§ 3.57 p.m.
§ Mr. LUNN
This afternoon we are to discuss, questions affecting our relations with the Dominions. The Dominions are self-governing, and as a result of the Statute of Westminster they may be said to be practically independent, but in reality they are, with us, the British Commonwealth of Nations. They are in the family, and I have no doubt there are many Members who will desire to have the air cleared on various matters in connection with our relationship with the Dominions. There are such questions as the differences between this Government and the Irish Free State, the plight of a number of British settlers in Victoria, the future of the Empire Marketing Board, the Commission which is now in Newfoundland inquiring into its financial position under Lord Amulree, the future of the African Protectorates, Bechuanaland, Swaziland and Basutoland, and the Ottawa Agreements. Regarding the Ottawa Agreements, I agree with what was said yesterday by my hon. and learned Friend the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) as to the disastrous effect on this country that they are going to have. I am sure that that Conference, as I said many months ago, was a ramp and to-day many people are realising that what was said then is true and, no doubt, the agriculturists and manufacturers of this country are going to pay dearly for what transpired at that expedition to Ottawa. If the faith of our people in conferences is fading, Ottawa, in my opinion, has been their greatest justification.
But I want particularly to deal to-day with the plight of the deluded British settlers in Victoria, and to endeavour to 2810 secure some declaration from the right hon. Gentleman as to the attitude of the Government regarding their position. I have for many years taken an active interest in migration. I have been connected with the Overseas Settlement Committee for 10 years. I have taken part in arranging schemes, and not one of them, including the 3,000-family scheme, do I regret since the time the right hon. Gentleman made me the chairman of the Overseas Settlement Committee. Knowing, as I do, that there are many people who would like to go overseas, and that the spirit of adventure has not gone from our people, I wish that there were opportunities for them to go to-day, and I should be quite ready to take the same action in support. Our policy, however, since 1924, has bean only to support any scheme of migration when there were opportunities of their obtaining a livelihood, and our pet schemes have been where families could be guaranteed some possibility of a better life than they have here. I am not going to be a party to encouraging anyone to go overseas to-day if better conditions are not to be assured than are here. At the same time, I would rather that we took possession of the land of our own country, and settled the people on the land at home, even than in the Dominions.
May I at this moment pay a tribute to a man who has just passed away, Lord Burnham, who was a great advocate of Empire development and Empire settlement. I have sat with him for many years. I have known no man with a better knowledge of the Dominions and more able to give information as to the circumstances in certain areas where settlement was likely to take place. He had a constructive mind, are, whatever may have been his position before 1924, he fell in with the idea that our people should not be sent out unless there were opportunities for them. I am sure that in that direction this country has lost a great servant. This afternoon we have to deal with a scheme which was arranged immediately after the passing of the Empire Settlement Act, 1922, and I am quite satisfied that it is the worst scheme of anything that I have heard of in its results on the migrants. Hundreds of families, all of them with money, and some with thousands of pounds, were deluded into going under false promises, 2811 which, in my opinion, were almost criminal, and they have lost every penny. They were expected to have not less than 1,500 per family, and they hoped and believed that they were going to lay a good foundation for the future for their children, and many of them are now destitute. It has been very painful to me to see many of these people, who are not concerned about themselves because of what they have lost, but are concerned that their children will never have a real opportunity. They are without work or opportunity, and they are in despair.
Even if favourable conditions for migration were to come again, such a failure and such an imposition as this scheme has been will be a deterrent to careful and thoughtful people. Then, after they had been duped, and nothing had turned out as promised, and the migrants were in desperate straits, it took years to secure an inquiry into their complaints. They went to Victoria in 1923, and the Royal Commission to inquire into their complaints was appointed only in December, 1930. They inquired into 311 cases, and reported early this year. It has taken two years to inquire into these cases, and, if I may express my opinion, I should say that it shows slovenliness, carelessness and indifference. Not only that, but the commission were not given power to deal with the cases. They were not given power to recommend any remedy or redress in any or all of the cases, but to see if the complaints were justified in regard to the facts in each particular case.
Let me deal with some points from the Commission's Report. I may say quite clearly that none of the schemes in Australia were made between the British Government and the States. This scheme was not made between the Overseas Settlement Committee and Victoria. This country only dealt with the Commonwealth Government, but the British Government were supplied with all the information. They knew what was happening, and I am quite sure that they have a responsibility in the matter. Take the agreement made in September, 1922, in which are the following clauses:Those were the conditions laid down in the agreement. It was a good scheme on paper—a good scheme to attract the pick of the basket in this country. But the campaign of recruitment, like the campaigns for the War, was very highly coloured, and the publicity was very delusive. Then note the nature of the appeal made to people in this country to go out under the scheme:
- "(1) The British Government, the Commonwealth and the State desire to encourage and facilitate the migration from Great Britain and settlement in Victoria
2812 of persons suitable for and desirous of permanently settling upon the land.
- (2) The British Government has agreed to co-operate with the Commonwealth and State in encouraging such migration by granting, in accordance with the Empire Settlement Act, a loan of £300 to each person so migrating and settling.
- (3) The State has undertaken to provide 2,000 farms for such migrants in accordance with the scheme of settlement' set forth in the Schedule 'as a first instalment of a scheme to provide 10,000 farms.'"It is hoped that the scheme which the Victorian Government, in co-operation with the British Government and the Government of the Commonwealth of Australia, is now able to put before the British public, will prove attractive to the middle classes of Great Britain, to farmers, demobilised officers of the British and Indian Armies, ex-naval officers, public school men, and the sons of professional and business men who are on the look-out for a career in which they may reasonably hope to reach a position of independence as the ultimate result of their labour.That was the appeal which was made, and we know that there was a desire that everyone who went should have money. If they were not experienced farmers, they were to have the guarantee that in every case the inexperienced settler was to be given, in some way or other, 12 months' practical training in farming before he started the business of farming on his own account. Then they were to be provided with farms on which they could earn not less than £400 a year. None of these conditions have been realised or carried out, and the Commission say so quite definitely. The Commission say that it may be that same of them would not have made good farmers, but it cannot be said that the cause of failure was mainly their own default or defect. The Government of Victoria are to blame for deluding people in this matter. I would say that they should indemnify them. I have received a number of communications, and the right hon. Gentleman will have had similar ones, from members of the Settlers' Association, and from the president, who have heard something of 2813 what is happening in Victoria. They are not satisfied with what is suggested as a settlement, which they say will be totally unacceptable.
I think that it is the duty of this Government to do something to encourage the Victorian Government to do their duty by these people. But the British Government are not free from blame. They were parties to the scheme, and there should have been more care, more inquiry, and not so much haste to put the Empire Settlement Act into operation, because this scheme was agreed upon a few months after the Empire Settlement Act was passed. It can only be described by those who have read the Commission's Report as a rotten scheme. Take the first case that was inquired into by the Commission. It is on page 23 of the Report—T. S. Adams. It will be seen that the British Government are in some way responsible. The Report says:First block badly drained; would not provide living. Second block too small; would provide living and part only of commitments.They say in brackets:Complainant is within Clause 6 of £34,000,000 agreement, being an assisted migrant, and relied upon the British Government co-operating with the Government of the State of Victoria in the migration scheme.That is what they say in that case, and they say [...]in many more of the 311 cases into which they have inquired. I hope that we shall have some statement to-day from the right hon. Gentleman which may help to meet the justifiable claims of these unfortunate people. They are English people, and the Victorian Government have deliberately played with their tragic circumstances. In saying that, I want to state quite clearly that there is a duty upon our own Government, and I hope that the right hon. Gentleman is going to try to meet it when he replies this afternoon.
I leave that matter to deal with another which has occupied a good deal of time during the last 12 months, that is, our difficulties with the Irish Free State. I have never hesitated to offer my opinion upon this matter, and to say, quite clearly, that I have believed in the justice of our claim that the Land Annuities should be paid to us. I said I am not a lawyer, but that has been my feeling with regard to the matter. But I have also said, from the very beginning, that 2814 when Mr. De Valera offered arbitration, it should have been accepted. There are as good men outside the Empire as there are in, just as there are as good men in as there are outside. I have felt the whole of the time that we should have accepted that offer and gone to arbitration, because I felt that our case was a justifiable one, and I have no fear of accepting an offer like that for arbitration, although, as I have said before, I have never met the impartial chairman, and I have had some experience of him in industrial matters. For 12 months now this has been a miserable and discreditable business, and no one in the House can have satisfaction out of what has occurred. To-day there are rumours of a settlement. Is there anything in the rumours, because a settlement is what we desire. I am not out simply for obstruction, opposition and criticism. I was not trained in that school at all. I desire and want to see a settlement.
Let me call attention to a few of the facts. It is just a year since we passed the Irish 'Free State (Special Duties) Act imposing 20 per cent. ad valorem duties on Irish produce, and hardly a week has passed since that time but what either this Government or the Irish Free State have dealt with this matter, competing one against the other. Immediately we passed the Act the Irish Free State Government retaliated on the 26th July with duties of an unspecified amount upon our goods. On 31st August they imposed further duties, and again on 27th September, and on 7th November this Government issued a Treasury order increasing the duties upon Irish Free State imports. The Irish Free State published a new schedule of duties on 10th November, and on 14th March they again added further duties, and then instituted a system of bounties over and above the duties which they were imposing. To take one illustration of what they were doing, in view of the duty of £1 per ton imposed on the 15th November, 1932, upon potatoes imported from the Irish Free State into Great Britain, the Free State Government granted a bounty of £1 per ton upon potatoes exported, the, bounty to operate from the 1st December. That has been the position, competition one with the other all the time, and they have beaten us every time.
I will give a few figures to show the House what has been the effect of this 2815 economic war. The figures which I am about to give show the value of the trade of the Irish Free State with Great Britain during corresponding periods of 1931, 1932 and 1933. United Kingdom imports from the Irish Free State in the three months ended 30th September, 1931, amounted to £9,350,033, and in the three months ending 30th September, 1932, to £5,389,464, a decrease over the previous year of £3,960,569. In the following three months ended 31st December, 1931, the amount was £10,624,206, and in 1932, £6,650,808, a decrease of £3,973,398. For the three months ended 31st March, 1932, it was £7,379,359, and for the corresponding three months of 1933, £4,006,134, a decrease over the previous year of £3,373,225. So that in the first nine months for which the new duties were applicable, the total of the import into the United Kingdom from the Irish Free State had declined by £11,307,192. I could give the figures of the value of the United Kingdom domestic exports to the Irish Free State, but it will suffice to say that in the same nine months for which the new duties applied, the value of United Kingdom exports to the Irish Free State declined by £8,067,936. We cannot continue with a policy of that sort.
Yesterday the right hon. Gentleman answered a question as to the effect upon my industry, the coal industry. They 'are talking about finding work for a few men upon a new experiment, which I welcome, in extracting oil from coal, but when one sees the loss of employment and the derelict coal-mining villages which supplied all their coal practically to the Irish Free State, it is time that the matter was considered very seriously. In the six months ended 30th June, 1931, we exported 1,173,341 tons, in the six months ended June, 1932, the total was 1,147,053 tons, and in the six months ended June, 1933, the total was 663,881 tons. We are going down all the time in the amount of coal we are exporting to the Irish Free State, and as a result men are becoming unemployed more than ever in 'an industry which has got nothing out of the policy of the Government, and has suffered from everything that they have done.
We were told the other day that the amount due to this country from the Irish 2816 Free State was £4,864,000, and that we had received under the Import Duties Act on goods imported from the Irish Free State 22,727,000, so that we are down by £2,000,000 to say the least of it. I understood from the very beginning that the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for the Dominions said that not 'a penny of this money should come from the United Kingdom taxpayers, but that it would come from the system he was instituting on the 12th July last year. It is not a satisfactory position, and I am not pleased at having to make this declaration 'and to quote these figures. I want to see a settlement. Is the right hon. Gentleman trying to secure a settlement He should know what is happening. He has no doubt seen in the newspapers during the last two days what has been suggested, and that certain statements have been made in the Dail in the Irish Free State. Is he going to take advantage of the gesture from the Irish Free State, which also is reported in the Press—I do not use the information officially—or is his Government going to allow the present position to continue? It is time that we heard something, and I hope that to-day we shall be told the position, and that the Government intend to see that a settlement of the difficulties between this country and Ireland is arrived at the earliest possible moment.
I want to mention another matter which is hardly a question of a self-governing dominion but which comes under the Dominions Office. It is the position and the future of the three African Protectorates which are under the Dominions Office. It is important that we should know the attitude of the Dominions Office towards these three important and very extensive parts of the African Empire. The right hon. Gentleman will remember that in 1930 he took what I think was a very wise step. He separated the position of Governor-General from that of the High Commissioner, and he appointed a High Commissioner for these areas. I agreed with it, and agree with it to-day, and hope that it will continue, but I should like to see the High Commissioner have more power in his office than, I understand, he possesses at the present time. In 1930 a charter of liberty for the millions of natives was laid down by the Labour Government. That charter differs a 2817 great deal from the policy towards the natives of the Government of the Union of South Africa. We wish for them to remain under the direct rule of the Dominions Office, which, I understand is the policy of the Government, rather than that they should be included in the Union of South Africa. We should regard the introduction of South African native policy into the Protectorates as disastrous. To hand them over to the Union of South Africa would be a great breach of faith. The other day I saw a book by Mrs. Hodgson and Mr. Ballinger, who have done very useful work in these Protectorates. This is one of the statements which they made upon this matter:The natives of the Protectorate are now as opposed to absorption by the Union of South Africa as they were 30 years ago to absorption by Rhodesia. They cling now as then to the imperial connection. To the native of Bechuanaland the transference of the Protectorate to the Union means the compromising of the whole of his future, the loss of all his hopes of remaining a free man, and of becoming a 'civilised' one. He clings to the liberal tradition of Britain as he dreads the illiberal tradition of South Africa.But these Protectorates cannot remain as they are to-day. They are poor. They are depressed. They are a reservoir of cheap labour for the mines in the Union. What steps is the right hon. Gentleman taking to implement parts of the report of Sir Allen Pim whom we sent out to Bechuanaland to make a report, and whose report is now in his hands? Is he going to support organised recruiting, improved educational facilities, increased agricultural instruction and implement water schemes as is suggested in the report of Sir Allen Pim? Is the right hon. Gentleman also going to give more power to the High Commissioner to develop and open up new territories for cattle raising?
The SECRETARY of STATE for DOMINION AFFAIRS (Mr. J. H. Thomas)
Can my hon. Friend tell me what he means by giving more power to the High Commissioner? It is the first I have heard of it. Has anyone ever intimated that the High Commissioner does not have sufficient power?
§ Mr. LUNN
If the right hon. Gentleman is able to tell me that the High Commissioner has full and complete powers in the matters I have mentioned I shall 2818 accept the statement. That is the position I want because I am a supporter of the idea of the High Commissioner and I know that we have a good man there, and I would like to see him take steps so that the report of Sir Allen Pim could be put into actual operation.
There is only one other matter with which I wish to deal, namely, the future of the Empire Marketing Board. I have been a member of that board for some years. It has done useful work, and I should like to pay a tribute to the staff of the board, and particularly to its able Secretary, Sir Stephen Tallents, and to the many voluntary members of its committees for what they have done in order to improve Empire trade. Some people say that Governments can do nothing. Well, in the matter of publicity, I will put the Empire Marketing Board during the last few years against arty other organisation which may be mentioned in this country. It has 1,800 poster boards and the best men in the country engaged in the publicity work. It has distributed to 22,000 schools regularly information which has enlarged their geography of the Empire, and its film unit, under John Grierson, has done more than most people imagine in the direction of the improvement of British films.
In marketing it has instituted canvassing throughout large areas in the country. There is nothing that can be pointed to which has increased the sale of Empire produce in this country more than the work of the Empire Marketing Board. As a member of that board I have seen objections from certain parts of the Empire because of what was done to increase the sales of produce from other parts of the Empire. That has gone on for a long time. We have had shops in different parts of the country where we have sold samples. It is the overseas parts of the Empire that have got the best part of the bargain out of the Empire Marketing Board, and they have never paid one penny towards it. They could not have got such a cheap form of advertisement for their products whatever they had done, even if they had paid their full contribution, as they ought to have done, in the carrying on of the work of the board. It has been the British taxpayer all the time who has had to pay, and I say that the policy ought not to continue under which 'the British taxpayer has to pay every penny. If the board is to continue 2819 the overseas part of the Empire ought to pay their share towards the continuance of its work.
Work of the greatest value has been done by the Empire Marketing Board in scientific research. The greatest amount of money has been spent in that direction and I hope that that work will not cease. Even if the Board goes out of existence some organisation ought to be set up which could make use of what has been done by the Board in the direction of scientific research. What has been done in the colleges at Amani, Trinidad and in many institutions in this country in order to eliminate pests and waste in regard to produce in various parts of the Empire is most wonderful, and is a great tribute to the efforts of the Scientific Research Committee of the Board. Very valuable indeed has been the work of the Board in order to enable the Empire producer to compete with the American producer by improving, grading, packing, cold storage and carriage to this country. I hope that some means may be found to carry on this work for the complete elimination of pests and of disease which is of particular importance with regard to the produce from the overseas part of the Empire.
If the Board is to be continued and the overseas parts of the Empire do not contribute, I would say, let it be an English marketing board. It is not often that England comes into the Empire when we are speaking of Empire. [HON. MEMBERS: "Britain."] I usually use the word "Britain," but I would substitute the term "the United Kingdom" for the name "England." Unfortunately, the Dominions will not pay towards the Marketing Board. If the Board has to close down they are letting go a great opportunity. I do not see any possibility of its being continued or any reason for its being continued in its present form unless the overseas part of the Empire will pay their share towards the work that is done. Realising as I do what a great thing it would be for them, I should like to see the work of the Board continued, and I am satisfied that it would be to the advantage of all parts of the Empire that it should continue.
This is the last business day of this part of the Session and we are pleased to have this opportunity of discussing our relations with the Dominions and those areas 2820 which come under the jurisdiction of the Dominions Office. The interest of the Labour party in the British Commonwealth of Nations is not less than that of any other party in the State. Their welfare is a great concern of the Labour party. Although we differ from the Government on many points in regard to them, their future development and prosperity will be at all times our objective, and we shall always resent, as I think I have heard the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs resent, the idea that the British flag is alone the emblem of the Tory party.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
I should like in the first place to associate myself with the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) in his plea for the Empire Marketing Board. I have had the honour of being a member of that Board for some years, in the first glace on the invitation of my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) and afterwards under the chairmanship of Lord Parmoor and the present Secretary of State for the Dominions, and I can testify to the invaluable work carried out by the Board, to the devoted service of the officials of the Board and the immense advantage which the Empire as a whole, and the Dominions and the Colonial Empire in particular, have derived from its work. I hope that some means will be found of keeping the Board in being, at any rate for some time, in the interests of the Colonial Empire and that perhaps later the Dominions will be able to come in and once again help to expand the Board's activities. The work that the Board has done in regard to publicity and, above all, in regard to research has been invaluable. The work of research is still going on and the advantage to this country and the Empire of the immense investment of public money which has already been made in the work of scientific research will be lost if it is prematurely closed down.
I should like to say more on the subject of the Empire Marketing Board, but many other hon. Members wish to speak. Therefore I will refer to another subject raised by the hon. Member who has just sat down, namely, that of the Irish Free State. The hon. Member referred to the hopes which he entertained and to the 2821 rumours which he had heard that a settlement was in the offing. I do not want to say very much on this subject before the Secretary of State speaks. We are waiting to hear what he can tell us, but I would stress the view which many of my hon. Friends take, in agreement with what the hon. Member has said, about the importance of an early settlement of this dispute and about the justice of our case as against that of the Irish Government on the question of the annuities. I think that there is also general agreement in every part of the House about the desirability of having an Empire tribunal before which to arbitrate, for it would be a thoroughly bad precedent if on the first occasion when a difference of opinion occurs between a Dominion and the Mother Country we had to go outside the Empire for our tribunal to settle it. On the other hand there can be no doubt about the damage that is being inflicted upon the trade of both countries, and there is no doubt about the far more serious damage which is being inflicted on the Irish spirit and the Irish attitude to this country. I hope that there will go out from the Secretary of State and the House generally to-day a message to the Irish people, as a result of this Debate, of sincere friendship and a wish to base that friendship on the foundations of justice and equity.
We are a great, powerful and wealthy nation and we are dealing in this case with a relatively poor, weak but proud people, a people who on the one hand have rendered great services to the British Empire, for which we all ought to be grateful, and on the other hand have engaged through the centuries in a struggle, a successful struggle, to preserve their national individuality. Let us therefore be generous in our dealings with Ireland, not committing the political folly of expecting immediate gratitude. It will be a case of casting our bread upon the waters in the belief that such generosity will be justified in the future. Let us remember that the greater our confidence in the justice of our case, the more convinced we are, as I am, that if the case is referred to an impartial tribunal we shall win, the more necessary it is that the Irish people should have confidence in the impartiality of the tribunal which will decide the dispute. Let us be willing to stretch to the utmost 2822 the possibilities of finding a basis on which Mr. de Valera and his Government can meet us on terms of equality and without loss of personal dignity.
I turn now to the question of the Ottawa Agreements and to a. review of the working of those Agreements during the year that they have been in operation. Let me say as one who as I mentioned before has been for some years a member of the Empire Marketing Board, as one who is devoted to the principle of Imperial unity and who believes actively in the necessity of Imperial co-operation, that I hope the Debate on the Ottawa Agreements will not proceed along the lines of a recent Debate in another place and on the lines of the answers which have been given in this House by Ministers; on the lines of metaphorically calling the Dominions to the Bar of this House and lecturing them on what is called the Ottawa spirit. The Dominion Governments are not responsible to this House but to their own people, who will visit their sins and their follies on their heads in their own time. We have to deal with our own Government. They have negotiated these agreements on our behalf. The bad workman who complains of his tools is not more contemptible than the blundering negotiator who, having made a bad bargain, querulously complains that the other party to the bargain is not carrying it out in what he chooses to consider is the spirit of the agreement.
It was this Government who wanted the original bargains binding for a period of years and it was the same Ministers who, when we vehemently protested about the binding character of the agreements for a period of years, stressed the political importance and the economic necessity of five year periods. These same Ministers are now flattering themselves that in regard to some of the articles of these agreements they last for only three years and that in regard to others they last for only one year. We pointed out that changing economic conditions and fluctuations in the values of currency, such as have occurred in Canada, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand, would soon make these agreements out of date, but this Government insisted on these binding agreements for a period of years.Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it.2823 was the attitude of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Joseph Chamberlain's son, and during the passage of the Ottawa Agreements Act through all its stages in this House we were not allowed to alter so much as a word or a comma or a letter. Now the Government tell the Dominions that the letter, so sacred only a few months ago, has become relatively unimportant, it is the spirit that matters. If these agreements do not embody the spirit of Ottawa, why did the Government sign them? The difficulty of the Government is not that of reconciling the letter of these agreements with the spirit, but of reconciling the letter of these agreements with the gloss they put upon them for their own political advantage in this House and in the country.
The farmers of this country were told to wait for Ottawa; that was the slogan from a thousand platforms in agricultural constituencies. Now they are being told another fairy story, about a fairy prince, with the unromantic name of the Minister of Agriculture. But this fairy prince is lost in a thicket; the sleeping beauty has awakened and is shouting for nourishment and for her fairy prince; but he is caught in the brambles of Ottawa.
Under the terms of the Ottawa Agreement there is, for example, nothing to prevent dumping, yet all of us have agreed in denouncing dumping in the past. Mr. Asquith said that where there is a question of subsidised exports Free Trade was not a doctrine of economic quietism or Quakerism, and the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) and another Liberal Members have frequently declared their willingness, where a case of dumping is proved, to take measures against it; indeed, the only anti-dumping Act on the Statute Book was put there by a Liberal Prime Minister. But, apparently, nothing was said about dumping at Ottawa. There was the opportunity of coming to an agreement with these friendly Governments to exclude dumping, but nobody thought it worth while, and now when certain Governments in the Empire, in the course of national planning, find it to their advantage—just as some Governments are putting on tariffs and quotas—to go in for the vicious method of export subsidies, we cannot blame them 2824 for the agreements were signed in such a way that they are entitled to do it. The farmers of this country must blame the British negotiators who signed these agreements. Nevertheless I hope that the Dominions will recognise that all sections of opinion in this country deplore dumping, and all supported the Government in their efforts at the World Economic Conference to deal with these export subsidies by foreign nations. We, therefore, hope that the Dominions will come in and try to prevent the adoption of all these artificial stimuli, which have the inevitable effect of encouraging overproduction and driving prices downwards.
The farmers are not alone in their complaints. The export trades too are in a ferment. The latest complete figures available are for the end of March of this year, and the returns for the six months show that as compared with the previous year imports from Empire countries have declined from £133,000,000 to £127,000,000 and exports from £89,000,000 to £80,000,000. The Canadian Tariff Board was not appointed until May and has not yet lowered any tariffs. It is true that there were some insignificant reductions at the time of the signing of the Ottawa Agreements, but against that new tariffs have been imposed in Canada against our goods, and also in Australia. Nor are the Canadians convinced that there is any necessity to lower tariffs. A letter appeared in the "Times" the day before yesterday from the President of the Canadian Chambers of Commerce, in which he declares that the members of the Chambers of Commerce were astonished when they came over here to find that in certain commercial circles in Great Britain the Canadian duties on British imports were considered to be unreasonably high, and had been largely increased in recent years. In this letter textiles in particular are referred to. Here are the figures for textiles. In the case of cotton printed piece goods, the last Conservative tariff was 25 per cent. The Liberal Government reduced it to 18 per cent.; the next Conservative administration, under Mr. Bennett, raised it to 60 per cent., and at Ottawa it was reduced to 58.5 per cent. In the case of woollen piece goods, the first Conservative tariff was 30 per cent.; then the Liberals lowered it to 24¾ per cent. The Conservatives, then sent it up to 68 per cent., and at Ottawa it was 2825 lowered to 64 per cent. Wool over-coating again, the Conservative tariff was 30 per cent., the Liberals lowered it to 24¾ per cent.; then the Conservatives sent it up to 100 per cent., and at Ottawa it was lowered to 93 per cent. Mr. Bennett has made quite clear his attitude as Prime Minister. In the Canadian House of Commons, in answer to Liberal questions, he declined to give a pledge that the Canadian Government would not increase the tariff against British goods. He said:I am afraid one could hardly make that promise.And he has put on new tariffs since He also declared that:The Government did not consider themselves hound by the decisions of the Tariff Board. The extent to which it will be necessary to vary the tariff will be entirely within the discretion of the Government.Referring to the agreement to allow British manufacturers to make representations to the Tariff Board he declared that:Only applications which were sponsored by the British Government would be considered.And he added:The understanding was that the British Government would be very cautious in forwarding cases to Ottawa for hearing.That I take it has been at any rate honoured in the letter and in the spirit. Mr. Bennett has a clear political philosophy, based on a definite theory of protection. I think it is all wrong land that it will bring disaster to Canada and interfere with Imperial and international trade, but he is not responsible to us but to the Canadian people and we must leave him to be dealt with by them. But the British Government are responsible to us. They signed these Agreements, and in the Debates in this country and in the House have put a gloss upon the meaning of these Agreements which the Dominions have never accepted. The Secretary of State for the Dominions described certain proposals made at a previous Conference by the Canadian Government as humbug, and when he was challenged by hon. Members who are now his supporters, and who were greatly shocked at such a phrase, he explained that what he meant was that the Dominions said: "We want you to change your fiscal principles but we will only change certain details of ours." 2826 Does not that exactly describe the situation with which we are confronted at the present moment?
There was one very important symptom of the real situation as between the Dominion Governments and our own in the concluding stages of the Ottawa Conference. According to the "Times" and other newspapers-1 asked a question about it at the time but received no answer—a resolution was proposed by our delegation setting forth our policy as one leading to a lowering of tariffs. According to the reports the Dominions refused to accept it, and so far the British Government have never explained it. We have tried to get an explanation from them in this House but they have never explained why, if we were all in agreement on this point, the Dominions refused to accept that Resolution. In fact, it is clear that they are not in agreement with the policy which the British Government declared was its own policy and which they have expounded in this House and in the country. I am going to trouble the House with a number of quotations from the speeches of leading Dominion statesmen. I know that it is a rash thing to read quotations, but I am not out to make an amusing speech. I want to get at the truth of the real attitude of the Dominions towards the Agreements. The truth has not hitherto been told in this House. I will not deal any further with Mr. Bennett, although there tare many other quotations from speeches he has made in the House of Commons at Ottawa which show that he is against any reduction of tariffs. Let me take Mr. White, the Minister for Trade and Customs in the Australian Government. In March last he said:Taking into consideration freight, primage and exchange, which last is a bounty to the primary producer, we find that the protection amounts to only 75 per cent. against British 'products. The Board is employed at top speed in examining the enormous schedule before us to see whether it is in accordance with the spirit of the Ottawa Agreement. It has gone through 214 items, and has declared 200 of them to be in accord with that spirit. I am satisfied with the achievements of the Board.Then Mr. Forbes, speaking in the New Zealand Parliament said:I can assure hon. Members opposite that the dairy farmers and others feel that very substantial advantages have been given 2827 them by Great Britain. And what are we giving them in return? We are taking 2½ per cent. off the duty on confectionery, leaving it at 27½ per cent.; and we are also taking something off apparel, hosiery and silk and artificial silk goods, in doing which we have just anticipated what Parliament put into an Act to be done in April while we are doing it in October. That is all the sacrifices that the secondary industries are asked to make for the very substantial advantages given to our primary industries.Mr. Lyons, speaking in the Australian Parliament on 2nd November last said:There have been no tariff reductions as the result of Ottawa. If there had been no Ottawa Conference reductions would have taken place just the same. Great Britain is giving something more definite and more binding than Australia is giving.Mr. Gullett, also speaking in the Australian Parliament, on the 13th October last said:This agreement does not reduce the protective level against British imports; it very generally increases the protective level against foreign imports.In the face of this unanimous opinion on the part of Dominion statesmen, the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, only saying what more influential Ministers like the Lord President of the Council and the Chancellor of the Exchequer have said, in moving the Third Reading of the Ottawa. Bill, said:In principle the Empire had abandoned Protection.There is no humbug here on the part of the Dominions, but there is by our own Government the practice of the art of political imposture.
What is this spirit of Ottawa to which the Government have always appealed? To some of us it seems a spirit of economic hostility and exclusiveness, directed against other nations. If other nations told us that they were coming to agreements to which we were not allowed to be parties, to discussion of which we were not even invited, with the avowed object of diverting trade from this country, we should hardly regard it as a step towards closer co-operation in international trade. Only recently three nations came to an agreement, to which it was open to us to adhere, Belgium, Holland and Luxembourg. And yet we stood. by the most-favoured-nation clause, and refused them the power—mistakenly as I think—to carry that Agreement into effect, because we be- 2828 lieved it would be contrary to our interests. Economic co-operation between ourselves and the United States is vital to the future of the peoples of both countries. Canada, which should be the bridge, is revealed at Ottawa as a thaw-bridge to a hostile British Empire camp. The effect of Ottawa on the world economic situation was no less serious than my right hon. Friends and I feared when we resigned our offices in this Government. Mr. Roosevelt said in an interview in October of last year, just after the Ottawa Agreements were published:I do not think it is even practicable or wise to attempt the creation of an Empire economic unit. The result must be inevitably to create antagonistic economic units elsewhere. We on our part should undoubtedly be tempted to look after our interests by making exclusive arrangements with other countries outside.Mr. Mackenzie King, as by no means unfriendly critic, the leader of the Canadian party which first introduced the principle of Imperial preference in the Empire, said:If the World Economic Conference were to succeed, much done at the Ottawa Imperal Conference must be undone.Not only were the economic Imperialism and the efforts at Ottawa to divert trade from the United States a deplorable way of approaching the debt negotiations at Washington, but it was at Ottawa that the grave of the World Economic Conference was dug.
We want co-operation with the Dominions. Mr. Mackenzie King, the leader of the Liberal party in Canada, has pointed the way. He would reduce tariffs to where they were under the old Liberal Government, and then give Britain a 50 per cent. preference. Cooperation on the basis of freedom—that we believe is the true line of advance. Ottawa was supposed to he the foundation of a great new Imperial system. The cracks are already gaping in the stones before you have started to build. I described these Agreements as apples of discord, spreading discord, as they Ai ere, between all parties in all the great Dominions. Two out of the three parties in Canada, Australia and this country were and are opposed to them. A new and heavier crop of the same fruit is ripening to-day on the Ottawa tree. The harvest of this fruit will go on increasing until the tree is hewn down and cast into the flames of a general election.
2829 How then are we to obtain constructive co-operation from the Dominions? Never will the Dominions give it on the basis of the Government's Socialistic policy of restriction and control, so dear to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and to the Minister of Agriculture. "A terrible policy," Mr. Bruce, the representative of Australia in London, called it. The Chancellor of the Exchequer regards price raising as the end at which to aim, and restriction of production as the means. We regard restriction as spelling unemployment for us here and economic disaster for the Dominions. We regard price raising as the means, and expansion of production as the end at which to aim. It is on those lines and on those lines only that we can obtain the co-operation of the Dominions—a policy of expansion, of Imperial development, of migration, a policy which would restore the balance between creditor and debtor, allay the anxiety of our farmers, find work for our unemployed and quicken the unity of the Empire.
Not, until we restore Imperial economic relations to the basis of freedom on which our political relations with the Dominions so firmly rest, shall we evoke in the economic sphere the true spirit of common weal. In the darkest days of this country it was that spirit of common weal which moved all the peoples, races and languages of the Empire to come together and sacrifice together, not each for themselves but each for the Empire as a whole, and for the good of mankind. In freedom we shall find strength economically as we have found it politically. Let us use that strength, not exclusively for our own advantage, but as citizens of the world, realising that it is in the welfare of other nations that we shall find our own prosperity for an Empirewhich doth thus shall never moved be.
§ 5.6 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
Sorely tempted as I feel to indulge in an answer to the anti-Ottawa spirit of the spe[...] which we have just listened, I pro[...] leave that task to my right hon. [...] Secretary of State for the [...]ominious, and still more to the [...] development of Empire trade which will show who is right and [...] is wrong in this controversy. I have risen only to add a few words in support of what my right hon. 2830 Friend said at the outset of his speech, and what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), who both pleaded for a continuance of the work of the Empire Marketing Board. I have been associated with that work from its inception, and there is nothing I can say too strong in praise of the staff of the Board and of the voluntary workers associated with them, not only for the spirit they have manifested, but for the genius with which they have discovered new lines of economic co-operation, new forms of research, new methods of linking research with the practical needs of industry, and new methods of inspiring the public of this country and the whole Empire with an interest in Empire development. The work they have done has been of interest and value to the whole Empire, and I entirely agree that it is only right and proper that, in the long run, that work should be supported by the whole Empire.
When on the other hand it comes to saying that that work should be stopped here and now unless the Dominions are ready to agree at this moment to a scheme of financial co-operation for carrying on the work of the Board—and I might add, in passing, the equally important and valuable work of the Imperial Institute—that unless they are willing to do that the whole of that priceless work shall come to an end, I begin to ask myself where has the statesmanship of this country gone to? This particular form of Empire co-operation is comparatively new. The conception of financial contribution towards it is something new, and in these hard times it is something difficult. Are we really going to stop dead after the first few years because the whole of the Dominions are not yet ready to come into the scheme? If that had been the attitude of the Dominions in offering preference to this country we should never have come to a preferential scheme. For 30 years or more the Dominions gave preference to this country on a very generous scale, before we made any effective response whatever. Surely the mother country of the Empire is capable of equal breadth of view and farsightedness in this matter, vis-a-vis the Dominions.
As a policy of co-operation this is an entirely new start. Hitherto the money given to the Empire Marketing Board was given avowedly and expressly in return 2831 for certain Empire preferences, and in lieu of certain preferences which we for political reasons found ourselves unable to give in 1925. We accordingly promised the Dominions that they should have the full money equivalent of the preferences which we had promised, £1,000,000 a year, until such time as we should be able to fulfil our original promise. If we are standing on the strict letter of the pledges, if we are not going beyond what we pledged ourselves to do until the Dominions respond, it is well worth remembering that we have never yet in our total expenditure fulfilled half our pledge. As a matter of fact not only the Dominions have benefited by the Empire Marketing Board. I think that this country and our Colonial Empire have benefited in at least an equal measure, and have received at least an equal proportion of the expenditure. Indeed, if you count where the money is actually spent a very much larger proportion has been spent in this country and in the Colonial Empire than in the Dominions.
Therefore, if there is to be that kind of narrow, huckstering insistence on pledges, the weighing of the exact fulfilment of pledges, then the Dominions would be fully entitled to say, "On your pledge of 1925 you have not fulfilled half of what you promised, and you owe us for the period 1925 to 1932 something like £5,000,000. You might very well go on supporting the Empire Marketing Board at the past rate of expenditure for another seven or eight years before the question of equal contributions comes into the picture." That is not the line that I would suggest, and I would remind the House that the Dominions have never taken up that line. What I do urge is that the Dominions should be given reasonable time to come, as they can and in the way they can best afford, into this great scheme of Imperial benefit. I suggest that in the interests of this country and of the Colonial Empire, for which we are trustees and from whom presumably we are not going to exact compulsory contributions, the Marketing Board and the Imperial Institute are both fully worth preserving. Then let us preserve them, conferring upon the Dominions only such incidental advantage as the board can give in its stride. Let us offer every opportunity to the Dominions to come in and contribute, 2832 either for particular pieces of research, or better still by joining the organisation and taking part in its governing body and contributing on a regular basis.
I suggest that the board should be set up as a body under a Charter on the lines of the Imperial War Graves Commission, as suggested by Sir Fabian Ware in an appendix published with the Report of the Committee on Imperial Co-operation. The Charter should be such that any member of the Empire contributing a regular contribution would be entitled to have a seat on the board. Contributions from other sources might also be accepted. In that way I am sure you would get, at a very early date, cooperation and contribution from at any rate some Governments. In a matter of this sort what we need is not a formal all-round scheme, but practical progress. It is not essential for the continuance of the board that every Government of the Empire should come in. Let us support it for our needs in this country and as trustees for the Colonies. I have very little doubt that other parts of the Empire will then respond to our spirit and come in and help to expand the thing further until it becomes a truly Imperial organisation supported by every Government.
In all earnestness and sincerity I make this plea. If you destroy what has now been built up, you are not merely stopping a useful expenditure; you are destroying a. living organisation with a spirit of its own and with a new tradition, something which is positive and creative and of incalculable value in the development of our Empire. The same expenditure distributed among the Departments would never achieve the same result. Therefore, I make an earnest appeal through you, Sir, to the Government to maintain the essential work of the Imperial Institute and the Empire Marketing Board on such a scale as will be at any rate sufficient fully to meet the needs of the Colonial Empire and of agriculture in this country, and to do it in such a constitutional form as may most easily encourage and invite the co-operation of the Dominions, when and as they feel the need for co-operation.
§ 5.17 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I understand that our Debate to-day is to be curtailed as other Debates have been in the course of this 2833 the last week before the Recess. Therefore I cannot on this occasion make the somewhat long speech which I hope to deliver on some suitable opportunity when the Secretary of State for the Dominions is the responsible Minister at the Despatch Box. I am sure that most Members of the House will agree that to deal adequately with the subject of the Dominions Secretary would require more than the few hours between a quarter to four o'clock and half-past seven o'clock. In contradistinction to other hon. Members who have spoken I must frankly say that I am more interested in the Dominions Secretary than I am in the British Empire. I think the part which he has played in British politics for many years and the fact that he holds the position which he holds to-day, ought to give serious thought to every earnest student of political affairs.
I had hoped on this occasion to have raised a controversy that might have been useful on the topic "Why the Dominions Secretary?" The luck however that has pursued the right hon. Gentleman through his political career still follows him today. He has a very much shortened Debate; he has the holidays in near prospect, with that amiability of spirit which descends upon Members of the House when the prospect of release is near at hand, and he has the additional advantage of meeting us on one of the very doggiest of the dog days. Therefore I have to leave a subject on which I would have preferred to speak, undealt with because of the limitation of time. But I throw out this suggestion, which I hope will be conveyed to the Prime Minister for consideration during the 14 weeks when we go on Recess and Ministers get down to serious work. It is the suggestion that the Prime Minister should face the necessity of reconstructing his Cabinet. I think the time has come when that duty, which falls on every Prime Minister at some period in the course of his Administration, is due to be undertaken by the present Prime Minister.
There are young men offering themselves for promotion. There are old and experienced men offering themselves for dismissal. There is a general falling-off in the élan—I think that is the term—of the Cabinet as a whole, demanding that there shall be a transfusion of new blood into the veins of the Government. When that task is undertaken by the 2834 Prime Minister I hope he will consider whether the present Dominions Secretary is being used at his point of maximum efficiency in the position which he holds to-day. Under the late Labour Government it became necessary to promote the Lord Privy seal of that day to the position of Dominions Secretary. At that time there was much arduous work and responsibility attached to the office of Lord Privy Seal. Those duties have been removed so that the office of Lord Privy Seal again becomes the sinecure that it was formerly. Indeed it is now being held by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Bewdley (Mr. Baldwin) in addition to the office of Lord President of the Council, My suggestion is that in the interest of this country and in the interest of the Dominions, the Prime Minister ought to consider promoting the right hon. Gentleman opposite, this time from the Dominions Secretary-ship to the position of Lord Privy Seal.
I make that, suggestion in all seriousness. There is work to be done at the Dominions Office affecting all parts of the world and affecting the lives of, millions of people. I relieve the right hon. Gentleman entirely of responsibility for Ottawa. As he knows, and as we know, the Dominions Secretary had not the primary place in the Ottawa settlement which his official position might have entitled him to demand, if he had been a different type of man from the genial person that he is. I acquit him of all blame for the very grave failure of Ottawa. The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) while he criticised the results of Ottawa with masterly eloquence and with an energy that on a day like this must be a subject for our admiration, concluding with a peroration that was a model of what a peroration ought to be, did not at any point face the issues involved. At least Ottawa recognised the necessity in these days of a planned economy taking the place of unregulated, unplanned, unorganised competition. The only suggestion which I could draw from the right hon. and gallant Gentleman's admirable speech and admirable peroration was that we ought to go back to the days of unregulated, unrestrained free competition—a state of affairs that has reduced this nation and most parts of the Empire to the condition which they are in to-day.
2835 As I say, I acquit the Dominions Secretary himself of prime responsibility for Ottawa. That is not because he did not go there with the idea of a planned economy. He went there with the idea, imposed upon him by his Conservative allies, that the only way to plan, regulate and direct the economy of the world was by the method of tariffs. The agitation that is arising in Certain quarters of the Conservative party is a recognition that, though tariffs may have some influence in checking the flow of goods here or there, they do nothing to plan world production and world trade as it will have to be planned in the near future if we are not to go down into chaos.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I know the hon. Member's enthusiasm for the working class of this country and his desire to help them in every possible way. I Watched his votes in the last Parliament and in this Parliament, and on every occasion when there was a vote to reduce the standard of living of the working class in this country, whether it was in respect of unemployment insurance or health insurance or medical treatment, the hon. Member always voted for the reduction. If that is his idea—it is the Conservative party's idea, and I recognise him as one of the most loyal supporters of the Conservative party in this House—of saving humanity, that is by cutting down the standard of life of the working class, then personally, I do not want to see them having that kind of salvation.
§ Mr. HANNON
As the hon. Gentleman very kindly gives way for me, may I say that if I did vote for reductions they were not votes to reduce the standard of living of our people. They were votes for reductions which meant maintaining the financial stability of this country in face of the world and re-establishing our credit in the face of the world.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Well, that is one way of explaining it away. But the actual thing which the hon. Member did was to 2836 reduce the standard of life of the poorest section of the community—
§ Mr. MAXTON
It is in the records. The Division lists 'are there. The hon. Member's motive, his ideal, may have been to save rent, interest and profit. That is the meaning of financial stability. That may have been, as I say, his object, but the actual thing that he did was to walk into the Lobby to take shillings from the poorest people in this country. I am not saying that he did not do it with the highest motives. I have never imputed wrong motives to my political opponents. Their errors are not those of the heart but of the head. That is an old one. Let me return to the subject—[HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"]—after, I would point out to hon. Members, much interruption and much provocation. I say that the. right hon. Gentleman the Dominions Secretary is not to be held responsible for Ottawa, and I say quite definitely that the right hon. Gentlemen who left the Cabinet on the Ottawa decision were no loss because they have no contribution to make to the solution of the problem that Ottawa tried to face and failed to face, and that the World Conference tried to face and failed to face. They have nothing to offer but what is indeed the essence of Conservatism—to go back to the good old days, and the good old days, as we know them, mean the hungry forties. Those were the good old days of Free Trade.
§ Mr. MAXTON
Hon. Members opposite do not seem to realise that the withdrawal of Protection in those days did not make any impression on the poverty of the people. Poverty was there before, and it was there after and it is here now. The point that I want to raise with the right hon. Gentleman, as the political head of the federation of communities called the British Empire, or the British Commonwealth of Nations, as my hon. Friend above the Gangway referred to it, is this, that this Imperialism, which bulks so largely in platform talk, this Empire, to which everybody pays a certain amount of deference and lip service, means nothing to the poor man in the 2837 back streets of London, Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham, or Ottawa. My slight knowledge of ancient history tells me that there was a time when, if a man could say, "I am a Roman citizen," it meant something to him, in whatever part of the Roman Empire he lived. To be able to say, "I am a member of the British Empire," to-day means absolutely nothing to the people who are down and out.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), an Independent Liberal, I think, of the most radical type, returned to this House by a friendly agreement with the Conservative party, stands up for Imperialism and says it does mean something. It means nothing to the people in Edinburgh—nothing. He knows, and the right hon. Gentleman knows, that if a British citizen goes out to Canada with money in his pocket and finds himself unable to get employment, he may be a British citizen of first-class standing, he may be a skilled artisan, but if he gets out of employment and up against hard times Canada throws him out, puts him in the fo'c'sle of a boat that perhaps he helped to build on the Clyde before he went away, and ships him back again like cattle, saying to him, "Probably the motherland will look after you, but we have no responsibility whatever."
The position is not dissimilar in the Australian Commonwealth. My hon. Friend above the Gangway has described the condition of those migrants, who were sent out from this country as a matter of high Government policy. At that time everybody was bitten with the idea that migration was the way to solve unemployment. If you had an unemployed miner and he was shipped from South Wales up to the Highlands of Scotland, he came off the unemployment list of the South Wales exchange, and that was solving the problem of unemployment. I am not blaming anyone at that time. It was there. The economists, I think, had told the politicians that that was the way in which unemployment was to be solved, so we started moving people around. We did not merely move them around this country, but we moved them off to different parts of the Dominions. We sent them to absolute ruin, and it is years now that some of them have been out there in starvation conditions, but neither the Home Government, nor the Commonwealth Government, nor the 2838 State Government said, "Well, these are citizens of the British Empire, these are fellows who fought to maintain the integrity of the British Empire." No, they had ceased to be any of those fine things. They were just members of the working class who had come up against it, and they were left to stew in their own juice.
But let me point this out: The Secretary of State could not snake decisions to relieve those fellows in any way, either those migrants in Canada or those migrants in Australia, but in Ireland, when the Irish people decided that they were not going to pay land annuities, a decision had to be taken at once, because the bondholders were not going to have any source for getting the interest on their bonds. The Dominions Secretary acted with decision and promptitude, and the House backed him up, to pay the bondholders, although he knows that every penny of that money had to come out of the pockets of the poor peasants, working peasants, producers, and to go into the pockets of interest drawers. Similarly, in Newfoundland. The right hon. Gentleman did not do anything to relieve the terrible distresses of the working people in Newfoundland—fishermen, paper workers, lumber workers—not a thing, but the Newfoundland loan was in danger of not having the interest paid. Bondholders 'again, and again the Dominions Secretary acted with promptitude and voted or got us to vote.
I think it is a matter of regret that in this House there should be such a preponderating collection of callow Members, young men, who have no respect for their own job or for the place in which they are working. I could not have imagined real Parliamentarians, like old Sir Frederick Banbury, with whom I quarrelled as bitterly as ever I quarrelled with any Member of this House—
§ Mr. MAXTON
—now in the other place, or the late Sir Henry Craik, who sat on the back benches there, ever having allowed for one minute a Minister of the Crown to play tricks upon the House of Commons. I cannot see in this House a solitary back bench Government supporter who is the least bit anxious to see that the actions of this Government are kept decently within the estab- 2839 lished practices of this House. The right hon. Gentleman came along at midnight and asked the House to vote half a million pounds, not to set Newfoundland on its feet and give it a new lease of life, not to relieve the starvation of the Newfoundland fishermen or lumbermen, but to pay the interest of the bondholders in Newfoundland. I say here, and I say definitely and deliberately, that the right hon. Gentleman has mishandled the Irish business in the interests of the bondholders, and has since refused the many opportunities that have been offered him of finding a way out of a position that is causing enmity, bitter enmity, between the two nations and harm to the trade and industry of both. I condemn him for his handling of the Newfoundland question, and I condemn him for his handling of the question of the Victorian migrants. I say that every branch of his administrative work has been badly done, carelessly done, and with all the regard that we have for his geniality and good fellowship, it is not right that the welfare of millions of people, struggling hard in difficult times, should be left in the care of a man who takes his responsibilities in this trivial and light fashion.
§ 5.41 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Perhaps the House will forgive me if I leave it to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs to deal with the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton), who has just sat down. I will not interfere in an internecine quarrel.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Well, neighbourly quarrel—anything you like. I want to put one or two questions to my right hon. Friend, and I will be quite brief and, I hope, to the point. I want to say very clearly that there is arising in the agricultural mind a distinct hostility to the agreements at Ottawa. It is there, it is growing, and in the interests of Imperial co-operation I want it allayed. I have evidence here from the Cheshire Cheese Federation, who have approached me. That is a very capable organisation, dealing with something like 60,000,000 to 65,000,000 gallons of milk a year, well organised, and has the most up-to-date business methods. They are protesting that they cannot live under the stress of Dominion 2840 competition as regards cheese. That is in Cheshire. I do not want to weary the House with the quotation, but I have it here. Then I come to my own part of the world, to Taunton. My right hon. Friend, of course, knows Taunton well. When I first got into the House he was driving an engine up and down the railway there, and to his great credit. I would say to the hon. Member for Bridgeton that I think it is to the everlasting credit of my right hon. Friend that he went from his place of driving an engine to become Secretary of State for the Dominions.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
But my hon. Friend must see that there is something in the old country that will enable a man to rise from his place of driving an engine to be the Secretary of State for the Dominions. I hope the hon. Member will have a similar promotion in future—not in the near future, because I do not think he has yet cut his wisdom teeth, but later on I hope I may have the privilege of seeing him here in some very responsible position. That is by the way. My right hon. Friend, I was saying, knows Taunton well. Now here is a report of a meeting held at Taunton last Saturday, and I quote from the "Western Morning News" of the 24th July a report of what one of the speakers said:If we have been foolish enough to give away our birthright at Ottawa, can anything be done to give the English farmer a chance to sell his cheese?There were several other speakers, and there was a general demand for a revision of these Ottawa Agreements. So much for cheese, but let me instance the case of butter, in which my own county, Devonshire, is more closely interested. My right hon. Friend has very courteously given me figures which clearly show that butter is sold in Melbourne at 120s. per cwt. and that that selfsame quality of butter is sold in London at 80s. a cwt. There can be no excuse whatever for that. That is dumping to a degree that I have never heard of. I do not understand why the Australian people do not object to the fact that an article of diet such as butter should be sold for something like 50 per cent. more in the country of origin than it is after paying all expenses and sent these thousands of 2841 miles to London. There is an export bounty of 3d. per pound, and then a depreciated currency, which is equal to l½d. per pound. That is unfair competition to the British farmer. I want to help the Government and try to put before them the views of the British farmers, and I want to say that it is impossible to carry out a great scheme of Imperial co-operation unless we can carry the agricultural interests with us.
The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) has made an eloquent appeal on behalf of the Empire Marketing Board, but how can you ask the taxpayers of this country to advertise dumped Dominion products. I want to help the Government to make the Ottawa Agreements a success, but they cannot be made a success if such things as this dumping go on. Something was said by my right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness and Sutherland (Sir A. Sinclair) about the spirit of Ottawa. If there was one thing made clearer than another before our Ministers went to Ottawa, it was that the home producer was to have the first of the home market, then the Dominions, and then the foreign producer. I want to ask my right hon. Friend if he can give the agriculturist any information Have these conversations progressed so that he can announce something definite? I want the Government to give the agriculturist something definite before the House rises. They are in a very parlous state. Things are very depressed and deplorable in agricultural districts. It is no use talking Empire sentiment; what the farmer wants is better prices. Can my right hon. Friend give us some information as to whether this extremely unfair competition from the Dominions is to cease, and whether the British farmer is to have the first place in the home market.
§ 5.50 p.m.
§ Mr. HANNON
I would like to support the plea made by my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) on behalf of the continuance of the activities of the Empire Marketing Board in some form or another. Following the speech which has been made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert), I would like to point out to him and to the House that the Empire Marketing Board has been discharging 2842 in this country useful work not merely on behalf of the Dominions and Colonies, but on behalf of British agriculture. I submit to the Secretary of State that in the interests of our own rural life it is undesirable that this highly organised body, which has given evidence of great efficiency and great utility for several years past, should have its operations brought to a close. We have listened to a remarkable speech from the hon. Gentleman the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). The hon. Member is one of the most charming assets we have in this House. Every speech that he makes is full of delightful vituperation of some Member of the Government, and my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State received this afternoon his full meed of that vituperation which was delivered in the hon. Member's usual kindly, gentle and deftly phrased manner. I would say in reply to the hon. Member that I do not think that those of us who have experience of dealing with the Secretary of State for the Dominions have any right to complain of his attitude towards every question brought before him from time to time. I have never known in the 13 or 14 years I have been in this House a Minister more accessible to private Members and more sympathetic to proposals submitted to him, or one more anxious to consult the desires and feelings of the House in every feature of his responsible office. I think that it is hardly fair, notwithstanding the asperities of political bitterness that occasionally characterise speeches in this House, that an attack of that kind should be made upon my right hon. Friend.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton referred to the situation in Ireland. I will speak with great reticence on that baffling and embarrassing question. I would like, to say of my own knowledge that nothing has been left undone on the part of the Secretary of State to deal with the difficult situation during the whole process of this very distressing dispute. I have the opportunity frequently of submitting certain views to him and conveying to him impressions which I receive from various quarters, and at all times the Secretary of State has been more than anxious to receive proposals which might contribute towards the solution of the very tantalising situation between ourselves and the Irish Free State. It is, of course, deplorable that this state of 2843 things should continue. Because of the fantastic notions of political philosophy held by a single individual, these two nations are apparently to remain in this state of misery at the expense of both sides of the channel for an indefinite period of time. The Irish people are suffering incalculable loss because of the situation and in this country many businesses, with some of which I happen to be associated, are suffering severe loss because of these appalling difficulties in relation to Irish trade. But there is no reason for any hon. Member to charge the Secretary of State with any want of constructive purpose if an opportunity should arise for dealing with the situation.
It would be a blessing of untold consequence to us all if this horrible impasse could be obviated and some agreement arrived at, but as long as politicians in the Free State are hitching their wagons to the stars instead of basing themselves upon solid considerations, so long will this difficulty continue, and so long will all the harassing misery be inflicted on people on both sides of the Channel. It is no good making an appeal in this House to Free State statesmen to treat this question as a question of practical politics. They have all along taken the line of dealing with current economic problems on the stories of the sufferings of Ireland in the days that have passed. Every time you try to bring statesmen of the present in Ireland down to the real significance of the state of affairs, they talk about Cromwell and William III and all that happened in the long terrible story of the relations of Ireland with this country. I always try to point out that, living as we do in a practical age, the maintenance of the standard of living of the people is of more consequence than research into ancient history and that they ought to bring their minds to this question from a totally different point of view.
Every component part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and every part of the Colonial Empire is only too anxious to cement the friendship and the trade relationships between the Mother Country and themselves, and the distressing fact to me as an Irishman in this House is that the one part of the Empire that has not the feeling of responsibility for the best interests of its own people 2844 which would lead them to approach a solution of this grave problem is the Irish Free State. I have communications from Ireland from day to day indicating the most distressing conditions of affairs among my own people, and all I can say, while paying my tribute to the splendid efforts made by the Secretary of State and to his constant anxiety to receive and consider proposals made to him with the desire to see this suicidal policy in Ireland brought to an end, is that I hope and pray that wisdom may descend on those responsible for the continuance of this sad tragedy between the two countries.
§ 5.58 p.m.
Mr. VYVYAN ADAMS
I hope that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State feels better after that archiepiscopal benediction from the hon. Member for Mosley (Mr. Hannon). Like several hon. Members who preceded me, I have a few observations to make to him. There is no Member of the House who would be slow to echo the remarks of the hon. Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn) when he said that he wished the right hon. Gentleman would use all the resources of his ingenuity to bring into effect the rumours of the settlement of the deplorable differences which exist between ourselves and the Free State. In my view these differences do not spring so much from politics as from an incompatibility of temperament. Be that as it may, those differences are a sure ground of discredit to both parties involved. Two or three months ago I asked an Irish lady of my acquaintance if she had read the amusing correspondence which was recently published between Queen Victoria and Mr. Gladstone. Being both Irish and a woman, she did not answer my question, but said gratuitously and without the flicker of an eye," Och, the should divil, Oi hate her. It would have been futile for me to suggest to this lady that she might reserve the vials of her indignation for some contemporary Sovereign.
§ Mr. HANNON
Is the hon. Gentleman quoting the Irish lady exactly, and does he sincerely suggest that an Irish lady would speak of the dear old Queen as a devil?
Indeed, this is a verbatim report of something of which I was an immediate witness. This lady in fact 2845 said, more, I suppose, in sorrow than in Langer "Och, the ould divil, Oi hate her." And, indeed, I might have said equally abusive remarks about the late Mr. Gladstone with an equal degree of sensibility—a right hon. Gentleman who has been dead, I believe, no less than 35 years. But these arguments, I am certain, would have seemed to this lady both pedestrian and prosaic, and I am quite sure that the Irish, and in particular Mr. De Valera, are not profoundly impressed by the logical processes of my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary when he stresses so strenuously Ireland's existing obligations to ourselves. I cannot help remembering that my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary, through his policy, enabled Mr. De Valera to get away with this slogan at the last election in January:On our side is virtue and Erin; on theirs is the Saxon and guilt—a picturesque, if somewhat ungenerous chiasmus. But the stock argument runs, does it not, that we cannot afford in time of war to have upon our flank an Ireland. which is hostile to us. I always attempt to reply to that argument that hardly any price can be too high to pay for an Ireland which is bereft of the last ground of complaint. With England and Ireland the relationship should be that of a man and a. woman—the one is strong and the other is beautiful. If my right hon. Friend were here tat the moment I would assure him that this particular woman does not relish or appreciate the technique of the caveman.
If it is said to me that a desire to conciliate Ireland at some considerable cost represents a Liberal sentiment, there are two answers. The first is that a good many of us who support the National Government are, in this Parliament, the trustees of Liberalism, and some of us have not forgotten our responsibilities in that regard. But there is a more potent reason for advancing that kind of argument, and that is that there is now no longer any question of the maintenance of the union with Ireland, because the decree nisi was made absolute no less than 12 years ago. My own party, the Unionist party, 2846 always had substantial objections to Home Rule, but 10 years of Cosgrave administration have proved that those objections were not entirely valid. At all events, I ask the Dominions Secretary, through his able and charming lieutenant now on the Front Bench, to see that we do not run into any shocking blunder as we did before. Now that the right hon. Gentleman has coalesced with my own party there is no reason for him to behave as inflexibly as any pre-Treaty Tory. I am always afraid least he should become too high a Tory and fall over backwards.
If my hon. Friend the Member for Moseley had troubled to remain in the Chamber, I would have reminded him in connection with Mr. de Valera that in some remarkable and miraculous way the President of the Irish Free State has escaped the assassin's bullet in a country where battle, murder and sudden death have too often stained her heroic and distressful history; if we can take a fair and honest view of history we have to confess that those calamities have on more than one occasion been set in motion by the English. But, for my own part, I wish Mr. de Valera the most natural death in the world at a ripe old age. My view of him is that he is by no means the knave which the hon. Member for Moseley seems to think, but he is certainly honest, even though he may be a fanatic. We know from the current history of Europe that leadership commonly runs to fanaticism—witness Germany at the present moment; but even in the case of Germany we have to deal with the de facto Government. In spite of proportional representation in Ireland, Mr. de Valera and his party have almost as absolute a majority as the National Government in this country, and the policy of my right hon. Friend the Dominions Secretary, whose absence I am very regretful to observe, is quite likely to rivet Mr. de Valera in the saddle for no less a period than five years from January.
If I may adjust my metaphor, the right hon. Gentleman is standing at the crease in the guise of a famous slogging batsman, the hope of his side or his team or whatever synonym the right hon. Gentleman uses to describe His Majesty's Government. Mr. de Valera advances and delivers a googly, and I can imagine my- 2847 right hon. Friend saying: "Oh, dear!" or words to that effect," here comes another of those horrible twisters." He lashes out with his eyes shut, misjudges the spin, and obligingly spoons a catch into the bowler's grateful hands. He then returns to the pavilion amid loud applause accorded in respect of past boundaries. I venture to express the hope that the future innings of my right hon. Friend, which in the case of the most gifted and experienced Cabinet Ministers seem always to be indefinitely numerous, will not, be brought to an end by so elementary a quietus.
Comparisons are often drawn between Ireland and India. For my own part, I think those comparisons are usually very faint and unjustifiable. There is, I hope, just this inference that one can draw that we, as the heart and the pivot of this great Commonwealth of Nations, cannot always afford to play the grand sahib. If my hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell, whose absence I am sorry to notice, thinks that our case on the annuities is so cast-iron, I must say that the obvious inference must be that our claim must be susceptible to examination by any tribunal of honest men, and in these days, when we are trying to seek to establish the principle of arbitration, it seems to me a policy of defeatism to fall back upon squared shoulders and stiff upper lips and hardened hearts. I do appeal to my right hon. Friend, through the Under-Secretary, that this country ought to be generous to Ireland as only the strong can be generous. I am extremely glad to see that my right hon. Friend has returned.
I am glad my right hon. Friend is here, because I want to make to him a direct appeal with regard to the Irish situation. I wish to say to him that I hope the Government will be able to deal in this one solitary particular in a spirit of generous conciliation towards the Irish Free State. Let us give them, if they demand it, their extra-Imperial tribunal. For my own part, I am not able any longer to support a policy which can only perpetuate and maintain the shameful and scandalous history of Anglo-Irish misunderstanding, while at the same time, paradoxically 2848 enough, maintaining in power in Ireland the very men whose authority has been so widely deprecated.
§ 6.9 p.m.
§ Colonel GRETTON
The Irish question is again before the House, and it is difficult for me, having heard so much of it in all its stages, in a long Parliamentary career, to avoid making one or two remarks which are not altogether in agreement with those which have fallen from the hon. Member who has just sat down. I am not concerned to defend my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, because he can well do that for himself; but, at any rate, in dealing with this question let us see where we are. There are still Members in this House who protested against the separation of Ireland from the United Kingdom. We made what resistance we could; we pointed out the dangers—and they have occurred; we deprecated the safeguards—and they have broken down and disappeared. Some hon. Members think, because we are in a difficulty through the fault of our predecessors in this House and British Governments before this one, that the fault, as always, is on the side of the British Government. These Annuities were a matter of treaty. Enormous concessions were made to the Irish people when the Irish Free State Government was set up. Surely there was some obligation on their side to carry out agreements which were entered into not by force majeure, because we were in the position then, as they claim, of a defeated party, and we accepted the defeatist position—not I, but others, the Government of the day. Surely there is some claim for the terms of the treaty to be honoured, and surely the right hon. Gentleman, whatever mistakes he may have made in method or in manner, is right in upholding that agreement.
Far be it from me to say anything to embarrass the Government in a situation in which we find ourselves, or to say anything which would exacerbate the position. We have to realise that at present the administration in Ireland is not unduly friendly to this country. It is avowedly and openly hostile, and ready to do what injury it can to this country. I am sure that Mr. de Valera and his supporters will not repudiate a statement of that kind. The position is very difficult. Can we make it better by sur- 2849 render, by running away from the little remnant of principle that is left? I say not. The right hon. Gentleman has offered arbitration within the Empire; but no, that does not suit the present Irish administration. They must have arbitration outside the Empire in order that they may assert their independence of the Empire—show their independence of us. Surely we must recognise that symbols are worth pursuing. I am not going to pursue this question further. I think that on the whole, in spite of errors in method and in detail, the position of the British Government in regard to the Annuities is a sound one, and they would be imposing an undue and an unjust burden on the British taxpayer if they were to change that attitude and make a surrender to the demands of Dublin.
I have one word to say on the Ottawa Agreements. I regret the remarks made by my right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert). His speech put forcibly, as always, the case for the British farmer, and for the purpose of this Debate he saw nothing but Canadian cheese and Canadian butter—
§ Colonel GRETTON
Yes, Australian. There is Danish butter, and cheese from other parts of the world. There is far more in this question than merely a. consideration of the Ottawa Agreements. Our complaint is that the Ottawa Agreements have not been carried out by the British Government. They have been whittling away the principles which supported them in office when they went to Ottawa. Those principles were that the British producer came first, the Empire producer came next on preferential terms, and the rest of the world took what remained. Since the Ottawa Agreements, the Government—I am not saying that the Secretary of State for the Dominions is responsible for this — have been whittling away what the Ottawa Agreements gained. They have been making trade agreements with other countries. They seem to see nothing before themselves but quotas—quotas here, there and everywhere—only there is no quota for the British farmer.
There is a confusion of policy. Surely the British Government intend to give the British farmer a fair deal in Ins own home market, and a preference over all 2850 other people in the British Empire;. The Ottawa Agreements are of great value and are worth preserving, but, it is not, in accordance with the spirit of those agreements when you say to foreign countries: "What do they want? We will give them a quota." The end of it is that the one person who does not get a quota is the British farmer. The Minister of Agriculture appears, on some occasions and in some of his pronouncements, as if he is going to limit the production of the British farmer in order to give quotas to other nations. That is surely the most topsy-turvy and ludicrous position. I urge upon the Government that they should discuss this question in the Cabinet, because this is a Coalition Government as well as a National Government, and the Members of it do not all agree fundamentally. They may have different points of view, but surely they could hammer out some definite policy. The Secretary of State for the Dominions and the Secretary of State for the Colonies will have information as to the state of the world, and surely they can work out a policy for the British Empire which will be intelligible to this House and to Dominion statesmen, and will eliminate all misunderstanding as to what this Government understands by the Ottawa Agreements.
Surely we might have a policy from the Minister of Agriculture, and a general policy for the country which would produce better results than the quotas have hitherto done, and which would result in somewhat better prices for. British agriculture, after all the assurances which have been given. We seem to be pursuing a wrong course, and far too great attention is being paid to quotas and to trade agreements with foreign countries before we are on firm ground and know how we stand in regard to ourselves I urge, with all the power and all the force that I can command or summon, that our future lies in our own agriculture. The failure of the World Economic Conference must have taught us something; let us turn to our own Empire and to those with whom we are already bound by agreement, with advantage to ourselves, our Dominions and our Colonies. There we can settle our economics, and our financial and industrial principles, and there we can bring together the united forces of people throughout the world 2851 who are capable of producing nearly everything that the world requires. Let us take the trouble, the forethought and the foresight to develop those resources, and make them into a benefit for our own people.
We must take our lesson from the defeatism and pessimism which have led us into the present dilemma in the Irish situation, and from those errors which have been made in thinking that our position in this country, or in the Empire, could be benefited thereby. It is our intention to urge the Government to turn their attention to the more prosaic, but far more practical problems, of dealing with the difficulties in which we find ourselves, and which are great enough for our attention, in the development of our great and glorious Empire.
§ 6.22 p.m.
§ Mr. RONALD ROSS
As the first Irish Member representing an Irish constituency who has had the privilege of intervening in this Debate, what I have to say may have a bearing upon our subject. I have listened with great interest to various opinions from various quarters of the House, and perhaps with the greatest interest to the right hon. Baronet who spoke from the Liberal Benches, the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair), whose eloquence I always so much enjoy. It may not be invidious to select one portion of his speech from a whole which was entirely delicious. I listened to his discussion of Irish questions with peculiar relish, because I have followed Irish politics from my cradle and have been tolerably familiar with the speeches of Liberal politicians throughout the ages. I can assure the right hon. Gentleman that his address to-day had the true 1880 smack. It might have been delivered by one of the great orators who delighted this House in the classic period of politics. I rather wondered whether he has been adjusting his Liberalism, although no one has ever questioned that, to the present situation, and whether he has read the Debate which took place in the Dail on this question on the 14th of this month, because if he had he might alter his opinion. I will refrain from quoting the Debate, because the accusation is so constantly levelled against myself and my colleagues that our only endeavour is to exacerbate difference of opinion. I assure the House that no pro 2852 vocation—we have had much provocation in word and in deed—would make us take any steps, except in defence of our rights, which would exacerbate the difference, which we deplore as much as anybody in this country.
The Secretary of State for the Dominions must be a person whom one would wish to follow in other fields, that is, if there is any human justice, because he is so unfortunate in the offices with which he has attempted to contend. I remember him struggling manfully with the quite hopeless task of trying to cure unemployment. Now, as a rest cure, he is dealing with the Irish Free State and with the other Dominions. The situation in the Irish Free State I look upon as a United Kingdom situation. We are interested in it, but we are interested in it as a portion of the United Kingdom. I do not question the general policy of the Dominions Secretary; I do not think that many of us can. We all feel that there was just cause on two grounds, which are that the money was advanced generously to the Irish farmer to enable film to acquire his holdings, and that the bargain was acknowledged by all the representatives of the Irish people—as they always like to call themselves—not only in that period, but since the establishment of the Free State.
I have certain observations to make about the methods by which the policy has been carried out, although not anything against the offer of an Empire tribunal. When the Irish Free State enjoy the advantages of being in the Empire, as they still are—they have not said that they are not, and those advantages include the sending of Irish Free Staters to the constituency of the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) and his colleagues on the Clyde in considerable numbers—I think that it is only fair that they should bear the corresponding obligation, in matters of this sort, of being subject to an Empire tribunal. There are two points that arise in connection with that policy. The first is, is the right hon. Gentleman getting all the money which he requires to fulfil this debt? Secondly, in getting it, is he getting it from the Free State, or at the expense of people in the United Kingdom? These are two very interesting points, and I would address myself exclusively to them.
2853 On the first point I do not think, subject to what the right hon. Gentleman will have to tell us, that he is getting the full amount of the moneys that should be paid by the Irish Free State. The duties which we have against the Free State are far less in number than the duties which they have against the United Kingdom. A serious suggestion has been put out several times that the position is otherwise, but it is not so. The Irish Free State duties are more numerous and more violent. I asked the right hon. Gentleman many months ago a question as to a new lot of duties that were put on by the Free State. They were so numerous that, on the ground of expense, it was quite impossible to describe them in the OFFICIAL REPORT, because it would have cost several hundreds of pounds. That will give hon. Members an idea of the duties that are put on against the United Kingdom.
Why would it not be equitable for us to copy the duties which the Free State put on? It is very hard to understand why the poor men who are trading find that they cannot send things into the Free State, whereas their opposite number can send them into Northern Ireland or into Liverpool. Why should not the latter have a taste of the Customs Entry Duty, which is a particularly vigorous attack on the small trader, or the packet-and-bottle tax, or the many other types of duties which have been put on by the Free State 2 The policy which the right hon. Gentleman began, with commendable vigour, seems, if I may say so with respect, to have reached the stage of comparative stagnation. The hon. Gentleman who spoke second in the Debate from the Opposition Front Bench produced a case in point in regard to potatoes. He pointed out that our duty of £1 per ton had been counteracted by a bounty of £1 per ton. Surely that was a Heaven-sent opportunity for us to put our duty up another £1, without injuring the harmless producer of Irish Free State potatoes, because the Government of the Free State would be contributing another £1 a ton to the funds which are required.
I pass to the other branch of the argument that I am trying to direct to the Dominions Secretary, that is, the question of whether the people in the United Kingdom suffer unnecessarily as the result of some aspects of this policy. I am 2854 sure that all educated people will be familiar with the campaign against China at some time in the 'nineties, during which the Taku Forts were bombarded. In that case the Chinese commander was an extremely thoughtful man, and, with all the resources of the naval science of those days, he worked out a war game as to what would happen if his forts were bombarded by the Allied Fleets. According to this war game, he was most unsuccessful, but he had for gotten one element, and that was that the Allied Fleets would fire back at the forts. That would appear to be rather the position in relation to some of these matters connected with the Free State duties. There has been retaliation as was only natural in the case of a people with spirit—and I have never denied that my fellow-countrymen in the Southern parts of my country are spirited people; even in this House they have displayed their spirit from time to time, and I hope they will do so again. Naturally, they have retaliated.
Can the right hon. Gentleman wash his hands completely of the effects of the retaliation which has been produced by his very proper policy? He has made observations which rather tend to make one think that that might be his view, but I cannot conceive that it could be his view on reflection. Of course, at the present time, trade is practically impossible with the Free State except in goods which they cannot get anywhere else. I will give the right hon. Gentleman instances—I will keep them within as small a compass as I can, but I could wander over a rather wide field—of the consequences which are flowing directly from his very proper policy, and which seem to me to be easy to remedy.
Let me take the case of the millers. Of course, the millers have lost their trade in the Free State. As far as we are concerned, we have to face some sacrifices in support of a very proper policy, but I do not think we should be asked to face wholly unnecessary sacrifices. One of these is that of the miller who is deprived of his Free State trade, and who at present is finding his own market in the United Kingdom flooded with the by-products of the Free State millers, who, owing to the embargo, are working full time. In. answer to my hon. Friend the Member for Down (Mr. D. Reid), on the 2855 20th June, the situation was set forth in full by the Board of Trade. It is a quite amazing situation. Not only has the export of these by-products to the Free State ceased, but the amount of by-products imported into the United Kingdom from the Free State has increased by thousands per cent. In 1931 it was 837 tons—a negligible quantity. In 1932 it was 5,668 tons, and in 1933, from January to May only, it was 7,204 tons—a quantity which is going to be increased by several hundreds per cent., apparently, every month; and, as far as I know, except for the 10 per cent. duty that is being charged, no steps have been taken to check this attack upon a, very important field for millers in the United Kingdom. It cannot be said here that any question of the Treasury losing money can arise. A duty of reasonable amount would aid the trade, and, as no doubt there would still be some importation of these products, the Treasury would be no worse off than before. I brought this matter forward weeks ago as discreetly as I could—because discretion has always been one of my strongest faculties—but I have been unable, up to the present, to secure any reasoned explanation of the situation.
There is also the question of butter, and I am sorry that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) is not in his place at the moment, although he has attended the Debate with assiduity, because this is a matter which I think would interest him. The situation seems to me to be, if I may use such a phrase, peculiarly ludicrous, because, while a duty was put on butter as part of this policy, no serious attempt has been made to cope with the counter-measures which the Free State have naturally adopted in order to deal with the duty. It seems to me that, where the object of the Government is to raise money by duties, the presence of a bounty put on by the Government from whom one wishes to get the money must be of the greatest advantage to this country, because, when the bounty is put on, the duty can be raised correspondingly. The present position, as I understand it from the answers which I have received from time to time, is that the duty is 22s. per cwt., but the bounty has now risen to from 50s. to 80s. per cwt., and the consequence is that butter is being dumped in the United Kingdom at 2856 70s. per cwt., whereas the same butter sells in the Irish Free State at 130s., representing an increase of price of very nearly 100 per cent. inside the country of origin of the butter. I say quite frankly that the position of the co-operative creameries, which are very dear to the small man, and which I believe are very dear to my hon. Friends on the Labour benches, is gravely jeopardised when dumped butter is allowed to come in at a rate which brings down the price of milk to 2½d a gallon.
What is the answer Is the answer that the same situation occurs in the case of Australian butter? That case, of course, is quite distinct, because Australian butter is not fresh butter, but this is direct competition with my constituents, the constituents of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton, and the people in any other butter-producing country. I cannot understand why no steps are taken to check such a situation. The right hon. Gentleman was faced with a very similar position in the case of the cattle duties. Cattle were being sold at a price which apparently bore no relation to their value, and he put on an arbitrary duty. As regards butter, I can only hope that he will apply the same principle which he has so properly applied to cattle. As to the question that the Treasury might lose money, no doubt a calculation was made at the time of the last alteration of duty in the autumn. Was that calculation right or not? No alteration has been made since, although I think I am right in saying that the Free State bounty has gone up by 31s. per cwt. since we last altered our duty, and not only has the bounty gone up, but, in the first five months of this year, the importation of Free State butter has increased by 91 per cent. Therefore, it is a demonstrable fact that it would be quite easy for the Government to raise their duty to the extent which the Act permits—60 per cent, more than the present rate—and that that would not lose the Treasury any money. Indeed, it might increase the amount they would receive, and it would ease the butter situation.
I have tried my best to get these matters attended to. I have been passed from Department to Department, and, if I may use the expression, the Departments have passed me "the buck." I 2857 have been concerned with the Board of Trade, the Dominions Office, and the Ministry of Agriculture, and have even been referred to the Treasury. Surely, it is a matter of great importance that this demonstrable misfortune, and, as I think, mistake, should not be allowed to continue any longer. Surely, the people of the United Kingdom must come first. The right hon. Gentleman has been at pains to explain that he is not unduly sympathetic towards Southern Ireland, but I suggest that, in carrying on this unhappy controversy, and more especially in any agreement which is arrived at, the rights and interests of the people of the United Kingdom must come first, and must be paramount above all others.
§ 6.41 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
No one regrets more than I do that the Dominions Secretary will be rather pressed for time if he is to give adequate replies to all the questions and observations which have been directed to him to-day. We know that, given time, he will undertake his task manfully, but we warn him that there is a heavy task awaiting him. I will not detain the House with any remarks relating to subjects which have already been dealt with from this side of the House. My hon. Friend the Member for Rothwell (Mr. Lunn), who is very familiar with the ground, dealt with several points, and addressed pertinent questions to the Dominions Secretary, who, I am sure, will make a friendly and full reply when he comes to speak. I should like to say something about the ease of the Victorian Settlers—a specially hard case, and a meritorious case which demands immediate sympathy. I would press the Dominions Secretary to give some immediate relief to these people. Mention has been made this afternoon of certain other interests. The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) referred to the fact that this House readily comes to the assistance of bondholders, and this case stands out in clear contrast with the way in which the House votes relief and indemnities to moneylenders in the Dominions and foreign countries where they have met with disappointment or loss. Here are people who were offered special inducements by Parliament itself, and by the Department which the right hon. Gentleman 2858 now represents, and I think we ought to require from the Dominions Secretary a definite assurance that no time will be lost in giving them the relief which they deserve.
I desire also to refer to the increasingly difficult plight of the natives in the native protectorates in South Africa. These people are living a simple life in their own country under very primitive pastoral conditions. They are enjoying but a very bare measure of subsistence, and there is ground for believing that their condition is getting seriously worse. Pasture is getting scarcer, and water supplies have run dry, while cattle disease and a number of other troubles beset the natives in the Protectorates of Somaliland, Swaziland, and Basutoland. We are anxious that the Dominions Secretary should see that whatever assistance can be given in the form of grants-in-aid to these people shall be forthcoming, and that, in addition, there shall be an assurance as to their position in relation to the Crown and to His Majesty's Government—that there shall be no transference of responsibility from the Government until these people have been consulted, and until the white population and the right hon. Gentleman's Department have been consulted.
I cannot pretend to do justice to the very great subject of the Ottawa Agreements. The right hon. Baronet the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) has uttered a timely speech of warning and condemnation to this Government and to the Governments of all the Dominions. That warning would not have been listened to 12 months ago, but affairs have taken a turn after examination of the so-called achievements of Ottawa. There is very grave apprehension in some of the Dominions themselves. I will quote almost prophetic words used by Mr. MacKenzie King nine months ago, showing very great insight and statesmanlike capacity in viewing the problem. He is the leader of the opposition and is likely to be the leader of His Majesty's Government in the Canadian Parliament very soon, when the opportunity comes. An opportunity must be given to Canada, which we expect to be duplicated in this country at some time and which will result in a change of Government here. Mr. MacKenzie King said:I believe that the bargaining method as a matter of inter-Imperial policy is all 2859 wrong, and I believe that what took place at the Conference in Ottawa has demonstrated that to the minds of those who participated. I do not believe we shall ever see again within the British Empire another venture of that kind made, because I think relations came as near to the breaking point as it is possible for strained relations to come between different parts of a great Empire.Later in the same speech he said:That is the great fundamental difficulty at the root of this bargaining business. Sooner or later it involves one part of the Empire interfering in the domestic affairs of another part.Still later he said:I contend that what we have at the present time is action not by the executive of this Parliament alone, but by the executives of the various Parliaments of the Empire working together—action under the guise of separate agreements, but which is, nevertheless, establishing a new British Empire fiscal system. If such is the case, it is a very serious thing.Our complaint against the Ottawa Agreements and the principle underlying them is that it is neither one thing or the other. [...] it not Empire-planning. It is not Empire policy. It is a makeshift policy which does not even make a lasting contribution to the policy of Empire-building and, indeed, will stand as a permanent obstacle to that great task in which we all hope to share. We often hear it said—the right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) is an outstanding example of this kind of misguided opinion—that we must be protected against dumping, not by foreign countries, not by countries where the costs of production, wage standards and hours of labour are lower than our own, but by Australia and New Zealand. There is a growing volume of opinion in favour of protection against this dumping which is carried on quite consistently with the Agreements at Ottawa. But you cannot stop the dumping from New Zealand and Australia unless you come to a settlement of a much larger issue than the mere swopping of a quantity of goods centrally adjusted day by day and year by year. There is a growing financial burden which the Dominions have to carry. New Zealand has a National Debt of about £275,000,000. It increased by no less than £8,500,000 in 1931. As to the allocation of the debt, £154,000,000 of it is due to London, £170,000,000 to New Zealand and £4,000,000 to Australia. 2860 That debt has to be paid for, and it is paid for in a time when export prices have fallen to a level less than they have been for the last 40 or 50 years.
Anyone who has heard the New Zealand case must sympathise at once with the position of these people. Last year, in the time when the National Debt increased from £268,000,000 to £276,000,000, the value of her exports fell by no less than 28 per cent., and it is still falling. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for South Molton says we must not allow these Australian and New Zealand farmers to send their cheap butter here. We must stop that dumping by some means. Really, the problem is not how to stop these goods, but how New Zealand can pay her debt to this country unless she is allowed to send her commodities. But I have no time to deal with that, and I will not disappoint the right hon. Gentleman. He can rely on me to give him a reasonable time. He is sometimes loquacious, but to-night he will have his opportunity. He will have to come to the point, and I hope he will. The House requires it. I warn him that on some of these questions he must really come down to business, because he is responsible. He has peat gifts and, if he misuses this opportunity for the exercise of them, he will not serve himself as well as he would if he boldly took the great opportunity that is now awaiting him.
The value of the British market to Australia is not realised. We are almost the only market for Australia and New Zealand. We sell in retail shops of all kinds in this country well over £1,000,000,000 of goods every year. There is a great disparity between wholesale and retail prices, but, admitting that the price at entry is very much less than the retail price, this is the largest and most profitable market for each and every one of the Dominions. In the case of Australia, we buy 90 per cent. of her butter exports, 97 per cent. of her pork, 96 per cent. of her lamb, 88 per cent. of her mutton, 38 per cent. of her bacon and hams, 55 per cent. of her canned meats, 79 per cent. of her fresh fruit, 95 per cent. of her wine and 63 per cent. of her dried fruits. The Australian people must sell in this market. Besides that, there is their desire not to be primary producers 2861 for all time—the very natural ambition not to be dependent on the fortunes of one trade and to suffer as they have suffered in recent years in consequence. They say, "We shall at the earliest opportunity build for ourselves industries which will absorb our raw materials. We shall have a population which will consume a, large part of the primary products. We shall make our living more directly by our own organisation in the future than we have been able to do in the past."
Now I come to Ireland, and I shall finish. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman will allow me to speak to him on a subject which is very dear to me, partly because I am a Celt. All Welsh people have a kind of natural affinity with those across the way, and I feel quite sure, without any offence to the English people, that we are able to understand the peculiar grievance of the Irish much better than they can. There is some intuition born of common suffering and common limitations which enables us to understand. There is an age-long quarrel between Ireland and this country. It has now assumed an economic form which is easily manageable, and should not be allowed to persist. We have lost in the last year employment for no fewer than 4,000 coalminers, who are increasingly being thrown out, of employment because of the failure to supply the Irish market, which took 2,500,000 tons of coal a year. I have been told in answer to questions in the House that 1,000,000 tons less has gone into Ireland from the coal-producing areas of the country. That is the equivalent of a township of 20,000 or 30,000 people unemployed and receiving no income because of this stupid, futile quarrel in which the right hon. Gentleman has played his part. I am sorry if I convey the idea that I blame him altogether. There are two sides to this quarrel. He represents one side. The genius of conciliation is to be blind to the faults of both parties to a dispute.
I shall not provoke greater difference of opinion or resentment on this question if I can avoid it, but I urge of the right hon. Gentleman that, on the grounds of employment, of Empire, of friendship and co-operation, there is no room for delay. He has been a successful negotiator, and I hope he will play the part of a negotiator. There are no longer any real substantial divisions between the countries of the world. We are now in 2862 the twentieth century, in the post-War period. The air carries men and merchandise freely over all national boundaries. The obsolete walls of earlier days simply stand as historical monuments. We have the invisible couriers of the wireless vibrating ceaselessly telling all who would listen that politics, art and learning are all one. The nightly gossip goes around the world, and science, engineering, economics call upon us to widen their scope of service. I ask the right hon. Gentleman in relation to the Irish question to make an effort. Let him throw away completely any personal pride that may stand in the way. If he makes an effort, with the support of the House and the people of the country, he must succeed in bringing peace once again between ourselves and Ireland.
§ 7.0 p.m.
Mr. J. H. THOMAS
If any evidence were needed to demonstrate the nature of the day in which this Debate has taken place, it is to be found in the speech we have just heard, and in the earlier speech by my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton). I think it is sufficient to say that I am quite sure some of his phrases were due to the heat, and not to his usually good temper. He wanted the Prime Minister to go altogether, but he did not mind my being Lord Privy Seal. That was very generous on his part. I only assume that in his anxiety for me, he hoped for something for himself at a later time. But there were two phrases he used and used quite sincerely, that ought not to go unchallenged. He made his position quite clear when he talked about Newfoundland, and when he talked about Ireland. His only conception was that the policy was one directed merely to the interests of the bondholders and that so far as he was concerned, repudiation was the only sound method. That is his attitude quite clearly. Although a speech to the masses may read well on that point, he must apply that principle even to the Irish Free State Government, because they were as jealous of the bondholders as he accused me of being jealous—only it was not the money we had loaned for the farmers to own their own farms, but the money loaned to them for the establishment of the Irish Republic. They did not agree with the hon. Member who talked about repudiation in that case, and we must be logical all round.
2863 The Debate indicates, apart from specific questions, two definite lines. First, there are those who say quite clearly that Ottawa is a failure; who say, "We told you in advance it would be a failure." We do not agree for one moment that Ottawa is a failure. Nothing I can say this evening will convince these people. It is no good my wasting time in trying to convince people who from the start not only did not believe in the policy, but who now say, "We were right." I do not think I can convince them, and I am certainly not going to try. I am going to submit this test.
If I can show that, since Ottawa, inter-Imperial trade has increased, and even a bigger share of Imperial trade has gone to this country, as well as we have given it to the other parts of the Empire, that, in itself, ought to be the best justification for Ottawa. We can only deal with a period of 12 months and who will deny that it has been an abnormal period? There is not a man or woman in this House who would not admit quite frankly, so far as every part of the Dominions is concerned, that we all hope and believe that the last 12 months was the low-water mark. If, even in that period, we can show that Ottawa has been justified, I think it is for me to say to the critics: "No, I do not apologise for these agreements." The Dominions, as has been rightly pointed out, were interested in their secondary as well as their primary industries, and the bargain we made was this: Instead of having in the future a prohibitive tariff let it be, so far as we are concerned, a competitive tariff. That, in short, was the agreement we made.
Canada had to institute a tariff board. There were difficulties in the personnel because the first condemnation which would have been made of the tribunal, unless it was absolutely impartial, would have been: "Ah! it is a biased, or prejudiced, tribunal because there are certain politicians on it." The result was that, as they had to establish the tribunal under considerable difficulties, there has not been the progress made in the examination of many of the claims for which we had hoped and wished. I would remind my right hon. and gallant Friend that it is a very dangerous thing for him to take quotations from speeches and hurl them about in an entirely different 2864 atmosphere to that in which they were delivered, and in different circumstances. All the extracts my right hon. and gallant Friend quoted this afternoon were extracts where the various Ministers were answering specific questions in their particular Parliaments, and it is very difficult to judge the circumstances under which they were delivered.
In any case, I am content to submit to the House this particular claim. I am now taking Canada which has been most criticised. Both my right hon. Friends who spoke will be interested to know that, so far as the exports of coal are concerned, since the Ottawa Agreement, for the six months ending March, 1933, as compared with March, 1932, the figures have increased by 88 per cent. in bituminous and anthracite coal. In chemicals there is an increase of 11 per cent.; in cutlery of 57 per cent.; in galvanised sheets of 54 per cent.; in cotton yarns—not unimportant—40 per cent., and in fabrics of flax 272 per cent. It is no good condemning Ottawa when we show that even in these difficult circumstances there has been a marked improvement. I can take four figures for Canada, Australia, the Union of South Africa and Rhodesia showing the proportion of imports from the United Kingdom into the Dominions to the total imports into those Dominions, comparing six months of 1933 with six months of 1932. Canada shows an increase from 19.4 to 23.4; New Zealand from 49 to 51, the Union of South Africa from 45 to 49 and Southern Rhodesia from 42 to 48. I repeat, in giving those figures, that they are given for a very difficult period when it was impossible to judge the full forces of the policy in that particular period.
There is a number of questions I have to answer. My right hon. Friend the Member for South Molton (Mr. Lambert) raised very specifically, as did some other hon. Members, questions of agriculture. It is not for me to answer for the policy of the Minister of Agriculture, except in so far as it relates to the Dominions side of the question. I am, however, in a. position to say that it has not only been made clear but accepted by the Dominions, without a solitary exception, that our first duty in all these matters is to our own people, namely, the British agriculturists. That policy was laid down at Ottawa. It has been persistently pur- 2865 sued by my right hon. and gallant Friend, and I am in a position to say that, even at this moment he is hopeful of negotiating a satisfactory settlement with our Dominions on that basis.
With regard to the Empire Marketing Board, I do thank every hon. Member of the House Who has paid tribute to the work of that board. No words I could use would be too strong to describe how magnificently they have done their job. At Ottawa, speaking for the British Government, I made it clear that we were prepared to continue, provided the Dominions were equally prepared. They were unable to see their way and, rather than allow a smash to take place, and in order to give time for consideration, we undertook to continue to finance the Empire Marketing Board until 30th September. A committee was appointed, and the British Government's instructions to their representatives were to press for continuance of the board. They did, but for various reasons the Dominions were unable to acquiesce, with the result that they unanimously decided that they could not recommend the continuance of the board. But they not only agreed that the main operations of the work should be continued, especially the magnificent work on the scientific side, but they unanimously decided that they would all co-operate in that effort. The presence of the Dominion representatives in London has enabled me to discuss with them the whole situation, and I am in a position to say that I have every reason to believe that the Skelton Report will be adopted and accepted by all the Dominions. In addition to that both ourselves and the colonies will endeavour to keep in being all the individual branches which affect British agriculture, timber, and the scientific side. I go even further. I shall be ready at any time to co-operate with the rest of the Dominions if it is possible to develop an Empire Marketing Board again.
Very strong feeling has been expressed with regard to the position of the Victorian settlers. I repeat what I have already said to the House that I deplore the delay. Nearly four years have elapsed since the then Victorian Government announced their intention of appointing a Royal Commission. The Royal Commission itself only reported in March of this year. In order to make my position clear, seeing that I have, both 2866 publicly and privately, complained of delay in this matter, it is only fair to the present Victorian Government to say that, although when they were in opposition they pressed for the appointment of the Commission, they have been in office, as hon. Members know, less than 12 months. I also want to make it clear that, as far as the position of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom is concerned, neither the Commonwealth nor the Victorian Government have ever attempted, and they do not attempt even to-day, to attach any responsibility to us.
I deplore the situation because it does incalculable harm to the broad, general question of migration. Every man who comes back dissatisfied and everyone who reads of these cases must of necessity believe that there is something radically wrong, and it deters others who might be well disposed. Therefore, for all those reasons, I not only do not dissociate myself, but I frankly and fully say now that the conditions under which those men went there have not been complied with. I go beyond that and say that the British Government have pressed from the commencement, not only that justice should be done to them, but that there should be an immediate and a speedy settlement. I am happy to say that I have every reason to believe that a final settlement will be reached within a few days, and I hope that it will be such a settlement as will do justice to a body of men who were taking a very great risk on promises made and who endeavoured to play their part. I am sure that the House will not expect me to say more.
I now turn to what, after all, was the most important subject of the Debate, namely, the question of Ireland. Every Member in this House, regardless of his party, and everyone, either in Northern or in Southern Ireland, cannot do other than deplore the dispute and hope for the ending of it. The economic background of the situation between the two nations economically is that roughly 95 per cent. of the exported produce of the Irish Free State is taken by the people of this country, and in the past years nearly 70 per cent. of the imports into the Irish Free State have been derived from the United Kingdom, and even now, despite the present circumstances, 60 per cent. of their imports 2867 comes from this country. All that shows that geographically it is madness to be quarrelling, and it is madness to have these differences. Politically I have no hesitation in saying—and both Ottawa and the presence of the Dominion representatives in London fortifies me in saying it—that in my judgment, and in the judgment of the Government, every political ambition which any Irishman may desire can be obtained and is open to him within the British Commonwealth of Nations. Therefore, with those facts and reasons no one can dispute that it is very unfortunate to have this sort of thing continued. I have been asked whether I could offer some gesture, and I answer my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton right away by saying that it is not true that I have neglected any opportunity. It is not true to say that any offer of any sort or kind has ever been made to the British Government except the official offers made in negotiations between Mr. de Valera and ourselves. No other offer of any sort has been made, and therefore I want to make the position clear.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I said that you had neglected opportunities. Perhaps my right hon. Friend will allow me to explain. I am as anxious to have exactness and fairness as he is. I did not say that he had refused offers. I said that he had neglected opportunities, and that was all I said.
Then I accept that statement, and say that I saw no opportunity, and immediately I see any opportunity I shall certainly not neglect it. The other night a very important statement was made by Mr. Lemass. During the discussions in the Free State Senate on Government legislation making permanent the emergency duties Mr. Lemass said:The Free State Government were prepared to raise the emergency duties immediately if the British Government would do likewise. The Free State would go further and remove them now if there were any indication that the British Government would remove them soon after.That was a very clear and specific statement. I want to say straight away that if that was intended to open the door, then I accept it on behalf of the British Government. But let us be quite clear what it means. If it means that the duties will be removed by Ireland and by 2868 us, and that we resort to the status quo, that is, that the Treaty obligations will be fulfilled and the money paid, then there is no difficulty whatever. It is very important to emphasise that fact, because the ordinary person reading it would put some other construction upon it, and I want to make it perfectly clear that as far as we are concerned we only imposed the duties because of the money withheld and we will discontinue the duties, all of them, immediately we see a reasonable chance of a settlement by the Irish Free State representatives indicating that they realise and recognise the position. It is only fair that I should emphasise that in view of all the rumours which are taking place. I want to repeat that at Ottawa 12 months ago an effort was made, in Ireland an effort was made, and in the negotiations an effort was made, and I repeat that any overtures of any sort or kind made on behalf of the Irish Free State will not only not be rejected but will be examined sympathetically by us. We only want to remind them of this. The statement is repeatedly made in Ireland to-day that the people of Ireland are adapting themselves to the changed circumstances.
I think that that is true, but it is equally true with regard to the people in this country. But that, instead of helping matters, only aggravates them: instead of contributing towards a solution, it merely widens the breach. Because I do not want the breach to be widened, and I am genuinely and sincerely anxious for peace, and believe that peace ought to exist between the two nations, I repeat again on behalf of the British Government that we shall lose no chance or opportunity to effect an honourable settlement. There is only one other question which I have to answer. With regard to Bechuanaland and the Protectorates generally, I have to indicate on behalf of the Government that the clear and specific pledges made not only by one Government but by many Governments will be kept in mind as far as the present Government are concerned.
The Government have always considered it. Let me say in a sentence, as there seems to have been some misunderstanding about the matter, that as far as arbitration is concerned, even on the limited tribunal, the Irish Free State's position has not been merely arbitration on the items arising out of the Treaty but on the general Irish relationship as far as finance is concerned, even pre-Treaty. That should be made quite clear.
I thought that they were rather questions of detail. In a word, I understood and appreciated the purpose of my hon. Friend. He suggested that if in the application of the duties advantage was being taken of the situation, more revenue would accrue to the British Government if changes were made. That shortly was the purport of the statement of my hon. Friend. I am taking note of all these matters, but I felt that the bigger issue which was raised with regard to the settlement ought to occupy my time, which was very limited, and that is why I did not deal with them at length. But I assure my hon. Friend that all the matters he raised will receive consideration.
§ Question put, and agreed to.
§ Bill read the Third time, and passed.