§ [FIFTH 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.
§ Question again proposed.
§ 4 p.m.
§ Sir FRANCIS ACLAND
I beg to move, at the end of the Question, to add the words:But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech from the Throne indicates no effective policy on the part of Your Majesty's advisers to promote either the restoration of world trade on which our own prosperity must-depend or the development of the resources and the equipment of the nation.It will be seen that the Amendment is a good deal briefer and simpler than that on which the House voted yesterday.
§ 4.1 p.m.
On a point of Order. May I ask, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for your ruling with regard to the Amendment which the right hon. Gentleman is moving? It is the rule of the House that we may not discuss the same thing two days running. The Amendment to the Address which was discussed yesterday, and which was negatived with the assistance of the right hon. Gentleman himself, covers, in my submission, the same points he is trying to raise to-day, because the Amendment yesterday covered the point of the national resources and the allegation that the Government were not developing them, and were "making no contribution to the solution of the world economic crisis." Exactly the same thing appears in to-day's Amendment in the allegation that there is indicated no effective policy for the restoration of world trade or the development of the resources of the 712 nation. I put it to you that the right hon. Gentleman is not competent to move this Amendment, and that we should either debate another Amendment or deal with the main Question.
§ 4.3 p.m.
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER (Sir Dennis Herbert)
The hon. and gallant Member was good enough, a few minutes before the House met, to intimate to me that this point might be raised, and I have considered it very carefully, because I am bound to say there is a very striking similarity in the working of the two Amendments, and, indeed, in many cases I think the hon. and gallant Member's point would have been right, but, in view of the fact that this is particularly a discussion on an Address in reply to a Speech from the Throne, it does not stand quite on the same footing as if it were a Resolution to effect something specified in that Resolution. In those circumstances, I think perhaps it may be for the convenience of the House if I can find some difference in wording which will enable me to avoid ruling the Amendment altogether out of order. I think the hon. and gallant Member will perhaps agree with me that there are certain quite definite differences in the expressions which are used which will enable me to allow this Amendment to be moved.
While I am sure the whole House is grateful to you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, for your ruling, will you extend it further and say whether it would be in order for hon. and right hon. Members to vote for an Amendment today when they voted against it yesterday?
§ Mr. DEPUTY-SPEAKER
There is no Standing Order or Rule in this House to prevent hon. Members adopting such a course of procedure.
§ Mr. CHARLES WILLIAMS
The difference between the two Amendments is so very narrow, would it not be better for those Members who move this Amendment to remain on the cross benches all day?
§ 4.5 p.m.
§ Sir F. ACLAND
In my submission this Amendment is much briefer and simpler than the one the House dealt with yesterday. It seems to me that 713 while that one ranged over nearly the whole world, and complained that His Majesty's Government were not doing enough to convert it into Heaven, this is rather different. I do not criticise the matter, method or manner of that Amendment and its handling by the Labour Opposition, because they, quite obviously, know their own job best. But I want to try a rather different method, and to put before the Government, not what they ought to do if they were going to carry out the policy of any other party, but what they ought to do in these matters if they carry out their own policy. Quotations, like comparisons are apt to be odious to any Government with regard to which there is a considerable difference between words and deeds, and in dealing, first, with the restoration of economic prosperity, I will base myself on one quotation only, namely the speech made here on 16th June last year, before the Ottawa Conference, by the Lord President of the Council in which he said that the Conference would bea step towards a world-wide lowering of trade barriers and restrictions, which is an essential condition to world recovery. "—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 16th June, 1932, Col. 655; Vol. 267.]It is practically on that phrase that we base the first part of our Amendment. Putting myself for a moment in the position of the Government—in imagination, of course; not in emolument—what might they have done to carry that out? First of all, of course, they might, as they did, arrange to call as soon as possible a World Economic Conference, and then try, as they also did, to arrange to get many of the important questions that inevitably arise worked out with the United States in advance. Obviously, it was also very much to the good that His Majesty the King and the Prime Minister should open that Conference with fine speeches full of hope and aspiration. So far so good. But our point is that almost immediately after that the Government infected the Conference with a mortal illness, and though the death blow came owing to the action of the United States on the question of currency, from the time of the Chancellor's speech on 14th June dealing with tariffs and quotas, the Conference was doomed to sterility so far as the main work was concerned—the mutual lowering of tariffs and quotas. The absence of any mention of the Conference in the Gracious Speech show that 714 the Government know that it is now dead. If they did not, surely there would have been some reference to the matter in the Gracious Speech. Surely if that Conference had been still alive, the Government would have expressed in the Speech the hope that when the monetary difficulties in the United States were adjusted, which seems now just coming within sight, the Conference would reassemble.
It was, as we all know, much the most important Conference, the most potent for good if it had been prepared for thoroughly, and handled wisely, of any Conference held in Europe since the Peace Conference of Versailles. Its assembly was by far the greatest thing this country has ever tried to do in the cause of economic disarmament. But now it is gone. I know it was arranged at the end of the Conference that its President, the Prime Minister, might assemble the Bureau and the Bureau might summon the Conference, but the absence from the Gracious Speech of any reference to that possibility seems to me to show that it was mere face-saving. I, at any rate, claim that when the Chancellor said that we were against tariffs, but only if they were excessive or unnecessary, and against quotas, but that there were arbitrary quotas and useful quotas, and when he, and later the President of the Board of Trade, made it clear that the way they preferred, and the line they wanted to take with regard to tariffs, were bilateral agreements rather than any general or group tariff reductions, the Conference was really fatally stricken so far as those matters were concerned.
The Lord President of the Council yesterday interested and delighted the House by referring to the method of the Greek chorus in a Greek play, and that reminds me of an excellent parody of a Greek play in which a man is being murdered inside a house, and the chorus is commenting outside. [An HON. MEMBER: "Liberal party."] No; you wait. The victim shouts:O! I am smitten with a hatchet's jawAnd that in deed, and not in word alone.And the chorus comments:We would not be reputed rash, but yetWe doubt if all be gay within the house.715 And the victim again:He splits my skull, not in a friendly way,Methinks he purposes to kill me dead.The chorus says:I think I heard a sound within the houseUnlike the sound of one who jumps for joy.And then the victim:O! O! Another stroke—that makes the third.He stabs me to the heart against my wish.To which the chorus responds:If that be so, your state of health is poor.But your arithmetic is quite correct.It seems to me that the stab to the heart came, no doubt, from the other side of the Atlantic, but the hatchet's blow and the skull-splitting came from the Government bench, and though a large section of our country at that time took it as quietly as the chorus in the play, yet it seems to me still to have a considerable importance. I want to ask this question: Did the Government mean, in the phrase I have quoted, "to kill the Conference dead"? Was their action to which I have referred treachery to the lofty professions so splendidly expressed by the President of the Council, or was it mere simplicity? I really believe, though it is difficult to make oneself believe it, that they were sincere, but simple to the verge of folly. They really thought, when they said they were against unnecessary and excessive tariffs, that other countries would at once admit that their tariffs were, of course, unnecessary and excessive, and that when they said that some quotas were arbitrary, other countries would at once admit that the ones that were arbitrary were, of course, theirs, while ours were naturally useful.
Things do not work in that way, and did not work in that way, and all possibility of really doing good has faded away. When the President of the Board of Trade bound himself to the mostfavoured-nation Clause he was, I think, in advance, dooming any even partial advance towards that world-wide lowering of trade barriers which the President of the Council had said was an essential condition to trade recovery. I think he must realise that even when you get two countries wanting to lessen their 716 restrictions to one another's trade, and they are considering some really big mutual reductions on the groups of articles on which it would pay both of them to reduce the burdens, neither will in fact agree to any big, or, indeed, any considerable tariff reductions, because as long as the most-favoured-nation Clause continues unmodified, they have to admit other nations to the benefits they are suggesting to give one another without any return to those other nations. What happens, in effect, is that if there is any reduction of tariffs at all as a result of those bilateral agreements, it covers only the inevitably narrow range of articles in which the two countries are exclusively interested; and it is more likely that there will be no real tariff reduction at all, but only quota arrangements, as to which, it seems to me, as the weeks go on, there is nothing more unsatisfactory if you want a stable basis for international trade, as poor Denmark has already found out to its cost. We have had to break, not in the letter but in the spirit, the agreement that we made with Denmark six months ago.
It is little use crying over spilt milk, and I want to know, if I can, whether or not the Government have any practical policy for giving effect to the suggestion of the Lord President of the Council to which I have referred, namely, a worldwide lowering of tariff barriers and restrictions. We have had everywhere an unprecedented slump in trade, but now things are slightly tending to improve again in many parts of the world, as always happens after a slump, and I am informed by people whose business it is to keep a watch on these things that countries will be inclined to modify the height of their tariff walls and the severity of their quotas. The question is, Are the Government going to stand aside from all that, instead of giving the lead which, in view of our traditions and our influence in the world, we could so usefully give if we were inclined to do so? If so, and if they are merely going to stumble along with bilateral agreements, without modification of the most-favourednation Clause, I ask, in the name of sanity and consistency, Why? But if they are going, as I hope, to turn over a new leaf, to try to do better and to get groups of nations together again when there is any real chance of doing so, with a view to really considerable mutual re- 717 ductions of tariffs and quota restrictions, then why is there no reference to the matter in the Gracious Speech? I fear that on this matter, as on some others, the Government have missed the tide and that they really know it; but what a pity it is.
I would like now to turn to the second part of our Amendment, which deals with the development of the resources and equipment of the nation, and it would not be fair to deal with that matter without recognising with gratitude, as I do, as a member of a county council, the help which the Government intend to give for the development of rural water supplies. It is often a very good thing to pour a little water down the pump to make it draw, and I hope their £1,000,000, although it will not go far in a work of such difficulty as this, will help. The great difficulty, of course, is that though district and county rates must be used to ease the burden on the particular area served, when you come to the actual problem of any district and have to consider it as a member of a county council, it seems unfair to impose a general rate, because it must cover places which have in previous years provided and paid for their own water supplies and, therefore, feel it to be a little inequitable to be rated in order to pay for other people who have not been so provident and forethoughtful. But I believe that money will be useful, and I hope, too, that other counties will not put forward too many schemes until Devon has had its full share, as I hope to see that it will have.
The House will be very much relieved to hear that I am not going to try to cover the whole field of national development, but I will deal with one aspect of the housing problem that has not been dealt with hitherto in these Debates, and with a few minor practical matters that I happen to be working at day by day. As to housing, I will start with a quotation, not this time from the Lord President of the Council, but a quotation which he, I am sure, will enjoy, because some of us admire him, if possible, more as a literary man than we do as a statesman. My quotation is this:I am well convinced that nothing effectual can be done for the elevation of the poor in England until their dwelling places are made decent and wholesome. I have always been convinced that this reform 718 must precede all other great reforms; that it must prepare the way for education, even for religion; and that without it those classes of the people which increase the fastest must become so desperate and be made so miserable as to bear within themselves the certain seed of ruin of the whole community.That is by Charles Dickens, from the preface to the fifth edition of "Oliver Twist." Of course, we have done very much since then—nobody would attempt to deny that—but surely much remains to be done, and I feel that it would ill become one who knows so little at first hand of town conditions, but who has come rather fresh to them as a member of the Moyne Committee, to plunge into the controversy between the Minister of Health and his critics as to whether or not slum clearance, at which he and his Parliamentary Secretary have been working, I think, so gallantly, has been going as reasonably fast as could be expected.
I will take another and, I think, even more important side of the subject, and one to which slum clearance makes very little contribution, namely, the shortage of houses. I am sorry to put it in this way, because the House may fear too long a speech, but for the sake of clarity and brevity I will try to establish eight propositions. I do so, knowing that on this matter of housing, as on others, the Minister of Health has an open mind, and if and when he is convinced, he does his best to act upon his conviction. We all remember how very low he put the programme of slum clearance which he expected to be carried out originally, how very well the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Sir A. Chamberlain) expressed the stirring and indeed the revolt of the national conscience on that matter, and how the Minister thereupon expanded his programme, and what efforts he and his Department have since been making.
It was no doubt the same definite desire to get things done which moved him to appoint the Moyne Committee, and the double reference to the subject of reconditioning in the Gracious Speech, combined with what he said yesterday, leads me to hope that the legislation on reconditioning which is foreshadowed will follow the lines of the Moyne Committee report. I shall be glad to know in due course whether that is so, but, much more important than myself, a great many hundreds of others will want to know it 719 too—men who are working day by day on this question of reconditioning through public utility societies, men like Lord Balfour of Burleigh, for instance, who believe that the beneficent work of their societies would be enormously stimulated and expanded if the Moyne Committee report could be carried into effect.
That is by the way, but let me come to my first proposition, which is that on the basis of a structurally separate dwelling for every family the housing shortage in this country increased from 250,000 in 1911 to nearly 750,000 in 1921 and to 830,000 in 1931, in spite of the fact that 2,000,000 houses have been built since the end of the War. That is because, owing to the decreasing size of families, you need 48 more houses to house each thousand of the population than you needed 20 years ago. That figure of 830,000 is still increasing and will inevitably go up to 1,500,000, unless we have another war, in the next 20 years. It seems amazing that, in spite if all our housing efforts, we have not been catching up with the shortage of houses. I remember more than 40 years ago, after a day's fishing in Yorkshire, walking against time to catch a train at a wayside station, and asking the drivers of the laden coal carts whom I met every five minutes coming away from the station how far off it was. Seven of those drivers running gave the same answer, "Aboot a mile," until I felt glad at any rate that I was not slipping back from my objective. But we have been slipping back as regards providing a sufficient number of houses for the families of this country, and I believe that, wherever one in a practical way touches the housing problem, one is face to face with this increasing overcrowding. If, for instance, the London houses, with their horrible basements, which never ought to have families living in them, are reconditioned, it is one of the most difficult things to prevent them almost at once getting filled up with new families and becoming overcrowded again and you get similar illustrations all over the country.
My second point is that private enterprise, on which the Minister has been relying so much, will not effectively reduce that shortage. At the rate of building of smaller houses to let, which the Minister mentioned last night—I think it 720 was somewhere about 30,000 a year—it would take 50 years to overcome the shortage that I have mentioned. Private enterprise, I think, will provide houses above the standard both of accommodation and rental that poor people want—certainly above the standard of rental that they can afford to pay. Private enterprise houses, so far as they are built to let at all, will start at about 12s. weekly, excluding rates, and one of the reasons why private enterprise prefers the bigger and more highly rated houses is this very question of overcrowding. There is never any difficulty in selling, because those who buy know that even if they get into difficulties, they can easily get lodgers who will help them. It is the same with renting. When they fall on evil days, they have only to take in lodgers, whom they can have for the asking, to pay the rent for them. So I say that private enterprise will not meet that need for fresh houses.
Thirdly, local authorities can supply that need. Under normal conditions, if they can get money at the rate at which the nation can afford to advance it, if they can build well, if they can manage well, if they do not trust the borough surveyor to do the lay-out of their housing estates, but get someone who really knows the job, and if they can spread their loans over 60 years, as against the 30 years of the building societies, they can let their houses normally at 10s. a week, including rates—a very different thing from 12s. a week, excluding rates, which I think is about the lowest figure of private enterprise, through the building societies. Further, if, as they can and generally do, they attach good gardens to these new houses, a man who has kept an allotment can make an average 2s. worth of profit a week from the vegetables which he grows in the garden, and that brings the 10s. house, inclusive of rates, down well within the reach, I do not say of everybody, but of hundreds of thousands of people who are now overcrowded in houses which have no gardens at all and very often in one room or two rooms.
Fourthly, though it is the duty of local authorities, under Section 25 of the 1930 Housing Act, as we were reminded yesterday, to provide houses to meet the needs of their people, they are not doing it. I am not going into the question of 721 whether or not the Minister has discouraged them—.I do not want to be controversial about that—but the fact of the matter is that there was a certain remainder of local authority, house-building after the axe fell in December last year on subsidised house-building, with regard to which schemes had previously been submitted. We had the figures yesterday, but, apart from that remainder, I think one has to recognise what I believe is a fact, that in the six months ended 31st March of this year loans were sanctioned for only 1,208 houses, as against 69,600 houses in 1932.
Fifthly, authorities should be willing to do fresh building, for whereas both slum clearance and the de-crowding of reconditioned houses, if you follow the lines of the Moyne Report, will require a subsidy from the local authorities, much new building that the local authorities might do would require no subsidy from the rates at all. That being so, it seems to me that, although they are not doing the job, they might be stimulated to tackle that part of their statutory duty if the right means were taken.
Sixthly—and with this I am sure the Minister will agree—the problem of getting new houses built is not a single or a uniform problem; it is different all over the country; there is not only a difference between town and country and between London and the provinces, but there is every possible gradation of variation between London and the most rural country districts. While, therefore, one can say in general that local authorities can, and therefore should, build a decent house with plenty of garden to let at 10s. a week inclusive without subsidy, it is not so universally. Sometimes a subsidy will be needed, particularly when people have to go a long way to their work or when considerations of space require that they should be housed on the flat system.
Seventhly that being so, there must be elasticity of method, and this means that there must be a special authority partly to finance the work on the lines of the central financing authority recommended in the Moyne Report, but mainly to stimulate and help local authorities to do their work most efficiently and economically, and, where necessary, and only where necessary, to recommend subsidies. I am rather shy about the idea of 722 subsidising individual rents in accordance with the changing needs of the families who are being housed, because it is difficult to distinguish it from subsidising low wages. It seems to me also impossible to argue that because a certain thing can be done without subsidy in an ordinary small town the same thing can be done without subsidy, say, in London, or that because a subsidy may be needed in one place it should necessarily be given whether it is needed or not in other places, or that because you must have in many country districts many houses at rents of 5s. inclusive you must aim at that standard of rent in other places as well.
What the special authority should be, it is not for me to say. It has been suggested that housing should 'be transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Office of Works. I am bound to say that I see no point in that. So far as my experience goes, the officials of the Ministry of Health are very efficient and zealous in the performance of their job. It has been suggested, too, that transferring the work from the Ministry of Health to some other body will work miracles in reducing the cost of housing. I do not see that either. There must be, I believe, for some few years, some outward and visible sign of the fact that the Government are determined that a special effort shall be made to meet the housing shortage, quite apart from slum clearance. It might be enough, keeping the matter on departmental lines, to have a special Under-Secretary for Housing. It might be, and I think would be, better to have some semi-independent body on the lines of the Forestry Commission, but I am sure that neither the necessary stimulus nor the necessary elasticity that is required can come about unless half-a-dozen of the hest men in England arc got together and given very wide powers for tackling it and getting it done.
Eighthly, and lastly, do not let us any more be led away by the idea that what is wanted can be done by filtering up into the houses to be provided by private enterprise. That really is a fallacy. Private enterprise will do no more than slightly diminish the present overcrowding. When we have built 800,000 new houses we can wait a bit and see what filtering up there is, but that job may well take us eight years. It is no good talking about filtering up when there is 723 need for something like 1,000,000 houses and so few are being built of the character that are really wanted. May I reiterate my eight points: (1) We need over a million new dwellings; (2) private enterprise will not do it; (3) local authorities can do it, or a great deal of it without any all-round subsidy; (4) they show no signs of doing it; (5) they can be stimulated to do it, because it is their statutory duty; (6) the problem varies all over the country; (7) there must therefore be stimulus and elasticity exercised by some new authority or modification of existing authority; and (8) we cannot rely on filtering up until we have over a million of houses being built. I am sorry to have taken so long over this question, but it is no use dealing with it by vague denunciations or generalities. We must try to put forward an arguable case.
I have four further proposals to make, all well known to Ministers, and all coming well within the policy which Ministers have professed. The first is quite small. Can the pound-for-pound grant which is given by the Government to help the provision of supplies to unemployed men cultivating allotments be extended to the schemes which have arisen out of that for helping the men who have made good on allotments to start in a small way with poultry, pigs and market gardening. A deputation asked for that about six weeks ago, and I should like an answer. I happen to be chairman of what we call the Schemes Committee which does the detailed administration of that work. It is under the general charge of a committee of the Society of Friends, and I can assure the House that though many schemes come before that committee, very few come up to the necessary standard. We think it vital that in these schemes the men should co-operate, that they should repay later on what they can afford, and that there must be efficient management on the business side and efficient supervision on the technical side. Members of the Society of Friends and others have subscribed liberally, but we are coming near to the end of our money and I want to be able to make it go further; and a grant of a pound-for-pound, even up to only £10,000, would enable us to test and prove the experimental schemes 724 which we have been carrying on in the mining districts of Durham and elsewhere with great success. I respectfully ask if anything can be done about that.
Secondly, as I have said here three times already, the amount of help which we can give through the Friends' scheme to unemployed on allotments is restricted in some districts by the difficulty of getting land. I have been at this allotments work more or less for 30 years, and I have come to the conclusion that the only tenure which is really satisfactory for allotment holders in towns is a freehold tenure. In going into it, one finds that rents of not more than one shilling a rod, which men may not unreasonably be asked to pay after the first year when they have broken up the land, will cover the cost of purchase, adaptation and administration if the land can be bought for £150 an acre. If the land is to be reasonably within reach, it must often cost much more than that. Is it too much to ask the Government in suitable cases to put into operation the Sections of the Agricultural Land (Utilisation) Act, which gives them power to help? That would stimulate local authorities to help as well. I would not suggest that the Government should give money where the local authority refuses to give any of its own money because the local authority can raise a rate up to l⅓d. for allotment purposes, and these Sections would stimulate local authorities in a way that nothing else would.
The Government want 200,000 unemployed men to be helped this season instead of the 100,000 who were helped last. It is almost too late already for them to do any good in securing that by doing what I have asked, because land cannot be selected, local authorities cannot be moved to action, and tenants cannot be obtained all in a few weeks. Unless one can get unemployed men on to land which needs breaking up by February, it does not give them a fair chance to do the job at ail. I say definitely, as joint Chairman of the Friends' Administrative Committee and President of the National Allotments Society, that if this help could be given without too much red tape wrapping it up, we could still do something to expand that number of men. If those who are kind enough to listen to me in this House could see how 725 an unemployed man's life can be transferred from despair to hope by having a bit of land, I could get that money to-day.
§ Mr. HEPWORTH
Is the right hon. Gentleman suggesting that an unemployed man can make a living on an acre of land?
§ Sir F. ACLAND
Not in the least. That is why I am pleading for these extended schemes, so that from an allotment a man could go on to a smallholding, and from that to something from which he could get a whole-time living. It is extraordinary what men get from an allotment. The main point is that, although no one suggests that they can get a living from an allotment it really gives them occupation for every hour on fine days, and on many wet days, too, because they build their huts and work in them. Although an allotment does not give a man a living, surely it is a good thing to provide and to extend it as much as we can. We are going this Session to spend a good deal of money before we have done on Newfoundland across the Atlantic. I want a little spent on new found land for unemployed men in this country.
Work on allotments leads as it should lead to poultry and market gardening holdings. I do not want to go over the ground that was covered last Friday by the hon. Member for Anglesey (Miss Lloyd George) and the Minister of Agriculture, though it is tempting to point out that the herds of swine and the deluge of eggs and the other things of which the Minister complained are simply the result of trying to regulate supply to demand artificially. The worst of all these wonderful schemes is that they never work, and something always turns up at the last moment to dislocate them. But putting that aside, and putting aside the question of providing smallholdings by county councils on lines with which we are all familiar, why in the world the Government should be willing to do that in Scotland and not in England I cannot imagine.
I want to touch another side of the matter and to ask when we can expect to hear whether the Government are able to provide quite a limited sum of money—again, it would probably be enough to do it on the pound-for-pound basis—to try out some full-scale experiments in land 726 settlement for groups of men, each group adapting its husbandry on some definite scheme for which the land and the markets were suited, the men being in the main selected from those who had made good in town or country on allotments and part-time or spare-time holdings. The Lord President of the Council yesterday invited contributions to this subject from such Members as had studied it. I made a little contribution on a deputation which the Prime Minister was kind enough to ask to meet him some weeks ago. I should not have mentioned that, but the Minister of Agriculture sent a report of the deputation to the Press, and, as it has appeared, I am justified in asking whether there is anything doing about it.
In these matters it is so easy to miss the tide, and now, when land is cheap, is the time to start. We may find ourselves very handicapped in getting suitable sites if we do not start until a few years later on. I am quite certain that there is a very widely diffused interest in land settlement, and that a great many very practical men believe it can be done without any of those terrible consequences which the Minister of Agriculture foresaw, and that under a well-thought-out scheme a lot of other money would be forthcoming to meet the help which the Government could give. If the Government intend to do nothing I had almost rather that they said so, because then some of us might begin to see whether we could not get other bodies to start the work.
My last point is this When is the embargo on the senior school system to be removed 7 In Devonshire, where I am the chairman of the Education Committee, more than half of our schools have fewer than 50 children in them. To me it is a marvel how the teachers manage to teach at all, faced with the problem of teaching all the children from 8 to 14 in one class, and that they do it proves to me that the age of miracles is not past. But if those children are to have anything like the same chances as town children have—and they are worth giving every chance, those country children—they ought, at the age of 11, to go on to senior schools. We have only three in Devonshire. We had to stop when the axe fell on our scheme. Some of the parents, incited thereto by the parsons, who ought to have known better, threatened to 727 strike rather than send the children to those schools, but once they started there was no more talk about strikes. The parents were delighted with the extra brightness, keenness and interest which had come into the lives of the children, and even if they had tried to prevent the children going they would not have been able to do so, because after the first day nothing would have kept the children back from the omnibus which took them along to the school. I do not want to go into ecstasies about these schools. I leave that to the inspectors of the Board of Education, who on this subject have gone as near to ecstasy as is permitted in official reports, but I shall not be happy until we have many more of these schools. The Government need not be afraid that it will cost much at first. They put the brake on so hard when they had to brake that it will be quite difficult to get it off again, and to get a movement of this kind really going again.
It is not nice to have to point out to the Government these rather simple elementary matters, but their neglect of these things and others like them—I have ventured to deal only, apart from housing, with the particular things connected with my work—is not only doing harm to our social life and national development but harm to the Government. We are the most patient people in the world, but there are signs that patience is wearing rather thin in some parts of the country. If the Government want to preserve any claim to be considered a National Government I would remind them that it will be on their actions in matters such as those which I have mentioned that they will be judged, and not by their words, and it is because so little action to develop our resources and equipment is foreshadowed in the Gracious Speech that I am bound to move this Amendment.
§ 4.50 p.m.
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
I have listened to many speeches in this House, but I have never felt a greater degree of surprise and amazement than at the speech just made by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland). We expected a really important speech to-day on a very vital subject after what the Leader of the party said last night when finish- 728 ing his speech. In this connection I should like to read to the House what is in the Amendment, which regrets that the Gracious Speechindicates no effective policy on the part of Your Majesty's advisers to promote either the restoration of world trade, on which our own prosperity must depend, or the development of the resources and the equipment of the nation.Last night the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) finished his speech on this note:For reasons which we have given we shall move our Amendment to-morrow, and my lion. Friends will speak to it, and will state the definite constructive proposals which we wish to make.
§ Mr. WALLACE
I do not wish to cast any reflection on the right hon. Gentleman. I am referring to t he speech of his leader, which went on to say:For these reasons we cannot support the Amendment now before the House.The House must remember that this is no ordinary Amendment. It amounts to a Vote of No Confidence in the Government, and the speech by which it is supported is to me one of the most extraordinary Parliamentary efforts to which I have ever listened. I think that something must have gone wrong with the arrangements regarding this Amendment. There was a very pungent article this morning in the "News Chronicle "entitled" Where is the enemy? "in which hon. Members opposite were reprimanded very seriously for not supporting the Labour Amendment. I feel certain that another article, much more pungent and more vehement, will appear to-morrow when they read the speech of the right hon. Gentleman on this very vital and important Amendment. We understood that the right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) was to have proposed the Amendment, but I understand that he will speak later. Before offering the very few observations which I wish to make on the Amendment, I would like to congratulate hon. Members opposite on at last staging the epoch-making event of crossing the Floor. The Leader of the party opposite is now in a new strategic position. Along with his right hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Caithness he has occupied 729 several positions in this Parliament, which has been in existence only two years. First they sat on the Treasury Bench, then there was a move to the right, and then there was the crossing of the Rubicon, which places them in somewhat close proximity to the Labour party. I do not know whether there is any significance in that proximity, and I notice that a right hon. Gentleman shakes his head, but I can only suggest, after the interchanges yesterday on the means test, that it was not a very happy beginning to possible future negotiation.
The right hon. Gentleman, in dealiig with this vital Amendment concerning world trade and the economic development of the country, made only a perfunctory reference to the Economic Conference. I must insist that it was a perfunctory reference. He dealt with that very important subject in a very light-hearted way, with the usual accusations against Members of the Government because they went there and stated the point of view of this country's interest in the negotiations. Because our representatives at the Economic Conference took a clear and patriotic line the right hon. Gentleman blames them for the breakdown of the Conference. I have been unable to understand the extreme love which a certain type of politician has for every country except the one to which he happens to belong. The right hon. Gentleman also referred to bilateral agreements. I do not intend to deal with them, because others will do so later. A right hon. Gentleman laughs. When the right hon. Member for North Cornwall referred to bilateral agreements he said he preferred dealing with groups of nations. I think I am right in that, because I took a, note of his words. What does he mean by that Does he mean that he does not object to the tariff system imposed on groups of nations or does he object to bilateral agreements?
§ Mr. WALLACE
We have not left the party, but dissentient Liberals sitting an the opposite side have left the party—of that there is not the slightest doubt—and the right hon. Gentleman is not going to get away from the subject with that quite unnecessary reference, because 730 understand he made a speech at a certain Liberal federation in which he agreed to tariffs. He can correct me if I am wrong, but, if that is the case, he finds himself in strange company. The speech was made at the National Liberal Federation at Scarborough—
§ Mr. WALLACE
I meant to bring the quotation with me. If he says that I am in error, I at once withdraw the observation that I have made; but his reference to groups of nations seemed to me to lend a certain amount of likelihood to my interpretation of what he did say. I cannot follow him in the points he raised regarding allotments, because, so far as Scotland is concerned, a considerable amount has been done by the Department of Agriculture there; but all the questions of that kind touched upon are matters of common ground between us, and I feel compelled, therefore, not to deal with that part of his speech, but with what has obviously been omitted from his speech. He says there has been a failure to promote world trade, but his only support for that statement was to be found in his references to the Economic Conference. Then he spoke of the "development of the resources and the equipment of the nation. "What does the Amendment mean by that particular reference? "Developing the resources of the nation" is a very wide description. We have developed them, and we contend that this Amendment is entirely unnecessary and mischievous, because we believe that the policy of the National Government has followed closely along the lines of the manifesto issued by the Prime Minister before the General Election. I feel bound to recall what was said at that time. In his appeal to the nation on 7th October the Prime Minister said:These are times of exceptional urgency and exceptional conditions which demand exceptional treatment. As it is impossible to foresee in the changing conditions of to-day what may arise, no one can set out a programme of detail on which specific pledges can be given. The Government must therefore be free to consider every proposal likely to help, such as tariffs, expansion of exports and contraction of imports, commercial treaties and mutual economic arrangements with the Dominions.To that manifesto, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for 731 Darwen subscribed. So strong was the feeling of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen on this subject that he issued a special appeal in which he said that the people were called uponto give or withhold their trust in a Government composed of men of all parties, to give or withhold a mandate to take whatever measures, no matter what might be their nature, which the present emergency might be found to require.
§ Major Sir ARCHIBALD SINCLAIR
That is a very selective quotation. There are a number of other passages, from which the meaning of the speech will be made quite clear.
§ Mr. WALLACE
I would not wilfully misquote anyone, or make any quotation apart from its context, but I contend that this quotation broadly represents the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Will the hon. Gentleman quote that part which deals with Tariffs and Protection, because that will make quite clear the attitude of the Liberal party at that time?
§ Mr. WALLACE
I thought that the attitude of the right hon. Gentleman and of the leader of his party was so clear on this subject that any further quotation was unnecessary. It was borne out by their action, in the early days of the present Parliament, in being Members of the Government. Either they did, or they did not, support the Government in the tariff policy up to the time when they left the Government. In doing that, they followed out the pledge that they gave in October, 1931.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
It is quite clear that we did not support that policy, because there was an agreement to differ which enabled us not to support the tariff policy, while remaining Members of the Government.
§ Mr. WALLACE
I know, but I never knew where the agreement to differ was to begin and to end. You are either a Free Trader or a Tariff Reformer. When I was a Free Trader, I had no hesitation about how to vote. You cannot have it both ways. The right hon. Gentleman remembers quite well that, in fulfilment of those. pledges, his party, so far as my recollection goes, voted in favour of the 732 wheat quota. That surely is all in line, with the extracts which I have ventured to give from the speeches which they made at that time.
It is my contention that the Government's policy, of which they complain, has been faithfully carried out, with beneficent results. The country to-day, in spite of what is stated in the Amendment, is being developed industrially by the policy of His Majesty's Government, of which they themselves were Members. I do not wish to cover ground which has been covered before, or to give unnecessary figures, but I want to give one or two figures which seem to have a great degree of relevance, as to the effect of tariffs on the export and import trades. In 1930, British exports had fallen by 22 per cent. and, a year later, by 32 per cent. In 1932, the fall was 6.5 per cent.; that is, after the Tariff had been imposed. In the 10 months of 1933, exports have risen by 0.3 per cent., and the export figures for October were distinctly encouraging, showing an increase of £4,500,000 over October of last year. Surely these figures have some relevance, especially as hon. Gentlemen opposite have always contended that the imposition of tariffs would ruin our export trade. Imports have, of course, been materially reduced, and the adverse balance of trade has been corrected.
We heard a great deal about the adverse balance of trade in October, 1931. It is a surprising fact that the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason), who was such a devoted follower of his leader, is completely at variance on this subject with his leader, who regarded the adverse balance of trade as having produced a new tariff aspect in the situation. That was a very important fact, and it is also not irrelevant to remember what Sir Arthur Salter, head of the economic section of the League of Nations, said on the question of tariffs. He said:It was the continuance and increase of high foreign tariffs that really turned the scale in the case of British tariff policy.There was no alternative but to defend ourselves, and the result, in my submission, has been twofold; it has helped trade and industry in this country and has assisted the revenue. In the last financial year, we received from this source £22,000,000 sterling, and it would be very interesting to know from those 733 who oppose tariffs how that revenue could otherwise have been secured. I observe that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen, speaking at Newcastle upon tariffs, said:There are other sources of revenue which would not be hard to find.I am sorry that he is not in his place now, as I should very much have liked to ask him where were those sources of revenue, because nobody would be more glad to discover what they are and where they are than the Prime Minister.
§ Mr. WALLACE
When the right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness makes his speech later to-night, if he deals with the question of land valuation, we shall be glad to listen. In this Amendment we are charged with not developing the resources of the country. The manufactures coming into the country in 1932 had decreased by £104,000,000, and in the first 10 months of 1933 there has been a further decrease of just under £9,000,000. Tariffs have had the double effect of increasing the revenue and increasing employment, and the new policy of the Government has therefore been completely vindicated. I shall leave that subject to be dealt with more fully by my hon. Friends at a later stage. I propose to say a word or two upon another subject.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of housing on which he possesses some special knowledge, and there has been no real disagreement on that question. The Amendment refers to the development of the country's resources, and I expect at a later stage in the Debate to hear something about the spending of more money upon public works. We, on this side of the House, will never stand in the way of productive expenditure, or of reasonable expenditure to raise the standard of comfort and of living among the people of this country. That is common ground, upon which we are all agreed. But when we are asked to disperse huge sums of money on what are called public works, I think that we ought to be very sure of what the results are likely to be.
The enormous weight of debt which rests upon the shoulders of this country to-day is not commonly realised. Before the War, our total indebtedness, both for 734 national and for municipal debt was something under £1,000,000,000. To-day it amounts to the staggering sum of something near £10,000,000,000. As a result, the internal debt of this country, so far as the funded debt is concerned, amounts to £150 per head of the population. That of France amounts to £56, and of Germany to £8. All matters pertaining to public expenditure should be closely looked at, in order to make sure that nothing is spent from the public purse for work which is not either of a definitely productive character, or is going materially to help to raise the standard of living of the people. In spite of the fact that we are so heavily burdened, and of all that we hear in this House, especially from the Opposition Benches, there is no country in the world which has done more to help in the very sorrowful conditions of the unemployed, and to help the poor and distressed in practically every department of our civilisation.
I would emphasise the need for continued national unity, which was never more essential than to-day. I suggest with great respect that the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Liberal party and his followers are, on the fiscal question, the slaves of ancient formulas, and that they are living more or less as troglodytes in their cave dwellings. They do not realise, as does the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George), that we are living in a new economic era. The right hon. Gentleman is never slow to realise new economic tendencies. I was very glad to hear his speech relating to that matter the other day. He realised that the day of unregulated and unplanned economic policy is definitely past, and that the world is marching on. As was said last night by the Lord President of the Council, we are living in days of drastic change, and we have mighty problems ahead to solve, both from the national and international points of view. Difficulties of the most stupendous character confront every nation in the world, and they are bound to have reactions and repercussions on our own country. As I look at home and abroad, with all these changes in view, I think it may well be that the world is in the throes of a mighty rebirth, and that we are too near the march of big events to realise their magnitude or their consequence. Whatever the future may 735 be, I am certain, however, that the present is not the hour to strike the note of party strife.
§ 5.15 p.m.
§ Mr. LLOYD
I rise for a specific and limited purpose, and that is to call attention to the great improvement in trade and employment in Birmingham and the Midlands, and to thank the Government for creating the conditions which have enabled it to take place. In 1931, just before the General Election, trade was bad and unemployment very high. During 1932 there was some industrial recovery, and a considerable fall in the live register. I do not, however, stress this, because a certain allowance must be made for those who ceased to register at the Exchanges as a result of disallowance of transitional benefit under the means test, and under the Anomalies Bill passed by the late Socialist Government. Indeed, in Birmingham a considerable number of people were affected by this Act of the late Government, but happily we can rule this out as having any appreciable effect on the figures of the live register during the last 12 to 18 months. We can, therefore, examine these figures with complete confidence, and I think they are very remarkable figures.
During the comparatively short period between August, 1932, and October, 1933, there has been a substantial and general improvement in employment in every large trade and industry. Even in the distributive trades, in which unemployment was never very high, there has been a reduction of 25 per cent., and building, in which there is normally a seasonal increase in the autumn, shows nevertheless a reduction of well over one-third. But it is in the great characteristic metal industries of the City that we find the most striking improvements. During that short period of just over 12 months, we find that, for example, the electrical engineering industry and the brass and copper industry have reabsorbed practically half their unemployed, while every other large metal industry in the City has cut its unemployment by more than half. This applies to miscellaneous metal manufactures, to the construction of motors, cycles and aircraft, to watches, clocks and jewellery, and to certain brass and copper metal wares. The improve- 736 ment in the Midlands as a whole has also been striking, although, perhaps, not quite so pronounced as in the City of Birmingham itself. Here I think that perhaps the brightest spot, is the hosiery industry; those who know the trade well would be inclined to say that, after the recent reduction in unemployment, unemployment in that trade to-day is almost negligible.
There are three other points which I think call for special attention in regard to unemployment in the City of Birmingham. The first is that, there has actually been a fall in the numbers of those in receipt of public assistance in recent months. The second is that the demand for labour is now such that many married women are returning to work. Many of these women have been out of work and not recording themselves in the books of the Employment Exchanges for some years, and hon. Members will therefore appreciate that the fall in the live register to-day does not show the full extent of the revival of employment. The third point is that there is actually developing to-day a shortage of certain kinds of labour, in the sense that manufacturers are unable to obtain the types of workers that they require. This applies, in many of the Birmingham trades, to highly-skilled men, and more generally to women and juveniles. I think the House will agree that these are new and welcome features to find in the employment situation of any great industrial area in this country.
In that area the trade situation reflects the employment improvement. Our local railway traffics are going up. Our bank clearings are up by from £2,500,000 to £3,000,000. Factories are being extended, disused departments are being brought into production again, and there is a brisker demand for vacant factories. In general, I think it is true to say that there is a new spirit in the City. Manufacturers have much greater confidence, and, having consolidated the home market, they are in many instances turning to the export trade, and, as the figures show, turning to it successfully. We do not want to exaggerate this improvement, and here I think I must say a word about a statement of the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell). He was dealing with three trades in which we in Birmingham are particularly interested, and I must say we are very surprised to 737 hear his statement. Of course, he was not so much interested at that time in the employment position in the Midlands as in trying to show that this country was exporting suspiciously large quantities of material that might be useful for armaments. This is the statement that he made: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 some explanation."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1933; cols. 280–1, Vol. 283.]The explanation is simply that the hon. Member did not notice what is very clearly shown in the Trade and Navigation Accounts for October of this year, namely, that, whereas the figures for October, 1931, were' in tons, those for October, 1933, are in hundredweights. The correct increases are, for aluminium 15 or 16 per cent., for brass 41 per cent., and for wrought copper 27 per cent. I must say that the hon. Member's speech has not had a very favourable reception among the metal operatives of Birmingham, and, indeed, some of them have instructed me in somewhat strong language to put one or two points to him. One of them is that, regard to the reasonable and satisfactory improvements in alumininum exports, by far the largest improvement is in that section which includes aluminium saucepans, kettles, and other harmless domestic utensils which go by the trade name of hollow-ware, in which we do a substantial business in the City of Birmingham. I might perhaps point out, on my own account, in regard to the large increase in copper, that by far the largest part of that increase goes to India, and I do not think that even the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition would expect an armament race to begin there.
To come back to serious figures, I think the iron and steel industry is a good example of what has been happening, and, incidentally, shows pretty clearly what does happen. If we examine the figures of the steel imports into this country for the period May to July, 1932, as compared with the same period of 1933, we find that they have fallen by nearly one-half, from a monthly average of 130,000 tons a month in 1932 to about 72,000 tons this year. It is now, therefore, surprising that British production 738 should have gone up by 32 per cent., and that unemployment in the Midlands should have gone down by 38 per cent. In Birmingham we are particularly interested in the branches of the industry dealing with soft billets and strip, and it is not surprising that the makers should report orders in hand for several months ahead, and good prospects of securing further orders in the future.
In Birmingham we are convinced that a large part of the improvement in trade and employment is due to our beginning to feel the benefits of the tariff. In general, we owe the improvement to the policy of the Government. They have given us the tariff system; they have given us confidence; they have given us cheap money and cheap borrowing for industry. Undoubtedly, tens of thousands of working people in the Midlands owe their jobs to the policy of the National Government, and those who are still out of work have unquestionably been given a new hope. It is not surprising, therefore, that the business men of Birmingham should be strongly in favour of the continuance of national government. I would, if I may, as a Birmingham Member, congratulate His Majesty's Minister's, and thank them for helping Birmingham to get back to work and to make, as I think we may claim to be making, a very considerable contribution to the "development of the resources and equipment of the nation" which is mentioned in the Amendment of the right hon. Gentleman opposite.
§ 5.26 p.m.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I am very glad to have this opportunity of intervening for the first time in the series of Debates on the Address in reply to the King's Speech. T am not unmindful of the fact that this Debate is based on a Liberal Amendment, and I hope that the members of that party will not regard my intervention as an intrusion into their special field. Indeed, perhaps, my rising now gives me the opportunity of repairing a defect. I do not know whether it was deliberate on the part of the official Opposition or not, but it was very noticeable that, while the hon. and right hon. Gentlemen behind us left that side amid the cheers and plaudits of their associates, there was no evidence of great rejoicing on this side at their arrival here, I want to suggest to the Leader of the 739 Opposition that, in difficult times like these, every little helps. I hope that, sitting in the strategic position which they occupy relatively to myself and my friends, some virtue, perhaps, may go from us into their beings, and make them a more vital and perhaps more consistent force than they have been in the past. The hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace) said that it was impossible to have it both ways, but, as far as I have watched politics in this House, success goes in these matters to the people who endeavour most successfully to get it both ways. In our experience, being absolutely consistent in trying to stick to one definite clearly stated line of policy has not, so far, paid.
§ Mr. WALLACE
Does not My hon. Friend consider that a change of political opinion should be respected, provided that it is the result of sincere conviction?
§ Mr. MAXTON
That seems to be a basic principle of thought which I would not attempt to controvert, but I am afraid that the light of Liberalism is a light that does not illuminate, and that it contributes little to the problems of to-day, whether its representatives are sitting opposite to me or on the benches behind me. I presume that, when they take up their place on the Opposition side of the House, the Liberal party are offering themselves to the nation as an alternative to the existing Administration. They are entering into competition with hon. and right hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway on this side, and, if I may say so, with those who sit below the Gangway here. I presume the right hon. Baronet the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) was firing the first gun in the battle. It did not detonate very loudly through the Chamber, and it seems to me that the Amendment does not give very much for potential supporters in the country to bite at.But humbly regret that the Gracious Speech from the Throne indicates no effective policy on the part of Your Majesty's advisers to promote either the restoration of world trade on which our own prosperity must) depend or the development of the resources and the equipment of the nation.That represents a very pertinent negation, but on the side of positive contribution it seems to me to be very painfully defective. My party has not had 740 an opportunity of discussing what our attitude will be on this Amendment. After I resume my seat we will adjourn to a more private place, where our discussions cannot possibly be overheard, and I shall be very much surprised if there is a majority in the party against my view, which is that we shall not offer our support to this Amendment. The country will want something more than this from an alternative Government. Indeed, I think they want something more than the plans offered by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway.
§ Mr. MAXTON
You will notice, if you have been following the Debate, that the somewhat extraordinary statements which have been made by the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) were contradicted from the Front Bench by the hon. Member for Govan (Mr. Maclean), who informed the House that the utterances of the hon. and learned Gentleman must not be taken seriously and that the party conference at Hastings really decided what was going to be done. The party decision at Hastings is that the matter of dictatorship is to be discussed in a Committee ad avizandum for the next year or so, and the official Opposition, should it be thrown into Government responsibility in the interval, would not be able to do anything of a drastic nature until that Committee has reported. The country will want something more precise and constructive than has yet been offered by the oppositions in this House. This is the extraordinary thing that, if one is to read the public mind as it is just now correctly, the public mind is quite definite in leaving the present Government, and I think a Government supporter reading the by-election results of recent times in the most optimistic way and using the rosiest coloured spectacles cannot, in spite of those expert manipulators of figures who exist at all the party headquarters, draw any other conclusion than that the country is not nearly so enthusiastic about the National Government as it was two years ago. Public support is leaving them at a most extraordinary speed, having regard to the composition of the Government and to the fact that party organisations of several kinds are all interested in the mainten- 741 ance of the existing Government. The Press as a whole is interested in the maintenance of the present Government. It is true, as the hon. Member has just said, that the elections have taken place at a time when the trade and employment figures are showing better on paper than they have done for some considerable time, and yet, in face of these facts, the country, obviously, is tired of the present Government. I do not think that is an exaggeration. To me it is something of a tragedy that the public mind should leave this Government, which does not know what it is going to do in the situation, to turn to some other Government which is in precisely the same position so far as the public utterances of their responsible spokesmen are concerned. I think that is a point to which the Government should pay special attention.
The hon. Member has delivered a panegyric about the position of things in Birmingham. It is possible for Members from a number of selected places to get up and do the same thing. It is possible to quote figures which show that there are fewer unemployed to-day than there were six months, or a year or two years ago. It is possible to show improvement in certain industries, but the hard fact remains that there are 2,500,000 men unemployed. If they are not in Birmingham, they are somewhere else. Does anyone believe that anything substantial or fundamental has been done which would lead us to believe that the recent fall in the figures has any solid foundation f In 1931, when the crisis was are its worst, or rather when the hysteria about the crisis was at its worst, when we were getting into financial difficulties at home and abroad, the two strong countries of the world which were able to dictate to us in financial matters were the United States and France. To-day the position has changed round and the dictators of two years ago are the suppliants of to-day. That would be very gratifying if you could only be sure that it would stay there, and that two years hence the boot will not be back on the other foot. As a matter of fact, we have reached a stage of international instability. I do not know whether I might be permitted to make a quotation from a distinguished international statesman called Trotsky. I do not know if that will be regarded as appropriate in this 742 Chamber, but with permission I will quote from him where he says:This is obviously going to be the most troubled period in history. Those who wish peace and quiet in their lives above all things, have obviously chosen the wrong period in which to be born.I suggest that those who think of the present period of less serious unemployment, financial instability and trade depression as the arrival of a new era of permanent security are living in a fool's paradise. [Interruption.] I do not know whether any in their hearts, but many in their speeches are trying to make us believe that we have reached a period when the worst is over and that now, if we will just allow these great and good men who sit on the Front Bench to go plodding steadily up the hill, they will finally reach the top and see a real promised land, flowing with any amount of milk and honey instead of the limited quantities that are available. We are living in a state of unstable equilibrium of exactly the fame kind as in 1931 and, in our view, are going to continue in that instability, with the crisis recurring and recurring and recurring and getting deeper and more severe, and the little rises that occur periodically mean nothing more than the rises of a switchback, the real good old switchback railway of the old-fashioned kind, when you started at the top and came rushing down and then up and round about, and you thought in the course of your journey that there were just as many ups as there were downs. But when you got to the end, whereas you started way up there, you found you were down on the ground level because, although there were as many ups as there were downs, each up was a little less up than the up before and every down was a little further down than the down before, so that, while your progress seemed to be equal, every time you were going up you thought you were away to the top, but the tendency was down, down, down. Only foolish people believe that the slight up that you are on just now is an up that is going to carry you into the new Utopia.
The right hon. Gentleman, behind me, speaking of the speech of the Minister of Agriculture, in which he dealt with the great increase in pig and milk products, said that that would undoubtedly fail because it was an artificial attempt to deal 743 with supply and demand, and that something would always come in to kill the success of that sort of thing. I would like to remind him that the whole of his speech, apart from that, was a suggestion in the matter of houses, smallholdings and allotments, that the Government should artificially interfere with the supply of these particular things he was keen on having—every one of them. [Interruption.] There must be no qualification. The call for Government action on these things was a recognition that, if the ordinary initiative of the individual did not produce the results, there ought to be Government subsidy, or bribery of some sort or another. The Lord President of the Council, in his speech last night, said something which was not dissimilar from what has been said by the right hon. Gentleman.
We believe that we can produce more economically by private enterprise, and that under private enterprise we are more likely, in equal conditions, to get that essential surplus than under State enterprise."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 193.3; col. 644, Vol. 283.]So that he also takes the view that the private enterprise system has to continue. At the time, I did not like to interrupt what was a very eloquent speech, but I wanted to know precisely who "we" were? Having regard to the statements recently uttered about the National nature of the Government, I think that that was not quite the thing. He ought at least to have had some consideration for my hon. and learned Friend who sits opposite me. He has joined the Government on the clear understanding, stated publicly, that the National Government's way to Socialism and the abolition of private enterprise is a better way than that of the Labour party. It is not my business to interfere—
§ Mr. MAXTON
I was mentioning to the House a, matter of which, I am sure, the hon. and learned Member is not ashamed in any way, that he is a convinced and an avowed Socialist, and that his presence on that bench supporting the Government shows that, he believes that he is furthering the interests of Socialism by being there.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
I am not going to allow the hon. Gentleman in this extemporisa- 744 tion to get away like that. He purported to quote me.
§ Mr. KNIGHT
The hon. Member used words directed at that bench which purported to quote me. He gave a description to the effect that the policy of this Government has been a policy towards Socialism in a particular way. I have never described the policy of this Government as Socialism, and I challenge the hon. Member to quote any words of mine to support his contention.
§ Mr. MAXTON
If the hon. and learned Gentleman asks me to take responsibility for saying that I was quoting him textually, I was not.
§ Mr. MAXTON
I was assuming that the hon. and learned Gentleman was an honourable man, and that since he has not disavowed his belief in Socialism, he still maintains it. I think that I was justified, knowing the hon. and learned Member as I know him, in making the assumption that he has not disavowed his belief in Socialism, and that his present political conduct is actuated only by his desire to further Socialism.
§ Mr. MAXTON
There is a humorous side to it, but while it may be humorous as applied to the hon. and learned Membefor for South Nottingham (Mr. Knight) it certainly is not humorous as applied to the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister writes articles are makes speeches, and that is the theme, namely, that those whom we see gathered round about him, and his associations with the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, is the best road to Socialism. But the Lord President. of the Council says, "We believe in private enterprise." This indicates a very serious division of thought as between the two principal leaders of the National Government which, in my view, cannot lead to the strong, united, and concerted drive in the direction of grappling with the problems of the nation which the National Government were expected to produce. The right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, in talking about this matter, said one thing in which I believe, that industry must be carried on 745 to produce a surplus, but I disagree with him most absolutely that that surplus is to be got on the basis of a poverty-stricken population. I disagree with the view of the National Government, shared in some respects by right hon. and hon. Gentlemen above the Gangway and behind me, that, while we are working out our various theories, 2,500,000 people have got to live under starvation conditions. Am I prepared to be a political philosopher, and to sit in my arm-chair while the statesmen play around with ideas? It is easy to do that if one has the frame of mind and the domestic circumstances, but is it right to ask 2,500,000 people to stand by in semi-starvation while we theorise I do not believe that you will begin to tackle the problem of stability and prosperity unless you begin at the man who is unemployed and living on a "fifteen and threepenny standard of life."
The one and only problem you have to face for a beginning is how to give that man an income to make him a securer citizen, as you are yourselves. To start from the needs of that man, you will have to change your whole economic, financial and commercial structure before you can give him not only an income of a decent standard, but maintain it throughout the years in the future. I believe that the way to solve your trade, industrial and international troubles, and your international relationships, out of which arise your armament and your war problems, is to bend your attention towards that man—the man who to-day is being maltreated by society and by us. You must say, "We will put that right. Whatever is required to do it, that man is to be abolished from our life entirely." If you do that honestly and fearlessly, it will bring you up against the great financial and the great landowning interests of this country; it will bring you up against the interests of the other place, and it will bring you up against all the established powers.
§ Mr. MAXTON
You can take it from me that there would be no thing that I would allow to stand between me and my duty to that man, and if the hon. and learned Gentleman will join me in fighting the obstructions put up by those 746 other interests I have mentioned, he will not find any difficulty with me hi dealing with trade unions or anyone else at that end who try to stand in the way of that man being fairly, decently and justly treated. That is the view we hold and have constantly held, and the one for which we have constantly fought. We do not expect to achieve it by the conversion of Members inside this House. We expect to achieve it by the awakening of the people outside in a way they have never awakened before, and in a way that politicians who keep their ears to the ground imagine that they cannot wake and that they will not wake. It is realised by most spokesmen that we are at one of those difficult stages of history which do not come every year, or every 10 years, but which come at long intervals, where an old order is obviously, in the eyes of all men, failing to meet the needs of the human mind as it exists, a general feeling among all classes of society in every part of the world. You met it very strongly in the Kilmarnock Division; you met it in Yorkshire last week-end, in Lancashire another weekend, and in Wales another week-end-this general feeling among people who have been orthodox supporters of one or other of the political parties, that we have got to a stage now when the changes which are necessary have to be bigger, more fundamental and more all-embracing than the things that were allowed to pass for politics in the past.
We call this the King's Speech. It represents to us a very trivial and trifling collection of, as we say in our Amendment, unrelated proposals. Why a Bill to deal with betting and gambling? Is not the whole thing one great, big, colossal gamble? Are not the Government themselves playing around with £350,000,000 of a stake, gambling on the idea that they can keep British money reasonably level? Why some trivial Bill to prevent some poor devil with 15s. 3d. from trying to put a shilling upon a greyhound in order to turn it into 10s.? What relation has that to the magnitude and size of what we are up against? The one Bill which is going to absorb our time is the Unemployment Insurance Bill. That is the one first-class, major Measure, and what are we being asked to discuss there? The continuation of the 15s. 3d. level for 2,500,000 unemployed people, and the additional question that before they 747 get that 15s. 3d. they have to undergo a work test. They are going to be drilled and dragooned, managed and controlled, although they are human beings who are just as intelligent and just as capable of ordering their lives as anybody here. We are going to spend weeks discussing how to relieve the unemployed to the extent of 15s. 3d. per week; relief for the 2,500,000 people we are unable to put into employment. Our failure is the justification for penalising them.
We on this bench know our numerical weakness in this House, and we know the kind of difficulties we have to meet outside. We know that in that crowd of 2,500,000 people there are so many with broken spirit that they cannot make an effective struggle against the powers that are against them but, fortunately, there are some men still among them who have not lost spirit, who have not lost hope, who have not lost courage, and we will do our best to see that those 2,500,000 people, whom my hon. Friend has de scribed as untouchables, are aroused to a realisation of their manhood and their rights and to give a demonstration of their demands in a clearer, more definite and more effective way than merely putting crosses on a ballot paper.
§ 6.3 p.m.
§ Mr. HOROBIN
It is always very difficult to follow my hon. Friend who has just spoken, but I can at least be grateful that he has rescued the Debate from the deplorable bathos into which it was plunged by the opening speaker. An Amendment to the Address, especially an Amendment by an Opposition which manages to oppose not only the Government but the Official Opposition and several sections of its own party is, presumably, in effect, a Vote of Censure. It is idle to deny, and I believe that no hon. Member supporting the National Government will attempt to deny, that there is a genuine feeling in large parts of the country of criticism of the Government because some people have taken seriously statements in the Press and on the platform by right hon. and hon. Members below me, that the Government have been remiss in not taking a bolder line and endeavouring to follow the type of policy for relieving our great distress which we can see in action on the other side of the Atlantic. It is that feeling 748 and not whether there should be three, four or five more schools in Devonshire, or committee points of that nature, which is the real gravamen of the charge which is being made throughout the country by ex-Liberal Ministers and Members. And it is to the making of that wider criticism which one would expect, immediately they have crossed the Floor of the House, that the right hon. Gentleman and his followers would address themselves.
I do not think therefore that it will be a waste of the time of the House if I suggest one or two reasons on wider grounds why that line of criticism of His Majesty's Government is not well-founded, and why the House should reject the Amendment because, in fact, it does not hold out any better, steadier or safer way out of our troubles than the slow and perhaps unexciting methods which His Majesty's Government have hitherto followed. We have had Debates upon this subject for two years and hitherto we have had to rely upon more or less general principles, but I submit that it is now possible, in the light of the experiments which have been made on the other side of the Atlantic, to test the two years' progress under His Majesty's Government here, and what has happened under the more bold or imaginative methods which we are invited to adopt by the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel). In the first place, I would draw the attention of the House to the destruction of confidence which all these experimental methods involve. I have here, for instance, a statement incorporating the views of one of the most important leaders of the steel industry on the other side of the Atlantic, in which he says:We call attention to the fact that in accomplishing the great purpose of the National Recovery Act, the members of the code have already gone beyond anything that can be justified by present conditions. They can justify themselves to their stockholders only by the realisation of the hopes aroused by the efforts of the national administration.It started, therefore, upon a basis of hope. Production when that statement was made was on the basis of over 50 per cent. normal, but it has fallen to under 25 per cent., and it is for that kind of reason; because the people on the other side of the Atlantic have begun to realise that you cannot get yourselves out of 749 great difficulties by capitalising hope, that they have been led into the extraordinarily dangerous stimulents to public sentiment which have destroyed the confidence upon which alone business can be carried on. It would be very easy to give instances from many different industries. When I was in the United States recently, one could not pick up a newspaper without seeing headlines such asGrain Prices plunge to new low levels as inflation dips.These things are based upon a mirage, and as hope comes and goes so recovery comes and goes. Is it therefore surprising that one learns thatIndustrial production has been declining during the past three months more rapidly than during any previous similar period of the depression.Very probably when sentiment alters, as a breath of the wind, we shall get another "up" time. Upon that kind of basis no permanent recovery can possibly be built. Of course, it is more spectacular, it is easy to get newspapers depending upon large circulations to support a Government if they indulge in that kind of thing, but it offers, in fact, a very much less satisfactory basis than our own. I have here the figures of how commodity prices have risen and fallen continuously. Taking the peak of this year, the last figures that I have available show—these figures will be very interesting to agricultural Members—that rye has lost 60 per cent., corn over 50 per cent., oats over 50 per cent., wheat over 40 per cent., and so on. What is the good of buoying up the hopes of the agricultural industry which bounds up to heaven one day only to fall even lower the next day?
The next point to which I would like to draw the attention of the House is the terrible effect upon confidence which has resulted from the appalling Labour troubles which have occurred out there. Taking statistics, which are cold things, I have here the figures of striking workers in the United States for the last few years. During the two and a-half years of the depression, from the beginning of 1930 to the middle of 1933, the monthly average of new strikers throughout the country was 20,000. It began to increase, and in July and in September of this year it had risen to 212,000, or ten times the average of the depression period. How is industry to recover if you throw into the 750 scarcely reviving confidence of business men this huge new terror of further trouble with their workpeople? It is very easy to see the cause to which these troubles are due. One sees figures of the advancing cost in living, clothing prices increasing 8 per cent. in a month, rent going up and also fuel, lighting and so on.
Turning to the labour situation and employment, a large part of the labour disputes are due to the Government, as usual, promising one thing to the labourer and another to the employer. I have here a statement regarding the bitter trouble in Mr. Ford's works, which shows that until recently they have been working 40 hours a week on a 50 cent minimum hourly wage. They have a cut in hours to 32, but no increase in hourly wages, with the result that their weekly wages have been drastically reduced, at a time when the cost of living was going up. Is it curious, therefore, that at any time one can turn from one part of the country to another to discover the most terrible facts of labour disputes, such as are almost incredible, such as shootings, bombings, tear gas, fightings of union against union and so on, with which I will not weary the House. All these efforts to get rich quick by some ingenious brainstorm of a brain trust do not succeed. By the very nature of things these methods destroy that confidence upon which alone industry can revive.
One may go further than that. There are fundamental contradictions upon which this alleged panacea for industrial depression rests. My right hon. Friend and those associated with him, as it seems to me, gain a good deal of what little popularity they have by a very simple process. First of all, they get cheap popularity by calling upon the Government for bold measures, by asking the Government to be more energetic, in general terms, and then if some incautious Cabinet Minister does launch out into some specific interference with industry, and all the inevitable consequences follow, they turn round and get all the malicious kudos they can get by pointing out the failures, the disadvantages and the shortcomings which always in fact follow a practical application of their own general exhortations. If I may use a homely analogy, they spend half their time asking the Government to steal the Labour party's clothes: then, 751 if the Minister of Agriculture or somebody else does turn out dressed up in Socialist trousers, they spend the rest of their time guying him because they are patched.
There are many contradictory features in the present national development of America to which I cannot refer. First of all, in regard to their agricultural policy. I have here the text of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, which is costing the United States something in the nature of hundreds of millions of dollars. I will read from the preamble:To provide for the agricultural and industrial development of the said valley; to provide for the operation of Government properties at and near Muscle Shoals in the State of Alabama, and for other purposes.Among the things for which this huge sum of money is to be used is:To co-operate with national, State, district, or county experimental stations or administration farms, for the use of new forms of fertilizer or fertilizer practices.Thus we have ploughing under at one end and the spending of hundreds of millions of pounds, to produce more land and more and cheaper fertilisers, at the other end. I have here particulars of an elaborate programme in which they are proposing to spend several million dollars in Wyoming in order to reclaim land for the purpose of growing more wheat, while they are borrowing huge sums of money from American citizens in order to pay other farmers in Iowa and the central districts to plough under and destroy the wheat they have already grown. But an even more amusing story comes from the pig industry. There is a tragic side to these contradictions. Although they sound amusing, they are, I suggest, the inevitable consequence of a Government plunging into affairs which they are not well equipped to carry out. There is something about the pig which always raises the worst arithmetical passions of the planner. Some bright gentleman among the advisers of President Roosevelt decided that they were about 4,000,000 pigs too many in the United States, and about 2,000,000 sows too many, and they therefore promised the farmers of the United States that they would buy them and give them to the unemployed to eat; and at a price considerably above the market price.
752 The farmers thought it sounded good and they turned up with 6,000,000 pigs. They did not send in the sows, because they said that if they kept them there would be more pigs to sell later on. They sent, therefore, 2,000,000 extra pigs. But when they appeared it turned out that in many cases 80 per cent. were too small and quite unfit for public consumption, and in one case the State health director would not allow the pigs to be given to the unemployed because he said the pork was absolutely walking, not fit even for hogs to eat. As they could not give them to the unemployed, they slaughtered them and turned them into the tanking machine. Perhaps I had better explain that tankage is the first process of slaughtering pigs you are not going to eat. They had to put them into tankage, but as they had forgotten to plan for enough tanks they had to pour a considerable quantity down the drains. What they could keep they found could be used either for fertilisers in order to produce still more agricultural products for which they have to borrow still more money to stop people growing things. All the rest could only be used as pig food and they, therefore, sold it back to the farmers as pig food. That beats even our own Minister of Agriculture.
Similar contradiction arises in another part. Take public works. I had the opportunity of discussing the question of unemployment relief with the relief director of one of the biggest States in the United States which as a result of imaginative finance is now completely bankrupt and unable even to pay the teachers. This gentleman told me that he proposed to borrow a considerable sum of money by bonds in order to pay unemployment relief. This sounded rather peculiar to me, because I remembered the comments-which were made by members of the United States on our own borrowing to balance the Insurance Fund. He explained that he intended to provide a sinking fund, and being somewhat good at mental arithmetic I worked out that he would have to borrow every three months a larger amount than his sinking fund provided in a year. The further interesting point is, where was this sinking fund to come from? On this point he explained to me that they had a gasoline tax which was imposed in order to build roads, but he said 753We have all the roads we want, and we are going to keep this tax to pay unemployment relief.It was all very highly interesting and excellent, but, being somewhat of a cantankerous disposition, I pointed out that the Federal Government was rather keen on road building as a cure for unemployment, and I wondered what the Federal Government would have to say to the State if they intimated that they had all the roads they required. "Oh," said he, "we have a 17,500,000 dollar road programme which we can pay out of the Federal fund." They had decided, first of all, that they did not want any more roads, then to use money as a sinking fund for borrowing to pay unemployment relief, and then they went to the Federal Government to borrow a large sum, which they could not repay, in order to build roads which they did not want. That is in practice what planning and public works mean; and I should like to hear the comments of the right hon. Member for Darwen if the Government had followed out his suggestions for a forward road building programme and had been led into such similar contradictions so early in their course.
The third fundamental contradiction into which a practical experience of these bold schemes has led is in finance. It will strike hon. Members as curious that at the very time when the Government of the United States are spending literally thousands of millions of dollars of the taxpayers' money in an endeavour to strengthen the position of the banks all over the country—banks which have come to grief largely by carrying out thoroughly unsound banking practices in an endeavour to increase purchasing power and make money available for industry by financing every wild cat scheme put forward by ingenious politicians—the Federal Government are weakening the position of the banks by mismanaging their own Federal finances. The result is that Government bonds, which are mainly held by the banks because no private individual will hold the bonds if he can help it, are depreciating owing to falling Government credit. Therefore, on all these three grounds His Majesty's Government have a fairly strong case, to put it mildly, for refraining from interfering in matters in which they have no concern and for confining themselves, as far as possible, to 754 matters which are their sole responsibility, namely, such things as balancing the Budget and reducing taxation.
One last word on the subject of extravagance. It cannot have escaped hon. Members how invariably all these proposals for bold Government action in fact and in practice lead to an extravagant use of public money. Some of us listened to the broadcast speech of President Roosevelt in which he made a statement which, I hope, we shall never hear from any Front Bench politician in this country. He actually said to all the citizens of the United States of America "Washington has the money," and he invited every section in the country to get their hands into the bran tub. But the question arises whose money is it? And, indeed, what kind of money will it be by the time he has finished with it? I do not want to weary the House with too many figures as to the actual results of this extravagance in the United States, but one or two facts will not be amiss. The total internal long-term debt of the United States, as a result of a long period of prosperity and of public extravagance and indulgence in every kind of public development, rose from 38,000,000,000 dollars in 1913 to 126,000,000,000 dollars immediately before the crash. The State and local debt nearly doubled in the seven years prior to 1929, while the Federal debt in 1929 was three and a half times pre-War, the States debt five times pre-War and the local debt, which is equivalent to our local authorities debt, four times pre-War.
Do these figures lend any support to the view that the way to obtain permanent prosperity is by running ever more and more into debt by bolder and ever bolder programmes of loan expenditure? Observe how enormous have been the sums staked on the success of this policy. I have a short list here, but it is a list of big sums, which may well lead all supporters of the National Government to think, and think again, before allowing them to embark even upon the first steps which will undoubtedly lead to so extravagant a conclusion. The public works programme of the National Recovery Association involves an expenditure of 3,300,000,000 dollars, farming mortgages 2,300,000,000 dollars, house mortgages 2,200,000,000, unemployment grants 500,000,000 dollars, the whole 755 coming to the stupendous figure of 11,000,000,000 dollars of the taxpayers' money, which the Federal Government alone have pledged in this experiment of borrowing yourself out of depression. Let me come to particular items. How has the City of New York been helped by this policy? Between 1923 and 1931 the assessed value of city property was raised from 11,000,000,000 dollars to 20,000,000,000 dollars, and the city budget was practically doubled. I submit that the results do not lend any support to the view that recovery comes any more quickly, more steadily or more assuredly as a result of the ghastly burden which someone has to bear than from the less imaginative, more dull and less spectacular methods for which His Majesty's Government are now being blamed and censured.
Do not let hon. Members suppose that this is due to some peculiar wickedness of the United States. The same thing occurs wherever such methods are tried. Hon. Members will have seen the report from Newfoundland:The position of the Colony is due to persistent extravagance and neglect of proper financial principles on the part of successive governments from 1920 to 1931. The people are improverished. No less than one quarter of the entire population is in receipt of public relief.And the result is that this particular American Colony is to be taken back and put straight by His Majesty's Government. I do not know whether the Government might like to suggest that the other American Colonies should be taken back as well. It is however more serious for this House to consider how, even when this Government or Members of the Government are allowed for a moment under this perpetual nagging pressure to "do something" by following in these footsteps, not only mistakes, but the same mistakes, happen. We have a Minister of Agriculture whom we all respect—I am very sorry that he is not able to be in his place. I should have liked to have put one or two points to him more vividly than one dare do in his absence. Let me suggest to Members of the House that while there may be differences of opinion upon the financial aspect of these recovery programmes, and while even there may be differences of opinion as to same of the more industrial aspects, there 756 is one certain test which never fails. There is one cloven hoof which always comes out sooner or later, and that is debt. I would remind the House of a speech that I made in Standing Committee C. when the Agricultural Marketing Bill was going through, to show that it is not a tardy conversion on my part, no crossing the Floor, so to speak, after carefully sounding the ground. Before the Agricultural Marketing Bill was passed into law I made these observations in Committee:If they (i.e., the Bacon Board) do make a mistake and glut the market, they may borrow money upon the security of that future levy in order to have some kind of pool such as we have seen overhanging one produce market after another all over the world. When they have produced this glut and have endeavoured to stave off the evil day by levies upon producers and still further by borrowing, a IA finally have got themselves into a complete mess, as every pool and trust of this sort has got into in every country in the world, they will then send the Minister of Agriculture off on a Border foray to the President of the Board of Trade, to induce him to put on some increased quota or restriction which will have evil effects such as we all know of, upon the export trade of the country."—[OFFICIAL REPORT (Standing Committee C.), col. 365; 4th May, 1933.]Those words have come true very quickly. The right hon. Gentleman has hardly been teaching pigs how to pig six months before he has discovered the same errors; he is 50 per cent. wrong in his Estimates; he has to borrow and make a levy on producers, give an extra quota and all the rest, of it. The House will do me the justice of admitting that my prophecy has come painfully true in a very short time. I do not for a moment put it down to any personal shortcomings or any lack of devotion on the part of the Minister of Agriculture. It is inherent in this kind of procedure. The same results that have occurred in Iowa, in the corn belt of the United States, are occurring here, and must occur. But it is not only a question of debt. Let me draw the attention of my right hon. Friend the Minister of Agriculture to certain other matters. I have here the Press quotation of a speech of his in which, speaking to some of his agricultural friends, he said:I warn you that the Treasury will have to be considered, but my Department will do its utmost to see that the movement grows, and if it comes to a mass attack 757 on the Treasury, I assure you that, far from being fighting against you, I shall be on your side.I took another Press report of the speech, ir. which the right hon. Gentleman said:The Department, however, will do its utmost to help them, even if it had to storm tie Treasury.That is all nice and helpful; that is the way to reduce taxation and lower expenditure. Do we want right hon. Gentlemen going about the country telling their little friends that they would storm the Treasury? On the contrary, when it comes to the Budget statement next March every Member of the House will be rising and saying, "Reduce taxation." This is the time, and that is the right hon. Gentleman who will have made it impossible. It is no use blaming the unfortunate Chancellor of the Exchequer because taxes are high if you are going to have right hon. Gentlemen in other Departments going round the country and talking of storming the Treasury while the Estimates are being made up. There is an old saying that it is excellent when the poacher turns gamekeeper, but I never heard that it was admirable when the gamekeeper turned poacher. Whether or not people are of one mind that it is good that the right hon. Gentleman is Minister of Agriculture, we can all be truly thankful he is no longer Financial Secretary to the Treasury.
I ask the House to treat this, not as a criticism of the general policy of the Government. On the contrary the fact that this Government has so magnificently succeeded in its main line of policy brings into strong relief the fact that those same men who have the courage to found their general policy on the old-fashioned and unpopular remedies which have succeeded in the past and are demonstrably succeeding now—throws into stronger relief the fact that, whenever they are pushed by such Amendments as this off the straight and narrow path, they not only make mistakes, but the very same mistakes as follow upon the more ambitious projects carried out on the other side of the Atlantic. But the Minister of Agriculture is not the only cat which has been in the dairy lately. The Secretary for Mines has discovered a new and expensive way of making oil. There will be another opportunity of speaking about that, and I will not do more now than say that no one will deny 758 that it will cost in loss of revenue anything up to £1,000,000 a year for several years.
I mention this in particular because it leads to another point which I think will be peculiarly interesting to the right hon. Member for Darwen. Surely there must be some other Members of the House who will by now be prepared to agree with me in this—that all this planning business, all this bold Government interference in industry, is rapidly being displayed as a colossal bluff. All it amounts to, in coal, or wheat, or oil, or cotton, is in finding what part of the world you can make the thing cheaply and easily and making it a criminal offence to make it there—fining them and locking them up if they drill oil too cheaply, putting them into clink if they make wheat cheaper, and then going to some part of the world where it is dear to produce, forcing people to produce it there, sending down inspectors and goodness knows what to show how to produce the things there, then foisting the difference in price on the unhappy taxpayer until the burden becomes impossible.
It surely cannot have escaped the notice of the right hon. Member for Darwen that all these instances of Government interference lead inevitably to the most extreme nationalism. Even his friend Mr. Maynard Keynes, in one of his 39 Articles, suggested that it might be necessary to put on a tariff in order to protect his great public works schemes, and we are now faced with the Gilbertian situation in America that a party which came into power partly on the cry that the Hawley-Smoot tariff was too high, are now setting about the establishment of embargoes and are raising it still higher in order to protect these experiments upon which they are engaged. They are compelled so to do. I have here a statement of the National Association of Wool Manufacturers. The hon. Member for Huddersfield (Mr. Mabane), who objected to the action of the Government, is a very keen anti-Nationalist in economics. Here is what the American National Association of Wool Manufacturers says:We must direct attention to the fact that the economic welfare of the employés in this field have been dependent, in considerable measure, upon the tariff on foreign importations. If the facts show that the increased cost of manufacture re- 759 sulting from this code required proceedings under the Section of the Act providing for protection from undue importations of competing foreign products, we expect that the necessary official action will, be taken in order to preserve security of employment and to maintain the industry.I have here a statement of Mr. Johnson saying that he is prepared to go the limit in order to keep out foreign importations, because he has discovered in practice what Mr. Keynes discovered in theory, and what my right hon. Friend presumably will discover in Heaven, that you cannot interfere with the processes of business inside a country and then leave it exposed to the full blast of the uncontrolled and unregenerate foreigner.
I am not producing that as an argument in favour of restrictions upon foreign imports. I am entitled to make the point that as I do not like these internal interferences I am at liberty to call attention to the objections which may be urged, rightly or wrongly, against foreign imports. But how my right hon. Friend can do both is beyond me. The whole of this attack upon His Majesty's Government is really an attack upon capitalism itself. It must surely become obvious to every candid student of what is happening on the other side of the Atlantic that remorselessly the pressure of events is leading them, and must lead whoever embarks upon this dangerous course, into an ever-leftward tendency towards Radicalism and towards Socialism.
There are particular instances which I wish to give to the House, but I am trespassing too much on the time of Members. Therefore, I will not say more upon that aspect than this: Will the House consider how continually the pressure of events over there has led to the encouragement of municipal enterprise and the discouragement of private enterprise. That is by no means a deliberate policy; it has been enforced upon them by the circumstances of the case. The smaller employer is being destroyed. I have here particulars which show, for instance, that in one particular industry the cost of labour under these provisions has been increased per unit of output by over one quarter. Your big man can afford to pay that because he has large cash reserves or can borrow, but the small man cannot do so. But it is not only 760 destroying the small man. They have been led to exempt the small man, in desperation, from the provisions of their codes, but it is weakening the whole structure even of big industry. On the other hand wherever you look at this legislation you will find that municipal enterprise, co-operative enterprise, is always most noticeably exempt. Farmers cooperatives are exempt by name from the Securities Act.
You have a fantastic situation. I have drawn attention to the state of municipal finance in the United States. Yet I have here a statement by the Chairman of the Association of Reserve City Bankers, which practically corresponds to our Governor of the Bank. It states that under the Securities Act a bank can underwrite or sell bonds of any municipality, however extravagant, without; restriction, yet it cannot underwrite or sell bonds of the most important industrial undertakings of the country. The situation which has arisen over there is that it is impossible to bring out an issue except a municipal issue. It may be argued at length that in fact the most important sign and the essential prerequisite of an escape from depression is a revival of new issues in the capital market, is one of the most significant things that in this country that precisely is what has occurred. In 1931, the total of new capital issues here was just under £90,000,000. In 1932, it had risen to £115,000,000, and this year it is running to something like 25 per cent. more than it was last year.
What is the situation in the United States? I have often referred in previous speeches to the effect of any interference with private enterprise and its results in this direction. How has that prophecy been fulfilled? In 1930 in the United States capital issues amounted to 7,000,000,000 dollars; in 1931 that figure had fallen to 3,000,000,000 dollars; in 1932 it came down to 1,100.000,000 dollars, and in 1933 it was under 500,000,000 dollars, while in October, the latest month for which I have figures, the whole of the new finance in the United States reached the incredibly low figure of 58,000,000 dollars, of which over 94 per cent, represented municipal issues. If the President of the Board of Trade had to decide which country was more firmly set on Vile road to recovery, the country in which 761 capital issues for ordinary private enterprise were increasing month by month or the country where the whole machinery of private saving had been destroyed, where only artificial municipal issues could be set upon the market, I think he would have little doubt. As a practical business man he would quickly decide which of those countries was the "tip" for passing the winning post first.
The last point which I wish to make to the House is this, and in a sense it is more important than any purely financial or industrial issue. Let the House consider the terrible danger to the ordinary liberty of the people which is involved in this ever increasing Government interference with industry. Do not let my hon. Friends on the Labour Benches imagine that they can escape this danger. I have here an indenture between the coal mine owners of Western Pennsylvania and the coal operatives. The terms of this document are not, be it observed, terms of peace imposed by a victorious mine owning community upon a defeated party of workmen. No, this is an example of what the workers apparently have to look forward to as a Promised Land. I quite understand that hon. and right hon. Gentlemen on the Front Opposition Bench will not particularly like to hear this document read., but if they could interrupt their domestic conference for a moment or two, they will hear something which may be of interest to their constituents. This is headed "Illegal Suspension of Work":A strike or stoppage of work on the part of the workers shall be a violation of this agreement and if any officer or officers of the United Mineworkers of America, or any member or members thereof, employed in any mine cause the mine or part of the mine to shut down in violation of this agreement, each member except those who continue at work shall have deducted from his earnings a sum of one dollar a day.That is about 30s. a week. That is the collective system coming home to roost, net in Manchuria but in Glamorganshire and Tyneside.
§ Mr. DAVID GRENFELL
They would get off very much cheaper under that agreement than they would in Glamorgan to-day. If there was violation of an agreement in Glamorgan to-day, the man would have to pay very much more than that.
§ Mr. HOROBIN
I think that, owing to the disability of trying to listen both to me and to the Leader of the Opposition, the hon. Member has not followed the point which I was making. This is a mandatory penalty for going on strike and compulsory arbitration for the determination of wages. If I am to understand that the miners of this country are prepared to accept compulsory arbitration on wages, with a mandatory penalty for striking, I have no more to say.
§ Mr. GRENFELL
The miners of this country are working under an agreement and dare not violate it under penalty of law, and they would pay much heavier damages than a dollar a day if they stopped in violation of the agreement.
§ Mr. HOROBIN
I return to the point I was making. It is not the ease in this country, as far as I know, that wages can be determined by compulsory arbitration in the mining industry.
§ Mr. HOROBIN
It is not another subject. It may be a different subject from that which the hon. Member was talking about but that is not my fault. However I leave the point there. Not only is the liberty of the worker involved but also the liberty of the individual employing him. It is obvious wherever you look, whether to Italy, to Russia, to Germany or to the United States, that it is only possible to keep those 'elaborate complicated centralised schemes in action by an ever-increasing use of force, an ever-increasing number of penalties, an ever-increasing invocation of the police, an ever-increasing number of administrative restrictions. I submit that even if we were not convinced, on financial grounds, even if we were not convinced that the present private enterprise system would produce greater prosperity, it is not worth paying the price involved in making a change, if it is going to lead here as it has lead already wherever it has been tried, to the entanglement of the worker, the employer, the ordinary private citizen in such a network of restrictive laws and administrative edicts that democracy, such as we have had for years, becomes a mere word without any effect. On those grounds, if on no others, the House would be well advised to strengthen the Government in turning 763 aside now as it has done before, from attempting to follow the path which will lead inevitably to restrictions on liberty, waste public money and cause gave disappointment to the unemployed workers and the employers alike in this country.
§ 6.53 p.m.
§ Sir STAFFORD CRIPPS
I am glad to see the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) in his place, because I wish to say a few words about the speech delivered by him last night. He said that at by-elections and in the Press hon. Members of this party called for the abolition of the means test but did not do so in the House of Commons. He also said that this party had been reduced to silence on the matter and had not been able to put their position on the means test before the House. Apparently the right hon. Gentleman had to invent that somewhat ingenious dogma in order to find an excuse for voting against the Amendment which was on the Paper yesterday in the names of hon. Members of this party. The right hon. Gentleman said of that Amendment:In this Amendment there is very much of which we approve"—There was, in fact so much that you, Mr. Deputy-Speaker, bad great difficulty, as was obvious, in distinguishing it from the Amendment now before the House,and with which we concur, but we have our own Amendment on the Paper to be moved to-morrow, which expresses the situation in the way in which we would desire to see it expressed."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1933; col. 554, Vol. 283.]No doubt the manner in which the right hon. Gentleman desires to see it expressed is with sufficient vagueness for it to mean nothing. That this object has been successfully accomplished was shown to be the case by the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) who moved this Amendment to-day. Such political tactics have led, unfortunately, to a fresh split in that very fissiparous body, the Liberal party, because the Welsh Liberals, I understand, have now followed the lead of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George). I also notice that one hon. Member who crossed the Floor has already drifted back again, and no doubt is forming a party of his own somewhere at the present time. The statements of the right 764 hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen are so far from the truth that I can only imagine that he had not the time or the opportunity to look up the index to the OFFICIAL REPORT before making them. Had he done so, he would have found a number of references to the question of the abolition of the means test, and a number of statements by members of this party upon it, on Votes of Censure and in Supply and on other occasions. I shall mention two of many recent occasions upon which the question has been discussed and the total abolition of the test has been demanded by the Opposition. I take first the Vote of Censure moved in October of last year by the Leader of the Opposition, who made this statement:It is the wickedest and most immoral imposition upon the working classes that has ever been made and it is because of this iniquitous business, the fact that you cannot trust the administration of this business to Government Departments, that our party have come to the conclusion that we shall fight any means test that may be proposed by the Government. I hope that is clear and definite."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 25th October, 1932; col. 834, Vol. 269.]Then, on 2nd March, 1933, the hon. Member for Rotherham (Mr. Dobbie) in his maiden speech drew attention to the fact that the abolition of the means test had been one of the issues in the Rotherham by-election, and I myself on that occasion, in reply to a question from an hon. Member on the opposite side of the House, said that the abolition of the test was the declared policy of the party. That was repeated categorically later in the same Debate by the hon. Member for Ogmore (Mr. E. Williams), the relevant passage in whose speech will be found in col. 658 of the OFFICIAL REPORT for that date. There are other instances of the same thing having been said definitely, but I do not wish to repeat all these statements now. In case, however, that the right hon. Gentleman is still uncertain of the fact, I now repeat for his benefit that it is the policy of the Labour party to have complete abolition of the means test.
§ Sir HERBERT SAMUEL
I am reluctant to interrupt any speaker but perhaps the hon. and learned Gentleman will allow me to do so on this occasion, because this is a point of great importance and great public interest. I gave 765 a number of instances yesterday, quoted from the Minister of Labour, of people who had applied for benefit—
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
When the hon. and learned Gentleman comes to it, perhaps he will tell us how he proposes to deal with those cases, if there is to be no means test.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
I am dealing at the moment with the statement which the right hon. Gentleman made, and which I should think he would now withdraw, that this party were afraid to state in the House that they wished for the abolition of the means test though they made that statement in the Press and at by-elections. Having heard the quotations I have given no doubt he would like to withdraw that remark.
§ Sir S. CRIPPS
The quotation which the right hon. Gentleman gave from the Leader of the Opposition was of a prior date to the quotation which I have just given, and the right hon. Gentleman knows that on the occasion of the speech from which I have quoted, the Leader of the Opposition was speaking on behalf of the party and definitely stating the policy of the party. Now let me come to the question of what we are to do about these cases where people who are in receipt of £1,000 a year, or whatever it may be, try to draw unemployment benefit. We say, that experience has shown that the hardships and privations connected with the administration of such a test as the means test are so great that they cannot be borne and that there is no way by which they can be got rid of except the abolition of the means test. If the cost of its abolition is that some few people may draw transitional benefit who ought not to draw it, it is a cost well worth paying.
We believe that the human side of it is far more important than the cash side of it from that point of view, and that any attempt to economise by eliminating from transitional payment by a means test is not worth making, because of the suffering that necessarily follows from it. Under nearly every other law there are 766 unavoidable cases of people drawing benefit who might not be considered to need it. We would far rather this happened than that hundreds and perhaps thousands of people who genuinely needed it should be kept below the starvation level. Even if we had not been convinced of it before, the experience of the last few years would have absolutely convinced us of the soundness of that policy. I appreciate that there may have been differences in our party before we had the experience of what happened through the means test, but now that we have had that experience we are absolutely united in our determination to abolish the means test.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen will appreciate that all social services provided by the State may be used by people who can afford, if they like, to provide such services themselves. There are, for example, education, hospitals, parks, libraries, health services, housing subsidies and a number of other things. One does not stop those, nor does one apply any means test to them, although they may be enjoyed by a few people for whom one would not think they were necessary. In exactly the same way we believe that the only possible broad test that you can apply is that of willingness to do work under the ordinary conditions of employment. That is the only safe test if you wish to avoid penalising a great number of very deserving persons. If there are persons in an area who are suspected of taking advantage of this benefit, it is perfectly possible to arrange for ordinary employment to be offered to them, to see if they will take it. If, moreover, you look upon the matter from the point of view merely of the cost, the number of people who would be likely to abuse the benefit would be far less than the cost of administering the means test. For all those reasons, we say that, since we have had the experience of the means test, we have always desired its complete abolition, and we believe that its complete abolition is the only way of removing the hardships and privations to which the unemployed in receipt of transitional payment are submitted at the present time.
I want to say one word on the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall. It was hardly a 767 criticism of the Government at all; it was a sort of mild exhortation on one or two points. I suggest to him that it was hardly worth crossing the House to make that speech, and that he might have made it from the other side. In fact, it was far less an attack on the Government than many speeches that, were made by the Liberal party from the other side of the House. One can only imagine that the wind of public opinion is so blowing in the country that it has wafted the Liberal party out of the National Government on to these benches. Perhaps they are more sensitive to that wind than they are to considerations of policy. So far as either this Amendment or any suggestion put forward by the right hon. Gentleman is concerned, there is absolutely no constructive policy of any sort or kind. To say that you might build a few more houses and perhaps in certain cases have a committee which would decide whether a subsidy should be made, or that you might make a pound-for-pound donation towards an allotment fund, will not solve the problem of distribution which has arisen as a, result of the development of capitalism and of the mechanisation of industry. It will not touch it.
The trouble is, as everybody admits except the hon. Member who spoke last, that something has got to be done. People all over the world are trying to do things by controls of all sorts and kinds, and they are all getting more and more into the mire, because they have not yet all appreciated that within capitalism it is impossible. The picture which the hon. Member who has just spoken gave of America is very typical of every other country in the world. You attempt first of all to leave the country to Liberalism, to individualism and to do nothing; you then get into so bad a state that everyone says "You must do something"; then you get the controls of Rooseveltism put on and the chaos gets infinitely worse; it gets piled up and you find yourself in a more decaying state of capitalism than even Liberalism itself, and that is saying a good deal.
I believe that this Amendment of the Liberal party has only one merit of any sort, that it is a Vote of Censure on the Government. Those of us who vote will probably go into the Lobby with the Liberals in order to see that at the last moment they do not come out of it to go 768 into the other. It seems to us rather a waste of time, so far as this Amendment is a Vote of Censure, that they, having gone into the Lobby with the Government last night, should go into it against the Government to-night.
§ 7.7 p.m.
§ The PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY to the BOARD of TRADE (Dr. Burgin)
I came to the House to-day as a Member of the Government team to play in a match against a Liberal eleven, but the House has witnessed two Opposition elevens playing a match against each other, and we have had very little speaking to the Amendment. Although this Amendment is down in the names of several hon. Gentleman, only one has tried to address the House.
§ Dr. BURGIN
Over that I have no control. There is on sale at this time of the year a type of cartridge in which there is a tracer filling, which has the great advantage of showing at least towards which bird the cartridge was discharged. It is a little difficult in dealing with this Amendment to know towards what part of the Gracious Speech it is directed. The Speech, it says: indicates no effective policy on the part of His Majesty's advisers to promote either the restoration of world trade or the development of the resources and equipment of the nation. I need not trouble to deal with the second part of the Amendment, as that will be dealt with by my right hon. and learned Friend the Attorney-General in reply to the Debate at the close of these proceedings. But the first part of the Amendment seeks to say that the Gracious Speech contains no indication of an effective policy on the part of His Majesty's advisers to promote the restoration of world trade. There is no tracer filling to tell us to which part of the Gracious Speech those observations are directed. But the Gracious Speech contains three consecutive paragraphs dealing with trade. The first is:The past year has been marked by a steady growth of confidence in the future prospects of British trade and industry.Clearly nobody in England at this time could object to those words. Since the restoration of confidence is of the first importance, that it should be maintained and increased must he the desire of all 769 parties in the House. That lies at the loot of any lasting improvement in the conditions of the country. The next paragraph is: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.Again, there is nobody in any part of the House who can conceivably take any objection to that paragraph. Very simply, therefore, by a process of elimination, the Amendment is intended to deal with this third paragraph:My Ministers will continue their efforts to create favourable conditions for the export trade.Surely there cannot seriously be any tilting at that. The continuation of effort to create favourable conditions for export trade must surely be a passionate endeavour of any Government, with the world in upheaval as it is at present. The sentence goes on:especially by the negotiation of trade agreements.Perhaps it is to those words that this Amendment, singularly lukewarm in character and singularly ineffective and inaccurate in expression, is directed. The last part of the third paragraph states that:in this way it is hoped that opportunities will be afforded for the development of the cotton, coal and other exporting trades.Having had very little indication in the Amendment itself of those parts of the Gracious Speech to which it really objects, I turn to the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), who is introducing it. He first found fault with the Gracious Speech because there was no reference in it to the re-summoning of the World Economic Conference. I am sure the right hon. Gentleman overlooked the fact that, in the Gracious Speech from the Throne on the occasion of the Prorogation on the Friday preceding the Tuesday, there had been a long paragraph dealing with tile very subject to the absence of which he called attention. It says in terms that the World Economic Conference—has left in being suitable organisations charged with the task of fixing the date of reassembly and of making the preliminary arrangements necessary for the purpose.770 The point is therefore entirely devoid of substance, for the paragraph dealt with it literally in those very terms.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The Conference has left in being all the organisations necessary to enable the re-summoning of that Conference at the earliest possible moment.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The machinery is available for use on the earliest occasion on which circumstances permit. The right hon. Gentleman's point had nothing to do with the user of the organisations; from the fact that there had been no reference in the Gracious Speech to the World Economic Conference he had deduced—entirely falsely, as I now show—that the Government had in some way put the World Economic Conference out of their thoughts. That is a false deduction, based on the omission to notice that only a week-end had passed since the Gracious Speech to which I have referred.
The right hon. Gentleman dealt somewhat testily with the hon. Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace), who made a reference to a speech by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall. The hon. Member for Dunfermline should certainly have brought with him the references to any speech from which he desires to quote.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I have the speech, and desire, if I may, to quote to the right hon. Gentleman one extract. I am far from saying that it shows that he is any supporter of tariffs. I do not suggest anything of the kind. But what I do want to ask those whose names are attached to this Amendment is whether we are to understand that they are really asking the House to believe that it is their policy to cancel at once all the tariffs that have been introduced by His Majesty's Government. Is it really their policy that Free Trade is to mean the repeal and the withdrawal unconditionally of all the duties that have been imposed, other than revenue duties? Perhaps we might have the quotation on which I am basing that question. On the 771 18th May at Scarborough, the right hon. Gentleman, in the midst of a discussion upon tariffs and quotas, asked the conference to bring a little realism into the question. Were they sure, even if we could abolish tariffs straight off without any other countries doing anything, we should not have something of the same financial crisis as we had two years ago? If they were sure, they were going against all the economists who had worked at this question all their lives. It appears to be quite clearly realised that anything in the nature of a repeal of all our tariffs straight off without any bargaining with other countries would have some such result as bringing us back to a financial crisis such as we had two years ago.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I have pointed out that the Amendment says that the Gracious Speech contains no effective policy on the part of the Government to promote the restoration of world trade. Does that mean that the measures which we have proposed are ineffective, or that, if they have been effective, they will not advance the cause of world trade? What do the words mean? [An HON. MEMBER: "That they are ineffective !"] Then we know where we are. What is really behind that part of the right hon. Gentleman's speech which dealt with the first part of the Amendment? He went on to say that a mortal blow was delivered at the prospects of the World Economic Conference by the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer followed by the speech of the President of the Board of Trade in dealing with the approach to tariffs and quotas. Is it seriously intended to suggest that the speech of the Chancellor of the Exchequer laying down the British Government's policy at the Economic Conference, a speech which had a very fine 772 reception the whole world over, dealt a mortal blow at the conference? In that speech the Chancellor of the Exchequer laid down four conditions upon which Great Britain would be prepared to enter into tariff bargains with other countries. They were that any multi-lateral agreement had to show that really tangible reductions of tariffs could he secured with a sufficiently general measure of support and over a sufficiently wide area; that it must not impose on low tariff countries disproportionate sacrifices; and that it must not have injurious repercussions or lead to tariff wars. Is there any one of those points to which any objection is taken?
I would like to tell the House that an ounce of practical experience in tariff reduction negotiations is worth a benchful of theories as to how they should be conducted. If anybody thinks that tariffs can be reduced by setting out with the idea that they must be scaled down by a given percentage, regardless of the articles to which those tariff rates are applicable, he will indeed have a very little measure of success when he goes to bargain with another country. Let it be multilateral by all means if you can get many nations to agree. There was no special idea in the minds of His Majesty's Government in going into the World Economic Conference to exclude multilateral agreements. It was stated time and time again that if it were possible to have groups of countries sufficiently wide and sufficiently interested to enable us to negotiate with them, we should be only too happy, but, as the President of the Board of Trade said, we find in practice that it is easier to talk strict business to one or two countries at a time than it is to make some general offer, which is not responded to, to the other nations at large.
After all, what is the experience of the past? Mr. William Graham, a man full of every attribute that makes a good negotiator—eager, knowledgeable, immensely industrious with a tremendous memory and a very pleasing personality—endeavoured to introduce this system of a low tariff agreement or an all round reduction of so much per cent. He tried it with many countries, but he was never able to make the slightest progress. Why? Because it is not a commercial proposition to go to a country and say, "We are Free Traders, and in no circum- 773 stances will we put a tariff on anything. Having heard that, what concession will you give us to insure against the risk that we will put a duty on?" I assure hon. Members that that is the trouble in practice. In practice it is having that bargaining weapon which has made the position of His Majesty's Government now so different from what it was. What is the objection of those Members whose names are attached to this Amendment? Is it the objection to a bilateral system of bargaining, and is there really any pretension that we could have a multilateral agreement on any wide scale. Some hon. Members, I believe, continue to flirt with the idea of the Ouchy type of tariff agreement. They suggest that some group of low tariff countries might be conceived and that then we might try to throw in our lot with that group.
I ask those hon. Members whose names are attached to the Amendment whether that is part and parcel of their policy to-day, whether they are asking that there should be regional tariff groups? The right hon. and gallant Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) says that that certainly is part and parcel of his policy. Let the House understand what we are talking about. We are talking about low tariff groups, and, whatever else that is, it is not Free Trade. It is the very negation of Free Trade. If you have a low tariff group, it means that a certain number of countries agree that their tariffs shall be lowered among themselves and that they will extend that lowering of tariffs to all who come within the group, and will raise tariffs to those who do not.
§ Dr. BURGIN
It is no good the right hon. Gentleman saying that that is not so. This system of low tariff bargaining among groups of countries was one of the matters that was considered at the World Economic Conference. Extensive material was prepared by the departmental preparatory commission for the use of His Majesty's Ministers and those taking part in the Conference. I have the official papers here. I have carefully examined all the low tariff groups and regional agreement proposals, and they do involve the exclusion from the benefits of those countries who will not come within the group. That does, in fact, mean tariffs against those who do 774 not come in. I repeat perfectly clearly, so that there can be no misunderstanding, that whatever else that may be—and the right hon. Gentleman is entitled to have any fiscal policy he wishes—it is not Free Trade or anything approaching it. It is a system of differential tariffs.
§ Dr. BURGIN
I will tell the right hon. Gentleman why it is opposed by those who appreciate the economic problem. Suppose you have a very wide group of low tariff countries in which you had more than a majority of the total trade of your country. It might be a good bargain to say, "In return for reducing tariffs on, say, 60 per cent. of my total trade, I may submit myself to some increased penalty on 40 per cent. of my trade," but reverse those figures, and the argument is ludicrous.
§ Dr. BURGIN
The whole object of coming within a low tariff group is to discriminate against all those countries that do not come in. It is laid down in terms of the proposition to us to join in the Ouchy Agreement, that we should discriminate against other States. I have chapter and verse here in elaborate detail. I would like to tell the House that no group of low tariff countries that has been suggested amounted to anything but a small fraction of the trade of this country, and is it suggested that for the purpose of improving the 5 or 10 per cent. of our trade, we should load the dice against ourselves for the remaining SO or 95 per cent.? It is quite an impracticable proposition, but I am content for the moment that this part of the proposal of those who put their names to this Amendment gives the House some information to which I think they are entitled. It is clear that if we are going to take all tariffs away at once there may be a possibility of a return to the financial crisis of two years ago, and call it what you will, it is not Free Trade.
I want to ask the hon. Members whose names are attached to the Amendment one further question. Is it conceded, or is it not conceded, that the possession of a tariff bargaining power may in some circumstances be of utility to the country 775 that possesses it, or is the Free Trade doctrine so complete that it amounts to this, that in no circumstances whatever is the power to impose tariffs of any use whatever in bargaining? It used to be part of the Free Trade doctrine that tariffs as a retaliatory weapon were useless and did more harm to the user of the weapon than to the one against whom they were used. [An HON. MEMBER: "Hear, hear!"] That still seems to receive a measure of support. Let me, to use the words of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall, bring a little realism into the question. If you are endeavouring to negotiate a reduction of tariffs and have nothing to offer in exchange, your negotiations proceed at the pace of the slowest country. If you have a tariff weapon in your hands, you can control the pace at which your negotiations proceed, and you have a very loud and important voice in conducting those negotiations. Anyone who served in the Board of Trade and the various Departments associated with the negotiations of trade agreements with foreign countries will appreciate the enormous advantage of having power to impose restrictions upon the trade of such a country in this market, and if that country is not prepared to learn the lesson that they must buy in the markets in which they sell, means will be found to rub that lesson home.
When it comes down to the realism of the matter and the actual bargaining in tariff negotiations between countries, or in commerce between two individuals, having something in your hand which the other wants is no disadvantage. In dealing with the retaliatory use of a tariff, I would like to say to the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. D. Mason) that I can give some instances, fresh in the minds of the House, of the way in which the possession of this power to put on a duty has been turned to some advantage.
In the Gracious Speech at the time of the Prorogation there was a reference to flag discrimination by Portugal, at Question Time to-day there was a reference to motor cars in Spain, and recently we have had questions relating to the surtax imposed by another country even closer to us. Hon. Members delude themselves if they are under the impression 776 that tariffs as a retaliatory weapon have no advantage.
Having attached the meaning to the Amendment that the methods which are set out in the Gracious Speech are ineffective to produce the results which the country desires, I should like for a moment to test that. Let us see whether these methods have been ineffective. The right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness, in a speech made at Ayr on the 19th October of this year, said:it was true that times were now improving.I suppose that is in spite of His Majesty's Government, I suppose by some operation of a natural law, I suppose by some boom that follows a complete slump. The right hon. and gallant Member is a great authority, but so is the "Economist" newspaper, and the "Economist" newspaper published on the 25th November, which after all is last Saturday, only three days ago, contained these words:The United Kingdom is among the few countries which have so far remained practically immune from the repercussion of developments in the United States….Meanwhile all the evidence points to a consolidation of the expansion recorded since the beginning of the year…. There are as yet no signs of a definite setback…. The unemployment returns for October…. show a further decline… Out of 102 branches of activity listed separately only 27 recorded an increase … and the figures for only 14 groups compare unfavourably with those of October, 1932… The foreign trade returns for October provide further evidence of the strengthening of the economic position of this country, for both imports and exports recorded an appreciable rise in value."
There follow some 10 trades. In fact, the improvement in this month of October is almost monotonous to those of us who have to read the trade returns. Coal—"further expansion"; iron and steel—" further expansion"; engineering" further … expansion"; the motor industry—"continues to make satisfactory progress"; cotton—" The improvement in the British cotton industry noted a month ago has been maintained, and production, especially in the yarn section, has recorded a further expansion"; wool—"Despite the rise in the price of tops and yarns, the British wool textile industry continued to make headway, and unemployment showed a further decrease. Orders on hand are sufficient to maintain the increase in machinery activity until Christmas, and some buyers have already 777 placed orders for delivery next spring." So we go through trade after trade. How is it possible for hon. Members to say in their Amendment that this Gracious Speech contains no measures which amount to any effective expansion of trade?
Let me turn to the October figures for oversea trade. Normally these figures show a considerable expansion in imports and exports, and this year was no exception. The value of exports of United Kingdom goods last month—£34,100,000— was higher than in almost any month since the beginning of 1931. Throughout this year exports have shown an increasing tendency, and it is not fair to take the first 10 months and bracket them as a period. The increase has been most marked: January and February, £28,600,000; March, £29,500,000; May and June, £29,600,000; July and August, £30,400,000; September, £32,200,000; and October, £34,100,000. What is this claim that the measures proposed in the Gracious Speech are not effective for the purpose of helping oversea trade? The facts belie the words.
There may be differences of opinion as to what is the best method for conducting trade agreements with other countries, but in these days, when markets for British goods are closed against us, as far as I know there are only three methods by which a market can be obtained—by occupying it and holding it by right of occupancy, by territorial expansion and conquest, or by procuring a market by agreement. I think it will be found that that analysis is exhaustive. We have chosen to exploit, to the fullest degree within the power of His Majesty's Ministers, the procuring and holding of markets by agreements. I care not whether they be bilateral, plurilateral, or multilateral, but. I insist that those who are engaged in it should not be asked to tackle too many countries at a time, or it may be that the quality of the agreements will suffer in the process. When you have to negotiate on the terms of conducting conversations with your own industries that are going to be affected on the one hand, and with the Governments and industrialists of the other country on the other hand, it is no light task, and it is an entire delusion to imagine that it can be done by any rule-of-three or by any mass production. It is a bespoke operation in each individual 778 case. You have to make the agreement fit the particular industry, with all the knowledge of the circumstances that that implies.
There is nothing in this Amendment which His Majesty's Government can do other than welcome, because it provides an opportunity of explaining to the House and to the country as a whole the way in which the Government are tackling this question. The right hon. Member for Darwen, who voted with the Government yesterday and who is voting, I understand, against the Government today, has been unable in any speech that I have heard to explain the principle on which that voting takes place, and it seems to some of us to be slightly opportunist. The right hon. and gallant Member for Caithness, in a speech reported in the "Scotsman" of the 23rd October, gave this very valuable advice, and with it I should like to conclude:In so far as the Government proceeded on sound lines, they should feel bound to give it their support, but if it drifted by opportunist action and became unanchored to principle it would be their duty to oppose it.I ask him to vote against his own Amendment.
§ 7.38 p.m.
Major LLOYD GEORGE
I count myself rather lucky that I am sitting in the position that I occupy in this House, because in the course of the afternoon I have avoided the missiles that have been hurled across from one side to the other. Personally, I am more concerned with the second part of the Amendment than with the first, because I never had any misapprehension as to the effect of the Government's policy on this country. I am far more concerned with the second half of this Amendment, and I do not think any apology to the House is needed from me for returning to the question of the settlement of men on the land in this country. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture was good enough to include me in the family party who took some interest in this question, and, frankly, I am extremely proud that he did so, but I think the House and the country are entitled to know what the Government are aiming at in their policy.
We have repeatedly urged the Government to pursue a policy of land settlement, and the case has been put very often before. The right hon. Gentleman 779 on Friday said that we had to make up our minds which road we wanted to travel, and he said that we cannot have home production and foreign importation. With that I agree, but that issue has been decided for us. The Parliament of this country has decided to restrict foreign importation, so that that is an issue which is already decided. You have gone in for Protection. Our case in the past has been that if you restrict imports, you are bound eventually to lose exports. I am aware that hon. Members in many parts of this House regard that as an outworn Free Trade shibboleth. If it be so, I am glad to welcome one or two converts to that idea, especially in the right hon. Gentleman the Lord President of the Council, who, when he spoke, I believe, at the inaugural conference at Ottawa, said that capacity to buy must depend on ability to sell. So I think we are entitled to number him at any rate as one of our converts, and I am glad to find that now he has been joined by the Minister of Agriculture, who told us last Friday that the Government policy may mean certain restrictions upon our foreign trade.
I think so far we are in agreement, but I wonder whether the Government will agree with my next proposition. They say that we cannot have home production and oversea importation. I think it is equally true to say that in this country at any rate, with its peculiar economic structure, we cannot have restriction of imports without national development. The right hon. Gentleman the Minister of Agriculture rather resented people holding the views that we do criticising the Government policy of Protection, but why should we not? Surely the fact that we do not agree with the policy does not make it impossible for us to point out where it is not being carried out. If I may use the analogy, which is quite a common one, of two doctors being called in to a serious case of illness, one of them may prefer one treatment and the other another treatment, but surely there is nothing to prevent the second doctor, if the relatives decide to adopt the first doctor's treatment, pointing out where he thinks it is not being given a fair trial. I think we are entitled, even though we may have taken opposite views on this matter, to point out where we do not think even this system is being given a fair trial.
780 The Government have overthrown the fiscal system which has been in operation in this country for many generations, and a new one has been substituted. Whether that is for better or for worse is a matter for argument, but what is not a matter for argument surely is that that change is going to have a considerable effect on the economic structure of this country. Under Free Trade we built up a population of over 40,000,000, a population which, as far as England and Wales were concerned, was one of the densest populations in the civilised world. We imported food and raw materials and exported in exchange manufactured articles. Since the War our export trade has suffered considerably, largely owing to causes over which we have had no control. I do not agree that the War was responsible entirely for that situation. I believe there were signs, and very ominous signs, long before the War that this country was beginning to lose that supremacy which it had held for so many years. All that the War did was to accelerate a process which was already in operation. There is no doubt that the loss of our export market has been to a very large extent responsible for the 1,000,000 unemployed we have had in this country, regardless of what was happening in any other country. Other countries have had their periods of prosperity since the War; we have never dropped our figure of the unemployed below 1,000,000; and I think that is to be traced to the loss of our export market through causes over which we have no control.
Now let me come to Protection. I understand that there are many reasons for becoming Protectionist. One is in order to protect the home market and to stimulate production at home. But there is no shadow of doubt that, whatever system of Protection we have in this country, with its peculiar circumstances and with its market as it is to-clay, we cannot make up for the loss we have suffered in export markets. I need refer only to the shipping industry. The hon. Baronet the Member for South Portsmouth (Sir H. Cayzer) told us last night of the serious situation of the shipping industry, as we all know, from the figures of the unemployed in our great ports, and I do not think we can hope to make up within our own country, as we are going on at the present time, the loss we have suffered in international trade. Therefore, it is of 781 supreme importance for us to consider the road along which we intend to travel and the objective we have in mind.
The right hon. Gentleman last night said that he saw little hope of employment for 1,000,000 or 1,500,000 of our people in this country, to whom he referred, I think, as the "hard core" of the unemployed. Is that really the considered opinion of the Government, because if so it is a very serious admission? We can only give them permanent and economic employment—I am uttering now what is really a platitude—by getting them to create consumable commodities. I have tried to show that there is a limit to what they can supply for the home market in manufactured goods, and I do not think anybody will suggest that our tariff policy will increase purchases by foreigners from us. What is there left? The only consumable commodity left for our people to produce is food. There is no other, under the circumstances which exist and are peculiar to this country. The Minister of Agriculture gave us some figures about food consumption. On that I would repeat what the Lord President of the Council said last night:There is nothing from which you can draw a more incorrect inference than a fact correctly stated."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 27th November, 1933; col. 646, Vol. 283.]I entirely agree, and I would apply that observation to the Minister of Agriculture's remarks on food consumption and production in this country. We urge that 500,000 people should be settled on the land. Surely it is quite wrong to say that if that were done the food consumed by 10,000,000 people would be the only thing left for us to exchange in international trade. Besides, the 500,000 people that we propose to settle would be settled on family farms, because it has been proved beyond dispute that in periods of serious depression those have withstood the depression better than other types. The marketable surplus of a family farm is not a large one, and the result would be not that we should upset the exchange trade of our country but that we should give an enormously increased standard of life to many of those people. And let it not be forgotten that it has been calculated that for every person put on the land another person is employed elsewhere. Not only shall we be giving a decent standard of living to a large proportion of the population, but 782 we shall be employing other people in providing for their wants in the industrial market of this country.
The Minister of Agriculture said on Friday that he did not think there was much possibility of an increased consumption of food in this country. Does he really think, or do the Government really think, that our people are consuming the maximum quantity of food at present? Is it forgotten that there are 2,250,000 of our people unemployed? Does he realise that on 15s. 3d. per week people do not eat the quantity of food they would if they were earning wages? I suggest to the Government, and I hope they will convey it to the Minister, that it would not be an exaggeration to say that we could increase the food consumption of this country by certainly £100,000,000 by giving the people who are to-day living below a decent standard of life the standard to which they are entitled and which we, as a Parliament, ought to see that they get. We saw in the Press last week a suggested diet list. I think it allowed a quarter of a pound of butter a week for a man, and there were various other items which were obviously below the minimum. I suggest to the Government and the Minister that, if only they give them the chance, these men will soon show them how food consumption could go up.
I do not say that the only possible development of this country is in the production of food. A supply of timber was vital to this country during the War, and we found that the necessity of importing timber was a very serious inconvenience indeed in the quantity of tonnage which had to be devoted to it. I understand that something like three-fourths of the trees in this country which were capable of supplying timber were cut down during the War. At the present rate of progress it will take nearly 200 years for this country to get back into the position as regards timber in which it was before the War. In 1931 we had a White Paper on Economy in which there is a very interesting sentence at the end of a paragraph dealing with forestry. It states:Care will be taken that the Commissioners' nurseries of young plants are not prejudiced.I am informed that something like 9,000,000 saplings have been destroyed 783 as a direct result of this policy—many millions of saplings have been destroyed because it was impossible to plant them owing to the curtailment of expenditure. Other countries in no better economic position than we are, if as good, are planting. Germany cut down her trees during the War, and so did France, but Germany and France have been planting, and are trying their utmost to get back to their pre-War position. Not only is this not an extravagance, but it provides a permanent industry for the country. Hon. Members who, like myself, have travelled in the forest parts of Germany find a population, concerned with afforestation, living in clearings, with smallholdings, and dividing their time between the forest and those smallholdings. Thus a very decent standard of life is given to a large number of people under the very best possible circumstances. France and Germany are doing it, every country in the world is doing it, I think, except Great Britain. Even Russia, I understand, is now doing it.
Which way are the Government travelling? They say the farmer must have Protection. I said in this House, when I was fighting the duties which have been imposed, that if any industry in this country deserved Protection it was agriculture. I said that nearly two years ago. The Government's policy, apparently, is to protect the farmer only from the draughts of foreign competition. They close the window against foreign draughts, but they open the window to draughts from the Dominions; though, believe me, it makes no difference to the farmer whence the competition comes. It does not interest him in the least whether the imports are wrapped in the Union Jack or some other flag. On Friday the Minister of Agriculture referred to certain stable products—beef, mutton, cheese, butter. I do not want to weary the House with figures, but it is important that hon. Members should know what is the position in regard to these commodities, which are essentially suitable for production in this country.
During the first 10 months of 1933, as compared with the first 10 months of 1931, the imports of mutton from the Dominions went up by 350,000 cwts. One of the greatest experts on grass, not only 784 in this country, but in the world, considers that we could produce three sheep in this country where only one is produced to-day. The Dominions are our greatest competitor in the matter of mutton. If we are going to produce sheep in this country who is going to the Dominions to tell them that they will have to curtail very severely their exports of mutton to us, and what is going to happen to the unity of the Empire? The imports of frozen beef from the Dominions have gone up in two years by very nearly 400,000 cwts. Bacon and ham provide the most ludicrous figures of all. In the first 10 months of 1931 Canada sent to this country 70,000 cwts. of bacon and ham, and in the corresponding period of 1933 530,000 cwts. The Ottawa Agreement, as we know, will enable them to go to very much higher figures. Why on earth the figure has been fixed at 2,500.000 cwt. passes my comprehension. The only reason I can give is that somebody added a nought without intending to do so. I can understand our letting them have the figure of 250,000, but to give them 2,500,000 can only be explained, by a typographical error, the slipping in of a nought which should not be there.
The imports of butter into this country from the Dominions have gone up by 540,000 cwts in the last two years. It is the same with cheese. The imports of apples have doubled. I remember the Chancellor of the Exchequer, standing at the Treasury Bench, saying he believed in putting the British farmer first, the Dominions farmer second and the foreign farmer third. I do not know what has happened in this matter. I can understand the policy of Protection, or Free Trade but I cannot understand the policy of Protection on one hand and complete Free Trade on the other.
Next I come to the question of feeding stuffs. If agriculture is to be put on a permanent basis of prosperity, why on earth do we tax the feeding stuffs required by the dairy and stock farmers? I should have thought that, with a policy of developing this country, we should have given every facility for the farmer to get what he needs to feed his animals as cheaply as possible. Why put up the cost of feeding stuffs? I will give one example of the repercussions which occur. A friend of mine went to Liverpool to 785 buy some feeding stuffs and was told that the price was £7 a ton. He asked if that included the duty, and was told "No," that the price including duty was £7 14s. He offered £6 5s., making £7 with the duty included, and that offer was refused. After lunch he returned to offer another price, but the seller then said, "I am, sorry, but I have sold the stuff." "To whom has it been sold," inquired my friend, and the reply he received was, "I sold it to the Danes." "What price did you get for it?" "Seven pounds per ton." There is no duty in Denmark. The feeding stuffs which our farmer wanted in order to feed his pigs were to cost him £7 14s., but the Danes could buy it at £7, in order to feed pigs to send over here to compete with our farmers. There can be no possible defence for a policy of that sort, and it does not bear out the Government's protestations that they are trying to develop the agricultural industry of this country.
We should like to know what is the policy of the Government. I am not sure that they know themselves, but I think that the House is entitled to know what it is that they arc striving at. I submit that it is vital that, in view of the changed conditions—changed by their own legislation—they should think out the problems and decide along which road they wish to travel, and what is their ultimate objective. Their legislation has changed the economic system of this country. It is admitted, I think, that we cannot support a population of this size without a great international trade. The second point of which I am reminded by this Amendment, with which I agree and for which I am going to vote—I am voting for the Amendment partly because I agree with it, and partly because I think the greater must always contain the less, and I voted for the greater last night—is that the Minister of Agriculture told us that he would have to come down to this House frequently in the future and propose drastic changes in our economic policy. I hope that, before he proposes those drastic changes, the Government will have made up their minds as to the objective at which they are aiming. The Minister of Agriculture appealed to us last Friday, saying that he hoped that we should attack the problems as a united House. If the Government show that they realise the consequences of the 786 legislation which they have passed, and that they are prepared to act accordingly, speaking for myself, at any rate, I shall do nothing whatever to impair the agreement.
§ 8.3 p.m.
§ Lord DUNGLASS
I remember, when I made my maiden speech in this House, that I attributed my presence here to the fact that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) had convinced me, while I was still at school, so clearly as to the value of the Safeguarding Duties to the industries of this country, that I decided to become a politician. I do not think that the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George) will complain that I am selected this evening to follow him, because I am a willing convert to his plea for increased land settlement in this country. I am grateful to the Government for the extra assistance they are giving, and that they have promised to Scotland in the Gracious Speech. The hon. and gallant Member will forgive if, in following him on the spur of the moment, I make what may seem inadequate comment.
During the last few months I have been doing a certain amount of work in Scotland, on what is halfway between an allotment scheme and a smallholding scheme. Half-an-acre of land or so is given to a man, and preferably to an unemployed man,' upon which he can spend a great deal of his time and produce much of the food for his household. The first thing that struck me upon my visits was the amazing change in the physical condition of the men working on those allotments, and the second was the changed outlook which those men had on life, since they had been rescued from the continuous unemployment from which they had suffered in their ordinary occupation. One of the reactions of the industrial depression has been that the spotlight is tending to be thrown off the black-coated professions, and that people are beginning to turn their attention more to rural occupations. They recognise that in those occupations they can get an honest living, which is desirable in itself, and which, in many cases, will keep them independent of public assistance and of the support of their fellow men.
Another point which I should like to make will not perhaps be so welcome.
787 I would urge caution in regard to any large-scale advance towards increased land settlement, for the reason that, if you go forward too quickly, you will have to pay artificial prices for your land and that—and this is the more cogent reason—you will not have public opinion on your side to the extent you might have had. Public opinion up to now has not been convinced of the value of land settlement. It is not thoroughly convinced, and in any increased schemes into which you may go, you must be sure that you will have a minimum of failures in order to convince public opinion of the value of the scheme. On the whole, as I say, I am a willing convert to the plea which was made by the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke.
Now I will turn to the Amendment which is before the House. Liberal hon. Members will forgive us on these benches if we expected them to herald their entrance into the seats of the scornful by an atack upon—the Government a little less anaemic and perhaps a little more racy than that which we have heard this afternoon. I was unable to find any novelty in the speech of the Mover of the Amendment, when compared with the speeches which he has delivered from the benches on this side of the House. I am not joining with the ordinary complaints against his speech, because I think he was an excellent "Bellman." He told his followers that what he said three times was true, and he tried his best to keep each member of his crew on the top of the tide, but to hon. Members sitting here who looked at those benches, his crew did not look as though they were crusaders on the crest of the wave. I think that I saw more than one backward glance of envy to one now a speck on the Liberal horizon, the hon. Member for Paisley (Mr. Maclay), who has succeeded very cleverly upon being left behind on the beach.
It is not clear, from the criticisms in the early speech which was made on this Amendment, whether the Government are being criticsed for their failure to raise world-prices at the World Economic Conference, or whether the Liberal complaint is that the Government failed to raise wholesale prices as far as they would like to see them raised in this 788 country—I can hardly believe that—or, alternatively, whether the chief accusation is that the Government have made no real effort or gesture in favour of universal Free Trade. I cannot remember the exact phrase which was used by the righthon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland), but I think that it was "universal removal of tariff barriers." There was always the underlying suggestion that if hon. Gentlemen on the Liberal Benches were to get into power, they would make great strides towards achieving that end. One cannot but admire the mental agility by which hon. Members jump straight to their goal, and by which they ignore the practical pitfalls that there are before they can expect to reach that goal
For one frivolous moment, I am going to ask hon. Members to accompany me on this wild adventure with the Liberal Members. Suppose that the Government are in possession of the key which would remove a large number of tariffs, and which would persuade other countries to a universal removal of tariff barriers, would that be the remedy for the evils of to-day? There is one thing which immediately leaps to the mind, and that is the new feature of cheap labour and competition from Japan. If not a level, at any rate a comparable, standard of life, seems to be the necessary prelude to any return to universal Free Trade. I do not wish to pursue that point much further, but I will do so this far: I do not believe that you could persuade any country in the world at the present time that the doctrine of buying in the cheapest market is to its advantage, so long as the price which it has to pay is an army of unemployed whose distress it can see, whose misery it can feel and which has to be supported by the local and national taxation, and so long as that course might mean the virtual bankruptcy and extinction of certain industries which the nation may need, and the disappearance of which would make a vital difference, should the nation be thrown upon its own resources in time of emergency.
By all means let us have our ideals, hut let us approach them upon a basis of realism. It is quite true that we may, at some future date, derive great benefit from an economic conference which can come to a definite decision for a general reduction of tariffs, but, in the mean- 789 while, we must move upon the assumption that there is no country which will be content with less than certain minimum requirements. They are, a basic agricultural industry, and a sufficient control of manufactured products to guard against the worst evils of unemployment. They seem to be the two indispensable necessities, and the minimum requirements of every nation at the present time.
I will deal quite shortly with the second part of this Amendment. It picks a quarrel with the Government, that the Government have not added to the resources and the equipment of the nation. I have said a few words upon land settlement. There is one other problem which I should like to bring to the notice of the Government, and that is in regard to the comparative immobility of labour in the smaller industrial villages of this country, and to the distress of the villages which are concentrated around the skeleton of industries which have died, such as in certain coal mining areas. The condition of such villages is worse than in bigger centres, because the people in them have nut even the amusements which lighten the lot of some of the unemployed in the bigger centres, and I ask the Government to apply their minds to this matter.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall accused the Government of failing to equip the nation. We have, however, one or two assets which I think he probably missed. The first is that, compared with any other country in the world to-day, we have the advantage of financial stability. That has been attained by orthodox finance, and by, as the Lord President of the Council said last night, sacrifices on the part of every section of the community. It has been achieved, if I may adopt a very happy phrase used by the Mover of the Address, by good government housekeeping. I would like to remind the House at this stage of one thing, and that is that the chief cause of the loss of confidence in this country in 1931 was the fact that the Unemployment Insurance Fund was running into unrestrained debt. That debt is now being repaid, and, when the new Bill which is to be introduced to-morrow has been passed, we shall have equipped this country—I take that word from the Amendment—with a scheme of social insurance against risk and against illness allied to a record of disinterested public 790 service with which there is nothing comparable in any other country in the world.
The second asset which I think the right hon. Gentleman missed was the slight but marked advance in industrial prosperity in this country. If confidence is to be retained and developed, and if trade is to expand, it is absolutely necessary that the business world should feel that there is to be a continuity of purpose in industrial policy—that the industrial policy supported by one Government may outlive that Government and be carried on by another. It is for that reason, largely, that we have devised machinery whereby the tariff protection which large numbers of us believe to be necessary should vary, not according to the views of political majorities at different times, but in ratio to the cost of production in countries competing with us and in conformity with such trade agreements as we are able to make with other countries. I think it would be nice for this House to know what is the Liberal attitude towards this industrial policy for the future. For instance, how do they look upon the Import Duties Advisory Committee, which I will call "Idac" for short? Would they abolish it? I think that both this House and the country would like to know. If they would abolish it, I think they would run a risk of an epitaph parodying an old nursery rhyme:Twenty little Liberals sitting in a row,They abolished Idac, and cow there are two.The right hon. Gentleman the late Secretary of State for Scotland is not in his place, but I think that he, in contrast with his colleagues, is an ally of ours on those benches. Those of us who heard him speak on the Second Reading of the Wheat Bill will remember his peroration, in which he appealed to Conservatives and begged us not to leave these poor arable farmers to the fate that would rapidly overtake them. I have not his actual words at hand at the moment, but I think I am quoting him nearly enough when I say that he was convinced that agriculture should play the largest part in bringing back prosperity to this country. I think that that conveys the substance of his words. His appeal has remained in my mind, and I would ask him, would he open the meat-producing side of British agriculture 791 to the full blast of free imports? Would he do away with the quantitative restriction which the Minister of Agriculture has put on? Would he undo the good which he himself in Scotland has said the Horticultural Products Act has done to the small producer in Scotland? Would that be his policy? I must not, after all, be too hard on him, because, when the Day of Judgment comes, and when the battalions of the Protectionists are asked by the Recording Angel to produce from among them the Minister who, in the 20th century, spoke on behalf of the first tax on the people's bread the right hon. Gentleman will be able to stand forth and say, "Here I am," amidst the plaudits and acclamations of the Conservative angels and of such other hon. Members as may have been allowed temporary leave of absence from another place to envy the respectable haven to which this unorthodox Free Trader has come.
We had an interesting speech yesterday from the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan), which emphasised the necessity of the planning of industry in this country—of agriculture and of the heavier industries. My hon. Friend told us that he was writing a little book, which he commended to our attention, but I must say that my Scottish sixpence which I had put aside for the willing purchase of that little book burrowed more deeply into the recesses of my pocket when it saw trembling on his tongue an exhortation to the Lord President of the Council that the Government should do something, if only to impress the electors. I do hope that the Government will not be persuaded by that kind of argument. I remember its being used, although I was not then in this House, in the Parliament of 1924, and I have seen some of its results. If the Government will continue their practical action in the face of a very difficult situation, I think the country will be satisfied, and my sixpence can be applied to its original purpose.
§ 8.23 p.m.
Mr. OWEN EVANS
As my name is attached to this Amendment, I rise for a few moments to state why I support it. We have been reminded in several speeches to-night that there are two limbs to the Amendment, and one of them has 792 been very ably dealt with by my hon. and gallant Friend the Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). With regard to that part of the Amendment, at any rate, it is clear that, whatever might have been in the minds of the Government in the past in regard to policy, and whatever action they have taken, there is in the Gracious Speech from the Throne no real indication—and this is the complaint embodied in the Amendment—of the exact specific measures which the Government are going to take during the next year, until we get another Speech from the Throne. I should like to emphasise, because hon. Members seem to have mistaken the purport and meaning of the Amendment, that what My hon. Friends and I desire is some clear indication from the Government of what their policy is. Except in very general terms, there are no indications at all in the Speech from the Throne of what measures they proposed to take. The only two specific examples that we have had are in very general terms, and we would ask the Government to be a little more specific on the matter. That is the real complaint embodied in the Amendment.
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade asked very pointedly, with a little asperity and with that zeal which is sometimes characteristic of a recent convert, what the Liberal party was going to do in regard to Free Trade. I have no authority to speak for anyone but myself, but I have some experience of business and I at any rate can say what Free Traders have said all along during the whole of the fight that they have had on Free Trade versus Protection from 1903 down to the present day, that once-tariffs are imposed you cannot get rid of them easily. We have always admitted that you cannot chop and change about, and all of us who have had any experience of business or trade know perfectly well that, if you once impose a system of Protection and change your fiscal system fundamentally, you cannot in the very next breath change it back again. We feel—I am sure I speak for most of us who have had any experience—that, while we remain Free Traders, while we continue to think that the best policy for this country and for the world in the long run is Free Trade, we cannot and will not do anything that will be harmful to 793 the trade and industry of the country. We have to act with that discretion which I hope everyone in the House possesses in regard to this subject. But, whatever happens, however much change has taken place, I feel that sooner or later some party will emerge, under whatever name you choose to call it, whose chief object will be to restore to this country and to the world freedom of exchange in goods.
I wish to endeavour to elicit from the Government some definite idea of the proposals that they are going to bring forward to continue the measure of success which they claim to have had, because, if it is contended by the Government that their policy has so far achieved some measure of success in restoring prosperity, it does not follow that they can rest there. It does not follow that that will continue, because it will depend upon the action that they take during the remainder of their term of office. We cannot gather what it is going to be from the Gracious Speech, but perhaps we can to some extent gather it if we diligently search through the speeches of Ministers during the present Session. One conclusion that one must arrive at is that Ministers are wedded to the policy of extending and expanding existing tariffs. There is a slight increase in employment, but we have still 2,000,000 unemployed after two years of the Government's tenure of office. Our trade is better, but there is better trade in all the world. All the figures that I have seen published by the League of Nations point to that fact. If the Government maintain that it is due to Protection, I think they are wrong, but it implies that they have nothing new in policy to offer to the country in the future. I should be the last not to express joy and satisfaction at any improvement in trade, or to deny to the Government any legitimate credit that is due to them, but there are some Members who may regard any improvement in the export trade, particularly in certain industries, as having a very sinister reason.
A few days ago, the hon. Member for Gower (Mr. D. Grenfell) said there were remarkable increases in the export of non-ferrous metals. He cited three different metals, aluminium, which had increased 25 times in the past year, brass, 35 times, and wrought copper 23 times. I wish it had. Nothing could be more gratifying to the House and to the 794 country than if those figures were true. But I understand—the matter was referred to earlier in the day although I did not hear it—that the hon. Member had confused cwts. with tons. He really ought to get an apology from the wickes Board of Trade, which has suddenly changed its methods of returns from tons to cwts., without notifying him. But surely the production and export of metal is as good a, barometer of trade as any other, and we ought to welcome it. Instead of that, the hon. Member for Gower apparently cites it as something that demands an explanation from the Government. The only explanation is that it is as clear an indication as you can have of a gradual and continuous growth of prosperity in the world. My complaint against the Government is that they seem to be wedded to the idea that they have restored confidence by one stroke of policy alone, that is by imposing tariffs. I heard the President of the Board of Trade in this House the other day say that he had visited Sheffield and refer to Sheffield as the heart of the steel industry. I will quote his actual words: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 at 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 23rd November, 1933, col. 330, Vol. 283.]The whole argument of the President of the Board of Trade there was that the renewed prosperity, as he had seen it in Sheffield, was due to Protection. We all know that Sheffield is not in truth the heart of the steel trade at all. [An HON. MEMBER "Middlesbrough!"] The hon. Member may say the north-east coast, and my hon. Friend the Member for Swansea West (Mr. L. Jones) may say that the heart of the steel industry is in South Wales. The President of the Board of Trade in describing Sheffield as the heart of the steel trade showed a profound lack of knowledge of the steel industry. The truth is that Sheffield is relatively more prosperous than it was, but it is not the heart of the steel industry but of the special steel industry—of the alloy steel industry. I am glad to say that I go to Sheffield at least two or 795 three times a year and visit their works. I have been through their research laboratories. The renewed prosperity of Sheffield has nothing whatever to do with Protection. It is due to the fact that Sheffield put its house in order before we had tariffs, and that they had established there, to the great credit of Sheffield and to the great credit of this country, those research laboratories of which any Englishman might be proud. It is true that Sheffield, as we all know, has more to teach the world in special steels than the world has to teach Sheffield.
§ Mr. PIKE
I happen to come from Sheffield. While the Sheffield steel industry had put its house in order before receiving the benefit of the tariff, does the hon. Gentleman deny that, in spite of those improved conditions of working, it was incapable of facing world competition without the assistance of tariffs?
Certainly, I say that Sheffield would, in its special steel trade, have been able to compete with world trade without any tariff at all. There are many well-known persons to-day who are as strong Free Traders as ever. My complaint is that the Government are wedded to one line of policy, as we might expect them to be, supported as they are, by a battalion of avowed Protectionists.
I want to refer to the very interesting speech, which I and all the House enjoyed, of the Lord President of the Council last night. There was one particular point to which I would like to draw the attention of the House. He said that they had secured the great benefit to trade of cheap money. We all know the value of cheap money, and we like it, if we can get it, but the difficulty is that the reason for this cheapness is that no one wants the money. The policy of the Government is to produce a condition of affairs where money is cheap, and then to stop there. There is no indication of the policy of the Government in the Gracious Speech, but the statement was made by the Lord President of the Council that they had obtained cheap money. But as far as we know, no constructive effort is being made by the Government to enable industry to acquire and use this cheap money. Everyone who has had experience of securing credit in 796 the City of London knows that there is no means to-day by which the small industries of this country, good, sound business concerns, call obtain extra credit from the City of London. No machinery is provided at all. Have the, Government any policy at all for the purpose of developing the industries of this country? It is all very well to say that there is cheap money. If it is hoarded in banks, what is the use of it to industry? We have been challenged that there is no meaning in the Amendment, but I would ask the Government whether there is any indication whatever in the Gracious Speech of any policy for the future? Have the Government any programme or scheme by which industry in this country can be helped? Now that business is beginning to revive, more working capital will be required. Have the Government any scheme in mind to assist the development of small industries in this country by giving them the kind of credit they desire and enabling them to obtain the capital they require?
§ Mr. KNIGHT
Will the hon. Member make suggestions as to what should be done to assist small businesses?
The House, perhaps, would not listen to my policy, but I should certainly like to tell them that there are many ways of doing it. It could be done by a national investment board, which has been proposed on many occasions. Why do not the Government take in hand a matter of this kind? There are other ways, such as development trusts under the auspices of the Government—semi-public utility trusts. There are plenty of means of rendering assistance if the Government would take the matter in hand. We want them to declare and clearly specify a constructive policy to the House. The Lord President of the Council mentioned another matter in the course of his speech last night. He said:There are many problems of which we have not yet touched the fritlEfP."—(OFFICIAL. REPORT. 27th November, 1933; col. 649, Vol. 293.]Those words must mean that there are many problems which the Government, after two years' existence, have not touched at all, not even the fringe of them. What are those problems 7 The Lord President of the Council mentioned them. They are not the minor problems, 797 but the major problems of the coal industry, the cotton industry and shipping. Are Members, are the supporters of the Government, satisfied with the fact that two years after this Government came into power it is admitted by the Lord President of the Council that these major problems have not been touched? What is their policy in regard to them? Can they point to any single word in the Gracious Speech to indicate what their policy is going to be in respect of those major problems, which the Lord President of the Council said presented enormous difficulties? We all know that they do present enormous difficulties. We know that as regards shipping their policy cannot possibly, in the long run, be useful or advantageous. Their policy of Protection and tariffs must mean that the external trade of the country will be lessened, and we shall have less shipping than before. The policy of Protection does not of itself help shipping.
There is, however, one sentence in His Majesty's Gracious Speech which indicates one line of policy which they are going to pursue. They are going to continue the subsidy on sugar-beet. That touches a small and unimportant part of the difficulties of this country. I am not here to defend subsidies, I do not believe in them, but if the Government are going in for a policy of subsidies, why do they not do it in regard to an industry which is far more important from the national point of view than the growing of sugar-beet. Look at the plight of shipping. It is becoming worse and worse. In my own constituency and along the whole coast of Wales, from Pembroke to Carnarvonshire, from the south to the north, there are villages containing hundreds of sailors, masters, and officers who are unemployed, with no hope, and yet the policy of the Government apparently is to subsidise sugar-beet and do nothing for shipping. The Lord President of the Council said in respect of my right hon. Friend the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) that his horn would be heard from Pembroke to Anglesey, and well it might be.
These are some of the reasons why we have moved our Amendment. We complain that there is no indication of any policy on the part of the Government in regard to these great matters. Why 798 do not the Government tackle the big problems first? We were told to-day by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, with great self assurance, that all his Free Trade ideas have been forgotten. He asked whether we were going in for grouping the countries which will agree with us on low tariffs, and asked what about bilateral agreements. What have the Government done? The President of the Board of Trade seems to be wedded to the policy of bilateral agreements. We complain that he has done very little so far. He has nothing to boast about. He has dealt with small countries like Denmark. It is easy to deal with Denmark, because we are such a great market for Denmark. Let him tackle the big problems by bilateral agreement. Let him tackle the big powers and get something substantial and then it may be that we shall agree that the Government policy is successful, but not until it proves itself to be successful. Nothing really has been done yet on which the Government can claim success by bilateral agreements. I supported last night's Amendment and I support the present Amendment. We are justified in moving the Amendment, because there is no indication of any policy in the Gracious Speech, and we are fully justified in voting for it to-night.
§ 8.50 p.m.
§ Mr. PEAT
I do not intend to keep the House long, but I should like to refer to one or two remarks made by the previous speaker. He suggested that Sheffield has recovered very largely owing to its own splendid achievements in research. I do not wish to deny that, but I would point out that nearly all the finished products which come from Sheffield are at this moment protected. I think that is a prima facie argument that the security enjoyed by the Sheffield producers of steel owing to tariffs has led them to make greater efforts in research and also led them to greater investments in machinery.
§ Mr. PEAT
Undoubtedly they were there before tariffs, but the fruits of their labours were not able to be put into operation until they had the security of tariffs. The hon. Member also talked 799 about cheap money and asked the Government what plans they had for financing small companies, and so on. He apparently is one of those who want the Government to carry all the bad investments that will not be taken up by the public or the banks. My answer to that is that the Government policy in making the trade of this country better will make more secure the investments in the small companies so that they can be taken up freely by the public. That is it policy which is going to be fruitful in the long run, and certainly much more fruitful than the form of synthetic finance which the hon. Member apparently had in mind.
My main object in rising was to give my support and to express my gratitude to the Government for what they have done in the last two years. I was somewhat surprised when the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) said that nothing could be of any good so long as we had over 2,000,000 unemployed, and that no policy would be helpful so long as that figure existed. He referred to the swing of the pendulum and to a switchback and said that you always start higher and eventually you get lower. I should like to change the metaphor and to say that when the Government came into office they found a country which was very sick and had a very high temperature. The temperature of a person who is convalescent and gradually improving, fluctuates. There are big fluctuations at first, but they become smaller and smaller until you get to the normal. That is the way I like to look at the situation. We may have fluctuations but they become smaller, and the country under the present Government will gradually and surely approach the normal in the long run. I am not discouraged, because I feel that, owing to the results so far attained, we can demonstrate to ourselves that we are on the right line. If we have 600,000 or 700,000 more men employed, it is a sign that what the Government are doing is on the right lines and that we can hope for better things in the future.
I must utter a word of thanks to the Government for what they have done for my own constituency. I am not ashamed to do so. Although there are other constituencies where unemployment is still very general in my own we have had a 800 gradual and steady decrease in unemployment, particularly during this year. In fact, almost 25 per cent. of our unemployed have been brought back into employment since January, 1933. The whole of my borough looks more healthy, there are fewer men about the streets, and there is a more cheerful feeling throughout the constituency. I thank the Government for that, and for the gradual and slowly increasing confidence that is shown throughout the whole country. But there are black spots. You have the coal industry, and the cotton industry; two basic industries, which are difficult to deal with for two reasons. First of all, because those engaged in them have great difficulty in coming together and concerting on a unified and uniform policy for the industry and, secondly, because they are up against the most tremendous international competition. The Government have left these two industries alone, although they have advised them to put their own house in order; and if that does not succeed I imagine that the patience of the Government and of the country will be exhausted and that further steps will be taken to put these two industries in a position to reap the benefits of reorganisation.
There is one basic industry about which I particularly want to speak. I refer to the iron and steel trade; and I should like to thank my hon. Friend the Member for East Leyton (Sir F. Mills) who really should have spoken on the steel trade for kindly giving way to me. The steel trade has to a certain extent been the experimental industry of the Government. They have said, let us take the steel industry protect it, and see what will happen after it reorganises itself. What has happened? The House will forgive me for giving one or two more statistics but I cannot tell the true story unless I do so. The stocks of foreign steel are now almost exhausted and we are beginning to reap the advantages of Protection. There is no doubt that Protection has done a great deal for the heavy steel industry. That is just a plain statement of fact. The production of steel has increased by 30 per cent. to 5,640,000 tons in ten months ending October last. That means employment for 52,000 more men in one year. That is our idea as to how we should cure the unemployment problem. Employment rather than wrang ling about the means test is the better 801 solution. Those 52,000 men who are being put back into work are much more grateful for the employment than for any rearrangement of the means test. As soon as a man is employed and becomes a contributor to the insurance scheme the words "means test" have a very different meaning.
The production of pig iron has increased 10 per cent. The output in October, 1933, was 370,000 tons as compared with 275,000 tons in October, 1932. The output of steel in October, 1933, was 668,000 tons, as compared with 439,800 tons. There were 73 furnaces in blast in October as compared with 59 a year ago. The imports are most astonishing. In October, 1933, they were 88,900 tons as compared with 163,200 in October, 1932. Exports give another amazing figure. In October, 1933, they were 193,600 tons as compared with 160,400 tons in 1932. And take the price index. The average price of steel in this country is now three points higher than it was a year ago. That is a very moderate increase considering that owing to a general rise in the price of our raw materials costs have been slightly higher. A rise of only three points is a matter of congratulation to the industry. Tinplates and sheets have been going full steam ahead for the last year. Unemployment has been reduced by 5.8 per cent. in the pig iron industry and 10.8 per cent. in the steel industry. I admit that unemployment in steel and pig iron is still too high. In pig iron it is 35 per cent. and in steel 33 per cent. I am not giving these figures as a matter for congratulation but as showing that the industry is going ahead under the policy of the Government. Another most important thing is the capital expenditure that is taking place. At Corby in the Midlands we have £3,500,000 spent on a basic bessemer plant which is going to take the place of the imports of bessemer steel from the Continent. This great plant is going to produce 330,000 tons of pig iron, 250,000 to 270,000 tons of steel, and 180,000 tons of coke per annum; and there are 800 cottages being built for the workers. In South Wales £2,000,000 is to be expended on a great plant at Dowlais which will employ 1,500 men next year. The English Steel Corporation are spending £500,000 in Sheffield, and if we get through the amalgamation on the North-East Coast between Messrs. Dorman Long and the South Durham Com- 802 pany there will be a considerable capital expenditure in the immediate future.
But this is only touching the fringe. There are £20,000,000 of expenditure to be made in the steel trade as soon as we get under weigh with a secured home market and exports increasing. There will he millions of expenditure, with all its repercussions throughout the land in employment and labour. There is a quid pro quo which this House has always demanded from the steel industry when it is protected; and that is reorganisation. The House has a perfect right to ask what it is doing in the way of reorganisation. It has been my privilege to tell the House on other occasions what the steel industry has done in the way of reorganisation. It is a fairly well organised industry already. It sells a great range of its products for exports through one association; it controls prices and standardises the manufacture of a large range of exports through various associations. It has its federation by which its policy, financial and political, is controlled.
The steel industry comprises no less than 13 distinct industries and those who are working on schemes for reorganisation are dealing with a very difficult problem, but have the will to succeed. In my opinion, even in face of the enormous difficulties of coalescing a tremendous industry with so many component parts and such a strong individualistic tendency, success will be achieved. I do not commit the industry or any one man in it, but I take it upon my own responsibility to make that statement.
Let me transgress and say one thing about the future of industry in this country, as I see it. I do not agree with the laissez faire policy. I find myself more in agreement with the hon. Member for Stockton (Mr. Macmillan). I do think that industry in this country has to be regulated. You find different trends of thought spreading out in different countries. You see the Italian point of view, the collection of corporations, the arrangement whereby collections of corporations shall actually legislate for industry and supersede the old legislative assembly in Italy. I am not suggesting that for this country. The Government, being truly British, dislike all definitions at too early a stage; they do not want to define exactly their ideas of the future 803 of industrial organisation. But still the core of the thing is a collection of individuals who are persuaded, who may be goaded if you like; but none the less the result is that they do use their individual sense of responsibility to the State and to their consumers, to get together and to form themselves into a reorganised or an organised body of industries which will be responsible to the State and to the consumers, and be regulated from the point of view of production and consumption. The steel industry already is in close touch with most of its most important consumers. The industry sits down with the shipbuilders, with the constructional engineers, and it tries to facilitate their getting work by reducing prices where necessary. That is an ever increasing tendency.
Without delaying the House I would like to express, on behalf of the steel industry, very real thanks to the President of the Board of Trade for the statement he made the other day at a luncheon of the British Steel Works Association. I do not want to commit the right hon. Gentleman, but anyhow I think one can take it as a fair assumption from what he said that so long as the industry behaves itself it need not fear that the protection it now has will be taken from it, and that owing to the usual procedure of Governments in this country the next Government, whatever its colour may be, is not likely to upset that arrangement. It is a tremendous incentive to the industry to further investment and progress.
One other subject I would mention relates to bridges. We have always pressed that dangerous bridges, of which there are 7,000 in this country, should be dealt with. Many of them are in the private ownership of railway companies and canal companies. They are impeding the transport along our great trunk roads. Without adding my voice to the chorus of those who say that something must be done about it without any idea of what that something is to be, I do urge the Government to bring pressure upon local authorities, upon railway companies, upon canal companies and other private owners, to get these bridges put right. It means steel, and that is an important point. It means increasing facilities of communication and putting right some of the weak links in our transport system.
804 One other point, and that relates to the right hon. Member for Epping (Mr. Churchill). I am not sufficiently proud to say that I am sorry he is not in his place. I wish he had been, but none the less I could not have expected that. Before this Session started, or on the first day of the Session, the right hon. Gentleman made a speech stirring up trouble, or trying to stir up trouble, between the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, by suggesting that the Prime Minister made mistakes and that the Foreign Secretary had to take the blame for them. There came into my mind Kipling's story of the mother hive. The House will remember that in that story the wax moth came into the hive and laid her eggs, which finally ruined all the combs and destroyed the hive. The wax moth was seen laying her eggs by a worker bee, who said, "You must not lay eggs here." The wax moth replied, "I give you my solemn word of honour, those are not eggs; those are principles, and I would die for them." Those words came into my mind when I heard the right hon. Member for Epping trying to lay eggs in the hive of the National Government. I do not know whether he would even had said that they were principles, and if he had said so he would probably have been loth to commit himself to die for them.
As a Member for a constituency which was hard to win and may be very hard to win again—I am not. a bit afraid of it—and feeling that there are probably well over 100 Members of this House who are in precisely the same position as myself—back benchers who have fought industrial constituencies and won them on a National ticket, supported by the votes of all the three parties—I view with the utmost concern and the greatest disgust any attempt to lay the seeds of disruption in the National party to destroy it. I think that the gentlemen who sit on the Government Front Beach now are the only people fitted to carry on the good government of this country, because they have shown by their action that they are not afraid, and the result of their action so far has been good. If we people who have to fight for our seats are to have the strength of our position undermined by lack of confidence, by dissentient voices in the National party, then our hopes of winning the next election will be very-much reduced; and if we go good gov- 805 ernment goes in this country too, because, although we are back benchers and do not speak very often, our presence in the House means the retention on the Front Bench of a number of Members who are in a position to govern and are fit to govern.
§ 9.15 p.m.
§ Mr. LEWIS JONES
I have been in my place since early this afternoon and I have heard every speech that has been delivered in the Debate to-day. Until a short time ago I thought I should be following the line taken by most speakers in expressing wonderment not only at the draft of the Amendment which has been submitted by the Liberal group now sitting on the other side of the House, but at the rather dubious kind of speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman who moved it. I was very doubtful as to what was intended but fortunately one of my Welsh colleagues, the hon. Member for Cardigan (Mr. Owen Evans) has explained exactly what he wants us to do. He spoke about the difficulties of the shipping industry and said that Cardiganshire shipping was suffering badly and suggested that it might get a subsidy from the Government. I know that on the Cardiganshire coast they have a few fishing smacks of 50 or 75 tons but I never realised that the shipping industry there was so important as to find a place in an official Amendment moved by the Samuel group of Liberals.
I am not a politician, but I have spent a great deal of my life in close association with one of the principal basic industries of the country, and during the post-War years I have been forced to take a realist view of the problems of industry generally. I have watched industrial developments abroad. I have seen the workings of the iron and steel industry on the Continent and in the United States. I have observed the operation of tariffs and quotas and licensing systems, I have studied questions of hours of labour, and wages. I have seen the results of dumping, and as I say, I have been forced to take a realist view of these matters. Therefore, I am not surprised that the right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate skated very carefully over the thin ice when he was dealing with the effects of tariffs and with the World Economic Conference. However much the group to which he belongs may 806 shun the present trade policy of the Government let there be no mistake about it. They are as much responsible for the launching of that trade policy as any of the sections supporting the Government. They cannot escape that responsibility. I know that the right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) was not a Member of the House at the time but let me remind him of the manifesto signed by the Prime Minister, the Lord President of the Council and the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) definitely stating that the Government must be free to consider every proposal likely to help. They defined such proposals, because the manifesto added:such as tariffs, expansion of exports and contraction of imports, commercial treaties, and mutual economic arrangements with the Dominions.English is not my mother tongue but I know enough English to understand that statement. I am glad to think that a prominent colleague of mine in the representation of Wales, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) understood it as I understand it, because at the last Election he warned the country that if the manifesto meant anything it meant giving the Government the right to introduce a tariff system. Only in a few cases were Members returned as Liberals who were not pledged to that manifesto. Some of my Liberal colleagues definitely told the electors that they were Free Traders and were going to stick to Free Trade, and I understand that point of view. But the bulk of us came back on that manifesto and it is useless for any attempt to be made by the Liberal group on the other side to withdraw from the position indicated by that manifesto.
What happened when they came to the House? First, there was the introduction of the Abnormal Importations Bill which became an Act of Parliament. The Liberal Members of the Government supported that Measure on the Floor of the House and went into the Division Lobby, not to put on a 10 per cent. or 3313. per cent. duty on foreign goods, but to give the President of the Board of Trade power to levy duties to the extent of 50 per cent. I was nervous. I had given pledges in my constituency nod Darwenism was going too far for me;
807 I could not follow the right hon. Gentleman into the Lobby on all these things. As a matter of fact I followed the Opposition into the "No" Lobby on a number of these duties. Only one member of the Liberal party stood at that Box week after week and fought the battle of Free Trade, and that was the hon. and gallant Member for Pembroke (Major Lloyd George). He opposed these duties but the section of the Liberal party supporting the Government were committed to the proposals. Someone has mentioned the question of the wheat quota. I know that it is fashionable within a group in my own party to disclaim tariffs and quotas. I well remember the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) dealing with the wheat quota at that Table. I had given a pledge that I would not support a wheat quota and I had made up my mind to vote against it, but having listened to the amazing appeal of the right hon. Gentleman I could not pluck up courage to go into the Lobby against it, and so I abstained from voting. And these are the people who blame us for having been loyal to our pledges, and having supported the Government throughout.
Let me go a step further. Even when the Import Duties Bill was being discussed, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen did not rule out tariffs. In a famous speech which he made at that Box he said that under certain conditions, if a committee appointed to deal with the reorganisation of an industry came to the conclusion that tariffs were desirable, and that for a limited period the industry needed some measure of security, he for his part would he prepared to consider measures for giving them security. The security was to be given by Protection, whether by licences or quotas, or in any other way—that meant prohibition T suppose—and was to be for a short period of years.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
On condition that there was to be reorganisation And that the consumers were to be safeguarded.
§ Mr. JONES
I have no intention of hiding it. I say that the right hon. Gentleman was definite in stating the conditions, but what I am getting at is this. If tariffs are wrong, they are wrong under every condition, and if the right hon. Gentleman was prepared to consider tariffs under certain conditions, then the wrong cannot be all on our side, because the conditions which we put to the Government in connection with the operation of tariffs do not coincide with the right hon. Gentleman's conditions. That is the position as far as I am concerned. The right hon. Gentleman must remember that he contributed as much as anybody to crystallise the growing desire in the country for some system of safeguarding British industry against the unfair competition of Continental countries. The hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Peat) gave some figures of the iron and steel output. This policy can only be decided on statistics showing its effect on labour. I am not going to repeat the figures already given, but it is important to realise that the output of this country in one of our chief basic industries increased by 29 per cent. for the 10 months ended October this year as against the corresponding period of last year, and our imports of foreign steel during the same period were reduced to 672,000 tons.
May I give the House some reason for claiming that Sheffield is not the centre of the steel industry? Somebody else claimed that another town was the centre. Let me say quite frankly that the most important part of the steel industry of this country is in South Wales. Do people realise that we in South Wales produce 26 to 27 per cent. of the ingot output of the whole country? Our overage monthly output in 1930 was 125,200 tons; by 1931 it was 106,100 tons by 1932 it had gradually grown to 122,000 tons—the effect of the duty—and by 1933 the figure had increased to 141,600 tons. Take my own constituency—the most intelligent constituency in the whole country, because at one time it returned to the House of Commons the present President of the Board of Trade. It is one of the most important steel centres in the country. Within a radius of 15 miles of the town of Swansea there is a capacity for producing 1,750,000 tons of steel a year. The foreign steel exporter 809 did considerable harm to the iron and steel industry of South Wales for some years.
Let me give the House a few figures. The average monthly importation of steel bars into South Wales ports in 1929 was 9,000 tons. In 1930 it was 20,000 tons per month; in 1931, 26,700 tons per month; and by 1932 it had fallen to 15,850 tons per month. The average monthly importation since the beginning of this year has fallen from that 26,700 tons in 1931 to just over 1,000 tons. That is obviously the result of the duty oh foreign steel. What has been the effect upon the output within a 15-mile radius of Swansea? In 1932 we produced nearly 100,000 tons more steel than in the previous year, and last year we produced 236,000 tons more than in 1931. Think what that means: over 300,000 tons more steel produced within 12 miles of Swan sea in 1933, for the 12 months ending 30th September, than two years previously.
The steel industry is obviously a basic industry. Think what industries are dependent on it. Assume for one moment that you are consuming two tons of coal for every ton of steel: you are at once consuming 600,000 tons more coal. A working miner produces one ton of coal a day, so you immediately find 600,000 working days for miners. For every ton of steel you produce, the railway corn-panics carry five tons of raw material, so that an increased output of over 300,000 tons enables the railway companies alone to carry 1,500,000 tons more transport every year. Some time during the course of last year a large steel works belonging to one of the steel companies of South Wales was re-opened in Lincolnshire. The effect was that the railway company were carrying 1,000,000 more tons of traffic a year. The right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs, when speaking of industry, has always referred this House to traffic returns. That is where industry contributes to traffic receipts. When we were discussing the imposition of import duties on iron and steel in this House, some hon. Members on the other side of the House were very careful to warn the House of the horrible effect which a duty on imported steel would have on the tinplate trade. These duties have been in operation for nearly 18 months, and I am very glad to say that, instead of these jeremiads being fulfilled, that industry is better off 810 than ever, and it is very successful in competition in various parts of the world.
The right hon. Member in the course of this Debate questioned the Government on what they were going to do, and. interjections took place later, concerning the World Economic Conference. Hon. Members seem to be very anxious that the Government should secure international understanding. With whom are you going to have understandings? With whom are you going to plan? Have you any hope at the present time that America will have any use for an understanding, with her scheme of inflation? Who is prepared to discuss with you reduction of tariffs? Do you see any hope that Herr Hitler, with his subsidising of exports, will be prepared to discuss reduction of tariffs with us, or that Japan, with her long hours and low wages, will he prepared to enter into some trade pact with us to our advantage? We have to realise this, and I think that the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs was perfectly right when he said some time ago that we had to understand the psychology of the world. The phrase he used was:The conditions of the world arc not such as are propitious to an international settlement of its difficulties … It was too much to expect America, having regard to what is happening there, to come with any definite and clear proposals, either with regard to stabilisation or tariffs, or any of the other fundamental questions that were under consideration.'—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 26th July, 1933; col. 2664, Vol. 280.]The right hon. Gentleman was perfectly correct in saying that the only course we in this country can pursue in dealing with all our trade difficulties to-day is to dig ourselves in. We must pursue our present line of bilateral agreements. The right hon. Gentleman the President of the Board of Trade must feel gratified that the Trade Union Congress—and I assume by that the masters of the Labour party—has come forward now and blessed those bilateral agreements. A rather important resolution was adopted at Hastings:That this Congress calls on the British and Russian Governments to conclude forthwith a permanent commercial treaty on the same basis as the agreements which have recently been concluded between the British and other Governments.Even the Labour party, therefore, through the Trade Union Congress, has- 811 been giving approval of those bilateral agreements into which the Government have entered with other countries. I hope that the Government will pursue those discussions, as they seem to be the only means of extending our trade with foreign countries.
There are two matters which seem to cause a great deal of concern to the exporting community at the moment. I will just mention them, but I am not quite sure what steps the Government can take in the matter. The first is this inflation of the dollar; the second is the subsidising of exports by Germany. The inflation of the dollar is becoming a very serious matter to the exporters of this country. It is suggested in one of the newspapers to-day that its full effect has not yet been felt. Taking the trade of South Wales, however, as probably typical of other exporting industries; on the Continent of Euope to-day the Americans are able to offer tin plates at many shillings per box less than the price at which South Wales is able to export them. One wonders, in view of the fall in the value of the dollar, what might have happened to a great number of our manufacturing industries had we not been protected by import duties. As far as Germany it concerned, by the issue of block marks in Germany exporters have been subsidised to a considerable extent. Exporters generally in this country 1.re rather concerned, and I hope that the President of the Board of Trade and his economic advisers are watching the matter very carefully, although I am doubtful what exactly they can do. I am perfectly satisfied that we are up against very serious difficulties still. This country is not yet out of the wood.
I was rather hurt at something which was hurled across the Floor of the House by the right hon. Member for North Cornwall this afternoon, when it was suggested that, because some of us were loyal to our pledges at the election, we had left the party. I protest most strongly against that. If there is one thing that would make me doubtful or less hopeful as to the success of this country in facing its difficulties, it is this thing that impresses me as a back bencher very much, and that is the political intrigue, political ambition, and political jealousies which are so common 812 in this House. I as a back bencher feel them very sorely and could wish that Members were more inspired, generally by the welfare of their own country than by the welfare of their own political position or their own political ambition. I remember the right hon. Member for Carnarvon Boroughs (Mr. Lloyd George) once appealing to some Liberal colleagues in the old days to cease slinging poisonous arrows. I ask my friends who have crossed the Floor to deal with us in that way and as they would be dealt with by others. We are members of the party, and we are proud of it.
§ 9.37 p.m.
§ Mr. CHARLES BROWN
I think the speech of the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. Peat) must have cheered the Prime Minister considerably, because in the course of these Debates we have not had many speeches, even from Government supporters, which have wholeheartedly supported the policy of the Government and been devoid of criticism, but I thought, before the hon. Member sat down, he was going to tell the House that he would vote for the Liberal Amendment, because after a dissertation on the iron and steel trade, he talked about the necessity of strengthening weak bridges and making new bridges in various parts of the country. I thought he was going to read the concluding sentence of the Liberal Amendment, which asks for the development of the resources and equipment of the nation, arid announce that he would go into the Lobby in support of it. I do not think we, on this side, can disagree with the terms of the Liberal Amendment. We agree that the Government deserve criticism, but we do not agree that the Liberals have a right to criticise them. We entirely share the views of one of the hon. Member for West Swansea (Mr. L. Jones), who has just left the House. The Liberal Members must bear the responsibility for all that has occurred during the last two years while we have had this Government in office, and merely crossing the Floor of the House does not enable them to throw off that responsibility.
During the Debates on the Address we have had many of the Ministers speaking to us. We have had the Prime Minister at an early stage, evasive, indefinite, as usual surrounded by great difficulties and complexities, and apparently in dire dis- 813 tress about the general situation. We have had the Lord President of the Council, sane and sensible and hoping for the best. We have had the President of the Board of Trade, assuring us that we are facing in the right direction, that our faces are turned towards the sun, so to speak. He is evidently at the moment the chief physician in the National Government, and he tells us that the patient is yielding to treatment, which is a medical term that is much in use. Then we have had the Minister of Health, who assured us that if we would only give private enterprise a free hand, everything would come right, obviously forgetful of the fact that the mess that we are in is the outcome of private enterprise. We have had the Foreign Secretary, supremely confident that the Foreign Office, the foreign affairs of this country, and the nation as a whole are safe in his keeping, certain that if only Britain could have her way, the peace of the world would be assured and everything would he all right.
In view of all these statements, I cannot understand why any Minister or supporter of the Government should take any objection to our using the word "complacency" with regard to their attitude. Surely that is the right word to use about the Government, to whom everything is all right in the best of all possible worlds, according to the speeches which we have had from Ministers during these Debates; and as I have listened to them I have felt that it has been scarcely necessary for us to draw up any indictment of the existing economic organisation of society. That has been done by the supporters of the National Government day after day. I was particularly struck in the Debate last week by a speech made by, I think, the hon. and gallant Member for West Salford (Lieut.-Commander Astbury) in connection with the cotton industry. All the time that I have been in this House, I have never listened to a more telling indictment of the anarchy in the system of production as we have it in this country to-day. The burden of his complaint was Japanese competition, and he wanted to know what the Government were going to do about it. I do not know whether he wanted higher tariffs or the complete prohibition of the importation into this country of goods made by cheap or sweated labour. If he did, he did not 814 put it in that way to the President of the Board of Trade, but if that was his idea, the Minister would soon find himself in difficulties when he had to decide what were sweated goods.
The hon. Member for Darlington has told us to-night about the improvement in the steel trade, and I do not want it to be understood that any of us on these benches begrudge in any way any improvement which may take place in any industry, because we know that even the slightest improvement means work and wages to some who are not in receipt of work and wages now, and we welcome it. I listened to the hon. Member's speech with great interest. He told us of new capital going into the iron and steel industry in this country, and he drew a picture of that industry developing considerably its productive capacity. I think he sought to convey the impression—I hope I am not misrepresenting him—that in some way or other you would find in this country a market for all that steel when you had developed the industry along the lines that he indicated. I suggest that that is extremely doubtful. It may be that we are now facing a temporary improvement in the situation, but obviously it is merely going to create at some later stage the very circumstances and conditions in connection with steel in this country about which, in some ways, we are having complaints in regard to other industries.
We are being told by the Minister of Agriculture, for instance, that there is over-production in agriculture, not here, but in the world generally, and it is very interesting to watch how this argument develops. It began by stating on behalf of the Government that what is the matter with the world is that the great primary producing countries cannot sell their products; agricultural prices, therefore, have fallen, and, because they cannot sell their products they cannot buy goods from the manufacturing countries. The first suggestion was that the way out of the difficulty was the restoration of world agricultural prices. Obviously, the Government have given up any hope of being able to do that or to influence any such general recovery. The Minister of Agriculture is always stressing the question of over-production. I would describe it in another way, but I will use that term at the moment. Not only have we over-production in agricultural 815 industries throughout the world—so we are assured by the spokesman of the Government—but we have over-production in many manufacturing industries as society is organised now. I cannot understand hon. Members who get up and seem to be highly delighted because there is going to be a development of further productive capacity. It seems a strange contradiction, and I can only feel that we shall be landed in the same difficulty in which we are now at another stage and in another form.
I think that the hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) was in some ways quite right yesterday when he said that, although the immediate crisis has been resolved, the deep underlying crisis that exists throughout the world, and particularly in the industrial countries, has hardly been dealt with. As I listened to the speeches which have been delivered in these Debates I could not help but remember the conditions of the working people who live in the towns, the cities and the villages of this country. I come from what is regarded as a favoured part of the British coalfield, perhaps the best part of it to-day, and yet I have never known conditions to he so bad as they are at present. We have a right to remember on an occasion like this, when we have under review the King's Speech, which is supposed to give some indication of what the Government propose to do in the months that lie ahead, that so far there has been little effect on the general life of the masses of the working people of this country for anything the Government have done. I think that no one will deny that. It is right that hon. Members who support the Government should hope for the best and hope that out of their policy some good may ultimately come to the great masses of the common folk. I dare say that that is the hope and expectation of His Majesty's Government. Most of us on these benches do not share that view. We do not think that there is likely to be any great improvement, along the lines that have been pursued, in the lives and general conditions of masses of people.
I do not think any of my colleagues will dissent when I say that the Government have behind them two years of gross incompetence. Let us remember what was promised in the name of Protection. Do 816 not let us forget the pledges that were made by Protectionists in days gone by. What were tariffs going to do? Provide work for everybody, with higher wages and better conditions for all the workers of this country. Now we have the Lord President of the Council telling us that tariffs are not enough. We even had the Minister of Agriculture telling us on Friday that tariffs do not even preserve wage levels. He told us of the United States, surrounded by tariffs, Where wages were falling in spite of tariffs. Do not let us forget the promises which have been held out to the people of this country of a general uplifting of their conditions through the establishment of Protection. It has not come about, and it will not come about along those lines. The Government have behind them two years of gross incompetence, and there is nothing in the King's Speech which holds out the slightest hope of a general improvement to the great masses of the people.
§ 9.50 p.m.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
I should like to begin by expressing the gratitude which my hon. Friends and I feel to my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall (Sir F. Acland) who opened the Debate to-day, for his speech, which was as rich in constructive suggestion as it was baffling to our political opponents. Our object in crossing the Floor is to gain complete freedom of political action, and we shall insist without consulting the political convenience of others—though I certainly hope consulting and contributing to the personal convenience of hon. Members in all parts of the House—on pursuing our own course of action. Our object is not to trip up the Government or to embarrass there, or to seek help in quarters where there is no common agreement. Our task will he, to offer constructive suggestions such as my right hon. Friend the Member for North Cornwall and my hon. Friend the Member for Cardigan (Mr. O. Evans) have done this afternoon, to criticise the policy of the Government, as I shall venture to do this evening, and to speak and vote, free from entangling political alliances, in the interest of the nation.
I regret, of course, that my right hon. Friend saw fit to take a course which had the effect of pricking the bubble of the speech of my hon. Friend the Member for Dunfermline (Mr. J. Wallace) and blur- 817 ring the contrast which he was impatiently waiting to draw between the independent Liberals and the loyal helots who remain behind. "Bathos!" exclaimed my hon. Friend the Member for Southwark (Mr. Horobin) who was forced to pin his attack upon extravagant measures of national planning to the coat tails of President Roosevelt instead of to those of my right hon. Friend. My. hon. Friend drew a searching, comprehensive and witty indictment, but it would perhaps have gained something in effectiveness if it had been delivered in Washington rather than in Westminster. That would have given to his criticism an air of relevance and actuality which it otherwise lacked and which his efforts to identify the Liberal party with the plans of President Roosevelt in America entirely failed to supply. The hon. and learned Member for East Bristol (Sir S. Cripps) at least made it clear to the House the attitude of his party on the means test, and I am sure that the House, irrespective of party, was grateful to him for clearing that up beyond a peradventure.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Some of us have not that quick intuition which would enable us to steer our way through the contradictory pronouncements of other parties. Do not let us quarrel over this. The Labour party, we now know, are in the words of the Leader of the Opposition, if I may use them in the proper revised sense, prepared to give people money year after year without knowing their personal positions. That is to say, if a person has gone out of ordinary benefit and has means of his own to maintain himself, the Labour party are prepared to pay him State money. But they are prepared to do more than that for him. They are prepared to offer him work, and thus to give him a preference over other unemployed men who lack his pecuniary advantages.
But the important thing to-night is the answer which the Government will give to our impeachment, and the only reasonable inference from the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is that it is not repelled, but admitted. What did he reply to the questions of my right hon. Friend about the World Economic Conference? That at the end of last Session an assurance had been given in the Gracious Spech from 818 the Throne that certain organisations of the Conference are still in being. We say that the Government should pursue their policy in relation to economic disarmament with, if possible, even more vigour than they are putting into the pursuit of military disarmament. The Inn. Gentleman tried to make out that the World Economic Conference was just going to assemble, and that it was hardly worth while mentioning the fact, so clear was the Government's interest in its destinies. Does anyone think it is going to assemble in the near future Will the Attorney-General, who is going to reply, tell us that? Have they any policy for it? It is no use pretending they can make it a success, and say that it is worth summoning, unless they have a change of policy to announce when it assembles.
The hon. Gentleman referred with glowing enthusiasm to the Chancellor of the Exchequer's speech. Could anything have been more jejune or discouraging as an exposition of the Government's policy? He spoke of a reduction of excessive tariffs wherever these may occur. To that, at any rate, there was unanimous agreement on the part of every statesman at the Conference, but, of course, every statesman thought it was the tariffs of the other countries that were excessive, and his own that were strictly moderate. Again, he said that the United Kingdom delegation had no wish to rule out any method of securing the reduction of excessive tariffs which may commend itself to the Conference, and therefore are quite prepared to examine any proposals which may be put forward for attaining the end by multilateral action. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs would never dare to make a speech like that at Geneva. If he did, the Government and all its great majority would go up in an explosion of wrath.
The country expects, and rightly expects, the Government to give a lead to action at Geneva, not to wait for proposals to be made from some other quarter, and that is the course which the Government should have pursued at this Conference, assembled in London under the chairmanship of our own Prime Minister. To such a Conference the Government should have given a clear and consistent lead. "Give us a weapon," was the Government's cry at the last 819 election, "and we will sweep down all these foreign tariffs. We will beat a way through for our exports into those foreign countries." When they come to the Conference they say, "After you, gentlemen. You fire first." With a bargaining weapon, says the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade, you can control the speed at which negotiations with foreign countries proceed. They are controlling it well enough. Limited agreements with the Argentine and with Scandinavian countries. An agreement with Germany confined to coal. No agreement with France, no agreement with Italy, no agreement with the United States, no agreement with Japan. "Ah, but," says the Parliamentary Secretary, "no flag discrimination by Portugal. Motor cars in Spain." If the bargaining weapon is as powerful as the Parliamentary Secretary makes out, we need no further justification than he has given us for this Amendment.
The Government is in the position of the emperor who walked in procession through the streets, as he thought in fine clothes, which had been made for him by fraudulent weavers. All the huge propaganda machine of the Government is bellowing, "What splendid clothes, what a glorious government, what a wise policy," and we are the little child who cried out, "He has got nothing on." And the emperor shivered, for it seemed to him that the child was right, but he said to himself, "But I must go through with the procession." The Government has made up its mind about that, if about nothing else. They may have no economic plans, but they have, at any rate, the political plan that they must go through with the procession, and they intend to go into the General Election, when it comes in three years time, as a so-called National Government. But the people said at length, as they are saying now in by-election after by-election, and as they will say in the General Election, "They have nothing on."
The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade quoted my speech at Ayr about improvement in trade, and asked whether the Government should have any credit for that improvement. Certainly, and I said so in my speech at Ayr, as I have said in every speech I have made either in the country or in this House.
820 But how much credit? I am afraid much less than is sometimes claimed for the Government by apologists for them. Do not let me give only my own opinion on this matter. Let me call a witness—let me call back into the box the witness which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted to the House in his speech. I have here the "Economist," the very number from which he quoted, and, if I mistake me not, the very article. Let me quote three short passages:Not only, however, has this country so far recovered more by good luck than good management, but the recovery is of extremely modest proportions. Moreover, as long as the Government makes no serious effort to revive our international trade there are clear limits beyond which revival in this country cannot go. Measures to revive our foreign trade can hardly be expected from a Protectionist Government, and neither this nor any other Government could have any reason or excuse for delaying any longer in adopting an expansionist policy at home.I leave it to the impartial judgment of any hon. Member, whatever he may think of my opinions, to decide that the witness called by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade is one for our Amendment rather than for the case put forward by him. In 1931 and 1932 the Government's policy was clear, definite and successful. The Budget was balanced, huge conversions of debt were effected, "Economist" in the very number quoted by the Parliamentary Secretary rightly described as the classic solvent of depressions, was bestowed upon industry, and the national credit was restored until Sir Arthur Salter could say a few months ago in Manchester that the credit of this country was higher than that of any country in the world, Those are great achievements, and far be it from me to deny credit to the Government for them.
I myself was absent from the House of Commons last night, as I had to be in Scotland, but if I had been here that is the reason why I could not have voted for the Amendment moved by the Labour party, which condemned the measures by which those ends were achieved. It condemned the policy which was endorsed by the country at the General Election and which has been justified by experience. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade referred to a speech which I made, and in which I spoke of the necessity for the Government basing itself upon principle. I shivered at the 821 quotation which he made. It was accurate in substance, but the form—I hope he ill allow me to assure Ihim—had been distorted, although not by him, in ways Prom which we all suffer. In substance it is true. As regards the opportunism of the Government, I shall have something to say in a moment. Our course here will not be dictated by opportunism, but if at any time I should require a lesson in opportunism, I hope that I can regard the hon. Member's speech as an invitation to consult him.
Tariffs and quotas cut across this policy. They could not entirely destroy the benefits of it, but they undoubtedly intensify the depression. All reasonable commentators recognised that. Everybody was told to wait for the World Economic Conference; then came Ottawa—that pathetic fiasco. The farmers were told to wait for Ottawa; they found that it resulted in Government-subsidised imports on agricultural commodities from the Dominions. Our shipping firms found that Italian shipping lines are subsidised against them on our shipping roads. Our herring industry, hard-pressed as it has never been in the whole course of its history, finds its market taken from it in the Ottawa Agreements, through the cancellation of our trading agreement with Russia, and it is told that it is most inconsiderate and imprudent to catch fish at a time of world glut.
Take the usual Protectionist criterion, the balance of trade. When we mention some foreign country with whom we trade, we are always asked to consider the balance of trade. We find that the balance of Empire trade has swung against us by £4,000,000 since the conclusion of the Ottawa Agreements, from £61,000,000 to £65,000,000. There are great constructive forces struggling to lift the peoples of the world out of the depression, but they move slowly and painfully through this network of tariffs and quotas. How little any improvement is due to Ottawa is shown by the fact that the slight expansion of exports which has taken place in recent months is greatest in regard to the European countries which are still on gold. That shows conclusively that we owe this little expansion of trade more to our involuntary departure from the Gold Standard, more to that gift horse of fortune which we look so surlily in the mouth, than we do to the boasted Agreements which were concluded at Ottawa.
822 My confidence is in the people, the traders and the industrialists of the country. Nothing will stop recovery, but will it be slow and jerky, the movement of a great and enterprising nation hobbled by Protection, or will it be smooth and rapid? No one can tell until we know the policy of the Government. Ottawa is the unsurmountable obstacle to any rational system of Protection, and, at the same time, it is the rock upon which the World Economic Conference split. [Interruption.] If hon. Members dispute that, I ask them, what was the good of inviting to London the representatives of great nations immediately after concluding agreements with our Dominions, with the avowed intention of diverting trade from the foreign countries to our Empire? What was the good of their coming here, to be lectured by the President of the Board of Trade and to be told that quotas were insane, when we were piling them on in our own country? If you have nothing better than that to offer the nations of the world, it is no good summoning them. Summon them to follow a. policy of real economic disarmament.
Now let me turn to the other part of our Amendment which deals with expansion at home. We are glad to see that, in one respect at any rate, not a very large but a very useful one, the Government are going to do something to improve rural water supplies. Housing is more important. We support the campaign against the slums, and we admire the courage with which the Minister of Health has launched it, but you cannot effectively campaign against the slums unless, at the same time, you deal with the acute shortage of low-rented houses. It is overcrowding which breeds slums. The Minister of Health is like an admiral who sails out with his fleet to attack the enemy, but forgets his lines of communication. When the battle is over, and the victory is apparently won, but his ammunition and supplies are nearly used up, he will find the enemy as powerful as ever on his line of communication—those overcrowded houses which have grown up into new slums.
In Scotland last year, we were already making more progress in slum clearance in proportion to our population than the Minister is proposing to do in England. In January, 10,000 houses were under construction or approved for slum clearance, 823 but we were tackling overcrowding, too, and the number of houses under construction and approved at the end of 1932 was 30,000. That was 50 per cent. more than in any year of the Labour Government. The Government's Housing Act of last Session effectually stopped that, and that is why I opposed it at the time. No less an authority than Sir William Whyte, the greatest authority on housing and town-planning, and the trusted counsellor of successive Secretaries of State of all parties, declared at a conference on housing, which the Minister of Health attended, last Saturday, that the Act of 1933 had been "a dead letter in Scotland." He said:There has been no evidence at all of private enterprise coming into the breach and providing houses for the working classes at reasonable rentals.The Act, in Sir William Whyte's view, "has been a complete failure." Our demand, therefore, is for the constitution of a housing board or some independent authority, not to give subsidies on a flat rate all over the country, as is being done at present, but to concentrate them upon such places as may be necessary where costs are high, as was done in the Act which is commonly called the Tudor Walters Act, which was passed by the Labour Government in 1931.
Nor is the Government any more fortunate in dealing with agriculture. The Minister of Agriculture says that his object is to make prices remunerative; but—and this is my answer to the Noble Lord the Member for Central Lanarkshire (Lord Dunglass)—that is just what the Government have conspicuously failed to do. Talk about this Government having done more than any other Government for agriculture may pass muster in the House of Commons, but it does not cut arty ice with the farmers of this country. In Scotland they are passing innumerable resolutions in farming clubs and in the National Farmers' Union of Scotland, declaring that the Government are trifling with the situation in agriculture. A few favoured groups of farmers may be better off, but prices are not made remunerative. The hon. Member for Central Aberdeen (Mr. R. W. Smith) quoted some index figures on Thursday. For oats the index is down, as compared with a year ago, from 90 to 78: for fat cattle from 102 to 99; for store 824 cattle from 100 to 89; and for potatoes from 120 to 110.
Is this merely an accident? Is it an accident that, to use the Minister of Agriculture's simile, the farmer's motor car is going off the road, not on the right side, but on the side of the cliff? Is it merely the malignity of fate? No; it is economic cause and effect—the unescapable consequence of the policy which the Government are pursuing. It is the catastrophic effect of the sudden application of huge quotas and tariffs to this country, the most important—[Interruption.] Let hon. Members listen to this argument; I can assure them that it is a serious one; and they have a good champion in the Attorney-General, who is to reply. It is the consequence of the sudden application of huge tariffs and quotas to this country, the most important buyer and importer of any country in the world, that has intensified the decline in the demand for world products, and, consequently and inevitably, the decline in world prices, and has driven them down headlong. No hon. Members can dispute that. If they wish to see the argument developed in greater detail, and more elaborately than is possible for me in the time at my disposal, I commend to them the book by M. Andre Siegfried which was recently published. By clinging to these tariffs and quotas the Government condemned the World Economic Conference to futility, and raised the prices of the things which farmers buy. Therefore, not only have they failed to close, but they have, for the meat and oat and potato farmer in Scotland, widened the gap between his costs and his prices. If we are to embark upon a policy of planned economy in agriculture, let us start the plan from the foundation. Instead of building up a rickety structure of tariffs and quotas, let us get down to a firm economic foundation. If we are to have control—
§ Mr. J. WALLACE
I am sorry to interrupt the right hon. Gentleman, but may I ask him, did he or did he not vote for the wheat quota of which he now complains?
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
The hon. Member surely knows that the wheat quota is not an import quota, hut a subsidy. There is no controversy about that. Not only I, but Minister after Minister has explained it to the House from the Front Bench.
825 Nobody who has read the Act can conceive that it is an import quota. If we are to have control, let control be taken of the ownership of the land. Let us attack waste—economic waste. Let us attack disease—for example, tuberculosis and the cattle diseases which levy a heavy toll on the dairy herds of this country, which increase the cost of producing milk to the dairy farmer, and therefore, its price to the consumer. Moreover, fear of tuberculosis prevents the one thing which is important for dairy farming—a "Drink More Milk" campaign. Dairy farming is an enormous industry, and yet it is only a fraction of the size that it could be. We have made great experiments in Scotland with school children; we have had 20,000 of them under control, and have proved conclusively the invaluable qualities of milk for children. I see an hon. Member laughing. Let him take this in. If we drank in Scotland a quarter of a pint more milk per head, we should need 100,000 more cows and 10,000 more people to look after them; and, if we drank as much milk as they do in Sweden, it is doubtful whether there would be enough land in Scotland to hold the cows which the population would need. The Minister boasts that, if he puts up prices artificially, he can get production, and cries out in alarm at the spate of pigs and avalanche of eggs that threaten to overwhelm him. Give the farmer access to capital in order to adapt and modernise his industry and apply the results of scientific research, but do not tell him that the fate of his industry is to be a parasite upon the consuming masses of the people, a valitudinarian wheeled about in the armchair of Protection, because it is not true. No industry can prosper on the basis of the Minister's morbid economics.
He tells us that the Government are planning the trade of the country and that planning is forced upon us by economic necessities. He is the only Minister to say so. The hon. Member for Stockton-on-Tees (Mr. Macmillan) tried to draw some other Ministers yesterday, but so far none have responded. He asked for particulars of the plans for iron and steel, coal, and textiles. If, indeed, we were entering upon an area of planned economy under the aegis of the Government, the people of the country ought not to be treated more high handedly than the Soviet tyrannised 826 citizens of Russia. There at least the plan was published. Details were known. Criticism, it is true, was discouraged. If the so-called plans of the Minister are nothing but a series of opportunist shifts and devices based upon no foundation of economic principle, our farmers and our export traders will be exposed to a series of shocks and jolts like those which the hon. Member for Southwark described in the United States. I do not believe the Government can produce a plan, to use the phrase of the Minister of Agriculture or even, to use the more modest phrase which I should prefer, outline a consistent policy. I stand to be corrected, but I will not accept correction unless the spokesman of the Government can outline a constructive policy, and I challenge him to do it.
He will not respond because this Government, constituted as it is at present, never can and never will pursue a consistent theme of policy. The reason is that Ministers are honourable men with different political records, I was going to say—I would rather say—different political and economic convictions. When the nation is faced with a great crisis, to the solution of which all political and economic considerations must be subordinated, there is much to be said for a Government of men of all parties uniting for the achievement of a specific object. Such a Government as the present is frankly an opportunist Government. [interruption.] That is quite an irrelevant interruption. I was a member of a frankly opportunist Government formed to tackle a specific object—to deal with the financial crisis. Once you start to tackle broad political issues and large problems of economic reconstruction differences of opinion inevitably arise. The differences of opinion in this Government are notorious, and are openly confessed. Take economic policy alone. The President of the Board of Trade went to his constituents and told them that quotas are insane and are the curse of Europe. The Minister of Agriculture says quotas have come to stay. The Prime Minister went to the United States and signed a declaration that one of the essential means for dealing with unemployment and giving an impetus to industry all over the world and to prices was schemes of public works and, when the World Economic Conference assembled and the delegates 827 from other nations asked us to consider schemes of public works, the President of the Board of Trade said "No, we have tried it and we are not going to try it any more." The Prime Minister, adopting the admirable principles prepared for him by the experts who drew up the annotated agenda, declared that it was not much good trying to make progress by piecemeal negotiations. What he wanted were multilateral agreements. But the President of the Board of Trade came to the House of Commons, and, using the same phrases, declared that while he would be very glad if multilateral agreements were possible, he was not himself going to try that policy because he did not think that it was possible, but that the piecemeal method was the way to make progress. The Secretary of State for War said last week that the evils from which we were suffering now were the products—and I commend this to hon. Members opposite—of the Liberal legislation of 1906 to 1914. The Lord President of the Council, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) pointed out in his witty speech this after noon, says that this Government is formed in order to further private enterprise, while the Prime Minister claims that the Government is on the best road to Socialism. What sort of plan can be expected from a Cabinet so divided—a plan fit for that realm whereChaos umpire sits,….. next him high arbiterChance governs all.The Government are drifting into a backwater of inaction. The dead pressure of the Conservative party is too much for them. Who is to blame the Conservative party, for they have many able men? The Government has on most issues a conservative policy, and they naturally think that Conservatives will carry out a conservative policy better than members of other parties. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs delivered a speech in October which is very apposite to this situation. Speaking in the Spen Valley constituency on 21st October, 1931, the right hon. Gentleman the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs said that it would be a disastrous thing if the Prime Minister were returned as Prime Minister surrounded by a cohort of Tories. Never in his worst nightmare 828 did he imagine that the strength of the Conservative party would be as great as it is in this House to-night.
§ The SECRETARY of STATE for FOREIGN AFFAIRS (Sir John Simon)
What year is that?
§ Sir J. SIMON
My right hon. Friend will see that he and the right hon. Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) at that time were willing to contribute to prevent that result.
§ Sir A. SINCLAIR
Not only was I willing to contribute, but I contributed as much as I could to return as many Liberals as I could to the House of Commons, but we soon found by experience that loyal as were the leaders of the Conservative party to the National appeal in their efforts to play up to the Prime Minister, the dead pressure of this tremendous majority in the House far outweighed their own influence. So that Conservatives now pull one way, Liberals another, Socialists another, and the result is a slow drift into Tory and Protectionist reaction. Let hon. Members come into the Lobby with us to-night—[An Horn. MEMBER: "Which one?"]—the Whips will show you—and in the name of farmers, fishermen and workers in trade and industry write a warning on the wall of Parliament.
§ 10.30 p.m.
§ The ATTORNEY - GENERAL (Sir Thomas Inskip)
I cannot help thinking that the House has some cause to complain of the way in which the Debate upon this Amendment has developed from the Bench occupied by the right hon. and gallant Member and his friends. Last night the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Darwen (Sir H. Samuel) promised that he and his gallant band would submit some definite and concrete suggestions to the House as to the way in which the unemployment question should be tackled. The right hon. and gallant Member who has just spoken has certainly done his best to make up for the absence of constructive suggestions by the vigour of his attack upon the Government; but it is one thing to attack the Government and another thing to be capable of producing what the right hon. Gentleman last night called "concrete and definite proposals." I listened to the right hon. and gallant Member to-night to see whether or not 829 that which has been so woefully lacking the whole evening would be supplied by him. I heard some suggestions that tuberculous cows should be made the subject of intensive study by the Government and that the production of milk should be increased in order that the right hon. Gentleman might be nourished by a daily consumption of half a pint.
If the right hon. Gentleman will go to a corner of Scotland, with which perhaps he is not acquainted, I think he will find that in a great dairy district the production of milk at the present time results in the milk producer securing the magnificent reward of about nd. per gallon for his milk, and I should have thought that it would have been better for the right hon. and gallant Member to make some proposals for rewarding the farmer for his existing efforts rather than encouraging greater production of milk, for which, apparently, there is no adequate sale. It is not really very helpful for the right hon. and gallant Member to come here on an Amendment which contains so great a promise of constructive suggestion and then to do nothing better than attempt to rally his supporters on a crushing attack of lack of policy on the part of the Government. He challenges me to state what is the policy of the Government, but he declared in his next sentence that, constituted as it is, the Government is incapable of any policy. The right hon. Gentleman's text, to which he often returned, was that everything was right with the Government when he was in it but now that he has left it nothing can be done right. That is a very natural view for the right hon. Gentleman to hold, but I gather that there are very few in this House or in the country who share it.
The right hon. Gentleman who opened the Debate was not, I think, very fierce in his attack upon the Government. He made some excellent points and suggestions., and I hope he will believe that I am in earnest when I say that any suggestion coming from his ripe experience will receive consideration from the Government. There were some things he said about allotments or smallholdings which are well worthy of attention, especially from anyone of the right hon. Gentleman's experience. But he served up so many compliments to the Minister of Health and other Members of the 830 Government that it really seemed as if the right hon. Gentleman had forgotten his text. He is too fair and candid a politician to be guilty of making the sort of speech to which we have just listened. He is the mildest mannered man that ever scuttled a ship. Apparently, since the right hon. Member for North Cornwall made his speech word has gone round through the Liberal party that there must be a little more fire put into the Debate; hence the eloquent oration of the right hon. and gallant Member. I asked myself if there is so little constructive suggestion in the Liberal party, why this Amendment? The right hon. Member for Darwen would have been saved the unpleasant necessity of having to explain his reasons for voting against the official Opposition one night and with them another night.
I should like to put a question to hon. Members of the Liberal party which I hope they will consider in all sincerity; because I think the country would like to have an answer to it as a test of the sincerity of all the tactics emanating from that bench—would right hon. and hon. Members sitting on that bench put this Government out if they had the power? Everybody knows that they would do nothing of the kind. They know that this Government has a greater capacity for leading the country through its difficulties at the present time than any potential Government; and all these manoeuvres, voting against the official Opposition one night and trying to inveigle them into their Lobby the next night, are nothing but a mast barren exhibition of tactics against a Government which the right hon. Gentleman for Darwen attacks, because he knows that he cannot defeat the Government.
The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East (Sir S. Cripps) indulged the House with some pleasantries, with which the House was not really interested, between himself and the right hon. Member for Darwen as to whether the Liberal party were in favour of the means test. The Socialist party are now proud of the fact that they are against the means test. That is all very well when they are in opposition. I have a leaflet in my hands in which the unemployed of Leeds were exhorted to rally to their meetings in their thousands and protest against the Government's attack on the unemployed, and it says: "Down with all traitors of 831 the unemployed." The leaflet is dated 14th July, 1931. There sit two of the traitors. It really is a little futile—[Interruption]. The hon. and learned Member for Bristol, East mistakes the point, because the Prime Minister did not run away from the policy in 1931. I am only calling attention to the fact that these unemployed persons, whose votes the hon. and learned Member is anxious to attract by denouncing the means test, were the very people who were denouncing him as a traitor to the unemployed in July, 1931. The Amendment has nothing to do with the means test, and I cannot conceive why it was necessary for the hon. and learned Member to intervene with a discussion on the means test, except that he could not lose an opportunity of delivering an attack on the right hon. Member for Darwen. I hope it has given them both satisfaction. Really it has nothing to do with this rather grandiloquent Amendment about world trade. We have been listening to know what it all means. We have not heard anything about it.
I listened to the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Maxton) with a little more hope, to know whether he had any more constructive suggestions. I gathered from the first part of his speech that he has not much confidence in the sincerity or capacity of his new neighbours, for he treated them to some well deserved chaff regarding their movements about this House. The hon. Gentleman has no greater ground for confidence in himself and his party than in the Liberal party. If he will allow me to say so, I have noticed that the hon. Gentleman is full of a good deal of very earnest rhetoric as to the future of capitalism, but I listen in vain for any constructive proposals from him. I notice that he never cares to submit his policy to this House, to the pitiless and cruel analysis of this House. He reserves that for Saturday and Sunday nights in places where criticism is not permitted. The hon. Gentleman's role is a different one from that of constructive statesmanship. He is the prophet of gloom, waiting for the crash of capitalism. He listened with ill-concealed impatience to the recital by my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade from the columns of the "Economist." It gave the hon. Gentleman very little satis- 832 faction to hear that an impartial critic thought that on the whole things were moving upward and in the right direction.
The hon. Gentleman's theory about trade is that it is a switchback, that every time you go up it is only to make a greater descent. I do not envy the hon. Gentleman his gloomy self-appointed role. He is in the unpleasant dilemma that he either has to wait to see his country slowly move to ruin and have the satisfaction of saying, "I told you so," or he has to confess that in his role of prophet he was wrong and that this country is not yet beaten. I do not know which alternative the hon. Gentleman will prefer, but I suggest that he should cultivate a more cheerful disposition and try to look at the bright side of things.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for North Cornwall, unlike the hon. Member for Bridgeton, was constrained to admit that things were getting better, but he said, with a lack of generosity very unusual with him, "Things are tending to improve as they always do after a slump." The right hon. Gentleman was determined that the Government at any rate should not have the credit. I asked myself, as I heard him attribute the improvement to the cycle which always comes after a slump, "Well, if everything this Government does is governed by Kismet, what on earth can the little Liberal Amendment do to make things any better? "We have had little constructive suggestion from any quarter of the House. We have had the means test from the hon. and learned Member, the prophecy of woe from the hon. Member for Bridgeton and the rather grudging admission of the right hon. Member for North Cornwall. So we have to ask ourselves what constructive policy can have been at the bottom of the mind of the Members on the Liberal benches who drafted this Amendment.
Did they think that the policy which has been adopted on the other side of the Atlantic would have helped this country? A National Recovery Act, with currency manipulation, the creation of sham purchasing power and a topheavy structure of financial pig upon pork—Is that the policy which is at the back of their minds? I am not sure that at one time the official Opposition were not rather attracted by Rooseveltism. At any rate I notice that Mr. Citrine at a conference 833 held at Brighton on 5th September referred to it. I know that the hon. and learned Gentleman the Member for East Bristol does not agree with Mr. Citrine but that is no reason why I should not quote him. The hon. and learned Gentleman is rather scornful of what he calls Rooseveltism, now that it has failed, but at the Trade Union Congress in Brighton Mr. Citrine said, in such an appealing and eloquent speech that the Congress unanimously passed a resolution approving of what he said, that the direction was right—that is the direction of Rooseveltism—and because the direction was right, the Congress called upon the Government to take similar 'measures. Now that the policy appears to be in ruins the hon. and learned Gentleman forgets all about Mr. Citrine and the Trade Union Congress and condemns it roundly.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The hon. and learned Gentleman who is always right says he always has condemned it, and I am quite prepared to take that statement from him. I cannot help suggesting that it is a fair question for us to ask ourselves: Would this great nation choose some such rash and hazardous experiment as that on Transatlantic lines, some gigantic financial speculation, or would it choose persistence in the thoroughly well proved methods which seem at any rate at the present time to be making steady progress? If that question were put to the country T have had no doubt they would ask the Government to continue upon the lines already adopted. Hon. and right hon. Gentlemen opposite have a touching devotion to Free Trade. I cannot understand why they hold to it as though it were a religious ideal. Free Trade was a good servant at the right time, but it has long outlived the day when it can serve the purposes and needs of this country.
The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Caithness (Sir A. Sinclair) quoted Sir Arthur Salter who, I gather, is one of his authorities. Sir Arthur Salter in the "Manchester Guardian" on 14th October, 1932, said it was the continuance of increased foreign tariffs that really turned the scale in the case of British tariff policy. Sir Arthur Salter knows what he is talking about, and he has no axe to grind. He is not a member of that select body, and so he can de- 834 Clare the truth about this question. The fact is that Free Trade may have worked very well one day, but it will not work to-day and it is ridiculous to suppose, as my hon. Friend the Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Trade showed, that you can get these much desired multilateral trade agreements by going round the world with Nothing more than tears in your eyes, begging other nations to follow your example. I venture to think that we have chosen a better way. Just see how the new system has worked. In 1930, under a Free Trade system, our experts—about which hon. and right hon. Members are never tired of talking—fell by 22 per cent. In 1931 they fell by 32 per cent.; in 1932 the process was stayed and they fell only 6½ per cent. In 1933, for the first time in the period with which I have dealt, they begin to rise, after Free Trade had been replaced by the present policy of this country.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
Why does the right hon. Gentleman always ignore, in all his comments, the depreciation of the pound, which is a far greater factor in all these things than tariffs?
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
I have often heard the right hon. Gentleman and his friends quote the comparative figures of trade in the last three or four years, and I have never heard them ask for these lecture-room adjustments, to make a mathematically correct result to two points of decimals. The figures that I have given are, I venture to think, a perfectly fair comparative statement of the drift of trade. I take a percentage, and I say that exports have fallen by 22 per cent. in 1930, by 32 per cent. in 1931, by only 6–5 per cent. in 1932; for the first time in 1933 they begin to rise and are rising at the present time. If you take the volume—never mind the value—it is higher both in 1932 and in 1933 than in 1931. Even if we take the right hon. Gentleman's own correction, we find exactly the same reversal of the tendency of exports from a fall to a rise.
§ Sir H. SAMUEL
My right hon. and learned Friend has missed the point. My point was not in the least to dispute the facts as stated by him, but to indicate that the main cause of this change is the fact that the British pound has depreciated, a fact which has given a great bounty to exports.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman could not expect me at seven minutes to Eleven o'clock to enter upon an elaborate examination of the theories of himself and his party. Surely the right time for the elaboration of these arguments would have been at the beginning of this Debate.
§ The ATTORNEY-GENERAL
The right hon. Gentleman said he did it half an hour ago. I am suggesting that it is a little late for the right hon. Member for Darwen to try to trip me up with some of these arguments. Let us get another basis, on which it is not necessary to take into consideration the falling value of the pound. These figures have often been stated, but they bear stating again in order that the whole world may know them. There are 477,000 more people in employment than there were in October, 1931. I am not taking the unemployed; never mind the Anomalies Measure; never mind all the other measures of adjustment as the result of the Governments policy in 1931. The insured persons in employment are 477,000 more than in October, 1931, and 666,000 more than in January of the present year, an increase in the number of insured workers in employment every month since January, 1933, and, since the National Government took office, of 548,000 insured persons in employment. I hazard a prophecy. I take this test of whether there is a real improvement or not. Everybody knows that November is the month in which unemployment normally, regularly, year by year, increases. Let any hon. Member opposite, possessing his soul in patience for two or three days, as I will, test the reality and the truthfulness of the claim I am making, and see whether
§ or not November, 1933, is an exception to what has been the normal rule for years past. If we find, when these figures are available, that there is an increase still in this month in the numbers of insured persons in employment, I think the Government and the House will have good ground for thinking that things are moving in the proper direction.
§ Nobody knows better than the Government that this is not any occasion for complacency. This is an occasion for sober thankfulness, for rekindled energies. This is no time certainly for the desperate adventures that we should have to make if we were to desert the well-tried, and perhaps in some respects old-fashioned, methods on which the Government have depended. We have a policy. Hon. and right hon. Members opposite have a policy, a revolutionary policy, which has gone into cold storage since a certain conference a little while ago. What their trade policy is, nobody knows. Their trade policy, in so far as anybody understands it, is based upon assertions, but not upon any proofs which can be adduced from a single experiment anywhere the whole world over. Hon. and right hon. Members below the Gangway opposite have not been able to tell us anything better than that they still hug, in their efforts to keep each other warm, their Free Trade theories, as though that was all that an ungrateful world had left them. They may think their theories right, and they may think our theories wrong, but I make bold to say that we can think with thankfulness that, right or wrong as to our theories, at any rate our facts are right.
§ Question put, "That those words be there added."
§ The House divided: Ayes, 58; Noes, 434.839
|Division No. 2.]||AYES.||[10.59 p.m.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis Dyke||Foot, Isaac (Cornwall, Bodmin)||Lawson, John James|
|Adams, D. M. (Poplar, South)||George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Lunn, William|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)|
|Briant, Frank||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro',W.)||Mallalieu, Edward Lancelot|
|Cape, Thomas||Groves, Thomas E.||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Hall, George H. (Merthyr Tydvil)||Mason, David M. (Edinburgh, E.)|
|Curry, A. C.||Hamilton, Sir R. W (Orkney & Zetl'nd)||Milner, Major James|
|Daggar, George||Harris, Sir Percy||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Holdsworth, Herbert||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Janner, Barnett||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Dobbie, William||Jenkins, Sir William||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Edwards, Charles||John, William||Price, Gabriel|
|Evans, David Owen (Cardigan)||Johnstone, Harcourt (S. Shields)||Roberts, Aled (Wrexham)|
|Evans, Capt. Ernest (Welsh Univ.)||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Samuel, Rt. Hon. Sir H. (Darwen)|
|Foot, Dingle (Dundee)||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Sinclair, Maj. Rt. Hn. Sir A.(C'thness)|
|Smith, Tom (Normanton)||Williams, Thomas (York, Don Valley)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Thorne, William Jostles||Wilmot, John||Mr. Walter Rea and Sir Murdoch|
|Tinker, John Joseph||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)||McKenzie Wood.|
|White, Henry Graham|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Cook, Thomas A.||Graves, Marjorie|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds,W.)||Cooke, Douglas||Greases-Lord, Sir Walter|
|Albery, Irving James||Cooper, A. Duff||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Copeland, Ida||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John|
|Amery, Rt. Hon, Leopold C. M. S.||Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Grimston, R. V.|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Gritten, W. G. Howard|
|Apollo, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Cranborne, Viscount||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Craven Ellis, William||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J.(Kent, Dover)||Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H,||Gunston, Captain D. W.|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Crooke, J. Smedley||Guy, J. C. Morrison|
|Atholl, Duchess of||Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.|
|Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Hanbury, Cecil|
|Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Hanley, Dennis A.|
|Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Cross, R. H.||Hannon, Patrick Joseph|
|Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Crossley, A. C.||Henry Harbord, Arthur|
|Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hartington, Marquess of|
|Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hartland, George A.|
|Balniel, Lord||Dalkeith, Earl al||Harvey, George (Lambeth, Kenningt'n)|
|Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)|
|Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)|
|Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey||Davies, Maj. Geo. F.(Somerset, Yeovil)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.|
|Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell||Davison, Sir William Henry||Hedgers, Captain F. F. A.|
|Beaumont, M.W.(Bucks., Aylesbury)||Dawson, Sir Philip||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsf'd)|
|Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B.(Portsm'th,C.)||Denman, Hon. R. D.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.|
|Belt, Sir Alfred L.||Denville, Alfred||Hepworth, Joseph|
|Bonn, Sir Arthur Shirley||Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Waller|
|Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel||Dickie, John P.||Hoare, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir S. J. G.|
|Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)||Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)|
|Blaker, Sir Reginald||Dormer, P. W.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Dower, Captain A. V. G.||Hornby, Frank|
|Borodale, Viscount||Drewe, Cedric||Horobin, Ian M.|
|Boulton, W. W||Duckworth, George A. V.||Horsbrugh, Florence|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Howard, Tom Forrest|
|Bower, Lieut.-Corn. Robert Tatton||Duggan, Hubert John||Hewitt, Dr. Alfred B.|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Duncan, James A.L.(Kensington, N.)||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney, N.)|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Dunglass, Lord||Hume, Sir George Hopwood|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Eady, George H.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)|
|Bracken, Brendan||Eastwood, John Francis||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Grigg)|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A.N.(Yorks, E.R.)||Eden, Robert Anthony||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Hurd, Sir Percy|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Rumford)|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Elmley, Viscount||Inskip, Rt. Hon Sir Thomas W. H.|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Emmott, Chutes E. G. C.||Iveagh, Countess of|
|Brown, Col. D.C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||James, Wing.-Com. A. W. H.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Jamieson, Douglas|
|Buchan-Hepburn, P. G. T.||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Jennings, Roland|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Burnett, John George||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Joel, Dudley J. Barnet|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Everard, W. Lindsay||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Butler, Richard Austen||False Sir Bertram G.||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Fermoy, Lord||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Kerr, Lieut.-Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Flint, Abraham John||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Fox, Sir Gifford||Knight, Holford|
|Carver, Major William H.||Fraser, Captain Ian||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Cassels, James Dale||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Ganzoni, Sir John||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R. (Prtsmth., S.)||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Gibson, Charles Granville||Leckie, J. A.|
|Chamberlain, Rt.Hon.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W)||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Leigh, Sir John|
|Chapman, Col. R.(Houghton-le-Spring)||Gledhill, Gilbert||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Christie, James Archibald||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Levy, Thomas|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Lewis, Oswald|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Goff, Sir Park||Liddell, Waiter S.|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Goldie, Noel B.||Lindsay, Kenneth Martin (Kilm'rnock)|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Colfox, Major William Philip||Gower, Sir Robert||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'mb'rl'd, N.)||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Granville, Edgar||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Grattan-Doyle, Sir Nicholas||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)||Percy, Lord Eustace||Smithers, Waldron|
|Loder, Captain J. de Vere||Perkins, Walter R. D.||Somervell, Sir Donald|
|Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander||Petherick, M.||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)|
|Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.||Peto, Geoffrey K. (W'verh'pt'n, Bilst'n)||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)|
|Lyons, Abraham Montagu||Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Soper, Richard|
|Mabane, William||Pike, Cecil F.||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.|
|MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)||Potter, John||Southby, Commander Archibald R. J.|
|MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)||Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Spears. Brigadier-General Edward L|
|McCorquodale, M. S.||Power, Sir John Cecil||Spencer, Captain Richard A.|
|MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)||Pownall, Sir Assheton||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon, Herbert H.|
|MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)||Procter, Major Henry Adam||Spens, William Patrick|
|Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)||Pybus, Percy John||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)|
|Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)||Radford, E. A.||Stewart, J. H. (Fite, E.)|
|McEwen, Captain J. H. F.||Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)|
|McKie, John Hamilton||Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Storey, Samuel|
|Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton||Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|McLean, Major Sir Alan||Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Strauss, Edward A.|
|McLean, Dr W. H. (Tradeston)||Ramsbotham, Herwald||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|Macmillan, Maurice Harold||Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|Macpherson, Rt. Hon. Sir Ian||Ratcliffe, Arthur||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Magnay, Thomas||Rawson, Sir Cooper||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|Maitland, Adam||Ray, Sir William||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest||Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.||Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham-||Tate, Mavis Constance|
|Marsden, Commander Arthur||Reid, David D. (County Down)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'dd'gt'n,S.)|
|Martin, Thomas B.||Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Templeton, William P.|
|Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)||Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Thompson, Luke|
|Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John||Remer, John R.||Thomson, Sir Frederick Charles|
|Meller, Sir Richard James||Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)||Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)||Rickards, George William||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wick-on-T.)|
|Milne, Charles||Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)||Robinson, John Roland||Train, John|
|Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)||Ropner, Colonel L.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Mitcheson, G. G.||Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale||Ross, Ronald D.||Wallace, Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyree||Ross Taylor, Waiter (Woodbridge)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Moore. Lt -Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wansend)|
|Morning, Adrian C.||Runge, Norah Cecil||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Morgan, Robert H.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Wardlaw-Mline, Sir John S.|
|Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff. E.)||Russell, R.J. (Eddisbury)||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Morrison, William Shepherd||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Moss, Captain H. J.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrymgeour|
|Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.||Salt, Edward W.||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Munro, Patrick||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph||Sandeman, Sir A. N. Stewart||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Nail, Sir Joseph||Savery, Samuel Servington||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Nail-Cain, Hon. Ronald||Scone, Lord||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.||Selley, Harry R.||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Newton, Sir Douglas George C.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Nicholson, Godfrey (Morneth)||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wills, Wilfrid D.|
|Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid||Shaw, Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|North, Edward T.||Shepperson, Sir Ernest W.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Nunn, William||Shute, Colonel J. J.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Winterton, Rt. Finn. Earl|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Sinclair, Col. T. (Queen's Unv., Belfast)||Wise, Alfred R.|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G. A.||Slater, John||Womersley, Walter James|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wragg, Herbert|
|Pearson, William G.||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)|
|Peat, Charles U.||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|Penny, Sir George||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, C.)||Captain Margesson and Mr. Blindell.|
§ Main Question put.840
§ The House divided: Ayes, 427; Noes,54.843
|Division No. 3]||AYES.||[11.14 p.m.|
|Acland-Troyte, Lieut.-Colonel||Atholl, Duchess of||Barton, Capt. Basil Kelsey|
|Adams, Samuel Vyvyan T. (Leeds, W.)||Bailey, Eric Alfred George||Bateman, A. L.|
|Albery, Irving James||Baillie, Sir Adrian W. M.||Beauchamp, Sir Brograve Campbell|
|Allen, William (Stoke-on-Trent)||Baldwin, Rt. Hon. Stanley||Beaumont, M. W. (Bucks, Aylesbury)|
|Amery, Rt. Hon. Leopold C. M. S.||Baldwin-Webb, Colonel J.||Beaumont, Hon. R.E.B. (Portsm'th.C.)|
|Anstruther-Gray, W. J.||Balfour, George (Hampstead)||Belt, Sir Alfred L.|
|Applin, Lieut.-Col. Reginald V. K.||Balfour, Capt. Harold (I. of Thanet)||Benn, Sir Arthur Shirley|
|Aske, Sir Robert William||Balniel, Lord||Bennett, Capt. Sir Ernest Nathaniel|
|Astor, Maj. Hn. John J. (Kent. Dover)||Barclay-Harvey, C. M.||Bevan, Stuart James (Holborn)|
|Astor, Viscountess (Plymouth, Sutton)||Barrie, Sir Charles Coupar||Blaker, Sir Reginald|
|Boothby, Robert John Graham||Edmondson, Major A. J.||Jesson, Major Thomas E.|
|Borodale, Viscount||Elliot, Rt. Hon. Walter||Joel, Dudley J. Barnet|
|Boulton, W. W.||Elliston, Captain George Sampson||Johnston, J. W. (Clackmannan)|
|Bowater, Col. Sir T. Vansittart||Elmley, Viscount||Jones, Sir G. W. H. (Stoke New'gton)|
|Bower, Lieut.-Com. Robert Tatton||Emmott, Charles E. G. C.||Jones, Lewis (Swansea, West)|
|Bowyer, Capt. Sir George E. W.||Emrys-Evans, P. V.||Ker, J. Campbell|
|Boyce, H. Leslie||Entwistle, Cyril Fullard||Kerr, Lieut. Col. Charles (Montrose)|
|Boyd-Carpenter, Sir Archibald||Erskine, Lord (Weston-super-Mare)||Kerr, Hamilton W.|
|Bracken, Brendan||Erskine-Bolst, Capt. C. C. (Blackpool)||Kimball, Lawrence|
|Braithwaite, Maj. A. N. (Yorks, E. R.)||Essenhigh, Reginald Clare||Knight, Holford|
|Braithwaite, J. G. (Hillsborough)||Evans, Capt. Arthur (Cardiff, S.)||Knox, Sir Alfred|
|Brass, Captain Sir William||Everard, W. Lindsay||Lamb, Sir Joseph Quinton|
|Briscoe, Capt. Richard George||Falle, Sir Bertram G.||Lambert, Rt. Hon. George|
|Broadbent, Colonel John||Fermoy, Lord||Latham, Sir Herbert Paul|
|Brocklebank, C. E. R.||Fielden, Edward Brocklehurst||Law, Sir Alfred|
|Brown, Col. J. C. (N'th'l'd., Hexham)||Fleming, Edward Lascelles||Law, Richard K. (Hull, S.W.)|
|Brown, Ernest (Leith)||Flint, Abraham John||Leckie, J. A.|
|Browne, Captain A. C.||Ford, Sir Patrick J.||Leech, Dr. J. W.|
|Burgin, Dr. Edward Leslie||Fox, Sir Gifford||Leigh, Sir John|
|Burnett, John George||Fraser, Captain Ian||Leighton, Major B. E. P.|
|Burton, Colonel Henry Walter||Fremantle, Sir Francis||Lennox-Boyd, A. T.|
|Butler, Richard Austen||Fuller, Captain A. G.||Levy, Thomas|
|Butt, Sir Alfred||Galbraith, James Francis Wallace||Lewis, Oswald|
|Cadogan, Hon. Edward||Ganzoni, Sir John||Liddall, Waiter S.|
|Caine, G. R. Hall-||Gault, Lieut.-Col. A. Hamilton||Lindsay, Noel Ker|
|Campbell, Sir Edward Taswell (Brmly)||Gibson, Charles Granville||Lister, Rt. Hon. Sir Philip Cunliffe-|
|Campbell-Johnston, Malcolm||Gillett, Sir George Masterman||Little, Graham-, Sir Ernest|
|Caporn, Arthur Cecil||Gilmour, Lt.-Col. Rt. Hon. Sir John||Llewellin, Major John J.|
|Carver, Major William H.||Gledhill, Gilbert||Lloyd, Geoffrey|
|Cassels, James Dale||Glossop, C. W. H.||Lockwood, John C. (Hackney, C.)|
|Castlereagh, Viscount||Gluckstein, Louis Halle||Leder, Captain J. de Vere|
|Cautley, Sir Henry S.||Glyn, Major Ralph G. C.||Lovat-Fraser, James Alexander|
|Cayzer, Sir Charles (Chester, City)||Goff, Sir Park||Lumley, Captain Lawrence R.|
|Cayzer, Maj. Sir H. R.(Prtsmth., S.)||Goldie, Noel B.||Lyons, Abraham Montagu|
|Cecil, Rt. Hon. Lord Hugh||Goodman, Colonel Albert W.||Mabane, William|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hn.Sir J.A.(Birm.,W.)||Gower, Sir Robert||MacAndrew, Lieut.-Col. C. G.(Partick)|
|Chamberlain, Rt. Hon. N. (Edgbaston)||Graham, Sir F. Fergus (C'lmb'rl'd, N.)||MacAndrew, Capt. J. O. (Ayr)|
|Chapman, Col. R. (Houghton-la-Spring)||Granville, Edgar||McCorquodale, M. S.|
|Chapman, Sir Samuel (Edinburgh, S.)||Graves, Marjorie||MacDonald, Rt. Hon. J. R. (Seaham)|
|Christie, James Archibald||Greases-Lord, Sir Walter||MacDonald, Malcolm (Bassetlaw)|
|Clarry, Reginald George||Grenfell, E. C. (City of London)||Macdonald, Sir Murdoch (Inverness)|
|Clayton, Sir Christopher||Gretton, Colonel Rt. Hon. John||Macdonald, Capt. P. D. (I. of W.)|
|Cobb, Sir Cyril||Grimsten, R. V.||McEwen, Captain J. H. F.|
|Cochrane, Commander Hon. A. D.||Gritten, W. G. Howard||McKie, John Hamilton|
|Coffey, Major William Philip||Guest, Capt. Rt. Hon. F. E.||Maclay, Hon. Joseph Paton|
|Colman, N. C. D.||Guinness, Thomas L. E. B.||McLean, Major Sir Alan|
|Colville, Lieut.-Colonel J.||Gunston, Captain D. W.||McLean, Dr. W. H. (Tradeston)|
|Conant, R. J. E.||Guy, J. C. Morrison||Macmillan, Maurice Harold|
|Cook, Thomas A.||Hacking, Rt. Hon. Douglas H.||Macpherson, Rt. hon. Sir Ian|
|Cooke, Douglas||Hanbury, Cecil||Magnay, Thomas|
|Cooper, A. Duff||Hanley, Dennis A.||Maitland, Adam|
|Copeland, Ida||Hannon, Patrick Joseph||Makins, Brigadier-General Ernest|
|Courtauld, Major John Sewell||Henry Harbord, Arthur||Manningham-Buller, Lt.-Col. Sir M.|
|Courthope, Colonel Sir George L.||Hartington, Marquess of||Margesson, Capt. Rt. Hon. H. D. R.|
|Cranborne, Viscount||Hartland, George A.||Marsden, Commander Arthur|
|Craven-Ellis, William||Harvey, George (Lambeth,Kenningt'n)||Martin, Thomas B.|
|Croft, Brigadier-General Sir H.||Haslam, Henry (Horncastle)||Mason, Col. Glyn K. (Croydon, N.)|
|Crooke, J. Smedley||Haslam, Sir John (Bolton)||Mayhew, Lieut.-Colonel John|
|Crookshank, Col. C. de Windt (Bootle)||Headlam, Lieut.-Col. Cuthbert M.||Meller, Sir Richard James|
|Crookshank, Capt. H. C. (Gainsb'ro)||Heilgers, Captain F. F. A.||Mills, Sir Frederick (Leyton, E.)|
|Croom-Johnson, R. P.||Henderson, Sir Vivian L. (Chelmsford)||Mills, Major J. D. (New Forest)|
|Crossley, A. C.||Heneage, Lieut.-Colonel Arthur P.||Milne, Charles|
|Cruddas, Lieut.-Colonel Bernard||Hepworth, Joseph||Mitchell, Harold P.(Br'tf'd & Chisw'k)|
|Culverwell, Cyril Tom||Hills, Major Rt. Hon. John Wailer||Mitchell, Sir W. Lane (Streatham)|
|Dalkeith, Earl of||Hope, Capt. Hon. A. O. J. (Aston)||Mitcheson, G. G.|
|Davidson, Rt. Hon. J. C. C.||Hore-Belisha, Leslie||Molson, A. Hugh Elsdale|
|Davies, Edward C. (Montgomery)||Hornby, Frank||Monsell, Rt. Hon. Sir B. Eyres|
|Davies, Maj. Geo. F. (Somerset, Yeovil)||Horobin, Ian M.||Moore, Lt.-Col. Thomas C. R. (Ayr)|
|Davison, Sir William Henry||Horsbrugh, Florence||Moore-Brabazon, Lieut.-Col. J. T. C.|
|Dawson, Sir Philip||Howard, Tom Forrest||Moreing, Adrian C.|
|Denman, Hon. R. D,||Howitt, Dr. Alfred B.||Morgan, Robert H.|
|Despencer-Robertson, Major J. A. F.||Hudson, Capt. A. U. M. (Hackney,N.)||Morris, John Patrick (Salford, N.)|
|Dickie, John P.||Hume, Sir George Hopwood||Morris, Owen Temple (Cardiff, E.)|
|Dixey, Arthur C. N.||Hunter, Dr. Joseph (Dumfries)||Morris-Jones, Dr. J. H. (Denbigh)|
|Donner, P. W.||Hunter, Capt. M. J. (Brigg)||Morrison, William Shepherd|
|Dower, Captain A. V, G.||Hunter-Weston, Lt.-Gen. Sir Aylmer||Muirhead, Lieut.-Colonel A. J.|
|Drewe, Cedric||Hurd, Sir Percy||Munro, Patrick|
|Duckworth, George A. V.||Hurst, Sir Gerald B.||Murray-Philipson, Hylton Ralph|
|Dugdale, Captain Thomas Lionel||Hutchison, W. D. (Essex, Roml'd)||Nail, Sir Joseph|
|Duggan, Hubert John||Inskip, Rt. Hon. Sir Thomas W. H.||Nall-Cain, Hon. Ronald|
|Duncan, James A. L. (Kensington, N.)||Iveagh, Countess of||Nation, Brigadier-General J. J. H.|
|Dunglass, Lord||Jackson, Sir Henry (Wandsworth, C.)||Newton, Sir Douglas George C.|
|Eady, George H.||James, Wing-Com. A. W. H.||Nicholson, Godfrey (Morpeth)|
|Eastwood, John Francis||Jamieson, Douglas||Normand, Rt. Hon. Wilfrid|
|Eden, Robert Anthony||Jennings, Roland||North, Edward T.|
|Nunn, William||Ruggles-Brise, Colonel E. A.||Strickland, Captain W. F.|
|O'Connor, Terence James||Runciman, Rt. Hon. Walter||Stuart, Hon. J. (Moray and Nairn)|
|O'Donovan, Dr. William James||Runge, Norah Cecil||Sueter, Rear-Admiral Murray F.|
|Oman, Sir Charles William C.||Russell, Albert (Kirkcaldy)||Sugden, Sir Wilfrid Hart|
|O'Neill, Rt. Hon. Sir Hugh||Russell, Alexander West (Tynemouth)||Summersby, Charles H.|
|Ormsby-Gore, Rt. Hon. William G.A.||Russell, R. J. (Eddisbury)||Sutcliffe, Harold|
|Palmer, Francis Noel||Rutherford, John (Edmonton)||Tate, Mauls Constance|
|Peake, Captain Osbert||Rutherford, Sir John Hugo (Liverp'l)||Taylor, Vice-Admiral E.A.(P'ddd'gt'n,S.)|
|Pearson, William G.||Salmon, Sir Isidore||Templeton, William P.|
|Peat, Charles U.||Salt, Edward W.||Thompson, Luke|
|Penny, Sir George||Samuel, Sir Arthur Michael (F'nham)||Thorp, Linton Theodore|
|Percy, Lord Eustace||Sandeman, Sir A. N.||Titchfield, Major the Marquess of|
|Perkins, Walter R. D.||Stewart Sanderson, Sir Frank Barnard||Todd, Capt. A. J. K. (B'wsck-on-T.)|
|Petherick, M.||Savery, Samuel Servington||Todd, A. L. S. (Kingswinford)|
|Peto, Geoffrey K.(W'verh'pt'n,Bilston)||Scone, Lord||Train, John|
|Pickford, Hon. Mary Ada||Selley, Harry R.||Tryon, Rt. Hon. George Clement|
|Pike, Cecil F.||Shakespeare, Geoffrey H.||Turton, Robert Hugh|
|Potter, John||Shaw, Helen B. (Lanark, Bothwell)||Wallace. Captain D. E. (Hornsey)|
|Powell, Lieut.-Col. Evelyn G. H.||Shaw. Captain William T. (Forfar)||Wallace, John (Dunfermline)|
|Power, Sir John Cecil||Shepperson Sir Ernest W.||Ward, Lt.-Col. Sir A. L. (Hull)|
|Pownall, Sir Assheton||Shute, Colonel J. J.||Ward, Irene Mary Bewick (Wallsend)|
|Procter, Major Henry Adam||Simmonds, Oliver Edwin||Ward, Sarah Adelaide (Cannock)|
|Pybus, Percy John||Simon, Rt. Hon. Sir John||Wardlaw-Milne, Sir John S.|
|Radford, E. A.||Sinclair, Col. T.(Queen's Unv.,Belfast)||Warrender, Sir Victor A. G.|
|Raikes, Henry V. A. M.||Skelton, Archibald Noel||Waterhouse, Captain Charles|
|Ramsay, Alexander (W. Bromwich)||Slater, John||Watt, Captain George Steven H.|
|Ramsay, Capt. A. H. M. (Midlothian)||Smiles, Lieut.-Col. Sir Walter D.||Wayland, Sir William A.|
|Ramsay, T. B. W. (Western Isles)||Smith, Bracewell (Dulwich)||Wedderburn, Henry James Scrympeour-|
|Ramsbotham, Herwald||Smith, Sir J. Walker- (Barrow-In-F.)||Wells, Sydney Richard|
|Ramsden, Sir Eugene||Smith, Louis W. (Sheffield, Hallam)||Weymouth, Viscount|
|Ratcliffe, Arthur||Smith, R. W. (Ab'rd'n & Kinc'dine, O.)||Whiteside, Borras Noel H.|
|Rawson, Sir Cooper||Smithers, Waldron||Whyte, Jardine Bell|
|Ray, Sir William||Somervell, Sir Donald||Williams, Charles (Devon, Torquay)|
|Reed, Arthur C. (Exeter)||Somerville, Annesley A. (Windsor)||Williams, Herbert G. (Croydon, S.)|
|Reid, Capt. A. Cunningham||Somerville, D. G. (Willesden, East)||Willoughby de Eresby, Lord|
|Reid, David D. (County Down)||Soper, Richard||Wills, Wilfried D.|
|Reid, James S. C. (Stirling)||Sotheron-Estcourt, Captain T. E.||Wilson, Lt.-Col. Sir Arnold (Hertf'd)|
|Reid, William Allan (Derby)||Scuthby, Commander Archibald R. J.||Wilson, Clyde T. (West Toxteth)|
|Remer, John R.||Spears, Brigadier General Edward L.||Wilson, G. H. A. (Cambridge U.)|
|Renwick, Major Gustav A.||Spencer, Captain Richard A.||Windsor-Clive, Lieut.-Colonel George|
|Rhys, Hon. Charles Arthur U.||Spender-Clay, Rt. Hon. Herbert H.||Winterton, Rt. Hon. Earl|
|Rickards, George William||Spens, William Patrick||Wise, Alfred R.|
|Roberts, Sir Samuel (Ecclesall)||Stanley, Lord (Lancaster, Fylde)||Wolmer, Rt. Hon. Viscount|
|Robinson, John Roland||Stewart, J. H. (Fite, E.)||Womersley, Walter James|
|Ropner, Colonel L.||Stewart, William J. (Belfast, S.)||Wood, Rt. Hon. Sir H. Kingsley|
|Rosbotham, Sir Thomas||Storey, Samuel||Wragg, Herbert|
|Ross, Ronald D.||Stourton, Hon. John J.|
|Ross Taylor, Walter (Woodbridge)||Strauss, Edward A.||TELLERS FOR THE AYES.—|
|Sir Frederick Thomson and Mr. Blindell.|
|Acland, Rt. Hon. Sir Francis||George, Megan A. Lloyd (Anglesea)||Mander, Geoffrey le M.|
|Dyke Adams, D M. (Poplar. South)||Greenwood, Rt. Hon. Arthur||Maxton, James|
|Attlee, Clement Richard||Grenfell, David Rees (Glamorgan)||Milner. Major James|
|Banfield, John William||Griffith, F. Kingsley (Middlesbro', W).||Nathan, Major H. L.|
|Ratey, Joseph||Groves, Thomas E.||Owen, Major Goronwy|
|Bevan, Aneurin (Ebbw Vale)||Hall. George H. (Merthyr, Tydvil)||Parkinson, John Allen|
|Brown, C. W. E. (Notts., Mansfield)||Harris, Sir Percy||Pickering, Ernest H.|
|Buchanan, George||Janner, Barnett||Price, Gabriel|
|Cape, Thomas||Jenkins, Sir William||Salter, Dr. Alfred|
|Cocks, Frederick Seymour||Jones, Henry Haydn (Merioneth)||Smith, Tom (Normanton)|
|Cove, William G.||Jones, Morgan (Caerphilly)||Thorne, William James|
|Cripps, Sir Stafford||Lansbury, Rt. Hon. George||Tinker, John Joseph|
|Daggar, George||Lawson, John James||Williams, Edward John (Ogmore)|
|Davies, David L. (Pontypridd)||Logan, David Gilbert||Williams. Thomas (York, Don Valley)|
|Davies, Rhys John (Westhoughton)||Lunn, William||Wilmot, John|
|Dobbie, William||Macdonald, Gordon (Ince)||Young, Ernest J. (Middlesbrough, E.)|
|Edwards, Charles||McEntee, Valentine L.|
|Evans, R. T. (Carmarthen)||McGovern, John||TELLERS FOR THE NOES.—|
|George, Major G. Lloyd (Pembroke)||Maclean, Nell (Glasgow, Govan)||Mr. John, and Mr. D. Graham.|
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.
§ To be presented by Privy Councillors or Members of His Majesty's Household.