HC Deb 04 July 1933 vol 280 cc179-311

Motion made, and Question proposed, That a sum, not exceeding £104,911, be granted to His Majesty, to complete the sum necessary to defray the Charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of March, 1934, for the Salaries and Expenses of the Office of the Committee of Privy Council for Trade, and Subordinate Departments, including certain Services arising out of the War."[Note.—£95,000 has been Voted on account.]

3.35 p.m.


I beg to move, That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again. I do so to call the attention of the Committee to the fact that the President of the Board of Trade, whose Vote we are to discuss, is not present. I think it is treating the House of Commons with great lack of courtesy, because, as I understand, the business for to-day was changed in order to suit the President of the Board of Trade. As a, matter of fact, the whole of these Supply days have had to be reconsidered in relation to the duties of Ministers elsewhere. We are all willing that such consideration as is possible should be given to Ministers and to the necessity of their -attending elsewhere but this is one of the most important Votes the Committee can discuss. It has to deal with trade and industry, with everything that enters into the life of the nation, and it is not proper that we should begin the discussion without the President of the Board of Trade being here. We have nothing against the Parliamentary Secretary, but, after all, he is not able to Speak with the authority of the President, who is a member of the Cabinet and knows the mind of the Cabinet on the important questions which are likely to be raised on this Vote. We are able, if we desire, to raise the question of the proceedings that are now being carried on at the World Economic Conference, but there is -no one, it seems to me, who is able to put the Government's position. Therefore, it is useless to make speeches.

They will be reported, of course but the Government's -Answer and the Government's policy will not be recorded.

Then, again, this is an occasion when the President of the Board of Trade is expected to give a review of the situation and deal with the Government's fiscal and trade policy; we expect to have a really comprehensive review of the whole of the proceedings. We also expect to, hear from the President what he thinks of the future. The Committee cannot possibly accept any sort of explanation as to why the President of the Board of Trade is not present. If it is impossible, if events have happened which have prevented him being here, then let us adjourn. As far as we are concerned, we should prefer to adjourn in order that the President might be in his place. I should like to say to the Lord President of the Council that there was very much in what the hon. Member below the Gangway said last week. These are days when Parliament and all that Parliament stands for is challenged, and, if we allow our proceedings to be conducted with responsible Cabinet Ministers not present, or being unwilling to be present, we shall reduce the House of Commons to a farce. No one will contend—I am sure that the Lord President of the Council will not contend—that it is not the duty of the right hon. Gentleman to stand at that Box and defend his policy, and no hon. Member will say that the Committee is treating the Vote with the respect and consideration it deserves if it goes on to discuss it without the President of the Board of Trade being here to answer. For all those reasons we ask the Committee to vote for the Motion. If it means wasting this evening we prefer that the evening should be wasted, than that we should go on without the President of the Board of Trade being present.

3.40 p.m.


My right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade felt confident that this Committee would realise that the future of British trade depends to an enormous extent on international action at the present time, and that it would understand that he was compelled to be somewhat late in his attendance for this Debate to-day, because of the all important work of the Economic Com mittee of the Conference, at which he is not only a United Kingdom delegate but also rapporteur. I have here a list of his engagements. He is the United Kingdom delegate to a Sub-Committee on Economic Policy at 3.30, and that meeting is followed by a further meeting of the United Kingdom delegation at 5.30. My right hon. Friend hopes to be here by 6.30. He asks me to give the customary review of the trade position, and I had hoped that the Committee would grant me indulgence to do that

3.41 p.m.


I have a great respect for the President of the Board of Trade, and great respect for the Economic Conference, but the House of Commons has some rights in this matter. It may very well be that the World Economic Conference is to result in something of advantage to world trade, but we are concerned in this House with our own country's business. I ask the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury whether he was aware that the President of the Board of Trade could not be here when we made arrangements for to-day. He knows that we changed the original arrangements. We have had to change nearly every Debate this week; we have changed some Debates from one day to another, and others we have adjourned altogether. Was the President of the Board of Trade aware that he had this committee meeting at 3.30 to-day? I think that that committee might have adjourned, or might have been called for some other time in order that the right hon. Gentleman could have been in his place in this House. which is his first duty.

3.43 p.m.


I gladly acknowledge the courtesy which the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has shown in this matter. No Opposition could be more ready to fall in with the difficulties of the present situation than have been the right hon. Gentleman and his friends, but circumstances have arisen recently which have made it impossible for the President of the Board of Trade to be in the House at the beginning of this Debate. I think the President of the Board of Trade felt that the general review of world trade he could leave to the very competent hands of his Parliamentary Secretary without giving any affront to the Committee. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will agree that the President of the Board of Trade would be the very last person to offer an affront to the Opposition or to the House as a whole. I am sure that as soon as possible he will come down to the House, fully cognisant of what has taken place in the Debate.

3.44 p.m.


The protest of the Leader of the Opposition is well justified. Surely when this Vote was put down the President of the Board of Trade knew what he would be doing. I do not think that anything short of illness ought to prevent his being here. Could he not have come and made his statement and then have gone back to the 5.30 meeting? The House of Commons is to be treated with scant courtesy if the Debate has to take place without the chief man being present. The Parliamentary Secretary is quite capable, but at the same time the President of the Board of Trade is the man who ought to be present and in charge here. I join in the protest because for some time the House of Commons has not occupied the place that it ought to occupy. It seems to me that the Government are not treating the Opposition with the courtesy to which it is entitled. The time has come for a protest, and I hope that the Leader of the Opposition will take us into the Lobby in order to emphasise our view of the matter.

3.46 p.m.


I am glad the right hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury has acknowledged the courtesy which the Opposition has shown to the President of the Board of Trade during the past few weeks. The President of the Board of Trade has a special duty towards this House, although he may be engaged in some special work in connection with the Economic Conference. In connection with the review of trade which we are expecting, it must be remembered that while there are signs of trade improvement in various parts, of the country it is admitted that in the great basic industries areas things are rapidly getting worse. Many Members in all parts of the House have a good deal to say on that subject, and they ex- pect the attendance of the President of the Board of Trade here to deal with a problem of that kind. It is a great pity indeed that he is not here to give some indication of what the Government intend to do in that matter.

3.48 p.m.


It ill becomes any Member of the House to complain of the absence of a Minister who is taking a very prominent part in trying to come to an international agreement. I associate myself with what has been said about the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, but as a minor back-bench Member who has been in the House some time I would point out that 'although on this occasion the Government action is absolutely justified, yet we are having in this House a growing number of occasions on which the Minister dealing with the big financial affairs of the country is compelled to be absent. That is tending rapidly to depreciate the value of this House, the greatest institution within the Empire. I -say this, not in any hostile or contradictory spirit, but as one who, rightly or wrongly, hap, very great faith in the House of Commons. In all its institutions I have tried to take my part. None the less I say quite frankly that unless in some way or other in future it can be made possible for Ministers to attend on big occasions in connection with their departments, the House of Commons will be seriously affected. There is no man who would do more for the House of Commons than the Lord President of the Council. I ask him with very great respect to endeavour, as far as he can, with the aid of his very skilful Chief Whip, to see that in future the absence of leading Ministers on big occasions is not so frequent, particularly on questions relating to finance and Estimates. I apologise for having kept the House these two minutes, but I feel that it is time that some us said these things, not in a hostile way, but because unless these things are said and acted on by the Government we shall have great difficulty in keeping the Constitution at that strength which it has always held in the past.

3.50 p.m.


I think it natural that the Committee should show itself restive at the absence of Cabinet Ministers on days such as this and undoubtedly such absences lessen the reality and effectiveness of the Debates. I should have joined my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition in carrying his protest into the Division Lobby were it not for the fact that the President of the Board of Trade is the rapporteur of one of the chief Commissions of the Economic Conference that to-clay is a very critical day for the Conference, and that that Commission this afternoon may have to arrive at. very serious decisions. It is for that reason and for that reason alone that I think that the Committee, under protest, should acquiesce in the absence of the President of the Board of Trade.

3.31 p.m.


This is not the first occasion on which such a situation has arisen. On the last occasion it was the Dominions Secretary who acted in this manner and we then protested. As regards the answer that the President of the Board of Trade has important engagements, may I remind the Committee that this day was fixed as a day on which the right hon. Gentleman had no important engagements. This Vote was taken to-day instead of on another day, because the right hon. Gentleman had important engagements -on that other day. We are told now that emergencies have arisen but the other people ought to alter their times to suit us. The emergencies were not made by us. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasury told us that it was impossible for the right hon. Gentleman to attend on a certain day and asked us to alter the date fixed for this Vote. We agreed to do so, and the date was altered to suit the Government's arrangements.

It is true that the right hon. Gentleman has been a little more courteous than the Dominions Secretary. He at least has told us where he is. The Prime Minister of course does not even do what the Dominions Secretary did. He does not even deign to look in here now. He is one of the lost legion. Now we find that without any notice to the Opposition, the President of the Board of Trade is absent from this Debate. The Chief Whip does not come to us and say:"We find that the Minister cannot be here to-day, and we must try to alter the date again." [Interruption.] I know that the hon. and learned Member for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight) knows about what is going on, but there are others of us who do not know. We are told that a meeting has been fixed at the Economic Conference for half-past three and that it must take place. What about the House of Commons? It does not matter. We are told there is another meeting fixed for half-past five and that it must take place. What about the House of Commons? If this protest had not been made and had there been another meeting arranged for half-past six, that too, would have taken place regardless of the convenience of the House of Commons.

Even in the answering of questions by Ministers every day we find Whips being put up to answer for important Departments and the only answer one gets to a Supplementary Question is that it will be conveyed to the Whip's right bon. Friend. That is becoming a notorious practice. Members of the Government ought to treat their own jobs with some respect. The ordinary tradesman would have more regard for the dignity of his labour than some Ministers appear to have for the duties of their office. Some of them are neglecting even elementary duties and with all due respect I think that every section of this Committee ought to vote with the Leader of the Opposition on this protest and congratulate him on the stand which he has made. The time has come to show the Government that they are not going to be allowed to carry on in this fashion.

3.55 p.m.


As reference was made to me by the bon. Member for Gorbals (Mr. Buchanan) may I say that when I interrupted him I did not presume to claim any special knowledge of circumstances outside this Chamber but what is going on is common knowledge and every bon. Member can inform himself of it if he chooses to do so. The Leader of the Opposition knows as well as anybody else that circumstances have arisen within recent hours which necessitate the hasty summoning of meetings for deliberations in which the Minister has to take part.


What are the circumstances?


I think that the explanation which has been given is per- fectly reasonable and that the Committee will accept it in the spirit in which it has been offered.

3.56 p.m.


I desire to remind hon. Members and the Government particularly that they claim to be the defenders of constitutional government and as such they ought to see that Ministers attend here to do the job which they are paid by the country to do. This protest is justified. I am not carried away by the fact that Ministers are not present because from my own point of view I have not that great respect for constitutional government which many hon. Members profess. At the same time I recognise in the speeches of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) and the bon. Member for Torquay (Mr. C. Williams) a feeling that we ought, at least, to keep up the pretence of constitutional government. Otherwise, it might go to the outside world that bon. Members while pretending to believe, in constitutional government and advocating it on the public platform are not paying proper respect and homage to it inside this Chamber. I believe that the majority who support this Government are not prepared to carry out constitutional government except when it suits themselves but they ought to be reminded on all occasions that they are the people who profess to believe in it and who ought to pay it proper respect.

As has been pointed out, a lack of interest in the proceedings at Question Time is becoming evident and that is due to the fact that Ministers are not in their places to give adequate answers on questions in which the constituencies are interested. Constitutional government is showing the same decline in this country as it has shown in other countries previous to its elimination and the setting up of dictatorships. Personally, I would prefer to go for a swim on an afternoon like this. I make no pretence. I think that would be better instead of sitting here discussing questions to which little attention will be paid in any case. We are only assisting in keeping up a pretence behind which a -real dictatorship is in. operation in this House, of Commons. I would prefer, as J say, to have the afternoon off, and, as the President of the Board of Trade is too busy to attend, I suggest that the Committee ought to take a few hours off and adjourn until he is able to be present. Let us at least show to the Government that attention is being paid outside to these matters. While the Lord President of the Council can go down to Glasgow and make a speech against one of the leaders of the Opposition and in defence of constitutional

government, these incidents show that it is only a pretence and a sham and that the spirit of dictatorship lurks in the minds and hearts of right hon. Gentlemen.

Question put," That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again."

The House divided: Ayes, 28; Noes, 214.

Original Question again 'proposed.

Division No. 252] AYES [4.0 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mainwaring, William Henry
Banfield, John William Jenkins, Sir William Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Batey, Joseph Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Thorne, William James
Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale) Kirkwood, David Tinker, John Joseph
Buchanan, George Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Wellhead, Richard C.
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lawson, John James Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Dagger, George Leonard, William Williams, Thomas (York., Don Valley)
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Logan, David Gilbert
Edwards, Charles Lunn, William TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) McGovern, John Mr. John and Mr. Groves.
Griffiths, T. (Monmouth, Pontypool) Mr. John and Mr. Groves.
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Dower, Captain A. V. G. Kerr, Hamilton W.
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Duckworth, George A. V. Knight, Holford
Albery, Irving James Duggan, Hubert John Knox, Sir Alfred
Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent) Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.) Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
Anstruther-Gray, W. J. Eden, Robert Anthony Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K. Edmondson, Major A. J. Lennox-Boyd, A. T.
Atholl, Duchess of Eimley, Viscount Levy, Thomas
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Emrys-Evans, P. V. Liddell. Walter S.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Lindsay, Noel Ker
Barclay-Harvey, C. M. Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.) Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen) Lovat-Fraser. James Alexander
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portem'th,C.) Everard, W. Lindsay Lyons, Abraham Montagu
Belt, Sir Alfred L. Falle, Sir Bertram G. MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) McCorquodale, M. S.
Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B. Fremantle, Sir Francis Macdonald. Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
Birchall, Major Sir John Dearman Gauit, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton McKie, John Hamilton
Blindell, James Giuckstein, Louis Halle Macquisten. Frederick Alexander
Boothby, Robert John Graham Goldie, Noel B. Magsnay, Thomas
Boulton, W. W. Gower, Sir Robert Maitland, Adam
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Granville, Edgar Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E.R.) Graves, Marjorie Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
Briscoe, Capt. Richard George Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.) Marsden, Commander Arthur
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Grigg, Sir Edward Martin, Thomas B.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newby) Grimston, B. V. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Buchan, John Gritten, W. G. Howard Mills, Sir Frederick (Layton, E,)
Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie Guinness, Thomas L. E. B. Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
Burnett, John George Guy, J. C. Morrison Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
Burton, Colonel Henry Walter Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. Moss, Captain H. J.
Cadogan, Hon. Edward Hales. Harold K. Nicholson, Rt. Hn. W. G. (Petersf'ld)
Calne, G. R. Hall Hamilton, Sir R. W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd) North, Edward T.
Campbell-Johnston. Malcolm Hammersley, Samuel S. Patrick, Colin M.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hanley, Dennis A. Peake, Captain Osbert
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Hannon, Patrick Joseph Pearson, William G.
Christie, James Archibald Harbord, Arthur Peat, Charles U.
Clarke, Frank Hartland, George A. Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Clarry, Reginald George Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Petherick, M.
Clayton, Sir Christopher Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Peto, Sir Basil E. (Devon, Barnstaple)
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Holdsworth, Herbert Pickering, Ernest H.
Conant, R. J. E. Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston) Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Cook, Thomas A. Hore-Belisha, Leslie Pike, Cecil F.
Cooper, A. Duff Hornby, Frank Raikes, Henry V. A. M.
Cowan, D. M. Horobin, Ian M. Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
Cranborne, Viscount Howard, Tom Forrest Rankin, Robert
Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H. Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B. Rea, Walter Russell
Crooke, J. Smedley Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Renwick, Major Gustav A.
Daikeith, Earl of Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Robinson, John Roland
Davison, Sir William Henry James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H. Ross, Ronald D.
Deepencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F. Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)
Dickle, John P. Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West) Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.
Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Ker, J. Campbell Runge, Norah Cecil
Doran, Edward Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose) Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffield,B'tside) Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H, Wayland, Sir William A.
Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Steel-Maitland, Rt. Hon. Sir Arthur Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour
Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Stewart, J. H. (F its, E.) Wells, Sydney Richard
Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen) Stones, James White, Henry Graham
Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Strickland, Captain W. F. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Stuart, Lord C. Crichton- Wills, Wilfrid D.
Savory, Samuel Servington Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F. Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)
Scone, Lord Tate, Mavis Constance Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Thomas, Rt. Hon. J. H. (Derby) Wise, Alfred R.
Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Thorp, Linton Theodore Womersley, Waiter James
Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D. Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford) Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley
Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine,C.) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon Worthington, Dr. John V.
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey) Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Smithers, Waldron Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor) Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock) Sir George Penny and Sir Victor
Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Wardlaw-M line, Sir John S. Warrender.
Spencer, Captain Richard A. Watt, Captain George Steven H.

4.8 p.m.


I rise as Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to discharge a duty, not of my own seeking, but cast upon me by the President of the Board of Trade. I propose, with the approval of the Committee, to make a general survey of the trade position and prospects of the country, to give a number of statistics, to adduce arguments and to make what, I hope the Committee will agree, is an encouraging and a comforting statement. Some Members of the Committee have made it clear that they think it will be plain and ineffective if I make it, but I hope that judgment will be postponed until the statement is made. I can summarise the whole by saying general improvement, definite and marked, in conditions of restrained but increasing confidence. Just as in a weather report the experts always couch their communiques in a minor key, admitting the presence of much that is uncertain and confining themselves to recording actual data, so must I report to the Committee on somewhat similar lines. The heavy depression is gradually moving away from these Islands, there are areas of low pressure, and there is a, tendency to be somewhat warmer. Further outlook, unsettled.

The Committee will understand that the Board of Trade deals with such a very large variety of topics, all of which possess singular features of importance at this time, that it is impossible for me, in a survey which would not tax the patience of the Committee, to do more than touch upon those items which, I imagine, will be of the greatest interest. But any classification is quite arbitrary, and the Committee will not misunderstand me and imagine that the topics not referred to are any less material. I have considered how best to present what, in any case, must be a complicated set of facts and figures to the Committee. So much that is occurring in the economic sphere is surprising, that there is a paucity of adjectives of astonishment, and I wish to avoid the fault of indulging in too many superlatives.

Looking at the matter broadly, I ask myself this question: What is the test by which the trade policy of a Government can be judged? By what measure is success, either absolute or comparative, gauged? Comparison with other countries alone is not enough. In any comparison it is difficult to see whether like is really being compared with like. It is hard geographically, financially or economically to find another country in the world possessing similar features to the United Kingdom, forming as it does part of the British Commonwealth of Nations. If we agree that comparison with other countries is not the only or indeed a satisfactory or complete test, we must see how far the policy itself achieves the objects for which it was introduced. The industrial policy of this country must, in the long run, aim at utilising the resources of the country in man-power, plant and material to the fullest extent. Besides the test of the utilisation of manpower, on the one hand, and plant and material, on the other, the policy must give results.

Taking these methods of testing in comparison with other countries, utilisation of man-power, achievements of results, let us look at the trading position of the United Kingdom to-day. The position as compared with other countries can be stated shortly. The tendency of international trade to decline has not yet been arrested. The position of the export trade of the United Kingdom is certainly not unsatisfactory in the light of the restrictions on world trade as a whole. Values are below the level of two years ago, entirely due to price changes, but the volume of exports is substantially unchanged, while during recent months the level of prices of exports has also remained stationary. I have a table of exports of merchandise from the United Kingdom, Germany, France and the United States of America for the first four months of last year and the first four months of this year. There is a decline in value in each case, and the percentages which I am going to give are percentages-of decline in value. The United States of America export trade in the first four months of 1933, as compared with the first four months of a year ago, has declined by no less than 27 per cent., Germany 25 per cent., France 14 per cent. and the United Kingdom 9 per cent., while, if I take the period of five months, but including the month of May, the British figures have gone down from 9 to 7 per cent.

I agree that the fact that the relative decline in our exports is less, even though considerably less, is only a very partial form of comfort, but I desire to show the position compared with other countries as well as merely the internal position. I have quoted the figures of value, but I now want to deal with the volume of exports and the percentage of decline for the same countries and for the years 1931 and 1932. There is this fact which can be deduced from the figures. From 1931 onward as compared with 1929 the last semi-normal year, there was a very substantial decline in the volume of exports in all the main countries, but although the United Kingdom experienced that decline of volume in 1931, the 1932 figures are no worse, which is in startling contrast to the figures for other countries. The United Kingdom production figures are 16 per cent. decline in 1931 and 17 per cent. in 1932; exports, decline in volume, 37 per cent. in 1931 and 37 per cent. in 1932.


Compared with what year I


Compared with 1929. In France production slumped from 11 per cent. in 1931 to 31 per cent. in 1932, and her exports from 22 per cent. decline in 1931 to 40 per cent. decline in 1932; Germany, from 27 per cent. decline in production in 1931 to 40 per cent. in 1932, and exports from 14 per cent. in 1931 to 41 per cent. in 1932; United States, 32 per cent. production in 1931 to 46 per cent. in 1932, and exports from 33 per cent. in 1931 to 48 per cent. in 1932. Figures are always difficult to follow, especially when someone has a table in front of him and is inviting his listeners to follow him, but I will repeat the deduction that is to be made from these figures. A decline was experienced in 1931 by all countries alike but our country is in startling contrast to the others, in that the decline is no greater in 1932, whereas in the material respects that I have referred to, France, Germany and the United States of America have suffered a very considerable decline in, the later year.


The hon. Gentleman does not include Japan in that generalisation, I suppose?


If the hon. Member wants the figures about Japan, as I thought might not be unlikely, I have one figure, but it is not easy, because I have to convert Japanese figures into sterling. The Japanese decline in value as distinct from volume, is approximately 6 per cent., compared with the United Kingdom's 9 percent. I have asked the Committee to allow me to test the success or failure of a trading policy by three different methods—by a comparison with other countries, by a reference to employment within, and by a reference to the achievement of results.

I have dealt briefly with the position of other countries. May I deal in equally small compass with the employment position? We axe indebted to the Ministry of Labour for the information that I am about to give to the Committee. There was a further substantial improvement in employment during the month of May, the fourth successive monthly improvement since the low point at the end of January. There were 9,657,000 insured persons in employment at the end of May, or 123,000 more on the month, and 372,000 more than in January, and the highest volume of employment among insured persons at any time since September, 1930. The figures are extremely interesting. The improvement since January has been very widespread. It has covered 90 out of 100 of the industrial groups, and 600 out of 700 of the whole of the areas for which statistics are available.

Employment is considerably better than it was in January, spread over such industries as building, tailoring, general engineering, distributive trades, wool, boots and shoes, hotels and boarding houses, and a number of others. In a number of trades between January and May the improvement is only seasonal, but comparing the position now with that of a year ago, there ate notable improvements in building, cotton, wool, engineering, boots and shoes, iron and steel, motor cars, docks, and, I am glad to say, shipbuilding, where there is a 9,000 decrease in unemployment among insured persons in May of this year compared with May of the year before. Putting it in a sentence, the general tone of industry is healthier than for some time past, and industrial and commercial activities would respond very quickly to successful results in the international field. There is little doubt in the mind of any impartial observer that the general over-all position is better and healthier than it was in September, 1931.


Surely the explanation of that is to be found in the depreciation of sterling as from the autumn of 1931?


As the hon. Member knows, that is, of course, -one factor, but it is only one factor, and the experience of business people up and down the land is that there is a firmer pulse running through industry. The invitations made to the public to subscribe, to have idle money transferred from banks to industry, is a very eloquent sign, and it is unnecessary carping to imagine that it is merely going off the Gold Standard which has produced these results. Having dealt with the position as compared with other countries, and having followed that up by dealing with the position of employment within our own country, I want to take a third test, that of results. This requires a little more detailed investigation. First, take the financial results. Whatever may be thought of the necessity or wisdom of the policy upon which the Import Duties Act was based, there has at least been collected for the revenue up to the end

of March last, the end of the financial year 1932–33, through the operation of the. Abnormal Importations Act and the. Import Duties Act, no less a sum than £224,000,000. Such a figure, even in days of astronomical calculations, is a very considerable sum of money.


For what year was that 7


Up to the end of March last. The Abnormal Importations Act was passed in the autumn of 1931, and the import Duties Act in 1932.


They are not the figures for a year?


The figures that I have given are the total sums collected from the Import Duties Act and the Abnormal Importations Act down to the end of the last financial year. Taking the two figures together, they amount to £224,000,000. 1 will give the sub-division of them, but it is quite clear, I think, from the way in which I am putting it, and I am saying that it is a little difficult, with the burden of taxation at its present rate, to understand from what other source an equivalent yield of revenue could have been found. I am embarking upon this inquiry: Can you test the trade policy of a country by measuring it in terms of results? I ask the Committee for a moment to think of what results they would wish to achieve if they set up a tariff policy. You have embarked on the Import Duties Act, 1932, upon a low general ad valorem duty of 10 per cent. and higher duties upon application and proof, and what is the object of a policy of that character? If that policy is embarked upon, it is necessary to see that the machinery which you set up neither keeps out that which you wish to come in nor allows to come in in undue quantities that which you wish to keep out. It is also rather important to see whether or not the importation of essential foodstuffs diminishes in volume.

I would invite the Committee to allow me to give them some figures to deal with those three aspects of this proposed testing of a policy by results. Take, first, whether you are excluding that which you wish to come in. Any politician desiring to set up a tariff system in any country would want as far as possible raw materials for the industries of that country to be allowed to come through the tariff barriers. It is therefore extremely important to ascertain whether the machinery set up by the Import Duties Act of 1932 is or is not excluding essential raw materials. So for from the figures supporting any suggestion that they are being excluded, there is a most gratifying increase in the percentage of raw materials which are imported. There was a 3 per cent. improvement last year over 1931, and for the first quarter of this year a 6 per cent. improvement on the first quarter of last year in the imports of raw materials.

Let me make clear to the Committee the argument which I am putting forward. Raw materials are coming through, notwithstanding the tariff, in greater quantities than they did before. Why? Because people want them here in order to manufacture goods. Why do they want them here to manufacture goods? There are two great lines of incentive to manufacture. First, there are stable conditions, accessibility of services, first-class personnel, trained workpeople ready for any form of art or industry, conditions of complete stability such as a, manufacturer would welcome in any other part of the world. Small wonder that there is an increased tendency to manufacture in this country.

That is one line of incentive, but take the other. If you are having a tariff policy with the defined object of excluding manufactured articles, just in the measure in which you succeed, by so much must you replace those manufactured articles that you formerly imported by making them yourself. What better proof that the policy is succeeding and that you are doing that, not in the mere statistics of so many fewer manufactured articles coming in, but that you are importing an increased percentage of raw materials, not for re-export, but in order to be used in manufactures in this country. So you find that your policy has improved the conditions of this country, first in comparison with other countries, secondly by decreasing unemployment, and thirdly in that your selection of imports, which is exactly what your tariff system is enabling you to do, has enabled you to get the raw materials that you want, while excluding the manufactured articles. So much for the increased importation of raw materials.

I do not intend to leave the matter there. There is a striking fall in the importation of manufactured articles. I can only give the figures of volume; I think that they are far more informative than figures of value. Compared with 1931, there was a fall in volume in 1932 of 36 per cent. in the importation of manufactured articles. If I take one particular industry and deal with iron and steel, I find that in the first five months of 1932 there were 841,000 tons of steel imported; and in the corresponding period a year later less than one-half, namely, under 400,000 tons. Practically all the home orders for steel are now filled by British firms, and Sheffield special steel has a peculiar activity in consequence. I propose to examine whether or not essential foodstuffs have been kept out by this tariff barrier. An industrialist country such as ours cannot at the same time produce the food that its people require and carry on industries to the extent that we desire. This country is tremendously populated, and great quantities of foodstuffs must necessarily be brought in. Those importations have continued, and the relative statistics of imports of food show that there has been no appreciable change in the imports of essential foodstuffs as the result of the Government's tariff policy. I say, therefore, that judged by the test of a comparison with other countries by success in achievement of the object aimed at, namely, the selection of the type of import, the increase in raw materials, the reduction in manufactured imports, the maintenance of the flow of food, the Government's policy is showing definite and tangible results.

I pass to an obvious reflection. The total volume of world trade is continuing to shrink. It is a satisfaction that Great Britain's share is maintained, but it is a somewhat melancholy one when we think of the tremendous interests we have in the maintenance of the volume of total trade. A relative improvement in our own country where the total volume of trade is much less can only give us somewhat poor consolation. The very best news for this Committee and for British trade would be that countries that are potential customers of Great Britain should themselves improve in their own prosperity. Our satisfaction would be enormously increased if world trade itself were showing signs of enlargement.

The Government's plans for enlarging world trade have been fully elaborated in a speech made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, which has been published as a White Paper. That document fully and adequately covers the whole of the policy in the insistence upon the necessity of raising prices, and the use of the increased spending power which will be given to the agricultural community as a result of higher price levels for the purchase of increased quantities of industrial goods. If that movement succeeds, there will be an increased volume of world trade, greater demand for tonnage, possibly a demand ultimately for shipbuilding, greater, consumption of iron and steel and of coal, and so on. None of these things can be accomplished either easily or quickly. Much ground has to be covered before a. result of that kind can be achieved.

The shrinkage of world trade is of particular importance to this country because of the necessity of the maintenance of our invisible exports. They consist very largely of our shipping service, and I suppose that it would be true to say that shipping and shipbuilding are about as bad as they could be. Shipping, of course, is suffering from two main causes-the dislocation of trade and the absence of cargo on the one hand; and the presence of a glut of tonnage, added to constantly by the system of subsidies employed by the Governments of certain countries on the other. With regard to dislocation, of trade, the Government have a, policy of improvement flowing from the Ottawa Agreements, and the new trade agreements, and the removal of barriers to international trade such as is being discussed in the conference.

It is estimated that something like 230,000,000 a year is being paid by foreign competitors in subsidies to their shipping. The losses that are being experienced are suffered by those who subsidise as well as by those who do not, and it is right to say that that 230,000,000 expenditure brings very little back to the exchequers of the countries that pay them out. Their budgets are weighted and their shipping position may be immeasurably worse, and it is a contribution on the wrong lines to meet the prob- lem, of international shipping. There are millions of tons of foreign shipping laid up. Fortunately, there has been a considerable decline of tonnage available recently, but if we return to shipbuilding the extent of the depression is clear. We are building only a small proportion of the world's total. In 1929 it was 1,500,000 tons, representing about 50 per cent.; on the 31st March, 1933, it was 250,000 tons only—about 34 per cent. of the tonnage under construction. The general level of freights has continued low.

It is small wonder then that with world trade shrinking and with the inevitable effect -on invisible exports, we must turn to measures of a wider significance than Acts of Parliament passed by this House. We must indulge in Imperial and international agreements in order to try and secure other markets. That brings me to the policy of the Ottawa Agreements. I have some information which I desire to give the Committee with regard to those agreements. I should like to remind the Committee, if they axe passing judgment on the Ottawa policy, that it is a long-range policy, that the agreements have been in operation only since the last quarter of 1932, and, as far as India is concerned, only since the beginning of this year. I should like the Committee to distinguish between imports into this country and exports from it, for this reason. The Dominions have been enjoying some measure of preference in our markets since March of last year. The Ottawa Agreements, therefore, so far as the Dominions are concerned, enables them to import more freely into an existing market. The tendency would therefore be for far greater Dominion trade with the home country immediately as a result of the Ottawa Agreements. So far as exports from the United Kingdom to the Dominions are concerned, it meant making a new market in many respects, a market which has had the shortest period in which to develop. Exports are therefore bound necessarily to take a longer period to show signs of development.

The exports of domestic produce from the United Kingdom to certain Dominions show no visible increases. The periods I will take are the six months ended March, 1932, and the six months ending March, 1933. With regard to Canada, the figures are approximately the same, but with a slight decrease; Australia, the exports of domestic produce from the United Kingdom have gone up from £7,500,000 to between £10,000,000 and £11,000,000; New Zealand, the figures are approximately level; South Africa, from just under £10,000,000 to a little over; £10,500,000; Southern Rhodesia, from £500,000 to £700,000; India, from just under £8,500,000 to approximately £8,750,000. The proportions of the value of exports are also interesting. Taking the same periods, the percentage of the British exports to Canada remains approximately 4 per cent.; Australia went up from 4 per cent. to 6 per cent.—


Was not the value of the 9 different in the two periods?


All necessary variations are usually made by the statistical department before the figures are given to me, but the hon. Member may assume that this compares like with like. If I find that that is not the case I will make the necessary corrections. All the figures have been brought down to a common level.


What is it the percentage of?


Percentage of the value of the total exports which go from the United Kingdom; that is to say, the United Kingdom proportion of the exports to those countries. [HON. MEMBERS:"Imports!"] I am going for the moment to be content to read my brief on the proportion of the value of the total exports represented by the United Kingdom exports, and I think that I will be found to be right.


Surely the hon. Gentleman means the total proportion of the exports which go to Canada.


I do; that is precisely what I was going to say. I think that for once in a way the answer is as I have said it. The figures for Canada are 4 per cent. each period; for Australia 4 per cent. in 1932 and 5.9 per cent. in 1933; New Zealand was stationary; South Africa showed 9, slight percentage increase; Southern Rhodesia also showed a slight percentage increase and India a slight increase. There are now imports into Canada in certain trades which show a very remarkable improvement so far as some of our export trades are concerned. It is clear that the United Kingdom has increased her proportion of Canadian imports, and I am going to give certain specified instances in proof of that fact. The United Kingdom increase of chemical exports to Canada in that six months was no less than 11.9 per cent., perfumery 15 per cent., cutlery 57 per cent., motor cars 109 per cent., wireless apparatus 12 per cent., fabrics of flax and hemp 272 per cent.


What are the actual figures? Percentages are no use.


It is all very well for the right hon. Gentleman to say that percentages are no use. I have tried to summarise very long tables of figures. If the Committee would like all the three or four columns of figures, of course I will give them. They are all in millions of dollars.


What are the totals?


Does the right hon. Gentleman desire the total of the whole, or of each column 7


The total of the whole. If there is an increase of 100 per cent. in a tiny export it does not indicate anything at all.


It indicates what I want to indicate. I am indicating trade that was not before and is now. If it is 100 percent. more than it was I conclude it is twice as much as it was before. I take credit for the fact that in flax and hemp there is an increase in the total from the United Kingdom of, roughly, 550,000 dollars. I did not say"to the United Kingdom." It is an import into Canada, from the United Kingdom, of a specialised export. Many of the other figures go into millions of dollars. In the case of chemicals it is millions of dollars.


Motor cars?


In motor cars it is not as much in the case of Canada, because a good many cars are made in Canada.


What is the figure?


Motor cars, 31 cars valued at 99,000 dollars in March, 1932, and 65 cars valued at 60,000 dollars in March, 1933. 1 am not trying to score a false point, or trying in the least to make more out of these figures than they themselves indicate. I have seen the criticism that the Ottawa Agreements have produced nothing. The answer on the facts I have given is"Not nothing, but at any rate something—and an in. creasing something." That was my point. I come now to"Figures of imports into certain British countries distinguishing the United Kingdom share." I am comparing six months ended March, 1932, with six months ended March, 1933. In the case of the Union of South Africa, we used to have 45 per cent. of their imports, we now have 49; New Zealand, we used to have 50 per cent., we now have 51 per cent.; Southern Rhodesia, we used to have 42 per cent., we now have 48 per cent.; British India, we used to have 38 per cent., we now have 40 per cent. I do not make any more out of that than just a passing reference.

Now I come to the Trade Agreements. The policy of the British Government, having entered into the Ottawa Agreements is to enter into trading agreements with foreign countries. What are we seeking to do? We are seeking to gain markets for British manufactured goods which markets could not be obtained except under a policy of give and take. What has been the result so far? Why was coal selected as the first commodity to be dealt with on a large scale? There is a very simple reason. The countries which first approached us were low tariff countries, there was comparatively little that one could offer, but there was this startling fact that up to about 1926 the coal requirements of all those Scandinavian countries had been predominately supplied by Great Britain. Owing to the events of 1926 and subsequently those markets had been lost to this country and we conceived that the first item of constructive policy was to win back a large part of those markets for the collieries of the United Kingdom. The agreements with Denmark, Germany, Iceland and Norway and Sweden will at least increase our sales of coal by something like 3,000,000 tons a year in markets which in the last few years have been supplied from Germany, Poland and Silesia to the detriment of our own coalfields. A small achievement, a modest achievement, but an achievement on perfectly sound lines and one having the additional merit of giving some experience in the technique of bilateral bargaining. There are 66 nations at the World Economic Conference. To recall something of one's school arithmetic. If there are 66 nations and we are going to make bilateral agreements how many agreements will there be? It is a well-known formula: N multiplied by N minus 1 over 2. It is a, perfectly simple formula and the answer is 2,145. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has dealt with that in his speech on the White Paper, We do not rule out of account any method of dealing by multilateral agreements with an international situation if it permits of it but we say that while you are waiting for the time to develop when you can have tariff reductions on a large scale by the simple expedient of drawing a pen through a line and achieving some result, you should continue the good work of making perfectly sensible bilateral agreements with countries willing to offer advantages, and see whether in return you cannot either do a deal or at least enter into a sale and purchase arrangement. That is the policy of His Majesty's Government with regard to trade agreements, and it is significant to record as the President of the Board of Trade has so often said, that country after country is knocking on the door and asking to have its name inscribed on the waiting list of those with whom agreements can be made.


May I ask when those trade agreements are going to begin to operate as far as coal is concerned? There is unemployment—


It is Hans Andersen's fairy tale.


I do not understand the hon. Gentleman when he talks about unemployment growing rapidly. I have just given figures which show that the reverse is the case. [Interruption.] I am not misquoting him. He did not say the coal trade when he raised his question about unemployment.


I said"in coal." I was talking about coal.


I beg the hon. Gentleman's pardon. I did not hear the tail end of the swallowed words. He must know that May and June are the months of lowest employment in the coal trade. There is a seasonal reduction owing to the lack of requirements in the domestic coal market, and, if this weather continues, employment in the coal trade is bound temporarily to -suffer. These agreements axe operating at once. As compared with 1931 these five agreements will mean employment for 11,644 miners. It is a small matter perhaps, but it has been useful to help us in the balance of trade. For the first five months of the year 1933 as compared with 1932 the merchandise balance of trade shows an improvement of £;20,000,000. I have only a few more words to say by way of general survey because -for the reasons I gave in opening it is impossible to cover the whole ground; and the classification being perfectly arbitrary I have chosen those matters to which I have referred but not in any way ruling out the remainder.

I want to call attention to industrial development in the United Kingdom, said here I would express the hope that hon. Members will very soon read the extensive survey of industrial development in 1932 and of factories established, extended and closed down which were published in the current number of the Board of Trade Journal. It is an exhaustive analysis of all the factories established, extended or closed down and enables one to make a comprehensive survey of the whole position. The Government have not power to locate industries in any one part of the country, and do not propose to take powers to do so. Surveys have been made of the depressed areas, and they are a valuable contribution to knowledge. The value of this survey must be that it enables a review of industry as a whole to be made, enables us to plot tendencies, to see what is occurring, to note what type of industry is being directed to this country, and where that industry chooses to locate itself. In popular conversation we hear sometimes the phrase,"The drift of industry to the south." This survey shows that nothing that happened in 1932 gives any colour to such a suggestion. The older industries do not move from north to the south. There is a tendency among the newer industries to set themselves up somewhere nearer the Greater London area, but any idea that there is a tendency to a drift of industry from the older industrialised areas to the south is shown to be completely erroneous by the facts of 1932 as we know them in the Department.

There are matters in connection with other topics which I could very well have brought in, but I do not propose to weary the Committee with a number of details of them. I ask the Committee to realise that while, no doubt, there is much that is still wrong in the world yet, taking every factor into consideration, the industrial position is immeasurably better than we had grounds for thinking it would be. It shows steady and sustained improvement over a very wide area, and I venture to think the Committee will feel that the statement I have made has features of comfort.


May I give the hon. Gentleman this opportunity of correcting what I think was a mistake in his figures about Japanese trade? He informed the Committee that Japanese trade shows a decline. I will quote from page 361 of the Board of Trade Journal, in which it says, comparing 1932 with 1931, that Japan has increased its imports 15.9 per cent. and increased its exports 21.8.


I will only take the hon. Gentleman back to the statement 'which I gave, and read it again to see whether, for purposes of greater accuracy it sounds better the second time."The value of domestic exports of merchandise shows this: If converted into sterling the Japanese figures show a decline of 6 per cent."


You are comparing the volume of trade of the same country from one year to the next.


I am not comparing the volume at all. I am dealing with value. I am dealing with sterling.


Why should it be converted into sterling?


Because of the extraordinary depreciation of the yen. I am not in the least disposed to talk in terms of yen, which I do not understand, I prefer to talk in terms of sterling which I do. If converted into sterling the Japanese figures for the first quarter show a decline of 6 per cent.


We must get this matter clear. I am quoting now from the Board of Trade Journal, and from a special article on world trade in 1932. So far as I understand the article, it has converted all the values into sterling, but it has done so at par. If the Parliamentary Secretary has converted into sterling at some unknown figure, we are going to get a comparison which may be very misleading. From the figures of the Board of Trade Journal there is no doubt that it is distinctly stated, both in respect of exports and imports, that in 1932, as compared with 1931, there was a large increase in the value as well as in the volume of Japanese trade.


I will take an opportunity of making some inquiry. I appreciate the importance of the point, and I am sure that the Committee will understand that I have every wish to give the facts as far as I can. I will make inquiry between now and the time when the President of the Board of Trade arrives, or whoever is going to make the final speech, and I will have this material ready.


Will the bon. Gentleman also give as information in regard to volume I When I made a speech in the House on the influence of Japanese imports into this country I had figures which showed that the volume was enormously increased.


I certainly will endeavour to secure information dealing with the whole of Japanese competition. It is a matter which obviously will be raised later in the Debate. I had assumed that the President of the Board of Trade would be dealing with the matter, and I deliberately, although I should have liked to deal with it, reserved it on purpose.


It might be for the convenience of the Committee if I say that I have the Japanese official figures. The official figures in dollars for the imports into Japan in 1929 are 1,000,000,000 dollars. The figure for 1933 is 744,000,000 dollars; for 1931, 589,000,000 gold dollars; and for 1932, 396,000,000 dollars. The exports for 1929 were 969,000,000 dollars, and for the three following years 707,000,000 dollars, 547,000,000 dollars and 388,000,000 dollars.

5.3 p.m.


I beg to move, to reduce the Vote by £100.

I know 'of no occasion, on which this Committee has been discussing the Board of Trade Vote, upon which such a reduction would have been more justified than to day. I join in the protest which was made by my right bon. Friend with regard to the absence of the President of the Board of Trade. We do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary; he has done exceedingly well in reviewing the world position of trade, and in placing the case for the Department before the Committee. The Committee should have had the presence of the President of the Board of Trade, so that we could have had, not only a review of world trade for last year, but some information with regard to the future prospects of trade, especially in reference to the fact that the World Economic Conference is meeting at the present time.

The bon. Member said that the heavy depression was passing away from these islands, but I am afraid that very little hope will be brought into the homes of a large number of people, especially in those areas where the heavy industries have been, and are, so depressed. As a result of the statement to which we have listened, one would imagine that by going back to 1929, to which the Parliamentary Secretary referred as a, seminormal year, everything would be all right. He must remember that long before 1929 this country was faced with an unprecedented depression. From 1921 to 1929 we consistently had over 1,000,000 men unemployed. I rather expected that the President of the Board of Trade would have been here this afternoon to give us his testimony. For over 12 months we have had the new policy of Tariffs and Protection, and these are the results which are submitted to us. The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the improvement of trade in this country, but he could make a similar statement in regard to the improvement of trade in almost every country in the world. Will he say that the improvement in trade during the last four months, or during the first five months of this year, is comparable with the improvement in trade in America during last month? While he talks about 120,000 men replaced in employment in the month of May, as compared with the month (if April, during the same period in America there were not 120,000 men placed in employment, but over 1,000,000, and production has increased, as compared with the same period of last year, by something like 8 or 9 per cent. One could turn. to almost every country and find the same results.

The only point of substance which was made by the hon. Gentleman was as to the number of now factories which had been established since the change in the fiscal system. During the year ended in April last, whatever advantage Protection gave, industry had it. Foreigners' goods were taxed or shut out from our markets, and the field was left to the home manufacturers, and to those foreign capitalists who, we were told, would rush to open factories in the shelter of our tariff walls, and so find employment for British labour. As a result of the survey which has been conducted by the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Labour and the Overseas Trade Department, we are told that some 646 new factories, employing 25 or more persons each, have been established in this country. At the same time we are told that 355 factories were closed down. We have been told that the 646 factories provided employment for some 46,000 or 47,000 workpeople, but we have had no indication of the number of people who have been thrown out of employment as a result of the closing down of the 355 factories. Those who made the survey were careful enough to get the figures regarding the number of people who have been placed in employment as the result of the opening of the new factories, but they could not even take the trouble to ascertain the number of men displaced.

The hon. Member for Chester le Street (Mr. Lawson) was quite right when he questioned the Parliamentary Secretary regarding the coal industry. Comparing the state of employment in the coal industry on 10th June of this year, with the beginning of last year, we find that one and a half times as many men have been thrown out of employment in the coal industry than have been absorbed in the new factories. In other words, while 47,000 persons have been taken into employment in the new factories, there have been 69,000 miners thrown out of employment, in June of this year as compared with January of last year. I am not suggesting that this is entirely due to Tariffs, but Tariffs have had a good deal to do with it. I shall be able to place before the Committee figures dealing with that matter. The test of employment in this country is production. Are we producing more, as the result of the tariff policy of the Government, or less? If we take a test over the first quarter of this year, and compare it with the first quarter of last year, we find that production is down by 1 per cent., notwithstanding the new factories. I have the figures here.

There is another test, and that is the improvement in employment in those areas where the new factories have been established. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, or the Minister of Labour himself, said that in a very large number of the areas where new factories had 'been, established there had been a considerable reduction in the number of persons employed. Let me take the case of Greater London. Some 251 new factories have been established in this area, but there is a slight reduction in the number of persons employed. Compared with April of this year, it is down by quite 9 per cent., and compared with last year it is down by 1 per cent. Taking the whole field, with the one exception, there is very little change regarding employment in those areas. In the Principality of Wales, from which I come, 11 new factories and two extensions have been established, in order to give additional employment, or to reduce unemployment. In the area in which are these new factories, there is an actual increase in the percentage of insured persons who axe unemployed, as compared with a year ago.

The Parliamentary Secretary dealt with the question of unemployment. He prided himself upon such a large increase in the number of men who have been placed in employment, and upon the reduction in the number of persons unemployed. Could he not get the same result if he compared the figures of Germany? I have already given the figures for America, and, of all the countries for which statistics are given in the Board of Trade Journal, I have only been able to find one where there has been an increase in the number of persons unemployed, and that is New Zealand. Italy, France, Belgium, Austria and even the Irish Free State, 9,11 show a reduction in the number of persons unemployed. When the bon. Gentleman gives figures regarding the reduction in the number of persons unemployed, he should remember that the number of persons in receipt of public assistance relief in this country in May of the present year was greater by 11 per cent. than the number in May of last year. A number of persons who previously were in receipt of unemployment benefit are now in receipt of public assistance relief.

I may also remind the bon. Gentleman that the actual purchasing power of the wages of the workpeople in this country for the first quarter of this year, as compared with the first quarter of last year, is down by no less than £8,000,000. These are the figures given by Mr. Colin Clark in an article in the"Economic Journal" for June, where he points out that the income of wage earners in this country whose annual income is £250 or less has boon reduced from £392,000,000 in the first quarter of 1932 to £384,000,000 in the first quarter of 1933. The bon. Gentleman dealt with the question of shipping, and informed us of the amount of foreign tonnage laid up, but he did not give the figures for British ships laid up. He will find that the percentage of British ships laid up is almost as large as in the case of foreign ships. Neither did he inform the Committee that, of the total shipping in the world to-day, no less than 20,000,000 deadweight is laid up, despite the fact that millions of tons have been scrapped since 1930. In this country we Lave 60,000 British seamen unemployed, including no fewer than 2,000 certificated shipmasters and navigating officers. There is very little hope for the people of this country in the statement Ave have just heard from the bon. Gentleman.

He referred with some pride to Ottawa, and said that Ottawa was the commencing point; and he gave certain figures regarding the increase of exports from this country to Canada and some of the other Dominions. I think it would have been very much better if he had taken the aggregate trade between t1fis country and the Dominions or British possessions, and had made a comparison with the position 12 months ago. He very conveniently took the six months from October, 1932, to the end of March 1933. I will give the figures for the first three, months of this year, as compared with the first three months of last year. There is very little consolation for the people of this country in the figures which have been published in the Board of Trade Journal. I find that there is an actual increase in the imports into this country from British countries of no less than 4 1 per cent. in the first quarter of this year as compared with the first quarter of last year, while the increase in exports from this country to British Empire countries is less than 1 per cent. According to these figures, we are still to be the milch cow for the Dominions, but when it comes to a question of reciprocity, when it comes to the real principle that should underlie the Ottawa Agreements, we find that the Dominions in this matter have the advantage to, the extent of over 3 per cent.

The bon. Gentleman referred to the trade agreements which have been negotiated. I do not know whether he did so purposely, but he referred to 1926. 1 would like to remind him and others who refer to 1926, especially from the Government benches, as though any trade lost during 1926 was lost because of something which the miners did, that the miners did not ask for a, stoppage in 1926. The miners were given a month's notice to terminate agreements and contracts, and, because the owners could not impose upon them terms which the miners regarded as unreasonable, and which indeed, as I am reminded, would have broken the law, the miners were locked out in some of the coalfields of this country for seven months; and never let it be said to the credit of the Government of that day that they were starved into submission, into working under conditions the like of which existed in no other coalfield in Europe.


I have no objection, to the bon. Member giving his answer to what he imagined may have been referred to in connection with 1926, but I must call the attention of the Committee to the fact that we cannot discuss the causes of these incidents which happened in 1926.


Certainly I accept what you say, but it was not my intention to discuss those matters, and, if you had allowed me to proceed for another second, I should have gone off 1926.


I thought I made it clear that I did not object to what the hon. Member said, but I thought it was as well to mention the matter, so that other Members of the Committee might not be encouraged to discuss it further.


I dealt with it simply because it was mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, and mentioned in such a way as to give the impression, which a number of hon. Members opposite appear to have, that the miners of this country were responsible for what took place in 1926.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the use of the tariffs as a weapon, and to what has been done by this Government in obtaining markets for British coal in the Scandinavian countries. I do not know that the Government can take much credit to themselves for what they have done. All the Governments with whom the six agreements have been entered into, of which, as the hon. Gentleman rightly said, coal forms a very important part, have given undertakings relating to the import of coal from the United Kingdom into their countries. Would he tell me the difference between the amount of coal which was imported into Germany in 1929, or 1928, or 1927, and the 180,000 tons a year which the Germans have agreed to take under this agreement; and will he compare the imports of coal into Germany with the pre-War imports? Will he also do the same thing as regards Denmark? He rightly says that Denmark took from this country in 1913 no less than 03 per cent. of the total coal imported into that country. Norway took 97 per cent., and in 1927 Norway took from this country more coal than she is going to take under the present agreement. Sweden, in 1925, took from this country 78 per cent. of the total coal which she imported, while under this agreement she is taking something like 47 per cent. I am not going to minimize for a moment the market for 3,000,000 tons of coal, but, if this is all that can be obtained for the coal industry as the result of using this tariff, weapon, it shows that very little can be obtained in that way. The hon. Gentleman did not refer to the agreement with the Argentine. Is the coal industry going to benefit very much as a result of that agreement?

Dr. BURGIN indicated assent.


I am hoping that something may accrue as a result of the negotiations which are proceeding, but up to the present all that the Argentine Government have promised to do is to place coal on the Free List. Is that a concession which has been given solely to this country 7 1 have here a, letter from one of the largest coal exporters in South Wales, dealing with the position in the Argentine since this agreement has been entered into. He writes: The Sofina, Electricity Works of Buenos Aires invited tenders in the usual way. The coal is actually bought in Brussels, but of course the company operates in the Argentine. He goes on to say what I was amazed to hear: The Dutch collieries have quoted 4s. per ton less than our cost price, which is the minimum that is allowed under the Coal Mines Act of 1930. The result of these agreements, very largely, has been to divert coal from markets which those countries have had previously, into other markets at a very much cheaper rate than British coal, not as a result of fair competition or fair trading, but, very largely, as a result of a heavy subsidy which is being given to export coal, in this case by the Dutch Government. Where we previously had a market for the 120,000 tons of coal that went into these works, we find that the Dutch people are getting the major portion of that market. In the Danish Agreement, while no actual percentage is specified for the amount of coke which they are going to take from this country, there is nevertheless a definite promise that they will take British coke as far as it is possible for them to take it, but my attention has recently been drawn to the fact that one of the members of the delegation which was in this country negotiating the agreement has himself entered into an agreement with German coalowners for the supply of coke for the whole of next year. I repeat that I do not minimise a market for 3,000,000 tons of coal, but, at the same time, if that is all we are going to get as a result of using this tariff weapon, it seems that we are not going to get very much.

The hon. Gentleman did not refer to the dislocation which took place between this country and Russia. I am not going to enter into a discussion of the dispute between the two nations, other than to say that 1 am expressing the opinions of my hon. Friends on this side when I say we, are very pleased that the matter has been settled. The interruption to trade was inflicting a very great loss on both countries and a growing body of manufacturers, many of them Tories in politics, have been pressing for an end to this costly stoppage. It is to be hoped that, before there should be a dislocation in trade such as happened with regard to this dispute, the negotiations will be conducted with very much more energy and ability than were the negotiations regarding this matter in the early days. The President of the Board of Trade himself is not free from condemnation. His speech in winding up the Debate on the Bill dealing with the prohibition of Russian imports was such that I thought he must have lost his head. I do not know any tenth rate trade union leader who would keep his position for a day if he could not negotiate difficulties better than this was dealt with. Imagine the President of the Board of Trade talking of a Sovereign nation and saying we must bring it to its knees and we must touch them on a sensitive spot.


Is the hon. Gentleman quoting I




Will he give me the reference I


It was the speech winding up the Debate on 5th April. The right hon. Gentleman said: But would the withdrawal of Sir Edmund Ovey from Moscow have brought the Russian Government to their knees? At all events, the withdrawal of the British Ambassador to Moscow would not have touched the Russian Government on any sensitive spot. If you ask me whether this touches them on a sensitive spot I say that it does; and, what is more, it is the only spot we can reach."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 5th April. 1933; col. 1884, Vol. 276.] As far as I know, this nation has very little credit out of what has taken place during the last two months. [An HON MEMBER:"It has achieved its object!]

It might have achieved its object in the early days if the right hon. Gentleman had gone about it in the right way. Does the hon. Gentleman deny that I May I give an instance that took place as far back as 1921, when the Lord President of the Council was President of the Board of Trade and negotiated a trade agreement with Russia? The whole of the time that the negotiations were proceeding, and at the time the agreement was signed, the then Member for Dudley Members who were in the last Parliament will remember him and his connection with the Lord President of the Council—was in gaol with some dozens of other Britishers. The attention of the Russian representatives was then called to the fact that Mr. Oliver Baldwin and others were in gaol, and they were asked, what about it, and in less than a week they were all released as a result of the negotiations that took place, which were conducted in quite a different spirit from this dispute.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the question of steel and said there had been improvement, but in his world review he did not indicate that almost the same could be said of every steel producing country in the world. He might have said the same of Germany and of the United States. The percentage increase of the United States is even greater than ours. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman to deal with the question of the reorganisation of the industry. The Import Duties Advisory Committee in their first report of 8th April, 1932, made special reference to the position of the iron and steel industry and stated that they were satisfied that the maintenance of a prosperous iron and steel industry in the highest degree of efficiency was essential to the economic progress of the country, while from the point of view of national security it must be regarded as vital. Proceeding from this assumption, they recommended the imposition of a temporary duty of 33⅓ per cent. on a wide range of iron and steel products. In a later report they stated that further investigation led them to the conclusion that had been reached in almost all previous inquiries into the industry, that the grant of protection would not suffice to place the industry in a. position to play its proper part in the national life unless it was accompanied by a considerable measure of reorganisation. The duty of 33?⅓ per cent. was continued for two years from 26th October last, subject to satisfactory progress being made in the preparation of a, scheme of reorgsnisation. It is true that a national committee was set up by the industry to deal with the matter, a scheme was reached and submitted to the Advisory Committee some five months later, but I think it is admitted that it could be regarded as only the machinery of future schemes which were to be set up, as was stated by the Chancellor of the Exchequer in the letter that he sent to the committee.

Sir George May, the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, did not leave any doubt about his views regarding this reorganisation. He said in January last that, except for exceptional arrangements as to prices and supplies, the public had no knowledge that anything considerable had yet even been attempted by the National Committee. It was in these circumstances that he not merely stated that the manufacturers would be fools if they did not put their house in order and give effect to measures of rationalisation which would place the industry in a position to compete with the very grave and increasing competition of other countries, but he went further and warned them that, if they did not do it for themselves, someone would have to do it for them. I should like to ask the hon. Gentleman whether his attention has been drawn to the remarks of the chairmen of several steel companies at annul meetings during the last month or two, especially in the South Wales area, which is one of the largest steel producing units in the country. They have unhesitatingly expressed their views as to what they think about any reorganisation which could be brought about within the industry or could be imposed upon it from outside. I should like the President of the Board of Trade to deal with this aspect of it. I should like also to hear something regarding the sales side of the industry. I have no doubt that the hon. Gentleman is conversant with the report on economic conditions in Belgium by the Commercial Secretary to our Embassy at Brussels. It contains several chapters devoted to a review of Anglo Belgian trade and, referring to the iron and steel industry, it states: United Kingdom firms could increase their sales if they would alter their business methods and if they laid themselves out to understand the conditions of the market. Most of the furnaces at home sell to merchants in England who do speculative trade in pig iron and dispose of it to certain Antwerp dealers. He points out that, before these iron and steel products reach the purchasers, they pass through the hands of several other persons. The Government should consider the scheme of reorganisation which has been outlined by the Iron and Steel Federation. It is the only scheme that at the moment has been brought to the light of day which deals with the industry exhaustively.

Some consideration has been given during the last few months to the question of the shipping dues of the Suez Canal. The more one knows of this question the more one is inclined to think that drastic measures ought to be adopted to deal with it. Almost 50 per cent. of the shares of the Canal Company are owned by the British Government, 55 per cent. of the tonnage passing through is British and 75 per cent. of the merchandise is consigned either to or from this country and British Dominions. The Panama Canal cost two and a half times as much to construct and its charges are 40 per cent. lower. I would ask the Board of Trade to deal with this matter with a view to assisting British shipping, which would largely benefit as the result of any reduction in dues. The next highest in tonnage that passes through the Suez Canal is German shipping, which is 11 per cent.

I wish the bon. Gentleman had touched on the Economic Conference. Whatever can be said about it, we may say:"Here is the first world Parliament." The President may be there, but the House of Commons is here, and sufficient notice was given that the Board of Trade Vote was to be put down for to day. We quite understand that the meeting that is to be held at 6 o'clock is in the nature of an emergency meeting, but one would imagine that all these meetings are arranged some days previously. We are somewhat alarmed it what is taking place. I do not wish to be unduly critical this evening. I have no doubt that other opportunities will be given to deal with what has taken place there, but I want to tell the Government and the repre- sentatives of almost every other Government assembled at the Conference that they cannot deal with 20th century problems by using 19th century methods. My hon. Friend has referred to Free Trade.


That was in the 19th century.


I was not referring solely to Free Trade or to tariffs, but to the whole ambit of the discussions taking place at the Conference at the present time. In view of the fact that starvation is facing millions of people at a time when the world has never been more bountiful, production easier and transport more rapid, it is a tragedy that the representatives of nations which are very largely suffering under these great difficulties cannot arrive at a settlement relating to these matters. I wish the President of the Board of Trade had been here to deal with the matter, but I hope that some good will be the outcome of the Conference. As far as we can see at the moment, there is very little prospect of any good unless it is going to give an impetus—and I cannot say that there is very much good in that—to the ultra nationalist policy which has been developing in various countries, including this country. No country can be self-contained. We must regard the world as an economic unit, and if the Conference will regard it from that angle I have no doubt that some good will accrue.

5.49 p. m.

Brigadier General Sir HENRY CROFT

I am sure that the calm examination of the question and the courteous words of the hon. Gentleman the Member for Aberdare (Mr. G. Hall) were very much appreciated by the Committee when be referred to the Conference which is taking place at the present time. He spoke, I am afraid, without any great hope as to its results. I do not want to deal with the subject to day, because I do not think that anything which might be said in the Committee from either side would help the situation very much. The attack upon the President of the Board of Trade for not being in his place was somewhat unfair coming from those who up to now have attached so much more importance to the international than to the national idea. I think that, in view of the bombshell which has occurred in the last few days it should have been appreciated that the whole situation has been altered, and that, if the Conference is to be saved at all, it is necessary for the leaders of the National Government to be present at the Conference to day.

When we look at the picture of the world, I think that we may congratulate His Majesty's Government upon certain very definite changes of a heartening character. I would remind the Committee that the disastrous downward trend of our trade in 1930 and 1931 has to day definitely been stopped, and we have succeeded in rectifying to a considerable extent the adverse balance of trade. Imports of manufactures, as was pointed out earlier, have been decreased by no less than £100,000,000 sterling since 1931, and the increased employment in the manufacturing industries in this country has been the direct result. I also think that the position in regard to manufactured exports from this country is not wholly unsatisfactory. In fact, when we realise the appalling decline in the last Free Trade years, when our manufactured exports fell from £ £513,000,000 in 1924 to £326,000,000 sterling in 1931, it must be some consolation to us that in 1932 they rose to £337,000,000, if you take 1930 values. This is all the more remarkable in view of the fact that the exports of every country in the world, except possibly Japan, showed a very serious decline last year. It is some consolation to note the fall in unemployment which has taken place, and that we have something like 410,000 fewer unemployed to day than at the time of the General Election. Even if one admits that there are some countervailing numbers of unemployed due to changes of administration which must be deducted, there is a very handsome increase in the number of employed persons in this country to day. The number of employed persons in May was 306,000 more than in May of last year.

It is no good saying that nothing has been done, and that there has not been a slight change of the tide. Happily these things have happened, and I desire to give His Majesty's Government every credit for those changes. If I have to say one or two words, not of criticism, but of stimulation, it is not because I think that their policy has been wrong, but because they have been a little afraid of their own shadows, and have not pursued their policy with the courage and confidence which such a vast majority ought to have given them in this House. Personally, I do not feel quite satisfied—I do not suppose any of us are, whatever our economic views—with a situation in which we find that the adverse balance for the first five months of this year is still over £ 100,000,000, especially when we remember that last year, after allowing for invisible exports, there was an adverse balance of £59,000,000 over the whole transaction, and that that followed two very much worse years.

I suggest that that process must not be allowed to go on for too many years, or we must come to a very serious financial position. I suggest to the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, whose opening speech interested us all so much, that when the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade and others framed the tariff in this country, they did it in the belief that it was adequate owing to the fact that, we had gone off gold, and they imagined that the protective effects of our going off gold would he very considerable. In fact, that point was stressed, A will be remembered, before the election took place, by three great Liberal statesmen who afterwards entered the Government. They all said that they thought that this fact in itself would be a very great protection to our industries. All that has very largely changed. Numerous other countries have gone off gold, and the exchanges have been adjusted and the advantages no longer exist. My complaint is that our tariff was not sufficient to give us the advantages which we might have obtained. It was unbusinesslike to the extent that it lost nearly all the real advantages of Protection, and, at the same time, deprived us of the chance of making satisfactory tariff bargains. The result of that is that"the ranks of Tuscany" cheer and say, "Why did you not make a better bargain?" The truth is that we could not make a better bargain because our tariff is so small. We had nothing to bargain with.

The imports of manufactures into this country last year were actually higher than the imports of manufactures into this country 10 years ago at the very moment when the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council and his friends was so alarmed at the rush of manufactured imports, that he decided, perhaps a little prematurely, to stake everything in going to the country to try to check it. Nevertheless, in spite of our tariff, our imports of manufactures last year were higher than in that year. In case the right hon. Gentleman opposite may think that I am making an extreme demand, I mast point out that I am suggesting that at least we ought to restore the position to what it was in 1922.

I must say a few words with regard to the Trade Agreements. We adopted a 10 per cent. tariff. It was such a puny rate that there was no real bargaining weapon with which to negotiate. The advantages which we gained in the Trade Agreements apply almost entirely—I do not want to exaggerate, as there were one or two exceptions—to the coal industry and to the constituencies of hon. Gentlemen who sit above the Gangway, showing, I think, disinterested motives on the part of His Majesty's Government. The advantages we gained from these agreements are very limited, and many of us sitting on these benches feel that there are two or three rather startling facts. The Advisory Committee has won the confidence of everyone in this House, and of all parties. It is generally regarded as fair and bard working. It goes into the facts and is very courteous from whatever angle the matter is approached by industries desirous of receiving protection or by those desirous of preventing industries receiving protection. At the same time, we find under these agreements that the decisions of the Advisory Committee, which, after all was set up by Parliament, have been varied, and that the minimum duties which they considered to be necessary, if industries were to have security, have been further lowered in order to bring about certain results in the helping of our coal trade.

The one thing which worries many of—us and here, I think, we have probably the sympathy of those who hold opposite views from ourselves on the tariff question—is that, owing to our rigid adherence to the most-favoured-nation clause, we have not been in a position to give advantages to any one country. The consequence is that when we gave an advantage to Germany in respect of clocks, the clock makers in the United States and in Switzerland suddenly woke up and found that they were entitled to the same advantages. If you are trying to get lower tariffs in the world, obviously the only way you can do it effectively is so to change your machinery that you can give an advantage to the country with which you want to negotiate, so that you are not bestowing favours all over the world. When we imposed 50 per cent. duties in this country, it had a remarkable effect in stimulating production in many industries, but before we had turned to the next step of negotiating with foreign countries by trade treaties, we abandoned the high scale of duties, without any rhyme or reason, with the result that when we went into conference, although we were not quite disarmed, we were armed only with bows and arrows against the heavy artillery which the other countries possessed.

That is the reason we have not been able to effect more satisfactory agreements, and why we have caused such an amount of concern in our industries, who want to be assured that their position in the future will not be what has happened to other industries and that, after long examination, when they have received definite assurances from the Advisory Committee they are to be suddenly subjected to a reduction of duty. They ask for that assurance from the Government. The difficulties arise from the fact that there is lack of foresight, and because our fiscal grill has been rather mixed, and because in making the original tariff we have approached it along the middle path, which usually is ineffective. I hope we shall consider whether it is not our duty in the not too distant future to give some sort of recommendation to the Advisory Committee as to the principles upon which we wish them to work. We gave them no guidance. I say quite frankly that I think we should have been wise if we bad said to the Advisory Committee:"We desire (1) to see such a tariff as will give the highest amount of employment for our people, and (2) that the tariff will be at such a level that we shall get something from it, whereby we can give an. advantage to any country with which we negotiate. We did not do either of these things, and the consequence is we are left in a somewhat difficult position. I do not want to deal with the matter at any length, but undoubtedly the Advisory Committee had the power to impose agricultural duties.

The DEPUTY CHAIRMAN (Captain, Bourne)

I think I ought to point out that the, salaries of the Advisory Committee are borne on the Treasury Vote, and we cannot on the Board of Trade Vote go into any detailed criticism of the actions of the Advisory Committee. If there is a desire to do that, the Treasury Vote must be put down.


I hope that nothing that I said was considered critical of the Advisory Committee. I was criticising Parliament for not having given them guidance. I hope that as long as we have a, tariff, no member of any party will criticise any action on the part of the Advisory Committee, in order that we may keep them out of politics.


I did not mean to suggest that the hon. And gallant Member was criticising the Advisory Committee in that sense, but I do not think we ought to discuss either their actions or their possible actions an this Vote. We may discuss what action the government might take under agreements for which the Board of Trade is responsible, but we must not go beyond that on this occasion.


The Parliamentary Secretary in introducing the Vote touched to some extent upon the policy of the Government in framing and carrying through legislation which resulted in the activities of the Advisory Committee. Would it not be in order to discuss the activities of the Committee in a general way in connection with the policy framed by the Government?


No. The hon. Member would not be in order in discussing the general activities of the Advisory Committee on this Vote. That, clearly, is a matter for the Treasury Vote. It will be in order to discuss any treaty and any action which the Government may have taken in framing a treaty for which the Board of Trade is responsible, but we must not, on this Vote, go into the general question of whether the Advisory Committee should or should not take action in specific, cases.


I presume that it will be in order to discuss What has been said by the President of the Board of Trade at the World Economic Conference with regard to the policy of His Majesty's Government on the whole question of tariffs and quotas?


It will obviously be in order to discuss that for which the President of the Board of Trade is responsible. What I was pointing out is that the Board of Trade, except under one Section in the Import Duties Act, has no responsibility whatsoever either for the recommendations of the Advisory Committee or the bringing of them into effect. That is a matter for the Treasury. Therefore, we cannot go in this discussion beyond that.


I thank you for your kindness, Captain Bourne, in this matter, and I assure you that I shall not mention the Advisory Committee again in my speech. I only desire to say that I think the President of the Board of Trade might have found his tariff operations would have been very much more successful if he had not been limited in certain directions. At the present time he is discussing tariffs and quotas at the Economic Conference. I say as a general principle, which I hope will be followed by the Board of Trade, that it would have been more effective in the Trade Agreements we are discussing to day had we used the tariff, which we had the power to do, instead of wasting so many months in fashioning quotas. We should have had more results for our great productive industries in this country if we had followed those lines. At the present time the old ideas and the major thoughts of parties in this country, and the arguments which once took place between Conservatives and Liberals, Protectionists, Free Traders and Socialists regarding prices, have gone by the board. All parties agree that, by hook or by crook, world prices must be raised, and the nations of the earth are assembled in London trying to devise means to that end. The consequence is, that we have got rid of that difference of argument from our immediate discussions.

I hope that His Majesty's Government in future will remember that they fashioned their present policy very largely because of their fears about prices. Since that fear is now out of the way, the time has come when we might consider what we can do more scientifically in giving security to our industries. I do not know whether for all time we shall have a National Government. I wish them long life, but whether we have a National Government or whether we have the only possible alternative, which is a Conservative Government, in the days to come, I can assure His Majesty's Government that there are many of those who wish them well in this House who desire that our tariff policy in the future shall be carried out with more courage and mote vision, and that we shall not be afraid of the policy to which we are committed. There is only one piece of political advice that I should like to offer, and it is this: The electorate may dislike you if you adopt a certain policy but they dislike you far more of you adopt a policy and try to hide it, or if you try to get round corners. I do not think the people of this country, when they realise that quotas inevitably in the long run affect the consumer more than any tariff, will give votes to those who adopt that policy. Therefore, I hope that in the future we shall see the Government realising the danger to this country and the danger to the world, and that they will not be afraid of their policy. I hope that nothing will be done in the next two or three days in these difficult hours to make adjustments with foreign nations that will impair the spirit of the Ottawa Agreement. That would be a terrible disaster to this country and to the Empire as a whole.

I hope and pray that something may come from the Economic Conference, but I doubt if words are going to do very much. I believe that you will do much more by deeds. If we had a real tariff in this country with which to bargain in the clays to come, we should see the other countries who are exporters and competitors with us ready to treat with us. His Majesty's Government have gone along wise paths up to date, and the only criticism that some of us make is that we think they have armed themselves with such old-fashioned armaments that they have not achieved all that they could have done. The Opposition tell us that things are still very bad, and we know that to be true. Let us, at any rate, thank goodness that the terrible landslide in trade, industry and commerce which took place during their regime has been checked, that we see signs in the country of an upward march, and that the courage of our people is going to see the country come through.

6.13 p.m.


I wish to make a small protest against certain trade agreements on behalf of the road stone industry and the employers and employ6s in that industry. Until the Import Duties Advisory Committee was set up, that industry had been suffering from very considerable foreign competition, but hope rose in their minds when the Advisory Committee was established. The difficulty from which they have been suffering in the past bas been that the material from Norway and Sweden has been easier to work, while the conditions of labour in those countries, more particularly perhaps in Norway, have been inferior to those prevailing in this country. They have, moreover, been suffering from disadvantage in regard to freights, inasmuch as it is possible to import stone from Norway or Sweden to the East coast at a lower rate than from the midlands to the east coast. In view of these disadvantages, they naturally welcomed the duty which was put on foreign imports by the Import Duties Advisory Committee. They applied for a 33 per cent. duty; they got only 15 per cent., which was almost useless in countering this competition, but they hoped for more.

Under the agreements which have been entered into with Norway and Sweden, the industries have not been consulted, although the foreign industries have been consulted. Nobody has cared whether the agreements affect any of our industries in this country, except coal, and the result is that we are unable for three years to approach the Import Duties Advisory Committee with a view to an increase of the duty on imported foreign material up to something between the 15 per cent. duty which now exists, and which is useless and the 33 per cent. for which they asked. The result of the action of the Government will be that the number of quarries closing down or working short hours will increase, and the number of men who have been thrown out of employment will also increase very materially. A great many of these men are skilled workers who have been trained as sett-makers, and require seven years' training, while others are kerb-dressers, who require to be trained for almost as long a period.

I protest against the House of Commons being entirely ignored in the matter of these agreements. We have no opportunity of discussing them; we are only told that they have been entered into. I sometimes wonder what is the good of back bench Members coming here at all. I refused an invitation for luncheon in order to speak on this question, but I think that my time would have been much better occupied in my own constituency. Back bench Members come here and are supposed to walk through the Lobbies according to the commands of the Whips; if they do not swallow the White Paper, they are put on the Black list.

There is no need to enter into this agreement with Sweden, because there is an adverse balance of trade which makes such arrangements entirely unnecessary. Sweden, at the moment, sells us twice as much as she buys from us, and, as to coal, in consequence of this agreement, Sweden is only compelled to buy half the coal she requires from us, whereas in 1925 she bought the whole of her; coal supplies. The coal industry is getting only 50 per cent. of the trade it had with Sweden before the coal strike, and it is difficult to see how we can benefit very much when we consider the industries which have suffered. The coal industry as a whole is dissatisfied with this agreement, as it was in the case of the German agreement. It seems the policy to bolster up any industry which is inefficient, such as the coal industry, which has become inefficient owing to the action of the owners and in many cases of the miners' leaders and the railways and is being advanced at the expense of more up to date and efficiently managed concerns. In future, before these agreements are concluded, I hope that the House of Commons will have an opportunity of expressing its views.

6.3 p.m.


On the last occasion I addressed the House I was able to congratulate the Chancellor of the Exchequer on his announcement of a settlement, a temporary or provisional settlement, with the United States of America on the question of the debt, but I am afraid that I can offer no words of congratulation to the Parliamentary Secretary on his speech to day. I have lately come back from Lancashire, from my own constituency, where 42 per cent. of the insured population are out of work, where mill after mill is being put up for sale and obtains nothing but scrap value, and I confess that the complacent optimism of the Parliamentary Secretary has made me angry. The impression which is given to the foreign delegates who have come to the Economic Conference by the aspect of London is wholly misleading. I wish the Government would take these delegates through Lancashire or to the Clyde, to the Tyne or the Tees, or to some of the mining districts, they would then get a picture which is very different from that which the House and the country will obtain from the speech which the hon. Member has delivered to us this afternoon. Only last Thursday, from that Bench, the Secretary for Mines, in introducing his Estimate mentioned that from the latest available figures, in the week ending the 22nd May, in the mining industry 395,000 men were out of work, wholly or temporarily stopped, or 37.9 per cent, of the whole mining population. As he said"that is a terrible figure," and shows an increase of nearly 6 per cent. over the figures of last year. A few days before, the Minister of Labour told the House that there are now close upon 500,000 men in Great Britain who have been out of work for over a year and that that figure was continuously increasing.

It is true that the Parliamentary Secretary mentioned incidentally that shipping and shipbuilding are about as bad as they can be, but in the main his speech was official optimism at its very worst. When he was referring to the figures of imports and exports the hon. Member did not say one word about figures which always appear every week and every month in our figures of trade, the statistics relating to the re export trade, the enormous carrying trade of this country. Before the War we had a, trade of a hundred millions of pounds a year and only a few years ago the figure was the same. That trade has been cut to pieces, mainly owing to Tariffs. The re export trade is more affected by Tariffs than any other branch of commerce. It has gone down according to the latest official figures by 20 per cent. last year as compared with a year ago. The hon. Member omitted a most significant figure, that our re export trade in a single year has gone down by one fift1h; and, as compared with two years ago, by one third. Why did not the hon. Member mention these facts? He referred to the movement of the balance of trade. Everyone—not only the experts, but every business man—knows that the movement of imports and exports is affected by two, factors, by Tariffs which are undoubtedly important, and by the value of currency which is a far more important factor. Everyone knows that all the figures which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted of the movement of trade and the improvement in the balance of trade, the comparative improvement of the exports of this country as compared with other countries on the Gold Standard, is due in a large degree to currency movements, to the depreciation of the £ From the moment we went off gold for a considerable time our exports in competition with the gold countries had 9, bounty of 20 or 30 per cent. and our imports a barrier of 20 or 30 per cent. That enormously affected the situation, but the hon. Member to day simply said that in October, 1931, we adopted a tariff policy, that in February, 1932, we increased it and that since that time the figures are so and so. That is not treating the Committee fairly, and I protest against the practice which is being continuously followed by Ministers all over the country in speeches and pamphlets. They take a date and say that is the date when Tariffs were imposed and that since that date post hoc ergo propter hoc this movement of trade is the consequence of the other. Why not make an honest statement and tell the country that these changes are due in a large degree to the movement of the £. The hon. Member said not a word about it until the hon. Member for East Aberdeen (Mr. Boothby) if interrupted him and drew his attention to this most grave omission.

Further, he told us about the movement of trade in other countries as compared with this country and drew again the most optimistic conclusions. He dealt with Japan, and what he said was the subject of much comment, because everyone knows that the Japanese have increased their export trade of late to an enormous degree, and everyone knows also that it is due mainly to currency changes, to the fact that the yen has dropped to half its value, that there is an enormous bonus on all exports from Japan. Lancashire knows that her trade to a, large extent is wiped out in many of the markets of the East by this enormous advantage given to Japanese trade by currency depreciation. Yet the bon. Member told us that while our exports had declined slightly Japanese exports had also declined. The Committee was amazed at the statement and the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr., Hammersley) who interrupted quoted official figures to show that there had been an enormous increase in Japanese exports. In answer to that the Parliamentary Secretary said,"Not if you convert the yen into sterling." Why should you convert the yen into sterling for the purpose of these statistics? You are comparing Japanese trade in one year with Japanese trade in another year and you must take either the volume of the trade or else the local currency. If you get the yen as worth is. 3d. instead of 2s., as it would be at par, naturally if you translate into terms of sterling you get the figures mentioned by the hon. Member and a great apparent decline of trade. The Committee has not been treated fairly by the bon. Member in quoting figures like these.

He endeavoured to place the most optimistic gloss on trade movements since the Ottawa Conference. He used the old fallacy of percentages and said that our exports to Canada had increased in this article by 20 per cent., in another by 30 per cent., in another by 50 per cent., and in another by 200 per cent. By way of interruption an bon. Member asked the actual figures in motor cars which gave an increase of 50 per cent. in the exports from great Britain to Canada, and the Parliamentary Secretary said that the figures were 60,000 dollars and now are 90,000 dollars, an increase of 30,000 dollars, or at par about £6,000. Three Rolls Royce cars would constitute the whole of the difference, and this was represented by the Parliamentary Secretary as am enormous advantage to British trade. In the past he was an eloquent and effective Free Trade orator and often exposed the fallacy of the Protectionist arguments, and I should have thought that he would have remem bered the fallacy of percentages. When I was 30 years of age I had a small son who was three years of age. In the following year I was 31 and he was four. I had increased my age by 3 per cent. and he had increased his age by so per cent. I have no doubt that the Protectionists would show that he would very soon be older than his father.

Why has the hon. Member been producing these arguments? It is because the material given to him when raw, is very inadequate. As showing the results of trade after Ottawa lie gave the percentage of Dominion imports coming from this country. In Australia there has been some considerable increase It should be remembered, however, that be fore Ottawa, Australia was imposing the most violent restrictions upon every class of import in order to prevent further depreciation of the Australian currency through the adverse balance of visible and invisible trade, and when these were removed there would naturally be some increase of imports. In New Zealand I gather from the bon. Member the figures were the same. In Canada they had decreased, in South Africa they were the same, and in India they had increased from 8½ per cent. to 8¾ per cent. Is it necessary to have any other figures to, reinforce and to prove what has always been our contention that from the point of view of the advantages to British export trade the results of the Ottawa, Conference were a, miserable failure?

We were told often that we should not judge the Ottawa Conference merely by what was accomplished there and then, or by the agreements made and signed on that occasion, that most important principles were laid down and that the carrying out of these principles by reductions of tariffs in Australia and Canada and elsewhere would bring enormous advantages to our export trade. What has happened? Practically nothing has happened. Nearly a year has gone and none of the expectations, or hardly any, have been realised. Here and there has been some trifling advantage, but in the main, taking the great volume of trade with the Dominions, the subsequent results have been even more negative than those achieved at the time.

The Parliamentary Secretary spoke of revenue derived from tariffs. He mentioned a figure of £24,000,000 which in part covers a period not of one year but of 1¾ years and for the greater part a year and a quarter. And that on a Budget of £800,000,000 per annum. Covering a period of 1¾ years or 1¾ years, £24,000,000 is a very trifling contribution to our Exchequer needs. And how much has been lost in revenue owing to the restrictions upon trade, the world restrictions on trade of which our tariffs are an example and which, as all the world knows, are largely responsible for the enormous burden of unemployment, for the shrinkage of our revenue and the increase of our expenditure?

One sentence used by the Parliamentary Secretary deserves underlining and emphasising. It passed almost unnoticed, even by the agricultural Members. It related to agriculture. We who sit on the Liberal benches have always strongly urged agricultural reforms of one kind or another. Marketing and reorganisation—we voted for the Bill introduced in the last Parliament, and we supported the organisation schemes lately before the House. We are of the opinion that this country which produces about one half of the dairy produce and other similar commodities consumed by this country, ought to produce a far larger proportion, and that by means of these reforms and by land settlement, not by tariffs or artificial restrictions, we ought to aim at producing far more of these things from our own soil.

But the sentence to which I refer was this:" Since tariffs had been introduced imports of foodstuffs had continued with no essential change." I hope that agricultural Members who have spoken of great expectations to their constituents, as the outcome of the policy they were advocating, will tell them that on the authority of a spokesman of the Government imports of foodstuffs have continued with no essential change, and that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade regards that as quite satisfactory. I have no doubt that if the figures showed that the imports had been halved, the Parliamentary Secretary would have pointed out how admirable that was, that if they had been doubled he would have said that they completely disposed of all the arguments used by the free traders, but since they are almost precisely the same as they were they aye precisely right.

Next the Parliamentary Secretary spoke of the agreements with foreign countries, which are, of course, an essential part of the policy of the Government, and he repeated that 22 countries were knocking at the door. They have been knocking apparently for a, very long time, and it is time that someone answered. In any case there have been some agreements. But look at those agreements. Germany has been and still is one of our most important customers. This policy of erecting tariffs in order to fight tariffs and to reduce tariffs of course had in view Germany very largely. The Government produced the Agreement with Germany, and when everyone said that the advantages derived from it for British trade were exceedingly small, the Government replied,"Yes, but we are only trying to deal with coal." Why only coal—now that you have this bargaining weapon and all that you require in the way of freedom to negotiate? You have rejected the old foolish policy of free imports. You can meet the enemy at the gate and stand up to him with a big stick. Why this puny trumpery agreement, which does nothing but put back our coal export to half what it was before you began tinkering with these measures?

All the agreements put together, which give some advantages no doubt they—are useful so far as they go—are trumpery compared with the actual needs. "Eleven thousand more miners are to be brought into work," said the Parliamentary Secretary. We have agreed with Germany, with Scandinavia and with the Argentine and we have concentrated especially in coal, and see the great results we have got from our new national policy, this new orientation which was to change the fiscal systems of the world. Eleven thousand more miners! Eleven thousand; and the Secretary for Mines last week told the House that there were 395,000 miners out of work. That is the proportion of the results achieved to the need by which we are faced.

The Parliamentary Secretary said one thing that was wise and welcome. He said that our satisfaction would be greater if world trade were expanding. But, he added,"world trade continues to shrink." Those were his words. That brings us to what is in the minds of all hon. Members now, the Economic Conference which is now sitting, the position of which fills our thoughts far more than any question of the recent agreements. Great expectations have been aroused by the Conference. The whole world has its attention concentrated on the Conference. For months we were waiting. Again and again the Conference was postponed. At last it met, and was opened by His Majesty the King. Grandiloquent speeches were made by the leaders of the nations. It has been said that all the world is suffering from world wide economic causes and that we must have a World Conference to remove those causes and bring agreement.

And now where do we stand? It is a Monetary and Economic Conference. It has two parts; it has appointed two main Commissions, one monetary and one economic. Each apparently has been waiting upon the other. Some countries say."We must remove the barriers to trade before we can stabilise currency." America is inclined to say that, and so are other countries. Some countries say:"It is no good trying to stabilise currencies until you remove barriers, because otherwise the same things will recur." France in particular says that it is useless to attempt to remove the barriers before stabilisation, because the barriers are necessary in order to defend countries against depreciated currencies. Each is waiting upon the other. It reminds me of the old rhyme about the Walcheren Expedition in the time of the Napoleonic Wars which failed because the military commander, Lord Chatham, and. the naval commander, Sir Richard Strachan, could not agree, and act in common. Some wit at the time wrote: The Earl of Chatham with his sword drawn, Stands waiting for Sir Richard Strachan; Sir Richard, longing to be at 'em, Sits waiting for the Earl of Chatham. So in this case, those who want monetary remedies are waiting for the economic reforms to be accomplished, and those who want economic reforms are waiting for the monetary remedies. I do not know whether any decisions have been reached on the proposal for an adjournment of the Conference which, according to the Press, has been made to the Bureau of the Conference. The Conference to day meets under a great disappointment owing to the answer to the proposals with regard to stabilisation of currency returned by the President of the United States.

Apart from the tone of that answer, which I think is very generally regretted, it is necessary to look at the substance of it. I confess it was an answer that might have been anticipated. The United States has been accustomed to a certain level of wages and prices in terms of dollars, and when those prices suddenly fall the whole economic system of the United States is upset, and the burden of every debt—there is an enormous amount of indebtedness in the United States in the form of farm mortgages and in other ways—is immensely increased. The collapse of the American export trade and the operations of the American Farm Board have largely been responsible for the fall in world trade. President Roosevelt himself has recognised this. In a book called"Looking Forward," which was published quite recently, he says, in reference to the collapse of 1929: The bubble burst first in the land of its origin, in the United States. The major collapse of trade followed. It was not simultaneous with ours. Moreover, further curtailment of our loans, plus the continual stagnation caused by the high tariff, continued the depression throughout international commerce. I think that that is true. The present plight of the world is largely due to the United States and to events there. I have always held that economic salvation would come from America, and that it was only by a restoration of prosperity there that the trade of the world would be likely again to recover. When the banks of the United States collapsed and had to close their doors, I saw some signs of hope, because from that pessimism one could derive some optimism, and one felt that the American people would be compelled to make some terrific effort in order to redeem the situation. That effort is being wade, and is having results. The price of wheat is returning to a remunerative level. The steel output of the United States, which at the end of last year, according to the report of the experts to the Economic Conference, was only 10 per cent. of capacity, is now, after a short period, about 50 per cent. of capacity. Whether the industrial and agricultural measures adopted by the President can be enforced, whether they are administratively possible, and whether they will be effective for their purpose, he would be very rash who would venture to prophesy. At all events, it is not to be, expected that the President would sud denly stop all these measures, or even impair their efficacy, by fixing now, at this juncture, the value of the dollar.

When it is remembered, with regard to the protests that have been made, that France devalued her currency by four-fifths, to the ruin of her rentier class, while it gave great advantages to her national trade and left her as the one country with practically no unemployment in a world which had many millions of unemployed; and when it is remembered that Italy and Belgium have done the same thing, I confess that I think these protests are somewhat out of place, When we went off the Gold Standard, not voluntarily but when we were forced off against our will, when we had been forced off, if anyone had proposed in the Autumn or Winter of 1931 that we should then stabilise the 2, every one in this country would have rejected such advice. We said quite rightly that it was necessary to see how measures shaped themselves before we could contemplate fixing or attempting to fix a ratio for the £.

I think it is true to say that you cannot secure permanent stabilization so long as the economic forces which upset currencies are still operating. I have suggested, as many other Members have suggested, again and again in the House of Commons—and the Chancellor of the Exchequer has endorsed it and has concurred in it—that whatever may be done in the way of a merely temporary stabilisation within certain limits, nothing in the nature of a permanent stabilisation can be attempted unless you are likely to be able to hold to the ratios which you fix; and you would not be able to hold to those ratios if the economic forces—which in the long run settle the value of currencies and not Acts of Parliament—are operative, pulling this way and that and tearing up any pegs by which you may seek to fix the value of currencies. The main cause, of course, which has upset currencies has been stoppage of trade—countries unable to sell their produce continually producing and not able to sell, accumulating enormous stocks and unable to dispose of them. All that forces down prices and has caused the position which we now have. President Roosevelt in his book said this: The theory upon which we have been producing for years is a shocking impossibility. It is that goods can be produced that cannot be bought. That is the essence of the whole matter. Unless you can sell your goods, if you continue to produce them, you force down prices indefinitely. If you do not continue to produce them you throw millions of people out of work. Therefore, it is necessary, if you want to stabilise currencies, not only to have balanced Budgets, not only to establish banking systems and Governmental systems of finance which command confidence, but also to clear the channels of trade. That is the central issue at this conference. It would be lamentable if the conference were to adjourn and abandon a task on which the hopes of the whole world are set merely because on the monetary side it has had a set back, and if it should be unwilling to turn its attention to and endeavour to solve, at all events in part, the economic side of the problem. I believe those are quite wrong who say that currency must come first. The two as far as possible should be simultaneous, and if that cannot be, then work out at all events measures for the greater freedom of trade as far as you can and let the necessary currency stabilisation follow.

Here the attitude of our delegation in the conference has not been helpful. The experts who have been brought together from the chief countries of the world, and to whose competence the Government again and again have paid tribute, declared that a general measure of economic disarmament—that is their term—was essential, and that if it was not taken the world was likely to come to ruin. All countries had been stopping trade by building tariff walls and by means of quota and exchange restrictions in order to defend themselves, and a general measure of simultaneous economic disarmament was, we were told, the only solution of the problem which faced us. The Prime Minister in his inaugural address emphasised this and quoted these words from the report of the Commission, which are of great importance. The Prime Minister said: As the experts have reminded us will not in our judgment be possible to make substantial progress by piecemeal measures. A policy of nibbling will not solve this crisis. That should have been the text from which all the preaching in the Conference should have proceeded, but is that the policy proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the President of the Board of Trade? General economic disarmament? Not at all. Piecemeal methods? Yes. Nibbling? That is what they propose. They suggest that each country should agree with each other country in a series of bilateral agreements to reduce tariffs when and where they can, that they should follow the most admirable example set by His Majesty's Government in the agreements with Germany, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Only do the same as we have done, they say in effect, and the whole world's commerce will be free. The hon. Gentleman told us to-day that if each country represented at the Conference made an agreement with each other country there would have to be negotiated 2,211 agreements. We know that in China there was a cruel punishment called the "death by the thousand cuts." The Government are sentencing this Conference to the death by the two thousand agreements.

When the Government urge the Conference to adopt the system of bilateral agreements which they have practised themselves let us see what the result has been in their own case. We are very glad to welcome the President of the Board of Trade who is now in his place and I am sure we absolve him from any discourtesy of any kind towards this Committee because of his absence on most necessary duties elsewhere. The President of the Board of Trade said to the World Conference;"We," that is the British Government,"have aimed at reducing tariffs rather than increasing them." If that has been their aim they have been bad marksmen. Certainly they have not hit that target. Take the tariffs with which they are concerned as they were in 1931 and as they are to-day, and allow on the one hand for a few reductions here and there for British trade as a result of Ottawa and also for those small reductions here and there effected by the recent agreements with the Scandinavian countries and the Argentine. Put that on one side and on the other side put the vast new tariff that this House has been called upon to build up week by week and month by month round this country. Add to that, the new tariffs which have been imposed by powers from Whitehall on our Crown Colonies in order to give preferences under the Ottawa Agreements, and can any honest man say that the net result has been a lowering of tariffs? No, the net result has been an enormous increase. That is the deliberate policy of the Government in state of what the President of the Board of Trade may say at the World Conference. Then the Lord President of the Council, whom we are glad to see here listening to this Debate, made a speech at Glasgow in which he used this language: The principle of preserving our own market by restrictions for what we ourselves can produce and do, I believe to be fundamentally a right principle, and you may rely on the Government pursuing it with all their power." [Cheers.] That statement according to the context was with special reference to agriculture, but what is true for agriculture is true for every other industry. That sentiment and similar sentiments when expressed or quoted in the House of Commons receive general cheers from supporters of the Government. They applaud a policy of restriction to keep our own market for what we can produce ourselves. Yes, but what then becomes of the President of the Board of Trade's declaration that our object is not to increase tariffs but to reduce them? Only a few sentences later in the same speech the Lord President of the Council said: If and when the channels of trade can be cleared, then I say without fear of contradiction that this country will be the first to take advantage of the better times. If and when the channels of trade can be cleared. But when is that likely to be if the British Government continues over a long period to choke each one of those channels of trade that it can stop with a view to carrying out the principle to which the right hon. Gentleman gave expression earlier in that speech? When the Argentine Agreement was made it was to be followed by reductions of tariffs in the Argentine upon British goods. As soon as that was announced Protectionists in the Argentine were naturally up in arms, and we read in the Press that 10,000 people held a great demonstration in Buenos Aires to protest against any lowering of their tariffs for the advantage of British trade and to the detriment of their own producers.

We all said."How foolish. Cannot they see that if they want to sell us their meat and wheat they must be prepared to accept goods from us? They are blind obscurantists." But precisely the same thing is said by hon. Members here.

The folly of the 10,000 people in Buenos Aires is exactly the folly of my hon. Friends the Members for Birmingham, for Barnstaple, for Bournemouth, for Brighton. We had only to-day a very vigorous protest from one of the hon. Members for Brighton (Sir C. Rawson) against the fact that under one of these agreements road metal is to be allowed in at a lower rate of duty. So it goes on month after month and year after year. Sell—yes. Buy—no. And they imagine that we shall be able to sell when we will not consent to buy. What is right for the fabric gloves of my hon. Friend the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto), what is right for the industries of my right hon. Friend the Member for Spark-brook (Mr. Amery) is right for every other industry throughout the country, and the result of the policy Which they profess must inevitably be to ruin the attempt to secure greater freedom of world trade. That is why the Government have been paralysed at the Conference. They have been paralysed by the very principles laid down by the Lord President of the Council and by the agreements made at Ottawa. The whole Conference was waiting for their proposals and when those proposals came they were utterly futile. No economic disarmament; piecemeal action; 2,211 agreements; the nations to go on just as they have been going on in the past as though no Conference had been held. So we find that they have helped to bring this Conference, as I fear, to futility.

What is the policy which should have been adopted? Clearly it could have been foreseen before the Conference met that it would be impossible to secure unanimity in these matters. Although there is a movement in France for lower tariffs, still it is extremely improbable, and always has been with the French political mentality, that there could be any very large reductions in the French tariff wall. Even in America, although the President and the Secretary of State professed a great desire to lower tariffs to a very large degree, the only concrete proposal made public was for a reduction of tariffs by one tenth. That would have been utterly useless in the present state of the world. To say that where there is a duty of 100 per cent. on certain commodities it should be 90, and that where there is a duty of 20 per cent. it is to be lowered to 18, is far short of the needs of the case. Unanimity was not possible in this Conference, but happily at this Conference, unlike the Disarmament Conference, unanimity is not essential. It is desirable, but not essential.

The various countries which arc prepared to make more progress can make progress by agreeing together, and that is why we on these benches have urged that advantage should be taken of the opportunity at this Conference to form groups of all those countries which are willing to take a long step towards greater freedom of trade. There are Belgium and Holland, with great dependencies in Africa and in the Indian Ocean. Norway, Sweden and Denmark have shown a willingness to move in that direction and some of the South American countries as well, and if Great Britain and the British Crown Colonies had been willing to join in that group a very large part of the world would have come together as a low tariff area or even a Free Trade area. If in addition regional agreements could be arrived at, for instance among the Danubian States, that would help to restore their prosperity. To promote greater freedom of trade between Austria and Hungary and Rumania and Czechoslovakia and Jugoslavia would be a long step in advance. But the Government have made none of these proposals. They have said that they would not rule out such agreements. They said that they would consider proposals for the modification of the most-favoured Clause which would be a necessary consequence. But we do not want a Government which goes to a Conference and says that it will not rule out this or that. We want a Government which will give an effective lead.

If you speak to the representatives of the smaller States at the Conference any of them will tell you that they had been hoping for a lead from cue of the four great Powers, preferably from Great Britain, in order to make this Conference a success. The Government are missing a great opportunity, if they have not already missed it. If their course has not been changed and if this Conference fails on the economic side they cannot escape responsibility for it. If the Conference fails and has to adjourn because of its own inability to arrive at results, then, on the monetary side the responsibility must rest very largely with the United States, but on the economic side the responsibility must largely rest upon His Majesty's Government.

I have only a few more words to say on another aspect, and one to which we here attach great importance as one means among many for helping to solve our grave problem of unemployment. We have strongly urged a policy of active development and productive investment. That policy had to be suspended necessarily during the financial crisis when borrowing was impossible, but it ought to have been resumed long ago. When the Prime Minister was in Washington with President Roosevelt there was, on his departure, a statement issued signed with their two names. In that statement there was a sentence to the effect that Governments can help in stimulating enterprise, and that they can help"by appropriate programmes of capital expenditure." The British Prime Minister declared that the Government can help by an appropriate programme of capital expenditure. We do not advocate a wasteful expenditure on futile and unnecessary works, but there are thousands of things, all needed for the equipment of the nation, such as the three bridges just opened over the Thames. A hundred examples might be given. If Governments can help by appropriate programmes of capital expenditure, where is the British Government's programme? What has happened with regard to it? Has anything happened; are they addressing their minds to this policy? Is the programme being elaborated? We have had complete silence since the Prime Minister returned from Washington. Does that mean something or nothing? Is it merely one more empty phrase? We very often hear that the Government are exploring every avenue, but Governments engaged in exploring avenues are often lost among the trees and never emerge.

7.2 p.m.


I am sure the Committee has listened with great interest to the speech of one of the Government's prominent supporters. It makes me wonder a little how long the right hon. Gentleman and his friends will manage to remain balanced on the tight-rope. I suppose that, sooner or later, the rod, or umbrella, with which he balances will collapse, and he will fall on one side or the other. So far as we are concerned, we hope it will be the other. One thing he has shown by his speech is the complete futility of the tariff and Free Trade controversy. I agree with him when he says that, the results of the tariff policy of the Government have been trumpery. I would agree with him if he said that a return to Free Trade would now have a trumpery result. He seems to have some objection to people in this country utilising their home market by the consumption of home produce. So far as we are concerned, that seems a perfectly sensible thing to do. We do not see any particular virtue in consuming foreign goods. What we do desire to see is the consumption of goods, generally, rise, and not the consumption of goods, generally, come down, whether they be foreign goods or goods produced at home.

One thing is quite certain, as far as we can see, and that is that the policy of the Government has had no effect, so far as increasing consumption is concerned. I think that the right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade has stated quite definitely that the policy of the Government is a policy of restriction, that is to say, to try to cut down the production of goods all over the world, so that there is less production to meet the existing consuming power. On the other hand, as I understand the policy of the President of the United States, it is different from that of the European States—his policy is to try to increase consuming power, and try to meet that with increased production. In that way, if any, we think that the capitalist system may get some slight relief from its present trouble.

The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir Samuel) seems to imagine that the alternative to the Government's policy is a policy of unlimited competition—a return to those good old days when this country as a great Free Trade country depended upon the cheapness of its labour, the exploitation of the blacks in various parts of the world, and the lending of money to foreign countries in order that they might be able to build up competitive industries against our own. I am afraid that, however bad the policy of the Government may be, a return to these conditions could hardly be better. In fact it would mean very little difference in the long run, because neither of these policies takes any account of the fundamental difficulty which has got to be met. Neither of them takes account of the effect of the increase of mechanisation in production, and of the increased difficulty of distribution which necessarily comes along with increased mechanisation.

The assumption behind the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade was that if we got back to the 1929 volume of production we should be in a time of prosperity. That is entirely wrong. If we produced the same volume of goods now we should have greater unemployment than we had in the period to which people look back as to the halycon days, although employment then was bad enough. In any present conception of methods of production and distribution there is no possible solution of the difficulties of unemployment. The tragedy of the World Economic Conference, as we see it, is that they have not even got on their agenda the question that wants considering—the question of whether some other means of controlling production than the mere earning of profits is not necessary, if you are to bring about distribution. The President of the Board of Trade said in his speech to the Conference that the question of the control of production played a great part in the policy of the United Kingdom, which sought by that means to raise prices not only in the country itself but throughout the whole world; that the United Kingdom was prepared to go further in this matter if necessary.

We believe that the control of production is absolutely essential, but the important factor is the basis upon which that control takes place. Hitherto the whole power behind production has been the question of profit to individuals, and it is because of that factor in world production that we believe this impossibility of distribution is arising. It has been exemplified particularly in the course of events in America over the last 10 years, where, with the growth of production, there was a rapidly expanding profit arising from the various industries, and from the speculation associated with these industrial efforts—the sort of speculation which the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen seems to welcome. He spoke of a rise in the price of wheat and other commodities in America—a rise which is almost entirely speculative, because the world's surplus of wheat has not been diminished in the least, and is likely to be increased in the coming season. Any rise in price, therefore, cannot be a rise which has been brought about by alteration of supply or demand. It is brought about principally by speculation, and not by any natural or proper controlling means.

The type of prosperity which is being evidenced in the United States at the present moment is typical of the booms necessarily associated with the great profit-earning system. It has always been that, by the capitalist system, you have a boom succeeding a depression; and then another depression succeeding a boom. It is merely a type of incident which we believe has gone on from the beginning. It is merely that type of incident which, we believe, is again beginning to show itself in the United States owing to the inflation policy, and also to some extent to some particular industries in this country. We do not believe there will he any possibility of a solution of the problem on lines of that kind.

Until we can get away from the idea that we can get back to conditions such as they were in pre-War days, or in 1929 or any other period, we cannot tackle such a problem as the 390,000 unemployed in the coal trade? How are we to tackle that by getting back to the conditions of 1929, or any other year? It is a new problem, and new means have got to be used to tackle it. Tariffs are not going to cure. If the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade puts the 11,000 into percentages, he will find how small it looks as a percentage of re-employment. It is not beginning to deal with the real problem this talking about Trade Agreements which are to re-employ 11,000 people. Before they become operative, more men will he put out of business by mechanisation proceeding in the mines. If the amalgamation schemes are carried through, it may he that many more men will be thrown out of work by the increased efficiency of the mines. It is not, in our view, any good trying to approach this problem from the mentality of Protection or Free Trade. One has got to approach it from the point of view of trying to increase consumption by so distributing the available purchasing power, which, after all, is consumption, that you are going to be able to repurchase the great mass of the commodities you can produce at the present moment.

There are just one or two questions I want to put to the President of the Board of Trade regarding certain specific matters. I do not know whether he can tell us what has happened at the 6 o'clock meeting of the Bureau of the World Economic Conference, because we are all interested to know what is to be the outcome of that meeting. Secondly, I would like to ask what is the position with regard to the Tariff Truce? We understood the right hon. Gentleman, or his deputy, to tell us in answer to a question that the Tariff Truce was in operation. In these circumstances, we do not understand why there are at the moment on the Order Paper of the House of Commons any Orders in Council imposing fresh tariffs. It seems to us that the middle of the World Economic Conference, if there is a Tariff Truce in force, is hardly the moment for the House to consider the imposition of fresh duties.

Thirdly, I would like to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade that he has demonstrated to everybody's complete satisfaction the absolute failure of the Ottawa Agreements. He has told us that, so far as this country is concerned, it is a long-distance policy, and that if only we wait for a little longer, we may yet see some result. But even with the careful selection of figures which he made, it is apparent that that bright picture of the Ottawa Conference which was painted by the Government, which was going to mean prosperity round the corner for this country, has now faded into a. very dull and dirty black, and I think everybody will have been convinced by his speech that there is now no question of returning prosperity from that cause. The hon. and gallant Baronet the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) dealt with the Tariff Advisory Committee, but surely, as we pointed out when the original Bill was before the Ho-use, it has now been demonstrated that the Board of Trade are not really capable of planning properly for the trade of this country so long as there are two quite independent bodies, the Board of Trade and another outside, who can act at different times to impose or take off tariffs on the same commodity. The tariff policy of this country is the responsibility of the Government, and we still believe that the Government will have to take into its own hands the complete tariff policy and decide what it is that it wants in that tariff policy, whether it is really going in for Protection at all costs, or whether it wants a weapon which it can use freely by taking off and putting on tariffs in order to arrive at agreements with those 22 countries which are knocking at the door.

Eventually, we believe, there is no solution for the control of production, which is, after all, the ultimate thing which the right hon. Gentleman says he is after, except the control of all foreign trade, both export and import trade by the Government. The futility of trying to control it by means of tariffs has already been demonstrated, not only in his country, but in other countries as well, because you are controlling not the source, but merely one of the passages through which the particular goods can flow, and if you have an unending source of water or anything else pouring out and you block one passage, you merely divert it into another passage, and by doing that you flood some other market, which has its repercussions upon your own export market. Therefore, the problem primarily is one, we believe, of controlling production, and the Debate which took place in the World Economic Conference with regard to the control of timber production, I think it was yesterday or the day before, showed clearly the virtual impossibility of controlling production unless the Government is capable in each country of controlling the output from that country itself. It is no good trying to control it if you leave the individual free to make arrangements outside or to run across the lines of control so that he can at any moment spoil any plan or scheme that is put up.

It is because of that, of course, that the Russian Government is in the position, occupied by no other Government, of being able to enter into agreements.

It can itself regulate and control production, and, therefore, it is in a position which neither we nor any other country are in, definitely to enter into an agreement for the control of the production of commodities and raw materials. We cannot do it in this country as regards coal. It is quite impossible, so long as the mines are left in the hands of a number of individuals who, for one reason or another, may choose to sell coal here or there, for this country to enter into any agreement which will be effective so far as the control of the production of coal internationally is concerned. We are convinced that we shall have to come down eventually to the position of controlling our own production before we can enter into international arrangements, which are themselves based, as the right hon. Gentleman said they must be based, upon the control of production. Hon. Members opposite will have to think afresh as regards the way of meeting this problem. We are confident that they will never meet it along the lines upon which the Government are now proceeding.

There is one other question which I wanted to ask the President of the Board of Trade, and that is whether it is accurate, as we were told by the hon. Gentleman the Parliamentary Secretary, that all the quota schemes have been a complete failure. He has told us that there has been no difference in the imports into this country of any essential food commodity since the Government came in. If that be so, of course, it means that every quota scheme has completely and absolutely failed. That is not unlikely, but we should like to have the definite confirmation by the President of the Board of Trade of that proposition, in order that we may be able to assist the country in understanding just exactly how great the failure of this Government has been. As a final word, let me add that we believe that the World Economic Conference, which has been held out to the people of this country by this Government and by the Prime Minister as the last hope of salvation, is going to prove a completely broken reed, not only because the countries have all approached it from the point of view of"What can we get out of it?" but also because they have left off their agenda the fundamental question, which is the question of the control of production, not by individuals, but by the Governments of the world.

7.22 p.m.


I am sure that all who have listened to the hon. and learned Gentleman who has just spoken will agree with him in one thing, and that is that none of us in this House take the year 1929 as an annus mirabilis to which we ought to go back. I do not think for one moment that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade did that. He took it simply as a measuring line before the slump began, and I doubt if anyone who listened to him can think that he did anything else. So far as the system of control is concerned, I do not want to enter into that question at any length, but I wonder how far it would have been of any service at the Economic Conference to lay before them a system of control of all the great elementary products by the different nations of the world. I feel convinced that if this country were to have gone before them with such a programme, we should have found that we could make no progress, and we should probably have stultified ourselves at the very beginning.


We might have had an interesting discussion on it.


Now we are beginning to know what is the idea of hon. Members opposite with regard to what a conference should be—not necessarily that we should get anywhere, but that we might have an interesting discussion. Perhaps I might pass to one or two things that were said by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), because when I listened to his speech, I thought what an extraordinarily good time he would have had if he had had the opportunity of rising to take his own speech to pieces. I will only mention one or two points to which he alluded, just to show that it is not always the critic who is immune from the liability to criticism himself. For example, he complained that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade took the case at the moment, whatever it was, and said that that was precisely what it ought to be. When I listened to the right hon. Gentleman, it seemed to me that he took the situation at the moment and then took up the attitude that that was precisely what it ought not to be, and therefore he considered his criticism justified. With regard to the 22 nations who are knocking at the door, perhaps they ought to be let in as quickly as possible. But would there have been any nations knocking at the door at all under any system supported by the right hon. Gentleman 1 It is better to have them there anxious to be let in than to have no one there seeking admission.

The right hon. Gentleman criticised the German Trade Agreement as being a puny little thing which only covered a part, and a small part, of the ground, as though it could not possibly be supplemented or extended afterwards by a further agreement. The same type of Free Trade critic criticises the Danish Agreement as being a wide, sweeping and cataclysmal business, which takes far too great advantage of the opportunity afforded. In a case like that, we do not know where we are. Take the case of Japan. I do not want to take up the time of the Committee for more than a few seconds on it, but the right hon. Gentleman made great play with the point that if you want to measure the exports of other countries in currency at all, you ought to take their own currency although it was falling. Suppose he had considered the German exports at the time when the value of the mark was falling and getting into astronomical figures of millions and thousands of millions of marks. How perfectly absurd it is to think that a country's own currency ought to be the measure. When it comes to the actual matter of fact, I happen to have in my hand one of the works on the subject which can be regarded at all as official. When the right hon. Gentleman says you ought to measure by quantity, I take the only thing approaching a quantitative measure of imports and exports, which is in the Statistical Year Book of the League of Nations, the last edition, issued only a day or two ago. There I take the Japanese exports as measured by weight, in millions of metric tons, which is the nearest approach one can get to a quantitative measurement, and I find that there is no growth but a decline. I agree that metric tons are not a final test, but there is no evidence whatsoever of a growth which is so great as to warrant his condemnation of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. The figures support the Parliamentary Secretary, not the right hon. Gentleman.

I pass for a few moments to the question of the World Economic Conference? I agree with the right hon. Gentleman, and I think that what has happened, especially with the message that has been received from America, i3 really not unexpected. If anyone will consider the past situation and the development of conditions in America, A was not unlikely that we should have reached the present situation. If the position is rightly understood and dealt with, it does not mean at all that the Conference necessarily is dead or that its utility is at an end. It may conceivably be adjourned to consider the situation created, which has now put a new orientation on the problem, but that it should not be a success at the end, if rightly understood, I do not agree for a moment. If anyone considers what has happened in the United. States of America, I think they would probably come to the same opinion. You have had there a time of depression in industry far exceeding what existed in this country. You have had, and you have still, the spectre of insolvency menacing the whole country, whether it be the farmers with mortgages on their farms, whether it be the banks, or whether it he the greatest industries in the country. There is also an unbalanced Budget still, in addition to which more might be said.

In such circumstances it is not unexpected that at this moment the President should be determined to go on with his policy of raising prices without let or say or any hesitation. Observers who came back from America recently are, I think, all impressed with the absolute determination of the States to go forward with the attempt to lift the level of prices, and thus to lift the country out of the slough into which it has got. In those circumstances, I think that it is almost impossible to doubt that events, that is, the readiness of the public over there to take advantage of anything that seems favourable, have in fact proved too strong for the President. It looks as if anybody over there who put his foot on the accelerator pedal might find the machine getting out of control for the time being and probably go faster than he might wish. It is obvious from his past policy that the President was perfectly sincere in wishing to work in harmony with the other delegations, but the march of events appears to have been too strong and swift for him for the moment, though it might slow up later. It is a little demodé to quote poetry on these subjects, but I remembered some lines which seem to me to be peculiarly applicable to the situation in the United States vis-à-vis the rest of the world: As ships, becalmed at eve, that lay With canvas drooping side by side, Two towers of sail at dawn of day are scarce long leagues apart descried. When fell the night, up sprung the breeze, And all the darkling hours they plied, Nor dreamt but each the self-same seas By each was cleaving, side by side. What we need to consider is what is the situation that has arisen as a result of the fact that the march of events has been too strong for the President. Here in this country the course of events has been entirely different. Things here are much more settled. I think there is no question that confidence has been growing and is still growing rapidly in this country. The Budget has been balanced, and no one doubts for a moment the general solvency of the whole country or the banking position. We have had announced to us a policy of raising prices by means of cheap credits, and, if that is only persevered in and given effect to, I think that we can go forward and that we have a situation here which can lead to good if it is properly handled. I want to make a suggestion as to the proper course to take, as it would appear to the ordinary mortal. It is to recognise that the United States for the time being has set upon a different policy, at any rate, so different in size as to be different in kind, and to act accordingly. We have two groups in the world at the moment. On the one hand we have the United States as a group by itself, because its bulk is so big that it is as large as four European countries outside Russia taken together. The other group consists of most of the other countries, whether those on gold or those who are on sterling or have affiliations with the £ sterling.

Unless we take action quickly it seems to me that there is a great danger that the countries which are still upon gold will be driven off it. If they are driven off gold, it is not a situation to which we can look forward with complacency. It is a thing which every person would be sorry to see occur. It might mean complete chaos in the exchanges and start a real war of devaluation of currencies. Under those circumstances what might be done to get a reasonable chance of success in the long run? I suggest that proper action shall be upon the following lines. We should try and get the groups outside the United States, that is to say, the sterling and gold countries, together on the basis of a stabilisation that is expressly admitted to be provisional. You might take as a basis the franc-sterling exchange of to-day, or more accurately the gold content of what would be the pound to-day on that exchange with the franc, and allow stabilisation with a margin of 10 per cent. above or below that standard, to provide for elasticity. That might apply to the countries in the sterling area, and it might also apply to the gold countries themselves. If that were done, there could be some agreement for making a controlled inflation through making the provision of cheap credit really active and effective. On these lines it seems to me that it would be possible for the rest of the countries in the conference to go forward and to wait for the time when the United States should be able to rejoin the general body of nations.

There would of course have to be a modus vivendi as between the two groups meanwhile. It would be an extraordinarily difficult time for merchants and manufacturers. I have had a difficult time myself in trying to deal with depreciated rates of exchange. It is however possible, though a great inconvenience in practice, to cover yourself by buying or selling exchange forward if only restrictions upon exchange are not fixed. So far as tariffs are concerned, however, it would seem a suitable measure to have a tariff which could be agreed to vary up and down according to the fluctuating value of the dollar. It would not be a hostile act towards the United States, since it would be the logical outcome of their own declared policy, as soon as the devaluation reached a stage when it became in fact a subsidy on exports. Nor need the system be very difficult to work out. The dollar could be taken on the basis of between 3.60 and 4 to the £ sterling, and according as it was devalued, at any rate in comparison with the provisional gold basis, the duties that were charged on American exports to any country could be increased by about one-third of 1 per cent. for every 10 cents of devaluation in the dollar. I think that if the official standard rate were issued at short periods, it might be found to be a basis on which trade and business could be done.

There is another point to which I would like to refer; that is the tariff question. The Government here are between two fires. There are those who criticise them on the score of agreements that they have made, and those who criticise them because they have put on any tariffs at all. I speak as an old Tariff Reformer, and to others who are old Tariff Reformers I will say this. In most of our speeches in by-gone days we have always taken up the attitude of saying to foreign countries:"If you let our goods in free, we will let your goods in free; and, if you lessen your duties on our goods and put on moderate tariffs, we will be willing to put on only moderate duties or, if we have high duties, to moderate them, too." I think there are very few Tariff Reformers who have not made that kind of speech. I suggest that the present is the time which will show whether we really meant what we said or not. For my part, I would like this country to be neither a Free Trade country nor a highly dutied and isolationist country. Either extreme would be unsuited to present conditions, and I venture to tell Tariff Reformers that if we really meant what we said, we ought to be prepared to see the Government make these agreements. As a moderate protectionist therefore and apart from criticism on particular points, which is not material at the moment, I support the Government from beginning to end in the making of agreements which are in harmony with most of our previous speeches. If it is in harmony with those, it is in harmony also with many other statements. It is in harmony with the statements that were made by the Lord President of the Council at Ottawa; with the statement made by the Prime Minister before the Conference; and with the statement made by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It is all of a piece with the policy which has definitely been before those who support the Government throughout the time since the tariff was first spoken of.

If anyone will look at the statements that have been made at the Conference, they will realise that country after country has formed its adherence to the principle of lowering the barriers that stand in the way of international trade, but, when it comes to details, they make reservations which very often take the whole virtue out of the principle to which they have given their adherence. I find myself as a Tariff Reformer in the most unusual position in this case of saying that I would go forward on much the same lines as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen. Some people cannot admit the utility of our tariffs for the purposes of bargaining. That is one great virtue of the tariff. It has justified itself again and again, but I do not see how we can get fast or far enough by a system of bilateral treaties only. I suggest that it is time we should recognise that we must be prepared, if possible, to form low tariff groups. We should have multilateral treaties and should be prepared openly and straightforwardly to say that the most-favoured-nation clause has got to he modified in order to suit the new orientation in that matter.

I do not think that if the British representatives at the Conference had laid down the law at the beginning of the Conference, that would have been a wise or a prudent act, or one that would have gained many adherents or friends in the Conference. But in all conferences of this kind a time comes when people have discussed a question so much that they are ready to have a clear lead given to them. An admirable example of the effect that can be given by a clear lead was when the British Government put forward their proposal at the Disarmament Conference. It was a concrete proposal which gave new life to the Disarmament Conference and enabled it to go on when it seemed moribund. I think that if at this moment the British representatives at the Economic Conference would give a definite lead upon tariffs as to what they really think best and what is, I think, in harmony with the views of most supporters of my own brand of moderate Protection, they would carry with them the great body of the nations at the Conference, who would be thankful to have a definite and concrete policy put before them by a country for whom they have so much respect.

7.45 p.m.


In spite of a good deal of criticism levelled at the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), I find myself able to congratulate him both upon the speech he made and the defence he put up for the Government's policy. To those of us who have been advocating tariffs for many years it is very gratifying to be here to back up the policy that has been adopted during the last two years. Yesterday I was looking up my election address, and find that I promised my constituents: A policy of conserving the markets of the Empire for the British people will be put into operation. After listening to the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary I think we can say that that policy has been adopted. Going back to the 1929 election, I find in my election address then this statement: It is disgraceful for this country to import £300,000,000 of foreign manufactured goods in a single year. In November, 1931, we place a 50 per cent. duty on imported manufactured goods, and imports have been brought down from £300,000,000 to £156,000,000. Even now I find much cause for complaint in the size of our imports. There is opportunity for us to make up for lost employment due to world causes over which we have no control by still further restricting the imports of manufactured goods.

When hon. Members tell us that tariffs have been of no benefit, because the total amount of trade is still declining, they are shutting their eyes to the fact that had it not been for the tariff legislation of the last two years the unemployment figure to-day would have stood at 4,000,000. My authority for that statement is one of the most prominent Labour leaders in this country, who in 1930 prophesied that by the end of 1931 unemployment would have reached the 4,000,000 mark. The prospect held out to the British people by prominent Labour leaders three years ago was 4,000,000 an- employed; and they had no policy to deal with the situation. They still clung to the policy of free imports, they still admitted £300,000,000 worth of manufactured goods from abroad, and complacently told the people to expect 4,000,000 unemployed by the end of 1931.

On coming into power the National Government put an end to that. By the 50 per cent. tariff on manufactured goods we stopped the increase of unemployment which had been going on month after month during the Labour party's term of office, and many new industries were started. There cannot be a trade conference or a British Industries Fair held here Without testimony being forthcoming from all quarters of the advantages of the tariff policy. I read this in a newspaper not so long ago: Many of the firms who have been busy booking orders for the home and foreign markets at the British Industries Fair have come into existence since the last fair was held. This is one of the significant features of this great trade exhibition. Further down it said: Down at Olympia they are talking of new industries, often started with very little capital, whose growth in the brief period between the closing down of the last fair and the opening of the present one has been almost magical. That is from the"Star," a Free Trade paper which holds up the right hon. Member for Darwen as the champion British politics to-day. From another newspaper I glean these words: Markets which only a year ago were almost wholly supplied by foreigners have now been invaded by British firms. They have solved the problems of manufacture which used to defy them, and they are capturing the world's custom with better goods at lower prices. That is from the"Daily Herald." So both wings of the Opposition have to admit that after 18 months of scientific tariffs British manufacturers are beginning to hold their own. We have been told that the tariffs of 20 or 30 or even 50 per cent. are not altogether the reason for the boom in many new industries, but that it is partly attributable to depreciated currencies. That does not in any way disprove the advantage of the tariff. The right hon. Member for Darwen says that these depreciated currencies add another 20 per cent. to the tariff. Then, to be logical, he should have moved an Amendment to our tariffs of 50 per cent. or 30 per cent. with the object of adding another 20 per cent., in order that they might become really effective. That is all that can be deduced when the excuse is put forward that depreciated currencies are the reason, though I am prepared to admit that depreciated currencies have given a still further measure of Protection to that which we have imposed.

As a life long Protectionist, as one who believes in Protection as a principle, as one who would not have international Free Trade even if it were offered, I believe that these additional tariffs would be all to our advantage. Speaking of that in connection with the World Economic Conference, I have no hopes of any material benefits so far as world tariffs are concerned coming from such a conference. The most we can hope is the settling of the different currencies upon a stable basis. There is no hope of tariffs being abolished in this world, for the reason that we have all got used to democratic government, we have all conceded the right of a people to rule the destiny of their own country. We all of us agree that trade unionists should be given the right to elect legislators, and we know that ultimately trade unionists always elect legislators who favour tariffs for the protection of their standard of life against foreign competition.

it is because of the spread of the democratic idea of self-determination and of nationalism that the whole world has departed from Free Trade principles and adopted the policy of the scientific tariff. Even those who sit on the Labour benches have long ceased to support a policy of international Free Trade. We have heard from the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) that he did not care for Free Trade on the one hand or for Protection on the other, but that he believes in some order of society that will replace the profit-making system. The Labour party are discarding the principles that used to be advocated so eloquently by Mr. Philip Snowden when he was one of their leaders. International Free Trade can never stand. There is not a single Member of this House who dare get up and say that he would favour the unbridled competition of the sweated workers of the East with the British cotton industry. Yet when anyone glibly talks of going back to the international Free Trade policy it must mean permitting such competition. Bismarck, who built modern Germany, did it by scientific tariffs. McKinley, who made the United States an industrial nation, did it by the McKinley tariff. France emerged from the position of a backward agricultural State to a manufacturing one behind a policy of scientific tariffs; and at the present time England is coming into new life, with new industries, as the result of scientific tariffs. I was reading testimony to this by one of our leading coal producers, Sir David Llewellyn, who said, speaking only a few months ago: But to come specifically to anthracite, it is true that we are experiencing a largely increased demand from Canada in competition with the United States, but the home market is also expanding considerably. There is a great increase in consumption, for example, for horticultural purposes. The tariff has given a tremendous impetus to home growers of fruit, vegetables and flowers, and it is surprising to what an extent the consumption of anthracite for these purposes amounts to. It would be a conservative estimate to say that in the past two years it has increased by 50 per cent. That is the way to make up for the loss of our coal export markets—by conserving the home market for our domestic manufacturers and for our coal producers. It is useless to talk about getting back our export trade in coal to anything like the proportions of four or five years ago. The coal trade must make up its mind, as must the cotton industry, that its vast export business has gone, and gone for ever. The world will not stand still. We have taught the world to spin and to weave cotton, and they are taking advantage of our technical instruction, using their own capital, and sometimes some of our own spate capital as well, to put up modern factories and to produce for themselves. We cannot prevent a German from preaching to his own nationals,"Buy German goods." We cannot go to a Chinaman and say that he shall be prevented from buying Chinese cotton goods because, in the interests of Lancashire, we want to hold the market for ourselves.

We cannot tell the countries of the world to cease their national policies. They have home rule and they can do as they like, and they are bound to adopt the same method that we are adopting to-day and that, in some cases, has been in operation for the last 50 years. Nationalism means Protection, protection means national economic independence, and although that slogan has been deplored to-day by some speakers who can see only evil in the idea of national economic independence, to me it is a real ideal and one worth fighting for. It cuts right across the economics of Adam Smith and of our modern British universities, which have been teaching false economics for the last 80 or 90 years. National economic independence is an ideal which the peoples of the world are fighting for, in spite of all the economists of the nineteenth century, and it is an ideal for which people will go on striving.

Had the international free trade policy been carried out 100 years ago we should have been a nation of cotton spinners, coal-miners or steel workers, that is all, and the rest of the world would have been supplying the other goods which could be produced more economically and satisfactorily in other countries. The theory was that goods should be produced in the land where they would be most economically and plentifully produced. Would it be a good idea for our youth of to-day only to have three occupations to look forward to, as coal-miners, cotton spinners, or steel workers? I would rather see the diversification of industry. I would rather see in the same family a bootmaker, a carpenter, a coal-miner, a steel worker, and a textile worker. Look at the gloomy atmosphere there would be at the breakfast table, if we were all coal-miners. The homes of England would resemble the dullness of the Front Opposition Bench. We do not want that state of society in this country. It is by the adoption of the scientific tariff that you can stimulate the production of any class of article that you want.

Why should not the British working man and his wife have English-grown tomatoes? If hon. Members on the Labour Benches had their way, we should all have to eat the imported article. The horticultural measure which they violently opposed has given British tomatoes to British households. This rare and refreshing fruit is not sold at a prohibitive price. About 18 months ago we were told from the Opposition Benches that if we imposed those horticultural duties we should denude the working man's house of flowers. The working-men would cease to have them on their tea-tables. How I remember the tears falling from the eyes of the Leader of the Opposition as he made those prophecies. What has been the result? A newspaper tells me that tariffs have reduced the supplies of flowers from the Continent, and that consequently the market is now handling a greater quantity of British flowers than ever before. That newspaper was the"Daily Herald."


Tell the truth and shame the devil.


That was six months after the duty had been imposed. Now we get the"Daily Herald" of last week, 18 months after the duties have been in operation, on the same subject, and this is what it said: Tons of flowers at Covent Garden. Tulips 3d. a dozen. Carnations id. apiece. That should bring joy to the hearts of hon. Members opposite. When the next bye-election comes along, their red carnations will cost them only 1d., because of the protective horticultural duties, instead of 3d. that they paid under Free Trade. Work has been brought to the glass industry. A glass works in Kent which prospers to-day had the bailiffs in two years ago, but work has now been given to the carpenters and joiners who are making frames for the glass-houses. There has been an increase of 25 per cent. in the number of glass-houses in England since we imposed the horticultural duties. That means more work for collieries in heating the glass-houses.

During the last few months, I have been making personal investigations to find out what the tariff policy of the Government has effected. I find that in my own constituency there is a firm of toolmakers—this subject may be familiar to some hon. Members on the Opposition Benches—I have here some taps and dies, which are screw-making instruments, manufactured in Islington, and known as the"Warrior" tools. Two years ago, the firm that makes them tried to sell their products to two of the largest retailers of such goods, but the retailers refused to handle the goods because each of them had the sole agency for American specialities in the same line. sentatives of the two largest distributors rushes up to this firm in South Islington and asked to be allowed to include the tools in their current price list. Permissions was given. I have here the ledger sheets for December of the firm with the two retailers concerned, and they show that in one case they did no trade, and that in the other the turnover was 13s. In November, as we imposed the 50 per cent. duty, the turnover jumped up from practically nothing to £150 in one case, and to £237 in the other. Ever since, the monthly turnover of this firm with two largest distributors of tool products in England has been an average of from £230. to £280 per month.


What is that tool?


Taps and dies for making screws. Most of them that were used in this country were imported from the United States two years ago. The small firm in my division, who were employing 50 people, have increased their staff to 85, and it has built an additional wing to its factory. The two partners of the firm are most optimistic. There will be no need for them to go to the East Coast to buck up their spirits this year, because of the tariffs of the present Government.


How much increase in price has the British workman had to pay for that class of tool?


That is a very good question, and I forgot to deal with it. The price of these tools has fallen in the last 18 months by 15 per cent., that is, since the duty was imposed. The directors tell me that the fall in price is directly due to the increased output which is now taking place. In addition, the whole of the steel used to be imported from Belgium two years ago, but, owing to the tariff, the firm is now bringing the whole of the metal from the Midlands.

Here is another illustration. Hon. Members will forgive me, I hope, for bringing illustrations from my own constituency, but we are elected to look after the interests of our own divisions. Here are a couple of bottles. This one 18 months ago was imported from Germany. The bottles are used mostly in chemists' shops. Hon. Members will see them all along the shelves from which prescriptions are made up. Now that prescriptions can be made up in British bottles, I hope that that will add to the health of the community. The duty on glass has turned the trade over to two British firms. One is in the Caledonian Road and is making the identical bottle. It has increased its staff from 100 to 135 people. I have been all over the factory and seen it at work. The moulds from which the bottle is made come from Yorkshire. I hope that the Yorkshire Members will carry the news back to their constituencies to show the advantages of tariffs. The other bottle is a scent bottle. So glad are these firms at the transference of this trade to them, that they give £1 per week to the Mayor's Unemployment Fund. Such is their satisfaction at the tariff policy of the Government.

I have here a better illustration. When hon Members tell me that tariffs are of no benefit, I would call their attention to this clock. The clockcase has been completely transferred, in its manufacture, from the Continent to this country. Hon. Members will remember the McKenna Duties. They were imposed in 1915. At that time, these clock cases were imported from the Continent. There was a small clockmaker in Shore-ditch. He employed one boy and himself worked in a small workshop, for which he paid 2s. 10d. per week to the London County Council. The McKenna Duties came along and he gradually increased his output, making this stock article instead of the specialised cases he usually manufactured. Year by year, by a policy of gradual progress which should appeal to the hearts of hon. Members opposite, he increased the size of his workshop, until to-day, in Stoke Newington, he has a three-storey factory where 350 men and women are turning out 10,000 wooden clock cases every week, from this tiny clock case to the grandfather clocks that you see in the shops.

Then the man, now an enthusiastic manufacturer and no longer the small man in Shoreditch, but owning his own motorcar and a nice house, became intensely patriotic, as most men do when they prosper—that even applies to Labour leaders. In his patriotism, he deplored the fact that everyone of the 10,000 cases which he made, under the protection of the McKenna duties, had to be filled with a German, a Swiss or a French clock, so he and the son of an old clockmaker at Clerkenwell put up money and built a factory at Enfield. They went to Germany and paid £12,000 for a complete clock factory. They shipped the whole of the machinery to Enfield. They took on 100 English men and women and brought 18 German key men over with them. I have seen the factory three times, and have been all over it. They started clock-making at Enfield. This is an example.


Are there any grandfathers?


I have not any grandfathers, but I see some grandmothers opposite. Here are three clock movements that 18 months ago would have come from Germany. To-day the three movements—Westminster chimes, seven-day dock, and 30-hour clock—are being made at Enfield, where 120 men and women are now at work; 100 were at work six months ago. Of the 18 Germans who were here at that time teaching, 12 are left, six having gone back. All are here under a permit from the Ministry of Labour. They have to go back at the end of six months, or to get a renewal of their permit. They are gradually going back, and as they go, the English staff is increased.

Here are some interesting facts about the clocks. Eighteen months ago, the price of this Westminster chimes clock-movement was 28s. 6d., imported from Germany. Competition between the English factory and the German factories has been so intense, and so mad are the Germans at losing the market for this movement, which they have held for generations, that they fought. The price has been cut a shilling at a time, until you can buy this movement, not at 28s. 6d., which you would have had to pay under Free Trade, but at 16s. The price of the seven-day clock has been reduced from l0s. to 7s., under the competition that is going on. The factory-owners tell me that the English work-girls and the men in this factory—but especially the women—have excelled in this mass production at such a rate that the firm can afford to go on cutting the price, and they are quite confident of being able to beat the Germans, providing that we do nothing to reduce the tariff, and that the favourable advantage of the fall in sterling also remains. Those two factors, which, in their culminative effect, mean a protective duty of something like 50 per cent., have enabled the clock industry to got a footing. When we realise that we have 500,000 miners unemployed, when we realise that coal can never come back, because oil is superseding it everywhere—in hotels, factories, glassworks, ships, and the next move is in the direction of railway engines—it is, I suggest, our duty as legislators to try to find new avenues for employment for the boys of the miners, rather than condemning them to stay in the coalfields where their labour will never be used. Here is an opportunity. The number of clocks sold every year in England is 4,500,000. Only 250,000 have been made here in the past. The industry has received such a stimulus during the last two years that in 1931 we turned out over 1,000,000 clocks, and in 1932 2,000,000; and it is expected in the industry that, if nothing intervenes, we shall be turning out the whole 4,500,000 during the next 18 months.

There is 'another factor to be considered. When these two enthusiasts started their factory at Enfield, they could not get from any firm in England brass of the quality used by the German manufacturers. They went to Birmingham, and put up this proposition:"If you will turn out this quality of metal, we will give you a standing monthly contract." On that promise Birmingham rose to the occasion, as it always does, and today the whole of the brass used at this clock factory comes from Birmingham. That is another advantage to the coal mining industry, because coal is needed in making brass. The glass that is used in these clocks is also being manufactured in England. A factory has been opened at Whitechapel which makes the gong movements, and another at Edmonton which makes the dials.

As regards the wood, in the case of this factory in Stoke Newington, which is turning out 10,000 clock cases a week, 95 per cent. of the raw wood comes from Canada. I would ask hon. Members whether it is not better, as a trading policy for which we are responsible, that we should encourage the production of timber in Canada rather than in Russia or Norway? I would put that question to those who have any sympathy at all with the unemployed. Last year and the year before, 30,000 unemployed Britishers returned to England from the Dominions. We were buying wood from Russia, and forcing our unemployed brothers to come back from Australia and Canada to swell the ranks of the unemployed here. We buy Norwegian doors and window frames. Would it not be better to keep our people at work in our own Dominions? The Norwegian unemployed will not come here; the Minister of Labour will see to that; but, if our unemployed brothers have nowhere to go in Canada, Australia, New Zealand or Africa, they come back to England. They can claim free entry here, and we cannot stop them. Hon. Members will recollect the questions that have been asked recently concerning the immigration of unemployed English people. Our Government are powerless to prevent it, and it is right that it should be so; but it is our duty as legislators to try to help those men who have gone overseas in the past, by offering a friendly hand to them, and saying that we will buy their products in preference to the products of Scandinavia. That is the trading policy that I was elected to fight for in the House, and for which I have fought for over 25 years since Joseph Chamberlain started in 1903. It is that enthusiasm which has caused me to find these examples, and to give the Committee a practical demonstration. If I have done anything by this practical demonstration to make Labour Members opposite waver in their old-fashioned ideas, I shall feel that I have done my duty.

8.21 p.m.


It would be impossible for me to emulate the hon. Member for South Islington (Mr. Howard) as regards either the examples which he has quoted or the exhibits which he has produced. He has given the Committee a practical example of the efficacy of the Government's policy in his own constituency, and one which many of us will remember for a long time. I listened with a great deal of interest to the opening speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade. To endeavour to compress into one speech a general review of British trade, which covers such a large area and which has so many repercussions in so many different countries, is a matter of very great difficulty, and I think the Parliamentary Secretary is to be congratulated on having given to the Committee a statement which was at the same time comprehensive and concise. He gave us this general picture: There has been a continuation, in the last 12 months, of the general decline in world trade, but we in this country have not shared in that decline to the same extent as the rest of the world. There has been a decline in world trade of something like 25 per cent., but our imports have only declined by 18.2 per cent., and our exports by 6.5 per cent.

There was, however, one aspect of British trade to which the Parliamentary Secretary did not draw attention, and it is an aspect which I think is of great importance, and one to which attention should be given by Members of the House. That is the change which is taking place in the distribution of British trade. The movement in favour of the Empire has continued. There was a time within the last few years when Europe was our best customer. No longer is that the case. In 1932, Europe took 42 per cent. of our exports, but in the first quarter of this year the Empire took 44 per cent. of our exports, for the first time putting itself in the position of being our greatest customer. Just as there has been a growth in the take-off of the Empire from this country, so we have gradually become better customers of the Empire ourselves. In 1924, we took 31 per cent. of our imports from the Empire, and in 1932 the figure had grown to 39 per cent. I think we are entitled to say, from these broad generalisations, that the Government's policy—a policy of first making our own position safe, and, secondly, of extending trade within the Empire—has been abundantly confirmed. The President cf the Board of Trade said in a recent speech in the House that that was the consideration which he had before him—first of all to make this country safe; secondly, to extend trade within the Empire; and, thirdly, to endeavour to extend world trade as a whole. Concerning world trade as a whole I shall have something to say in a moment.

I think that no hon. Member who studies the general position of British trade can disguise from himself the fact that in the distribution of trade, as regards its quantity, the exchange value of currency plays an extraordinarily important part. In September, 1931, we freed ourselves from the burden that had been resting on British trade of an overvalued £. Every industry, particularly exporting industries, benefited by the fact that the currency was freed to reflect 'he economic position of the country. America is now in the same position that we were in in 1931, and there is some disposition to criticise America because, learning from our example, and also learning by our mistakes, she is taking full advantage of the fact that she is no longer tied to gold. There are some who say that America went off gold merely for the purpose of her own policy. I think that is really not the correct view. It is true that there was no external pressure on the dollar but there was a good deal of internal pressure and, unless America had gone off gold, there is very little doubt that the whole of her banking system would have been ruined and, although America was not forced off gold in the same way that we were, nevertheless she was forced off by internal pressure and I think she is justified in using her new freedom to her best advantage.

My point in drawing attention to the position of the United States is that now that she is free from the Gold Standard, now that her currency is fluctuating, we have to bear in mind that she is, in the main, the alternative source of supply of the British Empire. All the goods that the British Empire obtains from us can, in general, be obtained from the United States, and if we allow the dollar to depreciate in relation to the pound we shall find that the whole policy of the Ottawa Conference is going to be undermined. The whole of the present movement of British commerce towards Empire exists, in favour of greater Empire co-ordination, is going to be nullified by the fact that the Colonies will find it so much cheaper to buy goods from America instead of from ourselves. Therefore, we cannot afford to have the pound linked to gold while the dollar is free. What we must have is a greater volume of world trade. We must endeavour to do something to help consumption to keep up with production, and for that purpose, in my view, a higher level of prices is necessary. If we were to agree artificially to stabilise the value of our currency now, in my view we should be putting the cart before the horse. We should be stabilising the means of exchange without having increased the volume of trade and without having got a condition of economic stability, which is so much more necessary than stability of the means of exchange. It is perhaps, symptomatic of the times in which we live that we should have an Economic Conference sitting and that 66 nations in one museum should be controlled by one man in a cruiser. But I do not feel despondent because of these peculiar things that are taking place in the world.

My right hon. Friend the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) tried to harrow our minds with the suggestion of the tremendous disadvantage that might arise by reason of all nations going off gold. I think that danger may prove to be more important in the imagination than it would be in reality. Even if all the nations were to go off gold, trade would continue to be carried on. It would always persist in those places where prices were equal to costs and, if you got a state of affairs when prices exceeded costs, trade would grow. We should find equilibrium at a new level of values and we ought not to be very perturbed at the possibility of certain nations now on the Gold Standard going off it. However, that is for the future. For the present I am content to emphasise this point, that premature stabilisation would expose the markets of the Empire to ruinous competition from the United States and that we should be forced to tie ourselves to European markets, from which there has been an economic drift for many years, and we should stifle the rise in commodity prices as expressed in sterling just when a glimmering of confidence through higher prices is returning.

One aspect of the problem to which I wish to refer particularly is the threat to world recovery which has arisen through Japanese competition. The Parliamentary Secretary informed us that world trade had gone down, and he included in world trade the trade of Japan. I imagine that it was only because be presented the statistics in the form he did that he was able to make that statement because certainly, if you measure trade by the volume of goods, the statement is inaccurate and, even if you converted values into sterling at the par rate of exchange, you would have illustrated the fact that Japanese trade has tremendously increased in spite of the fact that the trade of other nations has gone down. Figures in the Board of Trade Journal show that Japanese imports in 1931 were £126,000,000 and in 1932 £146,000,000. The exports were £114,000,000 in 1931 and in 1932 £139,000,000. I imagine that, when the Parliamentary Secretary said there had been a decrease of 6 per cent., he was giving a comparison between the first three months of 1933 and the first three months of 1932, and he converted the yen figures at the abnormally low rate of exchange that has been prevalent. If he sticks to the yen figures, he will find that, instead of a decrease of 6 per cent., there is an increase of 49 per cent.

I mention those figures to clear up the controversy that arose earlier in the Debate and to emphasise my point that, when the trade of the world is showing a continuous decrease, Japanese trade shows an increase of 20 per cent. in the last 12 months. Japan alone among the nations of the world is showing an increase of imports and an increase in exports. That trade, obviously, is being done at the expense of other nations, and of those nations with a higher standard of living. By Gresham's law we remember that bad money drives out good, and we shall have the same kind of law existing in the economic sphere unless measures are taken to prevent it. We shall have the countries with a low standard of living driving out the countries which are on a higher standard. It is only necessary for me to emphasise to the Committee the abnormally low rates of pay in Japan, the conditions of labour and the hours of work. I have here a small extract in reference to the textile industry which is worth quoting: No collective agreements are in operation in the Japanese cotton industry for the regulation of wages. Not more than seven in every hundred workers are members of a trade union. Wages are fixed solely by individual bargaining. According to the International Labour Office the wages earned by the male cotton operatives average only 1.35 yen per day. At the present rate of exchange this is equal to about 1s. 70. per day in sterling. Similarly, the average wages earned by the female cotton operatives is given at 0.75 yen or about 10f per day. These wages are inclusive and cover all allowances and payments made in kind. It should be noted that nearly all the workers in the Japanese mills are womn and girls. Less than 40,000 men are employed in an industry affording work to over 200,000 operatives.


Will the hon. Member say why he has translated the figures at the present rate of exchange?


I am quoting from this particular document. I agree that an argument could be put up to show that the present rate of exchange may not be the rate of exchange over a long period. There is a certain amount of truth in that, but, in relation to the export of these goods and the way in which they compete in the various markets of the world, one can only arrive, in the absence of statistics of the volume of goods, which ought to be given and which the Japanese authorities do not give, at competitive statistics by translating the value of the yen into some currency. I personally think that the yen value is more a figure which gives the volume of the goods exported than sterling. I am making the point that it is well known in this House that the Japanese people pay phenomenally low wages and that the standard of life is one with which we could not possibly ask any of our people to accept. No market in the world is exempt from the menace of this extraordinarily cheap production. Textiles, as they are the main exports of this country, are the spearhead of Japanese economic penetration, and naturally they affect the constituency from which I come. The markets of the British Empire are the main depository for dumped Japanese goods. There may be some hon. Members here who will recollect an old Member of this House, Sir Alan Sykes: He cannot be considered an alarmist. He is an industrialist of great acumen and very sound judgment. In a speech delivered a few days ago he said: Recently an intense selling campaign, backed by an exceptional degree of currency depreciation has resulted in flooding many of our foreign markets with Japanese cloth at a price with which no Western nation can possibly compete. In some cases cloth has been sold at a price which could not cover even the current, cost of the raw 'material. This is not trading—it is economic war, and it can only be countered by specially contrived measures which the people of this country have the right to expect the Government to take. With the best will in the world the cotton trade itself could not bridge more than a fraction of the gap between the price of Japanese and British cotton cloth. This is not a question which can be answered by any reference to the failure of the British cotton industry to put its house in order. It is a deliberate attack designed to oust our products from specially-selected markets by means which no industry could invoke and which no industry could counter without extraneous aid. There is a legitimate demand on the part of the trade so affected by Japanese competition for this extraneous aid. The country is entitled to ask the Government:"What are you going to do about it?" The country is entitled to call upon the Government to act. Every representative trading organisation in the country has expressed its views on this subject. When we have an Empire which has been built up as the result of many sacrifices on the part of British people, surely, we are entitled to ask our Government whether it is not desirable, if we cannot come to some better arrangement, to put a ringed fence round the Empire and say, that as far as the cheap, low-priced Japanese competition is concerned, they must endeavour to make their sales outside the British Empire and cannot be allowed within it. I know that the Government appreciate the importance of this matter and that they are considering it, and have been considering it for many months, but I wonder if they appreciate the intense earnestness of the request of the people who are affected for some immediate action? Conversations have been commenced. We have heard that a note has been sent to the President of the Board of Trade. We know that the note has been received but we do not know the contents of the note or the nature of the reply. Surely, the President of the Board of Trade could take the opportunity afforded by the World Economic Conference to go into the matter of Japanese competition, which affects not only this country but the whole of European civilisation. Surely, a conference could be arranged to bring into consultation, if necessary, other Western Powers which are similarly affected.

It ought to be possible to obtain a statement from the President of the Board of Trade to-night which would give to the country a legitimate expectation that the matter would be tackled. There is a feel ing, which I do not think is justified, that the matter is being shelved and that its importance is not being realised. A statement from the President of the Board of Trade would be helpful. It would probably not only be helpful to the Government but also to himself in the negotiations which he is undertaking. I congratulate the President of the Board of Trade upon the way in which he has dealt with the major difficulties of transforming this country from a country of free imports into a country with a reasonably low tariff. I trust that I shall soon be able to congratulate him upon his method of handling what is a new and extremely grave menace to the civilisation of Western Europe.

8.45 p.m.


I should like to join my congratulations to those of the hon. Member who has just spoken on what has been achieved up to now by tariffs, and on the position in which we stand. I wish to raise one or two points relating to the Agreements made between the United Kingdom and foreign countries. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade in opening the Debate mentioned that these agreements represented a certain amount of give and take. That we must all admit. We in this country agree, for instance, to receive granite and wrapping paper from Sweden, while Sweden undertakes to receive whisky and dog biscuits from us. Certain industries here may be the losers, but if we can feel that, taking trade and industry on the whole, there are improved prospects, if we can feel that there is increased employment and extended international trade, then the sacrifice which we have made will be worth while.

There are certain points in connection with the Agreements on which I should like to touch—in the first place with the quantitative regulation provisions. In the Swedish Agreement we arrange in Article 4 to take 43,000 cwts. of fish, foreign landings in this country, while Sweden agrees to take from us 47 per cent, of the coal which she uses. We agree to take something which is very definite. We agree that we will take not less than 43,000 cwts. of foreign landing from Sweden, while Sweden in regard to coal undertakes that she will take some thing which is indefinite, and likely to be indefinite. It may be an advantageous bargain for us in 1933, but are we sure that it will be equally advantageous in the year 1936, for the agreement is to run three years? We have to allow for the movement that is proceeding at the present time from coal to oil. We had a good deal of discussion on this question in connection with the Finance Bill. We know that steps have been taken in this country to counteract the movement. A tax has been put upon fuel oil which is likely to cause an increased use of coal, but our Finance Bill does not run in Sweden or in Norway, and in both those countries the movement from coal to oil is very strong. We in Aberdeen have special reasons to know that, because one fine day, not very long ago, a large fleet of fishing vessels came into the harbour from Sweden. They were new boats, all of which had probably been built within the last three years, and they were driven by Diesel engines with Diesel engines to work the winch. This meant less accommodation needed for fuel and consequently more accommodation for fish. Within the next three years we may find that there is not a single steam trawler in Sweden. If that happens, less coal will be used in Sweden than there is at the present time.

Lieut.-Colonel J. CO LVILLE (Secretary, Overseas Trade Department)

Before the hon. Member leaves the question of coal. I may be able to clear up a slight misapprehension in regard to the Swedish Agreement. In that agreement it is agreed on the part of the United Kingdom that as regards fish if a quantitative restriction applies imports will not be cut down during the period of the agreement to less than the figure mentioned, but there is no guarantee that that amount of fish can be bought in this country. In the case of coal, however, it is an actual guarantee that Sweden will purchase that percentage of coal, and if she does not we may give notice to determine the agreement. Therefore, on the one side while it is a percentage there is an actual undertaking to take that percentage of coal, and on the other side we give an undertaking that we will not cut down the amount of fish below the figure mentioned, but there is no undertaking that that amount of fish will be purchased


There may be an advantage in that way, but my point is that the coal may be a diminishing amount. In the granite quarries in Sweden we may find Diesel engines installed within the next three years, and the same thing may happen in regard to the granite yards, with the result that Sweden may need a considerably smaller quantity of coal, and therefore the 47 per cent. will be smaller, in which case we may not get three years hence the advantage that we are likely to get at the present time.

There are one or two other points in connection with particular industries that I should like to raise. There is a feeling that in the North of Scotland our industries are apt not to receive the same amount of attention as the industries near London. That has been a complaint made in connection with the agitation for Scottish Home Rule. Looking at the agreements it seems to me that a number of the industries in regard to which we are making concessions are industries which have been established for a long period in the North-East of Scotland. Let me mention one or two. We have the wrapping paper industry, the granite industry, both raw and manufactured, on which the tariff has been put down to a low figure above which we cannot rise, and there is newsprint which is being admitted free.

On the other side we are getting the advantages. There is advantage in regard to whisky, but in Aberdeen we do not manufacture whisky, we manufacture soda-water and consequently the advantage does not come to us. There is great fear on the part of the paper industry particularly as to what the result of the Agreement will be. There have already been a good many changes in connection with wrapping paper. It was one of the earliest industries to get the advantage of Safeguarding. It got a 16 per cent. duty then, but when Safeguarding as a policy went out, and the agreement terminated, that duty stopped in 1931. The result was that a mill which is situated near the constituency which I represent had very nearly to close its doors, but when the abnormal Import Duties of 50 per cent. were put on, for a short time the mill was working at full pressure and giving a large amount of employment. Afterwards, the duty was reduced to 20 per cent., but facts and figures were put forward which convinced the Advisory Committee that a higher tariff was necessary, and only a short time ago the tariff was raised from 20 per cent. to 25 per cent. I have here a letter which puts the matter better than I can do. It says: The Agreement is likely to place our trade in a hopeless position. I would point out that on the strength of the 25 per cent. duty granted by the Advisory Committee we started a comprehensive scheme of re-equipment, and a considerable value of machinery was ordered. These orders will have to be cancelled if the duty is reduced, indeed it would seem almost certain that we should have to give up paper making altogether. The prospect for the wrapping paper industry, if the duty is reduced to 161. per cent., is not good when we consider that they were able to persuade the Advisory Committee that an increase was necessary when the duty stood at 20 per cent.

We are also concerned with the question of granite, which we get from Norway and Sweden. The duty on rough granite from Sweden was 10 per cent. and the duty on sets and kerbs imported 15 per cent. Representations have been made to the Advisory Committee that these tariffs were not doing the work intended, and that an increasingly large amount of sets and kerbs from Sweden was coming in. The imports from Sweden in January last were 2,960 tons, and the imports have increased to 3,390 tons in February, to 3,649 tons in March, and to 4,604 tons in May. Representations were made to the Advisory Committee that the duty on sets and kerbs should be increased in the interests of the granite 'trade, which is an important industry in the north-east of Scotland; and the application was being considered. Now we feel that all hope has gone for the next three years. We understand that sacrifices have to be made and we agree fully with the principle under which these agreements are made, but we hope that when they are being made in the future it will be remembered that in our part of the country we have made sacrifices. We may then be entitled to reap some of the advantages which may come from future agreements and in these our claims may be specially considered.

8.59 p.m.


The hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Hammersley) reminded us that the general decline in world trade continues and pointed out that certain changes in the volume of the trade have occurred since the Government initiated their policy of Protection, followed by the Ottawa Agreements. He pointed out that some of the trade had been diverted into new channels. He was only saying what some of us said in criticism of the Ottawa Agreements when they were passing through the House. We said that there would be a diversion of trade into fresh channels but that there would be no increase in the total volume of world trade. Obviously, what is needed more than anything else is an increase in the volume of world trade, and it may be that the policy which the hon. Member calls safety for ourselves and an expansion of trade in the Empire has contributed in no small measure to the decline in the total volume of world trade. I was interested in the speech of the hon. Member for South Islington (Mr. Howard) who brought to our notice a series of exhibits and pointed out that as a result of a policy of Protection certain small industries in and around London have benefited to some degree. His exhibits were incomplete because he did not bring along tomatoes and tulips and carnations, to which he seemed to attach a great deal of importance.

The hon. Member showed an infinite capacity for self-delusion as to what is likely to be the outcome of a policy of Protection. He called our attention to the fact that there are imported into this country some 4,500,000 clocks every year, and that owing to the duties which have been put on the clock industry in his constituency shows signs of revival. He went so far As to prophecy that at no distant date the clock industry of this country will be able to produce the 4,500,000 clocks which are apparently needed every year. What he does not seem to understand is that there is a limit to the market for clocks in the United Kingdom, and When that limit is reached I wonder what he will say as to a policy of Protection being a solution for our economic difficulties. The other comment I feel constrained to make in regard to his speech is that if you put into employment 10 or 20 more clock makers, or even 100 altogether, and at the same time your general policy results in putting out of works tens of thousands of miners, I do riot see what we gain in the long run by such a policy. If in some small industries you put a few people into employment and at the same time you put people out of employment in large industries in large numbers, I do not see that we gain much in the long run.

I was also interested in the speech of the hon. and gallant Member for Bourne-mouth (Sir H. Croft). He offered very moderate congratulations to the Government on the policy they are pursuing. He told us that the downward tendency for trade, so far as this country is concerned, has been definitely checked; that there was less unemployment, and that was as far as he could go. He then told us that he was going to criticise only to stimulate the Government. He had no intention of making any criticisms which would be damaging to the National Government; he wanted to stimulate them to go on in the good way. His main complaint was that the tariff is not an effective bargaining weapon. I notice the change of emphasis which is coming into the speeches of ardent protectionists. They used to tell us that the establishment of Protection would ultimately mean high wages in this country, plenty of employment for everybody. That note is now lacking in their speeches; I do not hear it in these days.

What I hear now is an entirely different note. It is that if we had a higher tariff it would be a better bargaining weapon, and that we would be able to make better trade agreements than we can make in existing circumstances. We are told-that a 10 per cent. tariff gives us nothing with which to bargain. That is mainly the note that is being struck now. The hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth denounced the policy of quotas as far as agriculture and foodstuffs are concerned. He said emphatically that the best course to have pursued would have been a policy of tariffs and not of quotas. The hon. and gallant Member is very consistent. He talks much in the same strain every time he speaks on this subject. He did not seem to me to be very satisfied with what the Government have done so far. He said they lacked the necessary courage which he wishes them to exhibit. I suppose the courage which he wishes for is the courage which would result in the establishment of a very high tariff.

Then we had the speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) who naturally drew a picture for us of the present social conditions of the country. He drew that picture very effectively. I think he was quite justified in asking the House to remember that what is seen in and about London is not typical of the United Kingdom. He was justified in saying that in his own area of Darwen 42 per cent. of the insured population were unemployed. He reminded us that the Secretary for Mines the other day said that 30 per cent. of the miners of the country are unemployed, and that the Minister of Labour had recently stated that 500,000 unemployed in this country have now been out of work for more than a year. The right hon. Gentleman was entitled to paint that picture for us of the social conditions of the country, as a set-off against what some supporters of the Government have been saying about the so-called improvements which have taken place.

The right hon. Gentleman called attention to the serious decline in the re-export or carrying trade of the country. He told us that the revenue from tariffs had been in some senses negligible, especially when one remembers the speeches of protectionists, in days gone by, as to the amount that would be obtained from a tariff system to assist the revenue. The right hon. Gentleman also stressed the fact that we may have lost revenue in other directions by the establishment 4:4 this system. To anyone sitting on these benches such speeches as that of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth and that of the right hon. Member for Darwen are exceedingly interesting. One could not help running over in one's mind the phases through which the Government have already gone in their career of nearly two years. During that time they have held out to the country a. series of hopes. First of all the main hope was to be found in the establishment of a system of protection. Disillusionment has come very speedily, in the wide and general sense. There are hon. Members like the hon. Member for South Islington (Mr. Howard) who can point to certain small industries having benefited by this policy, but in the main the policy as such is utterly and completely discredited, and we must face that fact. The next stage—


The Tariff Advisory Committee is only in the process of applying tariffs. There are 100 applications to be dealt with. It has taken 15 months to give us a tariff on lace.


I was very interested in what the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth had to say about the Tariff Advisory Committee. He has now reached a phase where he thinks that the Government ought to give instructions to the Advisory Committee.


Hear, hear.


The hon. Member for West Nottingham (Mr. Caporn) echoes that sentiment, that we have now reached the stage where the Government ought to give instructions to the Advisory Committee. I am interested to hear that he agrees more or less with the statement of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth. I have not yet forgotten the arguments which were used when the Tariff Advisory Committee was set up. It was then said"We will set up this body outside the House of Commons, beyond the range of political influence, so that it can act dispassionately, without bias." I never believed it, would act without bias. I do not think the people engaged in a task of this description can ever act without bias. They are biased one way or the other to begin with, very definitely. Now apparently their action has not got as much bias in it as some hon. Members would like it to show, and they want to bring it, back to political control. Apparently there will have to be some alteration in the Government before that phase is reached. I am glad to know that the hon. Member for West Nottingham looks forward with hope to the establishment of a complete scientific tariff which he believes will take us out of our economic difficulties.

In the United States they have had a scientific tariff for a very long time, but it did not get them out of their economic difficulties. As a matter of fact it probably aggravated some of those difficulties. The second stage of this process was when we were asked to look forward to the Ottawa Conference. We were told that as a result of the agreements reached there would probably be a marked improvement. There is no sign of that yet. I shall be told that the agreements have not been in operation long enough. Then we were told to concentrate our attention and hopes on the World Economic Conference. I do not think that we shall get very much out of that Conference. Why do I say so? Apparently all the statesmen of the world at the Economic Conference consider that the major issues before the world at the moment are the questions of raising prices, stabilising currencies, removing tariffs, quotas and restrictions; and some of them apparently want to get back to the Gold Standard at the earliest possible moment. Just because the statesmen of the world think that those are the major issues, the Conference will fail in restoring anything like prosperity to the industrial communities of the world. In view of the enormous productive capacity at the disposal of mankind to-day, the World Economic Conference ought to consider such questions as a general reduction of hours of labour in all industrial countries, a general raising of the standards of life in all industrial countries and a shortening of the working life of all persons engaged in industry—


Every one of those things would require legislation.


I am not asking this Committee for legislation in regard to these matters, I am merely putting the point that the statesmen who are gathered at the World Conference ought to be considering those matters. If the World Conference decided to return to ale Gold Standard, would not that require legislation here?


I think the hon. Member can, if he wishes, deal with these questions without advocating legislation which, in my opinion, he was doing when I interrupted him.


I have little further to add. The statesmen of the world consider the issues with which they are dealing at the Conference to be major issues. Some of us on these benches do not consider them to be major issues, and we say that that is the reason why the Conference, generally speaking, will fail to accom plish the obvious purpose for which it was called into being, namely, the restoration of trade and prosperity.

9.18 p.m.


The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade gave us some striking figures in his opening speech. He was rather angry with me when I suggested that one of the causes of the striking revival of British prosperity in relation to other countries which took place after 1931 was our departure from the Gold Standard and the enforced depreciation of sterling in terms of other currencies. The hon. Gentleman went so far as to accuse me of carping. I do not think he was quite fair. I am a supporter of the protectionist policy of His Majesty's Government, and, although the Parliamentary Secretary is not now in his place, I cannot resist the temptation of pointing out that, as long ago as 1923, I stood for the policy which he defended so passionately, and that he himself has been more recently converted to the faith. I appreciate the beneficial effects of the protective policy which the Government have embraced, but I think that probably the policy of leaving the Gold Standard, if it can be called a policy —perhaps I ought to say our enforced removal from the Gold Standard and the consequent depreciation of sterling—was of material assistance in 1932 and 1933 to our exporters.

We meet this afternoon under the shadow of a very momentous declaration by the President of the United States. It is a declaration in favour of economic nationalism, and we should make a great mistake in not facing that fact. Not only this country, but the nations of the world represented at the conference have been forced by that declaration to face the realities of the post-War period, and to adapt their outlook and policy to modern conditions. For that reason I welcome the statement of the President of the United States, even though it was couched in unnecessarily harsh and abrupt terms, I think that it cleared the air, and that in the long run it can do nothing but good. It certainly seals the doom of the economic internationalism which we have been accustomed to envisage in the past, and which my hon. Friends of the Liberal party have preached so assiduously.

As a matter of fact the doom of that form of economic internationalism was sealed as long ago as 1922. The Genoa Conference was the last real effort, made under the impetus of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), to translate the economic doctrines of Adam Smith into practice. We find the whole international gamut in the Genoa Resolutions. The progressive abolition of tariff barriers and exchange restrictions; an international monetary standard of value based upon gold and operated by international co-operation through central banks. All these things are to be found in the Genoa Resolutions. But those Resolutions were broken down by the growing spirit of nationalism throughout Europe and subsequently throughout the world. The policy of each nation became one which could be summed up thus:"Let us collar and keep hold of our domestic market and at the same time expand our export trade." I agree with my hon. Friends of the Liberal party that that is quite impossible. As you shut down competitive imports, you inevitably shut down competitive exports in exact proportion, but that is what the nations of the world proceeded to do. I believe that things have gone so far that competitive international trade as it existed before the War is at an end. I do not think we shall see a revival of that kind of trade for many years to come and perhaps never again.

I read the other day a very interesting article by an American publicist who is now here and whose opinion commands great weight in the United States—Mr. Walter Lippmann. He pointed out that the growth of nationalism in the last few years has coincided in a remarkable degree with the growth of collectivism, with the growth, if you like, of the Socialist idea of the organising of industry, and that there had been to a large extent a curious fusion between nationalistic and collectivist forces, a sort of unholy alliance between the forces of the right and the forces of the extreme left, missing out all the forces of the centre such as the Liberal party. I believe there is a great deal of truth in that idea. The demand of the workers in all countries for security, for reasonable wage standards, for insurance against the hazards of life, involves not only a planned economic system in each country but inevitably involves a protected economic system in each country. If you are going to organise and plan your industrial system and at the same time endeavour to give your working-class population adequate security against the hazards of life both it—your system—and they—your workers—must be protected from external and uncontrollable forces in the world as it exists at present.

This is no new plan except to Mr. Maynard Keynes who discovered it yesterday morning and was in consequence held up by Lord Beaverbrook as the modern Voltaire. The Lord President of the Council discovered this truth 10 years ago when he went to the country in 1923 on exactly this policy—a much better policy if I may say so than the policy of"Safety first." Sir Oswald Mosley not so long ago was talking in the House of Commons of"insulation." That was the word which he used to describe the new policy and while I do not agree with many of his views, I am bound to say that on reading in the OFFICIAL REPORT recently his speech of resignation I found myself in complete agreement, from the economic point of view, with every word he said on that occasion. I seem to have read something about protection and insulation from time to time during the last few months in the"Daily Express." It is the same old story. As usual—with the exception of the Liberal party—the politicians are in first. They are right long before anybody else. Then the Press come along some time afterwards, and lumbering along miles behind come the economists headed by Mr. Keynes, and they discover these tremendous truths that the politicians have discovered years before. And yet the public still consider that the economists are right and that the politicians are poor fools.

Up to now very few Governments in the world have realised the international implications of the economic policy which they have been pursuing. National economic units are being created every day, and every day they become more powerful. It seems to me that the task of this Economic Conference and of the future is to adjust these units to one another. Some will be Communist; at the moment one is. Some will be Fascist; two are Fascists. From our point of view, it matters very little whether they be Communist or Fascist. They will all exercise an iron control over their imports and over their exports. Of what use can it be to talk about Free Trade under these conditions? I cannot believe that the hon. Gentleman who led off for the Opposition this afternoon really meant that the Labour party stood for Free Trade. I really think that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) was much nearer the mark when he said that they stood for neither Free Trade nor Protection. He, at least, realised the implications of this modern era of national economic units and the doctrine which will increasingly spring up throughout the world, for these units will retain rigid control over their exports and imports.

For some time to come international trade will have to be complementary rather than competitive, and largely confined to primary products. I do not believe international trade ought to die or must die, for it is essential for this country, but I think we must see on what lines it is going to be conducted, and adapt our policy to modern conditions. For some time to come I believe international trade will inevitably be confined to primary products, to capital goods and to essential luxuries that can only be produced in a particular country. In this connection I would like to say to the President of the Board of Trade how delighted I am, personally, that this wretched embargo on Russia has been removed, because, from our point of view, Russia really does fulfil all those conditions. We can exchange timber for machinery and caviare for herrings to the great mutual satisfaction of both countries. For my part, I think in the next two or three years Russia is likely to provide the largest market in the world for capital goods which are likely perhaps to be the chief commodity of international trade during the next four or five years. I do not want to see happen in the future what has undoubtedly happened in the past, with the City of London lending money to Berlin at 8 per cent. and Berlin passing it straight on to Russia and giving them credits and getting 12 per cent. for it. The profit was made in Berlin and yet the Germans defaulted before the Russians. I have frequently said before in this House and I want to say it again that I would gladly trade with cannibals if I were convinced it would be a good thing for our own people and our own export trade. I must express my unfailing satisfaction at the satisfactory completion of these negotiations with M. Litvinoff, and I hope to see us taking a larger share in the Russian trade in the years that lie immediately ahead.

I should like to say that I do not see any reason for great despondency—none at all. There is room for a vast increase both in the volume and in the diversity of our own protected domestic production in this country, and I echo the plea of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) that we should go in, to some extent—not too much— for a policy of expansion at home. I believe that we are now in a position when the Government can give an initial impetus, and undoubtedly President Roosevelt believes the same thing applies in the United States. However cheap you make money, I do not think you will induce the private investor to invest in British industry until he is a little more convinced that the revival is genuine. The Government can give a tremendous impetus, for example in the development of housing schemes. I would like to see a slow, gradual but steady expansion in expenditure on public works of an ultimate remunerative character, for which I am quite sure there is tremendous scope. Everyone could see the necessity for contracting in the crisis of 1931, but I do not see that that obtains any longer. I hope the President of the Board of Trade will be able to give some encouragement on that matter, so that some of these restrictions may be relaxed, and that the Government will give encouragement to a general policy of expansion, because you have cheaper material, cheaper wages and cheaper money to-day than you are likely to have for many a long day to come. I believe you could undertake works of a useful public importance at the present time which will bring you in substantial remuneration and more than pay for themselves.

Also with regard to the export trade, I agree with the hon. Gentleman below the Gangway that even in the changed modern conditions of the 20th century, that trade is absolutely essential to us. We are in a better position than any other country to expand our export trade to-day, because we are the only country which is prepared to accept large imports at the present time. The British market is perhaps the most valuable asset that we possess. Reference has been made to the fact that it is about time those 22 nations, knocking at the door so long, were answered, and answered rather more emphatically than Germany was answered the other day. I think we are in a position to negotiate favourable agreements not only with foreign countries, but also with our own Crown Colonies where we have a vast field for the expansion and development of our export trade, of which I am afraid we have taken far too little advantage in the last 10 years.

I should like to say one word with regard to the Economic Conference. I do not know whether the right hon. Gentleman is going to make any statement tonight. I know it is A very delicate subject. None of us here know exactly what the position is. We do riot know whether the Conference has adjourned or whether it is only adjourning until Thursday, or what the prospects are. For my part, I hope the Conference may remain in being, for there is much useful work still to be done. The hon. Gentleman who led off for the Opposition, this afternoon, and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, made a point which, I think, was of tremendous importance, namely, in regard to shipping subsidies. The President of the Board of Trade knows more about this subject than any other hon. Member, and he must be well aware that these shipping subsidies, which amount to something like £30,000,000 a year in different countries, are killing the shipping industry throughout the world, and doing no good to anyone—least of all to the countries that are giving the subsidies. Let the Conference get down to dealing with that, and try to stop these-subsidies.

I agree with hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway that sooner or later some form of international control of the production of the basic commodities such as wheat, coal, cotton, oil and metals may probably be necessary. If the Conference would come down from the heights to which, unfortunately, they were raised at the outset by the eloquence of the Prime Minister, and get down to the rather more sordid details of shipping subsidies and world production of certain basic commodities, I believe in the long run they would do very much more good. Along these lines I believe that great progress can be made and that the standard of living, not only in this country but in many other countries as well, can be substantially raised. I still think that the President of the United States may succeed in lifting prices in America, in this country, and throughout the world. If he does, he deserves our gratitude and our thanks for ridding us of many of the economic nostrums and fetishes of an age that has gone, whatever we may say. But I hope most sincerely that, perhaps in a modified form, we shall back up the policy a the United States of America in trying to raise world commodity prices, and, above all, that we shall not allow ourselves at this critical moment to be led into any sort of conflict with the United States. We may have to protest, we may have to protect ourselves against American exports, but when we come to Anglo-American relations, we very quickly find ourselves in the region of the imponderable.

I believe that, quite apart from any economic dissensions and quarrels that we in this country may have with the United States of America, there are fundamental ties, going deeper than any economics, between the English-speaking peoples of the world that would render any open quarrel between Great Britain and the United States of America the greatest catastrophe 'that could befall civilisation. Although we may be angry and irritated for the moment with the American policy, and still more with their method of expressing it, I feel that we ought to realise that the President of the United States is, according to his lights, making a real effort, perhaps the greatest effort by any statesman in high authority for many years past, to lift, not only his own country, but the world out of the morass of deflation and depression, and that instead of quarreling with him at this juncture, we should do everything in our power to support him and to back him up.

9.38 p.m.


I was interested in the remarks of the hon. Member for East Aberdeen s(Mr. Boothby). Indeed, I agree with a good many of the things that he said, but I am not sure that he really went deeply enough into the sources of his views. He went back to the time of Sir Oswald Mosley, but his political programme was a mixture of every kind of proposal, and everyone is bound to find his views therein some time or other. I agree with the hon. Member for East Aberdeen as to the policy of strict control of our export and import trade put forward by the Labour party. The Labour party policy of import boards was put forward before the hon. Member was in the House. Indeed, it was when Sir Oswald Mosley still adorned the Conservative party, and this party has not spoken for the pure doctrine of nineteenth century laisser faire Free Trade for a very long time, although there were certain persons who still held to that view. I admit that Lord Snowden had some leanings that way, which eventually brought him to be a powerful factor in returning the first purely protectionist Government, with the assistance of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel).

I agree that we want a planned and controlled economy, having due regard to the interests of this country and also the interests of the whole world, and I was glad that the hon. Member for East Aberdeen suggested that the World Economic Conference should be considering the question of world co-operation and world control of such matters as raw materials and so forth. Where I differed from the hon. Member—and perhaps it is the point that separates him from us—was his note about the caviare and the herrings, because we represent the views of those who are very short of herrings, while he represents the consumers of caviare, who are—


If the hon. Member can only persuade those whom he represents to eat herrings, I can assure him that they will find them the cheapest and most efficient article of food.


I agree, and in return, if the hon. Member will use his good offices to get the Government to see that the workers and the unemployed of this country have the wherewithal to purchase herrings, we shall between us make an Aberdeen boom. I should like to refer to one other speech made in the course of the Debate, before putting certain propositions to the President of the Board of Trade, and that is the speech of the hon. Member for Stockport (Mr. Hammersley) on the subject of the cotton trade and Japanese competition. We on these benches have never been devotees of the importation of cheap and sweated goods, but if the cotton trade is going to ask for some form of Protection against Japanese cheap labour competition, it must do one thing. I have heard from people who have visited Japan that the cotton trade there is distinguished not only by extremely low wages, but also by extremely efficient organisation, and I think it is common ground that there is very great room for reorganisation in the cotton industry in this country. I hope that we shall hear from the President of the Board of Trade whether anything is being done in regard to the reorganisation of that great industry.

The right hon. Gentleman will understand that we have had a certain difficulty in carrying on this Debate without having had the opportunity of a full statement of policy from him. We recognise that he has been absent on very important business, and that the Parliamentary Secretary did his best. He gave us a great many figures, which he used for his own purposes, but he seemed to me to be in the position of coming down to the House with a number of beads and no string. The right hon. Gentleman ought to have been here to provide us with the string, which is the policy to which all those figures were related. We merely got a kind of general picture of the world as it appeared to the Parliamentary Secretary, but I do not think we know where the Government stand, and I do not think we have had a general exposition of its economic or financial policy. I am not going to try to deal with finance—I should be out of order if I did—but I suggest that the World at large and this country in particular are rather vague as to the Government's policy.

I had the privilege the other night of hearing an extremely facetious American, Mr. Hart, broadcast his views, and he described the state of the wilderness in which he thought his Government was—he was quite impartial—and of the wilderness in which he thought our Government was. He pointed out that we seemed to have one doctrine for home consumption and another for an inter national conference. We have been told for a long time that this World Economic Conference is the hope of the world. It was the one gleam of light in the somewhat murky speeches which we have had during the last two years from the Prime Minister and, to a lesser degree, from the Chancellor of the Exchequer, and we are all interested to hear about what is happening there. I am bound to say that when I read their proceedings I am more and more reminded of that admirable simile which was used by the Chancellor of the Exchequer with regard to the nations of the world as a lot of logs floating down a river and bumping against each other. They have bumped so hard that they seem now to have got into a jam. Perhaps we shall know whether there is any way of extricating them from the jam.

I have been looking up some of the speeches, and the particular point on which I should like an exposition from the right hon. Gentleman is that which was mentioned by the hon. Member for East Aberdeen, namely, the question of raising prices. I have here an extract of a speech by the President of the Board of Trade in which he said that the policy of the United Kingdom was to raise prices. The Colonial Secretary also said that everybody was agreed that the low price of agricultural and primary products was the root cause of the crisis. I should like to know from the President of the Board of Trade how that works out. It seems to me so different from the classic views of capitalism. If we read any of the classic authors of the nineteenth century, the great protagonists of capitalism, we are told that this country has the great advantage that it has cheap food and raw material. The right hon. Gentleman in his day was an extremely clever exponent of that point of view, but now I understand that it is wrong, and that what we ought to do is to raise the price of food and primary products. Generally, when one says that, someone interjects and says,"Wholesale prices only," but I cannot imagine that we can raise the wholesale price of primary products and foodstuffs without raising retail prices.

Mr. BOOTHBY And raise wages too.


I will deal with wages in a moment. If there are hon. Members who think that a rise in wholesale prices is not to fall upon the consumer ulti- mately, I hope that we shall get a clear statement as to whether, for instance, in meat, the rise of wholesale prices will be paid by Messrs. Vesty and those in the meat trade, or by the shipping interests, or by the wholesalers, or by the retailers. Until I get a definite statement from those interests that they are prepared to shoulder that burden, I shall conclude that the enhanced price due to the raising of the prices of food and raw material will be paid for by the people of this country. The right hon. Gentleman is not only an extremely experienced statesman, but a great business man, and I want to know if, when he carries on his business, he endeavours to raise the price of all the things that he requires. I want to know whether he is carrying on the business principles which he has adopted with great success in his private affairs into the affairs of this country—for we look upon this country for this purpose as a trading concern, and we have to buy from abroad our food and raw materials. When the right hon. Gentleman was running a shipping line, did he go to the ship's chandler and say,"I want you to raise all your prices." Or did he go to the shipbuilders and say,"I want you to put up the price of ships." If he did not, why not?

If he is going as a matter of fact to make trade agreements with other countries, the whole point of which is by restrictions and one thing and another to raise the cost of those things that we buy, I want to know why that is good. I wonder if he ever said to his father, after the latter's absence for a period,"Well, father, I know that everything is rather slack, but I have done a great stroke of business. I have managed to change all the contracts, and I have given them all 30 per cent. extra." I think that his father would have spoken something like Sir Anthony Glos'ter, and would have said in effect,"Trinity College is all right, my boy, but you stick to politics and leave business alone, or we shall be in Carey Street." That is what will happen if we raise prices. We merely say that our people shall pay extra money to certain producers in other countries. If we agree that the Argentine have got to pay us for the tribute that they owe us in the goods they supply, mainly wheat or meat, we merely raise the value of their currency with which they pay us. I cannot see that that is an advantage to us. The only thing I can suggest is that perhaps the real reason is that those in power have ceased to look upon this country as a trading nation and are mainly interested in our position as a great rentier nation. I cannot help thinking that that, is at the back of the mind of all those people who talk about raising prices of raw materials, primary products and food.

We have, I gather, something like £650,000,000 invested in South America. The rentier class have got to get an income on their investments, and I can see that from the point of view of the rentier it is good business to make our people at home pay more for their food in order that they may get interest on their investments. I cannot see that it is good from the point of view of this country if we do not identify the rentier with this country. But I rather think we do, because it seems to me that there is quite a considerable amount of talk which is solely from what I would call the moneylender point of view. We had rather a good instance of it in the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Tamworth (Sir A. Steel-Maitland) this afternoon. He was talking about the United States and the terrible position into which that country has got, and he said that they were nearly in a state of national bankruptcy. No one supposes that as a matter of fact the United States of America owe large debts to the rest of the world. On the contrary, they are a creditor nation. They were not therefore in a position of committing bankruptcy vis-à-vis the rest of the world. The only thing that could happen would be that some section of the American people would go bankrupt to some other section, and really, as a matter of fact, what the right hon. Gentleman meant was that from the moneylenders' point of view, it might have been possible to pay the interest on the money so borrowed.

I think that that vitiates a great deal of the talk with regard to raising prices, because throughout the interest of one section of the people in this country is taken as the interest of the whole, and what you do in effect in this business of raising prices is merely a form of redistribution of rights to income. That is all that would happen in the United States if they went bankrupt in the form in which the right hon. Member for Tamworth meant. It merely meant that certain people would cease to have a right to draw certain incomes, and in the proposal that is put forward here to raise the prices of agricultural and primary products, it really only effects the distribution of income; and each of the right hon. Gentlemen's trading agreements merely effects a change of the distribution of income in so far that he makes one section of the people pay more for their things and thus enables another section to draw interest and profit. We have no objection on these benches to a redistribution of the national income. If we do it, it is said to be spoliation and robbery. When the right hon. Gentleman effects the same thing, it is high policy and is saving the country.

The hon. Member for East Aberdeen mentioned wages, and that is another point on which I wish to get a statement from the right hon. Gentleman. When he and his colleagues put it to all the nations of the world that they want to raise the price of food and primary products do they intend at the same time to raise wages? If not, they will not increase the purchasing power of the world. I can understand a policy which says,"We have a very heavy burden of fixed charges—rates of interest, rents and so forth—and we desire to effect a redistribution of incomes and of purchasing power among the community. We want to reduce the amount that goes to the rentier and to the landlords, and we propose, therefore, to raise the price of commodities, so that all the people who work, whether actual producers or engaged in transport, shall get more." I can quite see that when you raise the general price-level you are going to relieve the world of some of the burdens of the moneylender, but is that the proposal, because except for the hon. Member for East Aberdeen I have never heard the question of raising wages tacked on to the question of raising prices.


Surely that is the policy of the United States of America., which the hon. Gentleman has just been deriding.


I say I never heard it in this House.


You have just been pouring scorn on it in the case of America.


The hon. Member is mistaken. If I poured scorn at all, it was in a mild way on the right hon. Member for Tamworth; but I never really poured any scorn at all. I was pointing out that he was wrong when he said the United States were insolvent—that they were not insolvent with regard to the rest of the world, but might find they had too heavy a burden of indebtedness to their capitalists. I think that President Roosevelt is setting us a great example of energy in the way of dealing with things. I want to know from the right hon. Gentleman what his policy is in regard to the internal 'affairs of this country. We have been led to believe that the only hope lay in an international conference.

If the Conference is failing—I do not say it has failed, but at least it is not very healthy at the moment—if it is not going to produce great results, what is the alternative? We are told that it is economic nationalism. President Roosevelt, we are told, has undertaken to develop the United States. He is, as a matter of fact, urging high wages and a works programme, and I. am surprised that supporters of the National Government should tell me that I deride him, because hon. Members opposite always derided us when we also suggested that we should keep up the purchasing power of the working man. His point is that to increase production there must be purchasing power in the mass of the people. That is directly contrary to the doctrine of the National Government. It may be the sort of policy they put up when they go to the Geological Museum, but it is not their policy in this House. If we put forward a great works programme we are told it is wasteful; if we say we ought to put people to work and not keep them idle, it is wasteful; but President Roosevelt is admired by hon. Members opposite. He says, and I think he has more sanity than many others, that you must put people to work, and that if you cannot do it in any other way you must divide up the work. If we suggest that it is treated as being funny. We are even criticised for trying internationally to put any restriction on the hours of labour. The hon. Member for East Aberdeen suggested that we were going to have a. number of different economic groups, some Soviet, some Pacifist, some United States of America, and some apparently in this country linked, perhaps, with the British Empire, and linked, perhaps, Also with some bloc or other.

Is it suggested that while the United States is to be a, high wage country we shall be a low wage country? That does not chime in with the objection to Japan's low prices. It may be found that we shall not be able to trade with America because wages here are too low. Are we going to be a long-hour country while the United States is to be a short-hour country? We want to know the Government's view, because they appear to halt between at least two opinions. There is still in the Government a very large mixture of mid-Victorian laisser faire and Protection and economic nationalism, and I frankly think that from this Government we are getting the worst of both worlds. I am sure that we have failed to give any lead to the world. We have let the lead slip out of our hands to President Roosevelt, because he, at all events, will not merely wait for an Economic Conference but is taking steps to develop to the fullest extent the economic life of his own country.


He is doing very well.


Why did you not develop this country?


Why has not the hon. Member followed us into the Lobby in the last few years when we were urging on the Government to develop our own country


The development of our own country Never in your life!


Perhaps the hon. Member will read in the OFFICIAL REPORT the speeches of hon. Members on these benches and he can also search the speeches of the Prime Minister.


Some search!


When the hon. Gentleman has done that perhaps he will say that he was wrong. I think the House will agree that Members on these benches have often almost bored the House by asking so repeatedly for large works of development to be undertaken, and during the last year we have been joined increasingly by Members from every other part of the House; but we have not yet managed to convert the Treasury or the Government. To-night I would like the President of the Board of Trade not only to deal with the World Economic Conference and our position in respect to foreign trade, but also to say what his plan is for the full development of the economic resources of this country. If he will give us a lead we shall be the first to help him as a repentant sinner. One things stands out clearly in this Debate, and that is that Members in all parts of the House realise that—the present condition of affairs—the World Economic Conference being in very great difficulties at least—should lead us to look over any shibboleths we may have. If hon. Members look over their shibboleths carefully, I believe they will find they will have to adopt a great many of mine. There is one country in which we see an entire reversal of the policy of this National Government. That country is the United States of America. At home they were met with similar difficulties as ourselves, but they met them, not by cutting wages but by suggesting higher wages. They are suggesting, not cutting down every opportunity for useful work, as we saw yesterday when we discussed forestry, but by great works of national development. We hope that the Government will soon make up their minds to take a similar course.

10.6 p.m.

The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)

I have no apology to make to the House for not being here at the beginning of to-day's sitting. I was engaged on. duties which certainly called for my presence. I was not wasting my time, nor was I doing anything which was disloyal to the Government of this country in working in South Kensington while the right hon. Gentleman and his friends were at Westminster. How different their treatment of the President of the Board of Trade is from the treatment we used to give to Mr. W. Graham, in the days of the tariff truce at Geneva. He was absent from the House for many weeks, because of a great many difficulties—


On no occasion when Mr. Graham was away, was any explanation given to Members of the Opposition, because always some communication had taken place. None of us to-day had any notification that the right hon. Gentleman was not going to be here until the discussion was just about to start, and we saw that he was not here. Further, we changed the date in order to suit the right hon. Gentleman. When it became necessary to change the day, I think that there was a courtesy due to the Opposition that they should be communicated with.


If there is anything missing in the communications which passed through the usual channels, I can only say that I know nothing of it. All that I ask for is that I should receive the same treatment at the hands of to-day's Opposition that Mr. Graham used to receive from the then Opposition.


I cannot allow this to pass. Although I have not been trained in the same school as hon. Members who are jeering, I have never been discourteous in this House—never. I have never treated individual Members as the right hon. Gentleman is treating me now. In this business to-day, I am not guilty of any discourtesy to the right hon. Gentleman. I am the person whom he is treating with discourtesy.


The Committee knows what the position is. I can only say that I was engaged on the duties of the Board of Trade and in the service of the Crown. Now may I say all that can be said at the moment with regard to the World Economic Conference. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) asked me a number of questions with regard to the Conference, and, if I do not answer them seriatim, he will understand that that is not due to any lack of courtesy to him, but to the simple fact that it would be inadvisable at this stage of the history of the Conference for any detailed statement to be made from this Box. When a statement has to be made here about the progress which has been made by the Conference, it will be made by the leader of the British Delegation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, and he will no doubt choose a suitable occasion on which to make that statement.

Do not let the Committee imagine for a moment that it is easy to conduct a great World Conference in which 66 different countries are represented, with at least 66 different points of view. It is almost impossible to obtain in a great assembly of that kind any one settled trend of thought, but one undoubted fact emerges from the discussions which have taken place in South Kensington, and that is the degree of candour which has been shown by the representatives of one country to the representatives of all others. That has been the most valuable service, not only to the Conference but to the well-being and good feeling of the world. The difficulty of securing agreement—[Interruption]—if the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) will restrain himself, I will tell him as far as I can. I was pointing out how difficult it is to obtain agreement between representatives of the 66 different countries. It is difficult enough to obtain agreement between 66 different individuals, as the hon. Member for Bridgeton perfectly well knows. I am a member of a party which numbers just about 66, and we have not succeeded in achieving agreement.

I should be very much surprised if in any conference, where with such a great variety of interest and nationality is to be found, you would be able to say that you had secured complete agreement. You can make some progress in the solution of many of the problems by mutual co-operation, and that is what we have been achieving. The suggestion is made that those who have been representing the United Kingdom have not been doing what is called"giving a lead." I hear that phrase very frequently, and I have been wondering exactly what is meant by it. If by it is meant the simple fact that we have failed to lay on the table many resolutions, or to state in plain language what we wish to achieve, then I say that we have given a lead more decisive and more comprehensive than have the representatives of any other country. On 22nd June, we tabled for the Economic Section of the Conference a complete set of resolutions. Those resolutions covered the whole field of fiscal controversy, and they will be found in the published papers of the Conference itself.

Those resolutions, I admit, are not heroic. I must confess that I am suspicious of heroic measures for securing the economic weal of the world. Very often it is easy to prescribe a cure and very dangerous to apply it. We cannot afford to run many risks. We have far the most delicate trade in the world, subject to outside influences of every kind, and we can run no risk in any section of the trade which we hold at the present time. I know that the proposals which we put on the paper, covering tariffs, prohibitions, quotas, the most-favoured-nation clause, to mention only a few of the first-class subjects which came up for consideration, do not cover the whole ground. The hon. and learned Gentleman opposite complained that his cure for world ills had not found a place on the Conference agenda. There is a very good reason for that—nobody was prepared to take the responsibility of putting it there. There was but one bloc of Government representatives who might have undertaken to be the sponsor for his cure being put on the paper, and, if they had done so, there would have been 65 people opposed to it. In those circumstances, the"Noes" have it.

Then complaint is made that we have not done very much practical work during the three weeks that the Conference has been in session. I do not know what is meant by doing practical work, but I would point out that questions of the purchase of raw materials would appear to be practical work, and also questions of shipping subsidies and subsidies for various forms of production. These are questions which affect the employment of people, and that is what I understand by practical work. The hon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee) has made reference to what has become almost a refrain in connection with this Conference—the raising of prices; and he asked me a number of questions regarding wholesale and retail prices, none of which I propose to answer. We have discussed the subject more than once here, but, when the hon. Gentleman asks me point blank what I would have done in my own private business if I had been faced with the problem, and whether I am in favour of or against the raising of prices, I say quite frankly that I am strongly in favour of raising the prices of everything that I produce, and of lowering the prices of everything that I buy. That is a very simple rule which never seems to have occurred to hon. Members opposite. One question which is always asked of any sensible young man who has been in business is not whether he has succeeded in raising the prices of the things that he has bought, but whether he has succeeded in raising the prices of the things that he has sold. That is the whole art of salesmanship, and without good salesmanship there can be no profitable business.


What I asked the right hon. Gentleman was why he does just the opposite when he is dealing with nations.


I must again explain to the hon. Gentleman the very simple problem that was facing us. The largest number of producers in the world are those who are engaged in the industry of agriculture. They are the largest purchasers in the world, because of their number, and they are unable to purchase in amounts adequate for the well-being of the world's trade, for the simple reason that the commodities which they produce are being sold below cost price. If they are being sold below cost price, there is a loss and not a profit, and without a profit they have not the wherewithal to buy the goods which we produce. The best service that we can do to the great manufacturing industries of this country is to play our part in raising the prices of the raw materials which are grown by the numerous agriculturists. That simple story of high prices—


We are lending them money to buy our goods.


What is the use of the hon. Gentleman talking like that? He cannot speak in the name of agriculture. There is none of the representatives of agricultural countries concentrated together at South Kensington who has not seen the truth of that, and is not striving to that end, and does not know the importance at the present moment of raising the prices of those agricultural commodities which are produced by farmers and growers all over the world. That is a common policy. I need not go into it at any length, because the truth is that it is accepted freely at the present time. All of the 66 nationalities represented at the Conference—even the minority of one—would accept that dogma. And that one nationality takes pretty good care, when selling us its commodities to do one or other of two extreme things—either to ask so much that we cannot buy, or to want to sell to us at prices so low that they would break our market; and we are not disposed to be parties to either alternative.

My right hon. Friend returned to the old subject of the trade agreements, and wanted to know why we should have done nothing but praise the Government for what has been done in the way of trade agreements. I do not call any Member of the Government in evidence; I do not ask any of the beneficiaries under our trade agreements to say what they think. I quote the Review of the Principal Tendencies of Present Commercial Policy—a note prepared by the Economic Relations Section for the Economic Committee of the League of Nations and distributed to the Conference for its information—a public document which anyone can obtain if he wants to. I turn to page 7, where a reference is made to our trade agreements, and I take this important statement: The United Kingdom signed in April and May, 1933, a certain number of agreements which are of the greatest importance, since they are an indication of a new orientation of her commercial policy. I turn over the page and look at the paragraph that refers to the tariffs that are covered by these agreements. The first and most marked criticism of them is that they involve very appreciable tariff reductions or consolidation. I am not going to argue any further on that subject with my right hon. Friend. His views are well known and so are mine. I would only say that I accept the opinion of that Section that it is recorded in the proceedings of the Conference that is now sitting, and it remains there for all time that an impartial tribunal says that our agreements were of the greatest importance and have led to the reduction and consolidation of tariffs.

I turn to one or two practical questions which have been raised this evening. First of all, I was asked a question with regard to Japanese competition. In the Debate on the Adjournment on, I think, 2nd June, my hon. and gallant Friend the Secretary to the Overseas Trade Department made some reference to communications that have been passing between the Japanese Ambassador and myself with regard to Japanese competition, and he expressed the hope that the Conference might result in bringing a solution of the problem of Japanese competition. The reply of the Japanese Government to the suggestions made by the Board of Trade has been received. The delay that has taken place since then is simply due to the complexity of the issues that have been raised, and the necessity for consultation with the interests concerned in this country. I can report that a special committee has been set up to represent all Lancashire interests in the discussion. The question of including silk and rayon as well as cotton is under consideration. The Government are in the closest touch with the Lancashire Special Committee, and they have also been in communication with the silk interests. It is hoped that the reply to the Japanese Government will be sent shortly and that the next step will be the holding of the proposed conference. At this stage that appears to be the most hopeful way of dealing with what undoubtedly is an extremely difficult problem.

I was asked whether we had been guilty of any infringement of the tariff truce. I can say emphatically"No." We have taken, and we are taking, no steps which have not already been made public in one form or another by 12th May, which is the date from which the truce dates. We have not departed from the undertaking by one jot or tittle in the letter or in the spirit.

We are very fortunate in being able to announce that in the course of our discussions we have been able to do something for the herring, which forms such an important part of my hon. Friend's staple diet. The little country of Latvia has undertaken to buy three times us much herring as it bought last year. That does not amount to a terrible lot, but it is three times better than 1930.

Another question that l was asked was how far we had gone with the nations which are knocking at our door in order to negotiate new trade agreements with us. The point was made by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen that, if we proceeded along the lines of nothing but bilateral arrangement, before the whole world was covered with these arrangements 2,145 treaties would have to be made. He obtained that very nice calculation from my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary of the Department who worked it out with great care. The House has it for what it is worth, but that does not end the matter. The question is whether or not we can most usefully make progress by one big Convention covering the whole of the 66 countries or two or three groups within those 66 countries, or by taking country by country? We have found from experience that it is almost impossible—I do not say quite impossible, as I am not without hope—to get the whole of the 66 countries to agree to any one general principle except that of raising the prices of agricultural commodities. Unless you can obtain some degree of concurrence in the basis of any new Convention to be set up or in the conditions to be imposed upon this and other countries, it is useless. The only hope of any multilateral agreement would be that it should be carried out unconditionally and honestly by those who accepted it, and if they did not agree with it at the very beginning it is hardly likely that we should make any progress.

We have found that in conferences with individual countries we can make some progress. Criticism may be levelled at us because progress is very small or very slow. That may be, but we are dealing with matters of first-class importance, and it is hardly likely that there would be any conceding of rights on either side without our having thrashed out the details with very great care. When we have done that we lay ourselves open to severe criticism, as we know, from experience. One thing is certain, that, unless we are prepared to proceed piecemeal, it will be impossible for us to achieve anything like that agreement in trade relationships between the countries of the world which is necessary for freeing trade, increasing trade and co-operating in trade.

If I were asked to classify the nations of the world into various categories I Could do so with more or less ease. There are those on the Gold Standard and those that wish they were. There are some which are very glad to be in the gold group, and there are others which prefer to be in the sterling group, as it suits them better. There are some countries which are mainly interested in raw materials and the production of foodstuffs. There are others interested mainly in manufactured articles. They manufacture articles which go to make up in- ternational exchange in one way or another. It is an extraordinarily difficult thing to classify any of the 66 countries of the world into their scientific compartments. It is only by sitting round a table and surveying the whole of the ground to see what can be done to meet their convenience and the demands which we make, that we are able to make progress. It is in that process where difficulty is being felt in our proceedings. But we do not shut out from our programme the idea of our having something in the nature of a wider binding agreement.

I said a few minutes ago that I did not agree that one Convention was achievable. I do not think it is just now. But it might be possible for us to go a little beyond the purely bi-lateral method. There are four conditions to be complied with and I challenge anybody in the Committee to say that any one of those four conditions is unreasonable. They are: (1) That any multilateral, arrangement must be likely to be effective in securing really tangible reductions of excessive tariffs. Nobody wants a multilateral arrangement that is ineffective. (2) That it must command a sufficiently general measure of support. No one disagrees with that. We want to cover a sufficient amount of ground and a sufficient number of people to make it worth while. (3) That it must not impose on any country sacrifices which are disproportionate to those demanded of other countries. It goes without saying that if the demands are disproportionate in this sort of agreement it is not likely to meet with general support, and it is quite certain that no multilateral arrangement which falls short of that is likely to be of any avail. 4) It must not have injurious repercussions— whatever that means— or lead to tariff wars. There you have the four conditions that you must comply with if you are to achieve a, multilateral result. What has been the result at South Kensington? The more we have discussed the subject the more we have had exposed to us the diversity of the conditions under which the peoples of the world labour, and it has now become well nigh impossible to cover the ground by any one agreement or any one group of agreements. We shall have to go much more patiently ahead than we had anticipated at one time. I never imagined for a single moment that we should be able to make very rapid progress. I doubt very much whether we shall make rapid progress, but at all events we are able at the present time to say that we have laboured long and tirelessly in. order to clear the way that was necessary before progress could be achieved, and we have done so because we believe that if this opportunity is not used, and used to the full, we shall find the trade of the world so languishing that the depression through which we have passed will be nothing like as bad as the one with which we shall be faced.

There is an old saying in the North country which I never tire of repeating, to the effect that: The events of to-morrow will never be the same as the events of yesterday, and the conditions of to-morrow will never be the same as the conditions of yesterday. If the opportunity comes to us to make any progress and to achieve any general agreement, the House may rest assured that we shall not lose it. We shall take every means within our power to make advance along the lines of general agreement and co-operation, because it is only along those lines that we see hope

10.34 p.m.


I do not wish to delay the Committee, but I would not like the speech which has just been delivered to pass without one or two comments. The right hon. Gentleman opened with a certain degree of truculence, which at once raised in my mind the feeling that he felt he was on. Some what weak ground. He seemed annoyed that the Committee had desired his presence here on the day that the Vote of his Department was being taken, and he tried, as is customary, to indicate that this was a discourtesy to him which had never been offered to any Labour Minister. The Committee will readily appreciate that I am not here to defend either the work or the conduct of the late Government, but I cannot remember any occasion when members of the late Government were absent on the day when their own Vote was open for discussion. There would have been no trouble to-day if it had not become the practice with Members of the present Government. There would have been no trouble with the Opposition if they had been told that the right hon. Gentleman was not available to-day but that he would be available on Thursday, or one day next week. There would have been no difficulty about arranging the Vote for a day when the President of the Board of Trade could have been present. His refusal to apologise to the Committee when he arrived seemed to me to be quite an unnecessary showing of how little account he regarded Members of the House of Commons, or at least Members of the Opposition. Even supposing he had the most urgent and unexpected reasons for being absent, suppose he was engaged on the highest affairs of State, it would not have hurt his dignity when he arrived to say that he was sorry he was not present at the opening of the discussion. [HON. MEMBERS:"He said so."] He said nothing of the sort. He said that he had no apology to offer and proceeded to tell us about the failure of the Economic Conference, at the same time saying that it was a delicate matter which should not be dealt with, although every daily and evening newspaper is dealing with it. It is not too delicate ground for the whole of the British people to tread upon but it is much too delicate ground for the British House of Commons.

He told us not only of its failure but that he never had any hopes of its success. If that was the mind of Members of His Majesty's Government in going into the Economic Conference, if they did not believe that multilateral agreements were possible and that we could only work on a unilateral plan, it is no wonder that the Conference is dissolving without anything practical being done. The right hon. Gentleman in reply to an interruption, which suggested that nothing practical had been done, told us about practical things which had been talked about but did not tell us about one single practical thing that had been done, so far as tackling the economic problems of the world on a world scale is concerned. He made several jeering references to the fact that Russia had not this on the agenda, and had not made this other proposal to the Economic Conference. That may be true. Perhaps the Russian delegates knew their posi tion, just as I and my friends know our position in this House. We do not always challenge a Division when we feel that a Division might be desirable, we do not always feel it necessary to state our point of view, because we are perfectly well aware that we should be in a hopeless minority. If the suggestion of the right hon. Gentleman is that Mr. Litvinoff on behalf of the Russian Government was afraid to place his socialistic views on how the world situation should be dealt with before the Conference, then the right hon. Gentleman is not being quite fair.


How do you know?


I have had a verbatim report of the speech which Mr. Litvinoff made at the Conference, and if the hon. Member has also had it he knows that Mr. Litvinoff put his practical proposals before the Conference. He also knows that if Great Britain has come out of the conference with very little of a tangible nature Mr. Litvinoff has come out with something of a tangible nature. Not only has he placed his plan for dealing with the world situation before the Conference, but he has also used his opportunity, like the President of the Board of Trade, for looking after the interests of his own nationals while he was there.

But the most important of the statements of the President of the Board of Trade from my socialist point of view—it was an interesting fact—was the right hon. Gentleman's statement that there is no common bond of principle, idea or ideal upon which the capitalist countries of the world can unite for the general welfare of all, that their central capitalist principle is one that makes for division and disintegration. The only thing that they could agree on, he tells us, was the raising of agricultural prices, and they are not very sure about how that is to be done in the different countries. The general idea is that prices are to be raised by producing a state of scarcity of particular commodities. There are two ways of raising prices. The one is by increasing the demand, the world demand, and I do not believe there is one single item of all these big essential products of which there is over-production to-day, provided the masses in the different lands become effective purchasers of what is being produced. There never has been any consideration as to how to make the people effective purchasers of the existing output and the potential output of the future. The attempt has all been in the direction of how to cut down the existing production, so that the present limited demand may be relative to the existing supplies, to create a condition of scarcity, a lower demand against a lowered production, producing a state of scarcity which will enable producers to raise prices.

I believe that that is a fundamental fallacy, that if the capitalists had met to see how it was possible for the 1,000,000,000 people of the world to get sufficient wheat, sufficient clothing, sufficient shelter and sufficient recreation —if they had met to consider the need of the people as a whole, instead of meeting to consider how profits or interest could be maintained, there would have been hope of success; there would have been a general objective to which every delegate could have applied his mind. When you go into a Conference, see who is to get profits and how they are to get profits, you start your Conference by throwing an apple of discord into the middle of it. It is a matter for regret to every Socialist in this House that the President of the Board of Trade has had to get up here and tell us and the world that this Conference, which had great historical significance, has failed. It had this historical significance—that it was the first time in the history of the world when the capitalist nations felt the necessity of meeting together to discuss their economic problems. Up to now each nation and each capitalist group inside nations believed that they could tackle their problems on their own, and by their own capacity, their own resources and their own power.

The World Economic Conference was a confession that the time had come when they could not do that. They had lost that confidence to stand on their own feet. They said,"Can we find some way by which, having lost the capacity to stand alone, we can all stand together?" It has failed, and admitting that they cannot stand together, they go back to their separate nationalities to find out by the experience of the near future that they are not able to stand alone either. Perhaps then the President of the Board of Trade will not consider the situation of such a sort that Socialist theories, as applied to the situation are a subject for mere flippancies and light jokes. When the spokesman of capitalism in this House of Commons and the representative of trade and industry in this country comes here and makes such an

apology for his system, he is not on strong ground for jeering at the theories of another system.

Question put,"That a sum, not exceeding £104,811, be granted for the said Service."

The Committee divided: Ayes, 52; Noes, 196.

Division No. 253.] AYES. (10.48 p.m.
Attlee, Clement Richard Harris, Sir Percy Maxton, James
Banfield, John William Janner, Barnett Milner, Major James
Batey, Joseph Jenkins, Sir William Parkinson, John Alien
Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield) Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth) Pickering, Ernest H.
Buchanan, George Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly) Price, Gabriel
Cocks, Frederick Seymour Kirkwood, David Rea, Walter Russell
Cripps, Sir Stafford Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George Roberts. Aled (Wrexham)
Dagger, George Lawson, John James Salter, Dr. Alfred
Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton) Leonard, William Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
Edwards, Charles Llewellyn-Jones, Frederick Sinclair, Ma). Rt. Hn. Sir A. (C'thness)
Evans, David Owen (Cardigan) Logan, David Gilbert Smith, Tom (Normanton)
Foot, Dingle (Dundee) Lunn, William Tinker, John Joseph
Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin) McEntee, Valentine L. White, Henry Graham
George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea) McGovern, John Williams, David (Swansea, East)
Greenwood. Rt. Hon. Arthur Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan) Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan) Mainwaring, William Henry Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)
Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil) Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
Hamilton. Sir R.W.(Orkney & Z'tl'nd) Mason. David M. (Edinburgh, E.) TELLERS FOR THE AYES.
Mr. John and Mt. C. Macdonald.
Acland-Troyte, Lieut. -Colonel Crossley, A. C. Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.) Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil) Ker, J. Campbell
Agnew, Lieut.-Com. P. G. Dickle, John P. Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
Albery, Irving James Dixon, Rt. Hon. Herbert Knight, Holford
Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nh'd) Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel Law, Richard K. (Hun, S.W.)
Aske, Sir Robert William Duncan. James A. L.(Kensington, N.) Lees-Janes, John
Astbury, Lieut.-Corn. Frederick Wolfe Edmondson, Major A. J. Leighton, Major B. E. P.
Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley Elmley, Viscount Llddall, Waiter S.
Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J. Emmott, Charles E. G. C. Lindsay. Noel Ker
Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell Emrys-Evans, P. V. Lloyd. Geoffrey
Barclay-Harvey. C. M. Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare) Mabune, William
Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell Essenhigh, Reginald Clare McCorquodale, M. S.
Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th,C.) Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)
Boothby, Robert John Graham Fleming, Edward Lasceiles McEwen, Captain J. H. F.
Boulton, W. W. Fremantle, Sir Francis McKie, John Hamilton
Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart Fuller, Captain A. G. Macmillan, Maurice Harold
Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton Gibson, Charles Granville Magnay, Thomas
Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W. Gluckstein, Louis Halts Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
Bracken, Brendan Goldie, Noel B. Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough) Goodman, Colonel Albert W. Milne, Charles
Brass, Captain Sir William Gower, Sir Robert Mitchell, Harold P.(Brtf'd & Chlsw'k)
Broadbent, Colonel John Graves, Marjorie Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)
Brocklebank, C. E. R. Grigg, Sir Edward Munro, Patrick
Brown, Ernest (Leith) Grimston, R. V. Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
Brown, Brig.-Gen.H.C.(Berks.,Newb'y) Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E. North, Edward T.
Browne, Captain A. C. Gunston, Captain D. W. Nunn, William
Burgin, Dr. Edward Lesile Guy, J. C. Morrison O'Connor, Terence James
Burnett, John George Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H. O'Donovan, Dr. William James
Butt, Sir Alfred Hales, Harold K. Oman, Sir Charles William C.
Calne, G. R. Hall- Hammersley, Samuel S. O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly) Hanley, Dennis A. Patrick, Colin M.
Caporn, Arthur Cecil Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry Pearson, William G.
Carver, Major William H. Harbord, Arthur Peat, Charles Li.
Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.) Hartland, George A. Penny, Sir George
Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.) Haslam, Sir John (Bolton) Peters, Dr. Sidney John
Christie, James Archibald Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M. Petherick, M.
Clarke, Frank Hellgers, Captain F. F. A. Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verhiptin,Bilst'n)
Clayton, Sir Christopher Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P. Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada
Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey Hornby, Frank Pike, Cecil F.
Colman, N, C. D. Horobin, Ian M. Potter, John
Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J. Horsbrugh, Florence Raikes, Henry V. A. M
Conant, R. J. E. Howard, Tom Forrest Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western isles)
Cook, Thomas A. Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B. Ramsden, Sir Eugene
Cooke, Douglas Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries) Ray, Sir William
Copeland, Ida Hunter-weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer Rentoul, Sir Gervais S.
Crooke. J. Smedley James, Wing-Com. A. W. H. Ropner, Colonel L.
Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro) Jennings, Roland Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter Southby, Commander Archibald R. J. Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsand)
Runge, North Cecil Spencer, Captain Richard A. Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)
Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth) Spens, William Patrick Wardlaw-M line, Sir John S.
Russell, Hamer Field (Sheffeld,B'tside) Steel-Maitland., Rt. Hon. Wedderburn,Henry James Scrymgeour
Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury) Sir Arthur Stewart, J. H. (File, E.) Wells, Sydney Richard
Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l) Stones, James Whyte, Jardine Bell
Salmon, Sir Isidore Storey, Samuel Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham) Strauss, Edward A. Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney) Strickland, Captain W. F. Willa, Wilfrid D.
Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F. Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart Wise, Alfred R.
Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell) Summersby, Charles H. Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount
Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar) Sutcliffe, Harold Womereley, Walter James
Shepperson, Sir Ernest W. Tate, Mavis Constance Worthington, Dr. John V.
Skelton, Archibald Noel Templeton, William P. Wragg, Herbert
Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam) Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles
Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dlne, C.) Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on, T.) TELLERS FOR THE NOES
Smith-Carington, Neville W. Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement Captain Austin Hudson and Dr. Morris-Jones.
Somerville, D. O. (Willesden, East) Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon Mirries-Jones.
Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E. Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)

Original Question again proposed.

Motion made, and Question," That the Chairman do report Progress, and ask leave to sit again," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]

Committee report Progress; to sit again To-morrow.

The remaining Government Orders were read, and postponed.

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