on that occasion supported the Bill, which was passed by this House by common consent. As far as the question of principle is concerned, if you compel the minority to come in for something which is considered by the majority, and by this House, for the general good of the industry there can be no vestige of difference in principle whether the object of a levy be to stimulate the growing of raw material for the industry or to stimulate research. Both are absolutely vital matters for the industry. The hon. Gentleman advanced an argument, which, I am bound to say, coming from him, sounded very odd. He mentioned that there was the firm of Goodyear, an American firm, and argued how wrong and unfair it would be to put this burden upon the foreign manufacturer. I was indeed surprised to hear an argument advanced of that kind.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
They should be treated in the same way as the factories of Englishmen. I welcome their presence here, and I should welcome their contribution to research in British industry, just as I welcome their contribution to the employment of British workers.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I understand that there is a difference of opinion between my hon. Friend the Member for Streatham (Sir W. Lane Mitchell) and my hon. Friend the Member for Macclesfield, as to whether they will receive the results. The hon. Member for Streatham believes that they will get it because they are English companies. Is that denied!
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
I cannot follow the quick changes of conviction which flow over the hon. Gentleman's conscience and his mind. We have disposed of the question that they will not get it, because they are not English firms.
§ Mr. ATKINSON
The articles provide that these companies can only be ordinary members of the Association if three-quarters of their capital is British. If three-quarters of the capital is not British capital they cannot be members of the Association and cannot obtain the information as to the results of research.
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
If that be so, there may be a perfectly simple way of dealing with the matter in Committee. If it is desired that they should subscribe and should become members of the Research Association, and there is something which at the moment prevents them from being accepted as members, it will be perfectly simple to amend the Bill in Committee to say that any firms which are precluded by the Articles of Association of the Research Association shall not be called upon to pay a levy until such 1385 time as the articles are altered to enable them to receive benefit. It will be a very easy matter to put right.
Sir G. HAMILTON
Will the promoter of the Bill say whether he would accept such a proposition in Committee if it were put forward?
§ Sir P. CUNLIFFE-LISTER
We are here to consider a wider principle than that. If a case of unfairness has to be met as regards a particular firm or a particular group of firms, I am sure that any reasonable promoter of a Bill—I am sure the hon. Member who moved the Second Reading is a reasonable promoter—who desires the Bill to pass by agreement, would accept any reasonable Amendment. I support the Bill on general grounds, and I should support any Amendment to the Bill when it came back to this House on Report in regard to any point which I considered to be unfair. There is no case for the House to throw out this Bill on Second Reading to-day simply because there may be some point of detail as to the eligibility of a certain firm to be a member of the Association or to participate in the benefits.
I supported the Bill on the last occasion because I was satisfied that it commanded a very large measure of support. I support it to-day on the same ground. I have satisfied myself as well as I could, although I have not the same complete facilities as I had then of making Government inquiries, as to the work of the Association and its membership from those who are responsible people and can speak with authority, and I find that the volume of support to-day is certainly not less than it was a year ago. I believe the support to be a good deal larger to-day. I am told that Sir Charles Mandleberg, who was an opponent of the Bill on the last occasion and who was not a member of the Association, is now an active member of the Association and prominent in its counsels. The hon. Member for Twickenham (Sir J. Ferguson), who spoke with knowledge of a large undertaking in 1386 which he is prominent, has told us that that undertaking on the last occasion was not a supporter of the Bill and was even, I think, an opponent of it, but that it is now an active supporter.
The only argument which is advanced is that a circular has been sent out, that a number of people have answered it and that they are against the Bill. I agree that anyone who answered Messrs. Moseley's manifesto, even though that manifesto may or may not contain certain questionable statements, are opponents of the Bill. I agree with the hon. Member for Macclesfield (Mr. Remer) that in this matter of support we must consider the consumption of rubber as distinct from the number of firms who figure in the list. Just as it was the consumption of cotton and not the number of mills with which we were concerned when we were dealing with the Cotton Bill, it is the consumption of rubber and not the number of names which is the correct test in this case. I am told that those who have declared their opposition to the Bill represent, at the outside, 20 per cent. and probably less than 20 per cent., some people say that it is considerably less than 20 per cent. of the total consumption of rubber. That is exactly the position we were in on the last occasion. I then said that 80 per cent. were in favour and 20 per cent. were opposed to the Bill. On that occasion the House gave the Bill a Second Reading.
Therefore, we come back to a simple consideration. No question of principle is involved. Is it or is it not a sound thing that there should be combined research? I do not believe that anyone who is interested or engaged in any of our great industries will deny the vital importance of research, and that the closer combination you can have for research purposes the better. It has been said that there are firms who do great research themselves, and we are asked why they should be sent to Twickenham or elsewhere to do their research in a small laboratory. The research will not necessarily take place in a little laboratory. It will be carried out where it can best be carried out with advantage. It is significant that the very people who have been most prominent in research, who have devoted the most money to research and have been pioneers in research are the keenest supporters of the Re- 1387 search Association, and are keen on getting this Bill through. Under these circumstances, seeing that no question of principle is involved, surely, as the House gave the Bill a Second Reading on the last occasion and it now comes back to us in a remoulded form after consideration, our conclusion should be that it is a good Bill, that it seeks to achieve a good purpose, and that it comes before us with a great backing and a backing which this House ought to endorse by giving it a Second Reading.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I have always taken a great interest in this Bill. I introduced the first Rubber Industry Bill in 1927 and I had the honour of seconding the Second Reading of the Bill in 1928. I have as much faith in this Bill as I had in the original Bill. I do not think we have had sufficient thanks from the opponents of the Bill for our having included in this Bill a great number of the suggestions which were made to meet the objections which were raised by the opponents of the last Bill in Committee. The Bill is, to all intents and purposes, up to date. I am no less than formerly keen on research. I have received a letter from the chairman of the Rubber Growers' Association, saying that they will give their heartiest co-operation, and I have letters from other associations who are prepared to give the Bill the utmost support.
Reference has been made to the original circular sent out by Messrs. Moseley. Like the majority of people who are not Socialists, if I as an anti-Socialist received a circular which stated: "This Bill is supported by eight or nine Socialist Members, and we hope that you will do your utmost to prevent it from becoming law", that would at once stigmatise the Bill for me. That statement has never been withdrawn, notwithstanding the fact that I have the honour to have my name at the back of the Bill and other Conservative Members are in the same position. All along, this Bill has been looked upon more as a question of agreement among the parties if not necessarily among certain individuals in those parties.
The Bill is in no sense a political Measure and I am sorry that the question of research should be brought into politics at all. We must all realise, in 1388 these days when the rubber trade is in such terrible distress, that our bounden duty is to do all we can to put it on its legs again. The more research there is, the more goods there are in which rubber is used, the more we shall increase employment and promote Government economy, which we on this side advocate so strenuously. We should also relieve the overburdened taxpayer. This money will be paid by the rubber trade itself, and as they are willing to pay it they should be allowed to do so. At least 80 per cent. of the trade are in favour of this Bill. You will always find all sorts of people ready to raise all sorts of objections to anything. I have had experience of this on other Bills. You will get 100 post cards asking you to vote against a Bill and perhaps one asking you to vote for it. In this case I think it has centred around one particular firm. I congratulate them on their consummate energy, but I must disagree with them.
In regard to some of the objections which have been made to the Bill may I point out that the dentists, the boot repairers and garment makers, have their rubber supplies already provided for them and are not liable for the levy. The hon. and gallant Member for Knutsford (Brigadier-General Makins) asked what had been done in regard to supplying information; what were they getting for their money? During 1929 more than 320 special inquiries covering every phase of the industry were received and dealt with by the information bureau and, in addition, each month they circulated to-all the members weekly current literature containing abstracts and references on all available matters dealing with rubber and allied subjects. I happen to have been connected with rubber, sugar, tea, coffee, cocoa, and practically every kind of tropical product, and I have found that it is quite impossible for my firms or companies to take in all the various publications on these matters. It is therefore of great importance and value that all this information should be centred in one research station where anybody who desire any information can always go and obtain it. Hon. Members I am sure find the same facility when the House is sitting. Very few of us on the Conservative benches take in either the 1389 "Daily Herald" or the "News-Chronicle." At any rate I do not. Yet whilst the House is sitting I take advantage of the library here in order to read those papers every day. I am a Scotsman.
The magnitude of the task of the Association will be realised if I state that during the year 10,000 applications are dealt with by the Rubber Research Association. It is absurd for anyone to say that members of the Association do not get value for their money. Everyone, even those who support the rejection of the Bill, know that to put forward such a contention is absolute nonsense, and misleading the public. The question of foreign firms has been raised. It is true that under the articles of association, unless special arrangements are made with the approval of all the members, or a great majority of the members and of the Board of Trade, foreign firms cannot get the benefits of the research. That may be right or wrong. In any case there is no reason why the matter should not be argued in Committee. Let me suggest a reason for this arrangement. Suppose that you have large firms in Germany or America, or elsewhere, who are interested in the trade. Their capital, or a very large percentage of it, is in those foreign countries. Those firms are anxious to obtain our trade secrets. All that they would have to do would be to open their factories in this country, to put in a small amount of money, to become members of the Rubber Research Association, and then is get all our secrets to the detriment of the people of this country.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
I am asked why they should be made to pay. I lived in a foreign colony for a great number of years, I and others paid income tax and all other taxes, but we were not permitted to own any property in that colony. In most countries on the Continent that arrangement exists. In any case, it is a matter which could be very well discussed and settled in Standing Committee. I do not know that I consider it a very important point, but in the past those who know best, the members of the Committee, have considered 1390 that it is not to the advantage of the Association or of this country that every foreigner should come to this country with small capital, and get the use of all our secrets.
As regards membership of the Association, let me state that since the original Bill was introduced in 1928 not a single firm has retired from membership with the exception of the Reliance Rubber-ware Limited, which has gone into liquidation. On the other hand, 15 firms have been added to the membership since the last Bill, and they are firms with very large capital indeed, including the General Electric Company, whose name now appears amongst those who oppose the Bill. Incidentally I happen to have a letter here from the General Electric Company asking Members of the House to vote for the Bill. Yet their name appears to-day among those who are against it. I have the name of another firm also in favour of the Bill. Then, again, Messrs. Johnson and Phillips, Ltd., are asking Members of the House of Commons to vote in favour of the Bill, and yet their names are given on this paper as being against the Bill.
§ Mr. CAMPBELL
January 10th is the date of the letter. I only mention these facts because, if we notice these extraordinary discrepancies at a casual glance, then I venture to think that were we to go into the circular thoroughly, we should be able to knock the bottom out of it. As there is another important Bill to he taken, I do not wish to detain the House. I sincerely hope that this Bill will be given a Second Reading and that those opposing it will go more thoroughly into the facts. It is very easy to raise opposition to a Bill. You have only to get a few people together, and you can create an atmosphere as if there was a sort of universal opposition to a proposal. I suggest that in this case any such idea is misplaced. I have no interest whatever in the Rubber Research Association other than the belief that it is for the benefit of the rubber industry and of every other industry that we should do all we can to support research and develop those industries for the benefit of the country.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' Stand part of the Question."