§ "That, for the purpose of enabling effect to be given to an agreement regarding commercial relations embodied in an exchange of notes dated the thirteenth day of April, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, between His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of the German Reich, the duties of customs now chargeable under Section three of the Finance Act, 1925, on goods of the descriptions specified in the first column of the Table annexed to this Resolution shall, as from the eighth day of May, nineteen hundred and thirty-three, be chargeable at the reduced rates respectively specified in the second column of the said Table.
|Description of Goods.
|Reduced rate of duty.
|Pianos, non-automatic; and component parts and accessories thereof.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|Piccolos, flutes, clarinets, flageolets, bassoons, and cornets; and component parts and accessories thereof.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|Description of Goods.
|Reduced rate of duty.
|Stringed musical instruments and component parts and accessories thereof.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|Gramophones without electrical amplification, of a value not exceeding 10s. each.
|15 per cent, ad valorem.
|Gramophones without electrical amplification, of a value exceeding 10s. each.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|Concertinas of a value not exceeding 35s. each.
|15 per cent, ad valorem.
|Concertinas of a value exceeding 35s. each.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|10 per cent, ad valorem.
|Clocks, alarm (other than electric clocks) of a value not exceeding 30s. each.
|20 per cent, ad valorem.
|Clocks (other than electric or alarm clocks) of a value not exceeding 30s. each.
|25 per cent, ad valorem.
|Clock movements complete (other than movements of electric clocks) of a value not exceeding 15s. each.
|25 per cent, ad valorem."
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ 7.45 p.m.
§ Mr. LAWSON
It struck me, when this matter was debated on Monday, that in some respects the Committee rather seemed to forget the conditions under which this agreement was entered into, and I think the President of the Board of Trade himself was not quite sure at times. I think it is very necessary for the House to understand at the outset of this Debate that, if this matter has been linked up with negotiations under the Import Duties Act, neither the miners, the coalowners nor the coal trade are in the least to blame for that. If the coal trade is set in opposition to other industries, it is because it has rather been the victim than that it had the will to be placed in this position. Here are the facts, if I may repeat them not only as the President of the Board of Trade repeated them but as one who saw the results of this cutting down of the quota at first hand in their effect upon those engaged in the coal trade. We were alarmed in October, 1931, in the mining area of the North when we learned that the licensing quota of export coal to Germany had to be cut down from 420,000 to 300,000 tons. We were 1096 still more shocked when we learned that it was soon to be reduced to 100,000 tons.
We saw collieries around us at once closed down. We could place our fingers on men and say that they were made idle directly as the result of that. That was 18 months ago. Members for the mining constituencies raised the matter in the House and found that the President of the Board of Trade himself was just as much alarmed as we were. Indeed, following up questions that were put to him, he ultimately gave answer to me that the action taken by Germany was inconsistent with their obligations under the Anglo-German Commercial Treaty of 1924, being discriminatory against this country. Indeed, the Government felt so strongly on the matter that they instructed our Ambassador to make protest against the violation of this Treaty. The right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) was quite right in insisting that this was a matter that stood by itself as a violation of the Treaty, and it was not necessarily from his point of view, a matter that was affected by the Import Duties Act. But we were concerned to know what the Government was going to do and from October, 1931, until the present time, so far as we are concerned in the coal trade, nothing effective has been done until this agreement was submitted.
There are Members in the House who have said—one hon. Member in a very forthright speech—that, of course, this position was due to the fact that world consumption had decreased. He also said it was due to the decreased consumption of coal in Germany. I wish to join issue with him. Germany is no better now than she was 12 months ago as far as internal consumption is concerned. Indeed, she is worse. But Germany can now license 180,000 tons against the 100,000 tons which she has been taking for the last 12 months. That justifies the theory that we laid down at the very beginning of this crisis that Germany had lowered her quota in order to place herself in a bargaining position in view of the new tariff policy of the Government, and that we were the victims of that policy. Now we have been justified in the line that we pursued by the very fact that Germany has insisted on bargaining on that basis and demanding something before she allowed an increase of the 1097 quota. So the net result of the tariff policy to us in the coal trade is that, whereas we were allowed 420,000 tons a month, we have now to be thankful for 180,000 tons a month. We say to the Government that, placed in the position we are in, we are compelled to accept this crumb which falls from the tariff table, but we say, Thank you for nothing.
§ Mr. MARTIN
If the hon. Gentleman is joining issue with some statement that I made, do I understand that he disputes my figures about the German consumption of coal?
§ Mr. LAWSON
No. I did not bother to deal with the figures, for the very simple reason that the case is unanswerable. Germany can take 180,000 tons of our coal to-day as against 100,000 tons in the last 12 months. Her position is not only no better now than it was 12 months ago, but is worse, and that simply proves that she has been holding herself for bargaining. That is the case that I put up. The House knows very well—we in the North of England perhaps know at first hand even better—that no one can drive a better bargain than the right hon. Gentleman, but, of course, he is the victim of his own circumstances, and I really do not understand why the people who have been responsible for framing this policy—I do not know whether it is a Birmingham or a Bournemouth policy—should find fault, because in the circumstances it seems to me that this is the kind of thing that will happen and the kind of criticism that the Government will have whoever is bargaining.
I agree with those who have said that really it is not a very good bargain. It is a very doubtful bargain. The Germans do not guarantee to take 180,000 tons at all. They simply give us a licence for exporting that amount of coal, but, of course, they are sure that they are going to get a lower tariff. How do we know—this is very strongly held in the coal trade —that the Germans will not even manipulate this agreement to suit themselves? They have a preferential tariff on the railways. They subsidise their coal to the free ports. How do we know that they will not increase the subsidy to the free ports and thus make it possible to bunker their own ships so that in effect what they may seem to give us with the one hand they actually take away with the 1098 other? Then, of course, with the present feeling prevailing in Germany, I should not be surprised even if Mr. Hitler decides that anyone who imports coal into Germany is not of true German stock. With the situation developing as it is there, really anything might happen. I put it to the right hon. Gentleman that it is a very doubtful bargain that we have, inasmuch as it is just possible that they might tend to subsidise coal and thus bunker their own ships.
We were told when a tariff policy was decided upon, that it, was to unite the nations. I remember the roars of cheers that at last we had a policy which was going to make us a united Britain economically in the face of all the world. It was a sort of face-the-four-corners-of-the-world spirit that was prevailing. I could not help thinking of the scenes that took place at that time and compare them with what took place on Monday. I am sure the average visitor who saw the division of opinion and the tug-of-war between various Membars would certainly not have thought that the policy that was set out by the Government was a united policy. As a matter of fact there were times when it seemed to me that it was a kind of economic cup tie between Birmingham and Newcastle. I suppose the next match will be' fought with Cardiff. We are really in for some very striking schemes in the next few months if the kind of thing that took place on Monday is any indication of what is going to happen.
We in the coal trade object to being placed in the position of getting some particular advantage over poor workmen in Birmingham or some other part of the country. We were very sorry for the minority. There is a kind of fellow-feeling among minorities; we have had some experience of them in the last 18 months, and have been not unused to them even before that. So we tried to come to the rescue of the hon. Gentlemen on those benches. We were so sorry for them that we went as far as that. We always desire to give help to the weaker brethren. But we also expect them to help themselves. That is the good old British principle. So we were shocked, after coming to the rescue, to discover that some of their own Members had actually gone away. I understand that all that was necessary was 1099 the presence of the Chief Whip at the door to convince those Members at once, with that convincing smile of his, that the Government was right, and at once they were gone. There were even vulgar people who said something about election expenses. We would not suggest that for a moment, but there were certain people who did suggest it.
I gather that to-night and next week a real attack is to be made upon the Government. We wish them well. This is an Agreement which gives licences for a million tons of coal a year. Yes, but the Government has been taking 2,000,000 tons a year from the coal trade by its policy in the last 12 months. There is a nice sum of evidence now that the Government policy evoked this spirit in Germany, as is shown by the negotiating facts expressed in this Resolution. We are not going to say on this occasion that we can refuse to accept what has been achieved. We are placed, as an Opposition, in this position, and we have to accept any little crumb that falls from the tariff table. We can do nothing else, but we give the Government no thanks for it. Quite frankly, if we could go into the Lobby with real fighting men, with men who mean business when the fighting begins, people who are not afraid of the issues, in order to bring down this Government which is responsible for the policy, those men would have 100 per cent. of our support tonight. But the position as expressed in this German agreement is not at all a hopeful one for the coal trade of this country. It would have been far better if the Government had attended to the fundamental facts connected with this industry, with its organisation and with all the things that so badly need the Government's attention. I received this morning an article from a man whose qualifications and authority will not be doubted: Mr. Archer, who is interested on the export as well as the production side, and who has written very ably upon this subject. He says quite clearly here that:Coal is a simmering source of international mischief. There is not, it seems to me, the remotest hope of a solution of the European coal problem apart from political action.All through his argument this gentleman expresses what all well-wishers of 1100 the coal trade and those who know it intimately feel, that there is a very great need indeed for close Governmental attention and Governmental action of a fundamental kind in connection with the coal trade if it is to face the future.
§ Mr. LAWSON
I was quoting from the "Coal Merchant and Shipper" of 29th April. But I could go on to read columns of warning that, desirable as it is that the members of the coal trade should settle their own troubles voluntarily, it is urgently necessary for the attention of Governments to be given to this important matter.
I cannot sit down without warning the House that at the present moment a situation is looming up which, while we are discussing it, means an increase of 80,000 tons a month or 1,000,000 tons a year and which, unless it is firmly handled at a very early date, may result in the loss to us of a great deal more coal than we have gained in this German agreement. All men who know the trade well and intimately and have given the best of their experience and time to it, know that during the past 11 months there have been warnings, urgings and intrigues, but, so far as we can gather, nothing of real effect is being done. Both on its national side, in view of the termination of the agreement, and on its international side the coal trade, if it receives the attention to which it is entitled, can bring to this country prosperity and an increase of exports and of general well-being beside which this infinitesimal agreement pales into insignificance.
The gentleman I quoted and many others are strongly of the opinion that it is most necessary on the constructive side not only that the Government of the day should give its attention to the trade for constructive purposes, but also that it should give that attention to other countries which produce coal. As far as this agreement is concerned, I reptat that we have nothing for which to thank the Government. We accept it under pressure. If the people who are fighting the Government really meant business, we would go as far as we could to bring the Government down. As things are, we have to accept this situation, but 1101 it would be infinitely better if the Government had given the necessary attention to the constructive side rather than to using the coal trade for this purpose.
Right hon. and hon. Gentlemen need not run away with the idea that it is going to be a case of Birmingham against Newcastle, North against South, engineers against the coal trade, some other industry against agriculture. That is the position now, as far as industry is concerned, according to the policy: a splitting-up policy, a policy of antagonism. But we on our side will see to it that the workers in those industries are not lined up one against the other but against this policy, which means not only the undermining of the standard of living and probably the wrecking instead of the strengthening of these industries, but also the threatening of some of them with very grave dangers. We can rely upon the great mass of the workers to line up with unity at the very first opportunity, not for a policy of disintegration but for a policy of Socialism, commonweal and organisation, which is the only solution to these problems which we have to face to-day.
§ 8.11 p.m.
§ Mr. AMERY
I should like to begin by assuring the hon. Member who has just sat down that the last thing that those of us who criticise this agreement would wish to do is to grudge in any way any relief that we may secure, by negotiations or otherwise, for the hard-pressed coal industry. Nor do we grudge concessions that might be made to secure an adequate result, merely because those concessions affect our own constituencies or the part of the country which we represent. I hope that in this matter we shall look at these problems, not from the point of view of separate interests and separate localities, but from the point of view of the general national industry. It is certainly only from that point of view that I rise to object to the agreement which is embodied in this Resolution. I do so, not because I object to making bargains with other countries, but because I consider this to be a bad bargain. I object, not because I have failed to realise that in bargaining concessions may have to be made, but because I think that in the present instance the concessions made are unnecessary and in any case are calculated to inflict more damage upon industry and deprive more 1102 men of employment than would be counterbalanced by the help which industry, as represented by coal, could be said to receive from anything that has been secured from Germany.
It is on those points that we wish to have a good deal more information from the President of the Board of Trade than that which he vouchsafed in the rather cavalier speeches which he delivered to this House on Monday. We have heard nothing so far to show either why any concessions were required to secure from Germany what the hon. Gentleman has. claimed to be our right, or why concessions on this scale were necessary. I need not repeat the circumstances, but we have been told more than once from that bench that the German restrictions upon our coal quota were a definite discrimination against our coal industry compared with other countries and, consequently, a violation of our Trade Agreement with Germany. I quite agree that it might have been inconvenient to refer to arbitration. It may alse be that the most-favoured-nation Clause prevents us from applying Section 12 of the Import. Duties Act to Germany, a Section which. was expressly devised to give us power to, deal with other nations which discriminated against our industry. But the President of the Board of Trade has never so far answered the question why concessions were necessary, when the whole trade position between Germany and ourselves gives us a lever upon Germany, a position of infinitely greater power than any other country has ever enjoyed in industrial negotiations.
As long as Germany sends to us more than twice as much as we send to her, we are in a position not of giving, but of asking concessions. We are doubly justified in demanding concessions when we believe those concessions to be, not in the true sense of the word concessions, but a mere recognition of our Treaty rights. The point of view of the President of the Board of Trade seems to be in every negotiation to give concession for concession regardless of the background. If that is to be the line to be pursued, then I imagine that when he has finished with the larger trade negotiations with Germany which he contemplates, we shall still be left with the position that Germany is sending us twice as much as we send her. That may be the point of view of the President of the 1103 Board of Trade, but it is not the point of view from which this House passed the Import Duties Act.
Let me come to the particular industries which are being made the victims of his effort at bargaining—an effort with which he seems to be quite extraordinarily satisfied. We have had no reply of any.sort to the facts and figures adduced in the course of Monday's Debate; no attempt to explain or argue that casual figure of 1,800 who might lose their employment if these remissions take their maximum effect. I think it would be desirable that the President of the Board of Trade should do what he did not do on Monday, namely, give some sort of answer to the powerful statement made by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow, President of the National Union of Manufacturers, with regard to the chemical industry. I should be glad if he could give some sort of answer to the case which I made with regard to the watch and clock industry, a case in which the question is not only one of loss of employment to an existing industry, but of the checking of a most promising and hopeful development, which may involve the employment of many thousands of workers.
I need not deal with the jewellery industry, with which my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham dealt. I received this evening a telegram from the Birmingham jewellers' Association which not only points out the hardship and loss of employment likely to be incurred by that industry, but refers to the negotiating capacity of my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade in language which, I am afraid, I cannot possibly read out to this House. To take another industry, I should like to give the single instance of a letter which I received to-day. In this case the industry is the toy industry, to which the President of the Board of Trade referred in unduly disparaging terms, considering the efforts which his department and the Department of Overseas Trade made for years to try to encourage the British toy industry to recapture the market in this country. This is what this firm says:Two years ago, when … the long-sought-for Tariff on imported toys was at length attained, British toy manufacturers prepared to develop their businesses. We 1104 ourselves here spent £25,000 on new factory buildings and toy-making plant, in addition to further expenditure at our Wellington factory, while we acquired on a 21. years' lease another large factory in London for the sole production of wooden toys such as had hitherto been imported from the Continent.We found the 25 per cent. Customs Duty was barely sufficient to protect our new activities … but the Tariff offered us just sufficient encouragement to proceed, and the removal of, or substantial reduction in, this Tariff, must have but one inevitable effect—the closing down of new industries almost before they have properly started and after considerable expenditure of money has been made.We consider the assertion that the cessation of these activities cannot affect more than 1,800 workpeople throughout the country must be entirely erroneous. From our new London factory alone we are dismissing 100 people and are giving instructions for the factory to be closed and the plant disposed of forthwith, as we know the futility of attempting to produce goods for which there could be no sale. How many more people we must discharge from our Harborne and Wellington factories, remains to be seen.After speaking of the difficulty of industry knowing where it stands in the present position, they go on to say:We think that before taking any steps in this matter the Board of Trade might at any rate have investigated the condition of the toy trade in this country, and have taken steps to see that British toys could be exported to Germany on terms as least as favourable as those applicable to German toys imported into this country.Nothing has been said throughout the discussion as to what the German rates of duties are on the articles on which we have made concessions. I think that that is a matter well worth considering.
To come back to the general issue, I cannot help feeling that the inadequacy of the answer given by the President of the Board of Trade was largely due to the fact that he did not take the trouble to consult the industries in question. He told us on Monday night that it really was no use, in the midst of these negotiations, to consult with those industries, because they would all with one accord have said that they could not afford to have their tariffs interfered with. Really, that is not the point at all. Of course, they would have said so. What matters is, not what they would have said in that respect, but what information they would have laid before the President of the Board of Trade to justify their case. It was information that it was his business to secure, not agreement.
1105 From the facts and figures which have been supplied to the House, it looks to me as if the President of the Board of Trade went into this matter without the information which he ought to have had at his disposal. He certainly did not fail to get information with regard to the export trade in which he was interested—the coal trade. To quote his own words, he had the amplest and fullest stores of advice from the Mining Association. Why should he not have had the amplest and fullest stores of advice from the other industries affected It may very well be that in the case of some of them they could themselves have suggested a reduction in certain directions which would not have hurt appreciably, or which would have hurt them least, or at least have convinced him on other points where concessions could have been obtained.
I will put this question to the President of the Board of Trade: Does he think that Germany in the course of these negotiations consulted only her export industries—clocks, music and toys—and did not consult the German coal industry, whose interests might have to be prejudiced? Of course the Germans consulted all their own people, right through, and I suggest that if the President of the Board of Trade had been doing his work properly in this business he would have consulted every industry which was affected in this matter. He tells us that he had all his own information; that he had information available to the Advisory Committee. He said: "We pooled our information." But it was made quite clear by the question of my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham that there was no question of following the advice of the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee was simply brushed on one side in this matter. This question is really the most serious which has been raised by this whole transaction.
The action of the President of the Board of Trade—I am sorry he has gone away—cuts right across the whole principle on which the Advisory Committee was established. Here we set up an impartial judicial body, to which industries are compelled to go if they are to receive any measure of Protection. They are told that they cannot exercise political pressure upon their members. They cannot bring their case before Parliament and before the Department. There is only one door 1106 through which they can enter into security and that is the Advisory Committee. Moreover, the Advisory Committee are equipped with very remarkable powers. They can insist on a. very close scrutiny of an industry. They can lay down conditions as to reorganisation, and as to the expenditure of large sums of capital. Finally, when they are satisfied on every issue, they make their recommendation, and in certain cases they couple that recommendation with some sort of guarantee of security. The question that arises to-day is, what is that guarantee worth? On Monday my hon. Friend the Member for Central Sheffield (Mr. Boulton) pointed out that in the case of the razor blade industry, the increased production that has taken place has been on the assurance of five years' continued protection from the Advisory Committee. What is the view of the President of the Board of Trade on that question. He said:… The Advisory Committee had said that they themselves, speaking only for themselves, did not propose to make any further recommendation for a period of years. We did that because in our view … the protection which was still in force was sufficient for the purpose."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1933; col. 63.5, Vol. 277.]"Speaking only for themselves." Now we know what importance the President of the Board of Trade attaches to the Advisory Committee. Now we know what value a recommendation of the Advisory Committee has to the industries of this country. Really, we cannot have it both ways. When an industry wants protection, the Advisory Committee is all powerful. It can refuse an application or grant it, on any conditions it likes. But when it occurs to the Minister in the course of negotiations to brush aside the Advisory Committee, then we are told the Advisory Committee are nothing. They only speak for themselves. They are just Messrs. May and Powell, or whatever the names of the gentlemen may be. They have no authority. People who risk their capital in reorganising their businesses and find millions of money on the strength of the recommendations of the Advisory Committee, well, they are mugs. That is the fact put before us.
When it comes to saying that the Advisory Committee eliminates political pressure, it only eliminates political pressure in one direction. It is a one- 1107 way traffic. If air export industry wants a concession in any foreign country, it can go and put up its case. It can give its amplest and fullest advice to the President of the Board of Trade, saying: "We must have this concession; pay anything you like for it." But those who are to be sacrificed in that case in the home market are not even informed. They wait until one morning they open their newspapers and find that the whole foundation upon which they are building up their industry and employing their workpeople has been taken away from under them. They have had no opportunity to put their case. The industries affected have hardly had time to meet and put a reasoned case to communicate to Members of Parliament. We have had telegrams from them, but they have hardly had time to make any other statement.
It seems to me that the whole scheme of the Import Duties Advisory Committee and of the Import Duties Act becomes meaningless if we are to adopt the President of the Board of Trade's point of view. It is quite clear from the speech delivered on Monday night that beyond the 10 per cent. revenue duties the right hon. Gentleman regards all the other duties as being, if I may use his phrase "bargaining material," put on in order to give him an opportunity of taking them off again for what he may consider an equivalent concession from some other country. If that was the idea, what on earth was the good of creating an Advisory Committee and putting industries to the trouble and expense of proving a case, so that they could get protection sufficient for themselves, and not to affect other industries? If that was the point of view, why not have put on a 50 per cent. tariff all round and given plenty of margin for a reduction, so that the President of the Board of Trade could play about with it? I do not believe for a moment that that was the view of the House of Commons.
The House of Commons always believed in our particular circumstances that the strength of our position in this market would enable us, once we had a tariff and once we could threaten to raise that tariff, to get valuable and important concessions. The House no doubt also contemplated, and ought to contemplate, the 1108 possibility in the course of large and extensive tariff negotiations that some reductions would have to be made that involved sacrifices. Nobody would deny that, but it was also contemplated that, in the main, this country was in the future to have the employment of its workpeople and the capital sunk in its industries secure against fluctuations in the world outside, secure against lower wage scales and lower scales of taxation. The whole object of the policy to which the House gave its assent a year or more ago was to give security to British industry. The power of bargaining and negotiating only comes in in so far as it is compatible with reasonable security to the main body of British industry.
Industry to-day wants to know where it stands. All that it knows at this moment is that any confidence it had in the Import Duties Advisory Committee it is not justified in holding any longer. They are a body of gentlemen who speak only for themselves. They count for nothing in particular in the eyes of the President of the Board of Trade. The industries know also that the President of the Board of Trade is contemplating negotiations on a much larger scale with Germany and, apparently, on the same principles as those which he has so successfully, in his own estimation, just concluded. We are told by the right hon. Gentleman that the list of the industries that are being sacrificedis a comparatively small one covering a small range of industries, not commensurate with the bigger negotiations which must be conducted in future. It is essential to make concessions in order to purchase an advantage."—[OFFICIAL, REPORT, 1st May, 1933; col. 528, Vol. 277.]Evidently the concessions that are to be made in the future in order to get something from Germany, and I suppose something corresponding from other countries, are going to be much larger in their scope and will affect far larger and more important industries than anything of which we have had a foretaste in the present agreement. If that is the ease, then heaven help the industries of this country! We have been told by the Government again and again that the one thing that is needed is confidence. Condence is needed to thaw the frozen credits in this country. Confidence is needed to induce the industrialists to be prepared 1109 to borrow money to embark upon expenditure. Confidence alone, and the activity which it brings about, will lead to that rise in general prices which is the essential pre-requisite to a restoration of prosperity. One thing for which I should have thought a National Government existed, and one respect alone in which it might be preferable to a party Government, was the broad basis of confidence which it might secure.
As far as industry is concerned the Government have not succeeded in giving that confidence. As far as Protection is concerned, the principle may have been conceded, but the application has been accompanied by an irresolution, an instability of purpose, and a framing of measures to meet the internal position of the Cabinet and not the needs of industry, which have created a most profound depression, a feeling almost of despair, among large sections of our industries. The reason is, and we have to face the fact, that the Government have not yet succeeded, after 18 months, in arriving at a definite policy on these matters. We have departmental policies affected by the point of view and the inclination of one Minister or another, and it is clear from the example we have had of the activities of the President of the Board of Trade that his point of view differs fundamentally from that of many of his colleagues, and certainly from that of the overwhelming majority of this House. For that reason he has produced an Agreement which I think he regards with profound satisfaction but which is only regarded by this House as a regrettable failure.
§ 8.37 p.m.
§ Mr. HARBORD
I feel it my duty to express my keen disappointment that in this Trade Agreement with Germany nothing has been done to provide assistance to the herring industry. The responsible Minister knows only too well the serious plight of this important industry, and how very urgent is the need for immediate Government assistance in providing greater opportunities for trade with Germany. They have failed to achieve this in this new Trade Agreement. It is within the knowledge of hon. Members that during the past year the German Government have imposed discriminatory duties on the 1110 importation of cured herring into that country, but the injurious effect of these discriminatory duties will be felt much more in the coming summer and autumn because the German Government have increased them three-fold. They have gone up from three marks to between nine and 10 marks; in English money, from 4s. per barrel to 12s. per barrel. This has had a penalising effect upon an industry which has suffered equally as much as the mining industry. I rejoice that the mining industry is to benefit under this Trade Agreement, but I think that other industries are entitled to equal consideration.
Take the case of the fishermen. It is well known to all who are intimately acquainted with the industry that the plight of the men engaged in it is parlous indeed. These men risk their lives in the North Sea in the inclement weather which we get very often on the East Coast, and after suffering all these discomforts, and after fishing not only one season but a succession of fishing seasons, the result of theii4 labour is that at the end they are heavily in debt. These men are to be pitied. This was an opportunity afforded to the Government to help them. We have forged a weapon and put it into the hands of the Government. They could have taken strong action, but they have been afraid to use the very weapon which this House put into their hands. They are afraid of the weapon which has been forged for their use, and up to the present have shown nothing which encourages us to think that they will make the fullest use of the opportunities which have been afforded them.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Captain Bourne)
I must point out to the hon. Member that the Resolution which is now being considered by the House imposes certain duties, or rather reduces certain duties which, with a certain agreement contained in the White Paper, may be taken into consideration. I think the hon. Member is now referring to matters not included in the White Paper. He cannot go into details not covered by the agreement.
§ Mr. HARBORD
I am sorry that I am precluded from putting forward these matters. Can you tell me, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, when I shall have an opportunity of ventilating grievances which so 1111 gravely affect and imperil a great industry? It seems to me to be very little use coming to this House to ventilate the condition of my constituents.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I am not a, prophet and I cannot tell what opportunity will arise for the hon. Member, but I have no doubt that there will be an opportunity on some future occasion.
§ 8.41 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I want to refer to same of the things which the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said in his speech. He commenced in a very good style. He told us that he sympathised with the coal trade and that he was glad they were going to get something from the agreement. He also said that he wanted the House to discuss this matter, not from the personal point of view or from the point of view of our constituents, but from the national aspect alone. The right hon. Member knows that in any country where you have a tariff policy you can never discuss anything from a national point of view. I remember speaking on the Import Duties Act, and I pointed out that when it was in operation every hon Member would become not a representative of the nation but a representative of some particular interest in his own constituency, or of some particular industry in which he was personally interested—
§ Mr. CAPE
The hon. and gallant Member is too impetuous. The right hon. Member for Sparkbrook went on to say that he took exactly the view I have just expressed to the House. While he admitted the desirability of the coal trade getting certain benefits, he pointed out that the agreement was affecting three particular industries in his own constituency. He pointed out the effect on the toy industry. Well, I have nothing against the toy industry. He also pointed out the disastrous effect on the clock industry, and on the jewellery business. To my mind he was prepared to sacrifice any industry in this country so long as those three industries could benefit at the expense of the others. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] That was the 1112 purport of his speech. Then the hon. Member for Great Yarmouth (Mr. Harbord) could not help himself. He had to advocate the interests of the herring industry, because he represents a constituency which is largely interested in fishing. We cannot blame him because circumstances and the policy of the Government compel every Member to take up that position—even the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), although I do not know the particular industry in which his constituency is interested. He interrupted me before I had properly started my speech to ask me about the representation of the mining industry. We have been forced into the same position as other hon. and right hon. Gentlemen.
We are going to support this agreement because the policy now adopted by the country compels us to take that position. We are going to defend the interests of our industry as far as we can, but I want to make this quite clear—that that industry is not going to benefit to the extent that some people think, as a result of this agreement. I have tried to find out the actual exports of coal to Germany during the last 12 or 18 months. I first looked up the "Colliery Guardian" which is a very reliable journal, especially from the Mining Association's point of view. It would be wrong to say that it is the Association's journal, but, generally speaking, it states the facts from their point of view. The hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. Isaac Foot) will forgive me if I repeat some figures which he quoted on Monday night. The "Colliery Guardian" says:The German offer will still leave us with only about a quarter of our trade in 1913, for which the rectification of frontiers provides no adequate excuse. Even so recently as 1930, we were sending 410,000 tons of coal to Germany per month, and in 1931 the average was 314,000.The hon. Member for Bodmin added that he understood we were now to send 180,000 tons. Then I looked up other important journals and speeches and I found that the Secretary for Mines dealt with this subject in his speech on Monday night. In that speech and, generally speaking, in all his speeches, the hon. Gentleman apparently expects us to take everything he says as absolute fact. He never expresses opinions. They are always facts, and I suppose I could not 1113 quote from a better authority, though I am not going to say whether I think that the hon. Gentleman always states the facts or not. On Monday night he said:The situation is that in October, 1931, before any tariff had been decided upon there had been restrictions in other countries than Germany. Germany then altered its control system from a conventional or theoretical figure of 420,000 tons a month at which it was fixed in 1924, and which has never been effectively operative; they altered that figure, applying only to the Customs area—not to the total exports from this country or the imports into Germany or into German ports—a lower quota, namely, 300,000 tons. Later on when we began to negotiate, the first thing we had to try to establish was what was our actual performance inside the German Customs area preceding October, 1931, when the figure of 300,000 tons was fixed as the control figure will give the Committee the figures. After the German and British experts had been working on the figures for some weeks, they came to the conclusion that, taking the eight months previous to October, 1931, when the alteration from the conventional or theoretical figure of 420,000 tons was made, our average monthly performance inside the German Customs area was 246,000 tons a month. That is a very different figure from 420,000 tons. If it be considered desirable to go further back and begin on 1st January, 1930, the experts on both sides have agreed—and the Mining Association is fully aware of it—that the average for the 20 months preceding 1st October, 1931, was 295,000 tons inside the German Customs area."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1933; cols. 588–9, Vol. 277.]Therefore, I am going to take the figure of 295,000 tons a month as the actual reliable figure of our exports to Germany in 1931.
§ Mr. CAPE
I agree. Further, I take the statement made by the President of the Board of Trade that from January, 1931, to August, 1931, we were exporting an average monthly tonnage of 295,000. That being so, I want to know where is all the huge benefit that the coal trade is supposed to get from this agreement? I am not an expert in mathematical calculation, but taking the figures given by the President of the Board of Trade and the Secretary for Mines—and it would be sacrilege to doubt them—it is difficult to see what this benefit is, because under this wonderful Agreement we are still 115,000 tons per month worse off that we were prior 1114 to the operation of tariffs. The Minister of Mines on Monday night tried to show that the effect of tariffs had not been to reduce our quota to Germany to 100,000 tons, but I think he must admit that it was one of the strong factors which made the German Government reduce our quota from 300,000 tons to 100,000 tons per month.
When hon. Members speak about the toy industry and the clock industry, the jewellery industry and the herring industry, and it may be the rose-tree industry, in connection with this agreement, I ask them to remember those facts. Let them remember that the coal trade has made bigger sacrifices than they are being called upon to make, and it will be admitted, I think, in every quarter of the House that the coal trade is of some small importance to the welfare of the country. In my opinion, it is the most vital industry in the country, and even undertariffs, much as some of us may dislike them, we are entitled to fair consideration in the coal industry. The President of the Board of Trade estimated, and it was only an estimate, that this new agreement, presuming we are allowed to export 180,000 tons to Germany, would give employment to 3,800 additional miners in this country.
My hon. Friend the Member for Roth-well (Mr. Lunn), speaking on Monday night, said that that would not be very effective so far as the 300,000 miners who 'are now unemployed in this country were concerned. I disagree with the President of the Board of Trade, and I do it with a tremendous amount of fear. I do not think it will give employment to an additional 3,800 men, but I hope that I am wrong and he is right. I think it may give, as my hon. Friend said, an additional day a week to men who are at present working two or three days a week only, and that will be some little help to the miners.
In all these industries there are dangers and risks to be run. One hon. Member has pointed out risks run by fishermen, and everyone in this House, especially men with long experience of living on the sea-coast, will realise that the fisherman's avocation is one of great danger, from the time he enters his boat until he gets back into port again. Other industries also have their dangers, and the mining 1115 community is not immune. Indeed, [...]n the mining industry there are probably more risks and dangers run than in any other industry. When the various Ministers are making these bargains with foreign countries, therefore, I claim that they are not entitled to forget the mining industry.
Therefore, while we give a sort of approval to this agreement, speaking on behalf of the miners' Members in this House generally, I assure the President of the Board of Trade that we are far from satisfied with the bargain that he has made, although it gives us a considerable amount more than we have had within recent months. We accept what we can get, and as long as we have a tariff policy in this country, and Members come here from various eonstituencies clamouring for the right to defend the interests of their constituents, we, as miners' representatives, claim the right under this tariff system to defend the interests of the industry in which our men are employed. I will conclude by saying that we shall not oppose this agreement to-night, and that we hope that the President of the Board of Trade, in any further agreements that he may make with other countries, will try to do even better for the coal industry than he has done in this one.
§ 9.2 p.m.
§ Sir SAMUEL ROBERTS
I will not join the last speaker in depreciating the value of this agreement to the coal trade. I prefer to take the figures of the Minister of Mines and the President of the Board of Trade, and to agree, so far as the coal trade is concerned, that in the difficult circumstances of the times this agreement will be a definite benefit to that trade. If it were not a definite benefit to the trade, it would be a very much worse bargain than I think it is. But I am not in this House to represent the coal trade. I am here to represent the City of Sheffield, and when I opened my paper the other day and saw the reduction in the duty on razor blades coming into this country, I could not believe that it was true. I was absolutely appalled, because I know the whole history of this industry. I remember the time when we could buy only Gillettes. They were the only blade that was going, and gradually we got going. I think the Darwin was 1116 the first Sheffield blade that came in, and then after the Safeguarding of Industries came in, other factories started, until this particular industry is one of the very few bright spots in a city that has had a very dark time to go through. Now suddenly, after many chops and changes and within one year of the industry having felt that it had security for five years, it finds itself in the melting pot again.
I, personally, hope most sincerely that this reduction of duty will not damage this particular industry. It may not, and I sincerely hope it will not, but what I feel is worse—and I was spending some hours in Sheffield only yesterday—than the effect that it may have on this trade is the effect that it has had on the minds of business men generally. I found an entirely different spirit, a lack of confidence over this particular agreement, and what the right hon. Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery) said was said to me by practically every business man I met in the town: "What is the use of the Advisory Committee? What is the use of a promise for five years?" It is really a very bad case, because the Advisory Committee stated quite plainly that, in their opinion, the duty should not be altered for five years; and the ink on that paper has not been dry for a year when now the duty has been altered, and that has had a very bad effect.
They may be able to carry on with a reduced duty; I hope they will; but what I feel is that it is having a had psychological effect on other people. The iron and steel industry, which is our great and important industry, has been asked to reorganise itself and has been promised a certain number of years by the Advisory Committee. Is this not going to damage their confidence? Are not the Government doing something which will injure their policy with regard to the reorganisation of the iron and steel industry The industry has this promise for a certain number of years, and then they find that a promise in a minor industry like razor blades is broken. Is that going to encourage people at this time, when people want a great deal of encouragement, to go on and do anything? After years of depression the feeling is not to spend the money and not to reorganise; that is the natural feeling of depression among the 1117 people of the North Midlands to-day. Their natural inclination is not to push on and not to run risks. This particular drop of the duty will have an extremely bad psychological effect upon those people who mix together in the big business centres. I regret it deeply. I am a loyal supporter of the Government and this is the first word I have uttered against them in this Parliament, but I feel that in this matter they have made a grave mistake which I most deeply regret.
§ 9.7 p.m.
Criticisms have been levelled against the trade agreement from two quarters during the Debate to-day. We have had criticisms from those who do not think that we have got sufficient for our quid pro quo, and we have had considerable criticism levelled against the agreement by those people who will not allow the house dogs of Protection and Free Trade to lie down together, though they may walk together in the Lobbies of the House. I personally should like to congratulate the President of the Board of Trade on being able to get any additional tonnage of coal into Germany at all, and I would like to direct the attention of hon. Members to the actual position of the coal trade in Germany. The production of coal in Germany in 1929 was, in round figures, 153,500,000 tons; in 1930 the production dropped to 142,500,000; in 1931 to 118,500,000; and in 1932 to 104,500,000. That is a continuous decline in production. Correspondingly, there was a reduction in the employment of German coal miners in the same years. In 1929 there were 550,000 men employed in German coal mines; in 1930, 504,000; and in 1931 400,000. For 1932 the figures are not yet available, but I can say on good authority that there is a further serious decline.
Let us for a moment reverse the position. Suppose in this House of Commons we were asked, with a definitely declining market, a definite decline in coal production, and with an increasing number of miners unemployed, to sanction an agreement to bring into this country an increasing amount If foreign coal. I venture to say that every mining Member, irrespective of his party allegiance, would unite in an attempt to obtain the sanction of the Government to prohibit any importation of foreign coal. The most ardent supporters of the Protec- 1118 tionist policy would be the miners' leaders. I want to make another point in this connection. It is true that I am disappointed that we have not been able to get an even larger tonnage accepted by the German Government. In fact, I would welcome the whole of the European market for coal being supplied by the North-East coast, but when I hear various hon. Members wanting to nullify the agreement which has been reached between this country and Germany, I would like to ask them whether they have any real appreciation of, the disastrous state of the coal trade on the North-East coast? I wonder if hon. Members are aware that since 1926—and I go no further back than that—iL only one month in Northumberland the proceeds of the industry have justified the paying of wages within the terms of the agreement? In that county, I am ashamed to say, the wages of the miners are the lowest in any part of the country. Can the House wonder that I, and I hope all my colleagues who corns from that part of the world, support wholeheartedly this agreement, which will at any rate give Us some hope for the future.
The President of the Board of Trade has said that this is only the forerunner of future agreements which we may hope to make with Germany if and when world trade improves. I would like to say a word to the Fiddlers while Rome burns. If I had been a more expert musician and a little surer of my score, I should have interrupted the chief fiddler in his speech on Monday last, when he assumed that the whole of the disastrous position of the British coal trade was due to the tariff policy which had been adopted by the Government. I would have asked the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) three specific questions. Is it not a fact that, prior to the election of the National Government, owing to the general collapse of world trade, there was a definite tendency all over the world to raise tariff barriers 3n a frantic effort to prevent the consequences of the collapse of the trade of the world? I would also like to ask the right hon. Gentleman categorically whether he thinks—not as a politician, because I am aware that politicians are obliged on some occasions to use unfair words instead of possibly fair statements—the evidence which he produced that the 1119 action of Germany was entirely due to the tariff policy which we had adopted, would for a moment hold water if he were to argue the ease in a court of law?
I think that I may claim to say that it is very unlikely that the right hon. Gentleman would be able to make out his case, because I think that on the whole he had a very poor one. Is it not a fact that the British export coal trade is the greatest competitor in the home German market, and is it not obvious that, if as I have shown, the production of German coal and the employment of miners was gradually declining, and if as we know perfectly well, following on the events about which we have recently heard in Germany, there is a real dread of Communism, Germany should make every effort to keep her coal trade in her own market and exclude from her market the products of the country which is her greatest competitor? I should be very glad if on some future occasion the right hon. Gentleman would give me a straight answer to those very important questions.
Finally, I must say just one word or two about the position of those of us who are by nature and political persuasion supporters of the Protectionist policy. I do quite definitely think that under present conditions we have to make up our minds whether we want to use Protection entirely in order to assist the home market or whether we want to use it in order to extend and obtain markets for our exports. I say frankly and honestly to my friends who have spoken against this agreement, while sympathising with them in.the difficulties of the industries in their constituencies, that they must ask themselves this question: "Are you going to take into consideration solely the position of the home market, or are you going to consider the interest of the export market?" There can only be one answer, because those of us who have talked about Protection from the political platform have always made the point quite conclusively that we recognise that this country as an exporting country, as a country which cannot feed its own people, must do everything it can to encourage its export trade. I say conclusively that there is only one answer, and that if we are reasonable and wholehearted supporters of the Protectionist policy we are obliged to admit that we 1120 must use this tariff policy with the greatest discretion and with the greatest reserve.
If I may make one personal remark to the President of the Board of Trade, speaking as a Northumbrian to a Northumbrian, I would like to assure him that the policy which he has adopted in formulating the German trade agreement has the whole-hearted support of the majority of the people of Northumberland. The policy which he has advocated is the form of Protection that we understand, and I can assure him of the good will and the support of all of us who have the real interest not only of the coal trade but of the country as a whole at heart; and I say, with all the power at my command, that I have never had greater pleasure in doing anything than I shall have to-night in going into the Lobby in support of this agreement.
§ 9.18 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I am sure that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite will not be averse to us who occupy these benches expressing the pleasure we have derived in seeing so many of them rising to speak in order to vent their spleen upon the President of the Board of Trade. I frankly admit, in reply to the interruption of the hon. and gallant Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft), that, coming from a mining area, I am jealous of the interests of the mining industry. I do not represent a constituency where there are only 2,000 unemployed and which has very good air and very decent water. If we in the mining areas were not interested in that industry we should betray the trust of the people whom we claim to represent. I am grateful for the small contribution the Government have made, through this agreement, towards a partial revival of the coal industry in South Wales. I come from an area where, until recently, we have had practically every big colliery closed, and I frankly admit that we are jealous of the condition of the coal industry.
Next, I want to refer to the speech of the Secretary for Mines delivered last Monday, in which he very kindly made a reference to a speech by me on 23rd March of last year. In that speech I stated, as I repeat now, that the reduction in the amount of British coal going to Germany was, in my opinion, 1121 largely, if not solely, due to the tariff policy of this Government. I know there will be disagreement about that, but I shall endeavour to prove that the facts, if reasonably and fairly examined, justify up to the hilt the contention we have put forward from these benches. The Secretary for Mines referred to the reply of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade to my speech. In that reply it was stated that the German Government, when confronted with the decrease in the coal that left this country, said the decrease was largely due to the depression in the German coal industry and the difficulty of obtaining foreign exchange. I want to ask the Secretary for Mines whether he believes that statement.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I will answer that question at once. There is no question that up to the end of May that was the reason given by the German Government—not "partly" but "solely."
§ Mr. BROWN
May I interrupt again? I can assure the hon. Member that what I am saying is a fact. If he will note the speech of the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) he will see that when he dealt with that point he expressed an opinion, and the opinion was based on something which could never be tested, because it was the opinion of an unknown man. I am giving, in answer to the hon. Member's question, what was the representation made continuously by the German Government up to the end of May.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
What I am anxious to ascertain is, Does the hon. Gentleman believe the explanation, as given by either the German Government or a responsible authority in Germany, that the reason for the reduction in the German quota for British coal was the depression that, then existed in the coal industry in. Germany? If he does, I want him to take these figures into consideration. The average monthly production of coal in Germany in 1929 was 13,401,000 tons, and in 1930 it was 11,700,000 tons. It has never been higher than 9,726,000 tons since 1931. In February of this year it was 8,623,000 tons. If the depression was the cause of the restrictive quotas in 1929, when the average monthly pro- 1122 duction was 13,401,000 tons, what is the cause of an increase in quotas under this agreement when the monthly average production in February this year was only 8,623,000 tons?
§ Mr. E. BROWN
May I interrupt again and put this point to the hon. Member? In 1929 there was no restriction. The figure in licences issued by the German Coal Controller inside the German Customs area from 1924 straight on to the 1st February, 1931, was the conventional figure of 420,000 tons. No alteration was made until 1st October, 1931.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
Again, I ask, if the reduction of German imports of British coal was not due to our tariffs, how can the Government claim to have been successful in negotiating this agreement upon the understanding that the tariffs upon German goods would be reduced? I submit to the Government that they cannot have it both ways. Then again, even with the agreement you have not secured an increase in the amount of British coal exported to Germany equal to what it was in October, 1931, before the two tariff Measures for which this Government are responsible commence to operate. Previous to the intervention of the Secretary for Mines I was endeavouring to ascertain whether it was an authoritative member of the German Government who made the statement to the Government that to the depression in the coal industry was due the reduction in the amount, of British coal sent to that country. I submit the explanation is to be found in a statement by a German spokesman for the Administration of Mines. It is quite true in the explanation he made he said that the depression in the German coal industry and the difficulty of obtaining foreign exchanges were two reasons why the quotas were reduced. He also made another statement. He said he lamented Britain's depreciated currency and new tariff policy which were not favourable for international agreement, and that for some time to come the German coal industry would have to rely on its own fighting policy. I submit that fighting policy to which he referred took the form—the only form it could take—of further restricting the quotas on British coal.
I do not desire to min raise the effect of the agreement now under discussion— 1123 to re-open one pit in my district would be a considerable benefit—but neither are we entitled to exaggerate its importance. What does it mean? I realise that I am not permitted to discuss the Danish Agreement. All I want to do is to include the estimated increase as the result of that agreement with the estimated increase in the amount of coal we might sell to Germany in order to prove by statistics that we are considerably worse off now than we were in connection with the coal we sent to Germany alone in October, 1931—a month before the two tariff policies came into effect. We are told that the increase in the amount of coal we shall send to Denmark will be in the region of 1,350,000 tons a year. To Germany it will be increased from 100,000 tons a month—which is 200,000 tons a month less than in October, 1931 —to 180,000 tons. There were not many speakers from the opposite side of the House on Monday who were honest enough to point out that this is not 180,000 tons as we understand tons, but that the increase is metric tons which, in comparison with the figure I have given, is a little over 77,000 tons. What was the position with regard to our coal trade with Germany prior to the tariffs being imposed? We were selling 300,000 tons a month in October, 1931, or the equivalent of 3,600,000 tons a year.
§ 9.29 p.m.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I am sorry to interrupt, but the hon. Member really must not put it that way. We were not selling in October, 1931, at the rate of 300,000 tons a month, but at the rate of 246,000 metric tons a month, and if you are to take 300,000 tons you have to go back 20 months for the average of 295,000 tons.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
The figures I am using are taken from a statement made by the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, and this statement can be verified. He said that in October, 1931, we were sending 300,000 tons a month to Germany.
§ Mr. BROWN
May I intervene again? We want to get this clear. Since then, the experts, both German and British, have spent weeks making an analysis, which has never been made before, of the German coal returns, and it is a certified 1124 statement by the experts on both sides that it was 246,000 tons in October.
§ 9.30 p.m.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
May we have the document from which the hon. Gentleman has quoted, because it is rather unfair to hon. Members? If one Minister makes a statement in this House regarding any official report, we are entitled to rake that as correct. If there is another statement which the Minister wishes to substitute for it, that should be laid on the Table. Any document which a Minister quotes should be so laid, and I 'ask you, Mr. Speaker, if that is not so.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The answer is that if the right hon. Gentleman, cares to put a question down at any time I will give an answer.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am not wanting to put a question. After all, the hon. Member, as a Minister of the Crown, should do what all other Ministers are usually expected to do, and that is, that when he quotes from a document he should lay it on the Table. I have been here some time and I have heard Labour Ministers challenged on this point. To-night the hon. Gentleman has quoted from a statement to contradict figures that a Minister of Mines previously gave to the House, and I suggest that we are entitled to have that document laid on the Table. The House ought not to be misled in this way. I ask whether it is not the custom that when a Minister quotes from an official document that document should be laid on the Table.
§ Mr. SPEAKER
If a Minister quotes from an official document, the House is entitled to see that document.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
The right hon. Gentleman is putting words into my mouth which I never used. I said an examination had been made by experts on both sides. I quoted no document, but said these were the results arrived at.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I am within the recollection of the House. The hon. Gentleman definitely said that an inquiry had been made and that certified figures had been arrived at, and that these were 1125 certified figures. It is playing with words to say there is no document which contains those figures, and I repeat that I ask the Minister to carry out the obligation which rests on any Minister who quotes from a document of this kind. I protest against the Minister making a statement in this House trying to prove that other hon. Members are wrong by producing another set of figures and refusing to lay the document.
§ Sir AUSTEN CHAMBERLAIN
On a point of Order. Is not the rule clear, namely, that it is that when a Minister quotes specifically a passage from a document the House is entitled to see the document from which he quotes, and to see, therefore, that the passage is not unduly dissociated from its context? I submit to you that, within the Rules of the House and the Rulings of your predecessor, there was no quotation from a document on the present occasion.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
I may add to that that the figures that I quoted—I have no objection to telling the hon. Gentleman and the House—are contained in an exchange of letters between the Mines Department and the German Government, and there can be no objection to their being shown at any time.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
No, being laid on the Table. I very respectfully disagree with what was said by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). I listened very carefully, as I usually do to the Minister's statement, and the hon. Gentleman quoted definitely from a document. He gave us figures. We want to know the connection of those figures with the argument that has been raised, and I again ask if the document might be laid on the Table.
§ Mr. E. BROWN
That is precisely why I put in the answer to the hon. Gentleman. As I said, if he puts a question down—
§ Mr. SPEAKER
In reply to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West 1126 Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain), what I said, or what I tried to convey a few minutes ago, is exactly the point which he has raised, and which was that if an hon. Member quoted from an official document, the House is entitled to see that document. That was all that I said.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
May I say that I apologise to you, Sir, for having put my point to you, in those circumstances. I am afraid that I did not catch your words; if I had, I would not have intervened.
§ Mr. LANSBURY
I will not interrupt any more. I only want to repeat my request now that the hon. Gentleman shall print the document in the OFFICIAL. REPORT, or lay it on the table, so that the whole of the Members of the House may have it.
§ 9.38 p.m.
§ Mr. DAGGAR
I did not mean to take up so much of the time of the House. The figures that I gave were used by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade on the 23rd March, 1932, and until those are corrected I intend to use them. The difference between the Secretary for Mines and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade they may settle between themselves. The point that I was endeavouring to make was that the proportion of German to British coal was reduced to 100,000 tons a month, and, that has been increased by the agreement to 77,000 tons a month, which means 924,000 tons for the year. If we add the 924,000 tons of British coal that will now go to Germany to the alleged increase of coal that will go to Denmark, that gives us a total annual export to those two countries of 2,274,000 tons, which is a decrease compared with pre-tariff times by 1,326,000 tons per year to Germany. [HON. MEMBERS: "An increase"] The figure which I quoted shows a decrease of that amount. By this agreement, the quantity of coal to Germany alone is down by 2,676,000 tons per year, as compared with the amount of coal we sent to Germany prior to the Measure introduced and passed by this Government.
We have been told flat this agreement will mean employment for an additional 3,800 miners. I notice that the statement was made by a person who does not claim to represent a mining constituency, and I am anxious to compare that very 1127 optimistic statement with the statement that was made by a coalowner, who, in this House on Monday, agreed with an hon. Member on these benches that, in all probability, not another miner would be provided with employment, but that it might provide regular employment for the men who are now engaged in the mining industry. Although it might be that 3,800 miners will be provided with employment, the reduction in the amount of coal, compared with the amount going to Germany, prior to the tariff policy of this Government, put on the road no less than 15,000 miners. There are enormous possibilities for the Government to increase that total of 3,800 men before they attain to the figure of 15,000. The point has been made perfectly clear this evening that even if 3,800 miners return to work, the Government will have pushed out almost an equivalent number of men in other industries. We accept the contention as to the possibilities of this agreement, but we are still convinced that the decrease in the amount of coal that has left this country, since this Government came into office, is directly traceable to the tariff policy of the Government.
§ 9.43 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir MERVYN MANNINGHAM-BULLER
It is with very great reluctance that I find myself unable to support the Government in this Trade Agreement. I take this opportunity of stating some of my reasons for that, and also of bringing to the notice of the President of the Board of Trade one rather remarkable example of the damage which has been done in one industry in my constituency by the operation of this agreement. I have always been a very sincere advocate of the use of the tariff as a, bargaining weapon, ever since I first contested a Parliamentary division some 27 years ago. But I realise that the tariff is a very powerful weapon and one which requires to be used with a great deal of forethought and care.
I want to refer briefly to the position when the first negotiations took place in preparation for this agreement. What was the position? It has been stated that Germany was not carrying out the agreement which she had undertaken, with regard to the amount of coal she would purchase from this country, and, 1128 secondly, that we were buying from Germany twice as much as she bought from us. That put us in a very strong position indeed, as partners to a bargain, and in a better position than Germany. That was eminently a case for using the weapon of tariffs as a bargaining factor, but the way in which I would have used that weapon was precisely opposite to the way in which it was used by the President of the Board of Trade. I do not think that that was a case in which we could have lowered our tariffs; on the contrary, I think it was the precise moment when we should have raised them. To my mind what we wanted to convey to Germany was that, if she was unwilling or unable to accept from us the amount of coal which by her agreement she was bound to accept, we on our part were unwilling and unable to continue the purchases we were making from her, and we should be bound to restrict our imports from that country.
If we had taken that line of action, one of two things must have happened—either the pressure would have been strong enough on Germany to secure what we wanted, namely, an increased sale of coal from this country, and to secure that without doing any damage to our own industries, or, if we failed in that, at any rate, we should have helped our balance of trade by reducing our imports, and should have helped some of our industries which are now working short time. Therefore, I think we might very well have made a bargain, using the tariff as a bargaining factor, and that we might have secured what we wanted without damaging our own industries. I should like to read some extracts from a telegram and letter which I have received with regard to the effect on one industry in my constituency. The telegram states:We are toy manufacturers employing about 300 hands … We are now threatened with loss of a large contract recently started in the works here and may probably have to discharge about 150 people this week-end. Why is the trade not consulted in these matters?I have also had a letter confirming these statements. I will read extracts from it, and, if my right hon. Friend would like to see the letter afterwards, I shall be very glad to hand it to him. It says:Since Britain went off the Gold Standard we have increased our manufacturing facilities very largely, and have 1129 secured a large number of contracts… and our output has increased in the last 14 years from £10,000 per annum to over £14,000 per annum, all representing things made here in this factory. In the case of the toy cinemas which are more particularly affected by the present proposed agreement, last year we secured on order for £10,000 worth, which had a ready sale. This year we have spent on improved plant for manufacture of this line alone ever £3,500, and have in progress at present £23,000 of these cinemas. The whole of this contract is for one wholesale distributor. In consequence of the tariff reduction under this proposed trade agreement amounting in the case of these cinemas to 30 per cent. as optical toys "—I may say that 30 per cent. is his figure, not mine; I have not been able to verify it. It is due to the removal of the Safeguarding Duty which they previously enjoyed before. The letter goes on:Our customer wants to cancel the major portion of the contract and we in consequence will cancel large orders for lenses (made in Birmingham) and large orders for steel plates, tin plates and other material (made in South Wales)… To our certain knowledge if the toy trade went along its normal way this year there would be employed by ourselves and other toy manufacturers in the town of Northampton alone at least 500 people, involving a weekly turnover in wages of about £1,300 or £60,000 per annum.It is easy to imagine what will be the feelings of the men and women who are thrown out of that industry, which is a highly skilled industry, to join the ranks of the unemployed. They are skilled operatives, and had every reason to believe that they were assured of employment for some time to come, but without a moment's notice they are thrown out of work and are likely to lose their jobs for some time, in order to help the coal industry. We are all anxious to help the coal industry, but I would put it to the hon. Member for Wallsend (Miss Ward) that we must bear in mind that every time the production of finished articles in this country is damaged coal production is damaged as well, and, therefore, it is to the interest of the coal industry not to damage these other industries. We must also bear in mind the feelings of these people. They must feel a rankling sense of injustice, and the very strongest possible case is required to justify throwing men out of one industry in order to improve another industry. In no conceivable circumstances should it be necessary to displace 1130 men in one industry except for a great national purpose, and I maintain that the case brought forward by the President of the Board of Trade is not a strong enough case to justify such action.
If my right hon. Friend had been aware of the conditions in the case I have quoted, which is only one example of the result of this agreement, I doubt whether this proposal would have appeared before us in the form in which it has. If my right hon. Friend was not aware of the results which this agreement was going to have, it strikes me that he might well have been aware of them if he had consulted the industries concerned as to the results upon them of the removal of duties which already have been of great assistance to them. As I have said, I greatly regret that I find myself unable to support my right hon. Friend on this question, and I beg him, if it is not too late, to reconsider the whole matter. This proposal has not, as far as I can see, been welcomed with any great enthusiasm by the representatives of mining constituencies. I cannot help thinking that the figure of 1,800, which was given by the President of the Board of Trade as the number of men who would be thrown out of work, is a very low estimate. I hope I am wrong. On the other hand, bearing in mind the speech of the hon. Member for Eastbourne (Mr. Slater) on Monday, one cannot help thinking that the figure he gave for the men who would be employed is also optimistic, though here again I hope I am wrong. If it is not too late, I would ask him to reconsider the matter, bearing in mind the tremendously powerful feeling that there is in regard to it, and to see if he cannot bring forward another agreement which will meet with universal approval in this House and in the country generally.
§ 9.53 p.m.
§ Captain FRASER
In my constituency and in the adjoining district a certain amount of piano manufacturing goes on, and it seems to me that that industry must consider itself singularly unfortunate when a duty which it has come to regard as almost permanent, it having been in force since 1915, is suddenly reduced. Manufacturers and operatives in that industry understood that on the return of the present Government a tariff policy 1131 would be introduced, but the policy of the Government has led to a reduction of protection rather than an increase, and no one can fail to sympathise with them in their plight. Moreover, the wages paid in the competing industry in Germany are some two-thirds of those paid here in London. They have been told that one of the reasons for a tariff policy was to maintain the higher wages which we were able to afford, or at any rate which we wished to try to afford. In these circumstances no Member of Parliament representing such a division can fail to use what influence, small though it may be, is in his power, to ask that special consideration shall be given to that industry in order that its case may be met; but for my part, curious paradox though it may seem, I am going to support this agreement, and I am going in a few minutes to give my reasons for doing so.
I have been interested for some years in the area where these pianos are manufactured, and I have observed that, although the import of pianos was restricted for a time, and then under the Labour Government the duties were taken off, and although during that time more pianos came in, the piano industry has thrived when the people in England had money with which to buy pianos, and not particularly when the tariff was on. I am a Free Trader in the sense that I would like to see all the world Free Trade. So, probably, are all of us except, perhaps, my right hon. Friend the Member for Sparkbrook (Mr. Amery). Because we could not achieve that result by requesting the rest of the world to reduce the barriers—that was a very important factor in the minds of many of us during the election—some of us said to our constituents, "We are going to support a Government which, among other things, will consider the use of tariffs, quotas and restrictions of trade, not because we believe there is anything inherently good about them at all, but because they offer an opportunity of making bargains within the Empire, which we believe have a sentimental as well as an economic advantage, and of making agreements with foreign countries, which may also be to our advantage. We want to remove, if we possibly can, some of the restrictions which are choking the trade of the world and we 1132 want to give Great Britain a fairer chance in relation to the rest of the world than she has had in this one-sided Free Trade business." I do not know how many of us used those arguments. I did. I believed them, and I still believe them. Consequently, when the Government come forward with the first of their proposals, aimed at securing the removal of restrictions, I view it with sympathy and I hope it is a good bargain. I do not immediately jump to the conclusion that it is a bad one and join those who wish it was, in the hope that it might make trouble for the Government. [Interruption.] If there are none such, I am delighted to know it.
One of the criticisms of this agreement is that, while it takes off some tariffs, it does not secure the reduction of any tariffs. But is that really a substantial point? Tariffs are only one form of trade restriction. Quotas are another. If you bargain a tariff against a quota, or a tariff against a tariff, or a quota against a tariff, does it matter as long as the result of your bargaining is to get freer trade? It is probably very difficult for a private Member, without access to the statistics placed in front of a Minister, to judge whether the benefit which the coal trade will receive is offset or is not offset by the detriment to the particular industries affected. Perhaps there are private Members, who are so sure that this is a bad bargain, who have access to some of these figures. Perhaps they have greater knowledge than is generally available. But I am bound to say that I found it extraordinarily difficult to form an opinion whether this is a good or a bad bargain. What, then, am I to do? I have either to trust the Government, or trust its critics, or trust the newspapers, which is the least reliable thing to do. In that dilemma I find myself inclined to trust the Government. They are beginning at this stage a policy which I believe the great majority of Members supporting the National Government approved, although perhaps at the time when they approved it they did not foresee some of the implications of it. That is not the Government's fault. Directly this policy is begun and it begins to hurt someone, as all policies do, hon. and right hon. Gentlemen rise in their places and say, "We quite agree with bargaining. Of course, there must be 1133 concessions, but not in interests affected in my constituency." That is not a possible way of conducting national business. It is the job of a Member of Parliament to represent the particular industries in his division. It is his job to go to the Minister behind the Chair, or in his office, or write to him, and bring to his notice the concerns of his constituents. But surely he has a greater job, and that is to support and do what he can to further a national policy.
I do not know whether at the end of three years my constituents will return me again or not, but I consider my duty a higher one than to concern myself with whether or not I shall be returned next time. It is to do what I can to support a policy calculated to bring about a greater purchasing power and a greater measure of wealth and happiness in the country as a whole, and we cannot secure that unless we are going to have regard to our export markets. As I said earlier, unless our people have purchasing power, the retention of the home market by British manufacturers is of no positive use to them whatsoever. In all the circumstances I am going to give my support to this agreement and I am not going to assume, on the evidence that has been put before us by the Government's critics, that it is bad. On the contrary, I believe it affords an opportunity to a fundamental and very important industry, namely, the coal-mining industry, of getting some greater part of the market which it would not otherwise have had. It is no good saying that the Germans have been breaking an agreement. It appears that, when the President of the Board of Trade some months ago said the Germans were breaking an agreement, it was, if not wholly bluff, at any rate, partly bluff. [HON. MEMBERS: "No."] It is all very well to say "No," but when it came to the point he was not prepared to take it to arbitration. An hon. Member says that that is his grievance. I do not think so. His grievance really is that he did not start an economic war about it.
If there was some difficulty in substantiating that position, I do not see what else he could do but try to get more coal trade in some other way. What mattered was that we were losing our coal trade, and not what our rights were in the matter, and the only way, appar- 1134 ently, in which we could secure greater exports of coal was to go to the Germans, or meet them when they came to us, and say, "What is it you want?" Unhappily, they wanted some of the trade which some of our manufacturers were beginning to acquire in the home market. I have said that is singularly unfortunate for those particular manufacturers, but, in my judgment, it would be more unfortunate for manufacturers as a whole if the policy that we have set our hands to, of trying to secure by bargaining with our new powers freer trade throughout the world, was not continued and adhered to. I look forward to further trade agreements, I will not say of this sort, because this is a singularly unfortunate one in my view, for a different reason from that which excites the pleasure of hon. Members. It is unfortunate because it admits manufactured goods. I should like to have kept out as many manufactured goods as possible. But trade agreements which seek to reduce tariff barriers, which provide us with greater opportunities in our export markets and still preserve a substantial element of Protection, as these duties which remain undoubtedly do, seem to me to be desirable, and it is a profound pity that this first occasion, this small particular, special agreement, should be made the cause of what appears to a superficial observer to be, and what will be presented as, a split in the ranks of the National Government.
I do not believe fundamentally that the majority of those supporting the National Government regard the fiscal controversy as anything like so important as a great many of the other high matters of State which we must carry through, see through and stick to during the next two or three years. If that is so, and intelligent electorsĤnot all electors, but intelligent electors—and thoughtful people throughout the land could be consulted, I believe they would agree that The first thing of supreme importance in this country is to maintain a National Government with a national policy, and that these other questions come second. For those reasons I am going to support these agreements.
§ 10.6 p.m.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I am sure that everyone who has listened to the speech delivered in such admirable taste and with such great skill by the hon. and gallant 1135 Gentleman will desire to thank him for the great wisdom which he displayed in it. I am convinced that he was right when he said that it was so difficult for him to make up his mind on the rights and wrongs of this agreement, and that he was in such a puzzled state of mind, that it was his duty to support His Majesty's Government. I think that he is right, if he has any doubts upon this subject at all and was left in such complete and utter confusion as he seemed to be, to support the National Government.
§ Captain FRASER
If the hon. and gallant Member will pardon me for interrupting him, I think he has greatly exaggerated my confusion of mind. My proposed attitude was quite clear, I think.
§ Sir H. CROFT
I certainly apologise to the hon. and gallant Gentleman if I have in any way stressed what he said. I thought he said that it was so difficult in such a short time to make up his mind on this question. That is no doubt the difficulty of a good many hon. Members, most of whom will agree with me that it has been amazingly difficult to get at the facts since the time that this agreement first came out for our consideration. The hon. and gallant Gentleman probably shares the views of most of those who sit on these benches when he says that he desires to see the retention of the National Government. I desire to see the retention of the National Government, if the National Government will permit us to continue to support it by engaging in the policy which the electors of this country sent us here to fulfil.
Everyone who has ever taken any interest in economic questions at all must have waited with considerable Anxiety for the agreements which have been promoted by the President of the Board of Trade; not because they were promoted by the President of the Board of Trade, but because everyone knows that it is impossible to bring about an agreement of this description without making certain sacrifices in one direction or the other. We were the more anxious because, when the President of the Board of Trade threw away his 50 per cent. Abnormal Imports Duties in such a hurry, we were afraid that he was throwing 1136 away a tremendous bargaining weapon with which he would have been able to go, not only to Germany, with a small agreement of this kind, but to all countries, and in which he would undoubtedly have had a very successful means of bargaining with them for a freer resumption of trade. But we were left with a tariff which was too low in many instances to give any form of protection to our industry, and which was too low in all cases to give any effective margin for bringing about anything like an all-round reduction of tariffs with foreign countries.
This was necessarily a fatal result of using political compromise and allowing it to interfere with a business proposition. The whole tariff plan of His Majesty's Government, as I have understood it—and I have tried to follow it intelligently—has been that an impartial Advisory Committee should henceforth decide what scale of duties was to be imposed upon various manufacturers and upon their products coming into this country. Parliament, unwisely, as I think, decided not to give—or rather, was never asked to give—any line to that committee as to what it really desired, whether it was to impose high Protection, medium Protection, merely a revenue tariff, or anything else. Nevertheless, I think I am speaking for every single man who has taken any interest in this problem—and I think that I might almost include hon. Gentlemen opposite who differ from me fundamentally—when I say that we must all confess that the Advisory Committee has won the admiration of the people of this country in the way that it has kept itself detached from party controversy. What is more, I have heard on every hand that manufacturers, specially those who have recently been before the Advisory Committee, have been completely content with the fair way in which they have been received and with the immediate grasp of their problems which that committee has now acquired after having searched through so many industries,.and by means of which it has been able to come to some sort of conclusion on their case. I have heard these tributes from many directions, and I dare say that many hon. Gentlemen in this 1137 The President of the Board of Trade —I am sure not intentionally—seems by this policy to be queering the pitch of the Advisory Committee, of which I always understood he was a champion. By general consent it was to have been the deciding authority on these matters. Now we find that two or three gentlemen —very estimable gentlemen—who seem to have a kind of mesmeric bias in the direction of coal, have struck a blow at this whole conception of a tariff on merits, adjusted by an impartial tribunal. The Government walk in with an agreement like this, and it is not only this agreement which we are considering tonight but the possibility that future agreements will be heard of with considerable alarm, that makes us anxious this evening.
After immense labour, and after the great expense to which all these industries have been put, some of them have been granted what is at the most a minimum amount of Protection. They are just holding their own. They really trusted the National Government; they really believed that at least they had had breathing-space and a definite tariff granted them. With a great majority of this House, and after due consideration, they said: "Now we can settle down; now we can go out and collect money; now we can build new plant; now we can renovate and get on with the job." We have heard only this evening from the Advisory Committee what amounted to as definite a pledge as anyone could ask, for at any rate they were secure for five years. These combined industries, believing in the good faith of the National Government, have undoubtedly spent hundreds of thousands of pounds—and I think I am not exaggerating when I say millions of pounds—in extending their plant and bringing their whole processes absolutely up to date. Yet we have found—the hon. and gallant Gentleman spoke of the short time that we had had to consider it—at the end of the Parliamentary Week, printed in the White Paper on a Saturday, a treaty affecting the livelihood of many thousands of our countrymen, on a day when Members were away in their constituencies, and they were asked to come here and forced to vote upon it on Monday night. That was a grave blunder.
There again, I am sure that it was not intentional, but blunders like that 1138 ought not to be committed. We surely ought to have had the opportunity of acquainting ourselves with some of the significance of this policy before ever we had to vote on such an important issue. My hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser) consoles himself with the fact that even if piano workers in his constituency will be thrown out of work—he hopes they will not—the miners will be able to buy more pianos. That is a consoling fact, but I am doubtful, after what we have heard from miners' representatives here this evening, whether these advantages in the coal industry really are to give such widespread benefits to these other industries.
Let us try to balance the scale fairly. An hon. Gentleman who spoke earlier, and who happens to be a miners' representative, was rather criticising one or two of my hon. Friends because they had mentioned industries in their constituencies. I hope that he will acquit me of being specially interested in any one of these industries. Like the hon. and gallant Gentleman who has just sat down, I look at the question from a national point of view and no other, and I shall be as sincere in that endeavour as be has been. What have been the industries, apart perhaps from the motor industry and the branches of the optical glass industry, which really have shown great encouragement under the various tariffs? Am I exaggerating when I say that they are gramophones, clocks, pianos, safety razors, toys, fancy jewellery, chemicals, including formaldehyde, which we heard about on Monday from my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Central Glasgow (Sir W. Alexander)? In a world which is decreasing its demand for pianos at such a rapid rate owing to the music which comes from the gramophone and the wireless, the piano industry is holding its own in a most remarkable way.
If the right hon. Gentleman consults those engaged in the manufacturing side of the piano industry of this country they will tell him that the tariff has been of supreme importance. One need not argue the point. Everybody knows that before the War you could hardly see a piano in this country which was not German, but go into workmen's houses where there is a cottage piano and you will not 1139 see a new piano unless it is British. That has been achieved because for 17 years we have given security to the piano trade. All those industries to which I have referred have, really to the surprise of everyone in a time of declining trade, held their own, and some of them are actually going very rapidly towards prosperity. Now, like a bolt from the blue, there comes this sudden decision, and their narrow margin of protection is taken from them. Some of them are finding that competition is still very keen, and they are only living by the slightest of margins. We now find that they are to be subjected to this reduction of tariff, not only for the advantage of Germany but for the advantage of every other country in the world under the most-favoured-nation clause.
Benefits are to be given to Germany in return for the benefit to the coal industry. I hope that this will benefit coal. I have been in very close association with many hundreds of miners at particular times in my life, and I know that they are suffering in the North-East of England and in South Wales, where I was on Monday, when perhaps I ought to have been here listening to the speeches in this Debate. But, knowing the situation of the miners of this country, how can we adjust the balance? For what are we reducing all the tariffs on all these articles? It appears to me that it is in order that we might be able to sell to Germany somewhat less coal than we sold to her last year.
Have we really weighed up the consequences of this policy? I am afraid that the psychological ill-effects of it are likely to be more than the material effects to the coal industry. It is very alarming what has occurred during the 18 months since this Government, so full of hope, gave confidence to the whole of the industries of this country. Let us be fair, however. Their policy, although it did not go as far as many of us desired—we think they might have done more—has been very beneficial. So far as our manufacturing industries are concerned the figures of decreasing unemployment since they came into office are really remarkable. They have given great hope to a great section of the population. Psychologically their present policy is likely to have a most serious effect on 1140 any man who wants to put his money into business with a view to expanding it.
Is it not time that we got back to the idea that Britain should be governed according to British interests? We have all sorts of arguments, which we hear in this House, delivered in very good faith. We are told that we ought to consider our foreign trade. Of course, we ought to consider our foreign trade, but people forget that our home trade is immensely more valuable than our foreign trade. Our internal trade is so immensely greater that is really is ridiculous to say: "Everything must be done to increase our export trade, here and now." If our export trade was anything like as important in its employment-giving value as our home trade, there would be a great deal in that argument. I suggest that we must make sacrifices if we are making any sort of economic agreement, and that some industries must suffer in order to give advantages to greater and more important industries. I do not think that anyone here would deny that if the President of the Board of Trade could have brought home some great result, such as 4,000,000 tons of coal, or something like that, for our coal industry, which would give employment to something like 14,000 or 15,000 workers in this country, it might have been a very great inducement to go ahead with an agreement such as this. But to come forward with something less than we sold to Germany in 1932, with the possible consequences to the other industries to which I have referred, I cannot consider is a good bargain. The President of the Board of Trade tells us that tariff reductions on the part of Germany were not mentioned in these discussions and that he is going to have a far bigger affair with Germany a little later. How is he going to achieve anything in the matter of tariff reciprocity with Germany then, when he has already bartered away so much of what he has to give at the present time?
The Swiss and American clock-makers must be chortling at this moment. They have really won a very splendid victory without coming within range of the enemy's guns. We now find that clock-makers from all over the world, because we are going to give employment to 3,800 additional miners, can send their clocks 1141 into this country. The clock industry of this country is perhaps one of the most splendid achievements of modern days. I do not want to exaggerate. I know that it is not an industry like the coal industry, but the expansion of that industry, based on a foundation of genius and determination to win through, has been one of the most heartening things in these dark days. The employment that the clock and watch industry gives is very large. They had not a look-in until recent years, but under tariff protection they have gone ahead. In the last two or three years they have gone in for the greatest policy of mass production. In two years they have increased their output thirty-fold. Not many industries in this country can show such a result. Let me quote just a word or two from their journal, which I was reading this week. When I read it I said that if I ever had to come down to the House of Commons and make a tariff speech again—not very likely now that we had a, settled policy of tariffs—I should really have to call attention to these facts. They said:The entire consumption of 4,500,000 clocks required every year in this country could be made by British firms given suitable tariff conditions. If that could be brought about within a short space of time, three or four years, the 10,000 employed in this work would be half as much again.There is a potential 5,000 additional workers, but I am afraid that we can hardly hope they will be absorbed now. What is the total number of persons employed in the industries which must to a certain extent be affected by this policy? When we look at the figures can we doubt for a moment that the total number is not less than 50,000? I think it is less than 60,000. I do not suggest that you are going to annihilate all these industries by reductions in tariffs, but I do suggest that there is a real danger of losing the employemnt of 5,000 or 6,000 in these industries. 'From what I have heard there is a possibility of your losing some 10,000 potential workers. I want to make an appeal to the President of the Board of Trade. Is it not possible for him to delay a decision on this question until hon. Members have had an opportunity of acquainting themselves with the facts? I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that he has had very loyal support from those who sit 1142 around him. I have rarely seen such loyalty given to a Minister by those who have only recently become his friends—
§ Sir H. CROFT
The policy I stand for is the policy upon which the National Government was elected. I ask the President of the Board of Trade, in view of the fact that he has given the country such hope, and has won the admiration of those who sit around him, that he will reconsider this matter and bring it for ward again on a future occasion. I feel that I should be absolutely untrue to what I believe if I supported such a one-sided agreement as this. To vote for such a lop-sided proposal would give me sleepless nights for many a long day. The small strain of Irish blood in me, of a thousand years ago, revolts at the idea. This is a question which, seriously affects us all. Every one is asking: where are we going? What is the policy of His Majesty's Government? Is it going to continue? After a few months we have this extraordinary change of direction in policy.
If the President of the Board of Trade had gone to Germany and had succeeded in reducing German tariffs all round to an equality with the reduction in our tariffs, or something like that I think everybody would say it was a thing that could not be criticised. But when he makes this great reduction in our tariffs and deprives himself of future bargaining power in order to give Germany something which Germany ought to have given to us if she had continued ender her mostfavoured-nation-agreement then, I say that is a policy which is altogether dangerous. If this even were the end of the question, we might say that it was most unfortunate, but that we could not see anything more that could be done about it. But the right hon. Gentleman has indicated that be is going to meet Germany again with a much bigger policy. He has destroyed the very fabric which he set up under his Advisory Committee. We who put our trust, as a House, in the Advisory Committee suddenly find that its whole policy is in danger. It is because of that danger, because we cannot get confidence back again in industry so long as this unsettled policy continues, that I, for one, 1143 shall be compelled to vote against this Resolution unless the right hon. Gentleman can tell us that he is going to give the House a further chance of considering the question, when we have all had the opportunity of weighing the pros and cons and of seeing whether the disaster to this country involved in these proposal is as great as I am afraid it may be.
§ 10.31 p.m.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I should greatly have preferred to wait a little longer before speaking, and particularly not to follow my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Bournemouth (Sir H. Croft) on this occasion. Our friends may say that we are too much animated by the same spirit, and our opponents and critics will say that we are too much tarred with the same brush, to be suitable Members of this House—where so many differences of opinion find expression—to follow each other immediately in this Debate. If I rise at this point it is because I understand that my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade prefers that I should speak before him and that though we are not bound by the Eleven o'Clock Rule, we are coming to the time when the House will probably desire that the Debate should conclude. I confess that as the Debates in Committee and to-day have proceeded, I have felt the embarrassment of my position. The right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when the business on which we are engaged was being announced, said he hoped the Government did not expect the Opposition to sit up and make a House for this discussion. It was not a moment at which I could intervene to express my view but, if it had been possible, I should have been glad to see the Opposition carry out the intention which they then indicated, of going home. I want to discuss this matter as a friend and supporter of the Government with my friends, and I do not want to discuss it on the same basis as the Opposition. I do not seek the support of men who go into the same Lobby with me for entirely opposite purposes. We do not thank them for it and if I could dissociate myself from them I would. What is the position of the Opposition? At the opening of the Debate the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Wakefield (Mr. 1144 Greenwood) was put up to speak for them and he said "We cannot oppose this agreement.' They at any rate have turned full circle in the course of the Debate, because they are now speaking in opposition to that which they could not oppose. They remind me of the attitude of mind attributed to Alice by, I think, the Red Queen when she said:The fact is, she wants to contradict something and does not know what to contradict.The right hon. Gentleman opposite may possibly recall the observation made thereupon by the White Queen:A nasty vicious temper, I call it.It is a great embarrassment. I do not like the company which thrusts itself upon me, but are my right hon. Friends more comfortable? They had, flocking into the Lobby in their support, the gentlemen who sit on the benches immediately below me, not because they approved the policy of the Government, but because they found in the agreement which is now under discussion, as they thought, an admirable illustration of the futility of tariff bargaining. The position was made perfectly clear by the hon. Member for Bodmin (Mr. I Foot), immediately below me. His whole speech was devoted to showing that the character of this agreement proved the futility of any tariff bargain. Does not that give occasion for reflection to my right hon. Friends on the Treasury Bench, and even to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade 7 It is partly for that, largely for that reason that I felt bound to offer opposition to this agreement.
Let me say at once that I am confining myself to criticism of this agreement, and, as I said to-day at Question Time, it is not my present purpose to criticise or oppose the other agreements. I am confining myself to the merits of this agreement, and I say that if this is the best you can do with tariff bargaining, then the gentlemen below me are right. But then I do not think it is the best you can do, and though I am 10th to say anything displeasing to my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade, I must say that on this occasion I think his bargaining powers, which are great, and his abilities, which I learned to respect many years ago when I first sat with him, in the early War years, in Mr. Asquith 's Cabinet, were not 1145 employed to the best advantage, and that he could have made a better bargain.
Is he quite happy, apart from the Gentlemen below, who support him because they think he has failed, and that his failure is a demonstration of their point of view—is he quite happy in the support that he is having from Members of our own party? There is my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser). He says, "It is quite true that the President of the Board of Trade said that the German quota system was a breach of the treaty, and that they were not entitled to limit our coal exports to that country in the way they were doing." That is my complaint, that my right hon. Friend has been induced to pay twice over for what was already ours; and we find my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras saying that it now appears that when he made that statement in this House, and added that the Government could not allow that to continue, he was bluffing. [An HON. MEMBER: "No!"] Yes. It is for my hon. and gallant Friend to correct me. I will accept his correction, but I do not take a correction of my understanding and hearing of what the hon. and gallant Member said from other Gentlemen who were or were not present. The defender of the Government says, "Yes, you must not attach too much importance to that, because that was only bluff "; and, as a matter of fact, when the German Government called his bluff, the right hon. Gentleman was not prepared to take the matter to arbitration.
Just consider—this is the opening agreement of a great series of tariff negotiations. I, at least, desire those tariff negotiations to be carried out on a large scale and to be carried out successfully. But does it promise well for the negotiations if your supporters in this House think that your real justification is that in any words you have said beforehand you were only bluffing, and if the same idea is conveyed to all the other Governments with which you have to negotiate, and to the German Government, with which you have only just begun to negotiate on a corner of this question, and with whom you will find yourselves in a sharp conflict of opinion on many other subjects in international negotiations? Does it promise well if they feel encouraged by 1146 their first testing of your weapon and your wrist to raise their terms as you yield, to treat as bluff every positive statement that you make, and thus to refuse to you agreements that they would have been glad to make if only you had not given them the impression that you were not prepared to insist upon your right, that you were prepared to pay twice over for the same thing, and that, when you made a positive statement on the Floor of the House of Commons that you would not allow a thing, you only meant that you disliked it but would be prepared to pay to have it altered?
I am sorry. I am sorry above all that my right hon. Friend, towards the close of his speech gave a personal touch to this question. There is no question, as far as I am concerned, of want of confidence in him. If there were a question of want of confidence, it would not be, and could not be in a question of this kind, in a particular Minister, even though he be the Minister immediately in charge. It would be a want of confidence in the Government. I never put it that way. I tried to avoid that. My right hon. Friend opened the discussion by saying that it was the business of people placed like myself to oppose, and in my first speech on this subject I said:I am not going to oppose; my Motion is not moved with a view to offering an immediate negative to the proposition which my right hon. Friend has laid before the Committee" —[OFFICIAL REPORT, 1st May, 1933; col. 535, Vol. 277.]It was to ask for time for reconsideration and consultation between the Government and their friends. I do not think it is quite fair of my right hon. Friend to retort—I must say with the temper and in the tone which he sought to import—that it was a matter of personal confidence between those who are forced to differ from the policy of the Government and himself. I have one more word to say, and it is a point of some importance. My right son. Friend cannot believe that I am against tariff negotiations. He cannot suppose that I believe that in any negotiations one Government or one nation can have everything their own way. These are not my criticisms, and I beg him, when he answers my criticisms, not to do so by showing the futility of that kind of nonsense. My criticism is that the position which he 1147 chose for negotiations was a bad one for him. The ground was too narrow. In the second place, he admitted into the discussion, as a subject to be weighed in the balance, something which he already owned, and he allowed himself to take that in payment for the concessions which he made.
Thirdly, my criticism is that the Government, having established a tariff advisory board, traders are referred to it in order that they should get—what? All they ask, all that their representatives in this House would claim for them? Not at all; only just that measure of protection, and no more, which is shown to be necessary for the industry and, after hearing objections, is compatible with the general interests of the nation. Having referred them to that body, and that body having made its decision, the right hon. Gentleman then, by executive action, sweeps away that decision. That is not to say that he ought not to bargain. My criticism is not that he ought not to bargain, but that the duties imposed by that body in that way ought to be the minimum most-favoured-nation treatment to which any nation is admitted. The basis of the negotiations should have been not "What will you give us to lower these minimum duties? "but" It is our policy to give these minimum duties only to those who make comparable arrangements for our trade and we are ready to make such an arrangement with you "—an arrangement covering not merely coal but other large industries, which were not even admitted to the door of the Board of Trade on this occasion, but were excluded deliberately by the President of the Board of Trade from his own consideration. If he had made a large scale agreement of that kind I should have rejoiced, but I should have expected it to be on the basis that this was the minimum most-favoured-nation treatment, and that if they did not earn that treatment by corresponding concessions they would be subject to higher duties than others. The Government have taken a different course.
Now may I make an appeal to the right hon. Gentleman? The Tariff Committee are still at work; applications are still coming before them. As I understand it, the only indication that was given to them when they were estab- 1148 lished was that which I have described—to find the minimum of protection which a particular trade needed and see that that minimum was not contrary to the general national interest. If we are going to use that tariff for bargaining purposes, then I beg that new instructions be issued to the Committee, and that they be instructed that in future they are to leave a margin, a margin which may be the subject of consideration between them and the Government, or given an indication by the Government that they should leave a margin above the minimum which the Government can use in negotiations. I say again that I must in this matter support my own convictions, and I found myself the other night, with deep regret, in a different Lobby from my friends. It was not my desire that that Debate should end in that way, and I make an appeal to the Government, as a loyal supporter and a friend, and I beg my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade to accept my plea in that spirit.
§ 10.50 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD OF TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
Any appeal made to the Government by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) we should certainly listen to with respect. He speaks from a very long range of experience and he is inspired, I am sure, with feelings of comradeship and loyalty. It is with that knowledge, in my mind, therefore, that I proceed to deal with some of the points which have been raised by him in the last half hour. In the first place, it is satisfactory to learn from my right hon. Friend that he does not take the narrow view of the tariff policy of the Government which is held by some of our right hon. and hon. Friends in this House.
As I have listened to the Debate to-day, I have heard repeated again and again sentiments which are absolutely incompatible with one of the main objects which we had in view. When the Government embarked on its present tariff policy it did so with the deliberate intention of tariff bargaining, carrying on negotiations with other great trading countries, and by means of the tariffs which appear in our lists securing a reduction in the tariffs which were to be imposed on articles leaving this country 1149 and going into a, foreign country. I have put in that clumsy way, but I hope in fairly understandable English, the full phraseology of two at least of the Sections of the Import Duties Act. There are some portions of that Act which, I admit, are very difficult to understand, and anyone reading Section 7 for the first time would scarcely realise what are its implications. Section 7 of that Act provides very clearly for use being made of the tariff for bargaining purposes. It even goes so far as to say that that duty is laid on the shoulders of the Board of Trade.
Let me, at this point, intervene with a comment on what has been said by my right hon. Friend with reference to myself. He thought I spoke on Monday night with undue warmth. Of course, I do not know what other people may think of me, but I believe I am not usually regarded as an excitable individual. As I ventured to remind the Committee on Monday night, I was attacked on the ground of being a bad negotiator. I do not think I am a bad negotiator. When it was suggested that somebody else might have done a good deal better than myself, I do not know that I was guilty of ally serious offence against the proprieties, or even, if I may be allowed to say so, against the rules of modesty, when I said, "If you can get anybody better, well, get him." But that really is not the consideration I wish to urge on the House. I am not one of those who cling to office, but, like Mr. Birrell, I still hold the view that I never asked for anything, I never refused anything and I never resigned anything. The point I wish to make now is that I am not speaking for myself alone. I quite agree that I may be the culprit, but I am speaking for the Government as a whole and it is Government policy which I have advocated to the House this week.
It was under instructions from the Government that I carried on the negotiations with regard to the German coal agreement. It is perhaps a pity that it is called a Trade Agreement at all. I know there are many people who think it is by no means a Trade Agreement but a coal agreement. I am quite prepared to accept it as such, for I think it is mainly a coal agreement. Far be it from me to suggest this is to be the model of the agreements to be made by this 1150 country with other countries. I would far rather you should wait until Wednesday when you will be discussing, say, the Danish Agreement, which is one form of Trade Agreement of a very much wider character than this German Agreement, which we have discussed on Monday and Thursday of this week. Or you might turn, if you will, to the Argentine Agreement, which again is of a different nature. Every one of these agreements must have a character of its own. What is the difference between this, for instance, and the Danish Agreement? The Danish Agreement is complicated with our own agricultural interests. That was the reason why we laid a special duty upon the shoulders of the Minister of Agriculture to collaborate with us in the production of a Trade Agreement which safeguards the great industry with which he is charged.
I turn to the Argentine Agreement. The main feature of the Argentine Agreement is to be found in the new flow of credit, which really is a main consideration to be found in that agreement, again quite a different thing from anything which appears in this German Agreement, which is vitally concerned with the state of the coal industry. When I say that, do not think that I am belittling the character of the agreement. The coal problems of this country are probably one of the main groups of problems with which we are faced. I do not leave out of account the problems of Lancashire and others which are directly implicated, but I say that, for the Government of the country as a whole, the state of the coal trade is one of the main preoccupations.
That is true not only of those who are in office and who sit in this House, but of local authorities, individual business men and organisations of all kinds, whether of an industrial or social character. There is scarcely a municipality in the coal areas which is not greatly embarrassed owing to the state of the coal trade; there is not a railway company in the country which is not suffering from the terrible drop in its mineral traffic, all bound up with the coal trade. I make no apology for having dealt with the German Agreement on the basis of the earliest possible relief being given to one section of our trade.
1151 I do not wish our tariff policy to be tested by the agreement that is before us, because I do not think that it is a representative arrangement. All I say is that it is the best that could have been done in the circumstances, and that its main effect will be upon the coal trade. Hon. Members should be good enough to remember that the employment of 3,800 miners anew is an entirely new feature in the industrial movement of the day. The tendency everywhere else is to shrinkage, and to a lowering of the number. If we can only raise the number by 3,800, it is at least something that goes in the right direction.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I hope the hon. Baronet the Member for Barnstaple (Sir B. Peto) will allow me to say that I have forgotten none of the salient facts. He has repeated them to me until I cannot forget them. If I had to make a fresh examination of them again to-morrow, I know that I should arrive at exactly the same conclusion. I am giving the House the reasons why I must adhere to the policy of the Government. Let us see what is the position in Germany itself, because that really is the key to the situation. Germany is one of those countries, of which we are not one, which are not only great producers but great importers of coal. They export it and they consume coal that is bought from abroad, as well as coal which comes from their own mines. That placed Germany in a very curious position. The margin by which we captured the coal trade of Northern Germany was a narrow margin, but just sufficient to throw the demand for coal into our market, and make it more attractive than the coal which could be bought by the German in his own market. In Germany, where they produce as well as consume coal, it is not impossible for them to transfer their demand for coal from our coal merchants to their own. The tendency to do that has been growing very rapidly, and particularly in the last two years.
Some of my friends opposite have taken the view that the reduction in the demand for British coal in Germany was entirely due to the present Government's tariff policy, but they have left out of 1152 account all the movements of our time which are affecting the consumption of coal—the increase in water power, the change-over to electricity, the tendency in a great many quarters to economise in the consumption of coal, the use of the internal combustion engine, the increase in the number of slow-combustion stoves—which, by their millions, have had an enormous effect upon the consumption of coal all over the world; and that has been going on in an intensified degree in Germany. It is one of the influences which have led to a great drop in the consumption of coal in Germany, and that has been far more potent than any of the political objects which hon. Gentlemen opposite appear to have detected in the policy of the German Government.
The German Government stated, when we first called them to account on the quota, that they were solely animated in this matter by their desire to help their own coal trade, to avoid the calamities which were surrounding their own mining industry. As time went on, we found that this was hitting us harder and harder, and then there came a moment when we protested against the lowering of the quota to such a low figure as to make it a very grave and serious blow at our coal exporting trade in to Germany. I noticed that my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for North St. Pancras (Captain Fraser) made use of the word "bluff," and it was taken up with all that instinct for the right word which is possessed by my right hon. Friend the Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain). He does not like the word "bluff," and I agree with him; I neither like the word nor the thing. When I said that in our view a quota was actually inconsistent with our Trade Agreement of 1924, I meant it, and I still hold that view. How does it happen that, holding that view, I yet was prepared to take the action which has now been taken by the Government?
I told the House on Monday, and perhaps I may be allowed to repeat to-day, why we did not go to the slow process of arbitration. We protested against the quota going down, and, because it did not go down in the same degree with us as it did with Holland, we declared that in our view that was discrimination. Of course, the Germans contested that. They were quite entitled to contest it, 1153 just as we were entitled to put it forward. At the same time, we said that, in those circumstances, there was the machinery of the Trade Agreement of 1924, and we would fall back on that. When we said that, they said that that was the moment at which they desired to raise a new and serious question. They said to us, "Under your protocol of 1924, you undertook not to impose any duties which are specially injurious to German industry, and we claim that you have done so. We have not said so before because it has not affected our coal industry, but we now say that, if you are going to arbitration on the coal industry, we shall take to arbitration the putting of duties on industries which are of special interest to Germany." That was their statement; that was their view; that was their contention. Let us see where we stand. The Germans have been told by us that we do not accept their interpretation of the quota. They reply, "We do not accept your right to impose these duties on industries in which you are specially concerned. You wish to go to arbitration on the quota. We demand arbitration on these special duties."
I can understand men of purely legal training regarding recourse to arbitration as being of minor advantage to the profession. It is not nearly of such great advantage as going to the courts. But there is one similarity between the courts and the arbitration proceedings to which we should have had to go, that they operate slowly. They take a long time to reach the point. They have a procedure of their own which is stately and dignified. It consumes a large amount of time. During the time when we should have been before the arbitration tribunal we should probably have seen a drop, week by week and month by month, to even lower levels of the British coal trade in Germany. On the best information that was obtainable in Germany and in this country I was bound to come to the conclusion that that was a very grave and serious risk. My right hon. Friend says if I was not going to arbitration I was giving up one of the rights to which we were entitled. I agree that we were. And, at the same time, by not going to arbitration the Germans were giving up a right. We must not imagine that these things are all on one side. They were giving up that right and we were giving 1154 up that right. We thought the best thing to be done was to discuss, and ultimately to negotiate, as a great many wise people do who do not want to fall into the hands of the lawyers, and that was exactly what we did. It is a very common proceeding with business men and is very often the most economical. I wished to see us making an entirely new start with regard to our German trade, and that was to see the amount rising once more instead of going down continually. It is with that object that we entered into these negotiations and pressed on with the agreement, which I agree is of a fairly narrow nature and which is governed by conditions which can scarcely apply to any other country in the world.
I notice that the House has again and again come back to the industries that are disturbed by this agreement. I do not know that I can do better than point to one industry with the object of showing that it did not depend, in its inception, to any material degree upon our tariff policy, and that to say now that, if our tariff policy was modified, we are striking at the root of that industry is an exaggeration. I mean the toy industry. My hon. and gallant Friend made a very eloquent plea for his constituents who are engaged in an enterprising toy industry. How did that grow up? I am proud to think I had something to do with its inception. When the War broke out in 1914 we found that some of our warehouses in London and on the Thames and at Hull were filled with crates of German-made toys getting ready for the Christmas market. We seized those, like all other German products, and we invited people to come and look at them, and then we invited them to go and manufacture toys of the same kind for the use of our children. It was such a great success, and our people showed such aptitude for it, that in 1915 it had become a very important industry. In 1916 and 1917 it continued to grow, and in those four years it was growing, not under the stimulus of a tariff, but under the stimulus of total prohibition.
Then came the period after the War. Restrictions were over, and trade started once more with Germany. But the toy industry remained in this country. We had learnt the tricks of the trade; we 1155 knew how to deck out these wonderful dolls with which to delight our families. What we had learnt from the Germans we put to very great trading advantage, and it was because of the skill with which our toy industry was conducted and the artistic and mechanical ingenuity which was imported into that industry that it held its own. Its prosperity was not due mainly to a prohibitive tariff at that time. I do not believe, I cannot be persuaded, that we have come to the end of the ingenuity of those who are engaged in the business. But I do not ask this House to expose them again to the full blast of foreign competition. I would still ask the House to grant to them a. very considerable degree of protection. We would still wish that they should not go back to the full blast—as I say—of open competition, but that they should have in the immediate future a 15 per cent. protection.
I cannot believe that that is going to be such a terrible disaster to the industry. Nor am I surprised that the industry should protest, or that hon. Gentlemen in this House representing these industries should protest, but I ask them not to make immoderate estimates of the cost that this policy will impose upon the main industries of this country. I hope I am making to them a request sufficiently moderate to tax neither their opinions nor their sense of loyalty, but I would ask the House to take a much wider view of these problems before we vote to-night.
§ Sir A. CHAMBERLAIN
I think my right hon. Friend is approaching a period at which he would not wish me to interrupt him. Before he comes to that period, would he deal with my last appeal as to giving new instructions to the Import Duties Advisory Committee?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am sorry that I overlooked that point. The right hon. Gentleman asked me whether, in giving instructions to the Advisory Committee, we can tell them to add to the percentage of Protection which they think advisable, a certain percentage in addition which might be used for bargaining purposes. I think that is the request.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
If that is the request, let me point out its disadvantages. 1156 In the first place, it would apply to every industry and every article. I cannot think that that would be a reasonable thing to do. [HON. MEMBERS: "Why not?"] If hon. Members will allow me to do so, I will tell the House. The first reason why I suggest that is that it would be giving a degree of protection to some of those various industries which the Committee itself would have advised was unnecessary for the purpose of carrying on prosperous business. Our expectations from the Import Duties Advisory Committee was that it would only suggest a degree of Protection which would be sufficient to keep those industries going in activity and prosperity. Then, is the extra percentage to be put on for all articles on the whole of our list of Protection to cover every item under the sun? I cannot imagine any more clumsy way of setting up a fighting or bargaining instrument.
My second point is this: If we were to give instructions of that nature to our Advisory Committee, of course that must become known—it must be known—as the tariff policy of the Government. If those duties are to be put on with the object of bargaining and every nation that bargains with us knows why they are put on, do you think that they will take it seriously?
§ Captain PETER MACDONALD
Did not Germany put an embargo upon British coal for exactly the same reason—for bargaining purposes?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I am afraid we are on different points. My hon. and gallant Friend is not on the same point. If you are to put on this extra 15 or 20 per cent. purely with the object of bargaining, that fact is bound to be known by those with whom you are bargaining, and they will do exactly the same thing and it will have exactly the same effect, and you will not get over the trouble with which we are now faced. That is the reason, whether the House likes it or not, why we cannot advise the Advisory Committee to put up their tariffs at an excessively high rate with the object of putting them down again. We do not think that would gain the end we have in view.
I am sure the House does not need to be reminded that we in the Government are deeply concerned at the state of British industry. That really is not an 1157 anxiety peculiar to any one section of the House or any party. We all share it alike. Every difference of opinion tonight is as to how we can best attain that end. I hope that I am not adding a commonplace when I say that I think we can best attain that end by taking a national view of all our industries regarding the extent to which they are dependent upon one another. And here we have a direct illustration of exactly that point of view. If the coal industry is to prosper, and we regard it as a major issue in our programme, it should obviously mean that other industries; must prosper to the same and perhaps to a greater degree. What have we done in regard to the coal industry itself? We have embarked quite deliberately on two methods of helping the coal trade. One is, and it is.a very important one, to foster the home consumption of coal. We do not import any coal into this country; it is unnecessary. We want to foster the home consumption of coal. That is one of the reasons for our iron and steel policy. The House knows that for a couple of years I was strongly opposed to any premature action being taken with regard to iron and steel, and when I thought that action was necessary I very strongly supported a scheme by which to increase the output and demand in respect of steel in this country. That was believed to be one of the best ways of helping the coal trade. The second way to do it is by fostering the export trade.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Just in the same way as in the coal trade, we wish to foster a demand from the iron and steel consumers, for that we believe to be the best way of making a substantial addition to the coal trade, in addition to the export business. Just in so far as we do that, we also have in view the necessity of helping this industry in order to create individual consumers—household consumers—for innumerable other industries in this country. If this country is poor, it is no use expecting that poor people will purchase pianos, gramophones, clocks and toys. The poorer they are, the less they will buy of these things. The richer they are, the more likely is that demand to be. It has been argued that we have not left sufficient protection to the industries that I have enumerated to enable them to prosper. The best prosperity of all will come by increased activity in this major industry which touches some of the most hardly-pressed industries of the country, with which we have been primarily concerned, and which we hope to help.
§ Question put, "That this House doth agree with the Committee in the said Resolution."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 304; Noes, 56.1161
|Division No. 158.]
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.
|Conant, R. J. E.
|Agnew, Lleut.-Com. P. G.
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)
|Cook, Thomas A.
|Albery, Irving James
|Brown, Ernest (Lelth)
|Allen, Lt.-Col. J. Sandeman (B'k'nhd.)
|Browne, Captain A. C.
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.
|Cripps, Sir Stafford
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)
|Aske, Sir Robert William
|Bullock, Captain Malcolm
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.
|Astbury, Lleut.-Com. Frederick Wolfe
|Cruddas, Lleut.-Colonel Bernard
|Astor, MaJ. Hn. John J. (Kent, Dover[...]
|Burgln, Dr. Edward Leslie
|Burnett, John George
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.
|Attlee, Clement Richard
|Butler, Richard Austen
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.
|Butt, Sir Alfred
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley
|Campbell, Edward Taswell (Bromley)
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)
|Campbell, Vice-Admiral G. (Burnley)
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)
|Banfield, John William
|Dickle, John P.
|Banks, Sir Reginald Mitchell
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.
|Cassels, James Dale
|Duckworth, George A. V.
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey
|Castle Stewart, Earl
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel
|Sateman, A. L.
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.
|Duggan, Hubert John
|Cazalet, Thelma (Islington, E.)
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh
|Eastwood, John Francis
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)
|Betterton, Rt. Hon. Sir Henry B.
|Clarry, Reginald George
|Elliot, Major Rt. Hon. Walter E.
|Birchall, Major Sir John Dea[...]an
|Clayton Dr. George C.
|Ellis, Sir R. Geoffrey
|Bird, Ernest Roy (Yorks., Skipton)
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.
|Elliston, Captain George Sampson
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.
|Collins, Rt. Hon. Sir Godfrey
|Emrys-Evans, P. V.
|Brass, Captain Sir William
|Colman, N. C. D.
|Entwlstle, Cyril Fullard
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.
|Ersklne, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)
|Erskine-Bolst, capt. C. C. (Blk'pool)
|Law, Sir Alfred
|Rea, Walter Russell
|Essenhlgh, Reginald Clare
|Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)
|Reld, William Allan (Derby)
|Fleming, Edward Lascellee
|Lawson, John James
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)
|Leckle, J. A.
|Robinson, John Roland
|Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)
|Leighton, Major B. E. P.
|Ropner, Colonel L.
|Ford, Sir Patrick J.
|Ross, Ronald D.
|Fox, Sir Glfford
|Lindsay, Noel Ker
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)
|Fraser, Captain Ian
|Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunlifle-
|Runclman, Rt. Hon. Walter
|Fremantle, Sir Francls
|Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest
|Runge, Norah Cecil
|Fuller, Captain A. G.
|Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)
|Galbralth, Jamet Francls Wallace
|Locker-Lampson, Rt. Hn. G. (Wd.G'n)
|Russell, Richard John (Eddlibury)
|Ganzonl, Sir John
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)
|Rutherford, John (Edmonton)
|Glossop, C. W. H.
|Loder, Captain J. de Vers
|Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Llverp'l)
|Gluckstein, Louis Halle
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander
|Salter, Dr. Alfred
|Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.
|MacAndrew, Lt.-Col C. G. (Partlck)
|Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)
|Goff, Sir Park
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)
|Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)
|Goldie, Noel B.
|McCorquodale, M. S.
|Samuel, Samuel (W'dsworth, Putney)
|Goodman, Colonel Albert W.
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)
|Sassoon, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip A. G. O.
|Gower, Sir Robert
|Mac Donald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)
|Savery, Samuel Servington
|Graham, D. M. (Lanark, Hamilton)
|McEntee, Valentine L.
|Selley, Harry R.
|Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.
|Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.
|McKie, John Hamilton
|Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)
|Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas
|McLean, Major Sir Alan
|Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)
|Greaves-Lord, Sir Walter
|Skelton, Archibald Noel
|Granfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest
|Smith, Sir Jonah W. (Barrow-ln-F.)
|Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)
|Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot
|Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Klnc'dine, C.)
|Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W.)
|Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.
|Grimston, R. V.
|Martin, Thomas B.
|Groves, Thomas E.
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)
|Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.
|Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John
|Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.
|Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.
|Meller, Richard James
|Spencer, Captain Richard A.
|Gunston, Captain D. W.
|Merriman, Sir F. Boyd
|Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.
|Guy, J. C. Morrison
|Mills, sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)
|Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)
|Hamilton, Sir R.W.(Orkney & Zetl'nd)
|Stanley, Hon. O. F. G. (Westmorland)
|Hanley, Dennis A.
|Mllner, Major James
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)
|Stewart, J. H. (Fife, E.)
|Harris, Sir Percy
|Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)
|Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kennlngt'n)
|Moreing, Adrian C.
|Stourton, Hon. John J.
|Harvey, Major S. E. (Devon, Totnes)
|Morgan, Robert H.
|Strauss, Edward A.
|Headlam, Lieut-Col. Cuthbert M.
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)
|Stuart, Lord C. Crichton-
|Hellgers, Captain F. F. A.
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)
|Sutter, Rear Admiral Murray F.
|Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)
|Morrison, William Shephard
|Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart
|Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.
|Muirhead, Major A. J.
|Summersby, Charles H.
|Herbert, Capt. S. (Abbey Division)
|Hicks, Ernest George
|Nall-Caln, Hon. Ronald
|Tate, Mavis Constance
|Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.
|Thomas, James P. L. (Hereford)
|Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.
|Thomson. Sir Frederick Charles
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)
|Thorp, Linton Theodore
|Normand, Wilfrid Guild
|Tinker, John Joseph
|Titchfield, Major the Marquess of
|O'Connor, Terence James
|Vaughan-Morgan, Sir Kenyon
|Horobln, Ian M.
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James
|Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh
|Wallace, John (Dunfermline)
|Hudson, Robert Spear (Southport)
|Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)
|Hume, sir George Hopwood
|Ormeby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.
|Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)
|Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfrlee)
|Palmer, Francis Noel
|Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.
|Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)
|Parkinson, John Allen
|Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.
|Hurst, Sir Gerald B.
|Pearson, William G.
|Waterhouse, Captain Charles
|Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.
|Peat, Charles U.
|Watt, Captain George Steven H.
|Iveagh, Countess of
|Penny, Sir George
|Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour-
|James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.
|Percy, Lord Eustace
|Wells, Sydney Richard
|Peters, Dr. Sidney John
|Whyte, Jardine Bell
|Jenkins, Sir William
|Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)
|Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilston)
|Wills, Wilfrid D.
|Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)
|Pickering, Ernest H.
|Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxtsth)
|Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)
|Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George
|Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.
|Womersley, Walter James
|Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)
|Pownall, Sir Assheton
|Wood, Sir Murdoch McKenzie (Banff)
|Ker, J. Campbell
|Worthington, Dr. John V.
|Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)
|Procter, Major Henry Adam
|Kerr, Hamilton W.
|Ramsay, Capt. A.H. M. (Midlothian)
|TELLERS FOR THE AYES—
|Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)
|Captain Austin Hudson and Mr. Blindell.
|Lambert, Rt. Hon. George
|Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell
|Applln, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald
|Atholl, Duchess of
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George
|Broadbent, Colonel John
|Dawson, Sir Philip
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.
|Eales, John Frederick
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter
|Emmott, Charles E. G. C.
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)
|Calne, G. R. Hall.
|Flelden, Edward Brocklehurst
|Bird, Sir Robert B.(Wolverh'pton W.)
|Greene, William P. C.
|Gritten, w. G. Howard
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)
|Templeton, William P.
|Hannon, Patrick Joseph Henry
|Nall, Sir Joseph
|Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wlck-on-T.)
|Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)
|Perkins, Walter R. O.
|Wayland, Sir William A.
|Howard, Tom Forrest
|Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)
|Knox, Sir Alfred
|Rawson, Sir Cooper
|Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)
|Latham, Sir Herbert Paul
|Ray, Sir William
|Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)
|Remer, John R.
|Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)
|Salt, Edward W.
|Wise, Alfred R.
|Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart
|Macquisten, Frederick Alexander
|Slmmonds, Oliver Edwin
|TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.
|Sir Basil Peto and Sir William
|Strickland, Captain W. F.
Resolution agreed to.