Motion made, and Question proposed,
That the Order, dated the 17th day of December, 1931, made by the Board of Trade under the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, 1931, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 2nd day of February, 1932, be approved."—[Mr. Runciman.]
§ Mr. MANDER
On a point of Order. I wish to ask your guidance, Mr. Speaker, on a matter of considerable public importance, and that is as to how far it has been in accordance with the Rules and customs of the House for a Member to vote in connection with a matter in which he is specifically and personally interested? One of the articles dealt with in the Schedule affects me quite clearly from a business point of view. I ask your guidance, and I dare say it will affect a great many other Members, as to how far one could, in accordance with precedent, record a vote on a question of that kind?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
This question has often been raised before. Indeed, it has been put to me on several occasions. I have had always to remind hon. Members that they individually must be the judges themselves on the question of personal interest; but, as a, general Ruling, I would give the following:
The interest of a Member of a general or remote character on any Question before the House would not operate as a disqualification. The interest, to disqualify must he immediate and personal.
There is a, ruling given by one of my predecessors a very long time ago, and it is just as applicable to-day as it was then. Mr. Speaker Abbot used these words:This interest,that is the interest of Members—must be a direct pecuniary interest and separately belonging to the persons voting, and not in common with the rest of His Majesty's subjects or on a matter of policy.That means, of course, that an hon. Member, although he may benefit by some Act of Parliament as a matter of general policy would not be precluded from voting thereon. I take an instance. As a farmer I am not precluded from voting on a Measure directly designed to benefit agriculture, although that Measure might benefit me and the industry in which I was engaged. That instance shows how, although to a certain extent I am interested, I should not be disqualified from exercising my vote.
The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Hors-Belisha)
The third Order under the Abnormal Importations Act, for which I now ask the approval of the House, was signed by my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade on 17th December, and came into operation two days later. It refers to 16 descriptions of goods upon which it has placed an ad valorem duty of 50 per cent. within the terms of the Act, and it also amends the first Order. The House will recall that in the first Order there was an item of "Mantles and overcoats." In administering the Order the Customs officials became perplexed about certain things known as three-piece suits, and they were unable to tell whether the top came within the definition. By a more judicious use of language we have been able to remove their perplexity. I know 194 that my hon. Friend, the Noble Lady who represent Sutton (Viscountess Astor), took a great interest in this matter, and I hope that she is now satisfied.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
There is no necessity to tell the difference now, be, cause the ambiguity has been dissolved. There was another item, "Men's and boy's coats, waistcoats and trousers." This also presented a difficulty to the Customs officials for they were unable to tell whether goods which bore this description were intended for one sex or for the other. That will explain why we have found tit necessary to amend the first Order, and the doubts have now been eliminated. As regards the new items mentioned in this Order, as the House knows, my right, hon. Friend had to satisfy himself that they were entering this country in abnormal quantities. He had no difficulty whatever in doing that.
I do not think that the House will require to take all these items seriatim, I will just mention two or three examples. Great pressure was put upon us to include cotton piece-goods. Well, they have been included, on the ground that the quantity imported in November, 1931, was 40 per cent. greater than it was in November, 1930. Illuminated glassware was 50 per cent. greater. Loaded cartridges were coming into this country at four or five times the rate of the corresponding month of the previous year. It is difficult to understand why these cartridges should have been needed. At any rate, they have been stopped or virtually stopped from entering the country. Lawn-mowers, a most unseasonable importation, came in during October and November at 12 times the rate of the corresponding month of the previous year, The same considerations apply to all the descriptions of goods mentioned in the Order. So, it is quite clear that my right hon. Friend in making this Order was acting as the House intended him to act. It is equally clear from the statistics which I have recited to the House that no consumer can have been put to any deprivation while British manufacturers were adjusting themselves to the new demands. It may interest the House to know that, this Order having been pro- 195 mulgated, 40 per cent. of the goods falling within Class III, that is goods manufactured or mainly manufactured are now liable to Customs duty either under our Act or under some previous Statute.
The House will next require me to answer this question: What have been the effects of the Order? Well, we were told by the Opposition, but told erroneously, on the last occasion what the effects were going to be. They moved art Amendment, but I notice that they have not deemed it advisable to repeat their Amendment to-day, because everyone of the propositions in it has been disproved. In the first place, it was alleged that these Orders would do nothing to redress the adverse balance of trade. My right hon. Friend never indulged so extravagant an ambition, but I did say that if we could withhold from the market the sale of £2,000,000 worth of sterling in a month, we should do undoubted good in the protection of our own currency. I under estimated. We have actually saved from the market £5,236,000 worth of sterling which represents the reduction in the importations of the articles included in these Orders. In point of fact, in Class III goods there has been a diminution of our purchases from abroad of no less than £10,000,000 in one month. I only ventured to aspire to £2,000,000. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment in December said:If you cut down your imports by £2,000,000 a month, in world conditions of trade, you must restrict your exports by an equal if not by a greater quantity.The time has come to test that prophecy. The hon. Gentleman admonished me and said:The hon. Gentleman must think out his problem again."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th December, 1931; col. 1425, Vol. 260.]
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
I have thought out this problem again, and I am in a position to present to the House conclusions which cannot be disputed. Our exports have not decreased by £10,000,000 which they should have done according to the assertion of the hon. Gentleman opposite. They have not decreased at all. They have increased. More than that. Whereas in previous years there has been a seasonal decline of exports in December, this year there has actually 196 been a rise in exports. The hon. Gentleman who moved the Amendment went from that point to say—and it was within the terms of the Amendment—that we would destroy the re-export trade. Let us look at the facts there. The figures of our re-export trade in Class III goods show that while, month by month, our re-exports in 1931 showed a decline and in some cases a considerable decline as compared with 1930, in December, in spite of these Orders, re-exports for the first time in the year showed an increase on the corresponding month of the year before. I understand why that Amendment is not being moved again to-day. We have not destroyed the re-export trade.
The next assertion in the Amendment was that we would check the rising standard of life of the people. We have checked it so effectively that in the one month during which the Orders have been in operation 82,000 more men and women have been employed than were employed previously. I do riot for one moment wish to overstate the case. I am not claiming that every one of these men and women owes his or her re-engagement to these Orders. What I am doing is disputing the proposition of the hon. Gentleman opposite that these Orders would check the rising standard of life of the people. But perhaps the hon. Gentleman was referring to the cost of living. The cost of living has not increased. Prices have not risen generally in any way as was foretold. If hon. Gentlemen opposite are still in any doubt about that they have only to ask, about the effect of these Orders, the manufacturers and their employés in Manchester, Bradford, Nottingham and Leicester, and they will be told that in some cases mills which had been closed have been reopened and that mills which were working under time are now working overtime. Not only has there been an obvious benefit to the trades concerned and to the factories already in existence, but a remarkable aspect of the Orders has been that, in the past six weeks, notifications have been made to our industrial adviser by no less than 200 foreign firms who wish to set up factories in this country. I do not say whether that is a good thing or a bad thing. I merely record the fact, and I can tell the House that in 21 cases production has actually commenced.
197 The considered proposals of the Government will be announced to the House to-morrow. The Abnormal Importations Act never had more than a confined purpose. It was intended to check forestalling of any formal tariff which the House might decide to establish. It has succeeded in that purpose, and it has done more. It has provided—visibly provided—for the British public a controlled experiment in the restriction of imports, and the House would be well advised not to consider these proposals in accordance with abstractions and theories, for that is no longer necessary, but to have regard to the actual behaviour of our trade under this laboratory test. For many generations it has been held axiomatic in the fiscal controversy that a restriction of imports means a rise in prices, means diminution of exports, means injury to your re-export trade. These propositions, these hypotheses, may be sound in a normal world, but they have been disproved to-day.
We are literally on the eve of a great fiscal revolution. The practice of 85 years is about to be modified, and I think I am entitled to ask the House—having been privileged under my right hon. Friend to be at the Department whose duty it is closely to watch these matters—in its own interest, and in the interest of the country, when it comes to judge the proposals that will be made tomorrow, to look at the facts, not in 'a speculative but in a scientific spirit, and to admit that an ounce of practice is worth a ton of principle.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
The hon. Gentleman, with his usual skill, as on the occasion when he moved the Resolution approving the last Order, has, at least, removed certain of the perplexities which exist in relation to the items included in the Order, but one perplexity remains. His mind appears to be as perplexed on the economic question now as it was then. To the cheers of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen he solemnly tells us that since the application of these Orders no less than 252 inquiries have been made by Continental manufacturers and that within a month some 20 have actually started producing. Does the hon. Gentleman ask us to believe that people who were only making inquiries 'as to sites and possibilities a month ago have already secured their factories?
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
And that they have discovered their trade and started to produce, all within a month. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] Should that be the case, it seems to be the greatest possible reflection on manufacturers in this country. If profitable facilities are available in such large quantities and if manufacturers in this country have ignored all these possibilities, while Continental producers in such a short space of time have grasped the opportunity, then it does not appear to be 'a great compliment to the producers of this country. The hon. Gentleman referred to the cost of living. If the figures given by him when dealing with the second Order were correct, namely, that many of the articles have been imported at 10 times the normal rate because people have hoarded up supplies to serve them for the next six, 10 or 12 months, did he expect that the normal increase in the cost of living would actually occur within one month?
§ Mr. HORE-BELISHA
The hon. Member forgets that it was his assertion, in. his Amendment on the Paper, that these Orders would depress the standard of life of the people.
§ Mr. WILLIAMS
Which I readily repeat, but surely no hon. Member would assume that my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) suggested that the application of this policy over a wide range of articles would mean an instantaneous increase. We have only had a month's experience, and the point made by my hon. Friend was that the ultimate effect would be to increase the cost of living and to that extent decrease the standard of life of the general consumers in this country.
Might I refer to the hon. Gentleman's very skilful case on the effect of the application of these Orders? He told us what the result has been to the extent of £10,000,000 gains in exports, lack of imports, and so on. Did he really believe that the contents of the Amendment moved on the last occasion were only applied to a months experience, and would he have the House believe that his experiences over four short weeks are to be the determining factor in the fiscal policy of this country for decade after decade? Surely the effect of these 199 Orders will not be felt fully for many months ahead, and if there is anything arising out of the first two Orders that is significant to us on these benches, who are prepared to examine all these questions, if not scientifically, at least in the best possible way that we can with the information at our disposal, it is this, that as a result of the application of the first two Orders, as the hon. Gentleman said, great pressure has been brought to bear upon the President of the Board of Trade to bring in more and more Orders. Who brought that great pressure? Was it manufacturers who were aggrieved, after having supported the National Government and the Tory party, because they themselves had not secured the benefits, and is that the explanation of this third Order? I hope the right hon. Gentleman will tell us something more about where this great pressure actually came from and how he responded to it.
We shall oppose this Order as we opposed the first two Orders, not because the items referred to are statistically large, but because we regard the principle as having been hopelessly wrong, and no matter how small the value of these articles may be, we still believe that the principle is entirely unsound, and that, indeed, we are pursuing a similar policy to that which has been pursued in almost every protectionist country in the world. The hon. Gentleman said that this has been proved to be a sound and logical plan, and that the effects have been magnificent, and right royally was he applauded by hon. and right hon. Members around and behind him. Would he declare that a month's experience of the application of two Orders is a bigger deciding factor than the experience of the United States, Germany, France, Belgium, Italy, or any other protected country in the world?
Instead of the argument being conclusive, it seems to me that all the argument is in the opposite direction. It may be that certain changes have taken place in the past few weeks, but those changes are not to be credited to the Government. In all probability any improvement that there may have been in trade can be attributed much more to the departure from the Gold Standard than to the 200 application of these Orders, and when I remind the hon. Gentleman that he and his Government did everything they could to bolster up the pound sterling, it is clearly not to their credit if there has been any improvement in trade. Therefore, with that advantage to British manufacturers and employers generally of anywhere between 30 and 40 per cent., I suggest that the hon. Gentleman should not take too much honour to himself and his right hon. Friend, but that he should give credit to an accident which he and his party actually tried to prevent, much more than to the application of these Orders.
The hon. Gentleman to-day repeated the statement that he made on the 4th December last, that his right hon. Friend had to dhow that any articles embodied in the Orders were coming abnormally into this country, and that only because of that fact had they been included. He made reference to lawn mowers and one or two other things, but there were other categories that he omitted. It seems to me, looking over this list of articles, that that condition about coming abnormally into this country must have lapsed, and we shall require a little information on that subject before the conclusion of this Debate. Let me quote from the Act itself:If the Board of Trade are satisfied that articles of any class or description comprised in Class III of the Import and Export List issued under the authority of the Treasury and the Commissioners of Customs and Excise for the year 1931 are being imported into the United Kingdom in abnormal quantities, it shall be lawful for the Board, with the concurrence of the Treasury, by Order to apply this Act to articles of that class or description.Would the hon. Gentleman still adhere to the Act and to his statement made on the 4th December? If so, I should like to ask what abnormal quantities of illuminating glassware they discerned either in December or in the whole of the year 1931, and why that particular commodity is included in this Order. I observe that the actual quantities, in cwts., of illuminating glassware for the three December months of 1929, 1930, and 1931 were, in round figures, 15,000 in 1929, 19,000 in 1930, and 16,000 in 1931, while for the three years they were 163,000 in 1929, 164,000 in 1930, and 174,000 in 1931. There does not appear to be an abnormal increase in the imports of that commodity, 201 and as there must be a natural growth in the use of electricity, and to that extent of lampshades and globes, it seems to me that the quantities imported in the past year, and for that matter in the month of December, were quite normal. The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps tell us why the condition laid down in the Act with regard to abnormal imports has not been adhered to in this particular item.
I want to ask also whether pressure has been brought to bear by certain people who produce electric bulbs and who have spent large sums of money on propaganda in trying to get back under the Safeguarding of Industries Act, for, if so, it seems to me that here is a body of manufacturers who have an absolute monopoly and a price ring, by which means they can exploit the nation to their hearts' content and out of which they are already making fairly considerable profits. If, as a result of pressure from the electric bulb makers, the right hon. Gentleman has been chivvied into including illuminating glassware, it seems to me that he has made a blunder of the first magnitude. At least he ought to satisfy himself, before any article is included in such a Schedule, that it is available in requisite quantities in this country, and I suggest that not only do we not produce sufficient illuminating glassware to meet our needs, but that we are only producing approximately 4 per cent. Therefore, that indicates that 50 per cent. duty will have to be paid upon an article that we are obliged at the moment, and perhaps for a long time to come, to import from foreign countries. Would the hon. Gentleman suggest that it will not have a tendency to reduce the standard of life and increase the cost of living, if the consumers have to pay 50 per cent. more in future than they have paid previously for these lampshades?
The "Economist," which is by no means a Socialist organ, referring to the right hon. Gentleman's action in regard to abnormal importation duties, states:In the First Schedule we hoped that we could detect some logic in Mr. Runciman's fiscal madness; in his Third Schedule we search rather despairingly.We have also searched despairingly, and we could not find much logic in the right hon. Gentleman's fiscal madness either. Referring to illuminating glassware and electric bulbs, they proceed: 202If Mr. Runciman had wished to give the country a pretty illustration of the pitfalls of Protection, he could hardly have done better.I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman if be will tell us why illuminating glassware has been included in this Order at all, seeing that the abnormal imports are not observable, and particularly because we in this country are unable to produce the requisite quantities. Further, why was it that illuminating glassware was omitted from the first and second Orders and included in the third Order? Was it because so much pressure was brought to bear on the right hon. Gentleman by a certain section of people who felt aggrieved because they were not having the plums as well as their manufacturing colleagues? If so, we should like to know exactly where the pressure came from and who are going to be the beneficiaries.
There were one or two other items that were excluded from the first Order but included in the second. Woollen yarns were excluded from the first Order, but included in the second, and it looks, on the face of it, without making charges against individuals or against the right hon. Gentleman himself, that the first Order inspired manufacturers of some other commodities to bring pressure to bear for the sake of being included in subsequent Orders. That brings out this point: The right hon. Gentleman having indicated by these three Orders that nobody quite knows how many commodities will ultimately be included in subsequent Orders, all importers are invited by the right hon. Gentleman to encourage abnormal imports.
I would suggest that the abnormal imports for November and December were very largely due to the threats made by the Tory party at various times. They have always declared that they would not hesitate to apply Protection, tariffs, or such Orders as this to innumerable commodities. Therefore, from that point of view, the Government themselves are very largely to blame for a goodly proportion of the abnormal imports that were experienced during November and December. I want to ask the President of the Board of Trade whether he recalls statements that he made not so very long ago about tariffs. He is under no sort of de- 203 lusion as to what the prospects may be. On 13th November, 1930—and I know he told us a few months ago that this was 1931 and no longer 1930; but the principle involved remains the same, and will be the same in 1942 as it was, for that matter in 1922—the Minister said this:Those, who, by a side wind"—that is the introduction of tariffs—are trying to reduce the value of real wages, do not deserve our respect. We cannot regain our foreign trade by any fiscal dodges.Neither do we think that we can regain our foreign trade by "fiscal dodges." If the Minister thinks that the present condition of things is going to obtain for all time, he ought to embalm himself and place himself in some glass case, so as to be on record as the most economic optimist that ever lived. In the same speech the Minister said something like this: "If there is no other reason in the world for believing in Free Trade as a wholesome political system, it is the preservation of the purity of our Parliamentary life." I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman's observation, and I only relate that statement to this Order, which not only creates apprehension in our minds, but causes us to begin to fear that the great pressure referred to by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, in his very skilful speech, is sending both him and the Minister down the slippery slope referred to this morning by a very noted writer in a newspaper that I expect they have both read. The writer of note is one in whom they have a lot of confidence and whose advice and guidance they have taken on many previous occasions. He, referring to the Liberal party and tariffs, in relation to the slippery slope says, reviewing the process:In the first stage the Free Trader maintains his doctrine undiluted as a counsel of perfection.The Minister and the hon. Gentleman maintained their Free Trade principles undiluted until they came to the second stage, which is thus described:In the second stage he becomes a low-tariff man as against a high-tariff man.Then:In the third stage he assures his constituents that he can he as well trusted as his Protectionist opponents to maintain any duty in which they are interested.204In the final stage all the boundaries are confused, and the Free Trade tradition disappears in a competition of parties to grant the largest favours to the tariff-hungry interests.If the right hon. Gentleman and the Parliamentary Secretary will read that quotation from Mr. Spender's article in to-day's "News Chronicle," and if they will look in a mirror when they arrive at their respective homes, they will see a definite replica of the persons referred to in that article.
We suggest that this Order is not calculated ultimately to be of any value to this country. We rather fear it will be the reverse. We are of opinion that our export trade will ultimately be adversely affected, so long as we are dependent for two-thirds of our food coming from abroad. Our imports will have to counter-balance our exports, when invisible transactions are included. No longer is it possible for the hon. Member to get away with such speeches as that with which he has presented the House this evening. He has tried to make us believe that if we stop all imports from now henceforth, not by a 50 per cent. duty, but by the stopping of all imports coming from foreign parts to this country, our exports will increase by leaps and bounds. If that is the economic position that the hon. Gentleman has obtained at the Board of Trade, I think his promotion has had a downward tendency and I am afraid that instead of getting real promotion, he will ultimately be promoted out of his office altogether.
Although the Order is statistically small in principle, we think it is hopelessly bad and that it will not have the effect that is anticipated. We not only see the community, particularly the illuminating glassware portion, with protection in its worst form, but we fear that that inclusion is due to outside pressure from a body of people who have a price-ring already, by means of which they have exploited the nation and will exploit the nation still further in regard to electrical bulbs. The question of lawn mowers may be a small thing. Birmingham may have one small industry out of its 900 industries protected by this means, but we are convinced that ultimately, and not in four weeks, the Order will have a tendency further to affect 205 trade. It is another indication of what has been happening in all the countries in the world during the past eight or nine years, and which has brought us to the present industrial impasse.
We see no good in the policy; rather do we see harm, as the textile manufacturers say, in their memorandum to the Minister. They refer particularly to the question of drawbacks. I hope that when the Minister replies, he will do more to deal with that point than he did on the last occasion, when he said that it was extremely difficult to see every employer in the short space of time of three weeks and that it was an "awfully delicate job." We know that it is a delicate job, but he is responsible for the delicacy of it. He is responsible for the snowball process that has resulted from that policy. We hope that he will tell us what he is doing to assist the merchant class who have built up not only a trade with Ireland, but with countries in all parts of the world. For all these reasons we plead that the Order is based entirely upon wrong principles, can do no good to the country, but will ultimately do infinite harm. We shall oppose the Order in the Lobby.
§ Mr. O'CONNOR
I do not intend to detain the House for more than a moment or so, but I would like to say that it is extraordinary how speakers from the other side of the House are always discovering "pressure" everywhere. It leads one to suspect that their experience of pressure has been a particularly unhappy one. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) is no doubt more conversant with the type of pressure that is exerted upon the party opposite than anybody else in the House of Commons. The pressure that has been exerted upon the Government in this case is the pressure of inexorable events, resulting from the observation of the state into which our industries are being driven. We have heard a great deal of mere theory from the hon. Gentleman who has just sat down, but I would like to pay the tribute of solid fact to one effect of the Order that we are discussing. By a side wind, that Order covers various articles of lace and hosiery. It is not designed specifically to include lace, but it does cover a, good deal of the lace trade. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman and the House that 206 the effect of the Order, limited though its application is to the lace trade of Nottingham, has been quite electrical. It has restored confidence and activity to the industry which, at the time the Order was passed, was despondent and was losing trade and employment,
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Labour, speaking the other day, gave figures of people who were unemployed in the hosiery trade since this Order has been in operation. There are only some 800 in the whole of the city of Nottingham. That reduced figure was arrived at almost instantaneously on the application of this duty to the hosiery trade. Both in the lace trade and in the hosiery trade the Order has given a much-needed fillip. It has restored confidence where none existed, and has been wholly beneficial. For my part, knowing that there has been no pressure except the ordinary constitutional pressure that everybody is entitled to exert as regards public policy, I wish to thank the Minister heartily for the benefit that he has given to the lace and hosiery trades of Nottingham.
The one small point that I really rose in order to impress upon the Ministry, is in regard to another industry, which I think is incidental and is unnecessarily brought within the scope of this Order. I refer to the importation of sea-grass, concerning which I have been in correspondence with the Ministry. Under paragraph (i) of the Schedule, which covers such things as cordage, ropes and twine of vegetable fibre, it has been held that a commodity known as sea-grass is included. That commodity, as I pointed out to the Parliamentary Secretary, is not a manufactured article but is an important raw material from which the old-fashioned chairs that we used to call cane chairs are now substantially manufactured. Those chairs are now embellished, as hon. Members will know from practical experience, with a kind of imitation cordage, which is both the fabric of the chair and its adornment. Until quite recently, the whole of the business in sea-grass merchandise, comprising chairs, and cabinets of various kinds, went to Germany. Just recently, owing to the depreciation of sterling, there has been an improvement to the British industry in cane-bottom chairs and upholstered goods of that kind.
207 I would like to impress on the Minister and the Board of Trade that by no stretch of imagination can this sea-grass, which is the raw material of an obviously important industry, be described as a manufactured article. It is in fact a, vegetable fibre. It cannot be knotted; it breaks on any attempt to knot it. In the upholstery industry of the country 45,000 people are employed. They are making these articles with this raw material, which comes from Japan and China very largely, and they are able to compete with the foreign manufactured article by reason of the fall in sterling.
It is a very serious blow to that industry that, by what I think is a misapprehension on the part of the Customs, it has been included in paragraph (i) of the Schedule. The position becomes even more absurd from the point of view that the finished article, that is to say, the chair or the upholstered article composed entirely of sea-grass, enters the country free of duty, whereas the raw material with which the British manufacturer has to make up the chair to compete with the German finished article, is subject to the Abnormal Importation Duty of 50 per cent. I make, no apology for having called attention to this, because it is an important industry, and it is vital in the interest of the general policy which the Government are now pursuing that obvious mistakes of this kind, due to the fact that these duties have not been operating in the past on a large scale, should be corrected at the earliest possible opportunity in order that the tariff policy we are about to discuss can be discussed in a free and fair atmosphere.
§ Captain JAMES LOCKWOOD
Seldom in this House have we listened to a speech from the Front Opposition Bench which would fill us with a deeper sense of depression than that which we have heard from the hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams). I do not think that it is necessary for anybody to apologise for an obvious lack of the elements of industry. He certainly can have no experience whatever of the effect of these Abnormal Importation Orders upon the state of industry in general. The whole of his speech was a repetition of a request to the Minister for some information relating to the importation of illuminating glassware. The matter is so 208 important, and it is so important that the House should know the position of affairs, that I shall venture to take up the time of the House for a few moments. The hon. Member for Don Valley seemed to accuse British manufacturers of everything that was wrong, but I should like to remind him that some of the greatest supporters of the protection of these Abnormal Importation Orders have been the representatives of the workers themselves. In the textile industry, in regard both to tissue and yarn, representations were made to the Government in power at the time that it should receive this protection. From the time that these representations were made to the bringing into force of this Order, the industry waned and almost failed altogether. The numbers employed were deliberately, definitely and persistently reduced, and it is just as well for the House to consider, as the Parliamentary Secretary has pointed out, what has been the practical result of the Orders upon particular industries. The Orders were required by both the employers and employed. The result in the wool textile industry has been that in the area of the City of Bradford, although these Orders have been in force for such a limited time, there has been a diminution in the unemployed of at least 50 per cent.
§ Mr. T. WILLIAMS
Did the hon. Member hear me say that the effect was probably largely due to the departure from the Gold Standard, and not to the application of either of the Orders?
§ Captain LOCKWOOD
The effect of the departure from the gold standard may have had a doubtful tendency in this direction, but I speak from daily contact and responsibility in these matters when I say that it was only when the Abnormal Importation Order clinched the matter and enabled us to get together on a sound and proper basis on which we could work, that we were able to take the full benefit of it. In the city of Bradford unemployment has diminished by 50 per cent. and the amount of wages paid has increased in almost the same proportion. The people who are employed are not only employed the ordinary number of hours, but are glad of the opportunity to work additional hours in order to make up their deficiency in weekly income 209 during the past years. All that has resulted because of the Abnormal Importation Order.
I should like to say a word about the sinister and gloomy aspect put upon these things by the hon. Member for Don Valley. He seems to think, because we want this particular form of fiscal policy, that we have some selfish motive to obtain for ourselves improper profits. Of course, when a Member makes an assertion of that kind, it is based on one of two things—either practical experience or a reflex of his own mind. The hon. Member for Don Valley has had no practical experience. I would like to assure the House that those who are asking for the benefit of these Abnormal Importation Orders are doing so so that our factories may start work again employing, and employing with profit, the full amount of their capital; but more than that, to give employment to the people in the industry, who for several years have been on the streets and have had to have recourse to unemployment pay and similar methods to alleviate their sufferings. If the Opposition would get that fact into their mind and realise that that is the basis of these alterations—that is, that they benefit everybody—we should not have the time of the House wasted in the manner in which the hon. Member for Don Valley wasted it.
Not only has the effect of these Orders been to increase production, but they have had the effect of diminishing the cost of production. The hon. Member for Don Valley does not know the rudimentary fact that if you have a factory working to its full capacity—every loom or spindle in it—the cost of production is less lie does not, realise that the amount of machinery and of factory production available in this country is sufficient to make competition which would protect all consumers. The result in the protected industries at the moment has been that we have been able to meet all demands without any increase of cost, and. everybody all round has benefited. If the hon. Member for Don Valley were to go into the West Riding, he would see, instead of derelict factories, factories working on full time during the day and illuminated during the night. A friend of mine in the House came into our district, and, going from one place to another, he counted 19 factories full of illumination and working, with the 210 people glad and anxious to work. These are the effects that follow from the Orders. Every fact that the hon. Member for Don V alley mentioned was based on some theoretical knowledge he may have gathered somewhere, but every statement he made was erroneous in fact and substance from the point of view of the practical results of business. I beg the House to bear in mind what the. Parliamentary Secretary stated because what, he said was the fact. In considering these Orders we should take as our first consideration what their result has been. I hope, therefore, that the House will approve the present Order.
§ Lieut.-Colonel APPLIN
Every time that I rise in this House it always seems to be in the defence of the wages of workers in my constituency. Last time it was in regard to tomatoes, and to-night it is electric bulbs and fittings. The hon. Member for Don Valley (Mr. T. Williams) has attacked the wrong end of this Schedule. In my constituency this Order will make a vast difference, not only to the trade itself, but to the number of men employed and to their ages, because, as the hon. and gallant Member for Shipley (Captain Lockwood) pointed out, when you get a reduction in the cost of production, you can ultimately ask for a rise in wages. Therefore I welcome this Schedule, particularly the part relating to electric globes and fittings, and things of that kind, for the factories in my constituency are at the moment working short time and are waiting for this Order.
May I give a hint to the hon. Member for Don Valley. If he had looked at item (p) in the Schedule, he might reasonably have made a case, and I am going to ask the attention of the Minister to this point. The Imperial Chemical Industries Limited have altered the whole of the cartridge manufacturing system in this country. It is all now in one great. trust. The manufacture of the powders is in a great trust, which furthermore controls the wadding, so that the man who wants to make his own cartridges is in a dilemma. Instead of being able to buy his various materials from various firms in competition with each other, he has to go to Chemical Industries, and it costs him as much, and even more, than if he bought the cartridges from them straight away. While the small farmer was able to buy cartridges 211 from lls. to 19s. per 100, they will now cost him from 14s. to 15s. There is no doubt that unless you do something to enable us to have competition in this country in the cartridge making business, you will put in the hands of Chemical Industries Limited power to charge anything they like for ammunition. I ask the right hon. Gentleman to look into that fact. Had the hon. Member for Don Valley realised it, he would have had a very good case there. I ask the Minister to see that before we shut out foreign cartridge cases, our farmers and country people generally will be able to buy their cartridges at a reasonable price.
§ 7.30 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
I should like to warn the Minister against accepting the statements of the hon. and gallant Member for Shipley (Captain Lockwood) as facts. I hope that he will have documentary evidence upon the points which the hon. Member has put forward. I wish it were true that the West Riding of Yorkshire was going along successfully, and that everybody was in employment. I wish that all the people in the textile areas were in employment and earning good wages. There are disputes in that area, however. Thousands of people are meeting to contest the wages and conditions of employment, and we should be careful what we say here regarding what is taking place in that industry. To say that factories are working full time and overtime, and that the whole industry is a success is rather shameful.
§ Captain LOCKWOOD
I would like the hon. Member to say precisely in what respect I was wrong in any of my statements.
§ Mr. LUNN
The only point I am making is that the hon. and gallant Member said that the industry was flourishing; that he had taken a Member of this House into his constituency who hat seen 19 mills working night and day; and that it was quite a revelation to see what had come out of this business during the last few weeks. That is an astounding statement to make, and I wish it were true. If the facts were ascertained by the Minister, as they ought to be, it would be found that things are not quite so successful as that. I should warn the Minister against the hon. and gallant Member, who will ever be remembered 212 as the Member who said from these benches that the Tory party were here to look after the vested interests—
§ Mr. LUNN
Without doubt the hon. and gallant Member is an example; he is endeavouring to prove that that is the fact. I have been in public life for 37 years, and know that it has always been recognised that a member of a local authority should never be allowed to vote where his pocket interest is concerned. That principle ought 10 apply to this House. There ought to be an analysis of those who vote in these Debates to see how far they are personally interested, from the pocket point of view, in these duties which are being imposed. The hon. and gallant Member himself came here as a lawyer, but if you look into things I think you will see he is becoming an industrialist. and is interested personally in these factories in this particular industry for which he is pleading at the moment. [Interruption.] He is not alone. There are many others in this House. We ought to preserve the purity of public life—preserve it from the corruption that comes from Measures of this sort.
§ Captain LOCKWOOD
Seeing that a personal allegation has been raised against me, perhaps you will give me an opportunity of answering it, Mr. Speaker. The hon. Member who has last spoken has said, among his many mis-statements, that I am an industrialist with a personal interest which would affect my voting here. My only interest in the concerns which he has referred to has been an interest in order to restore them and put them on their feet, and I have no financial interest whatever, except that of any other workman employed by the organisation, and therefore I hope he will withdraw the allegation.
§ Mr. EADY
As I happen to be a representative of the town or district which has been alluded to I would like to take 213 this opportunity to say a few words. I can never understand how it is that hon. Members opposite are always "out" to support foreign labour in preference to English, for they are officially connected with the working class. I may say on that point that I represent a division which is practically wholly a working class division, and I was returned here by a very great majority in order to support any Measure which would bring them work. I cannot understand where the sympathies of hon. Members opposite with the working class come in when we find them opposing a Measure of this character instead of supporting our own industries. Doubt has been expressed as to whether the description of the conditions in the West Riding of Yorkshire we have heard is a correct one. As an employer of labour, allow me to say that for 30 or 40 years we have never been in the same position as we are in to-day. Everything is very favourable. The conditions are better. We have a chance today to run our factories to the full. We are in the position of having what may be termed mass production. That is a very different state of affairs from the position with which we have been struggling during the many years when we had to accept the crumbs—such small portions of the trade as others would not take the trouble to interest themselves in.
To-day our factories are working from morning till night, our workpeople are happy and contented, and we are very glad to have given them something to
§ bring them happiness and contentment. We could not do anything better for any trade in this country in which we want to see more labour employed. I am an employer of labour, and I have been in the trade practically all my life. If by any mischance this House should, not confirm the step which has been taken to provide work it will make the greatest mistake it ever made. An hon. Member on my left said that something like 50 per cent, of the unemployed had been absorbed. I can tell the House that the figures are even better than that, and that there is every possibility that the number of unemployed will be still further diminished. I appeal to every Member to give support to anything in the form of either Protection or the stopping of abnormal importations—whatever the method may be. I will not take up time by pointing out the advantages to be derived from a restriction of imports, because that question has already been discussed, but I have felt it to be my duty to substantiate what has been said as to the position of affairs in the West Riding. What the hon. Member opposite said with regard to the strike concerns a merely trivial matter. We shall have strikes; it is a natural consequence when trade improves.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided: Ayes, 276, Noes, 44.215
|Division No. 46.]||AYES||7.40 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Colman, N. C. D.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Boyce, H. Leslie||Colville, Major David John|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Conant, R. J. E.|
|Albery, Irving James||Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Cook, Thomas A.|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (Liverp'l, W.)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Cooper, A. Dull|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Broadbent, Colonel John||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Craven-Ellis, William|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Brown, Col. D. C. (N'th'f'd., Hexham)||Crooke, J. Smedley|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Brown. Ernest (Leith)||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Browne, Captain A. C.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Crossley, A. C.|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Burghley, Lord||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Burnett, John George||Curry, A. C.|
|Balniel, Lord||Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Caine, G. R. Hall-||Dawson, Sir Philip|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Denman, Hon. R. D.|
|Bateman, A. L.||Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Dickie, John P.|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Carver, Major William H.||Doran, Edward|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Chalmers, John Rutherford||Duckworth, George A. V.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Chotzner, Alfred James||Eady, George H.|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Clarke, Frank||Eastwood, John Francis|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Clayton Dr. George C.||Edmondson, Major A. J.|
|Blindell, James||Clydesdale, Marquess of||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.|
|Boulton, W. W.||Cobb, Sir Cyril||Elmley, Viscount|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Rodd, Rt. Hon. Sir James Rennell|
|Entwistie, Cyril Fullard||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Rosbotham, S. T.|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Ross, Ronald D.|
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Mabane, William||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)|
|Fremantle, Lieut.-Colonel Francis E.||MacAndrew, Maj. C. G. (Partick)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter|
|Fuller, Captain A. E. G.||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Runge, Norah Cecil|
|Ganzoni, Sir John||McCorquodale, M. S.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)|
|Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)|
|Glossop, C. W. H.||McKeag, William||Russell, Richard John (Eddisbury)|
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle||McKie, John Hamilton||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo|
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Salmon, Major Isidore|
|Goff, Sir Park||McLean, Major Alan||Salt, Edward W.|
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart|
|Gower, Sir Robert||Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Scone, Lord|
|Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Magnay, Thomas||Selley, Harry R.|
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H,|
|Graves. Marjorie||Mender, Geoffrey le M.||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)|
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Manninnham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin|
|Gunston, Captain D. W.||Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Guy, J. C. Morrison||Martin, Thomas B.||Skelton, Archibald Noel|
|Hales, Harold K.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Hamilton. Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)|
|Hanley, Dennis A.||Millar, Sir James Duncan||Smith-Carington, Neville W.|
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Milne, Charles||Somerset, Thomas|
|Harbord, Arthur||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Hartland, George A.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)||Morgan, Robert H.||Soper, Richard|
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Southby, Commander Archibald R, J.|
|Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Morrison, William Shephard||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Moss, Captain H. J.||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Muirhead, Major A. J.||Stones, James|
|Hepworth, Joseph||Munro, Patrick||Storey, Samuel|
|Holdsworth, Herbert||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Hornby, Frank||North, Captain Edward T.||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Horobin, Ian M.||Nunn, William||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Horsbrugh, Florence||O'Connor, Terence James||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Hudson. Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)||O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(p'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Ormiston, Thomas||Templeton, William P.|
|Hurd, Percy A.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A||Thom, Lieut.-Colonel John Gibb|
|Hutchison. W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Palmer, Francis Noel||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)|
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Pearson, William G.||Thompson, Luke|
|James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Peat, Charles U.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Jamieson, Douglas||Penny. Sir George||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Jesson, Major Thomas E.||Petherick, M.||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Joel, Dudley J. Barnato||Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bliston)||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Pike, Cecil F.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Potter, John||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Kerr, Hamilton W.||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Kimball, Lawrence||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Kirkpatrick, William M.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Law, Sir Alfred||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Leckie, J. A.||Ramsden, E.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Leech. Dr. J. W.||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Withers, Sir John James|
|Levy, Thomas||Rea, Walter Russell||Womersley, Walter James|
|Liddall, Waller S.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Lindsay, Noel Ker||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe||Remer, John R.||Wragg, Herbert|
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.|
|Liewellin, Major John J.||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Lloyd, Geoffrey||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Lord Erskine and Mr. Harcourt Johnston.|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)||Robinson, John Roland|
|Adams, D, M. (Poplar, South)||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Groves, Thomas E.||Lawson, John James|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Leonard, William|
|Briant, Frank||Hall, F. (York, W.R., Normanton)||Logan, David Gilbert|
|Buchanan, George||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Lunn, William|
|Cape, Thomas||Hicks, Ernest George||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Hirst, George Henry||McGovern, John|
|Daggar, George||Hopkinson, Austin||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||John, William||Maxton, James|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Kirkwood, David||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Price, Gabriel||Wallhead, Richard C.||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Salter, Dr. Alfred||Williams, David (Swansea, East)||Mr. Charles Edwards and Mr. G. Macdonald.|
|Thorne, William James||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Tinker, John Joseph|
Resolution agreed to.
That the Order, dated the 17th day of December, 1931, made by the Board of Trade under the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, 1931, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 2nd day of February, 1932, be approved.