§ REPORT [19TH APRIL].
§ Order read for Consideration of Fifth and subsequent Resolutions.
§ Mr. ANEURIN BEVAN
I beg to move, to leave out lines 3 to 6.
The purpose of the Resolution is to enable the Board of Trade to hand over to the Tariff Advisory Committee power to make recommendations for Orders to be made with respect to all articles referred to in the First Schedule to the Act of 1932. We would like to have some explanation as to why it is that when an Act of Parliament is hardly dry upon the Statute Book, an important Amendment of the kind now proposed is brought before this House. When the Import Duties Act was discussed, it was discussed upon the assumption that all the foodstuffs and raw materials and the various articles set forth in the First Schedule were not to be within the prerogative of the Tariff Committee. Now, however, the proposal is that, without adequate discussion in this House, it will be possible for the Tariff Advisory Committee to make recommendations for the imposition of duties on meat and wheat, and for the Government to make Orders to put import duties upon the foodstuffs of the people although Parliament may not be sitting. It may be possible for the consumers of foodstuffs to be made to pay more for their food for two or three months without Parliament having an opportunity of considering the duties. It will be possible for the Government, upon the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, to put a duty upon imported food without the House having any opportunity of considering it, because it may not be sitting. It is true that the House must approve an Order within 28 days of its being laid, or the Order may be annulled, but it is also true that the House may not be sitting and that the period when it is not sitting will not be counted in the 28 days.
Whatever arguments may have influenced the House of Commons to allow 390 these grave matters to be handed over to the Tariff Advisory Committee, there is no case for handing over to it the articles contained in the First Schedule of the Act. On many platforms, pledges were given and promises were made that, whatever tariffs were imposed, the food of the people at least would not be taxed. It was also made clear by the Prime Minister at Seaham that the purchasing power of the British pound was to be preserved. It passes comprehension how anyone can argue that the purchasing power of the pound will be preserved for working-class people if their food is to be made to cost them more. It may, of course, be possible, to make a narrow view of it, that the Government will indulge in inflation and preserve the purchasing value of the pound in view of the additional taxes on foodstuffs. The Government are now proposing to assemble a set of conditions in which, in the easiest possible way and with the least publicity, the Prime Minister is to be allowed to run away from his pledge. If the Government intend to put food taxes on, why do they not do it in a decent, straightforward way, and bring their proposals before the House in a proper manner? Why do they adopt this back-stairs method of doing it? Is it in order to let the Liberal Members of the Cabinet down as lightly as possible, and to sneak food taxes through without their noticing it because a full discussion on the Floor of the House might cause embarrassment to the House of Commons and Viscount Snowden might be called upon to defend his Free Trade faith in another barren discussion in the House of Lords? Do they wish to avoid these embarrassments so that food taxes may be imposed with the minimum amount of political inconvenience?
It appears to me that a great revolution is overtaking our Parliamentary procedure. It has been suggested for some time that there ought to be a speeding up of our Parliamentary machinery, that our method of making law is too cumbersome and not sufficiently flexible, and that there ought to be a short-circuiting of our methods. I thought that it had been accepted as a cardinal principle of Parliamentary practice that no power should be given to impose taxes without the fullest possible protection of discussion in the House. No more effective way of undermining Parliamentary institutions could be adopted than the 391 present proposal. These powers are not being conferred on the Tariff Advisory Committee because it is a very complicated business. It is not because the House of Commons is cumbersome and has not at its disposal the power to summon witnesses and take evidence. If it were an extremely complicated matter in which we should require the recommendations of experts, we could understand the Advisory Committee having these powers. Whenever criticism has been made by Liberal Members that the Tariff Advisory Committee has proceeded with its recommendations with almost indecent haste without taking evidence from powerful sections of the community, the answer is given from the Government Bench that all the evidence has been collected years ago, that everybody knows everything about it, and that there is really no need to have a long-drawn-out inquiry.
If all the facts were known about food taxes, if the Government's mind were made up, and if the evidence were clear, why was the matter sent to the Tariff Advisory Committee? I have always understood that the purpose of an advisory committee is to provide the Government with the expert opinion which it lacks. The purpose of the Tariff Advisory Committee is not, as we understand now, to give the Government expert opinion, to provide them with properly sifted evidence, and to give them impartial judgments; it is merely a device to take from the Floor of the House of Commons the most unpleasant pieces of legislation and to get them through by methods which are reprehensible in themselves and fraught with disastrous consequences for the reputation of Parliament. I believe that an attempt was made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer when the Import Duties Act was before the House to get this Amendment included, and I shall probably be told that this Resolution was part of the general scheme and that it is not an attempt to amend an Act of Parliament in an important section any different from what was intended when the Act was brought before the House in the first instance. I know we shall be told that. Nevertheless, it is profoundly true that the whole psychology of the country and of this House was greatly influenced by the fact that, extensive though the powers of the 392 Tariff Advisory Committee were, they did not include foodstuffs. Now, of course, they are to be included, unless this Amendment meets with the approval of the House. It is true that an opportunity will be given on further Amendments to discuss the various foodstuffs, but we on this side of the House desire to register most emphatically (a), that the power of imposing taxes is being taken away from the Floor of the House of Commons; (b), that it is being handed over to a committee which, as has already been shown, is not a judicial committee at all, but has proceeded to make its recommendations in a manner which casts grave reflection upon a committee appointed by this House; and (c), that the Government now propose to assemble a set of circumstances in which it will be made easier to run away from their election pledges and make the cost of living higher to the working classes of this country without giving the electorate as a whole a proper opportunity of expressing its opinions through the House of Commons. This method of procedure casts grave reflection, not only on the Cabinet itself, but on the honour and prestige of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. HERBERT WILLIAMS
The speech to which we have just listened from the hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) seems to overlook the very definite undertaking given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the occasion, I think, of the Third Reading of the Import Duties Bill that this Amendment would be brought forward in the Finance Bill. In those circumstances, a good deal of his indignation was rather wasted. He spoke of our having sacrificed the right of imposing taxes. That is already done in the Import Duties Act, because the right was given to increase taxes already imposed under that Act. But I would remind the hon. Member that one of the definite reasons for giving the undertaking was that there might be a proper inquiry into the question of newsprint, which originally the Government put on the Free List. There took place in Committee a very interesting Debate on the subject, and, in the course of it, many people were impressed by the desirability of news- 393 print being transferred from the Free List. The Government at the moment thought otherwise, but an undertaking was given that there should be an opportunity, through an Amendment of this kind, to have the case investigated by the Import Duties Committee, and I am certain the hon. Member opposite would not like to induce the Chancellor of the Exchequer to break Ms pledge.
I would like to go further and point out that the paragraph we are considering, in conjunction with the next paragraph, creates an entirely new situation, Because paragraph (2) deals with the question of drawbacks in respect to materials which have gone through the process of manufacture. If these drawbacks had been in the original Import Duties Bill, it is quite conceivable that some of the decisions taken by this House with regard to transferring things from the dutiable list to the Free List would not have been taken. There is the case of soya beans. I was one who supported soya beans being placed on the Free List because they are not produced in the British Empire, although ground nuts, peanuts or monkey nuts, as they are sometimes called, are an effective competitor, and as there happens to be a large export trade in soya beans, there was a risk of their being prejudiced, Now we are proposing to introduce into the Import Duties Act provisions with regard to drawbacks, and it may be that soya beans should be treated differently. I very much rejoice that this provision is to be incorporated in the Import Duties Act, because it is one more step in the direction of a scientific tariff.
§ Sir PERCY HARRIS
I venture to suggest that these four lines in the Resolution raise a much larger issue than merely the question of giving power to a committee of three to add a certain number of articles to the Free List. The words are very significant, and create a very important constitutional precedent. If there is anything of which this House is jealous, it is the right not only to control but to decide what commodities should be taxed. New Members, I know, regard our machinery as cumbersome, clumsy and slow. From a financial point of view it has been deliberately devised to be cumbersome, clumsy and slow. Our ancestors regarded it as most important 394 to protect the public from taxation. Some suppose that this House exists only in order to propose taxes, but whether you regard this House as a taxing machine, or whether you regard its business as the protection of the public from taxes, it is a most constitutional duty of Parliament to retain control over the money bags. In these four lines of the Resolution we are going to hand over our powers to a committee of three set up by the Government—not by Parliament— who are to decide what articles shall be removed from the Free List and become taxable.
Let me remind the House what happens. It is true that in the end the House of Commons can intervene, but if the committee make a recommendation, all that the House has to do is to register the decree of the committee, and automatically the taxes are collected at the Customs House. It is true that the House for 28 days can intervene, but the House may be in Recess, as was. pointed out when the Bill was before Parliament, and you may have taxes being collected at the Customs House. We had a great controversy about soya beans. I have not the slightest doubt that representations would have been made to the committee, and the committee who are, after all, only human beings, would probably have taken soya beans out of the Free List and made them taxable, the taxes would have been collected and this House would not have been able to intervene for at least a month, and probably two or three months. It is a very serious precedent, and I suggest to some of my Conservative friends who love the constitution and believe in tradition and precedent, that we ought to consider very seriously the wisdom of extending to the Import Duties Act this long list of raw materials and foodstuffs. I see an hon. Friend opposite who, I believe, would put a tax on meat, but I am sure that he, a good constitutionalist, a great Conservative, be he Tariff Reformer, Protectionist or food taxer, would be sorry to see the safeguard provided by Parliament removed, and taxes imposed by what is, after all, a back door, to bring in a very large amount of revenue, because the articles on the Free List are to be subject to a duty of 10 per cent., which may mean 20, 30 or 50 per cent. As a 395 recent order shows, the goods in the Schedule come under an entirely different category, that is 10 per cent. It is reasonable to assume, then, that it would be partly of a protective character and partly of a revenue-producing character. Therefore, we can have three gentlemen sitting in an office, behind closed doors, deciding what article should be taxed, and collecting large amounts of revenue from the people of this country.
The Government ought to produce some very strong argument for this very unconstitutional practice. I can imagine the angry, righteous indignation if the late Labour Government had used such a procedure, and put into operation the Land Taxes, and, a committee having been set up, the Treasury had power by Order to say how land was to be taxed, but that Parliament should be able to intervene for 28 days or even longer. It would have been called a revolution. Talk about the Parliament Act and about removing the veto of the House of Lords! This is really tantamount to removing the veto of the House of Commons over taxation. I say that the Government—I do not say wittingly, but probably unconsciously — have been rushed into a wholly unconstitutional and unsound policy. I do not like, in these days, to remind the House of ancient history, but we must not forget that the foundation of Magna Charta was to give control to the people's representatives of the money bags.No scutage or aid shall be imposed in our Kingdom unless by the general council of our Kingdom.That is in Magna Charta, hon. Members will be interested to hear. Apparently they were more advanced in 1215 than they are in 1932 in regard to handing over to the executive the powers of taxation. The Bill of Eights, in 1688, laid down the principle:Henceforth shall no man be compelled to make any gift, loan or benevolence or tax without common consent by Act of Parliament.Henceforth, in 1932, articles are to be taxable without the approval of Parliament, and taxes are to be levied, if the Treasury so desire, and, following precedent the other day, they would so desire, to rush them through so as to prevent—that would be the argument— evasion, and taxes are to be collected 396 without the ordinary machinery of the House of Commons. I am not questioning the power of the House of Commons to put on what taxes they like. If the majority of the House of Commons want to tax food, they have the power to do it. Many Members want to tax food. I do not take the line that election pledges override the power of the House of Commons. I have never taken the line that Members are delegates, because the House of Commons is supreme, but the procedure which has been built up in the light of experience is a safeguard against the wrong kind of taxation. Let hon. Members look through the list. Reference has been made to paper. Great pressure was brought to bear to make paper taxable. All kinds of vested interests are knocking at the door of the committee of three, and there is no safeguard that that committee will not use the powers they have to impose taxes amounting to many millions.
There is also this important point. This is a needy Government wanting revenue. In the summer we may be in the position of finding that the anticipations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer are not likely to be fulfilled, that Ms calculations were wrong, and if this committee of three take a large number of articles out of the Free List it will be a temptation for the Treasury to make the necessary Orders confirming their action. The House will be in Recess, some of the Ministers will be in Ottawa and some in Lausanne, and we may have those duties collected for three months without the constitutional approval of this House. I protest most vigorously against this departure from precedent, because it is a thoroughly unconstitutional proceeding. Ours is not a written Constitution, but based on practice, custom and tradition, and I protest against our constitutional practices being overridden in this rough-handed way by a Government which has an immense majority. It is creating a very bad precedent.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
On the last occasion on which this principle was raised the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams) and I crossed swords about it. It was on an Amendment to effect the same purpose as this Amendment which had been put down by the Labour Opposition, who wanted to retain Parliamentary control under the Imports 397 Regulation Bill. The Member for Dumbarton Burghs (Mr. Kirkwood) and I decided to divide the House, but we got no support on that occasion. The two of us were called upon to stand in our places. I would remind the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) and the Labour Opposition that what is being proposed under this Resolution introduces no new principle, although it may be true to say that its application is to be applied on a much larger scale. It may be that the committee are to be given powers to deal with more controversial matters than those to which this principle has been applied in the past, but it is no new principle. Indeed, the Labour Government themselves introduced it, but the people to be dealt with then were regarded, no doubt, as of lesser importance; there were no large trading concerns involved. Certainly the Labour Government did agree to the principle in connection with the Anomalies Act. On that occasion I was bitterly opposed to power being given to an advisory council to make regulations saying whether or not poor people should have benefit. The conditions in that ease were even worse, because I understand that here there is a limit of 28 days during which their recommendations can operate without the approval of Parliament—unless Parliament is in Recess—whereas under the Anomalies Act there was no time limit, and all that a Member could do was to raise the question in the House himself.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
Legislation by Order-in-Council is not a new principle, it is an old part of the Constitution, but the imposition of food taxes by order is certainly new.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
I have already said that—that what we are doing now is no more than an extension on a larger scale of what we have done hitherto; but is the hon. Member going to tell me that the taking away of unemployment benefit from people is less important than imposing food taxes? Those people had paid their insurance contributions, and yet we were handing over to an outside authority the right of depriving them of benefit. This is no new principle; to me the procedure is alike in both cases. At the same time I suggest to whoever is going to reply on behalf of the Government that this practice has become an 398 important issue which Parliament must really face. In all Acts of Parliament there is now a wholesale delegation of power to outside bodies really to make the law itself. We pass the outlines of an Act, but leave it to other people to determine what it is really going to do. All we decide upon here is the rough outline; the details are not sanctioned by Parliament but are filled in by some outside body. It has often been the case that after we have passed Acts of Parliament the Law Courts of the country have had to define them, but there was at least this merit about that procedure, that it was done by judges trained for the work, and the points at issue were argued in public and before the Press of the country.
What we are doing here, however, is, in effect, to make an Act of Parliament in secret, without any examination of the facts in public, and with the public having no knowledge of the evidence on which the decisions are based. There is this difference between the judges and the committee presided over by Sir George May. It has hitherto always been held, and I think with some effect, that the judges are above outside pressure, that there are not the same economic forces behind them. But what guarantee have we that this committee though composed of very estimable gentlemen, will be outside the sphere of pressure? What guarantee have we, seeing that their deliberations take place in private, that such forces are not at work? Further, when the judges define a law they give their decision after both sides of the case have been fully argued before them in public. Here we may have the law determined without the case having been argued in any real way at all. The Lord Chief Justice, in a work which an old colleague of mine, Mr. Campbell Stephen, and I have been going through recently, has pointed out how one by one the real rights of Parliament are being taken away under successive Acts of Parliament, because, as I have said, all that is being left to us is to pass a Bill dealing with a certain subject, but with all the details—all that gives it any real effect—filled in by some outside body.
If Parliament desires to take benefits away from poor, defenceless people, or to introduce food duties, let Parliament debate it and let Parliament decide in what way those laws are to be enforced. Let 399 us know in Parliament what is to be the extent of the ramifications of such legislation. I appeal for support to those who are associated with the law, and who still have some regard for the traditions of this House. It is strange that it should be left to one who belongs to the smallest group in this House to plead for the maintenance of Parliamentary control. Those associated with the Bar have been warned by the judges against allowing the Legislature to be set at nought in this fashion. I believe the House of Commons has still some use, has still some work to perform, but it ought to be more than the mock right of just passing the outlines of a Bill, just the headlines of the Bill, without any real right of saying how the Bill is to operate and what it is to do.
These new duties may be for the good of the people or not, with that I am not concerned at the moment; what I am concerned with is the democratic character of Parliament. It was one of my differences with my late Labour colleagues that they attempted to force me to sign a certain document and come to an agreement in private to throw over my constituents. I then said to them that they had no right to ask a Member of Parliament to do anything which would mean that he was not throwing open his whole life and his whole record of Parliamentary work for his constituents to see from day to day. In this case we shall have the May Committee advising certain tariffs. Certain Members of Parliament may not want them on account of particular interests in their constituencies, and others may want them. If the constituency does not want them, when the constituents go to their Member and say, "You have put on a tariff which has interfered with our work and with our living," the Member will say, "I did not put it on, it was the May Committee that put it on." Instead of a Member of Parliament voting deliberately in the House, in the full light of day, on a matter which may be one of life or death to his constituency, he will have handed over to another body the duty which he ought boldly to have undertaken himself.
What is now proposed is simply shifting Parliamentary control to private meetings upstairs. I say that it is wrong for Conservatives not to make an attempt of some kind to prevent powers of this 400 kind being given to a Committee to deal with problems which are very often difficult to decide. Look at the unseemly quarrel which has already taken place as to what is to be on the Free List and what is not. We find people representing Ulster arguing that their goods should be free from tariffs. Hon. Members may be consistent or inconsistent in their attitude on this question, but they have no right to place legislation on the Statute Book delegating to anybody, no matter how great they may be, the power to impose taxation, because that is a responsibility with which Parliament has been entrusted.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I am almost in the position which is well described in the phrase "I don't know where I are." So far as some of those sitting on these benches are concerned, we have tried to carry out the policy of the party to which we belong. We have never agreed to any committee dominating public policy. We have never voted for that, and we never shall. The Committee which has been appointed to deal with tariffs is totally different from any other committee that has ever been appointed. Certain gentlemen have been appointed at salaries of £10,000, £7,000, and £5,000, and they have power to dominate the policy of the Tariff Committee. That is laying down the principle that they have a right to take salaries without consultation with anybody but themselves. The Government knew before these men were appointed that they were all in favour of tariffs. Every one of them was converted to Tariff Reform as they understood it. Here we have a committee nominated by the Government to dictate to us, and we are allowed 28 days in the second division. This Committee has power to recommend that certain articles of public use shall be placed upon the Free List or that certain other articles shall be placed on the Taxable List. In these circumstances is it not clear that every kind of pressure can be brought to bear to influence the committee in regard to what shall be on the Free List and what shall be on the Taxable List. The result will be that those parties, firms, and interests which have the greatest amount of influence with the Government will get the best end of the stick.
401 I have been reading a speech made by a member of the Government Warning us that these tariffs will be the beginning and the end of the British Constitution, and will expose us to the danger of the corruption which has prevailed in the United States. The same right hon. Gentleman, also told us that the same influence would form cartels, trusts and syndicates and would destroy the whole system under which Great Britain in the past built up her great commercial position. It is all right for the Home Secretary to say what he likes at Liberal meetings and mothers' meetings called by the National Liberal Association, but the right hon. Gentleman ought to say here what he believes about the tariff policy, because he cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds for ever. Will any hon. Member of this House, in spite of the historical retrospect which we have just heard from the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan), be prepared to commit himself to the principle that a committee should have power to impose taxation without Parliament having the first say? I would like to ask where there is an instance in the whole history of this Parliament of any committee outside Parliament being given the right to impose taxation. Whatever the Labour party may have done in the last Parliament, at any rate, they did appoint committees of this House, but the Tariff Committee is not a committee of this House; it is a committee of outsiders.
§ Mr. BUCHANAN
The committee which the Labour Government appointed under the Anomalies Act was not a committee of this House, and in the case of the Tariff Committee we have at least the advantage of knowing who are the members of the committee.
§ Mr. JONES
That is only a get out, because the hon. Member knows perfectly well that that was a Departmental Committee; consequently, that argument has nothing to do with the point at issue. I am denying the right of any committee to assume the duty of Parliament itself. There is an old historic principle that taxation should not be imposed upon the people without their consent, but we have not the consent of the people to the imposition of the taxes which are being imposed by this committee. Did hon. Members opposite tell the people at the last 402 election that nearly every kind of foodstuff was going to be taxed?
§ Mr. JONES
No, it is not. The people who do not matter live in Kensington, and they do not care what taxes they place upon poor people because they can afford to pay them, and they always get the benefit when it comes to profiteering. They know on which side their bread is buttered. I travelled over this country fairly well during the last election, and I do not believe there is any Member of this House who stated at the last election that he was going to support a policy of this kind. Hon. Members did not tell the electors that they were going to appoint a committee of three men with large salaries paid for out of the national funds, and that they were going to give them the right to impose taxation. Was that proposal placed before the people? I wish to God it had been, because then the Labour party would not have been a minority party, but they would have had a majority strong enough to carry out their own policy. In the appointment of this Committee we are going back 100 years in the fiscal policy of this country, and, if we are to have taxes upon food and other commodities, let us have a fair and full Debate instead of having this important principle prejudged and decided by people who have no responsibility whatever to the general body of the electors. That is why this Amendment has been moved from the Labour benches, and I hope this House will not surrender its rights by giving the right of imposing taxation to any committee. We claim the right to decide the imposition of this kind of taxation not three weeks after the taxes are imposed, but before they are imposed, because we have the right to say what shall be done and what shall not be done.
§ Sir GEORGE GILLETT
I think that some protest ought to be made against the statement of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) to the effect that the political views of this Committee 403 were known before they were appointed. I should like to point out that one of them, at any rate, is a very distinguished civil servant, and it has always been most honourably recognised in the Civil Service that Members of that Service, in regard to political matters, should be impartial. Therefore, I do not think that the hon. Member, in a case of this kind, was entitled to make such a statement with regard to the political views of the Committee.
§ Mr. J. JONES
On a point of Order. I hope it will not be taken that I was trying to make individual distinctions. [Interruption.] Mr. (Speaker will tell me when I am out of Order. It is rather peculiar, however, that all your great civil servants, as soon as they leave their positions, become Tory candidates.
§ Sir G. GILLETT
I do not think that the hon. Member has in any way met the objection that I raise to his statement, which seemed to me to be grossly unfair, in reference to a gentleman who has held a distinguished position in the Board of Trade. With regard to the speech of the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris), I naturally understand that he would be only too pleased that this policy should be followed, as it would give him far greater opportunities for carrying on a campaign against the tariffs to which he personally objects, and, therefore, I do not know that one need attach too great importance to the line of action that he has taken this afternoon. It is obvious that, if the Government had to come here and recommend that about a dozen of these items should be taken off the list, the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green would have a magnificent time for some five, six or seven of the days allotted to Government business in this House. Therefore, while I regret that I should seem to be taking away that opportunity from the hon. Member, I confess that my views on this matter are not greatly affected by his speech.
The speech of the hon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) interested me very much, and I confess that it appealed to me in one way, not that I agree with him, but because it rather intensifies the views that I hold in support of the action 404 proposed by the Government. I was interested to hear from the hon. Member that he really felt that this proposal indicated a change of policy in regard to Parliamentary procedure, and, if his facts are correct, the inference would seem to be that not only this Government, but the previous Government, have been trying, perhaps unconsciously, to feel out a way in which they could lighten the business that is falling upon Parliament. We often hear complaints from all quarters that our procedure is cumbersome and difficult, and that an enormous amount of time is wasted over various matters, and I cannot help thinking that Ministers, both in this Government and in the last Government, have been attempting to meet this criticism by making the very proposals to which the hon. Member for Gorbals objects.
It has been stated that we are handing over powers to this Committee, but I should like to point out that, technically at any rate, that is not correct, because it is on the recommendation of this Committee that certain action is taken by the Treasury, and I suppose I am correct in saying that the Treasury really means the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, represents the Government. It may be said that the Chancellor of the Exchequer cannot act without the recommendation of the Committee, but, on the other hand, the recommendation of the Committee would be quite futile unless it had the assent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or, in other words, of the Government which is supported in this House. In view of that fact, it seems to me that this is by far the most effective procedure that could be brought forward, and that, if all the various details of the tariff are to be discussed over and over again in this House for days, it would simply offer a delightful opportunity to those who oppose it. Looking at the matter, however, purely from the point of view of the management of this House, from the executive standpoint, and ignoring whether one supports the policy or opposes it, I cannot help thinking that the proposal of the Government is the very soundest and best that they could make in the circumstances.
§ Mr. JOHN WALLACE
As one who was returned to support the National 405 Government, I must confess that the proposal of the Government with which this Amendment deals fills me with genuine concern. I do not desire to read into it anything that it is not meant to convey, but it seems to me to be a proposal to confer upon the Advisory Committee powers which were not in the minds of many of us in the House who supported the appointers of this Committee. The question of the various classes of goods which were to be included in the list was very fully debated in the House, and the premature alteration of the list which this proposal seems to suggest conveys the idea to my mind that the Government are yielding to pressure for the removal from the list of certain imports, which many of the supporters of the Government in the House will feel bound to resist. I do not desire to refer specifically to any one commodity, but the suggestion that the free list may be interfered with at an early date is, to me and to many others, very unsettling.
It is, above all things, essential that the Government should convey to the country the impression of stability, and the feeling that their fiscal decisions are neither lightly reached nor lightly thrown on one side. A great deal has already been done by the Government to restore confidence among the commercial classes in the country, but that confidence will be rapidly forfeited unless there is reasonable security that the policy of the Government, definitely arrived at after full discussion, will not be changed until a full and patient trial has been made. We have already handed over to the Tariff Advisory Committee very wide powers, and I cannot say too much in praise of the distinguished gentlemen who are in charge of the affairs of that committee, but many of us are jealous of the further delegation of Government responsibility to an outside body. I quite agree that from many points of view it is a good thing to have fiscal powers in the hands of an outside body, and so to avoid all the undue pressure which various interests sometimes manifest in the Lobby of the House, but I am quite satisfied personally that any interference with the Free List at the present moment may not only have a prejudicial effect upon the authority of the House of Commons, but may fundamentally and adversely affect 406 the real commercial interests of the country itself.
§ Mr. COCKS
This is an amazing proposal, and, in some ways, it is almost an insolent proposal. It is a proposal to take away the power of the purse from this Chamber, and to take away from the country the great principle that there should be no taxation without representation. An hour or so ago we were discussing in this House the question of the Oath of Allegiance. It seems to me that Members of this House who are supporting the Government have taken a new oath of allegiance to Sir George May, but I, for one, am not willing to pay homage to the High Priest of Mammon, nor to bow my knee in the house of the Prudential Insurance Company.
Only seven weeks ago the Import Duties Act received the sanction of the House of Commons and of the Crown; it was only on the 29th February that it was put upon the Statute Book. Seven weeks have elapsed, and we are now debating a proposal to repeal the first Schedule to the Act. That first Schedule was discussed at some length in this House. For reasons of time, it was not discussed at such great length as we should have liked, but it was discussed, and, as the result of those discussions, certain articles were placed on the free list—wheat, meat, raw cotton and so on. It was freely stated at the time that this free list was the result of a compromise or bargain with certain Members of the Liberal party in the Cabinet. As the Home Secretary is now in his place, I would like to know whether that is the case, and, if so, whether that contract, or compact, has been broken by the proposal which has now been put before the House by the Government. I should be grateful if the Home Secretary, perhaps later on in the course of this discussion, could reply to us on that point; or, if he would like to answer now, perhaps he will do so. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear hear!"] There are no signs or sounds at all from. the ranks of Tuscany.
Directly, however, wheat and meat were placed on the free list, there arose a great agitation outside this House, and this is another point that I desire to bring before the notice of the House. An agitation arose to tax wheat and meat. A certain newspaper proprietor launched a great 407 attack on the Government, and, in particular, on the Lord President of the Council, for not agreeing to tax wheat and meat, and as a sequel we have this proposal, which is a symbol of civil war, almost treachery, in the Government. It looks as though the Treasury are allying themselves with Stornoway House in an attack upon the Privy Council and the House of Commons, and, for myself, in a case like that, I cannot refrain from trying to break a lance in defence of the great cause of Bewdley against Beaver-brook. If this Resolution be carried, the Government will be given the power to impose food taxes by a subterfuge, and to sweep away our constitutional principles by administrative decree. It was the imposition of Ship Money that led directly to Naseby and to a certain scaffold in Whitehall; and another direct result of it was the removal of the symbol of our power from that Table. To-day, no one draws the sword in defence of constitutional principles. But it may be that we shall lose our powers, not by any sudden irruption of Sir George May and his myrmidons into this House, but by the gradual whittling away of our privileges, by the gradual surrender of our rights, by the slow and deadening descent of this House into impotence and futility. For these reasons we support this Amendment.
§ Mr. MANDER
I understand that the Question which is now before the House is one of those on which Members of the Government, and, therefore, Liberal supporters of the Government, have freedom to differ, and I propose to exercise the right to differ as emphatically as I can, because it seems to me that the proposal which is now before the House is absolutely indefensible. If, at the time of the General Election, the Prime Minister or any of the leaders of any of the parties had said that a dictatorship of this kind was going to be in operation within six months, it would not have been believed. To my mind, it is utterly inconsistent with the policy laid before the country at the time of the General Election. There may be very good arguments in favour of tariffs on all sorts of articles, but those arguments ought to be heard by the House of Commons, and decided by the House of Commons, and not by three gentlemen who to the best of their 408 ability are carrying out their own ideas. I have asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer on several occasions at Question Time whether any special instructions or guidance had been given to this Tariff Committee as to the way in which they should exercise their functions, and he has prided himself on saying that nothing whatever has been said to them, that they are given a free hand, that they have merely to look at the terms of the Act under which the committee was appointed. No doubt they are carrying out their job to the best of their ability, but it means that they simply have to exercise their own judgment, and, when men have to exercise their own judgment, it may be entirely different from the views of Members of the House of Commons.
It is really astounding that a proposal of this kind, which is contrary to the historic constitutional practices of this House, should be brought before the House at the present time. Only a few days ago a very good precedent was set by the Government as to the way to treat the Free List. One of the articles on the Free List is tea, and the Government decided that tea ought to be taken out of the Free List and have a tax placed upon it. Therefore, they very properly placed it in the annual Budget, so that the amplest opportunity might be available for discussing it and deciding whether or not a duty should be imposed. I venture to say that, if it is decided in future that it is desirable to put a tax on some of these other articles, such as wheat or meat, the Government ought to bring their proposal before the House, so that it may be discussed in the ordinary way, and not simply to issue a fiat. We may learn one morning in the newspapers that all the meat and wheat coming into the country is to be taxed. The constitutional practice of this country, of course, has been that the Lords cannot initiate any taxation. It is interesting to note the views of the present Minister of Health, as stated in a very admirable book on finance that he has written. He says:The Commons have the sole right of initiative.My right hon. Friend will have to bring out a fresh edition of his book, for it will be entirely out of date if this Resolution is passed. He also says: 409They have the sole right of deciding the manner and the measure of taxation.That will not be true any longer. I desire to make a most emphatic protest against a new constitutional procedure which seems to me to be indefensible, to be contrary to the programme laid before the country at the General Election, and to set up nothing less than a tariff dictatorship uncontrolled by the House of Commons.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Major Elliot)
In the first place, it seems to me that the memory of hon. Members who have delivered these philippics against the proposals of the Government must be extraordinarily short. The general procedure against which they are inveighing is that of the Treasury making an order upon the recommendation of the Tariff Commission, and the provision that the order is to be null and void unless confirmed by a Resolution of this House within 28 days. That procedure has been sanctioned already by an overwhelming majority in this House. Is the extension proposed either novel or unjustifiable? The hon. Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan), who has shown so little interest in the dictatorship that, having made his speech, he has retired from the Chamber, was utterly ignorant of the course of debates which foreshadowed most clearly the very course which the Government are now adopting. On the Second Rea3ing of the Import Duties Bill, the Chancellor of the Exchequer said:I think it is worth considering whether we should not also extend the discretion of the Committee so as to make it possible not only to put things into the free list but to take things out of the free list."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th February, 1932; col. 1599, Vol. 261.]When the Bill got into Committee the Chancellor of the Exchequer had on the Paper Amendments which you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, ruled out of order on a purely technical point and nothing more. The Chancellor of the Exchequer then said:If you still maintain your view, that is the end of the matter so far as I am concerned, because I can deal with it in the Finance Bill at a later stage."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 18th February, 1932: col. 1921, Vol. 261.]
§ Major ELLIOT
The hon. Member is a constitutional expert and I am surprised that he should make that statement. A ruling by the Chairman of Ways and Means can refer to nothing but the technical rules of this House. But let me pursue the question whether this was or was not brought before the House when the Import Duties Bill was being considered. Not merely was it brought before the House, but there was a specific pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that this proposal would be incorporated in the Finance Bill. My right hon. Friend said:It is now proposed that the Advisory Committee should have power ultimately to recommend that articles should be taken out of the list as well as that articles should be put into it.My right hon. Friend also said:As the Committee is aware it has not been possible for me, under the Rules of the House, to move the necessary Amendment, on this occasion, but I hope to do it by means of an Amendment to the Act in the Finance Bill, which will come before the House at a later stage. We are, therefore, proceeding on the assumption that ultimately the Committee will be clothed with the powers to recommend not only that imports should be put on the free list, but also that they should be taken out.He went further and said:Having that additional elasticity in the provisions of this Measure, it is possible for us to contemplate putting into the free list now articles that perhaps we should never have ventured to put in if we knew that, if once put in, they could never have been taken out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1932; cols. 325 and 326, Vol. 262.]My right hon. Friend finally stated, on the Third Reading of the Bill:The fact that the Committee will have the task of deciding to recommend, not merely additions to the free list, but also subtractions from the free list, has enabled us to make very considerable additions to the articles which will come in free of duty." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th February, 1932; col. 709, Vol. 262.]So that it not merely was clearly laid before the House, not merely was the pledge clearly given, but it did permit greater elasticity in adding tariffs and subtracting tariffs which otherwise the Import Duties Bill would not have given. That seems to me to dispose entirely of the argument that this procedure was not brought before the House at an earlier stage. I have here speeches by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who stated 411 specifically that they voted for the final stages of the Import Duties Bill on these pledges and only on these pledges which were given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer openly and freely. That disposes, firstly, of the suggestion that there is anything novel about the procedure, and, secondly, the suggestion that this is a procedure which the Government are not entitled to adopt in view of the very recent passing of the Import Duties Bill.
I have the greatest sympathy with the argument of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline Burghs (Mr. Wallace), who said that fiscal decisions once taken should not be lightly thrown aside, but I have proved to him by these quotations that this procedure was sanctioned by this House by great majorities. The hon. Member for Broxtowe Division (Mr. Cocks) introduced his usual argument about King Charles's head. Both he and the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) introduced historical precedent, neither of them quite happily. It was suggested that Magna Charta somehow or other supported his argument. I have yet to hear that the imposition of Customs duties was disputed at the time of Magna Charta. It was at that time the prerogative of the Executive, and it remained the prerogative of the Executive for centuries, and was not challenged until hundreds of years later. The Debate to-day has brought out one highly interesting and novel fact. It has brought the affirmation by the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) that he is a supporter of the Government. It is an entirely novel fact, but we welcome it.
§ Mr. MANDER
My position with regard to voting is exactly the same as that of my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not propose to go into the question further. I do not think the Division list of the hon. Member for East Wolverhampton will bear comparison in every respect with the Division lists of other right hon. and hon. Mem- 412 bers who were also returned to this House as Liberal Members and supporters of the Government.
§ Major ELLIOT
I have shown that the proposal to bring these powers before Parliament was sanctioned and that it is a proposal which the Government are justified in making. The arguments used against it are, first of all, arguments against the whole general principle of having a Tariff Commission at all. That is a case which has been decided by the House. The argument of the hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) was that the members of the Tariff Commission were picked for their well-known tariffist views. I wish he were in his place. Having made his speech against the dictatorship of the Tariff Commission he also has found it convenient to depart to another part of the Building. Had he been present I would have pointed out to him that one of the gentlemen appointed to this Commission was a Professor of Economics in the University of Manchester, and although the hon. Member for Silvertown may think that people are chosen as Professors of Economics in the University of Manchester because of their strong and vehement support of tariff reform, that is not a view which will find any support in the minds of right hon. and hon. Gentlemen who have sat for that City. Sir George May was a free trader.
In fact, the most vehement protests were made against the personnel on this committee on the ground that it was loading the dice on the tariff issue. It was said that the Commissioners would take a prejudiced and Free Trade and almost an "Ichornshavian" view of the situation. But the main argument to-day was that of the hon. Member for Gorbals Mr. Buchanan), who, like other speakers, having made his protest against the dictatorship, has left the House. He brought up what seemed to me the only valid argument against this proposal, and that was that it was a withdrawal from Parliament of the control over finance and administration which the House should properly exercise. Within the sweep of this House there comes now an expenditure of nearly £1,000,000,000.
The House is no longer capable of pursuing the details of that great responsibility, with the meticulous investigation 413 that would be possible were it merely responsible for a few millions or even a few hundred millions. As this House heaps upon itself greater and greater power— no one demands more strongly than members of the Liberal and Labour parties that these greater responsibilities should be taken—in matters affecting the fortunes of the people, it finds itself forced more and more to allocate to others the immediate administration of those responsibilities. It is a dilemma from which there is no escape and one which has been forced increasingly upon the House in recent years by the enormous weight of the responsibility which the House has 'assumed. If we are to suppose that the House of Commons is still to debate individual cases with the closeness with which it used to do, you will get the greatest evil of all, a paralysis of the Executive, the greatest disaster that could ever fall upon the country. This is a way by which it is possible for the Executive to maintain what is ultimately necessary, namely, the direction of affairs and the consideration of broad lines of policy.
The hon. Member for Gorbals was saying that this House merely laid down broad, general lines of policy and that these were filled in afterwards by subordinate bodies of one sort or another. I was arguing that, under the present conditions of congestion, to 'which every Act passed by this House makes an addition, that type of procedure is inevitable. While I sympathise with the hon. Member in his objection to the decisions that these subordinate bodies may sometimes come to, I say that those who claim the nationalisation of industry and the control of it by a political organisation, namely, this House of Commons, cannot complain if in very self defence the body which has this great responsibility sets up powerful expert committees to fill in details of policy after they have been decided in broad general outline by the Executive of the day and supported by votes in the House. The hon. Member for Gorbals delivered the only reasoned attack upon the principle of the Resolution and the principle of import duties and upon the Tariff Commission as a whole. These are inevitable, and I ask the House to support us in this extension, which this House has pledged itself to accept in its acceptance of the Bill for, 414 without it, we should find that we were stultifying ourselves by first setting up a Commission and entrusting two-thirds of the national income to it and then saying, for some reason or other, that one particular set of imports had to be withdrawn from its purview altogether.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
The last part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech will be of great use in future Parliaments, and we shall, no doubt, be quoting it when we hope he will be on this side of the House protesting vehemently against the House handing over its powers to a national committee and not being allowed to say which industry shall be controlled by the State and which shall not. We agree with the right hon. Gentleman and with the National Government that that type of delegation of power nowadays is necessary, but, when one delegates powers, one has to lay down the lines upon which they are to be exercised, and, as the right hon. Gentleman knows only too well, the vast difference between this type of delegation of powers and any that there has been before is shown by the first report of the committee, where they show how they have had to seek around for some sort of principle for the imposition of these duties. Here, again, is a proposal to -withdraw from the House not only the detailed working out of a broad scheme, but the settlement of the principle of the working out of the scheme. The right hon. Gentleman knows very well that those are two vastly different matters.
The part of his speech in which he was forced to come down to what I may call the vulgar argument as to whether the hon. Member for Wolverhampton (Mr. Mander) or the Home Secretary had voted most against the Government, seemed to me to show the most unfortunate position in which the Cabinet and the Government are in this matter. I want to ask the Home Secretary to tell me—I challenge him to dispute this proposition—whether it is not a fact, as I assert, that this Free List was part of the arrangement come to in the Cabinet as regards his continuance there and the agreement by which some Members of the Cabinet were allowed to vote against the proposal. I assert that that was so. The right hon. Gentleman sits there and does not deny it, and therefore, one must assume that it was so.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I must call the hon. and learned Gentleman's attention to the fact that it is a long recognised custom in the House, although it has been broken on some occasions, that proceedings in the Cabinet are confidential and not to be divulged.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
We have been officially informed by the Government that there was an agreement to differ in the Cabinet upon this specific point. Am I not in order in referring to that agreement to differ?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman was not out of order in what he said until he chose to assume, and ask the House to assume, certain results from the fact that a Member of the Cabinet did not reply to him. It was that which called for my intervention.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The right hon. Gentleman is in the House and, if he wishes to make a statement to say that he cannot reply, is he not at liberty to do so?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I think the hon. and learned Gentleman will understand what I have said. He would be misleading the House if he asked the House to assume anything because a Cabinet Minister did not reply to such a challenge.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir Herbert Samuel)
That was the reason I had in my mind in not responding to the hon. and learned Gentleman's challenge.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I imagine the House can judge whether I intended to mislead them or not in the statement that I made. There are great blocks of foodstuffs and raw material which appear in the First Schedule, the merits of which were argued out. Let me take the case of meat. The Chancellor of the Exchequer gave the reason why meat must -remain in the Schedule and could not be
§ taken out of it. Those matters were fully discussed, and it is not right, in view of that fact, that now power should be given to the Committee to recommend that things should be taken out of the Free List, because I do not think the House can have realised when the Bill was going through what we tried to impress upon it, the position as regards the confirmation of those Orders. One of them has now been made. It covers some hundreds of articles. Anyone who desires to vote on that Order has either to vote for all or for none. There is no power in the House to amend the Order at all. It has either to be approved or disapproved, and the result is that it is impossible, and a waste of time, to discuss the merits of the particular articles that appear in the Order and that, as we said in the Debates on the Bill, shows the futility of the alleged control by the House if this procedure is adopted. It may be that one of these articles that now appear in the Schedule may be taken out, while the vast number of the other articles are retained. In that event, it will be impossible for Members to express their opinion upon the actual taking out of the Schedule of the particular substance. We suggest that, in those circumstances, it is far better to do what the Committee have themselves said is desirable to be done, that is, to leave it for at least 12 months a certainty so far as the various taxes that have been imposed are concerned, and exactly the same arguments apply to the certainty of the Free List in the First Schedule We suggest, therefore, that this power is unnecessary this year, at any rate Let the scheme have its trial, let the Schedule operate for a year, and next year, if the right hon. Gentleman wants it, he can bring forward a Motion of this sort and see what reception he will get.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 318; Noes 65.419
|Division No. 160.]||AYES.||[5.27 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut-Colonel||Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Apsley, Lord||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)|
|Agnew, Lieut. Com. P. G.||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Atkinson, Cyril||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman|
|Albery, Irving James||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blindell, James|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Borodale, Viscount|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M, S.||Balniel, Lord||Bossom, A. C.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Boulton, W. W.|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Goidie, Noel B.||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-|
|Bower, Lieut..Com. Robert Tatton||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tfd & Chisw'k)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Graves, Morjorle||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Grimston, R. V.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham)||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H.C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Hales, Harold K.||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Munro, Patrick|
|Buchan-Hepburn, p. G. T.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Harbord, Arthur||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hartington, Marquess of||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hartland. George A.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Nunn, William|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ormiston, Thomas|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Christle, James Archibald||Hepworth, Joseph||Penny, Sir George|
|Clarke, Frank||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Petherick, M.|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hornby, Frank||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Home, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hortbrugh, Florence||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Howard, Tom Forrest||Potter, John|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Colville, John||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Purbrick, R.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Ramsay, T. B. w. (Western Isles)|
|Copeland, Ida||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ramsden, E.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Jamieson, Douglas||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Jennings, Roland||Ray, Sir William|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Ker, J. Campbell||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Kimball, Lawrence||Rentoul, Sir Gervals S.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Knebworth, Viscount||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Law, Sir Alfred||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Denman. Hon. R. D.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Dickie, John P.||Lees-Jones, John||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Doran, Edward||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Levy, Thomas||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Liddall, Walter S.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Duncan, James A. L, (Kensington, N.)||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Llewellin, Major John J.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Eady, George H.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Salt, Edward W.|
|Eales, John Frederick||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Scone, Lord|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Selley, Harry R.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lymington, Viscount||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Emmott, Charles E, G. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G.||McKie, John Hamilton||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||McLean, Major Alan||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Soper, Richard|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Maitland, Adam||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stevenson, James|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Stones, James|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Storey, Samuel|
|Goff, Sir Park||Milne, Charles||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Sutcliffe, Harold||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Templeton, William P.||Waterhouse, Captain Charles||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Wayland, Sir William A.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Thompson, Luke||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Wells, Sydney Richard||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES —|
|Train, John||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Major George Davies and|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Millar, Sir James Duncan|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bernays, Robert||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hirst, George Henry||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Buchanan, George||Holdsworth, Herbert||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Thorne, William James|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Kirkwood, David||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Curry, A. C.||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Wedgwood, Rt. Hon. Josiah|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Mabane, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llaneily)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McGovern, John||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mander, Geoffrey Ie M.||Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)||Graham.|
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I beg to move, in line 6, at the end, to insert the words:Provided that no recommendation or order in pursuance of this paragraph shall apply to wheat in grain or meat as defined in the said Schedule.I will relieve the House by saying that the point here will not raise any question of the conscience of the Home Secretary, because it is introduced especially for the benefit of another group of Liberals who were imported into the Government without any countervailing duty at all, and it is incidentally for the benefit of the President of the Board of Trade. It is curious that twice in a week we should try to relieve the President of the Board of Trade from some penalties. On the first occasion we relieved him from liability to pecuniary pains and penalties incurred for sitting in the House when he was not entitled to do so. I am now dealing with a more subtle matter, namely, the pains and penalties of a guilty conscience. The President of the Board of Trade stated specifically in a Debate in the House on the 10th February exactly the line of demarcation of his conscience as compared with that of the Home Secretary. It is very important to get the matter clear, because there are a 420 number of tender consciences in these matters. Some go the whole of the way and some only part of the way. Some go the whole hog, some on wheat, some on meat, and some on tomatoes, bacon and so forth. The hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall), speaking in the House, quoted from a speech of the President of the Board of Trade, delivered at St. Ives, in which the right hon. Gentleman said:While he" (the President of the Board of Trade) "would not be a party to permanent tariffs being imposed at the present time, he was prepared to take such steps as were necessary to preserve our national balance. 'I would not' he added, 'be in favour of any import duty on food'.The President of the Board of Trade rose and said:I specified meat and wheat, and I still adhere to that."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 10th February, 1932; col. 905, Vol. 261.]This is the point where the Amendment becomes extremely apposite. We do not want the right hon. Gentleman in any way to offend his meat and wheat consciences. Perhaps it is rather a welcome proceeding to try and retain wheat and meat on the Free List, because other Liberal Members' consciences have been appeased 421 already on the subject by calling in a quota. Perhaps they may call wheat by some other name in a short time. I do not know how they will call bacon and cheese, but they will be brought in somehow. There is all the difference between taxation and a quota. The one is the direct method of transferring money from the pockets of the poor into the pockets of the rich and the other is the indirect method. Here we have the very clear point of whether we must safeguard the President of the Board of Trade in order to enable him to retain his position in the Cabinet and retain his conscience. Therefore, I am moving that the recommendation should not apply to those particularly awkward points of wheat in. grain or meat.
I come to the position of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I should not like him to yield in any way to the pressure of his own back benches. He had. a very clear view on the subject of meat only on the 23rd February. Hon. Members will remember that he was much pressed to remove meat from the Free List. Listening to the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Financial Secretary to the Treasury one would have thought that this was not a matter of principle at all, and that it was only a matter as to whether there should be a little further inquiry, of finding ways and means and so forth. It is interesting to see what the Chancellor of the Exchequer actually said upon this matter. First of all, he said he begged his hon. Friend to believe that in this matter it was not a question of difference of opinion between the President of the Board of Trade and his colleagues. That is very gratifying, because it leaves the Chancellor of the Exchequer out of the meat and wheat position. He continued:The view which is held by the whole Government is that, in the position in which we stand to-day, when we are off the Gold Standard, I will not say the question of food taxes, but the question of the cost of living, is not a bogey at all, but is something which has to be very carefully studied and watched, because, if the cost of living were to rise beyond what I have called the danger point, there might be consequences in what is generally known as a vicious spiral—a rise in wages followed by further rises in costs, and so on—which would lead to an uncontrolled depreciation in the currency, and that is a contingency which I think none of us could possibly contemplate with equanimity.422 The right hon. Gentleman does not share the optimistic views of some of his friends behind him, that all those things are paid by the foreigner. He did think of the days of the cost of living rising. He also rather differed from some hon. Members, because he was not under any delusion that in some wonderful way when you put on those tariffs the cost of living did not rise, for a little further down he said:I took occasion, about a week ago, to point out to the House that at the present time the cost of living was artificially low— that in the natural course of events one would have to expect that the cost of living would rise.But he had in mind his back-benchers, so he said:That is a question which one has to keep in mind in considering any possible addition to the cost of living by any action that we might take. I do not want anything that I say on this Amendment to be taken as a pledge that this Government will never in any circumstances be a party to the imposition of a tax on meat. I do not make any such statement. What I do say is that in present circumstances, and having, in particular, the question of the cost of living very much in our minds, we do not consider that this is a time when it would be prudent or wise to put a tax upon the import of meat into this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1932; cols. 330–31. Vol. 262.]That was only on the 23rd February. The point is to try and give to this committee of three power to tax anything they like and to remove it from the Free List. What the President of the Board of Trade and his colleagues will have to tell us about meat and wheat and the conscience question, I do not know. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury does not deal so much with the higher plane. He brings before the House practical matters. I would ask him what are the circumstances that make the great difference between February and the present time. Perhaps he will tell us whether the cost of living is still artificially low, or whether it is naturally low, or whether by these duties he has managed to make it low. We shall want to know whether the Government are still anxious about prices, about the vicious spiral, about the uncontrolled depression in the currency. We have moved a great deal towards expansion and reflation, and perhaps they are not now so easy about that as they were then. Will he assure us that there is no danger 423 to-day about the vicious spiral, no danger about the uncontrolled depression in the currency? If so, we shall know that the crisis has passed, and perhaps the House will be able to return to ordinary matters of legislation. I make this point because I shall want to know about it in connection with a later Amendment.
The broad point is that the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the Debates on the Import Duties Act found some of his supporters were becoming restless. There were two lots who were getting restless, some Liberals and some Conservatives, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought it advisable to be on the side of the battalions. Having settled the Free List he then threw the whole thing over and said: "Very well, I have been beaten"—he was beaten, as others are beaten—"by the Ruling of the Chair," and as he could not work it into his Bill he said that he would bring it up in the Finance Bill. He might have brought it in then, But that does not vitiate his arguments in regard to the cost of living and the cost of wheat and meat. Perhaps the Financial Secretary, if he is going to reply, will tell us what are the reasons, if there are reasons, that prevent him from accepting this Amendment. I have no doubt that the President of the Board of Trade for the first time is going to exercise the freedom accorded to Members of the Cabinet and support our Amendment, on the ground that it is necessary for the satisfaction of his conscience.
§ Major HILLS
The hon. Member who has just spoken occupied a large part of his speech in examining the consciences of the Members of the Government. I belong to the ordinary class of individuals who find it quite difficult enough to keep one's own conscience clear. I shall not follow, as I might follow, the hon. Member in criticism of the actions of himself and his friends. I would say that on the question of the protection of agriculture, involving as it does in my judgment the taxation of meat, my own conscience is clear. I voted for the removal of meat from the Free List and I gave my reasons for my vote. I do not propose to argue the whole question, but it is somewhat remarkable that in the speech to which we have just listened there was nothing to show any sort of realisation of the position that agriculture is in to-day and of 424 the urgent necessity, if we want to save agriculture, for doing something.
I regard Protection as incomplete if it leaves out agriculture. I do not think that you can get a balanced trade unless you include the agricultural population. The hon. Member and his friends are very fond of saying how much they wish to help the farmer, but whenever the occasion arises they always vote against his interests. I do not know what action the Government will take on the Amendment, but I hope they will leave the question open. We have in front of us the Ottawa Conference and also the home position, and for both these reasons I do most sincerely hope that the Government will not prejudge the question. I do not expect a decision or a pronouncement now, but I do ask that the matter should be left for future decision, and in so doing I am expressing what I believe will be the future trend of events. I do not believe that any Government that seeks to work a protective system will be able to leave out agriculture. I do not think that you can leave it out.
I do not go too far when I say that at the present time the position of agriculture is one of the most important questions before us. I think we are in great danger of still further unbalancing our system and that we can only restore the balance by the protection of agriculture. I am convinced that the country is in favour of that. A great factor of the last election was the fact that for the first time in my lifetime the urban population voted in favour of agricultural protection. Occasions come and occasions go and unless we use them when they are here they are lost for ever. That is why I regretted so much that a decision was not taken on the last occasion on the lines that I and my friends wanted it to be taken, in the Debate that took place. We still hope, and we are encouraged by the fact that we believe we are on right lines. All that we ask is that the question shall not be prejudged.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I cannot find any fault with those hon. Members who represent agricultural constituencies and stand up in the interests of the people they represent. It is my business and my duty to stand up for the people I represent 425 and who get their livelihood largely at the docks. Seventy-five per cent. of the people I represent are men who get their living in and around the docks in the import and export trades? Two of the most important sections of the transport trade in my constituency are the importations of wheat and meat. I know that argument can toe raised about Empire imports in both cases, but we have to look at the other side of the picture. We have to remember that we have customers who buy things from us in payment for the things that they send to us. There is the Argentine Republic, Brazil and other countries, who export to us goods that we have not been able to produce in sufficient quantities to satisfy our own needs. When we talk about reciprocal trade relationship we have to weigh up the balance. At the Albert, Victoria and the King George Docks, three of the largest docks in London, and London is not an unimportant port, there are thousands of men who directly depend for their livelihood and the livelihood of their families upon the importation of the things that are mentioned in this particular Amendment, meat and wheat. These men are about the best paid men in the port of London and they look with considerable suspicion upon the possibility that their means of employment may be restricted by duties upon imports. They do not ask where a thing comes from, but they ask, "What are we going to get for unloading the ship, and for loading the goods into the vans and lorries to take them to the various markets?"
We have to weigh up the balance. It may be very important to produce our own foodstuffs, but the question is, are we able in existing circumstances to do what other countries are able to do? A large proportion of our meat comes from the Argentine. Can we supply the deficiency without making our people pay an extra price for the things they want? Will English home-produced meat be sold to the poor at a price they can afford to pay? There are imports from New Zealand and Australia, but that will not mean any benefit to the people if those imports are absolutely protected against competition. Hon. Members opposite profess to believe in the principle of competition. Have they surrendered it? Do they believe in 426 competition for everybody else except themselves? I have heard Debates in this House in which certain people have asked for protection for the things that they sell, but they want free trade for the things that they buy. It is a case of heads they win and tails we lose, every time.
We say that meat and wheat are two essential foodstuffs for our people. I should like to know whether any hon. Members opposite told their constituents at the last General Election, which was catastrophic from our point of view, that they would work for the taxation of meat and wheat. I do not believe that there are half a dozen Members who could say that.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Mr. JONES
When you are engaged in a particular industry, naturally you will vote for its protection. Those who are not engaged in the production of foodstuffs are interested in getting food at the lowest possible price. Man for man the agricultural worker, the meat producer in the Argentine and the wheat producer in other parts of Europe, is better paid than the worker in this country. I stand for my own people. They get their living by the importation of foodstuffs, by handling meat and wheat. Surely I am not wrong in asking the House of Commons to realise their position. These men are amongst the best paid workers in their trade. Corn porters are a special body of men in the docks of London, and very often they have to go down to Tilbury. They are registered for the purpose of doing this kind of work, and they are rather afraid as to what is going to happen. They have approached me and asked what it means. I said: "I do not know, because the people responsible have not yet explained it, and you cannot expect me to know if all the great experts have not yet expressed themselves." The Government cannot take these commodities off the Free List without meaning to put a tax upon them, and that means an increased burden on the men engaged in the unloading of these commodities and upon the people who 427 have to buy them. These people do not buy in large quantities. They buy in small quantities, and the smaller the quantity the bigger the price they pay.
Taxes are to be put upon these commodities for the first time for many years. The Home Secretary delivered a speech last night in which he told us that he is against food taxes. That is very nice; but what is the good of it when he is linked up with the forty thieves? What is the good of him telling us that he is against this tax and that tax and yet remains cheek by jowl with his present associates, because the interests of the nation demand that he should be there. The nation can do without him, and his business. He is not indispensable to the Government of this country. I can do his job as well, but I would not be found in that gang for twice the salary. Liberal Members opposite are associated with a party which is going to do all the things they do not want to do. I cannot understand that kind of politics, but when it happens, the Free Traders opposite, the great panjandrums, try to excuse themselves and apologise and say that there are other great issues at stake quite apart from Free Trade and Protection. The only thing that has divided the Liberal party from the Conservative party for the last 50 years has been Protection. In every other field of politics they are as Tory as the Tories—the general strike proved it. Everything that has happened has proved it.
§ Mr. JONES
I have no means, so there can be no test. You cannot put all your principles away without having to pay the penalty. Liberal Members opposite who joined the Government at the last election are now apologising and trying to explain why they have lost their souls. By this Amendment we ask that wheat and meat shall be excluded from taxation. There is not a single Member opposite who said that he was in favour of taxing wheat and meat at the last election; but by backstair methods it is proposed to introduce them now. You appoint this triumvirate, three people whom nobody knows. Who are these people who are to say what these taxes shall be? An hon. Member who used 428 to be a comrade chided me because I said something about them personally. I say nothing about them personally. They are perfectly honest as far as I know, and I do not think the Prime Minister would have appointed them to the position if he did not think they were honest. These men are going to make a report on wheat and meat. Certain influences will be brought to bear. We have heard an inkling that agriculture is going to get on the job. Farmers will agree, landlords will agree, and I suppose some labourers will agree, and when they have all agreed it comes as a matter of course a recommendation to this Conservative Government. This a National Government! It is all my eye and Betty Martin. It is a Conservative Government, and it will accept the recommendation of this triumvirate, faith, hope and charity.
Protection for agriculture means increased prices for the industrial workers of the country, and the poorest people will have to pay the biggest tax. This issue was never nut before the people at the election. How many hon. Members supported this method of taxation? How many supported a tax upon wheat? As we are also to have a tax upon bread, we shall have two taxes on bread by the time the Government have finished with it: and all in the interests of agriculture. Important as agriculture is, and I want to see it developed, I am not going out of my way to put money into the pockets of landlords and farmers. I want to see agriculture properly organised. I want to see the land the property of the nation and not the property of people who only know the land when they hunt over it or take rents from it.
I hope that the Amendment will be carried. I know that it will not; but hope springs eternal in the human breast. The Government may go on in their policy, but there will come a time when its accumulative effect will mean that the workers will say the time has come to say "Tip it!" and the Government will get its answer at the next General Election. There will be such a revolt that the last election will be but a passing episode in the history of Great Britain. Those who vote for the taxation of food will have to face a serious reckoning. Some hon. Members said that they were not in favour of food taxes. I am not 429 prepared to say that they mean now what they said at the last election. This National Government has now become a national ramp. It was not a general election which we went through last autumn, it was a general confidence trick played upon the people of the country; and now we are getting the results. We hope that some hon. Members in this House will now be honest enough to say that they really meant what they said at the last election, when they declared that they were not going to vote in favour of food taxes.
§ Mr. DAVID MASON
I hope the Government will consider the Amendment. It does not involve any departure from any Conservative principle. I agree that the question of putting taxes on meat and grain did not enter into the issue at the last election and if the Government accept the Amendment it merely means that up to a point they subscribe to the general principle that the right to impose taxation on wheat and meat should come before the consideration of this House. For so important a departure as that to be passed on the recommendation of an advisory committee, no matter how distinguished its members may be, is derogatory to the dignity of this House and takes away the inherent right of every hon. Member to express his views. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said that he stood as a taxer of food. I stood and was returned as a Free Trader. Many hon. Members were returned on the ground that it was an experiment, but the idea that taxes should be imposed on wheat and meat was never before the country at the last General Election.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
May I ask the hon. Member whether his leader the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) did not broadcast throughout the country his opinion that the result of the election must mean that the Conservative party would be in favour of food taxes?
§ Mr. MASON
That showed the shrewdness and prescience of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). It showed that he judged correctly that if we had a majority of Conservative Members we should get this. But I think I am stating the case truly and impartially when I say that while 430 the right hon. and gallant Member stood as a Protectionist and I as a Free Trader, that the pronouncements of the present Prime Minister and the Lord President of the Council prove that while tariffs would be considered, the matter was one of experiment. Do hon. Members honestly and sincerely believe that a proposal to tax wheat and meat was put before the country at the last election? Of course, they know that that question was never put before the electorate. I am sure that in their innermost souls hon. Members realise that what I have said is true. [HON. MEMBERS: "No!"] In the main what I said is the case and I ask any hon. Member, can he give evidence to the House that the very important question of putting duties upon grain or meat was before the country at the election? I am not arguing now as to the merits of putting on such duties. I appreciate the arguments and contentions of the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills) when he asks that agriculture should be included. He is perfectly entitled to argue that question but I ask him to be fair to this House and to give the House an opportunity of considering such an important subject.
§ Mr. MASON
All that the Amendment calls for is the exclusion of this small committee from the power to decide such a matter. We desire, and I am sure many hon. Members desire, an opportunity to exercise the ancient right of the House of Commons to decide this important problem. It is true that certain procedure is proposed whereby after this taxation has become the law of the land, when this Advisory Committee has advised, the matter may come before the House to be confirmed or annulled within 28 days. But it is the supreme right of the House to decide this most important question. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman is entitled to argue it, and he would have an opportunity of arguing it if this Amendment were 431 accepted. It would be within his right and the right of the Government or any Government, to bring before the House the question of whether we should put a duty on wheat or meat, and the right hon. and gallant Gentleman could argue for or against such a proposal. This is a free assembly and I ask hon. Members who do not agree with us on the fiscal question, to support us on the main question of the right of the House of Commons to decide these matters.
I hope that hon. Members will see the danger of handing over such immense power to an Advisory Committee. The day may come when other parties will be in power and when they will regret having handed away this great privilege of the House of Commons. I do not lay claim to any monopoly of virtue in my own party, nor do I believe that such a monopoly is enjoyed by the Labour party or the Conservative party. All parties go wrong, but if we retain in this House a great democratic assembly, which is the mirror of the country at the time of its election, at least we make sure that the will of the people will be expressed by the people's representatives in debate and decision. Therefore I hope that the hon. Member who moved this Amendment, one of the most important Amendments that has been before the House for some time, will press it to a Division and that many hon. Members of all parties will support it on constitutional grounds.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
It was not my intention to intervene in this Debate, and I only do so in order to challenge a statement made by the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Ripon (Major Hills). He said that the urban population had given permission to the Government to introduce food taxes. That statement might be correct if the word "rural" were substituted for the word "urban" in it, but I do not believe that the majority of Members here can say that, in the industrial constituencies, the electors were told that food taxes would be imposed. It might be true to say that those electors voted for a doctor's mandate and that it was not clearly stated what cure would be used, but it is not true to say that the Government were given definite instructions to 432 apply the cure of food taxes. I, personally, gave a pledge, not only that I would not subscribe to food taxes, but that, if they were introduced by a National Government, I would oppose them, and I have kept strictly to that pledge.
I make a personal appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. There was some discussion a few weeks ago as to the specific pledge which the right hon. Gentleman had given at the last election on this question. I believe he said that the pledge which he gave referred to wheat and meat. I hope I do not misrepresent him. I know that this proposal of the Government does not give a direct instruction to the Advisory Committee to impose a tax on meat, but it gives them the power to do so, and I appeal to the right hon. Gentleman not to go one step along that line. Reference has been made to the election speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). Perhaps the meaning suggested by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Brigadier-General Sir H. Croft) may be given to that speech, but, as regards what the right hon. Gentleman did say, the tragedy of it is, now that we see food taxes introduced, that the electorate did not believe him. It does not make his statement incorrect, but the electorate did not take it to be correct at that time. It always seems to me to be dangerous to sound the human note in this Assembly. One always hear it referred to as "sob stuff," but I make no apology for using "sob stuff." I think that if emotion were taken out of life, then life would not be worth living. Yesterday this House imposed a tax on tea. A few weeks ago we passed a Measure which will make a staple food, the bread of the people, dearer, and now we are going to take away from the people the opportunity of buying meat in the cheapest market. Last September we called on the people to make sacrifices in the interests of the nation. They responded nobly. This seems a poor return to make for the response which they gave. I trust that not only Members on these benches, but Members opposite also, will vote for this Amendment, and that every man who gave a pledge against food taxes—and there is no 433 challenging the statement that many did —will support the Amendment in the Division Lobby.
I support the Amendment, and I join with the last speaker in appealing to Members of all parties to show some reasonable sense of fairness on this question. I do not think it is true, and I have never heard any hon. Member opposite attempt to prove, that during the General Election they stated to the electorate that they were in favour of taxing the people's food. When all is said and done, the issue now before the House is so vital to the general community that no Government, whatever its name, whether National or Grand National, has any right to take advantage of its position to impose further taxation on wheat and meat without taking the decision of the community upon it. Any fair-minded man must agree that the issue is too vital to be treated in any other way, and though I have not a great deal of respect for the fair-mindedness of this Government, I thought they would be fairer than to attempt to include in food taxation, wheat and meat, in the way now proposed. I wish to draw the attention of the House to the effect of this proposal on the men whom I represent. An hon. Member has already spoken of the effect upon dockers, and I should like to point out how this new tariff policy affects the mine-workers of the country. I ask the Government, would they not be better engaged in giving some slight attention to the mining industry as a whole and the development of that industry—
§ 6.30 p.m.
I bow to your Ruling, Sir, but I suggest, sincerely, that as a result of the effect of these duties on the coal-mining industry, our men are being left with wages on which it takes them all their time to keep bodies and souls together, and if we are to have further taxation on their bread and meat, then the Government is taking an undue advantage of them. I never remember in the course of the election any hon. Gentleman opposite making the statement that he would support food taxation. Speeches by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the House have been quoted in which they said 434 that certain industries would be examined from the point of view of Protection, but they never said that they would go the whole hog in the protection of food. As I say, before any Government takes such a step, the electors themselves ought to decide. The Wakefield result has given some indication of how people in the industrial areas feel regarding the steps already taken by the Government. If it was a question of reorganising agriculture, we on this side would give the fullest consideration to any real practical policy directed to tend that way, but there is no policy here. If we are to discuss the fundamental question of agricultural reorganisation, we ought to have some proper scheme before us showing how agriculture is to be reorganised. If that were the Government's intention, one could understand it; but as to going on in this slipshod way, putting a tax on tea of £3,500,000; putting £6,000,000 on flour and bread, and then proposing further taxation on bread and meat—we say that this is not what the National Government were returned to do. You are not even being faithful to your own followers, and we oppose that policy tooth and nail. I hope that at least the Government will have some sense of proportion and fairness, and that before they go so far as to allow the three men appointed on this Committee to deal with what is a vastly important political and economic issue, affecting every worker in the country, they will think twice and accept the Amendment.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
This Resolution is not a proposal to put a tax upon meat, and those arguments which have proceeded upon the assumption that that was the proposal are, of course, premature, and I shall be absolved from dealing with them. Nor is this a proposal which takes the House of Commons by surprise. It is the fulfilment of a pledge publicly made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the 18th February last, and I would recall to the minds of hon. Members that when that pledge was made no exception was taken to it in any quarter of the House. Until this very afternoon the Government were under the uncorrected impression that that pledge met the general convenience and desires of the House.
435 I would remind my hon. Friends of the position as it was when the Import Duties Bill was introduced. It was proposed by that Measure to put an ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. upon all importations into this country. For various reasons, however, it was desired to exempt certain of those importations, either because of the considerations mentioned by my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which have been amply quoted by the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) to-day, or because the articles in question could not be produced in this country or in the Empire, or—and this is most important—because it was desired to reserve them for even severer treatment in the Budget; and some of my hon. Friends who are regarding that Free List as sacred this afternoon assented only yesterday to one of the items in that Free List, namely, tea, being taxed at 4d. per lb.
§ Mr. HOLDSWORTH
Personally, I voted against the tea tax, but I want to ask the hon. Gentleman a question. By the mere fact of taking these out of the Free List, are you not at once putting on a 10 per cent. tariff?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
My hon. Friend is under a complete misapprehension. The Resolution imposes no tax whatever. I was explaining that, although an article, such as tea, may be in this Free List, it can, with the assent of the very hon. Members who have been criticising it this afternoon, be put into a Budget and taxed otherwise. That being the position, a Free List having been created of items which were included for various reasons, the Chancellor of the Exchequer was pressed to add certain articles to the list. He desired to deal justly by the House, and he pointed out to the House that this list was of a fairly rigid character. He reminded the House that the Act enabled the Advisory Committee, which it established, to propose additions to the list but not subtractions from it, and he said, and the House agreed with him, that this was an illogical position. You could not maintain a rigid list if you were to accept Amendments which hon. Members desired to have accepted, and so he said, "I will show a greater latitude to hon. Members in accepting their Amendments, upon the 436 understanding that I can rationalise the position by enabling the Committee not only to add to the Free List, but on further examination to recommend subtractions from it."
He actually put Amendments on the Paper to that effect. Those Amendments were, for purely technical reasons, ruled out of order, and my right hon. Friend then rose and said, in the hearing of everybody, that he would rectify that position upon the Finance Bill. Had he not taken that course, he would never have accepted the Amendments which he did, and therefore it is not fair that hon. Members who have had the advantage of having their Amendments accepted should now resist one of the conditions upon which they were accepted. That is the situation. There is no proposal to tax anything, but there is a proposal to allow the Advisory Committee full latitude to make recommendations. When the Advisory Committee, if they do, make a proposal to tax meat or wheat, it will then be for hon. Members opposite to talk about the effects of such a tax on the poor or, if they be so minded, on the producers. But that contingency has not yet arisen.
I was therefore amazed, in listening to the speech of the hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price), when he talked of the grave effects that the duties that we had already imposed had had on the working classes. Has he forgotten that the cost of living has actually-fallen? Has he never directed his attention to this paradox, that whereas many of the articles which we taxed have fallen in price, meat, which we did not tax, happens to have risen?
Your policy has found miners out of work—thousands of them since you came into office—and others working short time.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
If the constituents of my hon. Friend are as misguided as he appears to be, I am not surprised that they vote for him. I beg my hon. Friend to appreciate, what is true, that there is no proposal here to-day to tax any miner or anybody else. What we are doing here is to fulfil a pledge, and I hope that hon. Members will not prevent us from doing that.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade has tried to persuade the House that this Resolution is in fulfilment of a pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. I well remember the occasion of the Debate to which he referred, and I am sure that I should get the assent of the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself if I said in his presence that his remarks were not in contemplation of anything that has been done to-day. I remember well that what the Chancellor said was that this list was not to be a permanent list, that the schedule of articles in it might be subject to Amendments, might be amended by additions or subtractions; and I remember the impression made on the minds of hon. Members that that would mean an Amendment to remove one duty and an Amendment to insert another. That is not the thing that has been done to-day.
§ Major ELLIOT
Might I call my hon. Friend's attention to the OFFICIAL REPORT of 23rd February, where the Chancellor of the Exchequer says:We are therefore proceeding on the assumption that ultimately the committee will be clothed with powers to recommend not only that imports should be put on the Free List, but also that they should be taken out."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1932; col. 325, Vol. 262.]That is the clothing of the committee with general powers, not with specific powers, as the hon. Member says.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I confess that my impression was that the committee would be entitled to add to or subtract from the list; there is no meaning to the words "subtraction and addition" unless the list remains. But what do we find to-day? The hon. Member has tried to evade the responsibility which falls upon him of debating this Amendment. His speech might very well have been part of a Debate on the first Amendment. After all, there were pledges given, and what is the use of the hon. Member's reference to a Member of the Government who is not present? Why does he not quote the hon. Member who sits by his side; why does he not quote statements made, in this House and outside, by the President of the Board of Trade; why does he not ask that right hon. Gentleman to get up now, to take the House into his confidence, and to say 438 whether he did not give pledges himself that no tax should be placed on food? Why does not the right hon. Gentleman rise in his place to remove the embarrassment from his Under-Secretary, and say if, and when, and why he has changed his mind? Why do not the responsible people speak? I absolve the Financial Secretary to the Treasury altogether. I think his conduct of the Debate has been exemplary, and his conduct of the business right through, but it is not good enough to find the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade taking upon himself the responsibility of whitewashing everybody in the Government in the way that he did.
There have been pledges. The hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris) went very much further than I expected him to go this afternoon when he said that, after all, it does not matter very much in the ultimate what we tell the people who elected us, because, he said, this House is supreme over every other factor in the Constitution. We cannot flout the public who sent us here. My authority here is obtained from the people who sent me here, and my authority has been received because I have given them the impression, time and time again, that I stand irrevocably for certain things, one of which is Free Trade. If the hon. Member says the House of Commons is supreme, what is his quarrel with the House of Commons and the Government? I charge the Government, not with having failed in their conduct of the Government, but with failing to fulfil their pledges to the people outside, and the hon. Member for South-West Bethnal Green also must stick to his pledges. If we all do that, this House cannot go very far wrong.
The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) does not want his pledges examined too closely. He is very sensitive, as are a good many people in the House to-day. I have not known a day, in my experience in this House, when matters of conscience have been so prominent. The Home Secretary is not here to tell us how he feels about the matter. He has gone away. If the hon. Member for Shettleston (Mr. McGovern) were here now, I would offer him a word or two of sympathy. He is a sinner who has erred against his conscience, and he appeals to the lawyers and scribes and 439 Pharisees in this House to restore his peace of mind. He wants to be respectable once again. He has joined in a quartette, a political party, who want absolution at the hands of the House of Commons, but those four Members who voted to-day are unnecessarily in distress. They can now abstain from further insincerity and deception, and the advice that we give them is to go and sin no more.
The same advice we give to the Government, and especially to the Liberal Members of the Government. What about the Liberal electors in this country? What of the pledges given them? What is the position of the Parliamentary Secretary? Has he no Liberal electors? Did he tell them he would hand over himself and his party and their destinies to a Government which is to-day confessedly a Tory Government? It has been said from all parts of the House that this is now a Tory Government. We say that there are broken pledges. There was to be a Free List, there is in existence a Free List, and we find by this Resolution not an amendment of the list, but a list from which there will be freedom to pick and choose. We want to keep the Free List, and we particularly want to keep these commodities free from even the possibility of a tariff and an addition to their price.
There is a constitutional issue here. We are now facing a revolution in politics. Earlier to-day the House considered the maintenance of the constitution. On the Order Paper at the same time there was a proposal by the Government to go back to the system which an hon. Friend describe as the triumvirate. Three people are to determine what price the people are to pay for their bread and wheat and all the articles contained in this Schedule. I would like to point out the dangers in which the people of this country stand. Already, under the guise of a Measure which was declared not to be a Protectionist Measure, but a quota system, the price of wheat imported into this country has been raised by 20 per cent. There is the possibility of a further rise and of a rise in the price of flour. This Resolution means the abandonment of the Free List, and in three months we may find not a single article remaining on it. When the list disappears there will be opportunity for 440 vested interests to bring pressure on the Government. This Government is the creation of vested interests, and the tool of vested interests. They will come along and insist that further taxation shall be put upon bread and meat. There will be no end to the process of proceeding on the slippery slope under the momentum given by vested interests at a pace which will be accelerated by the slope along which we are travelling. I can see the cost of living rising higher and higher, and the conditions of the people being lowered and being made worse and worse by taxation of all kinds. I would press the Financial Secretary and the President of the Board of Trade to return to some semblance of loyalty to the pledges they gave and of some responsibility to the people who elected them, and to see that at least these two commodities shall be maintained in the Free List for all time.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
I would not have intervened but for the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. Why he thought it necessary to intervene in what is not his "pigeon," but the responsibility of the Financial Secretary, I do not quite understand. We are under no delusions. We understand the position quite well. This Resolution does not mean a tax yet on wheat and meat. It is a proposal to vest certain powers in the committee of three, and all that we are suggesting is that certain articles should not be dealt with. One already has been largely taken out of the power of the committee. That is tea. The Government have not thought fit to consult the committee about that, but have put it into the ordinary proposals of the Budget. We say that there are two other articles to which the same principle applies—bread and meat—which are essential articles of diet of the ordinary people. The producers can look after themselves, but the great consuming public is not organised and not able to look after itself, so that the House of Commons has a special responsibility. I suggest that wheat also is largely out of the responsibility of the Advisory Committee, because it is already dealt with by the Quota Act. I cannot imagine, therefore, that this committee of three will make any recommendation that it should be taken off the Free List. It is already subject to a tax through the quota system. There remains only meat. 441 I have a great respect for my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Ripon (Major Hills). He is a model Member of the House of Commons, and never conceals his opinions, and I am sure that he did not conceal his opinions to the electorate. He came here with a fair mandate, and I am sure that he and the majority of the House, while in favour of some form of tariffs, are opposed to food taxes, and particularly to a tax on meat.
The reason why we want to exclude meat from the power of revision of this committee is that at a time like this it is essential that the country should feel that there will not be any artificial increase in the cost of living. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade produced the very original argument that meat should be included in the list of possible taxable articles because it had gone up in price. He said, "It has gone up in price because we have not taxed it." That was his argument. According to that, a tax ought to be proposed at once and the price of meat will go down, or the foreigner will pay. The Government must be composed of very poor creatures if in a time of financial stringency they do not tax articles so that they will go down in price and the foreigner will be made to pay. That is a novel theory, and ought to be exploded. Under the provisions of the Act, this committee of three has to make a recommendation to the Government that a duty should be imposed. Then the Government, if they think fit, can propose a tax forthwith, and if the House happens to be in Recess, or is shortly going into Recess, we may have meat taxed during August, September, October and November, with no power in the House to criticise, modify or alter it. These two articles should come in a special category and be excluded. Then the advisory committee would be freed from the responsibility of giving protection to the meat interests and of having to consider their views. We should feel more comfortable, and our representatives would go to Ottawa with greater confidence if meat were permanently on the Free List.
§ Major NATHAN
My hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was a little disingenuous when he referred to the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that he was 442 seeking in the Finance Bill for power to exclude articles from the Free List through the intermediary of the advisory committee. The Chairman ruled out of order any such proposal, and it would not have been in order for hon. Members to discuss it. It was therefore disingenuous of my hon. Friend to pour scorn upon us because hon. Members who found themselves in disagreement with the Chancellor of the Exchequer refrained from attempting to discuss that matter at a time when it would have been ruled out of order, and deferred their objections to a time when, as now, it was in order.
§ Major ELLIOT
Does the hon. and gallant Member suggest that the House was not fully cognisant of the fact that this committee was to be clothed with full powers in the Finance Bill to deal with these subjects, and was not equally aware that it was to be fully clothed with full powers to deal with meat? Does the hon. and gallant Gentleman deny that the House went to a Division on that occasion in the full knowledge that the Chancellor of the Exchequer intended that the committee would not merely be clothed with these powers, but specifically clothed with power to deal with meat?
§ Major NATHAN
In my recollection the Chancellor stated that he would seek sanction to give the Advisory Committee power to be able to withdraw articles from the Free List, but there was no specific reference to meat.
§ Major ELLIOT
I would refer the hon. and gallant Member to a passage in the speech of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) on 23rd February, in which he said:It is obviously impossible for the Government to leave this Debate without stating, quite categorically, whether they have in fact decided now to leave meat on the Free List as being a redemption of an election pledge. The Chancellor of the Exchequer shakes his head."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1932; col. 339, Vol. 262.]The Chancellor of the Exchequer specifically indicated dissent from any suggestion that meat was to remain unconsidered by this Committee, and after that passage across the Floor of the House, not merely did all the Conservative Members vote, but my hon. and gallant Friend who is now speaking went Into the Lobby along with the Government.
§ Major NATHAN
I would reply to that extract that unhappily I am unable to hear the Chancellor of the Exchequer shake his head. I would go further and say that it will be within the recollection of hon. Members that a powerful Debate was initiated by Members of the Conservative party with a view to meat being taken off the Free List. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, in an eloquent and pungent speech, successfully resisted the Amendment, and advanced as a reason for so doing that a tariff might result in an increase in price, and he rejected the suggestion that the fear of an increase in price was nothing but a bogey.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
May I intervene, as a passage from my speech has been quoted? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman might have read the next sentence, which was:That is entirely in opposition to the nod of the head which I got from the President of the Board of Trade. Perhaps they have already agreed to differ upon this point. I understand from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that they have not made up their minds. On the other hand, I understand from the President of the Board of Trade that he has made up his mind anyway on this matter, and that so far as he is concerned he is going to he no party to the taxation of meat."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd February, 1932; col. 339, Vol. 262.]
§ Major NATHAN
I leave my right hon. Friend and the late Solicitor-General to fight out between themselves the meaning of these extracts from the OFFICIAL REPORT.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Major ELLIOT
Will the hon. and gallant Gentleman deny from the statement just read out that, on the question being put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the responsible officer who was speaking for the Government, he did not —as he has himself admitted—receive an assurance from the Chancellor of the Exchequer that the Chancellor of the Exchequer was in no way going to be a party to the suggestion that meat was to be excluded from any consideration by the Committee? It was on that specific assurance, repeated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer at a later stage, that he would not say not merely that this Government was not going to have it considered, but that he would give no assurance that he would not have it taxed, and on that assurance alone that 444 he got his Division. Both the hon. Members for Bethnal Green, the President of the Board of Trade, and the Home Secretary, all went into the Lobby on the pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that at the earliest possible moment he would give the Committee power to consider the articles on the Free List, and that meat was specifically not excluded from the consideration of the Committee.
§ Major NATHAN
The right hon. Member is entitled to any satisfaction he can obtain from a record of one of the few occasions on which I found myself in the same Lobby as he. The issue on which hon. Members went into the Lobby was not a conversation between the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), but the terms of the Motion then before the Committee. It was on that alone that the votes were given in the Lobby, and I repudiate any suggestion that any vote of mine would be given on the footing of a conversation between two hon. Members, unless my views were in accord with the terms of the Resolution which was being put to the vote. The matter does not end there because, if the right hon. Gentleman will make further researches into the OFFICIAL REPORT, he will find that the Chancellor of the Exchequer refused an Amendment suggesting that meat should be excluded from the Free List. That was a deliberate act of policy on the part of the Government only six weeks ago. It was a decision affirmatively that meat should be on the Free List, and negatively that it should not be within the power of the Advisory Committee to take meat from the Free List. That was the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on behalf of the Government on that occasion. A Division was taken, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer had his way.
The President of the Board of Trade has been quoted as having made a speech to his constituents at St. Ives to the effect that he would not be a party to the taxation of food. When that quotation was made, my right hon. Friend rose and stated, "I did not say foodstuffs. I said meat and wheat." The right hon. Member thus affirmed from the Treasury Bench that he was pledged to oppose the taxation of meat and wheat. It is, of course, clear that the Amendment of the 445 Import Duties Act, which is now before the House, does not of itself impose a tax, but it is an indication that, should the advisory committee think proper to recommend a tax upon wheat and meat, the Government are prepared to accede to that recommendation and, as in the case of the recent report of the advisory committee, to act as the uncritical instrument of the advisory committee. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade boasted that the cost of living has gone down. Is he quite sure that any articles which have so far been subjected to the tax are included in the cost-of-living index? Will he deny that the effect of the tax must be either to increase the price or, if the price should be reduced, to prevent the full fall in price from reaching the consumer?
When the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) was Chancellor of the Exchequer, he made a speech in 1927, in the year following the imposition of the Silk Duties, in which he used words to this effect—I speak in his presence—"I am bound to confess that, had it not been for these duties, the reduction in price would have been greater than that which has taken place." So it is with the commodities which are the subject
§ of the present Import Duties Act. The hon. Member is in this dilemma. Either he must admit that the prices have gone up or that they have not gone down as much as they would have done but for the duty. As to wheat, this House was given to understand when the Wheat Quota Bill was introduced that that was in substitution for any attempt to deal with wheat under the Import Duties Act. Now power is taken to give a discretion to the advisory committee to recommend a duty upon wheat to supplement the burdens already borne under the wheat quota system. By opposing this Amendment, the Government have made it clear beyond all dispute that, despite the pledges given by individual Ministers, including the President of the Board of Trade, the Government are prepared calmly and coolly to contemplate the possibility of imposing taxes upon wheat and meat. Speaking for myself and for my hon. Friends who sit upon these benches as Liberals and Free Traders, I say that is a. proposal we shall resist to the end.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 72; Noes, 305.449
|Division No. 161.]||AYES||[7.10 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Brawn, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Harbord, Arthur||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Buchanan, George||Harris, Sir Percy||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cove, William G.||Holdeworth, Herbert||Salter, Or. Alfred|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jenkins, Sir William||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Thorne, William James|
|Curry, A. C.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, J. J. (West Ham. Silvertown)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Lewis (Swansea. West)||Wallhead, Richard C.|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Kirkwood, David||White, Henry Graham|
|Edwards, Charles||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llaneily)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lunn, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McKeag, William|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.|
|Agnew, Lieut. Com. P. G.||Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell|
|Ainsworth, Lieut.-Colonel Charles||Apsley, Lord||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey|
|Albery, Irving James||Atkinson, Cyril||Beauchamp, Sir Brograva Campbell|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Milne, Charles|
|Bilndell, James||Fox, Sir Gifford||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Molson, A. Hugh Eisdale|
|Borodale, Viscount||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Bossom, A. C.||Ganzonl, Sir John||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Gibson, Charles Granville||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Gledhill, Gilbert||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Glossop, C. W. H.||Mulrhead, Major A. J.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Munro, Patrick|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Goff. sir Park||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Goldle, Noel B.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Granvllie, Edgar||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'I'd, Hexham)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Grimston, R. V.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Nunn, William|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Burghley, Lord||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Hales, Harold K.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Hanbury, Cecil||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Calne, G. R. Hall-||Hanley, Dennis A.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Penny, Sir George|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Hartington, Marquess of||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hartland, George A.||Petherick, M.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Potter, John|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R.(Prtsmth., S.)||Hepworth, Joseph||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter||Pybus, Percy John|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Hornby Frank||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Horne, Rt. hon. Sir Robert S.||Ramsden, E.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Horobin, Ian M.||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Clarke, Frank||Horsbrugh, Florence||Ray, Sir William|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Howard, Tom Forrest||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Clayton Dr. George C.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Colville, John||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jamieson, Douglas||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Jennings, Roland||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Ker, J. Campbell||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Kimball, Lawrence||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Sir Alfred||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Law Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Lees-Jones, John||Salt, Edward W.|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Levy, Thomas||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Liddall, Walter S.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Scone, Lord|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Sallay, Harry R.|
|Doran, Edward||Llewellin, Major John J.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Duckworth. George A. V.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Mac Andrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Eady, George H.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Eastwood, John Francis||McCorquodale, M. S.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||McKie, John Hamilton||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||McLean, Major Alan||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Elmley, Viscount||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Stanley, Hon. O. F. C. (Westmorland)|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Maitland, Adam||Stevenson, James|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Stones, James|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C (Bik'pool)||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Storey, Samuel|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Sutcliffe, Harold||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Tate, Mavis Constance||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Templeton, William P.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||Wayland, Sir William A.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Thompson, Luke||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Weymouth, Viscount||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—|
|Touche, Gordon Cosmo||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)||Captain Austin Hudson and|
|Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Mr. Womersley.|
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I beg to move, in line 24, to leave out from the word "allowed" to the word "without," in line 25.
The object of moving this Amendment is to get an explanation from the Government of their object in inserting the words which we are moving to omit. We agree with allowing a drawback, but we are not sure why it is stated thatthe drawback may be allowed for any period or periods, whether continuous or not, or without any limit of period.The words "without any limit of period" seem to be quite applicable, but is it contemplated that a drawback may be allowed for a month and then taken off again and then allowed for another month? I understood that it was the policy of the Government to have certainty in these matters, and with that we agree, but here they seem to be contemplating a shifting drawback which comes on for a period and then goes off for a period.
§ Major ELLIOT
The words have been inserted, perhaps from an excess of caution on the part of the Parliamentary draftsman, with the knowledge that there may be periods in which it is undesirable to give the drawback continuously. There may be cases in which supplies of home-produced articles are available, and it would be our desire that home-produced articles, which would not require the drawback, should be taken for exportation rather than that articles should be imported and subsequently re-exported. I am sure the hon. and learned Member will agree that that is consistent with the lines on which we are proceeding. Further, home-produced articles may be available from time to time, but not always continuously. As we wish to promote the manufacture of goods at home, we should like to leave it within the power of the committee to recommend a drawback which should not be continuous. I think the power will, in fact, be very seldom used; it is merely a power which 450 one would wish to see reserved; but it is along the lines of our general policy. I hope, after that explanation, that the hon. and learned Gentleman will be able to let us have this part of the Resolution.
§ Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Mr. PARKINSON
I beg to move, in line 32, after the word "machinery," to insert the words "or other goods."
Paragraph (3) of the Resolution provides that if machinery is not available in this country it may be allowed in duty free, and the question arises why that concession should be confined to machinery, because there must be many goods necessary to trade and industry which cannot be manufactured in this country at the present time, and it might be some years before our manufacturers were able to produce them. I should also like to know whether machine tools are included in the word "machinery." There are many machine tools which are not manufactured in this country, but which are necessary and have to be imported. Further, will electrical appliances come within the definition of "machinery," or are they regarded as outside, so that they will have to pay duty? If goods which are necessary have to bear a duty, it may hamper our production. I do not know how far paragraph (3) can be said to cover duty free articles, but the Resolution specifies that where articles are not produced in this country the committee shall have power to inquire and to make recommendations. There are quite a number of things which are not manufactured in this country, and there are also many articles of food which cannot be produced in this country, and that is why we are moving to insert the words "or other goods."
It is not possible for me to say what the words "other goods" may include, because there are so many of them, but we ought to have in this paragraph a 451 clear definition of the Government's intention, because, after all, it does provide a kind of committee case. It is asking that certain goods shall be considered by the Advisory Committee, and that they shall recommend to the Minister whether they are to be allowed in duty free or not. We believe the scope of the Measure ought to be extended, and goods other than machinery brought within the purview of the committee. The Resolution, as it is presented to the House, is too confined and not explicit enough; we need 'a clearer definition.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The reason why this paragraph applies to machinery but not to the other commodities which the hon. Member wishes to include is that we have followed closely the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, and it was only in regard to machinery that they asked for this flexibility in procedure. It is well known that some particularly intricate machines are not made in this
§ country, and where that is the case it is desired to spare our manufacturers any loss ox inconvenience which they might otherwise suffer. My hon. Friend next asked me whether machine tools came within the definition of machinery. I can give him an affirmative answer upon that point. Electrical machinery is also, of course, included under the general heading "machinery." If the hon. Member looks into the matter more closely he will see how impossible it would be to apply this procedure which the committee has suggested in regard to machinery to other goods. The number of applications made would be simply limitless. Therefore, it is proposed to adhere to what has been suggested by the tribunal, and ask the House of Commons to give the Government power to ratify their recommendations.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 50; Noes, 273.453
|Division No. 162.]||AYES.||[7.32 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Nathan, Majar H. L.|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cove, William G.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jenkins, Sir William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llaneily)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Lunn, William|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McGovern, John||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr.|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Groves.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Chalmers, John Rutherford|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bracken, Brendan||Christie, James Archibald|
|Aitchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Clarke, Frank|
|Albery, Irving James||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Colfox, Major William Philip|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Colville, John|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Browne, Captain A. C.||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Burghley, Lord||Cooper, A. Duff|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Galnsb'ro)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Carver, Major William H.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Cassels, James Dale||Dalkeith, Earl of|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Welverh'pton W.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovll)|
|Blindell, James||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Davison, Sir William Henry|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.|
|Dickie, John P.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Doran, Edward||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Lees-Jones, John||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Levy, Thomas||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Liddall, Walter S.||Ron Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Eady, George H.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Runge. Norah Cecil|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Lock wood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Elmley, Viscount||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Rustell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Mac Andrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||McCorquodale, M. S.||Salt, Edward W.|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||McKie, John Hamilton||Scone, Lord|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Selley, Harry R.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||McLean, Major Alan||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Maitland, Adam||Smith, Louie W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Smithers, Waldron|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Gluckstein, Louis Hatle||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Creydon, N.)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Milne, Charles||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Mitchell, Harold P. (Br'tfd & Chlsw'k)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Hales, Harold K.||Moreing, Adrian C.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Z'tf'nd)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Stevenson, James|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Stones, James|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Morrison, William Shepherd||Storey, Samuel|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Moss, Captain H. J.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Harbord, Arthur||Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Hartland, George A.||Munro, Patrick||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Harvey, Majors. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Nail, Sir Joseph||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Templeton, William P.|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur p.||Nunn, William||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Tryon. Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William O.A.||Vaugnan-Margan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Palmer, Francis Neel||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Hornby, Frank||Patrick, Colin M.||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Peat, Charles U.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Penny, Sir George||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Howard Tom Forrest||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Howltt, Dr. Alfred B.||Petherick, M.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Pike, Cecil F.||Wedderhurn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Potter, John||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romford)||Pybus, Percy John||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Jennings, Roland||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ramsden, E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Ker, J. Campbell||Ray, Sir William||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Raid, David D. (County Down)|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.-|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Mr. Shakespeare and Mr. Womersley.|
§ Mr. LAWSON
I beg to move, in line 32, after the word "machinery," to insert the words "or medical, surgical, or scientific instruments."
The addition of those words would make the paragraph read:Provision may be made for exempting from the duties chargeable under the said Act any consignment of machinery, or medical, surgical, or scientific instruments.454 It is unnecessary to say very much to recommend this Amendment to the Committee. I should have thought that the Government in advance would have made this special exemption. I cannot think that the Government really mean to tax instruments of this kind. It is well known that in case of war the ambulance stations are removed as far as possible from the activities of the enemy, and we are asking 455 to-night for the exemption of medical and surgical instruments which are so necessary for the sick and wounded. I gather from the Board of Trade Navigation Account that the total amount of medical, surgical and scientific instruments imported into this country from abroad last year amounted in value to £337,000. I do not know whether those instruments are cheaper now, but it means that the medical profession in this country are dependent for these instruments to that amount upon foreign countries. As everyone knows, the hospitals of this country are experiencing very great financial difficulties and they find it more and more difficult to conduct their work in proper circumstances. Therefore, any imposition of taxation upon the instruments imported from abroad would certainly increase the expenditure and the difficulties of our hospitals, and of all those who carry on work of that nature. Therefore, we are asking the Government to exempt these instruments, and I hope we shall not ask in vain. I trust that the Government will put this kind of thing quite outside the ordinary arena of controversy.
There is another point. We know that in scientific matters, and particularly in the higher branches of science, the more delicate the instruments are, the less likely they are to be affected toy bounties. I believe that instruments of this kind are supposed to be more affected by an international outlook, because of the great human needs for which they are designed, and, therefore, it is probable that doctors who need operating and other scientific instruments will be almost solely dependent upon instruments which come from abroad.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
On a point of Order. May I ask whether the hon. Member's reference to scientific instruments is in order, in view of the fact that most classes of scientific instruments are chargeable under the Finance Act, 1926, which continued the provisions of Part I of the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I fancy that at any rate some of them are, and, if so, it would not be in order to deal with them now.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I am only arguing in reference to those scientific instruments 456 which are necessary for medical and surgical purposes, and, particularly, are needed by hospitals. The point that I was making was that sometimes these instruments are almost the sole design of one particular nation, just as, I dare say, ours go abroad to other countries, and I think the House will agree that no penalty ought to be put upon an instrument used by a surgeon for the purpose of improving health or curing human ailments. It is particularly the great hospitals, many of whose patients can afford to pay very little for the help and attention that they receive, that will be penalised by an imposition of this kind. I do not wish to descend to bathos in connection with such a matter as this, but it seems to me that common humanity would urge the Government to give relief in this direction, whatever may be their views in regard to the other matters with which they have been dealing.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It seems to me that a great many of these medical and surgical scientific instruments are already liable to duty, and, if that be the case, those that are liable to duty would be exempted from the provisions of the Import Duties Act, and, therefore, the hon. Member will not be in order in including in his Amendment those particular medical and surgical instruments which are not now subject to duty under the Act.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
It would have been my reply to my hon. Friend that nearly all the instruments to which he can possibly be referring are already included in the legislation which has been mentioned. It was only because I did not wish to interfere with his argument that I refrained from putting that as a point of Order, but it is the case.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
If no one can supply it—and I am not sure that the Minister himself could tell us which are in and which are out—I submit that we are entitled to argue in favour of the exemption 457 of, say, newly invented surgical instruments which would not be included under the Safeguarding duties.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
It would then be necessary to include in the Amendment some words to indicate that it referred to those instruments which are not now subject to duty.
§ Mr. LAWSON
The Parliamentary Secretary was careful to say, not that all such instruments, but that nearly all were liable to duty, so that, after all, we are asking for very little. There may be a certain number of instruments which it would be possible to exempt, and we ask the hon. Gentleman to exempt those which he has power to leave free to come in without duty. As these instruments are needed for the great hospitals, I trust that he will be able to give us a helpful answer.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
As I have said, I did not raise the point of Order which was raised by my hon. Friend the Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), because I wished to give the Mover of the Amendment every opportunity of developing his argument. I need hardly say that it is an argument which appeals to the sympathy of the House and of the Government. I do not know exactly to what instruments he was referring which could possibly be excluded from the existing legislation, but, if he has in mind any particular class of instruments in favour of whose exemption a powerful case can be made, that case could be presented to the Advisory Committee, who, under the existing law, would have power to recommend its insertion in the Free List. I trust, therefore, that if at a later stage my hon. Friend discovers some omission from the Key Industries Duties of which we were not aware, and on behalf of which he thinks he can present a powerful plea, he will follow the course that I have suggested.
§ Mr. COCKS
After the hon. Gentleman's sympathetic reply, I do not intend to continue the discussion, except to say that I notice, from the statements which has been issued, that Members of Parliament have no status whatever before the Advisory Committee, and are refused a hearing. If that be so, how can my hon. Friend present his case?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I was thinking of the hon. Gentleman in his capacity as a trade union leader. Anyone who is accredited as representing an industry can, of course, make representations to the Advisory Committee.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary whether all medical and surgical instruments are already included in the law to which he has referred? I should like to know how we stand with respect to the various categories of instruments. The Leader of the Opposition has made an important point. Suppose that all these instruments are already covered by existing legislation, but that next week an instrument is invented abroad which may become of prime importance to the hospitals of this country, and may be of vital interest from the point of view of safeguarding human life. We want, if possible, to carry this Amendment so that any new instrument which the medical profession may deem to be of high importance should be able to come into this country without being subject to any financial embargo. Our hospitals are nowadays hard put to it to maintain their day-to-day activities, and, indeed, a Bill has been presented in this House for the purpose of artificially stimulating the flow of charity to them. Is it not, therefore, in the highest degree desirable that we should not place extra burdens upon the finances of those hospitals by making these highly important and desirable instruments more expensive to procure? Whatever the case may be for putting taxes upon food or other commodities, surely we ought to be sufficiently enlightened not to erect artificial barriers against the development and interchange of scientific opinion and experience. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will be able to assure us that, if any new instrument of this kind should be invented in the future, it will be able to come in without any embargo.
§ Mr. H. WILLIAMS
Section 1 (5) of the Safeguarding of Industries Act reads as follows:For the purpose of preventing disputes arising as to whether any goods are or are not any goods chargeable with duty under this part of this Act, the Board may from time to time issue lists defining the articles 459 which are to be taken as falling under any of the general descriptions set out in the said Schedule…Accordingly, if a new scientific instrument is invented, all that the Board of Trade have to do is to add it to the list, so that I am afraid that even that ingenious argument of the hon. Gentleman is defeated.
§ Amendment negatived.
§ Mr. TINKER
I beg to move, in line 39, after the word "procurable," to insert the words "at a reasonable price."
In this Amendment we ask that, if an article cannot be sold at a reasonable price when produced in this country, a duty should not be placed upon it when it comes into this country from abroad. The Lord President of the Council, in a speech a few days ago, said that there were two lines of thought on the question of a tariff. One was that it ought not to be put on and the other was that it ought to be put on, and he said that time would prove which was right and which wrong. If tariffs are to have a fair trial we ask that they should be tried under normal conditions. Whatever industry seeks protection, it should not be allowed to sell its products at any price it likes. If a duty is put on without regard to that condition, it is possible that an industry will put up its price to any height, and then the consumer will have to pay. That would not be fair to the consumer. It would, moreover, be giving an unfair advantage to the manufacturer, and it would lead to inefficiency. I am confident that those who advocate tariffs do not want to bolster up any industry behind Protection so that that industry can take advantage of the position.
We on these benches are opposed to tariffs, but we can see that the country has decided that tariffs are to have a trial. I confess openly that if tariffs, after fair trial, prove to be a solution of our present economic position, the opponents of tariffs must admit that there is something in the tariff policy. But before we are convinced we want the trial to be under conditions that will not give undue advantage to the manufacturers. We do not want a. manufacturer to be able to say, "AH right. I have so much 460 influence in the House of Commons and various Members have given me power to put on any price I like. I can now do all I want in putting up the price." If that happens it will defeat the tariffist idea.
Our Amendment in a way helps the honest man who believes that tariffs are a solution. We ask the Government to see our point of view, which is that if tariffs are to be tried at least some attention ought to be given to the consumer. Prices should be reasonable. As I have said on other occasions, I do not stand in this House for the purpose of allowing goods to come into this country when it can be proved that they have been produced under what may toe termed sweated conditions. But on the other hand I do not want a tariff policy to allow people in this country to have full sway and to do what they like regarding the production and price of goods.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
This Amendment is identical with one which was moved by the hon. Member when the Import Duties Bill was under discussion. I think the hon. Member moved such an Amendment on two occasions.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
Of course it is an Amendment which, on the face of it, would commend itself to anyone, but I explained in the Committee discussions on that Bill that the Advisory Committee had a sanction far more powerful than the use of a vague phrase of this kind. In any case of abuse the Advisory Committee can recommend a revocation of the duty. That is the most efficient weapon that can be put into the hands of the Committee. The use of the words of the Amendment, vague as they are, would impose an additional task on the Committee. We are here dealing with specialised machinery, and the Amendment would impose on the Advisory Committee the duty of inquiring in every case what was a reasonable price for a rare or unique piece of work. I hope my hon. Friend will see that the proposal is not practicable, although the intention that he has in view is most desirable. I think facts will show that the Advisory Committee will have regard to reasonable price and will act as a safeguard to the consumer.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I hardly think that the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary is adequate. He seemed to think that it is sufficient safeguard for the Advisory Committee to be empowered with authority to revoke duties. Through-oat debates in the country on this question of Free Trade versus Protection one big argument has almost invariably been adduced, and it has considerable strength. The Parliamentary Secretary has not given it sufficient attention to-day. The effect of imposing a duty is to take a certain amount of competition out of the home market. Once you have removed the competition from foreign sources in the home market, that market is restricted to a certain number of home competitors. These instruments are very largely of a specialised character, and therefore the number of people who will cater for the home market will be limited. The more limited the number of people operating within the protected market the more easily can those who operate in the market effect mutual arrangements. Out of these mutual arrangements one can easily visualise the coming of a trust or monopoly.
What is the effect almost invariably of the creation of a trust within a given industry, where there is no competition possible outside the terms of the trust? It is to create a monopoly, and one of the effects of a monoply is that the monopolistic concern is able to fix its own price for an article. If there is to be no competition whatever what is to prevent the monopolistic concern from, imposing what is a wholly unreasonable charge from the point of view of the consumer. The Parliamentary Secretary always tries to be fair to us, but he has not met that point. It is not enough that some committee sitting behind closed doors, free from Parliamentary control, shall determine if and when it will intervene in the interests of the consumer. Out of regard for its responsibility to the citizens of the country, this House ought to introduce reservations into this kind of legislation, so that the consumers shall not be unduly exploited. It may be that the word "reasonable" is a little vague, but the words of the Amendment would be an indication to the Advisory Committee of the will and mind of this House in the matter. The Amendment might be regarded as an instruction from this 462 House that the Advisory Committee must have regard to this one vital element in the consideration of its procedure.
§ Mr. PIKE
If the Government really are looking for something to do, if they want more work than they have already on hand, I strongly recommend them to accept the Amendment, for if accepted it will cause unending inquiry, unending observation and certainly unending documentary proof that breaches of the rule have been practised. The hon. Members who moved and supported the Amendment empasised the importance of a reasonable price, that is, a price that does not go beyond a certain figure. But surely there is the other side of the question. There is the question of the price falling below a certain figure, and the two hon. Members would be the first to make an outcry if they realised that, by means of this Amendment, they were placing a weapon in the hands of foreign competitors which gave them the power to go below what they, as responsible Labour leaders, considered to be a reasonable price in so far as the value of the produce of their own labour was concerned. That is the real danger of the Amendment.
After all, who decides what is a reasonable price? Is it the person who wants the commodity that is produced—is it the price that he can actually afford to pay for it—or is it some outside body? These inquiries would necessarily follow the insertion of these words, and they would cause untold trouble and the greatest difficulty and unnecessary expense. The Mover of the Amendment said he did not agree with sweating, and he would prevent the import of sweated goods completely. If you insert these words, you will fix the level of what in this country is considered to be a reasonable price, and the moment you do that yon will have your foreign competitors doing their utmost to get below it. I ask him to withdraw the Amendment in view of the unnecessary trouble and expense to which it would put those who have to administer the law.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I think the hon. Member has failed entirely to understand the purpose of the Amendment and the method in which it is going to work. 463 The object is somewhat to widen discretion in the matter. The Resolution as it stands says:That the Treasury after receiving the recommendation from the said Committee to the effect that machinery of the kind in question is not for the time being procurable in the United Kingdom.There might be some exceptional piece of machinery at a price that was absolutely prohibitive. There might be very good reasons—trade reasons, health reasons or scientific reasons—for the import of some of this machinery, but, if you pass this as it is, the Treasury can only act on receiving a recommendation of the committee to the effect that machinery of this kind is not procurable at all. We propose to put in the words "at a reasonable price." The hon. Member talked a great deal about elaborate investigation and difficulty, but the people who are going to administer it by this time will be fairly experienced. Is it such a terrible thing for them to decide whether a thing is procurable at a reasonable price? They are the three supermen to whom the Government are committing the economic future of the country. They are charged with the duty of putting taxes at all kinds of levels on all kinds of categories of goods without the slightest instruction from the Government, without the slightest knowledge of any industrial plan of the Government, and without any knowledge of the aim of the Government.
I can imagine the difficult time they are having now when they consider that they have to do their best for the country, to carry out what the Government intend, what even the Home Secretary
§ intends, what the President of the Board of Trade intends, and what the Chancellor of the Exchequer intends. They must take this extraordinary conglomeration of mixed minds and try to get some least common denominator among them. I will not insult any particular Member of the Government by suggesting that he is the least common denominator or the greatest common factor, or whatever it may be. That is the task that you are setting them, and it is a mere bagatelle to ask them to say whether a particular article is procurable at a reasonable price. It is a very ordinary thing which any person of reasonable judgment could do. The hon. Member opposite suggests that you will have the foreigner striving to get below the price that has been decided. How is he to know what price has been decided? It is not for him to know at all. It is a matter for the committee to say whether it is procurable at a reasonable price or not.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not know where the hon. Member comes in at all. There is no question whatever of an elaborate inquiry. They have merely to consider whether it is procurable in the United Kingdom. I think the Government would be very wise not to tie the committee down so narrowly as not to allow any introduction unless the machinery was absolutely not procurable at all in the country.
§ Question put, "That those words be there inserted."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 48; Noes, 264.467
|Division No. 163.]||AYES.||[8.23 p.m.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John|
|Batey, Joseph||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cape, Thomas||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Price, Gabriel|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Thorne, William James|
|Cove, William G.||Hirst, George Henry||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jenkins, Sir William||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Daggar, George||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams Dr. John H. (Llaneily)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lawson, John James|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Logan, David Gilbert||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William||Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan Graham.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Graves, Marjorie||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Grimston, R. V.||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Albery, Irving James||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Peat, Charles U.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Applin, Lieut. Col. Reginald V. K.||Hales, Harold K.||Petherick, M.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pfn, Bilston)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Hanbury, Cecil||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Hanley, Dennis A.||Potter, John|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Harbord, Arthur||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Hartland, George A.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th. C.)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Bernays, Robert||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Ramsden, E.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Hengage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Ray, Sir William|
|Bossom, A. C.||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Hornby, Frank||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Braithwaite, Maj, A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Horobin, Ian M.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Horsbrugh, Florence||Remer, John R.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Howard, Tom Forrest||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Hudson, Capt. A. (J. M. (Hackney, N.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Hunter, Capt. M, J. (Brigg)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Burghley, Lord||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Campbell, Rear-Admiral G. (Burnley)||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Jamieson, Douglas||Ruagles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Jennings, Roland||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Cassels, James Dale||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Jones Lewis (Swansea West)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. H. (Prtsmth., S.)||Ker, J. Campbell||Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Russell. Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Kimball Lawrence||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Christie, James Archibald||Kirkpatrick William M.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Clarke, Frank||Knight, Holford||Salt, Edward W.|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Law, Sir Alfred||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Lees-Jones, John||Scone, Lord|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Levy Thomas||Selley, Harry R.|
|Colville, John||Liddall, Walter S.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Lindsay Noel Ker||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Llewellln, Major John J.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Lockwood, John c. (Hackney, C.)||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Loder, Captain J. da Vere||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Smithers, Waldron|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||McCorquodale, M. S.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||McKie, John Hamilton||Soper, Richard|
|Dickie, John P.||McLean, Major Alan||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Drewe, Cedric||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Maitland, Adam||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Duncan, James A. L.(Kensington, N.)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Dunglass, Lord||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Eady, George H.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Stevenson, James|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Stones, James|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Storey, Samuel|
|Elmley, Viscount||Milne, Charles||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Moreing, Adrian C-||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford. N.)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Templeton, William P.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Morrison, William Shephard||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Moss, Captain H. J.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Munro, Patrick||Train, John|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Nail, Sir Joseph||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)'|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halls||Nicholson, O. W. (Westminster)||Wallace, John (Dunfermilne)|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Nunn, William||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Wayland, Sir William A.||Wills, Wilfrid D.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Wells, Sydney Richard||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Weymouth, Viscount||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Whiteside, Borras Noel H.||Wife, Alfred R.||Lord Erskine and Mr. Blindell.|
§ Mr. COCKS
I beg to move to leave out Knee 42 to 46.
His Majesty's Opposition are putting forward the Amendment in a spirit of inquiry like the lady in "David Copper-field" and really want to know the exact meaning of those particular lines. Under Section 5 of the Act all Empire goods come in free. They are not to be charged any duty whatever, but in Sub-section (2) it is stated that His Majesty shall have power by Order-in-Council to declare that the same process of allowing goods to come in free shall apply to any mandated territory. We want to know what is meant by the word "variation." If you make an Order-in-Council you say that it is a mandated territory and that the free list shall apply to it, and we can understand that it is possible to revoke the Order, but we want to know what the Government mean by varying an Order of that sort. If a territory is a mandated territory, and if, therefore, it is exempt from any duty, we do not understand the suggestion of the Government that such an Order might be varied.
We have undertaken those mandates, as the Government well know, in the spirit of a trust, and a very sacred trust. We are administering those territories, in the words of the Covenant of the League of Nations, because they are weak peoples which are not able to stand alone amid the difficulties of the modern world. They are people whom we have to take by the hand and lead gently into the path of civilisation and progress. I suppose the right hon. Gentleman would say into the path of capitalistic civilisation. It is very necessary that that trust should be maintained in that particular spirit. The policy of the Government towards the mandated territories should be the policy of the helping hand, and not of the big stick, or of the vacuum cleaner trying to extract from those mandated territories oil, gold, mineral wealth, timber, etc. We do not want the Government to use the power which they are taking as a means of bargaining with the Mandated Territories in order to extract concessions 468 from them in return for allowing their goods to come into this country free. That would be absolutely against the spirit of the principle of mandate. We know that the Government are writhing in the toils of international capitalism but we do not want them to stamp on the liberty of these struggling people, towards whom we have taken this responsibility in the nature of a sacred trust. We have undertaken these mandates not in order to extract money from them, not, as foreign nations might say, in a spirit of hypocritical selfishness, but in a spirit of creative internationalism, and we are anxious that the Government shall give us some assurance that they will not use these powers afterwards to exact concessions from the mandated territories.
§ Major ELLIOT
It will be possible in a few words to clear up the difficulty. There is provision elsewhere in the Import 'Duties Act for varying any of the other Orders which are made, but there is no provision for varying the Orders in Council which are made in respect of mandated territories. That is simply an oversight and we are taking this opportunity of putting the oversight right. There is no power to revoke or vary Orders in Council made under statutory power. It would require specific legislation to alter any such Orders. There seems no reason why specific legislation should have to be undertaken in this particular respect, as it might in some cases give rise to delay.
§ Major ELLIOT
It would be possible to vary an order to make easier the admission of goods, or to alter the rates of duty on certain goods.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The Order in Council declares that the Section applies to a mandated territory. It is not a question of applying a duty. It merely is to say that a mandated territory is or is not within the Section. You cannot have it half in and half out.
§ Major ELLIOT
It is not impossible to conceive a case. Take the State of Iraq, which is at present passing out of the status of a mandated territory.
§ Major ELLIOT
That might be, but complete revocation might be undesirable, since a State does not pass suddenly from being a mandated territory to an independent State, and it might be desirable to vary such an Order which might be applicable to a mandated territory at certain stages of its evolution. It is cases of that kind which the Government have in mind. With regard to the point of the relation of mandated territories to the innovations in the fiscal system which this country is undertaking, that was debated at some length on the Import Duties Bill on the 23rd February of this year, and in reply to the hon. Member for Lime-house (Mr. Attlee) I pointed out that the definition of British Empire upon which we were operating was the definition which had been adopted in the Finance Act, 1919, and had been used by successive Governments ever since that date.
I do not think there is any reason to suppose that the Government are going to depart from their admitted purpose of helping and not hindering these territories, but it is desirable that it should be possible for the Government to extend to these areas preferences similar to that which they desire to extend to the Colonies. It would be unfair to exclude them from the benefits of any markets at home which they might otherwise have had. Hon. Members opposite would be the first to complain if we excluded them. Consequently, for the purpose of bringing the mandated territories in so as to give them the benefits which we desire to give them we have made this provision. The purpose of paragraph (4) of the Resolution is to make it possible to carry out any variation in an Order as may be necessary. I have given the example of the State of Iraq, which is passing, although it will take some time, from the status of a mandated territory to the status of a fully developed State.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am afraid that the explanation given by the Financial Secretary is not very convincing. He tried to explain last night that a certain Colony was an excepted Colony. Perhaps he would describe himself as an ex- 470 cepted Financial Secretary—a Financial Secretary who is slowly emerging from that position into the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer, with which no doubt we heartily agree. He is now trying to tell us that there is such a thing as an excepted mandated territory. He must appreciate the position that either a territory is mandated or it is not. The fact that there is an evolution going on in a mandated territory and that a type of Government is being developed so as to fit it as an independent nation does not affect the question whether at any given period of time it is or is not mandated. Section 5 of the Import Duties Act, 1932, makes provision for His Majesty, by Order-in-Council, to declare that this Section shall apply to a mandated territory. It gives him no power to declare anything else in regard to a mandated territory.
It either applies or it does not apply, and it is impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to say that he might vary an Order so as to make it apply in part or not apply. He cannot say that it shall apply as regards raw material and not as regards a manufactured product, or vice versa. The only power that His Majesty has, by Order-in-Council, is to put a mandated territory in the same position as a Colony. He can do nothing else. Therefore, the only possible object of this proviso is to vary, because it is impossible to revoke. We object to the idea that these mandated territories should be given the status of Colonies and then, for some reason or other, it should be taken away from them and they should be made foreign countries. That is the only thing that can be done in this provision, and if a provision of this sort is inserted it will give rise to great suspicion in everybody's mind.
Why take this power? Due and proper thought is given to Bills which are put before this House, and it has been decided that a mandated territory should, by Order-in-Council, be permitted to clothe itself with the position of a Colony for this particular purpose, and now, on second thought, for some reason or other it is suggested that power should be given to take it out of that position, once it has been given that position. We recognise that if it ceases to be a mandated territory it will automatically fall out of that position. Unless the Financial Secretary 471 can give us some better explanation how he is going to vary or revoke without altering the status of a mandated territory completely—which we believe to be a wrong thing to do, once we have given them that status—we shall have to vote for these words being left out.
§ Major ELLIOT
I do not wish to fall into controversy with my hon. and learned Friend in this matter, especially as in matters of law he speaks with much greater authority than I can do, but I should have thought that the whole essence of a mandated territory was that they should gradually evolve into foreign countries. Take the case of Iraq which is applying for admission to the League of Nations. It may be desirable to draw up the Order-in-Council side by side with a time-table, so that the people in that country will be able to envisage the change that is taking place and make their commercial arrangements accordingly, but it is undesirable that these things should have to be passed by specific legislation in this House. Such Measures might be crowded out. I think we are really at one. A mandated territory does have access to British markets, and a mandated territory which is evolving into a foreign State will inevitably—
§ Major ELLIOT
Not automatically, but will inevitably lose its status as a mandated territory and lose accordingly its special access to British markets, and that we should have power to vary such Orders-in-Council, as we have power to revoke any other Orders under this Bill, is not unreasonable. The only difference between us is that the hon. and learned Member says that this change takes place suddenly, that at one moment the territory is mandated and at the next it is an independent nation. In fact, it will take some time. The difference is so small that I suggest it is not necessary to divide the House.
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not quite understand the right hon. and gallant Member's attitude in regard to constitutional matters. He is the most extraordinary constitutional innovator that I have ever known. I have always thought that things were either definitely Colonies, definitely Dominions, or definitely mandated territories, but the 472 right hon. and gallant Member has made an innovation. Yesterday we had the case of Southern Rhodesia, which is not a Colony, which is not a Dominion, but which is in the process of evolution. Now we are told that Iraq is not a mandated territory, and not a foreign country. It is something in between. It may be that there are such strange anomalies in the constitutional world, but I cannot conceive of there being evolved an elaborate system of preferences so graded according to the gradual growth of these countries from one status to another.
§ Major ELLIOT
Has the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) ever heard the story of the lady who was asked: "Are you married?" "No." "Single?" "No." "What are you?" "I am a decree nisi."
§ Mr. ATTLEE
I do not think the right hon. and gallant Member if he went into court and tried to argue a case of that sort, and suggested that alimony should be graded according to the strange position that he has suggested in the case of a married woman, would get away with it before the judge; and the right hon. and gallant Member cannot expect to get away with his proposal in this case. He is not very explicit. He gave us one instance of a country which is growing and changing, Iraq, which he says up to a point is a mandated territory not a member of the League of Nations yet, and therefore gets a preference in regard to certain products like oil. There is a definite status for a country. There is a time when a country is under a mandate, and there is a time when the mandate is terminated. There can be nothing in between. It is either a mandated territory or it is not. It cannot be half and half. I think he is going to get us into great difficulties with these constitutional innovations and I am wondering whether he is going to apply these strange theories in order to evolve some strange status for the Irish Free State.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Resolution."
§ The House divided.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. LAMBEET WARD and Lord ERSKINE were nominated Tellers for the Ayes, and Mr. GROVES and Mr. DUNCAN GRAHAM were nominated Tellers for the Noes.473
§ The Tellers for the Ayes and one Teller only for the Noes being come to the Table—
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I would ask the hon. Member who was appointed to tell with the hon. Member for Hamilton (Mr. Duncan Graham) whether the hon. Member for
§ Hamilton did in fact act as a Teller in the Division?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
In that case, I think, if the House is agreed, we may take the decision of the three Tellers.
§ Ayes, 279; Noes, 42.475
|Division No. 164.]||AYES.||[8.51 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Eastwood, John Francis||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds. W.)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Knight, Holford|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Allan, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Elmley, Viscount||Lees-Jones, John|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Levy, Thomas|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Llddall, Walter S.|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Lindsay. Noel Ker|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Everard, W. Lindsay||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Bernays, Robert||Ganzonl, Sir John||Mac Andrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Gibson, Charles Granville||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Blindell, James||Gledhill, Gilbert||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Glossop, C. W. H.||McKeag, William|
|Bossom, A. C.||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Boulton, W. W.||Goff, Sir Park||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||McLean, Major Alan|
|Bracken, Brendan||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Graves, Marjorie||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Griffith. F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Grimston, R. V.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd, Hexham)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||Millar, Sir James Duncan|
|Burghley, Lord||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromlay)||Hales, Harold K.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Hamilton, Sir George (llford)||Milne, Charles|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-|
|Carver, Major William H.||Hanbury, Cecil||Morelng, Adrian C.|
|Cassels, James Dale||Hanley, Dennis A.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Harbord, Arthur||Morrison, William Shephard|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Hartland, George A.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Munro, Patrick|
|Christie, James Archibald||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Clydesdale, Marquess of||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Heneage, Lleut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Nicholson, 0. W. (Westminster)|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Normand, Wilfrid Guild|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Oman, Sir Charles William C.|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Cowan, D. M.||Hornby, Frank||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Horobin, Ian M.||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Horsbrugh, Florence||Peat, Charles U.|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Curry, A. C.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Potter, John|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hunter, Capt. M. J, (Brigg)||Procter, Major Henry Adam|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Pybus, Percy John|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Jamieson, Douglas||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Ramsden, E.|
|Dickie, John P.||Johnstons, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Ratcliffe, Arthur|
|Donner, P. W.||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Ray, Sir William|
|Drewe, Cedric||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Ker, J. Campbell||Reid, David D. (County Down)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)|
|Eady, George H.||Kimball, Lawrence||Reid, William Allan (Derby)|
|Remer, John R.||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-in-F.)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Train, John|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Smithers, Waldron||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Robinson, John Roland||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Rosbotham, S. T.||Soper, Richard||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Boss Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fyide)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon Sir Arthur||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Stevenson, James||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Salmon, Major Isidore||Stones, James||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Salt, Edward W.||Storey, Samuel||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Strauss, Edward A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Scone, Lord||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Womersley, Walter James|
|Selley, Harry R.||Summersby, Charles H.||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Sutcliffe, Harold||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Templeton, William P.|
|Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES-|
|Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Thompson, Luke||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert|
|Skelton, Archibald Noel||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles||Ward and Lord Erskine.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McGovern, John|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Batey, Joseph||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Price, Gabriel|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Thorne, William James|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Cove, William G.||Jenkins, Sir William||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llaneily)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Groves and Mr. Duncan|
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ Mr. TINKER
Before the House agrees to this Resolution I think it is worthy of some comment. I am glad to see the Lord President of the Council in his place. Had he been paying close attention to the Division Lobbies this evening he would have noticed that on these Resolutions the numbers voting for our Amendments have grown. We have only a party of about 46 in this House and yet in one Division we bad nearly 70 votes for one of our Amendments. Anyone listening to these Debates might wonder what had happened in the past. Members of the Liberal party apparently find that they have no understanding whatever of these five Resolutions and are wondering whether they had not been led astray. Particularly in reference to the Amendment dealing with foodstuffs it would appear that the Liberal Members have not a clear understanding of 476 what it all means and it is because of that fact that we wish to impress upon the House the actual meaning of that Fifth Resolution. The Resolution reads:That it is expedient to amend the Import Duties Act, 1932, in the following particulars, that is to say "—Then it goes on to mention that what we understand to be the Free List shall be put in the hands of the Commissioners, who will have power to remove any or all of the articles from the Free List. Many of us on this side felt that the Free List did at least protect some things and that some of the articles in it gave the poorer section of the community some standing against the imposition of food taxes. If the House to-night agree with the Fifth Resolution, they are accepting the position that this Commission can in future, without the control of this House, as I understand it, impose taxes.
§ HON. MEMBERS: No.
§ Mr. TINKER
The Debate will probably clear up that point, and that 477 is why we want a thorough Debate, to see what the Resolution really means. I think it means that if to-night the House agree with the Fifth Resolution, it will allow these Commissioners to say, "We will take from the Free List, for instance, grain and meat," and then a tax can be put on them without any Debate in the House of Commons. If it does mean that, then the House of Commons is handing over powers given to it by the people to a selected body which cannot claim that right. We see the danger in this, and that is why we are so much agitated. We do not like the idea of this matter being removed from the full discussion of this House. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury tried to tell us that it would not be as bad as we are expecting and that it does not say that there will be a tax, for instance, on meat, but once we lose control, following on the lines of the right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills), who said that he has been returned for the sole purpose of protecting agriculture, it will mean that pressure will be brought, inside the Tory party ranks, that all these taxes must go on to their fullest extent; and it would be unfair to the working of this House if we were to allow it to go through without a protest.
I take some courage from the voting list to-night, because in one Division Lobby, strange to say, we had with us a Cabinet Minister and several Under-Secretaries, which to me showed disaffection in the Ministerial ranks, and if we only keep on this pressure, this agitation, there will not be the security on which hon. Members count for four or five years. I can see them cracking up in 12 or 18 months. What would happen to the Liberal party then, God in heaven only knows, but they will be worse off then than now, when several of them occupy positions here for the time being. However, there is time for redemption for everybody, and I hope they will see the error of their ways, not only on this matter of food taxes, but in all matters connected with the National Government. You cannot have a foot in both camps. Calm and even minded as is the Lord President of the Council, I think he must be feeling perturbed at what he has seen to-night. I look upon him as one of the great philosophers of the House, saying, "Well, things will right themselves 478 in time," but I do not think he can allow things to go on much longer as they are. For the good of his own party, he will have to say, "You cannot have it every way you want." I trust that he will come to a decision one way or another with some of the members of his own party, who are called members of his own party for the time being. They will not do him any good, and if he intends to get on without them, now is his opportunity to tell them to get out of the way.
§ Mr. BATEY
I join with my colleague, the hon. Member for Leigh (Mr. Tinker), in opposing this Resolution, which is one of the most astounding Resolutions with which this House has ever had to deal.. I venture to think that if we search the records of this House, we shall not find an experience like this. The justification given for the Resolution is that it is expedient to amend the Import Duties Act,. 1932. Why, the ink is scarcely dry on; that Act, yet here we are spending the time of the House in seeking to amend the Act. I know that we shall be told by the Financial Secretary, "Ah, yes, but this Resolution is brought in because of a pledge given by the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the Second Reading of the Import Duties Bill." But that pledge was given because, when the Bill was drafted, the Government had not made up their minds to take this course. If they had made up their minds before drafting the Bill, they would have provided for this.
Clearly, they did not think, when they drafted the Bill, of pursuing a policy like this, and I hold that to come to the House of Commons so quickly after the passing of that Act in order to amend it, is a thing the like of which is not within the recollection of the oldest Member of this House. The Government ought to have known what policy they were going to pursue and to have avoided a position like this. I am certain that, if any Member on this side had risen and suggested that there should be an amendment of the Import Duties Act at this time, the answer of the Government would have been, "What, only seven weeks since the Act was passed, and you want us to amend it? The thing is ridiculous. Give the Act a fair chance, and let it be in existence at least 12 months before you seek to amend it." That would have been the answer that 479 we should have got. They are in this, as in everything they have done since they have taken office, unable to make up their minds, not knowing what course to take or what policy to pursue, and it is that which lands them into the position in which we find them to-night.
I join with the Members of this party in objecting to an Advisory Committee of three advising the Treasury in this matter and the Treasury then making an order. It is not sufficient for the Financial Secretary to say, as he said to-night, that the Advisory Committee will simply advise the Treasury, that the Treasury will make an order, which will lie here for 28 days, and that within that time the House will have the chance of discussing it. It is the first steps that are the dangerous steps in matters of this sort, and we know from our experience of the House that, once the Advisory Committee makes a recommendation to the Treasury, the Chancellor of the Exchequer alone can decide to make an order. On the decision of one man, that order will be made, and it is never easy for this House to set aside such an order. My colleague has been talking about some of the Members of this House who have been voting against the National Government, but let an order be made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and let any of the Members of the Tory party—I will not say the Liberal party—venture to vote against that order when it comes before the House, and we shall witness what we witnessed during the last Tory administration. Some of the Tory Members will have their whip stopped, and they will have some difficulty in getting back into the fold. [Interruption.] The same thing would apply to the Labour party, although some of us voted against the Labour Government without having the whip stopped.
This Resolution gives to the Advisory Committee the dangerous power of making recommendations to reduce the Free List or to add to it. When the list was made it consisted of five or six items alone. As the Bill was going through the House, it was increased five or six times under the pressure which was brought to bear upon the Government. We are afraid of this power being given to the committee lest the 480 committee should make a recommendation that meat and wheat should be taken out of the Free List, and the Chancellor of the Exchequer should accept the recommendation and make an Order. The Government were steadfast when dealing with the Import Duties Act in their opposition to taking meat out of the list. It is essential that those of us who come from distressed mining areas should be jealous that no advisory committee should have the power to take meat out of the list. Our people have had their bread taxed by the Government; they have had their tea taxed; and I believe that they have even had the table upon which they take their breakfast taxed by the Government. We now see the danger of the Government going a step further and, on the advice of the Advisory Committee, taxing meat. There is an important gentleman in the north of England this week, and we read in the northern Press that he is simply shocked with the poverty in the northern areas. Yet the Government by back-stair methods are going to tax the meat of the people who are already impoverished.
The Lord President of the Council dared not have gone to the country at the last election and boldly said that the Government would tax meat. The Prime Minister did not say it when he was seeking election. He talked in quite a different strain. The Lord President of the Council would remember the experience that he had in 1923 when he went to the country with Protection and the country turned it down. It was because the country did not realise the very subtle game which the Government were playing last October that there are so many Members on the other side of the House. The right hon. and gallant Member for Ripon (Major Hills) said that he told his people that he was in favour of taxes on food and that the urban constituencies were in sympathy with the agricultural constituencies on that. I venture to say, however, that no one dare go to urban constituencies in industrial districts and say that. There are Members of the Government who came from the north of England who made it clear in their election speeches that they were opposed to the taxation of food, and yet we shall find Tory Members going into the Lobby to-night 481 and taking the initial steps, which are the dangerous steps, for the taxation of food.
The materials for shipbuilding were included, not in the Free List, but in the Import Duties Act itself, and I would like the Financial Secretary to tell us whether these materials will be excluded from consideration by the Advisory Committee. It was rumoured in the north of England that that Section was put into the Act because of the President of the Board of Trade who had had a little interest in shipbuilding, and I want to ask if shipbuilding materials are to be the only thing which will not be in danger of being taxed on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee. The Government did what I consider was one of the best things they ever did when they put wooden pit props in the Free List. They will now, however, be in danger like the other articles in the Free List. We object as strongly as we can to giving this Advisory Committee of three men power to make recommendations to take things out of the Free List. The Government dared not, when they were passing the Import Duties Act, take meat out of the Free List. They were afraid then of the effect it would have on industrial classes. Not daring to do it then, they are now doing it in this roundabout way so that they will be able to lay the blame on the Advisory Committee for a thing that they dared not openly do themselves.
We find that this Resolution also deals with a scheme to be drafted for drawbacks of any duties chargeable under Part I of the Act. Surely if there were to be drawbacks, the Government should have been able to say so when the Import Duties Act was passed. I consider that it is far better not to have drawbacks. You should either have a tariff or not. Once we have a tariff, it is one of the objections to the practice of drawbacks that more often than not it is a question of influence. More influence is brought to bear upon the Government with each scheme that is made, and the more we shall see the drawbacks enlarged. One also objects to the Resolution because of the third part, which proposes to have machinery included in the list of omissions for certain reasons. It is difficult to understand why this should be 482 done. It deals with any machinery which can be made in a foreign country but cannot be made in this country, and yet one knows how easily it is to argue and bring influence to bear on the Government by saying that it is not possible to procure a particular class of machinery in this country, and therefore foreign machinery has to be bought.
If we are to have tariffs, have them and be done with it. If we are to have Protection, let us have Protection above-board and not Protection which can be influenced by certain interests. Members of the Government always say that we are under the influence of the Trades Union Congress, but there is no question that this Government, from its very start until the time it goes out of power, will be subject to the influence of the Federation of British Industries. Members of that federation will be coming to the Government and saying they want some machinery which is not procurable in this country, and therefore they want permission to buy it abroad. We have men in this country who can make as good machines as can be made in any foreign country. If we are to have tariffs, let us have tariffs and not loopholes that will give an excuse to certain people to get behind the tariffs. This is one of the worst Resolutions this House has ever been asked to consider. There is more to be said against it than there is against most Resolutions. It is one of the most reactionary Resolutions, and I hope that the House will reject it.
§ Mr. HANNON
I am sure that the whole House will wish to dissociate itself from the suggestion that the hon. Member has made that the President of the Board of Trade has any personal motive whatever in that matter. [Interruption.]
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
When the hon. Member was addressing the House, he made specific reference to the interests of the President of the Board of Trade in the shipbuilding industry. The only conclusion that could be drawn from the hon. Gentleman's observations was that 483 in the advice which he would give in preparing the Import Duties Regulations involved in the Bill, the President of the Board of Trade had some personal motive. [HON. MEMBERS: "No! "] I only rise to say that suggestions and innuendoes of that kind should be reprobated by every Member of the House. The hon. Member also made allusion to the effect of this Resolution upon the taxation of imported machinery and machine tools. I agree we can make machine tools in this country which are comparable in quality and efficiency to any in the whole world. Does the hon. Member want this machinery to be produced by foreign countries? Is he willing to give people employed in this country the fullest opportunity?
§ Mr. HANNON
Is he willing that our people should have the fullest opportunity of competing on a comparable basis with those in other parts of the world? This Resolution, instead of being the vile, terrible and dangerous act of legislation which it has been described, is, in point of fact, one of the most hopeful and helpful suggestions embodied in legislation for a long time. I hope very much, in spite of the extraordinary speech made by the hon. Member, that the Resolution will be adopted.
§ Mr. CURRY
We ought not to pas this Resolution without appreciating the significance of its effect upon our future legislation. A few months ago we passed an Act which was very far reaching in its consequences, and which changed the whole of the fiscal system of the country. In so doing we attached to that Act a Free List which we debated item by item, and upon which we spent a great deal of time in order to find out how we could secure the protection which we on these benches regard as the most important of all protections, namely, the protection of the consumer against operations of less public-spirited persons. If this Resolution passes in its present form, it will remove from the purview of this House the whole of the Free List and so we shall be reducing those very serious and somewhat heated Debates to the level of a farce. After having debated all those items on the Free List, we are wasting our 484 time, and we shall be giving to persons nominated by the Government, but in no way responsible to the people, the power of saying to what extent and upon what articles the people of this country shall pay taxes.
In my view, that is so far-reaching a thing that it should not be allowed to pass without very serious thought. It seems to me that we are giving up the privileges for which this House has stood throughout the centuries, the privilege that the elected people shall have the power to declare to what extent the people shall be taxed. We have had the question of tea cited from the Front Bench in the course of the Debate. We were told by the Parliamentary Secretary that tea was on the Free List, and we have already removed it from the list. No one is seeking to dispute that the House is the paramount authority in the matter of taxation, but it is just because the House has reserved to itself the right of removing tea from the Free List that we think the House should reserve to itself the right to remove all these other things from the Free List. More than that, whatever may be our opinions upon the effect of our taxation and our legislation, I think every hon. Member feels the responsibility that rests upon his shoulders, as the elected representative of tens of thousands of people, of saying in what direction we shall go. It will be regarded as unwise that the House of Commons should ever have thought of divesting itself of the power of controlling great fundamental changes, and it is a fundamental change to give another body power to tax the staple foods of the people.
We are a great industrial people, living on a small island, densely populated, depending, as we have done for many years, upon the resources of the world for our food. We should not, as the elected representatives of those people, give to any other body the power of declaring whether our food shall come into the country free or taxed. It is because I feel the great significance of what we are doing that I implore the House to think long before taking this step. It is no use saying that this is no proposal to tax, we know it is not; but it is a proposal to give other people the power to tax, to give up the privileges 485 which it is our duty to preserve unsullied and to hand on to those who come after us.
Many of us are concerned with the tendency which taxation is showing to-day. There are some who believe that the incidence of indirect taxation falls too heavily upon the poorer people, and others who believe that direct taxation falls with too great weight on the industries of this country. But whichever way the balance of the argument lies, that matter is so important that it ought to be reserved for the decision of this House and this House alone. When we give to any advisory body the right to remove untaxed articles from a free list and to put them into a list of taxed articles we are handing over to them the power to determine the ultimate tendency of the taxation of this country; we are giving to an unelected body the right of saying in what proportions our revenue shall be raised from direct and indirect taxation; we are giving to an unelected body the power of saying by what means, eventually, our Budgets shall be balanced. If we pass this Resolution as it stands I think history will declare that we have made a great mistake, and have given up a privilege which we were elected to defend.
§ Mr. A. BEVAN
I rise to say a word or two upon what I regard as one of the most significant things this House has been called upon to do since it met after the General Election. As I have sat here, it has occurred to me how extraordinarily difficult it is to divest oneself of the atmosphere of unreality which exists in this Chamber, to try to think back to the homes of the people, to the cottages of the poor, to try to translate into terms of reality what we are doing under this Resolution. The boredom and cynicism which are bound to affect one's psychology when this House is discussing things for hours on end are one of the defects of the House. The atmosphere ceases to be representative of the reality of the things with which we are concerned. Let me recall to hon. and right hon. Members a statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. He told a crowded House that the limits of direct taxation had been reahced, that the Income Tax payer could not be called upon to pay any more than he was paying now; that such was the impoverishment of the 486 Income Tax payer that if additional taxes were levied there would be a progressive decline in the revenue from those taxes. Will any hon. Member on the Treasury Bench argue that a person has two funds out of which he meets his expenditure? Does he pay his Income Tax out of one pocket and buy his food with the money in the other pocket? Is it not perfectly true to say that if the limits of direct taxation have been reached, and we move to indirect taxation, that what we really do is to tax the same income, although we have already declared it can suffer no further taxation?
Who will have to pay this tax? It is true that everybody consumes meat and flour and bread, but meat and flour form a much higher percentage in the budget of a workman's family than in that of a well-to-do person. But this House is cynical and hardfaced. I have heard an old Parliamentarian say that the present House of Commons is infinitely more callous and more indifferent to the claims of the people than was the late Coalition House of Commons. Since we have been here we have been engaged in passing what has been predominately Conservative legislation. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear"!] But hon. Members opposite did not go to the country as a Conservative party, they went as a National party. They went to the country to save the savings of the people, and under the banner of equality of sacrifice. Ever since this House met it has been attempting to transfer the burden of maintaining the structure of the State from the rich to the shoulders of the poor. [HON. MEMBERS: "Not true."] Piece by piece, step by step, item by item the House has been doing it ever since it met. First it taxed the poorest seats in the cinemas. Are poor people to be denied their pleasures? Is it a bad thing for an unemployed man or a workman, after working all day— [Laughter.] I congratulate hon. Members on their sense of humour. I thought I said an unemployed man or a workman who had been working all day. The reception of that remark is typical of the attitude of mind of hon. and right hon. Members. They think they can look forward to a period of 4½ years in which they will not have to consult their constituents. But the time will come! Nemesis will overtake them eventually! All Parliaments start off in that mood 487 of optimism, they all think that everything in the garden is lovely, that having befuddled and befooled the electors once they can do so again; but the time will come when hon. Members will have to answer for what they are doing to-day. It seems to me to be a serious thing, much more serious than hon. Members opposite seem to appreciate, that the position is being made worse by misrepresentation, because hon. Members are going on public platforms and saying that the country is passing through a grave crisis—
§ Mr. HANNON
On a, point of Order, Mr. Speaker, may I call attention to the fact that the question we are discussing is the Resolution dealing with the Import Duties Act.
§ Mr. BEVAN
We are not only discussing those duties, but we are discussing giving to the Advisory Committee the power to recommend tariffs on food. It is quite true that the House is attempting to discuss this question in a way intended to hide its proper significance, and, if hon. Members had the courage of their convictions, they would bring forward these proposals before the House in the ordinary way. By these proposals the Government are interfering in our domestic affairs. This power is being given to the Advisory Committee to save the face of the President of the Board of Trade, and of the Home Secretary, in order that these tariff proposals may be put into operation with a semblance of national unity. I enter my protest, not merely against the procedure which has been adopted, but also against this important departure from the fiscal history of this country and against this attempt to unload the burden of taxation
§ on to the shoulders of the poorest of the people.
§ Many poor people are trying to exist on an allowance of 15s. 3d. per week. In my own constituency 50 per cent. of the workers are unemployed, and a very large number of them are chargeable to the poor rate. In these circumstances, is it not absolutely callous, and in the last degree a defiance of humanitarian principles, that we are not leaving the incomes of these poor people untouched, but we are transferring to them a large proportion of the cost of maintaining the structure of this country?
§ The policy being pursued by the Government is a revolutionary propaganda which is undermining the people of this country and undermining our democratic institutions. To-day the Government are the revolutionaries, and, if this kind of thing goes on for another 4½ years, there will not be a majority for Nationalist or Conservative candidates at the next election, but you will find the people driven by poverty and despair to adopting shorter methods for the solution of these problems. I know the Government have a huge majority, and they can laugh at us. They can walk through the Division Lobbies and defeat us, but they will have to pay the bill eventually. Our numbers are small, and we cannot make the Government afraid. We know that we are hopeless to defeat the Government in the Division Lobby, but I have every confidence that, in the near future, Englishmen and English women will treat this cowardly Government as it deserves to be treated, and turn them out at the first opportunity.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 283; Noes, 56.491
|Division No. 165.]||AYES.||[9.51 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)||Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Boothby, Robert John Graham||Caporn, Arthur Cecil|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Bossom, A. C.||Carver, Major William H.|
|Albery, Irving James||Boulton, W. W.||Cassels, James Dale|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd)||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Castle Stewart, Earl|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Braithwaite. Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Cautley, Sir Henry S.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Broadbent, Colonel John||Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Chalmers, John Rutherford|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Browne, Captain A. C.||Christie, James Archibald|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Burghley, Lord||Clayton, Dr. George C.|
|Beaumont, Hon, R.E.B. (Postsm'th. C.)||Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Clydesdale, Marquess of|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Cobb, Sir Cyril|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Renwick, Major Gustav A.|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Jamieson, Douglas||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Rhys. Hon. Charles Arthur U,|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Ker, J. Campbell||Robinson, John Roland|
|Cooper, A. Dulf||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Ropner, Colonel L.|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Kimball, Lawrence||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Knight, Holford||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Law, Sir Alfred||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Leckle J. A.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Leech, Dr. J. W.||Russell, Hamer Field (Shef'ld, B'tside)|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset,Yeovil)||Lees-Jones, John||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Levy, Thomas||Salt, Edward W.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Liddall, Walter S.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)|
|Dickie, John P.||Lindsay, Noel Ker||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)|
|Donner, P. W.||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Drewe, Cedric||Llewellin, Major John J.||Scone, Lord|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||Selley, Harry R.|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Llonol||Lloyd, Geoffrey||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N)||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Eady, Georoge, H.||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Lymington, Viscount||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Elmley, Viscount||McCorquodale, M. S.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)|
|Emmott Charles E. G. C.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Emrys-Evans P. V.||McKie, John Hamilton||Smithers, Waldron|
|Entwistle Cyril Fu'lard||McLean, Major Alan||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Somervilie D G. (Willesden, East)|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Soper, Richard|
|Evans Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Maitland, Adam||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Fuller, captin A.G.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Ganzonl, Sir John||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Gibson, Charles Granville||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Gledhill, Gilbert||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||Mills, Major, J. D, (New Forest)||Stevenson, James|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Milne, Charles||Stones, James|
|Goff, Sir Park||Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Storey, Samuel|
|Goldle, Noel B.||Moreing, Adrian C-||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Graves, Marjorie||Morrison, William Shephard||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Grimston, R. V.||Moss, Captain, H. J.||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Munro, Patrick||Templeton, William P.|
|Gunston, Captain, D. W.||Nall, Sir Joseph||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Natlon, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Thompson, Luke|
|Hales, Harold K.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Nicholson, O. W. (Westminster)||Todd. A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Hanbury, Cecil||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||North, Captain Edward T.||Train, John|
|Hannon Patrick Joseph Henry||Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Harbord, Arthur||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Hartland, George A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Harvey, Major S. E. Devon, Totnes)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Patrick, Colin M.||Ward Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Peat, Charles U.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.||Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Henderson Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Pike, Cecil F.||Whiteside, Borrat Noel H.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Potter, John||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Hore-Bellsha, Leslie||Pybus, Percy John||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Hornby, Frank||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Ramsden, E.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Womersley, Walter James|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M.(Hackney, N.)||Ray, Sir William||Worthington, Or. John V.|
|Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Reid, David D. (County Down)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.-|
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Lieut.-Colonel Sir A. Lambert Ward|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||and Mr. Blindell.|
|Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Remer, John R.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Attlee, Clement Richard||Bernays, Robert|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Batey, Joseph||Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)|
|Briant, Frank||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Maxton, James|
|Cape, Thomas||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hicks, Ernest George||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Cowan, D. M.||Hirst, George Henry||Price, Gabriel|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Curry, A. C.||Jenkins, Sir William||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Daggar, George||Johnstons, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Watts-Morgan, Lieut.-Col. David|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Williams, David (Swansea, East)|
|Duncan, Charles (Derby, Claycross)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charlas||Lawson, John James||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McEntee, Valentine L.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||McGovern, John||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr.|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)||Groves.|
Tenth Resolution agreed to.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
I beg to move, in line 7, after the second word "be," to insert the word "earned."
§ Major ELLIOT
I am willing to meet the hon. Member by accepting his Amendment, and perhaps, in view of this, the discussion may be shortened.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I am very much obliged to the right hon. Gentleman for his concession. Now that he has accepted this Amendment in the case of uncovenanted pensions, I should like to say that an Amendment will be introduced to bring covenanted pensions within the earned income allowance, so that it may apply to both covenanted and uncovenanted pensions.
§ Major ELLIOT
I will consider that point. For the moment I will simply go as far as accepting the Amendment on the Paper.
§ Mr. MANDER
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary for more explanation of what this means. Does this concession make any difference to the revenue? Would the pensions in any case have been treated as earned income? The House ought to be told exactly what the effect, if any, of the Amendment will be on the revenue.
§ Major ELLIOT
I am advised that the drafting would apply in any case to earned income, but I wish to put the matter beyond dispute. Therefore I have accepted the Amendment. Since the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) spoke, I have consulted my advisers, and I understand it also applies to covenanted benefit.
§ Amendment agreed to.492
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution, as amended."
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
I wish to ask the Financial Secretary one question in two parts. When a firm pays a pension to an employé will that firm be able to deduct the pension from its taxable income for Income Tax purposes? When an individual pays a pension will that individual be able to deduct the Income Tax from the pension so that the pensioner can obtain a repayment of the deducted tax from the Inland Revenue?
§ Mr. CROOM-JOHNSON
I wish to sound a note of warning. Hitherto it has been the practice not to charge Income Tax upon payments which are voluntarily made. So far as I am aware this is the first breach in that general principle. The idea behind it may be perfectly sound, namely, that if you have a pension which is paid to you under some form of contract, you have to pay tax upon it, and that if by some understanding it does not amount to a contract so that the pension is voluntary, you escape. You are getting two classes of persons, one of whom is paying tax and the other not. I suggest that the principle of taxing voluntary payments, which will be introduced if this Resolution is carried into law, is one which is likely to have very considerable effect on people who at present are held not to be liable to pay tax.
There is one other point. As the law stands these voluntary payments are in the nature of annual gifts which are made by employers and can be discontinued at the end of any one year. There is just a danger that if the subsequent legislation merely follows the line of this Reso- 493 lution, it will be possible easily to evade this by not making the payment as payment of a pension, but making it in the nature of a gift in one year expressly as a gift, which at present would not be taxed. Therefore the situation might very well be that the legislation would be open to evasion by the very class of person whom it is expressly desired to hit by this Resolution. I am certain that that needs only a little examination and possibly a little tightening up. It is desirable that we should make it plain that payments voluntarily made in the nature of pensions ought to be taxed, and we ought at the same time to be certain that we are not by our language leaving the new provision open to evasion, so that in the next Finance Act we may be obliged to have one more of those provisions which have had to be so often inserted in the past to prevent evasions by people who seek to get rid of the liability to a tax which this House desires that they should sustain.
§ Major ELLIOT
In reply to the hon. Member for Ecclesall (Sir S. Roberts), firms may deduct these payments. As for individuals, it depends upon circumstances. In reply to the hon. and learned Member for Bridgwater (Mr. Croom-Johnson), that matter will be dealt with in the Clause, and when the Clause is reached will be the proper time to review the language and see whether or not it covers what we have in mind.