§ [SECOND DAY.]
Order read for resuming Adjourned Debate on Question [21st November].
That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty, as followeth:
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, Your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament."—[Mr. Cross.]
§ Question again proposed.
§ 3.56 p.m.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
In rising to resume the Debate on the Address I want to join in complimenting the hon. Member who moved and the hon. Member who seconded the Address, but that does not imply that we share the opinions and are prepared to endorse the views of the two hon. Members. We are here to criticise the King's Speech, and we propose to do so fully and fearlessly. We are of the opinion that the Speech lacks in a declaration of policy and that the Government have no real policy to offer in the Speech. Before I come to those parts of the King's Speech—
§ Mr. LANSBURY
On a point of Order. I can hardly hear my hon. Friend, although I am sitting next to him. There is a continuous hum of conversation.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
I am afraid that that is an inconvenience from which we suffer at times. Perhaps the House will take note of the complaint that has been made.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
I thank you, Sir. I have a little voice in reserve, but I do not wish to alarm the House by undue effort. I want, in the first place, to refer to the speech made by my right hon. Friend, the Leader of the Opposition. He made passing comment upon the condition of the coal industry, on which there was a measure of audible dissent. He said:This House knows perfectly well that the great basic industries of the country, are, if anything, in a worse plight than two 278 years ago. I am talking of coal and cotton, and also of agriculture."—[OFFICIAL. REPORT, 21st November, 1933; col. 17, Vol. 283.]I propose to make a few remarks on the condition of the coal industry. I shall be followed on that subject by other hon. Members from this side, therefore, I do not propose to go very far or to raise any direct controversial matters. I wish on behalf of hon. Members on this side of the House and on behalf of the Miners' Federation to make an appeal to the Government to meet the Miners' Federation Central Committee to consider a very urgent matter. In support of that appeal I want to give some facts which must be new to the House and may be new to the Lord President of the Council, who referred to this matter in a speech that he made on the wireless a few weeks ago. He said that the conditions of the coal industry were improving, and he was satisfied that there were prospects of still further improvements.
Let me give the facts as revealed in the reports of the Ministry of Labour Gazette, quarter by quarter, which are placed in the Library for the convenience of hon. Members. For the June quarter of 1931, the last quarter of the Labour Government's administration, the number of people employed in the coal industry stood at 818,718. The number employed in the June quarter of 1933 had gone down to 739,940, a reduction of 78,778. Not only has there been this large reduction in the number of persons employed, but there was in the same period a reduction in the average number of hours worked per week. According to the figures in the Ministry of Labour Gazette, there was an aggregate of 48,000,000 man-shifts per week in the June quarter of 1931, while for the corresponding quarter of 1933 the number of man-shifts had been reduced to 42,000,000-a reduction of 6,000,000 working shifts per quarter, as compared with two years ago. That is a very considerable reduction in the number of shifts worked.
Not only have 80,000 men been thrown out of work, but there has been a considerable reduction in the wages of the men remaining at work. I am sure that the House will be surprised to find that, working out this computation from the information given in the source to which I have referred, while the average wages of all mine workers for the June quarter, 279 1914, stood at a figure of 35s. 7d. per week, the average wages in the June quarter of 1933 were 39s. 8½., an increase of only 4s. 1½d. per week compared with 1914. If the percentage is worked out, it will be found that the average wage increase in the mining industry in 1933 is only 12 per cent. higher than in 1914. That is a terrible position for the wage earners with the cost of living standing at a level somewhere about 43 or 44 above the figure at that period. The miners have endeavoured to negotiate district by district with the Coal Owners' Association. There has been no improvement. Year after year mine workers' wages have been reduced. In the last two years the average weekly wage has gone down by nearly 1s. 6d. a week and we are asking ourselves, when is this to stop? We hear a great deal about stabilisation—stabilisation of the £, and stabilisation of prices in every direction. When are we to have stabilisation of wages in the mining industry? How far must we go down?
I am not sorry that I started upon this topic. I did not intend to introduce it, but I know that the Miners' Federation have been in consultation with the Secretary for Mines and the Prime Minister, and we have urged that attention should be given to this question. While I will not attempt to describe the kind of plan which would have to ensue on agreement, a national agreement is indispensable if the mine workers are to get anything like satisfaction. I do not pursue this further. Other speakers will give details of wages and conditions in the mining industry, but I do wish to make an appeal on behalf of Members here for serious consideration to be given to the subject by the Government.
Something else was said to which I should like to refer. The Prime Minister thought it necessary to correct and almost rebuke my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition for something that he said about armaments. The Prime Minister said:The right hon. Gentleman the other day made a very unbalanced attack, as I thought, upon our disarmament genuineness, in the form of statements regarding the activities of armament firms. He said that we supply about one-third of the total world export trade in arms. That is an exaggeration of a rather gross character."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 21st November, 1933; col. 24, Vol. 283.]280 and so on. The Prime Minister to-day give information which the House required on this subject, but he has not given all the information. If he did so, and took the House into his full confidence on this question, my right hon. Friend would be more than vindicated. Let me quote what has been said on this subject by people outside this House which has appeared in newspapers as far away as America and in other countries. Here are extracts from America of speeches made by representatives of armament firms in this country. To begin with, here is a quotation from "The Aeroplane," a technical paper with a wide circulation, and with direct and intimate connection with aeroplane manufacture. "The Aeroplane" says:The manufacturers of both aeroplanes and engines may hope for increased turnover and profits a year or so hence when the Disarmament Conference has faded out and the programme of expansion is allowed to proceed.Then I find a quotation from the report of the De Havilland Aircraft, Limited, in which it is said:There has also been a good deal of activity in the aircraft section, stimulated by the rapidly dwindling prospects of disarmament.Then the Managing Director of Short Brothers, seaplane manufacturers, said: "This year will see the firm's workshops fully again at work both on civil and military aircraft. The coming year will be the busiest since the Armistice.Vickers, Armstrong and Imperial Chemical Industries do not conceal their interest in the manufacture of arms, and their satisfaction with the improvement in foreign orders. I shall not attempt to give figures in detail, but I think that my right hon. Friend will be more than vindicated when the figures come to be examined in detail. I should, however, like an explanation of what appears in the Returns of Trade and Navigation for October last. I notice that in the 10 months to October, 1933, as compared with the same 10 months in 1931, the exports of non-ferrous metals, aluminium, copper raw and wrought, brass, lead, nickel and tin are mere than doubled in volume and nearly doubled in value. But the most surprising thing is this: comparing October, 1933, with October 1931, I find that the exports of aluminium have increased 25 times, brass 35 times and wrought copper 23 times. These. require 281 some explanation. Non-ferrous metals are used mainly in the construction of aeroplanes and war material. I have not the figures for nickel, but I think they will be given later. Now, really, when the Prime Minister pretends to the House that he is going to take the House into his confidence and clear up a misapprehension, and then rides away with an attack upon my right hon. Friend, I think the House ought to challenge the Prime Minister and those who support him much more closely, and demand a much better explanation than what has been given in this regard.
I come to the King's Speech, and I ask the House to permit me to refer to three paragraphs to which I propose to address my further remarks. The first paragraph to which I wish to refer leads:MY LORDS AND MEMBERS OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS:The past year has been marked by a steady growth of confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry.We would like to know where is the evidence and where the justification for this confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry 4 Searching diligently, faithfully and impartially we do not find it anywhere. In the coal industry, everything shows that there is a considerable falling off in activity, and we do not find anywhere evidence that there is in that industry any prospects or signs of improvement. I have taken the trouble to make research, and I find that the exports of coal are down by over 3,000,000 tons, as compared with two years ago. Coming to glass and glassware, I find that the exports are down by 11 per cent. as compared with two years ago; the exports of pig iron are down by 50 per cent.; the exports of iron and steel and manufactures thereof are down by a very small percentage, I admit, namely, 44,000 tons out of a large total; but machinery exports are down by 280,000 cwts. and more than 20 per cent. in value. There has been in cotton yarns an improvement, as compared with two years ago, of £2,000,000, but compared with last year a diminution of £3,500,000. There is consequently no justification for confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry.
I have also gone to the trouble of making some inquiry into the question of Britain's share of the world trade, and I 282 find that in 1929 we sent 38.3 of our exports to Europe, and three years later—in 1932—the exports had been raised to 46.1 Glancing superficially at these figures, one might be led to believe that here is an improvement of 8 per cent. in our export trade, but, looking at it more closely, we find that the export trade of 1929 amounted to £729,000,000, and that 38.3 per cent., the proportion of our trade which went to Europe, amounted to £279,000,000, while in 1932 the 46.1 per cent. of our exports which we sent to Europe, computed on a smaller volume of exports, left us with only £168,000,000, as against £279,000,000. There is an example of an improvement in trade! When we come to the other figures, we find that the proportion of our goods that went to North and Central America has fallen from 13.8 to 11.6; to South America, from 8.2 to 5.6; and to Asia, from 48.9 to 17.8 To Africa there is a slight improvement—from 10.2 to 11.4; but in the case of Australia, it has fallen from 9.5 to 7.7. And mark this: these deductions are on a volume of trade which has fallen by 50 per cent. There has been a reduction of our exports to all parts of the world and, therefore, when the Government ask us to join with them in saying that they have confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry we want the figures upon which that confidence is based, and in the absence of any such evidence we cannot concur in their optimistic view.
We have heard this afternoon from the President of the Board of Trade something about the kind of thing that is occurring at the present moment in Europe. The right bon Gentleman spoke, I thought, too emphatically in regard to some of his powers. Although we may have gained proportionately some trade in Europe under the operation of the agreements which have been made by the right hon. Gentleman, are we quite sure, with the prospect of discrimination and retaliation, that we are going to retain our European trade? That in my view is a grave danger. The right hon. Gentleman said that the French had imposed a surtax of 15 per cent., that we were complaining, and that he was going to take strong and drastic retaliatory measures unless the French Government withdrew some part of the surtax. As a matter of fact, the trade of this country 283 is shrinking every day, but the right hon. Gentleman appears to be quite satisfied if he can find figures showing that we have improved our trade proportionately in regard to world trade; which in effect is dying before our eyes. The right hon. Gentleman is much more concerned with maintaining our balance of trade than with increasing the imports and exports of this country.
In the next paragraph of the King's Speech the Government say:By careful attention to sound principles both in the control of expenditure and in measures calculated to encourage enterprise My Ministers will endeavour to promote the return of the nation, step by step, to conditions which will permit the easing of its present burdens.This is the crux of the question. The problem we have to face is largely a domestic one. We cannot put the whole world right, we cannot set the world trade systems in order by any good will or wisdom on our part, but we can do a great deal at home towards maintaining the amount of trade between ourselves. In my view this is a question which is much more at the door of the Chancellor of the Exchequer than at the door of the President of the Board of Trade. The present Government have been given enormous powers of control; powers which no British statesmen would have dreamt of a generation ago. They have control over finance and the direction of trade, they have power to conduct negotiations and agreements, and, indeed, the President of the Board of Trade said on one occasion that government and business were not nowadays two things but one. He claimed that the Government was the business authority of the country, and that the business of the country was, and must he, directed by the Government. If the Government is going to run the business of a capitalist system then they must also accept the failures of the capitalist system.
I have taken the trouble to find out how the wealth of this country has increased during the present century, and I find from the returns of the Inland Revenue Commissioners that in 1903 the total amount returned as assessable for Income Tax was £767.000,000. In 1913–14, just before the War, it stood at £930,000,000, and in 1919–20 that figure had been raised to a total of £2,968,000,000.
284 By 1931–32 the nation's income brought to the notice of the Inland Revenue Commissioners under Schedules A, B, C, D and E was £3,480,000,000. In fact, the income under Schedule A has been nearly doubled; that is income from the ownership of land and buildings, in the last 30 years. Under Schedule B, the occupation of land and buildings, the income has been multiplied three times during the same period, and under Schedule C it has been multiplied exactly four times. The income under Schedule D is nearly four times as large, and under Schedule E it has been multiplied 16 times. One would imagine that these evidences of prosperity would have been reflected in the lives of the people of this country.
Let me deal with the distribution of this vast amount of wealth. The best, and the most direct, evidence I have been able to get is in the Report of the Inland Revenue Commissioners v-here they deal with the claims for Estate Duty. The amount which came before the notice of the Commissioners ran to over £400,000,000, and less than 1 per cent. of the 130,000 people from whom Estate Duty was taken, took more than one-third of the whole national wealth, while 93 per cent. of these 130,000 people got another one-third per cent. between them. More than two-thirds of the people who died in this country left less than £100 behind them, and 1 per cent. of the remaining proportion of the population or less than ½ of 1 per cent. of all the people as represented in these figures left behind them more than one-third of the total amount charged as Estate Duty. That represents the distribution of the national wealth, and it shows that the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer year by year. I have pictured on previous occasions the plight of the miners whose wages have been reduced, and it requires no imagination on the part of those who have lived amongst them to know how they have to work slack time and endure the miseries of unemployment. At the present time they are in greater poverty than at any previous period in their history.
There is one thing I must say about wages. While the national wealth has been accumulating at this rapid rate the wages of the workers of the country have been declining. During the War time 285 there was a period of inflation which enabled huge fortunes to be accumulated, and there were increases in wages to meet the increased cost of living. But since the War danger has disappeared hon. Members opposite have found it convenient to join with those who control and dictate the financial policy of this country in a policy of deflation, which was initiated by a direct attack upon the wages of the workers. Since 1921–22 £12,000,000 per week has been taken from the wages of the workers, £12,000,000 per each working day, or nearly £700,000,000 a year. That represents a large reduction in the purchasing power of the people of this country, and while it is undoubtedly a great hardship on the poor is has also done great injury indeed to national economy by decreasing the purchasing power of the people. It may be interesting to read about large fortunes, and it may give occasional pride and consolation to those who accumulate them, but the real wealth of this country consists in the number of shillings and pence circulating in the homes of the people. The great mass of our people do not do their business by cheque and bankers' notes but by Treasury notes and silver and copper, that is the way in which the main business of this country is done, and if you cut down the amount of currency in circulation among the people you at once cause a slump in every market throughout the country.
The trade difficulties of this country at home are largely, indeed mainly, due to the cutting down of the purchasing power of the people of this country. Then there is the fallacy of the policy of tariffs and quotas and trade agreements. We have heard from the President of the Board of Trade the indignation which has been created by the unwillingness of other countries to accept economic dictation from this country. For the moment it is negotiation, but ultimately it will come to a tariff war, which is quite as disastrous as any other kind of war. I have great confidence in the right hon. Gentleman's business ability in his own business, and I would trust a good many business men in their own business, but I do not believe the man has been born who can manage the whole business of this country and of the whole world. This afternoon the right hon. Gentleman was asked a question as to what effect certain action would have upon Japan.
286 It is time to stop these constant attempts to juggle and balance, and check and counteract, movements which are invisible.
We on these benches do not think there is any prospect of any approach to prosperity on these lines. We stand for a policy which is entirely different to that of hon. Members opposite. We do not believe in patching and tinkering with faulty machinery. We think that the economic system must be changed, and that no patching and tinkering will put it right. We want to know from the right hon. Gentleman whether he believes it can be made to work. What is the test? When has it been made to work? When there is still unemployment and poverty and human degradation, is the system working to the right hon. Gentleman's satisfaction? Will the system be satisfactory as long as it permits poverty and unemployment to spread all over the world? What is in the Government's mind? If we knew that we might be able to assess more justly the success of the efforts that the Government are putting forward. What is the height of the Government's ambition? How do the Government propose to use our share of the bounteous production of the world? Are the Government going to raise the standard of living in this country?
I read in a newspaper, the "Daily Herald," which I read frequently, an opinion expressed by a gentleman in Scotland who spoke at a meeting of business men. I forget his name for the moment, but he said that we must make up our minds that we are going to raise the general standard of amenities and of human comfort and welfare in the world. I ask the Government, do they believe it possible under this system to build things up on those lines? We believe that the Government should he responsible. The Government take responsibility in one way, but they are not taking the responsibility that we would like them to undertake. They should be responsible for the liberation of finance and labour for schemes of public work. They should not allow idle money to remain idle while men are standing by without work. If they fail to bring the idle money and the idle men together it is their responsibility and they must take the consequences.
287 In the King's Speech there is no policy on this subject indicated; there is not a word about the removal of unemployment. There is a proposal to alleviate and regulate the relief to be paid to people who are unemployed, but not one word about the abolition of unemployment itself. The Government are apparently content to allow large numbers of people to go on living in miserable idleness year after year without hope of escape. For generations idleness has been regarded as a crime in this country; men have been punished for being vagrants. I say to the Government that if they permit masses of people to remain idle and show no desire to remove them from that condition, the statesmen are the criminals themselves. The Government are riding on a policy of economy. We have all seen cartoons of statesmen riding on an ass. The present Government are riding the poor old donkey of economy, for they have nothing else on which to ride. Unfortunately they are riding with their faces turned backwards, and they do not know where economy is taking them. They appear to be quite content to jog along somewhere day by day, but inevitably their policy must lead to unemployment, bitter economic confusion and greater financial confusion as time passes.
We would like the Government to take back the King's Speech. It is not good enough. The Prime Minister is not present. I ask those Ministers who are present to accept individual and collective responsibility. I ask them to have courage and to take a new view of the possibilities and the opportunities which will be offered to them. In the next few years we shall have to decide on very bold steps in order to maintain our economic fabric in a fit condition. Our personal destinies are linked up with the effort that we all make. This country will not escape from the inevitable result of indifference, lack of vision and lack of courage. I appeal to Ministers to have confidence in their fellow-countrymen, in the skill and the patience and the kindness of the people they claim to represent. I say to them, take back this King's Speech and come forward with constructive proposals which will enable the people of this country to pull their weight and push their weight. I ask the Government to do some useful 288 work by creating conditions which will end in a higher state of comfort for all.
§ 4.36 p.m.
§ Mr. THORP
I must say, speaking for myself, that I think the King's Speech is a little bit short compared with what same of us expected it would be. There is a paragraph dealing with the export trade in which it is said:My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade, especially by the negotiation of trade agreements. In this way it is hoped that opportunities will be afforded for the development of the cotton, coal and other exporting trades.I suggest to the Government that unless some more vigorous steps be taken than the negotiation of agreements it will not. be a question of developing our export trade but of preserving the export trade which we have at the moment. I speak more particularly with regard to cotton. It might be useful to examine for one moment why it is that there has been such severe competition in the cotton trade in Lancashire. The fact undoubtedly is that a lot of our markets were lost to Lancashire during the War. It was part of the policy of the Government that we should make some effort to recover those markets by any means that we could legitimately adopt, but up to date, and as the trend of figures shows, the recovery in those markets is not by any means as rapid as we had hoped and thought it would be. In a speech on 9th November my right hon. Friend the President of the Board of Trade said:No one could be mere conscious of the sufferings of Lancashire than we who are responsible for Government policy, and who have certainly given evidence of our desire in a practical way to cleat with the grievances of our traders wherever they arise." [OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th November, 1933; cols. 440 and 441, Vol. 981.]Feeling is general throughout Lancashire that, while that statement is perfectly correct, more might he done with a view to assisting the cotton trade in Lancashire. One has only to see where the competition is presently coming from in order to ask the question which I put to the President of the Board of Trade, and that is whether he proposes to do any more or to take any steps other than the negotiation of these trade agreements? We feel that some other steps might well be taken and ought to be taken. Speaking in the Debate to which 289 I have already referred, the President of the Board of Trade did not give any indication of what he had in mind regarding the steps which should be taken. He said, quite truly, that the Lancashire people can look after themselves. But with the greatest respect I venture to reply that that is hardly the answer that one expected from the National Government, considering the importance of the cotton trade to Manchester in particular and to this country in general.
We know very well that there is a very great deal of competition against the Lancashire trade, competition that was not in existence before the War, and we know that certain negotiations are being carried on with a view to regularising the basis of that competition. But negotiations are always apt to take a very long time. If negotiations are carried on with Eastern races they are not apt to come to a successful termination anything like as quickly as when conducted with our own people. I suggest to the President of the Board of Trade that one of the ways in which these negotiations might be pushed along more rapidly would be to take immediate steps to erect some form of protection for the Lancashire trade, pending the conclusion of successful negotiations. The fact undoubtedly is that so long as things remain as they are now it is to the interest of those with whom we are negotiating that no definite agreement should be reached. Therefore they will prolong the negotiations, stretch them to their fullest extent, and by the time they are completed, if things go on as they are, there will be very little trade left for Lancashire.
In my own constituency since the formation of the National Government, no fewer than three mills have closed down instead of opening. That is not a state of affairs which I or anyone can possibly pretend is satisfactory. With regard to the foreign markets that we have lost, we know that there may be some difficulties to overcome. But what have we to say with regard to Colonial markets? We know that Japanese competition is penetrating very rapidly into our Colonial markets, into Ceylon for example. I have certain figures which show the position, and they are depressing. In 1912 38i million square yards were exported from this country to Ceylon. In 1922 the figure had fallen to 22 millions. In 1932 290 it fell to 16 millions. One of the things that can be done in the case of Ceylon is to insist upon Ceylon implementing the Agreement that was made at Ottawa. On analogy that kind of safeguard is the one which it is proposed to put into operation in India. In Ceylon it has not been put into operation at all. So far as the test of the value of that safeguard is concerned, some inference might not unfairly be drawn from the Government's refusal to insist on that being done. I see the following in a newspaper cutting headed: "Japanese to go on dumping":The subject of Japanese dumping was mentioned in the Legislative Council of Jamaica to-day when, in reply to a question, Sir Ransford Slater, the Governor, said he had received a communication from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, Sir Philip Cunliffe-Lister, stating that the Anglo-Japanese Treaty precluded the imposition of discriminatory duties on Japanese goods. Special duties on goods with depreciated currencies were inconsistent with the most-favoured-nation provision existing in treaty obligations.I think that the Board of Trade would be well advised and would serve the interests of Lancashire if they were to put immediate legislation into operation in this country, and then to go on with the negotiations protected by the legislation. Unless some alteration is effected in the immediate future these negotiations will never come to an end certainly not to a favourable end as regards the cotton industry in this country. I understand that other countries in Europe are feeling the effect of Japanese dumping and that France, Germany, Switzerland and Spain contemplate taking some proceedings to stop it. If they take such proceedings and if those proceedings are as effective as they hope and expect them to be, then the immediate result will be a still greater attack upon our trade. The Japanese will have to find some market in which to dispose of their goods and they will look to our Colonies, as they are doing now, and to this country for that purpose. The imports of Japanese goods into our Colonies show a steady and persistent rise and in my submission to the Government that importation ought to be checked before it gets completely out of hand in view of the damage which it is doing. At the present moment Japanese-made shirts are being sold in Manchester itself. It is contrary to what a good many of us advocated at the General Election that 291 that kind of thing should be allowed to continue. Those shirts are being sold at a price which barely represents the cost of the cotton of which they are composed.
There is only one inference to be drawn from that fact. Either the Japanese currency is being depreciated in order to assist Japanese merchants, or the standard of life in Japan is not the standard which we expect in this country. Hon. Members opposite are very interested in the standard of life of our people. Unless our markets are protected against these dumped goods from Japan the inevitable result will be, not to raise the standard of life in Japan but to depreciate the standard of life in this country. One hon. Member opposite in an interjection during the Debate the other night said that there were men of 22 and 23 years of age in Lancashire working at wages of 13s. to 14s. a week. The hon. Member did not add, though no doubt he is aware of the fact, that those men are doing boys work and are being paid boys wages. No one approves of it or thinks that the remuneration is adequate, but all honour to those men who have preferred to do boys work at boys wages, rather than do no work at all.
§ Mr. RHYS DAVIES
I take it for granted that the hon. and learned Member does not dispute my figures.
§ Mr. THORP
I should not dispute any figures given by an hon. Member in this House. I accept the hon. Member's figures as true. I only say that these men are receiving boys' wages because they are doing boys' work. The reason they are doing boys' work is that they cannot find men's work. The reason they cannot find men's work is that wages comparable to the wages of boys in this country are being paid for the manufacture of goods in Japan. The real explanation of these low wages in Lancashire is the low rate of wages in Japan. Therefore I urge on the Government not to rely solely on negotiations. Something should be done immediately, otherwise the cotton industry will cease to exist.
It is a complicated trade and this is a difficult subject to discuss. The right hon. Gentleman speaking on 9th November said it was so complicated and 292 difficult that he could not deal with it in a speech on the Motion for the Adjournment of the House. I quite agree but I asked him then whether we would not have an opportunity for a discussion. To that question no answer was returned. Does that mean that the Government are not prepared to discuss it? Does it mean that the Government have not any definite policy in regard to cotton? We know what they have done with regard to other industries and in Lancashire some people are apt to think that cotton is being treated as a sort of handmaiden of the coal trade. I admit that the suffering in the coal trade has been extensive and that that trade presents a problem which ought to be grappled with, but, at the same time, in many of the trade agreements which we 'have concluded cotton seems to have been mentioned as a kind of after-thought. The idea seems to have been "Secure agreement with regard to coal and, if you can do anything with cotton, bear that in mind."
Lancashire has come to the conclusion that this big and very important industry of cotton is not receiving the care, the attention or the consideration from the Government which its position justifies. Considering the high proportion of unemployed in the cotton trade, considering the low wages quoted by the hon. Member opposite, a remedy ought to be put forward. The Government ought to state definitely that they will not permit the importation of cotton goods produced by what would be regarded in this country as sweated labour. They ought to declare that they are not going to allow such goods to come in here to deprive our fellow citizens, men and women, of the opportunity of earning a living wage. I hope we shall have in the course of this Debate an intimation that something more than mere negotiation is going to be done to deal with unfair foreign competition. We have beard enough of negotiations. I have been two and a-half years in this House and this, I think, is the first occasion in that period that cotton has been mentioned in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I know it is not the first time that cotton has occupied the attention of the Government but the proper way to deal with this question is to erect some barrier and make it to the interest of our competitors to bring the negotiations to a 293 conclusion at an early date. I hope, as I have said, that the Government will do more than merely go on negotiating; that they will take some steps by way of reprisals no matter how difficult or complicated the position may be, in order to deal with this very serious problem.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I would like first to pay a tribute to the hon. and learned Member who has just spoken and to confirm what he has told the House. I rise not to indulge in any rhetoric but to place some cold, hard facts before the President of the Board of Trade. When replying in the Debate on the Adjournment recently the right hon. Gentleman suggested that my hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Bailey) was taking too serious a view of the position. I desire now to submit some incontrovertible facts which show that to-day the Lancashire cotton trade is in a perilous state and that unless something is done, and done immediately, within five years you will not have a mill working in Lancashire. I have been in the trade for 30 years and I have followed the progress of Japanese competition ever since it started. I have watched it grow until at the present time, in the case of my own works, nearly the whole of our foreign trade has been cut out and the Japanese have got it. The bulk of the trade which I am doing to-day is in the home market and, even in the home market, the Japanese are coming in and taking the trade from our own people.
I wish to give the President of the Board of Trade a few figures. In the case of Ceylon between 1929 and 1932 our exports fell from 11,000,000 rupees to 4,500,000 rupees. The exports of Japan increased from 2,000,000 rupees to 5,500,000 rupees. In Tanganyika, Japanese exports have risen from 15,000,000 square yards in 1931 to 22,000,000 square yards in 1932. In Zanzibar, Britain held a dominant position until last year when Japan had 2,200,000 square yards compared with 2,090,000 square yards from Great Britain. In the Gold Coast, Japan supplied less than 30,000 square yards in 1930. Last year she supplied 2,000,000 square yards. In Jamaica, Japan has increased her silk broad stuffs 10 times since 1931 and for the first two months of this year, her supply of cotton goods 294 was double the figure for 1932. As regards Kenya, between January and July of this year the Japanese exported 2,587,763 square yards of artificial silk and this country only 8,014 square yards. In the case of Egypt, Japanese exports increased by over 50 per cent. in 1932 compared with 1931.
To-day the Japanese are producing at 75 per cent. below our actual cost of production. I have taken the opportunity of bringing here for inspection some specimens of material which I would like the President of the Board of Trade to examine. Here is some cloth produced at my own works. This is a pattern of cloth sent to South Africa at 33d. per yard. Here is a copy of that pattern of the same quality sent by the Japanese to South Africa at 19d. per yard. How on earth can we meet that devastating competition? Here is another cloth which we send out at 5¾d. per yard and here is the corresponding cloth which the Japanese are sending at 5¾d. per yard. The West Indies have just taken an order for 23,000 square yards of Japanese cloth, at 75 per cent. below our cost of production.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
It is exactly the same. They are all the same. I do not want to mislead the House. I have no wish to exaggerate and would prefer to err on the other side. Here is another range of patterns. These patterns go to our Dominions and Colonies and practically all over the world. Our price for this particular pattern is 3d. a yard. The Japanese price is 1⅛d. per yard. As a result of that competition our business is going and the livelihood of our operatives is being wiped out. I shall be very pleased, if any hon. Member would like to see these patterns, to show them to him in the Lobby afterwards and it will be seen that these are perfectly genuine cases. Take the case of artificial silk. The Manchester price for this artificial silk is 20⅝d. per yard. That is in South Africa. The Japanese price for the same material landed in South Africa is 6¼d. a yard. I could quote dozens of such instances. This kind of competition is going on in regard to 295 nearly all the cloth that we produce. Within six months after we put a pattern into the market that pattern is copied and a similar cloth is put in by the Japanese at a price which is 75 or 100 per cent. below that at which we could produce it. What hope is there for the Lancashire cotton trade unless that competition is stopped?
We were told, "You should reorganise your own trade and get your machinery up to date." I may say that we have as fine machinery in Lancashire as there is anywhere in the world, but how can you tell the manufacturers of Lancashire to reorganise and to put in more efficient machinery when they are losing money as they are doing at present? A great many of the manufacturers in Lancashire are simply carrying on at a loss rather than turn their people on to the streets. I do not think that at the beginning of the year there was a single print or dye firm in Manchester that did not show a heavy loss. I wish the President of the Board of Trade could find the time to come into Lancashire to two or three centres to which I could take him and show him mills closed down. I wish he could come with me to Manchester, and I could take him up Portland Street, which used to be full of great merchant houses, where to-day there is scarcely a single merchant house in which a merchant is carrying on his business. There is "To let" in all the windows, and they are coming down year after year.
I want to mention another thing which my right hon. Friend may not know, and that is that merchants in Manchester are to-day buying Japanese and Russian prints and selling them, through Hamburg, to our Crown Colonies and Over-sea Dominions. I do not blame them. They are doing it because they cannot get the stuff at home at a price which those markets will pay. Now I want to say a word or two about the negotiations which we are told are being carried on. As far as India is concerned, no negotiations went on there, because the Japanese were not allowed to discuss the trade with Lancashire representatives, but only with India. There is sitting in Manchester to-day a committee negotiating with Japanese representatives. Is that not too futile for words? Suppose there is an hon. Member on the benches opposite in the same trade as I am. He 296 has taken, we will say, five-sixths of my trade, and I go to him and say, "It is very unkind of you to do this, and you have no business to do it. Will you not give me some of the trade, so that I may exist only?" What do you think the reply would be. The Japanese in such a case would reply, "We are carrying out our business in our own way. We are looking after our business, and it is your job to look after yours." I only want to show to my right hon. Friend the uselessness of these negotiations.
There is only one way, and it is the way that is approved by every cotton manufacturer whom I. have come across in Lancashire. They say, "You can only deal with this question by rutting on a tariff which will bring the standard of living in the East up to the standard of living in this country, because, if Lancashire could compete on equal terms, we should be able to get back a great part of the cotton trade which we have lost en account of this unfair competition." I have spoken of Japan, but there are other countries concerned as well. There are Poland and Czechoslovakia, and I may tell the President of the Board of Trade that I personally had to quote the other day for some white Admiralty drill. The merchants in London replied, "We cannot take your stuff, because there are ships lying in the docks in London full of Polish Admiralty white drill." Take Czechoslovakia. They have been over to Manchester. They go to the merchants and say, "Whatever price you have to pay to the Manchester people, we will pay less than that."
The Japanese also have no price, and they have instructed their representatives in Australia to do exactly the same thing and to say that whatever price we are quoting, they will go below it, so that, by whatever means they have to employ, they will get the trade. Let us not forget either that Japan has depreciated her yen and that the depreciation of the yen means a difference of 06 per cent. against our cost of production. You can put on another 40 per cent., the difference between their ordinary cost of production and ours, and there you get 100 per cent.
I urge upon the Government to do something in this matter. We are not speaking in this way with any feeling 297 against the Government. We realise what they have done since they came into office and how the unemployment figures have gone down and many extra trades have been set up, but what Lancashire is saying is, that if the Government can do this for other trades, why cannot they do something for the Lancashire cotton trade? There is an old saying, and I believe it is true, that when the Lancashire cotton trade is booming the rest of the country is booming also, and that when the Lancashire cotton trade is in a bad way the rest of the country also is in a bad way, because there are so many other trades which are absolutely contingent on the cotton trade in Lancashire.
In conclusion, on behalf of Lancashire, I would plead that the Government should do something, and should do it immediately. I understand that under Article 25 of the Constitution of Jamaica that Colony is allowed to put up a tariff against unfair competition from a country whose currency has depreciated, and I am informed—I may be wrong—that the most-favoured-nation Clause does not apply there. If that be the case, why has the Colonial Office refused to allow Jamaica to put up a tariff against Japan? I should like an answer to that question. In my humble opinion, the Government must take strong measures. If it comes to rescinding the most-favoured-nation Clause and the Treaties that we have with Japan or that our own Crown Colonies have with Japan, they ought to be rescinded, because what is the good of my right hon. Friend making these trade agreements with the most-favoured-nation Clause in operation? Take South America. The Argentine gave us a reduction in tariffs, but, under the most-favoured-nation Clause, Japan comes in for the same reduction, and she is sending her goods to the Argentine now in the same way. Accordingly, I urge that the Government will not consider that the cotton trade is not in dire distress and peril, but will realise that it is in a serious condition, and I hope they will do their very best, without delay, to give the manufacturers a chance of bringing the cotton trade of Lancashire back in some respects to the position which it used to occupy.
§ 5.9 p.m.
§ Mr. CAPE
I want to refer to the same paragraph in the Gracious Speech that has been referred to by the two hon. Members who have preceded me. I have listened with very great attention to their remarks, and, as far as I have been able to judge from what they have said, I think they have shown to the House clearly that the cotton trade is in a most deplorable condition. I have no desire in any way to attempt to take the mind of the House away from the condition of the cotton trade; I want to keep that in mind and, in harmony with that, to bring in the coal trade at the same time. One hon. Member rather thought the coal trade had been made more of in the trade negotiations than ought to have been the case—although he said he knew that it had been in a deplorable condition—to the detriment of the cotton industry. I do not want to put the coal trade in any position to outdo anything that might be beneficial to the cotton industry. The two questions are absolutely distinct and apart. The paragraph in the King's Speech to which I wish to refer states:My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade, especially by the negotiation of trade agreements. In this way it is hoped that opportunities will be afforded for the development of the cotton, coal and other exporting trades.We all realise that in all our existing undertakings it is necessary to have reasonable export conditions, and we are all in favour of extending the export trade, but we do not altogether agree with all the methods which the Government are adopting in regard to intensifying the export trade. We believe also that we must give fair facilities to these industries so far as the home markets are concerned. While we realise the necessity of marketing the various goods produced, and more especially of marketing the coal that is produced, we also realise that that is not enough, that that is not the end. There is something more that has to be done, and in all these negotiations with regard to export we must remember that the producer—namely, the worker—must be given fair consideration.
I want to draw the attention of the House to the coal trade, and I am not going to deal with wages or conditions 299 of labour in that industry. I wish to point out the grave omission from the King's Speech of any provision for trying to bring machinery into operation in the coal industry for bringing peace in that industry. It is no good having even the best markets in the world if you have not at the same time got peace in the industry, and we desire that there should be peace on honourable lines, so that when the export trade is intensified by new agreements, or even if the home market should develop, there will be some security for the workmen and for the employers, by the provision of machinery for the peaceful settlement of any disputes that may arise. That, surely, is not asking a great deal. To my mind, it is a common-sense proposition, and I have been long enough in the mining industry and long enough a miners' leader to know all the things that take place when you have a strike or a lock-out or a big stoppage of work. I know the hardships and the grievous difficulties that arise, and I know the way in which trade is very often cumbered by these things, but unless you have some machinery for the direction and control of these disputes when they arise, the only thing is for the workmen to strike or for the employers to close down.
It seems to me that in this day and generation it is strange that men of good will in the industry, with the knowledge and common sense that they possess, cannot find some kind of machinery whereby this thing can be done and disputes with regard to wages and conditions settled in a common-sense and reasonable way. The Miners' Federation has been attempting for some considerable time to get into touch with the coalowners in an endeavour to formulate, by voluntary agreement, some kind of machinery in the shape of a national board that will deal with the various disputes that take place in the coal trade from time to time. It is my own experience in the coal industry that you can have a fight any day if you say you want one. We are really the most peaceful body in the world, but if anyone shows an inclination to have a fight it is only necessary to give the hint. I want to avoid that if I can.
Our executive committee had been trying to get the other party to meet in conference and to discuss ways and means whereby disputes can be avoided. It is my experience that when these two 300 parties meet they generally put their highest proposals first, and they go into the meeting satisfied that what they are asking is just and fair. When they discuss these matters it is wonderful to find how both parties go into the conference with the intention of trying to find a settlement. Ultimately they arrive at a settlement of a compromise character, and the dispute, which seemed so formidable, is amicably settled. I believe that if the coalowners would be reasonable now and meet the miners' executive and have a full and free discussion on the form "of machinery that ought to be set up, it is within the realm of possibility that we should find a basis of agreement. Up to now the coalowners have refused under any consideration to come into conference with the miners. A few years ago we used to be told in the House and outside that it was impossible to deal with certain men who were at the head of the Miners' Federation. I never thought that, but surely nobody would be prepared to say that the present leaders are not men with whom you can deal. They are men who are trying to find a way of reaching a satisfactory settlement when disputes arise with the owners, but the owners have stood out firm against meeting them to discuss the problem.
That being so, what is the next step? I want. to suggest to the Government one or two propositions, upon one of which, I think, they have already acted. As the owners have declined to come into a conference to discuss the setting up of a board for the settling of wages and conditions on a voluntary basis, the Government ought in fairness to the mining community to try their persuasive powers on the coalowners. The Government are supposed to be a Government of exceptional talents, and they ought to be able to surmount such a difficulty. They have told us that international questions can be settled amicably, and surely, if we have this wonderful amount of brilliancy in the Government, it is not too much to expect that they could with their persuasive powers convince the owners of the necessity of setting up this board. I do not think anybody in the House could use persuasion with such convincing effect as the Minister for Mines, unless it be the President of the Board of Trade. The Minister for Mines has a pleasant nature and is a bit of a fighter at the 301 same time. I would ask him to use his persuasion with the Mining Association, and if he cannot influence the owners to come into a conference he might solicit the good offices of the Prime Minister, who is accounted an expert in negotiation.
I may be told that the Government have tried these methods and that the coalowners refuse to take any steps to set up machinery of this kind. If the Government have tried persuasive methods and have failed, there is another line to take. The time has arrived when they must use force and take some legislative action to bring into operation machinery of this kind. Nearly two years ago the Government took such action to compel the miners to accept a 7½-hour day. We were never consulted on that matter. We were never asked if we agreed, but the Government made up their minds that we would have to agree as they would make it compulsory by legislation. If that whip is good enough to lash the miners with, it must be good enough to lash the owners with. If the Government are determined and desire to set up this national machinery, why should they not show their power and strength by putting a small Bill through the House to make it compulsory for both sides to appear before such a board. I will not discuss what the board should do, its mode of procedure, or how it should function. If the Government have made up their minds that it is essential to give the miners some security in regard to wages and conditions, and if that security can only be given by the institution of some form of national board, the Government ought to tell the owners frankly what they intend to do and do it.
I know that it will be said that the owners have not a mandate to act nationally. But they had a mandate to accept the 71-hour day nationally, and they have a mandate to do nationally certain other things which affect our men. Surely when an organisation of that kind can deal with conditions of employment which affect the lives and limbs of the miners, they ought to be capable of dealing with wages. We only asked that the Government, if they have failed in every other direction, should now take their courage in 'their hands. When we have resented certain things that are imposed on us by Acts of Parliament we have 302 been told that we are defying the Government and undermining the Constitution. If that is good enough to whip us with, we shall have to retailiate in the same way against the coalowners if they resist putting into operation something that everybody admits is fair and just. I may be asked how we are to arrive at a settlement if there is to be compulsory arbitration, but the procedure of the board can be discussed when the two sides meet. If the Government have to bring in a Bill, that matter can be settled later after the two sides have been consulted.
If the Government are not prepared to take the legislative action which I have suggested, it will surely be possible to have a three-party conference. I am confident that the-Miners' Federation would respond to an invitation by the Govern. merit to such a conference. It may be said that the coalowners would not, but why should they not respond to any request that the Government may make, for they are more in harmony with the Government than the miners are? If we are prepared to meet the Government representatives in a three-party conference, surely the owners should be prepared to do so as well. If they will not respond, there is only one way in which to deal with anyone who defies the Government, and that is immediately to bring in a Pill to set up the machinery to deal with wages nationally. If the Government are intensifying their efforts to improve, the export market for coal, and if they want to see the coal trade prosper, they ought to take strong action to set up this machinery. It will give the miners some confidence to believe that somebody, at any rate, is taking some notice of their affairs and are prepared to see that justice is meted out to them in times of dispute.
It may be said that no reduction of wages has been asked for at the present time, but none of us can say when reductions may be demanded. Then what is going to happen? All districts have not wages boards. What will happen then will be that either the men will have to accept such reductions as are asked for without opposition, which is hardly likely to be the case, or else they will cease work, and we shall find ourselves landed into a strike, probably of some duration, and even of the etxent of a national 303 miners' strike. I do not think anybody wants to see that. Therefore, I beg the Government to do all they can to bring the parties together, by persuasion in the first place; and failing that beg them to be courageous and put through the House legislation establishing such machinery as I have described.
§ 6.32 p.m.
§ Mr. BAILEY
I would like to be associated with all that has fallen from the lips of my hon. Friends who have preceded me in this matter. was very much interested to hear from the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape) of the sympathy of the Socialist party with the Lancashire operatives. The position is too serious for us not to welcome sympathy from whatever quarter it comes. I listened with interest to the speech of the hon. Member who spoke earlier from the Opposition Front Bench in which he deplored the fact that the Government had failed to bring in a Bill to abolish unemployment. I have no doubt that if ever there is another Socialist Government he will introduce such a Bill, and he will have the honour of sharing with Canute the notoriety of those who order the tide not to come in but take no practical steps to prevent it doing so. I am glad hon. Members of the Labour party are here, because I would like to know what constructive proposals they have got. [HON. MEMBERS: "Ask the Government."] I am going to ask the Government in a minute. One can only put one question at a time, even when one is being interrupted. Reflection is good for the soul, and I would like them to consider how, without the tariffs which the hon. Member who spoke first criticised so bitterly, the working men of Lancashire, even with industry nationalised, could be paid a decent wage while the markets of this country and the world are being flooded with cheap and nasty manufactures from the East. Let them consider that question and give an answer.
The right hon. Member for Bow and Bromley (Mr. Lansbury), the Leader of the Opposition, came to Salford the other day and, with his usual visionary impracticability, if I may say so with respect, said that we must persuade Japanese operatives and Japanese employers to have a higher standard of 304 life. When he cannot persuade employers here, will he tell us what practical steps he would take to persuade Japanese operatives and employers? He has been a great many things in his life, but he will prove to be the greatest missionary the world has ever seen if he can do that, and will render far greater service to his country than he has ever rendered so far. Let us hear no more attacks on employers by those, like the right hon. Gentleman and the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel), who are willing to wound and willing to criticise those who do put forward something constructive, but themselves have nothing constructive to offer. If Lancashire people expect to get any help from the various Socialist nostrums which are advocated in the streets they are very much mistaken.
§ Mr. BAILEY
The same remarks apply to competition from India. I used the phrase "Eastern" and not Japanese competition. Possibly the hon. Member was not able to hear me on account of the observations of his hon. Friends. It is an example of the interest the Opposition take in this matter.
§ Mr. BAILEY
I shall never be able to compete with the hon. Member in cheap and funny jokes. I can only say that I am a poor man, poorer than he is, and have no financial interest in the cotton industry. But we are not dealing with personalities. Now I would like to say a word or two to the Government with which hon. Members here may have more sympathy. A remark was made by the hon. Member for Workington that there appeared to be an idea in the minds of some of us that, coal was being given an unfair advantage over cotton. We think nothing of the kind. We are only too glad to see the effective help which the Government, through the Secretary for Mines, have been able to render to the coal industry. We regard the Secretary for Mines as one of the most promising graduates of the policy of Protection. We hope he will go on to further triumphs, and that his example will stimulate those at the Board of Trade and the Colonial Office to equal achievements in the case of cotton.
305 The facts of the case in the cotton industry are quite simple, and they do not need to be repeated. Take Ceylon as a small but typical instance. My hon. Friend who opened this discussion pointed out that in 1912 the exports of this country to Ceylon amounted to 38,000,000 square yards. In 1932 they had fallen to, I think it was, 15,000,000 square yards. I do not know what the Japanese figures were in 1912, but in 1922, I think, the Japanese exports to Ceylon amounted to 3,000,000 square yards, and to-day they are 40,000,000 square yards. That is happening all over the world. To-day the Japanese are doing a bigger trade all over the world than we are—over 2,000,000,000 square yards, whereas three or four years ago it was only 1,400,000,000 square yards. They are cutting into other industries also. Lancashire was blind to her danger 20 years ago, and that is why she has not got the sympathy of the South. That may be why so many Southern Members feel that this is not a question with which they are intimately concerned. We were blind yesterday, but what has happened to the cotton trade is going to happen in the next 20 years to a vast number of other industries, unless we take prompt and energetic steps to deal with the matter. It is not a question to be dealt with merely by putting on a tariff to prevent Japanese goods coming into England. One realises that to the full. The fundamental difficulty of the cotton trade, as of many of our iron and steel trades, I believe, is going to be not to preserve the home market, which we can protect, but to preserve the export market, which we cannot protect by means of tariffs imposed in this country. [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!"] An intelligent appreciation of the situation on the part of one's opponents is a thing one always likes to see.
§ Mr. BAILEY
No, the other side realise the difficulty even better than you do. We appreciate that our people cannot have a decent standard of life unless we can retain a substantial part of the trade of the world. That is the position. The share of our cotton trade in the markets of the world is to-day not only threatened but is being practically annihilated. How are the Government 306 going to deal with the situation? If the Japanese can compete with us in our own country, obviously no amount of reorganisation of the industry, no reductions of wages—and such things are wrong—can possibly save us. What are the Government going to do 7 [Interruption.] I am sorry that some hon. Members treat this matter as a joke, because the people of Lancashire do not.
We say that, first of all, the Government ought to take steps to deal with our Colonial markets. Those markets have been built up by the prudence, the foresight and the patriotism of our forefathers. Are we getting a substantial preference there 7 We buy 80 per cent. of the exports of Ceylon. She buys 10 per cent. of her cotton imports from us. We say that we should ask our fellow subjects in the Empire to do what they can for the cotton industry. I know that the Government will say that there are many difficulties in the way, and indeed there are, and those difficulties are not made less when a Colony wants to help us, as was the case with Jamaica, and is refused permission to do so. That was a most unfortunate thing. We say that the Most-Favoured-Nation Clause with Japan should be abrogated, for this reason. If the negotiations break down, as we hope they may not, if after six months more of negotiations we find ourselves where we were when we started, we should then have to wait another 12 months before the abrogation of the Clause would become effective, and meanwhile our hands would be tied behind our backs. Why it should hamper the negotiations if we abrogate the Clause now, so that the Japanese may know that we are in a position to take action if no settlement is reached, we fail to see. We are anxious for an answer to that question, because we are only learners and we appreciate that the Government have a good deal of statistical information at their disposal which we have not.
When we come to the question of foreign trade the same considerations apply. In business there ought to be reciprocity and we say that if a country expects us to keep its people by buying its goods, as in the case of the Argentine or Denmark or Germany, that country ought to buy in return a certain proportion of our goods. I do not see that there can be any dispute on that prin- 307 ciple between the political parties, because it is a matter of commonsense. Without any sarcasm, I feel that the proposition does not go against the principles of the Labour Members, many or all of whom have the good of their people at heart. They cannot think that it is right that we should be the buyers of 40,000,000 cattle from the Argentine when with the very money received for the cattle the Argentine bought goods from countries which under-sell us because of the low standards of life which exist there. What is trade unionism worth if it prevents blacklegging in this country while allowing it upon an unparalleled scale in other countries?
We suggest that in all our colonial markets we should ask for a preference of, say, 5 per cent., and for a tariff against Japanese goods sufficient and only sufficient to account for the difference in wages between that country and ours. That is the practical way of converting Japanese employers to the raising of wages in their own country. If they see that keeping wages low prevents them from gaining over the countries that are keeping wages high, they may be induced to raise wages. That is the position as we see it. We hope that the negotiations with Japan may be successful, but if they result in a mere face-saving compromise, and merely in further negotiations which are to be productive of fruitful results some time in the hereafter, that will not be sufficient for us.
We are in the position of a very sick man. Let us say frankly to Japan—and it need not be a protracted business—that three or four years ago she was exporting 1,400,000,000 square yards of textile goods and that last year she exported about 2,000,000,000 square yards. In 1913 we exported 7,000,000,000 square yards. We should say to them: "We do not want to take your trade from you, but we want a fair living, and if you will agree to restrict your output to 1,900,000,000 square yards, leaving us with our 2,000,000,000, we will certainly welcome the negotiations. We do not want a settlement which is only another way of saying that we are prepared to take anything that you can give us, in order that this question may continue for another two years." I see the danger and the difficulty, and I recognise that 308 there are complications which ought not to be spoken about too lightly. If those complications would grow less by not facing them now, I would not urge action, nor would other Lancashire Members, but just as you failed to deal with Japan in Manchuria, and to put her off, so this question is not going to grow less, but to grow more. The longer you let a problem like that remain, the more insoluble it will become, and it will eventually force you to fight because it will attack you. This competition with the labour of the East, as you allow it to grow, will become so powerful that you will have to face economic extinction, whatever Government may be in power. Face it now, and there will be no war, but face it in 10 years' time, and it will create terrible consequences.
There are many other questions which I want to raise. One is that the exportation of second-hand machinery to Japan should be prohibited. We ought not to allow apprentices from the. East to come into our engineering sheds in order to take away the skill of our people, and we ought not to allow English inventions to go out to Japan, or the investment of English capital in Japanese mills. I am willing to concede that there are wrongs in this matter on both sides, among employers and employed, and that both, in this matter, have been blind. This is not a political question, but one which concerns the living of our people in Lancashire, and we shall be doing them an ill-service if we try to make capital for our own party out of this. In Lancashire we recognise the degree of sympathy which the Government have borne us in this matter, and we recognise the difficulty of negotiations which are to be a solution of the problem.
We will be patient, and we are anxious to be patient. We recognise that the Government will do their best. We recognise their difficulties and we do not wish to make their task in any way harder, hut we should not be the friends of the Government or of our own people if we pretended that we are going to drop this matter. We are bound, for the sake of our people, to insist that it shall De dealt with promptly. We leave the methods to the Government. We hope that the negotiations may succeed. We recognise the Government's good will and we want to 309 keep it. I say no more, except that there is no bitterness against the Government at all on the part of Lancashire men. We want to give them every chance to tackle this matter and we do not want them to misunderstand, but we intend to press it, whatever Government we have. We want action to be taken.
§ 5.52 p.m.
§ Mr. TOM SMITH
I hope that the hon. Member who has just sat down will forgive me if I say that the concluding sentences of his speech left me wondering what he told the electors in 1931. When the hon. Gentleman asks Members of the Labour party what our policy is towards the cotton industry, we can reply to him quite definitely by saying that we have the threads of the controversy in our hands and that we are not spinning yarns when we say that, after the next election, we shall be over there and prepared to deal with the problem. In the meantime, hon. Members, who are now criticising the Government on the one hand and are apologising for their criticism on the other, and who believe in Capitalism, are just appreciating some of the logical consequences of the competitive system. One wonders what many hon. Members will tell the electors when they appeal to them again.
The hon. Gentleman made reference to the Secretary for Mines. He said that the Government had done what they could for the coal industry. May I remind the hon. Member and the House that in 1929, 1930 and 1931, when the Bill that is now the Coal Mines Act was before the House, we had many speeches from Conservative Members against it? We have lived long enough to see this Government continue the first part of that Act for another five years. Hon. Members who were opponents of the Measure, when the Labour party introduced it, are doing their best to defend it now against all comers. I would also draw the attention of the House to one or two other matters pertaining to the mining industry. I remember reading a speech, delivered by the Secretary for Mines at Worksop a few weeks ago, in which he left the impression that the coal trade was showing very definite improvement. I remember his piling up some figures, which he said were given to the country for the first time, showing 310 that exports of coal from this country to Iceland were up by about 56 per cent. I should be very pleased indeed, and would be the first to congratulate them if anything that the Government did made for a definite and speedy improvement in the coal trade. The position, judged by any test you care to make, is, in the coal-mining industry, directly opposite to the statement in the King's Speech which says:The past year lies been marked by a steady growth of confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry.Judge from the point of view of production. Taking the first 10 months of this year, we produced 169,444,100 tons. That is over 2,250,000 tons less than last year, and is almost 12,000,000 tons less than 1931; yet we have a persistent agitation in the country to show that there is a steady and certain improvement in trade. If you look at the matter from the point of view of employment, we have to-day in the industry more than 330,000 men out of work, and we have, employed as wage-earners, 57,000 people fewer this year than we had in 1931. I believe the House would like to know what the Government intend to do about it. There is a passage in the King's Speech which says:My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade.Despite statements to the contrary, the exports of coal from this country for the first 10 months of this year are just about equal to what they were in the first 10 months of last year, and about 3,250,000 tons less than in the first 10 months of 1931. There is no steady and sure improvement of trade in the mining industry. I ask those who are to reply for the Government, what is intended by this reference? Do we understand that efforts to make trade agreements between this country and others are the only thing that the Government propose to do, or are we to take it that Amendments to the Coal Mines Act are to be brought in during this Session? May we know whether there is any intention on the part of the Government to bring in Amendments in order to co-ordinate minimum prices between districts? In that direction a very serious situation is arising.
311 If hon. Members look at one of the Humber ports, that is the port of Goole, which I had the honour to represent before 1931, they will find that the export of coal is just about one-half of what it was two years ago, while there are complaints in that port that they cannot obtain coal when boats come in, We are told that at Blythe there are so many ships waiting to be loaded that congestion is taking place. I want to ask the Secretary for Mines if it is not a fact that a good deal of what may be called unfairness between port and port is traceable to the fact that some districts have a lower minimum price for their coal than others? The Secretary for Mines told me that if I cared to interrogate him with regard to the position of Goole in the past, he would be quite willing to give comparative statistics in order to show that Goole had had its fair share of the export trade. I am quite prepared to show the Secretary of mines that, during the time of the five counties scheme, when a kind of subsidy was being given to the foreigner, exports of coal were up. The Labour Government proposed machinery, in order to assist certain classes of coal, and the entire Conservative party, supported by the Liberals, went out of their way to defeat it. By two votes we lost an Amendment, and in six weeks some of the people who had voted against it came round to the Mines Department, almost squealing for it to be inserted again. Hon. Members opposite are not going through without being reminded of what took place a couple of years ago, when we happened to be in office but without the power that they have got.
So far as production is concerned, may I emphasise what has been said by the hon. Member for Workington (Mr. Cape)? We have heard a great deal about low wages in Lancashire, and we on these benches know that it is true. We also know that wages were low in Lancashire before Japanese competition became as fierce as it is. In the mining industry to-day tens of thousands of men are going home with less than 30s. a week. Can the Secretary for Mines deny that? The average wage in 1932 was £2 0s. 11d. per week, before off-takes were deducted, and, in order to get an average, you must have some above and 312 some below. In Durham the subsistence wage for adult miners is 6s. 6½d. a day, in Northumberland Os. 3d., and in South Wales it varies from 7s. to 7s. 6d. per shift. If the Secretary for Mines has taken the opportunity of visiting one or two pits since he assumed office, I think he will agree that that; is a very low wage indeed for the labour and danger that men and lads have to undergo.
Therefore, we say to the House that, whatever the Government do as regards conceding machinery for regulating wages, the mine workers are not content with the wages that are being paid to them now. I hope the House will appreciate what I mean when I say that the miners of this country are not sitting licking wounds received in the late War; the miners are trying to get machinery whereby disputes between both parties can be thrashed out on their merits nationally. In asking for that, we are not asking for anything extreme, and I want to register my protest that the Prime Minister, who so ably misrepresents a mining constituency, is not present to deal with this matter. We have a right to ask that there should be some definite machinery for that purpose.
My hon. Friend the Member for Workington said that the miner was always ready for a fight, and we are quite prepared to admit that we have a certain amount of pugnacity, but the great scandal is that conditions in the mining industry in the past have been such as almost to compel any decent-minded men to resist what was being put before them. If the mining industry were organised as it ought to be organised, there would be no need for disputes or low wages, and I will almost plead with the spokesman of the Government to state definitely what the Government intend to do with regard to this demand for national machinery. In asking for that, we are only asking for what we believe to be absolutely fair, but I will be perfectly frank; in 1924, when I happened to be Parliamentary Private Secretary to Mr. Shinwell, I heard one of the officials of the Mining Association say, "We never did believe in national agreements, and we never shall." Quite frankly, I do not think the coalowners of this country will agree to it voluntarily, but we think we have a just case, and, if the owners are not prepared to see reason, we think we are right in asking the Government to 313 insist that the parties shall come together and have machinery for thrashing out their differences, exactly as in the case of some other industries in the country.
I regret that there is no reference in the King's Speech to one or two matters of importance to the industrial workers of this country. During the past week we have had very keen and interesting Debates on disarmament and many other topics, but hon. Members know that the struggle for a living to-day inside the constituency is perhaps the main thing that concerns the average man and woman. I regret that there is no reference in the King's Speech to any legislation dealing with workmen's compensation. Workmen's compensation is not a matter that is confined solely to the mining industry; it is a matter that affects and is of importance to every industrial worker in the country. There is a good deal of poverty in various industrial districts owing to the inadequacy of the present law governing workmen's compensation. In the first place, the weekly maximum for total disability, namely 30s., is too low. Many men who are fortunate enough to be in receipt of the full 30s. are compelled to have recourse to public assistance in order to keep their homes going. That puts on the local authorities a burden which ought to be carried by the industry. There are, however, very few people who are getting the maximum of 30s., particularly in the mining industry, because, to my mind, the basis of calculation is wrong. An attempt is made to ascertain the average wage by taking a period into account, and, owing to there being so much short time, the average is made on a series of broken weeks. The result is that many men who in the ordinary course of things would be entitled to the full 30s. are drawing as little as 22s. 6d. In our opinion the average wage ought to be the average wage for a normal week's work.
There is another important point. There is no compulsory insurance, which, to my mind, is almost criminal. It is true that the compensation law states quite definitely that, in the event of an employer going into liquidation, the first call on the assets shall be for the men who are in receipt of compensation; but there is an abundance of evidence in the country that many men are left to the mercy of public assistance committees be- 314 cause, when firms have gone bankrupt, having failed to insure their compensation risks, there have been practically no assets. Frankly, we do not expect from this Government legislation regarding workmen's compensation on the lines declared in the Bib prepared by the Labour party, but we do think that in the King's Speech there ought to have been some reference to legislation for dealing with the more obvious defects in the present workmen's compensation law, and I urge the Government to give consideration to that matter and to pay more attention to these questions which are of industrial importance.
We are living to-day in an age of mechanisation. We are told in the King's Speech that provision is to be made to establish a new system for the assistance and welfare of the unemployed outside insurance. We shall hear more about the Unemployment Bill next week, but I would ask the House to appreciate the fact that in the heavy industries, and particularly in the mining industry, when men of 55 to 60 get out of work there is very little chance for them ever to get back into the pits again. With the mechanisation of the mines, it is necessary to have young, strong men at the coal face; men are wanted who can get the stuff on to the conveyors very quickly; and the position of these middle-aged men who are out of work is almost a tragedy. Many of them are going on week after week and month after month under the means test—one of the most degrading things that was ever put upon decent men who are out of work through no fault of their own. I say without the slightest fear of contradiction that men who have spent the whole of their working life in industry, when they reach an age at which industry does not want them, have as much right to be pensioned off with a decent pension as High Court judges have. In the case of the mining industry, would it not be far better to give a man at 60 a decent pension and let him spend at least the autumn of his life in something like comfort, than that he should have to get up morning after morning feeling that everyone in the world is against him? It is perfectly true that some employers have encouraged pension schemes at their own pits, and good luck and all credit to them. I would ask the spokesman of the Government what the Government propose to do in this direc- 315 tion; there is no mention of it in the King's Speech.
It must be remembered that these matters are of serious import, and, whether hon. Members opposite like it or not, Caesar has spoken at one or two by-elections in the last two or three weeks. Like my hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), I urge the Government to take the King's Speech back and bring in more constructive Measures. I believe it is recorded in history that one monarch, when he had finished reading the Speech from the Throne, turned round to one of the peers and said, "Did I read it well?" "Yes, your Majesty," was the reply, "because there is nothing in it." There is very little in this King's Speech that will make for the salvation and comfort of the industrial population, and I would urge the Government to take it back and come forward with bold constructive Measures—to make up their minds that industry has to be reorganised on a different basis. So far as this King's Speech is concerned, I honestly believe that, when the Government are called to the bar of public opinion, they will be sentenced to a period in Opposition. I would urge the Secretary for Mines and the President of the Board of Trade to be perfectly frank and definite with the Miners' Federation, and I hope it will be possible for them to announce to the House to-night that the Government have made up their minds that there must be established in this country national machinery for the purpose of thrashing out these differences entirely on their merits.
§ 6.13 p.m.
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
I have never yet taken more than 12 minutes for a speech, and I hope to keep to that precedent today. I am not going to follow the last speaker, but I want to return, if I may, to the speaker who preceded him. My hon. Friend the Member for Gorton (Mr. Bailey) used the personal pronoun a good deal in the course of his speech. I should not have minded if he had stuck to the "I," but I. was distinctly suspicious when he went on to use "we." There was a great deal in his speech with which I could not associate myself. As a matter of fact, to give my candid opinion of it, it reminded me of a saying of Talleyrand about Madame de Stael: 316She is such a good friend that she would throw all her acquaintances into the water for the pleasure of pulling them out again.I, too, regret that in the King's Speech there was not a positive mention of the negotiations which are at present proceeding between the two industries. After all, they transcend the trade agreements in importance. Certainly I understand that those negotiations are not Government negotiations, but, nevertheless, they are in private fostered, encouraged, and I hope enthusiastically supported by the Government, and it has been openly stated that the Government wish them well. I wish they would wish them so well that the Gracious Speech had made mention of them. Nevertheless, I must dissociate myself from the point of view that has been expressed by some speakers. I do not believe, for example, that increased protection in the home market is going to benefit the cotton trade very considerably. The home market is about one-third of our total production of our cotton goods. Of that one-third, in 1931 about 87,000,000 yards were imported, and in 1932 only 13,000,000 yards—a very satisfactory result. In the case of hosiery, the value of the imports in 1931 was £1,500,000, and in 1932, £230,000. If you go to made-up shirting, the value in 1930 was £1,400,000, and in 1932 only £200,000. Surely we cannot, in face of that, say the home market has not been fairly protected. There is no case there against the Government. As to the Colonial market, in what Colonies are we free to put on preferential duties against the Japanese? We are not free to put them on in Southern Rhodesia. Ceylon, or the Straits Settlements. In most of the Crown Colonies we are not free to put on preferential duties for our goods. It is for them to do so, and many of them have done so, though it is true that, faced with the competition which we have to meet, those preferences are inadequate.
It is worth while inquiring on what that Japanese competition is based. It is based on five distinct causes. The first and most important is currency depreciation. The second is the fact that they went off the Gold Standard as a deliberate policy, their organisation was such that that industry could previously be informed of it, and they bought enormous stocks of raw cotton at gold prices—3½d. per lb. Third in importance 317 is the low standard of living in Japan. To be fair to the Japanese—and we all want to be fair to them—the dormitory system, the system of entertainment of their workpeople, the system of providing them with food, and welfare work, must all be taken into wages and, if we take them into wages, we shall probably find that their total wage is not 20 but about 50 per cent. of Lancashire wages—low enough, but not so low as some people say. The fourth reason, and a very powerful one, is that they have by far the best organisation in the whole world. Seventy per cent. of the raw cotton is imported by three firms, and those same firms export 40 per cent. of the finished cotton goods. The remaining 30 per cent. of the raw cotton is imported by /2 other firms which export the remaining 00 per cent. of cotton goods. It is an organisation that is so perfect that they were able to buy enough raw cotton before Japan went off the Gold Standard without the rest of the world knowing the exact time, and they bought their stocks of cotton accordingly. The last cause is freight rebates on their raw cotton. I believe they come to 4s. 3d. from Karachi and 2s. 6d. from Bombay on 400 lbs. As against that, it is only fair to mention that both our raw cotton, when we import it from India, has to pay Suez Canal dues, which are very considerable, and the whole of our cotton piece goods exported to the East also have to pay those dues, which are a very considerable factor.
Those are the bases of Japanese competition, and I want to put to the House three possible methods of dealing with that competition. The first is discrimination by ourselves alone, with what support we can get within our Empire. The second is discrimination by this country with the support of such foreign countries as will give us their support. The third is negotiation. With regard to the first, further protection would not give us in the home market work for more than one or two mills. In the Crown Colonies we are limited to that of Jamaica, the total volume of whose trade of all kinds last year was £700,000. I believe we are not able to put on preference in the Straits Settlements because of the network of treaties with native States. With regard to Africa, it 318 is a very nice point, and not an obvious stroke of policy, as to whether the Treaties should be cancelled. Under them we have considerable advantages as well as considerable liabilities. It is a totally false statement that is constantly made that the French reserve their colonies for themselves. We export to French West Africa three times as much as France does. Look at the trade figures for Morocco. We export five times as much as France. The Japanese have captured Indo-China and Madagascar. I am not saying that they do not impose duties, but they are not reserved by France for herself.
Surely we cannot blame our Government for the attitude that they have taken in India. The recent agreement is all to the good. It is a very considerable step in helping for the future, and surely Lancashire ought to welcome it as such.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
What is that agreement? It is that, if the finances of India will allow them, they may reduce their tariff from 25 to 20 per cent. against Lancashire.
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
I am referring not only to that agreement but also to the negotiations at present going on between India and Japan. Certain advantages have been mentioned which would be of considerable benefit to this country, more particularly if bleached dyes for printed goods were specifically mentioned in categories in that agreement, as I hope they will be. It is surely a fact that the Clare Lees agreement has not only reduced the tariff by five per cent. if the Indian Government see their way to do it, but it is also, I think, true that it has inaugurated an absolutely new spirit of good will of trade negotiations between this country and India, and we ought to welcome that.
§ Mr. BAILEY
Is the hon. Member suggesting that any previous speaker has in any way impugned the value of the Indian negotiations?
§ Mr. CROSSLEY
Not for a moment. The interruption of my hon. and gallant Friend did seem to suggest that he had that point of view, but I was not suggesting that any previous speaker had made that point.
If we can set aside discrimination by this country alone, what is the next alter- 319 native? It is discrimination by this country in conjunction with foreign countries. This proposal tempted me very considerably for a long time until very recently indeed. France is afraid of oriental competition. The French Prime Minister, at any rate, sent out a balloon. Italy is also nervous and Signor Mussolini recently made a speech showing that he was worried about Oriental competition. Certainly Holland is worried, and with good reason when you consider her position in the Dutch East Indies. Certainly Belgium is worried, and I think Spain is. In face of these facts the idea is, at any rate, one to play with, and I have played with it to the extent of going into it very thoroughly and being very tempted. Two particular reasons tempted me. First of all, co-operation between any countries for the sake of co-operation itself is a desirable thing, and this is a field in which several countries might co-operate.
Then I felt that it would be a tremendous advantage for the operative to feel that Western countries were standing up together for his standard of life. The Lancashire operative is the best fellow in the world. He is proud, he is hospitable and he is cheerful. I can tell the right hon. Gentleman on the Front Bench that he is as hospitable today, when he is offering me drinks with success in the Conservative Club in Oldham, as he was when he was offering him drinks without success in the Reform Club. I would do anything if I felt that something positive and immediate could be done for him. But on consideration I decided to put commercial discrimination aside. It was very tempting, but, on the whole, I. thought it was wrong. Perhaps the speaker who is to reply for the Government will tell me whether I was right in thinking it wrong. My argument was this. Tariffs are horrible things. They are the first step downward in world trade. We were reluctantly forced to adopt tariffs. We did so positively against our will. I am sure the whole country would say it would be better to be Free Trade if we could be. The next step to tariffs along that downward path is commercial discrimination, and we should be guilty of commercial discrimination, we the people who still stand to suffer more from it than any 320 other race in the world. I should be sorry to see our Government heading a lunatic procession down that road.
One turns to the third alternative, which is negotiation. I do not believe that the negotiations at present on foot are going to fail, for two reasons. I do not believe it is in Japan's interest to enforce a confederation of nations against herself. Already she has a new alliance—Russia on one side and America on the other. There is not the slightest doubt that, if negotiation is impossible, you have to come down to discrimination on a wide basis, and it is surely fatal to Japan to have discrimination against her, and she knows it. For the same reason it is not to our interest to try to exclude Japan wholly from the markets of the world. It is like turning off the throttle of a steam-engine—keeping the steam in the engine until it bursts. Japan has a population problem. We also have a population problem, and our aim should be, as far as possible, to recover the markets that we have lost, but not to the total exclusion of Japan. I do not think, for these reasons, that the negotiations with Japan will fail, and I believe that they are in the true interests of Lancashire. May I remind the right hon. Gentleman of a phrase with which every Lancashire Member is familiar? They say in our clubs, "We look to our M.P. to put Lancashire on the map." We at present are looking to the Board of Trade, and, to quote the words of Lord Chancellor Bacon:There is no secret like celerity.At the same time, some of us Lancashire Members are willing to bear in mind some other words of the same great Lord Chancellor:Let us stay a little that we may make an end the sooner.
§ 6.30 p.m.
§ The PRESIDENT of the BOARD of TRADE (Mr. Runciman)
I am sure that the House would wish me to begin by saying with what pleasure we have heard the speech of the hon. Member for Oldham (Mr. Crossley). I would remind him that Oldham has always been fully represented in this House, and I am glad to think it is following in that tradition. It is also somewhat comforting that, in spite of trade depression, 321 the habits of the people of Oldham remain very much as they were 35 years ago. The Debate has ranged over a very wide area, and it has to some extent been taken alternately into the regions of cotton and coal. I make no complaint to hon. Gentlemen opposite for having voiced their feelings about the problems of the coal trade, although I would remind them that it is a little inconvenient to have it generally understood that we were to deal this afternoon with cotton only and then to find that important speeches were also made on the coal trade.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I understand that there was an arrangement of that kind. However, I make no complaint. The only thing that I would like to say is that it is a little inconvenient to have to deal with two subjects in one speech. I will say a word or two on coal before I go on to cotton, which is the subject upon which I would detain the House this afternoon. My hon. Friend the Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell), whose speeches are always listened to with great interest in this House, put the case of the South Wales miner very well. He knows how to describe his daily life, his industrial anxieties, his social setting, and the anxieties which he has in regard to work, and the employment of his children, and I do not differ from much that he said on the social side of the coal troubles. My hon. Friend who sat down a few minutes ago also laid great emphasis upon the industrial negotiations which he would wish to see incorporated in the general arrangements of the coal trade. He made some reference to the fact that he would like to have spoken directly into the ear of the Prime Minister if he had been present. May I tell him that the Prime Minister wrote a short time ago to the Miners' Federation to say that he would be ready to receive them and to ask that before they came to see him at Downing Street they would be so good as to let him have some indication on paper of what they would wish to discuss. I have made inquiries this afternoon, and I am informed that that statement has not yet reached him, but as soon as it has reached him he will arrange, at an early 322 date, a conference between representatives of the Federation and himself. I hope that my hon. Friend will be satisfied with that at the moment.
I would point out that the coal trade is like the cotton trade in two respects. It employs a very large number of people when it is working to the utmost, and out of its very large industrial population there is at the present moment a big percentage out of work. But it would be a misdescription of both the coal trade and the cotton trade to declare that there have been no improvements anywhere. Both of these industries are patchy. There are some districts where things are not as bad as they were. For instance, there is no doubt that in the North East district there has been a considerable improvement this year in the coal trade. We are not back to the big figures of the bumper years, but, at all events, there is a greater amount of employment now in the North East of England and in the East of Scotland than there has been for a very long time past. I am sure that the House will forgive me if I say that to a certain degree—I do not wish to overstate it—the increase in employment and in the demand for that coal is a direct result of the trade agreements which have been negotiated this year. It may not be very much, but let us be thankful for anything. We do not wish to see depression in the coal trade going on without efforts being made piecemeal as well as by the larger scope of policy to improve the condition of those who work in it and who live by it. That is to some extent also true of the cotton trade. I heard the hon. Member for Blackburn (Sir W. Smiles) speak of the depression in his constituency. He gave us a very familiar account. I do not wonder, because I gather from the Ministry of Labour figures that there is about 34 per cent. of the workers in Blackburn out of work at the present time. But do not let us overdo the description.
§ Lieut.-Colonel Sir WALTER SMILES
It was not the hon. Member for Blackburn but the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Thorp).
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I beg my hon. Friend's pardon. I think it was the hon. Member for Nelson and Colne (Mr. Thorp). I need hardly remind the House 323 that when we debate these industrial problems in the House of Commons, we catch not only the ears of Members who happen to be here, and not in other parts of the premises, but we are also saying things which are listened to all over Asia I have no doubt that our competitors in every part of the world will take very careful note of the discussion which is taking place here this afternoon. Do not let them go away with the impression that we have done, that we have finished. We have not. Our ingenuity has not come to an end, either in the organisation of industry or in the management of our finances, or in the international arrangements which we make one with another. Do not let it be supposed that those who are engaged in the cotton industry have ceased to be skilful. For my own part, I believe that those who are actually engaged in the running of the Lancashire cotton trade are among the most highly specialised and skilled business men in the world. Indeed, it is very largely due to their very high specialisation that in some respects there is serious trouble. There they are, with the great skill and great potentialities of the work-people, who are the admiration of the world; and I hope that we shall not give the impression that we have come to the end of our prosperity. I would very gladly tell the House, if it were possible, of some great stroke of policy which was to put everything right.
I have listened with very great care, as, I am sure, has the whole House, to each speech made by representatives of Lancashire, but I am sorry to say that, having listened with great care, not only to-night but also on another occasion when on the Adjournment of the House the subject was raised, the only practical suggestions which I have heard made were those of my hon. Friend the Member for Oldham. [HON MEMBERS: "No."] That is my view, and I have listened very carefully. I can only say that if there are any other suggestions, the sooner they are trotted out the better. Do not let it be supposed, however, that because during the time of the Parliamentary Session we do not have cotton discussed every day in the week, the Government therefore are doing nothing on every day In the week. We have a very clear view as to what we believe to be the best way 324 of dealing with the situation. We say, in the first place, that it does not necessarily follow that because a Government is full of good-hearted people who are agreed as to the state of the industry therefore they have the very best brains to devote to the solution of that industry. It does not necessarily follow that because our hearts are in the right place our heads are really efficient. I am prepared to put into the common pot whatever ideas we can gather together from politicians, Government Departments, industrialists or from anybody else who is well informed. When those who are riot well informed plunge in and are taken seriously outside, it is possible that they may do more harm than good. That was one of the reasons why we felt that if we were to deal with our markets in Asia, we had far better do it in the first instance by means of the industrialists themselves.
When we suggested that Sir William Clare Lees and his colleagues should go out to India, it was because we knew that he would take with him men who knew what they were talking about, and who were specialists, each in his own department. While they were out in India they did not talk politics but strict business from beginning to end. What was the result of adopting that method of dealing with the situation? The result has been set out in documents considered with very great care by the authorities in Lancashire. Among those documents is to be found a letter from Sir Joseph Shore, who represents the Government of India in these subjects, to Sir William Clare Lees. After saying how much good he believed had been done by sending these industrialists to India, enabling them to understand the Indian point of view, and enabling the Indian public to understand the Lancashire point of view, he goes on to say:You understand, I know, that our economic policy has been and will be framed primarily with a view to the best interests of India. But, subject to that basic condition, we are at all times ready and anxious to assist British trade and to foster and enlarge the trade exchanges between Great Britain and this country.That is a statement of general principles, which have been embodied in the agreement with the Bombay Millowners' Association. One of my hon. Friends who represents a Lancashire constituency said this afternoon that he did not think very 325 much of the agreement. He rather pooh-poohed it, and put it on one side as of no particular good. I do not hold the same view as he does. I think that if we can obtain agreements between industrialists we shall have taken a very strong step forward, and if we make an agreement with them we shall have removed one of the obstacles undoubtedly in the way, whether of India or of the United Kingdom, of a satisfactory conclusion on the subject of import duties. The agreement with the Bombay mill-owners, under which a preference to the United Kingdom goods is accepted as a fair and desirable principle, undertakes not to object to a reduction on Lancashire goods from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent. My hon. and gallant Friend on my right said that that is almost a contemptible figure.
§ Lieut.-Commander ASTBURY
I think that in the present state of trade it is almost a contemptible figure. It is subject to a proviso. It is only when the finances of India will allow them to reduce it.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
That is true, but it is 5 per cent. downwards, and my hon. and gallant Friend does not seem to take that fact into account. Our experience for nearly a whole generation has been that duties in India have tended to go upwards, and that is one of the reasons why, unfortunately, Lancashire has lost its old grip upon the Indian market. Had it not been for the visit of the industrialists to India there would not have been that agreement. My hon. and gallant Friend says "Yes, but that is subject to a proviso." Let us see what the proviso is: "When the Government of India can afford it." That is the proviso to which he refers. Is not that worth having? I hope that the Government of India is to have a good financial year. If at the end of the financial year they have something in the nature of a surplus, it might be that under the old arrangements there would be no drop, and it would still remain at 25 per cent. but under this agreement it may drop from 25 per cent. to 20 per cent. If, however, the finances of India go wrong and they have a deficit, I do not think that we can be surprised if the percentage is not lowered, but all that comes, not from the industrialists of India but actually from the members of the Indian Govern- 326 ment itself. Let us take it for what it is worth, and it is certainly worth a good deal.
The next main result which has been achieved by this deputation to India is that they have secured an expression of willingness by the Government of India to enter into discussions for a new trade agreement relating to British cotton and artificial silk goods as soon as the negotiations in the proceedings with the Japanese Government are concluded. It will be recalled by the House that the United Kingdom Indian Agreement was concluded at Ottawa in August, 1932. It was not possible to deal in a precise way with these commodities because they were then under discussion by the Indian Tariff Board. That Board subsequently reported, but the document which embodies their report has not been acted upon, nor has it been published. The whole situation, however, has been profoundly modified by the development of Japanese competition in the Indian market. That has led to denunciation by the Government of India of the IndoJapanese Commercial Agreement, and negotiations for a new agreement are proceeding in India between the two Governments.
I am sure that the whole House will realise that it would be impossible to deal here with the technical details of an agreement such as is now being discussed in Delhi and elsewhere in India. The Indian Government, however, has been very well posted by the delegation which went from this country and I have no doubt that their commercial department is more adequately informed of the United Kingdom views on the question of cotton than ever before. That has been of very considerable service, and I should like on behalf of the Government to thank Sir William Clare Lees and his colleagues for the admirable work which they did out there, at very great inconvenience to themselves and at a time of the year when travelling in India is none too pleasant. They have come back not in triumph, because to have done that would have been foolish, but with a businesslike arrangement, threshed out between the Bombay mill owners and themselves, and now we are awaiting a settlement between the Indian Government and the Japanese Government. This is a step in the right direction and ought 327 to bring about a settlement of many of these troubles without our having to resort to those acts of fiscal war, which are present in the minds of some hon. Members.
I should like to point out that what I am saying now is not an expression of despair; far from it. I know perfectly well that those who represent this country in the conversations with the Japanese industrialists, are only likely to pull their full weight if it is known that His Majesty's Government and this House are satisfied with the work of their industrial representatives, and that the Government stands behind them. I do not wish to say anything more than that on the subject, except to make it clear that I would rather have an agreement of this nature negotiated by the industrialists without the intervention of the Government than with the intervention of the Government. The politician may very easily say that it is a good thing that he should be able to go back to his constituency and say: "We have wrung out of the Government concessions in favour of your trade," but I beg of them not to regard the Lancashire cotton industry as a fit subject for that sort of experiment. There are very great interests to guard in Lancashire and you can best guard them by allowing those engaged in the industry to come forward with the arrangement which they have devised, which must vary in detail according to the various sections and departments of that very complicated industry and which can only achieve anything like complete success if it is known not only that the delegation but also the Government are acting in unison.
I think in one quarter of the House some dissatisfaction was expressed at the Government's intervention in the case of the action suggested to be taken in Jamaica. I am surprised that that should have been raised, because my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for the Colonies in this House, in reply to a question, made a very full statement on that subject, in which he made it perfectly clear that what has been done in Jamaica was only in order that, for a short time, the atmosphere should be kept clear of complications in our negotiations with the representative of Japan. There is no reason why ultimately 328 Jamaica should not do what she proposes if our negotiations do not succeed, provided that she does it within the limit of the Treaty obligations to which we have all set our hands. It was suggested that perhaps the Secretary of State for the Colonies might think it necessary to make the point clearer, but I do not think it is necessary. The answer that he gave was full and clear and ought to satisfy anyone who takes a reasonable view of the way you conduct negotiations between a country like ours and Crown Colonies or other great Dependencies of the Empire, who are bound by obligations, and who are likely to find difficulties in the future no less than our own.
Having said so much on the subject of cotton I should like to conclude by putting in a plea to the House for a full consideration of what actually has been done in the way of improving the prospects of this trade during the last 12 months. I have no desire whatever to exaggerate any improvement in any section of our industry, but where there has been improvement there is no reason why we should be ashamed of it. I observed the other day that one right hon. Gentleman thought that our cotton exports were going steadily down. As a matter of fact our cotton exports are higher for the first 10 months of 1933 than they were for the first 10 months of 1931, although slightly lower than the first 10 months of 1932. They are not going down; they have gone up since 1931. Then, are, of course, fluctuations up and down, arid it may be that broken periods may account for that. The only point that I am making is that it is absurd to be in despair about the state of Lancashire trade when figures such as these are to be found in our published documents.
§ Major PROCTER
Is it not true that the yardage of Japanese exports is equal to our own at this moment, and is mounting?
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I think the right hon. Gentleman was quoting me. He does not suggest that there was any inaccuracy in what I said, namely, that the exports of cotton goods, piece goods and yarns, are less this year than last year.
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
Yes, but they are rather more than they were two years 329 ago. I do not complain of the way my right hon. Friend raised the point, but if he draws attention to the falling off compared with last year he ought to have drawn attention to the rise compared with two years ago. Do not let us take a more gloomy view than is necessary. There is another way of gauging what is happening in the cotton industry and that is in the number of persons employed. Official statistics show that the number of persons employed in the cotton industry during the week ending 28th October, 1933, increased by 3.5 per cent. on the figures of a month before and of 2.9 per cent. on the figures of a year ago. There is no reason for us to be in despair, according to these figures. True, they do not show much improvement, but. they are going in the right direction. That reminds me of the complaint made by the hon. Member for Gower. He said there was no confidence in the country, because things were so depressed. He gave figures showing what our exports were to some foreign country, and he said it was so depressing that he almost despaired of the future. In some other quarters of the House there has. been much the same sort of feeling.
I should like to point out that for the first nine months of 1933 compared with last year our total exports to all foreign countries rose from £147,500,000 in the period January to September, 1932, to £l50,000,000, an increase of £2,500,00—not a very great deal, but in times of falling prices it really means that we are going in the right direction. Take the case of Empire countries. In the same period, January to September, 1938, there was an export of £123,000,000 and for the same period of 1933 it was down by about £5,000,000. That was due to the fact that there was a drop of £7,000,000 in the exports to the Irish Free State, purely an abnormal thing and not depending on the general prosperity of industry as a whole. But for this reduction in exports to the Irish Free State our Empire exports would have been increased by over £2,000,000.
When I am asked what are the grounds on which we have growing confidence I say that we look at the returns from month to month. We look particularly at our exports. It was suggested that under the policy of the present Government our exports would disappear. On 330 the contrary, I notice that (for every month) in 1933 there has been a steady rise in our exports, from January right up to October. The average for January and February was £28,600,000; March—April £29,600,000; May and June £29,600,000; July—August £30,400,000; September 232,200,000; October £34,100,000, a steady rise. That really is one of the reasons why confidence is growing. My hon. Friend opposite is wrong in thinking that confidence has been exhausted. In a great many business quarters they are working now as they have not been able to work for many years past. The other day I was at Sheffield, in the very heart of the steel industry, and I saw there a great works which only three years ago were almost idle, now working right up to their full capacity. By working to their full capacity they are able to produce their goods at the end of their processes actually a t as low prices as were being charged a year ago. When we gave a degree of protection to the steel industry we did it on the understanding that they were not to penalise the steel users. They have carried out that undertaking and they are able to produce their highest output a t figures which were regarded as almost hopeless only a year ago and the consequence is that they are employing more and more men in these industries.
Well over 300,000 more people are employed today than were employed a comparatively short time ago, and that is due not to a mere fluke but it is the outcome of a settled policy. If I am asked to express an opinion about the trade and commerce of this country as a whole. I say that compared not merely with two years ago but even with 12 months ago we are now reaping some of the fruits of our policies. I am glad to think that in some of the principal trades—I should particularly welcome it in coal, cotton and shipping—there will be a continuous improvement as a result not only of the influence of the Government but of the will of Parliament and the ability of our people.
§ Mr. T. SMITH
Can the right hon. Gentleman say definitely whether the Government are in favour or are opposed to the idea of settling miners' wages on a national basis?
§ Mr. RUNCIMAN
I think my hon. Friend ought to address that question to the Minister for Mines. In any case I 331 believe that is one of the topics that is to be discussed with the Prime Minister if and when representatives of the Miners' Federation see him.
§ Mr. BAILEY
May I put a question to the right hon. Gentleman in regard to an observation in his speech? He said that in regard to the Debate to-day the hon. Member for Oldham had made the only helpful proposals, or words to that effect. He also said that on the Motion for the Adjournment the other night the hon. Member for Oldham was the only Member to make practical proposals. I have searched the Official Report and I find that the only observation from the hon. Member for Oldham on that occasion was to ask a question about the French Colonial Possessions. I should be very grateful if the right hon. Gentleman would supply information to the House so that we can have the advantage of those helpful proposals.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
I thought the hon. Member was only going to ask a. question. He appears to be making another speech which he is not entitled to do.
§ 7.0 p.m.
§ Mr. GEOFFREY PETO
I do not propose to deal generally with the Speech, beyond congratulating the Government on the progress which the country has made during last year. The point which I want to raise does not affect any particular trade or industry, such as cotton or coal, but workmen in all industries. It concerns an amendment of the Workmen's Compensation Acts. The hon. Member for Normanton (Mr. T. Smith) has already touched upon the Workmen's Compensation Acts. If I had been successful in the Ballot I had hoped to introduce a Bill to make this very simple alteration, hut unfortunately I was not successful, and I speak now in the hope that some hon. Member may introduce a Bill, or, possibly, of inducing the Government to do so themselves. I allude to the question of paying lump sums for compensation into court instead of directly to the workman himself. I raised the point last spring in a letter to the "Times," and a long letter was published in reply from His Honour Judge Burgis, one of the most distinguished judges of the county courts, very strongly supporting the case which I put up. The 332 county court judges have at present control over lump sum compensation money paid to minors and to dependants, and the amendment which I wish to see is one which will compel all lump sum compensations, whether to adults or to infants, to be paid into the county court to be distributed under control of the judges. That amendment has not only the support of many judges; it has also the support of many trade unions, certainly of a great number of trade unionists, and of employers and individual workers.
What happens to-day? A man meets with an accident; he loses his earning power temporarily or permanently; he gets compensation. He gets possibly some hundreds of pounds in compensation—a man who has never handled more than a weekly wage. What chance has that man of investing that money for his own ultimate benefit? He knows nothing of investment; he knows nothing of retail businesses. The most probable thing to happen is that some unwise adviser or some wilfully dishonest shark gets hold of that man, gets the money from him, and invests it in some enterprise that has no possible chance of paying, or makes some other unremunerative use of it. The capital is soon lost, and if it is not lost in that way it may soon be lost in speculation, drink or any other of the frailties to which human flesh is liable. The man, having lost that compensation, is then left, with his family, to depend upon his relations or his neighbours. By his neighbours I mean what we are pleased to call the State. The money the State pays to anybody to keep him alive comes out of the pockets of his neighbours in the same street and in the same town, or in the country generally.
It only needs a very small Bill to enact that all sums of money payable for compensation shall he paid into court. We may be told that we are interfering with the liberty of the subject. A man gets compensation to-day even though the accident may have been caused by conduct directly contrary to the instructions of the employer. He may have been told not to handle machinery in a certain way and has handled it in that way. The employer, has, therefore, not only to pay compensation for an accident which is in no way his fault, and against which he has taken every possible precaution, but he may also have to pay his share of 333 rates and taxes to maintain that man after the compensation money has been lost. Judge Burgis, in his letter to the "Times," says that a private Member could not do better than introduce a Bill remedying this state of affairs. He writes:By bringing about this much needed reform he will receive the gratitude of the families of countless injured workmen. It is a reform which should be pressed for by everyone interested in the welfare and happiness of the working man.We, to whatever party we belong, are interested in the welfare and happiness of the working man. It is pathetic for a Judge to be placed in the position of being approached by a man's family and warned that the money will be entirely lost and the man's future imperilled if it is handed to him. The Judge is quite powerless to intervene in the matter; he can only say to the wife or father: "I am sorry, I cannot do anything; the money has got to go to that man." Then, in a year's time, the relatives come to the Judge again and say, "All that money has gone, and the man has ruined himself and his future."
I respectfully submit to the Government that this is a question which they should deal with at the earliest possible moment. I know that the Home Secretary is considering it, and that a great deal of work is being done on the subject. Naturally, inquiries have to be made at the Home Office. I do hope that the matter will be pressed forward to a satisfactory conclusion, and that we shall have this defect removed from the law during the course of the present Session.
§ 7.7 p.m.
I read the Gracious Speech with very great interest, and listened to the larger part of the discussion that has taken place, and also to the reply regarding the mining and cotton situation that has been made by the President of the Board of Trade. I suggest that he has given us very little satisfaction from the miner's point of view. One would have thought that the Government, knowing full well the condition of the coal industry, knowing perfectly well the condition of the men who are employed in that industry, would by now at least have framed a policy to present to this House concerning their 334 future intentions in dealing with the mining situation. Every statement that has been made on the mining situation during the whole tenure of office by the Government has been evasive. No stand has been taken by the Government yet; no clear statement has ever been made as to what the Government's policy is for the future of the mining situation. Hon. Members have expressed during this Debate their disappointment with the mining situation generally. The Government have made no statement on the improvement of wages, the setting up of some central authority, or the introduction of new miners' regulations, and evasive answers have been given to all questions during this Debate. We are still at a loss to understand what is in the minds of the Cabinet regarding the future of the mining situation.
By the Gracious Speech that was delivered by His Majesty one would at first glance be led to believe that there had been a general improvement in industrial trade and in the conditions of industrial workers. Let us analyse that supposition alongside the policy that the Government have pursued ever since they came into office. Depression has increased not only in the mining industry but also in agriculture. This Government came in with glowing promises, and blowing trumpets, as to what they were going to do for agriculture. They started the policy of tariffs. Nearly every Member of the Government and the supporters of the Government during these discussions have readily admitted that tariffs have been a failure. They have piled excessive costs of living on to the ordinary working man in the country, and during the same time the agricultural labourers in at least 17 counties have bad their wages reduced while this National Government has been in office. We were told, when the Government started to operate the policy, that it would give agriculture a lift and improve conditions generally. We were told also that the agricultural labourer would get some benefit as a result of the operations of those tariffs. We are finding now that in nearly every county where agriculture has any standing at all the wages hoards have recommended, and that in many cases there has actually taken place, a reduction of agricultural wages. In the West Biding of Yorkshire agricultural labourers have 335 recently suffered a, 5 per cent. reduction, and this in face of the Government's tariff policy, which has increased enormously the cost of living to the poorest people in the country.
I suggest that the Gracious Speech misrepresents the true position of the country. The only consolation that we on these benches have is the result of the recent by-election, which is beginning to prove that you can fool some of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. There is nothing in the Speech that gives the slightest indication of the restoration of the cuts to the unemployed, or of the cuts that took place in the social services—in education and public health. We are being told still by the Press which supports this National Government that we have turned the corner to prosperity, that trade is increasing, that the financial situation of the country is far better than it was when the Government took office. Yet at the same time the facts are that there is more poverty in the industrial centres to-day than ever there was; the international situation is far worse than it was when the Government took office, and our general national position has deteriorated considerably owing to the policy that they have pursued.
I should like to ask when we can expect from the Government the restoration of those cuts that took place at the beginning of 1932. Can we expect that the unemployed are going to have their cuts restored 4 Are we to expect that in any educational policy the thousands of children who have been robbed of their educational facilities are to have them restored 4 Are we to understand that the Government are going to do anything towards the restoration of the cuts in our public health services? It is by those standards that the ordinary man-in-the-street will judge prosperity, and the only prosperity that we can see, while the Government pursue the policy which they have put into operation ever since they took office, is the prosperity that has gone into the pockets of the rich; the poor are getting poorer. We see nothing in this Speech that gives us the slightest encouragement to believe that the Government are going to pursue any policy that is likely to improve the lot of the general industrial workers of this 336 country. We are only hoping and longing that the time is not far distant when the great tribunal of the electorate will have an opportunity of expressing themselves. I am quite satisfied that when they do, the present Government will get the biggest shock of their lives. They will find out that they have fooled the people for a considerable time, but the people are now beginning to see the light of day. There is no evidence of prosperity in the homes of working people, and by On standard only will the present Government be judged.
We are gravely disappointed with the reply of the President of the Board of Trade on the mining situation. We think that the Government should at once take steps to make the Coalowners' Association come into line and form some national board to control wages and improve the safety conditions under which miners work. This is long overdue. There is nothing in the Gracious Speech which is likely to improve the lot of the people, and we look forward to another year with great misapprehensions. Our only hope is that very soon the electorate of the country will have an opportunity to make the desirable change which many of us want to see.
§ 7.17 p.m.
There is common agreement, I believe, that sooner or later the Government will have to direct their attention to the deplorable condition of British shipping and British shipbuilding, and I profoundly regret that in the Gracious Speech there is no indication of a policy designed to assist these two branches of our national trading machine to enable them to meet on equal terms their foreign competitors. I have no intention of embarking on the thorny path of shipping subsidies or flag discrimination, because I am only indirectly concerned with these matters, but I do earnestly beg the Government to consider whether in adhering to their decision not to grant export credit guarantees to British shipbuilding they are, in fact, materially benefitting this country. A concrete example is a very good basis for an argument, and I therefore, recite the following facts. Within the last few months two British shipbuilding firms on the north-east coast were asked to tender for the building of two large trans-Atlantic liners designed 337 for Poland. The value of the order amounted to £1,000,000. The Poles were very anxious to place the order in this country and, like some other countries I could name, were desirous of obtaining a credit before they were able to place their order.
The shipbuilding firms were entirely unable to finance the building of these ships and the Government were therefore approached with a view of ascertaining whether they would consider the withdrawal of their ban on export credit guarantees to shipbuilding in order that the order might be executed in this country. The Government refused to reverse their policy, and although every attempt was made to bring the necessary pressure to bear the result was a direct negative. Even a politician fighting desperately in order to obtain work for a distressed area has his or her moments of lucidity and I am perfectly aware that to increase the surplus tonnage of the world is a very dangerous step in view of the state of British shipping at the moment, but I fail to appreciate, when actually the order was going to be placed either with this country or with a competitor, how it was going to be an advantage either to this country nationally or to British shipping to allow the order to be placed with some other nation. After the Government's refusal to reconsider their decision the inevitable result followed and the order was subsequently placed with an Italian shipbuilding firm. The reasons for the Government's refusal to reconsider their policy in regard to export credit guarantees were two, and I should like to make a brief examination of these reasons. Firstly, the Government said that they saw no reason, in view of present day circumstances, for altering the decision which was announced to the House by the late Mr. William Graham on 9th July, 1931, in the following terms:With regard to credits for ships, His Majesty's Government, in view of all the circumstances and especially the existing glut of tonnage, consider that Government guarantees should not be given for the building or sale of ocean going vessels for whatever country they may he designed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 9th July, 1931; col. 2262, Vol. 254.]But the fact remains, and I respectfully hope that it will be given full weight by the Government in any future considera- 338 tion of the problem of British shipbuilding, that in this specific instance the order has been placed with Italy as opposed to Great Britain, at a roughly estimated cost to the British taxpayer of something like £250,000 in unemployment benefit alone, irrespective of the loss of work to a large number of trades spread over the whole of the North-East Coast. I respectfully submit that the Government should reconsider their decision in the light of these facts.
The second reason vouchsafed by the Government for refusing to reconsider their decision was based on the fact that it was unwise for the British Government to offer credits to foreign shipbuilding firms to put ships on the high seas which were going to compete with British shipping in world markets. That argument can be wrecked in a few sentences. I need only give one instance of a country to which we are giving an extraordinary amount of credit for the House to appreciate the point I am trying to make. I have only to draw the attention of hon. Members to the amount of export credit guarantees we give to Russia. Expert opinion has come to the conclusion that if Russia achieves her object of becoming a first-class industrial Power, she will he the greatest competitor of Great Britain's goods in the world's markets, and I can see no difference in advancing export credit guarantees to Poland to build ships in this country and granting export credit guarantees to Russia to build up the industrialisation of her own country which will be a future danger to British trade.
Further, I make this point, that so far as ships are concerned this order would have been placed for a finished article, an enormous amount of British labour would have been employed and a large proportion of various industries, ranging through the joinery trades, the iron and steel trades, as well as the shipbuilding yards would have had work for a period of between two and three years. If one looks at some of the orders for which we grant export credit guarantees to Russia, we find that a large proportion are for semi-finished articles. I again ask the Government to consider whether some of the semi-finished articles which are supplied from Russia may not incidentally be used by Russia herself for the building of her own ships. I must emphasise my point by again drawing attention to the 339 distinction of treatment on what appears to be common ground.
I do not want the Government to assume that I am opposed to trade with Buss a. I am willing to accept any work which may be offered to this country by any nation, other than armaments which may be required outside any international agreements, provided we are paid for them and that trade union regulations are adhered to, but I feel that in refusing this order from Poland, on what may be termed purely moral grounds, our action was detrimental to the interests of British trade, and that it would be to the interests of this country it the Government would carefully reconsider their whole policy in this matter. I dislike intensely making any statements which may be contrary to the wishes of the Government, because I feel that they have done a tremendous amount towards re-establishing confidence in British trade throughout the world, but We have been asked again and again to vote for export credits for countries all over the world, to vote for loans to Austria, and the like, and I feel that it is essential in the interests of the North-East coast, and my own constituency in particular, that the facts should be made known to the house in the hope that in the future we may have some policy initiated by the Government which will give hope to British shipbuilders and to British shipping as a whole.
§ 7.28 p.m.
§ Mr. BANFIELD
There is one point in the Gracious Speech which, I think, most hon. Members will welcome, and that is a promise of legislation to reduce the hours of labour for young persons. This reform has been long overdue. The spectacle of young people working up to 71 hours per week, by legal enactment, is surely one of those things which we a/i desire to see abolished. I regret that the Gracious Speech did not go further on the question of hours of labour. The Government take a great amount of credit to themselves for the fact that unemployment figures are going down. When they are going up it is apparently more or less an act of providence, one of those things which cannot be helped, which are beyond the control of any Government; but when they go down, the Government very modestly come along and say, "Alone we did it; look at the 340 good things we have done. But this improvement in employment is, I regret to say, not merely as good as would appear from the figures. As a matter of fact, while the Government claim that there are to-day 550,000 more people employed, 237,000 of that total relate to men who have been employed on shot time, and the number of men who have been unemployed for a considerable time continues to grow. Permanent unemployment is still increasing. I suggest that the Government will be compelled to recognise that permanent unemployment will continue to grow. Sooner or later they will recognise that it is not sufficient to make provision for those who are unemployed, and that their duty is to find employment for the unemployed.
I want to impress upon those responsible that the question of the hours of labour will also have to be dealt with. It seems to me most unreasonable that at a time when there are over 2,000,000 unemployed, at least an equal number of those who are employed are working excessively long hours. That is so in the distributive trades particularly, in the transport trade and in all kinds of industries. I can speak from personal knowledge of 60 and 70 and even more hours per week being worked. I consider that no employer is justified in asking people to work that number of hours. At a time like this, when so many people require work, it is most unreasonable that others should be working far too long. We have been promised legislation on the hours of labour ever since the closing days of the War. The question has been discussed over and over again. All the information is in the hands of the Government and there is nothing to add to it so far as inquiry is concerned. Yet in the King's Speech, while the Government have at last recognised a little of their responsibility to younger people, the problem of the hours of labour still remains to be dealt with.
Another matter that I regret to see omitted from the King's Speech is any reference to the question of public works. In 1931 the Government were returned with a mandate for economy. They were filled with zeal to cut down expenses at any cost. Local authorities were prevented from proceeding with any schemes for public works that they had in hand. We are now told by the Government that 341 confidence is restored, that we have turned the corner. But we have heard many speeches to-day, and the burden of them all has been, "Look at what a plight my industry is in," "See what a terrible mess there is in the cotton trade, and in shipping and in coal." The President of the Board of Trade tries to put the best possible face on it. He says that everything tends in the right direction. We have been told that story for a long time, but the practical experience of those in industry does not bear out the confidence which the Government so readily assume.
I have had a communication from a big steel firm in my own constituency. They state that the steel side of their business has done practically nothing for two years, which is precisely the time that the present Government have been in office. In 1931 we were told that everything would be all right because there was a National Government. Unfortunately everything has been all wrong. This steel firm points out to me that the stopping or choking off of public works by local authorities has resulted in a tremendous falling off of trade in the steel industry. The firm suggests to me what I suggest to the Government, that public works are absolutely necessary, that even if the stoppage was justified at the time it was ordered the very first duty of the Government, now that they claim to have restored confidence and now that finance is beginning to have a brighter appearance from their own point of view, is to encourage local authorities to start public works again, so that necessary work may be done and employment may be found. I trust that that point will receive some consideration.
I want again to impress on the Government the point about the redistribution of work. Government speakers get up in this House and declare that trade is better in this, that and the other respect. The President of the Board of Trade told us just now that he had been to Sheffield and had seen the works engaged at full capacity. I would like the right hon. Gentleman to examine the position and to ascertain how many men are employed at those works to-day and how many were employed when the same works were at full capacity three years ago. I think he will find that the introduction of more and more machinery has 342 made the works more efficient, but that at the same time there are fewer men actually employed. That being the position we are faced with the fact that we may get prosperity back into industry, we may get dividends for shareholders, but at the same time there will still be the tremendous problem of unemployed men and women.
In dealing with that problem the question of the hours of labour should be very seriously considered. Legal restriction of the hours of labour, if applied to many industries, would immediately find work for at least 500,000 men and women. It is said sometimes that trade unions look after the interests of the members. Much as we may regret it, the fact is that there are two people outside the ranks of trade unions for every one person who is inside. The lot of the unorganised worker, whatever his trade, is immeasureably worse than that of the organised worker, so far as the hours of labour are concerned. This question of the hours of labour should receive consideration. The argument may he used that it is impossible to deal with any restriction of hours under the present competitive system, and so on. We have had complaints from Lancashire to-day about the competition of the East, about the low wages paid in the East. I suggest that the reorganisation of industry will enable us far better to deal with that kind of competition than any attempt to compete by means of long hours and low wages for our own people.
Although the Government are priding themselves on the progress that has been made in industry, I am unable to share their optimism. It was said to-day that in the glass industry there is a decrease of 11 per cent. in exports. How far that is due to the imposition of the Oil Duty I do not know, but it is certain that that particular industry was looking up and holding its own in the markets. Apparently the restoration of confidence of which the Government speak has not meant the restoration of a sense of security in the glass industry.
The Government are supposed to be the friends of the agriculturists. If they are anything at all they are supposed to have a special regard for agriculture. Yet according to the statements of their own friends the position of agriculture to-day is considerably worse than it has been for many years. Millions of money 343 have been paid out to agriculturists in subsidies, wheat quotas, and so on, and in addition there have been marketing schemes and the rest. Yet after two years of the present Government the lot of the agricultural labour has steadily become worse, his housing conditions are worse, his wages are lower, the farmers declare that they are unable to get a living, there is a revolt against tithes, and the Government, which draws its strength from the agricultural constituencies, is leaving that part of our population considerably worse off than it was under either of the two Socialist Governments. That is true and cannot be denied. It is true out of the mouth of friends of the Government. That subject has been omitted from the Gracious Speech. I suppose it is a case of "sink or swim" with agriculture. It is said of the agriculturists, "After all they have always voted Tory and, please the Lord, they always will." But unless the Government are prepared to redeem some of their pledges to the agriculturist there will be a very rude awakening before long.
§ 7.44 p.m.
§ Mr. R, W. SMITH
I think the hon. Member who has just spoken must have realised, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, that you were going to call me next, because I propose to deal with the very subject with which he ended his speech, namely, agriculture. I was rather disappointed to find that the Gracious Speech did not mention anything about agriculture. I know I am expressing the feeling of many other hon. Members when I say that it is very strange there should he no mention of such an important thing as agriculture. I am aware that the Speech from the Throne is only a general outline, an indication of what is in the Government's mind, and that Debates like this enable us to try to find out a little more of what is in the Government's mind. I do not agree with the statement of the last speaker that the Government have done nothing for agriculture. I think they have done a great deal. Although the results may not be all we desire, I think that if we had not had the action and the measures of the Government, the position of the farmer and the agricultural worker to-day would be much worse 344 than it is. I hope the Government will realise that I am not criticising their policy in putting forward the view that there should be some reference to the agricultural industry in the Gracious Speech.
It may be argued that there is some reference to agriculture in the Gracious Speech because there is a statement at the end to the effect that Bills relating to Scotland are to be Introduced, to deal with the provision of smallholdings among other matters. I am not one who does not wish to see smallholdings, but there is a suitable time and place for considering this question and I cannot understand why it should be part of the Government policy to go in for a smallholdings plan in Scotland at the present time. I have no wish to refer to the upbringing of any people in this House, but, looking at the Gracious Speech, it seems to me that the upbringing of the Secretary of State for Scotland—in an atmosphere very different from that of the Conservative party and among those who are very keen about smallholdings—may have some relation to this passage. If the right hon. Gentleman is able to exercise such influence in the Cabinet I must congratulate him, but, having regard to the views expressed on the subject of smallholdings by the Minister of Agriculture and by the Lord President of the Council, one is at a loss to understand why the question should be raised at this juncture. The Minister of Agriculture said:Difficulties with which we shall find ourselves faced are not the difficulties of increased production from the soil of this country. The first thing that we have to do is to get a market for what we are now growing, and if we can get that and secure a remunerative price there will be no difficulty in getting people upon the land "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 7th November, 1932; col. 150, Vol. 270.]I would emphasise the point that the first thing in the right hon. Gentleman's opinion is to secure a remunerative price. Then the Lord President of the Council, speaking at Cambridge last summer, said:We have hardly scratched the land as far as smallholdings and allotments are concerned"—I quite agree that we want to do more, but note what the right hon. Gentleman added—but this question must wait for ultimate settlement until we have at least succeeded in seeing that those now working 345 on the land have a Netter chance than they have had at any time in the last generation.Those are the views of two Members of the Cabinet, and I am therefore rather disappointed that the only reference in the Gracious Speech to a Scottish agricultural question is to the question of creating smallholdings at a time when existing smallholders are not able to make a living on the land. It will be seen that there is an Amendment on the Paper in the name of myself and other Scottish Members deploring the fact that there is no mention of the serious position of agriculture in Scotland and no promise of further action by the Government should their present policy prove inadequate to meet the situation. I may be asked why should there be a reference to Scottish agriculture rather than to agriculture generally? I regret that there is not a reference to general agriculture, too, because the position of agriculture to-day cannot be said to be any better than it was last year.
§ Mr. SMITH
I suggest to the right hon. Gentleman however that it would have been much worse if we had not had the present Government. May I quote some index figures of prices from the Ministry of Agriculture Market Report? Oats this October were 78; last October they were 90. Fat cattle were 99 this October; last October they reached a figure of 102. Store cattle were 89 this October; they were 100 last October and potatoes which were 110 this October were 120 last October. The price received by the farmer for what he is producing is less than it was in October of last year. I admit that there is a rise in the case of barley and in some other cases but there is no rise in any of these important products which I have mentioned. I think it will he admitted that in Scotland the most important thing is the raising of fat stock, though I agree that another matter of vital importance is the oat crop and my contention is that it is impossible to separate these two. If farming is to be properly carried on in Scotland it is necessary to grow the cereal crop at a profit and if we do not grow it at a profit then the profit will have to be made out of increased prices to the consumers of beef. I think it is quite possible that in the course of time we shall 346 find our fat stock proposition going so well that the fat stock industry will be able to use up a great many more quarters of oats than are used up in that way at the present time. Just now however there is no possibility of feeding oats to the stock in the quantities that we would like and a great deal of the oats al e necessarily sold off the farms. That is a position which must last for some time and therefore we must keep oats on a, remunerative basis otherwise the profit will have to be made out of the beef.
I know that I am expressing the view of practically every Member of the Conservative party who sits for a Scottish constituency in saying that we regard the Scottish agricultural situation as really desperate. That is why we are worried at the absence of any reference to it in the Gracious Speech. I am very glad to see the Secretary of State for Scotland here and I ask him for an assurance that the interests of Scottish agriculture are not being neglected. I do not believe they are. Still I would draw his attention to the fact that we are told in the Speech that confidence is essential at the present time. It would give our agriculturists a great deal more confidence than they have, if, in the King's Speech, there had been some mention of agriculture. We find also the definite statement:My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade, especially by the negotiation of trade agreements. In this way it is hoped that opportunities will be afforded for the development of the cotton, coal and other exporting trades.That passage shows the anxiety and the intention of the Government to concentrate on the export market. My argument is that the agricultural industry can never be an exporting industry but must make its profit in the home market. We want to see the export trade of the country increased, and we welcome all that the Government can do in that way, but we ask them at the same time to remember the importance of the agricultural industry. That is another reason for calling attention to the omission, if I may so term it, of any reference to agriculture. We wish a definite assurance that the Government are determined to carry out their declared policy for agriculture. Put shortly, that policy is to raise prices to a level which will remunerate the agricultural producer. I 347 could give many quotations from Members of the Government to show that that is the Government's policy. The object of that policy has not been attained as far as beef and oats are concerned and these are most important matters. We desire to be assured on behalf of the agriculturists in Scotland that the Government are determined to do everything in their power to achieve the object of raising prices to a remunerative level for all producers.
The President of the Board of Trade earlier to-day said that nobody had made any constructive suggestions in this Debate. As a very humble Member I dislike making suggestions to the Government because I think it is the Government's duty to point out what is wrong and to suggest methods of dealing with it. But, speaking for myself only, I make one suggestion for what it is worth. I believe that the fat stock industry will improve on the lines which the Government have adopted. We hope some day to see it prosper and become a much bigger industry than it is to-day but that will take some time. Until the agriculturist is able to make a profit out of fat stock something must be dome in regard to oats. If the price which is obtained by the oat grower is not remunerative, I suggest that it may be necessary, for a limited period, to give a direct subsidy to the oat grower until the fat stock industry is on a proper basis. I do not suggest that it should be a permanent subsidy and I am not asking for something from the Government which they have not given before. We have given subsidies to the wheat grower and to the sugar beet grower. I am very glad we have given those subsidies but I suggest to the Government that, if it is impossible to keep the industry in Scotland alive by any other means, they should give consideration to the suggestion of a direct subsidy to the oat grower.
I am not asking more than Members of the Government were willing to give in the 1923 Election. They then offered a direct subsidy. This is a point upon which Scottish agriculturists feel deeply. They are not getting quite the same measure of assistance as the English farmers are getting, owing to the fact that we in Scotland cannot grow wheat and in many cases cannot grow sugar 348 beet. I know that the Under-Secretary of State for Scotland has suggested that we ought to grow more sugar beet but there is comparatively little land in Scotland suitable for the growing of that crop. The hon. Gentleman shakes his head but I would like to take him to my own constituency and ask him how much land there is there which would be suitable for the growing of sugar beet. I know that it has been tried in various places but I think that, on the whole, in Aberdeenshire the soil is not suitable.
§ The UNDER-SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Mr. Skelton)
I would not, disagree with that statement but there are other arable areas.
§ Mr. SMITH
I admit that there are other parts where the crop may be grown successfully but there are considerable areas where it would be quite impossible to grow sugar beet. That being so it seems unfair that farmers in those parts of the country should not be able to get any benefit from the direct subsidies of the Government. It is on behalf of those people that I suggest that that some form of practical assistance should be given to the oat growers. As I said earlier, I am not criticising the Government, but I am anxious that our own people at home should realise that the Government are prepared to do all they can to bring prosperity to one of the most important industries in Scotland.
§ 8.0 p.m.
I wish for a few moments to associate myself with the strong plea which has been made by the hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. R. W. Smith) on behalf of the agricultural industry in Scotland. Of course, no hon. Member whose name is associated with the Amendment which appears on the Order Paper to-day is oblivious of the fact that English agriculture, as well as the industry in Scotland, is in a very unsatisfactory position, but we who are specially associated with agriculture in the Northern part of this island thought this was an excellent opportunity, in the Debate on the Address in reply to the Gracious Speech from the Throne, of putting forward one or two points in regard to Scottish agriculture. Two speakers from the Labour benches earlier this evening alluded to the agricultural industry and spoke about the position of 349 the agricultural labourer. The hon. Member for Hemsworth (Mr. Price) alluded to the fact that already cuts in wages have taken place, and it has been shown beyond all doubt that it is very necessary for the supporters of the Government to lose no opportunity, but rather to take every opportunity, of impressing upon His Majesty's Government the seriousness of the situation.
Hon. Members who have spoken about the position of the agricultural labourer have no doubt, very naturally, wished to score debating points, but those of us who support the Government naturally have no such idea in our minds. We believe that the agricultural policy of the Government—and we know that they have a policy—when it has had time to be worked out in all its details will, by improving the position of the farmer, bring about better conditions for all those workers who are associated with the agricultural industry. Naturally, my hon. Friends above the Gangway cannot expect us to associate ourselves with the general attack upon the capitalist system which they advocate with regard to agriculture as well as in connection with every other industry.
My hon. Friend who preceded me spoke about what he considered to be the cardinal point in connection with agriculture in Scotland and, I might say, throughout Great Britain, namely, the livestock side of farming. Although, as a Member representative of one of the North Eastern counties of Scotland he is particularly interested in the production of oats, he said that nevertheless he believes that only by tackling the livestock branch of farming were you going to bring about a better state of things in agriculture as a whole. I certainly think he is right, and it is to get a further assurance from my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland on this point that I join with my hon. Friend to-night in bringing forward the position of agriculture in Scotland. The farming community may seem to the Government at times to be somewhat impatient. I am sure that at all events at this juncture they have every cause to show impatience. It is not that they wish to score debating points against the Government; it is because they realise that the position is desperate, and if things do not speedily take a turn in the right direction, bankruptcies among 350 individual farmers will become very numerous indeed.
At many meetings of local branches of the National Farmers' Union of Scotland resolutions are passed, deploring the present condition of things and urging the Government to implement their promises and to see to it that the administrative side of agriculture is worked out in the best possible way. I have a resolution in my pocket at this moment, passed by a local branch of the Farmers' Union in South West Scotland, which speaks in very strong terms indeed about the present state of things and about what they consider to be the Government's attitude. In this resolution the price of meat occupies the foremost place. The hon. Member who preceded me spoke specially on this subject of the price of meat, and he quoted illuminating figures, with regard both to fat cattle and store cattle, to show the change for the worse which has taken place between this autumn and this time 12 months ago. Farmers are not at all sure about the Ottawa Agreements to start with, but they think that those Agreements, which have been passed into law, are not being adhered to in the way that they ought, either by the Dominions or by exporters to Great Britain from foreign countries; and I would ask my right hon. Friend to give us an assurance, as my right hon. Friend the Minister for Agriculture has given repeated assurances, that these circumventions or evasions will soon be put an end to by those responsible for the administration of agriculture here.
In the very short time that is left to me, I cannot deal as I would like to have done with the position of the dairy farmer, but while we in this House and the farmers in England and Scotland have endorsed the schemes for the better marketing of milk—I think they were perfectly right, and I wish that in Scotland as large a vote could have been obtained as in England; nevertheless, the figures there in favour of the milk marketing scheme were on the whole very good—I would impress on the Government the fact that when I am at home I am, I might say, in daily contact with those specially connected with dairying. In fact, no matter what schemes you have afoot for the better marketing of milk here, you will have to face up, just as you had to face up to the question of the imports of beef, to the question of the 351 regulation of the supplies of dairy produce which are coming into this country in the form of condensed milk and milk powder, which I believe were coming in, a short time ago at all events, to a figure roughly equivalent to 6,000,000 gallons of milk a year.
I do not think that any milk marketing scheme will be able to be successful if you allow competition to such an extent as that. The voluntary milk pool in Scotland broke down, it was said, largely because home producers would not support it. It is true that the home producers did not support it, because they knew that the scheme was foredoomed just for this very reason, that at that time the "powers that be" in this country were not armed with the necessary powers to control foreign imports. Whatever else the Government have done or failed to do with regard to agriculture, they have certainly undertaken a great deal of legislation with regard to the agricultural industry. In the Agricultural Marketing Act there is machinery whereby the control of imports which we wish to see can be brought about with regard to beef—and mutton too, if necessary—and dairy produce; and I want once again an assurance from the Secretary of State for Scotland that the dairying branch of agriculture will not be forgotten, just as the livestock industry, and the raising of cattle in particular, is also going to meet with very favourable consideration.
It may he thought by Members of the Government not only that the farmers are impatient, but that hon. Members of this House who are connected with agriculture are perhaps a little unfair to them when this topic comes up but I would assure them to-night, as I think I have before, that all the criticism that is made is made in the friendliest possible spirit. We have no desire to score debating points. All that we wish is, that when certain matters are brought to our notice, we should give them the benefit of the special knowledge that is brought to us. In a Parliament such as this, where there is officially a very small Opposition, a lot of the constructive criticism must be expected to come from those who sit upon the Government benches. The Prime Minister, at the beginning of the last Parliament, pled that this House should resolve itself into a Council of 352 State. That was not possible in such an assembly as that, where the balance of parties was as it was then, but here, where you have an Opposition reduced to such very small proportions, it is surely possible for the House of Commons to look upon itself indeed as a Council of State; and that, I think, is how the agricultural Members at all events view the present situation.
Though we in this House who are supporters of the National Government realise far better than do the people outside what the true position of things is, we see at all events some of the difficulties with which the Government are faced. Outsiders in all walks of life have not the same opportunity, and the farmers in particular, with things in the desperate plight in which they are to-day, are not likely to be as lenient as some hon. Members of this House. It is only because I wish to see the Unionist party, which is supporting the present Administration in such overwhelming numbers, keeping its rightful place in the affairs of the counties of Great Britain, that I stress upon the Government the necessity of being up and doing with regard to this vital matter. As an individual, I will support them more or less whatever happens. I speak as a party man, but farmers are not party men in the same sense. If they see that the industry is not getting the attention that it ought to get and deserves to get, they may, when the next election comes, depart from heir previous political ties. The by-election in Rutland—a great grazing district—showed conclusively that many farmers and graziers are dissatisfied with what has taken place up to the present. In a week or two we shall have a by-election in another great grazing locality, Market Harborough, and then we shall see, with a Liberal in the field, how the agricultural votes will be apportioned. The Government cannot afford to neglect these warnings because they remind us of what may conceivably happen when we go to the country if, in the remaining two years, the subject is not tackled to the satisfaction of the farmers. I stress the points which my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen has already made, and I hope that my right hon. Friend will repeat the assurances which His Majesty's Ministers have given on many occasions and will let it be seen 353 that at the beginning of another Session the farming community may look forward with hope and confidence to the future.
§ 8.18 p.m.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for SCOTLAND (Sir Godfrey Collins)
I have no reason to complain of either the tone or the matter of the speeches delivered by my two hon. Friends from Scotland. I have been asked certain questions as to present policy, but before coming to that I should like to say that I was very glad to hear my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. B. W. Smith) admit in his speech that the Government had done a great deal, that the position would have been much worse but for the action already taken, and that the situation was not being neglected. He, however, expressed anxiety as to the position. I agree with him entirely in that anxiety, but before I sit down I hope to be able to show him that not only is our policy following on certain definite lines, but that in some respects the position has responded to treatment. He asked me whether it is our policy still to procure more remunerative prices to the producer. It is unnecessary for me to give him and the House that assurance. Let me remind him that some of the products have already responded to the particular treatment which the Government have adopted. The Government are not tied to any one way. They tackle each subject on its merits in order to endeavour to secure a reasonable and remunerative price for the producer.
The prices of sheep, wool and barley have responded to treatment, although I admit that the products in which my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen is interested—oats and beef—have not yet responded. My hon. Friend the Member for Galloway (Mr. McKie) is interested in the milk scheme. That scheme is going forward, as far as I and my Department are concerned, with all possible speed, and I hope that when it is in force it will have the result which we all desire. I was asked by my hon. Friend the Member for Central Aberdeen why there was no reference to agriculture in the Gracious Speech from the Throne. I would remind him that machinery already exists for the industry to place their views and case before the 354 Import Duties Advisory Committee, and that they have special powers so far as marketing is concerned. That, I suggest to him, is a full and complete answer why agriculture was not specifically mentioned in the King's Speech. He deplored, as we all do, the tragic plight of those men who are growing oats and selling them below pre-War prices, and I can assure my hon. Friend, having been occupied in business for many years until I came to hold this high office, that I sympathise with any man who is selling either his labour or his products at 18 per cent. below pre-War price. That is the situation with which the grower of oats is finding himself faced.
The hon. Member stated accurately that the fat stock question was the kernel and the centre of the problem. The policy of meat restriction has been in operation only nine months, and you cannot judge a policy intended for years by what has happened during the first nine months, more especially as during the last quarter of the year the policy of restriction increased month by month. During the last quarter of this year the reduction in foreign imports of chilled beef has been increased to 15 per cent.; and 15 per cent. less frozen mutton and lamb than in the corresponding quarter of last year will be received from the Dominions. Foreign frozen beef, mutton and lamb, in accordance with the Ottawa programme, will be 25 per cent. less than in the corresponding quarter of the year ended the 30th June, 1932. I am sure that the House will be interested to hear certain figures as to the actual imports of meat from foreign sources for October in comparison with September, 1933. In comparing September and October, it will be seen that the imports of chilled beef have decreased by 147,000 cwt., frozen beef by 27,000 cwt., and frozen mutton and lamb by 214,000 cwt. Adding these three products together, the total imports in September, 1933, were 1,560,000 cwt., and in October 1,172,000 cwt., a decrease of 390,000 cwt.
I quote these figures in no spirit of complacency. Far be it from me to stand at this Box and feel complacent about the situation, for I well know the sad and tragic plight of these men selling their products at present prices. I have quoted the figures to show that the Government's policy cannot yet be 355 judged, and it would be unfair for any Member of the House to judge it until it has had a longer run and come to more complete fruition. Let me remind my hon. Friend also that one of my first administrative acts was to appoint a Reorganisation Commission for livestock. We look forward to receiving their scheme at an early date, in order that recommendations on that problem by practical men may be considered and carried into effect. The problems with which we are faced are not only local problems, they are. world problems. The fall in the price of oats has been a world fall. From all the information I can gather, forwarded to me by those who can speak with knowledge, if the beef position improves it will react quickly upon the price of oats. That is why I stress the Government's policy so far as meat is concerned. Either by the methods we have outlined already or by other means, it is the fixed and definite intention of His Majesty's Government to secure more remunerative prices to the producer.
Having been in this House for some time I venture to say that no Government for many generations has done so much for the farmers as this Government has done during the last two years, and I can say that the more readily because I have had the honour of being a member of that Government only for the last 12 months. We are fully conscious that these men who are working against Nature are fighting against a world movement, and although I have not at any time been absolutely confident of one remedy to secure the ultimate aim we all have in view-the problem of prices has baffled the ingenuity of statesmen in all countries at all times-if sympathy can do it, if thought can do it, if determination to o find out the right method can do it, then I can, on behalf of the Government, give a definite assurance to my hon. Friends that we will leave no stone unturned until we secure the desired end.
§ 8.27 p.m.
§ Sir JOHN GANZONI
As a loyal member of the Conservative party and, through them, a supporter of the National Government, I most certainly have no wish to lay at the door of His Majesty's Ministers the charge of any sins of commission on account of what I read in His Majesty's Gracious Speech.
356 On the contrary, nobody hopes more earnestly than I do that they will be able to carry out successfully, and at an early date, everything there laid down, and so far as my humble powers can assist they will have my support in so doing. But there is, I hardly like to call it a "sin of omission, "but an omission to which I wish to draw attention, in that there is no mention of any proposals for reconstituting the Second Chamber, or so restoring the balance of the Constitution as to prevent the use or abuse of dictatorial powers by a temporary majority in this Commons House of Parliament. [HON. MEMBERS" Hear, hear!"] It is all very well to say "hear, hear," but at the present time that is an extremely serious matter. A promise, so far unredeemed, was given at the time of the passing of the Parliament Act—it was one-half of the Parliament Act—that after the powers of the House of Lords had been dealt with the personnel of that Chamber should be reconstituted. As I say, that promise has never been kept. It is an old story, really. Many other things have occupied the attention of successive Governments and successive Houses of Parliament since then, and I think perhaps the people have been content to let that issue go until just recently. One very good reason for that attitude lies in this fact, which was set forth much better than I can state it to our own Leader, the Lord President of the Council, in an article in the "News Letter" of 22nd July:In the past the leaders of British Socialism, as distinct from the extremists, have advocated drastic political and economic changes which the opponents of Socialism have regarded as ill-advised and even dangerous. But at any rate these changes have been advocated as measures to be discussed by the country as a whole, to be fully debated in Parliament, and placed on the Statute Book, if they ever get there, in a constitutional and democratic way. So-it was that those of us who were uncompromising in our fight against Socialist teaching had the assurance that any attempt to express this teaching in legislation would have to face our exposure of what we considered its weaknesses and fallacies, with the certainty that any laws which proved intolerable to the people as a whole would be promptly repealed following a hostile verdict at the next General Election.Those are true and very comforting words, but we have now not one warning only, but a whole series of warnings, beginning with those from the Labour Party Con- 357 ference at Leicester a year ago. On that occasion the right hon. Gentleman who has just rejoined us as Member for the Clay Cross Division of Derbyshire (Mr. A. Henderson) called for an immediate advance towards Socialism. He got it, and rather more than he bargained for, because immediately afterwards a resolution was passed unanimously declaring:The main objective of the Labour party is the establishment of Socialism.Directly after that the following resolution was passed unanimously:That on assuming office, with or without power, definite Socialist legislation must he immediately promulgated, and that the party shall stand or fall in the House of Commons on the principles in which it has faith.In spite of the right hon. Member for Clay Cross putting forward his faithful service of 21 years, and using his very best efforts to see that that resolution was nut passed, it was adopted with acclamation, and nobody spoke in support of his contrary views. That was just the mild start. Between last year and this year's meeting at Hastings, in October last we have had the publications which have been inspired by the hon. arid learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps), which have been contributed to by distinguished publicists of the Socialist party like Professor Harold Laski, Mr. G. H. Cole and others. They have shown us very clearly and very honestly, if only we will listen and not bury our heads in the sand, what is meant and will actually be done if they and their followers are given the opportunity.
Taking the points very briefly, we understand that they now frankly admit that their policy is a revolutionary one. They advocate a Socialist dictatorship. Their Prime Minister would be a Socialist figurehead to be made or unmade at the wish and behest of a body outside Parliament and not responsible to Parliament. [An HON. MEMBER: "What about the Carlton Club?"] I do not know that the Carlton Club has ever arrogated to itself claims of that sort or that, if it did, it would have any success. The Law Courts are to be subordinated, the House of Lords is to be abolished, the House of Commons is to have its powers drastically cut. The Civil Service, if it proves contumacious, is to be made subservient. Local authorities are to be superseded by commissioners and their 358 principal qualification is to be that they are Socialists first, last and all the time. As must be well known, in order to finance these schemes the banks are to be seized—
§ Mr. NEIL MACLEAN
May I ask the hon. Baronet if that is what was passed at Hastings, or is that from some document or publication written by members of the party?
§ Sir J. GANZONI
That was not passed at Hastings, but it shows the intention of the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol and his associates, who endeavoured to have referred back the appropriate part of the report at the conference at Hastings, but who were not obliged to move their amendment to that effect, because they apparently must have come to an arrangement by which the whole thing is to be brought up at the conference next year. We shall then hear what, I think, it is unfair to expect the hon. Gentleman to tell us prematurely, the universal opinion of the rank and file of the party upon those proposals.
The things I have said up to this stage may be pretty startling and revolutionary, but for those who are thinking that they are apparently the unsupported and ex parte statement of the hon. Member for Ipswich, and that there is no particular reason why they should carry any weight or conviction, I am quite prepared, as long as the patience of my hearers admits, or as long as the Chair will allow me and considers that this is germane to the question of the necessity for restoring the power of the House of Lords in order to avoid these disasters coming upon the country, to give chapter and verse for every one of these assertions. As far as the Programme now being frankly revolutionary is concerned, the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, writing in "Can Socialism Come by Constitutional Means?" says:However carefully laid the plans of the Socialists may he, it will he impossible to guarantee the peacefulness of the change.The hon. and learned Member is a very distinguished member of a learned profession who, I imagine, weighs his words well, and if we accept those words at their face value, they are words which will give the people of this country furiously to think. So far as the plan to 359 set up a Socialist dictatorship is concerned, the same hon. and learned Gentleman writes:The Government's first step will be to call Parliament together at the earliest moment and place before it an emergency powers Bill to be passed through all its stages on the first day. This Bid will be wide enough in its terms to allow all that will be immediately necessary to be done by ministerial orders. These orders must be incapable of challenge in the Courts or in any way except in the House of Commons.May I quote another authority from outside Parliament, Mr. G. D. H. Cole, a very learned professor of Oxford University, whose sayings and writings must command a considerable amount of attention, and whose sincerity I have no reason whatever to doubt. He says:We cannot put limits to the pace at which we shall have to proceed, when once we set our feet upon the way; nor can we put limits to the degree of dictatorial power which, under stress of the emergency, our Socialist Government may have to assume.The same Gentleman, reinforced by Mr. G. R. Mitchison, says:It seems therefore, that an essential part of the programme must be to consider not only the abolition of the House of Lords and the reform of the House of Commons procedure, but also the adaptation to the requirements of a Socialist Government of the administrative structure of the Crown, the Cabinet and the Civil Service.It does rather look to me as if words, uttered in a different connection yesterday by the hon. and gallant Member for Newcastle-under-Lyme (Colonel Wedgwood) have a good deal of foundation. He said:Hatred of Parliament is not confined to a few maniacs in this country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 22nd November, 1933; col. 97, Vol. 283]The Law Courts are to be subordinated to the Socialist power. Power must be taken from the Courts. May I pray in aid another outside authority. Professor Harold Laski of London University, an equally famous Socialist publicist? He writes:A Socialist Government might easily find itself seriously hampered by the power of the Judges to interpret Statutes.He writes that in "The Labour Party and the Constitution." I can imagine burglars or other violent criminals not getting very much attention paid to their protests, if they felt that they were seriously hampered by the justiciary of this 360 country, but that responsible people, who hope to be the responsible executive of the country and who, in many cases, have past experience in that capacity, should write such a statement seems to be something else that should make the quiet, thinking, inarticulate voters of this country continue to think very deeply, and to think once, twice and many times more, before they risk, at the next or any other election, entrusting power to people who hold those beliefs.
The Civil Service is to be a Socialist preserve. I hardly feel that it is fair to the House to give chapter and verse for every one of these arguments, though I am quite prepared to do so. I like to give as many different authorities as I can. We come to the bon. Member for Limehouse (Mr. Attlee), who is also an ex-Minister, and who, dealing with the question of replacing or, at any rate, completely controlling local authorities by a regional commissioner, says that the commissionermust, therefore, he first and foremost a Socialist. … He is not impartial. He is a Socialist. … It may be said that this is rather like the Russian plan of Commissars and Communist party members. I am not afraid of the comparison.There is a little more comfort at the end of the hon. Gentleman's words. He says:Membership of a regional authority would of necessity be a whole-time job, and paid for as such.The banks and the financial institutions are to be taken over by the Government. Mr. Cole says:There must be no nonsense about setting up impartial 'or non-political' boards to administer them. We must find the most skilled and competent administrators in our ranks, and put them to manage the banks for us. And these administrators must themselves he thorough Socialists.These gentlemen digress occasionally into directions which contain evidence of very great danger to the workers and people of this country, and to the whole Empire. Mr. Cole says:Manifestly we have to get rid of tariffs with all possible speed. … It is sheer idiocy to concentrate our main effort at agricultural revival on the production of cereals at home. … It would be foolish to encourage our farmers to produce things we can buy more cheaply, and have the money to buy more cheaply, abroad.As a result of this dictatorship, private property is to be confiscated, at any rate according to Mr. Cole, who says: 361No Socialist can recognise any claim by private owners to receive back in some other form the value of their property when the public takes it over. Our object is expropriation.Then there are the words of the late Mr. E. F. Wise, who said:We must make such an omelette that the eggs cannot ever get back into their shells.The hon. Member for Limehouse, as befits a responsible Minister and one who speaks sometimes in this House, is a little more cautious. He says:Armed with emergency powers for taking land and buildings without waiting for elaborate inquiries as to compensation … local authorities will be told to go ahead.They have no use under this dictatorship for the Empire:To India we should offer as much self-government as she wants, even to the length of complete separation if she desires it.I feel that I ought almost to apologise to hon. Members, and even to the occupants of the Chair, so much of whose time was wasted throughout yesterday upon a subject which under the Socialist dictatorship can no longer be of any possible consequence:In Africa …. we should order affairs in the interests of the native population, and disregard absolutely the views of white settlers where they conflict with native interests. If this policy involves the secession of South Africa from the Empire, let her secede.It does not seem to be a very comfortable policy for those members of the Socialist party who represent constituencies where manufacturing for export is carried on, if their intelligentsia, their leaders of the type of Professor Laski and Mr. Cole, with the collaboration of the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, are going gratuitously to throw away the markets for the only goods which can earn their people's livelihood and that of their wives and families. Although I have any amount more material, as to unilateral disarmament, as to turning not only the "Daily Herald" but the whole Press into a kept Press to express nothing but the views and opinions of the Socialist dictatorship, I think I have perhaps gone far enough into these details, but there is one point which I am quite sure is relevant, and which should sink in very much after some of these statements. That is that, in spite of all these re- 362 volutionary things that are going to be done under the dictatorship when and if it comes about, there seems to be some doubt about exactly how it is going to be carried out. At any rate, the late Mr. E. F. Wise said:The nationalised joint stock banks in their credit policy, and the National Investment Board in its capital investment policy, will both carry into effect the National Plan. This, of course, presupposes that such a plan exists. It must he admitted that so far the party is very far from its completion.This is supported by Mr. William Mellor, well known as a Socialist editor, who says:Is there anybody to-day who can give a reasonably decisive answer to the question, What are your plans for the cotton industry? ' Not in terms of organisational structure—and even here all is in a mist—but in terms of re-equipment, markets, employment and so forth? Nor will it he possible, until this more detailed plan is undertaken, to assess the cost or the effects on outside industry of the reorganisation schemes on which our whole Socialist attack depends.I do think that, to any hearers whose minds are not completely filled with previous prejudices on the subject, I must at any late have set forth quite enough to alarm them, and make them feel that this is something which must be coped with, and something which, however bad and dangerous we honestly believe it to be, is genuinely intended. For those who advocate it are quite sincere, and the only thing that is preventing and will prevent them from carrying it into effect is lack of the power to do so. Their intention is perfectly clear and definite.
For that reason I have felt it necessary to call attention to the absence from the Gracious Speech of any mention of reconstitution of the House of Lords, or restoring the balance of the Constitution. Of course, ever since the Parliament Act, the powers of that House have been very greatly docked. Some of us are old enough to remember the campaign at the time, and the enormous amount of misrepresentation at the elections of 1906 and 1910. It is only necessary for me to quote one very brief statement which was made at that time:The veto of the House of Lords bars all progressive legislation.That statement is rather remarkable, seeing that, between 1906 and 1970, 291 Measures were sent up from this House 363 to another place, and only eight were not passed. The 291 included many epoch-making Measures which have left their effect upon the nation and upon the Constitution to this present day. Advisedly, I am not going into details of suggested reorganisation of what we euphemistically term "another place," one good reason being that at the moment it would be premature to do so. What we want is acceptance of the principle. It is naturally a matter which would have to be examined exceedingly carefully, and on which it would be very difficult to get complete agreement, but I will say for myself, and I believe I may say for a very large number of people outside this Chamber in the country, that we consider it to be extremely necessary that we should be very reasonable indeed in seeing the arguments put forward by any who would work with us to bring about this desired—and, more than desired, absolutely necessary—consummation.
I have spent some trouble in studying the recommendations of the Joint Committee of the two Houses which reported in October of last year under lord Salisbury. I quite agree that total abolition of the hereditary principle does not appear to be entirely desirable; I think it would be a mistake to leave the Crown the only example of hereditary authority in this country. But really, if you are going to restore, or partially restore, the powers that were taken away from the Second Chamber—and, after all, taken away advisedly, by a Parliamentary majority—only 22 years ago, it is necessary that that Chamber—should be brought up to date. It is only fair, too, to consider the very large body of political authority represented by the Labour party and all its branches, which was of very little consequence before '1910, but which today, whatever we may think of its views and intentions, at any rate wields a good deal of very real power, and is supported by a very considerable number of electors in the country. God forbid, therefore, that we should suggest anything in the nature of a Second Chamber always so predominantly Conservative that it would not be trusted by honest, non-politically minded people in the country. Of course, I quite understand that the most advanced protagonists of the party opposite would, 364 quite naturally and rightly, not approve of it whatever form it took, but we have to recognise that and to go past it. I make my appeal in this matter to the large mass of inarticulate voters in the country who, beyond any doubt, are constitutionally minded at heart, and who, for some good reason which has been evidenced again and again, have not that complete confidence in the wisdom at all times and in all circumstances which is claimed by some for this House, and especially for this House standing by itself.
Therefore, I should be prepared to accept the recommendations of that committee, or anything which closely resembled their proposal. It was, very briefly and without any detail, that the House of Lords should be reduced to about 320, of whom 20 would be the Law Lords and perhaps four bishops instead of 24, and, of course, the Princes of the Blood Royal; that, of the 300, there should he 150 of the hereditary element, but elected—elected by their own peers—the other 150 being elected from outside; and that in the case of the outside element sex should be no bar. There is a further recommendation—and it struck me, arid I think it would appeal also to all who are prepared to judge this matter fairly on its merits, as a sensible recommendation—that in order that the revising Chamber should not be deprived of the services of those—and there are many of them in these days—who are well able to serve the country in a deliberative capacity but are not blessed with an excess of this world's goods, the incomes of the Upper House should be made up, where they fall below it, to the sum of £600 a year.
The Committee consider that with the personnel of the Chamber appointed on those lines the veto to a limited extent might safely be restored, and they feel—and it appears to me to be a very sensible and workable suggestion—that instead of an ordinary Bill—not a Finance Bill—sent up from this House and rejected for a Third time within two years being automatically presented for the Royal Assent, if it has been rejected by an absolute majority cif Members of the other Chamber—that is very important in view of the reformed personnel—it shall not be submitted for the Royal Assent until after another General Election of the lower and the wholly elec- 365 tive House. That appears to be a very reasonable suggestion and one upon democratic lines. I should like, having done everything I can to call attention to the realities of the threat of dictatorial powers in certain circumstances in the future—some will say the near future, and others will say more remote—to leave the details of the exact reform of the House of Lords to the consideration of my colleagues in this House and in the country. There are many of us in the Conservative party—I do not know that it is not really the whole of the Conservative party—who feel that it is regrettable that this matter was omitted from the Gracious Speech. We regard it as of pressing importance, and we should feel far more comfortable if we could get some assurance from the Government that the matter, although it was not set forth expressly in the wording of the Gracious Speech, is not one of those things which out of sight are out of mind and that the leaders of our party will realise our feelings on the matter and will do something to bring about a reform which we consider so absolutely necessary at the earliest opportunity.
§ 9.0 p.m.
§ Mr. KINGSLEY GRIFFITH
The hon. Baronet has made our flesh creep in such a very agreeable manner that most of us are feeling quite content and happy as the result of his very eloquent and pleasing speech, but without in any way disputing the account which he gave of the dangers that may come about as the result of political dictatorship, I want to come more closely to the particular remedy which he is recommending to the Government and the omission of which he regrets from the Gracious Speech. He was inclined to doubt the fairness of the attacks on the existing Tipper Chamber which were made at the time it was last reformed. He has quoted from a Liberal source. I would remind him of a more recent and a more historical account of tile proceedings of that Parliament.During the Parliaments from 1906 to 1914 the House of Lords, by continually mutilating Bills introduced by a party which had been returned by a big majority, laid itself open to the charge that it was acting as the henchman of the Opposition party in the House of Commons.366 That is not the statement of any Socialist. It is a quotation from a very interesting book issued riot so long ago by two of the junior Ministers in the present Government, Conservative Ministers, of course acting purely on their own responsibility and not in any official capacity. It is, a calm and reasoned. statement by people who have no reason to exaggerate, and I think it is generally the opinion of those who look back on the history of those times.
When I come to the hon. Baronet's positive proposals, there are two things which he has mentioned and which I find in the Amendment on the Order Paper. In the first place, he wants the Second Chamber reconstituted in its personnel. He also wants to restore the balance of the Constitution. Of those two elements there is no doubt in the mind of those who support him that the second is by far the most important. As far as the reconstitution of the powers of the Second Chamber is concerned, there is a very great difference of opinion on the benches opposite. There are the super-optimists, who believe they can get the complete restoration of all the powers without any reconstitution at all, or practically none, There are some who have expressed them selves very volubly in the Press who think they can get away with it if they will consent to a mere modification such as is recommended in the Salisbury report. There are those who believe that they (have to go a. very long way and abolish. the hereditary principle altogether, and those include the authors of the book that I have just mentioned. In other words, everyone who is supporting this proposal wants to restore the veto somehow, but they dispute as to the price which it is necessary to pay. Some think they need not pay any sort of price, others want to pay some price and others are prepared to pay a very high price indeed, but restoring the veto is the essential thing.
What do they want to restore the veto for? It is said that it is in order to prevent the usurpation of dictatorial powers by a temporary majority in the next House of Parliament. All majorities in the House of Commons are temporary, even this one. I am not sure that hon. Members opposite always realise that. When they talk about a temporary majority, they generally envisage a majority against themselves. They think 367 a Conservative majority is in the normal course of things and, although by some sort of constitutional aberration it sometimes happens that that majority cannot get itself expressed in the House of Commons, if that unfortunately be the case, it may be able to express itself in some other place. That is the solution of the present proposal. If a majority is a majority really representing the people as they have given their votes, I do not see where the question comes in of whether it is a temporary majority. Its will should prevail, and I do not see any democratic way out of that position. The question is not whether the majority is temporary, because it is only a question of time and degree with all majorities, but there is a question as to whether it is a real majority. I can see that under our existing system there may be majorities which are not real. Under our present electoral system you may get a majority in the House of Commons which does not represent a majority in the country. Not only may that happen, but it has happened since the War. It is quite common and natural that it should happen under such an electoral system as ours. Votes may be split, and the method of election to the House of Commons tends to misrepresent and to undervalue votes.
If that be the danger which is envisaged, there is a much clearer, straighter and cleaner way of doing it than by the reactionary measure of restoring the veto of the House of Lords, and that is to reform the method of election to the House of Commons. It would be out of place to argue here the merits of particular forms of election, such as proportional representation or the alternative vote, but I am entitled to say that if, in order to veto and misrepresent the nation, it is desired to reform the Second Chamber, there is a quicker and more natural way than that and that it can be done with less shock to the Constitution. If you reformed the method of election to this House you would not be denying to any voter in the country the full value of his vote. On the contrary, you would be giving to him for the first time the assurance that his vote would have full effect. If for the purpose of obtaining a majority on quite other issues the veto of the House of Lords is in any 368 way restored, you are, in point of fact, without any mandate writing down the value of the voters, and their future votes by some 50 per cent., it may be in the event of another Parliament coming into power.
§ Mr. GRIFFITH
The hon. Member asks me what is a mandate. I should say that the mandate of any Member of this House consists of those measures which he has reasonably led the people who have voted for him to believe that he was going to support. I think that that is a reasonable way of putting it. I do not say that every item in it must have been embodied in the electoral programme of the leader and his party. The mandate is very largely a matter for the individual Member, but in this matter there are comparatively few constituencies in this country in which the reform of the Second Chamber played any part when the last appeal the nation was made. I ask hon. Members to remember. that fact.
I have said that it is possible for even a newly-elected Parliament to be unrepresentative of the people, and I have indicated the way in which I think that could be avoided, and it is not by the reform of the Second Chamber. There is another possibility which also must be faced, and that is that a Government which originally undoubtedly represented the majority of the people may, as time goes on, cease to do so. It may lose its power, and its popularity may diminish. That may very well happen. Indeed, I do not think that anybody present could deny that that is happening to-day. The present Government—I will not argue whether it represents a majority at the moment or not, as I have not the skill or knowledge to analyse the figures—obviously represents a majority which is much less than it was two years ago, and even less than it was a year ago.
An argument may be founded in favour of providing some check upon the House of Commons upon that ground, and on that point I would remind hon. Members opposite that against that particular eventuality a safeguard already exists. The powers of the present Second Chamber are a very real check upon that particular kind of danger, because every Government knows that as it gets to- 369 wards the end of its period of office, it cannot proceed in the same careful manner as when newly elected. It knows that it has not time under the Parliament Act to force through a Measure against the will of the other Chamber, and in face of the opposition of that Chamber, and perhaps have to go to a general election on that issue, unless the matter is of supreme importance and the Government is prepared to face the electorate on that particular issue. That is a very real safeguard, and it exists. It does not need any message in the Gracious Speech from the Throne to make it real, because it is real now.
I am not one who believes that a Second Chamber is useless, or that it should be dispensed with. I speak entirely for myself, but I believe that it has very genuine uses besides its revising power, which has been used freely by every Govrnment which I have seen, whether Labour or any other, to introduce the second thoughts of the Government after all the stages of a Bill in the House of Commons. Besides that, there is the power of preventing an abuse of the powers of a majority in the House of Commons at a time when it is coming to an end of its term of office and beginning to wear out its popularity. It is a very real power, and one which needs no new legislation to introduce. There is one more danger which may be envisaged. A Government which genuinely represented the opinions of the masses of the people upon the particular items upon which it had appealed to the nation, might suddenly embark upon some unfamiliar piece of legislation never presented to the electorate or contemplated at the time the appeal was made. It is not hard to find an instance of that sort of thing. It is found in the speech of the hon. Baronet the Member for Ipswich (Sir J. Ganzoni). His proposal is exactly of that nature. He wishes:to prevent the usurpation of dictatorial powers by a temporary majority in the Commons House of Parliament.Surely, if when a Government has gone to the people upon an economic and a financial issue, and has obtained the support of Members of all parties for that particular purpose, it thereupon proceeds, on the basis of that message to make a great constitutional change which, as I have previously said, will actually alter 370 the value of the votes of the very people who returned it to the House of Commons, that is something very near to a dictatorial usurpation of power. I should have thought that it was a very fine instance of it. Please observe that against that kind of usurpation of power, the House of Lords as at present constituted is no barrier whatever. If proposals of that kind were presented to it, it might very likely become accessory before or after the fact. I remember Mr. G. K. Chesterton saying a great many years ago that the House of Lords was not always a reactionary body; it was sometimes revolutionary, and that the eagerness with which it kicked some Measures out was only equalled by the eagerness with which it kept some Measures on.
Nor do I think that any alternative Second Chamber as suggested by the Salisbury Committee, or any which the hon. Member's opposite would allow to take the place of the present one, would be likely to act in any other way. It is not every kind of revolution that would be prevented, but only revolution from one side, and that is a matter which would require to be taken into consideration. I would, therefore, ask the Government very seriously to consider, before they give in to the blandishments of the genial speech of the hon. Member for Ipswich, whether this omission, if it is an omission in the Gracious Speech from the Throne is not a very wise one. If there had not been that omission a great wave of feeling would have started against the Government in addition to such causes of discontent as already exist.
It is not as if this Government had originally been elected on a purely Conservative programme. If that had been so they might well have said: "We may not have said anything about it in our election addresses, our leaders may not have said anything about it, but everybody knows that the Conservative party has always hated the Parliament Act and has been waiting for an opportunity of getting rid of it." But when it is the case of a National Government which appealed deliberately to political opinions of very different kinds and pressed into its ranks many of those who were foremost in the fight for the Parliament Act, very different considerations must be applied. I appeal to all Liberals, in whatever part of the House they sit, to 371 remember the great battles that were fought by them and those who went, before them in this House on this very question, and that whatever differences may now divide them here they should not, on this question, which raises fundamental issues for democracy, be false to the faith which they then held, and that they should not attempt to remedy the possible dangers of the misuse of power by a temporary majority in this House by substituting for it a permanent majority in another place.
§ 9.17 p.m.
§ Mr. WISE
The hon. Member for Middlesbrough West (Mr. Griffith) has spoken with great eloquence and great force against any possible reform of our Second Chamber. In the course of his dramatic appeal to such Liberals as still remain on this side of the House he said that they must remember that we were elected, with certain allies to support us in our efforts, to restore order from the chaos created by hon. and right hon. Members opposite. I would remind him that the bulk of those allies have already removed themselves in a dramatic figaro to the other side of the House and that we are very pleased to greet them And welcome them in their new seats.
The hon. Member referred to the absence of mandate for any reform of the Second Chamber. May I remind him that there is a mandate for reform of the Second Chamber and that that mandate is, in fact, embodied in a Bill passed by his own party in 1911. They then said that the reconstitution of the Second Chamber—at a time when they destroyed its powers and even at a time in the worst flood of their most ebullient democracy—was a thing which brooked no delay. That was 22 years ago. The agitation on this side of the House for a reform of the Second Chamber is not necessarily purely defensive. We do not believe that in any reasonable time a Government headed by the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) is ever likely to obtain power in this country. We do not so disbelieve in the future of democracy, and we cannot allege that the electorate has so little intelligence as to return such an Administration.
The hon. Member for Ipswich (Sir J. Ganzoni) detailed to the House a con 372 siderable number of things which the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol and his friends said that they proposed to do, and the mere knowledge of their proposals is a sufficient safeguard against their election.
The reason that we wish to restore the powers of the Second Chamber is because an unbalanced Constitution is not of any advantage to any country. There is no country in the world except our own which has an ineffective Second Chamber, and I would suggest to the House that the sooner we can restore the Second Chamber and bring back a proper balance to our Constitution the better it will be both for the good government of this country and the prosperity of the people in it. I would not go so far as to follow the lion. Member for West Middlesbrough in literally quoting Mr. Chesterton, but at one time he did say that the House of Peers was a great democratic protest against the overweening arrogance of the aristocracy of intellect of the House of Commons, and that a large number of men brought together by nothing else but pure chance—that is, by the accident of birth—are, in fact, the most democratic assembly that you can find.
I would suggest that the House of Peers has, in fact, represented the will of the people more frequently and more consistently than even our honourable House. I am not one of those who would invariably say populi voluntas supremo lex, because I do not believe that the people are invariably right. I would like to point out that on many occasions when this honourable House has passed Measures which have been rejected in another place, the other place has interpreted the will of the people, and not this House.
§ Mr. WISE
I would not abolish this honourable House, although the form of interruption that have occurred rather leads me to believe that it ought to be abolished. Let me go back into the history of some of the things which have occurred when this House and the other House have been in conflict. May I remind the House of the Home Rule Bill which was passed by this House and thrown out by the House of Peers? The 373 verdict of the House of Peers was confirmed at the General Election immediately afterwards. The hon. Member for West Middlesbrough spoke of the rejection of many Measures from this House by the House of Peers immediately before the War. He said that the verdict of the overwhelming majority of this House was time after time rejected by the House of Peers, but I would remind him that each time that that verdict was rejected, the overwhelming Liberal majority in this House was reduced at each successive election until ultimately, after two elections, the triumphant, magnificent Liberal majority of 1906 was reduced to humble dependence upon the Irish party, who struck a most immoral bargain with the Liberal party at that time, that provided the Home Rule Bill went through they would support the vicious Budget and other Measures of the Liberal Government. There we have an example, among many examples, of how the other House has been a finer representation of the will of the people than even this House. I am not going to say that they are invariably right in what they say, because I am not at all sure that the will of the people is invariably right. But this House believes in democracy, it will maintain the other House to teach it what democracy really wants.
§ 9.26 p.m.
§ Sir CHARLES OMAN
I shall not detain the House for long, but I wish to speak on first principles and not in the least to waste time on what might happen if we had a reformed House of Lords. The King of England wants wise advisers. In early ages he chose his own wise advisers; that is to say, Edward I or Edward III asked individuals whose counsel he thought would be useful to him to meet him at Westminster and, with or without the presence of the Commons, to advise him on matters of importance. The thing which it is most important to understand is that King Edward I or King Edward III never thought in the least of going on necessarily to make the sons, grandsons, great-grandsons and remoter descendents of these people into a body which his successors would have to consult.
If you look at the rolls of the early Parliaments of the 14th Century you will find many houses which produced 374 quite important persons, who appeared largely in the King's Council, and who left sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons for four or five generations whom the King never asked to Parliament at all. If a great man had a son who was an imbecile, or a son who deserted to the French, or a son who had alienated all the family estates, he never thought in the least that there was any necessity for that son or his descendants to sit with him to consult in Parliament. The House of Lords was always a House of wise counsellors to advise the King.
During the course of later centuries, however, the unfortunate idea came in that pure hereditary succession should count—mainly owing to the form of the "Patents" which superseded the original individual summonses—and succession in these later days has become so absurd that professional genealogists have exhumed from obscurity peerages which went into abeyance for one reason or another 400 or 500 years ago. The House of Lords has accepted these "resurrected" peerages in case after case. This is entirely and obviously absurd, because it rune against the well-known scientific principle of the distribution of heredity. There is not the slightest reason to believe that ability descends in invariable primogeniture to all the eldest born of a family. For example, the two greatest people generally quoted, as members of the same house who made their name in England as Prime Ministers of a great king and a great queen, were the two great Salisburys. Both of them were second sons. The first Lord Salisbury, the Minister of James I, was the second son of Lord Burleigh. The second Lord Salisbury, the Prime Minister of Queen Victoria, was the second son of his father.
The theory of the heredity of legislative capacity, when applied to primogeniture, is really absurd. There is no doubt that considerable legislative ability may be inherited, but that it should always go to the eldest son is by no means necessary, and the belief that it does involves us in countless absurdities. Anyone can quote cases if he cares to think it over. A great peerage may be hung up for 40 years by the insanity of the holder of the title, and his quite competent successor stays out, without being able to give the King 375 or the House of Lords that advice which he would be eminently suitable to give.
The principle of hereditary primogeniture fails to secure that our Second Chamber should be the Second Chamber of vision, the Second Chamber of wisdom. The fact is that as years roll on the Second Chamber becomes a selection of great names of many people in the past. We have the names of great generals, great admirals and great statesmen preserved, but the genius of those people has departed. One need not quote cases. But still more absurd has it come to be when the Chamber consists not only of their direct descendants but when, by the courtesy of the Crown, a great man is allowed to leave his nephew, his niece or his brother to succeed to the peerage. The most famous Naval peerage of England, as everybody knows, was bestowed not on any legitimate descendant of Lord Nelson, but on Lord Nelson's brother, a country clergyman, and his very worthy descendants. This system of nominating peerages in order to preserve an ancient name is absurd. We do not want a collection of ancient names in the House of Lords, but a collection of individuals who can give the King wise and solemn advice upon great matters of State.
The present system operates in the most cruel way in excluding from the House of Lords many people who obviously ought to be there. Cases can be quoted, looking back in history, of people who refused the Peerage because their eldest son was impossible and incapable, and they did riot wish the family names to be smirched in the next generation. Similar cases can be quoted of a refusal simply because the status seemed too onerous in a financial way, and the absurd idea of the Peerage that prevailed in the 18th century was such that a poor man dared not accept it. Better to fall, like the unfortunate Charles James Fox or William Pitt, into the depths of debt as commoners.
Clearly, what is wanted is not an hereditary Peerage but a selective Peerage, to which not anybody who makes himself useful to his party, subscribes large sums of money and brings pressure on Prime Ministers, nor anybody of great push and ambition, nominated by a Prime Minister to whom he has rendered himself 376 useful, should attain. There should be a proper system of control of all Peerages. Some suggestion was made, in one of the many ideas of how the House of Lords should be reformed, that the Privy Council should vote on the names of all people submitted to His Majesty's approval for the Peerage and that, if they thought that the services to the Realm of an individual were not very great, although his services to the party might be obvious, they should have the power of rejecting him. But the whole state of this system comes from an unhappy decision of the House of Lords in Victorian times when, apparently out of mere class prejudice, it vetoed the Wensleydale nomination when the Sovereign appointed an individual to be a life Peer and the House of Lords refused to accept him.
What is wanted is wisdom, practical and administrative capacity, in those who compose the House of Lords, and I suggest that they do not transmit their privileges to their respectable or not respectable descendants. One of the absurdities of strict hereditary primogeniture is that there is no way at present of keeping the House of Lords clean. People who may have been guilty of any disgraceful fraud are able to keep their seats, felons and persons of notorious life cannot be excluded from an assembly which is supposed to give proper and serious advice to the King on the conduct of the Realm. That is a position which ought not to exist. The Lord de la War of the time of Queen Elizabeth attempted, unsuccessfully, to poison his uncle, and the House of Lords resolved that he should never again sit in the House of Lords. There has been no such decision, I am sorry to say, since, and felons and persons of notorious life cannot be excluded from the Assembly. What advice can be given by gentlemen who may have spent five or seven years in prison for gross fraud? There must be some way devised for excluding them. I am not speaking in the least from any party motive but because I believe all sensible people want to see the Realm of England governed in such a way that the King is advised by those most competent to do so and not by people whose ancestors were or were not competent to do so.
The great Prime Ministers and Generals and Admirals of the 18th Century may have been most competent to advise their 377 Sovereign, but really one cannot believe that people who obtained their peerage from some Whig Premier under George II or by being among the numerous illegitimate sons of Charles II, should transmit any particular privileged condition to their descendants. I urge, therefore, that the present condition of the House of Lords is not satisfactory and, as far as I know, everybody wishes to see it changed, except those who desire to keep the House of Lords weak and to prevent it from speaking out strongly on behalf of good government of the Realm. One does not wish to insist on the details of a plan for a reform of the House of Lords, but I am sure that there should be such a plan, that it should riot be postponed, and that the Government should do something at once, without the slightest delay, to make it impossible for the House of Lords to continue as unrepresentative as it is at present, and to turn it into an effective Upper Chamber.
§ 9.40 p.m.
§ Mr. LAMBERT
Judging from the attendance in the House at the moment and the amount of interest which is excited in this question it appears to me that the present. House of Lords is safe for some time. I have given this question a good deal of thought and am convinced that although in the House there is apparently no desire for a reformed Second Chamber there is outside a very strong wish that some change should be made. Many of the present Peers are most estimable men who would be an ornament to any assembly, although as my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) has said, there are some who are not ornaments to any assembly. I have been through many of the controversies on this question during the last 40 years. I voted for Mr. Gladstone's Home Rule Bill in 1893. It was rejected with contumely by an enormous majority in the House of Lords. What has happened? Can anybody say that there has been any judicial wisdom in what is called the present settlement of Ireland? The Secretary of State for the Dominions spoke the other day about an honourable settlement. There is no settlement in it. You have a hostile Southern Ireland; and I put it to the Lord President of the Council who is a reasonable man, what would have hap- 378 pened in the War if you had had a hostile Southern Ireland with submarine bases there? It is not a settlement, it is a derangement, and I blame the House of Lords for rejecting that Bill without any attempt at compromise.
I voted for the Budget of 1909. I think that the House of Lords was extremely ill advised in rejecting it; but there it was. The Parliament Act, lays it down that there must be a reform of the House of Lords. That has never been done. Mr. Asquith, when Prime Minister, laid it down quite clearly that in his judgment the veto was a temporary measure and that a reform of the House of Lords was essential. We have had a great extension of the franchise in recent years, and we have had great majorities elected on waves of emotion. The Coalition Government of 1918 had an enormous majority and the Government of 1924. Now we have this present Government. I do not think it tends to good government. The experience of to-day shows that we want an impartial revising chamber. I am not speaking for Conservatives, Liberals or Socialists. We really want an impartial chamber to assist this House in the Government of this old country; the old country is worth it. I astonished the Lord President of the Council some time ago when I said that I would give a reformed Second Chamber control over finance. I think it is vital. Take what has happened since 1918. The Coalition Government laid the foundations of a great expenditure. They built houses which cost £1 per week subsidy for 40 years. No reasonable assembly ought to have ever consented to such a thing.
Then my right hon. Friend the Lord President went to America and made a settlement of the debt to the United States. We are told that Mr. Bonar Law did not wish to risk his Government and consented to the settlement. If there had been a strong Second Chamber it would never have endorsed that settlement. Take another question. Two General Elections took place, one in 1922 and one in 1923. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has estimated that it cost the taxpayer £10,000,000 a year to redeem the promises made by Members in their eagerness to secure election. I am afraid I am going to be condemned impartially in this matter. Take the Government of 379 the Lord President in 1924. There you had the restoration of the Gold Standard. That has been impossible to maintain. Then you had what, I think, was one of the worst things ever done. T cannot think how my right hon. Friend allowed it. He enfranchised the women and repealed the Tea Duty as a bribe to get their votes. But he did not succeed. A Second Chamber with control over finance is absolutely necessary.
Let us come to 1931. I know the difficulties of my hon. Friends of the Labour party, but there was in that year a great financial crisis. Who suffered? It was the workers; it was the working man who earned wages. There were 2,500,000 unemployed. I am not here to advocate a reformed Second Chamber with control over finance in order to save the rich. I want to help the men who have to work for their living. That is far and away the most important matter, and any rash experiment will come back on them with ten times more effect than on anyone who has a fixed income.
Let us take the present position. Can anyone say that this is a satisfactory House of Commons? I am sorry to say that my hon. Friends on title Socialist benches do not devote themselves to the real situation. They are talking about something that may happen 20 years hence. That is no good to me. I have to live to-day. To have a really representative Chamber here you must have a strong and vigorous and sufficiently numerous Opposition. We talk of dictators, of Mussolini and Hitler and others. But we have a dictatorship in this country. We have a Cabinet dictatorship. Whatever the Cabinet proposes in this House will be passed by an enormous majority. There have been some strange experiments lately. There have been some controls lately, and I am not at all sure that they are going to be advantageous to the country. I am not sure that the country will approve of them. But we all know that whatever the Government propose—I do not know whether the Cabinet consists of 19 or 20, but it is composed of men hitherto of divergent principles—in this House will be passed by an enormous majority. Is that right? I do not think it is. Much as I may admire the present occupants of the Treasury Bench, I still am not quite sure that they have 380 all the wisdom of Solomon. You get a chance majority. We saw it in a former Parliament. There was a majority for the Land Taxes. That was purely due to electoral exigencies. Those Land Taxes were passed, because the House of Commons did not want a General Election. Was that right? I say that it was certainly not in the best interests of the country that such a thing as fear of an election should induce the House to pass bad legislation.
A great parliamentarian of the past, Sir William Harcourt, whom I knew very well, once said to me, "Lambert, there is nothing the House of Commons dislikes so much as a General Election." The Government always have that before them. They can force a General Election. No one wants it. My hon. Friends do not want it; I do not want it, nor does any ordinary Member. In involves a considerable amount of trouble, it costs a good deal of money, and there is always uncertainty at the end of it. A civil servant said to me the other day, "Oh, you M.P.'s want to keep your jobs." I replied, "Do not civil servants want to do the same?" It is only natural.
I do not agree with an hon. Friend who has spoken about the hereditary principle. I am against the hereditary principle outright. I do not believe in it at all. I want to save democracy from itself, from waves of emotion, from rash legislation. I do not believe in the hereditary principle; I have not the remotest respect for it. We breed Derby winners by the choice selection of sires and dams. We do not do that with hereditary legislators. When we do we shall begin to think about it. I do not want any privilege in this matter at all. There are plenty of Members of the present House of Peers who would be elected to and would be ornaments of any assembly in the world, but they must not be there because of birth. I make this appeal to the Lord President of the Council: He has promised more than once that this question shall be considered. A Conservative Member said to me only to-day, "If Baldwin does not take up this question, we shall think he has betrayed us." I know that my right hon. Friend is one of the most unassuming and most honest men we have in England, and I appeal to him to take this matter up in this 381 Parliament and let us have a real reformed Second Chamber, armed with adequate powers.
§ 9.54 p.m.
§ Mr. RAIKES
Unlike the right hon. Gentleman who has just spoken I still have some belief in the hereditary principle. I do not propose to pursue my hon. Friend the Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) into the realms of heredity or the scandals in high life, because I feel that the task which faces us here is to try to get hold of an efficient Second Chamber, and not to waste our time in squabbling over matters of detail which will be settled long after the question of powers has been settled. I think that the Conservative party as a whole is concentrating honestly and foremost on the question of powers. My hon. and learned Friend the Member for Bristol East (Sir S. Cripps) has indeed let the cat out of the bag in the course of the last few months, as to what Socialism will mean in future. He has made clear what he proposes to do the first time a chance majority gives him the opportunity. After all, it will be a chance majority because, although I am not as democratic as some of my right hon. and hon. Friends, I do not believe that the people of this country would ever go Socialist in order to get away from the National Government.
On the other hand, it is possible, as has happened often in the past, that they might get tired of the Government and they might give hon. Members on the other side a chance without too closely considering what those hon. Members are likely to do. That is why I was not surprised that certain suggestions made by the hon. and learned Member at Hastings were not definitely accepted by the Socialist party as a whole. One thing which will make it quite certain that Liberals at the next Election will vote Conservative is that they will be frightened in the constituencies by what the Socialist party may say. I do not think that my hon. Friends on the Labour benches will go to the country to demand the abolition of the Second Chamber in so many words. I do not think they are going to talk about an Emergency Powers Act to be passed if they come into power, to prevent Parliament from acting as Parliament has acted in the past. They will leave the 382 question open as they did at Hastings. But if we sit still as we have been doing since 1911 in this House, if we do nothing to tackle the question of powers, you will have Socialism without knowing whether the country wants it or not.
If the country does want Socialism, no paper safeguards which you can provide will prevent the country from going Socialist, but we on this side do not want to risk having Socialism unless or until—and I prefer the word "unless"—the country desires it. We are not going to have Socialism brought in by the back door—unless the Government are inclined to feel that because they have a. great majority now, they are here for ever. Of course the difficulty which is realised right through the National Government is that if you touch the question of House of Lords reform you are liable to begin a quarrel about details and personnel. If it had not been for that difficulty I am certain that this problem would have been tackled years ago. As matters stand to-day the problem is more urgent and the Cabinet have probably learned more of the dangers of the future from the eloquence of my hon. and learned Friend opposite, than they have from listening to the words of a mere back bench supporter like myself. If the danger is urgent there is one way in which it can be met and that is to divorce for the moment the question of powers from the question of personnel, to deal with the question of powers first and to tackle the amendment of the Parliament Act in this Parliament. You can get agreement with the greater part of the supporters of the National Government on that question. If there are one or two in high positions whose personal observations in the past make it a little difficult for them to accept these things to-day, they may feel as they felt in regard to certain matters such as the co-operative societies. Whatever views they may have held they will perhaps come to see the light in the end and in any case will not allow personal feelings to stand against the public weal.
In any case, whatever may be the predilections of individuals the country looks for some protection against dictation. We could deal with the question of powers very much on the lines indicated by the hon. Baronet the Member for 383 Ipswich (Sir J. Ganzoni). We could redefine a Money Bill and make it clear that a Money Bill, a Bill which was entirely in the hands of the House of Commons, should only be a Bill dealing with the revenue for the year and not a Measure on to which it would be possible to tack a financial Clause even though its main object should be political. I believe a good many of my hon. friends opposite would agree with me that "tacked" or disguised legislation is bad and that we desire to have things made clear one way or the other. If you redefine a Money Bill in the way I have suggested you would get a real differentiation which would ease the task of Mr. Speaker and make clear to the country when you were dealing with money and when you were dealing merely with matters of political advantage. I know my hon. and learned Friend opposite has great knowledge of finance and great knowledge of the law, and unless we make the definition of a Money Bill watertight in that way before the next Parliament, he could find a way of tacking almost anything on to such a Bill. I commend the hon. and learned Member's attitude to the Lord President of the Council and I hope that he will commend it to the Cabinet.
In regard to non-financial legislation it is said that if you give real power to a Second Chamber to refer Measures back to the electorate a great deal of disquiet and discontent will be created in the constituencies. For my part I know there will be a lot of disquiet and discontent among the Socialist party. My hon. friends opposite do not dislike a hereditary peer because he is a peer but because he is an anti-Socialist. They dislike every assembly that has an anti-Socialist majority. But it is not much good to have a Second Chamber at all unless it is made to act as a brake upon extreme measures, and my hon. friends opposite in these days have a monopoly in this country, in that they are the only people who desire extreme legislation. If the hon. Member for West Middlesbrough (Mr. K. Griffith) got going we would have Proportional Representation and then nobody would ever bring in any legislation at all because they would never get 384 it passed. I think that probably sums up very well the real meaning of Liberalism—doing nothing with many voices.
I urge on the Government that they should be prepared to redefine a Money Bill. They should be prepared to say quite openly, in face of the country, "You need an efficient check upon a Government that has got in simply by a swing of the pendulum." They should say that a Second Chamber must have powers and if it is to have powers these should include the power to refer questions back either by referendum or some other means to the electorate for final decision. Beyond that there is one other thing which we are bound to do. if my hon. Friends opposite get in as I say by a swing of the pendulum and if they go right out for "Socialism in our time" like the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol, then there should be a power by which they could be held up until they had gone back to the country and asked the country to decide whether it really believed in Socialism or whether it had put them in just because it wanted a change and thought that their faces looked nice. In that case, if the House of Lords or Second Chamber has been the anachronism that my hon. Friends opposite think the Second Chamber really is, the country will support them, and they can then abolish it, with the full support of the country, but if, as we think, the country is not Socialist, they will get one more check, and they will have to wait a good deal longer before they return again to power.
People talk about the mandate, and one hon. Member pointed out that there has been a mandate ever since 1911, but there is something further than that. What was the mandate at the last election? It was a mandate to clear up the mess which had been left by a minority Socialist Government, with the aid of a little band of Liberals who have now gone back to their proper place. If that be so, we have an even bigger mandate to prevent a majority of Socialists from making an even bigger mess without the will of the country behind them. I ask the Government to tackle this problem, not to be afraid, but to face the Opposition face to face and to tell the country why they are doing it; and I think a little courage, a little hard speaking, and a little straight speaking 385 will do more to knock hon. Members opposite out than any amount of compromise or pretence.
§ 10.7 p.m.
§ Mr. TEMPLETON
It is not often that I address this House, and before I say a word on the subject introduced by the hon. Baronet behind me, I should like to make one observation. I am sorry the hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) is not in his place. He referred in his opening remarks to the King of England, and my Scottish soul rose in revolt against the expression. I should like to remind the hon. Member, if I, the mere product of a board school in Glasgow may dare to speak to such as he, that there has been no such person as the King of England for more than 300 years. I give my honour and allegiance to our Sovereign Lord the King of Great Britain, Ireland, and all the Britains beyond the seas. I should like at the same time, while on the subject, and just by way of asserting myself and my country's rectitude, to remind the Lord President of the Council that England is not an island.
We are discussing at this moment the Second Chamber. I have defended the principle of a Second Chamber all my manhood. I have seen in my time majorities elected to the House of Commons. My dear old father, who fought as a Tory working man to get Tories into Parliament all his lifetime, had passed the age of 70 before he got one in, and he, the blighter, turned Liberal after he got in. But let me give something of my experience and come back to the seriousness of the whole question. We want to see Great Britain governed according to the will of the people, not according to some section of the people who for the time being may be in the ascendant. In thinking that, I am not alone, but every nation in the world that can accept the description of a real nation has some power that it uses over a snap vote of the electorate, over the passions of the people. We have devised in this country of ours, both in England and in Scotland, from time immemorial, a representation in our legislative assemblies of people who were not dependent upon popular clamour.
Much has been said about hereditary legislators. I am one of those who are not quite satisfied that heredity is not 386 a good thing. I am not quite satisfied that a man who is the son of a great man may not be a man like unto his father. We have had two Pitts, we have had two Gladstones, we have had three Chamberlains, and there have been many cases wherein the hereditary principle has shown itself well; but I am oldfashioned—indeed, my friends who discuss these things with me say that I am mediaeval, not to say antediluvian; at any rate, I have some old notions—and I look back upon not only England, in whose history I am interested, but my own country of Scotland, a far more important element than ever England can possibly be, and I see the peerage in both those countries represented in our Legislatures. In Scotland we had one Chamber where the peers sat down doucely with the burgesses and others, and discussed matters, and could not see a friend in the wrong, as one of our old judges said, over anything.
But here in England you had a clearer view. You had in your Chamber, in your old English Parliament, the representatives of the three great dominant interests in the country—the Church, education, and the land. You had your peerage represented by the first estate of the Realm, which was represented by the bishops and by the mitred abbots, and you had the great barons, and these three constituted the first two estates of the Realm for the peerage of England. I am using the word "England to designate the lower part of Great Britain, on the map. You had the peerage of England represented by the bishops, the mitred abbots, and the great barons. The bishops and the mitred abbots previous to the Reformation represented more than half of the whole peerage of England, and they were not hereditary legislators. Since then, through Whig aspirations, we have seen the hereditary element grow in strength and power. We have seen the bishops cut down to a few, we have seen the mitred abbots excluded from the House, and we have seen the great barons exalted inordinately, until we have to-day an unbalanced House of Lords, an unbalanced peerage; and we Tories of the older type seek to get back to conditions that will represent the great elements in our country and leave them without the need to appeal to the passions of the people in the course of a 387 General Election fought out on subjects that may have no bearing on what may come on afterwards.
I am not a Tory democrat. I am a Disraelian Tory, and I look back upon an answer given by Mr. Disraeli once to a question put to him, and the question was, "You now call yourself a Conservative?" He had at one time said that Conservatism was an organised hypocrisy, and he wag right then; as the word is now used, I am not going to say anything. At that time Mr. Disraeli had said that Conservatism was an organised hypocrisy, and he was questioned, "You are a Conservative; what do you seek to conserve?" The answer was one that I shall never forget, though I did not hear it, as I am not old enough, but I have read it and re-read it. The answer was,
We seek to conserve the splendour of the Crown," and the day before yesterday we showed that we still conserve that splendour. We seek to conserve the splendour of the Crown, the lustre of the Peerage, the privileges of the Commons and the rights of the poor, and upon these four great pillars of Conservatism I as a Tory base all my political beliefs and aspirations; and I ask the House and the Government to see that this Parliament, consisting of representatives of all the parties, will implement the pledge given by a Liberal Prime Minister on these benches that the reform of the House of Lords was a duty that brooked no delay. We hope to see that pledge honoured and redeemed in this Parliament.
§ 10.15 p.m.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
The discussion to-day has covered a wide number of subjects, but the last subject which we have been debating has evidently been more interesting to certain Members of the House than other questions that have been dis cussed early in the day. Arguments have been put forward by Members of the Tory party for the maintenance of the House of Lords, although some of them admit that there must be something wrong with the Lords or they would not want to reform it. Others want the House of Lords to remain as it exists at present. The whole argument put forward by those Tories who want either a reformed House of Lords or the present House of Lords seems to be that they are in fear of 388 what is likely to happen if another Labour Government is elected by the people of this country. [HON. MEMBERS: "Hear, hear!"] I am glad we have that admission because the hon. Member for Coatbridge (Mr. Templeton) told us that he wished the will of the people to prevail. Do the people elect the House of Lords? If they do not, how can the will of the people prevail if the Lords throw out a Measure passed by those elected by the people arid who are here expressing the will of the people? Evidently the Tories wish the will of the people to prevail only when they are in the majority. They wish the House of Lords to remain as a Chamber that will act as a brake upon any Government that is anti-Tory, knowing full well as they do, and as the record of the House of Lords has shown in the past, that, given a Tory Government, the House of Lords becomes a Chamber of dumb driven slaves of the Tory majority who sit here.
§ Mr. TEMPLETON
May I ask the hon. Member if he can tell the House of any Measure which was rejected in the House of Lords, even in its worst days, which had been the subject of a General Election and consented to by the people?
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I am not concerned with a recital to the House of Bills that have been passed by this House and thrown out by the House of Lords, or amended in such a manner that they were practically useless in operation. I am criticising the claim put forward by the Tories who are defending the House of Lords. The hon. Member had his opportunity, and if he has further arguments to put forward he might have used them when he was on his feet. The hon. Baronet the Member for Ipswich (Sir J. Ganzoni) read a long list of quotations made by individuals who are members of the Labour movement, and wished the House to believe that these statements were the accepted policy of the Labour party as laid down by its Annual Congress. When I interrupted him, he admitted that these things have not been passed by the latest Annual Congress which was held at Hastings a few weeks ago.
To come here and try to make the Tories in this House shiver with dread at what is likely to happen when a Labour Government come into power once more is trying it on a little too far even with 389 those Tories who live in fear of Socialism and believe that the Socialists are out to destroy everything that is good. If a Labour Government come into power, if a Socialist majority is returned by the people of this country, that Socialist majority has a right to pass through this House the different Bills which it believes do what the electorate outside wanted that Socialist majority to do, and if the House of Lords rejects or attempts to reject any of those Bills, surely the Socialist majority have a right to say to the House of Lords, "We are expressing the will of the people, you are denying the right of the people to express their will, and we must see to it that you are reformed or swept out of existence altogether." That is the whole total of our view of what the House of Lords happens to be. We do not believe in any Chamber which is founded on birthright. The hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) thought he had dealt that view rather a severe knock on the head by his account of the different individuals who in the past had been deprived of a right to enter the hereditary Chamber because of certain defects either in character or in mental capacity.
The issue to-day is not the House of Lords. If we had had sufficient notice that it was to be discussed during the Debate on the King's Speech, if we had been given to understand that, with the consent of the Government Whips, an opportunity was being given to get the mind of the House upon the House of Lords we should certainly have demanded more time for its consideration, because we should have believed it was an attempt on the part of the Tory Government to get in a roundabout way some expression of opinion from this House on which the Government would be likely to act. I, as well as others, deny that the Government came into office with any mandate to do anything in the way of tinkering with the House of Lords in one way or the other. The Liberal Members who now sit below the Gangway on this side, and who for a short time sat behind the Government, would, I know, support the statement I have made that no mandate was given for either the abolition or the reform of the House of Lords. To introduce the subject into this Debate on the King's Speech is taking advantage of the forms of debate in this House to ventilate a subject that was not ventilated 390 during the election, and if any action were taken by the Tory majority, which there is in this House, they would not be expressing the will of the people as given at the last General Election.
§ Mr. MACLEAN
I ask hon. Members to note what is said—that they came in with a free hand, and therefore they claim the right to do anything. But if the Socialist came in with a free hand, "Ah, that would be dictatorship." The Tories shiver; they want a strong House of Lords to prevent the Socialists from using the free hand they got from the electorate. That is real dictatorship. Hon. Members opposite want to be dictators whether they are sitting on the Government benches or in Opposition. They want to be dictators with the power of the House of Lords always on their side. That is dictatorship in its maddest form. The taunt was made that the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) wanted emergency powers passed in order that certain things should be done by a Socialist majority. Why, the last Tory Government put emergency powers into opertion, carried them through and made them work in the country. The only objection that I have to that is that that Government did not make them work extensively enough. Among the emergency powers—mark this, my three musketeer friends below the Gangway on the other side—are powers that a Socialist Government could use without passing an Act of Parliament in this House. The power to take over the land, and the power to take over factories, transport and the mines are contained in the Sections of the Emergency Powers Act, passed by the last Tory Government, and put into operation by them during the General Strike. The only thing is that they did not put all the Sections into operation that we would have put into operation if we had had the power.
The power is already there. No one need try, in this House, to create fear in the minds of people outside or in the minds of hon. Members u he know of these things, by suggesting that if a Labour Government were to come back it would pass emergency powers Acts to do certain things. We know that those powers only require Proclamation in 391 order to be put into operation, because they already stand on the Statute Book of this country. [Interruption.] They are there now. I am asking the Government to invite the opinion of the Law Officers upon the powers contained in the Emergency Powers Act which was put into operation in 1926 by the Tory Government. I am certain teat they will agree that my interpretation is a proper interpretation of some of the Sections of that Act.
There is another matter to which I would turn. The question of the House of Lords is not a real question, affecting the welfare of the working classes. It does not matter one snap of the fingers to the millions who are unemployed in the country at the present time. The welfare of the people of the country ought to be the first consideration of the people of this House, and not a question as to whether we want a House of Lords, reformed or unreformed. That does not matter one iota to people who are in dire distress. The Government, by different Ministers, replied to-day to certain criticisms that were made; I want to put one or two further questions to the Lord President of the Council, in an endeavour to get from him more information as to what is to be done by the House of Commons, according to the Ring's Speech. It is rather a weak Speech, and very little is contained in it. There are peace, disarmament, India, Newfoundland, trade agreements—but no mention of a Russian trade agreement an Unemployment Insurance Bill, housing, betting, again the reconditioning of houses, and four Bills for Scotland.
How far are these Measures going to affect the welfare of the people of the country 4 We know from the Press that a certain agreement has been concluded between the United States of America and Russia, and we know that there is a statement also that a considerable sum of money is likely to be spent on what is to be done by the workmen and work-women of America. This Government, which already had a trade agreement with Russia, which broke that trade agreement and cancelled its operation, throwing people out of employment, cannot come before the House of Commons with any proposals, so far, as to any trade agreement, or the possibility of reaching 392 a settlement regarding a trade agreement, so that Members of the House may know what is likely to be done. I cannot tell what may be in the minds of the Members of the Government; none of us on these benches can tell what is in the minds of Members of the Government; but, surely, if a Government like the United States Government can come to a trading agreement with Russia, there would be no lowering of the dignity of this National Government in also entering into a trade agreement with the Russian Government, and bringing about, by the operation of orders in this country, a little additional trade, and consequently a little additional employment for those who are at present unemployed in our great cities.
Employment followed the trade agreements with Russia in the past; employment will follow trade agreements with Russia in the future; and, when one finds that this Government prefers to be forced on by the prejudices of some of its supporters, in this House and outside, to the breaking of trade agreements with a nation and a people whose orders would confer considerable employment on our people here, one wonders just how far this Government will be prepared to go even in furthering the ends of those who have been hunting them on to what one might call this suicidal policy so far as the people of the country are concerned. This Government says that it came into office to reduce unemployment, to find work for those who are unemployed, to develop trade abroad, so that more shipping could be used, more seamen employed in the ships, and more work done by the various messengers who go back and forward exhibiting and selling goods from one nation to another. Yet the Government, instead of conducting themselves in a manner calculated to bring about this trade, smash the trade agreement and do riot endeavour to replace it, but, as far as I can gather, try to hedge round the trade agreement which may be under consideration at the present time—as they tried to do with previous agreements—with all sorts of conditions making it almost hopeless and impossible for the nation with whom we are making that trade agreement to carry it out in a manner that would give to the full the benefits of trade agreements 393 as they should be given between one country and another.
I suggest that the Lord President of the Council might take the House into his confidence, and might give a little information to the House as to the progress that is being made in the discussion of a new trading agreement with Russia. If no progress is being made, or if anything is hampering progress, perhaps he would let the House of Commons know what barriers are in the way, so that, if the House of Commons can assist in sweeping those barriers out of existence, he can rely upon the assistance of the House of Commons in getting them removed if their removal is likely to bring additional employment to the people of our Islands. I would also like to ask the Lord President of the Council what is meant by the statement in the King's Speech about the reconditioning of houses, or even the housing that is going to be done.
There is a suggestion in one of the clauses about something being done to stop illegal trawling. That is an old question for Scotland. Why it should find its way into a King's Speech, when we have been asking for it for many years, and when it could have been done by a simple Measure long ago, I cannot understand. I should like to know whether the objection that has been urged in the past by Secretaries of State for Scotland has been removed. They have informed us that it was impossible to pass legislation to prevent trawling in the Moray Firth and the Firth of Clyde until we got agreements with certain foreign nations. Have those nations agreed to these waters being closed once again? I press for information upon this point so that we may know how they have been enabled to put into the King's Speech a proposal to stop illegal trawllig. Trading agreements have been arrived at with other countries and we cannot get a trading agreement consummated with Russia.
There are other points that one would like to ask questions upon because, taking it in its entirety, I cannot see that it is going to bring very much benefit to those who are mostly interested in what is going to be done. I asked a question to-day as to what is to be done by local authorities' in Scotland in regard to unemployment. The reply was that the sums that are being paid this 394 year in maintaining the able-bodied unemployed amount practically to £500,000 additional. We want to know what powers are going to be taken by the Government to assist local authorities in Scotland as well as here. The distressed areas are being mulcted in expenses that ought to be borne by the Government and consequently a King's Speech of this nature is merely a mockery of the people outside who are looking to us to do something for them. It is all very well for Ministers to say there are some many hundred thousands less now than when they took office. That is little consolation to the 2,000,000 odd who are still left outside employment. II is not sufficient to say that in so many months you have brought 600,000 people back to employment and expect those who are still unemployed to be satisfied with that explanation. They also want employment. They also ask you to redeem your election promise to bring the country back to a condition, as you said you were capable of doing, where they can find employment and, if you cannot find employment for them, you have refused to carry out the pledge you gave to the electors.
A King's Speech of this kind containing, as it does, so little of hope for the great mass of people who are in distress and which does so little of a sympathetic nature will make these people realise that the Government ought, to withdraw the King's Speech and bring in another which will do something of greater advantage of the people, something which will capture their imagination, something that will go a long way towards removing the great stigma of poverty that rests upon so many working-class families.
§ 10.40 p.m.
§ Viscount WOLMER
I do not intend to stand between my right hon. Friend and the House for more than five minutes. I think that the speech to which we have just listened is a good justification for my hon. Friend the Member for Ipswich (Sir J. Ganzoni) having raised earlier in the Debate the question of the Parliament Act and the Second Chamber. I hope that my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council will say something upon this matter, because this is the third Session of the present Parliament and probably the last occasion upon Av ieh a matter 395 of this magnitude can be dealt with. We all know that next Session will be devoted to the question of India, for although the Indian question is mentioned as having to go forward this Session, I cannot conceive how the Government hope to pass a Bill on the government of India before the end of the present Session. Therefore, the present Session is the only one in which the question of the Second Chamber can be dealt with. The hon. Member opposite denied that we had any mandate to deal with the question of the Parliament Act and the Second Chamber. I should like to hear the doctrine of mandates a little more amplified and explained perhaps by a Joint Select Committee of both Houses of Parliament. My experience of this House is that the Opposition always says that the Government have not a mandate for whatever Bill they introduce, and the Government always say that they have a mandate. On this particular question, at any rate, I think that the Government have as good a mandate for dealing with the House of Lords and the Parliament Act as they have for dealing with the Constitution of India.
The hon. Member's point about mandates illustrates the great difficulty of the position. A majority is elected at an election for a, variety of causes. The outgoing Government has become unpopular. One particular item in the winning side's election address makes an appeal to a large section of the population. There nearly always are half-a-dozen probable causes for success at an election, and the winning side can always claim that it has authority to deal with great and major issues which have been more or less alluded to during the election. It is possible, if there is no effective Second Chamber, for a party to get into power and to pass a whole series of Measures which really do not command the ultimate assent of the electorate of this country. The hon. Gentleman asks why this should only apply against Socialists and Liberals? I entirely agree with him, and that is why we want to reform the House of Lords. I t is impossible to have a Second Chamber functioning in the way in which a Second Chamber ought to function when seven-eighths of its members happen to belong to one political party. Therefore, if this is his complaint, I am entirely with him, and there ought to be 396 no differences between us. I do not care twopence how the House of Lords is constituted. I do not believe, and my electioneering experience does not lead me to believe, that the hereditary principle is entirely unpopular as such, but I do know how you can constitute an admirable Second Chamber in half-a-dozen different ways.
There is no country in the world that is in the position of our country at the present time. One of my hon. Friends alluded to the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) as the arch-villain of the piece. The hon. and learned Member has been sitting there the whole evening, smiling, while references have been made to the dangers that would be produced by his programme. Certainly, the speech of the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), representing, as he claimed to, the orthodox section of the Labour party, is an absolute justification for the apprehension that not only the Conservative party here but a great many people w-ho do not belong to that party, feel. The hon. Member for Govan said that if his party introduced a Measure and it was thrown out by the House of Lords they would immediately take steps to abolish the House of Lords or curb the powers of the House of Lords. That is, I understand, the official attitude of the Socialist party. What does that mean? It means that the Socialist Government would demand from the Crown the power to swamp the House of Lords.
That is the claim put forward by the Socialist party, that if there is any interference with their legislative programme they are going to demand that the House of Lords should be swamped. That is an intolerable position in which to leave the country, and I think the Lord President of the Council, if I may say so, will be betraying the trust which the Conservative party has placed in him if he allows us to go on as if this situation did not exist, and ignores it. The hon. Member for Govan asks why the veto of the House of Lords should only be applied against the Socialist party. I have already explained that we want an impartial Second Chamber. It is a great deal easier, in politics as in everything else, to destroy than to build up. The Government and the Parliament that was elected two years ago to give security to this country has an obligation to give security so that the 397 sort of threat which the hon. Member for Govan has just uttered should not he possible from a transient Socialist majority in this House.
§ 10.48 p.m.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Baldwin)
One would think from the observations that were made by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean) and one or two other hon. Members that the only begetter of this Debate was the hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps). The hon. and learned Member's name has figured very much in the Debate and we have heard many extracts from orations that he has delivered at Hastings and other places. I do not know that I need dwell upon them, because this is a question that has interested a great many Members of this House long before the Socialist party obtained the position in which it stands to-day. I have one or two pretty clear views of my own, which it will not take more than a minute to expound to the House, as to the possible course of events if any man in this country is rash enough or bold enough to attempt to create a dictatorship. I believe that any attempt to create a dictatorship, whether of the right or the left, would be met by force, if force is employed. I also believe that if there be a struggle between the extreme left and the extreme right, in this country, as in other countries, the extreme right will win. Fascism is begotten of Communism out of civil discord. Wherever you get Communism and civil discord you get Fascism. You have seen it in Italy and you have seen it in Germany, and my firm conviction equally is that you will never see either in this country.
Now, feeling all the better for expressing my own views, I will devote a few words to the Debate which has taken place this afternoon. I tell the House quite frankly that the subject of it has not been under the consideration of the Government. I have, however, listened with great interest to the Debate, and there are one or two remarks I should like to make. My hon. Friend the Member for South-East Essex (Mr. Raikes) spoke quite truly when he said that one of the difficulties that former Governments had felt when they might have contemplated dealing with this 398 question had undoubtedly been the fact that no agreement had ever been reached among the supporters of reform of another place. It is quite true that in the past the differences of opinion among various people who have considered this question, which were most marked, have. helped to keep it out of practical politics. Nevertheless, to the average student of constitutional history, and to everyone who wishes to see a balanced Constitution, there are certainly two or three points connected with the present position of another place that cause anxiety and are deserving of study.
Very little has been said to-day on the question of powers. My hon. Friend, and I think one or two other hon. Members who hold very decided views on this matter, would like to see those powers strengthened. I quite agree—I mean, I agree that there are those who hold that view. I am equally convinced, from the long experience which I have had of this House, that however ardent a reformer may be he will never get this House to assent to powers which will put another place in a position of equality with or superiority to this House. I doubt, if it were possible to do so, whether that would really be of any assistance to the stability of the Constitution. In my view, the danger would be that a fresh fight would begin—as has been carried on almost through the ages—between the two Houses until this House had reasserted its supremacy. If you started entirely free, there would be a great deal to be said for a Senate. I have often thought that I should like to see such a body, but I do not believe that a body of that nature is practical politics.
There are two other questions, however, which I think are much more practical. I spoke there of a really serious increase of power, but there are two questions where, if the House of Lords continues, there is a great deal to be said for some kind of reform. The first, of course, is the inequitable representation in that Chamber of other parties. It is very largely a Chamber containing only one point of view. That in itself is not a good thing. It would be an extremely difficult thing, but not beyond the wit of man, to devise methods by which an equitable representation might be assured. The other point is that, if you look back even to the time of the Peerage Bill, 399 when in 1719 an attempt was made to limit the numbers of the House of Lords, there were just over 200 Peers. If peerages were conferred in direct ratio to the numbers of the parties, there would be between 1,400 and 1,500 Peers to-day, if not more. As a matter of fact there are 700 or 800, and at the rate at which Peers have been created since the last century, we are within measurable distance of seeing 1,000 members of another place. That would be ridiculous, and there is no doubt that the numbers are altogether excessive. In any question of reform there can be no more urgent question than a limitation of the number of Peers to exercise legislative functions. Nothing has been said as to whether a peerage should continue in existence or not if the Peers were limited—that is another question altogether—but for a Chamber for efficient working, a Chamber of 700 or 800 is too large, and this is one of the aspects of reform which will have to be carefully considered.
We have had an extraordinarily interesting Debate and a wealth of historical knowledge placed at the service of the House. We are most grateful to the 400 hon. Member for Oxford University (Sir C. Oman) for reminding us of the method by which the body which ultimately became the House of Lords was chosen. I believe that it is possible to learn a great deal from the work of our ancestors. In conclusion, all I have to say is that a Debate of such interest on a matter of considerable importance, which has afforded us the pleasure of listening to so many excellent speeches, must and' shall receive the consideration of His Majesty's Government.
§ Motion made, and Question, "That the Debate be now adjourned," put, and agreed to.—[Captain Margesson.]
§ Debate to be resumed To-morrow.
§ The remaining Orders were read, and postponed.