§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I beg to move, 658That the Ottawa Agreements (Importation of Meat) Order, 1932, dated the 28th day of November, 1932, made by the Board of Trade under the Ottawa. Agreements Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 29th day of November, 1932, be approved.11.10 p.m.
This Order represents the machinery adopted by the Board of Trade under Section 7 of the Ottawa Agreements Act, 1932. The House will recollect that by 659 the Agreements with Australia and New Zealand in the Schedule to the Ottawa Agreements Act provision was made for the restriction of the imports into the United Kingdom from foreign countries of frozen mutton, frozen lamb, frozen beef and chilled beef. The House will further recollect that an all-round limitation of imports of meat was provided for to the extent set out in those Agreements. By the Ottawa Agreements Act, 1932, Parliament adopted and approved the Ottawa Agreements, and by Section 7 of the adopting Act the Board of Trade, after consultation with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, was given power by Order to regulate imports into the United Kingdom. Section 7 provides that the Order made in accordance with that Section may contain such provision as appears to the Board of Trade to be necessary, and may from time to time be varied in a similar manner to that required to the making of the Order in the first place.
Such then was the Agreement, the enactment approving the Agreement and the direction to the Board of Trade to become responsible for the Regulation; and this Order is made thereunder for the purpose of carrying the Regulation into effect. The House will appreciate that if imports of the kinds of meat specified exceed the quantities stipulated in the Ottawa Agreements the Agreements themselves will be broken. The Department, therefore, responsible for controlling the imports of these meats has as its task the making quite sure that the imports of the meats in question do not exceed the agreed figure. The House will appreciate that to control a known state of affairs is one problem, but to attempt to control an unknown state of affairs is quite a different one, and the Board of Trade, which knows in practice how meat is imported, has no assurance that new importers may not appear on the scene. The first step, therefore, in order to see that there will be no supplanting, is to make quite sure that the scheme is not liable to be set at nought by entirely unforeseen conditions.
What are the alternatives with which the Board of Trade is confronted? One possible method would he the prohibition of the importation of meat into this country altogether, rendering it neces- 660 sary for every purchase which has as its object the importation of meat to be the subject matter of an express permission. Such a course would be open to very severe objections—bureaucratic control, an infinity of work, a large staff and complete paralysis of trade owing to the uncertainty whether permission would or not be granted in the particular case. Another alternative would be that the existing importer should be authorised to import stated quantities of meat. An objection to that course would be that it would then fall to the Board of Trade to determine as between the importers themselves whether the quantity allotted to anyone was equitable. That would involve a much greater control of the business of meat importation by the Government Department than, in the opinion of the Board of Trade, is either necessary or desirable. From the first, it had been hoped that the importers would recognise. that the obligations assumed at Ottawa had to be carried out to the letter and that those obligations could best be carried out by the industry itself. This hope has, fortunately, been fulfilled. The trade, for the most part, is very highly organised and those engaged in it have co-operated in a way which I very gladly recognise, in making the necessary arrangements themselves for keeping the total imports of foreign meat within the Ottawa limit. It is possible that the understanding at which the Board of Trade has arrived with the importers might, in practice, be found to have achieved the whole object, but it is necessary to make doubly sure and it is mainly as a measure of pre. caution that the Board has made the Order which the House is now asked to confirm.
I have already sketched the possibility of individual permits for individual purchases. I have sketched the possibility of a licence to an importer to import a given quantity of meat, and I have shown the objections to both courses. The third 'method, and the one which the Government have adopted, is this: First, no importation is to be allowed of meat into the United Kingdom from foreign countries as from 1st January, 1933, except under licence. This excludes the risk of newcomers coming into the trade. The licence is to be granted to recognised importers without restriction of quantity, without any Board of Trade 661 intervention as to the position of importers towards each other, and, having granted licences to recognised importers, the Board of Trade takes from those importers assurances that all recognised practices in the meat industry shall continue to be observed as before; that meat shall be offered to the central market; that meat shall be supplied to the usual distributors, to the usual wholesalers and to the retailers, and assurances that the consumers' requirements will thus ultimately be met, but out of a controlled and reduced supply rather than out of the prevailing glut, which is uncontrolled.
The form of licence contemplated is extremely simple. It recites the power given by Section 7 of the principal Act. It recites the fact that. the applicant is one of the importing firms who are parties to the arrangement made with the Board of Trade, and it then confers a licence to import various kinds of meat into the United Kingdom, and contains expressed provision that the licence may at any time be revoked at will without prior notice to the licensee.
§ Dr. BURGIN
It is not contemplated that there shall be any payment and there is nothing in the Ottawa Agreements Act of 1932 which authorises the levying by the Board of Trade of a price for permission to carry out the Ottawa Agreements, which it is the Government's intention to do. It is not anticipated that in practice there will be any difficulty in working the system. The Customs officers and shipowners will be supplied with a list of the licensees. The House will appreciate that these proposals are entirely independent of any emergency provisions. This Order and the licences made thereunder relate solely to the Ottawa restrictions. They are the subject of the Ottawa Agreements which have already been ratified and approved by this House, and we are not discussing anything that may be of an emergency character and beginning before the 1st January, 1933. Such, then, is the machinery which the Board of Trade are adopting to implement the Ottawa Agreements, and the House is now asked to approve an Order made by the President of the Board of Trade 662 on the 28th November, which gives power to the Board to issue the licences in question. The Order, which has been laid on the Table of the House, has to be affirmed by this House in accordance with the Ottawa Agreements Act.
§ 11.22 p.m.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
We offer no apology for resisting the Order so ably introduced by the hon. Gentle man. The price of liberty is eternal vigilance, especially where Orders like this are concerned. We have just had an example of the diversity of opinion among Liberals. The hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary-Secretary to the Ministry of Health has given the House a dissertation on the glories of Free Trade and private enterprise, but the last speaker, who is equally a Liberal, has extolled the virtues of control and restriction—anything but the free flow of private enterprise. The hon. Gentleman referred to the Ottawa Agreements, which were very remarkable, but my conception of the application of the temporary restrictions, which are going to be continued if this Order becomes operative, is that there will be an appalling development, and I do not think any hon. Member of this House should be willing to support this proposal. It is true that when the Ottawa Agreements were submitted by the Chancellor of the Exchequer he told us about the excessive imports of meat and the Minister of Agriculture talked about the perpendicular dive of prices and said that unless something was done to restrict imports so as to pay the producer a higher price than he was then receiving for primary products, there could be no return to general industrial prosperity. Therefore, power was given to the Board of Trade to arrange for certain restrictions with regard to imported beef, mutton, and lamb, and I want the House to take note of the bottom of the first page of this Order, paragraph 2:Licences for the purposes of this Order may be issued by the Board of Trade to such persons and on such conditions as they think fit.We understand that these licences have been granted exclusively to importers and shipowners, whom the hon. Gentleman thanked for their willing co-operation in the working of this scheme. I think I shall be able to show that that co-operation has been obtained at a price which 663 few hon. Members would be prepared to pay. There appears to have been no preliminary negotiations with the foreign exporting Governments, and, as meat represents 40 per cent. of the total exports of one of these countries, I am not sure that a juridical point does not arise, but we can afford to leave that at the moment. I want to bring to the notice of the House the effect upon prices of the temporary restrictions, because what has transpired in the past six weeks is the truest and clearest indication of what we may expect from the 1st January onwards. I want to deal with prices as paid by the importer in the foreign markets. Then we can see exactly what has happened in the wholesale market in this country. I received a cablegram from Buenos Aires a few days ago stating that the 10 per cent. deduction of chilled beef for the Argentine had improved the wholesale price in England, but had had the opposite effect in the Argentine as the average price of chilled cattle was lower now than before the restrictions.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
What the hon. Member is dealing with now has to do with the Ottawa Agreements. We are discussing, not the Ottawa Agreements, but merely the machinery by which these Agreements may be carried out.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
That., I hope, is the very point which I am endeavouring to elucidate; that is, the effect of licensing importers, who have all the bargaining power and who can secure restricted supplies at favourable prices to themselves without in any way handing on those favourable prices to the consumers in this country. An illustration, if I may respectfully suggest, is very necessary both of the prices paid to the producer abroad and of the prices charged wholesale in this country if we are to understand exactly what the effect of this Order is likely to be. I was merely quoting from a cable about the prices paid to the primary producer, who, said the Minister of Agriculture, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and the Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions, was the person whom they wanted to assist while at the same time assisting the primary producer in this country.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
That has nothing whatever to do with the Order which we are 664 discussing. The issue is the licence. There is nothing else in it.
§ Sir P. HARRIS
Might not the machinery to carry out the Agreements be operated in another way, such as licensing the exporter in the Argentine, and is not that a point on which an argument might be developed?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I do not know what that argument might be. The argument which the hon. Member is making has nothing to do with this Order.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The Under-Secretary pointed to three possible methods of restricting imports. One was the licensing of the exporter. The second method was the issue of licences to certain importers to whom the Government give a monopoly, and presumably, if this method becomes operative, the act of granting licences to certain monopolies other than the producers of the meat will tend to have certain results which, I submit, ought to be brought to the notice of the House. That is what I hope you will regard as being strictly within the point of this discussion.
One of the alternatives suggested by the hon. Gentleman having been accepted, it will surely be in order for me to explain what the effect has been over the past six weeks of similar measures to those which are now recommended to the House to be more or less permanent from the 1st January. In reply to a question the hon. Gentleman told me on 12th December that the price, live weight, of good chilling steers at Buenos Aires had risen from 21 to 24 cents on 7th November to 22 to 25 cents per kilo on 9th December, an increase of approximately 5 per cent. Later, in a letter for which I thank him, the hon. Gentleman supplemented the information with the prices which were paid at Beunos Aires and Monte Video. Between 7th November and 9th December there was a reduction in the price of chilling steers of from 8 to 20 per cent., in frozen steers a reduction of 14 per cent. Continental steers show a reduction of from 12 to 20 per cent. and young steers and heifers a reduction of from 10 to 20 per cent. I could quote other reductions but those are sufficient to show that between 7th November, which the temporary restriction commenced, and 9th December, as a result of granting the licences to im- 665 porters and giving them the whole of the bargaining power, the producers received less than before.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I really cannot let the hon. Gentleman say that something happened as a result of giving licences to the importers, because no licence of any kind has yet been granted to anybody.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The hon. Gentleman is really juggling with words. He knows that the licences under the terms of the Ottawa Agreements, which will commence on 1st January, were preceded by a voluntary arrangement which was intimated to the House by the Minister of Agriculture because of the exceptional circumstances of the moment. I have shown that the fall in the prices paid to the primary producers ran up to 20 per cent. What happened in Smithfield Market when that same meat arrived there'? From 1st November to 13th December the prices of Argentine hinds increased by from 12½ to 20 per cent., and of Argentine fores by 25 per cent. Australian frozen crops increased by 50 per cent., New Zealand fores by 50 per cent., and frozen mutton, New Zealand ewes, by 62½ per cent., and Australian wethers and Argentine wethers by from 30 to 55 per cent.
Now we are invited to grant the hon. Gentleman an Order which will permit him to give licences to importers who have shown that not only have they exploited the primary producer when buying the meat but have charged as high as 62., per cent. more for it in this country instead of giving consumers here a reduction in price. I know that was not the object of the Government. They wanted to increase wholesale prices for the home producer, and they argued that even the foreign and Dominions primary producers must secure better prices if they were to meet their obligations in this country and become better purchasers in this country.
§ Mr. ALBERY
May I ask the hon. Gentleman whether he is able to give us figures showing the effect upon the producers in Australia?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I have been noticing that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) seems to be arguing the merits of the Ottawa Agreement. 666 I cannot quite follow the connection he is trying to make with the Order that is now before the House. He must confine his argument to that.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Perhaps I must accept responsibility for lack of clarity and my point was that this Order merely confirms a temporary agreement already entered into, and that a similar policy would be followed—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This Order is only the machinery by which the Agreement at Ottawa may be carried out. That is the only point.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
May 1 submit that the hon. Member is endeavouring to make the point that if this system of licences to importers is the one by which the regulation of imports is carried out, it puts them into a position in which they can pay a less price to the primary producer and yet get a bigger price in this market, both of which are contrary to the expressed intention of the Government; and therefore that this method of licensing is not a method which is either fair or in accord with the avowed intention of the Government.
§ The MINISTER of AGRICULTURE (Major Elliot)
Further to that point of Order. So far as I can understand, the hon. Member is developing his argument by analogy with the system of voluntary restriction, which applies, not to the Ottawa Agreements at all, and does not involve any of the licences, which are being discussed under this Order.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The learned ex-Solicitor-General has not made the matter any clearer to my mind than it was before. What the Minister of Agriculture has said is true and we are not dealing with the emergency agreement, but with the fulfilment of the Ottawa Agreement, agreed to by this House. This Order is merely the machinery by which that agreement is carried out. There is really nothing else in it.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Further to that point of Order. Is not the hon. Member in order in advancing, as an illustration of the effect which he says will follow upon this system of licences, an effect which has followed upon what he alleges is a similar system of restrictions, and which the hon. Member who introduced the Order said was a similar system of 667 restrictions? He said also that it was perhaps unnecessary to have the licences, but that they were being brought in as a matter of precaution and my hon. Friend the Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) used that as an illustration of the adverse effect which is likely to follow from this system of licences.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
I cannot help thinking that the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) had in mind the emergency agreement.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
I think that I explained that I merely wanted to illustrate that, if these licences were permitted under the terms of this Order, something on the lines of what has actually happened would take place. The whole of my case is the danger of granting licences to importers. It gives them an unfair power over the producer for the consumer. I thought that, that for the purposes of illustrating the possible results, assuming that this Order were passed, would be quite in order. I hope, Mr. Speaker, that that is the view that you will take.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member is trying to make out a very good case for himself, but I honestly think that he is going beyond the terms of this Order. The argument must be confined simply and solely to the machinery by which it is being carried out.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Of course I readily accept your ruling, and will merely try to conclude as rapidly as possible by suggesting that the powers sought ought not to be granted. I have read somewhere a statement, that the importers and shipowners engaged in the South American meat trade have consented to carry out the reduction of imports prescribed by the agreement, that they are in close touch with the Board of Trade, and that, as a matter of co-operation and so on, they are willing to receive the licences that the hon. Gentleman wants us to empower him to give to them. It is true that they are willing to work the scheme, that they are very anxious to co-operate with the hon. Gentleman; and if by receiving these licences and cooperating with him they can secure meat at a less price abroad and sell it at a larger price here, it seems to me that they can well afford to co-operate with 668 the hon. Gentleman, although we, from the results that we have already seen, cannot afford to allow him to have this power to set up a monopoly, when we know that that monopoly is neither going to be useful to the producer abroad, nor to the producer at him, nor to the consumer at home, and that the people who can neither be regarded as primary or secondary producers nor as consumers will be the only people to be enriched as the result of this Order.
We are entitled to know from the hon. Gentleman, assuming that this Order is carried, just what conditions are to be laid down for granting a licence. Is it going to be laid down that whatever variations in prices there may be at Smithfield will express themselves in the price paid to the producer in the country of origin? Will it be laid down that, because licences are granted to importers which constitute a real monopoly, their profits shall not be in excess of the profits they have made before the coming into operation of the licensing system? Will it be a condition, for instance, that with the restricted supplies all retailers other than the shops that are owned by the importers will receive equal treatment and equal quantities with the shops owned by the monopoly importers? The hon. Gentleman may tell us that these conditions are not called for, that surely we can trust these good business men to do the right thing. But they have not done the right thing so far. They have been exploiting at both ends of the scale. Unless the hon. Gentleman can satisfy us that the producer is going to be dealt with fairly, that the home consumer is not going to be exploited, and that conditions relating to profits made in importing, and even at the shops when retailing, are not going to be excessive, I am not at all sure that we ought to grant this Order. The Minister of Agriculture may tell us he has set up a Committee, and that Lord Linlithgow has given a guarantee that at both ends there will be no exploitation. We have a good deal of confidence in that noble Lord, but I am not at all sure that that Committee is going to watch the prices paid to the primary producer.
§ Major ELLIOT
Again, that Committee has nothing to do with this Order. The Order has to do with the Ottawa Agreement under which there is no re- 669 striction of any kind on Argentine chilled beef. Therefore the Swiss argument is directed towards the temporary restrictions and not towards this Order, which is fulfilling the Ottawa Agreement.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The situation is infinitely worse than I thought. I was under the impression that the Committee was going to watch the effect on restriction. Now we understand that there is no one to watch it.
§ Major ELLIOT
If the hon. Member looks at the Ottawa Agreement, he will see the figures—"Chilled beef, 100, 100, 100, 100, 100." There is no restriction on Argentine chilled beef. The restriction is under the temporary agreement. The Linlithgow Committee deals with the restrictions but the restrictions are not under the Ottawa Agreement.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Do we understand the right hon. Gentleman to mean that by 1st January, the Committee he set up will case to function?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
In that case, are they to continue in existence to watch the effect of restrictions under the terms of this Order? If that is not the case, we are entitled to know exactly what conditions the Board of Trade are laying down when they grant those licences which this Order gives them permission to grant. The right hon. Gentleman gave us some assurance that this Committee would be watching the effect on prices and the result of these restrictions. We have already seen that prices in our local shops are from l½d. to 2d. a lb more, and the right hon. Gentleman has not told us how poor people who cannot buy meat to-day are going to pay when the price is very much higher.
§ Major ELLIOT
Again, surely the hon. Member is discussing something Other than this Order. The Order has nothing to do with the restrictions. If I may use vulgar parlance, he is barking up the wrong tree.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
The right hon. Gentleman is seeking power to grant licences to importers so that imports of meat as and from a certain date will be restricted.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
We understand that importers and shipowners have gladly cooperated with him to limit imports and, because of their co-operation, he is granting them monopoly licences. I am asking who is going to pay any attention at all to the effect of those restrictions. We do not want to argue the Ottawa Agreements over again. All we want to know is what is the likely effect of the granting of these Orders, both as regards the primary producer and the ultimate consumer. Clearly we are entitled to know that. I am not at all sure that this is the best form of statemanship on the most discreet method of carrying out the Ottawa Agreements. We see dangers both in foreign countries and in this country. I, at least, am unwilling, because of this method of licensing approximately unconditionally. If there are conditions, nothing has been said about them. This licensing without conditions is going to prove an extraordinarily bad piece of Toryism, and I do not see how any Liberal Member of the House can be other that revolted at the very thought of restrictions of this kind, setting up a monopoly without any sort of condition at all and granting power to exploit the producers as well as the consumers, with no sort of guarantee either for the farmer, the consumer, or anybody. Because of the lack of conditions laid down by the Board of Trade, we have no alternative but to oppose this Order. I would invite the hon. Gentleman to bear in mind the figures which I gave earlier on showing that the producer had been exploited in this way and that prices had increased in some cases by fifty per cent. and that the position had been exploited during the last few months.
§ 11.52 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
It is quite obvious that the points which may be entered into in this discussion are rather narrow, and I am not betting more than even money on myself to escape from being called to order in the points that I want to raise. I think I shall succeed better than my hon. Friend opposite (Mr. T. Williams), if only because the conversations which have taken place have already shown within what limits the discussion may properly proceed. The matter is rather important, because this condition 671 of restricted importation of certain classes of meat under licence may last quite a long time. That is admitted. In the Ottawa Agreement the figures are limited to 65 per cent. in the case of frozen mutton, lamb and beef, but unless any new arrangement is made, then when that 65 per cent. is reached in June of next year, it may go on at that figure presumably for the rest of the five years of the Ottawa Agreement. Therefore, we are discussing something which is rather important.
It is said that the importations shall be arranged under licence, and we must discuss it within the terms of that proposal. Of course, it is quite natural that the Government should desire to issue licences to the persons they have most readily at hand and with whom they can deal most conveniently in London and at any other port where this meat may be landed, but it does not follow that that is the wisest way of doing what they are seeking to do under this Order. I should like to ask this question. We are going, rightly or wrongly, to limit the importation of frozen mutton, lamb and beef to something not very much more than one-half of the pre-Ottawa amounts, but all these sorts of restrictions are difficult. Granted that these restrictions have to be put on, I want to know whether the Government have consulted the Government of the Argentine as to what will be the least inconvenient method for the Argentine producer and trader? Hon. Members may ask why we should bother about that, but there is something to be said for it. I have understood that the reason why there is no tax put upon the ordinary chilled beef from the Argentine is the very sensible one that with the glut of meat which now exists that tax would be paid by the producer instead of, as in normal circumstances, by the consumer and the price received by the producer would be lessened. That is a thing which the Government do not want to happen because the Argentine producer and the population engaged in meat production generally are some of our best customers for our goods. Granted that we have to restrict Argentine supplies in this way, and that it must be done by licence, I want to have an assurance 672 that these licences will be dealt with in such a way that will hit the Argentine producer as little as possible.
I am not satisfied when the Government say that they make their arrangements with the importers—which is not the same as producers—and with the shipowners. It is convenient, because they have them under their hands; they can get them within a few hours. I would have preferred—and, after all, the Government have had time—that the Government should have got into friendly touch with the Argentine Government- and have said: "Look here, we do not want to hit you harder than is necessary and to have a lower price for your meat over there, but a much higher price as a result of the monopoly value of those licences when the meat gets here," which seems to be, as the hon. Gentleman opposite suggests, what happens under the analogy of the voluntary restrictions. "We would like you, therefore, to organise the interests represented by the actual producers of the meat, and have the licences, and the restrictions which follow upon them, in some manner agreed to by you and worked by you in a way which will do the least harm to your interests, and not simply have to arrange with a different set of people altogether namely, the importers over here." I think that the Minister who replies will see that point. I want to know whether it has been discussed or considered in any way?
We shall have difficulties. These restrictions must mean difficulties. They may provoke retaliation and so on. If that is to be avoided, surely we ought to do everything we can to keep on as reasonably good terms as possible with the Government concerned, and to arrange those restrictions, if they have to be arranged, with the representatives of the producers, and not take the shortest cut, which is to arrange it with the importers really at the producers' expense. I foresee, if the Government adhere to their intention of making the arrangement with the importers, that there must be a very high market value attached to the granting of the licences to import, and I should like to know if, after being granted to one importer, the licences can be sold to another importer? Clearly, you will have a depressed market here, and the privilege of having some of your 673 stuff bought in the Argentine by those importers will be one for which it will be worth paying. There will be a tremendous scramble among importers for the right of importing. It will be an extraordinarily invidious and difficult task to issue those licences, which will be worth a great deal of money to hold and to obtain. I think that it would be very much better to do it in a friendly way, in co-operation with the Argentine Government, by issuing licences to the actual producers of the meat rather than in the way the Government have suggested. I am not questioning the policy. That has been decided. I am saying that, having adopted the policy, we ought to try and hit our exporters as lightly as may be if only for the purpose of avoiding retaliation and other evil effects which will inevitably follow if we hit them as hard as, apparently, we are going to do.
§ 11.59 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
There is only one point—it is a very narrow one—which I want to put to the Government. They are granting a monopoly to certain importers. Are they seeing to it that those importers do not make undue profits? From my point of view, the only object is to raise the price of home-produced meat. If the importers, by virtue of these licences, get undue profits, and the Board of Trade does not examine their profits and see that undue profits do not continue, the whole policy will be discredited. The Linlithgow Committee has been appointed to deal with the ease of voluntary restrictions. Is there some other machinery to prevent the importers who possess these licences from making undue profits which will discredit the whole policy?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I cannot, except with the permission of the House, make any further observations. As the representative of the, Board of Trade, I thank hon. and right hon. Members for the constructive suggestions which they have made. I will reply first to the speech of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). From the very inception of the meat negotiations the closest contact has been kept with his Excellency the Argentine Ambassador in London, and the negotiations have been conducted on the friendliest possible basis. I 674 feel sure the House will appreciate that His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom could not very well go to a foreign country and say: "Will you pass through your Parliament whatever legislation may be necessary to give your Parliament control of some great industry in order to prevent certain quantities of meat reaching our three mile limit." That would not be a possible solution. The Ottawa Agreements put upon the United Kingdom Government the obligation of seeing that the imports of meat reaching this country do not exceed a certain figure, and the Government felt that the only way to make sure of that was to say that imports could not come here except under control. We are controlling those imports during the year upon which the Ottawa Agreements are based.
The right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) asks who is going to watch whether these importers make undue profits. The House will appreciate that in the form of the licence which is being granted by the Board of Trade, the licence is for no period of time but is revocable at will.
§ Dr. BURGIN
That is a question for the Board of Trade. The responsibility of the Board of Trade is to see that this scheme works and that it works without injustice to any section of the community. That is a responsibility quite freely and clearly faced and shouldered. The best condition to insert in the licence is to make it revocable at sight., so that the recipient of a licence has no fixed tenure.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Will the hon. Member say what is the estimated excess profits that the importers have made during the past 6 weeks?
§ Dr. BURGIN
I have dealt with the right hon. Member for North Cornwall and the right hon. Member for South Molton, and I was coming to the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. Williams). I am afraid he did not listen quite intently to the form of licence which I endeavoured to explain to the House it was the intention of the Board of Trade to adopt. Nothing that has happened under 675 the voluntary restrictions is the least guide to what is to happen under this Order. This Order may, in fact, be made expressly to counteract something that had happened under the voluntary scheme. [Interruption.] The hon. Member is not correct. I have made no reference to those emergency measures beyond saying that this Order has nothing on earth to do with them.
That was the only reference in my opening observations to the emergency measures. What I think the hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) is confusing is the fact that the Board of Trade desires, as far as possible, to carry through the whole of the implementing of the Ottawa Agreements without recourse to Orders and by agreement with the trade. I paid my tribute to the measure in which they have co-operated with the Board of Trade in that desire—
§ Mr. ATTLEE
The Parliamentary Secretary said, in fact, that this system of licensing is unnecessary, except as a precaution, because the whole thing was to be carried on as under the voluntary system.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The hon. Member is misquoting me. But be it so. The facts are that the scheme to which the Order is to relate begins only on 1st January. No licence has yet been granted at all, and the practice adopted under emergency conditions to meet an entirely different Get of facts, without involving a breach of the Ottawa Agreements if one failed, serves as no guide. The hon. Member for Don Valley covered a large number of points, but I think the whole House is agreed on one or two basic ideals. Everyone wants the Ottawa
§ Agreements to be implemented to the fullest extent. [HON. MEMBERS: "No"]. Oh, yes, the Bill having been passed that is the wish, and the Government intends to see that it is carried out. That being so these quantities of meat have to be prevented from coming on to this market. We have to prevent any newcomer into the trade, who desires to export from one of these exporting countries, from getting into this market. The only way to do that is to make it an offence to import without a licence.
§ A great deal has been said about giving a monopoly to the people who import. All we want to do is to see that there is no abuse, to see that a flow of meat adequate for our requirements comes in without injury to our own producers and our own people in this country. That is a matter that can be controlled and watched from day to day, and therefore the licences to be granted under this Order are to be licences which can be revoked at will. I hope that with this explanation the House will realise that there is really no alternative. This Government could not licence exporters in some foreign country where the King's writ does not run: we could not do that. But we can control our own people, and that is to be done in the way I have outlined.
That the Ottawa Agreements (Importation of Meat) Order, 1932, dated the 28th day of November 1932, made by the Board of Trade under the Ottawa Agreements Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 29th day of November, 1932, be approved.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 163; Noes, 36.677
|Division No. 28.]||AYES.||12.10 a.m.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)|
|Albery, Irving James||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Eastwood, John Francis|
|Balniel, Lord||Carver, Major William H.||Eden, Robert Anthony|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Castlereagh, Viscount||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Ellis, Robert Geoffrey|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Emrys-Evans, P. V.|
|Blindell, James||Christie, James Archibald||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Clayton, Dr. George C.||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare|
|Bossom, A. C.||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst|
|Boulton, W. W.||Conant, R. J. E.||Fraser, Captain Ian|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Cook, Thomas A.||Fremantle, Sir Francis|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cranborne, Viscount||Ganzoni, Sir John|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Crooks, J. Smedley||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton|
|Brown, Brig,-Gen. H. C. (Berks., N"wb 'y)||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Glimour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Glossop, C. W. H.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Dalkeith, Earl of||Gluckstein, Louis Halls|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Goldie, Noel B.|
|Greene, William P. C.||McLean, Major Alan||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Magnay, Thomas||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Savery, Samuel Servington|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Marsden, Commander Arthur||Scone, Lord|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Martin, Thomas B.||Selley, Harry R.|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark. Bothwell)|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mitcheson, G. G.||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter||Morgan, Robert H.||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Hornby, Frank||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T, E.|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H (Denbigh)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Howard, Tom Forrest||Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||Munro, Patrick||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Nail-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J, H.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|James. Wing-Com. A. W. H.||North, Captain Edward T.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Nunn, William||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Ker, J. Campbell||O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montross)||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Palmer, Francis Noel||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Patrick, Colin M.||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Penny, Sir George||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Knebworth, Viscount||Percy, Lord Eustace||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Ouinton||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Williams. Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Lennox-Boyd, A. T.||Ramsay. T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Womersley, Waiter James|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Ray, Sir William|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Ropner, Colonel L.||Lieut.-Colonel Sir Lambert Ward|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||and Lord Erskine.|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Milner, Major James|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Grenfell, David Reef (Glamorgan)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Banfield, John William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Harris, Sir Percy||Price, Gabriel|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hicks, Ernest George||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Curry, A. C.||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Dagger, George||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Edwards, Charles||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Lunn, William||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Mr. Duncan Graham and Mr. John.|