Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Amendment to Question [4th May].
That the Order, dated the 19th day of April, 1932, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 21st day of April, 1932, be approved."— [Mr. Chamberlain.]
Which Amendment was: In line 3, to leave out the words "be approved," and to add instead thereof the words:
by protecting inefficiency and crippling the export trades upon the hasty and ill-considered recommendation of the Import Duties Advisory Committee will inflict lasting injury upon the country."—[Mr. D. Grenfell.]
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ Mr. GEORGE HALL
We are indebted to the Chancellor of the Exchequer for the lucid and clear explanation he gave of this Order in introducing it yesterday, and may I join in saying how pleased we are at seeing that his good health is maintained? We are debating an Order which came into operation some nine days ago. The Cabinet, on the recommendation of the Advisory Committee, deemed it necessary to expedite the signing of the Order and bring it into operation and the country now is for the first time, placed under a system of high Protection, which, in its completeness, entitles it to rank among the highest Protectionist countries of the world. In a short time we have witnessed a, complete transition from Free Trade. First, low Import Duties were imposed, which were to be applied for revenue purposes only, and now, as a result of this Order, we have become a nation of high Protection. A general Order of 20 per cent. applied to manufactured goods is substantially higher than the tariffs in France, Germany and Italy, upon such goods, at least until quite recently, while the 33⅓ per cent. duty applied to iron and steel takes us at a bound into the region of high Protection.
I want to emphasise the statement that the Government had no mandate at the last election for applying Protection of this nature. The only part of the speech 1300 of the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) yesterday with which I agree was when he said that he thought there was a good deal of exaggeration in the crisis which brought the Government into existence, and not only a good deal of exaggeration but a certain amount of manipulation. He had the courage to express the opinion of almost every Member of the House. The Government are taking full advantage of the crisis and the election to fasten around the necks of the people a fiscal system which they know the country would not have accepted if the election had taken place under normal conditions. The best analysis of the position of the Government and the application of these tariff duties appeared in the "Economist" of last week. They said:The story of the way in which the country has been manoeuvred into protection is childishly simple. Last September the Government appealed for a mandate to apply any emergency measures, including tariffs, which they might deem necessary to save the pound and correct the balance of payments, but at the same time explicit pledges were given that before tariffs were permanently imposed there would be full and careful examination of all the interests involved, including those of the consumer. Political pressure drove the Government speedily into the tariff field. Mr. Runciman and Sir John Gilmour jumped in with schedules of prohibited duties which were defended as being purely temporary crises expedients. Next the exigencies of the Exchequer were paraded as the reason for the introduction of a 10 per cent. revenue tariff. Then the wheat grower was propitiated with a quota, which is protection, trying hard to disguise itself. But the ravening political wolves were in no way satisfied. All this was only a morsel, they wanted a meal, and here it is, a protectionist pottage, full and tasty.Referring to the question of economy, the "Economist" went on to say:We have thrown at the country, without discussion, without inquiry, a frankly protectionist tariff ranging from medium to high in its incidence, extensive in its scope, permanent in its design and containing all the insidious germs of growth and expansion. It is one of the most astonishing and deplorable chapters in our political history.That rightly describes the general opinion of fair-minded citizens as to the position of the Government and the way they have manoeuvred not only during the election but since the election in order to fasten upon the people of this country these high tariff proposals. It is 1301 no use saying that they are the proposals of a National Government. These are the proposals which a Tory Government would have introduced if it had been in power. The Lord President of the Council, speaking in this House on 9th February, replying to a contribution made to the Debate by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) said:He would have liked to have seen a tariff—33⅓ per cent. I think was the figure he mentioned—put on at once when we came into power. I am no less anxious for the success of this policy than my hon. and gallant Friend. Months ago, before the crisis, that was the kind of scheme that was in my mind and those of my colleagues who were working with me."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th February, 1932: col. 804, Vol. 261.]That is an indication that this scheme is the kind of scheme which would have been put into operation if the Cabinet and the Government had consisted only of Members of the Conservative party.
Now, of course, there are Members of the Liberal party in the Cabinet supporting the Government. If I might say so, they have been used as pawns in the game. They must take their share of the responsibility, for they are in the team. There are the Home Secretary, the Minister of Education and the Secretary of State for Scotland. They occasionally speak on the other side, but put the ball into their own net. After the fatherly advice given by the right hon. Member for Epping yesterday I have no doubt that we shall hear very little more of their Free Trade convictions. The Home Secretary's speech yesterday was certainly in a very modified form, compared with the speech that he delivered when the 10 per cent. import duties were introduced. The President of the Board of Trade is right up in the forward line of the team. He is the centre forward, kicking almost all the goals, and if he keeps on as he is I have no doubt that he will soon be the captain of the team.
The nation is now beginning to realise what the application of these duties will mean. The public will soon begin to learn in earnest what Protection really is, for these duties will be felt by every householder, every retailer of goods, and every manufacturer in the country. We predict that the results will be very disconcerting, 1302 especially to the manufacturers, who have fondly imagined that they can get the best out of both worlds. In the course of the Debate yesterday the Home Secretary referred to a Chinese saying that mankind suffers from five great evils, flood, plague, famine, robbers and rulers. The world need not suffer very much these days from floods, plague and famine, so far as the production of the commodities which the world requires is concerned, though I do not suggest that the world does not still suffer from robbers and rulers.
The Home Secretary referred to production and the abundance of all those things which the world to-day provides. That position was also referred to by several hon. Members during their speeches yesterday. We find to-day that scientists and great inventors have thrown into the laps of the people of the world an abundance of all the good things required for the human race. There is food in abundance; the earth has never been more generous in its provision for the people of the world, the raw materials for clothes, boots and shoes, labour and machinery in abundance, and transport to convey those goods from one end of the world to the other. We may describe the world as being in the condition that every country has an abundance of almost all the good things of life, and yet in every country, while there is that abundance, there are millions of people who are in want. The great problem ought not to be how to restrict imports, or how to restrict plenty reaching want, but how far it is the function of the rulers and governments of this and other countries to bring plenty into the hands of want.
The Home Secretary told us yesterday that there were 20,000,000 persons unemployed in the world. If a census was taken of the number of unemployed in the world to-day I believe it would be found that there were between 30,000,000 and 35,000,000, not because there is a shortage of raw material, not because of plague, not because of floods, but because the world is producing too much to suit the purchasing power of the people and the people are unable to buy. What is wanted is not Protection to prevent goods reaching the people, so much as co-operation amongst the peoples of the world, so that the people can have the goods which the scientists and the inventors have placed at their disposal. The Financial 1303 Secretary to the Treasury referred to this problem last night and spoke of conditions in the 19th century compared with the 20th. He said, in effect, "Here are these difficulties, and we must have new methods and new measures to deal with them." I do not know whether he regards Protection measures as new measures, and a tariff as a new method. A tariff was in operation in this country until 80 years ago.
§ Mr. HALL
It is very evident that the hon. and gallant Gentleman does not know his history, for the social and economic distress of the people in those Protectionist days was such that they demanded the abolition of Protection and the adoption of Free Trade. Can the Financial Secretary to the Treasury point to any country in the world where, after Protection has been in operation for many years, the general conditions are better in those countries; and can he say that those countries were better able than this country to face the crisis of last year? Had the Financial Secretary been present I would have asked him whether he would prefer residing in one of those countries to residing in this country. The President of the Board of Trade told us of the position of the export trade for the first three months of this year, when this country was passing through its life struggle and facing a crisis which was unprecedented except during the War period. At that time the export trade of this country was more to our advantage than the export trade of any other competing country in the world was to that country's advantage.
Then there comes the question of unemployment. One of my hon. Friends gave the figures of unemployment in America, the paradise of the Protectionist, as something like 17,000,000. I have figures of 10,000,000 to 12,000,000, and I am told they are the Federation of Labour figures. I was very interested to read in the "Daily Telegraph" on Friday last—it is not an extreme Socialist or Labour paper—in very large print the following headings:Terrible Plight of New York Workers. 1,200,000 men, women and children destitute. The City overrun with Beggars. 1304 Courts filled with food queues. Demand for complete rebuilding of Social Order,and so on. Is that the condition in which the Chancellor of the Exchequer wants the workers of this country to be? I doubt very much whether the working-class people or the unemployed of London would like to change places with the unemployed of New York at the present time, or whether any of our 2,600,000 or 3,000,000 unemployed would wish to change places with the unemployed in America. The unemployed in this country, which was a Free Trade country until recently, would hardly like to change places with the unemployed in any other country. Not that I am arguing for a moment that the condition of the unemployed here is all that can be desired—far from it. But the condition of the unemployed in this country is infinitely better than the condition of the unemployed in most of the Protectionist countries.
I want to examine this problem. Much was said about the manufacturer yesterday. Much was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as to the need of these duties for Budget purposes. Very little consideration was given to the condition of working-class people in this country under Protection. I was very interested to read a report to the effect that, whilst some industries are receiving the advantages of increased Protection, the employers in the cotton textile industry of Lancashire are asking for a reduction in wages, on the ground that otherwise it will be impossible for them to keep their factories going. There, on the one hand, you have the employer getting the full advantages of Protection, if there are any advantages, and at the same time he is pressing the people in his employment to submit to a reduction in wages.
We can see no advantage that is likely to come to the working people of this country as a result of the application of these Orders. We are of opinion, as stated in our Amendment, that the Advisory Committee were much too hasty in their conclusions and in presenting their report. We are not satisfied that there was the urgency which was indicated. I would draw the attention of the Chancellor of the Exchequer to one matter. Will he say how far members of the Advisory Committee have a right to declare policy, and whether policy is not to 1305 remain in the hands of the Government? I do not want to make too big a point of this, but I was very surprised, in reading one of the morning papers a week ago, to discover that the chairman of the Advisory Committee attended a function in London, the dinner of the London Chamber of Commerce, and in a speech intended not only for those at the dinner but for the country at large, said that they must not regard the 33⅓ per cent. as any indication of what was to happen in the future. He said that the duty was put on as a purely abnormal duty because of the dumping into this country, and that, in short, it was a temporary duty. I should have thought that any declaration of policy must be stated in this House by a responsible Minister and not by anyone connected with the Advisory Committee.
There is a further question as to the inquiries which are made by the Advisory Committee. We are a little concerned as to whether they can get all the information really necessary to satisfy them and justify them in making an Order. Take the history of the setting up of this Advisory Committee. It was not appointed until 1st March. The committee had to arrange their machinery; they had to agree on the question of general principle; but by 8th April their report was signed. That is to say, that five weeks after their appointment their report was signed and in the hands of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The duties which the Advisory Committee are supposed to have considered and upon which they have arrived at a decision cover a very wide range of industries and deal with many articles, from oysters to cream of tartar, from knives to ploughs, candles to blankets, leather goods to groups of iron and steel. There are 134 separate duties, and all recommended in the space of five weeks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us yesterday that there was a possibility that mistakes were made. I think it would have been better for a little more time to have been taken regarding the application of these duties. Then perhaps we would not have been warned in the report and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer that there was the possibility of mistakes having been made.
Of course mistakes have been made. We were reminded of that yesterday, for with the exception of the two speeches 1306 from the Front Bench and one from the right hon. Member for Epping, almost all the supporters of the Government who spoke referred to mistakes and referred to the Order as far as it affected commodities produced in their own districts. The hon. Member for Sheffield, Central (Mr. Boulton) complained about cutlery, and said that instead of a reduction of the duty there should have been an increase allowed. The hon. Member for the Brightside Division (Mr. H. Russell) wanted the Government to give a 50 per cent. duty on heavy steel, and he complained about the reduction of the duty on safety razor blades.
Then the hon. Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Ramsay) talked about several different commodities manufactured in his division, such as enamelled baths and illuminated glassware, and then he came to steel and said that, notwithstanding the 33⅓ per cent. duty on steel, there was a possibility that we could still buy steel more cheaply from the foreigner than from British firms. We had a similar complaint from the hon. Member for Belfast, North (Mr. Somerset), who referred to the duty on silk. Not only are Members of Parliament complaining, but where there has been reduction in the duties the Advisory Committee must have been overwhelmed with applications from the representatives of those industries to hear a statement of their case. We are told of dissatisfaction at Bradford with the new drapery and clothing tariff, and of dissatisfaction at Leicester, Nottingham and other places. One could go on repeating the same thing, covering almost every town where industries have been protected and where there has been a reduction in the protection. As soon as the reduction takes place, the Advisory Committee and the Members of Parliament concerned are overwhelmed with representations to have the duties renewed.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer yesterday spent some time dealing with the question of iron and steel. He referred at some length to the question of the need for reorganisation, but I cannot say that he insinuated that the Industry was inefficient. I am not going to make any charge against the condition of the industry, but I have no objection to standing by the statement that was made by the right hon. Gentleman the 1307 President of the Board of Trade some 18 months ago, not so much against the inefficiency of the industry, but as to the need for the industry to group together into very much larger units. The right hon. Gentleman made a very strong and striking speech dealing with the matter, and I have no doubt that there is something radically wrong with the steel industry. No industry in the country has had more committees of inquiry, except, perhaps, the coalmining industry. There was a Departmental Committee of the Board of Trade which inquired into the position of the iron and steel industry after the War. The Balfour Committee dealt in the same way with the iron and steel industry. There was a Civil Research Committee of the Cabinet in 1925, and another in 1929. As a result of those four committees of inquiry, the Government of the day could not see their way to accede to the request of the iron and steel industry at that time. Some of those inquiries lasted for some months, yet here is an Advisory Committee which, in the course of as many days, is prepared to fix for the time being a protective duty of 33⅓ per cent.
It would be interesting if the House could know what evidence was submitted to the Advisory Committee which enabled them to come to that decision. Was the evidence only received from the iron and steel industry itself? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade referred to the duties as not only protecting the producer but also protecting the consumer. I have heard him holding forth in this House that one of the great difficulties in protecting the iron and steel industry was that for every one man employed in that industry 10 men were employed in industries in which iron and steel are the raw material. Were those industries consulted in regard to this question of the application of this tariff? Was the world position of the production of iron and steel taken into consideration? One would imagine, from what we have heard regarding the question of iron and steel, that it was only in this country that the industry was in a depressed condition, but on reference to statistics we find that not only last year, but in the 1308 first three months of this year, in the actual production of iron and steel, the capacity of the productive side of the industry in this country showed a higher percentage in actual employment than in most of the other iron and steel producing countries. In America, only 22 per cent. of the capacity for iron and steel was in operation. There was a larger proportion in Germany and a larger proportion in France, but in no place was there such a large proportion as there was in this country. The one place where there is an expanding iron and steel industry is Russia. That is very largely the result of their planning and the need for iron and steel material in the development of their country.
I am not going to make charges of inefficiency, but there are certain factors in the production of iron and steel which ought to be taken into account. I read a statement which was issued by the National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers and I was astounded at something which it contained. It said, dealing with the question of higher capital charges:All competing countries have rehabilitated their industry out of War compensation or national funds, and have liquidated their pre-War fixed capital debts by inflation. In the United Kingdom the interest on fixed capital amounts to no less than 15s. per ton at the present rate of production.It is almost impossible to get the actual cost of wages per ton of steel produced in this country, but I have been able to ascertain the figure, which has been given to me for the best finished steel, as anything from 9s. to 14s. per ton. Yet the statement from the Steel Federation fixes the capital charges at no less than 15s. on every ton of steel produced in this country. Did the Advisory Committee take those factors into consideration?
We are told that there was a question as to wages costs. I would like to have reminded the right hon. Gentleman of this fact when he referred to all the advantages of protective duties. Had he considered the wages paid to persons employed in the iron and steel industry in those countries where iron and steel is protected? Taking, again, the statement of the Iron and Steel Manufacturers' Federation:The ratio of average wages on a gold basis in the iron and steel industry of the United Kingdom and those of Continental 1309 countries is represented by the following: United Kingdom, 100; Germany, 59; France, 47; Luxemburg, 44 and Belgium, 40.Continental wages, it adds, had further declined since those ratios were calculated. That is the position. We are told that the workpeople in this country are looking to Protection as their salvation. There is another aspect. In the Trade and Engineering Supplement of the "Times" for March, a reference was made to the very high railway charges for conveying raw material necessary to the iron and steel industry. The writer was a person who believed in the nationalisation of railways because he pointed out the advantages which the nationalised railway system gave to iron and steel industries in France, Germany and Belgium.
The iron and steel industry in this country, he said, is suffering very largely from the high cost of unloading and in other ways dealing with the raw material at the docks. He instanced Middlesbrough, and compared it with Rotterdam and with American ports, saying that the cost of unloading ore-carrying vessels was much higher at Middlesbrough. He said:The latest installation in the United States, operating on special boats with open hatches, has achieved a rate of unloading little short of phenomenal—namely, 10,000 tons in about 3½ hours, at an average cost of 3d. per ton.He said that it would be as well for the iron and steel producers to give some thought to that aspect, instead of trying to bring pressure, as they have been doing, upon this House, to give a preference of 33⅓ per cent. Manufacturers of goods of which iron and steel is the raw material, are very concerned about the position at the present time. The London Iron, Steel, Tinplate and Metal Merchants' Section of the London Chamber of Commerce passed a resolution a week ago that they were very concerned about the question of raw material to enable them to produce goods which would compete in the world's markets. No less a person than Sir Herbert Austin has said:The additional duties should have been made consequent on the industries themselves undertaking that no increase in price would take place. I am very afraid of profiteering resulting, and that would be fatal.1310 [Interruption.] I heard a remark from an hon. Member that Sir Herbert Austin has benefited very largely as the result of the protective tariff in the industry in which he is employed. That is an example of the business men who want Protection for the things they sell, but do not want it for the raw materials that they use. That is the great difficulty.
§ Major BEAUMONT THOMAS rose—
§ 4.30 p.m.
§ Mr. HALL
The hon. and gallant Member is very fond of interrupting on this subject. I have scarcely ever been in this House when a speech was being delivered dealing with iron and steel that the hon. and gallant Member has not attempted to interrupt. He will have an opportunity of making his statement. I take the position of the imports of iron and steel into this country and of the exports of iron and steel products—of the finished article. I have here a return giving the value of the iron and steel imported into this country from 1922 until last year. I find that the value of the iron and steel products imported into this country over the period of the last 10 years amounted to £225,000,000. That is quite a large sum, but the value of the iron and steel products exported from this country during the same period amounted to no less than £620,000,000. As a result of these protective duties it would appear as though we are prepared to sacrifice the larger for the smaller and that is what we on this side are very much concerned about.
I would ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Government whether anything is being done with regard to the better marketing of iron and steel products? I have here a copy of a report on United Kingdom trade in India during the financial year 1930–31 by Mr. Thomas M. Ainscough, His Majesty's senior trade commissioner in India, and I have been astounded to discover from that report the falling off which has taken place in the export of iron and steel goods from this country to India. In the course of this report it is suggested that English manufacturers have now left the field, in that market, to the Belgians, and it is also suggested that there should be a commissioner or someone in India, representing the iron and steel industry, for the 1311 purpose of pushing British iron and steel goods there. I do not wish to weary the House with quotations but I would direct their attention to that report, from which they will be able to see at once that there has been a gradual falling off in the export of iron and steel goods from this country to India.
Then, with regard to the question of our export trade, only last week I read a report to the effect that Russia had placed an order for a very large quantity of iron and steel goods in Germany. It is stated that an agreement has been reached between the Soviet trade delegation in Germany and the Association of German Iron and Steel Manufacturers, covering 300,000 tons of rolling mill products, consisting of 60,000 tons of sections and semi-products, 120,000 tons of bar iron and 120,000 tons of plate and universal iron. These orders amount to approximately 30,000,000 marks, and it is said that these orders are taking something like 15.5 per cent. of the total output of iron and steel goods in Germany. It is also said that British manufacturers were invited to consider that order, and that it was only a question of six months' credit which stood in the way of the order coming to this country instead of being placed in Germany. There is Germany —a bankrupt country, so we are told—a nation which is dependent upon outside credit to get on her economic legs again, and yet Germany has got this order which will employ 15.5 per cent. of her capital men and machinery for a whole year, although we could have got that order if we had been prepared to give the same facilities to Russia as Germany was prepared to give.
I am afraid that, in connection with this question, too much consideration is given to the protection of the import trade and not sufficient to getting more export trade. Since we started on our gamble we find that tariffs have been increased. Quotas are being applied and all sorts of devices adopted to prevent goods from this country going into those countries which are going to suffer as a result of these duties. If this country is to regain prosperity and give to the people a standard of comfort, as high as, or higher than, that of most continental countries, it can only be done by maintaining 1312 as high a standard of efficiency as possible. Industry should have efficiently planned and well-managed plant, manned by willing energetic and happy workpeople, and ancillary services, operating with equal efficiency, while national policy must be so directed as to permit of those operations being carried out under conditions which make possible the maximum measure of efficiency. There is nothing in these Orders which will in any way tend to more efficient industry.
If there is any industry which has received more from Governments than the coal industry, I have yet to know it. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council—no doubt well-intentioned—in 1925 gave a subsidy which amounted to £23,000,000 of public money. That subsidy was frittered away. It was given to the foreigner and the mining industry was no whit better off for it. I know that the right hon. Gentleman will argue that it tided over a period which enabled the commission appointed by him to get to work. Then we had the extension of the working day, we had reduced wages, we had de-rating, and at no time was any condition attached to any of the concessions given to the mine-owners of this country, that they should consider the reorganisation of the industry. Those concessions were given without any consideration, just as the protective duties which are at present being applied are without any consideration. Twelve months hence these industries will be in exactly the same condition from the point of view of efficiency as they are at the present time.
§ Mr. HALL
I was about to point out that without a flourishing export trade our home market could not possibly 1313 maintain a country like Britain, dependent as it is for its food and raw materials upon imports from oversea. We are of opinion that the Government are going about their work in the wrong way and that these duties will impede trade and indeed are already doing so. The coal industry can be regarded as the pawn of Protection. There is no industry which is suffering more as a result of these duties than the coal mining industry. In my own district some two or three collieries have been closed down —collieries which were dependent or the foreign coal trade—owing to the application of restrictions on imports into foreign countries from this country. Thousands of men have been thrown out of work in that way. Only this week the French restrictions have been extended 10 per cent., which means that thousands of men will be thrown out of employment. I do not know what advantage we are expected to get from the new industries which the President of the Board of Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade have said are being set up in this country. We have not yet been given any approximate number of persons employed in those new industries but I think that very many more men have been thrown out of work as a result of the restrictions applied by foreign countries to imports from this country, than are likely to be employed in that way.
The trouble which is at the base of our difficulties is that the world as a whole is falling away from prosperity to a gradual contraction of trade and credit and no country, whatever its fiscal system, has been saved from the decline in trade which has brought tens of millions of people in the world to the verge of starvation. All that the Government and the Advisory Committee can do is to assist to erect more trade barriers and to restrict trade. We believe that tariffs will do nothing to improve the trade of this country or make any contribution to the improvement in world trade. I can see no hope for political peace in the absence of an economic peace and there can be no material progress or social contentment without peaceable economic relations between the nations of the world. In the proposals which we are discussing to-day we see a further attempt to limit trade instead of extending it and a continuation 1314 of this nightmare of world depression which is bringing civilisation to discredit and the whole world to ruin.
§ Brigadier-General Sir HENRY CROFT
I am sure that the House has listened to the speech of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) with the greatest interest. The hon. Member is always courteous and we all appreciate the manner in which he presents his case and the fairness of his statements. Some of us, however, would have been better pleased on this occasion had he concentrated more on the Order which the House is now considering because we are not prepared to go into all the controversies of the coal dispute and so on. I should like to tell the hon. Member at once that, if he thinks he was correctly indicating the opinion of the Conservative party, when he said that the series of Measures now under consideration were nothing but the proposals of a Tory-Government, he should be reminded of the fact that had there been a Tory Government in office, without any agreement to differ, they would not have accepted anything so mild as this Order. I almost feel that I ought to apologise, as a lifelong Protectionist, for taking part in this Debate because we have heard remarkable speeches from my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) and from the doughty champions of the old Free Trade cause in past days, who now sit on the Government Beach. It might have been regarded as sufficient if they had been left to debate the question on this occasion. But I should not like anybody to imagine, because they have spoken so frankly and fearlessly of changed conditions, that a Protectionist like myself has changed his opinions at the present day.
The hon. Member for Aberdare began his speech in a manner which is rather fashionable nowadays by saying that there was no mandate for this policy. I would therefore remind the House once again of one or two facts in connection with the last General Election. Every fair-minded person will agree that the great case of the Prime Minister and of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Conservative party was that the Election was to endorse the balancing of the Budget and measures to balance our trade. Those were the two issues and there were no other issues. In case there 1315 should be any doubt we have only to turn to the declaration of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) the Leader of the Liberal party then, who made the point quite clear. The House doubtless remembers what the right hon. Gentleman said in his wireless oration.I implore my fellow countrymen not to abandon in a moment of panic the sound and healthy position which this country holds for the malarial swamp of tariffs. The Government appear to have discussed only a formula for the election to enable them to have a free hand to impose a crude general tariff. The choice left to the electors is between a food-taxing Tory and a Free Trade Labour candidate. On these grounds we definitely urge every Liberal to vote for the Socialist in preference to the Conservative.That statement was very emphatic as to what was the issue of the election in the case of the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs. Only a few days later there was a message from the leader of the Socialist party, Mr. Arthur Henderson, who said:I am standing at this election as an unqualified Free Trader.I think hon. Members opposite will not say that I am stating the case unfairly when I remind them that the present leader of the Liberal party, the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) at the eleventh hour, with Professor Ramsay Muir, ran 86 Liberal candidates against Conservative Protectionists, and in 81 cases only six were returned to this House. The issue in those constituencies could never have been in doubt. I think the country generally is well satisfied that the Government are interpreting the views expressed by the country at the election.
The hon. Member spoke about the history of this question. I should like to call attention to a fact which is very interesting. We are always hearing that the one thing we have to do is to keep an eye on our exports. Hon. Members opposite, with few exceptions, say that exports are the test, that it is by Free Trade that our exports can be increased, that any protective measures must decrease imports and, therefore, decrease exports. I would remind the Committee that according to Mulhall, the celebrated statistician, and the figures 1316 can easily be substantiated, in the 100 years prior to the adoption of Free Trade, with one or two exceptions, our exports exceeded our imports, but in the 80 years since the policy of free imports was introduced that position has been reversed. That fact ought to be realised when we speak as if the Free Trade position was the law of the Medes and the Persians. It is also desirable to remember that, where this question has been put to the test, we find during the last 20 or 30 years that the protectionist countries have increased their exports more rapidly than we have increased ours. That being so, we ought not to attach too much importance to the one supreme test which some hon. Members opposite are always in favour of applying.
The hon. Member had something to say in regard to unemployment in the United States of America. I agree with the right hon. Member for Darwen in this, that at the present time we have a situation which is quite unusual and that we cannot make the usual tests. Whatever may be the figure of unemployment in America, whether it be the 8,000,000 which was given by Presidential authority, or whether it is the higher figure that has been stated, we must admit that, if we take the test of 50 years, employment in the United States has always been on the up-grade, whereas we have been suffering from chronic unemployment, according to Sir Henry Campbell Bannerman, under which one-third of our population have been living on the verge of starvation. We forget when we are making these comparisons that whereas we have exported millions of people from this country the United States has received millions of people year after year and has been able to maintain a wonderful prosperity until the financial collapse of two years ago.
I want to say a few words with regard to the actual proposals that we are discussing. I believe the vast majority of my friends will join with me in congratulating the Government on the broad plan of their policy as announced in the order. We feel that they have, perhaps a little tardily, interpreted the true meaning of their mandate, and I am sure that they have given satisfaction to the industries and the workers in this country. No tariff in its inception can possibly be perfect and, of course, there are mistakes in 1317 this adoption of policy, mistakes which, fortunately, can be rectified at a later date. I do not intend to make an attack upon the Advisory Committee, It is not for me to complain of their decision. They are three gentlemen of Free Trade upbringing, who have differed from me in the past, and if they have not gone quite far enough to suit me, all I can say is that I and a large number of other hon. Members accepted the idea of an independent, impartial committee of distinguished and honest citizens, in order that we might lift this question, for all time we hope, out of the domain of party politics. If I do not approve of all that they have done, I must take my medicine, because I voted for the setting up of the Committee.
I can understand the wrath of these heavenly twins, the hon. Members for Bethnal Green (Sir P. Harris and Major Nathan) seeing that they have been robbed of their best perorations. Year after year we have heard them declare that if we had a tariff we should have bribery, log rolling and terrible corruption. Now they are in wrath because they have no longer that opportunity and they are turning round and accusing the Government of acting wrongly in setting up an impartial Committee so that logrolling cannot take place.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am glad to hear that. The right hon. Member for Darwen has made a great number of speeches on this subject. We all feel a great deal of sympathy for him because, at long last, he will no longer be able to refer to the latent corruption which he declared existed in the hearts and minds of his fellow-members on this matter. Such criticism as I desire to offer is not of an unfriendly nature, either against the proposals or against the committee. If I have any criticism to make it is against the Government or, perhaps, against Parliament for not having laid down a little more definitely what was the type and scale of duty which they considered ought to be imposed by the committee. The 50 per cent. Abnormal Importations Duties were imposed by this House with the general approval of the supporters of the Government. Even the right hon. Member for Darwen voted for the 50 per cent. duty, and practically every hon. Member 1318 opposite—there may have been one or two exceptions—nearly every Member of the Liberal party voted for those 50 per cent. Abnormal Importations Duties. Surely, in view of that decision of the House of Commons, it is a mistake so suddenly to have scaled the duties down from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent.
If we were less loyal on these benches we might say that this is a case where we might agree to differ and we might go into the Lobby against the Government. We might bring forward a wrecking Amendment, but we approve of the genera] policy of the Government and we hope that this matter will not escape the attention of the President of the Board of Trade and his colleagues. I do not think that there is any business man engaged in these particular industries who for one moment believed that there would be such a sudden scaling down within six months of the Abnormal Importations Duties coming into operation. It would have been wise in the case of the industries affected by the Abnormal Importations Duties if we had suggested in this House that the duties should be maintained for a year and thereafter scaled down to 33⅓ per cent. if, after full examination, that was considered to be wise. In these industries, and particularly in the case of pottery, cutlery, gloves and woollen textiles, there has been a very great shock.
I could give scores of cases which have been brought to my attention, in connection with an organisation of which I am a member, where foreign companies had already made arrangements to come to this country. That was one of the most hopeful signs of the harvest which the Government were going to reap. They themselves indicated that they wanted to see these industries coming here. Hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of machinery had already been ordered, or tenders had been asked for it in this country. Foreign key men had been admitted by the Ministry of Labour in order to start those industries. Now in very many cases the whole of the plans have had to be scrapped owing to the sudden and extraordinary decision to scale these duties down to such an extent. There is a grave position in many of these industries.
Let me take the case of silk, which is affected by the Abnormal Importation 1319 Duties to a certain extent, certainly in its branches, but which has not been dealt with in any way. Everyone who has studied the question is of opinion that the present situation of the silk industry is truly calamitous. There is no other word to describe it. There is grave distress and we are likely to see complete dislocation. Let us not forget that the silk industry is one of the greatest industries in this country. It was largely assisted by the action of the right hon. Member for Epping when he instituted the duties; but the whole situation has changed owing to the fall in prices. In the artificial silk industry there is potential employment for at least 100,000 people if we could only give that industry real security. I do not suggest that it would be possible for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to get rid of the present duties on raw material, which were levied for revenue purposes, and have done very good work, but it is imperative that some measures should be taken in order to scale up the duties on manufactured goods, especially as in some articles of silk import we find at the present time that we are imposing a greater burden upon the home producer than we are imposing in the form of taxation upon the foreign producer of goods which come into this country.
I will give one instance of how important this question is. Since the President of the Board of Trade introduced the Abnormal Importations Duties, in one particular district, ins the Lough-borough area of Leicestershire—I am indebted to the hon. Member for that district for giving me the information— over £50,000 has been spent by four separate concerns in new machinery or in altering machinery in order to meet the increased demands as a result of the right hon. Gentleman's good work. Is it not wise that we should realise the pressing point in regard to these industries and take immediate steps to put matters right. The same argument applies in regard to woollen textiles. No one can dispute that the policy of the Government brought real hope to those industries, but that hope has been turned to gloom. I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that. It is the same with regard to cutlery, fabric gloves 1320 and pottery. These three industries were all safeguarded. They had a 33⅓ per cent. protection, certainly two of the industries, and now I think I am right in saying that that protection has been reduced to 15 per cent. They had nothing under Mr. Snowden's first Budget, then the protection was fixed at 33⅓ per cent., later at 50 per cent., and now it is down to 20 per cent. This concertina business is rather distracting for industry, and the time has come when we ought to try and give some confidence and permanence by having a definite plan in regard to these industries. I submit that a duty of 20 per cent. cannot afford any protection, if I may use that word, to the industries I have specified, because in practically every case the labour costs of their competitors on the Continent do not exceed 50 per cent. of ours, and, as we have heard from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman, in one case they are down to 40 per cent. Therefore, it is imperative that these cases should be reviewed, and I have such confidence in the Advisory Committee that I believe they will be reviewed at an early date. I would have liked to ask the Leader of the Opposition, if he had been present, and Liberal Members opposite whether they have made any calculation as to the true gain or loss to this country as a result of the Abnormal Imports Duties. I think this analysis will interest the House. This is a list of the main commodities affected: Cotton manufactures, woollen yarns and manufactures, linen manufactures, cordage, carpets, tailoring, dressmaking, pottery, hand tools, glass bottles, and oilcloth. If we take that group we find the total value of imports during the four months from December, 1931, to March, 1932, had fallen to £1,853,000. Supposing we paid the whole of the duty of 50 per cent., which of course I should dispute, that would amount to £926,000. During those 16 weeks 110,000 persons have been employed in those industries who would otherwise not have been employed. They would have drawn on an average £l a week unemployment pay, a total sum for the 16 weeks of 1,700,000. Even if the contention were correct, which, of course, is grotesque, that this country paid the whole amount of the duty imposed, that would leave a 1321 credit balance of £833,000 in this country. These are facts which ought to be realised, because, after all, it is the cost of unemployment which is killing industry in this country. It is one of the principal causes of our high taxation, and one of the reasons why we cannot compete successfully with our foreign competitors in the export trades.
I would say one word with regard to the iron and steel question. Here, again, I cannot believe it was wise to have imposed a limited period of three months during which the duty of 33⅓ per cent. should be in force. Would any man start a blast furnace working again with only three months' security? I cannot believe it. I believe it would take him that time to re-light and to plan out his future. It is highly desirable, and I will not put it higher than that, if we want the steel industry, on which so much depends, to revive, that we should came to a definite decision, so that those whom we are asking to reconstruct and to rationalise shall know that they have definite security under which they can spend money on reconditioning. No one will lend money to the steel industry to reconstruct it unless there is a really definite security for a period of years. The right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), in his speech yesterday, referred to one case about which we have heard a great deal, that of Bessemer steel. One might have imagined, when he spoke about the imports of Bessemer steel, that we had never heard of it in this country. In point of fact, we invented Bessemer steel, but we gave up its production because our steel makers regarded it as an inferior steel for general purposes. It so happens that large quantities of that steel are coming into this country now in order to be used in the tinplate industry and also for export, but I would remind the House that the vast proportion of our exports of tinplate up to the end of 1929 were made of British steel throughout.
Does anybody deny that if we were to say to the steel industry, "You shall have a five years' or, possibly, a 10 years' period of definite Protection," we should not immediately have a Bessemer plant or similar plant set up in the country? In such circumstances we could quite well compete with foreign makers. The steel industry has been put in a very difficult position. What is more important than 1322 anything else is that they should know where they are as soon as possible. I think most Members in my party thought it was wrong to discriminate against the steel industry in the case of shipbuilding. We believe that our steel industry, if given security, can so reduce its costs that it could ultimately provide the material for all the great industries dependent upon it. Our shipping industry and our engineering industry were built up on the steel industry of this country, and if the steel industry perishes all these subsidiary industries are likely to perish also; and all those industries which think they are acting wisely at the present moment in depending on imports of foreign material are likely to see their own manufactures imported unless we give protection to that basic trade for a period of years.
The right hon. Member for Darwen made great play last night with the question of prices. I think he had to do an awful lot of skating in order to explain how world conditions had modified the old views with regard to prices, and how, although prices had not gone up as a result of all these iniquitous duties, what had happened was due to various occurrences throughout the world. I was surprised that so accurate a political speaker should have made the mistake of saying that prices went up after the silk duties and the glove duties were imposed. Those are the only two he could quote. I say here and now that under the Safeguarding Duties all British products came down in price; as a matter of fact, the only exception was in the small industry of gas mantles. In reply to what he said about silk and gloves I would refer to a statement made in this House in May, 1930, by the late Mr. William Graham, then President of the Board of Trade, that the prices of gloves had all come down and marched with the general fall in world prices. Therefore, it is no good for the right hon. Gentleman to say that they went up in price. As to silk, since the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping so magnificently cheapened the silk products of this country in the case of artificial silk manufactures, that whereas the price of silk yarn in 1925 was 6s. per lb., in 1932 it was 2s. 9d. per lb., the right hon. Gentleman can congratulate himself on what he did. Taking 1323 real silk prices, in 1925 the price was 28s. 8d. per lb. of 16 ounces, and in 1932 it had come down to 10s. 5d.
§ Major NATHAN
I hope the hon. and gallant Member recalls that the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), when Chancellor of the Exchequer, stated that although these duties had reduced prices it was idle to deny that had it not been for the duties they would have been reduced still further.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am very much obliged to the hon. and gallant Member. I always think his quotations from other people's speeches are much more effective than the speeches he makes himself. I also want to thank him for proving to me once more, what I think we all realise, the extraordinary moderation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping, who never desires to overstate his case, and at that time wanted to make it perfectly clear that his future was guarded if anything happened. [Interruption.] It was not intended to be a double-edged compliment. I hope that my right hon. Friend did not think I was saying anything unfriendly, because he knows the admiration I have for him and the causes for which he stands. It is always wise for a Chancellor of the Exchequer to be cautious.
§ Mr. CHURCHILL
My hon. and gallant Friend must remember that I was then a Minister in a Government which had come into office upon a definite pledge not to introduce Protection.
§ Sir H. CROFT
Yes, and I am not for one moment suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman was not taking a very proper line. I know that he tried very hard not to give any protective advantage on account of that pledge. I think the words he used were, "Just a, small thing in the scale,"—a small turn of the market for the home producer. But, wittingly or unwittingly, he did a great thing for British industry, and, anyhow, I welcome the reinforcement he brought to the cause of the nation in his great speech yesterday. The right hon. Member for Darwen told us that the drop of 40 per cent. in world prices had been a catastrophe, and I think that is probably the opinion of most Members of all parties. Why was it a catastrophe? Because 1324 producers all over the world cannot produce at an economic level. The right hon. Gentleman went on to say that we must not raise British prices without raising world prices. I am afraid we have not got the power of raising world prices, but that is no reason why we should not try to make our industries in this country economic once more, and give them the opportunity of producing at a profit. I cannot see any reason why British industries should perish while the right hon. Gentleman sings the "Internationale," and is waiting for a world rise in commodity prices. If it is his contention that we should not do anything in the meantime to try to restore economic production in this country, I am afraid, adopting the simile of the escalator about which he told us yesterday, that he will find himself going backwards all the time.
He referred, also, to the question of efficiency, and we have heard about that to-day from the Opposition Front Bench. What gives the greatest hope of securing efficiency in an industry? Security. This policy of His Majesty's Government is giving security to industry, and I ask any Member who has been engaged in industry for a long period, as I have, whether I am not right in saying that a manufacturer cannot buy new machinery, expand plant or build new wings to a factory unless he knows there is going to be a market for his products. The one way of getting real efficiency in industry is to give industry a hope of being able to expand and develop. I wish the right hon. Gentleman were here now, because I should invite him to answer this question. Is it fair to suggest that the industries which were given the advantage of Protection during recent years have been inefficient? I am sure he would say "No." Could there be more efficient industries in this country than the scientific instrument industry, the optical glass industry—in which we have made amazing strides, doubling the number of workers—the motor industry, the gramophone industry, and the artificial silk industry, in which, I think everyone will agree, we practically lead the world? Those are about the only industries which have had any long period of Protection, and when we see the remarkable efficiency in them I think it will be realised that, so far from leading to inefficiency, the action taken gave hope 1325 and security to them, and gave that power of adventure and expansion which we desire to see among all our industries.
I am grateful to the House for permitting me to offer these few words, especially to those hon. Members of my own party who are present when a much more interesting question is being discussed elsewhere. May I make an appeal to those who have differed from me in the past? I hope that we are now going to give this policy a fair chance. This country is not yet out of the dangers which have confronted it, and we ought to give this policy a fair trial. No one will deny that it could not have been introduced at a worse time, when the purchasing power of the world is very low, and we ought to give it a fair trial over a period of time. If it fails, then it will be patriotic of hon. Gentlemen opposite to try to reverse the decision of the Government. In the desperate condition in which we have been, and with the difficulties of the world confronting us; realising that in days gone by under Protection we became the supreme country in the world, and that under Free Trade we have sunk from that high position to the third position among the producing nations, I beg men of all parties to give this policy a fair trial, and instead of making sniping speeches at the Government, to give one more chance to the policy which Beaconsfield once said made this country great.
§ Mr. LECKIE
I wish to confine my remarks to one point only and to bring before the House the deleterious effect of the new Orders on the re-export trade, which is a very important part of our foreign trade. We are all proud that London has regained its position as the financial hub of the world, but it is sometimes forgotten that London, in addition to being the financial hub, is the centre of the world's commerce and merchanting. Our wholesale merchants in London are the most enterprising in the world. Anyone who knows the ramifications of our merchant trade knows that they send their goods into every part of the world. London is full of goods drawn from all parts of the globe ready to be re-exported, and it has been called a great clearing house for trade. It is, therefore, absolutely necessary that machinery should be set up for a system of drawbacks so that when goods are re-exported 1326 the duties are refunded. I know something about the wholesale trade of London, and I know what a unique position it holds as a world centre for the textile industry. Business men come from every country to buy in London, not only from the Dominions and the Colonies, but from all continental nations, the United States of America, South America and, indeed, from the Far East.
Under this new Order imported textile goods have to pay a duty of 20 per cent. It is, therefore, of vital importance that the Government should encourage this trade, which certainly cannot continue unless some arrangement is made for drawbacks on the re-exported goods. When the Abnormal Duties Order came before the House I and other Members urged this question, but we were told by the President of the Board of Trade that the Abnormal Duties were only a temporary arrangement and that therefore it was hardly worth while to make special arrangements for drawbacks. The duties under this new Order, however, are not temporary. It is, therefore, time, and more than time, that this question of drawbacks was tackled in a proper manner. I have been asked by the Wholesale Textile Association to bring the matter before the House. I have been provided with a number of interesting figures connected with the textile industry, showing the great falling off in the re-export of the principal goods of the drapery trade in the first three months of 1932 as compared with the first three months of 1931. In every case there is a serious decrease, and those who are in the industry are confident that it arises through the Abnormal Import Duties and the other duties that have been put on. The total re-export of the principal articles in Class III of the Board of Trade returns dropped from £425,018 in the first three months of 1931 to £144,426 in the first three months of 1932. That is a very serious situation and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade will take the matter immediately in hand.
I am informed that representations have already been made to the Tariff Advisory Committee by the Textile Association. They were made on 7th March, but two months have passed and so far the textile 1327 industry has not received any information. I would like to appeal to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade in this matter; the matter is so serious that representations might well be made to the Committee by the Board of Trade to ask the Committee to take the matter in hand immediately. There is no doubt that unless the thing is done at once the industry will lose practically all the re-export trade. That would be a serious loss to the City of London and the great merchant interests. Many thousands of people in London and elsewhere are employed in the warehouse business dealing with goods which are brought inwards and with goods which are being sent outwards. There are the workers in the docks who handle the goods, and the workers on the railways. These people will be seriously affected if something is not done to save the re-export trade. We understood that the import duties were to be placed on a scientific basis, but any scientific tariff must provide for proper drawbacks when goods are re-exported. There are some drawbacks on silk, and it would be a comparatively easy matter to extend the system so as to cover all textile goods and every other kind of goods. I know that it will cost money, but it is necessary if our ex-export trade is to be saved. I should like my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade without delay to make some representations to the Tariff Advisory Committee in order that some proper system of drawbacks may be introduced.
§ Major BEAUMONT THOMAS
I should like to preface my remarks by offering my apologies to the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) for interrupting him while he was making his speech. He was referring to a statement made by Sir Herbert Austin, who expressed some fears as to the result of these duties on steel and some consternation lest prices were increased. I am sure that Sir Herbert Austin and the hon. Member will agree that in the motor industry, as a result of Protection, there has been an increased output, and as a result of the increased output, the price of motor cars horse power for horse power has been reduced to a much greater extent than they have been reduced 1328 in any other country. I feel, therefore, that Sir Herbert Austin's fears are groundless. I would like to remind the hon. Member that about 20 months ago I had the honour to move a Resolution in this House with regard to the iron and steel industry. The Resolution was accepted by the Government, of which the hon. Gentleman was a Member, and by the whole House. I carefully worded the Resolution. It was a mild Resolution and did not lay down any particular lines upon which the Government should act, but it did ask for immediate action. At that time many thousands of men were in work in the steel industry. Within a very few weeks these men were out of work, and they have been out of work ever since. As I understand it, the criticism which is levelled to-day against the Advisory Committee is that they have been too swift in their action and that they have not taken long enough for consideration.
The hon. Member, of course, has some experience in taking a long time in making up his mind as to what should be done with the iron and steel industry. As soon as his Government came into office they sent a delegation to Europe to find out about the conditions there. The delegation returned and made its report, which was not given to the House. They definitely reported that iron and steel products were manufactured on the Continent under conditions such as would not be tolerated in this country for a moment. I am not going into all the details as to wages, the standard of living, and so on, but that, roughly speaking, was the report. The delegation also reported that, generally speaking in this country, the iron and steel plants compared very favourably with regard to efficiency of equipment with any iron and steel plant on the Continent. One would have thought that, having received a report of that kind, and being a Government which always said they represented the working classes, they would have taken immediate steps to deal with the situation. Whatever policy they may have believed in, they never attempted to introduce it into this House. They speak about reorganisation, but they never attempted to introduce any policy of reorganisation. They allowed this industry to go down and down, and to-day the Advisory Committee has had to come to its rescue—it is none too soon. I should like to congratulate 1329 the Advisory Committee on coming to some conclusion with regard to the very serious position of the iron and steel industry. The House will agree that the industry is of far-reaching importance, and it is difficult to come to detailed decisions in regard to every part of it and every operation in which it is engaged.
I would like to point out that we have had during the last few months an import duty of 10 per cent. on iron and steel products. It was stated by some hon. Members who sit on the Front Bench, and by others who sit below the Gangway, that this would mean that the price of steel would go up and the consumer in this country would suffer. As a matter of fact, iron and steel products have never been lower than they have been during the last few months, even with the 10 per cent. duty on them. Sheet bars have been coming into Swansea, delivered at the works, at a cost of £3 7s. 6d. a ton, duty paid, freight paid, and the difference resulting from our having gone off the gold standard also paid. We know perfectly well that the foreign manufacturer cannot be getting more than about £l 17s. per ton on that price. We know that his costs are nearer £4 a ton. We have had a 33⅓ per cent. duty put on, and sheet bars are now being offered to-day in Swansea, for June and July deliveries, at round about £4 1s. or £4 2s. per ton. Again the foreigner is paying the whole of that duty. But we have this position, that they are still dumping into this country sheet bars at roughly speaking 9s. a ton lower in price than they can be produced here.
I am aware that hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway, and some who sit on the Front Bench, but not so many who sit with the Opposition, will say that this is a great advantage. I want to ask this— is it an advantage to the iron and steel industry of this country to be put out of operation entirely, and for the re-rollers and tinplate manufacturers to become entirely dependent on the foreigner for their raw material? Germany has increased her production of tinplates during the last few years. She will go on, and the time will come when she will produce her own tinplates and finished steel from the raw material, and we shall not get the raw material we require except at the price which the foreigner 1330 chooses to ask. What we require in the industry is stability. The only criticism I have to offer with regard to this order is that we have no guarantee that the duty of 33⅓ per cent. will be stabilised after three months. We have no guarantee that it will not be lower. If we have that guarantee, I can assert that during the next few weeks we shall see blast furnace plants of a big capacity restarted in this country. That requires capital, and will take several weeks. Without stability we shall not see it. We shall not see re-organisation or anything else unless the industry is given stability. I want to deal with this question from the point of view of the consumer I do not know where hon. Members get their information from. The right hon. Gentleman the Home Secretary stated yesterday—
§ Major THOMAS
Well, I object to people getting up in this House and speaking about things of which they know nothing. If they were to study things first hand, instead of depending on pamphlets and literature given out by the various political parties, we should be very much better off in this House. But the Home Secretary made this statement:The steel which is used by our tinplate manufacturers is practically not made at all in this country.Then how did we manage during the War and up to the year 1929? The tinplate industry in this country was built up on acid steel, and not on basic Bessemer steel. The right hon. Gentleman goes on:It is what is called Bessemer basic steel, of a cheap quality, not good enough for girders or joists, though good enough for corrugated iron or tin cans."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1932; col. 1165, Vol. 265.]I absolutely object to that statement. Tin cans are made for the containing of foodstuffs, and it is essential that they should be of a good quality steel and that their manufacture should be of the highest class. We know tinplates made of acid steel are very much better than plates made of basic Bessemer steel. Neither the Home Secretary nor the hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu), who made this statement yesterday, are here now and I very much regret that. I 1331 would like to know where they get their information from. The hon. Member for Colne Valley said he had two eyes, two ears and some grey matter somewhere behind, and I think it is a pity to concentrate such forces on the kind of document we have all received from the independent Tinplate, Tern Plate and Black Plate Association. This association was formed a few months ago and this publication is the effort of a kinsman of mine, who has been very successful in pulling the legs of right hon. and hon. Members of this House. The association say they represent 20 per cent. of the producers of tinplates in this country. Since this document was issued, 5 per cent. of that 20 have left them, so this document can only be said to represent 15 per cent. of the tinplate industry.
I realise that hon. Gentlemen who rely on this information have a certain amount of interest in minority rule, or at any rate in the minority being fairly vocal. But is this House to accept the position that 15 per cent. of the tinplate industry should dictate to the remaining 85 per cent.? I am speaking here on behalf of a firm of tinplate manufacturers which is the largest producer of tin-plate in this country. We produce 40 per cent. of the total amount produced. We say quite definitely that in the first place basic Bessemer steel has never been essential to the manufacture of tinplates, and secondly that this document which has been issued has not the support of 85 per cent. of the industry. The purchase of this foreign Bessemer steel has not sold an extra tinplate and has not increased our export of tinplate. All that it has done is this: These works which have been buying foreign steel have made enormous profits, and they have made them by putting the steel industry out of work. They have merely considered themselves, and practically speaking, they have taken for their dividends the money which the State has had to find for those who have lost their employment by the introduction of this steel. That is nothing but the truth. I can produce balance sheets to prove every word I have stated.
I am going to ask this House whether it will submit to the dictation of a policy by a 15 per cent. minority who are living 1332 on the unemployed. That is speaking very strongly, but it is what we are facing at this moment. There has been some talk with regard to a drawback. If a drawback is given it simply means that the duties are no use at all. To grant a drawback would be tantamount to complete cancellation of the present duties, for the export price and the home price of tinplates is the same, and the 15 per cent. of independent works would naturally concentrate on the foreign trade in order to qualify for the 33⅓ per cent. or whatever it may be. The duty would not give to the 85 per cent. one ton more output, and would probably force them, as a protection against the activities of the 15 per cent., to close down their steel works completely and thus qualify for the rebate. I feel that these matters should be considered from a business and practical point of view.
Right hon. and hon. Members opposite know perfectly well that their supporters are looking to this policy as the only policy which will get them back to work. Some hon. Members smile. They may happen to represent Welsh constituencies, I am not sure. All I am going to say is that hon. Members should see the despair in the faces of those living in those Welsh areas who have been out of work for years and years, and now, for the first time for many years, they see some hope of future employment by the adoption of the policy of the Government. Hon. Members opposite were in office for two years and they did absolutely nothing, and they must admit that the Government have produced a policy which must be better than no policy at all. I have made my appeal for a particular industry, and I know that it is not an industry which you can restore in a night. To do this my take weeks and months, but we must have stability, and I appeal to the Advisory Committee to give us that stability so that we may know where we are in the future.
§ Mr. SALT
In addressing the House for the first time may I claim the usual indulgence which is granted so generously to Members making a maiden speech. During yesterday's Debate speeches were made by hon. Members representing various districts in the country, but most of them applied to a single industry, such as the iron and steel industry, the Belfast 1333 linen industry, the woollen or the silk industry. It is well known that there are over 1,200 trades or industries in Birmingham, and consequently a criticism or approbation of the tariffs which have recently been imposed would deal with a greater variety of trades than comment from parts of the country where one industry is dominant. I can say quite definitely that in Birmingham, although there are differences of opinion, the general feeling is strongly in favour of the tariff policy of the Government. In Birmingham we have a great variety of manufactures. For instance, we have rope works and paper works becoming increasingly busy and wire works now taking on more employés who only during the last two years have ever had to dismiss employés. The wire industry has an ancient and honourable history; it was at a wire works in Birmingham that the first cable was made for laying between this country and the United States of America.
I have been through many of the factories round about Birmingham recently, and I found in some of them quite half of their available machinery was idle. I contend that by using those factories to their full capacity, and working other factories which are entirely idle, we might add enormously to the wealth of the country; nothing is more worthless than to have a factory for which there is no work to keep it going. I should like to pay a tribute to the very happy relationship now existing between workers and employers in the Birmingham district. If a meeting of the workers were called I am sure many might say that employers "in the lump" are bad, but if you asked the opinion of the workers in regard to their own particular employer almost in every case they would tell you that they work together in great harmony.
During the Debate yesterday and this afternoon the question has been raised as to whether this Government has a mandate for the tariff policy. That question has been referred to from various parts of the House, and I do not think that I shall be unnecessarily prolonging the Debate on that point if I speak from the point of view of Birmingham, which has 12 Members in this House. The views held in Birmingham also affect many of the surrounding districts. I do not think that there is the slightest doubt as to the mandate that 1334 was given at Birmingham at the last election. In Birmingham there is a very active Liberal Press, and that Press put a questionnaire to every candidate at the last election, as to whether he supported Free Trade or Tariff Reform. Of course all the Unionist candidates answered that they stood entirely for tariffs, and that view was widely published. In addition the Liberal party in the Birmingham area issued a leaflet to all the electorate asking them to support the Socialist candidates, because the Unionist candidates had stated that they would support tariffs. The result speaks for itself, and we certainly received an unmistakable answer in Birmingham. In my own division I faced the electors after having experienced an adverse majority in 1929 of nearly 5,000, and I was returned at the last election with a majority of over 15,000. The men and women in Birmingham at that time were genuinely seeking work, and they voted for this policy of tariff reform, expecting that it would bring them work, and I am sure that they will not be disappointed.
Many hon. Members yesterday raised the question of food taxes, and some speakers suggested that that question was not answered definitely at the last election by those who are now supporting the Government. Surely there was not a single Socialist candidate who did not send out leaflets stating that if the National Government candidates were elected they would put taxes on food. At every meeting I attended during the election campaign I was heckled as to what I should do in regard to food taxes. The answer I gave was perfectly simple, and it was that in my view if we bought our food from our own farmers the money paid to the farmers would be spent in wages for workers in this country, who would purchase commodities in the industrial areas, whereas any such purchases from Russia would not be spent by Russia in purchasing goods from this country but would probably be spent in Germany and other countries. No doubt some hon. Members will say that eventually that money comes back to this country, but I am sure if it does it will take a very long time to filter back.
It was stated recently in the House that whilst we purchased £132,000,000 worth of goods from Russia last year 1335 Russia purchased from us in return only about £27,000,000 worth of goods. That shows what a great disparity there is in our trade with Russia. Purchases to the amount of £132,000,000 which went to Russia, if made in this country, would mean that that money would be used many times over during the same period. The hon. Member for Cardiganshire (Mr. Hopkin Morris) said he preferred to have 7d. in the £ placed on the Income Tax rather than attempt to raise the same amount of money by import duties, and he contended that the effect on the country would be just the same. Surely the hon. Member for Cardiganshire does not appreciate what we industrialists believe, notably the fact that we shall be able to start our idle factories and have a real live policy, whilst to attempt to raise the same amount by direct taxation would be little better than a dead policy.
I think all hon. Members must realise, when advocating still further economy, that the present Government has economised almost as far as is possible. The National Government has done a great deal in the direction of economy, and I am afraid their efforts have not met with proper appreciation. The hon. Member for Cardiganshire suggested that the £32,000,000 of revenue expected from the import duties might be raised by further economies, but the hon. Member did not make any suggestions when the Estimates were being discussed as to how that sum of money could be raised. I believe that I am in order in saying that the proper time to suggest alternative taxation is when we are discussing the Estimates. Would the hon. Member for Cardiganshire suggest that the teachers' cuts should be restored? If he does, in equity he must agree also that the cuts should be restored to the unemployed at the same time. It is very easy to talk about economy, but some alternative must be suggested, and, in my judgment, it would be easier to increase wealth than to make further cuts. Mr. Joseph Chamberlain got his great inspiration for Tariff Reform from his association with Birmingham. The fact that the country has to-day the present Chancellor of the Exchequer and President of the Board of Trade, provides us with one of those happy and rare occasions when the country has both the men and the opportunity 1336 at the same time to initiate a great new policy. I believe that the policy of the National Government will confound its critics and promote that real prosperity which we all so earnestly desire.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
While the House will not expect me to agree with all that has been said by the hon. Member for Yardley (Mr. Salt), I congratulate him upon the speech which he has just delivered, setting forth the views of the city of Birmingham, and I am sure we shall all look forward to hearing the hon. Member take part in our Debates on future occasions. The hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton (Major Thomas) was rather annoyed that in this House hon. Members dared to talk upon industries in regard to which they were not experts. We might very well retort that we see no reasons why hon Members should come here asking for assistance for trades which cannot make their businesses a success. There are plenty of businesses which have not been handled since the War in a way which has protected the interests of themselves or the consumer.
The Financial Secretary told us last night that, in his opinion, this House would not return to the old ways of muddle and delay, and I gather from what he said that he was quite satisfied that muddle and delay had been eliminated. I wonder if he will feel quite so satisfied when right hon. Gentlemen sitting on the Treasury Bench come over to sit on the Opposition Benches. During the last Parliament the Financial Secretary was quite an artist in opposing on occasions. He did it extremely well, and I feel sure that when he comes back again to these benches he will do the same thing. Personally, I do not object to speeding-up, and I do not think that other Members of the House object to it, but you can go too fast, and there have been instances of that during the last week or two which are very disturbing. We are discussing a Motion with regard to Orders which have actually been put in operation before this House has discussed them at all. A few days ago, the House empowered an outside body to levy taxation on the people of this country. If that is what the Financial Secretary meant when he said 1337 that he was in favour of speeding up, I for one am entirely opposed to it. It is a very serious departure, and, in my opinion, has created a precedent for which one day the supporters of the Government may be sorry. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday that he could well understand anyone opposing these Orders, and so I can start my speech in complete accord with him though I do not know that that accord will continue to the end of the speech. At any rate, as far as opposition to these Orders is concerned, I am an unrepentant opponent of them.
Before I come to an examination of the Orders, I should like to make a remark or two about some observations which fell from the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Sir J. Duncan Millar). I did not know he was going to make them, because he had not extended to me the courtesy of telling me, but he said that, in opposing these Orders and the Government generally, I was rendering a disservice to the country, and tending to destroy the influence of the party. I can only ask him, why did he pick on me? What about the Home Secretary? My position, at any rate, has never been in doubt. I consistently opposed every one of the duties that have been suggested. I fought my election on that policy, and I was sent here by my constituency to oppose these duties. But the Home Secretary was sent here to support the Government, and I think he is far more deserving of the hon. and learned Gentleman's censure than I am.
The Home Secretary has my sympathy. I could not help feeling, as I listened to him yesterday, a little sorry for him. His position reminded me of the story of a man who was trying to study in his house, and was constantly interrupted by the parading of the local village band up and down outside. He could not work, and, despite repeated requests to the band to go away, they refused. At last, exasperated beyond endurance, he rushed out to the band and said, "If you do not go away, I will send for the police." Whereupon the leader of the band replied, "You can't do that, guv'nor, for that's him playing the trombone." Why on earth the hon. and learned Gentleman should have picked on me, I have been 1338 unable to find out; nor do I know what service he thought he was rendering either to his country or to his party by supporting a policy which the party has consistently said is not in the best interests of the country. I find that much more difficult to understand than his remark that he was more disposed to follow the guidance of such Liberals as the President of the Board of Trade. That I can understand, and those who know the hon. and learned Gentleman can understand it, because the President of the Board of Trade is at the moment going in exactly the opposite direction to that in which the hon. and learned Gentleman was going last year.
We had a speech to-day from the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). I am sorry he is not in his place, because he made one or two observations with which I must deal. It is always a joy to hear him, because he makes the most startling statements. He said at the beginning of his speech that, if a Tory Government had been carrying out this policy, they would not have accepted anything so mild; but I seem to remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer saying that there was no compromise whatever about the policy he was bringing forward. What, therefore, might have been expected if the Government had really been nothing but a Tory Government? I wish that the hon. and gallant Member were here to elucidate one amazing statement that he made. He said that exports have exceeded imports every year in this country for the last 100 years. I should like very much to know what exactly he meant by that statement. He went on to say that the exports of foreign countries have grown more quickly than the exports of this country. That, coming from the hon. and gallant Member, is a most amazing statement, because I distinctly remember his asking a question of the late President of the Board of Trade as to what was the increase in exports of manufactured goods per head in various countries in the world between 1880 and 1928. The reply he received was that the increase in France was £4 6s. 5d. per head, in Germany £4 17s. 8d., in America £4 13s. 3d., and in Great Britain £5 15s. 8d. The increase in 1929 was even greater. And yet the hon. and 1339 gallant Member says here to-day that the exports of other countries have increased more than the exports of our own.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) was not referring to the exports per head, but to the exports of the various countries.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
It is very odd that Protectionists, when they are arguing the other way, are fond of taking the imports per head. If they are arguing with regard to Australia, they always say that Australia takes more imports from us per head than anyone else. The figures I have quoted show that the increase per head of our population is greater than in the case of any of the other three countries. There is a. further point, and, when I make it, perhaps the hon. Baronet will understand better. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth went on to say that employment in the United States had always been better than in this country—that we always had a large section of unemployed. But he forgot that the population per square mile in this country is 682, as compared with just over 40 in the United States, so that the figures I have quoted with regard to exports per head of the population have some bearing in the light of these further figures. The population of this country is 680 per square mile, and that of the United States, 41 per square mile. This country, with its Free Trade system, has been able to maintain that population on a higher standard than any other country in Europe.
These Orders have been referred to as an experiment. I always thought that an experiment was something new, but these duties have been tried all over the world, and they have not enabled any country in the world to weather this economic storm any better than ourselves. I am not in the least worried when people say that we stand here and utter ancient shibboleths. My answer is to ask them to point out a country comparable with our own that is weathering the storm better, or is more prosperous under Protection at the present time. These Orders are based on a wrong diagnosis of the situation. The Chancellor of the Exchequer himself told us, when he introduced the Import Duties Bill, that what 1340 we were suffering from was loss of exports, and particularly loss of invisible exports. Loss of invisible exports must surely be due to contraction of world trade, and I would like to ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer, how can tariffs, which mean further contraction, lead to expansion? The figures for the first quarter of this year show that tariffs will quite possibly worsen the position, and, accordingly, it is probable that at the end of this year we shall have as bad an adverse trade balance as we had last year, with a much more serious condition of things attached to it, namely, that the volume of trade will be very much down.
Apparently the Chancellor of the Exchequer disliked the words in the Amendment referring to the recommendations and the Orders as hasty and ill considered. He said that that was a reflection on the Advisory Committee. It is not; it is a reflection on the Government. How could anyone, however able, consider the vast range of articles, and the effect on other industries, that the Advisory Committee had to consider in the short time at their disposal? It was quite impossible. The responsibility is the Government's. They should have considered the industry of this country as a whole, and not bit by bit as they have done. Opportunity should have been given to those industries that are dependent upon the other industries that are being protected to state their case. It is no use talking about reactions which may have to be speedily rectified; once these duties are on, it will be very difficult to get them off, if what we hear about this House is any indication. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said, further, that he hoped that someone on this side of the House would give proofs of having considered these industries at all. I am quite prepared, if I may humbly do so, to offer a few observations on the most important of them, namely, the iron and steel industry, for which duties are suggested.
No one denies that the condition of the iron and steel industry of this country at the present time is a serious one, but to tackle the problem of the iron and steel industry on the basis of the 1931 figures is wrong. We are told that the steel industry is being ruined by 1341 foreign importation. The facts do not bear out that statement. The hon. and gallant Member for King's Norton said that we got our facts from pamphlets. I hope he will not object to the figures which I am going to use, because they are compiled by the National Federation of Iron and Steel Manufacturers, which is not a Liberal party organisation as far as I know.
The facts do not bear out the statement that the iron and steel industry has been ruined by foreign importation. I include in the figures the abnormal month of importations at the end of last year, when, I may say, the importation was increased by 100,000 tons a month. That was due to the fact that it was known that tariffs were going to be put on. Including that abnormal period, the total importation of steel into this country last year was 2,852,000 tons, which was less than 1 per cent. more than in 1929, even including the abnormal imports during November. Why do I refer to the year 1929? I do so because 1929 was the record year for production of British steel in any peacetime period. In 1929 we produced in this country 9.600,000 tons of steel. That figure has never been exceeded except once during the War. And yet in that period, when our production was a record, the imports of foreign steel were practically the same as the imports last year, including the abnormal period. Our exports in 1929 were, again, practically a record; they were 4,379,000 tons. The exports last year were 1,980,000 tons— less than half the 1929 figure. The real point, surely, is that the total British production of steel in 1931, plus the total foreign importation, does not reach by 2,000,000 tons the British production alone in 1929.
The problem is not to stop foreign steel coming here, but to see what we can do to encourage once more the buying of British steel products outside, because it is obvious from the figures that it is not excessive importation that is responsible for the condition of the steel industry. We want to do something to stimulate the buying of British steel outside. Do these duties help that? [Interruption.] Have hon. Members seen the figures for the first quarter of 1932? Have the manufactured steel 1342 exports from this country gone up? According to the figures that I have, they have gone down considerably. We can only go by the trade returns, and they are down. [Interruption.] The duties have been on for a month, but the fact remains that they have not stopped the decline in the exportation of British steel manufactures. We are told that we must secure the home market for ourselves. I prefer to take the opinion of the President of the Board of Trade, who told us last year that practically the entire home market was ours. We have it now. Not only have we the home market, but the drop in production is much less serious here than in two other Protectionist countries. I am not saying that that is anything to be pleased about, but you are trying to cure the condition of British steel by applying a remedy which has not been effective in other countries. In America the latest figures show that production is down to 25 or 30 per cent. The drop in Germany is also worse. Why apply a remedy which has not prevented two other countries from suffering more seriously than we have done?
Major LLOYD GEORGE
You can argue that till the crack of doom, but we have to face facts as they are. I can see no hope in Protection for our steel industry. We are taken to task because we say something about efficiency. Apparently it is a monstrous thing to suggest that there is any inefficiency anywhere. Everyone is working with the highest possible efficiency in every industry in this country. I will not be so bold as to use my own words in this connection. I am going to use the words of the President of the Board of Trade, who knows more about the steel industry than I do. He said not so very long ago:Where do we actually stand in regard to equipment? If anyone comes along and asks us for a tariff, I think the first question we are entitled to put to him is, 'What have you done for yourselves?' Now I have no doubt that, according to their lights, a great many men in the iron and steel trade have been doing their very best for themselves, but I cannot avoid observing that, for instance, in the size of the units which they have erected they have deliberately chosen much smaller units than are common in Germany, in Belgium, France or America.1343 With reference to blast furnaces:Our works in that respect are inferior to those of our competitors. I hesitate to criticise people who are engaged in another industry. It is quite probable that I might not have done the job any better myself, but that would not have justified me going to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and begging for his assistance.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
Some time in 1930, but I am afraid that does not alter the situation. I do not see what the date has to do with it. The units have not altered, because we are told there is no capital with which to alter them. I suggest that there is a fruitful field of inquiry for the Committee and the Government, following up a remark of the right hon. Gentleman about blast furnaces in the steel industry. He said they should not be allowed to do this, and that they ought not to have a tariff unless they are prepared to reorganise. I did not notice that there were any cheers when he suggested that there might have to be reorganisation. With regard to the effect on other industries, may I quote the right hon. Gentleman again? He says:There are far more people who use steel than there are employed in making steel.I think it is about 10 to one.There is scarcely any industry in the world which does not use steel.He then draws a delightful picture of a Mr. McDougall of Glasgow and a Mr. Smith of Middlesbrough meeting over a luncheon table and arranging prices to suit themselves.But what is it that keeps them within the bounds of reason in pushing prices up? It is not a spirit of generosity. It is entirely due to the fact that they dread a little importation from abroad at a lower price. They know that, if they put their price up too high, there will come into this country German or Belgian plates and angles and bars which will be used to a smaller or larger extent in the British shipyards. We do not prefer having Continental plates and bars, but, if we are going to be mulcted 10s. or £1 a ton for what, we buy from these producers, they must not blame us if we go and buy what we require at Antwerp or at Hamburg. We are just as much justified in doing that as they are justified in sitting round their luncheon table and arranging what they want to charge us.1344 It is perfectly plain what will happen. He goes on further, in view of this 33⅓ per cent. duty:What is it that will prevent an overflow from the Continent coming in here? A 10 per cent. duty might do it. A 10 per cent. duty all round would include iron and steel. That might be enough. It would then mean that, as there was that 10 per cent. duty, the Glasgow and the Middlesbrough gentlemen would naturally be able in this country to add 10 per cent. on to the world price. It would be just enough to raise the raw material of that industry and make engines and ships more expensive to build and railways more expensive to equip. It would mean throwing the charge upon industries which have to meet the whole blast of world competition, and which are just as entitled to freedom of trade as any iron and steel manufacturer is entitled to the support of an import duty.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
The only particulars I can give are that the words are those of the President of the Board of Trade. It is a very good pamphlet, and I am sure the right hon. Gentleman would be delighted to let the hon. Member have a copy. But, if he does, it might easily turn the whole of the National Government into Free Traders, so perhaps he had better not issue it. I will keep this and, if the hon. Member likes, I will show it to him afterwards, as long as he does not go away with it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said the cost must be low enough to compete at home and abroad. If you cannot compete at home, how on earth do you expect to compete abroad? We are told that cost is of vital importance and, if you add to the cost of the raw material, you are making it still more difficult for those people who are sellers abroad of steel products, who have suffered so much, to regain those markets that have gone away. We hear also about bargaining. Hitherto I have been very sceptical indeed about the possibility of bargaining, because up to date the result of tariffs has been to raise tariff walls all round the world. I thought perhaps in this instance it might be different, but I was not encouraged by the cheers that greeted the remarks of the Chancellor yesterday when he referred to the distress that had been caused in certain quarters by the dropping of the 50 per cent. duty. The hon. Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) regarded it as a great pity that there had been this drop. Does he suggest that 1345 we should impose tariffs permanently on the same level as the duties under the Abnormal Importations Act?
§ Sir H. CROFT
I recognise that this was a temporary duty, and I thought I said so. I think, having raised the duty to 50 per cent., it would have been wise to keep it for a year at that figure, so that we could have made a thorough examination of the matter.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
Someone wants to make a bargain with you, and you say, "I am very sorry; you must wait for 12 months." I should have thought the sooner you started, the better. In any case, even 33⅓ per cent. puts us amongst the most highly protected countries in the world. The Chancellor told us yesterday that the Opposition apparently did not desire to see any proposal at all. Speaking for myself, I do not desire to see any proposals on these lines. In my judgment, they are quite unnecessary. The greatest stimulus that industry has received in the last few years was when we went off the Gold Standard. The greatest reduction in unemployment took place before a duty of any kind was put on. There was no Protection of any sort or kind at the time. [Interruption.] Going off the Gold Standard is Protection certainly, but it is also a bounty on exports. This is a penalty on exports. These Orders, in my judgment, amount to a further restriction of trade. We have seen the results in the Danubian States recently and we know what the President of the Czechoslovakian Republic said about tariffs. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the proof of the pudding was in the eating. The pudding that he is offering us has done very little to nourish the world in the last few years, and my only regret is that it is not the Chancellor and his colleagues alone who have to partake of it. If they were the only ones, perhaps we should not hear very much about it in the future. Just as the Government are convinced that these measures are beneficial, I am convinced that they are harmful. But they are now in operation. There is nothing left to do, after making my protest, but to express the hope that the chaos that has been created is such that, before very long, the world and this country will return to sanity before it is too late.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. GLEDHILL
As this is the first occasion on which I have addressed the House, may I crave the indulgence which is freely given to a new Member and a humble back-bencher? I am one of the large number of new Members sent here to represent an industrial constituency and, of course, to support this Government and, when the vote is taken tonight, I shall certainly do so. But I want to express regret at the withdrawal of the 50 per cent. duties and the substitution, in many cases, of much lower ones. This, I find, is causing grave concern among manufacturers, at any rate in my constituency. Whatever may have been the issue at the last election—and on this subject I agree that there is much controversy—I feel that this Government was faced, when it came into power, with two main tasks, first of all to ensure a balanced Budget, and, secondly, to set about the alleviation of unemployment. The first task has been tackled very resolutely by the increase of taxation and rigid economies which caused great sacrifices on the part of all classes of the community. However unpleasant the recent Budget may have been, I think that we must agree, on mature consideration, that it has consolidated our national financial position and has shown the world as a whole that we intend to pay our way.
The second task is now before us, When we came here last October it was obvious to all of us, I think, that the foreign manufacturer was showing a good deal of intelligent anticipation from the fact that he was sending over here a great amount of manufactured goods, well knowing that in a very short time this country would turn over to the tariff system. We passed the Abnormal Importations Act to prevent the forestalling of our tariff system, and it has proved of great benefit to the manufacturers of this country. It has ensured that orders which previously went abroad have been sent to our own people, and, in addition, many new firms have started work over here. I have a letter here which probably is typical of many letters received by hon. Members. It concerns woollen yarns. The firm in question previously imported those woollen yarns mostly from Belgium, due to the fact that the Belgian manufacturer had cheaper labour and very much lower overheads. Then, when the 50 per cent. duty was put on. 1347 they decided to produce here and special machinery was brought over for the purpose, and production is now starting. Given reasonable protection, those people would have employed a number of workers probably night and day, but now that the rate has been reduced to 10 per cent., their old suppliers are offering to import the goods once again. I suggest that the sudden taking off of the 50 per cent. duty is rather a mistake. It might at least have been allowed to run its full time. I wonder why the House could not have renewed the Act until after the Ottawa Conference. We should then have known the position with regard to our Dominions and we would have had the benefit of the protection until that time. The question of the new Import Duties which are being considered by the Advisory Committee is one with regard to which they might reasonably make haste slowly, and so develop, under the protection of a 50 per cent. rate, the scientific tariff which we all, on the Conservative side, at any rate, so much desire.
Like many other hon. Members, I have received numerous letters from manufacturers, and I propose to refer only to two. The first is from a large manufacturer of carpets in respect of which the duty has been reduced from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent., in spite of the fact that full details of their case have already been submitted to the Board of Trade. In their representations they have never asked for less than a 33⅓ per cent. duty. They contend that to-day, even with a 50 per cent. duty, some carpets are still being imported. They also say that carpets should have been classified, at any rate, as semi-luxury articles and subjected to a higher duty. The next letter is from a large manufacturer of pile fabrics. This is a very old industry, and it is divided, as some of my textile friends will know, into two main sections, first of all, the warp pile, which consists largely of mohair velvets, moquettes and reps for commercial purposes, and, secondly, weft pile, which consists of corduroys, and dress and furnishing velvets. This trade has been subject to very serious competition for a long time and also to price-cutting, dumping and reduction of quality. In fact, it can be said that the home industry has been carried on only by 1348 showing great skill in the design of new fabrics. They have to use special machinery, and they point out that this machinery having once been installed they could produce four times the total quantity of the 1931 production. This, I submit, is a good case for more protection. In 1924 this industry employed 13,000 workpeople, and in 1931 only 7,000, and therefore, at any rate, Conservative Members will agree that here is a case for further consideration.
The constituency which I have the honour to represent has a large variety of small trades. It has not as many as Birmingham, but it has a good number for the size of the town. These small industries are not always joined together into a trade association, and therefore they have great difficulty in putting their case before the Board of Trade or the Advisory Committee. I will give one instance of this, namely, the confectionery manufacturer who is trying to make chewing-gum in this country. He points out that chewing-gum consists in the main of two ingredients, that is, sugar, which is subject to the Sugar Duty, and a gum base, which is a gutta percha compound and is subject to a 10 per cent. tariff. He points out that when the foreign manufacturer sends his chewing-gum into this country he has to pay duty only on the sugar content. There is another item in the Abnormal Importations Act which has rather mystified me, and that is the inclusion of typewriters. I suggest that there are a large number of other office machines which might also have received consideration. I shall probably be told that evidence of dumping must be produced, but I find that quite a number of these machines are not separately classified in the Board of Trade returns, and therefore it is very difficult to produce evidence. This may apply to a number of small industries which may also be overlooked. The system of applying to the Advisory Committee is a sort of retrograde step upon the lines of the old Safeguarding procedure, which I do not consider to be good.
I see that some of our Liberal friends are to oppose these tariffs, and I submit that the freedom which is extended to one part of the House should also be extended to another part of the House. I am one of those hon. Members elected to the 1349 House of Commons by a large amount of Liberal support, and when I came here I felt that I should be a sort of pale pink Protectionist, but now that Liberals are to exercise their freedom and vote against the Motion, I feel that I should become a full-blooded Protectionist. Some of the suggestions of the Liberals for curing unemployment were exploded by the efforts of our hon. and right hon. Friends on the Front Opposition Bench during their recent administration, and as far as I can see they have not produced anything else which would produce revenue and find employment. The question of finding employment is our greatest task to-day. I have always stressed it both in my speeches during the last election and previously. As a Conservative back bencher, I feel just as keen upon finding employment for our people as are our friends on the Front Opposition Bench. May I appeal to my right hon. Friend to consider, if possible, the retention of the Abnormal Importations Act until we have had a further consideration of some of those tariff duties?
§ Mr. LAMBERT
May I, as an old Member, congratulate a new Member the hon. Gentleman the Member for Halifax (Mr. Gledhill) very heartily upon the clarity and lucidity of his maiden speech? I am not sure whether I can follow him in his eloquent plea for chewing-gum, but he explained the position very admirably to the Government. Though I shall find myself in a different Lobby from the hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George), I appreciated his speech very much. He showed that he has some of his father's gift of repartee, and I am sure that his father would have been very pleased indeed if he could have been here to listen to him. May I make the following plea to him? Will he convey to his distinguished father the fact that there are a very large number of new Members in the House of Commons who would like to hear the "Father of the House" and one of our greatest Parliamentary orators?
I am going to speak upon the agricultural side of the Import Duties. There is a feeling abroad that because the Government have a great majority and Tariffs are to be introduced, all will be well. I know a good deal better than that. I am 1350 afraid that the difficulties are only just beginning. I had an opportunity the other day of going to the West of England and meeting a considerable number of farmers. They were in a state of acute discontent. The president of the Farmers' Union meeting which I addressed in my constituency made use of the following remark:Was there a single farmer who could honestly say that he was employing a single man more than when the Government took office?I do not wish to make complaints. The House has agreed to accept this policy, and I wish to make it a success. Therefore, any suggestion which I may make to the Government will be of a friendly nature. The agriculturists of this country at the present moment are bewildered and perplexed. They do not understand the agricultural policy of the Government. We have heard a good deal about iron and steel this afternoon. The iron and steel industry, we have been told, requires reorganisation. We have also been told that the agricultural industry requires reorganisation. I am always very dubious indeed about reorganisation by politicians. If the people in the industry do not understand it, then certainly, the politicians do not. The Advisory Committee in their report said:We are satisfied that the maintenance of a prosperous iron and steel industry in the highest degree of efficiency is essential to the economic progress of this country.May not I say that equally of the agricultural industry? The agricultural industry is equally important. They also say:While from the point of view of national security it must still be regarded as vital.I put in a similar claim for agriculture. Agriculture is vital. Thus the Committee state:We accept therefore the preliminary proposition that this industry shall be adequately protected, and protected at once.Why not give the same treatment to the agricultural industry? I shall put some facts before the Government to show that they are not only not protecting the agricultural industry, but that they are hampering it. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend speaks about the Wheat Quota. I happened to be down in Devonshire and farmers there told me that, because the Government are only going to offer a price of 45s. a quarter, there will not be 1351 a single acre of grassland ploughed up. I will go further. The Advisory Committee seem to have forgotten that one part of the policy of the Government is to increase the cultivation of wheat in this country. Among the list of taxes which have been increased are those on ploughs, seeders, reapers, binders, agricultural tractors, and threshing machines. I should like to point out to the Advisory Committee that before you can grow wheat you must plough the land. Why are these extra taxes placed upon implements required by farmers for the production of wheat when the policy of the Government is, so we are to assume, to increase the area of wheat? I am sorry to be critical, but it is friendly.
Take the case of manures. I observe that nitrate of soda, and sulphate of ammonia are to pay a duty of 20 per cent., instead of 10 per cent. I did not put that in my election address. Take the livestock industry, which, after all, is the foundation of farming. In 1930–31 the total produce of the land was about £200,000,000, and livestock products represented about 70 per cent. Some of my constituents have sent me particulars showing that they have to pay extra duty on their foreign feeding-stuffs. I have here two invoices which may be interesting to the House and to the Government. The president of the farmers' meeting which I addressed is one of the best farmers in the county of Devon. His is a model farm. He keeps a good many cows, and supplies milk to the neighbouring town. In the month of April he paid for River Plate oats £47 2s. and on both the invoices there is added "plus duty, £4 14s. 2d." Here is a clear case where the farmer is being hampered, being taxed on his raw material.
I have a still more striking case, and I urge the Government to seriously consider it from the point of view of food production, and also that of a contented agriculture. Ten miles from my home in Devonshire, in one of the richest valleys near to Crediton, is a farmer who farms beautiful land, rich sandstone, who keeps a large number of pigs. In the month of April he bought—and I have the invoices—no less than £373 10s. worth of foreign feeding-stuffs, middlings, sharps and foreign barley. On the 1352 invoices the duty of 10 per cent. has been added in every case. When I went down to the West I told the fanners that it was no use grumbling generally, but that they must give me facts and figures if I had to put the case before the Government. In his letter this farmer says:I am enclosing invoices received for feeding-stuffs purchased during April on which I have to pay 10 per cent. import duty. You will see that the amount of duty payable is £37 7s.How can the Government expect us to commend their agricultural policy to agriculturists when they have to pay this 10 per cent. extra on their feeding-stuffs? There is no question here of the farmer being efficient. He, again, is one of the best farmers in Devonshire: and a man who pays £370 for feeding stuffs per month must be a capable farmer. It works out at about £4,500 a year, and if he has to pay 10 per cent. on this amount it is a £450 tax on his feeding-stuffs. That is a very serious matter: it means the wages of something like six agricultural labourers, and in his letter he says, quite frankly, that while he is breeding pigs, and having to pay this extra tax on his feeding stuffs, Danish bacon and other bacon comes in free. There must be fair play, and I am going to ask for fair play for the farmer this afternoon. In our local market last Monday week store pigs were being almost given away, I have never known such prices. People will not buy because they do not know what the price of feeding-stuffs is going to be. While they have to pay this 10 per cent. duty they have no guarantee that they will not be exposed to the full blast of competition.
Let me point out to the Government that the price of these products is in some cases below pre-War. The price of bacon pigs is actually 3 per cent. below pre-War, and store sheep 9 per cent. It is not fair to tax the raw material of the farmer, the feeding-stuffs, and at the same time allow him to meet the fierce blast of foreign competition. I bring these matters to the attention of the Government because they will be made the most of in the country. When I read the Committee's report, it seems to be very distant from farming. As one farmer said to me, to protect oysters and caviars will not help the farmers 1353 very much. The Chancellor of the Exchequer said yesterday that he did not wish to shelter the inefficient. I agree; but in this case you are hampering the efficient. These men are thoroughly efficient. There is no official at the Ministry of Agriculture who can teach them anything about farming.
We are told that everything must depend on Ottawa. I put this plain question to the President of the Board of Trade: Do the Government accept the principle that the home producer shall have the first preference in the home market? I hope he will give me a reply to-night. It is a matter of prime importance. If our negotiators are going to Ottawa, they must have some idea of what they are to do. Industry, I see, is to have several representatives; trade unions are to have representatives; and agriculture is to have one, a very worthy one I agree. But is that treating agriculture in quite the way its importance demands? I ask the President of the Board of Trade to reassure farmers on this matter. I do not want to see the farmers of this country anti-Imperialists, but if they are subjected to the full blast of Colonial competition and their raw materials are to be taxed, then there will be a great revulsion of feeling. Take the case of Denmark. My constituents produce bacon, and while they have to pay these enormous sums for feeding-stuffs Denmark last year exported to this country £22,000,000 worth of bacon and £15,000,000 worth of butter.
There is a lock-out in Denmark to-day. The Danes are forcing down the cost of production. Our farmers have a wages board. They are compelled to pay wages fixed, not according to the price of the product but to maintain a reasonable standard of living Wages in this country are 110 per cent. above pre-War. I do not object. I have always thought that the agricultural labourer was not paid sufficiently high wages, but our farmers cannot under these conditions compete with this lower-priced labour in Denmark and elsewhere whose products are sent in here. Farmers are being taxed on their feeding-stuffs, their manures and their machinery, and they are still subjected in their main product to this fierce foreign competition. I say that, in these circumstances, the cultivation of the land cannot be continued in 1354 this country. I had a letter the other day from one of the best farmers in North Devon who shows stock and wins prizes, and he says: "The larger the farm the bigger the loss." I hope the Government will take these observations in the friendly spirit in which they are made and consider the case of those who cultivate the land. If we are to maintain our population, we must increase the food production of our own country. I make this plea for the cultivators of the soil, and ask the Government to consider those who are producing food, and, instead of hampering, to encourage them.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. LEONARD
I oppose the recommendations of the Import Duties Advisory Committee because they will adversely affect not only the trade of this country, but the great masses of the people of Great Britain. I was grateful to the Press for the guidance it gave us as to the speakers who were to speak in the House yesterday, and I noticed that great troops of the Conservative party filled the Lobbies in order to make an appearance here to hear the master. With them I was much intrigued about the notes he had in his hand, and I expected to hear details that would be concerned with the problem before the House. I did not hear any details about this Advisory Committee and, when I turned to the OFFICIAL REPORT this morning and saw 10 columns of his speech, I was again unable to see any details given on these import duties. The right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill) made a speech yesterday on the Home Secretary. I would have excused him if it had been a speech on the speech of the Home Secretary, because I would have liked to have heard a reasoned reply to the many valuable points in that speech. Unfortunately the right hon. Gentleman's observations were confined to the man and not to what he said. I am not surprised that the brilliance of his speech has been noted in the "Times" this morning which stated that the right hon. Member for Eppingproved himself superior in the exchange of judicially sweetened insults.That fairly sums up his speech.
I wish to deal with an aspect of the problem which has been brought to my attention by the apologists of the present 1355 system. We used continually to be told that competition made for efficiency and that, since competition had taken us to the forefront of the nations of the world, we would go back unless it was kept alive. Now I hear assurances given in the House that, if these duties are put into operation, steps will be taken to see that inefficiency does not creep in, and that inefficiency will not be protected or encouraged in any way. I am not prepared to accept the machinery set up to prevent inefficiency creeping in, as machinery capable of keeping industry efficient. I heard an interjection recently that politicians should not interfere in industry and that, if the industrialists themselves did not know what was good for industry the politicians did not know. It is possible, too, that the men who are now to be given the task of securing efficiency and of the factors that make for efficiency, if they are not industrialists themselves, may be told the same thing as the politicians have been told in the past. I see no indication that the Advisory Committee will be forced to take into consideration at all any factors making for efficiency. How are they to measure efficiency? Is it to be taken into consideration with world relationships? Have they the machinery to deal with that aspect? Who is to bring to their notice such points as the incidence of manual and mental work inside the industries? Are the industrialists, the persons who are to be protected, those who are to paint the picture? Will the picture painted by them be accepted by those who have to keep industry up to concert pitch?
A study of the situation shows how closely events have followed the lines of the publication issued by the Federation of British Industries entitled "Industry and the Nation." Step by step this publication actually sketches what has taken place under the jurisdiction of this Government. I shall quote what they say with regard to the means of securing efficiency:REVISION OF TARIFFS TO PREVENT ITS BECOMING A SHELTER FOR INEFFICIENCY.Internal competition and, in the case of the exporting industries, international competition in the export markets of the world, may in general be relied upon to maintain 1356 efficiency of production and a reasonable level of prices.That is all they have to say about the means of attaining efficiency in industry. The observations on this point in the Amendment are therefore justified, and we are entitled to make them because of the views which industrialists themselves have expressed with regard to the possibilities of the future. This Advisory Committee, which has to determine the detailed facts on which the duties will be based, will also have to pay some consideration—it may only have a social weight, but nevertheless it will have some weight—to the fact that in this House there are no fewer than 691 company directorates represented, and that 53 Members are Chairmen or Presidents of companies. I have not the slightest doubt that these gentlemen will see that their case is very well prepared before it comes to the Advisory Committee. I believe that there will be difficulties in getting information, because the President of the Board of Trade has in past years complained about inability to get reliable information from the traders of this country. There are, therefore, possibilities that similar difficulties will be experienced by this Advisory Committee.
In one or two of the speeches which have been made, especially in the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, we were told that lobbying is one of the things that will not happen here, and that we will be able to gather from the work of the Advisory Committee the benefits which protectionist countries reap, without incurring at the same time those grave maladies which so often have accompanied tariffs in other countries. Although it is quite true that grave maladies have occurred in other countries, I am not aware what the benefits are which are referred to. A former President of the Board of Trade stated thatthe export trade of this country per head of its population was double that of other big countries. We have had during the last three years an average of £700,000,000 worth of exports from this country, and we did that with higher wages and better labour conditions than in any of the protected countries on the Continent. We have social services costing something like £200,000,000 a year, which they have not, and which are an addition to the remuneration of our people.So far as I can see, the advantages have accrued to the people in this Free Trade 1357 country and not to the people in the protected countries referred to. As to the maladies, we are assured that maladies have attended other countries with Protection, but the same methods have been taken in those other countries to protect themselves against those maladies. There have been tariff commissions and tariff boards in other countries, and in previous Debates we have had quoted in detail the failure of the tariff commissions in other countries to prevent the existence of the grave maladies referred to by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. What happened there is possible in this country.
I wish now to touch upon another point, which was referred to very briefly by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), the question of the rising price level. He dealt with that very concisely, and proved that a localised increase would not be any advantage to this country and, if it was an advantage, it would not be permanent. He is supported in those views by another publication which I, like other hon. Members, have received this morning, a pamphlet entitled "A New British Financial Policy. Industry's Plan." Referring to the price level it says:As regards (a), the raising of the present price level, all that can be said is that such a rise in prices depends on a recovery of demand not only at home but also abroad. British policy can by itself do little to directly influence the price level in such countries as the United States of America, France or Germany.They are quite specific, in dealing with relief through the medium of the price level, that a localised price level cannot give any advantage, and that what is needed is one that will apply to the world in general. That will have to be investigated a little more thoroughly than it has been investigated up to the present time.
The hon. Member for King's Norton (Major Thomas) has been most emphatic in his assertion that the foreigners pay the duty on certain steel imports. I would suggest to him that he should consider what has just been said by the right hon. Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), who has stated without equivocation that the farmers will pay the duty and have paid it up to the present time, and that the working people will be in the main the sufferers from the Orders of this Advisory Committee. It is said that we are experimenting, but 1358 that assertion has been dealt with effectively by my hon. Friend who quoted the figures of the "Economist," which show that we are starting by taxing 60 per cent. of imports as against experienced America which has confined her taxation to 40 per cent. of imports.
These taxes will, in my opinion, not be to the advantage of this country at all, but will definitely place further burdens on the shoulders of the working class. There is an increase of £62,000,000 in the Customs and Excise in respect of those imports, and in conjunction with that, other figures have to be taken into account which are of very great importance to the workpeople of this country. Those are the figures represented by the reduced unemployment benefit, from which the Government is taking £12,000,000; the imposition of the means test, out of which the Government gets £10,000,000; the increase in the workers' share of the unemployment insurance contribution, which brings in £5,000,000; the subsidy to wheat, £6,000,000, and the cuts in the pay of the Army and Navy, teachers, police and others, £12,000,000. Those sums have to be added to the £62,000,000, making an increased burden of £107,000,000 placed upon the backs of those who in the past have given good service to this country, and who are willing and eager still to do so. They will not have the opportunity. The continuation of this policy will deprive the export trades of this country of opportunities that were absolutely essential to it, and it is for that reason that I oppose the present proposals.
§ Mr. HEPWORTH
It is with regret, on the first occasion I have ventured to address this House, that I should have to use words of criticism, but any criticism that I make will not lessen my loyalty to the Government. I have for many years believed that only by Protection of the home market could a solution be found for the unemployment problem, but I confess that the decision of the Import Duties Advisory Committee has meant a real disappointment to me. I represent one of the four divisions of Bradford which is wholly employed in the textile industry, and I was naturally delighted at the introduction of the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, which gave hope and encouragement to the trade of Bradford, after many years of depression and unemployment.
1359 I claim to know a little about the textile industry. I commenced work at 10 years of age in a textile factory. At 15 years of age I went to my apprenticeship as an engineer. Now I am one of those to whom an hon. Member opposite has referred, a chairman and director of a company. I make no apology for that. It is necessary to have someone to direct any organisation. I work harder to-day than ever I did, but I have heard, in the six months that I have sat in this House, more about inefficiency and efficiency than I have heard all the time that I have been a worker. The criticism from various hon. Members about the industrialists' lack of efficiency comes invariably from those who have never been in industry. The charge of lack of efficiency does not apply to the Bradford textile industry, and I contend frankly and seriously that in Bradford we can manufacture some of the finest materials that the world can produce.
The reduction of the duties has caused a great amount of disappointment. The President of the Board of Trade stated a few days ago that unemployment figures had decreased by something like 400,000 —I do not know the correct number—but in Bradford, since the introduction of the Abnormal Import Duties Act, we have reduced unemployment something like 50 per cent. I am afraid that the reduction of the new tariff from 50 per cent. to 10 per cent. will throw a lot of people out of employment, and we are concerned, as manufacturers, about the workpeople just as much as are hon. Members in other parts of the House. These duties may provide revenue, but only at the expense of the work which would be given to manufacture goods in this country, and the amount that we gain in revenue is very small compared with what we may have to pay in unemployment benefit by the reduction of the duties that has taken place in the last few days.
I have stated that a great deal has been heard from all sides of the House with respect to efficiency, and I think that all hon. Members will agree that efficiency must be the keynote of industry. Efficiency is dependent upon a sense of security and upon continuity of policy, but unfortunately we have not those at the present time. Many thousands of pounds have been spent in new machines 1360 —and I know, because I have seen. I am not speaking of what is in the Press but of what I know for an absolute fact. Orders have been cancelled as the result of these duties being altered. To what purpose were they altered? Confidence has disappeared. It is true to say that a feeling of despair is permeating the whole of our industrial areas. It will be interesting to read the remarks of the Tariff Advisory Committee on page 5 of the White Paper, where they say:Meanwhile most of the industries of the country would be left in a grave state of uncertainty and the urgent needs of industry and of stimulating employment at home would remain unsatisfied.That is exactly the position of the woollen and worsted industry as the result of the committee's action. Further down on the same page, the committee state:We trust, however, to be able to correct any difficult situation so arising soon after it is brought to our notice.The report is dated 8th April, but the duties have already commenced and within a few weeks all the good that had been done, and all the benefit that had accrued to the worsted and textile industry, have been undone. May I make an appeal that the necessary alteration will be made at once?
Another point is with regard to the iron and steel industry, with which also I have had some little connection. I notice that the duties are for an interim period of three months. Out of the 120 odd blast furnaces in this country, about 80 are closed down. It takes much longer than three months to get anything like decent results from those blast furnaces, and as an industrialist I say that it is no encouragement to the blast-furnace holders to light up their furnaces and to expect to produce pig iron, if they have no sense of security and if there is no continuity of policy. The great enemy of progress is uncertainty. No industry can be expected to work wholeheartedly unless it feels a senses of security. I do not wish to appear as in any way a carping critic of the Government, but I ask that they will give these matters their most careful, serious and favourable consideration.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I am afraid that, as a new Member, my congratulations to the hon. Member for East Bradford (Mr. Hepworth) on his maiden speech are not 1361 worth much, but I give them to him with all my heart, and I only wish that in making my fourth speech I could speak as well as he has in making his first speech. I intended to address some questions to the President of the Board of Trade. I learned my Free Trade almost at his knee. It was he who administered to me the pure milk of the Cobdenite doctrine before I had cut my teeth, through the feeding-bottle of the Oxford Union, and I had intended, as an enthusiastic disciple, to ask him one or two questions. But the right hon. Gentleman is not here, and I shall have to postpone my questions to another day.
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Major Elliot)
I shall be very glad to transmit the questions to my right hon. Friend. I should be sorry if the hon. Member's remarks should be limited because of the right hon. Gentleman's temporary need for refreshment.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I thank the Financial Secretary for that, and I will therefore address the questions to him. I hope that the Financial Secretary will tell his right hon. Friend that I was one of his enthusiastic disciples and that I confess to being rather puzzled about the recent speeches of my master. I am not going to refer to the speech that the right hon. Gentleman made in June, 1931—that was a classic re-statement of the Free Trade ease—but to the right hon. Gentleman's contention that the situation has completely changed since then. The right hon. Gentleman entered into the National Government, and a new world has begun, and though I do not altogether agree with his contention, I can understand the force of it.
What puzzles me—and it is this to which I wish to draw the attention of the House—is not what the right hon. Gentleman said before the crisis, but what he has said since the crisis. The White Paper imposes a 33⅓ per cent. duty on steel, but last December, the right hon. Gentleman in his speech in this House, pointed out the difficulties and dangers of putting a tax on steel. As I heard him, I, unlike the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill), found it very difficult to keep my enthusiasm for the National Government within the bounds of caution. What has happened to induce in the right hon. Gentleman this fresh change 1362 of purpose? Has the world changed again since December? I cannot believe it. The right hon. Gentleman has abdicated his judgment to the recommendation of the Tariff Advisory Committee.
I want, if I may, to address a general question to the whole Government. Where are these tariffs leading? What part are these tariffs meant to play in the general long-term unemployment policy of the Government? Are they primarily for revenue, or are they permanent, and if they are permanent, are they for 5, 10 or 15 years? Even from out-and-out Protectionist Members of the Cabinet, we get nothing but conflicting testimony. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that this is the policy of Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and that all is now clear for prosperity. There is the Lord President of the Council, who says that this is an experiment and that it may succeed, while the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, says that he is still a Free Trader. The Chancellor of the Exchequer says that these tariffs are permanent. The Lord President of the Council says that nothing is permanent except man's folly, and the President of the Board of Trade continues to lie low and to say that he is a Free Trader. Which represents the opinion of the Cabinet? It is clear that the agreement to differ is not confined to the Free Trade Members of the Cabinet. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping made some observations yesterday about the Home Secretary interrupting the services in the house of Rimmon. Even Naaman would have found difficulty in conforming to temple etiquette if he saw the chief priests making contradictory genuflections before rival altars. I was interested to follow up that simile of the house of Rimmon and I must confess that I do not think that it was very happily chosen, because Rimmon is the storm god and I understand that he was propitiated because, by storms, he brought havoc and destruction. I think it a little unfortunate for the Protectionists that they should choose as their patron saint a storm god who brings havoc and destruction. We have been invited, if I may vary the metaphor, to board a train—the tariff express. What is its destination? Is it Bewdley or is it Birmingham, or is it St. Ives— 1363 or is it one of these new hikers' excursions on which none of the passengers know where the train is going, or are meant to know and are only united by an uneasy belief that it may break down? Whatever the destination of this train, some of us on these benches are determined to join the Home Secretary to-night in pulling the communication cord.
I submit that this White Paper indicates a definite alliance with the high tariff countries. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade last February said that this was only a very little tax and that Holland had then only a 10 per cent. tariff, but in this White Paper we leave Holland miles behind. Just because we once had a few trumpery duties of 33⅓ per cent. is it to be thought that that 33⅓ per cent. is the standard of normality for tariffs? The natives of the South Pacific when they catch measles for the first time are said to catch them very badly. That is what we as a country have done in the case of tariffs, and what I fear is that we may follow the example of that tribe in the South Pacific who, coming out in spots for the first time, ran down into the sea and were drowned. Every prophecy of the Protectionists is being falsified. This was to be a scientific tax. There is no science here. Where is the evidence of searching inquiry of elaborate investigation into the effects of one duty upon another? Where is the nicely calculated balance of advantage and disadvantage? Apparently, the principle has been to substitute over a vast range of articles, the words "twenty" or "thirty" where the word "ten" occurred before.
There is no protection against profiteering. An hon. Gentleman on the Front Opposition Bench has quoted Sir Herbert Austin on that point and no one can accuse Sir Herbert Austin of being a Liberal and least of all a Socialist. But he admits the dangers of profiteering. Yet the Lord President of the Council promised before the election that he would not turn this country into "a crook's corner." What safeguard has he given to the consumer? What safeguard is to be given to the consumer at Ottawa? Many voters in the last election clutched at Protection in the belief that they were drowning. They clutched at a straw and I am afraid they will find that they have clutched at a shark instead. This tariff 1364 was to be proof against lobbying; it was to be taken right out of the hands of the politicians, and given over to three wise men in an upper chamber who, far above the stresses and strife of this mortal life were to give impartial judgment. But the political pressure is only now operating.
Every Member for an agricultural constituency knows the tremendous pressure which is behind the interests in those agricultural constituencies for a tax on meat. Every day the Order Paper of this House is littered with questions directed to no other object but that of obtaining a tariff for some particular industry in a constituency at the expense of some other industry. It has become our business to fight for tariffs for own own constituencies regardless of their effect upon anybody else. There is real danger that in the next Parliament a new race of Members may be produced, not primarily elected to represent towns or geographical areas, but elected to represent great interests. We have heard a great deal in this Debate about the danger of cheap goods. There is something worse than the danger of cheap goods, and that is the danger of cheap politicians. We were told that this tariff would not raise prices and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) blandly reiterated that the foreigner would pay the duties. If the House will allow me I will quote one document from my own constituency to prove who pays the duties. This is a bill from the Broad-mead Bacon Factory in Bristol for imports of salted hog-bladders. The bill is for £16 11s. and underneath is written, "Import Duty, 10 per cent., £l 2s. Total, £17 13s." It is not the foreigner who has paid that duty, but the Broad-mead Bacon Factory, and they will continue to pay it.
Feeling as we do on these benches about tariffs, what should be our attitude in the future? We have been told by hon. and right hon. Gentlemen that we ought to keep quiet, that we ought to maintain silence and give Protection a chance of working. But hon. and right hon. Gentlemen misunderstand our whole attitude on this question. We shall fight them every inch of the way. We think that their outlook is wrong and their conclusions thoroughly unsound. If we see, day after day, intelligent men and 1365 women adding two and two together and making five, and if we know that this may mean widespread additional unemployment, how can we remain silent? I should like to take up a point made yesterday by my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan). He quoted Mr. Disraeli's dictum that Protection was dead and damned. Yes, but that speech was delivered after the Corn Laws had been repealed, and I do not recall that in the course of the Corn Law Debates Sir Robert Peel ever had any co-operation or help from Mr. Disraeli, and I do not recall that he ever heard Mr. Disraeli say, "It is only my object in opposing the repeal of these duties to make Free Trade work."
I am very willing to co-operate with my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees in doing my best to make Protection a lesser evil than I think it will be, and, if I may say so, there are few hon. Members of this House whom I would more gladly follow than my hon. Friend. Unfortunately in our party there is not a ban against hunting with packs other than our own, but if there is to be effective co-operation it must surely be co-operation in the Division Lobbies. My hon. Friend poked some admirable fun at the Liberal party in his speech yesterday. He will forgive me for reminding him of an incident which occurred one Friday afternoon last February, when an Amendment was proposed either from the benches on which he sits or from these benches, I forget which, making efficiency the price of a tariff. My hon. Friend the Member for Stockton-on-Tees made an eloquent speech in support of that Amendment, and I think was actually closured from these benches while making it—
§ Mr. MACMILLAN indicated dissent.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
My hon. Friend shakes his head. Afterwards I will show him the OFFICIAL REPORT. However, if he denies that statement, I withdraw it. But after that, we had a Division on that Amendment. I went into the Division Lobby in support of it and I looked round to see my hon. Friend, but I looked round in vain. To my astonishment next morning when I opened my copy of the OFFICIAL REPORT I found that my hon. Friend the Member for 1366 Stockton-on-Tees had voted against his own arguments.
§ Mr. MACMILLAN
I must correct that statement. According to my memory I asked leave of the House to withdraw the Amendment which I had moved, and I was not allowed to withdraw it in accordance with a very common practice.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
The hon. Gentleman has misunderstood me if he thinks that I was accusing him of having moved the Amendment. I was only saying that he had supported the Amendment in a very powerful speech and that I had hoped that we should have had his powerful vote in the Division Lobby for it. As I say, I shall be delighted in the future to take my stand by the side of my hon. Friend on behalf of those safeguards under Protection in which both he and I believe. But this White Paper contains none of those safeguards, and I have no other course on this occasion but to go into the Division Lobby and vote against the whole bag of tricks.
§ Miss HORSBRUGH
In rising to address the House after the eloquent speech of the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays), I should like to explain at once that I do not intend to follow him into the realms of metaphor, nor do I feel in a mood so pathetic as that in which he showed himself to be in the last few minutes. He told us at first that, in his youth, he had learned the glorious doctrines of Free Trade from the President of the Board of Trade. He told us later that the President of the Board of Trade had explained during the last few months the difficulties which beset his path. My hon. Friend feels that he can no longer follow the President of the Board of Trade. He shirks the dangers and difficulties, and to-night he says that rather than embark on an express train he will pull the communication cord. I should like to assure him that by doing so he will not endanger this country in the least; the engine-driver will go on.
In listening to the Debate I was struck particularly with the words of the hon. Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) when he told us that there would be no advantage whatever from these import duties for the working men of this country. He said: "You have nothing to offer them." Unless the whole scheme is a failure, we have to offer them the one thing for which 1367 they are asking, namely, work. He also told us that by these tariffs we are going to fasten on the necks of the workers high tariffs which would land them in difficulty. We are all agreed in this House that if we do not get work for the people of this country, and if we do not help the industry of this country, the plan of tariffs and import duties is a failure. I have been struck by the pessimism of a good many hon. Members who are determined before the scheme is tried out to declare that it must be a failure. Are they willing to let trade and industry in this country be entirely extinguished? Do they wish to sit still and watch foreigners supplying all the goods in this counary, while our own people are standing idle in the streets? I believe that the people of this country—I was going to say the working people, and I might add the work-less people—both men and women, are demanding a change and the right of getting a chance to do the work that is being done for them at the present time in foreign countries.
We have heard a good deal on the subject of world trade, the smallness of world trade and how it has shrunk. We are all agreed about that. What we are asking for is that we should get a fair share of that world trade, however small it may be, and that we should be ready to take a fair share of it when the world trade gets bigger. I believe that the majority of the working people of this country asked at the General Election for this scheme to be tried. In my constituency it was from the workers that I got my best service. In this House we have twice if not three times been told of a Chinese saying. I see on an opposite bench an hon. Member, a compatriot of my own, and he will agree with me that besides Chinese sayings one might perhaps be allowed to quote a Scottish saying, which was given to me by the people in my constituency, by whom I was urged to go on and get them the work that was being done by foreigners. They asked me to bear in mind the Scottish proverb:It's weel to keep your ain fish guts for your ain sea maws.Which means, get the best advantage we possibly can for the people of our own country. A good deal has been said on the subject of export trade. It is said 1368 that by our Import Duties we might produce effects so that we should do worse with our exports than we have ever done before. Surely, it is common knowledge that we meet in the markets of the world with competitors who are putting their goods there under better conditions than we are able to do. If I might give an example from an industry I know well, a small industry certainly, an industry localised practically in one city in Scotland, the jute industry of Dundee, I think I may be able to show how duties have saved that industry. I am not going to say that I am satisfied with the extent of the duty. None of us is entirely satisfied, but the fact is that duties have saved that industry, and I hope they will save its export trade.
The jute industry is different from any other industry, in this way, that the whole of the raw material, the raw jute, comes from India. There is an export duty of 38s. a ton on the raw jute coming from India. That jute is bought for the Continent and for Great Britain. We get no preference in buying our jute from India, but we are looking forward with hope that at Ottawa some preference may be arranged. The other countries of Europe are able to safeguard their markets against the manufactured jute goods coming from India and so to a certain extent to get over that 38s. a ton duty on raw jute, but we in Dundee have to pay the 38s. per ton on the raw jute and we cannot put on any duty against the manufactured jute goods coming from India. Last year there were imports from India of jute piece goods of the value of £500,000 and of jute sacks of the value of £700,000. As soon as the Abnormal Importation Duties were put on, we did see some chance for the jute industry, because from that time we were able to shut out to some extent the competition from countries on the Continent which were working under easier conditions.
I have examined very carefully the wages that are paid on the continent for the work we are doing in Dundee. Hon. Members must realise that the trade in Dundee could not go on under the conditions that we were fighting against. In Dundee the average wage is 32s., but in Italy, France, Belgium and Spain the wages are respectively 15s., 14s., 9s. 8d. and 10s. That was the difficulty we were working against in Dundee, apart from 1369 heavy taxation. We are living in different times. We have not the same chance for our manufacturers that we had in days gone by. The increase in imports from the continent in this particular trade is startling. In 1920 there came in of jute piece goods from countries on the continent, other than Germany, 440 tons. By 1930 the figure had gone up to 2,530 tons, and in 1931 it had increased to 7,300 tons. I ask hon. Members who are opposed to any form of tariffs whether they are prepared to see an industry in this country extinguished by that enormous increase of imports. Are they prepared to see 40,000 people on the streets, wanting work while their work is being given to people in other countries where the Government does see to it that they protect their chance of work?
Hon. Members have stated that there has been a great decline in the unemployment figures since the duties were put on. I agree. The percentage of unemployment in September in the industry to which I have referred was 48 per cent., and in March it was 42 per cent. But with those huge imports of last year do hon. Members really think that we could have got to work upon the materials and produced the goods while those enormous stocks of piece goods were in this country? The importations were so abnormal during 1931 that I have been told by manufacturers in Dundee that there was no chance of improvement until we had had the duties for six months and had used up the stocks that were in the country then. We have seen an improvement, a steady improvement, in the jute carpet industry. For the first time we have sold jute carpets made in Great Britain to many firms that have previously always bought their stocks on the continent. I would ask those who are opposed to any scheme of import duties how they are going to help such an industry as that.
In regard to efficiency the industry stands well under any examination, but if your mills are shut, if your people are unemployed, if you are not selling anything, what are you going to take as your standard of efficiency? Can the people who are making no money, to put it straight and simple, afford to put in new machinery? As the trade went down, and has gone down from month to month, and as there seemed no hope of further 1370 orders for this country, was it sane to imagine that the manufacturers even if they had anything in their pockets to spend on new machinery would think it wise to do it? Give them a chance and I believe that we shall build up that industry and that we shall compete in the markets of the world. We are not asking for much. We are asking for an equal chance for the British people to be protected by the British Government just as Governments in other countries protect their own people and industries.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
The hon. Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh) certainly leaves the House in no doubt as to her views. One can only hope that the tariff paradise which she hopes to see develop in these islands will come, but I am inclined to think that her disillusionment will come very much earlier than she expects. Judging from the speeches which have been made in these tariff Debates from time to time there are some very pronounced differences of opinion as to whether or not tariffs were the issue at the last General Election. In my division the tariff issue was raised, and widespread attempts were made by employers to influence their workmen to support the tariff candidate. However diverse our views may be in regard to the question as to what were the issues at the last election, the fact remains that the Government have embarked on this tariff experiment and we are watching the experiment as it proceeds stage by stage with a great deal of interest.
Naturally, some of us pay special regard to those branches of industry with which we are most familiar. The experiment began with the Abnormal Importations Act. We were told when that Measure was being discussed that it was urgently necessary to place it on the Statute Book in order to correct the adverse balance of trade. Among the commodities dealt with by that Measure were silk and artificial silk stockings. As that industry, in the main, as far as the finer gauges of the goods are concerned is concentrated in and around my constituency, I want to say a few things regarding the sudden withdrawal of the 50 per cent. duty which was placed on those goods by the Abnormal Importations Duties Act. It is not possible to know whether their inclusion in the list had anything to do 1371 with the famous speech made by the President of the Board of Trade in the autumn of last year on the prohibition of luxury imports into this country. If that speech actuated what was done, I should like to inform the right hon. Gentleman that some of those goods are in almost universal use in this country, and that of the coarser gauges he can obtain some of them at Woolworths for 6d. a leg. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is aware of that fact or not. At the outset it was thought best to put on a tariff of 50 per cent. That was done, and the sequel is extremely interesting. The first effect of the Order was naturally to raise enthusiasm and satisfaction in that section of the trade mainly interested in the manufacture of these goods. As this section is largely in and about my constituency, and as it affects employment there, I also have watched with interest the actions of the right hon. Gentleman, and of the Tariff Advisory Committee, in this connection. I do not suppose that in the election many of the hosiery operatives supported me. In all probability they gave their votes to the tariff candidate, but the experience of the last few weeks, and the disillusionment that has come, is calculated to change the views of some of them. Obviously, that duty was designed to check the imports of silk and artificial silk stockings. In November, 1930, there were imported into this country 13,000 dozen pairs of pure silk stockings, and 162,000 dozen pairs of artificial silk stockings. In November, 1931, the figures were 16,000 dozen pairs of pure silk stockings and 356,000 dozen pairs of artificial silk stockings. In March, 1932, after the Order had been in operation three or four months, the figures were: pure silk stockings, 8,999 dozen pairs, a reduction of 50 per cent.; and artificial silk stockings, 17,604 dozen pairs, a reduction of nearly 80 per cent. Now the duty is suddenly withdrawn, and it can be imagined what the feeling is in regard to the sudden revocation of the Order which began to operate on 26th April. It has had some disastrous consequences. I wish to refer to the speech of the President of the Board of Trade in the House on 14th April. He came along in the first flush of victory, 1372 congratulating himself on the result of the Abnormal Importations Duties. They had resulted, he told us, in the setting up in this country of new industries; things were being made here which had never been made here before. The Advisory Committee has now dealt a smashing blow at the further development of that child of the right hon. Gentleman to which I refer. He said:I came across an instance last week in which what are called fully-fashioned hosiery machines, which were invented in this country by an English engineer, but have not been used here to any great extent. They have been used almost entirely in Germany. The number that has been used in this country is so small that the capital involved in it is comparatively negligible. Now the tendency has been to use more of these machines, and a number of secondhand machines have been bought and brought over here. If there had been anything like the enterprise and inventive skill used in the production and regular use of these machines as there was in their initial invention, they would never been the standard stock machines of Germany and Czechoslovakia.Incidentally the whole of that statement conveys an entirely erroneous impression. These fully-fashioned goods have been made in this country since the foundation of the industry.. The seamless hosiery of which he speaks came afterwards, and was grafted on to the fully-fashioned system in operation. The right hon. Gentleman goes on:But now that fully-fashioned hosiery is a much more attractive article than ordinary hosiery, which owes its shape to being stretched out on a board when damp, instead of being woven to fit the limb. My hon. Friend, no doubt, would like to take part in this Debate on hosiery machinery. What I am saying is to show that we have very often ourselves to blame for not using the inventions of our own country and for allowing them to be adopted and used abroad. Now, under the impulse of new and internal enterprise, we are finding many more of these machines coming into use, but they cost about £2,000 apiece, and that involves a factory in a very large capital expenditure if it should proceed with their installation on anything like a commercial scale."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1932; cols. 1016–17, Vol. 264.]The right hon. Gentleman congratulated himself on having initiated the proposal which led to these desirable results. As I reminded him later on the same occasion, his information was hopelessly inadequate as a basis on which to pronounce such an opinion. It is true the Abnormal Importations Duties roused 1373 excited enthusiasm and satisfaction in circles where these goods are manufactured, and the consequence has been that there have been remarkable changes in the last three or four months, or rather attempts at change. It was the view of the Department, I understand, that only some 200 of these finer gauge machines were operating in this country. I made careful efforts to find out the number in actual operation, and I ascertained that in my own area alone there were over 600 machines in operation. There are more on the fringes of London, there are some in Liverpool, and the information of the Department about this is hopelessly inadequate and entirely wrong. Having excited and stirred up this interest and urged people to develop along these lines, this duty was suddenly withdrawn, with very important consequences for my constituency. It has come to my knowledge this week that one new factory, in which £20,000 worth of this new machinery was to be installed and which was in process of erection, and that another place at which the staff were placed on a double shift system—all that had been cancelled, and the people employed in the latter factory are faced to-day with a 33⅓ per cent. wage reduction in the case of male employés, and 10 per cent. reduction for the girls. That 10 per cent. reduction is due to the fact that this foreign firm will be enabled to import these goods in a partial state of manufacture and will finish them themselves in that factory. Consequently they do not care very much what is the view of the men as to the reduction of 33⅓ per cent. I did not come here either as a Tariff Reformer or as a Free Trader. There is no illusion in my Division as to what my views are. I have lived in it all my life, and I ran at the election as a Socialist. But if you are going to build up this tariff system, do the thing properly. Do not make blunders of this description. If you believe in the thing, put it into operation and let it have a try out. That is my view. The hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) said the whole attitude of the Government in regard to this question was based on a wrong diagnosis of the situation. I entirely agree with that. The President of the Board of Trade in that same speech to which I have referred said:We speak far too largely of what is done by this country, and by this Dominion and 1374 that, whereas in fact trade is conducted, not by States, but by individuals.He concluded that passage in his speech with these words:These are prosaic matters, and, unless they are inspired by something more than the narrowest self-interest, they are not likely to lead us very far."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 14th April, 1932; col. 1023, Vol. 264.]The right hon. Gentleman in the speeches he makes sometimes sees to the very heart of the matter. The real reason why you will not solve the problem that faces us by your tariff system is stated in those two passages I have just quoted. Trade is largely an individual matter. Trade is motived in the main by self-interest, and so long as its motivation remains self-interest, and so long as it is mainly individual, you will not, by the measures you are enacting, get us out of the chaos and confusion in which we find ourselves.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I rise to support the approval of the Order which is the subject of this Debate. I should like to express my entire agreement with the speech made by the hon. Lady the Member for Dundee (Miss Horsbrugh). I cannot help feeling that some part of this Debate has been a little unreal. Quite a number of the speeches would have been appropriate as Second Reading speeches on the Import Duties Bill when it was before this House. We are not now discussing the question whether we are to have the Import Duties Act; we are discussing its administration. A large number of these matters, such as those dealt with by the hon. Member for North Bristol (Mr. Bernays), are no longer appropriate to this discussion at all. Hon. Members are entitled to give their views on the general question, but we are really deciding what is to be our attitude towards a particular schedule with specific recommendations, and a White Paper giving the reasons for the recommendations being put forward.
Something has been said about the financial crisis which brought about this legislation being exaggerated, and a manipulation. When anybody is bleeding to death there is not much room either for exaggeration or for manipulation. This country was undoubtedly bleeding to death, financially and industrially, and the first thing to do was to apply a tourniquet. That was applied by 1375 the Abnormal Duties Act; restriction of activity of a certain kind followed; and I hope a slow convalescence is in progress. No doubt the greatest contributing factor in the recovery of a patient is the constitution of the patient himself, but I think a word of praise can sometimes be given for the medical adviser. Undoubtedly, the greatest contributory cause in the recovery of the nation has been its own inherent strength, but I think some credit can be given to the National Government which has applied the remedies in time.
It is in that way I am proposing to look at this matter to-night. It not infrequently happens in the affairs of many great concerns that there is occasional discontent with the management, and a committee of shareholders is appointed. But no one ever suggests that there should be any restriction on their access to documents and facts, or on their power to make recommendations. It is very rare when a committee has so been appointed that recommendations which they make, with a full knowledge of what they have inquired into, are not put into force. That is the position to-day. A committee has been appointed, recommendations have been made, and the subject matter of debate yesterday and to-day is the putting into force of those recommendations. Of course, if you give an order to abandon ship, if you give an order to go full-speed astern, if you change your management and completely alter your policy, you may look for startling and unforeseen results. These have been experienced in this country.
I defy anybody to compare the state of this country on 20th November 1931, when the Abnormal Duties Act received the Royal Assent, with the state of the country to-day, without being able to apply the word "miraculous" to the change. There are great difficulties confronting us, but anyone who knows the temper and the pulse of the world and the rate of confidence which the world has for this country to-day, will share my view that there have been miraculous changes since 20th November, 1931. I ascribe them in the large majority more to the intrinsic strength of our country than to any other fact; but there has been one chorus above all others, and that is that the Abnormal Importations Act enabled 1376 us to have an overhaul. Men, businesses, institutions and countries profit very much by having occasionally a complete overhaul, and that, I think, has happened here. Before the last General Election many people—among them many Free Traders—hoped that this controversy of free imports or restricted imports would be lifted altogether out of the political arena into the realm of economic discussion. We have that opportunity, and I hope that supporters of the Government and Members of the Opposition alike will take advantage of it. The political field is rather a tempting subject of debate, and I do not want to be drawn into that. I will merely say that I approve what I think to be a very sane observation by a prominent Luton industrialist when these duties were first proposed. He said:Free Traders will say that they are all that is bad; Tariff Reformers will welcome them as being good. We industrialists say that we do not know—time alone will show. A duty by itself achieves very little.I think that that is sound observation. With regard to some of the speeches from Members of the Opposition and Members of the Liberal party who have been opposing this Order, I would like to add this. A prophet of gloom is not necessarily the best leader in a time of difficulty, and it does not always follow that because you prominently call attention to impending disaster you necessarily avert it. Mountaineers know many a slope in the Alps where the risk of an avalanche or a fall of snow is so great that a warning shout from one of your party may bring about the very fall that you are anxious to avoid So I think little is done by merely speaking in a gloomy note.
I pass to the economic field, and I would like to offer one or two observations. The Abnormal Importations Act afforded an invaluable experience to the Customs administration of this country as to the effect and consequence in many lines of industry of a restriction. I feel sure that the greatest opportunity was taken by the most competent officials of the Customs and Excise Department in drawing the very best lessons from the experience which they have gained. They will serve in very good stead in the administration of Customs Duties on a wider scale under the Act of 1932. It is convenient that on the second day of this Debate we should have in our hands the 1377 text of the Finance Bill. Clauses 6, 7, 8 and 9 of that Bill are very helpful. I am, of course, in no way anticipating the discussion on the Bill, but drawbacks and freedom of importation of machinery are vital matters and in some measure are germane to what we are discussing to-day. I assume, and perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade will correct me if I am wrong, that all these new powers of importation and of drawbacks will be additional to those already given by Clause 13 of the Import Duties Act, 1932. As to the Order which the House is asked to approve to-day, I am much impressed by the White Paper and Memorandum submitted by the Advisory Committee. The frank and clear way in which they express their difficulties, and to some extent their recognitions of the possibility of error and, indeed, the probability of miscalculation, is a very excellent sign.
We are to be congratulated as a country that the Tariff Committee is non-political, is entirely beyond all suggestion of bias, and is composed of practical men who are hard working and have shown ability. There will, of course, be error, mistake and miscalculation, and the point that occurs to me on that matter is the need of certainty in industry. We do not want the certainty of error. We do not want error, if discovered, to remain one moment longer than it must. If on the one hand you make clear to industry that your general level of duty is not going to be reduced for a period of 12 months, but that it may be raised; and on the other hand you say in paragraph after paragraph that if there has been a mistake it can be rapidly corrected, and if there has been an unfortunate mishit it can be put right, you are inviting a state of mind in industry which will wonder whether any part of it has any permanency at all. I am wondering—to quote the instance of my hon. Friend the Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) of the sudden taking off of a duty on certain goods—whether we can have any machinery set up whereby an industry itself can be consulted before a duty is removed. There is nothing in Protectionist doctrine nor in Free Trade doctrine which says as to when a duty should come to an end. The test is what is the best interest of the country as a whole—producer, distributor and consumer treated alike. You cannot 1378 alter the rights of shareholders without a certain majority of those entitled to vote.
Is it too much to ask the President of the Board of Trade to investigate whether there can be some system whereby, when it is proposed to reduce a duty or to alter a duty affecting a particular trade, a certain percentage of those interested in that trade shall at least be consulted and notified beforehand? The suggestion is intended to be of a practical character; it is not intended to embarrass. I am endeavouring to deal with the real difficulty experienced in practice, and which is actually acting as a deterrent to foreign firms to set up their organisations in this country. May I ask, then, what is the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to goods that are not made here at all? I appreciate that under the Import Duties Act itself the powers of the Committee are limited to goods of a certain kind, and that the Committee are not intended to make recommendations with regard to goods which cannot be made in sufficient quantities here, and which in fact are not made in sufficient quantity, but what is the policy of the Government with regard to these goods? Supposing that a committee does make a mistake, and under a definition given to goods "A" incidentally uses words which are large enough, in the opinion of the Customs, to include goods "B"; and supposing goods "B" are not made in this country at all. Is there to be no power by which some kind of dispensing authority enables the goods which are not made in this country to be exempted from duty upon proof of that fact?
I ask that this suggestion may be considered with a view to the addition of a Clause to the Finance Bill somewhat similar to Clause 12 dealing with the importation of specified machinery, so that a dispensing power is given to the Customs whereby, on satisfactory proof to the Commissioners of Customs and Excise that the particular goods are not, in fact, made in this country at all, the duties on them may be waived or that these commodities may, in that instance, be exempted. The matter is of extreme importance. It may be said that it does not affect the great basic industries and that on a comparison of the value or volume of imports the total figures are 1379 not large, but when I tell the authorities that many of these goods which are not made here are raw materials for manufactures in this country the matter becomes more serious. It is a fact that under the present system of interpretation of the meaning of words used by the Advisory Committee a difference may exist between what the Customs hold to fall within the description and what the Committee may have intended to fall within it.
Then there is another practical point which has arisen and which I venture to put to the President of the Board of Trade. Is it intended that this Advisory Committee shall have power to propose a duty on an article in respect of which no request for a duty has been made, either by the producer, distributor or consumer? In other words, are the Committee alone to be the judges of the type of duty which should, in their view, be put on, without making any inquiry, without receiving any request, and without any evidence other than their own knowledge? It is a matter of policy. I appreciate that, in point of fact, the powers of the Committee are not limited in that respect, and as the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) reminds me, they have, in fact, taken such action. It is because of instances which are known to me that I am raising the point, asking whether that is or is not intended as a matter of Government policy. It seems to me that if the Committee are to work without reference to a trade in any way, relying upon information which is in the possession of the Board of Trade, the House will need some assurance that such information is up to date, that it has not been changed or modified by altered circumstances. I ask, therefore, is it intended that the Committee should have power to suggest duties without any request whatever having come from a trade or any member connected with it?
§ Sir B. PETO
The answer to the hon. Member's question is to be found in Section 3 (1) of the Import Duties Act. There is the power given to the Committee.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I am much obliged to the hon. Baronet for his intervention. I 1380 do not doubt that the Committee have the power, but surely it is a question of Government policy whether they should exercise that power, or whether, if they do, the recommendation from them should be approved by the Treasury. It is the committee who recommend but it is the Treasury who put the recommendation into force, and it is a matter of policy whether this particular power is intended to be exercised; but I will pass from that point, because we can perhaps study that later.
I come now to the very important matter of interpretation. Who is to define the meaning of words used in a schedule of duties proposed by the committee? The answer at present is "The Commissioners of Customs and Excise." Hon. Members will appreciate that under Section 4 of the Abnormal Importations Act there was a summary procedure by appeal to a referee, but that has been done away with. The procedure now of dealing with a rendering or interpretation which one regards as erroneous is that provided by Sections 30 and 31 of the Customs Laws Consolidation Act, 1876. That is a well-known procedure. The importer who is dissatisfied pays a deposit and action is then commenced in the High Court of Justice to test the validity of the duties charged. With all the factors changing, as to-day, I question whether a mere right of action in the High Court of Justice, with the possibility of the Attorney-General appealing from an adverse verdict to the Court of Appeal, and so litigating right through the courts, is really a speedy, an economical or a. satisfactory method of interpreting a recommendation by the committee. I raise as a very important practical point the necessity of providing some rapid method of determining the extent and ambit of a definition given by the committee, and the method of testing it by a taxpayer who finds himself involved in a difference with the Commissioners of Customs and Excise.
I will take shortly one or two specific instances. On page 20 of the White Paper, containing the schedule of duties, there appears under Group VII, manufactures wholly or partly of cotton and other tissues. Now the word "partly" means exactly what it says—in part; and it will be found that a great many ribbons 1381 and braids made of something entirely other than the tissues referred to in the committee's recommendation are guided through the machines on two parallel strands of cotton or other tissue, and the mere fact that there is, so to speak, a stitching which is used in the manufacture of the ribbon is held to be the cause of the Customs being able to determine that that particular manufacture is wholly or partly of the particular tissues referred to—because of those two guiding threads. That is an illustration which will serve to show what I have in mind. I think some attention might be given to the question of whether the method of dealing with interpretation and with appeals is the wisest one.
There is one last question, and that is, Can the Board of Trade give any indication of the type of machinery which is intended to be covered by the recommendation of the Committee in paragraph 12 of the White Paper— "Specialised kinds of machinery not made in this country"? I ask for this reason. Under the Finance Bill, as circulated, there will be a provision dealing with machinery. This cannot be retrospective without there being special words inserted in the Clause. At present you have a recommendation from the Committee that highly specialised machinery, not made here, shall be exempt from duty, but we have no definition nor indication of what will be regarded by an interpreting authority as highly specialised machinery not made here. You cannot set up a factory without installing machine tools. If there is an alternative of setting up a factory, the owner being sure of 20 per cent. he will wait in the hope that his machinery will be specialised and will come in free. In that case there is delay in installing tools, employing hands, and placing orders, and all that is contrary to the best interests of the trade.
We desire to speed up the placing of orders and to help the starting of factories and the engaging of hands, and the very hesitation brought about by the hope that it may prove to be specialised machinery under the Finance Bill is a delaying cause actually contrary to the interests of the workpeople to-day. I hope we shall get some indication of what is specialised machinery. It might only relate to some highly specialised 1382 machinery employed under certain conditions, or it might relate to something much wider. It might relate to machinery entitled to exemption under the Finance Bill. It is because of the delay in deciding what this machinery is to be that I have asked this question.
It is important when the President of the Board of Trade is considering articles which should be added to the free list to remember mercury. I wish to say a word about putting mercury in the list, because scientific instrument makers complain that their orders are falling off owing to the high cost of mercury. I think the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act so affected industry and commerce that it had to be completely overhauled. The six months operation of the 1931 Act has now expired, and we require the imposition of the Act of 1932 for both revenue and protective purposes. For these reasons I shall support the approval of the Order we are now discussing.
§ Captain STRICKLAND
I am sure that hon. Members will have a good deal of sympathy with me in the attempt I am making to-night to place my views before the House in a maiden speech. I want to say at the outset that, in my opinion, the Order that is placed before us tonight is carrying out the pledges made by the National Government when it first took office. I know quite well that in my constituency of Coventry there will be a feeling of disappointment that the rates of duties have been lowered in so many eases, and there will be a sort of feeling that the bottom is dropping out of these proposals because certain trades are not enjoying that high rate of duty which they enjoyed under the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act. After all, that Act was not the thing we placed before the country in our election addresses. We had last night from the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) a challenge to any Member of the Government to say that they fought the last election on the principle of the protection of industry.
I ventured, and I suppose it was a great venture, to suggest that he might equally challenge Members on the back benches, because I myself had the good fortune, and the honour, to contest an industrial constituency for the first time in my life 1383 at the last election. It was a seat which was then in the possession of one of the strongest Free Traders who, in the last Parliament, ornamented the benches on this side of the House as a supporter of the Socialist Government. I was able to place before the electorate a very definite proposal, which was the main thing and one of the objects which I put before the electors at every meeting which I attended. Therefore, there was no doubt in the mind of anybody in my constituency who did me the honour of voting for me that he was supporting one who was going into the new House of Commons to support a scheme of Protection for the workers of this country.
The principles which I put forward at the election were those which have been carried out by the National Government. At the last election in Coventry I converted a Socialist majority of 12,000 into a majority of 16,000 in favour of myself as a National candidate, and not as a purely Conservative condidate. That is the position in which I stand, and I have given my humble support to what has been accomplished by the present Government in so short a time. An hon. Member opposite has just stated that we have in the new Parliament Members elected to represent great interests. I submit that that is exactly what Members are elected for, and with the power in our hands, owing to the unity of a National Government, we ought to give a fresh hope and a fresh vision to the great mass of the workers of this country. We ought to get done by our own people a large proportion of the work done by foreigners for so many years, and thus restore manhood to our nation.
The hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) seemed to put the case in just the way I should have liked to put it from this side, and I have been wondering how far we differ in reality in our approach to this question. The hon. Member for Mansfield has told the House that his constituency was very much affected by the Abnormal Duties Act, and the hon. Member acknowledges that fact because it affects his constituency. He admits that the removal of the duties under the Abnormal Importations Act has had a bad effect in his constituency. If the hon. Member were true to the statement 1384 we have heard from the Front Bench opposite, then he should come to this House and rejoice that the Abnormal Importations Act has ceased to function in his constituency. Instead of doing that he comes forward with a clear-cut statement that the effect of protective duties was beneficial, because it brought fresh trade to his constituency, which is likely to be destroyed because the Government have removed these duties as far as the silk trade is concerned.
The making of one's first speech in this House is always very difficult, but any hesitation that I feel on this occasion is due, not so much to nervousness on my own part, as to nervousness lest I may not be able to do justice to the cause which I have so much at heart. I know that I have been elected to this Parliament to do what I can for my own city of Coventry, as part of the great national programme, and it is in that regard that I desire to ask the indulgence of the House to-night. Coventry, in bygone days, was the centre of our great silk industry. Those were days when in this country we had something like 150,000 people engaged in the industry, with a much smaller population. That number has dwindled to something like 40,000 in our modern silk industry. The difficulty in which the silk industry finds itself is unique. While years ago silk was regarded as a luxury, to-day, as the hon. Member for Mansfield has said, it is no longer an article of luxury, but is now an article of daily use. And yet silk alone, of all the industries of this country, is the one that has received to-day what I consider to be extremely bad treatment on the part of the Government. It is the only one that is left entirely without attention, and for that reason I want to plead with the Government to use any powers that they possess to put this injustice right.
When the duty was put on raw silk and artificial silk coming into this country, it was necessarily based upon weight. If you have a duty which represents 5s. in 20s. worth of silk—I am not giving these as actual figures—it can easily be seen that, if the original duty based on weight was equal to 5s. on a value of 20s., and there is a drop in price such as has been taking place ever since 1925, although the price value may have come down to 10s. the tax upon the 1385 material still remains the same, because it is based on weight. In that case, instead of the tax being 5s. on 20s. worth of raw silk, it is 5s. on 10s. worth; that is to say, a 25 per cent. duty in 1925 has now become a 50 per cent. duty against the trade using that raw material. I will now take the other side. When it was a question of putting a duty on manufactured silk goods coming into this country, it was obvious that that duty could not be based on the weight of the article, because a silk dress, say, coming into this country, would have various ornamentations upon it, various added weights would be given to it, and it could not be taxed on weight, but had to be taxed on value. Suppose that in 1925 the tax was £5 on a dress worth £20, and that the prices dropped exactly as I assumed when I was speaking of the raw material. Then the dress would have declined in value from £20 to £10, but the duty paid would also have declined, so that, whereas the duty on the manufactured article was originally £5, it would now be only £2 10s.
That is the position that has arisen in the silk industry. The taxes on raw material for the silk industry in this country have steadily risen against the British manufacturer, while the taxes against the foreigner sending his silk dresses into this country have gradually fallen, so that I say without qualification that in many cases to-day in the manufactured silk industry there is actually a duty operating against the British manufacturer and in favour of the foreigner. This matter is not affected by the fact that we belong to one party or to another party; I am merely trying to put the case, apart from politics altogether, to a House which I believe, with its sense of fairness, will see that there is something wrong in the way in which the silk industry is being handled in this country.
In Coventry, of course, we have felt, very much as the people in the constituency of the hon. Member for Mansfield have felt, and as people everywhere where silk is being made have felt, this sudden removal of the Abnormal Importations Duties, which were a considerable help to the silk trade. I do not want to weary the House, but I think that the following figures crystallise the whole argument into a small space. Taking the imports of artificial silk hose into this country, some of the figures relating to 1386 which were quoted by the hon. Member for Mansfield, our importation into this country of artificial silk hose—a fully manufactured article, which could be made equally well in this country by our own people—was, in the month of October of last year, 271,347 dozen pairs. In November, the figure had risen to 350,119 dozen pairs. Then came the imposition of the duties under the Abnormal Importations Act, with the result that the very next month the imports dropped to 22,000 dozen pairs, followed in January by 38,000 dozen, in February by 13,000 dozen, and in March by 17,000 dozen pairs. That had an immediate effect. Just as many stockings were being sold in this country, but our girls and men were being employed in making those stockings, as a result of the Abnormal Importations Act. The hon. Member for Mansfield pointed out that the imports of pure silk hosiery had dropped by 50 per cent., and of artificial by 80 per cent.
I want to put my plea very briefly. Since this trade is placed in a unique position by virtue of the fact that it cannot go to the Import Duties Advisory Committee, because it carries an Excise as well as a Customs duty, I want to ask two things of the Government. First, I would ask that, if the case has been made out that Where is an injustice to the silk industry, the Government themselves will take steps, which a private Member cannot take, to rectify this wrong. It can be done, and I believe that the sense of the House will be in its favour, because I know that hon. Members opposite are just as keen as I am to see our workers at work. I am not one who condemns everybody who does not share his own way of thinking. I know that everyone in this House has a sense of fair play, and that, if the case is put fairly and squarely to them that there is an injustice, they will be willing, no matter what may be their politics, to help to remove it.
I want the Government of their own free will to come to the help of the silk industry by at any rate giving to it that measure of Protection which will enable it to overcome the low wage rates of foreign countries. Let me give one instance of these. The Italians are some of the biggest importers of silk into this country. A woman weaver at Como, who is working eight looms on a 48-hour week, 1387 earns at the most 16s. In Japan, where they work two shifts in the 24 hours, continuous working, the most they can earn is 12s. a week. Do hon. Members opposite, who claim to represent the workers, think the British working man has a dog's chance when you tie the hands of the manufacturer, when you insist on a high standard of living and on a standard of education far superior to any other country, when you have all these things that are burdening industry and sending up the British price? Do they think they are giving a square chance to the British worker if they give the slightest encouragement to these cheaply manufactured foreign imports to come into the country and keep our own people out of work? I am glad the Government have taken the step they have. I believe it is a step in the right direction. I believe, with the good will and help of right-minded men and women, we shall be able to pull the old country through. I believe we have set our feet on the path that leads to prosperity. Even now, whatever may have been said in the House, whatever disagreements there may have been, let us see if we cannot unite in a real British effort to bring this trade back to our people and restore to them the manhood which they are seeking, and which they have lost for so many years.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mrs. TATE
I feel that the task that falls to me of congratulating the hon. Member must seem, from such a new Member as myself, almost an impertinence, but I am sure that all hon. Members will join with me in feeling that he most successfully surmounted the extremely difficult task of making his maiden speech. I want to say a few words concerning a trade in which I take a deep interest—the cotton trade. I do not represent a Lancashire constituency but, nevertheless, I do not think it is necessary to apologise for taking an interest in what is our chief export trade and one in which two-thirds of the operatives are women. It is, moreover, a trade of such supreme importance that I think it is no exaggeration to say that the welfare of British industry as a whole may be very much affected by it. The Lord President of the Council, when speaking at Stratford-on-Avon the other 1388 day, enunciated the great truth that a man will die for ideas but he will not die for facts. It is a fact that since the formation of the National Government great strides have been made in many directions. Much of the value of that fact will be lost should the idea take root abroad that the great British cotton industry is declining. Lancashire, and all those who take an interest in her trade, realise that there is a vital need for complete reconstruction in her industry. While she is endeavouring to formulate and carry out plans for her internal reorganisation, it is essential that she should have all the help that we can give her. I think in some respects the report of the Tariff Advisory Committee was a disappointment to the cotton trade. The fall in the values of cotton imports since the imposition of the Abnormal Importations Duty is extremely striking. During the first quarter of last year the imports of cotton manufactured goods into this country amounted to over £2,000,000. In the first three months of the present year to 31st March they had fallen to £308,783. In 1931, before the imposition of the duties, we had imported into this country 81,000,000 square yards of cotton piece goods, to a value of over £4,250,000. Every yard of that cloth could have been manufactured in Lancashire, but it was imported from abroad, and many thousands of our cotton operatives joined the army of the unemployed. There is no quality or quantity of cloth that we cannot produce in this country. Foreign tariffs and the lower cost of production abroad have very much restricted our export trade, so that to-day the home market constitutes fully 25 per cent. of Lancashire's trade. If we are assured of a certain home market, we can readjust our prices and, therefore, be enabled to recover a more favourable competitive position abroad.
Manufacturers are naturally a little disappointed to find that the measure of Protection afforded under the Abnormal Importation Duties has in some cases been so reduced as to be of very little value. Following the imposition of the 50 per cent. duties British manufacturers were flooded with inquiries for goods which were formerly imported from the Continent and elsewhere. To give 1389 only one example, one may quote coarse cloths, which were formerly imported in large quantities from France and America. In order to cater for the increased demand for these fabrics, many mills were equipped with special machinery. In many cases it takes from six to eight weeks to get that machinery running. Those manufacturers have a justifiable grievance. Everyone will admit that it must take some time before one can get the full value for new equipment, and the firms which acquired new equipment in a number of cases have not yet passed the experimental stage. With the reduction of the tariff I fear that foreign salesmen will again enter this country, for Continental firms, by reason of lower rates of pay and longer working hours, can, I believe, sumount the 20 per cent. duty. It is well known that Continental firms were prepared to jump a 10 per cent. duty, and that knowledge may have been instrumental in fixing the duty at 20 per cent., but, owing to the conditions under which Continental manufacturers work, I believe they will be able to lower their production costs and so surmount the extra 10 per cent., thus leaving themselves very little worse off for the tariff. It is contended that if Lancashire is to be afforded a full measure of Protection, imported cotton goods should be subject to a duty of at least 33⅓ per cent.
With regard to our export trade, it is apparent that in the last 10 years we have been prevented from stemming the inrush of foreign competition in our former markets because of the unfavourable prices on which the industry has had to operate. Accompanying this adverse influence has been the growing industrial consciousness of our former customers. They have now become manufacturers for themselves, and of that we do not complain. The cotton industry has always done all that it could to help the development of the Empire fields and it has contributed very largely in money, expert advice, personnel, and work to transform barren areas into cultivated fields. But, nevertheless, there has been a strong tendency for our Dominions to turn away from the Mother Country for their supplies. A comparison of the imports into Canada in the years 1924 and 1929 will illustrate the position clearly. 1390 In 1924 Canada imported from the United Kingdom 46.2 million square yards of piece goods, whereas in 1929 she imported from us only 36.24 million square yards. In 1924 she imported from the United States of America 29.86 million square yards of piece goods, whereas in 1929 she imported from America no less than 70.44 million square yards of piece goods.
If the Empire markets have turned from us to America and Japan and to other sources on account of the price of our goods, surely it is essential that when we go to Ottawa we shall be able to show the Dominions that if they will take our goods they can have them on the same terms as those supplied by our competitors. The cotton trade can deal effectively with production costs which govern the price of finished goods, if, aided by adequate protection at home, all classes of the trade are guaranteed such a volume of demand that employment over a long period can be assured and reorganisation can be put through. But the one imperative need of the cotton industry is the return of public confidence. In the last 10 years failure from dividend-earning capacity has made it difficult to get additional revenue from the investing public. Last year, out of 211 firms, only 33 paid any dividend. If public confidence is to be sufficiently restored—and it must be restored before that industry can be re-organised—it is necessary that capital must be forthcoming, and there must be a greater prospect of better times ahead. If we give a fully protected home market, supplemented by increased trade with the Empire, which it is hoped will result from Ottawa, I believe that the cotton trade would be in a position to extend its business in foreign markets.
§ Mr. J. JONES
I have heard a large number of maiden speeches during the course of this Parliament, and I am certain that nearly all the maiden speeches to which we have listened have been a revelation to the House. As far as I am personally concerned, I was told, before I came here, that I was in for a great surprise, and I have had it. It has been said that fools step in where angels fear to tread. I do not pretend to be an angel, but I hope that I am not a fool. The present Debate reminds me of the days when I first joined the Socialist movement, 1391 when the controversy between Free Traders and Protectionists was so fierce and strong that I was keenly interested in looking at the dog fight. I discovered that the Free Traders and the Protectionists belonged to the same class. They were all looking for what they hoped to get out of the change, and if no change took place no one would get any change. I have heard hon. Members representing various trades talk of how these new policies were going to affect their particular trade or their constituency, thus proving one of the arguments which we have tried to use, namely, that when it comes to the question of Protection for a particular trade hon. Members look upon it as the only trade that matters.
The Lancashire cotton trade has been cited by the hon. Lady the Member for West Willesden (Mrs. Tate). My hon. Friend, who sits on the same bench as I do and represents another constituency interested in a different trade, also spoke from that particular standpoint. Therefore I hope that I shall be excused if I speak from my particular point of view. I represent a dockside constituency in the East End of London. I am inclined to ask all those rabid Protectionists who have already spoken, Where do we come in? In my constituency there are three of the largest docks in Great Britain, from which goods are sent all over the Empire, and, indeed, all over the world. There are the Albert, the King George and the Victoria Docks, apart from the West and East India Docks. They represent one-fifth of the total import and export trade of Great Britain. They are situated on the south side of the river and on the north side of the river. Surely it is not wrong for me to suggest that a population representing practically one-sixth of the population of Great Britain wants some consideration in a matter of this kind. When they get their living by the loading and unloading of ships, and by the transport of goods, not merely direct transport but indirect transport, by an entrepot trade, transferring goods from the ship to the barges and to the various centres of distribution all over Great Britain, surely it cannot be said that it is not an inconsiderable trade. Surely it deserves consideration.
As representing a great district of that character I have a right to enter a caveat 1392 against the people who are assuming that because they produce silk stockings they are more important to the nation than the men who work on the docks. [An HON. MEMBER: "Nobody suggested it!"] You do not suggest it, but what can I make of your reasoning? What can I imagine is at the back of your necks? If a party of Members who are so enthusiastic about Protection will arrange to meet me one morning at London Bridge and go down to the Surrey Commercial Docks to begin with, and then come over the river and down to the King George, the Victoria and the Albert Docks, they will see men fighting for a ticket to go to work. Larger numbers have been thrown out of work on the dockside since the Import Duties came into operation. Of course, you give us figures. We have been given figures so often that I am reminded of an old adage that figures cannot lie. But liars can figure. I know what happens. The men have been thrown off the register at the Employment Exchanges because they have exhausted their benefit, and now they have to go to the public assistance committees. It has not changed the real situation at all. I was very pleased to hear—because it proves our case up to the hilt—the. hon. Lady the Member for West Willesden tell us about the conditions in other countries, and every one a protected country. Every country she mentioned is well protected—low wages and long hours! [An HON. MEMBER: "They protect their goods!"] You buy in the cheapest market. When you wish to sell anything you desire to sell in the dearest market, but when you wish to buy anything you try to buy in the cheapest market. Some hon. Members claim that their raw materials should be cheap, should come in free, but that the things which they sell should be well taxed. They cannot have it both ways. You have to take your mutton as you get it.
I have said very often that we do not believe in Free Trade or Tariff Reform. We believe in organised trade by the nation for the nation, production for use and not for profit. Hon. Members are trying to get the best out of a bad system. They have all proved that it is a bad system by their lamentations. I should not complain to-morrow if something could be done for the people I represent, and I have as much right to say that as 1393 hon. Members have to say it for the cotton trade or any other trade, but your Protection system is not going to help my constituents who are composed mainly of transport workers on land or on water. There will be no advantage to them by this change in our fiscal system. We want a change, but the real change would be a reorganisation of our industries from the bottom to the top, with a different sort of ownership from that which we have now; and when that time comes it will not be a question of Tariff Reform or Free Trade. The workers will understand their own interests and will not be led up the garden path as they were last October. They will know exactly where they are, and where they want to go. [An HON. MEMBER: "They will have nothing at all!"]
As far as the workers are concerned everything is here if they like to take it. It is there for the asking. They need not stand outside the factory gates asking for work at a miserable wage. If they had the courage and the spirit they could make this country a land fit for decent people, but that will be when they take control and do not swallow the doctrines laid down in this Debate. The General Election finished with a doctor's mandate, but now we are to have the surgeon's knife. It is not MacDonald's medicine, but Baldwin's balsam; and the only answer we get is that the dose is not big enough. 10 per cent. is not enough, 20 per cent. is not enough, 33⅓ per cent. is not enough; let us put such a tariff up that nobody will know how they can jump over it. What do you offer the working classes in my constituency? Is it more work in the docks and the factories? More work in the East End of London? You cannot do it, and you know that you cannot. It is said, wait until the schemes are developed— yes, "Wait until the clouds roll by." We are supporting the proposition of the Opposition and we believe that the workers of this country have been led up the garden path for the last time.
§ Sir B. PETO
The hon. Member for Silvertown (Mr. J. Jones) will forgive me if I do not follow him in the latter part of his speech, for it would lead mo a long way from the proposals before the House. In the earlier part of his speech he said that if he was convinced that Protection would give his constituents 1394 anything he would vote for it, but as he believed they would suffer loss of employment by the policy of the Government he was going to oppose it. I beg him to look a little further below the surface. What was the position of the country when the present Government took office? The position then was that we could not pay in exports for the vital things we needed to import into this country. How long would the dockers in his constituency have got work if that position had been allowed to go on unchecked? Obviously, there would have been complete stagnation of our export and import trade. We were on the verge of ruin then. The first condition of employment at the docks or anywhere else is a healthy productive condition of the country. If we cannot produce goods for home consumption, and for export, we cannot bring in the goods for which these goods pay. It is in the exchange of goods that his constituents get their daily living. The policy of the Government is the policy which is going to ensure work for the workers in Silvertown, and he will be in the wrong Lobby if he opposes the Government so far as the interests of his constituents are concerned.
The hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) in his interesting speech told us that he welcomed the Abnormal Importations Act because it gave us time to overhaul industry in this country. They were passed for a period of six months. Is that time enough for an overhaul of the industries of this country? He likened that particular Act to a tourniquet to stop excessive bleeding in a surgical operation. What would he think of a surgeon who in a dangerous case of that kind applied a tourniquet and before there was any proof of the stoppage of the bleeding, and before he had taken any effective steps to stop it, removed the tourniquet and allowed the patient to bleed to death? I want to deal with that point. The part of the White Paper containing the recommendations of the Advisory Committee to the Cabinet and to the House with which I quarrel is the sudden stoppage, the removal of the tourniquet applied in the case of a large number of industries by the Abnormal Importations Act. The removal of it so suddenly and by such a drastic drop in the duty, is creating a worse state of affairs in those industries than existed before.
1395 I do not know why, but in many industries, and particularly in the one I shall specially refer to to-night, the glove industry, which has really been disgracefully treated throughout its history by various Measures passed through this House, there has been a tendency to rely upon the Abnormal Importations Duties of 50 per cent. to an extent I should not have expected. When that Measure was passed through this House I ventured to say that to put on a duty of that extreme steepness, 50 per cent. for such a ridiculous period as six months, was to invite disaster, because no one could know what would happen at the end of the period. Now we do know and in many industries the duty is only 20 per cent. Let me quote from the Import Duties Act in regard to the action of the Advisory Committee. It says:In deciding what recommendations, if any, to make for the purposes of this Section, the committee shall have regard to the advisability in the national interest of restricting imports into the United Kingdom and the interests generally of trade and industry in the United Kingdom, including those of trades and industries which are consumers of goods as well as those of trades and industries which are producers of goods.Hon. Members may say that that is a very wide governing condition, but I would call their attention to the fact that it does not even mention the word "employment" in any way. It does not even put in the first place the interests of the productive industries of the country. It puts them in the second place. It does not use the words "productive industries" generally, but only speaks of those which are consumers and those which are producers. I think it is because of that limitation that you get the class of decision which has been mainly the subject of the Debate, so far as it has been confined to the actual White Paper which is before the House. I see that the Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech yesterday dealt with this question of the sudden withdrawal of the duties under the Abnormal Importations Act. He said:Some distress and some concern has been expressed on account of the sudden change from the 50 per cent. duty of the Abnormal Importations Act to the lower level now recommended.He goes on— 1396But there again, if industries are dissatisfied, it is for them to apply to the Advisory Committee, to make their case to the committee, and I know that the committee will be very willing to hear anything that may be said."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1932; cols. 1133 and 1134, Vol. 265.]As a matter of fact what the Committee would require is that the objection should be made in writing, and I would like to quote a line or two from a letter from the Secretary of the National Association of Fabric Glove Manufacturers. He writes to me on the 2nd May:I have written to the Advisory Committee many, many times. I have been to see the secretary but was only able to see an under-secretary, who told me that the committee would give the matter consideration at the earliest possible moment, which is too indefinite for an industry which is likely to be completely wiped out.As to the condition to which the industry will be reduced by this sudden drop to 20 per cent., the secretary of the Joint Industrial Council for the Glove-making Industry writes:If the duty is allowed to fall to 20 per cent. for only a few weeks, it may be many months before the industry will recover.9.30 p.m.
I think when I disclose to the House very briefly what has been the history of the fabric glove industry, that will seem a very moderate statement. It is fair to say that, if the industry is allowed to remain with the duties at only 20 per cent. on foreign imported manufactured gloves— and I ask the House to remember that there is also a duty of 20 per cent. upon the fabric from which these gloves are made in most cases, and that, therefore, there is no Protection for the glove worker—that it will be more like years than months before the industry will recover again. What is the recent history of the fabric glove industry? Before the War a very small proportion of the consumption of fabric gloves was supplied by the home manufacturers. The War gave complete Protection for four years, and the result was that in 1919 there were 10,948 workers employed in the fabric glove industry, as compared with 2,400 in 1913. Then in 1921 foreign importations came in with a rush, and domestic production was practically destroyed. The production, which during the War had risen to over 2,000,000 dozen pairs per year, fell to a paltry 150,000 dozen pairs. Employment went down to 1397 about 1,000, or to about one-tenth of those employed in the War period.
Then came the Safeguarding of Industries Act, 1921, which gave a protective duty of 33⅓ per cent. under Part 2. That was not a universal duty, but a duty against all countries with depreciated exchanges, unfair wages conditions and certain other conditions, but it was a duty which applied to Germany, and as the fabric glove industry is almost entirely centred in Saxony, it was to all intents and purposes an effective duty of 33⅓ per cent. Then came in the Socialist Government of 1924, and the duty was allowed to lapse. The result was that the number of people employed, which had greatly increased in the period between 1921 and 1924, fell to under 1,000, namely to only 786 persons. Then came the Safeguarding Duty of 1925, when a Conservative Government came into power. There was a 33⅓ per cent. duty applicable to all imports with an Imperial preference of one-third of the full rate from the 22nd December, 1925. The result was immediate. In the last quarter of 1925, some 24,000 dozen pairs were made; in 1929 the quantity had doubled to 47,420 dozen pairs, and the number of people employed had increased from 692 to 1,197. The imports of fabric gloves, which in 1925 were 3,632,000 dozen pairs, dropped to 2,437,000 dozen pairs in 1928 and to 2,024,000 dozen pairs in 1929. Then the duty was allowed to lapse again by the Socialist Government on the 31st December, 1930. The weekly production which in 1926 was only 2,723 dozen pairs increased in 1929 to 4,917 dozen pairs, and fell again in 1930 to 3,222 dozen pairs, because orders dropped off in anticipation of the duty coming off. In 1931 it fell to 1,769 dozen pairs and that produced a state of affairs which brought fabric gloves into the compass of the Abnormal Importations Duties. The January and February figures for the 1930 imports were 233,816 dozen pairs, whereas the January and February figures for 1930–31 were double that amount, 512,361 dozen pairs.
Then we had the Abnormal Importations Duties, which of course produced an immediate result. Before the imposition of that 50 per cent. protective duty most of the little factories in my constituency were closed. A few only were working at about half-time and most of the girls and 1398 women were on the dole. The result of those duties was that they all went on to full work There were no glove workers in the whole district a month or two ago capable of doing the work who were not employed at full time. The factories even sent to London and to other districts to find girls or women who were skilled in machine work of any kind and whose experience would enable them to be glove workers employed in the factories. Now I find that orders which had already been placed are cancelled, and that manufacturers are told that if they cannot deliver the goods in the next week or ten days, the order will be cancelled because gloves can be got much cheaper from Germany.
The simple question that has never been settled by any Government is whether it is desirable that English women and girls should make the gloves for English women and girls to wear. That is a simple proposition, and if the answer is "Yes," then what is not wanted is a sort of concertina policy of alternately having the industry closed down, then, for a few months, or for a couple of years in the middle of a four-year period, as was the case with the Safeguarding Act, giving a certain measure of Protection, and then removing it again and having a flood of imports. That is not the way to keep any industry in this country. That question has never been decided by the Government. Has the Government asked why it is that the industry has found it impossible to compete, why we have never made more than one-sixth of the fabric gloves which are used in this country, and that, when the Protection is removed, we make only one-tenth of those gloves? The answer is very simple. It is, as in many other industries cited by hon. Members in this Debate, that wages, conditions and hours of labour, particularly of homework and of piece-work are totally different in Saxony from what they are in this country. I will give the House only one or two more figures on that point.
The female workers in Saxony—and this is mainly a female workers' industry—are paid according to the standard rate of 40 pfennigs an hour. In sterling that amounts to the equivalent of 6d. an hour, and with the pound at par it would be 5d. The standard rate of wages for women in this country is from 7d. to 9d. an hour. 1399 That is not the whole story. German wages agreements are not rigidly adhered to. The workers take much less when orders are scarce, and a great part of the fabric gloves which are sent over so cheaply to this country are made by home-workers on a piece-work contract. We have cases where 50 pfennigs are paid— that is the equivalent of 7½d.—for a dozen pairs, and that is work which will take 2½ hours to do. It works out at the rate of 3d. an hour. The price of German imported gloves is far below the cost of production. Gloves costing 15s. 4d. to make in Saxony are offered for sale in London at 11s. 4d. per dozen.
There is an additional reason against the home producer, which is that there is more profit for the middleman in selling cheap German gloves than there is in selling the better and more expensive English-made gloves. Not only is there more profit for the middleman, but also for the wholesaler. They both prefer, from the point of view of their own pockets, to deal with the foreign product. The wholesaler pays the foreigner 8s. 6d. a dozen pairs, and sells them to the retailer at 12s. 11d. a dozen pairs. The retailer sells them to the public at 1s. 11½d. a pair, and that is very profitable business, as hon. Members will see who have followed those figures. The English glove, which is sold to the wholesaler at 15s. 6d. a dozen pairs, is sold to the retailer at 18s. 11d., and he sells the glove to the public at from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 11d. per pair. There is a difference of about 2s. per dozen pairs in favour of the foreigner in each case.
When the Advisory Committee say, as they do, in the letter to the Bradford Textile Workers' Association, that they quite admit that these things have to be looked into, but that it is only a transitory dislocation and inconvenience to business, and that at any rate the trade has a reasonable surety that the 20 per cent. duty is not likely to be reduced during the period of 12 months, as far as the fabric glove industry is concerned, that is quite apart from the reality of the case. The fabric glove industry has an assurance of 20 per cent. duty and no more, but there is a 20 per cent. duty on the fabric from which the gloves are made.
1400 These questions should be considered at once. It is very difficult I know, because the Advisory Committee have to consider many matters and we have to make every allowance. I know that the Advisory Committee cannot be seeing little industries like the fabric-glove industry when they have great questions like iron and steel to deal with. But who is to deal with the small industries? Are we to allow them to be destroyed? Is it not the purpose of the Government to try to increase employment? Why are we to allow an industry which is employing about 2,500 workers, to put out of work probably 2,000 out of that number, in the course of the next few weeks? That is really the situation. I have intervened in this Debate because I know that hon. Members have no locus standi at all with the Advisory Committee, and that this is the only opportunity that the House has to say anything about this question. I have no quarrel with the Government for leaving these matters to the committee, nor have I any quarrel with the committee on the broad lines of its decision, but the matter is absolutely urgent, and if the committee can find no time to deal with it they should depute someone else to report the facts to them. Let these people have someone that they can see. Not an under-secretary, whom the secretary of the fabric-glove organisation said to me he bored by talking to him for an hour, knowing perfectly well that the matter would go no further. You might just as well try to see the great Llama of Tibet, as far as these small industries are concerned at the moment. It is vital to the girls and women in my constituency who are being thrown out of work, that consideration should be given to their case. It is vital to various industries, already mentioned, including some of the larger industries. It is desirable that this question should be quickly decided and another Order made, because this sudden drop in the Abnormal Importations Duties rate, down to a uniform 20 per cent. means absolute disaster to many of those industries.
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
I have sat more or less through this Debate and the course which it has taken has brought to my mind an observation made by an old Member of this House, and a friend of mine who is now in another place. After spending 1401 a month in the House of Commons he confided to a friend that the Debates in this House reminded him forcibly, not only of the fact that there was variety in testimony but also the fact that the truth had many sides. Had he heard the Debate of the last two days he would have been confirmed in that opinion.
I listened yesterday not only with interest but with appreciation to the speech of the Home Secretary. It was one of the greatest Free Trade speeches to which I have ever listened. It did not convince me, but that is a small matter. I was surprised, however, to find that the right hon. Gentleman referred again to this question of efficiency and tariffs and suggested that under a tariff system inefficiency became more or less the order of the day among manufacturers. I submit that that idea is altogether fly-blown and out of date. It has been exploded, for instance, as regards the motor industry in this country. That industry has progressed greatly under a, system of tariffs. If we go back to the days before the War and consider which were the two greatest tariff countries at that time, we find that these were Germany and America. Those were highly-protected countries, but I venture to say that nowhere in the world was there greater research, invention and scientific attainment as applied to industry, than in those countries. I suggest that in this House there is too much of a disposition to throw discredit on the manufacturers of this country. It is a very bad advertisement. My own view is that, given fair conditions and reasonable security, the manufacturers in most of our industries can compete with any manufacturers in the world.
Another matter which arose in connection with the Home Secretary's speech was the question of Liberal Free Trade Ministers remaining in the Cabinet. I do not propose to follow the lines of the speech of my right hon. Friend the Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I do not share his view. I have the highest opinion of and respect for the Liberal Free Trade Ministers in the Cabinet, and I am certain that they are retaining their position in all good faith and with the best wishes for the interests of the country. But I am bound to say that there is a growing feeling, both inside and outside the House, that the public 1402 advertisement on the Front Bench, of discord in the Cabinet is not particularly desirable. While the Liberal Free Trade Ministers are quite justified in making their protest, it should be remembered that now they are Members of a Government which has embarked upon a new policy, and that that policy may—indeed is bound to—give rise to negotiations with foreign Powers on the question of tariffs. I do not think it will help my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in those negotiations if it is known abroad that the Government are speaking with divided voices on this subject. I do not make the slightest charge that my right hon. Friends are trying to make the best of both worlds, but I confess that they occupy a position which, as a Scotsman, I rather appreciate. It is, I think, a novelty in Parliamentary achievement to have the responsibility of high office and at the same time to enjoy the exhilaration of Opposition. I respectfully suggest that, in future, more emphasis might be placed on the responsibility of the high office and rather less upon the exhilaration of Opposition.
As regards the Order which is now before the House, I was one of those who voted for the Import Duties Act and for the appointment of the Advisory Committee. Under the same conditions I should give exactly the same vote as I shall give to-night for the Government. That, however, does not debar me from making some observations about the Advisory Committee. They have a task of extraordinary difficulty and complexity, and there is just the danger that this limited committee, facing a great array of claims of all kinds, may find themselves rather in the position of the bottle neck. I know that they have great difficulties to face, but I suggest that their action, as far as the Abnormal Importations Duties are concerned, has had a serious effect upon certain business interests. Several of these have been referred to to-night, and I do not wish to elaborate the subject. But let me assume that this House showed a certain lack of vision in passing the Abnormal Importations restrictions for a period of six months only; that they did not realise fully that no trade could properly adjust itself within that narrow limit of time, and also that they did not take 1403 into account the fact that during part of that time abnormal importations were coming into this country in anticipation of the Act.
I wish to refer specially to the position of a very considerable industry in Scotland which concerns my own constituency and many other parts of Scotland as well. I refer to the linen industry. The hon. Member for Silver-town (Mr. J. Jones) invited any hon. Member to meet him at the Albert Docks to see the number of men unemployed there. I shall be glad to meet the hon. Member there on the understanding that he will come with me to Dunfermline to see the numbers, not only of men but of women who are out of employment in that district. Factory after factory has been closed down. I would like the House to realise the serious unemployment which is prevalent in Scotland at the present time. These linen manufacturers have been making a gallant fight against very adverse conditions for a very long time. Continental competition has been very strong. Hon. Members opposite should realise that the labour conditions on the Continent as regards working hours and wages would not be tolerated in this country by the workers for a moment. That is what we are fighting against. The Abnormal Importations Act brought a glimmer of hope into the linen industry. I admit that 50 per cent. was a very high tariff. It has now been reduced to 20 per cent. Even if we assume that 50 per cent. is too high and ought to be reduced, I contend that the sudden fall from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent. is a very serious matter in any industry. You cannot enter upon forward contracts for manufacture and selling conditions unless you have some security and stability. This sudden and violent fall has once more dashed the hopes of the linen manufacturers in Scot-land. They have to pay high wages and they are governed largely by trade boards—and they wish to do that— which do not obtain in Ireland, but they must have some protection and they must not be subject—I say this with all respect to the distinguished gentlemen who are responsible for the decisions of the Advisory Committee—suddenly to violent fluctuations.
1404 While I supported and while I still support the appointment of the Tariff Advisory Committee, I think we shall find that ultimately the Government cannot devolve responsibility upon any outside body in matters vitally affecting the trade interests of the country. I say that for a perfectly definite reason, and I should like to put one point in regard to it to the President of the Board of Trade. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us the other day that he could not interfere with the duties decided upon by the Tariff Advisory Committee. I quite understand that, but we have in this country a Board of Trade, which is the custodian of national industrial interests. I have had considerable associations with the Board of Trade. No one has a higher opinion than myself of the officials of the Board of Trade, who have an expert and intimate knowledge of all matters relating to trade and industry in this country. The point that I wish to put to the right hon. Gentleman is this: Before recommendations from the Tariff Advisory Committee come before this House, is there any chance of collaboration with the Board of Trade, who might give very valuable advice to the Tariff Advisory Committee? The Board of Trade really understands and has at heart the trade interests of the country. If possible, I should like to see some liaison established between the Board of Trade and the Tariff Advisory Committee, because I feel sure that such an association might modify in the interests of the country some of the decisions which have reached us.
§ 10.0 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
May I deal first with the question which has been raised by the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. Wallace) in regard to what he called the out-of-date theory of the interrelation of efficiency and tariffs? The Chancellor of the Exchequer in his speech yesterday said of the Opposition that in their Amendment they assumed general inefficiency on the part of British trade. If he will read the Amendment carefully I think he will see that there is no such assumption behind it. The point with which we were dealing was the point which he himself makes and which the hon. Member for Dunfermline makes. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking 1405 of conversations which he had held with the chairman of the Advisory Committee, said:the Committee, no less than the Government, fully realise the danger that an industry might, if given sufficient protection, be willing to sit down under the shelter of that protection and fail to take the steps for reorganisation and re-equipment which perhaps were recognised to be necessary."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th May, 1932; col. ll31, Vol. 265.]It is exactly that which we fully realise and which apparently the hon. Member for Dunfermline does not fully realise. It is that fear which we have voiced in the Amendment, because although the right hon. Gentleman fully realises the danger, we cannot see that there are any steps that have been taken to protect the country from the danger. He states in his speech, in a series of passages and in a very logical argument, if I may say so with great respect, the difficulties in instituting an inquiry before the Committee as to the efficiency of a particular industry. He cites the difficulty that was met with in attempting to do the same thing under the Safeguarding Duties. No doubt there are these difficulties and we appreciate that that is one of the inherent difficulties in applying a tariff system in a capitalist organisation. That is one of the difficulties which we think the right hon. Gentleman will come up against when trying to use his tariffs, as he wishes to do, for the purpose of enabling and encouraging British industry to make itself more efficient. We think that he will find that he is not able to control that so long as the interests that are protected are the interests of private enterprise.
The speech of the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) was a good instance of the type of speech and argument that have been made on this Order. The hon. Baronet instanced a particular industry, as many other hon. Members have done in their speeches. It is acknowledged by everybody that you can always make out a good case for tariffs on a particular industry, but you get into much greater difficulties if you try to look at the country as a whole. The hon. Baronet got very quickly into difficulties, because he complained that his raw material was taxed, his raw material being the fabric out of which gloves are made and the finished product of those who make fabric. The hon. Baronet, 1406 looking at his particular industry, wanted the gloves to be taxed to prevent importation, but he did not want the fabric to be taxed because that would take away the benefit of the tax on the gloves and allow foreign competition. Of course, his remedy would be if he is going to have a 20 per cent. tax on fabric to put 40 per cent. on gloves, or else the fabric must come in free and the gloves be taxed 20 per cent.
Directly one applies that argument to the fabric industry, one starts in an endless wheel, which makes it extraordinarily difficult to adjust fairly, between this industry and that industry, the claims which are put forward on the basis of tariffs. The hon. Baronet, like so many other hon. Members in this Debate, emphasised the extraordinarily bad conditions that there are as regards labour in protected countries on the Continent. It always strikes us as such an odd argument to try to convince the working people of this country that tariffs are going to be a great boon and to point out the terrible conditions in industry in countries where tariffs are operating. No hon. or right hon. Gentleman ever explains precisely why, if we adopt the same methods, we shall maintain the high wages and prosperous conditions which we have maintained for a great number of years under another system.
I do not propose to enter into the argument of tariffs as against Free Trade. That has already been discussed by people who know about it far more than I do. I want to deal with the actual Order we are discussing, the report of the Commission, and the Amendment which we have put down. We do not imagine that we are going to be able to stop the Tory party in their race after tariffs. I think anyone who stood in the way of the Gadarene swine as they went down the cliff would probably find it a very ineffective way of turning them back. When the Tory party passed the Import Duties Act, 1932, it was quite obvious we were in for a good, big dose of tariffs. Although there were a few Liberals who, we understood, were going to do their best to stand up against tariffs in the Cabinet, they proved to be what one might perhaps properly call only a nominal drawback. It may be that there will be a question of re-export arising shortly.
1407 The Financial Secretary to the Treasury in his speech last night, in which he book a great delight in making some remarks about the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. Greenwood) which occupied most of his speech—no doubt as he had not much else to say—told us that ii was inevitable now that we should accept this policy of contraction and isolation. He told us not in these words, but in words which implied it, that the days of the old internationalism of the 19th century had passed, and that we were entering on a period of what must be looked upon as economic nationalism, and that we must adapt our methods, even in a revolutionary way, to cope with that. I think it will be most unfortunate for this country, and for the whole world, if we adopt the attitude that we have inevitably to go forward further and further into a stage of national isolation, and that the future of the world is to be the various countries scrapping for a diminishing share of diminishing world trade. Although there may be difficulties at the present time arising from the growth of economic nationalism, I hope the Government of this country is not going to sit down and accept the position without taking any steps whatever, either at Lausanne or anywhere else, to attempt to combat the contracting markets of the world. We believe that tariffs are useless for that purpose, and unless some steps are definitely taken to that end we shall suffer in the general holocaust which is bound to follow before very long.
The other argument which the right hon. Gentleman put forward to persuade the House to accept this Measure was to say that this was an ordered plan and system. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman does not really think that what, after all, is a very common, old-fashioned tariff policy, need be spoken of as some great new experiment which we must have the courage to try and go through with, and which is a system of ordered planning and development. It is nothing but what has been tried by nearly every country in the world. As the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said, the proof of the pudding in this country will be in the eating. It is an unfortunate attitude sometimes for a doctor to adopt in dealing with a patient to say, "Never mind about the medicine, 1408 let us try it on him; if he dies we shall know it was the wrong one." That, after all, is the proof of the pudding being in the eating. Let us call it the proof of the medicine in the drinking. We do not look upon it as being any approach at all to an orderly plan and system. It has got to deal with far more than the question merely of restricting this or that import.
It is not that problem which is really troubling the industrialists of this country at the moment. The fundamental problem of British monetary policy is to reconcile the needs of finance and industry in the promotion of a conscious plan of active progress which will be both orderly and balanced. The right hon. Gentleman will, perhaps, recognise that as being the first of the recommendations of the Federation of British Industries in the pamphlet they have just circulated —one which rings almost as if it might have come out of the Labour party programme. We entirely agree with it. I daresay the Federation of British Industries have not quite the same view as to who should control that plan as we have, but we believe it is on these lines that you may get an ordered plan, and not on the lines of merely restricting this or that import and leaving in the hands of private enterprise the control both of finance and of industry.
The hon. Lady the Member for Willesden West (Mrs. Tate), talking about the cotton industry, pointed out the failure of the profit-earning capacity of that industry which had led to the trouble of no money being available for reinvestment as fresh capital. She urged that duties should be put on in order that sufficient profits might accrue and fresh capital might therefore become available for the industry. But there is already in this country any quantity of available money. The only trouble is that at the present time and in present circumstances there is no master mind to bring it to the cotton industry. We agree that it is not by so taxing imports as to offer large bribes, in the way of large profits, for that money, that the country can accomplish its end of getting that money into the cotton industry for reorganisation, but rather by taking the power to direct and control its available capital so that it can see that it goes into the 1409 cotton industry. That, again, is one of the things in which the Federation of British Industries agrees with us.
I will come to the actual terms of the report, about which we have stated in our Amendment that it is a hasty and ill-considered report. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer thought that that was rather a reflection upon the committee, but I do not think that we are going much beyond the right hon. Gentleman's own criticism if we refer to it in those words. When this matter came up on the Committee stage of the Import Duties Act we were very anxious about the question of proper inquiry, and we put down an Amendment that before making any recommendation the committee shall give an opportunity to anybody interested as an importer or consumer of goods included in the recommendation to be heard by them. The right hon. Gentleman told us that he sympathised with our view. He could not accept the Amendment, but he said:We should trust the Committee to behave sensibly, as any body of people of whom I am thinking would naturally behave. I should say that if they were dealing with a great industry like the iron and steel industry, for instance, they would not think of doing it in a hole-and-corner method, concealing what they were doing, and, possibly springing a decision upon the public, when it was well known that they had not received representations made by a number of different trades interested in the products of the industry. Indeed, that would not be consistent with the general instructions which are laid down in the Bill in Clause 3.Then the right hon. Gentleman read Clause 3, and went on to say:That makes it clear that they are to take into consideration the views of industry generally, including those who use the goods, and I should imagine that when they were considering what they should do about such an industry as iron and steel they would not only approach direct certain bodies and associations which were obviously affected, but would give public notice and would in fact, invite representations to be made to them by a certain date, and it would be for them to select out of the representations made in writing in the first instance any which they thought sufficiently important to ask to attend and to give evidence before them. That seems to me to be the best way of meeting what is desired.Then I said:In view of the assurance which the right hon. Gentleman has given, and with an appreciation of the difficulty—I am sure that everyone will be satisfied if the Committee 1410 pursue the course which he has taken—I beg leave to withdraw the Amendment."— [OFFICIAL REPORT, 19th February, 1932; cols. 1984–5, Vol. 261.]I ask the right hon. Gentleman whether the committee have done, with regard to iron and steel, what ho said was consistent with their general instructions, or have they done this in a hole-and-corner method without public advertisement, without asking the users to come and put their case before them, without letting everybody know that they propose to impose a duty on steel? If they have taken that other course which is inconsistent with the inspired suggestions which the right hon. Gentleman gave them in that speech, we should like to know the reason why they have done it. Was it because they were told that something must be out for the Budget, that they must have some recommendations that would be in time for the financial results to be included in the Budget estimates, or was there some other reason?
The House is entitled to say that it was clearly stated and that we were clearly given to understand that there would be a proper inquiry when this Committee came to deal with so large a matter as iron and steel. We agree that in cases like the glove industry and every little industry we cannot expect to have a full-dress inquiry. When you come to deal with great fundamental industries in which masses of people in the country have all sorts of concern as users we understood that the users were to be given a fair opportunity of putting the whole of their case before this body before they decided what course should be followed. While I am on that, I want to ask the right hon. Gentleman another question. In the course of his address in introducing this Order he made this statement. I do not want him to think I am making any suggestion of any sort against the propriety of any action he has taken, but I do want an explanation. He said:I am sure, from the conversations which I have had the opportunity of carrying on with the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, that the Committee, no less than the Government, fully realise the danger." —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th March. 1932; col. 1131, Vol. 265.]And so on. Is it in accordance with his idea that the Committee should consult with the Chancellor of the Exchequer? We understood when this Committee was 1411 set up that it was to be something apart from the Government, it was to be an independent Committee and not one with which Ministers would consult or to which they would give any direction or upon which they would put any pressure The Committee, we understood, would be free to act as they wished. I am not in any way suggesting that the right hon. Gentleman has done anything that should not have been done, but we are anxious to know whether it is to be the practice that consultations are to be held between the Chairman of the Committee and the Chancellor of the Exchequer or any other representative of the Government.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
I am obliged to the hon. and learned Gentleman for giving way and allowing me to answer his question immediately. The conversation to which he refers between the Chairman of the Committee and myself was directed to this particular question of efficiency; it was to consider whether that question should be taken up by the Committee in their conversations with the representatives of the industry, or whether it was to be left open or over for the Government to discuss with the industry after the recommendations of the Committee had been made. That is the only kind of conversation I have had with the Chairman, and my conversations have not in any way related to the recommendations of the Committee as to the actual tariffs or duties to be imposed.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am very much obliged indeed to the right hon. Gentleman, and I am sure he will not mind my having drawn the attention of the House to it, because, as the statement appears, someone might have misunderstood what he meant, and I think it is right that these matters should be cleared up when one comes across them. The next point to which I wish to draw attention is the actual report of the committee itself. In paragraph 8 the committee states:In following this intention"—that is the intention of carrying out Section 3 (2),two courses are open to us. We could make a careful inquiry into the economic position of one selected industry after another, investigate its competitive position and its relations to other industries with a 1412 view to arriving at the most appropriate degree of Protection in each case. Such a process would inevitably take up much time.The alternative, so far as industries were concerned, was to arrive at some general basis and put on a tax, as they have done. When they were dealing, in paragraphs 20 and 21, with the steel industry, they say much the same thing.We are satisfied that the maintenance of a prosperous iron and steel industry … is essential… We accept therefore the preliminary proposition that this industry shall be adequately protected and protected at once.Then they go on to say that they have not had time to make an inquiry, but they recommend an additional duty of 33⅓ per cent. for three months. Surely there is some confusion here between the intentions of the Government and the committee. We understood—and I think this was said by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury last night—that the object of this committee was to work out a scientific tariff. Clearly the tariff suggested as a result of this report is not a scientific tariff. It is something which they have done because they say they had not time to make a proper inquiry, so they did the best they could. If this is an emergency measure, that surely should be the responsibility of the Government. If it is intended that this is to be the working out of a scientific tariff under the system which has been adopted, that is the function of the committee; but it is not fair or right, in our submission, that the question of whether an emergency tax is to be put on should be left to the committee. It is not their function to decide that that they should take the quicker course unless they have been told to take the quicker course, and this House has never told them to do anything of the sort. We told them under Section 3 to carry out a full inquiry, and to take proper steps to hear the evidence before the case is decided. If the Government in the meantime while that is being done, requires some other emergency measure to carry it, then we suggest that it is for the Government to take that responsibility and not for the committee to take the responsibility as to whether some emergency has got to be met in this way or not.
This method of taxation which has been adopted under the form of these Orders is obviously the most inconvenient. 1413 It is true that the whole of the items appear in a schedule to a single report, but there is no reason why all those items should appear in the same Order. The Chancellor of the Exchequer can make as many Orders as he likes to cover the different sets of items in the report, but each Order can be accepted or rejected by the House, and if the right hon. Gentleman throws everything into a special Order, that makes it impossible for anybody who takes objection to a single block—for instance the iron and steel block—to vote against the whole Order, because they may believe that the rest is perfectly sound.
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman that where any diverse Orders of this sort are being dealt with, such as a temporary three months' duty on the iron and steel, and a whole lot of permanent duties on a lot of other subjects, those matters ought, to be put into different Orders, so that the House has an opportunity of discussing both on their merits. I have little doubt that if that had been done, the iron and steel one would have been turned down. [Laughter.] An hon. Members laughs, but there has been almost universal condemnation of it from both sides, because those who want iron and steel say three months is perfectly useless, and I thoroughly agree with them, and those who do not want it say that three months is too much. I do not think that the President of the Board of Trade will be able to justify, as a reasonable matter, a taxation of three months duration on an industry like iron and steel. It is no good starting blast furnaces when they do not know what is going to happen at the end of three months, and if that had been put into a separate Order I think I am right in saying that it would have been rejected, and the House would have ordered it either for a longer period or would not have allowed it at all.
Those are the objections we have to the form of the Order itself, and we suggest that they amply justify the Amendment that we have put forward. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has admitted the danger of protecting inefficiency, but he has suggested no remedy. The right hon. Gentleman has told us now very kindly that he is discussing the difficulties with the chairman of the Committee. Have the Committee 1414 or the Government to deal with it? Perhaps the President of the Board of Trade will tell us what has been decided. Perhaps he will tell us whether the Committee are going to deal with it, or whether the Government are going to deal with it, and perhaps he will say how they are going to deal with it, if they are going to deal with it at all, because the right hon. Gentleman has always been the champion of tariffs not protecting inefficiency, and no doubt he has considered it in relation to that speech of his from which we had a quotation earlier in the evening.
So far as crippling the export trade is concerned, plea after plea has been made during this Debate for raw materials the taxing of which will seriously cripple export trades. One cannot blame the committee if they have been rushed into this, as they have. They admit that they have not had time to make proper inquiries. One cannot blame them for crippling the export trade, and it all comes down, in our view, to the last sentence of the Amendment, which states that this is a hasty and ill-considered recommendation, because they have not had time to do better. We are not questioning their qualifications, or their integrity, or anything else, but how it can be expected that this range of subjects can be covered in less than six weeks by three members of a committee who took up their duty for the first time at the beginning of the six weeks, passes comprehension.
We suggest that, if the Government wanted to do this, if it was necessary before the Budget to bring in some import duties, it would have been more honest and better to have brought in some form of temporary Act or temporary duties, as they did before, and to have said, "We cannot expect the committee to arrive at a wise decision if we hurry them and make them deal with everything in six weeks, so we will make a temporary arrangement until they can come to their full and proper decision." I suggest that the Government have seriously affected the future trust that will be put in the committee by forcing them to come to a decision on such a vast range of subjects in such a very short time.
I have stated our objections to this Order. It is going to do nothing whatever, in our view, really to cope with 1415 the problem which at the present time is vexing, not only this country, but the world. The best that it can do is to give us a little scrap more of the diminishing world trade, which it will itself help to diminish. In those circumstances, we shall take up the attitude that, as it has no constructive policy behind it, as it is ill considered, and as it will do more harm than good, we shall certainly vote against it.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
The Debate of the last two days has been marked, like so many of our earlier discussions, by a number of excellent maiden speeches, to the makers of which I desire to tender one comprehensive congratulation. It has given an opportunity to Members to give an account in this House of the hardships through which their local industries were passing, and I have observed more than once in the course of the discussion that critics of the present House and the present policy seemed to find in those local complaints something corrupt. If it be corrupt on the part of a Member to state in the House of Commons what are the chief industrial interests of his constituency, I can only say that that corruption is age-long. Ever since I came into the House, I have never known a Debate in which local trade was not voiced by local Members and, to tell the truth, I do not think that any constituency would think very highly of a Member who allowed such occasions to pass without voicing the views of those who sent him here.
I dare say my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) is open to the accusation that he said something about agriculture here this evening. I do not think that my right hon. Friend was doing anything improper in that; it was quite justified; and he put his case from the point of view of the Devonshire farmer and of farmers as a whole with, as he always does, great force. I can deal with what he had to say on the subject of agricultural machinery in almost a sentence. I do not think he need fear any rise in the price of agricultural machinery because of the tariffs which have recently been listed and which we are now asked to confirm. I observe, on looking up the last Census of Production figures, that 1416 all agricultural machinery, with the exception of grass and lawn mowers—I presume he was not interested in them— amounted to no less in the course of a single year than £2,400,000 and the imports only to about £350,000. I am sure my right hon. Friend will not say that the £350,000 of business is likely to set the price of the £2,400,000. I think he is safeguarded in the extent to which agricultural machinery is manufactured in this country, an extent which I hope will grow in course of time under the influence of our national policy.
Then I was asked by the hon. Member for Luton (Dr. Burgin) a question with regard to the method by which classification will take place. Both points are highly technical, and I hope the hon. Member will excuse me at this hour of the night from going into them, but I shall be glad to communicate with him and, if he cares to make my communication public, he is, of course, quite welcome to do so. He also was speaking on behalf of some of his constituents, and quite properly. I gather from the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken that, if Members for iron and steel constituencies have anything to say, they are guilty of moral turpitude.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I made no such suggestion of any sort or kind. The right hon. Gentleman must have entirely misunderstood me.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I only associated what the hon. and learned Gentleman has said with regard to Parliamentary corruption on this occasion and other occasions with the fact that he deplored that there was so much influence being exercised on the Government. If he does not believe that there is any such thing as political influence in these iron and steel duties, what was the purpose of his observations?
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The purpose was in order that the House might decide on iron and steel as apart from the rest of the matters included. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why?"] Because they are two completely different problems.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The hon. and learned Gentleman was a little suspicious of our having any communications with them. I know that his mind is now set at rest by what was said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. If he would like me to 1417 add my testimony, I am quite ready to tell him, that during the whole time of the sitting of the committee until the Order was produced a week ago, I was not even on speaking terms with the chairman.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
Really the right hon. Gentleman need not have said that. With complete courtesy to the Chancellor of the Exchequer I merely gave him an opportunity of explaining it because I thought someone might misunderstand it. If he thinks that is the way to treat such a remark—
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The hon. and learned Gentleman need not be in the least offended. I hope he is quite able to stand the racket of debate as well as I am. If I may come to the iron and steel problem, one thing that caused me misgiving—and apparently it met with some support in that quarter of the House —was the statement that the committee, instead of having gone fully into the whole of the problems surrounding the iron and steel industry, has rushed into this hasty recommendation and brought it to us for confirmation as though something very wrong and improper had been done. Let me assure the hon. and learned Gentleman that there was another way of dealing with the situation. We might have put iron and steel into an Abnormal Importations Order, but he would not have suggested that that method was preferable to this.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
That is the first piece of praise of the Abnormal Importations Orders that I have heard from the hon. and learned Gentleman. I understand that it would have been regarded by the Opposition as quite proper for us to put iron and steel into an Abnormal Importations Order, but it would have been very wrong for us to do it through the Committee. The Abnormal Importations Act expires on 19th May. If we had issued an Order running up to 19th May, it would have had all the faults which the hon. and learned Gentleman finds in this short three months. If three months is wrong under this procedure, how much "wronger" would three weeks have been under an Order? The real advantage of working with such a committee as we now have is that that committee is not like a court of law. It is composed of three 1418 common sense men. One of the things which this excellent committee recommended was that their 33⅓ interim duty should not be applied to the products of the blast furnaces. The right hon. and learned Gentleman, who has a very wide knowledge of many subjects, and of many scientific subjects, seemed to overlook the fact that that which comes out of the blast furnace does not come in this Order. Pig iron is not there. Let him give the committee credit, therefore, for having exercised greater discretion in the matter than that with which he has credited them. The committee know perfectly well that in three months you could not expect that a complete lay-out, from the laying of the foundation of the blast furnace, from its equipment right up to the end, could be done in three months. There are certain things which can be done in three months and these are included in the Order. When the time comes for extention of duties or modification, of course they must cover a much longer period than three months. When that period is fixed I have no doubt that the hon. and learned Gentleman will object to it as he objected to-day.
May I point out that in this discussion the Order itself has met with a good deal of acceptance and a certain amount of criticism? You must not ask too many things of these Orders. One of my right hon. Friends said that the grave fault to be found in this Order was that there was not a word in it about efficiency in industry, and yet he must be well aware that this has been a subject before the Committee. It has been a matter discussed in the House of Commons, notably in two speeches by one of my hon. Friends opposite, to which I wish to bear tribute, and it has been the constant concern of the Government for some time past. It was a subject discussed with a good deal of force, and, if I may say so, with some inconsistency by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary. It was by no means a new point. The mere fact that the word "efficiency" or "reorganisation" or "reconstruction" does not appear in the Statute or in the actual words of the Order in precisely the shape and form which will meet with general approval does not mean that the idea has been out of mind at all. It is the policy of the Government, as declared by the Lord President of the Council, by the 1419 Chancellor of the Exchequer, and, if I may say so, by myself, that the imposition of duties and the requirements of conditions of efficiency and of proper reorganisation of industry are inexplicably tied up together.
Another fault which was found in the Order was that it provides for a certain amount of security, but, say some of the critics of the Order, in giving that security you cripple yourself in any bargaining in which you may wish to indulge, say, with Continental Powers favourably disposed to us. You cannot have it both ways, I know, but there is no reason why we should not do both things. You can at least assure your industries of the fact that they are not going to be played with lightly and at the same time you can keep your major policy of Free Trade over the entire world, an impossible ideal, but one well worth keeping in mind. I know well—nobody in the House knows better than I, because it is my regular daily concern—how difficult it will be to obtain a reduction in tariffs anywhere in the world, but we believe that we are going the right way about it, and for the first time for three generations we are in a position to make bargains abroad which will be to the advantage not only of this country and the industries of this country, but of universal trade. Indeed, unless there is a great revival of world trade in the near future I shudder to think of the prospect before us.
My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary was a little anxious in his speech lest we should by giving a 12 months' period of security to industry destroy the chance of carrying on negotiations. He quoted one of our great difficulties, namely, the existence of the most-favoured-nation Clause in our commercial treaties, as a reason for saying that bargaining was going to be difficult and delicate and that results may not be easily obtained. A period of 12 months in tariff negotiations is a very short period. Anyone who has taken the trouble to follow the history of European tariffs knows well that discussions have gone on for long periods in every case which has ultimately ended in a commercial treaty. Not a single commercial treaty can be denounced with less than six 1420 months' notice; in some cases it is 12 months. We could not get rid of the most-favoured nation Clause if we wanted to do so under six months' notice, but the negotiations can go on. If we do not like to call them negotiations we can call them conversations; they may proceed between the representatives of this Government and the representatives of European and American Powers, and we can reach a point where, when it is worth our while, we shall be able to transfer to the commercial treaty the results of the conversations conducted by the representatives of both Governments.
There is really no permanent obstacle in the way of these negotiations, which are called bargaining, for those who wish to conduct them to a successful issue. Of course, if anyone embarks on these negotiations with a determination from the start to make them fail, no one on earth will be able to carry them through successfully. I believe we shall set about them in the right way. We know where we are and so do a good many foreign countries. We are already seeing some of the fruits of our policy. One of the most difficult fields in which to conduct negotiations is the coal trade. Does anybody imagine that the 15 per cent. French surtax would have been taken off coal if we had been conducting our affairs under Free Trade?
I should like to ask the House to pay attention to some of the material which has been put before it during the discussion. The Home Secretary, I am sure, will not mind if I devote some attention to the case which he put up with great moderation and force yesterday. We all appreciated the tone of his protest. Having made that solid case he will not mind if I point out some of its inaccuracies. In the first place, let me show how far he exaggerated the point to which our policy has carried us. He said that 60 per cent. of our imports were subject to tariffs, and to reach this figure he seems to have included the old revenue duties and the old protective duties, amounting together to £184,000,000 and he omitted to exclude the £81,000,000 of this total in respect of which there is a countervailing Excise Duty. He then proceeded to compare this position with the United States which, he said, taxed only 40 per cent. of its imports, 1421 and allowed a Free List of 60 per cent. I rubbed my eyes when I saw this, because it did not tally with my memory. My memory may not be very good on figures, but it seemed to me to be very far from the picture which I have always had in my mind of American Protection. It is true that the United States has a Free List, but comparing the receipts with the total imports the average rate of tax on American imports subject to duty is 50 per cent., and there is no countervailing Excise. The average rate of duty under the Import Duties Act, plus the Order we are now considering, is 14 per cent., which surely makes us not, as the right hon. Gentleman said, one of the most highly protected countries in the world, but one of the lowest.
I wish to press this point, because we have on this bench again and again said we wished to be counted in the list of the low tariff countries and not the high tariff countries. The actual facts, which were, I am sure quite unintentionally, distorted by the right hon. Gentleman, show that so far from our being more heavily protected than America, we shall actually be on a very much lower scale oven when these Orders have gone through. The right hon. Gentleman was guilty—if he will forgive me for saying so—of one or two other inaccuracies. I have been looking up carefully what he said here and elsewhere in regard to two or three subjects on which I say, without the least compunction, we are rather touchy. We are touchy on the subject of the taxation of food. The right hon. Gentleman estimated that the foreign share of the flour consumed in this country was nearly one-half. I find, however, that the foreign share of the flour is about 6 per cent. and not 50 per cent. About 94 per cent. comes from the home markets and is produced in the Empire.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for the HOME DEPARTMENT (Sir Herbert Samuel)
I am very sorry to interrupt, but I never mentioned flour at all. I was not referring to that matter. I was loth to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman when he suggested I was inaccurate with regard to American tariffs, but I never mentioned the height of the tariffs. I was speaking of the range of the duties.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I think if the right hon. Gentleman will refresh his memory 1422 by reading the Debate of the 4th February he will find that is one of the illustrations he gave of the position in which we were to stand on the subject of food. I hope I am not misrepresenting him. [HON. MEMBERS: "Rub it in!"] He said more than half of our cheese was of foreign origin. I find it is not half, but 10 per cent. Ninety per cent. comes from the home market and from within the Empire and even that 10 per cent. of foreign cheese was cheese of those peculiar kinds which we buy as being more or less luxuries, like Camembert and the like.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The right hon. Gentleman was answering a question put by the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) who asked:Does the right hon. Gentleman support it"?—that is, the Resolution before the House.Sir HERBERT SAMUEL: Yes. Of the flour which is to be taxed 10 per cent. nearly half comes from foreign countries; of rice, two-thirds; and of butter, cheese and eggs, more than one-half comes from foreign countries."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 4th February, 1932; col. 323, Vol. 261.]If my right hon. Friend is not going to deal with these articles separately but is going to lump them all together— [Interruption]
§ Mr. MAXTON
On a point of Order. Is it in keeping with the traditions of this House that its time should be occupied while two Members of the Government cross-talk on the Front Bench?
§ Mr. McGOVERN
May I be allowed to move the Adjournment of the House— [HON. MEMBERS: "NO!"]—in order that these men may settle their differences outside?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I have no desire to say anything that would be resented by my right hon. Friend. I am sure if he will not allow me to talk about the subject of rice, margarine and flour, he will not mind my referring to the subject 1423 of Jupiter. I am trying to make the point that my right hon. Friend does not give us a completely accurate picture. I do not know much about Jupiter myself, so, for the purposes of greater accuracy, I have provided myself with the "Encyclopedia Britannica," which says, not that Jupiter is accompanied by four satellites, but:Jupiter is accompanied by no lees than nine satellites as far as at present known. Four of them were discovered … in 1610. and they can be readily seen with a good pair of field glasses. The others are very small and faint.[Interruption.]
§ Mr. MAXTON
I rose to a point of Order with reference to the Home Secretary's interruption of the President of the Board of Trade. If the Home Secretary has the right to interrupt in this House, so has the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton).
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am not conscious of any remark of mine which is in breach of the Rules of this House. If you, Sir, can tell me what the remark was, I shall be glad to consider it?
§ Mr. SPEAKER
The hon. Member made a remark which I resent in which he told me that I "should have thought of that earlier in the day."
§ 1l.0 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Mr. Speaker, you know perfectly well from long experience in this House that I would do anything rather than make any per sonal reference that was objectionable to you, and I therefore withdraw—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] Do not applaud too soon. I withdraw the remark in so far as you, Sir, have found it personally objectionable.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
The point to which I was drawing the attention of the House was that in the criticisms of the Order which is now before us, there was a difference of views and that in some respects there was not great accuracy. What are the real objections taken to this policy as a whole? First of all, it was said that it would be likely to lead to a rise in prices. That argument was used as long ago as the beginning of February. Prices have not risen. They have persistently refused to do what the prophets desired them to do—[Interruption.] They have not risen in any part of the world. There has been a fall all over the world, and, far from any undue burdens having been placed upon the wage-earners of this country, which was the prophecy, quite the contrary has been the effect. I know that it has been said by my right hon. Friend that there are many factors to be considered. Of course there are, but when you are making a prophecy you must take them all into consideration, and, in the making of this prophecy last February, something must have been left out of account, because the figures have gone wrong. The fact remains that the cost of living has actually gone done.
My right hon. Friend also said that a tariff policy would interfere with our export trade and if that were true it would be a very serious prospect for the people of this country because our export trade is a matter of the very first importance to us. But has it actually brought about any serious diminution of our export trade? The fact is that our export trade has shrunk during the last few months but it has shrunk less both absolutely and by percentage, than that of any other 1425 manufacturing country in the world. If you want to draw an inference from that you must draw the inference that somehow or other, the policy of this country, and the industry of its merchants, manufacturers and workpeople have been such, that they have been able to hold their own to greater advantage than any of their competitors.
We have also been told that little or nothing has been done by our policy with regard to the balance of trade. It is a remarkable fact that we have been able to keep out of this country by a very drastic tariff policy, no less than £16,000,000 of imports within the last few months. If on the other side there has been a countervailing £14,000,000 diminution in exports, what is the inference to be drawn from that fact? My right hon. Friend said it was rather like trying to bale out a boat with a sieve. I do not know what policy he proposed to adopt, but if we had no restrictions upon these abnormal imports, it seems to me that he would have been opening the portholes of the ship. Talk about baling out with a sieve! We should find ourselves in a most difficult waterlogged condition. Anyone who is aware of the financial position of this country knows that we cannot stand that sort of thing for long.
I pass to the iron and steel trades. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) in the course of a speech which, if he will allow me to say so, was illuminated by extracts from speeches of other people, made a strong point that the steel trade ought not to receive any protection because there were so many consumers in it. I have made many speeches about the steel trade, sometimes on behalf of the users of steel, and I have never made the point that you ought to prevent them from having the same advantages as any other industry. What I have said was that you ought not to give any unfair advantage to any of the people sitting on the two sides of the table. When the hon. and gallant Member is using some of these illustrations in future, perhaps he will be able to visualise exactly what I had in mind in regard to the driving of a bargain between those who produce steel and those who use steel. There is nothing new in that. It is very much what has been done in nearly every other industry. When he went on, as he did, with very 1426 great force to suggest that there was no one in the steel trade, except a few merchants and ironmasters, who wanted any assistance from these tariffs, I think he was understating the case, for I observe that the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation, which is composed of the workpeople who are concerned with the iron and steel trades—blast furnaces, rolling mills and other establishments—apparently are strongly in favour of exactly the policy which we are now putting forward. Their resolution, passed in September last, the last time they had an opportunity of passing anything of the kind, said thatThe Central Board would act for the industry as a whole in. formulating agreements with other countries in. regard to inter-trading relations and would have the authority to regulate"—this is the scheme of the trade unionists of the steel trade—to restrict or to prohibit imports if the nature of the competition and other circumstances justify that course.Is it possible that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite are going to throw over the trade unionists engaged in the steel trade? They are just as much entitled to express their opinion and to have their opinion taken into account as any others concerned in the use of steel. I can only say this in regard to the iron and steel trade, that it has such a chance now of putting its house in order and holding its own in competition with the world as it has not had for the last 90 years, and if it takes full advantage of its opportunities it will not be only the steel trade that will benefit, but every one of the great using industries as well.
I do not want to detain the House much longer. May I say that our general policy is one which met with approval in high quarters even before the opening of the present Session? I turned up today the Liberal manifesto issued at the last General Election. I did not myself sign it, because at the last General Election my constituents were quite satisfied with the statement which I made that the election address of the Prime Minister was good enough for me. The Liberal manifesto says, in one of its paragraphs:At home it is imperative both to get the Budget balanced and to secure a favourable balance of trade, by whatever methods, whether related to currency, to the expansion of exports or the restriction of imports, as may be found necessary.1427 As that was the official Liberal statement made last year, in that manifesto signed by certainly three of my right hon. Friends, I think they ought to let us off rather lightly who do not agree that the present policy is an infringement of that. We did not commit ourselves to a statement as broad as this, but we have taken action much more definite. Whatever may be said about our commitments at the last election, since then such opinions as we have held and such policy as we have promoted we have tried to express in the plainest possible language. I know how very different conditions were in the past from what they are to-day. We are faced to-day with troubles of a nature which we can scarcely manage. World commerce is shrunken. Commercial bills, which two or three years ago were in the region of £130,000,000 a year, are now down to about £70,000,000. That gives one a means of measuring the amazing shrinkage in commercial traffic. Restrictions are growing. If the world is collapsing we, the centre of the sterling block, are the one hope of the world.
I wish to say, in the name of the Government, that we shall continue our policy firmly, removing, where we can, doubts and dangers in Europe and Asia. We speak with a united voice. Our aspirations are uniform though our methods may be different, and our policy has earned in the world a commendation for our unity of national interest; with the result that we are now blest with greater influence in world councils than we have been for a whole generation. It is because we have taken a firm line and have not been timid in the policy that we have pursued, that we have earned the respect of our neighbours.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I do not wish to continue the Debate. I have risen to enter the most emphatic protest possible against this disgraceful scene that we have witnessed. The right hon. Gentleman closed his speech by telling us that the Government were united. This is the second occasion on which we have had altercations by leading Ministers representing the Government, which we are told is united. The subject on which these right hon. Gentlemen are in disagreement is the fundamental policy which the Government declare is for the 1428 salvation of the country and, according to the right hon. Gentleman's last statement, the salvation of the world. How can there be any national unity when the right hon. Gentleman disagrees root and branch with that policy? How is it possible for nations abroad to respect a Government which is only earning contempt in every decent, honest mind? Nowhere in the world will they be able to understand what national unity means when they see two leading Ministers disagreeing on this vital question of national policy. What else is there so important as this matter which is to bring prosperity to the country? The right hon. Gentleman says that it will bring ruin to the nation. [Interruption.] I am going to say what I want to say. I want to say that if hon. Members want the House to be in a turmoil when these right hon. Gentlemen are speaking, they can be easily obliged. We do not intend to be shouted down. When this agreement to differ was introduced we protested against it, but we never dreamt that we should witness the sort of scene we have witnessed to-night. I and my colleagues are in the House because we want the working people and the masses to use parliamentary machinery to bring about the changes which we think are important, but outside this House all this joking about Jupiter and the wrangling and jangling of Ministers is bringing the House into disrepute. If the House of Commons is to hold a place in the respect of the people outside, we must treat serious subjects rather differently from the way they have been treated. I can hardly imagine that at any time in the past such things as we have witnessed during this discussion have been possible, and for our part, although we are only a handful, we enter the most emphatic protest against the whole proceeding. If there is one thing that has convinced me of the hallowness, the humbug and the hypocrisy of the policy of the Government, it is the speech which has just been delivered by the right hon. Gentleman.
§ Question put, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 405; Noes, 70.1431
|Division No. 169.]||AYES.||[11.20 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Colfox, Major William Philip||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry|
|Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Colman, N. C. D.||Harbord, Arthur|
|Albery, Irving James||Colville, John||Hartland, George A.|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. Sir William (Armagh)||Cook, Thomas A.||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Cooper, A. Duff||Harvey, Major s. E. (Devon, Totnes)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Copeland, Ida||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Apsley, Lord||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)|
|Astbury, Lieut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe||Cranborne, Viscount||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Craven-Ellis, William||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Walter|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Crooke, J. Smedley||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hore-Bellsha, Leslie|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Crossley, A. C.||Hornby, Frank|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Cruddas, Lieut-Colonel Bernard||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.|
|Balniel, Lord||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Dalkeith, Earl of||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Bateman, A. L.||Dawson, Sir Philip||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Denville, Alfred||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R. E. B. (Portsm'th, C.)||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Dickie, John P.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)|
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Donner, P. W.||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Drewe, Cedric||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Duckworth, George A. V.||James, Wing-Corn. A. W. H.|
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Jamleson, Douglas|
|Bird, Sir Robert B. (Wolverh'pton W.)||Duggan, Hubert John||Jennings, Roland|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Blindell, James||Dunglass, Lord||Joel, Dudley J. Barnato|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Eady, George H.||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Borodale, Viscount||Eastwood, John Francis||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Bossom, A. C.||Edge, Sir William||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Boulton, W. W.||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vanslttart||Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Ellis, Robert Geoffrey||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Kirkpatrick, William M.|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Elmley, Viscount||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Knebworth, Viscount|
|Bracken, Brendan||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Knight, Holford|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Fermoy, Lord||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Brown, Brig.-Gen. H. C.(Berks., Newb'y)||Fleiden, Edward Brocklehurst||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S. W.)|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Leckle, J. A.|
|Buchan, John||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Fox, Sir Gifford||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Burghley, Lord||Ganzoni, Sir John||Levy, Thomas|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Gibson, Charles Granville||Lewis, Oswald|
|Burnett, John George||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Liddall, Walter S.|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Calne, G. R. Hall-||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Goff, Sir Park||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick|
|Cassels, James Dale||Goldie, Noel B.||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G.(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Gower, Sir Robert||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Graham, Fergus (Cumberland, N.)||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Graves, Marjorie||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Greene, William P. C.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. N. (Edgbaston)||Grimston, R. V.||McConnell, Sir Joseph|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Gritten, W. G. Howard||McCorquodale, M.S.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Chorlton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Christle, James Archibald||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Churchill, Rt. Hon. Winston Spencer||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Clarke, Frank||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||McLean, Major Alan|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hales, Harold K.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Clayton, Dr. George C.||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hemmersley, Samuel S.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Ralkes, Henry V. A. M.||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.|
|Maitland, Adam||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.|
|Margesson, Capt. Henry David R.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Ray, Sir William||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Stevenson, James|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Stones, James|
|Millar, Sir James Duncan||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Storey, Samuel|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Milne, Charles||Remer, John R.||Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-|
|Milne, John Sydney Wardlaw-||Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tfd & Chisw'k)||Reynolds, Col. Sir James Philip||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Robinson, John Roland||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Moreing, Adrian C.||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Rosbotham, S. T.||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E. A. (P'dd'gt'n, S.)|
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Ross, Ronald D.||Templeton, William P.|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)||Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Morrison, William Shephard||Runge, Norah Cecil||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Mulrhead, Major A. J.||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Train, John|
|Munro, Patrick||Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield, B'tside)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Nail, Sir Joseph||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.||Salmon, Major Isidore||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Salt, Edward W.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)||Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild||Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|North, Captain Edward T.||Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-|
|Nunn, William||Savery, Samuel Servington||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Scone, Lord||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Selley, Harry R.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Ormiston, Thomas||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Patrick, Colin M.||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Pearson, William G.||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Peat, Charles U.||Slater, John||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Smiles, Lieut-Col. Sir Walter D.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Smith, R. W. (Aberd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Petherick, M.||Smithers, Waldron||Wragg, Herbert|
|Peto, sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)||Somerset, Thomas||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'noaks)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n, Bliston)||Somervell, Donald Bradley|
|Pike, Cecil F.||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Potter, John||Soper, Richard||Sir George Penny and Mr.|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Shakespeare.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Grundy, Thomas W.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Hall, F. (York, W. R., Normanton)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Batey, Joseph||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvll)||Maxton, James|
|Bernays, Robert||Harris, Sir Percy||Morris, Rhys Hopkin (Cardigan)|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hicks, Ernest George||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Briant, Frank||Hirst, George Henry||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Buchanan, George.||Janner, Barnett||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, J. J. (West Ham, Silvertown)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Curry, A. C.||Kirkwood, David||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Daggar, George||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Lawson, John James||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Leonard, William||Thorne, William James|
|Edwards, Charles||Lynn, William||White, Henry Graham|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McGovern, John||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||McKeag, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Rt. Hn. Sir D. (Corn'll N.)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclean, Neil (Glasgow, Govan)|
|Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mallalleu, Edward Lancelot||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Mr. Groves and Mr. Tinker.|
§ Main Question put, and agreed to.
That the Order, dated the 19th day of April, 1932, made by the Treasury under the Import Duties Act, 1932, a copy of which was presented to this House on the 21st day of April, 1932, be approved.