§ Order for Third Reading read. [Allotted Day.]
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read the Third time."
§ The FINANCIAL SECRETARY to the TREASURY (Mr. Hore-Belisha)
The Government have every reason to be grateful to the House for the lack of obstruction which has enabled the Bill to reach this last stage with such smoothness and facility. That is all the more remarkable when one recalls the misgivings which were aroused and the hostility which was premeditated before the Bill was even published. When, however, its provisions became known it was found to contain no proposal which could cause anything but satisfaction. What does the Bill do? It endeavours to complete the superstructure, the foundations of which were laid in the Import Duties Act. It was necessary to lay these foundations, not in order to satisfy any political nostrums, but in order to meet a practical necessity; in other words, to fulfil the mandate which had been imposed upon us by the electorate—to secure the Budget, and redress the adverse balance of trade. It is for those who criticise the principle of indirect taxation, about which we have heard much during these discussions, and who yet supported every commitment which the Budget contained, to show how otherwise they would have raised the £32,000,000 of revenue. I hope that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) when he comes to speak will give me an answer to that question. When the foundations were laid, an arrangement was made for a preferential entry of Imperial goods. That conception, the conception of Imperial Preference, is an old one and is assented to by all political parties. While lip-service has been paid to it in the past, to give it an explicit reality this time became a matter of urgency. Why? Because the world economy has altered. Nations have progressively determined to be self-sufficient, industrially and agriculturally. It was not that Free Trade had been abandoned, but that 1992 tariffs themselves had given place to total prohibition and to the rationing of imports. This presented a new and fresh problem to our delegates at Ottawa, and they had to consider what effect these changes have had upon Imperial trade.
The phenomena which I have mentioned are new phenomena in the world. They were not taken into account, because they did not exist, when the classical economists wrote their text-books. I beg hon. Friends of mine not to base their fiscal conclusions on hypotheses about commerce which no longer exists, but to deal with the facts of a novel situation. Nor do I think that they render much service by expressing the hope that we shall return to 1914 or some other date. History does not go back; it goes forward; and we must deal with the realities of our present existence. What effect—this was the question the delegates at Ottawa had to ask themselves—had these new phenomena on Imperial trade? Firstly, the demand for our manufactures by foreign countries was decreasing; secondly, the Dominions and Colonies found a shrinkage in the outlet for their exports of primary commodities. There was the situation. The delegates came together and resolved:That by the lowering or removal of barriers among themselves provided for in those Agreements, the flow of trade between the various countries of the Empire will be facilitated, and that by the consequent increase of purchasing power of their peoples, the trade of the world will also be stimulated and increased.That is the resolution which they reached. It is to be observed that in principle the Empire has abandoned Protection. There is to be a competitive opportunity for all sections of the Empire. That surely is an advance. The Schedules to these Agreements contain many particulars. They were not negotiated by politicians alone, but by the trades concerned. There never has been an Imperial Conference at which all trades, including agriculture, have been so well and so numerously represented. Take the Agreement about steel, for instance. I am informed by the steel industry that as a result of their arrangement under the Schedule they hope to send into Canada alone £2,000,000 worth more of steel in a normal year. When one reflects that every ton of finished 1993 steel means three tons of coal, I do not know who will have reason to complain.
But it is not only the actual Agreements which have been reached. It is the opportunity which is given, within the framework of those Agreements for consumers and producers to come together. The first fruits of our hopes in that direction were obtained the other day when, under the auspices of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, the producers and consumers of copper within the Empire met and reached an understanding for their mutual advantage. The consumers undertook of their own volition to give a preference to the Imperial industry, and, not only that, but to give it technical assistance. Within the framework of these Agreements, many such arrangements can be made, and we shall hope to get rid of that blot on the modern world, we shall hope to get rid of the idea that trade is necessarily associated with throat-cutting competition which leaves so many casualties by the wayside, and we shall hope to prove that the consumer and the producer can be related in bonds of security.
It is suggested that by entering into these Agreements and providing opportunities of this sort, we give offence. Offence to whom? If anyone were expected to suffer as a result of these Agreements, it would be the United States of America. What does Mr. Mellon, the representative of the United States in this country, say? He has said:The trade which the United States might lose for the time being as the result of Ottawa will not in the end ho worth nearly so much to them as a more prosperous Great Britain as a customer.When it is said, as it is said in this House, that we are giving offence, why not let the representatives of the countries speak for themselves? Is it the complaint that it is permissible to enter into arrangements with foreign countries but not with our own Empire? Who is to take exception to what we have done in that regard. The United States, which has a Customs union with Cuba and the Philippines, or France, which furnishes an example of a Free Trade Empire? We have followed very good precedents in this direction, and I sug- 1994 gest that it might be left to the countries themselves to protest. But those who urge that objection in this House themselves appear to desire that we should enter into a Customs union with Belgium and Holland. It does not require very much imagination to conceive that the kind of Customs union of which we have laid the first foundation here is far vaster and offers a far better prospect than that.
It is quite true that we had two alternatives at Ottawa. We might have said to the countries of the Empire, "Well, we prefer to make arrangements with the rest of the world. We prefer to make a failure of this Conference, in the hope that we may make a success of some other conference." We could have taken that course and intensified thereby the tendencies which were drawing us apart and which have been dwelt upon in this Debate. Canada, India, South Africa—I will not refer to them again. But it will be appreciated by anyone who thinks that the failure of this Conference would have meant the end of the British Empire—[Interruption.] There is no question about that. There was no doubt in the minds of the representatives of any Imperial country at Ottawa as to what they desired to do. They all offered something. And in what spirit should we consider their offer? In the spirit, I suggest, of which Lord Reading speaks. In Canada only last week he touched upon the Ottawa Conference Agreements, and urged thattheir interpretation should be guided rather by the spirit of mutual co-operation which inspired them than by the narrow measure of the actual document.It may be that we have not made so good a bargain as some hon. Members would have made. But these are not the last and final preferences. This is not the end of the story; this is only the beginning. The dissolution of the British Empire would have meant the dissolution of the world. At any rate we have avoided that.
§ Mr. MORGAN JONES
I beg to move, to leave out the word "now," and, at the end of the Question, to add the words "upon this day three months."
The hon. Gentleman who has just addressed the House thanked the House 1995 for having been somewhat indulgent to him and to the Government while this Measure has been proceeding through the various stages. I think the House owes him also some expression of appreciation of his services. Throughout the discussions in Committee he has maintained an attitude of patience and, if I may say so, of toleration towards those of us who have opposed him, and he has brought to bear upon his task an industry which has won our heartfelt appreciation. Having said that on the personal side, I come to the political side of the matter and the end of the encomiums upon the hon. Gentleman. In my judgment, and I think in the judgment of many of my hon. Friends in other parts of the House, and, perhaps, in all parts of the House, there will be very general agreement that this Assembly is to-day called upon to take a very grave decision whatever may be the particular point of view of Members on one side or the other. T do not think that the proposition will be challenged by anyone, that while tentative approaches have been made in this matter in the course of the last 12 months or so, we are, in point of fact, to-day called upon to reverse the tariff policy which this country has followed for something like four score years.
That, clearly, is a very important decision for the House to take. For 30 of those years, those who constitute the majority of the forces which make up the present Government have devoted themselves assiduously to propounding the general principles embodied in this Bill. I do not complain of that. After all, that is the way we invite the country generally to accept our point of view and our separate and several proposals. If I have a complaint at all, it is that while I admit, quite frankly, that many hon. Members, perhaps the majority for all I know, constituting the Conservative section of the present Government, did speak at the last election in general terms, and some in more precise terms, of the necessity of the reversal of our tariff policy, there was nothing but the most general indication of the attitude of the leaders of the Government towards this particular matter. Indeed, all that was asked for was a doctor s mandate, 1996 and if I have any complaint at all about the presentation of this Bill to-day, it is that, under the cloak of a National Government, the Government have presented for final approval a Measure which embodies the Tory party policy which they have propounded for a generation.
I, therefore, want to congratulate the Conservative party upon their triumph today, and I congratulate them further upon their strategy in carrying their flag to ultimate victory. Their spokesman today, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, has himself only recently left the Liberal party. Of the Cabinet Ministers who have spoken upon this Bill, three have been Conservatives and four either Liberal or Labour, while every Under-Secretary who has taken part in these discussions has been drawn either from the Liberal or the alleged Labour section of the Coalition. There is nothing like that strategy for handing over the baby so pleasantly to those who hitherto have not been held responsible for its existence.
I want to direct the attention of the House to another element in this matter which is important. In what circumstances has the House to-day been invited to approve of this Measure? The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade, in his last sentence, in winding up the Debate last Thursday night, made an appeal to "this Sovereign Assembly." We have had 10 days' discussion upon this Bill, and throughout these 10 days everyone has known that this Sovereign Assembly has not had the right to alter a line, or a word or a comma. The Bill has been presented as though it were a law of the Medes and the Persians which never changeth. It is, moreover, a Finance Bill, and a Finance Bill has been presented to this House in such a way that neither the Chancellor of the Exchequer, nor the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, nor any other representative of the Government has ever ventured to give us the slightest attempt at calculation as to what the financial implications of this Measure might be. A Finance Bill, above all Bills presented to this Sovereign Assembly, which we can neither alter nor even get adequate answers respecting it I submit that the right hon. Gentleman must have been speaking somewhat with his tongue in his cheek when he said he 1997 was appealing to "this Sovereign Assembly." In point of fact he did not appeal to it, but he said, "I command tins Sovereign Assembly either to take it or to leave it," for we had no right given us to alter it whatsoever.
I say that this is a. very grave decision for the House to be called upon to take to-clay, for it does embody a reorientation of our tariff policy. How shall we judge the merits or demerits of this Measure of which we shall presently take final leave? The Lord President of the Council has given us what, I consider, is a fair major test to apply to it, and that major test is clearly this: How far this Measure can or cannot influence the distressing economic conditions which we designate under the term "unemployment." I agree with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council that it is a test which, in a way, you cannot immediately apply. It will re- quire two, three, or perhaps four years before you can truly say it has had this, that, or the other effect; but, after all, we in this House carry all our legislation largely as an act of faith. We prophesy and leave the fulfilment or justification of our prophecies to the efflux of time.
There are certain general principles still left to guide us, and the first criticism which I offer against this Bill is that it does involve a most hazardous experiment. I understand—at least I think I do—something of the impulse which dominates the minds of hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite—I am speaking now especially of the Conservative section. For 30 years they have propounded what is called the Imperial ideal, and if I did not misunderstand the hon. Gentleman, in the few sentences he has just addressed to the House, he embodied in a phrase the idea that we are laying the first foundations of a Customs' Union. Those were very important words, and I wonder how far they do, in point of fact, adumbrate the future policy of the present Government. There are many people in the Conservative party who wish for a sort of Imperial Zollverein. There is much to be said for it, I daresay. It may be defended and attacked, but when they speak of this ideal, this vision which they have held so tenaciously, would beg them to realise that when they speak of 1998 the British Empire in terms of its vastness, the thing we have to keep in our minds is not the vastness of the spaces of the British Empire but rather what is the potential market which this Empire provides for us. If we think in terms of market or of men as a market, I think that we are entitled to urge upon the Government that when they are inviting us to place all our reliance, or most of our reliance, upon the realisation of this Imperial Zollverein, they embark upon a very hazardous experiment.
The population of the world in 1930 was 1,993,000,000 people. Of that number, about 450,000,000 constituted the population of the British Empire. Out of those 450,000,000, if we take out our own island, there are not more than 25,000,000 white people. I am not maintaining any colour prejudice at all, but I am urging this important point, that when you are speaking of a market such as Canada, you are speaking of a market made up of white peoples with standards of life very much like our own. Similarly in the case of Australia and South Africa. But when you speak of the people of East Africa, Central Africa and other parts of the Empire, and especially the vast crowds of people in India, you speak of people whose habits, whose customs, whose point of view, whose standards of living are fundamentally different from our own, and therefore do not present to us the same sort of market as a similar number of white people would constitute.
Another point I want to make in passing is this. Let us remember that we are invited to-day to visualise a change, a reorientation of our tariff policy. So far from regarding Britain as the workshop of the world, or the shop of the world, it is to become merely a shop for the Empire where the potential sales must be on an infinitely narrower scale. Take the year 1930. The total sales by foreign countries to the Empire represented about £1,240,000,000 worth and the total purchases from the Empire were about £785,000,000 worth. I am giving round figures. Whatever may be said about the balance between those figures, and I am not discussing that at the moment, £785,000,000 is a very substantial figure which we inside the Empire ought to keep well before our minds We ought not to go anything which would jeopardise that vast market for our goods.
1999 The point which I wish to make is that, as things are, it is a very hazardous experiment so to change your tariff policy as to place your main reliance upon the market inside the British Empire rather than to retain that general reliance upon the world market, including the Empire, which has existed in the past. I am told by people who support this policy that while it is true that the population of these vast areas in the Empire to which reference has been made is somewhat limited to-day there is a prospective population. They say that years will bring a change and give us more favourable figures in that respect. That may be so, but there is no guarantee that in the course of years the Dominions will not, in view of their increasing population, undertake another change in tariff policy and, behind tariff walls of their own, develop industries hitherto undeveloped and in that way reserve those new populations for their own internal manufactures. I should not of course complain of that. They are entitled to do so. All I say is that it is wrong for us to rely so exclusively as we are being invited to do to-day on the prospective market which the Empire may provide. That is my first point—that this is a hazardous experiment.
My next point is that the terms of the actual scheme presented to us for our final adjudication to-day are both unfair and inequitable. I ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer if he replies to give us a definite answer upon this point. Let us not forget that we have in this country made stupendous sacrifices already for various parts of the Empire. We have paid enormous sums to the Empire Marketing Board for stimulating Empire trade. The incidence of the cost of the maintenance of the defence forces represents no small contribution to the safety of the Empire—accepting the point of view of hon. Members opposite in regard to defence forces. More than that, it would be fairly easy to defend this proposition: that under the influence of Imperial sentiment we have submitted to what I may term an excessive drain on our financial resources on behalf of the Dominions.
I say to hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite that at Ottawa they indulged in an elaborate game of "put 2000 and take." We put and the Dominions take. I challenge the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer to deny the proposition which I am about to put to him. I made this point during the discussion on the Resolutions and I repeat it now. If a comparison is made between the terms of the Agreement which expound what Canada is to receive from us, and the teems which set out what we are to receive from Canada, it will be found that there is all the difference in the world between the explicit nature of our undertakings as contrasted with Canada's undertakings in regard to this country. Article 10 for instance referring to protection of United Kingdom products says that it is onlyto those industries which are reasonably assured of success.Anyone may interpret those words in his own way. Then Article 11 refers to:Full opportunity of reasonable competition on the basis of relative cost of economic and efficient production.You can interpret those words, also, in your own way, but they are limiting words, circumscribing very carefully Canada's commitments in respect of this country. Then in Article 13 we find that wherever necessary they will vary tariffs if the Tariff Board has reported. Article 17 says that surcharges on imports will be removed. When are they to be removed?As soon as the finances of Canada allow.Canada may at any time say: "The finances of the country do not allow it," and we should have-no right to challenge them. Then as regards the reduction or abolition of the dumping duty they say they will undertake to give it "sympathetic consideration." Do hon. Members call that "a definite undertaking"? Does the Chancellor of the Exchequer feel himself entitled to congratulations upon a nebulous concession of that sort? Sympathetic consideration"—certainly. Removal of the surcharge—certainly, as soon as the finances of Canada allow. But there are no such limiting words in our undertaking. They are explicit, and everyone knows exactly what has been said and what has been undertaken on our behalf. I submit, therefore, that the undertaking between Canada and ourselves is inequitable and unfair to us. I complain also of the approach of the 2001 Government to this problem. Let me read what the Secretary of State for the Dominions said. My hon. Friend the Member for Ebbw Vale (Mr. A. Bevan) was speaking about the implications of the iron and steel agreement in regard to the coal industry, when the right hon. Gentleman interrupted him and said:I am sure that my hon. Friend wants to know the facts. There were a number of interests represented at Ottawa. I mean that there were special representatives of particular industries, such as steel, wool and so on. They were in daily contact with us and they met their opposite numbers.Then I ask the House to observe what follows:Having made agreements themselves they brought these agreements to us and they were confirmed. If the hon. Member means that we did not sit down and discuss the details, he is right. We left that to those who should know the business and we endorsed their actions." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1932; col. 1222, Vol. 269.]How kind of the Government to give a blank cheque to the iron and steel representatives and to say to them: "You, good fellows, go and settle among yourselves and, when you have settled, we shall not inquire about the details. Come to us and we will sign." That is what the right hon. Gentleman says was done at Ottawa and the right hon. Gentleman's statement was not merely an interruption made in haste. I could have understood it if he had spoken in haste and afterwards wanted to make a correction, but the same point was made by him again later in the Debate when he spoke at greater length. Now let me take the view of a business man upon the Government's approach to this matter. Mr. D. P. Dunne, the managing director of the Chloride Electrical Storage Company, Ltd., Clifton Junction, Lancashire, in an interview in the "Manchester Guardian" of 21st October, 1932, said:My company does a considerable trade with Canada. The Ottawa Schedules give us one 'concession.' Storage batteries with plates in excess of 14 by 11 by ¾-inch thickness are to he admitted free of duty. There are no such plates known in the industry.How generous was Mr. Bennett. What a concession! How proud hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite must be of their triumph in securing from Mr. Bennett a concession concerning something which does not exist. It is not part of my argument, nor I feel sure is 2002 it part of the argument of any of my hon. Friends on this side, that no benefit at all has been derived for any trade through these Agreements. Far from it. There are trades which will derive some benefit. The hon. Gentleman opposite, I think, spoke himself of the extra value which those Agreements involve for the steel trade and I think he put that extra value at about £2,000,000 a year. Well, £2,000,000 a year is worth while, and I am not minimising its value in these distressing times but after all it is not worth while becoming very ecstatic about it. Even if the hon. Gentleman hopes to argue upon that, that it also involves some tremendous consequence to the coal trade, it really is not worth all the extraordinary self-congratulatory expressions which we have heard in the course of the last few weeks.
The point remains, what have the Government done for the main industries in which unemployment still prevails? The hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth), speaking with a better knowledge than I can hope to possess, told us last week that there was very little benefit involved for certain sections of the wool industry. What is there directly for the coal industry? The iron and steel concession has nothing to do with the Government, although it was in association with the Ottawa Conference. But, granting that the Government have secured certain concessions to this country from Canada, the main effect of the Agreements will be that certain commodities will come from Canada to this country in increasing quantities, especially wheat, meat, timber and so on. Will the right hon. Gentleman tell me what guarantee have we that an area like my own which has rejoiced in the fact of having a substantial market for its coal, particularly in Europe and South America, will not suffer? What comfort is it to us to know that more meat and wheat is coming from Canada instead of from the Argentine, when there is the consequent danger that we shall lose our market for coal in the areas I have mentioned? You may say that there is a consequential advantage to us in respect of the improvement in the iron and steel trade, but is not that counterbalanced by the probability that a great blow has been struck at our trade in coal with South America and Europe?
2003 4.30 p.m.
Surely we have had demonstration enough this afternoon, during Question Time, of the implications of this matter for agriculturists in this country. You tell the agriculturist that his industry is depressed because of competition from foreign sources, and you seek to eliminate the foreign competitor, but what comfort is it to the farmers here to know that the foreign competitor has been removed if, instead, you bring in his place the Dominion competitor Where is the value for the home farmer? Frankly and honestly, I fail entirely to see it.
This Agreement is defended over and over again in this way: We are told that the benefit that will come to Britain will be partly through an increased purchasing power in the Dominions. I shall rejoice exceedingly to find an increased purchasing power available to the inhabitants of the Dominions, but surely there must be something wrong if a. British Government hopes to improve the condition of its lawn people by improving the purchasing power of the people in the Dominions first of all. We are a much larger market for the people of the Dominions than they are for us. Improve our purchasing power here; give our people a better chance, and there will be a far better market available. The earning capacity of our people is steadily going down, and it cannot be denied that the cost of commodities under this scheme is bound to go up. There is bound, therefore, to be a limiting of the purchasing power of our own people, and how indeed that can be a contribution to removing our own unemployment problem, I fail, quite candidly, to see.
The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council said the other night, "Ah, but there will be another indirect benefit. It is true that we have only been dealing with the Empire so far, but we hope to get another benefit from Ottawa, and that is a continued lowering of tariffs throughout the world." I really cannot understand it. Let us test it. The right hon. Gentleman says—and I followed his argument very closely, because I always like to hear what he has to say so frankly to us—that when he goes to the World Economic Conference presently, he will be armed in some 2004 special way. I suggest that he will rather be disarmed, and that he will not be free. Suppose the delegates of foreign nations, meeting him at the World Economic Conference after Ottawa, say to him, "We are prepared to offer to Britain entry into our markets on precisely the same terms as the Dominions are prepared to do it." Are you free to accept it? You cannot accept it, for if you did, you would destroy these preferences for the Dominions. I submit, therefore, that you go to this World Economic Conference with your hands tied behind your backs. There might be something to be said in favour of this proposition if you had said, "We will not ratify these proposals until we have gone to the World Economic Conference and had used these proposals as a bargaining counter." But you have thrown that bargaining value away by inviting this House to-day finally to ratify, and, by ratifying, tying your hands completely when you go to the World Economic Conference.
There are two or three other general conclusions that I want to put before the House. I suspect very strongly the political ideology that underlies these Agreements. I invite the House to look at the paragraph on page 50 of Command Paper 4175 dealing with films. There they will see something of the mentality which dominated our delegates at Ottawa. They speak of building up an Empire film industry with this idea in mind:We desire to emphasise the connection of these forms of instruction and entertainment not only with the commercial development but with the cultural development and the general outlook of the peoples of the Commonwealth.That is quite defensible from the point of view of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, but what is that point of view? It is a point of view which regards these various areas as destined either by Providence or by nature to be associated for ever and ever with, and to subserve the interests of, an Empire set in this great world of ours. In my judgment, in these days, a point of view like that is highly dangerous, and to set out to form the ideas of the young children of the Dominions in this way is to give them a point of view which is highly reprehensible in a world where world co-operation is so sadly necessary.
2005 The right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Colonies betrayed a similar point of view when he spoke on the 26th October, and I challenge very strongly the right of the Colonial Office to speak as they do so authoritatively on behalf of the people of these Colonies. The Colonial Secretary said:was asked about the African Treaties. From the Colonial point of view, the attitude of the Colonial Governments, as I think I have already stated, is perfectly plain. If this country should decide that it is in the interests of British trade that any of these treaties should be terminated, the Colonies would accept that perfectly readily——On the ipse dixit of the Colonial Secretary——They have received generous treatment at the hands of this Government, and they would be perfectly ready to accept that decision, and should such a step be taken they would forthwith introduce a preferential tariff. The decision does not rest with them."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1932; col. 1060, Vol. 269.]The right hon. Gentleman representing the Colonial Office arrogates to himself the right to declare what shall be the economic arrangements made for the well-being of the people for whom he is responsible to this House. I challenge his philosophy, I say that it is wrong and that it is a departure from our previous policy, because hitherto we have followed the policy of the "open door" very largely. There is a change, and so important is it that the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself called special attention to it. I say that if, 14 years after the end of the War, we are once again to embark upon the policy of drawing a line round certain territories in the world and saying to everyone else, "Hands off; we pink for these"—we shall have embarked on a policy which might easily land us in complications of a very serious character later on.
Lastly, there is the question of Russia, and there again we have the same point of view and the same mentality. In prosecution of an idea or an ideal—if you like, in furtherance of a political antipathy, for it is neither more nor less— the Government act in regard to Russia without even consulting, so far as I can see, the business men who are directly interested. Let me give the evidence of a business man, a Mr. J. R. Kearns, of H. W. Kearns and Company, Limited, 2006 machine tool manufacturers of Broad-heath. He says:"From the point of view of finished machines, Russia is worth 10 Canada's to us.To follow a prejudice to entertain a political antipathy the well-being of these business people and their dependants is cast contemptuously on one side, and the trade agreement with Russia is placed in jeopardy.
§ Mr. JONES
That may very well be, but it is yet to be seen. We have yet to know what the conditions of the new agreement will be, but the main fact which strikes us is this, that a country which happens to have one form of Government, of domestic arrangements, which we may happen to dislike, is suddenly pounced upon simply in order to maintain the prejudices of our new Foreign Secretary, Mr. Bennett, of Ottawa.
I submit to the House three or four main points. I submit, first of all, that the experiment that we are called upon to endorse to-day is a very hazardous experiment of itself. Secondly, I say that its commitments for our own people are inequitable in character, as compared with those of the Dominions. Thirdly, I say that its consequences may be of a very serious nature. This experiment is bound, in my judgment, to add to the cost of living for large numbers of people who cannot afford to contemplate any such development in the coming months or years. Fourthly, I say that the implications of these Agreements, and especially of the political ideas which seem to underlie them, are implications which might very well land this country in complications with others, not perhaps now, not perhaps five years hence, but sooner or later, inevitably, if we build a huge impregnable wall around the territories under the British Crown.
Lastly, I want to say this: I am not one who takes the view that the question of Free Trade or Protection is unimportant. So long as we are living under a Capitalist system, I am myself an unrepentant Free Trader, I confess, but from the point of view of the main test which the Lord President of the Council gave us, it is very largely irrelevant. The Prime Minister, finding himself once 2007 more after a long lapse from grace, told the House a week or so ago, what has been increasingly evident, that unemployment is present in Free Trade countries as well as in Protectionist countries. It arises, he told us, from the very nature of the social order. I therefore tell hon. Gentlemen opposite that, while we readily grant that they entertain their faith as zealously and sincerely as we do ours, we believe that they are wrong, that these Agreements will be proved to be wrong, not only in the conception that underlies them, but in the results which will attend them. We feel that the problem which faces the world cannot be met until the world and we in particular have tackled the question along the lines of right and decent social planning and reorganisation.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
This Bill covers a wide ground and the problems which it touches are numerous. The hon. Member who has just made a powerful, and, in our view, convincing speech, has covered much of that ground, and I shall not in the observations which I shall address to the House deal with some of the points with which he has dealt, nor indeed, with many of the points that have already been debated in our fortnight's discussions on the Ottawa Agreements. The Third Reading Debate on a Bill is an occasion when the course of the discussions in Parliament may be reviewed and summarised, when the discussions outside these walls may have some effect, and when, as in this case, the Debates that have taken place in the Parliaments of the Dominions may also be referred to. First, let the House consider its own position in relation to this Bill and the procedure that has been adopted. We find ourselves to-day discussing the Third Reading, although the Committee stage was ended only last night. There is no Report stage. That is the occasion on which the House may review the Amendments made in Committee on the Bill, and effect any further Amendments. There is no Report stage on this Bill, because if there are no Amendments in the Committee stage, there is, according to the Rule of the House, no opportunity for discussion on Report.
Here we have this great Bill of many Clauses and Schedules, 107 pages in all, which has emerged through Committee 2008 precisely the same, line by line, word by word, as it was when it was introduced. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury, in the course of the Debates on the Resolutions, said that of course any hon. Member would be able to raise any question of detail, to discuss it, and to ask for explanations. That has been done, and the hon. Gentleman and his colleagues have been ready to offer whatever explanation the subject-matter of the Bill permitted them to offer. As for the House exercising any influence on the Bill itself, and being able to alter a single word of its Clauses or to modify in any degree the taxes it will impose on the people, we were told from the beginning that that was out of the question. It was all decided at Ottawa. Seven Members of the Cabinet went there and came back with a new Decalogue written on tables of stone, which it was impious to alter by a single jot or tittle. So the House finds itself in the position admirably described by an old Member—the hon. Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto)—a devoted servant of the House of Commons, who has worked here for many years—when he said quite frankly: "After all, we are only here to register an Agreement." To that point the British House of Commons has been reduced.
I may be forgiven a personal reference. It will be 30 years next Monday since I first took my seat in this House, and, although I was absent for 10 years, I have, during the long period that has intervened since I walked up the Floor as a very young Member, had the opportunity of witnessing very many Debates on great Measures in which many great Parliamentarians have taken part. From time to time, indeed, in moments of great crisis and national emergency, the House has been ready to pass through all the stages of a Bill in a single day, and sometimes Bills have been passed through both Houses of Parliament in a single day. But, so far as I am aware, there has never been an occasion with no acute emergency existing on which a great Measure of this character, introducing many new principles and a whole range of taxes, has had to be passed through Parliament without the alteration of a single word.
When the Import Duties Act was passing through Parliament, the Lord President of the Council laid great emphasis 2009 on the necessity of appointing an Import Duties Advisory Committee. Such a committee was appointed and it is presided over by Sir George May. The Lord President, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and other Members of the Government said: "There you have a security against hasty taxation or against Protection adopted under the influence of great; industries, or against the Government yielding to pressure to put on certain duties that are not in the public interest." Very great emphasis was laid on that throughout all those discussions. All the duties that have been imposed under the Import Duties Act have had to be examined by the May Committee.
What has happened with all the duties in this Bill? There has not been any examination by any such authority. They were acceded to by the seven gentlemen of Ottawa and such of their advisers as were with them, sometimes after considerable discussion, sometimes hastily and almost in a moment on one or two occasions—so we were told—and they became parts of the Agreements. Since they are parts of the Agreements, they are parts of this Bill; and, since they are parts of this Bill, they must go through unaltered in any particular. Were they empty words that the Lord President and the Chancellor of the Exchequer used when they said that it was essential to have safeguards, to have independent inquiry with opportunity for trades to be heard, and to have all technical details examined I Were they empty words, or did they mean something? If they meant something, and had any validity, why was not that procedure adopted in this case? It may be said: "it was impossible to do that; you cannot make agreements between different Dominions and reserve details for further consideration by some authority." That, however, is exactly what has been done in the case of Australia. We have been told definitely that the reason why there are no particular duties in the Australian Agreement and no details scheduled to it is just that. We have been told on official authority that the Australian Government have given a pledge to the Australian Parliament that there shall be no new tariff duties without the examination and recommendation of the Australian Tariff Board. If that be possible in Australia, why should it be 2010 impossible here? I shall await with interest the reply of the Government to that point.
A new point has emerged in the course of the Committee stage with regard to the position of the House of Commons in relation to the House of Lords. It is a point which may be of great importance in the future and give rise to intense, political feeling throughout the country. We all know that as long as a Conservative Government are in power or a Conservative policy is being adopted, the House of Lords is quiescent and accepts what is put before it as a matter of course. That has been the trend of our modern history and there has never been any exception. But whenever a Labour or Liberal Government is in office, the House of Lords wakes up and is active, watchful and frequently destructive. Take the particular matters which are in question under this Bill. The new duties can be altered by a Parliament of a different complexion from this. They are reserved in the Bill, and only the house of Commons has to give its assent to orders made by the Treasury and the Board of Trade. If legislation be necessary, it will be a Money Bill, and under the Parliament Act the House of Lords has no power to touch or amend it.
Other matters, however, are dealt with in this Bill which may he the subject of Treasury or Board of Trade Order, particularly the meat restrictions, which may have a great effect upon the welfare of the public and may arouse strong feelings in the country. There is also the Russian Clause, under which Orders may be made restricting tile supply of timber and other commodities from Russia to this country. If those Orders are made—and they will be made in all probability by this Government with the support of this Parliament—they have to be endorsed by Resolutions of both Houses. If another Government or another Parliament desires to abolish or to amend those Orders, therefore, it has to secure the assent of the House of Lords as well as the House of Commons. That is where we anticipate that there may be grave conflict. If legislation be necessary, it will not be in. the foam of a Money Bill. It will be an ordinary Bill which the House of Lords will be free to reject or amend, and which can only be passed under the provisions 2011 of the Parliament Act, if the House of Lords rejects it, after a period of two years after having been passed three times by the House of Commons. It is a very serious matter that the Government have so framed this Bill as to give this power of control to the House of Lords over any such Orders that may be presented to Parliament.
May I refer to the points that were embodied in the letter of resignation which my colleagues and I addressed to the Prime Minister, and which was published at that time? There we gave a series of reasons for our objections to the Ottawa Agreements, and I should like to review how far the discussions in Parliament on this Bill and the discussions outside have justified that statement of reasons. First, we declared—and we put this as by far the most important of our reasons—that in our view the Ottawa Agreements, so far from contributing to the unity and harmony of the Empire, would give rise to controversies, and even to injurious controversies. Now we see, not only in this Parliament, but in the Parliaments of Canada and Australia, vehement political controversies taking place on these very Agreements. The Opposition parties there have indicated that they cannot be expected to allow the Agreements to stand. Mr. Scullin has stated and Mr. Mackenzie King less definitely that they must regard them as open to denunciation or revision. But the Agreements themselves would not permit that. The Agreements themselves are to bind the parties for a period of five years. The signatures of the representatives of the present Government here and the present Governments in the Dominions have been appended to that undertaking, that the Agreements are to last for five years, and the Government have flatly refused our very earnest plea that a provision should be inserted allowing them to be terminated after notice. What is the result? Only yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer made this statement on a minor Amendment which had been moved from the benches opposite, and was to the effect that three months notice should be required before 2012 any of these duties were terminated. The Chancellor said:One must contemplate the possibility that the Government with which we have concluded these Agreements"—That is, some Government in one of the Dominionsis replaced by some other Government.
§ The CHANCELLOR of the EXCHEQUER (Mr. Chamberlain)
I think my right hon. Friend ought to read the words which preceded that sentence.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I will do so with pleasure, though in order to keep the sense I shall have to go rather far back. He said:You have here a series of Agreements between various Dominions and the United Kingdom, and it is perfectly clear that in the interpretation of these agreements, there may from time to time arise perfectly innocent differences of opinion between the two Governments. What would be the procedure on the part of the British Government if such a difference of opinion should arise? I am not speaking for ally British Government except the present Administration, but, as far as this Government is concerned, I say without hesitation that we who have gone through 60 much trouble to try to make these Agreements with the Dominions are not likely to upset and wreck them by any premature, hasty or ill-tempered treatment of any innocent difference, or reasonable difference, of opinion which may arise between us. Of course, we should not straightway say that we are satisfied that the Agreement has been broken and ceases to be in force. That is not the way we should go about it. We should exhaust all possible means of coming to an agreement with the Dominion Governments concerned before we took such action as that.Then comes the passage which I was about to read, and which is really relevant to my point. The previous passage, I venture to suggest, is not really relevant.But one must contemplate the possibility that the Government with which we have concluded these Agreements is replaced by some other Government which takes an entirely different view, and which says, We did not agree at the time. We declared that we would not be bound by the Agreements that were made. Now we have come into office we are not going to be bound, and we cease to fulfil our side of the Agreement.'"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1932; col. 1808, Vol. 269.]He went on to ask what would be the result of the Amendment in circumstances such as those, where one side refuses to fulfil its obligations and we are still obliged for a few months to fulfil 2013 ours. But the question of that particular Amendment is not at issue now. The point is that the Chance for of the Exchequer, who has introduced this Bill, and is responsible for it, is obliged to contemplate the possibility that Dominion Governments may repudiate these Agreements themselves, so strong is the feeling against them in certain parts of the Empire. Would it not be better at the outset to have accepted our proposal and provided a legitimate, regular, legal means of terminating these Agreements with six months notice, as exists in the Russian Trade Agreement and in many other trade agreements, rather than to say that the only remedy is to repudiate an obligation which apparently has been legally undertaken? We urged that, but the Government said that it was impossible to insert that provision as to six months, because it would not work. People would not plant apple trees if there were a possibility of a cessation of the Agreements at the end of six months. The Foreign Secretary dealt very summarily with this point in a speech which commanded a great deal of attention and Won great plaudits from the House of Commons. He put it as a matter of common sense. In the course of his statement he speaks of a term of three months. No, one has suggested three months, no one has suggested any- thing less than six months, and his suggestion of three months was oratorical hyperbole. He said:As a matter of common sense"—Common sense! Every one would agree to anything that was really common sense—does anybody really suppose that you could negotiate a complicated commercial treaty for months and months, involving a long term policy, with the additional clause that the whole thing could be brought to an end in three months? That reminds me of the epitaph in the country churchyard on the babe that died very soon after it was born.'If I should so soon he done for I wonder what I was begun for.2014 Indian Agreement. It is represented as a great step in advance, as opening great opportunities for trade, as a very welcome advance on the part of the Indian people. Article 14 of the Indian Agreement says:This agreement between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of India shall continue in force until a date six months after notice of denunciation has been given by, either party.What becomes of the common sense? Think of this unfortunate infant, the Indian Agreement, which may be terminated after six months! The whole contention of the Foreign-Secretary, which was received with such loud plaudits from the House, disappears and is defeated by one of the very Agreements which he was engaged in defending. Even if there were to be some uncertainty involved by inserting a six months' period, it would be far better to face the risk of that than the much gravel risk of facing the United Kingdom or the Dominion Governments with the terrible alternative of either refusing to obey a mandate that may have been given to them by their electorates or of breaking a legal agreement signed on behalf of their country. And this is suggested as a means of uniting the Empire in bonds of harmony and of good will!
The second point in our letter of resignation was what has been called the constitutional point. I do not propose again to go over the ground which I have previously trod, but. I do propose to review the later developments that have taken place in this connection. It is desirable that the House should be reminded what the constitutional point we raised really is, because it is something very different from what the Foreign Secretary represented it to be. I will read a short paragraph from the letter:The Agreements signed by our delegates include an undertaking that the Parliament of the United Kingdom will not reduce certain duties on articles imported from foreign countries during a term of years without the consent of the Governments of the Dominions. Apart from the question whether any Government is entitled to give such an undertaking, Parliament itself Cannot properly enact a statute of that nature which would purport"—I draw attention to that word "purport"—to bar a subsequent Parliament, from reducing taxes unless the Governments of all other parts of the Empire had given their 2015 consent, even though there might have been a clear mandate from the electorate that it should do so. Such a proposal is in our view wholly unconstitutionalTo that statement we stand. It is quite true that in the course of the discussion the Foreign Secretary did establish one point, namely, that some commercial treaties have existed—only three have been mentioned—which did embody an undertaking that for a period of years certain duties against certain foreign countries should not be increased. There was the Cobden treaty, and there have been treaties dealing with currants, and apparently one recently dealing with silk. Let me say that it was not I who introduced the question of commercial treaties, as the Foreign Secretary said, but the right hon. Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) and the Lord President of the Council. That point as to the other treaties has a bearing on the subject, but it is not the essential point. The essential point is that never before has there been a case in which a great political issue, on which general elections have been fought, has been brought into an international obligation in such a way that this country was bound to some country overseas for a term of years so as to bar a change of policy being carried into effect by the country and by this House. That is the essential point. Here we have the case about the food taxes and the whole system of preferences, which has again and again been fought out at elections, and which must be an issue at the next election, and yet the Government have made Treaties for a period of five years which purport—I use the word purport advisedly—to bar the country, in breach of these Agreements, from altering that policy.
I put the converse case. Suppose a Free Trade Government had made a Treaty with Germany or with the Argentine which would debar Parliament from adopting a protectionist policy—a Treaty which guaranteed that German goods should come in free and Argentine produce come in free, and that was to hold good for a period of five years, even though the Protectionist party were to be elected at the polls. Would they accept that as being a right and proper course?
§ Brigadier - General Sir HENRY CROFT
Is not that exactly what was 2016 proposed by the Tariff Truce which the right hon. Gentleman supported?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
No, because in all probability there would have been a six months' notice in such an agreement. There would be no harm in making an agreement for a period of years provided that the rights of Parliament were retained. When the Labour Government were in office and when they offered to the Dominions to maintain the preferences for three years, they said that the condition maintaining the right of Parliament to alter its taxation annually must be preserved. That is the constitutional point. That is the point which has never been answered. The Foreign Secretary, in his brilliant speech, restricted the area of its effulgence. He did not cast its light on many of the points raised, and that is one of them.
The Foreign and Imperial policy of this House is of a continuous character, going on year after year, Parliament after Parliament, because successive Governments respect the feelings and the political beliefs of the Opposition Parties. If a treaty like Locarno were signed, which goes on for a long period imposing heavy obligations and grave risks, it could only be sanctioned if in the House of Commons there were a general consensus of opinion in its favour. No Government would seek to fasten such a treaty upon the country against the strong protest of the Opposition parties. If the Labour Government were to seek to make a treaty of friendship and alliance with, let us say, Russia, and bind us to accept Russian goods over a long period of years, and claimed that that ought to go on indefinitely under our patriotic principle of continuity of foreign policy, it would be instantly repudiated. It would be regarded as contrary to the unwritten law of our constitution.
We have referred to this Article 3, and it is essential for our present discussion and, indeed, for the records of the future that this point should be made abundantly clear beyond the possibility of doubt. I refer to Article 3 of the Canadian Agreement, which, like the corresponding article in the other Agreements, runs as follows:His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom undertake that the general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. imposed by Section 1 of the Import Duties Act, 1932, 2017 on the foreign goods specified in Schedule C, shall not be reduced except with the consent of His Majesty's Government in Canada.That is the article to which we take the strongest exception. I think I am right in saying that no defence of it has so far been given except, briefly, by the Financial Secretary yesterday.
Let me point out these matters in connection with it. First of all, the House will observe the form:His Majesty's Government undertake that the duty shall not be reduced.Not, "His Majesty's Government will invite Parliament to legislate," but, "His Majesty's Government undertake," as if this were a matter within the province of the Executive. If hon. Members will refer to what is called the "Cobden Treaty," the Treaty of Commerce with France in 1860, they will observe that the clauses are in different terms according as to whether they are clauses affecting France or affecting the United Kingdom, and it is an interesting and somewhat revealing form of phraseology, indicating the difference between the Constitution of France under Napoleon III and the Constitution of the United Kingdom, for all the French clauses read in this way:His Majesty, the Emperor of France, engagesthat on certain classes of British production or manufacture, the duties shall not exceed, whatever it might have been. He personally engaged it, because he had such power that he was the legislator, and he could carry it out. But the British Clauses are all in this form:Her Britannic Majesty engages to propose to Parliament,that the duty on French wines, or whatever it might be, shall not exceed such and such a sum. Seven times over in that Treaty there are phrases, that "Her Britannic Majesty undertakes to propose to Parliament," or equivalent terms. In these Agreements that have now been made with the Dominions, the House will find in most of the articles these words:His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom will invite Parliament to pass legislation.for this purpose or for the other purpose. There are one or two clauses that deal with matters that are definitely within 2018 the power of the Executive, and there, quite rightly, the words are:His Majesty's Government of the United Kingdom undertake.On this particular clause, what right has any Executive to undertake that certain duties shall not be lowered over a period of five years? That must require the sanction of the House of Commons.
Now, in the course of our discussions, this other point has emerged, and it is one, again, of great constitutional importance. A decision was given from the Chair that will stand in the records of Parliament as a declaration of constitutional practice which will undoubtedly form a precedent for future times. The title of this Bill states that the Bill is to "enable effect to be given" so the Ottawa Agreements. The Agreements themselves are printed as part of the Bill, as Schedules to the Bill, and all the world will naturally assume that when Parliament passes that Bill in that form, and with those Schedules, statutory validity has been given to those Agreements and all that the) contain. That world be the natural inference that would he drawn, but when I asked the Chairman a specific question, whether the fact that those Agreements were scheduled to the Bill would give them a statutory validity when the Bill was passed, he said, in the simplest language: "The answer is in the negative," and he stated that the Agreements were only included in the Bill, to use his own words, "for purposes of convenience."
That, I think, will be a revelation causing some surprise both to the public here and to tie Dominions. If the Agreements are only scheduled for purposes of convenience, would it not have been better to have presented them to Parliament in a White Paper? That would have avoided my possibility of misunderstanding. They have been scheduled in the Bill. They were to be printed as part of the Act of Parliament when it was passed, yet no statutory validity is given to those Schedules, except in so far as particular Clauses refer to particular parts of them. Clause 3 of the Canadian Agreement, and the corresponding articles in the other Agreements, are not referred to in any way, and therefore no statutory validity is given to this undertaking that for a period of five years those specified duties cannot 2019 be reduced. That is another constitutional point which has now been clearly established.
Furthermore, it has been made quite clear by the Ruling of the Chair, and by the speech of the Financial Secretary yesterday, that these agreements, which purport to be for five years, can be altered at any time by Parliament, whenever it chooses. Consequently, the apple growers of Canada who think that they have an absolute guarantee for five years, have not, and the Government by purporting to make for that period an agreement which was objected to by large sections of this House and of public opinion in the country, have really misled great bodies of opinion throughout the whole Empire. Personally, I do not see why the apple growers of Canada should be entitled to any more security or assurances than our own traders in this country, who have, year by year, to face the possibility of alterations being made in our Customs Duties, by the annual Acts passed by Parliament. None of our traders can be assured that any Customs Duty imposed by this House will last for five years without reduction. They can get no such guarantee; why should we think it necessary to give a guarantee of that character to producers in other parts of the Empire?
Now there is this further point, absolutely unprecedented, as is confessed that never in the whole history of Parliament has an Act been passed such as says that Parliament may not reduce certain duties without the consent of one of His Majesty's Governments in other parts of the Empire. Except in the New Zealand Agreement, no reciprocal limitation is placed upon any of the Dominions or upon India. The New Zealand Agreement does, indeed, contain a corresponding Clause, but none of the others do so. The Government would not have ventured to propose to the Indian Legislature a Bill including a Clause that, let us say, the duties on Japanese cotton should not be lowered except with the consent of the Imperial Parliament. It would have been flung out of the House and not even discussed by the Indian Legislature. Canada has not embodied any such undertakings in her Agreement, nor has Australia in hers, nor has South Africa. None of them have 2020 Clauses to say that certain duties for the advantage of Great Britain shall not be lowered, except with the consent of the Imperial Parliament at Westminster. A strange inversion of old conditions! During the long history of our Empire there has been a process of liberation——
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
May I interrupt my right hon. Friend for a moment? It is important that there should not be misunderstanding on the point that he has just made. Although there is no specific Clause imposing upon the Canadian Government the similar words and restrictions, such as are referred to by the right hon. Gentleman, nevertheless duties which are declared by the Agreement and substituted for existing duties, by the Canadian Government, are duties which cannot be altered for a period of five years, except in the particular and limited mariner which is expressed in the Agreement.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I should not like hastily to give any reply to the right hon. Gentleman as to whether there is any other Clause which has similar effect. All that I know is that an obligation rests upon the British Parliament not to alter duties without the express assent of certain Dominions. The words occur in the New Zealand Agreement. There is no such wording in any of the other Agreements, and is to that wording that I take the strongest exception. The fact remains that if another Government came in and wished to alter this Agreement, the first thing it would have to do would be to telegraph to the Government of the Dominion: "Do you assent, or not?" and, if not, we should not be able to proceed. If it is the case that there is any corresponding obligation upon the Dominions, that would make the position rather the worse, as putting them under some foreign control. I doubt if that can be so, because I know that in the Canadian Parliament this very point has been discussed, and that Mr. Mackenzie King has drawn attention to it and said that it was an intolerable provision to press upon the Imperial Government and that it would be impossible to get any similar provision through the Canadian House of Commons.
When my right hon. Friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer interrupted—I do not complain—I was making the point 2021 that we have, in this legislation, an inversion of the process that has been proceeding. It has been a process of liberation, which found its culmination in the Statute of Westminster, which gave full freedom to the Dominion Parliaments, with equal status. Now we have the Statute of Ottawa, restricting the freedom of the Imperial Parliament and reducing it to a lower status. I claim that, except in regard to particular points relating to commercial treaties, the constitutional points which we have raised from the beginning have been fully established in the course of these discussions.
Our next reasons for objecting to these Agreements were that, in our view, they would cripple and hamper the Government of the United Kingdom, in conducting its negotiations in the World Economic Conference. I would refer now to the answer that was given on that point by the President of the Board of Trade. I will, so far as I can, fulfil my pledge not to traverse well-worn paths, but to deal with fresh points that have since arisen. The President of the Board of Trade, on 27th October, said:I should like to reassure the House that not only are we not crippled but that we are actually carrying on the negotiations. It is no use saying negotiations cannot he entered upon or conducted. They are being entered upon and are being conducted."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1932; col. 1251. Vol. 269.]The negotiations are preliminary to the World Economic Conference and are intended to reduce tariffs in other countries in response to reduction here. No one said that it would be impossible to conduct negotiations. What we said was that it would make it more difficult to arrive at successful results. The right hon. Gentleman says: "Not only are we not crippled, but we are actually carrying on negotiations." A man with one leg can enter for a race, but it does not follow that he will win the prize.
Then the right hon. Gentleman said that he had been carefully watching, in the Ottawa negotiations, to ensure that the Duties should not be such as would seriously hamper him in the later negotiations with foreign countries, and he used these words:One of the things which I kept my eye upon all the time I was out in Canada—the House will forgive me saying it—was the keeping of the field of manufactures clear, 2022 so that we could carry on negotiations on our return to Europe. We have done so. Were it not for that, our difficulties would have been very great. I see no reason in the world why we should not succeed in dealing with each of these in order, country by country, and trade by trade."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th October, 1932; eel. 1251, Vol. 269.]5.30 p.m.
He ensued that there should be plenty of bargaining weapons in his hands by not giving any pledges that duties should be imposed on manufactures. He must have regarded that as a matter of importance. If duties had been imposed on manufactures under the Ottawa Agreements, remembering what would have been their effect, he thought he would be very seriously hampered in negotiating with those countries. Let us see what has happened. Duties have been imposed on foodstuffs and raw materials. The right hon. Gentleman is negotiating with the Argentine. The Argentine, in the last recorded year, sent us foodstuffs and raw materials to the amount of £56,000,000; she sent us manufactures to the amount of £400,000. And yet the right hon. Gentleman declares that, having kept a free hand with regard to manufactures, of which the Argentine sent us less than £500,000, and having tied his hands with regard to foodstuffs and raw materials, of which they sent us £56,000,000 worth, he is quite free and can enter in a happy spirit into his negotiations with the Argentine. Brazil sends us foodstuffs and raw materials to the amount of £8,000,000, and manufactures to the amount of £40,000. In Norway the position is certainly a good deal different. They send us foodstuffs and raw materials to the amount of £7,000,000, and manufactures to the amount of £4,000,000, but there our hands are tied, certainly, with regard to one article, as the House well knows, namely, cod liver oil, and there are suggestions also with regard to newsprint and other Norwegian manufactures. Holland, while she sends us manufactures to the amount of £12,000,000, sends us foodstuffs and raw materials to the amount of £27,000,000. Denmark sends us £1,000,000 worth of manufactures, and foodstuffs and raw materials word' £53,000,000. And yet the President of the Board of Trade comes here and says that, as he has kept his eye carefully on manufactures and has a free hand there, he is not in any way hampered in 2023 dealing with these several countries with which he is engaged upon negotiations.
He said, further, that he thought there would be no difficulty in arriving at these agreements country by country and trade by trade. I asked a question yesterday of the President of the Board of Trade, which was answered by the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department, as to which of these countries with whom we are now negotiating have signed commercial treaties with other countries including the most-favoured-nation clause, which would oblige them to grant to other countries any concessions which they gave to Great Britain in the course of these negotiations. His answer was that they were all so bound. I do not think the country or the House has yet fully realised the effect of the most-favoured-nation clause upon these negotiations. If Sweden comes here, and we say to Sweden, "We will reduce our tariffs on your goods if you reduce your tariff on our goods," and Sweden says, "Yes," she must give equal reductions on all German goods, French goods, Norwegian goods, American goods, and the goods of any other country with which she has a treaty containing the most-favoured nation clause. Similarly, if we say to Sweden, "In consideration of your reducing your tariff we shall reduce our tariff on certain goods," we must give exactly the same right of entry to all the other countries of the world with which we have treaties containing the most-favoured nation clause. Therefore, the notion which many hon. Members have that we can make agreements with these other countries, treating well those that treat us well and treating worse those that treat us worse, is not possible without the denunciation of our commercial treaties or the modification of the most-favoured-nation clause.
The President of the Board of Trade has never faced that question, and has never told the House frankly what he proposes to do, and how, if at all, he is able to get round that difficulty. Unless the treaties are modified, it can only be got round by dividing up the schedules into minute portions, and, with regard to some of them, getting a general all-round reduction which would in fact only apply to this country, since we were the only manufacturers of that particular 2024 class of goods. That is the only way in which the difficulty could be got over, and the result would be infinitesimally small. Perhaps that is too strong an expression to use, but it would result in exceedingly little change to the advantage of our trade. There can be no large alteration in the situation unless the most-favoured-nation clause is dealt with and is modified in our treaties so as to secure different treatment for those who give us different treatment. Instead of having only a most-favoured-nation clause, we should have to have also a clause of equal treatment.
I must apologise for keeping the House so long, but I have one or two other points to make, if the House will forgive my continuing for a few minutes longer. In our letter of resignation we said that undoubtedly these Agreements would bring some advantages to some classes of our trade, though we regarded many of them as problematical or doubtful; but they still leave enormous duties on British goods in Canada and Australia, and they will do nothing for the cotton industry in India. With regard to agriculture, we used these words:Our agriculture is likely to derive little benefit, if any, from the Agreements.I think that the general sense of the House, after the Debate, fully confirms that statement that little advantage to British agriculture is likely to result from these Agreements.
On the other hand, we urged that there were numbers of disadvantages to our people, and some of those have been voiced during these Debates from all quarters of the House, particularly with regard to raw materials. The hon. Member for Ealing (Sir F. Sanderson) made a very powerful and convincing speech with regard to one raw material of which he has a very full knowledge, namely, linseed, and he was supported by many other hon. Members belonging to the Conservative party as well as to other parties. The answer given was that some drawback might be allowed; but no assurance was offered to the House that a drawback would in fact be given, and nothing more was promised to the House in the discussions than that the Imports Advisory Committee would be urged to give immediate consideration to drawbacks. It was pointed out, however, by the hon. Member for South Croydon (Mr. H. Williams), that so far during the whole 2025 of this year the Imports Advisory Committee had only allowed a drawback in one case, and obviously it would be exceedingly difficult to apply any system of drawbacks to such a commodity as linseed—to determine, for instance, how much Indian linseed and how much Argentine linseed was embodied in the manufacture of a particular piece of linoleum. It would be almost impossible to apply a drawback in such a case.
The effect of not applying a drawback—and we are told that only one has been applied so far—is that our manufacturers here have to pay duties under this Ottawa Agreements Bill and under the Import Duties Act on many kinds of raw materials, while their competitors in foreign countries, using the same articles, can get their raw materials in free. Oils, tallow, leather, copper, zinc, spelter, timber—all these things are to be taxed. This is, I think, almost the only departure in the present proposals from those that were promulgated 30 years ago by Mr. Joseph Chamberlain, and it is a departure for the worse. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has, I hope, borne in mind, in framing these tariffs, these words which were used by his distinguished father in a speech at Glasgow in 1903:What do the Colonies ask? They ask a preference on their own particular products.… You cannot, in my opinion, give them a preference on raw material. It has been stated that I should propose such a tax; but I repeat now, in the most explicit terms, that I do not propose a tax on raw materials, which are a necessity of our manufacturing trade.And yet we have now, over a whole range of commodities, including those discussed during the Committee stage of this Bill, taxes on raw materials; and, while the hon. Members to whom I have referred made their protests in a mild and docile spirit, not one of them had the courage to go into the Lobby to vote——
§ Sir FRANK SANDERSON
The reason why I and my friends did not go into the Lobby to vote against the Amendment was because the raw material linseed was unfortunately incorporated in the same Amendment as the manufactured commodities of linseed oil, cotton seed oil, coconut oil, palm kernel oil and other oils, duties on which I am heartily in favour of, and therefore I had no alternative but to refrain from voting.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I congratulate the hon. Member on having been allowed a way of escape. If linseed alone had been the subject of a separate Amendment—we asked that it should be, but the Chairman ruled that that could not be done—I wonder whether the hon. Member would then have gone into the Lobby and voted against its inclusion? I hope that he would.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
My hon. Friend says that there was a separate Amendment on that point during the Committee stage, but perhaps we need not trouble to go into that now. The fact remains that, if we consider the present state of British industry, and the desperate efforts which our exporting manufacturers have to make in order to get contracts and orders in the various neutral markets of the world, and how narrow the margin very often is between quoting a price which will enable an order to be obtained and quoting a price which is just too high, so that the order goes to Germany, or Italy, or France, or Belgium, or some other country, is it not the height of folly to impose any kind of restriction on any of the great raw materials which are the staples of so many of our manufactures?
Another point raised in Committee was with regard to the Canadian wheat which comes here through American ports during that period of the year when the St. Lawrence is frozen. No satisfaction whatever was given by the Government to those hon. Members, including the Members for Merseyside constituencies and the hon. Member for the City of London (Mr. E. C. Grenfell), who protested against the present proposals in the Bill. With regard to the burden upon our people owing to the rise of prices, we have heard something, but not very much, about the foreigner paying these duties. Occasionally we get a murmur to that effect from the hon. Member for South Croydon. But, if the foreigner pays these duties—if the Argentine, for instance, pays the 2s. duty on wheat, and everything remains the same except that they get 2s. less for their wheat and suffer accordingly—what advantage is there to 2027 Canada or any other of our Dominions? We are told that this gives a secure market, that is to have a directional effect—that, instead of getting wheat from the Argentine, we shall get it from elsewhere. But, if the foreigner in the Argentine pays the tax, as we are told, there is no direction.
The Foreign Secretary quoted the other day from a paper issued by the Liberal Publication Department. I am glad to know that he is still a subscriber for those publications, even if he makes no more use of them than to find material for debating points against his old associates; but here is another publication of that department which contains a speech of his made in 1928, a passage from which am going to quote, not because it embodies opinions of his own—it is no use quoting them; they have all been discarded—but because it embodies a quotation, with which he concurs, from Mr. Balfour. This is not a question of dates; Mr. Balfour's observation related to a matter which is of general and permanent application, and it is as true in 1932 as it was when the Foreign Secretary endorsed it in 1928, or when it was first made in 1904. The Foreign Secretary said:One of the wisest things ever said about Protection was said long ago by Mr. Balfour himself.… Mr. Balfour, after all, is the man who has put in the fewest words what Protection really and truly does involve, and what we have all got to face. What is a protective policy?' he asked. 'A protective policy, as I understand it, is a policy which aims at supporting or creating home industries by raising home prices. The object of Protection is to encourage home industries. The means by which it obtains that object is by so arranging import duties that the prices obtained in those industries are increased. If home prices are not raised, industry is not encouraged. If industry is encouraged it is by raising prices. That is in a nutshell, Protection properly understood!I am sure the Foreign Secretary, who endorsed that, not in distant days but comparatively recently, will not go back on his words now and will admit that that is permanently true, that unless Protection raises prices it does nothing for the encouragement of industry. Unless corn prices are raised by the corn duty, it will do nothing for the encouragement of Canadian production. The last point in the letter of resigna- 2028 tion was that we contemplated at that time that the Agreement would probably involve the denunciation of the Trade Agreement with Russia. That has been sufficiently debated in the House. It is only necessary to say on the Third Reading that we regard this as one of the most unfortunate consequences of the Ottawa Agreements. The discussions generally, therefore, in our view have confirmed the grounds on which we felt ourselves obliged to tender our resignations through the Prime Minister to his Majesty.
We are continually asked by the Prime Minister and others to say, if we object to the Ottawa Agreements, what policy do we think ought to be adopted, and I think that is a question that demands a reply. I can give it very briefly. If the Ottawa Conference had carried out the policy proposed by the Lord President of the Council in his opening speech, we should all have applauded its results. He stated its object to be to lower tariff barriers, and the Financial Secretary to-day, in moving the Third Reading, quoted the Resolution passed by the Conference that the right policy was to lower or remove barriers between themselves. If the Conference had resulted in promoting Free Trade within the Empire without further restricting our trade with the rest of the world, then, indeed, we should have been wholehearted supporters of the Ottawa Agreements, but is has not done so. The Financial Secretary said to-day that these Agreements had resulted in the Empire abandoning Protection. Does he really seriously mean that the Empire has abandoned Protection?
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
What does that mean? Prince Bismark once said somewhat cynically, I think in the Reichstag, that when you say you are in favour of a thing in principle it means that you have not the remotest intention of doing anything to promote it in practice. The Empire has abandoned Protection! What is this Bill, every Clause of it, but imposing fresh duties? This is not a Bill to repeal duties but to impose duties, to raise tariffs and to make further restrictions. If the Empire has abandoned Protection, why this Bill? Would Mr. Bennett or Mr. Bruce say that Canada 2029 and Australia have abandoned Protection? Are they in favour of inter-Imperial Free Trade? Are they prepared to allow British goods to flow in freely without any Protective tariff at all? Everyone knows that this is the very negation of any such policy. With regard to the Colonies, the Secretary of State gave us a very full and able disquisition upon the effect of the Bill in relation to the Colonies, but he did not say one word to indicate what is a fact, that the Colonies have been called upon to raise their tariffs against foreign goods in a great number of industries and, when he was challenged about that at Question Time yesterday, he said in a valiant fashion that certainly that was so and he would be prepared to defend it on any proper occasion. The proper occasion to defend it was when he was making his statement. In every paragraph of that long, comprehensive, full statement he said that preferences had been granted to Great Britain, preferences on this, preferences on that, preferences on the other. All through the speech he never said that fresh barriers to international trade had been imposed by the fiat of the British Government around the frontiers of numbers of our Crown Colonies.
If the Ottawa Conference had been of that character, we should indeed have applauded it. If it had embodied, not Mr. Bennett's programme but Mr. Mackenzie King's programme, we should have applauded it also. Mr. Mackenzie King has declared in the Canadian House of Commons that his policy is to repeal the enormous new duties that. Mr. Bennett himself has imposed on British goods within the last two years and to bring the tariff back to what it was two years ago, instead of which there are a few small cuts here and there, which my hon. Friends on these benches mentioned yesterday and on previous days, reducing tariffs of 70 per cent. to 60 per cent. and from 50 per cent. to 47 per cent. and cuts of that kind. The alternative Canadian offer would have been a complete reversal of all these enormous increments of tariffs which have been imposed by Mr. Bennett himself in anticipation, or at all events prior to this Conference. Further, Mr. Mackenzie King has offered so to alter the law that the duties upon British goods should be one-half of the 2030 duties on all foreign goods—a 50 per cent. preference in duties upon foreign goods—and to do that without pressing Great Britain to adopt any measures which she regards as contrary to her own interests. If that had been the result of the Ottawa Conference then, indeed, our attitude would have been very different. If the result of the Ottawa Conference also had been some undertaking that the vast masses of unused capital in this country should be made more available for Imperial development and, on the other hand, that the Dominions should no longer shut their doors so tightly against migration from this country, we should have applauded that.
If there could have been some permanent organisation established to promote Imperial trade, a new C.I.D.—this is not the first time I have suggested this in the House of Commons—not a Committee of Imperial Defence, nor yet a Criminal Investigation Department, but a Committee of Imperial Development, a standing body of high status and capacity, representing all parts of the Empire, which might be continually surveying opportunities for imperial development and the movements of capital and of population, that would have been a great advantage. That development could have been promoted, not by the restrictive, negative means of tariffs, but by positive, constructive efforts, such as that of the Empire Cotton-growing Corporation or the research work of the Empire Marketing Board or mutual agreements between our great industries in various parts of the Empire such as those undertaken by chemicals and iron and steel—if that had been the line of development at Ottawa it would have received the unanimous consent of the nation.
I do not deny chat those who went there went with the most admirable intentions, desiring nothing else but the welfare of the Empire and the promotion of its unity. Many of them have devoted their whole lives specially to those objects. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook, for instance, for 30 years has been labouring in this cause, and it is a strange irony of political fortune that while this Bill, embodying his policy in every particular almost, has been passing through 2031 Parliament he should be relegated to these benches while some who have had a very different political history are the Ministers at that Box conducting the Bill into law.
Good intentions, no doubt, lie behind this Measure. Often in the past Parliament has passed legislation intending one thing, but, to its surprise, afterwards finding it had effected another. This House was animated solely by the desire to promote and maintain Imperial unity when it decided that it would exercise force against the American Colonies, and those were regarded as no patriots, but as aiming at the dissolution of the Empire who resisted that policy, and yet they struck the greatest blow against the Empire that it has ever suffered. Again, in a later generation those who wished to maintain Downing Street control, as it was called, over the Colonies were regarded as the real Imperialists and those who wished to give the Colonies full liberty were denounced as Little Englanders, and yet the Little Englanders were right in saying that it was through their policy, and theirs alone, that the Empire would be maintained. They saw that the unity of the whole could only be made permanent on condition of the liberty of the parts. So now the Chancellor of the Exchequer and those acting with him undoubtedly are, according to their ideas of what is right and necessary, pursuing a purpose which in itself is admirable—the unity of the Empire and the greater employment of our people. We hold that these are not the means which will in fact result in those ends. The whole policy has been mistaken from the outset and results will be shown, whether late, or perhaps soon, which will be deplored by the great body of our citizens in all parts of the Empire, and the work that the House is doing to-day will have largely to be undone and replaced by a policy more consistent with the ideas on which the greatness of our Empire has hitherto been based.
§ 6.0 p.m.
§ Sir ROBERT HORNE
I hope I shall nut detain the House for any long period of time on a subject which by frequent discussion has become threadbare. I should not have intervened had it not been for the stimulating, or shall I say, the provocative speech of the right 2032 hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). We have heard to-day again a full recital of the reasons why the Liberal Members of the Cabinet resigned, or rather a certain portion of the Liberal Members. We have had many speeches upon this topic, and the conclusion I have come to is that these right hon. Gentlemen are not yet entirely resigned to their resignation. I congratulate them. They represent a very small party in the House. Without being offensive, I think I might describe them as the bifurcated remnant of a rump of a party. Yet they have succeeded—and it is a remarkable achievement—in imposing themselves upon the amiable attention of the House with an effusiveness and garrulity which has never been shown before by so small a party. They spent many days in the earlier part of this year telling us why they stayed in the Cabinet. They have now spent a great many more days telling us why they went out. May I suggest that they are taking themselves far too seriously. We on these benches who, after all, form by far the greatest number of the Members of this House, care very little and did not think that it mattered much whether those right hon. Gentlemen went into the Cabinet or not. We did not think that the Cabinet was any more national with them, and we do not think that it is any less national without them. The Government to-day is as national as it ever was. [Interruption.] Am I not right? It contains all the best of the Labour party. It contains all the best of the Liberal party. [Interruption.] It contains some of the best of the Tory party. All we asked of them—and, after all, our acquiescence was necessary if the Government were to carry on—was that they should play the game. In that they failed us. [An HON. MEMBER: "Whose game?"] The country's game, as I shall explain in a moment. If they consented to go into a National Government they ought to have been prepared to accept everything that was reasonably within contemplation that that National Government might do. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) who knows his colleagues much better than I do, to wit, made it perfectly plain that there was no doubt in 2033 his mind that the tariff question was one of the greatest issues before the electors at the General Election. He has said—and I agree with him—that these right hon. Gentlemen in front of me, after having had their heads so deep in the trough and the cream jug, need not have boggled at swallowing the rest of the diet. But we have been told that it was the spirit of duty that affected them, and we are bound to give consideration to that sentiment. But I was in the last Parliament, and I remember the Debates on the Coal Mines Bill.
In a speech on that Bill the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) made a most violent attack on it as a Measure which would bring disaster upon the country and its best interests, and within a few days, upon the grounds of a mere party manoeuvre he was helping the Coal Mines Bill into law. Now I am puzzled. I cannot forget, when I am listening to their high-sounding sentiments about duty and the traditions of British public life, the speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen at the Queen's Hall when he was faced, not with this audience but with a number of people of his party who were, it seemed, taking exception to his ever having gone into the National Government. I thought that he joined the Cabinet in the interests of the country. What did he tell his audience at the Queen's Hall? He said that if he had not done so, and they had gone to an election without himself and his colleagues in the Cabinet, the Liberal party throughout the country would have been split in two. All he had to say about the interests of the country was that some of the national interests would have been injured but that the Liberal party would have met with a complete disaster. To-day—and I hope that he will not think it offensive for me to say so—I am not so sure that the interests of the Liberal party are not again the main incentive for his action. If it is not so then I congratulate him upon the way in which the makes the prickings of his conscience synchronise with his political necessities. It just so happens that the Liberal party have only one policy which is distinctive. They have many whims and fads but only one policy, and that policy is Free Trade. It was perfectly obvious that if they had 2034 remained in the Cabinet and agreed to the arrangements which have been made at Ottawa the Free Trade case would have been abandoned for ever, and they could never have resuscitated it in the country.
Now we see the effects of his party's influence. We have the position which has been paraded in this House recently from day to day, and we have had a final example of his attitude in the speech which the right hon. Gentleman has made to us upon these questions to-night. What are the objections which he takes to the Ottawa Agreements? I listened to him very carefully. He has stated once more his constitutional difficulty. I confess that I cannot find anybody, either inside or outside this House who cares anything about his constitutional point. The fact is that while he must produce this infant of his own again today he has wrapped it in so many swaddling clothes that he has concealed the fact that it is already dead.
He raised some other points which I take in passing. He said that the only object of Protection must be to raise prices. I do not know why, but it seems to be impossible to get people who have never been engaged in business to understand what an important thing it is in regulating price to have a market upon which you can rely. I dislike intensely to give an example from my own experience, but the House will forgive me for striking personal note on this occasion. Within the last few weeks owing to a duty which has been put upon a commodity which I make, we have reduced its price by £1 per ton, and I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why. Until that duty was imposed we were competed with very actively by manufacturers on the Continent of Europe who, by the by when the duty was imposed, approached us with a view to our keeping up the price. We declined to do anything of the kind. We have reduced the price, and the reason is because we have been able to extend our capacity of production with the more or less confident assurance that the British market is available to us with the Empire market to follow. In practice the right hon. Gentleman will find time after time that instead of a duty being the cause of raising the price of a commodity it is the cause of it being decreased. [Interruption.] I am giving my own experience. I am attempting to 2035 reply to the point made by the right hon. Gentleman.
I direct attention to another fallacy of the same order. He says that the putting ct a 2s. duty upon Argentine wheat cannot benefit Canada if the Argentine producer pays the duty. Does not the right hon. Gentleman realise that any duty of that kind, if it clues not entirely shut off the trade, makes the foreigner, if I may use a colloquial expression, jump higher for his hone. He frequently reduces his price in order to get into the market, but there are many occasions when he cannot do it. The advantage to the Canadian producer is that he will know he will regularly get a preference in the British market upon which he can rely. Ask any Canadian producer of wheat if he does not get benefit from this preference and he will immediately give you the answer.
I pass to two or three technical points which the right hon. Gentleman made. He said that this great arrangement of treaties had passed through the House of Commons with very little discussion and that we had reached the Third Reading without a Report stage because no Amendments were allowed upon the Bill. Is it not the fact that any commercial treaty with any other country has to be accepted in all its terms or not at all When it is brought before the House by the responsible Minister, the House has either to reject the Treaty or to take it. The House does not get an opportunity of cutting and carving up the particular paragraphs of the Treaty, because as soon as you alter one stipulation you necessarily affect all the other stipulations. Therefore there is no other practical way of dealing with a Treaty with either a foreign Power or a Dominion except by putting it before the House in the form in which it has either to be adopted or rejected. I would remind the House of the fact that a very great Treaty affecting the lives and interests of a vast multitude of people passed through this House a few years ago in just such a form. I refer to the Treaty of Versailles. How could anybody have made an alteration in that Treaty in this House no matter how much he might object to the particular stipulations, as many hon. Members on the other side of the House did. There were innumerable 2036 passages in that Treaty which a very large number of Members in the House greatly disliked, and yet there was no other form in which they could register their opinions without either rejecting or accepting the whole of the Treaty. Therefore, the technical objection to these Agreements is quite beside the point.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I suggest; to my right hon. Friend that that is why we ought not to have treaties at all of this character involving a large range of taxes.
§ Sir R. HORNE
My right hon. Friend has reminded me of another point which he raised. He said: Why did we not adopt his plan of giving six months' notice of the termination of the Treaties. He said that after all it has been declared that these Treaties can be cancelled by Parliament. Therefore, he alleged, you are simply throwing dust into the eyes of the people if we led them to imagine that this Treaty was one which was going to continue for the full extent of even five years. There is, however, a great difference between a Clause which provides for a period at which the Treaty can be abandoned and another which, although Parliament can deal with it, leaves the suggestion of a break entirely out of account. In the one case the termination of the Treaty is contemplated and obviously part of the matter for which provision has been made. In the other ease it is not contemplated unless something very extraordinary happens. That is why every person both in this country and the Dominions is anxious to know that these Treaties will not be terminated upon any short notice. They will only be abrogated inside five years if some very grave and overwhelming event ocurrs which induces a Parliament to abrogate them. That is a difference of attitude which gives an entirely different point of view to people who have to work them. I turn to another thing which was said. It is said that we have got the worst of these bargains. Every country says that. I notice that in Australia an important Minister resigned because he thought that the Protective system was being lowered in Australia to the disadvantage of the Australian citizens. He observed that in Canada the manu- 2037 facturers are complaining that they are going to have very severe competition from British manufacturers. Exactly those complaints are being made elsewhere. Let me ask this question. What is the alternative to making such Treaties as these? You have to act now. I do not know whether the House has taken notice of a very important speech made the other day by Mr. Bruce, from Australia, and a previous Prime Minister. He said that if Britain had not been willing to enter into this trade agreement with Australia, that great Continent would have been bound to turn to other countries in order to make arrangements for their trade. If it is suggested that Mr. Bruce only represents one side of politics, in Australia, let me remind hon. Members that that point was stated much more emphatically by very important Labour Ministers after the failure of the last Imperial Conference in London. Therefore, there is no question what the alternative would have been if we had failed to make these Treaties. Undoubtedly, arrangements would have been made by the Dominions with other countries, to our detriment.
Let hon. Members reflect what that would mean. I will take one example only. The British motor ear trade does now very considerable trade with Australia and New Zealand. That trade has been increasing in consequence of the preferences which Australia and New Zealand have given to our motor manufacturers. Everyone who is acquainted with that industry and with what has been happening in those two great Dominions knows that we could not have sold British motor cars in Australia and New Zealand as against American motor cars without the benefit of the preference which they gave. What would have happened under the right hon. Gentleman's proposition would have been the complete sweeping away of the vast amount of trade which we enjoy there, with a consequent increase in the unemployment figures in this country.
The right hon. Gentleman, using that fallacy with which he is so well acquainted, post hoc, ergo propter hoc, announced that since March when the duties had been imposed in this country the unemployment figures had gone up by 300,000. Does be really ask his audience in the country to believe that 2038 the imposition of tariffs has been the cause of that? What would have happened if we were still a country giving free entry to-day to all the surplus products which the world is making? If our shores had still been open to all the producers of the world we should have been swamped, submerged, drowned in the cataract of goods which would have come here from foreign countries. The right hon. Gentleman said to-night, as he has said before, that to make trade arrangements with our Dominions is to cause bad blood and to create the danger of a breaking of the bonds which bind the Dominions and this country together. From what source does he derive that idea? Is it his view of business that it always creates hostility between the people who engage in it? That is a very old-fashioned idea of business. Perhaps it still persists in some of the Eastern bazaars, but nowhere else that I know of.
The only business that people recognise to-day as worth doing is that which benefits both parties. Let me give an example. To-day there are many people in the world who are rivals in business, who are competitors for markets. Nevertheless, they recognise the importance of developing business and they are exchanging research results and any new inventions which are devised by their experts. That is quite a common thing. So far from business dividing them it binds people together. If we had allowed our Dominions to get into closer relations with other countries than with us the effect would have been disastrous to us. And there is no truth in the allegation that we are offending other countries by these Agreements. I sat next to a very distinguished American manufacturer a few nights ago and he told me that he was one of the people who was most severely affected by the tariffs which Canada was putting on against United States products in order to favour British manufacturers. He said, "I recognise that I aim hit by these duties, but I believe that we shall do better in the end by a prosperous Great Britain."
These arrangements do not create the animosities which the right hon. Gentleman fancies. In one particular business which I conduct we have a very for- 2039 midable competitor in America, but our relations have always been friendly. The Canadian tariff has made it impossible for those American producers to sell in the Canadian market as against us. What have they done? Did they write to us and say: "The position has been made very difficult for us by the unfriendly action which your Government has taken." Nothing of the kind. They wrote saying that they recognised that it was quite within the competence of the British Empire to make what arrangements it could for its own best interests, and they added that they would put their agents whom they had previously employed in Canada at our disposal. What a monstrous idea to think that business relations create hostilities and break the bonds of friendship. The fact is that this section of the Liberal party suffers from a very curious complex in regard to this matter. They would far rather do business with a foreign country than with a Dominion. While they give lip-service to their love of the Empire, every phrase they use and every attitude they take shows that they are still impregnated with the old Cobden profession that the best thing for England would be gradually to slip the cable that binds her to the Colonies. Another of the great Cobdenites said that the only disadvantage of England getting rid of her Colonies was that she would be so strong that she would be a menace to the world. I do not think the right hon. Gentleman and his friends would go so far as to adopt that view. They are, however, willing to make arrangements with other countries but not with our Dominions.
Russia has become the pet subject of the right hon. Gentleman. He wishes to make trade agreements with Russia which only buys from us about one-sixth of what she sells to us, and even then she does not pay for it in cash. She depends upon credit from us in order to complete the transaction, and she uses the balance of the money she gets from us in hard cash partly in buying manufactures from other countries and partly in propagating a spirit of hostility towards us in every part of the world. We note once again the old Liberal doctrine of trying to placate your enemies while neglecting your friends. That is what we have to face in these antiquated arguments that come 2040 from the Liberal benches below me. It is a completely false notion which this section of the Liberal party has been putting before the country and before this House during the past few weeks. I hope that after the cessation of these discussions we shall get an opportunity of giving these Agreements a fair chance to work successfully. The right hon. Gentleman should not talk about Canada having become Britain's taxing master. That is how to make bad blood much more than by devising trade agreements.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
I did not say that. I said that our seven Cabinet Ministers who went over there and signed these Agreements, which are not alterable by this House, were our taxing masters in Canada.
§ Sir R. HORNE
I have not the quotation by me, because I did not expect to make a speech. Accordingly, I accept the right hon. Gentleman's statement of what he intended to say. My recollection was on the lines that I have stated. But everyone ought to be careful in what we say in these circumstances, and, in particular, it ought not to be suggested that the Dominions are not going to interpret the stipulations of these Treaties in good faith. We must believe that they intend to carry them out in the same spirit as we shall. I look forward to the time which the right hon. Gentleman sketched for us in his eloquent peroration, when a large flow of emigration will take place from these shores to the Dominions and when great funds will be put at the disposal of the Dominions so that they may accept our people who at home cannot find work for themselves. That, I believe, will come, but it will only come through the successful operations of these Agreements and not until the Dominions are put into a position in which they are prosperous enough, will any party, Liberal or Conservative, in Canada or Australia consent to accept a large addition to the labour forces which they cannot employ. I believe that not merely are these Agreements the beginning of new Empire construction but that they are a wonderful good beginning. Our feet are at last set upon the pathway to the shining goal to which many true-hearted Britons for many long years have aspired to reach.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
The right hon. and learned Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) knows this subject much better than I do, but I trust the House will bear with me while I say a few words in regard to some of the observations he has just made. I should like to put this point to him. He asked a question arising out of a statement by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) with regard to the number of persons unemployed in this country in consequence of the imposition of tariffs. He asks what would have happened to us in this country if Tariffs had not been imposed? The view he holds is that instead of there being an increase of 350,000 in the number of our unemployed we should have been drowned in the great economic cataclysm that would have come upon us if Free Trade still operated. His assumption, therefore, is that the imposition of tariffs has prevented our position becoming worse.
If the imposition of tariffs by this Government has saved us from something worse, how comes it about that President Hoover is likely to be overwhelmed within the tariff walls of America? We hear from the Press that President Hoover is likely to he completely defeated in the Presidential election in America, and that within the strongest tariff walls that have ever been erected in any country. Take the case of Germany. Germany is a strongly protected country, with tariffs on all hands, but everyone in this House knows full well that the plight of the German people is even worse than our own. The right hon. Member for Hill-head cannot have it both ways. He then talks about Russia not paying. I feel sure that he will correct himself in that matter, because so far as I can gather, the Russian Government has never failed to meet its obligations.
§ Sir R. HORNE
What the hon. Member says is perfectly true. I did not mean to suggest that Russia has not paid. All I suggested was that she does not pay at once, she gets credit for various sums up to 70 per cent. of the purchases she makes in this country, and it is a long credit.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I was speaking to a Lancashire merchant the other day and asked him whether the visit of the Prince of Wales to the Argentine some time ago had helped his trade; whether he was getting more orders. His answer was very pertinent. He said that it was not more orders that were wanted from South America but payment for the last lot of goods that were sent there. Although Russia is a very obnoxious country to some hon. Members I do not understand that she has failed yet to meet her obligations in respect to the trade she has transacted with us. The right hon. Gentleman talked about hostility. We on this side always welcome fair and increased trading within the British Empire, but we object to building a tariff wall around the British Empire, and around this country, because we are satisfied that if you do that, if you give a preference to our own Dominions and put duties on foreign goods, it will create trade hostility in those countries very near to our own shores.
The astonishing thing is that we are going to give a preference to goods produced twelve thousand miles away some of which can be bought within 50 miles of our own shores. The right hon. Gentleman was very vigorous in his denunciation to-day, more so than I have ever known him; and I have listened to him with delight on many previous occasions. I hesitate to follow him because he has great knowledge of the subject of economics.
Let me say a word or two with regard to the Bill as a whole. The Government have claimed from the beginning that their policy is designed to find employment for our own people at home. I ask this question: Will the Government tell us in what way this Bill will provide employment for our people? I would like an answer to that question. The Leader of the Labour party when the Bill first came to be considered in this House made a statement which is more true to-day than when he made it, that the Bill will not increase employment in this country one little bit, nor will it increase the trade of the country either. All we are doing under the Ottawa Agreements is to transfer trade from Brazil, Argentine and Uruguay to Australia and Canada. That may be good; but what we ask is how is this 2043 transference of trade from South America to the Dominions going to help the employment of our people at home? We have asked that question on many occasions but it still remains unanswered.
Let me draw the attention of hon. Members who are so desirous of imposing duties on foreign nations and giving a preference to our Dominions to one or two points which have been raised on several occasions already. There are factors in the situation in this country, and in all industrial countries of the world, which have not the remotest relation to Free Trade or tariffs; and that is the reason why we are constantly saying that neither of these two policies by themselves are going to solve our problems. When the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer was Minister of Health he made a most remarkable statement; and it was a true statement. [Interruption.] He was supplied with statistics by his staff and it was, therefore, correct. He made the statement that a child born to-day in this country could expect to live 12 years longer than his grandfather could have expected to live when he was born. The fact is that all the industrial countries of Europe have extended the average age of the individual, with the result that in this country we have, I believe, 4,000,000 to 4,500,000 people over 65 years of age who are not only unemployed but unemployable. That is one factor in the present economic situation. Let me give another. If we had the same proportion of men and women working for wages as we had in 1900 there would be about 600,000 more men at work and 600,000 more women remaining at home. These factors have no relation at all to any fiscal policy; and this Bill, therefore, in itself will not alter the economic situation one bit.
The right hon. Gentleman complained about trade going abroad and said that we ought to once again capture foreign markets. In Lancashire, a Division of which I represent, some people are engaged in manufacturing textile machinery, and have been doing good business until recently. They were manufacturing textile machinery to send to China, to India and Japan in order that those Eastern countries could manufacture the very goods which we used 2044 in years gone by make in Lancashire and sell to them. This Bill, with its duties, its preferences, its tariffs, cannot alter that fact, and we are astonished that the Government are trying to make the public believe that it is going to help solve our unemployment problem. We on these benches naturally feel very strongly on this point.
Personally, and I think I also speak for my hon. Friends on these benches, I believe that the work done at Ottawa is totally incompatible with what we are trying to do at. Geneva. This Imperial spirit of trying to collect people together within an Empire on the one hand, and the task at Geneva on the other of developing international co-operation, are totally incompatible. If the idea of a Parliament at Ottawa for the whole of the British Empire is developed, and the British Forces brought under an Imperial Parliament—as suggested by some hon. Members—if we are going to develop that spirit we might as well give up our efforts at Geneva straight away. We must not forget that although Australia is within the Empire it is 12,000 miles away, whilst France is less than 30 miles; and Italy is close at hand. What is the use of trying to ignore these geographical distances? If any trouble arises in Europe as a result of these Agreements Australia is still 12,000 miles away. We cannot alter these facts.
The right hon. Gentleman made the astonishing statement that in his own business he had been able to reduce the price of a commodity by £1 per ton. I do not know whether he meant that he was able to do so because tariffs had been imposed or whether the reduction had taken place in spite of tariffs. It seems to me that whether you have Free Trade or Protection as a fiscal system there are some commodities which will rise in price and some which will decrease in price.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The instance I gave was with regard to a tariff which enabled us to reduce costs because we got a bigger output. I agree that there are many instances in which a tariff will necessarily raise prices, but it is equally wrong to say that a tariff always raises prices as to say that it always reduces them.
§ Mr. DAVIES
I am much obliged to the right hon. Member. I remember a former right hon. Member of this House, Lord Melchett, who argued against the 2045 imposition of tariffs; and he knew as much about trade and commerce as any man. He said that the imposition of a tariff was of no use whatever unless it increased the price of the commodity.
We object to these Ottawa impositions because they will undoubtedly create hostility amongst other nations outside the Empire. Recently I have been in Yugoslavia and I came away sad and depressed to realise what the peoples of Central Europe are doing in the development of this economic nationalism. This is what happens in Central Europe at the moment. In Austria, Yugoslavia, in Bulgaria or Roumania, I believe, the governments have issued decrees that no goods can leave the country for export unless payment is deposited in the banks in advance before the goods start their journey. They can, of course, order goods from Great Britain or Germany, or anywhere else, and can receive those goods, but it does not follow that any payment is going to be made for them at any time. This idea of self-contained nations and empires is ultimately hound to breed hostility. I fear that the hostility created by tariffs will in the end burst out into open warfare between nations. I am opposed to these Duties and restrictions because I am certain that tariff wars will ultimately end in military conflicts.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
In ordinary circumstances I should not have attempted to intervene in the Debate at this stage, seeing that all the speeches so far have been made by Ministers or ex-Ministers, but as none of those who have hitherto spoken was a Member of the Ottawa Delegation, I think it is perhaps convenient that one of those who actually took part in those negotiations, and who is necessarily familiar with all the details, should as early as possible make some reply to the criticisms which have been levelled against the Agreements. The hon. Member for Caerphilly (Mr. Morgan Jones), who opened the Debate and moved the rejection of the Bill in a very closely reasoned speech, began by saying that the House was being asked to come to a singularly grave decision this afternoon, because the Government were proposing by the Bill to reverse the fiscal policy which had been followed by this country for 80 years. I am sorry that the hon. Member is so much behind the times. I should have thought that he 2046 would have realised by this time that the reversal of the policy to which he refers was carried out by the passage of the Import Duties Act. That was the decisive Act which changed the fiscal policy of this country.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
That is a very interesting comment on the Import Duties Act. That Act imposed a general ad valorem tariff of 10 per cent., and gave power to put on additional duties without limit. If that is what the hon. Gentleman calls a "tentative approach," his ideas of Protection go much further than those of even the most advanced exponents of Protection in this House. But it is a fact, an undeniable fact, that the fiscal policy of the country was definitely changed when that Act was passed into law.
What we are doing here is not to reverse the policy which has been the policy of the country for so many years, but we are taking advantage of the reversal of policy which has already taken place by developing the conception of closer trading relations between the various countries of the Empire. That is a policy which has very wide and far-reaching implications. It is a policy which, as. I have said before, is not confined merely to the actual material advantages which may be obtained by the new markets which will lie opined up to our industries in the Dominions, or by the strengthening and developing of the purchasing power of the Dominions by the corresponding advantages which we have given to them. In our view the Agreements reached at Ottawa go much further than that. They have opened up an altogether new path for the political development of the Empire, and although I may not carry hon. Members opposite with me in thinking that that is a desirable thing, not only for the Empire and the world, that is the conviction of those who went to Ottawa, and I believe it is the conviction of the great majority in this House.
In looking back over the proceedings upon this Bill one must recognise that they have been of a somewhat extraordinary character. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, in his exhaustive speech this afternoon told us that he had entered the House some 30 2047 years ago and that he had spent 20 years of his life in the service of Parliament. He said that never before in his experience had any Measure comparable with this been introduced into the House. I can cap his recollections with my own, which certainly extends over a very much shorter period but nevertheless now covers quite a considerable number of years. Since I have been a Member of the House, I have seen a number of Motions described as guillotine Motions introduced and debated, and I do not recollect any one which was not the subject of the most violent and repeated protests on the part of the Opposition of the day. I do not remember a single one which was not debated and fought inch by inch and line by line until it was only after long hours of struggle and by an unsparing use of its majority that the Government of the day was able to obtain the Motion. But on this occasion we might well have expected that the fight for the time-table Motion would have been even fiercer and more embittered than any in our previous experience.
Let us recollect what has been the consequence of the Agreements arrived at at Ottawa. So deep, so profound were the anxiety, the desperate fears engendered in the mind of my right hon. Friend and his companions by the conclusion of these Agreements, that they actually took a step which I think must be one of the most difficult of all steps to a loyal member of an Administration. They decided, three Cabinet Ministers and twice as many Under-Secretaries, to sever their connection with the National Government which they had joined to meet a national crisis. They had no doubt weighed up very carefully not merely their obligations to their late colleagues, but their duty to the nation. No doubt they had considered very carefully what the effects might be, not only in this country but in Europe and in the world at large, of some defection from the ranks of what had been up to that time a harmonious Administration. No doubt they weighed up all that very carefully and conscientiously, and they concluded that these powerful considerations were all outweighed by the dangers, the disastrous consequences, which they saw might follow upon the passing of this terrible Bill. Yet when the guillotine 2048 Motion was introduced, a Motion which must at any rate have limited their powers of destroying or even of delaying the passage of this Bill, not only did they not put up any fight, but they actually agreed with hon. Members opposite in asking the Government to shorten the time devoted to the discussion of the Bill in Committee in order that we might get on to something really more important.
I hope I do my right hon. Friend no injustice in saying that he did not really care as much about the Bill as he gave us to understand, or that it was only used as a pretext for escaping from a position which had become uncomfortable because, as was suggested, while the right hon. Gentleman and his friends had their heads in the milk jugs, their tails were exposed to the attention of the passers-by. I do not suggest such a thing, arid the speech of my right hon. Friend this afternoon shows the depth of his conviction. But there must be some reason for this big change of attitude, and for this comparative indifference, when it came to discussion of details of the Bill, to the things which had frightened him so much before. I suggest that perhaps there is really a very credible reason for this altered attitude. My right hon. Friend when be first saw the Bill was under the impression that it made a serious breach in the Constitution. He delivered a powerful speech in which, in emphatic and elaborate terms, he explained the grievous nature of the breach. I was reminded of the passage in "Bombastes Furioso":So have I heard on Afric's burning shore A hungry lion give a grievous roar, A grievous roar echoed along the shore.What happened? A couple of days after my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary, in an exposition of the real facts of the case, absolutely pulverised and smashed and demolished the whole position of the right hon. Member for Darwen:So have I heard on Afric's burning shore, Another lion give a louder roar. And the first lion thought the last a bore.My right hon. Friend no doubt thought that the Foreign Secretary was a bore, but at the same time I give him the 2049 credit for intelligent appreciation of the case which the Foreign Secretary has put up, and I cannot help feeling that it was his realisation of the fact that after all there was no breach of the Constitution which led him to adopt the course which I have commented upon in regard to the guillotine Motion.
I would like to deal at no great length with some of the points which have been placed before the House this afternoon, as defects or as serious matters for the House's condemnation of the Bill. The first point I will touch upon is the statement which was made by the hon. Member for Caerphilly and by the right hon. Member for Darwen, that the House had been deprived of any right to alter, as the hon. Member said, a line or a comma, of the Bill, or as the right hon. Gentleman said, one jot or tittle of its contents. Surely that is an extraordinary statement. Was it not a fact that Amendments were put down and discussed to alter every single one of the duties imposed by the Bill? Was it not a fact that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen went into the Lobby in support of those Amendments? Was it not a fact that if they had been able to carry the House with them they would have carried their Amendments and would have altered the Bill in every one of those respects? Then how can they say that the House had no right and no chance to alter anything in the Bill? Of course they had a perfect right and perfect power to alter anything they liked.
What the right hon. Member for Darwen is really complaining of, is that the majority of the House voted against him. That is not a constitutional question. The majority of the House voted against him because, in pursuance of the Constitution at the General Election a majority of Members was returned to support the National Government. As long as those Gentlemen continue to support the National Government it will not be possible either for hon. Gentlemen opposite or for the right hon. Member for Darwen to alter one jot or tittle of anything which the rest of the House approves. That is the whole position, and there certainly is nothing new about it or anything to which serious objection can be taken. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no precedent for a Bill having gone through without amend- 2050 ment. There I think he is wrong. I have not looked up the Government of India Act, but unless I am very much mistaken, there was another Bill of transcendent importance, one which affected not only India but very seriously affected this country, and might indeed be said to have affected the whole Empire—there was another great Measure which passed without any amendment. And for precisely the same sort of reason.
I do not suggest that the fact that this House has passed this Bill through Committee without Amendment, means that every Member of the House thinks that every line and every comma of the Bill is the best that could possibly have been thought of; but what I do think, and am entitled to claim, is that this House, having read the series of Agreements made by the delegates from the British Government at Ottawa, realising that, having made those Agreements, those Agreements cannot be altered unilaterally, decided that on the whole the Agreements were worthy of the approval of the House, and consequently they have been given approval.
I go on now to the next point, the constitutional point as it now appears, from the speech of the right hon. Gentleman this afternoon. I say "as it now appears" because the constitutional point has altered and varied so frequently that it is rather difficult to keep pace with the latest phase of it. Let us see what the constitutional point is this afternoon. This Parliament according to this Bill, says the right hon. Gentleman, cannot reduce duties on certain articles without the consent of the Dominions. He challenges that provision, because he says that it brings a political issue into consideration; that it binds Parliament for a definite period of time to a policy which is the subject of controversy, and with which some of the parties in this House do not agree. To begin with, the right hon. Gentleman says; "I deny that any Government has the right to do that." My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) thought at once, as I thought when he was speaking, of the tariff truce which the late Mr. Graham was endeavouring to obtain when he was in office. Of course, that never was the subject of a Bill, be- 2051 cause he never got agreement from the protected countries of the Continent, but if he had done so that would have been the subject of very strong controversy by the party to which I belong, and I have very little doubt myself that if it had been obtained it would have been a truce for some time. The right hon. Gentleman suggests that it would have been subject to six months' notice. He cannot prove that, and it seems extraordinarily unlikely that it would have been considered of any value to any country if subject to six months' notice.
Of course, it is not really the period of time which matters if this is a constitutional matter. It is whether you bind -any Parliament for any time. I remember, when we were in Opposition, we were at that time considering a number of treaties and conventions which, if we had come into office with a majority behind us, would have prevented us for six months, or in seine cases for 12 months, from carrying into operation a policy which we thought at that time was right. Did we say we would tear up those treaties if we came into office, or did it ever occur to us that the Government which had carried those treaties or conventions had been doing anything unconstitutional? We accepted the position. We should have waited for the period of time, which might be six months or 12 months, before we could change the policy and carry our own. Precisely the same thing applies to the Agreements here. The right hon. Gentleman may think he has a chance of coming into power with a majority in the course of the next 12 months. I will not prophesy, but I say that whatever Government wishes to change this policy can do so. You cannot say it is a breach of the Constitution if they have to wait for two years instead of one year and, therefore, there is nothing novel about this Treaty, except that it is perhaps for a rather longer time.
Let me come to the particular point to which he takes such violent exception. It is Article 3, and it provides that the Government of the United Kingdom undertakes that the ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. on foreign goods—on certain particular foreign goods specified in this Schedule—shall not be reduced during 2052 the operation of the Agreement without the consent of His Majesty's Government in Canada. My right hon. Friend said that that seemed to him an outrageous provision. He said there was no similar provision, in any of the Agreements we had made, on the part of the Dominion Governments. I interrupted him because this is really an important point. Let the House consider what this really means, this Article 3. It means that we guaranteed to the Canadian Government a certain margin of preference upon a certain limited class of goods. That is all it means. Why does it say we shall undertake not to reduce the existing duty on foreign goods? When they send in their goods, in every case the Dominions have free entry into this country, and it would be impossible for us to reduce the duty on foreign goods without reducing the margin of preference. It is not, therefore, to maintain a particular duty, but a particular rate of preference.
There is a precisely similar situation in regard to Canadian concessions to us. If hon. Members will look at part of Schedule E, which contains the concessions which Canada makes to us, they will see there a number of items which, if they come in from this country, are free. I take, as one, butter produced from cocoa beans. I think J could find one which sounds more like the produce of this country than that. I shall take books, or, better, anthracite coal. That is to go in free, and at the same time in the other columns of the Schedule there are printed the rate of intermediate tariff, and also the rate of general tariff, which are to be imposed during the five years. Under the Agreement with Canada, Canada cannot in this case reduce either the intermediate tariff or the general tariff without reducing the margin of preference on British coal. As she has agreed not to reduce the margin of British preference, she is equally precluded from reducing these duties. I hope I have made it clear that the right hon. Gentleman is mistaken in supposing that this special provision given by this country to the Dominions is not reciprocated by the Dominions. I am not arguing about coal, I am arguing about the constitutional point.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Article 9. I was going to say that in the Australian Agreement you have this again, in a different form, but the practical effect of it is exactly the same. There is a certain formula. It is provided for in that formula, but it does not actually lay down what are the rates of duty. It does lay down the rates of preference, and there the Australian Parliament is bound in an exactly similar way to our Parliament, because the rate of preference is guaranteed during the operation of the Agreement. Parliament can, if it chooses, tear up these Agreements by lowering the duties in spite of the provision that I have read. The right hon. Gentleman, basing himself upon that constitutional power, says that apple growers in Canada have no security. While that may be technically true, I think the apple growers in Canada, or other parts of the Empire, will rely, and rightly rely, upon continuity of policy which this country must follow if it is to maintain respect for its obligations. Although Parliament has a legal right to do anything it likes about duties, and vary rates agreed, in practice it is extremely unlikely that it will do so.
I pass to the next point which was made by the hon. Member opposite and by the right hon. Gentleman. They say we are going to be hampered in our negotiations with foreign countries. It is an extraordinary thing to me that the right hon. Gentleman and his friends are so anxious to make agreements with foreign countries and so terrified of making agreements with the Dominions. What is the real point of the right hon. Gentleman's observations? The point, apparently, is that as soon as we have agreed to give certain preferential terms to the Dominions—as soon as we have agreed to give them free entry and we put a duty on foreign articles—thereby we have weakened our position in negotiating with foreign countries, because we have less to offer them than if we had not given this preferential arrangement. I am prepared to admit we have less to Offer by reason of the arrangements we have made with the other subjects of His Majesty's Dominions, but surely the right hon. Gentleman is the last one who should bring forward that objection to this Bill, because if he and his friends had their way we should have nothing to offer foreign countries at all. That 2054 was the whole difficulty in the past. When Free Traders went about trying to make commercial treaties with foreign countries they had nothing to offer foreign countries, and foreign countries were not prepared to offer anything to as. Hon. Members may indulge in prophecy about the future, but the fact remains—it is palpable and clear that since we passed the Import Duties Act, and more particularly since we made Agreements at Ottawa, a considerable number of nations have come, one after the other, to the British Government with the request—for the first time—that we would enter into negotiations with them and make some kind of commercial treaty. Whatever may be said about our being hampered, it cannot be denied that what we have done at Ottawa has been an extraordinary inducement to foreign countries to open up negotiations which apparently before they never thought of discussing.
Then we are told by the hon. Member opposite that we made a bad bargain; that we have given away very specific concessions, and that we have only vague and general terms in the Bill. Are they so vague as all that? After all, against the eight articles on which we gave specific and definite concessions Canada has given us additional preferences on over 200 items. These are not vague; these are actual and specific. They are laid clown in the Schedule itself and mean very substantial increases of trade with Canada in the course of the next few years.
I am not disposed to deny that if we had chosen to carry on our negotiations at Ottawa in a spirit of bluff—if we had said, "If you do not give way on this or that point we will break up the Conference,"—it is quite possible that we might have got better terms than we actually did. But the House will realise that the stakes were big. The worst of bluff is that your bluff may be called, and if we had, by an unreasonable insistence upon our own point of view and an unreasonable neglect of the difficulties and interests of those with whom we were negotiating, wrecked the Conference, then, I think, that this House rightly would have condemned us. That was not the spirit, however, in which we approached our task. All through, we 2055 tried to keep in mind that there was something behind the immediate interests of our own traders and that was the interest of Imperial unity which in the long run would be more valuable than anything we were able to point to as immediate changes in the tariff. As to how far these larger considerations should take precedence of the immediate interests of this or that section of this or that trade—that, of course, is a matter of judgment, and only those who were present at Ottawa and who had to carry the responsibility of those negotiations can, I think, be judges of whether that judgment was exercised wisely or not. For my part, when I look back, although very possibly we made mistakes, yet, on the whole, I believe that we have nothing to be ashamed of and nothing which, if we had to do it over again, we would attempt to change to-day.
The hon. Member for Caerphilly spoke of the potential value of the overseas market and' pointed out that at the present time our major trading interests are with foreign countries. He said that of the vast population of the British Empire only a comparatively small fraction consisted of white men who had standards somewhat similar to our own, and who were, therefore, likely to have in a greater degree needs that could be supplied by this country. He asked whether it was worth while, for the sake of this comparatively small fraction, for the sake of the market which they could give us, to risk the trade which we now do with foreign countries. I deny that we are risking our trade with foreign countries. I deny that we have to choose whether we shall retain foreign markets or take the chance of the development of the Dominion markets. We are not retaining our foreign markets. Anyone who examines the statistics of the last 25 years will see that, unfortunately, instead of retaining them, we have been steadily losing ground every year. That is one of the strongest arguments for trying to secure our trade in those markets where we are likely to obtain preference.
Then as to these potential markets, the hon. Member says that in the future the Dominions may perhaps desire to develop their own industries, and therefore we 2056 shall not get the whole of the market as it develops. Of course, that is so. Nobody wishes to prevent the Dominions developing their industries. But anyone who considers the two alternatives, the alternative of having made the Agreement that we did make at Ottawa, and the alternative of having failed to make that Agreement, will see that the chances of obtaining at least a reasonable share of the markets which will be available, as the Dominions develop, is infinitely greater after Ottawa than it would have been if we had left the relations between the Dominions to chance.
There are just one or two points which have been touched upon in the Debate in Committee but which have not, I think, been mentioned to-day. I do not believe that, speaking generally, there is any doubt or anxiety in the minds of the majority in this House as to the value of the Ottawa Conference, but I would briefly touch upon three matters upon which, perhaps, there may still be some lingering fears. The first one concerns Empire products which pass in transit through foreign countries before they come here. In this matter the Bill follows the established procedure of the Customs. In order to gain the benefit of the preference the article must not only have been grown or produced in the Empire, but must also have been consigned from the Empire. That does not mean that the passage through another country necessarily deprives it of the preference, but what it does mean is that in order to secure the preference it must he consigned on a through note, and it is, therefore, open to the exporter in the Empire country so to make his arrangements that, when he exports, he can accompany his export by a through consignment note. If he does that, then he secures the preference which he is intended to have.
The second point on which I want to say a word is in respect of those articles which are subject to the express provision that the duty placed upon the foreign article can be removed, if the Empire producers do not offer the article at the world price and in quantities adequate to the needs of the consumer. A great many questions have been asked as to how that world price is to be ascertained. It is, admittedly, a very difficult point, but the purpose is clear enough. The purpose is that the con- 2057 sumer or user of the article shall not he exploited by the producer, by reason of the duty which is placed upon the import of the foreign article. We had most explicit assurances from the Governments of the Dominions, not only that they recognised the justice of that principle, but that they themselves earnestly desired to see it carried out. Therefore, I am confident that no difficulty is likely to arise on the part of any of the Dominion Governments concerned. The people who are principally concerned are the users themselves. Already, in the case of one article— copper—we have asked the users to give us their assistance in devising the best means of applying this test. They have given us that assistance. They have made an agreement with the producers, and we have got a satisfactory arrangement. I do not think that in the case of the other articles there are greater difficulties than there are in the case of copper. Therefore, I most confidently anticipate that, by the help of those who desire to use these articles, we shall find an equally satisfactory arrangement in respect of every one of them.
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
I understand that it has been published already. There is just one other point that I would like to say a word about, and that is the arrangement in regard to meat. I do so, because I have a feeling that, even now, the complete bearings and the purpose of the arrangement made about meat are not fully apprehended. This is not, of course, the time to speak about the emergency in the livestock-raising industry in this island. That can be discussed on another occasion when the Government's views can be expressed and debated, but I am concerned with something which will remain after the emergency has passed away, and that is the solution of the problem which has been growing in intensity now over a series of years, the problem which is occasioned by the reduction in price caused by unregulated supplies. I think confusion has been caused by the somewhat indiscriminate use of the word "quota" in this connection. The word "quota" has been applied to systems which are really totally different from one another. I observe that in the Report of the Re- 2058 organisation Commission on Pigs and Pig Products they have very clearly, I think, expressed what I conceive to be correct views upon this subject. Perhaps the House will bear with me while I read a sentence or two. They say:The quota is an untried instrument in this country. By other countries it has been regarded as a temporary expedient, to be used in a period of crisis without regard to its general merits or demerits, and as an economic weapon, the use of which is to be restricted, so far as international law permits, to imports only …. We believe that the quota method deserves more thorough investigation from a new angle …. In no country has it as yet been regarded as a constructive instrument which, under suitable conditions, can play a useful part in the economic development of both exporting and importing countries; this is the conception of the quota we advocate for the bacon industry.That is precisely the conception which we had in making the arrangements which we did make at Ottawa about meat. If you are to have an arrangement under which supplies of a commodity like meat are to be regulated in some sort of accordance with the capacity of the market to be supplied, then you must go further back than the regulation of imports. You must go to the regulation of production and without any necessity for an elaborate State organisation, without any necessity for the setting up of import boards, it is possible for the producers themselves to make voluntary agreements among themselves, under which they shall regulate their production so that they shall not have those alternate periods of excessive gluts, when prices go to a level which ruin everybody concerned, or, on the contrary, of excessive scarcity when retail prices rise to heights which inflict great hardship on the consumer.
§ Sir BASIL PETO
Does the right hon. Gentleman mean that the producers in this country ought to regulate their production?
§ Mr. CHAMBERLAIN
Yes, regulate it. My hon. Friend I always think has in his mind the word "restrict" rather than regulate. I am talking about regulation and not necessarily restriction. Of course, no such scheme can be complete unless all sources of supply are involved in it, and that is the fundamental idea which underlies the arrangement made at Ottawa. You cannot allow an arrangement of that kind to be made without 2059 some sort of supervision over it. Otherwise, it is obvious that it might give rise to very undesirable conditions, but I believe that in certain cases—I am not suggesting that, it should be applied universally—it is possible to apply a system of that kind with the Government standing over as a sort of policeman, as the Commission calls it, or umpire to see that the conditions are properly observed with the greatest benefit not only to the producers but also to the consumers of meat.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen finished his speech by endeavouring to answer the question: "What ought to have been done at Ottawa"? I only wish that there had been here a larger body of Members to hear the conditions which he laid down and which would have secured his support for what had been done at Ottawa. His conditions included the imposition of no new duties at all by this country, and therefore the impossibility of giving any preference to the most important articles in the Dominions. They would have required an immediate reduction, wholesale, of duties under which at present Dominion manufacturers receive protection and they would have required the opening of the doors of the Dominions to fresh migration from this country. Everyone in this House knows that to have gone to Ottawa with a programme like that would have to invite not merely defeat, but indignation on the part of the Dominions at the assurance of any delegates who came to them with such a proposal. If that is the sort of condition which my right hon. Friend has in his mind as the only condition upon which we should have gone to Ottawa, then I say that he ought to have resigned long before he did in fact resign.
These are the last words that I shall have to utter in the course of this Ottawa Agreements Bill. My first words were the subject of some reproach on the part of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition, on the ground that I had made no extravagant claims for what would be the results of the Bill. It is one of the many differences between the right hon. Gentleman and myself that he believes in over-statement of a case, whereas I always prefer the opposite, and I am not going to-night to assert that, 2060 as a result of the Agreements that we made at Ottawa, we are going immediately to solve our unemployment problem, or that we are going immediately, in spite of the solid and substantial advantages which we have brought back, to give prosperity either to our home industry or to agriculture. But I do believe that at Ottawa we succeeded in opening new opportunities for our traders over a very wide field; I believe that we did smooth the way towards a wider agreement among the nations of the world; above all, I believe that there we began a new conception of Imperial unity, that we strengthened not only the material but also the moral ties of the Empire, and that we commenced a new chapter in British Imperial history, on which future generations will look back with the most profound satisfaction.
§ Mr. BERNAYS
I am sure that, having to follow the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I shall have the sympathy even of those who do not agree with me in this House. At any rate, I promise that I shall not be as offensive to the Conservative party and to the Conservative party Leader as the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) has been to my party and to my Leader. But I should like, without impertinence, to try to take up one or two points that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has raised. He objected, as I understand it, that we of the Liberal party were not fighting this Bill as strongly as we might have done. Does he expect us to be obstructionists? If he does, I think that is very strange advice to come from a leader of the constitutional party. We have felt all through this Bill that our attack was weakened by the fact that we were unable to alter it, and we naturally felt, and feel at this moment, that for the future we must concentrate on taking this Bill from the House of Commons, which cannot alter it, to the country, which can.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer also made a point that it would have been possible, had we had a majority, to carry Amendments against the Government. That is true. I am new to Parliament, and therefore I may be wrong, but I understand that it is often the case that the Government themselves accept Amendments, and our criticism of the Government is that, whatever this House said, they were unable to accept any Amend- 2061 ments that we might move. The right hon. Gentleman also accuses us of trying to avoid debate on the Ottawa Agreements. I think he is rather unfair in that, because, after all, the suggestion for the curtailment of this Debate came from the official Opposition. I am not surprised that the Government welcomed the suggestion of the Opposition to curtail the Debate on these Agreements, for at the end of a fortnight's arguments not one of the main points put up from these benches has been answered by His Majesty's Government. I propose to take one or two of them.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) insisted at the outset that the making of these Agreements involved a limitation of the powers of this House over taxation. He was met with jeers, sneers, irrelevancies, and downright evasion, and then, at the end of a week's arguments, the Foreign Secretary had to admit that the House was surrendering a degree of its annual powers. That is our whole point, that our main power in this House, as the Commons of England, is over taxation. That is why the Executive always has to summon Parliament. Surrender that power, or a portion of that power, and you begin to turn yourselves merely into a body registering the decrees of the Executive.
It is possible to see the results already. The right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that the only people who could really judge of the effects of the Ottawa Agreements were those who were actually at Ottawa. In that case, why have we not had more often the benefit of the advice and experience of those who were at Ottawa? For hours at a time, sometimes all through the day, to the end, the Cabinet has not thought it necessary to have a single representative on the Treasury Bench. The House of Commons, in this last fortnight, has become like a Continental Parliament. The Executive may not, in theory, be separated from the Legislature, yet if the practice adopted during these Debates, of not having members of the Cabinet on the Treasury Bench, is continued, it very soon will in fact, be separated. At a time when Parliaments are tumbling everywhere, it is more than ever essential that we should be jealous to maintain our power and prestige.
2062 If I may touch on a personal note, I was present a few weeks ago in the galleries of the Reichstag when it was dissolved, and I saw the Chancellor, Von Papen, rise with his decree of dissolution. That great assembly, packed to the doors, fresh from the polls, was ignominiously dissolved. But what struck me more forcibly than anything else was that nobody outside really minded very much. The Reichstag had very little influence and very little authority. In exceptional circumstances, it was not even the sole repository of the power of taxation, and the Executive could get on perfectly well without it. Parliaments to-day throughout Europe are unpopular, liberty is unfashionable, and that is why we, on these benches, as unrepentant democrats, regard it as all the more important that we should resist, inch by inch, any encroachments on the legitimate powers of Parliament. Hon. Members misunderstand our position. This is not a legal quibble that we are making. Involved in it is the whole future of representative institutions.
I admit fully that these Agreements will not be judged in the country primarily by constitutional considerations. They will be judged by their relation to the immediate question of unemployment, but where is the hope of more trade here? These Agreements impose more tariffs, but it is tariff barriers, we are told, that are crippling trade. Those are not my words; they are the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, in the Debate on the 23rd June. They impose more quotas, but the quota is a very dangerous weapon. It is, we are told, a weapon not for general use, but for an emergency. Again, those are not my words, but the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council on the same day in the same Debate. The Government's policy is quite incomprehensible. They admit that tariffs are bad, they admit that quotas are bad, and yet their only remedy for our industrial evils is more tariffs and more quotas.
I believe that if the right hon Gentlemen in the Cabinet could say in public what they would like to say, they would admit that the results of Ottawa have been to them a grievous disappointment. But they are now trying a new line of 2063 argument if I may judge from the speech this afternoon of the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. They argue that, although we may not have got much out of these Agreements in the way of preferences, what we have is only an earnest of what is to come. There is not the slightest evidence that what the Dominions refused to concede to seven British Ministers, they will concede to a Tariff Board.
I was in Canberra in 1930, and I know to a certain extent, from personal contact with Canberra, how the Australians go about the business of tariffs. You might as well expect France to abandon her army as expect Australia to abandon the principle of high Protection. No Government could exist there for six months that reduced the Australian tariffs sufficiently to enable Great Britain to compete with their secondary industries, for though these industries are called secondary, in voting power they are easily first. It is sometimes forgotten that in Australia, out of a population of 6,000,000, only half a million are engaged on the land. The height of the tariffs there is dictated by the towns, and it will always be the towns that will prevent any lowering of the tariffs.
Much has been made of the diversion of trade that will result from Ottawa. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury touched on it to-day. Is it not obvious that what we shall gain in one direction we shall more than lose in another? Take the question of the Argentine. It is true that a certain amount of Argentine trade will he diverted to the Dominions, but what about our investments in the Argentine? We have something like £600,000,000 in investments locked up there, and I am sorry for those who now have investments in Argentine railways. A point was made by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury about the United States of America and the amount of trade that they were going to lose. It is estimated in the United States that these Ottawa Agreements will reduce their exports to Canada by anything from 75,000,000 to 150,000,000 dollars; but that is not necessarily going to be good for us at all. Already there is talk of retaliatory duties. When England went off the Gold Standard, the United States did not, as they might very well have 2064 done, put on anti-dumping duties, but there is no reason for them to stay their hand now, and there is no reason to prevent the United States of America going into Canada and building factories to maintain their trade. I was hearing only the other day that the Bethlehem Steel Company, of the United States Steel Corporation, are already considering retaliatory measures, and may put an embargo on British goods in their works. The Financial Secretary to the Treasury said that Mr. Mellon had welcomed these proposals. What is more important than the words of Mr. Mellon are the actions of the steel masters in the United States. We may still find ourselves in a worse position as the result of these Agreements. To put it at its highest, we may put 10,000 men into employment next year, and in consequence put 100,000 out a, year after. We are likely to find to our cost that the diversion of trade is not the same thing as the creation of trade. I am sorry that the President of the Board of Trade is not present, because I first learned that argument from his lips. What wonderful Free Trade speeches he made up to June 1931. When one heard him, one felt that Free Trade was not a business question, but that it was the Ten Commandments. I should like to pursue that theme on his past speeches, but I might say something that I had not intended to say.
The policy that the Government started is a wretched game of beggar my neighbour, and we who depend most on our neighbours are most likely to lose from it. When the Secretary of State for the Colonies was asked how he had enjoyed his journey across the Atlantic, he replied to a Canadian reporter: "Well I am up on the voyage." I do not know exactly to what he was referring, but, if it was contract bridge, he has returned very vulnerable, and, though he may have been up on the voyage, Great Britain is down on the ship. It is argued that these Agreements are no more objectionable than the Import Duties Act, and that if we were content to let the Agreement to differ cover that, we ought to let it cover this Bill. In our view, these proposals are infinitely more vicious than anything that has gone before. One argument remains unanswered, that is, that these five-year Agreements limit our freedom to bargain down the tariffs of 2065 our neighbours. The Chancellor of the Exchequer complained that we were willing to make Agreements with the Dominions. Of course we are, but they must be fair agreements. It is no argument to say, as Ministers have said, that our bargaining power here still exists. Of course it does. All we say is that it is dangerously limited. The Chancellor said that foreigners were tumbling over one another to negotiate with us, but while we are committed to the Dominions on foodstuffs, there is precious little left to negotiate about.
This is not an academic issue; it is a question of life and death to the people of this country. I deeply regret the break up of the National Government which has resulted from the Ottawa Agreements. I had looked forward to a long and fruitful co-operation with members of the Conservative party, particularly with some of my hon. Friends opposite below the Gangway, who, under difficult circumstances, have done their best to keep the National Government national; but I put to them and to the House that, feeling as we do about the Ottawa Agreements—namely, that they restrict rather than enlarge the area of free trade, that they increase rather than diminish the volume of unemployment—could we as honest men do anything but express our protests as vehemently as possible against the policy embodied in this Bill? Some of us on these benches are reminded here and outside of the thousands of Conservatives who must have voted for us at the last election. I would retort by reminding the Conservatives of the thousands of Liberals who voted for the Government on the most explicit pledges on the subject of food taxes. But wrangling on these lines is a futile business.
The fact is that we issued contradictory election addresses, and since there are more Conservatives than Liberals in the House, the Conservative election addresses and pledges have been carried out. That, however, is no reason why we should break our pledges. My own position is perfectly plain. I promised at the election to support any emergency Measure, including tariffs, to deal with the position of the pound. I tried to do so by voting with considerable reluctance for both the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act and the wheat 2066 quota. I expressly stated that I was against permanent food taxes and a permanent general tariff. There is no misunderstanding of my position at the election. I had the most generous co-operation from the Conservative party. I had prominent Conservative speakers on my platform, and I was very glad to have them. Not once did they advocate tariffs. To hear them talk, one would have thought that tariffs did not exist. It was realised that they were a subject that could not be mentioned in my society. Not a poster, not a leaflet, not a chance answer to a question can be quoted against me that I said I would ever vote for a Bill like this.
The Prime Minister regretted the other day that party warfare might begin again. I regret it too, and so do my hon. Friends. Who started party warfare? It was not us. It was the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft). They had not been here two days before they were pressing on the Government the full tariff policy. We had not been here a fortnight before 300 Conservative Members, in a Committee room upstairs, were clamouring for the full tariff policy. The Government have never put up the slightest resistance. We had the Abnormal Importations (Customs Duties) Act, the wheat quota, the Import Duties Act, and the Horticultural Products (Emergency Customs Duties) Act. Now we have full-blooded food taxes. Are hon. Members really surprised that we on these benches could stand it no longer? Let there be no misunderstanding about our position. It is not upon Ottawa alone that we have come out. It is upon all the policy that led up to it, the building of this crazy edifice of economic nationalism, of which this Bill is so disastrous a part.
§ Mr. RAIKES
It is very easy for hon. Gentlemen opposite to indulge in generality after generality, but, if one thing is sure,, it is that the people of our country are looking for something to be done, and, whatever they may wish, they are not in the slightest degree prepared to accept mere negative criticisms. It is the negative criticism of out-of-date Gladstonian Liberalism that we have heard throughout these Debates. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) described the Bill as a tortuous and un- 2067 godly jumble. One would have thought that a Liberal would be afraid to use such a term as it well describes the attitude of the Liberal party throughout the last Parliament. It was a tortuous and ungodly jumble. The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) made a very able speech, but he could not help letting off one of his little gibes. He talked of the Ottawa Bill as a new Decalogue which has been handed down on tables of stone. I venture to suggest that if this new Decalogue lasts as well in the test of time as the old Commandments, we shall have built a great deal better than any one in any party has built for a considerable time.
The beginning and end of the whole business depends on this: have the Government achieved in principle the objects which they set out to achieve at the beginning of the year? I think that they have. Those objects, shed of all verbiage, were very simple. Our people went to Ottawa with a, determination to get a greater share of the Dominions' markets for our manufactured goods, and to try and create freer and better trade within the geographical unit which men call the British Empire. With regard to the first, it is difficult, and indeed impossible, to say exactly how much we stand to gain in terms of pounds. It is put by the "Economist," which is not extraordinarily favourable to the Agreements, at between £20,000,000 and £30,000,000. It has not been put forward by the Liberal or Labour benches that if Ottawa had failed, it would not have been at the cost of simply this amount of extra trade with the Dominions; it would have been at the cost of losing the stabilisation of our existing Dominion trade. That trade is not going to stand firm for ever unless we knit the ties a little closer. In preparation for Ottawa, a number of things were put on the Free List. If Ottawa had failed, the Free List would very largely have gone, and we should have had the United States and other countries anxious to make new trade agreements with the Empire. We might have had a fall in the existing Empire trade of perhaps £100,000,000 in the course of a few years.
A typical example of what might have happened is seen in the case of anthracite coal. Canada put on a 40 per cent. 2068 duty against American anthracite, while our anthracite went in free before Ottawa. Between 1929 and 1931, largely as the result of the preference given to us before the Ottawa Conference, the American importation of anthracite to Canada fell from 250,000 tons a month in 1929 to from 90,000 to 96,000 tons this year. British anthracite, on the ether hand, increased from about 60,000 to 90,000 tons. Supposing that Ottawa had failed. In five years, or in three years, or possibly within a year, we should have had our coal exports gradually receding, and the American coal going in free under a new agreement, and that would have made a great deal of difference to the South Wales anthracite market. One can find example after example where such things might occur. The little party opposite remained in the Cabinet until the Ottawa proposals were known. It is very easy for them to coin a few careful phrases now, but everyone must have known that if Ottawa was to be a success it could only be upon the basis of preferences. Hon. Members opposite knew there was a possibility of Ottawa failing and if Ottawa had failed it would probably have meant no more duties either way for the moment, and they would have stayed in the Government, and continued to support a. Government which by failure at Ottawa was not only prejudicing the World Economic Conference but was going to see existing British stabilised trade going down and down instead of mounting up and up.
It is not my intention to do more than deal very briefly with just one other side rd the problem, the question of freer trade. A great point has been made about certain duties in Empire countries having been raised against foreign countries. In many instances, even where duties against our own goods have been reduced, there is still on extraordinarily high level of tariffs against us within the Empire; but there is one thing which is certain, and that is that as a result of Ottawa we have got within the Empire and for the peoples of the Empire lower duties than we had before. That means lower duties for somewhere about a quarter of the civilised world within the boundaries of the Empire, and I say with all sincerity that it is something to have made such a start. Whereas under the 2069 old system and under Free Trade we simply sat still and watched the tariff barriers of the world rising against us, we are now trying something new. The old Free Trade system having failed we are trying to get freer trade over big areas. Once we have one group beginning to adopt freer trade there is no reason why Europe itself should not begin to form some sort of arrangement among the different countries, following on the lines of what the British Empire has done. There is that possibility. I do not pretend to suggest that the time when tariff barriers will be broken down either in the Empire or outside is at hand, but I do say that we have taken steps to provide an alternative, and as I believe a far better alternative, because I as a Tory realise perfectly well, though I have supported tariffs, that high tariffs and restrictions have done a tremendous lot to check the free flow of trade throughout the world.
We are trying this experiment. If Ottawa had failed we should have found that the World Economic Conference would have probably drifted away with nothing else to take hold of. It does seem to me that it is a step forward when we find the people of the Dominions prepared for the first time to state that there can be too high tariffs, and that they are prepared to consider lowering them in order to allow British goods fair competition in what had been highly protected markets. So far as it goes, what has been done does indicate that the present system of very high tariffs and economic nationalism which has been growing during the last 20 years is, for the first time, checked, and it may be that it; s the British Empire which will check that tendency and set an example by which the world will profit. I cannot now touch upon agriculture, because that is to be debated very fully in the course of a few days, but there are those of us who believe that although the Ottawa proposals as a long term policy are good, unless the Government are prepared to provide quickly a drastic short term policy there will be no agriculture left to be helped by the time the long term policy of Ottawa comes into being.
Finally, I would say that we know that there are objections. We are not confident that everything has been achieved that we could have wished for, but we believe that Ottawa is the be- 2070 ginning of a new era. We know we have gained certain ground, and instead of crabbing the whole thing with criticism we are prepared to go along and to say that at any rate the National Government and the Tory party are prepared to try something new and not simply to remain in the morass of 50 years ago.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
If we on these benches could believe what the hon. Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) said, we should not be inclined to vote against the Third Reading of this Bill. He has told us that in his opinion the Ottawa Agreements mark the beginning of what he called "a new era." I do not know what he intends to convey by the words "a new era." If he is thinking merely of certain trade and business interests, probably he is correct, but if he is thinking of the great mass of the people I am sure the Ottawa Agreements mark the beginning of no new era for them. Listening to some of the speeches from the Liberal benches I feel that temporarily, at any rate, the Liberal party have abandoned their self-imposed task of standing in the last ditch in defence of Free Trade, and are now making speeches partly in lament over their fallen idol and partly in the belief that they are primarily responsible for the preservation of the integrity of the British Constitution at this juncture. While the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) was speaking, I thought he had become more concerned about the methods of the National Government and the steps they are taking to implement a certain policy than about the policy itself. We on these benches—I think all my colleagues will agree with me—are not opposed to changes taking place, either in the Constitution or in regard to trade and industry, if those changes will contribute to the general well-being of the country. I would willingly give a vote for this Bill if I thought it would in any way contribute to the improvement of the general conditions of the people.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us this afternoon that the National Government have embarked on a sort of task of creating a new world. The closing remarks of his speech were very striking. He said the steps which had already been taken by the National Government had prevented a dissolution of the world, and spoke in detail of what 2071 the National Government had done as a preliminary to a construction of the new world. He said they first placed on the Statute Book the Import Duties Bill; that that was the foundation of their policy, and was mainly done, he reminded us, to correct the adverse balance of trade. Then this Ottawa Agreements Bill was the superstructure, he said, on the foundation laid by the Import Duties Bill. When such a statement is made the arguments used in support of it sound very plausible indeed. They start from the foundation that we here are a manufacturing country primarily, and that across the seas are the great Dominions mainly engaged in the production of primary products; and what could be more natural, their argument runs, than to make arrangements for the exchange of primary products and raw materials for manufactured goods? Put in that way the whole case for the Ottawa Agreements seems very plausible, and perhaps there would be something in it if we could assume that human societies remain static for any length of time; but we know that is not so. Everyone who has studied the history of social development knows quite well that no human society remains static for very long, and we can no more enter into Agreements designed to fit in in a more or less permanent form with economic activities over large areas of the earth's surface than we can stay the tides in their courses.
I know it is argued by some who support the Ottawa Agreements that the main result will be what they call "direction." That was a phrase used the other night by the hon. Member for Morpeth (Mr. G. Nicholson). The idea is that we shall divert trade into new channels, into Empire channels, but even if we do it will in no way stabilise for any considerable time the particular forms of economic activity carried on over here or in the various Dominions. We live in a world where economic activity is in the main still motivated by the idea of private profit. The Lord President of the Council, in the sound and moderate speech he made in the Second Reading Debate, did really put before us what actually took place at Ottawa. He made no attempt to exaggerate what happened. He spoke in a cool and collected fashion, and in summing up what he said I think I shall be doing him no injustice in 2072 saying that all he claimed was that the Agreements had created some fresh opportunities for British business men and that it was their business to take advantage of those opportunities. There are very grave doubts as to whether they are real opportunities or not, but even if they are real a successful outcome of the Agreements depends upon their being taken advantage of by British business men; and motive in all their actions all the time will be the motive of making and acquiring profits.
It is amazing to me how in these recent months the very foundations of the Tory political philosophy are being undermined by this Parliament. I do not think anything more astonishing has taken place recently than this giving away of some of the foundation principles of Tory philosophy. Let us look at what they are abandoning. Tory hon. Members would, I think, without exception, be prepared to agree without any qualification whatever to the increased interference of the State with the trade and commerce of this country. It is rather curious that, coincident with their agreement upon that interference of the State with the trade and commerce of the country, they are engaged in pushing a policy which seeks to lessen the interference of the State in other directions, especially in directions where the State is, to a very large degree, assisting certain sections of the community. In that respect the Tory party are hostile to State action, but in the respect which is embodied in the Ottawa Agreements Bill they are prepared to allow almost unlimited State interference with trade and commerce. I do not know whether I probably ought to congratulate the Tory party on this pseudo-Socialism to which they are becoming rapidly converted.
We have more points of contact with them than we have with hon. Members on the Liberal Benches who, apparently, do not want the State to interfere, except to carry out the ambulance work of a decadent and dying Capitalism. We have points of contact with hon. Gentlemen on the Tory Benches, but we cannot think that their policy, as pursued upon its present lines, is likely to succeed without some sort of central control of the processes of economic development. As long as those processes are motived en- 2073 tirely by the desire for private profit and gain, they are bound, in the long run, to go wrong. We hope in the end that we may be able to convert even the Tory party. An hon. Member among them said that the Tory party are not loath to make changes if they think that changes are necessary. By and by we may be able to convert them to a real Socialism, instead of the pseudo-Socialism that they are practising at the present moment.
I am very much interested in the clamant activities of the various interests which are not yet reconciled to the Ottawa Agreements. I expressed amusement the other night at the rebellion which had occurred among the representatives from agricultural constituencies on the Government Benches. For two or three hours the other day they had the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the rack. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) was turning him in one way, while the Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) literally hung over him and worried him with his rapier. I suggest to them that if they want to tic anything for agriculture, they should join us to-night in voting against the Third Reading of this Bill. They make all sorts of protests, but the most effective protest will be to join us in the Division Lobby to-night.
The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham made an interjection while I was speaking on that occasion. He said that they were not going to adopt my suggestion, because half a loaf was better than none. I do not think they are getting half a loaf. All they are getting is a few dry and musty crumbs. They should come along with us and help to put an end to the Government. First they could put the Chancellor of the Exchequer out of his misery. They have been taunting him for weeks and they will go on taunting him, as I see from the columns of a newspaper, until they get their tariff of 4d. per 1b. on meat. They should put the Government out of office, instead of supporting the pseudo-Socialism to which I have made reference. Let them come along and support a policy of full-blooded Socialism in the sense of the Government taking over completely the trade and commerce of the country and doing their duty in caring for the 2074 great mass of the people in every possible and conceivable way.
§ Captain JAMES LOCKWOOD
The speech of the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. C. Brown) has been very interesting. It gives us on this side of the House ideas that perhaps we had not before. I quite agree with him that, throughout this Debate, so far as there has been any accord, our ideas have been more with the official Opposition than with the Liberal Members below the Gangway who form the second Opposition. I say that sincerely for this reason, that in discussion many of the spokesmen for the Labour party have said that if we could show that there was anything good in these Agreements, and if they tended to create less unemployment and had no other repercussions of a detrimental nature, there was nothing in their political creed to prevent them from accepting tariffs as against Free Trade.
I have listened to speeches made by the Members of the second Opposition, and throughout the Debates they have all been upon a basis of carping criticism of detail, and of old-fashioned objections carrying us back to the old ideas of Free Trade as against tariffs. They generally have not at any time risen to a high level of opposition. Even the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) this afternoon, prepared with all his usual carefulness and attention, and delivered in a style that we all know, did not get to the real inside of the position. He spoke of the constitutional question, and then he spoke of his own Free Trade arguments. In a long speech, never once did he deal with the matter in the light in which the official Opposition have dealt with it so aften. Speech after speech from the Liberal Benches has come in the same restricted style.
What is the position with regard to Ottawa? The underlying idea of those who concluded these Agreements is not so much to carry out one theory as against another, but carry to a practical conclusion the theories that they think will be best for this country. I think that that is conceded. We may differ from other parties in the House as to what is the best policy to adopt, to cope with the situation, but those who concluded the Agreements have done 2075 their best according to their views. They think that by concluding these Agreements they will do something to affect the basic difficulty, which is unemployment. These Agreements were concluded because the Government think that the increase in trade with the Dominions which will result from them will have a beneficent effect upon the unemployment situation.
We have been twitted that we have done something without a mandate. In my own case, like many other Members, in my by-election some two years ago and in the General Election one of the few points that I put before the electors was that in my opinion it would be advantageous for this country to get into closer economic relationship with the Colonies, and I am proud to be able to speak tonight in support of the Third Reading of this Bill. If it does not do what has been pointed out by our Ministers, I shall be just as disappointed as hon. and right hon. Members opposite, but I sincerely think that the conclusion of these trade agreements will give us an advantage in trading with the Colonies as against our competitors on the Continent. Alter all, we are sent here, as the representatives of our various constituencies, not to do things for the benefit of trade on the Continent, but, in the first place, to do what is beneficial for our own trade and our own country. We accept the theory that the prosperity of everyone means the prosperity of the individual, and that, always, the greater and wider the prosperity, the better are the conditions of the individual. But it is our duty, in the first place, to look after the citizens of this country, and to see that as far as possible they get employment where we in this country can give it, or where our brethren overseas can give it. In this connection I am convinced that the Ottawa Agreements will lead to a great increase in business between the Mother country and the Colonies.
I represent, as hon. Members know, a textile constituency, and I should like to refer to a speech made by the hon. Member for South Bradford (Mr. Holdsworth) on Wednesday, the 26th October. I was in the House when the hon. Member was speaking. He spoke with great eloquence and a great amount of assuredness, and was, perhaps, egged on by the plaudits 2076 of his own companions below the Gangway. Perhaps he was intoxicated with the position of the moment. The hon. Member dealt with the position of the textile industry, and, in my opinion, his speech was so mischievous in intent, and it was quoted by the hon. Member opposite who led the discussion against the Bill to-day, that I think it is our duty to correct the wrongful and misinformed impression that he gave. In the first place, I feel that I must, if the House will permit me, introduce what is very unpleasant, namely, a personal aspect of this matter. The hon. Member, of course, is not old in the traditions of the House, but that is no reason why the traditions of the House should not be put before him if he goes beyond them. He had been dealing with the position of the textile industry, and he went on to say:If I had time, I could read quotations from a Bradford newspaper of the same night as these new duties came out, but there is not a single person—I make this challenge because there are other textile experts in this House—of any standing in the wool textile trade who expects any increase of trade from these duties.Quite in accordance with the practice of the House, upon that challenge I said that I differed, for one, and the hon. Member then went on to say:The hon. Member may be a clever solicitor, and I know that he is a director of several concerns, but when all is said and done he would never claim to be a practical man in the textile industry."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th October, 1932; col. 1075, Vol. 269.]8.30 p.m.
The House will permit me, I am sure, after that, to make a personal explanation. It is true that I was brought up in the profession of the law, perhaps by the wisdom of someone who thought that it would he of great use to me afterwards but for 10 years I have been actively connected with the textile industry, and for several years, not only have I been a managing director and chairman, but in those capacities I am an employé of the concern, and not a mere attender at board meetings. I attend daily and receive full information, and perhaps the easiest aspect of that business is to deal with the question of what good effect tariffs will have on the business. My objection with regard to the hon. Member for South Bradford is that he knew all that, and, in those circumstances, perhaps his remark was unfair. If it had 2077 been made outside, it would have borne another aspect. Perhaps, in view of his knowledge of the facts and in view of his remark having been made inside the House, he will, when an opportunity offers, do what most people would do in similar circumstances.
I will now deal with one or two aspects, which were referred to by him, of the question of the effect of these Agreements on the textile industry. We sincerely think that they will be beneficial. The hon. Member pointed out that in 1928 the export of wool textiles to Canada was approximately 17,500,000 square yards, but that in 1931 the quantity had shrunk to 4,500,000 square yards. Similarly, he pointed out that the export of worsted goods had shrunk from 8,700,000 to 5,150,000 square yards. That is a very lamentable fact so far as our industry is concerned. I have been engaged in the Canadian trade for many years; we send out representatives twice a year. It is a deplorable fact that in recent years our export trade to Canada has diminished but, unfortunately, the reason for that is the same as the reason for the diminution of our trade in this country, namely, that, owing to the lower cost of production of these goods on the Continent, they could, as we know, be imported, not only into this country but into Canada and elsewhere, at rates with which we could not compete. That dislocated our trade, and we have been losing our trade there. If, as we expect, we have a preference in Canada under these Agreements, we are hoping—and we already see certain signs of our being able—to recapture that trade.
The hon. Member for South Bradford went on to give quotations from certain business men in Bradford in support of Ms criticism of these Ottawa Agreements, but those Members of the House who are in responsible positions know that they ought not to jump in too quickly. The hon. Member got those opinions on the same night on which these elaborate Agreements were published, and we know that, if there is one thing that has been said over and over again in this House, it is that these Agreements are elaborate. The hon. Member was dealing with piece goods, but what does he do to substantiate his criticism of these Agreements? He goes to a raw material man who was never engaged in the piece trade—I will 2078 not mention names—he goes to a raw material man in one case and another raw material man in another case; and the middleman to whom he goes, although he certainly is a dealer in piece goods, is the very man who raised his voice in the loudest of protests when the duty was reduced from 50 per cent. to 20 per cent., and who will not at the present moment raise the slightest objection to tariffs openly. He goes on to say in a letter published afterwards:This relates to the so-called advantages to be gained from the Ottawa Agreements. I should be very pleased to hear of any employer or any trade union officer who expressed the views stated by your correspondent. I have not yet received one word of criticism.I should like to put this matter right, because, if speeches made in this House, such as that of the hon. Member, are read in the Colonies, we start at a disadvantage when we are trying to open harmonious relationships with them. I think it is the duty of those engaged in business to make candid statements free from any varnish. We do not come here to advocate. We are sent here to be useful. I am an employer of 3,000 individuals. The hon. Member can say how many he employs. We are very concerned about them. In regard to lightweight dress goods, which go in duty free, I do not want to make much of it, because it is only an example of the trade and is not supposed to be comprehensive, but the very gentleman he quotes is doing his best to get into this Canadian trade. I am very anxious that this point should be noted, because we have to go abroad to get business as well as at home to keep our mills going, and irresponsible persons who make remarks which heighten the difficulty of getting export trade should be corrected at the earliest possible opportuniy. Here is a letter that was sent to me. The firm happens to be a Bradford firm, I think in the constituency of the hon. Member for North Bradford (Mr. Ramsden).No doubt under preferential arrangements we shall be able to secure a big percentage of this trade for Bradford. In fact, we have already received business in consequence of cables received during the last week, and the prospect is very bright for bigger business from Canada. Personally, we feel that much of the opposition is purely political, and people have formed opinions without any serious consideration.2079 As a result of these tariffs, there has already been a reduction of more than 50 per cent. in the unemployment figures for Bradford. Unemployment is being reduced by at least 500 a week. Another remarkable fact about the hon. Member for South Bradford is that he quoted the statement of an individual that the Ottawa Agreements were not helping employment. One of the firms controlled by this individual rang up the Employment Exchange complaining that they were not getting sufficient weavers, and he sent a complaint to a Member of the House, who made inquiries and found that there was not a weaver on the books of the exchange whom they could place at their disposal. The same individual had also approached me to prevent the dumping of Italian goods into this country, so that we could carry on with our manufacture in the West Riding.
Coming to the wider issues of these Ottawa Agreements, it is undoubtedly the fact that, if there was an improvement in the iron and steel trade, on Tyneside, on Clydeside, in Jarrow or South Wales, there would of necessity be a great improvement at such places as the West Riding, and because, when agreements of this nature are concluded, it is impossible to point to a great and immediate and definite increase of trade and employment in one direction, it does not follow that there has not started that tendency here and there to greater employment which grows in intensity, and I sincerely hope that the policy of tariffs, which I have strenuously advocated both here and in the country, coupled with the results of the Ottawa Agreements, will benefit trade as a whole and lessen unemployment not only in the West Riding but throughout the whole country.
§ Mr. LEWIS JONES
When I entered this House, just over 12 months ago, I made a resolution that I would never take part in any Debate unless it was on some matter on which I had some special knowledge, and unless I was immodest enough to believe that any contribution of mine would be of assistance to the Debate. I am not 100 per cent. enamoured of the Ottawa Agreements, I have certain reservations. Last night the suggestion was made across the Floor of the House that I should have been in my place to protest against those portions 2080 of the Ottawa Agreements that deal with the iron and steel trade. Fortunately there has been no need for much discussion on the iron and steel duties so far as the Ottawa Agreements are concerned. Even the Leader of the Liberal party this afternoon referred in rather generous terms to the very good relations which exist as between the steelmakers of various parts of the Dominions. The steel trade of this country is very pleased with the results of the negotiations which took place at Ottawa between the steel producers of the various parts of the British Empire. Last night an hon. Member seemed to be very anxious that I should have been in the House. He said:I would like to know why the hon. Member for West Swansea, who has been championing the cause of the steelworkers of this country, has been so silent during the Debate?He went on:Why is the hon. Member for West Swansea not here protesting against it?"—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 2nd November, 1932; col. 1926, Vol. 269.]Having been told that I was nowhere near, he shouted still louder "Where is he?" Still I did not appear, and at last he shouted at the top of his voice, "I want to know." I felt it my duty to be here to-night, and I say frankly, that as far as the iron and steel trade of the country is concerned we are very satisfied indeed with the Agreement that has been entered into as a result of the Ottawa Conference. I will give two or three instances as far as South Wales is concerned. We have a Preference of between 15 and 20 per cent. on all the fin plate imported into Canada for the first time in the history of our trade relations with that Dominion. All our tinplate goes into Canada free of duty, while the duties on American and other foreign tinplate are 15 and 20 per cent. respectively. Therefore, South Wales, at any rate, and the steel trade generally is very fortunate in having such an Agreement made with Canada. As to the position with regard to India, which was the subject of discussion in the House last night, we find that for the first time we have been given a preference in the Indian market. As far as the iron and steel trade is concerned, there has been a reduction from 15¾ per cent. to 5¾ per cent. upon all steel imported into that country from Great Britain.
2081 The hon. Member for Pontypool (Mr. T. Griffiths) spoke in this House about la days ago concerning the galvanised sheet trade and the Indian market. Last night it would seem as if the iron and steel trade of this country had received no advantage at all from the negotiations at Ottawa, because the hon. Member finished his speech by stating that he was definitely going into the Lobby against the Schedule as a protest. But whereas prior to the Ottawa Agreements the duty on galvanised and black sheets imported into India amounted to 83 rupees per ton, we now find that, while that figure still remains against Belgian and Continental galvanised and black sheets, the duty on galvanised sheets manufactured from British steel has been reduced to 53 rupees. Immediately British galvanised arid black sheets are receiving, as a result of the Ottawa Agreements, the advantage of a reduction in the duty of 45s. per ton. Where, however, the sheets are manufactured from steel imported from India the duty is reduced to 35 rupess. That makes a reduction in the duty of 80s. per ton. I seriously suggest that if two important industries in this country secure such great advantages we have very much for which to be thankful.
The hon. Member who spoke last night raised two important questions. He complained very bitterly that semi-manufactered steel and pig iron manufactured under what he considered to be sweated conditions in India were being imported into this country free of duty. Ever since I have been in the House I have continually agitated for the safeguarding of the iron and steel industry of this country from the standpoint of my desire to protect the standard of life of the working people of this country, and on every occasion when a vote has been taken on the matter I have found that the hon. Member for Pontypool has voted in the opposite Lobby. Last night he protested against the continued importation of Indian semi-manufactured steel and pig ron. In fact, he was a greater Protectionist last night than any other Member in the House, for he took the view that a duty should have been placed on pig iron and semi-finished steel produced in India. What has happened?
§ Mr. T. GRIFFITHSrose——
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
The hon. Member for West 2082 Swansea (Mr. L. Jones) has not given way.
§ Mr. JONES
India imports 300,000 tons of galvanised sheets under normal trading conditions, and last year the imports fell to 147,432 tons, of which 48,000 tions went from Belgium. The iron and steel manufacturers of this country have negotiated with the Indian iron and steel manufacturers both at Ottawa and since their return from Ottawa, and, as a result of those negotiations, an Agreement has been arrived at in connection with the semi-finished products. The hon. Member for Pontypool was very anxious to know what was the result of the Agreement. I will tell the House. We find that the British sheet trade has undertaken to purchase from India 7,000 tons of steel bars every month on condition that the sheets manufactured from those bars or an equivalent tonnage of sheets manufactured from those bars are reimported into the Indian market. Therefore, the workers in this country will have the full advantage of the extra work necessary to deal with the 7,000 steel bars a month; whereas in the past a large quantity of these sheets was imported from Continental countries, where low standards of work obtain, we now find that the full advantage of this import trade is to come to this country. An Agreement has been arrived at between the iron and steel manufacturers of India and the British iron and steel manufacturers to the effect that if the duty of 85 rupees per ton on foreign sheets, whether galvanised or black, is not sufficient to keep out those sheets from India, then those two bodies of manufacturers have undertaken to go to the Tariff Board together in order to make the duty really prohibitive and of advantage both to the Indian and British producer.
Another question dealt with last night related to pig iron. Negotiations have been taking place between the British and the Indian manufacturers consequent upon the discussions at Ottawa with a view to regulating the importation of Indian pig iron into this country. If has been agreed by the Indian and the British manufacturers that it is essential to regulate importation both from the stand-point of price and of quality. It is realised that if large quantities of Indian pig iron come into this country at low prices it will be bound to lead to 2083 the instability of the price level. Negotiations have been taking place for a considerable time between the Indian iron and steel manufacturers and the British producers, and I am able to say that during the last few days a definite agreement has been arrived at for the regulation of the commodity.
I wish to impress upon the House that as a result of the negotiations which took place at Ottawa and of the greater confidence occasioned by the Ottawa Agreement, it has been possible to bring the iron and steel manufacturers of India and of this country closer together. So far as the Ottawa Agreements are concerned, I do not think the iron and steel trade contend that for the time being the actual preferences are going to be of immediate and substantial advantage to the industry. We are perfectly satisfied that so far as the Canadian tinplate market is concerned that will in future be entirely satisfied from Welsh sources. So far as the sheet market of India is concerned we are perfectly satisfied that with the huge reduction in the 83 rupees duty the bulk of the Indian galvanized and black sheet market should come to this country. We are perfectly satisfied that these Agreements mark the general acceptance of a policy of mutual economic co-operation. But while Governments can create the conditions out of which co-operation is possible, industry and commerce alone can make those Agreements effective.
§ Mr. de ROTHSCHILD
We have heard an interesting speech from an hon. Member from the Principality, but I understand that that speech was merely directed towards another hon. Member from the same district. Therefore I will not enter into that part of the Debate. I want to remark briefly on the general conditions of this Bill. In the Debates on the Bill we have heard very frequently and particularly from the Ministerial Bench, notably from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the word "experimental." The day before yesterday the Chancellor of the Exchequer said that underlying this Bill there was an experimental scheme, and last February he talked of tariffs as an experimental method. I take it that the right hon. Gentleman shares the views of the Lord President 2084 of the Council with regard to the value of this experiment. I need not remind the House that only a few weeks ago the Lord President of the Council, at Blackpool, said thatIt will be a year before we can judge fairly what the effect of tariffs has been.Whatever happens, whatever the result may be, it is provided by this Bill that five years must elapse before any alteration can take place. We have had Protection for more than nine months and one would have thought that some sign of improvement would have been visible. I do not want to discuss the question of the quinquennial period from the constitutional standpoint, upon which it has been debated over and over again in this House, but only from the practical point of view. Instead of any improvement being brought about by the tariffs which have been in force in this country for nearly a year we are suffering from an increase in unemployment, and the agriculture is going to total wrack and ruin. It is surprising to notice that the Lord President of the Council, who has earned the recognition of his countrymen as an honest man and a fair dealer, should put himself into this position that he has made Agreements with the Dominions which are to last five years, and he has promised this country, in his speech at Blackpool, that if these measures do not succeed his party will not "stick to the carcase of a dead policy." But whatever happens this country will be tied to the carcase for five years. If Protection fails, the right hon. Gentleman will either have to break his promise to his countrymen or to the Dominions across the seas. This policy may not succeed, and I believe it will not; the right hon. Gentleman has admitted that, and he says that long before the next election we shall know the result of these duties that we are putting on.
Looking at the Bill from the broad point of view I cannot understand how the bonds of Empire can be strengthened by these economic Agreements which cut so deeply across the vital interests of all the Dominions. I am supported in this view, against the opinion of the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne), who made such a violent attack on our party to-day, by the many speeches which have been delivered lately in the Canadian House of Parliament by Mr. 2085 Mackenzie King. Mr. Mackenzie King has held the highest position in Canada that any Canadian can attain. He has been Prime Minister of his country and he is to-day the potential Prime Minister of another day. In his speech in the Dominion House of Parliament on the 17th October he said that there was no lack of patriotism in his attacking the Agreements made between Canada and this country. Nor is there any lack of patriotism on our part when we criticise the Agreements in this House in our discussion on this Bill. Mr. Mackenzie King definitely stated, in contradiction to what the right hon. Member for Hillhead said this afternoon, and in strong support of what was said by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), that in his opinion this method of bargaining was one which would disrupt the Empire as nothing else would.
As regards the World Economic Conference, the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have said that the agreements embodied in this Bill will help at that Conference. We are going into that conference in the hope that we shall succeed in getting the tariff barriers separating countries, which are such a hindrance to commerce at the present time, lowered. We are going there for the purpose of lowering the tariff barriers amongst the countries of the world, and yet immediately before going into that conference we tie an extra load of tariffs round our own necks. The Chancellor of the Exchequer explained to-day that these tariffs would now be used as a bargaining weapon. I will not dispute the validity of that argument, I will not try to argue as to whether tariffs can be a bargaining weapon or not, but I do say that if these tariffs are to be a weapon, why did he go and blunt them at Ottawa? Mr. Mackenzie King in the same speech to which I have alluded stated that the tariffs in Canada had been raised all along the line, and that of 223 tariff changes, 139 were increases. Yet at the World Economic Conference we are going to ask for a reduction in tariffs. We ourselves, owing to the Ottawa Agreements and this Bill, have increased the duties in the case of some 25 products and imposed duties where none existed before in the ease of four products.
2086 We have heard it stated over and over again that the main aim and object of the policy of the Government is to raise prices. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, only the other day in the terse and logical manner to which we were accustomed in the days when he was a companion of ours, said that in the long run the Government's policy of getting fair play for the producer was essentially a consumer's policy. I am not going to dispute the validity of that argument. I take it that the object of the Government is to raise prices for the producer and that by doing so they will in the long run help the consumer, but my contention is that these two objects of the Government will not in any way be carried out by the Bill. There is no doubt that prices will rise, but it is very doubtful indeed whether the producers of this country will get any more for their products, and I think the consumer will be equally hit by these enactments.
Most of the duties imposed in this country by this Bill are on agricultural produce, and it will be interesting to see what influence they will have on the price of agricultural produce in this country. From a farmer's point of view Ottawa has obviously been a great disappointment. I, personally, had no great expectation from the Conference or from this Bill for the agricultural industry. It was obvious that the Dominions would insist on the easiest access possible into British markets for their own agricultural products in order to be able to compete here with our own farmers. But the farmers of this country have had their hopes raised to the highest pitch by the promises of the Government. They were told to wait for Ottawa. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the House the other night told them to wait for something else. What they are waiting for now is a black and dreary Christmas.
What are the other results of this Bill and the Ottawa Agreements as regards the British farmer? Take maize, one of the products which he uses most frequently. White maize is taxed 10 per cent. Maize products, taxed under the Import Duties Act, are to have the tax carried on for five years. The imports of maize last year were over £1,000,000. The Dominions imported £600,000 worth, and with a tax of 10 per cent. I take it that the price of maize will rise in 2087 accordance with the tax. It, therefore, means that an extra £100,000 will have to be spent by British farmers. Linseed is now removed from the Free List and is taxed 10 per cent. It must increase the price of oil cakes and also prejudice the home crushing industry. Castor oil and cod liver oil, which are used by the farmer, are also to be taxed.
I come to wheat. A tax of 2s. on wheat may increase the price of food. The Government say that it will not, but there is a proviso in the Agreement that the tax may be removed if the price is above world prices. The Bill says "may," not "shall," and we do not know whether the Government will act. If the price rises then the British farmer is one of the first to be hit. It cannot help him as a seller of wheat. At present he gets 45s. for his average wheat, and if the price of wheat rises he may get less by way of subsidy. While that may be a help the money will ultimately come out of the same pocket, and it will not help the farmer. Then the farmer is a large purchaser of feeding stuffs, and he will be damaged to that extent. He is a larger buyer of wheat for this purpose, and a rise in the price will prejudice the farmer. It will also prejudice the miller. It means that more flour will be imported and, consequently, that there will be less offals in this country. And again the farmer will suffer. These taxes not only are of no assistance to the farmer, but are definitely and distinctly prejudicial.
On the other hand, he is offered the meat quota and taxes on foreign butter, cheese, eggs and dairy produce. How can the meat quota help him in any way? The importation of chilled beef is not to be restricted, and this is the British farmer nearest competitor. The only restriction is on foreign frozen beef. The imports or foreign frozen beef in 1931 were only of the value of £1,500,000, out of a total beef importation of £25,500,000. This restriction will reduce the importation of foreign beef by 20 per cent.; that is by about £300,000. Against this Australia and New Zealand are allowed a 10 per cent. increase in their beef imports to this country, and as the beef imports from the Dominions are £2,000,000 a year a 10 per cent. increase means an addition of £200,000 a year. The restrictions on foreign beef imports 2088 amount to £300,000, therefore, the total restriction will only amount to £100,000 out of a total beef importation of over £25,000,090. In addition there is the possibility of further supplies from South Africa. Mr. Havenga made it clear in his speech at the Ottawa Conference that South Africa intends to develop an extensive importation of beef into this country.
In these circumstances, it is difficult to see what benefit British agriculture can get from the beef quota. At most it can only be a transference of trade from the Argentine to South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Let me put one point as regards mutton; where the case is exactly the same. The position is l his. The excess comes from the Dominions. The Chancellor of the Exchequer only the other day in this House gave figures showing that the increase in the importation of mutton and lamb from the Dominions was from 5,631[...] cwts. in 1929 to 7,100,000 cwts. in 1931, or an increase of 1,500,000 cwts. The Dominions alone are responsible for this increase. Under these Agreements there is to be a restriction on foreign lamb and mutton which will amount to 350,000 cwts. hut this benefit is entirely destroyed by giving to New Zealand and Australia an increase. New Zealand now sends 4,000,000 cwts. per year. In 1933 she is to be allowed to increase her importation by 200,000 cwts., and by the same amount in 1934; a total increase of 400,000 cwts. That is a total increase of 400,000 cwts. against a diminution of 382,000 cwts. Once more the gain is not for the British farmer. Here, too, we have to reckon with South Africa. In the same speech at Ottawa Mr. Havenga said that South Africa had made up its mind to develop its mutton industry as well. He said:Up to the present the Union has concentrated on wool production, but economic conditions have forced it to consider the production of mutton and lamb for export. Provided some preferential treatment could be extended to it by Great Britain there would seem to be every prospect of the Union becoming a regular supplier of mutton and lamb to the British market.The Union has 44½ million sheep, mostly woolled, but Union farmers have already commenced breeding mutton types, and with a large supply of comparatively cheap food available there is very little doubt that the production of both mutton and lamb could he carried out rapidly and on an extensive scale.2089 We have in Article 7 of the Agreement with South Africa an undertaking on the part of the Ministers who went to Ottawa that they will give South Africa a proportion of the imports of mutton into this country and will help South Africa to develop that industry. In the case of butter the position is again the same. The Dominions are responsible for the large increase of imports in the last few years. The increase has been from 3,200,000 cwts. to 4,000,000 cwts. in the last five years. Once more South Africa comes into the picture as a potential supplier. The tax is 15s. per cwt. The price of butter to-day is 95s. to 105s. for New Zealand and Australian butter; 88s. to 90s. for South American; 120s. for Danish; and 140s. per cwt. for English butter. The 15s. increase will bring the South American butter high enough to allow Dominion butter to displace it, but English butter cannot approach the same price standard. It will be too dear to compete with the Dominions or the South American price, plus the duty.
Here again we are clearing the field for dumped Dominion produce without regard to the British producer. All these dairy products, the butter and ergs, are subsidised by the Dominion Parliaments and Governments. Under this Bill we undertake to protect the Canadian lumberman from Russian dumping, but we are not protecting the British farmer from Dominion dumping. In fact we have bound ourselves for three years not to protect British farmers. I called attention to this matter when I spoke before the Ottawa Conference The only action taken there was a pious resolution, which has not been acted upon. We are told that all the Dominions were agreed that the British farmer was entitled to the first chance of the British market. At whose instance then was this undertaking given that the Dominions are to have an equal chance with hint while they may still subsidise produce to compete with him.
There is the case of Spanish potatoes. This question has arisen lately in my own constituency, where some of the farmers grow seed potatoes for export to Spain. The Spaniards make contracts a year in advance. This year the Spaniards wanted an assurance that they would be allowed to re-import potatoes to the amount of 20,000 tons, into this country next year. I have had an intimation from the 2090 Minister of Agriculture, who had received representations from the Spanish Government, that this could not be done without additional legislation. The whole policy of quotas exhibits its weaknesses in its contradictory purposes. Quotas are intended to raise prices, and are intended at the same time to encourage new and increasing Dominion production. These purposes are inimical to one another. The Noble Lord the Member for Horsham (Earl Winterton) said the other night that he would vote for this Bill because, although he was not satisfied with it, it went a certain way, and he would rather have half a loaf than no bread. But the Bill does not go any way at all towards helping British agriculture. In fact there is a, bias in this Bill against the British farmer and British agriculture. If the Clauses on meat and other agricultural products are carried out, it will mean that the dice are loaded against him more than ever they were before. It will mean that his State-aided competitors will be able to undersell him for another three or five years, and that under the quota he will get no facilities in a glutted market.
There can be no doubt that this Bill will be carried to-night. The massed battalions of the Tory party are going to force through a. Measure which is the first instalment of the Socialist policy of Government interference. A policy of harassing regulations which will shackle and stultify the commercial and industrial activities of the agriculturists of this country. It is a policy of interference such as will no doubt be continued in the pig quota ordinances. It is a policy which is viewed with equanimity by many of the Labour Opposition. The hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. A. Bevan) only the other night said that the orientation of the Government was sound. That must be balm for the Prime Minister and those who follow his colours. The News-Letter, to which the Members of his own party contribute such notable articles, only a few days ago gloated over the fact that it is Dr. Addison's Labour policy on agriculture which is being adopted by this Government. Under this Socialist banner to-night the serried ranks of the gentlemen of England are going to march into the Lobby to deal one more blow at landlord and tenant, farmers and labourers.
§ Mr. DICKIE
Whilst I shall be one of those who will fall into line with the serried ranks of the Tory party to-night, I want to follow up what I said on the Second Reading of this Bill and to make a few observations from the point of view of a Liberal who has found himself in post-War days, and in a world filled with Protectionists, quite unable to give his whole-hearted adhesion to the system of Free Trade under which we have lived for the past 70 or 80 years. I have been brought to that view by what I call the irresistible logic of cold, hard facts. I must confess frankly my surprise that so many of my Liberal colleagues have failed to recognise that we are not now living under the same fiscal conditions as we lived under 30 years ago. They who oppose these Agreements have put forward no constructive suggestions of any kind for dealing with the position of unparalleled gravity in which this country finds itself to-day. The criticism has been purely destructive, and so far as the broad lines of policy are concerned, my friends have been quite content to rely on the restatement of the classical case for Free Trade, ably and vigorously presented, I admit, but still the old arguments which I claim have no validity at all in the world in which we live to-day.
I have been a Free Trader all my life. Unlike my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot), I have never made a religion of Free Trade, but had, I done so I should have been prepared to recognise the fact that Free Trade would have been compelled to adapt itself to the changing circumstances of a world which refuses to stand still and which is in a state of continual change, both economically and ethically. In these Debates my hon. Friend and his colleagues have repeated again and again old arguments which in their day were unassailable. As a matter of fact, lip service is being paid to them to-day all over the world. These self-same theories, in actual practice, are being flouted all over the world, in the interests of that economic nationalism which we all deplore and of which we have heard so much in the course of recent Debates. It is very very largely because of that that those of us in the Liberal party who put the national welfare first have found ourselves compelled to modify our views.
2092 We are realists; recognising that, unless we defend ourselves, this economic nationalism will destroy us. That is the position with which we are confronted, and because of that we decline to oppose the Agreements for what the President of the Board of Trade so admirably called an abstract dogma, quoting from a great Liberal, John Morley.
§ Mr. DICKIE
Very good in those days when Free Trade was undoubtedly the best policy. In my judgment, a closer relationship with the Dominions and the Colonies and the power to bargain with foreign nations under changed conditions have become not only desirable, but a vital necessity if we are to survive as an industrial nation. For the people of this country to-day it is not a question of industrial supremacy but of industrial survival. That is what we are faced with. The policy of my Liberal friends who oppose the Agreements is simply one of blank negation. They merely say that in any circumstances and in all conditions, the system of Free Trade—under which I admitted in the Second Reading Debate this little country of ours prospered amazingly up to the outbreak of War—is a system which in existing conditions is just as well suited to our changed circumstances as it was in the days before the War. The Spaniards, Frenchmen, Dutchmen and such men may pile up tariff walls as high as they like, with quotas, licences and restrictions of all kinds, but we are to sit defenceless, content with a mere protest. We are simply to register our protest, pointing out it is not in the interest of international amity or world progress, and we are to keep our ports wide open while the number of unemployed go on steadily increasing.
That is the position looked at from a thoroughly practical point of view. My hon. Friends have said to-night that no attempt has been made to meet their arguments, but what about any attempts to meet our arguments? Our decision as Liberals was not taken lightheartedly, but after mature thought and long deliberation, in the national interests and not, as one might imagine from some speeches which have been made from this bench and from that, on selfish grounds of sordid self-interest or anything of that 2093 kind. We have followed the advice given us from this bench, almost on the very spot where I am standing, excepting that we followed that advice, or rather similar advice, before it was given. I am always ready to take sound advice whether from young or old, and we were told from this spot the other day to do our own thinking arid to exercise those powers of thought which had been given to us, and not to work as automatic machines.
It is because we have done that, that we are here in the position we occupy, and I wish that my hon. Friend had done the same and had given me some reply on the points I raised in the Debate on the Second Reading. I pointed out several things in justification for the change in our attitude. I pointed out that the whole situation had changed, and that whereas during the long period when we were devoted to Free Trade, 44 to 46 per cent. of the total volume of our trade represented exports, to-clay that has fallen to 34 per cent., and you have to find the difference of 32 per cent. to make up the deficiency. It is crystal clear that we are living on our capital resources, and it is quite impossible that that should go on. It creates a very grave situation. I have always been told that imports paid for exports, and if you restrict imports you must of necessity restrict exports. It was always contended that the ratios between the two remained the same. The late Secretary of State for Scotland and the late Lord Privy Seal in another place have fallen into that simple blunder. It is not so. It was so when the figures never varied more than 2 per cent. from 44 per cent. to 46 per cent. The 10 or 12 per cent. was easily made up by the earnings of shipping, and the invisible exports such as banking and insurance, but you cannot make up 32 per cent. and therefore the validity of that argument has gone by the board. It is because the circumstances have changed, that we have changed our views.
That is one reason, and there is another. We have always heard it said that tariffs increase prices. That has always been one of the arguments of Free Trade. The text books taught us so, and in point of actual economic theory it ought to be so in a perfect economic world in which trading conditions are carried on in accordance with the terms 2094 of the text book, with fair-play on one side and the other. As a matter of fact, prices should rise by a little more than the amount of the duty under normal conditions. But what has happened? One after another my hon. Friends from this bench have risen to declare with forced and turgid eloquence either that prices have risen or are rising, or are inevitably bound to rise. What are the actual facts since this country started tariffs. Prices have fallen in every direction. They have not risen at all. They are not rising now, and the cost of living, according to the. Board of Trade index figure, is lower than it was before the introduction of tariffs. That is against all theory, but it is true, and it is idle and futile to repeat with a sort of parrot-like insistence through devotion to this abstract dogma, that prices are actually rising when they are falling before our very noses. The fall is not due to tariffs, but I should be on very much sounder and safer ground if I said it was due to the tariffs which had been imposed than are those who insist on saying that prices are rising, when everybody knows they are falling.
I had a note to say something about cod-liver oil, but, in view of the lateness of the hour, I will not enlarge upon that. The hon. Member for Colne Valley (Mr. Mallalieu) spoke of the rise in the price of cod-liver oil on evidence which really one does not like to mention. He reminded one of the constituent who comes to his Member of Parliament with some startling story and, when asked where he got it from, replies, "I saw it in the papers." There was some reference to a notice in the window of a co-operative store anticipating a rise in the price of cod-liver oil but stating that it was still being offered there at the old price. They are continuing to sell at the old price, and when the hon. Member was asked where the price had been increased, he said: "In this country." That is the sort of evidence which is put forward to show that prices have risen, and it is really too childish.
There is another old argument which has lost its validity. I have given close attention to this matter and I have not parted light-heartedly with views which I held during the whole of my political life up to now. Like every other Free Trader I scorned the idea that the 2095 foreigner would pay the tax on imported goods. I poured ridicule and contempt upon it, as a general principle, though I always made the reservation that it could occur and had occurred. In the case of proprietary articles, for instance, where the price could not be raised, without the risk of losing a valuable market, it has occurred and does occur. But I never believed that it could be done to any great extent, or for long. In the biography of his distinguished father by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Epping there is a note that Lord Randolph Churchill went to make a speech somewhere and the entry in his diary about it was:Spoke about taxing the foreigner. Went down like butter.but in parenthesis these words were added:But God only knows how it is to be done.If he were alive to-day he would see it done with surprising frequency. In many instances, all over the country the foreigner is actually bearing the whole weight of the tax imposed by this country. This is a question of fact and not of opinion. It is strange that it should be so; it ought not to be so, and yet it is so. Because it is so those of us who are realists and who are face to face with the facts, have been compelled to change our minds. It is only another illustration of the chaotic and topsy-turvy condition of the world economic system to-day.
Take the case of iron and steel. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) speaking on the world price question used what I may call the Aunt Sally form of argument. He put up an argument for the express purpose of knocking it down. I will not go to the trouble of reading what he said and I make my apologies to him for not doing so on account of the lateness of the hour. He was speaking of the possibility of failure to produce sufficient quantities at world prices. What is actually happening in the steel trade in his constituency is this. That constituency lives by the manufacture of steel and the warehouses are bursting with imported steel. Since the imposition of the tariffs the price of steel f.o.b. in Antwerp has steadily fallen, expressed in terms of 2096 gold, until to-day the manufacturer abroad is actually bearing the full weight of the tax to the extent of something like 198. 6d. per ton. That is a new and surprising feature which has caused some of us here to arrive at the conclusion that we can no longer acquiese in a system of rigid Free Trade and I think, myself, that the changes which have taken place render irrelevant many of the arguments which have been used from this bench in the course of the Debate.
I hold the view that new situations demand new measures. I have no patience with all this talk about precedents. Our forefathers did not go looking for precedents. They did not dig into the musty records of the past when they were faced with a situation which required action. I ask the hon. Member for Bodmin, did the Elizabethan founders of the British Empire, did Raleigh and Drake and all the rest of them, go looking for precedents? [HON. MEMBERS: Cromwell."] I am coming to Cromwell. Did Cromwell, the man of action, the hero of my hon. Friend the Member for Bodmin, dig into the records of the past when he found himself faced with an unprecedented state of things? No, he was a man of action and he acted. It is the duty of this House apart altogether from those who sit on the Front Bench, in the unparallelled situation in which we find ourselves with 3,000,000 of our own best people out of work through no fault of their own—it is the duty, I say, of the House as well as the Government, when they find themselves faced with something which has never happened before, not to dig for precedents but to do as their forefathers did and create precedents.
§ Mr. ISAAC FOOT
I am sorry that the time at my disposal is limited and will not allow me to deal with the very interesting questions raised by my hon. Friend the Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie). I address the House on this occasion with some diffidence because I had more than my share of the time in the Second Reading Debate but there are important considerations which we would like to put before hon. Members before the Bill receives its Third Reading. The details have been dealt with very fully in the course of the Debate but I should like to refer to one or two observations which have been made by some speakers 2097 earlier in the evening. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was, I thought, a little acidulated in his references to those who sit on these benches, when he spoke of considerations which weighed with us in leaving the Government and in forgetting our obligations to our former colleagues. I do not think he used the words "forgetting our obligations" but he reproached us for not giving sufficient weight to the obligations which we had to our colleagues or the nation.
I think it does not lie in the right hon. Gentleman's mouth to make the reproach because if there is one man responsible for what has happened, he is the man. He is very definite now but at the last election I think he was not as unequivocal about Protection as he has been since the election. He is very explicit now, but he was not explicit then. Since his speech this evening I have looked up some of the records and I find in the "Times" newspaper a report of a speech which he made at Dudley on 26th October of last year. The right hon. Gentleman was speaking in a constituency where, I have no doubt, there were Liberal and Free Trade votes, of importance to the candidate, and dealing with tariffs and preferences he said:All these matters are going to be examined, carefully, thoroughly, exhaustively, impartially, by the National Government when it is formed again, but you have not got to decide to-morrow whether you are to have tariffs or Free Trade.That was the day before the election, I put it to my Conservative friends, with whom I have no quarrel, let them think what would have been the result if, speaking a week before the election, or a clay h fore the election, the right lion. Gentleman had said: "Give us a majority, and within three months I will announce in the city of Birmingham that Free Trade is as dead as mutton; I will, within four months, standing at my place in the House of Commons, say that my father's policy is now being carried into law; and I will, within 12 months, raise the superstructure and will carry into law, as far as I can, proposals which, I have to admit, have been defeated every time they have been submitted to the electorate of this country." If that had been the declaration, and he had then spoken in the explicit and unequivocal language which he has used to-day, there would not have been any 2098 question of our coming out of the Government, because we should never have been in it. The right hon. Gentleman knew what the formula was and the discussion over the formula, and if that had been the explicit statement, a party Government would have been formed, under a party name, to carry through honestly a party policy.
There was another statement made by the right hon. Member for Hillhead (Sir R. Horne) who said that he did not expect, when he came into the House, to make a speech. Well, I thought the references to this party came very trippingly from his tongue to-day, if he had not intended to make a speech, and I thought that some of his gibes at the party showed a lack of consideration for his colleagues in this House, and certainly a gross ignorance of the history of his own country. When a right hon. Member of this House stands in his place and says that it has been our policy all along, as Liberals, to give lip service to the development of the Empire, my answer is that, instead of speaking in this House, he might have studied some of the elementary history of his own country. If he had done that, he would probably have found that, were it not for Liberalism in past days, there would have been no Canada at the Ottawa Conference at all, and no South Africa.
Led on by the attractiveness of an epigram, he then said that our policy was to placate our enemies and to neglect our friends. John Morley is quoted as having once said that labels were devices for saving talkative people the trouble of thinking, and when my right hon. Friend the Member for Hillhead talks about placating our enemies and neglecting our friends, to whom does he refer? He speaks of enemies—our customers throughout the world, those with whom, if we cannot trade, your ships must be taken off the seas and laid up in your estuaries.
§ Mr. FOOT
The right hon. Gentleman used the phrase in general terms and said that it was in accordance with our general policy to placate our enemies and neglect our friends. I would like to remind him that some of these enemies give us fiscally far better terms than some of 2099 the friends to whom reference has been made. [Interruption.] I should like to think that the British Empire is the common possession of us all, but I think we shall not help our relations with the Empire by speaking of the other parts of the world as our enemies; and surely the ideal at the very foundation of the British Empire is that we should use that primary unity and friendship for establishing the larger friendship, if we are to have wholesome dealings in this world.
§ Sir R. HORNE
The hon. Member must not go on to suggest that I was indicating that all foreign countries are enemies of ours. I used the phrase immediately after the remarks that I made upon Russia, and I stated that Russia was using hostile propaganda against us in every part of the world.
§ Mr. FOOT
If I have done the right hon. Gentleman an injustice, I withdraw, but I thought the interval between his reference to Russia and the temptation then to make a general attack upon us was very wide. But even then, I would say, with regard to a great number of people in Russia, most of whom, at any rate, whatever may have happened, have been more sinned against than sinning, and have gone through vicissitudes and struggles in recent generations from which we in this country, happily, have been saved—I do not want to think of those hundred millions of people, who are, I suppose, after all, flesh and blood, as being permanently or even at the present time the enemies of this country.
I submit that these Debates have vindicated the objections which we made at the outset. I cannot understand the Financial Secretary to the Treasury making again the statement that in principle the Empire has abandoned Protection. What authority has he for that statement? Mr. Bennett does not think so. Mr. Bennett, speaking in the House of Comons of Canada on Wednesday, 12th October, proudly claimed that his policy had been carried out. Hon. Members will remember that when I said to the Dominions Secretary only last Thursday that the policy which he had condemned as humbug in 1930 had now been carried into law, he shook his head; but I referred to Mr. Bennett's speech to answer the Financial Secretary to the Treasury. Mr. Bennett is, of course, a 2100 Protectionist and is entitled to be. He prides himself upon his Protectionist policy, and he said:These Agreements mark the first forward step in a definite scheme of closer Empire economic association. They are based upon the principles enunciated by the Conservative party before the last General Election, and deliberately supported by it from that time to the present. They conform to the general plan proposed by this Government at the Imperial Conference held in London two years ago, re-affirmed at the opening of the Ottawa Conference, and adopted in a very practical way by the Agreements which are the outcome of those deliberations.He went on to say that his policy was resubmitted at this Conference, and he proudly claimed that it was a Protectionist policy. I suggest that whatever has been said by us in these Debates has been reinforced by the march of events, and that this Bill is wrong because it leads the world in the wrong direction. The right hon. Gentleman the Foreign Secretary the other day, when making his appeal to those on these benches, said, "Look at the world as it is to-day." It is because we do look at the world as it is to-day that we refuse to be associated with a. Measure which, we believe, will put the world deeper in the mire.
I cannot be dogmatic. I am very humble, and I suppose we all have to be humble when face to face with the economic difficulties of our own time. I am bound to admit that I do not understand these vast monetary questions. They are aSerbonian bog … where armies whole have sunk.I was very interested to see that the Governor of the Bank of England, speaking a day or two ago said that he was very humble in the presence of these things, where there were no precedents, and that he was not able to offer arty dogmatic opinion. If he cannot, I cannot. But I am quite sure of this, from all that have tried to read—as I suppose any one of us, looking out upon a distressed world at the present time, has tried to make up his mind—that everyone who looks at the situation says that, whatever else may be the causes, there is one main contributing cause, and that is the choking of the channels of trade and the building up of barriers between one nation and another ever since the Treaty of Versailles. That is one of the main 2101 contributing causes, and, as far as I can read, as a result of these proposals barriers not now erected will be erected, taxes not now imposed will be imposed, and it is for that reason that we oppose this Measure.
The President of the Board of Trade referred the other day in this connection to the walls of Jericho. Hon. Members who have read that story will remember that, as there were seven members of this House who went to Ottawa, so, under the direction of Joshua, there were seven priests who went round the walls of Jericho blowing every day their trumpets of rams-horns. But at Jericho the walls fell down. At Ottawa, in many cases, the walls have gone higher. The trouble is that not only were there seven priests blowing their rams-horns round the walls at Ottawa, but the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) was there as well. He was the strong man at Ottawa, and his little finger was thicker than the loins of the seven Ministers of His Majesty's Government. We are face to face with a position where we must put before us the possibility of a larger measure of isolation. When I spoke on the Third Reading of the Import Duties Act, I said that that Measure was leading the country in the wrong direction because it led the world and the country in the direction of isolation and the independence of self-sufficiency. What I then said applies here.
I wonder if anyone disputes that the course of the world to-day is towards self-sufficiency and independence. I do not want to see that mistake committed on a larger scale. It will be a disaster to build up a huge system of self-sufficiency in the British Empire regardless of the interests of the rest of the world. There are, as far as I can see, movements towards the breaking down of these barriers. Who ought to lead that movement? I am jealous that the lead should be given in this country. Before ever I had the opportunity of seeing or hearing the Lord President of the Council, when I was living in my far away country home, I was much impressed by a quotation that he was fond of using, which he said was from Milton:When God wants a hard thing done in this world lie tells it to his Englishmen.I looked through the works of Milton to find it but could not, and when I had the opportunity of meeting the right hon. 2102 Gentleman, I asked him if he would mind telling me where in the writings of Milton that passage occurred. The right hon. Gentleman said: "I have been asked that question before, and, if Milton did not write it, he ought to have written it." There is, however, one authentic passage from Milton which I pass on to the House:Let not England forget her precedence in teaching the nations how to live.Sometime or another there will be a movement in the world towards breaking down these barriers to the restoration of the processes of trade. When that time comes I want this country to be in the position to give the lead and fulfil the ideal of a great English poet, who spoke of England as being:A bulwark for the cause of men.10.0 p.m.
I want to emphasise the danger which this Measure is to the Empire. I think that it will bring the Dominions again within the sphere of politics. Did the hon. Members hear the Dominions Secretary last week when he commended the Bill because it might help us in the policy of migration? Did he understand the implications of his own argument? His argument was that we are asked to take sacrifices upon ourselves, but that those sacrifices might be well worth while for one great justification of them was that there might be prosperous Colonies and Dominions resulting from our sacrifices, and that thousands of our unemployed might have an entrance there. That was a very powerful argument, but I want to ask whether, if we do make these sacrifices, we are to be at liberty, after the passing of this Bill, to raise the question of migration in this House? Hitherto it has been excluded, for it has been a matter entirely for Dominion autonomy, but, if we accept the right hon. Gentleman's argument and take these burdens upon ourselves, are we to be entitled to say to the Dominions: "You ought to take more of our unemployed"? Are we to be entitled to consider the conditions when they get there? If we are, it will be the first time in this House. The right hon. Member for Hillhead made a lofty rebuke to my right hon. Friend the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and said we should not use dangerous words about our taxation being controlled by Canada. He suggested that it would fall 2103 very harshly upon the delicate ears of our brothers in Canada. Surely he ought to have known that that argument has already reached them. In their own House of Commons the taxation of this country subject to the control of Canada was set out in detail by Mr. Mackenzie King, who said: "That is what is now going to happen. The taxation of Great Britain is to be to some extent under the control of Canada. If there had been such a proposal put to us that our taxation should be subject to the control of Great Britain, we would have repudiated it." He also said that, although it had been supported by the representatives of the British Government, it had already received the opposition of the British people. The House ought to consider what are the disruptive elements that are threatened. Let us remember what the Prime Minister said when speaking of our representatives at Ottawa:All that we did was to put up the stiffest fight that was possible in order that these tariffs should be as advantageous as possible to this country.It is extraordinary language to use of our representatives who went to meet our kith and kin to say that we put up a stiff fight for our interests. I ask the House also to consider that if taxes are imposed, and if in times of distress the people of this country come to associate their burdens with the Imperial connection, that Imperial connection might be swept aside. Perhaps I was a little sharp in answering the right hon. Member for Hillhead when I was speaking: of the British Empire, but I like to think that the British Empire is the common possession of all parties in this country. I believe that our association with India has been in the providence of God and that the British Empire is not an accident, hut part of some great design which has behind it the development of the world. It is because I have such apprehensions about the reactions of his policy that I oppose it. Let hon. Members take the "Times" newspaper to-day and see the various items that are contained in two pages. There are India, the Argentine, the references to Canadian wheat on the floor of the Canadian Parliament; there is an account of how Members of this House, having been returned to give a free hand to the Government are now pressing on the Government the policy 2104 which apparently they are reluctant to adopt; there is a resolution of the economic sub-committee of the preparatory committee of the World Economic Conference. All the members of that Committee are unanimous in suggesting that import restrictions have a harmful effect and that their abandonment should be promoted with all possible speed. All that was upon two pages of the "Times."
It is because I believe the British Empire can be the greatest instrument of progress that I am against a policy which I believe will disrupt it, and that is the opinion held by great numbers through the Dominions. The opinion was expressed less than 18 months ago by Sir Josiah Stamp, when he went to Canada, that it would be a destructive influence if we had bargainings, and that opinion was quoted a week ago on the floor of the Canadian House of Commons by Mr. Mackenzie King. I was frightened today when I heard the Financial Secretary say that failure at Ottawa would have meant the end of the British Empire. I believe that was dangerous language. I do not believe that the British Empire, won with such effort and sacrifice, depends upon these things. I believe there are ties which though light as air are as strong as links of iron; and I would beg the Government, putting it in no party spirit, that if failure comes from the Ottawa proposals, as if believe it may, they should not rest too much on these material grounds but remember the stronger ties, the ties of sentiment. There is the tie of sentiment in India. I am very glad to see that some arrangements are being come to with India. Do not hon. Members, however, realise that unless we can meet the demands of India and Indian Nationalist opinion our tariff arrangements will be like a fence of wire against an avalanche? It was important to meet their sentiment. As to South Africa, I am glad we were able in earlier years to meet South African sentiment. Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman gave them not schedules but freedom.
I have not troubled the House with quotations, but I would beg the House to allow me to quote some words of the greatest master of civil wisdom in the politics of this country, who dealt with this very question many years ago. I 2105 use it only to reinforce my argument that the realties, the permanent bonds between us and our kith and kin in the other parts of His Majesty's Dominions, happily do not depend upon these financial arrangements, as was shown when their men came to the help of this country when she was in distress. They came readily, and they did not before they came consult all the schedules of international and inter-Imperial agreements. The words which I will read to the House are the words Burke used on a great occasion. [Laughter.] I hope my hon. Friend will not laugh. I attach some importance to the wisdom of my ancestors, and if I were a Member of the hon. Member's party I would be very proud to quote them:Men are not tied to one another by papers and seals. They are led to associate by resemblances, by conformities, by sympathies. It is with nations as with individuals. Nothing is so strong a tie of amity between nation and nation as correspondence in laws, customs, manners and habits of life. They have more than the force of treaties in themselves. They are obligations written in the heart.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
I have no time to comment on the speech just made by the hon. Member for the Bodmin Division (Mr. Isaac Foot). He is so full of reverence for the great leaders of English literature and statesmanship that he cannot make a speech in this House without doffing his hat metaphorically and paying homage to them. We admire his consistency, because we believe that he has observed in them the flame of freedom burning brightly and is attracted and drawn by the vision of that freedom. The hon. Member for Consett (Mr. Dickie) raised the hearty cheers of all Conservatives by asking the House to follow the example of Cromwell and to smash all precedents and to fit the action t. the hour. I would advise my hon. Friend to be very careful. That kind of statement can be made inside this House, but if made outside he might be taken into custody and charged with a very serious offence. Conversion has come to him with a shock, and he is still too amazed to give an account of it. Perhaps when this Bill is out of the way he will consider how the idle shipping on Tyneside is going to find employment again if the Ottawa Agreements are to be as successful as some of their advocates believe.
2106 The Bill, with the Agreements and Schedules, have been discussed for over a week, and I am not quite sure that we yet appreciate its full import. I would not pose as a constitutional lawyer or as an authority on Parliamentary precedent, but really this has been a most astounding Debate. We on this side have exercised all our eloquence and persuasion to no purpose. We have been asked to admire and to approve the Bill but not to adjudicate upon it. We have not been allowed to do so. Agricultural Members will appreciate my point when I tell them I feel as if I had been invited to a livestock show and had seen the exhibits walked round the ring one by one. I and other of the bystanders find pentiful blemishes in them, and we point out those blemishes, but all to no purpose, because we are not the judges. We found that the beasts, before entering the ring, had already been decorated with a "reserved" card attached to the halters. All this Debate has been more or less a waste of time, except that I think that as a result of it we do perhaps realise more fully than at the commencement what the Ball does and is likely to do in our national economic life.
The Financial Secretary to the Treasury told us that this was the beginning of a customs union and the word "Zollverein" was used by somebody behind me. Really, this is the beginning of an Imperial Zollverein. I have listened to the speeches made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who never fails to enlighten the House when he deals with a subject of this kind. The President of the Board of Trade, too, was very explicit, and although he disappointed me in the latter part of his speech when he said that he had seven points to put before the House arid dealt with only one, he so elaborated that one point that he made the full purport of the Bill quite clear. This is the beginning of a system of Imperial customs union for the British Empire. There is a word of warning to be given here. We all remember how apprehensive we were when the German Empire established a Zollverein, and there is to-day a grave international concern because a German Zollverein is sought to be established under another name. We cannot expect the setting up of a British Imperial customs union, binding the Empire perhaps closer together, but more definitely shutting the door on unity and co-operation 2107 between Britain and the rest of the world to be welcomed. A union of this kind must have exclusive features, and there are dangers as well as possible advantages from this kind of thing.
I have looked at this from the beginning as an attempt to give what is now being called a directional control or regulation of the flow of trade from this country, and to regulate its amount and the rate of its passage. There are three features of this Bill, and they are like the robot signs that we see on the roadside. One sign says "Go," the other, "Slow," and the third one, "Stop." For the British Empire the word is "Go." We say to the Empire, "We invite trade from you, and we send out trade to you." To some other countries we are lessening the amount of trade, and there is a possibility of a third category of countries for which the word will be "Stop." We say "There is to be no further trade between you and ourselves."
I would like to examine the case as I see it. I am compelled to go back to the speech made by the President of the Board of Trade who spoke, strangely enough, with as much attention to detail as if he were the architect of this Measure. There has been an immense amount of preparation, weeks and months of preparation, of Schedules and lists of all kinds, in Canada, Australia, South Africa, India and Great Britain, weeks and months of what the President of the Board of Trade described as an examination of lists and of die relative values of concessions. I can picture the amount of work which was done before the world was told anything about the details of the conversations at Ottawa, and one must have a certain amount of sympathy with the people who did that work, as they must have believed that what they were doing was beneficial to the Empire, and possibly to the rest of the world.
I can picture each Dominion presenting its own list of commodities which they desired to be taxed upon entry into Great Britain. Canada said: "We grow certain foods, and we provide certain raw materials; please put a tax on similar goods from foreign countries, because we want a preference for the goods we grow at home." There must have been an element, if not of selfishness, of sectional 2108 interest in all this welter of preparation for the tariff Conference which came later. The British delegation submitted a list of manufactured products for which they sought to obtain a preference in the Dominion market. The United Kingdom delegation, I feel quite sure, went there very uncertain as to what they were going to do. Looking at the occupants of the Government Front Bench I know that it must have been very difficult to get a common mind among them on any one subject. On the subject of Ottawa, the leaders and those who accompanied them must very frequently have had divided opinions when they went to the Conference.
At the Conference, they appointed Mr. Bennett as Chairman and they found that Mr. Bennett, too, had views of his own. The Lord President of the Council paid a very flattering compliment to him, revealing very clearly the explanation of what appears to be the one-sidedness of these Agreements. He said that Mr. Bennett possesses a power of drive given to few. He sat in the driver's seat. He was chairman of the Conference, and he had a power of drive which he did not fail to exercise. He drove the Conference no one knows how far. I should like to know from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, or the President of the Board of Trade, how much further Mr. Bennett drove the British Delegation than they had intended to go when they left this country. How much further were they carried at Ottawa because the driver was such a forcible person? We shall know that some day. For the moment we have to accept what has been told us. We are told that at Ottawa there has been an Agreement of give-and-take, on terms which were amicably arranged, when everyone was the best of friends, when everyone was anxious to give more than he was taking, and the result was an Agreement satisfactory to all. Have we got what may be called a 50–50 Agreement between the United Kingdom and the Dominions? We are unable to determine that, because not even the warmest advocates of the Agreement and of the Bill have given us any data upon which to make an assessment. We have been given no balance, no estimate of the cost of the advantage to any one of the constituent parties.
2109 We do not know what is expected in the way of financial advantage to this country in increased volume of trade, in an increase in the volume of our exports. I cannot conceive of a Conference of this kind having been held by experts, by men of ability and experience, without their having always in their minds, in all their computations and consultations, in all their give-and-take, some actuarial basis for the whole transaction. It is not right that this House should not have been given, at least in some part, that actuarial basis upon which all these concessions were founded. While there is uncertainty as to the financial and trade value of these Agreements, we are given to understand that it is supposed that in some mysterious way there will he an advantage all round to everyone. In Canada they tell their people how much they have gained; in Australia they tell their people how much they have gained and are going to gain; and, although one finds a much more chastened attitude in this country than in former days, the Chancellor of the Exchequer this afternoon gave a very glowing prospect of the financial results of these Agreements. But there is a good deal of uncertainty among people who are in a less advantageous position than those who were present when the Agreements were negotiated. We shall have to live by faith; we shall have to see how this works out; and I enter this protest, at the final stage of this discussion, that the House and the country have not been given any basis upon which to form even an approximate judgment of the value of these transactions.
Although there is this question of give-and-take, we do know that there is a class of people in this country who will get nothing. When Canadian, Australian, South African and Indian food products and raw materials come into this country, we need have no doubt as to who pays. The person who pays the cost of all the advantage that Canada, for instance, is to get on her food products, is the person who buys the food in the shops. The person who is to pay for the advantage of Australia is the person who buys the mutton, lamb, wheat and other commodities which are sent by Australia to this country. I have heard the most remarkable arguments. The hon. Member for Consett believes that tariffs do not raise prices. No represen- 2110 tative of this country at Ottawa will say it is possible to apply this Bill without there being an increase in prices, because the object of the Bill, the object of all these arrangements, is to raise wholesale prices. If you are to give satisfaction to the Dominions, and to the home producer of similar food commodities, the price to retail consumers must be considerably enhanced as a result. There is this very definite assurance that, whatever advantages come to any party to those Agreements, the people who will pay are those who buy the commodities in the shops. From the pockets of the poor in the main will come the money represented in the balance sheet of this transaction.
But there is something more pernicious than this preference. There is the discrimination which is going to prevent commodities being brought into this country under the disguise of a quota. The Chancellor was quite right. You can use a quota to describe a variety of arrangements. There is a definite provision in the Bill for the limitation of food products from certain countries and the allocation of the quota can be determined in advance. We can say exactly how much less bread will come from the Argentine next year as compared with last year. We can say exactly how much discrimination is to be exercised against one set of producers and in favour of another under the Agreement between ourselves, Australia and New Zealand. This discrimination is not only bad because of the effect on those who are to be subject to it but it is going to have a very serious effect upon market prices. There is a limitation of imports by a formidable percentage which is going to leave the market in the hands of people who can easily form a monopoly, shutting out Argentine meat products and leaving the meat market almost entirely at the disposal of people who will import meat products from the Dominions and who have been brought together, and indeed helped in the arrangements which will favour them by the operation of this Agreement, and a monopoly which will seriously enhance prices may be brought into operation to the very great disadvantage of the retail consumer. The effect on market prices will be detrimental to the buyer in the home market.
2111 10.30 p.m.
But there is another indirect effect which might be more damaging still. In the Argentine they find it exceedingly difficult to carry on trade with this country. They owe us considerable sums of money, which require from them an annual tribute of merchandise year by year. We find that even under present conditions Argentina find it very difficult to pay us because she has not sufficient capital at her command. We refuse her goods and she finds it increasingly difficult to pay the bill she owes us. Trade is mutual and reciprocal in all parts of the world and, while we definitely reduce the volume of Argentinian exports by the same measure we reduce the volume of our exports to the Argentine. This is a very serious matter indeed to the people in the part of the world to which I belong. We in South Wales live by the exportation of coal. The Argentinian market has been keeping a very large number of Welsh miners employed for 20 or 20 years. We find already, before this discrimination has its full effect, that the Argentine is compelled to buy in larger measure from Continental countries. The Argentine is buying more coal from Germany than it did 12 months ago. In September of this year the Argentine took 30,000 tons of coal from Germany, as against 13,000 tons in September, 1931. If this kind of discrimination goes on, we shall find that the Argentine will be driven against her will more and more to purchase coal and iron and steel in the Continental countries, and that the United States of America will take advantage of all the difficulties which we place upon the Argentine, and we shall find our coal exporting trade reduced in consequence.
There is also the indirect effect. I always try to do justice to those who differ from me in cases of this kind, but I cannot see how this directional policy, the idea of directing trade from this country to Australia, Canada, and other Dominions can be to the advantage of this country. Great Britain is the centre of the Agreement, and it will be the centre of the trade system. There will be intersections and cross currents not always to our advantage. I believe that the direct result of this discrimination will be to cause direct retaliation, and 2112 possibly we shall lose very much more than we shall gain. There is an article in the "Times" to-day dealing with the position of the Argentine, but I shall not at this hour take up the time of the House by reading it to hon. Members. The Government really must not assume that, having come to a patched-up settlement at Ottawa, they have necessarily done something which is good for the rest of the world. The Government are committed to the World Economic Conference, and it is reported to-day that the Committee have already begun to consider their Resolutions. We find that the Economic Sub-Committee of the Preparatory Committee have already considered a Note drafted by the President, setting out provisional conclusions arising out of the general discussion. This Note declares that present restrictions are the outcome of the crisis, the most serious symptoms of which, in the economic and financial field, were apparent in the spring of 1931. This was long before the crisis came which caused the change which left the Prime Minister in his place and put us on this side of the House. The Note also sets forth the chief reasons, both monetary and economic, for which these restrictive measures had been set up. The view is held unanimously that such restrictions have harmful effects, and that their abandonment should be promoted with all possible speed.
After stating that there is general agreement that the restrictions can only be abolished by decrees and in harmony with the improvement of monetary and financial conditions, the Note points out that a step forward might be achieved were certain quotas, the immediate need for which is past, abolished altogether, and where the quantities of imports allowed progressively increased. Subject to the results to be achieved, after consideration of various other questions before it, the sub-committee might ask the plenary committee to include on the agenda of the Conference an agreement for the gradual abandonment of measures limiting the quantity of goods imported.
We on this side of the House intend to exercise our final opportunity of protesting against the Bill and the Agreement. We believe that the Bill will not help Empire relations. It will not help to restore world prosperity, and we 2113 believe it will be a great barrier to the World Economic Conference from which many of us hope a great deal, and which we believe, and everybody must believe, contains the only hope for a settlement of the real problems that underlie the economic difficulties of the world.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. Malcolm MacDonald)
Hon. Members below the Gangway have promised to take this issue now from the House of Commons to the constituencies. The controversy over the Ottawa Agreements began some weeks ago with the threat of a great Liberal campaign in the country against the Agreements. Perhaps I might say, with respect, that if the campaign is no more effective and convincing in the country than it has been in this House none of the Dominions need fear that this country will not carry out the Agreements for five years. It is a campaign for Free Trade, a campaign which has sought to persuade the people of this country that the Ottawa Agreements do very little to reduce tariff barriers. That campaign has been embarrassed by certain events over which those hon. Members have no control. They could not control, for instance, the action of Australian Cabinet Ministers. They could not prevent one of those Cabinet Ministers resigning because in his view these Agreements reduce tariff barriers a great deal too much. Nor did the Opposition in Australia consult with hon. Members below the Gangway before declaring war on these Agreements for the very same reason.
I have been looking up the Debates in another Dominion Parliament, the Parliament of New Zealand, and I find that there has been no close liaison between the Opposition here and the Opposition there which might have helped the campaign in Great Britain, because the Opposition there moved an Amendment to the official Resolution approving of the Agreements, to add these words:Except in so far as the change tends to destroy the measure of protection accorded by existing laws to commodities which can be economically produced in New Zealand.So the New Zealand people do not agree with the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) or the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) they do agree with my hon. Friend the Finan- 2114 cial Secretary to the Treasury that protection against British goods is going to be abandoned in the Dominions. Hon. Members below the Gangway rely a great deal on certain things which have been said in Canada, but they have not been able to censor the writings of the greatest advocate of low tariffs in Canada to-day-the editor of the "Winnipeg Free Press." He is a critic of his Government and, therefore, perhaps does not write in exactly the same terms as would be used by Members on this Front Bench. This is what he writes about this Agreement which was reached at Ottawa:For two years Canadians have suffered from the exactions and oppressions of tariffs framed in the spirit of Protection run mad. Thanks to the insistence of the British Delegation, instead of being fobbed off with meaningless preferences based upon increased tariffs, there are in the Schedules submitted considerable remission of taxation. This is a definite step in the right direction. The crumbling of the tariff wall in Canada has begun.The hon. Member for Bodmin said that the walls of Jericho were going up. The great advocate of Free Trade in Canada says that the walls of Jericho are beginning to crumble. The right hon. Member for Darwen gave the House an idea of what he would have liked to see from Ottawa and quoted with approval the opening statement of the Leader of the British delegation at the Ottawa Conference, that the United Kingdom delegation hoped that the Conference "would lower tariff barriers." There is any amount of evidence from the Dominions, From opposition parties and from parties supporting the Governments in these Dominions, to show that the delegations at Ottawa did succeed in lowering tariff barriers and achieving the objective which the Lord President of the Council said was their desire.
We have discussed this Bill for two or three weeks in this House. It is a Bill which seeks to enable the Government of this country to carry out its obligations under the Ottawa Agreements. The obligations under these Agreements are reciprocal. Our delegation made concessions in return for concessions which it received, and I cannot see very much evidence that more than a comparatively small section of the people of this country regret the concessions made by our delegation. At any rate, I would remind the 2115 House of this, that in the Dominions, or in a majority of the Dominions, the concessions made are already beginning to be implemented. For instance, in Australia when the Ottawa Conference met there were prohibitions against a good number of our commodities trying to get into the Australian market. Since Ottawa came to an end these prohibitions have come to an end. In Australia, on a great many of our commodities which could or might get into the Australian markets when the Ottawa Conference began there was a Surcharge of 50 per cent. of the Customs Duty. Since the Ottawa Conference came to an end that Surcharge has also disappeared. On other commodities going into Australia there was a primage duty of 10 per cent., but that duty has also largely disappeared since the Ottawa Conference came to an end.
In New Zealand, to take another example, there was a Surtax of something like 5 per cent. on most of our goods going into the New Zealand market. Since Ottawa came to an end that Surtax has been removed by the New Zealand Government. In Canada there was a certain thing known as Section 43 of the Customs Act, a Clause which was peculiarly embarrassing to importers who tried to get their goods into the Canadian market. That Section gave the Customs authorities arbitrary powers of valuation, so that our importers had no certainty as to what duties would be imposed on their goods going into the Canadian market. Since Ottawa came to an end, and as a result of the Agreements reached at Ottawa, legislation has been introduced into the Canadian Parliament which is going to bring Section 43 to an end as far as British imports are concerned. Apart from these, all of which represent reductions in tariff barriers on inter-Imperial trade, the Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and South African Governments have already made the increased preferences they promised in the Ottawa Agreements effective, so that already in the Dominions the implementing of the Agreements has begun, and the Government asks the House of Commons this evening to enable it as quickly as possible to carry out its part of the undertaking.
2116 Why should the House of Commons enable the Government to do that? We have heard a great deal about these Agreements, how they seem to strike a balance, or how, in the view of some other people, they do not strike a balance at all. What are the main points in the Agreements which should allow their being greeted with enthusiasm by this House? In the first place the delegation which went to Ottawa for the first time conducted a thorough investigation into certain economic problems of the Empire. All sorts of difficulties were discussed, and as a result the system of Imperial Preference was enormously developed. As a consequence of that, inter-Imperial trade will be very considerably increased. That is a good thing for its own sake. I believe that there is an effective reply in that sentence to all the arguments about these Agreements doing nothing for employment in this country. The Dominion markets have been amongst our best markets. If we can do anything to improve purchasing power in those markets, then we shall be the gainers: our working people will be the gainers. That improved purchasing power in some of our most important markets in the world becomes all the more important when we have additional preference for our goods going into those markets.
In the second place this is a time when the great majority of people are crying out against trade -barriers. The great majority urge that trade barriers should be brought down. I have already shown that at any rate it is the view in the Dominions that the trade barriers are being brought down by these Agreements. What are the facts? I have already indicated how surcharges and primage duties and prohibitions and Clauses in Customs Acts which act as barriers to inter-Imperial trade have been removed since the Ottawa Conference came to an end. What about the immediate concessions, the immediate increases of tariff preferences given by Canada and Australia and other Dominions, quite apart from any postponed concessions, so to speak, under the Tariff Board Articles of the Agreements? Anyone who has examined the facts knows that, so far as the immediate Canadian concessions are concerned, there are many more reductions of tariffs against 2117 British goods than there are increases of tariffs against foreign goods.
I could give figures, but my time is rather short, and I think it is quite unnecessary to do so, because the House well knows that in the Canadian immediate concessions there is a far greater amount of reduction of trade barriers than increase against foreign imports. It is quite true that the position is not quite the same in the case of Australia. The immediate concessions granted under the formula by the Australian Government work out in such a way that there are more increases of tariffs against foreigners than decreases of tariffs against the British importer. What did Mr. Bruce say about that? He said:It will be found that in the majority of cases the increase of Preference under the application of the formula has been brought about by an increase of duties on foreign goods rather than by a lowering of rates on British goods. This is a temporary necessity.This was a temporary necessity, because Mr. Bruce went on to explain that the Australian Government had given a pledge to the Australian electorate that they would not reduce tariffs until they had received recommendations from their Tariff Board. So the Australian Government have had, of necessity, to grant our increased preferences by means of raising tariffs, but only as a temporary measure until the Tariff Board can conduct its inquiries and make recommendations as to what the rates of tariffs against British goods should be reduced to. The very language used by Mr. Bruce, the Leader of the Australian delegation at Ottawa, is an indication of the fact that it is the certain opinion of those Australians who were responsible for negotiating the Australian-British Agreement that these Agreements must result in considerable reductions of barriers to inter-Imperial trade.
As a matter of fact, it is on those questions connected with the tariff boards that the core of the criticism and opposition to this Bill in this House exists. That criticism and opposition is made on the assumption that the tariff board articles are not going to be effectively implemented, and that they are dead letters. Speech after speech on that side of the House and below the Gangway has been made to argue that these Agreements with regard to the tariff boards 2118 in Canada and Australia ore simply Agreements which mean nothing at all, and which are going to do nothing to make the tariff in those countries a competitive instead of a protective tariff against this country. One hon. Member below the Gangway said yesterday that "the Canadians themselves had no intention of allowing the Board to do anything." I wonder, supposing the National Government had negotiated an agreement with France or with Germany, if the hon. Member would say that those Agreements were useless because the French and the Germans did not mean to carry the Agreements out. Why should this suspicion be reserved for our own kith and kin? Hon. Members are always telling us to enter into negotiations with foreign Powers with a view to reducing tariffs in foreign countries against our goods. It is utterly inconsistent for anyone who approves of negotiations with foreign Powers to that end to be critical of negotiations with our own Dominions for the same end.
Quite apart from reasons of sentiment and political reasons, there is a good reason economically why we should start our negotiations with the Dominions instead of with some of the foreign Powers which have been referred to. I say quite apart from the sentimental reason, which is a very good reason—but, apart from that. If hon. Members would cheer an agreement between this country and the low-tariff Scandinavian countries by which tariffs were reduced in those low-tariff countries, then, surely, all the more should they cheer agreements between this country and high-tariff countries like Australia and Canada which are going to result in an effective reduction of tariffs against our imports into those countries. Therefore, I assume from the arguments which have been used against these Agreements—arguments based on the assumption that these tariff board articles are not going to operate—that if hon. Members could only be really convinced that the tariff board articles would operate, and that a competitive tariff in the Dominions would be substituted for a protective tariff against British goods—if only they could bring themselves to believe that, I assume they would not take up such an unfriendly attitude towards the Agreements as they do.
2119 It is because we have faith and confidence—where they have not—in the men with whom we negotiated at Ottawa that we welcome the Agreements that have been made. We believe that these important Articles in the Agreements, which we admit are the most important Articles and the Articles which are going to bring the greatest benefits to the people of this country if they are implemented—we believe those Articles are going to be effectively implemented, in the letter and in the spirit, by those with whom we negotiated at Ottawa. As hon. Members opposite have referred to Canada and have said that Canada does not mean these Articles to be operative, I think it is in place to remind the House of certain information in the Press recently as to invitations to this person and that person in Canada with a view to serving on the tariff board. Anyone who is familiar with the names which have been mentioned will know that that is evidence that the Canadian Prime Minister is extremely anxious to get on to the tariff board, just men and impartial men, to carry out these portions of the Agreements.
Hon. Members have said that this means that we are going to be exclusive and that we are trying to build up a self-sufficient Empire. No one at Ottawa talked about self-sufficiency and this Government, having carried through the first stage of its policy for reducing tariff barriers at the Ottawa Conference, intend to proceed with the next stage and to negotiate with foreign Powers. We are told that we have crippled ourselves and that we are not free to negotiate with foreign Powers. Eight or nine Liberal Ministers having read the Agree-
§ ments resigned from the Government—[An HON. MEMBER: "Thank God!"] because they felt that we had not left ourselves sufficient freedom for negotiation with foreign Powers. But while those eight or nine Ministers were resigning from the Government for that reason, about twice as many representatives of foreign Powers, also having read the Ottawa Agreements, were coming to Downing Street to ask for negotiations at once. Hon. Members have talked about foreign nations beginning to discriminate against us, but when numbers of them have been coming into Downing Street for the first time to ask for negotiations with us, and with us first and foremost, it does not look much like a great campaign among European nations of discrimination against us.
§ Just one word to hon. Members who have been anxious and quite rightly anxious about coal. To anyone who knows the trade position between this country and the Scandinavian countries and between this country and the Argentine, it must be obvious that coal will play a very important part in these proceedings. Therefore these Agreements are going to strengthen the Empire and strengthen this Commonwealth of Nations, politically as well as economically. The Government ask the House of Commons to give a Third Reading to this Bill in the belief that it will contribute to the prosperity of our people, where ever they are on the earth, and also help to rescue the whole world from the troubles of these days.
§ Question put, "That the word 'now' stand part of the Question."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 416; Noes, 68.2123
|Division No. 355.]||AYES||[11.0 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Bossom, A. C.|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart|
|Agnew Lieut.-Com. P. G.||Balniel, Lord||Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton|
|Altchison, Rt. Hon. Cralgie M.||Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell||Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.|
|Albery, Irving James||Barrie Sir Charles Cougar||Boyce, H. Leslie|
|Alexander. Sir William||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald|
|Allen, Sir J. Sandeman (L'pool, W.)||Bateman, A. L.||Bracken, Brendan|
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd.)||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks., Aylesbury)||Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.)||Brass, Captain Sir William|
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Briscoe, Capt. Richard George|
|Apsley, Lord||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Broadbent, Colonel John|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover)||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathanlel||Brocklebank, C. E. R.|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.||Brown, Ernest (Leith)|
|Atkinson, Cyril||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y)|
|Balley, Eric Alfred George||Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman||Buchan, John|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)||Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Blaker, Sir Reginald||Bullock, Captain Malcolm|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Borodale, Viscount||Burghley, Lord|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Burnett, John George||Ganzonl, Sir John||Levy, Thomas|
|Burton. Colonel Henry Walter||Gibson, Charles Granville||Lewis, Oswald|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Gledhill, Gilbert||Little, Graham., Sir Ernest|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Glossop, C. W. H.||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Campbell, Rear-Adml. G. (Burnley)||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Locker-Lampson, Rt.Hn. G,(Wd. Gr'n)|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Goff, Sir Park||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lockwood, Capt. J. H. (Shipley)|
|Cassels, James Dale||Gower, Sir Robert||Loder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Castle Stewart, Earl||Granville, Edgar||Lymington, Viscount|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Graves, Marjorle||MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partick)|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)||Greene, William P. C.||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Cazalet, Capt. V. A. (Chippenham)||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Chalmers, John Rutherford||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Chamberlain,Rt.Hn.Sir J. A.(Birm.,W)||Grimston, R. V.||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N.(Edgbaston)||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-le-Spring)||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McLean, Major Alan|
|Choriton, Alan Ernest Leofric||Guy, J. C. Morrison||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Christle, James Archibald||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macpherson, Rt. Hon. James I.|
|Clarke, Frank||Hall, Capt. W. D'Arcy (Brecon)||Magnay, Thomas|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Hamilton, Sir George (Ilford)||Maitland, Adam|
|Clayton Dr. George C.||Hanbury, Cecil||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Hanley, Dennis A.||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey||Harbord, Arthur||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Hartington, Marquess of||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Hartland, George A.||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenn'gt'n)||Meller, Richard James|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)||Merriman, Sir F. Boyd|
|Cooke, Douglas||Haslam, Henry (Lindsay, H'ncastle)||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Copeland, Ida||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mitcheson. G. G.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Craddock, Sir Reginald Henry||Hepworth, Joseph||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hope, Capt. Arthur O. J. (Aston)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hope, Sydney (Chester, Stalybridge)||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Cross, R. H.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Hornby, Frank||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Horne, Rt. Hon. Sir Robert S.||Moss, Captain H. J.|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Horobin, Ian M.||Muirhead, Major A. J.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Horsbrugh, Florence||Munro, Patrick|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Howard, Tom Forrest||Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Sornersetm, Yeovil)||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Nall, Sir Joseph|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Nall-Cain, Arthur Ronald N.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Dickle, John P.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Donner, P. W.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)|
|Drewe, Cedric||Hurst. Sir Gerald B.||North, Captain Edward T.|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Romf'd)||Nunn, William|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||O'Connor, Terence James|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Iveagh, Countess of||O'Donovan, Dr. William James|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Ormlston, Thomas|
|Dunglass, Lord||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Jamieson, Douglas||Palmer, Francis Noel|
|Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jennings, Roland||Patrick, Colin M.|
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.||Joel, Dudley J. Barneto||Peake, Captain Osbert|
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)||Pearson, William G.|
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)||Penny, Sir George|
|Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)||Percy, Lord Eustace|
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Ker, J. Campbell||Perkins, Walter R. D.|
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)||Peters, Dr. Sidney John|
|Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Kerr, Hamilton W.||Petherick, M.|
|Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Kimball, Lawrence||Pete, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)|
|Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Kirkpatrick, William M.||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada|
|Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Knatchbull, Captain Hon. M. H. R.||Pike, Cecil F.|
|Everard, W. Lindsay||Knebworth, Viscount||Potter, John|
|Falle, Sir Bertram G,||Knight, Holford||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.|
|Fermoy, Lord||Knox, Sir Alfred||Power, Sir John Cecil|
|Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul||Pownall, Sir Assheton|
|Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Law, Sir Alfred||Pybus, Percy John|
|Fox, Sir Gifford||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.|
|Fraser, Captain Ian||Leckie, J. A.||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)|
|Fremantle, Sir Francis||Leigh, Sir John||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)|
|Fuller, Captain A. G.||Leighton, Major B. E. P.||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Ramsden, E.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Ray, Sir William||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Touche, Gordon Cosmo|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Slater, John||Train, John|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow.In-F.)||Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Smith. R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine,C.)||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Remer, John R.||Smith-Carington, Neville W.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.||Smithers, Waldron||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Somervell, Donald Bradley||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Robinson, John Roland||Soper, Richard||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Spears, Brigadier-General Edward L.||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Runge, Norah Cecil||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside)||Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S)|
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo||Stevenson, James||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Salmon, Major Isidore||Storey, Samuel||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Salt, Edward W.||Stourton, Hon. John J.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut-Colonel George|
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Strauss, Edward A.||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart||Withers, Sir John James|
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Summersby, Charles H.||Womersley, Walter James|
|Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Sutcliffe, Harold||Worthington, Dr. John V.|
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. D.||Tate, Mavis Constance||Wragg, Herbert|
|Savery, Samuel Servington||Templeton, William P.||Young, Rt. Hon. Sir Hilton (S'v'oaks)|
|Scone, Lord||Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby)|
|Selley, Harry R.||Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Thomas, Major L. B. (King's Norton)||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||Groves, Thomas E.||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Milner, Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Batey, Joseph||Harris, Sir Percy||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Bernays, Robert||Hicks, Ernest George||Price, Gabriel|
|Briant, Frank||Holdsworth, Herbert||Rathbone, Eleanor|
|Brown. C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Janner, Barnett||Rea, Walter Russell|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Roberts. Aled (Wrexham)|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Rothschild, James A. de|
|Cowan, D. M.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cripps Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Curry, A. C.||Lawson. John James||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn, Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Daggar, George||Leonard, William||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick||White, Henry Graham|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Edwards, Charles||Lunn, William||Williams, Dr. John H. (Llanelly)|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Mabane, William||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||McEntee, Valentine L.||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||McKeag, William|
|Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. John and Mr. D. Graham.|
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro,W.)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
Bill read the Third time, and passed.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and Postponed.